It’s Been a Dell EMC VxRail Filled Summer
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 18:07:34 -0000|
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Get your VxRail learn on with Tech Field Days and ESG
It has been a busy summer with the launch of our Next Gen VxRail nodes built on 15th Generation PowerEdge servers. This has included working with the fantastic people at ESG and Tech Field Day. Working with these top tier luminaries really forces us to distill our messaging to the key points – no small feat, particularly with so many new releases and enhancements.
If you are not familiar with Tech Field Days, they are “a series of invite-only technical meetings between delegates invited from around the world and sponsoring enterprise IT companies that share their products and ideas through presentations, demos, roundtables, and more”. The delegates are all hand-picked industry thought leaders – those wicked smart people you are following on Twitter – and they ask tough questions. Earlier this month, Dell Technologies spent two days with them: a day dedicated to storage, and a day for VxRail. You can catch the recordings from both days here: Dell Technologies HCI & Storage: Cutting Edge Infrastructure to Drive Your Business.
Of the twelve great jampacked VxRail sessions, if you cannot watch them all, do make time in your day for these three:
- VxRail dynamic nodes – Flexibility for the Future. In short, VxRail without vSAN. Leverage HCI Mesh, or FC SAN storage like PowerStore T or PowerMax, and bring that VxRail LCM goodness to other vSphere clusters in your data center.
- What Does “Seamless Technology Integration” Mean for VxRail? I hate tooting my own horn, but if you want a quick deep dive on where all the storage performance in VxRail is coming from, this is your 22-minute Cliff Notes version.
- Get the Most Out of Your K8s with Tanzu on VxRail This is your crash course about how VxRail can get Tanzu stood up, so you can get Kubernetes at the Speed of Cloud, within your data center.
One more suggestion, if you are new to VxRail, or on the fence about deploying VxRail, tune into this session from Adam Little, Senior Cybersecurity Administrator for New Belgium Brewing, and the reasons they selected VxRail. Even brewing needs high availability, redundancy, and simplicity.
ESG is an IT analyst, research, validation, and strategy firm whose staff is well known for their technical prowess and frankly are fun to work with. Maybe that is because they are techies at heart who love geeking out over new hardware. I got to work with Tony Palmer as he audited the results of our VxRail on 15th Generation PowerEdge performance testing. Tony went through things with a fine-tooth comb, and asked a lot of great (and tough) probing questions.
What was most interesting was how he looked at the same data but in a very different way – quickly zeroing in on how much performance VxRail could deliver at sub-millisecond latency, verses peak performance. Tony pointed out “It’s important to note that not too long ago, performance this high with sub-millisecond response times required a significant investment in specialized storage hardware”. Personally, I love this independent validation. It is one thing for our performance team to benchmark VxRail performance, but it is quite another for an analyst firm to audit our results and to be blown out of the water to the degree they were. Read their full Technical Validation of Dell EMC VxRail on 15th Generation PowerEdge Technology: Pushing the Boundaries of Performance and VM Density for Business- and Mission-critical Workloads], and then follow it up with some of their previous work on VxRail.
If performance concerns have been holding you back from putting your toes in the HCI waters, now is a great time to jump in. The 3rd Gen Intel® Xeon® Scalable processors are faster and have more cores, but also bring other hardware architectural changes. From a storage performance perspective, the most impactful of those is PCIe Gen4, with double the bandwidth of PCIe Gen 3 which was introduced in 2012.
From the OLTP16K (70/30) workload in the following figure, we can see that by just upgrading the vSAN cache drive to PCIe Gen 4, an additional 37% of performance can be unleashed. If that is not enough, enabling RDMA for vSAN nets an additional 21% of performance. One more thing, this is with only two diskgroups… check in with me later for when we crank performance up to 11 with four diskgroups, faster cache drives, and a few more changes.
With OLTP4K (70/30) peak IOPS performance clocking in at 155K with 0.853ms latency per node, VxRail can support workloads that demand the most of storage performance. But performance is not always the focus of storage.
If your workloads benefit from SAN data services such as PowerStore’s 4:1 Data Reduction or PowerMax’s SRDF, then now is a great time to learn about the VxRail Advantage and the benefits that VxRail Lifecycle Management provides. Check out Daniel Chiu’s blog post on VxRail dynamic nodes, where the power of the portfolio is delivering the best of both worlds.
