Tintri VM Granular Level Capabilities

I’m now into my 2nd week at Tintri and have been blown away by the capabilities of the VMstore. As mentioned in my previous blog post, everything Tintri does it at the VM object level (VM and vDisk).

So, what can Tintri do at a VM/vDisk level?

Firstly you get VM granular snapshots. Other storage vendors may lay claim to this, however behind the smoke and mirrors their snapshots still happen at a Volume or LUN level. What you end up with is a snapshot that contains all your VM’s on a given datastore irrespective of the fact that you only want to snap one.

Secondly, you get VM granular replication. This is a big deal.

Thirdly, VM granular Clones.

Other areas include VM level QoS & analytics/reporting. I briefly covered these off in my last post, but I would like to go into each of these in more detail soon.

Tintri SnapVM

Snapshots preserve the state and data of a VM at a specific point in time allowing VMs to be easily rolled back or replicated. However, as I’ve already mentioned, traditional storage architectures provide snapshots of storage objects, such as LUNs and volumes, rather than VMs. These snapshots can lead to inefficient storage utilisation as tens-to-hundreds of VMs with varying change rates are snapshotted at once. Snapshot schedules can only be set at a LUN or a volume level, leading to such practices as creating one LUN per VM as a workaround to create individualised snapshot VM schedules.

Tintri VMstore delivers unique, space-efficient snapshot capability that consumes virtually zero disk space and can restore VMs within minutes or even seconds. In addition, granular VM snapshots allow administrators to create snapshots of individual VMs and quickly recover data or entire VMs from snapshots. Tintri VMstore supports 128 snapshots per VM for longer-term retention. Data protection management is also simplified with the use of default or custom schedules for VM-consistent or crash-consistent snapshots that protect individual VM automatically without administrator intervention.

Crash consistent snapshots do not take extra measures with the hypervisor or guest VM to coordinate snapshots. Thanks to integration with native hypervisor management tools, such as VMware vCenter integration, Tinter provides VM-consistent snapshots for simpler application recovery. With VM-consistent snapshots, hypervisor management APIs are invoked to quiesce the application in a VM for a VM-consistent snapshot. Unlike storage-centric snapshot technologies in traditional shared storage systems, Tintri SnapVM makes recovery workflows remarkably easy. Files from individual VMs can be recovered without additional management overhead, dramatically reducing the time to recovery.

Scheduling and creating snapshots is very easy. Simply right-click on the VM and choose the Protect option. From here it takes you to the following UI:

Per VM Snapshot

On the above screenshot we have Tintri ReplicateVM configured so the VM snapshot can be replicated to a secondary VMstore. We can also specify a different retention period for the snapshot at the remote site.

Tintri ReplicateVM

Tintri ReplicateVM capability supports efficient replication of VMs from a primary to a second VMstore. Tintri ReplicateVM is based on Tintri snapshot technology, allowing either a new or existing snapshot to be replicated automatically.
Like SnapVM, ReplicateVM enables administrators to apply protection policies to individual VMs, rather than to units of storage such as volumes or LUNs. It allows administrators to easily establish, as-needed, a snapshot and replication policy for individual or set of VMs.

ReplicateVM works by replicating de-duplicated and compressed snapshots of VMs from one Tintri VMstore to another, only sending across the network actual changed blocks or missing data. As a result, VM replication is highly WAN-efficient with up to 95 percent reduction in bandwidth utilisation. It also enables remote cloning, making distribution of golden images for workloads such as VDI with multisite high availability (HA) efficient and simple. ReplicateVM supports different topologies including one to-one, many-to-one and bi-directional replication.

Replication can be dedicated to specific network interfaces, and optionally throttled to limit the rate of replication when replicating snapshots between Tintri VMstore appliances located in datacenters connected over wide-area networks (WANs)

Tintri CloneVM

A few traditional storage systems can provide cloning capabilities sharing data blocks between the source/parent and the clone. Unfortunately these clones are done at the LUN or volume level, which can vastly complicate VM deployment, cloning and management operations. Tintri CloneVM™ enables space-efficient cloning operations at the individual VM level. This eliminates the limitations of traditional storage architectures that necessitate complex provisioning and management.

VMstore builds on snapshots to support individual VM cloning capability, either by taking a new snapshot or by cloning an existing snapshot. Hundreds of clones can be created virtually in an instant, all of which are space efficient and full-performance. Cloned VMs can be quickly accessed, powered on and put into service, enabling more efficient use cases such as virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI), development and test, business intelligence and database testing.

