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11Jun/13Off

Pedal to the metal: HP 3PAR 7450

TechOps Guy: Nate

[NOTE: I expect to revise this many times - I'm not at HP Discover (maybe next year!), so I am basing this post off what info I have seen elsewhere, I haven't yet got clarification on what NDA info specifically I can talk about yet so am trying to be cautious !]

[Update: HP's website now has the info]

I was hoping they would announce the SPC-1 results of this new system, and I was going to wait until that happens, but I am not sure if they have them finalized yet, I've heard the ballpark figures, but am waiting for the official results.

The upside is I am on the east coast so I am up bright and early relative to my normal Pacific time zone morning.

I thought it would be announced later in the week but my first hint was this Russian blog (google translated), which I saw on LinkedIn a few minutes ago(relative to the time I started the blog post which took me a good two hours to write), also came across this press release of sorts, and there is the data sheet for the new system.

In a nut shell the 7450 is the system that HP mentioned at the launch event for the 7400 last December - though the model number was not revealed they said

In addition to mixed SSD/HDD and all-SSD configurations across the HP 3PAR StoreServ family, HP has announced the intent to develop an SSD-optimized hardware model based on the 3PAR operating system.

As fast as the all-SSD 7400 was, that was not the "optimized" hardware model - this one is (the one that was mentioned last December). I think the distinction with the word optimized vs using the phrase purpose built is important to keep in mind.

The changes from a hardware perspective are not revolutionary, 3PAR has, for the first time in their history (as far as I know anyway) has fairly quickly leveraged the x86 processors and upgraded both the processors and the memory (ASIC is the same as 7400) to provide the faster data ingest rate. I had previously (incorrectly of course) assumed that the ASIC was tapped out with earlier results and perhaps they would need even more ASICs to drive the I/O needs of an all-SSD system. The ASIC will be a bottleneck at some point but it doesn't seem to be today - the bottleneck was the x86 CPUs.

They also beefed up the cache, doubling what the 7400 has.

  • 4-Node 7400: 4 x Intel Xeon 6-core 1.8 Ghz w/64GB Cache
  • 4-Node 7450: 4 x Intel Xeon 8-core 2.3Ghz w/128GB Cache

Would of been nice to have seen them use the 10-core chips, maybe the turnaround for such a change would of been too difficult to pull off in a short time frame. 8-core Intel is not bad though.

The Russian blog above touts a 55% increase in performance on the 7450 over the 7400, and the cost is about 6% more (the press release above quotes $99,000 as entry level pricing)

Throughput is touted as 5.5 Gigabytes/second, which won't win any SPC-2 trophies, but is no slouch either - 3PAR has always been more about random IOPS than sequential throughput (though they often tout they can do both simultaneously within a single array - more effectively than other platforms).

The new system is currently tested (according to press release) at 540,000 read IOPS @ 0.6ms of latency. Obviously SPC-1 will be less than the 100% random read. This compares to the 7400 which was tested(under the same 100% read test I believe) to run at 320,000 IOPS @ 1.6ms of latency. So a 59.2% improvement in read IOPS and about 62% less latency.

Maybe we could extrapolate that number a bit here, the 7400 achieved 258,000 SPC-1 IOPS. 59.2% more would make the 7450 look like it would score around 413,000 SPC-1 IOPS, which is nearly the score of an 8-node P10800 which has 16 ASICs and 16 x Quad core Xeon processors! (that P10800 requires basically a full rack for just the controllers vs 4U for the 7450 (assuming they can get the full performance out of the controllers with only 48 SSD drives).

The blog also talks about the caching improvements targeted to improve performance and lifetime of the SSDs. The new 3PAR software also has a media wear gauge for the SSDs, something I believe the HP Lefthand stuff got in a year or two ago (better late than never!). The graphics the Russian blog has are quite good, I didn't want to too shamelessly rip them from their blog to re-post here so I encourage you to go there to see the details on the caching improvements that are specific to SSD).

The competition

This system is meant to go head to head with the all-flash offerings from the likes of EMC, IBM NetApp (not aware of any optimized flash systems from HDS yet - maybe they will buy one of those new startups to fill that niche - they do have an optimized flash module for their VSP but I'd consider that a different class of product which may retain the IOPS constraints of the VSP platform).

