It’s a big day for hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI). The world’s most cloud-connected HCI just got an overhaul, and Microsoft is (re)launching their Azure Stack HCI today <link to Microsoft announcement blog> .
Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI will be a big factor in the white-hot HCI space. It’s positioned to serve Hyper-V and Azure cloud centric customers who would otherwise have to make do with Nutanix or vSAN. Azure Stack HCI more optimally delivers modern infrastructure that simplifies the management of on-prem resources while seamlessly connecting them to the cloud.
And let’s be clear – this isn’t marketing speak. Azure Stack HCI is now a new and separate O/S, designed for real Hybrid management. Customers will use the Azure Portal as well as Windows Admin Center (WAC) for resource visibility, management, billing, troubleshooting… everything.
Goodbye Azure Stack HCI, Hello Azure Stack HCI!
The all-new Azure Stack HCI, available either as a download or pre-installed on hardware, replaces the current Azure Stack HCI offering which was built around Windows Server 2019 features. And with the new software comes new functionality including stretch clustering for DR – built-in async or sync replication that you can use for local high-availability or across metro distances, with optional encryption. That’s powerful HA for free, that you may not get with other HCI products.
Other advantages of the new Azure Stack HCI include a set-up wizard within WAC, and integrated billing with Azure cloud. Did I mention the licensing is per core/per month, and gets bundled into your existing Azure account? No need to track separate licenses, CALs, etc.
HPE and Azure Stack HCI
This is an important time for our Azure Stack HCI on Apollo 4200 solution in that it’s gotten better than ever – thanks to newly qualified drives, it now accommodates over twice the data capacity! The Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution was already the best solution for ‘Data centric’ workloads – where you need high capacity per node to run workloads like SQL Server, Exchange, Analytics, secondary storage and the like. But now with the support for even larger capacity media, it can accommodate 829 Terabytes of data within its highly space-efficient 2U footprint, and almost 17PBs in a single rack.
If you need more Performance or flexibility in your Azure Stack HCI architecture, then look no further than a solution built on HPE ProLiant servers. Or if you prefer the entire offering – software and hardware – all as-a-Service, then HPE has that coming soon in a GreenLake offering.
With HPE you’ll find the same broad portfolio of solutions around this HCI product, including our own Azure Stack HCI on the HPE Apollo 4200 solution. Microsoft just updated the new program catalog so you’ll find just a few of our HPE validated solutions listed as of today, but that list will re-expand over the coming days.
So if you’re with an enterprise looking for a 60 node deployment in your datacenter, or an organization who just wants to try things out with a 2 node cluster, you can start by taking a look at our current portfolio of all HPE solutions for Azure Stack HCI online here. Info specifically on the Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution is here. And I ask you to engage with us as we develop and evolve our portfolio based on customer needs and requests – post a related question or comment in the space below.
HPE is about accelerating business outcomes with comprehensive solutions, from edge to cloud. And the Solutions team within the Storage business unit leads the company’s effort to create valuable ways to use, integrate and automate our intelligent storage products across leading business workloads and hybrid cloud use cases.
This Summer internship with the Storage Solutions team will comprise a cross-functional challenge and a tangible project outcome. This role will require applying your business, strategic and analytical thinking to develop a business case and high-level technical requirements. But will be done in conjunction with a technically aligned Intern who will manage the corresponding architecture, design, development and coding. A benefit and skill that you can expect at the end of the summer will be to have developed important collaborative skills, and the ability to work more effectively with engineers and those who develop technologies to extract value from data.
· Drive the development of a Solution Dashboard, from concept to requirements.
· Identify and remain centered on strategic goals and business-oriented project objectives.
· Interface with key stakeholders including Solution Managers, Program Managers and Solution Engineering. Gather priorities and requirements (functionality, usability, etc.)
· Leverage the knowledge of what exists for related dashboards, what has been done in the past, as well as related business systems and data sources (content management systems, online libraries, web repositories), in designing your project.
· The outcome should be a web-based dashboard that tracks Solution status in terms of key activities and collateral by using visualizations and metrics. It should also be dynamic in how data can be filtered by level of user, as well as providing the ability to drill down from high level status views to specific details and actual resources.
· Project includes a presentation within a company-wide end-of the-summer Intern Showcase.
· Currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in Business or related interdisciplinary study such as Informatics.
· Junior year student (3rd year of 4 year program).
· Located in San Francisco bay area (no relocation).
· Demonstrated ability to apply an analytical approach to business, driven by the intelligent use of data.
· Interest in conceiving of and managing technology offerings that solve business problems.
· Strong written and verbal communication skills and ability to excel within an open and collaborative team culture.
The internship will run from June to August, 2021.
