Simon Eady, Jeremy Bowman, Michael Poore and I recorded a Google Hangout today regarding the launch the South West UK VMUG and discussed our VMworld Experiences.
Simon Eady, Jeremy Bowman, Michael Poore and I recorded a Google Hangout today regarding the launch the South West UK VMUG and discussed our VMworld Experiences.
This is a blog post that has been long overdue, I have blogged about Nimble Storage a couple of times when at VMworld and Devin Hamilton (Director of Storage Architecture & Nimble’s first ever customer-facing engineer) was also on one of the HandsonVirtualization podcasts that we recorded in the past. I sat down with a good friend of mine Nick Dyer around 6 months ago, Nick at the time had been with Nimble for only a few months after previously being at Xsigo and Dell EqualLogic, we discussed who Nimble were and what made them different to everyone else in the market place, Nick also gave me a tour of its features and functionality.
Very recently Nimble have announced Nimble OS 2.0, which this walkthrough is based on and big thanks to Nick for helping me up date this from 1.X to 2.X
The home screen shows you a good overview of what is happening within your storage array. On the left we can see a breakdown of the storage usage including snapshots, below this we can see what our space saving is, utilising the in-line compression technology for both primary and snapshot data. In the middle we have a breakdown of throughput in MB/Sec and IOPS broken down by Reads and Writes. Finally on the left we have a breakdown of events over the last 24 hours.
Prior to Nimble OS 2.0, the architecture worked with a frame / scale up based design where you start with a head unit that contains 2 controllers, 12 high-capacity spinning disks and a number of high-performance SSDs. You then can increase capacity by attaching up to a further 3 shelves of high-capacity drives using the SAS connectors on the controllers, or you can scale performance by upgrading the controllers or swapping for larger SSDs. What is different about Nimble is the architecture is not based on drive spindles to deliver performance as like traditional storage arrays, rather using multiple Intel Xeon processors to drive IOPS from the array. Nimble have now released version 2.0 of their software, meaning that scale-out is now available as a third scaling method for any Nimble array. This now forms part of a Nimble Storage array “Group”. Today Nimble supports up to 4 arrays in a group – each array supporting 3 shelves of additional disk. The theoretical maximums are thus ~280,000 IOPS & 508TB usable storage in a scale out cluster!
Nimble use an architecture called CASL (Cache Accelerated Storage Architecture) This is made up of a number of components, SSDs are utilised as a Random Read Cache for Hot Blocks in utilisation within the systems, random writes are coalesced through NVRAM to the array, and it compresses them and writes them sequentially to the RAID 6 near line SAS spinning disks resulting in write operations that Nimble claim can be up to 100x faster than traditional disk alone.
The compression within the Nimble storage array happens inline with no performance loss and can offer between 30-75 percent saving depending on the workload.
Check out the following page for more information on CASL – http://www.nimblestorage.com/products/architecture.php
One of the nice feature in the GUI is when you hover over a port in the array screen it will then highlight which port it corresponds to on the array and display the IP address and status on screen.
When configuring the array with your ESXi or Windows servers you will use the target IP address shown below to configure your storage connectivity.
The network configuration on the array is easily configured. Nimble has now dedicated “Networking” tab available in the administration menu where the Group or individual arrays can be changed. From here we can also configure a new technology Nimble call “Virtual Target IP addresses” as well as creating “Network Zones” to stop traversing and saturating Inter-Switch Links for Multipath configurations. Both of these topics are an individual blog post on their own! It is now also possible to create multiple routes on the array to allow for replication traffic, for example.
Any individual port can be configured to either be on the management, data or both networks.
It’s now also possible to save your network changes as “Draft”, but also to revert your network settings back to your previously applied configuration – very handy in case something went wrong!
To deploy a Nimble array into the group, it is now as simple as clicking a button in the Nimble GUI under the “Arrays” page. We did this on a pair of fully-functional Nimble VMs.
The Group will then detect the unconfigured Nimble array (which must be on the same layer 2 broadcast domain). It is also where it is possible to merge two Groups together in this screen!
From here all that’s required are the physical network IP addresses for the new array data ports. It will enherit all other configuration from the Group (ie Replication, Email Alerts, Autosupport, Performance Policies, Initiator Groups and more). This is a non-disruptive process, too!
