How does vSphere LCM compare with VxRail LCM?
Fri, 24 Apr 2020 14:35:44 -0000|
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VMware’s announcement of vSphere 7.0 this month included a highly anticipated enhanced version of vSphere Update Manager (VUM), which is now called vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM). Beyond the name change, much is intriguing: its capabilities, the customer benefits, and (what I have often been asked) the key differences between vLCM and VxRail lifecycle management. I’ll address these three main areas of interest in this post and explain why VxRail LCM still has the advantage.
At its core, vLCM shifts to a desired state configuration model that allows vSphere administrators to manage clusters by using image profiles for both server hardware and ESXi software. This new approach allows more consistency in the ESXi host image across clusters, and centralizes and simplifies managing the HCI stack. vSphere administrators can now design their own image profile that consists of the ESXi software, and the firmware and drivers for the hardware components in the hosts. They can run a check for compliance against the vSAN Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) for HBA compliance before executing the update with the image. vLCM can check for version drift that identifies differences between what’s installed on ESXi hosts versus the image profile saved on the vCenter Server. To top that off, vLCM can recommend new target versions that are compatible with the image profile. All of these are great features to simplify the operational experience of HCI LCM.
Let’s dig deeper so you can get a better appreciation for how these capabilities are delivered. vLCM relies on the Cluster Image Management service to allow administrators to build that desired state. At the minimum, the desired state starts with the ESXi image which requires communication with the VMware Compatibility Guide and vSAN HCL to identify the appropriate version. In order to build a plugin to vCenter Server that includes hardware drivers and firmware on top of the ESXi image, hardware vendors need to provide the files needed to fill out the rest of the desired image profile. A desired state complete with hardware and software is achieved when capabilities such as simplified upgrades, compliance checks, version drift detection, and version recommendation can benefit administrators the most. At this time, Dell and HPE have provided this addon.
vLCM Image Builder – courtesy of https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2020/03/vsphere-7-features.html
While vLCM’s desired state configuration model provides a strong foundation to drive better operational efficiency in lifecycle management, there are caveats today. I’ll focus on three key differences that will best help you in differentiating vLCM from VxRail LCM:
1. Validated state vs. desired state – Desired state does not mean validated state. VxRail invests in significant resources to identify a validated version set of software, drivers, and firmware (what we term as Continuously Validated State) to relieve the burden of defining a desired state, testing it, and validating it off the shoulders of administrators. With over 100+ dedicated VxRail team members, over $60 million of lab investments, and over 25,000 runtime hours to test each major release, VxRail users can rest assured when it comes to LCM of their VxRail clusters.
vLCM’s model relies heavily on its ecosystem to produce a desired state for the full stack. Hardware vendors need to provide the bits for the drivers and firmware as well as the compliance check for most of the HCI stack. Below is a snippet of the VxRail support matrix for VxRail 4.7.100 to show you some of the hardware components a VxRail Continuously Validated State delivers. Beyond the storage HBA, it is the responsibility of the hardware vendor to perform compliance checks of the remaining hardware on the server. Once compliance checks pass, users are responsible for validating the desired state.
2. Heterogeneous vs. homogeneous hosts – vCenter Server can only have one image profile per cluster. That means clusters need to have hosts that have identical hardware configurations in order to use vLCM. VxRail LCM supports a variety of mixed node configurations for use cases, such as when adding new generation servers into a cluster, or having multiple hardware configurations (that is, different node types) in the same cluster. For vSAN Ready Nodes, if an administrator has mixed node configurations, they still have the option to continue using VUM instead of vLCM -- a choice they have to make after they upgrade their cluster to vSphere 7.0.
3. Support – troubleshooting LCM issues may well include the hardware vendor addon. Though vLCM’s desired state includes hardware and software, the support is still potentially separate. The administrator would need to collect the hardware vendor addon’s logs and contact the hardware vendor separately from VMware. (It is worth noting that both Dell and HPE are VMware certified support delivery partners. When considering your vSAN Ready Node partner, you may want to be sure that that hardware provider is also capable of delivering support for VMware as well.) With VxRail, a single vendor support model by default streamlines all support calls directly to Dell Technical Support. With their in-depth VMware knowledge, Dell Technical Support can resolve cases quickly where 95% of support cases are resolved without requiring coordination with VMware support.
In evaluating vLCM, I’ll refer to the LCM value tiers. There are three levels, starting from lower to higher customer value: update orchestration, configuration stability, and decision support:
- Automation and orchestration is the foundation to streamlining full stack LCM. In order to simplify LCM, the stack needs to be managed as one.
- Configuration stability delivers the assurance to administrators that they can efficiently evolve their clusters (that is, new generation hardware, new software innovation) without disrupting availability or performance for their workloads.
- Decision support is where we can offload the decision-making burden from the administrator.
Explaining the Lifecycle Management value tiers for customers
vLCM has simplified full stack LCM by automating and orchestrating hardware and software upgrades into a single process flow. The next step is configuration stability, which is not just stable code (which all HCI stack should claim), but the confidence customers have in knowing that non-disruptive LCM of their HCI requires minimal work on their part. When VxRail releases a composite bundle, VxRail customers know that it has been extensively tested against a wide range of configurations to assure uptime and performance. For most VxRail customers I’ve talked to, LCM assurance and workload continuity are the benefits they value most.
VMware has done a great job with its initial release of vLCM. vSAN Ready Node customers, especially those who use nodes from vendors like Dell that support the capability (and who can also be a support delivery partner), will certainly benefit from the improvements over VUM. Hopefully, with the differences outlined above, you will have a greater appreciation for where vLCM is in its evolution, and where VxRail continues innovating and keeping its advantage.
Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing
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Introducing VxRail 7.0.000 with vSphere 7.0 support
Tue, 28 Apr 2020 13:23:14 -0000|
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The VxRail team may all be sheltering at our own homes nowadays, but that doesn’t mean we’re just binging on Netflix and Disney Plus content. We have been hard at work to deliver on our continuing commitment to provide our customers a supporting VxRail software bundle within 30 days of any vSphere release. And this time it’s for the highly touted vSphere 7.0! You can find more information about vSphere and vSAN 7.0 in the vSphere and vSAN product areas in VMware Virtual Blocks blogs.
Here’s what you need to know about VxRail 7.0.000:
- VxRail 7.x train – You may have noticed we’ve jumped from a 4.7 release train to a 7.0 release train. What did you miss?? Well... there is no secret 5.x or 6.x release trains. We have made the decision to align with the vSAN versions, starting with VxRail 7.x. This will make it easier for you to map VxRail versions to vSAN versions.
- Accelerate innovation – The primary focus of this VxRail release is our synchronous release commitment to the vSphere 7.0 release. This release provides our users the opportunity to run vSphere 7.0 on their clusters. The most likely use cases would be for users who are planning to transition production infrastructure to vSphere 7.0 but first want to evaluate it in a test environment, or for users who are keen on running the latest VMware software.
- Operational freedom – You may have heard that vSphere 7.0 introduces an enhanced version of vSphere Update Manager that they call vSphere LCM, or vLCM for short. While vLCM definitely improves upon the automation and orchestration of updating an HCI stack, VxRail’s LCM still has the advantage over vLCM (check out my blog to learn more). For example, VMware is currently not recommending that vSAN Ready Nodes users upgrade to vSphere 7.0 because of drivers forward compatibility issues (you can read more about in this KB article). That doesn’t stop VxRail from allowing you to upgrade your clusters to vSphere 7.0. The extensive research, testing, and validation work that goes into delivering Continuously Validated States for VxRail mitigates that issue.
- Networking flexibility – Aside from synchronous release, the most notable new feature/capability is that VxRail consolidates the switch configuration for VxRail system traffic and NSX-T traffic. You can now run your VM traffic managed by NSX-T Manager on the same two ports used for VxRail system traffic (such as VxRail Management, vSAN, and vMotion) on the Network Daughter Card (NDC). Instead of requiring a 4-port NDC, users can use a 2-port NDC.
Consolidated switch configuration for VxRail system traffic managed by VxRail Manager/vCenter and VM traffic by NSX-T Manager
All said, VxRail 7.0.000 is a critical release that further exemplifies our alignment with VMware’s strategy and why VxRail is the platform of choice for vSAN technology and VMware’s Software-Defined Data Center solutions.
Our commitment to synchronous release for any vSphere release is important for users who want to benefit from the latest VMware innovations or for users who prioritizes a secure platform over everything else. A case in point is the vCenter express patch that rolled out a couple weeks ago to address a critical security vulnerability (you can find out more here). Within eight days of the express patch release, the VxRail team was able to run through all its testing and validation against all supported configurations to deliver a supported software bundle. Our $60M testing lab investment and 100+ team members dedicated to testing and quality assurance make that possible.
If you’re interested in upgrading your clusters to VxRail 7.0.000, please be sure to read the Release Notes.
Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing
VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail Integration Features Series: Part 1 -- Full Stack Automated LCM
Fri, 03 Apr 2020 21:39:05 -0000|
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VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail Integration Features Series: Part 1
Full Stack Automated Lifecycle Management
It’s no surprise that VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail features numerous unique integrations with many VCF components, such as SDDC Manager and even VMware Cloud Builder. These integrations are the result of the co-engineering efforts by Dell Technologies and VMware with every release of VCF on VxRail. The following figure highlights some of the components that are part of this integration effort.
These integrations of VCF on VxRail offer customers a unique set of features in various categories, from security to infrastructure deployment and expansion, to deep monitoring and visibility that have all been developed to drive infrastructure operations.
Where do these integrations exist? The following figure outlines how they impact a customer’s Day 0 to Day 2 operations experience with VCF on VxRail.
In this series I will showcase some of these unique integration features, including some of the more nuanced ones. But for this initial post, I want to highlight one of the most popular and differentiated customer benefits that emerged from this integration work: full stack automated lifecycle management (LCM).
VxRail already delivers a differentiated LCM customer experience through its Continuously Validated States capabilities for the entire VxRail hardware and software stack. (As you may know, the VxRail stack includes the hardware and firmware of compute, network, and storage components, along with VMware ESXi, VMware vSAN, and the Dell EMC VxRail HCI System software itself, which includes VxRail Manager.)
With VCF on VxRail, VxRail Manager is integrated natively into the SDDC Manager LCM management framework through the SDDC Manager UI, and through VxRail Manager APIs for LCM by SDDC Manager when executing LCM workflows. This integration allows SDDC Manager to leverage all of the LCM capabilities that natively exist in VxRail right out of the box. SDDC Manager can then execute SDDC software LCM AND drive native VxRail HCI system LCM. It does this by leveraging native VxRail Manager APIs and the continuously validated state update packages for both the VxRail software and hardware components.
All of this happens seamlessly behind the scenes when administrators use the SDDC Manager UI to kick off native SDDC Manager workflows. This means that customers don’t have to leave the SDDC Manager UI management experience at all for full stack SDDC software and VxRail HCI infrastructure LCM operations. How cool is that?! The following figure illustrates the concepts behind this effective relationship.
For more details about how this LCM experience works, check out my lightboard talk about it!
Also, if you want to get some hands on experience in walking through performing LCM operations for the full VCF on VxRail stack, check out the VCF on VxRail Interactive Demo to see this and some of the other unique integrations!
I am already hard at work writing up the next blog post in the series. Check back soon to learn more.
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