New VMs created via cloning exist and function independently from the parent VMs from which they are created. Behind the scenes, new VMs share common vdisk references with parent VM snapshots to maximise space and performance efficiencies. The extent to which they individually grow and diverge from the data they share with their respective parents defines their incremental storage space requirements. Tintri’s patented use of flash assures that clones are 100 percent performance-efficient. They get the same level of performance as any other VM stored on a Tintri VMstore system.

Using the Tintri UI, hundreds of clone VMs can be created at a time. The cloned VMs are dynamically registered and visible to the hypervisor for immediate use. Administrators can also select customisable specifications defined in vCenter for preparing newly created clone VMs using the vCenter sysprep functionality. Further, clones can also be created from golden image VMs for use cases such as test and development and VDI.

Starting a new life at Tintri – The VM aware storage company

Tintri logo Virtualise More RGB 400px

After nearly 8 years at NetApp I decided to leave and take up a pre-sales position with Tintri Inc in Australia/New Zealand, starting on the 17th February. (Now for those who don’t know Tintri I will cover this off later in the post).

During my time at NetApp I have made some life long friends and had the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the industry, but for me it was time to move on and seek out new challenges.

I am very excited about the opportunity and joining at a time when Tintri is starting out in ANZ. Lot’s to do in the first few weeks, including building a demo environment once my shiny new Tintri T620 arrives.

So, who are Tintri? If you’re a vExpert you will have probably received a new Polo from them every year.

Tintri started out in 2008 in Mountain View, CA with the vision of creating a storage platform that was able to provide a better synergy between virtualisation and storage.

Using the latest advancements in flash, processing and networking they came up with ‘VMStore’ which is still the industry’s only VM-Aware storage appliance for VMware (with KVM and Hyper-V to follow soon).

Being both a virtualisation and storage guy this is a very attractive proposition to me.

Having come from NetApp and worked with other storage vendors in the past (including EMC) one of the main challenges is designing, configuring and tuning traditional storage arrays for virtual environments. If you think about it, these arrays were designed for a very different world where workloads were hosted on physical servers. Now, I’m not saying they don’t work, they just need a lot more management, tuning & tweaking to handle the ever increasing virtual workloads.

Pretty much all storage arrays see the world in terms of Volumes and LUN’s and have no visibility or awareness of the workloads being placed on them, it’s just IO. This is where the disconnection is. How are you meant to get the best performance and capacity utilisation if you have no real visibility of what the VM’s and applications are doing?

Tintri 1

Storage should understand and operate at the VM level.

As a storage guy I have spent many hours thinking about how I lay out my data stores (LUN’s or Volumes) on the available storage I have. NetApp makes it a little easier as you don’t need to think about RAID groups, but it’s still complex regardless.

The bottom line is that virtualisation has changed the way data is managed.

The Tintri VMstore is a VM-Aware Storage Architecture. This means it understands and operates on VMs and virtual disks — instead of conventional storage objects such as volumes and LUNs. All storage operations such as snapshots, clones, and replication are done at VM level, which eliminates the need to deal with underlying the complexity of traditional storage.

Where has all the storage complexity gone? Simple. The VMstore is presented to the hypervisor as a single large NFS datastore (currently up to 33.5TB usable per unit). If you need more, just add a new VMstore and away you go. No more LUN’s, RAID configuration etc etc.

The functionality underlying Tintri VMstore™ can be categorised in three sections:

1. Storage intelligence: Delivering performance, density and scalability without the complexity.

2. Infrastructure insight: Delivering a complete picture of virtualised workloads.

3. VM control: Delivering VM-granular data management and automation.

Storage Intelligence

Tintri VMstore’s approach automatically ensures every VM gets the performance it needs. Expanding storage is simple, as each VMstore appliance appears as an additional, high-capacity datastore in VMware vCenter. This makes it easy to scale and manage each node as part of a VMware Storage DRS cluster and eliminates any risk of downtime.

Lets see how:

Tintri FlashFirst™ design: VMstore is a hybrid storage solution. It uses a combination of flash-based solid-state devices (SSDs) and high-capacity disk drives for storage. Tintri’s patented FlashFirst design incorporates algorithms for inline deduplication, compression and working set analysis to service more than 99 percent of all IO from flash for very high levels of throughput and consistent sub-millisecond latencies for both read
and write operations.

Tintri 3

Flash-first design minimises swap between SSD and HDD by leveraging data reduction in the form of deduplication and compression to increase the amount of data that can be stored on flash. This is complemented by detailed profiling of all the active VM IO to ensure metadata and active data are kept in high performance flash. Only cold data is evicted to disk, which does not impact application performance. It takes advantage of the fact that each VM has an active working set, which is a fraction of the overall VM. Using a flash-only approach means all data must be stored on high performance (and expensive) flash, whether it needs to be there or not.

