I’m going to tip my hand early: Sun’s new Open Storage platform is really sweet.
Ok, now that that’s out of the way, let me give you some background.
We first heard from Sun about the new Open Storage platform in April of 2008. The concept of mixing solid state drives (SSD) with SATA drives in a variety of configurations sounded really good, but our experience with Sun’s NFS products in the past had been less than stellar on the performance front. When it comes to our business, especially the email side of the business, storage performance over NFS is critical. So in the past, Sun’s (and StorageTek’s) solutions were always left behind in favour of other providers (read: Netapp).
In October, Lucian Florea (our Director of Technical Operations and Planning) and I were down in the Valley talking to Sun about Tucows and OpenSRS, our challenges, and their solutions. Mike Shapiro and Victor Walker took us through a demo of the platform – it was real! The web UI for managing the platform, replication, SSD, the low price; it was all there. This was, of course, still pre-launch, but Victor generously offered us an engineering evaluation unit to put through the wringer. I have to tell you, it was difficult to contain my excitement: in Canada, you get accustomed to waiting MONTHS before hardware released in the US is available north of the border, never mind getting a pre-release platform on site for extensive testing!
Since early November we’ve been putting the platform through progressively more demanding tests. Tests that many vendors fail miserably and which cause us to immediately halt further testing. Tests in which previous Sun/StorageTek equipment has not fared particularly well.
We start with Bonnie++, a tried and true disk subsystem benchmark suite. It’s interesting to note here that the Toro (Sun 7410) was very comparable to a Netapp 3040 in performance and beat the 3040 in many of the tests.
We next move on to a suite of tests using tools we’ve built to simulate the email storage subsystems: many threads, many directories, and huge numbers of files in the directories being randomly created, read, stat’d and deleted. Many vendors have serious problems when directories become heavily populated. The 3040 has a serious performance hit when there are more than 1,000 files in a directory (the exact number is unclear, but somewhere between 1,000 and 5,000 files performance really drops off). I was happily surprised to see that the Toro we tested didn’t suffer a performance penalty until there were over 100,000 files in a directory and even then the hit was pretty minor.
We’re now working on getting the hardware deployed into our dev/qa environment for email so we can run our email platform on a Netapp drive side by side with the Open Storage hardware for some direct application comparison testing. If that goes well, we’ll progress to our production test environment and then to limited production deployment on test mailboxes. Finally, if all this testing goes well, we’ll have the ability to slowly introduce the Sun platform into production. This is a painstakingly slow process, but it’s necessary to ensure the stability and performance of the OpenSRS platforms.
I’ll close with a reiteration of my opening: I’m really impressed with this platform. Sun’s done an amazing job, and the Open Storage platform is going to shake the (largely ridiculously overpriced) enterprise storage market to its core. Keep up the great work!