2014 Launch Post 2: MetroPoint: Extending the Availability and Protection Continuum

On April 4th, 2014, as part of the Data Protection and Availability Division (DPAD) launch, there were three VPLEX and RecoverPoint items that were launched or GAd:

  • VPLEX Virtual Edition – Availability late Q2
  • MetroPoint Topology – Joint capability of VPLEX and RecoverPoint – Availability Late Q2
  • VPLEX Integrated Array Services – Available now

This is the second in a series of posts to walk through what was launched / delivered.

VPLEX and RecoverPoint

It has been two years since we introduced the RecoverPoint splitter within VPLEX. The awesomeness of VPLEX was joined with the coolness of RecoverPoint. With this combination, we delivered operational and disaster recovery to VPLEX customers to add to the continuous availability that they already had access to. These were extremely complementary use-cases. While there were a lot of skeptics outside of EMC about this combination, we were quietly confident in our belief that customer wanted an extended continuum between disaster recovery and continuous availability. Suffice it to say, that this combination has exceeded our revenue expectations. Since the launch in May 2012, the organizations have come even closer together within a single business unit further solidifying the bonds between the two teams.

A quick recap of the current integration points between VPLEX and RecoverPoint.

RecoverPoint delivers continuous data protection enabling local and/or remote protection. This is enabled by a RecoverPoint splitter which resides within the VPLEX platform. RecoverPoint has a similar splitter in the VMAX and VNX platform as well. The RP splitter enables WRITES to be sent to a RecoverPoint Appliance (RPA). From there, you can enable local protection (where the writes are journaled locally) or remote protection (where the writes are journaled remotely) or both. The beauty of RecoverPoint is that it can store every single write to give recovery a DVR like capability. The other benefit of RecoverPoint is that the protection is heterogeneous i.e. it can protect between every combination of VPLEX / VMAX and VNX.

The combination of VPLEX and RecoverPoint supports the following topologies:

  1. VPLEX Local with RecoverPoint Local Protection
  2. VPLEX Local with RecoverPoint Remote Protection
  3. VPLEX Metro with RecoverPoint Local Protection
  4. VPLEX Metro with RecoverPoint Remote Protection
  5. The slide below shows the currently supported topologies.

    Currently supported VPLEX and RecoverPoint topologies
    Currently supported VPLEX and RecoverPoint topologies

    Customer topologies are all over the map – we see a lot of traction with the VPLEX Local and RecoverPoint Remote Protection (as we expected). However, the second largest topology is the three sided cascaded topology. And that was a surprise. Upon digging further, a lot of customers have business requirements that need them to have out-of-region disaster recovery site. Yet other customers are deploying VPLEX Metro within one site. So, the usage of RecoverPoint in this case is to provide DR to a Metro deployed within the site. This is the cascaded topology.

    As you can imagine, the downside of the cascaded topology is that if the replicating VPLEX Cluster fails or loses connectivity, DR protection is lost. Since the launch of RecoverPoint on VPLEX quite a few customers have been asking us to add the capability to protect both sides of a VPLEX Metro to a common third site using RecoverPoint. Well, that is exactly what we have done.

    MetroPoint: Operational and Disaster Protection across both sides of a VPLEX Metro

    MetroPoint Topology
    MetroPoint Topology

    The MetroPoint solution launched April 4th will GA at the end of Q2. This is a joint capability between RecoverPoint and VPLEX. Starting with RecoverPoint 4.1 and GeoSynchrony 5.4, customers will now be able to add Disaster Recovery and Operational Recovery protection to both sides of a distributed volume. With MetroPoint, we took the time to do this right – although the protection is on both sides of a distributed volume, only one of the sides is replicating data. The data goes to a single copy of a DR leg. In other words, no additional bandwidth or storage is needed to enable MetroPoint as compared to enabling a standard DR scenario.

    To enable this, we have created a new kind of consistency group called MetroPoint consistency groups. This enables replication on both sides of a distributed volume. Another characteristic of the MetroPoint consistency group is that you can load balance which site is the primary replication site. If there is a failure on the primary replication site, the replication will AUTOMATICALLY switch to the surviving site. In other words, there is no loss of DR protection even if you lose the primary replication site.

