Category Archives: Cloud Computing

Building a Microsoft Azure Private Cloud – Powered by EMC VNX Storage

Recently EMC held a Microsoft Summit, where a lot of the Microsoft savvy engineers and business folks within EMC get together to share their stories and lessons learned.

One of the highlights of these sessions is always the work of Txomin Barturen -who is our resident Microsoft expert in EMC’s Office of the CTO.

His blog can be found here:
(Bookmark it, and look for videos and blog posts soon to follow)

This year his session focused on our work within Microsoft Hyper-V, Microsoft System Center, Private Clouds and the powerful Azure Pack for Windows.

Sure, everyone knows about EMC’s affinity towards VMware (EMC’s VNX was rated best storage for VMware 3 years in a row), but many don’t know how focused we are on Hyper-V and helping customers power their Microsoft Cloud.

EMC is committed to becoming the best storage for private clouds for enterprises and service providers who wish to deploy private and/or public clouds for their customers – on VMware or Hyper-V.

Evidence of EMC’s Microsoft Private Cloud Work

To get to this stage, we’ve had to do a lot of work.

And beyond our engineering ability, we also showcased our agility.

  • VNX was the first storage platform to support SMB 3.0 (VNX & VNXe)
  • VNX was the first storage platform to demonstrate ODX (TechEd 2012)
  • Our Elab aggressively submits Windows Logo certifications (EMC currently has the most Windows 2012 R2 certs)

Where do you find these materials? 

We’ve built Microsoft Private Cloud (Proven) solutions on VNXe, VNX & VMAX leveraging SMI-S / PowerShell that can be found and delivered through EMC’s VSPEX program or as part of our Microsoft Private Cloud Fast Track solutions (which are Microsoft validated, ready-to-run reference architectures).  You can find more about this work here.

Getting to a More Agile Cloud

Txomin’s presentation talked about how customers want all that an Azure Public Cloud model offers in terms of agility and management but without the loss of control (a on-premises cloud deployment).  They want to offer *-as-a-Service models, elastic scale, a self-service model for tenants, but without the SLA risks that are out of IT control when deploying on a full private cloud.

The Middle Ground:  The Azure Pack for Windows

Microsoft is putting together some really interesting cloud management software with Azure Pack for Windows.  The Azure Pack for Windows is a free downloadable set of services that offer the same interface as the Azure public cloud option, but provide more control for companies who are not willing to deploy on the public cloud for reasons due to performance, reliability, security, and compliance concerns.


Since we’ve done all of the baseline private cloud work, now we can use these as a foundation for building a Microsoft Private Cloud on-premises with a VNX storage platform using the new Azure Pack for Windows.

Built atop the new Windows Server 2012 R2 platform, the Windows Azure Pack (WAP) enables public-cloud like management and services without the risk.   This layers right on top of EMC’s Windows Fast Track & Private Cloud offerings without any additional technology required.

Although it offers a limited subset of services, we expect that Microsoft will introduce more service as customers adopt this new model.

One of the first use cases Microsoft is focusing on is the service providers who want better management for their Microsoft clouds.   This will allow for new integrations and capabilities that weren’t previously available.   IT staff can treat business units as Tenants, offer pre-configured solutions via Gallery, enable self-service management by tenants (delegated Admin).  They can also view utilization and reporting available through System Center/3rd party integrations which are fully extensible through Operations Manager, Orchestrator and Virtual Machine Manager.

This is truly the future of Microsoft’s virtualization Strategy and EMC is right there to enable customers to build the best, most reliable, secure, manageable private cloud.

But what about Data Protection?

Well, our colleagues in the Backup and Recovery Systems division of EMC are no slackers.  They saw the same trends and are eager to help customers stay protected as they move to the cloud.

In this demo Alex Almeida, Sr. Technical Marketing Manager for EMC’s Backup and Recovery Systems demonstrates how the EMC Data Protection Suite provides full support for Windows Azure Private Cloud Backup and Recovery:

So let me correct my statement…  EMC is right there to enable customers to build the best, most reliable, secure, manageable private cloud – AND PROTECT IT.


EMC’s VNX = Award Winning storage for Microsoft environments

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.


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.

Video of EMC’s Adrian Simays and Wikibon Analysts discussing these results is here on YouTube.


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

1. Performance

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.

2. Efficiency

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%

3. Availability

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.

4. Simplicity

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!


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.

2013: A Mobile Datacenter Odyssey

At EMC World last week, Avnet Technology Solutions introduced the Avnet Mobile Data Center Solution for EMC VSPEX.

Click here or on the picture below to access my latest video which provides a bit more about this rolling datacenter-in-a-box environment and features Stefan Voss, Business Development Manager from EMC.


What is the Avnet Mobile Data Center Solution for EMC VSPEX?

Exclusively available through Avnet’s U.S. and Canadian partner community, this mobile data center solution leverages VSPEX Proven Infrastructures to create private clouds. Channel partners’ enterprise customers will benefit from the solution by being able to deploy data centers that have been ‘hardened’ to operate in harsh environments to support BC, data center moves, DR, large-scale special events, and remote field locations.

