LDom Direct-IO gives fast and virtualized IO to ECI Telecom

ECI Telecom is a leading telecom networking infrastructure vendor and a long-time Oracle partner. ECI provides innovative communications platforms and solutions to carriers and service providers worldwide, that enable customers to rapidly deploy cost-effective, revenue-generating services. ECI Telecom's Network Management solutions are built on the Oracle 11gR2 Database and Solaris Operating System.

"As one of the leading suppliers in the telecom networking infrastructure, ECI has a long term relationship with Oracle. Our main Network Management products are based on Oracle Database, Oracle Solaris and Oracle's Sun servers. Oracle Solaris is proven to be a mission critical OS for its high performance, extreme stability and binary compatibility guarantee."

Mark Markman, R&D Infrastructure Manager, ECI Telecom

Not long ago, ECI was asked by a customer to provide a scalable solution with a smaller footprint, with a preference for a VM-like environment that can be rapidly deployed onto the carrier infrastructure and provide faster time-to-market. The main prerequisite was however not to compromise the application's performance, as the database disk I/O performance requirements can be especially demanding when the carrier has peak network traffic usage in its infrastructure.

ECI was facing a tough challenge, of introducing no I/O performance penalty while deploying inside a virtualized environment. Indeed, once the I/O subsystem is virtualized, the disk I/O traffic passes through a virtualization layer which can add a “virtualization tax”. In order to provide both virtualization and native disk I/O performance, ECI turned to Oracle, Oracle VM Server for SPARC virtualization (aka Logical Domains or LDom) and the following features, with the support of the local Oracle ISV Engineering team.

First, ECI used the LDom's Direct I/O (DIO) capability. With this technology, ECI was able to enjoy benefits that the virtualized environment can provide such as fast provisioning, advanced resource management and better system utilization. DIO allows ECI to assign PCIe slot from a SPARC T5-2 server directly to the guest domain without any intervention from the hypervisor.

The main benefits for this technology are:

  • Native I/O performance: the Solaris operating system has access to native I/O drivers vs virtual ones; the storage device can then be accessed directly, bypassing the virtualization layer and its associated overhead.
  • Predictable I/O performance: assigning exclusive access to storage device assures that this device will be able to serve the current and future I/O workload; with DIO, there is no need to share the storage device with other guest domains and affect the application I/O performance.

ECI also deployed the Sun Flash Accelerator F40 PCIe card:

  • Low latency: flash technology can complete an I/O operation in microseconds, placing it between hard disk drives (HDD) and DRAM in terms of latency. Because flash technology contains no moving parts, it avoids the long seek times and rotational latencies inherent to traditional HDD technology. As a result, data transfers between the different application tiers are improved dramatically.
  • Small footprint: the F40 card fits onto a low-profile PCIe card plugged-in inside the SPARC T5 server while conserving energy consumption. The solid-state DOM also operates at low power in comparison to disk devices.

Finally, Oracle offers two sophisticated software solutions designed to optimize the application performance: Oracle Database Smart Flash Cache and Oracle Solaris ZFS.

  • Oracle Database Smart Flash Cache is a unique software feature included with Oracle Database 11gR2; it applies extensive knowledge of dynamic database usage patterns to boost performance as a Database SGA extension.
  • Oracle Solaris ZFS filesystem optimizes and automates the use of Flash storage technology. ZFS is included as an integrated feature with Oracle Solaris; the Flash storage technology can be used as advanced caching layer for filesystem read and write I/O operations.

ECI conducted a proof-of-concept for the Oracle DB performance using their internal tests; the I/O workload characteristic was a combination of 20% sequential and 80% random write. ECI was able to achieve the following performance metrics during the benchmark:

  • Disk latency : 0.5 m/sec
  • Disk I/O throughput : 900 MBytes/sec
  • Disk I/O operations per second : 7000 IOPS

All results were similar to native disk I/O performance metrics. In conclusion, ECI Telecom could provide a cost-effective solution without any performance or scalability issues.

We saw here how ECI delivered maximum performance, efficiency and ease of use with minimum space and capacity for Oracle DB 11gR2 environments. Together, the Oracle software and hardware boost system speed, simplifies operations, and lowers costs --all without management overhead. This reduces business cycles, promotes new efficiency and enhances customer experience. This is an example for how the Oracle technologies which are "engineered to work together” can provide better value for Oracle customers.


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