    To me, one of the more exciting implications is the extension of the VMware HA and VMware SRM use cases to the MetroPoint topology. Here is what this looks like:

    image
    MetroPoint with VMware HA and SRM

    The VPLEX Metro sites are protected with VMware HA and the remote DR site is protected with VMware SRM. This now gives our customers simultaneous HA and DR.

    One comment here: We talk about MetroPoint as a three site deployment and that is true. However, it is worth remembering that there are a number of customers who deploy VPLEX Metro within a data center either to protect multiple floors or multiple SANs or across a campus type environment. In those scenarios, customers can use MetroPoint to protect to a second site. There is a lot of interest in this deployment model.

    More coolness – along the way, we were able to meet one more request that our customers had requested. With the MetroPoint consistency group, we were able to provide operational recovery on both sides of a VPLEX Metro. And this does not need a third site!!

    Operational Recovery on both sides of a VPLEX Metro
    Operational Recovery on both sides of a VPLEX Metro

    To top this all off, MetroPoint is completely heterogeneous. All these goodies work with both EMC as well as non-EMC arrays. So long as the storage array is supported by VPLEX, you are good to go.

    Here is a short video that Paul Danahy and I put together to give you brief overview of MetroPoint:

    With MetroPoint, we have raised the bar on continuous availability and disaster recovery. This has been the result of collaboration between the VPLEX and RecoverPoint engineering team with a lot of input from some of our lead customers. To all those who helped us get here, a very BIG thank you!

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2014 Launch Post 1: Software Defined Coolness: VPLEX Virtual Edition!!

2014-04-08 One Correction below

On April 4th, 2014, as part of the Data Protection and Availability Division (DPAD) launch, there were three VPLEX and RecoverPoint items that were launched or GAd:

  • VPLEX Virtual Edition – Availability late Q2
  • MetroPoint Topology – Joint capability of VPLEX and RecoverPoint – Availability Late Q2
  • VPLEX Integrated Array Services – Available now

This is the first in a series of posts to walk through what was launched / delivered.

The drivers towards a VPLEX Virtual Edition

Data center infrastructure is undergoing a massive shift. Virtualization in the data center has had a profound impact on customer expectations of flexibility and agility. Especially as customers get to 70+% virtualized, they have the potential to realize tremendous operational savings by consolidating management in their virtualization framework. In this state, customers typically do not want to deploy physical appliances and want everything handled from their virtualization context. Similar changes in networking and storage have meant that the basic infrastructure is now completely in software running on generic hardware. This is the software defined data center. VPLEX has been no stranger to this conversation. Especially given the very strong affinity of VPLEX to VMware use-cases, customers have been asking us for a software only version of VPLEX. That is precisely what we have done. This past week, we launched VPLEX Virtual Edition – with a GA towards the end of Q2.

What is the VPLEX Virtual Edition and what does it do?

The VPLEX Virtual Edition (VPLEX/VE) is a vApp version of VPLEX designed to run on an ESX Server Environment to provide continuous availability and mobility within and across data centers. We expect this to be the first in a series of virtual offerings. In comparison to the appliance, all the VPLEX directors are converted into vDirectors. For the first release, the configuration we support is called the ‘4×4’ – this will support four vDirectors on each side of a VPLEX Metro. From a configuration standpoint, that is the equivalent of two VPLEX engines on each side of a VPLEX Metro cluster. Each side of VPLEX/VE can be deployed within or across data centers up to 5 msec apart.

4x4 VPLEX/VE Topology
4×4 VPLEX/VE Topology

VPLEX/VE supports iSCSI for front-end and back-end connectivity. For the initial release, we have decided to support only the VPLEX Metro equivalent use-cases. Most of the VPLEX Local related use-cases can be addressed by a combination of vMotion and storage vMotion. To list the use-cases:

  • The ability to stretch VMware HA / DRS clusters across data centers for automatic restart and protecting VMs across multiple data arrays
  • Load balancing of virtual machines across data centers
  • Instant movement of VMs across distance
VPLEX Virtual Edition Supported Use Cases
VPLEX Virtual Edition Supported Use Cases

From a performance perspective, VPLEX/VE is targeted up to a 100K IOPS workload. Obviously, the true performance will depend on your workload. The deployment is designed to be customer installable from the get go. There is an installation wizard that guides you all the way through the installation. When GAd, please refer to the release notes to determine what kind of ESX Servers are supported for VPLEX/VE. The vDirectors need to be loaded onto separate ESX Servers such that no two vDirectors are deployed on the same ESX server. This is done so as to give the system maximum availability. Running application VMs on the same ESX server as that running the vDirector is supported. This means that you should be able to use your existing ESX servers (subject to the minimum requirement that will be established for the vDirectors).

