White Paper

Analysis of IBM XIV Storage Customer Performance Experiences

An End-user Research-based Report
By Mark Peters, Senior Analyst

June 2013

This ESG White Paper was commissioned by IBM and is distributed under license from ESG.
© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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Contents
Introduction to the Research Project and Report ........................................................................................ 3 XIV Performance & Operational Value ......................................................................................................... 4
IBM XIV Storage: Product & Architecture ............................................................................................................... 5 Optimizing Flash Deployment ................................................................................................................................ 8

Additional XIV Performance Benchmark Validations ................................................................................. 10 The Bigger Truth ......................................................................................................................................... 12 Appendix ..................................................................................................................................................... 13

All trademark names are property of their respective companies. Information contained in this publication has been obtained by sources The Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) considers to be reliable but is not warranted by ESG. This publication may contain opinions of ESG, which are subject to change from time to time. This publication is copyrighted by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. Any reproduction or redistribution of this publication, in whole or in part, whether in hard-copy format, electronically, or otherwise to persons not authorized to receive it, without the express consent of The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc., is in violation of U.S. copyright law and will be subject to an action for civil damages and, if applicable, criminal prosecution. Should you have any questions, please contact ESG Client Relations at 508.482.0188.

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Introduction to the Research Project and Report
As IBM continues to enhance the XIV storage system with regard to specifications and functionality, increasing disk drive density, bringing it fully into the SPC arena and introducing new scaling capabilities, the timing seems perfect to step back and look at the product's performance in the real world. This paper presents findings from end-user research that the author has conducted with in-production XIV users to explore, evaluate, measure, and analyze the real world performance and operational value of the XIV storage offering. The general flexibility, ease of management, and cost value of the enterprise storage offered by the system has already been well documented. This report focuses on the product’s performance abilities. Rather than a conceptual review to affirm datasheet claims, it is designed to provide real user insights and experiences across applications and industries. The project objective was straightforward: to research the XIV Gen3 storage system performance and flash-caching through a series of interviews. The aim was then to examine XIV tier-1 performance capabilities, as evidenced through these customer experiences, using real world testing and production performance metrics, together with an analysis of the business impact of that performance. This paper tries to be granular and specific, covering the kinds of application workloads across which XIVs are being used, in what environments, and with what operational benefits. Some public benchmark testing is included for completeness. The paper is not intended to be a full-blown analysis; instead, it is meant to stay resolutely focused on performance for specific applications, with passing references to other business advantages.

Research Method and Initial User Commentary
This paper summarizes and evaluates the insights gathered from interviews conducted by ESG with nine users of IBM’s XIV Storage System.1 The organizations interviewed were split between the US and Europe and ranged in size from 120 employees to over 300,000, and from $40M to $70B in revenues. They all had substantial IT investments – from hundreds to many thousands of servers, with overall storage ranging from a half PB to 10PB. There was a relatively new user of XIV at less than 100TB, all the way to a large user with 3 years of XIV experience and a current XIV installation exceeding 3PB. The general view of the XIV product was extremely positive: when asked to rate the overall value of the product compared to other storage systems from 0 (useless) to 10 (excellent), the overall average score was 8.8; and when asked whether they would recommend XIV to a peer (0 representing “no way” and 10 “categorically”) the average score was 8.7. Much of this positive feeling can be attributed to some well-known aspects of XIV:      All respondents reported that the product had very attractive CAPEX and TCO. There was universal approval for the system’s GUI. It delivers management ease (essentially, not having to manage the XIV system!) and reduced OPEX. Most users voluntarily mentioned great reliability and availability; all praised the performance levels. Extensive advanced functions (snaps, replication etc) also gained praise.

In other words, XIV is “getting the job done” and is being used for a wide range of applications, including those described as performance-sensitive and mission-critical. As an added–and crucial–bonus, the system is seen to be saving significant amounts of money for these customers. Example statements 2 about the XIV system by the interviewees are:  “In general we find it to be a third the cost, twice the performance, and much easier to deploy and manage.”  “In short, the XIV offers mid-tier flexibility and cost with enterprise class performance and reliability.”

1

All the interviews for this report were in-depth, direct phone calls and were conducted by this report’s author in late Q4 2012 and during Q1 2013. Granular details about the interviewed users – industry verticals, company size, IT infrastructure etc – can be found in the appendix. 2 All italicized quotes in this paper are verbatim from the end-user interviews.

© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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 “We’ve probably almost doubled our storage footprint over the past three years. And we’ve kept our headcount flat. I would say that XIV has enabled us to keep headcount consistent…”  “Sure, there were management challenges with our previous platforms, but for the most part we were able to get them to do what we needed them to do. But the XIV is cheaper, faster, and easier to manage. The other arrays weren’t bad, but the XIVs are clearly better.” Performance Focus: As XIV has moved across generations (now Gen 3, with flash caching), how does its performance cope with a mixed range of demanding, tier-1 application workloads? The interviews conducted aimed at documenting users’ real-world application performance experiences. That is where this paper now turns its focus. For readers new to XIV, please see the “Product & Architecture” box on the next page.

XIV Performance & Operational Value
The organizations interviewed for this research project have up to many tens of billions in revenue and six-figure employee counts, and many are running XIV installations measured in petabytes. They are the very definition of enterprise-class operations, running tier-1 applications and demanding superb performance. ESG heard from the interviewees that they had moved from a whole gamut of competitive systems to XIV–everything from high-end EMC and HDS to a broad range of CLARiiON and NetApp devices. Most users were running “every app you can imagine,” and yet many reported a similar phenomenon regarding the inherent performance ability of XIV: “We found XIV could run many of our core, strategic workloads faster than our old Fibre Channel system.” Indeed, using simple logic, the breadth of applications being run on these XIVs together with the sheer scale of the organizations themselves would mandate a necessity for high performance….the repeat purchase of XIV by all the organizations with whom we spoke would strongly suggest that such performance is being achieved. The key findings from the interviews fall into some clear groupings:

XIV Is Delivering Impressive Performance for a Myriad of Major Applications
 Mixed Applications: Applications supported in the interviewees’ organizations ranged all the way to the most mission-critical tier-1 workloads. Furthermore, most of those interviewed are concurrently running a broad mix of heterogeneous applications on their XIVs –everything from databases, OLTP, and analytics to virtualization, e-mail, CRM, ERP and financial packages. As one (typical) user comment put it: "We support a lot of different applications. Some examples would be Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Lync, archive-based solutions such as Symantec Enterprise Vault. We have banking applications and SAP and those sorts of applications all running on the XIV devices. We have Oracle databases, SQL server databases, DB2 databases. We have large WebSphere deployments, lots of ERP, CRM business intelligence applications. We were seeing performance from day one. Moving from Gen2 to Gen3 has also brought us about four times ’ performance improvement.” While some users take a very generic approach to pooling and let the XIV architecture optimize workloads, some users exercise a little more direction to ensure that the varying performance capability of different XIV generations is optimally applied: “We started with a single Gen2 four years ago. We started running everything on the Gen 2, but we have four Gen 2s and one Gen 3 now. The way we have laid things out is that the Gen 2s are doing all of our file storage and disk pools for our Tivoli backup system, and the Gen 3 became our VMware, Exchange, and database SAN. We’ve split it out that way so that the faster one has the more transactional data. On the Gen 3 we’re running Oracle, we’re running Star, which is a Mumps database…Windows SQL databases are there: 2008, 2005, SQL 2000. There’s our VMware, and we’re also running an ‘i’ series on the Gen 3. Our TSM databases are there, so that’s DB2. And, did I say Exchange?”

© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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IBM XIV Storage: Product & Architecture
IBM has been shipping its IBM XIV Storage System since 2008, and has had growth every year since. Some 65% of sales of the latest Gen 3 product now include SSD (up to 6TB per system is possible). Product Strategy: The XIV system was developed as a distinct approach to general purpose disk storage to address some of the major drawbacks of conventional approaches. Perhaps the most notable issue in regular systems is the frequency with which applications need to access a few disks concurrently, resulting in bottlenecks that quickly lead to increasing access times. The traditional way around this challenge has essentially been to make storage faster by brute force using faster disks, sometimes helped by caching. The XIV system takes a fundamentally different approach by not only distributing data but by doing so using unique pseudo-random data placement algorithms that prevent hotspots and by placing small 1MB “chunks” evenly over all of the disks. This, combined with XIV’s massive processing capability and the available SSD-based caching acceleration, ensures that traditional bottlenecks are mostly eliminated (for data protection–instead of traditional RAID or large-scale stripe sets–the chunks are mirrored to another disk on another data module in the system). The result is a completely balanced system, irrespective of the workload. Key Elements: Furthermore, the XIV system is one of the first mainstream storage systems to be constructed exclusively from industry-standard components rather than the specialized and vendor-specific components to which the enterprise storage market is more accustomed. It is composed of three major parts:

Modules are self-contained storage units with six-core processors and up to 48GB RAM cache. Each module contains 12 disks. All data accesses can involve multiple data modules and, in this way, the massive parallel power–the current vernacular for this would be a “grid”–of the XIV system can be brought to bear and yet the approach means large-capacity 7.2k RPM drives can be used effectively. Redundant 20 gigabit InfiniBand switches (helpful for sequential performance) connect the data modules. Each frame of the XIV system includes three self-contained UPS systems.

