Today, may 5th 2014 Andy Morgan, Chief Coding Monkey of ThinScale technology, officially introduced a new software solution named ThinScale ThinIO. Over the last two years Andy has shown me several steps in the process eventually leading up to the release of ThinIO.
Without taking any credit for Andy’s work I’m proud to have witnessed and been part of the discussion that got Andy thinking and enthusiastic for this project.
At least every month vendors contact me and pitch their new solutions or a new version. It only happens once so often that I’m immediately intrigued by a product and that certainly happened when Andy showed me ThinIO. To be honest, in the last year this only happened when I was shown the Nutanix solution and the RES IT Store.
So what is ThinScale ThinIO?
ThinScale ThinIO is a Windows based software solution, a driver, that can be installed on a stateless Windows based machine. Most of you now think, Citrix XenDesktop VDI but this can just as easily be RDS of View. This could even be stateless web servers for my part.
ThinIO sits between the user and the harddisk and acts as a memory cache of , block based, IO. So a write operation does not go to disk directly but sits in memory. You could compare this to in memory cache of Citrix Provisioning Services.
What makes it better then Citrix Provisioning Services is that it also caches reads in memory, so when you read a disk block it will be cached in memory so a next read will be much faster.
But what if memory is full? ThinIO detects the amount of reads on each disk block. If you’re memory constrained it will slowly start paging out the least used disk blocks to disk.
Although the above is already cool and helpful “Read Ahead” is what got me very excited.
Simply stated “read ahead” gives us a way of base lining what goes into memory. As an example, think of a VDI user logging in:
- The user profile is loaded
- Services start
- Outlook starts
- Et cetera
The cached IO content will be the same for 90% of the user population. We save what ThinIO has loaded in memory and load that on each machine prior to a user logging in. This saves a huge amount of IO operations. One of demo’s showed me a “clean” Windows 2008 R2 build, ThinIO saved over 80% of IO operations to disk.
As a short teaser I’ve included a screenshot of the management console of ThinIO. I secretly created this while Andy was demoing ThinScale ThinIO.