Monthly Archives: April 2016

Tracking EMC Elect Tweets @ EMC World

Staying abreast of technology is simultaneously a challenging and rewarding part of my career. Now and then I like to dive deep into an area to get my hands dirty. Recently I’ve had the itch to explore the latest offerings from Microsoft. SQL 2016, PowerBI and .Net. I’ve also wanted to get a little more hands-on experience with public APIs. All topics I’m familiar with, but sitting down and writing code, designing a database, calling APIs and building reports is a little different that simply understanding how it works.

With EMC World right around the corner, I figured I’d have a little bit of fun with the project, and track and report on the Twitter usage of my fellow EMC Elect during the event.

Down the road I’ll try to blog more about the details but here is the gist of what’s behind the report. Levering Twitter I created a list with all the EMC Elect  twitter accounts, you can subscribe to it here. Then, leveraging .Net and Twitter’s public API, I programmed a routine that will continually monitor that list, collecting Tweet information and storing it in SQL 2016. With PowerBI, I built a report that shows interesting tidbits on the Twitter usage collected. Recently Microsoft released a new feature in PowerBI that allows sharing reports with the internet without requiring authentication which has enabled me to share the report. To keep the report up to date, I’m using the Personal Gateway for PowerBI, which allows me to connect my on-prem SQL 2016 database with the cloud-based reporting tool.

I chose this stack and components in part because all of these are available free of charge now, a shift Microsoft has been making much like EMC’s Free and Frictionless movement. PowerBI allows a personal account (with limited data and options). Microsoft recently made SQL Developer Edition free, which essentially is all SQL Enterprise features, just for you as a single user. The .Net coding language has free Visual Studio options, with Nuget I can pull free libraries into my code from the web quickly, and of course, Twitter makes accessing the API free with an account.

I also hooked this up to Azure’s Machine Learning cloud to perform sentiment analysis on the keywords, which also has a free tier. Though given the volume of tweets, I’m not sure I’ll stay in the free tier band, so still working on that aspect.

So, here is the EMC Elect Twitter Statistics for the week of EMC World, May 1st-5th. I’ve embedded the report on my blog below, scroll past it for some information on what the charts mean, as well links to get directly to the report and data for the previous week to compare. If you are a PowerBI user already and have the mobile application and would like to watch on your phone, drop me a note… hopefully, Microsoft will allow sharing the mobile reports publically down the road.

I’d also love comments on your personal deciphering of what this means, as always data presented often needs a human to make it into information. As well, there are countless ways to slice this data now that it’s all in a database, if you have some burning questions or a different way you’d like to see the data, let me know, and I’ll try to build it (or at least run the query to see). I’m personally interested what words will show up, will we see the names of new releases in the word clouds? Will we see more tweets given the event, or less. Will many of the European EMC Elect coming state-side for the event shift the time of day we see tweeting? Or will the fact we’re all out late at night counter-balance?


Follow this link for the full page report.

If the report above is empty, it’s hopefully because you’re reading this post before Sunday the 1st, otherwise I broke something. If it’s not the week of EMC World yet, the data won’t start populating, but you can look at the previous weeks report to see an example, as well compare the two weeks.

Follow this link for the full page report. 

Like I mentioned above, this is available through the PowerBI mobile app, but only for PowerBI users, not general use. Because PowerBI is a responsive design, the reports above are designed for desktop (or tablet) viewing and don’t work well on your phone.

Due to the current preview mode of the public web publishing, and the free Personal Gateway, the update frequenty of PowerBI is limited to daily with up to  8 refreshes per day. You can do live queries from on-prem, or SQL Azure, it just isn’t free. So while the data collection from Twitter is live, the reports might be an hour or so behind.

I hope the report is fairly self-evident. A good dashboard shouldn’t require much explanation. But if I didn’t make it intuitive enough, here some details on the elements.

