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 I/O Reduction Software Put to the Test on 3500 VMs

by Brian Morin 17. March 2016 04:18

As much as we commonly mention the expected performance gains from V-locity® I/O reduction software is 50-300% faster application performance, that 50-300% can represent quite a range - a correlation relative to how badly systems are taxed by I/O inefficiencies in virtual environments that are subsequently streamlined by V-locity. While some workloads experience 300% throughput gains, other workloads in the same environment see 50% gains.

While there is already plenty of V-locity performance validation represented in 15 published case studies that all reveal a doubling in VM performance, we wanted to get an idea of what V-locity delivers on average across a large scale. So we decided to take off our “rose-colored” glasses of what we think our software does and handed over the last 3,450 VMs that tested V-locity to ESG Labs, who examined the raw data from over 100 sites and PUBLISHED THE FINDINGS IN THIS REPORT.

Here are the key findings:

·         Reduced read I/O to storage. ESG Lab calculated 55% of systems saw a reduction of 50% in the number of read I/Os that get serviced by the underlying storage

·         Reduced write I/O to storage. As a result of I/O density increases, ESG Lab witnessed a 33% reduction in write I/Os across 27% of the systems. In addition, 14% of systems experienced a 50% or greater reduction in write I/O from VM (virtual machine) to storage.

·         Increased throughput. ESG Lab witnessed throughput performance improvements of 50% or more for 43% of systems, while 29% of systems experienced a 100% increase in throughput, and as much as 300% increased levels of throughput for 8% of systems.

·         Decreased I/O response time. ESG Lab calculated that systems with 3GB of available DRAM achieved a 40% reduction in response time across all I/O operations.

·         Increased IOPS. ESG Lab found that 25% of systems saw IOPS increase by 50% or more.

 

The key take-away from this analysis is demonstrating the sizeable performance loss virtualized organizations suffer in regard to I/O inefficiencies that can be easily solved by V-locity streamlining I/O at the guest level on Windows VMs. Whereas most organizations typically respond to I/O performance issues by taking the brute-force approach of throwing more expensive hardware at the problem, V-locity demonstrates the efficiencies organizations achieve at a fraction of the cost of new hardware by simply solving the root-cause problem first.

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SAN | virtualization | V-Locity

Largest-Ever I/O Performance Study

by Brian Morin 28. January 2016 09:10

Over the last year, 2,654 IT Professionals took our industry-first I/O Performance Survey, which makes it the largest I/O performance survey of its kind. The key findings from the survey reveal an I/O performance struggle for virtualized organizations as 77% of all respondents indicated I/O performance issues after virtualizing. The full 17 page report is available for download at http://learn.condusiv.com/2015survey.html.

Key findings in the survey include:

- More than 1/3rd of respondents (36%) are currently experiencing staff or customer complaints regarding sluggish applications running on MS SQL or Oracle

- Nearly 1/3rd of respondents (28%) are so limited by I/O bottlenecks that they have reached an "I/O ceiling" and are unable to scale their virtualized infrastructure

- To improve I/O performance since virtualizing, 51% purchased a new SAN, 8% purchased PCIe flash cards, 17% purchased server-side SSDs, 27% purchased storage-side SSDs, 16% purchased more SAS spindles,       6% purchased a hyper-converged appliance

- In the coming year, to remediate I/O bottlenecks, 25% plan to purchase a new SAN, 8% plan to purchase a hyper-converged appliance, 10% will purchase SAS spindles, 16% will purchases server-side SSDs, 8% will   purchase PCIe flash cards, 27% will purchase storage-side SSDs, 35% will purchase nothing in the coming year

- Over 1,000 applications were named when asked to identify the top two most challenging applications to support from a systems performance standpoint. Everything in the top 10 was an application running on top of   a database

- 71% agree that improving the performance of one or two applications via inexpensive I/O reduction software to avoid a forklift upgrade is either important or urgent for their environment

As much as virtualization has provided cost-savings and improved efficiency at the server-level, those cost savings are typically traded-off for backend storage infrastructure upgrades to handle the new IOPS requirements from virtualized workloads. This is due to I/O characteristics that are much smaller, more fractured, and more random than they need to be.  The added complexity that virtualization introduces to the data path via the “I/O blender” effect that randomizes I/O from disparate VMs, and the amplification of Windows write inefficiencies at the logical disk layer erodes the relationship between I/O and data, generating a flood of small, fractured I/O. This compounding effect between the I/O blender and Windows write inefficiencies creates “death by a thousand cuts” regarding system performance, creating the perfect trifecta for poor performance – small, fractured, random I/O.