 

Major Functional Benefits: The architecture is a powerful combination of software functionality (the “special sauce,” if you like) with commodity components for the underlying physical system. Beyond the obvious cost benefits this delivers, there are some highly attractive implications for users:
    

Hot-spots are all-but-precluded, regardless of workload. XIV also utilizes the entire system bandwidth. The flash-caching implementation allows for a low relative cost of the solid-state because the distributed cache architecture means fewer SSDs are needed. Its single tier disk architecture meets performance requirements while simplifying administration; for instance, snapshots and even hardware failures barely impact performance levels. It is extremely simple to manage and operate (storage reporting is integrated and comprehensive). It delivers enterprise-class reliability, features, and functionality, including such things as QoS Performance Classes to further optimize particular application workloads.

Recent Enhancements: The latest (February and June 2013) improvements to XIV have added a variety of aspects. Some deliver operational value (reduced power consumption and lightning fast disk rebuilds for instance), while others continue to drive the performance higher. For example the addition of 10Gigabit iSCSI can drive aggregate array throughput up by a factor of five, and myriad processing improvements mean that sequential read rates can now go as high as 13.7GB/sec. IBM is also–pragmatically–now offering 4TB drives and– proactively–embracing the new era of computing with things such as on-the-go monitoring of XIV via Android and iOS devices and helping users achieve broad cloud management solutions by offering latest support for OpenStack.

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Exchange:3 E-mail remains the leading driver of storage capacity growth 4 and therefore also a driver of performance needs: “[When Exchange 2010 starts performing maintenance jobs,] the IOPS go through the roof. [With XIV], it’s not actually a bottleneck of any kind. [Usually], the boxes do about 11 to 12,000 IOPS a second. Occasionally, they peak at about 30,000. Generally, the performance stays perfectly OK. Nobody rings up and calls to say otherwise.” The benefits of excellent performance can deliver business benefits in less expected ways too: “We had 10,000 users migrating e-mail to Exchange and [our supplier] did not think we were going to finish in 72 hours. We hooked up to the Gen 3 and directly connected the Exchange message storage and Group-wide message storage to the SAN. We completed the entire migration in 22 hours. [The suppliers] said they had never done a migration that large that fast. We were going to become the new standard for how to do things. They attributed it to the storage.”

Oracle: The exceptional performance (some users can only be described as “giddy” about how good it is) is also achieved very simply, as the architectural approach of XIV (which is consistent across its generations) takes all the management strain away from users –there is no tuning required to achieve high efficiency and performance. As one end-user said, “We had performance issues with our business intelligence platform from Oracle. The XIV was being touted as a high performance platform that we could consolidate our storage on to significantly improve BI performance. It did… not only that, but we used it for more than BI. XIV is now our strategic storage platform.” Also, IBM has many published case-studies for XIV in Oracle environments: one healthcare provider claims the XIV value to be about performance (ultrahigh and scales with capacity) as well as smooth functioning for IT (for example with tasks such as cloning now achieved in half the original time and disk rebuilds without performance degradation). This kind of dual testimony is typical, and a reflection of XIV operational value. Another testimony by a telco is more quantitative: prior to flash-caching, the response time varied from single milliseconds to 15+ms. Deploying XIV flash-caching made their response time not only consistent but usually around 2ms or less, and with more work handled.

