Simplifying IT support and deployments with converged systems

Simplifying IT support and deployments with converged systems

Simplifying IT support and deployments with converged systems

All IT solutions will experience problems at some point in their life.  Supporting IT solutions is difficult, time-consuming and costly, but also a fact of life – a fact as a systems administrator I am thankful for.  It means, I have a job.  Problem solving skills are absolutely necessary, but all administrators need the expert help of vendors’ support departments when our knowledge runs into something we just don’t know.

Unfortunately, when multiple vendors’ products are coupled together as a solution, support can become nasty as vendors point back and forth at each other while trying to get to a resolution.  The more complex the solution, for instance a SAN, the more difficult to troubleshoot through the multiple layers of software, firmware and hardware, even multiple vendors of the solution.  And, I believe, the hassle has made customers seek a better way.

Finding a better way

In my employer’s case, they chose to standardize with a single vendor long before I joined the staff.   We have stuck with servers and storage hardware from the single vendor, including their certified part upgrades (no third party upgrade components).  We chose to do this to simplify our support and avoid finger-pointing.

The vendor we standardized with was HP, and the reason was that they offered an entire line of products under their umbrella to meet our needs.  By the time I joined the staff in 2006, we were already HP heavy, except where a specific Unix was required by another vendor.   What we wanted as a customer was the quickest and easiest route  to a resolution, with the least resistance and finger-pointing, when a problem came up.  Even beyond the hardware solutions, HP has handled our software support for Microsoft, RedHat and VMware for many years.  We wanted this because the software companies could not finger point at the hardware or vice versa – HP was doing it all.  Sure, it might happen between teams in HP occasionally, but we could easily escalate our case and have a manager bring this to a resolution.  It has worked well for our needs.

Having all this expertise in-house is an advantage that HP is now branding under the name “Converged Systems” or the “Instant-On Enterprise”.  Earlier this week, I attended a webinar for the Blogger Reality Contest where HP unpacked more of its converged solutions strategies.  HP is bringing together all of the pieces spread throughout its portfolio into specialized solutions.  Its not a new concept, in my opinion, but one that some customers have been already using for years on their own.  HP has improved on this by tweaking configurations  to squeeze performance out of configurations and adding software to ease installation and management of the solutions.

Building Upwards – HP VirtualSystem

HP introduced VirtualSystem in June as a modular, easy and quick way to implement virtualization in customer datacenters.  The VirtualSystem solution is a full package of storage and compute resources plus the software tools to quickly and easily deploy a virtual stack in an environment.

For HP VirtualSystem, the key benefits are:

  • Quick built out timeframe
  • Automation through Insight Control suite components
  • Monitoring through the Insight Dynamics suite components
  • Improved virtual machine performance, cost and scale due to purpose built hardware
  • Ability to upgrade to CloudSystem for fully automated IT
  • Single point of contact for support – HP for compute, storage and software, including hypervisor

HP VirtualSystem comes in 3 levels (shown below).  The VS1 is built out using rack-mount, Proliant hardware for both the server hosts and for the storage and features a P4000 series iSCSI storage array.  It is rated to handle up to 750 virtual machines and can scale up to 8 physical hosts.  The VS2 is built out using HP BladeSystem with a P4800 iSCSI storage array (covered in depth last week).  It is rated for up to 2500 virtual machines and can scale up to 24 physical hosts.  The third offering is the VS3 which is built on HP BladeSystem and the 3PAR Utility Storage platform to provide ultimate scale and performance.  VS3 introduces fiber channel storage capability and scales up to 6000 virtual machines with up to 64 hosts.

In terms of choice, VirtualSystem supports all three major hypervisors from VMware, Microsoft and Citrix.  Using my company as an example again, the multi-hypervisor datacenter already exists.  We are utilizing VMware vSphere heavily and then some Citrix XenServer.  When it came to planning upgrades for our aging MetaFrame/XenApp farm, we looked at virtualization.  As we evaluated XenServer, we found it to be “good enough” for running Citrix XenApp on top of it.  XenApp has its own failover and redundancy built into the application layer, so many of the VMware advanced features did not matter.

For VirtualSystem, HP is also handling all support for both the hardware and software for these solutions.  Having experience with HP’s software support teams, I can report that they do a good job at it.  I would not say they are always perfect, but in general, they have solved our issues and advised us well, so in reality this is a big benefit.  For those who want not on break/fix support, HP offers Proactive 24 Services for an additional level of preventative support.

