StorSimple is a hybrid storage array by StorSimple Inc. which was a Santa Clara, California-based small company. In November 2012, Microsoft acquired StorSimple. The hardware portion of the solution is manufactured and distributed by Xyratex, a UK company, which was acquired by Seagate in December 2013.
- 2 RU rack mount unit
- This is a block device that serves out storage via iSCSI only
- Dual controllers running in active/passive mode
- Dual hot swap power supply units
- 4x 1 Gbps NICs
- 3 storage tiers:
- SSD tier
- SAS teir
- Cloud tier
- Automated tiering.
- Inline automated deduplication
- Automated data compression
- Choice of cloud provider. Major cloud providers like AWS, Azure, and Google are supported
- Local and cloud snapshot. A snapshot is a point in time recovery point.
- Cloud clone. A cloud clone is the ability to perform a cloud snapshot to multiple clouds in a single operation
- Fast recovery. Upon restoring a volume group, only the volumes’ metadata is downloaded, and the volume is unmasked to the host(s). To the host, the volume and its files appear and can be used. As a file is opened by a user, StorSimple fetches its blocks from the cloud (3rd tier). This is much quicker than waiting many hours to download a 20 TB volume for example before any of its files can be accessed.
- SSL encryption for data in transit, and AES-256 bit encryption for data at rest (in the cloud – 3rd tier)
- Protection policies can be setup in StorSimple to use combinations of local and cloud snapshots to match the organization RPO, RTO, and DR (Recovery Point Objectives, Recovery Time Objectives, and Disaster Recovery)
- Easy administration via simple web interface
- No-downtime controller failover, allows for firmware/software updates with no down time.
- Authentication to admin interface can integrate with LDAP directories like Active Directory.
In summary, this compact array makes it easy to move 400 TB of rarely used files for example, and move them seamlessly to the cloud. Best part is that IT folks don’t have to redesign applications or do anything major, other than mount an iSCSI volume on an existing file server. This offloads expensive on-prem primary storage. It removes the need for secondary storage, tape backup, and off-site backup. This provides a significant return on investment.
- 1 Gbps NICs (no 10 Gbps NICs) put a limit on the throughput the array can deliver. At a maximum, 3 out of the 4 NICs can be configured for iSCSI providing an aggregate bandwidth of 3 Gbps or about 10k IOPS
- Maximum outbound useable bandwidth to the cloud is 100 Mbps
- When planning a use case for the device, tiering to the cloud must be considered. This is desirable for a workload like a file share, but not recommended for an active workload where the entire volume is active such as SQL or Hyper-V.
- Wish list items include:
- No central management point if you have several devices. Each device has its own web interface.
- No Powershell support
- No Operation Manager Management Pack. Monitoring is via email and SNMP only.
- No SMI-S provider (needed for Software-Defned storage in VMM for example)
Unlike the 5000 and 7000 StorSimple Hybrid Storage arrays where most of the setup was done in the array’s local web interface, the Azure StorSimple 8000 series array setup is done in the familiar Azure Management web interface.
1. Create a StorSimple Manager service under Storage:
- Pick a name for the array. name can contain upper case, lower case letters, numbers, and the dash.
- Pick a location from the list of Azure data centers on the drop down menu. It’s recommended to choose an Azure data center that’s closest geographically to the physical site where your StorSimple 8000 array is installed. You can do a latency test from your data center using one of free online services like this one. What’s missing here is a choice of Geo-redundant/Locally redundant/Zone redundant storage. While we had that choice when setting up an Azure Storage account for a StorSimple 5000 or 7000 series, we don’t have that choice anymore with the 8000 series. It’s Geo-redundant storage for StorSimple 8000 series, and its cost is bundled into the Storage Entitlement that comes with the array purchase. We can go back after the StorSimple Manager service is created, and edit its associated Azure Storage account to use Locally redundant storage, but there will be no cost benefit to that.
- Pick a subscription if you have access to more than one.
This creates an Azure StorSimple Manager service and a corresponding Azure Storage account.
2. Get your StorSimple Manager Service Registration key:
Copy that key and save it. We will use it to configure the StorSimple 8000 series array.
3. From a computer connected to the array via serial cable or via telnet:
Enter 1, and type in the password to continue. The default password is Password1
4. Run the Invoke-HcsSetupWizard cmdlet to continue. Enter or update the array’s IP information including: IP address, subnet mask, default gateway, DNS server, and NTP server:
5. Reset the administrator password. This follows the IP configuration setup and is part of the Invoke-HcsSetupWizard cmdlet. Enter new array Administrator password. It must be between 8 and 15 characters long and follow minimum password complexity shown below:
6. Reset the Snapshot Manager password. Still in the Invoke-HcsSetupWizard cmdlet:
7. Finally, enter the StorSimple Manager Service Registration key obtained from step 2 above:
Copy the encryption key and save it in a secure location. This key will be needed when creating a StorSimple 1100 virtual device.
