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Atlantis USX 3.5 – What’s New?

I’m excited to announce the latest enhancements to the Atlantis USX product following the release of Atlantis USX 3.5.

Before we delve too deep in what’s new in USX 3.5, let’s take a brief recap on some of the innovative features from our previous releases.

We delivered USX 2.2 back in February 2015 where we delivered XenServer Support and LDAP authentication, USX 3.0 followed in August 2015 with support for VMware VVOLs, Volume Level Snapshot and Replication and the release of Atlantis Insight. USX 3.1 gave us deduplication aware stretched cluster and also multi-site disaster recovery in October 2015. Two-node clusters were enabled in USX 3.1.2 as well as enhancements to SnapClone for workspace in January 2016.

Some of these features were first in the industry features, for example, support for VMware VVOLs on a hyperconverged platform, all-flash hyperconverged before it became an industry standard and deduplication-aware stretched cluster using the Teleport technology that we pioneered in 2014 and released with USX 2.0.

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Figure 1. Consistent Innovation

The feature richness and consistent innovation is something that we strive to continue to deliver with USX 3.5 coupled with additional stability and operationally ready feature set.

Let’s focus on the key focus areas with this latest release and what makes it different from the previous versions. Three main areas with the USX 3.5 enhancements are Simplify, Solidify and Optimize. These areas are targeted to provide a better user experience for both administrators and end users.

Simplify

XenServer 7 – USX 3.5 adds support for running USX on XenServer 7, in addition to vSphere 6.2.

Health Checks – We’ve added the ability to perform system health checks at any time, this is of course useful when planning for either a new installation or an upgrade of USX. Of course you can also run a health check on your USX environment at any time to make sure that everything is functioning as it should. This great feature helps identify any configuration issues prior to deployment of volumes. The tool will give pass or fail results for each of the test items, however, not all failed items prevent you from continuing your deployment, these will be flagged as a warning. For example, Internet Accessibility is not a requirement for USX, it is used to upload Insight logs or check for USX updates.

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Figure 2. Health Checks

Operational Simplicity – enhancing operational simplicity, making things easier to do. On-demand SnapClone has been added to the USX user interface (UI), this enables the ability to create a full SnapClone – essentially a full backup of the contents of an in-memory volume to disk before any maintenance is done on that volume. This helps with maintenance of your environment where you need to quickly take a hypervisor host down for maintenance, the ability to instantly do a SnapClone through the UI makes this an easier method than in previous versions.

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Figure 3. On-demand and scheduled SnapClones

Simple Maintenance Mode – We’ve also added the ability to perform maintenance mode for Simple Volumes. Simple Volumes can be located on local storage to present the memory from that hypervisor as a high performance in-memory volume for your virtual machine workloads such as VDI desktops. You can now enable maintenance mode using the Atlantis USX Manager UI or the REST API on simple volumes. What this does is that it will migrate the volume from one host to another, enabling you to put the source host into maintenance mode to perform any maintenance operations. This works with both VMware and Citrix hypervisors.

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Figure 4. Simple Maintenance Mode

Solidify

Alerting is an area that has also been improved. We have added new alerts to highlight utilization of the backing disk that a volume uses. Additionally, alerts to highlight snapshot utilization is also now available. Alerts can be easily accessed using the Alerts menu in the GUI and are designed to be non-invasive however due to their nature, highly visible within the Alerts menu in the USX web UI for quick access.

Disaster Recovery for Simple Hybrid Volumes

Although this is now a new feature in USX 3.5, we’ve actually been deploying this in some of our larger customers for a few years now and the automation and workflows are now being exposed into the USX 3.5 UI. This feature enables simple hybrid volumes to be replicated by underlying storage with replication enabled technology, coupled with the automation and workflows, simple hybrid volumes can be recovered at the DR site with volume objects like the export IP addresses and volume identities being changed to suit the environment at the DR site.

Optimize

Plugin Framework is now a key feature to the USX capabilities. It is an additional framework which is integrated into the USX Web UI. It allows for the importing and running of Atlantis and community created plugins written in Python that enhance the functionality of USX. Plugins such as guest VM operations or guest VM query capabilities. These plugins enable guest-side operations such as restart of all VMs within a USX volume, or query the DNS-name of all guest VMs residing in a USX volume.

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Figure 5. USX Plugin Framework

I hope you’ll agree that the plugin framework will provide an additional level of capabilities on top of the great capabilities we already have for automation and management such as the USX REST API and USX PowerShell Cmdlets.

Reduced Resource Requirements for volume container memory – we’ve decreased the metadata memory requirements by 40%. In previous versions the amount of memory assigned to metadata was a percentage of the volume export size before data reduction, for example, if you exported a volume of 1TB in size, the amount of memory reserved for metadata would then be 50GB, with USX 3.5 this is now reduced down to just 30GB, whilst still providing the same great performance and data reduction capabilities with fewer memory resources requirements. USX 3.5 optimizations also include the reduction of local flash storage required for the performance tier when using hybrid volumes, we’ve decreased the flash storage requirements by 95%!

In addition to reducing the metadata resource and local flash requirements, we’ve also reduced the amount of storage required for SnapClone space by 50%. This reduction reduces the SnapClone storage footprint on the underlying local or shared storage enabling you to use less storage for running USX.

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ROBO to support vSphere Essentials.

ROBO use case is now even more cost effective with USX 3.5. This enhancement enables the use of the VMware vSphere Essentials licensing model for customers who prefer the VMware hypervisor over Citrix XenServer. This is a great option for remote and branch offices with three or less servers that wish to enable high performance, data reduction aware storage for remote sites.

Availability

Atlantis USX 3.5 is available now from the Atlantis Portal. Download now and let me know what you think of the new capabilities.

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Release notes and online documentation are available here.