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VPLEX

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Modern businesses are information businesses.  When technology fails, hospitals can’t do MRIs, factory production lines grind to a halt, and credit card transactions no longer go through.  Hence, the expectation for modern datacenters is that the technology cannot fail.  More than 50% of the Global Fortune 500 use VPLEX to deliver on this expectation because VPLEX has proven over the years to be synonymous with application availability.

 

Modern datacenters are also expected to keep up with fast changing business needs and to seamlessly integrate new technologies.  The rapid rise of flash as a storage medium is one example of the pace of change IT practitioners are asked to deal with.  Customers adopt flash for its simplicity and its performance.  At the end of the day, all-flash storage makes IT more productive and equally important, it makes IT’s business partners more productive.  That productivity translates into increased business competitiveness.  The business relies on that competitive edge to thrive.  But how does IT move their operations to all flash storage?  In many cases, time to value is measured in months of lost productivity gains and the migration process is complicated and expensive. Of course, more than 50% of the Global Fortune 500 companies who use VPLEX don’t have this problem because VPLEX streamlines the migration process and cuts down the time to value from months down to days/weeks.

 

EMC has just launched new lightning fast VPLEX hardware platform – the VS6 which is designed and built for speed, scale, and performance to meet the demands of tomorrow’s modern data center, embracing the trend towards deployment of all-flash storage arrays.


VPLEX For All-Flash with the lowest TCO

Recognizing the central importance of all-flash storage to the modern datacenter and to help customers accelerate their time to value, increase their agility, and deliver on non-stop operations, EMC is also offering a a new way customers can speed their adoption of flash and increase the availability and agility of their IT solutions – VPLEX for All Flash.

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VPLEX for All Flash is an appliance model that combines VPLEX hardware and software at a single price per engine that includes an unlimited right to connect any number of EMC’s all-flash arrays for the purposes of protecting and moving workloads.  Any VNX Fx000, Unity AF, XtremIO, or VMAX AF capacity behind VPLEX is included.  When additional performance is needed, additional VPLEX engines can be added to the cluster. If there is a need to connect hybrid arrays, standard VPLEX licensing applies – frame-based for VNX/Unity, brick-based for XtremIO, and capacity-based for VMAX or third-party arrays.

 

VPLEX for All Flash summary

  • Pay per VPLEX engine, and place any EMC All Flash array(s) behind VPLEX
  • Available in Local and Metro versions
  • Available with VS2 or VS6 engines
  • Available in single, dual, or quad engine clusters
  • Paid Premium support is available on the appliance (HW and SW) at an attractive price point

 

If you are modernizing your datacenter with all-flash storage, consider VPLEX for All-Flash. It will accelerate your journey, simplify your availability, and bring new levels of agility that will make you wonder how you ever lived without it!

 

 

Author Bio

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Colin Durocher is a Consultant Product Manager with EMC and has spent over 10 years working on the VPLEX product in a variety of roles within Engineering and Product Management. He currently owns coordination with storage array partners, as well as pushing VPLEX performance and scale to meet increasing customer requirements. He’s also defining future VPLEX product strategy, direction, and innovation.

 

Outside of work, Colin enjoys racquet sports, brewing beer, camping, and spending time with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.

If you are involved in data center management, be it in operational support or infrastructure design, you most likely have evaluated, adapted, and deployed a data availability solution as part of your business continuity and disaster recovery implementation.   EMC VPLEX Continuous Availability solution, an integral part of the EMC’s data protection offering, should be no stranger to you because of its wide market adoption by companies, including a majority of the Global Fortune 500 companies.

 

Building on the VPLEX momentum, we are introducing a new generation of VPLEX, the VS6 platform.  VS6 is designed and built for speed, scale, and performance to meet the demands of tomorrow’s modern data center, embracing the trend towards deployment of all-flash storage arrays.

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VPLEX VS6 delivers 2X performance over VS2 in IOPS and now scales to support 12,000 virtual volumes in Local or Metro deployment.  This is made possible because the underlying new hardware platform was designed with significant headroom in all of its functional areas, including CPUs, memory, I/O ports, and intra and inter communication links.  

VS6.png

 

All front end and back end ports in the VS6 engine have been upgraded to PCI-e Gen3 technology with 16Gb/sec Fibre Channel  I/O modules and the intra-engine communication link uses higher performance InfiniBand (IB) technology instead of an 8Gb/sec Fibre Channel link.  The VS6 platform requires VPLEX GeoSynchrony 6.0 or later software to fully unleash their combined capabilities to better protect the all-flash arrays behind VPLEX.  With reduced latency, roughly 1/3 that of VS2, the new VS6 presents an insignificant I/O data path impact even with high performance all-flash arrays at the back end.

