Storage Brief – Pure Storage

Storage Brief – Pure Storage

Pure StoragePure Storage is one of the leading all flash storage provider. Competitors are XtremIO, SolidFire, Nimble, etc.

Here is a quick summary for Pure Storage:

  •  All flash performance
  • Duplication and compression that meets or beats rivals
  •  Easy of management compared to legacy storage
  • In depth reporting on hardware, software, and performance that is for customer and also goes to Pure maintenance techs for an extra extension of your team.

What is unique? Why choose Pure Storage?

  • They are as much a software company as they are a hardware storage company.  All software/licenses/upgrades are part of their storage solution.  There are not module costs/tiers.  When you buy Pure Storage you get all the software features.
  • Upgrades & expansion without downtime.  This isn’t just for storage but also storage processor replacements and full upgrades to new/higher performance SPs.
  • Database (SQL & Oracle) and VDI focused for performance and deduplication space saving.
  • Unique upgrade/replacement Business Model – their Forever flash gives upgrades for storage processors when maintenance is renewed after 3yrs.  This can provide a more stable & predictable storage cost instead of the traditional 3-5yr capital refresh to get new performance.

Contact us for more information on Pure Storage or other flash technologies.

Storage Brief – NetApp and SolidFire

 Storage Brief – NetApp and SolidFire

In Q4 of 2016 NetApp announced the acquisition of SolidFire and completed the acquisition this year, Q1 2016.

If you haven’t looked at SolidFire, here is a very briNetApp & SolidFireef overview.

  • SolidFire is all flash storage (competitors XtremIO, Pure Storage, etc).
  • It has all the things you expect from a current top tier solution:
    • Block level deduplication
    • Data protection and re-balance data after failure.
    • Easy scale-out storage
    • Simplified management compared to traditional storage
  • If it is like it’s competitors, what is unique and why buy it?
    • Performance, guaranteed performance
      • You can set QOS for I/O performance so your critical apps always have performance.  No more relying on alerts and searching through performance graphs to try and determine why your critical app’s storage is slow.

Contact us to learn more about SolidFire or other flash technologies.

 

Cloud Simplicity & Efficiency without ‘the cloud’

Cloud Simplicity & EEfficiencyfficiency

Labor is expensive and IT experts are VERY expensive which leaves many bank and credit union leaders with gaps and wants in their IT teams.  So how do you ensure you’re providing the support and IT services your financial institution (FI) needs?  Right now the answer being shouted from every vendor and corner of the IT world is to use the Cloud.  cloud, Cloud, CLOUD! ‘Why are you not using the cloud?’ is heard repeatedly.  There are non-public cloud options for FIs.  As FIs deal with regulators, security, and perception challenges with the public cloud, I want to share 2 options for how to get cloud simplicity and efficiency for your institution without the public cloud.  With these options you can shift or focus your IT team on more valuable business driving applications, business intelligence, and other key areas that impact your financial business.

Option 1:  Put together a managed environment with a trusted Managed Service Provider (MSP) focused on FIs.

MSPs have come a long way (to be more accurate, a few top tier MSPs) to help FIs than your traditional small/regional integrator/MSP.  The best ones are capable of:

  • Taking over all IT infrastructure for you. What does this mean?  It means they either hosting an independent environment for you in a top tier data center or in a multi-tenant environment run in a top tier data center.
  • Designing or providing IT architecture for you that meets FFIEC security, disaster recovery, and other key regulatory needs.
  • Management tools, reports, & dashboards that allow transparency, co-management, real-time and historic performance information.
  • National coverage with options for local support and local device management.
  • 24/7/365 alerting and assistance because you run an always on business and they understand your needs.
  • Expertise in multiple IT disciplines (storage, compute, data center, OS/domain admin, DB admins, security, DR/BCP, etc.) or partnerships with IT discipline experts to give you options for a fully managed environment.

 

Option 2: Use a Hyperconverged IT solution which provides a local cloud plus key backup, replication, and disaster recovery services.

