Storage I/O Control Technical Overview and Considerations for Deployment. VMware vsphere 4.1

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1 Storage I/O Control Technical Overview and Considerations for Deployment VMware vsphere 4.1 T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R

2 Executive Summary Storage I/O Control (SIOC) provides storage I/O performance isolation for virtual machines, thus enabling VMware vsphere ( vsphere ) administrators to comfortably run important workloads in a highly consolidated virtualized storage environment. It protects all virtual machines from undue negative performance impact due to misbehaving I/O-heavy virtual machines, often known as the noisy neighbor problem. Furthermore, the service level of critical virtual machines can be protected by SIOC by giving them preferential I/O resource allocation during periods of congestion. SIOC achieves these benefits by extending the constructs of shares and limits, used extensively for CPU and memory, to manage the allocation of storage I/O resources. SIOC improves upon the previous host-level I/O scheduler by detecting and responding to congestion occurring at the array, and enforcing share-based allocation of I/O resources across all virtual machines and hosts accessing a datastore. With SIOC, vsphere administrators can mitigate the performance loss of critical workloads due to high congestion and storage latency during peak load periods. The use of SIOC will produce better and more predictable performance behavior for workloads during periods of congestion. Benefits of leveraging SIOC: Provides performance protection by enforcing proportional fairness of access to shared storage Detects and manages bottlenecks at the array Maximizes your storage investments by enabling higher levels of virtual-machine consolidation across your shared datastores The purpose of this paper is to explain the basic mechanics of how SIOC, a new feature in vsphere 4.1, works and to discuss considerations for deploying it in your VMware virtualized environments. The Challenge of Shared Resources Controlling the dynamic allocation of resources in distributed systems has been a long-standing challenge. Virtualized environments introduce further challenges because of the inherent sharing of physical resources by many virtual machines. VMware has provided ways to manage shared physical resources, such as CPU and memory, and to prioritize their use among all the virtual machines in the environment. CPU and memory controls have worked well since memory and CPU resources are shared only at a local-host level, for virtual machines residing within a single ESX server. The task of regulating shared resources that span multiple ESX hosts, such as shared datastores, presents new challenges, because these resources are accessed in a distributed manner by multiple ESX hosts. Previous disk shares did not address this challenge, as the shares and limits were enforced only at a single ESX host level, and were only enforced in response to host-side HBA bottlenecks, which occur rarely. This approach had the problem of potentially allowing lower-priority virtual machines greater access to storage resources based on their placement across different ESX hosts, as well as neglecting to provide benefits in the case that the datastore is congested but the host-side queue is not. An ideal I/O resource-management solution should provide the allocation of I/O resources independent of the placement of virtual machines and with consideration of the priorities of all virtual machines accessing the shared datastore. It should also be able to detect and control all instances of congestion happening at the shared resource. The Storage I/O Control Solution SIOC solves the problem of managing shared storage resources across ESX hosts. It provides a fine-grained storage-control mechanism by dynamically managing the size of, and access to, ESX host I/O queues based on assigned shares. SIOC enhances the disk-shares capabilities of previous releases of VMware ESX Server by enforcing these disk shares not only at the local-host level but also at the per-datastore level. Additionally, for the first time, vsphere with SIOC provides storage-device latency monitoring and control, with which SIOC can throttle back storage workloads according to their priority in order to maintain total storage-device latency below a certain threshold. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 2

