Is a SAN Better, Cheaper, and More Secure Than Office 365?

SAN’s – especially SAN’s from market leader EMC – are always under attack from companies wishing to cash in on a piece of the rising data growth across all industries and market segments.

  • Some say DAS is best.
  • Some say keep the storage in the servers.
  • Some say you should build your own shared array.

But when it comes to Microsoft environments, it often helps to have independent experts investigate the matter to get a fresh perspective.

In a recent study, Wikibon determined that a shared storage infrastructure (powered by EMC’s next generation VNX2 storage systems) can match the prices offered by Office 365 public cloud and offer more capabilities, more security, and more control.

This, however, assumes a completely consolidated approach for deploying multiple mixed workloads such as Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server, Lync – where the VNX2 really shines.   We use FAST VP, FAST Cache, and a combination of drive types to achieve the best balance of performance and cost.

Are you looking for more information about deploying Microsoft applications on VNX?    Definitely check here for the most recent best practices guides!

Also check out my recent webinar I did with James Baldwin who leads our Proven Solutions EMC/Microsoft engineering team.  We had a lot of fun doing this one, hope you enjoy it.

EMC’s VNX = Award Winning storage for Microsoft environments

Microsoft’s TechEd 2013 is next week, and I’m looking forward to spending time with my longtime industry friends and making some new connections on the show floor in New Orleans.

This year, I’ll attend as part of the Unified Storage Division, and felt I needed to share a little about the success of VNX and VNXe arrays into Microsoft environments:


EMC’s VNX Unified Storage Platform has been recognized with awards from a slew of independent analysts such as Gartner, IDC and Wikibon, as well as media publications such as ComputerWorld, CRN and Virtualization Review due to the ability of the VNX family to power mission critical applications, integrate with virtual environments and solve SMB IT challenges, among other accolades.   We take pride in being the #1 storage for most Microsoft Windows-based applications.


Well, after speaking with Windows Server 2012, SQL Server, and EMC customers, partners and employees, the independent analyst firm Wikibon posted a before and after comparison model based on an enterprise customer environment. The idea is that the total cost of bolting together your own solution isn’t worth it.


The findings showed that by moving a physical, non-tiered environment to a virtualized environment with flash and tiered storage SQL Server customers realized a 30% lower overall TCO over a 3 year period including hardware, software, maintenance, and management costs for their database infrastructure.

The graphic shows that a do-it-yourself approach saves very little if anything in hardware costs and will divert operational effort to build and maintain the infrastructure. Risks and costs are likely to be higher with this approach.

In the end, EMC’s VNX infrastructure was proven to deliver a lower cost and lower risk solution for Windows 2012 versus a direct-attached storage (DAS) or JBOD (just a bunch of disk) model.  Full study here.

Video of EMC’s Adrian Simays and Wikibon Analysts discussing these results is here on YouTube.


EMC’s VNX platform considers Microsoft applications, databases, and file shares to our sweet spot as evidenced by our early integration of the latest Windows Server 2012 features that increase performance, efficiency, availability, and simplicity for our joint customers.

Performance, Efficiency, Availability, Simplicity

1. Performance

Within Windows, we were the first storage array to support SMB 3 and ODX Copy Offload (part of SMB 3) to enable large file copies over SAN instead of consuming network bandwidth and host CPU cycles.


This test highlights the speed difference before (left) and after (right) ODX was implemented. With EMC VNX and ODX enabled, you can accelerate your VM copies by a factor of 7 while reducing server CPU utilization by a factor of 30!

For applications and databases, VNX FAST Cache and FASTVP automatically tunes your storage to match your workload requirements saving up to 80% of the time it would take to manually balance workloads.

The Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) Lab confirmed that a data warehouse solution with Windows Server 2012 with Hyper-V, Microsoft SQL Server 2012 with new Columnstore indexing, and VNX FAST technologies and VNX storage form a complete solution to meet the business requirements of mid-tier organizations and beyond. An 800GB DW was deployed which is fairly typical for a medium sized business. With EMC FAST enabled, throughput reached up to 379 MB/sec, showing over 100% improvement over SQL Server 2012’s baseline Rowstore indexing. The DSS performance workload with EMC FAST enabled completed up to nine times faster than with rowstore indexing.

