Microsoft Windows Server in a Flash

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1 Microsoft Windows Server in a Flash Combine Violin s enterprise-class storage with the ease and flexibility of Windows Storage Server in an integrated solution so you can achieve higher performance and efficiency for your business critical Microsoft applications. Abstract Microsoft Windows Server scales to support large servers in the datacenter. Yet legacy storage solutions are keeping Windows Server applications from reaching their full potential. The ideal storage solution would deliver enterprise-class high-performance storage that is tightly integrated with the Windows environment and holistically managed by native Windows tools and utilities. This would increase the value of existing human and technology investments while transforming application performance and economics. The end result is enhanced business efficiency, resiliency, and ROI for all of IT.

2 Table of Contents Introduction... 3 Performance challenges in Windows Server environments... 3 Higher performance storage for Windows Server... 4 Violin Windows Flash Array + Windows Storage Server 2012 R Microsoft ecosystem friendly... 5 What is SMB Direct?... 5 Resiliency for continuous availability... 5 Scalability to grow efficiently... 6 Use cases... 6 Microsoft SQL Server Windows Server Hyper-V... 7 Private Cloud... 8 Conclusion... 8 Pg. 2

3 Introduction Microsoft technology has grown far beyond that of simple workgroup applications. Windows Server applications and Hyper-V virtualization are mature technologies that are considered by many to be business critical. As businesses grow, they expect their Windows environments grow with them; however, limitations in the current IT infrastructure have made achieving this goal difficult, if not impossible. The ideal solution would deliver enterprise-class high-performance storage that is tightly integrated with the Windows environment and holistically managed by native Windows tools and utilities. The IT staff and the user community would benefit from a rich set of file and storage services that transform Windows application performance while improving efficiency, resiliency, and ROI for all of IT. Performance challenges in Windows Server environments Microsoft Windows Server scales to support large servers in the datacenter. As a result, enterprise technologies such as SQL Server, SharePoint, Exchange Server, and Hyper-V are now common in the datacenter. Although CPU performance and network connectivity has grown dramatically over the past several years, improvements in storage have largely been limited to increased capacity, not performance. Legacy storage solutions (disk drives) perform best when read and write operations are sequential. Yet modern workloads such as SQL Server databases and Hyper-V virtual machines (VMs) are filled with random I/O requests, which results in high latency and a negative impact on application performance. Various striping techniques, solid-state drives, and optimization algorithms seek to improve operations yet I/O performance remains lacking. To compensate, IT managers over provision storage and/or add cache to controllers in an attempt to garner enough I/O capacity; however, this approach is inefficient and enforces continued spending on capacity when the need is actually for IOPS. Poor storage performance leads to poor CPU utilization and can negatively affect available network bandwidth. CPUs spend more time waiting than executing, which means expensive servers are mostly idle investments. In an attempt to scale beyond the workgroup level, some IT directors have ported Windows applications to another storage platform such as a SAN, or different applications altogether. For example, former SQL Server data may have graduated to an Oracle implementation. However, such a migration may be viewed as a potential loss of control by the line of business owner. Another way to raise server utilization is virtualization. Yet ironically, virtualization drives random I/O even higher and some virtualization solutions raise server overhead. All of this I/O crossing the network consumes bandwidth that might be put to better use. Organizations are faced with an unpleasant reality that their only choice in responding to growth has meant scaling the inherent inefficiency and expense of legacy storage solutions. When SANs are deployed, they typically require vendor-specific tools and skill sets. Organizations cannot easily leverage the management skills of their existing Microsoft-savvy staff, which reduces flexibility and increases operational expense. This is just one shortcoming of bifurcated storage where Ethernet-based storage is the norm for file services (the bulk of the Microsoft universe), and dedicated block-based storage supports high-performance applications such as SQL Server, Hyper-V, etc. Ensuring continuous availability is a challenge, but essential. For example, AlwaysOn Availability Groups are one approach to maintain SQL Server availability; however, there are limitations to the data protected. Replication is an alternative but asynchronous replication can suffer data loss if the primary array goes down. Synchronous mirroring is more resilient, but it is expensive and has a slow two-phase commit. In either case, close coordination of application and storage administrators is needed during scheduled maintenance. From these challenges, it is clear that a new approach is needed to deliver the performance and scalability required for your Windows applications to achieve their full potential. Pg. 3