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Our fastest and biggest launch ever! - We’ve also made it simpler
Tue, 13 Jul 2021 17:41:25 -0000|
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With this hardware launch, we at VxRail are refreshing our mainline platforms. Our “everything” E Series, our performance-focused P Series, and our virtualization-accelerated V Series. You’ve probably already guessed that these nodes are faster and bigger. This is always the case with new hardware in the tech industry, thanks to Moore’s Law of "Cramming more components onto integrated circuits,” but we’ve also made this hardware release simpler. Let’s dig into these changes, what they mean to you, the consumer, and what choices you may need to consider.
The headline in this could well be the 3rd Generation Intel Xeon Scalable processor (code named Ice Lake) with its increased cores and performance. After all, the CPU is the heart of every computing device from the nebulous public cloud to the smart refrigerator in your kitchen. But there is more to CPUs and servers than cores and clock speeds. The most significant of these, in my opinion, are support for the fourth generation of the PCIe bus. PCIe Gen 3 was introduced on 12th Generation PowerEdge servers in 2012, so the arrival of PCIe Gen 4 with double the bandwidth and 33% more lanes is very much appreciated. The PCIe bus is the highway network that connects everything together, this increase in bandwidth and lanes drives change and enables improvements in many other components.
The most significant impact for VxRail is the performance that it unlocks with PCIe Gen 4 NVMe drives, available on all the new nodes including the V Series. With vSAN’s distributed architecture, all writes go to multiple cache drives on multiple nodes. Anything that improves cache performance, be it high bandwidth, lower latency networking, or faster cache drives, will drive overall application performance and increased densities. For the relatively small price premium of NVMe cache drives over SAS caches drives, VxRail can deliver up to 35% higher IOPS and up to 14% lower latency (OLTP 32K on RAID 1). NVMe cache drives also reduce the performance impact of enabling data service like deduplicate, compression, and encryption at rest. For more information, check out this paper from our performance team last year (did you know that VxRail has its own performance testing team?) where they showed the performance impact of dedupe and compression compared to compression only compared to no data reduction. This data highlights the small performance impact that compression only has on performance and the benefit of NVMe for cache drives.
Staying with storage, the new SAS HBA has double the number of lanes, which doubles the bandwidth available to drives. Don’t assume that this means twice the storage performance – wait for my next post where I’ll delve into those details with ESG. It is a topic worthy of its own post and well worth the wait, I promise! The SAS HBA has been moved to the front of the node right behind the drive bay, this is noteworthy because it frees up a PCIe slot on some configurations. We also freed up a PCIe slot on all configurations with the new Boot Optimized Storage Solution (BOSS) device – more on the new BOSS device below. These changes: deliver a third PCIe slot on the E Series, flexibility on the V Series with support for six GPUs while still offering PCIe slots for networking and FC expansion. Some would argue you can never have enough PCIe slots, but we argued, and sacrificed these gains on the P Series in favor of delivering four additional capacity drive slots, providing 184 TB of raw storage capacity in 2U. Don’t worry, there are still plenty of PCIe slots for additional networking or fibre channel cards – yes in case you missed it, you can add fibre channel storage to your favorite HCI platform, extending the storage offerings for your various workloads, through the addition of QLogic or Emulex 16/32GB fibre channel cards. These are also PCIe Gen 4 to drive maximum performance.
PCIe Gen 4 is also enabling network cards to drive more throughput. With this new generation of VxRail, we are launching with an onboard quad port 25 GbE networking card, 2.5 times more than what the previous generation launched with. See the Get thee to 25GbE section in my recent post for A trilogy of reasons to see why you need to be looking at 25 GbE NICs today, even if you are not upgrading your network switches just yet. With this release, VxRail is shifting our onboard networking to use the Open Compute Project (OCP) spec 3.0 form factor. For you, the customer, this means greater choice in on
-board network cards, with 10 cards from three vendors available at launch, and more to come. If you are not familiar with OCP, check it out. OCP is a large cross company organization that started as an internal project at Facebook, but now has a diverse membership of almost 100 companies working “collaboratively on redesigning hardware technology to efficiently support the growing demands on compute infrastructure.” The quad 25Gbe NIC is only consuming half of the bandwidth that OCP 3.0 can support, so we all have an interesting networking future.
