Dell EqualLogic version 5.1 firmware overview

Dell released version 5.1 of the firmware for the PS series storage arrays end of August 23 2011. This posting will give an overview of the most interesting new features being:

  • auto tiering / load balacing
  • support for authentication for Group Manager using Active Directory (LDAP)
  • support for VMware Thin Provision stunning
  • auditing of administrator actions
  • increased configuration limits

auto tiering / load balacing

Dell added a new loadbalancer called Automatic Performance Load Balancer or APLB. This automatically moves blocks of data between pools of different controllers, RAID set or disk types. This means you can create a pool of disk drives containing different characteristics, like SAS and nearline SAS or SATA. As a administrator you do not have to worry anymore where to place the data. Also when administrator finds out an application needs more iops, he does not need to move data manually to  high performance tier of storage. APLB will make sure the most accessed data will be placed on the fastest drives (the drives with the least latency). There is a lot more to tell about this new feature. Read this blogposting including a link to a Dell PDF for more information.  Marc Malotke has a great website with information on Dell EqualLogic as well.

Support for Active Directory.
Until firmware version 5.1 authentication for Group Manager was done using local credentials or RADIUS. Now administrators can authenticate using their Active Directory useraccount and password.

Support for VMware Thin Provision stunning
When an EqualLogic volume containing VMware virtual machines is thin provisioned at the storage layer and reaching a warning level indicating low disk space, an alert will be sent out to vCenter Server. When the volume has reached it’s maximum allowed used diskspace, instead of taking the volume offline which will cause VMware virtual machines to crash, the virtual machines will be stunned ( pausing the vm). This prevents application data corruption. When the volume size has been adjusted by the administrator or virtual machines have been moved to other volumes, the virtual machines can be resumed.
I believe this only works for VMFS-5 and thus vSphere 5 is needed as this feature is delivered using VAAI. Read more about this at Chad Sakac excellent blog here.
To be able to use the Thin provision stun option you will need version 3.1 of the Dell Host Integration Tools for VMware (HIT/VE). This is a virtual appliance which can be downloaded for free from the Dell EqualLogic website for customers. It can easily be deployed using the vSphere Client. Once deployed and started, the appliance is configuered. One interface will contect to the vCenter Server will the other will connect to the Dell EqualLogic management interface.

Increased configuration limits

In Version 5.1 , the following changes have been made to the supported configuration limits:

• For groups containing only PS4X00 systems, the maximum number of volumes per group has been increased from 256 to 512.

• For groups containing only PS4X00 systems, the maximum number of connections per pool has been increased from 256 to 512.  Each time an  iSCSI initiator connects to a volume counts as a connection.

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