3 How Storage I/O Control Works SIOC monitors the latency of I/Os to datastores at each ESX host sharing that device. When the average normalized datastore latency exceeds a set threshold (30ms by default), the datastore is considered to be congested, and SIOC kicks in to distribute the available storage resources to virtual machines in proportion to their shares. This is to ensure that low-priority workloads do not monopolize or reduce I/O bandwidth for high-priority workloads. SIOC accomplishes this by throttling back the storage access of the low-priority virtual machines by reducing the number of I/O queue slots available to them. Depending on the mix of virtual machines running on each ESX server and the relative I/O shares they have, SIOC may need to reduce the number of device queue slots that are available on a given ESX server. Host-Level Versus Datastore-Level Disk Schedulers It is important to understand the way queuing works in the VMware virtualized storage stack to have a clear understanding of how SIOC functions. SIOC leverages the existing host device queue to control I/O prioritization. Prior to vsphere 4.1, the ESX server device queues were static and virtual-machine storage access was controlled within the context of the storage traffic on a single ESX server host. With vsphere 4.1, SIOC provides datastore-wide disk scheduling that responds to congestion at the array, not just on the hostside HBA.. This provides an ability to monitor and dynamically modify the size of the device queues of each ESX server based on storage traffic and the priorities of all the virtual machines accessing the shared datastore. An example of a local host-level disk scheduler is as follows: Figure 1 shows the local scheduler influencing ESX host-level prioritization as two virtual machines are running on the same ESX server with a single virtual disk on each. Figure 1. I/O Shares for Two Virtual Machines on a Single ESX Server (Host-Level Disk Scheduler) In the case in which I/O shares for the virtual disks (VMDKs) of each of those virtual machines are set to different values, it is the local scheduler that prioritizes the I/O traffic only in case the local HBA becomes congested. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 3

4 This described host-level capability has existed for several years in ESX Server prior to vsphere 4.1. It is this local-host level disk scheduler that also enforces the limits set for a given virtual-machine disk. If a limit is set for a given VMDK, the I/O will be controlled by the local disk scheduler so as to not exceed the defined amount of I/O per second. vsphere 4.1 has added two key capabilities: (1) the enforcement of I/O prioritization across all ESX servers that share a common datastore, and (2) detection of array-side bottlenecks. These are accomplished by way of a datastore-wide distributed disk scheduler that uses I/O shares per virtual machine to determine whether device queues need to be throttled back on a given ESX server to allow a higher-priority workload to get better performance. The datastore-wide disk scheduler totals up the disk shares for all the VMDKs that a virtual machine has on the given datastore. The scheduler then calculates what percentage of the shares the virtual machine has compared to the total number of shares of all the virtual machines running on the datastore. This percentage of shares is displayed in the list of details shown in the view of virtual machines tab for each datastore, as seen in Figure 2. Figure 2. Datastore View of Disk Share Allocation Among Virtual Machines As described before, SIOC engages only after a certain device-level latency is detected on the datastore. Once engaged, it begins to assign fewer I/O queue slots to virtual machines with lower shares and more I/O queue slots to virtual machines with higher shares. It throttles back the I/O for the lower-priority virtual machines, those with fewer shares, in exchange for the higher-priority virtual machines getting more access to issue I/O traffic. However, it is important to understand that the maximum number of I/O queue slots that can be used by the virtual machines on a given host cannot exceed the maximum device-queue depth for the device queue of that ESX host. The ESX maximum queue depth varies by HBA model. The queue-depth maximum value is typically in range of 32 to 128. The lowest that SIOC can reduce the device queue depth to is 4. Figure 3a shows that, without SIOC, a virtual machine with a lower number of shares, VM C, may get a larger percentage of the available storage-array device-queue slots and thus greater storage array performance, while a virtual machine with higher I/O shares, VM A, gets fewer than its fair share and reduced storage array performance. However, with SIOC engaged on that datastore, as in Figure 3b, the result will be that the lower-priority virtual machine that is by itself on a separate host will be assigned a reduced number of I/O queue slots. That will result in fewer storage array queue slots being used and a reduction in average device latency. The reduction in average device latency provides VM A and VM B higher storage performance, as now the same number of I/Os that they previously were issuing complete faster due to the reduced latency for each of those I/Os. For instance, assume that VM A was using 18 I/O slots as shown in figure 3a. Without SIOC, the storage array latency could be unbounded and the I/O workloads being performed by the lower priority VM C could cause a high storage device latency of, say, 40ms. In this example, VM A would have 18 40ms worth of storage performance. Once enabled, SIOC controls the latency at the configured congestion threshold, say 30ms. SIOC determines the number of storage array queue slots that can be used while still maintaining an average device latency below the SIOC congestion threshold. Although SIOC does not directly manage the storage array queue, it is able to indirectly control the storage array device queue by managing the ESX device queues that feed into it. As shown in Figure 3b, SIOC has determined that 30 host-side storage queue slots can be used while still maintaining the desired average device latency. SIOC then distributes those storage array queue slots to the various virtual machine workloads according to their priorities. The net effect in this example is that VM C is throttled back to use only its correct relative share of the storage array. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 4

