Has EMC stooped so low that they have to resort to Hitachi math for their latest performance claims?
Readers might remember that just a few months ago, I had a blog post [Is this what HDS tells our mainframe clients?] pointing out the outlandish comparison Hitachi was using in their presentations. Their response was to cover it up, forcing me to follow up with my post [The Cover-up is worse than the original crime]. To their credit, they eventually removed the false and misleading information from their materials.
Now an avid reader of my blog has brought this to my attention. Apparently,
EMC has been showing customers a presentation
[Accelerating Storage Transformation with VMAX and VPLEX] with false and misleading comparison claims between IBM DS8000, HDS VSP and EMC VMAX 40K disk system performance.
(FTC Disclosure: This would be a good time to remind my readers that I work for IBM and own IBM stock. I do not endorse any of the EMC or HDS products mentioned in this post, and have no financial affiliation or investments directly with either EMC nor HDS. I am basing my information solely on the presentation posted on the internet and other sources publicly available, and not on any misrepresentations from EMC speakers at the various conferences where these charts might have been shown.)
The problem with misinformation is that it is not always obvious. The EMC presentation is quite pretty and professional-looking. It is the typical slick, attention-getting, low-content, over-simplified marketing puffery you have come to expect from EMC. There are two slides in particular that I have issue with.
This first graphic implies that IBM and HDS are nearly tied in performance, but that EMC VMAX 40K has nearly triple that bandwidth. Overall the slide has very little detail. That makes it difficult to determine what exactly is being claimed and whether a fair comparison is being made.
- The title claims that VMAX 40K is "#1 in High Bandwidth Apps". Only three disk systems are shown so the claim appears to be relative to only the three systems. The wording "High Bandwidth Apps" is confusing considering the cited numbers are for disk systems and no application is identified. By comparison, IBM SONAS can drive up to 105 GB/sec sequential bandwidth, nearly double what EMC claims for its VMAX 40K, so EMC is certainly not even close to #1.
- Is the workload random or sequential? That is not easy to determine. The use of "GB/s" along with the large block size of 128KB implies the I/O workload is sequential, which is great for some workloads like high performance computing, technical computing and video broadcasts. Random workloads, on the other hand, are usually measured in I/Os per second (IOPS) with a block size ranging 4KB to 64KB. (I am assuming the 128K blocks refers to 128KB block size, and not reading the same block of cache 128,000 times.)
- The slide states "Maximum Sustainable RRH Bandwidth 128K Blocks". The acronym "RRH" is not defined; but I suspect this refers to "random read hits". For random workloads, 100 percent random read hits from cache represents one corner of the infamous "four corners" test. Real-world workloads have a mix of reads and writes, and a mix of cache hits and cache misses. It is also unclear whether the hits are from standard data cache or from internal buffers in adapters (perhaps accessing the same blocks repeatedly) or something else. So is this really for a random workload, or a sequential workload?
(The term "Hitachi Math" was coined by an EMC blogger precisely to slam Hitachi Data Systems for their blatant use of four-corners results, claiming that spouting ridiculously large, but equally unrealistic, 100 percent random read hit results don't provide any useful information. I agree. There are much better industry-standard benchmarks available, such as SPC-1 for random workloads, SPC-2 for sequential workloads, and even benchmarks for specific applications, that represent real-world IT environments. To shame HDS for their use of four-corners results, only for EMC themselves to use similar figures in their own presentation is truly hypocritical of them!)
- The IBM system is identified as "DS8000". DS8000 is a generic family name that applies to multiple generations of systems first introduced in 2004. The specific model is not identified, but that is critical information. Is this a first generation DS8100, or the latest DS8800, or something in between?
The slide says "Full System Configs", but that is not defined and configuration details are not identified. Configuration details, also critical information in assessing system performance capabilities, are not specified. If the EMC box costs seven times more than IBM or HDS, would you really buy it to get 3x more performance? Is the EMC packed with the maximum amount of SSD? Were there any SSD in the IBM or HDS boxes to match?
