Failure Points in Storage Configurations: Common Problems and a Solution

Charles Macdonald EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 2010

Charles Macdonald Senior Technology Specialist TELUS charles.macdonald@telus.com

Table of Contents
Introduction ....................................................................................................................... 1 Components of the Storage Environment ......................................................................... 2 Roles and Responsibilities ............................................................................................ 2 Table 1 – Typical Roles in a Storage Environment ................................................... 4 I/O System Components ................................................................................................... 6 Physical Components of the I/O System: Hosts, Connectivity, and Storage ................ 6 Figure 1 – Hosts, Connectivity, and Storage ............................................................. 7 Hosts: Physical Components .................................................................................... 8 Figure 2 – Host Physical Components in the I/O Path .............................................. 9 Connectivity: Physical Components ........................................................................ 10 Figure 3 – FC Network Physical Components in the I/O Path ................................ 12 Storage: Physical Components ............................................................................... 13 Figure 4 – Storage Physical Components in the I/O Path ....................................... 14 Figure 5 – Physical Components in the I/O Path and Roles ................................... 16 Logical Components of the I/O System ....................................................................... 17 Hosts: Logical Components .................................................................................... 17 Figure 6 - Host Logical Components in the I/O Path ............................................... 20 Connectivity: Logical Components .......................................................................... 21 Storage: Logical Components ................................................................................. 21 Figure 7 – Storage Logical Components in the I/O Path ......................................... 24 Figure 8 – Logical Components in the I/O Path ...................................................... 25 Configurable Items in the Storage Environment ......................................................... 26 Figure 9 – I/O Path for Solaris 10 with Leadville and DMX ..................................... 31 Defining the Problem ................................................................................................... 33 Solving the Problem .................................................................................................... 33 Figure 11 – Configuration Management Goal ......................................................... 36 Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 37

Disclaimer: The views, processes or methodologies published in this compilation are those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect EMC Corporation’s views, processes, or methodologies

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Introduction
In large organizations, responsibility for configuring items between the application and the physical disks that may affect storage availability and performance often cross several functional groups, e.g., storage operations, systems administration, database administration, application support, and design/architecture. Configuration errors or omissions at any level can contribute to performance degradation or decreased availability. However, requirements are often not well understood by all the groups involved. This article offers a generalized overview of the path an I/O operation takes between the application and the storage to illustrate how the interaction of various configurable items provides optimal performance and availability.

This article will provide Storage Administrators with a common language for potential configuration issues with: • • • • • Other Systems Administrators Database Administrators Application Support Design/Architecture Managers responsible for technical groups

An understanding between management and the technical groups ensures that they all work collaboratively to deploy and maintain systems with appropriate configurations that meet performance and availability requirements.

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Components of the Storage Environment
A storage environment includes three categories of components: 1. Physical components of the I/O system 2. Logical components of the I/O system 3. Human actors

Physical components include servers, storage arrays, and connectivity devices. Logical components include databases, server operating systems, and storage system microcode. Human Actors, i.e., the people associated with the storage environment, include business users who create, view, and manipulate data within the storage environment, as well as anyone involved in the architecture, design, deployment, maintenance, and ongoing operation of the storage environment’s physical and logical components.

The purpose of a storage environment is to support business functions and objectives at the least possible cost. Business objectives that drive costs include not just the amount of primary data that must be stored, but also multipliers to the amount of data, such as the number of backups required, backup retention periods, archive retention, and disaster recovery requirements. Associated cost drivers include performance requirements for speed of access to the data, availability requirements that require redundancy, and sufficiency of systems to meet recovery time and recovery point objectives. The three components of a storage environment must be working in concert to fulfill this purpose.

Roles and Responsibilities
The Business User is the most important person within the storage environment. He/she is the reason for the existence of the storage environment. Others in the storage environment perform the tasks required to design, deploy, and operate the storage environment. These tasks are generally consistent regardless of the business setting, but the way that tasks are allocated in different organizations may be quite different. For example, the configuration of disk and file systems on a server may be a Systems Administrator function in one organization, but the responsibility of the Storage Administrator in another. Similarly, higher level functions, such as planning the

