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28Feb/140

From WebOS to Android: 60 days in

TechOps Guy: Nate

About a month ago I wrote about my experience on the first 30 days of switching from a WebOS ecosystem to a Android Ecosystem. Specifically from the never-officially-released HP Pre3 to a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

There were a few outstanding issues at the time, and I just wanted to write/rant a little bit about one of them.

Wireless Charging

Inductive charging technology has been with the WebOS platform since day one I believe(2009). I had become accustomed to using it, and any future phone really would need to have this for me to feel satisfied. Long ago it fell away from the "nice to have" categories to "cannot live without much pain". Fortunately some other folks have picked up on wireless charging over recent years though sadly it's still far from universal.

One of the reasons I liked the Note 3 was it was going to get(and did get) official wireless charging from Samsung. I suppose that is where my happiness came to an end.

I suppose it is semi obvious I wouldn't be writing about it if my experience was flawless :)

Samsung charging accessories

What seems like a month ago now I went to my local Frys and picked up the one wireless charging back cover that I liked for the Note 3, along with a Samsung charging base station. I didn't want to risk generating an unstable magnetic field in my bedroom and a rip in the space time continuum by buying a second or third rate wireless charger.

There are other back cover(s) available but the other one(s) I saw also included a wrap around front cover which I did not want. This cover looks identical to the stock cover(same color even, and seems like the same size as well though I could be wrong my perception is far from precise).

The Note 3 is a big phone, and it is fairly heavy too (slightly heavier than the HP Pre3) with a stock configuration. With the regular back cover it was fine, with the new back cover I can't help but think of the word brick come to mind. I mean it is a stark difference - I would say at least 25% heavier than stock. There are no specs that I can find online or on the packaging that talk about the weight of the cover but it's heavy.  I have gotten used to that heft over the weeks though. The HP Pre3 (and some of the WebOS phones before it I believe with specific exception at least to the original Pre which I owned as well) all came with charging covers built in, so I never had a comparison to make with/without them at the time.

Anyway so I'm past the heft of the new back cover (though compared to a co-workers HTC One with a fancier back cover his phone I think is heavier than mine even though it is smaller, he has a big cover on it though).

Charging experience

The next problem came with charging on the pad, it was spotty. There is a green light on the pad that is supposed to tell you when the pad is mated with the phone and is charging. Don't believe it because it lies to me often. Most of the time it would charge fine, other times it would not. In my earlier days(before I learned that the green light lies to me) I tried just leaving it on the pad overnight with the green light on, woke up the next day with the battery at 10%.

The phone does indicate when it is charging wirelessly. Many times (including right now which prompted me to write this now) the phone just refuses to sit still and charge wirelessly. It will go in and out of charge mode every few seconds, then eventually it seems to give up and does not charge at all, unless of course I hook it to a USB cable. I don't understand how it could give up like that it doesn't make any sense to me unless there is a software component, but how could the software component refuse electricity ? I don't know.

I have spent literally 10 minutes trying every possible position on the pad to have the phone not want to charge. Then other times it works 100% of the time for a day or so.

So I thought hey maybe it's the crappy Samsung pad, I had read and heard some good things about the Tylt Vu, specifically they claim that they have a better charging area, meaning you can have the phone pretty much at any angle and it will charge. They have wide compatibility but did not specifically mention Note 3 at the time (I assume because the charging covers for Note 3 are still new).

So I ordered two Vus, and tried my phone on the first one - did not charge. I tried again for 5 minutes or so every possible position and it would not charge. Took it to the Samsung pad and I believe it would not charge there either. Filed support ticket with Tylt to see if they had any ideas, meanwhile the Samsung pad started working again with the phone. It charged all night. I got up the next day, battery was full - I played some games for a few minutes battery drained to ~93% - took the phone to the Vu and it would not charge. Took the phone back to the Samsung charger and it would not charge.

Rinse and repeat several times.....eventually I got both the Vus to charge my phone, though it is still sporadic. Tylt was going to replace the Vu but I don't think it's the Vu's fault. Samsung support wasn't very helpful. I suppose it could be the back cover, but I mean how complex can that be? I'm suspecting more of a design flaw or perhaps a software problem preventing the charging from working. I don't know. All three chargers have semi sporadic charging results, so I suppose I can rule the chargers out as a cause of the problem.

Next up..

Android day dream

One of the long time cool features of the WebOS devices is a feature called exhibition mode. Basically means when the phone is charging it can launch a screen saver of sorts on the screen, default is a clock but it can do photo slide show as well as some other apps. The HP Touchpad took this to the next level and used a form of NFC to uniquely identify charging stations so the device could launch a different mode depending on what station it is charging off of.

I use this a lot with my Touchpads still they make great digital picture frames, just sit them in the charger and the slide show fires right up. If I want to use it I just pick it up, no wires and off I go..

Android has something similar called day dream. However a flaw in either Android or in Samsung's code prevents it from working correctly. When day dream is running, the configured application loads, which in my case is a slide show of sorts, and while the battery charges the slide show shows like it should.

The problem comes with the battery gets full - the OS kicks day dream off line and brings back the home screen and shows a notification the battery is full - disconnect the charger. The wireless charging unit stops charging for a minute or so - then the charging kicks in again, and day dream fires up again for about a minute perhaps then is booted off again and well rinse and repeat.

It gets worse though - if I want to use daydream I have to turn it on during the day and turn it off before I goto sleep. Because if daydream is in use at night, I hit the power button to turn off the screen before I go to sleep. Then guess what - when the battery is full the screen lights up and shows that same stupid battery is full message(and the screen does not turn off again). Without daydream the device turns the screen off automatically and stays off until I turn it on or remove it from the charging pad.

Stupid - I would of thought these would be basic things that would of been solved a while ago.

The only problem I really EVER had with wireless charging on WebOS was with the HP Pre3 and the original wireless pucks as they were called(base stations). The design of the Pre3 is slightly different so they don't fit the older charging stations precisely, even with the built in magnet to help align the phone to the charger sometimes it gets out of alignment and goes into a charging/beeping loop until corrected. Understandable since they were not designed for each other. HP was going to release a newer, significantly more sophisticated charging station for the Pre3(which included wireless audio out too) but of course it never made it to market.

As far as I know, the WebOS phones did not ever "stop" charging when the battery was full, they just keep going. I realize this is not good for the battery but I'll live with having to replace the battery every year or something if it means the above stuff worked right. In fact I never replaced a battery on a WebOS device in the roughly four years I used them.

Other thoughts

All in all I'm still pretty happy with the Note 3. I mean my phone usage has gone up significantly. I think I can compare it to moving from a feature phone to a smart phone originally. I really did not use the Pre3 very much anymore towards the end. The battery life is not to my expectations. Video playback battery life is excellent(I think CNET recently rated the Note 3 as something like 14 hours). But drive that CPU a bunch and it will chew through battery quick, I think I could fairly easily chew through 30% in an hour at high usage. I haven't used any new apps since my last blog post, and in fact other than the two games I mentioned that I do play I haven't touched any of the other games that I had installed either. I have loaded the thing up with pictures though easily 15,000. Also have all of my music on there, lots of video and still have about 25GB available (96GB total).

I also edited the Superbowl to a 19 minute video and have watched that tons of times on my phone(looks amazing). There is another video - an episode of NFL Films presents on the Superbowl I put that on my phone too - also looks incredible(and the episode itself is just awesome). I purchased a pair of Braven bluetooth speakers (originally bought one then got another) which can be paired to each other for stereo playback, they work quite well(and have NFC too).

My mobile data usage has been tiny though since the bulk of my time is either at home or the office where I use wifi. With the HP Pre3 for the most part I kept wifi off all the time because it would interfere with bluetooth. The phone claims from Jan 21 - Feb 21 I used only 136MB of mobile data (I have a 5GB plan - mainly for travel with the phone's mifi hotspot mode).

