Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Derek Weeks, Liz McMillan, Yeshim Deniz, Elizabeth White, XebiaLabs Blog

Blog Feed Post

Windows Server 2012 (Windows Server “8″) – Virtual Fibre Channel

This is one of a series of posts discussing the new features in Windows Server 2012, now shipping and previously in public beta as Windows Server 8.  You can find references to other related posts at the end of this article.  This post reviews the new Hyper-V 3.0 feature, Virtual Fibre Channel.

Background

Virtual Fibre Channel (VFC) enables a Hyper-V guest to access the physical storage HBAs (host bus adaptors) installed in the Hyper-V server.  Normally, storage adaptors would be reserved for the use of the Hyper-V guest itself however this new feature acts as a passthrough, enabling any Hyper-V 3.0 guest (at the right O/S level) to access the HBAs and so connect directly to fibre channel storage devices.

VFC is implemented through the use of NPIV, or N_Port ID virtualisation.  This a fibre channel standard that permits a single HBA to act as multiple nodes within a SAN environment.  Normally, a single HBA connects to the SAN and presents a physical ID known as a World Wide Port Name or WWPN.  This deals with the physical connectivity of the fabric.  At the same time, the connecting server or storage device presents a node name ID or WWNN (World Wide Node Name).  A WWNN can be unique per adaptor as is the case with most host-based HBAs or can be a single node representing an entire device such as a storage array.  NPIV allows a single physical adaptor to present multiple node names to the fabric and so effectively “virtualise” the physical device.  Each new node also has to have virtual WWPNs in order to adhere with fibre channel standards.

The benefits of being able to use NPIV to virtualise an HBA is that each guest in a Hyper-V environment can be assigned its own WWNN and so have a direct connection to the SAN.  It may not be immediately obvious how this helps when virtual server infrastructure is supposed to abstract the physical layer but there are a number of distinct advantages in zoning storage devices in this way:

  • Zoning can be done to the individual guest and is therefore more secure (albeit that it still goes through the hypervisor)
  • Tape drives can be supported, so backup software can write directly to devices
  • Storage that requires failover, snapshots and other SCSI based functionality can be directly supported, especially where non-standard SCSI commands are used

Implementation

VFC is configured in Hyper-V Manager using the new Virtual SAN Manager option (see the screenshots).  Only HBAs and firmware that support NPIV can be used for VFC.  This means newer HBAs only, for example Emulex HBAs at speeds of 4Gb/s and above.  Obviously the SAN fabric needs to support NPIV too.  An HBA can only be attributed to one virtual SAN, however a virtual SAN can contain multiple HBAs.  Once the virtual SAN is created, a virtual HBA can be assigned to a guest using the Add Hardware section under Settings.  Fibre channel IDs can be set as any 16-digit hexadecimal number, although it’s not advisable to use values that are already reserved out for vendors.  Microsoft defaults to some standard values, which can be auto-generated to new values through the “Create Addresses” button.  As yet I’ve not worked out why there are two sets of addresses as only the first appears to be visible on the fabric.

As soon as a guest is started, the fabric login process begins, even if no guest O/S has been installed.  As you can see from screenshot 4, the additional node indicates the source Hyper-V server (in this case PH03) but doesn’t pass through the guest name, indicating it only as “Hyper-V VM Port”.  It would be a nice update to be able to see the VM name there.

Using VFC within the Hyper-V guest requires two things; a supported O/S – one of Windows Server 2008, Windows 2008 R2 or Windows 2012 – plus the installation of the latest Integration Services update that comes with Windows Server 2012.  This means that the virtual fibre channel adaptor is not emulated as a native device and so can’t be used with other operating systems like Linux (more on this later).  The fifth screenshot shows the emulated HBA controller and tape drive I presented to the host.  One question that seems to have been discussed on a number of blogs is the support for tape drives.  I can confirm tape drives do work, but can’t see any documentation from Microsoft to say whether they are officially supported.

Performance

I chose a tape drive as this is a good way of demonstrating performance.  Deploying Backup Exec 2012 onto my Windows 2008 R2 guest, writing to an LTO2 drive, I achieved around 12MB/s, better than I’ve managed with an emulated drive through vSphere 5.0.  This is well under the spec of the drive itself (max 40MB/s) but is certainly usable in small environments.  More testing is needed here I think, as there appeared to be little overhead on the Hyper-V server to manage the data passthrough.

The Architects View

Virtual Fibre Channel is a great feature for providing native SAN device support.  However there are few restrictions on use, most notably on the need to have latest hardware and be using Microsoft platforms.  I haven’t yet seen any best practices for using VFC; for example should HBAs be placed in a single virtual SAN or should multiple ones be configured for failover; these are questions that need to be answered.  VFC could be massively improved on two fronts; firstly drivers could be provided for other platforms, especially Linux installations.  Second, if vendors were able to write code using the virtual device, then virtual SAN appliances (VSA) could use fibre channel rather than be reliant on iSCSI as they are today.

