Dell EMC Solutions for Azure Stack HCI Furthers Customer Value
Mon, 23 Mar 2020 22:39:10 -0000|
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As customers address the upgrade cycle of retiring Microsoft Windows Server 2008 into software defined infrastructures using Windows Server 2019, the core tenets of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and hybrid cloud enablement continue to be desired goals. Many customers, however, are unsure how to best leverage their investments in Windows Server to modernize their datacenters to take advantage of software defined infrastructure.
At Dell Technologies, we have leadership positions in converged, hyperconverged, and cloud infrastructures covering several platforms, including being a founding launch partner with Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI solution. Built over three decades of partnership with Microsoft, we bring the insights and expertise to help our customers with their IT transformation utilizing software defined features of Windows Server 2019, the foundational platform for Azure Stack HCI.
Built on globally available and supported Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) Ready Nodes, Dell EMC offers a wide range of Azure Stack HCI Solutions that provide an excellent value proposition for customers who have standardized on Microsoft Hyper-V and looking to modernize IT infrastructure while utilizing their existing investments and expertise in Windows Server.
As we head to Microsoft’s largest customer event – Microsoft Ignite 2019 – we are delighted to share some new enhancements and offerings to our Azure Stack HCI solution portfolio.
Simplifying Managing Azure Stack HCI via Windows Admin Center (WAC)
With a goal of simplifying Azure Stack HCI management, we have integrated monitoring of S2D Ready Nodes into the Windows Admin Center (WAC) console. The Dell EMC OpenManage Extension for WAC allows our customers to manage Azure Stack HCI clusters from a single pane of glass. The current integration provides health monitoring, hardware inventory, and firmware compliance reporting of S2D Ready Nodes, the core building block of our Azure Stack HCI solution. By using this extension, infrastructure administrators can monitor all their clusters in real time and check if the nodes are compliant to Dell EMC recommended firmware and driver versions. Customers wanting to leverage Azure public cloud to either extend or protect their on-prem applications can do so within the WAC console to utilize services such as Azure Back up, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, etc.
Here is what Greg Altman, IT Infrastructure Manager at Swiff-Train and one our early customers had to say about our OpenManage integration with WAC:
"The Dell EMC OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center gives us full visibility to Dell EMC Solutions for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, enabling us to more easily respond to situations before they become critical. With the new OpenManage integration, we can also manage Microsoft Azure Stack HCI from anywhere, even simultaneously managing our clusters located in different cities."
New HCI Node optimized for Edge and ROBO Use Cases
Customers looking at modernizing infrastructure at edge, remote or small office locations now have an option of utilizing the new Dell EMC R440 S2D Ready Node which provides both hybrid and all-flash options. A 2-node Azure Stack HCI cluster provides a great solution for such use cases that need limited hardware infrastructure, yet superior performance and availability and ease of remote management.
The dual socket R440 S2D Ready Node is shallower (depth of 27.26 in) than a typical rack server, comes with up to 8 or 10 2.5” drive configurations providing up to 76.6TB of all-flash capacity in a single 1U node.
The table below summarizes our S2D Ready Node portfolio.
R440 S2D RN
R640 S2D RN
R740xd S2D RN
R740xd2 S2D RN
Edge/ROBO and space (depth) constrained locations
Density optimized node for applications needing balance of high-performance storage and compute
Capacity and performance optimized node for applications needing balance of compute and storage
Capacity optimized node for data intensive applications and use cases such as backup and archive
Hybrid & All-Flash
Hybrid, All-Flash, All-NVMe including Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory
Hybrid, All-Flash, and All-NVMe
Hybrid with SSDs and 3.5” HDDs
For detailed node specifications, please refer to our website.
Stepping up the Performance Capabilities
With applications and growing data analysis needs increasingly driving the lower latency and higher capacity requirements, it’s imperative the underlying infrastructure does not create performance bottlenecks. The latest refresh of our solution includes several updates to scale infrastructure performance:
- All S2D Ready Nodes now support Intel 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable Processors that provide improved compute performance and security features.
- Support for Intel Optane SSDs and Intel Optane DC memory (on R640 S2D Ready node) enable lower latency storage and persistent memory tier to accelerate application performance. The R640 S2D Ready Node can be configured with 1.5TB of Optane DC persistent memory working in App Direct Mode to a provide a cache tier for the NVMe storage local to the node.
- The new all-NVMe option on R640 S2D Ready Node provides a compact 1U node for applications that are sensitive to both compute and storage performance.
- Faster Networking Options: For applications needing high bandwidth and low latency access to network, the R640 and R740XD S2D Ready Nodes can now be configured with Mellanox CX5 100Gb Ethernet adapters. In addition, we have also qualified the PowerSwitch S5232 100Gb switch to provide a fully validated solution by Dell EMC.
