Vol. 18, #4 - January 28, 2013 - Issue #914
The Skinny on Thin Provisioning
- Editor's Corner
- From Fat to Fit IT Pro
- From the Mailbag
- The Skinny on Thin Provisioning
- Tip of the Week
- Recommended for Learning
- Quote of the Week
- Admin Toolbox
- Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
- Events Calendar
- Webcast Calendar
- Register for Webcasts
- Storage Space Resources
- The Growth of Heterogeneous Virtualization
- Windows 8 Tablets Will Beat Apple & Android
- Before opening a case, try FixIt Center Pro and see how it can save you time!
- Free eBook – Windows 8 For Dummies
- Securing Your Mobile Devices
- Confusion still prevails on private cloud benefits
- Five considerations for upgrading to Windows 8 virtual desktops
- Four tools for managing a heterogeneous environment
- Comparing Office 2013 and Office 365 pricing, packages
- This Week's Links We Like. Fun Stuff.
- The Quest is Over: Server and Application Monitoring Simplified!.
This week's newsletter is all about thin provisioning of storage for Windows servers. But before we weigh in on that topic (pun intended of course) let me begin with a short personal story that some of you readers may be able to identify with...
From Fat to Fit IT Pro
I used to be a fat IT pro. There's no shame in that though, because I think it just comes with the job. Long hours sitting in front of a computer tends to mean one eats badly and rarely exercises. And after a dozen years of running a content development business for IT pros, my weight ballooned up to nearly 250 lbs or about 110 kilograms, which was way too much for my incredibly handsome 5 foot 11 inch (1.80 meter) frame...
Anyways, about two and a half years ago I decided to finally do something about it. I started exercising and learned how to eat "clean" and as a result I lost over 50 lbs (23 kg). Then I got more serious about working out and ended up putting on about 20 lbs (10 kg) of muscle. And now after two and a half years of my personal fitness journey, I feel like I'm young again. In fact, when people ask me my age, I now tell them I'm fifty-eight going on twenty-nine (which is about four in dog years).
So if you're a stressed-out IT pro who is worried about their weight and the various health risks associated with obesity and a sedentary lifestyle, then let me tell you something. If I can do it, you can do it. All I did was buy every fitness magazine I could find for several months, read them cover to cover, and begin changing my eating habits and lifestyle. I'm still not where I want to be yet as far as my physical conditioning is concerned (watch out Jason Statham!!) but I'm slowly making progress and that's encouraging for someone of my age and history (my favorite sport in school was chess).
Are you a fat IT pro? Or worried about becoming one? Would it help if I shared a few of my weightloss tips in a future issue? Let me know at [email protected]. I know it's not a technical subject like virtualizing servers or implementing data tiering, but losing weight and getting fit has made my work a whole lot easier, and in my mind anything that makes the job of an IT pro easier can occasionally be fair game for this newsletter, right?
Forgot this week's comic:
From the Mailbag
We'll begin with an interesting observation concerning Windows 8 and multifunction copiers from a reader named Gary who works at AT&T:
As many organizations are using their multifunction copiers for scanning to folders using SMB, many are learning that Window 8 and Server 2012 use SMB 3.0, which kills scanning at this time. Do a Google search on "SMB scanning and Win 8 Server 2012" and you will find tons of entries from all copier manufacturers on the subject. It appears firmware updates will have to be developed by the various manufacturers to correct this.
Thanks for alerting us concerning this issue!
Next, a reader named Roger who works at Verizon sent us the following thoughts concerning an issue we've discussed several times in this newsletter, namely, the reliability (or lack thereof) of today's hard disk drives:
Reading about the increased HDD failure rate (issues #903 & #912) got me thinking there might be a thermal issue at work here. My current workstation is a 19-year-old custom NT 4.0 system built from an AMI server motherboard with a run-time in excess of 40K hours. Although it has 6 Seagate Barracuda SCSI drives attached (no RAID), I've never had a failure. In fact, there's been no peripheral failures - optical drives, flatbed scanner, or tape drive - which makes the reliability appear manufacture-independent. Although the AMI-486 motherboard server specifies passive cooling except for the power supply fan, this system was designed with extensive thermal management that includes 5 fans in order to maintain a low internal operational temperature.
