PowerFlex: The advantages of disaggregated infrastructure deployments
Mon, 29 Jun 2020 18:57:26 -0000|
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For several years, there has been a big push from quite a number of IT vendors towards delivering solutions based on Hyperconverged Infrastructure or HCI. The general concept of HCI is to take the three primary components of IT, compute, network and storage, and deliver them in a software defined format within a building block, normally an x86 based server. These building blocks are then joined together to create a larger, more resilient environment. The software defined components are typically a hypervisor to provide compute, virtual adapters and switches for networking, along with some software that takes the local disks attached to the server, combines them with the disks directly attached to the other building blocks and presents them as a virtual storage system back to the environment.
The HCI approach is attractive to customers for a variety of reasons:
- Easy upgrades by just adding in another building block
- A single management interface for virtual compute, virtual networking and virtual storage
- Having one team to manage everything as it is all in one place
There are of course scenarios where the HCI model does not fit, the limitations are frequently associated with the software defined storage part of the environment, situations such as the following:
- Extra storage is required but additional compute and the associated licensing is not.
- Paying for database licensing on cores that are being used for virtual storage processes.
- Unused storage capacity within the HCI environment that is inaccessible to servers outside the HCI environment.
- A server requirement for a specific workload that does not match the building blocks deployed.
- When maintenance is required it impacts both compute and storage.
Several HCI vendors have attempted to address these points but often their solutions to the issues involve a compromise.
What if there was a solution that provided software defined storage that was flexible enough to meet these requirements without compromise?
Step forward PowerFlex, a product flexible enough to be deployed as an HCI architecture, a disaggregated architecture (separate compute and storage layers managed within the same fabric), or a mixture of the two.
So how can PowerFlex be this flexible?
It is all about how the product was initially designed and developed, it consists predominantly of three separate software components:
- Storage Data Client (SDC): The software component installed on the operating system that will consume storage. It can be thought of as analogous to a Fibre Channel adapter driver from the days of SAN interconnect storage arrays. It can be installed on a wide selection of operating systems and hypervisors, most Linux distributions, VMware and Windows are supported.
- Storage Data Server (SDS): The component that is installed on the server or virtual server providing local disk capacity, it works with other servers installed with the SDS software to provide a pool of storage from which volumes are allocated. It is generally installed on a Linux platform.
- Metadata Manager (MDM): The software management component, it ensures that SDC and the SDS components are behaving themselves and playing nicely together (parents of more than one child will understand).
Each of these components can be installed across a cluster of servers in a variety of ways in order to create flexible deployment scenarios. The SDC and SDS components communicate with one another over a standard TCP/IP network to form an intelligent fabric, this is all overseen by the MDM, which is not in the data path.
Some pictures will help illustrate this far better than I can with words.
By installing the SDC (the C in a yellow box) and the SDS (the S in a green box) on to the same server, an HCI environment is created.
If the SDC and SDS are installed on dedicated servers, a disaggregated infrastructure is created
And because PowerFlex is entirely flexible (the clue is in the name), HCI and disaggregated architectures can be mixed within the same environment.
What are the advantages of deploying a disaggregated environment?
- MAXIMUM FLEXIBILITY - Compute and storage resources can be scaled independently.
- CLOUD-LIKE ECONOMICS – following on from above – what if an application needs to cope with a sudden doubling of compute resource (for example, to cope with a one-off business event)? With a disaggregated deployment, the extra compute-only resources can be added temporarily into the environment, ride the peak demand, then retire afterwards, reducing expenditure by only using what is needed.
- MAXIMISE STORAGE UTILISATION - Completely heterogeneous environments can share the same storage pool.
- CHOOSE THE CORRECT CPU FOR THE WORKLOAD - Servers with frequency optimised processors can be deployed for database use and not require licenses for cores potentially performing processing related to storage.
- AVOID CREATING MULTIPLE ISLANDS OF SOFTWARE DEFINED STORAGE - A mixture of hypervisors and operating systems can be deployed within the same environment; VMware, Hyper-V and Red Hat Virtualisation, along with operating systems running on bare metal hardware, all accessing the same storage.
- UPDATE STORAGE & COMPUTE INDEPENDENTLY - Maintenance can be performed on storage nodes completely independently of compute nodes and vice versa, thereby simplifying planned downtime. This can dramatically simplify operations, especially on larger clusters and prevents storage and compute operators from accidentally treading on each other’s toes!
