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CougTek

Hyper-V Cluster Storage Revamp

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We currently run a 3-node Hyper-V 2012 R2 cluster using an HP 3Par 7200 for storage.  The 3Par is now out of warranty (which is too expensive to renew) and 90% full.  Also, some of the nodes show memory spikes usage over 80%, so they'll have to be replaced soon too, even though they're still under their original 5-year warranty.  The nodes have 256GB of RAM each and dual 10-core Xeon.

We have twenty VMs deserving around 350 users.  Among the VMs, there's one fatty MS Exchange server and three SQL 2014 servers, two of those being quite busy.  The current 3Par 7200 (capable of ~8000 iops according to IOMeter) sometimes chokes under load, if I trust the Veeam One alerts I receive.  Our data grows by over 30% per year and the VMs need 7TB today.  We're looking for an upgrade that will last five years, without having to pour additional money before 2022.

HPE's guys want us to get another 3Par (8200 with all-flash storage).  I'd rather take another path.  I read a lot about SDS and Windows 2016's Storage Space Direct looks quite promising.  Also, Datacore SAN Symphony draws a lot of attention.  SDS must also be simpler to manage than a proprietary system like a 3Par.  Since we plan to upgrade our core switchs, PFC/DCB for RoCE support on the switch side isn't a problem; the model we plan to get has it.

Nutanix wants to propose us a solution.  I meet with one of their representatives tomorrow.  An Hyper-converged solution sounds nice, although the horror story I've read here dating back to mid-2015 isn't flattering for Nutanix.

 

Thoughts?

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Personally a Nimble array is perfect.  It's performant, simple, and now an HPE company, so you can just ask them to engage the Nimble folks, since you have an existing relationship with HPE.  3Par is way more than you need IMO

Otherwise, Nutanix only makes sense if you want to get rid of your existing compute nodes.  But at the same time, there are some Hyper-V specific HCI players out there (I can't remember what those names are)... Something you may want to look at, rather than Nutanix with HyperV which is a hypervisor with another hypervisor on top of that.

Of course there is the DellEMC Unity arrays too, which has a nice HyperV plugin for mgmt and support as part of the Unity UI.  And I think Veeam can use the Unity snapshots for backups too.

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Your needs really aren't all that complex, I assume the 3PAR is a disk array given its vintage. Almost anything with flash will serve your needs. I wonder if the host servers get better if you have better storage too, that RAM footprint is impressive. Anyway, you have a lot of choice. Can you tell us any more about your budget and technical needs?

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Sorry for the hiatus; I've been quite busy.

Re: Mitch

We've been contacted by and received a proposal from Nimble in January.  It looked good on paper, but replacing only the SAN doesn't fix our node resources problem (not really a problem now, but will be sooner than later).  Also, regardless of the company, if we only upgrade the SAN, then we'll be corned in another "nodes+SAN" architecture.  I'd really like the management simplicity of an hyper-converged architecture.

If we go with Nutanix, we'll convert the Hyper-V VM to Acropolis (their hypervisor). 

 

Re: Brian

Yes, the 3PAR is a disk array.  Our needs  are to have a robust architecture with enough resources to support the production environment for several years and reliable replication to a DR site.  We already have a DR setup, but Veeam replication leaves a lot to desire.  It's been unreliable in our environment.  Not something new.  We've used Veeam since version 7 (which was crap for Hyper-V).  Version 8 worked better, but version 9 and 9.5 fail to take snapshots from 3 of the VMs.  We call the support, it gets fixed and a few months of Windows updates later, it breaks again.  Overall, Veeam simply hasn't been dependable for us.  Veeam also doesn't work on Nutanix's Acropolis.

The RAM issue can be fixed easily if I manually balance the VMs on the host to balance the load, but an Hyper-V failover cluster doesn't efficiently distribute the VMs on the hosts when one host goes down.  So if we keep using Hyper-V, we'll need to upgrade the nodes to ensure that we have a lot of spare resources on each host.  According to the Nutanix talking heads, their cluster does a much better and simpler job of distributing the load.  They demoed it numerous times too, but of course, the salesmen always show the shining parts.