The source of the claimed IBM DS8000 performance numbers is not identified. Did they run their own tests? While I cannot tell, the VMAX may have been configured with 64 Fibre Channel 8Gbps host connections. In that case each channel is theoretically capable of supporting about 800 MB/s at 100% channel utilization. Multiplying 64 x 800MB/s = 51.2GB/s, so did EMC just do the performance comparison on the back of a napkin, assuming there are no other bottlenecks in the system? Even then, I would not round up 51.2 to 52!
- Response times were not identified. For random I/Os, response time is a very important metric. It is possible that the Symmetrix was operating with some resources at 100% utilization to get the highest GB/s result, but that would likely make I/O response times unacceptable for real-world random I/O workloads.
IBM and HDS have both published Storage Performance Council [SPC] industry-standard performance benchmarks. EMC has not published any SPC benchmarks for VMAX systems. If EMC is interested in providing customers with audited, detailed performance information along with detailed configuration information, all based on benchmarks designed to represent real-world workloads, EMC can always publish SPC benchmark results as IBM and other vendors have done. In past blog fights, EMC resorts to the excuse that SPC isn't perfect, but can they really argue that vague and unrealistic claims cited in its presentation are better?
The second graphic is so absurd, you would think it came directly from Larry Ellison at an Oracle OpenWorld keynote session. EMC is comparing a configuration with VMAX 40K plus an EMC VFCache host-side flash memory cache card to a configuration with an IBM and HDS disk system without host-side flash memory cache also configured. The comparison is clearly apples-to-oranges. Other disk system configuration details are also omitted.
FAST VP is EMC's name for its sub-volume drive tiering feature, comparable to IBM Easy Tier and Hitachi's Dynamic Tiering. The graph implies that IBM and HDS can only achieve a modest increment improvement from their sub-volume tiering. I beg to differ. I have seen various cases where a small amount of SSD on IBM DS8000 series can drastically improve performance 200 to 400 percent.
The "DBClassify" shown on the graph is a tool run as part of an EMC professional services offering called Database Performance Tiering Assessment, makes recommendations for storing various database objects on different drive tiers based on object usage and importance. Do you really need to pay for professional services? With IBM Easy Tier, you just turn it on, and it works. No analysis required, no tools, no professional services, and no additional charge!
- VFCache is an optional product from EMC that currently has no integration whatsoever with VMAX. A fair comparison would have included a host-side flash memory cache (from any vendor) when the IBM or HDS storage system was configured. Or leave it out altogether and just focus on the sub-volume tiering comparison.
Keep in mind that EMC's VFCache supports only selected x86-based hosts. IBM has published a [Statement of Direction] indicating that it will also offer this for Power systems running AIX and Linux host-side flash memory cache integrated with DS8000 Easy Tier.
I feel EMC's claims about IBM DS8000 performance are vague and misleading. EMC appears to lack the kind of technical marketing integrity that IBM strives to attain.
Since EMC is not able or willing to publish fair and meaningful performance comparisons, it is up to me to set the record straight and point out EMC's failings in this matter.
Reminder: It's not to late to register for my Webcast "Solving the Storage Capacity Crisis" on Tuesday, September 25. See my blog post [Upcoming events in September] to register!
technorati tags: IBM, DS8000, DS8800, HDS, VSP, EMC, VMAX, Symmetrix, VFCache, Easy Tier, FAST VP
"Politics makes strange bedfellows."
--- Charles Dudley Warner
In my September 2007 post [Supermarkets and Specialty Shops], I explain that there are two kinds of clients:
- Those that prefer to work with one-stop shopping of an IT Supermarket, with companies like IBM, HP and Dell who offer a complete set of servers, storage, switches, software and services, what we call "The Five S's".
