Category Archives: SAN Environments

Finding Hidden Time Bombs in Your SAN Connectivity

BrettBy Brett Allison

Do you have any SAN connectivity risks? Chances are you do. Unfortunately, there is no way to see them. That’s because seeing the real end-to-end risks from the VMware guest through the SAN fabric to the Storage LUN is a difficult thing to do in practice as it requires many relationships from a variety of sources.

A complete end to end picture requires:

  • VMware guests to the ESX Hosts
  • ESX hosts initiators to targets
  • ESX hosts and datastores, VM guests and datastores, and ESX datastores to LUNs.
  • Zone sets
  • Target ports to host adapters and LUNs and storage ports.

For seasoned SAN professionals, none of this information is very difficult to comprehend. The trick is tying it all together in a cohesive way so you can visualize these relationships and quickly identify any asymmetry.

Why is asymmetry important? Let’s look at an actual example:

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No Budget for a Storage Management Solution

By Morgan Oats

Every department in every industry has the same problem: how can I stretch my budget to get the necessary work done, make my team more effective, reduce costs, and stay ahead of the curve? This is equally true for performance and capacity planning teams. In many cases, it’s difficult to get budget approval to purchase the right software solution to help accomplish these goals. Management wants to stay under budget while IT is concerned with getting a solution that solves their problems. When trying to get approval for the right solution, it’s important to be able to show how you will get a good return on investment.

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How Much Flash Do I Need Part 2: Proving the Configuration

By Jim Sedgwick

Before making a costly Flash purchase, it’s always a good idea to use some science to forecast if the new storage hardware configuration, and especially the costly Flash you purchase, is going to be able to handle your workload. Is your planned purchase performance capacity actually too much, so that you aren’t getting your money’s worth? Or, even worse, is your planned hardware purchase too little?

In Part 1 of this blog, we discovered that our customer just might be planning to purchase more Flash capacity than their unique workload requires. In part 2 we will demonstrate how we were able to use modeling techniques to further understand how the proposed new storage configuration will handle their current workload. We will also project how this workload will affect response times when the workload increases into the future, as workloads tend to do.

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How Much Flash Do I Need? Part 1

By Jim Sedgwick

Flash, Flash, Flash. It seems that every storage manager has a new favorite question to ask about Flash storage. Do we need to move to Flash? How much of our workload can we move to Flash? Can we afford to move to Flash? Can we afford NOT to move to Flash?

Whether or not Flash is going to magically solve all our problems (it’s not), it’s here to stay. We know Flash has super-fast response times as well as other benefits, but for a little while yet, it’s still going to end up costing you more money. If you subscribe to the notion that it’s good to make sure you only purchase as much Flash as your unique workload needs, read on.

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The High Cost of “Unpredictable” IT Outages and Disruptions

By Curtis Ryan

High Costs of IT Outages

It is no secret that IT service outages and disruptions can cost companies anywhere from thousands up to millions of dollars per incident – plus significant damage to company reputation and customer satisfaction. In the most high profile cases, such as recent IT outages at Delta and Southwest Airlines, the costs can soar to over $150 million per incident (Delta Cancels 280 Flights Due to IT Outage). Quite suddenly, IT infrastructure performance can become a CEO level issue (Unions Want Southwest CEO Removed After IT Outage).

While those kinds of major incidents make the headlines, there are thousands of lesser known, but still just as disruptive to business, service level disruptions and outages happening daily in just about every sizeable enterprise.

The costs of these often daily occurring incidents, like an unexpected slowdown in response time of a key business application during prime shift, can have a significant cumulative financial impact that may not be readily visible in the company’s accounting system.

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Clogged Device Drain? Use Your Data Snake!

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By Lee LaFresePlunger

Have you ever run into high I/O response times that simply defy explanation? You can’t find anything wrong with your storage to explain why performance is degraded. It could be a classic “slow drain device” condition. Unfortunately, you can’t just call the data plumbers to clean it out! What is a storage handyman to do?

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SRM: The “Next” As-a-Service

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By Brett Allison

You may have seen this article published by Forbes, stating that Storage Resource Management (SRM) is the “Next as-a-Service.” The benefits cited include the simplicity and visibility provided by as-a-service dashboards and the increasing sophistication through predictive analytics.

IntelliMagic Vision is used as-a-Service for some of the world’s largest companies, and has been since 2013. Although we do much more than your standard SRM by embedding deep expert knowledge into our software, SRM, SPM, and ITOA all fall under our umbrella of capabilities. So, while we couldn’t agree more with the benefits of as-a-service offerings for SRM software, the word “Next” in the article seems less applicable. We might even say: “We’ve been doing that for years!”