I've not received the prices yet, but if the offers have similar cost, Nutanix's architecture looks quite good.  I'd really like to find out what you found to perform poorly two years ago.  I understand that you cannot disclose it due to the agreement you've had with them.  Depending on what doesn't work well on their solution, it might or might not affect us for our use.  So maybe it's a non-issue in our case.

Comparing Nutanix to a Windows Hyper-V cluster and Storage Space Direct volume, Nutanix has the advantage of data locality on the nodes.  S2D doesn't apparently try to move the most used data on the node that uses it, so that's why it's a lot more demanding on the networking side (which means $$ for the switches).  The nodes also all have to be the same, so no mix-generation nodes within the cluster, which isn't the case with Nutanix.  However, with S2D, it's more of a DIY architecture, so there's more hardware choices than what Nutanix offers for their nodes.  It also possible to use more generic component, bringing the cost down.  The downside of this is multi-vendor support, so they can all throw the ball to each other when issues arises.

I've not considered Dell or HPE's HC380 yet and I don't think I will either.  Dell's support could be better around here and HPE's hyper-converged solution isn't what HPE's guys want to sell us, which means they won't give us a good discount for it.

Regarding the budget, it's in the low six-figures (~150KU$).

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On SSD, before taking a jump in that direction, please research some of the corner-case support issues some have encountered with it:

https://www.reddit.com/r/sysadmin/comments/609e98/another_catastrophic_failure_on_our_windows/

I've personally heard fantastic things about Storage Spaces Direct in regards to performance, but I think there are support issues that still need to be honed out. You just don't encounter the same scale of problems with other solutions out of the gate.

On the all-flash side, I've been incredibly impressed with the NetApp AFF-series. I'm playing around with the A200 right now and its been awesome. Performance hit from inline compression and dedupe isn't that bad either.

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On 3/17/2017 at 8:46 PM, CougTek said:

I've not received the prices yet, but if the offers have similar cost, Nutanix's architecture looks quite good.  I'd really like to find out what you found to perform poorly two years ago.  I understand that you cannot disclose it due to the agreement you've had with them.  Depending on what doesn't work well on their solution, it might or might not affect us for our use.  So maybe it's a non-issue in our case.

We weren't impacted by the EULA, just their "business practices." That said, Nutanix offers a great platform if you don't want to be on VMware. Outside of that use case, there are better options. 

Quote

Regarding the budget, it's in the low six-figures (~150KU$).

With that kind of budget you have a lot of options. The A200 that Kevin is loving is more compelling than we expected. Dell EMC has choices, we're also about to start playing with Nexenta's latest offering which should have a better cost profile if that's of utmost importance. But really, the A200 has all the platform maturity you could ask for and the DR services you want. Once you get new storage in, you could contemplate upgrading your server nodes. As Kevin says though, I'd not rely on MSFT for storage these days. 

Lastly, I shared this link with Veeam. We have good friends there and I'm sure they'd like the opportunity to address your issues.

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Thank you Kevin for the Reddit warning story.  Since you both put a good word for the NetApp aff-flash SAN, I'll look into it later.  I have a lot of reading to do so I probably won't post back for a few days.

 

Thanks again for your help.

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Warning, if you move to Acropolis, your backup architechture will NEED to change significantly.  Storage mangement tools, reporting products, etc; many don't support Acropolis.  All the wonderful things they claim can be done on Acropolis are cancelled out when nothing seems to support Acropolis.  The market supports VMware first, HyperV second, and KVM and some of the other Openstack players are next.  

So regardless of choice traditional vs HCI....  Think about all the other techncial and business process solutions you have.  Will they need updating, retiring, changes of process etc.

