The Dell EMC portfolio of PowerEdge rack servers is designed to optimize application performance. The servers support intuitive tools to simplify and automate tasks over the entire server life cycle. Every data center and virtual environment has unique requirements, and PowerEdge technology provides the flexibility that is needed to build a scalable vSphere infrastructure.
This Ready Stack supports the following PowerEdge servers:
Embedded in each PowerEdge server in Ready Stack for VMware vCloud Foundation is iDRAC9, which provides secure and remote server access for a multitude of common management functions. iDRAC with Lifecycle Controller operates regardless of the operating system state or the presence of a hypervisor. It also offers a complete set of server management features, including configuration, operating system deployment, firmware updates, health monitoring, and maintenance.
iDRAC9 supports various remote connectivity interfaces and protocols, including IPMI, Redfish, SMASH-CLP, and WS-Man, enabling administrators to securely configure, deploy, manage, monitor, and update the server. The iDRAC9 HTLM5 Web UI provides secure connectivity through HTTPS. The iDRAC9 Enterprise license includes Group Manager, which provides a one-to-many console experience. With Group Manager, administrators can view and manage a set of servers rather than visually inspect the servers for faults and manage them manually.
The Ready Stack architecture network design consists of these functional groups:
The key building block of the OOB network is the Dell EMC S4148T-ON management switch, which provides forty-eight 10GBase-T ports and multiple uplink port options.
The Dell EMC S5248-ON switch provides LAN connectivity. This switch provides up to forty-eight 25 GbE ports and six 100 GbE ports. Using two S5248-ON switches—referred to as top-of-rack (ToR) switches—provides redundancy. Built-in NICs directly connect the ToR switches to the rackmount servers.
For FC storage traffic, Ready Stack uses Dell EMC Connectrix DS-6620B switches. The DS-6620B switch delivers up to 32 Gb/s FC performance in a 1U form factor and, by default, has twenty-four 32 Gb/s ports enabled. More ports can be added, through Ports on Demand upgrade kits, up to 64 ports per chassis. Brocade Web Tools, the embedded UI on the Connectrix DS-6620B switches, facilitates the monitoring and management of single or small fabrics, switches, and ports.
Dell EMC Unity All Flash storage systems offer simplicity, modern design, and flexible deployments. Unity All Flash storage systems implement an integrated architecture for block, file, and virtual hard disks, with concurrent support for native NAS, iSCSI, and FC protocols. Each system uses dual storage processors, full 12 Gb SAS back-end connectivity, and Dell EMC’s patented multicore architected operating environment to deliver performance and efficiency. Disk array enclosures (DAEs) provide additional storage capacity, and online controller upgrades are available for additional performance. Unity all-flash technology supports:
Although this guide describes VMware Cloud Foundation with external FC-attached Unity storage, you can also use an FC-attached external Dell EMC PowerMax array or externally attached NFS Unity storage. For information about these options, see Dell EMC Storage with VMware Cloud Foundation.
Dell EMC data reduction includes deduplication and compression logic. Unity data reduction features are available for block LUNs and datastores in an all-flash pool. Administrators can enable Unity data reduction at the resource level so that storage resources with and without enabled data reduction can exist in the same pool on a system. Data reduction savings also can be set at the system level, pool level, and other levels.
Dynamic pools present an entirely redesigned pool structure that increases the flexibility of configuration options within a Unity system. Dynamic pools replace the existing pool technology as the default pool type within the Unisphere management platform for Unity All Flash systems. As with traditional pools, dynamic pools can be created, expanded, and deleted, but they also offer improvements. Expansion of a dynamic pool can be as granular as adding a single drive to the pool to increase its capacity. This feature provides a fully flexible deployment model, which improves the planning and provisioning process and reduces the total cost of ownership. For more information, see the Dell EMC Unity: Dynamic Pools White Paper.
The Host I/O Limits feature of the Unity array restricts the amount of I/O activity that the Unity system services. Limits can be applied on LUNs, vSphere VMFS datastores, and thin clones and their associated attached snapshots. Use the Host I/O Limits feature to limit incoming host activity based on IOPS, bandwidth, or both.
You can configure Host I/O Limits on LUNs or datastores that are consuming a large portion of the system’s resources and reducing the performance of other system resources. A burst policies option, which is available for any Host I/O Limits policy, enables host activity or traffic to exceed the base policy limit by a user-specified amount. Specify the amount as a percentage along with the duration and frequency of the I/O limit burst allowance.
