Surprising Results from Dell Testing FC, FCoE, and iSCSI for Primary Data Storage over SANs

Typical Storage Area Network

*Image Credit: Learn-Networking.com.

By Tom Fedro

The market generally argues that fibre channel (FC) and fibre channel over Ethernet (FCoE) are the preferred technology for primary data storage over storage area networks (SANs), and that iSCSI should be reserved for second-tier or remote storage. Looking to determine the throughput and CPU utilization for a given SAN protocol, Dell recently conducted a series of performance tests to compare 10GbE iSCSI, FCoE, and 4 Gb FC. The results were interesting: iSCSI outperformed FCoE and FC regardless of read or write operations for various I/O block sizes.

A brief summary is as follows:

  • Effective CPU utilization for various workloads: all the host adapters have similar CPU utilization metrics, showing that iSCSI is as efficient as FCoE and FC
  • Throughput efficiency (defined as MBps/%CPU for the various storage protocols): 10GbE iSCSI had the best throughput efficiency across the workload types, outperforming FCoE and FC

See full Dell comments here: http://en.community.dell.com/techcenter/storage/w/wiki/2722.aspx/

Dell’s test results showed that iSCSI  can outperform both FC and FCoE across the board—concluding that iSCSI SAN is a valid option for data center storage. Customers who are planning to purchase storage for their data centers especially High Availabilty (HA) storage,  should view iSCSI SAN as a viable option.

One product to consider is Paragon Starwind iSCSI SAN & NAS – it is an affordable option for HA requirements. Using “off-the-shelf” components and standard hardware for servers the solution when compared to proprietary hardware/software can lower HA investment by a compelling 50% to 90%.

Paragon Software Survey Results Show That Performance Is the Most Important Consideration in Backup and Recovery Software

Additionally, Over 70 Percent of Respondents Are Still Utilizing Windows 2003 and Nearly 80 Percent Have Windows XP in Their Operating Environments

Disk drive partition misalignmentBy Tom Fedro

Paragon Software conducted a survey last quarter that consisted of both Paragon and non-Paragon customers. Respondents revealed a couple of interesting results: 1) a reluctance to upgrade older operating systems (OSs) with newer software platforms and 2) when considering a backup and recovery software solution, performance is more important than price or support.

Out of 580 respondents,

  • 70.8 percent of respondents are running Windows 2003 in their environment and 79.0 percent of the respondents are running Windows XP in their environment
  • In order of importance when selecting a backup and recovery solution, 77 percent of respondents rated performance as their highest priority (over price and support)

At first, the two do not seem related, but in fact they are. No matter the reason for keeping an older OS in operation (i.e., cost or functionality), system performance may become an issue due to the transition from the 512-byte sector to 4K-byte sector storage standard. As explained in Partition Alignment: Problems, Causes and Solutions written by storage guru Thomas Coughlin, “…older operating systems and utilities can misalign the logical sectors in the host device and the physical data on the HDD sectors resulting in a significant performance degradation…if there is misalignment of the 512 byte logical sectors to the 4K byte physical sectors, it forces the hard disk drive to perform an addition read operation…” Hence, if you use an older OS with a newer 4K disk drive, you will run into performance issues.

Luckily, Paragon Software has an easy solution to correctly align your partitions and eliminate redundant read/writes: the Paragon Alignment Tool (PAT). PAT is a powerful utility that automatically detects if the drive is misaligned and then properly realigns all existing partitions, including boot partitions (and any data they contain) to the 4K-sector boundaries. Additionally, if you are using virtual server technology or have recently upgraded to solid state drives, your partitions may be misaligned.

Without realignment, performance loss can range between 20 and 50 percent, which can cause catastrophic issues during peak times.

 

Migrating from a Hard Disk Drive to a Solid State Drive can be Tricky Without the Right Tools

By Tom Fedro

The task of migrating the operating system, applications and files from one storage drive to another can be a slow and tedious process.

In the case of migrating system files from an HDD to an SSD, it can be especially complicated. The latest SSDs usually do not come with very high capacity. Smaller-sized drives and faster processing speeds are the norm. The robustness of SSDs is a prime benefit, which is leading more users to consider migrating their OS to SSDs to get the most out of their systems. The main obstacle they are facing is the modest capacity of SSDs for the price. So, how do you migrate an OS and hundreds of gigabytes of data on one huge volume to an SSD drive of 80-128GB? Without migration software, the only solution was to re-partition the HDD first, and then perform the migration using a special utility to separate the system and data, a process which risked data loss and was quite time consuming.

