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HP makes flash music with Violin

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HP is working with flash supplier Violin Memory to make accelerated database systems competing with Oracle's Exadata go-fast boxes.

If you go down to the HP woods (pdf) today you're sure of a big surprise. You will find HP's recommended configurations for online transaction processing (OLTP) based on ProLiant DL980 G7 servers, Oracle's 11gR2 database and Violin Memory's 3210 flash memory array.

These latter items are flash memory arrays hooked into the server's PCIe bus and forming an intermediate layer of storage between the server's DRAM and hard drives. Flash-enhanced servers will power through OLTP workloads faster than ones with directly-attached or network-attached disk drive storage.

An interesting background element to this is HP's euthanasing of its NeoView data warehousing appliance. My El Reg server mate Timothy Prickett Morgan wrote about this, presciently as it happens, saying: "HP's Enterprise Business group needs to come up with something flashy to get some attention and do a little business." Something flashy, like literally, Tim – data warehousing is not a million miles away from OLTP in terms of its read-intensive I/O nature. Read on.

HP's document says:

Any database application that requires increase in performance including lower user response times, and higher throughput and IOPS, is a candidate for this configurations. Systems such as large e-commerce websites that must respond to spikes in demand from large numbers of users and a high volume of transactions should also see improvement. With these applications, large amounts of memory are required to maintain connection context for every database object opened by a user in addition to storage acceleration for significant I/O performance.

HP says its servers, using Intel Xeon 7500 processors, deliver "a quantum leap in enterprise computing performance and delivers performance scalability that takes server consolidation to the next level". When twinned with the Violin Memory flash arrays, two example configurations deliver 50 million and 100 million OLTP transactions an hour.

The two configurations, one for 10,000 OLTP users and the other for 20,000, use either four or eight processors and 40 or 80TB of flash. HP's document says this about the Violin Memory arrays:

[The] Violin 3210 Flash Memory Array is a 3U appliance that eliminates the seek-bound limitations of disk storage and delivers significant application performance benefits over traditional storage systems with hundreds of hard drives (HDDs) or solid state drives (SSDs). Using a massively parallel architecture with distributed garbage collection in hardware, each Violin 3210 with Single Layer Cell (SLC) NAND Flash delivers sustained DRAM-like performance that is 50 times faster than a similar size HDD array ...

When the active data of large-scale and high performance applications using Oracle databases is assigned to Violin Memory appliances, dramatic application acceleration and much higher CPU utilisation is achieved. This enables the Virtualized Data Center by supporting high performance random I/O without the need for large DRAM server footprints or thousands of spinning HDDs.

EVA 4400 arrays are used for the bulk data storage. HP notes that: "Testing has not been performed to date on each of these exact configurations. The configurations are based on best practices, benchmarks, extrapolation based on current test knowledge, and performance assumptions through discussions with Oracle and HP experts."

HP's bow could be stroking Violin's strings a lot more in the future. Our understanding is that HP and Violin Memory may be thinking about a closer relationship. ®

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