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HP Discover Europe 2014 – Day 2 Roundup

Day 2 started early with the first sessions beginning around 8.30am. I won’t bore you with the details of my day, but I will go through three really great new products / features I spent time learning about. Much of the info below came from slides, or discussions with product managers / engineers, so should not be taken as gospel!

HP OneView
I have to admit I have been a little lax in having a look at OneView as yet. I took the opportunity at the event to have a chat with some of the OneView engineers, and take the hands on lab. If you haven’t already done so, and you have any HP kit on premises, I strongly suggest you take a look at this product! I’m not going to go into any depth here, except to describe one of my favourite features.

OneView has the ability to connect into your servers, storage, and fabric, then auto-deploy, configure and manage your environment, end-to-end. An example of this might be if you are provisioning a new server. OneView can create new volumes based on specific policies, auto-configure all of your SAN zoning between your server initiator and targets (with single initiator, multiple target or single initiator, single array options only for now), then build the OS, configure and mount the storage on the server. How cool is that?

HP OneView

HP OneView

This is currently based on a specific subset of vendors, mainly only HP and Brocade AFAIK, but other vendors are being added in the future.

Having played with it in the lab, I can confirm that it is pretty easy to learn and use, with most information and configurations layed out reasonably intuitively in the BUI.

For more information on OneView see HP’s site.

ProLiant Gen9 Features
As I understand it, one of the key strategies behind the new ProLiant range is to ensure that HP are not losing on price / value against some of their less pricey competitors (who shall of course remain nameless as you know who they are already!). The premise here is that instead of buying top of the range servers with all the wizardry built in by default (with an appropriately top of the range price!), you can start with a base unit and only add the features you actually need. A prime example of this being that you don’t need a storage controller if you just boot from USB for a hypervisor!

This strategy has led to the removal (by default, you can configure it back again) of things like 10Gb FlexibleLOM network ports, front panel fault indicators, the onboard RAID card is now a plugin module, etc. The theory being that the Gen 9 servers, though newer, should actually come in at a better price point than their Gen 8 ancestors. The marketing shpiel is that the new Gen 9 servers deliver “the right compute for the right workload at the right economics every time”.

HP Gen 9

HP Gen 9

Cheesy marketing slogan? Absolutely!

Do they seem to deliver on this? From some of the indicative pricing I’ve seen so far, I’d say yes…

Just as a quick overview of the new ranges:

  • 10 Series (DL60 / DL80 Gen 9)
    • The 10 series is designed to be an entry level model for SMBs. These also now come with dual PSU as a CTO option, which suddenly makes them a lot more attractive in my mind.
  • 100 Series (DL160DL180 Gen 9)
    • This is not the same as the old 100 series machines from the G7 era and before. It is effectively equivalent to a DL3x0e (entry) machine in the previous generation ranges.
  • 300 Series (DL360 / DL380 Gen 9)
    • This now equates to the original DL3x0p series of machines, and has the maximum scalability and performance in mind.
The following (poor photo sorry) is a great slide which just lists out the key differences between each model in the range:
HP Proliant DL80/180/380 Gen 9

HP Proliant DL80/180/380 Gen 9

I suggest checking the quick specs for more info!

3PAR File Personas
As regards one of my favourite announcements from the entire event (apart from The Machine, which I will do a post on some time in the future), I was able to gather some more info on the awesome new File Personas announcement.

The first, most notable fact was that the HP are so confident in the resilience of their new arrays, that they are offering a 99.9999% Availability Guarantee! Many SLAs in the IT industry are not necessarily a guarantee of a claimed level of availability, but more a level of commercial risk accepted by the vendor or provider. That said, going with “Six Nines” definitely shows belief in your product set!

HP 3PAR File Personas

HP 3PAR File Personas

A few nuggets of info I gleaned from attending the File Personas breakout session were as follows:

  • Priority Optimisation will work but is not currently certified as supported. The following technologies are inherited from block persona, and are supported from day one:
    • Wide striping
    • Replication
    • Thin Provisioning
  • From a multi tenancy perspective, the initial release will only utilise up to one Active Directory source per array (not per Virtual File Server) as the controllers each have machine accounts in your domain, which is somewhat disappointing as a service provider who always asks “can it be multi-tenanted?”. It will provide up to 4 IPs per virtual file server, and these can be on separate VLANs and trusts may be used, so there is some scope for flexibility.
  • Licensing and configuration of virtual file servers is always based on multiples of 1TiB (note TiB not TB), but you can then use quotas to subdivide your file store allocations below this.
  • The $129 per TiB is based on the amount allocated to a virtual file server, irrespective of the back end storage or thin provisioning utilisation. You will not be forced to license the entire array. For example:
    • You have an array with say 100 TiB of usable space
    • 10TiB allocation to a virtual file server
    • 5TiB in use by end user files
    • 10TiB of license required

The price point seems genuinely good value to me. Compared to the cost of purchasing, powering and managing something like a Windows File Server Cluster, it’s really a no-brainer!

