Live Optics and Azure Stack HCI
Thu, 27 Apr 2023 14:37:48 -0000|
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The IT industry has coped with many challenges during the last decades. One of the most impactful ones, probably due to its financial implications, has been the “IT budget reduction”—the need for IT departments to increase efficiency, reduce the cost of their processes and operations, and optimize asset utilization.
This do-more-with-less mantra has a wide range of implications, from cost of acquisition to operational expenses and infrastructure payback period.
Cost of acquisition is not only related to our ability to get the best IT infrastructure price from technology vendors but also to the less obvious fact of optimal workload characterization that leads to the minimum infrastructure assets to service business demand.
Without the proper tools, assessing the specific needs that each infrastructure acquisition process requires is not simple. Obtaining precise workload requirements often involves input from several functional groups, requiring their time and dedication. This is often not possible, so the only choice is to do a high-level estimation of requirements and select a hardware offering that can cover by ample margin the performance requirements.
Those ample margins do not align very well with concepts such as optimal asset utilization and, thus, do not lead to the best choice under a budget reduction paradigm.
But there is free online software, Live Optics, that can be used to collect, visualize, and share data about your IT infrastructure and the workloads they host. Live Optics helps you understand your workloads’ performance by providing in-depth data analysis. It makes the project requirements much clearer, so the sizing decision—based on real data—is more accurate and less estimated.
Azure Stack HCI, as a hyperconverged system, greatly benefits from such sizing considerations. It is often used to host a mix of workloads with different performance profiles. Being able to characterize the CPU, memory, storage, network, or protection requirements is key when infrastructure needs to be defined. This way, the final node configuration for the Azure Stack HCI platform will be able to cope with the workload requirements without oversizing the hardware and software offerings, and we are able to select the type of Azure Stack HCI node that best fits the workload requirements.
Microsoft recommends using an official sizing tool such as Dell’s tool, and Live Optics incorporates all Azure Stack HCI design constraints and best practices, so the tool outcome is optimized to the workload requirements.
Imagine that we had to host in the Azure Stack HCI infrastructure a number of business applications with sets of users. We would need to provide the performance requirements to the sizing tool so we can determine the type of node we need, the amount of memory each node will have, what CPU we will equip, how many NVMe drives are needed to cover the I/O demand, and the network architecture.
We can see a sample of the sizing tool input in the following figure:
Figure 1. Example from Dell's sizing tool for Azure Stack HCI
In this case, we have chosen to base our Azure Stack HCI infrastructure on four AX-750 nodes, with Intel Gold 6342 CPUs and 1 GB of RAM per node.
Because we have used Live Optics to gather and analyze performance data, we have sized our hardware assets based on real customer usage data such as that shown in the next figure:
Figure 2. Live Optics performance dashboard
This Live Optics dashboard shows the general requirements of the analyzed environment. Data of aggregated network throughput, IOPS, and memory usage or CPU utilization are displayed and, thus, can be used to size the required hardware.
There are more specific dashboards that show more details on each performance core statistic. For precise storage sizing, we can display read and write I/O behavior in great detail, as we can see in the following figure:
Figure 3. IOPS graphics through a Live Optics read/write I/O dashboard
With a tool such as Live Optics, we can size our Azure Stack HCI infrastructure based on real workload requirements, not assumptions made because information is lacking. This leads to an accurate configuration, usually resulting in a lower price, and warranties that the proposed infrastructure can handle even the peak business workload requirements.
Check the resources shown below to find links to the Live Optics site and collector application, as well as some Dell technical information and sizing tools for Azure Stack HCI.
- Live Optics app
- Live Optics site
- Info Hub: Microsoft HCI Solutions from Dell Technologies
- Microsoft Azure Stack HCI sizer from Dell Technologies
Author: Inigo Olcoz
Related Blog Posts
Dell and Azure Stack HCI Made Easy: the Video Series
Tue, 25 Apr 2023 17:05:23 -0000|
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It is incredible how time flies and it still feels like yesterday since December 10, 2020, when Microsoft initially released Azure Stack HCI.
Today, Azure Stack HCI is a huge success and, in combination with Azure Arc, the foundation for any real Microsoft hybrid strategy.