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the roles of the typical actors in a storage environment are summarized in Table 1. Insufficient collaboration. and communication are likely to increase the frequency of preventable business function disruptions by introducing failure points in the storage environment. as should methods of engagement and communication between the functional groups. Different structures may co-exist within silos in the same organization for a variety of reasons such as legacy structures inherited with the acquisition of other corporations. may be determined by a Design group in one organization. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 3 . The role descriptions use the term Service Level Agreement (SLA) that implies that some level of service has been well defined. they are not intended to define a standard that would be suitable for all organizations. Organizational roles and responsibilities should be well defined and well understood by all of the groups and individuals involved. or independent management structures in different functional business groups or branches of business. coordination. These definitions are for illustration only. That may not be true in many organizations.particulars of storage allocations. In this article. but reside within a Storage Operations group in another.

the desire “we want 100% uptime and never delete anything” usually does not become a requirement when the business is presented with a price tag to achieve it. configure.g. Architects create standards and blueprints for the technology that will be available within an organization. and disaster recovery strategies.Table 1 – Typical Roles in a Storage Environment Actor Role Business Users store. availability. Application Support Analysts deploy. data retention periods. including vendor selection. and manipulate data within the storage environment to carry out business functions. Designers produce designs within the constraints set by Architects on technology and standards. Business User requirements* provide the justification for the cost of deploying and maintaining a storage environment. Application Support Analysts maintain applications to meet defined SLAs.. recovery time objectives. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 4 . e. having broad impact on strategic technology decisions. and drive the creation of SLAs for items such as performance. Architects set general and specific technology directions at a high level. recovery point objectives. and manage applications. Designers create specific technology solutions for defined business requirements. including performance and availability requirements. retrieve. *Note: Business Users might not be very good at defining requirements.

configure. path management software. configure. configure. such as HBAs. and dedicated hardware that supports the application. Systems Administrators maintain the server environment to meet SLAs. including performance and availability requirements.Database Administrators deploy. Systems Administrators deploy. Systems Administrator responsibilities include configuring server components relating to storage. volume managers. in accordance with designs provided by Designers. Backup Administrators maintain the backup environment to meet SLAs. and manage server hardware and operating systems. such as tape libraries. Backup Administrators deploy. and manage storage arrays and dedicated storage networks. Storage Administrators deploy. including performance and availability requirements. including performance and availability requirements. in accordance with designs provided by Designers. including performance and availability requirements. and file systems. Storage Administrators maintain the storage arrays and networks to meet SLAs. such as Oracle ASM. configure. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 5 . and manage backup applications. in accordance with designs provided by Designers. and manage databases and database related software. Database Administrators maintain the database environment to meet SLAs.

and their relationships. or copper cables. and storage devices. In the case of networks. to large mid-range systems. Physical Components of the I/O System: Hosts. retrieve. and network attached storage. and may also refer to virtual hardware. optical disk drives. Hosts can be anything from a notebook PC. such as a VMware server. such as optical cables. but also provide a feature rich environment that mediates the access to disk. connectivity. The physical components of the storage environment are discussed in more detail in the following sections. such as magnetic tape. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 6 . and switches. and solid state disk drives. Below.I/O System Components The following sections provide a generic description of the I/O System in terms of physical components. routers. but the general discussion applies to other storage networks as well. for both block based storage on an FC SAN. This article is only concerned with intelligent storage arrays that do not merely provide access to disk. Hosts are the computers that run the applications that users interact with to store. and manipulate data. connectivity. logical components. it also includes hubs. Connectivity refers to the physical components that provide the medium for communication between hosts and storage. Connectivity. and Storage The physical components of a storage environment are segregated into host. Storage refers to any storage medium that is external to the host. Figure 1 illustrates the high level relationship between hosts. twisted pair cables. Most of the examples are for hosts attached to block storage over a fibre channel network. and storage.

Figure 1 – Hosts. and Storage 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 7 . Connectivity.

and I/O devices communicate within a computer over buses and bridges that form the internal connectivity. and mouse. and CD/DVD drives. e. and devices such as Network Interface Cards (NICs) and Host Bus Adapters (HBAs) that enable host to host or host to external storage communications.. Figure 2 is a high level diagram of the physical components within a host. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 8 . for a host with connectivity to block based storage via an FC SAN. and their I/O connections. and larger storage devices. tape drives.Hosts: Physical Components To illustrate data flow within a computer. The CPU. I/O Devices. Internal Storage. such as disk drives. RAM and ROM. internal storage. monitor. The CPU consists of the physical components that perform the instructions contained in the programs. The CPU also contains some amount of high speed storage (registers and cache) to facilitate CPU operations. I/O Devices include devices that handle user to host communications. the physical components can be generalized to the Central Processing Unit (CPU). such as the keyboard. Internal Storage consists of memory.g. Note that the host is depicted with two HBAs to provide physical redundancy for the I/O path to the storage. and Internal Connectivity.

