Peeling back the layers of XtremIO: What is an X-Brick?

XtremIO_iconMany moons ago, on a stage not too far from where I work, EMC announced the future of flash and the creation of the Xtrem brand / business unit.  Today, EMC announces the latest product in the brand: XtremIO.  This all flash storage monster changes the way we think about storage and for the better.  Gone is the need for tiering and different types of RAID configurations. Rebuilds are measured in minutes, not hours. I present to you, the X-Brick!

 

What’s in the X-Brick?

imageSo the picture above shows the major breakdown of an X-Brick.  Behind the covers you have 2 controllers, 2 battery backup units, and a 25 drive DAE that accepts 2.5” drives (does that look familiar?).

 

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In  the back you can see there is 2 of everything.  There are 2 power supplies, 2 SAS controllers, 2 iSCSI and Fiber Channel ports, and 2 InfiniBand ports for clustering.  Just like with all other EMC products, there is no single point of failure in this design (and I do like how everything gets a UPS instead of just the DAE).

 

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Inside the hardware of each X-Brick are dual SPs (these are external 1U blades, unlike what you see in a VNX SP), each with dual 8 core CPUs and 256GB of RAM.  They each have a SAS 2.0 connection directly to 25 eMLC SSD drives as well as InfiniBand connectivity to other nodes in the cluster (more on this soon).  On the front end, you have 10gig iSCSI as well as 8gig FiberChannel.   This impressive platform sets the stage for even more impressive software.

 

Lets talk about clusters

At launch, the XtremIO platform can support up to 4 X-Bricks (in theory, I don’t see why more can’t be added, and maybe they will be in the future).  Each X-Brick is of a fixed size of around 10TB of storage with around 7.5TB of useable space (though I expect that total size will be increased in the near future).  In a 50/50 read/write performance test, each X-Brick topped out at about 150,000 IOPS (that number increased to around 250,000 if you are doing 100% reads).  And when you max out your cluster with 4 X-Bricks, both your storage and IOPS scale out giving you 40TB of capacity and around 600,000 real world IOPS (topping out at around 1,000,000 if your doing just reads!!!!!!).

 

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The key to achieving all of this is in the software layer.  When data comes in, it is broken down in to 4K chunks.  Each chunk is then hashed using an SHA-1 algorithm and assigned a unique metadata fingerprint.  The chunks are then spread out across all the storage processors in the cluster to distribute the data around for faster throughput and the logical block address, fingerprint, and SSD offset are recorded in the metadata.  When new data comes in, the fingerprints are checked against the existing database to see if there is a match.  If there is, the metadata is recorded, but the write is not necessary, thus extending the life of the SSDs as well as performing an inline deduplication.  Now 256GB is not a lot of RAM to store metadata, and when full it will destage this to the SSDs.  This is where the cluster really starts to shine.

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By utilizing the RDMA fabric between the X-Bricks.  The metadata calculation can be distributed across the entire cluster for an even load balancing.  This allows the decoupling of the user data and the meta data so that they don’t have to be on the same X-Brick and also allows you to recall any of the data in a similar fashion.  The in memory metadata of a controller is also mirrored to another controller in the cluster just in case there is a controller failure.  By being able to utilize multiple X-Bricks at the same time, you can scale out all the processing in an active/active environment and increase the total throughput of the cluster as a whole.

 

So what does it look like?

Well first off, it’s not Unisphere, but it’s own interface (the XMS management system) that is launched from the web server running on a controller as well as a robust CLI.  This video demonstration gives you a great overview.

XtremIO v2.2 GUI Demonstration

Final Thoughts

All in all, for a first round product, I think this is a great offering.  I’d like to see it scaled up higher with more storage and more X-Bricks in a cluster as I don’t think they have hit the limits of the architecture.  Be sure to watch the Launch event.  Here is a sneak peek at the cool X-Brick Coffee table (which will one day end up in my living room if I can help it)!

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VMworld 2013 in pictures

VMworld 2013 - Day 3 331San Francisco is an amazing city (and also an expensive city).  I finally was approved for travel to this city after trying the past two years, so I wanted to make it count.  I had heard so many great things about VMworld from years past and I was looking forward to all it had to offer before, during, and after the show.  With only a few days in the city and a lot to accomplish, my adventure began on saturday.

 

Saturday night kicked off the first VMworld activity (if you don’t count booth assembly or hanging in the alumni lounge).  Simon Seagrave hosted a spectacular vBeers event to kick things off and it was packed the the point it was spilling out on to the sidewalk.  I met a lot of really cool people (including several people I follow on twitter) and I even got to try out google glass (I need to find one that fits people with glasses).

