“In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”
-- George Orwell
Well, it has been over two years since I first covered IBM's acquisition of the XIV company. Amazingly, I still see a lot of misperceptions out in the blogosphere, especially those regarding double drive failures for the XIV storage system. Despite various attempts to [explain XIV resiliency] and to [dispel the rumors], there are still competitors making stuff up, putting fear, uncertainty and doubt into the minds of prospective XIV clients.
Clients love the IBM XIV storage system! In this economy, companies are not stupid. Before buying any enterprise-class disk system, they ask the tough questions, run evaluation tests, and all the other due diligence often referred to as "kicking the tires". Here is what some IBM clients have said about their XIV systems:
“3-5 minutes vs. 8-10 hours rebuild time...”
-- satisfied XIV client
“...we tested an entire module failure - all data is re-distributed in under 6 hours...only 3-5% performance degradation during rebuild...”
-- excited XIV client
“Not only did XIV meet our expectations, it greatly exceeded them...”
-- delighted XIV client
In this blog post, I hope to set the record straight. It is not my intent to embarrass anyone in particular, so instead will focus on a fact-based approach.
- Fact: IBM has sold THOUSANDS of XIV systems
XIV is "proven" technology with thousands of XIV systems in company data centers. And by systems, I mean full disk systems with 6 to 15 modules in a single rack, twelve drives per module. That equates to hundreds of thousands of disk drives in production TODAY, comparable to the number of disk drives studied by [Google], and [Carnegie Mellon University] that I discussed in my blog post [Fleet Cars and Skin Cells].
- Fact: To date, no customer has lost data as a result of a Double Drive Failure on XIV storage system
This has always been true, both when XIV was a stand-alone company and since the IBM acquisition two years ago. When examining the resilience of an array to any single or multiple component failures, it's important to understand the architecture and the design of the system and not assume all systems are alike. At it's core, XIV is a grid-based storage system. IBM XIV does not use traditional RAID-5 or RAID-10 method, but instead data is distributed across loosely connected data modules which act as independent building blocks. XIV divides each LUN into 1MB "chunks", and stores two copies of each chunk on separate drives in separate modules. We call this "RAID-X".
Spreading all the data across many drives is not unique to XIV. Many disk systems, including EMC CLARiiON-based V-Max, HP EVA, and Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) USP-V, allow customers to get XIV-like performance by spreading LUNs across multiple RAID ranks. This is known in the industry as "wide-striping". Some vendors use the terms "metavolumes" or "extent pools" to refer to their implementations of wide-striping. Clients have coined their own phrases, such as "stripes across stripes", "plaid stripes", or "RAID 500". It is highly unlikely that an XIV will experience a double drive failure that ultimately requires recovery of files or LUNs, and is substantially less vulnerable to data loss than an EVA, USP-V or V-Max configured in RAID-5. Fellow blogger Keith Stevenson (IBM) compared XIV's RAID-X design to other forms of RAID in his post [RAID in the 21st Centure].
- Fact: IBM XIV is designed to minimize the likelihood and impact of a double drive failure
The independent failure of two drives is a rare occurrence. More data has been lost from hash collisions on EMC Centera than from double drive failures on XIV, and hash collisions are also very rare. While the published worst-case time to re-protect from a 1TB drive failure for a fully-configured XIV is 30 minutes, field experience shows XIV regaining full redundancy on average in 12 minutes. That is 40 times less likely than a typical 8-10 hour window for a RAID-5 configuration.
A lot of bad things can happen in those 8-10 hours of traditional RAID rebuild. Performance can be seriously degraded. Other components may be affected, as they share cache, connected to the same backplane or bus, or co-dependent in some other manner. An engineer supporting the customer onsite during a RAID-5 rebuild might pull the wrong drive, thereby causing a double drive failure they were hoping to avoid. Having IBM XIV rebuild in only a few minutes addresses this "human factor".
In his post [XIV drive management], fellow blogger Jim Kelly (IBM) covers a variety of reasons why storage admins feel double drive failures are more than just random chance. XIV avoids load stress normally associated with traditional RAID rebuild by evenly spreading out the workload across all drives. This is known in the industry as "wear-leveling". When the first drive fails, the recovery is spread across the remaining 179 drives, so that each drive only processes about 1 percent of the data. The [Ultrastar A7K1000] 1TB SATA disk drives that IBM uses from HGST have specified 1.2 million hours mean-time-between-failures [MTBF] would average about one drive failing every nine months in a 180-drive XIV system. However, field experience shows that an XIV system will experience, on average, one drive failure per 13 months, comparable to what companies experience with more robust Fibre Channel drives. That's innovative XIV wear-leveling at work!
- Fact: In the highly unlikely event that a DDF were to occur, you will have full read/write access to nearly all of your data on the XIV, all but a few GB.
