Dare2Compare Part 7 : HPE provides superior performance to Nutanix

In part 4, we covered off a series of failure scenarios and how the HPE/SVT product responds and the same scenarios and how Nutanix responds which clearly proved HPEs claim of having superior resiliency than Nutanix to be false and I would argue even highlighted how much more resilient the Nutanix platform is.

Now in part 7, I will address two false claims (below) that Nutanix has lower performance to HPE SVT and that Nutanix doesn’t post performance results.

Tweet #1 – HPE Simplivity 380 provides superior performance than Nutanix

Problem number 1 with HPE’s claim: Their URL is dead… so we cannot review what scenario/s they are claiming HPE/SVT is higher performing.

HPEBrokenURL

Before we discuss Nutanix performance, HPE have repeatably made further claims that Nutanix does not post performance results and have further complained there are no 3rd party published performance testing results.

One recent example of these claim is shown below which states: “I know you don’t publish performance results”

Nutanix does in fact publish performance data, which is validated by:

  • 3rd parties partners/vendors such as Microsoft and LoginVSI
  • Independant 3rd parties such as Enterprise Storage Group (ESG) and;
  • Internally created material

The following is a few examples of published performance data.

  1. Nutanix Citrix XenDesktop Validated by LoginVSI

In fairness to HPE, this is a recent example so let’s take a look at Nutanix track record with LoginVSI.

LoginVSIBenchmarks

Here we can see six examples dating back to Jan 2013 where Nutanix has made performance results with LoginVSI available.

2. Nutanix Reference Architecture: Citrix Validated Solution for Nutanix

This was a jointly developed solution between Citrix and Nutanix and was the first of it’s kind globally and was made available in 2014.

3. Microsoft Exchange Solution Reviewed Program (ESRP) – Storage

Nutanix has for many years been working with business critical applications such as MS Exchange and has published two ESRP solutions.

The first is for 24,000 Users on Hyper-V and the second is for 30k Users on AHV.

NutanixESRPScreenshot

Interestingly, while HPE/SVT have a reference architecture for MS Exchange, they do not have an ESRP for the platform and this is because they cannot provide a supportable configuration due to lack of multi-protocol support.

Nutanix on the other hand has Microsoft supportable configurations for ESXi, Hyper-V and AHV.

4. ESG Performance Analysis: Nutanix Hyperconverged Infrastructure

This report is an example of a 3rd party who has validated performance data for VDI, MS SQL and MS Exchange.

As we can clearly see with the above examples, Nutanix does and has for a long time provided publicly available performance data from many sources including independant 3rd parties.

Moving onto the topic of Nutanix vs HPE/SVT performance, I feel it’s importaint to first review my thoughts on this topic in detail in an article I wrote back in 2015 titled: Peak performance vs real world performance.

In short, I can get any two products and make one look better than the other by simply designing tests which highlight strengths or weaknesses of either product. This is why many vendors have a clause in the EULA preventing publishing of performance data without written permission.

One of the most importaint factors when it comes to performance is sizing. An incorrectly sized environment will likely not perform within acceptable levels, and this goes for any product on the market.

For next generation platforms like Nutanix, customers are protected from under-sizing because of the platforms ability to scale by adding additional nodes. In 2016 I wrote the post titled “Scale out performance testing with Nutanix Storage Only Nodes” which shows how adding additional storage only nodes to a Nutanix cluster increased IOPS by approx 2x while lowering read and write latency.

What is more impressive than the excellent performance improvements is this was done without any changes to the configuration of the cluster or virtual machines.

The same test performed on HPE/SVT and other SDS/HCI products cannot double the IOPS or decrease read/write latency as the SVT platform is not a distributed storage fabric.

Here in lies a major advantage to Nutanix. In the event Nutanix performance was no longer sufficient, or another platform was higher performance, say per node, then Nutanix can (if/when required) scale performance without rip/replace or reconfiguration to meet almost any performance requirement. The performance per node is not a limiting factor for Nutanix like it is with HPE/SVT and other platforms.

What about performance for customers who are maximising the ROI from existing physical servers using Acropolis Block Services. The benefits just keep coming. A server connected using ABS will improve its IOPS, latency and throughput when additional nodes are added to the Nutanix cluster automatically as the Acropolis Distributed Storage Fabric (ADSF) increases the number of paths dynamically so all Controller VMs in the cluster service ABS traffic as shown in the tweet below.

As such, regardless of if workloads are virtual or physical, when using Nutanix, performance can always be improved non-disruptively and without compromising the resiliency of the cluster by simply adding nodes (which BTW is a one click operation).

Summary:

  1. Nutanix has been publishing performance results through independant 3rd parties and partners for many years.
  2. Nutanix has validated solutions from Microsoft, LoginVSI and Citrix to name a few.
  3. Nutanix performance can scale well beyond HPE/SVT for both virtual and physical workloads
  4. Nutanix provides validated performance data across multiple hypervisors
  5. HPE/SVT have provided no evidence, scenarios or references to SVT being a higher performance platform.

