Storage Channel Pipeline

Aug 16 2010   11:25AM GMT

Metadata management: A free NAS performance upgrade

Eric Slack Eric Slack Profile: Eric Slack

In the ongoing effort to improve application performance, tiered storage — especially using SSDs — is a tool vendors often use. The concept is simple: Move the files supporting these applications to faster storage, where they can enjoy lower latency and thereby increase IOPS. But this requires either enough storage space on the faster (more expensive) tier to hold the entire data set, or a way to determine which files are used the most and just moving those to the upper tier. Now there’s another way: tiering file metadata via metadata management. This can deliver a nice NAS performance improvement.


Metadata is the “data about the data,” or the information a file system uses to manipulate files. Examples would be data on permissions, access history, file system structures, indexes, etc. Every time a file is opened, searched, modified, saved, backed up or even deleted, metadata is updated. These activities are called metadata operations, and they outnumber file system operations on “regular” data, often by many times. They also consume CPU cycles and system resources, which increases latency. So it stands to reason that speeding up metadata operations would be an effective way to improve performance.


Back to tiered storage. Since metadata comprises a small percentage of a total file system’s capacity (single-digit percentages are typical) it would seem to be a natural candidate for faster storage tiers, especially SSDs. NAS vendors are now coming out with systems that can tier metadata, automatically storing it on the fastest storage that’s available. The result is improved storage performance without increasing spindle counts or upper-tier storage capacities significantly.


For VARs, metadata management is another tool you can use to improve NAS performance without exploding the storage budget. With NAS becoming the storage platform of choice for more and more environments, this capability is a natural topic to get a meeting with a new customer who’s looking for a better solution.


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  • Vkoepnick
    BlueArc provides tiered metadata handling in its SiliconFS 7.0 release. This allows a BlueArc system to utilize the highest performance tier of disk for optimized metadata handling. Any combination of disks can be used - SSD/SAS, SSD/SATA, SAS/NL-SAS, SAS/SATA and ultimately fewer spindles can be used to achieve the same levels of performance. When SSDs are used, only a small amount is necessary since space isn’t wasted storing and caching whole files. SiliconFS offers superior value by including the multi tier file system feature for metadata management at no additional cost. Because it can be used with any combination of disk it can utilize disks already present in the storage infrastructure, no need to purchase SSDs or expensive caching modules. For more information see[A href=""][/A]
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