Whilst HCI deployments are ideal for environments where compute requirements and storage capacity increases remain in lockstep, there are many use cases where compute and storage needs grow independently, PowerFlex is capable of serving both requirements.
PowerFlex was built to allow this disaggregation of resources from day one, which means that there is no downside to performance or capacity when storage nodes are added to existing clusters, in fact there are only positives, with increased performance, capacity and resilience, setting PowerFlex apart from many other software defined storage products.
Related Blog Posts
Deploying Tanzu Application Services on Dell EMC PowerFlex
Tue, 15 Dec 2020 14:35:58 -0000|
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Tanzu Application Service (TAS) architecture provides the best approach available today to enable agility at scale with the reliability that is must to address these challenges. PowerFlex family offers key value propositions of traditional and cloud-native production workloads, deployment flexibility, linear scalability, predictable high performance, and enterprise-grade resilience.
Tanzu Application Service (TAS)
The VMware Tanzu Application Service (TAS) is based on Cloud Foundry –an open-source cloud application platform that provides a choice of clouds, developer frameworks, and application services. Cloud Foundry is a multi-cloud platform for the deployment, management, and continuous delivery of applications, containers, and functions. TAS abstracts away the process of setting up and managing an application runtime environment so that developers can focus solely on their applications and associated data. Running a single command—cf push—creates a scalable environment for your application in seconds, which might otherwise take hours to spin up manually. TAS allows developers to deploy and deliver software quickly, without the need of managing the underlying infrastructure.
PowerFlex (previously VxFlex OS) is the software foundation of PowerFlex software-defined storage. It is a unified compute, storage and networking solution delivering scale-out block storage service designed to deliver flexibility, elasticity, and simplicity with predictable high performance and resiliency at scale.
The PowerFlex platform is available in multiple consumption options to help customers meet their project and data center requirements. PowerFlex appliance and PowerFlex rack provide customers comprehensive IT Operations Management (ITOM) and life cycle management (LCM) of the entire infrastructure stack in addition to sophisticated high-performance, scalable, resilient storage services. PowerFlex appliance and PowerFlex rack are the two preferred and proactively marketed consumption options. PowerFlex is also available on VxFlex Ready Nodes for those customers interested in software-defined compliant hardware without the ITOM and LCM capabilities.
PowerFlex software-define storage with unified compute and networking offers flexibility of deployment architecture to help best meet the specific deployment and architectural requirements. PowerFlex can be deployed in a two-layer for asymmetrical scaling of compute and storage for “right-sizing capacities, single-layer (HCI), or in mixed architecture.
Deploying TAS on PowerFlex
For this example, a PowerFlex production cluster is set up using a Hyperconverged configuration. The production cluster has connectivity to the customer-data network and the private backend PowerFlex storage network. The PowerFlex production cluster consists of a minimum of four servers that host the workload and PowerFlex storage VMs. All the nodes are part of a single ESXi Cluster and part of the same PowerFlex Cluster. Each node contributes all their internal disk resources to PowerFlex cluster.
The PowerFlex management software manages the capacity of all of the disks and acts as a back-end for data access by presenting storage volumes to be consumed by the applications running on the nodes. PowerFlex Manager also provides the essential operational controls and lifecycle management tools. The production cluster hosts the compute nodes that are used for deployment of TAS VMs. TAS components are deployed across three dedicated compute clusters that are designated as three availability zones. These compute clusters are managed by the same 'compute workload' vCenter as the dedicated Edge cluster. The following figure depicts the layout in the lab environment:
Figure 1. PowerFlex production cluster
The compute infrastructure illustrates the best practice architecture using 3 AZ’s using PowerFlex rack in hyperconverged configured nodes. This design ensures the high availability of nodes (i.e., nodes in AZ1 will still function if AZ2 or AZ3 goes down). A dedicated compute cluster in each AZ’s combines to form Isolation Zone (IZ). These AZ’s can be used to deploy and run the TAS stateful workloads requiring persistent storage. On the PowerFlex storage we have created volumes in the backend which are being mapped to vSphere as Datastores.
PowerFlex storage distributed data layout scheme is designed to maximize protection and optimize performance. A single volume is divided into chunks. These chunks will be distributed (striped) on physical disks throughout the cluster, in a balanced and random manner. Each chunk has a total of two copies for redundancy.
