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Managing EMC Storage with VSI

Dec 04, 2019

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Storage Arrays from EMC are some of the most flexible and rich in function arrays in the industry.  Within the EMC family of products there are a variety of different storage array technologies – all of which report and track their data differently. So getting a single, integrated view can be a challenge.  These different product families include:

  • VMAX (Block and NAS capable)
  • Unity (Block and NAS capable)
  • VNX (Block & NAS capable)
  • XtremIO (Block – all flash)
  • Isilon (File/ NAS)
  • Data Domain (File/Backup)

The above is not the complete list, but a list of the most popular versions of EMC arrays we see installed in the commerical marketplace.

In the remainder of this article we will show you how Visual Storage Intelligence (VSI) provides a number of unique reporting features designed to help manage and get the most out of EMC arrays.

Some of the features that make VSI a unique tool for managing an EMC storage environment are:

  • Structured and Unstructured Data Analysis
    • NAS vs. Block Storage Usage
    • CIFS/NFS Share Reporting
    • File Share Analysis
  • Specialized Free Space Analysis
    • Fragmentation Analysis
    • Effective Free Space
  • Performance Analysis
    • Performance by array, node, pool and host/lun
  • Unique Configuration Error Reporting
    • Duplicate Naming Analysis
    • Hot Spare Analysis – drive converge for all drive sizes/technologies
    • Orphaned Storage Analysis

Unstructured and Structured Data Analysis  (Storage by Data Type)

VSI tracks storage by “Data Type” with the types of storage being:

  • Block (Host/LUN Mapping)
  • NAS (NFS/CIFS Shares)
  • BAS Backup (File Shares specifically designed for backup storage pools)
  • Mixed (A combination of both)

VSI not only gives you an overall picture of your environment, but breaks it down by type of data stored (Block or File), while tracking usage over time. This breakdown is important because typical Block devices are configured for high performance – with features like Flash drives or all Flash arrays to maximize performance – while NAS storage is typically configured for high capacity, with performance secondary.

storage by data type

This is a point in time picture showing your storage by data type – how much is available, how much is allocated, and how much is free.

Trends by Type of Storage

Trends by type of storage

Trends over time by data type: this chart reflects the trends across all of the families of devices for EMC based on the primary classification for each array as defined by the customer.  This allows users to see their aggregated storage trends and where growth is occuring – in traditional block or block-flash environment or in their unstructured data environment (Isilon for example).

VSI allows each device to be classified by the customer. This allows one array to be defined as primarily block and another array of the same type to be classified as NAS or whatever you want to call it.  The value to the customer is the ability to see what data types are growing the fastest, so proactive action can be taken.

Block Analysis

All arrays are analyzed for all block and storage analysis. If there is any block storage (hosts/luns), that data is provided in detail by host. All details at the individual LUN are provided and you have the ability to see hosts what LUN served from different arrays all in a single view.

block storage analysis

Share File Analysis

File share analysis is also provided by VSI so you can see overall file trends (previous example) or the individual details by share, date of last access, owner, and even file size.  Understanding access patterns allows users to make informed decisions about what data can be moved to different types of storage based on the regularity of information access.

The File Space by Date of Access chart included here is a graphical represention of the tablular data presented previously.  This particular file share is over 1.6 PB in size and 64% of the space has not been touched in over 3 years.

Screenshot of VSI's dashboard showing a bar chart and a pie chart with a title of "File Space by Date of Last Access"

VSI provides not only the ability to see and track file storage growth overall, but the data necessary to manage individual file shares efficiently .

Specialized Free Space Analysis (fragmentation)

VSI provides storage usage and free space analysis for all storage arrays.  No matter what family the device comes from – a summary of your free space fragmentation is shown for all arrays.

The fragmented space analysis shows all the pockets of free space and allows you to see both the total available as well as how it is fragmented within a storage array. Sometimes the array will appear to have free space, but this chart may reveal “no usable free space” due to the fragmentation.

For example, the Free Space by Disk Group chart below shows a customer with 7 pools. 5 of these are tiered pools and all have some free space.  As pools become more highly used, the creation of 7 pools can create pockets of inefficiency where each pool has 2-3 TB.

Pie chart and a Bar Chart--text is too small to read

The customer need is to add a new LUN or volume that is 4 TB in size.  The current pool design would prohibit the ability to allocate this storage LUN.  Also, you can see there is over 19 TB of drives that are not assigned to any pool.

This chart reflecting fragmentation allows users to make decisions based on detailed data views that may not be clearly evident when using higher level views of your data.

VSI also performs advanced analytics to determine “effective free space” for every array in your infrastructure. One customer was quoted as saying   “Free space fragmentation analysis and the effective free space calculations allowed me to in one case to realize how important my storage design was.  We did have to purchase additional storage to resolve a current issue but we saved over $500,000 of future cost avoidance by taking action across all storage arrays in our Infrastructure and VSI helped us clearly identify the condition and quantify the value of making some small change in infrastructure to improve efficiency and reduce our cost.” 

Detail Performance Analysis  (Array, Node, Pool , Host/LUNs)

VSI provides detailed performance and capacity analysis at the overall cluster level for all EMC arrays, but it also provides detailed analysis at the array, node, pool and host level. Performance information can be seen at any level which allows for high level trending as well as detailed problem determination.

performance by pool

Unique Error Reporting Features

EMC arrays offer flexibility in setup and sometimes this can lead to bad or dangerous IT practices with catastrophic consequences if not managed properly. VSI flags issues like these to help customers avoid unplanned outages.

For example – LUNs and MetaLUNs can have the same name even though they are two distinctly different resources. If an admin is instructed to delete LUN1 and there is more than one LUN1 with that designation, the administrator may end up removing the wrong resource. This could result in all, or a portion of your applications failing due to a missing resource.  VSI flags all of these conditions on EMC arrays. These issues can be seen on the health alerts page for the user to see and take action to resolve these conditions in advance of an unexpected storage event occurring.

enterprise storage alerting

Hot spare and orphaned analysis are also performed. If issues are found, they are also reported in health alerts.  For hot spare analysis, not only is the spare analysis verified, but so is a check to be sure there are spares of adequate size for each drive type to insure if any drive in your configuration fails there dynamic “system level” recovery can occur without manual intervention.  If coverage is incomplete this is categorized as a “red light” or critical event because failure to resolve this prior to a storage event could result in an unplanned outage.

Orphaned analysis is done to ensure all LUNs allocated and consuming space are being used by a physical or virtual host.  If there does not appear to be any “user” of this storage a “yellow” warning alert is created with the detailed LUN information as well as the total space in this category.

VSI collects and analyzes the network configuration of the storage array to check for:

  • Duplicate naming analysis
  • Hot spare analysis – drive converge for all drive sizes/technologies
  • Orphaned storage analysis

These are few of the higher profile warnings provided for EMC configurations, all of which are designed to help customers:

  • Avoid unplanned outages
  • Maximize their storage efficiency
  • Reduce overall storage costs
  • Identify unused resources so these resources can be repurposed

Many businesses monitor their environment with vendor specific tools or generic tools which don’t have customized features for each type of array to make sure you get the most out of each and every one of your storage arrays. VSI is different because it is built for customers by customers and contains the information customers need to maximize their storage efficiency, minimize outages and reduce storage costs. VSI provides the visibility to maximize the efficiency of individual storage arrays and manage your entire storage infrastructure from a single pane of glass.

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