Dell EMC OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center v2.0 Technical Walkthrough
Thu, 18 Mar 2021 19:29:13 -0000|
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Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI is a fully integrated HCI system for hybrid cloud environments that delivers a modern, cloud-like operational experience on-premises from a mature market leader.
The integrated system is based on our flexible AX nodes family as the laying foundation, and combines Dell Technologies full stack life cycle management with the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI operating system.
This blog focuses on one of the most important and critical parts of Azure Stack HCI: the management layer. Check this blog for additional background.
We will show how at Dell Technologies we make the good - Microsoft Windows Admin Center (WAC) - even better, through our OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center v2.0 (OMIMSWAC).
The following diagram illustrates a typical Dell Technologies Azure Stack HCI setup:
To learn more about Microsoft HCI Solutions from Dell Technologies and get details on each of the different components, check out this video where our Dell Technologies experts examine the solution thoroughly from the bottom up.
Windows Admin Center Extensions from Microsoft
WAC provides the option to leverage easy-to-use workflows to perform many tasks, including automatic deployments (coming soon) and updates.
Dell Technologies has developed specialized snap-ins that integrate OpenManage with WAC to further extend the capabilities of Microsoft’s WAC extensions.
The following table describes the three key elements highlighted in the previous diagram as (1), (2), and (3). We examine each in detail in the next three sections.
|Item||Type||Integrates with||Developed by||Description|
Microsoft Cluster Aware Updating extension
Microsoft Failover Cluster Tool Extension 1.250.0.nupkg release*
* Min version validated
WAC workflow to apply cluster aware OS updates
Dell EMC Integrated Full Stack Cluster Aware Updating
Microsoft CAU extension
Integration snap-in to main CAU workflow to provide BIOS, firmware and driver updates while performing OS updates
OMIMSWAC v2.0 Standalone extension
OpenManage WAC extension for Infrastructure Life cycle management, plus cluster monitoring, inventory and troubleshooting
Cluster Creation extension
Microsoft Cluster Creation Extension
* Min version validated
WAC workflow to create Azure Stack HCI Clusters
Integrated Deployment and Update (coming soon)
Microsoft IDU extension
Integration snap-in to main Cluster Creation workflow to provide BIOS, firmware and driver updates during the cluster creation process
Windows Admin Center extensions and integrations
You can install Microsoft Cluster Aware Updating extension within WAC by selecting the “Gear” icon on the top right corner, then under “Gateway”, navigate to “Extensions”. Under “Available extensions”, find the desired extension and select “Install”. For details, see the install guide. Please refer to the extensions product documentation for the latest updates.
Microsoft Cluster Aware Updating extension
To get to Microsoft WAC Azure Stack HCI Cluster Aware Updating extension, login to WAC and follow these steps:
- Click on the cluster you want to connect to. This takes us to the cluster Dashboard.
- On the left pane, under “Tools”, select “Update”.
- In the “Updates” window, click on “Check for updates”, which will pop up the “Install updates” window.
- Here we are presented with a three-step process where we select, in order:
- Operating system updates
- Hardware updates
- Proceed with the installation
It is important to note that you can select either to run only one operation at a time by skipping the other or run both in one single process and reboot.
You may select, if available, any Operating system update and click “Next: Hardware updates”.
This takes us to the second step of the sequence - Hardware updates - a key phase for the automated end-to-end cluster aware update process.
This is where the Dell Technologies snap-in integrates with Microsoft’s original workflow, allowing us to seamlessly provide automated BIOS, firmware, and driver updates (and OS updates if also selected) to all the nodes in the cluster with a single reboot. Let’s look at this process in detail in the next section.
Dell EMC Integrated Full Stack Cluster Aware Updating
Once you click “Next: Hardware updates” on the original Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI Cluster Aware Updating workflow, you are taken to Dell EMC Cluster Aware Updating integration.
