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.

Pure Storage – ObjectEngine and Commvault Integration

I’ve been working with Pure Storage’s ObjectEngine in our lab recently, and wanted to share a few screenshots from the Commvault configuration bit, as it had me stumped for a little while. This is a quick one, but hopefully it will help those of you out there who are trying to get it working. I’m assuming you’ve already created your bucket and user in the ObjectEngine environment, and you have the details of your OE environment at hand.

The first step is to add a Cloud Storage Library to your Libraries configuration.

You’ll need to provide a name, and select the type as Amazon S3. You’ll see in this example that I’m using the fully qualified domain name as the Service Host.

At this point you should be able to click on Detect to detect the bucket you’ll use to store data in. For some reason though, I kept getting an error when I did this.

The trick is to put http:// in front of the FQDN. Note that this doesn’t work with https://.

Now when you click on Detect, you’ll see the Bucket that you’ve configured on the OE environment (assuming you haven’t fat-fingered your credentials).

And that’s it. You can then go on and configure your storage polices and SubClient policies as required.

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.

Using A Pure Storage FlashBlade As A Veeam Repository

I’ve been doing some testing in the lab recently. The focus of this testing has been primarily on Pure Storage’s ObjectEngine and its associated infrastructure. As part of that, I’ve been doing various things with Veeam Backup & Replication 9.5 Update 4, including setting up a FlashBlade NFS repository. I’ve documented the process in a document here. One thing that I thought worthy of noting separately was the firewall requirements. For my Linux Mount Server, I used a CentOS 7 VM, configured with 8 vCPUs and 16GB of RAM. I know, I normally use Debian, but for some reason (that I didn’t have time to investigate) it kept dying every time I kicked off a backup job.

In any case, I set everything up as per Pure’s instructions, but kept getting timeout errors on the job. The error I got was “5/17/2019 10:03:47 AM :: Processing HOST-01 Error: A connection attempt failed because the connected party did not properly respond after a period of time, or established connection failed because connected host has failed to respond NFSMOUNTHOST:2500“. It felt like it was probably a firewall issue of some sort. I tried to make an exception on the Windows VM hosting the Veeam Backup server, but that didn’t help. The problem was with the Linux VM’s firewall. I used the instructions I found here to add in some custom rules. According to the Veeam documentation, Backup Repository access uses TCP ports 2500 – 5000. Your SecOps people will no doubt have a conniption, but here’s how to open those ports on CentOS.

Firstly, is the firewall running?

[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo firewall-cmd --state
[sudo] password for danf:
running

Yes it is. So let’s stop it to see if this line of troubleshooting is worth pursuing.

[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo systemctl stop firewalld

The backup job worked after that. Okay, so let’s start it up again and open up some ports to test.

[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo systemctl start firewalld
[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo firewall-cmd --add-port=2500-5000/tcp
success

That worked, so I wanted to make it a more permanent arrangement.

[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --add-port=2500-5000/tcp
success
[danf@nfsmounthost ~]$ sudo firewall-cmd --permanent --list-ports
2500-5000/tcp

Remember, it’s never the storage. It’s always the firewall. Also, keep in my mind this article is about the how. I’m not offering my opinion about whether it’s really a good idea to configure your host-based firewalls with more holes than Swiss cheese. Or whatever things have lots of holes in them.

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!

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

Here’s a quick post with links to the other posts I did surrounding Dell Technologies World 2019, as well as links to other articles I found interesting.

 

Product Announcements

Here’re the posts I did covering the main product-related announcements from the show.

Dell EMC Announces Unity XT And More Cloudy Things

Dell EMC Announces PowerProtect Software (And Hardware)

Dell Announces Dell Technologies Cloud (Platforms and DCaaS)

 

Event-Related

Here’re the posts I did during the show. These were mainly from the media sessions I attended.

Dell – Dell Technologies World 2019 – See You Soon Las Vegas

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Monday General Session – The Architects of Innovation – Rough Notes

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Tuesday General Session – Innovation to Unlock Your Digital Future – Rough Notes

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Media Session – Architecting Innovation in a Multi-Cloud World – Rough Notes

Dell Technologies World 2019 – Wednesday General Session – Optimism and Happiness in the Digital Age – Rough Notes

Dell Technologies World 2019 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

 

Dell Technologies Announcements

Here are some of the posts from Dell Technologies covering the major product announcements and news.

