VMworld first thoughts kickoff session

[Edited for readability. RLL] The drummer band was great at the start but we couldn’t tell if it was real or lipsynched. It turned out that each of the Big VMWORLD letters had a digital drum pad on them which meant it was live, in realtime.

Paul got a standing ovation as he left the stage introducing Pat the new CEO.  With Paul on the stage, there was much discussion of where VMware has come the last four years.  But IDC stats probably say it better than most in 2008 about 25% of Intel X86 apps were virtualized and in 2012 it’s about 60% and and Gartner says that VMware has about 80% of that activity.

Pat got up on stage and it was like nothing’s changed. VMware is still going down the path they believe is best for the world a virtual data center that spans private, on premises equipment and extrenal cloud service providers equipment.

There was much ink on software defined data center which is taking the vSphere world view and incorporating networking, more storage, more infrastructure to the already present virtualized management paradigm.

It’s a bit murky as to what’s changed, what’s acquired functionality and what’s new development but suffice it to say that VMware has been busy once again this year.

A single “monster vm” (has it’s own facebook page) now supports up to 64 vCPUs, 1TB of RAM, and can sustain more than a million IOPS. It seems that this should be enough for most mission critical apps out there today. No statement on latency the IOPS but with a million IOS a second and 64 vCPUs we are probably talking flash somewhere in the storage hierarchy.

Pat mentioned that the vRAM concept is now officially dead. And the pricing model is now based on physical CPUs and sockets. It no longer has a VM or vRAM component to it. Seemed like this got lots of applause.

There are now so many components to vCloud Suite that it’s almost hard to keep track of them all:  vCloud Director, vCloud Orchestrator, vFabric applications director, vCenter Operations Manager, of course vSphere and that’s not counting relatively recent acquisitions Dynamic Op’s a cloud dashboard and Nicira SDN services and I am probably missing some of them.

In addition to all that VMware has been working on Serengeti which is a layer added to vSphere to virtualize Hadoop clusters. In the demo they spun up and down a hadoop cluster with MapReduce operating to process log files.  (I want one of these for my home office environments).

Showed another demo of the vCloud suite in action spinning up a cloud data center and deploying applications to it in real time. Literally it took ~5minutes to start it up until they were deploying applications to it.  It was a bit hard to follow as it was going a lot into the WAN like networking environment configuration of load ballancing, firewalls and other edge security and workload characteristics but it all seemed pretty straightforward and took a short while but configured an actual cloud in minutes.

I missed the last part about social cast but apparently it builds a social network of around VMs?  [Need to listen better next time]

More to follow…

 

EMC World 2012 part 1 – VNX/VNXe

Plenty of announcements this morning from EMC World 2012. I’ll try to group them into different posts.  Today’s post Unified Storage Division VNX/VNXe announcements:

  • New VNXe3150 which fills out the lower end of the VNXe line and replaces VNX3100 (but will coexist for awhile). The new storage system supports 2.5″ drives, has quadcore processing, now supports SSDs as a static storage tier (no FAST yet) and has a 100 drive capacity supports 3.5″ 3TB drives and has dual 10GbE port frontend interface cards.  The new system provides 50% performance increase and capacity increase in the same rack.
  • New VNX software now supports 256 read-writeable snapshots per LUN, previous limits were 8 (I think). EMC has also improved storage pooling for both VNX and VNXe which now allows multiple types of RAID groups per pool (previously they all had to be the same RAID level) and rebalancing across RAID groups for better performance, new larger RAID 5 & 6 groups (why?).   They now offer better storage analytics with VMware vCenter which provides impressive integration with FAST VP and FAST CACHE, supplying performance and capacity information, allowing faster diagnosis and resolution of storage issues under VMware.

Stay tuned, more to come I’m sure

 

OpenFlow, the next wave in networking

OpenFlow Logo (from www.OpenFlow.org)
OpenFlow Logo (from www.OpenFlow.org)

Read two articles recently about how OpenFlow‘s Software Defined Networking is going to take over the networking world, just like VMware and it’s brethern have taken over the server world.

