Life is about change… Another one for me

Veeam Backup and Replication has been a love of mine since I first ran into them at VMworld 2009, since that time I have not used anything else to protect my virtual infrastructure. To the point that early 2013 I started to work for Veeam. Let’s say that working for Veeam has not changed my feeling about the company or product one bit. If anything I think more highly of them today. Before I go into the change I am making, I want to say this has nothing to do with Veeam as a company or product. My family has decided they would rather see more of me…… very surprising but they seem to like me around the house, must be my stunning looks, no don’t think it is…. more honey “to do list” I think. Long story short, that leads me to leaving Veeam Software and joining Nimble Storage.

I figured instead of just saying that I was joining Nimble Storage, I should give some of my reasoning behind why Nimble.

I started hearing about Nimble Storage late 2010, when a couple of guys showed up to my office for a meeting with me and my Manager, at the time we were to invested in our current storage provider to consider them even though the product pitch sounded amazing.

In 2011 I started with a new company, after my first couple of weeks, I knew I needed two things, a better data protection strategy and storage. Of course the first thing I did was go ahead and buy Veeam and deploy. But the storage decision took more thought and consideration because at this time the storage start-ups were numerous. I started to scour the internet and do my research, and everything I wanted landed in the Nimble Storage playground. Went ahead and looked up my old contacts and called them in and ended up going with Nimble for my storage. I have condensed the story, if you want to read the rest I did a blog a long time ago “Nimble Storage My Story”

I have been asked by a couple of people, why would I want to sell a box….. Ummm found that very interesting because I don’t consider Nimble’s offering as a box. Sure it is a storage appliance, sure it includes everything you need for you storage needs. But one key piece of the puzzle those people have been missing is the way Nimble has been developed from the ground up to use compute resources as the cap for the amount of IOPs you can get from a disk subsystem. Plus the amount of features they have added at no cost to current customers, and no need to rip and replace the old hardware they purchased. It’s not just a box, it is a end to end solution for all your storage needs no matter what performance you may require.

The Nimble device that I bought back in early 2012 was a CS220, what did it come with?

  • Disk of course
  • 1GbE
  • Compression
  • Web Interface
  • Integrated Protection

Doesn’t seem like much, but wait to see what has been added over the last 2 years, I may be missing things that’s for sure…..

  • Scale-to-fit, and Scale Out (Add Capacity, Increase Cache and Compute, Storage Clusters)
  • Nimble Connect Manager for VMware/Windows
  • InfoSight (Your Dashboard for your entire Nimble Infrastructure)
  • Increased Compression
  • Increased Performance
  • vCenter Plugin (greatly reduces administration effort for VMware)
  • All Flash Shelves
  • New product lines (CS215, CS300, CS500, and CS700)
  • Cloud Storage Solutions
  • Not to mention feature enhancements (Triple Parity RAID, VLAN Tagging, Simplified Configuration, Role Based Authentication, and the list goes on)
  • Nimble Connect (Community driven forum)

Plus they have also talked about other things that are coming

  • VM/VMDK statistics collection inside of InfoSight
  • Storage sizing tool
  • FC protocol

Please look at the Nimble Storage presentations that just occurred at Storage Field Day 6 for more detailed information

Just to add to this, I have stayed close with the company that I implemented the CS220. When I was there we did add capacity to it by means of a shelf. They have recently upgraded the controllers to 10GbE, and also just added a CS300 to the infrastructure. The nice thing about all these upgrades, and changes, it never required one maintenance window or downtime. Even though the CS220 is over 2 years old today, it still benefits from the features and enhancements that Nimble has built in over the years, even more performance, and storage space savings.

This all comes down to why I am joining Nimble Storage. It is another great company that is adds innovation into their product line, and not just looking for ways to generate more profit. They care about their customers by providing extra features at no cost, and I believe one of the best support models in the market.

I look forward to watching the company grow and flourish, but I didn’t want to watch from the side lines anymore.

Don’t forget to head over to and have a look for yourself.

Thanks for reading my ramblings.

NimbleStorage CS220 Software Update in under 5 Minutes

We all want the ability to update our controllers in a fast and efficient way. Nimble gives us that ability. In the below video I am upgrading my CS220 to 1.3.2 without any downtime, no ping loss, no searching for the correct software.

