Storage benchmarking tool made available to users

The first storage benchmark standard, the SPC Benchmark-1, is now available to anyone who wants to test storage systems -- if they have the time and resources to do it.

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The Storage Performance Council (SPC), an independent storage benchmarking group, has made its SPC Benchmark-1 (SPC-1) testing kit available to the public. The group said the SPC-1 is the first vendor-neutral process to accurately compare and configure direct-attached or network storage technology.

The multi-platform toolkit for SPC-1 evaluates performance using different storage topologies. The SPC said the toolkit has been designed to establish a level playing field for test and produce official performance results.

Before benchmark results become official the SPC requires the completion of a results validation process for authenticity, accuracy and compliance, to keep testers from fudging their numbers.

The SPC-1 benchmark toolkit is now available for AIX, HP-UX, Solaris (SPARC) and Windows 2000 operating platforms and can be purchased from the SPC website.

However, according to Mike Kahn, chairman and analyst for the Clipper Group Inc., Wellesley, Mass., despite the SPC-1 toolkit's availability, not every end user has the time or resources to test their storage systems.

"Only the most sophisticated users will do their own testing. Others will rely on the vendors' numbers," Kahn said.

He added that it is impossible to predict which vendors will test their storage systems and configurations.

Roger Reich, founder of the Storage Performance Council and senior technical director of interface standards for Veritas Software Corp., expects users to utilize benchmarks to compare vendor systems and assess which has the best price and performance value.

In June 2002, the Storage Performance Council released a series of benchmark results based on the SPC-1 benchmark. The test measures the maximum input/output (I/O), total storage capacity read and written during the course of executing the benchmark, data protection level and the average system response time of a given storage configuration.

Marc Farley, storage expert and author of Building Storage Networks, Second Edition, said that benchmarks can be very reliable and valuable; the caveat being that benchmarks must represent something similar to a real-world workload for the environment where the product is going to be running.

For instance, he said a benchmark that measures throughput for a single high-volume client session may not be relevant for an environment with many clients performing sporadic and "bursty" data transfers.

Farley added that the details of the configuration and all tuning options also need to be understood. "You can't blame the people running the benchmark," he said. "You can't expect them to knowingly settle for poorer numbers if there are techniques that will boost performance."

The SPC's membership list includes almost all of the larger storage vendors, except for EMC Corp., who did not see eye-to-eye with the testing process and parted ways with the group in 2000.

Current SPC members include 3PARdata, Adaptec, Cisco, DataCore Software, Data Storage Institute of the National University of Singapore, Dell, Evaluator Group, Fidelity Investments, Florida Atlantic University, Fujitsu

Technology, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Ideas International, LSI Logic Storage Systems, NEC, QLogic, Seagate Technology, Spirent Communications, Stanford University, StorageTek, Sun, Unisys, Veritas and YottaYotta. EMC has not ruled out returning to the group in the future.

Now that the SPC-1 benchmark is complete and in use, the SPC has plans to build a benchmark primarily focused on large block, sequential I/O processing. The benchmark would be applicable to Video on Demand, Internet Image Download, Film Rendering, and backup and restore environments. The SPC-2 Workgroup has been formed to develop a formal proposal for the next SPC benchmark specification based upon those application types. Let us know what you think about the story, e-mail Kevin Komiega, News Writer

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Users question benchmark brouhaha

The Storage Performance Council

Q&A: Benchmark breakthrough

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