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how “capitalism” forces virtualization downstream

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Over the last decade we have systematically added a layer of indirection at every interface in the stack. These days we call this virtualization!

On a NetApp Filer we had

> raid disk group > volume

The problem was you could not expand/shrink Raid Groups on the fly, you couldn’t move data easily between different Raid Groups. We get a layer of indirection or virtualization

> raid disk group > aggregate > flex volume>

Since an aggregate was logical instead of physical, it could be expanded or shrunk without changing the volume, you could move data around.

On a USB Disk

If we look inside the disk itself, especially usb flash devices we went from

cylinder, heads, sector > logical table > device abstraction

Again this allowed the rotation of different logical sectors to different physical cells, to ensure a single cell was not rewritten more times than its lifetime.

In a SAN

we put a switch between the Raid Groups and the computer. The switch puts a layer of indirection between the blocks and the computer

You knew all that :-). So what does it have to do with capitalism. My simplistic definition of capitalism is that the system will remove all inefficiencies in a chain and who ever will remove them stands to benefit economically. Or said another way: money finds its way into the right pockets!

So look at the stack today:

chips > motherboard, network, storage, bios > hypervisor > OS > Security, Backup etc > Business, Productivity Apps

Every layer presents an interface to the layer above. Each layer is also owned by different companies in the eco-system. Each of those companies has pressure to maximize its revenue. Tasked with this difficult challenge, you look at the layer above and see what is selling and can you add it to your layer. Happens naturally over time: intel added virtulization support, phoenix bios is adding the hypervisor, operating systems are trying to add backup and security …. The cycle goes on ….

Virtualization will be “innovated” always in a higher layer of the stack and commoditized by the lower layers.

The higher layer in the stack finds a lot of new functionality and benefit by making interface to a lower layer “logical”. They take this to market, till at some point the lower layer realizes that this is their API, they should move virtualization into their layer. The pressure to do this is extreme and the time frame to monetize this really small:

  • Imagine the tussle between VMW and the storage vendors. VMW introduces logical disks with cloning, but storage vendors want to offer logical luns and volumes and disk files, as this moves the cloning functionality from the hypervisor to the storage.
  • Imagine: Western Digital or Seagate could create multiple disks (vhd/vmdk files) on a single physical disk and then offer the capabilities to grow, shrink, move data between them. Even add networking to the disk controller, then different disks can connect to each other. They can do that if the processing power, memory reach a price point that it can be embedded directly into the component or lower layer. Which is what effectively happened to computing.
  • VMW introduces logical network switch, Cisco jumps in with nexus-V

For a consumer this is a good thing, but money and value are shifting down stack across different companies, which have to co-exist in the eco-system (cisco, intel, emc, vmw), yet guard their innovation from becoming commoditized.

Written by RS

December 13, 2009 at 8:36 am

EMC FAST Fully Automated Storage Tiering for storage savings

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Chuck Hollis, VP Global Marketing, CTO, EMC, describes FAST over 3 blog posts. The technology has been in Beta usage by several customers in 2009.

The premise

When you analyze the vast majority of application I/O profiles, you’ll realize that a small amount of data is responsible for the majority of I/Os; almost all of it is infrequently accessed. 

The principle

Watch how the data is being accessed, and dynamically cache the most popular/ frequently accessed data on flash drives, usually the small amount, and the vast majority of infrequently accessed data on big, slow SATA drives.

The storage savings solution

FAST Place  the right information on the right media based on frequency of access
Thin This (virtual) provisioning allocate physical storage when it is actually being used, rather than when it is provisioned.
Small Compression, single-instancing and data deduplication technologies eliminate information redundancies.
Green A significant amount of enterprise information is used *very* infrequently.  So infrequently, in fact, that the disk drives can be spun down, or at the least  be made semi-idle. 
Gone Policy-based lifecycle management – Archiving and Deletion, Federation to the cloud through private and public cloud integration.
The information can get shopped to a specialized service provider as an option

 

… and life goes on!

One thing hasn’t changed, though. The information beast continues to grow

Written by paule1s

December 11, 2009 at 9:29 am

EMC Celerra NAS SAN Deduplication

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The EMC Celerra Deduplication is substantially different in concept, implementation and its benefits from the block-level deduplication offered by NetApp, Data Domain and others in their products. To understand the differences, let us first look at the comparison of data reduction technologies:

Data reduction technologies

Technology Typical Space Savings Resource footprint
File-level deduplication 10% Low
Fixed block deduplication   20% High
Variable-block deduplication   28% High
Compression 50% Medium

 

  • File-level deduplication provides relatively modest space savings.
  • Fixed-block deduplication provides better space savings, but consumes more CPU to calculate hashes for each block of data, and more memory to hold the indices used to determine if a given hash has been seen before.
  • Variable-block deduplication provides slightly better space savings; but the difference is not significant when applied to file system data. it is most effective when applied to data sets that contain repeated but block-misaligned data, such as backup data in backup-to-disk or virtual tape library (VTL) environments.
  • Compression is different from file-level or block-level deduplication in the granularity at which it applies. It is described as infinitely variable, bit-level, intra-object deduplication.  It offers the greatest space savings of all the techniques listed for typical NAS data, and is relatively modest in terms of its resource footprint. It is relatively CPU-intensive but requires very little memory.

