Intel Optane And The DAOS Storage Engine

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 20.  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.

Intel recently presented at Storage Field Day 20. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.


Intel Optane Persistent Memory

If you’re a diskslinger, you’ve very likely heard of Intel Optane. You may have even heard of Intel Optane Persistent Memory. It’s a little different to Optane SSD, and Intel describes it as “memory technology that delivers a unique combination of affordable large capacity and support for data persistence”. It looks a lot like DRAM, but the capacity is greater, and there’s data persistence across power losses. This all sounds pretty cool, but isn’t it just another form factor for fast storage? Sort of, but the application of the engineering behind the product is where I think it starts to get really interesting.


Enter DAOS

Distributed Asynchronous Object Storage (DAOS) is described by Intel as “an open source software-defined scale-out object store that provides high bandwidth, low latency, and high I/O operations per second (IOPS) storage containers to HPC applications”. It’s ostensibly a software stack built from the ground up to take advantage of the crazy speeds you can achieve with Optane, and at scale. There’s a handy overview of the architecture available on Intel’s website. Traditional object (and other storage systems) haven’t really been built to take advantage of Optane in quite the same way DAOS has.

[image courtesy of Intel]

There are some cool features built into DAOS, including:

  • Ultra-fine grained, low-latency, and true zero-copy I/O
  • Advanced data placement to account for fault domains
  • Software-managed redundancy supporting both replication and erasure code with online rebuild
  • End-to-end (E2E) data integrity
  • Scalable distributed transactions with guaranteed data consistency and automated recovery
  • Dataset snapshot capability
  • Security framework to manage access control to storage pools
  • Software-defined storage management to provision, configure, modify, and monitor storage pools

Exciting? Sure is. There’s also integration with Lustre. The best thing about this is that you can grab it from Github under the Apache 2.0 license.


Thoughts And Further Reading

Object storage is in its relative infancy when compared to some of the storage architectures out there. It was designed to be highly scalable and generally does a good job of cheap and deep storage at “web scale”. It’s my opinion that object storage becomes even more interesting as a storage solution when you put a whole bunch of really fast storage media behind it. I’ve seen some media companies do this with great success, and there are a few of the bigger vendors out there starting to push the All-Flash object story. Even then, though, many of the more popular object storage systems aren’t necessarily optimised for products like Intel Optane PMEM. This is what makes DAOS so interesting – the ability for the storage to fundamentally do what it needs to do at massive scale, and have it go as fast as the media will let it go. You don’t need to worry as much about the storage architecture being optimised for the storage it will sit on, because the folks developing it have access to the team that developed the hardware.

The other thing I really like about this project is that it’s open source. This tells me that Intel are both focused on Optane being successful, and also focused on the industry making the most of the hardware it’s putting out there. It’s a smart move – come up with some super fast media, and then give the market as much help as possible to squeeze the most out of it.

You can grab the admin guide from here, and check out the roadmap here. Intel has plans to release a new version every 6 months, and I’m really looking forward to seeing this thing gain traction. For another perspective on DAOS and Intel Optane, check out David Chapa’s article here.



Intel’s Form Factor Is A Factor

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 17.  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.


The Intel Optane team recently presented at Storage Field Day 17. You can see their videos from Storage Field Day 17 here, and download a PDF copy of my rough notes from here. I urge you to check out the videos, as there was a heck of a lot of stuff in there. But rather than talk about benchmarks and the SPDK, I’m going to focus on what’s happening with Intel’s approach to storage in terms of the form factor.


Of Form Factors And Other Matters Of Import

An Abbreviated History Of Drive Form Factors

Let’s start with little bit of history to get you going. IBM introduced the first hard drive – the IBM 350 disk storage unit – in 1956. Over time we’ve gone from a variety of big old drives to smaller form factors. I’m not old enough to reminisce about the Winchester drives, but I do remember the 5.25″ drives in the XT. Wikipedia provides a good a place to start as any if you’re interested in knowing more about hard drives. In any case, we now have the following prevailing form factors in use as hard drive storage:

  • 3.5″ drives – still reasonably common in desktop computers and “cheap and deep” storage systems;
  • 2.5″ drives (SFF) – popular in laptops and used as a “dense” form factor for a variety of server and storage solutions;
  • U.2 – mainstream PCIe SSD form factor that has the same dimensions as 2.5″ drives; and
  • M.2 – designed for laptops and tablets.


