Microsoft’s TechEd 2013 is next week, and I’m looking forward to spending time with my longtime industry friends and making some new connections on the show floor in New Orleans.
This year, I’ll attend as part of the Unified Storage Division, and felt I needed to share a little about the success of VNX and VNXe arrays into Microsoft environments:
EMC’s VNX Unified Storage Platform has been recognized with awards from a slew of independent analysts such as Gartner, IDC and Wikibon, as well as media publications such as ComputerWorld, CRN and Virtualization Review due to the ability of the VNX family to power mission critical applications, integrate with virtual environments and solve SMB IT challenges, among other accolades. We take pride in being the #1 storage for most Microsoft Windows-based applications.
BUT… DOES MICROSOFT WINDOWS NEED A SAN? CAN’T WE DO IT OURSELVES?
Well, after speaking with Windows Server 2012, SQL Server, and EMC customers, partners and employees, the independent analyst firm Wikibon posted a before and after comparison model based on an enterprise customer environment. The idea is that the total cost of bolting together your own solution isn’t worth it.
The findings showed that by moving a physical, non-tiered environment to a virtualized environment with flash and tiered storage SQL Server customers realized a 30% lower overall TCO over a 3 year period including hardware, software, maintenance, and management costs for their database infrastructure.
The graphic shows that a do-it-yourself approach saves very little if anything in hardware costs and will divert operational effort to build and maintain the infrastructure. Risks and costs are likely to be higher with this approach.
In the end, EMC’s VNX infrastructure was proven to deliver a lower cost and lower risk solution for Windows 2012 versus a direct-attached storage (DAS) or JBOD (just a bunch of disk) model. Full study here.
MICROSOFT INTEGRATIONS AND INNOVATIONS
EMC’s VNX platform considers Microsoft applications, databases, and file shares to our sweet spot as evidenced by our early integration of the latest Windows Server 2012 features that increase performance, efficiency, availability, and simplicity for our joint customers.
Performance, Efficiency, Availability, Simplicity
Within Windows, we were the first storage array to support SMB 3 and ODX Copy Offload (part of SMB 3) to enable large file copies over SAN instead of consuming network bandwidth and host CPU cycles.
This test highlights the speed difference before (left) and after (right) ODX was implemented. With EMC VNX and ODX enabled, you can accelerate your VM copies by a factor of 7 while reducing server CPU utilization by a factor of 30!
For applications and databases, VNX FAST Cache and FASTVP automatically tunes your storage to match your workload requirements saving up to 80% of the time it would take to manually balance workloads.
The Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) Lab confirmed that a data warehouse solution with Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 with new Columnstore indexing, and VNX FAST technologies and VNX storage form a complete solution to meet the business requirements of mid-tier organizations and beyond. An 800GB DW was deployed which is fairly typical for a medium sized business. With EMC FAST enabled, throughput reached up to 379 MB/sec, showing over 100% improvement over SQL Server 2012’s baseline Rowstore indexing. The DSS performance workload with EMC FAST enabled completed up to nine times faster than with rowstore indexing.
IT managers and storage administrators frequently adopt well-known forecasting models to pre-allocate storage space according to the storage demand growth rate. The main challenge is how to pre-allocate just enough storage capacity for the application. Reports from many storage array vendors indicate that 31% to 50% of the allocated storage is either stranded or unused. Thus, 31% to 50% of the capital investment from the initial storage installment is wasted.
The VNX supports Windows host-level and built-in storage-level thin provisioning to drastically reduce initial disk requirements. Windows Server 2012 provides the ability to detect thin-provisioned storage on EMC storage arrays and reclaim unused space once it is freed by Hyper-V. In the previous scenario, an ODX-aware host connected to an EMC intelligent storage array would automatically reclaim the 10 GB of storage and return it to the pool where it could be used by other applications.
Furthermore, for application storage we partner with companies like Kroll and Metalogix to provide better solutions for Exchange single item recovery and SharePoint remote BLOB storage which can reduce SQL stored SharePoint objects by about 80-90% and improve SQL Respnse times by 20-40%
Our first to market integration with SMB3 not only provides for performance improvements, it also enables SMB 3 Continuous Availability allowing applications to run on clustered volumes with failovers that are transparent to end users. For example, SQL Server may store system tables on the file shares such that any disruptive event to the access of the file share can lead to interruption of SQL Server operation. Continuous Availability is accomplished via cluster failover on the host side and Data Mover of Shared Folder failover on the VNX side.