VS2_VS6.png

 

At the system level, VS6 platform is more Rack Unit (RU) space efficient, with the integrated Backup Battery Unit (BBU) in the engine, and embedded management servers known as MMCS A and B, in the base engine.  The resultant space savings in the rack enables you to take advantage of the whitespace in the EMC rack.    You can install your equipment in the upper 15U of the VS6 quad engine configuration or in the upper 25U of the single or dual engine configuration within VPLEX VS6 EMC rack. However, EMC specifies that your equipment should connect only to the upper PDUs.

 

VS6_Rack.png

 

All in all, the new VPLEX VS6 platform builds on the momentum established by VPLEX to accelerate your technology adoption to all flash arrays because it is built for speed, scale, and performance. It makes your IT operation more agile by removing the barriers to migrate data as you perform your technology refresh without disruptions to business critical applications.


Those who are already heavily relying on VPLEX VS2 systems operationally for continuous availability maybe wondering if you can upgrade to the new VS6 platform without any disruptions. Yes, you can, and we will address that important non-disruptive VS2 to VS6 generational upgrade discussion in another blog.  Please stay tuned to the EMC Community Network (ECN) VPLEX community.

 

New solution: VPLEX For All-Flash

We are also excited to announce VPLEX For All-Flash a new solution exclusively for EMC All-Flash arrays. Learn more about it in this blog post. You can also view the latest VPLEX data sheet and specification sheet.

Do you have storage? Do you stretch your vSphere over distance?  Then you’ve probably talked to your EMC rep about VPLEX and running vSphere with VPLEX Continuous Availability.  In fact, you probably use VPLEX to stretch your vSphere cluster between two datacenters.  And lately, you may have heard about VMware’s own solution to this problem, Virtual SAN (VSAN) Stretched Clustering.

 

Since VSAN Stretched Clustering was released in August of 2015, we have seen a steady chain of questions asking about the key differences between VPLEX Metro and VSAN Stretched Clustering.  I thought it would be helpful to call out the main differences and similarities here, in a central location, for everyone to see.  Nothing to hide here folks!

 

The most important point to cover, right from the start, is that VSAN Stretched Clustering is a great solution for running vSphere Metro Storage Cluster (vMSC) between two datacenters! It absolutely works, and does exactly what you need it to do.  VSAN’s stretched solution allows you to use VMware High Availability (HA), Dynamic Resource Scheduler (DRS) and, of course, gain instant vMotion over distance, just like you get with VPLEX.  It also gives you the option of running a VM-based Witness to allow for increased survivability for your VMs in the case of a site or network outage.  VPLEX expert confirmed and approved!


Is it strange for a VPLEX blog to go on about VMware’s awesome VSAN Stretched Clustering solution? Not really. Has this author completely lost his mind?  Not relevant.  I can focus on the excellence of the VSAN solution simply because VSAN and VPLEX don’t really compete.  In truth, VSAN and VPLEX provide many of the same benefits but target separate customers. It all comes down to this.  With VSAN a customer must use all direct-attach storage, and with VPLEX all the storage must come from supported storage arrays behind VPLEX.


This really is the major difference to the customer between the two. Is your storage on your vSphere servers, or do you have a Storage Area Network (SAN)?


There are other differences, of course, that are less glaring and less impactful.  VPLEX supports connectivity between sites using either Fibre Channel (FC) or Internet Protocol (IP), while VSAN is only IP based. Even within the support of IP connectivity there are differences in the recommended minimum setups between VPLEX and VSAN: 3Gbps vs 10Gbps, up to 10ms RTT vs 5ms RTT, layer 2 or 3 connectivity vs layer 2 only.  Finally, there is the fact that, although the new Fault Tolerance (SMP-FT) is not supported in any vMSC environments, VPLEX does support using the older RR-FT for automatic FT recovery of VMs between sites; VSAN does not.


As I’ve said, all of these are minor compared to the major point of leveraging your existing storage infrastructure.  Being able to use XtremIO for VDI, or VMAX for mission critical databases, Unity, or even non-EMC arrays means better performance and higher availability for your VM environment.  As soon as you bring SAN storage into the discussion, VPLEX allows you to take advantage of your existing investments and enables the use of targeted best-of-breed technology.


