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AOL Spends $1M On Solid State Memory SAN

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the go-big-or-go-home dept.

America Online 158

Lucas123 writes "AOL recently completed the roll out of a 50TB SAN made entirely of NAND flash in order to address performance issues with its relational database. While the flash memory fixed the problem, it didn't come cheap, at about four times the cost of a typical Fibre Channel disk array with the same capacity, and it performs at about 250,000 IOPS. One reason the flash SAN is so fast is that it doesn't use a SAS or PCIe backbone, but instead has a proprietary interface that offers up 5 to 6Gb/s throughput. AOL's senior operations architect said the SAN cost about $20 per gigabyte of capacity, or about $1 million. But, as he puts it, 'It's very easy to fall in love with this stuff once you're on it.'"

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158 comments

AOL? (4, Funny)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912504)

What is surprising to me is not the amount of money spent on what was bought, but the fact that AOL has any performance issues at all. They still have users? They have an entire database of users?

Re:AOL? (5, Informative)

MrDiablerie (533142) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912560)

It's a common misconception that AOL's primary business is still dial-up access. They make more money nowadays with their content sites like TMZ, Moviefone, Engadget, etc.

Re:AOL? (1)

savvysteve (1915898) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912652)

It's a common misconception that AOL's primary business is still dial-up access. They make more money nowadays with their content sites like TMZ, Moviefone, Engadget, etc.

Well I was thinking the same thing that roman was... I can't believe that AOL still is in business. They are owned by Time Warner right? Or the other way around? I know Time Warner in my area is now Comcast. I'm curious.

Re:AOL? (4, Informative)

bananaquackmoo (1204116) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912710)

Neither. AOL separated into its own company again.

Re:AOL? (3, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913168)

Neither. AOL separated into its own company again.

As a very casual observer it seems like the entire TW/AOL debacle could not have been mismanged worse - well I guess both companies could have gone titsup, but that's about it. TW vastly overpaid for AOL when AOL was at its peak (160 billion dollars). Then, just as AOL had started to climb out of the bottom they spun it off for a song ($2.5 billion). Since then AOL has been doing a decent enough job of reinventing itself as "new media" company - the kind of thing TW seems to be struggling with.

That's why corporate CEO's get the big bucks though!

Re:AOL? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33914082)

AOL bought TW. It was a very shrewd move for AOL, because TW had a much higher intrinsic value to set a floor on the stock price when the internet bubble burst.

Re:AOL? (4, Informative)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912848)

AOL is Advertising.com and some flagship sites. And yes, they still have dialup users. The access business is steadily decreasing, but its pretty profitable since they basically stopped upgrading it and now just sort of run it.

If they maintain their current path, yes, they will eventually disappear and fail, but the process is much longer than you might think. Not all of their acquisitions were as retarded as Bebo.

What they probably need the SAN for is the Advertising business. That is profitable and requires a shitload of storage. They don't need that for their websites.

Re:AOL? (2, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913520)

It's true that they make more money now with their content sites, but only slightly more: ISP subscriptions still make up around 40% of its revenues.

Re:AOL? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33914518)

content site? What the fuck does that even mean? A stuff site? The opposite of a site with nothing on it? The opposite of an aggregator site?

Some corporate dickcheese marketer came up with that word like 5 years ago, now everyone uses it for everything. You're all retarded.

Re:AOL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33914762)

You forgot this is slashdot, and therefore must rehash every old tired trope of scoffing, dismissing, and otherwise denigrating the Targets That All The Cool Kids Hate, a list including but not limited to: Microsoft (the root of all evil), Oracle (SQL is so wordy so DBs are teh sux), India (poor tech support and they all talk like Kwik-E-Mart clerks), C++ (bloated useless language), and AOL (lusers who type in all caps). The list changes only with the maturity level of those who continue to make such posts year after year after year.

That said AOL is still a heavyweight in what's left of the dialup business.

