Hands on with Veritas' SERVPoint for NAS

Posted on November 01, 2001

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ITIS Services puts Veritas SERVPoint Appliance Software for NAS through its paces and is impressed with the results.

BY TOM CURREY

In an effort to provide corporations with storage management tools to meet their ever-increasing demands, many vendors have announced initiatives to create software suites to manage storage area network (SAN) and network-attached storage (NAS) environments. The goal of these solutions is to improve utilization of existing storage assets with a simplified management GUI and front-end application platform. As storage demands rise (industry analysts have indicated 50% to 110% per year) and IT budgets come under pressure, these issues place additional demands on IT professionals responsible for managing these environments.

This lab review focuses on one product suite-SERVPoint-developed by Veritas Software for SAN and NAS environments.

Today's challenges

One of the industry's continuing challenges has been how to develop new technologies without having a predefined road map of standards. With the advent of storage network management software, we again experience this challenge.

Although several industry organizations have been trying to develop storage management software standards, each of the members presents a different view and a competing set of standards. The major issue involved in creating standards is that each vendor has a vested interest in a particular approach and therefore promotes its own direction.

Fibre Channel has the same problem: Even with standards, there are no interoperability guarantees. Each large manufacturer spends millions of dollars per year on interoperability testing in labs. Adding to the complexity, several petabytes of storage have outdated versions of microcode, which may not be compatible with newer technology.

Although testing and interoperability facilities have their place, qualified integration practices that can authenticate technologies specific to each customer's environment will ensure the best possible solution. In this way, a customer's configuration will be validated in advance of installation, eliminating most of the unknown factors and ensuring a timely and successful installation.

NAS management

Over the last two years, Veritas has been developing a software management initiative named V3. Veritas created its own storage manager and application suite, one component of which was a single management interface that presents an environment's storage to the IT storage manager. The major advantage to this approach is the ability to configure and change each native storage device in a storage network using a common interface. The GUI allows for visual inspection of each storage device, providing simple and fast reporting. This reduces storage management costs, software license costs (purchase and maintenance), and training requirements and improves staff efficiencies.

Also important is the ability to deploy and manage heterogeneous storage devices. Assets can be deployed using a Quality of Service model, thereby assigning those assets defined by each end user's criteria or business need and corresponding benefits. A major advantage is that customers are no longer locked into a single manufacturer's services and prices.

Heterogeneity is the first step in the next evolution of storage management-true openness. Single-point administration allows more-efficient storage utilization and easier management.

We should state for the record that ITIS Services considers SAN and NAS to be complementary architectures. While the debate continues, albeit less frequent than in the past, business requirements are clearly the driving factors to assess which approach should be taken. Although Veritas' SERVPoint can be used to manage both SAN and NAS environments, this article focuses on the version that supports the NAS model.

Veritas SERVPoint Appliance Software for NAS is a major tool in the Veritas storage management arsenal. Today, the software runs on a Solaris SPARC server, which provides scalability at the server level. For instance, users with lower- performance I/O requirements can use a Sun Server E220 to start. As the requirements for performance, scalability, and reliability grow, you can migrate up to higher performance, enterprise-class servers.

Software distribution on Unix makes management of multiple systems fairly easy. Additional software that accompanies the NAS SERVPoint software is Veritas PointInTimeCopy (PIC), which allows online retrieval of past versions. Other Veritas software can be used in conjunction with SERVPoint, including Veritas Clustering for high avail ability, NetBackup for direct or NDMP-based backup services, and Volume Replicator for disaster recovery and business continuance services.

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Veritas is redesigning all its GUI-based products to share a common look and feel. This should help reduce administrator management costs and related training expenditures.

It should be noted that, under a Veritas and Sun agreement, Sun servers and StoreEdge T3 disk arrays must be purchased as a bundle for initially supported SERVPoint for NAS configurations.

Installation is straightforward, although several minor issues were encountered during our initial efforts. Companies interested in testing or installing these software packages should have competent Solaris administrators and SAN engineers on staff or work with specialized consulting/integration firms or with Veritas directly.

ITIS Services' Solution Center has been testing both SAN and NAS software for the past 12 months. Typically, ITIS Services will design SANs to test multiple configurations at once, allowing our engineering team to explore both ordinary and "extraordinary" scenarios in which we can thoroughly assess each platform.

The following configuration and adaptations were used in this test environment:

  • Sun E220R
  • Solaris 2.8 with latest software patches
  • Removed default host bus adapter (HBA) drivers
  • Added updated JNI and QLogic adapter drivers from manufacturers' Websites
  • Installed JNI 6410 adapter in back-end
  • Installed QLogic 2200 target mode adapter in front-end
  • Connected Sun T3, SCSI-2 JBOD, Hi tachi Data Systems 9200 disk arrays.

Client systems included the following:

  • Sun E220R with Solaris 8
  • Compaq 1850R with Windows NT 4.0
  • Compaq 360 with Windows 2000 Server Edition
  • Dell Inspiron 8000 with Windows 2000 Professional.