To help circumvent these potential issues, Centon Electronics Inc.  decided to include Paragon Migrate OS to SSD software in its SSD Notebook kits, bundled with their solid state drives (SSDs).

“After testing another party’s software with our SSDs, we decided to look for a more intuitive software solution,” said Aaron Campbell, product marketing manager for Centon Electronics. “I had worked with Paragon in the past, asked for a copy to test, and it worked perfectly. It was simple, quick and accurate. Exactly the solution we were searching for. Paragon was very responsive and more than willing to work with us even though we were not a large corporation. The customer and technical support was excellent and made us feel we were just as important as an International firm.”

Migrate OS to SSD provides easy copying of system data including the operating system, data files and applications to Centon’s SSDs. With an intuitive wizard-driven interface, the software automatically downsizes the source system volume, if needed; auto-aligns the copied system partition; and provides intelligent selection of specific files and folders for migration — all without rebooting the system.Paragon Migrate OS to SSD

Key features and benefits include file-exclusion technology (which increases migration speed), a simple and convenient wizard-driven graphical interface, automatic partition resize capability (prevents common issues when migrating system data from an HDD to a smaller SSD), automatic partition alignment awareness (to prevent redundant read/write operations), Microsoft Reserved Partition awareness, hot copy (without a system restart), and a smooth migration process regardless of the operating system.

 

Membership in the SD Association Ensures Accessibility to Engage in Standards Development for Embedded Technology Critical in Today’s Smart Phones, Set Top Boxes and TVs

By Tom Fedro

Over the last few years, demand for cross-platform drivers has exploded with the proliferation of Smart Devices like Smart Phones, Smart Set Top Boxes and Smart TVs.  And, more importantly, the trend shows no evidence of slowing down. As such, software developers involved in the technology that is critical to these devices should be an active member of the SD Association.

Another important aspect of membership is to providing validity of the developer’s commitment to meeting industry standards across the SD card industry to its OEM partners. SD standards apply to a wide range of peripheral consumer electronics beyond Smart Devices; they also apply to storage media for mobile phones, digital audio players, car navigation systems and electronic books. Technology like Paragon’s embedded exFAT, NTFS and HFS+ for Android and Linux driver technology enables compatibility for mobile devices across a variety of operating systems i.e., Windows™, Mac, Linux, Android™, etc.

Cross-Platform Drivers Ensure Read/Write Operability

OEMs use of SD card technology continues to expand as the consumer electronics device markets cross boundaries and merge. For example, Smart TVs have SD card readers so that consumers can view videos and photos over their televisions without the need of a cable to connect the device to the TV.

Consumers expect their Smart devices to recognize external media regardless of its operating system and to perform at full speed, allowing recording and playback for full HD and 3D video content. Exhibiting industry leadership by actively participating in the SD Association not only ensures that you are at the top of your game, but also lends assurance to OEMs that your products provides compatibility and integrity of the consumer’s stored data –a critical OEM requirement.

State Governor’s Office Ensures Reliable Backup in Case of Disaster

Paragon Backup Software for Disaster RecoveryBy Tom Fedro

After Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf State region of the U.S. in 2005, IT departments in states based in the southern part of the U.S. became particularly sensitive to the potential loss of their critical data.

When the director of technical services started his new position in the govenor’s, one of the first tasks was to replace the old tape backup system with a more reliable, and cost-effective, image-based backup solution. After a lengthy and comprehensive evaluation process Paragon Software’s Hard Disk Manager (HDM) Server was selected to ensure that their files were safe in case disaster strikes.

Not long after the selection was made the office had its first test of the new backup system. Their RAID controller and the backplane on one of their servers failed, thankfully Paragon’s HDM solution rose to the challenge and not only ensured there was no data lost, but also had the office back up and running in record time. To read the case study in its entirety along with others, search by product or by market.

To view a video demonstration of our Drive Backup Server software (bundled with HDM for Servers), check us out on YouTube:

 

 

Mutli-Cast Image Deployment Management Software in an Education Environment

deployment management for educationBy Tom Fedro

Over the last few weeks, we have seen an uptick in inquiries from the educational sector for our deployment management software. To help IT professionals evaluate the best software for their needs, we published a situational case study about a typical secondary educational setting and how our software, Deployment Manager, speeds up deployments of new machines and simplifies desktop refreshes so that classroom staff can perform a refresh without the help of the IT department.

