Automate and standardize SAP operations using Dell EMC ESI for storage integration
Thu, 17 Sep 2020 15:24:50 -0000|
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Enterprise SAP landscapes can have dozens of interrelated instances when you include all the nonproduction systems that are used for development, testing, training, and sandbox experimentation. SAP Landscape Management (LaMa) software combined with the Dell EMC Enterprise Storage Integrator (ESI) for SAP LaMa simplifies management of these complex SAP environments by using advanced storage-based local and remote replication services that are integrated into Dell EMC storage systems.
Dell Technologies offers the SAP enabled enterprise one of the industry’s broadest portfolios of storage array options. All the storage systems that are listed in this blog post are supported by Dell EMC ESI for SAP LaMa software for simplifying landscape management. Customers can choose a solution from any of the Unity, Unity XT, VMAX3, and PowerMax storage array models and get integration with SAP LaMa to improve management of their SAP systems. Unity XT arrays are midrange storage platforms that are designed for performance, efficiency, and data protection. PowerMax arrays are larger storage platforms that accelerate applications with end-to-end NVMe flash storage, global deduplication and compression, and data protection. The following table shows the storage arrays that ESI supports:
Table 1: ESI supported storage systems
Unified SAN and NAS
SAP LaMa is an automation and orchestration solution that replaces manual or scripted processes for creating clones, copies, and related refresh activities. Simplified landscape management provides key business benefits, including improved service quality and the capability to new drive business innovation. SAP LaMa combined with Dell EMC ESI provides a single pane of glass for operations such as SAP system relocation, snapshots, provisioning processes, and more. These capabilities increase manageability and promote business agility by enabling administration teams to address rapidly changing organizational demands. Dell EMC supports SAP LaMa in physical, virtual, and cloud technologies, providing a single pathway to manage most landscape configurations.
Examples of improved operational capabilities include:
- SAP LaMa System Relocation—This operation enables relocation of an SAP system from the original location to another host that is recognized by SAP LaMa. System relocation operations are useful when the primary SAP server system requires scheduled maintenance or an upgrade. The entire relocation operation is automated, with ESI enabling administrators to be quickly up and running on another server. The following configurations are supported:
- Physical-to-physical (P2P) bare-metal to bare-metal
- Physical-to-virtual (P2V) bare-metal to VMware virtual using Raw Device Mapping (pRDMs)
- Virtual-to-virtual (V2V) VMware VMDK disks from one VM to another
- Managed SAP LaMa Managed snapshots—This operation enables “snap copying” of all source volumes from an SAP system by using a single API call to maintain storage consistency. Storage snapshots are a low-overhead point-in-time image of source volumes on a storage array. Customers can use these snapshots in place of full copies for many management tasks. For example, PowerMax and VMAX arrays use SnapVX to create a consistent image of SAP system volumes. Snapshots are more efficient than full copies because only the data changes between the source volumes and the images are copied to the “snap copy” volumes. For many SAP landscape management operations, PowerMax and VMAX snapshots consume only a small fraction of the space that is used on the primary SAP system storage array.
- SAP LaMa system provisioning
- System Clone—This operation duplicates a system that is currently running or a previously created managed snapshot. The duplicated clone and source systems have identical system IDs. The clone is isolated on a dedicated network to prevent application users from connecting to the wrong system by mistake. The default configuration for system clones that are created on Dell EMC storage arrays is to use space-efficient snapshots of the source volumes (space savings). By selecting the ‘Full Copy’ option, customers can also create a full clone that doubles the storage space that is consumed.
- System Copy—This operation creates a copy of an existing SAP system with a new unique SAP system ID, host name, and IP address. A system copy is useful when the business needs a copy of either a production or nonproduction system for quality assurance, development, or testing. The two key differences with a system clone are the creation of a new identity (ID, hostname, IP) when using a copy operation and the use of new storage volumes and full space allocations by the copy.
- System Refresh—This operation refreshes either a complete or used part of an existing system, as specified by the user. System refresh procedures enable three options: Refresh system, Refresh database (database only), and Restore-based refresh. Refreshing an existing system is frequently faster than creating a copy. Also, the system refresh procedure enables application teams to continue using the SAP system that they are familiar with, reducing complexity. The restore-based refresh procedure integrates with the leading Dell EMC Data Protection solutions such as PowerProtect Application Direct database agents and Data Domain with DDBoost.
Figure 1: Dell EMC ESI integration with SAP Landscape Management
In addition to the preceding scenarios, customers can streamline operations such as monitoring and data protection by enabling Dell EMC integration with SAP LaMa. For example, with data protection integration, you can perform on-demand and scheduled backups of the SAP system. By using Unity, Unity XT, VMAX3, and PowerMax ESI integration, customers can automate most system operations for SAP. Further, the opportunity for increased storage savings through efficient storage snapshots means that SAP customers can have a greater number of SAP systems consuming less overall space on their Dell EMC storage systems.
The Dell Technologies SAP site is the place to start learning about the features and capabilities that both Dell EMC storage and PowerEdge servers offer. If you are interested in more technical material, see the Enterprise Storage Integrator for SAP Landscape Management End-user Guide 8.0 on the Dell Technologies support site.
