Analytical Consulting Engine (ACE)
Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:27:16 -0000|
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VxRail plays its ACE, now generally available
VxRail ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine), the new Artificial Intelligence infused component of the VxRail HCI System Software, was announced just a few months ago at Dell Technologies World and has been in global early access. Over 500 customers leveraged the early access program for ACE, allowing developers to collect feedback and implement enhancements prior to General Availability of the product. It is with great excitement that VxRail ACE is now generally available to all VxRail customers. By incorporating continuous innovation/continuous development (CIDC) utilizing the Pivotal Platform (also known as Pivotal Cloud Foundry) container-based framework, Dell EMC developers behind ACE have made rapid iterations to improve the offering; and customer demand has driven new features added to the roadmap. ACE is holding true to its design principles and commitment to deliver adaptive, frequent releases.
Figure 1 ACE Design Principles and Goals
VxRail ACE is a centralized data collection and analytics platform that uses machine learning capabilities to perform capacity forecasting and self-optimization helping you keep your HCI stack operating at peak performance and ready for future workloads. In addition to some of the initial features available during early access, ACE now provides new functionality for intelligent upgrades of multiple clusters (see image below). You can now see the current software version of each cluster along with all available upgrade versions. ACE will allow you to select the desired version per each VxRail cluster. You can now manage at scale to standardize across all sites and clusters with the ability to customize by cluster. This becomes advantageous when some sites or clusters might need to remain at a specific version of VxRail software.
If you haven’t seen ACE in action yet, check out the additional links and videos below that showcase the features described in this post. For our 6,000+ VxRail customers, please visit our support site and Admin Guide to learn how to access ACE.
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The Latest VxRail Platform Innovation is Now Included in Your Cloud
Tue, 18 Aug 2020 15:32:11 -0000|
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The Dell Technologies Cloud Platform, VCF on VxRail, now supports the latest VxRail HCI System Software release featuring a new and improved first run experience, host geo-location tagging capabilities, hardware platform updates, and enhanced security features
Dell Technologies and VMware are happy to announce the general availability VCF 18.104.22.168 on VxRail 7.0.010.
This release brings support for the latest version of VxRail to the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform. Let’s review what these new features are all about.
Updated VxRail Software Bill of Materials
Please check out the VCF on VxRail release notes for a full listing of the supported software BOM associated with this release. You can find the link at the bottom of page.
VxRail Hardware Platform Updates
VxRail 7.0.010 brings about new support for ruggedized D-Series VxRail hardware platforms (D560/D560F). These ruggedized and durable platforms are designed to meet the demand for more compute, performance, storage, and more importantly, operational simplicity that deliver the full power of VxRail for workloads at the edge, in challenging environments, or for space-constrained areas. To read more about the technical details of VxRail D-Series, check out the VxRail D-Series Spec Sheet.
Also, this release is reintroducing GPU support that was not in the initial VCF 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 release.
New and Improved VxRail First Run Experience
A new Day 1 VxRail cluster first run workflow and UI enhancements have been updated. The new day 1 VxRail first run deployment wizard is comprised of 13 steps or top level tasks. This day 1 workflow update was required to support new VxRail HCI System software enhancements.
The new UI provides for improved levels of configuration data entry flexibility during deployment. These options include things like allowing unique hostnames for each ESX host without forcing a name configuration, allowing for non-sequential IP addresses for hosts in the cluster, support for a geographical location ID tag, e.g. Rack Name or Rack Location are now supported. It provides a cleaner interface with a consistent look and feel for Information, Warnings, and Errors. There is improved validation, providing a higher level of feedback when errors are encountered of validation checks fail. And finally, options to manually enter all the configuration parameters or upload a pre-defined configuration via a YAML or JSON file are till available too! The figure below illustrates the new first run steps and UI.
New VxRail API to Automate Day 1 VxRail First Run Cluster Creation
This feature allows for fast and consistent VxRail cluster deployments using the programmatic extensibility of a REST API. It provides administrators with an additional option for creating VxRail clusters in addition to the VxRail Manager first run UI.
Day 1 Support to Initially Deploy Up to Six Nodes in a VxRail Cluster During VxRail First Run
The previous maximum node deployment supported in the VxRail first run was four. Administrators who needed larger VxRail cluster sizes over four nodes would have needed to create the cluster with four nodes and once that was in place, perform node expansions to get to the desired cluster size. This new feature helps reduce time needed to initially create larger VxRail clusters by allowing for a larger starting point of six VxRail nodes.
