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The XYZ Factor for Dynamic Provisioning

by Hu Yoshida on Aug 4, 2009

On my last post on Chunk Size Matters, Vinod Subramaniam had the following comment:

“I think all vendors are guilty of complicating issues to such an extent that end users are left poring through unnecessarily complicated documents.”

He proposed a simple XYZ factor approach, where X is the efficiency for a given storage architecture without thin provisioning and Y is the efficiency of the architecture with thin provisioning divided by X. You can read his full comment in my preceding post.

The Enterprise Strategy Group had done this test for us in early 2008 so I decided to post their results to show you our XY factor.

Their test case was run on a Windows server connected over a single 4 Gbs FC interface to a USP V.  The test workload was 100 percent random, 75 percent reads and an 8 KB block size.

First this was run on a LUN that was carved from 4 x 146 GB 15K RPM FC disk drives that were configured on one RAID 10 array group.

Then with HDP they striped the LUN across thirty two 146 GB 15K RPM FC disk drives configured as 8 RAID 10 array groups and ran the same workload. The results are shown below:


So from this result our Y factor in terms of IOPs is 7.16 or a 716 % improvement at a response time of 15 ms or less.

While this result took 32 spindles versus 4, there was additional capacity to run 8 more workloads. Obviously the additional workloads would cause arm contention and the increase in IOPs would not be linear, but the cumulative IOPs of 8 workloads which are wide striped across 8 array groups would still be better that running the 8 workloads on separate array groups.

Wide striping can be done without Dynamic Provisioning. Many data base administrators do that today and short stroke the drives to increase random IOPs performance. Unfortunately that leaves a lot of capacity that is not used. Hitachi Storage Command Suite software can identify that capacity and use it for lower tier requirements or lower SLO requirements, through partitioning and port priority processing even though that capacity is in the same Dynamic Provisioning Pool. 

By the way, Vinod’s Z factor is the change in the efficiency Y divided by the change in capacity utilization. dY/dU where U is the capacity utilization factor. This factor may not be useful since not all file systems are thin provision friendly or like NTFS, they don’t stay thin provisioned very long if there is a lot of updating being done. I would say that nearly all file systems will benefit from the ease of provisioning and the wide striping that comes from dynamic provisioning. Many of our customers tell us that thin provisioning is the least of the benefits that come from Dynamic Provisioning.

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Comments (5 )

Charlie Dellacona on 05 Aug 2009 at 5:34 am


You say “…but the cumulative IOPs of 8 workloads which are wide striped across 8 array groups would still be better that running the 8 workloads on separate array groups.”

Are you claiming this for all transaction loads or just the test case you cite? A simple counterexample is a set of sequential loads, aggregating these would just cause arm contention and increase average service times.

Also, a nit, if the Y factor (Y/X) is 7.16 then Y/X is a 616% improvement over X, not 716%.

Vinod Subramaniam on 06 Aug 2009 at 8:31 am


I think need to explain more clearly.

X = ( IOPS without HDP ) / ( 150 * No. of 15k rpm Spindles )
= 800 / ( 150 * 4 ) = 1.3

Y = ( IOPS with HDP ) / ( 150 * No of 15k rpm Spindles )
= ( 5000 ) / ( 150 * 32 ) = 1.04

The reasoning behind this is as below :-

1. If one were to use the 4 * 15k rpm spindles in a JBOD and use a host based Volume Manager one would get in theory 600 IOPS.

2. The point behind adding CHA’s, DKA’s and Cache is to improve the performance ( and availability ) that one would get over using the drives in a JBOD. This improvement in performance is what X indicates.

3. Similarly if one were to use 32 * 15k rpm spindles in a JBOD and use a host based Volume Manager ( assume that the host is not CPU bound or memory bound ) one would get in theory 4800 IOPS. The point behind using HDP is to achieve at least a multiplier of 1.5. This is what Y indicates.

4. In the example above ESG has used 146GB drives. What if we use the current 300GB drives or 450GB drives. I assume that the Y factor would be different at a capacity utilization of 80% as compared to a capacity utilization of 40%. This is what Z indicates.

As far as Jetstress I have no experience with it and so cannot comment.

P.S :- One of the bravest things I have done was stand up before a crowd of 500 Unix geeks at Lockheed Martin and sell (train) Microsoft .NET. You can guess how that one went !!!

Hu Yoshida on 06 Aug 2009 at 8:30 pm

Charlie, thanks for the comment and clarification. The ESG report showed 716%, I just converted it to a decimal factor.

Hu Yoshida on 06 Aug 2009 at 8:33 pm

Vinod, thanks for the clarification. I know how it feels to be in front of technology experts!!!

Chiie on 08 Jun 2012 at 11:22 am

Are these theories? I quoitsen the RAID analysis and I/O penalty factors. Hardware RAID solutions include CPU, cache memory and completely hide the details of storing data from a physical or virtual host. It gets even more complicated when the RAID is buried in a FC SAN, especially considering the leading vendors offer hot spot analysis and dynamic work-load redistribution. Finally, even SANs can be virtualized behind storage virtualization products. These things all work to make them far superior in every way to a single physical disk as well as providing data protection and DR features. In my opinion, your analysis is far too simplistic and the uninformed who read this information may come away believing that RAID and/or SANs are performance killers. While I agree that I/O is likely the cause of poor virtual host performance, I believe this has more to do with the extra overhead incurred by the virtualization of a SCSI controller. My experience as a software architect, virtual x86 environments are always slower than than running on physical hardware. In fact, most software vendors don’t certify their solutions on virtual x86 hosts because they don’t want to deal with customer complains and poor performance. Sometimes the difference is minimal but with any type of I/O operation, it’s usually staggering regardless of how many stripes are on the VMWare architect’s black belt. Sometimes you cannot put lipstick on a pig and expect it to get a date. x86 VM technologies are accetptable for certain workloads but anyone who tried to run a database on a virtual x86 host needs to rethink their approach.I’ve yet to see an x86 virtualization performance problem not solved by hooking the same FC disk to a physical server and eliminating the virtualization. The difference in performance can be staggering.I also agree that dedicating an entire piece of hardware for a server that never uses more than 3% of the CPU wastes potential processing cycles, power, cooling capacity, network ports, fiber ports, license fees and I’m sure I’ve left something out. In my opinon, this has far more to do with today’s isolation of applications whose vendors require dedicated operating systems for their products. In the mainframe days, there was ONE mainframe and it was usually desired for it to run at capacity and even a bit more. Granted, they were (and still are) expensive vs. one x86 rack server but if you end up spending a million dollars on 300, physically different pieces of hardware, aren’t we fooling ourselves? I believe this has more to do with poor software engineering and some of the ills of Microsoft’s OS software. Far too often applications are incompatible because of Microsoft’s seemingly global approach to common/core libraries. Another reason is application developers now grow up thinking their application will compeltely own the box on which it operates. Both cause inefficient software engineering and caused the need for x86 virtulization to rise.Perhaps the cloud initiatives will eliminate the need for virtulization. If hosts in the cloud can run their operating systems on physical hardware and the cloud brain divides work among all member servers, the application per host requirements become a bad memory and we return to the ability to fully utilize a single piece of hardware without the horrible performance penalties of more and more layers of abstraction that each impose their performance toll between the physical hardware and the customer that seeks to have a problem solved.

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