Extending Existing Data Management Tools to Flash Memory

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There’s a time-honored IT tradition that says any time there is a performance issue, throw hardware at it. Rather than go to all the trouble of optimizing the way of a particular application works, it’s usually faster and less expensive to throw additional processing power at the problem.

But as server density levels in the data center have increased over the years, throwing processors at the problem has become problematic. As a result, many IT organizations are settling for the next best thing to throw at the problem: memory. That’s all well and good, but the issue that then needs to be addressed is how to manage all the data in memory, especially as it applies to cloning data, taking snapshots, deduplication, thin provisioning and backup.

Symantec and Violin Memory, a provider of Flash memory arrays, announced this week that they are moving to solve that problem by making it possible to use data management tools from Symantec to manage data residing in Flash memory.

According to Narayan Venkat, vice president of products for Violin Memory, while Flash memory presents some new interesting possibilities in terms of how data might one day be managed, the immediate issue at hand is finding ways of managing that data as a natural extension of the way data is currently managed by most IT organizations. The alliance with Symantec, says Venkat, solves that problem by allowing IT organizations to apply a familiar management construct to data stored in Flash memory.

There’s no doubt that as Flash memory continues to become more affordable thanks largely to it being in consumer electronics products such as the Apple iPhone and iPad, the downstream economic benefit for enterprise IT organizations can be quite substantial. Applications running on virtual machines are particularly performance-sensitive, which means they hunger for memory. Some organizations have taken to trying to solve that problem by making use of more memory on storage systems. But Venkat argues that memory needs to be running on the server side to really have a significant impact on application performance.

No matter the approach, it’s clear that memory is taking on a much bigger role in the enterprise these days. The challenge now is figuring out how to actually manage it.