- Those that perfer shopping for components at individual specialty shops, like butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers, hoping that this singular focus means the products are best-of-breed in the market. Companies like HDS for disk, Quantum for tape, and Symantec for software come to mind.
My how the IT landscape for vendors has evolved in just the past five years! Cisco starts to sell servers, and enters a "mini-mall" alliance with EMC and VMware to offer vBlock integrated stack of server, storage and switches with VMware as the software hypervisor. For those not familiar with the concept of mini-malls, these are typically rows of specialty shops. A shopper can park their car once, and do all their shopping from the various shops in the mini-mall. Not quite "one-stop" shopping of a supermarket, but tries to address the same need.
("Who do I call when it breaks?" -- The three companies formed a puppet company, the Virtual Computing Environment company, or VCE, to help answer that question!)
Among the many things IBM has learned in its 100+ years of experience, it is that clients want choices. Cisco figured this out also, and partnered with NetApp to offer the aptly-named FlexPod reference architecture. In effect, Cisco has two boyfriends, when she is with EMC, it is called a Vblock, and when she is with NetApp, it is called a FlexPod. I was lucky enough to find this graphic to help explain the three-way love triangle.
Did this move put a strain on the relationship between Cisco and EMC? Last month, EMC announced VSPEX, a FlexPod-like approach that provides a choice of servers, and some leeway for resellers to make choices to fit client needs better. Why limit yourself to Cisco servers, when IBM and HP servers are better? Is this an admission that Vblock has failed, and that VSPEX is the new way of doing things? No, I suspect it is just EMC's way to strike back at both Cisco and NetApp in what many are calling the "Stack Wars". (See [The Stack Wars have Begun!], [What is the Enterprise Stack?], or [The Fight for the Fully Virtualized Data Center] for more on this.)
(FTC Disclosure: I am both an employee and shareholder of IBM, so the U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this post a paid, celebrity endorsement of the IBM PureFlex system. IBM has working relationships with Cisco, NetApp, and Quantum. I was not paid to mention, nor have I any financial interest in, any of the other companies mentioned in this blog post. )
Chris Mellor and Timothy Prickett Morgan at The Register have a great series of posts exploring this new development: [EMC VSPEX storage torpedo could sink FlexPods], [El Reg hurls EMC onto the rack, drills into VSPEX], [We were right: EMC's VSPEX will take on FlexPods], and [How EMC stuffs channel cakeholes with VSPEX recipes].
Last month, IBM announced its new PureSystems family, ushering in a [new era in computing]. I invite you all to check out the many "Paterns of Expertise" available at the [IBM PureSystems Centre]. This is like an "app store" for the data center, and what I feel truly differentiates IBM's offerings from the rest.
The trend is obvious. Clients who previously purchased from specialty shops are discovering the cost and complexity of building workable systems from piece-parts from separate vendors has proven expensive and challenging. IBM PureFlex™ systems eliminate a lot of the complexity and effort, but still offer plenty of flexibility, choice of server processor types, choice of server and storage hypervisors, and choice of various operating systems.
technorati tags: IBM, Stack Wars, PureSystems, PureFlex, VSPEX, EMC, Vblock, Cisco, VMware, NetApp, FlexPod, HDS, Quantum, Symantec
This week, I am in beautiful Sao Paulo, Brazil, teaching Top Gun class to IBM Business Partners and sales reps. Traditionally, we have "Tape Thursday" where we focus on our tape systems, from tape drives, to physical and virtual tape libraries. IBM is the number #1 tape vendor, and has been for the past eight years.
(The alliteration doesn't translate well here in Brazil. The Portuguese word for tape is "fita", and Thursday here is "quinta-feira", but "fita-quinta-feira" just doesn't have the same ring to it.)
In the class, we discussed how to handle common misperceptions and myths about tape. Here are a few examples:
- Myth 1: Tape processing is manually intensive
In my July 2007 blog post [Times a Million], I coined the phrase "Laptop Mentality" to describe the problem most people have dealing with data center decisions. Many folks extend linearly their experiences using their PCs, workstations or laptops to apply to the data center, unable to comprehend large numbers or solutions that take advantage of the economies of scale.