Re:AOL? (4, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912776)

No, they think they still have lots of users. The cancellation department is separate from HQ- at 56k it's still going to be a few decades before the suits finish receiving all the cancellation notices.

Re:AOL? (3, Funny)

mark72005 (1233572) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913004)

I think it just means they are still billing users who cancelled years ago, per standard practice.

Also, there are users who wanted to cancel years ago, but are still lost in the phone tree. Those are still active accounts too.

Re:AOL? (2, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913160)

They have an entire database of users?

No, the 50TB is for a museum of all the different CDs they sent out.

Re:AOL? (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913560)

No, silly. The database is an historic record that they keep of every demo CD and floppy they ever sent out (date, name, address etc.). It was designed to ensure that they never sent more than 999 to the same person.

Re:AOL? (1)

abarrow (117740) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913720)

They probably did it because their database vendor (Microsoft?) claimed that their database problems had to be due to their hardware. It couldn't possibly be software performance issues...

Re:AOL? (1)

Mad Merlin (837387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913862)

What's surprising to me is that they managed to extract such awful performance out of so many SSDs. I mean, seriously, a pitiful 250k IOPS with $1M of SSD? You could do better with a dozen SSDs from the corner store!

Re:AOL? (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914134)

I dunno, for 300k from NetApp you can get 100k IOPS over 60TB and that was three years ago, my new unit will do that with 100TB and costs even less, takes up half the space, and uses half the power, oh, and it'll do 200k IOPS, at least projected. Of course if you're database is jacked by that back-end storage then you're database storage is poorly defined especially since Oracle OCFS can utilize multiple storage back-ends simultaneously. MS SQL server can achieve this as well through other means but most situations I've encountered involve analytics slowing down production which is easily solved with an OLAP database server.

rolling out solid state storage (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912508)

> AOL recently completed the roll out of a 50TB SAN made entirely of NAND flash

ME TOO!!!

What? (5, Insightful)

EndlessNameless (673105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912544)

As a DBA, I would love to have solid-state storage instead of needing to segment my databases properly and work with the software dev guys to make sure we have reasonable load distribution.

Where can I get someone to pay a million dollars so I can do substandard work?

Re:What? (5, Funny)

Jimmy King (828214) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912606)

As long as you come really cheap, I can probably get you on where I work. You won't get cool hardware like that, but you can have the other half. Management seems to be ok with substandard work as long as apologizing to the customers continues to be cheaper than doing a good job or buying the hardware to cover up the poor job.

Re:What? (3, Funny)

konohitowa (220547) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914128)

As long as you come really cheap, I can probably get you on where I work. You won't get cool hardware like that, but you can have the other half. Management seems to be ok with substandard work as long as apologizing to the customers continues to be cheaper than doing a good job or buying the hardware to cover up the poor job.

You could always take a long lunch, cross the bridge from Redmond to Seattle, and apply at Amazon. I'm sure Microsoft would give you a couple of hours off to do that, right?

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912762)

I was thinking something very much along these lines. I can't believe that AOL is doing something more I/O intensive than everyone else in the world. If you're looking at buying something this expensive, you really need to go through your database design and application code with a fine-toothed comb and look for inefficiencies first.

Of course, in the real world, this sort of thing (maybe not to this scale) happens all the time. We just had a customer that was having major performance problems. They demanded we put them on a massive $750,000 whiz-bang SAN device right away to alleviate their problems. So we did, and then their DBAs finally get off their asses and look at the code and make some changes that cut their I/O demand in half. Basically, they ended up burning $750,000 on something they didn't even need. I have a feeling AOL just spend $1,000,000 on something they didn't really need as well.

Re:What? (2)

Nexzus (673421) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912882)

Cynic in me believes that in addition to a whiz bang storage network, AOL also got some free publicity in the Tech circle with the inclinination that they're leading edge.

Re:What? (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912906)

Not talking about any specific real world case:

When does it become cheaper to throw more power at it than improving code efficiency? It seems to me that this is taking the same steps that a large amount of software has. that it is cheaper to use a more powerful processor than optimize the code...