Contact me if you’re interested: michael.harding <at> hpe.com
Though I’d rather be writing this blog over a coffee and beignet in New Orleans, I’m still thrilled to be sharing the news about our HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft, and specifically what’s new for the Microsoft Ignite audience. As we all know, this year’s Microsoft Ignite is taking place on the Web rather than the Crescent City, but our Solution team is still treating it like it’s our annual “Mardi Gras”. With that in mind, here’s what new for our HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft. Let the good times roll!
Throw me somethin’, Mista! HPE is an official sponsor of this year’s Microsoft Ignite show, which runs September 22-24. Along with the presence within the online venue, HPE has created its own web presence to supplement things, our “Virtual Booth”, due to all the related activities and content we had available. This pandemic has accelerated digital transformation across the company’s customer base, and in response HPE is stepping up the number of solutions to help these organizations achieve new ways of working and serving their end-customers, especially in the cloud.
A key part of HPE-at-Ignite presence will be a series of Expert Videos. Storage team experts will deliver a few of these sessions, coverings topics from new a SQL Server solution built on a newly re-engineered storage platform, to Hybrid cloud data expansion, to Big Data HCI.
The HPE Microsoft Ignite 2020 Virtual Booth landing page is the place to watch these video sessions, as well as get the latest Microsoft Storage Solution resources including technical whitepapers, solution briefs and other online assets.
Starting with Microsoft Ignite week and beyond, we’re also rolling out more expert video content that couldn’t fit on the Landing page. These sessions are being delivered through the HPE Storage BrightTalk channel and are spanning topics from SQL Server Big Data Clusters, to Storage Class Memory, Highly Available Windows File Services, Hybrid Cloud data mobility, and Microsoft VDI. These sessions are supported by our strategic partner, Intel.
The higher levels of performance from the Gen6 platform will translate directly into more transactions for SQL Server databases, more apps hosted across your Hyper-V environment, and even greater Microsoft workload consolidation onto a single array. The new Tiering 2.0 algorithm alone delivers up to 45% more app acceleration than in the previous generation system.
Other enhancements will increase workload availability, such as MSA-DP+, an advanced RAID-based data protection feature which protects data and enables faster rebuilds, and the Health Check tool which makes it easy to help ensure optimal system operations.
HPE MSA storage has traditionally been used for entry-level and departmental SQL Server database environments. We expect this to continue, especially where organizations require on-premises control of their data and the hands-on ability to ensure services levels. There are also new realizations shared on a Solution team member’s blog regarding the benefits of a single RAID-protected Storage array versus having to maintain multi-node clusters of HCI systems for the same workload and data capacity.
Innovation that takes the (King) cake The solution development hasn’t stopped at HPE since the last Microsoft Ignite event. The Storage krewe has led a parade of new offerings to meet the needs of our broad Microsoft workload customer base:
Nimble Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub – Need more data capacity for your Azure Stack Hub but don’t want to buy a whole new one? The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub brings flexibility to the tightly defined Azure Stack Hub architecture, letting you just expand data capacity plus get the benefits of enterprise SAN data services.
HPE InfoSight for Hyper-V – Breakthrough new HPE Storage AI capability that brings cross-stack analytics parity for Windows Hyper-V VMs that was previously only available for VMware ESX environments.
Accelerated SQL Server on HPE Nimble Storage – Takes new NVMe SSD caching approach to increase performance for OLTP and other demanding apps. Lab verified benefits of Storage Class Memory powered by Intel Optane SSDs show back-end latency reduced as much as 50%. Similar lab validated solution also available for HPE 3PAR storage.
SQL Server Big Data Clusters (BDC) – A single scale-out solution for both relational and Big Data, built on HPE Storage and the latest data center technologies including containers and Kubernetes. Manage more data from across the enterprise with your existing SQL Server tools and expertise.
In addition to these HPE Storage Solutions for Microsoft releases over the past year, there are even more in progress, including expanded testing and technical publications for the SQL Server BDC PolyBase feature, SQL Server leveraging HPE Primera storage enhancements, and SQL Server realizing new levels of performance with persistent memory (PMEM).
Get (the party) started So if you haven’t already, definitely get registered for Microsoft Ignite. Then mix yourself a Hurricane or Sazerac, and go straight to the HPE Microsoft Ignite event Virtual Booth site to join the party with all our event activities, on-demand content and technical resources.
And don’t forget our Storage news of the show, how the new HPE MSA Gen6 Storage can be the life of your party for Microsoft workloads – with more application performance, yet simplified management that fits any IT budget. Learn more at: the SQL Server 2019 on the new HPE MSA Gen6 solution Blog
The HPE Discover Virtual Experience starts Tuesday June 23rd, when 10s of thousands of people will join online to learn about new technologies to transform their businesses such as intelligent edge, hybrid cloud, IoT, Exascale computing and much more. Our team will be part of this event, showing off our newest solution for Microsoft SQL Server Big Data Clusters running in the HPE Container Platform. Here’s the direct link for session and speaker information or search us up once you’ve registered and join the event — we’re session “D139“.
