Condusiv Technologies Blog

Condusiv Technologies Blog

Blogging @Condusiv

The Condusiv blog shares insight into the issues surrounding system and application performance—and how I/O optimization software is breaking new ground in solving those issues.

V-locity 6.0 Solves Death by a Thousand Cuts in Virtual Environments

by Brian Morin 12. August 2015 08:04

If you haven’t already heard the pre-announcement buzz on V-locity® 6.0 I/O reduction software that made a splash in the press, it’s being released in a couple weeks. To understand why it’s significant and why it’s an unprecedented 3X FASTER than its predecessor is to understand the biggest factor that dampens application performance the most in virtual environments - the problem of increasingly smaller, fractured, and random I/O. That kind of I/O profile is akin to pouring molasses on compute and storage systems. Processing I/O with those characteristics makes systems work much harder than necessary to process any given workload. Virtualized organizations stymied by sluggish performance related to their most I/O intensive applications suffer in large part to a problem that we call “death by a thousand cuts” – I/O that is smaller, more fractured, and more random than it needs to be.

Organizations tend to overlook solving the problem and reactively attempt to mask the problem with more spindles or flash or a forklift storage upgrade. Unfortunately, this approach wastes much of any new investment in flash since optimal performance is being robbed by I/O inefficiencies at the Windows OS layer and also at the hypervisor layer.

V-locity® version 6 has been built from the ground-up to help organizations solve their toughest application performance challenges without new hardware. This is accomplished by optimizing the I/O profile for greater throughput while also targeting the smallest, random I/O that is cached from available DRAM to reduce latency and rid the infrastructure of the kind of I/O that penalizes performance the most.

Although much is made about V-locity’s patented IntelliWrite® engine that increases I/O density and sequentializes writes, special attention was put into V-locity’s DRAM read caching engine (IntelliMemory®) that is now 3X more efficient in version 6 due to changes in the behavioral analytics engine that focuses on "caching effectiveness" instead of "cache hits.”

Leveraging available server-side DRAM for caching is very different than leveraging a dedicated flash resource for cache whether that be PCI-e or SSD. Although DRAM isn’t capacity intensive, it is exponentially faster than a PCI-e or SSD cache sitting below it, which makes it the ideal tier for the first caching tier in the infrastructure. The trick is in knowing how to best use a capacity-limited but blazing fast storage medium.

Commodity algorithms that simply look at characteristics like access frequency might work for  capacity intensive caches, but it doesn’t work for DRAM. V-locity 6.0 determines the best use of DRAM for caching purposes by collecting data on a wide range of data points (storage access, frequency, I/O priority, process priority, types of I/O, nature of I/O (sequential or random), time between I/Os) - then leverages its analytics engine to identify which storage blocks will benefit the most from caching, which also reduces "cache churn" and the repeated recycling of cache blocks. By prioritizing the smallest, random I/O to be served from DRAM, V-locity eliminates the most performance robbing I/O from traversing the infrastructure. Administrators don’t need to be concerned about carving out precious DRAM for caching purposes as V-locity dynamically leverages available DRAM. With a mere 4GB of RAM per VM, we’ve seen gains from 50% to well over 600%, depending on the I/O profile.

With V-locity 5, we examined data from 2576 systems that tested V-locity and shared their before/after data with Condusiv servers. From that raw data, we verified that 43% of all systems experienced greater than 50% reduction in latency on reads due to IntelliMemory. While that’s a significant number in its own right by simply using available DRAM, we can’t wait to see how that number jumps significantly for our customers with V-locity 6.

Internal Iometer tests reveal that the latest version of IntelliMemory in V-locity 6.0 is 3.6X faster when processing 4K blocks and 2.0X faster when processing 64K blocks.

Jim Miller, Senior Analyst, Enterprise Management Associates had this to say, "V-locity version 6.0 makes a very compelling argument for server-side DRAM caching by targeting small, random I/O - the culprit that dampens performance the most. This approach helps organizations improve business productivity by better utilizing the available DRAM they already have. However, considering the price evolution of DRAM, its speed, and proximity to the processor, some organizations may want to add additional memory for caching if they have data sets hungry for otherworldly performance gains."

Finally, one of our customers, Rich Reitenauer, Manager of Infrastructure Management and Support, Alvernia University, had this to say, "Typical IT administrators respond to application performance issues by reactively throwing more expensive server and storage hardware at them, without understanding what the real problem is. Higher education budgets can't afford that kind of brute-force approach. By trying V-locity I/O reduction software first, we were able to double the performance of our LMS app sitting on SQL, stop all complaints about performance, stop the application from timing out on students, and avoid an expensive forklift hardware upgrade."

For more on the I/O Inefficiencies that V-locity solves, read Storage Switzerland’s Briefing on V-locity 6.0 ->

$2 Million Cancelled

by Brian Morin 22. July 2014 08:52

CHRISTUS Health cancelled a $2 Million order.

