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.

Industry-first FAL Remediation and Improved Performance for MEDITECH

by Gary Quan 6. November 2018 03:19

When someone mentions heavy fragmentation on a Windows NTFS Volume, the first thing that usually comes to mind is performance degradation. While performance degradation is certainly bad, what’s worse is application failure when the application gets this error.

 

Windows Error - "The requested operation could not be completed due to a file system limitation“

 

That is exactly what happens in severely fragmented environments. These are show-stoppers that can stop a business in its tracks until the problem is remediated. We have had users report this issue to us on SQL databases, Exchange server databases, and cases involving MEDITECH EHR systems.

In fact, because of this issue, MEDITECH requires all 5x and 6x customers to address this issue and has endorsed both Condusiv® Technologies’ V-locity® and Diskeeper® I/O reduction software for “...their ability to reduce disk fragmentation and eliminate File Attribute List (FAL) saturation. Because of their design and feature set, we have also observed they accelerate application performance in a measurable way,” said Mike Belkner, Associate VP, Technology, MEDITECH.

Some refer to this extreme fragmentation problem as the “FAL Size Issue” and here is why. In the Windows NTFS file system, as files grow in size and complexity (i.e., more and more fragmented data), they can be assigned additional metadata structures. One of these metadata structures is called the File Attribute List (FAL). The FAL structure can point to different types of file attributes, such as security attributes or standard information such as creation and modification dates and, most importantly, the actual data contained within the file. In the extremely fragmented file case, the FAL will keep track of where all the fragmented data is for the file. The FAL actually contains pointers indicating the location of the file data (fragments) on the volume. As more fragments accumulate in a file, more pointers to the fragmented data are required, which in turn increases the size of the FAL. Herein lies the problem: the FAL size has an upper limitation size of 256KB. When that limit is reached, no more pointers can be added, which means NO more data can be added to the data file. And, if it is a folder file, NO more files can be added under that folder file. Applications using these files stop in their tracks, not what users want, especially in EHR systems.

If a FAL reaches the size limitation, the only resolution was to bring the volume offline, which can mean bringing the system down, then copying the file to a different location (a different volume is recommended), deleting or renaming the original file, making sure there is sufficient contiguous free space on the original volume, rebooting the system to reset the free space cache, then copying the file back. This is not a quick cycle, and if that file is large in size, this process can take hours to complete, which means the system will remain offline for hours while attempting to resolve.

You would think that the logical solution would be – why not just defragment those files? The problem is that traditional defragmentation utilities can cause the FAL size to grow. While it can decrease the number of pointers, it will not decrease the FAL size. In fact, due to limitations within the file system, traditional methods of defragmenting files cause the FAL size to grow even larger, making the problem worse even though you are attempting to remediate it. This is true with all other defragmenters, including the built-in defragmenter that comes with Windows. So what can be done about it?

The Solution

Condusiv Technologies has introduced a new technology to address this FAL size issue that is unique only to the latest V-locity® and Diskeeper® product lineup. This new technology called MediWrite™ contains features to help suppress this issue from occurring in the first place, give sufficient warning if it is or has occurred, plus tools to quickly and efficiently reducing the FAL size offline. It includes the following:

Unique FAL handling: As indicated above, traditional methods of defragmentation can cause the

FAL size to grow even further. MediWrite will detect when files are having FAL size issues and will use an exclusive method of defragmentation that helps stem the FAL growth. An industry first!

It will also automatically determine how often to process these files according to their FAL size severity.

Enhanced Free space consolidation engine: One indirect cause of FAL size growth is the extreme free space fragmentation found in these cases. A new Free Space method has been developed to handle these extreme cases.

Unique FAL growth prevention: Along with MediWrite, V-locity and Diskeeper contain another very important technology called IntelliWrite® which automatically prevents new fragmentation from occurring. By preventing fragmentation from occurring, IntelliWrite minimizes any further FAL size growth issues.

