Daily Archives: October 31, 2011

3TB Seagate – a performance sloth

I can’t get home. I am stuck here at the coffee shop waiting out the traffic jam after the heavily downpour an hour ago.

It has been an interesting week for me, which began last week when we were testing the new Seagate 3TB Constellation ES.2 hard disk drives. It doesn’t matter if it was SAS or SATA because the disks were 7,200 RPM, and basically built the same. SAS or SATA is merely the conduit to the disks and we were out there maneuvering the issue at hand.

Here’s an account of ¬†testing done by my team. My team has been testing the drives meticulously, using every trick in the book to milk performance from the Seagate drives. In the end, it wasn’t the performance we got but more like duds from Seagate where these type of drives are concerned.

How did the tests go?

We were using a Unix operating system to test the sequential writes on different partitions of the disks, each with a sizable GB per partition. In one test, we used 100GB per partition. With each partition, we were testing the outer cylinders to the inner cylinders, and as the storage gurus will tell you, the outer rings runs at a faster speed than the inner rings.

We thought it could be the file system we were using, so we switched the sequential writes to raw disks. We tweaked the OS parameters and tried various combinations of block sizes and so on. And what discovered was a big surprise.

The throughput we got from the sequential writes were horrible, started out with MB/sec lower almost 25% lower than a 2TB Western Digital RE4 disk, and as it went on, the throughput in the inner rings went down to single digit MB/sec. According to reliable sources, the slowest published figures by Seagate were in the high 60′s for MB/sec but what we got were close to 20+MB/sec. The Western Digital RE4 was giving out consistent throughput numbers throughout the test. We couldn’t believe it!

We scoured the forums looking for similar issues, but we did not find much about this.This could be a firmware bug. We are in the midst of opening an escalation channel to Seagate to seek explanation. I would like to share what we have discovered and the issue can be easily reproduced. For customers who have purchased storage arrays with 2 or 3TB Seagate Constellation ES/2 drives, please take note. We were disappointed with the disks but thanks to my team for their diligent approach that resulted in this discovery.

Brocade is ripe again

Like seasonable fruits, Brocade is ready to be plucked from the Fibre Channel tree (again). A few years ago, it put itself up for sale. There were suitors but no one offered to take up Brocade. Over the last few days, the rumour mill is at it again, and while Brocade did not comment, the news is happening again.

Why is Brocade up for sale? One can only guess. Over the past year, their stock has been pounded in the past months and as of last Friday, stood at USD4.51. The news mentioned that Brocade market capitalization is around USD2.7-2.8 billion, low enough to be acquired.

Brocade has been a fantastic Fibre Channel company in the past, and still pretty much is. They have survived the first Fibre Channel shake-up, and companies like Vixel, Gadzoox, and Ancor are no longer in the Fibre Channel’s industry map. They have thrived throughout, until Cisco MDS started to make dents into Brocade’s armour.

Today, a big portion of their business still relies on Fibre Channel to drive revenues and profits. A few years ago in 2008, they acquired Foundry Networks, an Gigabit Ethernet company and it was the right move as the world was converging towards 10 Gigabit. However, it is only in the past 2-3 years, that Brocade has come out with a more direct approach rather than spending most of their time on their OEM business in this region. Perhaps this laggard approach and their inaction in the past have cost them their prime position and now they are primed to be swooped up by probable suitors.

Who, will be the probable suitors now? IBM, Oracle, Juniper and even possibly Cisco could be strong candidates. IBM makes a lot of sense because I believe IBM wants to own technology and Brocade has a lot of technology and patents to offer. Oracle, hmm … they are not a hardware company. It is true that they bought Sun, but from my internal sources, Oracle is not cool with hardware innovations. They just want to sell more Oracle software licenses, keeping R&D and innovation on a short leash, and keeping R&D costs on Sun’s hardware low.

Juniper makes sense too, because they have a sizeable Ethernet business. I was a tad bit disappointed when I got to know that Juniper started selling entry-level Gigabit switches, because I have always placed them at lofty heights with their routers. But I guess, as far as business goes, Juniper did the only natural thing – If there money to be made, why not? If Juniper takes up Brocade, they can have 2 formidable storage networking businesses, Fibre Channel and Data Center Ethernet (DCE). The question now is – Does Juniper want the storage business?

If Cisco buys Brocade, that would mean alarm bells everywhere. It would trigger the US side to look into anti-competitive implications of the purchase. Unfortunately, Cisco has become a stagnant giant, and John Chambers, their CEO is dying to revive the networking juggernaut. There were also rumours of Cisco breaking up to unlock the value of the many, many companies and technologies they acquired in the past. I believe, buying Brocade does not help Cisco, because as they have done in the past with other acquisitions, there are too many technology similarities to extract Brocade’s value.

We will not know how Brocade will fare in 2012, suitors or not, because they are indeed profitable. Unfortunately, the stock options scandal last year plus the poor track record of their acquisitions such as NuView, Silverback, and even Foundry Networks, are not helping to put Brocade in a different light.

If the rumours are true, putting itself up for sale only cheapens the Brocade image. Quid proxima, Brocade?

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