SAP: XIV's performance value with SAP helps demonstrate the system's broad application suitability. An IBM case study details the benefits experienced by a business services organization: XIV storage achieved 65,000 IOPS and reduced response times for its end-users from 4/5 seconds to less than two. Moreover the SAP system refresh (SAP Cloning) that had previously required eight hours to complete is now taking just 15 minutes, and SAP batch jobs run concurrently, rather than needing to be scheduled according to disk array performance. This example further illustrates how performance is not just about headline results on shiny leading applications but can also improve the less sexy aspects of storage–for this user, backup time had been reduced 50% due to XIV performance. SQL/DB2: XIV performance is pretty much agnostic in terms of the workload it benefits. These are a couple of refreshingly honest and direct quotes from the interviews: o “Our SQL programmer for financials told me that in 6 years on the job he’s never been at his desk when a single query wasn’t running SOMEWHERE on the system. At 8:30am on Friday morning, everything was done. Some things he expected to be done by noon were done before 7am.” equivalent of 47 less processing days running background jobs each month. We got a 63% improvement in our background jobs in SAP when we added the solid-state on the XIV.”

o “When we added the solid state…my SAP DB2 database guy said that the database is spending the

VMware: While some applications are inherently demanding in performance, the other factor that often drives the overall performance requirement is virtualization. Just about all the organizations interviewed were pushing virtualization hard and supporting it on their XIVs. The “I/O blender” effect of such

3 4

The applications in the subsections below are presented in alphabetical order. Source: ESG Research Report, 2012 Storage Market Survey, November 2012.

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virtualization is well known. According to the users with whom ESG spoke, XIV is well suited to not just the level of performance per se, but also to the level of change (in terms of scalability and flexibility) that is typical of such environments: “Initially, we brought…in [XIV] and deployed it in the VMware environment. Since then we’ve expanded its use into databases, including SQL and Oracle….it’s tier one availability, tier one performance, but at a tier two cost.” The kinds of enhanced capabilities IBM continues to make to the XIV are helping users drive the product ever deeper into their core workloads: “When moving from Gen 2 to Gen 3 we did some tests for provisioning VMware guests. A ‘templated’ deployment of 80 gig Windows 2008 boxes used to take us about 20 minutes. But with Gen 3 and the VMware APIs–since the Gen 3 can do it, and didn’t have to go to vCenter–it takes 30 seconds.” Further, specific details of the value delivered in VMware environments are neatly summarized in yet another user’s experience: “When we upgraded from Gen 2s to Gen 3s we do things more quickly. If we’re deploying 100 new VMs, rather than taking 100 times 30 minutes, or 50 hours, it’s now 50 minutes.” Dramatic impacts on performance are common across other IBM customer reports: one customer is on record crediting XIV with increasing performance by 300 percent in a complete VMware solution and enabling the user to provision new storage within 30 minutes, while retaining the necessary tier-1 7x24 availability. And yet when it comes to performance, nothing speaks as loudly as raw numbers, such as those provided by these two interviewees: o “Another success story is our largest ESX farm , which is on a 12 module XIV pair. It runs 15,000 IOPS all day long with a reported latency stuck on 0ms (it occasionally blips to 1ms). In other words, the average performance is consistently under 0 .5ms so it gets reported as 0ms.” Such performance is clearly of immense value across all IT environments–be they physical, virtual, or cloud-based. “This is just off the charts. We’re able to do VMotion: one of the guys here said it used to take him 10 minutes and it now takes under a minute.”

o

XIV’s Architecture Stands Apart
 Basic Architectural Value: The XIV system was developed as a totally distinct approach to disk storage (see the ”Product & Architecture” box): one of the key elements in its “secret sauce” is that it handles data distribution with unique pseudo-random data placement algorithms that prevent hotspots. Moreover, when SSD caching is added to XIV it is integrated with the same architecture and intelligence, meaning its ability to drive performance improvement–whether measured as latency or bandwidth–is also multiplied compared to other “vanilla” solid-state implementations. In other words, the SSD caching implementation makes efficient, highly focused use of SSDs to deliver maximum value, generating a huge leap in performance with minimal use of resources (see the box “Optimizing Flash Deployment”). Performance Gains Using XIV Gen 3: The product upgrade to Gen 3 was a significant one by IBM, and no more so than in the performance available to its users. The quote below speaks volumes to both the extent and value of the additional “elegant brute force”: o “When we moved from Gen 2 to Gen3, we saw nighttime batch improvements from 20 to 30% of our run times. Where we had windows that were tight, all of a sudden we were able to buy back a lot of free time for our batch windows, which allows us to start getting the trucks rolling a little earlier. So that was a big win.” “Before we were on XIV we had midnight processing starting at 12:00, and we had times when people would get in to work at 8:00 in the morning and it would still be running. They would have problems getting patients registered and sometimes that went till 9:00 or 10:00. When we went to the Gen 2, midnight processing was finishing in five hours, and as we moved to Gen 3 we’re finishing at about 2:30. Now we’re on the SSD and that’s a new story. We finish in about 35 minutes!”

