VMworld 2013 Recap and 2014 Outlook *updated*

2013

Last year I was one of the lucky guys which were selected to attend VMworld 2013 in San Francisco and as you can imagine I was REALLY excited. It was my first VMworld, my first visit to San Francisco and my first stay in the U.S. I guess I don’t need to mention that SF is a really awesome city which I can only recommend to everyone to stop by when you have a chance to.

The scale of the city and the event itself was breathtaking. Over 22.000 people spread across the Mascone Center and even a hotel nearby. In the morning it looked like right before a football game when people are streaming to the stadium, but it this case it was for the general sessions.

Unfortunately I didn’t take much pictures of the event, so here just a bunch to get some impressions:

There were so many interesting sessions to choose from that I really struggled to build my own schedule. In the end I picked about three or max. four sessions a day. However, in case you are in doubt, there will be the chance to change your mind when on site. But be prepared if you didn’t schedule a session you have to expect a long queue of people waiting for free seats. I just scheduled technical deep dives and I enjoyed almost all of them. So it’s not just marketing, you can really benefit from those sessions for your daily job.

I can only recommend to limit the number of sessions per day, simply because it can be too much information at once and your brain will probably give up.

Make sure to spend enough time at the Solutions Exchange. The Solution Exchange was probably my favorite part. Talking to many different vendors, exploring & learning about their solutions was really interesting.

As many other attendees & bloggers already said, make yourself comfortable and don’t stress yourself too much and you will definitely enjoy the event.

It was definitely the coolest event I’ve been to so far, the combination of an awesome event in an amazing city is just fantastic. I really enjoyed every single day and no doubt that I will take every chance to attend again.

 

 What about 2014?

2014This year I’m going to attend VMworld 2014 in Barcelona for the very first time but not just as customer and partner but also as blogger. I’m really excited and also thankful that I get the chance to attend another VMworld event. No doubt it will also challenge myself to turn all that massive information into some blog posts. I will blog, tweet and share as much as information I can about the event.

Please don’t hesitate and let me know if you will be in Barcelona, I would be happy to meet you there!

And for those of you who are wondering what I’m looking forward this year …

2014NoLimits

My schedule will mainly focus on storage & data protection. I’m curios to hear some stories of early adaptors of VMware VSAN and how the product has evolved since its initial release. I’m optimistic to be able to have setup my first VSAN at a customer site till October, so I’m probably be able to share some experiences too.

Especially the storage market has currently so many vendors and solutions to offer that it’s hard to stay up to date and VMworld is a great opportunity to catch up with many of them. I guess that hyper converged and all flash solutions will dominate the event.

Topics like backup in all its varieties and archiving always seem to be problematic when talking to customers, so I’ll keep my eyes open for new and enhanced solutions to ideally support our customers.

It’s also a great to check out completely new vendors and solutions even outside my main field of interest.

It’s not too late, take the chance an register!

 

Veeam v7.0 – Tape parallelization

Today I’ve realized that a single backup to tape job for lager environments won’t cut it. I configured a single tape job containing all regular backup jobs and this is how it turned out:

VeeamDrivesOverview

Maybe because Veeam customers (probably due to the lack of tape support in older versions) tend to deploy the solution without backup to tape or at least have used other tools to do the job.

However this customer had a full backup size of about 19 TB (Veeam .vbk files).  The job was running at 65 MB/s and it would have lasted about three and a half days to complete. Depending on the frequency this could be okay but it would also be a waste of resources because the reaming drives would be idling doing nothing.

After consulting the Veeam community forum I can summarize:

  • If you have two or more tape drives but just a single job only a single drive will be used
  • To speed things up you would need to create multiple jobs pointing to different media pools, so each job can control one of the drives
  • In essence – a single job can’t control multiple drives in parallel

So creating four media pools with identical retention policies and pointing each job to “its own” media pool would reduce the time required to less than a 24 hours.

VeeamBackupToTapeJob2

I hope this helps to save some time and to speed of your backup to tape jobs.

Pure Storage – Hands-on Experience Part I

In the last couple of days I got the chance to get my hands on a real All Flash Array from Pure Storage. Why real AFA you may ask? In my opinion an all flash solution is more than just putting a bunch of flash drives into a chassis as some vendors tend to do, because things that work well with spinning disks do not necessarily have to work out with flash drives. And why Pure? Simply because they convinced us with their product which not only offers some hardware but also an intelligent software and combined together it makes a really cool solution. The following post should provide you with a brief summary of the key features as well as some hands on experience.

