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
Containing yourself with OpenShift running VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxRail
Wed, 16 Jun 2021 19:09:45 -0000|
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Containing yourself with OpenShift running VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxRail
Red Hat OpenShift is a container application platform running on Red Hat Enterprise Linux CoreOS (RHCOS) and built on top of Kubernetes. In addition, OpenShift includes everything you need for running a secure infrastructure and operations across private and public clouds, like a container runtime, networking, monitoring, container registry, authentication, and authorization above the Linux container host.
Why OpenShift with VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxRail? Using VCF on VxRail provides an enterprise solution that includes security, workload isolation, lifecycle management, and more. In addition, OpenShift provides its security and lifecycle management for the components of OpenShift, such as RHEL CoreOS, K8s, and the clusters. The combined outcome can be an enhanced solution for OpenShift customers using VCF on VxRail.
OpenShift using VCF on VxRail leverages VMware leading virtualization technologies, including vSphere, NSX-T, and vSAN. This allows businesses to make better decisions, provide a faster outcome, and reduce cost and risk.
Using VCF and workload domains can provide environment isolation separating production from development operations. And with the scalability of VCF on VxRail, growth is manageable, and control is handled at the VCF level, allowing the OpenShift layer to scale out.
Details around the reference architecture guide can be found HERE.
Simpler Cloud Operations and Even More Deployment Options Please!
Tue, 23 Feb 2021 17:31:49 -0000|
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The latest VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail release debuts LCM and storage enhancements, support for transitioning from VCF Consolidated to VCF Standard Architecture, AMD-based VxRail hardware platforms, and more!
Dell Technologies and VMware are happy to announce the availability of VMware Cloud Foundation 4.2.0 on VxRail 7.0.131.
This release brings about support for the latest versions of VCF and Dell EMC VxRail that provide a simple and consistent operational experience for developer ready infrastructure across core, edge, and cloud. Let’s review these new updates and enhancements.
Some Important Updates:
VCF on VxRail Management Operations
Ability For Customers to Perform Their Own VxRail Cluster Expansion Operations in VCF on VxRail Workload Domains. Sometimes some of the best announcements that come with a new release have nothing to do with a new technical feature but instead are about new customer driven serviceability operations. The VCF on VxRail team is happy to announce this new serviceability enhancement. Customers no longer must purchase a professional services engagement simply to expand a single site layer 2 configured VxRail WLD cluster deployment by adding nodes to it. This should save time and money and give customers the freedom to perform these operations on their own.
This aligns to existing support that already exists for customers performing similar cluster expansion operations for VxRail systems deployed as standard clusters in non-VCF use cases.
Note: There are some restrictions on which cluster configurations support customer driven expansion serviceability. Stretched VxRail cluster deployments and layer 3 VxRail cluster configurations will still require engagement with professional services as these are more advanced deployment scenarios. Please reach out to your local Dell Technologies account team for a complete list of the cluster configurations that are supported for customer driven expansions.
VCF on VxRail Deployment and Services
Support for Transitioning From VCF on VxRail Consolidated Architecture to VCF on VxRail Standard Architecture. Continuing the operations improvements, the VCF on VxRail team is also happy to announce this new capability. We introduced support for VCF Consolidated Architecture deployments in VCF on VxRail back in May 2020. You can read about it here. VCF Consolidated Architecture deployments provide customers a way to familiarize themselves with VCF on VxRail in their core datacenters without a significant investment in cost and infrastructure footprint. Now, with support for transitioning from VCF Consolidated Architecture to VCF Standard Architecture, customers can expand as their scale demands it in their core, edge, or distributed datacenters! Now that’s flexible!
Please reach out to your local Dell Technologies account team for details on the transition engagement process requirements.
And Some Notable Enhancements:
VxRail Hardware Platform
AMD-based VxRail Platform Support in VCF 4.x Deployments. With the latest VxRail 7.0.131 HCI System Software release, ALL available AMD-based VxRail series models are now supported in VCF 4.x deployments. These models include VxRail E-Series and P-Series and support single socket 2nd Gen AMD EYPC™ processors with 8 to 64 cores, allowing for extremely high core densities per socket.
The figure below shows the latest VxRail HW platform family.
For more info on these AMD platforms, check out my colleague David Glynn’s blog post on the subject here when AMD platform support was first introduced to the VxRail family last year. (Note: New 2U P-Series options have been released since that post.)
VCF on VxRail Multi-Site Architecture
NSX-T 3.1 Federation Now Supported with VCF 4.2 on VxRail 7.0.131. NSX-T Federation provides a cloud-like operating model for network administrators by simplifying the consumption of networking and security constructs. NSX-T Federation includes centralized management, consistent networking and security policy configuration with enforcement and synchronized operational state across large scale federated NSX-T deployments. With NSX-T Federation, VCF on VxRail customers can leverage stretched networks and unified security policies across multi-region VCF on VxRail deployments, providing workload mobility and simplified disaster recovery. This initial support will be through prescriptive manual guidance that will be made available soon after VCF on VxRail solution general availability. For a detailed explanation of NSX-T Federation, check out this VMware blog post here.
