EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by - C » Sun, 30 May 2004 08:47:38


my company is looking at using Clariion with SATA disks for research quality
storage. This means we want cheap, but still good performance. The nature of
the application is to do sequential reads of many average size 3GB flat
files, say 1TB at a time. So cache on the controller is useless. The raw
disk throughput is more important. Write speed is important, but not as
important as read.

There are 2 things I am concerned with this Clariion/SATA solution...

1. Clariion's SATA drives are 5400rpm, compares to Western Digital 7200rpm.

2. The Clariion's internal signal is FC, so the SATA disks attaches to a
"translator" (Can someone explain this), and this further reduces the SATA's
native speed.

Can someone who has experience help me out? Any story of your setup and
experience are deeply appreciated.


EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Nik Simpso » Sun, 30 May 2004 09:13:39

Not necessarily, if the OS/HW combination can't issue read requests fast
enough to saturate the raw bandwidth, then read ahead into the controller
cache may improve things. It'll depend a bit on the data access patterns and
block sizes, but don't rule out the possible benefits of cache even for
sequential reads.

BTW, it might be worth stating the required read performance.

Or even 10K for the WD 36GB. But generally, rotational speed is an important
factor for random IOPs, it has less impact on performance for sequential

A controller that offers an external I/F that is different to the drives
native I/F (i.e. FC vs. SATA) is nothing new, it's been done with SCSI, SSA
and PATA in the past. Put simply, the incoming I/O request is recieved by
the controller which converts it to the necessary SATA disk I/O request(s)
and passes it on the disk(s). When the data from the disk is recieved by the
controller it re-packages it as an FC I/O and sends the data back to the
host. Given that the FC I/F is faster than the SATA I/F its unlikely that
the FC I/F will be a significant bottleneck.

As I said earlier, it would be helpful if you could state your performance
requirements in terms of MB/s as that would help determine whether the
solution workable.

BTW are you talking about the hi-end (CX-200 etc) Clariions that allow you
to use SATA drives in add-on chassis to a first chassis that contains FC
drives or the newly announced AX prduct that is a pure FC-SATA solution.
Nik Simpson


EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by - C » Sun, 30 May 2004 09:32:41

i Nik,

thanks for the reply. The plan is to attache a few linux boxes to a Clariion
cx700 via 2GB HBA cards. We have large flat files that totals 12TB. The
programs will fire off on the linux boxes and sequentially read a few TBs
each. The apps will read as fast as the data can come in, so the read
requirement is really as fast as the spindles can move. 10TB at 40MB/s will
be 29days, at 80MB/s will be 15days, so faster the better... Although we
don't have the $$ to go FC...

I mentioned the WD 7200rpm 250gb drive because the comparable drive size in
Clariion. To buy 10krpm 36gb drive will be too costly for me... I read on
another thread someone mentioned the translation being a bottleneck, have
you seen this at all?



"Nik Simpson" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in message
news:yyQtc.13599$ XXXX@XXXXX.COM ...


EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Nik Simpso » Sun, 30 May 2004 11:25:10

How will that be distributed, i.e. will there be one filesystem shared
between all the LINUX boxes or will there be seperate LUNs carved out for
each of the LINUX boxes? BTW, I think you'll find cache much more helpful in
this scenario than you might think because of the need to support multiple
hosts reading from different parts of the array, what looks like sequential
access to each host may well end up looking far from sequential to the

Have you looked at the new Clariion AX-100 announced this week, this is a
pure FC-SATA box and it also supports the 7200RPM drives. The SATA
implementation in the CX-700 requires the controller head & set of FC drives
and its much more expensive. You could probably afford to spread the load
over several AX100s each with dual controllers for the same amount you'd pay
for the CX-700 solution which is probably overkill for what you want.

Raw throughput on the AX100 fully populated is rated at 300MB/s for large
block sequential read, now even if you only see 1/2 of that combined with
the need for four of the arrays (max 3TB for each AX100) you'll able to get
600MB/s overall which isn't bad.

