Assessing the OpEx Savings Driven by Nexsan Management Software

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1 Executive Briefing Assessing the OpEx Savings Driven by Nexsan Management Software Integration and Compatibility with Windows in a Virtualized Environment Jack Fegreus September To meet IT needs at small to medium enterprise (SME) sites, Nexsan s SASBeast storage arrays are built on a highly flexible software architecture that can be integrated to the point of transparency into a Windows Server environment. To help control capital expense (CapEx) costs, the Nexsan SASBeast supports a full hierarchy of SSD, SAS, and SATA disk drives. In addition, the SASBeast can be easily configured in a complex SAN fabric that utilizes both Fibre Channel and iscsi paths. For SME sites, a single SASBeast can provide multiple storage targets that support a wide range of application-specific requirements stemming from Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with respect to access (IOPS), throughput (MB per second), or capacity (price per GB). Nexsan SASBeast Value Proposition: 1) Simplify SAN Administration via a Single-Pane-of-Glass Interface: The Nexsan management software integrates with the Microsoft Management Console to provide a complete single-pane-of-glass storage management interface for Nexsan and Microsoft storage management tools. 2) Utilize Multiple Microsoft Tools to Manage Nexsan Resources: Through integration with the Windows Virtual Disk Service, Microsoft tools, including Server Manager and Storage Manager for SANs, have full access to all of the Nexsan configuration data and can be used to directly manage a SASBeast. 3) Maximize Density and Reliability with Hierarchical Storage: 4U SASBeast chassis supports any mix of 42 SSD, SAS, and SATA drives in order to support a full range of SLA storage requirements with respect to storage capacity, throughput, access, and reliability. 4) Maximize I/O Performance: Dual active-active RAID controllers support 42 simultaneously active drives: Iometer Streaming I/O Benchmark: Total full-duplex throughput reached 1GB per second, while simultaneously streaming 128KB reads and 128KB writes using three SAS- and one SATA-based RAID-5 volumes. More importantly, it costs much more per GB to manage storage than it does to acquire it. For IT, the bottom line for controlling operating expense (OpEx) costs, which dominate the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for any storage resource by one or more orders of magnitude comes down to simultaneously minimizing resource management time and maximizing resource utilization. All SAN storage Iometer I/O Operations Benchmark: 4KB reads and writes (80/20 percent mix), averaged 2,330 IOPS on a SAS RAID-5 volume and scaled to 4,380 subsystems represent a IOPS with a second volume. partition of an internal RAID array as a simple logical disk using a Logical Unit Number (LUN). In addition, all SAN storage vendors package proprietary software, which works exclusively with their subsystems, to create, manage, and optionally add functionality to logical disks. As a result, storage in SAN fabrics typically 01

2 IT Service Management evolves into isolated pools of logical disks that require proprietary management processes and reduces IT to managing storage devices as individual assets with out-ofdate spreadsheets to represent current resource configurations. Worse yet, the isolation of SAN resources leaves most IT organizations without a clear set of links needed to tie storage resources with applications and business value. For CIOs, limited operational insight creates a serious gulf in expectations between IT and corporate executives. IT SERVICE MANAGEMENT Corporate executives think in terms of Line of Business (LoB) processes. More importantly, when it comes to services that support these processes, they expect IT to address issues of availability, business continuity, performance, and security. That means IT must be able to create policies and procedures that effectively support a service level agreement (SLA) for storage. To define and support an SLA for a business process, IT must first understand all of the interdependencies among SAN storage devices and hosts for each application that is involved in the process. The lack of such an understanding leaves IT burdened with costly labor-intensive tasks when attempting to fulfill service-centric processes that require detailed application, datacenter, and business process knowledge. As a result, IT needs to simplify and begin automating datacenter processes for building, maintaining, and auditing storage networks. In a Windows Server environment, which IDC pegs as representing 74 percent of the 2010 server market, tight integration of Nexsan s management software with the Windows OS significantly raises the visibility of Nexsan S torage in SAN fabrics typically evolves into isolated pools of logical disks that require proprietary management processes and reduces IT to managing storage devices as individual assets with out-of-date spreadsheets to represent current resource configurations. device configurations and lowers the complexity of storage management tasks for IT administrators. The most immediate benefit comes from the integration of Nexsan s storage management software with the Microsoft Management Console (MMC). From this base level integration, IT administrators are able to invoke Nexsan s management software while working with storage-related MMC tools. The advantages garnered by using MMC as a single-pane-of-glass interface are dwarfed, however, by the critical SAN configuration insight and task simplification that the integration of Nexsan s software with Windows Virtual Disk Service (VDS) provides administrators. In particular, logical disks created on Nexsan devices have extended property sheets that include the name of the specific Nexsan device on which the logical disk was created, the array used within that device, and the name of the array partition mapped as a LUN. 02