The inspiration for our work is that data growth is taking off like a rocket, and in that spirit the HPE Storage team staged our approach to the new enterprise database capability from Microsoft: SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters. We lifted off with an initial enterprise-grade solution for SQL Server Big Data Clusters (BDC), and laid-in a course for more features, capabilities and scale. As introduced in previous blogs, SQL Server BDC uses a new architecture that combines the SQL Server database engine, Spark and Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS) into a unified data platform.
This approach escapes the gravitational constraints of traditional relational databases, now having the ability to read, write, and process big data from traditional SQL or Spark engines, letting organizations combine and analyze high-value relational data along with high-volume big data, all within their familiar SQL Server environment. Our first stage effort includes an initial implementation guide, collateral and a number of related activities including a live demo in this year’s HPE Discover Virtual Experience.
Following soon will be ‘stage 2’ where we’ll publish technical guidance on deploying your own BDC that takes advantage of data virtualization, also known as the Polybase feature. Polybase lets you virtualize and query other data sources from within SQL Server without having to copy and convert that outside data. It eliminates the time and expense of traditional extract, transform, and load (ETL) cycles, and perhaps more importantly, lets organizations leverage existing SQL Server expertise and tools to extract the value of third-party data sources from across the organizational data estate such as NoSQL, Oracle, and HDFS, to name just a few.
The last stage of this mission will add HPE Apollo 4200 storage systems for a cost-effective storage pool, especially for larger BDC deployments in the petabytes.
Info on our overall SQL Server BDC solution is available online in the new solution brief.
Putting BDC boots on the moon
There are a number of key considerations for deploying your own SQL Server BDC. It’s going to be a very different environment than what you may be familiar with for traditional Microsoft SQL Server. Rather than a Windows environment, with or without VMs, BDC requires the use of containers and along with running on Linux, the architecture will contain a number of possibly new technologies for traditional IT teams: Kubernetes, Apache Spark, Hadoop Distributed File System (HDFS), Kibana and Grafana.
Many companies have begun to use Kubernetes as an efficient way to deploy and scale applications. It’s often referenced as a key part of a typical Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) process. And one survey puts the number at 78% of respondents using Kubernetes in production. So bringing Kubernetes to SQL Server may be a timely way to merge a couple areas of significant investment for companies: traditional RDBMS and the evolving DevOps space.
Another unique feature of this solution is Container management. Our initial technical guidance includes the use of the HPE Container Platform. The HPE Container Platform provides a multi-tenant, multi-cluster management infrastructure for Kubernetes (K8s). Creating a highly available K8s cluster is as easy as importing the hosts into the platform and defining master/worker role. In addition, it simplifies persistent access to data with the integration of Container Storage Interface (CSI) drivers. This makes connecting with HPE storage easy, not only providing persistent volumes, but enabling access to valuable array-based resources such as encryption and data protection features like snapshots. The latest HPE CSI package supports HPE Primera storage, HPE Nimble storage and HPE 3PAR storage.
Key components of the initial solution include:
Microsoft SQL Server 2019 Big Data Clusters
HPE ProLiant DL380 Gen10 servers
CentOS Linux—a community-driven, open source Linux distribution
HPE Nimble Storage arrays for the master instance to provide integrated persistent storage
HPE Container Storage Interface (CSI) driver
Kubernetes to automate deployment, scaling, and operations of containers across clusters of hosts
HPE Container Platform for the deployment and management for Kubernetes clusters (optional)
HPE MapR as an integrated, persistent data store (optional)
Why HPE Storage for Big Data Clusters
The partnership of Microsoft and HPE stretches back to the same time that the Hubble space telescope was launched, about 30 years ago. This heritage of testing and co-development has helped ensure optimal performance for Microsoft business software on HPE hardware. Other important reasons to chose HPE for your BDC deployment:
HPE developed a standards-compliant CSI driver for Kubernetes to simplify storage integration.
HPE developed the HPE Container platform, providing the most advanced and secure Kubernetes-compatible container platform on the market.
HPE owns MapR, an established leading technology for big data management — now incorporated within the HPE Data Fabric offering — and another key part of the solution that helps span data management from on-premises to the cloud
Finally, HPE has had in the market a complete continuum of SQL Server solutions based on HPE Storage – from departmental databases to consolidated application environments, and from storage class memory accelerated to the most mission-critical scale-up databases. Adding BDC provides yet another option – now for scale-out data lakes – to customers who rely on HPE as a trusted end-to-end solution partner.
