Welcome!

Weblogic Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, Michael Meiner, Michael Bushong, Avi Rosenthal

Blog Feed Post

Part II: IBM Server Side Storage I/O SSD Flash Cache Software

Part II: IBM Server Side Storage I/O SSD Flash Cache Software

By Greg Schulz

Storage I/O trends

Part II IBM Server Flash Cache Storage I/O accelerator for SSD

This is the second in a two-part post series on IBM's Flash Cache Storage Accelerator (FCSA) for Solid State Device (SSD) storage announced today. You can view part I of the IBM FCSA announcement synopsis here.

Some FCSA ssd cache questions and perspectives

What is FCSA?
FCSA is a server-side storage I/O or IOP caching software tool that makes use of local (server-side) nand flash SSD (PCIe cards or drives). As a cache tool (view IBM flash site here) FCSA provides persistent read caching on IBM servers (xSeries, Flex and Blade x86 based systems) with write through cache (e.g. data cached for later reads) while write data is written directly to block attached storage including SANs. back-end storage can be iSCSI, SAS, FC or FCoE based block systems from IBM or others including all SSD, hybrid SSD or traditional HDD based solutions from IBM and others.

How is this different from just using a dedicated PCIe nand flash SSD card?
FCSA complements those by using them as a persistent storage to cache storage I/O reads to boost performance. By using the PCIe nand flash card or SSD drives, FCSA and other storage I/O cache optimization tools free up valuable server-side DRAM from having to be used as a read cache on the servers. On the other hand, caching tools such as FCSA also keep local cached reads closer to the applications on the servers (e.g. locality of reference) reducing the impact on backed shared block storage systems.

What is FCSA for?
With storage I/O or IOPS and application performance in general, location matters due to locality of reference hence the need for using different approaches for various environments. IBM FCSA is a storage I/O caching software technology that reduces the impact of applications having to do random read operations. In addition to caching reads, FCSA also has a write through cache, which means that while data written to back-end block storage including on iSCSI, SAS, FC or FCoE based storage (IBM or other vendors), a copy of the data is cached for later reads. Thus while the best storage I/O is the one that does not have to be done (e.g. can be resolved from cache), the second best would be writes that go to a storage system that are not competing with read requests (handled via cache). Storage I/O trends

Who else is doing this?
This is similar to what EMC initially announced and released in February 2012 with VFcache now renamed to be XtremSW along with other caching and IO optimization software from others (e.g. SANdisk, Proximal and Pernix among others.

Does this replace IBM EasyTier?
Simple answer is no, one is for tiering (e.g. EasyTier), the other is for IO caching and optimization (e.g. FCSA).

Does this replace or compete with other IBM SSD technologies?
With anything, it is possible to find a way to make or view it as competitive. However in general FCSA complements other IBM storage I/O optimization and management software tools such as EasyTier as well as leverage and coexist with their various SSD products (from PCIe cards to drives to drive shelves to all SSD and hybrid SSD solutions).

How does FCSA work?
The FCSA software works in either a physical machine (PM) bare metal mode with Microsoft Windows operating systems (OS) such as Server 2008, 2012 among others. There is also *nix support for RedHat Linux, along with in a VMware virtual machine (VM) environment. In a VMware environment High Availability (HA), DRS and VMotion services and capabilities are supported. Hopefully it will be sooner vs. later that we hear IBM do a follow-up announcement (pure speculation and wishful thinking) on more hypervisors (e.g. Hyper-V, Xen, KVM) support along with Centos, Ubuntu or Power based systems including IBM pSeries. Read more about IBM Pure and Flex systems here.

What about server CPU and DRAM overhead?
As should be expected, a minimal amount of server DRAM (e.g. main memory) and CPU processing cycles are used to support the FCSA software and its drivers. Note the reason I say as should be expected is how you can have software running on a server doing any type of work that does not need some amount of DRAM and processing cycles. Granted some vendors will try to spin and say that there is no server-side DRAM or CPU consumed which would be true if they are completely external to the server (VM or PM). The important thing is to understand how much of an impact in terms of CPU along with DRAM consumed along with their corresponding effectiveness benefit that are derived. Storage I/O trends

Does FCSA work with NAS (NFS or CIFS) back-end storage?
No this is a server-side block only cache solution. However having said that, if your applications or server are presenting shared storage to others (e.g. out the front-end) as NAS (NFS, CIFS, HDFS) using block storage (back-end), then FCSA can cache the storage I/O going to those back-end block devices.

Is this an appliance?
Short and simple answer is no, however I would not be surprised to hear some creative software defined marketer try to spin it as a flash cache software appliance. What this means is that FCSA is simply IO and storage optimization software for caching to boost read performance for VM and PM servers.