Granted they likely jumped the gun a little bit but the world needs early adopters...

Re:What? (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914176)

They are hardly early adopters. NetApp has had SSD trays for a few years now and they have units that easily bust through 250k IOPS. I have a middle-tier NetApp storage implementation and I've got almost that much bandwidth available to me at a third of the cost. NetApp also has solid state modules for 10k that are used as cache to facilitate the early morning rush. This is nothing new and not really that impressive. For me it just reenforces all the AOL stereotypes about inefficiency. I will never come close to bandwidth limitations of my storage, I will however run out of storage at some point but block level dedupe has dramatically extended the life of existing storage.

Re:What? (4, Informative)

fluffy99 (870997) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914774)

I have a feeling AOL just spend $1,000,000 on something they didn't really need as well.

They admitted as much in the article. They decided that it was cheaper to improve the hardware throughput than to spend the money on developers to try to trim the demand. They were also probably losing money by not meeting SLAs and a quick fix was cheaper in the long run. They also reduced power and cooling requirements as well, so there may be some long term payback there as well. The free publicity certainly didn't hurt either

Re:What? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912798)

Mod parent way up. This is where big companies waste bundles of money. Rather than do the work right they throw ever more hardware at it.

Re:What? (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913176)

Where can I get someone to pay a million dollars so I can do substandard work?

You try claiming the next big work they want will take more than a million dollars in DEV/DBA work compared to buying a million dollar SAN. At this point three things could happen:

1. They say "um, never mind"
2. They pony up the cash
3. They call you on it

While I've seen some rather dysfunctional companies, I still haven't seen any where the PHBs try reestimating the IT cost themselves. Mind you, I haven't seen an overwhelming many companies that have a spare million dollars lying aorund either so I figure #1 would happen in 95% of the cases. But I actually think #2 would happen in 4% of the remaining cases and #3 only in 1%. Unless your costs are questioned before it leaves IT...

Re:What? (1)

Gearoid_Murphy (976819) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913400)

That's exactly what I was thinking, unless AOL is doing something ' amazing ', it's very much likely that the requirements of their DB infrastructure are similar to that of everyone else. The way everyone else solves these problems is through a marraige of well-designed infrastructure and reactive software systems, asfaik. That said, it still sounds uber cool and the ultimate DB toy/tool.

Re:What? (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913652)

If databases were implemented correctly, they'd take care of the load distribution themselves. Of course we'd all still be perfectly capable of writing stupid queries, but a lot of the bullshit we have to deal with when it comes to databases stems from rotational hard drives being so ill-suited to the random seeks that databases are so useful for.

As far as I'm concerned, running your database on solid-state drives just amounts to a bug-fix in the database software. Stuff like data denormalization, avoiding joins, and sharding are effectively hacks around bugs, even if those bugs exist at a hardware level.

Re:What? (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914898)

Not that I've crunched the numbers or anything. But I'm willing to bet that a team DBAs outsourced to India and cheap hardware made in China provides a better ROI over an expensive team of American DBAs and a standard server configuration for the task.

Sucks doesn't it?

Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

TheSunborn (68004) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912550)

It does mention that sas can 'only' deliver 5Gbit/sec - but is that not the bandwidth for each disk and thus not a problem at all?

The reason the ssh is so much faster is most likely the nice search time for ssd. And I really like the concept of them using flash chips directly. Now we just need something cheeper then 20$/GB :}

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

EndlessNameless (673105) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912686)

At the rate SSD storage is growing (and the capacity is being used), it is conceivable that a company could choose cheap MLC drives and simply plan on upgrading them before their expected time of death.

With modern wear-leveling algorithms, reduced write amplification, and better physical longevity, I can see cheap SSDs lasting the 2-3 years their capacity would be good for.