There are 15+ hyperconverged solutions out there but not all are created equal nor are as mature in their services.  At this time, the traditional IT vendors like VMware, Cisco, Microsoft are all behind the curve with Hyperconvergence solutions having only recently introduced or initially stumbled and recently re-vamped their offerings.  They are becoming solid options but are not as feature rich as the top providers who were born as Hyperconvergence solutions. The top Hyperconvergence solutions right now are Simplivity and Nutanix.  I’ll highlight features below are present in both or at least one of these top Hyperconvergence solutions. They are capable of:

  • Replacing the full x86 IT stack. At a minimum this includes your storage, storage network, compute, and management of these components in a single management interface.
  • The management tools are VM object focused so you manage your VMs and don’t spend time or need expertise managing individual components supporting the VM.
  • These solutions work well with traditional Hypervisors or can include their own KVM branded hypervisor that is fully supported and integrated into your single management interface.
  • They provide snapshot and backup options for your VM. When combined with a secondary site as all CU & Banks need this can replace your backup software and be managed in the single management interface.
  • They are cluster aware and have native tools to replicate snapshots/VMs offsite and/or into other cloud services. This can in many cases replace SRM, Veeam, or Zerto and the replication is also managed in the single interface.
  • They even give you the benefit of their deduplication & compression technologies so you can put more data on the environment without adding more storage. In public and hosted clouds, the vendor often charges you for your storage and can use some of those benefits to their advantage instead of your advantage.
  • All this in 1 technology package and supported by 1 vendor who has experts in each area supporting your hyperconverged solution.

If you haven’t evaluated these options, it is time to start reading and having conversations about them.  Beyond the cloud simplicity & efficiency benefits of focusing your team on needs closer to your higher value business needs, they can also be cost savings options that help you better control and predict costs for the coming years.

While I believe the public cloud has great benefits, we can gain many of them today with the two options above.   I have helped customers explore and implement both options and would be happy to share my experience or connect you with others to gain from their experience and perspective.

 

 

RPO & RTO – Check. What about RTPO? (Return to Production)

RPO & RTO.  What about RTPO?

Don’t ignore this undervalued disaster recovery measurement

You know these:

  • RPO – recovery point objective
  • RTO – recovery time objective

But what is RTPO?

  • RTPO – Return to Production Objective

Everyone needs to consider the time & effort it will take to fail-back to their production equipment, location, and systems.  Yes I made it up, RTPO.  I didn’t make up the need though, just the abbreviation.

Unfortunately, not every solution or the way they are implemented takes into account the effort or time it will take to return to production environments.

You don’t want to go through a disaster and then turn around weeks later and do all the work over again to Return to Production systems & locations!  It’s like scheduling a second disaster.  Consider your RTPO when setting up your DR strategy.

When I help with storage solutions, Disaster Recovery (DR) is always part of the conversation so here is a chart covering at a high level the options for DR.

 

Scale 0-5 with lower being better

DR Options RPO RTO RTPO Comments

Examples

(just a sampling)

SAN replication

 

1 1 4 Replication can rarely be synchronous writes because of latency and distance between production and DR sites.  So data is never 100% up to day but even with asynchronous writes or snapshots the time to recover and recovery point are usually very quick.

 

The concern is returning to production.  Traditional solutions, depending on the type of issue or length of running out of the DR site can cause a full re-sync of data to get back to production.  Newer solutions and improved options do exist so only change deltas are synced back to the production site.  Know what your SAN can do to get back to productions!

·         EMC

·         NetApp

·         IBM

·         Pure

·         Dell

·         There are many, many SAN providers.

Hypervisor replication / DR tools

 

1 1 3 Hypervisor vendors figured out long ago how to do high availability in a shared storage environment and low latency situation like one data center.  Current day tools, with the right licensing can extend many of those capabilities to a DR site.  The tools, licensing, and exact abilities vary with each hypervisor & may also be based on your SAN/Storage replication ability.

 

Your return to production depends on the various components for your hypervisor and SAN. Be sure to know your Hypervisor and your SAN’s capabilities if using Hypervisor replication tools.

·         VMware

·         HyperV

·         Citrix Zen Server

·         KVM – various providers

VM Replication tools at the Application layer 2 1 2 Replication tools of this type usually interact at the VM or Hypervisor level.  They don’t rely on specific SAN or Hypervisor tools (some do need Hypervisor APIs) to replicate your data.  The advantage is that the secondary site & technology doesn’t need to look exactly like production.  You may be using older or slower but still capable storage & VM hosts.  You could also use a hybrid cloud solution so you don’t own any of the infrastructure at the DR site.  An extra benefit is that you should find these tools to be less complex than putting together SAN/hypervisor replication setups as they are designed to be one application for replication and recovery.

