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March 18, 2015

The Zen of Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer: Part I Setup

Andrew Wood - Atlantis


Atlantis USX is software defined storage platform. Atlantis USX is designed to abstract different storage types and increase the efficiency of hardware based storage. As Atlantis USX is a pure software solution, while there are pre-requisites for configuration, the USX software can be used within VMware vSphere or Citrix XenServer virtualised environments deployed on your own choice of server hardware be it HP, Dell, IBM, Cisco, SuperMicro.. or whatever. 

Atlantis USX can be used to pool any 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.

My phantastic colleague Hugo, and virtualisation community members such as Vladan Seget and Dane Young have described Atlantis USX in a VMware context. In this series I'm going to take a look at using USX in a Citrix XenServer environment as, with Atlantis USX v2.2, Atlantis USX is available on the Citrix XenServer 6.5 HCL

The blog series is going to cover the following :-  

  • Part I - The Test Environment & Import AMC
  • Part II - Atlantis USX 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

Let's start at the very beginning, the recommended commencement location by all singing nuns.

Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - What You Get

Atlantis USX's  functionality is delivered by virtual appliances deployed in your Citrix XenServer (or VMware vSphere) environments to pool and abstract existing storage resources.

To deploy, there is one initial virtual appliance import to create the first USX Manager Appliance (UMa). Once the UMa has started, all management is performed using the UMa either interactively, using a browser or programatically using REST APIs. For fault tolerance of the USX management layer you can deploy multiple Manager Appliances. 

From the management appliance, the USX platform automatically deploys and configures additional virtual appliances to present USX Storage Volumes. You choose the volume type that provides the most suitable combination of storage capacity, performance, resilience, and redundancy for each application. USX Storage Volumes can offer services such as highly availablility , data protection, thin provisioning, and cloning.There are two primary types of USX storage volumes types:

  • Simple Storage Volumes
  • Pooled Volumes 

Let's climb those particular mountains and ford those particular streams.

USX Simple Storage Volumes

USX Simple volume types provide for the most straight forward architecture, fast deployment, optimized performance, and storage consolidation.

Simple Hybrid (using local or shared disk) and Simple All Flash (using local or shared flash) volumes support persistent workloads (such as persistent VDI instances).

Simple In-Memory (using host RAM) volumes are designed to provide the fastest performance for stateless workloads (such as stateless VDI).

USX Simple Volume use less host resources per host than Pooled Volumes; and requires only one hypervisor host per volume. This configuration also allows for out-of-server network hops to be eliminated, further increasing performance and the storage network can be 1 Gbps (or faster) for simple volume types. That said, for host maintenance, with a simple volume, all VMs using the volume must be shut down. 

Atlantis USX can provide High Availability (HA) for resources. However, native USX HA is not available for USX Simple Volumes. That said, for Simple Hybrid and Simple Flash volumes you can enable HA for resources by using the hypervisor's in-built HA.  

Simple volume types provide an easy upgrade path for existing Atlantis ILIO users. 


USX Pooled Volumes

Pooled volumes aggregate and abstract the resources of multiple hosts to present virtual volumes of either shared or local host resources. Pooled volumes can be configured to be HA as a function of USX rather than relying on the HA capabilities of the hypervisor. The following USX volume types support both server and virtual desktop workloads:

USX Hyper-Converged Volume

The Hyper-Converged volume type is a converged storage architecture that uses host memory or local flash for performance acceleration and direct attached storage (or local disk) for capacity and performance. The hyper-converged volume is delivered such that you can take hosts out from the cluster while maintaining migrate the volume before entering into maintenance mode or use USX HA to fail over to an HA VM.

USX Hybrid Volume

A Hybrid volume allows you to use a cluster of host's local RAM, CPU and/or flash resources to improve the performance and capacity of existing shared storage or DAS.

USX In-Memory Volume

An In-memory pooled volume is focused on performance, allowing RAM, local SSDs, flash PCIe cards, or flash on DIMMs to provide a host-fail resilient volume. Very useful for stateless applications that require high performance.  


Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - Pre-Requisites

Full documentation for Atlantis USX is available on line in the Atlantis USX 2.2 DocCenter at the Atlantis Community website. In summary the pre-reqs are :-

  • Hypervisor Citrix XenServer 6.2 or Citrix XenServer 6.5
    • 1 hypervisor for each Simple volume time
    • 3 or more hypervisors for most common pooled volumes. 
  • Networks: 
    • It is recommended to separate storage and management networks. For Storage Networks 
      • 10Gbps for pooled volumes
      • 1Gbps for Simple volumes
    • For Management networks provide a 1 Gbps network. 


Atlantis USX on Citrix XenServer - Initial Setup 

There's been a lot to take in here. So for now, lets get the USX Manager installed and ready for configuration. In this video you can see how straightforward it is to import the USX Management Appliance (which is the same code you'd import into VMware) into your Citrix XenServer environment. 

The test setup we'll be using is four (4) Citrix XenServer 6.5 hosts configured in a pool. Each host is configured with with local disk for capacity and SSD disk for performance/storage. Each host has 4 cores and 32GB RAM. Note these are virtualised hosts; and a recommended production configuration would have multiple AMC consoles and those consoles would not be hosted on hosts running virtual volumes. 

Still, put on your favorite sound track and watch how easy it is: please bear in mind that this is all done via the medium of mime. 



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