Extending Dell Technologies Cloud Platform Availability for Mission Critical Applications
Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:48:57 -0000|
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Reference Architecture Validation Whitepaper Now Available!
Many of us here at Dell Technologies regularly have conversations with customers and talk about what we refer to as the “Power of the Portfolio.” What does this mean exactly? It is essentially a reference to the fact that, as Dell Technologies, we have a robust and broad portfolio of modern IT infrastructure products and solutions across storage, networking, compute, virtualization, data protection, security, and more! At first glance, it can seem overwhelming to many. Some even say it could be considered complex to sort through. But we, as Dell Technologies, on the other hand, see it as an advantage. It allows us to solve a vast majority of our customers’ technical needs and support them as a strategic technology partner.
It is one thing to have the quality and quantity of products and tools to get the job done -- it’s another to leverage this portfolio of products to deliver on what customers want most: business outcomes.
As Dell Technologies continues to innovate, we are making the best use of the technologies we have and are developing ways to use them together seamlessly in order to deliver better business outcomes for our customers. The conversations we have are not about this product OR that product but instead they are about bringing together this set of products AND that set of products to deliver a SOLUTION giving our customers the best of everything Dell Technologies has to offer without compromise and with reduced risk.
Figure 1: Cloud Foundation on VxRail Platform Components
The Dell Technologies Cloud Platform is an example of one of these solutions. And there is no better example that illustrates how to take advantage of the “Power of the Portfolio” than one that appears in a newly published reference architecture white paper that focuses on validating the use of the Dell EMC PowerMax system with SRDF/Metro in a Dell Technologies Cloud Platform (VMware Cloud Foundation on a Dell EMC VxRail) multi-site stretched-cluster deployment configuration (Extending Dell Technologies Cloud Platform Availability for Mission Critical Applications).This configuration provides the highest levels of application availability for customers who are running mission-critical workloads in their Cloud Foundation on VxRail private cloud that would otherwise not be possible with core DTCP alone.
Let’s briefly review some of the components used in the reference architecture and how they were configured and tested.
Using external storage with VCF on VxRail
Customers commonly ask whether they can use external storage in Cloud Foundation on VxRail deployments. The answer is yes! This helps customers ease into the transition to a software-defined architecture from an operational perspective. It also helps customers leverage the investments in their existing infrastructure for the many different workloads that might still require external storage services.
External storage and Cloud Foundation have two important use cases: principal storage and supplemental storage.
- Principal storage - SDDC Manager provisions a workload domain that uses vSAN, NFS, or Fiber Channel (FC) storage for a workload domain cluster’s principal storage (the initial shared storage that is used to create a cluster). By default, VCF uses vSAN storage as the principal storage for a cluster. The option to use NFS and FC-connected external storage is also available. This option enables administrators to create a workload domain cluster whose principal storage can be a previously provisioned NFS datastore or an FC-based VMFS datastore instead of vSAN. External storage as principal storage is only supported on VI Workload Domains as vSAN is the required principal storage for the management domain in VCF.
- Supplemental storage - This involves mounting previously provisioned external NFS, iSCSI, vVols, or FC storage to a Cloud Foundation workload domain cluster that is using vSAN as the principal storage. Supporting external storage for these workload domain clusters is comparable to the experience of administrators using standard vSphere clusters who want to attach secondary datastores to those clusters.
At the time of writing, Cloud Foundation on VxRail supports supplemental storage use cases only. This is how external storage was used in the reference architecture solution configuration.
The Dell EMC PowerMax is the first Dell EMC hardware platform that uses an end-to-end Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) architecture for customer data. NVMe is a set of standards that define a PCI Express (PCIe) interface used to efficiently access data storage volumes based on Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) media, which includes modern NAND-based flash along with higher-performing Storage Class Memory (SCM) media technologies. The NVMe-based PowerMax array fully unlocks the bandwidth, IOPS, and latency performance benefits that NVM media and multi-core CPUs offer to host-based applications—benefits that are unattainable using the previous generation of all-flash storage arrays. For a more detailed technical overview of the PowerMax Family, please check out the whitepaper Dell EMC PowerMax: Family Overview.
The following figure shows the PowerMax 2000 and PowerMax 8000 models.
Figure 2: PowerMax product family
The Symmetrix Remote Data Facility (SRDF) maintains real-time (or near real-time) copies of data on a PowerMax production storage array at one or more remote PowerMax storage arrays. SRDF has three primary applications:
- Disaster recovery
- High availability
- Data migration
In the case of this reference architecture, SRDF/Metro was used to provide enhanced levels of high availability across two availability zone sites. For a complete technical overview of SRDF, please check out this great SRDF whitepaper: Dell EMC SRDF.
Now that we are familiar with the components used in the solution, let’s discuss the details of the solution architecture that was used.
