Tuesday Feb 17, 2009

Not the Bandwidth... It's the Latency That Gets You

Being an old server guy a common rule we live by is: "It's not the bandwidth, it's the latency that gets you."  How so appropriate for storage today. Applications put a tremendous demand on accessing data when and where you need it.  Users nor customers are willing to deal with waiting a long time for their data.  With Web 2.0 services spanning a multitude of needs, response time is critical.  For certain real time applications interrupt response time and minimal latency is a must.  A real time data feed comes in an instant and you have to be ready to respond to the telemetry data as that satellite passes over that receiving station.

Data needs to be stored or retrieved for devices that span from the small mp3 player to that large cloud that you provide and/or utilize.  Specific to the storage of your data, performance fundamentally comes down to how you manage your reads and writes.  File and block serving of data needs to be tuned, staged and ultimately not waiting at any stage of the pipeline from disk to client.  Today that requires a lot of intimate knowledge of processor caching, storage controllers, I/O software stacks and much more.  Having knowledge of this information is only part of the solution as the whole application topology is further mystified by unknown bottlenecks, resource hogs and just plain alchemy. 

The unknowns are attempted to be turned into knowns by expensive analyzers, network sniffers and debug tools.  What could one do if a visual dynamic analysis tool was made available to you?  The you being that novice with limited knowledge as well as that you with all the intimate knowledge of hardware, kernel, drivers, application software, cache coherency, round robin scheduling, relational databases, etc.  For the investor world we have Cramer's Mad Money.  I'd like to introduce you to Gregg's Mad Storage.  Brendan Gregg  has a great post on explaining how a hybrid storage pool of solid state disk and cheap SATA disks can significantly outperform traditional storage.  It's not only RAM and disk any longer, rather RAM, SSDs, cheap disks and the ZFS file system.  The heat maps from Analytics of storage latency are just so visual.  Using Analytics (Dtrace) in the Unified Storage Server 7000 Appliance is very intuitive and straight forward.  No clumsy logs files to comb through.  No debug points to capture state.  Only point and clicks of your mouse and loads of visual histograms of data for your eyes. Brendan does an awesome job of breaking down fundamental performance problems using analytics built into this storage appliance.

There even is a Unified Storage Server 7000 emulator available on VMwareCheck it out for yourself and see what commodity hardware, an open sourced operating system, innovation and differentiation can do for your storage needs.  You may also want to bookmark Brendan's blog as his posts on performance for hybrid storage appliances are just as passionate as the technology.  Stay tuned for more on solid state disk technology where we'd rather lead than follow.

Monday Nov 10, 2008

A new Networked Appliance is the Appliance Appliance for Storage and IT

Going against the establishment or trying to redefine standards in an industry is always hard.  While believers encourage you the industry critics are happy to knock you down.  For the critics as Dale Carnegie says: "Criticisms are disguised complements."  Today after lots of encouragement, hard work and collaboration Sun is announcing it's first wave of OpenStorage appliance solutions built from some pretty compelling systems and software technologies. 

In a nutshell the Sun Storage 7000 Unified Storage System Family offers data services via:

  • - Storage Analytics
  • - VLAN support
    - ZFS Hybrid Storage Pool
    - RAID-Z (5 and 6), Mirrored and Striping
    - Snapshots
    - Clone and clone promotion
    - Snapshot Restore
    - Storage ISV integration
    - NFSv3, v4 service
    - Kernel based CIFS Server
    - iSCSI Target
    - Remote Replication
    - Data Compression
    - Active-Active Clustering
    - Thin Provisioning
    - Virus scanning
    - NDMP Server (Network Data Management Protocol)
    - System Self-Healing
    - ZFS Data Integrity
    - RAID-6 (DP) and optional RAID-6 Across JBODs
    - LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol)
    - IP MultiPathing (IPMP)
    - I/O MultiPathing between the Sun Storage 7410 and JBODs
    - Phone home telemetry
    - Multi Browser Interface support
    - Heterogeneous access
    - Role Base Access Control and more...

As true appliances the Sun Storage 7110, 7210 and 7410 offer you a seamless easy to use captive control interface.  It should not matter what is under the covers. But let's take a quick peek under and look at some of the piece parts.  The same piece parts that allow anyone in the opensolaris community to roll your own storage solution.  A great group of folks at Sun have rolled our own storage appliance for sale ($$$) if that is the right solution for you.  Some community members have money but no time and some community members have no money but timeMeet up with them.  The choice is yours and the cost savings are significant for either choice.  However it is pretty difficult to make something very easy and that's where the technical skills of systems and software expertise at Sun differentiates. 

Next up in our recipe is standard commodity hardware.  Nothing special is needed here to add or tweak the configuration.  Software turns the standard hardware into the appliance.  Stock servers with disks and dumb JBOD expansion if you really want to scale. No magic here other than well designed hardware.  Add in components such as SSD/Flash technology to optimize file serving.  Marry it all with very clever file system technology (you know what it is) so performance gains pop.  Intelligence based on a simple flow of:

if ssd_present

then

       begin {optimize ssd}

else

       begin {optimize normal};

That's right an auto sensing file system (click here to see the actual code) for solid state disks no matter how many you may have in your configuration.  Now let's look at one final component. Technology that combines, contains, configures, consolidates and choreographs all this neat stuff into one seamless appliance of fully integrated software and hardware (FISHworks).  The result is analytics for insight and management.  Integrated RAS, fault management and reporting.  Click and point for configuration, management of data services and user management.  Simply easy.

Congratulations are due to too many folks to name here across the systems, software, services, marketing, ops, etc. organizations at Sun.  The most exciting aspect for me is the almost limitless additional services and horizontal scaling that can be realized through the combination of more innovation among systems and opensolaris software.  No matter what model is right for you, as a community member, you can participate or just watch.  It's totally up to you.

As the graphic shows above we've put all hands in for a job well done.

Enough of the quick peek of what is under the covers, just get it and try it out and let us know what you think.  A select set of community members have been working with us for a while and see the glass both ways.  We have been listening too... that is why we took some extra time.



About

The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.

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