Unlike flash-only products, 100 percent of the operational flash capacity on a Tintri VMstore can be used without concern about running out of space and having applications come to a screeching halt. In addition, the Tintri VMstore is operationally far simpler and more cost-effective than flash-only products.

Traditional storage systems often incorporate flash to an existing disk-based architecture, using it as a cache or bolt-on tier, while continuing to use disk IO as part of the basic data path. In comparison, VMstore services 99 percent IO requests directly from flash, thereby achieving dramatically lower flash-level latencies, while delivering the cost advantages of disk storage.

Tintri’s innovative FlashFirst design addresses MLC flash problems that previously made it unsuitable for enterprise environments: Flash suffers from high levels of write amplification due to the asymmetry between the size of blocks being written and the size of erasure blocks for flash. Unchecked, this reduces random write throughput by more than 100 times, introduces latency spikes and dramatically reduces flash lifetime. FlashFirst design uses a variety of techniques including deduplication, compression, analysis of IO, wear leveling, garbage collection algorithms and SMART (Self-Monitoring, Analysis and Reporting Technology) monitoring of flash devices and dual parity RAID-6 to handle write amplification, ensure longevity and safeguard against failures.

VM QoS: Tintri VMstore is designed to support a mixed workload of hundreds of VMs each with a unique IO configuration. Additionally, as volumes of traffic ebb and flow, through its FlashFirst design analyses and tracks the IO for each VM, delivering consistent performance where it is needed. This enables it to isolate the VMs, queue and allocate critical system resources such as networking, flash/SSDs and system processing to individual VMs. The QoS capability is complementary to VMware’s performance management capability.

The result is consistent performance where it is needed. And, all of VM QoS functionality is transparent, so there is no need to manually tune the array or perform any administrative touch.

QoS is critical when storage must support high performance databases generating plenty of IO alongside latency sensitive virtual desktops. This is commonly referred to as the noisy neighbour problem in traditional storage architectures that are flash-only and lack VM-granular QoS. Tintri VMstore ensures database IO does not starve the virtual desktops, making it possible to have thousands of VMs served from the same storage system.

Scaling storage: Scaling storage beyond the performance and capacity of a single system is as simple as adding another VMstore system – a task that takes less than two minutes. This building block approach effectively adds another datastore that can be managed by the virtualisation layer. To tackle the challenge of managing individual VMstore systems, Tintri has created Tintri Global Center. Build on a solid architectural foundation is capable of supporting over one million VMs, Tintri Global Center is an intuitive centralised control platform that lets administrators monitor and administer multiple VMstore systems as one.

Infrastructure Insight

When I logged into the management UI for the first time I have to say I was very surprised (in a good way). It’s very clean and uncluttered. A great deal of thought has gone into it’s design and layout.

Essentially the Dashboard is designed to help you draw quick conclusions about your VMstore’s health, identify problems, and help you make informed resource management decisions. Dashboard numbers are refreshed every 10 seconds, and performance reserves and space changers are refreshed every 10 minutes.

Space and Performance reserves changers are VMs that experience the largest change in reserves & space within the last week.

You can drill down on the VM, examine its historic or real time trends, and correlate the time of any I/O spikes to suspicious activities on the business application.

In addition, when the datastore is unexpectedly running low on space, refer to the space changers list to find potential culprits.

Tintri dashboard 2011 09 20

As I have mentioned before, traditional storage systems provide a performance view from the LUN, volume or file-system standpoint, but cannot isolate VM performance or provide insight into VM-level performance characteristics.
It is difficult for administrators to understand situations such as the impact of a new VM workload, without access to relevant VM performance metrics. In addition, identifying the cause of performance bottlenecks is a time consuming, frustrating and sometimes inconclusive process that requires iteratively gathering data, analysing the data to form a hypothesis and then testing the hypothesis. In large enterprises, this process often involves coordination between several people and departments, typically spanning many days or even weeks.

Tintri provides a complete, comprehensive view of VMs including end-to-end tracking and visualisation of performance across the entire data center infrastructure. This ensures that administrators can procure the critical statistics they need. The goal is ensuring storage performance stays at acceptable levels with minimal latency.

Tintri VMstore monitors every IO request at the vdisk and VM level and can determine if latency is being incurred at the hypervisor, network, or storage levels. For each VM and vdisk stored on the system, enterprise IT teams can use VMstore to instantly visualise where potential performance issues may exist, including on the host, network or storage. The latency statistics are displayed in an intuitive forma. In an instant, administrators can see the bottleneck rather than trying to deduce where it is from indirect measurements and time-consuming detective work.