  • Timeframe
    •  In the upper right is the timeframe of the report. All data in the report is within that timeframe. With the exception of the timelines that have a legend for “Last Week” and “This Week” of which “This Week” is inside the timeframe, and “Last Week” is the previous week to show a comparison.
    • Also on time frame, everything is in Central time. PowerBI needs to enhance their time localization functions (by enhance I mean create, since there is none I could find).
  • Total EMC Elect
    • How many total of the EMC Elect that have valid Twitter accounts, I’m missing a couple at the time of publishing.
  • Total Tweets
    • The sum total of original Tweets created by the EMC Elect (meaning I’m not counting when an EMC Elect retweets someone else’s original tweet)
  • Total Retweets
    • How many times original Tweets from the EMC Elect were retweeted
  • Total Favorites
    • How many times the original tweets from the EMC Elect have been ‘liked’
  • EMC Elect Active
    • Of the total EMC Elect members, during the week how many have tweeted at least once
  • EMC World Mentioned
    • From the original tweets, how many mentioned EMC World (in any facet, hashtag or words)
  • EMC Mentioned
    • From the original tweets, how many tweets mentioned EMC in any way
  • Tweets by Weekday
    • Of all those original tweets, what day did they occur on compared to the same day last weel.
  • Tweets by Hour of Day
    • When are all those tweets coming out, so all tweets to date summed for the hour of day; then compared to last week.
  • Who Tweeted The Most
    • Ordered descending and a running sum, who has created the most original tweets
  • Who was Retweeted the Most
    • Ordered descending and a running sum, who’s tweets have been retweeted the most
  • Who’s Tweets Received the Most Likes
    • Ordered descending and a running sum, who’s received the most ‘likes’
  • What Words were Tweeted
    • This is your standard word cloud of all the words used in the original tweets from the list. The bigger the word, the more it’s used. I’ve removed common words, but didn’t do any other filtering so if it’s profane; it came from Twitter.
  • What #Hashtags were Tweeted
    • Same as words, just the hashtags
  • Most Mentioned
    • Ordered descending and a running sum, who is the EMC Elect mentioning in their tweets
  • Everyone Mentioned
    • Again a word cloud, but of the other users mentioned in the tweets.
  • Where are EMC Elect Tweeting from
    • This is a little light on data because few people tag their location when tweeting. But Twitter does store it when you do, and I wanted to play with the geospatial features in SQL and PowerBI.


By | April 28th, 2016|Code, Home Lab, MyDW|2 Comments

“It’s not the…”

I saw this meme on my social media feed, and it reminded me of my first rule of troubleshooting.

Never, ever, try to prove it’s not your area.

If you’re in IT, you’re familiar with ‘critical’ issues. You might call them SevA, Sev1, TITSUP, outage, all-hands or something else. But we all have them, and we’ve all been involved in some way.

How many times in one of those situations did you hear:
“It’s not the network”
“It’s not the storage”
“It’s not VMware”
“It’s not my code”

What you’re really saying is: “It’s not MY fault”.

Stop thinking this way. Stop trying to prove it’s not your fault or your area, or your systems. Instead, ask yourself how can you solve the problem. How can you make it better. Maybe your area did not create the issue at hand. But if all you’re are trying to do is prove it’s not your responsibility, you’re not actually trying to solve the problem, rather you’re only trying to get out of the situation. It reminds me of childhood neighborhood games yelling “1-2-3 NOT IT”. If everyone is simply trying to be “not it” then the problem will never get solved.

Rather than trying to prove it’s not you, I urge everyone to prove it IS. Why? Well for starters if I keep trying to proof it’s my area, and I work under the assumption it might be… I might find out it actually is. It’s very easy for us to overlook a detail about why our area is part of the problem if all we’re trying to do is prove it’s not.

More than that, it’s a mindset.

The goal should always be to restore the service at any cost; does it matter why it happened during the outage? If during a critical issue I can find a way to improve the area I’m responsible for enough to alleviate the pain, I can help de-escalate the situation enough to restore service, then, get to true root cause.

Everything in IT is related, the components all work together. If I leave the situation after proving it’s not my area, I’m not present in the conversation to help answer questions. We see this result as waiting to get someone back on the phone or in the war room to answer a question, delaying the resolution.

