Archive for the ‘Virtual Servers’ Category

XtremIO in VMware environments – the hidden gems!

[This blog was written by Avishek Kumar, Product Manager for XtremIO]

Our customers have been using XtremIO extensively in their VMware environments since the initial days of the array’s availability. And the logic is easy to understand – virtual environments typically have a lot of random workloads and duplicate datasets; making XtremIO a perfect fit for those applications. Even if an application might be running a purely sequential workload (as rare as it is), multiple sequential workloads from multiple virtual machines will eventually translate into a highly random access pattern for the storage array. This is where an all-flash array (AFA) like XtremIO with its true scale-out architecture excels by delivering consistent and predictable performance at sub-millisecond response times. VMware has used XtremIO for hosting their Hands-on lab environment at VMworld – and you can find some interesting details in a blog that we wrote about it earlier.

Being a part of the EMC Federation, we have been able to leverage some of the unique relationships that we have with VMware. In a lot of cases, we go way beyond just providing a ‘checkbox’ indicating that a specific product or feature is supported with XtremIO. It is important for the customers to go a bit beyond the feature comparison matrix, and evaluate the real benefits that they are getting with XtremIO in VMware environments. Often times, there are hidden gems that you will be pleasantly surprised to know about! I will focus on some of these integration points with VMware in this blog.


XtremIO & AppSync – Magic for Application Owners!

[This blog was written by Avishek Kumar, Product Manager for XtremIO]

When talking to our customers these days, I find very few people who want to understand what flash technology is – most of them are already on the path to using flash-based products in some way, shape or form. There is no point in telling them that flash is faster than spinning disk drives and that their application will run faster when they move it to flash – they already know that!  It’s not about flash vs. disk – each has a place.  It’s about making the best choice for an all-flash array.

Some of the thought provoking questions that I hear customers asking is – “how do I integrate XtremIO technology in my application stack in the most effective way?” and “does XtremIO enable new use cases and deployment models for my application that I have not even thought about yet?”  Our customers don’t just want their applications to run faster; they want their storage and application architecture to leverage all the other benefits XtremIO provides.  The integration between XtremIO and AppSync is a step in that direction. And this is what I will focus on in this blog.

AppSync for XtremIO

What is AppSync?

EMC AppSync allows you to manage XtremIO snapshots from an application perspective. In other words, it allows you to schedule the snapshot management activities in an “application aware” fashion.  It comes with additional goodies like being able to take (and delete) application consistent snapshots according to a pre-defined schedule and subscribing applications to a “service plan”.  AppSync provides integration for Oracle, SQL Server and VMware when working with an XtremIO storage array, with more application stacks coming in the future.

Simplified Replica Management

Okay – but how is it going to help me and why should I care?

A very good question for you to ask J AppSync is mainly beneficial for the following three use cases.

AppSync Use CasesLet’s go one level deeper and find out the benefits of this integration with XtremIO and some real world applications.

  • Databases (Oracle and SQL Server): Databases are they #1 customer use case for XtremIO.  Among other architectural benefits of the array, things like space & metadata efficient snapshots and inline, always-on compression make XtremIO a very attractive choice for our database customers.

However, the DBAs want us to go the extra mile and make it easier for them to take application consistent snapshots without having to go through the typical headaches.  AppSync provides exactly that capability. With AppSync, you can discover the database – which means that AppSync will automatically know the LUNs on which your database is provisioned.  When you want to take an application consistent snapshot for the database (manually or through a scheduler), AppSync will:

    • Quiesce the database in the background
    • Create an application consistent snapshot on XtremIO
    • Enable the database for normal processing
    • If you want, AppSync can automatically mount the snapshots to another server for test/dev, reporting, or backups and repurpose the database.

AppSync Provisioning Management

  • Server Virtualization (VMware): The second most popular use case for XtremIO is in a virtualized environment.  Virtualized applications typically have lot of deduplication and compression friendly datasets and the applications exhibit high amounts of random I/O – ideal conditions for XtremIO. But there are some unique challenges that AppSync helps solve in such use cases. For example, let’s assume you have a VMware datastore with 50 virtual machines and you take a snapshot of that datastore through AppSync.  Now, you can do any of the following:
    • You can restore the entire datastore – wherein all the virtual machines on that datastore will be restored to their previous state. Assuming that you have taken multiple snapshots, AppSync will allow you to choose the snapshot that you want to restore the datastore to, but this is not all that you might want to do in certain situations.
    • You may not want to restore/penalize all users using the VMs on that datastore just because one specific VM needs to be restored. With AppSync, you can restore a particular virtual machine within the datastore to a previous state. That’s right – AppSync will identify all the VMs that exist on that datastore and allow you to restore a specific VM, if you wanted to.
    • You may not want to restore the entire datastore or even the entire VM – you may want to restore a particular file within a specific VM on a specific datastore. Guess what – AppSync allows you to do that too!

There are some customers who want to be able to do all storage related activities – which includes XtremIO and AppSync operations – from within the vCenter environment. You could already do that for XtremIO using the VSI plugin for XtremIO.  With the VSI plugin 6.4 release, AppSync is also supported through the VSI plugin and you can configure protection, run AppSync service plans, mount datastores, restore files – all from within vCenter!

AppSync & VSI Plugin

The Sky is the Limit!

All the use cases and examples discussed above are very powerful, but more importantly – storage operations are now becoming much simpler and intuitive for the application administrator.  We already have customers who are leveraging XtremIO snapshots for their database copies and for the first time the application owners are not worried about the performance and storage capacity needed by all the database copies. AppSync makes this story even better!  Use the AppSync free 90 day trial and give it a try.

