FUD it!

In the last couple of weeks something stood out to me when it comes to the world of storage and virtualisation and that is animosity. What struck me personally is how aggressive some storage vendors have responded to Virtual SAN, and Server Side Storage in general. I can understand it in a way as Virtual SAN plays in the same field and they probably feel threatened and it makes them anxious. In some cases I even see vendors responding to VSAN who do not even play in the same space, I guess they are in need of attention. Not sure this is the way to go about to be honest, if I were considering a hyper(visor)-converged solution I wouldn’t like being called lazy because of it. Then again, I was always taught that lazy administrators are the best administrators in the world as they plan accordingly and pro-actively take action. This allows them to lean back while everyone else is running around chasing problems, so maybe it was a compliment.

Personally I am perfectly fine with competition, and I don’t mind being challenged. Whether that includes FUD or just cold hard facts is even besides the point, although I prefer to play it fair. It is a free world, and if you feel you need to say something about someone else product you are free to do so. However you may want to think about the impression you leave behind. In a way it is insulting to our customers. With our customers including your customers.

For the majority of my professional career I have been a customer, and personally I can’t think of anything more insulting than a vendor spoon feeding why their competitor is not what you are looking for. It is insulting as it insinuates that you are not smart enough to do your own research and tear it down as you desire, not smart enough to know what you really need, not smart enough to make the decision by yourself.

Personally when this happened in the past, I would simply ask them to skip the mud slinging and go to the part where they explain their value add. And in many cases, I would end up just ignoring the whole pitch… cause if you feel it is more important to “educate” me on what someone else does over what you do… then they probably do something very well and I should be looking at them instead.

So lets respect our customers… let them be the lazy admin when they want, let them decide what is best for them… and not what is best for you.

PS: I love the products that our competitors are working on, and I have a lot of respect how they paved the way of the future.

Updating LSI firmware through the ESXi commandline

I received an email this week from one of my readers / followers on twitter who had gone through the effort of upgrading his LSI controller firmware. He shared the procedure with me as unfortunately it wasn’t well documented. I hope this will help others in the future, I know it will help me as I was about to look at the exact same for my VSAN environment, thanks for sharing this Tom!

— copy / paste from Tom’s document —

We do quite a bit of virtualization and storage validation and performance testing in the Taneja Group Labs (http://tanejagroup.com/). Recently, we were performing some tests with VMware’s VSAN and due to some performance issues we were having with the AHCI controllers on our servers we needed to revise our environment to add some LSI SAS 2308 controllers and attach our SSD and HDDs to the LSI card. However our new LSI SAS controllers didn’t come with the firmware mandated by the VSAN HCL (they had v14 and the HCL specifies v18) and didn’t recognize the attached drives.  So we set about updating LSI 2308 firmware. Updating the LSI firmware is a simple process and can be accomplished from an ESXi 5.5 U1 server but isn’t very well documented. After updating the firmware and rebooting the system the drives were recognized and could be used by VSAN. Below are the steps I took to update my LSI controllers from v14 to v18. [Read more…]

VSAN for ROBO?

I noticed this new SuperMicro VSAN Ready Node being published last week. The configuration is potentially a nice solution for ROBO deployments, primarily due to the cost of the system.

When I did the math it came in around $ 3800,-. This is the configuration:

  • SuperMicro SuperServer 1018D-73MTF
  • 1 x Intel E3-1270 V3 3.5GHz- Quadcore
  • 32GB Memory
  • 5 x 1TB 7200 RPM NL-SAS HDD
  • 1 x 200GB Intel S3700 SSD
  • LSI 2308 Disk controller
  • 4 x 1GbE NIC port

It is a nice configuration that will allow for roughly fifteen 1 vCPU Virtual Machines with 3GB of memory and 60GB disk capacity per host. Personally I would use a different CPU and some more memory probably as that gives you a bit more headroom, especially during maintenance. The cost from a software point of view is socket based so you can increase memory and change the type of CPU with relative low cost impact. The SuperMicro server listed however is limited to the E3 CPU family and to 32GB but there are alternatives out there. (For instance the Dell R320 or maybe even the R210 etc)

From a software point of view the cost of this configuration is limited to 3 x VSAN license and 3 x vSphere. As VSAN even works with Essentials Plus and Standard you could leverage that to keep the cost down, but keep in mind that you won’t have DRS if you drop down to Standard or lower. Still sounds like a nice ROBO package to me, especially when you have many sites this could be a great way to create a standardized packaged solution.

