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).

VMworld 2013 - Day 4 249

 

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.

Moving on towards the big picture

thebigpictureRecently I celebrated my 3 year mark with working at EMC.  In that time I went through the GSAP program (more info on my blog post of my 2 year anniversary), assisted customers in USD tech support, and most recently helped cultivate a proactive social support model for our team.  Over that time, I’ve only had to change desks once but changed managers 9 times.

 

Well I am proud to announce that as of Monday, February 11th, 2013, I will be changing desks and managers again.  I have accepted an opportunity to join EMC’s Social Media Marketing team!  This is the same great team that my friend Matt Brender joined a year ago and I am extremely excited to be working together again at EMC.

 

I’m not exactly sure what the future will hold with this job, and that is what attracted me to it.  I have been working with the team ad-hoc style for the past year already participating in brainstorming sessions for R.A.M.P and EMC Elect.  I can only imagine what projects and ideas will come in 2013 as a good amount of this job will be brainstorming and creating them.

 

While I am moving away from being dedicated to VNX, I plan to still stay heavily involved with the storage and virtualization communities and blog about new and exciting technologies as well as things I interact with as part of my new role.

EMC Elect 2013 – Thank you!

imageAround 2 months ago I wrote about EMC Elect.  This new recognition program is similar to Microsoft MVP and VMware vExpert.  When I wrote about the subject initially, I had just received word that I was nominated from a reader.  Fast forward to now, and I received word that I have been accepted as one of the 75 EMC Elect 2013.

 

I want to thank everyone who reads my blog, talks with me on twitter, or interacts with me on ECN or in person.  I am honored that you find my posts and insight so great and I want to keep that going through 2013 and beyond.

 

I ask that everyone please join me in congratulating the other members of EMC Elect 2013.  We have an amazing group of individuals this year and every one of them deserves this recognition.

 

Again, thank you all for making this happen and look forward to more great EMC posts!

My 2012 in review (and a look towards 2013)

2012I find myself on this new years eve (after digging out from 10 inches of snow) reflecting back on all that has happened this year.  Checking in with the old Google analytics website, this year I ranked in over 18,000 visits to my website.  That might not seem like much, but that’s a 3x growth over last year and I want to thank all of my readers for being a part of it!

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I think I’ve really started to find my voice for Thulin’ Around and have started to make it my own.  I’ve been leveraging the blog as I can in my role in EMC’s VNX support lab.  This would probably explain why my #1 post is still my LDAP post from 2011 (which was revisited in 2012 with a new post for the latest VNX software).

 

My employer also recognized what I do for the VNX community with my blog and listed me as part of their social media blogging core and I am honored to be in such great company as Chad Sakac and Jeramiah Dooley.

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Towards the end of the year, EMC launched a brand advocacy rewards program called EMC Elect and I was very happy to be nominated by my readers.  Having a great friend like Matthew Brender, I was able to see all that goes in to building out a project of this magnitude and I have a new found respect for the effort that is required behind the scenes.  The founding members that were selected are a great group of individuals and I believe they represent the principles and values that should be recognized as part of EMC Elect.

 

2012 was also a great year for shows and user groups for me.  I was able to travel to EMC World 2012 as part of the Ask the Expert program.  At these events, I was able to demonstrate another passion of mine, Photography.  I published 170 photos from EMC World 2012 and as more events rolled through, I continued to refine my technique and you can see a real difference in my photos from the EMC Forum Boston 2012.

 

Looking forward to 2013

So what does 2013 have in store for me?  Well I’m starting the year off with a long trip to Seattle, Washington.  There I will be assisting the Isilon support team transition over to the EMC Support tools and processes.  If you are in the Seattle area, lets meet up!  Just check my twitter feed to reach out to me.

 

I also expect to use social media more and more in my job role.  Without going into to much detail, I want to say that there is plenty going on behind the scenes to help develop and flesh out a proactive support model as well as a reactive support model.  Stay tuned to the @EMCSupport twitter account for more information and feel free to reach out with any questions or concerns about EMC products or your support experience.

 

I’m also looking forward to the results of EMC Elect nominations to see who was selected for 2013.  Fingers crossed that I am chosen, but if not, I know that those who will be chosen are well deserving of the title.

 

I also hope to be attending more conferences and user group meetings.  I am disappointed that I will miss the NEVMUG Winter Warmer, but there will be plenty more events in 2013 for me to join in on.  I’ve already started planning some ideas EMC World 2013.

 

As always, I like to hear from my readers and followers.  What did you like about 2012?  Was there anything on my blog that you really liked / disliked?  What are you looking forward to in 2013?  Let me know in the comments and have a happy new year!

Making CAVA work with SMB2 on your VNX

vnx-promo-bannerAs more and more people start to deploy a new VNX and switch to an advanced windows server operating system, I am seeing a higher utilization of the SMB2 protocol for cifs.  With this increase, comes new problems.  Recently I had noticed a rather peculiar notification in the server logs in regards to CAVA.  CAVA was reporting the error “FILE_NOT_FOUND” on scans when the file existed.  It would present itself as something like this:

 

2012-04-29 08:49:47: 81878122528: VC: 3: 32: Server ‘192.168.1.156’ returned error ‘FILE_NOT_FOUND’ when checking file ‘\root_vdm_2\CIFS\Test\1234.exe’

 

The standard troubleshooting confirmed that the file did exist.  I even back traced it from the CAVA server through the “check$” share and did not have any problems with the file.  So why was CAVA reporting errors like this so often?  It turns out the problem was not with CAVA itself, but with an “enhancement” introduced as part of SMB2.

