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New Virtual Instruments software improves NAS, flash models

Version 5.3 of Virtual Instruments' Load DynamiX 5 software supports time-based NFSv3 workloads, eases preconditioning of flash arrays and improves the user interface.

Virtual Instruments marked the one-year anniversary of its Load DynamiX merger with a product update designed to help customers better model, analyze and validate NFS-based NAS and block-based flash storage workloads.

Load DynamiX Enterprise 5.3 adds support for time-based NFSv3 workloads to enable more accurate modeling and analysis. Additionally, the update simplifies the preconditioning of all-flash arrays connected via Fibre Channel and iSCSI, and it improves the user interface to ease administration.

All Virtual Instruments' software retains the original brand name from before the merger. VirtualWisdom is its storage performance monitoring and management platform for production environments. Load DynamiX Enterprise is its storage performance analytics software, and the Load DynamiX Workload Generation Appliances simulate, load and stress test workloads in the lab.

Virtual Instruments' software expands NFS support

Load DynamiX Enterprise 5.3 gives storage engineers and architects the ability to create time-based, or temporal, NFS-based workloads to model and analyze second-by-second behavior. The Virtual Instruments software previously offered that capability only with block-based Fibre Channel and iSCSI workloads.

"Arrays and filers, in general, typically cope well with steady-state workloads," said Tim Van Ash, senior vice president of products at Virtual Instruments, based in San Jose, Calif. "Where they tend to run into problems is when you have bursty behavior, or behavior that is varying over time. That's why the temporal workloads are so important."

He said Load DynamiX Enterprise could take NFS data from Virtual Instruments VirtualWisdom, as well as directly from NetApp OnCommand Insight, NetApp Perfstat and Oracle ZFS. Plans call for the Load DynamiX Enterprise software to extend support to SMB-based temporal workloads when Virtual Instruments releases the SMB version of its NAS Performance Probe later this year, Van Ash said.

New flash-focused capabilities

Van Ash said customer feedback led to Load DynamiX 5.3's flash-focused preconditioning capabilities, which involve "basically writing data across the entire array." Unlike traditional arrays equipped with HDDs, flash-based arrays typically make heavy use of data-reducing inline data deduplication and compression technologies. Van Ash said it's not uncommon to see a flash array do inline data reduction and run a "house-cleaning procedure" every 24 hours.

Van Ash said flash arrays behave differently, depending on the amount of data in them and the level of data reduction achieved, so it becomes critical to determine the "sizing of the arrays," as well as "how efficient and effective" they are. He noted, for instance, that customers might see a 5-to-1 reduction ratio for some types of data versus a 2-to-1 ratio for other data.

The newly updated Virtual Instruments software also improves the GUI; adds features, such as real-time test status notifications; and enhances system management with functionality, such as the mass delete of results and FTP backup and restore.

Van Ash said customers typically purchase the Load DynamiX workload generation appliance with Load DynamiX Enterprise, and pricing for the combination typically starts at $30,000 to $35,000. The 5.3 update is available to Load DynamiX Enterprise customers at no additional charge. Pricing is based on the number of ports per chassis.

Arun Taneja, president and consulting analyst at Taneja Group Inc., in Hopkinton, Mass., said the enhancements in 5.3 should help large enterprises make smarter investments in products such as NAS and all-flash arrays.

"Buying the right product the first time around saves them literally millions of dollars," Taneja said.

Mark Peters, a senior analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., in Milford, Mass., said enterprise users increasingly face the challenge of tuning a "standards-based, yet heterogeneous" infrastructure to meet the demands of dynamically varying workloads.

"Users have a choice. They can try to do it themselves, or they can deploy some sort of resource optimization tool to do it for them," Peters wrote in an email. "And here's the rub. Tools from individual vendors tend to be limited in breadth on the one hand and subject to a credibility gap on the other."

Xangati acquisition

In addition to merging with Load DynamiX in 2016, Virtual Instruments acquired cloud and virtual infrastructure monitoring startup Xangati. The Xangati acquisition expanded the company's product breadth while providing a talent infusion, according to Van Ash.

Van Ash said the merged company was profitable in 2016 for the first time and recently completed a strong first quarter, with revenue up more than 50% compared with the same quarter a year ago. Virtual Instruments, a private company, has annual revenue in the range of $50 million to $100 million, according to Van Ash.

"Ultimately, we took three startups that were all unprofitable by themselves [and] we ended the year with just a phenomenal result -- well above plan," he said.

Before the Load DynamiX Enterprise 5.3 upgrade, the vendor added two new Load DynamiX workload generation appliances this year with support for 40 Gigabit Ethernet and 32 GFC Fibre Channel.

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