Who or what is EUC? In an industry plagued by TLAs (three-letter acronyms), EUC, or end-user computing, is the new nomenclature for VDI, or virtual desktop infrastructure. This is not just the emperor’s new clothes, but a redefinition of the paradigm of adopting a more inclusive view of the software, hardware, and processes that shore up the client side of corporate infrastructure.
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Back in mid-2011, Dell acquired RNA Networks, a small startup out of Portland, Oregon. At the time Dell purchased it, RNA had a product, MVX, that employed three different ways to pool memory across multiple servers in order to accelerate workloads. One was a way to pool memory as a storage cache in order to speed disk accesses using system RAM. In the spring of 2013, we saw some of these features emerge again as Dell’s Fluid Cache for DAS (direct-attach storage) morphed to use the incredible speed of PCIe-based SSDs instead of RAM. Now, in late 2013 at Dell World, we finally get what many of us have been waiting for: the announcement of the expected availability of Dell Fluid Cache for SAN.
In the world of virtualization storage it seems all we talk about lately is flash and SSD. There is a good reason for that. Traditionally, storage capacity and storage performance were directly linked. Sure, you could choose different disk capacities, but in general you needed to add capacity in order to add performance because each disk, each “spindle” could only support a certain number of I/Os per second, or IOPS. This was governed by the mechanical nature of the drives themselves, which had to wait for the seek arm to move to a different place on disk, wait for the seek arm to stop vibrating from the move, wait for the desired sector to rotate underneath the read head, etc. There’s only so much of that type of activity that can be done in a second, and in order to do more of it you needed to add more drives. Of course that has drawbacks, like increased power draw, more parts so more chance of failure, and increased licensing costs since many storage vendors charged based on capacity.
Flash memory takes most of what we know about the physics of storage and throws it away. Because there are no moving parts, the act of seeking on a solid state disk is a completely logical one. There are no heads, no sectors, no rotation speeds. It’s all the speed of light and however fast the controller can go. As such, flash memory can do enormous numbers of IOPS, and if implemented well, it decouples storage performance from storage capacity. You save power, you save data center space, you save money in licensing fees, and your workloads run faster.
As the SSD invasion of the data center continues unabated, we are seeing more host-side caching solutions emerge. These solutions purport to be easier and way less expensive to implement than array-side SSD and flash, and they promise decent performance gains. The Proximal Data AutoCache is one of these products.