2. Efficiency

IT managers and storage administrators frequently adopt well-known forecasting models to pre-allocate storage space according to the storage demand growth rate. The main challenge is how to pre-allocate just enough storage capacity for the application. Reports from many storage array vendors indicate that 31% to 50% of the allocated storage is either stranded or unused. Thus, 31% to 50% of the capital investment from the initial storage installment is wasted.

The VNX supports Windows host-level and built-in storage-level thin provisioning to drastically reduce initial disk requirements.  Windows Server 2012 provides the ability to detect thin-provisioned storage on EMC storage arrays and reclaim unused space once it is freed by Hyper-V. In the previous scenario, an ODX-aware host connected to an EMC intelligent storage array would automatically reclaim the 10 GB of storage and return it to the pool where it could be used by other applications.

Furthermore, for application storage we partner with companies like Kroll and Metalogix to provide better solutions for Exchange single item recovery and SharePoint remote BLOB storage which can reduce SQL stored SharePoint objects by about 80-90% and improve SQL Respnse times by 20-40%

3. Availability

Our first to market integration with SMB3 not only provides for performance improvements, it also enables SMB 3 Continuous Availability allowing applications to run on clustered volumes with failovers that are transparent to end users.  For example, SQL Server may store system tables on the file shares such that any disruptive event to the access of the file share can lead to interruption of SQL Server operation. Continuous Availability is accomplished via cluster failover on the host side and Data Mover of Shared Folder failover on the VNX side.

Other SMB 3.0 Features supported include:

  • Multi-Channel / Multipath I/O (MPIO ) – Multiple TCP connections can now be associated with a single SMB 3.0 session and a client application can use several connections to transfer I/O on a CIFS share.  This optimizes bandwidth and enables failover and load balancing with multiple NICs.
  • Offload Copy - Copying data   within the same Data Mover can now be offloaded to the storage which reduces the workload on the client and network.
  • SMB Encryption - Provides secure access to data on CIFS shares, protecting data on untrusted networks and providing end-to-end encryption of data in- flight.
  • Directory Lease – SMB2   introduced a directory cache which allowed clients to cache a directory listing to save network bandwidth but it would not see new updates.  SMB3 introduces a directory lease and the client is now automatically aware of changes made in a cached directory.
  • Remote Volume Shadow Copy Service (RVSS) – With RVSS, point-in-time snapshots can be taken across multiple CIFS shares, providing improved performance in backup and restore.
  • BranchCache – Caching solution to have business data in local cache. Main use case is remote office and branch office storage.

EMC also offers a wide range of application availability and protection solutions that are built into the VNX including snapshots, remote replication, and a new RecoverPoint virtual replication appliance.

4. Simplicity

When it comes to provisioning storage for their applications, admins often have to navigate through too many repetitive tasks requiring them to touch different UIs and increasing the risk of human error. Admins also likely need to coordinate with other administrators each time they need to provision space. This is not very efficient. Take for example a user that wants to provision space for SharePoint. You need to work with Unisphere to create a LUN and add it to a storage group. Next you need to log onto the server and run disk manager to import the volume. Next you need to work with Hyper-V, then SQL Server Mgmt Studio, then SharePoint Central Admin. A bit tedious to say the least.


EMC Storage Integrator (ESI) on the other hand streamlines everything we just talked about. Forget about how much faster it actually is… Just think about the convenience and elegance of this workflow compared to the manual steps outlined in our last paragraph. ESI is a free MMC based download that takes provisioning all the way into Microsoft Applications. Currently only SharePoint is supported but SQL and Exchange wizards are coming soon. This is a feature that surprises and delights our customers!


EMC’s VNX not only provides a rock solid core infrastructure foundation, but also delivers significant features and benefits for application owners and DBAs.     Here’s some quotes from customers who have transformed their Microsoft environments using the VNX and VNXe platforms.

Peter Syngh Senior Manager, IT Operations, Toronto District School Board

 “EMC’s VNX unified storage has the best of everything at a very cost-effective price. It integrates with Microsoft Hyper-V, which is crucial to our cloud strategy, and with its higher performance, automated tiering and thin provisioning, VNX was a no-brainer.”

Marshall Bose Manager of IT Operations, Ensco (Oil/Gas)

 “A prime reason for choosing EMC over NetApp was that VNX is such a great fit for virtualization. With all the automation tools and tight integration with VMware, VNX is far easier than NetApp when it comes to spinning up and managing virtual machines.”