Building to the cloud – HP CloudSystem

As I learned at HP Discover, just because you have a large virtualization pool in your datacenter does not mean you have a private “cloud.”  The critical difference between a virtual infrastructure and a cloud is orchestration and automation.  Built on top of HP VirtualSystem, HP CloudSystem is a solution that offers all of the necessary orchestration, service catalog and workflows to turn virtual infrastructure into a true cloud.  There is a clear and clean upgrade path from VirtualSystem into CloudSystem.  And for those starting fresh or who want to evaluate the HP solution, there is even an HP CloudStart service which will deliver a rack with CloudSystem into their datacenter and have it fully operational in 30 days or less.

CloudSystem is offered in three levels: CloudSystem Matrix, CloudSystem Enterprise and CloudSystem Service Provider.  CloudSystem Matrix is targeted towards those looking to automate the private cloud, customers who are looking to add automation and orchestration to their existing virtual systems.  It provides infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and basic application provisioning in minutes.  CloudSystem Enterprise extends upon Matrix and allows for private and hybrid cloud, enabling the bursting of workloads to public cloud.  It is a platform for hosting not only IaaS, but Platform as a Service (Paas) and Software as a Service (SaaS).  CloudSystem Enterprise provides application and infrastructure lifecycle management and allows for management of traditional IT resources in addition to virtualized resources.   The CloudSystem Service Provider edition extends upon the Enterprise edition and allows for multiple tenants on a single infrastructure, securely without exposing customer data between customers.  It is intended to host public and hosted private clouds for customers.  The editions in CloudSystem are more about capabilities and less about limits, compared to VirtualSystem.

Since automation and orchestration is the key of CloudSystem, that is where I wanted to focus.  The base of CloudSystem is the Matrix Operating System, which is the same combination of HP software found in the HP VirtualSystem solution.  On top of the Matrix Operating System, the CloudSystem Matrix solution includes Cloud Service Automation for Matrix.  This software includes Server Automation for lifecycle management for physical and virtual assets via a single portal and set of processes and HP SiteScope, an agent-less monitoring solution for performance and availability.

The enterprise and service provider editions include a beefed up version called, simply, Cloud Service Automation.  It includes the entire orchestration, database and middleware automation pieces of the pie and a cloud controller software.  These additional pieces allow not only the automatic and streamlined provisioning of physical and virtual servers but also the provisioning of the required glue that sits in between the apps and the servers.  The diagram below from HP shows all the moving parts of Cloud Service Automation better than I can explain in words.  And because, Cloud Service Automation is total lifecycle management, there are the pieces for monitoring and performance management which would be needed.  In addition, the centralized portals serve as point for both end users and IT professionals to manage the cloud.

Cloud Maps are another feature of CloudSystem and these are predefined automation workflows for deploying software and platforms easily.  These are the piece of the puzzle that allows for improved deployment times and also allow for drag and drop creation of new workflows and processes in the cloud.  HP has worked with its software partners to create these maps of requirements and automate the process of deploying their solutions.

Beyond all of the capabilities, HP is working hard to make this an open solution by making it compatible to burst workloads into third party clouds, whether its Amazon’s EC3 or a vCloud service provider.  This was a point stressed during the announcements at HP Discover and during the call on Tuesday.

This is post number two for Thomas Jones’ Blogger Reality Show sponsored by HP and Ivy Worldwide. I ask that readers be as engaged and responsive as possible during this contest.  I would like to see comments and conversations that these entries spark, tweets and retweets if it interests you and I also request that you vote for this entry using the thumbs up/thumbs at the top of this page.  As I said earlier, our readers play a large part in scoring, so participate in my blog and all the others!

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about CloudSystem.  In June,  I posted about my take on CloudSystem Service Provider from a potential service provider’s perspective.  I encourage you to take a look at that post, too, after you take a minute to comment and/or vote on this post.

Required Disclosure:
The opinions expressed here are strictly personal opinions authored by Philip Sellers, an employee of HTC (Horry Telephone Cooperative, Inc.) and/or its subsidiaries.  Any reference to, discussion of, or content regarding HTC and/or its subsidiaries has not been reviewed, approved, or authorized by HTC and/or its subsidiaries before such content is posted and does not represent HTC and/or its subsidiaries or its views and opinions in any way.