The storage space savings realized by  compression is far greater than those offered by the other techniques and its resource requirements are quite modest by comparison. However, compression has a disadvantage in that there is a potential performance “penalty” associated with   decompressing the data when it is read or modified. This decompression “penalty” can work both ways. Reading a compressed file can often be quicker than reading a non-compressed file. The reduction in the size of data that you must retrieve from the disk more than offsets the additional processing required to decompress the data. 

Celerra Data Deduplication

Celerra Data Deduplication combines file-level deduplication and compression to provide maximum space savings for file system data based on

  • Frequency of file access: files that are not “new” (creation time older than a configuration parameter), or  not “hot”, i.e., in active use (access time or modification time older than a configuration parameter)
  • File size: It avoids compressing files either if the files are small and the anticipated space savings are minimal, or  if the file is large and its decompression could degrade performance and impact file  access service levels.

Deduplication is enabled at the file system level and is transparent to access protocols. Mark Twomey‘s post provides an excellent overview of Celerra Data Deduplication.

The space reduction process

Celerra Data Deduplication has a flexible policy engine that specifies data for exclusion from processing and decides whether to deduplicate specific files based on  their age. When enabled on a file system, Celerra Data Deduplication periodically scans the file system for files that match the policy criteria and then compresses them. The compressed file data is hashed to  determine if the file has been identified before. If the compressed file data has not been identified before, it is copied into a hidden portion of the file system. The space that the file data occupied in the user portion of the file system is freed and the file’s internal metadata is updated to reference an existing copy of the data. If the data associated with the file has been identified before, the space it occupies is freed and the internal file metadata is updated. Note that Celerra detects non-compressible files and stores them in their original form. However, these files can still benefit from file-level deduplication.

Celerra Data Deduplication employs SHA-1 (Secure Hash Algorithm) for its file-level deduplication. SHA1 can take a stream of data less than 2 bits in length and produce a 160-bit hash, which is designed to be unique to the original data stream. The likelihood of different files hashing the same value is so substantially low that a collision rate has been reported after 2^69  hash operations. Unlike in compression, you can disable file-level deduplication in Celerra Data Deduplication.

Designed to minimize client impact

Celerra Data Deduplication processes the bulk of the data in a file system without affecting the production workload. All deduplication processing is performed as a background asynchronous operation that acts on file data after it is written into the file system. This avoids latency in the client data path, because access to production data is sensitive to latency. By policy, deduplication is performed only for those files that are not in active use. This avoids introducing any performance penalty on the data that clients and users are using to run their business.

Written by paule1s

December 7, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Who is the virtualization storage administrator?

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Interesting post on The changing role of the IT storage pro by John Webster who interviewed the CIO of an unnamed storage vendor

The CIO observed that the consolidation of IT infrastructure driven by server virtualization projects and a future rollout of virtual desktops is forcing a convergence of narrowly focused IT administrative groups. This convergence will cause IT administrators to develop competency in systems and services delivery in the future, rather than remain silo’ed experts in servers, networks, and storage.

Virtualization has brought about the convergence of systems and networks; the convergence of Fibre Channel and Ethernet within the data center changes the nature of the relationships between enterprise IT operational groups as well as the traditional roles of server, networking, and storage groups.

As the virtual operating systems (VMware, MS Hyper-V, etc.) progress, we will see an increased tendency to offer administrators the option of doing both storage and data management at the server rather than the storage level. Backups and data migrations can be done by a VMware administrator for example. Storage capacity can be managed from the virtualized OS management console.

John’s observations tie-in with the lessons from the two preceding posts where we explored Netapp’s virtualization storage features and thin provisioned thin virtual disks, where we learnt that the administrators have to understand not just the file system nuances but also the storage features to use storage for virtualization effectively.

Written by paule1s

December 3, 2009 at 11:03 pm

Thin Provisioning – when to use, benefits and challenges

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There are excellent posts by two prominent authors that provide a lot of insight into the nuances of using thick or thin provisioning for VM’s: Thin Provisioning Part 1 – The Basics and Thin Provisioning Part 2 – Going Beyond by Vaughn Stewart of NetApp and Thin on Thin – where should you do Thin Provisioning by Chad Sakac of EMC.

