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Sunday, November 6, 2011

Fancy new Disk array technology

Well first off, I need to put a big disclaimer down.  These are my opinions, and my opinions only.  These to do not reflect the opinions of my employer, my spouse or my dog.

I was watching some twitter updates go by and this blogpost caught my eye. 
http://chucksblog.emc.com/chucks_blog/2011/10/shifts-happen.html

This blog was talking about new disk technology, and part of the covered the idea of FAST technology.  If you haven't heard of FAST (this is the EMC name, I'm sure other vendors have their own flavors), it is disk technology that moves blocks to the best tier of storage automagically. Really !  The idea is that you buy an array with 3 different tiers of disk.  Flash, Fibre channel, and Sata.  The disk array learns the patterns for the data access, and moves the data to the appropriate tiers.  Sounds great right  ?  It does make sense.. 
Let take an example...  Let say that you are a supplier and you supply parts for 100,000 small businesses.  You keep historical data their orders for 5 years for reference.  Whenever they place a new order you reference their latest orders to find patterns.

So following this workload you can guess what happens.. The current data for your customers stays in fiber channel (everything starts in fibre channel),  The old data gets migrated to sata, and your customer master data will most likely go the Flash.  All well and good.  Even though customers only order every month, their recent activity gets moved to a higher tier disk, and all that old history gets moved to Sata.  

Now lets throw in a physical standby, dataguard .

With dataguard, we are writing the new blocks of history, and they are not accessed (this is cold standby).  If you mix this data with other applications that are busy, all your data for the standby database is surely going to end up in Sata over time.. This makes perfect sense to the algorithms for the array.  This historical data (or even current data) isn't accessed. For your standby sata it is !!

Bang... Sinking feeling.... wham.. You do a failover. 

Now lets see what happens.. All your data is in Sata.  You are now accessing, and trying to give your customers the same performance they are used to.  You system is slow.  You have 100,000 business, that access data over the course of the month.  How long do you think it takes to move all the data from SATA to Flash or Fibre ?  It could take quite a while for your system to learn the new patterns, and during this time your old primary (now standby) has it's data pattern getting changed. The data is getting migrated to SATA.  You stay in your alternative site for a month, fail back, and guess what.. WHAM again.  The disk array has to learn the pattern again.

As I said, this is all conjecture, and solely my opinion.

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