A Closer Look at New Features Brought with VxRail 7.0.480
Sat, 17 Feb 2024 23:57:31 -0000|
Read Time: 0 minutes
The landscape of VxRail software is ever-evolving. As software releases become available, so too do new features and functions. These new features and functions create a more robust ecosystem, focusing on simplifying regular tasks that appear mundane but are critical to maintaining a secure, up-to-date, and healthy IT environment. VxRail 7.0.480 brought several new and enhanced capabilities to administrators, continuing to build on the streamlined infrastructure management experience that VxRail offers. Many of these improvements are part of the LCM experience. Let’s take a moment to discuss some of these new software improvements and what they can do for infrastructure staff. These include expanded storage of update advisor reports from one report to thirty reports, the ability to export compliance reports to preservable files, automated node reboots for clusters, and extended ADC bundle and installer metadata upload functionality for improved prechecking and update advisor reporting.
Extended update advisor report availability
Administrative teams have likely seen various update advisor reports. These reports have been part of the VxRail LCM experience for the past few releases and present a look at the cluster as it is at the moment. That said, storing multiple reports helps provide a documented history of the cluster. VxRail 7.0.480 has taken these singular reports and extended their storage to hold up to thirty reports, granting administrators the information and reporting to review up to the last thirty updates.
Imagine that you have a large cluster. Different nodes could need different remediating actions. The ability to maintain multiple reports would enable administrators to address issues raised in a report while also creating a documentation trail for when corrective actions take multiple administrative cycles spanning extended lengths of time, possibly exceeding a day.
Export of compliance drift reports
Compliance drift reports are another reporting element of the LCM process, helping administrators to ensure that clusters conform with a Continuously Validated State (CVS) on a daily basis. This frees up administrators to attend to business-specific tasks, while ensuring that the more mundane work of gathering software versions for review is automated. This is a critical task that helps prevent time-intensive infrastructure issues that IT teams need to dedicate resources to correcting. Additionally, these reports ensure that LCM updates are successful by identifying any components that may have drifted from what is defined by the current Continuously Validated State.
These compliance drift reports, demonstrated to the right, can now be exported, aiding administrators in creating and maintaining a documented history of their clusters' adherence to Continuously Validated States. Each report can be grouped by components and is saved to an HTML file, preserving the original view that VxRail administrators have come to know.
Sequential node reboot
Our next new feature automates the sequential reboot of nodes within a cluster, a task that many customers engage in manually. The automatic node reboot function is found within the Hosts submenu in the Configure tab. As shown in the following demonstration, administrators simply select the nodes they want to reboot, click the reboot button, and then complete the wizard. The wizard offers the options to begin rebooting immediately or schedule them for a later time. Once this selection is made, the wizard will run a precheck, and the reboot cycles can begin. While this feature most benefits larger clusters, clusters of any size are advantaged by automating infrastructure tasks. Node reboots can help further improve update cycle success rates by clearing issues like memory utilization or restarting any potentially hung processes.
As an example, let’s consider memory utilization again. If there were an issue with the balloon driver making memory available, the update precheck would detect it, however rebooting the node would restart the service and force the memory to be made available once again. We’ve also observed cases where larger clusters are updated less often compared to smaller clusters due to longer maintenance windows. This can lead to longer times between reboots for larger clusters. The sequential reboot of nodes within a cluster eases the difficulty in restarting larger clusters through automation and orchestration, leading to restarts with minimal administrator activity. This can clear a variety of issues that could halt an upgrade.
That said, manually rebooting each node within a cluster can require a significant time investment. Imagine for a moment that we have a 20-node cluster. If it took just 10 minutes per node to migrate workloads away from a node, restart the host, bring it back online physically and relaunch software services, and finally bring workload back, cycling through all 20 nodes would still take over three hours of an administrator's undivided attention and time. In reality, this reboot cycle would likely take longer. Automating these actions allows clusters to benefit from these actions while freeing IT staff up to focus on other critical business tasks.
