Tag : iSCSI

Reliable Back Up and Setting Correct Expectations

Over the last five years I have seen a more passive approach to back up and disaster recovery.  Organizations are letting their data reliability take a back seat to system up-time and performance which is starting to become scary.  I typically ask CEO’s and owners what an acceptable amount of downtime for their business and they all reference about 2 to 4 hours.  It always amazes me, these types of expectations people in power have about how quickly their systems can get back up.  Never taken into account is how long it takes to build their new system as well as the time consuming process of moving data from one location to another.  It is something that is always over-looked in normal system installations.  Many businesses out there feel that their system can be up in 4 to 5 hours and typically when we review and assess a small to medium size business, we find that the average rebuild time for a single server that has a disaster is roughly 10 hours.  Of course the 10 hours for a single server consists of:

  • server build via operating system install and patching
  • application set up and configuration
  • shares/drive set up
  • data migration
  • testing and validation

It is very important to build and structure a network system that can facilitate an agreed level of downtime.  In other words, if management decides that the network can only be down for 4 hours, no matter what time of the day it might be, that will drive a completely different back up system and methodology then if bva is told that 12 hours is satisfactory from 8am to 5pm on weekdays.  Documenting the process and timeline for bring back up the system is critical and imperative.

Many businesses are looking to move their data into the cloud and normally referenced to bva that it is a cheaper alternative to onsite back up, but I can tell you that is not the case.  Moving the data offsite in a reliable and consistent manner can be a bit tricky depending on the solution.  For the solution to thrive, you need a reliable telco provider such as fiber as well as a stable power grid.  Depending on the solution, data roughly can cost $4 to $12 per gigabit (GB) depending on the compliance standard set forth for data retention.  (30 days, 12 months, 5 years, 7 years)  There are several great softwares out there that can be loaded on any server and completely hardware agnostic.  This software drives the back up job and can point it to any iSCSI target. This software can also move the data offsite to any destination you prefer and typically the software you select will provide that option via several data centers.  Microsoft, Google, Amazon, and even Apple are a few that have gotten in this business and will continue to grow and large back up solution providers.

bva’s Recommended SAN for Virtualization

BVA has been performing many virtual implementations in recent months and over the course of 10 years we have been involved with many different types of SANs on the market.  Shared storage for the small to medium size businesses are starting to become a norm and with lower cost points for virtual server software it more advantageous for companies to go with that architecture. Our most common project these days are moving 6 to 15 production servers into a three-cluster virtual node architecture with shared storage leveraging VMware or HyperV.  After testing and playing with a few different SAN’s, bva favorite is the The NetApp FAS 2040.  It has up to 136 disks (136 TB) storage capacity, FC-SAN, IP-SAN (iSCSI), and NAS (CIFS/NFS) protocol support.

Full SAS capable which is more than capable to handle the typical i/o for small businesses today.  Full Fiber Channel capable, full SATA or FC/SAS/SATA disk mix.   Single and dual active-active controller models are capable for an aggressive price point. The SAN also has (2) two 4Gb FC ports as well as (4) four GbE ports and 1 SAS port per controller which is very versatile.  (4) Four GB cache per controller which is the standard configuration when we are doing our typical installation.

The NetApp 2040

The FAS 2040 systems offers unified file and block storage. That means one solution for CIFS, NFS, iSCSI, and FC SAN storage protocols. The units Data ONTAP operating system provides storage efficiency through higher utilization of capacity via thin provisioning and SnapshotTM technology.  The unit is also very scalable by way of having the option to add more drives to an existing original enclosure. It means being able to combine existing and expanded data-management resources in the fastest, most elegant solution.

Microsoft iSCSI Software Target available – Free Download

There is finally some productive news coming out of the Microsoft camp via making storage a little easier for virtualization with Hyper v.  Microsoft has made this software publicly available to all users of Windows Server 2008 R2.  The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target has been available for production use as part of Windows Storage Server since early 2007. It has also been available for development and test use by MSDN and TechNet subscribers starting in May 2009. However, until now, there was no way to use the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target in production on a regular server running Windows Server 2008 R2. This new download offers exactly that.

Now available as a public download, the software is essentially the same software that ships with Windows Storage Server 2008 R2. Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 and the public download package will be refreshed (kept in sync) with any software fixes and updates. Those updates are described at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg232597.aspx.

