Bringing Tier 0 in From the Lunatic Fringe – Violin Systems Briefing Note

In most data centers, Tier 1 production storage has evolved from high-end hard disk-based systems to hybrid systems supported by flash to all-flash arrays. These Tier 1 systems are also typically well equipped with enterprise features like snapshots, replication and deduplication. Now though there is a need for an extreme performance Tier 0 to support high-end OLTP/ERP applications, real-time analytics processing and artificial intelligence / machine learning. The problem is that Tier 0 systems, while performance rich are often feature poor. This lack of features has made current Tier 0 systems less appealing to enterprises.

The Tier 0 Problem

Tier 0 workloads require millions of IOPS and very low levels of latency. Every increase in performance in Tier 0 workloads means more revenue, profits and customer satisfaction for the organization. The direct correlation to revenue and profits means that Tier 0 systems have to meet the high IOPS and low latency demand consistently throughout the production day, which in many cases can be 24×7.

The problem in architecting a Tier 0 solution is that most traditional enterprise class systems, while delivering acceptable Tier 1 performance, don’t deliver the extreme performance that Tier 0 workloads demand. More importantly they don’t deliver performance consistently 24×7 to keep these workloads running smoothly.

There is, however, a new emerging class of Tier 0 storage systems now coming to market. These vendors have returned to focusing on hardware innovation instead of software, leveraging FGPAs, ASICs and advanced networks like NVMe to extract extreme performance from flash systems.

The challenge is that most of these vendors are in the first iteration of their solutions and they have not been well vetted in enterprise data centers. Another challenge with these systems is that most purposefully provide very limited software feature sets and are missing key data management and data protection features that enterprise IT professionals have come to count on. The organization is left with a difficult choice of selecting high performance at all costs or lower performance, legacy systems at a reasonable cost.

Violin XVS™ 8 – Extreme Performance for the Data Center

Violin Systems recently announced their Violin XVS 8 storage system to address the gap between performance and features. The XVS 8 delivers consistent performance throughout the workload’s lifecycle. It leverages Violins unique memory architecture internally to maximize flash performance and NVMe over 32Gb Fibre Channel (FC) to continue the high-performance flow of data to the connected servers and hosts.

Additionally, the XVS 8 meets the Tier 0 performance requirements while also providing a full complement of enterprise class features like synchronous and asynchronous replication, snapshots, thin provisioning and clones. It also provides selectable deduplication that can be turned on or off on a per volume basis so workloads that won’t see any advantage to having the feature enabled don’t need to deal with any performance penalty.

In Tier 1 systems, the case for selectable deduplication vs. always-on deduplication was hard to make since the overall throughput of these system wasn’t fast enough to make a difference. In Tier 0 workloads, however, the impact of deduplication can’t be hidden because the performance of these systems is so high, and the latency is so low. In Tier 0, selectable deduplication becomes a key requirement.

Finally, the Violin XVS 8 has a unique feature called AR Real-time Storage Insight. By holding an AR (augmented reality) capable smartphone up to the front of the unit, a storage administrator can quickly check various performance statistics, capacity utilization, deduplication efficiency and alert notification (Screenshot). While some may consider the use of AR a gimmick, the Violin implementation has a practical application, especially in a headless data center.

StorageSwiss Take

The need for Tier 0 class storage systems is becoming more prevalent in enterprise data centers. These systems promise to not only improve performance but to also reduce licensing costs by limiting server sprawl. The applications use cases range from traditional high-performance database applications to modern applications that leverage AI and ML. Violin’s new XVS 8 addresses the core need of extreme performance and enterprise features.

Twelve 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 a heavily sought after public speaker. With over 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 of the nation's largest storage integrators where he was in charge of technology testing, integration and product selection.

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