Microsoft Ignite 2017 Summary and Announcements

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Ignite 2017 Key takeaways

This was the first year I have not attended Microsoft Ignite, due to unforeseen circumstances. But this didn’t stop me from covering Ignite 2017. So here we go…

ignite 2017

Ignite 2017 this year has about 25k attendees. During the same time as Ignite, they are also running Microsoft Envision. This is more focused to business leaders across industries.  Its main focus is to have Business Leaders understand and manage their organizations in the Digital Age.

Ignite 2017 Attendee Breakout

  • 47 % ITI/IT Pros
  • 34% Developers
  • 19% ITDM.

Top Industries Attended

  • 34% IT and Software (flat YoY)
  • 20% Education
  • 9% Healthcare
  • 9% Manufacturing
  • 9% Professional & Business Services

Ignite Keynotes Summary and Links

ignite 2017

Modern Workplace

ignite 2017

Key Takeaways – Modern Workplace

Expanding Microsoft 365

  • Microsoft 365 Firstline offering and Microsoft 365 Education
  • New Windows 10 S devices from HP, Lenovo, Acer and Fujitsu starting at $275 USD

Intelligent personalized search power by Microsoft Graph

  • Bing for business
  • LinkedIn data integrated with Office 365 profile card
  • Office 365 search & discovery improvements
  • Windows 10 taskbar search

Intelligent Communications vision

  • Bring voice and video + new cognitive and data services into Micro Teams

Advances in Intelligent Security

  • Integrated Adminced threat Protection using Intelligent Security Graph
  • Better data protection and access control across Microsoft 365
  • New Compliance Manager, a single GDPR dashboard

Modernizing Business Process with Cloud and AI

Key Takeaways – Business Applications

New Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI Solutions

  • First solutions for customer care includes a virtual agent for customers, an intelligent assistant for support staff and conversational AI management tools, power by Microsoft AI
  • HP, Macy’s, and Microsoft already using this technology to improve customer satisfaction and handle more requests, more quickly

Modular apps for Dynamics 365

  • New modular apps are lightweight SaS services designed to transform one business process at a time
  • Work with Dynamics 3 business apps or can be used independently
  • Extend existing systems of record, integrate with Office 365 and augment with LinkedIn insights.
  • First to allow talent leaders and hiring managers to address a company’s most important asset, people
  • Attract: focused on recruiting | Onboard: helps you make new employees successful – Available later this year.

Deeper integration for PowerApps and Microsoft Flow + Office 365 and Dynamics 365

  • Rapidly build apps, automate tasks, simplify workflows and solve unique business problems.
  • Allow any business user familiar with InfoPath forms, Access databases or SharePoint list. This allows customers to build apps that help them achieve more, on a single no-code/low code platform.

Apps and Infra/Data and AI

  • Every customer is an AI customer

The Enterprise Cloud

Key Takeaways – Hybrid

Delivering true hybrid consistency

  • Azure Stack shipping through OEM partners including Dell EMC, HPE, and Lenovo
  • Database Migration Service (DMS)

Empowering customer to optimize costs

  • Azure Hybrid Benefit for SQL server
  • Azure Cost Management by CFloudyn – free to all Azure subscriptions

Key Takeaways – Intelligence

Any data, any place

  • SQL Server on Linux Windows and Docker availability with SQL Server 2017 GA’

One convenient workbench for data scientists and AI developers

  • Azure Machine Learning Updates

Build intelligent apps at global scale

  • Azure Cosmos DB and Azure Functions integration

Performance and Scale for mission-critical analytic apps

  • Azure SQL Data Warehouse preview release of new “optimized for compute” performance tier

Cloud for Good – Key takeaways

To empower nonprofits, Microsoft Philanthropies will:

  • Microsoft has announced they met their 2016 commitment to donate $1 billion in cloud computing resources to nonprofits
  • Continue the cloud donations program, and triple the number of nonprofits Microsoft serves over the next three years
  • Launch a new Tech for Social Impact group, and the first offers, announced this week include:
    • Microsoft 365 for Nonprofits
    • Nonprofit Surface discounts for the first time ever

To get more detailed information about these announcements, please see links below or check out the Ignite2017 Site.

