Introduction

This article highlights F5 ARX Tiering over the WAN via ARX tiering-policies and Big-IP (v11.1) WAN Optimization Manager (WOM). When an administrator wishes to utilize storage from another corporate location, they can create an ARX managed-volume that contains local storage as well as non-local storage and effectively tier data between data centers. To the end-user (remote/local), this tiering policy is completely transparent. The tiering policy is optimized via the WAN Optimization Manager (WOM). This ARX/WOM solution facilitates tiering over the WAN and allows better storage utilization among all available storage resources both local and remote.

Problem/Challenge

Oftentimes customers are compelled to utilize storage resources from disparate corporate locations for cost-cutting initiatives, application purposes, end-user flexibility, and/or cloud initiatives. This is due to increasing amounts of data being transferred between data centers for data replication, backup, storage requirements as well as data center consolidation purposes/initiatives. Manually moving data from one platform to another is a time consuming and manual process. Whatever their particular use-case may be, customers need the ability to enable end-user access to all their data from a single mount-point both locally as well as remotely over the WAN while taking advantage of all available storage.

Solution

ARX solutions are able to dynamically match business or application needs with storage capability. Administrators can use an ARX device to aggregate storage systems with common user-defined attributes into an arbitrary number of storage tiers. The ARX device will then place data on the appropriate storage tier and move data among these storage tiers according to administrator-defined policies, all transparently to users and applications.

Figure 1 below illustrates this WAN Tiering concept with the ARX device managing two tiers of storage. In this example, Tier 1 is the default storage tier, made up of fibre channel (FC) based NAS. Tier 2 is a capacity-optimized storage tier using de-duplicated Serial Advanced Technology Attachment (SATA) technology at a remote location. The most frequently used data is stored on Tier 1 (for example, data that is less than 90 days old), recent files (for example, files that are older than 90 days) on Tier 2. Data being tiered over the WAN are optimized via the BIG-IP WAN Optimization Manager:

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Figure 1 – Storage Tiering over the WAN with F5 ARX and Big-IP WAN Optimization Manager (WOM)

Storage managers can set up the ARX solution to automatically move files that have been migrated to lower storage tiers back to the primary storage tier if they are modified. This ensures that modified files will be captured in the nightly backups. The automatic migration from older tiers to newer tiers can also be disabled.

ARX solutions automate storage tiering in three simple steps:

  1. Specifying what files to move
  2. Specifying where to move files
  3. Specifying when to move files

ARX Solution Benefits:

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  • The movement of files between storage tiers through their lifecycle remains transparent to users and applications.
    • Client drive mappings and mount points do not change even though the physical location of a file may change overtime.
    • In this way data is readily accessible without necessarily consuming primary tier-1 storage resources.
  • Administrators have the freedom to construct an arbitrary number of storage tiers out of NFS- or CIFS-compliant devices. Most other approaches have very limited support for a small set of storage platforms.
  • ARX solutions provide a unique, real-time capability through the use of in-line policy enforcement.

WOM Solution Benefits:

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  • Accelerate and encrypt WAN traffic between data centers
  • Optimize and secure data traffic between data centers
  • Reduce server and bandwidth usage
  • Save with TCP optimization, data deduplication, adaptive compression, and SSL offloading
  • Prioritize bandwidth Manage traffic and prioritize bandwidth to ensure that critical applications (such as replication) across the WAN get the fastest performance
  • Accelerate application and replication performance
  • Achieve faster file transfers, Microsoft Exchange mailbox replication, database backup, VM live migration, data replication, and more
  • Meet stringent disaster RPO and RTO objectives
  • Consolidate WAN optimization and application delivery
  • Save on hardware costs, rack space, and energy consumption as well as management resources with consolidated services

ARX/WOM Components:

Setup 1: ARX Tiering Policy

Below are some ARX GUI screen-shots for creating a storage tiering policy:

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Setup 2: WAN Optimization Manager (WOM)

Below are some BIG-IP GUI screenshots representing appropriate Local Traffic, WOM, and Network setup:

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F5 ARX & WOM Considerations

For this particular tech-tip we highlighted WAN Tiering with F5 ARX and WOM products. In later tech-tips, additional ARX/WOM use-cases will be explored, vetted, tested while determining if they are viable customer solutions in parallel. Some other potential examples/use-cases include: Migration over WAN Links; Client Acceleration; Storage Replication; Private-Cloud Acceleration. As in any joint solution, it is critical to ensure that proper sizing as well as site survey steps have been taken prior to deployment.

For ARX, appropriate sizing includes fileserver I/O statistics on the local and remote data center as well as a Data Manager inventory. More information on Data Manager can be found at:

http://www.f5.com/products/data-manager/

For WOM, appropriate LAN and WAN latencies, speeds and max/min throughput are important data points to help determine appropriate sizing and subsequently a successful customer deployment. Bottom-line, independent ARX and WOM behavior characterizations are necessary to ensure a correct, viable, accurate and ultimately a deployable customer design.

Lastly, the F5 ARX/WOM Tiering-Over-The-WAN deployment guide can be found at:

http://www.f5.com/pdf/deployment-guides/arx-wom-dg.pdf

Summary

In summary, corporations hamstrung by tight IT budgets and ever growing storage needs are continually looking for solutions that solve their data proliferation challenges. The F5 ARX and BIG-IP WAN Optimization Manager (WOM) provide a solution that facilitates WAN Tiering and allows IT Managers the ability/flexibility to utilize less expensive storage from a remote site while keeping business critical data in their local data center. The award-winning ARX policy-engine transparently manages what data moves to which tier of storage as well as when it moves and how often. BIG-IP WOM provides a secure WAN tunnel that optimizes data access traffic to and from the remote fileservers by local and remote end-users.

Notes

Additional information surrounding the F5 ARX and BIG-IP WOM product suites can be found at the links below:

http://www.f5.com/products/arx-series/

https://devcentral.f5.com/Default.aspx?tabid=37&cx=015798286719081439686:g38hs-tdy64&cof=FORID:11&q=arx

http://www.f5.com/products/big-ip/wan-optimization-manager.html

https://devcentral.f5.com/Default.aspx?tabid=37&cx=015798286719081439686:g38hs-tdy64&cof=FORID:11&q=wom

Author Bio

Michael J. Fabiano is a pre-sales Sr. Corporate Systems Engineer for the F5 Data Solutions (ARX/Data Manager/ARX-CE) Sales business unit. Michael has been with F5 Networks for 7 years and was also a Principal Test Engineer in the Product Development engineering organization. Prior to F5, Michael worked as a Sr. Interoperability Engineer at Pillar Data Systems (An Oracle Company) in San Jose, CA and was an Infrastructure Engineer at Genuity (formerly BBN/GTE Internetworking). Michael has a Master of Engineering degree from Northeastern University in SOA Governance & Enterprise Architecture.