Tag Archives: Lefthand

Xiotech Storage Blade – 101

How Xiotech Storage Blades have the potential to change the storage paradigm.

It’s inevitable, whether I’m talking with a value added reseller (VAR) or a net-new prospect, I’m always asked to explain how our solution is so different then everyone else’s.  I figured it was a great opportunity to address this in a blog post. 

Xiotech recently released a whitepaper authored by Jack Fegreus of OpenBench Labs.  His ISE overview was so spot on that I wanted to copy/paste some of the whitepaper here.  I would encourage you to read his full whitepaper as well, which includes his testing results.  I’m pretty sure you will be as impressed as I was.

Before you continue reading, I need you to take a moment to suspend everything you understand about storage architecture, both good and bad.  I would like you to read this post with an open mind, setting aside your biases as much as possible.  If you can do this, it will make a LOT more sense.

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<Copied from http://www.infostor.com/index/articles/display/3933581853/articles/infostor/openbench-lab-review/2010/april-2010/a-radical_approach.html>

The heart of ISE—pronounced, “ice”— technology is a multi-drive sealed DataPac with specially matched Seagate Fibre Channel drives. The standard drive firmware used for off-the-shelf commercial disks has been replaced with firmware that provides detailed information about internal disk structures. ISE leverages this detailed disk structure information to access data more precisely and boost I/O performance on the order of 25%. From a bottom line perspective, however, the most powerful technological impact of ISE comes in the form of autonomic self-healing storage that reduces service requirements.

In a traditional storage subsystem, the drives, drive enclosures and the system controllers are all manufactured independently. That scheme leaves controller and drive firmware to handle all of the compatibility issues that must be addressed to ensure device interoperation. Not only does this create significant processing overhead, it reduces the useful knowledge about the components to a lowest common denominator: the standard SCSI control set.

Relieved of the burden of device compatibility issues, ISE tightly integrates the firmware on its Managed Reliability Controllers (MRCs) with the special firmware used exclusively by all of the drives in a DataPac. Over an internal point-to-point switched network, and not a traditional arbitrated loop, MRCs are able to leverage advanced drive telemetry and exploit detailed knowledge about the internal structure of all DataPac components. What’s more, ISE architecture moves I/O processing and cache circuitry into the MRC.
 
A highlight of the integration between MRCs and DataPacs is the striping of data at the level of an individual drive head. Through such precise access to data, ISE technology significantly reduces data exposure on a drive. Only the surfaces of affected heads with allocated space, not an entire drive, will ever need to be rebuilt. What’s more, precise knowledge about underlying components allows an ISE to reduce the rate at which DataPac components fail, repair many component failures in-situ, and minimize the impact of failures that cannot be repaired. The remedial reconditioning that MRCs are able to implement extends to such capabilities as remanufacturing disks through head sparing and depopulation, reformatting low-level track data, and even rewriting servo and data tracks.

ISE technology transforms the notion of “RAID level” into a characteristic of a logical volume that IT administrators assign at the time that the logical volume is created. This eliminates the need for IT administrators to create storage pools for one or more levels of RAID redundancy in order to allocate logical drives. Also gone is the first stumbling block to better resource utilization: There is no need for IT administrators to pre-allocate disk drives for fixed RAID-level storage pools. Within Xiotech’s ISE architecture, DataPacs function as flexible RAID storage pools, from which logical drives are provisioned and assigned a RAID level for data redundancy on an ad hoc basis.

What’s more, the ISE separates the function of the two internal MRCs from that of the two external Fibre Channel ports. The two FC ports balance FC frame traffic to optimize flow of I/O packets on the SAN fabric. Then the MRCs balance I/O requests to maximize I/O throughput for the DataPacs.

In effect, Xiotech’s ISE technology treats a sealed DataPac as a virtual super disk and makes a DataPac the base configurable unit, which slashes operating costs by taking the execution of low-level device-management tasks out of the hands of administrators. This heal-in-place technology also allows ISE-based systems, such as the Emprise 5000, to reach reliability levels that are impossible for standard storage arrays. Most importantly for IT and OEM users of the Emprise 5000 storage, Xiotech is able to provide a five-year warranty that eliminates storage service renewal costs for a five-year lifespan.

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Now, I’m going to keep this same open mind when I say the following: the Emprise 5000 storage blade just makes storage controllers better.  We make one and we’ve seen it first-hand.  We saw a significant jump in performance once we moved from the typical drive bays and drives that everyone else uses with the ISE.  Not to mention, with its native switch fabric architecture, it allowed us to scale our Emprise 7000 storage controllers to 1PB of capacity.  What’s really cool (open mind for me) is we’ve improved performance and reliability for a lot of storage controllers like DataCore, FalconStor, IBM-SVC and HDS USP-V, not to mention significant boosts as well for applications and OS’s. 

