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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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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Entering the league of USPEED Performance Gurus

VNX USPEED logoFinally! I’ve just passed the USPEED Performance Guru exam! I first got aware of the SPEED programs during a Celerra Performance Workshop a couple of years ago. Initially it was an EMC Internal program, so I couldn’t get in without switching employers. In the beginning of 2013 this changed and EMC Partners could also enroll. Too bad I ran out of time with a mountain of projects and other training material… up until now! So what does it mean when someone is USPEED certified?

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CLARiiON Data Erasure – DIY edition

Open Hard Drive with pencil eraser on platterOver the last couple of months I’ve been busy phasing out an old EMC CLARiiON CX3 system and migrating all the data to either newer VNX and/or Isilon systems. The hard work paid off: the CX3 is now empty and we can start to decommission it. But before we ship it back to EMC we need to employ a type of CLARiiON data erasure to make sure data doesn’t fall into wrong hands.

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VNX Storage Pool LUN Ownership

LUNs on a storage system represent the blobs of storage that are allocated to a server. A (VNX) storage admin creates a LUN on a RAID Group or Storage Pool and assigns it to a server. The server admin discovers this LUN, formats it, mounts it (or assigns a drive letter) and starts to use it. Storage 101. But there’s more to it than just carving out LUNs from a big pile of Terabytes. One important aspect is LUN ownership: which storage processor will process the I/O for that specific LUN?!

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The new EMC VNX introducing MCx

Earlier this month EMC announced the new VNX series which promises more performance and capacity at a lower cost per GB and a smaller footprint. The hashtag for the event was #Speed2Lead which was trending on Twitter during the official event and the weeks leading up to the Mega Launch in Milan, Italy. With performance being key in the new systems, the announcement was built around the Monza race track which had the Formula 1 circus in town. Guess what the logo for the launch was?

ML3-logo

I myself was on summer holidays during the big event (ending up only a hundred miles away from Milan, albeit a week late ;)), so I couldn’t do much more than refresh twitter and get my timeline blasted to bits. So consider this a catch-up post!

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Migrating with PowerPath Migration Enabler

PowerPath Migration Enabler installWhen migrating servers from one storage system to another there are basically two options: Migrate using storage features like SAN Copy or MirrorView, or migrate using server based tools like PowerPath Migration Enabler Host Copy, VMware Storage VMotion or Robo Copy. Which option you choose depends on a lot of factors, including the environment you’re in, the amount of downtime you can afford, the amount of data, etc. I’ve grown especially fond of PowerPath Migration Enabler due to its ease of use. You can throttle its migration speed, your “old” data is left intact (so you’ve got a fallback) and once you’ve gotten use to the commands it’s child’s play to migrate non-disruptively and quickly.

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VNX – Storage pools spanning DAE 0_0

Anyone working in IT knows that there are usually enormous amounts of whitepapers available to help you install, configure and run a new system or software suite. The fun more than doubles when the whitepapers start conflicting themselves. But even when they’re crystal clear, sometimes you run into a different problem: budget! With all planning and designing done, sometimes the budget or the purchased equipment does not allow you to follow ALL best practices to the letter, or at least make it a bit more challenging. In this example there’s the need to span a storage pool across DAE 0_0.

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Rebalance VNX storage paths without downtime

Recently I ran into an environment with a couple of VNX5700 systems that were attached to the front-end SAN switches with only two ports per storage processor. The customer was complaining: performance was OK most of the time but at some times during the day the performance was noticeably lower. Analysis revealed that the back-end was coping well with the workload (30-50% load on the disks and storage processors). The front-end ports were a bit (over)loaded and spewing QFULL errors. Time to cable in some extra ports and to rebalance the existing hosts over the new storage paths!

Analyzer Helper Front-End ports

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