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Ready Stack -- How Come?
Tue, 30 Jun 2020 20:42:33 -0000|
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Ready Stack -- How Come?
For new people who come on board here at Dell Technologies, the learning curve can be steep. We provide hardware and software infrastructure solutions of all shapes and sizes to meet customer demands. The product portfolio is deep and wide.
As technologically minded consumers in this era, when confronted by a seemingly overwhelming number of choices, we often rightfully ask the subject matter expert: "What would you recommend?"
This is exactly the question that the Ready Stack program seeks to answer for our customers who are looking for powerful and reliable converged infrastructure solutions. Not a "product" as such, Ready Stack provides documents that describe reference architectures that we feel work well together. We write and post these documents on the Dell Technologies Info Hub on a regular basis. Many of these reference architectures provide detailed deployment instructions, in the form of a deployment guide; all reference architectures include a detailed design guide.
The entire collection is complemented by a Reference Architecture Guide that lists the Dell EMC compute, storage, and network portfolios that we draw upon when we put together a design. The entire portfolio is composed of Dell Technologies products, backed by single call support.
Simply put, Ready Stack enables you to build your own converged infrastructure solution using your choice of Dell EMC best-in-class technology components. Each reference architecture provides a flexible combination of compute (such as MX7000 blade servers or rack servers), storage (such as PowerStore, PowerMax, or Unity XT), and networking (including S Series ToR switches and Z Series core switches). In the end, it is the customer who decides which combinations of these assets best meet their requirements.
Our Ready Stack docs sometimes offer early glimpses into the latest products that are available from Dell Technologies. So we encourage you to check back on the Ready Stack library from time to time to take advantage of an ever widening selection of compute, network, storage, and data protection options!
For more information about Ready Stack and the options it provides, check out these resources:
Principal Engineer, Technical Marketing
Learn more about the latest major VxRail software update: VxRail 7.0.240
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 16:27:30 -0000|
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In a blink of an eye, September is already here. All those well-deserved August holidays have come and gone. As those summer memories with colorful umbrella drinks in hand fade into the background, your focus now turns to finishing this year strong. With the recent announcement on the latest VxRail software release, VxRail is providing the juice to get you well on your way.
VxRail HCI System Software version 7.0.240 has arrived with much anticipation as it includes the expansion of the VxRail product portfolio in the form of VxRail dynamic nodes and significant lifecycle management (LCM) enhancements that our VxRail customers will surely appreciate. Dynamic nodes extend the spectrum of use cases for VxRail by addressing more workload types. The LCM enhancements in the latest software release add to the operational simplicity that VxRail users truly value by increasing the level of automation and flexibility to ensure cluster integrity throughout the life of their cluster.
VxRail dynamic nodes
As VxRail dynamic nodes were described in the external launch event, they benefit customers who are committed to continue running their mission-critical data-centric workloads on Dell EMC storage arrays because of the enterprise-level resiliency and data protection capabilities but value the operational certainty that VxRail offers to their IT teams. This use case can be particularly relevant for customers who have standardized on VCF on VxRail as their infrastructural building block for their cloud operating model. These scenarios can apply to financial and medical industries among many others. For some customers, scaling of storage and compute independently in their HCI environments can better suit some of their application workloads, whether it is a better use of resources or potential reduction in license costs for compute-intensive workloads like Oracle.
Piqued your interest? Let’s move deeper into the technical details so you can better understand how VxRail dynamic nodes address these use cases.
Figure 1: VxRail dynamic node offering
- VxRail dynamic nodes are compute-only nodes running vSphere. Dynamic nodes run VMware ESXi with vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses but do not have vSAN licenses.
- They do not have any internal drives. As a result, the VxRail Manager VM runs on an external datastore that can come from either Dell EMC storage arrays (PowerStore-T, PowerMax, and Unity XT) or VMware vSAN HCI Mesh. Customers can now scale their compute and storage independently while some customers can continue to leverage their Dell EMC storage arrays for enterprise-level resiliency options.
- Dynamic nodes run on the same VxRail HCI System Software as any other VxRail cluster. The same intelligent LCM experience backed by VxRail’s Continuously Validated States exists in dynamic nodes.
Figure 2: VxRail dynamic node platforms
Like the three-flavor Neapolitan ice cream tub, there’s a flavor of dynamic nodes to match each application requirement. While there are not any cache and capacity drives on dynamic nodes, all other hardware configurations on these models are available. The E-series is the space-efficient 1U platform. The P-series is the performance-focused platform. The V-series is optimized for GPU-acceleration with up to six GPUs per node.
For those wanting to use their Dell EMC storage arrays with these brand-new VxRail dynamic nodes, here are some important pieces of information to consider.
- With VxRail 7.0.240, Dell EMC PowerStore-T, PowerMax, and UnityXT are the supported external arrays for this use case. Third-party storage arrays are not supported.
- Storage connectivity is through Fibre-Channel, either 16Gb or 32Gb Dell EMC Connectrix Brocade or Cisco MDS FC switches.
