Archive for July, 2014

What’s in PernixData FVP’s secret sauce

July 31st, 2014 No comments

Anyone who manages or architects a virtualisation environment battles against storage performance at some stage or another. If you run into compute resource constraints, it is very easy and fairly cheap to add more memory or perhaps another host to your cluster.

Being able to add to compute incrementally makes it very simple and cost effective to scale. Networking is similar, it is very easy to patch in another 1GB port and with 10GB becoming far more common, network bandwidth constraints seem to be the least of your worries. It’s not the same with storage. This is mainly down to a cost issue and the fact that spinning hard drives haven’t got any faster. You can’t just swap out a slow drive for a faster one in a drive array and a new array shelf is a large incremental cost.

imageSure, flash is revolutionising array storage but its going to take time to replace spinning rust with flash and again it often comes down to cost. Purchasing an all flash array or even just a shelf of flash for your existing array is expensive and a large incremental jump when perhaps you just need some more oomph during your month end job runs.

VDI environments have often borne the brunt of storage performance issues simply due to the number of VMs involved, poor client software that was never written to be careful with storage IO and latency along with operational update procedures used to mass updates of AV/patching etc. that simply kill any storage. VDI was often incorrectly justified with cost reduction as part of the benefit which meant you never had any money to spend on storage for what ultimately grew into a massive environment with annoyed users battling poor performance.

Large performance critical VMs are also affected by storage. Any IO that has to travel along a remote path to a storage array is going to be that little bit slower. Your big databases would benefit enormously by reducing this round trip time.



Along came PernixData at just the right time with what was such a simple solution called FVP. Install some flash SSD or PCIe into your ESXi host, cluster them as a pooled resource and then use software to offload IO from the storage array to the ESXi host. Even better, be able to cache writes as well and also protect them in the flash cluster. The best IO in the world is the IO you don’t have to do and you could give your storage array a little more breathing room. The benefit was you could use your existing array with its long update cycles and squeeze a little bit more life out of it without an expensive upgrade or even moving VM storage. FVP the name doesn’t stand for anything by the way, it doesn’t stand for Flash Virtualisation Platform if you were wondering which would be incorrect anyway as FVP accelerates more than flash.

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How Policy will drive the Software Defined Data Center

July 25th, 2014 3 comments


Many companies trying to take advantage of cloud computing are embracing the moniker of the “Software Defined Data Center” as one way to understand and communicate the benefits of moving towards an infrastructure resource utility model. VMware has taken on the term SDDC to mean doing everything in your data center with software and not requiring any custom hardware. Other companies sell “software-defined” products which do require particular hardware for various reasons but the functionality can be programmatically controlled and requested all in software. Whether your definition of “software-defined” mandates hardware or not the general premise (nothing to do with premises!) is being able to deliver and scale IT resources programmatically.

This is great but I think SDDC is just a stepping stone to what we are really trying to achieve which is the “Policy Defined Data Center”.

Once you can deliver IT resources in software, the next step is ensuring those IT resources are following your business rules and processes, what you would probably call business intelligence policy enforcement. These are the things that your business asks of IT partly for regulatory reasons like data retention and storing credit cards securely but also encompasses a huge amount of what you do in IT.

Here are a few examples of what kinds of policies may you have:

  • Users need to change their passwords every 30 days.
  • Local admin access to servers is strictly controlled by AD groups.
  • Developers cannot have access to production systems.
  • You can only RDP to servers over a management connection.
  • Critical services need to be replicated to a DR site, some synchronously, others not.
  • Production servers need to get priority over test and development servers.
  • Web server connections need to be secured with SSL.
  • SQL Server storage needs to have higher priority over say print servers.
  • Oracle VMs need to run on particular hosts for licensing considerations.
  • Load balanced web servers need to sit in different blade chassis in different racks.
  • Your trading application needs to have maximum x latency and minimum y IOPS
  • Your widget application needs to be recoverable within an hour and no be more than 2 hours out of date.
  • Your credit card database storage needs to be encrypted
  • All production servers need to be backed up, some need to be kept for 7 years.

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Trouble downloading HP Service Pack for Proliant (SPP)? Save yourself the hassle, call HP for a fix

July 11th, 2014 1 comment

tl;dr rant avoiding summary: HP SPP downloads may be broken for you, call them for a direct link

HP has recently started charging for firmware.

Part of the new procedure for downloading the Service Pack for Proliant is checking whether you have a valid support contract or HP Care Pack associated with your account.

HP has one of the world’s worst websites so you can imagine the convoluted process you need to follow to achieve anything. I managed to add a valid Care Pack to my account and thought I was ready to go. Nope, I somehow descended into the 7 circles of hell going round and round logging on numerous times, selecting one of various ways to get to the SPP download, clicking on “Obtain Software” to head straight back to a notice saying I needed a valid entitlement with either a support contract or Care Pack and try again and again.

I then tried to run a chat session with someone from HP, had to enter all my details again as it must be too hard to read these from my account and click the Submit button which went nowhere.

I didn’t want to log a support ticket as it being a low priority I would probably get a reply when Gen700 servers are available.

I called phone support, spoke to a very friendly guy who took my server serial number, confirmed I should have access to download the SPP and then said he could see the entitlement was not linked correctly to the support side for downloading the SPP.

He said many HP customers are having the same issue and they are apparently working on sorting out all this linking and with the large number of accounts they have this is taking some time.

He then emailed me with a download link and username and password to get the SPP.

If you are having any issues downloading the SPP with your login, call HP and ask for the download link, don’t try to fight it yourself.

HP, please sort your house out. We want to believe you’ve turned a corner and are heading in the right direction but don’t force your customers to pay for downloading firmware and then not have the back end processes worked out so they can actually do this.

The other infrastructure vendors are laughing at you when they have simple, often free software downloads and can update software and firmware with a single click and no downtime.

Categories: HP Tags: ,

HP Smart Array Controller can cause an ESXi PSOD – patch now available

July 7th, 2014 No comments

Time to check your HP Smart Array Controller driver versions.

HP has issued an advisory for ESXi 5.x with a number of Smart Array Controllers that can cause an out of memory condition which could lead to a PSOD if you are running the hpsa driver version 5.x.0.58-1. VMware also has a KB explaining the issue.

You can now avoid this without having to downgrade the driver but upgrade to the 5.x.0.60-1 version so that’s HP Smart Array Controller Driver (hpsa) Version (ESXi 5.0 and ESXi 5.1) or Version (ESXi 5.5).

You can download the new driver in various formats and update your hosts using a VIB file, the HP software depot or grab the latest offline bundle.

The latest HP supplied ESXi images for June 2014 do contain this latest patch so probably easiest to upgrade using these if you are happy to update the whole bundle.

Categories: ESX, HP, VMware Tags: , ,

HP’s new management appliance OneView updated to 1.1

July 4th, 2014 No comments

HP has updated its new all singing all dancing management appliance, OneView to 1.1

This is now available for download after being announced at HP Discover last month.


HP OneView will be the ultimate replacement for HP Systems Insight Manager (HP SIM), HP Virtual Connect Enterprise Manager (VCEM), HP Insight Control and HP Intelligent Provisioning. It is delivered as a virtual appliance running on a hypervisor.

HP is putting a lot of effort into OneView and really trying to reimagine server management. I was never a fan of HPSIM as I felt it was unnecessarily cumbersome, HP has specifically said one of the goals of OneView is to make server management far easier and quicker with a lighter touch. In fact they are not rushing to add functionality to OneView but taking a pragmatic approach and only adding what is absolutely needed. HPs answer to Vblock is its Converged Systems which are built, configured and managed by OneView so HP has skin in the management game. Converged infrastructure is not just connecting hardware together but requires converged management which OneView aims to deliver.

Moving over to OneView is going to be a long process however as OneView has been designed to manage only Gen8 and future servers with just a little bit of management available for G7 servers. Far more complicated though is there is no migration path from Virtual Connect to OneView, you need to delete your virtual connect domains and recreate them in OneView which means shutting down every blade in your domain (up to 4 chassis) and starting from scratch. HP calls this a transition, not a migration. Not all current Virtual Connect functionality is available in OneView so you may not even be able to configure your newly purchased chassis in OneView depending on your required network config.

Saying that, OneView is going to be the future of server management so you should be thinking in that direction for your future plans. One of the stumblers may be licensing, you need to purchase or upgrade existing management software licenses to use OneView.

What’s new with 1.1?

  • Now available as a Hyper-V appliance along with ESXi
  • You can now provision and manage 3PAR storage, integrating the configuration into server profiles.
  • Added support for the new 20/40 FlexFabric Modules
  • Virtual Connect support for untagged traffic and VLAN tunnelling (OneView was pretty hampered by this before).
  • BIOS settings as part of server profiles (nice one!)
  • Inventory views of Cisco Nexus 5000 switches and HP FEX module which will be very useful.
  • Server Profiles for Gen8 rack mount servers to update firmware and BIOS settings for DL360/DL380
  • HP Insight Control for VMware vCenter Server is now HP OneView for VMware vCenter
  • HP Insight Control for Microsoft System Center is now HP OneView for Microsoft System Center
  • HP Insight Control for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization is now HP OneView for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization

Here’s all the documentation and another link with some of the others guides (HP, may be worth putting them all in one place).

Categories: HP Tags: , , , ,