Since native virtualization out-of-the box does nothing to solve this problem, organizations are left with little choice but accept the loss of throughput from these inefficiencies and overbuy and overprovision for performance from an IOPS standpoint since they are twice as IOPS dependent than they actually need to be…except for Condusiv customers who are using V-locity® I/O reduction software to see 50-300% faster application performance on the hardware they already have by solving this root cause problem at the VM OS-layer.

Note - Respondents from companies with employee sizes under 100 employees were excluded from the results, so results would not be skewed by the low end of the SMB market.

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 ->

ER Can’t Afford Slow Patient Records

by Brian Morin 1. March 2015 05:36

Slow medical record load times were hurting ER and overall patient care hospital-wide.

Ryan Barker was responsible for overseeing the MEDITECH EHR systems at Hancock Regional. As he put it, “You can imagine how dire the situation can be, particularly in the ER. My users can’t spare precious seconds waiting for data to load and records to save.”

Ryan was considering doing what most admins do when facing a performance issue - throw more hardware at the problem. While considering a forklift upgrade of the SAN that wasn’t in budget, Ryan had heard about what V-locity® I/O reduction software had done to accelerate EHR at other MEDITECH hospitals.

Since V-locity is free to evaluate and tailored specifically for MEDITECH, he figured he had nothing to lose.

Here’s a direct quote from the full case study:

Over the first two weeks of running V-locity on all the MEDITECH VMs, Ryan requested several tests from the Core Team, all reporting impressive results. “The feedback I’m getting from the Team is very positive; they are seeing major improvement,” says Ryan. “Before V-locity, the EDM tracker took seven seconds to load two patients. With V-locity it’s now taking only four seconds to load six patients.” Ryan continues, “Compiling a list of 16 patients took 13 seconds. With V-locity it now takes only five seconds to load 19. That’s a major improvement when you’re talking about a busy day in the ER.”

Hancock Regional was able to put an end to performance issues, defer upgrading their SAN and now looking to deploy V-locity on other I/O intensive applications. In addition, since V-locity comes with the MediWrite™ engine for MEDITECH, the FAL growth issue from severe fragmentation is no longer a risk to downtime. MEDITECH requires all 5x and 6x users to have a FAL remediation plan and recommends V-locity for its real-time and automatic FAL remediation capabilities.

Read the full case study ->

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MEDITECH | V-Locity

The Biggest Missed Culprit in SQL Performance Troubleshooting

by Brian Morin 18. February 2015 09:53

"We didn't know how much of our SQL performance was being dampened by the nasty 'I/O blender' effect….."

As it turned out, it was HALF. 

That's right. Their systems were processing HALF as many MB/sec than they should due to the noise of all their VM workloads meeting and mixing at the point of the hypervisor. The first thing the "I/O blender" effect does is tax throughput, so your application performance becomes far more dependent on storage IOPS than it needs to be.

Read the full story how I.B.I.S., Inc. doubled performance of their CRM and ERP by eliminating the I/O
blender effect ->
 

So what is the "I/O blender" effect and how is it taxing application performance? 

The "I/O blender" effect is a phenomena specific to a virtual server environment where the I/O streams from disparate VMs are "funneled" together at the point of the hypervisor before sending out to storage a very random I/O stream that penalizes overall application performance.

Every organization that has virtualized has experienced this pain. They virtualized their applications only to discover mounting I/O pressure on the backend storage infrastructure. This was the unintended consequence of virtualization. Organizations save costs on the compute layer via virtualization only to trade those savings to backend storage where a forklift upgrade is necessary to handle the new random I/O demand.

In the case of I.B.I.S., Inc., their IT Director wanted to look into this problem a little further to see what could be done before reactively buying more storage hardware for improved performance.

"We wanted to try V-locity® I/O reduction software first to see if it could tackle the root cause problem as advertised at the VM level where I/O originates," said Kevin Schmidt, IT Director.

As much as IT departments lack monitoring tools that show exactly how much performance is dampened by the "I/O blender" effect, V-locity comes with an embedded benchmark to give a before/after picture of I/O reduction and demonstrate how much performance is improved by combatting this problem at the Windows operating system layer.

As it turned out, I.B.I.S., Inc.'s heaviest SQL workloads saw a 120% improvement in data throughput. Before V-locity, it took 82,000 I/Os to process 1GB of data. After V-locity, that number was cut to 29,000 I/Os per GB. Due to the increase in I/O density, instead of taking .78 minutes to process 1GB, it now only takes .36 minutes.

"Since we're no longer dealing with so many small split I/Os and random I/O streams, V-locity has enabled our CRM and ERP systems to process twice the amount of data in the same amount of time. The best part is that we didn't have to spend a single dime on expensive new hardware to get that performance," said Schmidt.

Read the full case study ->

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Disruption, Application Performance, IOPS | virtualization | V-Locity

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