For vSphere hosts, Unisphere storage management for Unity arrays uses integration points to reduce required steps and performs several host-side functions. Unisphere storage management for Unity arrays includes an HTML5 UI that displays NFS, vSphere VMFS, and vSphere Virtual Volumes datastore storage and enables administrators to present storage to all host servers. The UI also displays system status and performance information, including a graphical representation of the Unity system, highlighting areas of interest such as drive faults and network link failures.
VMware Cloud Foundation is an integrated software stack that bundles compute virtualization (VMware vSphere), storage virtualization (VMware vSAN), network virtualization (VMware NSX), and cloud management and monitoring (VMware vRealize Suite) into a single platform. The platform also includes SDDC Manager, which helps make the SDDC possible.
VMware Cloud Foundation can be deployed on the premises as a private cloud or run as a service within a public cloud, enabling a consistent operating model from the on-premises private cloud to the public cloud. With on-premises deployment of VMware Cloud Foundation, you can use existing infrastructure investments to enhance your private-cloud capabilities.
VMware Cloud Foundation uses on-board disks from the PowerEdge servers in a vSAN configuration as the primary storage. In this Ready Stack certified reference system, VMware Cloud Foundation uses Unity resources as secondary, FC-attached storage for its workload domains. By supporting external storage, VMware Cloud Foundation enables you to meet the demands of applications that require more storage resources but do not necessarily require more compute resources. VMware Cloud Foundation support for Unity storage enables you to use existing storage assets as you deploy applications in new workload domains.
VMware Cloud Foundation includes the following components:
In this Ready Stack certified reference system, a vSAN ReadyNode is a validated server configuration in a tested, certified hardware form factor for vSAN deployment, jointly recommended by Dell EMC and VMware. Each vSAN ReadyNode profile specifies a server's size; type and quantity of CPUs, memory, network, and I/O controllers; and type of disks. Thus, you can choose the vSAN ReadyNode profiles that best suit your application workloads.
Although vSAN ReadyNodes can help accelerate vSAN deployment, they are optional. Dell EMC servers can be customized to meet your requirements. You can add resources such as more powerful CPUs, RAM, and storage, provided that the resources meet the minimum requirements for similar vSAN Ready Nodes.
For information about the minimum hardware requirements (server and networking requirements, for example) for running the individual software products in VMware Cloud Foundation, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.
Ensure that you have the required number of software licenses. You cannot create or expand workload domains if you do not enter license keys for the following products:
Ensure that you have enough VMware licenses for the VMware Cloud Foundation package being installed and for the number of servers, CPUs, VMs, and vCenter instances that are planned for the environment. Work with your Dell EMC or VMware sales team to find the most appropriate VMware Cloud Foundation package for your solution and to ensure that you have the required number of licenses.
To support VMware Cloud Foundation, the components in this Ready Stack certified reference system require the virtualization software that is listed in the following table.
Table 1. Ready Stack components and their VMware Cloud Foundation roles
Dell EMC component
Minimum virtualization software required
VMware Cloud Foundation workload domain servers (per rack)
OOB management switch
4 (min.) x PowerEdge R640 servers
VMware Cloud Foundation management domain servers
2 x S5248-ON switches
ToR leaf switches
Spine switches for multi-rack scale-out
2 x Connectrix DS-6620B switches
FC SAN switches for workload domains
Unity storage arrays
Secondary storage for workload domains
For additional details, see the following VMware knowledge base article:
vSAN is an object-based, in-kernel solution that uses vSphere Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) to provide storage on a per-VM basis. vSAN enables you to address the needs of specific VMs and their application workload requirements without directly modifying or enhancing the services that are provided by the underlying storage array. vSAN runs in the kernel of each ESXi host in a cluster, and all hosts in the cluster share a single vSAN datastore.
As shown in the following figure, each cluster in VMware Cloud Foundation is a domain. One cluster is a dedicated management domain, and one or more clusters are workload domains that contain deployed applications. Workload domains are policy-based resource containers with specific availability and performance attributes that combine compute (vSphere), storage (vSAN), and networking (NSX) into a single consumable entity.