If the integration is not installed, there is an option to install it from inside the workflow.
Click “Get updates”.
Our snap-in for Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) takes us through the following sequence of five steps.
1. Prerequisites (screenshot above)
A validation process occurs, checking that all AX nodes are:
- Supported in the HCL
- Same model
- OpenManage Premium License for MSFT HCI Solutions compliant (included in AX node base solution)
- Compatible with cluster creation
Click “Next: Update source”.
2. Update source
Here we can select the source for our BIOS, firmware, and driver repository, whether online [Update Catalog for Microsoft HCI Solutions] or offline (edge or disconnected) [Dell EMC Repository Manager Catalog]. Dell Technologies has created and keeps these solution catalogs updated.
Click “Next: Compliance report”.
3. Compliance report
Now we can check how compliant our nodes are and select for BIOS, firmware, and/or driver remediation. All the recommended components are selected by default.
The compliance operation runs in parallel for all nodes, and the report is shown consolidated across nodes.
Click “Next: Summary”.
All selections from all nodes are shown in Summary for review before we click “Next: Download updates”.
5. Download updates
This window provides the statistics regarding the download process (start time, download status).
When all downloads are completed, we can click “Next: Install”, which takes us back again to Step 3 of the main workflow (“Install”), to begin the installation process of OS and hardware updates (if both were selected) on the target nodes.
If any of the updates requires a restart, servers will be rebooted one at a time, moving cluster roles such as VMs between servers to prevent downtime and guaranteeing business continuity.
Once the process is finished for all the nodes, we can go back to “Updates” to check for the latest update status and/or Update history for previous updates.
It is important to note that the Cluster Aware Updating extension is supported only for Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI.
OMIMSWAC v2.0 Standalone extension
The standalone extension applies to Windows Server HCI and Azure Stack HCI, and continues to provide monitoring, inventory, troubleshooting, and hardware updates with CAU.
New to OMIMSWAC 2.0 is the option to schedule updates during a programmed maintenance window for greater flexibility and control during the update process.
It is important to note that OMIMSWAC Standalone version provides the Cluster Aware Updating feature for the hardware (BIOS, firmware, drivers) in a single reboot, although this process is not integrated with operating system updates. It provides full lifecycle management just for the hardware, not the OS layer.
Another key takeaway is that OMIMSWAC Standalone version fully supports Dell EMC HCI Solutions from Microsoft Windows Server and even certain qualified previous solutions (Dell EMC Storage Spaces Direct Ready Nodes).
Dell Technologies has developed OMIMSWAC to make integrated systems’ lifecycle management a seamless and easy process. It can fully guarantee controlled end-to-end cluster hardware and software update processes during the lifespan of the service.
The Dell EMC OMIMSWAC automated and programmatic approach provides obvious benefits, like mitigating risk caused by human intervention, significantly fewer steps to update clusters, and significantly less focused attention time for IT administrators. In small 4-node cluster deployments, this can mean up to 80% fewer steps and up to 90% less focused attention from an IT operator.
Full details on the benefits of performing these operations automatically through OMIMSWAC versus doing it manually are explained in this white paper.
Thank you for reading this far and stay tuned for more blog updates in this space!
Related Blog Posts
Azure Stack HCI Stretch Clustering: because automatic disaster recovery matters
Mon, 29 Mar 2021 18:19:31 -0000|
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If history has taught us anything, it’s that disasters are always around the corner and tend to appear in any shape or form when they’re least expected.
To overcome these circumstances, we need the appropriate tools and technologies that can guarantee resuming operations back to normal in a secure, automatic, and timely manner.
Traditional disaster recovery (DR) processes are often complex and require a significant infrastructure investment. They are also labor intensive and prone to human error.
Since December 2020, the situation has changed. Thanks to the new release of Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, version 20H2, we can leverage the new Azure Stack HCI stretched cluster feature on Dell EMC Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI (Azure Stack HCI).
