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Implementing SMB File Services on Cisco HyperFlex Using CTERA White Paper

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Updated:November 14, 2019

Bias-Free Language

The documentation set for this product strives to use bias-free language. For the purposes of this documentation set, bias-free is defined as language that does not imply discrimination based on age, disability, gender, racial identity, ethnic identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, and intersectionality. Exceptions may be present in the documentation due to language that is hardcoded in the user interfaces of the product software, language used based on RFP documentation, or language that is used by a referenced third-party product. Learn more about how Cisco is using Inclusive Language.

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Updated:November 14, 2019


Executive summary

This paper describes the best practices to deploy CTERA Edge Filers and enterprise file services in a high-availability deployment model on Cisco HyperFlex. Server Message Block (SMB) file-sharing solutions can be architected in several ways; this paper addresses a CTERA Edge Filer, a single Virtual Machine (VM) configuration with a high-availability option. Cisco HyperFlex is a purpose-built Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI) for private and hybrid cloud data centers. When deploying hyperconverged solutions, there are no prerequisite operations such as Logical Unit Number (LUN) provisioning, Host Bus Adapter (HBA) compatibility checks, or Fibre Channel (FC) LUN zoning operations. Cisco HyperFlex delivers extreme performance, VM density, and a wide variety of powerful data management features for an enterprise-scale private cloud environment.

CTERA and Cisco HyperFlex partner to deliver a secure, hyperconverged solution that enables organizations to modernize NAS at both the data center and remote locations and to benefit from the dramatic IT infrastructure consolidation and simplification of a wide range of enterprise file services.

The CTERA Edge Filer facilitates multicloud tiering and multisite collaboration for remote sites. It replaces traditional Network-Attached storage(NAS) and file servers, connecting siloed data islands at the edge into a single namespace. It is deployed as a virtual instance on the HyperFlex platform, or as a physical appliance in a Remote Office or Remote Branch (ROBO) or at the data center. Users have access to familiar-looking NAS protocols and file directory structures, but all data changes are automatically synchronized with the customer’s data center, without worry over complicated backup processes or disaster recovery plans. CTERA Edge Filers are caching-enabled, allowing distributed enterprises to tier or archive ROBO file data storage into a cost-efficient private cloud storage repository, or a global file system, accessible from any location. The filers offer a cost-effective option for data center NAS replacement as well.

The solution described in this paper has been tested by Cisco in our lab for assisting with best practices when used with Cisco HyperFlex. The licensing and support of the SMB file services using CTERA Edge Filers is handled directly by CTERA.


The intended audience for this document includes, but is not limited to, sales engineers, field consultants, professional services providers, IT managers, partner engineering, and customers deploying SMB file services on Cisco HyperFlex. External references are provided wherever applicable, but readers are expected to be familiar with CTERA-specific technologies and services, infrastructure concepts, networking connectivity, and the security policies of the customer’s installation.

Purpose of this document

This document describes the steps required to deploy the CTERA Edge Filer in a high-availability model and to configure SMB file services on Cisco HyperFlex systems. The document is based on all known best practices using the software, hardware, and firmware revisions specified in the document. As such, recommendations and best practices may be amended in later versions.

Introduction to Cisco HyperFlex systems

Cisco HyperFlex systems combine Cisco UCS® networking and computing technology, powerful Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors, and the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform to deliver a complete, pre-integrated solution. After you install locally or through the Cisco Intersight interface, your cluster is ready to work for you whether you need to support virtualized or containerized applications. You get a uniform pool of computing, networking, and storage resources that is designed to power your applications. When you need to provision computing or storage capacity, that capacity is drawn from the entire pool.

Bringing benefits to your IT organization and to your business, Cisco HyperFlex systems are agile, efficient, and adaptable, making them well suited for hosting environments such as virtual desktops, server virtualization deployments, and test and development environments.

     More agile: Cisco HyperFlex systems are more agile because they perform, scale, and interoperate.

     More efficient: Our solution was designed from the beginning with a purpose-built, highly efficient data platform that combines the scale-out storage resources into a single, distributed, multitier, object-based data store. Features that you expect of enterprise storage systems are built into Cisco HyperFlex systems.

