Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Anders Wallgren, Tim Hinds, Flint Brenton, Sujoy Sen, Liz McMillan

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
What a difference a year makes. Organizations aren’t just talking about IoT possibilities, it is now baked into their core business strategy. With IoT, billions of devices generating data from different companies on different networks around the globe need to interact. From efficiency to better customer insights to completely new business models, IoT will turn traditional business models upside down. In the new customer-centric age, the key to success is delivering critical services and apps wit...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York and Silicon Valley. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place Nov 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 17th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty ...
The essence of data analysis involves setting up data pipelines that consist of several operations that are chained together – starting from data collection, data quality checks, data integration, data analysis and data visualization (including the setting up of interaction paths in that visualization). In our opinion, the challenges stem from the technology diversity at each stage of the data pipeline as well as the lack of process around the analysis.
The 19th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit y...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo New York Call for Papers is now open.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ContentMX, the marketing technology and services company with a singular mission to increase engagement and drive more conversations for enterprise, channel and SMB technology marketers, has been named “Sponsor & Exhibitor Lounge Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. “CloudExpo is a great opportunity to start a conversation with new prospects, but what happens after the...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, will provide an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life ...
There are several IoTs: the Industrial Internet, Consumer Wearables, Wearables and Healthcare, Supply Chains, and the movement toward Smart Grids, Cities, Regions, and Nations. There are competing communications standards every step of the way, a bewildering array of sensors and devices, and an entire world of competing data analytics platforms. To some this appears to be chaos. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists will discuss the vast to...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Enzu, a leading provider of cloud hosting solutions, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Enzu’s mission is to be the leading provider of enterprise cloud solutions worldwide. Enzu enables online businesses to use its IT infrastructure to their competitive advantage. By offering a suite of proven hosting and management services, Enzu wants companies to foc...
Customer experience has become a competitive differentiator for companies, and it’s imperative that brands seamlessly connect the customer journey across all platforms. With the continued explosion of IoT, join us for a look at how to build a winning digital foundation in the connected era – today and in the future. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Chris Nguyen, Group Product Marketing Manager at Adobe, will discuss how to successfully leverage mobile, rapidly deploy content, capture real-time d...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
IoT generates lots of temporal data. But how do you unlock its value? How do you coordinate the diverse moving parts that must come together when developing your IoT product? What are the key challenges addressed by Data as a Service? How does cloud computing underlie and connect the notions of Digital and DevOps What is the impact of the API economy? What is the business imperative for Cognitive Computing? Get all these questions and hundreds more like them answered at the 18th Cloud Expo...
SYS-CON Events announced today that 24Notion has been named “Bronze 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. 24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to con...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
When it comes to IoT in the enterprise, namely the commercial building and hospitality markets, a benefit not getting the attention it deserves is energy efficiency, and IoT's direct impact on a cleaner, greener environment when installed in smart buildings. Until now clean technology was offered piecemeal and led with point solutions that require significant systems integration to orchestrate and deploy. There didn't exist a 'top down' approach that can manage and monitor the way a Smart Buildi...
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, will discuss the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to fo...
Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) will feature the upcoming 18th Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo in a New York news documentary about the "New IT for the Future." The documentary will cover how big companies are transmitting or adopting the new IT for the future and will be filmed on the expo floor between June 7-June 9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York. KBS has long been a leader in the development of the broadcasting culture of Korea. As the key public service broadcaster of Korea...
SYS-CON Events announced today TechTarget has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 7–9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. TechTarget is the Web’s leading destination for serious technology buyers researching and making enterprise technology decisions. Its extensive global networ...
The idea of comparing data in motion (at the sensor level) to data at rest (in a Big Data server warehouse) with predictive analytics in the cloud is very appealing to the industrial IoT sector. The problem Big Data vendors have, however, is access to that data in motion at the sensor location. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Scott Allen, CMO of FreeWave, will discuss how as IoT is increasingly adopted by industrial markets, there is going to be an increased demand for sensor data from the outer...