You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘sql’ tag.
WordPress sent me an email with overall stats for 2010 and I thought I’d share a few things I noticed.
First, thank you to all of my readers as well as those who have linked to and otherwise shared my posts with others. I know that many of my peer bloggers have much higher numbers than I, but I still think 22,000 views is pretty respectable.
For 2010, my most popular post was Resiliency vs Redundancy: Using VPLEX for SQL HA. The top 5 posts are listed here..
EMC CLARiiON and Celerra Updates – Defining Unified Storage May 2010
NetApp and EMC: Real world comparisons October 2009
While EMC users benefit from Replication Manager, NetApp users NEED SnapManager June 2010
NetApp and EMC: Replication Management Tools Comparison June 2010
You may notice a theme here. First, Midrange Storage is HOT, and any comparisons between EMC and it’s competitors seem to get more attention compared to most other topics. Note #3 was written in 2009 and it’s the 3rd most viewed post on my blog in 2010. A secondary theme in these top 5 posts might be disaster recovery as well since most of these posts have DR concepts in the content as well.
Looking at search engine results the it looks like emc flare 30, clariion, and mirrorview network qos requirements were the hottest terms. The MirrorView one is pretty specific so I may do some blogging on that topic in the future.
With these stats in mind, I’ll keep working to hone my blogging skills through 2011 and sharing as much real-world information as I can, especially as I work with my customers to implement solutions. One thing I’ll do is try and provide the comparisons people seem to be interested in, but focusing on the advantages of products, while steering clear of negativity as much as possible.
Welcome to 2011! It’s going to be fun!
The more I talk with customers, the more I find that the technical details of how something works is much less important than the business outcome it achieves. When it comes to storage, most customers just want a device that will provide the capacity and performance they need, at a price they can afford–and it better not be too complicated. Pretty much any vendor trying to sell something will attempt to make their solution fit your needs even if they really don’t have the right products. It’s a fact of life, sell what you have. Along these lines, there has been a lot of back and forth between vendors about dedup vs. compression technology and which one solves customer problems best.
After snapshots and thin provisioning, data reduction technology in storage arrays has become a big focus in storage efficiency lately; and there are two primary methods of data reduction — compression and deduplication.
While EMC has been marketing compression technology for block and file data in Celerra, Unified, and Clariion storage systems, NetApp has been marketing deduplication as the technology of choice for block and file storage savings. But which one is the best choice? The short answer is.. it depends. Some data types benefit most from deduplication while others get better savings with compression.
Currently, EMC supports file compression on all EMC Celerra NS20, 40, 80, 120, 480, 960, VG2, and VG8 systems running DART 5.6.47.x+ and block compression on all CX4 based arrays running FLARE30.x+. In all cases, compression is enabled on a volume/LUN level with a simple check box and processing can be paused, resumed, and disabled completely, uncompressing the data if desired. Data is compressed out-of-band and has no impact on writes, with minimal overhead on reads. Any or all LUN(s) and/or Filesystem(s) can be compressed if desired even if they existed prior to upgrading the array to newer code levels.
With the release of OnTap 8.0.1, NetApp has added support for in-line compression within their FAS arrays. It is enabled per-FlexVol and as far as I have been able to determine, cannot be disabled later (I’m sure Vaughn or another NetApp representative will correct me if I’m wrong here.) Compression requires 64-bit aggregates which are new in OnTap 8, so FlexVols that existed prior to an upgrade to 8.x cannot be compressed without a data migration which could be disruptive. Since compression is inline, it creates overhead in the FAS controller and could impact performance of reads and writes to the data.
Vaughn Stewart, of NetApp, expertly blogged today about the new compression feature, including some of the caveats involved, and to me the most interesting part of the post was the following graphic he included showing the space savings of compression vs. dedup for various data types.