Continuing to stay engaged I will learn more about how my role fits into the larger ecosystem my area supports. With that knowledge, I improve my ability to contribute. Not just to the issue at hand, but to future designs. Plus if I wish for “my area” to grow, a.k.a. get promotions; the more I know about the other areas the better suited I am for a wider set of responsibilities.

Digging deeper and deeper into the tools and metrics I have may help uncover the key to solving the problem. I might be able to find the nugget that helps my peer solve the problem. Tracing network packets can help developers; comparing IOPS volume from before the incident can point to workload changes, leveraging security tools might help find code issues; I’ve witnessed this over and over again.

I have a great real-world example of this I use when talking to teams about critical response practices.

Years ago, we were experiencing an issue where a database server would crash every night during major ETL loads. For days no one could figure out why. The database looked fine, the logs were clean, but the whole server would panic every night. I was not responsible for the operating system up at the time, so I was not involved in the initial troubleshooting effort. But with the problem ongoing the teams who were responsible started reaching out for help.

I offered to take a look. While initially I didn’t see anything of concern, I asked when the issues happened and if I could watch. It was the middle of the night, so I agreed to stay up late with them that night to watch in real time. While the other team looked at the OS and Database monitoring tools; I opened up mine, vCenter, storage, etc. Right before the crash happened, in real-time monitoring mode inside vCenter, I noticed an enormous spike in packets per second at the network layer. We repeated the workload, and the crash and the spike repeated as well.

Why and what was happening? The ETL load was causing a large influx of data over the network, increasing the packets per second. While the 10Gbs bandwidth was not a bottleneck, the virtual network card was an older model (E1000) which in turn was overwhelming the kernel processor usage, confirmed by the Linux admin after I asked him to look at each processor usage statistic individually. The solution was to adjust the virtual nic (to VXNET3), as well enable Receive Side Scaling to spread the network processing workload across multiple cores, avoiding starving the kernel on core 0.

By looking at the tools for my area, we were able to find data that led us down the path to the ultimate cause of the issue and solved it. It wasn’t the vSphere Hypervisor causing the issue, but the monitoring at that level could point to the issue. I could help solve the issue, even though it wasn’t my fault. Because I was trying to help, not just trying to prove it wasn’t my fault.

This story also demonstrates another important point… it often is not anyone’s or any areas fault; but the combination of them. Which means no one team can solve it on their own.

My last point, and maybe the most important personally, is also the easiest to forget. This time, it might not be your area, but next time it might be. When it is, don’t you want your peers there to help you? More over, isn’t it better to solve it together and make it a team problem? It might not be your culture today, but it can be with your help.

These are all the reasons I’ve told my teams “Don’t try to prove it’s NOT your area, try to prove IT IS, because if it is, YOU can fix it, and I need it fixed”.

So if you find yourself saying: “It’s not the <my area>”. Try instead “How can <my area> help?”

By | April 27th, 2016|Opinions, Pet Peeve, Soapbox|0 Comments

The ‘Value Added’ in VAR

Eric Hagstrom and I sat down to discuss the value VAR/Partners bring to the table, why they exist, what you should expect from them, and some advice from behind the scenes.

Listen on his blog, or subscribe to the Remain Silent podcast with your favorite tool.


By | April 14th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

vSphere HTML5 Web Client – Fling

Last week, a small light appeared at the end of the dim tunnel called the vSphere Web Client. If you’re a vSphere engineer, or even just a user managing applications or server; you know what I’m talking about.

The vSphere Web Client has been problematic since day one. Some days it feels like you need an incantation to get the web client working, with Adobe Flash, browser security, and custom plug-ins. Even when you do, the slow response time of the web client directly impacts your productivity. Then there has been the very slow migration from the C# client, with components such as vCenter Update Manager just recently being available in the web client. Plus, only with the recent fling activity around the ESXi Embedded Host Client can we see a world where we don’t need the C# client at all.

