Dell EMC VxBlock 1000: Some history and What’s New
Wed, 01 Apr 2020 18:40:24 -0000|
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First for the “some history” part! Converged Infrastructure (CI) is not a new concept – it’s been with us for more than 10 years. Hey, one could even consider that we were the “inventors” of CI back in the days when we publicly announced it on November 03, 2009 (Press Release).
Figure 1. EMC Joe Tucci (center) unveils the Virtual Computing Environment coalition with VMware's Paul Maritz (left) and Cisco's John Chambers (right).
Nowadays the CI concept is well understood, but in 2009 it was kind of ground breaking since this approach had never been taken before.
“All datacenter requirements in just one system? How could that be possible?”
Those were the days of separated, disconnected, and siloed domains (compute, storage, networks) and CI was a new disruptive technology solution that would require a complete transformation in how IT would architect and consume datacenter infrastructure.
To have a clearer understanding of how Dell Technologies comprehends CI – then and now, we could define our CI end-to-end engineered turnkey system as:
VxBlock 1000, Industry-leading Converged Infrastructure, simplifies all aspects of IT by seamlessly integrating all the compute, network, storage and data protection and cloud management technologies you need into one engineered system. It is an all-in-one, “data center in a box.” You can offload the complexities and risks associated with managing enterprise-grade data center infrastructure so that your IT teams can confidently focus on higher-value activities. (from Top Reasons Why Organizations Choose VxBlock 1000 Converged Infrastructure).
For those new to VxBlock 1000, here are some of the most important values VxBlock has provided:
- High availability & data protection
- No single point of failure
- High availability in all components, fault tolerance as an option
- Broad data protection suite
- High scalability & consistent performance
- 100+ PB storage
- 1000+ blade & rack servers
- Scale-up & scale-out, symmetrically or asymmetrically
- NVMe end-to-end
- Rich data services & highest efficiency
- In-line, all-the-time services
- Compression, de-dupe, replication, encryption, copy data management & machine learning
- Cloud operating model & converged management
- Tight VMware vRealize Integration
- Consistent tool set across hybrid cloud
And what has happened during this 10+ year period?
Many things. Many milestones. Many systems sold. Many successful customer stories and projects that have led VxBlock to a very effective and consistent $1 billion annual run rate business just four years into its existence. Check the diagram below to reflect on some of the key milestones VxBlock and Dell Technologies CI as a whole have delivered during this decade.
Figure 2. VxBlock 1000 one-decade journey
Today, with more than 4500 systems installed in over 100 countries, VxBlock 1000 keeps on leading the way, innovating the CI arena in four key areas that address the second part of this blog post, namely “What’s New”:
- Flexible technology choices
- Converged management and automation
- Life cycle management
- Future proof design and support
Flexible technology choices
VxBlock System 1000 gives you a choice of industry-leading technologies to meet the needs of all your different workloads, ranging from mission-critical, general purpose (virtualized or not), Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, End User Computing/Virtual Desktops… you name it!
Mix and match powerful Dell EMC storage and data protection options, Cisco UCS blade and rack servers, Cisco LAN and SAN networking, and VMware virtualization and cloud management. For more details on infrastructure see VxBlock 1000 data sheet and specs.
Since VxBlock 1000 is not just a reference architecture or a bill of materials, it eliminates the traditional risks associated with “Do It Yourself” approaches. It’s a fully integrated system that is engineered, manufactured, managed, supported, and sustained as one product, delivering a turnkey experience. Dell Technologies validates interoperability of components and provides a predictable system maintenance process that improves availability and productivity.
Converged management and automation
VxBlock 1000 leverages its deep VMware integration to simplify automation of everything from daily infrastructure provisioning tasks to delivery of IaaS and SaaS. At the foundation is VxBlock Central software that provides a single unified interface and access point for converged infrastructure operations.
Figure 3. VxBlock Central, a single pane of glass for management, automation, and LCM
VxBlock Central software dramatically simplifies daily administration by providing enhanced system-level awareness, automation and analytics, including launch points to:
- VMware vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) with workflows for automating daily operational tasks
- vRealize Operations (vROps) for deep VxBlock analytics and simplified capacity management
As customers place workloads on top of VxBlock 1000, VxBlock Central helps to provide and maintain these services by managing the infrastructure underneath. See here for more great info about VxBlock Central Workflow Automation and the 40+ workflows available in the Workflow Automation Library.