Even though it has NEVER happened in the field, some clients and prospects are curious what a double drive failure on an XIV would look like. First, a critical alert message would be sent to both the client and IBM, and a "union list" is generated, identifying all the chunks in common. The worst case on a 15-module XIV fully loaded with 79TB data is approximately 9000 chunks, or 9GB of data. The remaining 78.991 TB of unaffected data are fully accessible for read or write. Any I/O requests for the chunks in the "union list" will have no response yet, so there is no way for host applications to access outdated information or cause any corruption.
(One blogger compared losing data on the XIV to drilling a hole through the phone book. Mathematically, the drill bit would be only 1/16th of an inch, or 1.60 millimeters for you folks outside the USA. Enough to knock out perhaps one character from a name or phone number on each page. If you have ever seen an actor in the movies look up a phone number in a telephone booth then yank out a page from the phone book, the XIV equivalent would be cutting out 1/8th of a page from an 1100 page phone book. In both cases, all of the rest of the unaffected information is full accessible, and it is easy to identify which information is missing.)
If the second drive failed several minutes after the first drive, the process for full redundancy is already well under way. This means the union list is considerably shorter or completely empty, and substantially fewer chunks are impacted. Contrast this with RAID-5, where being 99 percent complete on the rebuild when the second drive fails is just as catastrophic as having both drives fail simultaneously.
- Fact: After a DDF event, the files on these few GB can be identified for recovery.
Once IBM receives notification of a critical event, an IBM engineer immediately connects to the XIV using remote service support method. There is no need to send someone physically onsite, the repair actions can be done remotely. The IBM engineer has tools from HGST to recover, in most cases, all of the data.
Any "union" chunk that the HGST tools are unable to recover will be set to "media error" mode. The IBM engineer can provide the client a list of the XIV LUNs and LBAs that are on the "media error" list. From this list, the client can determine which hosts these LUNs are attached to, and run file scan utility to the file systems that these LUNs represent. Files that get a media error during this scan will be listed as needing recovery. A chunk could contain several small files, or the chunk could be just part of a large file. To minimize time, the scans and recoveries can all be prioritized and performed in parallel across host systems zoned to these LUNs.
As with any file or volume recovery, keep in mind that these might be part of a larger consistency group, and that your recovery procedures should make sense for the applications involved. In any case, you are probably going to be up-and-running in less time with XIV than recovery from a RAID-5 double failure would take, and certainly nowhere near "beyond repair" that other vendors might have you believe.
- Fact: This does not mean you can eliminate all Disaster Recovery planning!
To put this in perspective, you are more likely to lose XIV data from an earthquake, hurricane, fire or flood than from a double drive failure. As with any unlikely disaster, it is best to have a disaster recovery plan than to hope it never happens. All disk systems that sit on a single datacenter floor are vulnerable to such disasters.
For mission-critical applications, IBM recommends using disk mirroring capability. IBM XIV storage system offers synchronous and asynchronous mirroring natively, both included at no additional charge.
For more about IBM XIV reliability, read this whitepaper [IBM XIV© Storage System: Reliability Reinvented]. To find out why so many clients LOVE their XIV, contact your local IBM storage sales rep or IBM Business Partner.
technorati tags: IBM, XIV, DDF, RAID-5, RAID-10, RAID-X, RAID-6, RAID-DP, HP, EVA, HDS, USP-V, EMC, CLARiiON, V-Max, Disaster Recovery, HGST, UltraStar, A7K1000
Have you ever noticed that sometimes two movies come out that seem eerily similar to each other, released by different studios within months or weeks of each other? My sister used to review film scripts for a living, she would read ten of them and have to pick her top three favorites, and tells me that scripts for nearly identical concepts came all the time. Here are a few of my favorite examples:
- 1994: [Wyatt Earp] and [Tombstone] were Westerns recounting the famed gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Tombstone, Arizona is near Tucson, and the gunfight is recreated fairly often for tourists.
- 1998: [Armageddon] and [Deep Impact] were a pair of disaster movies dealing with a large rock heading to destroy all life on earth. I was in Mazatlan, Mexico to see the latter, dubbed in Spanish as "Impacto Profundo".
- 1998: [A Bug's Life] and [Antz] were computer-animated tales of the struggle of one individual ant in an ant colony.
- 2000: [Mission to Mars] and [Red Planet] were sci-fi pics exploring what a manned mission to our neighboring planet might entail.
- 2009: [Paul Blart: Mall Cop] and [Observe and Report] were comedies dealing with challenges of security at a shopping mall.
(I think I made my point with just a few examples. A more complete list can be found on [Sam Greenspan's 11 Points website].)
This is different than copy-cat movies that are re-made or re-imagined many years later based on the previous successes of an original. Ever since my blog post [VPLEX: EMC's Latest Wheel is Round] in 2010 comparing EMC's copy-cat product that came our seven years after IBM's SAN Volume Controller (SVC), I've noticed EMC doesn't talk about VPLEX that much anymore.
