Learn About the Latest Major VxRail Software Release: VxRail 7.0.400
Thu, 22 Sep 2022 13:11:44 -0000|
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As many parts of the world welcome the fall season and the cooler temperatures that it brings, one area that has not cooled down is VxRail. The latest VxRail software release, 7.0.400, introduces a slew of new features that will surely fire up our VxRail customers and spur them to schedule their next cluster update.
VxRail 7.0.400 provides support for VMware ESXi 7.0 Update 3g and VMware vCenter Server 7.0 Update 3g. All existing platforms that support VxRail 7.0 can upgrade to VxRail 7.0.400. Upgrades from VxRail 4.5 and 4.7 are supported, which is an important consideration because standard support from Dell for those versions ends on September 30.
VxRail 7.0.400 software introduces features in the following areas:
- Life cycle management
- Dynamic nodes
- Configuration flexibility
This blog delves into major enhancements in those areas. For a more comprehensive rundown of the features added to this release, see the release notes.
Life cycle management
Because life cycle management is a key area of value differentiation for our VxRail customers, the VxRail team is continuously looking for ways to further enhance the life cycle management experience. One aspect that has come into recent focus is handling cluster update failures caused by VxRail nodes failing to enter maintenance mode.
During a cluster update, nodes are put into maintenance mode one at time. Their workloads are moved onto the remaining nodes in the cluster to maintain availability while the nodes go through software, firmware, and driver updates. VxRail 7.0.350 introduced capabilities to notify users of situations such as host pinning and mounted VM tools on the host that can cause nodes to fail to enter maintenance mode, so users can address those situations before initiating a cluster update.
VxRail 7.0.400 addresses this cluster update failure scenario even further by being smarter with how it handles this issue once the cluster update is in operation. If a node fails to enter maintenance mode, VxRail automatically skips that node and moves onto the next node. Previously, this scenario would cause the cluster update operation to fail. Now, users can run that cluster update and process as many nodes as possible. Users can then run a cluster update retry, which targets only the nodes that were skipped. The combination of skipping nodes and targeted retry of those skipped nodes significantly improves the cluster update experience.
Figure 1: Addressing nodes failing to enter maintenance mode
In VxRail 7.0.400, a Dell RecoverPoint for VMs compatibility check has been added to the update advisory report, cluster update pre-check, and cluster update operation to inform users of a potential incompatibility scenario. Having data protection in an unsupported state puts an environment at risk. The addition of the compatibility check is a great news for RecoverPoint for VMs users because this previously manual task is now automated, helping to reduce risk and streamline operations.
VxRail dynamic nodes
Since the introduction of VxRail dynamic nodes last year, we’ve incrementally added more storage protocol support for increased flexibility. NFS, CIFS, and iSCSI support were added earlier this year. In VxRail 7.0.400, users can configure their VxRail dynamic nodes with storage from Dell PowerStore using NVMe on Fabric over TCP (NVMe-oF/TCP). NVMe provides much faster data access compared to SATA and SAS. The support requires Dell PowerStoreOS 2.1 or later and Dell PowerSwitch with the virtual Dell SmartFabric Storage Service appliance.
VxRail cluster deployment using NVMe-oF/TCP is not much different from setting up iSCSI storage as the primary datastore for VxRail dynamic node clusters. The cluster must go through the Day 1 bring-up activities to establish IP connectivity. From there, the user can then set up the port group, VM kernels, and NVMe-oF/TCP adapter to access the storage shared from the PowerStore.
Setting up NVMe-oF/TCP between the VxRail dynamic node cluster and PowerStore is separate from the cluster deployment activities. You can find more information about deploying NVMe-oF/TCP here: https://infohub.delltechnologies.com/t/smartfabric-storage-software-deployment-guide/.
VxRail 7.0.400 also adds VMware Virtual Volumes (vVols) support for VxRail dynamic nodes. Cluster deployment with vVols over Fibre Channel follows a workflow similar to cluster deployment with a VMFS datastore. Provisioning and zoning of the Virtual Volume needs to be done before the Day 1 bring-up. The VxRail Manager VM is installed onto the datastore as part of the Day 1 bring-up.
For vVols over IP, the Day 1 bring-up needs to be completed first to establish IP connectivity. Then the Virtual Volume can be mounted and a datastore can be created from it for the VxRail Manager VM.