Just before they pulled the trigger on a $2 Million storage purchase to improve the performance of their electronic health records application (MEDITECH®), they evaluated V-locity® I/O reduction software.

We actually heard the story first hand from the NetApp® reseller in the deal at a UBM Xchange conference. He thought he had closed the $2 Million deal only to find out that CHRISTUS was doing some testing with V-locity. After getting the news that the storage order would not be placed, he met us at Xchange to find out more about V-locity since "this V-locity stuff is for real."

After an initial conversation with anyone about V-locity, the first response is generally the same – skepticism. Can software alone really accelerate the applications in my virtual environment? Since we are conditioned to think only new hardware upgrades can solve performance bottlenecks, organizations end up with spiraling data center costs without any other option except to throw more hardware at the problem.

CHRISTUS Health, like many others, approached us with the same skepticism. But after virtualizing 70+ servers for their EHR application, they noticed a severe performance hit from the “I/O blender” effect. They needed a solution to solve the problem, not just more hardware to medicate the problem on the backend.

Since V-locity comes with an embedded performance benchmark that provides the I/O profile of any VM workload, it makes it easy to see a before/after comparison in real-world environments.

After evaluation, not only did CHRISTUS realize they were able to double their medical records performance, but after trying V-locity on their batch billing job, they dropped a painful 20 hour job down to 12 hours.

In addition to performance gains, V-locity also provides a special benefit to MEDITECH users by eliminating excessive file fragmentation that can cause the File Attribute List (FAL) to reach its size limit and degrade performance further or even threaten availability.

Tom Swearingen, the manager of Infrastructure Services at CHRISTUS Health said it best. "We are constantly scrutinizing our budget, so anything that helps us avoid buying more storage hardware for performance or host-related infrastructure is a huge benefit."

Read the full case study – CHRISTUS Health Doubles Electronic Health Record Performance with V-locity I/O Reduction Software

The Real Meaning of Disruption

by Jerry Baldwin 25. March 2014 07:26

Disruption is a popular word these days. Is it the replacement for innovation, which we’ve overused into pointlessness over the past ten years? Maybe, but disruption means more: it carries the weight of shaking up the status quo—of not only creating something new—but creating something that shifts models and opens our eyes to possibility.

We talk about disruption like it’s a new thing, cooked-up by a team of marketers in a conference room somewhere. But its roots lie in a theory introduced by an Austrian economist in 1942. Joseph Schumpeter captured the world’s attention in only six pages, where he clarified the free market’s muddled way of delivering progress. He called this theory Creative Destruction.

I don’t have a PhD in economics so I’ll dodge the minutiae, but the overall meaning of the theory is what resonates—as it should to anyone engaged in business today. “Creative destruction is the same process of industrial mutation that revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one and incessantly creating a new one.”

Simply put, to continually move forward we must be willing to embrace the destruction of what came before.

Economists often use the Montgomery Ward example. MW started as a mail-order company in the nineteenth century. With no cars or trucks in those days, and most Americans living in small rural pockets, it was too costly to ship products to widely-dispersed local stores. That model would result in a high cost to the consumer, making goods too expensive for the average buyer. So instead MW turned its enormous Chicago warehouse (complete with a railroad running through it) into its hub, and used the already well-established US mail to deliver products directly to customers at a low cost.

And a successful model it was. With a high-volume of sales, MW could charge lower prices. By the 1890s Montgomery Ward was the world’s largest retailer. But all that came to an end. Why? Because over time Americans were moving to urban centers and could afford a higher standard of living.

Robert Wood was an MW exec, and may well be the first adopter of Big Data on record. He analyzed data, studied the census, and saw the shift in American lifestyle. He presented his findings to leadership, suggesting that selling goods through a chain of urban department stores would replace the mail-order model as the most profitable path for retail.

So MW did what any unmovable enterprise would do. They fired him.

Meanwhile James Cash Penney recognized the same trends as Robert Wood, and it wasn’t long before J.C. Penney stores put a serious dent in MW’s profits. The mail-order giant was late to the party and couldn’t change direction fast enough. And Robert Wood? He went to work for Sears, who also took a big bite out of MW’s market share.

Remind you of anything? Netflix and Blockbuster. Blockbuster was the established enterprise, staring streaming revenue in the face, yet unable to let go of profits from the rental market. Netflix is the newcomer—the creative destructor—free from the ball and chain of a dying business model, free to focus 100% on new streaming revenue. And we all know the end of that story.

We also know that business is anything but stagnant, there are waves and cycles, and the same is true of companies. It’s very difficult (impossible?) for an established enterprise to turn around, to be truly disruptive, and to compete with newcomers. But if you’re an organization that can stomach the destruction of what came before to create new growth and opportunity, you might stand a chance.

Condusiv is unique. We’re a software company with a 30-year history as an established player in file system management and caching technologies. But in the spirit of disruption—of creative destruction—we’ve shifted all our focus and resources to V-locity, our flagship product that in itself signifies disruption in how organizations run their data centers. A 100% software approach to solving today’s application performance issues at the root on the VM or OS layer, without requiring any additional hardware.