HP moving from release sets to ‘Service Packs’ for BladeSystem

HP moving from release sets to ‘Service Packs’ for BladeSystem

HP moving from release sets to ‘Service Packs’ for BladeSystem

HP is moving away from the release sets that it introduced in 2010 to a unified Service Pack for Proliant (SPP) model for updating firmware and software on the HP BladeSystem along with all Proliant servers.  I had previously reported about the software release sets back in June of 2010.

In the latest realignment, HP is consolidating these release sets with its Proliant Support Packs (PSP’s) and the Firmware releases that were previously three separate distributions.  In addition, HP is adopting a date style of numbering, matching the release set scheme, rather than the version numbering previously used with PSP and Firmware releases.  This will allow administrators to quickly recognize how behind a system is from the current release.

Consolidation also allows a single interface, qualification schedule and unified release for customers on all systems.  Although a solid step, the release sets did not completely match the release of Firmware DVD’s from HP and sometimes there were issues with support where case workers asked that you update firmware out of compliance with a release set.  During their first year of existence, release sets came out often and in many ways, shored up stability in our blade environment, but in the past year, they seemed to have lagged behind in releases.

Back when I first covered release sets, I also noted that it the release sets were a very good thing for customers, since the sets gave a supportable configuration and schedule of compliance.  Although I didn’t say it, compliance meant that the customer could finally force the support side of HP to work a case instead of hiding behind the ‘please patch to latest firmware’ excuse.  My hope is that the SPP will do the same in a unified firmware and driver software release.

On many of our critical systems, we have observed an increased interdependency between the firmware versions and the driver versions which need to be loaded together to gain stability.  Consolidating all these separate releases into a single engine and distribution makes logical sense as these dependencies increase.

In an effort to target exactly what customers need, there will be a master distribution of the SPP along with 6 additional subset versions targeted towards specific needs, per the HP website.    These will be smaller, which translates to faster downloads and a more customized installation, including only what is required for these solutions.

HP touts four major areas of improvement by introducing the SPP — it reduces customer qualification cycles, reduces resource usage, maintenance windows and downtime.  Since firmware patching is typically not the most fun part of a system administrators job, reducing the frequency of these upgrades is a welcome change.

HP plans to offer 3 to 5 of these SPP’s per year.  The first version released is version 2011.09.0and 2012.01.0 is expected soon.

HP Discover 2012: HP introduces third generation of StoreOnce D2D backup devices

HP Discover 2012: HP introduces third generation of StoreOnce D2D backup devices

HP Discover 2012: HP introduces third generation of StoreOnce D2D backup devices

HP unveiled a third generation of StoreOnce devices targeted at improving backup and restore performance, StoreOnce redundancy and introducing a new interface to handle backups.  The new StoreOnce B6200 was introduced last week at HP Discover.  With the new B6200,  customers will get a 2-node base configuration configured as a couplet (cluster) with seamless failover in case a single node fails.  The B6200 can scale up to 4 couplets or 8 nodes in total with 768TB of raw storage (512TB usable).  But the real magic of the new architecture if what customers will receive — improved speeds.

Still based on the industry-leading Proliant architecture, the latest generation pushes for speed in backups and recovery.  In native backup mode, the StoreOnce B6200 will achieve speeds of 40TB per hour in backup and in restore in VTL mode.  HP Storage vice president David Scott was quick to point out that the competition’s D2D backup devices take a 50% hit on restores versus the native backup speeds.  The latest generation of StoreOnce is architected to ensure there was no performance loss for restores, when enterprise is really counting on the speed.

In addition to the impressive speeds, the StoreOnce B6200 also includes HP’s StoreOnce Catalystsoftware, which will allow for an incredible 150% improvement on backups speeds using the new native API, which sees the D2D devices for exactly what it is, rather than emulating virtual tape libraries.  HP showcased this new technology on the showroom floor during HP Discover, last week, equating the speed of backup that would allow a customer to backup the Library of Congress three times in a single night.  And those, are pretty impressive numbers.

The configurations use 2TB SAS drives in the storage enclosures.  Each couplet scales up to 192TB of raw storage and 128TB of usable storage.  But best of all, when fully populated, all 4 couplets are managed as a single device.

