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.

Windows is still Windows Whether in the Cloud, on Hyperconverged or All-flash

by Brian Morin 5. June 2018 04:43

Let me start by stating two facts – facts that I will substantiate if you continue to the end.

Fact #1 - Windows suffers from severe write inefficiencies that dampen overall performance. The holy grail question as to how severe is answered below.

Fact #2, Windows is still Windows whether running in the cloud, on hyperconverged systems, all-flash storage, or all three. Before you jump to the real-world examples below, let me first explain why.

No matter where you run Windows and no matter what kind of storage environment you run Windows on, Windows still penalizes optimal performance due to severe write inefficiencies in the hand-off of data to storage. Files are always broken down to be excessively smaller than they need to be. Since each piece means a dedicated I/O operation to process as a write or read, this means an enormous amount of noisy, unnecessary I/O traffic is chewing up precious IOPS, eroding throughput, and causing everything to run slower despite how many IOPS are at your disposal.

How much slower?

Now that the latest version of our I/O reduction software is being run across tens of thousands of servers and hundreds of thousands of PCs, we can empirically point out that no matter what kind of environment Windows is running on, there is always 30-40% of I/O traffic that is nothing but mere noise stealing resources and robbing optimal performance.

Yes, there are edge cases in which the inefficiency is as little as 10% but also other edge cases where the inefficiency is upwards of 70%. That being said, the median range is solidly in the 30-40% range and it has absolutely nothing to do with the backend media whether spindle, flash, hybrid, hyperconverged, cloud, or local storage.

Even if running Windows on an all-flash hyperconverged system, SAN or cloud environment with low latency and high IOPS, if the I/O profile isn’t addressed by our I/O reduction software to ensure large, clean, contiguous writes and reads, then 30-40% more IOPS will always be required for any given workload, which adds up to unnecessarily giving away 30-40% of the IOPS you paid for while slowing the completion of every job and query by the same amount.

So what’s going on here? Why is this happening and how?

First of all, the behavior of Windows when it comes to processing write and read input/output (I/O) operations is identical despite the storage backend whether local or network or media despite spindles or flash. This is because Windows only ever sees a virtual disk - the logical disk within the file system itself. The OS is abstracted from the physical layer entirely. Windows doesn’t know and doesn’t care if the underlying storage is a local disk or SSD, an array full of SSDs, hyperconverged, or cloud. In the mind of the OS, the logical disk IS the physical disk when, in fact, it’s just a reference architecture. In the case of enterprise storage, the underlying storage controllers manage where the data physically lives. However, no storage device can dictate to Windows how to write (and subsequently read) in the most efficient manner possible.

This is why many enterprise storage controllers have their own proprietary algorithms to “clean up” the mess Windows gives it by either buffering or coalescing files on a dedicated SSD or NVRAM tier or physically move pieces of the same file to line up sequentially, which does nothing for the first penalized write nor several penalized reads after as the algorithm first needs to identify a continued pattern before moving blocks. As much as storage controller optimization helps, it’s a far cry from an actual solution because it doesn’t solve the source of the larger root cause problem - even with backend storage controller optimizations, Windows will still make the underlying server to storage architecture execute many more I/O operations than are required to write and subsequently read a file, and every extra I/O required takes a measure of time in the same way that four partially loaded dump trucks will take longer to deliver the full load versus one fully loaded dump truck. It bears repeating - no storage device can dictate to Windows how to best write and read files for the healthiest I/O profile that delivers optimum performance because only Windows controls how files are written to the logical disk. And that singular action is what determines the I/O density (or lack of) from server to storage.

The reason this is occurring is because there are no APIs that exist between the Windows OS and underlying storage system whereby free space at the logical layer can be intelligently synced and consolidated with the physical layer without change block movement that would otherwise wear out SSDs and trigger copy-on-write activity that would blow up storage services like replication, thin provisioning, and more.

This means Windows has no choice but to choose the next available allocation at the logical disk layer within the file systems itself instead of choosing the BEST allocation to write and subsequently read a file.

The problem is that the next available allocation is only ever the right size on day 1 on a freshly formatted NTFS volume. But as time goes on and files are written and erased and re-written and extended and many temporary files are quickly created and erased, that means the next available space is never the right size. So, when Windows is trying to write a 1MB file but the next available allocation at the logical disk layer is 4K, it will fill that 4K, split the file, generate another I/O operation, look for the next available allocation, fill, split, and rinse and repeat until the file is fully written, and your I/O profile is cluttered with split I/Os. The result is an I/O degradation of excessively small writes and reads that penalizes performance with a “death by a thousand cuts” scenario.

