Tuesday 18 april 2017, Patrick van Helden, Director of Solution Architecture at Elastifile was at Metis IT to tell about Elastifile. We had the chance to try a real-life deployment of the Elastifile software.
Elastifile is a relative new name in the storage area. Since this month, the company is out of stealth and has presented its Elastifile Cloud File System. The company is founded in 2013 in Israel by three founders with a strong background in the virtualization and storage industry. In three funding rounds the product raised $58 Million. In the last round $15M came directly from Cisco. Other investors in Elastifile are leading flash Storage vendors and Enterprise Cloud Vendors.
What is Elastifile?
The goal of the founders is to have a storage platform that is able to run any application, on any environment, at any location. Whereby any location means really any location: Cloud or on premise. The product is developed to run with the same characteristics in these environments. Therefor Elastifile wrote from scratch a POSIX compliant filesystem that supports file, block and object oriented workloads and is optimized for flash devices. You can store your documents, user shares, VMware VMDK files, but also use it for big data applications, all stored on the same Elastifile Cloud File System.
But what is the difference with a NetApp storage for example? A NetApp system can also provide you the same capabilities and is already doing this for years. The first thing in which Elastifile’s approach is different than NetApp, is the way the product is written. It’s written for high performance and low latency. Elastifile only supports flash devices and the software knows how to handle the different types of flash devices to get the best performance and extend the lifetime of flash devices. Furthermore, ElastiFile is linearly scalable and can be combined with compute (Hyperconverged Solutions).
Another difference is that the Elastifile Cloud File System can run inside a (public) cloud environment and connect this to your own on premise environment. The problem with (public) cloud environment is that it gives you not the same predictable performance as in your on-premise environment. The Elastifile Cloud File System have a dynamic data path to handle noisy and fluctuating environments like the cloud. Due to this dynamic path Elastifile can run with high-performance and most important with low latency in cloud-like environments.
Elastifile’s Cloud File System can be deployed in three different deployment models:
- Dedicated Storage mode
The first deployment model is HCI, where the Elastifile software runs on top of a hypervisor. Now, Elastifile supports only VMware, additional hypervisors will be added in future releases. You can compare this deployment with many other HCI vendors, but when connecting and combining the HCI deployment model with one of the other deployment options it gives you more flexibility and capabilities. Most other HCI vendors only support a small set of certified hardware configurations, wherein Elastifile supports a broad range of hardware configurations.
The second and in my opinion the most interesting deployment model is the dedicated storage mode deployment. In this model, the Elastifile software is directly installed on servers with flash devices. Together they create the Elastifile distributed storage. With this deployment model, it is possible to connect hypervisors directly to these storage nodes using NFS (and in the future SMB3), but also connect bare-metal servers with Linux, Oracle or even container based workloads to this same storage pool.
As we already discussed earlier the latest deployment is the In-Cloud deployment. Elastifile can run In-Cloud in one of the big public cloud providers but is not limited to public clouds. Elastifile can also run in other clouds as long it delivers flash based storage as infrastructure. The Elastifile can use the storage to build its distributed low-latency cloud file system.
When combining these three models you get a Cloud ready file system with high performance, low latency and a lot of flexibility and possible use-cases.
HCI file services
A great use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File System is that you can decouple the operating system and application from the actual data of the application in a HCI deployment. You can use the Elastifile Cloud File System to mount a VM directly to the storage and bypass the hypervisor. And because the Elastifile Cloud File System is a POSIX filesystem it can store millions of files with deep file structures.
Linear scalable in cloud-like environments
A second use-case for the Elastifile Cloud File system is that the performance with any deployment of Elastifile delivers a predictable low-latency performance. When expanding the Elastifile nodes each node will add the same performance as any other node. When adding additional storage, you’re also adding additional storage controllers to the cluster. This result in a linear scalable solution even in cloud-like environments.
The last use-case of the Elastifile is that it could automatically move files on the filesystem to another tier of flash storage. This could be a cheaper type of flash or a less performing type of flash storage, for example consumer grade SSD’s. Movement will be based on policies. The Elastifile software can further offload cold data to a cheaper type of storage, like a S3 storage. This can be a cloud based S3 storage, but can also be an on premise S3 storage.