AppSync Free Trial

The opportunities and potential use cases with AppSync are endless. Think about more enterprise applications that we can support, think about more application operations that can be supported, think about being able to handle replication through AppSync – and you get the idea!  To learn more, check out the demo below for what AppSync can do today (Thank you Itzik!) – and stay tuned for more goodies to come soon.

VMworld 2013 – Cool facts about XtremIO powering the Hands on Labs


We’ve just come back from VMworld 2013 and I want to tell you all about something monumental that took place this year. Every VMworld there is an educational environment available to the show attendees called the Hands on Labs (HoL). We do something similar for EMC World and XtremIO powered the HoL there this year as well. The HoL allows attendees to conduct live training and demonstrations of VMware products, delivered on-demand through a VDI session. It’s an amazing showcase of VMware technology, not just for the students, but because of the infrastructure under the covers that makes it all work. It’s a massive undertaking that is planned out six months in advance, and the VMware HoL data center is the ultimate “dog fooding”, as in “eat your own dog food” because the HoL infrastructure team is doing exactly what VMware enables you to do in your own data center. And they do it at a truly impressive scale.

First, a little background. Each HoL course is a Virtual Application (vApp) – a container of multiple Virtual Machines (VMs). The courses range from about four VMs to as many as 20 in each vApp. Think about the vApp as a self contained environment where you can experience VMware products in action. Maybe you want to try out Horizon View VDI, so the vApp will contain all the infrastructure servers you need (pre-configured) and a bunch of virtual desktops which allow you to run the whole environment on VMware’s virtualized infrastructure that supports the HoL. VMware’s two data centers that support the HoL among other things are based in Wenatchee, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada.

The HoL environment supports over 400 students at once. Check out this picture of the room – it’s massive! And that’s only the half of it I could fit in the picture. I should have done a panoramic.



In years past, the VMware HoL team leveraged a huge EMC storage infrastructure to support the environment – something along the lines of 14 racks of VNX equipment, heavy on flash to handle the IOPS load. This year, the entire infrastructure was run on four XtremIO X-Bricks (the basic building block of our scale-out clustered design) consuming just a half a rack and with a power budget of 3,000 watts. This being the first time XtremIO would be used at scale for the HoL, we were cautious in sizing the environment and we made sure to provide more than we thought they’d need. As you’ll see, we were way too cautious.

What makes XtremIO ideal for this type of large scale virtualized cloud infrastructure?

  • XtremIO has tremendous IOPS performance with sub-millisecond latency. Large scale cloud data centers drive lots of small, highly random I/O to shared storage. This is exactly the workload XtremIO was built for. Each X-Brick the HoL ran is capable of sustaining 150,000 fully random 4K IOPS, measured with a 50% read / 50% write workload. And it can do this all day and all night, regardless of how full the array is.
  • XtremIO delivers this performance with true inline data reduction technology. VMs have a lot of common information between them. So we can pack many more VMs onto an XtremIO system than the underlying physical amount of flash would otherwise allow. The HoL got an overall boost of over 6:1 from this technology (note that the HoL used Linked Clones and the space savings with full clone VMs would have been much higher). In other words, the four X-Bricks we supplied with a usable capacity of 30TB were able to support 180TB worth of VMs. And best – zero spaces in the VMs don’t even count toward this utilization.
  • XtremIO’s metadata management system (details are beyond our scope here, so stay tuned as we’ll talk more about this in future posts) allows VMware cloning activity to be carried out entirely in memory at extraordinary rates of speed, and without affecting ongoing host I/O to active VMs. The HoL could create new vApps while the labs were active with students – something they could never do in the past!


  • The maximum IOPS seen by any of the XtremIO X-Bricks was 50,000 – less than 1/3rd of its overall performance potential.
  • Uptime: 100% — the workload is so strenuous that in years past the HoL has experienced outages. Nothing of the sort this year.
  • Total labs taken: 9,587
  • Total number of VMs delivered: 85,873

The picture below was taken on day 2 of VMworld. There was a real-time dashboard running the entire event. The second picture below is of the real-time vCenter Operations Manager dashboard collecting data from the XtremIO arrays. Given that the arrays were running at far less than their peak capabilities, the ESX datastore latency was about 0.2 milliseconds! Our specs are for sub-millisecond at peak load. When the arrays are loafing latency is just astronomically low.


Now for the best part. Not only did XtremIO help the VMware HoL team achieve success with a massive scale, complex infrastructure and do it with less cost and a vastly simpler setup, the infrastructure ran so well this year that VMware’s customers took notice. Here are some actual quotes from the HoL customer survey forms:

“I have been to VMworld 4 times and in the past I felt the HoL was hit or miss (mostly miss). This has to be one of the best HoL experiences I have had. Excellent work everyone, I would say that this year you knocked HoL out of the park.”

“You guys have the lab thing figured out. Good job! Even with the few issues while trying to get going the staff did a great job keeping us informed on the overall status of the labs availability.”

“Awesome job on the labs this year. I have been to VMworld 5 times and these labs are the best by far. Great job!”

And to wrap up, here’s a video of the live dashboards during the HoL.

VMworld is heading to Europe in October and the HoL guys literally begged us to keep the XtremIO equipment to support that event too. We are happy to oblige. There is simply no better way to run a large scale virtualized data center.

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