Oct 182013
 

A few years ago, Dell (finally) caught onto the importance of integrating and consolidating one’s file servers into one of the more enterprise-level SANs they already have, such as EqualLogic. As the fastest-growing iSCSI SAN in history, EqualLogic does what EqualLogic does best: Storage Area Network. However, many of its clients wanted to see a more holistic approach to its overall storage infrastructure to include their file servers and NAS protocol traffic such as NFS / CIFS / SMB.

In Dell’s effort to appease this demand, it created the EqualLogic FS7500 (and FS7510). The next generation of this solution saw the FS7600 / FS7610…in fact, previous blog posts have already been written to this effect.

However, as part of Dell’s next version – the FluidFS v3 – the Dell EqualLogic FS7600 / FS7610 will now begin to carry additional features that will further position itself as a market leader in not only SAN technology but also NAS technology to interface with its award-winning EqualLogic iSCSI SAN. These features include compression and deduplication.

Customers will have the choice to set up certain policies for their EqualLogic FS7600 / FS7610 NAS in regard to deduplication as well, such as: 1) dedupe only – address high redundancy and read performance sensitivity, and 2) dedupe and compression – offers the best savings and is the default recommendation.

The Dell EqualLogic solution will also include a discussion around FluidFS FDR – Fluid Data Reduction. So, based on technology from Ocarina, this will allow you to incorporate common file type compressors at no additional charge (FDR won’t work on active files…nor will it work with file-level cloning). But on average, customers using FDR as part of their FluidFS solution will see an average of 50% savings on their Home Shares, about 64% savings on Engineering files, and about 3% on Internet Media.

This is all slated to take place next month for the EqualLogic NAS…and of course all of these new features are included in EqualLogic pricing.

Sep 272013
 

The EqualLogic iSCSI SAN was the very first pure iSCSI SAN to become part of VMWare’s Hardware Compatibility List (HCL), and since then it has continued a very strong relationship with VMware by integrating VMware’s latest and greatest tools to leverage the technologies from both platforms.

For example, if one takes a look at some of the more recent EqualLogic tools and integrations for VMware’s vSphere, EqualLogic has been able to take VMware’s storage APIs and leverage them for better performance and utilization. There’s no additional cost for these features…everything’s already part of the EqualLogic pricing. Let’s take EqualLogic’s support for VAAI…a report from The Taneja Group, Inc. says:

“The EqualLogic PS Series was one of the first storage systems to incorporate VAAI support in its firmware. This integration allows the array to perform important storage tasks on behalf of vSphere and thereby improve performance and utilization of the entire infrastructure. Tasks such as full hardware‐accelerated data copy, fixed-zero writes, and volume locking are performed much more effectively in the array, freeing up VMware host-compute resources and network bandwidth. Internal testing at Dell has shown that both host overhead and network traffic can be reduced by over 70%.

“Virtual machine provisioning was also shown to be significantly faster in these same tests. EqualLogic also includes support for added thin-provisioned stun awareness, which greatly reduces the impact of exceeding available space on a thin-­‐provisioned volume. By delegating these tasks to the storage layer, customers can deploy new VMs from templates quickly and easily, and enjoy higher performance for shared storage volumes. Most recently. EqualLogic PS Series firmware version 6.0 has also introduced support for using SCSI unmap operations to recover unused space previously allocated to volumes. VMware vSphere 5.0 customers get better storage utilization with this volume unmap feature.”

To this day, EqualLogic still remains one of the very first iSCSI SAN vendors to quickly integrate new VMware features each and every release and upgrade. For more details on VMware and EqualLogic’s integration, particularly around EqualLogic’s integration tools, please see the Technology Brief by The Taneja Group, Inc. entitled “BETTER TOGETHER: OPTIMIZING VMWARE VSPHERE DEPLOYMENTS WITH DELL’S EQUALLOGIC INTEGRATION TOOLS” for a complete breakdown of features and functionality.

References:

(2012). Better together: Optimizing vmware vsphere deployments with dell’s equallogic integration tools. Taneja Group Technology Analysis – Technology Brief.