Anyway that's enough for now.

21Feb/1427

NetApp’s latest mid range SPC-1

TechOps Guy: Nate

NetApp came out with their latest generation of storage systems recently and they were good citizens and promptly published SPC-1 results for them.

When is clustering, clustering?

NetApp is running the latest Ontap 8.2 in cluster mode I suppose, though there is only a single pair of nodes in the tested cluster. I've never really considered this a real cluster, it's more of a workgroup of systems. Volumes live on a controller (pair) and can be moved around if needed, they probably have some fancy global management thing for the "cluster" but it's just a collection of storage systems that are only loosely integrated with each other. I like to compare the NetApp style of clustering to a cluster of VMware hosts (where the VMs would be the storage volumes).

This strategy has it's benefits as well, the main one being less likelihood that the entire cluster could be taken down by a failure(normally I'd consider this failure to be triggered by a software fault). This is the same reason why 3PAR has elected to-date to not go beyond 8-nodes in their cluster, the risk/return is not worth it in their mind. In their latest generation of high end boxes 3PAR decided to double up the ASICs to give them more performance/capacity rather than add more controllers, though technically there is nothing stopping them from extending the cluster further(to my knowledge).

The downside to workgroup style clustering is that optimal performance is significantly harder to obtain.

3PAR clustering is vastly more sophisticated and integrated by comparison. To steal a quote from their architecture document -

The HP 3PAR Architecture was designed to provide cost-effective, single-system scalability through a cache-coherent, multi-node, clustered implementation. This architecture begins with a multi-function node design and, like a modular array, requires just two initial Controller Nodes for redundancy. However, unlike traditional modular arrays, an optimized interconnect is provided between the Controller Nodes to facilitate Mesh-Active processing. With Mesh-Active controllers, volumes are not only active on all controllers, but they are autonomically provisioned and seamlessly load-balanced across all systems resources to deliver high and predictable levels of performance. The interconnect is optimized to deliver low latency, high-bandwidth communication and data movement between Controller Nodes through dedicated, point-to-point links and a low overhead protocol which features rapid inter-node messaging and acknowledgement.

Sounds pretty fancy right? It's not something that is for high end only. They have extended the same architecture down as low as a $25,000 entry level price point on the 3PAR 7200 (that price may be out of date, it's from an old slide).

I had the opportunity to ask what seemed to be a NetApp expert on some of the finer details of clustering in Ontap 8.1 (latest version is 8.2) a couple of years ago and he provided some very informative responses.

Anyway on to the results, after reading up on them it was hard for me not to compare them with the now five year old 3PAR F400 results.

Also I want to point out that the 3PAR F400 is End of Life, and is no longer available to purchase as new as of November 2013 (support on existing systems continues for another couple of years).

MetricNetApp
FAS8040
3PAR
F400
Date tested2/19/20144/27/2009
Controller
Count
24
(hey, it's an actual cluster)
SPC-1 IOPS86,07293,050
SPC-1 Usable
Capacity
32,219 GB
(RAID 6)
27,046 GB
(RAID 1)
Raw
Capacity
86,830 GB56,377 GB
SPC-1 Unused
Storage
Ratio
(may not exceed 45%)
41.79%0.03%
Tested storage
configuration
pricing
$495,652$548,432
SPC-1 Cost
per IOP
$5.76$5.89
Disk size and
number
192 x 450GB 10k RPM384 x 146GB 15k RPM
Data Cache64GB data cache
1,024GB Flash cache
24GB data cache

I find the comparison fascinating myself at least. It is certainly hard to compare the pricing, given the 3PAR results are five years old, the 3PAR mid range pricing model has changed significantly with the introduction of the 7000 series in late 2012.  I believe the pricing 3PAR provided SPC-1 was discounted(I can't find indication either way, I just believe that based on my own 3PAR pricing I got back then) vs NetApp is list(says so in the document). But again, hard to compare pricing given the massive difference in elapsed time between tests.

Unused storage ratio

What is this number and why is there such a big difference? Well this is a SPC-1 metric and they say in the case of NetApp:

Total Unused Capacity (36,288.553 GB) divided by Physical Storage Capacity (86.830.090 GB) and may not exceed 45%.

A unused storage ratio of 42% is fairly typical for NetApp results.

In the case of 3PAR, you have to go to the bigger full disclosure document(72 pages), as the executive summary has evolved more over time and that specific quote is not in the 3PAR side of things.

So for 3PAR F400 SPC says:

The Physical Storage Capacity consisted of 56,377.243 GB distributed over 384 disk drives each with a formatted capacity of 146.816 GB. There was 0.00 GB (0.00%) of Unused Storage within the Physical Storage Capacity. Global Storage Overhead consisted of 199.071 GB (0.35%) of Physical Storage Capacity. There was 61.203 GB (0.11%) of Unused Storage within the Configured Storage Capacity. The Total ASU Capacity utilized 99.97% of the Addressable Storage Capacity resulting in 6.43 GB (0.03%) of Unused Storage within the Addressable Storage Capacity.

3PAR F400 Storage Hierarchy Ratios

3PAR F400 Storage Hierarchy Ratios

The full disclosure document is not (yet) available for NetApp as of 2/21/2014. It most certainly will become available at some point.

The metrics above and beyond the headline numbers is one of the main reasons I like SPC-1.

With so much wasted space on the NetApp side it is confusing to me why they don't just use RAID 1 (I think the answer is they don't support it).

Benefits from cache

The NetApp system is able to leverage it's terabyte of flash cache to accelerate what is otherwise a slower set of 10k RPM disks, which is nice for them.

They also certainly have much faster CPUs, and more than double the data cache (3PAR's architecture isolates data cache from the operating system, so I am not sure how much memory on the NetApp side is actually used for data cache vs operating system/meta data etc). 3PAR by contrast has their proprietary ASIC which is responsible for most of the magic when it comes to data processing on their systems.

3PAR does not have any flash cache capabilities so they do require (in this comparison) double the spindle count to achieve the same performance results. Obviously in a newer system configuration 3PAR would likely configure a system with SSDs and sub LUN auto tiering to compensate for the lack of a flash based cache. This does not completely completely compensate however, and of course I have been hounding 3PAR and HP for at least four years now to develop some sort of cache technology that leverages flash. They announced SmartCache in December 2012 (host-based SSD caching for Gen8 servers) however 3PAR integration has yet to materialize.

However keep in mind the NetApp flash cache only accelerates reads. If you have a workload like mine which is 90%+ write the flash cache doesn't help.

Conclusion

NetApp certainly makes good systems, they offer a lot of features, and have respectable performance. The systems are very very flexible and they have a very unified product line up (same software runs across the board).

For me personally after seeing results like this I feel continually reassured that the 3PAR architecture was the right choice for my systems vs  NetApp (or other 3 letter storage companies).  But not everyone's priorities are the same. I give NetApp props for continuing to support SPC-1 and being public with their numbers. Maybe some day these flashy storage startups will submit SPC-1 results.......not holding my breath though.

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2Feb/140

Go Seahawks!

TechOps Guy: Nate

Go Seahawks!

 

I'm not one for sports really, though I did get interested in NFL back when Seattle first went to the Superbowl in 2005/2006(despite my father being pretty hard core into 49ers and Broncos growing up I never had any interest in football). My interest waned over the years as their performance waned. Though this year was just incredible, I would never of imagined such a season or a Superbowl finish like that.  Living in the Bay Area now I don't get to see many of their games unless they happen to be playing the Raiders or 49ers. I am surprised(perhaps I shouldn't be) of how many folks in the Bay Area really hate the Seahawks. Myself I like many teams (mostly west coast teams, 49ers, Raiders, Chargers all inclusive -- hell even the Broncos).