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 1 189_HDRThe next day started off with some sight seeing and a bit of a walking tour of SF.  Google maps really need to start telling me about elevation changes because some of those streets were straight up (or down depending on the direction you were going)!

 

Sunday afternoon was home to the 4th (or 5th depending on who you ask) vOdgeball tournament and this year did not disapoint.  My understanding was that this was the biggest it has been and major props to the teams competing, the refs for making quick calls, and the fans for surviving stray balls.

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While team EMC was victorious in winning, the real winners was the wounded warriors program who received around $14,000 in donations.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 2 367That evening we witnessed the opening of the show floor.  I have to say, the EMC booth was amazing and was one of 2 double decker booths on the show floor.  It seemed like every time I was at the booth it was packed full of people and this is always a great sign.  After 3 hours of booths, beer, and food, it was time for the biggest social media meet up of the week.  I’m referring to the VMunderground party.  This year it was held at an art gallery (that was surprisingly vacant of art) and had plenty of room to talk, eat, and mingle.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 2 066All this has happened and the show doesn’t even start really until Monday morning.  The opening keynote delivered by former EMCer Pat Gelsinger did not disappoint.  Major announcements about the release of vSphere 5.5 which included two new features: VSAN and NSX.  VSAN is VMwares take on software defined storage and NSX is the result of the Nicira acquisition last year and completes their software defined networking portfolio.  There are plenty of great blogs out there discussing these technologies and I can’t wait to see what is done with this technology down the road.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 2 392VMworld 2013 - Day 2 518At the EMC booth, Chad Sakac didn’t disappoint either.  He has a way with words and seems to be able to fire up the crowd no matter where he is.  Of course it helps when you have goodies to wow people like a VMAX that has a fridge built into it.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 3 127Tuesday provided even more information about the new technologies announced the day before.  It was also a great day to do hands on labs.  VMware provided a huge hands on lab area, but for people wanting to try out EMC specific labs, we also brought our own booth setup to handle several labs at a time across the entire EMC portfolio.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 3 565Tuesday night was the vendor parties and EMC, Cisco, and Intel banded together to bring you Cloudfest!.  We took over Ghirardelli square to bring the ultimate combination of music, food, and chocolate.  As evidence by the photo to the right, this place was packed!  The bands were great and delivered some amazing covers of popular songs by Queen, The Police, and others.  I was told this was one of the best parties of the night and people were still talking about it up through the end of VMworld.

 

VMworld 2013 - Day 4 080VMworld 2013 - Day 4 220On Wednesday, the EMC booth had a t-shirt meet up.  Everywhere you looked was a sea of EMC datacenter hero shirts (I think there were more than at EMC World).  This was the final day the show floor was open and even after 3 days of presentations, booth attendance was still very high (including some special guests like Pat dropping by).

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VMworld 2013 - Day 4 279That night was the VMworld Party.  They took over AT&T park and turned it into a cVMworld 2013 - Day 4 301ounty fair!  The midway games were great however I still maintain that they were rigged since the same people kept winning (and I won nothing).  Both Train and Imagine Dragons did a great job.  This has to be one of the best customer appreciation parties I have been to and I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming years as other events step up!

 

All in all VMworld was a great event.  I met more people than I can remember (including about half of the people I follow on twitter).  I learned a lot about upcoming technology and the solutions they play.  To see the full collection of my photos (all 154 of them) I have posted them to google+.

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VMworld – The EMC presence and where to find me

With VMworld getting underway in just a few hours, i thought i’d talk about EMC’s presence at the show and where you can find me.  EMC will have 2 booths this year.  We have the main booth which is 2 floors and full of awesome!  The main floor area will have a social media wall, a presentation theater, a prize wheel, and plenty of stations to learn about all that we have to offer.  The upstairs area will be an EMC Elect space for all Elect members in attendance.  Have you nominated someone (or yourself) yet?

 

The other area will be in the back corner and it is an EMC Hands on lab (Powered by vLab!) area where you can try our latest and greatest solutions in a virtual environment.  This is separate

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I urge everyone to stop by the booths and check them out, and you may even find yourself in a picture up on one of our posts!  Which brings me to where i’ll be.  This year i am acting as official EMC photographer for the event.  I will be EVERYWHERE gathering photos of all things EMC.  So be sure to attend one of our sessions or anything else listed on the vPass page and you may wind up in our photo album.  When i’m not shooting photos, you’ll find me hanging out around the EMC booth or in the VMworld hang space.  At night, you can find me at one of VMworld’s many social gatherings.