Sep 202013
 

Now that you’ve fixed your storage problem by buying that new EqualLogic iSCSI SAN, what about addressing shared access through standards protocols such as CIFS/SMB and NFS…? Unfortunately, your typical SAN – not even the mighty EqualLogic iSCSI SAN – will address such protocols directly. What to do…?

Customer demand has driven the answer: the EqualLogic FS7600 / FS7610 NAS appliance.

Instead of having to find or purchase a separate NAS to address their CIFS/SMB and NFS protocols and shared access, EqualLogic clients can now have a NAS solution that fully integrates into your current or future EqualLogic SAN. Please note: The Dell EqualLogic FS7600 / 7610 must be used in conjunction with an EqualLogic iSCSI SAN array…it cannot be used as a standalone NAS.

There are two (2) versions of the EqualLogic NAS: 1) the 1-Gigabit solution (FS7600), and 2) the 10GigE solution (FS7610). These NAS appliances are the second generation appliances, stemming from the EqualLogic FS7500 series.

Dell Storage’s website indicates that, “Deployment and management of the FS7600 Series is fully integrated into EqualLogic Group Manager, including administration, monitoring and maintenance operations. Group Manager automates the initial setup and configuration of your FS7600 system, simplifying the process of creating volumes and shares.

Key Benefits of the Dell EqualLogic FS7600 FS7610 NAS:

  • Unified IP storage solution (iSCSI, CIFS, NFS)
  • Single file share scalability up to the full capacity of the EqualLogic deployment, currently validated to 509TB
  • Asynchronous, file system-level, snapshot-based replication to peer FS7600 Series systems
  • User-restorable snapshots
  • NDMP Back-Up
  • Compatible with all EqualLogic arrays running a current firmware version
  • Integrated with Group Manager, easy-to-use EqualLogic management software, or use the Command Line Interface (CLI)
  • Inclusive software delivery model
  • Single namespace with load balanced IO
  • Mirrored, battery-backed write cache
  • RAID 5, 6, 10, 50C”

As with all EqualLogic devices, EqualLogic pricing is available for both the EqualLogic FS7600 as well as the EqualLogic FS7610.

Sep 132013
 

As I mentioned in my previous EqualLogic blog(s), EqualLogic pricing has gone down over the years, allowing clients to take advantage of some great cost-per-TB solutions. But many clients have admitted that even with some very aggressive price drops, the low price still might not be enough to secure a much-needed EqualLogic SAN.

Dell’s recent product announcements (such as the Dell Enterprise Forum US) have recently revealed some very insightful and much anticipated news about solutions and financing that many clients have been waiting for for a long time. The focus of this particular blog posting will focus on the specials and incentives around the financing aspect of Dell solutions, particularly around the EqualLogic iSCSI SAN.

Through Dell Financial Services (DFS), Dell has announced two (2) leasing options: 1) 0% EqualLogic Lease Offer and 2) Power Up Lease Offer.

0% EqualLogic Lease Offer
Let’s take, for example, you decided to finance $25,000 worth of EqualLogic hardware, software (ProSupport), and installation for a 36-month Finance Lease (Ownership). Because of the 0% EqualLogic Lease option, you would see:

  • Average Monthly Payment: $694
  • Sum of Payments: $25,000
  • Impact to Annual Budget: $8,328
  • Opportunity Cost: $1,173 (what you might save on interest assuming a 3% over 36 months)

Power Up Lease Offer
Now, it gets even better…what if you wanted to take the same $25,000 EqualLogic amount and opt for a 36-month Fair Market Value Lease (Rotation). Let’s take a look at the breakdown here:

  • Average Monthly Payment: $663
  • Sum of Payments: $23,861
  • Impact to Annual Budget: $7,956
  • Opportunity Cost: $2,312 (what you might save on interest assuming a 3% over 36 months)

So, compare the above two options to a straight Net 30 Terms purchase via purchase order. Your initial cash outlay is $25,000…your sum of payments is $25,000, and your impact to your annual budget is $25,000. And did I mention the business tax advantages of leasing…? Well, talk to your accountant about that…we’re just here to share our Dell EqualLogic findings and EqualLogic pricing with you…

