Monthly archives: January, 2007

Sun Availability Suite blog

The maintainer(s) of Availability Suite (aka AVS) now have their own blog. I can’t wait to learn more about it!

The state of enterprise storage for the Little Guy

Earlier this month I spewed some vitriol over an unpleasant discovery regarding the Sun StorageTek 6140 array and its underwhelming out-of-the-box feature set (which, three weeks later, remains an unresolved issue even after contacting and working with my VAR, Sun sales rep-proper, and two Sun SEs. Sigh) (NOTE: As of 8 Feb this issue has been resolved). This whole issue was over the sneaky renaming of a feature commonly known as LUN Masking and charging beaucoup bucks for it as a license-activated addon.

Well, I want to write some more about this with an industry-wide perspective because as of this past Thursday, Apple is now playing a similar game regarding their Xserve RAID systems. With the release of RAID Admin Tools 1.5.1 and associated firmware, Apple has removed LUN Masking as a feature of the Xserve RAID. Yep. Removed it. In a minor version release of the software, no less. Absolutely astonishing.

So, with the Sun StorageTek 6140 and its crippled features (unless you fork over $10+ mega bucks for a Storage Domains license pack of adquate seat count) and Apple rather brashly removing LUN Masking for no real stated reason and, to top it off, without warning, where does this leave us? And what of the (otherwise reputable) mid-range storage vendors who are left (HP? IBM?); who’s to say they won’t pull a similar stunt down the line?

Well, I know IBM is out of the picture for me as they OEM the same LSI Engenio system that Sun uses for the 6140. Yep, both IBM and Sun sell the exact same system, only IBM calls it the DS4700 Express and Sun calls their version the StorageTek 6140. Their only appreciable difference is one comes in IBM Black and the other in Sun Silver. You also have to buy the IBM equivalent of the 6140’s Storage Domains, which IBM calls “Partitions”. Talk about a screwed up sense of storage terminology.

Anyway, that pretty much leaves HP, and I’m petty unfamiliar with their product line or prices. I don’t even know if I can even get HP kit since I’m not aware of any current State of Maryland purchasing contract with them for this sort of stuff.

So what’s with this apparent vendor hate of LUN Masking in mid-range systems, anyway? One either has to pay out the nose to have it (regarding Sun and IBM) or it’s there but disappears into the night (Apple). Crikey. Whoever does product planning at Engenio, Sun, IBM, and Apple needs a serious reality check. For us people where mid-range is high-end, this behavior matters quite a bit. It just seems like feature sets are imploding rather than expanding, removing a distinct competitive advantage from these products.

OpenSolaris gets more storage capabilities

The OpenSolaris community got a huge present today by way of Sun’s open sourcing of its StorageTek Availability Suite. This announcement by Jim Dunham goes into the details, but here’s a summary:

Availability Suite is comprised of two primary components:

  • Instant Image, which siphons data on a disk device as it is written in real time and stores it on another device. A command snapshots this stream, creating a point in time “shadow copy” of what’s on the live storage device. This shadow copy can then be mounted and used as one would with a normal filesystem. In practice, this is similar to what you get with ZFS’s snapshot feature, only this is filesystem-agnostic.
  • Network Data Replicator – This is (in my opinion) the cream of this product. Like Instant Image, NDR interposes itself above a disk device and sends a copy of the data stream to that device to somewhere else, such a across the network to another server. This is real time remote replication.

I applaud Sun for releasing this! OpenSolaris now has far more and robust storage tools than any other FOSS (or otherwise, for that matter) OS out there.

Hey Sun, how about releasing ESM AA next, eh? There’s Aperi, but ESM AA looks to be far more mature.

Sun + Intel = A Decent Move

Sun and Intel announced a new partnership between the two companies today, with both CEOs presenting at a news conference this morning.

Sun hasn’t had a Intel CPU in its product line since Sun discontinued its Pentium 4-based V60z server several years ago when the company was teething its new x86 product line. This product line eventually developed into the exclusively AMD Opteron-based servers we have today. Intel/Xeon was out, AMD/Opteron was in. With today’s announcement, both Intel and AMD will now share Sun’s x86 product portfolio.

I’ve noticed that reaction to this news has been mixed, with some saying it’s good, and others saying “WTF, mate?”. Sun’s Opteron-based Galaxy servers are top-notch, so this has lots of people utterly surprised… like having a great night out with someone and then being dumped on the doorstep.