Return to the Dare2Compare Index:

Dare2Compare Part 5 : Nutanix can’t claim single screen management w/o extra fees or GUIs

If you’ve not read Parts 1,2,3 and 4, we have already proven several claims by HPE Simplivity regarding Nutanix to be false, as well as explored the misleading way in which HPE SVT promote data efficiency.

The fun continues and in Part 5 we will discuss HPE’s claim that Nutanix does not have a “single screen management” (by which I assume they mean Single Pane of Glass) without extra fees or GUIs.

Unfortunately the URL was not working in the HPE tweet, I responded and made HPE aware of this so I could review specifically what they are claiming, but the link at the time of writing is still not working.

It’s funny HPE SVT mention this because Nutanix is the only HCI product which has a built in, distributed, scalable and multi hypervisor management solution.

The fact Nutanix has its own interface is a huge advantage especially because Nutanix is not dependant on any 3rd parties (e.g.: VMware vCenter) to install/configure and manage our platform. This reduces cost,complexity,risk,operational tasks and the list goes on.

Nutanix “PRISM Element” HTML 5 GUI is built into every Nutanix solution regardless of hypervisor or underlying hardware. The below screenshot shows the built in management capabilities to upgrade the Nutanix Acropolis (AOS) storage layer, the built in, scale out file server, the hypervisor (ESXi, Hyper-V or AHV) as well as upgrade Firmware, our Container support and our built in cluster imaging tool, Foundation.

PrismUogradeSoftware

This means regardless of hypervisor, many of the critical tasks can be performed straight within PRISM and does not require the long in the tooth VMware Update Manager (VUM) which is long overdue for an overhaul. In fact, Nutanix supports four (4) hypervisors using our management tool (PRISM) whereas HPE SVT only has GA support for ESXi.

For customers using Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV), 100% of the management can be performed within PRISM Element and central management of multiple clusters is performed through PRISM Central.

AHV comes with all Nutanix solutions at no extra cost regardless of hardware choice (including HPE Proliant). This means customers enjoy the benefits of the next generation hypervisor, designed and built for HCI and Enterprise Cloud.

Unlike HPE SVT for example, Nutanix does not have a limit of 8 nodes per datacenter or 32 per “federation”, PRISM element can support a cluster of any size (currently no support limits) and PRISM central manages all the clusters.

Nutanix management is not tied to or more importantly dependant on VMware vCenter or any other hypervisor management tool, which adds to the resiliency and simplicity of the Nutanix platform. PRISM automatically scales in both performance and resiliency as a cluster expands to ensure consistent performance for system administrators. This avoids the complexity of designing/installing and maintaining a highly available vCenter solution which also uses additional compute and storage resources.

Summary:

  1. Nutanix PRISM Element GUI is built in and comes included with every Nutanix deployment
  2. Nutanix PRISM is not limited by the number of nodes it can manage
  3. PRISM Central is used to manage multiple Nutanix clusters centrally if required but is not mandatory.
  4. Nutanix provides at no cost the next generation hypervisor (AHV) which has 100% of all management performed within PRISM GUIs.
  5. AHV eliminates the requirement for Hypervisor licensing (e.g.: VMware vSphere) which actually reduces overall costs, this is unique to Nutanix.
  6. PRISM supports 4 hypervisors (ESXi , Hyper-V, AHV and XenServer) which delivers a consistent management interface for multi-hypervisor environments which are becoming more and more common.

Many of the above points are unique to Nutanix and have been designed and built to be a truly webscale platform, not a ROBO/SMB or <32 node solution. Nutanix can start small and continue to scale to any size, with the PRISM Element management stack automatically scaling to suit as nodes are added.

Return to the Dare2Compare Index:

SQL & Exchange performance in a Virtual Machine

The below is something I see far to often: An SQL or Exchange virtual machine using a single LSI Logic SAS virtual SCSI controller.

LSIlogic

What is even worse is a virtual machine using a single LSI controller and a single virtual disk for one or more databases and logs (as shown above).

Why is this so common?

Probably because the LSI Logic SAS controller is the default for Windows 2008/2012 virtual machines and additional SCSI controllers are not automatically added until you have more than 16 virtual disks for a single VM.

Why is this a problem?

The LSI controller has a queue depth limit of 128, compared to the default limit for PVSCSI which is 256, however it can be tuned to 1024 for higher performance requirements.

As a result, the a configuration with a single LSI controller and/or a limited number of virtual disks can artificially significantly constrain the underlying storage from delivering the performance it is capable of.

Another problem with the LSI controller is the amount of CPU it uses is higher than the PVSCSI controller for the same IO levels. This means you’re wasting virtual machine (and the underlying hosts) CPU resources unnecessarily.

