Twelve Months for a Forklift? Check that, Forever Flash

Recently I was speaking with a potential customer and they were planning on taking 12 months to move from one end of life architecture to latest and greatest from their very big storage provider. Absolutely amazing that customers everywhere have been living with this for years now. Pure Storage introduced a very awesome solution to this issue. Built on the technical awesomeness that a purpose built for flash platform can provide. No legacy to protect so Pure is more than happy to change the way Storage business is done. More on this later.

First Never Move Your Data

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Since I am a geek I will start with real production upgrades to your array. Pure can upgrade with no downtime and no performance impact. This is true for software revisions AND hardware upgrades.

Imagine you have the N-1 generation controllers and you want to get all the speed and efficiency that comes with the latest and greatest. Usually you would have to wait to buy an all new array. Use some tool to mirror all the data (if you are lucky) and take a short (if you are super lucky) downtime to move over. Do this for every single host and it could take months. Storage vMotion made this super easy but remember there are still those pesky databases that the DBA never let you virtualize because they don’t want to risk it. One more thing, they can never ever go down. Except when you would rather be at your kids soccer game or something.

Pure Storage allows you to move from controller series older (but still awesome) to series new and shiny (and more awesome) with no downtime, performance still better than you ever had on any $1M boat anchor and get your weekends back.

Now Get the Refresh without the Refresh Quote

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Now, imagine getting those new controllers and their inherit boost in performance and efficiency every three years. Just keep your maintenance up to date. Now the conversation dives into OPEX vs CAPEX and resetting contracts and econ stuff I generally don’t cover. Head over to the Forever Flash landing page to dive deeper into what this means. Basically two options exist:

  • Free Every Three – Renew maintenance for 2 more years after year 3 and get the newest controllers.
  • Fresh Every Upgrade – Reset your maintenance every time you buy an upgrade (capacity or compute).

No Mas Forklift

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More #ForeverFlash Information
http://www.purestorage.com/blog/introducing-forever-flash-an-end-to-maintenance-extortion-and-forklift-upgrades/
http://www.purestorage.com/company/pure-storage-reinvents-the-enterprise-storage-business-model-with-forever-flash.html
http://www.purestorage.com/forever/

Say it with me, “FOREVER, FOR-EV-ERRRR.”

By the way, that customer came out of his seat with excitement when he heard about Pure NDU and Forever Flash. Awesome.

What happened while getting 100% Virtualized

I often think about how many people have stalled around getting to 100% virtual. I know you are thinking I need to find some fun things to do. You are probably right.

The first thing I thought when I deployed my very first virtual infrastructure project back in the day was, “Man, I want to see if I can virtualize EVERYTHING.” This is before I knew much about storage, cloud, and management. I may be naive but I think there is real potential out there to achieve this goal. There is low hanging fruit still out there depending how you deploy your infrastructure. Having attended VMware Partner Exchange (PEX) I know how the ecosystem is built around your journey to virtualization. The biggest slide to resellers and other partners is the one VMware shows off that says, “Every $1 a customer spends on VMware they buy $9-11 in infrastructure.” Which I fully believe is the reason many customers never saw the FULL cost savings they could have when going virtual.

Roadblocks

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I believe we all ran into a couple of different kinds of roadblocks on our path. First were organizational. Line of business owners, groups within IT and other political entities made traveling the road very difficult. Certain groups didn’t want to share. Others started to think VM’s were free and went crazy with requests. Finally the very important people who own the very important application didn’t want to be virtual because somehow virtualization was a downgrade from dedicated hardware.

Then if we were able to dodge the roadside problems organizationally, there were technical problems. Remember that $11 of drag? The big vendors made an art of refreshing and updating you with new technology. I know, I helped do it. So performance was a problem? Probably buy more disk or servers. Then every 3-5 years they were back, with something new to fix what the previous generation did not deliver on. This “spinning drag” in the case of storage slowed you from getting to your goal. 100%.