There is no sound to the video, and the video is not shorten, this is the full process to updating the software. However I am going to also walk over the steps. The video only includes the process of installing the software, not any other steps.

Steps to update the Software

  • Go to Administration/software
  • Click download, this will show software for your Array, select the version you would like to download. This is the longer process of the upgrade. The Array will keep the previous version of Software on your array incase you need to go back. Also you may download older version if you would like, you just need to download them again. If you don’t have Internet Access on your Management Interface, no worries, just go ahead and click upload, and you may upload a file to your Array.


  • Once the download is complete, the update button will be active.
  • Click update and the process will take about 5 – 10 Minutes (Mine took less than 5 Minutes). The process will go ahead and update your Standby Controller, once complete and verified to be working it will kick over that controller to the Active Controller, and then update your now standby Controller.
  • You can watch the process on the screen, and the steps that are occurring.
  • Once it is done, it will refresh the management page for you, log on and make sure you are running the correct Software on your Active and Standby Controller.

Now for the Video Note: My video taking still needs some work Winking smile

NimbleStorage CS220

NimbleStorage User Interface

In my last post related to NimbleStorage it was more focused on the Company, and products they offer. However I did note that I would take a few moments to document the UI and how easy it is to manage. In this post I am going to go over the UI and the different features contained within it.

The UI is Adobe Flash based, you will need v9 or higher installed on your management system to view all aspects of the UI, it will still function without Adobe Flash installed, but you will be missing some of the charts. I have ran the interface from Chrome, IE, FireFox, and Safari without any issues.

Landing Page

Once you open up your browser of choice go to the management IP that you configured on your array. You will be presented with the following page.



This is the Home Page, and will contain a dashboard related to all the information you will normally want to see from a quick health check.


Disk Space: Will show everything you need to know about your usage, as you can see it will show the Volume Usage, Snapshot Usage, and unused reserve. It is very simple to read, and makes for a great screen shot.

Space Savings: This is where you get to see your savings and how the Nimble is saving you some space. As you can see from below my space savings is 2.51 TB or 40.55%.

Throughput: From here you can see how much data is passing over your Array interfaces. This shows current usage and for the past Hour.

IOPS: Again from here you get to see your Current IOPS usage across all your LUNs, this also shows back for an hour.

Event Summary: All Events that have happened in the last 24 Hours

Recent Events: All recent events, last hour.

The interface is controlled from a tabbed driven menu, this is the the menu you will see from any page within the Nimble Management Interface. I will explain the rest of the Interface in order.



The Manage tab is where you can configure your Volumes, Replication, Snapshots, Protection and Performance Policies, Array, and Security.



The Volume Menu, is where all the magic happens with the Volumes, you can do anything volume related within this Menu. The first page you will see will give you a full overview of all Volumes that reside on your array, with basic information related to the usage.


Click on a volume name, and now you have all information pertaining to that Volume. Here you will get the overview of your volume, you can edit, take a snapshot, set it to offline, Take ownership of the volume with “Claim” (Used if the Volume came from a replicated source) or Delete the Volume. You can also look at the Snapshot, and replication status for the Volume.



The Protection Tab offers three choices.

1. Volume Collections: This allows you to protect your Volumes with Snapshot schedules and replicate those snapshots off to a second Nimble Array.


2. Protection Templates: Predefined templates to help protect your critical applications. You can use these to as a baseline for creating your own custom Volume Collection Groups. Nimble was just nice enough to give us something to start with.


3. Replication Partners: A place where you can view your configured replication partners, or define new ones. I don’t have any configured but you would see them here, you can also setup Bandwidth Policies so you can replicate without having to worry about the bandwidth being affected during busy times within your environment.



From here you can look at the status of your Hardware, and view all the system information related to your Array and Controllers. You can also edit the Array name, and Network Address information.


Performance Policies

Here is where you can setup Policies to configure your Volumes with certain parameters. These Policies give you the option to create volume with certain Block size, and if you want to cache, or compress the volume. We all know we have certain workloads or datasets that we don’t want to waste our precious cache on or they won’t benefit from compression.