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Noisy Neighbors: Finding Root Cause of Performance Issues in IBM SVC Environments

By Jim SedgwickNoisy Neighbors

At some point or another, we have probably all experienced noisy neighbors, either at home, at work, or at school. There are just some people who don’t seem to understand the negative effect their loudness has on everyone around them.

Our storage environments also have these “noisy neighbors” whose presence or actions disrupt the performance of the rest of the storage environment. In this case, we’re going to take a look at an SVC all flash storage pool called EP-FLASH_3. Just a few bad LUNs have a profound effect on the I/O experience of the entire IBM Spectrum Virtualize (SVC) environment.

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How to Prevent an “Epic” EMR System Outage

By Curtis RyanElectronic Medical Records

Protecting the availability of your IT storage is vital for performance, but it can also be critical for life. No one knows this better than the infrastructure department of major healthcare providers. Application slowdowns or outages in Electronic Medical Record (EMR), Systems or Electronic Health Record (EHR) Systems – such as Epic, Meditech, or Cerner – can risk patient care, open hospitals up for lawsuits, and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Nobody working in IT Storage in any industry wants to get a call about a Storage or SAN service outage, but even minor service disruptions can halt business operations until the root cause of the issue can be diagnosed and resolved. This kind of time cannot always be spared in the ‘life and death’ environment of the users of EMR systems in healthcare providers.

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The Circle of (Storage) Life

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Storage Life Cycle

By Lee LaFrese

Remember the Lion King? Simba starts off as a little cub, and his father, Mufasa, is king. Over time, Simba goes through a lot of growing pains but eventually matures to take over his father’s role despite the best efforts of his Uncle Scar to prevent it. This is the circle of life. It kind of reminds me of the storage life cycle only without the Elton John score!

Hardware Will Eventually Fail and Software Will Eventually Work

New storage technologies are quickly maturing and replacing legacy platforms. But will they be mature enough to meet your high availability, high performance IT infrastructure needs?

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Compressing Wisely with IBM Spectrum Virtualize

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By Brett Allison

 

Compressing Wisely - CompressionCompression of data in an IBM SVC Spectrum Virtualize environment may be a good way to gain back capacity, but there can be hidden performance problems if compressible workloads are not first identified. Visualizing these workloads is key to determining when and where to successfully use compression. In this blog, we help you with identifying the right workloads so that you can achieve capacity savings in your IBM Spectrum Virtualize environments without compromising performance.

Today, all vendors have compression capabilities built into their hardware. The advantage of compression is that you need less real capacity to service the needs of your users. Compression reduces your managed capacity, directly reducing your storage costs.

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How’s Your Flash Doing?

By Joe Hyde

Assessing Flash Effectiveness

How’s your Flash doing? Admittedly, this is a bit of a loaded question. It could come from your boss, a colleague or someone trying to sell you the next storage widget. Since most customers are letting the vendors’ proprietary storage management algorithms optimize their enterprise storage automatically you may not have had the time or tools to quantify how your Flash is performing.

The Back-end Activity

First, let’s use the percentage of back-end activity to Flash as the metric to answer this question. Digging a little deeper we can look at back-end response times for Flash and spinning disks (let’s call these HDD for Hard Disk Drives). I’ll also look at the amount of sequential activity over the day to help explain the back-end behavior.

Below is 5 weekdays worth of data from an IBM DS8870 installed at a Fortune 500 company. Although it’s possible to place data statically on Flash storage in the IBM DS8870, in this case, IBM’s Easy Tier is used for the automatic placement of data across Flash and HDD storage tiers. Let’s refer to this scheme generically as auto-tiering. For this IBM DS8870, Flash capacity was roughly 10% of the total storage capacity. Continue reading

Which Workloads Should I Migrate to the Cloud?

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By Brett AllisonCloud Storage

By now, we have just about all heard it from our bosses, “Alright folks we need to evaluate our workloads and determine which ones are a good fit for the cloud.” After feeling a tightening in your chest, you remember to breathe and ask yourself, “How the heck do I accomplish this task as I know very little about the cloud and to be honest it seems crazy to move data to the cloud!”

