Clustering Windows File Servers for Enterprise Scale and High Availability

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1 Enabling the Always-On Enterprise Clustering Windows File Servers for Enterprise Scale and High Availability By Andrew Melmed Director of Enterprise Solutions, Sanbolic, Inc. April 2012 Introduction Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 is frequently deployed in small- to mid-size environments for file-serving purposes. In these situations, I/O performance is often determined by the disk drive configuration and the server hardware, which is typically industry-standard servers based on Intel or AMD server technologies. And while many customers consider Windows Server 2008 R2 an effective file-serving solution for their initial or less-extensive file-serving needs, they often find themselves implementing larger, more expensive, proprietary file-serving appliances when their requirements expand beyond the capabilities of a single server. Unfortunately, the use of file-serving appliances introduces its own set of issues, including limitations in scale and availability, as well as the additional costs and complexities associated with managing proprietary island systems. By harnessing the combined capabilities of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Sanbolic s Melio distributed data management software, and SAN storage, organizations are able to take advantage of block-based storage that is accessible by multiple servers simultaneously to create highly scalable, highly available file-serving clusters that can effectively meet both current and future file-serving demands, regardless of the intensity of those demands. About Sanbolic Melio Sanbolic Melio is an innovative, software-based product suite that augments existing application, server and storage infrastructures to avoid the challenges presented by poorly implemented and poorly managed storage architectures. By extending the benefits of virtualization to the storage layer, Sanbolic s Melio software allows organizations to realize far greater returns on their investments in applications and solutions built on Windows platforms. Some of the key benefits attained through the use of the Melio software include: Data consolidation Infrastructure flexibility and agility Application clustering for enhanced availability and scalability Efficient storage utilization Reduced storage cost Enhanced storage performance Seamless infrastructure scale-out Simplified data and storage management Reliable data protection

2 At the core of the Melio product suite is an advanced, 64-bit, symmetrical cluster file system called Melio FS that provides multiple Windows servers with simultaneous read/write access to one or more storage partitions or Logical Unit Numbers (LUNs) on a storage area network (SAN). Servers SAN Storage As an all-purpose cluster file system, Melio FS supports all data and file types, enables dynamic infrastructure scale, and offers numerous options for enhancing storage performance. Offering a unified data/storage management platform, the Melio product suite includes the Melio cluster file system and Melio cluster volume manager, as well as additional tools for automating data management, providing reliable data protection and clustering applications for enhanced application availability and scalability. Advanced storage features (designed for enterprise environments) such as volume sets, stripe sets, mirror sets (RAID1), dynamic volume expansion, Quality of Service (QoS) and live storage/data migration are also included in the Melio software. Solution Overview File-serving solutions based on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Sanbolic Melio offer organizations the flexibility to incorporate file-serving via CIFS with iscsi or Fibre Channel storage for uninterrupted access to files stored on block-based storage. These same benefits can also be achieved using the internal disk drives within commodity (x86) server hardware, allowing companies to utilize the storage already in their possession, rather than incurring the expenses associated with hardwarebased SAN storage (i.e., procuring, installing, configuring, operating and maintaining external storage arrays). As file-serving demands increase, these companies can take advantage of Melio s live storage/data migration feature to move their files (while in use) from their software-based storage appliance to their external storage arrays, providing the flexibility to implement their file-serving solutions quickly and easily, with lower upfront project cost while simultaneously enabling the seamless migration to hardware-based SAN storage to leverage their investments in their iscsi or Fibre Channel storage for additional performance. Once the files have been moved to SAN storage, Melio continues to simplify both data and storage management and enable high availability and dynamic infrastructure scale to ensure the greatest return on a customer s fileserving investments. Employing a combination of multi-core processors, 64-bit system architectures and the Melio software, customers have the option of expanding their Windows Server 2008 R2-based file serving systems on demand, without any interruption to user productivity, to meet the needs of applications requiring petabytes of storage capacity and gigabytes/sec. of throughput. Built on cost-effective industry- standard server hardware, these clustered systems are highly redundant for improved faulttolerance. In addition, manageability is greatly simplified through the use of a single name space, with all servers in the cluster accessing a common file system. This solution also allows administrators to utilize Windows management tools such as Active Directory and DFS, as well as various security features native to Windows.

