0 0

University of California Irvine Does Its Homework

Tintri Emerges as Clear Winner after Extensive Search for New Storage Platform

UC Irvine

University of California Irvine (UCI) is a public research university and one of the ten general campuses in the massive UC system. UCI currently enrolls over 30,000 students, and employs more than 1,100 faculty members and 9,000 staff. John Ward is an IT enterprise architect at UC Irvine. “I manage our virtual services and central storage infrastructure,” noted Ward. “I don’t have any direct end users, I design platforms that support other system administrators at UCI that maintain of our campus computer services.”

IT Challenges

UCI had been relying on storage arrays from one of the traditional, legacy vendors. “We were having speed issues on our storage platform, because the technology was largely based on spinning disks with small amounts of high-speed caching,” Ward explained. “Since our storage infrastructure was out of date, we couldn’t do just an incremental upgrade on that platform – it required a complete replacement.”

The UCI IT team was also unable to obtain metrics on individual VM performance, making it impossible to diagnose system performance problems. “Even with the vendor’s monitoring software that we paid good money for, our current platform was not able to tell us which VMs were causing the slowdowns,” Ward said. “That became a big problem for meeting our service levels.”

Another issue that Ward and his team were struggling with was storage complexity. “The legacy systems were very complicated,” noted Ward. “We had to send our admins to the vendor’s training classes to learn how to configure aggregates, volumes, and all of the other components. Essentially, there were far too many knobs to turn and a lot of pitfalls if we did it wrong. As a result, we had to have dedicated specialists for those systems.”

Narrowing It Down to the Five Final Contenders

Ward and his team conducted a very thorough evaluation of potential vendors for the infrastructure upgrade. “This was the biggest storage search we have ever done,” Ward reported. “We looked closely at many storage vendors and narrowed it down to the final five – Pure’s all-flash arrays, systems from NetApp, Tegile, Nimble, and Tintri. We sent all five vendors a very long survey with 92 questions.”

Tintri Wins the Bake-Off

“Tintri was the clear winner after reviewing all of the responses,” Ward said. “Tintri has the best built-in analytics. You can detect performance issues by getting data from the vCenter ESX hosts, and no guest access is required. It reports on every VM as well as at the VMDK level. Tintri also uses ‘thin on thin’ provisioning of VMDKs on NFS, which is a very worthwhile feature. And with Tintri, we can add encryption at any time. With some other solutions, you have to buy self- encrypting disks upfront, they are offered at purchase only. It is nice to be able to add encryption later if our business needs change.”

Easier Management

UCI is now using the Tintri systems for all of the OIT’s virtualized workloads. “Tintri is already tuned for what we need to do,” Ward explained. “With Tintri, there are no ‘extra knobs’ to turn. I still need to manage our vSphere environment, but our junior admins can easily take care of the Tintri systems, freeing me for more strategic issues.”

Higher Availability and Easy Scalability

Ward was also impressed with the high availability of the Tintri systems. “With Tintri, we don’t need to schedule downtime for software or firmware upgrades because it all happens non- disruptively,” noted Ward. “The Tintri upgrades works so well, we can now perform upgrades in the middle of the day. With more general storage systems, expansion can be non-optimal.

You are working with RAID groups that have to expand by specific multiples of disks that don’t necessarily match well when adding whole shelves, and new disks can have new characteristics,” Ward explained. “Easy misconfiguration can harm performance too. If you’re going to expand with Tintri, you simply buy another system that’s already optimized. “

VM-Level Snapshots and Auto Alignment of VMDKs

Tintri enables snapshots, cloning, and replication on a per-VM basis. “VM-level snapshots are a big advantage for us,” Ward explained. “We used to have to create and manage extra volumes and datastores so we could group machines by similar recovery point objectives and performance requirements. The NetApp systems are particularly sensitive to alignment issues. And unfortunately in our environment, we have far too many unaligned Microsoft Windows Server 2003 servers that are not getting upgraded any time soon. Auto alignment of VMDKs is another Tintri feature that is very important to us.”

Better Visibility into VM Performance

Ward and his team have been very impressed with the metrics they can obtain from Tintri Global Center. “We came in one morning and noticed that one of our VMs had ‘gone berserk’ overnight,” Ward recalled. “We have a 10Gb connection and this particular VM was driving 3Gb of the network bandwidth. With just three clicks, Tintri could tell us exactly which VM was generating all of the load. We were able to fix the issue quickly with that knowledge. But the impressive thing was despite all of the IOPS and bandwidth this VM was consuming, everything else on the Tintri was still performing very well with under two milliseconds of latency.”

Final Thoughts

“Tintri is always very interested in our feedback on their products so they can continue to improve the technology. We have been very pleased with our switch to Tintri storage and are now recommending the solution to the other UC campuses,” Ward concluded.


Highlights

​Geography

Irvine, California

Virtualization environment

VMware vSphere

VM profile

Windows and Linux servers, MS SQL, MS Exchange, and Apache

Key challenges

Inadequate disk performance

Lacked the ability to track which VMs were consuming disk resources

Tintri solution

Tintri VMstore™ T880 systems

Primary use case

Tintri storage is being used for the Office of Information Technology (OIT) virtualized workloads at the UCI campus datacenter

Business benefits

Increased storage performance

Simplified storage management

Obtained the ability to troubleshoot performance issues with VM-level metrics

Gained the ability to upgrade systems without downtime

Temporary_css