Anyone for a Storage Formula 1 ??

So this is kind of off topic, but, I think, quite interesting.  Even if only as a tonic against the current onslaught of cynicism re the SPC and the USP-V.

Im figuring a lot of you out there are like me and are a little tired of the seemingly never ending nit-picking and arguing over the relevance of the SPC and its various tests.  Some vendors refuse to take part while almost all bicker over submitted configurations. 

However, amidst all the twoing-and-froing (how do you spell that!!) I think I’ve detected a subtle undercurrent – a simmering desire for these vendors to quit with the politicking and just submit their arrays for comparative testing, a competition, if you will.  I sense it from almost everyone who is writing, blogging and commenting on the matter, including some of the vendors.  Whether they will say it or not, whether is has any relevance on the real world or not…. I sense the vast majority of us are thinking – “what the heck….”, and in the famous words of Big John Mcarthy “Lets get it on!”

So how about this ……………  Aside with the politics and the BS, and lets not bother trying to recreate any real world scenarios.  Lets just have an F1/Olympic Games of the storage world! 

Before I go any further, just in case some of you think I am smoking an illegal substance while writing this, Im just day dreaming here and don’t ever imagine it will happen.


Let me paint the picture…….

All storage vendors and OEM partners are invited to submit their kit for a variety of competitions/races/events.  However, each vendor is free to make major modifications to their kit.  A bit like what car manufacturers do for Rally championships.  On the outside the car might resemble a standard production road car but under the hood its an entirely different beast.  They have suped up engines, specialised tyres, suspension, fuel…...  They also have all non essential components removed such as electric windows, air con, stereo and sub-woofers……  They might call it a Ford Focus but its nothing like the one you can buy from your local dealer.

The same could be true for the storage arrays entered into the competition.  There would have to be limits of course, after all, we wouldn’t want the folks from HP just replacing the front doors on a USP and calling it an XP would we ;-)  But the following would all be legal –

  • disabling cache duplexing
  • short stroking disks, leaving lots of unused capacity
  • custom logical volume layouts
  • modified pre-fetch algorithms
  • modified destage algorithms and watermarks
  • customised stripe sizes
  • disabling RAID protection
  • using disks that may not be GA


Almost anything that each entrant thought might improve performance for a given event could be done.  They could over-clock the RPM of their disks from 15K to 16, 17, 18K if they thought they could tolerate it.  Of course if it went up in smoke during the test then that would be akin to clipping a hurdle and eating track.  Heck, they could even paint go faster stripes on the doors of the unit of they wanted to!


So onto the events.

Each entrant would have to compete in multiple events including –

  • Sprints – Small block random reads and writes.  Large block sequential reads and writes
  • Hurdles – Large block reads and writes with regular but short lived random I/O thrown in to disrupt pre-fetching etc
  • Medium and Long distance replication
  • Volume Migrations
  • Copy On Write Snaps
  • RAID rebuilds
  • Disk to disk full block copies within a single frame
  • ……
  • The Marathon - Each entrant has an equally configured and charged UPS (not USP) and a given workload.  Each competitor would then see how much of the given workload they can complete while running solely on the power provided by the UPS (or multiple).

For each event, each subsystem can be totally reconfigured to suit; swapping disk types, changing cache sizes, different versions of uCode……. 

Finally there would be a decathlon event which would be a composition of 10 of the individual events.  However, each team would have to submit a single documented array configuration that would not change between events.  A general purpose build if you will.


The Entrants

All vendors as well as OEM partners are invited.  This way we would also have the likes of HP, Sun, HDS and Hitachi all competing against each other.  Then it becomes a competition of who’s performance guys are the best and who really knows the most about their kit.  Interesting!

And at the end of the day, all vendors and partners could compete with little fear of losing customers even if they sucked.  Heck, how many of us buy a pair of trainers because they are the ones worn by the Olympic Champion?  Or how many of us buy a car because its manufacturer won last years F1 Constructors Championship?


So why?

OK so none of this relates at all to the mundane of real life.  But who cares!? 

Back to the F1 and Olympic Games analogy.  None of us drive an F1 car to work but we still watch it on the TV and drool over the cars.  And then there’s the Olympic Sprinter.  Running in a straight line, out of customised starting blocks sporting a snazzy lycra suit and running spikes doesn’t mean he will be useful to his local Police Force chasing criminals around city streets wearing a shirt, trousers and Doc Martins. Yet we still pay to watch him run.

The same would go for the storage Olympics.  Pure unadulterated performance!  Im umming and arring over whether or not to attend Storage Expo in the UK next week.  But an event like this would be unmissable!  Oh and Im sure every entrant would learn shed loads!

Interesting?!  Fun!


PS.  I probably will attend Storage Expo, even if its only to fl ick things at Mark Twomey on the EMC stand.