TrainSignal Course Released: EMC Storage Essentials!


I am very pleased to announce the release of my first course (of many I hope) with the always spectacular TrainSignal. As of today, EMC Storage Essentials is now available for consumption. That’s assuming you have an all you can eat subscription from TrainSignal. Which if you don’t, you should. No where else can you have access to the every expanding catalog of IT training that is TrainSignal. And the list of instructors and courses is growing. I could not be more excited to contribute and work with such an embracing and talented team.

So back to the course…

My goal was to make what is the sometimes fuzzy, always changing, world of storage simple to digest and understand. Add a little fun, add a little of my care free nature, and at the end is hopefully a course that will entertain, teach and better those relationships in your shop. Talking the talk is a big component of building that rapport internally. When you know the lingo it helps. Like speaking a foreign language in its native country, those natives appreciate that you’re trying. From your perspective, it makes the conversations more fluid and more efficient. Even if its at an “Essential” level it will pay off I assure you.

This is but the first of many courses on the the “Storage” front that I hope to contribute to. Storage in general is such a broad topic so I apologize for its use. Just know that at this time next year there will be plenty of quality content; vendor specific, non-vendor specific and all will be down right glorious. If all works out, look for topics around RecoverPoint, VPLEX and vSphere integration with VNX from me. So stay in touch! It’s just the beginning…

With that, I’ll leave you with a few notes on the course that I lined up to further explain its purpose. I look forward to everyone’s comments and suggestions, good or not so good. Feedback! Its how we all get better…

One of the primary mainstays in most data centers over the last 20 years has been that of a storage array. These mysterious monolithic towers of steel have done more to divide IT departments than any other tangible solution to date. For that reason, their fundamentally has been a split in data center knowledge. There are those that know “Storage”, and those that don’t. With the advent of server virtualization, that gap has somewhat lessened. Understanding the “speak” around storage has always been foreign for those not embedded in it. It’s for that reason storage fundamentals are a must in today’s tightly integrated datacenters. By arming yourself with base storage knowledge the conversations get easier and the silos slowly begin to dissolve. Although primary focus and terminology is specific to EMC storage, most concepts are transferrable to other storage vendors as well.

After completing this course, students will be able to:

• Navigate the broad portfolio of EMC Midrange Products and Software Suites
• Better communicate and understand common storage terminology applicable to both EMC and third party arrays.
• Ask the right questions when purchasing an EMC Array
• Understand the topology of a Storage Environment
• Supplement their learning in preparation for the E10-001 EMC Proven Professional Entry Level Certification

Special thanks to Jason Nash, Brian Boyd, Joanna Beer, Andy Newman, and Gary Eimerman. Really appreciate your contributions. 

Celebrating 10 Years of Community: VMworld 2013, Help Us Contribute!


I won’t begin this post with, “Its that time of year again” as that is so cliche. But it is! With the advent of Spring and all the wonderful things it brings, the Call for VMworld 2013 Papers has landed. 2012 for me brought a wonderful experience to present at VMworld on Deploying Active/Active Datacenters with SRM5. Our attendees were great. VMware was great. My co-presenters, Mike Bailess and Greg Camp were beyond great.

This year however, after convincing myself that presenting in front of hundreds of tech starved individuals was not that scary, I decided to have at it again. This time with a twist. As we so adamantly tried to persuade you that our solution was Active/Active, Datacenters not Storage. This year we (Martin Valencia and I) will burn the path to all the great things that come with Active/Active Storage solutions. Particularly around the vMSC (vSphere Metro Storage Cluster) configuration using VPLEX that VMware supports. Having deployed several of these solutions, makes us qualified to get the word out. Our goal, is make the session dirty technical. I mean dirty. But you won’t know unless you vote, now will you? So head over to here, filter by Varrow (or dirty), look for our session and make it happen.

Need a little more encouragement, here’s what Mr. Sakac had to say on his “My Fav Picks” post here…

“Varrow has some of the best cross-domain experts I’ve seen at a VAR. They’ve had a lot of experiences with a lot of technology – so I would expect that this would be a very balanced and deep session.”

He’s right and we are. But how will you experience this technical dirtiness (yeah I said it) unless you vote? Do it.

