Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sun's exciting technologies

It's exciting to see how many technologies Sun is working on.

On May 1, I took a few members of our operations and database team to meet with Vasu Prakash who is an Engagement Architect with Global Systems Engineering division of Sun Microsystems. Vasu generously let us pick his brain regarding a wide range of exciting technologies Sun is working on and to see how they may potentially address our needs and challenges.

The following notes are my personal notes expanded with some articles from my bookmark collection.

Thumper
- Thumper (X4500) offers 48TB (SATA HDD) in a 4U at around $1.30/GB, runs Solaris OS and ZFS and supports RAID 0, 1, 0+1, 5, 6 enabled by RAID-Z and Raid Z2. X4500 supports 16GB RAM and needs 200-220 V AC for power. For non-Solaris users, other operating systems are supported as well.
- We initially evaluated Thumper as our backup storage solution but then ended up going with Sun Storage Tek. I am, however, interested in evaluating it further.
- Robert Milkowski wrote a post benchmarking Thumper and found that he was able to get more than 2GB/s aggregate write throughput using raid-5 volumes! He concludes with "Woooha! It can write more data to disks than most (all?) Intel servers can read or write to memory"
- Jason Hoffman also seems pretty pleased with Thumper
- Jonathan Schwartz's blog post announcing Thumper

ZFS
- ZFS, for those who need an introduction, is a 128-bit transactional file system offering self-healing capabilities and useful if you are running into limitations of 64-bit file systems. It is 18 billion billion times larger than 64-bit file systems.
- ZFS pooled storage can grow and shrink automaticaly.
- One of the questions I am most often asked by people is that if ZFS is really what it is then why hasn't it replaced UFS as default file system for Solaris. I would love to see a blog post by a Sun insider addressing this question.
- ZFS Best Practices Guide
- ZFS Learning Center

Solaris Containers
- For a really interesting project, I may need to create a couple hundred zones on a server (no this is not for a production system as we are a Redshift application). I was surprised to learn that more than 8000 zones (8191 non-global zones to be precise) can be created within a single operating system instance. Of course, if you do create a very high number of zones, don't benchmark boot time as it will take a very long time to boot up:)

SAM-FS
SAM-FS is short for Sun StorageTek Storage Archive Manager and it is a very exciting policy based file system by Sun. According to Sun website (it is marketing lingo but saves me the hassle):

"SAM software provides data classification, centralized meta-data management, policy based data placement, protection, migration, long-term retention, and recovery to help organizations effectively manage and utilize data according to business requirements. SAM enables users to reduce the cost of storing vast data repositories by providing a powerful, easily managed, cost-effective way to access, retain, and protect business data over its entire lifecycle. This self-protecting file system offers continuous backup and fast recovery features to help enhance productivity and improve resource utilization."

In a nutshell, if I understand correctly, SAM allows you to specify policies and then based on those policies it can move your data around from a fast-but-expensive storage to inexpensive-but-slower storage to give you the most bang for the buck. All data migration and transfer is transparent to the application. MLB is a major user of SAM. There is also an interesting case study on how MLB uses SAM.

QFS:
If NFS is your headache then QFS may provide a solution. QFS provides "nearly raw device access to information and data consolidation for read/write file sharing," according to Sun. My understanding is that using QFS requires a fibre channel to connect application servers to storage (if that's not true, can someone please correct me).

A maximum of 128 systems running QFS can share access to the same data without compromising file integrity. QFS volumes can scale up to 4PB. More QFS features are available on Sun site.

The main limitation to note: Mixed architecture (SPARC with x64) metadata servers are not supported for failover purposes. Neither are mixed architecture multi-reader configurations supported.

More Sun technologies I want to write about: Sun Cluster implementations in local (node to node), metro (run a fibre :) ) and global (global load balancer) modes. Sun cluster requires common storage that should be either direct attached or attached through a SAN switch. In addition, failure fencing, memory mirroring and vertical threading in M4000, Sun's Victoria falls processors (T5140 and T5240), PNFS and last but not least, Greenplum (claiming to be world's best database for BI and built upon PostgreSQL). Hopefully, I will talk about them in my future posts.

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