Avamar Gen 4 Hardware Now Available

April 24, 2011

A new generation of Avamar hardware had recently been released.  Generation 4 of Avamar is now available.  There have been some significant changes with this latest generation.  Perhaps the most obvious change is the new node sizes that are available.  Avamar is now available in 1.3TB, 2.6TB, 3.9TB and 7.8TB nodes.  Nice round numbers right? J  There are a few caveats to this new node sizing however.  RAIN configs (multi-node systems)  can only be built out with the 2.9TB or 7.8TB nodes.  This is a departure from past generations of the Avamar product where RAIN configs could be built with basically any of the nodes that were available.  For mid and large size customers this probably won’t cause any issues but it may make Avamar a bit too pricey for smaller customers to get their foot in the door on Avamar.  The 1.3TB and 2.6TB as well as the two larger nodes can all still be used in single node systems just like before. 

Another change that may affect some is the death of the 1×2 configuration.  This configuration had its place in some solutions where a full RAIN was just too larger and a single node system wasn’t enough.  I don’t see this being a huge problem for most as in my experience we sold very few of this type of configuration.  On top of that, with the release of the larger nodes, a single node system can handle almost 8TB of data.

A few more minor changes that are worth noting:

  • All Gen 4 nodes now use a RAID 1 configuration internally
  • A spare node is no longer required for RAIN configuration (I’d still have one though)
  • The underlying OS is now SLES Linux instead of RHEL Linux
  • Hardware for the 1.3, 2.6 and 3.9TB nodes is the DELL R710
  • Hardware for the 7.8TB node is the DELL R510

For anyone with existing Gen 3 Avamar systems – don’t worry – the 1TB, 2TB and 3.3TB nodes are still available as upgrades for your existing systems.

Thanks for reading!

iPad TV and iPhone Tethering

April 1, 2011

Ok, so it’s been a slow week as far as technology to write about so I guess I’ll fall back to old reliable – the iPad.  This week I discovered a few new (at least for me) apps/features that are worth mentioning.

The first little app I found is from my cable provider, Time Warner Cable – yeah I know, the same bunch that’s been raping us for years.  The most amazing thing is its FREE – 1st time ever TWC did anything for me that they didn’t jack my bill up for – to say the least I was amazed.  The TWCable TV app for iPad allows you to watch your cable TV stations, live, streaming across your broadband connection to your iPad.  Now if you’ve got a family like me this is great news – now I can watch TV in peace just about anywhere.  No more being forced to watch Spongebob, Dora the Explorer, Dancing with the Stars other other goofy, sensitive or generally depressing crap.  Now I can go to the garage, my office or even lock myself in the bathroom and watch important, informative shows like Rambo, Myth Busters and other quality man shows.

Currently there are only a handful of stations available so don’t plan on getting everything you can get on your regular TV but the selection is not too bad.  The quality is very good also, I have yet to experience an jitter or pauses in any of the broadcasts.  So if you are currently pissing away your money to Time Warner Cable like me and also have an iPad – check out this little app.  You can read more about it here:

http://www.timewarnercable.com/nynj/learn/cable/TWCableTV/TWCableTV_iPad.html

The second little iPad/iPhone piece of knowledge I came across this week was from AT&T Wireless and hinges around tethering.  Now I know what you’re thinking – Time Warner Cable, AT&T – man this dude is a complete moron!  Yeah I know, but I’m working on it.  🙂  So before I go any further let me go ahead and answer a few statements I know I’ll get:

1-  “Tethering? Man you should just jailbreak your phone and get MiFi and all these cool other illegal apps!” – Yeah, OK, don’t have time for that and can’t run the risk of blowing up my phone.  It’s stable, it works and tethering what never a huge deal to me anyway.

2-   “Dude, you need to drop crappy AT&T and get Verizon – AT&T sucks!”   Ok, so maybe I can’t totally disagree here but at this point I’m off contract with AT&T and I don’t really want to trade one bunch of crooks for another bunch of crooks.  Not to mention AT&T service works perfect at my house and 2 or my offices – so I’m going to just leave good enough alone for now.