Once IP addresses are configured, the new array is provisioned in the Group in the “default” storage pool.
Initiator groups are used to manage access to the volumes, you start off by creating an initiator group for servers that will require access to the same volumes, in this example ESXi hosts, you will then map your volume to the initiator group.
Performance policies are used to handle the cache, compression and block sizes for the volumes to tune the metrics to suit the use case. Out of the box there are a number already configured for the most frequent use cases, however it is entirely possible to create your own with your own requirements (ie creating a volume which will never be cache-worthy, which is very useful for backup-to-disk volumes). This is useful as traditional storage arrays which utilize flash as a tier or cache very rarely have the intelligence to specify or keep dirty-data away from these very expensive resources.
Volume collections are utilised for replicating and snapshotting volumes, volume collection may contain multiple volumes that will allow you to synchronise snapshots and or replications over multiple linked volumes, this maybe useful for VMFS volumes that contain multiple related VMs for example. Another example maybe your SQL-Logs and DB volumes.
Snapshots and replicas are able to be made fully consistent with the use of VSS integration direct from the array without the need to install additional software.
As Nimble uses a variable block size of 4/8/16/32KB snapshots and replication are generally very space efficient when compared too other arrays utilising larger block sizes. Also all snapshots are using compressed blocks and thus it is not uncommon to see snapshots taken and retained for longer than 30 days on the array.
As snapshots are so granular and do not take any performance overhead, the limitation of snapshots is currently 10,000 per array group, and 1000 per volume.
The image below shows the average snapshot change rate as a daily percentage that Nimble customers see for key use cases.
Within the volumes view under the manage menu you are able to see at a glance the performance and compression on each volume over the last 5 minutes by selecting the performance tab.
By selecting an individual volume in this view you get a more detailed breakdown of the configuration and performance utilisation of that individual volume. We are also able to edit the volume, set it offline and delete the volume from this same screen.
By selecting the snapshot or replication tabs in the individual volume view you get a detail breakdown of the usage including the date and name of the snapshot / replica, its origin and schedule but also information regarding how much new data is kept within the snapshot and what compression ratio was achieved.
Replication Partners are easily configured via a simple wizard accessed under Manage > Protection > Replication Partners, the replication is configurable to take place either over the data or management network to give you flexibility. What you can also see here is Nimble give you the ability to decide where your replication traffic gets presented; over the management or data networks you have!
What I really liked about the replication configuration was the built in quality of service that allows you to tune the replication, this could be extremely important for a small business utilising a single line for replication and other business traffic.
After configuring the replication you get a very clear view of the policies configured and the volume collections replicating, you also see what the lag is between production and DR.
The Nimble arrays contain a dial home support functionality called Infosight. Each array contains 30million sensors, when enabled every 5 minutes the results from those sensors are rolled up into a log bundle and is transmitted to Nimble support. Nimble’s systems are then are able to detect issues, failures and auto raise cases prior to the customer knowing in many cases. Today over 90% of all support cases raised by Nimble are automatically generated and resolved, according to Nick.
Firmware updates are easily handled within the array themselves allowing you to check version information, download the latest firmware and upgrade the unit.
By default all volume and snapshot space on the Nimble array is thin provisioned, this can be customised for new volumes by configuring the volumes reserve seen above.
There are a number of monitoring options within the Nimble array, these can all be found under the Monitor tab on the top menu. The example shows the performance across the array, you can customise this view to see performance across a time period from the last 5minutes to the last 90 days as standard and also focus on an individual volumes.
That’s it for my Nimble array walkthrough I intend on delving a little deeper when possible in the future. I really like what Nimble are doing in this space as they appear to be doing something different to most and when digging deeper all the technical design decisions certainly make a lot of sense, based on the results I am hearing customers seem to be very happy. Of course there are a huge amount of ways to deliver the IO for your infrastructure but Nimble are certainly cementing their space as a validated disruptive technology in this arena.
Something that interests me greatly is its use cases in VDI. Speaking to Devin the arrays even love mixed VDI and Server workloads due to the way the writes are coalesced through the NVRAM random workloads aren’t a problem. I
Whilst contemplating my VMworld conclusions blog post including the results of my SMB challenge I thought I would share a few of my non VMworld photos from Barcelona. If you didn’t make VMworld this year it will be back in Barcelona next year.
