Deploying a StorSimple Virtual Appliance

virtual network
In this post, I will show you how to deploy a new StorSimple 1200 virtual appliance on Hyper-V. Please note that VMware is quite similar to this. It also includes the StorSimple device manager in the Azure Portal.


StorSimple Device Manager

StorSimple appliances are deployed on-premises but they are managed from the cloud. Some Azure channels, also called Microsoft offers, such as EA or Open will offer management from the Legacy Management Portal. Moving forward, we should use the newer experience in the Azure Portal. I am documenting the latter.
In the Azure Portal, we can manage many StorSimple appliances using the StoreSimple Device Managers. This is really an experience with a grammatically incorrect name that will probably be changed in the ever-fluid Azure Portal. Browse over to More Services and search for StorSimple. Select StorSimple Device Managers and click + Add to create a new resource.
Give the new device manager a name and select/create a resource group to place it in. You can optionally create a new storage account. This storage account will be used in the cloud tier for your on-premises StorSimple appliances. Choosing this option does limit your flexibility. You can create a storage account yourself. This will give you what you want rather than taking the default. Here are the details:

  • General storage account
  • GRS
  • Same resource group as the device manager

You might opt to create a blob storage account for the hot or the cool tier. Afterward, you can add other storage accounts and modify resiliency.

Create a new StorSimple device manager [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Create a New StorSimple Device Manager [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]

Downloading the StorSimple Virtual Disk

Open the new device manager. Click Virtual Array. The blade that opens will provide links to download Hyper-V and/or VMware images for an on-premises StorSimple 1200 virtual appliance.

The minimum spec for sizing the virtual appliance’s machine is documented and a link to a deployment guide is provided. A service registration key for your associating appliances with this device manager is also provided. Copy this key now. You can always come back to this blade later to copy the key because it does not change.

Download the StorSimple 1200 virtual disk image [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Download the StorSimple 1200 Virtual Disk Image [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Click the download link to the appropriate disk image for your on-premises hypervisor. It is contained in a zip file that is just over 2GB in size. Download the disk to where you will create the virtual machine. If I am going to have a StorSimple appliance called StoreSimple1 stored in E:\Virtual Machines\StorSimple1\, then I will download and extract the disk to a folder called E:\Virtual Machines\StorSimple1\Virtual Hard Disks\.
The downloaded StorSimple OS disk [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The Downloaded StorSimple OS Disk [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]

Create an On-Premises Virtual Machine

You will need to create a virtual machine to run as your on-premises StorSimple virtual appliance.  If you are working with Hyper-V from Windows Server 2012 or later hosts, then the virtual machine should be Generation 2. In the case of VMware hosts, use version 8–11.
This virtual machine should have 4 virtual CPUs and 8GB of static RAM. Dynamic memory is not supported for this virtual machine. Do not create an OS disk. Use the disk that you downloaded and extracted. In my case, I will connect the machine to the virtual hard disk that I downloaded and extracted to E:\Virtual Machines\StorSimple1\Virtual Hard Disks\.

Using the downloaded StorSimple OS disk as the VM OS disk [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Using the Downloaded StorSimple OS Disk as the VM OS Disk [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
There are two variables when you are configuring this virtual machine:

  • NICs: How many virtual NICs will this machine have? What VLANs or virtual networks will they be connected to? This is more of an issue for iSCSI deployments, where iSCSI traffic is normally isolated.
  • Data Disk Size: The size of the data disk impacts the total amount of tiered storage that your StorSimple solution will be able to offer to the on-premises network.

Calculating the size of the data disk of the virtual machine is complicated. I will cover it in another post. For now, know that it must be at least 500GB and can be as big as 8TB. In the case of Hyper-V, use dynamic disks and thin provisioned for VMware. Note that resizing the data disk is not supported and will lead to data loss.

