Anthony's Blog: Using System Storage - An Aussie Storage Blog
I recently listed to a great Podcast on VAAI from Greg Knierieman over at the Storage Monkeys website. You can find the podcast here (the whole site is well worth a visit).
He was talking with Marc Farley (his co-host, from 3PAR), Chad Sakac (from EMC) and Chris Evans (the 'Storage Architect'). The topic was VMWares newly announced VAAI.
To quote from the podcast, VAAI is a set of APIs focused on the VMWare kernel to off-load various functions onto the storage.
To get the newly announced VAAI functions you need to upgrade to the newly announced VSphere 4.1 and you will need to upgrade your storage hardware firmware to a version that supports it (when such a version comes out).
Some of the major new functions are:
Hardware accelerated locking (to avoid the need for ESX to use SCSI reserves when doing meta-data updates)
Hardware accelerated full copy (to help VMWare clone data without having to do lots of read and writes)
Hardware accelerated zero (to avoid the need to send vast numbers of 'empty' SCSI write I/Os to zero out blocks)
Given who was on the call, the conversation focused mainly on what EMC, 3PAR and to some extent what NetApp are doing in regards to this development.
Apart from some (good natured?) digging at HP, no other Vendor was really mentioned.
One thing that was mentioned was that some storage hardware architectures will lend themselves far better to VAAI than others.
In particular Chad mentioned that he would expect fullcopy and hardware accelerated zero would work better on V-Max than CLARiiON, due to hardware architecture differences that also benefit 3PAR.
I found that a really interesting observation.
What wasn't mentioned on the podcast was XIV.
So to be clear, the architecture of XIV lends itself very very well to the changes required to support VAAI.
To give an example of how we have done this with other vendors, XIV firmware 10.2.0a brought in support for Symantec Storage Foundation Thin Reclamation.
XIV support for Symantec's Storage Foundation and Thin Reclamation API means that when data is deleted by a user who uses the thin provisioning aware Veritas File System (VxFS), XIV will immediately free unutilised blocks and reclaim such blocks, rather than leaving them with 'garbage' data that wastes space.
So have no doubts, XIVs architecture is very 'friendly' to the sorts of things VMware are trying to achieve with VAAI. To underscore this, Chad also said that a VMware goal was that VMware admins should need "no requisite knowledge of the underlying infrastructure for any task". The goal is to use policies instead. Given this goal, XIV is also a perfect match. With XIV there is no need to think about raid types, raid sizes, disk types, disk sizes, LUN allegiances and trespassing, controller workload balancing or hot spot detection prevention or correction. All of these concerns simply don't exist.
The good news is that XIV is working with the VMware Reference Architecture Lab and the statement of direction is that we will announce VAAI support for XIV later this year. XIV continues to be an excellent choice for VMware environments and when VAAI support is added to XIV, this will only improve.
Finally, Chad made a great quote on the podcast. He said: "Never trust any vendor when they talk about what other vendors are doing"
I think this is a really great statement and one that everyone should take to heart.
A final blog entry before Christmas, with a little Christmas present for all our midrange storage users.
The IBM System Storage Interoperation Center (SSIC) found here now lists all of IBMs LSI based
Midrange and Entry Disk systems. So you can now select VMware vSphere/ESX 4.1...
and then find products like the DS4700 and DS4800.
As you can see, the DS4700 has 5808 different configuration results, so hopefully your environment is in there.
If your environment is still not listed, please contact your IBM FTSS or Business Partner to ask for a SCORE request to get support.
Last week IBM released Version 2 of the management plug-in for VMware vCenter. The main benefit of Version 1 (the previous release) was that it allowed you to map your datastores to XIV volumes (i.e. which XIV volume equates to which VMware datastore). This was very handy (especially if you were not paying attention as you allocated volumes to your VMware farm), but you still needed the (very easy to use) XIV GUI as well as (obviously) vCenter to manage your landscape end to end.
With the release of Version 2 of the XIV plug-in, we suddenly have the tantalizing possibility that the VMware administrator will not need to talk to their storage administrator or turn to the XIV GUI for day to day operations.
Well Version 2 offers a new and improved graphical user interface (GUI), as well as brand new and powerful management features and capabilities, including:
So from vCenter you can now for instance map yourself some new volumes to create data stores, or re-size existing ones. You can also confirm that each of your datastores is being mirrored.
You can get the plug-in free of charge from here:
There is a users guide here. I urge you to download it and have a read. The Users Guide contains lots of really good examples of how the plug-in can be used with some great screen captures. The release notes are here and also make for very good reading.
I honestly think every VMware installation should be using this plug-in. But I am curious about how it will affect the responsibility divide. If your a one-person shop, the chances are that you love your XIV quite simply because you don't need to administer it. The XIV leaves you free to focus on your VMware farm, rather than fret about hot spots or hot spares or RAID groups. For you, this plug-in just makes your life even easier.