As we drove new hardware enhancements to our Azure Stack HCI portfolio, we also put a configuration to test the performance we can expect from a representative configuration. With just a four node Azure Stack HCI cluster with R640 S2D Ready Nodes configure all NVMe drives and 100Gb Ethernet, we observed:
- 2.95M IOPS with an average read latency of 242μs in a VM Fleet test configured for 4K block size and 100% reads
- 0.8M IOPS with an average write latency of 4121 μs in a VM Fleet test configured for 4K block size and 100% writes
- Up to 63GB/s of 100% sequential read throughput and 9GB/s of 100% sequential write throughput with 512KB block size
Yes, you got it right. Not only the solution is compact, easy to manage but also provides a tremendous performance capability.
Read our detailed blog for more information on our lab performance test results.
Overall, we are very excited to bring so many new capabilities to our customers. We invite you to come meet us at Microsoft Ignite 2019 at Booth 1547, talk to Dell EMC experts and see live demos. Besides the show floor, Dell EMC experts will also be available at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Level 3, Discovery 43 Suite for detailed conversations. Register here for time with our experts.
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Technology leap ahead: 15G Intel based Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI
Mon, 20 Sep 2021 15:48:09 -0000|
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We are happy to announce the latest members of the family for our Microsoft HCI Solutions from Dell Technologies: the new AX-650 and AX-750 nodes.
If you are already familiar with our existing integrated system offering, you can directly jump to the next section. For those new to the party, keep on reading!
Figure 1: Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI portfolio: New AX-650 and AX-750 nodes
As with all other nodes supported by Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, the AX-650 and AX-750 nodes have been intelligently and deliberately configured with a wide range of component options to meet the requirements of nearly any use case – from the smallest remote or branch office to the most demanding database workloads.
The chassis, drive, processor, DIMM module, network adapter, and their associated BIOS, firmware, and driver versions have been carefully selected and tested by the Dell Technologies engineering team to optimize the performance and resiliency of Azure Stack HCI. Our engineering has also validated networking topologies using PowerSwitch network switches.
Arguably the most compelling aspect of our integrated system is our life cycle management capability. The Integrated Deploy and Update snap-in works with the Microsoft cluster creation extension to deliver Dell EMC HCI Configuration Profile. This Configuration Profile ensures a consistent, automated initial cluster creation experience on Day 1. The one-click full stack life cycle management snap-in for the Microsoft Cluster-Aware Updating extension allows administrators to apply updates. This seamlessly orchestrates OS, BIOS, firmware, and driver updates through a common Windows Admin Center workflow.
On top of it, Dell Technologies makes support services simple, flexible, and worry free – from installation and configuration to comprehensive, single source support. Certified deployment engineers ensure accuracy and speed, reduce risk and downtime, and free IT staff to work on those higher value priorities. Our one-stop cluster level support covers the hardware, operating system, hypervisor, and Storage Spaces Direct software, whether you purchased your license from Dell EMC or from Microsoft.
Now that we are at the same page with our integrated system…
What’s new with AX-650 and AX-750? Why are they important for our customers?
AX-650 and AX-750 are based on Intel Xeon Scalable 3rd generation Ice Lake processors that introduce big benefits in three main areas:
- Hardware improvements
- New features
- Management enhancements
Customers always demand the highest levels of performance available, and our new 15G platforms, through Intel Ice Lake and its latest 10nm technology, deliver huge performance gains (compared to the previous generation) for:
- Processing: up to a 40 percent CPU performance increase, a 15 percent per core performance boost, and 42 percent more cores
- Memory: 33 percent more memory channels, a 20 percent frequency boost, and a 2.66x increase in memory capacity
- PCIe Gen4 IO acceleration: a doubled throughput increase compared to PCIe Gen3, 33 percent more lanes, an increase in direct attached Gen4 NVMe drives, and support for the latest Gen4 accelerators and GPUs
These impressive figures are a big step forward from a hardware boost perspective, but there are even more important things going on than just brute power and performance.
Our new 15G platforms lay the technology foundation for the latest features that are coming (really) soon with the new version of Microsoft Azure Stack HCI.
Windows Server 2022 and Azure Stack HCI, version 21H2 will bring in (when they are made available) the following two key features:
- Secured-core Server
- GPU support
The fundamental idea of Secured-core Server is to stay ahead of attackers and protect our customers’ infrastructure and data all through hardware, BIOS, firmware, boot, drivers, and the operating system. This idea is based on three pillars:
- Simplified security: easy integration and consumption through Windows Admin Center
- Advanced protection: leveraging hardware root-of-trust, firmware protection, and virtualization-based security (VBS)
- Preventative defense: proactively block the paths attackers use to exploit a system
For more details about Secured-core Server, click here.
Figure 2: Secured-core Server with Windows Admin Center integration
AX-650, AX-750, and AX-7525 are the first AX nodes to introduce GPU readiness for single-width and double-width GPUs.