For existing customers, I spoke with engineers on the showroom floor that say the Catalyst software will likely come to older StoreOnce devices, though there is not a timeline.  The Catalyst version of StoreOnce OS is based on a standard Linux kernel as opposed to earlier StoreOnce OS distributions that were based on a customized Linux distribution.  HP is expected to unify these releases in the future.

Disclosure: HP sponsored my trip to HP Discover, covering all travel expenses, however HP does not control the content of the posts that I write based on my attendance to the show.  The thoughts, impressions and information contained in this post are my own. 

HP extending Data Protector backups to vCloud Director

HP extending Data Protector backups to vCloud Director

HP extending Data Protector backups to vCloud Director

Many backup vendors support vSphere, VMware’s flagship virtualization platform.  But now, HP’s Data Protector platform supports the extended vCloud layer directly with integration against VMware’s vCloud Director.  Workloads in highly virtualized datacenter are much more dynamic than traditional IT and the addition of vCloud Director to an environment only accellerates the ebb and flow of virtual machines. The new integration in Data Protector offers the ability to setup dynamic backups which can encompass changing workloads by integrating that the top level, vCloud layer.

Data Protector can be pointed directly at a particular vCloud organzation and will be able to backup anything under that organization with a single checkbox.  Regardless of how much or how often the systems under that organization changes, Data Protector will still protect it completely.  The integration fully supports the vCloud vStorage API’s which allows for full, application consistent backups by utilizing VMware’s snapshot capabilities.  The snapshots will call into the VM’s tools and will even coordinate a consistent snapshot with the OS running inside of the VM.  This ensures the most reliable data recoveries possible.

The new vCloud Director integration joins a slew of additional new capabilities within the Data Protector 7 release, including support for the StoreOnce deduplication technology at any level within the backup process.  StoreOnce deduplication has been fully baked into the software in Data Protector 7 allowing for deduplication at the end-point, in transit or at rest on the StoreOnce deduplication device.  It also allows for portability of thin backups without the need for rehydration, saving both bandwidth and time.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Below is a video demo of the vCloud Director integration into HP Data Protector.  You can get a good idea of how simple the interface for the vCloud integration is within the backup console.  To an existing customer, the interface looks almost identical to the vSphere integration that has existed for several years.

HP introducing Federated Catalyst to StoreOnce

HP introducing Federated Catalyst to StoreOnce

HP introducing Federated Catalyst to StoreOnce

HP introducing Federated Catalyst to StoreOnce

b6500This week at HP Discover, HP announced a new Federated Catalyst feature for the StoreOnce family of disk to disk backup arrays.  The new capability will allow backup administrators to make large Catalyst stores on a StoreOnce and allow for data to be striped across all the back-end service sets in the array.  Federated Catalyst is available immediately on the StoreOnce B6500 line and will be coming in a few weeks to the StoreOnce B6200 line.

Federated Catalyst overcomes a previous limitation in the StoreOnce family that tied a Catalyst store to a single service set within a StoreOnce device.  The same limitation exists for a CIFS store or a virtual tape library store in a StoreOnce array.  This is another advantage for HP’s Catalyst technology since it assists administrators who are managing many Catalyst stores.

Previously, within a StoreOnce with 2 couplets and 4 service sets, a minimum of 4 Catalyst stores would be required to use all the available resources in the device.  This added additional management points and coordination for the backup administrator within the backup software.  By striping the data across all the available service sets, a single large Catalyst store is possible to utilize all the available data.

There are other considerations such as deduplication ratios for stores and the number of backup streams that go into architecting the best possible backup environment but breaking Catalyst stores away from service set boundaries will let IT shops make better decisions about how to lay out stores within StoreOnce for backup.  This also provides more scalability for medium sizes shops that may want to purchase a StoreOnce with a smaller initial sizing and grow it over time.

Compared to VTL technology, Catalyst offers a simplified approach to managing backup data.  With VTL’s, a library is built and it is populated with emulated tape cartridges.  Like physical cartridges, each one has a bar code and media label and other properties that dictate when the data on the cartridge expires and may be re-used.  Within a VTL, however, if there are more cartridges than needed, the un-used cartridges will be used before any cartridges are recycled and reused based on backup policies.  This leads to inefficiency and extra storage utilization within VTL libraries.

