Celerra VSA – UBER : Smaller, Faster, Easier, Geekier

**** Go here for new version of UBER VSA ****

Have you tried the EMC Celerra VSA before? If so, then forget everything you experienced. If not, then welcome and let me introduce you to easiest way to test enterprise-level features with NAS and virtualization.

I won’t go through the history or the advantages of the Celerra VSA because Chad Sakac does a much better job here, and here.

I am a greenhorn at the EMC vSpecialist team. I have just barely three notches on my belt (if notches represent months). So everything is new to me. I am constantly bothering my direct manager with questions like: “Why do we do that?” or “How did this come about?”. This is because I am looking at everything and trying to understand the why behind it all. And this is part of the reason I ended up diving under the hood of the Celerra VSA; to find out what made it tick and why it wouldn’t tick faster.

But first a quick background story: over the last month or so I have been doing my first tour of duty. I did my first customer presentation to a huge company (very near the top of the Fortune 500 list). I got involved in a proof of concept at another major client near Washington D.C. And I even got involved in helping design labs for VMware Tech Summit and major demos for EMCWorld (more on that after the big day). I have never been surrounded by such a quantity of talented (and cool) people or challenged like this before in my life. Needless to say I am loving every minute of it.

During this first tour I had the opportunity to install the Celerra VSA for the first time. And I will be honest: I was disappointed in it. I don’t like things that take so long. One of the reasons I write in so many scripting/development languages is because I hate repetition. So even before I started setting up my first VSA, I looked at the manual which, while VERY well-written, was way above my tolerance for length. Then and there I made it a personal goal to cut those steps down to as few as possible.

But, back to my first time to build…
An interesting thing happened the first time I did it. It was faster, way faster. In fact the Senior guy who I was assisting took a look to check my work and was sure they were broken. In his words: “It is too fast, it must not be actually doing anything.” But, after a little testing he confirmed that it was working perfectly and quickly. He asked me: “What did you do?”. I looked at him, blinked, and said: “I have no idea…”

I tend to venture off the beaten path in a lot of things. Evidently me skipping around trying to figure *why* each step needed to be done (for my future script) resulted in me fixing an issue. Problem was I had no earthly idea what I did or how.

So fast forward to now- I have spent the last good chunk of April figuring out the how and why of the Celerra VSA. I’ve not only figured out the speed tweak steps. But also I discovered memory improvements, boot speed improvements, and even finished a complete automation of the configuration process.

So in summary here are the new features of what I have dubbed the Celerra VSA –UBER Edition:

1. Completely automated install: On first boot a configuration wizard will ask a few questions and automatically reboot. On second boot everything is configured and ready to use. Also configuration takes care of ALL identity issues with generating MAC addresses. Average run through from first boot to complete is <2 minutes for me.

2. Much, much, much faster. You have to try it to see it. No, seriously it evens runs great on my Core Duo.

3. Low memory requirements: It will now run with 1024 MB of RAM (it is set this way by default). If you need to setup replication it may need more but will use much more efficiently.

4. You should not need to login to the console for anything. All configurations can be done through the Control Station web console (hint: Tools -> Wizards).

******* WARNING *******

Do NOT run a Celerra VSA on ESX on VMware Workstation. You will always get horrible performance this way. On a laptop or desktop use it directly on VMware Workstation 7 with the workstation version. On a server compatible with ESX(i) 4u1 use the OVA version.

************************

The Celerra VSA – Uber comes in two versions:

1.       Celerra VSA – UBER for ESX (OVA) (download link)

2.       Celerra VSA – UBER for Workstation/Fusion (ZIP) (download link)

I am not going to lie; this was at least 40-50 hours of late night work trying to reverse engineer something I never used as a customer. It was difficult and damaging to my ego in many spots. So I ask one simple favor from you. Try it out…

Obviously I think I made something pretty darn cool. But, what do you think? If you see an issue or have a suggestion please post a comment letting me know. I am curious what others notice and if they see the same improvements I do.

I hope this helps someone out in their labs somewhere. Please drop a comment if it does.