This week, IBM announced [XIV Gen3 Solid-State Drive support] and our friends over at EMC announced [VFCache SSD-based PCIe cards]. Neither of these should be a surprise to anyone who follows the IT industry, as IBM had announced its XIV Gen3 as "SSD-Ready" last year specifically for this purpose, and EMC has been touting its "Project Lightning" since last May.
Fellow blogger Chris Mellor from The Register has a series of articles to cover this, including [EMC crashes the server flash party], [NetApp slaps down Lightning with multi-card Flash flush], [HP may be going the server flash route], and [Now HDS joins the server flash party].
Fellow blogger Chuck Hollis from EMC has a blog post [VFCache means Very Fast Cache indeed] that provides additional detail. Chuck claims the VFCache is faster than popular [Fusion-IO PCIe cards] available for IBM servers. I haven't seen the performance spec sheets, but typically SSD is four to five times slower than the DRAM cache used in the XIV Gen3. The VFCache's SSD is probably similar in performance to the SSD supported in the IBM XIV Gen3, DS8000, DS5000, SVC, N series, and Storwize V7000 disk systems.
Nonetheless, I've been asked my opinions on the comparison between these two announcements, as they both deal with improving application performance through the use of Solid-State Drives as an added layer of read cache.
(FTC Disclosure: I am both a full-time employee and stockholder of the IBM Corporation. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission may consider this blog post as a paid celebrity endorsement of IBM servers and storage systems. This blog post is based on my interpretation and opinions of publicly-available information, as I have no hands-on access to any of these third-party PCIe cards. I have no financial interest in EMC, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, or any other third party vendor of PCIe cards designed to fit inside IBM servers, and I have not been paid by anyone to mention their name, brands or products on this blog post.)
The solutions are different in that IBM XIV Gen3 the SSD is "storage-side" in the external storage device, and EMC VFCache is "server-side" as a PCI Express [PCIe] card. Aside from that, both implement SSD as an additional read cache layer in front of spinning disk to boost performance. Neither is an industry first, as IBM has offered server-side SSD since 2007, and IBM and EMC have offered storage-side SSD in many of their other external storage devices. The use of SSD as read cache has already been available in IBM N series using [Performance Accelerator Module (PAM)] cards.
IBM has offered cooperative caching synergy between its servers and its storage arrays for some time now. The predecessor to today's POWER7-based were the iSeries i5 servers that used PCI-X IOP cards with cache to connect i5/OS applications to IBM's external disk and tape systems. To compete in this space, EMC created their own PCI-X cards to attach their own disk systems. In 2006, IBM did the right thing for our clients and fostered competition by entering in a [Landmark agreement] with EMC to [license the i5 interfaces]. Today, VIOS on IBM POWER systems allows a much broader choice of disk options for IBM i clients, including the IBM SVC, Storwize V7000 and XIV storage systems.
EMC is not the first to manufacture an SSD-based PCIe card. Last summer, my friends at Texas Memory Systems [TMS] gave away a [RAMsan-70 PCIe card] at an after-party on [Day 2 of the IBM System Storage University].
Can a little SSD really help performance? Yes! An IBM client running a [DB2 Universal Database] cluster across eight System x servers was able to replace an 800-drive EMC Symmetrix by putting eight SSD Fusion-IO cards in each server, for a total of 64 Solid-State drives, saving money and improving performance. DB2 has the Data Partitioning Feature that has multi-system DB2 configurations using a Grid-like architecture similar to how XIV is designed. Most IBM System x and BladeCenter servers support internal SSD storage options, and many offer PCIe slots for third-party SSD cards. Sadly, you can't do this with a VFCache card, since you can have only one VFCache card in each server, the data is unprotected, and only for ephemeral data like transaction logs or other temporary data. With multiple Fusion-IO cards in an IBM server, you can configure a RAID rank across the SSD, and use it for persistent storage like DB2 databases.
