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EMC Symmetrix: BIN file


EMC Symmetrix BIN file, largely an unknown topic in the storage industry and practically there is no available information related to it. This post is just an attempt to shed some light as to what a BIN file is, how it works, what’s in it and why is it essential with the Enginuity code.
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Some EMC folks have capitalized on the BIN file as to the personality it brings to the Symmetrix, while the EMC competition always uses it against them as it introduces complexities in the storage environment with management and change control.

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Personally I feel a Symmetrix wouldn’t be a Symmetrix if the BIN file weren’t there. The personality, characteristics, robustness, compatibility, flexibility, integration with OS’s, etc wouldn’t be there if the BIN file didn’t exist.

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With the total number of OS’s, device types, channel interfaces and flags it supports today, sort of making it one of the most compatible storage arrays in the market. The configuration and compatibility on the Symmetrix can be verified using the E-Lab navigator available on Powerlink.

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So here are some facts about the BIN file

  • Only used with Symmetrix systems (Enginuity Code)
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  • BIN file stands for BINARY file.
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  • BIN file holds all information about the Symmetrix configuration
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  • One BIN file per system serial number is required.
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  • BIN file was used with Symmetrix Gen 1 in 1990 and is still used in 2010 with Symmetrix V-Max systems.
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  • BIN file holds information on SRDF configurations, total memory, memory in slots, serial number of the unit, number of directors, type of directors, director flags, engines, engine ports, front end ports, back end ports, drives on the loop, drives on the SCSI bus, number of drives per loop, drive types in the slots, drive speeds, volume addresses, volume types, meta’s, device flags and many more settings.
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  • The setup for host connection if the OS is Open Systems or Mainframe environments using FICON, ESCON, GbE, FC, RF, etc is all defined in the BIN file. Also director emulations, drive formats if OSD or CKD, format types, drive speeds, etc is all defined in the BIN file.
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  • BIN file is required to make a system active. It is created based on customer specifications and installed by EMC during the initial setup.
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  • Any ongoing changes in the environment related to hardware upgrades, defining devices, changing flags, etc is all accomplished using BIN file changes.
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  • BIN file changes can be accomplished 3 ways.
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  • BIN file change for hardware upgrades is typically performed by EMC only.
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  • BIN file change for other changes that are device, director, flags, meta’s, SRDF configurations etc is either performed through the SYMAPI infrastructure using SymCLI or ECC (Now Ionix) or SMC (Symmetrix Management Console) by the customer. (Edited based on the comments: Only some changes now require traditional BIN file change, typically others are performed using sys calls in enginuity environment)
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  • Solutions enabler is required on the Symcli, ECC, SMC management stations to enable SYMAPI infrastructure to operate.
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  • VCMDB needs to be setup on the Symmetrix for SymCLI, ECC, SMC related changes to work.
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  • Gatekeeper devices need to be setup on the Symmetrix front end ports for SymCLI, ECC, SMC changes to work
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  • For Symmetrix Optimizer to work in your environment, you need DRV devices setup on your Symmetrix.(EDITED based on comments: Only required until DMX platform. Going forward with DMX3/4 & V-Max platforms it uses sys calls to perform these Optimizer changes).

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Back in the day

All and any BIN file changes on the Symmetrix 3.0, Symmetrix 4.0 used to be performed by EMC from the Service Processor. Over the years with introduction of SYMAPI and other layered software products, now seldom is EMC involved in the upgrade process.

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Hardware upgrades

BIN File changes typically have to be initiated and performed by EMC, again these are the hardware upgrades. If the customer is looking at adding 32GB’s of Cache to the existing DMX-4 system or adding new Front End connectivity or upgrading 1200 drive system to 1920 drives, all these require BIN file changes initiated and performed by EMC. To my understanding the turn around time is just a few days with these changes, as it requires change control and other processes within EMC.

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Customer initiated changes

Configuration changes around front end ports, creating volumes, creating meta’s, volume flags, host connectivity, configuration flags, SRDF volume configurations, SRDF replication configurations, etc can all be accomplished through the customer end using the SYMAPI infrastructure (with SymCLI or ECC or SMC).

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Enginuity upgrade

Upgrading the microcode (Enginuity) on a DMX or a V-Max is not a BIN file change, but rather is a code upgrade. Back in the days, many upgrades were performed offline, but in this day and age, all changes are online and accomplished with minimum pains.

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Today

So EMC has moved quite ahead with the Symmetrix architecture over the past 20 years, but the underlying BIN file change requirements haven’t changed over these 8 generations of Symmetrix.

Any and all BIN file changes are recommended to be done during quite times (less IOPS), at schedule change control times. Again these would include the ones that EMC is performing from a hardware perspective or the customer is performing for device/flag changes.

