Tag: CSV

Windows Server

Configure CSV Cache in Windows Server 2012 R2

In Windows Server 2012 Microsoft introduced CSV Cache for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V and Scale-Out File Server Clusters. The CSV Block Cache is basically a RAM cache which allows you to cache read IOPS in the Memory of the Hyper-V or the Scale-Out File Server Cluster nodes. In Windows Server 2012 you had to set the CSV Block Cache and enable it on every CSV volume. In Windows Server 2012 R2 CSV Block cache is by default enabled for every CSV volume but the size of the CSV Cache is set to zero, which means the only thing you have to do is to set the size of the cache.

Microsoft recommends using 512MB as cache on a Hyper-V host. On a Scale-Out File Server node, things are a little bit different. In Windows Server 2012 Microsoft allowed you to use a cache size up to 20% of the server, in Windows Server 2012 R2 Microsoft changed this, so you can now finally use up to 80% of the RAM of a Scale-Out File Server but with a maximum of 64GB.

Back in the days of Windows Server 2012 I made a little benchmark of CSV Cache on my Hyper-V hosts.



Windows Server 2012 R2 Private CLoud Storage and Virtualization

Windows Server 2012 R2 Private Cloud Virtualization and Storage Poster and Mini-Posters

Yesterday Microsoft released the Windows Server 2012 R2 Private Cloud Virtualization and Storage Poster and Mini-Posters. This includes overviews over Hyper-V, Failover Clustering, Scale-Out File Server, Storage Spaces and much more. These posters provide a visual reference for understanding key private cloud storage and virtualization technologies in Windows Server 2012 R2. They focus on understanding storage architecture, virtual hard disks, cluster shared volumes, scale-out file servers, storage spaces, data deduplication, Hyper-V, Failover Clustering, and virtual hard disk sharing.

Bedsides the overview poster, Microsoft Includes the following Mini-Posters:

  • Virtual Hard Disk and Cluster Shared Volumes Mini Poster
  • Virtual Hard Disk Sharing Mini Poster
  • Understanding Storage Architecture Mini Poster
  • Storage Spaces and Deduplication Mini Poster
  • Scale-Out and SMB Mini Poster
  • Hyper-V and Failover Clustering Mini Poster

You can get the posters from the Microsoft download page.



SMB Scale-Out File Server

Hyper-V over SMB: Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces

On some community pages my blog post started some discussions why you should use SMB 3.0 and why you should use Windows Server as a storage solution. Let me be clear here, you don’t need Windows Server as a storage to make use of the Hyper-V over SMB 3.0 scenario, you can use storage form vendors like NetApp or EMC as well. But in my opinion you can get a huge benefit by using Windows Server in different scenarios.

  • First you can use Windows Server together with Storage Spaces, which will offer you a really great enterprise and scalable storage solution for low cost.
  • Second you can use Windows Server to mask your existing Storage, by building a layer between the Hyper-V hosts and your storage. So you easily extend your storage even with other vendors.

At the moment there are not a lot of vendors out there which offer SMB 3.0 in there storage solution. EMC was one of the first supporting SMB 3.0 and with ONTAP 8.2 Netapp is now supporting SMB 3.0 as well. But if you want to build a SMB layer for a storage which does not support SMB 3.0. to mask your storage so you can mix it with different vendors or using it with Windows Server 2012 Storage Spaces, the solution would be the Scale-Out File Server cluster. Microsoft offers file server cluster for a while now, but since this was an active/passive cluster, this was not really a great solution of a Hyper-V storage environment (even if a lot of small iSCSI storage boxes are active/passive as well).

Basically what the Scale-Out File Server let you do it so cluster up to 10 file servers which all will share CSVs (Cluster Shared Volumes) like you know from Hyper-V hosts and present SMB shares which are created on the CSV volumes. And the great thing about that, every node can offers the same share this will be a active/active solution up to 8 nodes. Together with SMB Transparent Failover the Hyper-V host does not really get any storage downtime if on of the SOFS nodes fails.