Here then is my side-by-side comparison:
|Category||EMC VFCache||IBM XIV Gen3 SSD Caching|
|Servers supported||Selected x86-based models of Cisco UCS, Dell PowerEdge, HP ProLiant DL, and IBM xSeries and System x servers||All of these, plus any other blade or rack-optimized server currently supported by XIV Gen3, including Oracle SPARC, HP Titanium, IBM POWER systems, and even IBM System z mainframes running Linux|
|Operating System support||Linux RHEL 5.6 and 5.7, VMware vSphere 4.1 and 5.0, and Windows 2008 x64 and R2.||All of these, plus all the other operating systems supported by XIV Gen3, including AIX, IBM i, Solaris, HP-UX, and Mac OS X|
|Protocol support||FCP||FCP and iSCSI|
|Vendor-supplied driver required on the server||Yes, the VFCache driver must be installed to use this feature.||No, IBM XIV Gen3 uses native OS-based multi-pathing drivers.|
|External disk storage systems required||None, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so in theory the benefits are the same whether you use this VFCache card in front of EMC storage or IBM storage||XIV Gen3 is required, as the SSD slots are not available on older models of IBM XIV.|
|Shared disk support||No, VFCache has to be disabled and removed for vMotion to take place.||Yes! XIV Gen3 SSD caching shared disk supports VMware vMotion and Live Partition Mobility.|
|Support for multiple servers||No||An advantage of the XIV Gen3 SSD caching approach is that the cache can be dynamically allocated to the busiest data from any server or servers.|
|Support for active/active server clusters||No||Yes!|
|Aware of changes made to back-end disk||No, it appears the VFCache has no direct interaction with the back-end disk array, so any changes to the data on the box itself are not communicated back to the VFCache card itself to invalidate the cache contents.||Yes!|
|Sequential-access detection||None identified. However, VFCache only caches blocks 64KB or smaller, so any sequential processing with larger blocks will bypass the VFCache.||Yes! XIV algorithms detect sequential access and avoid polluting the SSD with these blocks of data.|
|Number of SSD supported||One, which seems odd as IBM supports multiple Fusion-IO cards for its servers. However, this is not really a single point of failure (SPOF) as an application experiencing a VFCache failure merely drops down to external disk array speed, no data is lost since it is only read cache.||6 to 15 (one per XIV module) for high availability.|
|Pin data in SSD cache||Yes, using split-card mode, you can designate a portion of the 300GB to serve as Direct-attached storage (DAS). All data written to the DAS portion will be kept in SSD. However, since only one card is supported per server and the data is unprotected, this should only be used for ephemeral data like logs and temp files.||No, there is no option to designate an XIV Gen3 volume to be SSD-only. Consider using Fusion-IO PCIe card as a DAS alternative, or another IBM storage system for that requirement.|
|Pre-sales Estimating tools||None identified||Yes! CDF and Disk Magic tools are available to help cost-justify the purchase of SSD based on workload performance analysis.|
IBM has the advantage that it designs and manufactures both servers and storage, and can design optimal solutions for our clients in that regard.
technorati tags: IBM, XIV, Gen3, SSD, cache, EMC, VFCache, Project Lightning, SVC, Solid State Drives, Fusion-IO, Texas Memory Systems, RAMSan, System+x, POWER systems, VIOS, DRAM, VMware, Vmotion, Live Partition Mobility, AIX, IBM i, PCIe, PCI-X
Well, it's Tuesday again, but this time, today we had our third big storage launch of 2009! A lot got announced today as part of IBM's big "Dynamic Infrastructure" marketing campaign. I will just focus on the
disk-related announcements today:
- IBM System Storage DS8700
IBM adds a new model to its DS8000 series with the
[IBM System Storage DS8700]. Earlier this month, fellow blogger and arch-nemesis Barry Burke from EMC posted [R.I.P DS8300] on this mistaken assumption that the new DS8700 meant that DS8300 was going away, or that anyone who bought a DS8300 recently would be out of luck. Obviously, I could not respond until today's announcement, as the last thing I want to do is lose my job disclosing confidential information. BarryB is wrong on both counts:
- IBM will continue to sell the DS8100 and DS8300, in addition to the new DS8700.
- Clients can upgrade their existing DS8100 or DS8300 systems to DS8700.
BarryB's latest post [What's In a Name - DS8700] is fair game, given all the fun and ridicule everyone had at his expense over EMC's "V-Max" name.
So the DS8700 is new hardware with only 4 percent new software. On the hardware side, it uses faster POWER6 processors instead of POWER5+, has faster PCI-e buses instead of the RIO-G loops, and faster four-port device adapters (DAs) for added bandwidth between cache and drives. The DS8700 can be ordered as a single-frame dual 2-way that supports up to 128 drives and 128GB of cache, or as a dual 4-way, consisting of one primary frame, and up to four expansion frames, with up to 384GB of cache and 1024 drives.
Not mentioned explicitly in the announcements were the things the DS8700 does not support:
- ESCON attachment - Now that FICON is well-established for the mainframe market, there is no need to support the slower, bulkier ESCON options. This greatly reduced testing effort. The 2-way DS8700 can support up to 16 four-port FICON/FCP host adapters, and the 4-way can support up to 32 host adapters, for a maximum of 128 ports. The FICON/FCP host adapter ports can auto-negotiate between 4Gbps, 2Gbps and 1Gbps as needed.
- LPAR mode - When IBM and HDS introduced LPAR mode back in 2004, it sounded like a great idea the engineers came up with. Most other major vendors followed our lead to offer similar "partitioning". However, it turned out to be what we call in the storage biz a "selling apple" not a "buying apple". In other words, something the salesman can offer as a differentiating feature, but that few clients actually use. It turned out that supporting both LPAR and non-LPAR modes merely doubled the testing effort, so IBM got rid of it for the DS8700.