Figure 2: Workflow to set up VxRail dynamic node clusters with VMware Virtual Volumes
VxRail 7.0.400 introduces the option for customers to deploy a local VxRail managed vCenter Server with their VxRail dynamic node cluster. The Day 1 bring-up installs a vCenter Server onto the cluster with a 60-day evaluation license, but the customer is required to purchase their own vCenter Server license. VxRail customers are accustomed to having a Standard edition vCenter Server license packaged with their VxRail purchase. However, that vCenter Server license is bundled with the VMware vSAN license, not the VMware vSphere license.
VxRail 7.0.400 supports the use of Dell PowerPath/VE with VxRail dynamic nodes, which is important to many storage customers who have been relying on PowerPath software for multipathing capabilities. With VxRail 7.0.400, VxRail dynamic nodes can use PowerPath with PowerStore, PowerMax, or Unity XT storage array via NFS, iSCSI, or NVMe over Fibre Channel storage protocol.
Another topic that continues to burn bright, no matter the season, is security. As threats continue to evolve, it’s important to continue to advance security measures for the infrastructure. VxRail 7.0.400 introduces capabilities that make it even easier for customers to further protect their clusters.
While the security configuration rules set forth by the Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) are required for customers working in or with the U.S. federal government and Department of Defense, other customers can benefit from hardening their own clusters. VxRail 7.0.400 automatically applies a subset of the STIG rules on all VxRail clusters. These rules protect VM controls and the underlying SUSE Linux operating system controls. Application of the rules occurs without any user intervention upon an upgrade to VxRail 7.0.400 and at the cluster deployment with this software version, providing a seamless experience. This feature increases the security baseline for all VxRail clusters starting with VxRail 7.0.400.
Digital certificates are used to verify the external communication between trusted entities. VxRail customers have two options for digital certificates. Self-signed certificates use the VxRail as the certificate authority to sign the certificate. Customers use this option if they don’t need a Certificate Authority or choose not to pay for the service. Otherwise, customers can import a certificate signed by a Certificate Authority to the VxRail Manager. Both options require certificates to be shared between the VxRail Manager and vCenter Server for secure communication to manage the cluster.
Previously, both options required manual intervention, at varying levels, to manage certificate renewals and ensure uninterrupted communication between the VxRail Manager and the vCenter Server. Loss of communication can affect cluster management operations, though not the application workloads.
Figure 3: Workflow for managing certificates
With VxRail 7.0.400, all areas of managing certificates have been simplified to make it easier and safer to import and manage certificates over time. Now, VxRail certificates can be imported via the VxRail Manager and API. There’s an API to import the vCenter certificate into the VxRail trust store. Renewals can be managed automatically via the VxRail Manager so that customers do not need to constantly check expiring certificates and replace certificates. Alternatively, new API calls have been created to perform these activities. While these features simplify the experience for customers already using certificates, hopefully the simplified certificate management will encourage more customers to use it to further secure their environment.
VxRail 7.0.400 also introduces end-to-end upgrade bundle integrity check. This feature has been added to the pre-update health check and the cluster update operation. The signing certificate is verified to ensure the validity of the root certificate authority. The digital certificate is verified. The bundle manifest is also checked to ensure that the contents in the bundle have not been altered.
With any major VxRail software release comes enhancements in configuration flexibility. VxRail 7.0.400 provides more flexibility for base networking and more flexibility in using and managing satellite nodes.
Previous VxRail software releases introduced long-awaited support for dynamic link aggregation for vSAN and vSphere vMotion traffic and support for two vSphere Distributed Switches (VDS) to separate traffic management traffic from vSAN and vMotion traffic. VxRail 7.0.400 removes the previous port count restriction of four ports for base networking. Customers can now also deploy clusters with six or eight ports for base networking while employing link aggregation or multiple VDS, or both.
Figure 4: Two VDS with six NIC ports
Figure 5: Two VDS with eight NIC ports with link redundancy for vMotion traffic and link aggregation for vSAN traffic
With VxRail 7.0.400, customers can convert their vSphere Standard Switch on their satellite nodes to a customer-managed VDS after deployment. This support allows customers to more easily manage their VDS and satellite nodes at scale.
