VMware VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 4

I’ve been nuts deep in a SAN migration project recently and promptly missed the announcement that VMware VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 4 is now available for download. I haven’t had time to put it through its paces yet, but noticed in the release notes that some plugins have been updated, some more useful things have been added to Virtual Machine monitoring, and this little nugget with esxcfg-mpath (a command dear to my heart) still isn’t fixed. But, hey, it’s still better than Sun’s CAM.

Random Short Take #1

Short takes seem popular right now, so I’m thinking of wading in with a few notes that I’ve been meaning to blog about but haven’t had the time.

  • I had to rebuild my laptop last week, and re-installed Sun Common Array Manager (CAM). I’ve bitched and moaned about this software in the past, but the current version – 6.0.1.11 – at least on my laptop and our management server, installed / upgraded without the usual slew of dramas.
  • I’ve been doing a lot of Backup Exec lately. Which is funny if you know that I haven’t used it since version 8 was GA and I still haven’t worked out all of my NetWorker biases. But, if you keep it simple, it just works. Although of the two implementations I did recently, the first used NDMP to send files to a tape library backing on to a Celerra, and the other used a combination of SAS, iSCSI and VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB). FFS (!), is anyone just buying FC libraries and SAN-attaching them? Incidentally, the Backup Exec Integration Module for VCB and I didn’t get on very well. So I wrote some scripts of my own which do the same job, but without the flexibility and useability that some may crave.
  • A customer’s P2V went wrong. Twice. And he couldn’t delete the associated files. esxtop showed that the VM was still running. There are, apparently, two ways to deal with this. Vincent at virtrix likes to use the old-school ps method. And Daniel made the suggestion to use the vm-support command. I favour the ps and kill -9 combo, but that’s because I’m a bit rough and ready.
  • The exchange guy has learnt how to spell IOPS, which reminded me to point people with access to EMC Powerlink to a useful BPG from EMC regarding Exchange 2007 implementations. Log in to Powerlink and look for “EMC CLARiiON Storage Solutions: Microsoft Exchange 2007”. It’s a worthwhile read, particularly if you’re sitting in front of a customer who’s a little antsy about the whole Exchange 2007 thing.
  • I’ve been playing around with VMware Update Manager, but haven’t gotten as deep as I’d like yet.
  • I have Playstation 3 now.

I’m sure there’re a few other things I’ve been meaning to jot down but that’s all I have for now. I hope to elaborate on some of these topics in the next few weeks.

Sun 6140 and CAM is something I don’t understand

I still consider myself a newbie when it comes to Sun / StorageTek’s 6140 array and the Common Array Manager (CAM) software used to configure it. I’ve done a 3 day course and about 5 implementations now, but I just don’t have a handle on it like I do with the EMC CLARiiON. There are a lot of things I like about the 6140 (which is a rebadged Engenio 3992 or 3994 depending on whether you bought the lite version or not). You can intermix FC and SATA in the same tray – something that EMC don’t seem to be able to do you yet (if you ignore the LC-FC debacle that went to market with the intitial range of CX3 trays). It’s a robust array, with lots of storage capacity and a reaonable (for mid-size deployments) amount of cache. Connectivity options are fairly flexible. Firmware upgrades are a total doddle compared to the ugliness that is a FLARE upgrade on a CLARiiON (although EMC have worked pretty hard at streamlining that process). My general feeling is the array just runs, and runs pretty well.

That said, there are still some things I don’t like about it, and most of those are CAM-related. I think it’s insane that Sun are pretending that SANtricity never existed – because it actually works really well. Until recently CAM’s remote monitoring didn’t actually work, even though it was a configurable option, leaving a few customers with orange lights on the array and wondering why Sun hadn’t called. CAM itself is a pig to install unless you’re sitting on a Solaris server. It still doesn’t support Internet Explorer 7 (according to the release notes for 6.00.10), although it does actually work, just not quickly. The install scripts often bomb out at random points in the process with cryptic or non-existent error messages, leaving me looking like a knob in front of the customer, who just payed a lot of money for some tin with fairly crappy management foo over the top of it. I think the fact that I have to install off-array management software is just silly anyway, having been spoilt by Navisphere Management Server on CLARiiONs for the past few years. Yes, I know, EMC want you to install service taskbars and so forth nowadays, but you can still log directly into the array using a laptop, with no need to go dicking about on the customer’s infrastructure.

CAM also uses “industry-standard” methodologies for storage provisioning, and thus a RAID Groupis a Virtual Disk, a LUN is a Volume, a Storage Group is a Host Group, and I still have to manage initiators manually. My colleague, who has worked on much more Engenio kit than I have, assures me that this is, indeed, the way it is done. But if I was being catty, I’d say something like “EMC ownz the mid-sized market, therefore what they do is the industry-standard”. But I think it’s just a matter of whatever you learnt first will seem the most comfortable. The rest of my problems seem to be related to Sun as an organisation. It’s hard to find information on deployment and configuration on the site, the documentation is lite, to say the least, and the general approach seems to be, let’s just sell a lot of them and see what happens. I’m sure that’s not really the case, but I seem to have an easier time getting the necessary information out of EMC when it comes to “things I need to know to not look like a tool in front of the customer”. And I don’t like that we position it as a 4Gbps back-end, when that requires a suitable drive configuration to actually work, although EMC have had a similar problem with SATA until SATA-II came out.

Anyway, the point of this diatribe was to pose a question to all three of my readers. Why is it, when I perform a dynamic expansion of a RAID-5 virtual disk, that I can only add 1 or 2 disks at a time? I recently added 3 FC disks to our array and wanted to perform a dynamic expansion. I worked it out, but I want to know why it behaves that way. I can’t find the information anywhere, and my sunsolve account doesn’t have a valid contract at the moment. Oh, and season’s greetings.