IBM FlashSystem Accelerates VMware vCloud

IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
IBM FlashSystem
VMware vCloud
Benchmark testing confirms more
than double application performance
Accelerates application performance
by up to 2.5x over vCloud environments
supported only by hard disk drives.
Helps drive down costs and minimize
complexity while escalating business value.
2VMware vCloud Suite
2IBM FlashSystem
3Working together
5VMware vCloud, IBM
FlashSystem benchmark test
7For more information
Hard data is readily available that demonstrates the benefits of application
server virtualization when using solutions such as the new VMware
vCloud Suite. One source is especially revealing. IBM Flash Centers
of Competency (CoC) offer a presales service called data pattern
analysis that digs deep into customer server, network and storage
performance metrics. Actual customer results from this service prove that
virtualized environments utilize their underlying infrastructure resources
much more efficiently, which explains why host-side virtualization has
swept through data centers so rapidly. But numerous real-world data
pattern analyses also show how VMware environments can place extreme
demands on their supporting storage systems. For example, the percentage
of active data dramatically increases. And instead of simple, predictable,
often sequential data streams, vCloud environments produce much less
predictable, much more random I/O patterns. Simply stated, these can
be disk killers.
Now, there is also hard data confirming how much better than
disk-based storage IBM® FlashSystem® performs in vCloud environments.
The IBM FlashSystem Solutions Engineering lab, part of the IBM
Gaithersburg FlashSystem CoC, has conducted extensive tests comparing
the performance of both enterprise disk and IBM FlashSystem storage
against a representative vCloud online transaction processing application
workload. These tests show that IBM FlashSystem can accelerate
application performance by up to 2.5x when compared to vCloud
environments supported only by hard disk drives. The IBM testing
also confirms the interoperability of IBM FlashSystem storage and
relevant vCloud components such as vSphere and vCenter Site Recovery
Manager (SRM). Thanks to these test results, enterprises planning
to implement vCloud and those with vSphere or other VMware
solutions already deployed can add IBM FlashSystem to their storage
solution architecture with confidence. This addition can help accelerate
application performance, decrease both costs and complexity, and escalate
business value.
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
VMware vCloud Suite
vCloud provides:
VMware vCloud Suite helps enterprises bring their products
and services to market faster by virtualizing and optimizing
information technology (IT) infrastructure, automating IT
service delivery, and providing high availability for both
traditional and new application types such as big data. This
means a business running vCloud Suite can respond faster to
customer demands, spend more time on innovation and be
ready for the next generation of applications.
The VMware vCloud Suite is an integrated offering comprised
of vSphere, vCenter SRM, vRealize Operations (VCOps),
vRealize Automation, and vRealize Business. vCloud is
designed to enable enterprises of all sizes and types to build
and manage VMware vSphere-based private clouds that can
dramatically improve efficiency, agility and control. As
illustrated in Figure 1, when used together, the vCloud Suite
components provide virtualization, software defined data
center services, policy-based storage provisioning, disaster
recovery, application management and operations management.
IBM FlashSystem
The IBM FlashSystem family of all-flash storage platforms
includes IBM FlashSystem 900 and IBM FlashSystem
V9000 arrays. Powered by IBM FlashCore™ technology,
FlashSystem 900 delivers the extreme performance, enterprise
reliability and operational efficiencies required to gain
competitive advantage in today’s dynamic marketplace.
vCloud Suite
Build and Manage a vSphere-based Private Cloud
Management and Automation
vRealize Automation
vRealize Operations
vRealize Business
and Security
Storage and
vCenter Site
Recovery Manager
Adding to these capabilities, IBM FlashSystem V9000 offers
the advantages of software defined storage at the speed of
flash. These all-flash storage systems deliver the full capabilities
of IBM FlashCore technology’s hardware accelerated
architecture, MicroLatency™ modules, and advanced flash
management coupled with a rich set of features found in only
the most advanced enterprise storage solutions, including
IBM Real-time Compression™, virtualization, dynamic
tiering, thin provisioning, snapshots, cloning, replication,
data copy services and high-availability configurations.
