Archive for the ‘Database Applications’ Category

XtremIO & AppSync – Magic for Application Owners!

[This blog was written by Avishek Kumar, Product Manager for XtremIO]

When talking to our customers these days, I find very few people who want to understand what flash technology is – most of them are already on the path to using flash-based products in some way, shape or form. There is no point in telling them that flash is faster than spinning disk drives and that their application will run faster when they move it to flash – they already know that!  It’s not about flash vs. disk – each has a place.  It’s about making the best choice for an all-flash array.

Some of the thought provoking questions that I hear customers asking is – “how do I integrate XtremIO technology in my application stack in the most effective way?” and “does XtremIO enable new use cases and deployment models for my application that I have not even thought about yet?”  Our customers don’t just want their applications to run faster; they want their storage and application architecture to leverage all the other benefits XtremIO provides.  The integration between XtremIO and AppSync is a step in that direction. And this is what I will focus on in this blog.

AppSync for XtremIO

What is AppSync?

EMC AppSync allows you to manage XtremIO snapshots from an application perspective. In other words, it allows you to schedule the snapshot management activities in an “application aware” fashion.  It comes with additional goodies like being able to take (and delete) application consistent snapshots according to a pre-defined schedule and subscribing applications to a “service plan”.  AppSync provides integration for Oracle, SQL Server and VMware when working with an XtremIO storage array, with more application stacks coming in the future.

Simplified Replica Management

Okay – but how is it going to help me and why should I care?

A very good question for you to ask J AppSync is mainly beneficial for the following three use cases.

AppSync Use CasesLet’s go one level deeper and find out the benefits of this integration with XtremIO and some real world applications.

  • Databases (Oracle and SQL Server): Databases are they #1 customer use case for XtremIO.  Among other architectural benefits of the array, things like space & metadata efficient snapshots and inline, always-on compression make XtremIO a very attractive choice for our database customers.

However, the DBAs want us to go the extra mile and make it easier for them to take application consistent snapshots without having to go through the typical headaches.  AppSync provides exactly that capability. With AppSync, you can discover the database – which means that AppSync will automatically know the LUNs on which your database is provisioned.  When you want to take an application consistent snapshot for the database (manually or through a scheduler), AppSync will:

    • Quiesce the database in the background
    • Create an application consistent snapshot on XtremIO
    • Enable the database for normal processing
    • If you want, AppSync can automatically mount the snapshots to another server for test/dev, reporting, or backups and repurpose the database.

AppSync Provisioning Management

  • Server Virtualization (VMware): The second most popular use case for XtremIO is in a virtualized environment.  Virtualized applications typically have lot of deduplication and compression friendly datasets and the applications exhibit high amounts of random I/O – ideal conditions for XtremIO. But there are some unique challenges that AppSync helps solve in such use cases. For example, let’s assume you have a VMware datastore with 50 virtual machines and you take a snapshot of that datastore through AppSync.  Now, you can do any of the following:
    • You can restore the entire datastore – wherein all the virtual machines on that datastore will be restored to their previous state. Assuming that you have taken multiple snapshots, AppSync will allow you to choose the snapshot that you want to restore the datastore to, but this is not all that you might want to do in certain situations.
    • You may not want to restore/penalize all users using the VMs on that datastore just because one specific VM needs to be restored. With AppSync, you can restore a particular virtual machine within the datastore to a previous state. That’s right – AppSync will identify all the VMs that exist on that datastore and allow you to restore a specific VM, if you wanted to.
    • You may not want to restore the entire datastore or even the entire VM – you may want to restore a particular file within a specific VM on a specific datastore. Guess what – AppSync allows you to do that too!

There are some customers who want to be able to do all storage related activities – which includes XtremIO and AppSync operations – from within the vCenter environment. You could already do that for XtremIO using the VSI plugin for XtremIO.  With the VSI plugin 6.4 release, AppSync is also supported through the VSI plugin and you can configure protection, run AppSync service plans, mount datastores, restore files – all from within vCenter!

AppSync & VSI Plugin

The Sky is the Limit!

All the use cases and examples discussed above are very powerful, but more importantly – storage operations are now becoming much simpler and intuitive for the application administrator.  We already have customers who are leveraging XtremIO snapshots for their database copies and for the first time the application owners are not worried about the performance and storage capacity needed by all the database copies. AppSync makes this story even better!  Use the AppSync free 90 day trial and give it a try.

AppSync Free Trial

The opportunities and potential use cases with AppSync are endless. Think about more enterprise applications that we can support, think about more application operations that can be supported, think about being able to handle replication through AppSync – and you get the idea!  To learn more, check out the demo below for what AppSync can do today (Thank you Itzik!) – and stay tuned for more goodies to come soon.

How to Go Green, Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

XtremIO was recently a named a winner of the Green Enterprise IT (GEIT) award for 2012 by the Uptime Institute, an independent education and consulting division of The 451 Group. An international panel of judges selected XtremIO in the IT Product Deployment category for installation of an XtremIO 100% flash enterprise storage array at a well-known global manufacturer where it dramatically reduced environmental requirements (data center floor space, power consumption and cooling requirements) for a large SAP/Oracle application, while simultaneously improving SAP processing times by an order of magnitude and eliminating complex configuration and performance tuning requirements. XtremIO won the award in good company. The other finalist in our category was Cisco. Other 2012 winners include Facebook, Verizon, Bell Canada, NTT, HP, eBay, and Dell.