One final comment; Microsoft are doing a poor job of providing detail on these new storage features.  There is precious little to find, other than high-level blog information and as mentioned previously, no best practice documentation that I can locate.  I’d be happy to be pointed in the direction of anything useful and I will link it from this post.

Related Links

Comments are always welcome; please indicate if you work for a vendor as it’s only fair.  If you have any related links of interest, please feel free to add them as a comment for consideration. Screenshot 5 Screenshot 4 Screenshot 3 Screenshot 2 Screenshot 1

Read the original blog entry...

@ThingsExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that SD Times | BZ Media has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. BZ Media LLC is a high-tech media company that produces technical conferences and expositions, and publishes a magazine, newsletters and websites in the software development, SharePoint, mobile development and commercial UAV markets.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloudistics, an on-premises cloud computing company, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloudistics delivers a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. Its software-defined technology natively converges network, storage, compute, virtualization, and management into a ...
Now that the world has connected “things,” we need to build these devices as truly intelligent in order to create instantaneous and precise results. This means you have to do as much of the processing at the point of entry as you can: at the edge. The killer use cases for IoT are becoming manifest through AI engines on edge devices. An autonomous car has this dual edge/cloud analytics model, producing precise, real-time results. In his session at @ThingsExpo, John Crupi, Vice President and Eng...
There are 66 million network cameras capturing terabytes of data. How did factories in Japan improve physical security at the facilities and improve employee productivity? Edge Computing reduces possible kilobytes of data collected per second to only a few kilobytes of data transmitted to the public cloud every day. Data is aggregated and analyzed close to sensors so only intelligent results need to be transmitted to the cloud. Non-essential data is recycled to optimize storage.
"I think that everyone recognizes that for IoT to really realize its full potential and value that it is about creating ecosystems and marketplaces and that no single vendor is able to support what is required," explained Esmeralda Swartz, VP, Marketing Enterprise and Cloud at Ericsson, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
As businesses adopt functionalities in cloud computing, it’s imperative that IT operations consistently ensure cloud systems work correctly – all of the time, and to their best capabilities. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Bernd Harzog, CEO and founder of OpsDataStore, will present an industry answer to the common question, “Are you running IT operations as efficiently and as cost effectively as you need to?” He will expound on the industry issues he frequently came up against as an analyst, and...
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem" ...
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
Keeping pace with advancements in software delivery processes and tooling is taxing even for the most proficient organizations. Point tools, platforms, open source and the increasing adoption of private and public cloud services requires strong engineering rigor - all in the face of developer demands to use the tools of choice. As Agile has settled in as a mainstream practice, now DevOps has emerged as the next wave to improve software delivery speed and output. To make DevOps work, organization...
My team embarked on building a data lake for our sales and marketing data to better understand customer journeys. This required building a hybrid data pipeline to connect our cloud CRM with the new Hadoop Data Lake. One challenge is that IT was not in a position to provide support until we proved value and marketing did not have the experience, so we embarked on the journey ourselves within the product marketing team for our line of business within Progress. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Sum...
SYS-CON Events announced today that MobiDev, a client-oriented software development company, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. MobiDev is a software company that develops and delivers turn-key mobile apps, websites, web services, and complex softw...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
What sort of WebRTC based applications can we expect to see over the next year and beyond? One way to predict development trends is to see what sorts of applications startups are building. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Arin Sime, founder of WebRTC.ventures, will discuss the current and likely future trends in WebRTC application development based on real requests for custom applications from real customers, as well as other public sources of information,
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Apache Hadoop is emerging as a distributed platform for handling large and fast incoming streams of data. Predictive maintenance, supply chain optimization, and Internet-of-Things analysis are examples where Hadoop provides the scalable storage, processing, and analytics platform to gain meaningful insights from granular data that is typically only valuable from a large-scale, aggregate view. One architecture useful for capturing and analyzing streaming data is the Lambda Architecture, represent...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ocean9will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Ocean9 provides cloud services for Backup, Disaster Recovery (DRaaS) and instant Innovation, and redefines enterprise infrastructure with its cloud native subscription offerings for mission critical SAP workloads.
With billions of sensors deployed worldwide, the amount of machine-generated data will soon exceed what our networks can handle. But consumers and businesses will expect seamless experiences and real-time responsiveness. What does this mean for IoT devices and the infrastructure that supports them? More of the data will need to be handled at - or closer to - the devices themselves.
SYS-CON Events announced today that SoftLayer, an IBM Company, has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. SoftLayer, an IBM Company, provides cloud infrastructure as a service from a growing number of data centers and network points of presence around the world. SoftLayer’s customers range from Web startups to global enterprises.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Linux Academy, the foremost online Linux and cloud training platform and community, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Linux Academy was founded on the belief that providing high-quality, in-depth training should be available at an affordable price. Industry leaders in quality training, provided services, and student certification passes, its goal is to c...
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...