Category: Storage

When new products release, I look for elements that stir me. In the tech realm, components perpetually grow bigger and faster, but without innovation, that can become a liability. What transforms upgrades from mere change to worthy innovation is intelligence. Is the new product smarter than it was in the last revision/model/version?

The HP 3PAR StoreServ 20800 series easily checks the boxes for bigger and faster, but the aspects that jump out as smarter are Asynchronous Streaming Replication and the near-atomic scalability, particularly focusing on the minimal instantiation size. I’ll explain what I mean on this latter point farther down.

3par_async_chart

Storage Technology

I’ve been looking forward to elements of today’s announcement from Pure Storage for a couple months now, and I’ll be even more thrilled when bits and box hit the floor over the summer. Just last Thursday, I saw another orange victory (re)tweet and I was chomping at the bit to comment on the 1U gaps in between the controllers…

…Now the wait is over. The evergreen, ever-evolving, never-disruptive power of the FlashArray//m is being whispered loudly from those 1.75 inches of rack space. And it’s backed by the best support that’s somehow getting better!

Storage Technology

On March 24th, Duncan Epping posted a new blog entitled “Startup intro: Rubrik. Backup and recovery redefined” and subsequently tweeted said post. On that same day in another part of the world (my office), we had paperwork in hand, waiting to be inked, to refresh aging EMC Avamar Gen4 nodes with an Avamar/DataDomain combo. We had looked at several other options from HP, Dell, and Veeam, but it was all just more of the same with a minor pro or con, but nothing worth writing about (including Avamar/DD). No one had really advanced what VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup) brought to the market in 2007.

rubrik_logo

Then I saw Duncan’s tweet, and I thought to myself, “Hey! This sounds like what we were trying to get when we bought Avamar in 2011!” So I hopped over to rubrik.com, which pretty much consisted of the Aurora Borealis and a button to click for “Early Access”–simplicity from the start! :) The next day, Mike and the guys at Rubrik walked through a demo that confirmed the revolutionary impression I’d started to gather from Duncan. Sign me up!

rubrik_calendarOn April 29th, it hit the floor in two data centers with Eric and Ray shepherding the process (we’re talking beta here, so it’s only prudent to have some authorities on hand to ensure success). Lunch and driving the 15 minutes between sites took the longest part of the install. Seriously. The installs were complete and protecting VMs before the clock struck noon.

Storage Technology Virtualization

emcworldLeading up to EMC World 2015, IT Central Station asked how I would compare EMC XtremIO and HP 3PAR. Until recently, the flash storage conversation in my organization and many others has centered on XtremIO and Pure Storage, the leaders of the all-flash array (AFA) space. To that end, I’ve written a few posts already.

In 2015, though, the HP giant began to rouse and challenge the mainstream status quo with its 3PAR offering. Quantifying 3PAR’s platform is different from XtremIO and Pure, though, as it can seem amorphous given the many ways it can be quoted. Are you asking for all flash? 3PAR will give you that and lay claim to the best-of-breed title. Oh, but you want some mass storage akin to archival or virtual tape, too? 3PAR changes jerseys and shouts, “I’m it!” Is it, though? Let’s put 3PAR against XtremIO and see how they measure up!

Define the Conversation

 The hard part about these comparisons and competitive analyses is that we aren’t talking about products of the same species or specialization. I struggle to put it properly, but consider it this way. In pre-AFA days (the age of traditional spinners like NetApp FAS3040, EMC CLARiiON or VNX, and even last-gen 3PAR), the contest was like pitting a Toyota Camry against a Nissan Altima. They did most of the same things with minor strengths, weaknesses, and preferences.

Talking about XtremIO versus 3PAR 74xx is more of a discussion about construction-grade, heavy-duty cranes versus massive earth movers. They are in the same genus/genre, but are far from the same thing. Since they are different, we need to speak to some of the principles behind the questions and be willing to engage in a little philosophy rather than hanging up on shallow metrics.

Architecture + Organization + Potential

I’d like to steer this post to three foundational topics, some where 3PAR and XtremIO are curiously aligned, and others where they diverge notably. In Architecture, I’ll highlight the product frameworks and touch on performance. In Organization, I’ll focus on the companies behind the arrays and what I’ve observed through recent interactions. Ending in Potential, I’ll look to the future, something that is very important, since we’re all prone to think primarily about solving today’s problems.

Storage Technology

In September 2013, my organization and I started a journey into the realm of flash storage. The initial foray took us into two camps and lasted much longer than we expected. In fact, our 2013 storage decision bore with it lessons and tests that lasted until it was once again time to make another upgrade, our 2015 replacement at a sister site.

History

In 2013, while smaller start-ups were aplenty, EMC’s pre-release XtremIO (GA in December 2013) and Pure Storage were the only mainstream contenders. Granted, Pure was still technically a start-up, but then again, XtremIO was an unreleased product purchased by EMC without broad field experience. Everyone was young.

pure_logoMuch of this has already been hashed in my prior posts, but the short story is that we made a decision to forego Pure Storage in 2013 based on a belief in promises by EMC that XtremIO would deliver xtremio_logoeverything that Pure did and more. The two metrics were data reduction and performance. We assumed in the land of enterprise storage that high availability was a given.