Official Microsoft Blog
Office Blogs
EMS Blog
Dynamics Blog
Azure Blog
Hybrid Cloud Blog
Data Platform Blogs

ignite 2017

Until next time, Rob.

Building Nutanix Ready – Understanding “Ready” Early On – Part 1

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Updated 9/22/17
The Journey to “Ready”
Are you Ready?

This is my journey to building a world-class “Ready” Program and understanding what validation means to me and the customer….This will be a multi-part series of my journey.

The early days of understanding the concept of “Ready”

I’ve spent the better part of my life in IT consulting. It has been some of the best and worst times of my life ;).  But when you make a choice to work in this industry, there are certain givens. Sometimes as consultants and IT Pros we don’t get the recognition we deserve, but if you have the passion for technology, it doesn’t matter.  I’m happy with the fact that I resolved or completed a project for a client. And enabled them to make their businesses stronger and more efficient. These IT pros tend to be part of grassroots communities, like the Microsoft MVP community, which is all about giving back and enabling others.

Anyways, moving along on with the story.  As a consultant, my many years in the field gave the opportunity to deploy a wide range of technologies.To name a few: InfoBox, Riverbed, Plexxi, Cisco, Microsoft (of course), CheckPoint, RSA, Silverpeak, A10, Carbonite, Comvault, CyberPower, EMC Solutions, F5, Fortinet, Sonicwall, Juniper, Palo Alto, Splunk, Trend Micro, VMTurbo (before they were Turboonomics) Veeam and the list could continue on, but I think everyone gets the point. Try saying that line in one breath :).

Deploying and supporting all these solutions for years is what prepared me to understand what “Ready” really means for a solution. When I first joined Nutanix, I was hired as a Microsoft Solutions Architect in Technical Alliances.  My job was to help advance and evangelize the story around Microsoft and Nutanix.  Also, I supported the field with sales motions around Microsoft solutions. Or as my new colleagues knew me, I was the resident “Microsoft Guy” :).

Introducing “Ready” into my Journey

About 2 or 3 months into my journey at Nutanix, I was approached by my manager about starting a “Ready” program for alliance partners. When he first told me, it took me a day or so let it set in  “I thought wow, this is right up my alley. I’ve been in the field and felt the good and bad of these solutions for years.”

Building a ready program is like building a highway through a mountain, especially in a startup. It’s not just about rubber-stamping a solution for anyone willing to pay to have their logo on your site. It’s a critical validation process that requires a team experienced and critical enough to ask; 1) Is there a real need from my customers that this solution answers;  2) Is this solution possible? In other words, the customer has to be the first and last consideration. Yes, as with the highway. There is an advantage to the solution builders (Who hasn’t wanted a highway named after them, not to mention collecting tolls?). If it doesn’t solve a problem, it’s not worth the investment.

Validation implies that you have guidelines and standards that the partner must meet. If they don’t meet the criteria, then they don’t get the status of “Ready” and all the benefits that go along with it. As Indiana Jones would say “No Ticket, No Ride” (from the Last Crusade movie 🙂 ).

So you ask, “What’s the importance of validation?”

Well, let’s look at the pharmaceutical industry. Validation for the pharmaceutical industry is the process of establishing documentary evidence demonstrating that a procedure, process, or activity carried out in testing and then production maintains the desired level of compliance at all stages. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is very important that in addition to final testing and compliance of products, it is also assured that the process will consistently produce the expected results.[1]   Validation is “Establishing documented evidence that provides a high degree of assurance that a specific process will consistently produce a product meeting its pre-determined specifications and quality attributes. This, for the pharmaceutical industry, is to maintain and assure a higher degree of quality for drug products.

Breaking it down simply, validation gives customers a degree of confidence that they are getting exactly what is advertised. Without validation in the pharmaceutical industry, there would be a lot of quality control issues. And this results in people getting sick or death in some cases.

So now, you can see why validation is so important. In the software industry, this can be the life or death of a customer environment resulting in costly downtime. It also puts doubt in the customer’s mind about if they should move forward with the solution.

