Thursday, February 26, 2015

How Nimble Storage Changed My Distaste for OEM Support


At Great Lakes Computer, in addition to our systems integration and lab units, we have a Nimble Storage CS210 array that serves as our proof of concept unit. Before upgrading to a waterproof, crushproof Pelican 1730 transport case, we shipped our proof of concept array to a client’s location using a cardboard box, foam packaging, a pallet, and a trusted logistics company.

The departure trip went smoothly, but the return trip was fraught with peril! Not all of the foam packaging was reinserted with the array to begin with, and at some point the trusted logistics company accidentally dropped the pallet. After inspecting the package and filing a claim, we proceeded to inspect the array; minor scrapes and bruises, but no dents or severe damage to the unit.

Let the tests begin!

Waiting for a response on an insurance claim can be extended, so we made the most of the downtime and put the array through its paces. After completing initial POST, things were looking pretty good! We cleaned up the configuration from the proof of concept and connected the array to our lab network. We went about creating new volumes and mapping the volumes to some host systems. After creating partitions, we started some benchmarking software and executed looped scripts to create files of varying sizes, moved them to the volumes presented by the Nimble Storage array, and then deleted the files.

At this point it was a little after 14:00 and things were stable, so we moved on to other projects while the tests put the array through its paces. At 15:53 an email arrived in my inbox: Nimble Case #00XXX057: Disk in Slot 16 Reporting Failed on array AF-10XXXX.

My past experiences with support from other manufacturers led to the immediate feeling of, “I will deal with this later.” I would have to mentally prepare myself for the fiasco that is typical when calling an OEM support line; waiting on hold, describing the problem time and time again as I am transferred through the departments, and attempting to understand what the person on the other end of the line is saying.

As I continue the project I am working on, I receive another email at 15:57: a reply to the original. I opened the email to read,

     We have received a notification of a failed drive in the array GLC-POC210 (AF-10XXXX).

     Could you please confirm that this was not the result of maintenance and that
     the address below is correct for delivery of the replacement drive? […]

An easy enough request; I respond stating we were not performing maintenance and that the address was correct. Moments later I receive another reply from Nimble Storage support confirming that the RMA has been submitted and the replacement disk drive will arrive tomorrow morning. One more email arrives later in the evening to include the tracking number for the shipment.

Hardware replacement

The package arrives the next morning and we proceed to remove the contents from the box. A disk drive sealed in an antistatic bag, instructions for replacing the failed disk drive, and a return shipping label; everything you would expect. We swapped the failed disk drive with the replacement then navigated to the web browser based management interface. Inspecting the array via the management interface displayed the status of the disk drive and we could monitor the rebuild process.

We placed the failed disk in the packaging that the replacement arrived in, slapped on the return shipping label, and handed the package to our shipping department. A few days later we received a reply email to the support case,

     I checked failed HDD was replaced and array looks good.

     SSD Good: 4   SSD Fail: 0 HDD Good: 8 HDD Fail: 0 HDD Sync'ing: 0 HDD Spare: 0

     Drives absent: 0

    I am closing this case but please let us know if there is anything we can assist with.

That was it! The most simple support situation I have encountered. The support case was automatically created by the array and Nimble’s InfoSight engine; by replying to an email, we confirmed that we were not performing maintenance and verified the address of the array; we swapped installed the replacement and packaged up the failed disk. Nimble Storage has made me rethink how support, a service that exists to help you, should be simple, expedient, and hassle-free. Nimble Storage has indeed figured this out.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Unitrends Announces the 3rd Generation of Recovery Series Backup Appliances

Unitrends recently released the third generation of its Recovery Series backup appliances. Featuring 11 new models with capacities ranging from 1TB – 97TB, these all-in-one integrated appliance models are designed to increase I/O bandwidth, manage growing data volumes, tighten backup windows, and maximize deduplication performance. Bringing together faster CPU clock speeds, AES-NI hardware encryption, hardware RAID, and more, the amount of data users can protect a day spans from 2TB/day to over 6TB/day. The new Unitrends Recovery Series also features the industry’s first use of solid-state drives (SSDs) as a 2nd-layer read cache in result speeding up read requests and increasing data I/O. With the use of SSDs, users can see a 300% improvement in backup RPO and a 125% improvement on recovery times.

New characteristics of the 3rd Generation Unitrends Recovery Series include:
  • Increased backup capacity
    Unitrends Backup Appliances
  • More granular capacity options
  • Significantly increased backup performance
  • Faster recovery time performance
  • Better archiving performance
  • Lower entry level pricing
  • A new look with a world-class industrial design
As the only desktop model in the new series, the Recovery-201 features 1TB of raw capacity, 600GB of backup capacity, 8GB (dual) memory, and 2 cores. With ten new rackmount models, eight of them (starting in Recovery-713S and up) feature the flash cache SSD. The Recovery-602 and Recovery-603 1U models feature 8GB (dual) memory with the Recovery-602 containing 2TB of raw capacity and 1.2TB or backup capacity, and the Recovery-603 featuring 3TB of raw capacity and 1.6 TB of backup capacity. The SSD appliances include models Recovery-713S, Recovery-714S, Recovery-814S, Recovery-823S, Recovery-824S, Recovery-933S, Recovery-936S and Recovery-943S with raw capacity ranging from 6TB to 97TB, backup capacity ranging from 3.2TB to 50TB, and memory ranging from 16GB (dual) to 256GB (quad). These flash-enabled devices are built from the ground up to handle the increasing demands of coping with growing virtual and physical data volumes, faster backup and recovery windows, and the incorporation of the hybrid cloud. 