Jul 262013
 

A Deeper Dive into Solid State Storage
Yeah, there’s some hype out there about solid state storage (SSS). No, I take that back…there’s a TON of hype out there around solid state storage. Why? Well, let’s take a look at some of the benefits of solid state drives (SSD) and where they might be used:

  • The main, primary benefit of using SSD over a spinning disk (HDD) is direct access
  • SSD flash memory does not require seek time (HDD does), resulting in higher transaction rates (IOPS) than HDD
  • An example of SSD vs HDD in IOPS:
    * 100 to 200 IOPS for HDD vs. 5,000 to 10,000 IOPS for SSD
  • A flash disk (SSD) can provide 40x better IOPS than a spinning disk (HDD)
  • SSD performs typically performs better for random workloads than sequential workloads
  • SSD read performance will typically be better than the write performance
    * SSD read speeds are normally 2x that of its write speeds
  • The cost per performance for SSD is much better for SSD (though the cost per TB is much better for HDD)
  • Power consumption for SSD is much better:
    * An SSD might use 1 watt while a HDD might use 10 watts
    * The power performance of an SSD is typically 1000s of IOPS/Watt vs. the performance of an HDD with only 10s of IOPS/Watt

Dell EqualLogic’s Answer to Solid State Storage and SSD
Does EqualLogic do SSD…? Of course! Dell EqualLogic is still the leader in the native iSCSI SAN marketplace, and EqualLogic pricing will reveal that it can do SSD in either a full SSD or a hybrid SSD solution:

1 Gigabit Ethernet

  • EqualLogic PS6100S-4.8TB (24x200GB SSD drives)
  • EqualLogic PS6100S-9.6TB (24x400GB SSD drives)
  • EqualLogic PS6100XS-13TB (7x400GB SSD with 17x600GB 10K SAS drives)

10GigE

  • EqualLogic PS6110S-4.8TB (24x200GB SSD drives)
  • EqualLogic PS6110S-9.6TB (24x400GB SSD drives)
  • EqualLogic PS6110XS-13TB (7x400GB SSD with 17x600GB 10K SAS drives)
Feb 022013
 

A very attractive draw for the Dell EqualLogic SAN has always been its fully redundant architecture…but one has to stop and think about what exactly that means. This is a question to not only pose for EqualLogic iSCSI SAN arrays but also any storage area network area out there in the industry that you might be investigating. Here’s a look at EqualLogic’s breakdown:

  • Dual Controllers – by default, EqualLogic SAN arrays come with two controllers; in EqualLogic’s early days, they did make some arrays as single controller to help reduce costs, but any EqualLogic arrays made now are always dual controller
    • Each controller comes with 4GB of memory and offers cache to flash (data protection reasons)
    • Each controller has multiple Ethernet ports
  • Hot Swappable Hard Disk Drives – each of the drives (NL-SAS, SAS, SSD, etc.) is hot swappable, which means you don’t have to power down the unit in order to swap out drives
  • Expansion for Grouping – depending on which array you purchase, you can group them into groups of two members (PS4100 / PS4110) or up to 16 members (PS6100 / 6110), creating and increasing processing power and management options
  • Enclosure Monitoring System – this is more software-based and includes:
    • Automatic spare configuration and utilization
    • SMART
    • Automatic bad block replacement
    • Auto-Stat Disk Monitoring System (ADMS) – constantly polls the health of data on disk drives
  • Multiple Management Interfaces – SAN HQ (see previous blog posting for details), SNMP, telnet, SSH, HTTP, Web (SSL), host scripting, serial console, multi-administrator support, and the ability to configure a separate management network
  • Dual Power Supplies and Cooling Fans – these are also hot swappable
  • Additional Redundant Features
    • Vertical port sharing
    • Individual disk drive slot power control

EqualLogic pricing includes all of the above features and hardware and more, at no additional cost. Everything is built into the price of the EqualLogic SAN solution and must be maintained with one of its ProSupport packages to ensure continued protection of your EqualLogic SAN for years to come.