It’s for this reason, over 2,500 small, midsized, and large enterprises have deployed our I/O reduction software to eliminate all that noisy I/O robbing performance by addressing the root cause problem. Since Condusiv software sits at the storage driver level, our purview is able to supply patented intelligence to the Windows OS, enabling it to choose the BEST allocation for any file instead of the next available, which is never the right size. This ensures the healthiest I/O profile possible for maximum storage performance on every write and read. Above and beyond that benefit, our DRAM read caching engine (the same engine OEM’d by 9 of the top 10 PC manufacturers), eliminates hot reads from traversing the full stack from storage by serving it straight from idle, available DRAM. Customers who add anywhere to 4GB-16GB of memory to key systems with a read bias to get more from that engine, will offload 50-80% of all reads from storage, saving even more precious storage IOPS while serving from DRAM which is 15X faster than SSD. Those who need the most performance possible or simply need to free up more storage IOPS will max our 128GB threshold and offload 90-99% of reads from storage.

Let’s look at some real-world examples from customers.

Here is VDI in AWS shared by Curt Hapner (CIO, Altenloh Brinck & Co.). 63% of read traffic is being offloaded from underlying storage and 33% of write I/O operations. He was getting sluggish VDI performance, so he bumped up memory slightly on all instances to get more power from our software and the sluggishness disappeared.

Here is an Epicor ERP with SQL backend in AWS from Altenloh Brinck & Co. 39% of reads are being eliminated along with 44% of writes to boost the performance and efficiency of their most mission critical system.

 

Here’s from one of the largest federal branches in Washington running Windows servers on an all-flash Nutanix. 45% of reads are being offloaded and 38% of write traffic.

 

Here is a spreadsheet compilation of different systems from one of the largest hospitality and event companies in Europe who run their workloads in Azure. The extraction of the dashboard data into the CSV shows not just the percentage of read and write traffic offloaded from storage but how much I/O capacity our software is handing back to their Azure instances.

 

To illustrate we use the software here at Condusiv on our own systems, this dashboard screenshot is from our own Chief Architect (Rick Cadruvi), who uses Diskeeper on his SSD-powered PC. You can see him share his own production data in the recent “live demo” webinar on V-locity 7.0 - https://youtu.be/Zn2QGxBHUzs

As you can see, 50% of reads are offloaded from his local SSD while 42% of writes operations have been saved by displacing small, fractured files with large, clean contiguous files. Not only is that extending the life of his SSD by reducing write amplification, but he has saved over 6 days of I/O time in the last month.

 

Finally, regarding all-flash SAN storage systems, the full data is in this case study with the University of Illinois who used Condusiv I/O reduction software to more than double the performance of SQL and Oracle sitting on their all-flash arrays: http://learn.condusiv.com/rs/246-QKS-770/images/CS_University-Illinois.pdf?utm_campaign=CS_UnivIll_Case_Study

For a free trial, visit http://learn.condusiv.com/Try-V-locity.html. For best results, bump up memory on key systems if you can and make sure to install the software on all the VMs on the same host. If you have more than 10 VMs, you may want to Contact Us for SE assistance in spinning up our centralized management console to push everything at once – a 20-min exercise and no reboot required.

Please visit www.condusiv.com/v-locity for more than 20 case studies on how our I/O reduction software doubled the performance of mission critical applications like MS-SQL for customers of various environments.

The Revolution of Our Technology

by Rick Cadruvi, Chief Architect 18. October 2017 12:38

I chose to use the word “Revolution” instead of “Evolution” because, with all due modesty, our patented technology has been more a series of leaps to stay ahead of performance-crushing bottlenecks. After all, our company purpose as stated by our Founder, Craig Jensen, is:

“The purpose of our company is to provide computer technology that enormously increases

the production and income of an area.”

We have always been about improving your production. We know your systems are not about having really cool hardware but rather about maximizing your organization’s production. Our passion has been about eliminating the stops, slows and stalls to your application performance and instead, to jack up that performance and give you headroom for expansion. Now, most of you know us by our reputation for Diskeeper®. What you probably don’t know about us is our leadership in system performance software.