When you embrace creative destruction you must ceaselessly devalue existing wealth in order to clear the ground for the creation of new wealth.

It’s true, our discussions may be very different from those had in other conference rooms. But that’s what disruption should be about—that’s how Condusiv can deliver performance in a software solution at 1/10th the cost of the hardware alternative. While others go for margin erosion—trying to win business by saving customers 20 cents on every dollar spent, we help customers save 90 cents on every dollar.

As a channel partner, we allow you to fulfill your mission to your customers with added value, while also protecting your bottom line with a generous software margin that grows your profit over razor thin commodity hardware margins. You win. Your customer wins. A new market is emerging where hardware becomes the 2nd option for improved application performance.

Welcome to our conference room.

Mad Men, Awesome Chairs, and a Pretty Big IT Problem

by Robin Izsak 13. March 2014 07:57

Next month Mad Men returns to AMC for its final season. I'll miss it. The show had some great character development, terrific dialogue, and cool cars. But the set design! Oh the set design. I'm a fan of mid-century modern—the sharp angles, clean lines, and wood tones mixed with bold, primary colors. Don Draper's New York apartment and the Sterling Cooper offices are the pinnacle of perfectly curated spaces, designed for maximum form and function. 

Which brings me to Creative Office Pavilion, a large Boston-based firm of workplace consultants, and the primary US dealer of Herman Miller furniture—the undisputed kings of mid-century modern.

I mention all this as an excuse for my daydreaming. During my call with Robert Del Vecchio, Creative Office Pavilion's IT Infrastructure Manager, I was imagining conference rooms filled with Eames chairs of every color, wall clocks reminiscent of Sputnik, and enormously awesome lamps casting warm, non-fluorescent light. But Robert had more important issues to discuss, and discuss we did.

Robert's team supports a large base of business users: designers, mobile CRM users, support staff, accounting, and customer service. But he's also responsible for tons of data and heavy workload generated by an order entry system, CRM application, Lotus Notes, SQL Server, and hundreds of employees constantly accessing architect drawings, massive PowerPoint presentations, and database files. That's a lot of Eames chairs, going to a lot of workplaces, including Harvard University's Innovation Lab and Boston's Spaulding Hospital.

Sluggishness and poor performance had become a constant problem for his users, and Robert's team felt the full force of it—spending more and more time troubleshooting and doing storage health checks. So Robert did what any of us would do when faced with mounting pressure and scrutiny.

He Googled. And stumbled across a software solution that seemed to be the answer to his application performance problems, without requiring any new hardware.


What happened next is more exciting than Don Draper after one too many old-fashioneds.

Read the Creative Office Pavilion case study to learn more.

 

V-locity version 5 – The Director’s Cut

by Brian Morin 5. March 2014 07:08

As you know, we just released V-locity version 5. Here’s the director’s cut.

We committed a slew of engineers to several months of development to build an enterprise-class management console for V-locity. In a world where a couple developers with a few pizzas can create a robust app from scratch in 6 weeks, that represents a lot of apps!

Our previous management console didn’t scale beyond 500 nodes and didn’t play well with modern environments that span geographic locations with a hybrid of virtual and physical servers while provisioning some workloads to the cloud.

That meant a console needed to be built that has the ability to auto-detect the most complex environments and batch deploy V-locity in seconds. A management console that is aware of the new world order of hybrid environments – virtual, physical, cloud – and deploy and manage to all from a single point.

Customers asked for flexible pricing models whether it be volume perpetual licenses or site licenses or even subscription, and so we listened. They asked for I/O performance management that delivers insight into the anatomy of I/O behavior on all their workloads from virtual server (or physical server) to storage to help take the guesswork out of performance troubleshooting. Customers wanted to be able to set up alerts based on workload thresholds. They asked for a console that could validate V-locity before/after performance across workloads and have ongoing performance validation for continued ROI transparency.

So we built it. The whole enchilada.

Typically, when the baton is handed to marketing, the first two questions are almost always the same – “What do we call it?” and “What do we charge for it?”

When you commit engineering resource the size of a small island, the very first temptation is to productize, to monetize, to ROI-ize what you put in because there is a cost to building products.

Then again, this wasn’t really a stand-alone product, but rather a big enhancement to an existing product.

A lot of companies charge for that enhancement. Many of you have purchased hardware or software products, only to find a separate line item and SKU for the management software itself to manage the product you purchased – the never ending high tech rabbit hole of monetization where you buy cars but batteries and steering and tires are not included.

As my daughter tells me, “Dad, everyone does it.” So, in our initial brainstorming session, we kicked around the idea of doing it too. But when it came down to it, we agreed it’s not in the core tenet of our business model to disrupt.

V-locity provides performance at 1/10th the cost of the hardware alternative. That’s disruption. And in that spirit of disruption, we decided against productizing and charging for the management console.

It’s bundled with V-locity and available for free to every V-locity customer under maintenance. No extra charge required. No extra hardware required.

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