The previous two Seahawk games were waay too close for my own comfort I like to see a commanding 10 point lead in any game, I don't like games won at the last second by a field goal or "one(or two) good play(s)". I couldn't of asked for anything more in this Superbowl, such a commanding destruction of the Broncos on both sides of the ball. To be totally honest I was prepared for the Seahawks to lose to the Broncos after the Broncos ripped the Patriots a new one two weeks ago (combined with the previous two Seahawks games being too close). Wow, I'm just totally blown away. I really don't have words to describe how incredible of a victory that was.

Congrats, I wish I was in Seattle to be at COWGIRLS tonight I know it's going to be a mad house.......!!!!!!!!!

Hell I'm tempted to drive back up there for Cowgirls next Friday+Saturday, will have to debate that with myself over the coming week.

One thing's for sure I'm going to have to invest in more Seahawks stuff, I have just two t-shirts that I bought many years ago.

Side note: speaking of those fancy Superbowl ads, I've never much cared for any of them. In fact this is the first Superbowl that I can recall that I've watched live, I prefer to watch things on at least a two hour delay with Tivo to skip the ads(and halftime).

People don't understand why I don't like to watch it live(unless I'm at a bar - in this case I was at a friend of a friend's house), as much as I can't understand why they have to watch it live - the results of the game do not change if you don't see it live. I suppose if your doing betting or something in real time you need to be up to date on the stats, I am not a betting person though (even if for no money  - just not my personality). The NFC championship I ended up sleeping through most of it while it aired - and watched it after it ended. Some folks claim they have to because of social media - for me it's not hard to just turn off my phone and not use the computer until it's over. I'm also not much involved in social media to begin with(I don't see that changing anytime soon the more I see the more I'm turned off by it other than LinkedIn which I feel is good from a professional standpoint). [Update from 2/3/14: I just checked all of the sites that I visit regularly as well as all of the RSS feeds I have and there's no mention of who won the Superbowl, and nothing in any of my online chats either(mostly work related), so further evidence that my life is fairly isolated from sports in general]

My favorite bar to watch games at in the Bay Area is Rookie's Lodge down in San Jose (40 minute drive each way for me). My favorite bar ever to watch a game at is Tilted Kilt - specifically the Tilted Kilt in Temecula, CA. They must've had a half dozen 100"+ screens (only been to that particular location once a couple of years ago). Though I'm happy to go to any Tilted Kilt (unfortunately the closest one to the Bay Area is in Orange County - I go there whenever I visit my family down there). In Seattle my favorite bar for a game is Sport(there is an Internap data center in the same building which is how I first came across that place). Speakin' of Tilted Kilt I visited a Twin Peaks when I was in Phoenix on my trip recently. Saw one of their places on Undercover boss at one point. It was nice, lots of TVs(at least a half dozen right in front of me at the bar), good service, though the food menu was lacking compared to Tilted Kilt - which had probably 4-5x more items to choose from.

I wasn't about to go to a bar to watch this Superbowl(living in the Bay Area), too many folks with negative energy towards the Seahawks (the Seahawks/New Orleans game was bad enough I was at a local bar for that). The group I was with tonight was very calm though(don't think there were any hard core fans, certainly no team jerseys or anything).  Myself I am an introvert so I don't yell and scream and stuff when plays happen, I'm typically silent during a game. I clap softly sometimes. I feel the blood pressure rise inside when big plays happen but my nature is to suppress it from an external perspective (happens really no matter how may Jack+Cokes I have).

30Jan/140

From WebOS to Android: first 30 days

TechOps Guy: Nate

So as all 9 readers of my blog know I have been a long time WebOS user. Really it was my first real smart phone back in 2009 the Palm Pre. The first and only Palm branded product I have ever owned (other than Pre accessories - my next WebOS device was post HP acquisition).

RIP WebOS

Anyway as I have written about in the past, for a while after HP killed the hardware I was holding out some degree of hope that the software would find a new home, obviously that hope dwindled as time went on and as of about probably 9-10 months ago I decided to kill off whatever hope that was left in me. The current state of WebOS is quite poor, I felt even while HP owned WebOS - every day that went by it was falling further and further behind, they had some unique technology advantages that still shine today but that wasn't nearly enough to make up for the shortfalls. HP later sold the WebOS hardware group to LG to make smart TVs (which seemed to debut at CES this month), and more recently HP sold the remaining patents that they had involving Palm and WebOS to Qualcomm.

Honestly it was somewhat depressing to see the die hard WebOS fans say on what is probably one of the very few WebOS community sites left. Some held really high hopes of what was to come. It didn't(and doesn't make sense to me). The maintainers of the site even stopped posting news articles more than six months ago because there was just nothing to write about (and the six months prior the articles were really scraping the bottom of the barrel for content).

Deciding to jump ship

Around the middle of last year I was getting tired of the software glitches in WebOS that I have endured over the years, knowing they will never be fixed, and Open WebOS is even today little more than a pipe dream (from the comments I've read I'd wager it's at least 2-3 years away from anything usable as a phone and by then it will have even more catching up to do, so really it seems to be a waste of time for anything other than tinkering). I thought about it off and on and decided that the likely candidate replacement was going to be the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, whenever it was going to be released.

Factors going into my decision were I wanted it to be fast, have plenty of storage, have a big enough screen so my big fingers could type on it, and decent battery life. I also wanted it to be Linux friendly as I use Linux on my laptop and desktops.   The specs of the Note 3 weren't released at the time so I decided to wait to see what else came about just in case I think I would want something different. Finally the Note 3 was announced and released and had strong reviews across the board.

I saw a bunch of other devices but none of them stood out to me more than the Note 3.

Keep in mind I have never used an Android or IOS device for more than say 5 minutes so my knowledge of either was extremely limited.  One thing I did like about the Note 3 was it's support for 64GB of internal flash in addition to 64GB of MicroSD expansion. So I decided to wait until I could get a 64GB Note3 to have 128GB of local storage, that would be pretty nice. Searching is annoying because so many results come from people mentioning the Note 3 with 64GB of microSD storage..

So I waited, and waited. Looked around a lot, plenty of news sites reporting 64GB was supported but could not find a sign of anyone -- not even one person in the world -- saying that they had it or knew where to buy it. Even now, doing a very casual search I do not see anyone with a 64GB Note 3.

So December 22nd comes around and I'm at a bar watching a football game, and thinking about going to Best buy across the street to buy it after the game as they were offering it at $199 which is $100 less than anyone else obvious that I saw, and I could walk away with it that day.

So I went and bought the 32GB version, with a 64GB Micro SD card.

First impressions

It's a big phone for sure, the Pre3 has a 3.58" screen and the Note 3 has a 5.7" screen. The Pre3 is a slider phone with a real keyboard so that adds extra heft. In fact the Note 3 is only 13 grams heavier than the Pre3 - a difference I can't even feel.

Obviously the Pre3 is outclassed in every way:

  • I have six times more storage(16GB vs 96GB)
  • I have six times more memory(512MB vs 3GB)
  • I have quad core 2.3Ghz vs single core 1.4Ghz
  • GPU I'm sure is significantly better
  • I have 1.7 million more pixels on the screen (800x480 vs 1920x1080)
  • I have full LTE support (AFAIK no WebOS device had LTE) - and hey - I'm already paying  an extra $40 or $50/mo for 5GB of data with a Mifi data plan, so might as well leverage LTE right?
  • Significantly better camera (and camera fuctions)
  • I can actually use Bluetooth and 2.4Ghz wifi at the same time (could not do that on the Pre3, would get massive interference on Bluetooth)
  • Much bigger battery and I believe much better battery life
  • I can have tons of photos without the OS crapping out (several hundred supported in WebOS, so far I have more than 12,000 on my Note 3 and I got plenty of room to grow I think)

I could go on...