The figure below depicts what the high-level architecture would look like.
VCF on VxRail Storage
VCF 4.2 on VxRail 7.0.131 Support for VMware HCI Mesh. VMware HCI Mesh is a vSAN feature that provides for “Disaggregated HCI” exclusively through software. In the context of VCF on VxRail, HCI Mesh allows an administrator to easily define a relationship between two or more vSAN clusters contained within a workload domain. It also allows a vSAN cluster to borrow capacity from other vSAN clusters, improving the agility and efficiency in an environment. This disaggregation allows the administrator to separate compute from storage. HCI Mesh uses vSAN’s native protocols for optimal efficiency and interoperability between vSAN clusters. HCI Mesh accomplishes this by using a client/server mode architecture. vCenter is used to configure the remote datastore on the client side. Various configuration options are possible that can allow for multiple clients to access the same datastore on a server. VMs can be created that utilize the storage capacity provided by the server. This can enable other common features, such as performing a vMotion of a VM from one vSAN cluster to another.
The figure below depicts this architecture.
VCF on VxRail Networking
This release continues to extend networking flexibility to further adapt to various customer environments and to reduce deployment efforts.
Customer-Defined IP Pools for NSX-T TEP IP Addresses for the Management Domain and Workload Domain Hosts. To extend networking flexibility, this release introduces NSX-T TEP IP Address Pools. This enhances the existing support for using DHCP to assign NSX-T TEP IPs. This new feature allows customers to avoid deploying and maintaining a separate DHCP server for this purpose. Admins can select to use IP Pools as part of VCF Bring Up by entering this information in the Cloud Builder template configuration file. The IP Pool will then be automatically configured during Bring Up by Cloud Builder. There is also a new option to choose DHCP or IP Pools during new workload domain deployments in the SDDC Manager.
The figure below illustrates what this looks like. Once domains are deployed, IP address blocks are managed through each domain’s NSX Manager respectively.
pNIC-Level Redundancy Configuration During VxRail First Run. Network flexible configurations are further extended with this feature in VxRail 7.0.131. It allows an administrator to configure the VxRail System VDS traffic across NDC and PCIe pNICs automatically during VxRail First Run using a new VxRail Custom NIC Profile option. Not only does this help provide additional high availability network configurations for VCF on VxRail domain clusters, it also helps to further simplify operations by removing the need for additional Day 2 activities in order to get to the same host configuration outcome.
Specify the VxRail Network Port Group Binding Mode During VxRail First Run. To further accelerate and simplify VCF on VxRail deployments, VxRail 7.0.131 has introduced this new enhancement designed with VCF in mind. VCF requires all host Port Group Binding Modes be set to Ephemeral. VxRail First Run now enables admins to have this parameter configured automatically, reducing the number of manual steps needed to prep VxRail hosts for VCF on VxRail use. Admins can set this parameter using the VxRail First Run JSON configuration file or manually enter it into the UI during deployment.
The figure below illustrates an example of what this looks like in the Dell EMC VxRail Deployment Wizard UI.
VCF on VxRail LCM
New SDDC Manager LCM Manifest Architecture. This new LCM Manifest architecture changes the way SDDC Manager handles the metadata required to enable upgrade operations as compared to the legacy architecture used up until this release.
With the legacy LCM Manifest architecture:
- The metadata used to determine upgrade sequencing and availability was published as part of the LCM bundle itself or was part of SDDC Manager VM.
- Did not allow for changes to the metadata after the bundle was published. This limited the ability for VMware to modify upgrade sequencing without requiring an upgrade to a new VCF release.
The newly updated LCM Manifest architecture helps address these challenges by enabling dynamic updates to LCM metadata, enabling future functionality such as recalling upgrade bundles or modifying skip level upgrade sequencing.
VCF Skip-Level Upgrades Using SDDC Manager UI and Public API. Keeping up with new releases can be challenging and scheduling maintenance windows to perform upgrades may not be as readily available for every customer. The goal behind this enhancement is to provide VCF on VxRail administrators the flexibility to reduce the number of stepwise upgrades needed in order to get to the latest SDDC Manager/VCF release if they are multiple versions behind. All required upgrade steps are now automated as a single SDDC Manager orchestrated LCM workflow and is built upon the new SDDC Manager LCM Manifest architecture. VCF skip level upgrades allow admins to quickly and directly adopt code versions of choice and to reduce maintenance window requirements.