Unique Offline FAL Consolidation tools: The above technologies help stop the FAL size from growing any larger, but due to File System restrictions, it cannot shrink or reduce the FAL size online. To do this, Condusiv developed proprietary offline tools that will reduce the FAL-IN-USE size in minutes.  This is extremely helpful for companies that already have a file FAL size issue before installing our software. With these tools, the user can reduce the FAL-IN-USE size back down to 100kb, 50kb, or smaller and feel completely safe from the maximum FAL size limits. The reduction process itself takes less than 5 minutes. This means that the system will only need to be taken offline for minutes which is much better than all the hours needed with the current Windows copy method.

FAL size Alerts: MediWrite will dynamically scan the volumes for any FAL sizes that have reached a certain limit (the default is a conservative 50% of the maximum size) and will create an Alert indicating this has occurred. The Alert will also be recorded in the Windows Event log, plus the user has the option to get notified by email when this occurrence happens.

 

For information, case studies, white papers and more, visit  http://www.condusiv.com/solutions/meditech-solutions/

Fix SQL Server Storage Bottlenecks

by Spencer Allingham 23. October 2018 20:58

No SQL code changes.
No Disruption.
No Reboots.
Simple!

 

Condusiv V-locity Introduction

 

 

Whether running SQL in a physical or virtualized environment, most SQL DBAs would welcome faster storage at a reasonable price.

The V-locity® software from Condusiv® Technologies is designed to provide exactly that, but using the storage hardware that you already own. It doesn't matter if you have direct attached disks, if you're running a tiered SAN, have a tray of SSD storage or are fortunate enough to have an all-flash array; that storage layer can be a limiting factor to your SQL Server database productivity.

The V-locity software reduces the amount of storage I/O traffic that has to go out and be processed by the disk storage layer, and streamlines or optimizes the data which does have to still go out to disk.

The net result is that SQL can typically get more transactions completed in the same amount of time, quite simply because on average, it's not having to wait so much on the storage before being able to get on with its next transaction.

V-locity can be downloaded and installed without any disruption to live SQL servers. No SQL code changes are required and no reboots. Just install and typically you'll start seeing results in just a few minutes.

Microsoft SQL Server I/O Reliability Certification LogoBefore we take a more in-depth look at that, I would like to briefly mention that last year, the V-locity software was awarded the Microsoft SQL Server I/O Reliability Certification. This means that whilst providing faster storage access, V-locity didn't adversely affect the required and recommended behaviors that an I/O subsystem must provide for SQL Server, as defined by Microsoft themselves.

Microsoft ran tests for this in Azure, with SQL 2016, and used HammerDB to generate an online transaction processing type workload. Not only was V-locity able to jump through all the hoops necessary to achieve the certification, but it was also able to show an increase of about 30% more SQL transactions in the same amount of time.

In this test, that meant roughly 30% more orders processed.

They probably could have processed more too, if they had allowed V-locity a slightly larger RAM cache size.

To get more information, including best practise for running V-locity on MS SQL servers, easy ways to validate results, customer case studies and more, click here for the full article on LinkedIn.

If you simply want to try V-locity, click here for a free trial.

Use the V-locity software to not only identify those servers that cause storage I/O issues, but fix those issues at the same time.

Cultech Limited Solves ERP and SQL Troubles with Diskeeper 18 Server

by Spencer Allingham 8. October 2018 09:11

Before discovering Diskeeper®, Cultech Limited experienced sluggish ERP and SQL performance, unnecessary downtime, and lost valuable hours each day troubleshooting issues related to Windows write inefficiencies.

As an internationally recognized innovator and premium quality manufacturer within the nutritional supplement industry, the usual troubleshooting approaches just weren’t cutting it. “We were running a very demanding ERP system on legacy servers and network. A hardware refresh was the first step in troubleshooting our issues. As much as we did see some improvement, it did not solve the daily breakdowns associated with our Sage ERP,” said Rob, IT Manager, Cultech Limited.

After upgrading the network and replacing ERP and SQL servers and not seeing much improvement, Rob further dug into troubleshooting approaches and SQL optimizations. With months of troubleshooting and SQL optimizations and no relief, Rob continued to research and find a way to improve performance issues, knowing that Cultech could not continue to interrupt productivity multiple times a day to fix corrupted records. As Rob explains, “I was on support calls with Sage literally day and night to solve issues that occurred daily. Files would not write properly to the database, and I would have to go through the tedious process of getting all users to logout of Sage then manually correct the problem – a 25-min exercise. That might not be a big deal every so often, but I found myself doing this 3-4 times a day at times.”

