An ongoing discussion about SAP infrastructure

Optane DC Persistent Memory – Proven, industrial strength or full of hype – Detail, part 2

If the performance considerations from part 1 were the only issues, a reasonable case could be made for the potential value of doing a PoC with this technology.  But, of course, those are not the only issues.  One of the reasons that NVDIMMs have longer latencies than DRAM is due to their persistence and therefore the need to encrypt data placed on these components.  Encryption and decryption take a lot of computational power and can have a substantial impact on latency and bandwidth.  The funny thing is that encryption of these NVDIMMs can be turned off if desired, presumably with a resulting improvement to performance.  But what kind of customer would be willing to turn off this vital security technology?

Another desirable trait of modern, in-memory platforms is advanced memory protection which allows a system to continue to operate in the event of a DIMM failure.  This often starts with basic ECC, but then progresses to SDDC, DDDC (Chipkill or Lockstep), ADDDC (Skylake and beyond only) and IBM’s unique Chipkill + chip sparing technology.  ADDDC is not available for NVDIMMs, but DDDC is.  The downside of DDDC is that it comes with a significant performance penalty. No performance numbers have been provided for NVDIMMs configured with DDDC, but previous generations saw 20% to 40% degradation when using this mode.[i][ii]

What kind of customer would be willing to disable key security features or run critical systems without the best available reliability technologies?  I would certainly advise customers to use encryption and advanced reliability technologies in most circumstances.  Only those customers that can scramble business critical, PII and/or HIPAA data should ever consider disabling persistent memory encryption.  I searched, using every option that I could imagine, and failed to find a single web site that recommended ever disabling NVDIMM encryption.

SAP Benchmarks results posted on the external web site do not show the details of how security and reliability configuration parameters have been set.  It is therefore impossible to say whether HPE enabled or disabled these protection features.  In my many years of experience and extensive discussion with benchmarking experts, I can share that every single one, at every vendor, used every tool or technology that did not violate official rules to enhance results.  It would not be too much of a leap to project that HPE, and other vendors posting results with NVDIMMs, have likely disabled anything that might cause their results to diminish in any way.  (HPE, if you would like to share your configuration details, I would be happy to post them and if I have mischaracterized how you ran these benchmarks, will also post a retraction.) As a result, these BWH results may not only have relevance to only a small subset of the potential workloads but may also represent an unacceptable exposure to any company that has high single system availability requirements or has one of those unreasonable security departments which thinks that data protection is actually worthwhile.

And then, there are OLTP customers.  Based on the lack of benchmark testing of Suite on HANA, S/4HANA or C/4HANA combined with the above data from Lenovo about the massive reduction of bandwidth and associated huge increase in latency for OLTP, it would be MOST unwise to place any of these types of environments on systems with NVDIMMs without extensive testing of real customer workloads to ensure that internal performance SLAs can be met.

Certain types of workloads may perform decently with NVDIMMs.  BW environments where the primary use is for predictable and repeatable queries and reports may see only moderate performance degradation compared to DRAM based systems, but still orders of magnitude better performance that AnyDB systems which merely cache recently used data in memory and keep most data on external storage.  BW Extension nodes, S/4 Data aging objects and other types of archival systems that take older, less frequently used data and place them on other tiers of storage or systems, could certainly benefit from NVDIMMs.  Non-prod workloads which are not in the critical path to production, e.g. dev, test, sandbox, might make sense to place on systems with NVDIMMs.  All of these depend on an acceptance of potential performance issues and hardware/firmware/software fixes that inevitably come once customers start playing with version 1.0 of any new technology.

Based on likely performance issues, inferior RAS technology and the above mentioned “fix” dilemma, I would strongly advise that critical systems like production, QA, pre-prod, HA and DR should stay on DRAM based systems until bleeding edge customers prove the value of NVDIMMs and are willing to publicly share their journey.

The question then becomes whether the benefit to a subset of the environments are so substantial that it makes sense to select a vendor for HANA systems based on their ability to utilize NVDIMMs even when this technology might not be used for the most critical of the workloads and their associated critical path and HA/DR systems. This gets into the subjects of cost reduction and restart speeds which will be covered in part 3 of this series.



May 27, 2019 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , ,

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