Finally, unlike previous years where Varrow’s showing has been limited, we hope this year is different. The incredible technical talent at this company has been exposed. Bubbling through the round of first cuts, available for you to vote. Again filter by Varrow and make this a reality.

Thanks for the support, and here’s to 10 wonderful years of spreading the VMware way!

More info on the abstracts below…

5038 Achieving High Availability with vSphere Storage Metro Clusters and EMC VPLEX

Joe Kelly and Martin Valencia, Varrow

High Availability in todays datacenters stretch beyond a single or multi host failure. Increased visibility and mobility across datacenters is quickly becoming a must have for all workloads. With the introduction of Active/Active Storage solutions to the market, VMware has begun to support these SVD’s or Storage Virtualization Devices for qualified products. vSphere Metro Storage Cluster (vMSC) is a configuration option that allows for stretched clusters between two synchronous joined datacenters. Providing these cluster capabilities, that are distributed in nature, allow for fluid VM mobility using vMotion between datacenters. This session will focus on the benefits and challenges of such a solution based on front line field experience using VPLEX 5.X and vSphere 5.X. Multi-site vSphere cluster designs just got better.

4809 SQL Virtualization – How to bring Tier 1 SQL workloads into an optimized vSphere environment

Tony Pittman and Kyle Quinby, Varrow

Drawing from real-world experiences, Kyle Quinby and Tony Pittman will be going through some accumulated knowledge on tips and tricks to squeak out every last bit of power of your SQL VMs. They will be focusing on how to lay a solid foundation for SQL for both performance and high availability.
Tier 1 Database workloads truly have a home in modern virtual infrastructure. Consolidation ratios are finally what they should be, and bookkeeping aspects such as licensing and backup/DR have finally become relatively simple to achieve.
This session will be appreciated by,
1. SQL admins or developers that are looking for insight into how their virtual admins can help them
2. Virtual infrastructure administrators, that are unsure what steps they should be taking for their SQL workloads
3. Long-term planners (architects/CIO) looking to get some “best practice” information to create a virtual SQL strategy

4969 Understanding vSphere Physical Connectivity - Deep Dive & Recommendations

Jason Nash, Varrow

This session will provide an in-depth look at your options for physically connecting vSphere hosts to the network. The discussion will focus on common question areas that come up during knowledge workshops and customer design sessions. Throughout the session videos and animations will be used to help attendees easily see the expected result from many of these configuration options. The presentation will focus heavily on the different hashing types and traffic control, especially the more advanced options such as Load-Based Teaming and Network I/O Control. Other areas of focus include physical separation of traffic, networks of differing security requirements such as DMZs, and suggested NIC configurations for both 1Gb and 10Gb environments. Finally, recommendations for physical switch configurations will also be covered. Throughout the session best practices, recommendations, and lessons learned from many production deployments will be shared. Attendees should expect to walk away with a deep understanding of the physical connectivity options available with vSphere, how they can be utilized in their environment, and the best methods for deploying them.

5053 Cloud Continuity: How does the Cloud fit into your Business Continuity Plan?

Tom Cornwell, Varrow

Today cloud is becoming ubiquitous. However, it can be utilized in many different ways. Whether you utilize cloud for your production environments or not, cloud can play a part in your business continuity plan. This session describes different business continuity strategies utilizing cloud. Topics include: cloud as a source, cloud as a target, and cloud to cloud DR. In addition, we will discuss mixed strategies and different types of cloud implementations including Platform-as-a-Service, Infrastructure-as-a-Service, Storage-as-a-Service, and DR-as-a-Service.

5158 How High Point Regional deployed a secure, feature-rich resilient desktop to their users
Dave Lawrence, Varrow. Adam Flowers, High Point Regional Health System

Come hear how High Point Regional Health System implemented Horizon View using the latest technologies such as HTML Access, Persona Management, Imprivata OneSign, Trend Micro Deep Security and Zero and repurposed clients all on a vSphere Streched Cluster with EMC VPLEX. Come hear the lessons learned during this dynamic deployment and how to integrate all of these great solutions together.

5296 Hypervisor-Based Disaster Recovery: The Missing Link for Virtualizing Mission-Critical Applications
Jason Nash, Varrow. Shannon Snowden, Zerto.

