Dedicating a single flash-based storage array to improving the performance of a single application may be appropriate for siloed or small SAN environments. However this is NOT an architecture that enterprises want to leverage when hosting multiple applications in larger SAN environments, especially if the flash-based array has only a few or unproven data management services behind it. The new Oracle FS1 Series Flash Storage System addresses these concerns by providing enterprises the levels of performance and the mature and robust data management services that they need to move flash-based arrays from the fringes of their SAN environments into their core.

Throwing flash memory at existing storage performance problems has been the de facto approach of most hybrid and flash memory storage arrays released to date. While these flash-based arrays deliver performance improvements of 3x to as much as 20x or more over traditional hard disk drive (HDD) based arrays, they are frequently deployed as a single array dedicated to improving the performance of a single application.

This approach breaks down in enterprise environments that want to attach multiple (and ideally all) applications to a single flash-based array. While performance improvements will likely still occur in this scenario, many flash-based arrays often lack any intelligence to prioritize I/O originating from different applications.

This results in I/O traffic from higher priority applications being given the same priority as lower priority applications based on the assumption that flash-based arrays are “so fast” that they will be able to service all I/O from all applications equally well. Meanwhile, I/O from mission-critical applications wait as I/O from lower priority applications get served.

The drawbacks with this approach are three-fold:

  • Enterprises want a guarantee that their most mission critical applications such as Oracle E-Business Suite will get the performance that they need when they need it over other, lower tier applications. In today’s environments, no such guarantees exist.
  • Should an application’s performance requirements change over time, today’s flash-based storage arrays have no way to natively detect these changes.
  • Business owners of lower-tier applications will internally campaign to connect their applications to these flash-based arrays as they will, by default, get the same performance as higher tier applications. This further impacts the ability of mission-critical applications to get their I/Os served in a timely manner.

Even should these arrays deliver the performance that all of these applications needs, the data management services they offer are either, at best, immature or, at worst, incomplete and insufficient to meet enterprise demands. This is why today’s flash-based arrays fall short and what sets the Oracle FS1 Series Flash Storage System apart.

The Oracle FS1 was specifically architected for flash media as its primary function with HDD support a secondary focus. Further distinguishing it from other all-flash arrays, the FS1 offers up to two tiers of flash with an optional, additional two tiers of disk to provide a four-tier storage architecture with data intelligently and automatically moved between tiers.

The Oracle FS1 comes equipped with the specific technologies that today’s enterprises need to justify deploying a flash storage array into the heart of their SAN environment. It can simultaneously and successfully handle multiple different application workloads with the high levels of predictable performance that meets their specific needs.

On the hardware side, it delivers the high end specifications that enterprises expect. It is architected to support as many as sixteen (16) nodes in a single logical system, enterprises may start with an FS1 configuration as small as two (2) nodes and then scale it to host petabytes of flash capacity in a single logical configuration. This is more than twice the size of EMC’s XtremeIO (6 nodes) or an HP 3PAR StoreServ 7400 (8 nodes). In the 16 node configuration, internal Oracle tests have already shown the FS1 capable of supporting up to 80 GBps of throughput and 2 million IOPs.

It is on the software side with its native data management services that puts the FS1 in a class by itself. Most flash-based storage arrays have either minimal data management services or, if they do offer them, the data management services are, at best, immature. The Oracle FS1 provides the mature, full suite of data management services that enterprises want and need to justify deploying a flash-based solution into their SAN environments.

Further, Oracle makes it easy and practical for enterprises to take advantage of this extensive set of data management services as they are included with every Oracle FS1 as part of the base system. In this way, any enterprise that deploys an Oracle FS1 has immediate access to its rich set of software features.

Consider these highlights:

  • Storage profiles associated with each application. The key to prioritizing application I/O and putting the right data on the right disk is to first establish the application priority and then associate it with the right tier or tiers of disk. To deliver on this requirement, the Oracle FS1 offers pre-defined, pre-tested and pre-tuned storage profiles that are optimized for specific applications.

Using these profiles, enterprises may, with a single click, associate each application with a specific storage profile that is optimized for that application’s specific capacity, performance and cost requirements. For example, demanding Oracle Database applications may be provisioned with “Premium Priority” high performance storage profiles that consist of tiers of flash disk. This priority level ensures that mission-critical applications receive the low latency service they require. Conversely, lower tier, less demanding applications may be associated with medium or low priority storage profiles that provision tiers of performance and capacity-oriented HDDs.