That should just about do it for today! Final day tomorrow will be mainly comprised of a few more sessions followed by a looooong wait for my flight home…

Disclaimer: As an HP customer, HP kindly provided my accommodation and entry to the HP discover event, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about their products or services.

HP Discover Europe 2014 – Day 1 Roundup

It’s been a pretty interesting day here at my first HP Discover, and I thought I would jot down a few thoughts about the day. Many of my opinions and thoughts are slightly biased by the fact that I also attended my first VMworld only last month, at the same venue, so it has been very interesting to compare the differences…

The first thing that really jumped out at me is the level at which the conference appears to be targeted, from a technical perspective. There is definitely a much more business user focussed feel to the event, with many more “people in suits” around, though still plenty of opportunity to get your geek on with the engineers in the Discover Zone. This seems to be reflected in the content at the sessions I have attended so far, which seem to be more around business objectives and solution value, rather than deep dive technical specifics. I guess part of this is driven by the target audience, and part by the vast array of HP products represented. There simply isn’t enough time or space to be able to deep dive on every HP product!

HP Discover at Fira Barcelona Gran Via

HP Discover at Fira Barcelona Gran Via

Speaking of space, although HP Discover is only slightly larger than VMworld (around 11,000 attendees vs 9,000), they actually utilise halls 4 & 5 of the Fira Barcelona Gran Via as well at halls 6 to 8.1. If you thought you had sore dogs by the end of VMworld, you can multiply that up by another 50% for HP Discover; the place is simply vast! If I am fortunate enough to be invited back next year, I may have to try to sneak in a scooter!

It's Mahooosive!

It’s Mahooosive!

My morning was mainly spent taking in a few sessions including a very interesting panel discussion on SDN, Network virtualisation and BYOD, hosted by the inimitable Ethan Banks (of PacketPushers).

Keynote
For me, the keynotes continued the themes I have mentioned above.

I wont go into all of the specifics of all of the announcements as I’m sure there will be plenty on the blogosphere who will do it better justice than I can, but there were a couple of bits and bobs which were particularly interesting to me personally and I recommend people check out, including:

  • 3PAR 7200c/7440c/7450c
    The new 3PAR 7000c line of mid tier arrays, which has been evolved somewhat with the usual increases in capacity, but more interestingly, the ability to present both block and file direct from the controllers using the new file personas feature which the LonVMUG’s own Craig Kilborn did a great intro on. The pricing looks interesting too at $129 per TB, which even at list price would be very good value as long as you don’t have to license all of the usable storage in your array, whether you need it or not; something I want to find out asap! 🙂
  • HP Enterprise Services for Office 365
    At a high level this seems to be the ability to have HP manage your Office 365 environment either within the standard MS DCs, or potentially within an HP DC. For me this is a step in the right direction, but where it would get really interesting would be if they could extend it all they way out to a customer DC, where I could then potentially look to use things like Exchange in Online Mode, for compatibility with remote desktops (RDS/XenApp etc).

In the afternoon I spent some time in the Discover Zone having a chat with a number of technology experts. A couple of nuggets which stuck for me were:

  • HP will (at last) be providing a Storage Spaces certified JBOD solution early next year; something they have been missing for no discernable reason.
  • DL80 servers now have dual PSU capability if purchased as a CTO SKU. If all you need is a bunch of compute hosts for your vSphere farm, booting from USB and using FC/iSCSI storage, then you wouldn’t go far wrong considering these, or even the DL60 range…

In the evening I attended the UK&I Customer Reception at the W Barcelona, which was highly enjoyable, thanks HP!

Overall, a very interesting and enjoyable day one event, and great to see HP still continuing to innovate. By the time I hit my room this evening, both my feet and brain were tired out!

Tomorrow I plan to take in some more sessions, have a nose around the tech preview zone at some point and revisit one or two of the converged systems stands, as well as have a play with OneView.

A RedHat Red Hat

A RedHat Red Hat!

 

PS – Marketing award of the day has to go to the guys from RedHat. You couldn’t look anywhere without seeing a sea of Scarlet Fedoras within hours of the start of the day! Must try to grab one tomorrow for my kids… 🙂

Disclaimer: As an HP customer, HP kindly provided my accommodation and entry to the HP discover event, but there was no expectation or request for me to write about their products or services.

The Self Study Era

I was prompted to write this article after the release of the new VMware Certified Associate (VCA) exam.