A little history on my philosophy around high-availability
Around the year 2000, when I was working in network operations for a large wireless telco, a very senior network architect explained to me the company’s philosophy on building high availability solutions into the network. The phrase I remember from that conversation was “we don’t build redundant networks, we build resilient networks..” The difference is that while redundant networks failover to secondary paths to resume traffic, resilient networks don’t go down at all. This concept has stuck with me ever since and I tend to tackle high-availability problems of all kinds with this idea in mind. It’s frankly been very difficult to build solutions that are resilient across the entire stack, mostly because infrastructure technology hasn’t quite gotten there yet.
Things may have changed…
I recently had a meeting with a customer to discuss local high availability for SQL. This customer has a very large multi-node clustered SQL environment (hundreds of TBs of data, hundreds of databases, hundreds of instances, many clusters, many nodes per cluster) and has been testing SQL database mirroring as an alternative to traditional Windows Failover Clustering. The focus of the meeting wound up focused primarily on leveraging VPLEX as an alternative to SQL mirroring, and the reasons for that decision suddenly reminded me of the Resiliency vs Redundancy discussion I had years ago. A VPLEX solution potentially solves the same problem as DB mirroring, does it with less complexity, and less risk.
VPLEX Local as a Resilient HA solution
One of the many features of VPLEX is it’s ability to mirror data across multiple storage arrays and present that mirror as a single LUN to the host. For customers already running large multi-node MSCS clusters, the LUN appears just like any normal storage LUN and Windows/SQL treat the LUN normally. There are several reasons VPLEX should be considered as an alternative to database mirroring. (much of this applies to Exchange CCR as well)
VPLEX hardware is inherently Resilient. A VPLEX cluster is an N+1 cluster of loosely coupled nodes, cooperating with each other, but not depending on each other. Hosts can access any of the hosted data, through any of the ports, on any of the cluster nodes. If a node fails for any reason, the remaining nodes continue serving IO for any data. Except for a dead path on the host side (managed by PowerPath or MPIO), there is no failover process, and no cache mirroring to worry about. The potential performance impact of a failure is equal to 1, divided by the quantity of that component in the cluster. (128 x 8gbe ports across 8 director nodes for a large VPLEX Local cluster)
In addition, because VPLEX utilizes a write-through cache, there is never any dirty cache data (data in cache that has not been committed to disk) in a VPLEX system. A power outage or VPLEX hardware failure does not put data at risk.
Other Advantages of using VPLEX over SQL Database Mirroring
- Compared with SQL Database mirroring, VPLEX mirroring has significantly less impact on transaction performance for writes and can improve transaction performance in some cases due to the large read cache in the VPLEX directors. (Note: I am comparing to DB Mirroring in Full-Safety mode since the customer’s requirement was a zero-data-loss solution.)
Non-Disruptive Storage Failover:
- In the event of a storage failure, SQL Mirroring must perform a cluster node failover which takes a few seconds at best, possibly disrupting applications. VPLEX provides completely non-disruptive failover when a storage failure occurs. (A server hardware failure still triggers a node failover as it would in any other failover clustering scenario.)
Less Management Overhead:
- From a management perspective, using VPLEX instead of SQL Database mirroring gives the SQL DBAs fewer SQL instances and fewer moving parts to manage on a daily basis. The storage team just presents a mirrored LUN from VPLEX to the cluster and it’s business as usual for the DBAs.
- VPLEX also allows the storage team to non-disruptively migrate data between storage arrays behind VPLEX to balance load, perform hardware refreshes, resolve capacity problems. VPLEX performs the migration at the direction of the storage admins.
- Reducing management complexity also reduces risk. With a high number of database instances and db mirrors involved in a large environment like this one, the chance of one of those mirrors having a problem, or being configured incorrectly, is increased. DBAs can rely on VPLEX mirroring all of the data, 24x7x365, even when host maintenance is being performed.
- When compared with the SQL Database Mirroring solution, the VPLEX solution reduced the number of physical servers needed in this environment, reducing cost enough to more than offset the cost of VPLEX itself. Combined with reductions in soft costs, like reduced DBA management overhead, VPLEX will actually save them quite a bit of money, and increased uptime during storage refresh and maintenance will increase revenues in this case as well.