Anyway, from an overall user experience perspective I have found making the adjustment from WebOS to Android much easier than I had originally expected.  I do like having a plethora of options to play with, that is something WebOS did not have (though out of the box WebOS had a good user experience other than being slow).

Thirty days or so into my purchase there are really only three things I miss from my WebOS days:

  • Wireless charging (this is a huge one for me, I had been using wireless charging for the previous four years -- I know Note 3 has wireless charging support so I will have that soon)
  • Unable to quickly silence notification alarm. Working in operations my phone acts as a pager. I have a very loud, long, and annoying notification message for alerts. The first time that noise went off waking me up at 2AM I about had a heart attack(click the link to listen to it). With my WebOS phones I could just hit the power button and the sound would mute immediately. Not so on this Note 3. I have looked online and this not an uncommon complaint about Android (though some device manufacturers offer this ability). I have seen people requesting this feature going back at least three years. This is quite annoying to not have....

Speaking of which the placement of the power button exactly opposite to that of the volume rocker is not good in my opinion, I find myself pressing the volume button on accident just to press the power button(which I think causes problems for trying to take a screen shot more details on that below). On the WebOS phones the power button is on the top.

  • The Note 3 is not smart enough to determine where to put a phone call. On WebOS for example if I have a bluetooth headset paired with the phone, and a call comes in -- and I answer the call with the phone (not the headset) the call is placed on the phone. On the Note 3 (also noticed this on my last "feature" phone) if a headset is paired(and connected) the call always goes to the headset. I've had several occasions where people have hung up on me with me saying hello???? not realizing that the call had been sent to the headset. So I have to answer the call, and wait a second(to see if the headset is paired, since they auto pair when in range often times) then hit the headset button to transfer the call back to the phone if I am not in immediate reaching range of one of my many bluetooth headsets. That process takes a good 3-5 seconds where the caller is left in limbo.

None of them are deal breakers of course, overall the experience is positive, and I'm glad I made the switch. I could go on for quite a while with the issues I have had with WebOS over the years but that's all in the past now. I still use my WebOS tablets, though these days the browser is so old and decrepit that I really only use them for about 4 different web sites(in all cases I disable javascript to get passable performance). They do still make great digital picture frames (as long as you have less than say 1,000 images). They also are good video playback devices with good audio (though the headset volume is really low, too low to use on an airplane to watch video).

On the Note 3 I really like the stylus (or S-Pen as they call it). I use it tons of times throughout the day. It's really good for precision. It's also the only way I've been able to take a screen shot in Android. I've found a few websites that have upwards of a half dozen ways to take a screen shot and none of them work for me(I think my timing in pressing the buttons is not perfect, but it shouldn't have to be).  But the S-pen has a function that I just click on and it works every time.  The S-pen has a bunch of other functions that for the most part I haven't used yet.

The camera is quite good as well it has so many features (the Pre3 camera had literally one feature - the flash - on/off/auto). I took a couple panoramic shots on my recent holiday road trip. One thing I liked about the Pre3 camera was it was fast. You press the button and instantly you have a picture - the Note 3 at least in auto mode (again haven't messed with it much) you press the button and it tries to focus and then take the picture. You can do burst mode and take tons of pictures (whereas with Pre3 you have to keep hitting the button but it is fast! - though focus isn't always right).

Battery life isn't quite as good as I was expecting given the rave reviews I have seen since the Note 3 was released. It can be confusing, I could watch a 45 minute video and the battery will drop 4-5%, or I could play a game for 10-15 minutes and the battery drops 8-10%. I have been so used to wireless charging and just having my phone charge constantly I find myself plugging and unplugging my Note 3 a half dozen or more times a day just to keep the battery up(I'm obviously worried about the durability of the micro USB connector). I haven't had it drop much below 50%. I'm sure it could go a full day with typical use, but I just don't like seeing it below 70-80% if I'm close to a charger.

My Pre3 on a regular day probably spent 60% or more of the day/night sitting on a charger. The Note 3 will do the same once I get wireless charging hooked up. Though it's going to cost a bit of $ - maybe $250 or so to get enough good charging stations and the charging backplate. Sort of surprised the price of wireless charging hasn't really moved much in the past four years..

I don't have any protective cover or case on the phone. I don't plan to get any, I treat my electronics with a good amount of care.

I do miss the USB drive mode of the WebOS devices though, just plug it in to any computer and it turns into a USB drive (though all phone functions are off during this). With the Note 3 it uses that strange media standard and at least at the moment I can only connect it to a windows computer to copy files onto it (and it doesn't get a drive letter either). It works fine from within VMware workstation though. I can of course copy files other ways like through Owncloud or something, but it's not as efficient if I want to copy several hundred files at once. Windows in VMware works though so I use that when I need that function.

Apps/Games I use

I kept hearing about how awesome the apps are and stuff.. My needs are pretty basic. I have a bunch of apps installed, but I have found that for the most part very few of them get used. Really I think the only application that is not included on the phone that I fire up more than once a day is Firefox. I use the built-in email client for work email, as well as the built in SMS client for text messages.

Other 3rd party apps I use on a semi regular basis

  • Nova launcher - I use this alternative launcher all the time, works very well.
  • Oceans HD live wallpaper - looks really nice
  • F-stop image gallery (seems to be pretty good, I like the dynamic albums it provides, I split my pictures up into portrait and landscape albums so I can get maximum viewing pixels without having to constantly flip the phone back and forth as I view the images)
  • MX Player (video player) works quite well too
  • Skype - roughly 80% of all work communications go through skype

Yet more 3rd apps I use on a less regular basis

  • K-9 Mail (used for personal email, when not traveling I fire it up maybe a couple times a week) - I use the built in email client for my work email(Exchange). Most of the time I just read personal email from a regular laptop or desktop in a webmail client.
  • Owncloud (access my colo server file storage)

Speaking of Owncloud, I am using DAVdroid (and the workaround) to sync contacts between the phone and my owncloud server, that is handy. I don't like the idea of sharing contacts with google or other service providers. The last time I stored contacts on exchange I forgot to take them off before I nuked my exchange account(when leaving the company) and I lost all of them so I decided that was not a good idea to try again. WebOS had a Synergy feature where it could integrate with the likes of LinkedIn directly to your contacts (and it had no ad tracking or anything it was pretty basic but it worked). I will not install the LinkedIn app for Android, too invasive.

As for games, I installed a few first person shooters and a Mech RTS game, I played the FPS games for about 2 minutes and haven't touched them since(sort of afraid my thumb is going to go through the screen with them). The Mech RTS game (MechCom) was pretty fun, though haven't touched it in about 3 weeks.

I have been playing the Simpsons Tapped out and Megapolis quite a bit, they are entertaining. Though I'd like to see a real Sim City game for Android(if there is one I haven't seen it). I poked around for a bunch of other apps/games but didn't see much that interested me. One thing I do note however is it seems like the Google play store could use a lot more categories, with so many apps/games it seems difficult to find something just by browsing around.

I have made sure to limit the apps based on the permissions, there are tons of apps out there that just want too many permissions and I won't take 'em. There's been quite a bit of talk about improving the permissions system of Android I do hope more work is done in that area especially being able to provide "fake" information to apps that are asking for too much. The phone came with the app (I think it came with it I might of downloaded it though) called Lookout Labs Ad Network Detector. Not sure how good it is but it scans all the apps and shows what the major categories of ad networks and what they do and what installed apps are using them. For me there are only 3 Ad Networks detected (Admob, Tapjoy and Millennial) and they don't collect a whole lot of info. Certainly I reject anything that wants to touch contacts, or take pictures, or send/read SMS, collect personal information etc..