Crazy story about Validation and QA with a Vendor Solution

Back in my consulting days, I was working with a large enterprise client deploying (at the time) Exchange 2010.  The client was on Exchange 2003, which at the time, did not really have a simple solution for failing over Exchange to a secondary site, in case of failure. This led to the rise of third-party products that made this failover process easy and gave you lots of options.  Continuing on with the story, I was at the end of the day at the client. We had just finished getting the Exchange 2010 DAGs (Database Available Groups) in place between the US and UK. This was so we could start the migration from Exchange 2003.

I had left for the day around 6 pm to head home. Within an hour, while I was in Boston traffic, I got a call from the client.  They proceeded to tell me that their Exchange 2003 environment was down. The product solution that was supposed to auto-failover is not working. The client asked, “Can you please come back and take a look. We have already called the vendor support and making no headway?”

I arrived back and started my troubleshooting.  Sure enough, before support called I found a serious bug that was not accounted for during the vendor’s QA process. In addition, the solution had completed another vendor’s “Ready” program. Now, I’m not going to name vendors, but this caused the client to go down for a number of hours while I worked with support to get this rolling again.

For this client or most clients, any downtime on email is a loss of business.  They took a big hit that day of hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Now, I’m not saying that validation is a silver bullet or could have saved this client headaches that day, but it certainly reduces the surface area of a problem arising in the field.

More about “Ready” with Technical Alliances and the Customer

Having a “Ready” program in the software industry is not just about approving and denying a solution, it’s also about helping partners resolve their issues whether it’s on either side, so they can eventually achieve “Ready” status.  And with that, “Ready” for a customer gives them the peace of mind that a solution will run on the given platform or hypervisor.

I was up to the challenge, and so starts the journey to “Building Nutanix Ready, What “Ready” means?”……Up next, paving the road to “Ready”.

Until next time, Rob.

Windows User Profiles…The Mysteries Untold – Part 1

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Happy New Year Everone…This is my first blog post of 2017. WooHoo!!  As aways, I love to blog about questions from the field.  This one came from a customer testing their new Virtual Desktop Infrustrure (VDI) on Nutanix and had 1 out of 50 users profiles be corrupt. He asked why did this happen and how can I avoid this in the future. Now, I would say that 1 corrupt profile out of 50 is fine during a test, but let understand why it happens. This topic is especially important to understand because directly relates to VDI and your end user experience in VDI.

Windows User Profiles

What is a Windows User Profile? It not just your desktop 🙂

Let’s do a quick primer…

Windows creates a user profile the first time that a user logs onto a physical computer or VDI session. At subsequent logons, the system loads the user’s profile, and then other system components configure the user’s environment according to the information in the profile.

A user profile consists of the following elements:

  • A registry hive. The registry hive is the file NTuser.dat. The hive is loaded by the system at user logon, and it is mapped to the HKEY_CURRENT_USER registry key. The user’s registry hive maintains the user’s registry-based preferences and configuration.
  • A set of profile folders stored in the file system. User-profile files are stored in the Profiles directory, on a folder per-user basis. The user-profile folder is a container for applications and other system components to populate with sub-folders and per-user data such as documents and configuration files. Windows Explorer uses the user-profile folders extensively for such items as the user’s Desktop, Start menu and Documents folder.

Type of User Profiles

  • Mandatory profiles:
    • Typically one pre-configured profile for many users.
    • Although during a session changes can be made, they are discarded. When the user logs on the next time, the locally cached copy of the mandatory profile is reset (replaced with the network copy).
    • The path to the mandatory profile needs to be assigned to users
    • Useful mainly for kiosk systems.
  • Local profiles:
    • One profile per user per machine.
    • No dependency on the network.
    • Since the profile is available locally, logons are very fast.
    • No configuration is necessary, local profiles are assigned to users automatically.
    • Backing up local profiles is often a challenge because the profiles are distributed across many machines with potentially slow and/or only intermittent network connectivity.
    • Another difficulty is how to transfer local profiles between computers, which becomes necessary when machines are replaced.
    • Useful for users who do not switch computers often or for computers without permanent network connectivity, like laptops. In VDI environments local profiles should not be used since users are directed to an arbitrary (the least loaded) server when they launch a new session.
  • Roaming profiles:
    • One profile per user.
    • The master copy of the profile is stored on a file server. During logon, it is copied to the local machine, which may slow down logons considerably depending on profile size and network speed.
    • During logoff, changed files are copied back to the master copy on the file server. Since a user’s registry hive is stored in a single file, this approach creates the “last writer wins” problem.
    • The path to the roaming profile needs to be assigned to users.
    • Useful for most setups where local profiles cannot be used.
  • Temporary User Profiles.
    • A temporary profile is issued each time that an error condition prevents the user’s profile from loading. Temporary profiles are deleted at the end of each session, and changes made by the user to desktop settings and files are lost when the user logs off.

Windows User Profiles

Windows User Profiles – The Reality

Ok, now let me paint a picture….A user calls the help desk to report a strange issue on an application running on their VDI Desktop. What does the help desk technician do? Analyze the root cause of the problem? Probably not. Most likely, the user’s profile will be deleted and the problem will have gone away. Happy ending? Not at all!

Deleting entire user profiles because of malfunctions caused by small data inconsistencies reveals a great deal of helplessness. While the user can work with the faulting application again, the user has lost thousands of personal settings configured both implicitly and explicitly. The help desk technician, on the other hand, has learned nothing from the case, except a brute force way of closing a call. The next time a user rings with a weird problem the technician will be all the more eager to repeat the procedure.

Deleting is cheap. Who is to blame?  Nobody, really. Given the prehistoric user profile design Windows still uses in its latest incarnations, the help desk technician has no other choice but to delete the profile. Trying to get to the root cause is way too difficult and time-consuming a task to perform routinely several times a day. It is so much cheaper to just delete everything and have the user start from scratch.

Why is it like this? Finding a “Needle in a Haystack” is expensive. User profiles are a mess, a chaotic agglomeration of data. Applications can write what they want, where they want, in what way they want into the profile. Among the piles of data junk each Windows user profile stores, there are, however, quite a few hidden gems: the settings a user actually has configured. That is the stuff users care about.

Take your favorite web browser, for example. It comes with hundreds or thousands of factory presets, most of which you could not care about less. But I bet there are a few tweaks in your configuration you would not like to live without. Unfortunately, those settings dear to your heart are buried among all the other default stuff.

Configuration Craziness with some Applications

And it gets worse. Not only are the valuable settings from individual applications intermingled with worthless data, some applications store their configuration all over the place, effectively creating a mix of settings from multiple programs. This makes it virtually impossible to easily identify and extract a single program’s settings. By the way, Microsoft is especially good at this mixing business. Try to identify all storage locations for (Internet) Explorer settings on your own. LOL 😉

Untangling the Knot – How?

The inadequacies of Windows user profiles have led to the development of quite a few profile management products and technologies.  My next post will dive into Best Practices and some of the solutions that help solve this problem.

Finally, at the beginning of the post I mentioned that this series was inspired by a customer in the field. Well, in the end, the problem was a bad registry setting loaded by the NTUSER.DAT, by a third party application. ;(

Until next time,  Rob.

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Management & Operations

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Management & Operations

Good day everyone. It been a few weeks, like busy with work and such. Anyways, this post will go into how Management & Operations are done in S2D.  Now, my biggest pet peeve is complex GUI management and yet again, Microsoft doesn’t disappoint.  It still a number of steps in different interfaces to bring up S2D, Check out Aidan Finns blog post on disaggregated management from last year.  It still rings true to this day with the release of 2016. It shouldn’t be this complex IMO 🙁 That being said, let move to the details.

Management & Operations

Management & Operations

Microsoft is pushing everyone to use PowerShell as the primary management tool for Storage Spaces, but you can also manage it with a combination of Windows Failover Cluster Manager, SCVMM, and SCOM as mentioned above. So if you are good at Powershell, management is fairly simple. If not, then you have the classic switching between different tools management experience :(. This is why everyone really needs to start their PowerShell training now, to survive as an architect in Microsoft land going forward ;).

