SPC Benchmarks for Disk System Performance
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Wrapping up this week's exploration on disk system performance, today I willcover the Storage Performance Council (SPC) benchmarks, and why I feel they are relevant to help customers make purchase decisions. This all started to address a comment from EMC blogger Chuck Hollis, who expressed his disappointment in IBM as follows:
You've made representations that SPC testing is somehow relevant to customers' environments, but offered nothing more than platitudes in support of that statement.
Apparently, while everyone else in the blogosphere merely states their opinions and moves on,IBM is held to a higher standard. Fair enough, we're used to that.Let's recap what we covered so far this week:
Today, I will explore ways to apply these metrics to measure and compare storageperformance.
Let's take, for example, an IBM System Storage DS8000 disk system. This has a controller thatsupports various RAID configurations, cache memory, and HDD inside one or more frames.Engineers who are testing individual components of this system might run specifictypes of I/O requests to test out the performance or validate certain processing.
Known affectionately in the industry as the "four corners" test, because you can show them on a box, with writes on the left, reads on the right,hits on the top, and misses on the bottom.Engineers are proud of these results, but these workloads do notreflect any practical production workload. At best, since all I/O requests are oneof these four types, the four corners provide an expectation range from the worst performance (most often write-missin the lower left corner)and the best performance (most often read-hit in the upper right corner) you might get with a real workload.
To understand what is needed to design a test that is more reflective of real business conditions,let's go back to yesterday's discussion of fuel economy of vehicles, with mileage measured in miles per gallon.The How Stuff Works websiteoffers the following description for the two measurements taken by the EPA:
Why two different measurements? Not everyone drives in a city in stop-and-go traffic. Having only one measurement may not reflect the reality that you may travel long distances on the highway. Offering both city and highway measurements allows the consumers to decide which metric relates closer to their actual usage.
Should you expect your actual mileage to be the exact same as the standardized test?Of course not. Nobody drives exactly 11 miles in the city every morning with 23 stops along the way,or 10 miles on the highway at the exact speeds listed.The EPA's famous phrase "your mileage may vary" has been quickly adopted into popular culture's lexicon. All kinds of factors, like weather, distance, anddriving style can cause people to get better or worse mileage than thestandardized tests would estimate.
Want more accurate results that reflect your driving pattern, in specific conditions that you are most likely to drive in? You could rentdifferent vehicles for a week and drive them around yourself, keeping track of whereyou go, and how fast you drove, and how many gallons of gas you purchased, so thatyou can then repeat the process with another rental, and so on, and then use yourown findings to base your comparisons. Perhaps you find that your results are always20% worse than EPA estimates when you drive in the city, and 10% worse when you driveon the highway. Perhaps you have many mountains and hills where you drive, you drive too fast, you run the Air Conditioner too cold, or whatever.
If you did this with five or more vehicles, and ranked them best to worstfrom your own findings, and also ranked them best to worst based on the standardizedresults from the EPA, you likely will find the order to be the same. The vehiclewith the best standardized result will likely also have the best result from your ownexperience with the rental cars. The vehicle with the worst standardized result willlikely match the worst result from your rental cars.
(This will be one of my main points, that standardized estimates don't have to be accurate to beuseful in making comparisons. The comparisons and decisions you would make with estimatesare the same as you would have made with actual results, or customized estimates based on current workloads. Because the rankings are in the same order, they are relevant and useful for making decisions based on those comparisons.)
Most people shopping around for a new vehicle do not have the time or patience to do this with rental cars. Theycan use the EPA-certified standardized results to make a "ball-park" estimate on how much they will spendin gasoline per year, decide only on cars that might go a certain distancebetween two cities on a single tank of gas, or merely to provide ranking of thevehicles being considered. While mileage may not be the only metric used in making a purchase decision, it can certainly be used to help reduce your consideration setand factor in with other attributes, like number of cup-holders, or leather seats.
In this regard, the Storage Performance Council has developed two benchmarks that attempt to reflect normal business usage, similar to "City" and "Highway" driving measurements.
The SPC-2 benchmark was added when people suggested that not everyone runs OLTP anddatabase transactional update workloads, just as the "Highway" measurement was addedto address the fact that not everyone drives in the City.
If you are one of the customers out there willing to spend the time and resources to do your own performance benchmarking, either at your own data center, or with theassistance of a storage provider, I suspect most, if not all, the major vendors(including IBM, EMC and others), and perhaps even some of the smaller start-ups, would be glad to work with you.
If you want to gather performance data of your actual workloads, and use this to estimate how your performance might be with a new or different storage configuration, IBMhas tools to make these estimates, and I suspect (again) that most, if not all, of theother storage vendors have developed similar tools.
For the rest of you who are just looking to decide which storage vendors to invite on your next RFP, and which products you might like to investigate that matchthe level of performance you need for your next project or application deployment,than the SPC benchmarks might help you with this decision. If performance is importantto you, factor these benchmark comparisons with the rest of the attributes you arelooking for in a storage vendor and a storage system.
In my opinion, I feel that for some people, the SPC benchmarks provide some value in this decision making process. They are proportionally correct, in that even ifyour workload gets only a portion of the SPC estimate, that storage systems withfaster benchmarks will provide you better performance than storage systems with lower benchmark results. That is why I feel they can be relevant in makingvalid comparisons for purchase decisions.
Hopefully, I have provided enough "food for thought"on this subject to support why IBM participates in the Storage Performance Council, why the performance of the SAN Volume Controller can be compared to the performanceof other disk systems, and why we at IBM are proud of the recent benchmark results in our recent press release.
Enjoy the weekend!
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