Speaking of flings; the vSphere HTML5 Web Client is currently a VMware Fling; a technology preview built by VMware engineers with the intent the community explore and test, providing feedback. Often flings make it into the product in a future release, though that is largely dependent on the feedback from the community. This one needs our feedback!

If you are running vSphere 6, I highly encourage you to install the vSphere HTML5 Web Client. Currently, the deployment is through a vApp with the web server hosting the interface on a separate virtual machine from any of your vCenter Servers. This means there is very low risk to your environment, as you aren’t modifying your existing vCenter, rather extending it through the SSO engine to a separate web server.

At first glance, the instructions for the fling appear a little involved, though trust me they are not. All told it took me about 10 minutes to setup the H5 Web Client. The instructions are very detailed, so I won’t repeat them in depth; though I captured my deployment if you are interested.

I have both VCSA and vCenter for Windows in my lab, the fling will work with either (and will support an existing enhanced link mode setup like mine). I went the Windows route as it’s my platform services controller and SSO server.

  1. Download the OVA and the batch file
  2. Execute the batch file, which generates three config files
  3. Deploy the vSphere HTML5 Web Client OVA
  4. Once the new vApp is only, follow the instructions to create three new directories.
  5. Using a tool such as WinSCP, copy the three files from your vCenter server to the
  6. vSphere Web Client server
  7. Set the NTP Server
  8. Start the web server
  9. Browse vCenter in beautiful native HTML5, no plug-ins, no flash, so fiddling with your browser security. (If you are not already logged in to vSphere, the H5 site will redirect you to the SSO for authentication)


*Note there is no sound, this is to follow along the steps. The video is not speed up, this is the actual deployment time

Again this is the very first preview and as such the functionality is limited. Here a just a few screen shot while you’re waiting on the download.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

By | April 6th, 2016|Home Lab, VMWare|0 Comments

IsilonSD – Part 6: Final Thoughts

Now that I’ve spent some time with Isilon SD; how does it compare to my experience with its physical big brother? Where does the software defined version fit?

This post is part of a series covering the EMC Free and Frictionless software products.
Go to the first post for a table of contents.

Overview (TL;DR version)

I’m excited by the entrance of this product into the virtualization space. Isilon is a robust product that can be tuned for multiple use cases and workloads. Even though Isilon has years of product development behind it and currently on it’s eight major software version; the virtual product is technically V1. With any first version, there are some areas to work on; from my limited time with IsilonSD, I believe this is everything it’s physical big brother is in a smaller, virtual package. However, it’s also bringing some of the limitations of its physical past. Limitations to be aware of, but also, limitations I believe EMC will be working to remove in vNext of IsilonSD.

If you ran across this blog because of interest in IsilonSD, I hope you can test the product, either with physical nodes or with the test platform I’ve put together; only with customer testing and feedback can the product mature into what it’s capable of becoming.

Deep Dive (long version)

From running Isilon’s in multiple use-cases and companies, I always wanted the ability to get smaller Isilon models for my branch offices. I’ve worked in environments where we had hundreds of physical locations of varying sizes. Many of these we wanted file solutions in these spokes replicating back to a hub. We wanted a universal solution that applied to the varying size locations; allowing all the spokes to replicate back to the hub. The startup cost for a new Isilon cluster was prohibitive for a smaller site. Leading us to leverage Windows File Servers (an excellent file server solution but that’s a different post) for those situations, bifurcating our file services stack which increased complexity in management, not just of the file storage itself, but ancillary needs like monitoring and backups.

Given I’ve been running a virtualized Isilon simulator for as long as I’ve been purchasing and implementing the Isilon solution; leveraging a virtualized Isilon for these branch office scenarios was always on my wish list. When I heard the rumors an actual virtual product was in the works (vIMSOCOOL) I expected the solution to target this desire. When IsilonSD Edge was released, as I read the documentation, I continued with this expectation. I watched YouTube videos that said this was the exact use-case.

