Dell Storage Replay Manager for Compellent 6.5

Recently as a DELL Compellent customer version became available to us. I download it and found some welcome new capabilities in the release notes.

  • Support for vSphere 6
  • 2024 bit public key support for SSL/TLS
  • The ability to retry failed jobs (Microsoft Extensions Only)
  • The ability to modify a backup set (Microsoft Extensions Only)

The ability to retry failed jobs is handy. There might be a conflicting backup running via a 3rd party tool leveraging the hardware VSS provider. So the ability to retry can mitigate this. As we do multiple replays per day and have them scheduled recurrently we already mitigated the negative effects of this, but this only gibes us more options to deal with such situations. It’s good.


The ability to modify a backup set is one I love. It was just so annoying not to be able to do this before. A change in the environment meant having to create a new backup set. That also meant keeping around the old job for as long as you wanted to retain the replays associated with that job. Not the most optimal way of handling change I’d say, so this made me happy when I saw it.


Now I’d like DELL to invest a bit more in make restore of volume based replays of virtual machines easier. I actually like the volume based ones with Hyper-V as it’s one snapshot per CSV for all VMs and it doesn’t require all the VMs to reside on the host where we originally defined the backup set. Optimally you do run all the VMs on the node that own the CSV but otherwise it has less restrictions. I my humble opinion anything that restricts VM mobility is bad and goes against the grain of virtualization and dynamic optimization. I wonder if this has more to do with older CVS/Hyper-V versions, current limitations in Windows Server Hyper-V or CVS or a combination. This makes for a nice discussion, so if anyone from MSFT & the DELL Storage team responsible for Repay Manager wants to have one, just let me know Smile 

Last but not least I’d love DELL to communicate in Q4 of 2015 on how they will integrate their data protection offering in Compellent/Replay manager with Windows Server 2016 Backup changes and enhancements. That’s quite a change that’s happing for Hyper-V and it would be good for all to know what’s being done to leverage that. Another thing that is high on my priority for success is to enable leveraging replays with Live Volumes. For me that’s the biggest drawback to Live Volumes: having to chose between high/continuous availability and application consistent replays for data protection and other use cases).

I have some more things on my wish list but these are out of scope in regards to the subject of this blog post.

SMB 3, ODX, Windows Server 2012 R2 & Windows 8.1 perform magic in file sharing for both corporate & branch offices

SMB 3 for Transparent Failover File Shares

SMB 3 gives us lots of goodies and one of them is Transparent Failover which allows us to make file shares continuously available on a cluster. I have talked about this before in Transparent Failover & Node Fault Tolerance With SMB 2.2 Tested (yes, that was with the developer preview bits after BUILD 2011, I was hooked fast and early) and here Continuously Available File Shares Don’t Support Short File Names – "The request is not supported" & “CA failure – Failed to set continuously available property on a new or existing file share as Resume Key filter is not started.”


This is an awesome capability to have. This also made me decide to deploy Windows 8 and now 8.1 as the default client OS. The fact that maintenance (it the Resume Key filter that makes this possible) can now happen during day time and patches can be done via Cluster Aware Updating is such a win-win for everyone it’s a no brainer. Just do it. Even better, it’s continuous availability thanks to the Witness service!

When the node running the file share crashes, the clients will experience a somewhat long delay in responsiveness but after 10 seconds the continue where they left off when the role has resumed on the other node. Awesome! Learn more bout this here Continuously Available File Server: Under the Hood and SMB Transparent Failover – making file shares continuously available.

Windows Clients also benefits from ODX

But there is more it’s SMB 3 & ODX that brings us even more goodness. The offloading of read & write to the SAN saving CPU cycles and bandwidth. Especially in the case of branch offices this rocks. SMB 3 clients who copy data between files shares on Windows Server 2012 (R2) that has storage an a ODX capable SAN get the benefit that the transfer request is translated to ODX by the server who gets a token that represents the data. This token is used by Windows to do the copying and is delivered to the storage array who internally does all the heavy lifting and tell the client the job is done. No more reading data form disk, translating it into TCP/IP, moving it across the wire to reassemble them on the other side and write them to disk.


To make ODX happen we need a decent SAN that supports this well. A DELL Compellent shines here. Next to that you can’t have any filter drives on the volumes that don’t support offloaded read and write. This means that we need to make sure that features like data deduplication support this but also that 3rd party vendors for anti-virus and backup don’t ruin the party.


In the screenshot above you can see that Windows data deduplication supports ODX. And if you run antivirus on the host you have to make sure that the filter driver supports ODX. In our case McAfee Enterprise does. So we’re good. Do make sure to exclude the cluster related folders & subfolders from on access scans and schedules scans.

Do not run DFS Namespace servers on the cluster nodes. The DfsDriver does not support ODX!


The solution is easy, run your DFS Namespaces servers separate from your cluster hosts, somewhere else. That’s not a show stopper.

The user experience

What it looks like to a user? Totally normal except for the speed at which the file copies happen.

Here’s me copying an ISO file from a file share on server A to a file share on server B from my Windows 8.1 workstation at the branch office in another city, 65 KM away from our data center and connected via a 200Mbps pipe (MPLS).


On average we get about 300 MB/s or 2.4 Gbps, which “over” a 200Mbps WAN is a kind of magic. I assure you that they’re not complaining and get used to this quite (too) fast Winking smile.

