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Interview: LSI's Thomas Pavel on the advent of 12Gbps technology and how it can make your data centre better

Thomas Pavel, director of channel sales EMEA for Storage and Networking specialist, LSI tells ITProPortal more about the latest data acceleration technology to hit the market, how flash is coming of age in the enterprise and what's coming next.

1. Can you give me an idea of the latest trends on how we use and store data?

There's a lot of discussion around flash storage and big data at the moment and it's not all hype. Businesses certainly have a need for speed – the global volume, velocity and variety of data are all increasing and organisations are having to deal with the very real issues that arise from this – where to store it and, perhaps more importantly, how to access it quickly and efficiently to keep their business moving. From working with a cloud platform and using the highest quality datacentre architecture, to utilising flash technology for speed of access, the data storage landscape is certainly moving at a fast rate.

2. What sort of businesses are affected by big data and bottlenecks in the datacentre?

There are numerous uses for big data in every industry – whether to meet competitive, customer or compliance demands. Many organisations, regardless of their area of business, want insight from new and unstructured sources such as news reporting, web usage trends and social media chatter. From fast-paced financial services organisations to social media providers or any business dealing with mission-critical data, the ability to access and retrieve data quickly is also a major factor contributing to business success and/or customer satisfaction.

3. What role can flash storage play in making data move faster?

One option that some IT managers are considering is to replace the existing system in the datacentre with one that is entirely flash-optimised or supports all-flash. As with anything new, flash was initially considered risky by cautious IT managers who believed it would be difficult or disruptive to deploy but success by early adopters is now changing that view. Flash memory, with its low latency and reduced power consumption, holds the key to accelerating application performance and increasing server utilisation. Flash breaks through the bottleneck caused by storage latency by bridging the gap between main memory and even the fastest-spinning, shortest-stroked HDDs. Whether deployed as a solid state drive (SSD), or as PCIe controller, flash can accelerate application and workload performance up to 30-fold, an increase that improves server utilisation.

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4. What are the current challenges for businesses trying to optimise data acceleration on a daily basis?

The rapid increase in processor performance and the deployment of highly virtualised datacentres have placed increasing stress on conventional storage to the point that it is now often the main bottleneck to application performance. Multi-core processors and virtualised, multi-processor servers have dramatically improved server storage input/output (I/O) rates, while bandwidth and I/O operations per second (IOPs), have increased to surpass 200,000 to 250,000 IOPs for common workloads. The problem is that most databases and other applications with heavy I/O processing require writes to storage to complete before continuing, causing transactions to stall and servers to be under-utilised— a situation that has now made I/O latency the primary limiting factor in server storage performance. A balance needs to be struck between gaining optimum performance and working within budgets to achieve reasonable return on investment (ROI).

5. Is there a way to combat these challenges?

With flash technology costs at a premium, the most efficient way to maximise ROI whilst also gaining excellent performance results is to use flash intelligently. A small amount of flash-based storage can be used to supplement an existing HDD system. Using flash-based storage for caching for example is a cost-effective way to accelerate hot, or the most frequently accessed, data. Many applications access only a small segment of storage at high frequency, so accelerating access to this hot data can significantly improve overall system performance. Other, less frequently accessed data remains stored in the less expensive HDDs.

6. Why is the LSI 12Gb/s SAS host bus adapter family being brought to market now?

Storage infrastructure demands are growing, from I/O intensive applications to cloud datacentres and virtualised server environments. 12Gb/s HBAs will allow customers to unleash the full performance potential of next-generation servers, external storage systems and workloads, maximizing the potential of PCI Express 3.0 systems.

7. How will 12Gb/s technology affect data bottlenecks in data centres?

Being able to move at 12Gb/s means that measurements of over one million IOPS can be achieved, giving a 50 per cent improvement over the previous generation. 12Gb/s SAS is an evolutionary change and a big step forward for the market. For the first time, IT managers will be able to exploit the full potential of PCIe 3.0. This in turn will benefit businesses that rely on mission-critical data in a variety of environments, including transactional databases, data mining, video streaming and editing.

8. Can you introduce me to the 12Gb/s SAS host bus adapter family?

The LSI SAS 9300 HBA family has four models with industry leading performance. The LSI HBAs are designed to increase performance for business data stored on high-performance SAS hard drives, high-capacity SATA hard drives or application-accelerating SSDs. They have just been launched to the global market (15 July) and will be distributed through LSI's worldwide network of distributors, integrators and VARs.

Each HBA is powered by the LSI SAS 3008 or SAS 3004 12Gb/s SAS controller, includes mini-SAS HD connectors as specified by the SAS 3.0 Standard, and provides connectivity in a low-profile form factor supporting 8 lanes of PCIe 3.0. The products are available in single or kit solutions.

Désiré Athow

Désiré has been musing and writing about technology during a career spanning four decades. He dabbled in website building and web hosting when DHTML and frames were en vogue and started writing about the impact of technology on society just before the start of the Y2K hysteria at the turn of the last millennium. Following an eight-year stint at where he discovered the joys of global tech-fests, Désiré now heads up TechRadar Pro. Previously he was a freelance technology journalist at Incisive Media, Breakthrough Publishing and Vnunet, and Business Magazine. He also launched and hosted the first Tech Radio Show on Radio Plus.