Virtual SAN
vCloud Suite
Powerful server virtualization: Virtualize and support traditional
and next-generation applications with the industry-leading
x86 server virtualization platform.
Disaster recovery automation: Protect applications and simplify
disaster recovery with one-click automated orchestration
and non-disruptive testing of centralized recovery plans.
Automated delivery: Automate provisioning and delivery of
infrastructure, applications and custom IT services for vSphere
environments through a self-service portal and catalog.
Intelligent operations: Manage infrastructure and applications
for vSphere environments using predictive analytics and
an integrated approach to performance, capacity and
configuration management.
Business insight: Align IT spending with business priorities,
using virtualized infrastructure service costing, usage
metering and service pricing for vSphere environments.
Add-on to vCloud Suite
Figure 1: The capabilities of VMware vCloud Suite
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
Working together
IBM and VMware have been working together for years to
ensure that enterprises deploying IBM FlashSystem and
VMware vCloud-based systems gain the greatest possible
value from these solutions. VMware provides an ecosystem in
which other companies can integrate their products and provide
additional functions for the virtualized infrastructure. Storage
partners have the opportunity to integrate with several VMware
application programming interfaces (API) to provide additional
functions, enhanced performance, and integrated management.
For enterprises deploying IBM FlashSystem to accelerate their
VMware environment and achieve even greater cost advantages,
the operative points of integration include VMware vStorage
APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) and VMware vSphere APIs
for Storage Awareness (VASA). The testing conducted by the
IBM Flash CoC in Gaithersburg and highlighted in this white
paper included the successful enablement and operation of both
these VMware storage integration tools against the backend
IBM FlashSystem array.
Figure 2: IBM FlashSystem 900
VMware performance is often limited by traditional storage
because disk-based systems struggle with the “I/O blender
effect” caused by consolidation and virtualization of mixed
application environments. As multiple virtual machines (VMs)
run on a single physical server, each with its own demanding
storage requirements, disks simply can’t keep up. IBM
FlashSystem V9000 can solve many of the storage challenges
posed by VMware environments. It handles random I/O
patterns with ease, and it offers the capability to virtualize all
of your data storage resources and bring them together under
one point of control. IBM FlashSystem V9000 provides a
comprehensive storage solution that seamlessly and automatically
allocates storage resources to address virtually every application
demand, including integrating legacy storage to preserve existing
storage investments. Combine these capabilities with its ability
to free up vSphere from many of its storage management tasks
and IBM FlashSystem V9000 helps enterprises realize the full
value of VMware.
VAAI and IBM FlashSystem
VAAI is a set of APIs available to storage systems that enable
certain VMware functions to be delegated to the storage array,
which can enhance performance and reduce load on servers
and storage area networks (SAN). Enabling VAAI requires
no administrative overhead; IBM FlashSystem V9000 volumes
are enabled by default. However, administrators can validate
that a volume is supported through the vSphere Web Client
or the VMware ESX command line interface (CLI). VAAI
enables vSphere to offload specific virtual machine and storage
management operations to compliant storage hardware, such
as IBM FlashSystem. With this storage hardware assistance,
vSphere performs faster and consumes less CPU, memory and
storage fabric bandwidth.
As shown in figure 4, VAAI enables the relevant components
of vCloud to discover the capabilities of backend storage.
By default, the system will test for the capabilities of any
VAAI-enabled storage system unless it is specifically disabled
on a per-vSphere host basis. The current implementation of
VAAI in vSphere 5.5 includes hardware-accelerated Block
Zero, hardware-assisted Locking, and hardware-accelerated
Full Copy, all supported by IBM FlashSystem V9000. These
functions each relate to and can benefit common VMware
operational tasks.
