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Infinio adds block storage support to RAM cache engine

The latest version of Infinio's RAM cache tool, Infinio Accelerator 2.0, borrows idle memory from servers to support large VDI deployments.

Server-side software vendor Infinio Systems Inc. today unveiled its content-addressable RAM cache acceleration engine for VMware storage, adding support for multiple block storage protocols, tools for predictive analysis and heuristics for virtual desktop infrastructure workloads.

Infinio Accelerator 2.0 is a software-only product slated for beta testing later this year. It is designed for enterprises with unified storage systems using iSCSI, Fibre Channel (FC) and FC over Ethernet network connections. Version 1.0, released last year, supported only Network File System-based NAS.

Infinio Accelerator does not require users to install solid-state drives (SSDs) or PCI Express flash memory cards. It is packaged as a network of virtual appliances that borrows idle random access memory (RAM) from servers to create a distributed caching and acceleration layer, allowing virtual machines (VMs) to share commonly accessed blocks, such as operating system files.

Infinio software sits on ESXi host servers to form a communication bridge with the storage layer and exploit unused server memory. By default, each Infinio node consumes two virtual CPUs and up to 8 GB of host RAM. Each 8 GB node provides the equivalent of 40 GB of physical memory, which Infinio claims expands to 200 GB using its 5:1 data deduplication to mirror the performance of SSDs.

The Infinio algorithm uses a "content-aware" indexing scheme that caches only one copy of a given page, irrespective of where it is stored in the vSphere cluster. When a cache is populated, Infinio Accelerator asynchronously applies a hash calculation based on the block's content and how it is used across the cluster. To locate content in distributed cache, Infinio uses the hash rather than the block's address on a physical server or storage array. The approach makes it easy to add or subtract nodes without fiddling with the cache content, Infinio CTO Scott Davis said.

"We are not forcing you to add a new data store," he said. "We're transparent to existing data stores, even to the degree that sophisticated operations within VMware environments -- such as VAAI offloads and snapshots -- are not impacted by Infinio and can still be offloaded to arrays. There's no new implementation of traditional storage array functionality needed for snapshots, replication, thin provisioning and so on."

Davis joined Infinio in June after seven years at VMware, the past four as CTO of VMware's end-user computing group.

Metrics added for VM-level analysis, dynamic cache resizing

The latest version of Infinio Accelerator builds on the performance monitoring in version 1.0, which analyzed metrics at a data-store level. Version 2.0 provides granular detail on applications and VMs, including hit and offload rates, and identifying VMs that issue heavy input/output requests. Starting with a weekly data store, for example, end users could analyze applications and VM workloads on a minute-by-minute basis.

"Infinio's management console in [version] 2.0 is definitely more than eye candy. What's really attractive is the ability you have to easily understand what this new capability is actually doing in your environment, such as boosts in processing power, number of requests offloaded and actual deduplication capabilities," said David Russell, a research vice president at Gartner Inc. "It's a straightforward way to see if the tool is yielding results."

Version 2.0 also includes Cache Advisor, a dynamically resizing RAM cache. It enables storage administrators to select any time interval for a specific workload and calculate how it would perform against larger cache sizes. Cache Advisor collects this insight and gives predictive guidance on workloads that need to be accelerated.

Davis said virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) heuristics were added to help virtualization administrators avoid boot storms associated with large deployments of virtual desktops. Among the enhancements are tools to bias the cache toward users that share frequently accessed interactive applications. Infinio software sits in the vSphere hypervisor and scours the Windows Operating System cache for common content across a VDI workload.

A general availability date has not been set for Infinio Accelerator v2.0, which is priced at $499 per vSphere socket per year. A free 30-day trial version, which includes a point-and-click Windows installer, is available for download at Infinio's website.

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