Saturday, June 26, 2010

QNAP 459U-RP: first impressions

I recently added a dedicated storage box to my lab environment. After a week these are my first impressions:

Pro:
  • Small. I needed a shallow rack-mountable device, and this one is perfect, only about 50cm deep.
  • Fast. I knew that a NAS device like this wouldn't be the speed king of the storage world, but I'm pleasantly surprised.
  • Open software. It runs Linux, you get SSH access to your device, and you can add packages if you want. Evidently, I added tools like dstat to keep an eye on things.
  • Compatibility. Used it from Windows Vista, VMware vSphere, and Linux (CentOS and others). No problems at all.
  • Cheap. I could have gone for an EMC Symmetrix instead, but decided against it :-)
Con:
  • Fragile. Just a bit. The SATA ports of the disk drives slide directly in sata plugs inside the device. I hope I won't have to re-plug drives all too often.
  • Not all operations happen online. QNAP advertises RAID1 to RAID5 migration, and it does that, by using one of the mirrored drives and the new drive to build the RAID5 array, then moving the data from the broken mirror to the incomplete RAID5 array. You'll be seeing a different filesystem after the data move.
  • Robustness. One of the four drives I bought with the device (WDC-something-FYPS SATA disks) was DOA. The QNAP refused to use the slot that was occupied by the faulty drive, until after a power cycle.
  • Bugs. All software has bugs, and this version of the firmware has a bug in the iSCSI configuration wizard. I'll put my VMs on NFS for now...
  • No VLAN tagging support. I've got a separate IP storage VLAN, and to see the QNAP on both the regular LAN and the IP storage VLAN, I need to use one interface per VLAN. Why not support VLAN trunking ? The 8021q driver is already in the QNAP software, but the vconfig utility isn't, and the web interface would need to support it as well.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scanning a host reconfigures the cluster. What and why ?

On vSphere4, when you scan a host (ESX or ESXi) for updates, you'll see a task "reconfigure cluster" appear automatically. Ever wondered what that task does ? The "tasks & events" tab doesn't give you any clues, but if you happen to be looking at the "DRS" pane while the task is running, you'll see it: scanning a host in a cluster, automatically disables DPM for the duration of the scan. My guess is that this is to prevent DPM from putting a host in standby mode while it is being scanned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Buy VMware, get SuSE

Anyone following VMware's enterprise offerings will know that VMware has been "in bed" with Red Hat for a long time. The "service console" of the ESX product has been Red Hat Linux and Red Hat Enterprise Linux based since the beginning, and many of the virtual appliance-based products (VMware Data Recovery e.g.) are RHEL or CentOS based.
But now VMware comes with a partnership announcement with Novell/SuSE, not Red Hat ! Anyone buying vSphere will get SLES for free, including patches ! Note, the offer isn't fully up just yet, they forecast a GA launch in 3Q2010. But anyone buying vSphere starting today (june 9th) will be in on the offer when it launches. Beware, "free" doesn't include support, from what I read in the press release. But SLES support will be available through VMware.
A lot of questions are waiting for an answer:
  • Will this deal impact the place RHEL and CentOS held in the VMware solution stack ?
  • What will be the response from Red Hat ? I'm sooo curious !
  • Has Novell got an exclusive deal with VMware, or is there room for a similar deal with Red Hat ?
Time will tell.