in Crash Course

What is IOPS?

IOPS stands for Input and Output Per Second. It is essentially a value that describes the raw capacity of a data storage system. It sets an expectation for performance. Some storage systems are said to be capable 120 IOPS and others 340 IOPS or much more. The number of IOPS, for most disk systems, represents a count of a mix of data reads (Output) and writes (Input) per second. By that number, one can judge how fast and responsive a disk system can be. The numbers can be obtained by performing sequential or random operations on the disk system. The best representation is random operations since it reflects a real-life usage pattern.

Disk system manufacturers obtain IOPS numbers via benchmarking. There are tools that measure disk throughput and capacity by performing several read and write tests. For example, Iometer is a tool that can measure disk system performance and produce the IOPS value for such system. One needs to be aware of the fact that some manufacturers provide the IOPS based on cached read and write tests. The latter is a best case scenario test and does not reflect real-life usage.

So what happens when a system reaches the IOPS threshold number? I did use the word “reach” because in theory the disk system will almost never exceed the advertised IOPS. Back to the question, when the system reaches the IOPS threshold, it starts queuing requests. A busy queue generally indicates a bottleneck.

How often have you found yourself with a bottlenecked 2TB disk choking after barely putting a few files? Disk size capacity has no bearing on its IOPS capacity. A 2TB disk could have the same IOPS capacity as a 250GB disk! So when does one need to upgrade the disk system or the configuration at least? We shall post a new entry on this blog with the instructions.

That’s all folks!

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