All of the models in the third-generation Recovery Series feature best-in-class unification across physical and virtual servers as well as many operating systems and applications. Simplified administration provides seamless integration with virtual and physical applications. With centralized management of data protection, the Unitrends Recovery Series protects data in branch and remote offices while reducing operational costs and improving disaster recovery preparedness. With this next-generation hardware, the third-generation of Unitrends Recovery Series backup appliances provides greater scalability and flexibility, and improved backup performance. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

VMware Releases vSphere 6

VMware, a leader in cloud infrastructure and business mobility, recently announced the largest vSphere launch ever with VMware vSphere 6. As the latest edition of the industry-defining virtualization solution for the hybrid cloud and foundation for the software-defined data center, vSphere 6 contains more than 650 new features and innovations. vSphere 6 will feature breakthrough scalability and performance for any application and provide users with industry-first resiliency and availability through an on-demand cloud infrastructure with simplified management at scale.

As the foundation of the hybrid cloud, VMware vSphere 6 has many new features and capabilities including: 

  • Broad Application Support – Addressing the challenges of cloud-native applications, vSphere 6 will allow users to manage thousands of component instances including agile development cycles and multiple application instances, of a single cloud-native application. 
  • New Long-Distance Live Migration Capabilities – With new Long-Distance vMotion, vSphere 6 enables zero downtime live migration of workloads over long distances worldwide. 
  • Instant Clone Technology – VMware’s Instant Clone technology allows users to quickly clone and provision thousands of container instances and virtual machines, creating a new virtual infrastructure in sub-second timeframes.
  • 3D Graphics for Desktop Virtualization – Using NVIDIA GRID vGUP technology, vSphere 6 allows enterprises to deliver high-end workstation and graphics-intensive applications to virtual desktops such as VMware Horizon 6 with greater density a scalable performance and increased cost savings.
  • Enterprise-Class Hypervisor-Converged Storage – With VMware Virtual SAN 6, vSphere 6 will provide enterprise-class scale, performance, and new data services.
  • Virtual Machine-Awareness for Third-Party Storage – With VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes, native virtual machine awareness on a wide range of third-party storage systems is enabled, extending VMware’s software-defined storage control plane to the ecosystem.

VMware vSphere provides powerful server virtualization, network services, efficient storage, cloud API integration, robust security, high availability, and consistent automation. With vSphere 6, users can virtualize any application with confidence, redefine availability, transform storage for virtual machines, and simplify management of the virtual data center. Serving as the foundation of the software-defined data center, vSphere 6 gives users the choice of how they want to build and operate their cloud environments. With vSphere 6, users can now virtualize cloud, mobile, social and big data applications with confidence.

With the release of vSphere 6, VMware will also compliment it with new releases of VMware vCloud Suite 6, VMware vSphere with Operations Management 6, and VMware Virtual SAN 6. 

Check out the VMware vSphere 6.0 video for more information. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Lenovo and VMware Team Up to Build Software-Defined Data Center Offerings

In October 2014, Lenovo and VMware made an announcement unveiling their official partnership at the VMworld Europe 2014 conference in Barcelona, Spain. As Lenovo’s first announcement since their acquisition of the IBM x86 server business for $2.1 billion, this partnership with VMware will extend a 16-year development relationship between VMware and IBM’s System x business. With this partnership, both Lenovo and VMware will focus on software-defined data center (SDDC) offerings and solutions for cloud and end-user computing environments, specifically around servers including the Lenovo ThinkServer line, storage, networking, and virtualization.

Designed to help enterprises and service providers grasp the concept of software-defined data centers, the IT infrastructure solutions that VMware and Lenovo will develop will help users leverage server, storage, and network virtualization while simplifying resources, reducing IT costs, and improving the provisioning of applications. This will combine Lenovo’s expanded IT hardware capabilities with VMware’s virtualization technology in a wide range of areas.

Cloud offerings will include complete architectures from Lenovo’s networking and server hardware with VMware’s vRealize Suite of cloud automated management offerings such as hybrid and private cloud solutions. To provide network virtualization, VMware’s NSX software-defined networking (SDN) platform will be brought together with Lenovo’s top-of-rack networking technology for a solution around network virtualization gateways and integrated traffic management. Lenovo and VMware will also provide software-defined storage infrastructure offerings that are based on Lenovo server and VMware’s Virtual SAN software as well as virtual desktop services that combine the VMware Horizon virtual desktop infrastructure platform with Lenovo’s eXFlash server-based storage product.