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The latest news about VxRail releases and updates

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VxRail Epic EHR Healthcare

VxRail extends flexibility in Healthcare with new EHR best practices

Vic Dery

Mon, 01 Jun 2020 13:39:38 -0000

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The Healthcare industry is pressured to deliver not only as health providers, but making the infrastructure that operates the healthcare system, secure, scalable, and simple to use. This allows healthcare providers to focus on patients.  VxRail has had a great deal of success in the healthcare vertical because its core values align so closely with those demanded by the industry. With early successes in VDI (Virtual Desktop Infrastructure), healthcare IT departments expanded to more business and even life critical IT use cases with VxRail, because it proved that it can be highly scalable, simple to use, and has security built into everything it does.

“Best Practices for VMware vSAN with Epic on Dell EMC VxRail” created in collaboration with our peers at VMware highlights the considerations around a small to medium size environment, specifically for Epic. It uses a 6 node VxRail configuration to provide predictable and consistent performance, as well as Life Cycle Management (LCM) for the VxRail. The VxRail node used in this best practice is an E560N – an all NVMe solution.  Balancing workload and budget requirements, the dual-socket E560N provides a cost-effective, space-efficient 1U platform. Available with up to 32TB of NVMe capacity, the E560N is the first all-NVMe 1U VxRail platform. The all-NVMe capability provides a higher performance at low queue depths making it much easier to reliably deliver very high real-world performance for a SQL Server database management system (DBMS). Being able to run multiple healthcare applications including EHR, while successfully maintaining the secure, scalable, and simplified use of VxRail is possible. Enabling healthcare IT departments to scale and expanded infrastructure to meet the ever-growing demands of the health providers and the healthcare industry.

VxRail has had a great deal of success in the healthcare vertical because its core values align so closely to those demanded by the industry

  • Secure - Security is a core part of VxRail design, this starts at the supply chain and the components used to build it, continues into the features and software designed into it, and evolves with every lifecycle management that updates the VxRail HCI (hyperconverged infrastructure) system software. The most recent feature added supports 2-factor authentication (2FA), to provide an additional layer of security. VxRail has FIPS 140-2 validated encryption based on vSAN architecture. There is a detailed whitepaper for the VxRail security that covers in detail security features and certifications here.
  • Scalable - What makes VxRail an effective solution for healthcare is its ability to scale, not just for EHR applications, but for any application sharing the solution. With VxRail, you can size based on the known or expected workloads for the initial deployment and provide a solution that meets that workload requirement. This allows for the healthcare infrastructure to buy for the requirements of today, not the estimated requirements of three to five years down the road, as VxRail will scale easily into the future. Scaling the VxRail is easy... need more compute, just add an additional node; need more storage space, just add additional capacity drives.
  • Simplicity - Why is simplicity important when it comes to not just healthcare solutions, but all workloads? It is about IT teams being able to focus on their business and less on the continuous effort to maintain environments. VxRail simplifies operations with software-driven automation and lifecycle management. VxRail is continuously tested and updated as a solution from the BIOS, firmware, and HCI to the VMware software

VxRail is flexible enough to support hospital systems, alongside other applications for business and even education. A great example of this this flexibility can be seen in this Mercy Ships case study. The new best practices for Epic EHR combined with the proven successes that VxRail has with VDI in the Healthcare vertical are a testament to VxRail’s versatility.

 

Additional Resources:

Author: Vic Dery, Senior Principal Engineer, VxRail Technical Marketing

@VxVicTX

Best Practices for VMware vSAN with Epic on Dell EMC VxRail - Here

Dell EMC VxRail Comprehensive Security Design - Here

See more solutions from Dell for healthcare and life sciences - Here  

Customer profile Mercy Ships - Here

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VxRail vSAN Intel Optane

Top benefits to using Intel Optane NVMe for cache drives in VxRail

David Glynn

Wed, 20 May 2020 14:42:17 -0000

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Performance, endurance, and all without a price jump!

There is a saying that “A picture paints a thousand words” but let me add that a “graph can make for an awesome picture”.

Last August we at VxRail worked with ESG on a technical validation paper that included, among other things, the recent addition of Intel Optane NVMe drives for the vSAN caching layer. Figure 3 in this paper is a graph showing the results of a throughput benchmark workload (more on benchmarks later). When I do customer briefings and the question of vSAN caching performance comes up, this is my go-to whiteboard sketch because on its own it paints a very clear picture about the benefit of using Optane drives – and also because it is easy to draw.

