Test driving Dell EMC VxRail with the CTO Advisor
Tue, 08 Jun 2021 19:58:18 -0000|
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You wouldn’t buy a new car without researching and test driving it first, would you? The same holds true for your data center – test driving, researching, checking peer reviews, and carefully weighing your IT infrastructure options are key to making an informed decision for your business.
Keith Townsend, a technical analyst also known as the CTO Advisor, and his team recently did just that with Dell EMC VxRail. Through a study commissioned by Dell Technologies, the CTO Advisor team stepped into the driver’s seat to investigate the differentiated value of VxRail as part of a broader strategy to modernize their CTO Advisor Hybrid Infrastructure.
The CTO Advisor team completed two weeks of rigorous testing with two main objectives in mind. First, they examined whether VxRail HCI System Software, a suite of integrated software elements that sits between VxRail infrastructure components such as vSAN and VMware Cloud Foundation, adds unique, differentiated value for businesses like the CTO Advisor. Second, they looked specifically at integration between VxRail, VMware Cloud Foundation, and Intel – does it offer unique differentiation versus competitors?
Spoiler alert: the answers to both of their questions were yes and yes! But you don’t have to take my word for it -- you can join Keith and the CTO Advisor team for the ride. Available now, their seven-part video series documents their VxRail journey from start-to-finish and includes technical conversations with our technologists. Their videos showed how VxRail:
- Simplifies day two operations with VxRail Manager
- Delivers multi-cluster management for a single-pane-of-glass view of your entire infrastructure
- Enables custom automation with RESTful APIs
- Enables automation across the entire stack with ecosystem connectors
- Reduces risk with the electronic compatibility matrix
- Delivers deep integration with VMware Cloud Foundation for a turnkey hybrid cloud experience
Watch at the links below, and be sure to view the report and project page!
Related Blog Posts
Running Dell ObjectScale on VMware vSphere with Tanzu
Wed, 15 Jun 2022 15:45:18 -0000|
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Underlying HCI infrastructure architecture considerations
As many organizations embrace digital transformation and the application modernization journey that is involved in this process, Dell Technologies and VMware supporting customers by providing them with modern cloud infrastructure and storage solutions that support the demands of this new set of cloud native applications.
Dell ObjectScale, VMware vSphere with Tanzu, and the vSAN Data Persistence Platform (vDPp) are all examples of next generation cloud native technologies that deliver simple, scalable, and enterprise grade Kubernetes native S3 compatible object storage services on a Kubernetes runtime built into the vSphere hypervisor. To learn more about the details of this powerful set of technologies, check out these great blog posts from my colleagues over at VMware here and here. A recently published reference architecture white paper also walks through the steps of deploying these technologies together.
Now let’s get into our primary topic for this blog, which is the underlying HCI infrastructure architecture considerations for running ObjectScale on vSphere with Tanzu.
Setting the stage
Cloud infrastructure administrators have a lot of flexibility in terms of what and how to configure the infrastructure on which Dell ObjectScale runs. These options not only come at the underlying HCI infrastructure implementation layer but also at the VMware SDDC layer. This gives administrators choices on mixing the right combination of the two layers that best meet their business and operational requirements.
So, what are the layers that make up these options? For this discussion we will break it down as follows:
HCI Infrastructure Layer Options
- Construct – Dell vSAN Ready Nodes
- Consume – Dell VxRail HCI Integrated Systems
VMware SDDC Software Layer Options
Construct - VMware vSphere with Tanzu + VMware NSX-T
- Consume - VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) with Tanzu
After we review these options, we will highlight how they can be used to align to your ObjectScale architecture design and workload requirements.
Construct HCI and Construct VMware SDDC – Dell ObjectScale on Dell vSAN Ready Nodes with VMware vSphere with Tanzu + VMware NSX-T
This option involves deploying ObjectScale on vSphere with Tanzu enabled Dell vSAN Ready Node clusters and then manually deploying and configuring the rest of the required VMware SDDC software stack including NSX-T. This is essentially the builder’s approach to implementing the HCI infrastructure stack and the VMware SDDC stack. This gives infrastructure administrators the most control over their infrastructure configuration and components. The tradeoff, however, is that it adds a bit more complexity and more manual steps to get to an outcome that is ObjectScale ready.