ESXi DCUI Shutdown vs vCenter Shutdown of a host

Today on the community forums someone mentioned he had shutdown his host and that he expected vSphere HA to restart his virtual machines. For whatever reason he got in a situation where all of his VMs were still running but he couldn’t do much anymore with them and as such he wanted to kill the host so that HA could safely restart the virtual machines. However when he shutdown his host nothing happened, the VMs remained powered off. Why did this happen?

I had seen this before in the past, but it never really sunk in until I saw the questions from this customer. I figured I would test it just to see what happened and if I could spot a difference in the vSphere HA logs. I powered on a VM on one of my hosts and moved off all other VMs. I then went to the DCUI of the host and gave a “shutdown” using F12. I tailed the FDM log on one of my hosts and spotted the following log message:

2014-04-04T11:41:54.882Z [688C2B70 info 'Invt' opID=SWI-24c018b] [VmStateChange::SavePowerChange] vm /vmfs/volumes/4ece24c4-3f1ca80e-9cd8-984be1047b14/New Virtual Machine/New Virtual Machine.vmx curPwrState=unknown curPowerOnCount=0 newPwrState=powered off clnPwrOff=true hostReporting=host-113

In the above scenario the virtual machine was not restarted even though the host was shutdown. I did the exact same exercise again, but only this time I did the shutdown using the vCenter Web Client. After I witnessed the VM being restarted I also noticed a difference in the FDM log:

2014-04-04T12:12:06.515Z [68040B70 info 'Invt' opID=SWI-1aad525b] [VmStateChange::SavePowerChange] vm /vmfs/volumes/4ece24c4-3f1ca80e-9cd8-984be1047b14/New Virtual Machine/New Virtual Machine.vmx curPwrState=unknown curPowerOnCount=0 newPwrState=powered on clnPwrOff=false hostReporting=host-113

The difference is the power-off state that is reported by vSphere HA. In the first scenario the virtual machine is marked as “clnPwrOff=true” which basically tells vSphere HA that an administrator has powered off the virtual machine, this is what happened when “shutdown” was initiated through the DCUI and hence no restart took place. (It seems that ESXi initiates a shutdown of all running virtual machines.) In the second scenario vSphere HA reported that the VM was not cleanly powered off (“clnPwrOff=false”), and as such it restarted the virtual machine as it assumed something bad had happened to it.

So what did we learn? If you, for whatever reason, want vSphere HA to restart your virtual machines which are currently running on a host that you want to shutdown, make sure that you use the vCenter Web Client instead of the DCUI!

Disclaimer: my tests were conducted using vSphere 5.5 Update 1. I believe that at some point in the past “shutdown” via the DCUI would also allow HA to restart the VMs. I am now investigating why this has changed and when. When I find out I will update this post.

Startup News Flash part 16

Number 16 of the Startup News Flash, here we go:

Nakivo just announced the beta program for 4.0 of their backup/replication solution. It adds some new features like: recovery of Exchange objects directly from compressed and deduplicated VM backups, Exchange logs truncation, and automated backup verification. If you are interested in testing it, make sure to sign up here. I haven’t tried it, but they seem to be a strong upcoming player in the backup and DR space for SMB.

SanDisk announced a new range of SATA SSDs called “cloudspeed”. They released 4 different models with various endurance levels and workload targets, of course ranging in sizes from 100GB up to 960GB depending on the endurance level selected. Endurance level ranges from 1 up to 10 full drive writes per day. (Just as an FYI, for VSAN we recommend 5 full drive writes per day as a minimum) Performance numbers range between 15k to 20k write IOps and 75 to 88K read IOps. More details can be found in the spec sheet here. What interest me most is the FlashGuard Technology that is included, interesting how SanDisk is capable of understanding wear patterns and workloads to a certain extend and place data in a specific way to prolong the life of your flash device.

CloudPhysics announced the availability of their Storage Analytics card. I gave it a try last week and was impressed. I was planning on doing a write up on their new offering but as various bloggers already covered it I felt there was no point in repeating what they said. I think it makes a lot more sense to just try it out, I am sure you will like it as it will show you valuable info like “performance” and the impact of “thin disks” vs “thick disks”. Sign up here for a 30day free trial!