Figure 2 – Host Physical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 9 .

but will also have a 50% reduction in theoretical bandwidth to the storage. The connectivity devices in FC networks can consist of routers. also called fabrics. This article will only consider two types of storage networks: IP networks and FC networks. Connectivity: Physical Components There are a variety of connectivity options to support various storage network protocols. provide connectivity between hosts and storage for block based I/O. so are not described in this article. particularly where the IP connectivity is not a dedicated storage network. File I/O protocols Network File System (NFS) and Common Internet File System (CIFS) that are used to access Network Attached Storage (NAS) devices are more widely used. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 10 . However. Additional HBAs may be required in the host to provide redundancy for performance if the potential performance degradation in this routine failure scenario is not acceptable to the business user. Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE). and may require redundancy to meet availability requirements.. FC networks. HBA optic failure. NFS. and not just downtime. for example. iSCSI.g. a host with two separate HBAs attached to a pair of redundant SAN fabrics. hubs. IP networks are generally well understood. FC switches are the prevalent interconnect device. so it is the only device considered here. Fibre Channel (FC). You must also consider exception scenarios when determining the necessary level of redundancy. such as Infiniband. or FCoE. switch port failure). and switches. it will still have access to disk in the case of a failure that interrupts the I/O path for one HBA (e. troubleshooting problems with NAS is often complicated by having an additional organizational unit involved (the IP Network Administrators) and a more complex topology. IP networks provide connectivity for host and storage for either block based or file based I/O. Block based I/O over IP networks use protocols such as iSCSI. If business functions are particularly sensitive to performance degradation.The physical components of the host must be sized appropriately for the expected workload. and CIFS. a generalized description of FC switches is given below.

rather than interrupting it. FC networks are typically deployed in pairs of redundant fabrics. which transmit and receive signals to and from the node (host. internal connectivity. fans. Figure 3 illustrates the components of a FC network. such as GBICs. Port to port communication in the switch takes place via a bus or backplane. so that a failure in one fabric degrades connectivity. and control processor (CP) units. which also allows provides the communication path for the controller units.FC switches consist of three key components: ports. Ports contain a transceiver (either a gigabit interface converter (GBIC). or switch) that is attached to the port. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 11 . but copper may be used in some circumstances. and power supplies. Cables used to connect nodes to the FC switch are generally fibre optic cables. or a small form-factor pluggable (SFP). Director class switches may also have hot swappable controller cards. FC switches generally include a number of hot swappable components. storage.

Figure 3 – FC Network Physical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 12 .

2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 13 . The back adapters connect to physical disks using SCSI or FC.e. During a power failure. Serial ATA (SATA). or Solid State Drives (SSD). as the storage array acknowledges the write I/O as committed when it is written to cache. Front adapters provide the interface between the hosts and the storage array. The physical disks in the storage array are persistent data stores. speeding up read I/O operations by facilitating some portion of the read I/O from the host perspective to be performed at cache rather than disk speeds. and physical disks. Different disk sizes may also reside within the same storage array. The back end consists of storage back adapters and their controllers. i. Cache increases the speed of write operations from a host perspective. data that is written to disk is not dependent on power to maintain its state.Storage: Physical Components The physical makeup of a storage array is described by grouping components into four broad categories: front end. Cache mirroring protects uncommitted writes from cache board failures. Read ahead algorithms attempt to prefetch data into cache before hosts request it. back end. The front end consists of the storage front adapters and their controllers. writes are duplicated on two separate cache boards. Figure 4 illustrates the physical components of a storage array. Cache consists of a number of cards of volatile memory that mediates the transfer of data between hosts and physical disks. One storage array may contain different types of disks. The back end controllers also contain some small amount of memory to help facilitate and optimize data transfer between the cache and the physical disks. either through direct connections. The internal connectivity in the storage array varies between storage vendors and models of arrays. Back adapters are configured to provide multiple paths to the disks. so the back adapters are not a single point of failure in the storage array. such as FC. cache. but all contain some type of redundancy. or a storage network. battery power dumps cache to vault disks. then writes it to disk or destages it later. I/O operations to cache are much faster than I/O operations to disk.

Figure 4 – Storage Physical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 14 .