What is this hardware or storage agnostic stuff mean?
Simple, it means that FCSA can work with various nand flash PCIe cards or flash SSD drives installed in servers, as well as with various back-end block storage including SAN from IBM or others. This includes being able to use block storage using iSCSI, SAS, FC or FCoE attached storage.

What is the difference between Easytier and FCSA?
Simple, FCSA is providing read acceleration via caching which in turn should offload some reads from affecting storage systems so that they can focus on handling writes or read ahead operations. Easytier on the other hand is for as its name implies tiering or movement of data in a more deterministic fashion.

How do you get FCSA?
It is software that you buy from IBM that runs on an IBM x86 based server. It is licensed on a per server basis including one-year service and support. IBM has also indicated that they have volume or multiple servers based licensing options. Storage I/O trends

Does this mean IBM is competing with other software based IO optimization and cache tool vendors?
IBM is focusing on selling and adding value to their server solutions. Thus while you can buy the software from IBM for their servers (e.g. no bundling required), you cannot buy the software to run on your AMD/Seamicro, Cisco (including EMC/VCE and NetApp) , Dell, Fujitsu, HDS, HP, Lenovo, Oracle, SuperMicro among other vendors servers.

Will this work on non-IBM servers?
IBM is only supporting FCSA on IBM x86 based servers; however, you can buy the software without having to buy a solution bundle (e.g. servers or storage).

What is this Cooperative Caching stuff?
Cooperative caching takes the next step from simple read cache with write-through to also support chance coherency in a shared environment, as well as leverage tighter application or guest operating system and storage system integration. For example, applications can work with storage systems to make intelligent predictive informed decisions on what to pre-fetch or read ahead and cached, as well as enable cache warming on restart. Another example is where in a shared storage environment if one server makes a change to a shared LUN or volume that the local server-side caches are also updated to prevent stale or inconsistent reads from occurring.

Can FCSA use multiple nand flash SSD devices on the same server?
Yes, IBM FCSA supports use of multiple server-side PCIe and or drive based SSD devices.

How is cache coherency maintained including during a reboot?
While data stored in the nand flash SSD device is persistent, it’s up to the server and applications working with the storage systems to decide if there is coherent or stale data that needs to be refreshed. Likewise, since FCSA is server-side and back-end storage system or SAN agnostic, without cooperative caching it will not know if the underlying data for a storage volume changed without being notified from another server that modified it. Thus if using shared back-end including SAN storage, do your due diligence to make sure multi-host access to the same LUN's or volumes is being coordinated with some server-side software to support cache coherency, something that would apply to all vendors. Storage I/O trends

What about cache warming or reloading of the read cache?
Some vendors who have tightly interested caching software and storage systems, something IBM refers to as cooperative caching that can have the ability to re-warm the cache. With solutions that support cache re-warming, the cache software and storage systems work together to main cache coherency while pre-loading data from the underlying storage system based on hot bands or other profiles and experience. As of this announcement, FCSA does not support cache warming on its own.

Does IBM have service or tools to complement FCSA?
Yes, IBM has an assessment, profile and planning tool that are available on a free consultation services basis with a technician to check your environment. Of course, the next logical step would be for IBM to make the tool available via free download or on some other basis as well.

Do I recommend and have I tried FCSA?
On paper, or WebEx, YouTube or other venue FCSA looks interesting and capable, a good fit for some environments particular if IBM server-based. However since my PM and VMware VM based servers are from other vendors, along with the fact that FCSA only runs on IBM servers, have not actually given it a hands on test drive yet. Thus if you are looking at storage I/O optimization and caching software tools for your VM or PM environment, checkout IBM FCSA to see if it meets your needs. Storage I/O trends

General comments

It is great to see server and storage systems vendors add value to their solutions with I/O and performance optimization as well as caching software tools. However, I am also concerned with the growing numbers of different software tools that only work with one vendor’s servers or storage systems, or at least are supported as such.

This reminds me of a time not all that long ago (ok, for some longer than others) when we had a proliferation of different host bus adapter (HBA) driver and pathing drivers from various vendors. The result is a hodge podge (a technical term) of software running on different operating systems, hypervisors, PM's, VMs, and storage systems, all of which need to be managed. On the other hand, for the time being perhaps the benefit will outweigh the pain of having different tools. That is where there are options from server-side vendor centric, storage system focused, or third-party software tool providers.