In doing his research, Rob found Condusiv’s® Diskeeper Server and decided to give it a try after reading customer testimonials on how it had solved similar performance issues. To Cultech’s surprise, after just 24-hours of being installed, they were no longer calling Sage support. “I installed Diskeeper and crossed my fingers, hoping it would solve at least some of our problems. It didn’t just solve some problems, it solved all of our problems. I was calling Sage support daily then suddenly I wasn’t calling them at all,” said Rob. Problems that Rob was having to fix outside of production hours had been solved thanks to Diskeeper’s ability to prevent fragmentation from occurring. And in addition to recouping hours a day of downtime during production hours, Cultech was now able to focus this time and energy on innovation and producing quality products.

“Now that we have Diskeeper optimizing our Sage servers and SQL servers, we have it running on our other key systems to ensure peak performance and optimum reliability. Instead of considering Windows write inefficiencies as a culprit after trying all else, I would encourage administrators to think of it first,” said Rob.

Read the full case study                        Download 30-day trial

Big Data Boom Brings Promises, Problems

by Dawn Richcreek 7. September 2018 04:40

By 2020, an estimated 43 trillion gigabytes of data will have been created—300 times the amount of data in existence fifteen years earlier. The benefits of big data, in virtually every field of endeavor, are enormous. We know more, and in many ways can do more, than ever before. But what of the challenges posed by this “data tsunami”? Will the sheer ability to manage—or even to physically house—all this information become a problem?

Condusiv CEO Jim D’Arezzo, in a recent discussion with Supply Chain Brain, commented that “As it has over the past 40 years, technology will become faster, cheaper, and more expansive; we’ll be able to store all the data we create. The challenge, however, is not just housing the data, but moving and processing it. The components are storage, computing, and network. All three need to be optimized; I don’t see any looming insurmountable problems, but there will be some bumps along the road.”

One example is healthcare. Speaking with Healthcare IT News, D’Arezzo noted that there are many new solutions open to healthcare providers today. “But with all the progress,” he said, “come IT issues. Improvements in medical imaging, for instance, create massive amounts of data; as the quantity of available data balloons, so does the need for processing capability.”

Giving health-care providers—and professionals in other areas—the benefits of the data they collect is not always easy. In an interview with Transforming Data with Intelligence, D’Arezzo said, “Data center consolidation and updating is a challenge. We run into cases where organizations do consolidation on a ‘forklift’ basis, simply dumping new storage and hardware into the system as a solution. Shortly thereafter, they often discover that performance has degraded. A bottleneck has been created that needs to be handled with optimization.”

The news is all over it. You are experiencing it. Big data. Big problems. At Condusiv®, we get it.  We’ve seen users of our I/O reduction software solutions increase the capability of their storage and servers, including SQL servers, by 30% to 50% or more. In some cases, we’ve seen results as high as 10X initial performance—without the need to purchase a single box of new hardware. The tsunami of data—we’ve got you covered.

If you’re interested in working with a firm that can reduce your two biggest silent killers of SQL performance, request a demo with an I/O performance specialist now.

If you want to hear why your heaviest workloads are only processing half the throughput they should from VM to storage, view this short video.

How to make NVMe storage even faster

by Spencer Allingham 4. September 2018 07:21

This is a blog to complement a vlog that I posted a few weeks ago, in which I demonstrated how to use the intelligent RAM caching technology found in the V-locity® software from Condusiv® Technologies to improve the performance that a computer can get from NVMe flash storage. You can view this video here:

 

 A question arose from a couple of long-term customers about whether the use of the V-locity software was still relevant if they started utilizing very fast, flash storage solutions. This was a fair question!

The V-locity software is designed to reduce the amount of unnecessary storage I/O traffic that actually has to go out and be processed by the underlying disk storage layer. It not only reduces the amount of I/O traffic, but it optimizes that which DOES have to go out to disk, and moreover, it further reduces the workload on the storage layer by employing a very intelligent RAM caching strategy.

