IBM 2011Jul12 XIV gen 3 announcement

In Data storage, IBM, XIV by Administrator

IBM XIV gen 3 announcement

IBM recently announced a new version of their XIV storage subsystem, with higher performance, higher entry point and new SSD cache upgradeability.

New XIV storage

The new XIV gen 3 storage system has been redesigned to focus on applications that need high IO performance.  Enhancements were made to hardware and software functionality to increase both random and sequential IO throughput.

For instance, XIV gen 3 hardware changes include:

  • Infiniband interconnect – The new node interconnect reduces backplane latency  (<1 microsecond) and increases inter-node bandwidth by 20X.
  • More processing power – The new hardware supplies 60 hyper-threaded, Intel processing cores used for more aggressive caching and better system management.
  • More cache – Gen 3 supports up to 360GB of cache, which should help IO performance.
  • Faster FC – The new 8Gbps FC frontend ports should increase system IO bandwidth and speed up access to data.
  • SAS backend and drives – Gen 3 supports 6Gbps SAS backend and 2TB nearline drives which should help sequential throughput.
  • More iSCSI ports – The new hardware supports up to 22-GigE iSCSI ports for better throughput and configuration flexibility.
  • Future-proofed hardware – Gen 3 ships with enough spare DIMM slots for an additional 48GB of memory, a spare CPU socket, and in the future, will support up to 7.5TB of SSD cache which should increase performance even more.

Although 90% of XIV code is similar between gen 2 and 3, there have been a few enhancements to better support the new hardware.  Specifically,

More aggressive data pre-fetch – which reads data into cache where it can be accessed faster than off disk.  All XIV modules participate in this distributed, pre-fetch of customer data.

  • More space efficient – which increases the amount of data that can be stored in the same physical capacity for thinly provisioned LUNs and all storage snapshots – with particular improvement expected for VMware VMFS datastore LUNs.
  • Asynchronous replication improvements – reduces host latency for heavy small block random IO workloads by up to 4X.
  • Multi-system UI – which eases storage administration for multi-XIV environments.
  • Mobile UI – will supply XIV near real-time performance analysis on mobile devices like the Apple iPad to take along to meetings and other interactions outside the normal office environment.
  • vCenter plugin –which allows a VMware system administrator to configure, monitor and manage the storage without needing to understand or use XIV’s UI.

Most of the above changes have led to increased system IO performance, even without using SSDs. As a result, XIV gen 3

  • Sequential bandwidth has increased to 10GB/sec, a 4X improvement,
  • OLTP/Transactional performance has improved by up to 2X, and
  • Read hit workloads can now attain 500K IOPs with IO latency under 170 microseconds.

With all the hardware advances in the new system, there is no interoperability between the older XIV gen 2 and gen 3 storage but they can replicate to one another. Moreover, XIV supports a data migration utility that can, with minimal disruption, be used to migrate data from gen 2 (or any FC storage) to gen 3 systems.

Announcement significance

Previously, XIV’s major weakness was IO performance.  With this announcement, it seems like gen 3 should put most of those concerns to rest.  However, we would need to see some storage benchmark results to validate their performance claims.

XIV has always been known for its ease of use.  With the introduction of a mobile UI and multi-system operations, they have made it even easier to use.  In fact, one can see some of the XIV UI capabilities being introduced into other IBM storage systems like the Storwize v7000 and DS8000 storage systems.

On the other hand, probably more intriguing is gen 3’s empty hardware slots.  When you add this to all the processing capabilities currently available, it tells us more software functionality is forthcoming.  It’s unclear what IBM plans to do with all that spare power, but we can certainly come up with a few ideas.

[This announcement summary dispatch was originally sent out to our newsletter subscribers in July of 2011.  If you would like to receive this information via email please consider signing up for our free monthly newsletter (see subscription request, above right) or subscribe by email and we will send our current issue along with download instructions for this and other reports.]


Silverton Consulting, Inc. is a Storage, Strategy & Systems consulting services company, based in the USA offering products and services to the data storage community.