o

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Optimizing Flash Deployment
Flash-caching was introduced to the XIV product in the Gen 3 release, done in a manner symbiotic to XIV’s architecture (while maintaining operational ease) and accretive to the system’s performance and value. Flash in XIV is not deployed as a tier but, instead, is an extension and improvement to the existing cache. This means its impact (improved performance in terms of both bandwidth and response time) is across the entire system, which helps drive better overall price/performance and expands the range of applications for which it can be used effectively. A core element of XIV is to use extremely high capacity HDDs, and the flash-caching means this can continue even as performance is driven higher (in more traditional, and less capable, architectures, the limited number of actuators would quickly become a problem). The flash-cache can be 25X the RAM cache, meaning the odds of something being in flash-cache are much higher than when relying on RAM alone. Things that were once thought all-but impossible, like serving OLTP performance needs using high capacity HDDs (XIV always had impressive performance, but flash-caching has taken it to another level), can now be done (as evidenced by the user testimony and public benchmarks contained in this paper). This delivers simultaneously on the three major requirements that users have of storage: reliability, economy, and performance. IBM has continued to improve XIV’s flash-caching. When IBM first introduced flash acceleration on XIV in 2012, it was done in a manner consistent with the “XIV philosophy”: it used “standard” (COTS, or “commercial off-theshelf”) flash drives with the XIV intelligence / innovation / “special sauce” being software-based…and that software too, of course, running on XIV’s general purpose CPUs (an approach that allows for regular, non-disruptive updates). An example of some of the dramatic generational performance improvements is shown in Figure 1: Figure 1. IOPS Improvements with XIV Flash-caching Generations

Source: IBM & Enterprise Strategy Group, 2013. The 40K boost in maximum IOPS for a typical database workload is achieved by moving the checksum storage (a checksum is made for every page in the flash-cache to protect against media errors and silent corruption) from the flash in-line with the data to a persistent in-memory data structure distributed across all the modules in the XIV grid. This takes the potential performance boost of XIV flash-caching to 4.5X the non-flash version… which is very valuable to performance hungry and/or sensitive workloads such as databases.

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o o 

“We did extensive performance testing with the Gen3 two terabyte unit. We generated upwards of 200,000 IOPS on a single XIV array with acceptable response time.” “We have not seen a single millisecond of latency since we did the upgrade. We’ve gone from 6ms latency across the entire SAN, with some systems spiking to 20ms at times, to 0 latency.”

The Business Impact of Performance: Some of the user quotes above touch on the operational and business benefits of performance (as opposed to just “better IT”). This is crucial–after all, IT is always a means to an end and rarely an end in itself. Latest model XIV performance virtues only have relevance if they bear themselves out in real-world benefit. That value can be seen in the following real scenarios that various interviewees accredited to the performance of their XIVs:

o Delivery trucks can leave earlier and hence be more productive/less expensive.
o o Patients are neither delayed nor precluded from registering at the hospital, and thus they get faster treatment. A cloud service provider has been able to deploy IT services and virtual platforms much faster, thereby increasing client satisfaction and reducing costs, leading to the potential for a differentiated product offering.

XIV Users Attest to Strong XIV Performance
 Performance “Groupies”: Users testified to “stellar” XIV performance across diverse applications and industries, and across traditional data centers, virtualized environments, and in cloud infrastructures, as shown in this typical comment: “With the SSDs, we saw read response times from our SAP and DB2 go from 8 or 9 milliseconds, keep going down, and finally settled into about the 2.5 millisecond range.” What has also been very intriguing is that while the customers are delivering the evidence of XIV’s performance, their “depositions” are often couched in the language of the enthusiastic fans they have become–talking about “mind-blowing” performance improvements, and business benefits that are “knocking it out of the park.” Performance Gains with Flash-caching: When IBM added SSD to the XIV option list, it was not just added “in front” of the storage back-end (as is practiced by other storage vendors with their controllers); nor was it sitting as a “trapped” and relatively expensive drive as a fixed part (or tier) in the storage arrays itself…in XIV the addition of SSD follows the architectural model and is added to each module and implemented as a “flash-cache.” Both the architecture and deployment serve to derive the maximum benefit from a relatively small amount of solid-state. Users interviewed for this report that are in production with SSD-enabled XIVs are genuinely stunned at the impressive performance improvements they are witnessing: o “On our Gen3s with SSD used for our largest databases (Oracle) we typically see read hit ratios of 85% on a workload that is 80% reads. Of those hits, roughly two thirds are from SSD. The resulting latency is usually around 1ms for a workload of around 15,000 IOPS and 200 MB/sec.” “Our workloads are such that we don’t need to consider anything other than the largest capacity drives in our XIVs. In other words, on our XIVs we always run out of capacity before horsepower. An example of our workload for our primary daily Oracle-based application runs at around 20K IOPS and 300 MB/sec. On our Gen3s with SSD these are seeing cache hit ratios of greater than 75%, with about two thirds of that on SSD. Overall latency is consistently at or below 1ms on the 9 module and 3ms on the 6 module setup.” “[Our] STAR Financials [workload] has seen dramatic drops in query times. Day 1, we saw queries drop from 11 hours to 2.5. Some went from 9 hours to 2 ...from what we see, IOPS are up, latency is down, and query times are just mind blowing.”