The hypervisor latencies are obtained using vCenter APIs, while the network, file system and disk latencies are provided by Tintri VMstore, which knows the identity of the corresponding VM for each IO request.

Administrators can detect trends with this data from the VMstore and individual VMs, all without the added complexity of installing and maintaining separate software. This built-in insight can reduce costs and simplify planning activities — especially around virtualising IO-intensive critical applications and end-user desktops.

Tintri 4

VM Control

Tintri VMstore allows all data management operations — snapshots, clones and replication — to operate at the VM level. This enables managing large-scale virtual environments to the vdisk level with complete, granular control. I will cover more about each of these areas in a further blog post soon.

In addition all VAAI capabilities for NFS are fully supported and a management console for the vSphere Web client will be available very soon.

VMworld 2013 – Numbers

Just back from VMworld 2013 and was very interested to see the numbers in terms of attendees and demographics.

It’s kind of interesting when I see this data and relate this to what I hear on the street from ANZ customers about dissatisfaction with VMWare and moving to Hyper-V.

Based on the data below MS have a long long way to go before making significant inroads into VMware’s loyal customer base.

VMworld 2013 InfographicInfographic

VMworld 2013

Hard to believe it’s been a year! Looking forward to catching up with friends, colleagues and making new contacts.

This will be my 8th VMworld (both US and Europe) and it keeps getting better and better each year. I’ve always used this event as my learning & education week (albeit it with a sore head most days…..must be the San Fran flu).

Here are some of the storage sessions I’ve highlighted that should be good:

STO5027 – VMware Virtual SAN Technical Best Practices

Cormac Hogan , VMware
Kiran Madnani , VMware

STO7449 – Tech Preview: Accelerating data operations Using VMware VVols and Storage Profile Based Management

Suzy Visvanathan , VMware

VSVC5603 – Extreme Performance Series: Storage in a Flash

Sankaran Sivathanu , VMware

Mark Achtemichuk , VMware

STO5423 – Accelerate Your Existing Storage with Server Caching

Narayan Kumar , NetApp
Larry Touchette , NetApp

STO5638 – Best Practices with Software Defined Storage Wednesday, Aug 28, 4:00 (This is the update of the #1 and #2 rated sessions from VMworld 2011 & 2013)

Vaughn Stewart – Director of Technical Marketing, NetApp

Chad Sakac – EVP Cloud Computing, EMC

STO5339 – Implementing Software Defined Storage with SDDC to Deliver IT Agility to Apps & End-Users Wednesday, Aug 28, 11:30

Vaughn Stewart – Director of Technical Marketing, NetApp

See you in San Fran!

Tech Preview: NetApp Project Shift

Here is a preview of some exciting new technology you will see from NetApp. The driver behind this technology is the shift (pardon the pun) we are seeing in the market for a multi-hypervisor based cloud solutions.

How good would it be to transition VM’s from development to production (and vice versa) on different hypervisor platforms without requiring data migration or additional storage resources?

To make this happen FlexClone is used to clone the data blobs from one format to another writing any unique differences as needed. For instance, when shifting from VMware to Hyper-V, we clone from the flat VMDK into the new VHD/VHDX writing any headers and metadata as needed. The end result is we’re able to take a VMDK on an NFS data store and shift it to a VHD/VHDX in seconds! More importantly we’re doing so in an incredibly efficient manner as we’re only writing the difference in the file format not the contents of the virtual disk itself.

The following demo from my esteemed colleague Vaughn Stewart will show you the magic:

Initially we will support vSphere, Hyper-V and Xenserver and planning for AWS, KVM/RHEV in the future.

Enjoy 🙂

vExper2013 Award

Vexpert logo

Well it’s been nearly a week since I found out I’d be joining the ranks of a very special group of individuals and I’m very excited about the year ahead and the opportunities being a vExpert will bring.

Within a couple of days the amount of Tweets went through the roof and I now have a new set of folks to follow and likewise they are following me.

As a NetApp employee being given the award has even more significance as I am only one of eight globally and the only person outside of the US. Time to fly the flag for Austalia, New Zealand and the greater APAC region.

I’m once again looking forward to VMworld and the first one as a vExpert.

Finally I’d like to congratulate my fellow vExperts and all those involved at VMware to make this a great programme.

Now it’s time to work towards vExper2014 🙂

New RBAC Capabilities with Virtual Storage Console (VSC) 4.2

Following on from my previous post I thought I’d run through the updated capabilities of VSC 4.2 RBAC.

You can use a set of VSC-specific, standard vCenter Server roles for working with VSC tasks.
These roles provide the necessary vCenter native privileges and VSC-specific privileges to enable users to perform standard VSC tasks.