     More adaptable: Your business needs and your workloads are constantly changing. Your infrastructure needs to quickly adapt to support your workloads and your business.

     More scalable: Clusters can scale to up to 64 nodes, with protection from multiple nodes and components.

Hyperconverged infrastructures coalesce the computing, memory, hypervisor, and storage devices of servers into a single platform for virtual servers. There is no longer a separate storage system, as the servers running the hypervisors also provide the software-defined storage resources to store the virtual servers, effectively storing the virtual machines on themselves. Nearly all the silos are now gone, and a hyperconverged infrastructure becomes something almost completely self-contained, simpler to use, faster to deploy, and easier to consume, yet still flexible and with very high performance. Many hyperconverged systems still rely on standard networking components, such as onboard network cards in the x86 servers, and top-of-rack switches. Cisco HyperFlex combines the convergence of computing and networking provided by Cisco UCS, along with next-generation hyperconverged storage software, to uniquely provide the compute resources, network connectivity, storage, and hypervisor platform to run an entire virtual environment, all contained in a single uniform system.

Some key advantages of hyperconverged infrastructures are the simplification of deployment and day-to-day management operations and increased agility, thereby reducing operational costs. Since hyperconverged storage can be easily managed by an IT generalist, this can also, going forward, reduce technical debt that is often accrued by implementing complex systems that need dedicated management teams and skillsets.

Cisco HyperFlex supports VMware ESXi and Microsoft Hyper-V hypervisors.

For more information, see the Cisco HyperFlex 3.0 for Virtual Server Infrastructure with Microsoft Hyper-V and

Cisco HyperFlex 3.0 for Virtual Server Infrastructure with VMware ESXi.

Cisco HyperFlex provides a fully contained virtual server platform, with compute and memory resources, integrated networking connectivity, a distributed high-performance log-based file system for VM storage, and the hypervisor.

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Figure 1.         

Cisco Hyperflex Architecture

Implementing SMB file service on Cisco HyperFlex using CTERA Edge Filers

This solution guide describes how to implement an SMB file service using a CTERA Edge Filer to provide a genuinely heterogeneous file system for organizations with geographically dispersed sites that must uphold data availability without sacrificing data access and performance. Organizations choose the Cisco HyperFlex system to reduce the amount of infrastructure needed to run compute, storage, and network-intensive applications at both the data center and the edge of the network. For many of these enterprises, CTERA’s edge-to-cloud file-services platform becomes a natural extension of HyperFlex, seamlessly integrating with the next-generation hyperconverged platform to deliver secure, modern file storage and collaboration. The solution described in this paper has been tested on Cisco HyperFlex with 4-node Cisco HyperFlex HXAF220c-M4S cluster all-flash disks for fast data access. Use this document for a baseline configuration when designing and planning your solution to better meet your requirements and budget. Features provided by Cisco HyperFlex include data resiliency (provided with HyperFlex’s replication factor), deduplication, and compression. In this test environment, the replication factor is set to 2, which means, further, that it provides 1-node failure resiliency.

Introduction to SMB file service

The Server Message Block (SMB) protocol is a network file-sharing protocol that allows applications on a computer to read and write to files and request services from server programs in a computer network. The SMB protocol can be used on top of its TCP/IP protocol or other network protocols. Using the SMB protocol, an application (or the user of an application) can access files or other resources at a remote server. This allows applications to read, create, and update files on the remote server. It can also communicate with any server program that is set up to receive an SMB client request.

CTERA Edge Filer SMB file sharing

The CTERA software utilizes the existing storage contained in the Cisco HyperFlex systems by leveraging the physical elements that connect the disk media. VMware provides the hosting mechanism for running various Virtual Machine (VM) workloads, and CTERA Edge Filer operates in one of those VMs. Using variable capacities presented using VMware’s VMDK disks, CTERA can create any mixture of Network File Server (NFS) or SMB storage targets. To learn more about SMB file sharing in the CTERA Edge Filer, visit the SMB filesharing user guide.