 

As part of the SMB2 protocol, the Microsoft Redirector uses a local cache for directory metadata.  This cache is usually cleared after 10 seconds.  What this does, in instances of file systems with a high rate of change, is cause an inconsistency with what the CAVA server sees when it goes to scan a file.  The CAVA server will actually read from the cache and error out when the file is not found in it.  This then causes the error that I pasted above.

 

Of course with a problem, comes a work around.  This was identified and placed into the latest VNX Event Enabler release notes, but I will provide it for you here:

 

  1. Open the Windows Registry Editor and navigate to HKLM\SystemCurrentControlSet\Services\LanmanWorkstation\Parameters.
  2. Right-click Parameters and select New > DWORD Value.
  3. For the new REG_DWORD entry, type a name of DirectoryCacheLifetime.
  4. Set the value to 0 to disable DirectoryCacheLifetime.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Restart the machine.

 

A simple registry change on each CAVA server and a reboot will allow you to set the cache lifetime value to 0 and thus there will be no more caching.  After this change you should not see any more problems caused by SMB2.

I Tech Therefore I Tool Around – Episode 04 – EMC World 2012

EMCWorldIts been a while since Matt and I teamed up to do another installment of the I Tech Therefore I Tool Around Podcast.  With EMC World right around the corner, we decided to preview the upcoming event!  Being located near the EMC Headquarters has it’s benefits, and one of those is that many people were in town working on projects for the show.  We invited two vSpecialists Jase McCarty and Dave Robertson to join us in talking about the show.

 

In this podcast we talk about several different subjects revolving around EMC World.  We started off by talking about the vLabs, what went into them last year, and what we can look forward to this year.  Jase is going to be head of operations this year at the vLabs and will be the man to make sure things get done.  Dave has been up here working on a VMAX VSA that will be used as vLab demo this year.

 

Next we moved on to Project R.A.M.P.  Matt takes us through the first big public result of his new role at EMC.  For those of you who don’t know, Matt has transferred from Engineering to the Social Media team here at EMC.  As of this blog post, Project R.A.M.P has gone live on the EMC Community Network but there will be mission for those attending EMC World.

 

New this year are BUZZ sessions.  These short 20 – 30 minute gatherings are modeled after the TED Talks and will encompass a variety of subjects.  Matt, myself, and several of the support forum legends will be having a BUZZ session on Wednesday, May 23rd @ 10:30 AM PST.  Be sure to join us both in person and online (more on that later).  In addition to the buzz talk, you will find myself and several other ECN members at the EMC eServices / Social Media booth and around the show conducting interviews and reports.  And be sure to come check out the Bloggers Lounge and catch up with other bloggers.

 

While at this years show, be sure to visit the EMC Proven Professional area where they are offering 50% off the price of exams.  The show floor will always have some great swag to give away, so be sure to bring an extra bag to fill up.  Closing out the show this year will be another live episode of Chad’s World as well as a special concert by Maroon 5!!!!!!!  I look forward to seeing as many people there again this year.

 

Click HERE to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!

Or click HERE (or on the icon) to download the MP3 directly!

I Tech Therefore I Tool Around – Episode 03 – Community

Community pinned on noticeboardA new year, a new installment of #ITTITA!  This time we decided to take a new approach to the podcast.  Instead of picking a technical topic and doing a deep dive, we are going to review the past year.  One of the biggest influences of our year was this theme of “Community” it was everywhere and played a big part in our lives.

 

Community has been a big factor at some of the different conventions I’ve been to this year.  At EMC World we held a virtual #nerdherd and invited the community to interact with us at the convention as well as online via a live video and chat feed.  At the New England VMware User Group meeting a few weeks ago, community was also present with the great conversations as well as user presentations.

 

2012 is also going to be a great year of community.  We started the year by launching the “Ask the Expert” forum on the EMC Community Network.  In the first event of the year on there, Matt partnered up with Henri to tackle the tough questions about VNXe VMware integration.  There was some excellent conversation as well as a storage deep-dive and we had a record number of views on this single thread.

 

All in all I think that 2011 was a great year for me.  I launched my blog, I linked up with some great and knowledgeable people, and I even started a podcastwith one of my best friends.  2012 looks to be an even greater year!

 

Click HEREto subscribe to the podcast on iTunes!

Or click HERE (or on the icon) to download the MP3 directly!

2 Years at EMC

EMCToday marks my 2 year anniversary at EMC.  Back in January of 2010, I literally graduated from college on a Friday and started at EMC on a Monday.  I was enrolled in the Global Services Associate program (GSAP) which started off with a 10 week intensive training program known as “Bootcamp”.  During this great opportunity I learned a lot about all the different products and services EMC has to offer.

My first 3 weeks were dedicated to passing my first certification known as EMC Technology Foundations (Now replaced by Information Storage Management).  This was a tough challenge as I had no experience with enterprise storage being fresh out of college.  After this I began my deeper training in CLARiiON, SAN, and networking protocols.  This program was a great experience and gave me a good foundation for my job in the NAS support lab.

It was decided quickly that my focus within the NAS support lab would be with CIFS, Active Directory, and anti virus.  With roughly 90% of our install base using CIFS, this was going to be a an important part of the organization.  I quickly excelled in this area and have become a subject matter expert.

At EMC World 2011 in Las Vegas, I passed my NAS Specialist certification and then shortly after that I earned my VMware Certified Professional 4 during the summer.  I’ve been out to Utah to train our new employees and participate on the EMC Community Network as well.

So far these first two years have been great for me.  I’ve met a lot of great people and have participated in some great events.  I only see good things to come from the next 2 years.