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Former VMware exec founds virtualization storage company

Dr. Kieran Harty, VMware’s former executive vice president of engineering, is now tackling storage performance and management headaches.

His startup, Tintri, launched in March, after two and a half years in stealth mode, and it received $18 million in series C venture capital funding this month. The company’s product, VMstore, is a combination of hardware and software that aims to solve the problems of storage I/O performance bottlenecks and management complexity in virtual infrastructures.

VMstore is a 4U box that comes with 8.5 TB of usable capacity, comprised of a combination of solid-state Flash disks and SATA capacity. It uses inline data deduplication to compress virtual machine (VM) data so that up to 13 logical TB can fit into one unit. With compression and deduplication — as well as the ability to automatically move data to the Flash disks in small 8KB blocks, according to application demand — the appliance can store between 100 and 200 VMs per node, including high-performance databases, Tintri says.

At the software level, VMstore presents itself to the virtual infrastructure as a single datastore, using virtual disks as its smallest unit of management, rather than blocks or files. Tintri also says that the product’s file system, which manages the VM objects, is optimized to handle a relatively small number of large files, for better performance and simpler management.

With VMstore, admins don’t have to move VMs between high-performance Flash and regular storage; the machine does it for them. The product also presents a simplified dashboard that can plug in to vCenter and show capacity and datastore performance information, including data on IOPS, throughput, latency and even the Flash hit rate.

As with any new product, there are limitations. VMstore supports VMware infrastructures only, but the management team says heterogeneous hypervisor support will follow. The product also lacks native replication, but that’s on the roadmap for next year as well.

Tintri claims to have a double-digit number of customers that are using the product in production, but the company declined to name them. A CIO at a major software company, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said he’s kicking the tires on VMstore for disaster recovery (DR) purposes, despite the product’s lack of replication capabilities. This company had made the decision not to run any physical servers at its DR site but ran into problems virtualizing Oracle E-Business Suite Financials.

So far in tests, when directly attached to VMstore rather than a traditional Fibre Channel Storage Area Network (SAN), “the virtual copy of Oracle is back to parity with what we see with the physical system,” the CIO said. “We got a 2x improvement in performance of the application, and we were able to get a little bit more than five times compression on the size of the database.”

The CIO said he’d seen similar performance improvements with another financial management application, SAP’s BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation. The company is running an experiment in its test lab in which the database is virtualized and runs on Tintri, but the application server remains on a physical box. Performance in generating reports has doubled, and the company has used half the CPU and half the memory it uses on its production system, the CIO said.

“We’re continuing to look at Tintri and what it can do for us,” he added.

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