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What vSphere API helps accelerate storage operations?

VMware provides an API that can perform certain storage tasks within an array to reduce I/O activity and keep traffic jams to a minimum.

Some common storage tasks can make unnecessary extra work in the data center, leading to VMware's development of a vSphere API to ease these burdens.

Consider what happens when you copy a file: Data is read from the original file and sent across the storage network to the server initiating the copy, and then the data is sent back out across the storage network to a new location in storage. A similar thing happens when you provision a data store; it's not necessary for a server to send all of the zeros used to zero-out a disk region. Shuttling all that data between servers, storage and networks uses processing resources on the server side, as well as bandwidth on the storage network or LAN. This exercise slows storage performance.

The idea behind storage acceleration is to perform redundant or basic tasks within a storage array without server-side intervention. This reduces computing overhead and storage network bandwidth to bring faster storage performance. For example, disk images can be copied faster; new VMs can be thick-provisioned faster, and so on.

Storage acceleration is based on a series of features integrated into the ESXi hypervisor and supported by storage subsystems using what is called pluggable storage architecture (PSA). A vSphere API developed to implement this software is called vStorage APIs for Array Integration, so PSA-based storage combines VAAI plug-ins and filters to allow servers to instruct suitable storage arrays to perform a limited set of tasks automatically without exchanging data with a host server.

VAAI plug-in and filter options can be managed using the command-line interface in vSphere. More information about VAAI can be found online in VMware's technical papers section.

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