 

Return to production is done with delta changes and done on a per VM or VM group level not a full SAN or site level.

·         Veeam

·         Zerto

 

Backup software / appliances

 

4 4 4 Traditional backup solutions have the advantage of long term retention and many recovery points.  Unfortunately, they often create a longer recovery time as data has to be decrypted, copied, and/or restored from a 3rd party medium (HD or tape).  Some solutions do have rapid recovery options available that provide immediate temporary servers (read-only VMs with data change logs) or even delta restores that overwrite the production VM.  These advancements are not consistent across the vendors so know your options.

 

In general, these backup tools often take longer to restore and eventually require another restore back to production equipment if the ‘quick’ temp restore or recovery options were used.

·         StorageCraft

·         Commvault

·         Asigra

·         Acronis

·         Evault

·         Avamar

Application/DB specific tools 1 1 2 These tools are designed right into specific application or platforms that require high availability like databases and mail servers.  When DB clusters, DAG groups, or built in application replication is used for HA solutions it provides very quick recovery and by design an easy return to production environments.

 

To return to production these systems often try to first replicate data changes and only if necessary reseed a recent backup and then replicate only recent data changes.

·         SQL Always on Clusters

·         Distributed file System (DFS)

·         Exchange DAG groups

·         Oracle clusters & replication options.

I am not recommending one type of solution over another.  The ‘right’ solution or mix of solutions depends on your risk, architecture, skillsets, and budget.  I’ve helped set up all types of DR solutions and many clients have a combination of these solutions to meet their specific business needs or regulations.

I’ve experienced a RTP turning into a scheduled outage and redoing all the ‘disaster’ work just to move back to production systems.  Design and choose your DR strategy carefully & remember the Return to Production Objective is as important as RTO & RPO.

LostCreek Fintech handles all aspects of storage solutions and has partners who are experts in multiple disciplines to help our clients with other IT needs.  Contact us at info@lcfintech.com for more info.

Data Center & SAN Move – Tips and Tricks

Data Center & SAN Move

What to do when the timing & budget don’t allow for duplicate hardware.

Data Center

In a perfect world, you’ll always have the time and budget to stage a new environment with the storage and telecom capacity to migrate all your data to the new location for a move.  Even with my refurbished and cost reduction options this hasn’t always been possible for my clients.  Since there are only a few who live in the perfect world of large IT budgets this information is for the rest of us.  Here are some highlights from my experience that might help you move your production systems.

First and foremost, know that it can be done.

It may be a high stress time but it can be done.  There will be some downtime for applications that impact customers and communication with clients and adjusting to their needs are key to help make the move successful for everyone.

Expectation setting & communication is critical to your success:

  1. Develop a Communication Plan
    1. Identify all the parties that need to be kept up to speed
    2. Clients
    3. Internal Departments.
    4. IT teams.
    5. Management
    6. Vendors assisting with the move.
  2. Set key milestones for communication to the various groups
    1. Regular interval – current status whether the news is good or bad, send it out.
    2. Triggered by events
      1. Systems going dark
      2. Leaving old Data Center
      3. System arrived at new Data Center
      4. Systems up & testing beginning
      5. Live system & maintenance window closure

Document & Label everything:

  1. Document everything, label everything, then go back and have a different person check everything for clarity and completeness.
    1. Label & document every cable, device, shelf, and port. Make sure you label both the cable end and the port on the SAN/Server/switch.
    2. Grab configs, take screenshots from mgmt. interfaces, get a copy of everything you can.
      1. SAN, network switches, storage switches, Vmhosts and any other connected systems.
    3. Take pictures. Yes, grab your camera and take pictures from far way, close up of each rack front & back, and then even closer for the backs of storage processors, servers, or switches.
      1. If/when you need to remember what was plugged into what when the label falls off the cable or server, then you’ll at least have a picture to reference.

Expect something to go bad & prepare for the disaster:

I’ve seen things dropped, vibrate loose in shipment, or moving trucks breakdown or get in minor accidents.  Here are some things you can do.

