Archives for posts with tag: SSD

Storage performance is core to application performance and data access.  When we talk about storage performance, we typically talk about IOPS and throughput, but there is a third variable, latency.  Latency measures the time it takes for storage to respond to a request or instruction issued by the CPU.    The lowest latency is achieved by delivering data from memory at the speed of memory.  The typical latency is at 1us.  If data could be delivered at such latency, we would have a highly efficient server architecture, but  there are a number of factors that prevent out ability to see latency at that level.

  • Application latency – the inherent architecture of the application may make it impossible to achieve microsecond latency.  Typical operations add to the overall latency.
  • Local file system – since DRAM is volatile, data that requires persistence must be committed to persistent media before an acknowledgement is returned.  The local file system is responsible for taking blocks off DRAM and copying them to other media on the I/O bus.  A common Linux file sytsem such as XFS or EXT4 add as much at 250us.  Even with the replacement of DRAM with NVDIMM (persistent memory), the latencies remain at minimum at 250us.  Though 250us may seem like nothing, in a typical database environment the reduction of 250us alone would increase IOPS and throughput per core by 350% and 410% respectively.
  • Network – When data travels over the network, whether it is FC or IP, there are added latencies.   Most all SSD/Flash arrays deliver performance at 1ms or more latency.  If SSD/Flash is sitting on the PCIe bus, that latency may be reduced to  a range between 500 and 800 microseconds.  Recently, a new protocol has been developed to allow shared storage (SAN) to deliver the same latency as storage on the PCIe.   This is the NVMe standard.
  • Drive media – Flash has a lower latency profile than HDD; it is not surprising since HDD is a mechanical device where the speed with which the platters spin correlates to the time it takes for the data to be pulled off the drive.  Flash is not a mechanical media and doesn’t have the same delays built in.

Of course we can’t leave out IOPS and throughput.  IOPS measures how many operations can be performed per second while throughput is how much data can be transferred through a given pipe.  Depending on the application, one of the other of these metrics will be more relevant.

For applications that stream data sequentially require more bandwidth and are therefore more concerned with throughput.  Thoughput may be calculated by the total bandwidth of the drives in a given system, the controllers, and the network.  Even if you have a system capable of delivering gigabytes of data, it still needs the network to carry the data.  There is often an imbalance between the network and system capabilities.  Recently a client expressed concern exemplifying this issue.  As a research institution there is a lot of data created by the labs and then processed by the investigators.  The challenge they are facing is that the amount of data being created and moved to a centralized location is much greater than what the network can handle.  As a result, they are unable to transfer data over the wire; some use tape or don’t move data at all.

IOPS  measures the number of operations a drive or a system can perform.  We have seen huge gains with the adoption of SSD/Flash.  Where a 15K RPM drive has the ability to deliver around 180 IOPS, a flash drive has the ability to deliver thousands of IOPS.  About 10-15 years ago storage administrators would be forced to over-provision capacity in order to get enough drives in a RAID set to deliver required number of IOPS.  As an example:  if your application needed 1 TB of data and 1,500 IOPS, using 15K drives at 300GB of capacity each an administrator would have to provision 4 drives to reach required capacity and 9 drives to reach the required IOPS.  Today,  capacity and IOPS can be balanced.

Not all applications require microsecond latency, thousands of IOPS and gigabytes of throughput, but with higher performance, when properly designed, the system can perform at a much higher level of efficiency, both operational and financial.  Next time we talk about performance, let’s make sure we are clear what performance we need.



I have been meeting with a variety of organizations and what is a reality marketers and product managers often forget is that everyone buys something different even if on surface it seems like they are buying the same thing.  For example, an organization announced that it is looking for 75TB of storage to support their db environment.  It seems pretty straight forward, they need storage.  Then, when you get a little closer, you discover that what they are really buying has little to do with storage at its foundation.

So what was this organization buying?

– the database application required some level of performance and so the storage system had to deliver the best possible performance per GB at the lowest possible  price.  At some point, if all available options were offering the same performance at a similar price point, then the conversation became more based on perception of performance and how much is good enough.

– the last system deployed ran without any issues so we are buying reliability of the brand we have had rather than the unknown of the brand we don’t have any exposure to.

– Operational efficiency and effectiveness – we have been using system A for the past two years and even though the application we will be deploying is very different, there is a perceived notion that we can easily architect the known platform for this use case better than something else

– Support is critical – even though I supposedly have had no issues with the system I have, I want to make sure that I have best support in my neighborhood just in case.

– My friend in company B just deployed a new environment and it includes product A, which means it is good and I too should buy it

– Company X is taking my hardware back and giving me credit, making the purchase less expensive.  I am not sure that it will deliver what I need or want or will be less expensive over time, but it looks good right now.

– I like the new product but I don’t have the resources to evaluate it and it is too much work to do other background checks, I will just buy a product from company I know even if it is doesn’t offer what I really need or want.

– I don’t know what I need but Vendor C just told me something interesting and I want it so I will buy it.

– I don’t like the sales rep from company B so I will buy from company X because their rep is nice.

There are many reasons why purchase decisions don’t seem rational or logical.  Anyone selling in this industry must be aware of who is buying, what they are buying, and why.  The best technology doesn’t always win, but a good enough product with a strong sales and marketing force can become a billion dollar enterprise.