2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 15 . and obvious failure points in the infrastructure are relatively easy to avoid if you take care to introduce architectural standards and solution designs that incorporate hardware redundancy. and identifies the actors that are responsible for tasks associated with the physical components. The greater danger lies in the configuration of the storage environment’s logical components. and operation of the physical infrastructure are generally easy to define. design.Figure 5 illustrates an end-to-end look at the physical components in the I/O path. The roles and responsibilities for architecture. such as dual HBAs and FC fabrics.

Figure 5 – Physical Components in the I/O Path and Roles 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 16 .

Hosts: Logical Components Operating Systems (OS) provide the logical container that the rest of the logical components on a host work within. The OS and drivers provide all of the basic services used for I/O on the host. and HPUX. The availability and performance of the storage environment is highly dependent on correctly configuring the logical components to work together. Linux. Device drivers may be embedded with the OS. connectivity. and the physical components on the host. depending on the OS and the specific hardware. but the physical divides are still a useful model for organizing the discussion of the logical components. such as HBAs. Some hardware devices. or may be installed separately. Examples of operating systems include Microsoft Windows. such as Solaris. The OS manages the interactions and interfaces between the users. Logical components may reach beyond the physical divides between hosts. the logical components. Device drivers interact with the programmed instructions called firmware or microcode that reside on the hardware devices. and the various flavours of UNIX. Device drivers enable the OS to communicate with specific hardware devices.Logical Components of the I/O System The logical components of the I/O system control user interactions with the physical components and interactions between the physical components and include: • • • • • • • • host applications databases host operating systems storage operating systems FC fabric operating systems logical volume managers file systems device drivers The logical components contain a large number of configurable items that multiply to create a vast number of configuration combinations. AIX. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 17 . and storage. support user microcode upgrades.

and mediate access to the disk. e. Devices are presented over multiple physical and logical paths to provide redundant access to storage.Multipath Managers provide a layer of virtualization above what the OS sees as physical disks. like Solaris MPxIO. Logical Volume Managers (LVM) provide a virtualization layer above what the OS sees as physical disks. or may be a third party product. Path managers recognize that the multiple paths point to a single storage device. and retrieval. such as AIX LVM and Windows Logical Disk Manager. Examples of application classes include word processors. HDS HDLM. ASM uses raw disk that does not pass through any other LVM or file system present on the host. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 18 . or may be provided by a third party. They contain the functionality and logic to allow users to perform groups of related tasks. These are then mapped to LVM extents if an LVM is present. and to increase throughput. which in the case of external storage are also a virtual entity. software RAID implementations. EMC Powerpath™.e. Multipath managers may be integrated in the OS. web browsers.. LVMs group a disk or disks into a volume group. such as Veritas Volume Manager. and video games. Oracle Automatic Storage Management (ASM) provides a file system and LVM-like functionality specifically for Oracle database applications. File Systems provide a method to store and organize data in collections of files. Other LVM functionality may include snapshots.g. storage. Applications and databases both rely on the file system to manage data storage and retrieval. and then to the OS disk physical extents. LVMs may be integrated with the OS. For example. i. the OS disk physical events are mapped to actual physical disks by the storage subsystem. The file system maps user data to logical units of storage called file system blocks. Logical volumes can be a partition. Database applications are specialized for organizing logically related data to facilitate data analysis. and the ability to move data around on physical disks without any disruption to data access. or may span multiple physical disks. Applications directly provide services to users. and then create logical volumes that are again presented to the OS as physical disks. a portion of a physical disk.. Oracle and Microsoft SQL are examples of database applications. From an OS perspective. or Veritas DMP. Applications reside in a logical layer above the file system. Multipath managers may also provide performance enhancement functionality by incorporating algorithms to spread I/O over multiple paths.

the logical path of an I/O passes through several layers. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 19 .Since the logical components in the I/O path are layered. • • • • • • • • I/O begins in the application/database layer is passed to the file system then the LVM then to the SCSI target drivers followed by the multipath driver then the SCSI command is encapsulated by the driver or drivers that handle the fibre channel protocol (FCP) then passes on to the HBA driver and out to the SAN This layering is depicted in Figure 6 below.

Figure 6 .Host Logical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 20 .