I have a bunch more apps and some more games installed but they've all gotten minimal usage at this point.

Work related apps

One thing I could never do on the Pre3 was really anything work related outside of e-mail. Not a problem anymore.

  • Dell SonicWall VPN - while my main VPN is Citrix Access Gateway, there is no mobile app for that, I have Sonicwalls as well though(mainly used for site to site VPN). There is an Android (and IOS) app for them and it works quite well on Android.
  • Citrix XenApp Reciever - we have a very small XenApp server for operations purposes (some windows management software packages etc). This package(especially with the S-Pen for precision) works quite well on Android. I can fire up vCenter, or the 3PAR GUI tools(I don't use them much), or Firefox most recently I fired up Firefox to reconfigure our production load balancers(Citrix Netscaler) from my phone a few weeks ago. Being that the load balancers use Java applets those would not run directly on the phone(I don't think anyway).
  • iVMControl - vSphere interface though not very useful to me. Waaaay too slow to use over a 3-5,000 mile WAN connection. Much faster/easier/better to use XenApp and the regular vCenter client.
  • Microsoft Remote Desktop - haven't used this app yet, may not use it unless I have problems with XenApp, but it's there.
  • HP Storefront mobile access - interesting little app that grants me read only access into my 3PAR arrays. I don't need to login to them very often, but it's there if I need to view an alert or something.
  • HP Support - access to HP support cases. Only used it once to see what it did.
  • iLO Console - access to iLO I guess, doesn't seem too useful, I suppose if I want to access the console(can't remember the last time I had to do that), it doesn't seem to have an Android experience to access iLO functions for that it relies on the iLO web interface which I can otherwise just load in Firefox once I am on VPN.

I suppose the biggest thing I have NOT setup yet is SSH. I have a couple SSH clients installed but have not gone through setting them up with my keys(or generating new keys). None of my systems accept password authentication for SSH.  I was never able to SSH from my Palm phones so this is nothing new to me.

I have also not setup OpenVPN so I can VPN to my colo server. I have an OpenVPN client but it wants a config file in a special format that I haven't spent the time to figure out how to do yet. I did for a brief time have a command line OpenVPN client on my HP Touchpad but long since lost it. There were no Citrix, or Sonicwall or GUI OpenVPN clients that I was aware of for WebOS anyway.

GPS Navigation on Android

The first time I used mobile GPS navigation was back in I think it was 2001 with my Handspring Visor and a GPS Springboard expansion module along with a PalmOS GPS navigation app. It was fun, things have evolved a crazy amount since then.

Over the holidays I went on another road trip - covering just over 2,500 miles driving to Orange County, then to Tuscon, then to the Phoenix area and back home to the bay area. I was in my own car so I used the Kenwood/Garmin Stereo/Navigation system that I had installed just after I bought the car rather than the phone.

Picture of my car's trip meter from my 2013 holiday road trip.

Picture of my car's trip meter from my 2013 holiday road trip.

(thought this post could use some color so added the pic)

I did use the phone on a few occasions to find things, but did not use it for navigation itself. One thing I pretty quickly saw was lacking on the Android apps that at least I was using (which were Mapquest and Google maps) were two key functions that I frequently use on my car navigation:

  • Find places along my route (bonus points if you can limit the distance from the route, my car's nav system has some sort of default limit that is not adjustable)
  • Find places near my destination

Neither Google maps nor Mapquest seemed to have a similar function, which is too bad.  I'm sure you can do something similar with either perhaps just by zooming out along the route and searching, but that seems like more trouble than it should be.

I installed a bunch of other travel/road/traffic condition apps but I never used any of them on my trip (or since for that matter -- road conditions were fine anyway). My car nav system does not have any traffic info.

I'm going on another trip in March to Atlanta(to visit my company's colo for the first time in over two years), and probably will go to either Seattle or Washington DC as part of that trip, so I will certainly need navigation there as I don't know the area. At this point I've decided to take along a TomTom I bought a while back to do Navigation on that trip rather than rely on the phone. I used it on my last trip to DC and it worked well, I have a stand for it and it sits well on the dashboard etc. It also has the two functions above that I use quite frequently (though last time I was in DC the TomTom spent 30 minutes trying to convince me to go on a highway that was shut down for construction, that was frustrating ...)

I know there is a TomTom app for Android but after reading up on it I think for now I'll stick to the stand alone unit.

Conclusion

Overall I am very satisfied with the user experience and capabilities of my new Android phone. There is not much I miss from WebOS. I find the size & weight of the Note 3 to be very reasonable(more so than I was expecting). It performs well, and really gives me an order of magnitude more flexibility from a mobile perspective than I ever had on WebOS. I still do sort of wish I could of gotten a 64GB Note3, but it's not a huge deal, next time I guess!

I just ordered a Braven 710 bluetooth speaker (mainly for my upcoming trip), and that will likely be my first experience using NFC.

I guess that is enough writing for now.

30Jan/140

Facebook going in strong with Vertica

TechOps Guy: Nate

Came across this job post yesterday, thought it was interesting, somewhat on the heels of Facebook becoming a Vertica customer.

I still find it interesting at least given Facebook's history of in house solutions.

From the job posting

Do you like working with massive MPP databases? Are you interested in building one of the largest MPP data warehouses in the world? If yes, we want to talk to you. Facebook is seeking a Database Engineer to join the IT Engineering Infrastructure team to build the largest Vertica data warehouse in the world.

30Jan/140

More cloud FAIL

TechOps Guy: Nate

I guess I have to hand it to these folks as they are up front about it.. But I just came across this little gem, where a Seattle-area startup talks about a nearly $6 million loss they are taking for 2013, and really what caught my eye more than anything else is their cloud spend

They spent 25% of their REVENUE on cloud services in 2013 (which for them comes to just over $7 million)

REVENUE, 25% of REVENUE. Oh. my. god.

Now I shouldn't be surprised, having been at a company that was doing just that(that company has since collapsed and was acquired by some Chinese group recently), and know many other companies that are massively over spending on cloud because they are simply clueless.

It is depressing.

What's worse is it just makes everyone's else life harder because people read articles about public cloud and crap and they see all these companies signing up and spending a lot, so they think it is the right thing to do when more often than not (far more often than not) it is the wrong strategy. I won't go into AGAIN specifics on when it is good or not, that is not the point of this post.

The signal to noise ratio of people moving OUT of public cloud vs going INTO it is still way off, rarely do you hear about companies moving out, or why they moved out. I've talked to a BUNCH of companies over the recent years who have moved out of public clouds (or feel they are stuck in their cloud) but those things never seem to reach the press for some reason.

The point of this post is to illustrate how absurd some of the spending is out there on cloud. I am told this company in particular is building their own cloud now apparently I guess they saw the light.

My company moved out of public cloud about two years ago and obviously we have had great success ever since, the $$ saved is nothing compared to the improved availability, flexibility and massive ease of use over a really poor public cloud provider.

Oh as a side note if you use Firefox I highly encourage you to install this plugin, it makes reading about cloud more enjoyable. I've had it for months now and I love it. There is a version for Chrome as well I believe.

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13Jan/14Off

BigCo Security: Fighting a war you cannot win

TechOps Guy: Nate

It has been somewhat interesting to watch how security vulnerabilities have evolved over the past twenty years or so that I've been working with computers anyway. For the most part in the early days security exploits were pretty harmless. Maybe your company got hacked to leverage it's bandwidth/disk space for pirated software or something like that.