Feel free to close your mind now 🙂

@StorageTexan

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10,000 Exchange Users in 3U of space

 

This is a pretty cool video done by the Technical Marketing team at Xiotech.  10,000 Exchange users in 3U of space!!   No fancy/expensive SSD needed for this !!

In summary:

250 VDI instances or

10,000 Exchange Users or

750 DVD Quality Video’s or

25,000 MP3’s

In 3U of space.  Now that’s WICKED FAST !!!

 As they say in Minny – “that’s not to shabby !!”

By the way, if by chance 10,000 is just not enough users for you.  Don’t worry, add a second ISE and DOUBLE IT TO 20,000.  Need 30,000, then add a THIRD ISE.  100,000 users in 10 ISE or 30U of RackSpace.  Sniff Sniff….I love it !!!!!!!!!!!!

By the way – Check out what others are doing:

Pillar Data = 8,500 Exchange Users with 24GB of Cache !!!  I should say, our ISE comes with 1GB.  It’s not the size that counts, it’s HOW YOU USE IT !! 🙂

One Pillar Axiom 600 with one FC Slammer
24GB of cache <—-  WOW !!!!!
4 SSD Bricks for databases. Each with:
Two dedicated RAID controllers
13 50GB SSDs <— I’m going to guess that these aren’t very cheap.
2 SATA bricks for Logs. Each with:
13 500GB 7,200 RPM SATA disk drives

Hitachi AMS 2300 = 10,800 users – 400+ Pages PLUS !!! <– I have to say it again, WOW 400+ pages on this bad boy !!!

240 300GB 15K RPM SAS disks, <— Ahh ya  – TONZ of spindles !!!  We had 20(ea) 3.5″ Drives to do our testing. 
16GB of cache and
8(ea) 4Gb/s Fibre Channel paths was used for these tests.
Testing used 8 Sun Fire 4600 M2 servers with 32GB of RAM,
four dual-core AMD Opteron CPUs,
8(ea) Emulex 4Gbit/s Fibre Channel adapters and
Windows Server 2003 R2 Enterprise x64 with Service Pack 2.

Why running a hotel like you run your storage array could put you out of business.

<this post was updated on April 2, 2010>

Recently I wrote about why “Cost per raw TB” wasn’t a very good metric for comparing storage arrays.  In fact, my good friend Roger Kelley over at StorageWonk.com wrote a nice blog specifically “Comparing Storage Arrays “apples to apples” .  We don’t say this as a means to simply ignore some of the features and functions that some of the other vendors offer.  It’s just our helpful reminder that there is no “free storage lunch”.

So let me take you on a different type of journey around “cost per raw TB” and “cost per useable TB” and apply it to something outside of technology.  Hopefully this will make sense!!

Let’s assume you are in the market for a 100 room hotel.  You entertain all sorts of realtors that tell you why their hotel is better than the others. You’ve decided that you want to spend about $100,000 for 100 room hotel which averages about $1000 per room.   So, at a high level all the hotels offer that same cost per room.  Let’s call this “Cost per raw occupancy”.  It’s the easy way to figure out costs and it looks fair. 

You narrow down your list of hotels to three choices.  We’ll call them hotel C, hotel N and hotel X.   Hotel C and N have the same architecture, same basic building design, essentially they look the same other than names and colors of the buildings.  Hotel X is unique in the fact that it’s brand new and created by a group that has been building hotel rooms for 30+ years with each hotel getting better and better.  They are so confident in their building that it comes with 5 years of free building maintenance.   

So, you ask the vendors to give you their “best practice, not to exceed hotel occupancy rate”.  Hotel C tells you they have some overhead associated with some of their special features so their number is about 60 rooms that could be rented out at any given time.  The reservation system will let you book an unlimited amount of rooms, but once you get over 60 things just stop working well and guests complain.  Hotel N says they can do about 70 rooms before they have issues.  Hotel X says they have tested at 96 room’s occupancy without any issues at all.  

So, while at a high level hotel’s C, N and X were $1000 a room, after further review hotel C is about $1600 a room, hotel N is $1400 a room and hotel X is $1041 a room.  Big difference!!  Let’s assume each of these vendors could “right size” their hotel to meet your 100 room request but the room cost will stay the same.  So, hotel C would now cost you $160,000, hotel N is $140,000 and hotel X is $104,000.  So that my friend is what I like to call “Cost per useable occupancy” !!

Another way to do this is to have hotel C and N right size down to your budget number based on “cost per useable occupancy”.  If the $100,000 is the most important and you understand that you will only get to rent out 60 or 70 rooms from the other hotels, then you could save money with Hotel X by just purchasing 60 rooms in hotel X.  That would bring Hotel X’s costs down to $60,000 or a nice savings of $40,000!!  The net-net is you get 60 rooms across all 3 hotels but 1 offers you a HUGE savings. 

