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EMC Solution Brief - Configuring Boot from SAN with an EMC VNX or CLARiiON

Note: This content applies to EOL equipment though the concepts are still relevant to newer Dell-EMC SANs such as Unity, ME4, and PowerStore. 

In this tutorial, I will show you how to configure a server (such as an HP Proliant DL380p) to boot from an EMC Fibre Channel (FC) SAN. I am using some older 2Gb Brocade Fibre Channel routers and an older EMC CX array. However, the Brocade Fabric OS and Webtools interface has not changed drastically with newer models on the switch side. On the EMC storage side, we are using the newer Unisphere manager (as opposed to Navisphere) along with FLARE 26.


While not the latest versions, the interfaces again have not undergone any significant overhauls when it comes to provisioning new storage (manually.) Unisphere is a great GUI for managing both older CX arrays as well as the new VNXe3100 / VNXe3300 and VNX5300-VNX5700 arrays. New Unisphere screens and features focus on Hyper-V and VMware integration which does not concern us in this tutorial.



Part I: Zoning the Brocade Switch

Part II: Provisioning Storage with EMC Unisphere

Part III: Configuring the QLogic BIOS

Part IV: Configuring ALUA / Failover in Windows and verifying dual connectivity


For the Fibre Channel switch (technically a multi protocol router) I chose 2x Brocade Silkworm AP7420 for redundancy. These were very expensive and feature rich back their heyday. In fact, they are still quite feature rich with iSCSI and FC protocol mixing and port trunking, only at 2Gb (FC) and 1Gb (iSCSI) speeds. I found several dual-ported Q-Logic QLA2342 PCI-X HBAs (Host Bus Adapters) lying around. For storage, I chose to setup an older EMC CX300 CLARiiON with two storage processors (SPA and SPB) which was an off-lease return from one of our customers. 2Gb Finisar SFPs (Small Form Pluggables) inside the Q-Logic HBA and Brocade Router are being used. For cabling, I used our office's drastically overkill 10Gb capable OM3 fibre optic cable. (When we wired our new office, we wanted to future proof a bit which was taken from my budget of buying more modern demo equipment!)


Notes on Cabling

I will save the infrastructure / wiring advice for another article, but I generally adhered to industry best practices for wiring and zoning. Each Brocade Silkworm has (16) active ports. The CLARiiON has (4) ports, (2) per service processor, and I will be running one storage system in this demo environment. As such, I logically divided each Brocade Silkworm into two halves: ports 0-7 going to EMC CLARiiON Service Processor A and ports 8-15 going to EMC CLARiiON Service Processor B. I cabled port 0 on Switch 1 to EMC SPA Port 0 and port 8 on switch 1 to EMC SPB port 0. On switch 2, I connected port 0 to SPA Port 1 and port 8 to SPB Port 1. This particular Brocade router has a Zoning license installed so this cabling convention is really not necessary though it certainly helps make zoning easier later on.


Some best practices

Have one port on the HBA connected to one EMC Service Processor (SPA) and the other port connected to the second service processor (SPB.) When switches are brought into the picture, one HBA port should go through switch 1 to EMC SPA and the other HBA port should go through a second switch to EMC SPB. That way, if any switch, cable, or service processor fails or has to be taken down for maintenance, your server will not lose connectivity to its storage. In fact, to extend this best practice, it is common to use (2) single ported HBAs instead of one dual port HBA just in case the HBA fails. You may even want to consider adding both service processors into each HBA port zone so you can load balance- we will discuss this more later. Also remember EMC's best practice if you plan to add more servers later: Single Initiator Zoning.

Here is the nice cleanly labeled server side.


And here is the beginning of a rat's nest of cables in our (demo) data center. Notice how cable C goes to one switch and cable D goes to another. EMC likes to tease me by putting SPA on the RIGHT and SPB on the LEFT (I don't know about you, but I read left to right.) Be that as it may, the RIGHT 8 ports of both switches are zoned to SPA and the LEFT 8 ports of both switches are zoned to SPB.

Brocade FC Router / Switch

I am going to assume that you have already installed your Brocade Switch / Router and are able to log into the Webtools management interface over the management Ethernet port.

In the right frame, click on the 'Admin' Button to launch the administrative window.

Brocade Switch Explorer

Now click on the ports tab.

Brocade Admin Screen

Click on the switch port number that corresponds to the cable connected to one of your Q-Logic HBA ports. You may notice that the port is not started or enabled and it may appear as grey (needs to be started) or yellow (needs to be enabled) in the port details window. If the port is BLACK, check that your SFP is working and compatible with your switch.

Brocade Ports Screen

Click 'start' in the thin gray bar just below the switch image.

Start FC Port

Now the status will read "disabled." Click the 'enable' button near the 'start' button you clicked earlier.

Enable FC Port

The next step is to optionally create a zone alias for the cable and port. This is not required, but labeling the port can be helpful for troubleshooting. I elected to attach our new server to port 2 and name the cable "Cable D," thus I created a zone alias "CABLED" for Port2. Earlier, I created zone aliases for the cable connecting to the "0" ports of the CLARiiON's Storage Processors. (Remember this switch is going to the CLARiiON's Port 0s; the other switch will go to the SPs' port 1s.)

Click on the 'Zoning' link on the left, then click the 'Zone Aliases' tab, followed by the "new" button.

Add Port Alias

Give the new alias a name and click the "domain, port" tab at the bottom of the screen. From the left hand column, move "port 2" (or whatever port you are attaching to your Q-Logic HBA) over to the right column. Click "OK."

Create Zone
Save Zone Config

Now click on the "Zones" Tab next to the current "Zone Alias" Tab. Then click "new." Select the Aliases for the "CableD" and "CLARB0" (or whichever storage processor port) and add them to the right column Give the Zone a meaningful name (such as the cablename_clarportnumber) then click "OK."


Be sure to save the zone when you are done.

Now select the Zone Configuration tab. At this point, you can either create a new zone configuration or edit an existing zone configuration. Only one zone configuration can be active at once. The active zone configuration is marked by an asterisk(*). To change the current zone configuration, find the zone configuration name that does not have the asterisk Click its hypertext link. Note because this is a test setup, "default2" is my default zone configuration as I must have deleted the original default zone configuration.

Set Active Zone Config

The zone configuration window is displayed. Click on the "Add Member" button in the middle of the screen. Find the name of the zone you created earlier ( in my case, CABLED_CLARB0) and add it to the right column. A zone configuration can consist of many active zones. Then click OK.

Add Port Member to Zone Config

Finally, click the "enable" button on the top menu bar. You will be warned that your configuration is about to change which can affect I/O activity. Click OK to proceed.

Enable Zone Config

You may notice that the switch lags for a few moments while the configuration is updated. I/O activity to the switch may stop momentarily. This is why you should always have redundant storage paths- not because a switch is going to fail, but to allow for maintenance!

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