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March 27, 2015

The Zen of Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer: Part II Initial Setup

Andrew Wood - Atlantis


Atlantis USX can be used to pool SAN, NAS, DAS and even RAM storage and accelerate its performance by up to ten times while increasing that storage capacity by up to ten times. With Atlantis USX, you can transition seamlessly from costly shared storage systems to lower cost hyper-converged systems and public cloud storage.

The Atlantis USX and Citrix XenServer blog series covers the following :-  

  • Part I - The Test Environment & Import AMC
  • Part II - Atlantis USX Initial Setup
  • Part III - Creating a Simple In Memory Volume
  • Part IV - Creating a Simple Flash Volume
  • Part V - Creating a Simple Hybrid Volume
  • Part VI Creating a Hyper Converged Volume
  • Part VII -  Creating a Hybrid Volume
  • Part VIII - Management
  • Part IX - Maintenance

Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - A Recap 

The test setup we're using is four (4) Citrix XenServer 6.5 hosts configured in a pool. Each host is has both local disk for capacity and SSD disk for performance/storage. Each host has 4 cores and 32GB RAM. Note these are virtualised hosts

In Part I, we've discussed the types of virtual volumes available and their uses and imported the initial software appliance - the Atlantis USX Management Console - into the pool; fine for testing although in a production configuration we'd have multiple AMC consoles, and those consoles would not be hosted on hosts running virtual volumes. 

We then connected to the platform using a web browser... and then we left it there.


Planning for a USX Environment

It is not unusual to dive right in for a test deployment - but for production remember to review the Documentation Center's Pre-Deployment checklist. You'll be looking to determine at least the following high level topics :-

  • What storage types (VDI, SQL, Exchange, File Services, for example) do you require
  • What storage protocol do you need?
  • Is HA required?
  • What performance characteristic do you need?
  • What networks are you using and what IP addresses are available?
  • What raw storage do you have to use? 


Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - Setting Global Preferences

usx_preferences.pngWithin a USX deployment, first you'd plan the deployment (perhaps even read the documentation) <taps nose>, then you'd import the .ovf to create the USX Management Appliance - then connect to it with a web browser. 

As a first configuration step we'll configure preferences. Preferences set by the admin user are applied to every volume created while they are in effect.  

If you want certain preferences enabled only for specific volumes, you can enable the preferences before creating the volume and reset them when you are done. Each volume is deployed with the settings that are in effect when it is created.

In the video, we :-

  • Enable Advanced Settings so we see all options when creating a volume
  • The VM Manager refresh interval to be 3 minutes, because it's Test, we're impatient, and this is as low as it goes.
  • The Max Memory Allocation to be 90% - so that we can deploy some Simple In Memory Volumes that utilise RAM for primary storage. 

You can, of course programatically, set preferences using the Atlantis REST API. 


Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - Initial Configuration of Atlantis USX

There are four steps to carry out before you can create your first Virtual Volume.

  1. Add A VM Manager:  here you'll provide at least XenServer pool to select resources from. The VM Manager requires the IP address and admin credentials of at the XenServer's Pool master. You can add in multiple Pools if required. It is possible to add in VMware vSphere pools as well - although as of the 2.2.1 release such a mixed hypervisor configuration is not officially supported (although it does work, more on that later - get your use cases ready people).
  2. Select Hypervisors and Storage: You then select which XenServer hosts in the pool you'd like to use for USX. You can choose them all, of some of them. What we also need to do is identify is which disk/flash resources to use. And indeed, of those resources, which storage is Flash based and which is Disk based. SSD can be used within USX either for capacity use, or as a replacement for RAM for performance when optimising disk. As such, you have to identify what is what because XenServer keeps that a secret.  It would be recommended to name your SSD resources explicitly (as in the example) - because trying to remember which Local Storage is disk and which Local Storage is SSD can be tricky.   
  3. Add Network Profile(s) As mentioned in Part I there is a manual installation for USX of the management console: all volume components are automatically deployed. USX will create the VM, assign approriate CPU and memory resources and create the network interfaces. To ensure that the networking is configured correctly, you create Network profiles. Network Profiles allows you to define which XenServer networks are used for storage or management, the IP addresses/mask/gateways to use.  In the example we create two networks - one Management , one Storage aligned to a management and storage network in the XenServer pool.  
  4. Add Name Template(s) USX automatically deploys different components specifically in a Pooled Volume environment.  These components are known as ServiceVMs. In the Naming Template you must define the ServiceVM naming template (even if think you're not going to use them... because you will, we know it.. you know it). You can also define Volume and Fast Clone naming templates (as is shown in the video) but we'll talk about them later.   

Once those steps are complete you're all set to create your first virtual volume, which is in Part III. 

To see all this in action, As with Part I, its time to run VT. Bear in mind that the video  is all done via the medium of mime. 


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