But what about larger companies? Firstly, its important to understand that to perform storage administration, the vCenter plug-in will need an XIV userid that has Storage Admin privileges. Why is this significant? Well what if the team who manage the XIV and the team who manage VMware, are not the same people? What if they are different teams; who maybe have different managers; who may work in different buildings or different cities? What if they work for different companies? Do plug-ins like this one erode the lines and bring these teams together? Or are the functional divides still too strong?
I would love to hear your experiences, both in using the plug-in.... and tearing down the walls.
anthonyv 2000004B9K Tags:  storwize v7000 vcenter vmware xiv svc plugin ibm 6.2 2.5 4 Comments 37,839 Views
The IBM Storage Management Console for VMware vCenter version 2.5.1 is now available for download and install. This version supports XIV, SVC and Storwize V7000 as per the versions on the following table (the big change being support for version 6.2):
The download link is here.
If you want to see a video showing the capabilities of the new console, check out this link.
After installing the console, you will get this lovely new icon:
Start it up and select the option to add new storage, you now get three choices:
If your using SVC or Storwize V7000 you need to specify an SSH private key. This key MUST be in Open SSH format. This caused me a problem as I kept getting this message when trying to add my Storwize V7000 to the plug-in:
Unable to connect to 10.1.60.107. Please check your network connection, user name, and other credentials.
I could use the same IP address, userid and SSH private key to logon to the Storwize V7000 using putty, so I knew none of these things were wrong.
I reread the Installation Instructions closely and realized my mistake. It clearly states:
Important: The private SSH key must be in the OpenSSH format. If your key is not in the OpenSSH format, you can use a certified OpenSSH conversion utility.
I pondered what conversion utility I could use when I realized I had the utility all the time:Puttygen. I opened PuttyGen, imported my private key (the .ppk file) and exported my SSH private key using OpenSSH format. You don't need to do anything with the public key.
I was then able to add the Storwize V7000 by specifying the private SSH key exported using OpenSSH format.
Now I have both IBM XIV and Storwize V7000 in the vCenter plug-in and can get detailed information about and manipulate both. In this example I have highlighted the Storwize V7000, revealing it is on 18.104.22.168 firmware.
I was tempted to detail all the many things you can do with the plug-in, but your better off watching the video via this link.
So are you using the plug-in? Have you upgraded to version 2.5.1 yet? Comments very welcome!
I know the walls are coming down... but there are still many organizational barriers that can exist in IT. How about:
Team work and co-operation? Sure it's an option.... but then an option means its optional.... right?
So when vendors come along with plug-ins and products that dare to connect two worlds... is this a unifying force, or is it anti-matter, or do they just get ignored and not used?
A case in point being the IBM Storage Management Console for VMware vCenter which you can download from here. I have written about this plug-in before, but with the release of version 2.6 (that supports vSphere 5.0), I thought I would try something out. Installing the plug-in potentially offloads a lot of storage management from the storage admin to the VMware admin. But what if the storage admin does not WANT to offload this work?
The answer is to give the VMware admin read-only access.
When you configure your IBM storage device to the plug-in, you supply the plug-in with log-in credentials (so it can log into your IBM storage device and collect the required information). If the user-id supplied only has read-only access to the XIV for instance, the plug-in still works... but not for any operations that change resources. You cannot see the pools on the XIV, but you can still see your volumes and any snapshots that have been created (but annoyingly you cannot see mirrors).
This does have one big advantage. You can clearly match the VMware datatstore name to the XIV volume name. You can also identify which XIV supplied the volume.
I also tested this with Storwize V7000 with a user in the Monitor category and got pretty well the same results. A nice bonus is that I could also see the state of the mirrors as well as the flashcopies. In the example below, all of this information would normally not be visible to the VMware admin, so this is very handy stuff.
Of course I get to also visit one-man bands where the same (exhausted) individual manages the VMware servers, the Operating System Guests, the Network, the Firewall, the Exchange server, the SQL servers and pretty well everything else including getting the elevators and coffee machine fixed. For those people, they need all the help they can get.
VMware vSphere 5.0 brought in a considerable number of storage related improvements. One of these is VASA, which stands for VMware APIs for Storage Awareness - in which VMware yet again manages to place an acronym (API) inside an acronym (someone needs to send Grammar Girl down there to beat them up). But I digress...
VASA improves VMware vSphere’s ability to monitor and automate storage related operations. The VASA Provider delivers information about storage topology, capabilities, and state, as well as events and alerts to VMware. The VASA Provider is a standard vSphere management plug-in that is deployed once on each vCenter server to interact with VMware APIs for Storage Awareness.
You will of course need a VMware vCenter and an ESXi server both running version 5.0. Your XIV can be a Generation2 running 10.2.2 or 10.2.4 firmware or an XIV Gen3.
If none of these links work, then the IBM Fix Central page for every XIV related file ishere.