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Figure 2.         

CTERA Edge Filers in a single HyperFlex HX Cluster

Cisco tested a single-instance and High-Availability (HA) model SMB configuration. A CTERA Edge Filer in a single VM configuration was deployed using a CTERA virtual Edge Filer Open Virtualization Format (OVF) and is globally managed using CTERA Portal.

CTERA HA (high-availability) file services

With CTERA, you can protect and manage for unplanned disruptions, safeguarding your data and enabling users to continue driving your business. During normal operations, users access their files residing in a CTERA Edge Filer through network drives that map via the SMB protocol. In the background, the edge filer syncs, in near real time, any file changes to the CTERA Portal, creating another identical copy of the data. If an edge filer fails, end users want to continue with minimal downtime and as seamlessly as possible. CTERA provides the following options to maintain continuity when an edge filer fails:

     Continuity to a second edge filer

With at least two CTERA Edge Filers, you can use the second edge filer as a fail-safe device if the primary edge filer fails. The failover to the second edge filer is achieved automatically using Microsoft Distributed File System (DFS). The edge filers must be configured in caching mode, and each edge filer must be connected to the Windows Server running Active Directory with DFS.

Continuity to a secondary edge filer requires setting up the edge filer as a caching gateway. For details on how to enable caching mode, refer to the CTERA Edge Filer Online Documentation.

     Continuity to a CTERA Portal

Until the faulty edge filer is replaced and fully operational, CTERA provides end users with access to their files in the CTERA Portal, also via mapped network drives, providing a user experience that is very similar to the edge filer access experience end users are familiar with. Virtually immediate data-access recovery is enabled by diverting end users from the edge filer directly to the CTERA Portal, in order to access their files and folders.

Continuity to a CTERA Portal requires setting up the CTERA Edge Filer as a caching gateway so that any files written to the edge filer are immediately synced to the CTERA Portal. The portal contains a duplicate set of all the files on the edge filer, and it is this set of files that can be used if the edge filer fails.

Main components of the CTERA platform

The CTERA platform consists of four components that are all connected via CTERA’s patented WAN-optimized protocol, CTTP (CTERA Transport Protocol). The platform is securely deployed on any private or public cloud infrastructure, and data is centrally stored in any choice of NAS or object storage.

     CTERA Edge Filers: Caching-enabled appliances that provide local NAS functions including CIFS/NFS protocols and tier data to low-cost cloud object storage

     CTERA Portal: CTERA’s global file system that is responsible for data synchonization, data protection, infinite file versioning, and service orchestration

     For administrators, the portal is a central security, governance, and administration tool that dramatically reduces data sprawl and IT complexity.

     For users, the portal is a centralized utility to securely access and collaborate on files and backups from anywhere in the world via a web browser.

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Figure 3.         

CTERA workflow

Test environment details

In order to test both CTERA single-node and HA solutions on HyperFlex, one CTERA Portal and two CTERA Edge Filers need to be deployed on HyperFlex. For more details on how to install CTERA Portal and CTERA Edge Filer, follow the steps provided in the sections below.

Deploy CTERA Portal on Cisco HyperFlex

To install CTERA Portal on Cisco HyperFlex, follow the steps below to get started:

     Import the CTERA Portal image

     Prepare for production deployment

     Log in to the CTERA Portal server and changing the password

     Configure the network settings

     Configure licensing as per the capacity requirements

     Configure the CTERA Portal primary server

     Back up the database

For more information on how to deploy CTERA Portal, visit the following CTERA Portal Installation Guide.

Deploy CTERA Edge Filer on Cisco HyperFlex

     Install the edge filer in a vSphere environment

     Configure the edge filer

     Manage the edge filer

     Connect the edge filer device to the CTERA Portal

     Configure the network settings and create network file shares

For more information on how to deploy CTERA Edge Filer, visit the following CTERA Edge Filer Online Documentation.

