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FalconStor uses solid-state drives, data protection to tackle VDI bottlenecks

Dave Raffo

FalconStor Software Inc. is combining data protection capabilities with its solid-state drive (SSD)

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caching gateway to enhance data backup and recovery for organizations using VMware for virtual desktop infrastructures (VDIs).

The FalconStor Storage Server (NSS) SAN Accelerator for VMware View is based on the SAN Accelerator product FalconStor launched in March. FalconStor added its continuous data protection (CDP), snapshot, thin clone, replication and file-level protection technology for the VMware View product.

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The SAN Accelerator uses FalconStor SafeCache to speed write performance of solid-state drives and a HotZone feature that copies data on hot disk sectors to cache to speed random reads. The SSDs come from Violin Memory.

FalconStor vice president of product marketing Fadi Albatal said the vendor built backup and recovery into VDI by embedding embedded its data protection agents into VDI golden images created on the server. Combined with SSD performance, Albatal said the data protection lets organizations run VDI implementations more efficiently and alleviates I/O bottlenecks that cause boot storms. He claims the SAN Accelerator with VMware View accelerates virtual desktop creation, and log-in and log-off, patch updates and security management in VDI.

Albatal said the SSD layer uses about 3% of the total storage capacity for dynamic block caching, and the rest of the capacity is SATA drives. He said the combination improves IOPS performance from five to 10 times depending on the deployment, mitigating the I/O storm problem.

"The way we do it is with our SAN Accelerator," Albatal said. "Using SSDs gives you much higher IOPS per desktop to mitigate VDI issues without affecting capacity. Then we use SATA-based capacity to reduce cost and footprint."

He also said FalconStor's data protection agents give customers CDP, enables user file-level recovery, and lets customers recover virtual servers from a disaster recovery site.

"We enable a self-service recovery process to the end user," Albatal said. "Embedding our agents into the VDI image lets us automatically protect the environment as the end user boots. As soon as the end user starts using the environment, the user has local protection. The twist with VDI is to embed it into the VDI golden image on the server. As you spin off a VDI, the agent is embedded."

Wikibon analyst David Floyer said FalconStor's use of solid-state drives as cache can go a long way towards alleviating VDI bottlenecks. Using solid- state drives as cache requires buying an extra device, but Floyer said it is more effective than replacing Fibre Channel drives with solid-state drives in storage arrays.

"FalconStor has implemented a FOSC [Flash on storage controller] architecture essentially as an extension of the array cache," he said. "Normally FOSC is done as SSD in the array, but they haven't done that. In my opinion, it's a much better utilization of the resources and it's in real time. With SSD, you can predict a particular volume or part of a volume and put that in cache but you have to do that ahead of time, and it's not real time. FalconStor has implemented it as a real-time system that will page in and page out – it's an extension of cache for read cache and write cache. Instead of guessing which VDI is hottest, they can respond in real time to what is hot and what is not, and keep what is hot in cache."


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