o

o

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Additional XIV Performance Benchmark Validations
In a paper devoted to the performance capabilities of XIV, it makes sense to mention some of the benchmark testing IBM has completed for the product. While the customer experiences offer real-world “variables-present” assurance and credibility to those considering the product, even the broad range of environments represented in this project might not reflect a user’s needs. Even if they neither always accurately reflect daily IT life nor convey the business impact of customer stories, benchmarks ultimately offer a baseline quantitative measurement for comparison. The key takeaways from some relevant benchmark tests are:  ESRP: The ESRP testing was conducted with an XIV Gen 3 (non SSD) configuration in late 2011 (and IBM says it plans to publish an update in the second half of 2013). Across the two-hour performance test, Microsoft recommends that the average disk drive read/write performance for the database, as well as the average write performance for the log drives, must each be less than 20ms… and the average maximum should be below 40ms. With a response time between 2ms and 17 ms, XIV was found to offer a good “safety net” between those recommended targets and even its worst-case average latency for database reads of 17ms. SPC-1: The SPC-1 results for XIV were published in the same month as this paper. The SPC-1 benchmark is a single workload designed to demonstrate the performance of a storage subsystem; it focuses on predominantly random read and write I/O activity as might be expected in typical business-critical workloads such as e-mail, OLTP, and database applications. The results consider not just raw performance (which is interesting to many) but also price-performance (which is crucial to just about everyone). With flash-caching, the XIV system delivered 180,000 IOPS at a response time of 3ms or less. The point is that XIV could produce an OLTP-suitable performance while using not only a fraction of the number of drives that other systems would require, but also 7.2k RPM drives… both factors that equate to a lower cost and therefore to XIV’s excellent price-performance. SAS: XIV (Gen 3) was part of the testing of a SAS 9.3 grid deployment on IBM Power servers, with the results published in March 2013. The SAS 9.3 grid had four nodes running IBM AIX 7.1 on an IBM Power 780 with IBM GPFS and XIV Gen3. It executed the equivalent of a 40-simultaneous-job analytic workload with 144 jobs, in 45 minutes. The 40-session mixed analytic workload generated 4200 MB/sec sustained throughput and 4675 MB/sec peak throughput for the XIV Gen3 Storage System (which translates to 300 MB/sec/core throughput, considering that the grid had 14 cores assigned). IBM’s own comparative testing of Gen 2 and Gen 3 + SSD XIV systems supporting SAS workloads provides further validation of the value of flash-caching combined with the inherent abilities of the XIV architecture. The Gen 3 XIV with flash-caching not only enabled a doubling in throughput (MB/sec) but did so at the same time as response time was cut by 86%. The point is that intelligent data management and flash usage mean that high capacity drives and low rotational speeds need not preclude XIV from offering excellent enterprise-class performance. A Note on Virtualization & Clouds As the users’ results and benchmark measurements convey, XIV features the kind of high performance that is required to support virtualized and/or cloud computing environments. The product’s architecture is ideally suited to support the demands (throughput, performance, flexibility) of such dynamic environments, where change is constant and unpredictable. As mentioned before, XIV is tuning-free and can provide requisite consistent performance. XIV is also well suited as the IT and storage world demands increasing scale. IBM is now publicly discussing its "Hyper-Scale" model and related technologies already implemented in XIV. The IBM Hyper-Scale vision aims to enable administrators to establish large data farms composed of multiple systems, in which "containers" can be added to and become part of a "hyper store." IBM Hyper-Scale Manager is a UI technology implemented in XIV's updated UI that is designed to support the management of multiple frames as, ultimately, a single large system, and already provides users with consolidated management of as many as 144 XIV systems. IBM Hyper-Scale