A Distributed Future:
- Next year, when a second datacenter is online nearby, the first VPLEX Local cluster can be connected to another VPLEX cluster in the new datacenter. Then the SQL cluster nodes and data can be distributed across both datacenters, providing protection from entire datacenter outages, or solving space constraints with no changes to the application or servers, and no downtime.
I wonder how many other customers would like to build more resilient infrastructures?
If you combine a VPLEX solution with a true cluster file system and an active-active database engine (ie: Oracle RAC), you can eliminate the disruption caused by server hardware failures. It’s just a matter of time now until the entire stack can be designed for true resiliency with very little management overhead. I can’t wait to see what happens.
The following EMC White Paper has a lot of good information about using VPLEX in this same context:
This is a follow up to my recent post NetApp and EMC: Replication Management Tools Comparison, in which I discussed the differences between EMC Replication Manager and NetApp SnapManager.
As a former customer of both NetApp and EMC, and now as an employee of EMC, I noticed a big difference between NetApp and EMC as far as marketing their replication management tools. As a customer, EMC talked about Replication Manager several times and we purchased it and deployed it. NetApp made SnapManager a very central part of their sales campaign, sometimes skipping any discussion of the underlying storage in favor of showing off SnapManager functionality. This is an extremely effective sales technique and NetApp sales teams are so good at this that many people don’t even realize that other vendors have similar, and in my opinion EMC has better, functionality. One of the reasons for this difference in marketing strategy is that NetApp users NEED SnapManager, while EMC users do not always need Replication Manager.
The reason why is both simple and complex…
EMC storage arrays (Clariion, Symmetrix, RecoverPoint, Invista) all have one technology in common that NetApp Filers do not–Consistency Groups. A consistency group allows the storage system to take a snapshot of multiple LUNs simultaneously, so simultaneous in fact that all of the snapshots are at the exact same point in time down to the individual write. This means that, without taking any applications offline and without any orchestration software, EMC storage arrays can create crash-consistent copies of nearly any kind of data at any time.
The EMC Whitepaper “EMC CLARiiON Database Storage Solutions: Oracle 10g/11g with CLARiiON Storage Replication Consistency” downloadable from EMC’s website has the following explanation of consistency groups in general…
“…Consistent replication operates on multiple LUNs as a set such that if the replication action fails for one member in the set, replication for all other members of the set are canceled or stopped. Thus the contents of all replicated LUNs in the set are guaranteed to be identical point-in-time replicas of their source and dependent-write consistency is maintained…”
“…With consistent replication, the database does not have to be shut down or put into “hot backup mode.” Replicates created with SnapView or MV/S (or MV/A, Timefinder, SRDF, Recoverpoint, etc) consistency operations, without first quiescing or halting the application, are restartable point-in-time replicas of the production data and guaranteed to be dependent-write consistent.”
Consistency is important for any application that is writing to multiple LUNs at the same time such as SQL database and log volumes. SnapManager and Replication Manager actually prepare the application by quiescing the database during the snapshot creation process. This process creates “application-consistent” copies which are technically better for recovery compared with “storage-consistent” copies (also known as crash-consistent copies).
So, while I will acknowledge that quiescing the database during a snapshot/replication operation provides the best possible recovery image, that may not be realistic in some scenarios. The first issue is that the actual operation of quiescing, snapping, checking the image, then pushing an update to a remote storage array takes some time. Depending on the size of the dataset, this operation can take from several minutes to several hours to complete. If you have a Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of 5 minutes or less, using either of these tools is pretty much a non-starter.
Another issue is one of application support. EMC Replication Manager and NetApp SnapManager have very wide support for the most popular operating systems, filesystems, databases, and applications, they certainly don’t support every application. A very simple example is a Novell Netware file server with a NSS pool/volume spanning multiple LUNs. Neither NetApp nor EMC have support for Novell Netware in their replication management tools. While you can certainly replicate all of the LUNs with NetApp SnapManager, SnapManager has no consistency technology built-in to keep the LUNs write-order consistent. The secondary copy will appear completely corrupt to the Netware server if a recovery is attempted. Through the use of consistency groups with MirrorView/Async, the replication of each LUN is tracked as a group and all of the LUNs are write-order consistent with each other, keeping the filesystem itself consistent. You would need to have either array-level consistency technology, or support for Netware in the replication management tool in order to replication such a server.. Unfortunately, NetApp provides neither.