Essentially, OpenFlow is a network protocol that separates the control management of a networking switch or router (control plane) from it’s data path activities (data plane).  For most current switches, control management consists of vendor supplied,  special purpose software which differs for each and every vendor and sometimes even varies  across vendor product lines.

In contrast, data path activities are fairly similar for most of today’s switches and is generally implemented in custom hardware so as to be lightening fast.

However, the main problem with today’s routers and switches is that there is no standard way to talk or even modify the control management software to modify it’s data plane activities.

OpenFlow to the rescue

OpenFlow changes all that. First it specifies a protocol or interface between a switches control plane and it’s data plane.  This allows that control plane to run on any server and still provide management for a router or switch data path activities.  By doing this OpenFlow provides Software Defined Networking (SDN).

Once OpenFlow switches and control software are in place, the SDN can better control and manage networking activity to optimize for performance, utilization or any other number of parameters.

Products are starting to come out which support OpenFlow protocols.  For example, a new OpenFlow compatible ethernet switch is available from IBM (their RackSwitch G8264 & G8264T) and HP has recently released OpenFlow software for their ethernet switches (see OpenFlow blog post).  At least some in the industry are starting to see the light.

Google implements OpenFlow

The surprising thing is that one article I read recently is about Google running an OpenFlow network on it’s data center backbone (see Wired’s Google goes with the Flow article).   In the article it discusses how a top Google scientist talked about how they implemented OpenFlow for their internal network architecture at the Open Networking Summit yesterday.

Google’s internal network connects it’s multiple data centers together to provide Google Apps and other web services.  Apparently, Google has been secretly creating/buying OpenFlow networking equipment and creating it’s own OpenFlow software. This new SDN they have constructed has given them the ability to change their internal network backbone in minutes which would have taken days, weeks or even months before. Also, OpenFlow has given Google the ability to simulate network changes ahead of time allowing them to see what potential changes will do for them.

One key metric is that Google now runs their backbone network close to 100% utilized at all times whereas before they worked hard to get it to 30-40% utilization.

Nicira revolutionizes networking

The other article I read was about a startup called Nicira out of Palo Alto, CA which is taking OpenFlow to the next level by defining a Network Virtual Platform (NVP) and Open vSwitches (OVS).

  • A NVP  is a network virtualization platform controller which consists of cluster of x86 servers running the network virtualization control software providing a RESTful web services API and defines/manages virtual networks.
  • An OVS is an Open vSwitch software designed for remote control that either runs as a complete software only service in various hypervisors or as gateway software connecting VLANs running on proprietary vendor hardware to the SDN.

OVS gateway services can be used with current generation switches/routers or be used with high performing, simple L3 switches specifically designed for OpenFlow management.

Nonetheless, with NVP and OVS deployed over your networking hardware it removes many of the limitations inherent in current networking services.  For example, Nicira network virtualization, allows the movement of application workloads across subnets while maintaining L2 adjacency, scalable multi-tenant isolation and the ability to repurpose physical infrastrucuture on demand.

By virtualizing the network, the network switching/router hardware becomes a pool of IP-switching services, available to be repurposed and/or reprogrammed at a moments notice.  Not unlike what VMware did with servers through virtualization.

Customers for Nicira include eBay, RackSpace and AT&T to name just a few.  It seems that networking virtualization is especially valuable to big web services and cloud services companies.

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Virtualization takes on another industry, this time networking and changes it forever.

We really need something like OpenFlow for storage.  Taking storage administration out of the vendor hands and placing it elsewhere.  Defining an open storage management protocol that all storage vendors would honor.

The main problem with storage virtualization today is it’s kind of like VLANs, all vendor specific.   Without, something like a standard protocol, that proscribes a storage management plane’s capabilities and a storage data plane’s capabilities we can not really have storage virtualization.