After reviewing my wireless bills for the past few months I realized I really wasn’t using as much data as I thought I was – less than 2GB every month with room to spare.  In addition to that I had a $15/month plan for my iPad 3G that I hardly used.  I had the unlimited plan on my phone so switching over to a 4GB data plan that included tethering for the same cost made sense to me.  I made the call and had my plan switched.

I have an iPhone 3GS which, come to find out, after my switch still can not be used as a “wireless” hotspot.  I was a little pissed but looked into it a little further.  You can ONLY do the wireless hotspot with then new iPhone 4 and I wasn’t about to give AT&T another $200 bucks to upgrade and then be handcuffed to them for another 2 yrs just to get the wifi thing.  This being the case I started playing around with both the Bluetooth tethering and USB thethering.  Both work like a champ.  I use the bluetooth to connect my iPad to my phone and the USB for the times I need to connect my laptop.  Now I’ve got basically the same total phone bill – no unlimited data anymore but 2GB is plenty for the phone and an extra 2GB for the iPad and laptop when I travel with which is 1.75GB more than I had with my iPad only plan.  So if you don’t feel like hacking, rooting, breaking your older iPhone but would still like tethering take a closer look at your bill – chances are you don’t need as much “data” as you think and the change may not cost you anything.

Choose Your Technology Partners WYSE-ly

March 27, 2011

We recently sponsored a day long technology event based around “the cloud” and virtualization.  For our company it was a 1st annual event so to say we had a lot riding on the outcome is an understatement.  We had sponsorship from the primary manufactures that we are VAR’s for, EMC – Cisco and VMware as well as many other key technology vendors which graciously invested their time, money and resources in the event.

One of the biggest challenges for this event was the two live virtual desktop labs we had setup throughout the event.  This gave people the opporunity to play around with Citrix XenDesktop and VMware View and see what they could do.  For any of you who have attended trade shows or events that have had labs go sideways you know what a disaster this can be.  We had over 200 people cycling through these labs so failure was not even remotely an option.  The portable labs didn’t have me too worried as I knew we had our crack team of VDI Ninjas working as hard as possible for weeks prior to the event to make things stable and fast for the final show.  What I was a little worried about was where I was going to get 50 thin clients capable of showing off all the capabilities of Citrix and VMware….. WYSE to the rescue.

We’ve been resellers of WYSE for several years now and they continue to impress me both with the quality of products they put out and the quality of personel and customer service we always seem to get from them.  For these reasons WYSE is almost always the first product we recommend to customers looking for thin clients for their VDI environments.  So let me get back on my soapbox about quality people and customer service for a minute.  Here I was needing 50 loaner thin clients for a 1st annual event with no historical attendance numbers.  To say the least I really didn’t think it would be possible to get that may devices in the short time frame that I need them in but I picked up the phone and called our WYSE representative.  I explained the event we had planned and within 2 days everything had been worked out.  I had been put in touch with multiple people from WYSE Corporate from engineering to marketing – each one extremely helpful and willing to help our event be a success.

This experience is exactly what we get when  we call asking for 1 or 2 demo devices for clients to use in their environments as well as 50 for a trade show.  There is very little paperwork, no hassle and a genuine desire to do what ever it takes make people believe in their products and technologies.

So I’d like to use my blog this week to say THANK YOU to WYSE for their help over the past few weeks and encourage anyone interested in thin computing to take a look at what WYSE has to offer – you won’t be disappointed.

Isilon – Scale-Out NAS

March 12, 2011

EMC recently aquired Isilon.  This is a technology geared toward storing LOTS of data on an single huge filesystem.  Prior to the EMC acquisition and some recent product training I had no exposure to Isilon or even knew what they did.  When I sat through the first product training for Isilon my first impression was “damn that is awesome”….. and that doesn’t happen often.

