Accelerate Storage I/O Performance

Guest blog by Ken Timmons . . . Are your server applications running slowly? Are your end users waiting for database queries to finish? The ability of your server’s storage system to process I/O requests may be at fault. While capacity and cost per gigabyte of server hard-disk drives (HDDs) has improved at a rapid pace, I/O performance has not. Unfortunately, techniques to increase the performance usually involve adding more HDDs or more servers, which can add unwanted complexity and higher management costs.

The good news is that there are alternative, cost-effective solutions. Working with partners Intel and LSI, Lenovo simulated a server online transaction database workload to evaluate performance improvements that could be obtained through solid-state drive (SSD) use. Several configurations were tested, including an all-SSD array using Intel Data Center Family SSDs, and an SSD array accelerated with LSI FastPath acceleration software. In a final scenario, we used LSI CacheCade 2.0 software to create a hybrid array, where SSDs were used as read/write cache with the existing HDD array.

As expected, the tests showed that using an all-SSD configuration significantly improved raw performance — with up to 12 times faster IOPs — when compared to the baseline HDD configuration. SSD performance was further enhanced by using LSI FastPath SSD acceleration software. You’re probably thinking that SSDs can be more expensive, and you’re correct, BUT when you compare the cost of SSDs to the cost of the number of HDDs that would be required to achieve the same performance, SSDs can provide true value. If the highest levels of performance are required, applications built entirely on SSD storage are the way to go.

A hybrid storage approach using CacheCade, where SSDs are used to cache frequently accessed data and HDDs are used for primary data storage, can help balance cost and performance. In our testing scenario, once the CacheCade cache was filled with active data, CacheCade was able to achieve nearly 90 percent of the full performance achieved using all-SSD arrays.

Raw performance improvements weren’t the only benefits of these alternate approaches. Transaction latency and CPU utilization were significantly improved as well, potentially saving the cost of additional servers.

So HDD solutions clearly provide the best solution when overall storage capacity and lowest cost are required. However, in I/O-intensive applications, using SSDs, or hybrid SSD/HDD arrays with CacheCade, can provide excellent returns when performance is a key requirement.

For more information, read the full report – Accelerating Server Storage Performance on Lenovo ThinkServer. For more information on Lenovo servers, visit the ThinkServer site