The most noteworthy serviceability enhancement I want to mention is the ability to create service tickets from the VxRail Manager UI. This functionality makes it easier for customers to submit service tickets, which can speed resolution time and improve the feedback loop for providing product improvement suggestions. This feature requires an active connection with the Embedded Service Enabler to Dell Support Services. Customers can submit up to five attachments to support a service ticket.
Figure 6: Input form to create a service request
VxRail 7.0.400 is no doubt one of the more feature-heavy VxRail software releases in some time. Customers big and small will find value in the capability set. This software release enhances existing features while also introducing new tools that further focus on VxRail operational simplicity. While this blog covers the highlights of this release, I recommend that you review the release notes to further understand all the capabilities in VxRail 7.0.400.
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Building on VxRail HCI System Software: the advantages of multi-cluster active management capabilities
Tue, 29 Sep 2020 19:03:05 -0000|
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The signs of autumn are all around us, from the total takeover of pumpkin-spiced everything to the beautiful fall foliage worthy of Bob Ross’s inspiration. Like the amount of change autumn brings forth, so too does the latest release of VxRail ACE, or should I preface that with ‘formerly known as’? I’ll get to that explanation shortly.
This release introduces multi-cluster update functionality that will further streamline the lifecycle management (LCM) of your VxRail clusters at scale. With this active management feature comes a new licensing structure and role-based access control to enable the active management of your clusters.
Formerly known as VxRail ACE
The colors of the leaves are changing and so is the VxRail ACE name. The brand name VxRail ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine), will no longer be used as of this release. While it had a catchy name and was easy to say, there are two reasons for this change. First, Analytical Consulting Engine no longer describes the full value or how we intend to expand the features in the future. It has grown beyond the analytics and monitoring capabilities of what was originally introduced in VxRail ACE a year ago and now includes several valuable LCM operations that greatly expand its scope. Secondly, VxRail ACE has always been part of the VxRail HCI System Software offering. Describing the functionality as part of the overall value of VxRail HCI System Software, instead of having its own name, simplifies the message of VxRail’s value differentiation.
Going forward, the capability set (that is, analytics, monitoring, and LCM operations) will be referred to as SaaS multi-cluster management -- a more accurate description. The web portal is now referred to as MyVxRail.
Cluster updates is the first active management feature offered by SaaS multi-cluster management. It builds on the existing LCM operational tools for planning cluster updates: on-demand pre-update health checks (LCM pre-check) and update bundle downloads and staging. Now you can initiate updates of your VxRail clusters at scale from MyVxRail. The benefits of cluster updates on MyVxRail tie closely with existing LCM operations. During the planning phase, you can run LCM pre-checks of the clusters you want to update. This informs you if a cluster is ready for an update and pinpoints areas for remediation for clusters that are not ready. From there, you can schedule your maintenance window to perform a cluster update and, from MyVxRail, initiate the download and staging of the VxRail update bundle onto those clusters. With this release, you can now execute cluster updates for those clusters. Now that’s operational efficiency!
When setting a cluster update operation, you have the benefit of two pieces of information – a time estimate for the update and the change data. The update time estimate will help you determine the length of the maintenance window. The estimate is generated by telemetry gathered about the install base to provide more accurate information. The change data is the list of the components that require an update to reach the target VxRail version.
Figure 1 MyVxRail Updates tab
Role-based access control
Active management requires role-based access control so that you can provide permissions to the appropriate individuals to perform configuration changes to your VxRail clusters. You don’t want anyone with access to MyVxRail to perform cluster updates on the clusters. SaaS multi-cluster management leverages vCenter Access Control for role-based access. From MyVxRail, you will be able to register MyVxRail with the vCenter Servers that are managing your VxRail clusters. The registration process will give VxRail privileges to vCenter Server to build roles with specific SaaS multi-cluster management capabilities.
MyVxRail registers the following privileges on vCenter:
- Download software bundle: downloads and stages the VxRail software bundle onto the cluster
- Execute health check: performs an on-demand pre-update health check on the cluster
- Execute cluster update: initiates the cluster update operation on the clusters
- Manage update credentials: modifies the VxRail infrastructure credentials used for active management
Figure 2 VxRail privileges for vCenter access control
VxRail Infrastructure Credentials
We’ve done more to make it easier to perform cluster updates at scale. Typically, when you’re performing a single cluster update, you have to enter the root account credentials for vCenter Server, Platform Services Controller, and VxRail Manager. That’s the same process when performing it from VxRail Manager. But that process can get tedious when you have multiple clusters to update.