The microcode provides all of the FC services and management components such as command line interfaces (CLI). remote replication capabilities. application interfaces (API). 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 21 .Connectivity: Logical Components Logical components in the connectivity environment direct traffic between the source and destination devices on the network. often referred to as microcode. and simplifies management. Read hits decrease I/O response time by serving reads at cache rather than disk speeds. provides security by restricting communications between nodes. A zone set is a collection of zones that identifies which nodes are visible to each other on the fabric. and alerting via Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP). Zoning decreases interference between nodes that do not need to communicate with each other. For FC fabrics. Storage: Logical Components The storage array operating system. logical device snapshots. FC switches run their own operating systems that are also referred to as microcode. and read ahead algorithms that recognize sequential read I/O. These include command queuing that optimizes I/O by re-ordering commands to reduce seek time and rotational latency on the physical disks. This article does not provide a detailed discussion of the I/O path within the FC fabric. as the logical configuration of FC switches is generally not the source of many systemic problems in the storage environment. web interfaces. then pre-fetch data from disk to cache in anticipation of a host request to increase read hits. the principal logical component of interest from a configuration perspective is FC zoning that restricts communications between the nodes that are logged into the FC fabric. The storage operating systems also manage performance optimization algorithms. and external storage virtualization. may contain a wide range of features including support for multiple RAID levels. logical device cloning.

LUN security. commonly referred to as LUNs. a delayed fast write has occurred. As discussed above. or a cache limit has been reached for the logical device. This slows down the write response time for the host. and describes the majority of write I/O. allow the storage administrator to set write aside limits that direct large I/Os directly to disk. The precise path an I/O takes through the storage array varies somewhat depending whether the I/O is a write or a read. allows multiple hosts to access LUNs through shared front end ports on the storage array without seeing LUNs that belong to other hosts. and then committing the data to disk later. such as the EMC CLARiiON®. This is called a write hit. also known as LUN masking. such as cache failure. read-ahead algorithms increase the number of read hits by prefetching data to cache in anticipation of host requests. The storage array must adapt its SCSI emulation to accommodate variations in host operating system requirements. and on its interaction with the cache. or to scenarios where data is being written directly to disk for reasons other than write aside. Some storage arrays. so have a significantly lower response time to the host than read misses. Read hits service I/O at cache speeds. A read miss occurs when a read request has to wait for data to be read from the physical disks before it can be returned to the host. but prevents large I/Os from consuming too much cache. As mentioned earlier. which service I/O at disk speeds.Storage arrays partition physical disks into logical devices (ldevs) that are then presented to hosts as SCSI target devices. Read hits occur when a read I/O is serviced from data already resident in cache. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 22 . Active/passive arrays also need to accommodate different behaviours for the various host multipath manager solutions. The term write miss may also be applied to delayed fast writes. storage arrays increase write performance by acknowledging write I/O to the host once data has been written to mirrored cache. If a write I/O is forced to wait for a cache slot to become free because the cache is globally stressed.

as illustrated in Figure 7. and then the front end controller creates a SCSI write acknowledgement. then the original write is never committed to disk. the I/O passes through layers that deal with FCP. if a host overwrites the data while it still resides in cache (a write cache rehit). The I/O is written to mirrored cache. Later.The sequence of events for a write hit on the storage array begins with FC frames being received on the front end ports. then SCSI. then map logical devices to physical devices. which then commit the data to disk. From a logical perspective. Note that not all writes are necessarily committed to disk. the data is destaged from cache to the back end controllers. and sends it to the host via the front end port. after which the SCSI payload is extracted by the front end controllers. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 23 . then service the I/O to/from the physical devices. encapsulates it in an FC frame.

Figure 7 – Storage Logical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 24 .

Figure 8 – Logical Components in the I/O Path 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 25 .

and the loss of a disk within a RAID group causes an increase in disk activity when the RAID group rebuilds to a new disk or a hot spare. the loss of one of two paths as the result of a switch port failure decreases theoretical throughput by 50%. Common failures and events that should not cause disruption to service include: • • • • • • Single disk failure within a RAID group HBA failure in a multipath environment Switch or switch port failure in a multipath environment Storage port failure in a multipath environment Redundant power supply failure on a storage array LUN trespassing in active/passive storage arrays Some of the above may cause performance degradation in busy systems. Storage environments should be able to withstand many types of physical failures and brief connectivity interruptions without causing significant disruption to applications and databases.Configurable Items in the Storage Environment The logical layers in the storage environment have configurable components that affect performance and availability. Correct configurations require end-to-end compatibility for the configuration of the logical components. that end-to-end view can be difficult to accomplish as the various actors often do not understand the end-to-end configuration requirements. Incorrect configurations at any level can defeat physical and logical designs for high availability. For example. concealing issues that will only become apparent when an exception scenario occurs with the storage environment. Common maintenance and deployment activities that should not cause disruption to service include: • • • • • Activating zone sets on the SAN fabric Creating LUNs on storage arrays Allocating LUNs to hosts Microcode upgrades on switches Microcode upgrades on storage arrays 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 26 . Most default configurations will work when deployed. However.