First let me say that this product has very specific market and most people reading this blog (if there are any ) will probably not have a dying need for it but the capabilities and ease of configuration are impressive.  Isilon is a Scale-Out NAS solution that allows you to have one big file system.  By “big” I mean Petabytes!  It is a RAIN based system similar to EMC Avamar where you have a series of redundant nodes comprising the solution.  These nodes are integrated together on the backend using a very fast Infiniband network.  On the frontend it supports most of the industry standard protocols such as NFS, CIFS, HTTP, FTP……    With this RAIN type architecture your data is written across the nodes and provide incredible redundancy. On top of that you can set your redundancy level from N+1 to N+4 whereby you could loose 4 complete nodes and still not loose any data. RAIN architecture and N+ availability is certainly nothing new but the capability to do this with a single file system up to 10PB is definitly impressive.

All this is great but by far the coolest part of this system is how easy it is to expand it.  Just like Avamar if you need more capacity you slap on another node.  Unlike Avamar once you slap on that node – configuration of that node takes 60 seconds!  The system automatically rebalances itself across all nodes which obviously takes more than 60 seconds but from an end-user effort standpoint a minute or two is all that is required.  Why can’t all storage be that easy?!

There are lots of uses for this technology including archiving and backup but it really made its name is in the video and multimedia industry such as TV stations and cable networks.  If you are a company that creates and stores huge video and audio files this is the solution for you.  Even if you’re not CNN you can still benefit from this technology though.  From a cost per GB standpoint you can get down in the neighborhood of $1/GB and systems start with as few a 3 nodes.  So depending on your environment, this could make a very feasilble backup target or archiving platform.

The nodes for Isilon systems come in a couple flavors from high speed with SSD disks to large capacity with SATA disks.  The cool part is that these various type nodes can all be combined in the same system.  There is also a full array of enterpise software for snapshots, replication, data protection and content delivery to handle just about anything you throw at it.

Isilon is certainly no replacement for a production SAN but I am impressed with what it can do and its easy of management.  So if you’re a company with large amounts of NAS data give Isilon a look.

http://www.isilon.com/

 

Finally – RecoverPoint Replication Licensing Made Simple

February 27, 2011

Replicated SAN/NAS arrays is certainly nothing new.  In fact it is pretty much the standard nowadays for most IT departments.  Replicating EMC arrays has never really been complicated but there were several options for doing it.  If you had a Symmetrix then it was SRDF, if you had a Clariion it was MirrorView and if you had a Celerra you had Celerra Replicator.  Of course if you had a Celerra with backend block enabled you probably needed Celerra Replicator and MirrorView.  Of course in place of those replication technologies you could use RecoverPoint which was the ultimate – if you could afford it.  Fun right?

MirrorView and Celerra Replicator were pretty straight forward, you license each array with the software and you’re off to the races.  No need to worry about how many TB’s of data you had nor any “crap I’m out of capacity” surprises midway through the year.  RecoverPoint on the other hand was licensed…..well…..completely the opposite of everything else.  Now I certainly understand this per TB licensing for RP, EMC is in the business of making a profit after all and there is really nothing that can compete with what RP can do.  None the less RP licensing could get expensive quickly for larger environments.

Several months ago there started to be rumblings that eventually EMC would eventually have RecoverPoint as it primary means of replication for its arrays.  That naturally generated lots of questions around how exactly that would happen and of course – how pricing would be handled.  Now that the new VNX line has been release along with the new software bundles its become much more clear.  As I have mentioned in previous blogs, RecoverPoint is now licensed per array and on top of that the pricing is very attractive.

For VNX customers all the replication technologies are bundled into one remote replication software bundle which gives you MirrorView, Celerra Replicator and RecoverPoint.  This bundle needs to be licensed on both arrays.  To take advantage of RP you still need to purchase RP Appliances at an additional cost but you don’t have to worry about how much data you are replicating.  From what I’ve seen the “max capacity” is currently 300TB which shouldn’t be a problem for most non-enterprise type accounts.

For Celerra and Clariion customers the software licensing for MirrorView and Celerra Replicator is the same as it always was but now you can license RP on a per array model.  If you already have RP (per TB) there is an upgrade path with associated discounts.  If you are adding RP, the same still holds as with VNX, you have to license both arrays and you need to buy the appliances.