The Wednesday session follows a night of partying for most with Veeam’s bond style party leaving many feeling a little worse for wear after a late night / early morning drinking. The Wednesday session has traditionally been the opportunity for the VMware CTO previously Steve Herrod to wow us with technology and demonstrations, this year without anybody in an overriding CTO position the lead fell to Carl
Eschenbach COO with Joe Bagley and Kit Colbert joining for demonstrations. During the demonstrations there were a number of technologies covered with a focus largely on automation utilising VCAC, as well as business integration with the VMware IT Business Management Suite. I really enjoyed the demos and explanation alongside them although they possibly went on for a little too long to keep me fully engaged. I did miss the demonstrations around EUC that in previous years we had seen by Vittorio Viarengo, who has since left VMware.
Most of my time today was spent in the solutions exchange engaging with various companies, I spent a long time with Fusion IO discussing the use of their cards in VDI environments and also their soon to be released ioVDI software, with the ioVDI software the FusionIO flash placed in your server is intelligently utilised to offload most of the reads and up to 80% of the writes in your VDI environments. For more information check out the link below. We can see that Fusion IO has its place in your stack whether it is delivered through one of their OEM partner agreements raw inside your servers or as part of a larger intelligent appliance like Nutanix. I think in the raw form it has its place in non-persistent desktops and it will be interesting to see if there soon released software could also offer a solution for storage of persistant desktops.
Next on my list was Dell whom I do a lot of work with in a professional capacity, I spent a long time talking to Sean Copeland Solution Manager for Desktop Virtualisation solutions, we spoke regarding the Dell VRTX shared infrastructure platform that now features ivy bridge processors and when configured as a VDI solution with Horizon View can now deliver up to an increase of 36% in user density for Windows 7 and a massive 61% for Windows 8 over previous processors. I really like the idea of using the VRTX for smaller infrastructures or branch offices and Dell are putting together references architectures to cover these scenarios. Sean heads up the team that creates the reference architectures for Dell’s VDS division, I look forward to engaging with these guys in the future particularly on the subject of SMB VDI and the many possibilities with the solutions in Dells toolkit.
I also met with a number of people from Dell’s DaaS business, it was interesting to learn Dell are one of Desktones biggest customers particularly after VMware announced the acquisition of Desktone yesterday. Dell have recently enhanced their platform with the latest features of desktones offering. For me it was interesting to learn Dell can offer a lot more than a desktop as a service but also the ability to create supporting server infrastructure with your VMs like domain controllers, file servers etc and that it is also possible to buy a desktop on standby service to act as a DR for your production VDI environment.
Whilst on the Dell stand I also took a look at the new Venue tablets and I must say I do like them a lot, I am a big fan of my Surface RT but the Venue with a Core i3 / i5 processor and Windows Pro, still in a tablet form factor this would offer amazing flexibility especially with the options for rigid keyboard and battery dock and the desktop dock. My decision maybe down to Surface Pro 2 or Venue now.
After the Dell stand I visited Nutanix and met with Steve Kaplan (@ROIdude) who is vice president of channel for Nutanix. We discussed how Nutanix are growing and attracting a lot of big virtualisation community names into their business included Steve 5 times vExpert himself. Nutanix certainly seem to have a very strong proposition that is attempting to radically change the way we think and implement our virtualisation solutions. With their Google based, software driven, intelligent block based solution you get the benefits of being able to scale your solution as you need it, whilst getting not only capacity but performance through their intelligent software based tiering and protection over the different storage mediums and compute nodes in the group.
My final notable vendor of the day was Atlantis ILIO, I met briefly with Gregg Holzrichter VP of Marketing to discuss SMB virtualisation, I had previously understood Atlantis offered a storage accelerator for VDI however it is more than that. The intelligence in Atlantis is the way it de-duplicates and optimizes the data that is written to your existing SAN, meaning that Atlantis can help companies from big to small, at the SMB level by utilizing Atlantis you may be able to host your desktops on your existing SAN whilst Atalantis is able to help you achieve the performance that is required by VDI, if you are a larger company with an all flash array for example Atlantis can de-duplicate the data written allowing you to get greater density out of your expenses flash array. I won’t pretend to fully understand this technology yet but I am determined to learn a lot more particularly the use cases and costs for SMB.
