Category: Storage

As Pure//Accelerate approaches, one of my favorite aspects of winning solutions comes to mind. It’s a virtue that transforms products into MVPs, rather than the drama generators so common on the court and in the field. What is it?


Businesses have enough knobs and pain points with tier-1 Oracle/SAP deployments and SQL, SharePoint and Exchange farms. The last thing they need is for storage and data protection to jump on the pile. That’s why enterprises need Pure Storage and Rubrik.

From the ground up, Pure and Rubrik have simplicity in their DNA. If you have a FlashArray on the floor, then you already know the freedom and ease it brings to storage infrastructure. Gone are the days of tweaking with RAID sets or tuning LUNs to squeeze out a few performance points. With a few cables and a vSphere plugin, Pure serves up datastores and gets out of the way.

Rubrik brings the same unobtrusive value to data protection and is the perfect pairing to Pure. From rack & go to policy-driven automation to instant recovery, Rubrik drives straight to the point and with beautiful simplicity.

Rack & Go

The first thing that stands out with Rubrik is its lean footprint–it doesn’t eat up precious data center space. When we deployed Rubrik at ExponentHR, we shrunk our backup layout from 14RU at each data center to just 4RU, with an even greater reduction in power consumption and cabling complexity.

With the previous product, the physical installation wasn’t easy, but it paled in comparison to the configuration and learning curve challenges. In contrast, the entire Rubrik deployment took 90 minutes to install and configure at both sites, including drive time. Starting the engine was as easy as a set of vCenter credentials.

Storage Technology Virtualization

Rubrik makes instant recovery easy everywhere. As I wrote four months ago, it only takes a few clicks to bring a previous version of any protected VM into production. In 2.0, the great folks at Rubrik enhanced this capability with replication.

Replication is a word that means many things to many people and could quickly get abused in comparisons. In our previous data protection solution, replication of backups was limited to scheduled jobs and practically meant our off-site backups were anywhere from 3 hours (best case) to 48 hours (worst case) old, with no guarantees.

Rubrik takes a refreshingly different tactic. In its policy-based world, backups are driven by SLAs (gold, silver, bronze, etc), which are defined by frequency and retention of snapshots. Replication is married to these policies and is triggered upon the completion of VM backups.

For example, this morning one of our mission-critical SQL servers in our Gold Repl SLA domain started a backup job at 6:35am and completed that job one minute later at 6:36am. Gold Repl takes snapshots every 4 hours, keeps those hourlies for 3 days, and then keeps dailies for a month. As the “Repl” denotes, it also replicates and retains 3 days of those backups at another site. Oh, and as the cherry on top, it additionally archives the oldest backups to Amazon S3. Pretty comprehensive, eh?


Storage Technology Virtualization

This morning, Dell and EMC announced their impending merger as Dell and Silver Lake set out to acquire EMC and its holdings with cash and stock, while maintaining VMware as an independent, publicly-traded company. The event sets off incredible tidal waves financially and technologically and raises many questions.

To that end, the CEOs and other principals from Dell, EMC, VMware, and Silver Lake held conference calls with shareholders and media/analysts this morning. The following 9 questions from participants of the latter call–New York Times, Financial Times, Boston Globe, Wikibon, and others–cover most of the big questions on everyone’s minds. In keeping with Dell’s private holding (and EMC’s soon-to-be), “no comment” showed up a few times where we all hoped to find insight. Time will tell.

Security Storage Technology Virtualization

Since the advent of thin provisioning, the concept of “data efficiency” has been used to describe how storage arrays deliver on large capacity requests while only reserving what’s actually occupied by data. For me, 3PAR (pre-HP) pioneered this in their thin provisioning and “Zero Detect” feature combo, which they like to deem a sort of deduplication 1.0 (they deduped zeroes in stream).

With the wider implementation of deduplication and compression, the “data efficiency” term has stepped (or been pushed) into marketing spotlights around the industry. HP 3PAR still promotes it, EMC XtremIO positions it at the top of their array metrics, and Pure Storage has it at the top-left of their capacity bar.

Is it bad to calculate and show? No. It’s a real statistic after all. Does it have any power or intrinsic value, though? No.

Storage Technology

This session is/was true to its title and definitely dove deep into Virtual SAN (VSAN). Due to the extreme nature of details, requirements, parameters, etc, I decided to conclude the live notes about 40 minutes into the presentation. With much respect for court reporters and typists, finishing out the slide notes would have been of no more value that practicing my typing skills.

VSAN looks promising and maturing as a solution. While the concept of metro stretched clusters sounds very intriguing, I believe it is only practical in the right use cases. My own environment, for example, involves significant writing with extended operations, which would not be feasible to replicate live. Local performance would suffer greatly while database crunching generated large amounts of data requiring acknowledgement from the remote site before proceeding.

On the other hand, if your environment is web-scale or low-write intensity, then VSAN stretched clusters may offer great value to you. As always, it depends.

The closing consideration is sheer cost of a VSAN solution. The “HY-4” recommended starting point retails around $10-15K per node (read: $40-60K for the HY-4). That is hardware only, so vSphere and VSAN licensing costs pile on top of that.

The beta preview with dedupe and erasure coding for space efficiency may take VSAN to the next level and make even its premium cost more palatable. IMO: external storage is still the path until this possibility brings down the cost (assuming capacity, not compute, is the limitation).

