Briefing Note: Physical Servers Matter – Diskeeper keeps them running like new

While the move to a virtualized data center continues, physical servers still matter! Its true that many organizations are now approaching 60%+ virtualization, few have reached 100%. That means that most data centers are still 40% physical. Those remaining physical servers tend to fall into two groups. The first group is servers with software that’s so old no one wants to touch it, and they are just being maintained as long as needed. The second group is servers that are running mission critical applications deemed too risky to virtualize. This second group is the target of new Condusiv’s Diskeeper 15 Server, a real-time fragmentation solution for SAN storage connected to physical servers.

Do SANs Need Defragmentation?

A common perception in IT is that fragmentation is not an issue for a shared storage system, because the storage controller combats that automatically. While it is true that most shared storage systems do keep the data organized at the physical disk layer between the volumes they manage, they don’t organize the data at the logical disk layer. Once the volume or LUN is presented to the physical server, its operating system now controls how data is written within that volume.

Data fragmentation within the file system can reduce performance by as much as 25% or more. And the Windows operating system is prone to high levels of fragmentation. The result of a fragmented logical disk is that the number of IOPS required to support a data request is increased. For example, if a segment of data is fragmented into 20 pieces at the logical layer, it now takes 20 input/output operations to access it from the physical layer instead of a single I/O if that data were contiguous.

To get optimal performance from a physical system connected to a shared storage system, or even a flash array, fragmentation within the file system needs to be addressed so blocks can be written and subsequently read more sequentially.

Real-Time Fragmentation Prevention

Condusiv believes it has the answer with its new Diskeeper 15 Server solution. Diskeeper is software that is installed as a filter-level driver within the Windows operating system. It does not replace the NTFS, nor does it delay writes to perform a coalescing of data. Instead, Diskeeper simply makes NTFS smarter about how it writes data, which also speeds subsequent reads. Essentially, it prevents fragmentation from occurring at the file system level so data is being written sequentially and then read sequentially. Instead of Windows seeing a file existing as multiple pieces with each piece requiring its own dedicated I/O operation, it now sees nice, clean sequential files that only need minimal I/O to process. As a result, the server and underlying storage experience less I/O overhead to process files, which increases throughput so more data can be processed in less time. Diskeeper is also vendor agnostic and can work across a wide variety of storage systems and drive media types (including flash SSD).

Solutions For Virtual Too

In addition to improving the performance of physical systems, Condusiv also offers V-locity for the virtual environment. This software improves the efficiency of all VMware ESX/ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V virtual platforms by optimizing both reads and writes, allowing more data to be packaged into each I/O request while also caching active data within available server memory. The result is performance gains whereby customers typically see 50-300% faster application performance on the infrastructure they already have, using a 100% software solution.

StorageSwiss Take

In our recent article “What Are IOPS?” we discussed what IOPS are and why IT shouldn’t be overly focused with storage systems that claim huge IOPS numbers. There is so much more to the environment that impacts performance like the quality of the application code and, as Condusiv demonstrates, the level of fragmentation of the logical disk that inflates the IOPS requirement for any given workload with a surplus of small, fractured I/O. While part of the performance problem can be hidden behind high performance flash, a high fragmented environment wastes much of the investment in flash.

The Diskeeper solution allows this problem to be easily corrected in an automatic set and forget nature. It seems like an obvious choice for IT professionals looking to increase the performance of their environments.

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Eight years ago George Crump, founded Storage Switzerland with one simple goal. To educate IT professionals about all aspects of data center storage. He is the primary contributor to Storage Switzerland and is and a heavily sought after public speaker. With 25 years of experience designing storage solutions for data centers across the US, he has seen the birth of such technologies as RAID, NAS and SAN, Virtualization, Cloud and Enterprise Flash. Prior to founding Storage Switzerland he was CTO at one the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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