Management & Operations Management & Operations Management & Operations

There is a Health Service built into Windows Server 2016 that provides some decent system health and status information for Storage Spaces. I just saw a few demos at ignite16 and have not played with it yet, so I’ll have to dig into this further and see how they stack up in a future post.

Management & OperationsManagement & Operations

S2D supports cluster aware updating that integrates with the Windows Update Service. Like VSAN, because they run in kernel, they need to live migrate VMs off the host server, perform the update, reboot, and then migrate everything back. I’ll note that this is only the case for the hyper-converged deployment model. In a converged model where the VMs are on a separate compute tier, you can update the storage controllers one at a time fairly seamlessly without impacting VMs on the separate compute tier.

Management & Operations

While I am not a big fan of the management,  this could give rise to tools like 5nine if they decide to support S2D management. Next up. Application and Performance, Until next time, Rob.

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Storage QOS & Networking

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Storage QOS & Networking

Yo everyone…This is going to be a short blog post in this series. I am just covering Networking and Storage QoS as it pertains to S2D. There are the technologies the bind S2D together.

Storage QoS

S2D is using the Storage (QoS) Quality of Service that ships with Windows Server 2016 which provides standard min/max IOPS and bandwidth control. QoS policy can be applied at the VHD, VM, Groups of VMs, or Tenant Level. Benefits include:

  • Mitigate noisy neighbor issues. By default, Storage QoS ensures that a single virtual machine cannot consume all storage resources and starve other virtual machines of storage bandwidth.
  • Monitor end to end storage performance. As soon as virtual machines stored on a Scale-Out File Server are started, their performance is monitored. Performance details of all running virtual machines and the configuration of the Scale-Out File Server cluster can be viewed from a single location
  • Manage Storage I/O per workload business needs Storage QoS policies define performance minimums and maximums for virtual machines and ensures that they are met. This provides consistent performance to virtual machines, even in dense and overprovisioned environments. If policies cannot be met, alerts are available to track when VMs are out of policy or have invalid policies assigned.

Storage QOS & Networking

What’s New in Networking with S2D?

In Windows Server 2016, they added Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) support to the Hyper-V virtual switch.

For those that don’t know what RMDA is it technology that allows direct memory access from one computer to another, bypassing TCP layer, CPU , OS layer and driver layer. Allowing for low latency and high-throughput connections. This is done with hardware transport offloads on network adapters that support RDMA.

Back to Hyper-V virtual switch support for RDMA.  This allows you to configure regular or RDMA enabled vNICs on top of a pair of RDMA capable physical NICs. They also added embedded NIC teaming or Switch Embedded Teaming (SET).

SET is where NIC teaming and the Hyper-V switch is a single entity and can now be used in conjunction with RDMA NICs, wherein Windows 2012 Server you needed to have separate NIC teams for RDMA and Hyper-V Switch.

The images below illustrates the architecture changes between Windows Server 2012 R2 and Windows Server 2016.

Storage QOS & Networking

Storage QOS & Networking

Next up…Management and Operations, Until next time, Rob

 

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – Fault Tolerance and Multisite Replication

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funniest-construction-mistakes-25

Fault Tolerance…What does it mean?  Let me break it down simply. Pictured above is just a bad design, not fault tolerance. This is not really what fault tolerance means. Having two or more of something is one factor, but how it’s implanted is just as important.  Fault Tolerance incorporates two very important principles, High Availablity and Redundancy.

Now if we had a few toilets side by side and kept only 1 open and the other 2 on standby. Also, if it could move the user automatically to another toilet during a failure, then it technically it would be fault tolerant. Anyways, let’s move on from toilets to the real world. 🙂

stalls-3

Simply, Fault Tolerance is the ability to continue non-stop when a hardware failure occurs. A fault-tolerant system is designed from the ground up for reliability by building multiples of all critical components, such as CPUs, memories, disks and power supplies into the same computer. In the event one component fails, another takes over without skipping a beat.

Many systems are designed to recover from a failure by detecting the failed component and switching to another computer system. These systems, although sometimes called fault tolerant, are more widely known as “high availability” systems, requiring that the software resubmits the job when the second system is available.