You may have complex applications that consist of Oracle and SQL databases, NTFS filesystems, and application servers running as VMs. Using array-based consistency groups, you can replicate all of these components simultaneously and keep them all consistent with each other. This way you won’t have transactions that normally affect two databases end up missing in one of the two after a recovery operation, even if those databases are different technologies (Oracle and MySQL, or PostgreSQL for example).
EMC Storage arrays provide consistency group technology for Snapshots and Replication in Clariion and Symmetrix storage arrays. In fact, with Symmetrix, consistency groups can span multiple arrays without any host software. By comparison, NetApp Filers do not have consistency group technology in the array. Snapshots are taken (for local replicas and for SnapMirror) at the FlexVolume level. Two FlexVolumes cannot be snapped consistently with each other without SnapManager.
There are a couple workarounds for NetApp users–you can snapshot an aggregate, but that is not recommended by NetApp for most customers, or you can put multiple LUNs in the same FlexVol, but that still limits you to 16TB of data including snapshot reserve space, and both options violate best practices for database designs of keeping data and logs in separate spindles for recovery. Even with these workarounds, you cannot gain LUN consistency across the two controllers in an HA Filer pair, something the CLARiiON does natively, and can help for load balancing IO across the storage processors.
In general, I recommend that EMC customers use EMC Replication Manager and NetApp customers use SnapManager for the applications that are supported, and for most scenarios. But when RPO’s are short, or the environment falls outside the support matrix for those tools, consistency groups become the best or only option.
Incidentally, with EMC RecoverPoint, you get the best of both worlds. CDP or near-CDP replication of data using consistency groups for zero or near-zero RPOs plus application-consistent bookmarks made anytime the database is quiesced. Recovery is done from the up-to-the-second version of the data, but if that data is not good for any reason, you can roll back to another point in time, including a point-in-time when the database was quiesced (a bookmark).
So, while EMC has, in Replication Manager, an equivalent offering to NetApp’s SnapManager, EMC customers are not required to use it, and in some cases they can achieve better results using array-based consistency technologies.
I started this post before I started working for EMC and got sidetracked with other topics. Recent discussions I’ve had with people have got me thinking more about orchestration of data protection, replication, and disaster recovery, so it was time to finish this one up…
Prior to me coming to work for EMC, I was working on a project to leverage NetApp and EMC storage simultaneously for redundancy. I had a chance to put various tools from EMC and NetApp into production and have been able to make some observations with respect to some of the differences. This is a follow up my previous NetApp and EMC posts…
Specifically this post is a comparison between NetApp SnapManager 5.x and EMC Replication Manager 5.x. First, here’s a quick background on both tools based on my personal experience using them.
EMC Replication Manager (RM) is a single application that runs on a dedicated “Replication Manager Server.” RM agents are deployed to the hosts of applications that will be replicated. RM supports local and remote replication features in EMC’s Clariion storage array, Celerra Unified NAS, Symmetrix DMX/V-Max, Invista, and RecoverPoint products. With a single interface, Replication Manager lets you schedule, modify, and monitor snapshot, clone, and replication jobs for Exchange, SQL, Oracle, Sharepoint, VMWare, Hyper-V, etc. RM supports Role-Based authentication so application owners can have access to jobs for their own applications for monitoring and managing replication. RM can manage jobs across all of the supported applications, array types, and replication technologies simultaneously. RM is licensed by storage array type and host count. No specific license is required to support the various applications.