The HPE Storage with Microsoft SQL Server Big Data Clusters solution is available today. An initial reference architecture delivers the benefits of scale-out SQL Server on HPE Nimble enterprise-class data storage with the newest container management capability using the HPE Container Platform.
The HPE Storage with Microsoft SQL Server Big Data Clusters solution is a safe, first step for your IT team, but a giant leap forward for your organization to derive the most business value from its data estate, regardless of whether its relational, unstructured, on-premises or in the cloud.
Learn more about HPE Storage solutions for Microsoft and see us live at the HPE Virtual Discover Experience.
In early 2016 Microsoft announced their Microsoft Azure Stack Hub, along with their new Windows Server 2016, as an extension of the Microsoft Azure Public Cloud. From the beginning, customers sought the benefits of Azure cloud, but deployed within their own datacenter. This new hybrid cloud solution brought them the hyperscale experience of consumption-based computing, along with the ability to run the very same applications you could run on Azure.
This on-premises version of the cloud came with constraints, however. Not all of the same services in Azure are available in Azure Stack. It’s not ‘limitless’ as it is bounded by the capacity and compute contained within a particular customers’ Azure Stack deployment. And that configuration itself is rigidly defined by Microsoft, and available only through a few certified partners, selling predefined bundles of servers, storage and networking.
Up until now, even if they didn’t need more compute or bandwidth, if a customer’s storage needs exceeded that of the configuration that they purchased, they would have to purchase another node (predefined set of compute/storage/networking) or an entire new Azure Stack offering. With Azure Stack, the promise of cloud agility came with strict boundaries.
But that has all changed.
Expand Hybrid cloud capacity with the HPE Storage Extender
The new HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution leverages and delivers scripts and technical guidance on how to expand just the data storage capacity of your Azure Stack Hub environment. This optimized implementation is initially available on HPE Nimble Storage, and works in parallel with Microsoft’s published approach for expanding capacity for Azure Stack Hub by using any iSCSI storage resource.
HPE Nimble Storage brings intelligent, self-managing flash storage to your data center and hybrid cloud environments. It is an ideal platform for your expanded Azure Stack Hub, with high availability and Data Efficiency features, and guarantees both data availability of 99.9999%1 as well as the ability to store more data per terabyte of flash storage than other all-flash arrays. Designed for advanced storage technologies such as NVMe, HPE Nimble Storage delivers industry-leading capacity efficiency as well as a future-proof architecture. You can find guaranteed data-reduction program details in the Store More Guarantee documentation2.
Azure Stack Hub and Data storage
Azure Stack Hub scales between 4 and 16 hybrid nodes and 4 and 8 all-flash nodes. Although the Azure Stack Hub does not contain all of the features of Azure public cloud, it mimics the most common features, and provides an easy transition point for data and applications moving between the cloud and on-premises. The primary method of managing an Azure Stack Hub instance is through an almost identical management portal of the Azure public cloud.
Microsoft Azure Stack Hub currently provisions storage utilizing internal disk from hyperconverged nodes managed by Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). Up to this point, external storage has not been supported under the Microsoft Azure Stack Hub design options; the total capacity and performance available was capped by the maximum number of nodes in the scale unit, the disk drive configurations available from each OEM vendor, and the specific characteristics of the virtual machine type deployed.
The tightly enforced configurations have been at odds with customers and partners requests for flexibility, and specifically for the ability to leverage external storage arrays to support key workloads. Along with additional data capacity, external storage arrays bring with them the ability to migrate and replicate data, along with higher data availability. This is why HPE developed a means to connect HPE Nimble Storage arrays as an external iSCSI storage option, in parallel with Microsoft’s technical template for how to connect to iSCSI storage with Azure Stack Hub3.
HPE brings innovation to Windows with the world’s most intelligent storage
The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution provides the key elements to enable access to external data capacity, while maintaining a customer’s supported Azure Stack Hub configuration. The solution includes:
HPE Nimble Storage, officially Windows Server 2019 and 2016 certified
Windows Server 2016 Datacenter or Windows Server 2019 Datacenter (latest build recommended)
PowerShell DSC extension
Custom Script Extension
Solution Deployment Guide
HPE InfoSight — the IT industry’s most established AI platform — is the key feature in enabling autonomous, self-managing data storage, and is an embedded part of HPE Nimble Storage, as well as other HPE Storage and Server products. HPE InfoSight has analyzed application patterns in 1,250 trillion data points over the last decade to predict and prevent disruptions across storage, servers, and virtual machines. This has resulted in savings of more than 1.5 million hours of lost productivity due to downtime. HPE InfoSight provides the intelligent foundation for all HPE storage products, creating the industry’s only end-to-end AI capability for self-managing storage.
The HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution is available today. It brings additional data capacity to Azure Stack Hub — without the cost of adding additional compute.
Thanks to HPE Nimble Storage, the HPE Storage Extender for Azure Stack Hub solution is an economical way to access and use more data within your Microsoft Hybrid cloud, while benefitting from improved data management, protection and availability. The solution includes technical guidance and scripts, and is supported by Microsoft as an approach aligned with Microsoft published technical templates.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI has established itself as a solid hyperconverged infrastructure offering, based on the leading operating system, Microsoft Windows Server 2019. IT staff are able to efficiently consolidate traditional workloads on this familiar platform, thanks to multiple technological features including both compute virtualization with Hyper-V as well as data storage virtualization with Storage Spaces Direct. There’s also support for the use of non-volatile memory express (NVMe) SSDs and persistent memory for caching in order to speed system performance.
However, with such dynamic technology in play at the OS layer, things get interesting when you add a sophisticated workload that also has its own intelligent performance enhancing features including storage tiering, a metacache database (MCDB), and dynamic cache. In this case we’re talking about Microsoft Exchange email, which recently introduced the new Microsoft Exchange Server 2019.
One Wall Street firm was a power user of Microsoft Exchange – with over 200,000 users, many having massive mailboxes of dozens up to 100 or more GBs in size. As part of their infrastructure planning, the customer wanted to compare the performance and cost of continuing to run Exchange on physical servers with external attached storage (JBOD), versus evolving to an Azure Stack HCI infrastructure.
The combination of these products and technologies required complex testing and sizing that pushed the bounds of available knowledge at the time, generating learning useful for other companies who are also early in adopting various combinations of demanding enterprise workloads on top of Azure Stack HCI.
Field experts share their insight
“This customer had an interest in deploying truly enterprise-scale Exchange, and eventually the latest server version, using their HCI infrastructure,” began Gary Ketchum, Sr. System Engineer in the Storage Technology Center at HPE. “Like vSAN or any other software-defined datacenter product, choosing the hardware is very important in order to consistently achieve your technical objectives.”
This observation especially holds true when implementing Storage Spaces Direct solutions. As stated in the Microsoft Storage Spaces direct Hardware requirements page, “Systems, components, devices, and drivers must be Windows Server Certified per the Windows Server Catalog. In addition, we recommend that servers, drives, host bus adapters, and network adapters have the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Standard and/or Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Premium additional qualifications (AQs). There are over 1,000 components with the SDDC AQs.”
A key challenge of the implementation was in how to realize the targeted levels of improved flexibility, performance, and availability, within a much more complex stack of technologies, multiple virtualization layers, including potentially competing caching mechanisms.
Anthony Ciampa, Hybrid IT Solution Architect from HPE explains key functionality of the solution. “Storage Spaces Direct allows organizing physical disks into storage pools. The pool can easily be expanded by adding disks. The Virtual Machine VHDx volumes are created from the pool capacity providing fault tolerance, scalability, and performance. The resiliency enables continuous availability protecting against hardware problems. The types of resiliency are dependent on the number of nodes in the cluster. The solution testing used a two-node cluster with two-way mirroring. With three or more servers it is recommended to use three-way mirroring for higher fault tolerance and increased performance.” HPE has published a technical whitepaper on Exchange Server 2019 on HPE Apollo Gen10 available today online.
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 solution
At Microsoft Ignite 2019, HPE launched its solution for the new Microsoft HCI product, Windows Azure Stack HCI with HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10. This new software-defined hyperconverged offering, built on the high capacity yet dense Apollo storage server, delivered a new way to meet the needs of the emerging ‘Big Data HCI’ customer. A new deployment guide details solution components, installation, management and related best practices.
The new Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 solution combines Microsoft Windows Server 2019 hyper-converged technology with the leading storage capacity/density data platform in its class. It serves a growing class of customers who want the benefits of a simpler on-premises infrastructure while still able to run the most demanding Windows analytics and data-centric workloads.
Findings from the field
Notes from the deployment team captured some of the top findings of this Exchange on Windows HCI testing, that will help others avoid problems as well as confidently speed these complex implementations.
More memory not required – The stated guidance for Azure Stack HCI requires additional memory, specifically an SSD NVMe (cache tier) beyond JBOD physical deployment. However HPE’s Jetstress testing showed that similar performance was also possible from just JBOD. Thus the server hardware requirements are similar between Azure Stack HCI and JBOD, and even if the customer plans to deploy JBOD MCDB tier with Exchange 2019, the hardware requirements are still very similar. Note, there could be other cost factors to consider such as the cost of overhead for additional Compute and RAM within the Azure Stack HCI, as well as any other additional software licensing cost for running Azure Stack HCI.