Consume HCI and Construct VMware SDDC – Dell ObjectScale on Dell VxRail with VMware vSphere with Tanzu + VMware NSX-T
With this approach, infrastructure administrators can take advantage of consuming pre-validated and co-engineered Dell VxRail HCI integrated systems, enabling vSphere with Tanzu on them, and then manually deploying the NSX-T components of the solution. This speeds up and simplifies the HCI infrastructure management and operations portion of the stack while still delivering on the required SDDC infrastructure foundations needed for ObjectScale to run.
Construct HCI and Consume VMware SDDC – Dell ObjectScale on VMware Cloud Foundation with Tanzu on Dell vSAN Ready Nodes
This option delivers infrastructure administrators with granular control in constructing the underlying HCI HW components while simplifying the VMware SDDC layer and consuming it as a full cloud platform using VMware Cloud Foundation. This helps streamline the VMware SDDC to include NSX-T out of the box and can automate the deployment and configuration of the VMware SDDC components that are required to enable vSphere with Tanzu and run ObjectScale.
Consume HCI and Consume VMware SDDC – Dell ObjectScale on VMware Cloud Foundation with Tanzu on Dell VxRail
This option provides a true full stack turnkey cloud infrastructure platform for infrastructure administrators to consume. This co-engineered solution between VMware and Dell Technologies delivers the fastest path to hybrid cloud and Kubernetes. Administrators gain the operational and feature benefits of VxRail, the only HCI system with deep VMware Cloud Foundation integration, with the out of the box simplicity and automation of the VMware Cloud Foundation SDDC cloud platform. From an ObjectScale use case perspective, infrastructure administators can accelerate getting all the needed underlying cloud infrastructure up and running so that ObjectScale can be deployed quickly and easily at scale and with a standardized cloud infrastructure architecture built in.
Choosing the right ObjectScale deployment infrastructure architecture
All these options deliver the necessary infrastructure prerequisites required to deploy and run ObjectScale, just through different implementation approaches that align to an organization’s operating model. ObjectScale, however, can also be deployed in several different ways, which can affect the implementation of your underlying infrastructure.
Let’s review what these options are, how our infrastructure can support these deployment models, and when would be the best time to choose one over the other.
First, let’s call out the ObjectScale deployment architecture options available:
- Co-locate ObjectScale data services on the same clusters where user application workloads run
- Run ObjectScale data services on dedicated cluster infrastructure separate from user application workloads
How an infrastructure administrator would configure the underlying HCI and VMware SDDC stack based on these options will ultimately depend on which SDDC deployment method was used, vSphere with Tanzu + NSX-T or VCF with Tanzu.
The infrastructure implementation design details vary slightly since VCF implements a prescriptive cloud architecture using the concept of workload domains. This means that cloud infrastructure administrators must consider how to deploy vSphere with Tanzu enabled clusters to run ObjectScale within the context of this VCF’s workload domain architecture. On the other hand, if administrators were using the build approach of deploying individual vSphere with Tanzu enabled clusters, architecture design decisions are a bit more open ended. Either way, both implementation methods support both ObjectScale deployment architecture models of co-located and dedicated and can be run on both Dell vSAN Ready Nodes and Dell VxRail HCI Integrated Systems.
So, what would the first option look like when co-locating ObjectScale data services on the same cluster as where user application workloads are run?
The following figure provides a visual depiction of what this option may look like in a VCF on VxRail deployment using a single VI workload domain with a single vSphere with Tanzu enabled VxRail cluster in it. In this example, we would deploy ObjectScale to the Supervisor Cluster running on this WLD cluster. Application teams would then have their user application workloads running on the same cluster infrastructure and share the underlying physical HCI compute, network, and storage resources.
Figure 1: VCF on VxRail – ObjectScale co-location cluster deployment
This approach has advantages in terms of minimizing the infrastructure footprint required to run both workload types. It can also help drive improved resource utilization of the HCI infrastructure that has been deployed. This can also be a great fit for minimizing licensing costs if you have containerized user workloads and VM-based workloads that need to consume ObjectScale storage since there is only one cluster you need to enable vSphere with Tanzu on and vSphere can support running containers and VMs on the same vSphere cluster. However, there are possible downsides. These include resource contention for user workloads since you are sharing the same infrastructure to run ObjectScale data services and lack of independent scalability and right sizing of infrastructure resources for ObjectScale and the user applications.