While VSAN and VPLEX can provide the same benefits and cover the same use case of stretching your VMware cluster between two datacenters, with all the benefits an Active/Active solution provides, if you have any existing storage arrays VPLEX is your only choice between the two.  VPLEX Metro is trusted by thousands of customers to provide Continuous Availability for VMware vSphere clusters.  The arrival of VSAN Stretched Clustering doesn’t change that trust.  Pick the option that best fits your environment, and be happy with the knowledge that your vSphere environment and your VMs have been given Metro superpowers!

Last December we released GeoSynchrony 5.5 SP1 when we started supporting UNMAP for XtremIO for the basic Local case. Today we are glad to announce 5.5 SP2 with complete UNMAP support for XtremIO: Local Mirroring and Metro cases. The UNMAP support offers the following benefits to your VPLEX-XtremIO environment:

 

  • Reclamation of VM storage
  • Automatic reclamation of Windows Server storage due to data movement or deletion
  • Reduced the storage use on XtremIO backend arrays with VPLEX


This together with existing support for XCOPY, ATS, and WRITE_SAME, VPLEX now supports all of the VAAI primitives. Here is Itzik Reich, XtremIO CTO with more detail on the release. Also check out this great demo to see how UNMAP can be used to free up storage space that is claimed with thin provisioning through VPLEX.

 

We are very excited to announce VPLEX support for VMAX All Flash systems. Introducing an all flash array like VMAX All Flash is a great way of modernizing your datacenter. With data services matched by none and the all flash performance you are getting the best enterprise storage that can be the rock bed for your IT transformation efforts. Naturally, introducing VMAX All Flash into your datacenter means migrating hundreds of applications. Migration is a very important factor to consider if those workloads are using a storage array that is not VMAX. Storage tech refresh is one of the most daunting IT infrastructure projects that involves:

  • Having a migration plan involving pulling internal resources together
  • Planning the maintenance windows
  • Budget for professional services
  • Risk of things going wrong and losing data
  • Time to value for the new VMAX All Flash system

This is where VPLEX comes in. Enter online tech refresh. Nothing needs to go down, no more weekend maintenance windows and huge savings on that migration service bill.

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Click on the image to see animation

 

Here is how VPLEX does it. VPLEX detects the new array, in this case VMAX All Flash, and copies the volumes from the old array to the new one until they are 100% in sync. Once in sync, VPLEX routes the IOs to the new array. At this point, after making sure everything is working properly, you can disconnect and retire the old array. While all this is happening, the host continues to read and write to the virtual volumes presented by VPLEX. With VPLEX in your environment you will never have to spend another weekend for storage tech refresh. VPLEX data mobility goes beyond the tech refresh use case to any mobility from patching servers to load balancing of storage arrays. With more than an Exabyte of data protected, moved and tiered, VPLEX is the most trusted solution when it comes to continuous availability and non-disruptive data mobility.

We previously announced the intent to move VPLEX Virtual Edition to End-of-Life (EOL). Today we are announcing the end of life effective February 8th 2016. All current VPLEX/VE customers will enjoy continued support for 3 years from the EOL date i.e., February 8th 2019.

 

EMC’s approach to managing product life cycle is based on serving our customers in the most effective way possible. It is with this commitment in mind that EMC has taking this step to end development on VPLEX Virtual Edition.  While VPLEX/VE is an innovative and unique product, EMC decided to better invest our resources in enhancing VPLEX core platform to better meet the demands of our growing market share. As part of the EOL efforts, VPLEX has removed the web content related to VPLEX Virtual Edition and the VPLEX Virtual Edition Trial.  Customers will continue to have access to VPLEX/VE related documentation and downloads at support.emc.com.  The VPLEX family would like to thank all of you for your interest, and we look forward to improvements to the VPLEX core platform in the future.

We are very excited to share with you VPLEX CloudArray integration that extends the key VPLEX use case of mobility to public and private cloud storage. The use case for cloud storage behind VPLEX hinges on frequency of use: cold data that is accessed much less frequently can be pushed to volumes on CloudArray and its extension to public and private cloud. This saves valuable primary storage and helps you take advantage of more cost effective cloud storage for cold data. More details in this great white paper by Don Kirouac.


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Following are some use cases that show the need for varying frequency of data access:

 

Splunk host/warm/cold/frozen tiering - CA to provide frozen/cold tiers

Splunk is an application that collects logs from datacenter equipment and enables query functionality on those logs.  It collects enormous amounts of data over time.  Since the more recent information is generally more interesting to queries / analytics, Splunk has the ability to tier data (typically by time) into hot/warm/cold/frozen tiers.  The frozen tier is not included in any queries at all unless it is promoted back to cold. It is possible to store cold / frozen tiers on CloudArray so that faster and more expensive primary storage arrays are freed up.  They would only have to serve the hot/warm tiers in this case.