So if you had considered RecoverPoint in the past but wrote it off due to costs concerns, now is a great time to revisit the product with your reseller.  Especially for the smaller arrays like the CX4-120 and NS-120, pricing is VERY reasonable.

Vault Drives on the New EMC VNX Arrays

February 4, 2011

Let me preface this blog by stating the following information is not all original.  I am simply passing through some of the information on from one of my contacts at EMC.  Normally I wouldn’t plagurize like this but the information is important and you should be at least aware of some of the changes with the new VNX line.

Any of you familiar with EMC arrays such as the Clariion CX4 or Celerra NS lines are or should be very familiar with EMC’s usage and implementation of “the Vault”.  The Vault is where the OS for the array lives.  In the case of Clariion and Celerra we are talking about the FLARE and DART code that enables the array to do its thing.  Up until now this has always been the 1st 5 drives in the array – Drive Slots 0 – 4.  These disks were setup as a 4+1 R5 Raid Group on which the FLARE/DART took up a small about of space on each drive.  The remaining space could be used just not for any high I/O loads.  Drive size was up to you but pretty much any drive size/type would work.

One of the first things I noticed when building my first VNX solution in EMC’s configuration tool what that the Vault drive choices were much different than before.  For the VNX5100 you’re forced to choose 6 drives for the Vault and for the VNX5300 its 8 drives.  In reality the Vault on these arrays only uses 4 drives to store the OS code.  The reason why – according to what I’ve heard its to give the array a better price point – given what I’ve seen so far …. this holds to be true.

Ok, start plagurizm here:

So say you have 300 GB drives in the first shelf, total of 6 drives.

The useable capacity in first 4 (0-3)drives = 300 GB – 192 GB => 108 GB.

Drives 4, 5 useable capacity is full 300 GB, green box shows useable capacity:

This space can be used two ways:

(a) You can use the available space on the first 4 drives for a stand-alone RG or NAS/Block Pool. For example: RAID 5 (3+1) will give you ~324 GB usable AND use the remaining drives as another RG or part of a pool. There is no space wastage in this case.

(b) You can create a RG that spans across all the 6 drives as shown by the black square going across all 6 drives. This gives widest stripe configuration for RAID Group *but* you only get 108 GB of space from all 6 drives and 192 GB on the drive 4 and 5 is wasted.  (I don’t recommend this).

(c) For larger systems assign the extra 2 or 4 drives as hot spares, or as ‘buffer space’ for when the customer needs to add storage in case they wait until they are 98% full to order it.

So as you can see the vault requirements have shrunk from 5 drives to 4 drives but then got jacked up to 6 drives or 8 drives – hey….. makes sense to me.  Basically just plan to use the “extra” drives as part of another storage pool or raid group or just use them as hot spares.

New EMC VNX Changes Software Licensing Model

January 25, 2011

The new recently revealed EMC VNX line of storage arrays was a big deal for EMC and storage in general.  Essentially the replacement for both the Clariion and the Celerra storage lines, VNX carries over some things from it’s predecessors but also makes some welcome changes.  In particular I’m talking about software licensing.  Anyone who’s ever dealt with purchasing or configuring an EMC array know’s what a challenge it can be at times.  Well EMC must have heard the screaming, and in my opinion, they have just made life easier for a lot of people.

For the most part all of the software and tools that were available on the Clariion and Celerra lines are all still available.  The differences are in how they’re “packaged”, how they’re licensed…. and most importantly how much less they cost.  The easiest way to do this is going to be to just list everything out….. so here you go:

VNX Software Options

Base Software (comes with every array whether you want it or not)

  • Unisphere Manager, Compression (File), De-Duplication (File), Virtual Provisioning

Additional Base Software

  • VNXe 3100 – Snaps
  • VNXe3300 and VNX – Compression (Block), SAN Copy

FAST Suite

  • VNXe – n/a
  • VNX – FAST VP, FAST Cache, Unisphere Analyser, Unispher QoS

Security and Compliance Suite

  • VNXe – VEE, File Level Reporter
  • VNX – VEE, FLR, VNX Host Encryption

Local Protection Suite

  • VNXe – Snap
  • VNX – SnapView, SnapSure, RecoverPoint/SE (CDP)*

*ALL RecoverPoint/SE now licensed Per Array!!!  –  FINALLY

Remote Protection Suite

  • VNXe – Replicator
  • VNX – MirrorView, Replicator, RecoverPoint/SE (CRR)