Update: I have been reminded that both IBM and HDS delivered LPAR mode within a month of each other back in 2004, so it was wrong for me to imply that HDS followed IBM's lead when obviously development happened in both companies for the most part concurrently prior to that. EMC was late to the "partition" party, but who's keeping track?
Initial performance tests show up to 50 percent improvement for random workloads, and up to 150 percent improvement for sequential workloads, and up to 60 percent improvement in background data movement for FlashCopy functions. The results varied slightly between Fixed Block (FB) LUNs and Count-Key-Data (CKD) volumes, and I hope to see some SPC-1 and SPC-2 benchmark numbers published soon.
The DS8700 is compatible for Metro Mirror, Global Mirror, and Metro/Global Mirror with the rest of the DS8000 series, as well as the ESS model 750, ESS model 800 and DS6000 series.
- New 600GB FC and FDE drives
IBM now offers [600GB drives] for the DS4700 and DS5020 disk systems, as well as the EXP520 and EXP810 expansion drawers. In each case, we are able to pack up to 16 drives into a 3U enclosure.
Personally, I think the DS5020 should have been given a DS4xxx designation, as it resembles the DS4700
more than the other models of the DS5000 series. Back in 2006-2007, I was the marketing strategist for IBM System Storage product line, and part of my job involved all of the meetings to name or rename products. Mostly I gave reasons why products should NOT be renamed, and why it was important to name the products correctly at the beginning.
- IBM System Storage SAN Volume Controller hardware and software
Fellow IBM master inventory Barry Whyte has been covering the latest on the [SVC 2145-CF8 hardware]. IBM put out a press release last week on this, and today is the formal announcement with prices and details. Barry's latest post
[SVC CF8 hardware and SSD in depth] covers just part of the entire
The other part of the announcement was the [SVC 5.1 software] which can be loaded
on earlier SVC models 8F2, 8F4, and 8G4 to gain better performance and functionality.
To avoid confusion on what is hardware machine type/model (2145-CF8 or 2145-8A4) and what is software program (5639-VC5 or 5639-VW2), IBM has introduced two new [Solution Offering Identifiers]:
- 5465-028 Standard SAN Volume Controller
- 5465-029 Entry Edition SAN Volume Controller
The latter is designed for smaller deployments, supports only a single SVC node-pair managing up to
150 disk drives, available in Raven Black or Flamingo Pink.
- EXN3000 and EXP5060 Expansion Drawers
IBM offers the [EXN3000 for the IBM N series]. These expansion drawers can pack 24 drives in a 4U enclosure. The drives can either be all-SAS, or all-SATA, supporting 300GB, 450GB, 500GB and 1TB size capacity drives.
The [EXP5060 for the IBM DS5000 series] is a high-density expansion drawer that can pack up to 60 drives into a 4U enclosure. A DS5100 or DS5300
can handle up to eight of these expansion drawers, for a total of 480 drives.
- IBM System Storage Productivity Center v1.4
The latest [System Storage Productivity Center (SSPC) v1.4] can manage all of your DS3000, DS4000, DS5000, DS6000, DS8000 series disk, and SAN Volume Controller. You can get the SSPC built in two modes:
- Pre-installed with Tivoli Storage Productivity Center Basic Edition. Basic Edition can be upgraded with license keys to support Data, Disk and Standard Edition to extend support and functionality to report and manage XIV, N series, and non-IBM disk systems.
- Pre-installed with Tivoli Key Lifecycle Manager (TKLM). This can be used to manage the Full Disk Encryption (FDE) encryption-capable disk drives in the DS8000 and DS5000, as well as LTO and TS1100 series tape drives.
- IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager v2.1
The [IBM Tivoli Storage FlashCopy Manager V2.1] replaces two products in one. IBM used
to offer IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Copy Services (TSM for CS) that protected Windows application data, and IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Advanced Copy Services (TSM for ACS) that protected AIX application data.
The new product has some excellent advantages. FlashCopy Manager offers application-aware backup of LUNs containing SAP, Oracle, DB2, SQL server and Microsoft Exchange data. It can support IBM DS8000, SVC and XIV point-in-time copy functions, as well as the Volume Shadow Copy Services (VSS) interfaces of the IBM DS5000, DS4000 and DS3000 series disk systems. It is priced by the amount of TB you copy, not on the speed or number of CPU processors inside the server.
Don't let the name fool you. IBM FlashCopy Manager does not require that you use Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) as your backup product. You can run IBM FlashCopy Manager on its own, and it will manage your FlashCopy target versions on disk, and these can be backed up to tape or another disk using any backup product. However, if you are lucky enough to also be using TSM, then there is optional integration that allows TSM to manage the target copies, move them to tape, inventory them in its DB2 database, and provide complete reporting.