For many, the only experience dealing with tape was manual. In the 1980s, we made "mix tapes" on little cassettes, and in the 1990s we recorded our favorite television shows on VHS tapes in the VCR. Today, we have playlists on flash or disk-based music players, and record TV shows on disk-based video recorders like Tivo. The conclusion is that tapes are manual, and disk are not.
Manual processing of tapes ended in 1987, with the introduction of a silo-like tape library from StorageTek. IBM quickly responded with its own IBM 3495 Tape Library Data Server in 1992. Today, clients have many tape automation choices, from the smallest IBM TS2900 Tape Autoloader that has one drive and nine cartridges, all the way to the largest IBM TS3500 multiple-library shuttle complex that can hold exabytes of data. These tape automation systems eliminate most of the manual handling of cartridges in day-to-day operations.
- Myth 2: Tape media is less reliable than disk media
For any storage media to be unreliable is to return the wrong information that is different than what was originally stored. There are only two ways for this to happen: if you write a "zero" but read back a "one", or write a "one" and read a "zero". This is called a bit error. Every storage media has a "bit error rate" that is the average likelihood for some large amount of data written.
According to the latest [LTO Bit Error rates, 2012 March], today's tape expects only 1 bit error per 10E17 bits written (about 100 Petabytes). This is 10 times more reliable than Enterprise SAS disk (1 bit per 10E16), and 100 times more reliable than Enterprise-class SATA disk (1 bit per 10E15).
Tape is the media used in "black boxes" for airplanes. When an airplane crashes, the black box is retrieved and used to investigate the causes of the crash. In 1986, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after take-off. The tapes in the black box sat on the ocean floor for six weeks before being recovered. Amazingly, IBM was able to successfully restore [90 percent of the block data, and 100 percent of voice data].
- Myth 3: Most tape restores fail
Why do people still believe that most tape restores fail? Curtis Preston, on his Backup Central blog, has a great post [Gartner Never Said 71 percent of Tape Restores Fail].
Analysts are quite upset when they are quoted out of context, but in this case, Gartner never said anything closely similar to this. Nor did the other analysts that Curtis investigated for similar claims. What Garnter did say was that disk provides an attractive alternative storage media for backup which can increase the performance of the recovery process.
Back in the 1990s, Savur Rao and I developed a patent to help backup DB2 for z/OS by using the FlashCopy feature of IBM's high-end disk system. The software method to coordinate the FlashCopy snapshots with the database application and maintain multiple versions was implemented in the DFSMShsm component of DFSMS. A few years later, this was part of a set of patents IBM cross-licensed to Microsoft for them to implement a similar software for Windows called Data Protection Manager (DPM). IBM has since introduced its own version for distributed systems called IBM Tivoli FlashCopy Manager that runs not just on Windows, but also AIX, Linux, HP-UX and Solaris operating systems.
Curtis suspects the "71 percent" citation may have been propogated by an ambitious product manager of Microsoft's Data Protection Manager, back in 2006, perhaps to help drive up business to their new disk-based backup product. Certainly, Microsoft was not the only vendor to disparage tape in this manner.
A few years ago, an [EMC failure brought down the State of Virginia] due to not just a component failure it its production disk system, but then made it worse by failing to recover from the disk-based remote mirror copy. Fortunately, the data was able to be restored from tape over the next four days. If you wonder why nobody at EMC says "Tape is Dead" anymore, perhaps it is because tape saved their butts that week.
(FTC Disclosure: I work for IBM and this post can be considered a paid, celebrity endorsement for all of the IBM tape and software products mentioned on this post. I own shares of stock in both IBM and Google, and use Google's Gmail for my personal email, as well as many other Google services. While IBM, Google and Microsoft can be considered competitors to each other in some areas, IBM has working relationships with both companies on various projects. References in this post to other companies like EMC are merely to provide illustrative examples only, based on publicly available information. IBM is part of the Linear Tape Open (LTO) consortium.)
