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Many people would describe it as a problem that they would like to have growing too fast. For the IT people burdened with accelerating an infrastructure designed to handle slower times and fewer customers, it can be a real problem. When your growing list of customers becomes a growing list of people complaining about your quality of service, the CEO probably will not be rational about the time it takes to scale up the IT department. The CEO needs the IT infrastructure to respond now.

You survey your options, your application is probably not quite ready for prime time, but you know you dont have time to replace that. You could switch operating systems from Windows to some super-scalable UNIX-based system, but you are pretty sure just hiring and training new resources would make this option unrealistic. So you settle on your quick hit items: add processors, add memory or get faster storage.

Small database seeks more I/O.

After some investigation you use your Windows and database diagnostics to determine that your four to eight processor server is really underutilized. CPU utilization is low so upgrading processors wont help. You monitor paging from memory to internal hard disk drives and dont see much activity, so adding memory wont help. The one thing you notice is that your database seems to be starved for I/O. In your Windows performance monitor you can see that disk queues build even as CPU performance is poor. Using your database monitoring tools, you can see that certain queries are making heavy use of the temporary database segments and certain frequently accessed tables. You have stumbled upon the bottleneck that is holding back your companys growth: I/O.

Fast moving company seeks fast moving storage, must be low maintenance.

Storage is your bottleneck. Probably the last place you would have thought to look. You have an I/O bottleneck to remove and you dont want to find yourself caught unprepared for the next wave of growth so you know you need to go with a scalable high performance solution. You begin feeling a little foolish looking at storage systems capable of storing terabytes (or tens of terabytes) of data when all you really need to store is your 23GB database. On the other hand, you are pretty sure that a departmental RAID solution is not going to offer much better performance than the SCSI RAID you were using inside your server. This leaves you with a surprisingly small list of choices almost all of which involve cached RAID units. At the last minute, you decide to add solid state storage to your list of options, its a dark horse candidate, but you always figured someone would figure out how to make memory look like a disk drive. Your first guess is that it is probably too expensive, and probably not robust enough, but worth a quick look.

You have narrowed it down to three choices: high-end cached RAID from the industry leader, high-end cached RAID from your server manufacturer, and that pesky solid state disk entry. You cant get over the feeling that the cached-RAID solution is overkill for your application. They are loaded with software, but who has time to figure out how to run it. They are loaded with disk drives, but who has time to manage and replace bad drives. Finally, you are pretty sure that running that big RAID unit will require another person that you dont want to have to hire. The solid state disk has become more interesting, you realize you can match the capacity of the solid state disk exactly to the requirements of your database. You learn that the solid state disk can perform more I/Os per second in published and audited benchmarks than any RAID that has been tested. The clincher is, the solid state disk also offered the best price:performance of all of those devices tested. Now if the solid state disk vendor would only let you try it out.

Wow. You expected fast, it was the Worlds Fastest Storage after all, but your application barely touches on this systems capability. Maybe solid state disk is overkill, but maybe it would be nice to have a solution whose performance can scale as your business scales. Now that is a nice concept. Ad answered.

Texas Memory Systems are exhibiting at Storage Expo the UK's largest and most important event dedicated to data storage, now in its 5th year, the show features a comprehensive FREE education programme, and over 90 exhibitors at the National Hall, Olympia, London from 12 - 13 October 2005 www.storage-expo.com

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