Tag: 3PAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

When we started our initial foray into the all-flash array space, we had to put on the brakes when the “best practice” recommendations started flying from the SEs and guides. In a perfect world, we’d be entirely on the new array (Pure Storage was first), but migration is a necessary process. We also wanted a clear back to go back if POCs failed. The recommendation for IOPS before changing paths with Round-Robin native multipathing (NMP) was one of those settings.

From the EMC XtremIO Storage Array User Guide 2.4:

For best performance, it is recommended to do the following:

  • Set the native round robin path selection policy on XtremIO volumes presented to the ESX host.
  • Set the vSphere NMP Round Robin path switching frequency to XtremIO volumes from the default value (1000 I/O packets) to 1.

These settings ensure optimal distribution and availability of load between I/O paths to the XtremIO storage.

I never pursued that path to see if HP 3PAR would tolerate it, since other settings were clearly incompatible, but apparently HP came to their own realization on the matter. That said, please take caution with environments running more than just these two arrays, and watch out for the other “best practices” for all-flash arrays. Setting the queue depth to max (256) or raising concurrent operations to 64 will likely overwhelm or cause I/O loss when non-flash arrays are under pressure.

Storage Technology Virtualization

I wish there was an awesome update that I’ve just been too preoccupied to post, but it’s more of a “well. . . .” After talking with HP/3PAR folks a couple months back and re-architecting things again, our setup is running pretty well in a tiered config, but the caveats in the prior post remain. Furthermore, there are a few stipulations that I think HP/3PAR should provide customers or that customers should consider themselves before buying into the tiered concept.

  1. Critical mass of each media type: Think of it like failover capacity (in my case, vSphere clusters). If I have only two or three hosts in my cluster, I have to leave at least 33% capacity free on each to handle the loss of one host. But if I have five hosts, or even ten hosts, I only have to leave 20% (or for ten hosts, 10%) free to account for a host loss.Tiered media works the same way, though it feels uber wasted, unless you have a ton of stale/archive data. Our config only included 24 near-line SATA disks (and our tiered upgrade to our existing array only had 16 disks). While that adds 45TB+ to capacity, realistically, those disks can only handle between 1,000 and 2,000 IOPS. Tiering (AO) considers these things, but seems a little under qualified in considering virtual environments. Random seeks are the enemies of SATA, but when AO throws tiny chunks of hundreds of VMs on only two dozen SATA disks (then subtract RAID/parity), it can get bad fast. I’ve found this to especially be the case with OS files. Windows leaves quite a few alone after boot…so AO moves them down. Now run some maintenance reboot those boxes–ouch!

Storage Technology