Data storage solution trends

Storage performance directly relates to the speed in which applications respond. Part one of this Gear6 podcast transcript defines storage performance and its variables and suggest data storage solutions.

Gear6 and SearchStorageChannel.com teamed up recently to bring you a storage performance podcast with Tony Asaro, senior analyst and consultant with the Enterprise Strategy Group, and Gary Orenstein, vice president of marketing at Gear6 who discussed storage performance definitions, trends and data storage solutions and tuning advice. For those who would rather read the highlights than listen to the full podcast, we've transcribed it into three parts. Please use the following table of contents to navigate to each part.


Storage performance podcast transcript

 Part 1: Storage performance trends and challenges
 Part 2: Tuning storage performance
 Part 3: Identifying storage performance problems

Gary Orenstein: Based on your suggestion, Tony, we've chosen to focus this podcast on storage performance, and I thought we could start with a little bit of your background and ESG's background, in that regard.

Tony: Well, we work on something that we call ESG Lab, which is hands-on analysis of different storage products and a lot of that is focused on storage performance. Storage system performance: storage area network (SAN), network-attached storage (NAS)-based, even content-addressable storage (CAS)-based solutions. So we've probably done over 20 different performance analyses. It's near and dear to our hearts. We focus very heavily on it. It seems to be a very important topic to different venders and to end users, ultimately.

Also before I came to ESG, I was a founder of a startup on storage performance as well. We developed storage controllers on a chip that was designed to be a high performance caching device, and so we were very focused on performance in that regard. So it's a subject that's near and dear to my heart.

And finally ESG is launching an elearning practice and the first course is around storage system performance. So this is a subject that I think is very important and is something that we've done a lot of work on.

Gary: Let's kick off by just broadly classifying storage performance according to your definition.

Tony: Storage performance for us, at least in the way that I'm going to classify in terms of storage systems performance, is really around application performance and how fast those applications respond. There are a lot of variables involved that are important to understand: the storage controller itself, what kind of caching it has, how fast those processors are, what kind of caching algorithms it has, it also has to do with the number of ports it has in terms of host ports and how many it can scale up to. And then finally the disk drives and how the disk drives work, how many there are, how fast they are. . . All of those play a very big role in storage performance and ultimately -- and this is the key -- ultimately application performance.

Gary: Sure, because that's I think what matters to the users.

Tony: The key part of performance, too, is that -- there are different types of IO streams we have to consider. There are lots of transactions, there's stream data, there's sequential data, there's random data, so all of those variables play into storage performance as well and the different hardware resources that I'd mentioned earlier. Each will have a different impact on performance, based on what kind of IO there is.

Gary: You mentioned a couple of the different functional areas and even product category areas. What are the key areas in your opinion that merit the greatest need, or, shall we say, are the most ripe for performance improvement?

Tony: I think that there are a couple of answers to that. First of all, there are applications that require lots of performance. We know that in certain environments databases and log files and things of that nature require lots of performance, depending on the needs of the business. So I think it's all driven by the needs of the business and what that business expects from its performance: How many users are accessing it, what kind of data they are accessing, what the response times are. . . We typically run into costumers and users that are focusing very heavily on how fast their databases are and whether they can scale.

We also see application performance requirements for things like email (email response time), and backing up to disk is very important. But a lot of this is also mixed workloads. So you want a combination of all those things and if they are all going over the same network, all accessing the same storage system, then it's important that all those things can work together and provide you high performance. Some storage systems are better than others. Some storage systems are better at stream data and others are better at transactional data. Yet there are others that have been architected to handle all of those. And then you have to consider the high levels of concurrency. Do you have a couple of dozen transactions or millions of transactions? All of those things play a variant role in considering a storage performance.

Gary: What do you think, maybe from a business perspective as companies look at the IT infrastructure and supporting their business needs, are the major trends in the market that you see driving performance needs?

Tony: It's interesting. We are seeing, a demand for the growth of data -- the important data. We've gotten to a point now where companies are telling us their policies used to be, "Let's get the data off of our storage as quickly as possible." Now we're getting to a point where people are saying, "We're going to keep that data on our storage as long as possible." It's just a varied way to look at storage. I is no longer just this thing we just carve off and migrate the tape and then we're done with it. We're going to keep it online -- we're going to keep it online for as long as we can -- and we want it there and we want it active and we want to be able to call upon it.

Data growth certainly is something we've been talking about for years and years. We're seeing environments grow from 10 terabytes (TB) to 100 TB and so on and so forth. Those companies that had 100 TB are now going to petabytes. But we're also retaining data longer, too. I just spoke to someone at a large communications company, and he said that he literally has 320 projects in the queue for storage. We've got more projects on demand for people and all of them impact the business. And we're certainly seeing more and more companies providing online services. Those online services are reaching out to not just tens of thousands of people, but potentially millions of people. Those dynamics are all certainly there.

Gary: Historically people think about storage performance maybe just for a small subset of storage users. But the way you discuss it, and how it applies today, it's really a mainstream issue across the board, if I understand you correctly.

Tony: It absolutely is. You have to think about the way that we're using storage. Often times people associate storage with some back-office financial application, but really storage affects everything. There are front-facing, ecommerce applications that have their own requirements for performance, certainly if you are reaching out to potentially millions of people that could be accessing your data at any time. But there's also just a common thing like email. Email is increasingly the most important form of communication we have. It also is an important marketing tool. And by the way, it also happens to be digital evidence now, so the role of email plays a completely different function than it used to, and quite frankly, there are huge amounts of performance demands even just in a common application like email. It touches everything.


Storage performance podcast transcript

 Part 1: Storage performance trends and challenges
 Part 2: Tuning storage performance
 Part 3: Identifying storage performance problems
This was first published in January 2007

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