Another consideration is that some tools work in VMware environments; others support multiple hypervisors while others also support bare metal servers or PMs. Which applies to your environment will of course depend. After all, if you are an all VMware environment given that many of the caching tools tend to be VMware focused, that gives more options vs. for those who are still predominately PM environments. Ok, nuff said (for now)

Cheers
Gs Greg Schulz - Author Cloud and Virtual Data Storage Networking (CRC Press), The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC Press) and Resilient Storage Networks (Elsevier) All Comments, (C) and (TM) belong to their owners/posters, Other content (C) Copyright 2006-2013 StorageIO All Rights Reserved

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Greg Schulz

Greg Schulz is founder of the Server and StorageIO (StorageIO) Group, an IT industry analyst and consultancy firm. Greg has worked with various server operating systems along with storage and networking software tools, hardware and services. Greg has worked as a programmer, systems administrator, disaster recovery consultant, and storage and capacity planner for various IT organizations. He has worked for various vendors before joining an industry analyst firm and later forming StorageIO.

In addition to his analyst and consulting research duties, Schulz has published over a thousand articles, tips, reports and white papers and is a sought after popular speaker at events around the world. Greg is also author of the books Resilient Storage Network (Elsevier) and The Green and Virtual Data Center (CRC). His blog is at www.storageioblog.com and he can also be found on twitter @storageio.

@ThingsExpo Stories
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo have announced the conference tracks for Cloud Expo 2018. Cloud Expo will be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, and November 6-8, 2018, at the Santa Clara Convention Center, Santa Clara, CA. Digital Transformation (DX) is a major focus with the introduction of DX Expo within the program. Successful transformation requires a laser focus on being data-driven and on using all the tools available that enable transformation if they plan to survive ov...
Smart cities have the potential to change our lives at so many levels for citizens: less pollution, reduced parking obstacles, better health, education and more energy savings. Real-time data streaming and the Internet of Things (IoT) possess the power to turn this vision into a reality. However, most organizations today are building their data infrastructure to focus solely on addressing immediate business needs vs. a platform capable of quickly adapting emerging technologies to address future ...
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, examined the regulations and provided insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence arou...
In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Raju Shreewastava, founder of Big Data Trunk, provided a fun and simple way to introduce Machine Leaning to anyone and everyone. He solved a machine learning problem and demonstrated an easy way to be able to do machine learning without even coding. Raju Shreewastava is the founder of Big Data Trunk (www.BigDataTrunk.com), a Big Data Training and consulting firm with offices in the United States. He previously led the data warehouse/business intelligence and B...
"Digital transformation - what we knew about it in the past has been redefined. Automation is going to play such a huge role in that because the culture, the technology, and the business operations are being shifted now," stated Brian Boeggeman, VP of Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Synametrics Technologies will exhibit at SYS-CON's 22nd International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Synametrics Technologies is a privately held company based in Plainsboro, New Jersey that has been providing solutions for the developer community since 1997. Based on the success of its initial product offerings such as WinSQL, Xeams, SynaMan and Syncrify, Synametrics continues to create and hone inn...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The 22nd International Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, to be held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY, brings together Cloud Computing, Digital Transformation, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Machine Learning and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding busin...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
Nordstrom is transforming the way that they do business and the cloud is the key to enabling speed and hyper personalized customer experiences. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ken Schow, VP of Engineering at Nordstrom, discussed some of the key learnings and common pitfalls of large enterprises moving to the cloud. This includes strategies around choosing a cloud provider(s), architecture, and lessons learned. In addition, he covered some of the best practices for structured team migration an...
No hype cycles or predictions of a gazillion things here. IoT is here. You get it. You know your business and have great ideas for a business transformation strategy. What comes next? Time to make it happen. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jay Mason, an Associate Partner of Analytics, IoT & Cybersecurity at M&S Consulting, presented a step-by-step plan to develop your technology implementation strategy. He also discussed the evaluation of communication standards and IoT messaging protocols, data...
Recently, REAN Cloud built a digital concierge for a North Carolina hospital that had observed that most patient call button questions were repetitive. In addition, the paper-based process used to measure patient health metrics was laborious, not in real-time and sometimes error-prone. In their session at 21st Cloud Expo, Sean Finnerty, Executive Director, Practice Lead, Health Care & Life Science at REAN Cloud, and Dr. S.P.T. Krishnan, Principal Architect at REAN Cloud, discussed how they built...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Evatronix will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Evatronix SA offers comprehensive solutions in the design and implementation of electronic systems, in CAD / CAM deployment, and also is a designer and manufacturer of advanced 3D scanners for professional applications.
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
22nd International Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and co-located with the 1st DXWorld Expo will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud ...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Among the proven benefits,...
@DevOpsSummit at Cloud Expo, taking place June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, is co-located with 22nd Cloud Expo | 1st DXWorld Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait...
SYS-CON Events announced today that T-Mobile exhibited at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. As America's Un-carrier, T-Mobile US, Inc., is redefining the way consumers and businesses buy wireless services through leading product and service innovation. The Company's advanced nationwide 4G LTE network delivers outstanding wireless experiences to 67.4 million customers who are unwilling to compromise on qua...