This overall solution design provides enhanced levels of flexibility and availability that extend the core capabilities of the VCF on VxRail cloud platform. The VCF on VxRail solution natively supports a stretched-cluster configuration for the management domain and a VI workload domain between two availability zones by using vSAN stretched clusters. A PowerMax SRDF/Metro with Metro Stretched Cluster (vMSC) configuration is added to protect VI workload domain workloads by using supplementary storage for the workloads that are running on them.
Two types of vMSC configurations are verified with stretched Cloud Foundation on VxRail: uniform and non-uniform.
- Uniform host access configuration - vSphere hosts from both sites are all connected to a storage node in the storage cluster across all sites. Paths presented to vSphere hosts are stretched across a distance.
- Non-uniform host access configuration - vSphere hosts at each site are connected only to storage nodes at the same site. Paths presented to vSphere hosts from storage nodes are limited to the local site.
The following figure shows the topology used in the reference architecture of the Cloud Foundation uniform stretched-cluster configuration with PowerMax SRDF/Metro.
Figure 3: Cloud Foundation on VxRail uniform stretched-cluster config with PowerMax SRDF/Metro
The following figure shows the topology used in the reference architecture of the Cloud Foundation on VxRail non-uniform stretched cluster configuration with PowerMax SRDF/Metro.
Figure 4: Cloud Foundation on VxRail non-uniform stretched-cluster config with PowerMax SRDF/Metro
Solution Validation Testing Methodology
We completed solution validation testing across the following major categories for both iSCSI and FC connected devices:
- Functional Verification Tests - This testing addresses the basic operations that are performed when PowerMax is used as supplementary storage with VMware VCF on VxRail.
- High Availability Tests - HA testing helps validate the capability of the solution to avoid a single point of failure, from the hardware component port level up to the IDC site level.
- Reliability Tests - In general, reliability testing validates whether the components and the whole system are reliable enough with a certain level of stress running on them.
For complete details on all of the individual validation test scenarios that were performed, and the pass/fail results, check out the whitepaper.
To summarize, this white paper describes how Dell EMC engineers integrated VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail with PowerMax SRDF/Metro and provides the design configuration steps that they took to automatically provision PowerMax storage by using the PowerMax vRO plug-in. The paper validates that the Cloud Foundation on VxRail solution functions as expected in both a PowerMax uniform vMSC configuration and a non-uniform vMSC configuration by passing all the designed test cases. This reference architecture validation demonstrates the power of the Dell Technologies portfolio to provide customers with modern cloud infrastructure technologies that deliver the highest levels of application availability for business-critical and mission-critical applications running in their private clouds.
Find the link to the white paper below along with other VCF on VxRail resources and see how you can leverage the “Power of the Portfolio” to support your business!
Twitter - @vwhippersnapper
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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
Announcing VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0.1 on Dell EMC VxRail 7.0
Wed, 29 Jul 2020 13:38:33 -0000|
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The latest Dell Technologies Cloud Platform release introduces new support for vSphere with Kubernetes for entry cloud deployments and more
Dell Technologies and VMware are happy to announce the general availability VCF 4.0.1 on VxRail 7.0.
This release offers several enhancements including vSphere with Kubernetes support for entry cloud deployments, enhanced bring up features for more extensibility and accelerated deployments, increased network configuration options, and more efficient LCM capabilities for NSX-T components. Below is the full listing of features that can be found in this release:
- Kubernetes in the management domain: vSphere with Kubernetes is now supported in the management domain. With VMware Cloud Foundation Workload Management, you can deploy vSphere with Kubernetes on the management domain default cluster starting with only four VxRail nodes. This means that DTCP entry cloud deployments can take advantage of running Kubernetes containerized workloads alongside general purpose VM workloads on a common infrastructure!
- Multi-/multi- during VCF bring-up: The Cloud Builder deployment parameter workbook now provides five vSphere Distributed Switch () profiles that allow you to perform bring-up of hosts with two, four, or six physical NICs () and to create up to two vSphere Distributed Switches for isolating system (Management, , ) traffic from overlay (Host, Edge, and Uplinks) traffic.
- Multi-/multi- API support: The VCF API now supports configuring a second vSphere Distributed Switch () using up to four physical NICs (), providing more flexibility to support high performance use cases and physical traffic separation.
- NSX-T cluster-level upgrade support: Users can upgrade specific host clusters within a workload domain so that the upgrade can fit into their maintenance windows bringing about more efficient upgrades.
- Cloud Builder API support for bring-up operations – VCF on VxRail deployment workflows have been enhanced to support using a new Cloud Builder API for bring-up operations. VCF software installation on VxRail during VCF bring-up can now be done using either an API or GUI providing even more platform extensibility capabilities.
- Automated externalization of the vCenter Server for the management domain: Externalizing the vCenter Server that gets created during the VxRail first run (the one used for the management domain) is now automated as part of the bring-up process. This enhanced integration between the VCF Cloud Builder bring-up automation workflow and VxRail API helps to further accelerate installation times for VCF on VxRail deployments.
- BOM Updates: Updated VCF software Bill of Materials with new product versions.
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