Initiator Groups

This allows us to create groups of initiators that we can then assign to volumes to allow a host access to the volume.


Chap Accounts

From here we can create a Chap Account, that we can then assign to Volumes we create to gives us some control over what we allow to connect to our Volume.



This is the place where you can see all the great performance you are getting out of your Nimble Winking smile



You can view performance based off all Volumes, or a selected Volume. The time frame can also be for 5 Minutes, 24 Hours, 7 Days, or 30 Days. This will give you a very good picture of how your system is performing, it will also allow you to pin-point Volumes that are eating up the majority of your system.



The place you will want to head to find out how your replication are performing, and if you have any issues with them.



This section shows each Volume you have configured, and how many connections are connected to the Volume. From here you can make sure you have the proper amount of connections as you have configured from your host.



This Menu shows all the events related to your array, it keeps a log for 30 days, and you have the ability to filter the results based off of severity, Category, and Time.



As the name depicts this has everything to do with Administration. I will explain the Menu items below. This is the only Menu that once you select one item, the other items will be listed on the left hand side of the window. This gives you quicker access to the other items.


Email Alerts

Here you can configure the system to send you email alerts. You can also tell it to send alerts back to Nimble support, which will create a support ticket.


AutoSupport/HTTP Proxy

AutoSupport enables the array to send health updates to Nimble Support, this lets them know what Software you are currently running, and if you have any configuration issues that may exist. This is a very nice feature, Nimble support will contact you regarding Software Updates, related to your system, they will know which version you are running and why you should be running the latest version. It gives you the personal touch when it comes to support. Also from this menu you can enable Secure Tunnel, this allows Nimble Support to directly connect to your array. This can be enabled or disabled at any time, you can leave it disabled until you need a support tech to connect.



This is where you can update the software for the Array. It will keep two versions of the software on the Array. When you want to check for a new version click Download, and it will connect to the Nimble Support site, and check for any software updates that are compatible with your Array. If your Array is not connected to the Internet on the management interface, you can go ahead and upload a software file to the array.


Change Password

No need for a picture here, you can change your password.

Default Space Reservations

When you create a new Volume, these are the defaults settings that are displayed.



You can set the time, and timezone, you can set this manually or with a NTP.


Inactivity Timeout

The amount of time before you session expires. The default is 30 Minutes.



Here you setup the DNS servers, you can have a min of 1 and a max of 5


Configured your SNMP to communicate with a network management system.


This is new to Software. Right now all it includes is the ability to add the Nimble Array to vCenter for management from the DataStore View. If you are running Software below you need to do this with CLI. Later in this posting I will talk more about the vCenter Plugin and the CLI. While on the topic of Software, another great feature that was enabled was the ability for the Array to support more than one drive failure, that is great news! If you are running a Nimble Array, upgrade your software as soon as possible.



We all love to look at the Help Menu, right?

This one is pretty intuitive, and make’s life a little easier.


Nimble Support

Takes you directly to the Nimble Support Site.

About CS-Series Array

Gives you the Normal About Screen


Administrator’s Guide

I like this, no PDF to download, always up to date. Just click the menu item and look for the information you need.


Hardware Guide

Just like the Administrator’s guide, just click and enjoy.



As you can see the Interface is very user friendly, but gives you all the information you need to Configure, Monitor, and troubleshoot your Array. In this post I had planned to talk more about configuring your array, updating the Software, and the CLI. But just the walk through of the UI took longer than expected. I plan in the next couple of weeks to post a few different blogs related to NimbleStorage.

NimbleStorage My Story

imageIts time to give credit where credit is due, one thing all of IT professionals have in common is when we find a product we love to use and manage we like to share that product with everyone we know, this leads me to NimbleStorage.

I ran into Nimble Storage a couple of years ago. A couple of guys came into my office (Jay and Eddie) and started to talk about how they have a product that can replace shelves of disk with only a 3U unit full of High Capacity SATA Drives, and 4 SSD Drives just used as a read Cache, plus give me WAN-Efficient Replication, 90 Days of Backup on Disk, Space efficient Snapshots, Compression (that increases performance) and High IOPs with low latency….. Ok thinking to myself these guys must have drank the Kool-Aid. Everything they say it can accomplish I WANT, can it really be true?