g.g. HBA registration on CX) Storage Administrators face greater challenges with configuration for performance considerations. SATA.. From an availability perspective. RAID 10) Disk tier (e.. e. 15000 RPM vs. FC vs. a CLARiiON microcode upgrades requires the service processors (SP) to reboot. concatenated) Fabric Zoning Storage Administrator activities that are not OS agnostic are due to OS variations in SCSI implementation and fail over requirements. striped vs...g. Volume Set Addressing for HPUX) SCSI emulation and failover configurations (e.g. RAID 5 vs..Some of these activities may cause some performance degradation in busy systems. with only minor variations in configuration to suit the OS of the attached host. the following Storage Administrator activities are OS agnostic: • • • • LUN masking (unless LUN masking also includes SCSI emulation) LUN creation MetaLUN configuration (e. They affect decisions about items such as: • • • • RAID type (e. This affects activities like: • • SCSI LUN numbering (e. resulting in many multipath events on connected hosts as LUNs trespass back and forth between the two SP. concatenated) Fan out ratios 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 27 .g. port flag settings on DMX. storage administrators’ tasks are fairly straightforward. For example. Additional care needs to be taken with active/passive storage arrays such as the EMC CLARiiON if the activity requires a controller failover.. SSD vs. 10000 RPM) MetaLUN configuration (striped vs.g.

then uploads the compressed output file to the HEAT website. The System Administrator runs a data collection tool to capture the configuration of a host (EMCGrab for UNIX. there are multiple mechanisms for retrying failed I/O operations. native multipath vs. Storage vendors provide guidance on host configurations that have been tested for availability. Database Administrators. and timeout settings for reporting I/O operation failures up to the next logical layer.g. and driver patches and upgrades.. EMCReports for Windows). for both logical and physical components. EMC also provides the web-based Host Environment Analysis Tool (HEAT) to assist Systems Administrators to validate the configuration of hosts that are attached to EMC Symmetrix® or CLARiiON arrays via FC. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 28 . These documents are updated regularly to cover new products. Several examples of failures due to configuration or compatibility issues are discussed below. Detailed connectivity guides for a particular OS and storage vendor combination is usually available from the storage vendor. VxFS. As a result.Most storage availability issues related to configuration reside in the logical components at the host level. due to a number of factors: • • • the large number of configurable items the large number of product choices available at the various logical levels (e. VxDMP) the responsibility for configurable items affecting availability and performance resides in different functional groups (e. and are suitable general performance requirements. This guidance widely comes in the form of an interoperability matrix that contains information on a wide range of host-connectivity-storage combinations. and include required OS. and Application Support Analysts). Systems Administrators.g. These detailed guides provide an in-depth look at configuration options. and provides a report on the configuration highlighting any discovered deficiencies. and may include guidelines for parameter tuning beyond the guidelines published in the interoperability matrix. Incompatible configurations between the layers can lead to service disruptions if any layer is not able to appropriately handle I/O operation exceptions. Each logical layer of the I/O path has some mechanism for dealing with imperfect I/O operations.. ZFS vs. HEAT then compares the host configuration against the current interoperability matrix. EMC PowerPath® vs. microcode.

Database Administrators have taken on some additional configuration responsibilities..There must be some mechanism at the application level to deal with I/O interruptions that are considered to be normal operations in the storage environment. even though NFS on the host recovers gracefully. DBAs can make many configuration changes that affect performance. or storage array microcode upgrades. WebLogic 8. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 29 . as a result. For example. For example. Whether or not there is a configurable item at the application layer depends on the application. They are often thought to be only related to performance. when applications are introduced that are not able to tolerate normal operations in the storage environment. as they now have more control over the configuration of logical devices on the host. Systems Administrator. For example. For example. poor communication between the DBA. SATAII) being added to the same ASM disk group. but they can also impact availability. adding new devices into an ASM disk group triggers a rebalancing operation that can have a significant performance impact.1 JMS queues have internal timers that may cause JMS to shut down if I/O hangs during the ‘non-disruptive’ failover of the NAS head during a microcode upgrade. so in some cases problems are introduced at the design stage.g. and Storage Administrator could lead to devices with dissimilar performance characteristics (e. This causes ASM to take disk groups offline. Host SCSI queue depth settings that control the maximum number of outstanding SCSI commands can be queued against a device. switch microcode upgrades. inappropriately high queue depth settings can lead to unusually high I/O response times on a busy storage array. which can trigger write timeout values within Oracle ASM. failing to set the ssd:ssd_io_time on a Solaris 10 host running the Leadville stack can cause the host to panic or offline all disk during regular SAN events such as LUN trespasses. but queue depth can also be implicated in availability. DBAs also choose how to allocate raw devices into the ASM disk groups. FC vs. Path management software may require SCSI target driver timeout settings that are different than the OS default settings. With Oracle ASM.