5 VM A, entitled to 60 percent of the queue slots (1500/2500 = 60 percent), is still is able to issue the same 18 I/Os but at a reduced 30ms latency. SIOC provides VM A greater storage performance by controlling VM C and ensuring it uses only its appropriate allocation of total storage resources per performance. By throttling the ESX device-queue depths in proportion to the priorities of the virtual machines that are using them, SIOC is able to control storage congestion at the storage array and distribute storage array performance appropriately. Figure 3. SIOC Device-Queue Management with Prioritized Disk Shares SIOC provides isolation and prioritized distribution of storage resources even when vsphere administrators have not manually set individual disk-share priorities on each VMDK per virtual machine. SIOC protects virtual machines that are running on higher consolidated ESX servers. In Figures 4a and 4b, all virtual machine disks have default (1000 shares), or equal disk shares. Without SIOC, VM A and VM B are penalized and not provided equal access to storage resources simply because they are running together on the same ESX server and sharing the same ESX device queue. Whereas VM C, running on a lower consolidated ESX host, is given unfair preference to storage resources. Even administrators who do not wish to individually set VMDK disk shares can benefit from this feature. SIOC provides these vsphere administrators the ability to enable storage isolation for all virtual machines accessing a datastore by simply checking a single check box at the datastore level. This new storage management capability offered by SIOC allows vsphere administrators the ability to run higher consolidated virtual environments by preventing imbalances of storage resource allocation during times of storage contention. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 5

6 Figure 4. SIOC Device-Queue Management with Equal Disk Shares In these examples, SIOC is able to fully manage the storage array queue by throttling the ESX host device queues. This is possible because all the workloads impacting the storage array queue are coming from the ESX hosts and are under SIOC s control. However, SIOC is able to provide storage workload isolation/prioritization even in scenarios in which external workloads, not under SIOC s control, are competing with those that it controls. In this scenario, SIOC will first automatically detect this situation, and then will increase the number of device-queue slots it makes available to the virtual machine workloads so that they can compete more fairly for total storage resources against external workloads. Using this approach, SIOC is able to maintain a balance between workload isolation/prioritization and storage I/O throughput even when it cannot directly control or influence the external workload. This behavior continues as long as the external workload persists and SIOC resumes normal operation once it stops detecting the external workload. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 6

7 Enabling Storage I/O Control Since SIOC is an attribute of a datastore, it is set under the properties of a specific datastore. By default SIOC is not enabled on the datastore. The default value for SIOC to kick in is 30ms, but this value can be modified by selecting the Advanced option where one enables SIOC in the vcenter interface as shown in Figure 5. Figure 5. Datastore Properties SIOC Enablement and Congestion Threshold Setting SIOC can be used on any FC, iscsi, or locally attached block storage device that is supported with vsphere 4.1. Review the vsphere 4.1 Hardware Compatibility List (http://www.vmware.com/go/hcl) for the entire list of supported storage devices. SIOC is supported with FC and iscsi storage devices that have automated tiered storage capabilities. However, when using SIOC with automated tiered storage, the SIOC Congestion Threshold must be set appropriately to make sure the storage device s automated tiered storage capabilities are not impacted by SIOC. At this time, SIOC is not supported with NFS storage devices or with Raw Device Mapping (RDM) virtual disks. SIOC is also not supported with datastores that have multiple extents or are being managed by multiple vcenter Management Servers. For complete step-by-step instructions on how to enable SIOC, or change the default latency threshold for a datastore or other limitations, consult the documentation or see Managing Storage I/O Resources (Chapter 4) in the vsphere 4.1 Resource Management Guide (http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere4/r41/vsp_41_resource_mgmt.pdf) T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 7

