Some days ago I talked to a colleague from our sales team and we discussed different solutions for a customer. I will spare you the details, but we discussed different solutions and we came across PernixData FVP, HP 3PAR Adaptive Optimization, HP 3PAR Adaptive Flash Cache and DataCore SANsymphony-V. And then the question of all questions came up: “What is the difference?”.
Simplify, then add Lightness
Lets talk about tiering. To make it simple: Tiering moves a block from one tier to another, depending on how often a block is accessed in a specific time. A tier is a class of storage with specific characteristics, for example ultra-fast flash, enterprise-grade SAS drives or even nearline drives. Characteristics can be the drive type, the used RAID level or a combination of characteristics. A 3-tier storage design can consist of only one drive type, but they can be organized in different RAID levels. Tier 1 can be RAID 1 and tier 3 can be RAID 6, but all tiers use enterprise-grade 15k SAS drives. But you can also mix drive types and RAID levels, for example tier 1 with flash, tier 2 with 15k SAS in a RAID 5 and tier 3 with SAS-NL and RAID 6. Each time a block is accessed, the block “heats up”. If it’s hot enough, it is moved one tier up. If it’s less often accessed, the block “cools down” and at a specific point, the block is moved a tier down. If a tier is full, colder blocks will to be moved down and hotter block have to be moved up. It’s a bit simplified, but products like DataCore SANsymphony-V with Auto-Tiering or HP 3PAR Adaptive Optimization are working this way.