It was named one of the Top 3 hottest products at EMC World this year by Channel Reseller News / CRN (link) and includes System Center, SharePoint, Metalogix, and many more partners.

Find more information here and here

Application Protection: There’s Something Happening Here

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

Yes, it’s blasphemy to simply change a classic like Buffalo Springfield’s “For What’s It Worth” – but I will anyway to prove my point.

There’s something happening here

If you haven’t noticed, IT is changing rapidly. Just search for IT transformation, IT as a Service, and converged infrastructure to see how far we’ve come in only the past few years.  This industry moves!

What it is ain’t exactly clear

We know a Cloud is built differently, operated differently, and consumed differently. So we know companies have begun re-architecting IT in order to offer more of a service in order to react faster to meet user needs. They know they must change their operational models and in many cases their organizational structure. They might also seek converged infrastructures to get moving faster.    But… has protection changed to keep pace with this transformation?

There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

It’s been said that in the song the gun is more of a metaphor for the tension between groups within the US before Vietnam. And in a much less violent analogy, the tension between the IT team and the application owners has never been stronger.

The application teams want to have great performance and protection of their application. But they’ve never been empowered by the IT department to protect themselves with storage-level tools. The storage team wants to let them, but they fear they might create too many copies of their data. Instead, the app owners went out and used tools for their own application, creating their own protection strategy which might not deliver the best protection they can get.  To win back the hearts and minds of the application owners and DBA’s, the IT department and the storage teams need to get better at protecting applications as a service.

On the Road to Application Protection as a Service

Many companies have has attempted to do this in the past – with products that help you protect and restore your applications and critical virtual machines. They have tools that install on the server and can “freeze” and “thaw” the current transactions into the database, so that when a snapshot is taken, there is a clean copy that can be easily restored.  The major benefit of these tools is SPEED as the copy process is incremental and the restore process is also lightning fast.  Restoring a 1 TB database in minutes.

It needs to get easier. Like any “enterprise” tool, many of these products designed for snapshots and replication require a significant learning curve. We need something simple that integrates with the tools we know and love.

We should provide self-service capabilities. Instead of spending hours and hours making sure application owners are getting the protection they need, they should be empowered to simply protect and restore their own data.

We are driven by service levels. IT departments and storage teams need to offer “protection service catalogs” with various (e.g. Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze) levels of protection varied by RPO – from very low data loss (synchronous replication) to more sporadic application-consistent snapshots – all from one interface. This makes it easy for the app team and people with the checkbooks to really understand the value placed on the different applications in your catalog.

There truly is something happening here
And what is will be made clear at EMC World 2012!

Hope to see you there!

Getting Exchange 2010 into the Private Cloud

Here’s the materials for my webcast on virtualizing Exchange.

EMCLive-Exchange 2010 Private Cloud-final-clean

On-Demand Webcast link

Hope you found it helpful!

Virtualization and Private Cloud Review
Industry Trends
Cloud Computing Comparison
Journey to Private Cloud
Exchange 2010 Virtualization and Cloud Best Practices
A 6-Step Process to Virtualize Exchange
Customer Story
Frequently Asked Questions

To Cloud or Not to Cloud…

[post by Dominick Dequarto]

When I was a data center manager, the questions for every application were:

  1. How critical is the application’s availability?
  2. How critical is application’s data?

There were layers of complexity, to be sure, but from those two questions, I would dole out resources to address both of those items for each application or dataset, according to the application’s criticality to the business.

Nonetheless, it was relatively simple.  I would use my best technical judgment to assure that the needs were met in accordance with the resources provided, and assure myself that because I had hire, fire, and motivational authority, I could assure that the plans were carried out.  I was assured at the corporate level that my employees were trustworthy, and because I worked largely in the federal business, I had security clearances for my employees on top of that.

So now there’s a sea change to the cloud model. Whether it’s public, private, a mix, or a hybrid, the game has changed.

But what, exactly, has changed?

Certainly not the two primary questions regarding application and data availability – those still should be first and foremost in my mind.  That’s not to say that I can’t NOT care about an application, of course.  Maybe there’s a necessary app, but doesn’t have much impact on my business, I’m not going to spend a lot of resources supporting it (there’s a term for that – it’s a craplication).

Things have changed.  Now we’re “hosting” or using “software as a service” or “leveraging the cloud.”

However you say it, things have changed – even for craplications.  Those SharePoint sites or messaging applications you’re hosting may have employee social security numbers,  or maybe company intellectual property you don’t know about.  Or maybe it’s tied into payroll in a way that people don’t get paid if SharePoint isn’t up…

These are the things of nightmares, right?

To my thinking you need to consider three more items when considering the Cloud:

  • What is the impact of data spillage?
    • How do I determine whether my data is even being compromised?
    • How much would I need to compensate my customers in the event of a public compromise?
    • How much would I need to compensate my employees in the event of a public compromise?
    • What is the value of the intellectual property I could lose, and how do I even go about measuring the impact?
  • Without the ability to hire, fire, and motivate, how do I ensure timely response to service or data availability issues?
  • How will I manage point to point serviceability issues outside of my Cloud Provider’s commitment for service?

