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September 16, 2015

Automating Software Defined Storage with Atlantis USX in a Modern Datacenter

Andrew Wood - Atlantis

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Today, businesses rely on their IT teams to help innovate, engage and empower. There are numerous challenges for your datacenter - for example, it’s complex to manage; there are a plethora of moving parts, which in turn increases risk when updating or upgrading components; availability and performance is a challenge; and storage.. storage greedily consumes a huge chunk of your business budget. Many tasks related to deploying a new solution or application are still done manually, in some cases adding weeks to schedules.

 You solve these challenges. 

The modern datacenter, a software-defined datacentre (SDDC), is heralded as the best solution to deliver business flexibility and power while reducing costs and increasing performance. With a software-defined datacentre, the elements of the infrastructure – networking, storage, CPU and security – are virtualised and delivered as a service. The provisioning and operation of the entire infrastructure is entirely automated.

Yet, a common barrier to delivering that SDDC is how to transition and implement the components. If it's costly and cumbersome to move, might it not be more straightforward to soldier on without change? But, what happens if it isn't? Why can't it be an itereative, a progressive change?

Atlantis USX provides you with Software Defined Storage (SDS) capabilities that can either be used to replace traditional storage, or bring SDS capabilities to existing infrastructure. If you’re interested in the modern datacenter, then you're likely considering building blocks that are easy to deploy and support; so consider the Atlantis HyperScale appliance, a splendid ‘All Flash Hyper Converged’ solution built around Atlantis USX with its software defined storage capabilities.

What are those Software Defined Storage capabilities, and how can you automate the delivery and integration of Atlantis USX to bring about your modern datacenter?

Differentiation of Software Defined Storage

think bigger, think different
The Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) state that Software Defined Storage (SDS) must include:
  • Automation– Simplified management that reduces the cost of maintaining the storage infrastructure
  • Standard Interfaces – APIs for the management, provisioning and maintenance of storage devices and services
  • Scalability– Seamless ability to scale the storage infrastructure without disruption to the specified availability or performance
  • Transparency – The ability for storage consumers to monitor and manage their own storage consumption against available resources and costs
SDS offerings should allow applications and data producers to manage the treatment of their data by the storage infrastructure without the need for intervention from storage administrators, without explicit provisioning operations, and with automatic service level management.

Atlantis USX REST API

Automation is indeed a key requirement for SDS to deliver on the software-defined datacenter vision. The ability to easily manage Atlantis USX and integrate its deployment and configuration with existing tools and services is key. The entire GUI for Atlantis USX is built on the Atlantis REST API which is open and public. 

Misconceptions of a RESTAPIThe Atlantis REST API overview and documentation is available on the Atlantis support site. It is not, as the name might suggest, a chance for you to sit back on day 1. What it is, is an interface to let you define and configure storage provision automatically so you can get on and do more useful stuff. 

The Atlantis REST API can be used to deploy Atlantis USX components automatically, manage volumes, monitor and alert the system. By utilising the API you have instant integration capability for management systems deployed today such as VMware vCAC, Microsoft Operations Manager, HP Operations Manager, IBM Tivoli, Openstack or Citrix LifeCycle Management.

Working with Atlantis USX REST API

Providing capability is all good, but how does that translate practically? Three use cases include:
  • Automated Deployment for Hyper-converged appliancesAtlantis HyperScale is all flash hyper-converged system. Configuration and deployment of a HyperScale appliance is fully automated. Once hardware components are physically cabled together, automation tool deployed that validates hardware configuration, integrates deployment of the hypervisor (currently Citrix XenServer, or VMware vSphere) and then deploys and configures Atlantis USX to provide software defined storage.
  • Integration with Existing Management Tools – we can take that functionality used to deploy a small number of nodes and scale it up and out. For example, a large bank wanted to utilise Atlantis USX to deliver storage services to optimise performance for application delivery. The bank had an existing framework in place to deploy hypervisors and virtual machine instances to allow scalable and repeatable delivery. Here, the Atlantis REST APIs were utilised through Windows PowerShell scripting to allow the provision of software defined storage to be integrated into the Bank’s existing services. By having Atlantis USX Windows PowerShell cmdlets we are able to reduce the time and effort to integrate storage provision by exposing interfaces via a framework many administrators are already utilising.
  • Configuration using Cloud Service FrameworksCitrix LifeCycle Management provides out-of-the-box application blueprints to deliver complete Citrix Workspace Proof of Concept environments, through to extending or enhancing production environments. Atlantis Computing have worked close with the Citrix LifeCycle Management product group to understand how the platform can be utilised for software defined storage delivery. We’ve built scripts and blueprints to allow Atlantis USX service provision – creating automated installs of USX on vSphere or XenServer using the blueprint and scripting functions to access Atlantis REST APIs, or using those same REST APIs, to allow dynamic configuration of an existing USX service.

On the future of automation for Atlantis USX

A modern datacenter shouldn’t be visible for the business consumer. The modern datacenter is AnyCloud, AnyApp, Software Defined, Hyper Converged, and Automated. To move to the modern datacenter you must consider utilising Software Defined Storage.

Many might consider that they’ve got to expensively remove and retire existing investment: that journey need not be onerous.  Atlantis USX can be used with existing traditional storage allowing you to enhance performance and increase capacity through data services such as caching, compression, replication, in-line in-memory de-duplication and VMware VVOL support as well as that key automation capability through Atlantis RESTAPIs.

While we’ve automation and integration with hardware for hyper converged HyperScale appliances, as we move forward customers are wanting to integrate further with existing hardware diagnostic capabilities – allowing them to providing single management interfaces to their services. Today frameworks such as Citrix LifeCycle Management can be used to automate the provision of services, tomorrow we could integrate such services into the initial configuration and setup of appliances so that initial deployment naturally progresses to installation of applications and services reducing the time to value for new resources. Today it is possible to deploy and configure automatically, but even that process could be further automated to the point where the request for new resource could be requested, authorised and provisioned automatically. Then the software defined data center would truly have arrived.

Importantly, you don’t have to wait until tomorrow to start, or accelerate, your journey to the modern datacenter, Atlantis USX allows you to deploy software defined storage today, deliver increased performance and capacity today. Bring that timeline forward.
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