 

Microsoft Exchange archive mailboxes

Due to cost concerns, users are often provided mailboxes which are too small.  Users can then use archive mailboxes to store older emails for posterity and this is common practice.  Exchange even allows one to setup policies to automatically move older emails to an archive mailbox. With CloudArray, it is possible to host the inbox on primary storage and archive mailboxes on cloud-based storage for lower cost.  Since archive mailboxes are accessed less frequently, CloudArray provides adequate performance to host these.

 

Oracle and DB2 Database partitioning by key (i.e. timestamp)

Databases such as Oracle 12c and DB2 offer the capability to partition tables by a primary key – which could be a date.  In this way, older data can be stored in a separate table which can live on slower storage – such as CloudArray.  Since it is touched less frequently by database queries and since the database queries that do access these records tend to be Decision Support workloads (sequential in nature) the performance of CloudArray is appropriate for hosting this older data.

 

SQL Server snapshot / backup long term retention, manual tiering

Database administrators often use snapshots for operational recovery of their databases.  The older the snapshot, the less likely it is to be used.  With VPLEX and CloudArray, it is possible to migrate snapshots from the primary array to the Cloud so that it can be deleted from the primary array.  This frees up space on the primary array and lowers the total cost of keeping these various copies of the database.

 

Feel free to share how you plan to take advantage of the cloud tiering capability of VPLEX. We are eager to know.

UPDATE: Complete UNMAP Support in SP2 available from 4/22/2016: Complete UNMAP support for XtremIO

 

Thin provisioning is a great way of getting the most of your valuable storage. This is especially important in case of XtremIO which is an all flash array of highest performance level. With 5.5.1 VPLEX supports VMware VAAI UNMAP command. The newly added support for UNMAP allows VPLEX to free unused blocks from thin volumes provided by XtremIO arrays.  With this capability, you can now reduce the size of thin volumes when you move VMs or delete content from ESXI hosts and even within certain VMs.  The ability to use UNMAP is added to the already existing support for VMware VAAI commands like ATS, XCOPY, and WRITESAME.

 

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For the VPLEX 5.5 SP1 release, the use of UNMAP is limited to XtremIO arrays and VPLEX Local volumes only. At this time VPLEX Metro volumes, and VPLEX volumes with local mirrors are not yet supported. Additional support for UNMAP on XtremIO array and VPLEX will be released in follow on versions of VPLEX software. Stay tuned!

With GeoSynchrony 5.5 Patch 1, we are really excited to announce a major scale up of the MetroPoint topology to 4500 virtual volumes (more than 200% increase!). This enhancement in scale is very much in line with VPLEX product strategy of being focused on the core mission of eliminating planned and unplanned downtime in your environment.

 

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We launched the MetroPoint configuration in 2014 as a unique three site deployment of VPLEX Metro together with RecoverPoint. MetroPoint is more than sum of its parts: VPLEX Metro offers continuous availability over metro distances and RecoverPoint offers continuous remote replication over long distances for disaster recovery. In a MetroPoint topology a single DR site/copy protects both the metro sites. The same DR copy can be used to recover either of the metro sites thereby providing resiliency to entire regional disruptions. Many of VPLEX's largest enterprise customers from Telkom Indonesia to Societe Generale to Dow Corning have protected their continuous availability environment with the long distance DR site protection in a MetroPoint topology.

Monitoring performance is very valuable to IT infrastructure staff to troubleshoot potential performance issues or take actions like balancing workloads across the storage arrays that are behind VPLEX. We are really excited to announce the first release, v1.0 (release notes), of the new VPLEX Performance Monitor, a performance monitoring tool that gives users visibility into virtual volume performance (no matter which array it is on) for troubleshooting and analyzing trends in IO traffic going through VPLEX. The tool is free with VPLEX GeoSynchrony and can be downloaded here. Check out this great demo:

 

 

VPLEX Performance Monitor is a new stand-alone feature designed to give users the visibility into how their environment is performing for the purposes of debugging and trend analysis. This will allow customers to review the performance of their volumes over long periods of time, up to 30 days, and to inspect specific performance at targeted times. The tool is customer installable and a configurable VM.