ADC bundle and installer metadata upload
VxRail 7.0.480 brings the ability to use the adaptive data collector (ADC) bundle and installer metadata, shown being uploaded in the following demonstration, to update the LCM precheck and update advisor functions VxRail Manager provides. This is helpful because the precheck routinely welcomes new developments, leading to a more robust precheck and more successful LCM update cycles. For example, one of the more recent precheck developments involves an additional check on memory utilization. The LCM precheck examines CPU and memory utilization of the vCenter Server appliance. If either CPU or memory utilization exceeds an 80% threshold, a warning will appear in the precheck report. If the check occurs as part of an upgrade cycle, then the warning appears in the update progress dashboard. The update advisor metadata file includes all the version information related to the target VxRail release version. This allows the update advisor to create reports showing the current, expected, and target software versions for each LCM cycle. These packages are pulled by VxRail Manager automatically over the network for clusters using a Secure Connect Gateway connection and are also available to offline dark sites using the Local Updates tab.
The VxRail engineering team routinely delivers new features and functions to our customers. In this blog, we reviewed the enhancements for expanded update advisor report storage, the ability to export drift reports to local HTML files, automated cluster node reboot cycles, and the enhanced LCM precheck and update advisor with the ADC bundle and installer metadata file uploads. As we move forward, we continue to enhance LCM operations and minimize the time required to manage VxRail. As such, VxRail is a fantastic choice to run your virtualized workloads and will continue to become a more robust and administration-friendly platform.
Author: Dylan Jackson, Engineering Technologist
Related Blog Posts
VxRail’s Latest Hardware Evolution
Thu, 04 Jan 2024 17:22:21 -0000|
Read Time: 0 minutes
December is a time of celebration and anticipation, a month in which we may reflect on the events of the year and look ahead to what is yet to come. Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” – and its many stage and movie remakes – is one of those literary classics that helps showcase this season’s magic at its finest. It is even said that there is a special kind of magic—one full of excitement, innovation, and productivity—that finds a way to (hyper)converge the past, present, and future for data center administrators all around the world who have been good all year!
No, your wondering eyes do not deceive you. Appearing today are VxRail’s next generation platforms—the VE-660 and VP-760—in all-new, all-NVMe configurations! While Santa’s elves have spent the year building their backlog of toys and planning supply-chain delivery logistics that rival SLA standards of the world’s largest e-tailers, the VxRail team has been hard at work innovating our VxRail family portfolio to ensure that your workloads can run faster than ever before. So, let’s grab a glass of eggnog and invite the holiday spirits along for a tour of VxRail past, present, and future to better understand our latest portfolio addition.
Spirit of VxRail Past
When VxRail first launched almost 8 years ago in early 2016, we introduced the concept of hyperconverged infrastructure to the masses with one easily-managed platform that combined best-of-breed Dell PowerEdge servers with VMware technology. This new age of data center management brought better performance, extended capabilities, and time-saving advantages to data center admins everywhere. Over the years, we’ve sought to improve the offering by taking advantage of the latest hardware standards and technologies.
This was especially true earlier this summer when we launched the VE-660 and VP-760 VxRail platforms based on 16th Generation Dell PowerEdge servers. These next-gen successors to the VxRail E-Series and P-Series platforms not only contained the latest hardware innovations, but also represented a systemic change in the overall VxRail offering.
First, the mainline E- and P-series platforms were respectively re-christened as the VE-660 and VP-760. This was done primarily to invite easier comparison points to the underlying PowerEdge servers on which they’re based – the R660 and R760. Second, we tracked how the use of accelerators in the data center had evolved over the years and made the strategic decision to fold the capabilities of the V-Series platform into the P-Series by way of specific riser configurations. Now, customers have the ability to glean all the benefits of a high-performant 2U system with the choice of either storage-optimized (up to 28 total drive bays) or accelerator-optimized (up to 2x double wide or 6x single wide GPUs) chassis configurations—whichever best aligns to the specifics of their workload needs. And third, VxRail platforms dropped the storage type suffix from the model name. Hybrid and all-flash (and as of today, all-NVME–more on this later) storage variants are now offered as part of the riser configuration selection options of these baseline platforms, where applicable.
These changes are representative of how the breadth and depth of customer needs have grown tremendously over the years. By taking these steps to streamline the VxRail portfolio, we charted an evolutionary path forward that continues our commitment to offer greater customer choice and flexibility.
Spirit of VxRail Present
These themes of greater choice and flexibility are amplified by the architectural improvements underpinning these new VxRail platforms. Primary among them is the introduction of Intel® 4th Generation Xeon® Scalable processors. Intel’s latest generation of processors do more than bump VxRail core density per socket to 56 (112 max per node). They also come with built-in AMX accelerators (Advanced Matrix Extensions) that support AI and HPC workloads without the need for any additional drivers or hardware. For a deeper dive into the Intel® AMX capability set, the Spirit of VxRail Present invites you to read this blog: VxRail and Intel® AMX, Bringing AI Everywhere, authored by Una O’Herlihy.
Intel’s latest processors also usher in support for DDR5 memory and PCIe Gen 5, two other architectural pillars that underpin significant jumps in performance. The following table offers a high-level overview and comparison of these pillars and a useful at-a-glance primer for those considering a technology refresh from earlier generation VxRail:
Table 1. VxRail 14th Generation to 16th Generation comparison
VxRail VE-660 & VP-760
VxRail E560, P570 & V570
4th Generation Xeon
2nd Generation Xeon
8 - 56
4 - 28
125W – 350W
85W – 205W
Max DRAM Memory
4TB per socket
1.5TB per socket
Up to 4800 MT/s
Up to 2933 MT/s
PCIe Gen 5
PCIe Gen 3
As the operational needs of a business change day-by-day, finding the right balance between workload density and load balance can often feel like an infinite war for resources. The adoption of DDR5 memory across the latest generation of VxRail platforms offers additional flexibility in the way system resources can be divvied up by virtue of two key benefits: greater memory density and faster bandwidth. The VE-660 and VP-760 wield eight memory channels per processor, with the ability to slot up to two 4800MT/s DIMMs per channel for a maximum memory capacity of 8TB per node. Compared to a VxRail P570, the density and speed improvements are staggering: 33% more memory channels per processor, 2.6x increase in per system total memory, and up to a 64% increase in memory speed! With faster and greater density compute and memory available for workloads, each node in a VxRail cluster can handle more VMs, and if there is ever a case of task bottlenecking, there are plenty of resources still available for optimal load balancing.
When we consider the presence of PCIe Gen 5, we see an even greater increase in the overall performance envelope. PowerEdge’s Next-Generation Tech Note does a great job of contextualizing the capabilities of PCIe Gen 5. The main takeaway for VxRail, however, is that it increases the maximum bandwidth achievable from various peripheral components by roughly 25% when compared to PCIe Gen 4 and roughly 66% when compared to PCIe Gen 3. In particular, the jump in available PCIe lanes (48 lanes to a luxurious 80 lanes) and associated throughput (8 GT/s to 32 GT/s per lane) from Gen 3 to Gen 5 significantly reduces performance bottlenecks, resulting in faster storage transfer rates and more bandwidth for accelerators to process AI and ML workloads.
PCIe Gen 5 is also backwards compatible with previous generation peripherals, enabling a certain degree of flexibility with respect to VxRail’s component extensibility and longevity in the data center. Yesterday’s technologies can still be used, but the VE-660 and VP-760 can adapt to growing workload demands by taking full advantage of the latest peripherals as they are released. They are even equipped with an additional PCIe slot over their E- & P-Series predecessors, providing extra dimensions of configuration. These boons in flexibility ensure any investment into this generation of VxRail enjoys longer relevance as your infrastructure backbone.
Spirit of VxRail Future
Even with all these architectural improvements defining the VP-760 and VE-660, we knew we could find ways of improving the capability set. So, we made our list of desired features (and checked it twice!) and determined that the best way to augment these next-generation hardware enhancements would be with the introduction of all-NVMe storage options.
The Spirit of VxRail Past wishes to remind us that VxRail with all-NVMe storage is not new—NVMe first made its way to the VxRail lineup with the P580N and E560N almost four years ago and has been a mainstay facet of the VxRail with vSAN architecture ever since. However, what is most compelling about all-NVMe versions of the VE-660 and VP-760—what the Spirit of VxRail Future wishes to strongly communicate—is that NVMe opens the door to two very compelling benefits: additional flexibility of choice with respect to vSAN architecture and an associated increase in overall storage capacity with the addition of read intensive NVMe drives in sizes of up to 15.36TB.
The following figure outlines all of the generational advantages customers can benefit from when transitioning from existing 14th Generation VxRail environments to VP-760 all-NVMe platforms.