Figure 9 relates the generic logical layers presented in this article to a specific configuration example: a Solaris 10 host using the Leadville stack. again leading to potential availability issues for common SAN events. affecting items such as the number of I/O retries at the FC frame level. mapped to the actor in the organization most likely to perform the configuration. Also included are some comments about configurable items at each logical layer. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 30 . Storage vendor qualified HBA drivers and firmware may contain default settings that are different from the OEM installation.FC protocol parameter tuning may also be recommended on some systems. or the length of time the HBA waits before it takes a port offline due to loss of light. attached via dual FC fabrics to an EMC DMX class array.

Figure 9 – I/O Path for Solaris 10 with Leadville and DMX HOST Solaris 10 – Leadville I/O timeout I/O size Block size Configurable Items Applications Databases Application Oracle 10g File System Oracle Automatic Storage Management (ASM)* ZFS ASM Logical Volume Manager (LVM) * if present zpools RAID Striping Cache Quotas Snapshots Clones Block size Compression Diskgroups External Redundancy Allocation Unit Size Striping Stripe size SCSI target drivers ssd /etc/system entries: I/O timeout: ssd_io_time Queue Depth: ssd_max_throttle SCSI retry: ssd ua retry count /kernel/drv/fp.conf /kernel/drv/mpt.conf entries: Fail port: fp_offline_ticker FC Frame reties: fp_retry_count HBA drivers emlxs HBA HBA 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 31 .conf Multipath drivers scsi_vhci (mpxio) fcp FC protocol drivers fp /etc/system entries: Automatic LUN discovery: fcp:ssfcp_enble_auto_configuration Fail port: fp_offline_ticker FC Frame reties: fp retry count /kernel/drv/emlxs.

Share Nothing Hot Spares RAID RAID 5 (7+1) Disk Controllers Port Port D i s k 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 32 . speed. size) RAID level Share Everything.CONNECTIVITY Port Port FC Zoning FC Zoning Single initiator zoning Single initiator zoning Zoning Port speed Port Port Port STORAGE Port Port Flag settings: Common Serial Number Disable Queue Reset on Unit Attention Fan Out ratios SCSI LUN numbers FC Protocol Fibre and SCSI Port Flag Settings SCSI Emulation LUN mapping LUN Security LUN masking LUN masking MetaDevice striping/concatenation Logical Devices MetaDevices Cache Cache Disk Tier (disk type.

In other cases. performance. It is easy to imagine nightmarish storage scenarios. As a corollary to the above. Each of these processes needs to be tied to a rigorous configuration management discipline to maintain a storage environment that approaches optimal performance and availability within the constraints of the environment’s physical capabilities. Configuration management begins with identifying the components in the storage environment. it follows that: Most storage related failures are preventable. The configuration management discipline should also contain processes that control the 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 33 . The purpose of configuration management is to identify and track the characteristics of the physical and logical components. most storage related problems occur because people associated with the storage environment deploy flawed configurations that appear to be healthy. or disk discovery. and capacity management processes. but may not withstand storage environment exception scenarios. or failure to maintain the environment by pro-actively applying patches and upgrades.Defining the Problem On occasion. it is safe to state: Most storage related failures are directly attributable to improper configurations either as the result of initial deployment errors. As a general statement. Configuration changes resulting from new deployments into the environment. such as microcode upgrades and redundant hardware failures. storage goes awry. Often. Solving the Problem Configuration of a storage environment is an iterative process. with the amount of detail necessary to support decision making regarding the potential impact configuration changes may have within the storage environment. incorrect configurations may manifest as problems on a future reboot. and sustainment activities arising from problem. all you have to do is flip through the “Fixed Problems” section of the microcode patches you haven’t applied yet to get some ideas. However. this information will be recorded in a database referred to as the configuration management database (CMDB).