In previous releases of VSC there has been limited RBAC (vCenter & ONTAP) options and customers requested more granular capabilities and roles specific to things like backup and recovery etc. With the 4.2 release there is full granular vCenter RBAC integration for all functions.

The first thing you will notice is a bunch of predefined roles. These are great to get started with and generally will suite most use cases.


Ok, so lets have a more detailed look at these one of these roles:


You will notice Read Only role requires access to a number of other vCenter functions for viewing. You can navigate through these, but I don’t recommend changing anything unless you specifically want to block something.

Here’s more detail on the VSC specific privileges.


From here I can set up new roles with any combination of privileges. One of the most common is to allow a VC user to have the restore only capability from a storage snapshot. This can be defined at the single file, VM or Datastore level.

Note: The VSC-specific View privilege, which is read-only, is required for a user to view the VSC GUI. Without this privilege, menus, tabs, and other elements of the GUI are not visible. If you do not have this privilege and click the NetApp icon from the Home View, you get an error message.

So, it now pretty simple to create/manage VSC roles and privileges and delegate storage functions to vCenter users.


NetApp releases Virtual Storage Console 4.2 Update for vSphere

Hi Folks

Just a quick update blog covering the update release of the Virtual Storage Console 4.2 from NetApp.

For those not familiar with VSC, here is a quick summary of what it is…….

NetApp Virtual Storage Console is a vSphere client plug-in designed to simplify storage management operations, improve efficiencies, enhance availability, and reduce storage costs in both SAN- and NAS-based VMware infrastructures. VSC provides VMware administrators with a window into the storage domain and the tools to manage the end-to-end lifecycle of virtual server and desktop environments running on NetApp storage.

New in VSC 4.2

  • New VSC-defined vSphere privileges for all capabilities
  • New VSC-defined, read-only View privilege that allows a user to view the VSC UI (without this privilege, menus, tabs, and other elements of the UI are not visible)
  • Set of standard VSC-defined standard vCenter Server roles for working with VSC tasks that include all necessary vCenter native privileges and VSC-defined privileges
  • Unified storage discovery and credentials management in Monitoring and Host Configuration for all capabilities

Enhancements in VSC 4.2

  • Expanded authentication and user management via vCenter™ Server and Data ONTAP® role-based access control (RBAC).
  • VSC uses a combination of vCenter RBAC and Data ONTAP RBAC to provide fine-grain, authorized access to VSC tasks.
  • Data ONTAP RBAC privileges restrict users to a single login account for each storage system managed by VSC, and determine what storage operations can be performed on a specific storage system in support of VSC tasks.
  • vCenter RBAC privileges restrict vSphere users to specific VSC tasks on objects in the vSphere inventory, such as virtual machines, datastores, or data centers.
  • Enhanced I/O performance with online optimisation and migration of misaligned VMs in NFS datastores (for Data ONTAP 8.1.3 and higher)
  • VSC 4.2 will have VM-Align turned on by default
  • VSC 4.2 will only recognise ONTAP 8.1.3 and above (as valid for VM-Align volumes)
  • VMware snapshot option set to off (disabled) by default
  • Management support for the Flash Accel™ server cache, which makes server-side flash storage available as cache for applications that read from and write to NetApp back-end storage

You must install Flash Accel, which is available from the NetApp Support site.
You must install a Flash Accel Base Package for VSC, which is available from the NetApp Support site, to enable support of this feature in VSC.
Data ONTAP 8.2 support

LACP support with vSphere 5.1

Happy New Year everyone! I’ve been taking a break (enjoying the Australian summer) and now have a backlog of posts I need to publish. I’m starting with a brief one on networking…….

Some great new Network features have been introduced with vSphere 5.1 and one I am particularly pleased about is vDS support for LACP.

Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) is a standards-based method to control the bundling of several
physical network links together to form a logical channel for increased bandwidth and redundancy purposes.

LACP enables a network device to negotiate an automatic bundling of links by sending LACP packets to the
peer. As part of the vSphere 5.1 release, VMware now supports this standards-based link aggregation protocol.

This dynamic protocol provides the following advantages over the static link aggregation method supported by
previous versions of vSphere:

1) Plug and Play – Automatically configures and negotiates between host and access layer physical switch

2) Dynamic – Detects link failures and cabling mistakes and automatically reconfigures the links

So, what’s so great about LACP?

Being a storage person this simplifies the network setup. In the case of NetApp I can create an Interface Group of 2 or more network links (NetApp recommends creating dynamic multimode ifgrps if your switches support LACP).