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FCW : May 15, 2013
Storage optimization: Flash nds some government niches Storage performance can spell the difference between a successful technology venture and one that brings sys- tems to a standstill. Storage optimization tools, including software-based accelerators, aim to reduce or eliminate that bottleneck. Another approach that promises better storage perfor- mance is ash technology, which is familiar to anyone who has ever used a USB thumb drive. In the enterprise context, ash technology takes the form of cards that plug into servers or solid-state drives housed in storage arrays. Although storage optimization can jump-start a stalled IT system, the extra performance comes at a price. Indeed, the higher cost of ash compared to disk storage has lim- ited its use outside the consumer space. But more favor- able ash economics are spurring broader adoption. The New York Army National Guard, for example, uses ash technology to handle the storage challenges of its virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployment. "The price of solid-state drives is de nitely falling, so [ ash storage] becomes more attractive by the day," said Clarke Caporale, the guard s information assurance man- ager. "In [the Defense Department], we have to collapse down the budget. We are actively trying to get these [ ash] resources, normally in the hands of users, into the data center as a cost-saving measure." Why it matters Industry experts consider VDI a classic storage drain. Users access remotely hosted virtual desktops instead of resources housed on a local hard drive, which means operating systems, applications and data reside on a server. Therefore, storage performance plays a crucial role in whether a virtual desktop can offer a user experience comparable to that of a conventional PC. Another VDI storage wrinkle is the uneven nature of user demand. When employees arrive at work in the morning and all start accessing their desktops at the same time, the so-called boot storm can put a severe strain on stor- age and degrade the user experience. Storage optimization, however, can help organizations avoid performance problems. The New York Army National Guard used ash from the beginning of its VDI project --- rst testing server-based ash technology during a pilot phase and then incorporating ash-based solid-state drives into Dell EqualLogic storage-area networks. Caporale said the VDI s performance equals or exceeds that of traditional desktop and laptop PCs. "I don t think we could have done that without solid-state drives," he added. VDI is well-suited to ash technology, but other perfor- mance-sensitive applications also stand to bene t from faster storage. For example, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) is exploring ash technology in a cou- ple of areas --- in one case, by using ash to supplement computing cluster storage. LLNL handles high-performance computing tasks on Linux clusters, some of which have thousands of compute nodes. The clusters rely on a parallel le system to sup- port large-scale storage, and LLNL employees periodically save data at various checkpoints in case a computing job fails to complete. The frequent saves put pressure on the parallel le system, but perhaps only one out of 10 checkpoints are important enough to save, said Matt Leininger, deputy for advanced technology projects at LLNL. Therefore, lab of cials would like to store the bulk of the saves with ash technology and reserve the parallel ExecTe c h BY JOHN MOORE For high-end applications and virtualization projects that depend on reliable storage, ash technology offers a tantalizing solution 26 May 15, 2013 FCW.COM
April 30, 2013
May 30, 2013