Click here to close now.

Welcome!

Cloud Expo Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Pat Romanski, Carmen Gonzalez, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: Virtualization, Java, Microservices Journal, Open Source, Cloud Expo

Virtualization: Article

Considerations for SSD Deployments

SSD is a great technology, but your best value from it will come when you deploy it most efficiently

Legacy storage architectures do not perform very efficiently in virtual computing environments. The very random, very write-intensive I/O patterns generated by virtual hosts drive storage costs up as enterprises either add spindles or look to newer storage technologies like solid state disk (SSD) to address the IOPS shortfall.

SSD costs are coming down, but they are still significantly higher than spinning disk costs. When enterprises do consider SSD, how it is used and where it is placed in the virtual infrastructure can make a big difference in how much enterprises have to spend to meet their performance requirements. It can also impose certain operational limitations that may or may not be issues in specific environments.

Some of the key considerations that need to be taken into account are SSD placement (in the host or in the SAN), high availability/failover requirements, caching vs logging architectures, and the value of preserving existing investments vs rip and replace investments that promise storage hardware specifically designed for virtual environments.

SSD Placement
There are two basic locations to place SSD, each of which offers its own pros and cons. Host-based SSD will generally offer the lowest storage latencies, particularly if the SSD is located on PCIe cards. In non-clustered environments where it is clear that IOPS and storage latencies are the key performance problems, these types of devices can be very valuable. In most cases, they will remove storage as the performance problem.

But don't necessarily expect that in your environment, these devices will deliver their rated IOPS directly to your applications. In removing storage as the bottleneck, system performance will now be determined by whatever the next bottleneck in the system is. That could be CPU, memory, operating system, or any number of other potential issues. This phenomenon is referred to as Amdahl's Law.

What you probably care about are application IOPS. Test the devices you're considering in your environment before purchase, so you know exactly the level of performance gain they will provide to you. Then you can make a more informed decision about whether or not you can cost justify them for use with your workloads. Paying for performance you can't use is like buying a Ferrari for use on America's interstate system - you may never get out of second gear.

Raw SSD technology generally can provide blazingly fast read performance. Write performance, however, varies depending on whether you are writing randomly or sequentially. The raw technical specs on many SSD devices indicate that sequential write performance may be half that of read performance, and random write performance may be half again as slow. Write latencies may also not be deterministic because of how SSD devices manage the space they are writing to. Many SSD vendors are combining software and other infrastructure around their SSD devices to address some of these issues. If you're looking at SSD, look to the software it's packaged with to make sure the SSD capacity you're buying can be used most efficiently.

Host-based SSD introduces failover limitations. If you have implemented a product like VMware HA in your environment to automatically recover failed nodes, any data sitting in a host-based SSD device that has not been written through to shared storage will not be available on recovery. This can lead to data loss on recovery - something that may or may not be an issue in your environment. Even though SSD is non-volatile storage, if the node it is sitting in is down, you can't get to it. You can get to it after that node is recovered, but the issue here is whether or not you can automatically fail over and have access to it.

Because of this issue, most host-based SSD products implement what is called a "write-through" cache, which means that they don't acknowledge writes at SSD latencies, they actually write them through to shared disk and then send the write acknowledgement back from there. Anything on shared disk can be potentially recovered by any other node in the cluster, ensuring that no committed data is unavailable on failover. But what this means is that you won't get any write performance improvements from SSD, just better read performance.

What does your workload look like in terms of read vs write percentages? Most virtual environments are very write intensive, much more so than they ever were in physical environments, and virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environments can be as much as 90% writes when operating in steady state mode. If write performance is your problem, host-based SSD with a write-through cache may not help very much in the big picture.

SAN-based SSD, on the other hand, can support failover without data loss, and if implemented with a write-back cache can provide write performance speedups as well. But many implementations available for use with SAN arrays are really only designed to speed up reads. Check carefully as you consider SSD to understand how it is implemented, and how well that maps to the actual performance requirements in your environment.

Caching vs Logging Architectures
Most SSD, wherever it is implemented, is used as a cache. Sizing guidelines for caches start with the cache as a percentage of the back-end storage it is front-ending. Generally the cache needs to be somewhere between 3% to 6% of the back-end storage, so larger data store capacities require larger caches. For example, 20TB of back-end data might require 1TB of SSD cache (5%).

Caches are generally just speeding up reads, but if you are working with a write-back cache, then the cache will have to be split between SSD capacity used to speed up reads and SSD capacity used to speed up writes. Everything else being equal in terms of performance requirements, write-back caches will have to be larger than write-through caches, but will provide more balanced performance gains (across both reads and writes).

