ZFS secures your application

One of our ISV partner, a leading vendor in the financial services space, commonly recommends as deployment platform a commodity 2-socket Lintel server to minimize cost, but equipped with an internal RAID storage controller to increase the application uptime on such entry-level servers by mirroring the root disk. We recently worked with its professional services team to explore if we could improve on the solution, i.e. continuing to bring the cost down while increasing uptime.

The proposed solution was to use the Oracle Solaris 10 operating system and its ZFS file system in lieu of the hardware RAID to mirror the root hard drive. ZFS is a new kind of filesystem that provides simple administration, transactional semantics and immense scalability. ZFS natively supports all common RAID functionalities and also embeds advanced fonctionnalities in compression, encryption and snapshot, typically expected from proprietary high-end storage systems.

The benefits of the ZFS-based solution is :

  1. Higher Uptime
    The end-customer can replace damaged hard drives without the need of shutting down the system since ZFS management is at the OS level while the RAID management software is at the BIOS level.
  2. Simpler Management
    ZFS is a built-in feature of Solaris so nor our ISV partner nor the end-customer need to learn any cumbersome software management interface like RAID software.
  3. Faster Deployment
    ZFS mirroring can be set up during the Solaris OS installation process, no additional setup of software is needed, the solution can be deployed more rapidly.
  4. Better Data Integrity
    The end-customer benefits from the advanced data and metadata integrity features of ZFS --other file systems typically provide only metadata integrity. They can also use the ZFS snapshot and clone features at no extra cost.
  5. Lower Hardware Cost
    The ZFS-based software solution does not require to pay extra money on a hardware RAID controller.
In conclusion, by using ZFS vs traditional filesystems like EXT3 or UFS, our partner was able to deploy its application on a Sun Fire X2270 class system vs a X4170 class one --a 20% price difference in their base prices-- and to reduce unplanned downtime and maintenance time --from hours to mins. This solution is in production today at several EMEA banks.
Comments:

Frederic, you claim that TCO of your solution:

- - - X2270 hardware + Solaris license + support contract + Solaris administration

is lower than TCO of current solution:

- - - commodity (say Dell) server hardware + Linux administration

Could you, please, justify this?

Posted by Konstantin on June 01, 2012 at 09:35 AM CEST #

In this specific case, it was cheaper (more in the TCA sense) for our partner to go for a Solaris x86 vs a Lintel platform b/c they could meet the required SLA (primarily uptime here) in software (ZFS) with Solaris (=free) vs in hardware (RAID) with Linux (=extra money).

This is a very recurring theme that we see working with our partners. Solaris contains many cool technologies (free, no extra licensing required) and the more you leverage these technologies (ZFS, Zones, Crossbow, DTrace, Crypto, Cluster, Mgnt, etc), the more competitive a Solaris solution is.

Posted by Frederic Pariente on June 01, 2012 at 10:01 AM CEST #

Thank you clarification. Given that the prices for Sun hardware and support contracts are fairy high, every claim about lower TCO shall be carefully justified.

In your posts, please, attend to the detailed examination of business cases, up to the numbers, so we could obviously see that case really benefits from Oracle but not the Lintel solution.

Posted by Konstantin on June 01, 2012 at 10:41 AM CEST #

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