At the December 18, 2012 Wikibon Peer Incite Research Meeting we heard how ViaWest is enabling tier 1 applications to move to the cloud. For CIOs, there is an ever-growing number of options for how to best handle mission-critical tier 1 applications, even when scale is huge.
As technology environments mature over time, CIOs have had a lot of changes over the years, from workloads running on one-to-one physical servers to highly virtualized environments running a good chunk of a company’s workloads. However, as time goes on CIOs are beginning to consider cloud services for a couple of reasons:
- Reduced CAPEX: As CIOs buy services from a cloud provider, those services hit the OPEX budget rather than the organization’s CAPEX lines, meaning that the services are expensed immediately rather than having to undergo a depreciation schedule over multiple years. This can be desirable when it comes to tax treatment.
- Scale on demand: Some large enterprise CIOs have avoided virtualizing mission-critical tier 1 apps due to scalability issues. A true Cloud service provider can offer solutions that scale to fit existing needs and that provide for bursting too much greater capacity as situations demand or as workloads are planned to grow. For example, a tax software provider may want to procure much more scale during tax season. Likewise, another organization may see an unexpected surge in workloads needs due to some event taking place that drives business.
With little to no capital outlay, CIOs can create on-demand environments that scale to meet just about any demand.
But, not all Cloud services are equal. Obviously, ViaWest has competitors and those competitors include Amazon. But since Amazon is the big player in the space, comparisons to the services provided by Amazon are often made. This brings up some additional decision points that need to be made by CIOs looking at cloud as a solution:
- Partnerships: According to Matt Wallace, Director of Cloud Architectures at ViaWest, customers coming to ViaWest are getting a complete, supported solution along with managed services and excellent support. According to Wallace, customers considering Amazon that are in need of deployment assistance will need to look for third-party integration partners to help with the project. This can add additional complexity and cost for CIOs who may prefer a simpler, single-party solution.
- Infrastructure: Obviously, not all cloud providers are created equal, and CIOs who intend to place their trust in a provider must do due diligence to ensure that selected providers can adequately meet the workload needs of the organization.
In addition, Wallace provides invaluable advice regarding storage and the issue of “noisy neighbors.” In such environments, storage IO workloads between tenants negatively impacts the scale and production of other tenants, resulting in imperfect working conditions and lack of ability to set expectations around workload requirements. For mission-critical applications, this is a non-starter.
To combat this issue, ViaWest has solutions that can support network-stored virtualized database servers with guaranteed performance levels, even in multi-tenant environments.
Major metrics for ViaWest include write latency and IOPS. Latency metrics include the actual process of writing data to multiple SAN arrays as well as the latency introduced due to the need to communicate across the network. ViaWest indicates that it tops out at about 15,000 IOPS on a single network-connected volume.
But this noisy neighbor issue isn’t just a Cloud service provider problem. Even large data centers might suffer from noisy neighbor issues between applications. These issues can result in similarly negative outcomes and are often the result of mixed IO patterns making it difficult to prioritize workloads or by insufficient network connectivity between hosts and storage resources.
Action Item: CIOs with significant throughput and latency needs must ensure that their storage platforms can scale both up and out so that all possible scenarios can be covered. ViaWest has chosen SolidFire as their storage platform of choice and is able to deploy it in their multitenant environment and guarantee specific performance metrics. CIOs can get the same benefit with the right storage solution to ensure that they are able to meet the ongoing demands of the business.