Performance Boost in VMware vSAN Cache Tier

Want a performance boost in VMware vSAN cache tier? Follow Intel IT's best practice of using Intel® Optane™ SSDs as caching devices for I/O-intensive workloads in your virtualized environment.

Intel Manufacturing factories rely on advanced technology for smooth 24/7 operation. Each factory includes two data centers with hundreds of servers to manage materials, equipment automation, process control, inventory, analytics, and more.

Manufacturing IT recently built a separate and completely virtual integration environment for Intel Non-volatile Memory Solution Group (NSG) factory. This offered an opportunity to introduce Intel® Optane™ SSDs as cache tier on I/O-intensive workloads to reduce the number of disk groups required. Whether running applications, websites, databases, file servers, or other services, storage performance is often the most important factor in delivering high-performing business solutions. And higher disk throughput is key to achieving performance.

We targeted web, application, and database servers using common factory workloads and the results were outstanding. Testing revealed that two disk groups performed as well as three and write-intensive workloads performed even better. We compared automation system use cases involving defect analysis application servers and database servers on a virtualized platform with Intel® Optane™ Storage media against systems with NAND SSD (All-Flash) systems. The results gave us confidence to virtualize most factory integration compute environment hundreds of servers that simulate the factory setting before applying changes in production. Nearly 200 physical servers are hosted in the integration environment. Here are some of the performance results:

  • Up to 7x improved latency for HCI Bench Testing (exceeding our expectations)
  • 2x faster database SQL restoration
  • 14% faster defect analysis

Besides improving I/O performance with Intel® Optane™ SSDs, we also can save on storage costs.

Intel factories process massive amounts of data in I/O-intensive workloads daily. Through virtualization on VMware vSAN, we have seen impressive gains in server consolidation. The earlier design used SSD flash drives in the cache tier while the new design uses Intel® Optane™ SSDs to gain additional performance boost that the varying workloads demand in our NSG factory. Adding Intel® Optane™ SSDs to the cache tier in our virtual environments has allowed us to reduce the number of disk groups from 3 to 2. As a result, we maintained the same performance levels as well as reduced storage costs. Additionally, Intel® Optane™ SSDs cache required only 375 GB compared to 900 GB on the NAND SSD All-Flash system. By virtualizing our entire integration environment, we simplified the maintenance for greater uptime and better hardware utilization.

In short, the benefits of our solution include:

  • A significant boost to performance on web servers, scheduled jobs, and database applications
  • A reduction in costs due to running more applications on fewer hosts
  • Simpler and quicker implementation when it comes to maintenance activities, such as applying patches

In the future, we expect to include more VMs per host by upgrading the memory to Intel® Optane™ persistent memory modules.