Figure 3: IBM FlashSystem V9000
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
Hardware-assisted Locking
Figure 4: VAAI integration with IBM FlashSystem
Many vSphere operations, including VM power-on, snapshot
creation and deletion, and vMotion, require that a SCSI
reservation be placed on the Virtual Machine File System
(VMFS) volume from the initiating host. This lock prevents
other host servers from accessing the relevant storage volume
(LUN). This is a protective measure used to prevent VMs from
being modified by more than one vSphere host at a time and
to protect the VMFS metadata. However, it can also result
in reduced performance when VMFS volumes with a high
number of virtual machines are used. The hardware-assisted
Locking function eliminates this problem by providing a
more granular way to control access to the VMFS metadata.
Rather than a lock being placed by a host on the entire LUN,
hardware-assisted Locking enables the storage subsystem, such
as IBM FlashSystem, to place a lock on a single block of data.
This can enhance performance in many ways and significantly
increase the scalability of VMFS volumes and vSphere clusters.
Hardware-accelerated Block Zero
VASA and FlashSystem
vStorage APIs for Array Intergration
VMware vSphere
Provisions VMs
from Template
Thin Provisioning
Disk Performance
VMFS Share
Storage Pool
vSphere hosts utilizing IBM FlashSystem V9000 storage
can be configured to use hardware-accelerated Block Zero,
which offloads the initialization of disk blocks to the IBM
FlashSystem V9000 array. This offloaded task initializes
large numbers of disk blocks very quickly without transferring
data over the SAN or consuming vSphere host resources.
The task can enhance:
VMware vSphere VASA provides information about IBM
storage-centric topology, capabilities, attributes and storage
events to the vCenter Server in real time. VASA improves the
ability to monitor and automate storage-related operations
on VMware platforms. These functional and nonfunctional
characteristics are automatically surfaced by IBM FlashSystem
V9000 and presented to vCenter to enhance intelligent
automation of the storage resource management. VASA
interfaces with IBM FlashSystem V9000 through IBM Spectrum
Control™ Base, a member of the IBM Spectrum Storage™
family of software defined storage products previously
known as Storage Integration Server. Spectrum Control Base
runs as a host application under Linux with minimum
requirements and a straightforward installation and
configuration process. With Spectrum Control Base, VASA
can manage all its storage targets, including IBM FlashSystem
V9000, from a single management interface, specifically
VMware vCenter. This capability includes the ability to set
the default multipath policy for that storage array, allowing it
to create, map, delete, extend and migrate between storage
pools. The storage administrator uses Spectrum Control Base
to manage preferred IBM storage systems and identify which
storage pools should be available for use in the vSphere
environment. The administrator also controls the specific
VMware vCenter servers that can use the IBM storage resources.
Cloning operations which include eagerzerodthick
.VMDK files
Allocating new file blocks for thin-provisioned .VMDK files
Initializing previous unwritten file blocks for
zeroedthick .VMDK files.
Hardware-accelerated Full Copy
When a new VM is created from cloning a template or VM,
data is read from the source VM or template up through the
running vSphere host and back down to the destination.
Hardware-accelerated Full Copy allows the operations to be
run on IBM FlashSystem V9000 and not on the vSphere host.
In addition to cloning, Full Copy is also engaged during a
Storage vMotion operation. When a task is created to migrate
a VM, the operation can run completely on IBM FlashSystem
V9000. Full Copy greatly reduces the SAN traffic required for
performing cloning and migration operations, as well as saving
CPU cycles and Host Bus Adapter (HBA) queue slots on the
vSphere hosts. In addition to these efficiencies, cloning and
migration tasks using Full Copy with IBM FlashSystem run
significantly faster than when using alternative methods.
