What does SmartIO do?

“What is SmartIO and what does it do?”  Since the launch of Storage Foundation 6.1, I’ve been asked that question by all sorts of people in all sorts of situations.  The most concise answer I have is that “SmartIO makes everything in a SAN faster”.  In a two-minute conversation with a customer or family member, this answer is typically enough, especially for the less technically inclined members of my family.  For those curious or dubious however, the next question is always “what do you mean everything?”

The first place SmartIO brings value is in application performance, specifically those with lots of small, random reads and writes, such as a transactional database.  By keeping hot data inside the server on super fast solid state devices, application reads are filled in microseconds rather than milliseconds on traditional SAN.

Figure 1 - Transactions per Minute


In Figure 1 above we can see the impact on an OLTP workload with SmartIO enabled when compared to a traditional SAN infrastructure is about 3x.  This is a great benefit to my database and any application that is based on transactional workloads to drive performance and revenue.  Go back to my standard answer when asked about SmartIO, however, and you may say that everything in a SAN is much more than an application or database.  And you would be 100% correct.

Analyzing the end-to-end I/O path from an application to storage, there are multiple points that introduce latency and overhead on physical resources.

             Figure 2 - I/O Flow


As enterprises add more complexity to this application with the inclusion of server and storage virtualization or the introduction of multiple hops through core and edge switching, that adds more opportunity to introduce latency to the I/O path and puts more strain on the hardware infrastructure that needs to be architected, and re-architected, to handle more and more I/O coming from larger and more complex data sets and applications.

This brings us back to everything and how SmartIO can help along each step in the SAN infrastructure.  As discussed earlier, SmartIO keeps I/O operations within the server through its intelligent, application integrated caching heuristics.   Any I/O that stays inside a server is off of the network, removing the majority of the latency and physical overhead points outlined in the diagram above.

Figure 3 - IO Requests per Second


Analyzing the read requests for the SAN during the benchmark run in figure 3 you can see a dramatic drop in the IO requests made to the back-end storage.  This shows that SmartIO is handling an increasing amount of reads and fulfilling those requests with the internal SSD. I/O’s that used to hit the network driver, hba, fibre-channel network, array controllers, and rotational media are taken completely off the network.  This means more available network and controller capacity to handle more traffic for more servers and applications.  This is SmartIO making everything in the SAN faster.           


SAN Only


Benchmark Time

60 Minutes

60 Minutes

Average SAN Read I/O per second



Total SAN Read I/O



Over the 60 minute benchmark, our array served approximately 586k read operations. SmartIO took over 550k I/Os off the array. This equates to 550k I/Os off the network, or, when looking at the full request/response path, over 1 million roundtrip operations. 

With SmartIO and Symantec Storage Foundation 6.1 customers can utilize internal SSD to drive up application performance and reduce the network and storage overhead to speed up everything in the SAN. 

For more information on this and other capabilities of Symantec storage management suite, please see:




When will SmartIO be available on the Solaris SPARC platform?

We're getting ready to deploy a large environment of SPARC systems that have internal SSD.

Originally we're planning on using Oracle Smart Flash Cache but we'd like to benchmark SmartIO head to head with OSFC to see how it performs.




SmartIO for Solaris SPARC is coming in the next release (end of 2014) in both physical and virtual configurations.

If you are looking for something sooner than that, please let me know and we can look to arrange an early drop.


My company would be interested in an early release.

Let me know how we can proceed.