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Archive for November, 2010

Does the Storage Tecchnology Really Matter?

November 15, 2010 4 comments

This article is really more of a rant.  Take it for what it is.  I’m just a frustrated infrastructure admin trying to choose a storage product.

I am not a storage admin (and I don’t play one on TV), but I am on our storage replacement project representing the server infrastructure area.  In preparation for this project, I started reading a number of the more popular blogs and following some of the storage Tweeters.  One thing I noticed is that all the banter seems to be about speeds and feeds as opposed to solving business problems.  In the case of Twitter, I am guessing it’s due to the 140 character limit, but I would expect to see more in the blogs.  Some of the back & forth reminds me of the old elementary school bravado along the lines of “My dad can beat up your dad”.

I must admit that I am learning a lot, but does it really matter if it supports iSCSI, FC, FCoE, NFS, or other acronyms?  As long as it fits into my existing infrastructure with minimal disruption and provides me options for growth (capacity and features), should I care?   If so, why should I care? We recently moved the bulk of our data center to Cisco UCS so you would think that FCoE would be a highly valued feature of our new solution.  But it’s not.  We don’t run Cisco networking gear and our current gear provider has no short term plans for FCoE.  Given that we just finished a network upgrade project, I don’t forsee FCoE in our environment for at least three years unless funding magically appears.  It doesn’t mean that it isn’t on our radar; it just means that it won’t be here for at least three years.  So stop trying to sell me on FCoE support.

So who has the better solution?  I am going to use EMC and NetApp in my example just because they blog/tweet a lot.

I think if one were to put a chart together, both EMC and NetApp could be at the heading of any column.  Their products look the same to me.  Both have replication software, both support snapshots, both support multiple protocols, and so on and so on and so on.  The features list is pages long and each vendor seems to match the other.

There are technical differences in how these features are implemented and in how the back-end arrays work, but should I care?  Tell me how these features will help my business grow.  Tell me how these features will protect my business.  Tell me how these features will save my business money. Tell me how they can integrate into my existing infrastructure without having to change my infrastructure.  And when I say “tell me”, don’t just say “it can do this”, or “it can do that”.  Give me case studies more than six pages long, give me processes and procedures, and give me REAL metrics that I can replicate/validate (assuming I had the equipment and time) in a real-world scenario which information telling me how they affect my apps and customers.

This is an area where companies need to do a better job of marketing.  EMC started down this path with the vBlock.  Techies aren’t really interested because the specs are blasé.  C-level folks love it because it marketed towards them and the marketing focuses on the solution from a business perspective.   NetApp is starting to do the same with their recently announced FlexPod.  The main downside to these new initiatives is that they seem to forget about the SMB.  I think it’s great from a techie POV that a FlexPod can handle 50,000 VDI sessions.  But as an IT Architect for my organization, so what?  We only have 4200 employees or so.

Right now, I’m sort of in-between in what type of information I need: technical vs business.  I am technical at heart, but have been looking at things from a business perspective the last few yrs.  I am in the process of trying to map what our mgmt team wants to accomplish over the next few years to the storage feature sets out there in the market.  This is where both types come together.  Now if I can just get past the FUD.

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FTP Migration Failure

November 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I started this blog to write about the activities in the life of an IT admin.   Other than posting about an odd event or two, I’ve mostly posted about our migration to Cisco UCS and vSphere.  So without further ado, let’s take a look at another “Day in the Life” of an IT admin.

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This past weekend was supposed to be fairly easy.  All I had to do was migrate our FTP server from a rackmount running W2K3 to a virtual server running W2K8.  The virtual server was built ahead of time, data was copied over to it, FTP sites were setup, etc.  It looked like everything was good to go.  I should have known better.

The first problem I ran into was name resolution. I wanted to keep the old server name as an alias so all my app folks wouldn’t have to change their scripts and applications.  The W2K8 server would not respond to the alias.  Turns that W2K8 handles aliases differently.   In W2K3, if you want to have the server respond to multiple names, you create a registry key called DisableStrictNameChecking and set it to a DWORD value of 1.  I added the key, but the server wouldn’t respond as I expected.  It seems that W2K8 sort of ignores that key.  Instead, you must use the setspn command to register the additional name(s).  Ok, name resolution taken care of so I thought.  Turns out that the spn is for TCP/IP type queries, meaning DNS is used for name resolution.  What happens if your app uses WINS for lookups because it is making standard SMB/NetBIOS type calls?  For that there is another registry key called OptionalNames.  This key is of type Multi-String and it contains the aliases that you want the server to register in WINS.

With all name resolution issues taken care of so I must be good to go, right?  Not so fast.   My apps folks are complaining that all their scripts are failing on transferring data to the FTP server.  I looked at a few of the scripts and saw that they were transferring files using the “put” command and wildcards.  In W2K3, this worked fine.  W2K8 doesn’t like it.  It wants to be more standards-based: “put” is for single files, “mput” is for multiple files.  Great…how much recoding are my apps folks going to have to do?

I had one person change his script to see if it would solve all his problems.  It got him past most items, but then we ran into the dreaded “505-Access Denied” error.  The permissions between the two servers match up so W2K8 must need something slightly different.

My window for this conversion was from 10pm to 1am.  As I approached 12:40am, I made the call to roll back.  I had a simple plan: power off the virtual server, power on the rackmount.  I thought it was pretty good, but I was wrong.   I came back in after getting some sleep and went to power up the virtual server in the morning to work on it. That pesky spn and OptionalNames reg key still played into things.  It was like I had two servers with the same name on the network, but no errors/alarms being thrown.  The new server took over the WINS entries for the old server.  Once I figured out to remove the spn and OptionalNames reg key, all went back to normal.

Now I can work on those permissions and try again some other Sunday night.

DISCLAIMER: All technical info was gathered in the heat of the moment Sunday night.  I may be wrong on the affects of the spn on name resolution methods (ie..DNS vs WINS), but it seems to make sense to me.  So unless someone has a better reason, I’m sticking with mine.

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