Comparing design specifications from the Seagate engineering manuals for the old SCSI and the newer SAS drives, we see the MTBF has actually increased by 50%:
- Old Barracuda 36ES SCSI 800K hours MTBF @ HDA 45C/113F or less, 60C/140F max
- New Cheetah 15K.7 SAS 1.2M hours MTBF @ HDA 50C/122F or less, 60C/140F max
It's important to note that Seagate specifies an MTBF ONLY for temperatures below a maximum measured at the HDA (Head Drive Assembly) - which is a center point located on the front frame of the drive. Also, this temperature is less than the maximum operating temperature specified for the drive.
When the first 7200 rpm drives appeared on the market in 1995, I noticed they ran hot and some failed shortly after being installed (probably because distributors were burning them in on the bench with no cooling). Because of this, my workstation runs cooling fans directly attached to the HDDs and my primary drive has an HDA temperature probe that displays the both Ambient and HDA temperature. The HDA normally runs at 90 degF in a 77 degF ambient, and is never allowed to rise above 100 degF. This thermal design for reliability was based on the old Arrhenius equation from solid state physics: semiconductor life halves for every 10 degC rise in junction temperature.
My suspicion is this: Intel does an outstanding job of thermal management with its enterprise processors. However, once the heat is off the chip, Intel's responsibility for the heat ends. With a dual-Xeon system dissipating 280 watts under load, all those BTUs are dumped into the case, which elevates the disk drive's ambient temperature, which in turn has its own heat to dissipate. That's why it makes sense to me to liquid cool these powerful CPUs with a heat exchanger mounted on the OUTSIDE of the case. Either that, or move the drives to a separate case with SAS-2 external cables.
Hope this is helpful - and thanks to you and Stu for a great newsletter over the years!
That's a fascinating analysis. What do other readers think? Email me at [email protected]
A reader named John sent us the following comment concerning retiring old server hardware:
Mitch, I think you may have missed a fairly severe pain point in upgrading servers. Specifically, licensing costs. Many server licenses for things like databases and application servers are now not only per end user or per server but also PER CORE! As a result replacing a single core server with even the lowest end server one can buy means increasing the number of cores by 4 with a commensurate pricing increase from the software vendor if one is to remain in compliance. Something to keep in mind.
That's a very good point, but I guess if you virtualize your old single-core physical server and run it as a virtual machine on a Hyper-V host, you could assign a single virtual processor to the workload to maintain your current licensing arrangement, right?
The Skinny on Thin Provisioning
Thin provisioning is basically about how to avoid the problem of overprovisioning storage for your environment. IT is traditionally a very risk-averse occupation. After all, what could be more important to your organization than its business data? Run out of space on a volume and your invoicing program might be taken out of action.
The solution some IT departments follow is to massively overprovision storage for business applications. For example, let's say a the content management system used by your workgroup currently utilizes 500 GB of disk space for storing documents for your business and you anticipate growth in this area of about 20% each year for the next four years. This means you expect your storage needs for this system to double to about 1 TB four years from now, so just to be safe you provision 3 TB of mirrored storage for the system.
Let me get this straight: you'll need only 1 TB but you've set aside 3 TB storage space. What's wrong with that? Well, nothing I guess if you have no confidence in your ability to forecast your storage needs...
The real problem with overprovisioning of course is that it wastes money. Sure, storage costs have come down a lot in recent years, but if you multiply the above example by 100 or 1000 for a large enterprise that has many workgroups and lots of applications, suddenly you've got two-thirds of your storage budget wasted on unused storage.
Thin provisioning helps address this problem by letting you create larger logical volumes using fewer physical disk resources. By using thin provisioning for example, you might create ten logical volumes each 500 GB in size that are backed by only 2 TB of actual physical disk storage. The way this usually works is that the underlying storage system provisions logical volumes as virtual disks (logical unit numbers of LUNs) and continually monitors the size of these LUNs. When a LUN crosses a preconfigured threshold for how much physical storage it is using, a notification is sent either to the storage administrator who can add more disk drives to the storage system, or to the storage management system which can assign standby disks if available or reallocate existing disks.
When does thin provisioning make sense?
