How do small and medium business (SMB) IT administrators effectively use solid state drives (SSDs) to accelerate their applications? They can't. Either the array is too expensive or the drives must be in their own pool and separate from the rest of the data. Data must be sent manually to the fast volume (SSD) or to the normal volume.
How can the IT administrator figure out what data is transactional in nature, that is, what data should be sent to the fast volume? To make things even more confusing and complicated, data can have mixed characteristics. But to get the most out of expensive SSDs, the solution must be intelligent and fully automatic—the data just needs to go to the right place automatically.
How It Works
Data-Aware Tiering on the Drobo B1200i is the first and only totally automated way for small and medium businesses to affordably utilize SSDs to accelerate their application performance. It involves zero configuration and shows immediate results. An ESG Lab Validation Report documents hands-on evaluation and testing of the Drobo B1200i.
With the introduction of SSD support in the Drobo B1200i, SSDs provide a faster tier of storage for data that is transactional in nature, the type of data that benefits from the faster write and access speeds SSDs provide. As data enters the Drobo, if it is transactional, then the data is written to the "transactional" tier comprised of SSDs. If the data is a sequential stream, it is written to the “bulk tier” comprised of hard disk drives (HDDs). Unlike enterprise arrays with auto-tiering, transactional data goes directly to SSDs, which ensures that BOTH writes AND reads are optimized.
Drobo's tiering functionality allows you to store any type of data on the Drobo and the data that can be optimized by SSDs is automatically optimized in flight. This means that all data—mixed data types from 10 or more VMs in a vSphere cluster, Exchange databases/datastores, backup data, or files on a file server—automatically goes to the right place. Whether you have 8 HDDs and 2 SSDs or 9 HDDs and 3 SSDs, they will be utilized appropriately without any upfront setup. All the administrator has to do is put the drives in the Drobo.
Fully Automated Tuning
After data is written to storage, data patterns often change. Sometimes a large amount of data is written to storage and not read for weeks or even months. On the other hand, it is not uncommon for a small amount of data to be written and accessed very frequently.
With Drobo's automated tiering, optimization of data doesn't stop when the data reaches a transactional or bulk storage tier. As the stored data is being read off the Drobo, the data is patterned and optimized in the background. Data that becomes hot will be moved to the transactional tier and vice versa.
Just Add SSDs … Really!
If your Drobo contains only HDDs, but if your applications need even more performance, all you have to do is introduce SSDs to the Drobo. The SSDs then become the transactional tier and all of the HDDs are delegated to the bulk tier. The only administrative task is to insert new drives into the Drobo.
Tiering is for Professionals Too!
While automated data tiering helps IT administrators accelerate business critical applications, it is also ideal for accelerating the applications you need to run faster on YOUR computer too. If you ever wished that database-driven applications such as Aperture, Lightroom, or iTunes were a bit snappier, Drobo is here to help.
Since just a little bit of high-speed flash goes a long way to accelerate your storage, we added an additional drive bay to the Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini. It’s called the Drobo Accelerator Bay and it accepts an industry-standard mSATA SSD. Since these very compact SSDs are being used in the new Ultrabook family of portable computers, they are becoming readily available and very affordable. So you can add flash to your Drobo without consuming one of the standard drive bays, which are best used to maximize capacity.
Tiering on Smaller Drobos
On the larger Drobo B1200i, there are enough drive bays to create two tiers of storage while still maintaining high capacity. On 4- and 5-bay Drobo devices, there are not enough bays to create two tiers of storage, so we had to implement tiering differently.
The mSATA SSD is used to accelerate smaller and random reads from the Drobo, while the HDDs are used for storing and streaming larger data such as photos, video, and user documents.
Note that Data-Aware Tiering is currently available only for the Drobo B1200i, Drobo 5D, and Drobo Mini.
For additional information, read the "Data-Aware Tiering" section of the Drobo technology innovation eBook.