We’ve been at this for 35 years with a laser focus. As an example, for years hard drives were the common storage technology and they were slow and limited in size, so we invented numerous File System Optimization technologies such as Defragmentation, I-FAAST®1 and Directory Consolidation to remove the barriers to getting at data quickly. As drive sizes grew, we added new technologies and jettisoned those that no longer gave bang for the buck. Technologies like InvisiTasking® were invented to help maximize overall system performance, while removing bottlenecks.

As SSDs began to emerge, we worked with several OEMs to take advantage of SSDs to dramatically reduce data access times as well as reducing the time it took to boot systems and resume from hibernate. We created technologies to improve SSD longevity and even worked with manufacturers on hybrid drives, providing hinting information, so their drive performance and endurance would be world class.

As storage arrays were emerging we created technologies to allow them to better utilize storage resources and pre-stage space for future use. We also created technologies targeting performance issues related to file system inefficiencies without negatively affecting storage array technologies like snapshots.

When virtualization was emerging, we could see the coming VM resource contention issues that would materialize. We used that insight to create file system optimization technologies to deal with those issues before anyone coined the phrase “I/O Blender Effect”.

We have been doing caching for a very long time2. We have always targeted removal of the I/Os that get in your applications path to data along with satisfying the data from cache that delivers performance improvements of 50-300% or more. Our goal was not caching your application specific data, but rather to make sure your application could access its data much faster. That’s why our unique caching technology has been used by leading OEMs.

Our RAM-based caching solutions include dynamic memory allocation schemes to use resources that would otherwise be idle to maximize overall system performance. When you need those resources, we give them back. When they are idle, we make use of them without your having to adjust anything for the best achievable performance. “Set It and Forget It®” is our trademark for good reason.

We know that staying ahead of the problems you face now, with a clear understanding of what will limit your production in 3 to 5 years, is the best way we can realize our company purpose and help you maximize your production and thus your profitability. We take seriously having a clear vision of where your problems are now and where they will be in the future. As new hardware and software technologies roll out, we will be there removing the new barriers to your performance then, just as we do now.

1. I-FAAST stands for Intelligent File Access Acceleration Sequencing Technology, a technology designed to take advantage of different performing regions on storage to allow your hottest data to be retrieved in the fastest time.

2. If I can personally brag, I’ve created numerous caching solutions over a period of 40 years.

Recently Discovered SSD Vulnerabilities Could Cripple Global Markets with Data Corruption if Exploited by Attackers

by Brian Morin 15. June 2017 10:38

Recently discovered multi-level cell (MLC) solid-state drive (SSD) vulnerabilities by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Seagate, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, reveal the first-ever security weakness of its kind against MLC SSDs that store much of the world’s data. Two different types of malicious attacks are reported to corrupt data, leaving much of the world’s data currently exposed while organizations search for answers.

If security experts and data protection experts didn’t have enough to worry about already, the latest discovery from Carnegie Mellon University has set off brand new alarms that could be far more crippling than the recent WannaCry virus or any ransomware attack. In this case, data is not infected or held hostage, but is lost entirely - not even the host SSD hardware can be salvaged after such an attack. This is not simply alarming to organizations that stand the most to lose like financial institutions, but we’re talking about real lives here if patient care is compromised as we saw earlier this month at hospitals across the UK.

In a recently published report by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, Seagate, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, there are two types of malicious attacks that can corrupt data and shorten the lifespan of MLC SSDs – a write attack (“program interference”) and a read attack (“read disturb”). Both attacks inundate the SSD with a large number of operations over a short period of time, which can corrupt data, shorten lifespan, and render an SSD useless to store data in a reliable manner into the future. However, both attacks rely upon native read and write operations from the operating system to the solid-state drive, which is circumvented by Condusiv® I/O reduction software on Windows systems (V-locity®, SSDkeeper®, Diskeeper® 16).

The only reason this story has been covered lightly by the media and not sensationalized across headlines is because no one has died yet or lost a billion dollars. This is a new and very different kind of vulnerability. Protection from this kind of an attack is not something that can be addressed by traditional lines of defense like anti-virus software, firmware upgrades, or OS patches. Since it is cost prohibitive for organizations to “rip-and-replace” multi-cell SSDs with single-cell SSDs, they are forced to rely on data sets that have been “backed-up.” However, what good is restoring data to hardware that can no longer reliably store data?

