Case studies / SunCoke Energy

SunCoke Energy Solves Months of Oracle Performance Troubleshooting with V-locity

SunCoke Energy Solves Oracle Performance issues with Condusiv Software

“After months of troubleshooting, we ran the same query with V-locity on all the Cognos VMs. It completed in one third of the time—a huge improvement for our users. We’re now rolling out V-locity to the rest of our virtual environment and assessing it for physical servers.”

Challenges

  • Business users experiencing painfully slow query times, impacting their ability to carry out basic job functions
  • Bottlenecks and latency caused by excessive I/O, impacting student enrollment applications
  • Expense and time invested in troubleshooting latency with no solution

Benefits

  • 50% or greater application performance improvement – with no additional hardware
  • Latency and throughput dramatically improved
  • True “set and forget” management
  • Compatible with all SAN/NAS systems
  • Easily deploys to the largest virtual, physical or cloud environments in just five clicks
  • Before-and-after performance reporting to validate performance gains
  • Enterprise-wide visibility into I/O performance, from VM to storage

Environment

  • IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and data warehouse software
  • SAN Technology: EMC® VNX
  • Oracle Database 11g and 12c
  • 32TB of SAN data, 165 VMs, 120 cores

Features

IntelliWrite® I/O reduction technology
automatically prevents split I/Os from being generated when a file is typically broken into pieces before write and sequentializes otherwise random I/O generated by the “I/O blender” effect.

IntelliMemory® intelligent caching technology
caches active data from read requests using available server memory.

“Time Saved” Benefits Dashboard Shows the ongoing benefit of the software by revealing the amount of I/O offloaded from storage and how much time that saves.

Benefit Analyzer™ embedded benchmark provides before/after performance comparisons prior to installing V-locity and after

SunCoke Energy runs its business on IBM® Cognos® Business Intelligence software, supported by Oracle® on the backend. When the “45-second query” became notorious around the office, IT had a real problem on their hands, kicking off a lengthy “needle-in-a-haystack” project to troubleshoot the environment for better performance.

THE CUSTOMER

SunCoke runs its business on IBM’s Cognos BI (business intelligence) software, with Oracle on the backend. SunCoke’s Financial, Business Development, and Sales teams rely on these applications to run sales data and detailed coal tracking—from the point the coal hits the oven to how much finished product was loaded on a train. They run reports on how much coke is produced per customer, how much was shipped, and how much to bill accordingly.

When queries became painfully slow and applications increasingly sluggish, IT needed a solution. “The ’45-second query’ became notorious around here— synonymous with the frustration my users were experiencing when trying to perform basic tasks,” says Chris Mueller, Systems Administrator. “A bad day for my team is when our people can’t do their jobs—it’s like trying to find a needle-in-a-haystack, troubleshooting for performance.”

Solving the performance problem initiated a three-month project that involved setting up SAN RAID I/O partitions to increase read/write times, optimizing disk channels for different hard drives on the database servers, consolidating all VMs, upgrading the server network from 1GB to 10GB, dedicating RAM and CPU to each Cognos server, and upgrading the Dell EqualLogic SAN to EMC VNX technology. “After all that, the infamous 45-second query went down to 25 seconds, which was nice, but not good enough,” explains Chris. “That’s when we brought in V-locity VM and it knocked the door down.”

THE CHALLENGE

Chris and Lou Figueroa, Information Systems Administrator, were not satisfied with the benchmark query result of 25 seconds—and additional time spent troubleshooting was not an option. “Around that time we heard about V-locity VM, so we tested it on one of the Cognos servers and couldn’t believe the improvement,” says Chris. “We rolled out V-locity on all the Cognos VMs, ran the same query, and got the time down to 15 seconds instantaneously,” he explains. “I wish we had V-locity sooner—it would have saved massive effort and solved our problems much earlier in the process.”

Condusiv’s V-locity VM software is a complement to the advanced storage, virtualization, and networking technologies that SunCoke runs in its data center. Because V-locity is installed on all Windows VMs, it eliminates the surplus of unnecessary I/O directly at the source. SunCoke’s entire infrastructure (compute, network, and storage) derives benefit because only productive I/O is generated by the VM software OS layer. With IntelliWrite® technology, V-locity automatically prevents split I/Os from being generated when a file is typically split apart upon write. With IntelliMemory®, V-locity caches active data in available server memory, reducing physical read I/O requests on storage devices.

THE SOLUTION

Chris and Lou Figueroa, Information Systems Administrator, were not satisfied with the benchmark query result of 25 seconds—and additional time spent troubleshooting was not an option. “Around that time we heard about V-locity VM, so we tested it on one of the Cognos servers and couldn’t believe the improvement,” says Chris. “We rolled out V-locity on all the Cognos VMs, ran the same query, and got the time down to 15 seconds instantaneously,” he explains. “I wish we had V-locity sooner—it would have saved massive effort and solved our problems much earlier in the process.”

Condusiv’s V-locity VM software is a complement to the advanced storage, virtualization, and networking technologies that SunCoke runs in its data center. Because V-locity is installed on all Windows VMs, it eliminates the surplus of unnecessary I/O directly at the source. SunCoke’s entire infrastructure (compute, network, and storage) derives benefit because only productive I/O is generated by the VM software OS layer. With IntelliWrite® technology, V-locity automatically prevents split I/Os from being generated when a file is typically split apart upon write. With IntelliMemory®, V-locity caches active data in available server memory, reducing physical read I/O requests on storage devices.

THE RESULT

Over the first several weeks of running V-locity on all the Cognos VMs, Chris and Lou’s team received highly positive feedback from their users; however, they wanted to understand where the performance gains were coming from. Working with the Applications team on a series of tests, and using V-locity’s Benefit Analyzer for daily performance reports, Chris could see what was happening. “I/O counts were cut by 53% overall, so every virtual system we have was seeing major performance improvement,” he says. “On the database servers we were getting average response time improvements of 145%.” Chris continues, “The unexpected surprise is that our backup times have been cut down from hours to minutes. We were amazed—I can’t say enough.”

After months of tuning and investment in infrastructure upgrade, Chris acknowledges that some of the exercises helped improve performance. “We outgrew the Dell EqualLogic so the SAN upgrade was necessary; however, V-locity saved us from over-purchasing hardware to get that boost in performance.” He continues, “I definitely recommend V-locity as the first ‘go-to’ option for anyone experiencing application performance pains.”

For SunCoke Energy, the “45-second query” created a highly visible problem, pushing performance issues to the top of the priority list. By deploying V-locity VM, Chris and Lou have reined in spiraling data center costs, delivered high performance to their users, and dramatically reduced backup time-driving greater value from the hardware and infrastructure they already have.