There are a number of challenges associated with the current drive form factors. The most notable of these is the density issue. Drive (and storage) vendors have been struggling for years to try and cram more and more devices into smaller spaces whilst increasing device capacities as well. This has led to problems with cooling, power, and overall reliability. Basically, there’s only so much you can put in 1RU without the whole lot melting.


A Ruler? Wait, what?

Intel’s “Ruler” is a ruler-like, long (or short) drive based on the EDSFF (Enterprise and Datacenter Storage Form Factor) specification. There’s a tech brief you can view here. There are a few different versions (basically long and short), and it still leverages NVMe via PCIe.

[image courtesy of Intel]

It’s Denser

You can cram a lot of these things in a 1RU server, as Super Micro demonstrated a few months ago.

  • Up to 32 E1.L 9.5mm drives per 1RU
  • Up to 48 E1.S drives per 1RU

Which means you could be looking at around a petabyte of raw storage in 1RU (using 32TB E1.L drives). This number is only going to go up as capacities increase. Instead of half a rack of 4TB SSDs, you can do it all in 1RU.

It’s Cooler

Cooling has been a problem for storage systems for some time. A number of storage vendors have found out the hard way that jamming a bunch of drives in a small enclosure has a cost in terms of power and cooling. Intel tell us that they’ve had some (potentially) really good results with the E1.L and E1.S based on testing to date (in comparison to traditional SSDs). They talked about:

  • Up to 2x less airflow needed per E1.L 9.5mm SSD vs. U.2 15mm (based on Intel’s internal simulation results); and
  • Up to 3x less airflow needed per E1.S SSD vs. U.2 7mm.

Still Serviceable

You can also replace these things when they break. Intel say they’re:

  • Fully front serviceable with an integrated pull latch;
  • Support integrated, programmable LEDs; and
  • Support remote, drive specific power cycling.


Thoughts And Further Reading

SAN and NAS became popular in the data centre because you could jam a whole bunch of drives in a central location and you weren’t limited by what a single server could support. For some workloads though, having storage decoupled from the server can be problematic either in terms of latency, bandwidth, or both. Some workloads need their storage as close to the processor as possible. Technologies such as NVMe over Fabrics are addressing that issue to an extent, and other vendors are working to bring the compute closer to the storage. But some people just want to do what they do, and they need more and more storage to do it. I think the “ruler” form factor is an interesting approach to the issue traditionally associated with cramming a bunch of capacity in a small space. It’s probably going to be some time before you see this kind of thing in data centres as a matter of course, because it takes a long time to change the way that people design their servers to accommodate new standards. Remember how long it took for SFF drives to become as common in the DC as they are? No? Well it took a while. Server designs are sometimes developed years (or at least months) ahead of their release to the market. That said, I think Intel have come up with a really cool idea here, and if they can address the cooling and capacity issues as well as they say they can, this will likely take off. Of course, the idea of having 1PB of data sitting in 1RU should be at least a little scary in terms of failure domains, but I’m sure someone will work that out. It’s just physics after all, isn’t it?

There’s also an interesting article at The Register on the newer generation of drive form factors that’s worth checking out.

Intel Are Putting Technology To Good Use

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 12.  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.


Here are some notes from Intel‘s presentation at Storage Field Day 12. You can view the video here and download my rough notes here.


I/O Can Be Hard Work

With the advent of NVM Express, things go pretty fast nowadays. Or, at least, faster than they used to with those old-timey spinning disks we’ve loved for so long. According to Intel, systems with multiple NVMe SSDs are now capable of performing millions of I/Os per second. Which is great, but it results in many cores of software overhead with a kernel-based interrupt-driven driver model. The answer, according to Intel, is the Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK). The SPDK enables more CPU cycles for storage services, with lower I/O latency. The great news is that there’s now almost no premium now on capacity to do IOPS with a system. So how does this help in the real world?


Real World Applications?

SPDK VM I/O Efficiency

The SPDK offers some excellent performance improvements when dishing up storage to VMs.

