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RAID and IOPS and IO Observations

There are at least two different meanings for IOPs

There are at least two different meanings for IOPs, which for those not familiar with the information technology (IT) and data storage meaning is Input/output Operations Per second (e.g. data movement activity). Another meaning for IOP that is the international organization for a participatory society (iopsociety.org), and their fundraising activity found here.

I recently came across a piece (here and here) talking about RAID and IOPs that had some interesting points; however, some generalizations could use some more comments. One of the interesting comments and assertions is that RAID writes increase with the number of drives in the parity scheme. Granted the specific implementation and configuration could result in an it depends type response.

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Here are some more perspectives to the piece (here and here) as the sites comments seem to be restricted.

Keep in mind that such as with RAID 5 (or 6) performance, your IO size will have a bearing on if you are doing those extra back-end IOs. For example if you are writing a 32KB item that is accomplished by a single front-end IO from an applications server, and your storage system, appliance, adapter, software implementing and performing the RAID (or erasure coding for that matter) has a chunk size of say 8KB (e.g. the amount of data written to each back-end drive). Then a 5 drive R5 (e.g. 4+1) would in fact have five back-end IOPS (32KB / 8KB = 4 + 1 (8KB Parity)).

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Otoh of the front end IOP were only 16KB (using whole numbers for simplicity, otherwise round-up), in the case of a write, there would be three back-end writes with the R5 (e.g. 2 + 1). Keep in mind the controller/software managing the RAID would (or should) try to schedule back-end IO with cache, read-head, write-behind, write-back, other forms of optimization etc.

In the piece (here and here), a good point is the understanding and factoring in IOPS is important, as is also latency or response time in addition to bandwidth or throughput, along with availability, they are all inter-related.

Also very important is to keep in mind the size of the IOP, read and write, random, sequential etc.

RAID along with erasure coding is a balancing act between performance, availability, space capacity and economics aligned to different application needs.

RAID 0 (R0) actually has a big impact on performance, no penalty on writes; however, it has no availability protection benefit and in fact can be a single point of failure (e.g. loss of a HDD or SSD) impacts the entire R0 group. However, for static items, or items that are being journaled and protected on some other medium/RAID/protection scheme, R0 is used more than people realize for scratch/buffer/transient/read cache types of applications. Keep in mind that it is a balance of all performance and capacity with the exposure of no availability as opposed to other approaches. Thus, do not be scared of R0, however also do not get burned or hurt with it either, treat it with respect and can be effective for something's.

Also mentioned in the piece was that SSD based servers will perform vastly better than SATA or SAS based ones. I am assuming that the authors meant to say better than SAS or SATA DAS based HDDs?

StorageIO industry trends cloud, virtualization and big data

Keep in mind that unless you are using a PCIe nand flash SSD card as a target or cache or RAID card, most SSD drives today are either SAS or SATA (being the more common) along with moving from 3Gb SAS or SATA to 6Gb SAS & SATA.

Also while HDD and SSDs can do a given number of reads or writes per second, those will vary based on the size of the IO, read, write, random, sequential. However what can have the biggest impact and where I have seen too many people or environments get into a performance jam is when assuming that those IOP numbers per HDD or SSD are a given. For example assuming that 100-140, IOPs (regardless of size, type, etc.) can be achieved as a limiting factor is the type of interface and controller/adapter being used.

I have seen fast HDDs and SSDs deliver sub-par performance or not meeting expectations fast interfaces such as iSCSI/SAS/SATA/FC/FCoE/IBA or other interfaces due to bottlenecks in the adapter card, storage system / appliance / controller / software. In some cases you may see more effective IOPs or reads, writes or both, while on other implementations you may see lower than expected due to internal implementation bottlenecks or architectural designs. Hint, watch out for solutions where the vendor tries to blame poor performance on the access network (e.g. SAS, iSCSI, FC, etc.) particular if you know that those are not bottlenecks.

Here are some related content:
Are Hard Disk Drives (HDDs) getting too big?
How can direct attached storage (DAS) make a comeback if it never left?
EMC VFCache re spinning SSD and intelligent caching
SSD and Green IT moving beyond green washing
Optimize Data Storage for Performance and Capacity Efficiency
Is SSD dead? No, however some vendors might be
RAID Relevance Revisited
Industry Trends and Perspectives: RAID Rebuild Rates
What is the best kind of IO? The one you do not have to do
More storage and IO metrics that matter
IBM buys flash solid state device (SSD) industry veteran TMS

In terms of fund-raising, if you feel so compelled, send a gift, donation, sponsorship, project, buy some books, piece of work, assignment, research project, speaking, keynote, web cast, video or seminar event my way and just like professional fund-raisers, or IOPS vendors, StorageIO accept visa, Master Card, American express, Pay Pal, check and traditional POs.

As for this site and comments, outside of those caught in the spam trap, courteous perspectives and discussions are welcome.

Ok, nuff said.

Cheers Gs

Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press, 2011), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press, 2009), and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier, 2004)

twitter @storageio

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More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

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