By acting as the “gatekeeper” between the Windows OS and the underlying SSD device, Condusiv I/O reduction software solutions perform inline optimizations at the OS-level before data is physically written or read from the solid-state drive. As a result, Condusiv’s patented technology is the only known solution that can disrupt “program interference” write operation attacks as well as “read disturb” read operation attacks that would attempt to exploit SSD vulnerabilities and corrupt data. While most known for boosting performance of applications running on Windows systems while extending the longevity of SSDs, Condusiv solutions go a step further as the only line of defense against these malicious attacks.

Condusiv’s patented write optimization engine (IntelliWrite®) mitigates the first vulnerability, “program interference,” by disrupting the write pattern that would otherwise generate errors and corrupt data. IntelliWrite eliminates excessively small writes and subsequent reads by ensuring large, clean contiguous writes from Windows so write operations to solid-state devices are performed in the most efficient manner possible on Windows servers and PCs. An attack could only be successful in the rare instance of limited free space or zero free space on a volume that results in writes occurring natively, circumventing the benefit of IntelliWrite.

Condusiv’s second patented engine (IntelliMemory®) disrupts the second vulnerability, “read disturb,” by establishing a tier-0 caching strategy that leverages idle, available memory to serve hot reads. This renders the “read disturb” attack useless since the storage target for hot reads becomes memory instead of the SSD device. A “read disturb” attack could only be successful in the rare instance that a Windows system is memory constrained and has no idle, available memory to be leveraged for cache.

While organizations use Condusiv software on Windows systems to maintain peak performance and extend the longevity of their SSDs, they can trust Condusiv to protect against malicious attacks that would otherwise corrupt user data and bring great harm to their business and service to customers.

Condusiv Launches SSDkeeper Software that Guarantees “Faster than New” Performance for PCs and Physical Servers and Extends Longevity of SSDs

by Brian Morin 17. January 2017 09:30

The company that sold over 100 Million Diskeeper® licenses for hard disk drive systems, now releases SSDkeeper™ to keep solid-state drive systems running longer while performing “faster than new.”

Every Windows PC or physical server fitted with a solid-state drive (SSD) suffers from very small, fractured writes and reads, which dampen optimal SSD performance and ultimately erodes the longevity of SSDs from write amplification issues. SSDkeeper’s patented software ensures large, clean contiguous writes and reads for more payload with every I/O operation, reduced Program/Erase (P/E) cycles that shorten SSD longevity, and boosts performance even further with its ability to cache hot reads within idle, available DRAM.

Solid-state drives can only handle a number of finite writes before failing. Every write kicks off P/E cycles that shorten SSD lifespan otherwise known as write amplification. By reducing the number of writes required for any given file or workload, SSDkeeper significantly boosts write performance speed while also reducing the number of P/E cycles that would have otherwise been executed. This enables individuals and organizations to reclaim the write speed of their SSD drives while ensuring the longest life possible.

Patented Write Optimization

SSDkeeper’s patented write optimization engine (IntelliWrite®) prevents excessively small, fragmented writes and reads that rob the performance and endurance of SSDs. SSDkeeper ensures large, clean contiguous writes from Windows, so maximum payload is carried with every I/O operation. By eliminating the “death by a thousand cuts” scenario of many, tiny writes and reads that slow system performance, the lifespan of an SSD is also extended due to reduction in write amplification issues that plague all SSD devices.

Patented Read Optimization

SSDkeeper electrifies Windows system performance further with an additional patented feature - dynamic memory caching (IntelliMemory®). By automatically using idle, available DRAM to serve hot reads, data is served from memory which is 12-15X faster than SSD and further reduces wear to the SSD device. The real genius in SSDkeeper’s DRAM caching engine is that nothing has to be allocated for cache. All caching occurs automatically. SSDkeeper dynamically uses only the memory that is available at any given moment and throttles according to the need of the application, so there is never an issue of resource contention or memory starvation. If a system is ever memory constrained at any point, SSDkeeper's caching engine will back off entirely. However, systems with just 4GB of available DRAM commonly serve 50% of read traffic. It doesn't take much available memory to have a big impact on performance.

