Data Center gives new meaning to 'fast'

Did you notice? Hardware that supports key campus services, including email routing and my.ucdavis.edu, sped up last year by an order of magnitude.

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Unless you track time in milliseconds, you probably didn't detect the change. But the improvement represents a useful step forward in data-storage processing for campus web-based services, especially the busy ones.

(Danh Duong, lead storage and backup administrator in the campus Data Center, checks the new equipment.)

The acceleration occurred after Information and Educational Technology installed Pure Storage FlashArray back-end storage equipment, in March 2014 at the Data Center it operates in Sacramento, and then last September at the Davis campus Data Center. The equipment stores and processes data transactions for campus services that use virtual servers. ("Virtual" architecture lets several web services share the same physical server, instead of needing one machine per service.)

Besides running faster, the FlashArray consumes about 80 percent less power, is more resilient, and uses approximately two-thirds less space than the NetApp storage area network (SAN) equipment it replaced.

The Data Center Services group in IET spent about six months moving each of its virtual server customers to the FlashArray, taking care so the transfer would not disrupt the customers' services. "The move is time-consuming," said Data Center Manager Dave Zavatson, "and we're meticulous about it."

Tens of millions of transactions per hour

IET has kept the NetApp SAN to support services that don't yet use virtual servers. The NetApp arrays will also still be used for Network File services or file sharing. But once more services are virtualized, they'll use the FlashArray too--which means their data-processing speeds w ill also increase.

Before the FlashArray was installed, the average speed per back-end transaction was 5 to 14 milliseconds. Now it's less than 1. To put it another way, a high-volume service that could previously push through 70 to 200 transactions per second, can now do more than 1,000.

All those tiny slices of time quickly add up.

"Our storage arrays are serving about 30,000 data block transactions per second," said Danh Duong, lead storage and backup administrator in the campus Data Center. "That would easily translate to tens of millions of transactions per hour."