 

Speaking of social gatherings, are you going to Cloudfest?  For those of you who don’t know, Cloudfest is a customer appreciation party cosponsored by EMC, Cisco, and Intel.  It’s going to be the best party tuesday night.  For those of you who have already signed up, be sure to pick up your invitation at the EMC Booth.  If you didn’t get a chance to sign up, there will be more tickets given out, so talk to the booth staff and see if you can get one, or become friends with an EMC Elect member who might be able to get you in.  I hope to see everyone there.

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Thats it for now, but be sure to check out the EMC VMworld vPass page to cover all things going on at this year’s show.

VMworld – Introducing the Software-Defined 7

With VMworld a week away, I wanted to start talking about the goings on at the event and how I will be contributing to the community.  This year, we have seven EMC Elect Social Champions (also known as the “Software Defined 7″) who will be attending VMworld and offering live coverage of the event.  I am honored to be one of those members this year and will be your goto contact for EMC party related information (more onthat later) as well as taking photos of the entire show.

This year, EMC has several break out sessions, as well as a large double decker booth on the show floor, hands on labs, and a customer appreciation event.  A full list of all the events can be found here.  A member of the software defined seven has volunteered to be the social champion for a break out session or event and will be your contact for any questions as well as blogging & tweeting the content from the session.  They will become the goto person for asking questions during the event wether you are attending or playing the home game.

 

For those of you who cannot attend, but want to stay up to date on all things EMC at VMworld, i encourage you to visit the Virtual Pass page on ECN where we have everything EMC is doing all in one space.  There is even a discussion thread to talk about the show (thanks to a suggestion from Luigi).

The New England VTUG – A view from the other side

For the past few years I have attended several New England VTUG/VMUG events as an independent blogger / technologist.  This year, I attended the 10th annual Summer Slam as a sponsor through my employer and it has given me a little bit different a perspective on things.  My goal this event was to promote awareness of the EMC Community Network and the EMC Elect programs and have a conversation about it.  I do believe that I achieved my goal, but I also came away with a few big takeaways for next time.

Know your environment

NE_VTUG 005For those of you who haven’t attended the New England VTUG, it is held in the high school of Brunswick, Maine.  The main vendor hall is in the gymnasium, a room with no wired internet and shared power cords.  One must be prepared because this remote location also does not lend itself very well to cellular signals (probably good for keeping the kids focused on schoolwork). The result of this is that both vendors and attendees would heavily rely on the wifi network, and after it hit full saturation, performance problems would occur.  This also meant that there was no fall back for hotspots and mifi units.  It became quite apparent that I had miscalculated when I was the only one trying to do live demos that required internet connectivity.

BRING A FAN!!!!!

NE_VTUG 018I cannot stress this enough.  It is very hot, and in the summer the AC is not on in the school (with the exception of the theater), so a fan will be your best friend.  Vendors can use this to their advantage too.  If you want to get everyone to come to your booth, give your patrons a way to cool off.  The two most popular booths were giving away smoothies for attendees (competitors too) to drink and it was much appreciated.

 

All these fans however caused another issue … with the power.  When you run several fans (and a blender) off the same circuit, you may overload it.  And we did … twice!  The NEVTUG staff was very attentive to get extra power cables run and reset the circuit breakers so that downtime was minimal.

Be Happy! Be Social!

NE_VTUG 021To be honest, the majority of the attendees I spoke with had never heard of ECN or the EMC Elect.  However when I spoke to them, many were very receptive and enthusiastic about the idea.  One of the moments that really stood out to me was when a customer indicated that he was the goto person in his organization for everything, and he often did not know the answer.  After I explained to him about the support forums on ECN, he lit up and responded “This is where I can get the answers!”  Its genuine engagement like this that makes these user group meetings worth while.

Lets do it again

I had a blast talking to customers, partners, and even a few competitors at the NEVTUG.  With news coming of a new VTUG chapter forming in Silicon Valley (and more in the works across the united states) I urge all my readers to attend one and have a great conversation.

A quick fix for the VNX

If you are a customer, partner, or EMC employee and you are subscribed to the ETA notifications list, you probably got a heads up about potential incompatibility between the VNX, RecoverPoint, and VAAI under certain conditions.  For those of you who are not subscribed, fellow blogger Cormac Hogan wrote a quick little post about the issue.

 

I’m proud to announce that there is a fix available for this and it can be found in VNX Block OE 05.32.000.5.206 (released this week).  Simply apply this fix (you can do it yourself using USM).  For those of you with a FILE front end, make sure you update to 7.1.71.1 as well.

