Random Short Take #16

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 16 – please enjoy these semi-irregular updates.

  • Scale Computing has been doing a bit in the healthcare sector lately – you can read news about that here.
  • This was a nice roundup of the news from Apple’s recent WWDC from Six Colors. Hat tip to Stephen Foskett for the link. Speaking of WWDC news, you may have been wondering what happened to all of your purchased content with the imminent demise of iTunes on macOS. It’s still a little fuzzy, but this article attempts to shed some light on things. Spoiler: you should be okay (for the moment).
  • There’s a great post on the Dropbox Tech Blog from James Cowling discussing the mission versus the system.
  • The more things change, the more they remain the same. For years I had a Windows PC running Media Center and recording TV. I used IceTV as the XMLTV-based program guide provider. I then started to mess about with some HDHomeRun devices and the PC died and I went back to a traditional DVR arrangement. Plex now has DVR capabilities and it has been doing a reasonable job with guide data (and recording in general), but they’ve decided it’s all a bit too hard to curate guides and want users (at least in Australia) to use XMLTV-based guides instead. So I’m back to using IceTV with Plex. They’re offering a free trial at the moment for Plex users, and setup instructions are here. No, I don’t get paid if you click on the links.
  • Speaking of axe-throwing, the Cohesity team in Queensland is organising a social event for Friday 21st June from 2 – 4 pm at Maniax Axe Throwing in Newstead. You can get in contact with Casey if you’d like to register.
  • VeeamON Forum Australia is coming up soon. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Sydney on July 24th and should be a great event. You can find out more information and register for it here. The Vanguards are also planning something cool, so hopefully we’ll see you there.
  • Speaking of Veeam, Anthony Spiteri recently published his longest title in the Virtualization is Life! catalogue – Orchestration Of NSX By Terraform For Cloud Connect Replication With vCloud Director. It’s a great article, and worth checking out.
  • There’s a lot of talk and slideware devoted to digital transformation, and a lot of it is rubbish. But I found this article from Chin-Fah to be particularly insightful.

Cohesity Basics – Excluding VMs Using Tags – Real World Example

I’ve written before about using VM tags with Cohesity to exclude VMs from a backup. I wanted to write up a quick article using a real world example in the test lab. In this instance, we had someone deploying 200 VMs over a weekend to test a vendor’s storage array with a particular workload. The problem was that I had Cohesity set to automatically protect any new VMs that are deployed in the lab. This wasn’t a problem from a scalability perspective. Rather, the problem was that we were backing up a bunch of test data that didn’t dedupe well and didn’t need to be protected by what are ultimately finite resources.

As I pointed out in the other article, creating tags for VMs and using them as a way to exclude workloads from Cohesity is not a new concept, and is fairly easy to do. You can also apply the tags in bulk using the vSphere Web Client if you need to. But a quicker way to do it (and something that can be done post-deployment) is to use PowerCLI to search for VMs with a particular naming convention and apply the tags to those.

Firstly, you’ll need to log in to your vCenter.

PowerCLI C:\> Connect-VIServer vCenter

In this example, the test VMs are deployed with the prefix “PSV”, so this makes it easy enough to search for them.

PowerCLI C:\> get-vm | where {$_.name -like "PSV*"} | New-TagAssignment -Tag "COH-NoBackup"

This assumes that the tag already exists on the vCenter side of things, and you have sufficient permissions to apply tags to VMs. You can check your work with the following command.

PowerCLI C:\> get-vm | where {$_.name -like "PSV*"} | Get-TagAssignment

One thing to note. If you’ve updated the tags of a bunch of VMs in your vCenter environment, you may notice that the objects aren’t immediately excluded from the Protection Job on the Cohesity side of things. The reason for this is that, by default, Cohesity only refreshes vCenter source data every 4 hours. One way to force the update is to manually refresh the source vCenter in Cohesity. To do this, go to Protection -> Sources. Click on the ellipsis on the right-hand side of your vCenter source you’d like to refresh, and select Refresh.

