There are many startups out there that do something with storage these days. To be honest, many of them do the same thing and at times I wonder why on earth everyone focuses on the same segment and tries to attack it with the same product / feature set. One of the golden rules for any startup should be that you have a unique solution that will sell itself. Yes I realize that it is difficult, but if you want to succeed you will need to stand out.
About a year ago Satyam Vaghani (former VMware principal engineer who was responsible for VMFS, VAAI, VVOLs etc.) and Poojan Kumar (former VMware Data products lead and ex-Oracle Exadata founder) decided to start a company – PernixData. PernixData was conceptualized based on their experiences working on the intersection of virtualization, flash based storage and data. Today PernixData is revealed to the world. For those who don’t know, Pernix means “agile”. But what is PernixData about?
How many of you haven’t experienced storage performance problems? It probably is, in fact, the number one bottleneck in most virtualized environments. Convincing your manager (director / VP) that you need a new ultra-fast (and expensive) storage device is not easy; far from it. On top of that, data will always hit the network first before being acknowledged and every read will go over your storage network. How cool would it be if there was a seamless software solution that solves all your storage performance problems without you requiring to rip and replace your existing storage assets?
Server-side flash overcomes problems associated with network based storage and server-side caching solutions provide some respite. Yet, server-side caching solutions usually neither satisfy enterprise class requirements for availability nor transparently support clustered hypervisor features such as VMware vMotion. In addition, while they accelerate reads they fail to do much for writes. Customers are then stuck between either overhauling their entire storage infrastructure or going with caching solutions that work for limited use cases. PernixData is about to release a cool new product – a flash virtualization platform – that bridges this gap. By picking up where hypervisors left off, PernixData is planning to become the VMware of server flash and is aiming to do to server flash what VMware did to CPU and memory. So, what is this flash virtualization platform and why would you need it?
PernixData’s flash virtualization platform virtualizes all flash resources across all server nodes in a vCenter Server cluster into a single high-performance, enterprise class data tier. The great thing is that this happens in a transparent way. PernixData sits completely within the hypervisor and in the data-path of your virtual machine. Note that there are no requirements to install anything in the guest (virtual machine). PernixData is not a virtual appliance because virtual appliances introduce performance overhead and would need to be managed with all costs and complexity associated.
PernixData is also flash technology agnostic. It can leverage SSD or PCIe flash (or both) within the platform. The nice thing is that PernixData uses a scale-out architecture. As you add hosts with flash they can be dynamically added to the platform. On top of that, PernixData does both read and write acceleration while providing full data protection and is fully compatible with VM mobility solutions like vMotion, Storage vMotion, HA, DRS and Storage DRS.
Even more exciting PernixData will support both Write-through and Write-back modes. The cool part is that PernixData also ensures IO is replicated for high availability purposes. You don’t want to run your VM in Write-back mode when you cannot guaranteed data is highly available right?! I guess that is one of the unique selling points of the solution. A distributed, scale out, flash virtualization platform which is not only flash agnostic but also non-disruptive for your virtual workloads.
I would imagine this is many times cheaper than buying a new storage array. Even without knowing what the cost of PernixData will be, or which flash device (PCIe or SSD) you would decide to use… I bet when it comes to overall costs of the solution (product + implementation costs) it will be many many times cheaper.
As I started off with, the golden rule for any startup should be that they have a unique solution that sells itself. I am confident that PernixData FVP has just that by being a disruptive technology that solves a big problem in virtualized environments in a scale-out and transparent manner while leveraging your existing storage investments.
If you want to be kept up to date, make sure to follow Satyam, Poojan , Charlie and PernixData on twitter. If you are interested in joining the PernixData FVP Beta, make sure to sign up!
Make sure to also read Frank’s article on PernixData.
I recommend watching the Storage Field Day videos for more details from Satyam Vaghani himself, note the playlist this is 4 videos!
Andrew Fidel says
Awesome, this is exactly what I’ve been looking for! With 100GB enterprise SSD’s running about $500 it will make little sense not to throw one or two in each host and use this if the software cost is reasonable.
Isn’t this exactly what vCloud Distributed Storage tech preview was supposed to do? And what about VMware recent acquisition of Virsto, which seems do to more or less the same thing?
Storage optimization/virtualization is getting confusing as you said because there’s a huge overlap between features and products we see today and it’s difficult to decide what to do.
Duncan Epping says
vCloud Distributed Storage and Virsto are not the same as this solution. This is a caching layer baked in to the hypervisor. VDS is a storage solution baked in to the hypervisor and Virsto is a hybrid solution abstracting your storage layer… All three are different.
Joe Tietz says
Agree with Andrea thought this was what vFlash was all about. or is this just precursor for VMware to buy PernixData?
Duncan Epping says
I cannot comment on products that have not shipped yet, except for what was publicly spoken about at VMworld.
Todd Mace says
I think Pernixdata beat VMware to the punch! The great thing that I know about Pernixdata over the other flash solutions out there, is that they have a complete storage solution, that works. Frank Denneman has a great post on it as well!
Noman Chotz says
Are there other vendors out there that have something similar on the network which can be ported into the hypervisor stack (GreenBytes, CacheIQ, GridIron etc)? I understand the elegance of having a loadable Hypervisor module that scales, but I am not sure I see it to be unique.
I don’t know of any…
Niels Roetert says
Great post and promising technology.
Even though “data will always hit the network first before being acknowledged” also applies to FVP in write-back mode, which most people will want to use I guess, especially in VDI environments. Curious to see when the first demo’s will hit the web, and how the VM-Awareness is implemented.
Great post, however, I think I have already seen this technology. Isn’t this the same as vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA)? Do you know the differences?
Duncan Epping says
The VSA is for storing virtual machines on local magnetic disks…
This is a caching layer between on the hypervisor and it sits in-front of your storage systems. Completely different concept.
Ah ok! Now I get it. thanks. Actually, it sounds to me like EMC VFCache concept. Probable without vendor locking storage back-end and hopefully more open!
1) this is not coupled to any type of local flash vendor or storage back-end
2) this is enabled in a non-disruptive fashion for workloads
3) no changes to guest-os needed
4) write-through + write-back
So calling it similar to is not really fair to what PernixData brings 🙂
Doug Youd says
The key take-away for me is that it actually comoditizes flash. There’s a few vendors out there now that do something loosely similar, probably not as elegantly, but most are still trying to lock you to a piece of hardware they can make crazy margin on.
Todd Mace says
I wrote a short blog post on what are some things that make Pernixdata different than other solutions. Hopefully this will also help clarify some of the comments.
Alana H. says
Great article, thanks. Now, I hope I’m not going to sound like a fool for asking this, but hat exactly is the difference between data virtualization infrastructure and storing data in the cloud? How does PernixData differentiate itself in this domain?
Thanks for this post, I actually engaged with them and they have a great team and the product seems very promising, so I am excited to see what it is going to do for us.
Just wondering in what this solution is different from VMware vFlash ?
In a stretched cluster design between locations with a zero loss policy, during a site disaster you have an issue. In the current pernix design, you do have the ability to replicate data from one flash device to another, but only within one location. All data that has not been destached to the endstorage device is lost. Replication over locations is not available. Although the concept is promising, this would be one of the things i like to see implemented
Duncan Epping says
Not sure how many customers would ask for that considering the latency hit and bandwidth requirements 🙂
Mind boggling and the founders credentials speak for themselves and demand our attention. I just signed up to be a Beta customer to give it a try on moldy old hardware running on 5.1.. hopefully they have their NFS Beta available. The Enterprise availability is what I find amazing considering the disparate server side flast entities involved.