Learn more about the latest major VxRail software update: VxRail 7.0.240
Wed, 15 Sep 2021 16:27:30 -0000|
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In a blink of an eye, September is already here. All those well-deserved August holidays have come and gone. As those summer memories with colorful umbrella drinks in hand fade into the background, your focus now turns to finishing this year strong. With the recent announcement on the latest VxRail software release, VxRail is providing the juice to get you well on your way.
VxRail HCI System Software version 7.0.240 has arrived with much anticipation as it includes the expansion of the VxRail product portfolio in the form of VxRail dynamic nodes and significant lifecycle management (LCM) enhancements that our VxRail customers will surely appreciate. Dynamic nodes extend the spectrum of use cases for VxRail by addressing more workload types. The LCM enhancements in the latest software release add to the operational simplicity that VxRail users truly value by increasing the level of automation and flexibility to ensure cluster integrity throughout the life of their cluster.
VxRail dynamic nodes
As VxRail dynamic nodes were described in the external launch event, they benefit customers who are committed to continue running their mission-critical data-centric workloads on Dell EMC storage arrays because of the enterprise-level resiliency and data protection capabilities but value the operational certainty that VxRail offers to their IT teams. This use case can be particularly relevant for customers who have standardized on VCF on VxRail as their infrastructural building block for their cloud operating model. These scenarios can apply to financial and medical industries among many others. For some customers, scaling of storage and compute independently in their HCI environments can better suit some of their application workloads, whether it is a better use of resources or potential reduction in license costs for compute-intensive workloads like Oracle.
Piqued your interest? Let’s move deeper into the technical details so you can better understand how VxRail dynamic nodes address these use cases.
Figure 1: VxRail dynamic node offering
- VxRail dynamic nodes are compute-only nodes running vSphere. Dynamic nodes run VMware ESXi with vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses but do not have vSAN licenses.
- They do not have any internal drives. As a result, the VxRail Manager VM runs on an external datastore that can come from either Dell EMC storage arrays (PowerStore-T, PowerMax, and Unity XT) or VMware vSAN HCI Mesh. Customers can now scale their compute and storage independently while some customers can continue to leverage their Dell EMC storage arrays for enterprise-level resiliency options.
- Dynamic nodes run on the same VxRail HCI System Software as any other VxRail cluster. The same intelligent LCM experience backed by VxRail’s Continuously Validated States exists in dynamic nodes.
Figure 2: VxRail dynamic node platforms
Like the three-flavor Neapolitan ice cream tub, there’s a flavor of dynamic nodes to match each application requirement. While there are not any cache and capacity drives on dynamic nodes, all other hardware configurations on these models are available. The E-series is the space-efficient 1U platform. The P-series is the performance-focused platform. The V-series is optimized for GPU-acceleration with up to six GPUs per node.
For those wanting to use their Dell EMC storage arrays with these brand-new VxRail dynamic nodes, here are some important pieces of information to consider.
- With VxRail 7.0.240, Dell EMC PowerStore-T, PowerMax, and UnityXT are the supported external arrays for this use case. Third-party storage arrays are not supported.
- Storage connectivity is through Fibre-Channel, either 16Gb or 32Gb Dell EMC Connectrix Brocade or Cisco MDS FC switches.
- Management of the storage array and Fibre-Channel switch is done separately including lifecycle management, zoning, and provisioning of storage. VxRail HCI System Software is responsible for the LCM of the dynamic nodes themselves.
- When deploying a dynamic node cluster, the datastores need to be already provisioned and zoned to the dynamic nodes.
- The storage array and dynamic nodes are sold separately and supported discretely by Dell Technologies.
Now let’s move onto the LCM enhancements in VxRail 7.0.240. There are three notable enhancements that VxRail users will notice – unless their thoughts have drifted away into those summertime memories.
Figure 3: Update advisor
First, update advisor is a new tool to help you plan for their next cluster update. From the Updates > Internet Updates tab, you can now see a list of available update paths for their specific cluster. This feature does not replace your responsibility to review the release notes and decide on to which version to update their cluster but, it does generate an advisory report with critical information to let you know what needs to be updated based on your cluster’s current Continuously Validated State. Update advisor is a helpful tool to plan your maintenance window.
Figure 4: Sample compliance drift report
Second, VxRail Manager now has a compliance checker that will detect any unforeseen version drift from the current Continuously Validated State running on your VxRail cluster. As shown on the image above, it provides a component-by-component report as part of the compliance check. It is run daily by default and can be initiated on-demand.