4 Higher performance storage for Windows Server To address the shortcomings of legacy storage in Microsoft environments, Violin Memory and Microsoft have co-developed the Violin Windows Flash Array (WFA). The WFA combines Violin s patented flash storage optimization algorithms, Microsoft s fast SMB Direct protocol, and Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 so your Windows environments can have storage that easily keeps up with your needs. Violin Windows Flash Array + Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 The WFA is based upon the enterprise-class Violin Flash Array 6000 series all flash storage array that features global hot spares and no single point of failure. Dual memory gateways run Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 with support for SMB Direct through RDMA-enabled network cards. The WFA architecture features sub-millisecond latency and wide stripe vraid accelerated switched memory for maximum performance. SMB Direct runs at PCIe speeds to deliver the features of a SAN at the price of NAS with the performance of DAS. With the WFA, you get maximum performance for every byte every time. Table 1: Violin Windows Flash Arrays by model Windows Flash Array model VIMM Count and VIMM Capacity Form Factor / Flash type Raw Capacity (TiB / TB) Usable Capacity (TiB / TB)* I/O Connectivity Maximum 4KB IOPS (Mixed) Maximum Bandwidth (100% Reads) Nominal Latency *Maximum usable capacity with 84% format level WFA x 1TiB 3U / MLC 64 / / 44 10GbE, 56G IB >750k IOPS 4GB/s 500 µsec (mixed) Windows Storage Sever 2012 R2 delivers proven storage technologies including SMB 3.0, deduplication, thin provisioning, data mirroring, live migration, Scale-out File Server (SOFS), Storage Spaces, and data encryption. The SMB 3.0 protocol boosts network storage performance. In particular, SMB Direct (SMB 3.0 over RDMA) enables remotely stored data to be read directly into server memory. Microsoft optimized the Storage Server kernel for tight integration with the WFA to maximize performance. When combined with Violin s optimized flash technology, the result is remote storage performing like blazing fast local storage. In fact, Microsoft and Violin collaborated extensively to optimize Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 to take full advantage of the enterprise-class performance and resiliency of the Violin Flash Array. As Windows applications become business critical, ensuring their availability is key. The WFA helps you meet 24x7 operational requirements through multi-layered hardware and software resiliency. Active-Active clustering delivers continuous application uptime and SMB Multichannel ensures that cluster node connectivity is maintained. Non-disruptive volume extensibility is available through SOFS or thinly provisioned Storage Spaces, so you can add capacity to existing volumes without taking them offline. With the WFA, you can get higher utilization and performance with a smaller, less expensive IT footprint than traditional SANs. You can scale up or out as the future demands. You may find that you no longer need a dedicated SAN or DAS to support your mix of high performance Windows applications. Pg. 4

5 Microsoft ecosystem friendly Violin Memory and Microsoft co-developed and optimized the WFA to leverage its unique performance profile. SMB 3.0 and SMB Direct are part of the Microsoft strategic roadmap for network storage and the WFA fully supports these protocols to deliver performance and scalability not available elsewhere. There is no need for third-party storage management tools or skill sets. Your existing Microsoft admin staff can manage all of your servers, storage, and applications with Microsoft System Center and PowerShell. The tight integration of the WFA with Microsoft management tools delivers a holistic view of your Microsoft environment for simplified and cost-effective management of physical and virtual servers. What is SMB Direct? The WFA addresses the traditional bottlenecks that limit performance by delivering a state-of-the-art storage solution where speed, scale, and resiliency combine to deliver operational and financial efficiency. The use of SMB Direct can improve the performance of most any vendor s storage and we expect that over time most will offer this support. However, the combination of SMB Direct with Violin flash-based storage uniquely takes performance to the next level. With the WFA, you get ultra-fast file access with sustained throughput of up to 1 million 4K IOPS along with support for large sector (4K) storage. As illustrated in Figure 1, your servers will spend more time doing than waiting so you can support additional workloads with existing resources and achieve faster response times. Our support for SMB 3.0 delivers a rich set of storage services that will help ensure you can achieve the highest performance and efficiency. Figure 1: Wait State Reduction Enabled by Windows Flash Array Resiliency for continuous availability With the WFA, you benefit from continuous availability of mission critical applications and databases along with reduced risk to operations through multiple layers of hardware and software based protection. Windows Failover Clustering in conjunction with the WFA hardware can sustain any single point of failure to ensure continuous availability. SMB Multichannel I/O provides bandwidth trunking as well as enhanced node-to-node network connectivity and availability. Should you desire a high availability configuration, deployment is option-rich and as simple as software configuration. You can mirror any share with the click of a mouse. In addition, encryption guards against eavesdropping or other unauthorized data disclosure. Pg. 5