Note: In Putty, highlight the encryption key, this will automatically copy it to the clipboard. Do NOT use CTRL-C, as that will exit the Putty session.
Back in the Azure Management Portal, we can see the StorSimple array:
8. Complete device configuration:
Edit device name, time zone, secondary DNS server IP address (required), and iSCSI interfaces:
Enter the Controller 0 and Controller 1 fixed IP addresses:
9. Create a Volume Container:
In Azure Management Portal, click on the StorSimple Manager service on the left, click Devices, then click on your StorSimple device:
In the Device screen, click on Volume Containers, then click Add a Volume Container link, or the Add link at the bottom:
Enter a name, a Storage account, bandwidth, and Cloud Storage (at rest) encryption key:
- It’s strongly recommended to use the Storage account that was automatically created at the time the StorSimple Manager service was created in step 1 above. If you use another storage account that has existing data in it, that data will be instantly subtracted from your StorSimple device Storage Entitlement. ($7,500/5TB increment for overages)
- It’s strongly recommended to leave bandwidth as Unlimited (default)
- It’s recommended to use a long and complex encryption key
10. Create a volume:
In the Device screen, we now have a volume container:
Click on the Volume Container to browse to the Volume Container screen. Similarly, click Add a Volume, or the Add link at the bottom:
Type in a Volume name, size in GB or TB, and select either Primary or Archive under Usage Type:
Note: It’s strongly recommended to keep total volumes’ capacity in any given Volume Container under 30TB since a StorSimple 1100 virtual device has a 30TB maximum capacity. As a best practice, it’s recommended to keep one volume in a volume group.
Next, add one or more Access Control Records (ACRs) for the volume. StorSimple uses the ACRs to unmask the volume to specific host(s). This is not unlike settings on the 5000 or 7000 StorSimple series.
Note: If you enter more than 1 ACR for the same volume, make sure the hosts are running some clustering software such as Failover Clustering, otherwise the volume will get corrupted.
Get the IQN from the host’s iSCSI initiator Properties/configuration tab:
It’s recommended to uncheck the “Enable a default backup for this volume” box since we’ll be setting up comprehensive backup policies.
11. In the host(s), setup the iSCSI initiator, install and setup MPIO. In a Windows 2012 R2 server for example, in the iSCSI initiator properties/Discovery tab, make sure the StorSimple array is visible by its IP address and the default iSCSI port 3260.
Under the Targets tab, the StorSimple array will appear under Discovered Targets section.
Click Connect, then click advanced, and enter each iSCSI Target/Initiator combination to setup multipathing. For example, if your host had 2 iSCSI NICs (10.10.10.15 and 10.10.10.16 for example) and your StorSimple 8000 series array had 2 of its interfaces configured for iSCSI (10.10.10.121 and 10.10.10.122 for example), you need to setup 4 paths by clicking Connect/Advanced 4 times and picking a different initiator/target combination every time such as (10.10.10.15 to 10.10.10.121, 10.10.10.15 to 10.10.10.122, 10.10.10.16 to 10.10.10.121, and 10.10.10.16 to 10.10.10.122)
Finally, online, partition, and format the volume in Computer Management/Disk Management as usual. Similar to StorSimple 5000 and 7000 series, it’s strongly recommended to:
- Select 64KB allocation unit size when formatting the volume
- Select NTFS file system
- Quick formatting
12. Setup backup policies:
In the Device screen, click Backup Policies, and click Add at the bottom:
Enter a policy name, and select the volume(s) to be associated with this policy:
Notice that the screen shows existing backup policies associated with each volume listed.
It’s not uncommon to have a volume associated with multiple backup policies. For example, a policy for local daily snapshots, and a policy for weekly cloud snapshots.
Note: In the StorSimple 5000 and 7000 series arrays protection policies are associated with Volume Groups not volumes. On the other hand, in the StorSimple 8000 series arrays, backup policies are associated with Volumes not Volume Containers.
Enter backup schedule details:
Pick a Local or Cloud snapshot, schedule information, and retention detail.
It’s recommended to craft a group of backup policies to meet your organization’s RPO, RTO, and DR objectives.
Note: Cloud Clone is a snapshot option that would snapshot a Volume Group to multiple cloud providers in StorSimple 5000 and 7000 series. This feature is not available in StorSimple 8000 series. Also, absent is the option to use a cloud provider other than Azure.
To take a manual backup, browse to the Device screen, click Backup Policies, select a policy that is associated with the volume you like to backup, and click Take Backup at the bottom, select Local or Cloud Snapshot option:
Backup jobs can be viewed in the StorSimple Manager service page, click Jobs: