Companies rely on Information Technology (IT) infrastructure to support their business objectives. This means databases and applications need to run fast enough to deliver information to users in a timely fashion, but determining what it takes to achieve performance is not as straightforward as many expect. The challenge is that performance is determined by how latency and IOPS (Input/Output Operations Per Second) interact, especially in all flash storage.
Consistent Low Lap Times Win Championships
There is an excellent analogy between Formula 1 (F1) racing and data center storage. Just as technology is key to winning in F1 racing (technology is used to deliver the fastest road course racing available), technology providing low latency delivered through all flash arrays results in the fastest data center storage.
Let me explain. Winning F1 championships requires achieving the lowest lap times in a series of races on different courses and roads (workloads). Achieving better results (performance) requires improving consistency since championships are awarded to the driver maintaining low lap times across an entire season.
Participating in a lot of races (IOPS) is important but completing races before others (latency) matters most. What doesn't help at all is winning one or a few races (low latency) and then losing all others by a large margin (high latency). Latency is the key storage performance metric and low latency storage is vital for all flash storage environments.
"There is an overwhelming emphasis on IOPS (Input/Output Operations per Second) and the impact of latency is conspicuously ignored."
— "Why Low Latency Matters" by George Crump,
President and Founder at Storage Switzerland
Most of us have not driven a F1 racecar. But let me give you another example. You can perform your own highly personalized, real-world, IOPS versus latency demonstration, at your favorite retail store. All you need is a new chipped credit or debit card. Chances are you will experience the problems that can happen when all flash storage decisions are based on maximum IOPS rather than consistent low latency.
Racing through your favorite store doesn't feel like winning when you have to make a long pit stop during check out. All of us are experiencing poor performance due to high latency when using chipped cards. It does not matter if chipped cards facilitated more transactions (higher IOPS). Every transaction is now slower (lower latency) and transaction times differ at stores (consistency). Chipped cards are eroding customer experiences, negatively impacting consumers and retailers.
Consistency Drives Better Outcomes
My "day job" involves ensuring companies have positive and productive customer experiences, and one of the best ways to achieve this outcome is to surpass expectations—consistently. No one wants unpredictable or mixed results, whether we're talking about F1 racing, storage latency, or customer experiences.
Understanding all flash performance used to be straightforward when the comparison was against storage with hard disk drives. All flash storage alternatives outperformed traditional storage systems in obvious ways. A focus on IOPS performance—an inherent limitation of hard disk drives—amplified differences. Even the largest and most slow-to-change storage providers now agree the all flash storage era has arrived, and comparing all flash storage against all flash storage is more complicated.
Susan Scheer Aoki
Violin VP, Customer Experience
The primary driver of business value from all flash storage is not how many transactions can be completed at the same time (IOPS), it's how consistently each and every individual transaction can be rapidly completed (latency). In other words, databases, applications, and users want the next piece of data they need ASAP (low latency), and they want this to happen often (consistency), rather than different pieces of data (high IOPS) they need later.
The next time you have some quality time to invest online, check out Storage Switzerland and see what George and his colleagues have to say about flash storage. In the meantime, here are a few more quotes from George's "Why Low Latency Matters" article to help you win more races:
"In a world that demands 'instant gratification,' forcing a customer, prospect or employee to wait for a response is the kiss of death."
"For most data centers the number one cause of these "waits" is the data storage infrastructure, and improving storage performance is a top priority for many CIOs."
"The traditional three-tier infrastructure of servers, network, and compute benefits by having storage systems that directly respond and service existing I/O requests faster and thus have the capability of supporting significantly more applications and workloads on the same platforms."
Do you have the Need for Speed?
Let's shift gears for a moment. Click here and register for your chance to win a High Performance Racing and Driving class at a Skip Barber Racing School or you can choose from other prizes to help you indulge your inner adrenaline junkie.
I hope you will catch Ebrahim Abbasi next week and find out how all flash storage latency impacts environments with multiple and mixed workloads. When you finish the next lap, you can enter again for another chance to win the Skip Barber class.