Last year, Google lost the email data for half a million Gmail accounts due to a software error. Once again, tape came to the rescue, with [Google restoring lost Gmail data from tape backups].
- Myth 4: Vendors and Manufacturers are no longer investing in tape technology
IBM and others are still investing Research and Development (R&D) dollars to improve tape technology. What people don't realize is that much of the R&D spent on magnetic media can be applied across both disk and tape, such as IBM's development of the Giant Magnetoresistance read/write head, or [GMR] for short.
Most recently, IBM made another major advancement with tape with the introduction of the Linear Tape File Systems (LTFS). This allows greater portability to share data between users, and between companies, but treating tape cartridges much like USB memory sticks or pen drives. You can read more in my post [IBM and Fox win an Emmy for LTFS technology]!
Next month, IBM celebrates the 60th anniversary for tape. It is good to see that tape continues to be a vibrant part of the IT industry, and to IBM's storage business!
technorati tags: IBM, Google, Microsoft, EMC, Brazil, LTO, TS2900, TS3500, Space Shuttle, Challenger
The old adage applies "You can't please everyone. Presidents can't. Prostitutes can't. Nobody can." I am reminded of that as I fielded a variety of interesting comments and emails about, of all things, my choice of order of things in recent blog posts.
Certainly, there are times when the order of things matters greatly. In my now-infamous blog post [Sock Sock Shoe Shoe], I use a scene from a popular 1970's television show to explain why compression should be done before encryption.
In my case, I put things in the order that I felt made sense to me, but not everyone agrees. Here are three recent examples:
- Example 1:
In my blog post [Two IBMers Earn Their Retirement], I congratulated two of my colleagues on their retirement. Since their retirement happened on the same day, I decided to mention Mark Doumas first, and Jim Rymarczyk second.
However, one of my readers, who I will assume is a member of the unofficial "Jim Rymarczyk fan club", felt that I should have listed Jim first, as Jim served IBM for 44 years, and Mark only 32 years.
Really? I realize that movie stars insist on having their name listed first on the poster, but neither of these guys would be confused with George Clooney!
So, to Jim and all his fans out there, I assure you I did not mean this as a slight in any way. I have updated the post to indicate that the ordering was strictly alphabetical by last name.
- Example 2:
In my blog post [IBM Announcements for February 2012], I presented tape products first, and disk second. Normally, I cover them alphabetically, disk first, then tape. However, I was asked to promote tape this year in preparation for the upcoming 60th anniversary of tape, so I mentioned the tape announcements first, and the disk second.
The feedback from the XIV community was swift. Many felt that I [buried the lede] in not mentioning the XIV Gen3 SSD caching first.
(Note: For those not familiar with the phrase used in journalism, 'burying the lede' refers to the failure to mention the most interesting or attention grabbing elements of a story in the first paragraph. In American news journalism, it is spelled "lede" and elsewhere it is spelled "lead". Major US dictionaries apparently accept both spellings for this phrase.)
Technically, my lead paragraph stated clearly that: "This week we have announcements for both disk and tape, but since 2012 is the 60th Diamond Anniversary for tape, I will start with tape systems first."
So, while I don't claim to be a journalist by any means, I think the lead paragraph accurately reflected that I would talk about both disk and tape products in the rest of the blog post, and if a reader didn't care to learn more about tape could bypass those sections and go directly to the section on disk instead.
- Example 3:
I have had my head handed to me on a platter so many times here at IBM that I am considering installing a zipper around my neck. My friends in XIV land insisted that I write a secondary post about XIV Gen3 SSD caching that had no mention of tape whatsoever. One suggestion was to compare and contrast XIV Gen3 SSD caching with EMC's announcement for VFCache. The result was my blog post [IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching versus EMC VFCache].
