Server-side Caching for a Flash Accelerated World

By Victoria Koepnick, SanDisk Product Marketing


FlashSoft™ software from SanDisk® is server-side caching software that extends the value of NetApp to Windows, Linux, and VMware® vSphere™ servers. Utilizing any SAS, SATA, or PCIe solid-state device as a server-side cache, FlashSoft reduces latency between server and storage to improve performance across the entire compute, network, and storage stack without disruption to existing NetApp storage infrastructure, data management, and data protection schemes.  


NetApp + FlashSoft Solution Components


For virtualized environments, FlashSoft with NetApp helps you:

  • Virtualize your most critical applications with confidence
  • Increase VM density
  • Improve application performance
  • Target performance enhancement to specific servers and virtual machines
  • Balance utilization of server and storage resources
  • Easily scale your virtual infrastructure with no agent in the virtual machine/guest OS


For non-virtualized environments, you can:

  • Effectively deploy any standard SSD as storage cache in a Linux or Windows server
  • Improve database performance by a factor of 3 to 5 times
  • Utilize existing hardware and software RAID and standard backups
  • Offload I/O from SAN resources
  • Balance utilization of server and storage resources


FlashSoft 4x-5x Performance Acceleration*

*ESG Labs Validation Report


In addition to the above benefits to servers and applications, FlashSoft provides significant benefits to NetApp storage systems as well. By satisfying I/O requests in the server, FlashSoft offloads I/O from the network and the storage array. Thus the array can function more efficiently to deliver higher performance to any server or application that accesses it.


As a NetApp Server Cache Technology Alliance Partner the FlashSoft team as SanDisk works closely with NetApp to be sure the NetApp software and tools you use work seamlessly with FlashSoft.


Learn more about FlashSoft and our solutions with NetApp.




How does this compare to FlashAccel and would be used instead of FlashAccel or work together?

Flash Accel and FlashSoft serve similar objectives. They're both software solutions designed to let you use a flash device as a cache in the server to increase VM performance. However, there are some differences too. FlashSoft is available for Windows Server and Linux, as well as VMware. Also, FlashSoft provides write-back caching in certain situations, while most caching products today are write-through (read-only). The caching engine in FlashSoft has a unique design that dynamically allocates cache resources based on I/O activity, rather than statically allocating cache space per VM. Finally, FlashSoft installs in the hypervisor only - you don't have to install any agent software in the VM. FlashSoft is commercially licensed, but you can get an evaluation copy from SanDisk if you're interested in trying it.


A few more things to add:

  • Flash Accel has intelligent data coherency with ONTAP.  Not only is Flash Accel aware of changes made by ONTAP that could potentially cause data coherency (e.g. SnapRestore), it also does it in a very efficient way.  Rather than having to invalidate the entire cache (which will take a long time to rewarm), Flash Accel knows which blocks ONTAP has changed, and only invalidates those blocks in its cache and nothing more.  What this means is that the performance hit due to cache coherency concern is minimized with Flash Accel. 
  • Flash Accel has the ability to enable / disable cache on a virtual disk level as well as a VM level, so there's more granularity in which data needs to be cached. 
  • Flash Accel is a free product for NetApp customers and and is fully supported by NGS
  • Flash Accel windows server bare metal support and Linux support will be available in the latter part of 2013
  • One thing to note about FlashSoft write-back caching: coherency in a write-back caching mode is not supported with ONTAP-backend storage.  Write-through coherency is supported though.