VxRail management has expanded beyond the VxRail Manager plug-in for vCenter to allow for different use cases. VxRail Manager is a plug-in for vCenter that provides a fully integrated experience to manage VxRail clusters on a familiar interface. REST APIs extend the VxRail LCM capabilities for cloud deployment solutions. They also extend LCM capabilities for organizations that want to deploy and manage VxRail clusters at scale, when running batch scripts, configuration management tools (such as Ansible, Puppet, and so on), or custom automation for cluster operations is more efficient. SaaS multi-cluster management is a cloud-based management option for global orchestration of all the customer’s clusters from a single web portal interface. While VxRail Manager provides the complete management capability set for VxRail clusters, using REST APIs and SaaS multi-cluster management has its benefits. Over time, the gaps in functionality will close to further enhance the value that each brings for their respective use cases.
VxRail Manager features user-friendly workflows for automating VxRail deployment and configuration and for monitoring the health of individual systems in the entire cluster. VxRail Manager also incorporates functionality for hardware serviceability and system platform life cycle management. For instance, it guides system administrators through the process of adding systems to an existing cluster, and it automatically detects new systems when they come online. VxRail Manager is also used to replace failed disk drives without disrupting availability to generate and download diagnostic log bundles and apply VMware updates or software patches nondisruptively across VxRail nodes.
With the VxRail Manager plug-in for vCenter Server, all VxRail Manager features are integrated with and accessible from the vCenter Server so that users can benefit from them on a familiar management interface. With the VxRail Manager plug-in, the vCenter Server can manage physical hardware of the VxRail cluster.
Figure 7. VxRail Manager plug-in for vCenter Server
In addition to obtaining support through Secure Remote Services, customers can get information and help from the VxRail Support page on vCenter Server. The Support page links to VxRail Community pages for Dell Knowledge Base articles, user forums for FAQ information, and VxRail best practices. The following figure is an example of the support view:
Figure 8. VxRail Manager Support tab
The VxRail Manager plug-in provides access to a digital market for finding and downloading qualified software packages. Packages include VMware Horizon Cloud, Dell Data Domain Virtual Edition, Dell RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines, and other software options for VxRail systems.
VxRail Manager drastically simplifies operations of the virtualized IT environment. The VxRail API takes this step further. It exposes VxRail Manager functionality through standard, easy-to-consume public APIs, which can be integrated into a broad spectrum of existing automation solutions. This benefit applies not only to large enterprises and service providers using scripts for automating IT processes and tasks but also to midsize enterprises that have limited IT staff.
The VxRail API can be used for the following use cases:
- Infrastructure as Code (IaC) environments can run typical administrative tasks such as monitoring, querying, reboot/shutdown, and life cycle management updates from configuration management tools such as Puppet, Ansible, and Chef.
- VMware administrators can use PowerCLI with a VxRail API Windows PowerShell module, which simplifies the learning curve.
- Administrators can use batch scripts or custom automation to manage clusters at scale.
- IT organizations can use VxRail as an essential building block for a fully automated VMware SDDC or hybrid cloud stack. VxRail can provide native, full-stack integration with VMware Cloud Foundation.
The VxRail API is easy to explore and consume by accessing the latest API documentation through the web browser using the Swagger integration.
Figure 9. Connectivity of VxRail REST APIs
SaaS multi-cluster management
VxRail LCM is an example of VxRail technology that can reduce time spent managing infrastructure. To further enhance operational efficiency, AI-driven operations and multi-cluster management are areas where VxRail can introduce these benefits:
- More operational simplicity to cut down time needed to manage clusters at scale
- Operational intelligence to offload some of the decision-making burden of IT personnel for LCM and maintaining cluster health
VxRail HCI System Software works with SaaS multi-cluster management, which is a centralized data collection and analytics platform. SaaS multi-cluster management streamlines the monitoring and management of a customer’s multiple VxRail clusters, improves serviceability, and helps the customer make better decisions to manage their HCI performance and capacity. It is a cloud-based analytics platform that uses advanced telemetry collected from the VxRail clusters for its infrastructure machine learning to provide reporting and actionable insight. Its infrastructure machine learning uses onboard knowledge of Dell best practices and more than 700 common issues. SaaS multi-cluster management provides aggregate health scores for the entire HCI stack to enable customers to quickly identify areas to troubleshoot and to address areas to efficiently scale based on projected growth of IT resources.
How does it work?
SaaS multi-cluster management is available with no additional hardware or software required for the VxRail cluster. It relies on a data collector service in the VxRail HCI System Software to aggregate performance metrics, state, and inventory information about the VxRail cluster. The data collector service aggregates the data and frequently transfers it to Dell Technologies Cloud by using the same connectivity agent as is used for dial-home services. To send the data, the VxRail cluster needs to be Internet-connected, and the connectivity agent needs to be configured and enabled. The data repository is housed at Dell Technologies. Using Pivotal Cloud Foundry as its cloud-based service platform, SaaS multi-cluster management incorporates its infrastructure machine learning to produce reporting and insight to enable customers to improve serviceability and operational efficiencies. SaaS multi-cluster management functionality is entirely consumed through a Dell-hosted web portal, called CloudIQ, which provides a single global view of the customer’s VxRail environment.