On the flip side, if the VTL has too few cartridges, then the library runs out of space and backups stop.  This leads to a big management point for administrators to size and ensure the correct number of cartridges.  Catalyst also improves the VTL situation by improving performance.  VTL emulates physical tape and so backup software talks with it and expects a certain amount of time before a tape is loaded or unloaded and this adds time to backups.  With Catalyst aware software, the D2D backup device is seen for what it really with all of its native capabilities instead of being seen as tape.

Disclaimer:  HP invited me to HP Discover as a blogger and covered my expenses to attend the event.  I also spoke at a session during the event.  As always, the views and opinions stated on this blog are my own.  HP was given no editorial control over content or topics for my posts.

HP Data Protector will support Federated Catalyst at launch

HP Data Protector will support Federated Catalyst at launch

HP Data Protector will support Federated Catalyst at launch

This is a follow-up to an earlier blog post about Federated Catalyst, a new feature in HP StoreOnce D2D backup devices.  See the earlier post for more information about Federated Catalyst. 

HP_Data_ProtectorWithout backup software to actually use Federated Catalyst, the technology itself doesn’t do much good, so my first question is when would Data Protector support Federated Catalyst.   The good news is that Data Protector 8 and 9 will both support Federated Catalyst when it becomes generally available with the new 3.11 StoreOnce firmware.

I confirmed with Data Protector staff that Data Protector 9, which was recently announced and soon to be launched, will support Federated Catalyst at launch and Data Protector 8 is getting support via a patch.  Users already running Data Protector 8.12 should already have support delivered for their existing backup environment.

Data Protector 9 was announced on May 14, during Microsoft TechEd, with a laun
ch timeframe scheduled roughly one month afterwards.  The new version of Data Protector features enhancements for vSphere backups, including a new method to perform granular file recovery directly from full VMDK backups.

The Data Protector team also announced a new product called Backup Navigator on May 14.  Backup Navigator is a dashboard and analytics platform for backup.  The intent of Backup Navigator is to observe and learn how backup is running in Data Protector so that in future releases it can predict and make recommendations to improve backups and then in a third phase, it will be able to fully automate backup scheduling and operations.

As a Data Protector customer, support for Federated Catalyst should allow for easier administration and fewer required Catalyst stores in a backup environment.  It is also welcome news that both the HP Storage and HP Autonomy Data Protector teams timed the release together in both products.

Disclaimer:  HP invited me to HP Discover as a blogger and covered my expenses to attend the event.  I also spoke at a session during the event.  As always, the views and opinions stated on this blog are my own.  HP was given no editorial control over content or topics for my posts.  

Installing and Configuring HP 3PAR StoreServ Management Console

Installing and Configuring HP 3PAR StoreServ Management Console

Installing and Configuring HP 3PAR StoreServ Management Console

Back in December, HP was showing off the new StoreServ Management Console (SSMC) at HP Discover in Barcelona.  In January, the product was released to the public and I have been testing it in my environment.  The installation is straight forward, with one gotcha on Windows for the 2.0 release.   The product is available on Microsoft Windows or Red Hat Linux.  A full list of requirements is available from the HP website.


Once you launch the installer, you follow the wizard through the normal license agreement and you set the path for the installation.  The following screen allows you to set the TCP port for the web service and one more screen to confirm settings.  The installer is quick and easy.

Once you finish the installation, the installer tries to start the service.   If you have altered the Local Security Policy on your Windows system and removed the Users group from the Allow log on locally, you will get an error.  To fix this, see the end of this post.


On the SSMC server, you may browse to http://localhost:8443 (if you chose the default TCP port during installation) and you will be presented a message saying that the Administrator credential is not set.


You click Set Credential button and save a password for the administrator account.  The next step is to login to the Administrator console and connect the SSMC to your 3PAR arrays.  Once you login, you are presented with a Storage Systems view with no systems connected.  To connect your 3PARs, you use the Actions button to add the arrays.  Once the arrays are added, the SSMC begins the process of connecting the arrays to manage them.


Once the arrays are connected, you may logout of the Administrator console and you will go back to the login page.  Uncheck the box for Administrator Console and you will get the normal SSMC login page.  To login to the SSMC, you will use either a local account on the 3PAR arrays or using an LDAP account if your 3PAR arrays are configured and connected to LDAP.  It would be the same account you used to login to the 3PAR Inform Management Console (IMC) — the old client.