Yup, that's a lot to announce in one day. And this was just the disk-related portion of the launch!
technorati tags: ds8000, disk, ds8700, exn3, svc, cf8, 2145-c58, DS5000, DS4000, DS3000, DS5020, DS4700, DS5100, DS5300, SSPC, TKLM, FlashCopy+Manager, Tivoli, Storage+Manager, TSM, DB2, Oracle, SAP, SQL, Microsoft+Exchange, VSS, Windows, AIX, N+series, XIV
If you store your VMware bits on external SAN or NAS-based disk storage systems, this post is for you. The subject of the post, VM Volumes, is a potential storage management game changer!
Fellow blogger Stephen Foskett mentioned VM Volumes in his [Introducing VMware vSphere Storage Features] presentation at IBM Edge 2012 conference. His session on VMware's storage features included VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI), VMware Array Storage Awareness (VASA), vCenter plug-ins, and a new concept he called "vVol", now more formally known as VM Volumes. This post provides a follow-up to this, describing the VM Volumes concepts, architecture, and value proposition.
"VM Volumes" is a future architecture that VMware is developing in collaboration with IBM and other major storage system vendors. So far, very little information about VM Volumes has been released. At VMworld 2012 Barcelona, VMware highlights VM Volumes for the first time and IBM demonstrates VM Volumes with the IBM XIV Storage System (more about this demo below). VM Volumes is worth your attention -- when it becomes generally available, everyone using storage arrays will have to reconsider their storage management practices in a VMware environment -- no exaggeration!
But enough drama. What is this all about?
(Note: for the sake of clarity, this post refers to block storage only. However, the VM Volumes feature applies to NAS systems as well. Special thanks to Yossi Siles and the XIV development team for their help on this post!)
The VM Volumes concept is simple: VM disks are mapped directly to special volumes on a storage array system, as opposed to storing VMDK files on a vSphere datastore.
The following images illustrate the differences between the two storage management paradigms.
You may still be asking yourself: bottom line, how will I benefit from VM Volumes?
Well, take a VM snapshot for example. With VM Volumes
, vSphere can simply offload the operation by invoking a hardware snapshot of the hardware volume. This has significant implications:
- VM-Granularity: Only the right VMs are copied (with datastores, backing up or cloning individual-VM portions of hardware snapshot of a datastore would require more complex configuration, tools and work)
- Hardware Offload: No ESXi server resources are consumed
- XIV advantage: With XIV, snapshots consume no space upfront and are completed instantly.
Here's the first takeaway: With VM Volumes, advanced storage services (which cost a lot when you buy a storage array), will become available at an individual VM level. In a cloud world, this means that applications can be provisioned easily with advanced storage services, such as snapshots and mirroring.
Now, let's take a closer look at another relevant scenario where VM Volumes will make a lot of difference - provisioning an application with special mirroring requirements:
- VM Volumes case: The application is ordered via the private cloud portal. The requestor checks a box requesting an asynchronous mirror. He changes the default RPO for his needs. When the request is submitted, the process wraps up automatically: Volumes are created on one of the storage arrays, configured with a mirror and RPO exactly as specified. A few minutes later, the requestor receives an automatic mail pointing to the application virtual machine.
- Datastores case #1: As may be expected, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does not exist. As a result, the automated workflow sets a pending status on the request, creates an urgent ticket to a VMware administrator and aborts. When the VMware admin handles that ticket, she re-assigns the ticket to the storage administrator, asking for a new volume which is mirrored with the special RPO, and mapped to the right ESXi cluster. The next day, the volume is created; the ticket is re-assigned to the storage admin, with the new LUN being pointed to. The VMware administrator follows and creates the datastore on top of it. Since the automated workflow was aborted, the admin re-assigns the ticket to the cloud administrator, who sometime later completes the application provisioning manually.
- Datastores case #2: Luckily for the requestor, a datastore that is mirrored with the special RPO does exist. However, that particular datastore is consuming space from a high performance XIV Gen3 system with SSD caching, while the application does not require that level of performance, so the workflow requires a storage administrator approval. The approval is given to save time, but the storage administrator opens a ticket for himself to create a new volume on another array, as well as a follow-up ticket for the VMware admin to create a new datastore using the new volume and migrate the application to the other datastore. In this case, provisioning was relatively rapid, but required manual follow up, involving the two administrators.
Here's the second takeaway: With VM Volumes, management is simplified, and end-to-end automation is much more applicable. The reason is that there are no datastores. Datastores physically group VMs that may otherwise be totally unrelated, and require close coordination between storage and VMware administrators.
Now, the above mainly focuses on the VMware or cloud administrator perspective. How does VM Volumes impact storage management?