Why EMC is doing Project Lightening and Thunder

Picture of atmospheric lightening striking ground near a building at night
rayo 3 by El Garza (cc) (from Flickr)

Although technically Project Lightening and Thunder represent some interesting offshoots of EMC software, hardware and system prowess,  I wonder why they would decide to go after this particular market space.

There are plenty of alternative offerings in the PCIe NAND memory card space.  Moreover, the PCIe card caching functionality, while interesting is not that hard to replicate and such software capability is not a serious barrier of entry for HP, IBM, NetApp and many, many others.  And the margins cannot be that great.

So why get into this low margin business?

I can see a couple of reasons why EMC might want to do this.

  • Believing in the commoditization of storage performance.  I have had this debate with a number of analysts over the years but there remain many out there that firmly believe that storage performance will become a commodity sooner, rather than later.  By entering the PCIe NAND card IO buffer space, EMC can create a beachhead in this movement that helps them build market awareness, higher manufacturing volumes, and support expertise.  As such, when the inevitable happens and high margins for enterprise storage start to deteriorate, EMC will be able to capitalize on this hard won, operational effectiveness.
  • Moving up the IO stack.  From an applications IO request to the disk device that actually services it is a long journey with multiple places to make money.  Currently, EMC has a significant share of everything that happens after the fabric switch whether it is FC,  iSCSI, NFS or CIFS.  What they don’t have is a significant share in the switch infrastructure or anywhere on the other (host side) of that interface stack.  Yes they have Avamar, Networker, Documentum, and other software that help manage, secure and protect IO activity together with other significant investments in RSA and VMware.   But these represent adjacent market spaces rather than primary IO stack endeavors.  Lightening represents a hybrid software/hardware solution that moves EMC up the IO stack to inside the server.  As such, it represents yet another opportunity to profit from all the IO going on in the data center.
  • Making big data more effective.  The fact that Hadoop doesn’t really need or use high end storage has not been lost to most storage vendors.  With Lightening, EMC has a storage enhancement offering that can readily improve  Hadoop cluster processing.  Something like Lightening’s caching software could easily be tailored to enhance HDFS file access mode and thus, speed up cluster processing.  If Hadoop and big data are to be the next big consumer of storage, then speeding cluster processing will certainly help and profiting by doing this only makes sense.
  • Believing that SSDs will transform storage. To many of us the age of disks is waning.  SSDs, in some form or another, will be the underlying technology for the next age of storage.  The densities, performance and energy efficiency of current NAND based SSD technology are commendable but they will only get better over time.  The capabilities brought about by such technology will certainly transform the storage industry as we know it, if they haven’t already.  But where SSD technology actually emerges is still being played out in the market place.  Many believe that when industry transitions like this happen it’s best to be engaged everywhere change is likely to happen, hoping that at least some of them will succeed. Perhaps PCIe SSD cards may not take over all server IO activity but if it does, not being there or being late will certainly hurt a company’s chances to profit from it.

There may be more reasons I missed here but these seem to be the main ones.  Of the above, I think the last one, SSD rules the next transition is most important to EMC.

They have been successful in the past during other industry transitions.  If anything they have shown similar indications with their acquisitions by buying into transitions if they don’t own them, witness Data Domain, RSA, and VMware.  So I suspect the view in EMC is that doubling down on SSDs will enable them to ride out the next storm and be in a profitable place for the next change, whatever that might be.

And following lightening, Project Thunder

Similarly, Project Thunder seems to represent EMC doubling their bet yet again on the SSDs.  Just about every month I talk to another storage startup coming out in the market providing another new take on storage using every form of SSD imaginable.

However, Project Thunder as envisioned today is not storage, but rather some form of external shared memory.  I have heard this before, in the IBM mainframe space about 15-20 years ago.  At that time shared external memory was going to handle all mainframe IO processing and the only storage left was going to be bulk archive or migration storage – a big threat to the non-IBM mainframe storage vendors at the time.