NetApp SnapManager is actually a series of applications designed for each application that NetApp supports. There are versions of SnapManager for Exchange, SQL, Sharepoint, SAP, Oracle, VMWare, and Hyper-V. The SnapManager application is installed on each host of an application that will be replicated, and jobs are scheduled on each specific host using Windows Task Scheduler. Each version of SnapManager is licensed by application and host count. I believe you can also license SnapManager per-array instead of per-host which could make financial sense if you have lots of hosts.
EMC Replication Manager and NetApp SnapManager products tackle the same customer problem–provide guaranteed recoverability of an application, in the primary or a secondary datacenter, using array-based replication technologies. Both products leverage array-based snapshot and replication technology while layering application-consistency intelligence to perform their duties. In general, they automate local and remote protection of data. Both applications have extensive CLI support for those that want that.
- EMC RM – Replication Manager is a client-server application installed on a control server. Agents are deployed to the protected servers.
- NetApp SM – SnapManager is several applications that are installed directly on the servers that host applications being protected.
- Job Management
- EMC RM – All job creation, management, and monitoring is done from the central GUI. Replication Manager has a Java based GUI.
- NetApp SM – Job creation and monitoring is done via the SnapManager GUI on the server being protected. SnapManager utilizes an MMC based GUI.
- Job Scheduling
- EMC RM – Replication Manager has a central scheduler built-in to the product that runs on the RM Server. Jobs are initiated and controlled by the RM Server, the agent on the protected server performs necessary tasks as required.
- NetApp SM – SnapManager jobs are scheduled with Windows Task Scheduler after creation. The SnapManager GUI creates the initial scheduled task when a job is created through the wizard. Modifications are made by editing the scheduled task in Windows task scheduler.
So while the tools essentially perform the same function, you can see that there are clear architectural differences, and that’s where the rubber meets the road. Being a centrally managed client-server application, EMC Replication Manager has advantages for many customers.
Simple Comparison Example: Exchange 2007 CCR cluster
(snapshot and replicate one of the two copies of Exchange data)
With NetApp SnapManager, the application is installed on both cluster nodes, then an administrator must log on to the console on the node that hosts the copy you want to replicate, and create two jobs which run on the same schedule. Job A is configured to run when the node is the active node, Job B is configured to run when the node is passive. Due to some of the differences in the settings, I was unable to configure a single job that ran successfully regardless of whether the node was active or passive. If you want to modify the settings, you either have to edit the command line options in the Scheduled Task, or create a new job from scratch and delete the old one.
With EMC Replication Manager, you deploy the agent to both cluster nodes, then in the RM GUI, create a job against the cluster virtual name, not the individual node. You define which server you want the job to run on in the cluster, and whether the job should run when the node is passive, active, or both. All logs, monitoring, and scheduling is done in the same RM GUI, even if you have 50 Exchange clusters, or SQL and Oracle for that matter. Modifying the job is done by right-clicking on the job and editing the properties. Modifying the schedule is done in the same way.
So as the number of servers and clusters increases in your environment, having a central UI to manage and monitor all jobs across the enterprise really helps. But here’s where having a centrally managed application really shines…
But what if it gets complicated?
Let’s say you have a multi-tier application like IBM FileNet, EMC Documentum, or OpenText and you need to replicate multiple servers, multiple databases, and multiple file systems that are all related to that single application. Not only does EMC Replication Manager support SQL and Filesystems in the same GUI, you can tie the jobs together and make them dependent on each other for both failure reporting and scheduling. For example, you can snapshot a database and a filesystem, then replicate both of them without worrying about how long the first job takes to complete. Jobs can start other jobs on completely independent systems as necessary.
Without this job dependence functionality, you’d generally have to create scheduled tasks on each server and have dependent jobs start with a delay that is long enough to allow the first job to complete while as short as possible to prevent the two parts of the application from getting too far out of sync. Some times the first job takes longer than usual causing subsequent jobs to complete incorrectly. This is where Replication Manager shows it’s muscle with it’s ability to orchestrate complex data protection strategies, across the entire enterprise, with your choice of protection technologies (CDP, Snapshot, Clone, Bulk Copy, Async, Sync) from a single central user interface.
