One of the questions that comes up often when I meet architects around the world designing data center modernization with Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is, “How important is the hardware for HCI deployment?” Given HCI solutions are software-defined and the software magically virtualizes and manages all of the compute, storage and networking features, users sometimes forget that it can only virtualize hardware that is actually there!
HCI has matured over the years and is now deployed in mission critical data centers because of its ability to offer various storage features on par with traditional arrays, while scaling-out storage as needed. HCI software, no matter how optimized, needs to have the right hardware configurations to support the software optimizations in order to optimize performance. The HCI software storage features, when enabled, take significant compute and storage cycles. Proper consideration must be taken to understand this when choosing the right hardware components to design HCI clusters.
In-memory databases, complex analytics applications, video streaming, IOT, high density virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) deployments, and other workloads all require infrastructure that provides scalability, performance, security, manageability and agility to handle data-hungry workloads. Given the fastest data processed by the CPU resides in the system memory, many critical performance sensitive enterprise workloads also require large amounts of DRAM. But expanding system memory is not viable due to cost and capacity limitations with large datasets that need to be processed in parallel.
Intel and VMware* have worked together to make sure vSAN, one of the fastest growing VMware HCI solutions with 19,000+ customers1, is able to take advantage of 2nd generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors and Intel® Optane™ technology on feature differentiation and performance optimizations.
With Intel® Optane™ DC persistent memory, vSAN deployments can now effectively increase the system memory footprint without being constrained by cost or capacity limitations. This enables vSAN to be used in various new emerging use cases that require a larger memory pool. Coupled with Intel® Optane™ SSDs to significantly improve the overall storage performance, vSAN customers can now get the benefit of expanding the memory pool for various memory intensive workloads using Intel Optane DC persistent memory, along with optimized performance using Optane SSDs as caching tier storage device in vSAN.
With vSAN effectively utilizing the latest Intel technologies both on the compute and memory storage, customers can now run heterogeneous workloads with various SLA requirements on a single vSAN cluster. Now instead of dedicated islands of storage infrastructure, this Intel vSAN solution consolidates more VMs using fewer vSAN servers, and providing better VM price/performance for the overall vSAN infrastructure investment.
Let’s take a look at some results
Let’s take a look at performance between two vSAN solutions - configuration A2 with all DRAM vs. configuration B3 with Intel Optane DC persistent memory in memory mode, and a higher core count CPU running a modified version of VMmark 3.14 to simulate large memory workloads, and effectively utilize extremely fast Intel Optane SSDs in the caching tier for better vSAN storage performance. This enables greater consolidation of more and larger memory-hungry VMs.
The tests show config A 4-node vSAN system could only support up to 120 VMs, whereas config B – with 4-node Intel® Optane™ technology-based vSAN supports up to 160 VMs, of large memory workloads. That is a 33% increase in overall VM density, satisfying the SLA’s set by VMmark* test suite, and effectively providing better price/performance per VM.
HCI performance in the past was limited due to the underlying storage causing significant IO wait. With the support of Intel Optane SSDs in vSAN, and enhancement of vSAN storage features, customers are now able to effectively use the CPU resources without storage being the bottleneck—and the result is significant IO performance improvements.
Now with the 2nd generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, Intel Optane technology – Intel Optane DC persistent memory in memory mode and Intel Optane SSDs as storage cache tier, vSAN customers can deploy many critical performance sensitive enterprise workloads without the worry of cost or capacity of large memory needs. In addition, low latency and high throughput requirements of storage-enabling vSAN can be used in various emerging new use cases, and deliver an even greater customer experience with this game-changing Intel Xeon Scalable + Intel Optane Technology and VMware vSAN solution.
See other ways in which Intel® Optane™ DC SSDs are making an impact in the data center.
Software and workloads used in performance tests may have been optimized for performance only on Intel microprocessors. Performance tests, such as SYSmark and MobileMark, are measured using specific computer systems, components, software, operations and functions. Any change to any of those factors may cause the results to vary. You should consult other information and performance tests to assist you in fully evaluating your contemplated purchases, including the performance of that product when combined with other products. For more complete information visit www.intel.com/benchmarks.
1 Source: “A Year in a Solution – Our Standout 2019 with Hyperconverged Infrastructure” https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2018/12/28/hyperconverged-infrastructure/
2 System configuration: 4 node vSAN - VMware 6.7.0 Build 10764712 - 1 node system configuration: Server model: 1x Intel® Server Board S2600WF0; CPU: 2x Intel® Xeon® Gold 6230 Processor (20 cores, 27.5M Cache, 2.10 GHz)
BIOS: SE5C620.86B.0D.01.0374.013120191835, CPU microcode: 0x0400001c, BMC Version 1.85.8f2f51eb, ME Version, 04.01.03.239, FRUSDR Version, 1.74; Storage OS drive: 1X 960 GB Intel® SSD DC S3520 SATA Storage: Cache device: 2x Intel Optane DC P4800X (375GB) NVMe 2.5” Firmware: E2010435, Capacity devices: 6x Intel SSD DC P4510 (2TB) NVMe 2.5” Firmware: VDV10131, vSAN configured in 2 groups (1 cache drive + 3 capacity drives in RAID 10); Memory: 384 GB:12x 32GB RDIMM, 2666MT/s; NICs: 2x 10Gb Intel® Ethernet Converged Network Adapter X710-DA2. Performance results are based on testing as of March 31, 2019 and may not reflect all publicly available security updates. See configuration disclosure for details. No product can be absolutely secure.
3 System configuration: 4 node vSAN - VMware 6.7.0 Build 10764712 - 1 node system configuration: Server model: 1x Intel® Server Board S2600WF0; CPU: 2x Intel® Xeon® Gold 6252 Processor (24 cores, 35.75M Cache, 2.10 GHz)
BIOS: SE5C620.86B.0D.01.0374.013120191835, CPU microcode: 0x0400001c, BMC Version 1.85.8f2f51eb, ME Version, 04.01.03.239, FRUSDR Version, 1.74; Storage OS drive: 1X 960 GB Intel® SSD DC S3520 SATA Storage: Cache device: 2x Intel Optane DC P4800X (375GB) NVMe 2.5” Firmware: E2010435, Capacity devices: 6x Intel SSD DC P4510 (2TB) NVMe 2.5” Firmware: VDV10131, vSAN configured in 2 groups (1 cache drive + 3 capacity drives in RAID 10); Memory : 128 GB DDR4 DRAM + 512GB Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory: 8x 16GB RDIMM, 2666MT/s and 4x 128GB Intel® Optane™ Persistent Memory; NICs: 2x 25Gb Intel® Ethernet Network Adapter XXV710-DA2. Performance results are based on testing as of March 31, 2019 and may not reflect all publicly available security updates. See configuration disclosure for details. No product can be absolutely secure.
4 Performance results were created using a version of the VMmark benchmark from VMware that has been modified to have an increased memory footprint. Because the benchmark was modified, the results are presented under the VMmark Academic and Research rules; such results cannot be compared to fully compliant VMmark results. For details about the Academic and Research rules, see the VMmark Run and Reporting Rules, available on the VMmark download page: https://www.vmware.com/products/vmmark.html. For accessing the recipe for Increased Memory for VMmark® contact firstname.lastname@example.org, VMware VMmark® is a product of VMware, Inc.
Performance results are based on testing as of the dates set forth in the configuration details and may not reflect all publicly available security updates. See configuration disclosure for details. No product or component can be absolutely secure.
Intel, the Intel logo, Intel Optane, Xeon, and others are trademarks of Intel Corporation in the U.S. and/or other countries.
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