It’s Been a Dell EMC VxRail Filled Summer
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 18:07:34 -0000|
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Get your VxRail learn on with Tech Field Days and ESG
It has been a busy summer with the launch of our Next Gen VxRail nodes built on 15th Generation PowerEdge servers. This has included working with the fantastic people at ESG and Tech Field Day. Working with these top tier luminaries really forces us to distill our messaging to the key points – no small feat, particularly with so many new releases and enhancements.
If you are not familiar with Tech Field Days, they are “a series of invite-only technical meetings between delegates invited from around the world and sponsoring enterprise IT companies that share their products and ideas through presentations, demos, roundtables, and more”. The delegates are all hand-picked industry thought leaders – those wicked smart people you are following on Twitter – and they ask tough questions. Earlier this month, Dell Technologies spent two days with them: a day dedicated to storage, and a day for VxRail. You can catch the recordings from both days here: Dell Technologies HCI & Storage: Cutting Edge Infrastructure to Drive Your Business.
Of the twelve great jampacked VxRail sessions, if you cannot watch them all, do make time in your day for these three:
- VxRail dynamic nodes – Flexibility for the Future. In short, VxRail without vSAN. Leverage HCI Mesh, or FC SAN storage like PowerStore T or PowerMax, and bring that VxRail LCM goodness to other vSphere clusters in your data center.
- What Does “Seamless Technology Integration” Mean for VxRail? I hate tooting my own horn, but if you want a quick deep dive on where all the storage performance in VxRail is coming from, this is your 22-minute Cliff Notes version.
- Get the Most Out of Your K8s with Tanzu on VxRail This is your crash course about how VxRail can get Tanzu stood up, so you can get Kubernetes at the Speed of Cloud, within your data center.
One more suggestion, if you are new to VxRail, or on the fence about deploying VxRail, tune into this session from Adam Little, Senior Cybersecurity Administrator for New Belgium Brewing, and the reasons they selected VxRail. Even brewing needs high availability, redundancy, and simplicity.
ESG is an IT analyst, research, validation, and strategy firm whose staff is well known for their technical prowess and frankly are fun to work with. Maybe that is because they are techies at heart who love geeking out over new hardware. I got to work with Tony Palmer as he audited the results of our VxRail on 15th Generation PowerEdge performance testing. Tony went through things with a fine-tooth comb, and asked a lot of great (and tough) probing questions.
What was most interesting was how he looked at the same data but in a very different way – quickly zeroing in on how much performance VxRail could deliver at sub-millisecond latency, verses peak performance. Tony pointed out “It’s important to note that not too long ago, performance this high with sub-millisecond response times required a significant investment in specialized storage hardware”. Personally, I love this independent validation. It is one thing for our performance team to benchmark VxRail performance, but it is quite another for an analyst firm to audit our results and to be blown out of the water to the degree they were. Read their full Technical Validation of Dell EMC VxRail on 15th Generation PowerEdge Technology: Pushing the Boundaries of Performance and VM Density for Business- and Mission-critical Workloads], and then follow it up with some of their previous work on VxRail.
If performance concerns have been holding you back from putting your toes in the HCI waters, now is a great time to jump in. The 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors are faster and have more cores, but also bring other hardware architectural changes. From a storage performance perspective, the most impactful of those is PCIe Gen4, with double the bandwidth of PCIe Gen 3 which was introduced in 2012.
From the OLTP16K (70/30) workload in the following figure, we can see that by just upgrading the vSAN cache drive to PCIe Gen 4, an additional 37% of performance can be unleashed. If that is not enough, enabling RDMA for vSAN nets an additional 21% of performance. One more thing, this is with only two diskgroups… check in with me later for when we crank performance up to 11 with four diskgroups, faster cache drives, and a few more changes.
With OLTP4K (70/30) peak IOPS performance clocking in at 155K with 0.853ms latency per node, VxRail can support workloads that demand the most of storage performance. But performance is not always the focus of storage.