Life cycle management
Dell EMC CloudIQ for VxBlock features next-generation lifecycle management (LCM) that enables IT teams to more flexibly plan ahead and control converged hardware lifecycle, further reducing risk with proactive SaaS-based insights. You gain granular control over hardware inventory, milestones, support interoperability, and upgrade scenarios.
Future proof design and support
VxBlock 1000 is built with a perpetual design, meaning it will ensure that your system stays ready to support the introduction of next-generation technologies within any of the fundamental domains of the system, whether storage, compute, or network. You can address increased performance and scalability requirements while maximizing the return on your system investment.
Dell Technologies delivers fully integrated 24/7 support with a single call. There’s never any finger-pointing between vendors. You can always rely on our fully cross-trained team for a fast resolution to any problem. Our portfolio of services (including deployment services, migration services, and residency services) accelerates speed of deployment and integration into your IT environment. It also minimizes downtime by ensuring your software and hardware remains up to date throughout the product lifecycle.
One decade ago, Dell Technologies defined the foundations for CI and created a platform that has evolved to what today is VxBlock 1000. This system (compute, network, storage and management layer) is created (engineered and manufactured), maintained (single management and support), and sustained (in ongoing certified code upgrades) by Dell EMC during its entire journey. Customers simply take the keys of the car and drive.
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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 188.8.131.52 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
Adding to the VxRail summer party with the release of VxRail 7.0.010
Wed, 29 Jul 2020 20:15:50 -0000|
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After releasing multiple VxRail 4.7 software versions in the early summer, the VxRail 7.0 software train has just now joined the party. Like any considerate guest, VxRail 7.0.010 does not come empty handed. This new software release brings new waves of cluster deployment flexibility so you can run a wider range of application workloads on VxRail, as well as new lifecycle management enhancements for you to sit back and enjoy the party during their next cluster update.
The following capabilities expand the workload possibilities that can run on VxRail clusters:
- More network flexibility with support for customer-supplied virtual distributed switch (VDS) – Often times, customers with a large deployment of VxRail clusters prefer to standardize their VDS so they can re-use the same configuration on multiple clusters. Standardization simplifies cluster deployment operations and VDS management and reduces errors. This is sure to be a hit for our party guests with grand plans to expand their VxRail footprint.
- Network redundancy – the support for customer-supplied VDS also enables support for network card level redundancy and link aggregation. Now you can create a NIC teaming policy that can tolerate a network card failure for VxRail system traffic. For example, the policy would include a port on the NDC and another port on the PCIe network card. If one network card becomes unavailable, the traffic can still run through the remaining network card. With link aggregation, you can increase the network bandwidth by utilizing multiple ports in an active/active network connection. You can select the load balancing option when configuring the NIC teaming policy.
Network card level redundancy with active/active network connections
- FIPS 140-2 Level 1 validated cryptography – Industry sectors such as the federal sector require this level of security for any applications that access sensitive data. Now the VxRail software meets this standard by using cryptographic libraries and encrypting data in-transit and storage of keys and credentials. Combine that with existing vSAN encryption that already meets this standard for data at rest, VxRail clusters can be a fit for even more environments in various industry sectors with higher security standards. The guest list for this party is only getting bigger.
Along with these features that increase the market opportunity for VxRail clusters, lifecycle management enhancements also come along with VxRail 7.0.010’s entrance to the party. VxRail has strengthened in LCM pre-upgrade health check to include more ecosystem components in the VxRail stack. Already providing checks against the HCI hardware and software, VxRail is extending to ancillary components such as the vCenter Server, Secure Remote Services gateway, RecoverPoint for VMs software, and the witness host used for 2-node and stretched clusters. The LCM pre-upgrade health check performs a version compatibility against these components before upgrading the VxRail cluster. With a stronger LCM pre-upgrade health check, you’ll have more time for summer fun.
VxRail 7.0.010 is here to keep the VxRail summer party going. These new capabilities will help our customers accelerate innovation by providing an HCI platform that delivers the infrastructure flexibility their applications require, while giving the administrators the operational freedom and simplicity to fearlessly update their clusters freely.
Interested in learning more about VxRail 7.0.010? You can find more details in the release notes.
Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing