Virtualization technology is transforming data centers and enterprises around the globe by enabling better utilization of assets. One piece of the virtualization puzzle that has lagged behind is the storage piece.

Does virtual machine traffic require its own specific type of storage? A storage startup called Tintri, led by the former head of VMware’s research and development, thinks so.

Tintri’s co-founder and CEO, Kieran Harty told that in his experience, storage is often the barrier to broader virtualization deployments.

“What we have built is a hardware appliance that is not general purpose storage, rather it is specifically for virtualization environments,” Harty said. “It does not have the traditional storage concepts of volumes or other low level details; instead it deals with things at the virtual machine level.”

The Tintri storage appliance includes more than 1 TB of flash memory, which is made up of nine 160 GB flash drives that are supplemented by 15 SATA drives. Chris Bennett, vice president of marketing at Tintri told, that the flash drives are all providing inline access with de-duplication and compression and RAID6 data protection. Bennet noted that the Tintri compression technology is able to take a 1 TB database down to only 170 GB of physical space.

The system is also scalable in a method that is similar to how a VMware ESX server is able to scale virtual machines. Harty explained that with ESX when you run out of CPU power, the VMware vSphere system will boot another ESX host which then makes more CPU power available.

“Our model is that each of our appliances represents an 8.5 TB datastore and you don’t need to know anything about the device, other than the two fuel gauges we have,” Bennett said. “One of the gauges is for performance capacity, the other is for raw storage and as long as both gauges read green, you can continue to add virtual machines to the datastore.”

He added that, then when a user runs out of either performance or raw storage, an additional Tintri appliance can be added which will be treated as a new node for vSphere.

From a hardware perspective, Bennett noted that Tintri is running off the shelf Intel processors and commercial flash and SATA drives. The core of Tintri’s innovation resides in the filesystem. The Tintri filesystem sits on top of a Linx operating system base.

“The filesystem is based on the concept that the virtual machine is actually the core unit of measure,” Bennett said.

By having the virtual machine construct at its core, Tintri is able to handle the underlying storage for vMotion virtual machine migration.

“The single datastore per system allows users to have confidence that if they move a VM from one node to another, they’ll get the same experience,” Bennett said. “With other storage systems, due to the convoluted mapping on the backend, unless you grossly overprovision, you really don’t know what performance you’ll get when you do a storage vMotion.”

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