The way that an I/O will flow is from the application VM (via iSCSI) to the VPLEX/VE vDirector VM and from there to the iSCSI array connected to VPLEX/VE. Speaking of which, right out of the chute, we support VNXe arrays. We will add other iSCSI arrays over time.

One of the more interesting changes that we have made with VPLEX/VE is the way that it is managed. Since VPLEX/VE is tailored for ESX servers only, our management interface to VPLEX/VE is completely through the vSphere Web Client. Here are some screenshots of how VPLEX/VE management looks. The coolest part for me is that you can go from creating your VMs, setting up an HA cluster, all the way to creating a distributed volume all within the vSphere Web Client. _VERY_ nifty! In addition, we have now enabled VPLEX/VE events and alarms to show up in the vCenter Event Viewer. For all practical purposes, this is a seamless vApp designed for your vSphere environments.

Customer installable
Customer installable
VPLEX Virtual Edition in vSphere Web Client
VPLEX Virtual Edition in vSphere Web Client
VPLEX/VE vDirectors in vSphere Web Client
VPLEX/VE vDirectors in vSphere Web Client
VPLEX/VE Operations in vSphere Web Client
VPLEX/VE Operations in vSphere Web Client

When a distributed volume is provisioned for VPLEX/VE, it is configured as a vmfs 5 volume and made available as a resource to vCenter.

With VPLEX/VE, we have had the opportunity to do a lot of things differently. One of our guiding principles was to not think of it as a storage product but rather to think of it as a product designed for VMware environments and targeted to an ESX Administrator. Naturally, I cannot wait to see this get into our customers hands and to see whether we have hit our marks and what adjustments are needed.

Equally importantly, this is a strategic imperative within EMC. You can expect to see a lot more of our product portfolio embarking on the software defined journey. There are a lot of intersects within the portfolio that we have only begun to explore (HINT: Composing software is a lot easier than composing hardware!).

Frequently Asked Questions

Since launch, I have seen a ton of questions on twitter, on internal mailing lists and via people directly or indirectly reaching out to me. So, here are the collated answers:

  • Is VPLEX/VE available right now?
    • A: VPLEX/VE will GA towards the end of Q2.
  • Will VPLEX/VE support non-EMC arrays?
    • A: As with VPLEX, we expect to qualify additional EMC and non-EMC arrays over time based on customer demand. Expect new additions fairly quickly after GA
  • Will I be able to connect VMs from ESX clusters that are not within the same cluster as the one hosting VPLEX/VE?
    • A: Yes No
  • Will I be able to connect non-VMware ESX hosts to VPLEX/VE?
    • A: At this point, we only support VMware iSCSI hosts connecting to VPLEX/VE. This is one of the reasons the management has been designed within the vSphere Web Client
  • Can I connect VPLEX/VE with VPLEX?
    • A: VPLEX/VE is deployed as a Metro equivalent platform (i.e. both sides). Connecting to VPLEX is not supported. If there are interesting use-cases of this ilk, we would love to hear from you. Please use the comments section below and we can get in touch with you.
  • Is RecoverPoint supported with VPLEX/VE>
    • A: Not today. So, I am explicit – the MetroPoint topology which also launched last week is also not supported with VPLEX/VE
  • Is VPLEX/VE supported with ViPR?
    • A: At GA, ViPR will not support VPLEX/VE. Both the ViPR and VPLEX/VE teams are actively looking at this.
  • Does VPLEX/VE support deployment configurations other than a 4×4?
    • A: Currently, 4×4 is the only allowed deployment configuration. Over time, we expect to support additional configurations primarily driven by additional customer demand.
  • Will VPLEX/VE be qualified under vMSC (vSphere Metro Storage Cluster)?
    • A: Yes.

