Anyway, day three of EMC world was quite entertaining, even though I didn't get to see any session I can write about because they were all still under NDA. They envolved the Clariion and some featuers of the new V-Max system, and I wrote up some blog posts already. These will be posted as soon as everything has been GA'd.
Besides the stuff I can't talk about, we again had a lot of rain. Even so much that the phrase "record breaking weather" came by on the television. Since the weather was not that good, it set the mood for my test. I tried to get certified at the associate level by taking the Storage Technology Foundation exam. I hadn't taken any classes before, but tried to study from the ISM book and try to wing the test. That didn't work out too well. I missed certification by 3%, and the SAN and NAS part were not the parts that gave me problems. But I will continue studying and take the test again. I'm quite certain that I will be able to make it the next time I take the test.
I once again need to give a compliment to EMC and to ZDnet for creating the bloggers lounge. You could think of it as a small space created inside one of the main floors that gave you the much needed power and caffeine to continue through the day. I have to say that I have met lot's of interesting people throughout the convention, but somehow these people accumulated in the bloggers lounge. For example I got to talk with Chuck Hollis (Global Marketing CTO for EMC) in there, and I will be writing more on the conversation in later posts.
What really made my day, and what made it to one of the most valuable days for me was the networking and teamwork done that day. At the company where I work we were given the opportunity to be the first German customer to test out the new V-Max system. Actually, were so up front in the testing schedule that the things were delivered in the old DMX casings, and without any labels or port infos on the back. We needed the machine up and running by Friday as we were doing some tests and it was about to mess up our schedule quite badly.
In the end, we ended up working with people from SAP, EMC and GOPA backstage behind the Symmetrix booth. The exhibitor booths were all cleaned out, and were taken apart and transported by forklifts back in to crates for transport. That was the point where we were asked to relocate. I mean, having a forklift run over you will not make you any more productive, so I could understand the request.
Anyway, we ended up back in the bloggers lounge where we were actually able to hook up the V-Max to our systems via iSCSI. I think we are one of the first, if not the first worldwide, to connect to the new V-Max this way. We ended up having several smaller problems, but if I may give you one tip. Alway make sure that when you enter the infos for the iSCSI-target, you use the [qbbr=Fully Qualified Domain Name]FQDN[/abbr]. Five minutes after solving the problem, the convention was closed for the day, so we were kicked out.
The great thing was that everyone worked together to get this issue resolved, but provider and customer alike. Sure, this could have been done with people spread out over the globe, but it was just easier when you had all of the people at the same place, and they were able to see what the other person does and directly exchange ideas. This also shows one of the major strengths of these types of events. Sure, they are quite expensive, and yes it's not all work and people have a lot of fun. But it also gives you great networking opportunities, a means of direct exchange with peers and the option of finding the right people for problems you are facing and trying to solve.
All in all I would say that even though I did not visit that many session, it was still one of the most productive days for me!
Just as a small sidenote, I got my first introduction to the Symmetrix Management Console that day since we did not have any out-of-band management set up yet. I have to confess that the version of SMC installed was quite old, but I saw some bugs that I reported back, and I am hoping that the newer versions will no longer display these problems. You wouldn't want to find these on the V-Maxes that have been delivered to our customers (think of LUNs that were no longer masked but still visible, and the other way around).
So, what happened here? Well, there were two main topics that are both related to the new systems that was introduced a while back by EMC.
There was a session on the changes in the new Symmetrix Enginuity version 5874 for the new V-Max system. We were informed that among others the RAID-engine was redesigned. The new version allows for only 1 mirror per device instead of the previous 4 mirrors per device. They now allow all of the features on all of the RAID-levels, and they introduced the possibility of VLUN migration.
Also new was the support for large volumes. The limit increased from 16GB to 240GB. This should help a lot of people who were required to create large metasets before. Also, you can now create 512 hypers per drive.
You will find some changes in the management and provisioning section for this new version of Enginuity. Dynamic provisioning received some enhancements that reduce the number of steps required to present your storage to your host. You now create a storage group, a port group and a device group or initiator group. After that you are basically done. Create some templates once these prerequisites are created and you can present your storage with relative ease. People will also find that bin file changes are speeded up on this new release.
SRDF also received some upgraded numbers. The maximum number of SRDF groups is now at 256 groups per array, and 64 groups per FA-port. Still, you might want to reconsider splitting up all groups on 4 FA-ports.
They also introduced the new so called "DLDEV" or Diskless R2 Device, or in Symmetrix speech a so called R21 device that allows you to cascade to a 3rd site using SRDF/A. DLDEVs need to be on a V-Max though.
After an interruption I got in to a private V-Max session a bit later then I planned, but I still managed to get some new information.
Currently one of the less official recommendations that you will find is that if you have a large datacenter, you might consider distributing some engine groups in the various areas of your datacenter. Current distance limits you will find are at around 100 meters. Simple reason for this distance limitation is the fact that you are working with latencies. If you take the distance up to 100 meters, you will find that latency will increase with a factor 27. Upping the distance could create some unforeseen issues.
One of the questions was that with FAST we will see a tiering over the various storage media, but what will EMC do to tier my storage on the various storage classes. In a normal situation you want your mission critical data on high end arrays, and work your way down. One could imagine something similar to FAST on a different level that would allow you to better utilize the various availability levels of you storage hardware.
The engineers implied that they are working on this, but unfortunately would not go in to a great deal of detail.
One of the most heard questions so far is probably "When will FAST v2 be coming to the V-Max?". Current timeline indicated about 1 to 1.5 years, but no one was willing to talk about any of the technical details. This raises the question how far they actually are with the FAST technology, and that's a question that produces the same "no coment" remark and look. What they were able to tell though was that they are planning to introduce FAST on the Clariion series array, which will be a major money maker when they are able to deliver. Currently you will find around 300,000 CX's worldwide, and one can only imagine how many people might be interested in purchasing this technology, if and/or when it works. A first version of FAST v1 should be introduced at the end of the year according to Barry Burke.
And even on a V-Max the newer FAST version will bring in some major cash. You will find it as a separately billed option when you would like to use FAST for fat LUNs and thin LUNs.
However, one general statement was clear. "FAST is coming!"
To start my first post I need to get something off my chest. Anyone who has been involved with SAN has probably noticed the launch of the new Virtual Matrix Architecture (or in short V-Max) by EMC last Tuesday.
I am still busy trying to gather all of the information and filling in the blanks that still exist for me. Anyway, all in all to me the solution so far looks pretty good and will need to prove itself in terms of scalability and such.
What really bugs me though is the reaction of some competitors (actually, at this moment only one competitor). The culprit? Hitachi Data Systems or in short HDS.
And why you might ask? Well, to me it seems that they felt the need to respond quickly. At least they did so, I'll give them that much. But instead of replying they tried to start a good old flame war. All of the classic signs are there. No knowledge of the matter was pretty poor and they tried to score by fussing over the name of the product.
All in all, as a customer and end-user of the various SAN solutions I have to say that the replies made by the various HDS people made me feel less likely of possibly purchasing a USP-V from them.
Me, I like to see products that solve the problems that I have in a reliable way. Be it from an infertile tiger or from an electronics repair shop. I just need to get the job done, what do care about the name?