Accelerating Storage Operations (esp. Namespace) with SSD

Last year I wrote a post about solid-state disk (SSD) and flash coming to the enterprise market. Since then Isilon introduced its own line of hybrid SSD storage nodes built to accelerate metadata-intensive namespace operations such as those found in electronic design automation (EDA), large-scale digital archives, and financial quantitative analysis. Leveraging SSDs also helps accelerate traditional enterprise applications such as home directories and generic file sharing. It’s worth noting that since a key portion of the overhead on a random I/O (e.g. 4k blocks) is the associated uncached meta-data lookup, random access patterns will also benefit from leveraging SSD nodes.

I’m not the only one who thinks this is a very innovative use of flash/SSD; if you haven’t already check out Drunken Data’s take.

Isilon customers who have embraced our SSD line include ARM, UCLA LONI, and the Joint Genome Institute. ARM, for example, used our products to decrease back-up windows for mission-critical chip design data from 17 to 2 hours.

How do you know if you need to move your meta-data to a faster medium? Do you have workflows that conduct extensive treewalks, have arbitrary directory/file access (i.e. uncached), need to reduce first-access latency, or have a highly random I/O pattern?

If you’re an Isilon customer, you don’t need to guess about these things – get yourself a trial copy of InsightIQ™ and look at the heatmap for protocol operations. Is there a significant number of namespace operations (either read or write)? Look at the operation latencies – how do those compare to other operation latencies – are there periods of the workflow where these are higher than others? Of course, that is a tiny taste of the power of InsightIQ.

If you have an existing cluster, you can leverage SmartPools™ and seamlessly add hybrid SSD nodes into the mix. Individual workflows, directories, or files can be transparently moved to the accelerated tier – on command or automatically.

What do you think? Do SSDs sound exciting? Are you using them today and if so, in what way?

About the Author: Nick Kirsch