    If you are interested in a Cliff’s note version of this, here is a short video that Paul and I did to walk through the virtual edition:

Takeaways from VMware Partner Exchange 2014

I just came home from the ever lovely San Francisco to a winter wonderland here in Boston. The picture on the ground in Boston was just as completely different from San Francisco as I believe the data center in five years will be from the data center of today. The picture has started to emerge out of the haze but it is not completely clear what the final picture will be when the fuzziness disappears.

In walking through the solutions floor and talking to various partners and listening to the key notes, there are some interesting things I took away and thought would be useful to share.

  1. Flash is changing the data center – And it is early days yet: For the longest time in the compute, network and storage trifecta within the data center, the storage portion has been the slowest typically. With flash, that equation has started to change. With flash there has a dramatic change in the IOPS and latency equation on the storage front. We are seeing some very interesting plays on the usage of flash. Some of the changes are obvious – the sheer speed of flash enables a paradigm shift. You can already see many different layers trying to attack the problem – take the FVP from PernixData or VSAN from VMware or which try to aggregate server side flash or EMC’s XtremSF with XtremCache which does intelligent data tiering at the server level. My bet, this is just the first domino. How will flash change the application layer? There are a _LOT_ of flash plays out there. Innovation at the speed of flash, I guess. Not all these ideas will work but man, what a ride it promises to be.
  2. Software Defined – you ain’t seen nothing yet: This seems like a buzzword until you peer through the hype cycle. While the most obvious impact is the conversion of hardware elements into pure software, my bet again is that the impact is going to be far more profound than most of us realize. Infrastructure is being separated from hardware right in front of our eyes. The server side has already undergone this dramatic transformation and the profound impact of that is in front of our eyes. Storage and network are up next. There is one other implication. At the point that you have storage and network virtualized, your entire infrastructure is no longer tied to hardware. We have seen an example of what can happen with use-cases such as those seen with VPLEX. What implications does this have for management, for the definition of a data center and what we architect, train and build for.

These are seismic changes which promise to change the landscape of computing. This impacts data center practitioners, partners who sell to data centers, and vendors who are trying to build for these new data centers. Only time will tell how all of this will shake out. We live in very interesting times in the technology industry – enjoy the ride, it should be fun!

PS: One other takeaway for me: I should invest in a snowblower. More on that later 🙂

Talkin’ about VPLEX and RecoverPoint Part 3

It is that time again. Our marketing team has been at it developing more videos to communicate the value of VPLEX and RecoverPoint. Some of them have incredible art in them, others have things blowing up but they are all fun to share. So, without further ado, here is the next in the ‘Talkin’ about’ series:

  1. DataCrunchers: Data Center Detonation: Here Steve Todd (T: @SteveTodd and his wonderful Information Playground Blog) and Nga Nguyen demonstrate Continuous Availability with VPLEX by using some C4 explosives.

  2. Big Ideas; Big Tech: How to protect mission critical environments: This next one talks about the business impact of failure of mission critical environments and how with a combination of VMAX, RecoverPoint and VPLEX from EMC, you can build a comprehensive local and remote protection strategy for such environments.

Do take a look at these videos – I like how they simplify continuous availability concepts to make them consumable by a larger audience. Needless to say, I am a HUGE fan of these videos!

Opportunity to participate in a VPLEX Beta

Short post to end the week.

We have an upcoming VPLEX release which will be going through its Beta process starting April. We are in the midst of soliciting customers who would like to test out the new functionality and participate in the Beta. The need for a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) on the new functionality prevents me from describing the capabilities we are adding.

So, if YOU are someone who loves to test new features and functionality and care enough about telling engineers and product managers how they can make things better, we are looking for you. Here is how you can participate:

  1. Please reach out to Jen Aspesi (@routrgrrlFOLLOW HER) or me
  2. Contact us at betarequest@emc.com and mention VPLEX Beta starting in April in the message body
  3. Contact your friendly EMC account team and have them get in touch with Jen or me

Once we have your request, we can walk you through what new functionality is being added, what is involved in the beta and what options we have to go through the beta. From there, you can decide whether you still want to help with our Beta process. Either ways, we would love to hear from you.

Oh yeah, lest I forget you do not have to be an existing customer to participate in the Beta (but you do get brownie points if you are one!). We would love to see you participate in this Beta – it should be a snap!

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