Size cache ahead of data growth – The cache should be sized to accommodate the working set (the data being actively read or written at any given time) of your applications and workloads. If the active working set exceeds the size of the cache, or if the active working set drifts too quickly, read cache misses will increase and writes will need to be de-staged more aggressively, hurting overall performance.
More volumes the better – Volumes in Storage Spaces Direct provide resiliency to protect against hardware problems. Microsoft recommends the number of volumes is a multiple of the number of servers in your cluster. For example, if you have 4 servers, you will experience more consistent performance with 4 total volumes than with 3 or 5. However, testing showed that Jetstress provided better performance with 8 volumes per server compared to 1 or 2 volumes per server.
Where to get more info
Microsoft Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 server is a new solution that addresses the growing needs of the Big Data HCI customer – those who are looking for an easy-to-deploy and affordable IT infrastructure with the right balance of capacity, density, performance, and security. Early work with this solution, especially where it’s being combined with demanding and data intensive workloads, can create non-intuitive configuration requirements, so IT teams should seek out experienced vendors and service partners.
A new deployment guide details solution components, installation, management and related best practices. Information in that document, along with this blog, and future sizing tools expected out from HPE, will continue to provide guidance for enterprise deployments of this new HCI offering.
If you were at Microsoft Ignite last month you may still have missed the launch of HPE’s latest hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution: Microsoft Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 storage. It would be understandable, as Ignite was a major industry event packed with technology news, especially with lots of HPE show activity, including prominent HPE mainstage appearances for both Azure Stack and the new Azure Arc. But among the new and enhanced solutions we demonstrated at the show, our presentations about Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo storage were well-received and timely given the growing emphasis on HCI, hybrid cloud and all things software-defined. The key message for this solution was that it is pioneering a new area in software-defined HCI for Windows Big Data workloads. The solution uniquely delivers the convenience of hyperconverged Infrastructure on a high-capacity platform for the most data-intensive applications.
The emergence of Big Data HCI We’ve all heard about the explosive growth of data, and that we’re in an age of zettabytes. IDC made a specific prediction, that by 2024, just data created from AI, IoT and smart devices will exceed 110 zettabytes (source: IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Cloud Predictions 2020). At the same time, organizations are trying to simplify their IT infrastructures to reduce cost, complexity and the need for specialized expertise. The conflict is that the applications required to harvest this explosion of data can be the most demanding in terms of performance and management. I’m seeing companies – even the largest most capable enterprises – are recognizing the value of easy-to-use hyperconverged infrastructure to alleviate some of the strain of delivering these demanding, data-centric workloads. Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo 4200 storage is a new solution that addresses the needs of the growing “Big Data HCI” customer. Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo is built on the highest capacity Azure Stack HCI qualified 2U server, bringing an unmatched ability to serve big data workloads on a compact Windows software-defined HCI appliance.
HPE Apollo HCI solution key components Azure Stack HCI is Microsoft’s software-defined HCI solution that pairs Windows Server 2019, Hyper-V, Storage Spaces Direct, and Windows Admin Center management, along with partner x86 hardware. It is used to run Windows and Linux VMs on-premises and at the edge with existing IT skills and tools. Azure Stack HCI is a convenient way to realize benefits of Hybrid IT, because it makes it easy to leverage the cloud-based capabilities of the Microsoft Azure cloud. These cloud-based data services include: Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, Cloud Witness, Azure Backup, Azure Update Management, Azure Network Adapter, and Azure Security Center to name a few. The Azure Stack HCI solution program includes Microsoft-led validation for hardware, which ensures optimal performance and reliability for the solution. This testing extends to technologies such as NVMe drives, persistent memory, and remote-direct memory access (RDMA) networking. Customers are directed to use only Microsoft-validated hardware systems when deploying their Azure Stack HCI production environments.
HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 Server – leading capacity/throughput for Windows HCI The HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 server delivers leading scale and throughput for Azure Stack HCI. The HPE Apollo 4200 storage system can accommodate 392 TBs of data capacity within just a 2U form-factor. This leads all other Azure Stack HCI validated 2U solutions as seen in the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI catalog (Microsoft.com/HCI). In addition, the HPE Apollo storage system is a leader in bandwidth, supporting 100Gb Ethernet and 200Gb Infiniband options. Customers are already running large scale, data-centric applications such as Microsoft Exchange on HPE Apollo systems, and can now add Azure Stack HCI as a means to simplify the infrastructure stack, while preserving performance and the space-efficient 2U footprint. The HPE Apollo Gen10 system is future-proofed with Intel Cascade lake processors for more cores and faster processing, along with memory enhancements and support for NVMe storage. The HPE Apollo systems leverage a big data and high performance computing heritage, and have an established Global 500 customer track record.
Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution – more than just hardware The HPE Apollo 4200 system is at the core of this Microsoft software-defined HCI solution, but there’s much more to the solution. HPE solution engineering teams perform testing on all solution designs, and publish technical whitepapers to provide guidance on implementation, administration, and performance optimization, for example the recent Microsoft Windows Server 2019 on HPE Apollo 4200 implementation guide. HPE also trains authorized reseller partners to help assure fast, successful deployments and fast time-to-solution for customers. Windows Admin Center (WAC) is becoming the new standard interface for Windows system management. HPE is developing Extensions for WAC that will make it easier to manage HPE Apollo systems within Windows Server 2019 environments as well as specifically within Azure Stack HCI clusters. As an HPE Storage solution, customers also enjoy high availability through HPE InfoSight predictive analytics that deliver the uptime benefits of AI to the datacenter.
Get started with HPE Apollo HCI The Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution is available today. It’s the largest capacity 2U Azure Stack HCI validated solution available, and has been officially qualified for All-Flash, Hybrid SAS SSD, and NVMe providing options for affordable and high-performance data storage. The Azure Stack HCI on HPE Apollo solution is the go-to choice for analytics and data-centric Windows workloads. Get easy to manage infrastructure with native Microsoft Windows administration. Available with the solution are published technical guidance including whitepapers and related resources, with WAC extensions on the way. The launch webinar was recorded and is available on demand – watch it to learn more: https://www.brighttalk.com/webcast/16289/374384/simplify-your-big-data-infrastructure-with-azure-stack-hci-on-hpe-apollo
Our solution engineers are constantly configuring, testing, benchmarking and documenting our Microsoft solutions, providing vital guidance to our customers and resellers so that they can quickly and confidently deploy them. I had a moment to go back over some recent work we did on our Microsoft Exchange Solution, and I wanted to share some highlights that can be missed if you didn’t have the time to read through these detailed technical publications.
The widening orbit of Apollo First off, the HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 has been our go-to Storage server for some time. A key offering in the HPE Storage product line, it serves as the company’s lead platform for Software-defined storage solutions. It shares a heritage with the Apollo HPC compute systems (e.g. model 2000s, 6000s) around HPC storage and big-data usage. Storage use evolved to include object storage, scale-out file systems, backup, archive and other data-intensive workloads. Of course Microsoft Exchange is the grand-daddy of business email, a classic data-intensive application, esp. if you’re regularly sharing multi-MB sized powerpoints.
As we continue to build-out our Microsoft solution business, we’ve hit upon a powerful use scenario for Apollo as a leading platform for Azure Stack HCI. You’ll continue to see more news and innovation coming from us in this area in the coming months.
HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 server with Exchange 2016 ESRP Our team undertook testing based on Microsoft’s testing benchmark/certification known as the Exchange Solution Reviewed Program. The program combines a storage testing harness (Jetstress) with solution publishing guidelines, and has been used by Storage OEMs for over the past decade as a standard testing framework. Customers and resellers have been eager consumers of the publications as a way to compare results across vendors and to help design their Exchange storage architectures and deployments.
This specific testing used the HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 storage system, which is a 2U server available either in a 24 large form-factor (LFF) drive configuration or a 48 small form-factor (SFF) drive configuration.
The remarkable feature of the 4200 is that the drive cages use two trays, with the second tray accessed by simply pulling the front tray forward on internal rails and can be done while the server is operational. This unique chassis design produces probably the highest storage density available in a 2U server in the industry.
The bigger brains of the Apollo 4200 Gen10 The HPE Apollo 4200 Gen10 contains 16 DIMM slots, which support up to 1TB RDIMM (registered) or 2TB of LRDIMM (Load reduced) memory. Individual DIMM capacity has doubled in this latest platform update, going from 32GB to 64GB RDIMMs and 64GB to 128GB LRDIMMs.
The CPUs have been upgraded to use next-gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, the same ones designed for AI/Deep learning workloads, and future-proofed with support for Intel Optane PMEM. The upgraded CPU enables an increase from 24 cores to 28 cores and with the clock speed increasing from 2.1 to 2.3GHz. There are 5 PCIe slots accessible from the rear of the unit. The 16x slots support 100Gbe Ethernet connections, and the 24x slots support up to 6 NVMe SSDs.
Get flexible with the Apollo Another feature of the HPE Apollo 4200 Gen 10 is its flexibility. Multiple configurations are possible, depending on capacity and performance needs, making this a valuable platform for Exchange deployments of any size.