In the public and private cloud, predictability of performance is important, doubly so for any form of latency. This is where caching comes into play, rather than having to wait on a busy system, we just leave it in the write cache inbox and get an acknowledgment. The inverse is also true. Like many parents I read almost the same bedtime stories to my young kids every night, you can be sure those books remain close to hand on my bedside “read cache” table. This write and read caching greatly helps in providing performance and consistent latency. With vSAN all-flash there no longer any read cache as the flash drives at the capacity layer provide enough random read access performance… just as my collection of bedtime story books has been replaced with a Kindle full of eBooks. Back to the write cache inbox where we’ve been dropping things off – at some point, this write cache needs to be empty, and this is where the Intel Optane NVMe drives shine. Drawing the comparison back to my kids, I no longer drive to a library to drop off books. With a flick of my finger I can return, or in cache terms de-stage, books from my Kindle back to the town library - the capacity drives if you will. This is a lot less disruptive to my day-to-day life, I don’t need to schedule it, I don’t need to stop what I’m doing, and with a bit of practice I’ve been able to do this mid story Let’s look at this in actual IT terms and business benefits.

To really show off how well the Optane drives shine, we want to stress the write cache as much as possible. This is where benchmarking tools and the right knowledge of how to apply them come into play. We had ESG design and run these benchmarking workloads for us. Now let’s be clear, this test is not reflective of a real-world workload but was designed purely to stress the write cache, in particular the de-staging from cache to capacity. The workload that created my go-to whiteboard sketch was the 100% sequential 64KB workload with a 1.2TB working set per node for 75 minutes.

The graph clearly shows the benefit of the Optane drives, they keep on chugging at 2,500MB/sec of throughput the entire time without dropping a beat. What’s not to like about that! This is usually when the techie customer in the room will try to burst my bubble by pointing out the unrealistic workload that is in no way reflective of their environment, or most environments… which is true. A more real-world workload would be a simulated relational database workload with a 22KB block size, mixing random 8K and sequential 128K I/O, with 60% reads and 40% writes, and a 600GB per node working set, which is quite a mouthful and is shown in figure 5. The results there show a steady 8.4-8.8% increase in IOPS across the board and a slower rise in latency resulting in a 10.5% lower response time under 80% load. 

Those of you running OLTP workloads will appreciate the graph shown in figure 6 where HammerDB was used to emulate the database activity of a typical online brokerage firm. The Optane cache drives under that workload sustained a remarkable 61% more transactions per minute (TPM) and new orders per minute (NOPM). That can result in significant business improvement for an online brokerage firm who adopts Optane drives versus one who is using NAND SSDs.

When it comes to write cache, performance is not everything, write endurance is also extremely important. The vSAN spec requires that cache drives be SSD Endurance Class C (3,650 TBW) or above, and Intel Optane beats this hands down with an over tenfold margin at 41 PBW (41,984 TBW). The Intel Optane 3D XPoint architecture allows memory cells to be individually addressed in a dense, transistor-less, stackable design. This extremely high write endurance capability has let us spec a smaller sized cache drive, which in turn lets us maintain a similar VxRail node price point, enabling you the customer to get more performance for your dollar. 

What’s not to like? Typically, you get to pick any two; faster/better/cheaper. With Intel Optane drives in your VxRail you get all three; more performance and better endurance, at roughly the same cost. Wins all around!

Author: David Glynn, Sr Principal Engineer, VxRail Tech Marketing

Resources: Dell EMC VxRail with Intel Xeon Scalable Processors and Intel Optane SSDs


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VxRail VCF VCF on VxRail Cloud Foundation 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 VCF on VxRail Releases

The Dell Technologies Cloud Platform – Smaller in Size, Big on Features

Jason Marques

Wed, 20 May 2020 13:07:08 -0000

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The latest VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 release introduces a more accessible entry cloud option with support for new four node configurations. It also delivers a simple and direct path to vSphere with Kubernetes at cloud scale.

The Dell Technologies team is very excited to announce that May 12, 2020 marked the general availability of our latest Dell Technologies Cloud Platform release, VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 on VxRail 7.0. There is so much to unpack in this release across all layers of the platform, from the latest features of VCF 4.0 to newly supported deployment configurations new to VCF on VxRail. To help you navigate through all of the goodness, I have broken out this post into two sections: VCF 4.0 updates and new features introduced specifically to VCF on VxRail deployments. Let’s jump right to it!




VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 Updates

A lot great information on VCF 4.0 features was already published by VMware as a part of their Modern Apps Launch earlier this year. If you haven’t caught yourself up, check out links to some VMware blogs at the end of this post. Some of my favorite new features include new support for vSphere for Kubernetes (GAMECHANGER!), support for NSX-T in the Management Domain, and the NSX-T compatible Virtual Distributed Switch.

Now let’s dive into the items that are new to VCF on VxRail deployments, specifically ones that customers can take advantage of on top of the latest VCF 4.0 goodness.


New to VCF 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 Deployments

VCF Consolidated Architecture Four Node Deployment Support for Entry Level Cloud (available beginning May 26, 2020)

New to VCF on VxRail is support for the VCF Consolidated Architecture deployment option. Until now, VCF on VxRail required that all deployments use the VCF Standard Architecture. This was due to several factors: a major one was that NSX-T was not supported in the VCF Management Domain until this latest release. Having this capability was a prerequisite before we could support  the consolidated architecture with VCF on VxRail.