SATA SSD over iSCSI is starting to look very appealing now compared to Fibre Channel or SAS. Since silicon performance and capacity scale much faster than mechanical performance/capacity---and SATA devices are compatible with SAS host controllers---it should only be a few more years before this becomes commonplace.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913026)

I don't know about you, but I haven't seen SSDs battle tested enough for me to truly trust the things yet. With mechanical drives I've yet to have one "just die" as I ALWAYS got warnings something was going via drive noise, heat, random small errors, etc. And now SMART just makes that even easier to spot. On the other hand I've been told time and time again flash just "don't die" they wear out, yet I've had plenty of flash drives just go dead, and a couple of my early adopters managed to have dead SSDs. Not losing some space, not read only, stone cold dead with 100% data loss. I can't even remember the last time I had data loss with a HDD, even my customers who wait until the last second to bring their dying PC in I've managed to get their data off with Spinrite.

So I'd love to hear from the /. guys in the trenches that have REAL experience pounding these drives. How well do they hold up? How many failures have you had? What kinds of failures? because they can spout that MTBF bullshit but anybody whose gotten a bad drive OOTB knows they way they crank them things out bad ones WILL get through, the question is are they easy to spot like a bum HDD, and do they give plenty of warning before going tits up. What about it admins?

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (2, Informative)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913666)

I don't know about you, but I haven't seen SSDs battle tested enough for me to truly trust the things yet. With mechanical drives I've yet to have one "just die" as I ALWAYS got warnings something was going via drive noise, heat, random small errors, etc. And now SMART just makes that even easier to spot.

Google found differently in their massive hard drive survey [engadget.com]... sometimes drives would just up and die with no SMART warnings. Also the most common SSD failure-case is lack of writes, at least you can retrieve data off the drive as opposed to a completely opaque device if the platter is frozen.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1, Informative)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913944)

Yes I've read the Google report but IIRC we have NO access to their source, hell we don't even have access to detailed measurements of what types of load and I/O they were running. same as I wouldn't be surprised if you are running massive databases the trade off for SSD would make the $$$ worth it as in TFA, I want to see more "real world" average server and workstation loads, not the "insane pound the shit out of the drives" that someone like Google does. I also noticed in TFL they are basing everything on SMART, and while I said SMART was a nice add-on I almost never was warned simply by SMART, but more often drive noise and small read/write errors that I doubt Google sized places would even notice.

So how about any? Any large deployments of SSDs in none insane conditions? How are they holding up? Any failures? What types?

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (2, Informative)

EXrider (756168) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914036)

With mechanical drives I've yet to have one "just die" as I ALWAYS got warnings something was going via drive noise, heat, random small errors, etc. And now SMART just makes that even easier to spot.

Google found differently in their massive hard drive survey [engadget.com]... sometimes drives would just up and die with no SMART warnings. Also the most common SSD failure-case is lack of writes, at least you can retrieve data off the drive as opposed to a completely opaque device if the platter is frozen.

Yeah, I've seen quite the opposite. Let me preface this with saying that I'm strictly talking about consumer and midrange drives, I've seen very few SCSI and SAS drives die without warning.

In the past 10 years, in a company with about 200 nodes, I can literally count on one hand the amount of hard drives that have given any SMART warnings leading up to their imminent failure. They pretty much always die while the OS accumulates log entries of bad blocks and I/O errors. Most of the time it was either death by shock, or death by manufacturer defect (Maxtor!). The former, SSD drives are pretty much immune to BTW. I would prefer an SSD in a road warrior or college student's laptop any day over a conventional HDD.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912756)

It doesnt say what arrays they used and/or compared with so we will never know what they mean about SAS.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912806)

Now we just need something cheeper then 20$/GB

Actually, the price was the most interesting part of this:

at about four times the cost of a typical Fibre Channel disk array with the same capacity

Four times the price and, what, ten? A hundred? times the IOPS? That makes NAND pretty much a no brainer for any heavy-use database.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913762)

The first problem on my mind right now though is that nearly all widely used relational databases are built with a lot of algorithmic assumptions about the disk. They spend a great deal of time ensuring that they only fetch the minimum number of blocks, and many higher end databases go to lengths to ensure that related blocks wind up near each other on disk, implement block caches and things like that. A lot of this is done to mitigate seek time.

