Archive for October, 2009

XP Mode for Windows 7

October 27, 2009

In my last post I described my experience to date with Windows 7.  In summary it has been good but there were a few programs that were not compatible with the new operating system.  The one that caused me the biggest inconvenience was not being able to connect to a VMware View session.  My first thought was to just install VMware Workstation and run an XP or 2003 OS from virtually whenever I needed to connect to View which we use to access our lab environments and give demo’s.  This works fine if you own Workstation but if not you have to purchase it which I doubt many people want to do.  Enter XP Mode for Windows 7.

I wasn’t even aware of this functionality in Windows 7 until I was surfing though www.tweaks.com  (great site by the way).  XP Mode, once enabled and installed, allows you to run a virtual Windows XP workstation within Windows 7 using Windows Virtual PC.  The best part, it is completely free and works like a champ.  There are a few things you need to have before you can enable XP Mode:

1-      You must have a processor that supports hardware assisted virtualization like AMD-V or Intel-VT.  To check to see whether your processor is compatible you can run the HAV Detection Tool.  More than likely you’ll have to turn on the hardware virtualization feature in your BIOS which will require a reboot but is simple to do.

2-      Download and install the XP Mode component which can be found here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx  It’s a big file (500MB).

3-      Download and install the Windows Virtual PC software which can also be found here: http://www.microsoft.com/windows/virtual-pc/default.aspx  Only about 10MB.

For more detailed instructions on how to setup XP Mode, including screenshots, check out the TWEAKS.com website at:  http://tweaks.com/articles/40183/install-and-use-xp-mode-in-windows-7/

Once everything is installed you can run “XP Mode” from under “All Programs | Windows Virtual PC” and install any software you may need.  In my case it was simply the VMware View Client and some GoToMeeting plug-ins.   I tested this on my laptop and it works every bit as good as when I had XP loaded as the primary OS.  Start up and shutdown of the virtual session is fast and so far….reliable.  I have dual monitors so I’m able to run XP on one and Windows 7 on the other which comes in handy.  So if you have some programs that just won’t behave in Windows 7 check out XP Mode.

Windows 7 – First Impressions

October 25, 2009

I was able to install Windows 7 a few weeks ago and so far I’ve been impressed.  Originally I was running regular Windows Vista 32-bit which wasn’t exactly horrible but the only way I could really come to deal with it was to make it look and behave as much like Windows XP as possible.  I was a little hesitant to reload my entire laptop with Windows 7 mostly due to the 70+ pieces of software I had to load back on it and the time associated with doing so.  None the less, my original install of Vista had become painfully slow and was having more and more issues daily and I had finally had enough and went ahead with starting over with Windows 7 64-bit.

The install was very simple and straight forward and took around an hour to complete.  Once the OS was loaded I started reloading software and to my surprise just about everything worked fine including some pretty old crappy programs that I can’t seem to get away from having to keep.  There were only two software issues that popped up that surprised me.  One was the HP Solution Center software that runs my OfficeJet All-In-One.  This thing wouldn’t work at all and there is still not any updated software available from HP which kind of surprises me but oh well.  The good news is there is enough native functionality built-in to Windows 7 to allow me to do most of what I need to from a print/fax/scan standpoint.  The second piece of software that created a bit more of an inconvenience for me was the inability to connect to a VMware View session.  Hopefully this will be resolved soon but for now I’m up the creek.

As for performance and usability of Windows 7 it has been really good so far.  I haven’t had any major problems yet and the speed of the new 64 bit OS is definitely improved as you would expect.  Everything is very configurable and intuitive.  There are lots of new shortcuts and little features that I’m still learning but there are plenty of links out there on the web to help you out.  Here’s one that I’ve found useful so far:  http://blogs.msdn.com/tims/archive/2009/01/12/the-bumper-list-of-windows-7-secrets.aspx

I know lots of people who delayed implementing Vista in their environments in the hopes of something better with Windows 7.  From what I’ve seen so far I’d say that was a great decision.  I wouldn’t say it has enough improvements and innovations to win over you crazy Mac users yet but if you’re a Window person its worth giving Windows 7 a look.

Hard Drives – Options Galor

October 18, 2009

EMC Drive Sizing

When working with SAN/NAS configurations one of the core design decisions is almost always centered on the hard drives.  No surprise right, after all, that’s the whole purpose of the SAN in the first place…..to store data on disk.  Almost always in design discussions with clients and our own account executives the question would come up “Well, how much more expensive is this drive than that drive?” or “What drives are available now?”.  It seems like every few months a new drive capacity, drive speed or both comes out and prices keep changing.  To remedy this internally I created a quick cheat sheet specifically for EMC’s available drives.

All pricing is MSRP but it gives you a good comparison of the types of drives that are available and the cost per usable gigabyte for each. 

Drive Comparison 3 

Just a few things to remember:

–          Size isn’t everything (all you perv’s out there hold the wise cracks!).  I/O is just as important.

  • All 1TB blocks of data storage space are not created equal.  I/O is an important consideration in this game.
    • 1 x 1T SATA disk = ~80 I/O
    • 3 x 600GB 10k FC disks (RAID5) = ~360 I/O
    • 10 x 146GB 15k FC disks (RAID5) = ~1800 I/O
  • Once you have your space and I/O requirements dialed in you can start to play the numbers game with the available disk option to get the most bang for your buck.

–          Drive pricing is constantly changing (monthly in some cases) so stay in touch with your vendor as you are nearing a new storage upgrade.

–          Drive sizes are getting larger so check with your vendor to see if there is anything new coming down the pipe in the near future that may save you some money.

EMC Clariion RAID Group Recommendations

October 4, 2009

Last week we had a client that needed a replacement disk drive for an older EMC Clariion array.  Now this is by no means anything complicated but the drive needed wasn’t available anymore.  The questions was posed, “ Can you mix 15k and 10k fibre channel drives in the same RAID group?”  Hmmmmm, I hadn’t run across this yet so I had to look it up.  The short answer is YES you can but it’s not best practice.  So what is the best solution in a case like this?  Simple, buy a larger capacity drive of the same speed (10k rpm, 15k rpm) and use it in place of the failed drive.  You’ll lose the additional capacity of the drive but the performance won’t be affected.

In the process of looking for the official answer to this question I came across several other little tidbits that are good information to know about Clariion arrays in regards to drives.  To give credit where it’s due most of this and additional info can be found at www.emcstorageinfo.com

–          All disks in a RAID group will match the smallest capacity drive.

–          The Vault Drives in a Clariion MUST all be the same size.

–          SATA and FC drives can NOT be mixed in the same disk tray or DAE

–          SATA drives can only use a SATA Hot Spare and FC drives can only use a FC Hot Spare

–          A 15k FC drive can use a 10k Hot Spare and vice versa.

–          A DAE allows one speed change within the shelf but it is recommended to have all the same speed drives in a DAE.

–          If drive speeds will be mixed in a DAE the faster drives should be installed in the leftmost drive slots first.