Think Ahead

What do you need to know about the new VNX Monitoring and Reporting?
At AHEAD, we implement more EMC VNX series storage arrays than any other. It’s a solid unified storage platform with many strengths. However, one of the biggest pain points of the VNX platform was when it came to real-time and historical monitoring and reporting, it was far behind the competition. It didn’t come with software to do this, and if you did have the Unisphere Analyzer purchased and installed, it was not exactly an easy tool to use. It felt like it was designed to be used by tech support engineers, not the average storage admin. If customers wanted to have any array performance data converted into pretty graphs and charts, they’d have to collect the nar files and send it to their EMC or partner contact with access to the right tools. Further complicating matters, the File portion of VNX Unified had its own separate tool. As you can see, it was a cumbersome process and a real weakness.

Well, no more. This frequent customer gripe is now addressed with the new VNX Monitoring and Reporting tool. VNX M&R is part of the EMC Watch4Net suite of software solutions. It’s a brand new product developed from the Watch4Net acquisition—not a rewrite or renaming of older software. It is included at no cost in the next generation VNX models. For current VNX customers, it’s a separate purchase.  A 30-day free trial is also available.

The latest version of VNX M&R improves upon the initial release and introduces more capabilities.  New features include:

Heat Map Reports

Most VNX and CLARiiON customers are familiar with this type of report (previously generated using Analyzer data). This is generally the first thing examined when troubleshooting a performance problem. A heat map report is a visual snapshot of the array components with “hot” and “cold” areas. A quick glance points out any obvious bottlenecks. The thresholds for “hot” and “cold” are system-defined and cannot be adjusted. In the EMC world, any component utilized over 70 percent is considered a potential bottleneck. Heat map thresholds are based on that thinking.

Scheduled Reports

I think this is one of the best new features—especially when managing multiple arrays. Quite a few AHEAD clients have more than one VNX array in their environment. Monitoring the health of these systems is a time-consuming task. With this new feature, a storage admin can set up a schedule to have critical reports from one or all arrays in the environment directly mailed to them as a PDF file. Moreover, they can file them away at set intervals to see how the array is behaving over time.


In environments where space usage on an array is an item charged back to the department using it, this feature is going to be very helpful. You define the cost of storage and it will do the math for you. Individual LUNs or multiple LUNs can be associated to different business units. Cost units per GB can be defined by the administrator based on the cost of disk (RAID-type and disk-type). Several types of chargeback reports can be generated to indicate cost of service per business unit or application.


Alerts can be configured to trigger for specific components. The thresholds are user-defined. For example, an admin can set up an alert to be notified if a file system exceeds 80 percent utilization or an LUN response time is greater than 10 milliseconds. The alerts trigger an email or an SNMP trap. There are six pre-defined alerts available.

Example of an email alert:

Email Alert

Once it’s installed, you can discover and add the VNX systems (up to 10) to the database. It will immediately start collecting statistics and displaying real-time charts for array components like LUNs, front-end ports, cache, file systems, etc.

Here is how the home page looks:

Home page

It collects more than 200 different metrics consisting of both Block and File components. Due to the fact that the M&R hosting server can get hammered if you have more than a couple VNX arrays being monitored, the requirements for how beefy the server has to be depends on the number of arrays being monitored.

Once up and running, the interface is very easy to use. Whether you are looking to troubleshoot or just browse and look at the health of the array, it’s easy to locate the exact chart you are looking for. The data is continuously collected and consolidated hourly, daily, and weekly. The data retention period is as high as four years for the weekly charts! Charts can be exported in multiple formats like PDF, Excel, JPG, etc.

VNX M&R supports VNX, CLARiiON CX4, and Celerra platforms. In my opinion, this will be a standard install with every new VNX implementation, especially now that it’s included at no cost with next-generation VNX models. Customer feedback has been very positive. If you have an existing VNX or an older CX4 array and want to gain insight into your system’s health and performance, this is definitely worth checking out. Contact us at AHEAD for a demo and further information on how we can help you with your VNX challenges.

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