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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particulars of storage allocations. In this article. That may not be true in many organizations. coordination. Insufficient collaboration. 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. but reside within a Storage Operations group in another. they are not intended to define a standard that would be suitable for all organizations. as should methods of engagement and communication between the functional groups. and communication are likely to increase the frequency of preventable business function disruptions by introducing failure points in the storage environment. may be determined by a Design group in one organization. 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. 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. These definitions are for illustration only. the roles of the typical actors in a storage environment are summarized in Table 1.

Application Support Analysts maintain applications to meet defined SLAs. data retention periods. including vendor selection. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 4 . and disaster recovery strategies. 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. Designers create specific technology solutions for defined business requirements. *Note: Business Users might not be very good at defining requirements. Designers produce designs within the constraints set by Architects on technology and standards. and manipulate data within the storage environment to carry out business functions. availability. including performance and availability requirements.g. recovery point objectives. configure. and manage applications. Architects set general and specific technology directions at a high level.Table 1 – Typical Roles in a Storage Environment Actor Role Business Users store. Business User requirements* provide the justification for the cost of deploying and maintaining a storage environment. and drive the creation of SLAs for items such as performance. having broad impact on strategic technology decisions.. e. recovery time objectives. Architects create standards and blueprints for the technology that will be available within an organization. Application Support Analysts deploy. retrieve.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 15 . The greater danger lies in the configuration of the storage environment’s logical components.Figure 5 illustrates an end-to-end look at the physical components in the I/O path. such as dual HBAs and FC fabrics. 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. design. The roles and responsibilities for architecture. and identifies the actors that are responsible for tasks associated with the physical components. and operation of the physical infrastructure are generally easy to define.

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

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

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

2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 19 . • • • • • • • • 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. the logical path of an I/O passes through several layers.Since the logical components in the I/O path are layered.

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

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

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

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

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 .

the loss of one of two paths as the result of a switch port failure decreases theoretical throughput by 50%. Most default configurations will work when deployed. concealing issues that will only become apparent when an exception scenario occurs with the storage environment. 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. 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. Correct configurations require end-to-end compatibility for the configuration of the logical components. For example. 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 . However. Incorrect configurations at any level can defeat physical and logical designs for high availability. that end-to-end view can be difficult to accomplish as the various actors often do not understand the end-to-end configuration requirements. 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.

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

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

Whether or not there is a configurable item at the application layer depends on the application. For example. but queue depth can also be implicated in availability. Database Administrators have taken on some additional configuration responsibilities. Host SCSI queue depth settings that control the maximum number of outstanding SCSI commands can be queued against a device. This causes ASM to take disk groups offline. or storage array microcode upgrades. DBAs also choose how to allocate raw devices into the ASM disk groups. With Oracle ASM. switch microcode upgrades. which can trigger write timeout values within Oracle ASM. 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 29 . even though NFS on the host recovers gracefully. poor communication between the DBA. For example. as a result. For example. They are often thought to be only related to performance. adding new devices into an ASM disk group triggers a rebalancing operation that can have a significant performance impact. For example. inappropriately high queue depth settings can lead to unusually high I/O response times on a busy storage array.g.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. 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. SATAII) being added to the same ASM disk group. WebLogic 8. so in some cases problems are introduced at the design stage. Path management software may require SCSI target driver timeout settings that are different than the OS default settings.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. Systems Administrator. 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.. DBAs can make many configuration changes that affect performance. FC vs. and Storage Administrator could lead to devices with dissimilar performance characteristics (e. but they can also impact availability.

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

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.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 .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.

size) RAID level Share Everything. Share Nothing Hot Spares RAID RAID 5 (7+1) Disk Controllers Port Port D i s k 2010 EMC Proven Professional Knowledge Sharing 32 .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. speed.

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

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

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

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

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

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