FalconStor Software announced this week that Network Storage Server (NSS), their SAN virtualization solution, now supports VMware VAAI. This is big news for two reasons: Is the first time a smaller storage company has added VAAI support, and this is the first software virtualization product to do so. Users of this FalconStor solution will be able to use the three ESX 4.1 VAAI primitives with a wide variety of third-party storage devices.
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VMworld 2011 was a flurry of activity, but the FalconStor booth caught my eye. There, on the backdrop, were the four letters I’ve been tracking throughout the storage industry: VAAI. VMware’s array integration API brings powerful capabilities for the hypervisor to directly communicate with supported storage devices. Once enabled, VAAI “just works”, accelerating storage the motion and file locking and improving storage efficiency through thin provisioning.
But VAAI support is very difficult for storage vendors to bring to market. It requires capabilities that may not be present in some storage systems as well as the development of a plug-in for VMware vSphere. Then, vendors must go through certification with VMware before being added to the hardware compatibility list.
When it was initially announced as part of vSphere 4.1, VAAI support was limited to a few large companies. Since then, only IBM has added substantial support for the API, and no small vendor has been able to step up. This has somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for VAAI, since I would like to see widespread support across the industry.
Now that vSphere 5 has been announced, along with an extended version of VAAI, I hope more vendors will join the party. But until then, the FalconStor announcement brings hope to those who own unsupported systems. NSS is a block storage virtualization platform, and version 7.0 brings VAAI to any storage array. It is available as a software product or virtual appliance or as a physical appliance solution.
In this way, it is similar to the IBM SVC and HDS USP products. But FalconStor NSS is substantially less expensive than those offerings, more suitable for smaller businesses with “alternative” storage devices. FalconStor software is also widely offered by storage resellers, who will now be able to offer VAAI compliant solutions from vendors other than the big names.
I do not necessarily endorse or recommend FalconStor NSS over competing products from more familiar names, but I commend them for adding VAAI support. There the first small vendor to do so, and their software virtualization platform spreads the availability of this important software capability. For that, they should be commended!
No disclaimer: I’m not associated with FalconStor in any way.