Posts Tagged 'Drives'

October 18, 2011

Adding 'Moore' Storage Solutions

In 1965, Intel co-founder Gordon Moore observed an interesting trend:"The complexity for minimum component costs has increased at a rate of roughly a factor of two per year ... Certainly over the short term this rate can be expected to continue, if not to increase."

Moore was initially noting the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit at a relatively constant minimal cost. Because that measure has proven so representative of the progress of our technological manufacturing abilities, "Moore's Law" has become a cornerstone in discussions of pricing, capacity and speed of almost anything in the computer realm. You've probably heard the law used generically to refer to the constant improvements in technology: In two years, you can purchase twice as much capacity, speed, bandwidth or any other easily-measureable and relevant technology metric for the price you would pay today and for the current levels of production.

Think back to your first computer. How much storage capacity did it have? You were excited to be counting in bytes and kilobytes ... "Look at all this space!" A few years later, you heard about people at NASA using "gigabytes" of space, and you were dumbfounded. Fastforward a few more years, and you wonder how long your 32GB flash drive will last before you need to upgrade the capacity.

32GB Thumb Drive

As manufacturers have found ways to build bigger and faster drives, users have found ways to fill them up. As a result of this behavior, we generally go from "being able to use" a certain capacity to "needing to use" that capacity. From a hosting provider perspective, we've seen the same trend from our customers ... We'll introduce new high-capacity hard drives, and within weeks, we're getting calls about when we can double it. That's why we're always on the lookout for opportunities to incorporate product offerings that meet and (at least temporarily) exceed our customers' needs.

Today, we announced Quantastor Storage Servers, dedicated mass storage appliances with exceptional cost-effectiveness, control and scalability. Built on SoftLayer Mass Storage dedicated servers with the OS NEXUS QuantaStor Storage Appliance OS, the solution supports up to 48TB of data with the perfect combination of performance economics, scalability and manageability. To give you a frame of reference, this is 48TB worth of hard drives:

48TB

If you've been looking for a fantastic, high-capacity storage solution, you should give our QuantaStor offering a spin. The SAN (iSCSI) + NAS (NFS) storage system delivers advanced storage features including, thin-provisioning, and remote-replication. These capabilities make it ideally suited for a broad set of applications including VM application deployments, virtual desktops, as well as web and application servers. From what I've seen, it's at the top of the game right now, and it looks like it's a perfect option for long-term reliability and scalability.

-@nday91

March 17, 2010

Redrum

How many of you when you were kids were scared to death of the movie The Shining? I know I was. I think it still scares me today. The movie even made a little kid scary; his voice is what pulled it off. I can still get in trouble with my wife for getting our 6 year old to say "redrum" in a scratchy, scary voice.*

What do The Shining and redrum have to do with SoftLayer? We're all about redrum but only when it comes to destroying left over customer data. What do I mean by destroying customer data you ask?

When you have a server that you spent Capex on and have it in front of you and can touch it and set coffee on it or use it for a plant stand, you know where your data is. When you replace that server or upgrade the hard drive you can then do what most people do with the old one and chunk it in the dumpster or be a little more secure and format the hard drive or even a little more secure and take the drive out and smash it into pieces. Now, that is secure.

So what do you do when you outsource your hardware to a provider like SoftLayer? You put your old data in our hands and we redrum the data and make Jack Nicholson seem like an angel.

It is a little more difficult for us to protect your old data because we are an on-demand provider. When you cancel a server we reuse that server for another customer. You probably don't want your data in that new customers hands so we have to do a little more than format the drive and we can't just take it outside and bash it into pieces because then we couldn't reuse the drive. So we use a little technology to make sure your old data is safe.

When you cancel a server, it sits in limbo for a while just to make sure we can't change your mind and have you keep it. After the waiting period we erase the data. This is a destructive process, so when you do cancel a server, make sure you have the data you still require somewhere else. Our system uses algorithms developed by the Department of Defense and several independent agencies that are considered military grade as defined by the DOD 5220.22-M (sounds official right?). Utilizing this process residual drive data is destroyed. This process is monitored and logged and we can track the history of any drive. Once complete the drive is ready to be redeployed to a new customer.

