Azure StorSimple – Unboxing, Racking, Cabling & Configuration

Unbox and rack it

Unboxing the whole thing is probably the most time consuming part of the installation. A few pictures:

Make sure you have all the contents, before beginning!
Make sure you have all the contents, before beginning!

 

Rail kit and other accessories - we'll get back to those.
Rail kit and other accessories – we’ll get back to those.
20161117_130319809_ios
The box in all its glory
20161117_130441504_ios
Unwrapping the present
The box from behind
The box from behind
And racked - just above my AzureStack playground, and another StorSimple 8100
And racked – just above my AzureStack playground, and another StorSimple 8100

As you can see, a physical StorSimple appliance has 2 controllers. These are based on Windows Server 2012 R2, in a failover cluster configuration. The update mechanism used, is Cluster-Aware Updating. It’s all stuff we already know and use in our daily routines! You do not have access to RDP, or other management stuff. You have the Azure portal, and a limited subset of  PowerShell cmdlets available. That’s it!

Cabling

Cabling your StorSimple box is where many errors happen. The StorSimple box has 2 controllers, in an active/passive configuration. Each controller has 6 network interfaces:

Interface 0: 1 Gbit; Configuration and connection to cloud, and optionally iCSSI
Interface 1: 1 Gbit; Cloud and/or iSCSI
Interface 2: 10 Gbit; Cloud and/or iSCSI
Interface 3: 10 Gbit; Cloud and/or iSCSI
Interface 4: 1 Gbit; Cloud and/or iSCSI
Interface 5: 1 Gbit; Cloud and/or iSCSI

So, 4x 1 Gbit and 2x 10 Gbit.

To use any of the interface, you are required to cable both controllers! You simply can’t configure them, if they’re not both cabled. I usually configure these interface in pairs of 2. An example could be:

Pair 1: Interface 0+1 – Cloud
Pair 2: Interface 2+3 – iSCSI for Hyper-V hosts
Pair 3: Interface 4+5 – iSCSI for other servers

Why that? Redundancy. If you configure both interface 0+1 for Cloud traffic, you can connect them to different switches. Since both Controllers are configured, you will have redundancy for switch and controller failures. The same goes for the other controller pairs. A visual view:

Redundant configuration of all interfaces
Redundant configuration of all interfaces

You could however configure them for any use you would like. For example all 1 Gbit interface for Cloud. Interface 0 can’t be disabled though, and is required for Cloud traffic.

Here I have configured only port 0, with both controllers connected to the same switch, with blue cables (it’s a demo device, and I have limited switch ports, sorry!):

20161117_132258807_ios

An alternative configuration, is the StorSimple box below, which is connected directly to the Dell server in the middle. We have done this because we don’t have 10 Gbit switches, and only need 1 host connected. Just like with the switches, we have 2 dual port NICs, so interface 2+3 on the StorSimple is connected in a redundant way:

NIC 1, port 1: Controller 1, interface 2
NIC 1, port 2: Controller 2, interface 2
NIC 2, port 1: Controller 1, interface 3
NIC 2: port 2: Controller 2, interface 3

StorSimple Manager

Before we can connect our StorSimple box to Azure, we need to create a StorSimple Manager, in our Azure subscription. This is currently only available from the Classic Azure portal. Work is in progress to move it to ARM! A StorSimple Manager can manage multiple appliances, and do failover between them. I’ll cover this in later posts.

Login and select New in the lower left corner, then Data Services and StorSimple Manager. Give it a name, choose wether it’s a physical or virtual appliance, and which region to locate the service in. You can also have Azure create a Storage Account for you. I prefer to do that manually though – that way I can use ARM based Storage Accounts, and use cool/hot tier storage.

createstorsimplemanager

When it’s done, we’ll see the classic Quick Start page, which guides you further through deployment:

storsimplemanagercomplete

Click Registration Key in the bottom, and copy your key from the popup. You’ll need this to register your device later!

That’s all we need to do from the portal.

Configuration

To configure StorSimple, we need our “accessories” box, where you will find:

  • Minijack-RS232 converter
  • RS232-USB converter

Connect these two cables:

Minijack to RS232 to USB
Minijack to RS232 to USB

And connect the minijack to serial port on the StorSimple box, and the USB to your computer. The active controller will have a flashing blue LED next to the serial port – connect to this one:

Serial port
Serial port

Go to Device Manager on your computer, and check which COM port the adapter identifies as:

devicemanagercom

From there, open a Putty console (or whatever tool you use). Select Serial in the menu on the left, and configure with these settings:

puttyconfig

After connecting to your StorSimple, select option 1 Log in with full access, and enter Password1 which is the default password:

loginwithfullaccess

Run Invoke-HcsSetup to start the configuration:

invoke-hcssetup

Choose your IP address family, and enter IP address:

data0ipaddress

Add subnet and gateway information:

subnetgateway

Enter your primary DNS server – don’t worry, you’ll enter secondary later on:

dnsserver

If you use proxy, configure it here, and then select your NTP server:

proxytimezone

Enter a new Device Administrator password (nevermind my thick fingers that couldn’t type ;-)). After that we’ll need the Service Registration Key we got earlier, from the Azure Portal. Paste it here, and wait for a few minutes while the box is registered to your Azure StorSimple Manager:

deviceadminpwdevicereg

reginprogress

After registration is complete, you’ll get a data encryption key. Make sure you store this safely !

deviceregistered

Now we’re done with the console. Everything else is managed from the Azure portal. We still need a bit of configuration though. Go to the portal, and find you device under StorSimple Manager -> Devices:

storsimple_200tb

Clicking your device, will tell you that you need just a few more clicks. Hit Complete device registration:

portalconfig

On the first page, give you box a friendly name, select time zone and secondary DNS settings. You can also configure additional interfaces for your device – select the ones you want to configure. I’ve just chosen Data0 here, since the other interfaces aren’t cabled.

basicsettings

On the next page, give each controller an IP address:

controllerips

And you’re done! You should now be able to see more details on your device:

registrationcomplete

The end. Next post will go through iSCSI configuration.

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