Take a look at:


Just for the record, I don't work for EMC and have no "axe to grind"

I think the bottleneck that people refer to is more in comparison to a pure
FC configuration of the CX-700, either way I don't think the overhead of the
FC-SATA translation is going to be a big problem in this application. But I
do urge you to take a look at the AX if what you want is an FC-SATA

BTW if you want all the LINUX boxes to share the same array (or storage
pool) and you can't afford pure FC, you really don't have much of an option
other than FC-SATA or FC-SCSI so the overhead involved in the translation is

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Rick Denoi » Thu, 03 Jun 2004 06:04:13

Please let us know your experiences with this system.

We are using a CX-400 with both FC-SCSI and S-ATA disks.

The S-ATA disks (10 disks in a RAID group) have a throughput of 4
MB/sec max. Imagine that. I have demanded an investigatin from EMC,
who has setup this thing. They just say that these disks are really
slow. But hey, according to the specs they should reach about 35 up to
60 MB/sec per disk. Something is totally misconfigured here and I have
no help from EMC and no clue about the reason.

Rick Denoire

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Bill Tod » Thu, 03 Jun 2004 09:27:18

There certainly used to be people at EMC far more competent than such an
answer indicates. If you're talking with them, they're lying to you; if
not, find someone competent to talk with.

But hey, according to the specs they should reach about 35 up to

It used to be that the combination of a disabled disk write-back cache plus
a limitation to smallish request sizes (sometimes as small as 32 KB per
request, depending upon the assumptions the controller made about disk
behavior, since some parallel ATA disks got flakey at larger transfer
sizes - see the Linux ATA driver source code for examples) could cause each
request to miss a complete disk revolution. With a 7200 rpm disk, at 8+
ms./rev, that works out to just about 4 MB/sec.

But even PATA request size limits got increased (and unnecessary
vendor-specific problems in this area fixed), and SATA request size limits
are at least in the multi-MB range now IIRC. So there's no excuse for a
properly-configured controller not to achieve something close to the max
theoretical disk bandwidth (which should be in the ballpark you stated).

Now, it's also possible that you're experiencing a pathological embrace
between your operating system and your RAID controller - at least if you're
using RAID-5. For example, the Windows NT/2K/XP cache (I don't remember if
you specified what OS you're using) usually writes back data in 64 KB
chunks. If the controller sees such a write, and isn't aware that it can be
performed lazily (and thus potentially coalesced with adjacent writes into a
full-stripe transfer), and the OS also isn't performing the writes lazily
such that it could submit additional 64 KB writes while waiting for the
first to complete, it may well take 2 full disk revolutions before the next
write request can be accepted (again, about 4 MB/sec with 7200 rpm disks).

- bill

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Erik Hendr » Thu, 03 Jun 2004 10:22:28

ey Bill,

You seem to know what you're talking about. We have a CX600 Clariion with 40
disks configured as RAID 5 (5-disks/raid group).
We then further stripe over 4 raid groups per SP. From this we offer to the
hosts 2 "devices" (each device being striped over 4 raid groups). On the
host we then stripe over both these devices.
Our application does a read/write of 4MB. On the host our stripe size is set
to 2 MB (thus each request will go to both devices).
The stripe set on the SP is 512KB (thus the 2MB request is split over all 4
raid groups). Then within the raid group we stripe on 128KB (thus the 512KB
request is now split over 4 disks and disk 5 for the parity).

In other words we have all 40 disks (for writes) and 32 disks (for reads)
working for us. Caching is fully enabled.
We notice that once the Clariion needs to start flushing to disk since the
cache is full (happens very quickly) our throughput is down to 40MB/s. This
means we're doing about 1.25MB/s / disk.
We were told that this is due to a bottleneck in the translation from FC to
ATA and that nothing will resolve this unless we switch to FC disks.

What are your thoughts on this?


"Bill Todd" < XXXX@XXXXX.COM > wrote in message
news: XXXX@XXXXX.COM ...


EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Bill Tod » Thu, 03 Jun 2004 17:28:52

Alas, only in a general sense. I have no direct acquaintance with the
Clariion arrays.

We have a CX600 Clariion with 40

Unless I need sleep more than I'm aware of right now, that all sounds good.


I once again lean toward incompetence as an explanation: either the people
who told you this were incompetent, or the people who implemented that
FC-to-ATA translation were (there's no reason it should be anything like
that slow, unless they did something incredibly dumb - or intentionally so,
in order to push their higher-end solutions - and simply used their
tagged-queuing SCSI algorithms unchanged with the SATA disks resulting in
strictly serial/synchronous operation).

- bill

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Rick Denoi » Fri, 04 Jun 2004 04:52:58

I wonder if you ever really corroborated this setup. I would not rely
on that kind of calculations alone. You have to somehow "see" what is
happening. RAID devices nowadays are said to have their own
idiosyncracies. For example, I was told to use RAID 5 instead of
mirroring because supposedly the cx-400 is internally specifically
optimized for RAID 5. So it would do something based on a RAID 5 logic
even if the RAID setup is different. Weird.

Rick Denoire

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Rick Denoi » Fri, 04 Jun 2004 05:02:42

Well, since the disks are at the central SAN storage, to which several
different hosts are attached via FC, I am able to do interesting
experiments. I can deassign one LUN from one Sun/Solaris host and
reassign it to an Intel/Linux host or to another Sun/Solaris machine.

In ALL cases, performance was very poor. Even when one LUN was
internally mirrored (no host involved), I was shocked how slow that

I am planning some experiments next time in order to demand to action
from Dell/EMC. I have no clue about how to switch the harddisk own
cache on/off.

My question is, where do I have a chance to improve something? At the
driver level by changing the settings in the driver configuration
file? Using the Navisphere or navicli and changing the element size or
read ahead feature or ..? And as mentioned somewhere else, perhaps by
switching the harddisk's own cache on??

Rick Denoire

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Bill Tod » Fri, 04 Jun 2004 07:57:27


You'll need someone competent (either at EMC or with prior experience with
your hardware) to answer that.

At the

About the only problem I can think of that would be outside the array would
be if your driver for some reason was breaking up your large write requests
into small ones which it was telling the array to execute serially. Sounds

Using the Navisphere or navicli and changing the element size or

Read-ahead shouldn't affect your write performance.

And as mentioned somewhere else, perhaps by

Don't even think about enabling the disk's write-back cache (just in case
the array isn't smart enough to turn it off again): if the controller
wanted it enabled, it would be.

- bill

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by tls » Sat, 05 Jun 2004 05:04:05

In article < XXXX@XXXXX.COM >,

It's important, of course, to understand that "translation", itself, is an
extremely misleading way to describe what's actually going on inside the
black box in question.

It's not as if there is some magic property of Fibre Channel that causes
requests for the logical volumes presented on the host side to magically
flow through the controllers with no processing yielding the correct
commands on the physical disk side.

What you have inside a Clariion, as with any other RAID box, is a computer
that is emulating a disk on one side, splitting up and otherwise processing
data sent to or requested from it in the middle, and dispatching commands
based on the result of that processing to physical disks on the other side.

It really matters very little what the interface on the "acts like a disk"
side (which faces the host) or "acts like a host" (which faces the physical
disks) side are; there is no significant and fundamental economy to be
gained from having them be the same. Perhaps it's a convenient explanation
for some EMC engineer who just wants you to go away so he can clear the call
and keep his stats up to use to blow smoke in your face; but in point of
fact a Clariion with FC on one side and FC on the other is doing just as
much of a "translation" as a Clariion with FC on one side and SATA on the

Perhaps the software component that issues SATA commands to the physical
disks, or even the hardware that it runs on, is not of equal quality to
the one that issues FC commands to physical disks that are FC attached;
but that says nothing really useful about the technology in question, only
about the quality of the implementation that EMC has chosen to sell you.

