A little over a week ago, EMC made a major announcement of their offering in a product category that looks poised to reshape how enterprise storage works over the next few years. That product previously known as Lightning is now called VFCache, and is one of many emerging technologies in a category we more broadly call storage accelerators. EMC is not the first or sole vendor in this space – they are preceded by Marvell with Dragonfly, Fusion IO with IOTurbine, and others – but EMC is the biggest vendor to announce such a product. The exciting thing about this type of technology is the potential for changing how enterprise storage works, for the better. The promise is that the business will be able to easily deliver and scale performance without requiring wholesale alteration of existing storage infrastructures or the way we implement and manage storage today.

In this article, we’ll recap the on-going battle for more storage performance, describe where this new generation of technology fits into the picture, and discuss what potential customers should have in mind when looking at making server-based storage accelerators (SSA’s) a part of their storage performance strategy. In a nutshell, there is tremendous opportunity in these accelerators that may well influence and change storage architectures for years to come, but early adopters should be thinking strategically about how and why to implement these accelerators both today and in the future. Asking your vendor the right questions may help you make a decision that maximizes your current and future value from these highly affordable acceleration technologies.

Accelerating the battle for storage performance

Over the past two decades, delivering performance from data storage has become the bane of the enterprise storage administrator, and the challenges have recently seemed poised to severely constrain the capabilities of the infrastructure in the face of increasing virtualization, consolidation, and data analytics. While data density and compute horsepower have increased almost logarithmically over the years, storage performance improvements have been comparatively minuscule.