Logging architectures, by definition, speed up writes, making them a good fit for write-intensive workloads like those found in virtual computing environments. Logs provide write performance gains by taking the very random workload and essentially removing the randomness from it by writing it sequentially to a log, acknowledging the writes from there, then asynchronously de-staging them to a shared storage pool. This means that the same SSD device used in a log vs used in a cache will be faster, assuming some randomness to the workload. The write performance the guest VMs see is the performance of the log device operating in sequential write mode almost all the time, and it can result in write performance improvements of up to 10x (relative to that same device operating in the random mode it would normally be operating in). And a log provides write performance improvements for all writes from all VMs all the time. (What's also interesting is that if you are getting 10x the IOPS from your current spinning disk, given Amdahl's Law, you may not even need to purchase SSD to remove storage as the performance bottleneck.)

Logs are very small (10GB or so) and are dedicated to a host, while the shared storage pool is accessible to all nodes in a cluster and primarily handles read requests. In a 20 node cluster with 20TB of shared data, you would need 200GB for the logs (10GB x 20 hosts) vs the 1TB you would need if SSD was used as a cache. Logs are much more efficient than caches for write performance improvements, resulting in lower costs.

If logs are located on SAN-based SSD, you not only get the write performance improvements, but this design fully supports node failover without data loss, a very nice differentiator from write-through cache implementations.

But what about read performance? This is where caches excel, and a write log doesn't seem to address that. That's true, and why it's important to combine a logging architecture with storage tiering. Any SSD capacity not used by the logs can be configured into a fast tier 0, which will provide the read performance improvements for any data residing in that tier. The bottom line here is that you can get better overall storage performance improvements from a "log + tiering" design than you can from a cache design while using 50% - 90% less high performance device (in this case, SSD) capacity. In our example above, if you buy a 256GB SAN-based SSD device and use it in a 20 node cluster, you'll get SSD sequential write performance for every write all the time, and have 56GB left over to put into a tier 0. Compare that to buying 1TB+ of cache capacity at SSD prices.

With single image management technology like linked clones or other similar implementations, you can lock your VM templates into this tier, and very efficiently gain read performance improvements against the shared blocks in those templates for all child VMs all the time. Single image management technology can help make the use of SSD capacity more efficient in either a cache or a log architecture, so don't overlook it as long as it is implemented in a way that does not impinge upon your storage performance.

Purpose-Built Storage Hardware
There are some interesting new array designs that leverage SSD, sometimes in combination with some of the other technologies mentioned above (log architectures, storage tiering, single image manage-ment, spinning disk). Designed specifically with the storage performance issues in virtual environments in mind, there is no doubt that these arrays can outperform legacy arrays. But for most enterprises, that may not be the operative question.

It's rare that an enterprise doesn't already have a sizable investment in storage. Many of these existing arrays support SSD, which can be deployed in a SAN-based cache or fast tier. It's much easier, and potentially much less disruptive and expensive if existing storage investments could be leveraged to address the storage performance issues in virtual environments. It's also less risky, since most of the hot new "virtual computing-aware" arrays and appliances are built by startups, not proven vendors. If there are pure software-based options to consider that support heterogeneous storage hardware and can address the storage issues common in virtual computing environments, allowing you to potentially take advantage of SSD capacity that fits into your current arrays, this could be a simpler, more cost-effective, and less risky option than buying from a storage startup. But only, of course, if it adequately resolves your performance problem.

The Take-Away
If there's one point you should take away from this article, it's that just blindly throwing SSD at a storage performance problem in virtual computing environments is not going to be a very efficient or cost-effective way to address your particular issues. Consider how much more performance you need, whether you need it on reads, writes, or both, whether you need to failover without data loss, and whether preserving existing storage hardware investments is important to you. SSD is a great technology, but your best value from it will come when you deploy it most efficiently.

More Stories By Eric Burgener

Eric Burgener is vice president product management at Virsto Software. He has worked on emerging technologies for almost his entire career, with early stints at pioneering companies such as Tandem, Pyramid, Sun, Veritas, ConvergeNet, Mendocino, and Topio, among others, on fault tolerance and high availability, replication, backup, continuous data protection, and server virtualization technologies.