Other SMB 3.0 Features supported include:
- Multi-Channel / Multipath I/O (MPIO ) – Multiple TCP connections can now be associated with a single SMB 3.0 session and a client application can use several connections to transfer I/O on a CIFS share. This optimizes bandwidth and enables failover and load balancing with multiple NICs.
- Offload Copy – Copying data within the same Data Mover can now be offloaded to the storage which reduces the workload on the client and network.
- SMB Encryption – Provides secure access to data on CIFS shares, protecting data on untrusted networks and providing end-to-end encryption of data in- flight.
- Directory Lease – SMB2 introduced a directory cache which allowed clients to cache a directory listing to save network bandwidth but it would not see new updates. SMB3 introduces a directory lease and the client is now automatically aware of changes made in a cached directory.
- Remote Volume Shadow Copy Service (RVSS) – With RVSS, point-in-time snapshots can be taken across multiple CIFS shares, providing improved performance in backup and restore.
- BranchCache – Caching solution to have business data in local cache. Main use case is remote office and branch office storage.
EMC also offers a wide range of application availability and protection solutions that are built into the VNX including snapshots, remote replication, and a new RecoverPoint virtual replication appliance.
When it comes to provisioning storage for their applications, admins often have to navigate through too many repetitive tasks requiring them to touch different UIs and increasing the risk of human error. Admins also likely need to coordinate with other administrators each time they need to provision space. This is not very efficient. Take for example a user that wants to provision space for SharePoint. You need to work with Unisphere to create a LUN and add it to a storage group. Next you need to log onto the server and run disk manager to import the volume. Next you need to work with Hyper-V, then SQL Server Mgmt Studio, then SharePoint Central Admin. A bit tedious to say the least.
EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) on the other hand streamlines everything we just talked about. Forget about how much faster it actually is… Just think about the convenience and elegance of this workflow compared to the manual steps outlined in our last paragraph. ESI is a free MMC based download that takes provisioning all the way into Microsoft Applications. Currently only SharePoint is supported but SQL and Exchange wizards are coming soon. This is a feature that surprises and delights our customers!
SO WHAT DO VNX CUSTOMERS SAY?
EMC’s VNX not only provides a rock solid core infrastructure foundation, but also delivers significant features and benefits for application owners and DBAs. Here’s some quotes from customers who have transformed their Microsoft environments using the VNX and VNXe platforms.
Peter Syngh Senior Manager, IT Operations, Toronto District School Board
“EMC’s VNX unified storage has the best of everything at a very cost-effective price. It integrates with Microsoft Hyper-V, which is crucial to our cloud strategy, and with its higher performance, automated tiering and thin provisioning, VNX was a no-brainer.”
Marshall Bose Manager of IT Operations, Ensco (Oil/Gas)
“A prime reason for choosing EMC over NetApp was that VNX is such a great fit for virtualization. With all the automation tools and tight integration with VMware, VNX is far easier than NetApp when it comes to spinning up and managing virtual machines.”
Rocco Hoffmann, IT Architect BNP Paribas (German Bank)
“We are achieving significant savings in energy and rack space. In fact our VNX requires only half the rack space and has reduced our power and cooling costs”
Charles Rosse, Systems Administrator II Baptist Memorial Health Care
“Since the VNX has been built into the design of our VDI from the beginning, it can easily accommodate growth- all we need to do is to plug in another drive or tray of drives and we get incrementally better performance.”
Erich Becker, Director of Information Systems, AeroSpec (Manufacturing)
“…We loved the fact that VNXe and VMware worked extremely well together …we have dramatically cut operating costs, increased reliability and data access is now twice as fast as before.”
There are many more customers that have given praise to the VNX Family for powering their Microsoft applications but I don’t have the room to put them all in. EMC is a trusted brand in storage, and the VNX today is an outstanding unified platform which successfully balances our customers block and file needs for their Microsoft file and application data – and gets awards for it. Feel free to find out more about the VNX and VNXe product lines here and here.
Also come talk to us next week at TechEd, we will be there to help customers and partners learn more about our technology.
Find out more about our TechEd plans here.
Also download the VNXe Simulator executable right here. It’s pretty awesome and shows you the unique VNXe management interface.