EMC is pushing hard on the flash front. In a move to extend flash technology to the server and drive the benefits of PCIe flash tech from social media and Internet to mainstream mission critical apps, the company just rolled out a new server flash caching solution dubbed EMC VFCache.

Coupled with EMC flash-enabled storage systems, EMC VFCache promises to improve application performance by tapping into intelligent software and PCIe flash technology. EMC's testing showed up to three times greater throughput and a 60 percent latency reduction.

"In 2012, we're seeing the extension of the storage hierarchy where flash is being managed from the server all the way through to the spinning disk array," said Dave Vellante, chief analyst at Wikibon.org (a professional community solving technology and business problems through open-source sharing of free advisory knowledge).

"An important development," Vellante points out, "is software that intelligently places data at the most appropriate location in this emerging storage hierarchy. Combined with FAST technology [which we explain below], EMC VFCache is a leading example of this trend coming to market as a solution."

Potentially Disruptive Technology

Vellante is talking about EMC's integration with Fully Automated Storage Tiering architecture, called FAST for short. VFCache extends the EMC FAST architecture to make way for intelligent end-to-end data tiering and caching strategy from the storage to the server.

"What our clients will gain in performance and protection is complemented with the intelligence of EMC's unique automated storage tiering technology through EMC FAST," said Keith Norbie, vice president at Nexus Information Systems. "VFCache will help us satisfy the performance boost requirements, protection needs and automated intelligence for our customers with mission critical, hybrid cloud environments."

Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT, said companies running a high-end online transaction processing application that needs access to a customer or product database would find this solution useful. An entire Oracle or SQL database could be incorporated on two or three VFCache cards, he said, and enjoy virtually no latency.

"This is not a storage play so much as it is a broader data center play," King said. "It could be very disruptive. If the disruptive technology is owned and leveraged by a knowledgeable vendor it tends to be very good for that vendor and not so great for that vendor's competitors."

Pushing Flash to New Limits

It could become more disruptive -- and therefore more of a threat to the competition -- in the months ahead. Beyond sheer speed and automated intelligence, VFCache offers what EMC is calling "write-through caching" to the storage array.

That means when data is written to VMAX, VMAXe, VNX or VNXe storage, it is protected by the highest possible availability storage with data integrity, data reliability and disaster recovery. EMC said the information remains shareable and scalable without any stranded storage.

And within the next year, EMC said it will also add de-duplication technology to VFCache to make flash technology even more efficient. EMC will also support additional flash capacity and form factors, as well as more deeply integrate with EMC storage management technologies.