  • Application I/O prioritization. Associating applications with storage profiles eliminates the need for the Oracle FS1 to rely on the traditional “cross your fingers and hope for the best” means of application I/O prioritization. Knowing the priority of applications enables the FS1 to receive and prioritize I/Os according to the application sending them.

As it simultaneously receives I/Os from multiple different applications, it recognizes which I/Os are associated with high priority applications and services them first. This “priority in, priority out” option eliminates the risk and uncertainty associated with the “first in, first out” methodology predominantly found on most flash-based arrays today.

  • Adds business value to application I/O management. The prevalent I/O queue management technique used in flash and HDD storage systems is “first in, first out” just as it was with the first hard disk drive – the IBM 305 RAMAC – in 1958.

The world has changed a bit since then. The Oracle FS1 recognizes that different applications have different value to the enterprise and the Oracle FS1’s QoS Plus takes into this into account as it prioritizes I/O. As the FS1 receives I/Os from multiple different applications, it recognizes which I/Os are associated with “Premium Priority” (high business value) applications and services them first. This “priority in, priority out” option eliminates the risk and uncertainty associated with the “first in, first out” I/O queue management.

The Oracle FS1 QoS Plus delivers further business value by placing data across up to four different storage layers (performance and capacity flash media along with performance and capacity HDDs.). QoS Plus collects detailed information on the applications’ storage usage profile, evaluates data for movement to different storage tiers, then combines that with auto-tiering to automatically migrate data to the most cost-effective media (flash or disk) from a $/IOP and $/GB standpoint based on the application data’s usage profile AND the value of that data to the business.

  • Capacity optimization. To dynamically optimize data placement on available storage capacity, the Oracle FS1 stores data in 640K chunks. Storing data in these size chunks, it optimally uses the available flash and HDD storage capacity in the FS1 without creating too much management overhead on the system as can happen using smaller, 4K chunks. This also minimizes the waste that can occur at the other extreme as some storage arrays store and move data in chunks as large as 1GB (1600x larger than FS1.)

The FS1 then tracks the performance of individual 640K chunks over time using workload-driven heat maps. If chunks that reside on flash are infrequently or not accessed, they may get moved down to lower tiers of flash or disk; conversely, chunks that reside on HDDs may become more active over time so they may get moved to a higher tier of disk or even flash.

  • Isolate data in containers. The Oracle FS1’s Storage Domains software enables the creation of multiple, virtual storage systems within a single Oracle FS1, a feature not readily available with flash storage systems. Each storage domain is a “data container” which isolates data from other storage domains.

The Storage Domains multiple unique environments with individual custom-tailored QoS Plus settings can reside on a single physical FS1, reducing power, cooling, and management administration expense. This multi-tenancy capability is ideal for private or public cloud deployments, regulatory compliance requirements, or chargeback models.

  • Optimized for Oracle Database environments. The Oracle FS1 Series supports all major operating systems, hypervisors and applications. However enterprises running Oracle Database in their environment will experience benefits that no other vendor’s flash- or HDD-based array can offer.

By supporting Oracle Database’s Advanced Data Optimization (ADO) and Hybrid Columnar Compression (HCC), enterprises achieve levels of performance and capacity optimization for Oracle Database that other vendors’ flash-based arrays cannot provide because they are not co-engineered for deep levels of integration with Oracle Database.

The Oracle FS1 Series Flash Storage System breaks new ground in flash-based array SAN battleground by delivering more than high levels of performance which is often where other flash-based storage arrays start and stop. The Oracle FS1 stands apart from its competitors in this space by providing a highly available and scalable architecture backed by mature and proven suite of data management services that are part of its base system, not separately licensed options. With Oracle FS1, enterprises can finally move ahead with their plans to bring flash storage arrays to run multiple applications and workloads at the core of their SAN environments, not just as single-application point products.

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Jerome M. Wendt

About Jerome M. Wendt

President & Founder of DCIG, LLC Jerome Wendt is the President and Founder of DCIG, LLC., an independent storage analyst and consulting firm. Mr. Wendt founded the company in November 2007.

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