SMB Scale-Out File Server

For the storage guys out there think about the cluster nodes as your storage controllers. Most of the time you will have 2 controllers for fail-over and a little bit of manual load balancing where one LUN is offered by controller 1 and the other LUN is offered by controller 2. With the Scale-Out File Server you don’t really have that problem since the SMB share is offered on all hosts at the same time and up to 8 “controllers”. With Windows Server 2012 one Hyper-V host connected to one of the SOFS nodes and used multiple paths to this node by using SMB Multichannel, the other Hyper-V host connected automatically to the second SOFS node so both nodes are active at the same time. In case on of the SOFS nodes dies, the Hyper-V host fails over to the other SOFS node without any downtime for the Hyper-V Virtual Machines.

In Windows Server 2012 R2, Microsoft worked really hard to make this scenario even better. In Windows Server 2012 R2 a Hyper-V host can be connected to multiple SOFS node at the same time. Which means that VM1 and VM2 running on the same Hyper-V hosts can be offered by two different SOFS nodes.

Advantages of the Scale-Out File Server

  • Mask your storage and use different vendors
  • Scale up to 8 nodes (controllers)
  • Active/Active configuration
  • Transparent Failover
  • Supporting features like SMB Multichannel and SMB Direct
  • Easy entry point with SMB shares
  • Easy configuration, Hyper-V host and Cluster objects need access on the shares
  • Same Windows Server Failover Cluster Technology with the same management tools

Storage Spaces

As already mentioned you can use your already existing storage appliance as storage for your Scale-Out File Server CSVs or you could use Windows Server Storage Spaces which allow you to build great storage solution for a lot less money. Again, the Scale-Out File Server Cluster and Windows Server Storage Spaces are two separate things you don’t need a SOFS cluster for Storage Spaces and you don’t need Storage Spaces for a SOFS cluster, but of course both solutions work absolutely great together.

Windows Server Storage Spaces vs Traditional Storage

Microsoft first released there Software Defined Storage solution called Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 and this allows you basically to build your own storage solution based on a simple JBOD hardware solution. Storage spaces is a really cost-effective storage solution which allows companies to save up to 75% of storage costs in compare to traditional SAN storage.  It allows you to pool disks connected via SAS  (in Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 USB works as well for home users) and create different Virtual Disks (not VHDs) on these Storage Pools. The Virtual Disks, also called Storage Spaces, can have different resiliency levels like Simple, Mirror or Parity and you can also create multiple disks on one storage pool and even use thing provisioning. This sounds a lot like a traditional storage appliance right? True, this is not something totally different, this is something storage vendors do for a long time. But of course you pay a lot of money for this blackbox the storage vendors offer you. With Windows Server Storage Spaces Microsoft allows you to build our “own storage” on commodity hardware which will save you a lot of money.

Storage Space

This is not only just an “usable solution” this solution comes with some high-end storage features, which make the Storage Spaces and Windows File Server a perfect storage at low cost.

  • Windows Server Storage Spaces let you use cheap hardware
  • Offers you different types of resiliency, like Simple (Stripe), Mirror or Parity (also 3-way Mirror and Parity)
  • Offers you thin-provisioning
  • Windows Server File Server allows you to share the Storage via SMB, iSCSI or NFS.
  • Read-Cache – Windows Server CSV Cache offers you Memory based Read-Cache (up to 80% in Windows Server 2012 R2)
  • Continuous availability – Storage Pools and Disks can be clustered with the Microsoft Failover Cluster so if one server goes down the virtual disks and file shares are still available.
  • SMB copy offload – Offloading copy actions to the storage.
  • Snapshots – Create Snapshots and  clone virtual disks on a storage pool.
  • Flexible resiliency options – In Windows Server 2012 you could create a Mirror Spaces with a two-way or three-way mirror, a Parity Space with a single parity and a Simple Space with no data resiliency. New in R2 parity spaces can now be used in clustered pools and there is also a new dual parity option. (enhanced in 2012 R2)
  • Enhanced Rebuilding – Speed of rebuilding of failed disks is enhanced. (enhanced in 2012 R2)
  • Storage Tiering – Windows Server 2012 R2 allows you to use different kind of disks and automatically moves “hot-data” from SAS disks to fast SSD storage. (new in 2012 R2)
  • Write-Back Cache – This feature allows data to be written to SSD first and moves later to the slower SAS tier. (new in 2012 R2)
  • Data Deduplication – Data Deduplication was already included in Windows Server 2012 but it is enhanced in Windows Server 2012 R2, and allows you to use it together with Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and supports VDI virtual machines. (enhanced in 2012 R2)

