Monday Jan 14, 2008

Using the Sun Fire X4500 as Network Attached Archival Storage

A paper about a project I completed recently has been published on BigAdmin. The paper is "Configuring the Sun Fire X4500 Server as Network Attached Archival Storage for Symantec Enterprise Vault". The aim of the project was to see if the Sun Fire X4500 could be used as NAS in a Symantec Enterprise Vault environment. The findings were that this worked very well, and performance was excellent!

Software used on the Sun Fire X4500 was SAMBA, Sun StorageTek Storage Archive Manager, and Solaris ZFS.The project involved functional and performance testing, both of which are part of Symantec's comprehensive Self Certification program for Partners.

I went the extra mile, and wrote a configuration tool for the solution called x4500samconfig. The use of the tool is discussed in the paper, and it is available for download here. If you take an X4500 with Solaris 10 8/07 and the unconfigured Storage Archive Manager 4.6 packages installed, this script will have you up and running in minutes. The script configures ZFS, Storage Archive Manager and SAMBA. Some of what the script does "under the hood" is discussed here.

I am going to take the opportunity here to thank Sun's BigAdmin team: the process of publishing an article like this is quite lengthy. Initially, a paper is written by an Engineer (me in this case) for Sun Internal consumption only...this is pretty straightforward, requiring peer review only. Once the internal version is complete, the paper can be submitted for external publication on BigAdmin, and at this point the document must be legally reviewed and professionally edited which can take some time...and it is the BigAdmin team who do this...so, Thanks BigAdmin Team!

Friday Jun 15, 2007

Using a Sun Fire x4500 as an Enterprise Vault Server

I gave a presentation at Symantec Vision yesterday which discussed ways of using Sun's server and storage products to deliver solutions for Symantec Enterprise Vault. The presentation focused on using Sun StorageTek 5000 NAS and Sun StorageTek SAM (aka SAM-FS), and in one section I discussed using a Sun Fire X4500 Server (aka Thumper) as Archival Storage by configuring it with SAMBA and SAM-FS and using it as "NAS". We had this set-up at our booth at the event for people to come kick the tyres.

One thing that I didn't discuss in my presentation was the possibility of installing Microsoft Windows onto the Sun Fire x4500 and using it as a Vault Server. This is something I have tested & benchmarked in the lab, and it worked very well, but discussing it was out of scope for the session I was presenting. It was interesting that people from two Symantec/Sun resellers came up to me after the presentation and asked me about the possibility of doing just that. The answer was yes, this can be done, is supported, performs very well and is very cost effective. No certification is required because Sun Fire x4500 is a server with lots of disks in it and Symantec don't certify server platforms with Enterprise Vault, they certify Microsoft Windows releases.

Before going any further, let's review the Enterprise Vault Solution architecture when using NAS. This is shown on page 11 of of this paper. At a minimum, one database server, one vault server and one NAS appliance are required. In contrast, when using a Sun Fire x4500, a separate database server is still required, but we don't need any NAS connected to the Vault Server for Vault Stores as the internal storage of the Sun Fire x4500 is huge (24 TB RAW made up of 48 x 500 GB SATA-II drives).

Now looking back a few months to when I did this work:

Microsoft Windows Server 2003 R2 SP1 was installed on the Sun Fire x4500 and then Enterprise Vault. I configured 6 disks into a software RAID-5 logical volume using the Windows Logical Volume Manager and ran some standard Enterprise Vault performance benchmarks provided to me by Symantec. (Six was not a magic number of disks, it just seemed a sensible number to use.)

Suffice to say, it went like the wind, archiving at nearly two times the rate of a fast NAS appliance when archiving the same data to it...a good result. To be fair, using local storage will have boosted performance vs NAS, and the extra CPU power and memory in the Sun Fire x4500 vs my normal Vault Server (a two CPU Sun Fire v40z) will have given the application a significant boost...but still a good result.

Thursday Jun 07, 2007

Sun StorageTek Storage Archive Manager (aka SAM-FS or just SAM) now on Symantec Enterprise Vault Support Matrix

I am pleased to see that Sun StorageTek Storage Archive Manager 4.5 (aka SAM-FS or just SAM) is now listed as supported with Symantec Enterprise Vault, see page 21 of the Symantec Enterprise Vault Compatibility Matrix.

My next project in this space will be to certify the WORM features of Sun StorageTek Storage Archive Manager 4.6 with Enterprise Vault. Release 4.6 of SAM supports the same WORM interfaces as the Sun StorageTek Compliance Archiving Software does for the Sun StorageTek 5000 NAS Appliances.

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Tim Thomas

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