3 IT Service Management NEXSAN MMC INTEGRATION Nexsan starts simplifying SAN management by integrating the Nexsan management software with MMC. This allowed us to bring up the Nexsan management console from Windows Server Manager. Using the Nexsan console, we selected a SASBeast unit (oblbeast), an internal array (oblsas-r51), and a partition (voperations) to map as a logical volume on a VMware ESXi 4.1 host and a Windows Server host to backup the VMs on the ESXi host. More importantly, using the standard Windows Server Manager console, we were able to access the same detailed information with respect to the specific Nexsan unit, array, and partition. Thanks to Nexsan s VDS integration, we were able to get all SASBeast details using the Disk Management properties option on any mounted volume created on a Nexsan device. End-to-end SAN infrastructure visibility is a prerequisite for IT to provide storage services that can address end-toend LoB processes. Nexsan helps solve this challenge by integrating its storage management tools with Windows VDS, to provide realtime SAN-wide visibility into SASBeast devices, including detailed information on internal arrays and array partitions. As a result, IT administrators gain immediate access to the essential information for SAN management. What s more, quick access to detailed device information greatly simplifies all tasks associated with resolving root SAN performance issues. This is particularly important when IT administrators are subject to aggressive SLA constraints on the allowable length of time that a storage resource can be down or perform in a degraded manner. Nexsan s ability to provide configuration insight, management simplification, and task automation is particularly important when implementing a 03

4 VOE Support Advantages Virtual Operating Environment (VOE), such as VMware vsphere or Microsoft Hyper-V. A VOE introduces a complete virtualization scheme, which involves servers, storage, and networks, and often introduces multiple levels of physical device indirection. Reflecting the difficulties that such indirection can create, IDG recently reported that 67 percent of CIOs implementing virtualization reported an increase in the complexity of datacenter management. VOE LUN AUTOMATION VOE SUPPORT ADVANTAGES We leveraged Nexsan s VDS integration through Storage Manager for SANs. Without opening the Nexsan management console, we used Storage Manager for SANs to automate creating new LUNs and mapping existing LUNs to servers in our Windows domain over both iscsi and Fibre Channel fabrics. For our VOE, we used Storage Manager for SANs to share LUNs used as datastores by ESXi hosts with a Windows server used to run VM backup software. What s more, we were then able to use Disk Manager to drill down on all of the Nexsan configuration data associated with that logical disk. Even in a VMware vsphere environment, Windows-based servers are required to run a number of crucial support applications, such as vcenter and VM backup. As a result, a SASBeast can be used to provide end-to-end SAN insight and simplified management in a VOE. In particular, we leveraged VDS integration with Storage Manager for SANs to automate the creation and mapping of new and existing LUNs, including LUNs mapped 04

