Introducing NVMe over TCP (NVMe/TCP) in PowerFlex 4.0
Fri, 12 Aug 2022 14:20:34 -0000|
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Anyone who has used or managed PowerFlex knows that an environment is built from three lightweight software components: the MDM, the SDS, and the SDC. To deploy a PowerFlex environment, the typical steps are:
- Deploy an MDM management cluster
- Create a cluster of storage servers by installing and configuring the SDS software component
- Add Protection Domains and Storage Pools
- Install the SDC onto client systems
- Provision volumes and away you go!!*
*No requirement for multipath software, this is all handled by the SDC/SDS
There have been additions to this over the years, such as an SDR component for replication and the configuration of NVDIMM devices to create finegranularity storage pools that provide compression. Also added are PowerFlex rack and appliance environments. This is all automated with PowerFlex Manager. Fundamentally, the process involves the basic steps outlined above.
So, the question is why would we want to change anything from an elegant solution that is so simple?
This is due to where the SDC component ‘lives’ in the operating system or hypervisor hosting the application layer. Referring to the diagram below, it shows that the SDC must be installed in the kernel of the operating system or hypervisor, meaning that the SDC and the kernel must be compatible. Also the SDC component must be installed and maintained, it does not just ‘exist’.
In most cases, this is fine and there are no issues whatsoever. The PowerFlex development team keeps the SDC current with all the major operating system versions and customers are happy to update the SDC within their environment when new versions become available.
There are, however, certain cases where manual deployment and management of the SDC causes significant overhead. There are also some edge use cases where there is no SDC available for specific operating systems. This is why the PowerFlex team has investigated alternatives.
In recent years, the use of Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) has become pervasive within the storage industry. It is seen as the natural replacement to SCSI, due to its simplified command structure and its ability to provide multiple queues to devices, aligning perfectly with modern multi-core processors to provide very high performance.
NVMe appeared initially as a connection directly to disks within a server over a PCIe connection, progressing to being used over a variety of fabric interconnects.
Added to this is the widespread support for NVMe/TCP across numerous operating system and hypervisor vendors. Most include support natively in their kernels.
There have been several announcements by Dell Technologies over the past months highlighting NVMe/TCP as an alternative interconnect to iSCSI across several of the storage platforms within the portfolio. It is therefore a natural progression for PowerFlex to also provide support for NVMe/TCP, particularly because it already uses a TCP-based interconnect.
PowerFlex implements support for NVMe/TCP with the introduction of a new component installed in the storage layer called the SDT.
The SDT is installed at the storage layer. The NVMe initiator in the operating system or hypervisor communicates with the SDT, which then communicates with the SDS. The NVMe initiator is part of the kernel of the operating system or hypervisor.
Of course, because PowerFlex is so ‘flexible,’ both connection methods (SDC and NVMe/TCP) are supported at the same time. The only limitation is that a volume can only be presented using one protocol or the other.
For the initial PowerFlex 4.0 release, the VMware ESXi hypervisor is supported. This support starts with ESXi 7.0 U3f. Support for Linux TCP initiators is currently in “tech preview” as the initiators continue to grow and mature, allowing for all failure cases to be accounted for.
NVMe/TCP is a very powerful solution for the workloads that take advantage of it. If you are interested in discovering more about how PowerFlex can enhance your datacenter, reach out to your Dell representative.
Kevin M Jones, PowerFlex Engineering Technologist.
Tony Foster, Senior Principal Technical Marketing Engineer.
Related Blog Posts
An Introduction to the Unified PowerFlex Manager Platform
Fri, 12 Aug 2022 14:17:18 -0000|
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We have all heard the well-known quote that “Change is the only constant in life”. Nowhere is this concept more apparent than in the world of IT, where digital transformation has become accepted as a fact of life and standing still is not an option. Anyone - or anything - that stands still in the world of IT faces becoming extinct, or irrelevant, when faced with responding to the ever-changing challenges that businesses must solve to survive and grow in the 21st Century. IT infrastructure has had to evolve to provide the answers needed in today’s business landscape – a world where Dev Ops and automation is driving business agility and productivity, where flexibility is key, and where consolidation and optimization are essential in the face of ever-shrinking budgets.