According to this TechTarget article, “A public cloud is one based on the standard cloud computing model, in which a service provider makes resources, such as applications and storage, available to the general public over the internet. Public cloud services may be free or offered on a pay-per-usage model.” Most organizations have private clouds, and some have moved workloads into public clouds. For the purpose of this conversation, I will focus on the public cloud. Continue reading

5 Reasons Why All-Flash Arrays Won’t Magically Solve All Your Problems

Brett

By Brett Allison

 
IntelliMagic Flash Storage
In the last few years, flash storage has turned from very expensive into quite affordable. Vendors that sell all-flash arrays advertise the extremely low latencies, and those are indeed truly impressive. So it may feel like all-flash systems will solve all your performance issues. But reality is that even with game-changing technological advances like flash, the complexity of the entire infrastructure makes sure that there are still plenty of problems to run into. Continue reading

Performance Virtual Reality – Seeking the Truth in Storage Benchmarks

Lee

By Lee LaFrese

 

Performance analysts likeFigure 2 - The Four Corners of Storage Benchmarking myself have a love/hate relationship with benchmarks. On the one hand, benchmarks are perceived as a great way to quantify ‘feeds and speeds’ of storage hardware. However, it is very difficult for benchmarks to be truly representative of how real applications work. Thus, I consider benchmarks a form of ‘virtual reality’; and like virtual reality, benchmarks may seem very realistic but they can deceive you. Therefore, I’ve written this article from the viewpoints of expanding your knowledge about how benchmarks work so you stay rooted in the real world.

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How Effective is Your Adaptive Flash Cache?

Brett

By Brett Allison

 

Have you ever wondered whether3PAR you should enable Adaptive Flash Cache on your HPE 3PAR?

Adaptive Optimization (AO) is HPE 3PARs automatic tiering solution. It provides the user with several performance and capacity related parameters for influencing the behavior of the automatic tiering. I covered this in detail in a recent whitepaper about HPE 3PAR AO. One of the findings from that study was that in this particular customer’s environment there were too many I/Os on the 450 GB 10K RPM drives and there were not enough I/Os on the SSDs. The result was that the 450 GB 10K RPM drives were running at nearly 100% busy all the time. My suggestion was to enable Adaptive Flash Cache (AFC)  by allocating some of the under-utilized SSD capacity. AFC supplements DRAM with NAND flash devices to cache small (<64 KB) frequently accessed read blocks and ultimately to improve read response time. Continue reading

How to Diagnose IBM SVC/Storwize V7000 (Spectrum Virtualize) Replication Performance Issues: Part 2 Diagnostics

Brett

By Brett Allison

 

In part 1 of this blog series we talked about how to select your SVC/V7000, replication technology that matches your business requirements, or more likely, your budget.

Now we need to think about how you can monitor and diagnose SVC/V7000 performance issues that may be caused by replication. I run into SVC/V7000 replication issues quite frequently, and have found that not all monitoring and diagnostic tools provide a comprehensive picture of SVC/V7000 replication. Further complicating matters, the nature of the technology you have selected will influence expectations and approach to problem determination.

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How to Choose the Best IBM SVC/Storwize V7000 (Spectrum Virtualize) Replication Technology: Part I Introduction

Brett

By Brett Allison

Disaster Recovery Plan

Choosing the wrong V7000/SVC replication technology can put your entire availability strategy at risk.

For most customers, there seems to be a bit of a mystery in how replication works. On the surface, it is simple. Data is written to a primary copy and either synchronously or asynchronously copied to a secondary location with the expectation that a loss of data at the primary site would result in minimal data loss and a very minimal recovery effort.

There are several types of replication, and each type has its nuances. Each of these technologies should be evaluated in light of the following business requirements:

1. Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This is the amount of data loss expressed in time units (typically minutes) that you will lose should there be a failover to the secondary site.   Continue reading

This is alarming

stuartphoto1

By Stuart Plotkin

 

Don’t Ignore that Alarm!Print

Ignore an alarm? Why would someone do that? Answer: because some tools send too many!

To avoid getting overloaded with meaningless alarms, it is important to implement best practices. The first best practice is to implement a software solution that is intelligent. It should:

  • Understand the limitations of your hardware
  • Take into consideration your particular workload
  • Let you know that you are heading for a problem before the problem begins
  • Eliminate useless alarms

If you have followed this first best practice, congratulations! You are headed in the right direction. Continue reading

“State in Doubt”

Brett By Brett Allison

 

One of our customers recently came across a problem in their environment that I think warrants some attention. SANvideox'sThe VMWare administrator had gone to the storage team and asked if they saw any issues on the Fabric or IBM SVC storage environment because the infamous “state in doubt” message was popping up in the /var/log/vmkernel log file messages were similar to what is shown below: Continue reading

New Visibility into FAST/FAST-VP for Large Scale EMC Environments

Brett By Brett Allison

 

