In today’s fast-paced digital world, organizations that want to stay competitive require ongoing infrastructure updates and patches to ensure that they are getting the most from their technology investments. Staying current with the latest software updates and patches ensures that the infrastructure is secure and optimized for performance while providing users with the latest features and functionality to better serve business needs.
VxRail LCM is built on ecosystem connectors to integrate vSAN cluster software and PowerEdge server hardware so that the ESXi host can be managed as a single system. This system integration enables automation and orchestration necessary to deliver nondisruptive, streamlined HCI stack updates. VxRail LCM delivers differentiated value through the ability to deliver prevalidated sets of software and firmware. Prevalidation ensures compatibility and compliance of the HCI stack configuration while maintaining the performance and availability required of the virtualized workloads running on the clusters.
Tested and validated VxRail software bundles that support every vSphere release, any-to-any version update paths, and the millions of VxRail configurations are “Continuously Validated States.” These Continuously Validated States are recorded on the Electronic Compatibility Matrix. The VxRail team’s $125 million investment in equipment and more than 100 team members dedicated to testing and quality make this possible.
The VxRail software bundle is customer updateable through a fully automated and validated process. The automated software update is initiated from the VxRail Manager plug-in. VxRail Manager automatically downloads all software that is ready to be updated including VxRail HCI System Software, VxRail managed vCenter Server, vSphere, and server component firmware and drivers. Customer-managed vCenter Server, Secure Connect Gateway, and RecoverPoint for VMs are not part of VxRail LCM and must be updated separately.
Before a cluster update is performed, there are essential steps that can be time-consuming and error-prone for administrators, which can affect the update success rate. Part of the VxRail LCM experience is to simplify the cluster update planning process through automation and to present essential details to administrators so they can quickly make informed decisions.
When VxRail Manager is connected to the Dell cloud, it can automatically scan for new VxRail software versions for its cluster. From the VxRail Manager UI, users can view the available update paths for the cluster. Each update path provides information about the target VxRail software version, release notes, and estimated cluster update time. An update advisor report is automatically generated for an update path so that users can easily make an informed decision about whether to schedule an update for their cluster. The update advisor report is a single, exportable report that consolidates the output of:
The update advisor report is automatically generated every 24 hours so that users can review the latest information about their cluster from a single report. Once a user decides to proceed with a cluster update, the user can schedule the maintenance window.
At the scheduled time, users follow this automated cluster update process:
Optionally, users can customize the cluster update with additional firmware and drivers for components that are not part of the Continuously Validated State, such as Fibre Channel HBAs and GPUs. By consolidating a cluster update with updates to components not managed by VxRail into a single boot cycle, the maintenance window can be further optimized to avoid multiple host reboots.
Note: Alternatively, customers can make a REST API call to update the software that has been downloaded onto the VxRail system.
The following figure shows the automated steps of a customer-run VxRail software bundle update.
Step 3 is performed one node at a time, where the ESXi host is placed in maintenance mode, and, using vMotion, the VMs are moved to other nodes, making the update process nondisruptive. During a cluster update, VxRail Manager enables DRS to move VMs from the ESXi host that is being updated, providing for nondisruptive updates. DRS is enabled to move the VMs even if the cluster is not licensed to use DRS, due to Dell Technologies’ partnership with VMware. In the latest VxRail software versions, the cluster update operation has been enhanced by prestaging the next node with the update bundle as the current node is processed.
This improvement reduces the time to update the node, ultimately reducing the overall time to complete a cluster update.
VxRail has its own monitoring and event alerting system that captures VxRail management issues and hardware-related issues on the PowerEdge server. VxRail also integrates with vCenter Server so that the events generate alarms that can be seen on the vCenter Server UI. This integration along with existing health monitoring of vSphere and vSAN on vCenter provides end-to-end visibility of the full VxRail stack. For select events, VxRail can self-determine whether it requires the attention of the Dell technical support team to resolve. In these scenarios, VxRail automatically generates an alarm on vCenter Server. It collects relevant logs necessary to troubleshoot the issue and initiates a remote service call through Secure Connect Gateway with Dell technical support to facilitate a case creation with the supporting log materials. This self-driving feature offloads decision-making of the IT administrator and speeds problem resolution.
VxRail users can also deploy Aria Operations for Logs (formerly vRealize Log Insight) to monitor system events and provide ongoing holistic notifications about the state of virtual environment and system hardware. Aria Operations for Logs delivers real-time automated log management for the VxRail system, with log monitoring, intelligent grouping, and analytics to provide better troubleshooting at scale across VxRail physical, virtual, and cloud environments.
Dell Secure Connect Gateway is also accessible from within the VxRail Manager plug-in or REST API to provide enterprise-class support and services. Secure Connect Gateway includes online chat support and Dell field service assistance.
VxRail provides innovations in various aspects of life cycle management. The following figure shows where the benefits fit with respect to the customer value chain.
Update orchestration is the foundation, or the mechanics, for life cycle management delivery. Regarding life cycle management of an HCI solution, customers benefit from having an automated and orchestrated workflow to update both hardware and software together. This automated and orchestrated workflow reduces the time needed to update individual components separately. Having pre-update comprehensive health checks reduces the risk of update failure that ultimately impacts application uptime. An end-to-end update should be nondisruptive to improve uptime. VxRail delivers this value with its tight integration of VMware software and PowerEdge server hardware.
VxRail delivers configuration stability with Continuously Validated States. Customers get a prevalidated configuration that enables them to take advantage of the latest features and updates, rather than having to take on the work and risk themselves. Business operations are not affected. Customers get the latest capabilities, while the platform continues to meet security standards and compliance.
At the top of the customer value chain for life cycle management is decision support. This area is where HCI vendors will look to deliver in the next few years because it will help drive down operational costs even further. By using artificial intelligence (AI) to improve and enhance decision-making, IT staff can further offload the burden of infrastructure management. Decision support is an area in which VxRail is starting to deliver some capabilities, most notably with SaaS multi-cluster management.