OCZ flash accelerator takes a sharper focus on SQL Server

Storage has always affected how fast software runs, but IT shops now have more tools they can bring to bear on the problem.

Microsoft SQL Server is such a big target that storage vendors build specific products to speed it up, such as the updated SQL accelerator appliance that OCZ Storage Solutions introduced on Monday at the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference.

The ZD-XL SQL Accelerator 1.5 can speed up only the database files that need it, work with multiple virtual machines running SQL Server workloads at the same time, and link databases with flash located across a network. It’s part of the trend toward making better use of flash, which is rapidly becoming mainstream but still carries a cost premium. OCZ’s accelerator plugs directly into a server via PCIe, bringing flash close to computing resources.

The appliance is available in configurations with 800GB, 1.6TB or 3.2TB of flash. It can be used either as a local storage volume, as a cache for files from a SAN (storage-area network), or both. The platform is based on OCZ’s flash hardware and the company’s application-tuned software. OCZ was an early SSD (solid-state drive) vendor that Toshiba acquired out of bankruptcy late last year. The first version of the ZD-XL Accelerator hit the market last July.

As a local flash volume on a server, the ZD-XL can deliver up to 22 times as many transactions per minute as spinning HDDs (hard disk drives), according to OCZ. As a flash cache for the HDDs in a SAN, it can boost transactions by as much as five times.

The ZD-XL SQL Accelerator can take advantage of flash virtualization in SQL Server 2014. With either VMware ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V, its flash resources can be provisioned on demand for specific VMs that need them, OCZ says.

Version 1.5 also takes the accelerator’s caching capability beyond SANs and HDDs to include SSDs at remote sites that are being used for SQL Server data. It can make a direct connection to these SSDs, bypassing the typical storage software stack. This feature can help smaller organizations make the most of their existing investments in flash, OCZ spokesman Scott Harlin said.

The accelerator is available now, priced starting at US$2,950 for the 800GB version.

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