  • NVMe ephemeral storage
  • SPDK-based 3rd party storage services

Leverage existing infrastructure for:

  • QEMU vhost-scsi;
  • QEMU/DPDK vhost-net user.

Features and benefits

  • High performance storage virtualisation
  • Reduced VM exit
  • Lower latency
  • Increased VM density
  • Reduced tail latencies
  • Higher throughput

Intel say that Ali Cloud sees ~300% improvement in IOPS and latency using SPDK


VM Ephemeral Storage

  • Improves Storage virtualisation
  • Works with KVM/QEMU
  • 6x efficiency vs kernel host
  • 10x efficiency vs QEMU virtuo
  • Increased VM density


SPDK and NVMe over Fabrics

SPDK also works a treat with NVMe over Fabrics.

VM Remote Storage

  • Enable disaggregation and migration of VMs using remote storage
  • Improves storage virtualisation and flexibility
  • Works with KVM/QEMU


NVMe over Fabrics

NVMe over Fabrics
Feature Benefit
Utilises NVM Express (NVMe) Polled Mode Driver Reduced overhead per NVMe I/O
RDMA Queue Pair Polling No interrupt overhead
Connections pinned to CPU cores No synchronisation overhead


NVMe-oF Key Takeaways

  • Preserves the latency-optimised NVMe protocol through network hops
  • Potentially radically efficient, depending on implementation
  • Actually fabric agnostic: InfinBand, RDMA, TCP/IP, FC … all ok!
  • Underlying protocol for existing and emerging technologies
  • Using SPDK, can integrate NVMe and NVMe-oF directly into applications


VM I/O Efficiency Key Takeaways

  • Huge improvement in latency for VM workloads
  • Application-level sees 3-4X performance gains
  • Application unmodified: it’s all under the covers
  • Virtuous cycle with VM density
  • Fully compatible with NVMe-oF!


Further Reading and Conclusion

Intel said during the presentation that “[p]eople find ways of consuming resources you provide to them”. This is true, and one of the reasons I became interested in storage early in my career. What’s been most interesting about the last few years worth of storage developments (as we’ve moved beyond spinning disks and simple file systems to super fast flash subsystems and massively scaled out object storage systems) is that people are still really only interested in have lots of storage that is fast and reliable. The technologies talked about during this presentation obviously aren’t showing up in consumer products just yet, but it’s an interesting insight into the direction the market is heading. I’m mighty excited about NVMe over Fabrics and looking forward to this technology being widely adopted in the data centre.

If you’ve had the opportunity to watch the video from Storage Field Day 12 (and some other appearances by Intel Storage at Tech Field Day events), you’ll quickly understand that I’ve barely skimmed the surface of what Intel are doing in the storage space, and just how much is going on before your precious bits are hitting the file system / object store / block device. NVMe is the new way of doing things fast, and I think Intel are certainly pioneering the advancement of this technology through real-world applications. This is, after all, the key piece of the puzzle – understanding how to take blazingly fast technology and apply a useful programmatic framework that companies can build upon to deliver useful outcomes.

For another perspective, have a look at Chan’s article here. You also won’t go wrong checking out Glenn’s post here.

Storage Field Day – I’ll Be At Storage Field Day 12

In what can only be considered excellent news, I’ll be heading to the US in early March for another Storage Field Day event. If you haven’t heard of the very excellent Tech Field Day events, you should check them out. I’m looking forward to time travel and spending time with some really smart people for a few days. It’s also worth checking back on the Storage Field Day 12 website during the event (March 8 – 10) as there’ll be video streaming and updated links to additional content. You can also see the list of delegates and event-related articles that have been published.

I think it’s a great line-up of presenting companies this time around. There are a few I’m very familiar with and some I’ve not seen in action before.


It’s not quite a total greybeard convention this time around, but I think that’s only because of Jon‘s relentless focus on personal grooming. I won’t do the delegate rundown, but having met a number of these people I can assure the videos will be worth watching.

Here’s the rough schedule (all times are ‘Merican Pacific and may change).