Rocco Hoffmann, IT Architect BNP Paribas (German Bank)

“We are achieving significant savings in energy and rack space. In fact our VNX requires only half the rack space and has reduced our power and cooling costs”

Charles Rosse, Systems Administrator II Baptist Memorial Health Care

“Since the VNX has been built into the design of our VDI from the beginning, it can easily accommodate growth- all we need to do is to plug in another drive or tray of drives and we get incrementally better performance.”

Erich Becker,  Director of Information Systems, AeroSpec (Manufacturing)

“…We loved the fact that VNXe and VMware worked extremely well together …we have dramatically cut operating costs, increased reliability and data access is now twice as fast as before.”


There are many more customers that have given praise to the VNX Family for powering their Microsoft applications but I don’t have the room to put them all in.     EMC is a trusted brand in storage, and the VNX today is an outstanding unified platform which successfully balances our customers block and file needs for their Microsoft file and application data – and gets awards for it.    Feel free to find out more about the VNX and VNXe product lines here and here.

Also come talk to us next week at TechEd, we will be there to help customers and partners learn more about our technology.

Find out more about our TechEd plans here.

Also download the VNXe Simulator executable right here.  It’s pretty awesome and shows you the unique VNXe management interface.

So much to understand about your Cloud Options for Microsoft Applications …The path you take matters! The Radicati Group Perspective

In the world of IT…. things are moving very quickly.  In my role at EMC, I have the opportunity and quite frankly privilege, to talk to many customers, partners, press and analysts and as well as EMC’s many experts on Microsoft.  Consistently I hear from all about the abundance of information out there on cloud computing and virtualization… and how confusing it can be to cut through all of the noise and truly educate yourself.   

There are a number of EMC resources and  sponsored opportunities for IT professionals to do just that –  educate themselves on technical considerations for deploying Microsoft Applications such as Exchange, SharePoint, SQL Server database and Windows Server in a cloud environment.  

EMC recently worked with industry leading analysts and thought leaders  to discuss what customers should begin to think about as they evaluate which path to take regarding their Microsoft applications and cloud computing.  I am going to be posting a weekly blog on our efforts to help our customers, partners and  the broader  Microsoft community on the role that infrastructure can have in helping your transform your Microsoft environments to the Cloud.

As always – key place to start your education process is here on this blog and also on our Everything Microsoft Community on ECN.

Radicati Group Whitepaper- Benefits of Consolidating and Virtualizing Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint in a Private Cloud Environment – Understanding the Role of Infrastructure to Ensure Success

EMC experts partnered with Sara Radicati and her team at the Radicati Group to create a whitepaper and webcast to discuss the benefits of consolidating and virtualizing Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint in a Private Cloud Environment and how infrastructure such as that offered by EMC and our channel partners.   In this paper, Sara and her team discuss the benefits of consolidating and virtualizing  Microsoft

Microsoft Exchange and SharePoint Consolidation and Virtualization in a Private Cloud Environment Webcast Replay – A Customer perspective.

EMC also had the opportunity to continue our work with Sara and her team and also Phillip Reynolds , Associate Director of Technology, Williams & Fudge an EMC customer.  The web conference was moderated by Sara Radicati and brings together guest speakers from EMC and one of its customers, financial firm Williams & Fudge, to discuss how customers can best leverage virtualization technologies and other key infrastructure components that are critical to the deployment of a successful private cloud environment.  This web conference looked at the benefits of virtual private cloud deployment, and how EMC’s private cloud virtualization technologies and solutions can support the implementation of secure private cloud deployments of Microsoft Exchange Server and Microsoft SharePoint. 

See the webcast on replay – 

And the Premiere Opportunity to Learn More about Cloud –  EMCWORLD 2013

 EMCWorld – so many session and demos in so little time

Adrian’s Virtual Winfrastructure blog – Painting a Picture of Microsoft Solutions at EMCworld does a great job of providing an overview on all of the EMC Solutions and demos focused on Microsoft environments.. 

His blog is here –

Hear the Customer Perspective on Why EMC VNX is a Great Option for Microsoft Environments

Customers of all sizes – across all industries – are seeing tangible benefits of using VNX as their storage platform of choice for Microsoft environments.   VNX provides a multitude of benefits for Microsoft environments by providing automated and economical unified storage with pace-setting performance, optimized for virtual applications.  It’s easy for EMC to promote the benefits of our technology…we work with it all the time.  But its even more interesting to hear from actual customers who have deployed VNX and our management solutions on how EMC has helped them to achieve their IT and business objectives.  