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Mobility is a technology for allowing storage to be migrated among containers transparently. In the longer term, it is planned to support migrations that can be governed by management policies and to provide QoS capabilities. In its current implementation in XIV, it offers users volume mobility between XIV systems without application disruption. The reason to mention this here–aside from it being interesting!–is that the ever-increasing flexibility and elasticity for managing cloud and/or large deployments that this represents simply cannot work without a high performance, highly malleable storage foundation to underpin it. In contrast to more traditional models (which typically treat data migration as an exception), IBM Hyper-Scale Mobility is designed to provide a standard approach to accommodate those requirements–such as workload balancing and system repurposing–that are endemic in a virtualized and/or cloudy world.

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The Bigger Truth
By now, hopefully, the point is made: XIV can categorically be used for demanding, high-performance, dynamic workloads, such as databases and OLTP, whether these are running in “regular,” virtualized, or private cloud environments. Potential users of the product can rest assured that XIV has more than enough “oomph” to address whatever most users are likely to throw at it. The scale–of size, capacity, and application mix–and the enthusiastic success of the end-users interviewed for this study demonstrates this clearly. As testimony to the system’s value, it is clearly significant that all the companies interviewed for this report had purchased additional XIV units after their initial acquisitions. Fortunately, enough of those interviewed had specific information about their applications and performance results to provide valuable guidelines to existing users and prospects alike. Yet it is interesting to note that probably one of the clearest testimonies for the product came from a user who attested to not knowing many performance specifics… their XIV infrastructure isn’t much on their radar, because “it just sits there and gets on and everyone is happy!” The XIV platform continues to improve, and continues to drive performance up. New users considering the move to XIV from some “regular” storage system can reasonably expect to significantly improve their performance–and to do so with ease, with consistency, and with most likely a pleasing reduction in their costs, to boot. Although the focus of this paper is very much about the delivery—and value—of high performance by the XIV storage system, there are indeed some other points that it would be remiss not to at least mention: 1) Reliability: Performance without availability is clearly no performance at all. The following quote is typical of what we heard from the interviewees: “We’ve never had an outage on XIV. I don’t even know how to spell that word when it comes to the XIV.” 2) TCO: XIV was always designed to be highly cost-effective. Again, all the interviewees attested to the fact. In the contemporary world of budgets that tend to grow at a slower rate than the IT demands they are supposed to serve, this is clearly an attraction. IBM’s ability to deliver not only economy and reliability with its XIV (using the slower spinning, larger capacity HDDs) but also tier-1 application performance (via its grid architecture and flash-caching) is almost an embarrassment of riches! Let’s return to close out on the performance focus: IBM likes to say that with XIV, “performance is a feature, not a goal.” ESG’s research set out to verify XIV as a high-performance, enterprise class storage platform. After discussions with numerous large IT organizations that have deployed XIV extensively in complex, dynamic, and invariably virtualized, environments, the findings give more than enough evidence to proclaim the case proven. Moreover–and this is a crucial point–for customer organizations, such enterprise-class performance is rarely an end in itself. It is, instead, a means to a “business end”—and the user-interviews revealed many valuable business impacts stemming from XIV’s performance capabilities. From improved testing and faster time-to-market, to more effective and timely billing, and from improved patient care to getting delivery trucks out on the road sooner, there are ample proof points as to where and how XIV’s performance is in turn helping the performance of its customers’ businesses. What is abundantly clear from the end-user interviews conducted by ESG is that XIV‘s performance ability is proving more than enough to support—and often thrill the IT professionals who manage—wide-ranging, high-performance, mission-critical workloads in extremely large and demanding IT organizations.

© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

White Paper: IBM XIV Storage

13

Appendix
Organizations Interviewed
The organizations interviewed for this research are described in Table 1 5. Since most of the interviewees required anonymity, it was decided to withhold all the company names. The descriptions given in the table show the excellent range of vertical industries and scale of the organizations consulted! Also note that in the last 3 years or so ESG has spoken in depth to over 80 XIV users and is therefore confident that the insights in this paper are generally representative of what XIV can deliver to a wide ranging user and workload community. The end-user contacts were provided by IBM: it is worth noting that a couple of the organizations had worked through some issues with their XIV product to reach their current very-satisfied state and that one user was still not entirely happy (although performance was not the issue and, it should be noted, the same organization continued to purchase more systems). The fact that the contacted customers were not simply a sanitized group of just the most committed users adds value and credibility to the insights gleaned. Table 1. Interviewee Organization Demographics

Industry
Manufacturing and Distribution Facilities Management Financial Services Manufacturing and Distribution Hosted IT Services Engineering and Manufacturing Healthcare (Not for Profit) Information Services Consulting & Professional Services

Geography
European (& Global) US (& Global) US US (Regional) European (Regional) US (& Global) US (Regional) European (& Global) European (& Global)

Revenue (USmillion)
$70,000 $4,000 $2,000 $1,600 $40 $60,000 $800 $10,000 $13,000

# Employees
300,000 100,000 12,000 6,000 120 150,000 8,500 30,000 120,000

Source: Enterprise Strategy Group, 2013.

Interviewee Infrastructures: Proving XIV Performance Value
Details of the general IT environments (servers, storage, etc.) for the end-users interviewed are in Table 2. There is a good range in the scale of XIV use and extent of XIV experience. All but one user has at least some Gen 3 devices alongside their Gen 2 XIVs and six are also using SSD. Some notes:  The wide range of workloads that these users have in production on their XIVs is testimony to the fact that XIV can indeed handle a heterogeneous range of applications and workload types, including missioncritical tier-1 applications. Furthermore, most of these XIV users are running a broad mix of applications simultaneously on their XIVs–everything from databases, OLTP, and analytics to e-mail and financial packages. To be explicit, the users represented in this report include some very large IT organizations that rely either significantly or indeed totally on their XIV infrastructures to support their enterprise/ tier-1

 

5

Sample titles for those interviewed include EVP of Global Information Services, Director of IS, Global Director of Storage and Engineering, Manager of Enterprise System Administration, and VP of Information Systems.

© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

White Paper: IBM XIV Storage

14

applications. Moreover, they are running hundreds of terabytes, if not petabytes, of XIV.  Without exception, the users interviewed for this report have purchased additional XIV units after their initial acquisitions, thereby moving up the XIV performance ladder.

These main points serve as the organizational basis for the research and product-value validation that follow. Each main section (general performance experiences, then application-breadth, followed by the performance advances users have achieved with Gen 3 models, and then again with SSD) includes commentary and direct quotes to not only quantify the performance achievements but also to illustrate the operational and business value of that performance. Table 2. Interviewee IT and XIV Implementation Details

Industry
Manufacturing and Distribution Facilities Management Financial Services Manufacturing and Distribution Hosted IT Services Engineering and Manufacturing Healthcare (Not for Profit) Information Services Consulting & Professional Services6

# Servers (and % virtualized)
12,000 (85%)

Overall Storage Capacity
7PB

#/capacity of XIV Systems
26 / >3PB

Running Gen3 (*= +SSD)
Y*

Length of XIV Experience
3 years

Key Applications Running on XIV Storage
SAP, Exchange, Multiple Databases, VMware Citrix, Exchange, SQL Server, SharePoint, FileNet, BI, ERP SQL Server, Oracle, VMware, Multiple In-House Apps SQL Server, Exchange, Oracle, DB2, SAP, JDE SAP, Oracle, DB2, SQL Server, WebSphere, Exchange, SharePoint Varied Commercial Applications EMR, Financials, PACS, Standard Commercial Apps VMware, Multiple Databases (SQL, Oracle and In-House) ERP, Informatica, Cognos

>1,000 (95%)

500TB

3 / 500TB

Y*

3 years

~4,000 (75%) 700 (96%) Varies (90%) >6,000 (85%) >500 (50%) Thousands (75%) Thousands (80%)

1.5PB 550TB 1.5PB ~10PB 500TB

16 / 1.4TB 5 / 550TB 10 / 700TB ~30 / >2PB 5 / 500TB

Y* Y* Y Y Y*

>2 years 4 years 2 years >2 years 4 years

9PB

23 / 2.9PB

Y*

>2 years

Multi PB

2 / 86TB

N

1 year

Source: Enterprise Strategy Group, 2013.

6

The specific XIV details for this entry apply to just one outsourced contract of the organization; the overall organization has not been evaluated.

© 2013 by The Enterprise Strategy Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

20 Asylum Street | Milford, MA 01757 | Tel: 508.482.0188 Fax: 508.482.0218 | www.esg-global.com

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