Wednesday, March 8 10:00 – 12:00 StarWind Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Wednesday, March 8 13:00 – 15:00 Elastifile Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Wednesday, March 8 16:00 – 18:00 Excelero Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Thursday, March 9 08:00 – 10:00 Nimble Storage Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Thursday, March 9 11:00 – 13:00 NetApp Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Thursday, March 9 14:00 – 16:00 Datera Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Friday, March 10 09:00 – 10:00 SNIA Presents at Storage Field Day 12
Friday, March 10 10:30 – 12:30 Intel Presents at Storage Field Day 12

I’d like to publicly thank in advance the nice folks from Tech Field Day who’ve seen fit to have me back, as well as my employer for giving me time to attend these events. Also big thanks to the companies presenting. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Seriously.

Storage Field Day 8 – Wrap-up and Link-o-rama

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

This is a quick post to say thanks once again to Stephen, Claire and the presenters at Storage Field Day 8. I had a fantastic time and learnt a lot. For easy reference, here’s a list of the posts I did covering the event (not necessarily in chronological order).

Storage Field Day – I’ll be at SFD8

Storage Field Day 8 – Day 0

Storage Field Day 8 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Cohesity – There’s more to this than just “Secondary Storage”

Violin Memory – Sounds a lot better than it used to

Pure Storage – Orange is the new black, now what?

INFINIDAT – What exactly is a “Moshe v3.0”?

Nimble Storage – InfoSight is still awesome

Primary Data – Because we all want our storage to do well

NexGen Storage – Storage QoS and other good things

Coho Data – Numerology, but not as we know it

Intel – They really are “Inside”

Qumulo – Storage for people who care about their data


Also, here’s a number of links to posts by my fellow delegates. They’re all switched-on people, and you’d do well to check out what they’re writing about. I’ll try and update this list as more posts are published. But if it gets stale, the SFD8 landing page has updated links.


Ray Lucchesi (@RayLucchesi)

Coho Data, the packet processing squeeze and working set exploits

Primary data’s path to better data storage presented at SFD8

PB are the new TB, GreyBeards talk with Brian Carmody, CTO Inifinidat


Mark May (@CincyStorage)

Can Violin Step back From the Brink?

Storage software can change enterprise workflow

Redefining Secondary Storage


Scott D. Lowe (@OtherScottLowe)

IT as a Change Agent: It’s Time to Look Inward, Starting with Storage

Overcoming “New Vendor Risk”: Pure Storage’s Techniques

So, What is Secondary Storage Cohesity-Style?

Data Awareness Is Increasingly Popular in the Storage Biz


Jon Klaus (@JonKlaus)

Storage Field Day – I will be attending SFD8!

Wow it’s early – Traveling to Storage Field Day 8

Coho Data: storage transformation without disruption

Pure Storage: Non Disruptive Everything

Cohesity is changing the definition of secondary storage

Qumulo: data-aware scale-out NAS

Nimble Storage – InfoSight VMVision

NexGen Storage: All-Flash Arrays can be hybrids too!

Infinidat: Enterprise reliability and performance


Alex Galbraith (@AlexGalbraith)

Looking Forward to Storage Field Day 8

Without good Analytics you dont have a competitive storage product

How often do you upgrade your storage array software?

Where and why is my data growing?…

Why are storage snapshots so painful?


Jarett Kulm (@JK47TheWeapon)

Storage Field Day 8 – Here I come!


Enrico Signoretti (@ESignoretti)

#SFD8, it’s storage prime time!

Analytics, the key to (storage) happiness

We are entering the Data-aware infrastructure era

Has the next generation of monolithic storage arrived? 25: Qumulo, data-aware scale-out NAS

Infinidat: awesome tech, great execution 27: NexGen Storage, QoS made easy.

Software defined? No no no, it’s poorly defined storage (and why Primary Data is different) 28 – Infinidat storage: multiple nine resiliency, high performance, $1/GB

Are you going All-Flash? Nah, the future is hybrid


Vipin V.K. (@VipinVK111)

Tech Field Day Calling…! – #SFD8

Infinibox – Enterprise storage solution from Infinidat

Understanding NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express)

All-Flash symphony from Violin Memory

Cohesity – Secondary storage consolidation

With FLASH, things are changing ‘in a flash’ !?