The integrated system is based on our flexible AX nodes family as the foundation, and combines Dell Technologies full stack life cycle management with the Microsoft Azure Stack HCI operating system.
It is important to note that this technology is only available for the integrated system offering under the certified Azure Stack HCI catalog.
Azure Stack HCI stretch clustering provides an easy and automatic solution (no human interaction if desired) that assures transparent failovers of disaster-impacted production workloads to a safe secondary site.
It can also be leveraged to perform planned operations (such as entire site migration, or disaster avoidance) that, until now, required labor intensive and error prone human effort for execution.
Stretch clustering is one type of Storage Replica configuration. It allows customers to split a single cluster between two locations—rooms, buildings, cities, or regions. It provides synchronous or asynchronous replication of Storage Spaces Direct volumes to provide automatic VM failover if a site disaster occurs.
There are two different topologies:
- Active-Passive: All the applications and workloads run on the primary (preferred) site while the infrastructure at the secondary site remains idle until a failover occurs.
- Active-Active: There are active applications in both sites at any given time and replication occurs bidirectionally from either site. This setup tends to be a more efficient use of an organization’s investment in infrastructure because resources in both sites are being used.
Azure Stack HCI stretch clustering topologies: Active-Passive and Active-Active
To be truly cost-effective, the best data protection strategies incorporate a combination of different technologies (deduplicated backup, archive, data replication, business continuity, and workload mobility) to deliver the right level of data protection for each business application.
The following diagram highlights the fact that just a reduced data set holds the most valuable information. This is the sweet spot for stretch clustering.
For a real-life experience, our Dell Technologies experts put Azure Stack HCI stretched clustering to the test in the following lab setup:
Test lab cluster network topology
Note these key considerations regarding the lab network architecture:
- The Storage Replica, management, and VM networks in each site were unique Layer 3 subnets. In Active Directory, we configured two sites—Bangalore (Site 1) and Chennai (Site 2)—based on these IP subnets so that the correct sites appeared in Failover Cluster Manager on configuration of the stretched cluster. No additional manual configuration of the cluster fault domains was required.
- Average latency between the two sites was less than 5 milliseconds, required for synchronous replication.
- Cluster nodes could reach a file share witness within the 200-millisecond maximum roundtrip latency requirement.
- The subnets in both sites could reach Active Directory, DNS, and DHCP servers.
- Software-defined networking (SDN) on a multisite cluster is not currently supported and was not used for this testing.
For all the details, see this white paper: Adding Flexibility to DR Plans with Stretch Clustering for Azure Stack HCI.
In this blog though, I only want to focus on summarizing the results we obtained in our labs for the following four scenarios:
- Scenario 1: Unplanned node failure
- Scenario 2: Unplanned site failure
- Scenario 3: Planned failover
- Scenario 4: Life cycle management
Simulated failure or maintenance event
Unplanned node failure
Node 1 in Site 1 power-down
Impacted VMs should failover to another local node
In around 5 minutes, all 10 VMs in Node 1 Site 1 fully restarted in Node 2 Site 1.
This is expected behavior since Site 1 has been configured as preferred site; otherwise, the active volume could have been moved to Site 2, and the VMs would have been restarted on a cluster node in Site 2.
Outage in Site 1
Simultaneous power-down of Nodes 1 and 2 in site 1
Impacted VMs should failover to nodes on the secondary site
In 25 minutes, all VMs were restarted, and the included web application was fully responsive.
The volumes owned by the nodes in Site 2 remained online throughout this failure scenario.
The replica volumes remained offline until Site 1 was restored to full health.
Once Site 1 was back online, synchronous replication began again from the source volumes in Site 2 to their destination replica partners in Site 1.
Switch Direction operation on a volume from Windows Admin Center
Selected VMs and workloads should transparently move to secondary site
Within 0 to 3 mins, the application hosted by the affected VMs was reachable without service interruption (time depends on whether IP reassignment is required).