It’s taken actually setting up the product in a lab to understand that IsilonSD Edge is not the product I expected it to be. Personally, though the solution by it’s nature is ‘software defined’ as it includes no hardware; it doesn’t quite fit the definition I’ve come to believe SD stands for. This is less a virtual Isilon, or software defined Isilon, as it is “bring your own hardware”, IsilonBYOH if you will.

IsilonBYOH is, on its merit, an exciting product and highlights what makes Isilon successful; a great piece of software sitting on commodity servers. This approach is what’s allowed Isilon to become the product is it, supporting a plethora of node types as well as hard drive technologies. You can configure a super fast flash based NFS NAS solution to be an ultra high reliable storage solution behind web servers, where you can store the data once and have all nodes have shared access. You can leverage the multi-tenancy options to provide mixed storage in a heterogeneous environment, NFS to service servers and CIFS to end users, talking to both LDAP and Active Directory, tiering between node types to maximum performance for newer files and cost for older. You can create a NAS for high-capacity video editing needs; where the current data is on SSD for screaming fast performance, then moving to HDD when the project is complete. You can even create archive class storage array with cloud competitive pricing to store aged data, knowing you can easily scale, support multiple host types and if ever needed, incorporate faster nodes to increase performance.

With this new product, you can now start even smaller, purchasing your own hardware, running on your own network, and still leverage the same management and monitoring tools, even the same remote support. Plus you can replicate it just the same, including to traditional Isilon appliances.

However, to me, leveraging IsilonSD Edge does call for purchasing hardware, not simply adding this to your existing vSphere cluster and capturing unused storage. IsilonSD Edge, while running on vSphere, requires, locally attached, independent hard drives. This excludes leveraging VSAN, which means no VxRail (and all the competitive HCIA), it also means no ROBO hardware such as Dell VRTX (and all the similar competitive offerings), in fact just having RAID excludes you from using IsilonSD. These hardware requirements, specifically the dedicated disks; turns into limitations. Unless you’re in the position to dedicate three servers, which you’ll likely need to buy new to meet the requirements; you’re probably not putting this out in your remote/branch offices; even though that’s the goal of the ‘Edge’ part of the name.

When you buy those new nodes; you’d probably go ahead and leverage solid state drives; the cost for locally attached SSD SATA is quickly cutting even with traditional hard drives. But understand, IsilonSD Edge will not take advantage of those faster drives like it’s physical incarnation… no metadata caching with the SD version. Nor can the SD version provide any tiering through SmartPools (you can still control the data protection scheme with SmartPools, and obviously you’ll get a speed boost with SSD).

Given all this, the use-cases for IsilonSD Edge get very narrow. With the inability to put IsilonSD Edge on top of ROBO designs, the likelihood of needing to buy new hardware, coupled with the 36TB overall limit of the software defined version of Isilon; I struggle to identify a production scenario that is a good fit. The best case scenario in my mind is purchasing hardware with enough drives to run both IsilonSD and VSAN, side-by-side, on separate drives.; this would require at least nine drives server (more really), so you’re talking some larger machines, and again, a narrow fit.

To me, this product is less about today and more about tomorrow; release one setting the foundation for the future opportunity of virtual Isilon.

What is that opportunity?

For starters, running Isilon SD Edge on VxRail; even deploying it directly through the VxRail marketplace, and by this, I mean running the IsilonSD Edge VMDK files on the VSAN data store.

Before you say the Isilon protection scheme would double-down storage needs on the VSAN model; keep in mind you can configure per VM policies in VSAN. Setting Failure To Tolerate (FTT) of 0 is not recommended, but this is why it exists. Let Isilon provide data protection while playing in the VSAN sandbox. Leverage DRS groups and rules to configure anti-affinity of the Isilon virtual nodes; keeping them on separate hosts. Would VSAN introduce latency as compared to physical disk; quite probably… though in the typical ROBO scenario that’s not the largest concern. I was able to push 120Mbps onto my IsilonSD Edge cluster, and that was with nested ESXi all running on one host.