Using more CPU could lead to other problems such as CPU Ready which can also lead to reduced performance.

A colleague and friend of mine, Michael Webster wrote a great post titled: Performance Issues Due To Virtual SCSI Device Queue Depths where he shows the performance difference between SATA, LSI and PVSCSI controllers. I highly recommend having a read of this post.

What is the solution?

Using multiple Paravirtual (PVSCSI) adapters with virtual disks evenly spread over the four controllers for Windows virtual machines is a no brainer!

This results in:

  1. Higher default queue depth
  2. Lower CPU overheads
  3. Higher potential performance

How do I configure this?

It’s fairly straight forward, but don’t just change the LSI Controller too PVSCSI as the Guest OS may not have the driver installed which will result in the VM failing to boot.

Too avoid this, simply edit the virtual machine and add a new Virtual Disk of any size and for the virtual device node, select SCSI (1:0) and follow the prompts.

VirtualDiskSCSI10

Once the new virtual disk is added you should see a new LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller is added as shown below.

NewLSIController

Next highlight the adapter and select “Change Type” in the top right hand corner of the window and select Paravirtual. Once this is complete you should see similar to the below:

AddPVSCSIController

Next hit “Ok” and the new Controller and virtual disk will be added to the VM.

Now we open the console of the VM and open Compute Management and goto Device Manager. Under Storage Controllers you should now see VMware PVSCSI Controller as shown below.

DeviceManagerPVSCSI

Now we are safe to Shutdown the VM.

Once the VM is shutdown, Edit the VM setting and highlight the SCSI Controller 0 and select Change Type as we did earlier and select Paravirtual. Once this is done you will see the original controller is replaced with a new controller.

ChangeLSItoPVSCSI

Now that we have the boot drive change to PVSCSI, we can now balance the data drives across up to four PVSCSI controllers for maximum performance.

To do this, simply highlight a Virtual Disk and drop down the Virtual Device Node and select SCSI (1:0) or any other available slot on the SCSI (1:x) controller.

ChangeControllerID

After doing this you will see new SCSI controllers appear and you need to change these to Paravirtual as we have done to the first controller.

ChangeControllerIDMultipleVdisks

For each of the virtual disks, ensure they are placed evenly across the PVSCSI controllers. For example, if you have a VM with eight virtual disks plus the OS disk, it should look like this:

Virtual Disk 1 (OS) : SCSI (0:0)
Virtual Disk 2 (OS) : SCSI (0:1)
Virtual Disk 3 (OS) : SCSI (1:0)
Virtual Disk 4 (OS) : SCSI (1:1)
Virtual Disk 5 (OS) : SCSI (2:0)
Virtual Disk 6 (OS) : SCSI (2:1)
Virtual Disk 7 (OS) : SCSI (3:0)
Virtual Disk 8 (OS) : SCSI (3:1)
Virtual Disk 9 (OS) : SCSI (0:2)

This results in two data virtual disks per PVSCSI controller which evenly distributes IO across all controllers with the exception being first controller (SCSI 0) also hosting the OS drive.

What if I have problems?

On occasions I have seen problems with this process which has resulted in VMs not booting, however these issues are easy to fix.

If your VM fails to boot with a message like “Operating System not found”, I suggest you panic! Just kidding, this is typically just the boot order of the Virtual machine has been screwed up. Just go into the bios and check the boot order has the PVSCSI controller showing and the correct virtual disk in first priority.

If the VM boots and BSOD or crashes and goes into a continuous reboot loop then power off the VM and set the first SCSI controller where the boot disk is running back to LSI. Then reboot the VM and make sure the PVSCSI driver is showing up (if its not you didn’t follow the above instructions) so go back and follow them so the PVSCSI driver is loaded and working, then shutdown and change the SCSI controller back to PVSCSI and you should be fine.

If the VM boots and one or more drives do not show up in my computer, go into Disk Manager and you may see the drives are marked as offline. Simply right click the drive and mark it as online and reboot and you’re good to go.

Summary:

If you have made the intelligent move to virtualize your business critical applications, firstly congratulations! However as with physical hardware, Virtual machines also have optimal configurations so make sure you use PVSCSI controllers with multiple virtual disks and have your DBA span the database across multiple virtual disks for maximum performance.

The following post shows how to do this in detail:

Splitting SQL datafiles across multiple VMDKs for optimal VM performance

If the DBA is not confident doing this, you can also just add multiple virtual disks (connected via multiple PVSCSI controllers) and create a stripe in guest (via Disk Manager) and this will also give you the benefit of multiple vdisks.

Related Articles:

1. Peak Performance vs Real World Performance

2. Enterprise Architecture & Avoiding tunnel vision

3. Microsoft Exchange 2013/2016 Jetstress Performance Testing on Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor (AHV)