With the September 21, 2021 launch, all configurations planned to support GPUs are already enabled in anticipation for the appropriate selection of components (such as GPU risers, power supplies, fans, and heatsinks).
This process permits the GPU(s) to be added later on (when properly validated and certified) as an After Point of Sale (APOS).
The first GPU that will be made available with AX nodes (AX-650, AX-750, and AX-7525) is the NVIDIA T4 card.
To prepare for this GPU, customers should opt for the single-width capable PCI riser.
The following table shows the maximum number of adapters per platform taking into account the GPU form factor:
Up to 31
Up to 2
Up to 22
Up to 31
Up to 2
Up to 22
Up to 33
Up to 33
Up to 4
Up to 3
1 Max of 3 factory installed with Mellanox NIC adapters. Exploring options for up to 4 SW GPUs
2 Depending on the number of RDMA NICs
3 Only with the x16 NVMe chassis. x24 NVMe chassis does not support any GPUs
Note that no GPUs are available at the September 21, 2021 launch. GPUs will not be validated and factory installable until early 2022.
Dell EMC OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center (OMIMSWAC) extension was launched in 2019.
It has included hardware and firmware inventory, real time health monitoring, iDRAC integrated management, troubleshooting tools, and seamless updates of BIOS, firmware, and drivers.
In the 2.0 release in February 2020, we also added single-click full stack life cycle management with Cluster-Aware Updating for the Intel-based Azure Stack HCI platforms. This allowed us to orchestrate OS, BIOS, firmware, and driver updates through a single Admin Center workflow, requiring only a single reboot per node in the cluster and resulting in no interruption to the services running in the VMs.
With the Azure Stack HCI June 2021 release, the OpenManage Integration extension added support for the AX-7525 and AX-6515 AMD based platforms.
Now, with the September 21, 2021 launch, OMIMSWAC 2.1 features a great update for AX nodes, including these important extensions:
- Integrated Deploy & Update
- CPU Core Management
- Cluster Expansion
Integrated Deploy & Update deploys Azure Stack HCI with Dell EMC HCI Configuration Profile for optimal cluster performance. Our integration also adds the ability to apply hardware solution updates like BIOS, firmware, and drivers at the same time as operating system updates as part of cluster creation with a single reboot.
With CPU Core Management, customers can dynamically adjust the CPU core count BIOS settings without leaving the OpenManage Integration extension in Windows Admin Center, helping to maintain the right balance between cost and performance.
Cluster Expansion helps to prepare new cluster nodes before adding them to the cluster, to significantly simplify the cluster expansion process, reduce human error, and save time.
Figure 3: CPU Core Management and Cluster Expansion samples
In conclusion, the AX-650 and AX-750 nodes establish the most performant and easy to operate foundation for Azure Stack HCI today, along with all the new features and goodness that Microsoft is preparing. Stay tuned for more news and updates on this front!
Ignacio Borrero, @virtualpeli
Boost Performance on Dell EMC HCI Solutions for Microsoft Server using Intel Optane Persistent Memory
Tue, 14 Jul 2020 13:09:24 -0000|
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Modern IT applications have a broad range of performance requirements. Some of the most demanding applications use Online Transactional Processing (OLTP) database technology. Typical organizations have many mission critical business services reliant on workloads powered by these databases. Examples of such services include online banking in the financial sector and online shopping in the retail sector. If the response time of these systems is slow, customers will likely suffer a poor user experience and may take their business to competitors. Dissatisfied customers may also express their frustration through social media outlets resulting in incalculable damage to a company’s reputation.
The challenge in maintaining an exceptional consumer experience is providing databases with performant infrastructure while also balancing capacity and cost. Traditionally, there have been few cost-effective options that cache database workloads, which would greatly improve end-user response times. Intel Optane persistent memory (Intel Optane PM) offers an innovative path to accelerating database workloads. Intel Optane PM performs almost as well as DRAM, and the data is preserved after a power cycle. We were interested in quantifying these claims in our labs with Dell EMC HCI Solutions for Microsoft Windows Server.
Windows Server HCI running Microsoft Windows Server 2019 provides industry-leading virtual machine performance with Microsoft Hyper-V and Microsoft Storage Spaces Direct technology. The platform supports Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe), Intel Optane PM, and Remote Direct Memory Access (RDMA) networking. Windows Server HCI is a fully productized, validated, and supported HCI solution that enables enterprises to modernize their infrastructure for improved application uptime and performance, simplified management and operations, and lower total cost of ownership. AX nodes from Dell EMC, powered by industry-leading PowerEdge server platforms, offer a high-performance, scalable, and secure foundation on which to build a software-defined infrastructure.