.nick

****** Update ******

Here is a video on the installation process:

Celerra VSA

31 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Definitely the fastest setup I’ve seen, took me 2 minutes to get everything setup. Only problem is the shear amount of time adding new storage takes, are you working on that?

  2. it’s really fast, and the wizard is a good time saver, up & running in 3 minutes. thanks a lot.

  3. Nick,

    I’m not able to download your super machines. Loggin in anonymous does not show the files.
    Any suggestion?

  4. The download works, you just need to do a manual download of the file using an FTP client.

    Using an FTP client:
    1) Connect to http://ftp.documentum.com as anonymous
    2) Change to the /vmwarechampion/Virtual_Machine_Library/Celerra/5_6_48_701/UBER/ folder
    3) Do a manual GET of this file “EMC Celerra VSA – v5.6.48.701 – UBER Workstation.zip” (the folder won’t allow browse, so you won’t see it in the directory listing)

    Robert’s Your Father’s Brother!

    Cheers,

    Ben

  5. Just wanted to leave a note thanking you for this. Setting up the “old” VSA was time consuming (although strangely fun). I just set up two UBER VSA’s in about 10 minutes – fantastic and so much more efficient.

    Now thats given me an excuse to dig into replication and SRM 🙂 Top work fella…..

    • Cool! You getting into SRM and having fun expanding your knowledge is exactly the reason this little guy exists.

      Good to hear.

  6. You are the man! Nice front end scripting job to get it all setup too. Really appreciate the effort you put into this.

  7. Thanks, really fast and easy installation and configuration, I use option 2. Celerra VSA – UBER for Workstation/Fusion, can I do a SRM config ?

    Regards
    Mauro Ayala

  8. Hi Nick,
    This is UBER work! Thx for that and keep them coming 🙂
    Do you think it’s feasible to add/replace the current LSI Logic SAS controller with a VMDirectPath IO disk controller (dedicated one obviously) to make this Celerra VSA even uber faster?
    Thx,
    Didier

    • Something to put on the list for sure. Biggest issue is unless requesting massive amount of data the VMDirectPath or PVSCSI stuff just doesn’t pay off.

      And since the intention is home lab and not production, big throughput is lower on the feature list than lower access latency and fixing the write issues.

      Thanks for the feedback

      .nick

  9. Nice one Nick. Works like a charm.

    Can I offer a suggestion to the initialization script?
    Setting an IP address on eth0 and eth1 isn’t necessary for the NAS to be able to use the ports as cge0 and cge1.

    I’ve modified my ifcfg files for eth0 and eth1 to look like this and it has no problems.

    /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth0

    DEVICE=eth0
    ONBOOT=yes
    BOOTPROTO=static

    /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/ifcfg-eth1

    DEVICE=eth1
    ONBOOT=yes
    BOOTPROTO=static

  10. Hi Nick,

    First of all thanks for all the efforts you did. All the installation went through good (on ESX 4, I used OVA download)but after the final reboot network interfaces for nfs and cifs did not get configured and so do remaining all settings. I had to configure network manually.

    Not sure is that normal or you want to have a look at it.

    Thanks

  11. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for the effort, it was decisive for me to jump in VSA!I Have exactly the same network troubel than Mukul just above, but using the Workstation version. But in fact the comment leaved by matt is also correct: you do not need to set the interface before using VSA. My 10 cents for people suffering poor performance on Workstation: 64 bit OS is a must and think also to enable Virtual process features in Bios!
    Thanks

  12. Nick,

    What is the point of 3 IP addresses? You configure them on a Control Station, not on datamovers… The CS is ok with just one — for web access, whence it is the DM that needs to be used for data.

    I guess I am asking for quick FAQ 🙂

    –MR

  13. Thanks for all the comments everyone. For those with suggestions on the eth0,eth1,eth2 setup on the Control Center: Yes, the extra two IP’s are not needed. This was left over from the previous version. The new version only uses one interface for the CC (on eth0) and will also has about 1/3 the response time on the CGE’s do to binding issues.

    This change didn’t make this release because I didn’t have time to fully regression test the changes (eth2 to eth0, new wizard, etc)

    Good to see so many smart people spotting stuff so quickly. Especially the EMC peeps 🙂

    .nick

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