8 Consideration for Deploying Storage I/O Control Configuring Disk Shares Disk shares specify the relative priority a virtual machine has on a given storage resource. When you assign disk shares to a virtual disk/virtual machine, you specify the priority for that virtual machine s access to storage resources relative to other powered-on virtual machines. Disk shares in vsphere 4.1 can be leveraged at both a local, per ESX host level, and now at a datastore level when SIOC is enabled and actively prioritizing storage resources. Disk shares are set by selecting Edit Settings for a virtual machine and are set on each VMDK, as seen in Figure 6. When SIOC is not enabled, disk shares and the relative priority they specify are enforced only at a local ESX host level, and then only when local HBAs are saturated. Virtual machines running on the same ESX hosts will be prioritized relative to other virtual machines on the same host but not relative to virtual machines running on other ESX hosts. When SIOC is enabled and actively controlling the ESX hosts to control storage latencies, disk shares and relative priorities are enforced across all the ESX servers that access the SIOC controlled datastore. So a virtual machine running on one ESX host will have access to storage resources based on the number of disk shares the virtual machine has compared to the total number of disk shares in use on the datastore by all virtual machines across all ESX hosts in the shared storage environment. If a virtual machine does not fully use its allocation of I/O access, the extra I/O slots are redistributed proportionally to the other virtual machines that are actively issuing I/O requests on the datastore. Figure 6. Virtual Machine Properties Disk Shares and IOP Limits As part of vsphere 4.1, I/O per second (IOPS) limits on a per-vmdk level can be set to further manage and prioritize virtual machine workloads. Limits (expressed in terms of IOPS) are implemented at the local-disk scheduler level and are always enforced regardless of whether or not SIOC is enabled. Configuring the Storage I/O Control Congestion Latency Value SIOC is designed to only engage and enforce storage I/O shares when the storage resource becomes contended. This is very similar to CPU scheduling, in that it is only enforced when the resource is contended. To determine when a storage device is contended, SIOC uses a congestion-threshold latency value that vsphere administrators can specify. The default congestion-threshold latency, 30ms, in vsphere 4.1, is a conservative value that should work well for most users. The SIOC congestion-threshold value is configurable, so vsphere administrators have the opportunity to maximize the benefits of SIOC suited to their own virtual environment and storagemanagement preferences. This section discusses the considerations and recommendations for changing this key parameter. The SIOC threshold represents a balance between (1) isolation and prioritized access to the storage resource at lower latencies, and (2) higher throughput. When the SIOC congestion threshold is set low, SIOC can begin prioritizing storage access earlier and throttle storage workloads more aggressively in order to maintain a datastore-wide latency below the congestion latency threshold. The more T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 8

9 aggressive throttling needed to maintain a lower latency might reduce the overall storage throughput. When the congestion threshold is set higher, SIOC will not engage and begin prioritizing resources among virtual machines until the higher latency is reached. When using a higher SIOC congestion latency, SIOC does not need to throttle storage workloads as much in order to maintain the storage latency below the higher congestion threshold. This may allow for higher overall storage throughput. The default congestion threshold has been set to minimize the impact of throttling on storage throughput while still providing reasonably low storage latency and isolation for high-priority virtual machines. In most cases it is not necessary to modify the storage congestion threshold from its default value. However, a user may decide to modify the value depending on the type and speed of their storage device, the characteristics of the workloads in their virtual environment, and their storage-management preference between workload isolation/prioritization and workload throughput. Because various storage devices have different latency characteristics, users may need to modify the congestion threshold depending on their storage type. See Table 1 to determine the recommended range of values for your storage-device type. Type of storage media backing the datastore Recommended threshold (use isolation vs. throughput preference to determine exact value within range) Fibre Channel SAS SSD SATA Auto-tiered storage Full LUN auto-tiering Auto-tiered storage Block level/sub-lun auto-tiering 20 30ms 20 30ms 10-15ms 30-50ms Use vendor recommended value, or if not provided by storage vendor, use the threshold value recommended above for the slowest tier of storage in the array. Use vendor recommended value, or if not provided by storage vendor, combine ranges of fastest and slowest media types in array. Table 1. SIOC Congestion Threshold Recommendations The congestion threshold may also need to be adjusted when using automated tiered storage devices. These are systems that contain two or more types of storage media and automatically and transparently migrate data between the storage types in order to optimize I/O performance. These systems typically try to keep the most frequently accessed or hot data on faster storage such as SSD, and less frequently accessed or cold data on slower media such as SAS or FC disks. This means that the type of storage media backing a particular LUN can change over time. For full LUN auto-tiering storage devices, in which the entire LUN is migrated between different storage tiers, use the recommended value or range for the slowest tier of storage in the device. For example, in a full LUN auto-tiering storage device that contains SSD and Fibre Channel disks, use the congestion threshold value that is recommended for Fibre Channel. With sub-lun or block-level auto-tiering storage, in which individual storage blocks inside a LUN are migrated between storage tiers, combine the recommended congestion threshold values/ranges for each storage type in the auto-tiering storage devices. For example, in a sub-lun / block-level auto-tiering storage device that contains an SSD storage tier and a Fibre Channel storage tier, use an SIOC congestion threshold value in the range of 10 30ms. The exact SIOC congestion-threshold value to use is based on your individual storage-device characteristics and your preference of isolation (using a smaller SIOC congestion-threshold value) or throughput (using a larger SIOC congestion-threshold value). For example, in the SSD-FC scenario, the more SSD storage you have in the array, the more your storage device characteristics will match that of the SSD storage type and thus the closer your threshold should be to the SSD recommended value of 10ms, the low end of the combined SSD-FC range. Customers can use the midpoint of the range as a conservative congestion threshold value that provides a balance between the preference for isolation and the preference for throughput. In the SSD-FC example in which there was a range of 10 30ms, the conservative congestion threshold value would be 20ms. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 9