Settings of a StorSimple VM on Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Settings of a StorSimple VM on Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]

Configuring Virtual Appliance — Console

Connect to the Hyper-V virtual machine console and boot it up. Wait for the OS to boot. This will not take long. Log into the virtual machine with the default password of Password1. You must change the password at this time. Set it to something secure.
You are logged into a PowerShell prompt. StorSimple appears to be a customized and smaller version of a Windows Server core installation. It has a very small PowerShell module. You can run Get-Command to see the available set of cmdlets and functions.
The most important of these cmdlets is Set-HcsIpAddress. We will use this to configure an IP address, subnet mask, and default gateway for the first management NIC in the virtual machine. DNS settings will be done later in the web console:

Set-HcsIpAddress -Name Ethernet -IpAddress -Netmask -Gateway

Now we have the virtual appliance running with enough of a configuration to start managing it remotely. You can press CTRL + ALT + DEL to log out of the StorSimple virtual appliance.

Configuring Virtual Appliance — Browser Interface

We will complete the configuration of the virtual appliance using the browser interface that it hosts. Open up a browser and navigate to https://<IPaddress of the virtual appliance>. You will get a certificate warning, which you can ignore.
Sign in as the default user, which is StorSimpleAdmin. Use the password that you previously configured. You are greeted by a Getting Started page, which will walk you through completing the local configuration of the virtual appliance.

Getting Started in the StorSimple browser interface [Image Credit: Microsoft]
Getting Started In the StorSimple Browser Interface [Image Credit: Microsoft]
The Network Interface page allows you to re-configure the IP configuration (static/DHCP) and now you can customize the DNS server settings.
Network settings for the StorSimple appliance [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Network Settings for the StorSimple Appliance [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
I have found in my testing that if you inherited DNS settings from DHCP, then you cannot rely on them. I have had to do the following:

  1. Temporarily switch the DNS servers to something else such as OpenDNS or Google.
  2. Apply the changes.
  3. Change the DNS settings to my local DNS servers again.
  4. Apply the changes.
  5. A restart might be necessary if there were failed DNS lookups. This will purge the local DNS cache. You can find the restart under Power Settings in the browser interface.

Device Settings is an important page to do the following:

  • Configure the machine either as a file server (default) or as an iSCSI storage appliance.
  • Set the computer name.
  • Join an Active Directory domain. See the above DNS tip if your domain cannot be found.

Configure StorSimple device settings & domain join [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Configuring StorSimple Device Settings and Domain Join [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Web Proxy Settings will allow the StorSimple appliance to communicate with Azure via a local proxy server. Time Settings will configure the time zone. It also configures a primary and secondary time server. It is set to by default.
Cloud settings is where you will associate this virtual appliance with the StorSimple device manager that was previously created. We need to paste the service registration key from the Add Virtual Array blade here and click Register.
Register the StorSimple virtual appliance with Azure [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Register the StorSimple Virtual Appliance with Azure [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
The second field is a Service Data Encryption Key. This is used when we want to associate additional StorSimple appliances with the same StorSimple device manager in Azure. The key is presented to you when you register your first appliance. You can retrieve it later from the Cloud Settings page.
When you are associating additional StorSimple appliances, you need to enter both the Service Registration Key from the Azure Portal and the Service Data Encryption Key from previously registered StorSimple appliances.
It is a good idea to run Diagnostic Tests under Troubleshooting in the browser interface. Unnecessary tests are not run by this tool. If the test passes, you can move on to the final phase of deploying the appliance.

Configuring Virtual Appliance — Azure Portal

Return to the StorSimple Device Manager blade in the Azure Portal and open Devices. Your new virtual appliance should appear with a status of Ready To Set Up. Open the device and click Configure.
By default, StorSimple wants to encrypt the cold data that is kept in an Azure storage account. This requires a 32-character encryption key that you must generate and keep safe. You can optionally disable storage account encryption.
You must associate a storage account with the virtual appliance under Storage Account Credential. We created a storage account earlier so we can complete the wizard to associate the storage account. If you did not create a storage account, open the Azure Portal in another browser tab. Create one there.
Select the storage account and click Add. This will add the credentials of the storage account to the StorSimple virtual appliance.

Configuring a StorSimple appliance in the Azure Portal [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Configuring a StorSimple Appliance In the Azure Portal [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
Wait for the storage account credentials job to complete. You can click Configure to finish setting up the virtual appliance. Once that job is complete, your StorSimple virtual appliance is ready to be used.
A ready StorSimple virtual appliance [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]
A Ready StorSimple Virtual Appliance [Image Credit: Aidan Finn]

Next, you will need to configure your iSCSI volumes or your file server shares. We will cover these steps in future posts.