Figure 2. VMware Cloud Foundation with Dell EMC Storage
Each workload domain instantiates a dedicated vSAN cluster with its own performance and availability characteristics, which enables multiple workload domains to be deployed in the cloud, each supporting different service-level agreements.
The local storage on each host is then configured into a pair of disk groups. These disk groups from all servers in the workload domain are then aggregated into a single vSAN datastore.
You can extend storage capacity by expanding a workload domain. As SDDC Manager adds more hosts to the cluster, it automatically extends the VMware vSAN datastore. The external Unity storage is managed by using native storage tools (Dell EMC Unisphere) or the VSI plug-in to vCenter; however, it does not participate in the automated functions of VMware Cloud Foundation SDDC Manager.
VMware Cloud Foundation is seamlessly deployed into your existing data center and requires no modification to the physical network. Its software-defined networking subsystem provides network virtualization with VMware NSX. VMware Cloud Foundation supports both L2 and L3 uplink connectivity.
When creating the private cloud (that is, the management domain), VMware Cloud Foundation SDDC Manager configures a link aggregation group (LAG) to provide bandwidth aggregation and to protect against NIC failures. Then, when creating workload domains, SDDC Manager:
You can increase capacity later by adding servers within a rack (scale up) or adding racks (scale out). In larger environments where multiple racks are deployed, racks are connected to each other from the ToR switches to a pair of redundant inter-rack switches in a dual LAG configuration, using separate 25 Gb or 40 Gb uplinks depending on the switch port types available. The network automatically scales, to the maximum number of connections available per spine pair, as you increase capacity. The result is a high-performance, resilient, and scalable network.
The Unity family of storage arrays provides numerous native features and tools within the Unisphere platform, as well as integration with various VMware APIs for enhanced storage resource management and utilization. Unity arrays support vSphere Storage APIs – Array Integration (VAAI), which defines a set of storage primitives that enable the ESXi hosts to offload certain storage operations to the array. VAAI reduces resource overhead on the ESXi hosts and can significantly improve performance for storage-intensive operations such as storage cloning and zeroing.
Unity arrays also support VMware vSphere APIs – Storage Awareness (VASA). VASA is a set of VMware APIs that enables storage arrays to integrate with vCenter for management operations. Storage monitoring and reporting activities that are typically done within the Unisphere platform are available within vCenter, providing administrators with a single interface from which to manage Unity storage within the VMware environment. vCenter captures information regarding the features of the physical Unity storage arrays, including health status, capacity utilization, and configuration capabilities, which can significantly simplify storage administration and workflow provisioning within a VMware environment.
Consider the following information when using FC storage with VMware Cloud Foundation:
This design guide describes how to use vSAN as primary storage with VMware Cloud Foundation. If you prefer to use NFS storage as primary storage for workload domains, see Dell EMC Storage with VMware Cloud Foundation.
The following steps outline the procedure for deploying a private cloud, including assembling the physical Ready Stack components, imaging the servers, and creating the management domain. For detailed information, see VMware Cloud Foundation Architecture and Deployment Guide in the VMware Docs library.
The VMware Cloud Foundation Builder VM includes the VMware Imaging Appliance that you can use to install ESXi on your servers.
To image servers for use in the management domain and workload domains, do one of the following:
The Deployment Parameter Sheet is a multi-tab spreadsheet in which you specify the required deployment information for your environment. This information includes hosts, license keys, DNS, network (VLANS, IPs, MTUs), and credentials. The completed spreadsheet is converted to a JSON file, and the VMware Cloud Foundation Builder VM then validates the network information that you provide. You can reuse the Deployment Parameter Sheet to deploy multiple VMware Cloud Foundation instances of the same version.
During the bring-up process, the management domain is created on the ESXi hosts that are specified in the Deployment Parameter Sheet. The VMware Cloud Foundation software components are automatically deployed, configured, and licensed using the information that you provided.
When the bring-up process is complete, the VMware Cloud Foundation Builder VM transfers inventory and control to SDDC Manager and you can begin creating workload domains.
In SDDC Manager, you can select from various workload domain types, depending on the requirements of the applications you intend to deploy on your VMs. During this process, you also select from among the available licenses for NSX and vSphere.
After initial deployment, VMware Cloud Foundation makes it easy to add capacity to the private cloud by adding new ReadyNodes, or their equivalent, as you scale up resources within existing racks or scale out into multiple racks.