You can get more information about Storage Spaces in Windows Server 2012 R2 in my blog post: What’s new in Windows Server 2012 R2 Storage Spaces

Combine Windows Server Storage Spaces and the Scale-Out File Server Cluster

As mentioned both of this techologies do not require each other, but if you combine them you get a really great solution. You can build your own storage based on Windows Server, which not only allows you to share storage via SMB 3,0 it also allows you to share storage via NFS or iSCSI.

Windows Server 2012 Storage Spaces and File Server

A lot of concerns I have heard, was about scale of Storage Spaces. But as I can see scale is absolutely no problem for Windows Server Storage Spaces.  First of all you can build up to 8 nodes in a single cluster which basically would mean you create a 8 node active/active solution. With SMB Multichannel you can use multiple NICs for example 10GbE, infiniband, or even faster network adapters. You can also make use of RDMA which brings latency down to a minimum.

Scale Windows Server Storage SpacesTo scale this even bigger you can go to way, you could setup a new Scale-Out File Server Cluster and create new file shares where virtual machines can be placed. Or you could extend the existing cluster with more servers and more shared SAS disks chassis which don’t have to be connected to the existing servers. This is possible because of  features like CSV Redirected mode hosts can access disks from other hosts even if they are not connected directly via SAS, instead the node is using the Ethernet connection between the hosts.

Scale Windows Server Storage Spaces 2

New features and enhancements in Windows Server 2012 R2 and System Center 2012 R2

With the 2012 R2 releases of Windows Server and System Center Microsoft made some great enhancements to Storage Spaces, Scale-Out File Server, SMB, Hyper-V and System Center. So if you have the chance to work with R2 make sure you check the following:

  • Flexible resiliency options – In Windows Server 2012 you could create a Mirror Spaces with a two-way or three-way mirror, a Parity Space with a single parity and a Simple Space with no data resiliency. New in R2 parity spaces can now be used in clustered pools and there is also a new dual parity option. (enhanced in 2012 R2)
  • Enhanced Rebuilding – Speed of rebuilding of failed disks is enhanced. (enhanced in 2012 R2)
  • Storage Tiering – Windows Server 2012 R2 allows you to use different kind of disks and automatically moves “hot-data” from SAS disks to fast SSD storage. (new in 2012 R2)
  • Write-Back Cache – This feature allows data to be written to SSD first and moves later to the slower SAS tier. (new in 2012 R2)
  • Data Deduplication – Data Deduplication was already included in Windows Server 2012 but it is enhanced in Windows Server 2012 R2, and allows you to use it together with Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV) and supports VDI virtual machines. (enhanced in 2012 R2)
  • Read-Cache – Windows Server CSV Cache offers you Memory based Read-Cache (up to 80% in Windows Server 2012 R2)
  • Management – Management of Hyper-V and Scale-Out File Servers as well as Storage Spaces right in System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager.
  • Deployment – Deploy new Scale-Out File Server Clusters with and without Storage Spaces directly from System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager via Bare-Metal Deployment.
  • Rebalancing of Scale-Out File Server clients – SMB client connections are tracked per file share (instead of per server), and clients are then redirected to the cluster node with the best access to the volume used by the file share. This improves efficiency by reducing redirection traffic between file server nodes.
  • Improved performance of SMB Direct (SMB over RDMA) – Improves performance for small I/O workloads by increasing efficiency when hosting workloads with small I/Os.
  • SMB event messages -SMB events now contain more detailed and helpful information. This makes troubleshooting easier and reduces the need to capture network traces or enable more detailed diagnostic event logging.
  • Shared VHDX files – Simplifies the creation of guest clusters by using shared VHDX files for shared storage inside the virtual machines.. This also masks the storage for customers if you are a service provider.
  • Hyper-V Live Migration over SMB – Enables you to perform a live migration of virtual machines by using SMB 3.0 as a transport. This allows you to take advantage of key SMB features, such as SMB Direct and SMB Multichannel, by providing high speed migration with low CPU utilization.
  • SMB bandwidth management – Enables you to configure SMB bandwidth limits to control different SMB traffic types. There are three SMB traffic types: default, live migration, and virtual machine.
  • Multiple SMB instances on a Scale-Out File Server – Provides an additional instance on each cluster node in Scale-Out File Servers specifically for CSV traffic. A default instance can handle incoming traffic from SMB clients that are accessing regular file shares, while another instance only handles inter-node CSV traffic.