Enhanced Reporting

If you ever wanted to know how much Windows inefficiencies were robbing system performance, SSDkeeper tracks time saved due to elimination of small, fragmented writes and time saved from every read request that is served from DRAM instead of being served from the underlying SSD. Users can leverage SSDkeeper’s built-in dashboard to see what percentage of all write requests are reduced by sequentializing otherwise small, fractured writes and what percentage of all read requests are cached from idle, available DRAM.

SSDkeeper is a lightweight file system driver that runs invisibly in the background with near-zero intrusion on system resources. All optimizations occur automatically in real-time.

While SSDkeeper provides the same core patented functionality and features as the latest Diskeeper® 16 for hard disk drives (minus defragmentation functions for hard disk drives only), the benefit to a solid-state drive is different than to a hard disk drive. Hard disk drives do not suffer from write amplification that reduces longevity. By eliminating excessively small writes, IntelliWrite goes beyond improved write performance but extends endurance as well.

Available in Professional and Server Editions

>SSDkeeper Professional for Windows PCs with SSD drives greatly enhances the performance of corporate laptops and desktops.

>SSDkeeper Server speeds physical server system performance of the most I/O intensive applications such as MS-SQL Server by 2X to 10X depending on the amount of idle, unused memory.  

>Options include Diskeeper Administrator management console to automate network deployment and management across hundreds or thousands of PCs or servers.  

>A free 30-day software trial download is available at http://www.condusiv.com/evaluation-software/

>Now available for purchase on our online store:  http://www.condusiv.com/purchase/SSDKeeper/

 

How Can I/O Reduction Software Guarantee to Solve the Toughest Performance Problems?

by Brian Morin 14. January 2017 01:00

The #1 request I’ve been getting from customers is a white board video that succinctly explains the two silent killers of VM performance and how our I/O reduction guarantees to solve performance problems, so applications run perfectly on every Windows server.

Expensive backend storage upgrades should ONLY take place when needing more capacity – not more performance. Anytime I tell someone our I/O reduction software guarantees to solve their toughest performance problems…the very first response is invariably the same…HOW? Not only have I answered this question hundreds of times, our own customers find themselves answering this question repeatedly to other team members or new hires.

To make this easier, I’ve answered it all here in this 10-min White Board Video ->, or you can continue reading.

 Most of us have been upgrading hardware to get more performance ever since we can remember. It’s become so engrained, it’s often times the ONLY approach we think of when needing a performance upgrade.

For many organizations, they don’t necessarily need a performance boost on EVERY application, but they need it on one or two I/O intensive applications. To throw a new all-flash array or new hybrid array at a performance problem ends up being the most expensive and disruptive way to solve a performance problem when all you have to do is the same thing thousands of our customers have done: simply try our I/O reduction software on any Windows server and watch the application run at least 50% faster and in many cases 2X-10X faster.

Most IT professionals are unaware of the fact that as great as virtualization has been for server efficiency, the one downside is how it adds complexity to the data path. On top of that, Windows doesn’t play well in a virtual environment (or any environment where it is abstracted from the physical layer). This means I/O characteristics that are a lot smaller, more fractured and more random than they need to be – the perfect trifecta for bad storage performance.

This “death by a thousand cuts” scenario means systems are processing workloads about 50% slower than they should. Condusiv’s I/O reduction software solves this problem by displacing many small tiny writes and reads with large, clean contiguous writes and reads. As huge as that patented engine is for our customers, it’s not the only thing we’re doing to make applications run smoothly. Performance is further electrified by establishing a tier-0 caching strategy - automatically using idle, available memory to serve hot reads. This is the same battle-tested technology that has been OEM’d by some of the largest out there – Dell, Lenovo, HP, SanDisk, Western Digital, just to name a few.

Although we might be most known for our first patented engine that solves Windows write inefficiencies to HDDs or SSDs, more and more customers are discovering just how important our patented DRAM caching engine is. If any customer can maintain even just 4GB of available memory to be used for cache, they most often see cache hit rates in the range of 50%. That means serving data out of DRAM, which is 15X faster than SSD and opens up even more precious bandwidth to and from storage for everything else. Other customers who really need to crank up performance are simply provisioning more memory on those systems and seeing >90% cache hit rates.

See all this and more described in the latest Condusiv I/O Reduction White Board video that explains eeevvvveeerything you need to know about the problem, how we solve it, and the typical results that should be expected in the time it takes you to drink a cup of coffee. So go get a cup of coffee, sit back, relax, and see how we can solve your toughest performance problems – guaranteed.

 

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