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How useful are storage benchmarks?

Ezine

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SPC roadmap
SPC-1 and SPC-2 are tailored toward objective and verifiable performance measurement of large and complex storage configurations. Their relatively high benchmarking cost, combined with configuration requirements, makes them ill-suited for testing storage components and smaller storage subsystems.

For those reasons, approximately three years ago SPC began modifying SPC-1 and SPC-2 to create derivatives, namely SPC-1C ("C" stands for components) and SPC-2C, which are a better fit for storage component benchmarking. They use the same workloads as SPC-1 and SPC-2, and their specifications and reporting requirements will be similar to those of their large storage benchmark equivalents. They'll be used to benchmark disk drives, host bus adapters/controllers, single-enclosure storage subsystems and storage software such as logical volume managers.

To add credibility and authenticity, all SPC-1C and SPC-2C benchmarks will be performed by an SPC-certified testing lab to which storage vendors will have to submit components for testing. SPC is also working on a file-system benchmark named SPC-3, which is similar to SPEC SFS. Unlike the current version of SPEC SFS, SPC-3 will be file-system agnostic. SPC-1C, SPC-2C and SPC-3 are all works in process with no release dates announced at this time.

SPEC SFS
SPEC SFS is an industry-standard benchmark used to measure NFS file-system performance of network file servers and NAS. All tests

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are performed by storage vendors and test results are submitted to the SPEC for peer review. After passing a SPEC audit, test results are published on the SPEC Web site.

Unlike SPC benchmarks, SPEC doesn't include cost/performance metrics and, as a result, benchmark results need to be viewed with caution. "When comparing SPEC SFS results, you have to be careful to compare like-sized and like-priced systems," cautions ESG's Garrett. "SPEC.org lists results that range from 10,000 SPEC ops/sec to 300,000 SPEC ops/sec without information about the system price." Therefore, it's crucial to look at the benchmark results in the context of the system configuration. File-system performance is highly dependent on the number of disks, disk controllers, memory (cache) and network controllers; as you add more of these, performance will rise, as will the system's price tag.

This was first published in October 2007

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