Enhancing Satellite Node Management at Scale
Tue, 15 Mar 2022 20:30:40 -0000|
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Satellite nodes are a great addition to the VxRail portfolio, empowering users at the edge, as described in David Glynn’s blog Satellite Nodes: Because sometimes even a 2-node cluster is too much. Although satellite nodes are still new, we’ve been working hard and have already started making improvements. Dell’s latest VxRail 7.0.350 release has a number of new VxRail enhancements and in this blog we’ll focus on these new satellite node features:
- Improved life cycle management (LCM)
- New APIs
- Improved security
The first way we’ve improved satellite nodes is by reducing the required maintenance window. To do this, the satellite node update process has now been split in two. Instead of staging the recovery bundle and performing the update in one step, you can now stage the recovery bundle and perform the update separately.
Staging the bundle in advance is great because we know bandwidth can be limited at the edge and this allows ample time to transfer the bundle in advance to ensure your update happens during your scheduled maintenance window. Once your bundles are staged, it’s as simple as scheduling the updates and letting VxRail execute the node update. This improvement ensures that you can complete the update within the expected timeframe to minimize downtime. Satellite nodes sit outside the cluster and, as a result, workloads will go offline while the node is updated.
Do you have a large number of edge locations that could use satellite nodes and need an easier way to manage at scale? Good news! These new APIs are perfect for making edge life at scale easier.
The new APIs include:
- Satellite node LCM
- Add a satellite node to a managed folder
- Remove a satellite node from a managed folder
The introductory release of VxRail satellite nodes featured LCM operations through the VxRail Manager plug-in, which could be quite time consuming if you are managing a large number of satellite nodes. We saw room for improvement so now administrators can use VxRail APIs to add, update, and remove satellite nodes to simplify and speed up operations.
You can use the satellite node LCM API to adjust configuration settings that benefit management at scale, such as adjusting the number of satellite nodes you want to update in parallel. For example, although the default is to update 20 nodes in parallel, you can initiate updates for up to 30 satellite nodes in parallel, as needed.
There is also a failure rate feature that will set a condition to exit from an LCM operation. For example, if you are updating multiple satellite nodes at one time and nodes are failing to update, the failure rate setting is a way to abort the operation altogether if the rate surpasses a set threshold. The default threshold is 20% but can be set anywhere from 1% to 100%. Using the VxRail API, you can adjust settings like this that are not available in the VxRail Manager.
These new APIs are great for users with a large number of VxRail satellite nodes. Adding, removing, and updating satellite nodes can now be automated through the new APIs, saving you precious time across your edge locations.
VxRail satellite nodes can now use Secure Enterprise Key Management (SEKM), made available through the Dell PowerEdge servers that VxRail is built on. What is SEKM you might ask? Well, SEKM gives you the ability to secure drive access using encryption keys stored on a central key management server (not on the satellite node).
SEKM is great for many reasons. First, an edge location might be more exposed and have less physical security than your typical data center but that doesn’t mean securing your data is any less important. SEKM keeps your data drives locked even if the entire server is stolen. When paired with self-encrypting drives, you can secure the data even further. Second, the encryption keys are stored in a centralized location, making it easier to manage the security of large numbers of satellite nodes instead of having to manage each satellite node individually.
In this blog we’ve highlighted some exciting new satellite node features, including an improved update process, new APIs, and enhanced security, all of which enhance managing the edge at scale. Check out the full VxRail 7.0.350 release and see the full list of enhancements by clicking the link below.
Thanks for reading!
Author: Stephen Graham, VxRail Tech Marketing
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VxRail Edge Automation Unleashed - Simplifying Satellite Node Management with Ansible
Thu, 30 Nov 2023 17:43:03 -0000|
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VxRail Edge Automation Unleashed
Simplifying Satellite Node Management with Ansible
In the previous blog, Infrastructure as Code with VxRail made easier with Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail, I introduced the modules which enable the automation of VxRail operations through code-driven processes using Ansible and VxRail API. This approach not only streamlines IT infrastructure management but also aligns with Infrastructure as Code (IaC) principles, benefiting both technical experts and business leaders.