5 VOE Support Advantages to vsphere hosts, to servers within our Windows domain. What s more, we were able to extend that automation to mounting and formatting the logical volume on a host. VDS HYPER-V DEPENDENCY VDS also plays an important role in Hyper-V. Without a third-party file system with a Distributed Lock Manager (DLM), the sharing of VM data volumes is limited to cluster configurations. As a result, the normal default in a Hyper-V environment is to transfer VM disks and configuration data using network transfers. To avoid that default situation in extreme cases, such as when transferring files between VM data volumes on the same server, Hyper-V relies on Using System Center with both Hyper-V and vsphere 4.1 environments, VDS integration also VDS to sense when a file proved to be crucial when moving Hyper-V VMs between Hyper-V Library shares and VM transfer can be made over storage pools. When we attempted to move a template VM oblw2k3 into a shared library volume that was FC attached to the SASBeast from a locale VM store that was FC attached to the SAN. When we tested a storage resource that was not integrated with VDS, the local disk-to-disk transfer had to be this function by made over the LAN rather than directly over the SAN. attempting to move a VM from a data volume on a SAN storage resource that was not integrated with VDS to a volume from the SASBeast, we were forced to do so over the much slower LAN. While reducing OpEx and CapEx costs are the critical divers in justifying the acquisition of storage resources, those resources must first and foremost meet the performance metrics needed for successfully completing LoB tasks. To optimize performance, the Nexsan SASBeast leverages some very sophisticated SAN constructs All storage systems with multiple controllers need to handle the dual issues of array ownership active service processors and SAN load balancing active ports. Through Nexsan s implementation of Asymmetric Logical Unit Access (ALUA), host systems with advanced MPIO software, Such as ESX and ESXi 4.1 along with Windows Server 2008, can access a SASBeast and discern the subtle but important difference between an active port and an active port on an active service processor. The key for optimal performance is to send I/O requests only to active service processors and thereby avoid the overhead of switching controllers. 05

6 Nonetheless, in leveraging the advanced MPIO schemes in ESX 4.1, ESXi 4.1, and Windows Server 2008, an IT administrator is also able to simplify configuration issues by mapping all LUNs to each of the FC ports on every controller and then allowing T he advantages garnered by using MMC as a single-pane-of-glass interface are dwarfed by the critical SAN configuration insight and task simplification that the integration of Nexsan s software with Windows Virtual Disk Service (VDS) provides administrators. the server s MPIO software to optimize FC port aggregation and handle controller failover. Using this scheme openbench Labs was able to scale streaming reads and writes to four logical drives at upwards of 1GB per second. SME CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS Forrester Research pegs the typical SME IT organization as having two years of basic virtualization experience. At these sites, initial projects frequently proved to be successful in generating savings through hardware consolidation; however, these initial SME projects typically used direct attached storage (DAS) rather than SAN storage. As a result, successful early consolidation projects fail to help advance the adoption of more sophisticated virtualization constructs. In the next phase of virtualization deployment at these sites, IT focus shifts from hardware-centric consolidation to application-centric availability and continuity for critical business processes. To meet application SLAs, IT needs a VoE infrastructure with the manageability and flexibility that only shared storage can provide and that makes SAN implementation a critical success factor. The bottom line for SME sites is struggling with implementing a VOE, is Nexsan s ability to provide both FC and iscsi SAN infrastructure that is capable of efficiently supporting the characteristic I/O patterns that distinguish a VOE host server. With such a foundation complimented by sophisticated capabilities to reduce management costs, IT is free to use the comprehensive virtualization features of their VOE to provision resources for VMs, commission and decommission VM applications, and migrate VMs among multiple hosts in real time to meet changing resource demands. Jack Fegreus is Managing Director of openbench Labs and consults through Ridgetop Research. He also contributes to InfoStor, Virtual Strategy Magazine, and Open Magazine, and serves as CTO of Strategic Communications. Previously he was Editor in Chief of Open Magazine, Data Storage, BackOffice CTO, Client/Server Today, and Digital Review. Jack also served as a consultant to Demax Software and was IT Director at Riley Stoker Corp. Jack holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics and worked on the application of computers to symbolic logic.

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