This is all very interesting cocktail conversation (among those of us who are used to dull cocktail conversations).  But for the IT manager, who’s going from managing people to managing Service Level Agreements (SLAs), what does it mean?

The not-so-scary fact is that all the IT manager has to work with is the SLA with his or her cloud provider.  It’s scary in that we can no longer put specific people on the hot seat.  But it’s not so scary in the sense that we can:

(a)    Negotiate terms before the contract is executed

(b)    Enumerate those terms to the business owners

Namely, we can cover our collective asses.  For example, we can say “Yes, we can spend $10 less per mailbox per month, but these are the financial penalties we need to protect ourselves from.”  We can also say that “this is how we can mitigate those risks and costs and thereby reduce the cost of protection.”

The first step is to educate yourself on the particulars of the SLA.  Any provider not willing to provide you with a boilerplate or “default” SLA is not worth speaking to.  In Microsoft’s case, the BPOS SLA is out there and easy to read, even for those without a J.D.

The next step is to apply what you know about the application you’re thinking about moving to the cloud to the appropriate SLA.

  • What are the physical boundaries of my SLA?

Often acknowledged, but for a moment think outside the box.  So your Cloud Provider is touting 5 9’s uptime, you’re extremely comfortable and happier than a lark, but what are the real boundaries of that SLA?   Does it include accountability and serviceability to your organizations front door?    Most likely not.  Point here is do not discount the weakest link in the chain.   Get to know your ISP intimately and what their SLA means to your business, understand their technology as well as which networks you have to traverse in order to get to your Cloud Providers front door.  Be sure to close the gap on accountability from your organizations front door to, and into, your Cloud provider’s home.

  • How critical is the application’s availability?

What metrics are measured?  Is it just web access to mail, or is ActiveSync, MAPI, and BES part of the SLA (and can I define different levels of service for those)?  What is the cost to my business if email is out for 24 or 48 hours?  What is the cost to my provider?  Can I apply any leverage?

  • How critical is application’s data?

What is the cost to my business if the provider loses the data in my users’ mailboxes/sharepoint sites/data farm?  What is the cost to my provider?  Can I apply any leverage?

  • How do I assure the security of my data?

How do I determine whether my organization’s data is exposed to potential hostile parties?  What is the company’s cost if I determine that’s the case?  Is it dependent on the type of data (customer proprietary, employee proprietary, or company proprietary)?  What is the cost to the provider?  Can I apply any leverage?

I guess the answer to the question regarding “What am I giving up?” is resoundingly “Leverage,” and to some extent, “Security.”  Security is probably the easiest to address, but both can be mitigated with attention to the service level agreement that you negotiate.

My advice is to go into it with your eyes wide open.

– Dominick

VPLEX and SharePoint Distance VMotion

Wondering how EMC’s storage federation device VPLEX might solve SharePoint DR concerns?

A few of the engineers teamed up to create a reference architecture that shows you how it’s done.

First, they listened to early customer feedback on what use cases might be most beneficial.

What came up again and again – SharePoint (and SAP and Oracle) DR is not that easy and virtualization of the servers helps a great deal, but the ability to perform VMotion across two sites without a major network upgrade is game-changing.  If you weren’t aware of VMotion, it’s a feature that allows the migration of operational (live, running) guest virtual machines between similar but separate hardware hosts sharing the same storage. Each of these transitions is completely transparent to any users on the virtual machine at the time it is being migrated.  Since VPLEX allows two sites to share the same storage, it doesn’t take a genius to realize that this enables VMotion across two sites.

Second, they built out the environment and tested a farm.

Specific to SharePoint, they configured the farm according to EMC and Microsoft best practices with about half a TB of total space.  They used KnowledgeLake’s DocLoaderLite to populate SharePoint with random user data and then fired up a simulated load using Microsoft VSTS (Visual Studio).  The Proven Solutions mantra held true – we wanted to get this as close to real world as possible and push the thresholds of performance and scalability at the same time. Our SharePoint guru and friend James Baldwin put a great amount of effort in putting this together amongst a team of several others (Don, Brahim, Haji, Patrick, Joe, Brian C, and many others).

Third, they provide the result and key findings.

I’d boil it down to this.  VPLEX can safely be inserted in the data path between host and your existing storage array. You can stretch your clusters and enable a much better HA and DR strategy for your SharePoint farms.  Failover across sites used to be one of the most challenging IT procedures out there… it’s why many companies don’t even have a DR plan.  Now it can be as simple as a local failover, once it’s setup.  And swapping out/upgrading storage becomes a seamless procedure compared to what might have happened yesterday. You can bounce your server back and forth without much of a blip.

OK, so where’s some detail on that “blip”?

Page 35 shows the VMotion durations, with and without latency added.

This section of the paper describes how the SharePoint farm response time will be affected before, after, and during the VMotion.

I think skeptics like Eddie would have liked to see data like this.  Oh yeah, we did the same with non-SharePoint SQL databases (1 TB), Oracle E-Business Suite (with 11g), and SAP (ERP and BW).  And it’s all in this little reference architecture here.