Josh De Jong (@EuroBrew)

Storage Field Day Here I Come!

Thoughts in the Airport

NexGen Storage – The Future is Hybrid

Pure Storage – Enterprise Ready, Pure and Simple


Finally, thanks again to Stephen, Claire (and Tom in absentia). It was an educational and enjoyable few days and I really valued the opportunity I was given to attend.



Intel – They really are “Inside”

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

For each of the presentations I attended at SFD8, there are a few things I want to include in the post. Firstly, you can see video footage of the Intel presentation here. You can also download my raw notes from the presentation here. Finally, here’s a link to the Intel website that covers some of what they presented.



If you’ve spent any time shooting the breeze with me, you’ll probably know I’m into punk music. I may have also gotten into a monologue about how much I enjoy listening to the Dead Kennedys. I have a vinyl copy of Jello Biafra‘s third spoken-word album, “I blow minds for a living“. This is a great album, and I recommend listening to it if you haven’t already. While this is a somewhat tortured segue, what I’m trying to say is that a few of the guys working at Intel seem to also specialise in blowing minds for a living, because I walked out of that presentation at SFD8 with very little understanding of what I’d just seen :)


Intel is working hard so you don’t have to

There’s a whole lot to the Intel presentation, and I hearty recommend you watch it for yourself. I found Nate Marushak’s part of the presentation, “Enabling the storage transformation – Intel ISA-L & SPDK” particularly interesting. As I stated previously, I didn’t really keep up with a lot of it. Here are a few of the notes I was able to take.

Intel are keen to address the bottleneck pendulum with a few key pieces of technology:

  • 25/50/100GbE
  • Intel 3D XPoint
  • RDMA

They want to “enable the storage transformation” a couple of ways. The first of these is the Storage Performance Development Kit (SPDK), built on Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) it provides

  • Software infrastructure to accelerate the packet IO to Intel CPU

Userspace Network Services (UNS)

  • TCP/IP stack implemented as polling, lock-light library, bypassing kernel bottlenecks, and enabling accessibility

Userspace NVMe, Intel Xeon / Intel Atom Processors DMA and Linux AIO drivers

  • optimises back-end driver performance and prevents kernel bottlenecks from forming at the back end of the IO chain

Reference Software and Example Application

  • Intel provides a customer-relevant example application leveraging ISA-L, with support provided on a best-effort basis


What is Provided?

  • Builds upon optimised DPDK technology
  • Optimised UNS TCP/IP technology
  • Optimised storage target SW stack
  • Optimised persistent media SW stack
  • Supports Linux OS

How does it help?

  • Avoids legacy SW bottlenecks
  • Removes overhead due to interrupt processing (use polling)
  • Removes overhead due to kernel transitions
  • Removes overhead due to locking
  • Enables greater system level performance
  • Enables lower system level latency

Intel Intelligent Storage Acceleration Library

This is an algorithmic library to address key storage market segment needs:

  • Optimised libraries for Xeon, Atom architectures
  • Enhances performance for data integrity, security / encryption, data protection, deduplication and compression
  • Has available C language demo functions to increase library comprehension
  • Tested on Linux, FreeBSD, MacOS and Windows Server OS

ISA-L Functions include

  • Performance Optimisation
  • Data Protection – XOR (r5), P+Q (r6), Reed-solomon Erasure Code)
  • Data Integrity – CRC-T10, CRC-IEEE (802.3), CRC32-iSCSI
  • Cryptographic Hashing – Multi-buffer: SHA-1, SHA-256, SHA-512, MD5
  • Compression “Deflate” – IGZIP: Fast Compression
  • Encryption


Closing Thoughts and Further Reading

As I stated at the start of this post, a lot of what I heard in this presentation went way over my head. I urge you to check out the Intel website and links above to get a feel for just how much they’re doing in this space to make things easier for the various vendors of SDS offerings out there. If you think about just how much Intel is inside everything nowadays, you’ll get a good sense of just how important their work is to the continued evolution of storage platforms in the modern data centre. And if nothing else you might find yourself checking out a Jello Biafra record.