True fault tolerant systems with redundant hardware are the most costly because the additional components add to the overall system cost. However, fault tolerant systems provide the same processing capacity after a failure as before, whereas high availability systems often provide reduced capacity. Ok, let move on to fault tolerance in S2D.

Fault Tolerance in S2D

Storage Space Direct (S2D) uses 3-way mirroring and will spread those mirrors across 3 different servers in the cluster. S2D supports full chassis and rack awareness and gives you the option to distribute data copies across these fault domains.

For disk failures, S2D also uses a self-healing approach… in basic terms, S2D offlines the disk and rebuilds the data copy on another node in the cluster. Replacing a drive adds capacity back into the system.  This is important note as not all HCI vendors support self-healing, For example, on VSAN and some other vendors, disk failures take out entire vDisks.

Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance

Multisite Replication

S2D uses Storage Replica (that ships with Windows Server 2016) for synchronous or async replication. They support both stretched clusters and cluster to cluster DR. Storage Replica is part of Windows Server  can be used for other data replication needs outside of S2D.

Fault Tolerance Fault Tolerance

Ok…Next up, Storage QOS and Networking, until next time, Rob….

Storage Spaces Direct Explained – ReFS, Multi-Tier Volumes and Erasure Coding

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Here’s where we dive in and get dirty…but I promise by the end of my series, you will smiling like my friend here. I am planning a surprise with special guest bloggers. Stayed Tuned. Now one to the show…..

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS

The NEW ReFS File System, Multi-Tier Volumes and Erasure Coding

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS

Like S2D, the ReFS file system actually isn’t new either, they have been working on it for several releases now also.  In Windows Server 2016, it finally drops the tech preview label and is now ready for production.  And there is a lot of benefits… like volume creation doesn’t have to zero out the volume for 10 minutes like NTFS. It’s just a metadata operation that is effectively instantaneous now, I’m just going to focus on the couple of benefits that ReFS has for S2D.

For those not familiar Erasure coding (EC) and to prepare you for the next part, EC is a method of data protection in which data is broken into fragments, expanded and encoded with redundant data pieces and stored across a set of different locations.

The original goal of EC was to enable data that becomes corrupted at some point in the storage process to be reconstructed by using information about the data that’s stored elsewhere.  Erasure codes are great, because of their ability to reduce the time and overhead required to reconstruct data. The drawback of erasure coding is that it can be more CPU-intensive, and that can translate into increased latency.

Now all that being said, classic erasure codes were designed and optimized more for communication, not for storage. Naively applying classic erasure codes in storage is okay, but is missing enormous efficiencies. Microsoft has developed their own erasure codes optimized for storage called Local Reconstruction Codes (LRC). I will cover this brieifly further down in the post.

Now back on to S2D…For data protection, S2D uses either 3-way mirroring or distributed parity with EC.  Mirroring gives you great write performance, but only 33% data efficiency.  EC gives you good data efficiency, but random write performance isn’t great for hot data.  ReFS supports the ability to combine different disk tiers using different parity schemes in the same vDisk. This allows S2D to do real-time data tiering by writing new data to the mirror tier and then automatically rotating cold data out to the parity tier and applying the erasure code on data rotation.

It is important to note that ReFS does not currently support Deduplication.  There was a question on this in every session and MSFT says that this is all the ReFS is currently focused on. So we’ll expect to see it land in ReFSv3. For now, customers can get dedupe with S2D by using NTFS. 🙁

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS

Note if you only have two types of storage then the highest performing is used for the cache while the other type will be divided between performance and capacity with the different resiliency option (mirror vs parity) providing the performance/capacity difference between the tiers. If you only have one type of storage then the cache is disabled and the disks divided between performance and capacity like the previously mentioned case.

For non-Storage Spaces Direct only two tiers, of storage are supported like Windows Server 2012 R2, i.e. SSD and HDD, there is no cache. If you had NVMe storage that could be the “hot” tier while the rest of storage (SSD, HDD) could be the “cold” tier (you name the tiers whatever you want) but you cannot use three tiers.

