Everything you always wanted to know about EMC VNXe but were afraid to ask

by [Published on 31 Oct. 2013 / Last Updated on 31 Oct. 2013]

In this article the author discusses VNXe.

Introduction

A couple years ago EMC came out with a new line of storage arrays geared towards SMBs. They come in three models: VNXe 3150 Single, 3150 Dual, and the VNXe 3300. The 3150 Single refers to having one controller while the dual has two. These are “unified” systems meaning they have both block and file storage. One thing to note is that by block they mean iSCSI. These systems are not capable of using Fibre Channel. The VNXe is built on a totally different Operating System than its “big brother” the VNX. One big difference is that while the VNX still uses vault drives to contain the operating system, five drives that are basically unusable for anything else, the VNXe has no such thing. It contains a flash drive inside that come loaded with the OS leaving all the drives to be completely usable. Make no mistake, though, the VNXe is not really an enterprise solution. It’s really meant for smaller companies. Some of the terms are different as well. Instead of calling something a LUN it’s actually called a datastore, which is more in line with VMware terminology.

VNXe 3150 Single

You can have up to 50 drives in this array with up to 12 shelves (or DAEs/Drive Enclosures) using NL-SAS 3.5” disks or 25 shelves using Flash or SAS 2.5” drives. You can also create up to 128 LUNs. If you’re using iSCSI there is a 2TB limit on the LUN size. If you’re using NFS you can make these bigger. This would have one SP (storage processor) if you’re used to the EMC vernacular.

VNXe 3150 Dual

In this system you get up to 100 possible drives with the same amount of shelves as the 3150 Single. However you can have up to 256 LUNs. There is still the 2TB limit on iSCSI LUNs. You would have two SPs (SP A and SP B).

VNXe 3300

The VNXe 3300 can hold up to 150 drives with up to 15 Flash, SAS, or NL-SAS 2.5” drives or 25 2.5” SAS drives. You can have up to 512 LUNs but you’re still limited to 2TB iSCSI LUNs.

For more information on specs please see click here: http://www.emc.com/collateral/hardware/specification-sheet/h8515-vnxe-ss.pdf

While VNXes are actually very easy to install there are some caveats and questions I’ve run into. Hopefully I’ll address most of these in this blog post. When you unbox the VNXe DPE (and optionally the DAE, which is an extra shelf if you needed more drives) it comes with a small guide as well as poster that tells you exactly how to rack and install it. Do not ignore this guide. It’s short and fairly easy to follow, though missing some key things especially if you’re not familiar with storage arrays.

First of all, when you’re racking the VNXe you want to put the DPE on the bottom and each DAE, or shelf, you add should be on top. You can put the DPE on top if you prefer, but doing it in the EMC recommended fashion with the DAE(s) on top should allow you to add more shelves in the future should you need to. There are no configuration or installation issues if you put the DPE on top. This also applies to the VNX.

As far as cabling goes, please follow the guide here as well. However, I will include some answers to some issues, or questions really, that I’ve encountered.

  • Never connect a network cable to the port with the wrench next to it. This port will only be used if you’re on the phone with EMC support and they ask you to connect to it. You will only connect to the management port on the SP.
  • The backbone cables should be connected from Double Diamond to Double Circle from the DPE to the DAE, and so on from DAE to DAE. You will probably only ever use Port 0. I’ve been told Port 1 isn’t actually even active by default.
  • If you only have one storage processor, you will only connect SP A to the DAE using one cable. Do not use Port 1 to connect to the shelf on the left side.
  • SP A is on the right when looking at the back and SP B is on the left. This is also true for the VNX.

Once you have the backbone connected and the network cables connected you can power it on. Wait…there’s no power switch? The VNXe doesn’t have a “power button.” It will turn on once you plug in the power cables. You should plug in the DPE power cables first. If possible, you can plug them all in to a PDU that is off and then turn the PDU on all at once. If everything is working properly you will see the SP power LEDs blink blue slowly, then speed up, and eventually turn green. This could take 15 to 20 minutes.

Once everything is on you’ll use the Connection Utility to discover the VNXe and assign basic information such as host name and IP address. The Connection Utility will either be on the CDs you received with the system or available for download via support.emc.com. You need to plug your laptop into a port that’s on the same subnet as your VNXe management port. If it’s not on the same subnet, you will not be able to auto discover the VNXe. If there is no DHCP on that subnet, you will need to manually configure your network adapter with the proper IP and subnet mask. Then just follow the Connection Utility wizard to assign an IP address and host name.

Now that the VNXe is on the network we can connect to it from the Web UI. So, you’ll open a browser and type in the IP address you assigned it using the connection Utility. You’ll automatically be presented with the startup wizard. The wizard will take you through pretty much every configuration step you need to get your VNXe up and running.

Along with the other documentation that comes with the VNXe you’ll get the Configuration Worksheet. This worksheet will tell you all the information you need to have prepared to get through the Unisphere Configuration wizard. It’s broken up into different sections: EMC Online Support Website, VNXe Connection Utility, and the Unisphere Configuration Wizard. The initial login is admin/Password123#. It will ask you to change this when you first login. You’ll also need to put in your EMC support credentials so you can register the serial number and upload the proper license to the VNXe.

At this point you’ll enter your network information such as Time Server, DNS servers, etc. It will also take you through creating storage pools if you so choose at this time. The VNXe will automatically create storage pools according to the disks you have or you can choose to create them manually. Keep in mind the VNXe is not as flexible as the VNX. So, it will tell you if you can only create a RAID 6 storage pool with your current hardware configuration for instance. If you follow the wizard you should be set.

When the wizard is complete you’ll see the normal Unisphere UI. On the dashboard screen you’ll be able to tell if you set it up correctly because it should say that the system is healthy. If everything is healthy you’ll be able to do any further configuration that’s necessary.

Another caveat, the VNXe should alert you as to whether you’re on the current release. You can also check this by going to support.vnxe.com and looking up the software available for the VNXe series. If you’re not on the most current software I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to upgrade now. Earlier releases of the VNXe definitely have some bugs but it’s getting better all the time. You’ll download this to your laptop and then upload it to the VNXe. The upgrade could take an hour or so.

One last caveat, although you can easily replicate from one VNXe to another it is not recommended to upgrade from a VNXe to a VNX and vice versa.

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