Disillusionment

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At some point you lose the drive to be 100% virtual. The ideal has been beaten out of you. Well at least my vendor takes me for steak dinner and I get to go to VMworld and pretend I am a big shot every year. This is where you settle. Resign yourself to the fact that everything is so complicated and hard it will never get done. The big vendors make a huge living on keeping you there. Changing the name from VI, to Private Cloud, Hybrid super happy land or whatever some marketing guys that have never opened the vCenter client think of next.

Distractions

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So trying to rebuild Amazon in your data center? Probably lots of other things to fix first. Using more complicated abstraction layers may help in the long run to building a cloud. I see more customers continue to refresh wasteful infrastructure with new infrastructure while they are still trying to figure this out. What we need is a quick an easy win. Make things better and save money right away. Then maybe we can keep working on building the utopian cloud.

The low hanging fruit

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When we first started to virtualize we looked for the easy wins. To get you rolling again down the path we need to identify the lowest hanging fruit in the data center. We found all the web servers running at 1% CPU and 300MB of Ram (if that) and virtualized those so quick the app owner didn’t even know it happened. Just like a room of 1000 servers all running at 2% CPU usage there are giant tracks of heat generating spinning waste covering the data center. You had to get so many of them and stripe so wide just to make performance serviceable. You wasted weeks of your life in training classes to learn how to tweak and tune these boat anchors because it was always YOUR fault it didn’t do what the vendor said it would.

Take that legacy disk technology and consolidate to a system made to make sure it is not the roadblock on the way to being 100% virtual. I remember taking pictures of the stacks of servers getting picked up by the recycling people and now is the time to send off tons of refrigerator sized boxes of spinning dead weight. I am not in marketing so I don’t want to sound like a sales pitch. I am seeing customers realize their goal of virtualization with simple and affordable flash storage. No more data migrations or End of Life forklift upgrades. No more having to decide if the maintenance is so high I should just buy a new box. Just storage that performs well all the time and is fine running virtual Oracle and VDI on the same box.

How we do it

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How is Pure Storage able to replace disk with Flash (SSD)? Mainly, we created a system from the ground up just for Flash. We created a company that believes the old way of doing business needs to disappear. Customers say, “You actually do what you said, and more.” (Biggest reason I am here). Also, do it all at the price of traditional 15k disk. Not there on SATA, yet.

  1. Make it ultra simple. No more tweaking, moving, migrating or refreshing. If you can give a volume a name and a size you can manage Pure Storage.
  2. Make it efficient. No more wasted space due to having to short stroke drives, no more wasted space because you created a RAID 10 pool and now have nowhere to move things so you can destroy and recreate it.
  3. Make it Available. Support that is awesome because things do happen. Most likely though most of your downtime is planned when it comes to migrating or upgrading code. Pure Storage will allow zero performance hit and zero outage to reboot a controller to upgrade the firmware/code (whatever you want to call it). Pretty nice for an environment that needs ultimate it uptime.
  4. Make sure it alway performs. Imagine going to the DBA’s and saying, “everything is under 1ms latency, How about you stop blaming storage and double check your SQL code?” Now that is something as an administrator I wanted to say for a long long long time.

Once you remove complicated storage from the list of things preventing you from thing preventing 100% virtual you can focus on getting the applications working right, the automation to make life easier and maybe make it to your kid’s soccer games on Saturday.

What do we really need? Cloud? or Change?

Going through the VCAP-DCD material and I had a question. Since it comes with the assumption that everyone is working toward building a private cloud. So I started asking, do I need to build a “cloud” and why? Now don’t think I have completely gone bonkers. I still think the benefits of cloud could help many IT departments. I think more than how do I build a cloud, the question should be what do we need to change to provide better service to the business.

We are infrastructure people

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As VMware/Storage/Networking professionals we tend to think about what equipment we need to do this our that. Or how if I could just get 40Gb Ethernet problems XYZ would go away. Often we have to build it on top of a legacy. If we do ever get a green field opportunity it usually needs to be done so quickly we never quite to investigate all the technology we wish we could. There is stuff like All Flash, Hyper-converged things, accelerator appliances, software defined everything all aiming at replacing legacy Compute/Network/Storage.