With SSDs, seek time is basically constant and there's no need to minimize it, though you still want to minimize number of fetches. However, all SSDs on the market (AFAIK) exhibit a profound performance degradation once the disks start having to erase blocks. Most disks postpone this as long as possible with an internal copy-on-write mechanism, but it's not uncommon for write speed to dramatically decrease once every block has been written to once. So there is a serious need to eliminate unnecessary writes and minimize necessary ones, which is not something most relational databases have put much effort into.

I fully expect that in a few years most databases will have a tunable parameter for, am I dealing with SSDs or traditional HDDs, and will make appropriate optimizations for the type of disk, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised to hear that their performance improvements degrade sharply in a year or two when all of their array's blocks have been touched. At the same time, I think this area is ripe for exploitation by database vendors. I also wouldn't be surprised if the gap between SSD-backed and HDD-backed DBs were made much larger by software improvements rather than hardware improvements over the next few years. It'll be interesting to see.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

NevarMore (248971) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912830)

Cheaper than $20 a GB.

I know thats expensive now, but I'm just old enough to remember when a GB of spinning magnetic disk was a big effing deal.

Re:Sas bandwidth constrained??? (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913042)

It does mention that sas can 'only' deliver 5Gbit/sec - but is that not the bandwidth for each disk and thus not a problem at all?

More importantly, how many '540 Free Hours! CDs does that translate into?

It is called HDSL... (3, Informative)

Yaa 101 (664725) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912582)

You can read more about that here:

http://www.google.com/search?q=High-Speed+Data+Link [google.com]

Re:It is called HDSL... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913190)

Whee, 1GBps (10Gbps) per direction. How is this significantly better than COTS 8Gbps FC or 10Gb iSCSI/FCoE that don't need a proprietary card? Heck if you want LOTS of bandwidth use 40Gb IB. Plus according to the manufacturers site [violin-memory.com] they DO support the hosts through COTS connections.

Who are AOL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912588)

AOL have a website?

What is this SAN connected to? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912622)

I wonder what machines that the LUNs are presented to. I'm guessing either extreme end x86 hardware, SPARC, or POWER. Most machines out there would not even notice the performance increase.

Really? (3, Informative)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912644)

My impression has been that this has been what has been going on for some time now with all the larger database operations, and one of the reasons why SSD have not yet come down in price is that all the best units and tech are going to the big companies as fast as they can get it from the manufacturers. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Google saying something like "yawn, 50TB" and saying that they have PETABYTE versions already out there.

If you run a Database of any size, especially ones with large read to write ratios, SSD would only make things faster. And speed counts.

Re:Really? (1)

Achromatic1978 (916097) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912702)

I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Google saying something like "yawn, 50TB" and saying that they have PETABYTE versions already out there.

Yeah, because at $1MM for 50TB, a $20MM investment by a publicly owned company in such a thing would entirely fly under the radar...

Re:Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912724)

Google could probably do it for $5M.

Well, their purchasing agents got Microsofted (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912712)

"but instead has a proprietary interface that offers up 5 to 6Gb/s throughput."

You know that SAS offers 6Gb/s throughput and Infiniband up to 300Gb/s (with 8 and 16 being more common).

Either way, $1M for a bunch of SAS SSD (even SAS NVRAM) is way overpriced imho. They could've done it cheaper.

Re:Well, their purchasing agents got Microsofted (2, Funny)

Galestar (1473827) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912810)

hey could've done it cheaper.

It's AOL, would you actually expect them to make intelligent, informed decisions?