When dealing with the ever-changing IT landscape, software-defined infrastructure is ideally suited to delivering answers for business change. Indeed, many Dell Technologies customers choose PowerFlex as their software-defined infrastructure solution of choice because as a product, it has changed and evolved as much as customers themselves have had to change and evolve.
However, there are times when evolution itself is not enough to bring about inevitable changes that must occur - sometimes there must be a revolution! When it comes to IT infrastructure, managers are often given the “coin toss” of only being able to pick from either evolution or revolution. Faced with such a decision, managers often choose evolution over revolution – a simpler, more palatable path.
This was the dilemma that PowerFlex developers faced – continue with various separate management planes or unify them. Our developers were already planning to introduce several new features in PowerFlex 4.0, including PowerFlex File Services and NVMe/TCP connectivity. Adding new features to existing products generally means having to change the existing management tools and user interfaces to integrate the new functionality into the existing toolset. PowerFlex has a broad product portfolio and a broad set of management tools to match, as shown in the following figure. The uptake of customers using PowerFlex Manager was proof-positive that customers liked to use automation tools to simplify their infrastructure deployments and de-risk life-cycle management (LCM) tasks.
Figure 1: PowerFlex management planes, before PowerFlex 4.0
In addition to the multiple demands they had to contend with, the PowerFlex team was aware that new, as-yet unthought of demands would inevitably come to the surface in the future, as the onward progression of IT transformation continues.
Aiming to enhance the hybrid datacenter infrastructure that our customers are gravitating towards, simply evolving the existing management planes was not going to be sufficient. The time had come for revolution instead of evolution for the world of PowerFlex management.
The answer is simple to state, but not easy to achieve – design a new Management & Orchestration platform that reduces complexity for our customers. The goal was to simplify things by having a single management plane that is suitable for all customers, regardless of their consumption model. Revolution indeed!
Given a blank drawing board, the PowerFlex Team drew up a list of requirements needed for the new PowerFlex Management stack. The following is a simplified list:
- Unified RBAC and User Management. Implement single sign-on for authentication and authorization, ensuring that only a single set of roles is needed throughout PowerFlex.
- Have a single, unified web UI – but make it extensible, so that as new functionality becomes available, it can easily be added to the UI without breaking it. The addition of “PowerFlex File Services” with PowerFlex 4.0 is proof that this approach works!
- Create a single REST endpoint for all APIs, to ensure that both the legacy and the modern endpoints are accessible through a standardized PowerAPI.
- Ensure that the management stack is highly available, self-healing, and resilient.
- Centralize all events from all PowerFlex components – the SDS itself, switches, nodes, and resources, so that it simplifies the generation of alerts and call home operations.
Faced with this wish list, the team decided to build a new “unified” PowerFlex Manager to satisfy the “one management pane” requirement. But how to deliver a UI that is flexible enough to deal with serving different applications from a single web UI? How can this support a highly available and extensible management platform? It became clear to all that a new M&O stack was needed to achieve these aims and that the answer was to leverage the use of microservices, running as part of a larger, containerized platform.
Around the same time, the Dell ISG Development Team had been working internally on a new shared services platform. It was now ready for primetime. This Dell-developed Kubernetes distribution provides internal shared services that are required by nearly any IT infrastructure: logging services, database-as-a-service, certificate management, identity management, secrets management. It also manages Docker and Helm registries.