Once you login, you should see the Dashboard and from there, its time to start exploring SSMC.

Local Security Policy & Possible Error

On my system, the service failed to start and gave an error after the installation completed.


This is because we removed the Users group from the Allow log on locally policy in the computer’s Locally Security Policy as part of our standard server build.  Since we may not be the only company to make this change, I have included it.  A fresh build of Windows 2012 has the following settings in the Allow log on locally policy and with these settings it would work.  But if you want to keep a more locked-down policy in place, there is a workaround.


The service attempts to use a local Windows account called hp3parssmcuser that is created during the installation.  This account needs to have “Allow log on locally” in the Local Security Policy on the server.  To allow this, go to Start and then to Administrative Tools.  Choose theLocal Security Policy item in the menu.  In the Local Security Policy, navigate to Security Settings > Local Policies > User Rights Assignments.


Double click Allow log on locally and add the .\hp3parssmcuser account to this policy.  Once you save the permission in the policy, you may go into Services and start the HP 3PAR StoreServ Management Console Server service successfully.

HP releases StoreServ Management Console 2.1 with lots of Goodies

HP releases StoreServ Management Console 2.1 with lots of Goodies

HP releases StoreServ Management Console 2.1 with lots of Goodies


Moving from version 2.0 to 2.1 may not seem like a big jump, but for users of HP’s new 3PAR StoreServ Management Console, the point release is a big deal.  HP’s new release came to customers on April 30 and it included a lot of great new features that complete the toolset for 3PAR administrators.   The initial release of SSMC was fairly feature rich, but some specific capabilities were missing and HP has received a long list of requests.  With the SSMC 2.1 release, HP is answering a lot of those customer requests.

Additions in the SSMC 2.1 Release

SSMC Dashboard

One of the nice features of SSMC is the Dashboard – a quick and easy display of what is good and bad in the 3PAR environment.  One capabilities that 2.1 adds is the ability to drill down into the Performance and Device Type donuts.  Now in the UI, all of the green/yellow/red donuts have the capabilities and the blue/grey donuts do not as a quick way to know.

AO and DO are now configurable within SSMC.  Adaptive Optimization and Dynamic Optimization are major features within the 3PAR arsenal and so its no surprise to find them in the new release, however its also a welcome addition.  These are found under the Storage Optimization area in the Main Menu.

3PAR traces its origins to service providers and for this market virtual domains exist within the OS to segment and ensure that customer data does not ever cross boundaries.  Domain support is now available in SSMC with the 2.1 release allowing this tool to be doled out for customer management.

Remote Copy replication gets a slew of additions in the 2.1 release.  With this release, you may create 1:1 remote copy configurations, in addition to just displaying the configuration.  You may also view 1:N configurations.  For shops who can run it, Peer Persistence management is also added in the 2.1 release.  Most early adopters of Peer Persistence were relegated to the command line for management, so a GUI interface for management is a welcome change.  I’ll be posting a more in-depth view on Peer Persistence management on Tuesday.

Tune System or tunesys makes its debut in SSMC with 2.1 release.  Tunesys is a management process that rebalances the array and perform housekeeping tasks.  This feature is conveniently available under the Systems area of the Main Menu.

System Reporter in SSMC is a huge leap forward from the stand-alone System Reporter product of old.  This integrated reporting tool has the same modern interface as the rest of SSMC and OneView and makes use of the modern interface.  Building reports is quick and simple in the interface.  In most cases, the reports are already defined – it is just a matter of setting times, which array and giving the report a name.  But, new in 2.1 is the ability to set threshold alarms.  One of the primary features missing in the 2.0 release was the ability to send alarms within the product to notify someone of a performance related problem if there is no one actively watching the arrays.  (Hardware issues still call home, so alerts haven’t changed there.)

Users also gain the ability to schedule and email reports.  This is a big plus and a feature of the original System Reporter that was missing in 2.0.  Quality of Service and Deduplication reporting has also been added to the list of pre-defined formats.  For more in-depth information about System Reporter additions, see the blog post from Ivan Iannaccone on HP’s Around the Storage Block blog.

