Friday Mar 09, 2012

My Personal Crib Sheet for the ZFS Storage Appliance

Question: What do the F22 Raptor and the ZFS Storage Appliance have in common?

Answer: They bend time. They compress distance. And they both come with their own simulator.

We recently published some articles about really cool ways to use the ZFS Storage Appliance (see below), so I spent a little time looking into the darned thing. It's easy to find out what the ZFS Storage Appliance does, but more difficult to find out what its components are. What can I yank out and replace? What can I connect it to? And what buttons and levers can I push? Or pull.

So I put together this crib sheet. If you didn't grow up in The Bronx, see wikipedia's definition of crib sheet.

What Have We Published Recently?

What the Heck Is It?

It is Oracle's main NAS system for enterprise environments. In case you don't already know, NAS (Network Attached Storage) is simply a storage system designed to be shared by several servers on a network. Instead of each server having its own storage, which would make sharing files wicked slow, you put all your storage on your NAS system, and let all the servers access it fast. Plus, it's much easier to manage. Shoot, you can even store your boot environments on your NAS system so that if one of your servers dumps core, you can reboot it from the NAS system.

It comes in three variations:

  • 7120 - for small and medium size installations - 3.3 TB to 177 TB raw capacity
  • 7320 - mid-range storage for the enterprise - cluster option - up to 288 TB raw capacity - Hybrid Storage Pools with up to 4 TB of optimized cache
  • 7420 - For virtualized environments requiring multiple data services and heterogeneous file sharing - single or cluster - up to 1.7 PB of raw capacity

What Makes It Special?

  • It's wicked fast (see F22 Raptor, above).
  • It's got management software that makes it easy to administer.
  • Its Hybrid Storage Pool Design recognizes I/O patterns and places data in the storage media that will provide best performance for that data, whether DRAM, flash, or disk.
  • Hybrid Columnar Compression reduces storage footprints for NAS-based databases from three to five times.
  • DTrace analytics help you diagnose performance and networking bottlenecks
  • Fault Management Architecure (FMA) identifies faults and automatically re-routes traffic around them.
  • When you need more capacity, you can add:
    • DRAM, cache, or I/O ports for more resources
    • Disk shelf units for greater total capacity
    • Flash drives for faster performance.
  • You can get it in a dual-cluster configuration for high availability.
  • It provides a variety of RAID protections to balance capacity, protection, and performance requirements of your applications.
  • It's waaaaay cheaper than an F22 and doesn't require all that cryptic back and forth with those moody Air Traffic Control people.

Details here.

What's In The Box?

When I asked, I got the usual "Well, I could tell you what's in the box, but then I'd have to shoot you." Turns out they don't want me messing with it. Or you messing with it. The darn thing is built from off-the-shelf components, but the value-add comes from the way they're tuned to work together. So if you, Mister Curiosity, decide to pop open a terminal and run ssh into Solaris, you'll see a message notifying you that if you continue with your wayward ways you'll void your warranty. Ack! Like the good ol' boys from the Georgia Satellites like to put it...

She said, "No huggee, no kissee
Until you make me a wife."
Oh, my honey, my baby
Don't put my love upon no shelf
She said, "Don't hand me no lines
And keep your hands to yourself."

Here's what you really need to know: It's a specialized server with a processor, memory, and disk drives. Loaded with a highly tuned version of Oracle Solaris and other software goodies. But don't think of it that way. Think of it as remote storage. That's all. A box with:

  • Two types of storage:
    1. Filesystem, such as CIFS, NFS, ZFS, etc.
    2. Block, allocated as a Logical Unit (LUN)
  • Connections for a wide variety of network protocols
  • Two sysadmin toolkits:
    1. BUI (boo! boo!)
    2. CLI (yay! yay!)
  • Analytics to help you monitor its performance.

Connections? What Can I Connect It To?

For starters, you can connect it to the other servers on the network, through the stock Infiniband HCA's. That's part of what makes it wicked fast. But you can also connect it to other devices through industry-standard network protocols, including:

  • Infiniband
  • Fibre Channel
  • NFS
  • Common Internet File System (CIFS)
  • Internet Small Computer System Interface (iSCSI)
  • NDMP (Network Data management Protocol so it can participate in remotely-coordinated automatic backups
  • A Virus Scan Service
  • NIS naming, LDAP directory, and Microsoft Active Directory services for centralized management of users, groups, hostnames, etc.

What Administration Tasks Does It Require?

Details vary by model and your needs, but basic administration consists of:

  • Defining the storage allocated to each server
  • Making it available to the servers (sharing)
  • Migrating data
  • Integrating it with other applications
  • Taking snapshots
  • Monitoring performance with DTrace Analytics
  • The usual backups, diagnostics, and housecleaning tasks for any server or storage system

Any Examples of What To Use It For?

Turns out you can do lots of cool things with the ZFS Storage Appliance. A partial listing:

For More Information

The Best American Country Song of All Time?

Is it the best? That's debatable. But it's certainly one of my favorite renditions of a country song, from one of my favorite movies of all time.

- Rick Ramsey (with special thanks to Andrew Ness)

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Kemer Thomson
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