PernixData FVP & StorMagic SvSAN Use Case

In continuing to look at alternate ways to provide a good ROI capacity layer with PernixData FVP, Frank Denneman and I will be doing a couple posts on some unique designs with FVP. As I demonstrated in a previous post, FVP accelerates the reads and writes for virtual workloads, while a virtual storage appliance (VSA) can be a great technology to provide the primary storage and data services for virtual workloads.

With this post, I will focus on StorMagic and their iSCSi based VSA product named SvSAN. A couple interesting notes about SvSAN that might actually surprise you! StorMagic claims that they have one of the largest deployments of any VSA in the market. In 2013 alone they had over 800 percent growth! They currently also are the only VSA that can start with two nodes without needing a local 3rd host for a quorum response during host isolation situations. (More on this later)

A few interesting features:

-       vCenter plugin to manage all VSAs from a central point

-       Multi-Site Support  (ROBO/Edge) (Remote office / Branch office / Enterprise edge)

-       Active/Active Mirroring

-       Unlimited Storage & Nodes per Cluster


I think SvSAN and FVP combined can provide a great ROI for many environments. In order to demonstrate this, we need to go a little deeper to where each of these technologies fit into the virtualized stack.


SvSAN is deployed on a per host basis as a VSA. PernixData FVP however is deployed as a kernel module extension to ESXi on each host. This means that both architectures are not in conflict from an I/O path standpoint. The FVP module extension is installed on every host in the vSphere cluster, while SvSAN only needs to be installed on the hosts that have local storage. Hosts that don’t have access to local storage can still participate in FVP’s acceleration tier and also access SvSAN’s shared local storage presented from the other hosts via iSCSi.

Once both products have been fully deployed in the environment it’s important to understand how the I/O is passed from FVP to SvSAN. I have drawn a simple diagram to illustrate this process. 

You will notice that really the only difference between a traditional storage array design with FVP, is that you are now able to use local disks on the host. The SvSAN presents itself as iSCSi, so that the I/O passes through the local VSA to reach the local disk. Since virtual appliances have some overhead in processing I/O, it becomes advantageous with such a design to include PernixData FVP for the acceleration tier. This means that only unreferenced blocks need to be retrieved from the SvSAN storage and all other active blocks will be acknowledged from FVP’s local flash device. This will take a huge I/O load off of SvSAN and also provide lower latency to the application.

Fault Tolerance:

When any product is in the data path it becomes very important to provide fault tolerance and high availability for given workloads. SvSAN provides the data fault tolerance and high availability through its creation of a datastore mirror between two SvSAN VSA hosts.

This means if a host goes down or if the local storage fails, a VM can still continue with operations because SvSAN will automatically switch the local iSCSi connection to the mirrored host where there is consistent duplicated data.

The mirroring is done synchronously and guarantees data acknowledgement on both sides of the mirror. I think the really cool part is that the SvSAN can access any side of the mirror at any time without disrupting operations, even during FVP performance acceleration! The fault tolerance built-in to FVP is designed to protect those writes that have been committed and acknowledged on local/remote flash that haven’t yet been destaged to SvSAN layer. Once FVP has destaged the required writes to SvSAN at that point SvSAN’s mirrored datastore protection becomes relevant to the design.

Centralized Management in a Edge Environment:

As noted before, SvSAN only requires two hosts for a quorum during host isolation situations, where hosts or local storage is lost. This is accomplished through a separate service (NSH – Neutral Storage Host) that can be installed in a central location on either physical or virtual. It’s this centralization of a quorum service that can alleviate additional localized costs and management overhead. As it is with FVP, SvSAN can be managed from a vCenter plugin for centralized management. This means one can manage hundreds of enterprise edge sites for primary storage, while also providing centralized FVP management for each performance cluster using SvSAN. This is illustrated in the diagram below.

It’s with the low acquisition costs and simple management, where VSA usage has been popular in ROBO type of environments.  This can be great for primary storage at the enterprise edge but maybe not so great for those applications needing increased localized performance. The options to achieve a high performing cost effective storage solution for a virtualized remote environment have been limited in the past. It’s not until PernixData FVP that there was a solution where you can use inexpensive primary storage, like a VSA and also have a read/write performance tier that provides extremely low latency to the applications. The amazing part is that all this is accomplished through software and not another physical box. 

This post was just meant to be an introduction and high-level look at using a StorMagic’s VSA technology alongside PernixData FVP. I hope to go much deeper technically how each of these technologies work together in future posts.

This is a simple diagram showing centralized management with FVP and SvSAN in a single 2-host edge site.