Recently I’ve been playing with a new virtual appliance; well new to me in that I’ve only just got my hands on it. It’s one of the many that our friends in EMC have built and it is one which could do with a wider audience. A few years ago Chad Sakac managed to make the Celerra virtual appliance available to one and all, and a …
Virtual appliances - great for feature evaluation, but watch out for performance!
As a user, I think that in general, the more exposure to "test" virtual appliances, the better. That said, I can understand why suppliers aren't keen - we use Isilon, and the physical kit/performance is great - but their virtual appliances can be *very* slow, unless you're running it on a hypervisor with access to SSDs. Run a virtual cluster on a bog-standard laptop with a 5k4 disks, and performance will not be great!
If I were a supplier, I would be worried that somebody just playing with a virtual appliance, without some initial hand-holding and qualification of hypervisor limitations, would get the wrong impression about the performance of the app.
It seems that EMC in particular don't get the fact that letting non-employees or direct customers have access to their knowledge base and other resources makes for a good sales tool. Symantec, IBM, HP and NetApp all give access to their knowledge to a far greater extent.
As a storage guy, I worked with EMC in my previous job and generally like it, but I would love to be able to keep my skills up by using their simulators on my home VM lab. It's a shame, I guess I'll just have to stick with the NetApp simulator, which admittedly is one of the few things that you have to register with NetApp to get hold of. If EMC were worried about people making production environments, they could just limit it to, say, 50 gig. Plenty to experiment with, not enough to productionise with.
The VM is generally available for the asking. They don't put it up where anyone can get it but you just have to ask your salesrep or TC and you can get it. It is a completely function version of the Isilon OneFS software with the only limitation being that you have a limited amount of disk space and can't add to it but it won't stop you with working with it. Be sure to ask for a set of evaluation licenses so that you can experiment with the software features too.
The only issue is that it is a VM and so its performance will be totally dependent upon the quality of hardware you run it on. I have run it under Fusion, Workstation and VMplayer. I believe it works with Xen but haven't tried it.
As the article says it is a pretty nice bit of software to play around with to get a feel for if it is something you might be interested in.
How fully featured are these appliances? For example, could I use one as a target device for testing SNMP based systems management tools, would MIBs work properly without the physical tin being present?
My personal experience is yes. As far as I can tell the VM is fully featured and works identically to a real Isilon node or cluster. The main issue is to test out any licensed features just as on a real cluster you will need a license key but my Isilon contact was quite happy to give me a set of license keys for me to test snapshots, replication and other features.
If you want to kick the tires and see if it works in your environment or with your application I think it is a great tool to get.