Archives for March 2010

HP BL490c G6 Ethernet driver update for ESX(i) 4.0

Ok so I’m a bit tardy in this notification, but VMware released a new version of the Ethernet driver for the 10Gbps NIC that’s in the HP BL490c G6 servers, and other brands as well. Technically the update is for Broadcom NetExtreme II BCM57710/BCM57711/BCM57711E NICs. In HP terms this is the HP NC532i and NC532m.

You can download the update here. Although the release notes are nearly useless, you can find them here.

Absolutely no mention of fixes or enhancements. But I did find some interesting details about the support for NetQueue. Apparently the driver supports NetQueue, but only enables one queue out of the box. The readme gives you some commands that increase the number of NetQueues.

They say the optimal number of queues is equal to the number of CPUs. But they aren’t clear if they mean sockets, cores, or execution units. That could make the difference between 2 and 16 on some servers. The Intel NetQueue article specifically calls out the number of cores, and has a maximum value of 16.

An affordable iSCSI/NFS/NAS box for your house

A co-worker of mine, Mark, turned me on to this company called QNAP. They make a really dizzying array of SOHO and small/medium business “NetApp” like NAS devices. These little babies support a wide range of protocols including iSCSI, NFS, CIFS, ftp, etc. It’s really amazing what these critters can do. So I took the dive, bought one, and it arrived today.

My main purpose is using it for iSCSI LUNs that I can present to my home ESX servers and play with things such as vMotion. I could also share media from it to my Denon receiver, and even have it download torrents.

The unit is still initalizing, so I’ll report in future blogs on my experience. I have an upcoming trip, so it may be a few weeks before I can post and update.

I bought the TS-119 model for $300 from Amazon, minus the hard drive. Free shipping and no tax from Amazon, so I thought that was a great deal. They even have higher end units that are ESX certified, support RAID, and does remote replication.

RIP Fibre Channel Drives – Hello storage tiering

Last week I was listening to a HP video where the HP CTO said that Fibre Channel drives will cease to exist in the coming years. Instead, enterprise storage disk arrays will be configured with two tiers of storage: SSD and SATA. I thought for a minute, and this made sense. EMC is also spelling doom for FC drives.

SSDs are super fast, lower power, high IOPS, but very pricey today. SATA is “slow”, cheap but fairly reliable. Fibre Channel drives are certainly faster than SATA, but not orders of magnitude faster. The trick is putting applications that require high IOPS on the SSD, but less performance oriented apps on your SATA storage.

The key to the whole concept is minimizing use of SSDs, maximizing SATA use, yet still achieve application SLAs. Last year when I was shopping for an enterprise array Compellent touted their sub-LUN level optimization. Blocks of data that are used frequently are left on more expensive tier-1 disks, while less used data is migrated to slower, cheaper disks. This is sub-LUN level, meaning different pieces of your Exchange database could be on two or more tiers of disks at the same time with automatic data migration. But I wouldn’t put Compellent in the catagory of true enterprise class storage arrays.

Last year EMC announced that a future version of FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) would also work at the sub-LUN level. Their currently shipping version of FAST only operates on entire LUNs. I’ve heard rumors that FAST v2 may ship sometime later in 2010.

As I was reading my dozens of RSS feeds today, I noticed that 3PAR announced they will be supporting STEC enterprise SSDs and sub-LUN level automated storage tiering. Their adapative optimization (AO) feature is orderable immediately, but is unclear when their arrays will actually support it. A feature I found really interesting is their QoS gradient concept. You can bias the automated data migration based on performance or cost objectives. So you could have one LUN that needs to be performance oriented, but another that was more cost sensitive.

3PAR claims to be the first enterprise storage company with sub-LUN level automated optimization. If 3PAR can ship AO before IBM, HDS, HP, NetApp, and EMC then, yes, they will have delivered another industry leading feature to enterprise customers before the ‘big boys.’ I don’t know how much AO would help in a Fibre Channel and SATA only environment, since there’s not a huge performance gap between the tiers. Inquiring minds want to know!

I hope 3PAR can develop some type of ‘sizing’ tool for SSDs and AO that you can run against an existing array to baseline the performance characteristics over a period of time (days or weeks), then provide recommendations on how much SSD storage is recommended to meet certain performance SLAs.

As always, Channel Partner has some additional techie details on the 3PAR announcement. Update: Network World is also covering this news.

Critical VMware vSphere 4.0 Updates Posted

Hot off the press! Last night VMware posted critical updates to vSphere 4.0. You can find the patches here. If you want to read the release notes, they are available here. Patches apply to both ESX and ESXi hosts.

This does not appear to be Update 2, which was rumored to be released late February or early March. So it appears we still have some waiting to do for Update 2. That’s too bad as I have numerous SRs open with VMware for some pretty obvious bugs that slipped through QA.

HP FCoE Videos Released

Back in January I wrote a blog about emerging Ethernet standards that are converging Ethernet, Fibre Channel and virtualization. During one of HP’s recent tech days they had a session on all of these new standards, their ratification status, and how they will apply to HP products. Even if you aren’t a HP customer, these short videos are worth watching. HP FCoE is on the way!

You can check all of them out here. The bottom line for HP customers is that sometime in 2010 HP will release blade servers with built-in converged adaptors that will support 10Gb Ethernet, Fibre Channel over Ethernet, and a iSCSI initiator. They will also need to come out with a new interconnect module that supports these new adaptors.