Tune your SAN for streaming media

While streaming media such as Internet video is a small portion of today's storage workload, it can be a major headache for storage managers. For one thing, streaming media pushes the performance of the average system hard and it requires different tuning for maximum performance.

This includes storage. In many ways the storage requirements for streaming media are the exact opposite of those for transaction processing. Both kinds of applications put heavy loads on storage but transaction processing involves a large number of fairly small storage operations in more-or-less random order, streaming media uses relatively few very large reads and writes in sequential order.

Among other things, this means larger block sizes are more efficient. Instead of, say, 2K blocks, which are common in transaction processing, the bigger the streaming media blocks the better -- within broad limits, of course. Similarly, storage media configured for striping and RAID level 0 or RAID level 5 is likely to give the best performance.

A Sun white paper "Tuning The Solaris Operating Environment for Streaming Applications" discusses tuning from the aspect of Solaris. However much of the advice is broadly applicable. It is available at

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Rick Cook has been writing about mass storage since the days when the term meant an 80K floppy disk. The computers he learned on used ferrite cores and magnetic drums. For the last twenty years he has been a freelance writer specializing in storage and other computer issues.

This was first published in September 2002

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