However unlike the competition who has had to go outside of their core technology, HP 3PAR has been able to bring this all flash offering under the same architecture as the spinning rust models, basically it's the same system with some tweaked software and faster processors with more memory. The underlying OS is the same, the features are the same, the administrative experience is the same. It's the same, which is important to keep in mind. This is both good and bad, though for the moment I believe more good (Granted of course HP had to go to 3PAR to get all of this stuff, but as this blog has had a lot of 3PAR specific things I view this more in a 3PAR light than in a HP light if you get what I mean).

Of the four major competitors, EMC is the only one that touts deduplication (which, IMO is only really useful for things like VDI in transactional workloads)

3PAR is the only one with a mature enterprise/service provider grade operating system. On top of that obviously 3PAR is the only one that has a common platform amongst all of it's systems from the 7200 all the way to the 10800.

3PAR and IBM are the only ones that are shipping now. Just confirmed from El Reg that the 7450 is available immediately.

None of big four tout compression, which I think would be a greater value add than deduplication for most workloads. I'm sure it's on all of their minds though, it could be a non trivial performance hit, and in 3PAR's case they'd likely need to implement it in the ASIC, if so, it means having to wait until the next iteration of the ASIC comes out. There has been gzip compression available in hardware form for many years so I imagine it wouldn't be difficult to put into the silicon to keep the performance up under such conditions.

The new system also supports a 400GB MLC self encrypting drive (along with other SEDs for other 3PAR platforms as well) - 3PAR finally has a native encryption option, for those that need it.

Who should buy this

This isn't an array for everyone (nor are the ones from the other big storage players). It's a specialized system for specific very high performance workloads where latency is critical, yet at the same time providing the availability and manageability of the 3PAR platform to an all SSD solution.

You can probably go buy a server and stuff it with a few PCIe flash boards and meet or exceed the IOPS at a similar latency and maybe less price. If your workload is just dumb IOPS and you care about the most performance at the least price then there are other options available to you (they probably won't work as well but you get what you (don't) pay for).

There clearly is a market for such a product though, the first hint of this was dropped when HP announced an all flash version of it's P10000 about a year ago. Customers really wanted an all flash system and they really wanted the 3PAR OS on it. If your not familiar with the high end 3PAR systems well from a form factor perspective driving 400k+ SPC-1 IOPS on a P10800 vs a 7450 you would probably get a good chuckle out of how much floor space and power circuits are required for the P10800 (power draw would be light on the SSDs of course, but they have hard requirements for power provisioning - most customers would pay per circuit regardless of draw).

I think a lot of this may be in the banking sector, where folks are happy to buy tons of fancy low latency stuff to make sure their transactions are processed in milliseconds.

Fifteen milliseconds may not seem like a significant amount of time—it is literally shorter than a human blink of an eye, which takes 300 to 400 milliseconds. But in the age of super-high-speed computerized trading, Wall Street firms need less than a millisecond to execute a trade.

[..]

All told, Nanex calculated that $28 million worth of shares were exchanged in a short time[15 milliseconds] before the official release of the ISM data.

The skeptics

There have been a lot of skeptics out there wondering whether or not the 3PAR architecture could be extended to cover an all flash offering (you can actually sort of count me in the skeptical camp as well, I was not sure even after they tried to re-assure me, I want to see the numbers at the end of the day). I believe with this announcement they have shown that even more so than the 7400, they have a very solid all flash offering that will, in most cases beat the tar out of the competition, not only on performance, not only on latency, not only on enterprise grade availability and functionality, but on price as well.

Even with this high performance system, these all SSD systems illustrate quite well how a modern storage controller is not able to scale anywhere nearly as well with SSDs as with spinning rust. Most of the SSD offerings have a small number of SSDs before they tap out the controllers. No single controller(that I've seen) supports the multi millions of IOPS that would be required to drive many hundreds of SSDs at line rate simultaneously(like regular storage arrays would drive hundreds of disks today).

It is just interesting to me to see the massive bottleneck shift continues to be the controller, and will be for some time to come. I wonder when the processors will get fast enough that they might shift the bottleneck back to the storage media, a decade? Or perhaps by that time everyone will be running on some sort of mature grid storage technology, and the notion of controllers as most of us know them today will be obsolete as a concept. Certainly several cloud providers are already trying to provide grid storage as an alternative, though in most cases, while the cost can be low, the performance is very poor as well (relative to an HP 3PAR anyway).