 

If you are an EMC Customer (with support zone credentials), you can read the full description of solution emc327099 (now stored on the new knowledgebase solution powered by Salesforce).  If the direct link is not working, simply login to http://support.emc.com and search for “emc327099” and your first result should be the solution.

EMC World 2013: Highlights and Photos

EMC World 2013 - Day 1 449I meant to get this post out a loot sooner as EMC world ended over 2 weeks ago.  This year is my 3rd EMC World and it did not disappoint.  The overall show theme was a superhero theme.  From the Global League of Storage (pictured left) to Captain Scale-Out, every booth was very creative in their design and creativity.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 2 095Outside of the solutions pavilion, the EMC Square was front and center when anyone entered there show floor.  This area was HUGE and twice the size than had been described to me.  Made up of the EMC TV booth, the back stage area, and the Blogger’s Space (which also contained the EMC Elect Space).  The EMC Elect Space was a huge hit with the members.  We were able to sit down and chat about all sorts of topics, including some special sessions on BRS as well as ViPR.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 1 118EMC World 2013 - Day 2 379Speaking about ViPR, it was defiantly the big announcement at EMC World this year.  If you are not familiar with ViPR, EMC’s Chuck Hollis has a great write up on the product announcement and where it fits in the industry.  We also got a closer looked at Pivotal presented by Paul Maritz.  Overall, things are looking very good for EMC and I’m excited to see what the coming year brings for these announcements.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 2 620What you might not of noticed during the general sessions and the keynotes was a new initiative we were trying this year called “Blueprints”.  This idea was the brain child of fellow teammate Kari D’Elia and winner of an internal pitch contest called Shark Tank.  Off in the corner, during each of the presentations, was a person transcribing what they see and here into a full page info graphic.  These were defiantly a huge hit, and every time I walked by the finished product I would see people standing and taking pictures of them.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 2 530The other big winner of EMC World was the Hands-on Labs.  This 200 person demo center was powered by EMC vLab (expect to hear more about this team in the coming months) and allowed attendees to try all the various products that EMC has to offer without the need for physical hardware.  This place was always packed and seemed to be a huge hit with everyone who sat down for a lab.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 3 675What show would be complete without a customer appreciation event?  This year’s headliner was non other than music sensation Bruno Mars.  Now I will be the first to admit, I’m not a huge fan of his music (probably because I’m not his target demographic), but he and the rest of the band put on a great show with several cover songs including some Nirvana and some Michael Jackson.

 

EMC World 2013 - Day 3 075My role during the majority of the show was to take photos for the social media team.  By the numbers, I snapped off more than 1200 photos over the course of 4 days for a grand total of more than 30GB of images.  I whittled that number down to 190 images that I have published to google here.  I hope you enjoy them.

https://picasaweb.google.com/103806208080531222274/EMCWorld2013

Are you going to the EMC Global Partner Summit? You should!

GPS2013Calling all EMC Partners, are you attending EMC World this year? Make sure you start off by attending the Global Partner Summit going on concurrently with the show.

 

It all starts Monday morning with a special general session just for GPS attendees.  Here you will find out about all that EMC is offering to enable partners in 2013 and beyond with presentations by EMC’s executives.  The general session is then followed by 3 keynotes for resellers, service providers, and IIG specialists.  After lunch, partners will be offered a multitude of breakout sessions including regional solution provider sessions as well as informative deep dives on security, big data, and XaaS.

 

After the EMC World general session and grand opening reception, there will be a partner appreciation party from 9pm – 11pm at the TAO Nightclub in the Venetian.  Be sure to pick up your wrist band in the EMC Business Partner Lounge located on the show floor.

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Speaking of the Partner Lounge, they will be open the entire EMC World show hours on Monday – Thursday.  I encourage you to stop by as they will have staff on site showing you how to register for and leverage the EMC Community Network.  While you are there, be sure to enter their contest to win one of 3 $200 gift cards.

 

Tuesday will be another filled day.  After the EMC World General Session, there will be additional product specific break out sessions.  In the morning, you can sit in on presentations from USD, ESD, ASD, Isilon, and Flash while the afternoon will have presentations from BRS and Global Services (my former organization at EMC).  Capping off day 2 is a final presentation by VSPEX and VCE.

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Be sure to follow @EMCchannel on twitter for updates throughout the show!  If you are attending GPS2013, let me know what you think in the comments below.

EMC World 2013 – What you should see and where I will be

EMC World 2In just one weeks time, 15,000+ people will descend on Las Vegas and the Sands Convention Center for EMC World 2013.  While I can’t wait for the show to start, I wanted to highlight a few things that you may not know about, but will definitely make your show experience so much better.