Thin provision might make sense for your company if you have experienced, reliable storage administrators who are able to implement and manage such a solution. It can also make sense if you regularly overprovision your mission-critical Tier 1 business applications with expensive, mirrored storage.
Thin provisioning probably doesn't make sense for applications that use Tier 2 storage since these typically use cheaper, commodity-based disks without any redundancy implemented. Growth of Tier 2 storage is also typically less predictable than that of Tier 1 storage, and effective implementation of thin provisioning requires that you be able to accurately predict and closely monitor storage growth. A better solution handling growth of Tier 2 storage is to migrate stale data to Tier 3 archival storage (e.g. tape) on a regular basis.
Some thin provisioning solutions
Most enterprise storage solutions (iSCSI and Fibre Channel SANs) include some form of thin provisioning capability. Large enterprises that have already heavily invested in SANs are likely to continue building on these technologies as their storage needs continue to expand. A few examples of SAN product lines that support some form of thin provisioning include:
- NetApp SAN:
- EMC CLARiiON family:
- IBM disk storage systems:
- Dell Compellent Storage Center SAN:
- HP thin technologies:
- StarWind iSCSI SAN & NAS:
There are lots of other storage systems and solutions that target businesses of different sizes and provide some sort of thin provisioning capability.
The upside of following the SAN approach is that major SAN vendors are well established and their solutions are therefore relatively mature. The downside is usually the cost, and for companies looking to consolidate their storage needs for the first time, a new technology from Microsoft might be the answer. Storage Spaces, a new storage virtualization feature included in Windows Server 2012, provides you with the built-in capability of creating thinly provisioned volumes on your Windows servers. You can use Storage Spaces to create pools of physical storage that include disks of different types (SAS, SATA, SSD) to create a scalable and highly available storage solution for your environment. For more information about Storage Spaces, see the Tech Briefing section of this newsletter.
Send us feedback
Do you use thin provisioning in your own environment? Have you tried out Storage Spaces? Let us know at [email protected].
Tip of the Week
Did you ever accidentally add a misspelled word to the custom dictionary in Microsoft Word, and now the built-in spellchecker of the program won't flag the word as misspelled? Adding a word to the dictionary is easy: in Word 2010 you simply right-click on the word and select Add To Dictionary from the context menu. But how do you remove a word from the custom dictionary so it will be flagged as misspelled in the future? Like this:
- Click the File tab
- Click Options to open Word Options
- Click Proofing
- Click the Custom Dictionaries button
- Select the appropriate custom dictionary (there's usually only one)
- Click the Edit Word List button to display a list of words that have been added to the dictionary
- Select the word you want and click Delete
Contact me at [email protected] if you have a tip you'd like to share with our readers.
Recommended for Learning
Some cool new books from O'Reilly:
I like this book a lot as I'm a klutz when it comes to designing web pages, and reading it helped me redesign my own web site here:
WordPress: The Missing Manual
Missing Manuals are great. Remember when software came in a box with floppies and a printed manual inside?
Adobe Edge Animate Preview 7: The Missing Manual
Build HTML5 graphics for your website with no programming experience required!
Regular Expressions Cookbook
This one's definitely for the nerdy crowd. Personally I found reading Russell and Whitehead's Principia Mathematica more fun, see here for a sample:
Quote of the Week
"Success in bodybuilding isn't about doing what you want to do, it's about doing what you need to do." --Johnnie Jackson, IFBB professional bodybuilder and powerlifter as quoted from his column in Muscular Development Magazine
That's true of anything you're trying to achieve, right?
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Admin Tools We Think You Shouldn't Be Without
Download SolarWinds free Permissions Analyzer for Active Directory to get a complete hierarchical view of the effective permissions and access rights for a specific file folder or share drive!
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Free Download - #1 Price/Performance Load Balancer – Traffic Optimization for Exchange, Lync & Win servers
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Hyena - Voted WindowsNetworking.com Readers' Choice Award Winner - Administration Tools:
- Microsoft Lync Conference 2013 on February 19-21, 2013 in San Diego, USA
- Microsoft Management Summit on April 8-12, 2013 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, USA
- Microsoft TechEd North America on June 3-6, 2013 in New Orleans, USA
- Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference on July 7-11, 2013 in Houston, USA
Add your event
Contact Michael Vella at [email protected] to get your conference or other event listed in our Events Calendar.