If you're going to entertain Acropolis, why not entertain Vmware?  I mean there is an added cost, but that cost comes with much more features, maturity in DR/load balancing features, and broader industry support.  Not to mention a lot of HCI options there.  The only benefit to Acropolis is less upfront cost for the hypervisor.  Then it becomes more cost for all the other things like mgmt, workflow, etc.

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Yep, I've been reminded about Veeam's absence of support for Acropolis.  Same goes for Zerto, which I was eyeing for the replication part.

I'll stay with Hyper-V.  Regarding VMWare, not sure I want to add another 20K$ for something that more or less does the same thing than Hyper-V, but a bit better.  So far, my Hyper-V cluster has been good enough.  Could be better, it's certainly perfectible, but not worth a five figures investment for the amount of VMs I have to manage.  At least in my view.

Too bad I'm too busy to try Datacore SAN Symphony-V.  Not sure it would save us money.  Not sure it's easier to manage either.  Not even sure it plays nice with the backup/replication softwares.  But the performance numbers posted on the SPC-1 website are amazing considering the low cost of the hardware used.

Anyway, breaking benchmark records isn't the objective.  Providing a reliable, high availability platform with enough space to store users' data while being fast enough so they don't wait for it, is

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For whatever reason it escapes me the sole few Hyper-V focused HCI players out there.  Perhaps they are not surviving? Or had to diversify to support other/more platforms?  

You can always do what the big boys do and just go full on OpenStack, KVM, Docker, etc.  :P

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8 hours ago, mitchm3 said:

You can always do what the big boys do and just go full on OpenStack, KVM, Docker, etc.  :P

Don't send the poor guy running for the hills Mitch. 

I've long not understood why MSFT hasn't done more to either deliver for facilitate HCI for Hyper-V. I think they view Azure Stack as that solution, though I think small orgs will find that difficult or too expensive to adopt. 

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17 hours ago, mitchm3 said:

For whatever reason it escapes me the sole few Hyper-V focused HCI players out there.  Perhaps they are not surviving? Or had to diversify to support other/more platforms?

Maybe you think about Starwind Virtual SAN?

BTW, reviewing and comparing those solutions (Solarwind's Virtual SAN, Datacore SAN Symphony-V, VMWare's VSAN, Microsoft's Storage Space Direct) would be a great article and I'm sure it would draw a lot of visitors.  It would be a fantastic tool for all those looking into software define storage.

 

I've looked into a private Openstack cloud, but one of the goals of the new architecture is ease of management.  Troubleshooting Openstack issues isn't easy.  Being the sole network administrator of a ten-companies conglomerate isn't my only task.  I'm also the IT manager of all this.  I deal contracts, purchases, oversee the budget and supervise the L1-2 technicians and when they aren't capable to fix an issue,I'm the one who has to deal with it.  The amount of time I have to do my real job, which is supposed to be a network administrator, is quite limited.  I don't need something easy to deal with because I'm a moron.  I need something simple because I simply don't have the time to do deep troubleshooting.

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We're about to do another Nexenta review, it's been a while since we looked at them. As to the others:

  • Starwind - don't really know them
  • Datacore - we have tried many times for them to work with us on a review but they refuse
  • vSAN - we've done a lot here and will do more
  • MSFT - they are insanely difficult to work with. We likely will not have content here unless it's in conjunction with a partner of theirs. We're reviewing their Azure Cloud Pack through a partner now and we can't even get a Microsoft product person to take a call with us. 

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If Microsoft doesn't want to help you on a review, they sure won't help me with a small setup like what I was considering.  That's their third strike.  What pisses me off about those companies is that they charge a LOT of money for their licenses and support, but the service level they provide is abysmal.

If Datacore refuses a comparative review, it's probably because they have something to hide.  It at least tells that they aren't totally confident in their product.

Nutanix, at least during the pre-sale stage, put a lot of efforts to convince me to go for their solution.  I know that it wasn't your experience two years ago though, so I'm quite cautious with them.

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