This hardware release is not just faster and bigger, we have also made these VxRail nodes simpler. Simplicity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder; there isn’t an industry benchmark for it, but I think you’ll agree with me that these changes will make life simpler in the data center. The new BOSS-S2 device is located at the rear of the node and hot-pluggable. In the event of failure of a RAID 1 protected M.2 SATA drive, it can easily and non-disruptively be replaced without powering off and opening the node. We’ve also relocated the power supplies, there is now one on each side of the chassis. This improves air flow, cooling, and enables easier and tidier cabling – we’ve all seen those rats’ nest of cables in the data center. Moving around to the front, we’ve added a Quick Resource Locator (QRL) to the chassis luggage tag, which can be scanned with an Android or iOS app, this will display system and warranty details and also provide links to SolVe procedures and documentation. Sticking with mobile applications, we’ve added OpenManage and Mobile Quick Sync 2 which enables, from the press of the Wireless Activation button, access to iDRAC and all the troubleshooting help it provides – no more dragging a crash cart across the data center.
VxRail is more than the sum of its components, be it through Lifecycle Management, simpler cloud operations, or ongoing product education. The value it delivers is seen daily by our 12.4K customers around the globe. Today we celebrate not just our successes and our new release, but also the successes and achievements of the giants that hoist us up to stand on their shoulders and enable VxRail and our customers to reach for the stars. Join us as we continue our journey and Reimagine HCI.
More GPUs, CPUs and performance - oh my!
Mon, 14 Jun 2021 11:18:50 -0000|
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Continuous hardware and software changes deployed with VxRail’s Continuously Validated State
A wonderful aspect of software-defined-anything, particularly when built on world class PowerEdge servers, is speed of innovation. With a software-defined platform like VxRail, new technologies and improvements are continuously added to provide benefits and gains today, and not a year or so in the future. With the release of VxRail 7.0.200, we are at it again! This release brings support for VMware vSphere and vSAN 7.0 Update 2, and for new hardware: 3rd Gen AMD EPYC processors (Milan), and more powerful hardware from NVIDIA with their A100 and A40 GPUs.
VMware, as always, does a great job of detailing the many enhanced or new features in a release. From high level What’s New corporate or personal blog posts, to in-depth videos by Duncan Epping. However, there are a few changes that I want to highlight:
Get thee to 25GbE: A trilogy of reasons - Storage, load-balancing, and pricing.
vSAN is a distributed storage system. To that end, anything that improves the network or networking efficiency improves storage performance and application performance -- but there is more to networking than big, low-latency pipes. RDMA has been a part of vSphere since the 6.5 release; it is only with 7.0 Update 2 that it is leveraged by vSAN. John Nicholson explains the nuts and bolts of vSAN RDMA in this blog post, but only touches on the performance gains. From our performance testing on VxRail, I can share with you the gains we have seen with VxRail: up to 5% reduction in CPU utilization, up to 25% lower latency, and up to 18% higher IOPS, along with increases in read and write throughput. It should be noted that even with medium block IO, vSAN is more than capable of saturating a 10GbE port, RDMA is pushing performance beyond that, and we’ve yet to see what Intel 3rd Generation Xeon processors will bring. The only fly in the ointment for vSAN RDMA is the current small list of approved network cards – no doubt more will be added soon.
vSAN is not the only feature that enjoys large low-latency pipes. Niels Hagoort describes the changes in vSphere 7.0 Update 2 that have made vMotion faster, thus making Balancing Workloads Invisible and the lives of virtualization administrators everywhere a lot better. Aside: Can I say how awesome it is to see VMware continuing to enhance a foundational feature that they first introduced in 2003, a feature that for many was that lightbulb Aha! moment that started their virtualization journey.