Mission-critical, tier-1 applications such as database and transactional applications are often the last to be virtualized. Despite the many benefits of virtualizing these applications, some companies still question the ability to protect and recover these applications in virtualized environments. Most likely, each application is on a different type of storage, so having one solution across the environment is not possible – driving up complexity and costs. Traditional BC/DR technologies are built for physical environments, requiring manual and complex processes to utilize these systems for virtualized applications, and each type of hardware has its own type of replication – so there is no consistency.
New disaster recovery technologies are filling this gap for large and small enterprises alike, delivering all the flexibility customers expect from a virtualized environment, with the aggressive RPOs and RTOs that mission-critical applications require. In this session, we will show how hypervisor-based replication solves these critical DR issues, clearing all barriers to virtualize tier-1 applications.

5470 The seven things you need to look at in your environment BEFORE installing Horizon View!
Dave Lawrence, Varrow

Ready to install Horizon View? Have you checked your DHCP scope? Is your version of vSphere supported? Are you using Group Policy loopback processing mode? Should you? There are seven main components of your environment that you should review BEFORE installing Horizon View. Come to our session and find out what the seven components are and how to avoid the most common environmental pitfalls that our engineers have come across during hundreds of View deployments.

5553 Cloud Bursting: Strategies to overflow into the cloud
Tom Cornwell, Varrow

Cloud bursting is a concept that to many sounds like a pipe dream. However, by looking at IT from a service perspective rather than from an infrastructure perspective, the tools exist to adopt this radical idea. This session will discuss how tools from VMware can help you make the cloud bursting dream a reality.

VPLEX Failure Opportunities

VPLEX is quite a unique beast in that there are numerous failure opportunities (as I like to call them) a host can walk away from unscathed. There are also some it cannot. I have gotten this question a lot lately and sometimes to the bewilderment of the intended receiver. As magical as VPLEX is, in a lot of cases failover is not automated which implies why VMware SRM integration is in the not so distant future. Below I have gathered information from a few sources that speak on the topic so just maybe we can all get it straight in our head. 

To preface that, I wanted to mention two types of volumes from a VPLEX Metro configuration, they are Distributed Virtual Device/Volumes and a Virtual Volumes with remote access. The two are very different. DVV’s as we’ll call them have two copies of the data, one leg at each site. The VV is only one copy of the data, at Site A or Site B, the remote access allows you to make visible that data to hosts at the opposite location to where the data lives. Meaning if you have a VV at Site A you can enable remote access so hosts at Site B can access that VV over the VPLEX transport. In this scenario, you could lose an entire array at Site B and still maintain host uptime because the data is being served up from Site A. 

With DVV’s, hosts are actually accessing their local leg for data access, but its done at the head level for the DVV. Considering the two volumes that make up the DVV are mirrored and identical, you could lose either volume, one or the other, not both, and still maintain host connectivity. Where it gets squirrelly is at the loss of VPLEX itself. In single engine scenarios your SPoF is now that single engine. Yes there are two directors within each engine, but loss of a single engine would most likely cause data unavailability depending on what site it failed at. There are a few ways around that. As I mentioned earlier by zoning all hosts at Site A to Site B’s mirror leg and providing standby pathing access, you could survive the loss of a Site A VPLEX engine. Models like such get incredibly complex, especially from a zoning perspective, so be careful out there. 

Consider the loss of each from the hosts POV, if there are other scenarios you would like clarification on let me know…

  • VPLEX IO Module Failure – Consider the modules themselves. Front End, Back End and WAN COM. Assuming you have zoned correctly and all paths are redundant. You could lose multiple IO modules in a director and still maintain host uptime. 
  • VPLEX Director Failure – Two directors themselves. Again assuming you have zoned correctly and all paths are redundant, you could lose a director and still maintain host uptime. 
  • VPLEX Engine Power and Fan Failure – Both are redundant and could sustain a single loss on a per engine basis. 
  • VPLEX Engine Failure – If you’re running a single engine to which all local hosts are zoned to. You will sustain a host failure. There are ways around this in a Metro config, by zoning all your hosts to the secondary cluster and utilizing those paths as standby’s is an option. 
  • VPLEX Management Server Failure – Loss of a management server will not interrupt services to those hosts attached to VPLEX. 
  • VPLEX Cluster Failures – All DVOLs have a detach rule (Third site witness aside). If you lose a Cluster (meaning all engines at one site), the winning site (that to which your detach rules are set to) will remain read/write assuming the cluster that failed was not that site. The other site will detach and IO will suspend if that site is not set as the winning site. In another wards, the hosts utilizing VPLEX storage from a site who’s cluster fails will loose access to its storage unless it is zoned to the other clusters DVOL leg.  
  • VPLEX Inter-cluster Link Failures (WAN COM) - Traditionally VPLEX has no way of distinguishing between a cluster failure or a inter-cluster communication issue, detach rules are limited. Therefore, the non-winning site would always suspend IO until inter-cluster communications was reestablished. VPLEX Witness can distinguish between both scenarios, by accessing both clusters from a third location. In this case it can automatically resume IO on the non-winning site depending on the failure that took place. Otherwise this is a manual process. 
Bitchin’! Thank you to EMC (@mjbrender and all the founding fathers) for recognizing my contributions from 2012. To me this represents nothing but teamwork. I’m able to do what I do, because of the individuals I surround myself with; those passionate 85+ men and woman at Varrow and our dedicated EMC partner team. So thank you all. 
…and a special thanks to the selfless @TheJasonNash for his nomination. Always looking out for a brother, I owe you one or two my friend : )

Bitchin’! Thank you to EMC (@mjbrender and all the founding fathers) for recognizing my contributions from 2012. To me this represents nothing but teamwork. I’m able to do what I do, because of the individuals I surround myself with; those passionate 85+ men and woman at Varrow and our dedicated EMC partner team. So thank you all. 

…and a special thanks to the selfless @TheJasonNash for his nomination. Always looking out for a brother, I owe you one or two my friend : )

1+1 can be…


On Saturday I made my way to the first TEDx event in the Wilmington area, dub as TEDxHampstead. Hampstead is a small community north of Wilmington, to which a few of the cofounders and board members live. TEDxWilmington happened to be taken (damn you Delaware), hence the name. What has always grabbed me about the TED(x) movement is the notion of life long learning. Its part of the human makeup. Being highly social and curious creatures, we have a thirst for knowledge. This thirst has no age limit, although you’ll see below, perhaps the younger generation needs a little push…


The general flow of the event was as follows below. There are number of guidelines the charter has to adhere to to be legit. I imagine this will be the same format in your area if you attend. 

  • Introductory Remarks
  • TED Video
  • First Speaker
  • Break
  • Second Speaker
  • Third Speaker
  • Break
  • TED Video 
  • Fourth Speak 
  • Closing Remarks

The speakers themselves were very diverse which added to the appeal and interest. From a Communications Professor at UNCW to one of the cofounders of the Full Belly Project, all had a message and their experiences to bring. The audience, frankly, was sparse. Filled mostly with geriatrics, distinguished suits, a smattering of College ed’s and me (I certainly didn’t hit the crowd demographic) Maybe 30 to 40 with crew and speakers. After each speaker there was Q&A which rounded out each speech to around 20 to 25 minutes a piece. 


Formality’s aside, what brought me there was the speaker David Pell. I somehow stumbled upon his communal contributions, of which he humbly calls a Taste of Guitar, a few months ago. Which in turn led me to TEDx. His vision is to create a forum for young musicians to showcase their talents. Beginning and advanced musicians must audition to perform, preferably solo, with several songs premiered. This free event brought together elder musicians in the area who provided sound equipment and mentorship. Also as part of the event was a guest artist, usually someone of stature and relevance in the music industry, who would play and teach. 


So I guess at this point you are trying to make sense of the Subject of this post, “1+1 can be”. Pell’s speech was called “Being Creative” and drew upon his/this recipe for creativity. As a teacher, he explains, his students today are only interested in mimicking   their musical idols. The creativity to create their own music seems..well distant, unobtainable. Its with this background that he created “1+1 can be”. The idea is simple, when you look at this (1+1) what do see? Do you see the number 2? Or do you see ||||, or 1 > 1 or 1 < 1. All at their root are 4 lines. Think about how many different patterns and variations there are with 4 lines. Its with this, he explains how every element, every song can be broken down into its core elements. Its from these elements, creativity is alive. 


All in all, if you looking to have your soul stirred in this soul stew we call life, TEDx fits the bill. But if you are looking to be more creative, then focus on all the wonderful ways 1+1 can be…