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I was very fortunate to be invited to speak at the Virtual Machine User Group meeting in the UK yesterday (thank you Brendon, Dawn et al). This is different than the standard VMUG (VMware User Group) meetings as it also includes sessions from competitors like Citrix & Microsoft. However, it is still a very good way to meet partners, customers and vendors.

I presented a session on our new vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA). Most of the content in my presentation appears in many of the blog articles posted here, and additional content was lifted from a forthcoming VSA Deep Dive White Paper that I hope to publish soon.

I always try to use these occasions to check out what's happening in the storage vendor space. See my previous post from VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas. This time I had the chance to attend break-out sessions from both Nimble Storage & Whiptail Technologies.

Disclaimer – Again, this blog is storage vendor neutral. VMware doesn't favour any one storage partner over another. I'm not personally endorsing any of these vendor's products either. What I'm posting here is what I learnt about the products and features at the sessions & something which I hope you find interesting too.

Onto the presentations…

 

NimbleStorage

This presentation was delivered by Dan Leary who is a Product Manager for Nimble. Their storage array combines flash with disk to present iSCSI LUNs. The mojo in Nimble's array stems from their proprietary Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) technology which aggregates random writes into a large stripe of data before being committed to disk in a large sequential write operation. This radically improves the write performance as well as the lifespan of the MLC cache. For read operations, a flash cache is used to keep a copy of the 'hot' data for improved read performance. Dan shared some very impressive performance statistics using Jetstress simulating MS Exchange Mailbox workloads.

I asked Dan if Nimble had implemented any of the storage APIs from VMware. He said that they had partially integrated VAAI, with the Write Same operation being the only offload operation currently supported. However, they are working on integrating the other primitives. They are also working on a VASA provider and some vCenter plugins for managing the Nimble Array from vCenter. Cool.

You can learn more about NimbleStorage & CASL here.

 

Whiptail Technologies

This presentation was delivered by Darren Williams. The subtext to this presentation was 'Solving the IOPs Issue' in VDI deployments, and introduced us to Whiptail's XLR8R storage array. Whiptail seem to be looking to position themselves as the storage solution for VDI.

The XLR8R is a flash array and can present LUNs on a number of different block protocols. [Update] Currently, the supported protocols are 4 & 8Gbit FC, 1 & 10Gbe which allows CIFS/NFS and iSCSI. At the heart of the XLR8R array is Whiptail's Racerunner operating system, which lays out the writes to SSD in a very economical fashion. This increases their endurance (although Darren didn't share too much with us on how Whiptail actually did this internally).

The XLR8R is currently capable of generating in the region of 250,000 IOPs with extremely low latency (0.1 ms according to their web site). That is impressive. And considering that each VDI client conservatively requires about 20-40 IOPs, this array will allow you to deploy plenty of clients before hitting a storage bottleneck.

Darren was also asked about integration with vSphere APIs but at this time they do not have support for VAAI or have a VASA provider. There are no plugins for vCenter either, and the management UI is currently web based. [Update] However Darren did inform me that a vSphere Management plugin for the Whiptail XLR8R array is currently under development.

You can learn more about Whiptail Technologies and their XLR8R array here.

 

Conclusion

As usual, its great to see such innovation in the storage space. I'm hearing more and more about both NimbleStorage & Whiptail Technologies in the community these days, and it was good to finally check them out.

Next week I'll be at VMworld 2011 in Copenhagen, and again I'll take a stroll around the Solutions Exchange to see what's happening in the storage space. I've already had some recommendations on what I should check out but if anyone has any other suggestions, feel free to leave a comment.

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