The IOPS race is over

emc-f1-carInfrastructure has always been a tough place to compete in. Unlike applications, databases or middleware, infrastructure components are fairly easy to replace with another make and model, and thus the vendors try to show off their product as better than the one from the competition.

In case of storage subsystems, the important metrics has always been performance related and IOPS (I/O operations per second) in particular.

I remember a period when competitors of our high-end arrays (EMC Symmetrix, these days usually just called EMC VMAX) tried to artificially boost their benchmark numbers by limiting the data access pattern to only a few megabytes per front-end IO port. This caused their array to handle all I/O in the small memory buffer cache of each I/O port – and none of the I/O’s would really be handled by either central cache memory or backend disks. This way they could boost their IOPS numbers much higher than ours. Of course no real world application would ever only store a few megabytes of data so the numbers were pure bogus – but marketing wise it was an interesting move to say the least.

With the introduction of the first Sun based Exadata (the Exadata V2) late 2009, Oracle also jumped on the IOPS race and claimed a staggering one million IOPS. Awesome! So the gold standard was now 1 million IOPS, and the other players had to play along with the “mine’s bigger than yours” vendor contest.
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Oracle ASM vs ZFS on VNX

swiss-cheeseIn my last post on ZFS I shared results of a lab test where ZFS was configured on Solaris x86 and using XtremIO storage. A strange combination maybe but this is what a specific customer asked for.

Another customer requested a similar test with ZFS versus ASM but on Solaris/SPARC and on EMC VNX. Also very interesting as on VNX we’re using spinning disk (not all-flash) so the effects of fragmentation over time should be much more visible.

So with support of the local administrators, I performed a similar test as the one before: start on ASM and get baseline random and sequential performance numbers, then move the tablespace (copy) to ZFS so you start off with as little fragmentation as possible. Then run random read/write followed by sequential read, multiple times and see how the I/O behaves.
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Oracle ASM vs ZFS on XtremIO

zfs-asm-plateBackground

In my previous post on ZFS I showed how ZFS causes fragmentation for Oracle database files. At the end I promised (sort of) to also come back on topic around how this affects database performance. In the meantime I have been busy with many other things, but ZFS issues still sneak up on me frequently. Eventually, I was forced to take another look at this because of two separate customers asking for ZFS comparisons agaisnt ASM at the same time.

The account team for one of the two customers asked if I could perform some testing on their lab environment to show the performance difference between Oracle on ASM and on ZFS. As things happen in this business, things were already rolling before I could influence the prerequisites and the suggested test method. Promises were already made to the customer and I was asked to produce results yesterday.

Without knowledge on the lab environment, customer requirements or even details on the test environment they had set up. Typical day at the office.

In addition to that, ZFS requires a supported host OS – so Linux is out of the question (the status on kernel ZFS for Linux is still a bit unclear and certainly it would not be supported with Oracle). I had been using FreeBSD in my post on fragmentation – because that was my platform of choice at that point (my Solaris skills are, at best, rusty). Of course Oracle on FreeBSD is a no-go so back then, I used NFS to run the database on Linux and ZFS on BSD. Which implicitly solves some of the potential issues whilst creating some new ones, but alas.

Solaris x86

slob-rules-kenteken
This time the idea was to run Oracle on Solaris (x86) that had both ZFS and ASM configured. How to perform a reasonable comparison that also shows the different behavior was unclear and when asking that question to the account team, the conference call line stayed surprisingly silent. All that they indicated up front is that the test tool on Oracle should be SLOB.

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The public transport company needs new buses

Future-British-Bus-1A public transport company in a city called Galactic City, needs to replace its aging city buses with new ones. It asks three bus vendors what they have to offer and if they can do a live test to see if their claims about performance and efficiency holds up.

The transport company uses the city buses to move people between different locations in the city. The average trip distance is about 2 km. The vendors all prepare their buses for the test. The buses are the latest and greatest, with the most efficient and powerful engines and state of the art technology.

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POC: Piece Of Cake or Point Of Contradiction?

Every now and then I get involved in Customer Proof of Concepts. A Proof of Concept (POC) is, according to Wikipedia, something like a demonstration of feasibility of a certain idea, concept or theory.

Concept Performance Aircraft

Concept Aircraft

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