If your workloads benefit from SAN data services such as PowerStore’s 4:1 Data Reduction or PowerMax’s SRDF, then now is a great time to learn about the VxRail Advantage and the benefits that VxRail Lifecycle Management provides. Check out Daniel Chiu’s blog post on VxRail dynamic nodes, where the power of the portfolio is delivering the best of both worlds.
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Our fastest and biggest launch ever! - We’ve also made it simpler
Tue, 13 Jul 2021 17:41:25 -0000|
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With this hardware launch, we at VxRail are refreshing our mainline platforms. Our “everything” E Series, our performance-focused P Series, and our virtualization-accelerated V Series. You’ve probably already guessed that these nodes are faster and bigger. This is always the case with new hardware in the tech industry, thanks to Moore’s Law of "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits,” but we’ve also made this hardware release simpler. Let’s dig into these changes, what they mean to you, the consumer, and what choices you may need to consider.
The headline in this could well be the 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor (code named Ice Lake) with its increased cores and performance. After all, the CPU is the heart of every computing device from the nebulous public cloud to the smart refrigerator in your kitchen. But there is more to CPUs and servers than cores and clock speeds. The most significant of these, in my opinion, are support for the fourth generation of the PCIe bus. PCIe Gen 3 was introduced on 12th Generation PowerEdge servers in 2012, so the arrival of PCIe Gen 4 with double the bandwidth and 33% more lanes is very much appreciated. The PCIe bus is the highway network that connects everything together, this increase in bandwidth and lanes drives change and enables improvements in many other components.
The most significant impact for VxRail is the performance that it unlocks with PCIe Gen 4 NVMe drives, available on all the new nodes including the V Series. With vSAN’s distributed architecture, all writes go to multiple cache drives on multiple nodes. Anything that improves cache performance, be it high bandwidth, lower latency networking, or faster cache drives, will drive overall application performance and increased densities. For the relatively small price premium of NVMe cache drives over SAS caches drives, VxRail can deliver up to 35% higher IOPS and up to 14% lower latency (OLTP 32K on RAID 1). NVMe cache drives also reduce the performance impact of enabling data service like deduplicate, compression, and encryption at rest. For more information, check out this paper from our performance team last year (did you know that VxRail has its own performance testing team?) where they showed the performance impact of dedupe and compression compared to compression only compared to no data reduction. This data highlights the small performance impact that compression only has on performance and the benefit of NVMe for cache drives.
Staying with storage, the new SAS HBA has double the number of lanes, which doubles the bandwidth available to drives. Don’t assume that this means twice the storage performance – wait for my next post where I’ll delve into those details with ESG. It is a topic worthy of its own post and well worth the wait, I promise! The SAS HBA has been moved to the front of the node right behind the drive bay, this is noteworthy because it frees up a PCIe slot on some configurations. We also freed up a PCIe slot on all configurations with the new Boot Optimized Storage Solution (BOSS) device – more on the new BOSS device below. These changes: deliver a third PCIe slot on the E Series, flexibility on the V Series with support for six GPUs while still offering PCIe slots for networking and FC expansion. Some would argue you can never have enough PCIe slots, but we argued, and sacrificed these gains on the P Series in favor of delivering four additional capacity drive slots, providing 184 TB of raw storage capacity in 2U. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of PCIe slots for additional networking or fibre channel cards – yes in case you missed it, you can add fibre channel storage to your favorite HCI platform, extending the storage offerings for your various workloads, through the addition of QLogic or Emulex 16/32GB fibre channel cards. These are also PCIe Gen 4 to drive maximum performance.
