For the greater part of 2010, I went through an amazing journey to see a product come from the development to release cycle with Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) and the release of their new Virtual Storage Platform (VSP). To put it in a sentence, the VSP is a purpose-built virtual storage system that offers extreme scale, new features and enhanced architecture to take infrastructure to the next level.
The main part of this experience was a trip to Japan in July, be sure to see my notes from after the trip. This trip and others like it are governed by my official blogger disclosure statement, so be sure to check that out. While we were in Japan and then in Santa Clara for the launch of the product, this small flock of bloggers had amazing access to HDS engineering, product development and marketing teams. This included visiting the Hitachi facility in Odawara Kanagawa Japan.
Back to the VSP release, I’m rounding out the caboose from the blogger posts that are surrounding the event. The usual suspects provide ROCKSTAR information in the product. Here is my roundup of good blogger coverage for VSP:
- Greg Knieriemen – iKnerd blog: Hitachi VSP: Page Level Tiering
- Greg Knieriemen – iKnerd blog: VSP vs. USP-V
- Chris M. Evans – The Storage Architect: Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform: Disk Drive Architecture
- Nigel Poulton – Technical Deep Dive: Hitachi Virtual Storage Platform – VSP
- Devang Panchigar – StorageNerve: Hitachi VSP (Virtual Storage Platform) & Command Suite 7– Technology, Comparisons, Architecture
Check out this video on Silicon Angle of me and Devang Panchigar discussing the VSP at the release in Santa Clara. Click below to play the video.
These guys all have good information on the VSP from the storage perspective, and I’ll supplement that with my take on the product and specifically the virtualization angle.
The New Big Iron
To give a preface, I’m a virtualization guy at heart – not a storage guy. I have various levels of storage administration experience ranging from the storage consumer to the storage administrator across a series of products. My storage experience is limited to older EMC Clarion, IBM SVC, IBM DS6000, IBM ESS Shark, HP Modular Storage Arrays 2300 and P2000, NetApp FAS 2000 series and a smattering of off-brand NAS, SAN and JBOD solutions. In a sense, that may be more than some but it is way less than the blogger company I keep. VSP does a few things that I liked architecturally, which I will highlight below:
-Virtualized Storage Engine: Like other fully virutalized storage engines, VSP can present a smattering of IBM, NetApp, HP, Fujitsu, Gateway, EMC, 3PAR, ATDX, NexSAN, Pillar Data, Sun and Xiotech storage. What this does is leverage other investments to put them behind the VSP, so there is one central management platform. The beauty here is that the features of the VSP roll in to this other storage that may otherwise not support it. This includes HDT (described later), VAAI and other software goodness.
-Small Form Factor Drives: In the six cabinet configuration, the VSP is capable of housing 2048 small form factor (2.5”) drives. This brings the total capacity to 255 PB (I have trouble visualizing that much storage). Utilizing the SFF drives is an evolutionary step, and we’ve seen already some additional enterprise storage systems be released with that form factor. But it is important to conserve datacenter space, even at the smallest unit such as a hard drive. It can become a big saver when small form factor is the difference maker for one less cabinet on the datacenter floor.
-Sub-Component Integration: Before information about VSP was made available to this blogger audience, HDS engineer Michael Hay made so many frequent references to commodity components for integrated solutions and enhanced offload capabilities. This (now) makes a lot of sense to me as VSP utilizes standard Intel processors for select functions such as new sub-LUN automated tiering (described later) and other compute-intensive functions are using Intel processors. There are other components throughout the VSP that use ASIC (integrated circuit) processing capabilities. The ASIC processors are a Hitachi designed solution, which is one of the advantages of being a global conglomerate I guess.
–Hitachi Dynamic Tiering (HDT): Sub-LUN tiering is a feature that over time will be a fundamental requirement for an enterprise storage system. This is due to my suspicion that the storage companies will roll more solid state or enterprise flash devices into the mix. Prediction: All of the “big” storage companies are looking to see which of these emerging solid state SAN products bring the best solutions, and will acquire the technology. The premise is that that solid state storage will be the new tier 1 and we’ll still have rotational storage on SAS or SATA. In fact, there may be a ‘disappearing middle class’ for SAS storage. It may end up being solid state and SATA in the end.
The HDT implementation works with a (relatively) large page size of 42 MB for its dataset for its tiering algorithm. It makes sense to me, as I see blocks getting bigger and I don’t want a storage processor spinning CPU cycles looking for a 10 KB block that it can move up to solid state if it gets too hot. As to why the answer to the question is 42, check Michael Hay’s blog post on the very topic.
Virtualization: Ready, set, go!
One of the fundamental guiding principles for VSP is its focus on hypervisor virtualization. While VSP does not have VMware’s vSphere API’s for Array Integration (VAAI) support from day one, it will come in the form of an incremental update later in 2010. VSP’s support for hypervisors is important, and HDS is capitalizing on this.
During my discussions with the HDS team, there are so many more things we would like to do with VAAI (See Chris Evans’ post on his VAAI wish list). The first three VAAI-supported functions are really optimized for virtual machine provisioning (clone), format VMFS, format VMDK zeroed thick, and handling the locks associated with a metadata update on a VMFS volume. In case you didn’t notice, VAAI has no love for NFS. I’d stick to VMFS if I you are looking for a recommendation by the way.
But what about the ongoing run mode of a virtual machine? I have plenty of virtual machines that do a “bulk copy” within the operating system. I’d love to see VAAI extend upward to VMware Tools. Besides, many SAN products have drivers that enhance the run mode of Windows Servers. “Back in the day” with the IBM SVC, I lived and died by the subsystem device driver (SDD) installation on Windows Servers. It was primarily there to ensure correct multipathing configuration, but an in-guest driver feature can possibly pass the commands onward to the underlying storage system.
Speculation: Conceptually, VSP will easily support VMware’s VMDirectPath with the supported components on the host and interface side. Basically, VMDirectPath allows a virtual machine to connect directly to an I/O device. Today’s implementation has an obstacle course on top of a landmine to get through the system requirements and available configurations, but that may change in the future at the rate the VMware keeps rolling vSphere features into the mix. /End Speculation
Speculation: The other half of VAAI will be the expanded functionality associated with VMware’s Storage I/O Control (SIOC) feature of the Distributed Resource Scheduler. Should SIOC do a straight-up morph and become Storage DRS, we may seem all of these features roll into one offering. /End Speculation
Besides VAAI support, HDS is working feverously on a plug-in for vSphere for the VSP and work with the new management software, Hitachi Command Suite. I did all of the poking I could, but can only confirm that the vSphere Plug-In is to work for VSP in 2010. It is only natural to assume that as all of the other storage products (AMS/USP) become supported with Hitachi Command Suite that we’ll see vSphere Plug-In functionality for the other storage products.
On the other side of the virtualization world, HDS sees Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and (gulp) Oracle VM as virtualization integration solutions all at varying levels. The natural conclusion is that Hyper-V and XenServer are next, but they may be an easier integration than VMware. This will develop more, stay tuned.
Summary on VSP
The VSP is an extremely capable storage platform. The new Hitachi Command Suite makes it so even a Windows guy like myself can figure out the storage provisioning process. I’m not in the market for a storage platform with these capabilities, but looking into the future I think we’ll see high-featured storage become the norm. Besides, who wants to buy dumb and clumsy storage?