 

VPLEX Performance Monitor charts the following virtual volume performance metrics and allows users to zoom in and out of regions of interest:

  • IOPS
  • Read Bandwidth
  • Write Bandwidth
  • Read Latency
  • Write Latency

The Advantages of Data Services Transparency

by Colin Durocher

 

 

In Part I of this post, I established that VPLEX is singularly focused on adding mobility and availability to application environments while not subtracting other data services from the overall solution.  I discussed how this purity of mission is behind VPLEX’s success. In this post (part II), I argue by way of example, why mobility/availability aside, customers are generally better served leveraging the fit-for-purpose capabilities of all of the products making up a solution rather than relying on the virtualization layer to provide all the data services.  I do this with a detailed look at space efficiency, operational and disaster recovery, and copy services.

 

Space Efficiency

 

One of the main competitive products to VPLEX makes a lot of noise about compression and the space savings it makes possible.  Capacity savings are especially important when raw capacity is relatively more expensive than performance (i.e. with AFAs).  The VPLEX equivalent solution would include XtremIO, bringing both compression and de-duplication to the table.  XtremIO + VPLEX customers get this “always-on” space efficiency functionality compromise-free.

 

Our competition performs compression at the virtualization layer, using enormous amounts of CPU processing power and cutting the performance of the solution to a fraction of what it otherwise would be.  End result is that the VPLEX solution delivers better space savings (c/o inline de-dupe and compression) with no performance loss vs. native array performance. Competition delivers mediocre space savings and has introduced a major bottleneck into the environment in the process (i.e. storage silos fronted by over-burdened dual-controller storage virtualization).  This clearly shows the performance advantage of offloading data services.  As more workloads transition to flash, this VPLEX performance advantage will only grow.

 

Disaster and Operational Recovery

 

This is not usually the first place that competitors try to poke VPLEX in the eye but I wanted to bring it up to make three points supporting the overall argument:

 

  1. EMC offers the best operational recovery solution in the industry in the form of RecoverPoint (RP) and this is available with all EMC storage arrays as well as with VPLEX to serve heterogeneous environments.   RP customers who understand the value it brings with its continuous data protection (CDP) would not want to trade that off in the process of virtualizing their storage.  With VPLEX, they can have their cake and eat it too.
  2. When it comes to availability, MetroPoint offers a unique 3-site solution that combines continuous availability between two primary sites, independent CDP at each of them and continuous disaster recovery (DR) to a single third-site copy. Continuous DR means that through a site failure, DR replication instantly fails over without the loss of a single replicated write.  The DR SLA is never violated.  No competitor can currently touch that.  But again, you wouldn’t see this on a direct comparison of VPLEX vs its competitors. The power of MetroPoint is in the combined solution.
  3. Recently we had a large banking customer with a long history of using SRDF for DR going back to DMX days.  Because of the trust they had built up with SRDF over many years of experience, they did not want to switch replication technologies.  With VPLEX, they can continue to use their preferred DR technology without issue.  This customer wanted to use VPLEX to virtualize their DR site too.   Consistent with our DO NO HARM principle, we are making changes to allow the SRDF R2 devices to be encapsulated by VPLEX.  I raise this example because sometimes the choice of data services is more than a financial or spec-sheet based decision. It is sometimes an emotional one based on trust or comfort.  This is also a great example of investment protection. With VPLEX, this customer is able to leverage the investment made in SRDF (licenses, training, experience) while benefitting from the addition of VPLEX’s mobility and availability.

 

Copy Services

 

I could write here about any of EMC’s storage platforms as they all have great copy services implementations but let me again take the example of XtremIO which has some unique capabilities in this area.  XtremIO allows you to:

  • Instantly make writeable snapshots without any data/metadata bloat (thanks to native always-on deduplication)
  • Make snaps of snaps of snaps, ad infinitum
  • Combine any set of snaps into consistency groups (even overlapping ones)
  • Refresh a snap from a snap, prod from a snap, or a snap from prod
  • Do all this without any performance penalties associated to the copies

 

In other words, they are a state of the art copy services implementation that would compare favorably to any other implementation out there.  If you were to virtualize an XtremIO array with one of our competitors, you would lose much of this functionality and be left with the limits inherent in an outdated design not optimized for the flash era.  How is that a good thing?

 

Speaking of limits… Typically snaps and clones count against the scalability limits of the virtualization platform itself.  With VPLEX, this is only the case if the copy is actually presented through VPLEX to a host. Copies for recovery purposes don’t typically get presented to hosts and copies for test & dev may not require the VPLEX mobility and availability data services and thus can be presented directly from the array.  This gives VPLEX a practical scale advantage vs. its competition, if not one that is immediately apparent on the spec sheet.

 

There are many additional examples beyond those I’ve outlined above where leveraging the native data services of the virtualized storage array is a winning proposition but I don’t want to belabor the point. The bottom line is that EMC products are laser-focused on doing what they do best, and hence they do those things very well. Customers are well served when they allow all that value to shine through the solution.  As we covered in part I of this post, VPLEX is focused on availability.  Competitors to VPLEX, on the other hand, aim to be jack of all trades - an attractive proposition until you consider that they may also be master of none.

