Saturday, February 1, 2014

Ever wonder if you could change an EMC VNX Unified to a VNX Block

I want to start by saying I know this is kind of crazy and doesn't sound like it's even supported. It also probably leaves you wondering why would anyone do this? Well the situation was interesting and the quick answer is normally you wouldn't. That said, I recently had a customer who had a VNX unified and they were re-purposing the unit for something other than what they originally bought it for. That new use case had no need for the unified components, which also consumed about four additional rack units. The rack units mattered in this case because the device is in a colocation and space costs lots of money.

I figured we should start by looking at what makes up a Unified VNX 5300, the model that I worked with. Below is an image that outlines the base components involved with a VNX 5300.


Basically what we were looking to do was to remove all the components in the blue box. The control stations and DME take up four rack units, and also consume additional PDU outlets. The problem is if we just unplug these devices Unisphere will alert us that the Data Movers are down and the control stations are unreachable. Also with a VNX unified we have additional option that aren't required for block functionality. Bottom line is just unplugging the components would not be feasible.

Now lets get into the process I used to solve this issue. First I knew that if we wanted to get the array to come up as block only we were going to have to reset the device back to factory defaults. This was really the main process to getting the unified parts removed. The process for re-imaging a VNX is documented and typically used when you have had some sort of problem with configuration coming from the factory. It is technically a field service task that can be done. Several of our engineers have had to do this before, which is how I got the idea to do it in the first place. If you can't get the instructions or required files for re-imaging you probably should contact your EMC Service provider (hopefully Focus) and get some help. The key to remember with the re-imaging is to disconnect your DME and CS1/CS2 before doing the re-image. This way when the re-image is complete it'll never know the Unified parts were there.

After your re-image is done you'll have to run the unisphere storage system initialization utility to basically perform the initial install as if it was a new array, because it thinks it is! After your initialization you'll likely have to update the OE to latest version. Also beware that when you do this you'll need to have all of your enablers on hand because the re-image wipes those out, so they'll need to be re-installed. That's pretty much it for the hard stuff. You'll still have to setup your cache and storage groups but you're basically at square one.

One other big deal here, especially if you're trying to save rack space like I was, you'll need to order replacement rails for the DPE and SPS. The reason for this is on a unified the main systems components have an integrated rail system that doesn't break into pieces.

-Brad


56 comments:

  1. Thanks for the post! We will likely do this on our VNX array as well, we have no need for file in the new environment. Do we have to go through EMC to obtain the re-image media or can we get this and do the job ourselves?

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  2. Unfortunately they don't publish this content to the public. It's a pretty complex process anyway. I would suggest you contact an EMC authorized partner to get this done. We'd be happy to help you out, you can email me offline if you'd like bmaher@focustsi.com

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  3. Brad - I'm also interested in performing this for similar reasons on a bunch of 5300 Unified arrays. Question is, can existing block data / luns / pools etc. be kept intact during re-image ? I can handle the outage, just don't have luxury to migrate this data elsewhere before re-image. I'm thinking it should be possible, maybe similar to how VNX allows for 'data-in-place' upgrade paths to larger model SPE's.

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    Replies
    1. So in theory this content should all be there after the re-image, as long as you're not changing the seed number of the array. I deleted most of the content off of this array before doing it, because the unit was being re-purposed. I noticed after I did mine that some content that is created after initialization was still there. That said the re-image is supposed to sort of "factory default" the device. I would not recommend doing this with production data residing on the array, and always make sure you have a good backup. If you have multiple array's and are using VMware, consider sVmotioning the VM's to other places and doing one at a time.

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    2. Thanks Brad. I'll certainly test process without production data. Unfortunately each physical site only has a single array, otherwise sVmotion would be ideal. However I may be able to procure a temporary SMB NAS with NFS to do the trick. Will just depend on storage sizing. Cheers

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  4. Nicely written - Great information. Many many thanks for sharing it with us. Please also visit my "emc testing lab" page if you have any time and let me know what you think.Regards

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  5. Brad,

    I have a VNX5300 Unified that i would like to do this same thing to. I work for an EMC partner and was wondering if you could point me in the direction of a primus article or something that would help me along ?

    Or if you would be interested in helping a fellow blogger out with a new toy in his home lab that would be awesome too ;) I have access to download the FLARE code... just never re-imaged a system before.

    Thanks!
    Justin

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  6. Hi Justin,

    Sorry for the delay getting back to you on this. You would follow the reimage process for an SP. If you want to reference article 000087768 version 5 on the EMC support site (only available to partners, so I think it's a primus number). This runs you through the process. When you reimage just use the image for block only and don't install the file part. One pro tip on this, make sure you have the block enabler, because the image that you download (the .mif file I think) doesn't have it built in. Pull the secondary SP out and work on the primary SP first. Make sure you follow the reimage instructions and then move on to the secondary. If all goes well you'll end up with unisphere block only. Good luck!

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  7. good news i did exactly what you suggested (of course the hard way before you replied ;) LOL) and i now have a block only array.

    The block enabler was the biggest thing i was missing. I was able to reimage the SP's but getting the block enabler was only because i know another tech who had it... even with the partner resources that i had access to i didnt see it anyhwere.

    bottom line, dont attempt this unless you know some people or the array is under support :) LOL

    Thanks Brad

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  20. Brad - a few question regarding the conversion of a VNX5500 Unified to Block only. I am a partner & downloaded the article from the Solve Generator called: "Reimage/Backrev array". The first part of this procedure involves connecting to the SP serial connections using putty. It explains all the settings, but cannot get a connection to establish? I'm able to establish a serial connection using the PPP method, but the article makes no mention of this? Is there a trick in connecting to the SP via serial cable using putty? The procedure states for a VNX1 to use 9600:8:1:none:none - whereas the PPP config says to use: 115200:8:1:None:Hardware flow control? And do I need the "Block Enabler"? On an existing Block-only system I have, I don't seen an enabler called block - except for the "VNX-Block-Operating-Environment".

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  30. Hi there:

    Thanks for the info - I managed to convert Unified to Block only array. I have another system VNX5200(unified) and would like reimage it(as this was moved around - and rather than cleaning and deleting data), I prefer reimaging this array. Is their any docs the describes this reimaging process ..?

    thanks
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