But believe it or not, 850+ days later, Azure Stack HCI is still a big unknown for part of the Microsoft community. In our daily customer engagements, we keep on observing that there are knowledge gaps around the Azure Stack HCI program itself and the partner ecosystem that surrounds it.
In these circumstances, we have decided to take action and create a very short and easy-to-follow video series explaining everything you need to know about Azure Stack HCI from a technical perspective.
What you will find
This initial video training library consist of five videos, each averaging seven minutes in length. Here’s a summary of what you will discover in each of the videos:
Video: What Is Inside Azure Stack HCI
Learn the basics and fundamental components of Azure Stack HCI and get to know the Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI platform.
Meet the AX node platform and take the Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI route to deliver consistent Azure Stack HCI deployments.
Video: Topology and networking
Explore topology and network deployment options for Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI. Make good Azure Stack HCI environments even better with the Dell PowerSwitch family.
Learn about Azure Stack HCI local management with Windows Admin Center and OpenManage. This is the perfect combination for quick and easy controlled local deployments…and a solid foundation for true hybrid management.
Describes end to end deployment and support for the Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI platform with ProDeploy and ProSupport services.
Will there be more?
We are already working on the next series where we’ll be covering other important topics that are beyond the scope for this initial launch (such as best practices and stretched clusters).
There is no doubt that Azure Stack HCI is a very hot topic. In fact, it is the key foundational element that enables a true Microsoft hybrid strategy by delivering on-premises infrastructure fully integrated with Azure. This video series explains the different elements that make this possible.
All videos in the series are important, none should be skipped… but if there is one not to be missed, please, go for Dell Azure Stack HCI: Local Management. This topic is actually the hook for the next release (Hint -> Hybrid management is the next big thing!).
Thanks for reading and… stay tuned for additional videos on the Info Hub!
Author: Ignacio Borrero, Senior Principal Engineer, Technical Marketing Dell CI & HCI
Test Drive Azure Stack HCI in the Dell Demo Center!
Thu, 13 Apr 2023 21:28:09 -0000|
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A picture is worth a thousand words, but the value of a good hands-on lab is immeasurable!
Our newly minted interactive demo and hands-on lab are published in the Dell Technologies Demo Center:
- The interactive demo (ITD-0910) offers an immersive look at all Azure Stack HCI management and governance features in Dell OpenManage Integration with Microsoft Windows Admin Center.
- If you're seeking a deep-dive into the Dell Integrated System for Microsoft Azure Stack HCI initial deployment experience, you may prefer the PowerShell-heavy hands-on lab (HOL-0313-01).
In this blog, we'll begin with a brief introduction to these test drives. Then, we'll share our list of other virtual labs that will prove invaluable on your journey to becoming an Azure Stack HCI champion. Fasten your seatbelt and get ready to take your skills to the next level!
The interactive demo can be accessed directly by all customers and partners. When first navigating to the Demo Center site, remember to click the Sign In drop-down menu in the upper right corner of the page.
At the present time, you will not see the hands-on lab appear in the Demo Center catalog. You will need to contact your Dell Technologies account team to gain access to HOL-0313-01.
Interactive Demo ITD-0910
Taking this demo is like competing in a Formula1 or NASCAR race. It is fast-paced and remains within the secure confines of the track's guardrails. Each module in the demo guides you down a well-defined path that leads to a desired business outcome. Here is a summary of the benefits our OpenManage Integration extension delivers:
- Uses automation to streamline operational efficiency and flexibility
- Provides a consistent hybrid management experience by using a single Dell HCI Configuration Profile policy definition
- Reduces operational expense by intelligently right-sizing infrastructure to match your workload profile
- Ensures stability and security of infrastructure with real-time monitoring and lifecycle management
- Protects your IT estate from costly changes to configuration settings made inadvertently or maliciously
Whenever new features are released for our extension, you'll be able to familiarize yourself with them here first. In the latest release (v3.0), we completely revamped the user interface for improved usability and navigation. We also added server and cluster-level checks to ensure that all prerequisites are met for seamless enablement of management and monitoring operations. The following figure illustrates the results of a prerequisite check. In the interactive demo, you learn more about these failures and how to use the OpenManage Integration extension to fix them.