Re:Well, their purchasing agents got Microsofted (1)

kc0aua (1922528) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912822)

Not the difference between GB and Gb. "So you're getting the 4GB/sec. of PCIe bandwidth, not the 5Gbit/sec. or 6Gbit/sec. SAS bandwidth. You're getting almost an order of magnitude of bandwidth to the storage internally just because you're using an interface that's capable of it,"

Re:Well, their purchasing agents got Microsofted (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912844)

"but instead has a proprietary interface that offers up 5 to 6Gb/s throughput."

You know that SAS offers 6Gb/s throughput and Infiniband up to 300Gb/s (with 8 and 16 being more common).

Either way, $1M for a bunch of SAS SSD (even SAS NVRAM) is way overpriced imho. They could've done it cheaper.

That's 5 to 6 GB/s for PCIe, with a capital B. SAS is 6Gbps, or about 750MB/s.

DB Performance Issues (1)

scubamage (727538) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912728)

Just curious, have they exhausted all of their software avenues for this? While yes, I understand they have a huge relational DB, I know other companies that are just as big/bigger and the have next to no issues. Maybe its just poorly designed? That's a hell of a lot of (albiet super sexy) hardware to throw at what could be a software problem. Thoughts?

Re:DB Performance Issues (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912808)

They mentioned in the article (albeit obliquely) that the sysadmin thought he could probably reduce the load by working with the software guys, but in the end it would cost more than the $1 he spent on this solution. Plus, it might not even work if the software guys were in fact competent and the problem is just that you have too many users for the old hardware.

Re:DB Performance Issues (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913982)

The parent post has it right.

Also, even if the software/dba guys can tune all the apps* there is the opportunity cost of having them spend time on a problem that is not specific to AOL's expanding business (delivering content in attractive / magnetic ways) and spend it on a technical problem that may actually just be a growth problem.

If you're the manager in charge of this decision, you embrace the crisis, spend the cash to get yourself some new capacity and keep rolling. If you want to tune the apps/dbs as well, you do that in parallel, install the new hardware and get the performance bump that validates your strategic choice. Then you roll out the performance improvements and make everyone even happier.

* Remember: they're serving up data for an unknown number of applications here; tuning might encompass a huge amount of db profiling, multiple application teams, and god knows how many load interdepencies, both technical and interpersonal.

I wonder how the total cost compares (1)

bareman (60518) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912774)

once you figure the total energy savings (reduced power needs, reduced cooling needs, etc) over the lifetime of the drive I wonder how much more expensive it is. I can't wait for SSD to become more affordable. I'd like to have that in our SANs too.

Re:I wonder how the total cost compares (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913366)

It's not even close, power is ~5% of the TCO of anything enterprise grade, maybe 10-15% if you include capital costs for UPS, generator and AC into the equation.

Re:I wonder how the total cost compares (1)

outZider (165286) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913478)

Hm. I've always seen power as the most expensive part of an enterprise deployment -- see also why these companies are building data centers in cheap-power areas.

Re:I wonder how the total cost compares (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913536)

For scale out power's probably a bigger percentage of the total, there you're talking about cheap hardware, no software licensing fees, and no support contracts.

This is the comeback of AOL (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912824)

Remember when AOL used to send you so many floppies in the mail, you didn't need to go out and buy them yourself?

I'm looking forward to getting 50 TB SANs in the mail.

Re:This is the comeback of AOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913198)

how about a dick in your ass?

Re:This is the comeback of AOL (1)

PRMan (959735) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913692)

Ah, those were the days. But you needed to do a full format on them first or they would lose the data.

Wait! (1)

Lifyre (960576) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912832)

Does this mean AOL is doing something novel and progressive? Something doesn't feel right about that...

I'm so confused!

Re:Wait! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913840)

It's time for AOL to grow again now that they wiggled out of the claws of conglomerate business that is Time Warner. How do you grow in the technology sector? Innovate! They have accomplished this by implementing the worlds first totally NAND SAN. Now what if they were to take this SAN and improve on it either through software or hardware, making it cheaper, faster and more efficient. It could change internet data serving for forever granted they don't give it a craptastic name like "cloud computing" or "fairy unicorn happy servers" (and avoid running on pure gimmic like those other cute named things).