Dell Technologies and Orange Collaborate for Telco Multi-Access Edge Transformation

Dell Technologies Brings Speed, Security and Smart Design to Mobile PCs for Business

Dell Technologies Powers Real Transformation and Innovation with New Storage, Data Management and Data Protection Solutions

Dell Technologies Transforms IT from Edge to Core to Cloud

Dell Technologies Cloud Accelerates Customers’ Multi-Cloud Journey

Dell Technologies Unified Workspace Revolutionizes the Way People Work

Dell Technologies and Microsoft Expand Partnership to Help Customers Accelerate Their Digital Transformation

 

Tech Field Day Extra

I also had the opportunity to participate in Tech Field Day Extra at Dell Technologies World 2019. Here are the articles I wrote for that part of the event.

Liqid Are Dynamic In The DC

Big Switch Are Bringing The Cloud To Your DC

Kemp Keeps ECS Balanced

 

Other Interesting Articles

TFDx @ DTW ’19 – Get To Know: Liqid

TFDx @ DTW ’19 – Get To Know: Kemp

TFDx @ DTW ’19 – Get to Know: Big Switch

Connecting ideas and people with Dell Influencers

Game Changer: VMware Cloud on Dell EMC

Dell Technologies Cloud and VMware Cloud on Dell EMC Announced

Run Your VMware Natively On Azure With Azure VMware Solutions

Dell Technologies World 2019 recap

Scaling new HPC with Composable Architecture

Object Stores and Load Balancers

Tech Field Day Extra with Liqid and Kemp

 

Conclusion

I had a busy but enjoyable week. I would have liked the get to some of the technical breakout sessions, but being given access to some of the top executives in the company via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program was invaluable. Thanks again to Dell Technologies (particularly Debbie Friez and Konnie) for having me along to the show. And big thanks to Stephen and the Tech Field Day team for having me along to the Tech Field Day event as well.

Big Switch Are Bringing The Cloud To Your DC

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

As part of my attendance at Dell Technologies World 2019 I had the opportunity to attend Tech Field Day Extra sessions. You can view the videos from the Big Switch Networks session here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

The Network Is The Cloud

Cloud isn’t a location, it’s a design principle. And networking needs to evolve with the times. The enterprise is hamstrung by:

  • Complex and slow operations
  • Inadequate visibility
  • Lack of operational consistency

It’s time that on-premises needs is built the same way as the service providers do it.

  • Software-defined;
  • Automated with APIs;
  • Open Hardware; and
  • Integrated Analytics.

APIs are not an afterthought for Big Switch.

A Better DC Network

  • Cloud-first infrastructure – design, build and operate your on-premises network with the same techniques used internally by public cloud operators
  • Cloud-first experience – give your application teams the same “as-a-service” network experience on-premises that they get with the cloud
  • Cloud-first consistency – uses the same tool chain to manage both on-premises and in-cloud networks

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

There are a number of reasons why enterprise IT folks are looking wistfully at service providers and the public cloud infrastructure setups and wishing they could do IT that way too. If you’re a bit old fashioned, you might think that loose and fast isn’t really how you should be doing enterprise IT – something that’s notorious for being slow, expensive, and reliable. But that would be selling the SPs short (and I don’t just say that because I work for a service provider in my day job). What service providers and public cloud folks are very good at is getting maximum value from the infrastructure they have available to them. We don’t necessarily adopt cloud-like approaches to infrastructure to save money, but rather to solve the same problems in the enterprise that are being solved in the public clouds. Gone are the days when the average business will put up with vast sums of cash being poured into enterprise IT shops with little to no apparent value being extracted from said investment. It seems to be no longer enough to say “Company X costs this much money, so that’s what we pay”. For better or worse, the business is both more and less savvy about what IT costs, and what you can do with IT. Sure, you’ll still laugh at the executive challenging the cost of core switches by comparing them to what can be had at the local white goods slinger. But you better be sure you can justify the cost of that badge on the box that runs your network, because there are plenty of folks ready to do it for cheaper. And they’ll mostly do it reliably too.

This is the kind of thing that lends itself perfectly to the likes of Big Switch Networks. You no longer necessarily need to buy badged hardware to run your applications in the fashion that suits you. You can put yourself in a position to get control over how your spend is distributed and not feel like you’re feeling to some mega company’s profit margins without getting return on your investment. It doesn’t always work like that, but the possibility is there. Big Switch have been talking about this kind of choice for some time now, and have been delivering products that make that possibility a reality. They recently announced an OEM agreement with Dell EMC. It mightn’t seem like a big deal, as Dell like to cosy up to all kinds of companies to fill apparent gaps in the portfolio. But they also don’t enter into these types of agreements without having seriously evaluated the other company. If you have a chance to watch the customer testimonial at Tech Field Day Extra, you’ll get a good feel for just what can be accomplished with an on-premises environment that has service provider like scalability, management, and performance challenges. There’s a great tale to be told here. Not every enterprise is working at “legacy” pace, and many are working hard to implement modern infrastructure approaches to solve business problems. You can also see one of their customers talk with my friend Keith about the experience of implementing and managing Big Switch on Dell Open Networking.

