Feature

A New Way to Balance Performance

Ezine

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Pierre Baudet likes to squeeze every last ounce of performance out of his hardware. As business systems manager for New Balance Athletic Shoes Inc., Boston, MA, he oversees a fairly conventional environment consisting of 100 or so servers attached to his Hewlett Packard XP128 SAN array. But when it came to a switching platform, he wasn't happy with the typical storage networking switches options.

With them, no matter how finely he tuned his servers and storage arrays, it would basically have been first-come, first-served for packets going through his Fibre Channel switch. Like anyone who has more inbound ports than outbound ports, he wouldn't have been able to guarantee that critical apps would get the bandwidth that they needed, or conversely, that they wouldn't swamp everything else within the switch.

Baudet, who has a data networking and telecom background, opted for a new kind of storage switch developed by Sandial Systems Inc., Nashua, NH. Called the Storage Control Engine, the switch has a time division multiplexing core that provides a measure of quality of service on top of typical director-class features. Each port can be assigned a minimum and maximum time slice of the backplane bandwidth. Bandwidth can be easily reassigned on the fly to accommodate specific circumstances.

"I assign 70% of the switch bandwidth for certain apps," says Baudet. Their performance is guaranteed by the switch. Baudet says that a byproduct of the architecture is that

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he has very good visibility into application performance on the network, allowing him to more readily troubleshoot application performance. Currently, he's only using a dozen or so ports on the large switch, which can handle "more than 128 ports," according to company officials. He plans to add more in the coming year.

Sandial's technology is proprietary. The company has no current plans to submit it as a standard, although it hasn't ruled it out either.

This was first published in November 2003

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