The third LCM enhancement is VxRail LCM compatibility with VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM).
Figure 5: VMware vSphere Lifecycle Manager vLCM framework
As a refresher, VMware vLCM was introduced in vSphere 7.0 as a framework to allow for software (ESXi) and hardware (firmware and drivers) to be updated together as a single system. VMware supplies the base image which is the ESXi image, and then it is up to the hardware vendors, like Dell Technologies, to provide the hardware support manager that plugs into that framework to supply the necessary firmware and drivers and to update them. Together, they form the baseline image which is used for the compliance checker. When updating the cluster, a desired state image is built from a combination of VMware-provided ESXi image and vendor(s)-provided firmware and drivers. Based on the drift detection analysis between the baseline and desired state images, vLCM will remediate the hosts on the cluster to complete the update.
VxRail’s newly introduced vLCM compatibility enables the VxRail Manager VM to plug into the framework to perform cluster updates using VxRail-provided desired state images in the form of Continuously Validated States. Essentially, VxRail has automated the hardware support manager plugin setup and exporting the depot of firmware and drivers to vCenter, which is a very manual process for other HCI solutions. While other hardware support manager plugins to vLCM require a multiple-step procedure to establish a baseline image and desired state image and interaction with multiple interfaces, VxRail’s implementation leverages the vLCM APIs to truly obfuscate those complexities into a streamlined experience all within VxRail Manager. Because VxRail Manager already stores the Continuously Validated State on its VM, the process of identification and exporting of the hardware firmware and drivers on the VxRail stack can easily be automated. The simplicity of VxRail’s support for vLCM cannot be understated.
Figure 6: VxRail’s vLCM implementation automates and simplifies the user’s cluster update experience
Similarly, performing cluster updates is a streamlined process once the LCM bundle is downloaded onto the VxRail Manager VM. From VxRail Manager, via the vLCM APIs, the bundle is loaded onto the vLCM framework as the desired state image. In short, vLCM compatibility is mostly transparent to the user as the LCM experience still runs through VxRail Manager.
The next likely question is why offer this enhancement? The explanation can be conveyed in two points both related to cutting down the time to update the cluster.
- Consolidate VMware software updates – for users that already run NSX-T or vSphere with Tanzu, vLCM allows for those VIBs to be included into the desired state image. Instead of updating each VMware software separately, they can be done together in a single boot cycle.
- Consolidate non-VxRail managed components – there are a few components such as the FC HBA that are not part of Continuously Validated State. Those components would then need to be updated separately which may require additional host reboots. The vendor addon feature in vLCM, as shown in the image above, provides the capability to include component firmware/drivers into the cluster image for a consolidated update cycle. Using vLCM APIs, VxRail has incorporated the vendor addon feature into its vLCM implementation in VxRail Manager.
By introducing vLCM compatibility into VxRail LCM, users can benefit from these cool capabilities. With VxRail 7.0.240, the use of vLCM is disabled by default. Users can choose to enable vLCM immediately or enable it later. Developing vLCM compatibility is also a strategic decision to put VxRail in a position to enhance more vLCM capabilities as they come.
VxRail 7.0.240 is a monumental software release that expands the breadth of the VxRail portfolio’s reach in addressing workload types with VxRail dynamic nodes and its depth by enhancing is differentiated LCM experience by providing more ways to ensure cluster integrity and to improve cluster maintenance times. Though the summer is drawing to a close, VxRail is providing you the boost to stay dynamic and finish 2021 strong. Keep an eye out for more content about the latest VxRail release.
For more information about VxRail dynamic nodes, you can check out the VxRail launch page: https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-us/events/vxrail-launch.htm.
If you want to learn more about how VxRail LCM differentiates itself from other HCI vendors using VMware vLCM, you can read these previously posted blogs:
Exploring the customer experience with lifecycle management for vSAN ReadyNodes and VxRail clusters
How does vSphere LCM compare with VxRail LCM?
Daniel Chiu, Senior Technical Marketing Manager at Dell Technologies
Related Blog Posts
Adding to the VxRail summer party with the release of VxRail 7.0.010
Mon, 17 Aug 2020 18:31:32 -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
Introducing VxRail 7.0.000 with vSphere 7.0 support
Mon, 17 Aug 2020 18:31:31 -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