How the future will look like is always difficult to say, but from all what I already tried is this a very promising first version of the Elastifile Cross-Cloud Data Fabric. In the session with Patrick, I deployed the software myself and Patrick showed us the performance on these deployed nodes without any problems. The idea’s around the product are great and on the roadmap, you find the most important capabilities which are needed to make it a real mature storage product.
This week I’m at the SDDC consulting training at the VMware EMEA HQ in Staines. There is a really full program with presentations and labs about the VMware SDDC portfolio. Products that will be covered in the training are:
- vRealize Automation
- vRealize Orchestrator
- VMware NSX
- VMware SRM
But the most important focus this week is the integration between all VMware products and 3th party products like InfoBlox and Service Now.
We started yesterday with the installation of a distributed vRealize Automation 6 environment. After clicking thru 281 pages of instruction the installation was finished. Some people in the class had problems with the lab base environment because of time out errors. The reason was a slow network connection not just slow but really really slow…
The lab environment consists of virtualized ESXi hosts and is using NSX for the networking part. In NSX there is some bug (or should I say undocumented feature ;-)) that cause lots of packet drops when using virtualized ESXi hosts and NSX. The solution to work around is to create DRS rules to keep some of the VMs (the ones you are working on) together on a virtualized ESXi host so all network traffic is kept locally. I think it’s also possible you experience the same slow connection if you are doing the VMware Hands On Labs because the setup is probably the same.
Today when booting up my lab again I had the issue that the infrastructure tab had a strange name. The name was changed in: email@example.com instead of just Infrastructure. All underlying tabs had the same problems. If you know where to click everything is still working, but it doesn’t feel good.
The solution to this problem is to just reboot some nodes of the vRA installation. But wait, which of the 10 servers do need a reboot? The answer is nearly all of them. The boot order for the complete stack is:
- Microsoft SQL Database server
- Identity appliance
- vRealize appliance 1
- vRealize appliance 2
- IAAS webserver 1 & 2 (vRealize webportal and ModelManagerData services)
- Application server 1 ( primary IAAS Manager and the DEM Orchestrator Server services)
- Application server 2 (secondary IAAS Manager and the DEM Orchestrator Server services)
- Proxy server 1 & 2 (DEM worker and Proxy Agent server services)
Rebooting from step 3 will resolve this issue. First shutdown all services in the reverse order and when you are at the vRealize appliance 1 just reboot this one. Wait till the VAMI is showing up in the console and then (and not earlier!) start the next one of the list. If the server is a Windows server give it some extra time to boot up all services.
If everything is restarted then you will see the normally names and tabs.
Two weeks ago I attended the TechUnplugged in London. For whom doesn’t know what TechUnplugged is. TechUnplugged is a full day conference focused on cloud computing and IT infrastructure. The conference brings influencers, vendors and end users together so it is possible to create interaction between these people. If you want more information, look at techunplugged.io.
All speakers had a slot of 25 minutes to tell their story. First I thought it was very little time to tell a story, but after a day of presentation I think it’s sufficient to do the job. If the subject of the presentation is not in your area of interest, it will only cost you 25 minutes of your time. The presentations of the influencers are interspersed with the vendors so you have varied subjects and presentation styles.
The majority of the presentations were storage oriented. These presentations addressed subjects like: the history of storage, winners and losers in storage solutions, multiple vendors and secondary storage. Besides the storage presentations there was a session about OpenStack, Clouds and Containers and the presentation about the Software Defined Data Center from my colleague Arjan Timmerman with stroopwafels and chocolate. I gave, or it was the intention to give it live, a technical overview about vRealize Automation, but because of the bad Wi-Fi connection it was only a movie.
The last part was an ‘Ask Me Anything’ panel consisting of influencers and vendors. Everybody could ask any questions got their answers from different perspectives. It seemed as a nice concept, but it’s always difficult to create this kind of interaction. After the ‘Ask Me Anything’ panel it was time to start the social part of the conference (beer, wine and networking).
I’m looking back at a well-organized event with a broad pallet of interesting subjects and people involved. I think the combination of vendors and influencers and the presentations is perfect formula to be “updated” and involved in the last developments. For me some new products were introduced and I got some new insights in the fast changing world of cloud, storage and SDDC. I sincerely hope I meet you all at the next TechUnplugged in Amsterdam!