Option 2, running ObjectScale data services on dedicated cluster infrastructure separate from user application workloads, eliminates the resource contention by running ObjectScale on its own dedicated cluster infrastructure separate from user workloads. In a VCF on VxRail deployment, this may be implemented in a couple of ways. The first is to create a single VI WLD with two or more VxRail clusters in it. One cluster would have vSphere with Tanzu enabled on it and is where ObjectScale would be deployed. The other cluster, depending on the types of workloads running (whether they be VM-based only or a mix of containers and VMs) may not require vSphere with Tanzu be enabled on it and can just be used to run user application workloads.
By running ObjectScale on its own workload domain cluster resources, we now have physical resource isolation for both ObjectScale and user application workloads. This avoids resource contention between the two and now have the flexibility to independently scale resources for both as needed. Using this VCF workload domain organizational model may be helpful if your organization is aligning ObjectScale storage and the workloads that consume it as part of a single business unit and you may want to keep all of that together and managed within a single managed pool of cloud infrastructure resources. The following diagram provides an illustration of how this would look.
Figure 2: VCF on VxRail – ObjectScale dedicated cluster deployment with single VI WLD
The other VCF workload domain design approach is to deploy two VI workload domains. One would contain one or more VxRail clusters with vSphere with Tanzu enabled on them and ObjectScale would be deployed on top. The other VI workload domain would contain one or more VxRail clusters that may or may not have vSphere with Tanzu enabled on them and would run user application workloads only. This method still gets you separation of physical resources to avoid resource contention as well as independent scaling for both workload types, but organizationally we have deployed workload domains based on infrastructure service function.
Deploying ObjectScale into its own dedicated workload domain provides the possibility of maximum scale of how many clusters we can deploy into a single domain that can be used solely for running ObjectScale data services. We can also help simplify the networking for those clusters since we only need to accommodate for the networking needs of ObjectScale and not also for user applications workloads, too.
The following example uses dedicated NSX-T instances for each VI workload domain. In VCF, it is possible to share an NSX-T instance across multiple VI workload domains. If we would have done this, we wouldn’t have to deploy another cluster of NSX Edge appliances and could have just used the NSX Edge appliance deployed in VI Workload Domain 2 to meet the requirements that are needed when enabling vSphere with Tanzu on vSphere clusters. But since we are using separate dedicated NSX-T instances, each VI workload domain will require NSX Edge appliances to meet these vSphere with Tanzu and ObjectScale minimum requirements for the clusters contained within them. The following figure shows an illustration of what this multi-workload domain organizational model would look like.
Figure 3: VCF on VxRail – ObjectScale dedicated cluster deployment with two VI WLDs
It is important to call out that these same co-located and dedicated cluster ObjectScale architecture models can be used in vSphere with Tanzu + NSX-T on Dell vSAN Ready Nodes/VxRail deployment options as well and are not tied to just the VCF on VxRail examples shown here. The same overall ObjectScale logical and physical layout considerations would apply. Administrators who choose to approach running ObjectScale in this way would be responsible for determining where the NSX-T Manager VM’s, Edge appliances, and vCenter components would run as there would be no Management Domain construct defined as part of a cloud platform architecture like VCF has.
This is not the end, it’s just the beginning…
I hope you have found this information helpful as you work through your ObjectScale adoption journey. This is not the end of your journey, however. For more information about VxRail and ObjectScale, check out the links at the bottom of this post.
Author: Jason Marques
New Year’s Resolutions Fulfilled: Cloud Foundation on VxRail
Fri, 28 Jan 2022 14:43:21 -0000|
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New Year’s Resolutions Fulfilled: VMware Cloud Foundation 4.4 on VxRail 7.0.320
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions for ourselves with each turn of the calendar. We hope everyone is still on track!
The Cloud Foundation on VxRail team wanted to establish our own resolutions too. And with that, Dell Technologies and VMware have come together to fulfill our resolution of continuing to innovate by making operating and securing cloud platforms easier for our customers while helping them unlock the power of their data.
And as a result, we are happy to announce the availability of our first release of the new year: VMware Cloud Foundation 4.4 on Dell VxRail 7.0.320! This release includes Cloud Foundation and VxRail software component version updates that include patches to some recent widely known security vulnerabilities. It also adds support for Dell ObjectScale on the vSAN Data Persistence Platform (vDPp), support for additional 15th generation VxRail platforms, new security hardening features, lifecycle management improvements, new Nvidia GPU workload support, and more. Phew! So be resolute and read on for the details.