I note that you can buy PATA<->FC and SATA<->FC arrays from vendors such
as NexSan which significantly outperform the numbers you're seeing (and
which EMC is claiming are somehow representative of an inherent limit of
this sort of configuration); these arrays also typically use higher-
performance ATA disks whose cost, compared to the total margin EMC
extracts from one of these boxes, is not really meaningfully larger than
that of the 5400RPM, previous-generation disks that EMC insists on selling
you. This, to my mind, seems to agitate towards Bill's suggestion that
perhaps EMC is deliberately limiting the performance of this configuration
to avoid undercutting their more expensive FC<->FC arrays.

Thor Lancelot Simon XXXX@XXXXX.COM
But as he knew no bad language, he had called him all the names of common
objects that he could think of, and had screamed: "You lamp! You towel! You
plate!" and so on. --Sigmund Freud

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Rick Denoi » Tue, 08 Jun 2004 04:22:19

Hello again

Take a look at the result of the command
iostat -x /dev/emcpowerd1 5
on the Linux box. This is a LUN located on SATA disks in a RAID 5
group of 9+1 disks, no other I/O is taking place on other LUNs of the
same group. These results were recorded after issuing the a command to
delete about 40 files (about 200 GB all together - these are big
files). While I am writing this message, the rm command is still
running... after 1 hour. Incredible! I think that deleting files only
removes the inodes from the metadata, so the size of the files is not
so important.

Device: rrqm/s wrqm/s r/s w/s rsec/s wsec/s avgrq-sz avgqu-sz
await svctm %util
0,00 0,00 0,80 0,00 6,40 0,00 8,00 0,00
11950,00 0,00 0,00

avg-cpu: %user %nice %sys %idle
0,00 0,00 0,12 99,88

0,00 0,00 1,20 0,00 9,60 0,00 8,00 8589934,57
7500,00 16,67 0,20

avg-cpu: %user %nice %sys %idle
0,00 0,00 0,12 99,88

0,00 0,00 0,80 0,00 6,40 0,00 8,00 0,00
11475,00 0,00 0,00

avg-cpu: %user %nice %sys %idle
0,47 0,00 0,12 99,40

0,00 0,00 1,00 0,00 8,00 0,00 8,00 0,00
11300,00 0,00 0,00

avg-cpu: %user %nice %sys %idle
0,00 0,00 0,15 99,85

0,00 0,00 1,00 0,00 8,00 0,00 8,00 0,00
9880,00 0,00 0,00

avg-cpu: %user %nice %sys %idle
0,00 0,00 0,12 99,88

0,00 1,80 7,40 0,40 59,20 17,60 9,85 8589934,57
1430,77 2,56 0,20

The average queue size does not make sense. The await time (average
wait) is constantly very high. About every 30 sec, a write request
takes place. I don't understand this behaviour.

Any hint?

Rick Denoire

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by Joe » Fri, 16 Jul 2004 06:00:27

EMC Clariion does not support SATA. They are PATA and have all the
issues associated with PATA (slow, unreliable, etc). IBM, STK, etc have
SATA drives in their systems.

EMC Clariion w/ SATA disks purchase advice please

Post by flog » Fri, 16 Jul 2004 12:41:49

Jo - I have to wonder if you are the same FUD-starter as the person
who keeps spreading all the manure on the emc group on ITtoolbox.com.
It seems a little supect to me that a user Jo_ratner seems to be
posting the same messages in that group as you are in this group ( and
the similarity in your username seems to be a further coincidence).

Why don't you just disclose your vendor affiliation. I guess it is
HDS since most of the FUD seems rather dated and incorrect.

It's unfortunate that people with an agenda can disturb those looking
for user group type feedback. It's the same flamebait / vendor
bashing that makes slashdot and the like barely worth following.

I used to find groups like this a trusted forum where I could get some
good information when needed; usually from a few specific
contributors ( Boll, Bill ) that improved the level of discussion.

Lastly, i wish you luck in your anti-EMC crusade. While they are far
from perfect, I just have no use for vendor bashing. Hopefully you
never show up at my shop- you'll be the first to leave.