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VMware performance spikes with InovaWave DXtreme, users say

InovaWave's I/O caching technology is helping virtualization users get two times as many VMs per host.

Some VMware users looking to run more virtual machines per host have found that InovaWave's DXtreme performance optimization software can get them up to two times as many virtual machines (VM) per host without increasing hardware resources like RAM.

Sound too good to be true? That's what Rob Hirschfeld thought when former co-worker and InovaWave CTO Dave McCrory told him that DXtreme could make his VMs run faster than if they were on physical hardware. "I told him he was full of it," Hirschfeld recalls.

It's a paradox. They tell you to reduce the RAM, and you think, 'That's not going to make you go faster.' Then you do it, and it does.
Rob Hirschfield
Chief ArchitectNovusEdge

But as chief architect overseeing a team of engineers at NovusEdge, an asset management software developer in Austin, Texas, Hirschfeld knew that getting better performance out of VMware Workstation was important to his team. As it stood, developers found that they could either run Eclipse, their integrated development environment (IDE), or test VMs with VMware Workstation – but not both. "Developers' time is at a premium," he said.

When he tested DXtreme, Hirschfeld found that he could in fact run about two times as many VMs with his given hardware, or he could run the same number of VMs and also run his IDE. At the same time, Hirschfeld witnessed first-hand an oddity of DXtreme: that VMs will run faster if you give them less RAM.

"It's a paradox," Hirshfeld said. "They tell you to reduce the RAM, and you think, 'That's not going to make you go faster.' Then you do it, and it does."

Another DXtreme user reported similar results. As a technical sales representative at a large systems vendor, he uses VMware Workstation on his laptop to demonstrate an elaborate software suite that consists of VMs running a Linux server application, plus Solaris, Windows and Linux clients. "At two VMs, performance was acceptable, but at four or five, it really started dragging," said the user, whose corporate policy requires that he speak to the press anonymously.

The user first heard about InovaWave on a VMware forum. "They told me that I could increase my performance, the number of apps or the number of VMs – any one of those would make my life better, so I downloaded it."

DXtreme worked as advertised. Performance with two or three VMs is about 25% better, and with four or five VMs, it is 30 – 40% better. "It's not instantaneous, but it's much better," the user said.

Virtual I/O channels
InovaWave is relatively secretive about how DXtreme works, other than to say it creates virtual I/O channels.

"At first, I thought there was some sort of bug they were fixing," said Hirschfeld. Since then, he's revised his assessment. "It's basically some really, really smart caching algorithm that intercepts disk I/O, so that now you're coming out of your fastest I/O channel which is your RAM, versus your slowest I/O channel which is your disk."

There's a rub, however – for now. DXtreme currently only works on 32-bit Windows operating systems and host-based virtualization software from Microsoft (VirtualPC and Virtual Server) or VMware (Workstation and Server). That said, ESX and 64-bit Windows versions of DXtreme are both in beta.

Once DXtreme is available on ESX, it may make a nice complement to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment, said Mike Bradley, director of business development at ClearCube, a provider of centralized desktop technologies that is investigating InovaWave's software.

"Our initial assessment has been very interesting," Bradley said. "The performance gains we've seen would allow us to have 50 to 60% more VMs per blade than we would without InovaWave," driving down the cost of a VDI deployment. "It will definitely help users make better use of their hardware."

The one downside might be that InovaWave might not be around for too long. "They certainly seem like a strong candidate for acquisition," Bradley said. "It complements the technologies that VMware and Microsoft are working on, in a way that they haven't been working on."

InovaWave DXtreme starts at $149 and is available in Lite, Standard, Enterprise and DataCenter editions.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Alex Barrett, News Director.

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