PCIe Gen 4 is also enabling network cards to drive more throughput. With this new generation of VxRail, we are launching with an onboard quad port 25 GbE networking card, 2.5 times more than what the previous generation launched with. See the Get thee to 25GbE section in my recent post for A trilogy of reasons to see why you need to be looking at 25 GbE NICs today, even if you are not upgrading your network switches just yet. With this release, VxRail is shifting our onboard networking to use the Open Compute Project (OCP) spec 3.0 form factor. For you, the customer, this means greater choice in on
-board network cards, with 10 cards from three vendors available at launch, and more to come. If you are not familiar with OCP, check it out. OCP is a large cross company organization that started as an internal project at Facebook, but now has a diverse membership of almost 100 companies working “collaboratively on redesigning hardware technology to efficiently support the growing demands on compute infrastructure.” The quad 25Gbe NIC is only consuming half of the bandwidth that OCP 3.0 can support, so we all have an interesting networking future.
This hardware release is not just faster and bigger, we have also made these VxRail nodes simpler. Simplicity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; there isn’t an industry benchmark for it, but I think you’ll agree with me that these changes will make life simpler in the data center. The new BOSS-S2 device is located at the rear of the node and hot-pluggable. In the event of failure of a RAID 1 protected M.2 SATA drive, it can easily and non-disruptively be replaced without powering off and opening the node. We’ve also relocated the power supplies, there is now one on each side of the chassis. This improves air flow, cooling, and enables easier and tidier cabling – we’ve all seen those rats’ nest of cables in the data center. Moving around to the front, we’ve added a Quick Resource Locator (QRL) to the chassis luggage tag, which can be scanned with an Android or iOS app, this will display system and warranty details and also provide links to SolVe procedures and documentation. Sticking with mobile applications, we’ve added OpenManage and Mobile Quick Sync 2 which enables, from the press of the Wireless Activation button, access to iDRAC and all the troubleshooting help it provides – no more dragging a crash cart across the data center.
VxRail is more than the sum of its components, be it through Lifecycle Management, simpler cloud operations, or ongoing product education. The value it delivers is seen daily by our 12.4K customers around the globe. Today we celebrate not just our successes and our new release, but also the successes and achievements of the giants that hoist us up to stand on their shoulders and enable VxRail and our customers to reach for the stars. Join us as we continue our journey and Reimagine HCI.
I feel the need – the need for speed (and endurance): Intel Optane edition
Tue, 12 Oct 2021 21:38:31 -0000|
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It has only been three short months since we launched VxRail on 15th Generation PowerEdge, but we're already expanding the selection of configuration offerings. So far we've added 18 additional processors to power your workloads, including some high frequency and low core count options. This is delightful news for those with applications that are licensed per core, an additional NVIDIA GPU - the A30, a slew of additional drives, and doubled the RAM capacity to 8TB. I've probably missed something, as it can be hard to keep up with the all the innovations taking place within this race car that is VxRail!
In my last blog, I hinted at one of those drive additions, faster cache drives. Today I'm excited to announce that you can now order, and turbo charge your VxRail with the 400GB or 800GB Intel P5800X – Intel’s second generation Optane NVMe drive. Before we delve into some of the performance numbers, let’s discuss what it is about the Optane drives that makes them so special. More specifically, what is it about them that enables them to deliver so much more performance, in addition to significantly higher endurance rates.
To grossly over-simplify it, and my apologies in advance to the Intel engineers who poured their lives into this, when writing to NAND flash an erase cycle needs to be performed before a write can be made. These erase cycles are time-consuming operations and the main reason why random write IO capabilities on NAND flash is often a fraction of the read capability. Additionally, a garbage collection is running continuously in the background to ensure that there is space available to incoming writes. Optane, on the other hand, does bit-level write in place operations, therefore it doesn’t require an erase cycle, garbage collection, or performance penalty writes. Hence, random write IO capability almost matches the random read IO capability. So just how much better is endurance with this new Optane drive? Endurance can be measured in Drive Writes Per Day (DWPD), which measures how many times the drive's entire size could be overwritten each day of its warranty life. For the 1.6TB NVMe P5600 this is 3 DWPD, or 55 MB per second, every second for five years – just shy of 9PB of writes, not bad. However, the 800GB Optane P5800X will endure 146PB over its five-year warranty life, or almost 1 GB per second (926 MB/s) every second for its five year 100 DWPD warranty life. Not quite indestructible, but that is a lot of writes, so much so you don’t need extra capacity for wear leveling and a smaller capacity drive will suffice.