A year or so went by and I ended up changing Roles and moved to a new company, they needed a new SAN. What did I want in a SAN, everything that Jay and Eddie spoke of, I wanted that….. was it the Kool-Aid or was it real, I was going to find out before I made the choice to go with another Vendor. Did my research online, and couldn’t find allot, but anything I did find was good, only comment in the negative was they are new, and beware of that. All companies got to start somewhere, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, and Veeam just to name a few, would I be willing to put my name to their vision and product?

Called up NimbleStorage and brought them in for a chat or two. Not only are they still promising the same thing, but now since a year has went past they are growing bigger, and now on the road map they have scalability in mind! I go ahead with a POC, within a couple of days I have a Nimble CS220 sitting in my Datacenter, a day or two later I get Eddie onsite, and we have the Nimble Array up and running in about 30 Minutes and ready to add some VM’s to it! Now is the time I get to see if all the hype is true. For the testing I spun up a VM, then we ran a SQLIO from the Server, we let the test run, when we were all said and done, we seen MAX IOPS at just over 18K!!! This was also while we were updating the Array to the newest software version. Lets just say I went with NimbleStorage and not regretting it one little bit, at the moment I have all my Servers moved to the Nimble Array, a Total of 60 servers running a combination of different workloads, from Exchange, SQL, File, Web, and More….. The total capacity of these servers were about 8 TB’s yet I am only using 4.2 TB’s, almost a 50% increase in capacity, while also keeping 60 Days of 1 Hour Snapshots on the Array, reducing my RPO, and RTO.

On to the Meat and potato’s

My Testing

Below I will just include some of the screen shots of the testing I did with my Nimble CS220. This is not all the testing I have done, but just some that are worth sharing. Don’t really want to cover the blog posting with SQLIO data. 

The below Iometer test were running at the same time across two different Host. (Only had 1Gbps iSCSI connected at the time)


Reporting from the Console of the Nimble during the Test



One that was worth sharing.


2 1Gbps iSCSI connections using VMware iSCSI software initiator.


Recommendations for Performance

Most of these are the same for most iSCSI based SAN’s but figured it was something nice to note.

Multi Switch Connectivity






NimbleStorage Product Information


Now you need to ask yourself a question, how can Nimble get such high IOPS from 8 SATA Drives (We all know it’s not all about the IOPS Nimble also offers, more throughput and lower latency). The technology that makes that possible is the CASL Architecture (Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout). CASL was designed from the ground up to leverage the best of flash and disk, it eliminates compromise between performance, capacity, and data management.


Universal Compression: Variable-size Blocks enable fast inline compression. Elimination of read-modify-write penalty allows compression of all applications.

smart Caching: converting random writes to sequential writes minimizes “write amplification” allowing use of MLC SSDs. No RAID overhead. Data on flash is compressed and metadata in cache accelerates all reads

Write Optimized Layout: Random writes always organized into large sequential stripes. Use of low cost high-density HDDs coupled with compression lowers cost substantially

The way the process works in my own words (Please don’t fully quote this Smile)

1. VM Disk writes data to a 4.5 MB block directly in NVRAM. This data is compressed and can be variable size. The 4.5 MB block now holds 1000-3000 IO’s per block.

2. Once the 4.5 MB block is full, it gets written to the slower High density HDD’s in a sequential striped pattern.

3. VM disk reads data, if it is held in the Cache (From recent read or write) it will get sent to the VM, and if more data is needed it will be pulled from the Disk’s below and get pre-cached. Cache hit rate is usually 75%, it basically comes down to how you manage your data. You don’t want Transaction Logs, Log files, and things of that nature to remain in cache. You can control this with protection profiles. If you plan your LUNS correctly you can easily get a better cache rate than I have mentioned above. The nice thing about the Nimble is it comes with a large cache.