One problem then was that the shared DRAM memory of the time was way more expensive than sophisticated disk storage and the price wasn’t coming down fast enough to counteract increased demand.  The other problem was making shared memory work with all the existing mainframe applications was not easy.  IBM at least had control over the OS, HW and most of the larger applications at the time.  Yet they still struggled to make it usable and effective, probably some lesson here for EMC.

Fast forward 20 years and NAND based SSDs are the right hardware technology to make  inexpensive shared memory happen.  In addition, the road map for NAND and other SSD technologies looks poised to continue the capacity increase and price reductions necessary to compete effectively with disk in the long run.

However, the challenges then and now seem as much to do with software that makes shared external memory universally effective as with the hardware technology to implement it.  Providing a new storage tier in Linux, Windows and/or VMware is easier said than done. Most recent successes have usually been offshoots of SCSI (iSCSI, FCoE, etc).  Nevertheless, if it was good for mainframes then, it certainly good for Linux, Windows and VMware today.

And that seems to be where Thunder is heading, I think.

Comments?

 

Comments?

Top 10 blog posts for 2011

Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! by Jakob Montrasio (cc) (from Flickr)
Merry Christmas! Buon Natale! Frohe Weihnachten! by Jakob Montrasio (cc) (from Flickr)

Happy Holidays.

I ranked my blog posts using a ratio of hits to post age and have identified with the top 10 most popular posts for 2011 (so far):

  1. Vsphere 5 storage enhancements – We discuss some of the more interesting storage oriented Vsphere 5 announcements that included a new DAS storage appliance, host based (software) replication service, storage DRS and other capabilities.
  2. Intel’s 320 SSD 8MB problem – We discuss a recent bug (since fixed) which left the Intel 320 SSD drive with only 8MB of storage, we presumed the bug was in the load leveling logic/block mapping logic of the drive controller.
  3. Analog neural simulation or digital neuromorphic computing vs AI – We talk about recent advances to providing both analog (MIT) and digital versions (IBM) of neural computation vs. the more traditional AI approaches to intelligent computing.
  4. Potential data loss using SSD RAID groups – We note the possibility for catastrophic data loss when using equally used SSDs in RAID groups.
  5. How has IBM researched changed – We examine some of the changes at IBM research that have occurred over the past 50 years or so which have led to much more productive research results.
  6. HDS buys BlueArc – We consider the implications of the recent acquisition of BlueArc storage systems by their major OEM partner, Hitachi Data Systems.
  7. OCZ’s latest Z-Drive R4 series PCIe SSD – Not sure why this got so much traffic but its OCZ’s latest PCIe SSD device with 500K IOPS performance.
  8. Will Hybrid drives conquer enterprise storage – We discuss the unlikely possibility that Hybrid drives (NAND/Flash cache and disk drive in the same device) will be used as backend storage for enterprise storage systems.
  9. SNIA CDMI plugfest for cloud storage and cloud data services – We were invited to sit in on a recent SNIA Cloud Data Management Initiative (CDMI) plugfest and talk to some of the participants about where CDMI is heading and what it means for cloud storage and data services.
  10. Is FC dead?! – What with the introduction of 40GbE FCoE just around the corner, 10GbE cards coming down in price and Brocade’s poor YoY quarterly storage revenue results, we discuss the potential implications on FC infrastructure and its future in the data center.

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I would have to say #3, 5, and 9 were the most fun for me to do. Not sure why, but #10 probably generated the most twitter traffic. Why the others were so popular is hard for me to understand.

Comments?

Pure Storage surfaces

1 controller X 1 storage shelf (c) 2011 Pure Storage (from their website)
1 controller X 1 storage shelf (c) 2011 Pure Storage (from their website)

We were talking with Pure Storage last week, another SSD startup which just emerged out of stealth mode today.  Somewhat like SolidFire which we discussed a month or so ago, Pure Storage uses only SSDs to provide primary storage.  In this case, they are supporting a FC front end, with an all SSDs backend, and implementing internal data deduplication and compression, to try to address the needs of enterprise tier 1 storage.

