What high performance isn’t

We’ve had a number of interesting interactions with customers over the last few weeks. They all seem to center on, and around, how to get high performance out of gear which isn’t designed for high performance.

Generally speaking, you can’t.

High performance requires a mixture of design and implementation, with well designed and implemented parts.

High performance isn’t

  • A random collection of web and file servers joined together with clustering tools
  • Some random tier 1 box usually used as a lower end file server shoved with disks/ssd/Flash
  • A poorly architected, but easy to purchase system (e.g. makes IT happy, but the users sad)

I’ve talked in the past about IT clusters, and IT storage. We are seeing resurgences of these, but add to the mix, Microsoft Windows HPC server on the IT clusters (and the IT folks not knowing how to run/manage them), and (insert your favorite brand name tier 1 vendor here) IT storage, but now using a Flash card or SSD, or using Gluster to tie together individual disks on many units.

As I mentioned in the past, a pile-o-pc’s (and a blade system running windows is a pile-o-pc’s) is not a high performance cluster … its not even remotely such.

But the do-it-yourself phenomenon continues with Flash/SSD and Gluster now.

Whats wrong with this statement: “Hey, lets put an 80k IOP SSD into this machine, and our storage will be much faster”?

And whats wrong with this statement: “Hey, lets put an 100k IOP Flash card into this machine, and our storage will be much faster”?

And further, whats wrong with this statement: “Hey, lets tie our disks together with Gluster so we can get GB/s speed”?

All are decidedly not true. There are many things that impact performance, and when the rhetorical rubber meets the rhetorical road, people are often surprised at how little “much faster” actually is.

The Gluster bit just annoys me though. Gluster is a fine technology, and they have a great team. It is being marketed, to some degree, as “toss this on your random collection of boxes to make them go faster.” That isn’t gluster’s use case, and its wrong to market it in that manner.

But that is, in a general sense, how the storage software industry markets itself. Toss this on a random collection of boxen and stuff gets bigger, faster, better, tastier.

But its not. Its not high performance.

High performance is a careful balance of design and implementation, requiring attention to detail in hardware, software, and other elements of the stack. Anyone telling you any different is trying to sell you something.

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