Why not go out and buy a ready made SAN? (1)

ClaytonianG (512706) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912902)

Although I'm certain the person designing the SAN had a blast doing so and did an excellent job, it still seems it would have been faster/easier to go with a pre-existing SAN/DB system such as Oracle's exadata2 [oracle.com]

I've personally witnessed the exadata2 process close to the advertised 1,000,000 iops(well it was in a controlled demo environment done by oracle, but still, it was impressive).

I'd also be curious in how much the second SAN would cost. If the first one costs $1, will the second one be cheaper and thus justifying developing the system in house?

Failure rate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33912920)

Not the brightest people in the world there at AOL (what do you expect?). I can't wait to see what their failure rate is after a year or so of usage.

Unless they have improved recently my experience with SSD/Flash drives is that they fail quite often. I have never had one last more than a year with relatively heavy use (developer workstations and database usage).

I would put good money on them losing at least 50% of the whole array over a one year period (I actually think the odds are pretty good that they lose 100% but I'll leave some room since SSD's could have improved since I tried them about a year ago).

Re:Failure rate? (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913388)

SLC SSD's should last 5-10 years at 100% interface saturated writes.

Re:Failure rate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33914064)

I think "should" is the key word. They're suppose to last a lot longer than spinners but in my real world experience they fail way more often. That was my point.

Specs be damned, what I have actually experienced in practical usage is a high failure rate (everyone I know that has tried SSD's for databases or development work has had them fail within a year).

Ok guys.... (2, Funny)

mrsteveman1 (1010381) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912960)

It's very easy to fall in love with this stuff once you're on it.

I said the same thing about coke in the 70's....

I guess what i'm saying is, no one loan money to AOL until they admit they have a problem.

Re:Ok guys.... (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914938)

I said the same thing about coke in the 70's....

Thank goodness they came out with New Coke and drove us away!

interface? (1)

loxosceles (580563) | more than 3 years ago | (#33912970)

From summary:

One reason the flash SAN is so fast is that it doesn't use a SAS or PCIe backbone, but instead has a proprietary interface that offers up 5 to 6Gb/s throughput.

What are they talking about? The violin memory website says the appliances themselves support FC, 10 GbE, and Infiniband connections [violin-memory.com]. Their performance page [violin-memory.com] says that the appliance can be directly connected to a pcie bus, presumably using some sort of pass-through interface card, but what physical connector and media are used?

Re:interface? (1)

LordMyren (15499) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913108)

I just enjoyed the fact that 5-6Gb/s is a breath-stealing 150% the speed of a single lane of PCIe v2.0, and equal to SATA3's rate. Your implicit question of "what actually runs this SAN," whats behind this interfaces propositioned as blazing fast, is oh so much more dirt on the grave of this fluff piece. Still, from the outset, the "facts" present are already pretty funny.

Re:interface? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913676)

If you look at the Violin Memory website (vmem.com) you can see a Memory Array presents a PCIe interface. What AOL is doing is using a Violin SAN head which connects to multiple Memory Array's and then presents Fibre Channel to their EMC VPLEX (Storage Virtualization Layer) and then they can provision to their individual internal customers as needed.

I think there is some confusion in what is available from the VPLEX point of view which can aggregate multiple Memory Arrays to present whatever performance profile they want - not what is available from an individual box.

Re:interface? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913986)

I believe they call it "trade secrets" but I could be wrong.

Easy to fall in love? (0, Offtopic)

mysidia (191772) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913092)

It's very easy to fall in love with this girl once you're on her.

There, fixed it for you.

Although I suppose it's possible you were talking about drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine, candy, or pizza. Some people call those things 'stuff'

But surely one doesn't really fall in love with a million dollar box that will be worth $100 in 5 years.

And your computer apps will adjust to the storage capabilities of your solid-state storage and require yet even more performance at even higher capacities.

Ooops... back to mechanical disks.

