The Case for Elastic Stack on HCI
Thu, 11 Jun 2020 21:34:33 -0000|
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The Elastic Stack, also known as the “ELK Stack”, is a widely used, collection of software products based on open source used for search, analysis, and visualization of data. The Elastic Stack is useful for a wide range of applications including observability (logging, metrics, APM), security, and general-purpose enterprise search. Dell Technologies is an Elastic Technology Partner1 This blog covers some basics of hyper-converged infrastructure (HCI), some Elastic Stack fundamentals, and the benefits of deploying Elastic Stack on HCI.
HCI integrates the compute and storage resources from a cluster of servers using virtualization software for both CPU and disk resources to deliver flexible, scalable performance and capacity on demand. The breadth of server offerings in the Dell PowerEdge portfolio gives system architects many options for designing the right blend of compute and storage resources. Local resources from each server in the cluster are combined to create virtual pools of compute and storage with multiple performance tiers.
VxFlex is a Dell Technologies developed, hypervisor agnostic, HCI platform integrated with high-performance, software-defined block storage. VxFlex OS is the software that creates a server and IP-based SAN from direct-attached storage as an alternative to a traditional SAN infrastructure. Dell Technologies also offers the VxRail HCI platform for VMware-centric environments. VxRail is the only fully integrated, pre-configured, and pre-tested VMware HCI system powered with VMware vSAN. We show below why both HCI offerings are highly efficient and effective platforms for a truly scalable Elastic Stack deployment.
Elastic Stack Overview
The Elastic Stack is a collection of four open-source projects: Elasticsearch, Logstash, Kibana, and Beats. Elasticsearch is an open-source, distributed, scalable, enterprise-grade search engine based on Lucene. Elasticsearch is an end-to-end solution for searching, analyzing, and visualizing machine data from diverse source formats. With the Elastic Stack, organizations can collect data from across the enterprise, normalize the format, and enrich the data as desired. Platforms designed for scale-out performance running the Elastic Stack provides the ability to analyze and correlate data in near real-time.
Elastic Stack on HCI
In March 2020, Dell Technologies validated the Elastic Stack running on our VxFlex family of HCI2. It will be shown how the features of HCI provide distinct benefits and cost savings as an integrated solution for the Elastic Stack. The Elastic Stack, and Elasticsearch specifically, is designed for scale-out. Data nodes can be added to an Elasticsearch cluster to provide additional compute and storage resources. HCI also uses a scale-out deployment model that allows for easy, seamless scalability horizontally by adding additional nodes to the cluster(s). However, unlike bare-metal deployments, HCI also scales vertically by adding resources dynamically to Elasticsearch data nodes or any other Elastic Stack roles through virtualization. VxFlex admins use their preferred hypervisor and VxFLEX OS and for VxRail it is done with VMware ESX and vSAN. Additionally, the Elastic Stack can be deployed on Kubernetes clusters, therefor admins can also choose to leverage VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes management.
Virtualization has long been a strategy for achieving more efficient resource utilization and data center density. Elasticsearch data nodes tend to have average allocations of 8-16 cores and 64GB of RAM. With the current ability to support up to 112 cores and 6TB of RAM in a single 2RU Dell server, Elasticsearch is an attractive application for virtualization. Additionally, the Elastic Stack is also significantly more CPU efficient than some alternative products improving the cost-effectiveness of deploying Elastic with VMware or other virtualization technologies. We would recommend sizing for 1 physical CPU to 1 virtual CPU (vCPU) for Elasticsearch Hot Tier along with the management and control plane resources. While this is admittedly like the VMware guidance for some similar analytics platforms, these VMs tend to consume a significantly smaller CPU footprint per data node. The Elastic Stack tends to take advantage of hyperthreading and resource overcommitment more effectively. While needs will vary by customer use case, our experience shows the efficiencies in the Elastic Stack and Elastic data lifecycle management allow the Elasticsearch Warm Tier, Kibana, and Proxy servers can be supported by 1 physical CPU to 2 vCPUs and the Cold Tier can be upwards of 4 vCPUs to a physical CPU.
Because Elasticsearch tiers data on independent data nodes versus multiple mount points on a single data node or indexer, the multiple types and classes of software-defined storage defined for independent HCI clusters can be easily leveraged between Elasticsearch clusters to address data temperatures. It should be noted that currently Elastic does not currently recommend any non-block storage (S3, NFS, etc.) as a target for Elasticsearch except as a target for Elasticsearch Snapshot and Restore. (It is possible to use S3 or NFS on Isilon or ECS as an example as a retrieval target for Logstash, but that is a subject for a later blog.) For example, vSAN in VxRail provides Optane, NVMe, SSD, and HDD storage options. A user can deploy their primary Elastic Stack environment with its Hot Elasticsearch data nodes, Kibana, and the Elastic Stack management and control plane on an all-flash VxRail cluster, and then leverage a storage dense hybrid vSAN cluster for Elasticsearch cold data.
Image 1. Example Logical Elastic Stack Architecture on HCI
Software-defined storage in HCI provides native enterprise capabilities including data encryption and data protection. Because FlexOS and vSAN provide HA via the software-defined storage, Replica Shards in Elastic for data protection are not required. Elastic will shard an index into 5 shards by default for processing, but Replica Shards for data protection are optional. Because we have data protection at the storage layer we did not use Replicas in our validation of VxFlex and we saw no impact on performance.
HCI enables customers to expand and efficiently manage the rapid adoption of an Elastic environment with dynamic resource expansion and improved infrastructure management tools. This allows for the rapid adoption of new use cases and new insights. HCI reduces datacenter sprawl and associated costs and inefficiencies related to the adoption of Elastic on bare metal. Ultimately HCI can deliver a turnkey experience that enables our customers to continuously innovate through insights derived by the Elastic Stack.
- Elastic Technology and Cloud Partners - https://www.elastic.co/about/partners/technology
- Elastic Stack Solution on Dell EMC VxFlex Family - https://www.dellemc.com/en-in/collaterals/unauth/white-papers/products/converged-infrastructure/elastic-on-vxflex.pdf
- Elasticsearch Sizing and Capacity Planning Webinar - https://www.elastic.co/webinars/elasticsearch-sizing-and-capacity-planning
About the Author
Keith Quebodeaux is an Advisory Systems Engineer and analytics specialist with Dell Technologies Advanced Technology Solutions (ATS) organization. He has worked in various capacities with Dell Technologies for over 20 years including managed services, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure, and business applications and analytics. Keith is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Southern Methodist University.
I would like to gratefully acknowledge the input and assistance of Craig G., Rakshith V., and Chidambara S. for their input and review of this blog. I would like to especially thank Phil H., Principal Engineer with Dell Technologies whose detailed and extensive advice and assistance provided clarity and focus to my meandering evangelism. Your support was invaluable. As with anything the faults are all my own.