6 Scalability to grow efficiently With faster storage performance, you can optimize CPU investments more effectively across workloads. As illustrated in Figure 2, the superior performance of the WFA will enable your organization to maintain the same performance even as your workloads change. Support for Windows Storage Spaces allows you to scale up to meet growing demand. Alternatively, you can scale out as the WFA also supports Scale-out File Server (SOFS) for non-disruptive volume extensibility. You can scale to four arrays (eight nodes) per cluster. Storage Live Migration streamlines virtual machine (VM) migration through direct WFA to WFA communication that bypasses the VM host to reduce server impact and complete the process more rapidly. Figure 2: Customer Observed Performance Improvements, WFA vs. Industry Standard All Flash Array In addition, Hyper-V does not suffer from the up to 20% overhead of competitive virtualization solutions so you can consolidate workloads such as SQL Server with little, if any, performance penalty. You can easily deploy development, test, and Q/A scenarios knowing that roll out and roll up will be quick and simple, and the test beds will match the architecture of your production environment. What s more, the WFA is a very efficient private cloud platform. As you consider the role private clouds may play in your IT infrastructure, be assured that the WFA is a future-proof investment. Use cases While the Violin Windows Flash Array delivers superior performance for most any Windows workload, the WFA is particularly suited for transaction-oriented workloads such as databases, and environments with a high degree of random I/O activity including Hyper-V server virtualization, and private cloud architectures. Microsoft SQL Server 2014 Microsoft SQL Server is a powerful and cost-effective database solution that has become the back-end data store for business applications including OLTP, business intelligence (BI), and data warehouses. Many organizations have grown up around SQL Server; it is an integral part of their business operations. Meeting the demand for data growth and real-time business intelligence has strained databases as legacy storage solutions hit their design limits. By raising the available I/O to meet the demand, the WFA enables SQL Server to spend more time processing data as opposed to waiting for it. Consolidation or virtualization of SQL Server workloads is unleashed with the WFA. SQL Server can now scale to enterprise workloads while delivering consistent service levels. Our balanced performance reduces I/O bottlenecks and potential service interruptions due to workload spikes. Developers can match the speed and architecture of the production environment, for development, testing or quality assurance. One of the selling points of SQL Server 2014 is its new in-memory processing capability for OLTP. At a minimum, maintaining in-memory performance requires low-latency persistent storage for the transaction Pg. 6

7 log. Plus, on start-up, in-memory optimized tables are loaded from persistent storage. Until this step is complete, the database cannot go online. The larger the in-memory tables, the longer the startup delay. While in-memory processing can boost transaction speed dramatically, without high performance persistent storage supporting the rest of the DBMS, database performance will be constrained. When SQL Server 2014 workloads access the WFA through SMB Direct, you get ultra-fast read and write commits. Figure 3: Customer Performance Tests, WFA vs. Industry Standard All Flash Array Windows Server Hyper-V As illustrated in Figure 3, early customer testing reveals that the WFA delivers up to 50% higher SQL read performance and up to twice the throughput of SQL writes compared with an industry standard all flash array. In addition, connecting through SMB Direct frees up to 30% of CPU usage; these cycles could be put towards other workloads. This means you can optimize CPU investments across SQL Server workloads to achieve greater scale and maintain consistent performance while adding users, threads, tables, LUNs, etc. Further, storage is simpler and less risky to setup and manage, as there are no disk groupings, data locality issues, performance mapping or tuning required. Since you can consolidate and scale SQL Server to meet your performance needs, there is no imperative to migrate to another platform. In fact, you may find that the combination of SQL Server and the WFA yields better performance than competitive solutions. Server and application virtualization/consolidation is the future of IT as the financial and operational benefits from improved efficiency are too great to ignore. Yet, virtualization initiatives to date have been constrained by the inefficiency and poor scaling of legacy solutions since virtualization concentrates random I/O requests that overwhelm traditional storage. The WFA delivers dramatically higher I/O rates so your virtualization initiatives can reach their full potential. As seen in Figure 4, early testing found the WFA delivering up to 40% or higher write performance under Hyper-V compared with an industry standard all flash array. As a result, you can achieve significantly faster VM (VHDx) access, so you can optimize Hyper-V density and smooth out or eliminate performance chokepoints. In addition, Hyper-V s low overhead means that more of your CPUs effort goes for workload as opposed to virtualization overhead. Storage Live Migration enables rapid movement of Hyper-V VMs between hosts to provide greater flexibility in how you balance your resources. You can scale up or scale out to four arrays (eight nodes) to ensure that VM densities match host server capacity to maintain a high utilization rate. If a private cloud is in your future, the WFA is a future-proof and very efficient platform for this architecture. Figure 4: Hyper-V Performance Write Test, WFA vs. Industry Standard All Flash Array Pg. 7

