Low cost VDI takes a hit as Apple buys flash controller startup Anobit

Apple has opened its wallet and bought Anobit the Israeli flash controller startup whose signal processing technology makes cheap SSDs work as well as more expensive enterprise class drive. Putting in doubt the possibility that Anobit will contribute to the reduction in cost of VDI.

The largest single cost elements in most VDI deployments is the high cost of storage needed to meet the IOPS load caused by session startup and logon activities. Most VDI deployments address the IOPS challenge either by using many spinning discs to achieve the necessary IOPS or by using high-performance SSD in one form or another. 

Anobit was set to address one of the biggest challenges of using SSD  in VDI environments – the tendency for low cost SSD to wear out when subject to to sustained write operations. This effect is especially pronounced in the drives using cheaper 3-bit multi-level cell (MLC) flash technology, the use of which would significantly reduce the cost of SSD in VDI environments. Anobit’s secret sauce is its signal processing technology that makes this cheap non-volatile memory as reliable as the more expensive 2-bit MLC, and in turn makes 2-bit MLC last as long as single-level cell technolog, giving Anobit tech the means to provide either improved performance or lower cost depending on needs.

Anobit has been looking for investors to participate in a large funding round with a view to increasing capacity and furthering R&D aims and had been courting a leading Asian flash memory manufacturer. Now YNetNews has reported that Apple has stepped in, leading to speculation that Apple would completely absorb Anobit shutting down its OEM operations and diverting all manufacturing capacity to support Apple’s own hardware.

If Apple decides to prevent other industry segments from taking advantage of Anobit’s signal processing know-how, it could be a significant blow to organizations looking for low-cost high performance storage for VDI implementations.  However, low-cost SSD is not the only way to overcome the IOPS bottleneck that’s play this poorly designed VDI implementations.  More innovative solutions exist in the form of on hypervisor I/O optimization, for example, those provided by Atlantis Computing and Virsto, as well as high-performance PCI caching controllers such as those provided by Fusion-IO. However, as with many startups, the challenge is not so much developing the technology, but in achieving the level of awareness amongst potential enterprise customers to grow market share. Perhaps the news of Apple’s acquisition of Anobit, will help to raise the profile of these next-generation storage vendors whose  solutions are immune to the vagaries of the hardware supply chain.

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