Note: To take advantage of VCF skip level upgrades for future VCF releases, customers must be at a minimum of VCF 4.2.
The figure below shows what this option looks like in the SDDC Manager UI.
Improvements to Upgrade Resiliency Through VCF Password Prechecks. Other LCM enhancements in this release come in the area of password prechecks. When performing an upgrade, VCF needs to communicate to various components to complete various actions. Of course, to do this, the SDDC Manager needs to have valid credentials. If the passwords have expired or have been changed outside of VCF, the patching operation fails. To avoid any potential issues, VCF now checks to ensure that the credentials needed are valid prior to commencing the patching operation. These checks will occur both during the execution of the pre-check validation as well as during an upgrade of a resource, such as ESXi, NSX-T, vCenter, or VxRail Manager. Check out what this looks like in the figure below
Automated In-Place vRSLCM Upgrades. Upgrading vRSLCM in the past required the deployment of a net new vRSLCM appliance. With VCF 4.2, the SDDC Manager keeps the existing vRSLCM appliance, takes a snapshot of it, then transfers the upgrade packages directly to it and upgrades everything in place. This provides a more simplified and streamlined LCM experience.
VCF API Performance Enhancements. Administrators who use a programmatic approach will experience a quicker retrieval of information through the caching of certain information when executing API calls.
VCF on VxRail Security
Mitigate Man-In-The-Middle Attacks. Want to prevent Man-In-The-Middle Attacks on your VCF on VxRail cloud infrastructure? This release is for you. Introduced in VCF 4.2, customers can leverage SSH RSA fingerprint and SSL thumbprint enforcement capabilities that are natively built-into SDDC Manager in order to verify the authenticity of cloud infrastructure components (vCenter, ESXi, and VxRail Manager). Customers can choose to enable this feature for their VCF on VxRail deployment during VCF Bring Up by filling in the affiliated parameter fields in the Cloud Builder configuration file.
An SSH RSA Fingerprint comes from the host SSH public key while an SSL Thumbprint comes from the host’s certificates. One or more of these data points can be used to validate the authenticity of VCF on VxRail infrastructure components when being added and configured into the environment. For the Management Domain, both SSH fingerprints and SSL thumbprints are available to use while Workload Domains have SSH Fingerprints available. See what this looks like in the figure below.
Natively Integrated Dell Technologies Next Gen SSO Support With SDDC Manager. Dell Technologies Next Gen SSO is a newly implemented backend service used in authenticating with Dell Technologies support repositories where VxRail update bundles are published. With the native integration that SDDC Manager has with monitoring and downloading the latest supported VxRail upgrade bundles from this depot, SDDC Manager now utilizes this new SSO service for its authentication. While this is completely transparent to customers, existing VCF on VxRail customers may need to log SDDC Manager out of their current depot connection and re-authenticate with their existing credentials to ensure future VxRail updates are accessible by SDDC Manager.
New Advanced Security Add-on for VMware Cloud Foundation License SKUs: Though not necessarily affiliated with the VCF 4.2 on VxRail 7.0.131 BOM directly, new VMware security license SKUs for Cloud Foundation are now available for customers who want to bring their own VCF licenses to VCF on VxRail deployments.
The Advanced Security Add-on for VMware Cloud Foundation now includes advanced threat protection, and workload and endpoint security that provides the following capabilities:
- Carbon Black Workload Advanced: This includes Next Generation Anti-Virus, Workload Audit/Remediation, and Workload EDR.
- Advanced Threat Prevention Add-on for NSX Data Center – Coming in Advanced and Enterprise Plus editions, this includes NSX Firewall, NSX Distributed IDS/IPS, NSX Intelligence, and Advanced Threat Prevention
- NSX Advanced Load Balancer with Web Application Firewall
Updated VMware Cloud Foundation and VxRail BOM
VMware Cloud Foundation 4.2.0 on VxRail 7.0.131 introduces support for the latest versions of the SDDC and VxRail. For the complete list of component versions in the release, please refer to the VCF on VxRail release notes. A link is available at the end of this post.
Well, that about covers it for this release. The innovation continues with co-engineered features coming from all layers of the VCF on VxRail stack. This further illustrates the commitment that Dell Technologies and VMware have to drive simplified turnkey customer outcomes. Until next time, feel free to check out the links below to learn more about VCF on VxRail.
Twitter - @vwhippersnapper
- VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail Release Notes
- VxRail page on DellTechnologies.com
- VxRail Videos
- VCF on VxRail Interactive Demos
- Blog: 2nd Gen AMD EPYC now available to power your favorite hyperconverged platform: VxRail
- Blog: The Dell Technologies Cloud Platform – Smaller in Size, Big on Features
- Blog: Introducing NSX-T Federation support in VMware Cloud Foundation