My last post was about knowing the applications and this is not a repeat of that, but it is very important to for us to look at how our infrastructure choices will impact the business. Beyond business metrics of my FlashArray allows business unit X to do so many more transactions in a day which means more money for the business. What else do the internal customers require from the blinking lights in the loud room with really cold AC.

Ask better questions

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  • How does faster storage change the application?
  • What will change if we automate networking?
  • Could workers be more productive if the User experience was better?
  • What are things we do just because we always do them that way?
  • What legacy server, storage and network thought processes can we turn upside down?

This type of foundation enables you to focus on the important things like getting better at Halo. Just kidding. My goal is one day Infrastructure Administrators will get to sleep well at night, their kids will know their names and weekends will once again be for fun things and not Storage, Server or Network cutovers. That is the value of Private Cloud, not that I can now let internal customers self-service provision a VM or application (which is still cool). We gain confidence that our infrastructure is manageable. We have time to work on automating the boring repetitive stuff. You get your life back. Awesome.

Presidio and Pure Storage at Sweetwater Brewery – January 16th 5:30

If you like to try out some awesome beer and learn about how Flash can change your data center. Meet Presidio and Pure Storage at the Sweetwater Brewery in Atlanta on January 16th at 5:30.

Learn how change your Database, Virtual and VDI environments. No longer worry about performance and get amazing high availability.

Join us! I am excited to meet you if you are in the Atlanta area.

Register here:

No Spindles Bro

I was assisting one of my local team members the other day with sizing a VM for Microsoft SQL. I usually always fall back to this guide from VMware. So I started out with the basic seperation of Data and Logs and TempDB.

Make it look like this:

VM Disk Layout

LSI SCSI Adapter
C: – Windows

Paravirtual SCSI Adapter
D: – Logs
E: – Data
F: – TempDB

Which is pretty standard. Then someone said, “Why do we need to do that?” I thought for a second or five. Why DO we need to do that? I knew the answer in the old school. Certain raid types were awesomer at the types of data written by the different parts of the SQL Database. We are in a total post-spindle count world. No Spindles Bro! So what are some reasons to still do it this way for an All Flash Array?

1. Disk Queues
I think of these like torpedo tubes. The more tubes the less people are waiting in line to load torpedoes. You can fire more, so to speak. Just make sure the array on the other end is able to keep up. Having 30 queues all going to one 2 Gbps Fiber Channel port would be no good. See number 3 for paths.

2.  Logical Separation and OCD compliance (if using RDMs)
Don’t argue with the DBA. Just do it. If something horrifically bad happens the logs and data will be in different logical containers. So maybe that bad thing happens to one or the other, not both. I am not a proponent of RDM’s. SO much more to manage. If you can’t win or don’t want to fight that fight at least with RDM’s you will be able to label the LUN on the array “SQLSERVER10 Logs D” so you know the LUN matches to something in Windows. This also makes writing snapshot scripts much easier.

3. Paths
Each Datastore or RDM has its own paths, if you are using Round Robin (recommended for Pure Flash Array) more IO on more paths equals better usage of the iSCSI or FC interconnects. If you put it all on one LUN, you only get those queues (see #1) and those paths. Remember do what you can to limit waiting.
Am I going down the right path? How does this make it easier? Are there other reasons to separate the logs and data for a database other than making sure the Raid 10 flux capacitor is set correctly for 8k sequential writes? I don’t want to worry about that anymore. Pretty sure plenty other VM Admins and DBA’s don’t either.

For me a good exercise in questioning why I did things one way and if I should still do them this way now.

Thin Disk on vSphere My First Glance

So today I got around to putting ESXi 4 on my spare box at home. I first deployed a new virtual server and decided to use the thin provisioning built into the new version. After getting everything all setup. I was suprised to still see this.

I was like DANG! that is some awesome thin provisioning. I was more thinking something had to be wrong. A 42 GB drive with Windows 2008 only using 2.28KB that is sweet! I thought for sure since I had not seen this screen on the information of the VM it had already refreshed. It was too good to be true though I clicked the Refresh Storage and it ended up like this. Which made alot more sense for a fresh and patched Windows install. So far this leads to my first question, why the manual refresh? Should this refresh automatically when the screen redraws?