Storage Technology

When I wrote the “Doing It Again” posts about XtremIO and Pure Storage, I didn’t actually think I would get that chance. EMC’s concessions around our initial XtremIO purchase seemed like our next site replacement would be a foregone conclusion. However, when the chips were counted, the hand went to another player: Pure Storage.

pure_boxesLast Friday, the Pure hardware arrived. Unpacking and racking was simple–no cage nuts needed, and the only necessary tool (screwdriver) is included in the “Open Me First” box. The same instructions that I respected during our 2013 POC led the way. I recall back then that QA on their readability was the CEO’s 12-year-old son. If he could follow them, they were customer-ready. Unconventional but effective.

This morning, the Pure SE (@purebp) and I finished the cabling and boot-up config. Three IP addresses, two copper switch ports, and four FC interfaces. The longest part was my perfectionistic cable runs. What can I say? The only spaghetti I like is the edible Italian kind. Fiber and copper should be neat and clean.

Storage Technology Virtualization

hpssmc_introToday I was finally able to roll out the new 3PAR StoreServ Management Console (SSMC) and I’m impressed. This web-based tool offers a visual and performance upgrade to the long-standing InForm Management Console (IMC) on the majority of common administration tasks. For those unfamiliar with 3PAR, the IMC has been around for years and runs atop an embedded Java Runtime Environment (JRE) that isn’t always the friendliest with new OSes, etc. It’s not a bad tool at all, but the SSMC is a nice new chapter for the family.

Installation

The setup package comes in the form of an ISO from the HP Software Depot. Being virtual, I extracted the ISO to a network share where I could run it on the designated server.

Per the readme, the SSMC desires a 2-CPU, 4GB RAM server (Windows or Linux) with minimal storage. If your environment is tight on space and you don’t have too many arrays, you could probably skimp on one of the CPUs, but I went with the instructions and build a VM with Windows Server 2012 R2 and a 40GB thin-provisioned HDD.

After the OS was ready, I ran HPSSMC-2.0.010734-win64.exe from the extracted ISO directory and Next’d my way through the install. It runs by default on tcp/8443, which was fine for me. If you’re sharing with other web-based applications, make sure you don’t have a conflict (or change if you do).

Storage Technology

xtremio_logoThe procedure for upgrading EMC XtremIO storage arrays to their latest major code release (3.0) has caused no shortage of conversation among the enterprise storage community. Granted, a large portion of that derives from competitors and marketing material which are keen to take advantage of this hurdle in the XtremIO track.

For those unfamiliar, the hurdle is the disruptive and destructive nature of the 3.0 upgrade process. To move from 2.4 to 3.0, customers must move all data from the brick(s) to another storage platform. EMC promises to provide the loaner gear to swing said data for the upgrade, but that doesn’t alleviate the infrastructure and migration impact of such a task (especially if some things are physical and without niceties like Storage vMotion).

We’ve had our share of challenges getting to this point, as you can read from prior posts, but we’re finally here. Since others are following closely behind, I thought it would be helpful to document the steps necessary to complete this upgrade (where possible, I’ll include the actual upgrade-to-3.0 tech details, but those are mostly handled by EMC).

1. Create an EMC Support Request (SR) requesting upgrade

This step is sort of a misnomer, because the XtremIO 3.0 upgrade isn’t handled by the EMC Support team. Due to the nature of swinging data, loaner hardware, etc, EMC Sales and Professional Support actually handles the process as a “free upgrade”.

Storage Technology Virtualization

HP 3PAR recently released version 3.2.1 of the InForm OS, which most notably brought in-line deduplication to the already rock-solid storage platform. Last week, I wrote briefly about it and included screenshots of estimates in the CLI. Today, I’d like to share real-world results.

I’d like to give particular thanks to Ivan Iannaccone of the HP 3PAR team for reaching out and for early access to the 4.6.1 IMC with dedupe in the GUI.

After I ran the estimate in the previous post, I learned from Ivan that estimates (and jobs) of multiple virtual volumes (VVs) in the same common provisioning group (CPG) will return increased data reduction ratios (read: less used space). Thus, when I received the new InForm Management Console (IMC) yesterday, I ran a new estimate against two VDI (Microsoft RemoteFX) VVs to see how the numbers panned out.

3par_dedupe_preview_rfx

As you can see, the dedupe ratio rose from 2.31 to 2.83. Every little bit helps, but what is the actual deduplication ratio?

Storage Technology Virtualization

Today we updated our HP 3PAR P10400 array from InForm OS version 3.1.3 MU1 to 3.2.1 MU1. The big change here is the introduction of Thin Deduplication. Currently it only supports virtual volumes that reside entirely on SSD flash drives (no AO allowed), but word from our account team is that other media types are on the road map.

One of the most interesting features is the ability to run an analysis and estimate the deduplication ratio of data currently on a virtual volume (VV). Not every data type will be dedupe friendly, so this saves you and your disks the headache and wear of converting them to a Thin Deduplicated Virtual Volume (TDVV) only to find out it doesn’t save you anything.

To run the analysis (or “dry run”), open the 3PAR CLI and run:

checkvv -dedup_dryrun <vv_name>

Storage Technology