Fiserv Banks On FlashSystem For Speedup
November 29, 2017 Alex Woodie
There are lots of ways to make your transaction and analytic workloads move a little faster: optimize the database, add memory, tweak some code. But if you want to make them go a lot faster, pair them with a bank of high-speed solid state drives. That’s what IBM i banking software provider Fiserv did recently with IBM’s FlashSystem storage gear.
According to an IBM Solution Brief, the Brookfield, Wisconsin, software vendor went to IBM’s Rochester, Minnesota, lab in late 2015 to benchmark a FlashSystem storage array for a large commercial bank that’s a user of Signature, Fiserv‘s IBM i-based banking application. The parties came away from the engagement with a fresh appreciation for what flash can do.
IBM sells several external storage subsystems under the FlashSystem name, including the FlashSystem 900, FlashSystem V9000, and FlashSystem A9000. IBM gets the raw flash memory chips from Micron Technology, adds several hundred gigabytes of RAM, and processes the data flow with Intel Xeon processors (not Power processors, unfortunately). Each individual subsystem can provide anywhere from dozens to hundreds of terabytes of native storage capacity, and customers can link several of these subsystems together and use five-to-one compression to stretch it comfortably up into the multi-petabyte range.
But these systems aren’t built for raw capacity – it’s the speed of flash that really matters. The number of bits the FlashSystem arrays can move via Fibre Channel, iSCSI, or InfiniBank links running from 8 to 50 gigabytes per second is quite impressive. A fully loaded FlashSystem 900 can deliver 1.1 million I/O operations per second on 100 percent random reads, while the FlashSystem V9000 can push more than 2.52 million IOPS with a 200-microsecond latency. The newer A9000 array, which was announced in 2016, can serve up to 500,000 IOPS with a 250-microsecond latency. All flash storage devices are inherently faster at reading data rather than writing data, but both metrics will increase with flash.
So how does this sort of performance translate into real world workloads? That’s what Fiserv intended to find out with its 2015 Rochester lab test of Signature, which is used by hundreds of banks around the world. Fiserv wanted to know how the FlashSystem would boost everyday operations, such as processing payment transactions, powering customer and channel reporting activities, and running industry standard risk and compliance workloads.
While the combination of Signature, IBM’s Power Systems server, and the IBM i operating system provide a robust collection of processing oomph, the never-ending demands of consumers just keep driving expectations.
“With rapid advancements in processing speed and increasingly powerful consumer technology, what was ‘good enough’ just a few years ago, now feels like a dramatic step back,” IBM says in its 2016 Solutions Brief. “If your bank can’t provide customers with a great experience, delivered without delay or complications, then those customers will no doubt leave you for another bank that can.”
According to IBM, disk speed is the performance bottleneck putting a cap on customer experience at many banks these days. “This is because while networks, CPUs, and other elements of the data processing stack have grown significantly quicker in recent years, traditional disk drives are only slightly faster today than they were 10 years ago,” IBM says.
IBM says its FlashSystem, with latencies as low as 150 to 200 milliseconds, can provide upwards of a 50x better performance than standard spinning disk drives. What’s more, FlashSystem arrays can also beat solid state drives (SSDs), reducing batch processing times by up to 85 percent and online transaction processing (OLTP) times by up to 90 percent.
Fiserv’s bank client, a commercial bank in the eastern US, went on to implement FlashSystem in the first quarter of 2016. “The customer experienced a smooth installation, with no need for application rewrites,” IBM says.