All of this doesn’t just apply to VxRail, but it’s competitors in the hyper-converged appliance space, as well a wide range of products targeted at small installations. To expand on the small installation scenario, if IsilonSD had lower data protection options like VSAN does to remove the need for six disks per node, or even three nodes; it could fit in smaller situations. Why not trust the RAID protection beneath the VM and still leverage Isilon for the robust NAS features it provides. Meaning run a single-node Isilon, after all, those remote offices are likely providing file services with Windows or Linux VMs, relying on the vSphere HA/DRS for availability, and server RAID (or VSAN) for data loss prevention. The Isilon has a rich feature set outside of just data protection across nodes. Even a single node Isilon with SmartSync back to a mothership has compelling use cases.

On the other side of the spectrum, putting IsilonSD in a public cloud provider, where you don’t control the hardware and storage, has quite a few use-cases. Yes, Isilon has CloudPool technology, this extends an Isilon into public cloud models that provide object storage. But a virtual Isilon running in, say, vCloud Air or VirtuStream, with SynqIQ with your on-premise Isilon opens quite a few doors, such as for those looking at public cloud disaster-recovery-as-a-service solutions. Or moving to the cloud while still having a bunker on-premise for securing your data.

Outside of the need for independent drives, this is, an Isilon, running on vSphere. That’s… awesome! As I mentioned before, this opens some big opportunities should EMC continue down this path. Plus, it’s Free and Frictionless, meaning you can do this exact same testing as I’ve done. If you are an Isilon customer today, GO GET THIS. It’s a great way to test out changes, upgrades, command line scripts, etc.

If you are running the Free and Frictionless version, outside of the 36TB and six node limit, you also do NOT get licenses for SynqIQ, SmartLock or CloudPools.

I’ll say, given I went down this road from my excitement about Free and Frictionless; these missing licenses are a little disappointing. I’ve run SyncIQ and SmartLock, two great features and was looking forward to testing them, and having them handy to help answer questions I get when talking about Isilon.

CloudPools, while I have not run, is something that I’ve been incredibly excited about for years leading up to its release, so I’ll admit I wish it were in the Free and Frictionless version, if only a small amount of storage to play with.

Wrapping up, there are countless IT organizations out there; I’ve never met one that wasn’t unique, even with some areas I’d like to see improved with this product, undoubtedly IsilonSD Edge will apply to quite a few shops. In fact, I’ve heard some customers were asking for a BYOH Isilon approach; so maybe this is really for them (which if so, the 36TB seems limiting). If you’re looking at IsilonSD Edge, I’d love to hear why; maybe I missed something (certainly I have). Reach out, or use the comments.

If you are looking into IsilonSD Edge, outside of the drive/node requirements; some things to be aware of that caught my eye.

While the FAQs state you can run other virtual machines on the same hosts; I would advise against it. If you had enough physical drives to split them between IsilonSD and VSAN, it could be done. You could also use NFS, ISCSI or Fibre Channel for data stores; but this is overly complex and in all likelihood, more expensive than simply having dedicated hardware for IsilonSD Edge (or really, just buying the physical Isilon product). But given the data stores used by the IsilonSD Edge nodes are unprotected, putting a VM on them means you are just asking for the drive to fail, and to lose that VM.

Because you are dedicating physical drives to a virtual machine, you cannot vMotion the IsilonSD virtual nodes. This means you cannot leverage DRS (Dynamic Resource Scheduler), which in turn means you cannot leverage vSphere Update Manager to automatically patch the hosts (as it relies on moving workloads around during maintenance).

The IsilonSD virtual nodes do NOT have VMware tools. Meaning you cannot shut down the virtual machines from inside vSphere (for patching or otherwise), rather you’ll need to enter the OneFS administrator CLI, shut down the Isilon node; then go and perform ESX host maintenance. If you have reporting in place to ensure your virtual machines have VMtools installed, running and at the supported version (something I highly recommend) you’ll need to adjust this. Other systems that leverage VMtools; such as Infrastructure Navigator, will not work either.