Pure Storage is in final beta testing with their product and plan to GA sometime around the end of the year.

Pure Storage hardware

Their system is built around MLC SSDs which are available from many vendors but with a strategic investment from Samsung, currently use that vendor’s storage.  As we know, MLC has write endurance limitations but Pure Storage was built from the ground up knowing they were going to use this technology and have built their IP to counteract these issues.

The system is available in one or two controller configurations, with an Infiniband interconnect between the controllers, 6Gbps SAS backend, 48GB of DRAM per controller for caching purposes, and NV-RAM for power outages.  Each controller has 12-cores supplied by 2-Intel Xeon processor chips.

With the first release they are limiting the controllers to one or two (HA option) but their storage system is capable of clustering together many more, maybe even up to 8-controllers using the Infiniband back end.

Each storage shelf provides 5.5TB of raw storage using 2.5″ 256GB MLC SSDs.  It looks like each controller can handle up to 2-storage shelfs with the HA (dual controller option) supporting 4 drive shelfs for up to 22TB of raw storage.

Pure Storage Performance

Although these numbers are not independently verified, the company says a single controller (with 1-storage shelf) they can do 200K sustained 4K random read IOPS, 2GB/sec bandwidth, 140K sustained write IOPS, or 500MB/s of write bandwidth.  A dual controller system (with 2-storage shelfs) can achieve 300K random read IOPS, 3GB/sec bandwidth, 180K write IOPS or 1GB/sec of write bandwidth.  They also claim that they can do all this IO with an under 1 msec. latency.

One of the things they pride themselves on is consistent performance.  They have built their storage such that they can deliver this consistent performance even under load conditions.

Given the amount of SSDs in their system this isn’t screaming performance but is certainly up there with many enterprise class systems sporting over 1000 disks.  The random write performance is not bad considering this is MLC.  On the other hand the sequential write bandwidth is probably their weakest spec and reflects their use of MLC flash.

Purity software

One key to Pure Storage (and SolidFire for that matter) is their use of inline data compression and deduplication. By using these techniques and basing their system storage on MLC, Pure Storage believes they can close the price gap between disk and SSD storage systems.

The problems with data reduction technologies is that not all environments can benefit from them and they both require lots of CPU power to perform well.  Pure Storage believes they have the horsepower (with 12 cores per controller) to support these services and are focusing their sales activities on those (VMware, Oracle, and SQL server) environments which have historically proven to be good candidates for data reduction.

In addition, they perform a lot of optimizations in their backend data layout to prolong the life of MLC storage. Specifically, they use a write chunk size that matches the underlying MLC SSDs page width so as not to waste endurance with partial data writes.  Also they migrate old data to new locations occasionally to maintain “data freshness” which can be a problem with MLC storage if the data is not touched often enough.  Probably other stuff as well, but essentially they are tuning their backend use to optimize endurance and performance of their SSD storage.

Furthermore, they have created a new RAID 3D scheme which provides an adaptive parity scheme based on the number of available drives that protects against any dual SSD failure.  They provide triple parity, dual parity for drive failures and another parity for unrecoverable bit errors within a data payload.  In most cases, a failed drive will not induce an immediate rebuild but rather a reconfiguration of data and parity to accommodate the failing drive and rebuild it onto new drives over time.

At the moment, they don’t have snapshots or data replication but they said these capabilities are on their roadmap for future delivery.

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In the mean time, all SSD storage systems seem to be coming out of the wood work. We mentioned SolidFire, but WhipTail is another one and I am sure there are plenty more in stealth waiting for the right moment to emerge.

I was at a conference about two months ago where I predicted that all SSD systems would be coming out with little of the engineering development of storage systems of yore. Based on the performance available from a single SSD, one wouldn’t need 100s of SSDs to generate 100K IOPS or more.  Pure Storage is doing this level of IO with only 22 MLC SSDs and a high-end, but essentially off-the-shelf controller.