I know you are thinking, "That isn't redrum," but what do we do with a drive when it is at the end of its productive life? If it's too small, not fast enough, or dead and out of warranty? We redrum it for sure! We complete the steps above and then send them offsite to get destroyed and then get them back after they are destroyed for tracking and verification of redrum! Yes, we could get them shredded but then we would have no proof they were destroyed. Here is what they look like when they return:

hard drive 1
Note the hole in the center.
hard drive 2
This is looking down from the "top".
hard drive 3
And last but not least, a view from the bottom. Note the platters are bent and protruding through the board.

*Just in case you haven't seen The Shining (Spoiler Alert) a small boy in the movie mumbles "redrum" in an eerie voice in the beginning of the movie. He continues to say it more and more and finally he writes it on the bathroom door. When you see it reversed in the bathroom mirror you then understand what he is saying.

-@Skinman454

October 16, 2009

Raid 1 or Raid 0: which should I choose?

When considering these 2 raid options there are a few points you’ll want to consider before making your final choice.

The first to consider is your data, so ask yourself these questions:

  • Is it critical data that your data be recoverable?
  • Do you have backups of your data that can be restored if something happens?
  • Do you want some kind of redundancy and the ability to have a failed drive replaced without your data being destroyed?

If you have answered yes to most of these, you are going to want to look at a Raid 1 configuration. With a Raid 1 you have 2 drives of like size matched together in an array, which consists of an active drive and a mirror drive. Either of these drives can be replaced should one go bad without any loss of data and without taking the server offline. Of course, this assumes that the Raid card that you are using is up to date on it’s firmware and supports hot swapping.

If you answered no to most of these questions other than the backup question (you should always have backups), a Raid 0 set-up is probably sufficient. This is used mostly for disk access speeds and does not contain any form of redundancy or failover. If you have a drive failure while using a Raid 0 your data will be lost 99% of the time. This is an unsafe Raid method and should only be used when the data contained on the array is not critical in anyway. Unfortunately with this solution there is no other course of action that can be taken other than replacing the drives and rebuilding a fresh array.

I hope this helps to clear up some of the confusion regarding these 2 Raid options. There are several other levels of Raid which I would suggest fully researching before you consider using one of them.

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April 6, 2009

Solid State Drives – In House Performance Stats

I love working at SoftLayer. I get to play with the newest hardware before anyone else. Intel, Adaptec, Supermicro… The list goes on. If they are going to release something new, we get to play with it first. I also like progression. Speed, size, performance, reliability; I like new products and technologies that make big jumps in these areas. I am always looking to push components and complete systems to the limits.

But alas, Thomas Norris stole my thunder! Check out his article “SSD: A Peek into the Future” for the complete skinny on the SSD’s we use. I seem to be a bit to concise for a nice long blog anyways. But not to worry, I’ve got some nifty numbers that will blow the jam out of your toes!

Solid State Drives (SSD) represent a large jump in drive performance. Not to mention smaller physical size, lower power consumption, and lower heat emissions. The majority of drive activity is random read/write. SSD drives have drastically improved in this area compared to mechanical drives. This results in a drastic overall performance increase for SSD drives.

This is a comparison of the Intel 32GB X25-E Extreme drive vs. other drives we carry. Note the massive jump in the random read/write speed of the SSD drive.

No more waiting on physical R/W heads to move around. How archaic!

Chart

Please note that no performance utility should be used to definitively judge a component or system. In the end, only real time usage is the final judge. But performance tests can give you a good idea of how a component or system compares to others.

Single drive performance increases directly translate into big improvements for RAID configurations as well. I have compared two of our fastest SATA and SAS four drive RAID 10 setups to a four drive SSD RAID 10 using an Adaptec 5405 Controller.

Chart

The Adaptec 5405 RAID controller certainly plays a part in the performance increase, on top on the simple speed doubling due to 2 drives being read simultaneously. (See my future blog on the basics or RAID levels, or check Wikipedia) .

Propeller heads read on:

The numbers indicate a multiplied increase if you take the base drive speed (Cheetah – 11.7mbps / X25-E – 64.8mbps) and double it (the theoretical increase a RAID 10 would give): 23.4mbps and 129.6mbps respectively. Actually performance tests show 27.3mbps and 208.1mbps. That means the Cheetahs are getting a 15% performance boost on random read/write and the X25-E a whopping 37% due to the RAID card. Hooray for math!

Once again, this is all performance tests and a bit of math speculation. The only real measure of performance, IMO, is how it performs the job you need it to do.

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