8 Hyper-V virtualization on the WFA provides the ability to deliver a rich portfolio of functions to provide the performance, scale, and availability needed for any critical applications in your enterprise. Private Cloud Taking the next step from virtualization to private cloud requires centralized management and seemingly unlimited scalability with consistent performance. The tight integration of Windows Server Hyper-V and Violin hardware delivers the maximum scalability that you need for private cloud deployments. With management based on System Center and PowerShell instead of a collection of disparate server, network, and storage management tools, existing staff can administer storage resources, which reduces the need for additional skill sets and training. Clustered SOFS lets you can scale out to four arrays (eight nodes) to meet your private cloud requirements. Our PCIe interconnects are array based and SMB Multichannel aggregates network connectivity within the safety of a Windows Failover Cluster. Maximize your private cloud ROI with greater resource flexibility on a simpler architecture that will be able to scale your present and future workloads with the enterprise-class resiliency for continuous availability. Conclusion Legacy storage solutions are built for capacity, not I/O performance. Yet today s Microsoft environments are performance oriented and this results in complex, expensive, and hard-to-scale solutions being deployed to meet the needs of business critical Windows Server applications. The Violin Windows Flash Array is a fundamentally different and better storage solution for Microsoft environments that addresses the performance shortcomings of legacy storage. WFA is an all-flash activeactive HA multi-node cluster platform with native Windows Storage Server 2012 R2 that delivers rich file and storage services by putting Windows intelligence in the storage array. Support for the SMB 3.0 protocol and SMB Direct means that your storage runs at PCIe speeds with the features of a SAN with the performance of DAS at the price of NAS. You can unleash your Windows application performance and free up existing resources to do more. In fact, the performance of the WFA is so high that you could choose to eliminate your existing dedicated storage infrastructure that is supporting your high performance applications such as SQL Server databases or Hyper-V virtual machines. With the WFA, you can simplify your management paradigm with Microsoft System Center and PowerShell to achieve holistic control and flexibility of your Windows-based physical and virtual infrastructure. You can consolidate and virtualize workloads while maximizing your Windows performance on a storage architecture that is simpler and faster, and on Microsoft s strategic roadmap at substantial cost savings. If you would like to learn more about how the Violin Windows Flash Array can dramatically improve your Windows Server performance, please contact your Violin Memory representative today. Pg. 8

9 White Paper: Microsoft Windows Server Operating in a Flash About Violin Memory Business in a Flash. Violin Memory transforms the speed of business with high performance, always available, low cost management of critical business information and applications. Violin s All Flash optimized solutions accelerate breakthrough CAPEX and OPEX savings for building the next generation data center. Violin s Flash Fabric Architecture (FFA) speeds data delivery with chip-to-chassis performance optimization that achieves lower consistent latency and cost per transaction for Cloud, Enterprise and Virtualized mission-critical applications. Violin's All Flash Arrays and Appliances, and enterprise data management software solutions enhance agility and mobility while revolutionizing datacenter economics. Founded in 2005, Violin Memory is headquartered in Santa Clara, California. For more information, visit Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/violinmemory Pg. 9 Violin Memory 4555 Great America Parkway, Suite #150, Santa Clara, CA violin-memory.com

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