(Source: TechNet: What’s New for SMB in Windows Server 2012 R2)

I hope I could help with this blog post to understand a little bit more about the Scale-Out File Server and Storage Spaces, and how you can create a great storage solution for your cloud Environment.

Btw the pictures and information are taken from people like Bryan Matthew (Microsoft), Jose Barreto (Microsoft) and Jeff Woolsey (Microsoft).

 

 



Altaro launching Hyper-V Backup 3.5 Beta with Windows Server 2012 support

Altaro Logo

 

Today Altaro is launching the public beta of Altaro Hyper-V Backup 3.5 with a contest where you can win a free Nexus 7 tablets. Altaro Hyper-V Backup is a powerful Hyper-V aware backup solution that easily backs up Microsoft Hyper-V Virtual Machines. With the next version Altaro will start supporting Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V.

I had the chance to already test the new Hyper-V Backup 3.5 beta, and if you are interested in a simple and fast Hyper-V backup solution, you should definitely have a look at Altaro solution.

altaro hyper-v backup

First of all Altro Hyper-V Backup is very easy to setup. The installation takes about 2 minutes, the installer need to be run on the Hyper-V server or one of the cluster hosts. The installer does automatically detect cluster installations.

Altaro Hyper-V Backup Cluster Installation

After the installation you have to do some very simple configuration steps. First you have to add a backup destination, this can be a folder on a local drive, a USB drive or a network share. Next you have to select which Virtual Machines should be protected by Altaro Hyper-V Backup and the last one is to configure the backup schedule for the Virtual Machines. And yes that’s how simple this solution is.

I did some test backup of virtual machines which I use in my lab and I was really surprise by the performance. One of my test Virtual Machines was a Windows Server 2012 server hosted on a Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V hosts and the size was something like 8.25 GB and the backup initial backup was done in around 3 minutes.

Altaro Hyper-V Backup Speed

One of the most important parts of a backup solution is how you can restore you backups. In my lab I backed up and restored some Virtual Machines and everything worked as expected. But there are some great restore features. For example Altaro Hyper-V Backup does not only backup your current VM, it does also allow you to backup snapshots. This is great if you run a lab environment for testing or for software packaging where your snapshots are a very important part.

Another great thing is the option to restore backups from other Altaro backups. For example if you lose your Altaro Hyper-V Backup server during a disaster or a hardware failure. You can easily setup a new server with Altaro Hyper-V Backup and select your previous backups and restore them.

Altaro Hyper-V Backup features

Altaro Hyper-V Backup is not just a simple backup to for Hyper-V Virtual Machines it also has some cool extra features.