The past several years though the rise in organized cyber crime and highly sophisticated attacks (even attacks from folks that some may consider friendly) is rather alarming. I do feel sorry for those in the security field, especially those at bigger organizations, whom by nature are bigger targets. They are (for the most part) fighting a war they simply cannot win.  Sooner or later they will be breached, and one interesting stat I heard last year at a presentation given by the CTO of Trend Micro was that the average attacker has access to a network to 210 days before being detected.

Companies can spend millions to billions of dollars on equipment, training, and staffing to protect themselves but it'll never be enough. I mean look no further than the NSA and Snowden? How much did he get away with again? The NSA admits they don't even know.

I wish the company that sponsored the event had published a video of this CTO presentation as I thought it was the most interesting I had/seen heard in years.  Here is another video from another event that he presented at, also quite good - though not as long as the presentation I saw.

Some details on a highly sophisticated successful attack executed against Korean banks targeting multiple platforms

Some details on a highly sophisticated successful attack executed against Korean banks targeting multiple platforms

The slide above shows a very large scale attack which had more than seventy custom malware packages built for it!

The recent highly sophisticated attacks against Target and Neiman Marcus are of course just the recent high profile examples.

The security of SCADA systems has long been a problem as well.

Over 60,000 exposed control systems found online.

Researchers have found vulnerabilities in industrial control systems that they say grant full control of systems running energy, chemical and transportation systems.

Speaking of industrial control systems, going back to the Trend Micro presentation they mentioned how they purchased some similar equipment to do some testing with. Their first tests involved a water pressure control station connected to the internet and they just watched to see who tried to attack it. This was a real system (not connected to any water source or supporting anybody).

Trend Micro tests who attacks their water pressure control system

Trend Micro tests who attacks their water pressure control system

One of the interesting bits was he noted that although there were a large number of attacks from China most of them were simply probing for information, they were not destructive. I don't remember who had the destructive attacks I want to say Laos and the U.S. but I could be wrong. He said since this test was so successful they were planning (perhaps already had) to purchase several more of these and place them around the world for monitoring.

I've never been too deep in security, I can count on one hand the number of times I've had to deal with a compromised system over the past 15 years(most recent one was a couple of months ago). Taking real basic security precautions protects you against a very large number of threats by default(with the most recent attack I dealt with I noted at least three best practices any of which would of prevented the attack from occurring, all of which would of had no impact to the system or application though none were in place), though at the end of the day your best defense against a targeted attack - is don't be a target to begin with. Obviously that is impossible for big organizations.

The recent DDoS attacks against gaming companies I believe impacted the company I work for, not because we are a gaming company but because we share the same ISP. The ISP responded quite well to the attacks in my opinion and later wrote a letter to all customers describing the attacks - an NTP amplification attack that exceeded 100Gbps in volume, the largest attack they had ever seen. It's the first DOS attack that has impacted stuff I operate that I've ever experienced to my knowledge.

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19Dec/13Off

Facebook deploying HP Vertica

TechOps Guy: Nate

I found this interesting. Facebook - a company that designs their own servers(in custom racks no less), writes their own software, does fancy stuff in PHP to make it scale, is a big user of Hadoop, massive horizontal scaling of sharded MySQL systems, and has developed an exabyte scale query engine -  is going to be deploying HP Vertica as part of their big data infrastructure.

Apparently announced at HP Discover

“Data is incredibly important: it provides the opportunity to create new product enhancements, business insights, and a significant competitive advantage by leveraging the assets companies already have. At Facebook, we move incredibly fast. It’s important for us to be able to handle massive amounts of data in a respectful way without compromising speed, which is why HP Vertica is such a perfect fit.”

Not much else to report on, just thought it was interesting given all the stuff Facebook tries to do on it's own.

9Dec/13Off

HP Moonshot: VDI Edition

TechOps Guy: Nate

To-date I have not been too excited about HP's Moonshot system, I've been far more interested in AMD's Seamicro. However HP has now launched a Moonshot based solution that does look very innovative and interesting.

HP Moonshot: VDI Edition (otherwise known as HP ConvergedSystem 100 for hosted desktops) takes advantage of (semi ironically enough) AMD APUs which combine CPU+GPU in a single chip and allows you to host up to 180 users in a 4.3U system each with their own dedicated CPU and GPU! The GPU being the key thing here, that is an area where most VDI has fallen far short.

Everything as you might imagine is self contained within the Moonshot chassis, there is no external storage.

EACH USER gets:

  • Quad core 1.5Ghz CPU
  • 128 GPU Cores (Radeon of course)
  • 8GB RAM (shared with GPU)
  • 32GB SSD
  • Windows 7 OS

That sounds luxurious! I'd be really interested to see how this solution stacks up against competing VDI solutions.

AMD X2150 APU: The brains of the HP Moonshot VDI experience

AMD X2150 APU: The brains of the HP Moonshot VDI experience

They claim you can be up and going in as little as two hours -- with no hypervisor. This is bare metal.

You probably get superior availability as well given there are 45 different cartridges in the chassis, if one fails you lose only four desktops. The operational advantages(on paper at least) for something like this seem quite compelling.

I swear it seems a day doesn't go by when a SSD storage vendor touts their VDI cost savings etc (and they never seem to mention things like, you know servers, LICENSING,  GPUs, etc etc - really annoys me).

VDI is not an area I have expertise in but I found this solution very interesting, and it seems like it is VERY dense at the same time.

HP Moonshot M700 cartridge

HP Moonshot M700 cartridge with four servers on it (45 of these in a chassis)

HP doesn't seem to get specific on power usage other than you save a lot vs desktop systems. The APUs themselves seem to be rated at 15W/ea on the specs, which implies a minimum power usage of 2,700W. Though it seems each power supply in the Moonshot has a rated steady-rate power output of 653W, with four of those that is 2,600W for the whole chassis, though HP says the Moonshot supports only 1200W PSUs, so it's sort of confusing. The HP Power Advisor has no data for this module.

It wouldn't surprise me if the power usage was higher than a typical VDI system, but given the target workload(and the capabilities offered) it still sounds like a very compelling solution.

Obviously the question is might AMD one-up HP at their own game given that AMD owns both these APUs and SeaMico, and if so might that upset HP?

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9Dec/13Off

3PAR: Faster, bigger, better

TechOps Guy: Nate

First off, sorry about the lack of posts, there just hasn't been very much in tech that has inspired me recently. I'm sure part of the reason is my job has been fairly boring for a long time now, so I'm not being exposed to a whole lot of stuff. I don't mind that trade off for the moment - still a good change of pace compared to past companies. Hopefully 2014 will be a more interesting year.

3PAR still manages to create some exciting news every now and then and they seem to be on a 6-month release cycle now, far more aggressive than they were pre acquisition. Of course now they have far more resources. Their ability to execute really continues to amaze me, whether it is on the sales or on the technology side. I think technical support still needs some work though. In theory that aspect of things should be pretty easy to fix it's just a matter of spending the $$ to get more good people. All in all though they've done a pretty amazing job at scaling 3PAR up, basically they are doing more than 10X the revenue they had before acquisition in just a matter of a few short years.

This all comes from HP Discover - there is a bit more to write about but per usual 3PAR is the main point of interest for myself.

Turbo-charging the 3PAR 7000

Roughly six months ago 3PAR released their all-flash array the 7450. Which was basically a souped up 7400 with faster CPUs, double the memory, optimized software for SSDs and a self imposed restriction that they would only sell it with flash(no spinning rust).

3PAR's Performance and cost improvements for SSDs Dec 2013

3PAR's Performance and cost improvements for SSDs Dec 2013

At the time they said they were still CPU bound and that their in house ASIC was nowhere near being taxed to the limit. Simultaneously they could not put more (or more powerful) CPUs in the chassis due to cooling restraints in the relatively tiny 2U package that a pair of controllers come in.