Storage Field Day 8 – (Fairly) Full Disclosure

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

My full disclosure post will never reach the heady heights of Justin’s, all I can do is try and get somewhere near that level. Here are my notes on gifts, etc, that I received as a delegate at Storage Field Day 8. I’d like to point out that I’m not trying to play presenters / companies off against each other. I don’t have feelings one way or another about receiving gifts at these events (although I generally prefer small things I can fit in my suitcase). Rather, I just trying to make it clear what I received during this event to ensure that we’re all on the same page as far as what I’m being influenced by. Some presenters didn’t provide any gifts as part of their session – which is totally fine. I’m going to do this in chronological order, as that was the easiest way for me to take notes during the week. While every delegate’s situation is different, I’d also like to clarify that I took 2 days of vacation time and 3 days of training / work time to be at this event.



I left my house Saturday morning at 4am and travelled BNE -> SYD -> SFO. I paid for my own cab to the airport in Brisbane, with the transfer in Sydney covered by my ticket. A period of time passed and I was given “dinner” and “breakfast”. This was included in the price of the ticket (paid for by Tech Field Day). Alcoholic beverages were not included, but I stuck with water. United wanted to sell me snacks at some stage too, but I politely declined. I had a spare seat next to me and the opportunity to watch “Office Space” for the umpteenth time on the tiny screen, so it wasn’t all bad.



On Tuesday night we had the delegate dinner at Antonella’s Ristorante in San Jose. It’s a nice Italian place. I had a bit of everything. As part of the gift exchange I received a pair of socks and some very nice beef jerky. I also had two Modelos and a Montejo at the hotel bar after dinner. Claire gave us all a bag of snacks when we got to the hotel. I particularly enjoyed the cashews and Reese’s things.




We had breakfast at Mikayla’s. I had a breakfast roll. Coho Data provided us with doughnuts with bacon on top. While you can put bacon on all kinds of things, sometimes it’s best if you don’t. They also gave each of us a Coho-flavoured Raspberry Pi 2. We had lunch at Pure Storage provided by DishDash. They also gave us some brightly-coloured socks and a 8GB USB stick. Cohesity  provided us with a Hawaiian-themed food and beverages, including Mai Tais. This may or may not have been a mistake given the feistiness of some of the delegates during the ensuing session. They also gave us customised Amazon Echo devices. I gave mine to Claire as it wouldn’t work in Australia. We also received a Cohesity sleeveless fleece top – arguably these don’t work in Australia either, as it doesn’t get that cold where I live :). We had a social event at the Hotel Valencia on Santana Row. I had some sliders and a few Heinekens. I then went to the bar at the hotel and had a Fat Tire before retiring for the night.



We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel. I had some bacon and eggs and fruit. Qumulo provided us with a Qumulo-branded notepad. We had a Californian BBQ-style lunch at the hotel. After a few more sessions, we then had dinner at Picasso’s in downtown San Jose. It was a tapas place, so I had a bit of everything. And two glasses of Sangria. I then had a Fat Tire at the hotel bar upon our return.



On Friday morning we had breakfast at Violin Memory. I had a breakfast burrito and coffee (I loves me some Mexican in the morning). They also gave us a T-shirt, stubbie holder, bottle opener, mints and toothpicks. Intel provided us with a nice buffet lunch at the Intel HQ Executive Briefing Centre. Nimble Storage gave us each a small tote bag, a webcam privacy screen, some headphones and a travel set. This was followed by “Happy Hour” at Nimble. I had a sparkling water. To finish off we had dinner at Mexicali in Santa Clara. I had a prawn burrito. I didn’t eat anything on the flight home.



I’d like to extend my thanks once again to the Storage Field Day organisers and the companies presenting at the event. I had an extremely enjoyable and educational time. Here’s a photo.



Storage Field Day 8 – Day 0

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 8.  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.

This is just a quick post to share some thoughts on day zero at Storage Field Day. I thought I’d share some touristy snaps before we get into the meat and potatoes stuff later in the week. Here’s the obligatory wing shot – this one was taken as we were about to start the descent into SFO.

I spent a few days relaxing with a friend in the Bay Area before meeting up with my fellow delegates on Tuesday afternoon. Tuesday evening we all got together and headed to Antonella’s Ristorante in San Jose. It was great.