Synopsis:
Escalating storage costs are stalling the deployment of virtualized data centers and it is becoming increasingly important for customers to leverage storage technology developed by VMware and its storage partners, Netapp and EMC for reducing storage costs.

vmdk formats:

vmdk formats

VMFS blocks
pre-allocated

Disk array block
pre-allocated

Disk array blocks
pre-allocated

Thin

No

No

No

Thick (Non-zeroed)

Yes

No

No

Eager zeroed thick

Yes

Yes

Yes

 

Recommendations:
Use Thin on Thin (Thin vmdk’s and Thin Provisioning on the storage array) for the best storage utilization because they allocate storage capacity from the datastore and storage array only on demand.

Stewart:

The Goal of Thin Provisioning is Datastore Oversubscription  The challenge is that datastore, and all of its components (VMFS, LUNs, etc…) are static in terms of storage capacity. While the capacity of a datastore can be increased on the fly, this process is not automated or policy driven. Should an oversubscribed datastore encounter an out of space condition, all of the running VMs will become unavailable to the end user. In these scenarios the VMs don’t ‘crash’ the ‘pause’; however, applications running inside of VMs may fail if the out of space condition isn’t addressed in a relatively short period of time. For example Oracle databases will remain active for 180 seconds, after that time has elapsed the database will fail.

Sakac:

If you DO use Thin on Thin, use VMware or 3rd party usage reports in conjunction with array-level reports, and set thresholds with notification and automated action on both the VMware layer (and the array level (if you array supports that). Why? Thin provisioning needs to carefully manage for “out of space” conditions, since you are oversubscribing an asset which has no backdoor (unlike how VMware oversubscribes guest memory which can use VM swap if needed). When you use Thin on Thin – this can be very efficient, but can “accelerate” the transition to oversubscription.

Sakac:

The eagerzeroedthick virtual disk format is required for VMware Fault Tolerant VMs on VMFS (if they are thin, conversion occurs automatically as the VMware Fault Tolerant feature is enabled). It continues to also be mandatory for Microsoft clusters (refer to KB article) and recommended in the highest I/O workload Virtual Machines, where the slight latency and additional I/O created by the “zeroing” that occurs as part and parcel of virtual machine I/O to new blocks is unacceptable.

vmdk growth:

Stewart:

VMDK grew beyond the capacity of the data which it is storing. The reason for this phenomenon is deleted data is stored in the GOS file system. When data is deleted the actual process merely removes the content from the active file system table and marks the blocks as available to be overwritten. The data still resides in the file system and thus in the virtual disk. This is why you can purchase undelete tools like WinUndelete.

Don’t run defrag within a thin provisioned VM

Stewart:

the defragmentation process results in the rewriting all of the data within a VMDK. This operation can cause a considerable expansion in the size of the virtual disk, costing you your storage savings.

How to recover storage

Stewart:

First is to zero out the ‘free’ blocks within in the GOS file system. This can be accomplished by using the ‘shrink disk’ feature within VMTools or with tools like sdelete from Microsoft. The second half, or phase in this process, is to use Storage VMotion to migrate the VMDK to a new datastore.

The second half, or phase in this process, is to use Storage VMotion to migrate the VMDK to a new datastore. You should note that this process is manual; however, Mike Laverick has posted the following guide which includes how to automate some of the components in this process. Duncan Epping has also covered automating parts of this process.

Virtual Humor (or is it virtual insanity?)

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Dr Pinto advised fatvm to check out various exercise options and guess what the Google searches revealed:

Is it funny that this is real, or is this virtual insanity? 😉

EMC and Microsoft sign three year alliance on virtualization

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The headline at virtualization.info reads “Has Hell Frozen Over?” Sure feels like it, or does it?

On the face of it, this alliance is consistent with EMC seeking growth in an emerging tier of the virtualization market and Microsoft requiring a high-end storage partner. Ultimately, it is all about meeting the customer’s needs!

The situation for Microsoft today is no different from the one with UNIX vendors, notably Sun, in the mid to late 80’s when it wanted to gain a foothold in the datacenter/server market. During the early to mid 90’s, it was fighting for SQL Server market share against Oracle who was entrenched as the production database for mid to large Enterprises. Today, VMWare is the incumbent with several reference ESX implementations in production at mid to large Enterprises and Windows Server 2008 with Hyper-V is the new kid on the block.

I am actually more intrigued by Cisco’s entry into the x86 server market and the relationships it may be forging with EMC and VMWare.

Written by paule1s

February 4, 2009 at 6:57 pm