Just imagine what one could do if you threw some custom hardware at it…

Comments?

VMware’s CEO at EMCWorld

At EMCWorld earlier this week, Paul Maritz CEO of VMware took center stage and talked about what they were doing to help customers in their journey to the cloud. From his perspective, there seems to be 3 phases to the journey but it all starts with virtualization.

When companies start down this path they often start with virtualizing stuff they don’t have to ask to get virtualized.  Such things as file and print services are first to get virtualized and generally cap out at 20% of the servers being virtualized in the data center.  This ends phase 1.

After that, it gets harder

The trouble comes when IT is considered a tax on the rest of the business.  As such, there is little incentive from any application owner/business unit to make IT services more efficient.

Then the catalyst to further virtualization often is the failure of physical infrastructure.  IT quickly responds to such problems with virtualization as a temporary solution to getting the service back online.  But as the application owner sees the speed of response and provisioning with no concurrent loss in SLAs, applications are left on virtualized infrastructure.

Once one business unit takes the plunge with the advantages readily apparent, the rest follow.  Then the data center quickly goes from 20% to 60% virtualized.  This ends phase 2.

There wasn’t a lot if discussion on what it takes to go from 60% to 100% virtualized which he calls phase 3.  But everything VMware is rolling out new these days is to make that final transformation even easier.

VMware solutions to get data center 100% virtualized

It all starts with vSphere the management interface for a multitude of VMs that now populate the data center providing resource pooling and scheduling of virtualized machines on physical server environments.

Next comes vShield that surrounds these virtual machines with a logical security perimeter that can migrate along with the VM as it moves from server to server or from the data center to the cloud and back again.

Finally vCloud Director which provides for seamless movement of VMs from private to public cloud and back again.

As proof of all this becoming more important to the data center, Paul showed a slide where more and more of VMware’s automated services are being used in their biggest customer environments. For example, since 2008

  • the use of vMotion (VM migration) has gone from 53% to 86%
  • the use of HA (high availability) has gone from 41% to 74%
  • the use of DRS (dynamic resource scheduling) has gone from 37% to 64%
  • the use of storage vMotion (data migration) has gone from 27% to 65%
  • the use of Fault Tolerance has gone from N/A to 23%

Evidently, automation is becoming more important to many VMware customers.

Application development changes as well

But the transformation of applications will be even more significant. In the past, developers had to concern themselves with the complexity of O/S interfaces, physical hardware, networking and storage infrastructure and end-user interfaces.

But today developers have moved beyond these concerns to reduce the complexity in application development and by using technologies such as SpringSource, Ruby on Rails and other development frameworks. These frameworks are optimized for development and de-emphasize the compiling and physical optimizations needed in the past that today’s hardware no longer needs.

To this approach, now VMware adds an open source project they have been working on for some time called Cloud Foundry.  To become the new cloud O/S of the future one will now need only to code to Cloud Foundry services but then can operate anywhere on any cloud compatible infrastructure. The Foundry is released with Apache 2 open source license and is available to anyone to use.  [How does this differ from OpenStack?]

End-user computing changes

The final transformation is in the end-user computing delivery platform. As Paul said, the post-PC world has arrived.  Mobile environments are becoming more pervasive and thus, deploying computing/application services to these environments are taking higher priority from the more normal desktop deployments.

To this end, VMware is working on two projects Horizon and MVP.  Both of which are attempts to create easier end-device deployment.  One capability he discussed was a virtual smart phone that can be secured and deployed on any number of mobile devices providing a standard set of smart phone services that can be used by application developers to create one app for all smart phones [at least that’s the vision].

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I had taken notes at Paul’s keynote session but held off blogging about it until now as they didn’t seem to be anything specific on EMC announcements.

Comments?