VCF on VxRail Storage Enhancements
Support for vSAN Data Persistence Platform and Dell ObjectScale Modern Stateful Object Storage Services
Initially introduced in vSphere 7.0 U1, the vSAN Data Persistence Platform (vDPp) is now supported as part of in VCF 4.4 on VxRail 7.0.320. Check out this great VMware blog post to learn more about vDPp.
Beginning in this release, support for running the new Dell ObjectScale data service on top of vDPp is also available. This new next-gen cloud native software defined object storage service is geared toward those IT teams who are looking to extend their cloud platform to run Kubernetes native stateful modern application data services. To learn more about ObjectScale please refer to this blog post. Note: VCF on VxRail currently supports using vDPp in a vSAN “Shared Nothing Architecture Mode” only.
The following figure illustrates the high-level architecture of vDPp.
Figure 1 – vDPp and ObjectScale
As a result of this new capability, VCF on VxRail customers can further extend the storage flexibility the platform can support with S3 compatible object storage delivered as part of the turnkey cloud infrastructure management/operations experience.
Giving customers more storage flexibility resolution: Check!
VCF on VxRail Lifecycle Management Enhancements
Improved SDDC Manager LCM Prechecks
This release brings even more intelligence that is embedded into the SDDC Manager LCM precheck workflow. When performing an upgrade, the SDDC Manager needs to communicate to various components to complete various actions as well as requiring that certain system resources be configured correctly and are available.
To avoid any potential issues during LCM activities, VCF administrators can run SDDC Manager prechecks to weed any issues out before any LCM operation is executed. In this latest release SDDC Manager now adds six additional checks. These include:
- Password validity (including expired passwords)
- File system permissions
- File system capacity
- CPU reservation for NSX-T Managers
- Hosts in maintenance mode
- DRS configuration mode
All these checks apply to ESXi, vCenter, NSX-T, NSX-T Edge VMs, VxRail Manager, and vRealize Suite components in the VCF on VxRail environment. Figure 2 below illustrates some examples of what these prechecks look like from the SDDC Manager UI.
Figure 2 – New SDDC Manager Prechecks
Giving customers enhanced LCM improvements resolution: Check!
vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager Flexible Upgrades
VCF 4.4 has been enhanced to allow vRealize suite products to be updated independently without having to upgrade the VCF SDDC stack.
Figure 3 – vRSLCM Flexible Upgrades
This means that from VCF 4.4 on, administrators will use vRSLCM to manage vRealize Suite update bundles and orchestrate and apply those upgrades to vRealize Suite products (vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations, vRealize Log Insight, Workspace ONE Access, and more) independently from the core VCF version upgrade to help better align with an organization’s business requirements. It also helps decouple VCF infrastructure team updates from DevOps team updates enabling teams to consume new vRealize features quickly. And finally, it enables an independent update cadence between VCF and vRealize versions which boosts and improves interoperability flexibility. And who doesn’t like flexibility? Am I right?
One last note with this enhancement: SDDC Manager will no longer be used to manage vRealize Suite component update bundles and orchestrate vRealize Suite component LCM updates. With this change, future versions of VCF will not include vRealize Suite components as part of its software components. vRSLCM will still be a part of VCF software components validated for compatibility for each VCF release since that will continue to be deployed and updated using SDDC Manager. As such, SDDC Manager continues to manage vRSLCM install and update bundles just as it has done up to this point.
Giving customers enhanced LCM flexibility resolution: Check!
VCF on VxRail Hardware Platform Enhancements
Support For New 15th Generation Intel-Based VxRail Dynamic Node Platforms
VxRail 7.0.320 includes support for the latest 15th Generation VxRail dynamic nodes for the E, P, and V series models. These can be used when deploying VMFS on FC Principal storage VxRail VI Workload Domain clusters. Figure 4 below highlights details for each model.
Figure 4 – New 15th Generation VxRail dynamic node models
Also, as it relates to using VxRail dynamic nodes when deploying VMFS on FC Principal storage, support for using NVMe over FC configurations has also been introduced since it is a part of the VxRail 7.0.320 release that VCF on VxRail customers can just inherit from VxRail. It’s like finding a fifth chicken nugget in the bag after ordering the four-piece meal! Wait, it is New Year’s—I should have used a healthier food example. Oops!
Support For New 15th Generation Intel-Based VxRail With vSAN Platforms (S670 and E660N)
In addition to new 15th generation dynamic nodes, this release introduces support for two new 15th generation VxRail node types, the S670 and E660N. The S670 is our 2U storage density optimized hybrid platform based on the PowerEdge R750 while the E660N is our 1U “everything” all NVMe platform based on the PowerEdge R650.