  • ReverseDelta – Transfers only changes at the block level, whilst performing on-the-fly deduplication. This is great to save a lot of space while backup up Virtual Machines which are using the same operating systems.
  • Exchange & MS SQL VM backups – Commits databases in VMs that host Exchange, MS SQL or other applications compatible with the Hyper-V VSS Writer, which offer application consistent backups.
  • Backs up Hyper-V Snapshots – If your VMs have snapshots than you can back up the snapshots as well.
  •  Live Backups of Linux VMs – Back up crash consistent Linux VMs without shutting down the machine.
  • File Level Restore – Mount backed up VHDs and restore files without having to restore a whole Virtual Machine.
  • Restore to different Hyper-V host – Restore an individual or a group of VMs to a different Hyper-V Host.
  • FireDrill Restore Tests – Build a plan to make sure that in case of disaster you’re fully covered.
  • Backup Drive Swap Rotation– Drive Swap functionality allows the customer to rotate backups drives on a daily basis.

What’s new in Altaro Hyper-V Backup 3.5

  • Windows Server 2012 Support, including support for VHDX files.
  • Windows Server 2012: support for backup and restore of VMs located on network paths.
  • Windows Server 2012: support for Volume Shadow Copies of SMB3.0 network paths.
  • Windows Server 2012: support for CSV3.0 and scale-out CSV file shares.
  • New and improved Metro-Style User Interface.

Overall Altaro is an easy, fast and effective Hyper-V Backup solution with a lot of extras. If you want to try the new Altaro Hyper-V Backup checkout the contest page. Altaro are giving away two Nexus 7’s to a couple of lucky testers of their Windows Server 2012 Backup for Hyper-V Beta.

 



Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Converged Fabric

Windows Server 2012 RC Logo

In Windows Server 2008 R2 we had some really simple configurations and best practices for Hyper-V and network configurations. The problem with this was, that this configurations were not really flexible. This had two main reasons, first NIC teaming wasn’t officially supported by Microsoft and secondly there was no possibility to create virtual network interfaces without third party solution.

Here is a example of a Hyper-V 2008 R2 host design which was used in a cluster setup.

Traditional Design

traditional Hyper-V Host

Each dedicated Hyper-V network such as CSV/Cluster communication or the Live Migration network used a own physical network interface. The different network interfaces could also be teamed with third party software from HP, Broadcom or Intel. This design is still a good design in Windows Server 2012 but there are other configurations which are a lot more flexible.

Microsoft MVP Adian Finn and Hans Vredevoort did a already some early work with Windows Server 2012 Converged Fabric and you should definitely read their blog posts.

In Windows Server 2012 you can get much more out of your network configuration. First of all NIC Teaming is now integrated and supported in Windows Server 2012 and another cool feature is the use of virtual network adapters in the Management OS (Host OS or Parent Partition). This allows you to create for example one of the following designs.

Virtual Switch and Dedicated Management Interfaces

Hyper-V Converged Fabric

This scenario has two teamed 10GbE adapter for Cluster and VM traffic.

Virtual Switch and Dedicated Teamed Management Interfaces

Hyper-V Converged Fabric

The same scenario with a teamed management interface.

Dedicated Virtual Switch for Management and VM Traffic

Hyper-V Converged Fabric

One Virtual Switch for Management and Cluster traffic and a dedicated switch for VM traffic.

One Virtual Switch for everything

Hyper-V Converged Fabric

This is may favorite design at the moment. Two 10GbE adapter as one team for Virtual Machine, Cluster traffic and management. It is a very flexible design and allows the two 10GbE adapters to be used very dynamic.

This design solutions will also be very interesting if you us SMB 3.0 as a storage for Hyper-V Virtual Machines.

FileServer and Hyper-V Cluster

 

There are at the moment not a lot of official information which designs will be unsupported and which will be supported. You can find some information about supported designs in the TechEd North America session WSV329 Architecting Private Clouds Using Windows Server 2012 by Yigal Edery and Joshua Adams.