Its small IT staff of 15 spent a significant amount of time refreshing desktops in their computer training classrooms; as well as preparing hundreds of machines simultaneously for staff use. One of the requirements was ensuring that deployments could be conducted to bare-metal, dissimilar hardware. The second requirement was to develop an efficient method of processing new deployments quickly and easily. It needed to automate the process of installation/refreshment and wanted expert tools and advice to conduct the deployments quickly and cost-effectively.

Paragon Software’s Deployment Manager re-imaging software was selected in part because of the list of features, including

  • Automated or manual deployment of individual or hundreds of systems
  • Multicast and unicast support
  • Customizable Linux and WinPE-based boot media
  • ConstantCast – cyclic multicast deployment session  add systems to deployment session while it’s running
  • Initiate deployment directly from the shop floor
  • Adaptive Imaging Tools – deploy one image to several dissimilar systems
  • Pre/post deploy configuration options
  • Scripting
To read the case study, visit our Case Study page at www.Paragon-Downloads.com.

Hard Disk Management

Hard Disk Managment by Thomas FedroBy Tom Fedro

I’ve often considered how rare it is to find an IT department that takes management of storage media as seriously as it should.  Ultimately, the media on which data is written and read has seen the same dramatic and revolutionary advancement as has the rest of computer and software technology, but this core item is often overlooked by the industry.  In early computing, floppy drives evolved from  the 8 inch giants to 3.5 inch “micro-discs” and finally to obsolescence as optical storage and flash drives provided better mobile options.

It was, however, the introduction of the hard disk drive that really allowed for the computer revolution.  This little stack of platters on a flywheel spool with head after head reading and writing is really a miraculous bit of technology.  When you stop and consider for a moment that the speed of a hard drive is measured in milliseconds — 1000ths of a second — you can get an idea about how remarkable the device really is.  Today, we take for granted the speed of disk operations, but we should stop for a moment and consider the real advantages the technology has delivered.

Storage capacity is one such advantage.  Throughout the 1980s, hard disk drives grew in capacity by about 25 percent per year.  In the 1990s, capacity grew at about 60 percent per year, and by 1999 capacity grew at a rate of 130 percent per year.  Now, these components double in capacity every nine months.  By contrast, processors double in processing speed about every eighteen months.  Although at some point, the actual limitation of space will slow the continued capacity increase, for now storage technology advances faster than the rest.

What does that mean to individuals and IT departments?  Perhaps most critically, it means that your hard disks are very likely to be more advanced than any of the other components in your desktops and servers.  This can lead to dramatic slowdowns in efficiency without appropriate instructions to the hard drive and the rest of the computer.  (For example, the brilliant partitioning method in advanced format hard drives actually causes all but the most recent Windows systems to perform redundant read/write operations — unfortunately, you get a slowdown instead of speed up! see Paragon’s white paper and solution description regarding this phenomenon)

One of the software products we’ve developed at Paragon Software is “Hard Disk Manager 11″ or HDM 11.  It’s designed to allow for an IT professional to focus on the technology from the perspective of increasing the performance of the machine.  (And of course, protecting data — we’re Paragon after all.)  It has advanced defragmentation techniques, partition management, and several levels of data elimination security.  As technology continues to increase, it’s the hard disk that’s outpacing all else.  It’s about time we focus on the hard drive!

Fixing Partition Problems

By Tom Fedro

Partition Alignment by Tom FedroThe new Advanced Format, high capacity, 4K hard drives can suffer from a misalignment when a user’s operating system is Windows XP or an earlier version. This phenomenon occurs in both physical and virtual environments, effecting both servers and workstations. Essentially, the misalignment makes the computer perform redundant read/write operations.  In other words, the computer does twice as much work for the same task which obviously makes for slow processing and poor performance.

