Enabling The Green and Virtual Data Center

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Part 2 - Which Enterprise HDD to use for Content Applications - How and What To Test

Part 2 - Which Enterprise HDD to use for Content Applications - How and What To Test

Part 2 - Which Enterprise HDD to use for Content Applications - How and What To Test

server storage I/O trends

Which enterprise HDD to use with a content server platform
Insight for effective server storage I/O decision making
Server StorageIO Lab Review

Which enterprise HDD to use for content servers

This is the second in a multi-part series (read part one here) based on a white paper hands-on lab report I did compliments of Servers Direct and Seagate that you can read in PDF form here. The focus is looking at the Servers Direct (www.serversdirect.com) converged Content Solution platforms with Seagate Enterprise Hard Disk Drive (HDD's). In this post we look at some decisions and configuration choices to make for testing content applications servers as well as project planning.

Content Solution Test Objectives

In short period, collect performance and another server, storage I/O decision-making information on various HDD's running different content workloads.

Working with the Servers Direct staff a suitable content solution platform test configuration was created. In addition to providing two Intel-based content servers, Servers Direct worked with their partner Seagate to arrange for various enterprise class HDD's to be evaluated. For these series of content application tests, being short on time, I chose to do run some simple workloads including database, basic file (large and small) processing and general performance characterization.

Content Solution Decision Making

Knowing how Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) NAND flash SSD (1) devices (drives and PCIe cards) perform, what would be the best HDD based storage option for my given set of applications? Different applications have various performance, capacity and budget considerations. Different types of Seagate Enterprise class 2.5” Small Form Factor (SFF) HDD's were tested.

While revolutions per minute (RPM) still plays a role in HDD performance, there are other factors including internal processing capabilities, software or firmware algorithm optimization, and caching. Most HDD's today have some amount of DRAM for read caching and other operations. Seagate Enterprise Performance HDD's with the enhanced caching feature (2) are examples of devices accelerate storage I/O speed vs. traditional 10K and 15K RPM drives.

Project Planning And Preparation

Workload to be tested included:

  • Database read/writes
  • Large file processing
  • Small file processing
  • General I/O profile

Project testing consisted of five phases, some of which overlapped with others:

Phase 1 – Plan
Identify candidate workloads that could be run in the given amount of time, determine time schedules and resource availability, create a project plan.

Phase 2 – Define
Hardware define and software define the test platform.

Phase 3 – Setup
The objective was to assess plug-play capability of the server, storage and I/O networking hardware with a Linux OS before moving on to the reported workloads in the next phase. Initial setup and configuration of hardware and software, installation of additional devices along with software configuration, troubleshooting and learning as applicable. This phase consisted of using Ubuntu Linux 14.04 server as the operating system (OS) along with MySQL 5.6 as a database server during initial hands-on experience.

Phase 4 – Execute
This consisted of using Windows 2012 R2 server as the OS along with Microsoft SQL Server on the system under test (SUT) to support various workloads. Results of this phase are reported below.

Phase 5 - Analyze      
Results from the workloads run in phase 3 were analyzed and summarized into this document.

(Note 1) Refer to Seagate 1200 12 Gbps Enterprise SAS SSD StorageIO lab review

(Note 2) Refer to Enterprise SSHD and Flash SSD Part of an Enterprise Tiered Storage Strategy

Planning And Preparing The Tests

As with most any project there were constraints to contend with and work around.

Test constraints included:

  • Short-time window
  • Hardware availability
  • Amount of hardware
  • Software availability

Three most important constraints and considerations for this project were:

  • Time - This was a project with a very short time “runway”, something common in most customer environments who are looking to make a knowledgeable server, storage I/O decisions.
  • Amount of hardware - Limited amount of DRAM main memory, sixteen 2.5” internal hot-swap storage slots for HDD's as well as SSDs. Note that for a production content solution platform; additional DRAM can easily be added, along with extra external storage enclosures to scale memory and storage capacity to fit your needs.
  • Software availability - Utilize common software and management tools publicly available so anybody could leverage those in their own environment and tests.

The following content application workloads were profiled:

  • Database reads/writes – Updates, inserts, read queries for a content environment
  • Large file processing – Streaming of large video, images or other content objects.
  • Small file processing – Processing of many small files found in some content applications
  • General I/O profile – IOP, bandwidth and response time relevant to content applications

Where To Learn More

What This All Means

There are many different types of content applications ranging from little data databases to big data analytics as well as very big fast data such as for video. Likewise there are various workloads and characteristics to test. The best test and metrics are those that apply to your environment and application needs.

Continue reading part three of this multi-part series here looking at how the systems and HDD's were configured and tested.

Ok, nuff said


Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier)
twitter @storageio

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Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.