Flash Pool – Turbo-charging FAS2200 for a Better Ride (Part 1)

As you all know, we introduced our flash technology to the FAS2200 product line a few months ago. It is called Flash PoolTM intelligent caching technology. If you are driving a car with a turbo-charged engine, you know what the “turbo” does – provides the extra horse power when you need to drive fast. And it only kicks in when you need it. Flash Pool is just like that - accelerates data access in storage systems making it much faster than a HDD system.  And a little bit of it makes a huge difference.


I recently sat down with Chetan Khetani, product manager for Flash Pool, and Steve Scully, product manager for FS2200 series to discuss some of the myths around this Flash Pool technology. Here is Part 1 of our conversation.


Ling: How does Flash Pool intelligent caching technology work in a FAS2200 system?


Chetan: Flash Pool is a hybrid-caching technology that allows SSDs to be combined with HDDs (performance or capacity drives) to form a Flash Pool aggregate. It works the same in the FAS2200 products as in all FAS systems.


Many workloads such as OLTP, databases, file services etc. are characterized by a large dataset with a small “hot spot” of repeatedly accessed active data .The SSDs within the Flash Pool aggregate are used to dynamically cache hot data.


For an HDD, the most "expensive" activities are random IOs. The SSDs within a Flash Pool offload random read and repetitive random write operations from the HDDs therefore improve latency and increase IOPS. Flash Pool automatically manages the data insertion and eviction based on how frequently data was accessed and always keeps the warmest data in cache.


Ling: That sounds really cool. What does this mean for a customer who uses the Flash Pool technology?


Steve: Flash Pool technology provides both technical benefits and business benefits to customers. From technical point of view, it provides significant performance improvement in the form of faster response time, lower latency and higher IOPS.


From business point of view, without Flash Pool you had to choose between storage media that optimized for performance or optimized for cost, especially for workloads with large dataset containing a small hot spot of randomly accessed active data. Now it’s possible to optimize for both. With Flash Pool, you can move the workload from performance drives (SAS) to capacity drives (SATA) while enjoying the performance provided by the SSD and the capacity by the lower-cost SATA drives. This combination allows for the best $/GB. Similarly, the combination of SAS+SSD also gives you the additional performance boost. All in all, Flash Pool optimizes for both performance and cost at the same time.


Ling: What types of customer applications can best take advantage of Flash Pool?


Chetan: The great thing about Flash Pool is the flexibly in how it can be used. A Flash Pool can contain a set of mixed workloads or a single workload. Any workload that has high percentage of random IO’s will benefit from this technology, for example, OLTP, databases, File Services, Web/Business applications, VDI etc.


Ling: That’s great news. How easy is it to enable Flash Pool? Do you need to have tech-savvy IT staff in order to configure and manage this feature?


Steve: It is very easy to deploy Flash Pool and basically it’s “set-and-forget”.  First, there is hardly anything to configure. Flash Pool can be added or converted from an existing aggregate non-disruptively.  Configuration can be easily handled by our intuitive system management tools that take best practices into consideration. Once properly setup and assigned to the desired workloads, the Flash Pool is ready to go. The Flash Pool comes with automatic management with little human intervention needed. It has the intelligence to keep track of “hot data” and cache them automatically in real time according to their usage frequency. We also have tools that provide performance and diagnostic statistics on Flash Pools to help ensure smooth operation. All of these capabilities make using Flash Pool a breeze.



Stay tuned as we continue our conversation in Part 2, which will cover Flash Pool’s compatibility with other NetApp technologies on FAS2200, its unique advantages, and customer experiences.

Check out this page for more information on NetApp’s Flash Pool technology. And visit the FAS2200 product page to learn more.