10 When modifying the SIOC congestion threshold, keep in mind that the SIOC latency is a normalized latency metric calculated and normalized for I/O size and aggregate number of IOPS across all the storage workloads accessing the datastore. SIOC uses a normalized latency to take into consideration that not all storage workloads are the same. Some storage workloads may issue larger I/O operations that would naturally result in longer device latencies to service these larger I/O requests. Normalizing the storage-workload latencies allows SIOC to compare and prioritize workloads more accurately by bringing them all into a common measurement. Because the SIOC value is normalized, the actual observed latency as seen from the guest OS inside the virtual machine or from an individual ESX host may be different than the calculated SIOC-normalized latency per datastore. Monitoring Storage I/O Control Effects SIOC includes new metrics inside vcenter to allow users to observe SIOC s actions and latency measurements. There are two new SIOC metrics in vcenter, SIOC normalized latency and SIOC Aggregated IOPS. The SIOC normalized latency is the value that SIOC calculates per datastore and uses when comparing with the SIOC congestion latency threshold to determine what actions to take, if any. SIOC calculates these metrics every four seconds and they are refreshed in the vcenter display every 20 seconds. These metrics can be viewed on the datastore performance screen inside vcenter, as seen in Figure 7. Additionally, vcenter reports the device-queue depths for each ESX host. The ESX hosts device-queue depth metrics can be reviewed to determine what actions SIOC is taking on individual ESX hosts and their device queues in order to maintain a datacenter-wide SIOC latency on the datastore under the set congestion threshold. Figure 7. vcenter Datastore Performance and SIOC Metrics SIOC detects the moment when external workloads, not under SIOC s control, may be impacting the virtual environment s storage resources. When SIOC detects an external workload, it will trigger a Non-VI workload detected informational alert in vcenter. In most cases, this alert is purely informational and requires no action on the part of the vsphere administrator. However, the alert may be an indicator of an incorrectly configured SIOC environment. vsphere administrators should verify that they are running a supported SIOC configuration and that all datastores that utilize the same disk spindles have SIOC enabled with identical SIOC congestionthreshold values. The alert might also be triggered by some backup products and other administrative workloads that bypass the ESX host and directly access the datastore in order to accomplish their tasks. SIOC is supported in these configurations and the alert can be safely ignored for these products. Refer to VMware KB article for more details on the Non-VI workload detected alert. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 1 0