Well, not exactly. What you really need is a restore solution!
I was discussing this with a colleague recently as we compared difficulties multiple customers are having with backups in general. My colleague was relating a discussion he had with his customer where he told them, “stop thinking about how to design a backup solution, and start thinking about how to design a restore solution!”
Most of our customers are in the same boat, they work really hard to make sure that their data is backed up within some window of time, and offsite as soon as possible in order to ensure protection in the event of a catastrophic failure. What I’ve noticed in my previous positions in IT and more so now as a technical consultant with EMC is that (in my experience) most people don’t really think about how that data is going to get restored when it is needed. There are a few reasons for this:
- Backing up data is the prerequisite for a restore; IT professionals need to get backups done, regardless of whether they need to restore the data. It’s difficult to plan for theoretical needs and restore is still viewed, incorrectly, as theoretical.
- Backup throughput and duration is easily measured on a daily basis, restores occur much more rarely and are not normally reported on.
- Traditional backup has been done largely the same way for a long time and most customers follow the same model of nightly backups (weekly full, daily incremental) to disk and/or tape, shipping tape offsite to Iron Mountain or similar.
I think storage vendors, EMC and NetApp particularly, are very good at pointing out the distinction between a backup solution and a restore solution, where backup vendors are not quite as good at this. So what is the difference?
When designing a backup solution the following factors are commonly considered:
- Size of Protected Data – How much data do I have to protect with backup (usually GB or TB)
- Backup Window – How much time do I have each night to complete the backups (in hours)
- Backup Throughput – How fast can I move the data from it’s normally location to the backup target
- Applications – What special applications do I have to integrate with (Exchange, Oracle, VMWare)
- Retention Policy – How long do I have to hang on to the backups for policy or legal purposes
- Offsite storage – How do I get the data stored at some other location in case of fire or other disaster
If you look at it from a restore prospective, you might think about the following:
- How long can I afford to be down after a failure? Recovery Time Objective (RTO): This will determine the required restore speed. If all backups are stored offsite, the time to recall a tape or copy data across the WAN affects this as well.
- How much data can I afford to lose if I have to restore? Recovery Point Objective (RPO): This will determine how often the backup must occur, and in many cases this is less than 24 hours.
- Where do I need to restore the application? This will help in determining where to send the data offsite.
Answer these questions first and you may find that a traditional backup solution is not going to fulfill your requirements. You may need to look at other technologies, like Snapshots, Clones, replication, CDP, etc. If a backup takes 8 hours, the restore of that data will most likely take at least 8 hours, if not closer to 16 hours. If you are talking about a highly transactional database, hosting customer facing web sites, and processing millions of dollars per hour, 8 hours of downtime for a restore is going to cost you tens or hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue.
Two of my customers have database instances hosted on EMC storage, for example, which are in the 20TB size range. They’ve each architected a backup solution that can get that 20TB database backed up within their backup window. The problem is, once that backup completes, they still have to offsite the backup, and replicate it to their DR site across a relatively small WAN link. They both use compressed database dumps for backup because, from the DBA’s perspective, dumps are the easiest type of backup to restore from, and the compression helps get 20TB of data pushed across 1gbe Ethernet connections to the backup server. One of the customers is actually backing up all of their data to DataDomain deduplication appliances already; the other is planning to deploy DataDomain. The problem in both cases is that, if you pre-compress the backup data, you break deduplication, and you get no benefit from the DataDomain appliance vs. traditional disk. Turning off compression in the dump can’t be done because the backup would take longer than the backup window allows. The answer here is to step back, think about the problem you are trying to solve–restoring data as quickly as possible in the event of failure–and design for that problem.
How might these customers leverage what they already have, while designing a restore solution to meet their needs?
Since they are already using EMC storage, the first step would be to start taking snapshots and/or clones of the database. These snapshots can be used for multiple purposes…
- In the event of database corruption, or other host/filesystem/application level problem, the production volume can be reverted to a snapshot in a matter of minutes regardless of the size of the database (better RTO). Snapshots can be taken many times a day to reduce the amount of data loss incurred in the event of a restore (better RPO).