The corresponding demo is available on YouTube:
The previous blog laid the foundation for the continued journey where we explore more advanced Ansible automation techniques, with a focus on satellite node management in the VxRail ecosystem. I highly recommend checking out that blog before diving deeper into the topics discussed here - as the concepts discussed in this demo will be much easier to absorb
What are the VxRail satellite nodes?
VxRail satellite nodes are individual nodes designed specifically for deployment in edge environments and are managed through a centralized primary VxRail cluster. Satellite nodes do not leverage vSAN to provide storage resources and are an ideal solution for those workloads where the SLA and compute demands do not justify even the smallest of VxRail 2-node vSAN clusters.
Satellite nodes enable customers to achieve uniform and centralized operations within the data center and at the edge, ensuring VxRail management throughout. This includes comprehensive, automated lifecycle management for VxRail satellite nodes, while encompassing hardware and software and significantly reducing the need for manual intervention.
To learn more about satellite nodes, please check the following blogs from my colleagues:
- David’s introduction: Satellite nodes: Because sometimes even a 2-node cluster is too much
- Stephen’s update on enhancements: Enhancing Satellite Node Management at Scale
Automating VxRail satellite node operations using Ansible
You can leverage the Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail to automate various VxRail operations, including more advanced use cases, like satellite node management. It’s possible today by using the provided samples available in the official repository on GitHub.
Have a look at the following demo, which leverages the latest available version of these modules at the time of recording – 2.2.0. In the demo, I discuss and demonstrate how you can perform the following operations from Ansible:
- Collecting information about the number of satellite nodes added to the primary VxRail cluster
- Adding a new satellite node to the primary VxRail cluster
- Performing lifecycle management operations – staging the upgrade bundle and executing the upgrade on managed satellite nodes
- Removing a satellite node from the primary cluster
The examples used in the demo are slightly modified versions of the following samples from the modules' documentation on GitHub. If you’d like to replicate these in your environment, here are the links to the corresponding samples for your reference, which need slight modification:
- Retrieving system information: systeminfo.yml
- Adding a new satellite node: add_satellite_node.yml
- Performing LCM operations: upgrade_host_folder.yml (both staging and upgrading as explained in the demo)
- Removing a satellite node: remove_satellite_node.yml.
In the demo, you can also observe one of the interesting features of the Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail that is shown in action but not explained explicitly. You might be aware that some of the VxRail API functions are available in multiple versions – typically, a new version is made available when some new features are available in the VxRail HCI System Software, while the previous versions are stored to provide backward compatibility. The example is “GET /vX/system”, which is used to retrieve the number of the satellite nodes – this property was introduced in version 4. If you avoid specifying the version, the modules will automatically select the latest supported version, simplifying the end-user experience.
How can you get more hands-on experience with automating VxRail operations programmatically?
The above demo, discussing the satellite nodes management using Ansible, was configured in the VxRail API hands-on lab which is available in the Dell Technologies Demo Center. With the help of the Demo Center team, we built this lab as the self-education tool for learning VxRail API and how it can be used for automating VxRail operations using various methods – through exploring the built-in, interactive, web-based documentation, VxRail API PowerShell Modules, Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail and Postman.
The hands-on lab provides a safe VxRail API sandbox, where you can easily start experimenting by following the exercises from the lab guide or trying some other use cases on your own without any concerns about making configuration changes to the VxRail system.
The lab was refreshed for the Dell Technologies World 2023 conference to leverage VxRail HCI System Software 8.0.x and the latest version of the Ansible Modules. If you’re a Dell partner, you should have access directly, and if you’re a customer who’d like to get access – please contact your Account SE from Dell or Dell Partner. The lab is available in the catalog as: “HOL-0310-01 - Scalable Virtualization, Compute, and Storage with the VxRail REST API”.