Well, it’s surprising news to say the least. As I thought about it more, though, it isn’t bad at all for Sun, and really isn’t all that forboding for AMD. In exchange for a Intel-based product line, Intel will seriously push Solaris for Sun. That is exquisitely good news. Sun now has a product line which can serve both AMD and Intel customer preferences.

Think of that “iPod Halo Effect”. Sun doesn’t have to turn away customers who want Intel CPUs now, and with Intel pushing Solaris, hopefully more applications and thus more Solaris installations will be in customers’ data centers. I dare say that those customer will like Solaris, and perhaps look to buy (more) Sun servers.

Besides, Sun isn’t the only company to straddle the divide between AMD and Intel. Dell, a traditionally staunch Intel ally, added Opteron servers to its product line last year, as did IBM. HP has offered systems with CPUs from both companies for at least 1.5 years, if not longer.

It’s a move that makes sense, especially for Sun, and that in itself something we should applaud… moves that make sense (duh!)

Video of my sitar teacher, Alif Laila

This is a video I made (I did the editing, someone else did the recording) of Alif Laila performing Raag Zilla Kaafi. Enjoy, and check out her CDs on her website!

The video is H.264 format and is 3MB in size. It plays fine in QuickTime.

Watch the video

Solaris 10’s new multipath storage tool (Part 1)

Solaris 10 11/06 was released in late 2006 with a plethora of new features, and among them a new tool called mpathadm, which comes as part of the SUNWmpathadm package.

Before I delve into how this specific tool works and how it helps when managing multipathed storage in Solaris, I’ll give some background on what multipathing is and how it is implemented in Solaris.

About that whole Solaris vs. Linux thing

This month there has a been a noticeable increase in buzz from IT pundits discussing whether Solaris now has the feature set critical mass required to win over exising Linux users and shops.

On one hand, I think it’s tres cool that Solaris is and has been getting lots of positive press after a long time (many years) of being shunned as “grandpa’s UNIX” or even outright ignored. On the other, I have to wonder if these pundits are getting a little too “rah rah ree” vis a vis this new rising star of the OS popularity contests. As nice as it is, this kind of speculation has been going on for some time now and I have never seen any hard numbers to indicate whether such a shift is afoot or if it has even happened (yet).

This isn’t to say that Solaris’s newfound popularity (some would say it’s a revival) is without technical merit. The press and technologist community have been crowing about big new features such as ZFS, Zones, and DTrace for some time now. I’m worried, though, that the non-Solaris user who is being courted will get burned over on these specific and oft-repeated messages and come to think that those “Big 3” features are the only things that separate the Solaris of today from the derided Solaris of even 4 years ago.

While I and my fellow Solaris admins know that there are a whole host of other enhancements and features in today’s Solaris, I don’t think that these are being adequately enumerated and explained in generic terms to the non-Solaris admins out there. Not everyone is looking for a new file system. Not everyone is looking for a tracer of the type DTrace is… but I bet there are a lot of Linux admins out there who are trying to do something that Linux doesn’t or doesn’t do well, and Solaris does. The “killer” feature that could win someone over could be as mundane as resource management or Solaris’s excellent mass storage management. Jörg Moellenkamp has similar thoughts on this subject as well.

Who knows? All I know is that we can’t continue to harp on the same stuff, or people will get the wrong impression that Solars is just those things. It’s far more than that, and we have to clearly promote those less sexy but still awesome aspects.

Psychedelic Saturn

NASA Photo

Another post card from the Cassini probe from a far-off corner of our solar system. There’s always beauty in the blackness, I tell you.

This psychedelic view of Saturn and its rings is a composite made from images taken with the Cassini spacecraft wide-angle camera using spectral filters sensitive to wavelengths of infrared light centered at 728, 752 and 890 nanometers.

NASA Photojournal Entry

Sun StorageTek 6140: Buyer beware

It’s not often that I’m so utterly disappointed by a product that I feel the need to write about my experience with it, but a situation at work with two newly-arrived Sun StorageTek 6140 disk arrays has cetrainly enraged me enough, and boy do I feel the need to rail against vendors who cripple their products on purpose.

NOTE: As of 8 Feb this issue has been resolved, but read on if you want to head about the saga.