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Flash and Cache Dash

Posted by kidd in Jay's Blog on Feb 3, 2009 7:00:00 AM

Last fall, I wrote about our plans to incorporate Flash technology into our offering, as well as our expandable memory cache offering, the Performance Acceleration Module.


We made some announcements today moving forward on this strategy that produce some pretty cool results.


We announced that the Texas Memory Systems RamSan-500 product can be used with the NetApp V-Series, effectively creating the industry’s only Enterprise Flash storage system that supports thin provisioning, fast snapshots, remote mirroring, and data deduplication (very important for Flash since this stuff is not cheap). These systems offer a much higher IOP rate on much less storage capacity, and therefore less power, space, and in many cases, price.


NetApp SAN systems are already fast – our SPC benchmarks have us faster than EMC by 20%+ but there are always customers who want more IOPS than any rational amount of 15,000 RPM disk drives can muster. The only solution today to get this level of IOPs is to string more and more drives together. Soon, you have 40TB of 300GB disks not because you need the capacity, but because you need that many disks to deliver the IOPs. This is like having a heard of mice pull a heavy load - at some point you need a different type of storage animal.


V-Series is a well proven solution for bringing the unique NetApp data management capabilities to other storage capacity solutions. Texas Memory Systems builds a screaming IOPs box. Tastes great, less filling.


Faster File Serving at Lower Cost


We also announced a set of new industry-standard benchmark results (SPECsfs2008_nfs.v3 results) on a dual-controller FAS3140 NetApp system using our cache expanding Performance Acceleration Module (PAM) and the results are stunning.


On the baseline system with no PAM cards, we saw throughput of 40,109 ops/sec and an overall response time of 2.59ms. Good results by themselves. We added a 16GB PAM PCIe card to each controller and were able to achieve the same throughput, with a 35% improvement in overall response time (down to 1.69ms) but more importantly, with 50% less Fibre Channel 15,000 RPM disks! This takes 27% out of the cost of this configuration.


But wait, there’s more!


We also ran the benchmark with SATA drives. We have seen a steady increase in use of SATA for enterprise applications as customers realize how fast they can be when used in a NetApp system. In this test, we swapped the 112 FC drives for SATA, kept the PAM cards in place, and got almost the same throughput (40,011 ops/sec) and overall response time (2.75ms) as the baseline, but with 75% more capacity. Also, at a 27% lower cost than the original.


The ability to expand cache via a simple PCIe plug-in board is creating some great results in our customers’ applications. We are still on track to offer a Flash-based version of the PAM this year, and will also be bringing Flash disks (SSDs) in a shelf slot as well.   So this is just the beginning.


We have been talking a great deal about Storage Efficiency– how to store more data in less spindles. We have a broad set of technologies that reduce the amount of capacity you need to store the data. These Flash and cache solutions bring a new dimension to this story by reducing the cost of disks purchased mainly for IOPs rather than capacity. Either way, it costs less, stores more, and goes faster.


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