The StorageReview In The Lab series examines the behind the scenes and inner workings of our Cincinnati-based enterprise test lab. The content is designed to take a look at the equipment, software and tools that keep the lab going, with an eye toward helping IT administrators get new ideas while also seeing the challenges faced by a growing IT organization.
by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Upgrading to VMware ESXi 6.7U1 for Dark Theme

VMware just released their first update to ESXi 6.7, aptly named ESXi 6.7U1. This latest update brings a number of patches and updates, although as someone sitting in front of a vCenter Client window most of the day, you really only care about that awesome new Dark Theme people have been talking about. In this quick In the Lab I take you through the quick and easy way to udpate your hosts and VCSA to the newest version of ESXi.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: NetApp ONTAP 9.4 Upgrade

NetApp announced ONTAP 9.4 in May and last week it became generally available. It's our preference to keep production systems up to date so we can explore the new features/enhancements that come in each release. In this case that means taking the resident NetApp A200 that handles the bullk of our storage needs from ONTAP 9.3 to ONTAP 9.4. The NetApp software upgrade process is as easy and foolproof as they come and is non-disruptive, meaning the storage stays online during the upgrade process. The process stages the files on each controller, updates one, brings it back online, and once it is confirmed safe, starts the process again on the other controller. In this walkthrough we take you through the steps of upgrading our A200 to ONTAP 9.4, without skipping a beat.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Upgrade to VMware vSphere 6.7

With the recent launch of VMware's vSphere 6.7, we used some time last night to upgrade our main testing equipment. This included many of our Dell PowerEdge R730s and Dell PowerEdge R740xds which received firmware upgrades at the same time. To make all of this as painless as possible, we leveraged Dell's Lifecycle Controller for all things firmware on our servers, and VMware's upgrade tools for our vCSA and ESXi hosts. In this article we cover the steps we used to update and upgrade our servers.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Dell Networking S3100 Series Switch (S3148P)

As the StorageReview networking fabric overhaul continues, an important but unsung member of the family includes the Dell Networking S3100 Series Switch. While not as glitzy as the 25GbE networking cards or as fast as the S4048 and Z9100 workhorses soon going into place, the S3100 provides a critical role for the lab. Though our office is relatively small, just over 4000SF, we have technology that can benefit from the PoE ports the S3148P version offers. Primarily this includes a dozen or so security cameras that are always keeping a watchful eye over the lab. We also have an assortment of IP phones and wireless access points that mainline into the 48 Ethernet ports the S3100 offers.

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Mellanox ConnectX-4 rNDC Upgrade (Dell EMC PowerEdge R730)

We previously reviewed the Dell Mellanox ConnectX-4 rNDC 25Gb NIC, which is a custom form-factor card designed to slot into Dell EMC PowerEdge servers. This card is unique compared to traditional PCIe edge-cards, in that it is designed to integrate with the server in the same way as any other OEM part and not take up any precious PCIe real-estate. This is very valuable for 1U servers, where PCIe slots are in short supply. In this In the Lab article, we show the process of installing one of these cards into a Dell EMC PowerEdge R730 13G.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Eaton 5PX & EBM Battery Replacement

In the StorageReview Enterprise Lab we use a variety of power management tools and battery backups. If a data center is not generating their own power or has sufficient backup generators, an interruption in power supply is inevitable (in the cases above, interruptions are still a possibility). For our testing environments we use Eaton gear from 5PX UPS  for managing a subset of systems up to the BladeUPS and its ability to power several racks. The 5PX UPS has been running in our lab for over 5 years and the time has finally come to perform some scheduled maintenance on it and the connected EBM (Extended Battery Module). In this In the Lab we go over the steps required to swap out the batteries in the UPS and replace the EBM.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In The Lab: Virtual Workstation Testbed (VDI)

When talking about virtualization, we spend most of our coverage on the enterprise application and infrastructure sides of the business. However, the end-user content we produce does very well also; there's a growing interest in the enterprise when it comes to enabling users to take advantage of maturing technologies to deliver a PC-like experience via thin client. The reasons are varied, but the motivation largely comes down to enabling a global workforce with a secure, yet high-performance workspace. In fact, we recently explored these issues with Luke Wignall from NVIDIA in a podcast. So that we may appropriately cover the high-end VDI space, what we prefer to call virtual workstations, StorageReview has been working with a set of partners to build out a dedicated test environment in our lab. HPE, HP, NVIDIA, ESRI, VMware and others have all contributed so that we may take both a holistic look at virtual workstation infrastructures, while still drilling down into the individual components to understand their impact on performance. 

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by Kevin OBrien

In the Lab: Fresh Air Cooling

Lowering power usage is a hot-button topic for anyone operating a lab or datacenter these days. Utility costs are always increasing, servers and storage keep growing and there are few signs that "the cloud" is going to do much to help. Regardless of the size of operation, power costs make up a huge portion of an OPEX budget (#4 at StorageReview); including the direct power usage of servers and associated hardware, as well as indirect power usage to cooling everything. During one of my first trips to Dell's headquarters in Round Rock, TX, I had the pleasure of seeing the Dell Fresh Air Hot House, which sparked ideas that would eventually lower the overall power usage of the StorageReview Test Lab.

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by StorageReview Enterprise Lab

In the Lab: Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 Series

The Dell Venue 11 Pro 7000 series is designed to adapt to a wide variety of different work styles and use cases, as it provides consumers with a multi-purpose functionality including the added option of a desktop experience. Users can attach the mobile keyboard, take advantage of the desktop docking station with dual monitors, or simply use it purely as a tablet with its active stylus pen for easy note taking. It also works with existing x86 applications, peripherals, and management tools, which allows it to effortlessly fit into all kinds of business environment.

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by Kevin OBrien

In The Lab: Supermicro SuperServer 1028U-TNR4T+ Network Loadgen Configuration

The Supermicro SuperServer 1028U-TNR4T+ has a number of features that help set itself apart from other 1U servers in the space, primarily its storage and networking capabilities. Offering twin NVMe-bays on the front and quad 10GbE out the back, the 1028U-TNR4T+ doesn't require much in terms of add-on parts to get itself situated quite well in a virtualized environment. In this next In The Lab series we cover some of the configuration details and tweaks we've made as we position this server as both a central command center of the StorageReview VMware environment, as well as how we leverage its high-performance networking capabilities for NAS/SAN testing.

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