You’ll then see that the tagged VMs are excluded in the Protection Job. Hat tip to my colleague Mike for his help with PowerCLI. And hat tip to my other colleague Mike for causing the problem in the first place.

Random Short Take #15

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I recently found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 15 – it could become a regular thing. Maybe every other week? Fortnightly even.

Random Short Take #14

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Episode 14 – giddy-up!

Brisbane VMUG – May 2019

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The May 2019 edition of the Brisbane VMUG meeting will be held on Tuesday 28th May at Fishburners from 4pm – 6pm. It’s sponsored by Cohesity and promises to be a great afternoon.

Here’s the agenda:

  • VMUG Intro
  • Cohesity Presentation: Changing Data Protection from Nightmares to Sweet Dreams
  • vCommunity Presentation – Introduction to Hyper-converged Infrastructure
  • Q&A
  • Light refreshments.

Cohesity have gone to great lengths to make sure this will be a fun and informative session and I’m really looking forward to hearing about how they can make recovery simple. You can find out more information and register for the event here. I hope to see you there. Also, if you’re interested in sponsoring one of these events, please get in touch with me and I can help make it happen.

Random Short Take #13

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find them interesting too. Let’s dive in to lucky number 13.

Cohesity Marketplace – A Few Notes

 

Cohesity first announced their Marketplace offering in late February. I have access to a Cohesity environment (physical and virtual) in my lab, and I’ve recently had the opportunity to get up and running on some of the Marketplace-ready code, so I thought I’d share my experiences here.

 

Prerequisites

I’m currently running version 6.2 of Cohesity’s DataPlatform. I’m not sure whether this is widely available yet or still only available for early adopter testing. My understanding is that the Marketplace feature will be made generally available to Cohesity customers when 6.3 ships. The Cohesity team did install a minor patch (6.2a) on my cluster as it contained some small but necessary fixes. In this version of the code, a gflag is set to show the Apps menu. The “Enable Apps Management” in the UI under Admin – Cluster Settings was also enabled. You’ll also need to nominate an unused private subnet for the apps to use.

 

Current Application Availability

The Cohesity Marketplace has a number of Cohesity-developed and third-party apps available to install, including:

  • Splunk – Turn machine data into answers
  • SentinelOne – AI-powered threat prevention purpose built for Cohesity
  • Imanis Data – NoSQL backup, recovery, and replication
  • Cohesity Spotlight – Analyse file audit logs and find anomalous file-access patterns
  • Cohesity Insight – Search inside unstructured data
  • Cohesity EasyScript – Create, upload, and execute customised scripts
  • ClamAV – Anti-virus scans for file data

Note that none of the apps need more than Read permissions on the nominated View(s).

 

Process

App Installation

To install the app you want to run on your cluster, click on “Get App”, then enter your Helios credentials.

Review the EULA and click on “Accept & Get” to proceed. You’ll then be prompted to select the cluster(s) you want to deploy the app on. In this example, I have 5 clusters in my Helios environment. I want to install the app on C1, as it’s the physical cluster.

Using An App

Once your app is installed, it’s fairly straightforward to run it. Click on More, then Apps to access your installed apps.

 

Then you just need to click on “Run App” to get started

You’ll be prompted to set the Read Permissions for the App, along with QoS. It’s my understanding that the QoS settings are relative to other apps running on the cluster, not data protection activities, etc. The Read Permissions are applied to one or more Views. This can be changed after the initial configuration. Once the app is running you can click on Open App. In this example I’m using the Cohesity Insight app to look through some unstructured data stored on a View.

 

Thoughts

I’ve barely scratched the surface of what you achieve with the Marketplace on Cohesity’s DataPlatform. The availability of the Marketplace (and the ability to run apps on the platform) is another step closer to Cohesity’s vision of extracting additional value from secondary storage. Coupled with Cohesity’s C4000 series hardware (or perhaps whatever flavour you want to run from Cisco or HPE or the like), I can imagine you’re going to be able to do a heck a lot with this capability, particularly as more apps are validated with the platform.

