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Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Hi,

Regarding compression, one of our Partners has received the following reply from one of their customers:

"I was happily reading through the acceptance document until I found that the compressed data bypasses the Cache Cards (PAM), this seems a reason not to implement. Your thoughts would be of interest, have you enabled compression for any other customer and if so what were the results."

From the Data ONTAP Testing FAQ I also found:

I have a pam (or Flash cache) card in my SYSTEM. will compression have any Effect, either positive or negative, on the performance of the card?

Answer: Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card. This means that these blocks do not benefit from the performance boost that the card would otherwise provide. Any uncompressed data such as that inside volumes that do not have compression enabled will still benefit from the card.

Can anybody provide a helpful reply to the above comments?

Thanks,

Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Hi Elias,

I actually wasn't aware of this, but one immediate comment:

Make sure compression is not confused with de-duplication - the latter does work (very well) with Flash Cache.

Is there a technical case to use compression in this particular solution, or would de-duplication deliver required storage savings?

Regards,

Radek

Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Hi Radek,

The customer is already using de-duplication but as they have the compression license were wondering if they should implement it or not.

While they accept compression will have a small performance hit they don’t want to use it if it is significant, by-passing the PAM cards would certainly have the potential to be significant.

Would be good to go back to them with a positive view.

Regards,

Elias

Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Actually, I haven't found any reference that PAM does not cache compressed data.

On the contrary, in every interop table regarding PAM or compression, it's said that it does.

Is there any TR or white paper that declares it?

Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

tr-3958, page 22 states below in red.

7.6 PAM AND FLASH CACHE CARDS

In environments with high amounts of shared blocks that are read repeatedly, the PAM or Flash Cache card can significantly reduce the number of disk reads, thus improving the read performance. The PAM or Flash Cache card does not increase performance of the compression engine or of reading compressed data. The amount of performance improvement with the PAM or Flash Cache card depends on the amount of shared blocks, the access rate, the active dataset size, and the data layout. The PAM or Flash Cache card has provided significant performance improvements in VMware® VDI environments. These advantages are further enhanced when combined with shared block technologies, such as NetApp deduplication or NetApp FlexClone® technology.

So according to NetApp documentation PAM/Flash Cache does indeed bypass compressed data.

Re: Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

This can be also interpreted that PAM bypasses uncompressed data. That PAM does not increase compression performance is understandable - there is no repeated reads here. When you read compressed data, NetApp has to uncompress them before delivering to client. So this phrase could simply mean that NetApp does not attempt to cache these (temporary) uncompressed data.

But I agree, it should be clarify to avoid confusion.

Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Hello Elias,

Thanks for your question.  You are correct blocks on disk that contain compressed data will not be stored on the Flash Cache card.  The Flash Cache card is used to increase random read performance.  By it's nature compression is sequential therefore regardless of the fact that the data is compressed it will not be stored in Flash Cache.  Any blocks on disk that do not contain compressed data as well as metadata will continue to utilize the Flash Cache card.

Thanks,

Sandra

Re: Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Is it also true if flexscale.lopri_blocks is enabled?

Re: Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Yes, regardless of how this is set any data that exists on disk as compressed will bypass the Flash Cache card.  Uncompressed data and metadata will still utilize the Flash Cache card.

Re: Any blocks that contain compressed data bypass the PAM or Flash Cache card

Is there any particular reason why there is such a behavior?

Compressed data might be frequently accessed and ie keeping compressed or even better rehydrated (un-compressed) data in the flashcard could prove to give a significant performance boost with Flash Cache Card.

I feel that the PAM behavion should be usercontrolled, as you already enable users to do today onper volume basis (right?)

Anyway I just noticed that Ontap 8.1 RC documentation claims that compression is compatible with among others (storage management guide page 246-247):

Performance Acceleration Module or Flash cache cards