In the fast-evolving landscape of IT infrastructure, the ability to automate operations efficiently is not just a convenience but a necessity. With the power of Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail, we've explored how this necessity can be met, looking at the examples of satellite nodes use case. We encourage you to embrace the full potential of VxRail automation using VxRail API and Ansible or other tools. If it is something new, you can get the experience by experimenting with the hands-on lab available in the Demo Center catalog.
- Previous blog: Infrastructure as Code with VxRail Made Easier with Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail
- The “master” blog containing a curated list of publicly-available educational resources about the VxRail API: VxRail API - Updated List of Useful Public Resources
- Ansible Modules for Dell VxRail on GitHub, which is the central code repository for the modules. It also contains complete product documentation and examples.
- Dell Technologies Demo Center, which includes VxRail API hands-on lab.
Impacting the World, One Happy Customer at a Time
Fri, 25 Aug 2023 21:45:55 -0000|
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As I get back from a lovely week to relax and reset by the beach in Mauritius, I have had time to realize that sometimes the important thing to do is to find time to relax and rejuvenate. I have come back with a burst of energy ready to get back to doing what I love most – spending time helping customers build simple Infrastructure solutions.
As a core member of the Dell Technologies infrastructure solutions sales team, I have come to realize that our core job is to solve problems. All businesses today are out there solving customer problems and challenges, either by producing goods or delivering services. Most businesses today have a lot of behind-the-scenes challenges to overcome to be able to help their customers.
Technology plays a big part in everything we do today, and IT teams must be on top of their game all the time to ensure businesses can continue to focus on what’s important – Customers!
I have had the opportunity to work with a non-profit organization that is literally making the world a better place for everyone globally. The work they do is non-stop and it is not easy. Their work requires an immaculate IT setup that needs to be always online, secure, and able to scale for their bespoke applications. Their current setup has gone through some major changes in terms of their applications and tracking methodologies. They had been experiencing multiple information and data silos, complexity in infrastructure management, and data security issues. In helping them find a way to simplify their IT, we too played a part in making the world a better place.
We had a few conversations and agreed that we needed to build the entire infrastructure on one platform. In this case, VMware was the unanimous choice. The two biggest challenges were to eliminate silos and to simplify management. HCI was the best way to achieve both, and we chose VxRail HCI systems. This solution went on to deliver a consistent platform across the edge, core, and cloud. It has proven to be a solution that can that manage all of the compute, storage, and networking resources through a single pane of glass with vCenter -- all under a single support umbrella for all of the hardware and software deployed.
Lifecycle management with BIOS, firmware, and software updates and upgrades can be a painful and time-consuming process. But what if I told you we can automate these tasks with one-click upgrades, one node at a time without any downtime – how does that sound? When I asked, the CTO was happy, and the IT manager was happier. All those investments in our R&D labs with over 100 people working on resolving some of the most common challenges -- like upgrades for IT teams around the world -- now made sense.
What made the solution choice easier was the ability to remotely monitor it from anywhere in the world with Cloud IQ, and its ability to scale and grow, not just on premises but in the cloud, any cloud at any time.
Did we manage to resolve their IT challenges - Yes, with a simplified solution like VxRail that provides performance, management simplicity, automation of tasks, and the flexibility to grow and scale. The customer was delighted - knowing full well that they now have an infrastructure setup that helps them do all the work they do consistently, and to be able to expand their work to different Geo Regions as well.
At the end of it all did I enjoy my time off after helping build an infrastructure solution for an organization doing something so meaningful. While I was away, I did get a postcard from the IT manager who was able take his wonderful family out for a nice little vacation, knowing that he could easily manage anything he needed to from anywhere in the world.
On to helping our next customer get the same peace of mind so they can leave their mark on the world too.
Author: Manish Bajaj