Wednesday Mar 10, 2010

Sun Storage 7000 Hardware Provider for Microsoft VSS

The release of 2010.Q1 for Sun Storage 7000 Appliances brings a wide variety of new features to the appliance family, including an increased number of ways appliances are integrated directly into storage ecosystems. In addition to the Sun Storage 7000 Management Plug-in for Oracle Enterprise Manager 10g Grid Controller 1.0, Q1 2010 brings integration with Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) through the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS Software 1.0.

For those that have a Microsoft Windows operating environment and are not familiar with Microsoft VSS, it is basically a framework that facilitates creating fast and consistent snapshots of volumes through the coordination of the applications doing backup-type operations (readers, also known as a requestor) and the applications that are writing to volumes (writers). In layman's terms, this facility built into the Microsoft Windows Platforms gives the ability for an application like Symantec NetBackup Advanced Client to take a snapshot of a volume that is being actively used by an application like Oracle Database or Microsoft Exchange. The reader notifies the framework that it would like to take a snapshot. The framework notifies applications that they need to coalesce. The applications complete their coalescing and the framework tells the reader to go. When complete, the framework releases the application to continue writing. An abstract illustration of the environment is shown here:

The whole process of coalescing and taking a snapshot of a volume can take only a few seconds (more depending on how complex the coalesce and snapshot operations are).

For efficiency, storage appliances (like Sun Storage 7000 Appliances) create a "Hardware Provider", also known as a "VSS Block Target Provider". The Hardware Provider takes over the snapshot and clone operations based on the GUID of a SCSI LUN (in our case for Release 1.0, this is iSCSI only, Fibre Channel is not supported).

Installation of the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS is through the InstallShield package downloaded from the Oracle Corp. Download Site (this site contains the Sun domain ID if you notice those types of things). The installation process should be straightforward and results in a new folder accessible from the "Start" menu (Start -> All Programs -> Sun Microsystems, Inc. -> Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS). In this folder are two entries: a README.txt (required reading ... seriously) and the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS ConfigUtil. This latter entry (the ConfigUtil) is also placed on the desktop for quick access.

To verify the hardware provider is registered with the Microsoft VSS Framework, find a command prompt and type "vssadmin list providers". As shown in the following screen capture, this results in a printout of registered providers that will include entry for the Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS. The Version number you will see in an original installation is 1.0.10.

This means that backup application, such as Symantec NetBackup Advanced Client, can set up policies that leverage the hardware provider for fast snapshots. There is one more setup operation that must be completed before the policy will successfully complete. The Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS uses a combination of "Management Path" and "Data Path" operations to achieve snapshot and clones of iSCSI Volumes.

The "Management Path" credentials to any Sun Storage 7000 Appliances supplying iSCSI LUNs to the Microsoft Windows client must be entered through the "Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS ConfigUtil". From the Microsoft Windows platform that is consuming the iSCSI LUNs and has the Hardware Provider installed, open the ConfigUtil (form the Start Menu or the Desktop). Use the DNS names of Sun Storage 7000 Appliances or IP Addresses (I prefer IP Addresses), enter each Sun Storage 7000 Appliance Management Path along with User ID and Passwords given to you by the storage administrator for each appliance. Tap the shoulder of the Storage Administrator and remind them you could use a non-root User ID as guided by the README.txt in the download. Most access rights can be removed from the User ID though they do need to have a role that facilitates snapshot creation and clone creation for the shares that you access. Use the template in the README.txt for a starting point.

This screen capture shows the entry of credentials:

Once the credentials are entered properly, access from applications is seamless.

Look for specific documentation on using Hardware Providers with the specific applications that you use on the Microsoft Windows platform. Because VSS is a framework, you may have products that utilize the framework that we did not specifically test in our labs. The README.txt in the download contains a list of applications that we have run using the provider.


The Sun Storage 7000 Provider for VSS Software 1.0 is a Hardware Provider that plugs into the Microsoft VSS Framework on Microsoft Windows 2003 and 2008, 64-bit or 32-bit variations. Using the provider, backup applications and other requestors can make snapshots and clones directly on Sun Storage 7000 Appliances for iSCSI LUNs consumed by the Microsoft Windows Client on the system that the Hardware Provider is installed on. The installation of the provider is quick and you should verify that it was registered with the Microsoft VSS Framework. You must then enter User ID and Password information for each target Sun Storage 7000 Appliance. No further intervention with the Microsoft VSS Framework is necessary from that point forward and the primary work you'll do is configure your Backup Applications to make use of the Hardware Provider through Backup Policies.

For additional reading, use the following resources:

Tuesday Aug 04, 2009

Sun Storage 7000 as an Administrator Development Platform

The Sun Storage 7000 Family of Appliances breaks ground in manageability and transparency through an amazing amount of analytics information provided to administrators as well as a highly customizable and extensible management environment that resides on the system. The "Workflow", delivered in the latest release of appliance software, is of particular interest to those of us responsible for "integrating" the Sun Storage 7000 into a management ecosystem, bundling pieces of management logic for use by our peers and reproducing management logic (such as configuration and environmental setup) on several systems at a time.

A workflow is a parameterized piece of logic that is uploaded to a Sun Storage 7000 where it remains resident and is then run via the BUI, CLI or remotely via a shell. The logic within the workflow is programmed in JavaScript (resident on the Sun Storage 7000) and interacts with the system's management shell via "run" commands or built-ins that interact with the current administrative context.