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
VMware vCloud, IBM FlashSystem
benchmark test results
IBM/VMware Integration Points
Test environment
The IBM FlashSystem Solutions Engineering lab conducted
integration and performance tests using industry-standard tools
and test plans. The test environment included:
of Requests
(many repetitive)
IBM Spectrum Control
Common Intergration Point / Orchestration & Automation
Requests consolidated
and reduced
IBM 3650 M4 x86 servers configured with:
–– Microsoft Windows 2012 with MS SQL Server 2012
–– VMware vSphere 5.5
–– 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2640v2 @ 2.00 GHz processors
–– 128 GB RAM
–– 2 x 16 Gb Dual port Fiber Channel adapters
IBM FlashSystem array with 20 TB usable storage
Enterprise disk storage pool consisting of 24 300 GB 15K
RPM drives in (2) 8 RAID-5 and (1) RAID-5 disk groups.
The performance benchmarks were generated using
HammerDB for MS SQL Server 2012 generating an online
transaction processing (OLTP) workload based on the
TPC-C specification. The test plan involved:
IBM FlashSystem
Figure 5: Increasing efficiency with IBM Spectrum Control Base
1. Installing and configuring MS SQL Server 2012 on Windows
Server 2012 with HammerDB as the test harness.
2. Running benchmarks with HammerDB on the MS SQL
Server 2012 databases against the bare metal servers.
3. Running synthetic benchmarks on the Windows Server
2012 and RedHat Enterprise Linux 6.5.
4. Using VMware vCenter Converter to migrate the physical
servers to VMs residing on the VMware cluster with IBM
FlashSystem uncompressed volumes backing them.
5. Running benchmarks with HammerDB on the VMs.
6. Running synthetic benchmarks on Windows Server 2012
VM and RedHat Enterprise Linux 6.5 VM.
7. Using Storage vMotion to migrate the volumes from
uncompressed LUNs to compressed LUNs.
8. Running benchmarks with HammerDB on the VMs with
compressed volumes.
9. Using Storage vMotion to migrate the volumes from
compressed LUNs on the IBM FlashSystem array to
a disk-based datastore.
There are many integration points in VMware, including
vCenter and vRealize Orchestrator. These VMware entities
generate thousands of requests against the storage system to
gather the information they need. Moreover, these entities
also request the same information from the storage system.
This approach, with many redundant requests against the
storage system, does not scale well in very large virtualized
environments. In these scenarios, as illustrated in Figure 5,
the numerous requests cannot be handled regularly in a
timely manner. For example, when using the IBM System
Storage® plug-in for vCenter in such large environments,
the time spent to refresh that agent (plug-in) can be easily
30 minutes or even up to one hour for very large sites.
Spectrum Control Base works as an abstraction layer
between the VMware environment and IBM FlashSystem
V9000, thereby consolidating and reducing the VMware
generated requests against the storage system, helping
dramatically increase system efficiency and performance.
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
HammerDB was used to generate TPC-C transactional or
OLTP workloads characterized by a database receiving both
requests for data and multiple changes to this data from a
number of users over time, where these modifications are called
transactions. Each database transaction has a defined beginning
point, manipulates and modifies the data within the database,
and either commits the changes or rolls back the changes to
the starting point. Performance and scalability are essential
properties of systems designed to process transactional
workloads, and the TPC-C benchmark is designed by the
Transaction Processing Performance Council (TPC) to measure
the ability of the software and hardware of a relational database
system to process OLTP-type workloads.
