Article by Ashar Baig (published June 2014 in Tech Target)

FINDING AND FIXING storage performance bottlenecks has never been easy. Storage architects constantly probe storage arrays, the network, hosts and hypervisors in an attempt to put their finger on what’s bogging down a storage system so they can come up with a remedy for the performance bottleneck. With the advent of high-density server virtualization that enables a single server to support dozens of virtual servers, coupled with flash-based near-zero latency storage, it becomes clear that the storage
network is often the bottleneck. Furthermore, storage architects often have to choose between performance and
capacity, finding that optimizing one typically negatively impacts the other.

To explore real-world storage performance bottleneck culprits, we talked with three storage architects to understand what specific storage performance issues they faced in their environments. We asked them about the configurations, tools, best practices and techniques they used to help pinpoint the sources of the bottleneck symptoms and remedy them. These are the storage pros who shared their experiences with us:

  • Matthew Chesterton, president of OffsiteDataSync, a managed services provider (MSP) in Rochester, NY,that offers hosted cloud, disaster recovery (DR) and data retention solutions.
  • The IT director of a New York City-based hedge fund who, while sharing his experiences managing more
    than 800 terabytes in storage capacity, asked not to be identified.
  • A storage architect at an MSP in the Midwest that manages just under 400 TB of storage capacity and provides
    fully managed DR and business continuity (BC) solutions. Citing his company’s policies, he also chose to
    remain anonymous for this article.

It must be noted that higher performance comes at a cost, and can lead to higher capital and operating expenses. Achieving even modest performance improvements may require the use of many expensive hard drives, which increases data center space, as well as power and cooling costs.


Storage I/O is by far the biggest storage performance bottleneck. Most storage architects spend a majority of their time chasing an ever-elusive storage I/O moving target. OffsiteDataSync’s Chesterton noted that amidst a tsunami of data growth, where growth is pegged at more than 60% per year, his customers are tasked to back up more and more data within the same backup window—a phenomenon referred to as shrinking backup windows. To be able to back up an ever-increasing amount of data during the same backup window requires faster storage I/O.”

To give accolades to our friend and author of this piece, Ashar Baig, please go to the following link to download the rest of this article: 6 things that can wreck storage system performance.