. A successful configuration management implementation must define.. new driver versions. This higher level information will increase compliance by providing 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 34 . as it must capture new technologies as they are introduced. etc. servers. place controls on changes to the configuration). and. provide the ability to report on the configuration. a reference to the vendor documentation that specifies the setting. and require configuration audits. while others may choose to create a committee containing representation from several organizational groups. In any case. Configuration management processes should be deeply integrated with problem management and change management processes. if appropriate. and fixes and releases for existing components (e. deployment. and must be effectively integrated into their deployment and maintenance procedures. may be impacted by a planned configuration change? What business services. Documentation of the standards should include a description of the functionality of each configuration item. etc. and will assist in providing answers to questions such as: • • What business services.e. what servers are connected to a failed switch. applications. or what servers require proactive maintenance to apply an OS patch?) • What configuration changes were introduced in the storage environment that may be linked to the introduction of a current problem? Configuration management in the storage environment is complicated by the number of organizational teams that may be involved in the design.g. may be impacted by a problem that has been identified? (e. OS and microcode patches). servers. Some organizations may choose to create a separate organizational unit for configuration management. and standardize the configuration requirements for all of the logical components in the I/O path. This will be an ongoing process.. databases. and maintenance of the configurable items in the I/O path. as well as the reason for the particular value it should be set to. record. configuration standards must be effectively communicated to the operational groups that apply the configurations. Each of the affected organizational groups should have a highly skilled resource involved in the configuration management process since the establishment of deployment standards requires specialized knowledge within each logical layer of the storage environment.g.configuration (i. applications. databases.

operational staff with a context for configuration decisions. and generally increases their level of awareness and comfort with the storage environment. Audits should be conducted for each deployment. Audit configurations to ensure that they comply with the defined configuration standards. Figure 11 illustrates the desired outcome of implementing a configuration management process for the storage environment. which can be useful as an organizational performance metric. and also periodically to measure the degree of compliance with configuration standards and uncover any latent threats. periodic audits can be limited to some representative subset of the environment to allow the overall compliance of the storage environment to be extrapolated. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 35 . In large environments. or as part of a continuous improvement process. Audits also allow compliance with configuration standards to be measured and rated.

Figure 11 – Configuration Management Goal 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 36 .

Conclusion The purpose of a storage environment is to support business functions and objectives at the least possible cost. As well as tracking the status of all of the configurations within the storage environment. To be successful. this declining skill set presents challenges in maintaining the health of the storage environment. physical. the logical. with causes that are directly attributable to improper configurations or poor maintenance practices. As the storage environment grows larger. As a result. To fulfill this purpose. due to a number of factors. storage related skills within the Systems Administrator groups are likely to decline over time. the configuration 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 37 . such as: • • • The large number of configurable items at the host level The large number of product choices available The responsibility for configurable items resides in several different functional groups When an organization first deploys a storage environment. Configuration and maintenance issues at the Systems Administrator level can compound very quickly. the Storage Administrator and the Systems Administrator roles are likely to reside within the same functional group. We can reduce storage related failures by implementing a rigorous configuration management discipline. the configuration management processes must include representation from all of the functional groups involved in configuring the I/O path. Since Systems Administrators are responsible for a large number of configurable items related to storage. storage configurations often fail. However. as new Systems Administrators have generally had very limited exposure to external storage. most storage related failures are preventable. these roles are often separated into different functional groups. and human components of a storage environment must be working in concert. and be integrated into their documentation and procedures. Thus. Most storage configuration issues occur in the logical components at the host level. or if server configurations and patch levels delay or prevent microcode upgrades being deployed on storage arrays and switches. such as when configuration errors are embedded in deployment tools.

. and NAS is manageable. Configuration management faces fewer challenges if the number of unique configurations can be reduced by: • Limiting the number of manual tasks in server deployments by using standard images during deployment and tools such as Jumpstart for Solaris. In general.management process must include regular audit procedures to provide a measurable verification of the level of compliance to standards. but having two vendors for modular storage increases complexity unnecessarily. storage vendors are strongly motivated to help keep your storage environment healthy. modular arrays. Kickstart for Red Hat Linux. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 38 . i. • Decreasing SAN complexity by limiting the number of storage vendors within the same class of storage. having different vendors for monolithic arrays.e. Their expertise and experience in other customer sites should be leveraged when establishing a configuration management process and in its ongoing maintenance. EMC also provides tools that allow Systems Administrators to quickly check a host configuration against the current EMC support matrix. or NIM for AIX. Storage vendors provide guidance on host configurations that have been tested for availability and are suitable general performance requirements.

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