Briefing Note: FlashSoft Server-side Caching expands Platform Support and adds Hardware Bundles

Server-side caching solutions are supposed to be simple – install it and forget it and everything runs faster. But this simplicity depends on platform compatibility, which can be a problem for many companies that have multiple versions of the major operating environments, as well as legacy distributions that are still in production. What IT needs are solutions they can run ‘across the board’, on more of their physical and virtual server inventory, to reduce administration time and effort. This was the goal with SanDisk’s upgrade to their FlashSoft caching software.

SanDisk recently announced FlashSoft version 3.7, which improves support for Windows, VMware and Linux platforms. The company also announced a new hardware and software bundling strategy designed to make it easier for users to implement server-side solutions. According to SanDisk, these upgrades were driven, in a large part, by their partnership with Dell, as FlashSoft has been sold with Dell servers since September of 2014. With thousands of Dell server deployments in the field, SanDisk had identified the need for deeper platform support as well as some hardware options to make FlashSoft even easier to implement.

Enhanced Windows, VMware and Linux Support

FlashSoft v3.7 provides enhanced support for Hyper-V, including Clustered Shared Volumes (CSVs) and Microsoft Failover Clusters. This ensures smooth write-through caching operation for Hyper-V hosts sharing storage volumes. They’ve also optimized the FlashSoft product for faster flash devices, like the ioMemory PCIe products that are included in some of their new bundles, and continue to support up to four 16TB cache devices per host.

FlashSoft v3.7 is also certified by VMware as a Partner Verified and Supported Product (PVSP), giving users confidence that FlashSoft will remain compatible with ESXi 5.x patches and updates. With this version FlashSoft can accelerate VMs on ESX boot devices, including vSphere v5.1 and v5.5. For VMware, FlashSoft now supports a 16TB cache, but one device per host.

SanDisk has also made a significant commitment to broader Linux support, opening a development facility in India for this ongoing engineering effort. This upgrade adds SUSE to the multiple Red Hat /CentoOS kernels that are supported, plus RHEV/KVM in single node configurations.

Bundled Hardware

One of the things SanDisk learned from their Fusion-io acquisition was the value of combining hardware and software into bundles. A big part of the appeal of server-side caching is simplicity, and offering FlashSoft software with SanDisk’s flash hardware was a natural step in that direction. FlashSoft bundles are now available in all combinations of form-factors (PCIe, SAS and SATA) and server platforms (Windows, Linux, VMware and Hyper-V). This strategy has been well received by SanDisk’s channel.

What this Upgrade Means – and Doesn’t Mean

SanDisk is increasing the number of options for implementing their FlashSoft product, on more platforms and now with hardware and software sold as a single solution. As a major software supplier, and a Dell OEM, one would expect this kind of thoroughness from SanDisk.

FlashSoft has always touted its status of being ‘hardware agnostic’. One might question that position, now that SanDisk is selling this software with hardware too. But the company has stressed that they’re not trying to cut out their OEM hardware partners with this strategy. These bundles are only intended to simplify the implementation experience for their customers and their make their channel partners more successful.

StorageSwiss Take

Companies looking at server-side caching solutions usually have multiple platforms, but they want to use as few products as possible. Unfortunately, platform compatibility can be a ‘devil in the details’ experience as many of the specific OS distributions in use, especially legacy platforms, may not be supported.

A server-side caching solution that they can run on more of these boxes simplifies the lives of the IT staff that has to implement and support them. This is why upgrades like this are so important, and point out the advantages that suppliers like SanDisk bring to the table. They have the resources and commitment to maintain that broad platform support and keep server-side caching a simple and effective solution.

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Eric is an Analyst with Storage Switzerland and has over 25 years experience in high-technology industries. He’s held technical, management and marketing positions in the computer storage, instrumentation, digital imaging and test equipment fields. He has spent the past 15 years in the data storage field, with storage hardware manufacturers and as a national storage integrator, designing and implementing open systems storage solutions for companies in the Western United States.  Eric earned degrees in electrical/computer engineering from the University of Colorado and marketing from California State University, Humboldt.  He and his wife live in Colorado and have twins in college.

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