Prior to the VMworld party I attended Andre Leibovici’s session on designing enterprise class VDI environments, this was a really good session that gave lots of good pointers for what you should look for when designing your VDI solution.
The day closed with the VMworld party in the main hall which had been changed into the Super Club, the theme was pretty similar to last year to be honest but with a roller disco instead of pedal kart racing, the music was delivered by High on Heels a UK based group that delivered dance music with a DJ, Singer as well as a number of musicians, the violinist was particularly good I thought and they played music I liked. Following them was the headline act Taio Cruz who played a short 30 min set of some of his songs, I’m sure if you are a fan of his it was very impressive that he was in attendance for me it was a good opportunity to catch up with a few people prior to leaving early to miss the mass exodus.
Tomorrow I fly back, I’m unsure if I will make it to the conference for a short time tomorrow but I will follow up with a blog post over the weekend summing up my VMworld 2013 experience.
Today’s steps were 17,272, approximately 7.7 miles.
[more pictures to be added when I have a decent internet connection!]
Wow that was quite a day, certainly a lot to take in and absorb! Today started with the general session hosted by VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger for his second EMEA VMworld since taking over the realm last year. VMworld EMEA is normally where VMware announce their End User Computing and Management updates and they certainly didn’t disappoint.
The major stand out announcements today for me were surrounding EUC and the Horizon Product line, announced today was Horizon View 5.3 along with Mirage 4.3, although these may represent small dot releases the functionality added to these products especially from the View side was certainly significant. We are finally seeing initial integration between Mirage any View with Mirage now able to successfully integrate with View and manage the layering, protection and patching of fixed desktop within View, this is of course is a baby step but it is clear where this is going to go, when we are able to fully utilise Mirage alongside linked clones it makes for a useable scenario were persistent desktops would make sense and ease adoption over the sometimes more complex to implement non persistent desktops that usually make more sense today.
We are now seeing full support for VDGA dedicated pass through graphics cards for high intensity graphics within View and the start of VMware reducing the overall cost of VDI with the inclusion of VSAN (tech preview) and VCOPS for VDI now included within the Horizon suite. The inclusion of the VSAN technology for View for me makes a lot of sense for VDI workloads where you can utilise servers as combined compute and storage building blocks for your VDI infrastructure offering a very clear design to build and scale VDI implementations whilst gaining the benefits from the hybrid nature of the VSAN technology for the VDI workloads. As mentioned at present VSAN is still in beta and this functionality for View is only Tech Preview but I do think this has the potential for starting a shift within VDI design particularly at the SMB / SME level. I am really looking forward to trying out these technologies in anger and will be adding to my lab as soon as possible.
I would highly recommend you take a look at the link below to fully understand today’s announcements and I will be looking to do a deeper dive over the coming weeks.
The compute and combined storage solutions such as those mentioned above aren’t restricted to what VMware is doing in the software defined datacentre space, we are starting to see an increasing number of vendors in this space, the first I saw a number of years ago offering an appliance like solution was Pivot 3 who are exhibiting their solution at VMworld again this year but since then we have seen Nutanix grow from strength to strength and new to VMworld EMEA this year is the year old start up Simplivity with their offering in this space. Jeremy Bowman, Micahel Poore and I spent over an hour with Mario from Simplivity watching a live demo of their combined server and compute solution that also encompasses a built in backup functionality between datacentres and its concepts are all built up around what sounds like a very intelligent and preformat inline deduplication solution. Of course solutions like this have long been possible with the likes of the Lefthand VSA but we are defiantly seeing this technology come more and more to the forefront tempting to change the way with thing of delivering storage alongside our compute and offering more intelligent ways of doing it than we have had previously.
Outside of the general of the general session I attended a focused session of end user computing visions which further expanded on the future vision of delivering the desktop, apps and data to the users how they want it, where they want it in an increasingly simple and seamless manor and in hopefully a more affordable solution. We saw a demo of potential new improvements to unity touch, the technology that adds a touch friendly interface over your windows desktop, when accessed on a tablet. VMware will be looking to take this a stage further from where they manage the overlay for the start bar, with offering an administrator definable ribbon for your applications and the still planned improvements for data input.