Figure 10. SaaS multi-cluster management connectivity
Data collection frequency setting options are:
- Do not collect (NONE)
- Once every 300 minutes (BASIC)
- Once every 30 minutes (MEDIUM)
- Once every 3 minutes (ADVANCED, which is the default setting)
Data collection frequency is configured in the telemetry settings either using REST API commands or the VxRail Manager plug-in. The timeliness of the content shown in CloudIQ depends on the frequency of the data collection that is configured for the clusters. SaaS multi-cluster management uses infrastructure machine learning to model and train data to create accurate predictions. The more data it can analyze, the better the models are.
SaaS multi-cluster management features
SaaS multi-cluster management is designed for continuous innovation and continuous delivery so that frequent, incremental updates can be made to introduce new capabilities. It provides the following capability sets:
- Cloud-based management portal—SaaS multi-cluster management is accessed from the Dell CloudIQ cloud-based web portal. CloudIQ provides a customer with a central point of management for all their VxRail clusters. All features of SaaS multi-cluster management are made available through CloudIQ.
- Global visualization—Users have a centralized topology of all their VxRail clusters in one global virtualization view. Cluster resource utilization (CPU, memory, capacity, network), health scores, and alerts are available in a virtualization context. VxRail clusters are organized under Datacenter and vCenter Servers as you would find on the vCenter Server UI. The virtualization view, under the Monitor section in CloudIQ, provides a Summary tab for cluster information, Alert tab for reported health alerts, and VMs tab for an inventory of VMs running on the VxRail clusters.
- Simplified health scores—The health of cluster components is aggregated, creating a health score for the cluster. Users can quickly assess the state of their clusters and quickly identify clusters that require troubleshooting. Users can examine problem clusters to pinpoint the primary issue and view an accompanying Knowledge Base article to remediate the issue.
- Advanced metrics reporting— CloudIQ users can monitor CPU, memory, disk, and network performance and utilization metrics at a cluster level. Further examination of individual nodes is available with the Report Browser feature that allows for custom line-chart reports that are available for export.
- Life cycle management—LCM planning and implementation capabilities can be conducted across multiple clusters with a single workflow. On-demand pre-update cluster health checks (LCM pre-checks) can determine whether the cluster is ready for an update. The LCM pre-check can then orchestrate downloading the update bundle onto the VxRail clusters. Once the download is staged on the VxRail Manager VM on the cluster, a user can initiate the cluster update.
- Role-based access control—Integration of SaaS multi-cluster management with vCenter Server role-based access control allows users to regulate access and privilege to perform LCM operations. CloudIQ can register with the vCenter Servers so that privileges such as LCM pre-checks, update bundle download and staging, and cluster update can be managed using vCenter role-based access control and enforced by CloudIQ.
The features in CloudIQ for VxRail address multiple areas of system management. These features include:
- Global health monitoring—The combination of global visualization and simplified health scores provides a convenient and streamlined way to assess the health of the entire VxRail footprint and identify clusters in need of attention. A user can see all their clusters in a single view, quickly spot poorly behaving sections of the topology, and then narrow their focus for troubleshooting. A separate “Virtualization” view organizes the VxRail clusters according to their associated vCenter Server, providing a more familiar experience for VMware administrators to monitor the clusters.
Figure 11. Cloud IQ Systems tab
Figure 12. CloudIQ Inventory tab
- Cluster inventory—CloudIQ for VxRail can speed up daily inquiries that users might have. It provides a central platform for users to look for detailed information about the hardware and software versions and configurations on all their VxRail clusters.
Figure 13. CloudIQ Virtualization view
- On-demand LCM pre-checks—VxRail LCM simplifies much of the update process through automation and orchestration, and through configuration stability. However, finding out that a cluster is not ready for an update during the scheduled update window can be troublesome. With LCM pre-checks, a user can run a pre-check at any time to learn whether a cluster is ready for an update. Issues can be discovered and addressed during the update planning phase instead of at the time of the update. This feature is also designed to incorporate the latest health checks so that the pre-check is as accurate as possible to determine cluster update readiness.
- Update bundle download and staging—Downloading VxRail update bundles across multiple VxRail clusters can be challenging. Some clusters might be individually managed because they are geographically dispersed. Some clusters might have network bandwidth issues. SaaS multi-cluster management orchestrates the downloads across many or all clusters in a single operation, which can offer significant time savings. In addition, SaaS multi-cluster management can identify the delta of the current VxRail version and the target VxRail version. Thus, the download package includes only the required component installation files instead of the entire update bundle. Bandwidth-strapped clusters can realize tremendous time savings, especially in cases where minor updates require only a few component updates.
- Cluster update—Combined with the LCM pre-checks and update bundle download and staging, CloudIQ can provide LCM for clusters at scale. Customers can perform planning operations to gauge readiness before staging the update bundle and scheduling the maintenance window. When the time comes, customers can initiate the cluster update for multiple clusters in a single workflow. Customers can customize the update path for each cluster. A time estimate, based on telemetry data gathered about the VxRail install base, is provided for each update path. A credentials manager further streamlines cluster updates at scale by automating infrastructure credentials input required to run the operation. The cluster update feature requires a fee-based add-on license, SaaS active multi-cluster management for HCI System Software, which is applied to each node in the cluster.
Figure 14. CloudIQ System Updates page