Posts Tagged ‘seek time’

“If only we could still get 36GB disks for speed”

Yesterday I remembered a rather funny discussion I once had. Someone stated “if only we could still get 36GB 15K disks, we could speed things up by using a lot of spindles”.

Kind of a funny thing if you think about it. At the time I figured that 36GB disks would force you to use more drives in order to reach a proper capacity. And since a lot of people still tend to scale to capacity only, your problems increase with the size of disks. Let’s say your environment requires 6TB, you could use 4 2TB drives in RAID5 – But don’t expect 100 VMs running properly from that 😉

The funny thing (and the reason for this post) is that most people seem to miss out on the following…


The latest thing: vTesting!

Yes I admit it, now that I’m an EMC vSpecialist I do not have very much time left for all these deepdive measurements. So I’m forced to introduce a new type of testing. I’ll call it a vTest. Actually Einstein is the father of this type of testing, simply because he did not have spaceships that could do near-lightspeed. Me, I simply lack time. Hm that is a kind of deep statement in this light right 🙂

With no further delay I’ll just drop the statement for this vTest, and we’ll boldly go where no geek has gone before:


“A 7200rpm SATA disk CAN outperform a 15K FC disk”



So how many of you think the above is pure nonsense? Don’t be shy, let’s see those fingers!

Now for the actual vTest: In this test I play the devil’s advocate and use a 2TB 7200rpm SATA drive, and a 36GB 15K FC disk. Both disks get 36GB of data carved out. Now we run a vTest performing heavy random access on both 36GB chunks.

See where I’m going? If not, here is a hint: Throughput part 1: The Basics. In random access patterns, the biggest latency in physical disks comes from the average seek time of the head to the correct cylinder on disk. And the trick is in the “average” part.

The average seek time is the average time required for a head to seek to any given cylinder on the disk. But this seek time heavily depends on where the head was coming from. Normally the average seek time is measured when the head needs to travel half of the platter’s surface. But in our test that is far from reality for our 2TB SATA drive!

As the 36GB 15K FC drive has to move its head all over the platter, the 2TB SATA disk only moves (36GB/20000GB)*100 = 1,8% of its total stroke distance. In fact even that is a lie: The outside of the platter carries way more data than the inside, so assuming the 36GB is carved out at the edge (what most arrays do), this number is even lower, probably below 1% !

This means the average seek time of this disk is no longer around 8-9ms, but drops to around 1ms (no, not 1% of 9ms! This value will be very near the track-to-track seektime which for SATA usually is around 1ms). Even the addition of the extra rotational latency of the SATA disk (because it spins at 7200rpm instead of 15000rpm) does not help: The total average seek time is still way lower than the total average seek time of the poor 36GB 15K disk…

Yes you could discuss on caching efficiency; the way the disks differ in sorting the order in which they fetch random blocks, but still:

If you now review the initial statement again, would you still have the same answer….???
(At least it should get you thinking!)

Throughput part 1: The Basics

As I tackle more and more disk performance related issues, I thought it was time to create a series of blogposts about spindles, seektimes, latency and all that stuff. For now part 1, which covers the basics. Things like raid type, rotational speeds and seektimes basically make up “how fast you will go”. On to the dirty details!

Introduction to physical disks and their behaviour

So what is really important when looking at physical disks, and their performance? Firstly and most important, we must look at the storage system parameters in order to reduce disk latencies. In order to be able to do this properly, we have to take into account the characteristics of the I/O what is being performed. Secondly, we have to look at segment sizes within the chosen raid types (which in turn followes from the system parameters). Finally, we’ll deepdive into alignment (which still appears to be misunderstood by a lot of people)
Read the rest of this entry »

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