Flash with Confidence Using Symantec Storage Foundation and Fusion ioDrive

It is no secret that almost any enterprise with performance intensive applications wants to host them on flash memory storage sooner rather than later. Yet what precludes some enterprises from hosting these applications on flash memory storage are concerns about flash memory’s cost, application disruption and even how the data is protected once it is placed there. Using Symantec Storage Foundation in conjunction with flash memory solutions such as the Fusion ioDrive helps to put these concerns to rest.

The reasons as to why enterprises want to use flash memory solutions such as the Fusion ioDrive to store their performance hungry applications are intuitive. Using a single MLC ioDrive2 that has a list price of about $11.50 per GB organizations can achieve about 137,000 random read and over 500,000 random write I/Os per second (IOPS).

In contrast the fastest hard disk drive (HDD) available only achieves about 200 IOPS and an entire SAN-attached storage system with hundreds of these HDDs (no flash in the storage system) only achieves about 90,000 IOPS. To get comparable performance enterprises must spend at least 10x what a single ioDrive2 costs.

These increases in performance would almost seem to make switching from a SAN storage system to Fusion-io a no-brainer. But performance is only one factor that enterprises consider when selecting a storage solution for their performance-hungry applications as these applications also frequently fall under the classification of “mission-critical.”

In addition to performance, these applications crave high levels of availability, data integrity and sufficient storage capacity at the right price point to store all of their application data. Flash memory solutions alone may not deliver on these to the level which enterprise expect. For instance:

  • Initially moving the data to the ioDrive may require an application outage
  • There is no native ioDrive capability to replicate data on an ioDrive to another location
  • Putting in multiple ioDrives to meet the application’s availability or capacity requirements may not be technically feasible (eg. insufficient PCI slots in the server)

This is why Symantec and Fusion-io are teaming up. Using Symantec’s Storage Foundation in conjunction with the Fusion ioDrive, enterprises may leverage the ioDrive performance even as they use Storage Foundation to control costs, maintain application availability and protect their data. The Fusion ioDrive used with Storage Foundation accomplishes these objectives in the following ways:

  • Ensure continuous application availability. Storage Foundation frees enterprises to move data at any time from SAN-attached storage to the ioDrive without needing to schedule application downtime. Once Storage Foundation and the Fusion ioDrive are installed, data may be non-disruptively moved from SAN-attached storage to the ioDrive so applications can get access to the ioDrive’s performance without the accompanying outage.
  • Cost-effectively use available tiers of storage. While all of the data of some applications may fit on an ioDrive, there are other applications where only some of the application data fits on the ioDrive. Further, it is unlikely that all of the application’s data requires the level of performance that the ioDrive provides. Using Storage Foundation’s storage tiering feature, enterprises get the best of both worlds. It places the application’s most performance intensive data on the ioDrive and less frequently accessed data on the slower performing SAN-attached storage.
  • Optimize available storage capacity. Whether using flash memory or SAN-attached storage, the more it is utilized, the less new storage capacity that an enterprise will need and the lower their storage costs. Using Storage Foundation’s Thin Provisioning and Thin Reclamation features, organizations can drive up storage utilization even as they optimize application performance.

Using Storage Foundation’s Thin Reclamation, storage capacity is only allocated to the application when data is stored thereby preserving available storage capacity until it actually used. Its Thin Reclamation feature reclaims storage capacity after data has been deleted and returns it to the larger pool of thinly provisioned storage to be then re-used by other applications.

In the case of Fusion-io, Symantec has specifically optimized Storage Foundation to work with the ioDrive to recapture freed blocks of storage capacity. Normally data remains on freed blocks on the ioDrive when data is deleted and cannot be recaptured until after garbage collection on the ioDrive occurs.

Storage Foundation circumvents this process. Using Linux TRIM primitives, it lets the ioDrive know which of its blocks may be safely cleared without it needing to run a background garbage collection process. This extends the life of the ioDrive even as Storage Foundation makes more of the ioDrive storage capacity available for use by other applications.

Finally, Storage Foundation both compresses and deduplicates data. Using these two features, enterprises can ensure that the available storage capacity on the ioDrive is used in the most effective way possible.

  • Higher levels of data protection. ioDrives do not natively include the ability to mirror data to other drives or replicate data to other systems. Using Storage Foundation, enterprises may mirror data between two ioDrives or even replicate data to another system. These options provide higher levels of data protection that enterprises may need to justify their moving ahead with a flash memory solution such as the ioDrive.

Enterprises want higher performance flash memory for their mission critical, performance-hungry applications. But they also want assurances that their data is available and protected and that its high performance capacity is being used cost-effectively. Using the Fusion ioDrive in conjunction with Symantec Storage Foundation provides them this re-assurance that they seek so they may confidently move ahead with deploying flash in support of their mission critical applications. 

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