Anyway, enough with the holiday snaps. I just wanted to thank Stephen and Claire for having me back, making sure everything is running according to plan and for just being really very decent people. I’ve really enjoyed catching up with the people I’ve met before and meeting the new guys. Look out for some posts related to the Tech Field Day sessions in the next few weeks. And if you’re in a useful timezone, check out the live streams from the event here, or the recordings afterwards.

What have I been doing? – Part 3

CPU ID Masking

Sometimes vendors (in this case Dell) sell servers that have the same model name (in this case Dell PowerEdge 2950), but have CPUs in them from Intel that are incompatible as far as VMotion is concerned. In this case we had two existing nodes, purchased about 12 months ago, running Intel Xeon E5310 CPUs, and two new nodes running Intel Xeon E5410 CPUs. Even though they’re both dual-socket, quad-core hosts, and even though they are ostensibly the same machines, running the same BIOS revisions, VMotion doesn’t like it. This is Dell’s fault necessarily, they like to sell whatever CPU is cheap and performance focussed. It just so happens that, in the last 12 months, Intel have made a number of developments, and have started selling CPUs that do more for the same price as the older one. I have a friend who used to work at Intel and knew all of the model names and codes and compatibilities. I don’t though, so have a look here for the rundown on what Xeon chips are what. Basically, moving from Clovertown to Harpertown has caused the problem. Awesome.

When we tried to VMotion a Virtual Machine from an existing host to a new host, we got this error:


VMware has a spiel on the issue here, and some possible solutions, depending on the version of ESX you’re running. A few other people have had the issue, and have discussed it here and here.

What’s frustating is that we were able to VMotion from the Acer hosts running dual-core CPUs to the existing quad-core Dell hosts with no problem. To think that we couldn’t then go from the Dell hosts to the new Dell hosts seems just, well, silly.

I didn’t want to setup the CPU ID masking on each Virtual Machine, so I elected to make the change on the VirtualCenter host. I edited the vpxd.cfg file, which is located by default in “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter”. Here’s what I setup on the VirtualCenter host:


I may have put too many settings in. But it worked fine. But I’d be feeling like if the consultant has to do that, I’d be chasing my sales guy for an upgrade to some compatible CPUs.

Upgrading VMware Tools on Netware 6.5

If you find yourself working on what some uncharitably call the dodo of network operating systems – NetWare 6.5 – and need to upgrade the VMware Tools – these instructions will help get you on your way.

To start, select “Install VMware Tools” on the VM.
The volume automounts on the NetWare guest.
Run vmwtools:\setup.ncf.
Some stuff happens (sorry I forgot to take some screenshots).
You’ll see “VMware Tools for NetWare are now running” once the upgrade is complete. You should then reboot the guests.

esXpress upgrade notes

esXpress from PHD Technologies is a neat backup and recovery tool. According to the website, it is “The ONLY scalable and completely fault tolerant backup, restoration and disaster recovery solution for Virtual Infrastructure 3.x. Whether you have 1TB of data or 50TB, esXpress makes a 100% complete backup of your entire virtual farm every night”. So maybe they’re blowing their own trumpet a little, but whenever I’ve had to use esXpress it’s been a pleasant experience. Moreso than some enterprise backup tools that I won’t name at this time. Well, okay, it’s nicer than reconfiguring devices in EMC NetWorker, or getting any kind of verbose logging out of Symantec Backup Exec.

There are some straightforward documents on the website that will get you started. The first thing you should look at is the Installation Guide. The next thing you should be looking at is the User’s Manual, and, well, you should probably consider reading up on the whole recovery process too.

The existing nodes already had an older version of esXpress installed, so a lot of the initial setup (ie the hard bit) had been done for me already. Hooray for other people doing work and saving me time!

To upgrade your version of esXpress, you need to uninstall (the old version) and re-install (the new version) rpm. This can be achieved by running the following commands:

rpm –e esxpress
rpm –e esxpressVBA

This will remove the application but not delete your backups.

Then install the new version of esXpress and the VBA and import the previous configuration. Running phd-import will import the previous esXpress settings, including licenses and so on. It can also import settings from another host, which will save some time.

It’s good stuff, and it works, so check it out.