VM's are the new hosts: Today, storage administrators have visibility of physical hosts in their management environment. In a non-virtualized environment, this visibility is very helpful. The storage administrator knows exactly which applications in a data center are storage-provisioned or affected by storage management operations because the applications are running on well-known hosts. However, in virtualized environments the association of an application to a physical host is temporary. To keep at least the same level of visibility as in physical environments, VMs should become part of the storage management environment, like hosts. Hosts are still interesting, for example to manage physical storage mapping, but without VM visibility, storage administrators will know less about their operation than they are used to, or need to. VM Volumes enables such visibility, because volumes are provided to individual VMs. The XIV VM Volumes demonstration at VMworld Barcelona, although experimental, shows a view of VM volumes, in XIV's management GUI.
Here's a screenshot:
That's not all!
Storage Profiles and Storage Containers: A Storage Profile is a vSphere specification of a set of storage services. A storage profile can include properties like thin or thick provisioning, mirroring definition, snapshot policy, minimum IOPS, etc.
- Storage administrators define a portfolio of supported storage services, maintained as a set of storage profiles, and published (via VASA integration) to vSphere.
- VMware or cloud administrators define the required storage profiles for specific applications
VMware and storage administrators need to coordinate the typical storage requirements and the automatically-available storage services. When a request to provision an application is made, the associated storage profiles are matched against the published set of available storage profiles. The matching published profiles will be used to create volumes, which will be bound to the application VMs. All that will happen automatically.
Note that when a VM is created today, a datastore must be specified. With VM Volumes, a new management entity called Storage Container (also known as Capacity Pool) replaces the use of datastore as a management object. Each Storage Container exposes a subset of the available storage profiles, as appropriate. The storage container also has a capacity quota.
Here are some more takeaways
- New way to interface vSphere and storage management: Storage administrators structure and publish storage services to vSphere via storage profiles and storage containers.
- Automated provisioning, out of the box: The provisioning process automatically matches application-required storage profiles against storage profiles available from the specified storage containers. There is no need to build custom scripts and custom processes to automate storage provisioning to applications
- The XIV advantage:
- XIV services are very simple to define and publish. The typical number of available storage profiles would be low. It would also be easy to define application storage profiles.
- XIV provides consistent high performance, up to very high capacity utilization levels, without any maintenance. As a result, automated provisioning (which inherently implies less human attention) will not create an elevated risk of reduced performance.
Note: A storage vendor VASA provider is required to support VM Volumes, storage profiles, storage containers and automated provisioning. The IBM Storage VASA provider runs as a standalone service that needs to be deployed on a server.
To summarize the VM Volumes value proposition:
- Streamline cloud operation by providing storage services at VM and application level, enabling end-to-end provisioning automation, and unifying VMware and storage administration around volumes and VMs.
- Increase storage array ROI, improve vSphere scalability and response time, and reduce cloud provisioning lag, by offloading VM-level provisioning, failover, backup, storage migration, storage space recycling, monitoring, and more, to the storage array, using advanced storage operations such as mirroring and snapshots.
- Simplify the adoption of VM Volumes using XIV, with smaller and simpler sets of storage profiles. Apply XIV's supreme fast cloning to individual VMs, and keep automation risks at bay with XIV's consistent high performance.
For additional information about VM Volumes, check out [VMware Storage APIs for VM and Application Granular Data Management] blog post by Duncan Epping, a Principal Architect in the Technical Marketing group at VMware!
Until you can get your hands on a VM Volumes-capable environment, the VMware and IBM developer groups will be collaborating and working hard to realize this game-changing feature. The above information is definitely expected to trigger your questions or comments, and our development teams are eager to learn from them and respond. Enter your comments below, and I will try to answer them, and help shape the next post on this subject. There's much more to be told.
technorati tags: IBM, VMware, vSphere, VM Volumes, vVOL, Stephen Foskett, VMworld, Barcelona, Spain, XIV, RPO, SSD
Well, I'm back safely from my tour of Asia. I am glad to report that Tokyo, Beijing and Kuala Lumpur are pretty much how I remember them from the last time I was there in each city. I have since been fighting jet lag by watching the last thirteen episodes of LOST season 6 and the series finale.
Recently, I have started seeing a lot of buzz on the term "Storage Federation". The concept is not new, but rather based on the work in database federation, first introduced in 1985 by [A federated architecture for information management] by Heimbigner and McLeod. For those not familiar with database federation, you can take several independent autonomous databases, and treat them as one big federated system. For example, this would allow you to issue a single query and get results across all the databases in the federated system. The advantage is that it is often easier to federate several disparate heterogeneous databases than to merge them into a single database. [IBM Infosphere Federation Server] is a market leader in this space, with the capability to federate DB2, Oracle and SQL Server databases.
Fellow blogger and BFF, Marc Farley (3PAR) has an excellent post [Zeroing in on a definition for federated storage]. Here's an excerpt:
- Storage expansion: You want to increase the storage capacity of an existing storage system that cannot accommodate the total amount of capacity desired. Storage Federation allows you to add additional storage capacity by adding a whole new system.
- Storage migration: You want to migrate from an aging storage system to a new one. Storage Federation allows the joining of the two systems and the evacuation from storage resources on the first onto the second and then the first system is removed.