Application Protection Suite

  • VNXe – Replication Manager
  • VNX – Replication Manager, Data Protection Advisor for Replication

*Replication Manager now licensed per Array!!!! – No more worrying about the # of host and high costs

Total Protection Pack Suite

  • VNXe 3100 – n/a
  • VNXe3300 and VNX – Local Protection Suite, Remote Protection Suite, Application Protection Suite

Total Efficiency Pack Suite

  • VNXe- n/a
  • VNX – All suites

Total Value Pack Suite

  • VNXe – all 3 VNXe suites
  • VNX5100 – Protection Pack + Security and Compliance Suite

As you can see there is still a lot to choose from but the change to “per array” licensing and significant cost reductions across the board are going to make these arrays very viable for a larger segment of the market.  If you’re in the market for a new storage array you’ll be doing yourself a disservice by not at least taking a good look at what EMC has to offer……especially the “EMC is just too expensive” crowd.

CPU Masking for Citrix XenServer

January 21, 2011

I don’t usually blog much about Citrix just because I don’t spend much time with it.  This week I ran into a challenge that we occasionally used to run into in the past so I found myself having to do a little Citrix homework for a change.  The challenge is one of CPU differences between XenServer hosts.

Say you’ve got an established XenServer farm setup with 6 hosts that are all identical from a hardware perspective.  With this configuration you can take advantage of all the cool and time saving features that XenServer has to offer like XenMotion – the ability to hot migrate virutal machines between hosts.  But what happens after a year or two when you need to add additional servers to your farm but the servers and in particular the processors you have in the other 6 servers are no longer available?  I won’t go as far as to say “you’re screwed” but you would at least have to create a new farm with the new servers.  This is certainly not the end of the world but you are now managing two farms instead of one and have introduced more complexity to your environment.  All this due to the different feature sets of the different processors – which would proclude you from doing XenMotion across all of your hosts.

This was not only an issue for Citrix users but for VMware users as well.  VMware was a little quicker out of the gate to solve the issue by using CPU “Masking” which essentially dumbs down the newer processor to the same feature set as the oldest processor in the farm hence enabling the vMotion/XenMotion and other features.  There are obviously some restrictions to the types of processors that are compatible – you can’t make an AMD and Intel work together but like vendor processors within a generation or two of each other will usually be ok (check none the less).

So in doing my homework this week I was happy to discover that CPU Masking is now an available feature for XenServer.  This has been out for a few months now I just never looked into it until recently.  To take advantage of the feature you’ll need to upgrade to XenServer 5.6.  Once your there you should be good to go.  This will be very beneficial now that the newer servers are moving from 4-core to 6-core and 8-core architectures.  Using this feature you’ll be able to take advantage of the newer, faster procs and not have to rearchitect and migrate your existing farm around.  There is a pretty good article on the Citrix Community Blog with links to things like HCLs, test kits and other tools.  So check it out at the link below.

http://community.citrix.com/display/ocb/2010/10/26/CPU+masking+support+in+XenServer+5.6

 

 

Think Before You “Reply To All”

January 16, 2011

As a follow-up to last weeks post on managing e-mail I thought I’d blog about something else related to e-mail – the “Reply To All” button.  Let me lay out the senario for you.  You go into a meeting and have no unread/new e-mails, you come out an hour later and you have 37 e-mails.  That generally wouldn’t be a problem or even unusual until you realize it is just one e-mail chain and that you’ve been struck by  2 or 3 people in a distribution using e-mail as instant messenger.  This is just one example but I’m sure most of you have experienced the Reply To All phenomenon in one way or another.  Unfortunately, at least for me it seems to be happening more and more often.  And YES, I’m guilty of it too.

So my plea in this weeks blog is to think before we reply to all.  A few small steps on our part could save our friends, family and co-workers loads of unnecessary e-mails and give them more time to do more important things in life.

