At the Cloud Connect Performance Summit back in February I presented the topic “Increasing Storage Performance in a Multi-Tenant Cloud”. The way the schedule fell out I took the stage after Adrian Cockroft from NetFlix. Coincidentally, I borrowed a few quotes from Adrian’s prior blogging on the subject to help bring to life the biggest roadblocks to achieving great storage performance in a multi-tenant cloud. In my discussion I called out three key problem areas: the capacity vs IOPS imbalance, handling multi-tenancy, and performance consistency. My discussion centered around the limitations of legacy solutions and how flash storage, if leveraged correctly, can help remedy current cloud performance woes.

 

Many thanks to Adrian, who continues to be a great straight man for the biggest challenges we are tackling here at SolidFire. In a recent Q&A with ZDNet UK’s Jack Clark, Adrian shared some perspectives that we commonly hear from cloud service providers and their customers:

  • “The thing I’ve been publicly asking for has been better IO in the cloud. Obviously I want SSDs in there. We’ve been asking cloud vendors to do that for a while.”
  • “The instances available from AWS have similar CPU, memory and network capacity to instances available for private datacentre use, but are currently much more limited for disk I/O.”
  • “The hard thing to do in the cloud is to do high-performance IO [input-output], but that is starting to change as third-party vendors are figuring out ways of connecting high-performance IO externally, and we’ve worked around it with our [Cassandra] data store architecture.”

Probably the most interesting answer was in response to a question around why it took Amazon so long to roll out an SSD-based offering (referring to DynamoDB). Cockcroft remarked:

 

“It’s purely scale for them. For Amazon to do something they have to do it on a scale that’s really mind-boggling. If you think about deploying an infrastructure service with a new type of hardware – if they got it wrong, they can’t turn it back out and do it again differently. So they have to over-engineer what they do.”

 

The key point here is that performance (through SSDs) was only part of the problem Amazon had to address. In fact, the bigger challenge for them to overcome was scale. Scale is what differentiates true clouds from small virtualized environments. Everything has to be designed to scale, which imposes a very different set of design considerations and constraints on an architecture. SSD or not, you can’t escape this reality. At SolidFire, scale is what we do best. There are many options for high-performance storage these days, but only SolidFire is designed for cloud scale. In doing so we are enabling service providers to focus on offering a differentiated portfolio of high performance cloud services and advancing the way we all use the cloud.

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Dave Wright

Dave Wright, SolidFire CEO and founder, left Stanford in 1998 to help start GameSpy Industries, a leader in online videogame media, technology, and software. GameSpy merged with IGN Entertainment in 2004 and Dave served as Chief Architect for IGN and led technology integration with FIM / MySpace after IGN was acquired by NewsCorp in 2005. In 2007 Dave founded Jungle Disk, a pioneer and early leader in cloud-based storage and backup solutions for consumers and businesses. Jungle Disk was acquired by leading cloud provider Rackspace in 2008 and Dave worked closely with the Rackspace Cloud division to build a cloud platform supporting tens of thousands of customers. In December 2009 Dave left Rackspace to start SolidFire.