Kemp Keeps ECS Balanced

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

As part of my attendance at Dell Technologies World 2019 I had the opportunity to attend Tech Field Day Extra sessions. You can view the videos from the Kemp session here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Kemp Overview

Established early 2000s, Kemp has around 25000+ customers globally, with 60000+ app deployments in over 115 countries. Their main focus is an ADC (Application Delivery Controller) that you can think of as a “fancy load balancer”. Here’s a photo of Frank Yue telling us more about that.

Application Delivery – Why?

  • Availability – transparent failover when application resources fail
  • Scalability – easily add and remove application resources to meet changing demands
  • Security – authenticate users and protect applications against attack
  • Performance – offload security processing and content optimisation to Load Balancer
  • Control – visibility on application resource availability, health and performance

Product Overview

Kemp offer a

LoadMaster – scalable, secure apps

  • Load balancing
  • Traffic optimisation 
  • Security

There are a few different flavours of the LoadMaster, including cloud-native, virtual, and hardware-based.

360 Central – control, visibility

  • Management
  • Automation
  • Provisioning

360 Vision – Shorter MTTD / MTTR

  • Predictive analytics
  • Automated incident réponse
  • Observability

Yue made the point that “[l]oad balancing is not networking. And it’s not servers either. It’s somehow in between”. Kemp look to “[d]eal with the application from the networking perspective”.

 

Dell EMC ECS

So what’s Dell EMC ECS then? ECS stands for “Elastic Cloud Storage”, and it’s Dell EMC’s software-defined object storage offering. If you’re unfamiliar with it, here are a few points to note:

  • Objects are bundled data with metadata;
  • The object storage application manages the storage;
  • No real file system is needed;
  • Easily scale by just adding disks;
  • Delivers a low TCO.

It’s accessible via an API and offers the following services:

  • S3
  • Atmos
  • Swift
  • NFS

 

Kemp / Dell EMC ECS Solution

So how does a load balancing solution from Kemp help? One of the ideas behind object storage is that you can lower primary storage costs. You can also use it to accelerate cloud native apps. Kemp helps with your ECS deployment by:

  • Maximising value from infrastructure investment
  • Improving service availability and resilience
  • Enabling cloud storage scalability for next generation apps

Load Balancing Use Cases for ECS

High Availability

  • ECS Node redundancy in the event of failure
  • A load balancer is required to allow for automatic failover and event distribution of traffic

Global Balancing

[image courtesy of Kemp]

  • Multiple clusters across different DCs
  • Global Server Load Balancing provides distribution of connections across these clusters based on proximity

Security

  • Offloading encryption from the Dell EMC ECS nodes to Kemp LoadMaster can greatly increase performance and simplify the management of transport layer security certificates
  • IPv6 to IPv4 – Dell EMC ECS does not support IPv6 natively – Kemp will provide that translation to IPv4

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

The first thing that most people ask when seeing this solution is “Won’t the enterprise IT organisation already have a load-balancing solution in place? Why would they go to Kemp to help with their ECS deployment?”. It’s a valid point, but the value here is more that Dell EMC are recommending that customers use the Kemp solution over the built-in load balancer provided with ECS. I’ve witnessed plenty of (potentially frustrating) situations where enterprises deploy multiple load balancing solutions depending on the application requirements or where the project funding was coming from. Remember that things don’t always make sense when it comes to enterprise IT. But putting those issues aside, there are likely plenty of shops looking to deploy ECS in a resilient fashion that haven’t yet had the requirement to deploy a load balancer, and ECS is that first requirement. Kemp are clearly quite good at what they do, and have been in the load balancing game for a while now. The good news is if you adopt their solution for your ECS environment, you can look to leverage their other offerings to provide additional load balancing capabilities for other applications that might require it.

You can read the deployment guide from Dell EMC here, and check out Adam’s preparation post on Kemp here for more background information.

VMware – Unmounting NFS Datastores From The CLI

This is a short article, but hopefully useful. I did a brief article a while ago linking to some useful articles about using NFS with VMware vSphere. I recently had to do some maintenance on one of the arrays in our lab and I was having trouble unmounting the datastores using the vSphere client. I used some of the commands in this KB article (although I don’t have SIOC enabled) to get the job done instead.

The first step was to identify if any of the volumes were still mounted on the individual host.

[root@esxihost:~] esxcli storage nfs list
Volume Name  Host            Share                 Accessible  Mounted  Read-Only   isPE  Hardware Acceleration
-----------  --------------  --------------------  ----------  -------  ---------  -----  ---------------------
Pav05        10.300.300.105  /nfs/GB000xxxxxbbf97        true     true      false  false  Not Supported
Pav06        10.300.300.106  /nfs/GB000xxxxxbbf93        true     true      false  false  Not Supported
Pav01        10.300.300.101  /nfs/GB000xxxxxbbf95        true     true      false  false  Not Supported

In this case there are three datastores that I haven’t been able to unmount.