Transactions per Minute (TPM)
Benchmark results
Figure 6 provides a consolidated view of the IBM FlashSystem
and VMware vCloud test results. The Y axis measures the
number of transactions per minute (TPM) that each test case
achieved, while the X axis notes the rising number of simulated
concurrent users. A performance baseline was first generated
by running the TPC-C workloads against a server without
vSphere (physical) supported by a conventional enterprise
disk storage system. Next, the test environment was migrated to
a VM generated by vSphere and supported by the conventional
disk-based storage (virtual/disk). Then the TPC-C workloads
were run against the vSphere VM pointed at LUNs hosted
on a single IBM FlashSystem array without data compression
enabled (Virtual – FlashSystem Uncompressed). Finally, to
illustrate the performance of IBM Real-time Compression
in a vCloud environment, the same tests were repeated with
IBM Real-time Compression enabled (Virtual – FlashSystem
Number of Concurrent Users
Virtual (FlashSystem Uncompressed)
Virtual (Disk)
Virtual (FlashSystem Compressed)
Figure 6: VMware and IBM FlashSystem benchmark test results
It’s important to note that these performance results were
generated using storage configurations that may or may not
closely match a particular real world scenario. For example,
many enterprises will have already deployed some solid state
drives (SSD) into their disk-based systems, either on the host
side as expanded data caches or on the storage side as cache or
Tier 1 storage. The possible SSD configurations are too
numerous for inclusive testing, but in every case the performance
trace would certainly fall somewhere between the physical and
the virtual with IBM FlashSystem traces noted above. SSDs
will improve performance over pure disk-based storage in
vCloud environments. But no SSDs will provide the high
level of application performance, consistent microsecond
latency, storage density, system reliability, and VAAI/VASA
integration benefits offered all in one simple-to-deploy
platform: IBM FlashSystem V9000.
The test results make it immediately clear that IBM FlashSystem
provides significant performance benefits in the vCloud
environment, in the range of a 157 percent improvement over
the non-virtualized, disk-based configuration. Interestingly,
performance actually increased from the 100,000 TPM achieved
in the baseline physical/disk test case to 150,000 TPM when
the test server was generated by vSphere but still backed by disk
storage. Then note the dramatic leap in performance when the
test LUNs were hosted on IBM FlashSystem. System TPM
increases by more than double, to nearly 400,000. Perhaps
the most important results were generated by the Virtual and
Compressed test case. When IBM Real-time Compression
was enabled, TPM performance dropped insignificantly.
IBM Systems
Technical White Paper
For more information
Testing conducted by IBM and supported by VMware confirms
the interoperability of vCloud and IBM FlashSystem. The
two industry-leading products, when working together, provide
extraordinary benefits. Data pattern analyses can easily
confirm the increased IT infrastructure resource efficiencies
and utilization rates produced by vCLoud when compared
to non-virtualized environments. When IBM FlashSystem
storage is added to the mix–thanks to the synergies between
FlashSystem, Spectrum Control Base, and VMware VASA
and VAAI, plus the market-leading performance offered by
the all-flash storage arrays – overall IT infrastructure
performance more than doubled in IBM benchmark testing.
To learn more about accelerating VMware vCloud with
IBM FlashSystem, please contact your IBM representative
or IBM Business Partner, or visit the following website:
With the tight integration and multi-dimensional advantages
offered by VMware vCloud and IBM FlashSystem, now
enterprises of all types can lower costs and IT complexity,
derive much greater value from big data and analytics, and
shift significant resources away from managing infrastructure
and toward increasing innovation and competitive advantage.
© Copyright IBM Corporation 2015
IBM Corporation
Software Group
Route 100
Somers, NY 10589
Produced in the United States of America
August 2015
IBM,, the IBM logo, IBM FlashSystem, IBM FlashCore,
MicroLatency, Real-time Compression, IBM Spectrum Control, IBM
Spectrum Storage, and System Storage are trademarks of International
Business Machines Corp., registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Other
product and service names might be trademarks of IBM or other companies.
A current list of IBM trademarks is available on the Web at “Copyright and
trademark information” at
Microsoft and Windows are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the
United States, other countries, or both.
Intel is a trademark or registered trademark of Intel Corporation or its
subsidiaries in the United States and other countries.
This document is current as of the initial date of publication and may
be changed by IBM at any time. Not all offerings are available in every
country in which IBM operates.
products are warranted according to the terms and conditions of the
agreements under which they are provided.
Please Recycle
Explore flashcards