 

 

 

About Colin Durocher...

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Colin Durocher is a Consultant Product Manager with EMC and has spent over 10 years working on the VPLEX product in a variety of roles within Engineering and Product Management. He currently owns coordination with storage array partners, as well as pushing VPLEX performance and scale to meet increasing customer requirements. He’s also defining future VPLEX product strategy, direction, and innovation.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys racquet sports, brewing beer, camping, and spending time with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.

VPLEX hits a key milestone

If there is one solution for application continuity as elegant as an uninterrupted power supply is for power continuity, it must be EMC’s VPLEX. My colleague Colin Durocher recently shared our laser focus on Continuous Availability when it comes to product strategy and here are some stories our customers shared with us when VPLEX saved the day, thanks to that focus. Today I am very excited to announce that VPLEX hit the 100 million hours of operations, more than 10,000 years of keeping mission critical applications always on!

 

We are also announcing GeoSynchrony 5.5 (software that powers VPLEX) with some great feature additions for ease of use, performance and scale enhancements and VMware SRM integration:

 

Easy provisioning for VMAX3 and XtremIO

VPLEX Integrated Array Services (VIAS) functionality cuts down storage provisioning from a laborious 45 step process across multiple UIs to 5 simples steps within VPLEX Unisphere UI. With GeoSynchrony 5.5 this simplified provisioning of VIAS is extended to:

VMware SRM integration

VPLEX works seamlessly with VMware stretched clusters to deliver cross datacenter business continuity and mobility. With 5.5 the active-active deployment is extended to VMware's Site Recovery Manager (SRM) through a VPLEX SRA. This integration means ability to meet stringent SLAs for business critical applications and data:

  • Zero RTO/RPO for planned failovers
  • Zero RPO for unplanned failovers

For additional protection against data corruption they can additionally deploy RecoverPoint resulting in a MetroPoint topology.

Performance and Scale

With GeoSynchrony 5.5, VPLEX delivers improved performance for transaction intensive workloads with Optimal Path Management—optimally assigning virtual volumes to directors thereby reducing latency and increasing IOPS. Performance improvements:

  • Up to 25% faster for Local
  • Up to 10% faster for Metro

Note: This performance enhancement is targeted primarily for transaction intensive workloads and is available upon request.

 

There are also scale improvements that matter especially with a highly scalable enterprise platform like VMAX3. VPLEX now supports up to 10,000 Local Virtual Volumes. Our scale support for 8000 Metro DR1s remains at 8000 but with improved usability in both the UI and CLI. Overall user experience has been improved for the UI and the CLI for day to day maintenance and management of clusters (Local and Metro). Please refer to release notes for all supported cluster environments.

 

Coming soon! Stay tuned to learn more about all new 30-day Performance Monitoring tool! Please note that the new tool will be available as a separate build package installable independently on a VM and not on part of GeoSynchrony 5.5.

 

Last but not the least

If you have not checked these already our technical team has put together some great best practices videos covering a wide range of topics from provisioning to load balancing:

 

Basic VPLEX storage provisioning

VPLEX VPN Troubleshooting

Using solve desktop for VPLEX

FrontEnd load balancing (Choosing the right multipath software)

VPLEX Virtual Volumes

Resolving VPLEX time drift issues

Clarity of Vision, Purity of Mission

by Colin Durocher

 

Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different

            - Michael Porter

 

The storage virtualization market is divided into two camps.  In one camp sit those who aim to commoditize the underlying storage arrays and provide all the needed storage intelligence in one package within the virtualization layer.  I call these the Jacks of all Trades virtualization products.  In the other camp sits EMC’s VPLEX.  VPLEX’s raison d’être is very clear and the data services approach it employs is unique in the industry.  In this post, I lay out the VPLEX mission and data services strategy and I explain why they are key to customers’ success with VPLEX.