Using this new platform as a base, the PowerFlex Team then deployed additional microservices on top of it to micro-manage services specific to PowerFlex. Different micro-frontends can be called upon, depending on the operational context. While the overall PowerFlex Manager GUI application can be run as one “generic” UI, it can call out to different micro-frontends when required. This means that implementing and using microservices simplifies the transfer of previous element managers into the unified PowerFlex Manager world. For example, the traditional PowerFlex Block UI (the PowerFlex Presentation Server UI from PowerFlex 3.6) is now treated as one microservice, while the PowerFlex Manager Lifecycle Manager is now handled by several microservices all working in tandem. Plus, it becomes simple to add a new micro-frontend to handle the “PowerFlex File” functionality that has been released with PowerFlex 4.0 into the GUI as well. Because each GUI section now has its own micro-frontend, the UI now meets the “flexible and extensible” requirement.
This flexibility gives our existing PowerFlex customers assurance as they move from version 3.6 to 4.0. And equally important, it means there is now a single unified manager that can cover all consumption models, as shown in the following figure:
Figure 2. The unified PowerFlex Management Plane with PowerFlex 4.0
Finally, what does the new unified PowerFlex Manager look like? Existing PowerFlex users will be pleased to see that the new unified PowerFlex Manager still has the same “look and feel” that PowerFlex Manager 3.x had. We hope this will make it easier for operations staff when they decide to upgrade from PowerFlex 3.x to PowerFlex 4.0. The following figures show the Block and File Services tabs respectively:
Figure 3. The unified PowerFlex Manager 4.0 Dashboard
Figure 4. The unified PowerFlex Manager 4.0 – Resources
While we cannot stop progress, we can always excel when faced with an ever-changing landscape. Customers already choose PowerFlex when they want to deploy highly performant, scalable, resilient, and flexible software-defined infrastructures. They can now also choose to move to PowerFlex 4.0, safe in the knowledge that they have also future-proofed the management of their infrastructure. While they may not know what changes are in store, the unified PowerFlex Manager Platform will help ensure that those future changes, whatever they are, can be handled easily when deployed on top of PowerFlex.
The enhancements made to PowerFlex provide many possibilities for modern datacenters and their administrators, especially when faced with the constant digital transformation seen in IT today. This is seen in how the various PowerFlex management consoles have been unified to allow continued change and growth to meet organizations’ needs. Yet, there is also continuity with previous versions of the UI, ensuring an easy transition for users when they have migrated to 4.0. If you are interested in finding out more about PowerFlex and all it has to offer your organization, reach out to your Dell representative.
Authors: Simon Stevens, PowerFlex Engineering Technologist, EMEA.
Tony Foster, Senior Principal Technical Marketing Engineer.
How PowerFlex Transforms Big Data with VMware Tanzu Greenplum
Wed, 13 Apr 2022 13:16:23 -0000|
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Quick! The word has just come down. There is a new initiative that requires a massively parallel processing (MPP) database, and you are in charge of implementing it. What are you going to do? Luckily, you know the answer. You also just discovered that the Dell PowerFlex Solutions team has you covered with a solutions guide for VMware Tanzu Greenplum.
What is in the solutions guide and how will it help with an MPP database? This blog provides the answer. We look at what Greenplum is and how to leverage Dell PowerFlex for both the storage and compute resources in Greenplum.
Infrastructure flexibility: PowerFlex
If you have read my other blogs or are familiar with PowerFlex, you know it has powerful transmorphic properties. For example, PowerFlex nodes sometimes function as both storage and compute, like hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). At other times, PowerFlex functions as a storage-only (SO) node or a compute-only (CO) node. Even more interesting, these node types can be mixed and matched in the same environment to meet the needs of the organization and the workloads that they run.
This transmorphic property of PowerFlex is helpful in a Greenplum deployment, especially with the configuration described in the solutions guide. Because the deployment is built on open-source PostgreSQL, it is optimized for the needs of an MPP database, like Greenplum. PowerFlex can deliver the compute performance necessary to support massive data IO with its CO nodes. The PowerFlex infrastructure can also support workloads running on CO nodes or nodes that combine compute and storage (hybrid nodes). By leveraging the malleable nature of PowerFlex, no additional silos are needed in the data center, and it may even help remove existing ones.