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The process

During the process of a BIN file change, the configuration file typically ending with the name *.BIN is loaded to all the frontend directors, backend directors, including the global cache. After the upload, the system is refreshed with this new file in the global cache and the process makes the new configuration changes active. This process of refresh is called IML (Initial Memory Load) and the BIN file is typically called IMPL (Initial Memory Program Load) file.

A customer initiated BIN file works in a similar way, where the SYMAPI infrastructure that resides on the service processor allows the customer to interface with the Symmetrix to perform these changes. During this process, the scripts verify that the customer configurations are valid and then perform the changes and make the new configuration active.

To query the Symmetrix system for configuration details, reference the SymCLI guide. Some standard commands to query your system would include symcfg, symcli, symdev, symdisk, symdrv, symevent, symhost, symgate, syminq, symstat commands and will help you navigate and find all the necessary details related to your Symmetrix. Also similar information in a GUI can be obtained using ECC and SMC. Both will allow the customer to initiate SYMAPI changes.

Unless something has changed with the V-Max, typically to get an excel based representation of your BIN file, ask your EMC CE.

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Issues

You cannot run two BIN files in a single system, though at times the system can end up in a state where you can have multiple BIN files on various directors. This phenomenon typically doesn’t happen to often, but an automated script when not finished properly can put the system in this state. At this point the Symmetrix will initiate a call home immediately and the PSE labs should typically be able to resolve these issues.

Additional software like Symmetrix Optimizer also uses the underlying BIN file infrastructure to make changes to the storage array to move hot and cold devices based on the required defined criteria. There have been quite a few known cases of Symmetrix Optimizer causing the above phenomenon of multiple BIN files. , Though many critics will disagree with that statement. (EDITED based on comments: Only required until DMX platform. Going forward with DMX3/4 & V-Max platforms it uses sys calls to perform these Optimizer changes).

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NOTE: One piece of advice, never run SYMCLI or ECC scripts for BIN file changes through a VPN connected desktop or laptop. Always run all necessary SymCLI / SMC / ECC scripts for changes from a server in your local environment. Very highly recommend, never attempt to administer your Symmetrix system with an iPhone or a Blackberry.

Hope in your quest to get more information on BIN files, this serves as the starting point..

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Cheers
@storagenerve

  • Sundar

    Thanks for addressing one of the least discussed topics…

  • http://thestorageanarchist.com the storage anarchist

    Your information is somewhat out of date.

    Beginning with the introduction of DMX, an increasing number of configuration changes are made live, on-line, and without reloading the BIN file. The command/CLI/API interfaces invoke system calls to effect changes, and once verified the changes are then written to the BIN file for use if the system ever needs to be rebooted. With V-Max, only a small number of back-end (DA) configuration changes remain that operate in the “old” manner you describe, and most of these will be eliminated with upcoming Enginuity updates.

    One other nit: on V-Max (and DMX3/4 with 5773 code), Optimizer and VLUN support both swaps and moves, meaning DRVs are not always required. And FWIW, Windows 7 still maintains CONFIG.SYS and SYSTEM.INI (not to mention the complexity of the Registry). You've got to record somewhere the operational configuration; I'll bet One US Dollar that every other storage array records its parameters somewhere as well…although I'll grant you that none are as notorious as Symm's BIN (or Windows CONFIG.SYS :-)

  • http://www.techmute.com/ techmute

    “Gatekeeper devices need to be setup on the Symmetrix front end ports for SymCLI, ECC, SMC changes to work”

    You can initiate changes through any DMX volume, not just gatekeepers. Gatekeepers are in place to allow SYMCLI to avoid sending management requests over volumes that have “normal” IO running against them.

    Just because you don't have gatekeepers defined to a host does not mean configuration changes can not be ran from that host. That's where symacl comes into play.

  • http://www.techmute.com/ techmute

    “never attempt to administer your Symmetrix system with an iPhone or a Blackberry.”

    Not sure if this was directed at me, but the method I posted previously always ran every command on an environment local host (via RDP or SSH+Screen) for this very reason. Since there is no solutions enabler for BB/iPhone, running anything directly on those platforms is impossible.

  • http://thestorageanarchist.com the storage anarchist

    Yes, my comments were about the normal, day-to-day configuration changes that storage admins perform routinely using standard Symmetrix management interfaces. An externally-edited BIN file update (to add new hardware, for example), still requires the BIN file reload – and even this process has been streamlined and accellerated over the past several years. And with V-Max, it is even possible to have multiple concurrent changes being made (using the management tools) – system-wide lock-outs are increasingly rare.

    My comments about Optimizer (and VLUN) was specifically to note that unused DRVs are not always required to effect a swap or a move…these can now be accomplished even with zero unused space in an array.