You might wonder why you should care about endurance, as Dell EMC will replace the drive under warranty anyway – there are three reasons. When a cache drive fails, its diskgroup is taken offline, so not only have you lost performance and capacity, your environment is taking on the additional burden of a rebuild operation to re-protect your data. Secondly, more and more systems are being deployed outside of the core data center. Replacing a drive in your data center is straightforward, and you might even have spares onsite, but what about outside of your core datacenter? What is your plan for replacing a drive at a remote office, or a thousand miles away? What if that remote location is not an office but an oilrig one hundred miles offshore, or a cruise ship halfway around the world where the cost of getting a replacement drive there is not trivial? In these remote locations, onsite spares are commonplace, but the exceptions are what lead me to the third reason, Murphy's Law. IT and IT staffing might be an afterthought at these remote locations. Getting a failed drive swapped out at a remote location which lacks true IT staffing may not get the priority it deserves, and then there is that ever present risk of user error... “Oh, you meant the other drive?!? Sorry...”
Cache in its many forms plays an important role in the datacenter. Cache enables switches and storage to deliver higher levels of performance. On VxRail, our cache drives fall into two categories, SAS and NVMe, with NVMe delivering up to 35% higher IOPS and 14% lower latency. Among our NVMe cache drive we have two from Intel, the 1.6TB P5600 and the Optane P5800X, in 400GB and 800GB capacities. The links for each will bring you to the drive specification including performance details. But how does the performance at a drive level impact performance at the solution level? Because, at the end of the day that is what your application consumes at the solution level, after cache mirroring, network hops, and the vSAN stack. Intel is a great partner to work with, when we checked with them about publishing solution level performance data comparing the two drives side-by-side, they were all for it.
In my over-simplified explanation above, I described how the write cycle for Optane drives is significantly different as an erase operation and does not need to be done first. So how does that play out in a full solution stack? Figure 1 compares a four node VxRail P670F cluster, running a 100% sequential write 64KB workload. Not a test that reflects any real-world workload, but one that really stresses the vSAN cache layer, highlights the consistent write performance that 3D XPoint technology delivers, and shows how Optane is able to de-stage cache when it fills up without compromising performance.
Figure 1: Optane cache drives deliver consistent and predictable write performance
When we look at performance, there are two numbers to keep in mind: IOPS and latency. The target is to have high IOPS with low and predictable latency, at a real-world IO size and read:write ratio. To that end, let’s look at how VxRail performance differs with the P5600 and P5800X under OLTP32K (70R30W) and RDBMS (60R40W) benchmark workload, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2: Optane cache drives deliver higher performance and lower latency across a variety of workload types.
It doesn't take an expert to see that with the P5800X this four node VxRail P670F cluster's peak performance is significantly higher than when it is equipped with the P5600 as a cache drive. For RDBMS workloads up to 44% higher IOPS with a 37% reduction in latency. But peak performance isn't everything. Many workloads, particularly databases, place a higher importance on latency requirements. What if our workload, database or otherwise, requires 1ms response times? Maybe this is the Service Level Agreement (SLA) that the infrastructure team has with the application team. In such a situation, based on the data shown, and for a OLTP 70:30 workload with a 32K block size, the VxRail cluster would deliver over twice the performance at the same latency SLA, going from 147,746 to 314,300 IOPS.
In the datacenter, as in life, we are often faced with "Good, fast, or cheap. Choose two." When you compare the price tag of the P5600 and P5800X side by side, the Optane drive has a significant premium for its good and fast. However, keep in mind that you are not buying an individual drive, you are buying a full stack solution of several pieces of hardware and software, where the cost of the premium pales in comparison to the increased endurance and performance. Whether you are looking to turbo charge your VxRail like a racecar, or make it as robust as a tank, Intel Optane SSD drives will get you both.
David Glynn, Technical Marketing Engineer, VxRail at Dell Technologies
LinkedIn: David Glynn