CTERA Edge Filer licensing

The configuration and specification of the VM that is used for the CTERA Edge Filer SMB file-sharing service plays a critical role in performance and the ability to handle the user’s workload. The following table is intended to provide general guidelines; however, additional adjustments may be necessary to better fit your environment and workload. If you choose to deploy CTERA Edge Filer using OVF, there are configuration profiles already available for the user.

Table 1.           Licensing configuration table











Maximum RAM

8 GB

16 GB

32 GB

64 GB

Maximum storage

16 TB

32 TB

64 TB

128 TB

Max. SMB/CIFs connections





For workload-specific sizing guidelines, use the Cisco HyperFlex sizer.

VM configuration best practices

The following section describes best-practices considerations for configuring the VM:

     Use VMware’s thick provision eager zeroed provisioning format for all Virtual Machine Disks (VMDKs) used for SMB file sharing. This ensures that the disk is formatted and “zeroed out” prior to configuring the SMB share.

Engineering validation

This section describes the testing and validation of the SMB file services option for Cisco HyperFlex.

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Figure 4.         

Test environment

Solution Under Test (SUT) environment

The testing and performance validation for this solution uses a common Virtual Desktop Infrastructure–like (VDI-like) workload to ensure that the performance and reliability of the SMB file share access are met when running on Cisco HyperFlex.

Table 2.           Software components

Test environment


Cisco HyperFlex (HX)


CTERA Edge Filer


CTERA Portal


The test environment consists of five VMs, with four as test clients to simulate a distributed workload. The SUT VMs are described below:

     VM1: SUT driver VM for controlling of the test clients

     VM2: Test client 1

     VM3: Test client 2

     VM4: Test client 3

     VM5: Test client 4

Test results reported in the section below has been tested with CTERA Edge Filer (Single VM configuration with EV16 licensing type)

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) workload

This workload simulates a steady-state high-intensity knowledge worker in a VDI environment that uses full clones. This workload does not simulate a linked-clone environment. This is the behavior that was seen in traces between the hypervisor and storage when the VMs were running on ESXi, Hyper-V, KVM, and Xen environments.

Performance results

This section describes the test results.

VDI-like workload results

The table below shows the results for a mixed I/O workload that simulates a home directory environment in a VDI- like environment when running on the SMB share for each of the VM sizes indicated earlier in the paper. Please note: these numbers are meant for validation only. For a complete end-to-end sizing, please use the Cisco HyperFlex sizer.

Test results for single-filer instance

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Figure 5.         

VDI-like workload testing results for single-filer instance

Test results for HA model (with multiple filers)

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Figure 6.         

VDI-like workload testing results for HA model

Cisco HyperFlex connect performance chart

The following charts show the backend storage performance during each test.

These performance charts show that the underlining storage scaled as the workload increased during the VDI-like workload stress testing. This ensures that the storage performance can keep up with the VDI workloads as user counts increase.

The following chart shows the backend performance on the Cisco HyperFlex connect screen during a single edge filer instance test:

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The following chart shows the backend performance on the Cisco HyperFlex connect screen during HA model (two edge filers) test:

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High Availability testing

The solution was tested to ensure that it meets Cisco’s reliability requirement for use in a production environment. The test simulated a Cisco HyperFlex node failure while the system was under test to mimic an unplanned production outage. The VM experienced a 2ms outage and was able to recover without user intervention; the active workload being tested on the VM was not affected during the outage event.

The following test scenarios were performed to ensure the reliability of the VM for SMB file sharing:

     Cisco HyperFlex node failure

     Network failure for the Cisco HyperFlex node and SMB VM

     Cisco HyperFlex node disk failure

     Enabling of vMotion and checking if VM can be migrated from the original to another node during an active workload

For further guidance and best practices of VMware High Availability and CTERA HA model, visit the following VMware KB article, CTERA website.


CTERA Edge Filers with SMB file sharing on Cisco HyperFlex provide an enterprise-scale file system for corporate and remote-site data platforms that extends the use of a Cisco HyperFlex hyperconverged environment. The solution can be deployed as a single-filer instance or as a High-Availability (HA) configuration using CTERA High Availability (HA) models to achieve a highly available and redundant SMB file-sharing solution to support business Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

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