Life as a hosting provider: How Elastx checked off all the boxes on their storage wishlist

I have been working with data center and storage solutions for 18 years and one of the things on the top of my wishlist has been a storage system that could keep up with the rest of the infrastructure. While servers and network increased in capacity and performance, the good ol’ hard drives just increased in capacity and NOT performance. Yes, a lot of alternative solutions have been developed during the years to compensate for the lack of disk performance, but no solution that really solved the core problem. Most solutions use cache to remove hot spots, but you can’t cache it all. And then you still could not get predictable performance — especially not in a multi-tenant environment.

90% of all the performance issues that arose for us were infrastructure-related and were caused by storage. Even if the system was performing okay when we did IOPS and throughput tests, the system still felt slow and single transactions did not perform as expected. It all depends on the latency. A high-performance hard drive has an average latency of 4ms and a general rule is that a storage system should have a latency of less than 10ms to be considered okay in performance. The problem is when the storage system is heavily loaded and another server (the noisy neighbor) is using the same disk and your IO is queued, then you can get latency numbers up to 20-30ms. SSDs are great as they do not have the latency issues as traditional hard drives do, but the problem is the cost.

The way we deliver IT infrastructure (IaaS) and platform (PaaS) is changing rapidly. In the legacy service model, where you think of your machines as pets and give them names like frodo.elastx.net, they are raised and cared for. When they get ill, you nurse them back to health. In the new cloud service model, machines are treated like cattle and given number names like vm10023.elastx.net. They are all identical and when they get ill, you shoot them and get another one. You work with parallel servers and scale out for redundancy and scalability. This has shown to be the best way to do it with servers and with my experience the best way to build storage systems as well.

In 2001 I founded 24 Solutions which offers traditional managed services but with a focus on compliance and high availability. During the last couple of years we saw a huge demand from our customers to deliver a more elastic and automated environment with the possibility to integrate with the customer business and DevOps processes. So, at the end of 2012 I founded the company Elastx that only offers cloud-based PaaS and consultancy services. Then I had the privilege to build a completely new infrastructure that was designed from the beginning for multi-tenant cloud computing. When searching and evaluating products for the platform, storage was the area where we really hoped to find a better solution.

This was the storage system wish list that we had.

  • SSD (or similar) only
  • Some dedupe or similar technology to make it affordable
  • Scale-out design where we would get more IOPS per node
  • Fully redundant where we should be able to lose a node without downtime
  • Integration with OpenStack

We did a lot of searching and found a number of potential products. SolidFire was the only system that checked all the boxes! One feature that SolidFire had that we did not even have in the list of requirements was true Quality of Service (QoS).

The SolidFire deduplication and compression made the system affordable even if it is SSD only. With a SSD-only system we can get predictable performance and always deliver high performance and low latency. During our performance tests we got up to 2ms latency during maximum IOPS load. During normal load we achieved sub 1ms latency, which is 10-20 times better than a normal hard-disk-based storage system. With the linear scalability achieved by a scale-out design we can be certain not to run into bottlenecks in the storage system when we grow in capacity. We also see the SolidFire contribution to OpenStack as a big advantage securing the future integration with the OpenStack platform.

Learn more about how Elastx is being Fueled by SolidFire™ .

-Joakim Öhman, CEO, Elastx

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