Daily Archives: October 20, 2011

A wizer IBM

A couple nights ago, IBM launched a slew of new storage technology updates and a new cloud service called SmartCloud Enterprise, which incorporates some cloud technology from Nirvanix.

There were updates to IBM XIV, SVC, SONAS and also the DS8800 and the announcement reached us with a big bang. One of the notable updates that caught my eye was IBM Storwize V7000. When IBM first acquired Storwize in 2010, their solution was meant to be a compression engine in front of a NAS storage. And it pretty much of that for a while, until the new Storwize V7000.

The new Storwize V7000 is now a Unified Storage array, a multiprotocol box that IBM has quoted to compete with EMC VNX series. In the news, the V7000 has the block virtualization code from the IBM SVC, files support, a file distribution policy engine called ActiveCloud, and also included remote replication (Metro & Global Mirror), automatic storage tiering (EasyTier), clustering and storage virtualization as well. It also sports a new user interface inherited from IBM XIV’s Gen3 GUI that can manage both files and blocks.

The video below introduces the V7000:

While IBM is being courteous to NetApp (NetApp FAS series are IBM’s N-Series) by saying that their cannons are pointed towards EMC’s VNX, one cannot help to question the strong possibility of the V7000 hurting N-series sales as well. NetApp could see this relationship sailing choppy waters ahead.

To me, the current IBM storage technology lineup is staggered. It is everything to everyone, and there are things that are in need of sharpening. HDS has certainly made great leaps getting their act together and they have gained strong market share in the past 2 quarters. Dell and HP have not been so good, because their story just don’t gel well. It’s about time IBM get going with their own technology, and more importantly consolidate their storage technology lineup into a more focused strategy.

This is a great announcement for IBM and they are getting wizer!

Playing with NetApp … final usable capacity

This is the third and last blog entry of how do we get the ONTAP final capacity.

In my first blog, we ran through a gamut of explanations how disk rightsizing came about for NetApp’s ONTAP. And the importance of disk rightsizing is to give ONTAP a level set of disks, regardless of manufacturer, model, make, firmware versions and so on, and ONTAP is pretty damn sure that the disks that it gets will not mess up.

In my second blog, progressing from the disk rightsizing stage, was the RAID group sizing stage, where different RAID group size affected the number of disks used for data and for parity in an aggregate. An aggregate, for the uninformed, is the disks pool in which the flexible volume, FlexVol, is derived. In a simple picture below,

OK, the diagram’s in Japanese (I am feeling a bit cheeky today :P)!

But it does look a bit self explanatory with some help which I shall provide now. If you start from the bottom of the picture, 16 x 300GB disks are combined together to create a RAID Group. And there are 4 RAID Groups created – rg0, rg1, rg2 and rg3. These RAID groups make up the ONTAP data structure called an aggregate. From ONTAP version 7.3 onward, there were some minor changes of how ONTAP reports capacity but fundamentally, it did not change much from previous versions of ONTAP. And also note that ONTAP takes a 10% overhead of the aggregate for its own use.

With the aggregate, the logical structure called the FlexVol is created. FlexVol can be as small as several megabytes to as large as 100TB, incremental by any size on-the-fly. This logical structure also allow shrinking of the capacity of the volume online and on-the-fly as well. Eventually, the volumes created from the aggregate become the next-building blocks of NetApp NFS and CIFS volumes and also LUNs for iSCSI and Fibre Channel. Also note that, for a more effective organization of logical structures from the volumes, using qtree is highly recommended for files and ONTAP management reasons.

However, for both aggregate and the FlexVol volumes created from the aggregate, snapshot reserve is recommended. The aggregate takes a 5% overhead of the capacity for snapshot reserve, while for every FlexVol volume, a 20% snapshot reserve is applied. While both snapshot percentage are adjustable, it is recommended to keep them as best practice (except for FlexVol volumes assigned for LUNs, which could be adjusted to 0%)

Note: Even if the snapshot reserve is adjusted to 0%, there are still some other rule sets for these LUNs that will further reduce the capacity. When dealing with NetApp engineers or pre-sales, ask them about space reservations and how they do snapshots for fat LUNs and thin LUNs and their best practices in these situations. Believe me, if you don’t ask, you will be very surprised of the final usable capacity allocated to your applications)

In a nutshell, the dissection of capacity after the aggregate would look like the picture below:

We can easily quantify the overall usable in the little formula that I use for some time:

Rightsized Disks capacity x # Disks x 0.90 x 0.95 = Total Aggregate Usable Capacity

Then remember that each volume takes a 20% snapshot reserve overhead. That’s what you have got to play with when it comes to the final usable capacity.

Though the capacity is not 100% accurate because there are many variables in play but it gives the customer a way to manually calculate their potential final usable capacity.

Please note the following best practices and this is only applied to 1 data aggregate only. For more aggregates, the same formula has to be applied again.

  1. A RAID-DP, 3-disk rootvol0, for the root volume is set aside and is not accounted for in usable capacity
  2. A rule-of-thumb of 2-disks hot spares is applied for every 30 disks
  3. The default RAID Group size is used, depending on the type of disk profile used
  4. Snapshot reserves default of 5% for aggregate and 20% per FlexVol volumes are applied
  5. Snapshots for LUNs are subjected to space reservation, either full or fractional. Note that there are considerations of 2x + delta and 1x + delta (ask your NetApp engineer) for iSCSI and Fibre Channel LUNs, even though snapshot reserves are adjusted to 0% and snapshots are likely to be turned off.
Another note that remember is not to use any of those Capacity Calculators given. These calculators are designed to give advantage to NetApp, not necessarily to the customer. Therefore, it is best to calculate these things by hand.
Regardless of how the customer will get as the overall final usable capacity, it is the importance to understand the NetApp philosophy of doing things. While we have perhaps, went overboard explaining the usable capacity and the nitty gritty that comes with it, all these things are done for a reason to ensure simplicity and ease of navigating data management in the storage networking world. Other NetApp solutions such as SnapMirror and SnapVault and also the SnapManager suite of product rely heavily on this.
And the intangible benefits of NetApp and ONTAP definitely have moved NetApp forward since its early years, into what NetApp is today, a formidable storage juggernaut.