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Virtual Instruments gets physical SAN Performance Probe

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Here's a rich mine for innuendo lovers: fancy a well-engineered Virtual Instruments probe?

SAN fabric hardware tester Virtual Instruments has developed its own Fibre Channel probe designed for administrators instead of Fibre Channel engineers. It could even lead to lower prices.

Virtual Instruments was spun out from Finisar's Fibre Channel testing operation in JUne 2008, and it has depended on Finisar technology in the probe products used to look at real-time traffic on Fibre Channel cables. Now it has designed and built its own ProbeFC8 which doesn't use Finisar IP.

The FC8 SAN performance probe hooks up to Virtual Instrument's TAP (Traffic Access Point). This TAP sniffs the traffic on Fibre Channel (FC) cables and the ProbeFC8 can monitor up to eight FC links. It analyses each FC frame to provide statistics about storage I/O traffic from the physical or virtual machine to the LUN on the storage array.

Why should this interest SAN operators? The FC8 looks at 1/2/4/8Gbit/s FC cabling and comes as part of the VirtualWisdom 3.0 suite of products. This supports all FC switches and devices, independent of supplier. The probe can simultaneously look at eight 8Gbit/s FC links, out of band, and inspects each frame traversing those links to generate its storage I/O traffic statistics.

It has 25 more metrics than existing VI probes, with a new dashboard presentation, and 30 if the existing ones have been improved. The design is modular so that 16Gbit/s FC can be added plus FCoE, which means Ethernet support, surely.

VIrtualWisdom 3,0 also includes:

  • better support of virtual fabrics from Brocade and Cisco and an improved database engine;
  • Virtual Server Probe to look at FC performance in vSphere;
  • SAN Availability Probe to look at SAN directors and switches;
  • SANInsight TAP Patch Panel System for accessing data from the fibre optic physical layer; and
  • RemoteWisdom Access Platform for remote file access into VirtualWisdom servers by VI support staff.

VI says vCentre uses read/write averages in its storage I/O performance, and these won't show up latency spike problems sufficiently well, if at all. VirtualWisdom shows actual application latencies and lets admin staff detect and fix SAN-related problems faster.

VI hints that its prices may come down as it no longer will have to pay for Finisar IP with the FC8 product.

It seems to us here in Reg land that VI-type analysis and reports are great but they are not end-to-end views of storage traffic.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if they were integrated with the view from the HBA, as seen for example, from Emulex's OneVision? That gives you visibility of storage I/O traffic in the servers but it's blind once it looks out into the fabric, detecting only frames passing out of the HBA/CNA and ones coming back in. VI's SAN probing stops once it gets to the HBA/CNA. It can't see past them, upstream as it were.

Marry the two together and we'd have a more powerful analytical tool, an end-to-end one. Add in Ethernet as well as Fibre Channel and we would have canine reproductive equipment in our hands, the absolute dog's bollox.

The VirtualWisdom 3.0 suite software and hardware products are available now. ®

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