Dynamic Caching
Reads active data from flash cache, which is populated on writes or first read. Accelerate read operations, with sub-millisecond latency

Write-Optimized Data Layout
Coalesces random writes and sequentially writes them to disk as a full stripe. Accelerate writes as much as 100x, and get sub-millisecond latency and optimal disk utilization

Universal Compression
Always-on inline compression for all workloads. Reduce capacity needs 30-75% depending on the workload with no performance impact

Thin Provisioning
Allocates disk space to a volume only as data is written. Pool storage, share free space and maximize utilization

Scale-Out Clustering
Combine multiple arrays into a scale-out storage cluster. Linearly scale beyond performance and capacity. limits of a single storage array while managing these multiple arrays as one

Instant Snapshot and Recovery
Backup and restore data using point-in-time, space-efficient snapshots taken at regular intervals. Retain months of frequent snapshots (improving RPO) with no performance impact–eliminating backup windows and speeding up restores (improving RTO)

Efficient Replication
Copies compressed, changed data to the secondary site for disaster recovery. Deploy affordable and verifiable disaster recovery and efficiently backup remote sites over the WAN

Zero-Copy Clones
Create copies of existing active volumes without needing to copy data. Create clones in seconds and save disk space – ideal for VDI and test/development

Custom Application Profiles
Pre-defined policies for block size, caching, compression and data protection for Microsoft applications and VMware. Eliminate the need for manual tuning of storage including data protection configuration

Windows VSS Enablement
Nimble Storage Driver for the Microsoft VSS framework for consistent backup. Take application-consistent backups and simplify data protection for Exchange and SQL Server

VMware Integration
Monitor, provision and take snapshots from VMware vCenter .Manage storage from vCenter and take consistent backups of virtual machines

VMware Site Recovery Manager Adapter
Support disaster recovery automation for VMware including failover/failback. Simplifies disaster recovery, including testing failover/failback


Below is a table listing all the configurations you can get from NimbleStorage

The difference between the CS2XX and the CS4XX is the CS4XX has upgrading computing on the controllers to allow for even more IOPS and performance compared to CS2XX


Scale to Fit

We all need a product that can Scale, Nimble Storage now offers that. You can scale capacity by adding additional storage shelves, all arrays but the CS210 support up to 3, CS210 is 1. Scale up performance by upgrading compute (Add a CPU) to get greater throughput and IOPS, and expanding cache with larger SSDs to handle more active data. You can also scale out both performance and capacity by non-disruptively combining multiple arrays into one easy to manage scale-out cluster.

Scale-Out Cluster

With this you are getting dynamic storage pools that strip data across the arrays and is automatically rebalanced as you expand or shrink pools, this is all done behind the scenes and makes sure you don’t have one array full while one is empty. Management is done under a single pane of glass, meaning you get to manage the entire cluster from one central console. Host will get parallel access to the array which will get the best performance possible and reduce latency.

No matter which solution you decide to go with, you can use your existing array you have in-place, and also be able to upgrade any components without any downtime.

Some vendors have release Cluster’s for their arrays, but if you are a current customer it requires you to fork lift all your investment to benefit from the new feature set.


I have had no issues with Support, so far it has been amazing. Now.. I haven’t had any major issues, but anything that did come up they were alerting me before I had the time to even look. Anytime I have called for general questions and inquiries I have had a person on the phone within minutes with no phone transfer games.

To add to their support they have proactive wellness, these tools automatically resolved 75 percent of the issues without you having to do a thing. Basically the array calls home, and reports any configuration issues or abnormal operating conditions. You also have the ability to enable SSH tunnels, this way support can get direct access to your array and do their magic.


Was this a love letter to Nimble? No I just wanted to give some credit, I love the product. I did doubt them in the beginning, should I have doubted them, yes. There are so many start-up companies you have to do your research and make sure you are making the right choice for your company, but in the end you need to take a chance, and I did.  Do I regret going with NimbleStorage, not one little bit, I am the system administrator who has to wear many hats, with Nimble I wear the storage hat, but I don’t have to put it on very much because it just works. If you are in the Market for new Storage, please take a moment to look at Nimble, they can even be a nice add on to your existing storage, especially VDI based projects. Maybe I drank the Kool-Aid, it taste so good, and I just want more and have a shelf on order to start scaling.

In the next few weeks I will put up a post or two related to the operation of the NimbleStorage Array. This post has went on long enough!

If you made it through the full post, thanks for reading.