I spent a large amount of my time today in the Solutions Exchange catching up with the vendors, today I was mainly concentrating on getting updates from the vendors I was aware off, it was really good to finally meet Raymon Epping in person and discuss how Nutanix are growing and enhancing their solution, I really love the idea of their solution for scaling VDI workloads, one node at a time.
As per my comments in previous years Nimble also again really stood out for me as someone that is growing and making a difference within the storage industry, their hybrid arrays really make sense to me with the intelligence to manage the data and using the various components within the SAN, the SSD, NVRAM and Spinning disks to handle your data intelligently, they have recently released their 2.X stream of firmware adding a lot of very good UI improvements alongside the ability to offer scale out now alongside their traditional scale up method. This alongside the modular nature of their arrays now means you can use Nimble as you need within your environment to design the solution that works for you and even in the future where your needs may change and grow your Nimble array can transform with your workloads. If you are at VMworld be sure to see Devin, Nick or Charlie on the Nimble stand these guys have many years’ experience with many vendors in the storage industry and are great guys to talk to about the technology. I will be very shortly be releasing a blog post covering Nimble as a technology.
I was also lucky enough today to get a tour of the labs, for me whilst very familiar with the labs it was great to hear how the labs have really helped VMware define many aspects of their products and now how the lab team is growing and adapting to the technology that they have been able to create and tune over the many VMworld’s and now of course though the year round online labs.
My day finished with the vExpert / VCDX welcome reception in central Barcelona, this offered a good location to catchup with many old friends and meet some new faces, I won’t name people individually for the fear of forgetting someone but this was great catching up with everyone and huge thanks to John, Corey and team for managing an amazing community at VMware.
I am really looking forward to tomorrow, this will be my last day at the show and I hope to meet some more vendors and speak to many more people before enjoying the VMworld party in the evening. Hopefully catch some more of you tomorrow.
By the way my step count for today was down on yesterday but was still 16432 steps, 7.3 miles.
Today was the partner day at VMworld EMEA taking place in Barcelona, this is my third VMworld and my second in Barcelona. With VMworld being back in Barcelona the show seems to have been tweaked somewhat for the better, with the Solutions Exchange being directly above the Sessions and the Hang Out Space, Hands on Labs and General Session, this should hopefully limit somewhat the walking from one side to the other but with the size of the venue this is still going to be inevitable.
Today as usual the show started with the Partner only day but the Hands on Labs being open to all, I started my day taking lab 1309 as a refresher on Mirage, in this lab you follow through many actions in Mirage such as creating and deploying an application layer, upgrading an XP desktop to Windows 7 and reviewing the new web interface. I have sat this lab before on Project Nee but it served as a good refresher, if you are looking to get a better understanding of the Horizon Suite I would recommend the lab.
Passing between the labs and the sessions halls you will pass the VMware time machine where you are able to go back in time to see VMware’s journey to where they are today.
The day offered a good opportunity to catch up with old friends and new faces in the bloggers lounge.
Photo By @JeremyBowman
Whilst in the blogger area I used the opportunity to try one of the labs using my tablet, as Firefox was recommended I actually worked in the lab via a View desktop from my Surface RT, the lab I concentrated on was 1308 which concentrates on the VSAN, this was a really interesting lab for me and I am going to be interested to see how the VSAN progresses out of beta into a finalised product, from both a technical and pricing perspective. If priced appropriately it could certainly offer a serious alternative to traditional shared storage. I didn’t complete the lab due to time but I look forward to coming back to this lab at a later time.
The rest of my day at the show was spent on various partner sessions generally focusing on a firm passion of my end user computing, what is very apparent in end user computing is there isn’t a single solution that fits all use cases and that a hybrid approach is the only way you are going to have a successful end user solution. As such the Horizon suite is looking to fill this gap with View for VDI, Mirage for physical and Workspace brining all the components together including SaaS and data. It was made apparent during the sessions that we can expect some End User Computing announcement during the course of the show.
The partner day finished with the partner keynote focusing on the success of VMware with its partners and how it continues to build on its partnerships and finally a partner appreciation style that took a street theme with street painters and performers, this theme is being taken throughout the show through to the party on Wednesday. It was also announced that VMworld would be back in Barcelona next year during the same week in October.
My evening was spent catching up with lots of friends at the Pernix Data party at beach club boo which offered a lovely beach front location with views over Barcelona, I look forward to learning more about Pernix over the course of the week.