This release was preceded by intense testing by the Microsoft iSCSI Target team, especially in scenarios where the iSCSI Target is used with Hyper-V and with Windows Server Failover Clusters. We do imagine these to be amongst the most commons deployment scenarios.  Testing included running the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target in a two-node Failover Cluster and configuring 92 individual Hyper-V VMs, each running a data intensive application and storing data on a single node of that iSCSI Target cluster. The exciting part of the test was to force an unplanned failure of the iSCSI Target node being used by all the VMs and verify that we had a successful failover to the other node with all 92 VMs continuing to run the application without any interruption.

How to download and install

To download the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 for Windows Server 2008 R2, go to http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=45105d7f-8c6c-4666-a305-c8189062a0d0 and download a single file called “iSCSITargetDLC.EXE”. (Note: This was just released at 10AM PST on 04/04/2011, so the download might still be replicating to your closest download server. If the link does not work, try again later). This is a self-extracting archive that will show this screen when run:

Shared Storage

To use both LM and HA, these require shared storage. This shared storage can be in the forms of SAS, iSCSI or Fiber Channel SAN. For many environments this isn’t an issue, but there are some specific scenarios where customers need LM and HA and the cost of a dedicated SAN is a blocker. For example,

  • A branch office environment. It’s one thing to setup a dedicated SAN in a datacenter, but what happens when you have 100/500/5000 branch offices? That’s a huge multiplier to provide SANs in every one of those branch offices.
  • A small business. Small businesses are especially cost conscious and still want to deploy Hyper-V clustered for the benefits of LM and HA.
  • A test/dev staging environment. Perhaps you want to test your application with LM & HA, but don’t have the budget to pay for a SAN.

Wouldn’t it be great to have another option? bva think so too.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
==============================================
Q: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is now free. Is it supported in a production environment?

A: Yes. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is supported in a production environment. The Hyper-V team regularly tests with the MS iSCSI Software Target and it works great with Hyper-V.

Q: What operating systems is the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target supported?

A: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target is supported for Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard, Enterprise and Datacenter Editions.
===========================================================================
Q: Can the free Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 use the free Microsoft iSCSI Software Target?

A: Yes and No. Yes, Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2 can act as a client to access virtual machines via iSCSI. The way to do that is to type iscsicpl.exe at the command prompt to bring up the Microsoft iSCSI Initiator (client) and configure it to access an iSCSI Target (server). However, you can’t install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on a Microsoft Hyper-V Server. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target requires Windows Server 2008 R2.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 on Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2003?
A: No. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 can only be installed on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 (SP1)?
A: Yes. In fact, that’s what is recommended.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target on a Core install of Windows Server 2008 R2?
A: No. The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 is only supported in a Full install.

Q: I don’t have a copy of Windows Server 2008 R2. Where can I get an evaluation copy?
A: You download an evaluation version of Windows Server 2008 R2 with Service Pack 1 from http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/evalcenter/dd459137.aspx

Q: Where is the x86 (32-bit) version of the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3?
A: The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3, is provided in only in an x64 (64-bit) version, as is Windows Server 2008 R2,

Q: What are these “iSCSITargetClient” MSI files included in the download?
A: Those are the optional VSS and VDS providers for the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3. You should install them in the same computer that runs the iSCSI Initiator if you intend to use VSS or VDS. For details on VSS, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/josebda/archive/2007/10/10/the-basics-of-the-volume-shadow-copy-service-vss.aspx. For details on VDS, see http://blogs.technet.com/b/josebda/archive/2007/10/25/the-basics-of-the-virtual-disk-services-vds.aspx.

Q: Where is the Windows Storage Server 2008 R2 documentation?
A: There is some documentation inside the package. Additional documentation is available on the web at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg232606.aspx

Q: Can I use the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 as shared storage for a Windows Server Failover Cluster?
A: Yes. That is one of its most common uses.

Q: Can I install the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in a Hyper-V virtual machine?
A: Yes. We do it all the time.

Q: Can I use the downloaded Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 in my production environment?
A: Yes. Make sure to perform the proper evaluation and testing before deploying any software in a production environment. But you knew that already…

Q: What are the support policies for the Microsoft iSCSI Software Target 3.3 on Windows Server 2008 R2?
A: The support policies are listed at http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/gg983493.aspx

 

The Microsoft iSCSI Software Target Download:

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/en/details.aspx?FamilyID=45105d7f-8c6c-4666-a305-c8189062a0d0