 

VPLEX Vision:  Providing peace of mind through continuous uptime and the flexibility to move applications (and data) anytime, anywhere

 

VPLEX is an inter-array data services platform.  VPLEX’s mission is to keep applications running, no matter what happens.  It does this by providing availability and mobility-related data services.  These generally break down into 2 core use cases:

  • Eliminate planned downtime:
    • Tech Refresh of virtualized arrays
    • Storage Tiering and Load Balancing
    • Maintenance Avoidance
    • Datacenter relocation
  • Eliminate unplanned downtime:
    • Stretched Clustering for protection against site level disasters
    • Local Mirroring to protect against storage failures

 

What about all the other data services that I need to keep my business running?  A core VPLEX goal is to “DO NO HARM” to the storage environment. VPLEX aims to add the above capabilities while not subtracting any existing data-path capabilities.  As a result, VPLEX has adopted a strategy of encapsulating storage and transparently leveraging the existing data services on the underlying arrays.  This provides for investment protection in cases where those data services are bought and paid for, and it provides new VPLEX customers with the capability to select their storage platforms based on their unique capabilities and fitness to the task at hand.  VPLEX provides all the needed data services in the solution, rather than in the product.

 

It is, of course, no coincidence that EMC would employ the pass-through strategy for its virtualization platform as its storage arrays (ie VMAX3) have best-in-class data services. Why would we seek to replace those?  Making use of native array data services allows VPLEX to focus efforts on the core product value proposition – Continuous Availability. Which is why VPLEX is able to offer industry-leading availability for mission critical applications.  This is why customers purchase VPLEX and as a result VPLEX adoption and market share both continue to grow.  [UPDATE: My colleague Parasar documents some customer examples in this recent blog.]

 

Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.

            - Steve Jobs

 

Our competition have all chosen a strategy of replacing the functionality of virtualized arrays with their own data services implementations.  While this can add value in older environments and can certainly simplify licensing in heavily heterogeneous environments, it often renders otherwise superior data services on the arrays completely unusable.  Not surprisingly, they love to setup feature-by-feature comparisons to VPLEX on its own.  Since VPLEX does not (by itself) offer space efficiency or copy services functionality, these comparisons predictably end up very one-sided.  But in the age of converged infrastructure and outcome-minded customers, it is more useful to compare solutions.  In these comparisons, the EMC solution leads the industry by layering best-of-breed availability (VPLEX) over best-of-breed data services from arrays that are fit-for-purpose.  And that is how EMC and, more importantly, customers win.

 

In Part II of this post, I delve into concrete examples why customers are better served with offloaded array-based data services.  Hint:

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About Colin Durocher...

Colin.png

Colin Durocher is a Consultant Product Manager with EMC and has spent over 10 years working on the VPLEX product in a variety of roles within Engineering and Product Management. He currently owns coordination with storage array partners, as well as pushing VPLEX performance and scale to meet increasing customer requirements. He’s also defining future VPLEX product strategy, direction, and innovation.

Outside of work, Colin enjoys racquet sports, brewing beer, camping, and spending time with his wife and two children in Montreal, Canada.

I believe in stupid questions.  They are born from a lack of knowledge and can’t we all relate to that?  For instance, a coworker recently asked me: “With VMware’s vSphere 6 coming out, how does that change things for VPLEX?” To which I replied, “Not much.” Because when you ask a stupid question, the person who answers is allowed to be deliberately obtuse.  That’s a rule I just made up.

 

The real answer is that, really, not much changes.  The three big items that launched with vSphere 6 were VVOL support, Long Distance vMotion, and expanded Fault Tolerance support.  I’ll get Fault Tolerance out of the way right now.

 

The new Fault Tolerance changes in vSphere 6 are amazing!   Finally you can run FT on your mission critical VMs, on VM’s of substance!  But excellence comes at a price, and today that price is distance.  FT is not allowed to run in Stretched Metro environments.  In VPLEX Local environments, FT runs great.  On VPLEX Metro environments FT is ruled out.  It’s as simple as that.

 

Since FT was ruled out, what interested my coworker were VVOL support and this new vMotion.  I’ll start with VVOLs.  For many people, while they know about VVOLs, they may not really get it if you know what I mean.  I will now attempt to greatly overly simplify what VVOLs are, and why they are important, in a general hand-waving sense.  The two aspects of VVOLs that are important are 1) per VM storage and 2) control path interface with storage arrays.  For each VM you now have 3-5 LUs that hold things like the VM configuration, running state, and of course the VM data.  This collection of LUs can then move or grow or shrink or be protected on a per-VM basis.  The control path aspect means that there is a well-defined way for vSphere to now tell the storage array what needs to be done for any particular VM.  All of this leads to a policy-based style of management.  Setting up a new VM? Great! Here is our menu. Would you like flash storage with that?  May I also recommend the salmon?  It’s just in and very fresh.

