Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Another company to watch - Infinio

I haven’t had a chance to talk about a lot of the cool companies I've run across lately. I've seen a few, Ziften, Cloudbyte and this one, Infinio. I actually got to go meet the Infinio team in Cambridge yesterday which was great. I always forget how cool Kendall Square is until I get to spend time there. 

So here’s my notes in Infinio. Standard disclaimer… I don’t work for them and I’m not speaking for them, but if you are interested in them I’d be glad to introduce you…

You know how when you are designing storage you have to think about not just capacity, but the number of drives too. I remember we needed around 500GB of storage for our SAP instance but we ended up having to get 8 times that amount of drives to reach the number of iops we needed for the application to perform well. That seemed crazy to me.

Now it’s a bit better now, if you are buying new storage you can have them add in SSD drives and most of the storage companies now do auto-tiering so that “hot data” goes on the faster SSD drives and the rest goes on the spinning disks. But SSD is still really expensive and if you already have your storage environment, it’s a project to add SSD to it.

Enter Infinio. They claim, and I say claim only because my team hasn't done it, that you can download their software, install it, and have a much better performing ESX environment in 30 minutes with no downtime. I went through the install and it took less than 10 minutes, but that was in a lab in ideal conditions, point is 30 minutes is definitely believable. And yes you read that last paragraph correctly, it’s just software and you don’t need to reboot…

The way it works is it allocates a VM on each ESX host and essentially uses memory on the box (currently 8GB) and a single vcpu, as part of a distributed cache. There is also an additional VM for a management console that needs 2 vcpu's. 

The metrics were impressive, though I have to admit I don’t remember the details. It seemed like it showed at least double the performance but did a really nice job smoothing out the disk loading too. Don't take my word for it, or even their word for it, take an hour and test it in your environment. 

In theory this would also reduce the amount of network traffic to the storage too so it could help you stretch your 1Gb data center a little longer and avoid having to upgrade to 10Gb. Of course my company, Extreme Networks, sells network switches so I probably shouldn't point that out…

Now there are a few gotchas... It supports ESX with NFS datastores, if you use block level datastores like iscsi it won’t help. Now I don’t think they said this, but I can imagine that they are going to work on a version that works with iscsi too. Right now it only works with VMware as well. If you are using HyperV or something else, you’re out of luck for now, again I wouldn't be surprised if they are thinking about future releases adding support for other vendors but they definitely didn't say that.

So if you are running ESX against NFS datastores, check it out. You literally can install it at lunch, test it and uninstall it with no downtime. You might be surprised at how well it works.

A few other folks have looked at this. One is Jonathan Frappier,  who you definitely want to follow. He has a blog called Virtxpert and covers a lot of super cool virtualization stuff. The Infinio specific posts are here

Another person that talked about Infinio is Steve Duplessie from ESG. Again definitely someone good to follow, ESG has great research and Steve is an awesome speaker and definitely knows what he is talking about. He discusses Infinio in this video.