Like many other Nuveum technologies, IronVault was developed in-house to meet our need for high performance and low latency storage, at an affordable price point.  This comparison is intended to showcase IronVault technology and performance as it compares to some well known storage products.

The Problem: Hard Disks are Slow

Hard disks are slow; about 100 times slower than network, and 10,000 times slower than CPU and memory. Server RAID improves performance, but not enough to eliminate disk storage as major drag on performance.

The Storage: High Performance Without the High Cost

Products from such as EMC, Netapp, Equilogic, 3PAR, and others provide high performance (at commensurately high cost) using proprietary implementations of filesystems, hardware, and data management algorithms. When developing IronVault our goal was to reduce the cost of high performance by 50% and pass this savings on to our clients. IronVault uses the same time tested data management strategies already proven in enterprise SAN deployments.

The result of our success  is that IronVault provides similarly high levels of performance and similar sophisticated data management capabilities. IronVault allows the computational and network power of the Nuveum platform to run at full speed by eliminating the bottleneck of storage access.  Nuveum IronVault storage delivers state of the art performance, availability, and reliability by any measure.






Why Hard Disks Are Bad for Performance

Hard disks are incredibly slow as compared to the rest of any computer by a factor of at least 100. Speeding up the data storage systems of a computer therefore dramatically increases performance for operations that require disk reads or writes, which summarizes the vast majority of server workloads.

Ideally data can be provided instantaneously with zero latency. This means that a system CPU never has to wait for external data input/output and it can always run most efficiently at full speed.
Nuveum IronVault Storage

IronVault Smart Cache Accelerates Data Reads

IronVault uses smart a three tier caching strategy provide data storage that's between 10 to 100 times faster than standard hard disks. Frequently accessed data is promoted to higher level caches and infrequently read data is also demoted from the caches. The caching process happens dynamically and adaptively to adjust to changing workloads, and is sometimes referred to as hybrid storage.

The primary cache contains the most frequently demanded data and is stored in DRAM. DRAM can essentially considered an instantaneous medium for data retrieval. Ideally we'd be able to keep a copy of all data in DRAM, however  DRAM capacity is limited due to cost and physical constraints. Therefore a secondary cache that is still very fast is employed.

The secondary cache uses solid state disk (SSD) and is accessible with sub millisecond (1/1,000 or a second) latency. A key feature of SSD is that it maintains low latency even when performing thousands of simultaneous operations. SSD can be considered near instantaneous storage and provide the added advantage of being non-volatile (i.e. data survives system power off - unlike DRAM).

At the tertiary level are the physical disks themselves, arranged in a high performance RAID (redundant array of independent disks). If data is not available in either the primary cache or the secondary cache it will only then be read from disk. Because the disks service are much less busy due to the caches in front of them, they can do their job faster.

The hard disk RAID is faster than a single disk because it combines the speed of many disks. When a read or write is required from a RAID, those operations are spread out among multiple disks, and the division of work means that the overall operation happens faster. Different levels of RAID have different performance characteristics, a discussion of which can be found here.

IronVault Hybrid Logging Accelerates Data Writes

Just as the Smart Cache features accelerates data reads, Hybrid Logging accelerates data writes. IronVault uses an append only circular logging strategy strategy similar to that used by databases. A disk write is first committed to located on solid state storage and is then acknowledged as complete. This process happens very quickly, generally 100x to 1000x faster than a write to a single disk. The data is then moved to permanent disk storage as a time insensitive operation and the log entry is then cleared.

Enterprise Class Disks

IronVault uses enterprise class disks to provide maximum performance and reliability. While enterprise class disks are 2 - 3 times more expensive per GB than consumer level disks, the advantages they offer over the disks found in low end servers and typical cloud storage offerings are simply essential. Enterprise drives provide better data protection and consistent performance characteristics, providing a critical element of predictablity within IronVault.



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RAID-10 Provides Maximum Disk Level Performance

IronVault achieves high performance using multiple RAID 10 arrays arranged in groups. Each array provides a 2x increase in write performance and a 4x improvement in read performance as compared to a single disk. Each group of arrays provides a linear performance increase in an additive fashion. So two groups provides 4x write performance and 8x read performance increase.  The groups  can be scaled as necessary to meet system performance parameters. A typical IronVault module contains somewhere between 4 groups comprised of 16 physical disks to 32 groups comprised of 128 disks. We adjust these ratios depending on our desired performance profile as relates to the expected workload the particular storage unit is intended to serve.



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