First, the owner node for the volumes changed to Node 2 in Site 2, and owner node for the replica volumes changed to Node 2 in Site 1. No service interruption.
At this time, the test VM was running in Site 1, but its virtual disk that resided on the volume was running in Site 2. Performance problems can result because I/O is traversing the replication links across sites. After approximately 10 minutes, a Live Migration of the test VM would occur automatically (if not manually initiated earlier) so that the VM would be on the same node as its virtual disk.
Update all nodes in the cluster by using Single-click Full Stack Cluster Aware Updating (CAU) in Windows Admin Center
Stretched cluster and CAU should work seamlessly together to provide full stack cluster update without service interruption and local only workload mobility for the Live Migrated VMs
The total process of applying the operating system and firmware updates to the stretched cluster took approximately 3 hours, and the process had no application impact.
Each node was drained, and its VMs were live migrated to the other node in the same site.
The intersite links between Site 1 and Site 2 were never used during update operations. In addition, the process required only a single reboot per node.
This behavior was consistent throughout the update of all the nodes in the stretched cluster.
To sum up, Azure Stack HCI Stretch Clustering has been shown to work as expected under difficult circumstances. It can easily be leveraged to cover a wide range of data protection scenarios, such as:
- restoring your organization's IT within minutes after an unplanned event
- transparently moving running workloads between sites to avoid incoming disasters or other planned operations
- automatically failing over VMs and workloads of individual failed nodes
This technology may make the difference for businesses to automatically stand up after disaster strikes, a total game changer in the automatic disaster recovery landscape.
Thank you for your time reading this blog and don’t forget to check out the full white paper!!!
Dell EMC Solutions for Azure Stack HCI Furthers Customer Value
Mon, 23 Mar 2020 22:39:10 -0000|
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As customers address the upgrade cycle of retiring Microsoft Windows Server 2008 into software defined infrastructures using Windows Server 2019, the core tenets of hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) and hybrid cloud enablement continue to be desired goals. Many customers, however, are unsure how to best leverage their investments in Windows Server to modernize their datacenters to take advantage of software defined infrastructure.
At Dell Technologies, we have leadership positions in converged, hyperconverged, and cloud infrastructures covering several platforms, including being a founding launch partner with Microsoft’s Azure Stack HCI solution. Built over three decades of partnership with Microsoft, we bring the insights and expertise to help our customers with their IT transformation utilizing software defined features of Windows Server 2019, the foundational platform for Azure Stack HCI.
Built on globally available and supported Storage Spaces Direct (S2D) Ready Nodes, Dell EMC offers a wide range of Azure Stack HCI Solutions that provide an excellent value proposition for customers who have standardized on Microsoft Hyper-V and looking to modernize IT infrastructure while utilizing their existing investments and expertise in Windows Server.
As we head to Microsoft’s largest customer event – Microsoft Ignite 2019 – we are delighted to share some new enhancements and offerings to our Azure Stack HCI solution portfolio.
Simplifying Managing Azure Stack HCI via Windows Admin Center (WAC)
With a goal of simplifying Azure Stack HCI management, we have integrated monitoring of S2D Ready Nodes into the Windows Admin Center (WAC) console. The Dell EMC OpenManage Extension for WAC allows our customers to manage Azure Stack HCI clusters from a single pane of glass. The current integration provides health monitoring, hardware inventory, and firmware compliance reporting of S2D Ready Nodes, the core building block of our Azure Stack HCI solution. By using this extension, infrastructure administrators can monitor all their clusters in real time and check if the nodes are compliant to Dell EMC recommended firmware and driver versions. Customers wanting to leverage Azure public cloud to either extend or protect their on-prem applications can do so within the WAC console to utilize services such as Azure Back up, Azure Site Recovery, Azure Monitor, etc.
