Storage performance testing - Future directions

Knowing how a system will run in the data center -- and predicting its limitations in your particular environment -- is absolutely essential for storage managers. Solid performance data can be an invaluable guide for making new acquisitions, allowing money to be allocated for the most beneficial products. Performance testing can analyze system behaviors under different or added load conditions, helping managers plan necessary storage and infrastructure upgrades. Testing can also reveal possible bottlenecks or potential problems in storage systems, significantly aiding in the troubleshooting process.

Looking toward the future, analysts see a distinct need for greater involvement by standards bodies, such as the Storage Performance Council (SPC), facilitating a more uniform and comprehensive performance resource for product users. "Instead of having to do performance testing yourself, you could go to a library of existing test results and get what you need to understand and do your planning," says Brian Garrett, industry analyst...

with the Enterprise Strategy Group. While organizations like the SPC are already making strides toward that goal, the absence of major vendors makes comparisons difficult. For example, EMC Corp. is not currently a member of the SPC, and although Hitachi Data Systems Inc. (HDS) is an SPC member, HDS does not post its performance results. Garrett urges users to motivate their vendors to perform and post performance results.

Also, look for additional test suites from the SPC to address other storage performance characteristics for a wider range of workloads. "Some of the ones that need to be rolled out are focused around testing and benchmarking NAS and file systems," says Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst at Storage IO. Schulz suggests that future improvements in instrumentation will likely lead to more consistency between performance testing tools and better integration between tools and management consoles. "Some of that could be addressed by SMI-S," he says.

Schulz also notes that costly storage performance testing may not be an answer for every circumstance -- sometimes it's simply more expensive to test than to buy additional hardware. "Within different organizations, there's debate about how much testing should be done," he says. "How much emphasis should you put on performance testing, performance planning and performance analysis?" Groups like the Computer Measurement Group are taking a central role in determining just how much testing is necessary. Analyst Arun Taneja shares his opinions on NAS benchmarking here.

Still, other analysts believe that storage performance testing will increasingly be handled as an outsourced service rather than an in-house project. "I see it [testing] becoming more of a service-based thing, because in this fiercely competitive environment it is very difficult to keep up with all of the product updates that vendors are putting out there," says Ashish Nadkarni, senior consultant at GlassHouse Technologies Inc. While he notes that vendors are typically more honest about their performance numbers than in years past, competition makes it difficult for vendors to disclose all information. This will put the onus on third-party testing providers to report complete and unbiased results.

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  • Introduction
  • Storage performance testing: An overview
  • Storage performance testing: Strengths and weaknesses
  • Storage performance testing: The vendors
  • Storage performance testing: User perspectives
  • Storage performance testing: Future directions

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