Archives for November 2010

3PAR VAAI Upgrade is cakewalk

For those of you using vSphere 4.1, one of the cool new features is VAAI support. What is VAAI? VAAI is a deep level of integration between select storage arrays and the ESX kernel. The three VAAI functions released in 4.1 are:

•Atomic Test & Set (ATS), which is used during creation of files on the VMFS volume
•Clone Blocks/Full Copy/XCOPY, which is used to copy data
•Zero Blocks/Write Same, which is used to zero-out disk regions

Arrays need firmware updates to support these enhanced SCSI commands. Since vSphere 4.1 was released storage vendors have been releasing firmware updates for their arrays. Today I upgraded our 3PAR T400 to their 2.3.1 MU2 code base, which has VAAI support. Like I blogged about back in February, the 3PAR upgrades are fully non-disruptive, fairly straight forward, and not so complicated they need professional services.

I found a script which makes the verification, enabling, and disabling of the features a simple one liner, and it can be found here. For a little trivia, there was supposed to be fourth VAAI SCSI primitive, ‘thin provision stun’. I bet a Star Trek fan came up with that feature name. Basically this feature enabled the array to tell a VM that it ran out of physical disk space on the LUN and ESX would ‘stun’ the VM so it wouldn’t crash or corrupt data. But as the rumor goes, there was some miscommunication between VMware and various partners so not all partners implemented or certified the stun primitive. To put everyone on a level playing field the fourth primitive was dropped. I would expect it to make an appearance in a future release.

Due to time constraints and the approaching weekend, I didn’t have time to run any vSphere tests and look at SCSI stats to verify the VAAI commands are working. That will come over the next week or two, and I plan to blog on the results.

For those of you looking at buying new storage arrays and using them with VMware, one of the basic checklist features you should use as screening criteria is VAAI support. Finally, NetApp has a great PDF that goes into good details on how VAAI works and the use cases. While it contains some NetApp specific information, the majority of the document is a good read for anyone interested in VAAI.

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