VxRail Host Geo-Location Tagging
This is probably one of the coolest and most underrated features in the release in my opinion. VxRail Manager now supports geographic location tags for VxRail hosts. This capability allows for important admin-defined host metadata that can assist many customers in gaining greater visibility of the physical location of the HCI infrastructure that makes up their cloud. This information is configured as “Host Settings” during VxRail first run as illustrated in the figure below.
As shown, the two values that make up the geo-location tags are Rack Name and Rack Position. These values are stored in the iDRAC of each VxRail host. You may be asking yourself, “Great! I have the ability to add additional metadata for my VxRail hosts but what can I do with it?”. Well, together, these values help a cloud administrator identify a VxRail host’s position within a given rack within the data center. Cloud administrators can then leverage this data to choose the VxRail host order they want to be displayed in the VxRail Manager vCenter plugin Physical View. The figure below illustrates what this would look like.
As datacenter environments grow, VxRail host expansion operations can be used to add additional infrastructure capacity. The VxRail “Add VxRail Hosts” automated expansion workflows have been updated to include a new Host Location step which allows for the ability add geo-location Rack Name and Rack Position metadata for the new hosts being added to an existing VxRail Cluster. The figure below shows what a host expansion operation would look like.
In this fast paced world of digital transformation, it is not uncommon for cloud datacenter infrastructure to be moved within a datacenter after it has already been installed. This could be due to physical rack expansion design changes or infrastructure repurposing. These situations were also considered with using VxRail geo-location tags. Thus, there is an option to dynamically edit an existing host’s geo-location information. When this is performed, VxRail Manager will automatically update the host’s iDRAC with the new values. The figure below shows what the host edit would look like.
All these geo-location management capabilities provide VCF on VxRail administrators with full stack physical to virtual infrastructure mapping that help further extend the Cloud Foundation management experience and simplify operations! And this capability is only available with the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform (VCF on VxRail)! How cool is that?!
VxRail Security Enhancements
Added Security Compliance With The Addition of FIPS 140-2 Level 1 Validated Cryptography For VxRail Manager
Cloud Foundation on VxRail offers intrinsic security built into every layer of the solution stack, from hardware silicon to storage to compute to networking to governance controls. This helps customers make security a built part of the platform for your traditional workloads as well as container based cloud native workloads rather than something that is bolted on after the fact.
Building on the intrinsic security capabilities of the platform are the following new features:
VxRail Manager is now FIPS 140-2 compliant, offering built-in intrinsic encryption, meeting the high levels of security standards required by the US Department of Defense.
From VxRail 7.0.010 onward, VxRail has ‘FIPS inside’! This would entail having built-in features such as:
- VxRail Manager Data-in-Transit (e.g., HTTPS interfaces, SSH)
- VxRail Manager's SLES12 FIPS usage
- VxRail Manager - encryption used for password caching
Disable VxRail LCM operations from vCenter
In order to limit administrator configuration error by allowing for the performing of VxRail LCM operations from within vCenter rather than through SDDC Manager, all VCF on VxRail deployments will natively lockdown the vSphere Web Client VxRail Manager Plugin Updates screen out of the box. This enforces administrators to use SDDC Manager for all LCM operations which will guarantee that the full stack of HW/SW used have all been qualified and validated for their environment. The figure below illustrates what this looks like.
Disable VxRail Host Rename/Re-IP operations in vCenter
Continuing with the idea of trying to limit administration configuration errors, this feature deals with trying to avoid configuration errors by not allowing administrators to perform VxRail Host Edit operations from within vCenter that are not supported in VCF. This helps maintain an operating experience in which all VCF on VxRail deployments will natively lockdown the vSphere Web Client VxRail Manager Plugin Hosts screen out of the box. The figure below illustrates what this looks like
Now those are some intrinsic security features!
Well that about covers all the new features! Thanks for taking the time to learn more about this latest release. As always, check out some of the links at the bottom of this page to access additional VCF on VxRail resources.
Twitter - @vwhippersnapper
VxRail & Intel Optane for Extreme Performance
Fri, 07 Aug 2020 15:33:49 -0000|
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Enabling high performance for HCI workloads is exactly what happens when VxRail is configured with Intel Optane Persistent Memory (PMem). Optane PMem provides compute and storage performance to better serve applications and business-critical workloads. So, what is Intel Optane Persistent Memory? Persistent memory is memory that can be used as storage, providing RAM-like performance, very low latency and high bandwidth. It’s great for applications that require or consume large amounts of memory like SAP HANA, and has many other use cases as shown in Figure 1 and VxRail is certified for SAP HANA as well as Intel Optane PMem.
Moreover, PMem can be used as block storage where data can be written persistently, a great example is for DBMS log files. A key advantage to using this technology is that you can start small with a single PMem card (or module), then scale and grow as needed with the ability to add up to 12 cards. Customers can take advantage of PMem immediately because there’s no need to make major hardware or configuration changes, nor budget for a large capital expenditure.