Easier Adoption with Navigation Overview

After you complete the upgrade to SSMC 2.1, the first thing you notice is a new introduction to the user interface.  For anyone who has not used SSMC 2.0, this is a great way to get to know the user interface and learn how to navigate around.  The tour highlights areas of the screen and moves you from screen to screen while explaining what information is found where.  Even better than a video or tutorial, the SSMC navigation overview is live with your systems and data in the background.  You will see your 3PAR arrays and their alerts of information while the navigation overview takes you through the interface.  And best of all, after the one-time introduction, users can always refer back to this navigation overview from the Help menu anytime.

Upgrade Process


The upgrade process for a SSMC 2.0 installation is relatively simple.  The installer recognizes the existing version of software and performs an upgrade.  It removes the earlier version and then writes the new installation.  Interestingly, it also removes and recreates the local user account –the same one that had to have login as service rights added after installation to start on installation.

HP 3PAR SSMC 2.1 makes Peer Persistence configuration easy as 1-2-3

HP 3PAR SSMC 2.1 makes Peer Persistence configuration easy as 1-2-3

HP 3PAR SSMC 2.1 makes Peer Persistence configuration easy as 1-2-3

27With the 2.1 release of the HP 3PAR StoreServ Management Console, HP has enabled the creation and control of Peer Persistence configurations within the management tool.  Peer Persistence is the HP branding for transparent LUN failover between storage arrays with no downtime – a concept VMware administrators will recognize is Metro Storage Clustering in the VMware vernacular.   HP 3PAR Peer Persistence relies on operating systems which can use the ALUA command set of of the SCSI bus to recognize open and closed paths to a single volume.  The source array provides open paths while the replication target shows its paths in standby.  At a high level, when a switchover command is issued, the path states change from active to standby and vice-versus.  ALUA allows the OS to recognize and redirect IO.  Add a quorum witness server to the switchover magic and you have a

This addition to SSMC brings a simple three step process for provisioning new Peer Persistence volumes in the management GUI: Create a new volume, add it to Remote Copy and then Export the volume from both arrays.  When an administrator adds the volume it into a remote copy group, the group auto-provisions and assigns the same World Wide Name (WWN) to the target, secondary volume and that is required for Peer Persistence.  Previously, administrators performed this using the 3PAR Command Line Interface, and early adopters had to manually lookup and assign the WWN on the secondary array.  The auto-provisioning will simplify the process and the chance for human error.  The auto-provisioning can be enabled on any Remote Copy group through the SSMC interface.  The administrator pre-defines the CPG for the remote array and enables the auto_failover and path_management policies to make a normal Remote Copy group into a Peer Persistent remote copy group.

Initiating a switchover of a Peer Persistence Remote Copy Group is now an options within the SSMC interface.  The switchover command is found under the Remote Copy Group within the interface and is found with all the other operations under the Actions menu for a Remote Copy Group.  When a switchover is initiated, the interface shows a status of that command, shows the original Remote Copy Group go into a stopped state, the target-side Remote Copy Group named with a similar name then appears and shows that the switchover has completed.

In order to make use of Peer Persistence, there is a fairly strict list of requirements you must meet.  The most restrictive of the requirements is latency, since Peer Persistence is built on synchronous replication which the 3PAR platforms limit to 2.6 milliseconds or less of latency.    This amount of latency allows for fairly liberal definitions of metro distances.  So, first a quick review of all of the requirements for Peer Persistence and then a quick tour of the simple SSMC provisioning process.

Requirements for Peer Persistence

Below is a consolidated list of all the requirements for running HP 3PAR StoreServ arrays with Peer Persistence.

  • Round trip latency of 2.6 milliseconds or less.
  • 2 arrays with Remote Copy 1-to-1 configuration in synchronous mode.
  • 3PAR StoreServ Firmware 3.1.2 MU2 or newer for VMware and Firmware 3.2.1 or newer for Windows.
  • VMware ESXi 5.x or newer and Windows Server 2008 R2, and Windows Server 2012 R2 for host OS.
  • All associated hosts are connected to both arrays.
  • Hosts created with 3PAR host persona 11 for VMware hosts and 15 for Windows hosts, which supports Asymmetric Logical Unit Access (ALUA).
  • Quorum Witness virtual machine at a third site, reachable by TCP/IP from the management port of the two 3PAR arrays.
  • All 3PAR Virtual Volumes (VV) exported from both arrays must have the same volume WWN, both source and target WWN should match.
  • Fibre Channel (FC), iSCSI and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) are supported. iSCSI and FCoE require later version of 3PAR StoreServ Firmware.
  • Both auto_failover and path_management polices in 3PAR Remote Copy Group configuration are required to enable automatic transparent failover.