Chances are you don’t drive blindfolded. [url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/portfolio/10453706][img]http://csaimages.com/images/istockprofile/csa_vector_dsp.jpg[/img][/url];[url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/portfolio/10453712][img]http://csaimages.com/images/istockprofile/csa_plastock_dsp.jpg[/img][/url];[url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/portfolio/8198330][img]http://csaimages.com/images/istockprofile/csa_vetta_dsp.jpg[/img][/url];[url=http://www.istockphoto.com/search/portfolio/10453708][img]http://csaimages.com/images/istockprofile/csa_printstock_dsp.jpg[/img][/url]However, we often run our complicated storage environments with very little visibility. Not by choice, but because status quo in the industry is to
find out about problems only after they are already impacting production users.

Why is this the case?  Well, have you ever tried to get an enterprise view of the health risks in your EMC FAST-VP environment using vendor tools? It’s not easy.

EMC’s FAST-VP or Fully Automated Storage Tiering – Virtual Provisioning technology, is designed to improve the overall performance and availability by placing the right blocks of data on the right drive technology.  This is enabled by policies created by storage administrators that apply tier capacity constraints to storage groups.  While there has been a significant amount of effort by EMC to simplify and generalize approaches for managing FAST-VP, and it can make a significant impact on performance and overall cost, it still can be a confusing solution. Continue reading

Shelfware, IT’s version of Home Exercise Equipment

Brett

By Brett Allison

 

treadmill doodleMany years ago, I conducted an IT software asset audit for an insurance company. The results were surprising to say the least.  They had a large number of tools, many with overlapping functionality.

But the biggest surprise was that they had several useful tools that had never been installed.  The teams didn’t even know that they owned these licenses!  This shocked me at the time. But over the years it became apparent to me that this was far from unique. For example, an IT executive at a Fortune 100 company told us “I believe your software does what you say it will do, but what I don’t believe is that our IT staff will get it implemented.” Continue reading

How am I doin’?

stuartphoto1

By Stuart Plotkin

Question mark
Ed Koch was mayor of New York City for 12 years. He was famous for stopping people on the streets and asking them, “How am I doin’?” I have met many IT professionals who have asked the same question about their disk storage systems. “How are they doing? Are my users getting the best possible performance? Are we about to have a catastrophe? Do I need to order more? Am I ordering too much? Am I making the most use of what I have? Tell me my level of ‘risk’.” Ed was defining the metric to measure how well he was doing by how people felt about how he was doing. A mayor should try to make people feel good, but there are other metrics as well, like a city’s financial solvency as just one example. When it comes to storage systems, what are the metrics that will tell us how well our storage systems are doing? Continue reading

Four Steps You Should Take to Identify, Resolve and Prevent IBM SVC Front-End Imbalance

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By Brett Allison

 

Did you know you could be at risk of a performance meltdown while you still have plenty of front-end bandwidth?^C4031C5083E777C98FFA92FFCF04342FF4F4D55DBADF9C7952^pimgpsh_thumbnail_win_distr

An imbalanced front-end can cripple the performance of your IBM SVC system. An imbalanced front-end is another way of saying that too much workload is handled by too few ports. This leads to buffer credit shortages, increases in latency, and low throughput. It is very easy to create imbalances within an IBM SVC system’s front-end, and it can be fairly difficult to see it happening without the proper tools. Continue reading

Modeling – Is it for You?

Lee

By Lee LaFrese

 

In social situations, people sometimes bring up what they do for a living. When I say, “I am a Storage Performance consultant,” I usually get blank stares. When I am asked for more details, I usually reply “I do a lot of modeling.” This often elicits snickers which is entirely understandable. Anyone that has met me knows that I don’t have the physique of a model! When I add that it is MATHEMATICAL modeling that I am talking about it usually clears up the confusion. In fact, folks are typically impressed, and I have to convince them that what I do is not rocket science. Of course, a lot of rocket science is not “rocket science” either, if you use the term as a euphemism for something very complex and challenging to understand. In this article, I will try to help you understand how computer system performance modeling is done, specifically for disk storage systems. Hopefully, you will have a better appreciation of performance modeling after reading this and know where it can be used and what its limitations are. Continue reading

All I Want for Christmas is…Time

By Jerry Streetgift

With the holiday season upon us, I occasionally think of what might be waiting for me to unwrap. Will it be another gift card? I hope not. Gift cards are someone’s way of saying, “I appreciate you so much that you should get your own present.” There are many things that I would enjoy getting as a present, but the one thing that would actually make my life better would be a couple of extra hours in my day. I need more time! Unfortunately, I can’t get the earth to slow down and make a full revolution in 26 hours instead of 24. So I need tools to save me time within the 24 hours that I’m scripted to have.

