IO Turbine addresses IO performance for VMware virtualized servers

Startup IO Turbine unveils Accelio software for offloading IOPS from primary storage to flash to improve IO performance in VMware virtualized server environments.

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Startup IO Turbine Inc. today unveiled its Accelio software designed to help mitigate IO performance latency problems in VMware environments by offloading IOPS from primary storage to flash.

Accelio, still in beta, works with virtual machines that use locally attached solid-state storage or flash. Accelio installs on VMware servers, identifies the highest-priority data and offloads IOPS from primary storage to flash. IO Turbine claims Accelio will increase application performance and throughput at each virtual machine and remove IO bottlenecks in VMware environments without requiring more spindles or SSDs.

“We are trying to get the flash as close to the IO request as we can,” said Bruce Clarke, IO Turbine’s vice president of technical marketing and support. “We are trying to get the IO to not ever leave the physical host. If we can do that, you get much greater performance. So technically we are moving the flash into the guest.”

Clarke said enterprise storage systems that use automated tiering with data migration to and from solid-state storage add latency to the storage array. Instead, he said, Accelio automatically directs IO requests away from primary storage to flash for the most frequently accessed data.

Clarke said IO Turbine is trying to solve problems created by a proliferation of virtual machines. With physical servers, LUNs are designated directly to one server so IO requests are consistent in workload requirements. But now servers can be carved up into multiple virtual machines running multiple applications with varying IO workload requests that are being sent to a shared storage infrastructure.

“It’s a much more jumbled workload than primary storage has ever seen before,” Clarke said.

He said Accelio reduces latency because it sits in the guest OS making the requests, and redirects the requests to flash that is also in the host. Only the first request needs to be sent to the external storage system. An Accelio VLUN driver also resides in the VM kernel within the VMware ESX host to help the flash accelerate the IO requests, said Clarke.

“We place cache between the DRAM and disk,” IO Turbine CEO Rich Boberg said. “We use flash or a faster local storage before you go to memory; that way the flash is very close to the application.”

Currently, Accelio supports only VMware, but the company said there are plans to support Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer in the future. The product also supports only Windows 2008 environments but any flash format. It also works with physical servers.

Managed IT service provider BC Networks of San Jose, Calif., is beta-testing Accelio. CEO Dave Brewer said Accelio has improved application performance at least 30% by caching IO.

BC Networks tested Accelio by installing several applications it uses in production inside of a virtual machine running Windows 2008 R2. Brewer’s team created two clones with the virtual machine for a total of three instances running VMware ESX. The first instance ran on a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant DL380 with eight 300 GB drives. The second instance ran on a Lenovo server with a single 2 TB SATA drive as the Accelio cache, and the third instance ran on an identical Lenovo server with two SSD drives in a RAID 0 configuration.

“What we found was that the second configuration loaded applications 30 percent faster than the first configuration,” Brewer said. “We also found the second configuration loaded applications at about the same speed as the third configuration. When we disabled Accelio on the second configuration, we found that this virtual machine performed poorly since it was handicapped with only one slow hard disk drive, almost 30 percent slower than the first configuration.”

Brewer said BC Networks has not yet tested Accelio on shared storage.

“IO Turbine is providing IO cache for data to improve performance of data on the server side instead of requesting it from the SAN,” said Chris Wolf, Gartner’s research vice president for IT professional services. “They are putting software close to the hypervisor and that gives exceptional storage IO.” 

IO Turbine secured a $7.75 million Series A funding round in April led by Lightspeed Venture Partners and Merus Capital, with angel investors including Sun founder Andy Bechtolsheim. The founders are NetApp veteran Boberg and Chief Technology Officer Vikram Joshi, formerly of Sun and Oracle.

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