 

Hardware

The hardware is rather simple, depending on the controller model you chose you get two 1 or 2U controller nodes plus SAS attached chassis holding the flash drives. The installation is quite simple and well documented, it took just a few minutes. As far as I can tell the hardware is based on a major OEM which provides high quality and reliable hardware, so I’m absolutely fine with that. Both controllers are connected via redundant 56 Gb/s Infiniband to exchange information and more important I/Os, but more about that in a second. The following picture by the way hows a FA-420 array.

FA420

Both controllers are always active and so are all front end ports across both controllers. No matter where your application hosts will drop its I/Os the corroding node will take those and one of the nodes at some point will write them down to flash. This allows attached application hosts to simply send I/Os round robin across all available ports.

This is how it looks from a vSphere/ESXi perspective

ActivePaths

Currently the hardware is a classic scale-up approach which allows to non-disruptively upgrade controllers as well as storage capacity.

Basic setup & Web Interface

The setup is done via cli and also takes just a few minutes. All you have to do is to run a single command per controller and then follow the setup dialog. From this point on the array can be completely managed via a fast and simple to use web interface. In my option they did a good job, since it’s really intuitive and you don’t need any special instruction. For example this is how the hardware monitoring looks like which makes it easy to find faulty components.

PureSystemHealth

 

IO Path, Data Optimization and Protection

Before data finally gets written to flash it will be cached in in two independent  NV-RAM cache devices that reside along with the flash drives in the external chassis. I/Os have successfully hit both devices, before the I/Os will be acknowledged back to the application hosts. If the system gets deployed with two external chassis, the total number of NV-RAM cards will be four.

PureChassis

This design not only enable stateless controllers, more important it has the advantage that I/Os that are already acknowledged are still residing it very fast cache and can now be optimized before finally get written to the flash drives.

Even if Pure also leverages standard MLC based SSDs of the shelf, they don’t treat them like that. Pure adds all drives into a storage pool that acts are layer of virtualization. This layer is created by the PURITY operating system which is the brain of the system. Once the data is written to NV-RAM, PURITY will in-line process the data (de-duplication, pattern removal and compression) all done at a 512 Byte block size! This layer of virtualization of course also allows thin provisioning but I guess this should be standard on a modern storage system.

A really cool thing is Pure’s RAID3D technology which eliminates the need to make a decision on how a volume should be protected.

PureCreateVolume

There are no RAID mechanisms to choose from, all volumes are protected at all times. The PURITY OS and its virtualization layer divides all flash drives into chunks called segments which are multiple MB in size. Those segments are pooled together and now new volumes can be provisioned out of this pool. So over time as the volumes gets filled with data, the volume will be spread across all flash drives.

As mentioned above, the data at first lands in NV-RAM for a short period of time. At some point the data needs to be written down to flash. PURITY aims to always write full-stripes to maintain performance and to go easy on the flash cells. Before the stripe-write occurs PURITY can determine the optimal RAID geometry just in time depending on the current behavior of the individual drives. So if some drives are busy for whatever reason the next stripe write will happen across less disks. The minim as I understood is always a geometry with a double parity. So for example a RAID6 or multiple RAID5 with a global parity to always be able to withstand a double drive failure.

One interesting thing is the fact that flash devices are great on single workloads like reads or write but when challenging a flash drive with both workloads simultaneously the performance can drop. PURITY can determine if a SSD is busy and because waiting for the device to become ready would increase latency the OS simply gathers the requested blocks by re-building them instead of waiting for a drive.

SSDs usually store a CRC checksum along with each individual page to be protected against bit errors. To ensure that the page not only contains consistent data PURITY but also includes the virtual block address into the checksum to make sure that the right virtual block is being read. Virtual blocks will never be overwritten, as re-writes occur they will be written to free segments. A global garbage collection process will take care of the old & unused segments.

Drive failures are handled in a way that the system instantly starts rebuilding the failed segments that were stored on the drive across the remaining drives within minutes. In the end a failed rive is nothing else than a loss of capacity with no impact to your data and system performance.

More details can be found here.

 

vSphere Integration

The vSphere Webclient integration allows the complete management

vSpherePlugin

And here an example of how Thin Provisioning and VAAI can speed up storage provisioning compared to regular block storage powered by some SSD for 100GB VMDK:

TimeNewDisk

That’s it for part I. In the next part I’ll dive deeper into some features like the use case as DataCore SANsymphony-V backend array. I hope I’ll be able to provide you with some real life values regarding data reduction and some configurations tips.