Avamar Exchange 2013 DAG backup fails – Waiting for VSS

Today I have been troubleshooting Avamar backups of an Exchange 2013 DAG (Database Availability Groups) setup. The Avamar job would start but no data would be backed up and the job would fail within 15 minutes. Initially VSS was suspected to be the culprit but additional troubleshooting revealed some strange behavior of the Avamar client in which the individual plugins would keep waiting for a status message that would never arrive.

The setup is simple: three Windows 2008 R2 SP1 servers, Exchange 2013 Update 5 with Database Availability Groups and Avamar 7.0.2 as the backup software and target. The error that pops up looks like this:

Avamar Exchange 2013 DAG error

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Storage Field Day 6 Day 3 – Nimble Storage and NEC

Storage Field Day 6 Delegates at Nimble StorageStorage Field Day 6 covered presentations from 8 vendors spread across 3 days. On day 3 it was Nimble Storage and NEC’s turn to tell us about their products. The previous two days were pretty heavy on easy to use (and shiny!) graphical user interfaces and centered around simplicity to provide storage to the application / app owner. Day three would continue on this theme with amazement and… a bit of a disappointment.

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Storage Field Day 6 Day 2 – Coho, Nexenta and Pure Storage

Meet... me! Swag from Coho Data, SFD6.Storage Field Day 6, Day 2! Having recovered somewhat from yesterdays program we all hopped in the limo and drove to Sunnyvale, CA. Breakfast would be served at Coho Data who would also give the first presentation of the day. Second presenter of the day was Nexenta Systems talking about their SDS solutions. Another limo ride later we arrived at Pure Storage who would talk about their all flash arrays (AFAs). The day would be concluded with some video games, dinner and a trip in a time machine. Let’s go!

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Storage Field Day 6 Day 1 – Avere, StorMagic, Tegile

SFD6 Delegate BriefingStorage Field Day 6, Day 1! The day before was spent acclimatizing to the 9 hours of time travel but on Wednesday it was finally about to begin. I had a general idea of what was waiting for me: first of all it’s going to be an exchausting, challenging but also fun week, and also: 99% of Americans likes stroopwafels. So armed with a bag of them I headed to the SFD6 breakfast briefing. Stephen laid out the ground rules, explained the newbies what was about to happen and off we went to the first vendors of the week: Avere, StorMagic and Tegile.

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Storage Field Day 6 Day 0 – Sightseeing and Yankee swap

Storage Field Day 6 Dinner and Yankee swapSo as I posted a while ago, I was invited to attend Storage Field Day 6 in San Jose, California a while ago. Which is happening right now all the way till November 7th 2014. Today was day 0 with a big get together of the 12 delegates and Stephen, Tom and Claire from GestaltIT, the people organizing all the TechField days. After an very tasty dinner at Genji, a local Japanese steakhouse we performed a ritual called the Yankee swap: everyone brings a present. One by one you either decide to keep your gift or swap it with someones gift. Once everyone has made their decision you open it up and be amazed! Good fun!

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FAST VP: Let it do its job!

FAST VP in actionNot all data is accessed equally. Some data is more popular than other data that may only be accessed infrequently. With the introduction of FAST VP in the CX4 & VNX series it is possible to create a single storage pool that has multiple different types of drives. The system chops your LUNs into slices and each slice is assigned a temperature based on the activity of that slice. Heavy accessed slices are hot, infrequently accessed slices are cold. FAST VP then moves the hottest slices to the fastest tier. Once that tier is full the remaining hot slices go to the second fastest tier, etc… This does absolute wonders to your TCO: your cold data is now stored on cheap NL-SAS disks instead of expensive SSDs and your end-users won’t know a thing. There’s one scenario which will get you in trouble though and that’s infrequent, heavy use of formerly cold data…

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Storage Field Day 6 is around the corner!

Storage Field Day

The Storage Field Day Logo

Last year a little bird told me about Tech Field Day: a big knowledge sharing event where multiple vendors inform a select group of people or delegates about what’s hot, new or revolutionary in their field or lineup. There’s multiple types of Field Days: networking, virtualization and (of course) storage. Storage Field Day 6 will be held on 5-7 November 2014 in Silicon Valley and… WOOHOOO, I’m attending!

Among the presenters for this year are Avere Systems, Coho Data, NEC Storage, Nexenta Systems, Nimble Storage, PureStorage, StorMagic and Tegile. I’ll be honest: I’ve only heard of a couple of these names, so I’ve got a bit of reading up to do in the next couple of days and I can’t wait to hear what they bring to the table.

I’d like to thank the Tech Field Day team (Stephen, Claire and Tom) for inviting me and flying me to San Jose next week. I’m looking forward to an exciting and challenging week filled with tech and discussions. Keep an eye on the Storage Field Day 6 page for the live stream of the event and this page for updates during the week! And maybe I’ll sneak in a picture of the Golden Gate bridge if I get the chance… ;)

VNX2 MCx FAST Cache improvements

EMC World 2013 - Day 3 306MCx FAST Cache is an addition to the regular DRAM cache in a VNX. DRAM cache is very fast but also (relatively) expensive so an array will have a limited amount of it. Spinning disks are large in capacity and relatively cheap but slow. To bridge the performance gap there are the solid-state drives; both performance wise and cost wise somewhere between DRAM and spinning disks. There’s one problem though: a LUN usually isn’t 100% active all of the time. This means that placing a LUN on SSDs might not drive your SSDs hard enough to get the most from your investment. If only there was software that makes sure only the hottest data is placed on those SSDs and that will quickly adjust this data placement depending on the changing workload, you’d have a lot more bang for your buck. Enter MCx FAST Cache: now with an improved software stack with less overhead which results in better write performance.

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VNX2 MCx Cache improvements

MCx Cache improvements Forced FlushingWhen troubleshooting performance in a CLARiiON or VNX storage array you’ll often see graphs that resemble something like this: write cache maxing out to 100% on one or even two storage processors. Once this occurs the array starts a process called forced flushing to flush writes to disk and create new space in the cache for incoming writes. This absolutely wrecks the performance of all applications using the array. With the MCx cache improvements made in the VNX2 series there should be a lot less forced flushes and a much improved performance.

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Your chance to nominate the EMC Elect 2015!

EMC Elect 2015 nominationsIt is that time of year again: time to select the EMC Elect 2015! EMC Elect is a recognition program for the top EMC social media guru’s worldwide. Customers, EMC partners or employees, independent analysts: everyone can become a part of the EMC Elect 2015. To do so, you only need to be nominated (that’s phase 1) and survive the judging process (phase 2 performed by the EMC Elect judging panel). Interested?

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