The test environment used the Hitachi 9200 ("Thunder") array as the common storage layer. Dual ports (A0 and B0) connected to separate Brocade SilkWorm 2400 Fibre Channel switches were used for redundancy. The Veritas SAN Appliance "back-end" used JNI 6410 HBAs and the latest drivers (fabric mode) from JNI's support Website.

The SERVPoint NAS Server also had a Sun T3 directly attached in FC-AL mode to another JNI 6410 HBA running in arbitrated loop mode. Internal SCSI 2 disks in the SAN appliance server completed the storage pool. In turn, this configuration had three separate types of storage devices: HDS 9200, Sun T3, and internal SCSI 2 devices. This tiered storage architecture provided various types of storage devices that were all attached to a single physical appliance. In essence, a shared pool of storage types was accessible to the NAS server.

Dual QLogic 2200 adapters configured for target mode were installed on the front-end of the SERVPoint SAN Appliance. Currently, the SAN appliance only supports QLogic adapters on the front-end. Several other manufacturers' adapters can be used on the back-end. Limited slots in the Sun 220R prevented a dual-attached configuration during these tests.

The HDS 9200 ports A1 and B1 are dual connected to SAN #2. Each is separate and attached to the Brocade 2800 switches in a high-availability configuration. The same LUNs are presented to A1 and B1 for Veritas Dynamic Multi-Pathing (DMP) testing on the NAS appliance.

The Veritas SERVPoint NAS Appliance fabric was connected into SAN #2 through QLogic adapters. An additional Sun Server was connected to SAN #2. This was installed to test I/O performance directly through the Veritas SAN device and to verify if the backup services would experience any performance degradation. The NAS appliance was connected to a 100MBps Ethernet network.

Veritas recommends using Veritas Cluster Server for customers who require a high-availability NAS solution. However, in an effort to focus on the NAS product's capabilities, ITIS did not implement a cluster environment for this evaluation.

Comments

Generally, every environment has different requirements for data availability and reliability. ITIS Services believes it is prudent to test each customer's configuration before implementing a predefined solution. ITIS designs custom tests based on client application trending.

The results of this report are isolated to the environments tested and as such, readers should not expect similar results. Analysis shows the SERVPoint appliances did not experience any type of internal bottlenecks or throughput issues. This environment yielded excellent I/O rates and took full advantage of the server RAM and disk subsystem cache.

This summer, Veritas and Sun signed an OEM relationship regarding a hardware (Sun servers and T3 Storage) and software (Veritas SERVPoint NAS software) bundle. Sun can continue to offer its hardware to existing and new clients in conjunction with the SERVPoint NAS Appliance.

For consolidation in general, Veritas SERVPoint for NAS software will benefit most large organizations. This software can provide file access via a NAS implementation while continuing to use existing storage assets. The Veritas offering can be used to consolidate older direct-attached SCSI and FC-AL devices for easier general access. Attaching multiple Sun T3 arrays to the SAN appliance creates an easy interface to a SAN.

System performance was impressive. Users can expect each component to be compatible with other Veritas products and to use many of the advanced features (e.g., Dynamic Multi-Path support and high-availability clustering). Veritas has developed a comprehensive storage management solution and warrants consideration in most environments.


Tom Currey is a senior SAN engineer at ITIS Services (www.itisservices.com) in Norwalk, CT. He can be reached at tcurrey@itisservices.com.


Test configuration and results

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What we tested


  • I/O video streaming between Compaq servers using the SERVPoint NAS Appliance.
  • Large file sequential I/O writes and reads between test Sun and SERVPoint NAS Server.
  • Large file sequential I/O writes and reads between Compaq servers through SERVPoint NAS to the SERVPoint SAN Appliance server.
  • Random small file I/O reads from SERVPoint SAN Appliances on Compaq and Sun T3.
  • Sequential writes from Compaq Windows 2000 server through SERVPoint SAN Appliance.

Testing results

Streaming video:

  • Maintained four streams at 28 frames per second (fps).
  • Sustained 2Mb I/O with 2 to 3ms average latency.
  • NAS appliance CPU averaged 4% use on single CPU.
  • Videos stored on HDS 9200 array and accessed through SAN #2.

Large file sequential I/O between test Sun and SERVPoint SAN Appliance:

  • Sustained 42MBps writes over four threads.
  • Sustained 62MBps reads over eight threads with 3ms latency.
  • SAN appliance CPU averaged 30% to 40% utilization.

Large file I/O between NAS and SAN devices:

  • Sustained 10MBps writes, hitting network bandwidth bottleneck.
  • Sustained 10MBps reads with 2ms latency, hitting network bandwidth bottleneck.

Random small file I/O:

  • Maintained 21MBps reads with 4ms average latency.

Sequential Windows 2000 server writes though SAN appliance:

  • Maintained 20MBps over a single thread. Limitation seemed to be the Windows 2000 server.


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