In addition, VxRail on 16th Generation hardware can now support deployments with either vSAN Original Storage Architecture (OSA) or vSAN Express Storage Architecture (ESA). David Glynn provided a great summary of the core value vSAN ESA brings to the table for VxRail in his blog written nearly a year ago. With today’s launch, the VP-760 and VE-660 can now take advantage of vSAN ESA’s single-tier storage architecture that enables RAID-5 resiliency and capacity with RAID-1 performance. Customers who choose to deploy with vSAN OSA can also see the benefit of these new read intensive NVMe drives, with a total storage per node of up to 122.88TB in the VE-660 and 322.56TB in the VP-760. For those who deploy with vSAN ESA, maximum achievable storage is 153.6TB on the VE-660 and up to 368.64TB on the VP-760.
The Spirit of VxRail Future has seen the value of all-NVMe and is content knowing that VxRail will continue to underpin VMware mission-critical workloads for years to come.
Author: Mike Athanasiou, Sr. Engineering Technologist
Learn More About the Latest Major VxRail Software Release: VxRail 7.0.480
Tue, 24 Oct 2023 15:51:48 -0000|
Read Time: 0 minutes
Happy Autumn, VxRail customers! As the morning air gets chillier and the sun rises later, this blog on our latest software release – VxRail 7.0.480 – paired with your Pumpkin Spice Latte will give you the boost you need to kick start your day. It may not be as tasty as freshly made cider donuts, but this software release has significant additions to the VxRail lifecycle management experience that can surely excite everyone.
VxRail 7.0.480 provides support for VMware ESXi 7.0 Update U3o and VMware vCenter 7.0 Update U3o. All existing platforms that support VxRail 7.0, except ones based on Dell PowerEdge 13th Generation platforms, can upgrade to VxRail 7.0.480. This includes the VxRail systems based on PowerEdge 16th Generation platforms that were released in August.
Read on for a deep dive into the VxRail Lifecycle Management (LCM) features and enhancements in this latest VxRail release. For a more comprehensive rundown of the features and enhancements in VxRail 7.0.480, see the release notes.
Improving update planning activities for unconnected clusters or clusters with limited connectivity
VxRail 7.0.450, released earlier this year, provided significant improvements to update planning activities in a major effort to streamline administrative work and increase cluster update success rates. Enhancements to the cluster pre-update health check and the introduction of the update advisor report were designed to drive even more simplicity to your update planning activities. By having VxRail Manager automatically run the update advisor report, inclusive of the pre-update health check, every 24 hours against the latest information, you will always have an up-to-date report to determine your cluster’s readiness to upgrade to the latest VxRail software version.
If you are not familiar with the LCM capabilities added in VxRail 7.0.450, you can review this blog for more information.
VxRail 7.0.450 offered a seamless path for clusters that are connected to the Dell cloud to take advantage of these new capabilities. Internet-connected clusters can automatically download LCM pre-checks and the installer metadata files, which provide the manifest information about the latest VxRail software version, from the Dell cloud. The ability to periodically scan the Dell cloud for the latest files ensures the update advisor report is always up to date to support your decision-making.
While unconnected clusters could use these features, the user experience in VxRail 7.0.450 made it more cumbersome for users to upload the latest LCM pre-checks and installer metadata files. VxRail 7.0.480 aims to improve the user experience for those who have clusters deployed in dark or remote sites that have limited network connectivity.
Starting in VxRail 7.0.480, users of unconnected clusters will have an easier experience uploading the latest LCM pre-checks file onto VxRail Manager. The VxRail Manager UI has been enhanced, so you no longer have to upload via CLI.
Knowing that some clusters are deployed in areas where network bandwidth is at a premium, the VxRail Manager UI has also been updated so that you only need to upload the installer metadata file to generate the update advisor report. In VxRail 7.0.450, users had to upload the full LCM bundle for the update advisor report. The difference in the payload size of greater than 10GB for a full LCM bundle versus a 50KB installer metadata file is a tremendous improvement for bandwidth-constrained clusters, eliminating a barrier to relying on the update advisor report as a standard cluster management practice. With VxRail 7.0.480, whether you have connected or unconnected clusters, these update planning features are easy to use and will help increase your cluster update success rates.
