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Monthly Archives: October 2016

Building a Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) cluster and succeed…

As in my previous post I failed miserably buiding an S2D cluster. Fortunately, it was just a small matter of reading this whitepaper properly which states only local storage can be used. We all know iSCSI storage is not locally attached so it makes perfect sense it doesn’t work. But at least I tested it and verified…

OK, so knowing that S2D works with DAS storage only it is time to test and verify if it’s difficult to build an S2D cluster.

To build the cluster, I’m going to build one using this guide. I use 2 FS1 Azure VMs and attach one P10 disk to each node.

So I follow the steps to build the cluster.

Thir fist step is to enable S2D which works fine.

s2d-with-das

NOTE: as in my previous post, the CacheMode parameter is not there. While this is still in the guide it may be a bit confusing to read it.

The next step is creating a Storage Pool for S2D.

s2d-storage-pool-2-disk-fail

Hmm, that’s odd. Appearantly 2 disks is insufficient. So, let’s add two more, one at each node resulting in having four disks.

s2d-storage-4-disk-success

OK, so I can continue building a S2D cluster disk of 250 GB

s2d-virtualdisk

The final step is creating a share according to the guide.

smb-share-fail

Hmmm, this fails too…

Well I was able to create the share using the Failover Clustering Console by configuring it as a SOFS and provide a ‘Quick’ file share.

So yeah, it’s relatively easy to build an S2D cluster but some steps in the overview need to be reviewed again. It contains mistakes…

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Building a Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) cluster and failing miserably…

Windows Server 2016 is available for a little while now. A well-hyped feature is Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). It allows organizations to create fast performing, resilient and hyperconverged clusters which will go hand in hand with Hyper-V. Based on the documentation available at https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server-docs/storage/storage-spaces/storage-spaces-direct-overview it even allows to run Hyper-V and SOFS on the same hardware without requiring expensive storage components such as SANs and the additional components required to connect to it. This is a major improvement compared to Windows Server 2012 R2 which doesn’t support this.

The following passage in the overview caught my attention:

Storage Hardware. From 2 to 16 servers with local-attached SATA, SAS, or NVMe drives. Each server must have at least 2 solid-state drives, and at least 4 additional drives. The SATA and SAS devices should be behind a host-bus adapter (HBA) and SAS expander. We strongly recommend the meticulously engineered and extensively validated platforms from our partners (coming soon).

Okay, that makes sense since S2D eliminates the need to for remotely available storage. Seems like it works with DAS only.

But what if I still have a bunch of iSCSI targets available and would like to use them for an S2D cluster? Maybe the Volumes provided by a StorSimple device might work, after it’s iSCSI too, right?

So I’ve decided to try to build an S2D (my god this abbreviation is really close to something I don’t want to get) cluster and see if it works. For this I used the following guide to build one as a reference: https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-server-docs/compute/remote-desktop-services/rds-storage-spaces-direct-deployment

Since I don’t have any hardware available I decided to build the cluster in my Azure environment.

So here’s what I did:

  • I built an Azure VM configured as a iSCSI target server that provides 4 disks, each 1000 GB in size
  • I build two Azure VMs which will be configured as cluster nodes and have these 4 disks available

The first thing I did was verifying if the 4 disks can be pooled using the Get-PhysicalDisk | ? CanPool -eq $true cmdlet. They can.

I was getting to the point that I needed to enable S2D using the PowerShell cmdlet mentioned in the guide: Enable-ClusterS2D -CacheMode Disabled -AutoConfig:0 -SkipEligibilityChecks

The -CacheMode parameter is no longer part of the cmdlet so I took that part out and tried again:

s2d-with-iscsi

Bummer…

This error confirms that locally attached storage is required to use S2D, so this is a dead end. iSCSI disks are not supported.

I was still able to build the cluster and assigning the Storage Pool to the cluster itself instead of a node and create a CSV, but no S2D…

 
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Posted by on 26/10/2016 in Windows Server

 

Microsoft Azure: ONE feature I REALLY need…

It’s been a while since I posted my previous blog post. The main reason I didn’t post anything for a while is that I was very busy personally and professionally. I’ve been helping out customers adopting the Public Cloud more frequently and I must admit it’s a lot of fun.

During these conversations I’m focusing a lot on architecting Azure solutions (especially IaaS). Many times I get a feedback question that most likely goes like this:

“Yeah, it’s very nice this Microsoft Azure and all that other gay stuff, but how much does it cost?

Quickly followed by:

“Why is Microsoft Azure so expensive?”

Provinding an answer for the first question is quite challenging because Microsoft provides the Azure Pricing Calculator (available at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/calculator/) only. It allows me to provide an estimate on how much it will cost an organisation to use Azure services. It is still an estimate and that’s problematic because I cannot really use it for any TCO calculation. TCO is something that a CFO looks at and he or she wants the TCO to be a low as possible. All I could find was an old post available at https://azure.microsoft.com/en-us/blog/windows-azure-platform-tco-and-roi-calculator-now-available-online-and-offline/ but the tools are not there anymore.

I need to have a total overview In order to provide an honest and accurate calculation since most organisations want to mirror their on-premises costs to Microsoft Azure’s. Here’s a, most certainly incomplete, list of costs IT organizations make:

  • Hardware purchasing
  • Licensing
  • Labour
  • Housing
  • Energy
  • 3rd party Support Plans

The fun part of is that many organizations have no idea which costs they have and if they do, taking them in the equation. This behaviour will automatically cause the second question to be asked. I’d like to see Microsoft deliver a tool that allows me to fill in these variables. Microsoft’s biggest competitor, AWS, has such a tool.

Sounds like quite a rant to Microsoft, right?

Well, what really works in their defence is that the Azure Pricing Calculator really helps organizations to provide an estimate. Unfortunately, some common sense may be required when using Azure Services. Things that need to be taken into consideration are:

  • Uptime: if a service is not needed at given times, then turn them off and stop paying for what is actively used
  • Automation: When given times are available, ie. office hours, then schedule the switching on and off activities using Automation
  • Workload: if your workload demand is strongly fluctuating, then you don’t want to buy the hardware required to faciliate a few peaks
  • Evolution: Do you really need to build a VM with IIS when the web application can run on an Azure Web App service? It makes sense to evolve on-premises or IaaS services to PaaS services and no longer be bothered managing the fabric layer or even an Operating System and/or application
  • Evolution part 2: Consider replacing (legacy) applcations by SaaS services so you don’t manage them either
  • Initial investments: No initial investments are required when using Azure Cloud Services. You don’t need to have a budget ready to buy hardware. Think about the shorter ‘time to market’

If you look at it like this, then adopting Cloud Services may not so expensive at all.

Additionally, tunnel vision can be created when looking at costs alone. Many times a small increase in costs may greatly increase the benefits adopting Azure Cloud Services and I’d certainly recommend it in most cases. The only case I wouldn’t recommend it is having a workload with almost no fluctuations.

Nevertheless, it would be nice if Microsoft would provide a tool or someone can tell me where to find it if it already exists 🙂

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on 26/10/2016 in Azure, Cloud, Public Cloud, Rant

 
 
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