A new user role, dubbed Volume Admin, has been added to this version of the firmware as well. Users assigned to this role can be given restrictions on which storage volumes they can access and modify, as well as an overall disk usage quota that crosses all accessible volumes. This means it's now possible to support multitenancy with an EqualLogic array, while ensuring that users cannot consume more resources than they are permitted.
Multipath I/O for VMware
Although it's not part of the new firmware, Dell has released an MPIO (Multipath I/O) plug-in for VMware ESX that enables multipathing support from an ESX 4.1 host to an EqualLogic array. When installed, this plug-in obviates the need to bond interfaces or do any switch-assisted pathing for storage links, and it automatically balances traffic through available interfaces to the arrays. As with any third-party MPIO plug-in for VMware, this feature requires the VMware Enterprise or Enterprise Plus editions.
The MPIO plug-in creates two paths to each storage group member, then chooses the path with the least queue depth to communicate, reducing latency and increasing overall throughput. This also protects against link failure; if a link goes down, all storage communication is shunted to the remaining links.
An MPIO plug-in is also available for Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008 hosts.
New EqualLogic SAN HQ
As if that weren't enough, there have been significant updates to EqualLogic's SAN HQ monitoring and trending package. These include support for firmware version 5, including thin clones; support for the PS6000XVS and PS6010XVS arrays, configurable custom home page views, replication and capacity views across groups, reporting enhancements; support for favorites, or bookmarks of commonly accessed reports and information; and reporting breakouts for several lower-level functions such as replication and SSD write cache statistics.
SAN HQ has been a very useful tool in day-to-day administration of EqualLogic SANs, and the new version builds on that foundation, allowing even more granular inspection of how individual arrays or groups of arrays are behaving and helping to pinpoint potential trouble spots, or provide trend analysis of storage use over time.
All in all, the new features and capabilities present in the new EqualLogic firmware are very impressive and highly desirable for anyone using EqualLogic arrays in any context -- especially virtualized infrastructures. Now that EqualLogic has cemented version 5 and the 5.0.0 and 5.0.1 hiccups are history, there's every reason in the world to upgrade existing arrays and plenty of reasons to look at EqualLogic storage as an extremely capable iSCSI solution.
This story, "Lab test: New EqualLogic firmware takes a load off VMware," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in storage, hardware, and virtualization at InfoWorld.com.