    And yes, FAST on DMX3/4 (5773+) is implemented as an extension to Optmizer that allows it to move a RAID set to a different class of storage as well as a different instance of the same class. On V-Max, a different copy engine is used for FAST (one that can also convert the RAID type as part of the relocation); on both, a BIN file change is automatically effected as part of the process to move the identity of the device to the new location.

    Finally, indeed the BIN files are always updated, no matter whether the changes were effective via direct, live system calls into the running code or through the “mini-IML” of the BIN file on one or more processors. And for exactly the reason you note – so that the system can be restarted from a complete power shut-down with the same configuration it was running prior to the shut-down.

  • http://storagenerve.com storagenerve

    Hi Barry,

    Thanks for the Clarification.

    To your comment on the first paragraph, are you referencing BIN file changes associated with CLI interface (API's) are invoked through System Calls and not through the actual BIN file change process?

    The changes associated with adding hardware components to the DMX-3/4 & V-Max are still performed through traditional BIN file changes through the service processor and performed by EMC?

    That brings me to the next question, associated with Optimizer and FAST. I would think since Optimizer is no more
    performing changes through traditional BIN files, is FAST leveraging the same technology on the DMX-X/V-Max platforms?

    If Optimizer, FAST and other changes are not performed through BIN files, does it mean the running config in the global cache is different than what is typically in the director EEPROMs? Does that also mean when the system is ever rebooted, it uses the new changed BIN (saved somewhere) during the IML process?

    Thanks
    Devang

  • http://storagenerve.com storagenerve

    Hi Matt,

    If i understand correctly, you need Gatekeepers defined on the FA / FI / GbE ports for CLI changes to work correctly.Gatekeepers are used to send SCSI commands through any software include CLI to allow these changes. I have seen CLI changes fail if GK devices are not setup on these ports.

    “Symmetrix gatekeepers provide communication paths into the Symmetrix for external software monitoring and/or controlling the Symmetrix.” Even ECC and SMC these days would need the presence of GK devices to communicate back to the Symm.

    Thanks
    Devang

  • http://storagenerve.com storagenerve

    Hi Matt,

    That is exactly what i mean, i have seen customers use RDP at times to connect back to the infrastructure and run scritps from the RDP sessions connected through an iPhone. I am not sure how secure this method is and if its most preferred to manage an Enterprise class storage environment.

    People can argue that its still a local station performing these changes, but i am sure if things wanted to go wrong they will go wrong….

    Devang

  • http://www.techmute.com/ techmute

    Primus emc151571 goes into it a little bit… you can use any device to issue commands.

    It isn't supported (technically) to my knowledge, but Gatekeepers are there to make sure standard device IO load doesn't interfere with control commands (and vice-versa). I'm not sure of the impact if you have GKers defined and then lose them.

    If you are Proven, read “Restricting Symmetrix® Configuration and Preventing Information Disclosure using Symmetrix Access Controls (SymACL)”. The first several pages gives an overview of gatekeepers vs symdevs. It is on the EMC Proven knowledge sharing site.

  • http://www.techmute.com/ techmute

    Well, RDP will keep the session state of the running processes, so you're protected from accidental disconnects. In fact, I doubt many people have the ability to run anything from a physical console connected to a physical server connected to the DMX – remoting from your workstation to a SYMCLI server is much the same as remoting from an iPhone to a SYMCLI server.

    Preferred? Not a chance, but if you NEED access to check something quickly, it's a “nice to have.” With any luck, most of the routine maintenance things are scripted so its just kicking off a script.

    How secure though? Plenty secure if you have VPN in place and appropriate ACLs.

  • http://thestorageanarchist.com the storage anarchist

    Another approach is to use Symmetrix Managemetn Console, accessed via a web browser over an SSL link to the server running on a trusted host or on the V-Max service processor. Users must authenticate via an LDAP name server, and management priveledges can be doled out to specific users in a controlled manner. Administrative access can even be restricted to a specific set of volumes/devices via this mechanism.

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  • http://www.coparsystems.com/ Biju Krishnan

    Good post. I would like to know as to what happens once the bin file is loaded, does it update a DB in the cache which maps the symmetric arch?? or does it load into the memory of each of the components described above??

    I come from a HDS shop, and a comparison is inevitable. And this probably helps in better understanding.

    On the Hitachi USP-V's, there is an option to upload an initial configuration file, looks somewhat like the BIN file. But once the array is operational, all changes are done using the Storage Navigator or the SVP.

    From what I know, Hitachi uses a dynamic reference table in the shared memory unlike a static one described here.

    But again, when there is maintainence, the admin is not allowed to perform any configuration changes. This could be to ensure data protection or could be that the storage is waiting for the changes to complete prior to releasing the locks.

  • sandeepnairchandu

    How can a optimizer runs without DRV devices?

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