There is always more work to do (in this case mainly dedupe and compression), and as you might expect HP, along with the other big storage companies are constantly working to add more, I am very excited about what the future holds for 3PAR, really have never been so excited since the launch of the 7000 series last year(as a customer now for almost seven years) and am very pleased with what HP has managed to accomplish with the technology thus far.

Other 3PAR announcements

  • 3PAR Priority Optimization is made available now (first announced last December) - this is basically fine grained QoS for IOPS and throughput, something that will be a welcome enhancement to those running true multi tenant systems.
  • 3PAR Recovery Manager for Hyper-V - sounds like they are bringing Hyper-V up to the same level of support as VMware.
  • As mentioned earlier, Self encrypting drive options are cited on the Russian blog include - 400GB MLC SSD, 450GB 10k, 900GB 10k, 1TB 7.2k 2.5 "

Side note: there are a few other things to write about later, such as the IBM XIV SPC-1, the HP StoreOnce VSA, and probably whatever else comes out at Discover. For sure I won't get to those today(or maybe even tomorrow, I am on a semi vacation/working week this week).

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5Jun/13Off

Real life Sim City

TechOps Guy: Nate

[WARNING: Non technical content directly ahead]

I've looked at Google maps a lot over the years, but don't remember ever seeing something quite like this. I played tons of Sim City many years ago and when I saw this I was immediately reminded of Sim City. It just seems so ..familiar.

I'm planning on staying at a hotel in this town in Nevada in a couple of weeks to visit a friend who is coming in from out of town(in case you were wondering how I stumbled upon this).

This first picture reminds me of many times when I would build out a neighborhood in Sim City with the roads, zone it with light (or medium) residential, perhaps  put neighborhood school near by - then watch the houses pop up one by one:

Real life Sim City Part 1

You can see a few individual houses here and there, and it's pretty easy to make out what look a lot like Sim City zoned plots of land(semi square shaped), obviously with a bunch of roads that are already complete. For the most part very clean empty plots of land. Much different than what I have seen many times in the past where perhaps there is a big real estate project under development and many houses are being built simultaneously with the road being laid out.

There is another part of the town that is quite similar, again eerily reminds me of Sim City:

Sim City in real life part 2

In this case I'm again reminded of some low density residential, along with a park in the middle(well in this case the other half of the middle is not yet laid down (not in the picture above, see the google maps link). The plots are so uniform, the houses remind me so much of Sim City.

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4Jun/13Off

Break out the bubbly, 100k SPAM comments

TechOps Guy: Nate

It seems we crossed the 100k spam comments blocked by Akismet mark. (see right side of the page)

Saved for history: crossing the 100k comment spam marker

That is just insane. 100k. I don't even know what I would do without them. Well I guess I do -- I'd have to keep comments off. That low cost annual subscription pays for itself pretty quick.

I verified on archive.org that on October 10, 2012 this site was at ~32k spam comments blocked. On May 17, 2012 only ~23k.

75,000 spam comments in about one year? For this tiny site ?

*shakes head*

Side note: for some reason HP employees are always blocked by Akismet, I don't know why. I think they are the only ones who have contacted me saying their comments were (incorrectly) blocked.

 

4Jun/13Off

Infoworld suggests radical Windows 8 changes

TechOps Guy: Nate

Saw this come across on slashdot, an article over at Infoworld on how Microsoft can fix Windows 8.

They suggest ripping out almost all of the new stuff (as defaults) and replacing it with a bunch of new options that users can pick from.

Perhaps I am lucky in that I've never used Windows 8 (I briefly held a MS Surface RT in my hands, a friend who is an MS employee got one for free(as did all employees I believe) and handed it to me to show me some pictures on it).

Some of the suggestions from Infoworld sound pretty good to me, though hard to have a firm opinion since I've never used the Metro UI (oh, sorry they changed the name to something else).

Windows 8 (as it stands today) certainly sounds pretty terrible from a UI standpoint. The only positives I have read on Windows 8 is people say it is faster. Which isn't much these days, machines have been fast enough for many years(which at least in part has led to the relative stagnation of the PC market). My computers have been fast enough for years(the laptop I am typing on is almost 3 years old, I plan to keep it around for at least another year as my primary machine -- I have another year of on site support so I'm covered from that angle).