 

So what’s the plan for VPLEX and VVOLs?  The short version is we’re working on it.  The slightly longer version is that VPLEX has to work with many other storage arrays, and to do that with VVOLs we need to utilize the VVOL control interfaces of those storage arrays ourselves.  Once they have VVOL support, we can build on top of that foundation.  This means that VVOL support for VPLEX is coming in the future, which means we don’t support it today (bypassing a stupid question there with a stupid answer).  Should the delay in VVOL support cause you sleepless nights, an increase in anxiety, and a constant urge to pop a Valium (thank you Dr. Smith)?  Not really.  The concept of VVOLs is just getting started and VMware is continuing to grow and improve on the VVOL idea.  In the meantime you can continue to use VPLEX as you always have to support your VMware environment with VPLEX continuous availability with VMware High Availability, metro stretched clustering, instant vMotion, and load balancing between sites.

 

Now that those topics are out of the way, can we talk about the elephant in the room?  I’m going to assume that most of you don’t actually have an elephant in the room, and instead talk about Long Distance (LD) vMotion and VPLEX.  For those of you who haven’t been attending VMware technical conferences, LD vMotion allows vSphere 6 to (wait for it) vMotion individual VMs over extremely long distances.  Previously with vSphere you were limited to metro distances which equate to about 5-10 ms of roundtrip network latency between sites.  That usually means within a city or between relatively geographically close cities.  With LD vMotion you can move a VM across continents!

 

I imagine those of you who have and love VPLEX are quivering with excitement at this point.  In a Metro environment VPLEX enables instant vMotion of VMs between sites.  VPLEX makes sure all the data for the VMs are read/write accessible at both locations and VMware auto-magically knows that it can just move the VM running state and BAM! Instant vMotion.  So can VPLEX now do the same thing with LD vMotion and VPLEX Geo (or VPLEX Metro)?  Sadly, no.  But don’t worry, since no one else can do it either!

 

With LD vMotion, VMware has allowed for two separate methods for enabling the vMotion.  The first uses a new file-based version of storage vMotion that runs within ESXi between vSphere clusters.  This system transfers all the base information about the VM, then all the storage of the VM, and finally the running state of the VM between sites.  The long pole here is the transfer of the storage, which is what VPLEX eliminates in a Metro environment.

 

The second mechanism is for VVOL-enabled Active/Active storage.  This means that if a storage array supports VVOLs, and that array also supports Active/Active storage, then the LD vMotion doesn’t have to move the VM storage.  Amazing!  So amazing in fact, as of today, no vendor or product supports this VVOL based mechanism!  So your ONLY choice today is through the vSphere mechanism, and a full storage vMotion.  Feel free to check the VMware support matrix and see for yourself.

 

What does LD vMotion mean for VPLEX customers?  If you are truly transferring VMs at long distance, you have no choice but to sit and wait for your VM storage to transfer, just like everyone else.  If you are actually at sync distances, using VPLEX Metro to pre-stage VM data enables instant vMotion.  And in the not-to-distant future, VMware could (in theory) allow for other VVOL-enabled replication technologies like RecoverPoint and SRDF to pre-stage your VM data over long distances enabling virtually instantaneous LD vMotion.  Pun intended.

 

Like I said before, not much really changes with vSphere 6 and VPLEX.  VVOL support is baking, FT is local only, and LD vMotion support is so limited that your only option is the VMware solution.  For VPLEX the focus continues to be on the benefits gained by using VPLEX Local or VPLEX Metro with your vSphere environment.  Those of you who have VPLEX today know the enormous value of having native VMware HA and VPLEX Continuous Availability protection.  For those of you who don’t…  Isn’t there someone you can talk to about that? I know, stupid question.

 

Cody Garvin

VPLEX Product Manager

Announcing VPLEX support in Virtual Storage Integrator (VSI) 6.5 available 4/13/2015! 

 

New with VSI 6.5, VPLEX provisioning and management has been added to the VMware vCenter management plugin.  You can now view, provision and control VPLEX enhanced storage in conjunction with EMC ViPR, VMAX, VNX, VNXe3200, XtremIO and AppSync with this EMC developed free plugin!  If you have VPLEX in your VMware environment, with or without additional EMC arrays, consider using VSI 6.5 to allow VMware integrated management of all your systems from a single touch-point.

 

Beyond the VPLEX support, VSI 6.5 also adds new capabilities around:

  • Support for the recent vSphere 2015 release
  • Support for VMware NMP and EMC PP/VE Multipathing for VMware
  • Additional platform enhancements for VNXe3200, AppSync, and VMAX3

 

For the full release announcement and details please head over to: https://community.emc.com/docs/DOC-43161

 

Or you can download VSI 6.5 today from the EMC Support Site:

https://support.emc.com/products/34010_VSI-for-VMware-vSphere-Web-Client

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