The IT Pro experience

Leveraging SMB 3 and ODX means we avoid that people consume tons of bandwidth over the WAN and make copying large data sets a lot faster. On top of that the CPU cycles and bandwidth on the server are conserved for other needs as well. All this while we can failover the cluster nodes without our business users being impacted. Continuous to high availability, speed, less bandwidth & CPU cycles needed. What’s not to like?

Pretty cool huh! These improvements help out a lot and we’ve paid for them via software assurance so why not leverage them? Light up your IT infrastructure and make it shine.

What’s stopping you?

So what are your plans to leverage your software assurance benefits? What’s stopping you? When I asked that I got a couple of answers:

  • I don’t have money for new hardware. Well my SAN is also pré Windows 2012 (DELL Compellent SC40 controllers. I just chose based on my own research not on what VARs like to sell to get maximal kickbacks Winking smile. The servers I used are almost 4 years old but fully up to date DELL PowerEdge R710’s, recuperated from their duty as Hyper-V hosts. These server easily last us 6 years and over time we collected some spare servers for parts or replacement after the support expires. DELL doesn’t take away your access to firmware &drivers like some do and their servers aren’t artificially crippled in feature set.
  • Skills? Study, learn, test! I mean it, no excuse!
  • Bad support from ISV an OEMs for recent Windows versions are holding you back? Buy other brands, vote with your money and do not accept their excuses. You pay them to deliver.

As IT professionals we must and we can deliver. This is only possible as the result of sustained effort & planning. All the labs, testing, studying helps out when I’m designing and deploying solutions. As I take the entire stack into account in designs and we do our due diligence, I know it will work. The fact that being active in the community also helps me know early on what vendors & products have issues and makes that we can avoid the “marchitecture” solutions that don’t deliver when deployed. You can achieve this as well, you just have to make it happen. That’s not too expensive or time consuming, at least a lot less than being stuck after you spent your money.

Fixing Two Small DELL Compellent Hardware Hiccups

Here’s two little tips to solve some small hardware issues you might run into with a Compellent SAN. But first, you’re never on your own with CoPilot support. They are just one phone call away so I suggest if you see these to minor issues you give them a call. I speak from experience that CoPilot rocks. They are really good and go the extra mile. Best storage support I have ever experienced.


  • Always notify CoPilot as they will see the alerts come in and will contact you for sure Smile. Afterwards they’ll almost certainly will do a quick health check for you. But even better during the entire process they keep an eye on things to make sure you SAN is doing just fine. And if you feel you’d like them to tackle this, they will send out an engineer I’m sure.
  • Note that we’re talking about the SC40 controllers & disk bays here. The newer genuine DELL hardware is better than the super micro ones.

The audible alert without any issues what so ever

We kept getting an audible alert after we had long solved any issues on one of the SANs. The system had been checked a couple of times and everything was in perfect working order. Except for that audible alarm that just didn’t want to quit. A low priority issue I know but every time we walk into the data center we were going “oh oh” for a false alert. That’s not the kind of conditioning you want. Alerts are only to be made when needed and than they do need to be acted upon!

Working on this with CoPilot support we got rid of it by reseating the upper I/O module. You can do this on the fly – without pulling SAS-cables out or so, they are redundant, as long as you do it one by one and the cabling is done right (they can verify that remotely for you if needed).


But we got lucky after the first one. After the “Swap Clear” was requested  every warning condition was cleared and we got rid of the audible alert beep!  Copilot was on the line with us and made sure all paths are up and running so no bad things could happen. That’s what you have a copilot for.

Front panel display dimming out on a Compellent Disk Bay

We have multiple Compellent SANs and on one of those we had a disk bay with a info panel that didn’t light up anymore. A silly issue but an annoying one as this one also show you the disk bay ID.


Do we really replace the disk bay to solve this one? As that light had come on and of a couple of time it could just be a bad contact so my colleague decided to take a look. First  he removed the protective cover and then, using some short & curved screw drivers, he took of the body part. The red arrow indicates the little latch that holds the small ribbon cable in place.


That was standing right open. After locking that down the info appeared again on the panel. The covers was screwed on again and voila. Solved.

FREE WHITE PAPER: Configuring a VEEAM Off Host Backup Proxy Server for backing up a Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster with a DELL Compellent SAN (Fiber Channel)

Whilst I’m attending TechEd North America 2014, being able to learn and network again with the community at large I think this is a good moment to share. So here’s a little contribution to that community: it’s a white paper on How to configure a VEEAM Off Host Backup Proxy server for backing up a Windows Server 2012 R2 Hyper-V cluster with a DELL Compellent SAN (Fiber Channel).

VEEAM Back & Replication is currently under and extensive test before we make the decision. So far it is going (very) well. And no, VEEAM or DELL did not sponsor this. It’s sharing with the community. A prosperous, successful community makes my professional live better to!

I have to applaud VEEAM for allowing such easy access to their software for trials, to their engineers for assistance and to their support forum and resources even without yet being a paying customer. This is how it should be: vendors having faith in their products both in quality and ease of use. It’s a refreshing experience as some vendors don’t want you to get your hands on new versions of their products even as a existing paying customer “because due to its complexity we might get the wrong impression”. It’s even near impossible with some to get a test license for the lab of the version you currently use with some of them. Not so with VEEAM and that’s great.

I hope you enjoy it. As you might realize I don’t have this kind of infrastructure in my home lab so some of the screenshots have been edited / blurred. I’m sure you can live with that. Otherwise feel free to provide me with the gear in a paid for data center.