I might be overlooking something (I hope so) but I cannot find a way to expand the storage on an existing node. In my testing scenario, I built the minimal configuration of six data drives of a measly 64GB each. I could not figure out how to increase this space, which is something we’re all accustomed to on vSphere (in fact quickly growing VMs resources is a cornerstone of virtualization). I can increase the overall capacity by increasing nodes, but this requires additional ESX hosts. If this is true, again the idea of using ‘unclaimed capacity’ for IsilonSD Edge is marginalized.

IsilonSD wants nodes in a pool to be configured the same, specifically with the same size and amount of drives. This is understandable as it spreads data across all the drives in the pool equally. However, this lessens the value of ‘capturing unused capacity’. Aside from the unprotected storage point; if you were to have free storage on drives, your ability to deploy IsilonSD will be constrained to the lowest free space volume, as all the VMDK files (virtual drives) have to be the same. Even if you had twenty-one independent disks across three nodes, if just one of them was smaller than the rest, that free space dictates the size unit you can configure.

Even though I’m not quite sure where this new product fits or what problem it solves; that’s true of many products when they first release. It’s quite possible this will open new doors no one knew were closed and if nothing else; I’m ecstatic EMC is pursuing making a virtual version of the product; after all this is just version 1… what would you want in version 2? Respond in the comments!

By | April 4th, 2016|EMC, Home Lab, Opinions, Storage|2 Comments

IsilonSD – Part 5: Monitoring Activity

For my deployment of IsilonSD Edge, I want to keep this running in my lab, installing systems is often far easier than operating them (especially troubleshooting issues). However an idle system isn’t really a good way to get exposure, so I need to put a little activity on this cluster, plus monitor it.

This post is part of a series covering the EMC Free and Frictionless software products.
Go to the first post for a table of contents.

This is just my lab, so here is my approach to doing more with IsilonSD than simply deploying it:

  • Deploy InsightIQ (EMC’s dedicated Isilon monitoring suite)
  • Move InsightIQ Data to IsilonSD Edge Cluster
  • Synchronize Software Repository
  • Mount Isilon01 as vSphere Datastore
  • Load Test

Deploy InsightIQ

InsightIQ is EMC’s custom-built monitoring application for Isilon. Personally, this was one of the top reasons I select Isilon years ago when evaluating NAS solutions. I’m a firm believer that the ability to monitor a solution should be a key deciding factor in product selection.

Without going too deep in InsightIQ itself (that’s another blog), it provides the ability to monitor the performance of the Isilon, including the client perspective of the performance. You can drill into the latency of operations by IP address; which when I first purchased an Isilon array is was because the incumbent solution was having numerous performance problems and the lack of visibility into why was causing a severe customer satisfaction issue.

InsightIQ monitors the nodes, cluster communication, and even does file analysis to help administrators understand where their space is consumed and by what type of files.

Deploying InsightIQ is a typical OVA process, we’ve collected the information necessary in previous posts, so I’ll be brief, in fact you can probably wing-it on this one if you want.

*Note there is no sound, this is to follow along the steps.
  1. In the vSphere Web Client, deploy an OVA
  2. Provide the networking information and datastore for the InsightIQ appliance
  3. After the OVA deploy is complete, open the console to the VM, where you’ll need to enter the root password
  4. Navigate your browser to the IP address you entered, logging in as root, with the password you created in the console
  5. Add the Isilon cluster to InsightIQ and wait while it discovers all the nodes.


Move InsightIQ Data to IsilonSD Edge Cluster

You can imagine collecting performance data, and file statistics will consume quite a bit of storage. By default InsightIQ will store all this data on the virtual machine, so I move the InsightIQ Datastore onto the Isilon cluster itself. While this is a little circular, InsightIQ will generate some load writing the monitoring data, which in turn will give it something to monitor, for our lab purposes this provides some activity.

Simply log into InsightIQ, under Settings -> Datastore, change the location to NFS Mounted Datastore. By default Isilon shares out /IFS, however in production this should ALWAYS be changed, but for a lab we’ll leverage the export path.


If you do this immediately after deploying InsightIQ, it will be very quick. If, however, you’ve been collecting data, you’ll be presented with information about the progress of the migration, refreshing the browser will provide updates.

