Welcome!

Containers Expo Blog Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Angsuman Dutta, Liz McMillan, Derek Weeks

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo

Containers Expo Blog: Article

Increasing Throughput Doesn’t Always Increase Performance

Upgrading to FC 8Gbps isn't as straightforward as it seems

A wise man once told me that if there were a major car crash further up the highway, having a faster car would only get me to the accident quicker. Obvious right? Not so it seems when the wisdom of these words is applied to the analogy of the growing number of SAN infrastructures currently upgrading from 4Gbps to 8Gps. ‘Faster means quicker, means better' is the commonly heard sales pitch used to seduce vulnerable IT Directors who dream of ‘a guaranteed performance improvement that would solve the headache of their ever slowing applications'.

Sadly though for many of those that bit the 8Gbps apple, the significant improvement never came and like a culprit with no shame the same voices returned claiming that this was the fault of the outdated servers, HBAs and storage systems which also now needed to be upgraded. So down the 8Gbps road they went which now extended from the fabric all the way to the server platform, but still no significant improvement and if so certainly not one that could justify such a heavy investment. Like any infrastructure, being unaware of the SAN inevitably means that any unseen problems caused by error statistics such as CRC errors, physical link errors, protocol errors, code violations, class 3 discards etc. (i.e. the car crash) would remain, regardless of whether you get there at 4Gbps or 8Gbps. So how could such a simple concept be lost amongst the numerous 4Gbps to 8Gbps upgrades that are now taking place across the SAN stratosphere?

The main reason is that there are clearly several seemingly instant advantages with the 8Gbps standard. Having one byte consisting of 8 bits, giving you a potential 800 MB per second gives you the immediate impression that you are able to potentially double the transmission of your data within the same single cable. Logic would then dictate that with both SAN switches and storage systems having 8Gbps ports, you also now have the freedom to double the number of hosts to a single storage port without the fear of any performance impact. Logic would also conclude that extra bandwidth would be a blessing in a virtual environment where dozens of VMs scramble for a limited number of ports while blade servers subsequently struggle to house the physical space for their growing HBA demands. Couple this with the ever-nearing cost equivalence to their 4Gbps component counterparts and such advantages become unavoidable choices for end users.

Indeed it's the drive for ‘more throughput' in this virtualisation era that has really kicked the 8Gbps juggernaut into top gear. Pre-virtualisation world, (which surprisingly wasn't even that long ago yet already seems like an aeon) the relationship between server, application, SAN and storage were straightforward and one-dimensional. A single host with one application would connect to a dual redundant SAN fabric that in turn would be mapped to a single LUN. Today everything has multiplied, with a single physical server hosting numerous virtual servers and applications being connected to several storage interfaces and numerous LUNs.

Solutions such as N_Port ID Virtualization NPIV and N_Port Virtualization (NPV) have gone even further by enabling the virtualization of host and switch ports. Now via NPIV your single HBA can be termed an N_Port and consequently register multiple WWPNs and N_Port ID numbers. So now what was once just a single physical server can now house numerous virtual machines each with their own Port IDs, which in turn allows them to be independently zoned or mapped to LUNs. On the switch side, NPV presents the switch port as an NPIV host to the other switches. Hence expanding a SAN can be rapidly deployed without the burden of worrying about multiple domain IDs.

So while the case to upgrade to 8Gbps is on the offset quite compelling, further analysis would show that this isn't necessarily the case. Reality and not logic shows that a lot of the aforementioned advantages have been related to ‘guess work' and assumptions. Moreover and ironically the rush to 8Gbps is actually causing more problems than were previously existent within data centers unbeknownst to the majority of end users due to their inability to soundly monitor what's happening in the SAN. To begin with if we revisit the concept of FC bit rates and their constant increase from 2Gbps to 4Gbps and now 8Gbps, one should be aware that the consequence is a proportionally decreasing bit period. Hence this now shrunken window of data requires an even more robust physical infrastructure than before and becomes even more susceptible to potential errors - think Michael Schumacher driving his Ferrari top speed on the same public road Morgan Freeman took Miss Daisy.