I hope to do a lot more testing of this capability over the next little while, and I’ll endeavour to report back with my findings. If you’re a current Cohesity customer and haven’t talked to your account team about this capability, it’s worth getting in touch to see what you can do in terms of an evaluation. Of course, it’s also worth noting that, as with most things technology related, just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should. But if you have the use case, this is a cool capability on top of an already interesting platform.

Cohesity Is (Data)Locked In

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 18.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Cohesity recently presented at Storage Field Day 18. You can see their videos from Storage Field Day 18 here, and download a PDF copy of my rough notes from here.

 

The Cohesity Difference?

Cohesity covered a number of different topics in its presentation, and I thought I’d outline some of the Cohesity features before I jump into the meat and potatoes of my article. Some of the key things you get with Cohesity are:

  • Global space efficiency;
  • Data mobility;
  • Data resiliency & compliance;
  • Instant mass restore; and
  • Apps integration.

I’m going to cover 3 of the 5 here, and you can check the videos for details of the Cohesity MarketPlace and the Instant Mass Restore demonstration.

Global Space Efficiency

One of the big selling points for the Cohesity data platform is the ability to deliver data reduction and small file optimisation.

  • Global deduplication
    • Modes: inline, post-process
  • Archive to cloud is also deduplicated
  • Compression
    • Zstandard algorithm (read more about that here)
  • Small file optimisation
    • Better performance for reads and writes
    • Benefits from deduplication and compression

Data Mobility

There’s also an excellent story when it comes to data mobility, with the platform delivering the following data mobility features:

  • Data portability across clouds
  • Multi-cloud replication and archival (1:many)
  • Integrated indexing and search across locations

You also get simultaneous, multi-protocol access and a comprehensive set of file permissions to work with.

 

But What About Archives And Stuff?

Okay, so all of that stuff is really cool, and I could stop there and you’d probably be happy enough that Cohesity delivers the goods when it comes to a secondary storage platform that delivers a variety of features. In my opinion, though, it gets a lot more interesting when you have a look at some of the archival features that are built into the platform.

Flexible Archive Solutions

  • Archive either on-premises or to cloud;
  • Policy driven archival schedule for long term data retention
  • Data an be retrieved to the same or a different Cohesity cluster; and
  • Archived data is subject to further deduplication.

Data Resiliency and Compliance – ensures data integrity

  • Erasure coding;
  • Highly available; and
  • DataLock and legal hold.

Achieving Compliance with File-level DataLock

In my opinion, DataLock is where it gets interesting in terms of archive compliance.

  • DataLock enables WORM functionality at a file level;
  • DataLock adheres to regulatory acts;
  • Can automatically lock a file after a period of inactivity;
  • Files can be locked manually by setting file attributes;
  • Minimum and maximum retention times can be set; and
  • Cohesity provides a unique RBAC role for Data Security administration.

DataLock on Backups

  • DataLock enables WORM functionality;
  • Prevent changes by locking Snapshots;
  • Applied via backup policy; and
  • Operations performed by Data Security administrators.

 

Ransomware Detection

Cohesity also recently announced the ability to look within Helios for Ransomware. The approach taken is as follows: Prevent. Detect. Respond.

