Big Blue stuffs data into backup at GIGABYTES/sec

Unparalleled results from parallel system in German trials


IBM's TSM backup product goes super-fast when backing up to the Elastic Storage parallel file system, according to company trials. TSM stands for Tivoli Storage Manager, with Elastic Storage being the re-branded GPFS.

Servers running TSM were linked to an Elastic Storage array in a proof-of-concept test by IBM engineers in Germany, who blogged about the results.

The backup and restore speeds were in the 4-5GB/sec area – yes, gigabytes a second – using a 40GbitE link:

  • Single TSM server BACKUP with multiple sessions - 4,017 MB/sec (4GB/sec).
  • Dual TSM server BACKUP with multiple sessions - 4,981 MB/sec (5GB/sec).
  • Single TSM server RESTORE with multiple sessions - 3,834 MB/sec (3.8GB/sec).
  • Dual TSM server RESTORE with multiple sessions - 5,424 MB/sec (5.4GB/sec).
  • Dual TSM server MIXED with multiple sessions - 4,821 MB/sec (4.8GB/sec).

The TSM software, both client and server, was installed on x86 servers, configured as GPFS NSD clients and connected via 40 Gbit/s Ethernet to the Elastic Storage GNR system, with a single 40 Gbit line dedicated to each server. The GNR system was comparable to an Elastic Storage Server model GL2, comprised of two GNR servers and 116 NL-SAS drives.


IBM PoC using 40GbitE links between TSM servers and Elastic Storage (GPFS).

The IBM bloggers say the single GPFS GNR file system used by the TSM server comprised two GPFS pools whereby each pool was configured on virtual disk (vdisk) providing 3-way fault tolerance. For more details read the blog.

A previous PoC used 56Gbit/s InfiniBand to link TSM and GPFS servers and also produced outstanding results:

  • Peak backup performance using multiple sessions for a single TSM server is 5.4GB/sec.
  • Peak backup performance using multiple sessions for two TSM servers is 9 GB/sec in total.
  • Peak restore performance using multiple sessions for a single TSM server is 6.5 GB/sec.
  • Peak backup performance using a single session for a single TSM server is 2.5 GB/sec.

With these results, acronymically TSM could stand for The Speed Machine.

This suggests that, in general, backing up to parallel file systems is going to be faster than backing up to single-access file systems. Where there are massive amounts of data to backup or archive, time limitations exist, and you have a parallel filesystem array using Parallel NFS, IBM's Elastic Storage, DDN and Web Object Scaler (WOS), Seagate/Xyratex and Lustre, Red Hat and Gluster or Ceph, well then - consider that array as a backup/archive target as well as whatever its primary purpose is.

Of course, you need fast network links as well and backup/archive software that can use the links and back-end storage, as TSM can. If you have these then your backup and archive, and subsequent restores, could move data around like a dragster roaring down a speed strip. ®

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