While you may not have had performance issues with 4Gbps, by upgrading to 8Gbps and its greater sensitivity to light budget you instantly expose yourself to more bit stream errors, bit-error rates and multiple retries i.e. delays, disruption and performance degradation of your mission critical applications. Of course this isn't always the case but when FC cables are bent at 70 degrees or more, quality of optical transceivers / in-line connectors are not upgraded or small specks of dirt reside on the face of optical cable junctions, your environment suddenly becomes doubly susceptible to jitters and major errors on your SAN fabric. Factors which were previously transparent at 4Gbps become significant performance degraders in the highly sensitive mould of 8GBps.

So as organizations upgrade to 8Gbps without having taken these factors into consideration, we see countless troubleshooting and even HBA replacements as there is no real insight into these transmission errors from current SRM tools. Orange OM2 fiber-optic cables may get replaced for aqua OM3 fiber-optic cables and SFP transceivers swapped for SFP+ transceivers leaving administrators thinking they've solved the problem. Worst of all though such fire-fighting tactics often lead to a temporary elimination of performance problems, only to then without any explicable reason rear their ugly head like a persistent zombie from a horror flick that refuses to die.

Given the recent revelations in the industry that SAN fabrics are being over-provisioned on average by at least a factor of 5 times, there clearly is little reason for most companies to upgrade to 8Gbps. When all of your applications are receiving the bandwidth that only 5% of your applications actually need, going straight to 8Gbps leads to even poorer configuration and further waste. This scenario becomes even more complicated given the fact that server virtualization has led administrators to over- provision their SAN infrastructure in a fear that they can't accommodate their bandwidth requirements. Also with an increase of SSDs being deployed in the majority of enterprise infrastructures, going up to 8Gbps seems a natural way of making the most of their expensive disk investment. Problem is that having SSDs running on upgraded yet over-provisioned links which already suffer from jitters may give some performance improvement over their mechanical disk counterparts but are hardly running at optimum levels.

To solve such a dilemma and gain the true benefits of an 8Gbps upgrade it's important to have an instrument which captures both directions of every SCSI I/O transaction from start to finish on every link carrying your business-critical data. In a recent discussion with IBM's DS8000 specialist Jens Wissenbach, it was agreed that the solution of deploying TAPs on all the key links within the data center is the only way to truly detect the number of light levels, signal quality, throughput metrics, latency and response times, as well as protocol violations. With such real-time visibility into your FC infrastructure the administrator can quickly determine if any of the applications are in actual need of an excess to 4Gbps or where in fact the performance problems are coming from whether that be a bent cable, a speck of dirt or an outdated SFP.

TAPs such as those provided by the company Virtual Instruments, will soon be the natural replacement for patch panels across all enterprise data centers. But their role could also be the tool that allows end users to provision their SAN links to properly accommodate their SSD and VMware requirements without over-provisioning and being blinded by performance degradation that is beyond the scope of their SRM tool. So as Fibre Channel vendors are planning to start rolling out 16Gbps products for next year and with the news that the standard for 32Gbps Fibre Channel is already being worked on, it's imperative that such upgrades take place with the correct preparation so as to maximize the benefits of such an investment.

More Stories By Archie Hendryx

SAN, NAS, Back Up / Recovery & Virtualisation Specialist.

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that App2Cloud will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. App2Cloud is an online Platform, specializing in migrating legacy applications to any Cloud Providers (AWS, Azure, Google Cloud).
IoT is at the core or many Digital Transformation initiatives with the goal of re-inventing a company's business model. We all agree that collecting relevant IoT data will result in massive amounts of data needing to be stored. However, with the rapid development of IoT devices and ongoing business model transformation, we are not able to predict the volume and growth of IoT data. And with the lack of IoT history, traditional methods of IT and infrastructure planning based on the past do not app...
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. Jack Norris reviews best practices to show how companies develop, deploy, and dynamically update these applications and how this data-first...
Internet-of-Things discussions can end up either going down the consumer gadget rabbit hole or focused on the sort of data logging that industrial manufacturers have been doing forever. However, in fact, companies today are already using IoT data both to optimize their operational technology and to improve the experience of customer interactions in novel ways. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Gordon Haff, Red Hat Technology Evangelist, shared examples from a wide range of industries – including en...
Intelligent Automation is now one of the key business imperatives for CIOs and CISOs impacting all areas of business today. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Brian Boeggeman, VP Alliances & Partnerships at Ayehu, will talk about how business value is created and delivered through intelligent automation to today’s enterprises. The open ecosystem platform approach toward Intelligent Automation that Ayehu delivers to the market is core to enabling the creation of the self-driving enterprise.
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Consumers increasingly expect their electronic "things" to be connected to smart phones, tablets and the Internet. When that thing happens to be a medical device, the risks and benefits of connectivity must be carefully weighed. Once the decision is made that connecting the device is beneficial, medical device manufacturers must design their products to maintain patient safety and prevent compromised personal health information in the face of cybersecurity threats. In his session at @ThingsExpo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Grape Up will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct. 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Grape Up is a software company specializing in cloud native application development and professional services related to Cloud Foundry PaaS. With five expert teams that operate in various sectors of the market across the U.S. and Europe, Grape Up works with a variety of customers from emergi...
Detecting internal user threats in the Big Data eco-system is challenging and cumbersome. Many organizations monitor internal usage of the Big Data eco-system using a set of alerts. This is not a scalable process given the increase in the number of alerts with the accelerating growth in data volume and user base. Organizations are increasingly leveraging machine learning to monitor only those data elements that are sensitive and critical, autonomously establish monitoring policies, and to detect...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Massive Networks will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Massive Networks mission is simple. To help your business operate seamlessly with fast, reliable, and secure internet and network solutions. Improve your customer's experience with outstanding connections to your cloud.
Because IoT devices are deployed in mission-critical environments more than ever before, it’s increasingly imperative they be truly smart. IoT sensors simply stockpiling data isn’t useful. IoT must be artificially and naturally intelligent in order to provide more value In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Engineering System Architect at Greenwave Systems, will discuss how IoT artificial intelligence (AI) can be carried out via edge analytics and machine learning techn...
Everything run by electricity will eventually be connected to the Internet. Get ahead of the Internet of Things revolution and join Akvelon expert and IoT industry leader, Sergey Grebnov, in his session at @ThingsExpo, for an educational dive into the world of managing your home, workplace and all the devices they contain with the power of machine-based AI and intelligent Bot services for a completely streamlined experience.
With tough new regulations coming to Europe on data privacy in May 2018, Calligo will explain why in reality the effect is global and transforms how you consider critical data. EU GDPR fundamentally rewrites the rules for cloud, Big Data and IoT. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Adam Ryan, Vice President and General Manager EMEA at Calligo, will examine the regulations and provide insight on how it affects technology, challenges the established rules and will usher in new levels of diligence a...
In the enterprise today, connected IoT devices are everywhere – both inside and outside corporate environments. The need to identify, manage, control and secure a quickly growing web of connections and outside devices is making the already challenging task of security even more important, and onerous. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Rich Boyer, CISO and Chief Architect for Security at NTT i3, discussed new ways of thinking and the approaches needed to address the emerging challenges of security i...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera, that offers a radically new data management architecture, has been named "Exhibitor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo ®, which will take place on Oct 31 - Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera is transforming the traditional datacenter model through modern cloud simplicity. The technology industry is at another major inflection point. The rise of mobile, the Internet of Things, data storage and Big...
An increasing number of companies are creating products that combine data with analytical capabilities. Running interactive queries on Big Data requires complex architectures to store and query data effectively, typically involving data streams, an choosing efficient file format/database and multiple independent systems that are tied together through custom-engineered pipelines. In his session at @BigDataExpo at @ThingsExpo, Tomer Levi, a senior software engineer at Intel’s Advanced Analytics ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Datera will exhibit at SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Datera offers a radically new approach to data management, where innovative software makes data infrastructure invisible, elastic and able to perform at the highest level. It eliminates hardware lock-in and gives IT organizations the choice to source x86 server nodes, with business model option...
With 10 simultaneous tracks, keynotes, general sessions and targeted breakout classes, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo are two of the most important technology events of the year. Since its launch over eight years ago, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo have presented a rock star faculty as well as showcased hundreds of sponsors and exhibitors! In this blog post, I provide 7 tips on how, as part of our world-class faculty, you can deliver one of the most popular sessions at our events. But before reading the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named "Platinum Sponsor" of SYS-CON's 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business - from apparel to energy - is being rewritten by software. From planning to development to management to security, CA creates software that fuels transformation for companies in the applic...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place October 31 - November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 21st Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devic...