At the end of the day, as the owner of that hotel you want as many rooms rented out as possible.  The last thing you want to see happen is your 100 room hotel only capable of 60% or 70% occupancy. 

So, if you are in the market for a 100 room hotel, or a Storage Array, you might want to spend a little more time trying to figure out what their best practice occupancy rate is !!  It’ll save you money and heartburn in the end.  

I’ll leave you with this – based on the array you have today, what do you think your occupancy rating would be for your 100 room hotel?  Feel free to leave the vendor name out (or not) 🙂

@StorageTexan

How to build resilient, scalable storage clouds and turn your IT department into a profit center

How to build resilient, scalable storage clouds and turn your IT department into a profit center!!

If you’ve been living under a rock for the last year the topic of Cloud based computing might be new to you.  Don’t worry about it at this point, there are CLEARLY more questions than answers on the subject.  I get asked at just about every meeting what my interpretation of “cloud” is.  I will normally describe it as an elastic, utility based environment that when properly architected, can grow and shrink as resources are provisioned and de-provisioned.  It’s a move away from “silo based” infrastructure and into a more flexible and scalable, utility based solution.  From a 30,000 foot view, I think that’s probably the best way to describe it.  Then the conversation usually rolls to “so, how do you compare your solution to others” relative to cloud. Here is what I normally talk about.

First and foremost we have sold solutions that are constructed just like everyone else’s.  Our Magnitude 3D 4000 product line is built with pretty much the exact same pieces and parts as does Compellent, NetApp FAS, EMC Clariion and HP EVA etc.  Intel-based controller motherboards, Qlogic HBAs, Xyratex or other SBOD drive bays connected via arbitrated loops.  Like I’ve said in prior posts, just line each of these up, remove the “branding” and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.  They all use the same commodity parts.  Why is this important?  Because none of those solutions would work well in a “Cloud” based architecture.  Why?  Because of all the reasons I’ve pointed out in my “Performance Starved Application” post, as well as my “Cost per TB” post.  THEY DON’T SCALE WELL and they have horrible utilization rates.  If you really want to build a storage cloud you have to zero in on what are the most important aspects of it, or what I like to refer to as “The Fundamentals”.

 First you MUST start with a SOLID foundation.  That foundation must not require a lot of “care and feeding” and it must be self healing.   With traditional storage arrays, you could end up with 100, 200 or even 1000 spinning disks.  Do you really want to spend the time (or the HUGE maintenance dollars) swapping out, and dealing with bad disks?  Look don’t get me wrong, I get more than a few eye rolls when I bring this up.  At the end of the day, if you’ve never had to restore data because of a failed drive, or any other issue related to failed disks then this is probably not something high on your list of worries.  For that reason, I’ll simply say why not go with a solution that guarantees that you won’t have to touch the disks for 5 years and backs it up with FREE HARDWARE MAINTENANCE (24/7/365/4hr)!!  Talk about putting your money where your mouth is.  From a financial point of view, who cares if you’ve never had to mess with a failed drive, it’s freaking FREE HARDWARE MAINTENANCE for 5 years!!

Secondly, it MUST have industry leading performance.  Not just “bench-marketing” type performance, I mean real audited, independent, third party, validated performance numbers.  The benchmarks from the Storage Performance Council are a great example of a third party solution.  You can’t just slap SSD into an array and say “I have the fastest thing in the world”. Here is a great example; if you are looking at designing a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure then performance should be at the top of your design criteria (boot storms).  Go check out my blog topic on the subject.  It’s called “VDI and why performance matters”

Finally, you need the glue that holds all of this together from a management and a reporting point of view.  WebServices is that glue. It’s the ubiquitous “open standard” tool on which many, many application solutions have been built on. We are the only company who builds its storage management and reporting on Web Services, and have a complete WSDL to prove it.   No other company epitomizes the value of WebService than Microsoft.  Just go to Google “SANMAN XIOTECH” and you’ll see that the folks out in Redmond have developed their own user interface to our solution (our WSDL) to enable automated storage provisioning.  HOW AWESOME IS THAT!!  Not to mention, WebServices also gives you the ability to do things like develop “chargeback” options which turns the information technology department into a profit center.  We have a GREAT customer reference in Florida that has done this very thing.  They’ve turned their IT department into a profit center and have used those funds to refresh just about everything in their datacenter.

So those are the fundamentals.  In my opinion, those are the top 3 things that you need to address before you move any further into the design phase.  Once your foundation is set, then you can zero in on some of the value added attributes you would like to be able to offer as a service in the cloud. Things like CDP, CAS, De-Duplication, Replication, NAS etc.

@StorageTexan <– Follow Me on Twitter !!!