Provisioning Peer Persistent Volumes with SSMC

Step 1: Create a new virtual volume by going to the Main Menu and choosing Virtual Volumes under Block Persona.
(File Persona is hidden in the screenshot below because the arrays connected to SSMC do not support File Persona, otherwise it is displayed next to Block Persona).



Complete the General section, but do not export the LUN yet.

Step 2: Create the Remote Copy Group located under the Main Menu in the Replication section.  If you have an existing Remote Copy Group, click on the name of the group to edit it.

For Peer Persistence, the configuration is set here.  The sections outlined in red are the sections required for Peer Persistence.  To make it easiest, select the Create automatically option underSource, you must set Synchronous replication under Backup and you need to tick theAdvanced Options checkbox and then check the Auto failover checkbox under Backup.  Checking the Auto failover checkbox automatically enables Path Management, too.

Also within Remote Copy Group, you will add your virtual volume from the source array under theVolume Pairs section.  Once you select it in the dialog box, you will notice that it is added to the group and the target volume shows a message stating “auto-create”.  Click Create or Ok and the changes will be made.


Step 3: Export the volumes from both arrays to the hosts.  To do this, you go back to either Virtual Volumes or Virtual Volume Sets in the Main Menu and you choose the Export command to export the volumes to the desired hosts.

This assumes that you’ve already created host records, so if not, you need to create the host records using host persona 11 for VMware or host persona 15 for Windows.  In SSMC, you cannot select the host persona directly.  Instead, you must choose an operating system from a drop-down menu.  You will either choose ESXi 4.x/5.x, Windows 2008/2008 R2 or Windows 2012/2012 R2.  The host persona is also displayed after you choose the OS, so you can confirm the setting.

Implementation Guides

For all the detailed configuration and detail about implementing HP 3PAR Peer Persistence, refer to these two guides that outline the specifics for VMware hosta and for Windows hosts:

HP introduces new Asynchronous Streaming Remote Copy, targets flash & better long distance RPO

HP introduces new Asynchronous Streaming Remote Copy, targets flash & better long distance RPO

HP introduces new Asynchronous Streaming Remote Copy, targets flash & better long distance RPO

This week at HP Discover, HP introduced a new Remote Copy mode along side of its new 20800 series high-end arrays.  The new mode is Asynchronous Streaming Remote Copy and it intends to provide higher recovery point objectives (RPO) for replication for extended distances and constrained bandwidth between datacenters.  In addition, Asynchronous Streaming also has performance gains with replication between all-flash arrays where the added latency of synchronous replication is undesirable.

The new replication mode allows changes to be streamed much the same as synchronous replication with the major difference being that the remote writes are not acknowledged before the source arrays acknowledges the write to the host.  The RPO for synchronous replication is realtime and the traditional 3PAR Asynchronous Remote Copy is on 5 minute intervals.  Asynchronous Streaming allows for a near real-time RPO – HP is advertising an RPO of seconds – while adding no latency to the host access on the primary array.

According to HP’s marketing materials, they have found that synchronous replication can make up to a 5x hit on performance in all-flash arrays.  While 1 to 2 milliseconds of latency was more than acceptable on spinning disk, flash storage has significantly changed the landscape.  Customers who are purchasing all-flash arrays are attempting to gain as much possible performance from their arrays.  Asynchronous streaming replication improves the position where performance really counts and is engineered towards the performance use case.

One example of the engineering to performance comes in the handling of write bursts – or periods of high writes that need to replicated to the remote system.  The 3PAR arrays will cache the writes to be made up until it exhausts the available cache.  Once cache is exhausted, it will pause replication, snapshot and then resync the volume and atempt to restart streaming.  While the resync is occurring, if cache is exhausted again, it will stop replication without an automatic restart.  This is all done to preserve the best possible performance for the host.

The chart below from HP shows the use case along with the latency requirements and RPO’s achievable from each of the 4 modes of Remote Copy now available.  Asynchronous Streaming Remote Copy along with the other new software features are only available on the HP 3PAR StoreServ 20800 series arrays at this time.


Disclaimer: HP invited and paid for my trip to Las Vegas to attend and learn at HP Discover.  The views and opinions are my own.