Violin Memory Blog

Hear what the experts at Violin Memory have to say about a variety of topics on all things Flash.

Software Defined Datacenter for Windows

by on April 21, 2014

Windows in the Enterprise has been a SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange kind of thing, with a little Hyper-V thrown in.  In many cases there might be several, even hundreds of SQL databases throughout the enterprise, sometimes consolidated under Hyper-V, sometimes not.  Apps such as SharePoint and Exchange can sometimes grow to the point where a difficult and hard to maintain.  One of the common sore points in datacenter computing, not just Microsoft environments, is the I/O.  Mechanical storage is just too slow.  Caching helps.  Overprovisioning helps.  They don’t fix the problem, however.

To really fix I/O problems, you need to rethink the datacenter.  Microsoft and Violin have done that with the new Windows Flash Array.  For maximum flexibility, availability and affordability, you need to virtualize each of the 3 datacenter layers: compute, network and storage.  You’ve probably heard this described as software defined computing.  In the first layer, compute,  resources are virtualized by Hyper-V in a Microsoft datacenter.  Although this has not been extensively used, it is included in your Windows Server license, and is much improved, so use it.  In the second layer, network,  resources are virtualized in the latest Windows Server 2012 R2.  This enables the use of SMB Direct and multichannel networking.  This provides link failover, bandwidth balancing, and with SMB Direct, screaming performance with remote direct memory access (RDMA) which can bypass most of the OS software stack, and operate at better than Fibre Channel speeds, for less money.

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Finally, storage needs to be reformed.  This comes in two pieces: the file system and the storage itself.  Windows Server 2012 R2 includes support for SOFS, or Scale Out File System.  This provides a uniform naming convention that allows seamless growth for storage as applications grow.  This layer is critical for the software defined datacenter, and it is now available from Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2012 R2.  Violin’s Windows Flash Array provides the hardware platform that makes all this possible with a Flash array that has been tuned to take advantage of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2.  That’s right, Violin’s Windows Flash Array and Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 have been designed to work together.  So far, Violin is the only vendor so honored by Microsoft.

You might be thinking “that sounds neat, but is there any real benefit to me?”   Windows applications using Violin All Flash Storage Arrays do perform at an extreme level.  Windows applications using the Violin Windows Flash Array take performance to a new level.  By using SMB Direct to connect the application server and the Violin Windows Flash Array you can get up to 2x the performance of the leading all flash array.  It also gives you the proven storage features of Windows Storage Server 2012 R2, such as deduplication, compression, thin provisioning, snapshots, mirroring, encryption, migration, tiering and virtual desktops.

This is interesting enough, but taken to the next step, it provides a framework to remake your Windows datacenter using SMB Direct with RDMA.  Remaking your Windows datacenter with this architecture almost eliminates the software stack latency, and is the basis for that humongous increase in performance, ease of use and manageability.  It does make one think.

Latency Matters

by on January 24, 2014

Independent studies by Google and Microsoft’s Bing team were seeking to understand the impact of latency on user behavior. Their studies generated surprising results. The companies presented their results jointly at the O’Reilly Velocity conference in San Jose CA in May of 2009.

They wanted to assure their investment in systems to deliver search results and advertising was indeed based on user results, and if possible, business impact. The fact that these two companies came to very similar conclusions after their independent experiments brings a lot of credibility to their joint conclusion. The result of their research: latency matters.
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Freescale Takes on Data Center Transformation Project with Dell & Violin Memory

by on December 20, 2013
Freescale Semiconductor – with revenues over $4 Billion – could not keep up with the growing needs of its engineers as their design centers evolved. But investing gear in every location was not only cost-prohibitive, it was also not a practical way to promote collaboration. They were looking to consolidate data centers and deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) to address this growing need. Read More …

The Advantages of Inline Deduplication?

by on December 14, 2013

Many vendors make some very interesting claims about their inline deduplication feature and why it is superior to post-processed deduplication.

Their claims:

  • Save you space
  • Increase the endurance of the flash by eliminating writes
  • Increase the performance by not sending writes to their SSDs

The purpose of this blog is not to  weigh in on which inline or post-processed dedupe is “better” but to make clear that the supposed advantages of inline dedupe, improved endurance and increased performance, DO NOT EXIST! 

How can this be? The key point to understand is that BLOCK STORAGE deduplication ratio and the WRITE ELIMINATION ratio due to deduplication have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.

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Garbage Collection & XtremIO – Fiction & Fiction: Part III

by on December 10, 2013

Part II of this series on the XtremIO product launch triggered some questions, which I will address in this post.

  • Is the performance of XtremIO “consistent” AND “predictable”?
  • Is it even “consistent” OR “predictable”? 
  • Is it “the only all-flash array that requires no system-level garbage collection yet maintains consistent and predictable performance.”?
  • Does it provide “the industry’s most consistent performance”?
  • Does it never happen that “IOPS suddenly drop and latency suddenly increases”?
  • Is their mixed R/W performance “stable”?

Let’s check the XtremIO Spec Sheet for the 2 brick system they were using in their demos during their product launch.

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