It has been interesting to see, that really since XP was released, there haven't been anything really exciting on the Windows desktop front, it's a mature product(the results have shown, much like the economy pretty much every OS launch they've done has had weaker reception than the previous - Windows 7 sort of an exception from the hard core community but from a broader sense it still seemed weak). It's come a long way from the mess many of us dealt with in the 90s (and instability in NT4 was one big driver for me to attempt Linux on my primary desktop 15 years ago and I'm still with Linux today).

I don't use Windows enough to be able to leverage the new features. I'm still used to using the XP interface, so am not fond of many of the new UI things that MS has come up with over the years. Since I don't use it much,  it's not critical.

The last time I did use Windows seriously was at a few different companies I had windows as my primary desktop. But you probably wouldn't know it if you saw it. It was customized with cygwin, and Blackbox for windows. Most recently was about three years ago (company was still on XP at the time). Most of the time my screen was filled with rxvt X terminals (there is a native Windows port for rxvt in cygwin that works wonderfully), and firefox. Sometimes had Outlook open or Visio or in rare cases IE.

Not even the helpdesk IT guy could figure my system out "Can you launch control panel for me?". It gave it a nice Linux look & feel(I would of killed for proper virtual desktop edge flipping but I never found a solution for that) with the common windows apps.

Ironically enough I've purchased more copies of Windows 7 (I think I have 7 now - 2 or 3 licenses are not in use yet - stocked up so I wouldn't have to worry about Windows 8 for a long time) than all previous MS operating systems combined. I've bought more Microsoft software in the past 3-4 years (Visio Pro 2010 is another one) than in the previous decade combined. As my close friends will attest I'm sure - I have not been a "hater" of Microsoft for some time now (12 years ago I threatened to quit if they upgraded from NT4 to Windows 2000 - and they didn't at least not as long as I was there - those were the days when I was pretty hard core anti MS - I was working on getting Samba-tng and LDAP to replace NT4 - I never deployed the solution, and today of course I wouldn't bother)

Some new Linux UIs suck too

Microsoft is not alone in crappy UIs though. Linux is right up there too (many would probably argue it always was, that very well could be true, though myself I was fine with what I have used over the years from KDE 0.x to AfterStep to GNOME 1.x/2.x). GNOME 3 (and the new Unity stuff from Ubuntu) looks at least as terrible as the new Microsoft stuff (if not more so).

I really don't like how organizations are trying to unify the UI between mobile and PC. Well maybe if they did it right I'd like it (not knowing what "right" would be myself).

By the same notion I find it ludicrous that LG would want to put WebOS on a TV! Maybe they know something I don't though, and they are actually going to accomplish something positive. I love WebOS (well the concept - the implementation needs a lot of work and billions of investment to make it competitive) don't get me wrong but I just don't see how there is any advantage to WebOS on a device like a TV. The one exception is ecosystem - if there is an ecosystem of WebOS devices that can seamlessly inter-operate with each other.  There isn't such an ecosystem today, what's left has been a rotting corpse for the past two years (yes I still use my HP Pre3 and Touchpad daily). There's no sign LG has a serious interest in making such an ecosystem, and even if they did, there's no indication they have the resources to pull it off (I'd wager they don't).

I haven't used Unity but last weekend I did install Debian 7 on my server at home (upgraded from 6). 99% of the time from a UI perspective this system just cycles through tens of thousands of images as a massive slide show (at some point I plan to get a 40"+ screen and hang it on my wall as a full sized digital picture frame, I downloaded thousands of nice 1080p images from interfacelift as part of the library).

I was happy to see Debian 7 included a "GNOME 2 like" option, as a moderately customized Gnome 2 is really what I am used to, and I have absolutely positively no interest to change it.

It gets mostly there, maybe 50-75% of the way. First thing I noticed was the new Gnome did not seem to import any of the previous settings. I got a stock look - stock wallpaper, stock settings, and no desktop icons(?). I tried to right click on the desktop to change the wall paper - that didn't work either. I tried to right click on the menu bar to add some widgets, that didn't work either. I went from 0 to very annoyed almost immediately. This was with the "compatibility" gnome desktop! Imagine if I had tried to login to regular GNOME 3, I probably would of thrown my laptop against the wall before it finished logging in! :) (fortunately for my laptop's sake I have never gotten to that point)

Eventually I found the way to restore the desktop icons and the right click on the desktop, I managed to set one of my wonderful high res NSFW desktop backgrounds. I still can't add widgets to the menu bar I assume it is not possible. I haven't checked if I can do virtual desktop edge flipping with brightside (or with something built in), I'd wager that doesn't work either.