Over the last 25 years Eric has worked across a variety of functional areas, including sales, product management, marketing, business development, and technical support, and also spent time as an Executive in Residence with Mayfield and a storage industry analyst at Taneja Group. Before joining Virsto, he was VP of Marketing at InMage.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that Open Data Centers (ODC), a carrier-neutral colocation provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Open Data Centers is a carrier-neutral data center operator in New Jersey and New York City offering alternative connectivity options for carriers, service providers and enterprise customers.
SYS-CON Events announced today that On the Avenue Marketing Group, a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. On the Avenue Marketing Group (OTA) is a sales and marketing firm that utilizes events to market and sell products to consumers. On behalf of our clients, we attend thousands of fairs, festivals, exp...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Vitria Technology, Inc. will exhibit at SYS-CON’s @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Vitria will showcase the company’s new IoT Analytics Platform through live demonstrations at booth #330. Vitria’s IoT Analytics Platform, fully integrated and powered by an operational intelligence engine, enables customers to rapidly build and operationalize advanced analytics to deliver timely business outcomes ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Alert Logic, the leading provider of Security-as-a-Service solutions for the cloud, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo® and DevOps Summit 2015 Silicon Valley, which will take place November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The WebRTC Summit 2015 New York, to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 16th International Cloud Expo, @ThingsExpo, Big Data Expo, and DevOps Summit.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Plutora, Inc., the leading global provider of enterprise release management and test environment management SaaS solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's DevOps Summit 2015 New York, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Headquartered in Mountain View, California, Plutora provides enterprise release management and test environment SaaS solutions to clients in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific. Leading companies ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Akana, formerly SOA Software, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Akana’s comprehensive suite of API Management, API Security, Integrated SOA Governance, and Cloud Integration solutions helps businesses accelerate digital transformation by securely extending their reach across multiple channels – mobile, cloud and Internet of Thi...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CommVault has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. A singular vision – a belief in a better way to address current and future data management needs – guides CommVault in the development of Singular In...
SYS-CON Events announced today that SafeLogic has been named “Bag Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo® New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. SafeLogic provides security products for applications in mobile and server/appliance environments. SafeLogic’s flagship product CryptoComply is a FIPS 140-2 validated cryptographic engine designed to secure data on servers, workstations, appliances, mobile devices, and in the Cloud....
SYS-CON Events announced today that FierceDevOps will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. FierceDevOps keeps software developers and IT operations personnel updated on the latest news and trends around the rapidly evolving role of the traditional IT worker.
BroadSoft on Tuesday announced that it is a recipient of the 2014 Frost & Sullivan Market Leadership Award in the Hosted/Cloud Internet Protocol (IP) Telephony market for Latin America. According to Frost & Sullivan market research, the Latin America (LATAM) hosted/cloud Internet Protocol (IP) telephony market, including integrated unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) applications, is currently experiencing a rapid growth trajectory and is expected to exhibit a tenfold rise in annual...
SYS-CON Events announced today that StorPool Storage will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. StorPool is distributed storage software that allows service providers, enterprises and other cloud builders to run data storage on standard x86 servers, instead of using expensive and inefficient storage arrays (SAN).
The best mobile applications are augmented by dedicated servers, the Internet and Cloud services. Mobile developers should focus on one thing: writing the next socially disruptive viral app. Thanks to the cloud, they can focus on the overall solution, not the underlying plumbing. From iOS to Android and Windows, developers can leverage cloud services to create a common cross-platform backend to persist user settings, app data, broadcast notifications, run jobs, etc. This session provide...
SYS-CON Events announced today that QTS Realty Trust, one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing providers of data center facilities and cloud services and a leader in security and compliance, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. QTS Realty Trust, Inc. (NYSE: QTS) is a leading national provider of data center solutions and fully managed services, and a leader in security and compliance...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IndependenceIT, a leading software provider of simplified IT management solutions for workspaces, applications and desktops-as-a-service, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IndependenceIT's Cloud Workspace® Suite combines application, end-user and infrastructure management into a seamless, easy-to-manage platform, with a unified management interface an...
GENBAND has announced that SageNet is leveraging the Nuvia platform to deliver Unified Communications as a Service (UCaaS) to its large base of retail and enterprise customers. Nuvia’s cloud-based solution provides SageNet’s customers with a full suite of business communications and collaboration tools. Two large national SageNet retail customers have recently signed up to deploy the Nuvia platform and the company will continue to sell the service to new and existing customers. Nuvia’s capabili...
SYS-CON Events announced today that that Innodisk, the service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Innodisk is a service-driven provider of industrial embedded flash and DRAM storage products and technologies. With satisfied customers across the embedded, aerospace and defense, cloud storage markets an...
SOASTA, the leader in performance analytics, today reported record growth of the CloudTest community, exceeding 30,000 registered users of the CloudTest platform in Q1 2015. SOASTA also announced widespread adoption of its Web and mobile testing solutions, with more than 1,600 customers completing more than 285,000 tests using CloudTest during the quarter. This rapid growth shows that DevOps-driven digital businesses are embracing a more continuous approach to testing, and CloudTest is meeting t...
SYS-CON Events announced today that WSM International (WSM), the world’s leading cloud and server migration services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. WSM is a solutions integrator with a core focus on cloud and server migration, transformation and DevOps services.