XtremIO and other GEIT winners will be honored at the Uptime Institute Symposium in Santa Clara, CA, on May 14-17. XtremIO will present a case study about our customer’s award-winning initiative and how they have benefited far beyond the green computing advantages. For those not attending the Uptime Institute event, here’s the story behind the award.

Our customer is the European division of a leading global manufacturing company with a large Oracle/SAP environment that places high I/O demands on its database storage system. Historically, these I/O demands were met with ever-increasing numbers of hard disk drives in an enterprise storage system, leading to high levels of inefficiency, energy consumption, and difficulty adapting to growth.

The SAP system, as is typical, has both a production database and several copies for development and test. There is also a data warehouse with its own development and test copies. In total, the existing storage environment spanned two full racks of equipment (120 enterprise class 15K RPM hard drives in a RAID 10 configuration for production, plus a similar number of SATA drives for development and test) and the production environment peaked at 30,000 IOPS while straining to support 1,200 users across Europe who rely on the system for business processes such as inventory, accounts payable, accounts receivable, and sales. Multiple processing jobs and analytics are run against the environment, with processing times having an important impact on the organization’s ability to plan, execute, and report on its business.

The existing storage environment was purchased from a leading vendor at a cost of several hundred thousand dollars. Since the system was reliant on RAID 10 in order to deliver adequate performance, capacity utilization metrics were very low (50% of capacity is lost just to data protection, and capacity is massively over-provisioned in order to reach desired IOPS levels). See our blog post on this topic. The production storage system alone physically required 40U of rack space (one complete rack), consumed approximately 3.85 kilowatts of electricity and required 13,100 BTU/hr of cooling capacity in the data center. Power, cooling and rack space charges accrued at their hosting provider contributed over $100K per year to the customer’s operating expenses.

The XtremIO solution was a radical change from the bulky, expensive, power-hungry disk array. But not just because of the exceptional environmental efficiency. XtremIO provided a better operational model for administering the complex Oracle/SAP environment.

When the XtremIO array was installed, several things immediately changed:

  • SAP/Oracle processing times were accelerated from 5-10x, depending on the job. A single 3U XtremIO building block (remember that our system scales out, but in this case the customer’s needs were met with a single building block) delivered 147,000 IOPS compared to the 30,000 of their existing production system. Amazingly, XtremIO could have gone even faster! The customer’s SAP servers became the bottleneck in the system once the storage I/O bottleneck was removed. Further acceleration is anticipated once the customer upgrades their SAP servers.
  • The environmental footprint was substantially reduced. The existing disk system (two racks for production and development/test) burning over 7 kilowatts of electricity could be completely supplanted with a 3U appliance consuming 1/10th the power. This alone would pay for the XtremIO array over a few years.
  • The ongoing tasks of provisioning and tuning Oracle and SAP to get good performance were completely eliminated. XtremIO arrays require zero provisioning steps or tuning expertise to deliver their performance.
  • Rather than cloning the database with physical copies for development and test purposes, the customer can leverage XtremIO’s real-time, inline deduplication and advanced snapshots to create unlimited, instantaneous, space-efficient, full performance databases copies on-demand. In other words – a 1TB database with 10 dev/test copies used to consume 11TB of usable storage space. With XtremIO it consumes 1TB, performs better and is easier to manage.

The GEIT awards are focused on the environmental impact of IT projects – factors that significantly reduce energy consumption and resource use. But while our winning project was impressive for its green IT impact, that’s only the beginning of the story here.

XtremIO’s all-flash arrays are a no-compromise solution that let you have your cake, eat it too and still get ice cream on the side. Justifying IT projects is never easy. But when you can show the perfect trifecta of savings – lower CapEx, lower OpEx, and improved performance – it changes the conversation from justifying the expenditure to justifying any reason why you wouldn’t do it right away.

The quantifiable cost savings of switching to XtremIO are substantial: a capital acquisition cost saving of nearly $100,000 combined with a three-year projected combined capital and operational costs savings of $760,000, more than enough to pay for the XtremIO flash array and have a lot of spare change.

But the XtremIO story gets even better. Our customer’s business saw productivity improvements powered by increasing the performance of the SAP infrastructure by 10x, allowing faster processing of reports and analytics. How would your company benefit if you could accelerate your business applications from hours down to minutes?

There are still more advantages that have yet be quantified. Beyond giving new life to existing applications and processes, the switch to an XtremIO flash array enabled the customer to think about implementing new analytics that were previously impossible to run because of prohibitive processing times. These advanced database queries will provide better business intelligence, allowing the customer to improve inventory management, develop better sales forecasts and gain tighter control over invoicing and accounts receivable.

Along with the performance, cost and green computing benefits, our customer was also treated to another unexpected advantage: extreme ease of use. The difficulties expected in bringing up a new enterprise storage system simply weren’t there. XtremIO is a simple drop-in replacement that installs seamlessly and is compatible with existing storage connectivity, protocols, applications and storage management interfaces. No complicated re-architecting of the storage network and no time-consuming provisioning or tuning of the XtremIO system was needed. The experience was a pain-free transition to the power of XtremIO storage for the customer’s storage engineers. Instead of tweaking and tuning our system they were free to focus on upgrading their servers to take full advantage of the XtremIO array.

All of this was achieved with a straight out-of-the-box XtremIO system with no customization or tuning required – in a matter of hours. We’re very proud to have been recognized by GEIT for the environmental efficiency of our product and hope you have enjoyed this story of how XtremIO saves on space/power/cooling and much, much more.

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