11 Benefits of Using Storage I/O Control SIOC enables improved I/O resource management for a multitude of conditions and provides peace of mind when running businesscritical I/O intensive applications in a shared VMware virtualization environment. Provides performance protection A common concern in any shared resource environment is that one consumer may get far more than its fair share of that resource and adversely impact the performance of the other users that share the resource. SIOC provides the ability, at the datastore level, to support multiple-tenant environments that share a datastore, by enabling service-level protections during periods of congestion. SIOC prevents a single virtual machine from monopolizing the I/O throughput of a datastore even when the virtual machines have default (equal value) I/O shares set. Detects and manages bottlenecks at the array only when congestion exists SIOC detects a bottleneck at the datastore level, and manages I/O queue slot distribution across the ESX servers that share a datastore. SIOC expands the I/O resource control beyond the bounds of a single ESX server to work across all ESX servers that share a datastore. When SIOC is enabled on a datastore and no congestion exists at the device level, it will not be engaged in managing I/O resources and will have no effect on I/O latency or throughput. In an optimized and well-configured environment, SIOC may only engage at certain peak periods during the day. During these times of congestion and in the presence of external or non SIOC controlled workloads, SIOC strikes a balance between aggregate throughput and enforcement of virtual machine I/O shares. SIOC helps vsphere administrators understand when more I/O throughput (device capacity) is needed. If SIOC is engaged for significant periods of time during the day, it raises the question if there is a need for a change in the storage configuration. In this case, an administrator might consider either adding more I/O capacity or using VMware Storage vmotion to migrate I/O intensive virtual machines to an alternate datastore. Enables higher levels of consolidation with less storage expense SIOC enables vsphere administrators to maximize their storage investments by running more virtual machines on their existing storage infrastructure with confidence that periodic peak periods of high I/O activity will be controlled. Without SIOC, administrators will often overprovision their storage to avoid latency issues that pop up during peak periods of storage activity. With SIOC, the administrators can now comfortably run more virtual machines on a single datastore with confidence that the storage I/O will be controlled and managed at the device level. Leveraging SIOC can reduce storage costs because the cost of overprovisioning a storage environment, to the point that no contention occurs, could be prohibitively expensive. Alternately, the cost of storage may drop dramatically by leveraging SIOC to manage the I/O queue slot allocations to ensure proportional fairness and prioritization of virtual machines based on their I/O shares. T E C H N I C A L W H I T E P A P E R / 1 1

12 Conclusion SIOC offers I/O prioritization to virtual machines accessing shared storage resources. It allows vsphere administrators to align highpriority virtual machine traffic with better performance and lower latency storage performance as compared to the lower-priority virtual machines. It monitors datastore latency and engages when a preset congestion threshold has been exceeded. SIOC gives vsphere administrators a new means to manage their VMware virtualized environments by allowing quality of service to be expressed for storage workloads. As such, SIOC is a big step forward in the journey toward automated, policy-based management of shared storage resources. SIOC provides the means to better control a consolidated shared-storage resource by providing datastore-wide I/O prioritization, helping to manage traffic on a shared and congested datastore. With the introduction of SIOC in vsphere 4.1, vsphere administrators now have a new tool available to help them increase the consolidation density while ensuring that they will have peace of mind, knowing that during periodic periods of peak I/O activity there will be a prioritization and proportional fairness enforced across all the virtual machines accessing that shared resource. About the Authors: Paul Manning is a Storage Architect in the Technical Marketing group at VMware and is focused on virtual storage management. Previously, he worked at EMC and Oracle, where he had more than 10 years of experience designing and developing storage infrastructure and deployment best practices. He has also developed and delivered training courses on best practices for highly available storage infrastructure to a variety of customers and partners in the United States and abroad. He has authored numerous publications and presented many talks on the topic of best practices for storage deployments and performance optimization. Joseph Dieckhans is a Performance Specialist in the Technical Marketing group at VMware. In this role, he works directly with the Performance Engineering and R&D teams at VMware to provide customers with information and performance data on the latest VMware features. For More Information: VMware Storage Technology Page: Performance Engineering paper on SIOC: VMware, Inc Hillview Avenue Palo Alto CA USA Tel Fax Copyright 2010 VMware, Inc. All rights reserved. This product is protected by U.S. and international copyright and intellectual property laws. VMware products are covered by one or more patents listed at VMware is a registered trademark or trademark of VMware, Inc., in the United States and/or other jurisdictions. All other marks and names mentioned herein might be trademarks of their respective companies. Item No: VMW_10Q3_WP_vSphere_4_1_SIOC_p12_A_R3

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