The architecture used in the solutions guide consists of 12 CO nodes and 10 SO nodes. The CO nodes have VMware ESXi installed on them, with Greenplum instances deployed on top. There are 10 segments and one director deployed for the Greenplum environment. The 12th CO node is used for redundancy.
The storage tier uses the 10 SO nodes to deliver 12 volumes backed by SSDs. This configuration creates a high speed, highly redundant storage system that is needed for Greenplum. Also, two protection domains are used to provide both primary and mirror storage for the Greenplum instances. Greenplum mirrors the volumes between those protection domains, adding an additional level of protection to the environment, as shown in the following figure:
By using this fluid and composable architecture, the components can be scaled independently of one another, allowing for storage to be increased either independently or together with compute. Administrators can use this configuration to optimize usage and deliver appropriate resources as needed without creating silos in the environment.
Testing and validation with Greenplum: we have you covered
The solutions guide not only describes how to build a Greenplum environment, it also addresses testing, which many administrators want to perform before they finish a build. The guide covers performing basic validations with FIO and gpcheckperf. In the simplest terms, these tools ensure that IO, memory, and network performance are acceptable. The FIO tests that were run for the guide showed that the HBA was fully saturated, maximizing both read and write operations. The gpcheckperf testing showed a performance of 14,283.62 MB/sec for write workloads.
Wouldn’t you feel better if a Greenplum environment was tested with a real-world dataset? That is, taking it beyond just the minimum, maximum, and average numbers? The great news is that the architecture was tested that way! Our Dell Digital team has developed an internal test suite running static benchmarked data. This test suite is used at Dell Technologies across new Greenplum environments as the gold standard for new deployments.
In this test design, all the datasets and queries are static. This scenario allows for a consistent measurement of the environment from one run to the next. It also provides a baseline of an environment that can be used over time to see how its performance has changed -- for example, if the environment sped up or slowed down following a software update.
Massive performance with real data
So how did the architecture fare? It did very well! When 182 parallel complex queries were run simultaneously to stress the system, it took just under 12 minutes for the test to run. In that time, the environment had a read bandwidth of 40 GB/s and a write bandwidth of 10 GB/s. These results are using actual production-based queries from the Dell Digital team workload. These results are close to saturating the network bandwidth for the environment, which indicates that there are no storage bottlenecks.
The design covered in this solution guide goes beyond simply verifying that the environment can handle the workload; it also shows how the configuration can maintain performance during ongoing operations.
Maintaining performance with snapshots
One of the key areas that we tested was the impact of snapshots on performance. Snapshots are a frequent operation in data centers and are used to create test copies of data as well as a source for backups. For this reason, consider the impact of snapshots on MPP databases when looking at an environment, not just how fast the database performs when it is first deployed.
In our testing, we used the native snapshot capabilities of PowerFlex to measure the impact that snapshots have on performance. Using PowerFlex snapshots provides significant flexibility in data protection and cloning operations that are commonly performed in data centers.
We found that when the first storage-consistent snapshot of the database volumes was taken, the test took 45 seconds longer to complete than initial tests. This result was because it was the first snapshot of the volumes. Follow-on snapshots during testing resulted in minimal impact to the environment. This minimal impact is significant for MPP databases in which performance is important. (Of course, performance can vary with each deployment.)
We hope that these findings help administrators who are building a Greenplum environment feel more at ease. You not only have a solution guide to refer to as you architect the environment, you can be confident that it was built on best-in-class infrastructure and validated using common testing tools and real-world queries.
The bottom line
Now that you know the assignment is coming to build an MPP database using VMware Tanzu Greenplum -- are you up to the challenge?
If you are, be sure to read the solution guide. If you need additional guidance on building your Greenplum environment on PowerFlex, be sure to reach out to your Dell representative.