Prevent

There’s some good stuff built into the platform to help prevent ransomware in the first place, including:

  • Immutable file system
  • DataLock (WORM)
  • Multi-factor authentication

Detect

  • Machine-driven anomaly detection (backup data, unstructured data)
  • Automated alert

Respond

  • Scalable file system to store years worth of backup copies
  • Google-like global actionable search
  • Instant mass restore

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The conversation with Cohesity got a little spirited in places at Storage Field Day 18. This isn’t unusual, as Cohesity has had some problems in the past with various folks not getting what they’re on about. Is it data protection? Is it scale-out NAS? Is it an analytics platform? There’s a lot going on here, and plenty of people (both inside and outside Cohesity) have had a chop at articulating the real value of the solution. I’m not here to tell you what it is or isn’t. I do know that a lot of the cool stuff with Cohesity wasn’t readily apparent to me until I actually had some stick time with the platform and had a chance to see some of its key features in action.

The DataLock / Security and Compliance piece is interesting to me though. I’m continually asking vendors what they’re doing in terms of archive platforms. A lot of them look at me like I’m high. Why wouldn’t you just use software to dump your old files up to the cloud or onto some cheap and deep storage in your data centre? After all, aren’t we all using software-defined data centres now? That’s certainly an option, but what happens when that data gets zapped? What if the storage platform you’re using, or the software you’re using to store the archive data, goes bad and deletes the data you’re managing with it? Features such as DataLock can help with protecting you from some really bad things happening.

I don’t believe that data protection data should be treated as an “archive” as such, although I think that data protection platform vendors such as Cohesity are well placed to deliver “archive-like” solutions for enterprises that need to retain protection data for long periods of time. I still think that pushing archive data to another, dedicated, tier is a better option than simply calling old protection data “archival”. Given Cohesity’s NAS capabilities, it makes sense that they’d be an attractive storage target for dedicated archive software solutions.

I like what Cohesity have delivered to date in terms of a platform that can be used to deliver data insights to derive value for the business. I think sometimes the message is a little muddled, but in my opinion some of that is because everyone’s looking for something different from these kinds of platforms. And these kinds of platforms can do an awful lot of things nowadays, thanks in part to some pretty smart software and some grunty hardware. You can read some more about Cohesity’s Security and Compliance story here,  and there’s a fascinating (if a little dated) report from Cohasset Associates on Cohesity’s compliance capabilities that you can access here. My good friend Keith Townsend also provided some thoughts on Cohesity that you can read here.

Random Short Take #11

Here are a few links to some random news items and other content that I found interesting. You might find it interesting too. Maybe. Happy New Year too. I hope everyone’s feeling fresh and ready to tackle 2019.

  • I’m catching up with the good folks from Scale Computing in the next little while, but in the meantime, here’s what they got up to last year.
  • I’m a fan of the fruit company nowadays, but if I had to build a PC, this would be it (hat tip to Stephen Foskett for the link).
  • QNAP announced the TR-004 over the weekend and I had one delivered on Tuesday. It’s unusual that I have cutting edge consumer hardware in my house, so I’ll be interested to see how it goes.
  • It’s not too late to register for Cohesity’s upcoming Helios webinar. I’m looking forward to running through some demos with Jon Hildebrand and talking about how Helios helps me manage my Cohesity environment on a daily basis.
  • Chris Evans has published NVMe in the Data Centre 2.0 and I recommend checking it out.
  • I went through a basketball card phase in my teens. This article sums up my somewhat confused feelings about the card market (or lack thereof).
  • Elastifile Cloud File System is now available on the AWS Marketplace – you can read more about that here.
  • WekaIO have posted some impressive numbers over at spec.org if you’re into that kind of thing.
  • Applications are still open for vExpert 2019. If you haven’t already applied, I recommend it. The program is invaluable in terms of vendor and community engagement.

 

 

Cohesity – Helios Article and Upcoming Webinar

I’ve written about Cohesity’s Helios offering previously, and also wrote a short article on upgrading multiple clusters using Helios. I think it’s a pretty neat offering, so to that end I’ve written an article on Cohesity’s blog about some of the cool stuff you can do with Helios. I’m also privileged to be participating in a webinar in late January with Cohesity’s Jon Hildebrand. We’ll be running through some of these features from a more real-world perspective, including doing silly things like live demos. You can get further details on the webinar here.