The world is speeding up. And before you think it, it’s not just that I’m getting old. Increasing speed affects everything in IT, from processors to storage media, broadband to backbones, web pages to analytics, databases to big data. It seems our appetite build applications to consume IT resources, accelerate business and impact the global economy is endless. And with the Internet of Things creating a myriad of new possibilities, this is likely to be an increasing problem for CIO’s to tackle as we move into the era of every business becoming a digital business.
When you buy a car, it’s reasonably easy to compare performance. 0-60 mph figures (0-62mph now, something to do with the EU I imagine) tell everything you need. BHP (or PS since we’re in the EU) and Torque figures give a bit more detail for those that are interested. My Mum isn’t, but she does like the reversing sensors on her new VW Golf. However, even this doesn’t tell the full story. Cars also have to go round corners, stop, carry luggage and/or children, and be economical. Top speed might also be interesting if you live in Germany. Performance is therefore a relative thing.
Comparing the performance of a Storage array to another has never been easy. There are industry benchmarks - the catchily named SPECsfs and SPC-1 benchmarks. Problem is, there is much disagreement on just how useful they are. Unless you’re the vendor at the top of the list, in which case they’re brilliant. But what else is there? A few years ago NetApp submitted some EMC systems for these benchmarks to try to get a more fair comparison in the market. They didn’t like it. And thanks to new legal software terms, we can’t do that again. So where do we look next?
Generally we look at IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second). But be careful. Unlike mph, or even bhp, there isn’t a standard IOP. Latency and response times need to be taken into account. So do Sequential vs Random operations. Read vs Write. If you don’t, a system can look blindingly fast, but be unusable, and even useless, in the real world. We have seen a lot of very large numbers from new entrants to the storage market recently, proving mostly meaningless when it comes to proofs of concept.
Over the last few years solid-state Flash media has given storage systems an impressive performance boost. However there is a lot of myth and legend out there about the need to re-design entire systems to cope with it. It is true that software needs to be able to harness the power and unique characteristics of Flash. It is not true that Flash changes everything when it comes to data management, storage efficiency and operational excellence required from 99% of people that buy large storage systems today.
Today, NetApp is launching our fastest FAS system ever – however you measure it! The FAS 8080 EX. It is 75% faster than the systems it replaces. For those of you that want more details, per HA (High Availability) pair it has 40 Intel Ivy Bridge CPU cores (67% increase), 256GB memory (33% increase), 32GB NVRAM (400% increase) and 36TB of VST (Virtual Storage Tier) Flash (50% increase). But the real secret is that the FAS 8080EX runs clustered Data ONTAP 8.2 software, meaning you can combine up to 24 modular systems together into one massive (70PB), hybrid storage pool delivering an incredible 4,000,000 real-world IOPS! There is also now an All-Flash FAS configuration available, >4.6PB of Flash delivering up to 2,000,000 IOPs at less than 1ms latency. For more on the possibilities of All-Flash FAS, see my colleague Laurence Flashman James’ blog. Perhaps the most important thing in all of this is that the full feature set of data management tools in Data ONTAP are still available, including Quality of Service. You don’t have to sacrifice control for performance. And when new capabilities are added to Data ONTAP later this year, you’ll get the benefit of those too.
Will the FAS 8080EX finally be the nail in the coffin of the traditional, inflexible and very very very expensive monolithic frame array for the fastest, business critical applications? We think so.
And for people thinking about buying smaller NetApp storage arrays (we also launched the shiny new FAS2500 hybrid array today), it hopefully gives you some comfort in this ever expanding world that you are buying into an architecture that can scale along with your business, however successful you are.