So, given that flash storage, whilst not only becoming more prevalent in today’s compute environments, can process storage I/O traffic VERY fast when compared to its spinning disk counterparts, and is capable of processing more I/Os per Second (IOPS) than ever before, the very sensible question was this:


"Can the use of Condusiv's V-locity software provide a significant performance increase when using very fast flash storage?"


As I was fortunate to have recently implemented some flash storage in my workstation, I was keen to run an experiment to find out.


SPOILER ALERT: For those of you who just want to have

the question answered, the answer is a resounding YES!

The test showed beyond doubt that with Condusiv’s V-locity software installed, your Windows computer has the ability to process significantly more I/Os per Second, process a much higher throughput of data, and allow the storage I/O heavy workloads running in computers the opportunity to get significantly more work done in the same amount of time – even when using very fast flash storage.

 

For those of you true ‘techies’ that are as geeky as me, read on, and I will detail the testing methodology and results in more detail. 

The storage that I now had in my workstation (and am still happily using!) was a 1 terabyte SM961 POLARIS M.2-2280 PCI-E 3.0 X 4 NVMe solid state drive (SSD).

 

 Is it as fast as it’s made out to be? Well, in this engineer’s opinion – OMG YES!

 

It makes one hell of a difference, when compared to spinning disk drives. This is in part because it’s connected to the computer via a PCI Express (PCIe) bus, as opposed to a SATA bus. The bus is what you connect your disk to in the computer, and different types of buses have different capabilities, such as the speed at which data can be transferred. SATA-connected disks are significantly slower than today’s PCIe-connected storage using an NVMe device interface. There is a great Wiki about this here if you want to read more: 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NVM_Express

 

To give you an idea of the improvement though, consider that the Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) that is used with the SATA connected disks has one command queue, in which it can process 32 commands. That’s up to 32 storage requests at a time, and that was okay for spinning disk technology, because the disks themselves could only cope with a certain number of storage requests at a time.

NVMe on the other hand doesn’t have one command queue, it has 65,535 queues. AND, each of those command queues can themselves accommodate 65,536 commands. That’s a lot more storage requests that can be processed at the same time! This is really important, because flash storage is capable of processing MANY more storage requests in parallel than its spinning disk cousins. Quite simply NVMe was needed to really make the most of what flash disk hardware can do. You wouldn’t put a kitchen tap (faucet) on the end of a fire hose and expect the same amount of water to flow through it, right? Same principle!

As you can probably tell, I’m quite excited by this boost in storage performance. (I’m strange like that!) And, I know I’m getting a little off topic (apologies), so back to the point!

I had this SUPER-FAST storage solution and needed to prove one way or another if Condusiv’s V-locity software could increase the ability of my computer to process even more workload.

Would my computer be able to process more storage I/Os per Second?

Would my computer be able to process a larger amount of storage I/O traffic (megabytes) every second?

 

Testing Methodology

To answer these questions, I took a virtual machine, and cloned it so that I had two virtual machines that were as identical as I could make them. I then installed Condusiv’s V-locity software on both and disabled V-locity on one of the machines, so that it would process storage I/O traffic, just as if V-locity wasn’t installed.

To generate a storage I/O traffic workload, I turned to my old friend IOMETER. For those of you who might not know IOMETER, this is a software utility originally designed by Intel, but is now open source and available at SourceForge.net. It is designed as an I/O subsystem measurement tool and is great for generating I/O workloads of different types (very customizable!), and measure how quickly that I/O workload can be processed. Great for testing networks or in this case, how fast you can process storage I/O traffic.

I configured IOMETER on both machines with the type of workload that one might find on a typical SQL database server. I KNOW, I know, there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ SQL database, but I wanted a storage I/O profile that was as meaningful as possible, rather than a workload that would just make V-locity look good. Here is the actual IOMETER configuration:

Worker 1 – 16 kilobyte I/O requests, 100% random, 33% Write / 67% Read

Worker 2 – 64 kilobyte I/O requests, 100% random, 33% Write / 67% Read

Test Results

V-locity Disabled

 

V-locity Enabled

 

Summary

 

 

Conclusion

 

In this lab test, the presence of V-locity reduced the average amount of time required to process storage I/O requests by around 65%, allowing a great amount of storage I/O requests to be processed per second and a greater amount of data to be transferred.