3 Scalable File-Serving using external storage Using Melio FS, the advanced, 64-bit, symmetrical cluster file system at the core of the Melio product suite, Windows Server 2008 R2 machines can be clustered around a common file system on external storage. With these configurations, all servers share concurrent read-and-write access to the shared storage provided by the Melio FS cluster file system, allowing a file call to be processed by any server in the cluster. Microsoft DFS can be used to fail over, load balance, and distribute CIFS file calls among the servers while providing a single network address seen by clients on the network. Additional servers and additional storage resources can be added dynamically to the cluster to enhance I/O performance and/or expand storage capacity without any system downtime, allowing clients to maintain access to data as the infrastructure grows. Scalable File-serving using External Storage 1 Melio FS Storage Pool 2 3 Fibre Channel or iscsi Storage Arrays 1, 2, 3, Multiple severs accessing one pool of scalable storage With this configuration, aggregate throughput of multiple gigabytes per second may be achieved and performance can scale linearly as additional Windows Server 2008 R2 machines are added to the cluster. The 64-bit, symmetrical architecture upon which Melio FS was built supports volume and file system sizes as large as 18 million Terabytes. The external storage connected to the Windows Server cluster can incorporate multiple tiers of disk arrays. And Sanbolic s own integrated file management product, SILM, can be used to migrate or copy files across storage tiers automatically based on pre-defined user-based policies.

4 Scalable File-Serving using internal storage Windows Server 2008 R2 provides the capability to present internal and external storage as an iscsi target. Using this feature, the Melio FS cluster file system, in collaboration with the Melio volume manager included in the Melio product suite, allows the internal disk drives of multiple Windows Server 2008 R2 machines to be clustered into one large pool of virtual storage. The storage pool can then be accessed by clients using CIFS though any of the Windows servers in the cluster, which have direct, block-level access to the storage pool. Industry-standard servers running Windows Server 2008 R2 with multiple internal drives can be used as modular building blocks to create a highly scalable and highly available storage system that can support hundreds of terabytes of storage. I/O and storage capacity can be added modularly to the active cluster on-the-fly. The large storage pool can also be accessed by application servers over iscsi. If the application servers are also running the Melio software, the virtual storage pool can be centrally configured and assigned to the application servers as well, allowing them to share concurrent read/write access to data in the storage pool over the iscsi connection. Scalable File-serving using Internal Storage Benefits of using internal storage: Industry-standard servers. Each server runs Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Sanbolic Melio. Servers have multiple internal disk drives. Melio can aggregate internal drives to create a single shared storage pool. All servers have concurrent access to the storage pool for high availability. Application servers can also share block-level access to the storage pool using iscsi. Summary of Features The modular scalability of storage systems powered by Windows Server 2008 R2 and Melio offers customers the flexibility to use internal and/or external storage to expand storage capacity, while using industry-standard server hardware to modularly increase I/O performance. What s more, these benefits can be achieved while data is accessed by network clients. Without being locked into proprietary appliance-based solutions, customers are free to use their preferred hardware vendor for their file-serving clusters and can rapidly incorporate performance enhancements in various system components (i.e., processors, disk drives and networking).

5 File-serving clusters comprised of Windows Server 2008 R2 and Melio offer flexibility, scalability, and highly availability, without the costs and complexities associated with proprietary hardware-based, file-serving solutions. Built on industry-standard servers using Windows Server 2008 R2 ---no need to introduce proprietary hardware and management tools. Sanbolic s Melio FS turns Windows Server 2008 R2 into a high-end solution allows users to modularly scale systems to Petabytes of storage. Melio FS is a 64-bit file system, supporting volume sizes into the millions of TBs. Familiar Windows-based system reduces operational expenses. High availability for enhanced solution fault-tolerance. Any server can handle any file request, eliminating the need for passive fail-over servers. (Windows Failover Clustering can be implemented for additional resiliency and availability.) Reduces initial purchase price and total cost of NAS ownership versus proprietary appliance-based file-serving solu tions. Enables dynamic volume expansion to increase storage capacity and improve I/O performance without disrupting user productivity. Simple to install, deploy and manage. In addition to the significant benefits described above, the ability to greatly simplify management of the file-serving solution can be achieved using the new ShareCenter module of the Melio product suite. ShareCenter offers administrators a single interface for creating, managing and maintaining file shares hosted concurrently by all the servers participating in the scalable file-serving cluster. Using ShareCenter, file shares and their associated permissions can be initially configured and (if necessary) modified without requiring these tasks be repeated on each server in the cluster. By streamlining management operations, administrators save both time and effort, improving operational efficiency and reducing overall solution cost. Conclusion File-Serving solutions based on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 servers are often deployed in small- to mid-size environments. But as the need to store and access ever-increasing amounts of data continues to grow exponentially, organizations are looking to larger, more expensive, proprietary file-serving appliances to ensure data is accessible to users at all times. Creating scalable file-serving clusters comprised of Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 and Sanbolic Melio offers organizations the flexibility to use external or internal storage to improve performance and increase storage capacity on demand, while providing uninterrupted access to data to maximize user productivity. Best of all, using industry-standard server hardware, administrators are able to increase I/O performance granularly through enhancements to system components (processors, disk drives and network adapters). The end result a highly scalable, highly available, easy-to-manage file-serving solution capable of meeting both current and future demands without the cost and complexity associated with proprietary file-serving, appliance-based solutions. Sanbolic Inc. 309 Waverly Oaks, Suite 101, Waltham, MA P F E copyright 2012 Sanbolic Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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