- A snapshot copy of the database can be mounted to a backup server directly and backed up directly to tape or backup disk. This eliminates the requirement to perform database dumps at all as well as any network bottleneck between the database server and backup server. Since there is no dump process, and no requirement to pre-compress the data, de-duplication (via DataDomain) can be employed most efficiently. Using a small 10gbps private network between the backup media servers and DataDomain appliances, in conjunction with DD-BOOST, throughput can be 2.5X faster than with CIFS, NFS, or VTL to the same DataDomain appliance. And with de-duplication being leveraged, retention can be very long since each day’s backup only adds a small amount of new data to the DataDomain.
- Now that we’ve improved local restore RTO/RPO, eliminated the backup window entirely for the database server, and decreased the amount of disk required for backup retention, we can replicate the backup to another DataDomain appliance at the DR site. Since we are taking full advantage of de-duplication now, the replication bandwidth required is greatly reduced and we can offsite the backup data in a much shorter period of time.
- Next, we give the DBAs back the ability to restore databases easily, and at will, by leveraging EMC Replication Manager. RM manages the snapshot schedules, mounting of snaps to the backup server, and initiation of backup jobs from the snapshot, all in a single GUI that storage admins and DBAs can access simultaneously.
So we leveraged the backup application they already own, the DataDomain appliances they already own, storage arrays they already own, built a small high-bandwidth backup network, and layered some additional functionality, to drastically improve their ability to restore critical data. The very next time they have a data integrity problem that requires a restore, these customer’s will save literally millions of dollars due to their ability to restore in minutes vs. hours.
If RPO’s of a few hours are not acceptable, then a Continuous Data Protection (CDP) solution could be added to this environment. EMC RecoverPoint CDP can journal all database activity to be used to restore to any point in time, bringing data loss (RPO) to zero or near-zero, something no amount of snapshots can provide, and keeping restore time (RTO) within minutes (like snapshots). Further, the journaled copy of the database can be stored on a different storage array providing complete protection for the entire hardware/software stack. RecoverPoint CDP can be combined with Continuous Remote Replication (CRR) to replicate the journaled data to the DR site and provide near-zero RPO and extremely low RTO in a DR/BC scenario. Backups could be transitioned to the DR site leveraging the RecoverPoint CRR copies to reduce or eliminate the need to replicate backup data. EMC Replication Manager manages RecoverPoint jobs in the same easy to use GUI as snapshot and clone jobs.
There are a whole host of options available from EMC (and other storage vendors) to protect AND restore data in ways that traditional backup applications cannot match. This does not mean that backup software is not also needed, as it usually ends up being a combined solution.
The key to architecting a restore solution is to start thinking about what would happen if you had to restore data, how that impacts the business and the bottom line, and then architect a solution that addresses the business’ need to run uninterrupted, rather than a solution that is focused on getting backups done in some arbitrary daily/nightly window.
I’ve been having some fun discussions with one of my customers recently about how to tackle various application problems within the storage environment and it got me thinking about the value of having “options”. This customer has an EMC Celerra Unified Storage Array that has Fiber Channel, iSCSI, NFS, and CIFS protocols enabled. This single storage system supports VMWare, SQL, Web, Business Intelligence, and many custom applications.
The discussion was specifically centered on ensuring adequate storage performance for several different applications, each with a different type of workload…
1.) Web Servers – Primarily VMs with general-purpose IO loads and low write ratios.
2.) SQL Servers – Physical and Virtual machines with 30-40% write ratios and low latency requirements.
3.) Custom Application – A custom application database with 100% random read profiles running across 50 servers.