[root@esxihost:~] esxcli storage nfs remove -v Pav05
[root@esxihost:~] esxcli storage nfs remove -v Pav06
[root@esxihost:~] esxcli storage nfs remove -v Pav01

Now there should be no volumes mounted on the host.

[root@esxihost:~] esxcli storage nfs list
[root@esxihost:~]

See, I told you it would be quick.

Dell EMC Announces PowerProtect Software (And Hardware)

Disclaimer: I recently attended Dell Technologies World 2019.  My flights, accommodation and conference pass were paid for by Dell Technologies via the Media, Analysts and Influencers program. 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.

Last week at Dell Technologies World there were a number of announcements made regarding Data Protection. I thought I’d cover them here briefly. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to dive a little deeper into the technology in the next few weeks.

 

PowerProtect Software

The new PowerProtect software is billed as Dell EMC’s “Next Generation Data Management software platform” and provides “data protection, replication and reuse, as well as SaaS-based management and self-service capabilities that give individual data owners the autonomy to control backup and recovery operations”. It currently offers support for:

  • Oracle;
  • Microsoft SQL;
  • VMware;
  • Windows Filesystems; and
  • Linux Filesystems.

More workload support is planned to arrive in the next little while. There are some nice features included, such as automated discovery and on-boarding of databases, VMs and Data Domain protection storage. There’s also support for tiering protection data to public cloud environments, and support for SaaS-based management is a nice feature too. You can view the data sheet here.

 

PowerProtect X400

The PowerProtect X400 is being positioned by Dell EMC as a “multi-dimensional” appliance, with support for both scale out and scale up expansion.

There are three “bits” to the X400 story. There’s the X400 cube, which is the brains of the operation. You then scale it out using either X400F (All-Flash) or X400H (Hybrid) cubes. The All-Flash version can be configured from 64 – 448TB of capacity, delivering up to 22.4PB of logical capacity. The Hybrid version runs from 64 – 384TB of capacity, and can deliver up to 19.2PB of logical capacity. The logical capacity calculation is based on “10x – 50x deduplication ratio”. You can access the spec sheet here, and the data sheet can be found here.

Scale Up and Out?

So what do Dell EMC mean by “multi-dimensional” then? It’s a neat marketing term that means you can scale up and out as required.

  • Scale-up with grow-in-place capacity expansion (16TB); and
  • Scale-out compute and capacity with additional X400F or X400H cubes (starting at 64TB each).

This way you can “[b]enefit from the linear scale-out of performance, compute, network and capacity”.

 

IDPA

Dell EMC also announced that the Integrated Data Protection Appliance (IDPA) was being made available in an 8-24TB version, providing a lower capacity option to service smaller environments.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Everyone I spoke to at Dell Technologies World was excited about the PowerProtect announcement. Sure, it’s their job to be excited about this stuff, but there’s a lot here to be excited about, particularly if you’re an existing Dell EMC data protection customer. The other “next-generation” data protection vendors seem to have given the 800 pound gorilla the wakeup call it needed, and the PowerProtect offering is a step in the right direction. The scalability approach used with the X400 appliance is potentially a bit different to what’s available in the market today, but it seems to make sense in terms of reducing the footprint of the hardware to a manageable amount. There were some high numbers being touted in terms of performance but I won’t be repeating any of those until I’ve seen this for myself in the wild. The all-flash option seems a little strange at first, as this normally associated with data protection, but I think it’s competitive nod to some of the other vendors offering top of rack, all-flash data protection.

So what if you’re an existing Data Domain / NetWorker / Avamar customer? There’s no need to panic. You’ll see continued development of these products for some time to come. I imagine it’s not a simple thing for an established company such as Dell EMC to introduce a new product that competes in places with something it already sells to customers. But I think it’s the right thing for them to do, as there’s been significant pressure from other vendors when it comes to telling a tale of simplified data protection leveraging software-defined solutions. Data protection requirements have seen significant change over the last few years, and this new architecture is a solid response to those changes.

The supported workloads are basic for the moment, but a cursory glance through most enterprise environments would be enough to reassure you that they have the most common stuff covered. I understand that existing DPS customers will also get access to PowerProtect to take it for a spin. There’s no word yet on what the migration path for existing customers looks like, but I have no doubt that people have already thought long and hard about what that would look like and are working to make sure the process is field ready (and hopefully straightforward). Dell EMC PowerProtect Software platform and PowerProtect X400 appliance will be generally available in July 2019.

For another perspective on the announcement, check out Preston‘s post here.