One last nudge: pricing. The cost delta between 10GbE and 25GbE network hardware is minimal, so for greenfield deployments the choice is easy; you may not need it today, but workloads and demands continue to grow. For brownfield, where the existing network is not due for replacements, the choice is still easy. 25GbE NICs and switch ports can negotiate to 10GbE making a phased migration, VxRail nodes now and switches in the future, possible. The inverse is also possible: upgrade the network to 25GbE switches while still connecting your existing VxRail 10GbE SFP+ NIC ports.
Is 25GbE in your infrastructure upgrade plans yet? If not, maybe it should be.
A duo of AMD goodness
Last year we released two AMD-based VxRail platforms, the E665/F and the P675F/N, so I’m delighted to see CPU scheduler optimizations for AMD EPYC processors, as described in Aditya Sahu blog post. What is even better is the 29 page performance study Aditya links to, the depth of detail provided on how the ESXi CPU scheduling works, and didn’t work, with AMD EYPC processors is truly educational. The extensive performance testing VMware continuously runs and the results they share (spoiler: they achieved very significant gains) are also a worthwhile read. In our testing we’ve seen that with just these scheduler optimizations AMD alone VxRail 7.0.200 can provide up to 27% more IOPS and up to 27% lower latency for both RAID1 and RAID5 with relational database (RDBMS22K 60R/40W 100%Random) workloads.
VxRail begins shipping the 3rd generation AMD EYPC processors – also known as
Milan – in VxRail E665 and P675 nodes later this month. These are not a replacement
for the current 2nd Gen EPYC processors we offer, rather the addition of higher
performing 24-core, 32-core, and 64-core choices to the VxRail line up delivering up to 33% more IOPS and 16% lower latency across a range of workloads and block sizes. Check out this VMware blog post for the performance gains they showcase with the VMmark benchmarking tool.
HCI Mesh – only recently introduced, yet already getting better
When VMware released HCI Mesh just last October, it enabled stranded storage on one VxRail cluster to be consumed by another VxRail cluster. With the release of VxRail 7.0.200 this has been expanded to making it more applicable to more customers by enabling any vSphere clusters to also be consumers of that excess storage capacity – these remote clusters do not require a vSAN license and consume the storage in the same manner they would any other datastore. This opens up some interesting multi-cluster use cases, for example:
In solutions where a software application licensing requires each core/socket in the vSphere cluster to be licensed, this licensing cost can easily dwarf other costs. Now this application can be deployed on a small compute-only cluster, while consuming storage from the larger VxRail cluster. Or where the density of storage per socket didn’t make VxRail viable, it can now be achieved with a smaller VxRail cluster, plus a separate compute-only cluster. If only the all the goodness that is VxRail was available in a compute-only cluster – now that would be something dynamic…
A GPU for every workload
GPUs, once the domain of PC gamers, are now a data center staple with their parallel processing capabilities accelerating a variety of workloads. The versatile VxRail V Series has multiple NVIDIA GPUs to choose from and we’ve added two more with the addition of the NVIDIA A40 and A100. The A40 is for sophisticated visual computing workloads – think large complex CAD models, while the A100 is optimized for deep learning inference workloads for high-end data science.
Evolution of hardware in a software-defined world
PowerEdge took a big step forward with their recent release built on 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. Software-defined principles enable VxRail to not only quickly leverage this big step forward, but also to quickly leverage all the small steps in hardware changes throughout a generation. Building on the latest PowerEdge servers we are Reimagine HCI with VxRail with the next generation VxRail E660/F, P670F or V670F. Plus, what’s great about VxRail is that you can seamlessly integrate this latest technology into your existing infrastructure environment. This is an exciting release, but equally exciting are all the incremental changes that VxRail software-defined infrastructure will get along the way with PowerEdge and VMware.
VxRail, flexibility is at its core.
- VxRail systems with Intel 3rd Generation Xeon processors will be globally available in July 2021.
- VxRail systems with AMD 3rd Generation EPYC processors will be globally available in June 2021.
- VxRail HCI System Software updates will be globally available in July 2021.
- VxRail dynamic nodes will be globally available in August 2021.
- VxRail self-deployment options will begin availability in North America through an early access program in August 2021.
- Blog: Reimagine HCI with VxRail
- Attend our launch webinar to learn more.
- Press release: Dell Technologies Reimagines Dell EMC VxRail to Offer Greater Performance and Storage Flexibility