Configuration

Now after you have seen these designs you may want to create such a configuration and want to know how you can do this. Not everything can be done via GUI you have to use your Windows PowerShell skills. In this scenario I use the design with four 10GbE network adapters 2 for iSCSI and to for my network connections.

  • Install the Hyper-V Role
  • Create NIC Teams
  • Create a Hyper-V Virtual Switch
  • Add new Virtual Network Adapters to the Management OS
  • Set VLANs of the Virtual Network Adapters
  • Set QoS Policies of the Virtual Network Adapters
  • Configure IP Addresses of the Virtual Network Adapters

Install Hyper-V Role

Before you can use the features of the Virtual Switch and can start create Virtual Network Adapters on the Management OS (Parent Partition) you have to install the Hyper-V role. You can do this via Server Manager or via Windows PowerShell.

Create NIC Teams

Now most of the time you will create a NIC Teaming for fault tolerance and load balancing. A team can be created over the Server Manager or PowerShell. Of course I prefer the Windows PowerShell. For a Team which will not only be used for Hyper-V Virtual Machines but also for Management OS traffic I use the TransportPorts as load balancing algorithm. If you use this team only for Virtual Machine traffic there is a algorithm called Hyper-V-Port. The Teaming Mode of course depends on your configuration.

NIC Teaming

 

Create the Virtual Switch

After the team is created you have to create a new Virtual Switch. We also define the DefaultFlowMinimumBandwidthWeight to be set to 20.

VM Switch

 

After you have created the Hyper-V Virtual Switch or VM Switch you will find this switch also in the Hyper-V Manager.

Hyper-V Virtual Switch

 Create Virtual Network Adapters for the Management OS

After you have created your Hyper-V Virtual Switch you can now start adding VM Network Adapters to this Virtual Switch. We also configure the VLAN ID and the QoS policy settings.

VMNetworkAdapter ManagementOS

 

Your new configuration will now look like this:

Network Connections

As you can see the name of the new Hyper-V Virtual Ethernet Adapter is vEthernet (NetworkAdapaterName). This will be important for automation tasks or configuring IP addresses via Windows PowerShell.

Set IP Addresses

Some months ago I wrote two blog posts, the first was how to configure you Hyper-V host network adapters like a boss and the second one was how to replace the netsh command with Windows PowerShell. Now using Windows PowerShell to configure IP addresses will save you a lot of time.

 

There is still a lot more about Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V Converged Fabric in the future, but I hope this post will give you a quick insight into some new features of Windows Server 2012 and Hyper-V.



Windows Server 2012: CSV Cache Benchmark

Windows Server 8

Some days ago I wrote a blog post about how you can enable CSV Cache on the new Windows Server 8 beta. Now a lot of people asked me about some benchmarks.

Here a test inside the Virtual Machine:

Without CSV Cache:

CSV Cache disabled

With CSV Cache enabled:

CSV Cache enabled

As you can see CSV Cache does work really well. In some cases you can get 4-5 times the read performance.



Windows Server 2012: Enable CSV Cache

Windows Server 8

In Windows Server 8 beta (Windows Server 2012 beta), Microsoft released a lot of new features for Cluster Shared Volumes (CSV). One of them is CSV Cache. CSV Cache gives you the possibility to allocate system memory (RAM) of the cluster nodes as cache. This can improve the performance of read requests in workloads like Hyper-V.

Now to enable the CSV Cache on a cluster you have to do this with Windows PowerShell.

  1. First open the PowerShell prompt
  2. Set the size of the CSV Cache. The default it 512MB. With this command you will reserve the Memory on all Cluster nodes for caching.
  3. Now you have to enable the Cache on on the Cluster Shared Volumes you want to use.

Here you can find a Windows Server 2012: CSV Cache Benchmark

If you want to know more about CSV Cache, you can read this blog post from Elden Christensen on the Failover Clustering and Network Load Balancing Team Blog.