February 16, 2013
Last week was probably my craziest here so far. On Monday, we were off because there was some kind of blizzard thing, so it was a shorter week to begin with. On top of that, there were some things piled up from my week off with my gall bladder surgery, so I was trying to get those done, and then the icing on the cake was that we were evaluating a new storage solution for the VMware environment that we've got, so I had to get things going there, too. Of everything, that last one turned out the best.
So, the situation that we're in right now is that our primary storage is a dual-controller NetApp 3210. We're doing the whole Active/Active thing, and our disk aggregates are broken up across controllers.
Prior to 4 or 5 months ago, we were running roughly the same number of disks but in a single aggregate, attached to a single-headed FAS3140, so while it was probably a less sophisticated setup, IO was spread over a much larger number of spindles.
If you're curious about the actual disk count, on the head that deals with virtualization, we've got 14 spindles, and on the other head, we've got 42. I'm not the storage admin, so I can't tell you exactly why it's set up like this, but there are reasons.
The 14 spindles that deal with virtualization just can't keep up with the load that our classroom virtual environment is putting on it, so we've been looking at other options, from putting everything back on the same aggregate to getting a specific solution in place to offload the IO. We talked to Cambridge Computing, and they suggested that we take a look at Nimble Storage, who had been getting rave reviews from Cambridge's customers.
I was familiar with Nimble because they've presented at Tech Field Day a few times. Architecturally speaking, their arrays are hybrid SSD/spinning disk, but they have a few interesting techniques that sound pretty decent. We talked to the local Nimble team, and they agreed to let us borrow their CS260 demo unit while they went to the company's annual meeting in California, which was very cool, and we really appreciated.
So this past week, I needed to do some amount of stress testing of the array, which of course involved running cables and configuring the network and ESXi boxes. I've never played with iSCSI before (my former arrays were all fibre channel, and our NetApps are using NFS to present the datastores), so that was a fun new experience.
All in all, we were happy with the performance of the array (basically, we were network bound the entire time), but even being network bound, we were seing better performance by far than we were getting with the 14 spindles on the NetApp. I wish I'd had more time (or a smaller workload) to give it a more thorough beating, but even so, we decided to purchase an array. In a few weeks (as soon as University paperwork goes through), we'll get our brand new CS220. Awesome!
I can't wait, and I'll definitely let you know what it's like to get going with it. In the meantime, I've got to get the vSphere cluster ready to roll, so that means plenty of work. It's going to be fun!