- Management of the storage array and Fibre-Channel switch is done separately including lifecycle management, zoning, and provisioning of storage. VxRail HCI System Software is responsible for the LCM of the dynamic nodes themselves.
- When deploying a dynamic node cluster, the datastores need to be already provisioned and zoned to the dynamic nodes.
- The storage array and dynamic nodes are sold separately and supported discretely by Dell Technologies.
Now let’s move onto the LCM enhancements in VxRail 7.0.240. There are three notable enhancements that VxRail users will notice – unless their thoughts have drifted away into those summertime memories.
Figure 3: Update advisor
First, update advisor is a new tool to help you plan for their next cluster update. From the Updates > Internet Updates tab, you can now see a list of available update paths for their specific cluster. This feature does not replace your responsibility to review the release notes and decide on to which version to update their cluster but, it does generate an advisory report with critical information to let you know what needs to be updated based on your cluster’s current Continuously Validated State. Update advisor is a helpful tool to plan your maintenance window.
Figure 4: Sample compliance drift report
Second, VxRail Manager now has a compliance checker that will detect any unforeseen version drift from the current Continuously Validated State running on your VxRail cluster. As shown on the image above, it provides a component-by-component report as part of the compliance check. It is run daily by default and can be initiated on-demand.
The third LCM enhancement is VxRail LCM compatibility with VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM).
Figure 5: VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager vLCM framework
As a refresher, VMware vLCM was introduced in vSphere 7.0 as a framework to allow for software (ESXi) and hardware (firmware and drivers) to be updated together as a single system. VMware supplies the base image which is the ESXi image, and then it is up to the hardware vendors, like Dell Technologies, to provide the hardware support manager that plugs into that framework to supply the necessary firmware and drivers and to update them. Together, they form the baseline image which is used for the compliance checker. When updating the cluster, a desired state image is built from a combination of VMware-provided ESXi image and vendor(s)-provided firmware and drivers. Based on the drift detection analysis between the baseline and desired state images, vLCM will remediate the hosts on the cluster to complete the update.
VxRail’s newly introduced vLCM compatibility enables the VxRail Manager VM to plug into the framework to perform cluster updates using VxRail-provided desired state images in the form of Continuously Validated States. Essentially, VxRail has automated the hardware support manager plugin setup and exporting the depot of firmware and drivers to vCenter, which is a very manual process for other HCI solutions. While other hardware support manager plugins to vLCM require a multiple-step procedure to establish a baseline image and desired state image and interaction with multiple interfaces, VxRail’s implementation leverages the vLCM APIs to truly obfuscate those complexities into a streamlined experience all within VxRail Manager. Because VxRail Manager already stores the Continuously Validated State on its VM, the process of identification and exporting of the hardware firmware and drivers on the VxRail stack can easily be automated. The simplicity of VxRail’s support for vLCM cannot be understated.
Figure 6: VxRail’s vLCM implementation automates and simplifies the user’s cluster update experience
Similarly, performing cluster updates is a streamlined process once the LCM bundle is downloaded onto the VxRail Manager VM. From VxRail Manager, via the vLCM APIs, the bundle is loaded onto the vLCM framework as the desired state image. In short, vLCM compatibility is mostly transparent to the user as the LCM experience still runs through VxRail Manager.
The next likely question is why offer this enhancement? The explanation can be conveyed in two points both related to cutting down the time to update the cluster.
- Consolidate VMware software updates – for users that already run NSX-T or vSphere with Tanzu, vLCM allows for those VIBs to be included into the desired state image. Instead of updating each VMware software separately, they can be done together in a single boot cycle.
- Consolidate non-VxRail managed components – there are a few components such as the FC HBA that are not part of Continuously Validated State. Those components would then need to be updated separately which may require additional host reboots. The vendor addon feature in vLCM, as shown in the image above, provides the capability to include component firmware/drivers into the cluster image for a consolidated update cycle. Using vLCM APIs, VxRail has incorporated the vendor addon feature into its vLCM implementation in VxRail Manager.
By introducing vLCM compatibility into VxRail LCM, users can benefit from these cool capabilities. With VxRail 7.0.240, the use of vLCM is disabled by default. Users can choose to enable vLCM immediately or enable it later. Developing vLCM compatibility is also a strategic decision to put VxRail in a position to enhance more vLCM capabilities as they come.
VxRail 7.0.240 is a monumental software release that expands the breadth of the VxRail portfolio’s reach in addressing workload types with VxRail dynamic nodes and its depth by enhancing is differentiated LCM experience by providing more ways to ensure cluster integrity and to improve cluster maintenance times. Though the summer is drawing to a close, VxRail is providing you the boost to stay dynamic and finish 2021 strong. Keep an eye out for more content about the latest VxRail release.
For more information about VxRail dynamic nodes, you can check out the VxRail launch page: https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-us/events/vxrail-launch.htm.
If you want to learn more about how VxRail LCM differentiates itself from other HCI vendors using VMware vLCM, you can read these previously posted blogs:
Daniel Chiu, Senior Technical Marketing Manager at Dell Technologies