As IT Performance professionals, we are continually asked to do more.  Systems grow more complex, analyses need to be delivered faster, and dollars have to be spent more wisely than ever. When professional life demands require more time, you can either give up your personal time or let the quality of your work suffer. I don’t want to do either of those things so I would choose to do my job both faster and better. A tool that helps me accomplish both goals is IntelliMagic Vision. Continue reading

Today’s Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Sudden Alert Storms

Lee

By Lee LaFrese

 

lightningI live in Tucson, AZ. The joke here is that most of the year the weather is so stable you can publish the forecast on a billboard – sunny, clear skies. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?  But every July we have monsoon season and the weather turns “interesting”. I suppose that you could still put the forecast on a billboard – sunny with a chance of wild and crazy storms! These storms are unpredictable and sometimes quite violent. Unfortunately, weather science is not to the point where it can clear up the uncertainty. Thankfully, in the world of storage performance we can do better.

Typical IT shops have various real-time monitors designed to raise alerts when something goes wrong. In theory this sounds like a good arrangement. If you get an alert, you can take action and fix things quickly, right? But in reality this won’t always be as effective as it would seem. On the one hand alerts may point to symptoms after you have already felt the impact. Do you want to hear that it is raining when you are already soaked to the bone? It would be much preferable to have advance warning before the problem manifests itself. On the other hand, sometimes you get more alerts than you know what to do with. It may be unclear whether these alerts indicate a real problem or whether they are just a bunch of false alarms. This is the classic “alert storm” and it can sometimes be as disruptive as a real problem. You don’t want your team to scramble because of a bunch of false positives. However, you can’t just discount alerts, because if there really is a problem you ignore them at your own peril. Continue reading

What is your Approach to Storage Performance? Historical or Hysterical?

Brett

By Brett Allison

Is your storage performance management a streamlined process that uses historical facts and that enables you to pro-actively avoid problems? Or is it reactive, with a stream of urgent issues requiring a fire-fighting “tiger team” that engages in endless conference calls, long nights, and even weekends?small_4774087006

Let’s face the truth: no matter how well-intentioned we all are, we never seem to have enough time to do what we need to do. As soon as one task is completed, there are three new items on our plate. The time demands of increasingly complex technology are a continual challenge, just like our personal lives seem to suffer from increasingly busy schedules. Between multiple kids engaging in sports and extra-curricular activities, coaching, and my own sport activities, it sometimes seems as if it is more difficult to manage my evenings and weekends than it is to manage my working day. In no way though, do I have a corner on the “busyness.”
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What Will This New Application Do To My Storage? Part 2

Brett

By Brett Allison

Okay, you have a fair idea of the I/O workload to be expected, but how do you determine the impact to other applications running on your storage? In the last blog I discussed key questions that need to be asked in order to understand the I/O workload profile for a new application. In the following section, we will investigate how to assess how this new workload will impact your storage environment.businessman in risk

For the purpose of this discussion, we keep it limited to the storage controllers, even though you should also consider SAN Fabric, Server, and Network infrastructure.

I suggest the following process for evaluating the impact of new applications on existing storage controllers.

Step 1: Identify the I/O workload profile. See the first installment of this blog for details on how you can do this. The result is an understanding of the I/O workload profile and expectations of the users. The I/O workload profile consists of:

  • Number of reads/sec
  • Number of writes/sec
  • Read transfer size
  • Write transfer size
  • Expected read response time (OLTP), throughput (Batch)
  • Expected write response time (OLTP) throughput (Batch)

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What Will This New Application Do To My Storage? Part 1

Brett

By Brett Allison

Your team has worked hard for the last year rebalancing workloads and deploying new hardware. You have made the environment highly efficient, I/O latency is low, and users are happy. Then the unthinkable happens, your boss just told you that a new application will be rolled out that needs lots of storage. Do you hit the panic button, call businessman in riskyour vendor, get in your basement bunker or simply execute your new application sizing process? How do you predict the future without any historical reference? How do you ensure that restful nights and happy days will continue?

When evaluating the impact of new or unknown applications to the IT infrastructure it is important to have a process to facilitate information gathering and foster communication between the stakeholders. While a new application may not have a documented historical performance profile, the brutes typically have tell-tale signs. By asking the right questions you can avoid most of the risk associated with new applications.

Here are the top five questions to application owners when evaluating the impact of a new application to your storage environment.

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