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RamSan Success Stories: DAK

DAK Optimizes Performance With Solid State Disk

Many parallel I/O operations with very small data sets: a nightmare for anybody who is responsible for the computer. Opposite to the traditional way of buying more and more spindles, DAK decided to move to a new approach: Solid State Disks (SSD).

That investment has paid off: fail-safe performance, fast response time and easy administration is the result of this transition. If many users and applications need to access the same data, enlarged response time and the risk of system failure due to time-out increases significantly. More then 10,000 users at DAK in Hamburg work at eight file servers and need – nearly at the same time in the morning – access to the same data. And they need it not only for reading but also for writing. Several minutes response time at the disk queues was the result. Login problems and disrupted user profiles were the natural consequences. These spoiled data made way for even more problems and mistakes and had to be cleaned manually. With conventional methods this problem could not be solved. Even a vastly increased amount of spindles or increased cashes could not solve the requirements.

The solution to the performance problem was a solid state disk. SSDs are much faster than comparable disks, approaching CPU speeds. And the price for SSDs has essentially dropped during the last years.

In Europe SSDs are still not very common. As already practiced in the US, SSDs will be used as a performance accelerator for specified data and applications in Europe as well.”, explains Dr. Klaus Heihoff, specialist for SSDs and General Manager at HMK Computer Technology, a company dedicated to advanced storage solutions.

More Performance and Security

As in the US, DAK decided to move their most frequently used data in their compute center in Hamburg to a high performance solid state disk system within their NAS storage environment. At industry fairs and in the internet DAK searched for qualified manufacturers. Five suitable vendors had been chosen. The requirements for performance were not strictly defined but argued in an open sense: “Elimination of the disk bottleneck.”, declares Sven Oliver Schultz, who was the responsible project leader for the solid state project. “Under heavy load up to 14,000 users throughout Germany needed simultaneous access to the compute center.

Up to 30 corrupted files had to be corrected daily. An enormous task. Login could take minutes – far too long.” DAK needed sufficient read and write performance for more than 1,6 mio. data accesses. A typical data access was just 1 KB small. The highest level of reliability was also mandatory. “Our employees just can not work if they do not have access to their data.”, explains Burkhard Kaufmann, Manager Client/Server systems. “A breakdown of the system is really expensive. We depend strongly – as other companies as well – on a well functioning computer equipment. Login is essential and simply must be high performing.”

Not only performance and reliability was on DAK´s wish list. Also very important was the local support. When adopting a new technology, it is hard to find a supplier in Germany who can guarantee excellent and secure support functionality. Some vendors even had difficulties to name successful installations. The remaining company was Texas Memory Systems with their RamSan product line.

No other system offered the redundancies DAK needed: asynchronous backup of all data, loss of power will result in writing the data to disks with a battery backup. Redundant Fibre-Channel connections are also available with RamSan.

From Several Minutes to Just a Few Seconds

Of course all the promises of the vendor were thoroughly tested by DAK. For that purpose a test scenario was set up, mirroring real life requirements. Throughput and performance tests were conducted on the test system. ”Whenever technical questions came up, HMK Computer Technologies helped us.” says Sven Oliver Schultz thankfully.

Already during the test phase his team received first numbers on performance improvement. There was an exponential improvement in response time under heavy load, from several minutes down to just a few seconds. “This strong achievement justifies the price for the system.” declares Mr. Schultz.

As an alternative to SSD, DAK might have used additional disk systems to better distribute the transactional data. Due to performance reasons the capacity of nowadays disks could not have been used, nor would a RAID configuration be possible. A clear knock out for the traditional solution. Additional to the cost for the disks also power consumption, space and cooling would have grown as well – and the probability of failures.

“So the total picture regarding cost calls for SSD. And there is significantly lower administrative overhead for a SSD solution compared to a huge amount of additional disks.”, Dr. Klaus Heihoff points out. To take full advantage of the performance delivered by RAM-SAN, the file servers were modernized at DAK as well. Hamburg now hosts the new PolyServe Matrix Server optimized for file and database services.

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Deutsche (German) Version

Facts at a Glance


Long disk queues, login problems and inconsistent user profiles

200 terminal server with 14,000 user profiles on 8 servers


Extreme improvement in response time: from several minutes down to a few seconds – even under heavy load

Printable Version

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