Given the fine grained software improvements they released earlier this year I (along with probably most everyone else) was not expecting that much more could be done. You can read in depth details, but highlights included:

  • Adaptive read caching - mostly disabling read caching for SSDs, at the same time disabled prefetching of other blocks. SSDs are so fast that there is little benefit to doing either. Not caching reads to SSDs has a benefit of dedicating more of the cache to writes.
  • Adaptive write caching - with disks 3PAR would write an entire 16kB block to disk because there is no penalty for doing so. With SSDs they are much more selective in only writing the small blocks that changed, they will not write 16kB if only 4kB has changed because there is no penalty with SSDs like there are with disks.
  • Autonomic cache offload - More sophisticated cache management algorithms
  • Multi tenant improvements - Multi threaded cache flushing, breaking up large sequential I/O requests into smaller chunks for the SSDs to ingest at a faster rate. 3PAR has always been about multi tenancy.

Net effect of all of these are more effective IOPS and throughput, more efficiency as well.

With these optimizations, the 7450 was rated at roughly 540,000 IOPS @ 0.6ms read latency (100% read). I guesstimated based on the SPC-1 results from the 7400 that a 7450 could perhaps reach around 410,000 IOPS. Just a guess though..

So imagine my surprise when they come out and say the same system with the same CPUs, memory etc is now performing at a level of 900,000 IOPS with a mere 0.7 milliseconds of latency.

The difference? Better software.

Mid range I/O scalability

Storage
Array
3PAR F200
(2-node)
[EndOfLife]
3PAR
F400
(4-node)
[EndOfLife]
3PAR
7200
(2-node)
3PAR
7400
(4-node)
3PAR
7450
(4-node)
100% Random Read
(Backend, between
disks and controllers)
34,40076,800150,000320,000N/A
100%
Random
Read IOPS
(Front end between
hosts and controllers)
[before
MSI-X
upgrade]
N/AN/A
N/AN/A540,000
100%
Random
Read
(Front end between
hosts and controllers)
[after
MSI-X]
Not possibleNot possibleNot
Yet
Available
Not
Yet
Available
900,000
SPC-1
I/O
~45,000
(guesstimate)
93,050~100,000
(guesstimate)
258,000~700,000
(guesstimate)
100%
Random
Read
Throughput
(Backend, between
disks and controllers)
1.3GB/s2.6GB/s2.5GB/s4.8GB/s5.5GB/s
100%
Random
Read
Throughput
(Front end between
hosts and controllers)
N/AN/AN/AN/AN/A

Stop interrupting me

What allowed 3PAR to reach this level of performance is by leveraging a PCI-express feature called Message Signaled Interrupts, or MSI-X which Wikipedia describes as:

MSI-X (first defined in PCI 3.0) permits a device to allocate up to 2048 interrupts. The single address used by original MSI was found to be restrictive for some architectures. In particular, it made it difficult to target individual interrupts to different processors, which is helpful in some high-speed networking applications. MSI-X allows a larger number of interrupts and gives each one a separate target address and data word. Devices with MSI-X do not necessarily support 2048 interrupts but at least 64 which is double the maximum MSI interrupts.

(tangent time)

I'm not a hardware guy to this depth for sure. But I did immediately recognize MSI-X from a really complicated troubleshooting process I went through several years ago with some Broadcom network chips on Dell R610 servers (though the issue wasn't Dell specific). It ended up being a bug with how the Broadcom driver was handling(or not) MSI-X (Redhat bug here). It took practically a year of (off and on) troubleshooting before I came across that bug report. The solution was to disable MSI-X via a driver option (which apparently the Dell supplied drivers came with by default, the OS-supplied drivers did not have that disabled by default).

(end tangent)

So some fine grained kernel work improving interrupts gave them a 1.6 fold improvement in performance.

This performance enhancement applies to the SAS-based 3PAR 7000-series only, the 10000-series had equivalent functionality already in place, and the previous generations (F/T platforms) are PCI-X based(and I believe are all in their end of life phases), and this is a PCI Express specific optimization. I think this level of optimization might really only help SSD workloads as they push the controllers to the limit, unlike spinning rust.

This optimization also reduces the latency on the system by 25%, because the CPU is no longer being interrupted nearly as often it can no only do more work but do the work faster too.

Give me more!

There are several capacity improvements here as well.

New SSDs

There are new 480GB and 920GB SSDs available, which takes the 3PAR 4-node 7400/7450 to a max raw capacity of 220TB (up from 96TB) on up to 240 SSDs.

Bigger entry level

The 3PAR 7200's spindle capacity is being increased by 60% - from 144 drives to 240 drives. The 7200 is equipped with only 8GB of data cache (4GB per controller - it is I believe the first/only 3PAR system with more control cache than data cache), though it still makes a good low cost bulk data platform with support for up to 400TB of raw storage behind two controllers(which is basically the capacity of the previous generation's 4-node T400 which had 48GB of data cache, 16GB of control cache, 24 CPU cores, 4 ASICs -- obviously the T400 had a much higher price point!).

4TB Drives

Not a big shocker here just bigger drives - 4TB Nearline SAS is now supported across the 7k and 10k product lines, bringing the high end 10800 array to support 3.2PB of raw capacity, and the 7400 sporting up to 1.1PB now. These drives are obviously 3.5" so on the 7000 series you'll need the 3.5" drive cages to use them - the 10k line uses 3PAR's custom enclosures which support both 2.5" and 3.5" (though for 2.5" drives the enclosures are not compact like they are on 7k).

I was told at some point that the 3PAR OS would start requiring RAID 6 on volumes that were on nearline drives at some point - perhaps that point is now(I am not sure). I was also told you would be able to override this at an OS level if you wish, the parallel chunklet architecture recovers from failures far faster than competing architectures. Obviously with the distributed architecture on 3PAR you are not losing any spindles to dedicated spares nor dedicated parity drives.

If you are really paranoid about disk failures you can on a per-volume basis if you wish use quadruple mirroring on a 3PAR system - which means you can lose up to 75% of the disks in the system and still be OK on those volume(s).

3PAR also uses dynamic sparing --  if the default spare reserve space runs out, and you have additional unwritten capacity(3PAR views capacity as portions of drives, not whole drives) the system can sustain even more disk failures without data loss or additional overhead of re-configuration etc.

Like almost all things on 3PAR the settings can be changed on the fly without application impact and without up front planning or significant effort on the part of the customer.

More memory

The 3PAR 10400 has received a memory boost - doubling it's memory configuration from the original configuration. Basically it seems like they decided it was a better idea to unify the 10800 and 10400 controller configurations, though the data sheet seems to have some typos in it(pending clarification). I believe the numbers are 96GB of cache per controller (64GB data, 32GB control), giving a 4-node system 384GB of memory.

Compare this to the  7400 which has 16GB of cache per controller (8GB data, 8GB control) giving a 4-node system 64GB of memory. The 10400 has six times the cache, and still supports 3rd party cabinets.

Now if they would just double the 7200 and 7400's memory that would be nice :)

Keeps getting better

Multi tenant improvements

Six months ago 3PAR released their storage quality of service software offering called Priority Optimization. As mentioned before 3PAR has always been about multi tenancy, and due to their architecture they have managed to do a better job at it than pretty much anyone else. But it still wasn't perfect obviously - there was a need for real array based QoS. They delivered on that earlier this year and now have announced some significant improvements on that initial offering.

Brief recap of what their initial release was about - you were able to define both IOP and bandwidth threshold levels for a particular volume(or group of volumes), the system would respond basically in real time to throttle the workload if it exceeded that level. 3PAR has tons of customers that run multi tenant configurations so they went further in being able to define both a customer as well as an application.

Priority Optimization

Priority Optimization

So as you can see from the picture above, the initial release allowed you to specify say 20,000 IOPS for a customer, and be able to over provision IOPS for individual applications that customer uses, allowing for maximum flexibility, efficiency and control at the same time.