I'm not sure what I will do on my main laptop/desktop which are Ubuntu 10.04 which is now unsupported. I hear there are distros/packages out there that are continuing to maintain/upgrade the old Gnome 2 stuff (or have replaced Gnome 3's UI with Gnome 2), so will probably have to look into that, maybe it will be easy to integrate into Debian or Ubuntu 12.04(or both).

I saw a fantastic comment on slashdot recently that so perfectly describes the typical OSS developer on this stuff

[..]

What X11 is, is old. And developers are bored with it. And they want something new and shiny and a chance to play with the hardware without abstraction throwing a wet blanket over their benchmark scores.

The benchmark of success for Wayland is that _users_ don't actually notice that anything changed. They'll fall short of that benchmark because too many people like using X11, and even the backward compatibility inevitably will cause headaches.

But developers will enjoy it more, and in the FOSS world those are the only consumers that matter.

(the last sentence especially)

That was in a conversation related to replacing X11 (the main GUI base for Linux) with something completely different (apparently being developed by some of the same folks that worked on X11) that has been under development for many, many years. Myself I have no issues with X11, it works fine for me. Last time I had major issues with X11 was probably 10+ years ago.

As someone who has worked closely with developers for the past 13 years now I see a lot of this first hand. Often times the outcome is good, many other times not so much.

One system I worked with was so architecturally complex that two people on my team left the company within a year of starting and their primary complaint was the application was too complicated to learn (they had been working with it almost daily for their time there). It was complex for sure(many many sleepless nights and long outages too) - though it didn't make me want to throw my laptop against the wall like Chef does.

In the case of Microsoft, I found it really funny that one of(if not the) main managers behind Windows 8 suddenly resigned mere weeks after the Windows 8 launch.

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2Jun/13Off

Travel tips for Washington DC area?

TechOps Guy: Nate

I am planning on being in the Washington DC area next week to visit a a friend I haven't seen in a couple of years. I have another friend that I know that is in that area and will visit them too.

I've never been there before, so if anyone knows something/place cool to visit please send a note my way! Doesn't have to be in DC - but within say a 2 or maybe even 3 hour drive is fine.

I arrive at 10 AM on Saturday and can't check in till 3PM so my first thought to kill some time is to drive to Philadelphia to grab one of those famous original Cheese steak sandwiches at either one of Geno's Steaks or Pat's King of Steaks (which are apparently right across the street from each other).

Five hours round trip is a long ways to drive but in the grand scheme of life, who knows if I'll ever be in the area again, so I figure it's worth it. If I could find some place else to visit and take some pictures(preferably with a nice view, my camera has a 42X zoom). I'm not much for historical stuff or museums (though I may make some exceptions on this trip).

I browsed ~250 potential places on Trip Advisor in Philadelphia but sadly did not see anything that really interested me(except maybe this). Given the sheer number of ideas on that site I figure it may be difficult to find things on other sites that aren't just repeats.

One day during the week(perhaps Sunday the 9th) I plan to visit Norfolk, VA - a full six hours round trip. But it looks like it will be worth it too -- mainly to see the military stuff there. Of the three major locations it's the one I am most looking forward to.

Possibilities in Norfolk include

One day hit Baltimore up for their Blue Crab, possibilities for this trip include

Then the rest of the time in DC, most of these places to visit just so I can say I visited them, really not excited about any of them (specifically avoided any places that don't allow pictures like the Mint) -

Hopefully I can easily hit all the above sites in less than one day.

  • Sweetwater Tavern - local friend says there is good food there
  • Ted's Montana Grill - enjoyed this place when I was in Atlanta - it was the first time I had Buffalo (that I can recall).
  • Tilted Kilt would be nice but is ~70 miles away so probably will wait till I'm in Atlanta next to hit that place up.

 

I'll likely be working remotely for a couple days while there, not sure yet.

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