Register for Webcasts
Add your Webcast
Contact Michael Vella at [email protected] to get your webcast listed in our Webcasts Calendar.
We'll start with some links to resources on Storage Spaces:
- Storage Spaces Overview (TechNet Wiki):
- Storage Spaces Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (TechNet Wiki):
- Storage Spaces Overview (TechNet Library):
- Thin Provisioning and Trim Storage Overview (TechNet Library):
Here is a Microsoft case study of an organization that benefited from deploying Storage Spaces:
- Real Estate Firm Expects to Avoid $560,000 in IT Costs by Using New Operating System:
And here are a few more miscellaneous articles about thin provisioning:
- Thin provisioning (SearchStorageChannel):
- Solving Virtualized Storage Problems with Thin Provisioning (ServerWatch):
- Thin Provisioning Performance (Just Another IT blog):
- Windows Server 2012 VHDX Thin Provisioning Benefits Explored (Working Hard in IT):
Now on to other stuff...
The Growth of Heterogeneous Virtualization
From the Server & Cloud Blog comes news that ESG analysts have found that 65% of companies surveyed are using more than one hypervisor in their environment:
Windows 8 Tables Will Beat Apple & Android
TMCnet blogger Tom Keating weighs in on the question every geek wants to know--will Windows 8 tablets succeed in the marketplace?
Before opening a case, try FixIt Center Pro and see how it can save you time!
From the Ask PFE Platforms blog comes this post that can help save you time when troubleshooting issues with your Windows systems:
Free eBook – Windows 8 For Dummies
Aidan Finn tells us that Dell, Microsoft, and Wiley Publishing have gotten together to give you Windows 8 For Dummies, a free 138 page eBook on getting started with Windows 8:
Securing Your Mobile Devices
Eric Grier discusses the main threats associated with using Wi-Fi connections, laptops, smartphones, and tablets, and how to combat them in this article on WindowsNetworking.com:
Confusion still prevails on private cloud benefits
With so many private cloud misconceptions being spread throughout the IT industry, evaluating this environment can be challenging. For this reason, industry experts compiled this exclusive tip to provide insights on what the private cloud is not to clear up some of the confusion. Find out more inside.
Five considerations for upgrading to Windows 8 virtual desktops
Virtual desktops that are running Windows 7 will likely face a Windows 8 upgrade at some point in the future. And while moving to a new operating system is a challenging endeavor, following key steps can help streamline the process and ensure optimal performance. Access this tip to learn more.
Four tools for managing a heterogeneous environment
Managing a heterogeneous environment can be a complex and time-consuming task for even the most seasoned IT pro. Fortunately, there are many tools available that can help relieve this management burden. Explore four of these essential tools and review the features and benefits they offer.
Comparing Office 2013 and Office 365 pricing, packages
Should your organization leverage Microsoft Office 2013 or Office 365? With each platform offering so many advanced features, it can be challenging to determine which one is the best fit. Inside this exclusive resource, explore insights on both and review key pricing considerations to keep in mind.
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
Pilot loses control of his aircraft, goes into a flat spin, spins 24 times, loses 2800 ft of altitude in 40 seconds - and recovers 700 ft above the ground:
Alexey Garagashyana takes his home-built all-terrain vehicle for a test drive on thin ice.
The highway system of the future in the Netherlands glows in the dark and has induction lanes to recharge electric cars.
Got fun videos or other links to suggest for this section? Email us at [email protected]
WServerNews - Editors
Mitch Tulloch is Senior Editor of WServerNews and is a widely recognized expert on Windows administration, deployment and virtualization. Mitch was lead author of the bestselling Windows 7 Resource Kit from Microsoft Press and has published hundreds of articles for IT pros. Mitch is also a seven-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his outstanding contributions in support of the global IT pro community. Mitch owns and runs an information technology content development business based in Winnipeg, Canada. For more information see www.mtit.com
Ingrid Tulloch is Associate Editor of WServerNews and was co-author of the Microsoft Encyclopedia of Networking from Microsoft Press. Ingrid is also Head of Research for our content development business and has co-developed university-level courses in Information Security Management for a Masters of Business Administration program.