Giving customers more hardware platform choices resolution: Check!
VCF on VxRail Developer and AI-Ready Enterprise Platform Enhancements
NVIDIA GPU Options for AI and ML Workload Use Cases
As AI and ML applications are becoming more critical within organizations, IT teams are looking at the best approaches to run them within their own data centers to ensure ease of manageability and scale, improved security, and maintaining governance.
As a follow on to the innovative and collaborative partnerships between Dell Technologies, VMware, and NVIDIA that were first introduced at VMworld 2021, we are happy to announce, with this VCF on VxRail release, the ability to run GPUs within VMware Cloud Foundation 4.4 on VxRail 7.0.320 to deliver an end-to-end AI-Ready enterprise platform that is simple to deploy and operate.
Figure 5 – VCF with Tanzu on VxRail + NVIDIA AI-Ready Enterprise Platform
VMware Cloud Foundation with Tanzu, when used together with NVIDIA certified systems like VxRail and NVIDIA AI Enterprise Suite software, deliver an end-to-end AI / ML enterprise platform. And with VxRail being the first and only HCI Integrated System certified with NVIDIA AI Enterprise Suite and its supported GPUs, IT teams can deliver and provision GPU resources quickly in a variety of ways, while also allowing data scientists to easily consume and scale GPU resources quickly when they need it.
While getting into all the details on getting this set up is beyond the scope of this blog post, you can find more information on using NVIDIA GPUs with VxRail and NVIDIA AI Enterprise Software Suite using the link at the end of this post. VMware has additional information about this new support in a blog post that you can check out using the link at the bottom of this page.
Giving customers a simple path to unlock the power of their data resolution: Check!
VCF on VxRail Operations Enhancements
Configure DNS/NTP From SDDC Manager UI
This new feature simplifies and streamlines DNS and NTP Day 2 management operations for cloud administrators. In previous releases, all DNS and NTP configuration was included in the VCF Bring Up Parameter file that was used by Cloud Builder at the time of VCF on VxRail installation. But there was no straightforward way to make updates or changes to these settings once VCF on VxRail has been deployed. Now, if additional modifications are needed to these configurations, they can be performed within the SDDC Manager UI as a simple Day 2 operation. This feature integrates SDDC Manager with native VxRail APIs to automate VxRail cluster DNS/NTP settings. The figure below shows what this looks like.
Figure 6 – DNS/NTP Day 2 Configuration From SDDC Manager UI
Giving customers a simpler and more flexible day 2 operations experience resolution: Check!
VCF on VxRail Security Enhancements
Activity Logging For VCF REST API Call-Driven Actions
Administrators can now ensure audit tracking for activity that takes place using the VCF REST API. In this release, SDDC Manager logs capture SDDC Manager API activity from SDDC Manager UI and other sources with user context. This can be used to ensure audit tracking of VCF activity and making analyzing logs easier to understand. Figure 5 below illustrates this activity. The log entries include the following data points:
- Client IP
- User agent
- API called
- API method
Figure 7 – SDDC Manager REST API Activity Logging
Each of the SDDC Manager core services has a dedicated activity log. These logs are in the respective /var/log/vmware/vcf/*service*/ service directories on the SDDC Manager VM.
Giving customers enhanced security logging resolution – Check!
Enhanced Access Security Hardening
This release disables the SSH service on ESXi hosts by default, following the vSphere security configuration guide recommendation.
This applies to new and upgraded VMware Cloud Foundation 4.4 on VxRail 7.0.320 deployments.
Giving customers enhanced default platform security hardening resolution: Check!
Log4j and Apache HTTP Server Fixes
No security conversation is complete without addressing the headache that has been the talk of the technology world recently and that is the Log4j and Apache HTTP Server vulnerability discoveries. VCF on VxRail customers can be rest assured that as a part of this release fixes for these vulnerabilities are included.
Kicking Log4j and Apache HTTP bugs to the curb resolution: Check!
To wrap up…
Well, that about covers it for this new batch of updates. For the full list of new features, please refer to the release notes listed below. There are additional resource links at the bottom of this post. We hope to continue making good on our VCF on VxRail platform resolutions throughout the year! Hopefully, we all can say the same for ourselves in other areas of our lives. Now, where is that treadmill...?
Author: Jason Marques