To accommodate these improvements, the Local Updates tab has been modified to support these new capabilities. There are now two sub-tabs underneath the Local Updates tab:
- The Update sub-tab represents the existing cluster update workflow where you would upload the full LCM bundle to generate the update advisor report and initiate the cluster update operation.
- The Plan and Update sub-tab is the recommended path which incorporates the enhancements in VxRail 7.0.480. Here you can upload the latest LCM pre-checks file and the installer metadata file that you found and downloaded from the Dell Support website. Uploading the LCM pre-checks file is optional to create a new report because there may not always be an updated file to apply. However, you do need to upload an installer metadata file to generate a new report from here. Once uploaded, VxRail Manager will generate an update advisor report against that installer metadata file every 24 hours.
Figure 1. New look to the Local Updates tab
Easier record-keeping for compliance drift and update advisor reports
VxRail 7.0.480 adds new functionality to make the compliance drift reports exportable to outside the VxRail Manager UI while also introducing a history tab to access past update advisor reports.
Some of you use the contents of the compliance drift report to build out a larger infrastructure status report for information sharing across your organizations. Making the report exportable would simplify that report building process. When exporting the report, there is an option to group the information by host if you prefer.
Note that the compliance check functionality has moved from the Compliance tab under the Updates page to a separate page, which you can navigate to by selecting Compliance from under the VxRail section.
Figure 2. Exporting the compliance drift report
The exit of the Compliance tab comes with the introduction of the History tab on the Updates page in VxRail 7.0.480. Because VxRail Manager automatically generates a new update advisor report every 24 hours and you have the option to generate one on-demand, the update advisor report is often overwritten. To avoid the need to constantly export them as a form of record-keeping, the new History tab stores the last 30 update advisor reports. The reports are listed in a table format where you can see which target version the report was run against and when it was run. To view the full report, you can click on the icon on the left-hand column.
Figure 3. New History tab to store the last 30 update advisor reports
Addressing cluster update challenges for larger-sized clusters
For some of you that have larger-sized clusters, cluster updates pose challenges that may prevent you from upgrading more frequently. For example, the length of the maintenance window required to complete a full cluster update may not fit within your normal business operations such that any cluster update activity will impact service availability. As a result, cluster updates are kept to a minimum and nodes inevitably are not rebooted for long periods of time. While the cluster pre-update health check is an effective tool to determine cluster readiness for an upgrade, some issues may be lurking that a node reboot can uncover. That’s why some of you script your own node reboot sequence that acts as a test run for a cluster upgrade. The script reboots each node one at a time to ensure service levels of your workloads are maintained. If any nodes fail to reboot, you can investigate those nodes.
VxRail 7.0.480 introduces the node reboot sequence on VxRail Manager UI so that you do not have to manage your scripts anymore. The new feature includes cluster-level and node-level prechecks to ensure it is safe to perform this activity. If nodes fail to reboot, there is an option for you to retry the reboot or skip it. Making this activity easy may also encourage more customers to do this additional pre-check before upgrading their clusters.
Figure 4. Selecting nodes in a cluster to reboot in sequential order
Figure 5. Monitoring the node reboot sequence on the dashboard
VxRail 7.0.480 also provides the capability to split your cluster update into multiple parts. Doing so allows you to separate your cluster upgrade into smaller maintenance windows and work around your business operation needs. Though this capability could reduce the impact of a cluster upgrade to your organization, VMware does recommend that you complete the full upgrade within one week given that there are some Day 2 operations that are disabled while the cluster is partially upgraded. VxRail enables this capability only through VxRail API. When a cluster is in a partially upgraded state, features in the Updates tab are disabled and a banner appears alerting you of the cluster state. Cluster expansion and node removal operations are also unavailable in this scenario.
The new lifecycle management capabilities added to VxRail 7.0.480 are part of the continual evolution of the VxRail LCM experience. They also represent how we value your feedback on how to improve the product and our dedication to making your suggestions come to fruition. The LCM capabilities added to this software release will drive more effective cluster update planning, which will result in higher rates of cluster update success that will drive more efficiencies in your IT operations. Though this blog focuses on the improvements in lifecycle management, please refer to the release notes for VxRail 7.0.480 for a complete list of features and enhancements added to this release. For more information about VxRail in general, visit the Dell Technologies website.
Author: Daniel Chiu