Reliable, Increased I/O Performance With SSD Cloud Servers

By Matt Juszczak, Founder, Bitlancer

Performance: it’s a word often seen at the top of our clients’ wish-lists. It’s something they expect consistently, even in the face of rapidly evolving code bases and constant deploys to production.

At Bitlancer, we consider ourselves the common sense cloud company. We help businesses move to and grow in cloud environments. We offer strong support packages and consulting on various database, systems and development platforms. And we have software solutions that save time, reduce costs and mitigate headaches. For us, performance is key.

While many technologies and workloads can easily be split across multiple, commodity cloud instances, some often find themselves in situations where a need for consistent and fast I/O is important. Fortunately, we recently had the opportunity to test out the recently-released performance SSD cloud servers offering at Rackspace – Rackspace Performance Cloud Servers. We have always felt that Rackspace had the right idea for Cloud Servers from day one, and the addition of performance SSD-backed instances is yet another example of this consistency.

Mindsets are changing. Those who want the ability to deploy an application to the cloud and have a hands-off experience are increasing in abundance. A term I often hear among Rackspace folk is “cloud aware:” the idea that an application understands that it’s operating in the cloud, is able to continue operating under a certain amount of infrastructure failure, and can self-heal as failures occur. Unfortunately, not all modern applications are able to operate in this fashion, and while designing any application to be cloud-aware is important, we are still many years away from a consistent shift in that direction across all industries.

Additionally, change is hard. Vertical scaling has generally been the path of least resistance for many, as it’s often what they’re used to doing. We believe Rackspace has always offered fast, redundant, and most importantly, persistent local disk in Cloud Servers. This gives end-users more flexibility in how their application is developed and deployed instead of forcing them into one specific mindset. This flexibility increased with the addition of SSD instances that will give our clients, and most other Rackspace customers, even more architecture options. Additionally, the addition of SSDs to Cloud Servers delivers a solution for fast, unpredictable growth when your application isn’t specifically engineered for it. This is great for everyone, but ideal for startups that may not be ready for rapid success and growth.

Furthermore, many legacy applications use relational databases, such as MySQL. These types of databases can’t, at least without effort from within front-end application code, be easily split across multiple instances. While companies like ParElastic have built success around software solutions to solve this problem; when we find our customers in this position, being able to “buy” their way out of trouble for the short-term while they slowly and modularly re-architect the troubled portions of their application is often a lifesaver. Fortunately, as one of our clients recently mentioned, using SSDs is no longer considered “throwing hardware at the problem,” as the price to performance ratio has swung in favor of performance.

From our test results, displayed in the table below (click to enlarge), we experienced a near 6x performance boost between the “Next Generation 30 GB” and the “Performance 30 GB” instance, with only a 13 percent (a little more than 1x) cost difference. Translation: the cost-for-performance makes Performance Cloud Servers a no-brainer.

While horizontal scalability is important, there are some inherent problems with avoiding vertical performance all-together. For instance, as Edmund Jorgensen of Hut 8 Labs says, “you wouldn’t want 1 CPU cycle per second on infinite machines – that would be useless.” Also, while CPU and memory have historically been easier to splice and share in cloud environments, disk has traditionally been a pain point. Certain workloads, especially relational databases or those that tend to be disk-bound, don’t easily scale out. Our customers who have avoided cloud for this reason, or who have seen themselves in a tight spot requiring an increase in I/O performance, will find Rackspace Performance Cloud Servers to be a useful addition to the cloud product line. With Performance instances starting at $29/mo, there’s no longer a large barrier to entry for reliable, increased I/O performance.

This is a guest post written and contributed by Matt Juszczak, Founder of Bitlancer, a Rackspace customer and partner. Bitlancer offers cloud consulting and software, and recently participated in the beta testing program for Rackspace Performance Cloud Servers.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here