Virident gives server flash vendors the fear with 'sharing tool'

PCIe flash card maker punts Connect software


Virident, the PCIe flash card and software supplier Seagate loves to the extent of a $40m investment and OEM supply deal, says you can share server flash and make it highly available with its Connect software. This will probably give server flash industry leader Fusion-io something to get a little concerned about.

Virident's product technology is the FlashMAX II PCIe flash card and its vFAS software which turns the flash into storage memory, a virtual adjunct to the host server's DRAM. This enables applications to run with their working data set in memory if there is enough PCIe flash capacity, and so avoid disk I/O altogether - and run much faster. That's fine for one server but suppose it crashes? It would be good to failover to another server. Also you might be in a situation with several connected servers but only with with PCIe flash and it might be useful to give other servers access to the flash. That's what the FlashMAX Connect suite of software does.

It has three elements:

  • vHA provides synchronous mirroring to replicates writes from one server to another. If primary server fails then secondary can take over, without missing a data access heartbeat.
  • vShare provides PCIe flash card sharing. Remote servers get access to partitions set up on a server's PCIe Virident flash card. These remote servers could also have PCIe flash cards and so, Virident says, you can "scale PCIe flash capacity independent of compute". Also "a single PCIe flash card can service multiple servers depending on the needs of the application".
  • vCache enables write-back, write-through and write-around cacheing. With it Virident says "customers can get the performance of a PCIe SSD while leveraging existing SAN/NAS investments."

Senior ESG analyst Mark Peters views this as part of the transfer of storage management or intelligence from storage arrays to servers, saying: "Virident is providing light at the end of the tunnel, where the tunnel is that most storage intelligence is still resident in storage systems. Instead, FlashMAX Connect provides … shareable, server-based storage intelligence." The implication is that such server flash intelligence will pull data from back-end arrays or push write data to them, instead of being treated as a forward cache by the array.

Stifel Nicolaus analyst Aaron Rakers thinks Virident's move provides more competition for Fusion-io. He also notes: "Our industry checks suggest that the company has two tier-1 server OEM design wins within its pipeline (no comments on who, but interesting to note Cisco’s investment in the company)."

Virident is looking like a more and more interesting company and one that could make Seagate much more visible in the server flash space. A Seagate-Virident partnership might even start limiting Fusion-io's market horizons. ®

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