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSStorage Spaces Direct Explained ReFS

During Ignite 2016, Microsoft took many shots at VMware. Microsoft said that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do erasure coding.  “When you do it the wrong way, performance sucks and you have to limit it to all-flash configurations.”

Microsoft research is using a new technique called “Local Reconstruction Codes”. It uses smaller groups within the vDisk that allows them to recover from failures much faster by not having to reconstruct data from across the entire pool. This combined with multi-tier volumes gives S2D good performance, even on hybrid systems. Sounds like a technology that I seen before. Hmmm..I wonder where…….  😉

Storage Spaces Direct Explained ReFSOk, that’s all for now. next up, Fault Tolerance and Multisite Replication with S2D….

Until Next time, Rob….

Storage Spaces Direct Basics – Explained

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'Steno Keypads 50% OFF' 'So, would you like the model that only types verbs, or the one that only types nouns?'

Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Like anything else, I’m going to start with the basics of the stack and then dive into details of each component over the next few blog posts. There’s a lot to digest…So let’s get rolling…

As mentioned in my previous post, S2D can be deployed in either a more traditional disaggregated compute model or as a Hyperconverged model as shown below:

Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Here are the basic components of the stack…

Failover Clustering The built-in clustering feature of Windows Server is used to connect the servers.

Software Storage Bus – The Software Storage Bus is new in S2D. The bus spans the cluster and establishes a software-defined storage fabric where all the servers can see all of each other’s local drives.

Storage Bus Layer Cache – The Software Storage Bus dynamically binds the fastest drives present (typically  SSDs) to slower HDDs to provide server-side read/write caching. The cache is independent of pools and vDisks, always-on, and requires no configuration.

Storage Pool – When an IT Admin enables storage spaces, all of the eligible drives (excludes boot drives, etc.) discovered by the storage bus. Disks are grouped together to form a pool.  It’s created automatically on setup, and by default, there is only one pool per cluster.  IT Admin’s can configure additional pools, but Microsoft recommends against it.

Storage Spaces – From the pool, Microsoft’s carves out ‘storage spaces’ or essentially virtual disks. The vDisks can be defined as a simple space (no protection), mirrored space (distributed 2-way or 3-way mirroring), or a parity space (distributed erasure coding). You can think of it as distributed, software-defined RAID using the drives in the pool.  IT Admin’s can choose to use the new ReFS file system (more on this later) or traditional NTFS.

Resilient File System (ReFS)  ReFS is the purpose-built filesystem for virtualization. This includes dramatic accelerations for .vhdx file operations such as creation, expansion, and checkpoint merging. It also has built-in checksums to detect and correct bit errors. ReFS also introduces real-time tiers. This allows the rotation data between so-called “hot” and “cold” storage tiers in real-time based on usage.

Cluster Shared Volumes – Each vDisk is a cluster shared volume that exists within a single namespace so that every volume appears to each host server as being mounted locally.

Scale-Out File Server – The scale-out file server only exists in converged deployments and provides remote file access via SMB3.

Networking Hardware  Storage Spaces Direct uses SMB3, including SMB Direct and SMB Multichannel, over Ethernet to communicate between servers. Microsoft strongly recommends 10+ GbE with remote-direct memory access (RDMA). IT Admin’s can either use iWARP or RoCE (RDMA over Converged Ethernet).

In Windows Server 2016, Microsoft has also incorporated Storage Replica, Storage QoS, and a new Health Service. I’ll cover each of these areas in a little more detail in a later post with regards to S2D.

Storage Spaces Direct Basics Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Storage Hardware

Microsoft supports hybrid or all-flash configurations.  Each server must have at least 2 SSDs and 4 additional drives. Microsoft has support for NVMe in the product today.  IT Admin’s can use a mixture of NVME, SSD, or HDDs in a variety of tiering models. The SATA and SAS devices should be behind a host-bus adapter (HBA) and SAS expander.

Storage Spaces Direct Basics Storage Spaces Direct Basics

Now that we have covered the basics, next I will dive into how each of the components work.  Next up, ReFS, Multi-Tier Volumes, Erasure Coding and tigers oh my… 🙂

Until next time, Rob…