I am at the Melbourne Storage Symposium all this week, but I will write a post on my experiences with the provider as soon as I get back into my lab. Expect something in the next few days.
anthonyv 2000004B9K Tags:  ibm netapp san srm tagged storage and esx vmware xiv. sra xiv svc v7000 vsphere storwize 7 Comments 17,043 Views
I always laugh when people say to me: I wouldn't know what to blog about!
When you work in pre-sales support, you constantly get asked questions and each one of them could be the subject of a new blog post. Right now the most common question I am getting is:
I am implementing VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). One of the components I need are vendor specific Site Recovery Agents (SRA). I have searched IBM's website but cannot find them. Where are they?
So the short answer is: you get them from the VMware SRM download site.
So where are the SRAs? On each of the pages below use the Show Details button to see what version SRAs are being shipped with that SRM (although sometimes the pages take a few days between an SRA being added and the page being updated):
There are a few more questions I routinely get asked:
Does IBM actually have an SRA download site?
The answer is yes, but it is an FTP site only for SRAs written by IBM. It is principally a repository for older SRAs and beta SRAs but you can also find the current SRAs on it. You can find the site here. Note however that it is NOT the official source. For that you need to use the VMware site.
What about the SRA for LSI/Engenio based products like the DS4800?
These used to also be found on the LSI site, but since LSI sold Engenio to NetApp, it is no longer available from the LSI or NetApp websites. You need to download the current version from the VMware sites listed above. There is a version for SRM 5 on the VMware download site.
What about nSeries SRAs?
If you need an nSeries SRA, again you should go to the VMware download pages. There are separate SRAs listed and available for IBM nSeries (as opposed to an SRA for NetApp branded filers).
What about an SRA for XIV with SRM version 5?
The answer: The SRA for XIV with SRM 5 (and 5.0.1) is now available from VMware. If you have access to download SRM, you will be able to download SRA version 2.1.0. It is the same SRA for both XIV Generation2 and Gen3.
What about an SRA for Storwize V7000 and SVC version 6.3 code?
The answer: It is coming. We are working to make it available as soon as possible. I will update this post as soon as I have a date for you (we are talking weeks, not months).
*** Update March 23, 2012 - Added details on SRM 5.0.1 ***
anthonyv 2000004B9K Tags:  tomcat logical window ibm vasa number xiv unit vmware vsphere vcenter apache storage 10 Comments 21,604 Views
If you have combined vSphere 5.0 with XIV, then you may want to try out the new IBM Storage Provider for VMware VASA (vSphere Storage APIs for Storage Awareness). You can download the installation instructions, the release notes and the current version of the IBM VASA provider from here. Clearly because VASA is introduced in vSphere 5.0 your VMware vCenter also needs to be on version 5.0.
Now IBM have had a vCenter plugin for a very long time (which I have written about here, here and here) and while you still need that plugin if you want to do storage volume creation and mapping from within vCenter (as opposed to using the XIV GUI), the VASA provider makes storage awareness more native to vCenter. This is a very important step. It means instead of using vendor added icons and tabs (like the IBM Storage icon and the IBM Storage tab that are added by the IBM Storage Management Console for vCenter), you just use the default vCenter tabs.
Right now version 1.1.1 of the IBM VASA provider delivers information about storage topology, capabilities, and state, as well as events and alerts to VMware. This means you will see new additional information in three tabs: Storage Views, Alarms and Events.
After installing and setting up the VASA provider, in vCenter select your VMware cluster, go to the Storage Views tab and select the view Show all SCSI Volumes (LUNs) there are four columns with more information. The Committed, Thin Provisioned information, Storage Array and Identifier on Array (indicated with red arrows) comes straight from the XIV (hit the Update button at upper right if you are not seeing anything yet). This is really useful information as it lets you correlate the SCSI ID of a LUN to an actual volume on a source array. Here is a cut-down view of that extra information:
If you want a larger screen capture you can find one here.
The Task & Events and Alarms tabs will also now contain events reported by the VASA provider such as thin provisioning threshold alerts (although if you have just installed the provider you may see nothing new, as nothing has occurred yet to provoke an alert or event).
As usual I have some handy tips on the steps you will need to take to get VASA going:
Your setup tasks are now all completed. Now go and explore the panels I detailed above to see what new information you have available to your vCenter server.
Why a separate server for the VASA provider?
The IBM VASA provider uses Apache Tomcat, which by default listens on port 8443. However since vCenter already has a service listening on port 8443, it means we have a clash. I googled and found the Dell and Netapp VASA providers also listen on port 8443 and they also recommend separate servers. I noted Fujitsu's provider uses a different port but still requires a separate server. So it seems if you have multiple vendors you will either have to spin up a separate server for each vendors provider, or start playing with changing the port number. The installation instructions for the IBM VASA Provider explain how to change the default port number if you are truly keen.