IsilonSD_InsightIQDSMoveProgressSynchronize Software Repository

I have all my ISO files, keys, OVAs and software installation on a physical NAS; this makes it very easy to mount via NFS to all my hosts as a datastore, physical and nested; for quickly installing software in my lab. Because of this, I use this repository daily; so to ensure I’m actually utilizing IsilonSD to continue to learn about it post setup, I’m going use IsilonSD to keep a copy of this software repository, mounting all my nested ESXi hosts to it.

I still need my physical NAS for my physical hosts, in case I lose the IsilonSD I don’t want to lose all my software and be unable to reinstall. I want the physical NAS and IsilonSD to stay in sync too. My simple solution is to leverage robocopy to sync the two file systems; the added benefit of this is I also get the regular load on IsilonSD.

Delving into robocopy is a whole different post, but here is my incredibly simple batch routine. It mirrors my primary NAS software repository to the Isilon. This runs nightly now.

robocopy \\nas\software\ \\isilon01\ifs\software\ /MIR /MT:64 /R:0 /W:0 /ZB

Upon first execution, I see in InsightIQ traffic onto IsilonSD. Even though this is nested ESXi, with the virtual Isilon nodes sharing both compute, network, memory and disk; I see a fairly healthy external throughput rate, peaking around 100Mb/s.



When the copy process is complete, looking in the OneFS administrator console will show the data has been spread across the nodes (under HDD Used).


Mount Isilon01 as vSphere Datastore

Generally speaking, I would not recommend Isilon for VMware storage. Isilon is built for file services, and its specialty is sequential access workloads. For small workloads, if you have an Isilon for file services already, an Isilon datastore will work; but there are better solutions for vSphere data stores in my opinion.

For my uses in the lab though, with my software repository being replicated onto Isilon, mounting an Isilon NFS export as a datastore will not only allow me to access those ISO files but open multiple concurrent connections to monitor.

*Note there is no sound, this is to follow along the steps.
Mounting an NFS datastore to Isilon is exactly the same as any other NFS NAS.

You MUST use the FQDN to allow SmartConnect to balance the connections.


With the datastore mounted, if you go back into the OneFS administrator console; you can see the connections were spread across the nodes.


Now I have a purpose to regularly use my IsilonSD Edge cluster, keeping it around for upgrade testing, referencing while talking to others, etc. Again, with the EMC Free and Frictionless license, I’m not going to run out of time, I can keep using this.

Load Test

Even though I have an ongoing use for IsilonSD, I want to to a little more to do than just serve as a software share, just to ensure it’s really working well. So I’ll use IOMeter to put a little load on it.
I’m running IsilonSD Edge on 4 nested ESXi virtual machines, which in turn are all running on one physical host. So IsilonSD is sharing compute, memory, disk and network across the 4 IsilonSD nodes (plus I have dozens of other servers running on this host). Needless to say, this is not going handle a high amount of load, nor provide the lowest latency. So, while I’m going to use IOMeter to put some load on my new IsilonSD Edge cluster and typically I would record all the details of a performance test; this time I’m not. Especially given I’m generating load from virtual machines on the same host.

Given Isilon is running on x86 servers, it would be incredibly interesting to see a scientific comparison between physical Isilon and IsilonSD Edge with like-for-like hardware. In my personal experience with virtualization, there is a negligible overhead, but I have to wonder the difference Infiniband makes.

In this case, my point of load testing is not to ascertain the latency or IOPS, but merely to put the storage device under some stress for a couple of hours to ensure it’s stable. So I created a little load, peaking around 80Mbps and 150 IOPS, but running for about 17 hours (overnight).

Below are some excerpts from InsightIQ, happily the next morning the cluster was running fine, even given the load. During the test, the latency fluctuated widely (as you’d expect due to the level of contention my nested environment creates). From an end user perspective, it was still usable.


In my next post I’m going to wrap this up and share my thoughts on IsilonSD Edge.

By | April 1st, 2016|EMC, Home Lab, VMWare|1 Comment