  1. Develop & Test shutdown and startup scripts. Make sure you have a checklist with the order & dependancies of what is turned off & on in what order.
    1. This is for data safety as well as for efficiency. With many people working and as the move progresses and fatigue sets in, you need to make sure you’re addressing systems in the right order.
    2. Review this regularly before the move and when possible practice it on test systems to know everything will go smoothly. You don’t want an error in your shutdown or startup processes causing delays or data integrity issues.
    3. Make sure someone owns the orchestrator/coordinator role and have key milestones signed off on before the team continues to the next major step.
      1. If you know you need all guest VMs turned off before turning off hosts then create a ‘pause’ and have someone double check before proceeding. The same holds true with making sure all systems are off before turning off your SAN & switches.
  2. A delay is bad; loss of data or a system is much, much worse. Plan for the worst.
    1. Check Backups and test that they are good before proceeding with a move.
    2. Get full images of critical systems or applications whenever possible.
      1. That secondary SAN may not be in the budget but I bet a refurbished NAS or at the very least a few USB hard drives can be purchased if it means protecting key system data.
  3. Use Key Vendor relationships
    1. I recommend having your vendors scheduled for your move. That could mean having them participate in the shutdown/startup process milestones or at the very least on-call.
    2. In my experience it can be worth the money to have the SAN vendor on-site at the new data center location.
      1. They can quickly help address any hardware issues.
      2. I always have them come with some parts in hand.
        1. An extra power supply, hard drive of each drive type for your SAN, and possibly even a storage processor/controller if you can get them to bring one.
      3. When you’re in the 2nd half of your maintenance window, you don’t want to wait 4hrs or more for your support vendor(s) to be responding to your request.
  4. Separate production and backup
    1. After all your prep work make sure you put your backups in a different truck or transport vehicle. You don’t want to lose everything in 1 vehicle accident.
    2. I’ve had IT staff transport encrypted drives & backups in a separate car taking a separate route or delayed by 1-2 hours behind the primary moving truck.

Take care of your staff:

  1. You can’t be everywhere and check everything yourself. Take care of your staff and prepare them.
    1. Talk through scenarios, checklists, and expectations before the move.
    2. Treat movers, packers, and other laborers as part of your staff and set expectations with them. Make sure you tip them too as you’ve probably just asked them to work/drive through the day/night to help your business.
    3. Use rotating shifts for staff.
      1. Tired staff make mistakes. Whether it is management or engineers, make sure you rotate through people so they stay fresh, get rest, get food & drink, and stay healthy.

Celebrate when you are done:

  1. Celebrate your success and learn from your challenges.
    1. Do a move review a week or two later to learn from the challenges and improve processes for future moves or system maintenance.
    2. Make sure the final IT setup is well documented for the future before you close down your project.
    3. Celebrate with your staff. This can be food, company swag, a party, bonuses, or more.  The success of the move was because of your staff’s hard work.  Show your appreciation.

LostCreek Fintech handles all aspects of storage solutions. Moving a live production storage environment is not ideal but can be done with the right planning and support.  Hopefully our experience helps you through your next move.  We are here to help if you ever need storage options, support, or advice for a move or storage project.

 

 

 

Cloud is Not a Strategy

Cloud is Not a Strategy.

IT cloud may just be a fogThe ‘Cloud’ is talked about like it is a heavenly option saving IT but for many it is only a low lying dense fog clouding their vision.

Some institutions are wandering around blindly as they try out various software as a service offerings or charging ahead blindly with one ‘all-in’ cloud vendor hoping there is a clearing ahead that delivers on the benefits of cloud.  If you don’t have a clear IT strategy, you shouldn’t focus on the cloud or have a cloud strategy.  The cloud is not a strategy!

I’ve run into too many conversations lately where the ‘cloud’ is stated as the defining IT strategy going forward without many details around the overall IT strategy.  I’ve talked with a few CTO/CIOs who have shared the following experience.  Their CEO goes to the latest conference or has lunch with a CEO buddy and comes back stating that the bank or CU should be moving to the cloud.  It is, of course, common for a CEO to share the latest things they’ve heard that could help the business and it’s better to have an engaged CEO than an absent one.  This question & situation is not to be feared.  In all but the unhealthiest leadership cultures it is an opportunity for the CTO/CIO.