VMware disaster recovery

Thunderstorms over Alexandria, VA by mehul.antani (cc) (from Flickr)
Thunderstorms over Alexandria, VA by mehul.antani (cc) (from Flickr)

I did an article awhile ago for TechTarget on Virtual (machine) Disaster Recovery and discussed what was then the latest version of VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) v1.0 and some of it’s capabilities.

Well its been a couple of years since that came out and I thought it would be an appropriate time to discuss some updates to that product and other facilities that bear on virtual machine disaster recovery of today.

SRM to the rescue

Recall that VMware’s SRM is essentially a run book automation tool for system failover.  Using SRM, an administrator defines the physical and logical mapping between a primary site configuration of (protected site in SRM parlance) virtual machines, networking, and data stores and a secondary site (recovery site to SRM) configuration.

Once this mapping is complete, the administrator then creates recovery scripts (recovery plans to SRM) which take the recovery site in a step-by-step fashion from an “inactive” to an “active” state.  With the recovery scripts in hand, data replication can then be activated and monitoring (using storage replication adaptors, SRAs to SRM) can begin.  Once all that was ready and operating, SRM can provide one button failover to the recovery site.

SRM v4.1 supports the following:

  • NFS data stores can now be protected as well as iSCSI and FC LUN data stores.  Recall that a VMFS  (essentially a virtual machine device or drive letter) or a VM data store can be hosted on LUNs or as NFS files.  NFS data stores have recently become more popular with the proliferation of virtual machines under vSphere 4.1.
  • Raw device mode (RDM) LUNs can now be protected. Recall that RDM is another way to access devices directly for performance sensitive VMs eliminating the need to use a data store and  hyper-visor IO overhead.
  • Shared recovery sites are now supported. As such, one recovery site can now support multiple protected sites.  In this way a single secondary site can support failover from multiple primary sites.
  • Role based access security is now supported for recovery scripts and other SRM administration activities. In this way fine grained security roles can be defined that allow protection over unauthorized use of SRM capabilities.
  • Recovery site alerting is now supported. SRM now fully monitors recovery site activity and can report on and alert operations staff when problems occur which may impact failover to the recovery site.
  • SRM test and actual failover can now be initiated and monitored directly from vCenter serve. This provides the vCenter administrator significant control over SRM activities.
  • SRM automated testing can now use storage snapshots.  One advantage of SRM is the ability to automate DR testing which can be done onsite using local equipment. Snapshots eliminates the need for storage replication in local DR tests.

There were many other minor enhancements to SRM since v1.0 but these seem the major ones to me.

The only things lacking seem to be some form of automated failback and three way failover.  I’ll talk about 3-way failover later.

But without automated failback, the site administrator must reconfigure the two sites and reverse the designation of protected and recovery sites, re-mirror the data in the opposite direction and recreate recovery scripts to automate bringing the primary site back up.

However, failback is likely not to be as time sensitive as failover and could very well be a scheduled activity, taking place over a much longer time period. This can, of course all be handled automatically by SRM or be done in a more manual fashion.

Other DR capabilities

At last year’s EMCWorld VPLEX was announced which provided for a federation of data centers or as I called it at the time Data-at-a-Distance (DaaD).  DaaD together with VMware’s Vmotion could provide a level of  disaster avoidance (see my post on VPLEX surfaces at EMCWorld) previously unattainable.

No doubt cluster services from Microsoft Cluster Server (MSCS), Symantec Veritas Cluster Services (VCS)  and others have also been updated.  In some (mainframe) cluster services, N-way or cascaded failover is starting to be supported.  For example, a 3 way DR scenario has a primary site synchronously replicated to a secondary site which is asynchronously replicated to a third site.  If the region where the primary and secondary site is impacted by a disaster, the tertiary site can be brought online. Such capabilities are not yet available for virtual machine DR but it’s only a matter of time.

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Disaster recovery technologies are not standing still and VMware SRM is no exception. I am sure a couple of years from now SRM will be even more capable and other storage vendors will provide DaaD capabilities to rival VPLEX.   What the cluster services folks will be doing by that time I can’t even imagine.

Comments?