Storage Technology Virtualization

This was my first experience with Howard Marks, and I would say his reputation accurately precedes him. He’s an eccentric and unabashedly arrogant technologist who calls it as he sees it. While I might not commend most of those attributes, I can respect a guy who acknowledges who he is.

The session as a whole was a good breakdown of vVols (or VVOLS or vvols or vVOLs) as they are today in 1.0. vVols are an exciting evolution, ripe with potential, but are likely not quite enterprise-ready due to feature limitations.

For those with all-flash arrays, the talk periodically bordered on irrelevancy due to the inherent natures of built-in metadata and lacking tiering hinderances of being all-flash. Even so, the parts speaking to validating storage vendors on the quality of their implementations was very relevant and worth reviewing. Checking the box just isn’t enough.

Howard did bring up several rumor-based questions around vendors like EMC having problems with current arrays like VNX supporting vVols. That question begs another around even existing AFA products and their metadata capacity limits. This has been a factor in both XtremIO’s and Pure’s histories and their block size considerations. It’s worth asking AFA vendors, “do your AFAs have enough metadata and compute margin to embrace and support the exponential growth of vVol metadata in production?” Maybe Howard will find the answers for us.

Storage Technology Virtualization

Cody & Ravi from Pure Storage brought a good deep-dive of all-flash storage in a virtual (VMware) world. Major emphasis on “deep-dive” as they went into the nitty-gritty of VAAI primitives and especially SCSI UNMAP across the versions.

The only weak spot was the age-old issue of having to cram too much content into too little time. They hit the mark, just a bit rushed. Check out Cody’s blog for an opportunity to ingest it at a pace more appropriate for consumption with coffee or tea.

If you are making the transition from spinning or hybrid storage to all-flash, find the audio for this session and retrain your thinking. Offload old fears to VM-to-datastore limits and RAID considerations. Get simple. Be pure.

Storage Technology Virtualization

I should be ashamed of myself just posting this, but confession is the first step of healing (or something like that), right? For years, I put off configuring Active Directory LDAP integration for authentication on our storage arrays. Perhaps at the beginning, it was due to complexity and overload, but more recently, it just wasn’t that important to me. We’ve had strong, complex passwords in place on the built-in accounts, so the real “risk” was accountability–who performed an action under that login. So while I begrudge any positive sentiment toward auditors, I’ll throw some props to them for the motivational boost to eliminate these shared access methods.

The funny thing is that most of what follows in this 3-part series was pretty easy. Parts 1 & 2 took a whopping hour or two. Shame on me. So if you’re reading this and have any of these arrays, take the plunge and raise your security posture with an easy afternoon project.

Pure Storage

pure_ldap_pureuserLet’s give this boulder some downhill momentum with the easiest of the three arrays. It only makes sense that Pure takes the cake on this since the rest of what they do is equally simple–initial setup, vCenter Plug-in, volume provisioning, etc.

Pure actually pushes its customers to setup external authentication by restricting the local user database to the “pureuser” account with which all arrays ship. Thus, every admin of Pure knows this default launching point.

Security Storage Technology

This week it was finally time to put our old EMC Avamar backup/DR grids out to pasture, and while I had removed most of the configurations from them already, I still needed to sanitize the disks. Unfortunately, a quick search of and Google revealed that “securedelete” operations on Avamar grids require EMC Professional Services engagements. Huh? I want to throw the thing away, not spend more money on it…

A few folks offered up re-initializing the RAID volumes on the disks as one way to prepare for decommissioning. That’s definitely one option. Another is to wipe the data from within, which has much of the same result, but provides a degree of detailed assurances that the PowerEdge RAID Controller doesn’t give (unless your PERC can be configured for repeated passes of random data).

Totally a side note: when I started this, I had the misconception that this method would preserve the OS and allow a second-hand user to redeploy it without returning to the EMC mothership. As you’ll note below, one of the paths we wipe is the location of /home and the rest of the OS. :x

Under the covers, Avamar is stripped down Linux ( GNU/Linux, as of Avamar 7.1), so that provided the starting point. The one I chose and that I have running across 10 storage nodes and 30 PuTTY windows is “shred”.

Shred is as simple as it sounds. It shreds the target disk as many times as you want it. So for Avamar, how many disks is that?


Security Storage Technology

With Virtualization Field Day 5 (VFD5) coming up this week, it seems appropriate timing for an update on Rubrik in action. For a refresh on what Rubrik is, check out Mike Preston’s #VFD5 Preview – Rubrik. I’ll be using some of what he shared as launching points for elaboration and on-the-ground validation.

Share Nothing – Do Everything

rubrik_systemI believe that this is both the most important and likely the most overlooked characteristic of Rubrik and its architecture. It is crucial because it defines how users manage the solution, build redundancy in and around it, and assess performance needs. I also believe it is overlooked because it is like the foundation of a great building–most of it is under the surface and behind the scenes, enabling prominent edifices like Time Machine-like simplicity.

One way that I can describe it is “multi-master management and operations”, though it falls short because Rubrik has no slaves. Every node is the master. Some data protection solutions have redundant storage nodes which all depend on a single control node. If issues arise with control, the plethora of storage behind it is helpless except to sit and maintain integrity. With Rubrik, all nodes have command authority to manage, support, and execute across the infrastructure.

Storage Technology Virtualization