PowerFlex can be feature configured optionally to achieve additional data redundancy by enabling the feature Fault sets. Persistent Storage for each AZ could be its own PowerFlex cluster. By implementing PowerFlex feature Fault sets we can ensure that the persistent data availability all time. Fault Sets are subgroup of SDS s (Software defined Storage) installed on host servers within a Protection Domain. PowerFlex OS will mirror data for a Fault Set on SDSs that are outside the Fault Set. Thus, availability is assured even if all the servers within one Fault Set fail simultaneously.
PowerFlex enables flexible scale out capabilities for your data center also provides unparalleled elasticity and scalability. Start with a small environment for your proof of concept or a new application and add nodes as needed when requirements evolve.
The solution mentioned in this blog provides recommendations for deploying a highly available and production-ready Tanzu Application Service on Dell EMC PowerFlex rack infrastructure platform to meet the performance, scalability, resiliency, and availability requirements and describes its hardware and software components. For complete information, see Tanzu Application Services on PowerFlex rack - Solution Guide.
Introducing the PowerFlex Management Pack for vRealize Operations
Mon, 02 Nov 2020 13:09:42 -0000|
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By Vineeth A C
Achieving operation efficiency in today’s modern cloud infrastructure brings automation to the forefront. Centralized visibility provides a key piece of the insight needed to understand if there are operational inefficiencies for taking actions that mitigate business disruption.
We are pleased to share the general availability of Dell EMC PowerFlex Management Pack for vRealize Operations 8.x. The PowerFlex MP for vROps extends the visibility of PowerFlex systems into vROps where IT can monitor their complete data center and cloud operations. It is available to all PowerFlex rack and appliance customers at no additional cost. This brings additional value to the comprehensive IT operations management functionality delivered by PowerFlex Manager that enables full life cycle management of the unified compute and software defined storage solution.
The management pack queries and collects key PowerFlex metrics for storage, compute, networking, and server hardware using APIs and ingests into vROps that can be visualized using the out-of-the-box dashboards. It also provides a detailed system level view that shows the health status and relationship between different components of the PowerFlex system.
Key features and capabilities
Dashboards: The management pack includes 13 default dashboards showing details of PowerFlex storage, PowerFlex Manager, PowerFlex nodes, network switches, ESXi hosts, and clusters. These configurable dashboards provide user customizable data displays that adjust to meet a wide variety of requirements.
Predefined symptoms and alert definitions: The management pack includes 166 symptom definitions and 152 alert definitions based on engineering best practices for the PowerFlex systems. Symptoms and alerts can be customized by the user to meet the demand of their environment.
Historical data: This is available for all PowerFlex Adapter resource kinds. This data provides a view of consumption over time and includes capacity forecasting based on usage for PowerFlex storage.
Network topology and relationship: The topology tree functionality available in vROps is extremely useful when mapping relationships between nodes, network interfaces, switch port, VLAN, port-channel, and vPC.
Detailed metric collection: In addition to the default dashboards, users have the option of drilling into specific metrics for nearly all available data from the components of PowerFlex system, even if it is not included in a dashboard.
Multiple PowerFlex systems awareness: Ability to group and differentiate multiple PowerFlex systems.
PowerFlex node type differentiation: Ability to identify and classify compute, storage, hyperconverged, and management controller nodes.
PowerFlex Details: This dashboard shows all the PowerFlex storage KPIs with historical data providing a view of storage performance utilization over time.
PowerFlex Node Summary: You can monitor the health status of all your PowerFlex nodes and its hardware components in this dashboard.
PowerFlex Networking Performance: This dashboard shows network KPIs like throughput, errors, packet discards with historical data providing a view of network utilization over time.
For customers who have already invested in vRealize Operations, this management pack is a great value add to monitor their PowerFlex systems. It is an end-to-end monitoring and alerting solution for PowerFlex infrastructure using vROps. It helps customers significantly in terms of capacity planning based on the historical data of resource consumption over time. It also helps to identify usage trends and provides insight to understand if there are operational issues/ inefficiencies for taking necessary actions to avoid service outages and mitigate business disruption. This integration with VMware vRealize Operations reduces operational complexity by using a unified platform to monitor and manage private data center infrastructure, as well as hybrid and multi-cloud environments.
- Download the PowerFlex Management Pack from the Flexera portal.
- Visit Infohub for product documentation.
- Visit PowerFlex site for complete information about PowerFlex software-defined storage.