VxRail Infrastructure Credentials can store those credentials so you can enter them once, at the initial setup of active management, and not have to do it again as you perform a multi-cluster update. MyVxRail can read the stored credentials that are saved on each individual cluster for security.
Big time saver! But how secure is it? More secure than hiding Halloween candy from children. For a user to perform cluster update, the administrator needs to add the ‘execute cluster update’ privilege to the role assigned to that user. Root credentials can only be managed by users assigned with a role that has the ‘manage update credentials’ privilege.
Figure 3 MyVxRail credentials manager
The last topic is licensing. While all the capabilities you have been using on MyVxRail come with the purchase of the VxRail HCI System Software license, multi-cluster update is different. This feature requires a fee-based add-on software license called ‘SaaS active multi-cluster management for VxRail HCI System Software’. All VxRail nodes come with VxRail HCI System Software and you have access to MyVxRail and SaaS multi-cluster management features, except for cluster update. For you to perform an update of a cluster on MyVxRail, all nodes in the clusters must have the add-on software license.
That is a lot to consume for one release. Hopefully, unlike your Thanksgiving meal, you can stay awake for the ending. While the brand name VxRail ACE is no more, we’re continuing to deliver value-adding capabilities. Multi-cluster update is a great feature to further your use of MyVxRail for LCM of your VxRail clusters. With role-based access and VxRail infrastructure credentials, rest assured you’re benefitting from multi-cluster update without sacrificing security.
Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing
VxRail brings key features with the release of 4.7.510
Mon, 17 Aug 2020 18:31:30 -0000|
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VxRail recently released a new version of our software, 4.7.510, which brings key feature functionality and product offerings
At a high level, this release further solidifies VxRail’s synchronous release commitment with vSphere of 30 days or less. VxRail and the 4.7.510 release integrates and aligns with VMware by including the vSphere 6.7U3 patch release. More importantly, vSphere 6.7U3 provides the underlying support for Intel Optane persistent memory (or PMem), also offered in this release.
Intel Optane persistent memory is non-volatile storage medium with RAM-like performance characteristics. Intel Optane PMem in a hyperconverged VxRail environment accelerates IT transformation with faster analytics (think in-memory DBMS), and cloud services.
Intel Optane PMem (in App Direct mode) provides added memory options for the E560/F/N and P570/F and is supported on version 4.7.410. Additionally, PMem will be supported on the P580N beginning with version 4.7.510 on July 14.
This technology is ideal for many use cases including in-memory databases and block storage devices, and it’s flexible and scalable allowing you to start small with a single PMem module (card) and scale as needed. Other use cases include real-time analytics and transaction processing, journaling, massive parallel query functions, checkpoint acceleration, recovery time reduction, paging reduction and overall application performance improvements.
New functionality enables customers to schedule and run "on demand” health checks in advance, and in lieu of the LCM upgrade. Not only does this give customers the flexibility to pro-actively troubleshoot issues, but it ensures that clusters are in a ready state for the next upgrade or patch. This is extremely valuable for customers that have stringent upgrade schedules, as they can rest assured that clusters will seamlessly upgrade within a specified window. Of course, running health checks on a regular basis provides sanity in knowing that your clusters are always ready for unscheduled patches and security updates.
Finally, the VxRail 4.7.510 release introduces optimized security functionality with two-factor authentication (or 2FA) with SecurID for VxRail. 2FA allows users to login to VxRail via the vCenter plugin when the vCenter is configured for RSA 2FA. Prior to this version, the user would be required to enter username and password. The RSA authentication manager automatically verifies multiple prerequisites and system components to identify and authenticate users. This new functionality saves time by alleviating the username/password entry process for VxRail access. Two-factor authentication methods are often required by government agencies or large enterprises. VxRail has already incorporated enhanced security offerings including security hardening, VxRail ACLs and RBAC, KMIP compliant key management, secure logging, and DARE, and now with the release of 4.7.510, the inclusion of 2FA further distinguishes VxRail as a market leader.
Please check out these resources for more VxRail 4.7.510 information:
By: KJ Bedard - VxRail Technical Marketing Engineer