To prove beyond doubt that it was indeed V-locity that caused the additional storage I/O traffic to be processed, I stopped the V-locity service. This immediately ‘turned off’ all of the RAM caching and other optimization engines that V-locity was providing, and the net result was that the IOPS and throughput dropped to normal as the underlying storage had to start processing ALL of the storage traffic that IOMETER was generating.

What value is there to reducing storage I/O traffic?

The more you can reduce storage I/O traffic that has to go out and be processed by your disk storage, the more storage I/O headroom you are handing back to your environment for use by additional workloads. It means that your current disk storage can now cope with:

·       - More computers sharing the storage. Great if you have a Storage Area Network (SAN) underpinning your virtualized environment, for example. More VMs running!

 

·       - More users accessing and manipulating the shared storage. The more users you have, the more storage I/O traffic is likely to be generated.

·       - Greater CPU utilization. CPU speeds and processing capacity keeps increasing. Now that the processing power is typically much more than typical needs, V-locity can help your applications become more productive and use more of that processing power by not having to wait so much on the disk storage layer.

 

If you can achieve this without having to replace or upgrade your storage hardware, it not only increases the return on your current storage hardware investment, but also might allow you to keep that storage running for a longer period of time (if you’re not on a fixed refresh cycle).

Sweat the storage asset!

(I hate that term, but you get the idea)

When you do finally need to replace your current storage, perhaps it won’t be as costly as you thought because you’re not having to OVER-PROVISION the storage as much, to cope with all of the excess, unnecessary storage traffic that Condusiv’s V-locity software can eliminate.

I typically see a storage traffic reduction of at least 25% at customer sites.

AND, I haven’t even mentioned the performance boost that many workloads receive from the RAM caching technology provided by Condusiv’s V-locity software. It is worth remembering that as fast as today’s flash storage solutions are, the RAM that you have in your computers is faster! The greater the percentage of read I/O traffic that you can satisfy from RAM instead of the storage layer, the better performing those storage I/O-hungry applications are likely to be.

What type of applications benefit the most?

In the real world, V-locity is not a silver-bullet for all types of workloads, and I wouldn’t insult your intelligence by saying that it was. If you have some workloads that don’t generate a great deal of storage I/O traffic, perhaps a DNS server, or DHCP server, well, V-locity isn’t likely to make a huge difference. That’s my honest opinion as an IT Engineer.

HOWEVER, if you are using storage I/O-hungry applications, then you really should give it a try.

Here are just some examples of the workloads that thousands of V-locity customers are ‘performance-boosting’ with Condusiv’s I/O reduction and RAM caching technologies:

  • -Database solutions such as Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, SQL Express, and others.
  • -Virtualization solution such as Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware.
  • -Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions like Epicor.
  • -Business Intelligence (BI) solutions like IBM Cognos.
  • -Finance and payroll solutions like SAGE Accounting.
  • -Electronic Health Records (EHR) solutions, such as MEDITECH 
  • -Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions, such as Microsoft Dynamics.
  • -Learning Management Systems (LMS Solutions.
  • -Not to mention email servers like Microsoft Exchange AND busy file servers.

 

 

Do you use any of these in your IT environment?

 

There are case studies on the Condusiv web site for all of these workload types (and more), here:

http://www.condusiv.com/knowledge-center/case-studies/default.aspx

 

Try it for yourself

You can experience the full power of Condusiv’s V-locity software for yourself, in YOUR Windows environment within a couple of minutes. Just go to www.condusiv.com/try and get a copy of the fully-featured 30-day trialware. You can check the dashboard reporting after a week or two and see just how much storage I/O traffic has been eliminated, and more importantly, how much storage time has been saved by doing do.

It really is that simple!

You don’t even need to reboot to make the software work. There is no disruption to live running workloads; you can just install and uninstall at will, and it only takes a minute or so.


You will typically start seeing results just minutes after installing.

I hope that this has been interesting and helpful. If you have any questions about the technologies within V-locity or have any questions about testing, feel free to email me directly at sallingham@condusiv.co.uk.

 

I will be delighted to hear from you!

 

 

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