I should be studying for Finals, but I’m not. I’m huddled around a table with seven others: two pimply-faced boys, an accountant-looking type guy with wire-rimmed glasses, a burly red-headed man that I’ve mentally nicknamed “Paul Bunyan,” a girl with a nose ring, a man who looks like a leprechaun, our sadistic Dungeon Master, and a girl with greasy black hair. Oh wait, that’s me.
In some other plane built by our imaginations, we are being overrun by wyverns and worgs. The barbarian and the warrior, played by the two pimply-faced boys, are valiantly swinging away at the enemies while bleeding profusely from open wounds. Nose Ring’s thief is hiding behind some boulders, Leprechaun’s bard is singing a song meant to confuse the enemy, and Paul Bunyan’s cleric – the group’s sole healer - has got his hands full trying to keep people from dying. Meanwhile, the accountant’s mage is about to die, while my mage is already dead. She is face-planted into the dirt, waiting for a rez.
If only I had not broken my cardinal D&D rule: never go adventuring unless there are at least three clerics (or healers) in the party. We magic-users are the most fragile (as I explained in a previous post, we’re brainy, but not so brawny) so we need healers to keep us alive.
Three healers in the party would mean that they could all actively participate in healing and fighting. If one of them died, another healer could resurrect them. This way, it doesn’t fall to a single person to make sure hit points are replenished, especially if everyone is taking heavy damage. It is my application of an operations management concept, or the “pooling” method, to Dungeons & Dragons. Except I didn’t apply it on the miserable night described above.
This is the character I SHOULD have been playing that night...my cleric (of course, I didn't have her back then). Can't believe I am carrying her around in my purse. It's a good thing I'm married, or else I'd probably never get a date.
In case you’re wondering how I’m going to relate this back to NetApp, I’ll get right to it: it turns out they also apply the pooling method in the data storage world, as storage admins can create pools of storage to avoid creating any stranded islands of data. NetApp made some recent enhancements to its E-series platform that has improved upon storage pools even further with the concept of “dynamic disk pools.” Essentially, dynamic disk pools turn the traditional method of storage pooling on its head: instead of “pool on RAID,” it’s “RAID on pool,” to borrow liberally from my colleagues, Rip Wilson and Mark Henderson, product marketing managers for the E-series.
Pool on RAID: Traditional RAID groups get assigned to specific disks. In traditional storage pools, the pools are then layered on top of this RAID foundation as an abstraction layer to be divvied up or built up across multiple groups of RAID disks. If there is a failure, however, all of the slow, non-scaling aspects of rebuilding to a single - and previously idle - spare can make the process of RAID rebuild utterly miserable. And if you’ve got a big data environment running high-performance applications, you can’t afford misery.
RAID on pool (Dynamic Disk Pools): All the drives in a pool participate (like all the healers in an adventuring party), and data stripes are randomized across some ten drives in the pool. Other stripes use a different set of ten drives. If there is a failure, all the other drives continue to participate to reconstruct any missing segment parts (just like if one healer dies, the other healers can fight on as well as heal the downed healer), which are rebalanced across the remaining drives. This is faster because of the parallelism, or the fact that data is moving all over the pool, versus ganging up on just one poor spare drive. How much faster? Up to 8 times faster.
Of course, in a single post I can’t do this new technology very much justice, so take a gander at the IDC report, “The IT Data Explosion is Game Changing for Storage Requirements,” for a more in-depth description of the benefits of NetApp’s dynamic disk pools and how they’re upping the game for traditional storage pools and our OEM partners.
As always, we would love to hear from you. Whether you’ve got a D&D horror story to tell, a picture of your miniature to post, or your thoughts on storage pools to share, we would welcome your comments.