And? (1)

Rooked_One (591287) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913206)

6Gbs huh? Ok, so i'm assuming you have some special cable connecting to the SAN... I know offhand that dell sells the MD3200 - a DAS unit that transfers 6Gb/s... Although I estimated it was about 10GB in 30 seconds.

I've got to be missing something here. The seek times are probably out of this world with this "specialized" SAN, but then we have equallogic SANs that can have 48 SSDs and have 10Gb/s...

Hey AOL - you are in the arctic right? Can I interest you in some of this amazing ice?

Cheap (1)

curious.corn (167387) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913218)

Hei folks,

20$/GB is not that much IMHO... is that net capacity, does it include geographical replication? Depending on the answer, the real news could be that SSD storage is so much more competitive that one may have thought... :D

Re:Cheap (1)

AcquaCow (56720) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914130)

Once you factor in the total cost of ownership for a disk-based SAN eg: heat/cooling/maintenance/etc... Flash is actually pretty cheap.

$1M? A bargain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913368)

Um. Am I the only that thought the speculated price was a bit low?

I would be surprised if that $20/GB isn't the raw perGB cost and the 50TB is the usable figure for how much storage they ended up with.

That means there's RAID in there, probably spares, any other overhead and hmmm did I see that it's mirrored across two six-node clusters?

$1M 'tain't that much for some screaming storage and my first thought was "wow...that is really reasonable for that much solid state"

Look at Google and Facebook, not AOL's bandaid (1)

cryfreedomlove (929828) | more than 3 years ago | (#33913544)

I look to Google, Facebook, and other massively scaled companies that build highly distributed systems running on low availability commodity systems. These guys are not throwing Solid State Memory at biggus relational databases. Sorry, but this is a bandaid for a dinosaur.

The cost/GB is an irrelevant measure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913556)

This is clearly an application where $/IOP is the problem, not $/GB. If they need 250K random IOPs, they'd need something in the order of 800-850 FC disk drives, and a honking big array to house them, and they certainly wouldn't see any change from $1M for that configuration from EMC, then you add the running costs in terms of power for that configuration and the FLASH stuff looks really attractive.

so what (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913816)

sas is capable of 6 Gb/s, that's why fibre channels is being phased out. aol isn't doing anything any other enterprise is doing, only difference is somebody decided to write about it.

Why do I think... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33913950)

The developers / DBA's on this project are not familiar with the 'CREATE INDEX' statement.

RAID 5? (3, Insightful)

daver_au (213961) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914106)

They wanted performance and went *RAID 5*? That pretty much sums the entire approach up. Let's not optimise the application first, the database second, but instead hide the problem by throwing hardware at it. Then what we'll do is use a RAID configuration that hobbles the write performance of the arrays and lets not mention what happens to performance when we lose a disk (don't say it won't happen).

Sure, RAID 5 is the answer to somethings, but not when the question is database *PERFORMANCE*.

Also - latency is more important than IOP/s. I don't care how many IOP/s you can do, if you're latency is high, the performance won't be. Most garden variety storage engineers don't seem to grasp this concept.

A million dollars = half an executive per year (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33914188)

I'm enjoying the comments which are sarcastically asking whether AOL is doing anything amazing to justify this investment. A million dollars is not a big deal in terms of capital investment, even to a firm which has taken it's share of losses recently. If the choice was an extra three to four months of performance problems while the developers work out the best way to tune the db and spending a million dollars on storage you probably would have bought in some form anyway then that's no choice at all if your an operations director or whoever approves this sort of thing.

$/IOPS (1)

RegTooLate (1135209) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914226)

If you compare their IOPS price to a Fibre drive you will find that AOL got quite the bargain. 250,000 IOPS / 180 IOPS = 1388 10kRPM Fibre drives * $2,000 a pop - $1M = $1.7M savings.

AOL is still around? (1, Redundant)

roc97007 (608802) | more than 3 years ago | (#33914656)

What the hell does AOL need a database for? Users still on hold trying to cancel their accounts?

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