The rear drive cage alone can be re-configured in a number of ways:
Five low-profile PCIe slots with two processors
Or, Four LFF rear drive cages, along with the Five low-profile PCIe slots with two processors
Or, Two SFF rear drive cages + two full-height half-length risers, and the Five low profile PCIe slots with two processors
Or, Six SFF rear NVMe cages, along with the Five low-profile PCIe slots with two processors
The Ultimate Exchange Building Block This HPE solution for Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 was designed using a building block approach, with a multi-copy database design using Exchange Database Availability Groups (DAGs). A DAG is a group of up to 16 mailbox servers that host a set of databases, providing automatic recovery from failures that affect databases or individual servers.
This solution used a single DAG in two building blocks, which are two servers in the primary site and two servers in the secondary site, to support 4,000 mailboxes per building block with a 25 GB capacity, and a messaging profile of 200 messages sent and received per user, per day. Using the building block approach, customers can scale their Exchange environment to a size that fits their needs.
The Microsoft Jetstress testing validated that the storage subsystem was capable of the IOPS needed to support the configured number of mailboxes as well as providing additional headroom for growth.
I was going to write a blog on the new office space my group is moving into, and my thoughts on it, and realized someone had already written about it: https://www.executiveforum.com/office-space-2019/. It’s interesting the universality of opinions on modern corporate Open Office design. In our case the move was a bit more stark, as we were exiting a start-up environment of comradery over free food, intensity of a shared mission, tight collaboration across organizations, and even a garden with bee hives(!) – which has been reengineered to an open office design, with piped-in ambient water sounds, as part of a far flung global organization.
My take-away? Clearly office design needs to map to business objectives the same way compensation programs, supply chain, financial strategy, and corp dev have to. Being within the vortex of this change makes it challenging to be completely objective, but being a participant provides the credibility of directly experiencing the pros and cons. I’m seeing the Open Plan approach should be applied primarily to realize more efficient collaboration for integrative work-teams, not in cases where the workgroup process requires quiet attention to detail, thoughtful strategic thinking, or significant private/sensitive communications, to name a few.
Customers, partners and members of the HPE Community converged on Las Vegas this past week for Discover 2019. It’s the company’s largest customer event which provides hands-on learning and training on HPE products as well as direct contact with members of the teams who make them.
One of the topics covered in the show was Hybrid cloud, and how to keep important data protected and available. New performance statistics were released from recent testing, with one of them relating to Microsoft SQL Server. This comes at a time when the company has released an update to Recovery Manager Central for SQL Server (RMC-S), which has been a popular means to ensure Application consistent database copies.
HPE Storage solutions for MS SQL Server HPE has been investing to deliver outstanding levels of both Performance and Manageability for SQL Server. First off, HPE Data Storage makes SQL Server Faster. HPE has multiple lines of All-Flash storage arrays HPE 3PAR StoreServ, HPE Nimble Storage, and now the all new HPE Primera, that let you run Microsoft SQL Server in production at the highest levels of performance and availability. With HPE flash storage you get reliably fast performance: up to 3.8 million IOPS (I/Os per second) on 3PAR, and about 2 million IOPS on a cluster of Nimble storage all-flash arrays. And all at a consistent sub-millisecond latency.
We’ve also invested to make SQL Server administration better. HPE delivers the most consistent availability with Intelligent Storage and HPE InfoSight, delivering 99.9999% guarenteed uptime. This means your data remains available, and in the rare event that there is an issue, the storage proactively alerts you to potential problems. HPE Storage comes with copy data management capabilities, and extends them across your hybrid cloud. It’s easy to create SQL-consistent snapshots or archival copies to Azure. HPE Storage arrays support data workflows and tasks that can manage live copies on and off-premises for DR, test/dev, reporting, analytics, patching, & upgrading. And HPE Storage enhances SQL Server DevOps as we are the only vendor to offer rich data services for both Windows and Linux Containers, and have interop with all the leading container platforms including Docker, Kubernetes, Mesos. HPE storage was the first to provide persistent volumes for containers.
How Recovery Manager Central improves SQL Server data protection HPE Recovery Manager Central software, and specifically the RMC-S plug-in, allows SQL Server administrators to protect SQL Server instances and databases with application-consistent recovery points. The snapshots are managed on HPE 3PAR storage, and you can use RMC-S with either HPE StoreOnce, HPE Data Protector, Symantec NetBackup, or Symantec Backup Exec to protect and restore these snapshots. Recent testing has shown that creating a database clone with RMC-S takes just 1 minute and 22 seconds. This is compared to the traditional and very manual process of creating a clone with SQL Server which can take 45 mins. The automated process of RMC vastly outperforms the manual process of creating new database, copying the schema, and then inserting and verifying data within every individual table. Compared to the traditional approach, RMC-S lets you copy a database in one step and 32 times faster.
Where to get more info There’s much more information available on the advantages of HPE storage for Microsoft SQL Server, as well as for all the important Microsoft business workloads such as Windows Server, Exchange and newer solutions like Azure Stack and Azure Stack HCI. Here are some key resources below: