I will not be selling you anything in this blog. I will be sharing a small part of the thought process Ferrellgas (NYSE: FGP) exercised as they evaluated their flash storage options and why they decided to go with Violin Systems and the 7300 Flash Storage Platform at their last refresh.
As an Oracle database guy working at Violin Systems in Europe, I get exposed to some truly big, scary database platforms. Sometimes they are important (like the global PeopleSoft database for a well-known world-wide intergovernmental organization), sometimes they are critical (like the billing platform for 26 million cell phone users in Europe) and sometimes... you just can't talk about them.
A couple of weeks ago, along with thousands of other people, I attended Oracle OpenWorld 2014 in San Francisco. There were lots of announcements and lots of opportunities to learn (especially at the excellent OakTable World conference-within-a-conference). My personal favourite session was Jeremiah Wilton's talk on running Oracle on Amazon Cloud Services - I think a whole essay could be written on Oracle's Cloud Licensing Policy. And as Steve Karam has already pointed out, the overwhelming message of OOW14 was cloud, cloud cloud. It seems that Larry no longer likes to talk about on-premise.
Suspend disbelief for a moment and ponder the following questions: What would your business look like if we made it economical to run your storage infrastructure at speeds closer to that of memory than that of disk storage? How fast would your applications run? What business models would it open up? How much competitive advantage can you gain?
SSD’s are like cordless phones and DVD’s. They made an improvement on an existing technology but didn’t revolutionize its use. In technology there is a difference between the concept of modernizing and revolutionizing. Modernizing is finding a way to do the same thing, just a little bit faster or little bit easier. Revolutionizing is either eliminating or vastly changing how something is done.
Flash is about latency and IOPs so why would it be good for Data Warehousing or Business Intelligence?
Excellent question. Yes, the typical marketing and wow-factor stats around flash are based on latencies and IOPs (Input Output Per Second). Data warehousing (DW) and Business Intelligence (BI) is normally a throughput game, so what gives?
Storage for DBAs: As a rule of thumb, pretty much any storage system can be characterised by three fundamental properties:
Latency is a measurement of delay in a system; so in the case of storage it is the time taken to respond to an I/O request. It's a term which is frequently misused - more on this later - but when found in the context of a storage system's data sheet it often means the average latency of a single I/O. Latency figures for disk are usually measured in milliseconds; for flash a more common unit of measurement would be microseconds.
Storage for DBAs: Everyone wants their stuff to go faster. Whether it’s your laptop, tablet, phone, database or application… performance is one of the most desirable characteristics of any system. If your system isn't fast enough, you start dreaming of more. Maybe you try and tune what you already have, or maybe you upgrade to something better: you buy a phone with a faster processor, put a flash-based SSD in your laptop or upgrade to a newer model.
When it comes to databases, I often meet people considering the same set of options for boosting performance (usually in this order): half-heartedly tuning the database, adding more DRAM, properly tuning the database, adding or upgrading CPUs, then finally tuning the application. It amazes me how much time, money and effort is often spent trying to avoid getting the application developers to write their code properly, but that’s a subject for another article.
The point of this article is the following statement: to achieve the best performance on any system it is important that all of its resources are balanced.
Let’s think about the basic resources that comprise a computer system such as a database server: