Changing the Economics of Flash Storage

Changing the Economics of Flash Storage

Flash technology has enabled significant performance increases compared with legacy storage systems. Even with the space, cooling and power savings that this technology brings to the table, the total cost of ownership (TCO) has prevented widespread adoption for general workloads. EMC has delivered a product called XtremIO, architected to make the best use of flash technology and at the same time maximize efficiency, enabling it to compete with traditional legacy storage arrays from a cost perspective.

XtremIO is more than a point solution, and as such, it can be implemented for many use cases. Here we focus on the Oracle database and on how XtremIO’s architecture addresses some specific challenges that go well beyond the performance benefits of an all-flash array.

What’s the problem?

The majority of companies we work with have multiple copies of their Oracle databases for Dev, Test, QA and Analytics. Some do a brute-force copy to create these environments using the very expensive CPU cycles of the Oracle server. Not only are the Oracle licenses expensive, but this inefficient use of storage creates multiple storage silos and is both cumbersome and time-consuming to refresh. Another method for making these copies is cloning. Cloning at the storage layer has the benefit of off-loading the copy activity from the server’s CPUs; it is very fast, and in most cases it doesn’t take up any additional space. The downside to this method is that most companies are reluctant to clone the production systems due to a legitimate fear that, given the limitations of spinning media, these Dev, Test or QA workloads will negatively impact the production performance. So while cloning is interesting, it is often implemented in a manner that is not storage efficient and creates additional storage silos.

How does it work?

XtremIO uses writable snapshots to create instant, space-efficient copies that can be used for the Dev, Test, QA and Analytics environments. Each of these copies has the same predictable performance and response times as production without impacting production performance and without the overhead on the Oracle server. Whether you have four copies or twenty copies of your production environment, the required storage is essentially the same, and it is easy to manage and fast to refresh. This symmetric, scale-out architecture eliminates hot spots, providing predictable performance and responses. You don’t have to spend time tuning the storage system, and you’ll get the same low-latency/high-bandwidth performance across all the environments.

XtremIO or RMAN?

Although XtremIO can back up Oracle, oftentimes we find that DBAs prefer to use RMAN to create backups, and there are some definite advantages to doing so. One obvious advantage is that RMAN will validate the blocks and record the backup in the RMAN repository. XtremIO can still add significant value by leveraging in-line deduplication and compression when RMAN-created image copies are produced.

What can you expect?

When we help a company streamline its processes for creating and refreshing its development environments, that company is able to significantly shorten its application development times and cut costs. What’s more, there are no surprises when an application is promoted to production, as can sometimes happen when disparate systems are used in the development life cycle.

How can it help you?

Are you running your Oracle servers’ CPUs anywhere close to their limits? The fact is that most companies have lots of idle CPU because their Oracle servers are waiting on storage. Idle CPU on your Oracle server costs money and doesn’t improve performance. There is huge potential from a licensing perspective to reduce cost by doing the same amount of work with less CPU or by doing a lot more work with the investment you have already made.

XtremIO is the next-generation storage architecture that will enable widespread adoption of flash technology because it changes the economics. The in-line deduplication, compression and instant snapshots enable storage efficiencies that bring the solution’s TCO down to a level that is worth consideration.

EMC World is just around the corner, so stay tuned for some exciting announcements over the next few weeks.

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