There are a wide variety of use cases today including those you see here:
Figure 1: Intel Optane PMem Use Cases
PMem offers two very different operating modes, that being Memory and App Direct, and in turn App Direct can be used in two very different ways.
First, Intel Optane PMem in Memory mode is not yet supported by VxRail. This mode acts as volatile system memory and provides significantly lower cost per GB then traditional DRAM DIMMs. A follow-on update to this blog will describe this mode and test results in much more detail once it is supported.
As for App Direct mode (supported today), PMem is consumed by virtual machines as either a block storage device, known as vPMemDisk, or as byte addressable memory, known as Virtual NVDIMM. Both provide great benefit to the applications running in a virtual machine, just in very different ways. vPMemDisk can be used by any virtual machine hardware, and by any Guest OS. Since it’s presented as a block device it will be treated like any other virtual disk. Applications and/or data can then be placed on this virtual disk. The second consumption method, NVDIMM has the advantage of being addressed in the same way as regular RAM, however, it can retain its data through reboots or power failures. This is a considerable plus for large in-memory databases like SAP HANA where cache warm-up or the time to load tables in memory can be significant!
However, it’s important to note that, like any other memory module, the PMem module does not provide data redundancy. This may not be an issue for some data files on commonly used applications that can be re-created in case of a host failure. But a key principle when using PMem, either as block storage or byte addressable memory is that the applications are responsible for handling data replication to provide durability.
New data redundancy options are expected on applications that are using PMem and should be well understood before deployment.
First, we’ll look at test results using PMem as virtual disk (or vPMemDisk). Our Engineering team tested VxRail with PMem in App Direct mode and ran comparison tests against a VxRail all-flash (P570F series platform). The testing simulated a typical 4K OLTP workload with 70/30 RW ratio. Our results achieve more than 1.8M IOPs or 6X more than the all-flash VxRail system. That equates to 93% faster response times (or lower latency) and 6X greater throughput as shown here:
Figure 2: VxRail PMem App Direct versus VxRail all-flash
This latency difference indicates the potential to improve the performance of legacy applications by placing specific data files on a PMem module, for example, placing log files on PMem. To verify the benefit of this log acceleration use case we ran a TPC-C benchmark comparing VxRail configured with a log file on a vPMEMDIsk to a VxRail all-flash vSAN, and we saw a 46% improvement on the number of transactions per minute.
Figure 3: Log file acceleration use case
For the second consumption method, we tested PMem in App direct mode using the NVDIMM consumption method. We performed tests using 1,2,4,8 and then 12 PMEM modules. All testing has been evaluated and validated by ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group). The certified white paper has been published as highlighted in the resources section.
Figure 4: NVDIMM device testing (vSAN not-optimized versus optimized PMem NVDIMM)
The results prove linear scalability as we increase the number of modules from 1 to 12. And with 12 PMem modules, VxRail achieves 80 times more IOPs than when running against vSAN not optimized (meaning VxRail all-flash vSAN with no PMem involved), and 100X for the 4K RW workload. The right half of the graphic depicts throughput results for very large IO, 64KB. When PMem is optimized on 12 modules we saw 28X higher throughput for a 64KB random read (RR) workload, and PMem is 13 times faster for the 64K RW.
What you see here is amazing performance on a single VxRail host and almost linear scalability when adding PMem!! Yes, that warrants a double bang. If you were to max out a 64-node cluster, the potential scalability is phenomenal and game changing!
So, what does all this mean? Key takeaways are:
- The local performance of VxRail with Intel Optane PMem can scale to 12M read IOPS, and more than 4M write IOPs or 70GB/s read throughput / 22GB/s write throughput on a single host.
- The use of PMEM modules doesn’t affect the regular activity on vSAN Datastores and extends the value of your VxRail platform in many ways;
- It can be used to accelerate legacy applications, such as RDBMS Log acceleration
- It enables the deployment of in memory databases and applications that can benefit from the higher IO throughput provided by PMEM while still taking the benefit of vSAN characteristics in the VxRail platform
- The local performance of a single host with 12 x 128GB PMem modules achieves more than 12M read IOPS, and more than 4M write IOPs
- It not only increases performance of traditional HCI workloads such as VDI, but also support performance-intensive transactional and analytics workloads
- It offers orders-of-magnitude faster performance than traditional storage
- It provides more memory for less cost as PMem is much less costly than DRAM
The references and validation testing have been completed by ESG (Enterprise Strategy Group). White papers and other resources on VxRail for Extreme Performance are available via the links listed below.
By: KJ Bedard – VxRail Technical Marketing Engineer