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Disk to LUN I/O performance on SAN and NAS

Oracle Database Tips by Donald Burleson

Many Oracle professionals note that network attached storage (NAS) and Storage Area Networks (SAN) can result in slower I/O throughput.

These disk mapping concepts are discussed in the book "Oracle Disk I/O Tuning", but lets review the Device Media Control Language (DMCL) between the logical devices (the logical unit, or LUN), and the physical disk drives, I/O buffers, SCSI controllers and device drivers.  Mike Ault notes in his book:

"It has also been reported that some hardware RAIDs support a number of different LUNs (logical disks), but these LUNs share a common set of I/O buffers between them.

This can cause SCSI QFULL conditions on those devices that do not have commands queued."

Steve Karam notes this relationship between ASM and LUN mapping:

One thing to remember is that ASM is not RAID. Oracle portrays ASM as a Volume Manager, filesystem, miracle, whatever you would like to call it, but in reality it is no more than extent management and load balancing; it scatters extents across your LUNs (1MB stripe size for datafiles/archivelogs, 128k stripe size for redo/controlfiles). It also provides extent-based mirroring for extra redundancy.

This benefits us in a couple ways. First, remember that your OS, HBA, or other parts of the host driver stack may have limits per LUN on I/O. Distributing your extents across multiple LUNs with ASM will provide better I/O concurrency by load balancing across them, eliminating this bottleneck.

Second, carving into multiple LUNs allows multiple ASM volumes. Multiple volumes help us if our hardware has any LUN-based migration utilities for snapshots or cloning.

Third, you may end up with multiple LUNs if you need to add capacity. ASM allows us to resize a diskgroup on-the-fly AND rebalance our extents evenly at the same time when we add a new LUN. Even if you only start with a single LUN, you may end up with more in the long run.

Fourth, because an ASM diskgroup is not true RAID, you are able to use it to stripe across volumes. This means that in a SAN with 3 trays, you can carve a LUN from each tray and use it to form a single ASM diskgroup. This further distributes your storage and reduces throughput bottlenecks.

I have not seen any tried and true formula for the number of LUNs per ASM diskgroup, but you can calculate it based on your throughput per capacity. Make sure the LUNs provide maximum and equivalent I/O operations per second per gigabyte.

LUN Mapping for Oracle disks

The central issue the interface between the logical "LUN" and the mapping of the disk device drivers and disk controllers to the LUN's:









The DISK array is usually sliced up by a controller into what are known as LUNs (logical units) and these LUNs are then used to create the logical volumes upon which we place our virtual disks. Usually there is at least one layer of abstraction (disks-LUNS) and at least two (disks-LUNS-logical volumes).  These layers of abstraction make pinpointing disk performance issues difficult and may cause masking of symptoms.  Sometimes there is a third level of abstraction, RAID, where multiple logical disks are sliced into relatively thin (8k to 1 megabyte) stripes and then combined to form RAID arrays. 


As you can see, tracking a disk performance problem from a database file to the underlying RAID volume, to the logical disk, to the LUN and finally to the physical disk level can be daunting. Further complications arise by some automated tuning features of the more advanced arrays where stripes or LUNs may be migrated from "hot" physical disks to cooler ones. Luckily, many RAID manufacturers are now providing graphical interfaces that track IO and other performance metrics down to the physical disk level.

Data transfer rates for disks

The data transfer rates for individual disks varies widely depending on the storage device.  Note:  Your disk I/O mileage will vary greatly as a function of on-board RAM caching, your data buffer size, db_file_multiblock_read_count, parallel access arrays, &c. See details here:

TMS Solid State Disk 400,000 1,600
IEEE1394 1,100 400-800
PC Solid State Disk 7,000 62
Typical PC disk 150 15-30

The interface also has an effect on I/O throughput speed:

Interface type



115 kb/s


115 kb/s


3.0 Mb/s


5-320 Mb/sec


3.3 - 133Mb/sec


1.5 Mb/s


60 Mb/s


50-400 Mb/s

Original IDE

3.3-33 Mb/sec


150 Mb/s

Fibre Channel

2 Gb/sec

Detecting bottlenecks in SAN and NAS

The location of a bottleneck depends upon many factors, including LUN's sharing common I/O buffers and a LUN mapped to a device with few controllers.

Solaris LUN bottlenecks

The sd_max_throttle variable sets the maximum number of commands that the SCSI sd driver will attempt to queue to a single HBA driver. The default value is 256. This variable must be set to a value less than or equal to the maximum queue depth of each LUN connected to each instance of the sd driver. If this is not done, then commands may be rejected because of a full queue condition and the sd driver instance that receives the queue full message will throttle down sd_max_throttle to 1.


If you like Oracle tuning, see the book "Oracle Tuning: The Definitive Reference", with 950 pages of tuning tips and scripts. 

You can buy it direct from the publisher for 30%-off and get instant access to the code depot of Oracle tuning scripts.



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