1-      If you receive an e-mail from your boss for instance, sent to a large distribution list (like “Sales”) asking that everyone reply with next months sales estimates  –  when you reply, reply to your boss not to everyone.  Comon sense right – you’d be surprised.

2-      E-mail as Instant Messenger – Distribution lists are great for sharing information but when that sharing of information becomes a back and forth between two or three individual in the group using the dist group like IM it just clogs up everyone elses inbox.  Take it offline in a separate thread.

3-      Ask yourself before you click – Does everyone  in the To: and Cc: fields really need to be included in the e-mail I’m about to send?

Maybe it’s just a pipe dream of mine but maybe we can all work to reduce the amount of crap we get in our inbox and help contribute to a solution and not the problem.  So please, think before you click the easy button and reply to all.

 

Take Control of Your E-mail

January 9, 2011

I think it’s safe to say that for most business today E-mail is a significant and critical form of communication.  If you have ever worked for an internal IT department when the Exchange server crashed you know this all too well.  The challenge I see more nowadays is how do you get control of your e-mail instead of letting it control you.  Lets face it in todays gadget driven world we can pretty much get e-mail anywhere thanks to iPhones, Blackberry’s, iPads, web mail…….  This is all great but unless you have a way to manage the hundreds of email that come in everyday it really doesn’t do you a lot of good and sometime allows critical items to fall between the cracks.

I started my IT career doing deskside support and have seen all kinds of interesting ways of managing and filing e-mails.  From the I’m going to keep all 10,000 emails from the last 5 years in my Inbox to the I file all my emails in the “Deleted Items” folder…..that guys was a real genius.  Today, 12 years later, my job is even more dependent on e-mail.  Just about everything I do depends on the ability to send and receive messages and more importantly attachments.  Contact with account executives, vendors, manufactures, distributors all runs through e-mail.  So I figured I’d do this quick blog entry today to share a few tips that help me in my ever more complicated battle with e-mail.

1-      Get organized:   Take a look at the line of work your in and organize your e-mail logically.  For me, it’s a client based business.  Everything we do is generally for one of our hundreds of clients or from one of the manufactures we represent so that’s how I organize my email – by client for our clients and 5 or 6 manufacture folders, one for each of the major manufactures we represent.  For our clients I created a “Clients” folder then subfolders for each client.  Then when I get a phone call or email asking about something that happened for XYZ Company over 6 months ago I know right where to go to start searching.

2-      K.I.S.S: Keep It Simple Stupid.  The more complicated your filing system the harder it is going to be to find anything.  If you have 6 levels of directory structure and 2000 subfolder it’s going to get ugly.  Try to limit yourself to 1 level of subdirectories per group.

3-      Use the “Inbox” as a “To Be Completed” folder:  When items come into your inbox only leave them there if there is something that requires your attention.  If you get a dirty joke from your friends, read it, laugh, forward it to the rest of your perverted friends and then delete it or file it under “Perverted Jokes” folder.

4-      Delete older threads: If you work with people who love the Reply to All button then you probably understand this well.  If you receive 30 e-mails due to a reply to all / IM over e-mail converstation – there’s really no reason to keep the first 29 is there?  The delete key is your friend – delete the 29 emails and read and respond to the last one when you have time.  Obvious I know but again I’ve seen some really strange !@#$% over the years.

5-      Use the Search Function: If you use Microsoft Outlook, like most people, use the search function to help you find things.  I know, it seems like a no brainer but some people have no clue how to use it.  Use key words.  If you can’t remember the date of the New Kids on the Block reunion tour – search for “New Kids” or maybe “I need serious help”.  🙂

6-      Set goals for you’re inbox: For me, I try to finish the week with a maximum or about 2 pages of emails (~20) in my inbox.  This gives me a good idea of how far ahead or behind I am and forces me to review things to make sure items aren’t falling off schedule or being forgoten.

I’m not saying this is the end all be all solution for e-mail and that it will solve all of your problems in life but it does work very well for me and has for years.  So get organized and take control of your e-mail, your co-workers will thank you (maybe) and the job you save may be your own.