Here is what Greg Altman, IT Infrastructure Manager at Swiff-Train and one our early customers had to say about our OpenManage integration with WAC:
"The Dell EMC OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center gives us full visibility to Dell EMC Solutions for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI, enabling us to more easily respond to situations before they become critical. With the new OpenManage integration, we can also manage Microsoft Azure Stack HCI from anywhere, even simultaneously managing our clusters located in different cities."
New HCI Node optimized for Edge and ROBO Use Cases
Customers looking at modernizing infrastructure at edge, remote or small office locations now have an option of utilizing the new Dell EMC R440 S2D Ready Node which provides both hybrid and all-flash options. A 2-node Azure Stack HCI cluster provides a great solution for such use cases that need limited hardware infrastructure, yet superior performance and availability and ease of remote management.
The dual socket R440 S2D Ready Node is shallower (depth of 27.26 in) than a typical rack server, comes with up to 8 or 10 2.5” drive configurations providing up to 76.6TB of all-flash capacity in a single 1U node.
The table below summarizes our S2D Ready Node portfolio.
R440 S2D RN
R640 S2D RN
R740xd S2D RN
R740xd2 S2D RN
Edge/ROBO and space (depth) constrained locations
Density optimized node for applications needing balance of high-performance storage and compute
Capacity and performance optimized node for applications needing balance of compute and storage
Capacity optimized node for data intensive applications and use cases such as backup and archive
Hybrid & All-Flash
Hybrid, All-Flash, All-NVMe including Intel Optane DC Persistent Memory
Hybrid, All-Flash, and All-NVMe
Hybrid with SSDs and 3.5” HDDs
For detailed node specifications, please refer to our website.
Stepping up the Performance Capabilities
With applications and growing data analysis needs increasingly driving the lower latency and higher capacity requirements, it’s imperative the underlying infrastructure does not create performance bottlenecks. The latest refresh of our solution includes several updates to scale infrastructure performance:
- All S2D Ready Nodes now support Intel 2nd Generation Xeon Scalable Processors that provide improved compute performance and security features.
- Support for Intel Optane SSDs and Intel Optane DC memory (on R640 S2D Ready node) enable lower latency storage and persistent memory tier to accelerate application performance. The R640 S2D Ready Node can be configured with 1.5TB of Optane DC persistent memory working in App Direct Mode to a provide a cache tier for the NVMe storage local to the node.
- The new all-NVMe option on R640 S2D Ready Node provides a compact 1U node for applications that are sensitive to both compute and storage performance.
- Faster Networking Options: For applications needing high bandwidth and low latency access to network, the R640 and R740XD S2D Ready Nodes can now be configured with Mellanox CX5 100Gb Ethernet adapters. In addition, we have also qualified the PowerSwitch S5232 100Gb switch to provide a fully validated solution by Dell EMC.
As we drove new hardware enhancements to our Azure Stack HCI portfolio, we also put a configuration to test the performance we can expect from a representative configuration. With just a four node Azure Stack HCI cluster with R640 S2D Ready Nodes configure all NVMe drives and 100Gb Ethernet, we observed:
- 2.95M IOPS with an average read latency of 242μs in a VM Fleet test configured for 4K block size and 100% reads
- 0.8M IOPS with an average write latency of 4121 μs in a VM Fleet test configured for 4K block size and 100% writes
- Up to 63GB/s of 100% sequential read throughput and 9GB/s of 100% sequential write throughput with 512KB block size
Yes, you got it right. Not only the solution is compact, easy to manage but also provides a tremendous performance capability.
Read our detailed blog for more information on our lab performance test results.
Overall, we are very excited to bring so many new capabilities to our customers. We invite you to come meet us at Microsoft Ignite 2019 at Booth 1547, talk to Dell EMC experts and see live demos. Besides the show floor, Dell EMC experts will also be available at Hyatt Regency Hotel, Level 3, Discovery 43 Suite for detailed conversations. Register here for time with our experts.