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How Cloud Block Storage Is Changing Cloud Performance For The Better

One of the major consumer complaints surrounding cloud storage is the technology’s poor performance. Since the cloud is built on inexpensive, commodity hardware by design, it’s an understandable gripe. But using block storage in the cloud can alleviate these concerns and open up the promise of cloud storage to organizations that wouldn’t previously have considered it.
“If you’re looking for storage that screams — that is, if you need high levels of storage performance — you should look at the block level options. Block level devices are generally configurable for capacity and performance,” said Scott Lowe in this TechRepublic article.
This option is great for your business if you’re looking to store and need frequent access to your files, information from databases, or need to restore your virtual machines in the event of a crash. And, Lowe said, block storage is easy to acquire and configure, since it presents itself to servers in the same way as a standard hard drive – albeit one that’s installed in a remote chassis and accessible via fibre channel or iSCSI connectivity.
But that’s where the real power of block storage comes in. Because with block storage, you have the option to use solid-state drives (SSD), which can boost speed and performance, in I/O-intensive settings and applications, said Rachel King in this piece for ZDNet, announcing Rackspace’s cloud block storage offering.
“Remember, when you use a block-based volume, you’re basically using a blank hard drive with which you can do anything,” Lowe said.  
But first, it is important to understand the differences between throughput and random I/O. Throughput is very important for the general use cases of writing sequential data to your drives, such as having extra space for logging, streaming data or basic file access, explains Rackspace’s Chuck Thier.
Regardless of whether you use standard drives or SSDs, throughput will always remain constant. It’s the random I/O speed that really makes a performance difference. Random I/O is very important for application, database and NoSQL servers – essentially, it is important for any server that needs to be able to quickly write to random parts on the disk, Thier said. Since a SSD can read and write to disk much, much more quickly, having these drives installed in your servers is the best way to improve performance.
“Setting up the standard drives in a RAID array will not give you as good of an experience as using the SSD Cloud Block Storage volumes,” said Thier. “So remember: when you need extra performance, be sure to use SSDs,” he said.
Because block storage functions like a large hard drive, it offers businesses increased speed, flexibility and versatility. In a block level storage device, raw volumes are created, and then the server-based operating system connects to these volumes and uses them as individual hard drives. This makes block level storage usable for almost any kind of application, and almost any business — including yours.
Sharon Florentine is a freelance writer who covers everything from holistic veterinary care to data center technology and occasionally blogs for cloud provider Rackspace Hosting.

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