A workflow can do anything that an administrator could do via the CLI, but in a nicely bundled and parameterized way. Here are a few things I've done with workflows:

  • gather information about the appliance and reformat it to make it digestable by a higher-level tool
  • retrieve sets of analytics data and turn them into different sized chunks (instead of 1 second interval give me a 60 second interval as an average as well as the min and max during the interval) and reformat it to make it easy to digest
  • manage the lifecycle of shares (create, manage settings and delete) that are common across appliances
  • manage network settings
  • create a set of worksheets on every appliance in the network

The opportunities for automation are endless, only bounded by the needs of the administrator in their efforts to integrate the appliances within the management ecosystem.

There is substantial documentation on the appliance's Help Wiki, but for clarity, here is a very simple workflow that will list the attribute of a filesystem that is given as input to the workflow:

  • Input: attribute name (same as the attribute in the CLI)
  • Output: CSV format: project,sharename,attribute (one line for each share)
  • Behavior Notes: a listed attributed that is not valid will return NA in the column (this could be moved to parameter verification but will serve to illustrate exception handling). Also, there are some properties that return empty values as the value was actually inherited from the project context.

Since this is a relatively "short" example, I will simply put the code here with comments and then add additional information afterwords. Note the use of JavaScript functions (such as printToString) as well as the most important element, the definition of the variable "workflow".

/\* The printed headers, one will be added with the property name \*/
var headerList = new Array(

/\* A function to print the array into a string for display \*/
function printToString(csvToPrint){
var csvAsString = "";
for(var i=0 ; i csvAsString = csvAsString + csvToPrint[i];
// do not finish with an end of line marker
if(i!=csvToPrint.length-1) csvAsString = csvAsString + "\\n";
return csvAsString;

/\* This is a required structure for the workflow, it identifies the name, parameters
and the function to execute when it is run \*/
var workflow = {
name: 'Get Filesystem Attribute',
origin: 'Sun Microsystems, Inc.',
description: 'Prints a Property for all Shares',
parameters: {
property : {
label: 'Filesystem Property',
type: 'String'
function (params) {
// prepare the output arrays
var csvContents = new Array();
var currentRow = 0;
headerList[2] =;
csvContents[0] = headerList;

// go to the root context to start navigation
run('cd /');

// get a list of all of the projects on the system
var projects = list();

// navigate through each project
for(var i=0 ; i run('select '+projects[i]);

// get a list of all shares
var shares = list();

// go into the context of each share
for(var j=0 ; j run('select '+shares[j]);
var filesystem = true;
var mountPoint = "";
try {
mountPoint = get('mountpoint');
} catch (err) {
// will end up here if "mountpoint" does not exist, not a filesystem
filesystem = false;
if(filesystem) {
var currentRowContents = new Array();
currentRowContents[0] = projects[i];
currentRowContents[1] = shares[j];
try {
var propertyValue = get(;
currentRowContents[2] = ""+propertyValue;
} catch (err) {
currentRowContents[2] = "NA";
csvContents[currentRow] = currentRowContents;
run('cd ..');

run('cd ..');

var newCsvAsString = printToString(csvContents);

return (newCsvAsString);

While the bulk of the example is standard JavaScript, the workflow structure is where there must be adherence. Here are the important properties:

  • name - The name that the workflow will be identified by within the BUI or CLI
  • origin - The author of the workflow, can also be used to minimize name collisions
  • description - A description of the contents of the workflow, displayed in the BUI or CLI
  • parameters - A list of parameters with types (the types supported are listed in the documentation)
  • execute - The function that gets executed when the workflow is run (there are more advanced ways of identifying the execution code than are shown here)

The code itself interacts with the system to get a list of the projects on the system, then a list of the shares within the system. The mountpoint property is ONLY available on filesystems, so we know if there is a property error that we do not have a filesystem and skip processing of it (it is most likely an iSCSI LUN).

To upload the workflow, cut/paste the text above and put it in a file. Log into a Sun Storage 7000 Appliance with the latest software and go to Maintenance / Workflows. Click the "+" sign to add a workflow and identify the location of the file. The syntax is error checked on upload, then you will see it listed. Workflows can also be uploaded from the CLI.

Here is what a run of the workflow from the CLI looks like:

isv-7110h:maintenance workflows> ls
showhidden = false


workflow-004 Get Filesystem Attribute root false Sun Microsystems, Inc.

isv-7110h:maintenance workflows> select workflow-004
isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004> ls
name = Get Filesystem Attribute
description = Prints a Property for all Shares
owner = root
origin = Sun Microsystems, Inc.
setid = false

isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004> execute
isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004 execute (uncommitted)> ls
property = (unset)

isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004 execute (uncommitted)> set property=space_total
property = space_total
isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004 execute (uncommitted)> commit

isv-7110h:maintenance workflow-004>

While the example is simple, hopefully it illustrates that this is the start of workflow capabilities, not the entirety of them. The workflow can create management structures (like new shares and worksheets), delete them, modify them, and even enable and disable services.

Workflows make the Sun Storage 7000 an Administrator Development Platform. Try it out in the Sun Unified Storage Simulator if you don't have an appliance at your fingertips!




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