EMC Square

Front and center during this year’s show is the EMC Square.  This mecca to all things social (and it may or may not be a perfect square) will house EMC TV, Silicon Angle, the EMC Backstage (more on this later) and the all new Blogger’s Space.  The Blogger’s Space (formally the Blogger’s Lounge) will be where bloggers such as myself can meet to talk, share ideas on the white boards, relay screens to watch keynotes, and of course  internet access to blog.  Inside the Blogger’s Space is a special area for EMC Elect members.  Elect members will have their own area to converse and I’m also told there will be special Elect ONLY blogger briefings during the show.  If you are a blogger and you are attending EMC World, make sure you register here.  I will be spending most of my time here and at the ECN booth, so be sure to stop by and say hello.

 

This year the social media team will unveil an all new Buzz Board.  This new interactive display will pull in tweets, Facebook posts, pictures, videos, and more about EMC World.  Simply tag things with #EMCWorld and watch them populate in near real time.

Social display

Last year we had Buzz Sessions, Quick 10 – 15 minutes sessions highlighting a multitude of topics (including one staring yours truly).  This year we decided to slow things down a bit and introduce EMC Backstage.  After every keynote, we’ve invited the speakers to come sit and answer questions.  If there was something you wanted to know more about during the keynote, now is your chance.  Simply tweet your question with the #EMCBackStage hashtag and the moderator may ask it during the session.


Hands-on Labs

The Hands-on Labs are always a highlight of the show.  It’s the best place to try out all sorts of product demos and get a real feel for things without having to play with your production system.  It’s also rumored that this year you will get a chance to try out some unreleased products through the hands on labs

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I know my friend Craig “Chappy” Chapman was looking for good music this year, so I can’t wait to hear the final playlist.  The Hands-on Labs tend to fill up fast, so your best time to participate is first thing in the morning.  There should be little to no wait then.

Nightlife

With everything that goes on during the day at EMC World, what are you going to do at night?  Well on Wednesday is the customer appreciation event.  Just like last year, there will be another big name performer.  Guest passes are already sold out, so I hope you got one if you were going to bring a friend.

 

But what are you going to do the other few nights?  That is where we have you covered.  On ECN you can find a list of all the official and unofficial meetups going on during the week.  There will be a party on Tuesday night in the Zebra Lounge for ECN Members.  This party requires a wrist band, so be sure to see me to get one.  I haven’t figure out how I’m going to award them, but I’m always wanting to meet readers of my blog.

 

Where you’ll find me

My time at EMC world will be split between taking photos (be sure to follow me on twitter as well as @EMCCorp to see them) and booth duty.  On Monday you’ll find me at the ECN Station for most of the evening.  Tuesday and Wednesday mornings will be spent at the Elect Lounge.  I will be taking photos of all the keynotes (I believe another team mate will be taking photos of the general sessions).  Outside of that I’ll be at various meetups and events.  If you want to meet up, just tweet me and I’ll tell you where I’m at!

Twitter, Tragedy, and our Finest Hour

By now I’m sure most (if not all) of you have heard about the tragic events that occurred during yesterday’s running of the Boston Marathon.  Like most of the world, I learned of the news through social media.  My twitter timeline was flooding so fast I could not keep up.  Within seconds, the world was updated with news of the explosion, 140 characters at a time.  And as the news spread, others began to chime in.

While some were quick to point fingers and call it a “terrorist attack”, the most impactful messages were those of prayer, hope, and help and they seemed to outnumber the calls for hate and retaliation by 1000:1.

One of the biggest advantages of living in this digital age was how quickly we were able to check on those we love and care about.  My employer (EMC) was a large sponsor of the race.  Not only did we have people covering the race, but we also had coworkers running in it.  It was the power of twitter and my network of friends that let me know that everyone was safe and accounted for.

For those who were running in the race who we could not reach, technology provided us with a glimmer of hope in the form of tracking the racers bibs.  My friend Matt Brender put out a message of hope directing people to check on racers they know and see where they last checked in.

The link and message he shared was picked up by many and is a perfect example of how the online community can come together to help one and other.

With facts, rumors, and educated guesses flying around, all the news agencies were quick to get the story out, and not all of them got it right.  What surprised me the most was that the most credible news updates came from the hacker collective Anonymous.  They were quick to put out the message of ongoing activity, numbers to call, and facts (instead of conjecture) as they unfolded.

As the sun started to set and the dust began to settle, the messages switched to that of hope.  A Google doc was created full of people around the area willing to help shelter anyone that had been displaced by the days events.  People were willing to open up their homes in a showing of solidarity.  If anything, yesterday made the city of Boston and the nation stronger and why I believe this was our finest hour.