Along with a number of community members I have been tracking my number of steps using my FitBit One the total for today was 20,236 which was approx 9 miles.
I’m looking forward to day 1 and if you see me about please say Hi, I am particularly interested to hear your end user computing stories and compare notes on what does and doesn’t work when it comes to VDI.
With a show as large as VMworld I think it is important to set your agenda and goals prior to attending, as well as the usual networking I have set myself a SMB VDI challenge.
As I find myself working in this space quite often I have decided to use VMworld to gather the thoughts and opinions of as many vendors and attendees that have experience or opinions of VDI specifically with Horizon View in the SMB / SME space.
Whilst there are now a wealth of products on the market that can help you with your VDI deployment sometimes it isn’t clear if these are all applicable to the SMB space, so I am keen to learn what does work and what doesn’t work when you are trying to virtualise your desktops in an SMB / SME environment.
When working in the SMB / SME space, budget is often one of the biggest constraints and this makes the importance of choosing the right components even more important, often solutions that claim the lowest cost per desktop may assume creating a larger amount of desktops than your typical SMB solution. Also making decisions about what is and isn’t really required to make a successful VDI solution are all more imperative.
Below are just some of the questions I will be looking to answer, of course from my own experiences I have my own thoughts on these matters and would love to compare notes, but I am looking to go with a open mind and gather the thoughts of many. I will then be looking to compile a complete SMB / SME VDI resource to share with your all, the must have tips and tricks and an A-Z of the vendors you need to be considering in this area and why.
100 desktops for a small SMB or as a building block for a larger company. Existing vSphere Essentials + for server virtualisation.
300 desktops for a medium SMB
800 – 1500 desktops for a large SMB / small SME.
SMB VDI projects come in all shapes and sizes, from the smallest sub 100 desktop deployments up to the larger 1000-1500 desktops rollouts. But all of these solutions will tend to start with a proof of concept and a gradual rollout. I am interested to know how people move from proof of concept to full roll out and interested from the vendors how to the deal with scaling deployments.
Assessment and Monitoring
Is it needed? Do you know the tricks of the trade to virtualise hundreds of desktops without assessment? Failing finding this magic trick what are the best tools to use and once your desktops are virtualised how do we ensure there continued success?
I think most people are aware that one of the key components to a successful VDI project is the storage, what does work, what doesn’t work. Is flash a must have and what is the average IOPS per user.
Just how do you manage the user persona? Is View Persona management good enough or is a dedicated persona management solution a must have, if so what product?
Persistent or Non-Persistent
One of the constant debates when it comes to VDI is persistent or non-persistent, I think we would all like to live the non-persistent dream but is it realistic and if it has to be non-persistent what technologies need to be used to enable this, how is patch management managed, how much storage is required?
Have you got the secret ingredient to optimizing your View Desktops, did you take a step too far?
What is the right recipe for dealing with applications in VDI, installation in the golden image or application virtualisation with View or maybe a hybrid approach?
Just how many View Connection Servers and Security Servers are required, how much memory and CPU do these need in the smallest of deployments, what load balancers will bring these components together?
Are they all the same, does one product really stand out from another?
I am a big fan of utilising departmental champions to ease the deployment of VDI, but what has and hasn’t worked for you?
So if you are a vendor in this space that would love to tell me about your successes and share your must have white papers, or if you work with SMB’s or for an SMB and want to share your experiences I want to hear from you at VMworld. Likewise if you are just heading down this journey lets catch up and compare notes.
I’m really looking forward to VMworld and I look forward to sharing with you all my findings of my SMB VDI Challenge!
Who’s up for the challenge? Contact me on twitter @virtualisedreal or fill out this form
Vendors Currently on Board
Below is a list of vendors who are up for the challenge and I will be catching with at VMworld.
|Name||Product||VMworld Stand #|
|Nutanix||Converged Storage and Compute||G318|
|Fusion IO||NAND Memory and Software Based Storage Solutions||S217|
|Nimble||Hybrid Storage Solutions||E513|
|Atlantis ILIO||In memory storage technologies||S108|
|Dell Cloud Client Computing||Wyse / Dell DVS Solutions||D208|
|SimpliVity’||Building block approach to virtual infrastructures||P308|