At Paragon, we developed the Partition Alignment Tool (PAT), which eliminates the misalignment problems in advanced drives by identifying any sector misalignments and then fixing them. The software has the ability to automatically determine if a drive is misaligned.  Its automated realignment of all existing partitions, including the boot partition, can substantially increase performance, sometimes by as much as 300 percent.  Versions of PAT are shipping with a number of high end advanced format drives like those from Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc. who selected the Paragon Alignment Tool for use with the Toshiba Advanced Format (AF) hard disk drives. The product is also available from several very large PC manufacturers such as HP and Dell who have licensed the technology from Paragon.  The software not only corrects alignment but ensures, with the data protection elements within the program, that the alignment continues even after an unforeseen power interruption .  The alignment will thus remain in place even if the computer fails to boot.

When you head up a software company like Paragon, it’s always exciting to have the opportunity to see well-established industry giants choose your product.  We’ve been fortunate enough to see our software time and time again in the hands of consumers and businesses that got it pre-installed or shipped along with products from one of the big guys.

If you’re experiencing substantial performance issues and you operate with an older version of Windows, stop by Paragon’s download website for a comprehensive white paper and all the information you need to fix the problem, including a trial version.  Don’t let slow performance continue to hurt your output.  A tiny investment in a simple solution can pay great dividends.

The Costs of Data Loss Extend beyond Financial

By Tom FedroCosts of data loss by Tom Fedro

Companies today have become more and more dependent on the efficiency and security of their data.   It’s amazing how often, though, I come across people with absolutely no data protection strategy in place.  Any data loss hurts business. A large data loss interrupts the flow of work, and cause a loss of both profit and productivity.  I tell people all the time that protection of data should be a top priority.

Of course, they counter by pointing out that I’m a data storage expert and focus my work on data.  Maybe that does make me a more adamant advocate, but look at ways data loss can hurt you:

  1. Productivity.  You use your data in the course of your day.  How much work would you or your employees get done if you didn’t have access to it?
  2. Customer Loyalty.  How many times will losing your customers’ information occur before they stop being your customer?  Have you ever had that sinking feeling when a company you’ve used for a long time can’t locate your information?
  3. Intellectual Property.  What if your data is your product?  Do you want to lose code, lose ad copy, images, or publications?  How much loss it there when an intellectual asset isn’t protected intelligently?

These are just three quick examples of data loss costs.  There are a great many more that are possible and even probable.  Your data is a tool and an asset, and you’re not serving your organization well if you’re failing to plan correctly for protection.

Of course, in the end, it might be impossible to figure the complete amount of financial loss that is possible when data protection fails.  Consequences can vary from mere annoyance, to devastating, and there is no way to cope with the risk without figuring out a contingency plan. What has your company done in this area?  How safe is your data?  How are you managing your data storage?  Action on these questions now can save a lot more than a few dollars in the future.

Data Access on Android Tablets

By Tom Fedro

Thomas Fedro discusses Paragon Technology in Android-based TabletsThe prevailing standard in hard drive format is Windows NTFS. This has presented some challenges with technology with other formats (like Linux) in that data and media stored in the NTFS format is incompatible for viewing and use. The Paragon Universal File System Driver (UFSD) technology is here to bridge the gap.

Paragon Software’s unique UFSD Technology provides full access including read, write, format, delete, copy. It works within nearly all of the major kernels including Linux, VxWorks, eCos, Mac, Windows, and DOS. It offers access to NTFS, HFS+, ext 2/3, FAT16, and FAT32 where the systems would not be supported otherwise. It’s small size and fast delivery makes it easy to manage and operate. There’s no need for other libraries and it supports all NTFS features.

Acer recently chose UFSD for its Iconia Tab A500 and Iconia TabA501 lines, allowing the Android product based on a Linux kernel to access data and media stored in the NTFS format. Ultimately, end users of the product will be able to have full access to file systems which otherwise would not be supported. Paragon’s UFSD-based NTFS for Android driver will enhance the capability of the tablets, since most hard drives are formatted for NTFS. Without the driver, a user would have to reformat to the older FAT file system in order to gain the access.

With the driver, a user can attach a hard drive formatted for Windows via the tablet USB port, making it a value-added feature for Acer. Users can download and stream multimedia products to their hard drive but only transfer immediately desired files via USB storage. UFSD Technology has been designed to provide the highest possible read/write performance as well, which means transferring data is fast and effortless. Importantly, the read/write performance also ensures that media playback is top-notch, which is critical for quality output of Hi Definition and Blu-Ray media.

We’re excited Acer chose this product to push their tablets a step above the competition, and we’re happy to see our efforts working in the marketplace.