If leadership hasn’t talked about the overall IT strategy in the last few months, especially after going through the budgeting season and entering a new year, then there is a larger problem than cloud or no cloud.  This is the opportunity to open up more conversation.  The last thing needed in that situation is an independent strategy around cloud.  What is needed is an overarching IT strategy and plan.  CTO/CIOs, your plan may just need updated to address hosted and cloud solutions but what you must do is engage leaders in your institution to share your overall strategy.  Don’t get lost in the fog of only focusing on ‘cloud’.

There are many ‘how to’ articles and templates about writing strategy statements and plans so I’m not covering that here.  If you want help with that, let me know and I’ll point you to a peer who has a solid plan or vendor who can help.

I will instead suggest the following 4 steps:

  1. Find, update, or if needed develop your overall IT strategy and IT strategic plan.
  2. Know your institution’s goals, strengths, & upcoming needs. You will need to lead, support, follow, and adapt to the business units.
    1. Make sure the institution’s goals are restated in your plan for a clear connection between IT and your institution.
  3. Evaluate the strengths, weaknesses, and the resources available for updating your staff, your IT infrastructure, and your applications. These will influence your strategy.
  4. Engage your CEO, SVPs, CFO, COO, and other leaders as appropriate.
    1. Explain your plan.
    2. Listen to feedback.
    3. Healthy debate is good.
    4. Refine the plan to better serve the business & your IT info with any new information.

If you’ve done the four things above lately, then your strategy should already address cloud options and tools. If it doesn’t then you are missing an opportunity both for your institution as well as for you to communicate to your peers that you are staying relevant with current trends.  Remember the ‘cloud’ comes in many forms; Local, hybrid, public as well as SAAS, PAAS, IAAS just to throw out a few variations.  All of my customers have some aspect of cloud in their environment, even if it is just a specialized SAAS service such as HR services.  Know the tools available to you and address cloud in your IT plan and looking for vision beyond the fog.

 

LostCreek Fintech helps credit unions, banks, and healthcare institutions with storage solutions and large infrastructure design and implementation projects.  Contact us @ Inquiry for more information.

 

Top 5 Benefits of Third Party Storage Maintenance

Third / 3rd Party Maintenance

Top 5 Benefits of Third Party Storage Maintenance

  1. Tailored SLAs to meet your needs and budget

    1. 24/7/365, business hours response only, or custom schedules
    2. proactive monitoring and quick issue response
    3. onsite or remote response
  2. No forced non-human automation system

    1. You have email and phone access to humans in our support center
    2. Direct access to talk & interact with level 3 Engineers when needed.
  3. Onsite hardware kits

    1. Immediate parts available for the most common failures already at your location.
    2. Hard drives, power supplies, and other critical parts can be pre-staged at your data center & replenished if needed by the system instead of waiting for a part delivery.
  4. Remote assistance provides quicker resolution

    1. We can save you time and money by remotely troubleshooting & administering SANs & NAS devices.
    2. We work well with remote smart hands or general technicians at your data center to walk them through hardware troubleshooting & hardware replacements.
  5. Lower Cost. We just cost less than OEM hardware support.

    1. While our service & storage solutions keep our customers engaged, the budget friendly pricing is extremely attractive for our industry that often must have two or more storage solutions for regulatory and compliance reasons.
    2. Our vast inventory of parts and efficient support teams allow us to be a high value partner for the financial and healthcare industries.

Bonus.  The Gift of More Time

  1. Don’t rush into a new storage solution decision. You can create time and space to evaluate what overall solutions are the best fit for your IT & business needs by moving to 3rd party maintenance.
  2. You can keep or extend the life of storage SAN and NAS equipment to meet lower performance production needs (development & programming, archiving, backup vaults or document storage) with confidence that your hardware is being monitored and maintained.
  3. You aren’t forced into upgrades or hardware replacements because of escalating OEM maintenance pricing. You have 3rd party maintenance options that many large companies discovered years ago and are now available to credit unions, banks, and healthcare institutions to give us another tool for accomplishing our goals.

Contact us to find out more Email us