When we first start driving, we need our parents and teachers to provide turn-by-turn directions. If you're exploring the extension for the first time, you'll want to keep the guides enabled to aid your understanding.
For example, consider the CPU Core Management feature. This feature allows you to right size your Azure Stack HCI cluster by enabling/disabling CPU cores to meet the requirements of your workload profile. It can also help save in subscription costs because Azure Stack HCI hosts are billed by CPU core per month. The guide in the following figure reminds you that a thorough analysis of your workload characteristics is essential prior to reducing the enabled CPU cores on this cluster.
After you've familiarized yourself with the talk track, you can leave your parents and teachers at home and drive through the demos without the detailed explanations. You can navigate using links alone by clicking the X in the upper right-hand corner of any guide. You might choose to proceed down this road to test your knowledge. As a Dell Technologies partner, you might want to create the illusion of performing a demo from a live environment to impress prospective clients.
Hands-on Lab HOL-0313-01
The Microsoft Azure Stack HCI Deployment hands-on lab in the Demo Center will appeal to the more mechanically inclined. It pops open the hood so you can get your hands dirty with all the PowerShell automation in our End-to-End Deployment Guide for Day 1 deployments. It is accompanied by an in-depth student manual to point you in the right direction, but there is a bit more freedom to go off-road compared with the interactive demo. Keep in mind that this is a virtual environment, so certain tasks that require the physical hardware may be limited.
This figure illustrates how you can drag and drop the PowerShell code into the console, so you aren't wasting time typing everything yourself:
We still show the GUI some love in the later portions of the lab. Failover Cluster Manager and Windows Admin Center make an appearance after you've used PowerShell to configure the hosts, create the cluster, configure a cluster witness, and enable Storage Spaces Direct (S2D). You'll be able to confirm the expected outcome at the command line using the graphical tools.
The following figure shows the step where you use Failover Cluster Manager to inspect the newly created storage pool after its created with PowerShell.
You'll also explore some of the management and monitoring capabilities in Windows Admin Center after adding your new cluster as a connection. This section of the HOL stops short of exploring the OpenManage Integration extension, though. We provide a link in the student manual to the interactive demo. If you’re not a fan of the layout of the lab shown in the following figure, you can rearrange the panes to fit your preferences. For example, you can open the manual in a separate window and allow your virtual desktop to consume all your screen real estate.
Other Opportunities to Get Hands-On
Maybe the interactive demo and hands-on lab don't meet your needs. Maybe you're looking to kick the tires on Azure Stack HCI without any training wheels. In that case, there are other options available to you. We have compiled a great list of resources that address a variety of use cases:
- MSLab – Using this GitHub project, you can run entire virtual Azure Stack HCI environments directly on your laptop if it meets moderate hardware requirements. There are endless Azure hybrid scenarios available to try (Azure Kubernetes Service hybrid, Azure Virtual Desktop, Azure Arc portfolio, and so on), and new ones are added almost immediately after new features are released.
- Dell GEOS Azure Stack HCI Hands-on Lab Guides – The Dell Global Engineering Outreach Specialists have crafted extensive guides to accompany the MSLab scenarios.
- Dell Technologies & Microsoft | Hybrid Jumpstart – The goal of this jumpstart is to help you grow your knowledge, skills, and experience around several core hybrid cloud solutions from the Dell Technologies and Microsoft hybrid portfolio. This has many highly prescriptive hands-on modules and resembles more of a Pluralsight or Microsoft Learn course.
- Azure Arc Jumpstart – If you want to skip the infrastructure deployment steps and get right into the key features of the Azure Arc portfolio, then this project is for you. All you need is an Azure subscription and a single resource group to get started immediately.
- Dell Technologies Customer Solution Center – Speak with your Dell Technologies account team to schedule a personalized engagement with a Customer Solution Center. Our dedicated subject matter experts can help you with extensive Proofs of Concept with your target workloads.
If you're looking for educational materials on Azure Stack HCI, like white papers, blogs, and videos, visit our Info Hub and main product page.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Evolving_Techie and LinkedIn.
Author: Mike Lamia