One of the most interesting and and best things about the VCP programme is the barrier to entry. Unfortunately in this age of brain dumps, it is all to easy to be a “paper MCSE”, having simply memorised all the answers to a load of exams and passed them without actually knowing the subject matter. Individuals like this usually become unstuck pretty quickly, and it makes a bit of a mockery of the whole process.

In this age of austerity, doom and gloom, employers won’t or don’t want to pay for professional training, which means this barrier can be pretty high! Gone are the days where companies may have the budget to send people on multiple training courses per year. I was extremely lucky at the start of my career to get the opportunity to attend all the courses for my MCSE (about 8 IIRC!) in the space of a couple of years! At many companies today, employees are lucky if they are sent on a single one in that time.

Fortunately it’s not as bad as it sounds, because gone are the days where there used to be only the official course books or in-person training available. Thanks to the wonders of the interweb, today we have many many more resources available to us, including:

  • Many free online community-generated resources. It never fails to impress me how people are willing to give up their free time to generate this content and help complete strangers improve their knowledge and skills.
  • Inexpensive virtualisation at home using VMware Workstation, GNS3, etc allowing you to virtualise and create an entire lab for whatever it is you’re studying. For most technology you can get away with as little as 8-16GB RAM in an old PC, as long as it has a CPU with VT-X extensions you’re golden! This for me is the best way to learn any product – lab it, lab it, lab it!
  • Free online labs from many vendors such as VMware’s http://www.projectnee.com/HOL and Microsoft’s http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/virtuallabs/ so even if you cant afford to have a home lab yourself, you can still get your hands on the tech.
  • If you work for a vendor partner you can often get access to their “Partner University” content for free.
  • Free practice exams from many of the vendors on their learning pages.

If your employer has minimal budgets for training, there is no point moping about it. Invest in yourself (be it financially or in time) and meet them half way.  Embrace the fact that you have joined one of the fastest moving industries in the world, show some initiative and study in your own time!

VMware Certified AssociateSo how does this relate specifically to the VCA I hear you ask? Well if I were starting my career again from scratch, the first thing I would be doing is passing the VMware Certified Associate exam of my choice, based on the free VCA training from VMware, and all of the free resources above. If you pull your finger out, you can even get 50% off the VCA exam for a limited time.

Once you have this one in the bag, then is the time to approach your employer and ask for them to fund your VCP course. They will know you’re serious as you have invested your own time, effort and money (for the exam), and they should already be starting to see the benefits in your additional skills.

At that point, considering the time and effort you have put into your development, if your employer isn’t willing or able to match that investment by paying for either exams or further training / materials, then maybe they’re not the right employer for you. Take your newly learned skills and put them to good use! 🙂

Windows Server 2012 Storage Spaces Missing Disks

HP Microserver N36L

This is just an annoying quick bug I came across today while messing with Windows 2012 Storage Spaces. The bug apparently affects a significant number of RAID controllers, including the embedded AMD SATA controller in the HP Microserver N36L which is what I am currently in the process of configuring as a remote personal backup server.

As you can see from the screenshot below, the main symptom is that it effectively causes the storage spaces UI not to show all of the available disks in the primordial storage pool. There are actually 3 1TB physical drives in the server below, however only a single drive appears (which can be any one of the three drives in slot 2/3/4 when I refresh the view):

Primordial storage space only showing a single physical drive

Primordial storage space only showing a single physical drive

This is caused by the RAID controller presenting all disks with the same UniqueID. You can list your UniqueIDs by typing the following command into a PowerShell window:

Get-PhysicalDisk | ft FriendlyName, UniqueId, ObjectId, BusType –auto

 

The result looks something like this:

3 identical UniqueIDs

3 identical UniqueIDs

This is an annoying bug, but a simple workaround is available for Microserver users, and I’m sure a similar approach could be taken on other platforms. Simply load up the AMD RAIDXpert UI (or boot into the BIOS) and configure each individual drive as a single RAID Ready device as follows:

Use RAIDXpert to create individual RAID Ready drives

Use AMD RAIDXpert to create individual RAID Ready drives

Complete RAID Ready Drive List

Complete RAID Ready Drive List

This causes the RAID controller to present an individual UniqueID for each drive through to the OS:

Actually unique UniqueIDs!

Actually unique UniqueIDs!

You can then go ahead and create your storage space as normal from the primordial pool:

Primordial Storage Space now shows all 3 unique drives

Primordial Storage Space now shows all 3 physical drives

Hope this helps a few people as it drove me potty before I worked out what was going on!

Bonus Tip: Another wee tip I read recently is that storage spaces are NOT supported inside a virtual machine. I know you would need a quite specific (read: odd) use case to even consider doing this, just don’t! 🙂

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