The EMC Unified solution:
EMC Storage already sports virtual provisioning in order to provision LUNs from large pools of disk to improve overall performance and reduce complexity. In addition, QoS features in the array can be used to provide guaranteed levels of performance for specific datasets by specifying minimum and maximum bandwidth, response time, and IO requirements on a per-LUN basis. This can help alleviate disk contention when many LUNs share the same disks, as in a virtual pool. Enterprise Flash Drives (EFD) are also available for EMC Storage arrays to provide extremely high performance to applications that require it and they can coexist with FC and SATA drives in the same array. Read and write cache can also be tuned at an array and LUN level to help with specific workloads. With the updates to the EMC Unified Platform that I discussed previously, Sub-LUN FAST (auto tiering), and FAST Cache (EFD used as array cache) will be available to existing customers after a simple, non-disruptive, microcode upgrade, providing two new ways to tackle these issues.
So which feature should my customer use to address their 3 different applications?
Sub-LUN FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering)
Put all of the data into large Virtual Provisioning pools on the array, add a few EFD (SSD) and SATA disks to the mix and enable FAST to automatically move the blocks to the appropriate tier of storage. Over time the workload would even out across the various tiers and performance would increase for all of the workloads with much fewer drives, saving on power, floor space, cooling, and potentially disk cost depending on the configuration. This happens non-disruptively in the background. Seems like a no-brainer right?
For this customer, FAST helps the web server VMs and the general-purpose SQL databases where the workload is predominately read and much of the same data is being accessed repeatedly (high locality of reference). As long as the blocks being accessed most often are generally the same, day-to-day, automated tiering (FAST) is a great solution. But what if the workload is much more random? FAST would want to push all of the data into EFD, which generally wouldn’t be possible due to capacity requirements. Okay, so tiering won’t solve all of their problems. What about FAST Cache?
Exponentially increase the size of the storage array’s read AND write cache with EFD (SSD) disks. This would improve performance across the entire array for all “cache friendly” applications.
For this customer, increasing the size of write cache definitely helps performance for SQL (50% increase in TPM, 50% better response time as an example) but what about their custom database that is 100% random read? Increasing the size of read cache will help get more data into cache and reduce the need to go to disk for reads, but the more random the data, the less useful cache is. Okay, so very large caches won’t solve all of their problems. EFDs must be the answer right?
Forget SATA and FC disks; just use EFD for everything and it will be super fast!! EFD has extremely high random read/write performance, low latency at high loads, and very high bandwidth. You will even save money on power and cooling.
The total amount of data this customer is dealing with in these three applications alone exceeds 20TB. To store that much in EFD would be cost prohibitive to say the least. So, while EFD can solve all of this customer’s technical problems, they couldn’t afford to acquire enough EFD for the capacity requirements.
But wait, it’s not OR, it’s AND
The beauty of the EMC Unified solution is that you can use all of these technologies, together, on the same array, simultaneously.
In this customer’s case, we put FC and SATA into a virtual pool with FAST enabled and provision the web and general-purpose SQL servers from it. FAST will eventually migrate the least used blocks to SATA, freeing the FC disks for the more demanding blocks.
Next, we extend the array cache using a couple EFDs and FAST Cache to help with random read, sequential pre-fetching, and bursty writes across the whole array.
Finally, for the custom 100% random read database, we dedicate a few EFDs to just that application, snapshot the DB and present copies to each server. We disable read and write cache for the EFD backed volumes which leaves more cache available to the rest of the applications on the array, further improving total system performance.
Now, if and when the customer starts to see disk contention in the virtual pool that might affect performance of the general-purpose SQL databases, QoS can be tuned to ensure low response times on just the SQL volumes ensuring consistent performance. If the disks become saturated to the point where QoS cannot maintain the response time or the other LUNs are suffering from load generated by SQL, any of the volumes can be migrated (non-disruptively) to a different virtual pool in the array to reduce disk contention.
If you look at offerings from the various storage vendors, many promote large virtual pools, some also promote large caches of some kind, others promote block level tiering, and a few promote EFD (aka SSDs) to solve performance problems. But, when you are consolidating multiple workloads into a single platform, you will discover that there are weaknesses in every one of those features and you are going to wish you had the option to use most or all of those features together.
You have that option on EMC Unified.