Watch European and American companies discuss the increased performance and management simplicity of running their Microsoft applications on EMC VNX unified storage.

Introduction to EMC´s ESIPSTOOLKIT, the hidden Weapon for your Private Cloud Deployment – By Karsten Bott, EMC Germany


Introduction to EMC´s ESIPSTOOLKIT, the hidden Weapon for your Private Cloud Deployment


By Karsten Bott, EMC Germany



One of a more hidden secret to many of our Users / Customers is the Power of EMC´s ESI PowerShell Toolkit.


For those of you who do not know ESI, here is a Brief Overview of ESI:


ESI for Windows provides capabilities for viewing and provisioning storage. ESI helps IT Administrators by Simplifying Storage Provisioning by


-          Displaying Storage Mapping of Windows disk resources.


-          simplifying the various steps involved in creating and preparing a LUN, including the steps of partitioning, formatting, and creating a drive letter


-          creating a file share and mount that file share as a network-attached drive in a Windows environment


-          Create Virtual Disks ( VHD´s, VMDK´s )


-          Map raw Devices into VM´s


You can find an ESI Overview Video on YouTube



But ESI comes with much more Power.
ESI includes a set of PowerShell cmdlets known as ESIPSToolKit to provision storage from the command line. The cmdlets are written for the PowerShell 2.0 Platform.  They are implemented on according Microsoft´s verb/noun Convention and always start with EMC in the noun. So you will find all cmdlets form various Modules by simply typing Get-Command -Noun EMC*.
Important to mention, we work Agentless, utilizing Windows Standards like WMI and PowerShell Remoting


The PowerShell toolkit provides cmdlets to manage:


-          Connections to host and storage systems and to provision Block storage.


-          Disk devices in hypervisor environments, such as VMware vSphere, Microsoft Hyper-V, and Citrix XenServer.


-          Block device snapshots for EMC Symmetrix VMAX® storage family, EMC VNX® Series, EMC VNXe® series, and EMC CLARiiON®CX4 series of storage systems.


These cmdlets are Helping Customers in their Windows Management Automation on the Way to the Private Cloud.


The Toolkit has a Broad List of Commands and is still growing from Version to Version





A Basic Provisioning Process might look like


Provisioning Task Traditional Step ESIPSToolKit Example
Identify   Storage System Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool $MyStorage = Get-EmcStorageSystem VNXe
Identify   Pool Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool $MyPool = Get-EmcStoragePool performance -StorageSystem   $MyStorage -PoolType Block
Identify   Cluster System Cluster.Exe   / MMC $MyClus =   Get-EmcClusterSystem W2K*
Create Lun   in Pool Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool ( Multiple Steps ) $MyLun = New-EmcLun -Pool $MyPool -Name mylun_test_1   -Capacity 10GB -Silent –Thin
Unmask   Luns to Cluster Hosts Use   Element Manager / Storage CLI Tool ( Multiple Steps ) Set-EmcLunAccess   -Lun $MyLun -ClusterSystem $MyClus -Available
Find Drive   on Host Diskpart,   Array Commandline Tools, INQ Command $MyDrive =   Find-EmcHostDisk -ClusterSystem $MyClus -Lun $MyLun
Initialize   Drive Diskpart,   Diskmgmt or other Host Tool Initialize-EmcHostDisk -HostDisk $MyDrive -ClusterSystem   $MyClus -PartitionStyle gpt
Create and   Format Volume Diskpart,   Diskmgmt or other Host Tool New-EmcVolume -ClusterSystem  $MyClus -HostDisk   $MyDrive -Label CluDis1
Add   Volume to Cluster Group Cluster.exe,   Cluster MMC $MyCluDisk = Add-EmcHostDiskToCluster -ClusterSystem $MyClus -HostDisk $MyDrive -ClusterGroupName AvailableStorage





You Might want to use our Toolkit in your Orchestrating Tools (aka SCO, VMO) to Automate most of your Provisioning Tasks in your Private Cloud Deployment


You will find some Examples of what you can do with ESIPSToolKit on ECN.
If you find that helpful, you may want to follow me on  for frequent updates


You also can Contact me on ECN .




Thanks to Giri, Sanjay, Ataa and everyone in the ESI Team !