In our lab testing, we wanted to observe the impact on performance when Intel Optane PM was added as a caching tier to a Windows Server HCI cluster. We set up two clusters to compare. One cluster was configured as a two-tier storage subsystem with Intel Optane PM in the caching tier and SATA Read-Intensive SSDs in the capacity tier. We inserted 12 x 128 GB Intel Optane PM modules into this cluster for a total of 1.5 TB per node. The other cluster’s storage subsystem was configured as a single-tier of SATA Read-Intensive SSDs. With respect to CPU selection, memory, and Ethernet adapters, the two clusters were configured identically.
Only the Dell EMC AX-640 nodes currently accommodate Intel Optane PM. The clusters were configured as follows:
Without Intel Optane PM
With Intel Optane PM
Number of nodes
2 x Intel 6248 CPU @ 2.50 GHz (3.90 GHz with TurboBoost)
2 x Intel 6248 CPU @ 2.50 GHz (3.90 GHz with TurboBoost)
384 GB RAM
384 GB RAM
10 x 2.5 in. 1.92 TB Intel S4510 RI SATA SSD
10 x 2.5 in. 1.92 TB Intel S4510 RI SATA SSD
Mellanox ConnectX-5 EX Dual Port 100 GbE
Mellanox ConnectX-5 EX Dual Port 100 GbE
12 x 128 GB Intel Optane PM per node
Volumes were created using three-way mirroring for the best balance between performance and resiliency. Three-way mirroring protects data by enabling the cluster to safely tolerate two hardware failures. For example, data on a volume would be successfully preserved even after the simultaneous loss of an entire node and a drive in another node.
Intel Optane PM has two operating modes – Memory Mode and App Direct Mode. Our tests used App Direct Mode. In App Direct Mode, the operating system uses Intel Optane PM as persistent memory distinct from DRAM. This mode enables extremely high performing storage that is byte-addressable-like, memory coherent, and cache coherent. Cache coherence is important because it ensures that data is a uniformly shared resource across all nodes. In the four-node Windows Server HCI cluster, cache coherence ensured that when data was read or written from one node that the same data was available across all nodes.
VMFleet is a storage load generation tool designed to perform I/O and capture performance metrics for Microsoft failover clusters. For the small block test, we used VMFleet to generate 100 percent reads at a 4K block size. The baseline configuration without Intel Optane PM sustained 2,103,412 IOPS at 1.5-millisecond (ms) average read latency. These baseline performance metrics demonstrated outstanding performance. However, OLTP databases target 1 ms or less latency for reads.
Comparatively, the Intel Optane PM cluster demonstrated 43 percent faster IOPS and decreased latency by 53 percent. Overall, this cluster sustained slightly over 3 million IOPS at .7 ms average latency. Benefits include:
- Significant performance improvement in IOPS means transactional databases and similar workloads will improve in scalability.
- Applications reading from storage will receive data faster, thus improving transactional response times.
- Intel Optane PM coherent cache provides substantial performance benefits without sacrificing availability.
When exploring storage responsiveness, testing large block read and write requests is also important. Data warehouses and decision-support systems are examples of workloads that read larger blocks of data. For this testing, we used 512 KB block sizes and sequential reads as part of the VMFleet testing. This test provided insight into the ability of Intel Optane PM cache to improve storage system throughput.
The cluster populated with Intel Optane PM was 109% faster than the baseline system. Our comparisons of 512 KB sequential reads found total throughput of 11 GB/s for the system without Intel Optane PM and 23 GB/s for the system with Intel Optane PM caching. Benefits include:
- Greater throughput enables faster scans of data for data warehouse systems, decision-support systems, and similar workloads.
- The benefit to the business is faster reporting and analytics.
- Intel Optane PM coherent cache provides substantial throughput benefits without sacrificing availability.
Overall, the VMFleet tests were impressive. Both Windows Server HCI configurations had 40 SSDs across the four nodes for approximately 76 TB of performant storage. To accelerate the entire cluster required 12 Intel Optane PM 128 GB modules per server for a total of 48 modules across the four nodes. Test results show that both OLTP and data-warehouse type workloads would exhibit significant performance improvements.
Testing 100 percent reads of 4K blocks showed:
- 43 percent performance improvement in IOPS.
- 53 percent decrease in average read latency.
- Improved scaling and faster transaction processing. Overall, application performance would be significantly accelerated, improving end-user experience.
Testing 512 KB sequential reads showed:
- 109 percent increased throughput.
- Faster reporting and faster time to analytics and data insights.
The configuration presented in this lab testing scenario will not be appropriate for every application. Any Windows Server HCI solution must be properly scoped and sized to meet or exceed the performance and capacity requirements of its intended workloads. Work with your Dell Technologies account team to ensure that your system is correctly configured for today’s business challenges and ready for expansion in the future. To learn more about Microsoft HCI Solutions from Dell Technologies, visit our Info Hub page.