Cloud, Data Center, Opinion

Think Differently About Storage With Superconvergence

Modern virtualization introduced overhead into the compute and storage stack in a number of ways. For many production workloads, IT organizations were happy to trade the overhead incurred for the massive increase in workload consolidation and ease of administration. But there are always outliers.

In the case of extremely compute-heavy workloads, sometimes the correct choice was indeed to avoid virtualization and run on bare metal in order to avoid the overhead. Advanced CPU instruction sets have continued to reduce this barrier. The same issue has turned up throughout the years in the realm of storage. Often, storage virtualization like VMware’s VMFS + VMDK model was the most versatile, robust solution for storage despite the slight overhead. But for situations where breakneck speed was required, sometimes direct access to the raw storage has been the best option.

VMware has long included a helpful construct which allows a virtual machine to access raw storage which is accessible to the vSphere host: the Raw Device Mapping. RDM’s provide the speed and benefits of direct access to the physical storage; unfortunately, using them has introduced some major limitations like breaking the ability to vMotion virtual machines (moving them to a different vSphere host while the VM remains active). In recent releases, VMware has introduced the ability to vMotion VMs with Raw Device Mappings, but it’s still only under some specific circumstances and with some very specific requirements.

While the RDM method of dealing with storage worked for many cases for a long time, it’s always been the storage administrators dream to allow all virtual machines access directly to the underlying disks (without the translation of an additional filesystem or virtualization layer) without sacrificing all the wonderful management and functionality benefits association with standard storage virtualization. Cloudistics has done just that with their Ignite platform’s Elastic Flash Storage.

Ignite EFS

The all-new way to think about storage virtualization relies on the Ignite platform’s special sauce: the specialized hardware appliance (which includes a customized SDN switch) and the Adaptive Overlay Network that’s also a part of the platform.

EFS Storage, notably missing multiple layers of virtualization overhead.
EFS Storage, notably missing multiple layers of virtualization overhead.

Utilizing these two features, EFS is able to provide all workloads direct access to the raw storage – eliminating the overhead typically associated with storage virtualization – without sacrificing all the benefits administrators have come to expect from their usual virtual storage constructs. VMs run directly on all-flash block storage with no intervening file systems, while still providing all-inclusive data services—encryption, thin provisioning, snapshots, and high availability.

We recently had to opportunity to interview Cloudistics CTO and co-founder Srinidhi Varadarajan to learn more about the storage aspect of their superconverged infrastructure solution. Watch this video to learn more about EFS and the advantages Cloudistics has engineered in their unique Ignite platform, or check them out at!