- Safe system upgrades: System upgrades can be problematic for a number of reasons. Storage Federation allows a system to be removed from the federation and be re-inserted again after the successful completion of the upgrade.
- Load balancing: Similar to storage expansion, but on the performance axis, you might want to add additional storage systems to a Storage Federation in order to spread the workload across multiple systems.
- Storage tiering: In a similar light, storage systems in a Storage Federation could have different capacity/performance ratios that you could use for tiering data. This is similar to the idea of dynamically re-striping data across the disk drives within a single storage system, such as with 3PAR's Dynamic Optimization software, but extends the concept to cross storage system boundaries.
To some extent, IBM SAN Volume Controller (SVC), XIV, Scale-Out NAS (SONAS), and Information Archive (IA) offer most, if not all, of these capabilities. EMC claims its VPLEX will be able to offer storage federation, but only with other VPLEX clusters, which brings up a good question. What about heterogenous storage federation? Before anyone accuses me of throwing stones at glass houses, let's take a look at each IBM solution:
- IBM SAN Volume Controller
The IBM SAN Volume Controller has been doing storage federation since 2003. Not only can IBM SAN Volume Controller bring together storage from a variety of heterogenous storage, the SVC cluster itself can be a mix of different hardware models. You can have a 2145-8A4 node pair, 2145-8G4 node pair, and the new 2145-CF8 node pair, all combined together into a single SVC cluster. Upgrading SVC hardware nodes in an SVC cluster is always non-disruptive.
- IBM XIV storage system
The IBM XIV has two kinds of independent modules. Data modules have processor, cache and 12 disks. Interface modules are data modules with additional processor, FC and Ethernet (iSCSI) adapters. Because these two modules play different roles in an XIV "colony", that number of each type is predetermined. Entry-level six-module systems have 2 interface and 4 data modules. Full 15-module systems have 6 interface and 9 data modules. Individual modules can be added or removed non-disruptively in an XIV.
- IBM Scale-Out NAS
The SONAS is comprised of three kinds of nodes that work together in concert. A management node, one or more interface nodes, and two or more storage nodes. The storage nodes are paired to manage up to 240 nodes in a storage pod. Individual interface or data nodes can be added or removed non-disruptively in the SONAS. The underlying technology, the General Parallel File System, has been doing storage federation since 1996 for some of the largest top 500 supercomputers in the world.
- IBM Information Archive (IA)
For the IA, there are 1, 2 or 3 nodes, which manages a set of collections. A collection can either be file-based using industry-standard NAS protocols, or object-based using the popular System Storage™ Archive Manager (SSAM) interface. Normally, you have as many collections as you have nodes, but nodes are powerful enough to manage two collections to provide N-1 availability. This allows a node to be removed, and a new node added into the IA "colony", in a non-disruptive manner.
Even in an ant colony, there are only a few types of ants, with typically one queen, several males, and lots of workers. But all the ants are red. You don't see colonies that mix between different species of ants. For databases, federation was a way to avoid the much harder task of merging databases from different platforms. For storage, I am surprised people have latched on to the term "federation", given our mixed results in the other "federations" we have formed, which I have conveniently (IMHO) ranked from least effective to most effective:
- The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)
My father used to say, "If the Soviet Union were in charge of the Sahara desert, they would run out of sand in 50 years." The [Soviet Union] actually lasted 68 years, from 1922 to 1991.
- The United Nations (UN)
After the previous League of Nations failed, the UN was formed in 1945 to facilitate cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and the achieving of world peace by stopping wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue.
- The European Union (EU)
With the collapse of the Greek economy, and the [rapid growth of debt] in the UK, Spain and France, there are concerns that the EU might not last past 2020.
- The United States of America (USA)
My own country is a federation of states, each with its own government. California's financial crisis was compared to the one in Greece. My own state of Arizona is under boycott from other states because of its recent [immigration law]. However, I think the US has managed better than the EU because it has evolved over the past 200 years.
- The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries [OPEC]
Technically, OPEC is not a federation of cooperating countries, but rather a cartel of competing countries that have agreed on total industry output of oil to increase individual members' profits. Note that it was a non-OPEC company, BP, that could not "control their output" in what has now become the worst oil spill in US history. OPEC was formed in 1960, and is expected to collapse sometime around 2030 when the world's oil reserves run out. Matt Savinar has a nice article on [Life After the Oil Crash].
- United Federation of Planets
The [Federation] fictitiously described in the Star Trek series appears to work well, an optimistic view of what federations could become if you let them evolve long enough.
Given the mixed results with "federation", I think I will avoid using the term for storage, and stick to the original term "scale-out architecture".
technorati tags: , LOST, storage, federation, IBM, DB2, Oracle, SQL, 3PAR, Marc Farley, SVC, XIV, SONAS, IA, EMC, VPLEX, USSR, United Nations, OPEC, Star Trek