What could go wrong with an apples-to-orange comparison of two different storage products sprinkled with a small amount of FUD against a major competitor?
I had two complaints on this one. First, is the order of products in my side-by-side table of comparisons. I put EMC VFCache in the left column, and IBM XIV Gen3 SSD caching in the right. I meant nothing sinister by this. Alphabetically, EMC comes before IBM, and VFCache comes before XIV. Chronologically, EMC's announcement came out on Monday, and IBM's announcement came out the following day.
(Note: The term [sinster] comes from the Latin word sinistra meaning "left hand". In the Middle Ages it was believed that when a person was writing with their left hand they were possessed by the Devil. Left-handed people were therefore considered to be evil. My poor mother was born left-handed and was forced as a child to write with her right hand to be accepted by society.)
Apparently, an unwritten convention within IBM is that comparison tables always have the newer product on the left column, followed by one or more older products to the right, or the IBM product on the left column, with one or more competitive alternatives to the right.
The second complaint came from a reader in the comments section: "... I think [what] you're doing is trying to ride EMC's release for your own marketing, did you really need to? XIV is an excellent array; adding SSD Cache to the Gen3 takes it further, Moshe would be fuming (which I think is a good thing), can you just stick to that and not ride someone else's wave?"
Both announcements relate to reducing latency of read IOPS through the use of Solid State Drives. That both companies would announce these were no surprise to any employee at either company, as both IBM and EMC have been talking about their intent to do so last year. IBM's announcement of XIV SSD Gen3 caching was certainly not in response to EMC's VFCache announcement, and I doubt EMC rushed out their VFCache announcement the day before as a pre-emptive strike against IBM's announcement of the XIV Gen3 SSD Caching feature.
Rather, both announcements reflect the growing acceptance of SSD in the data center. I wasn't the only blogger to draw this comparison. See also Peter Velikin's [4 Observations], Charles King's [Cache as Cache Can: New SSD Options Boost Performance], and Rachel Kossman's [Week in review].
And then there was this tweet:
(Note: I don't know her personally, but she has thousands of followers!)
There you have it. I will gladly fix false or misleading information, but I am not going to re-arrange the order of things just to please some readers, only to have other readers complain that they liked it better in the original order. As always, feel free to comment on any of this in the section below.
technorati tags: IBM, Mark Doumas, Jim Rymarczyk, George Clooney, XIV Gen3, SSD, Caching, EMC, VFCache
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
- 1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
- 1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
- 1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
- 2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
- 2009: [Paul Blart: Mall Cop] and [Observe and Report] were comedies dealing with challenges of security at a shopping mall.
(I think I made my point with just a few examples. A more complete list can be found on [Sam Greenspan's 11 Points website].)
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chris Mellor from The Register has a series of articles to cover this, including [EMC crashes the server flash party], [NetApp slaps down Lightning with multi-card Flash flush], [HP may be going the server flash route], and [Now HDS joins the server flash party].
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
EMC is not the first to manufacture an SSD-based PCIe card. Last summer, my friends at Texas Memory Systems [TMS] gave away a [RAMsan-70 PCIe card] at an after-party on [Day 2 of the IBM System Storage University].
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
|Category||EMC VFCache||IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching|
|Servers supported||Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers||All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux|
|Operating System support||Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.||All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X|
|Protocol support||FCP||FCP and iSCSI|
|Vendor-supplied driver required on the server||Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.||No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.|
|External disk storage systems required||None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage||XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.|
|Shared disk support||No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.||Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.|
|Support for multiple servers||No||An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.|
|Support for active/active server clusters||No||Yes!|
|Aware of changes made to back-end disk||No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.||Yes!|
|Sequential-access detection||None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.||Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.|
|Number of SSD supported||One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.||6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.|
|Pin data in SSD cache||Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.||No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.|
|Pre-sales Estimating tools||None identified||Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.|
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
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