So the initial release was all about basically rate limiting workloads on a multi tenant system. I suppose you could argue that there wasn't a lot of QoS it was more rate limiting.

The new software is more QoS oriented - going beyond rate limiting they now have three new capabilities:

  • Allows you to specify a performance minimum threshold for a given application/customer
  • Allows you to specify a latency target for a given application
  • Using 3PAR's virtual domains feature(basically carve a 3PAR up into many different virtual arrays for service providers) you can now assign a QoS to a given virtual domain! That is really cool.
3PAR Priority Optimization: true array based QoS

3PAR Priority Optimization: true array based QoS

Like almost everything 3PAR - configuring this is quite simple and does not require professional services.

3PAR Replication: M to N

With the latest software release 3PAR now supports M to N topologies for replication. Before this they supported 1 to 1, as well as synchronous long distance replication

3PAR Synchronous long distance replication: unique in the mid range

3PAR Synchronous long distance replication: unique in the mid range

All configurable via point and click interface no less, no professional services required.

New though is M to N.

Five 3PAR storage arrays in an any-any bi-directional M:N replication scheme

Five 3PAR storage arrays in an any-any bi-directional M:N replication scheme

Need Bigger? How about nine arrays all in some sort of replication party? That's a lot of arrows.

*NINE* 3PAR storage arrays in an any-any bi-directional M:N replication scheme

*NINE* 3PAR storage arrays in an any-any bi-directional M:N replication scheme

3PAR Multi array replication

3PAR Multi array replication

More scalable replication

On top of the new replication topology they've also tripled(or more) the various limits around the maximum number of volumes that can be replication in the various modes. A four node 3PAR can now replicate up to a maximum of 6,000 volumes in asynchronous mode and 2,400 volumes in synchronous mode.

You can also run up to 32 remote copy fibre channel links per system and up to 8 remote copy over IP links per system (RCIP links are dedicated 1GbE ports on each controller).

Peer motion enhancements

Peer motion is 3PAR's data mobility package which allows you to transparently move volumes between arrays. It came out a few years ago primarily as a means to provide ease of migration/upgrade between 3PAR systems, and was later extended to support EVA->3PAR migrations.  HP's StoreVirtual platform also does peer motion, though as far as I know it is not yet directly inter-operable with 3PAR. Not sure if it ever will be.

Anyway like most sophisticated things there are always caveats - the most glaring of which in peer motion is they did not support SCSI reservations. Which basically means you couldn't use peer motion with VMware or other clustering software. With the latest software that limitation has been removed! VMware, Microsoft and Redhat clustering are all supported now.

Persistent port enhancements

Persistent ports is an availability feature 3PAR introduced about a year ago which basically leverages NPIV at the array level - it allows a controller to assume the Fibre Channel WWNs of it's peer in the event the peer goes offline. This means fail over is much faster, and it removes the dependency of multi pathing software to provide for fault tolerance. That's not to say that you should not use MPIO software you still should if for nothing else other than better distribution of I/O across multiple HBAs, ports and controllers. But the improved recovery times are a welcome plus.

3PAR Persistent ports - transparent fail over for FC/iSCSI/FCoE without MPIO

3PAR Persistent ports - transparent fail over for FC/iSCSI/FCoE without MPIO

So what's new here?

  • Added support for FCoE and iSCSI connections
  • Laser loss detection - in the event a port is disconnected persistent ports kick in (don't need to have a full controller failure)
  • The speed at which the fail over kicks in has been improved

Combine Persistent Ports with 3PAR Persistent cache on a 4-8 controller system and you have some pretty graceful fail over capabilities.

3PAR Persistent Cache mirrors cache from a degraded controller pair to another pair in the cluster automatically.

3PAR Persistent Cache mirrors cache from a degraded controller pair to another pair in the cluster automatically.

3PAR Persistent Cache was released back in 2010 I believe, no updates here, just put the reference here for people that may not know what it is since it is a fairly unique ability to have especially in the mid range.

More Secure

Also being announced is a new set of FIPS 140-2 validated self encrypting drives with sizes ranging from 450GB 10k to 4TB nearline.

3PAR also has a 400GB SSD encrypting drive as well though I don't see any mention of FIPS validation on that unit.

3PAR arrays can either be encrypted or not encrypted - they do not allow you to mix/match. Also once you enable encryption on a 3PAR array it cannot be disabled.

I imagine you probably aren't allowed to use Peer Motion to move data from an encrypted to a non encrypted system? Same goes for replication ? I am not sure, I don't see any obvious clarifications in the docs.

Adaptive Sparing

SSDs, like hard drives all come with a chunk of hidden storage set aside for when blocks wear out or go bad, the disk transparently re-maps from this spare pool. I think SSDs take it to a new level with their wear leveling algorithms.

Anyway, 3PAR's Adaptive sparing basically allows them to utilize some of the storage from this otherwise hidden pool on the SSDs. The argument is 3PAR is already doing sparing at the sub-disk (chunklet) level, if a chunklet fails then it is reconstructed on the fly - much like a SSD would do to itself if a segment of flash went bad. If too many chunklets fail over time on a disk/SSD the system will pro actively fail the device.

3PAR Adaptive Sparing: gain capacity without sacrificing availbility

3PAR Adaptive Sparing: gain capacity without sacrificing availbility

At the end of the day the customer gets more usable capacity out of the system without sacrificing any availability. Given the chunklet architecture I think this approach is probably going to be a fairly unique capability.

Lower cost SSDs

Take Adaptive sparing, and combine it with the new SSDs that are being released and you get SSD list pricing(on a per GB basis) which is reduced by 50%. I'd really love to see an updated SPC-1 for the 7450 with these new lower cost devices(plus MSI-X enhancements of course!), I'd be surprised if they weren't working on one already.

Improved accessibility

3PAR came out with their first web services API a year ago. They've since improved upon that, as well as adding enhancements for Openstack Havana (3PAR was the reference implementation for Fibre Channel in Openstack).

They've also added management/monitoring tools for both IOS and Android (looks at HP Pre3 and cries in his mind).

HP 3PAR Storefront: Monitor your 3PAR from your mobile device

HP 3PAR Storefront: Monitor your 3PAR from your mobile device

Screaming sales

3PAR is continuing to kick butt in the market place with their 7000-series, with El Reg reporting that their mid range products have had 300% year over year increases in sales and they have overtaken IBM and NetApp in market share to be #2 behind EMC (23% vs 17%).

This might upset the ethernet vendors but they also report that fibre channel is the largest and fastest growing storage protocol in the mid range space(at least year over year), I'm sure again largely driven by 3PAR who historically has been a fibre channel system. Fibre channel has 50% market share with 49% year over year growth.

What's missing

Well the elephant in the room that is still not here is some sort of SSD-based caching. HP went so far as to announce something roughly a year ago with their SmartCache technology for Gen8 systems, though they opted not to mention much on that this time around. It's something I have hounded 3PAR for the past four years to get going, I'm sure they are working on something......

Also I would like to see them support, or at least explain why they might not support, the Seagate Enterprise Turbo SSHD - which is a hybrid drive providing 32GB of eMLC flash cache in front of what I believe is an otherwise 10k RPM 300-600GB disk with self proclaimed upwards of 3X improvement in random I/O over 15k disks. There's even a FIPS 140-2 model available. I don't know what the price point of this drive is but find it hard to believe that it's not a cost effective alternative to flash tiering when you do not have a flash-based cache to work off of.

Lastly I would like to see some sort of automatic workload load balancing with Peer motion - as far as I know that does not yet exist. Though moving TBs of data around between arrays is not something to be taken lightly anyway!

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