Before we jump into the details of a VCF Consolidated Architecture deployment, let's review what the current VCF Standard deployment is all about.


VCF Standard Architecture Details


This deployment would consist of:

  • A minimum of seven VxRail nodes (however eight is recommended)
  • A four node Management Domain dedicated to run the VCF management software and at least one dedicated workload domain that consists of a three node cluster (however four is recommended) to run user workloads
  • The Management Domain runs its own dedicated vCenter and NSX-T instance
  • The workload domains are deployed with their own dedicated vCenter instances and choice of dedicated or shared NSX-T instances that are separate from the Management Domain NSX-T instance.


A summary of features includes:

  • Requires a minimum of 7 nodes (8 recommended)
  • A Management Domain dedicated to run management software components 
  • Dedicated VxRail VI domain(s) for user workloads
  • Each workload domain can consist of multiple clusters
  • Up to 15 domains are supported per VCF instance including the Management Domain
  • vCenter instances run in linked-mode
  • Supports vSAN storage only as principal storage
  • Supports using external storage as supplemental storage


This deployment architecture design is preferred because it provides the most flexibility, scalability, and workload isolation for customers scaling their clouds in production. However, this does require a larger initial infrastructure footprint, and thus cost, to get started.

For something that allows customers to start smaller, VMware developed a validated VCF Consolidated Architecture option. This allows for the Management domain cluster to run both the VCF management components and a customer’s general purpose server VM workloads. Since you are just using the Management Domain infrastructure to run both your management components and user workloads, your minimum infrastructure starting point consists of the four nodes required to create your Management Domain. In this model, vSphere Resource Pools are used to logically isolate cluster resources to the respective workloads running on the cluster. A single vCenter and NSX-T instance is used for all workloads running on the Management Domain cluster. 


VCF Consolidated Architecture Details


A summary of features of a Consolidated Architecture deployment:

  • Minimum of 4 VxRail nodes
  • Infrastructure and compute VMs run together on shared management domain
  • Resource Pools used to segregate and isolate workload types
  • Supports multi-cluster and scale to documented vSphere maximums
  • Does not support running Horizon Virtual Desktop or vSphere with Kubernetes workloads
  • Supports vSAN storage only as principal storage
  • Supports using external storage as supplemental storage for workload clusters

For customers to get started with an entry level cloud for general purpose VM server workloads, this option provides a smaller entry point, both in terms of required infrastructure footprint as well as cost.

With the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform, we now have you covered across your scalability spectrum, from entry level to cloud scale! 


Automated and Validated Lifecycle Management Support for vSphere with Kubernetes Enabled Workload Domain Clusters

How is it that we can support this? How does this work? What benefits does this provide you, as a VCF on VxRail administrator, as a part of this latest release? You may be asking yourself these questions. Well, the answer is through the unique integration that Dell Technologies and VMware have co-engineered between SDDC Manager and VxRail Manager. With these integrations, we have developed a unique set of LCM capabilities that can benefit our customers tremendously. You can read more about the details in one of my previous blog posts here.

VCF 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 customers who benefit from the automated full stack LCM integration that is built into the platform can now include in this integration vSphere with Kubernetes components that are a part of the ESXi hypervisor! Customers are future proofed to be able to automatically LCM vSphere with Kubernetes enabled clusters when the need arises with fully automated and validated VxRail LCM workflows natively integrated into the SDDC Manager management experience. Cool right?! This means that you can now bring the same streamlined operations capabilities to your modern apps infrastructure just like you already do for your traditional apps! The figure below illustrates the LCM process for VCF on VxRail.


VCF on VxRail LCM Integrated Workflow


Introduction of initial support of VCF (SDDC Manager) Public APIs

VMware Cloud Foundation first introduced the concept of SDDC Manager Public APIs back in version 3.8. These APIs have expanded in subsequent releases and have been geared toward VCF deployments on Ready Nodes.

Well, we are happy to say that in this latest release, the VCF on VxRail team is offering initial support for VCF Public APIs. These will include a subset of the various APIs that are applicable to a VCF on VxRail deployment. For a full listing of the available APIs, please refer to the VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail API Reference Guide.

Another new API related feature in this release is the availability of the VMware Cloud Foundation Developer Center. This provides some very handy API references and code samples built right into the SDDC Manager UI. These references are readily accessible and help our customers to better integrate their own systems and other third party systems directly into VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail. The figure below provides a summary and a sneak peek at what this looks like.


VMware Cloud Foundation Developer Center SDDC Manager UI View


Reduced VxRail Networking Hardware Configuration Requirements

Finally, we end out journey of new features on the hardware front. In this release, we have officially reduced the minimum VxRail node networking hardware configurations required for VCF use cases. With the introduction of vSphere 7.0 in VCF 4.0, admins can now use the vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) for NSX-T. The need for a separate N-VDS switch has been deprecated. So why is this important and how does this lead to VxRail node network hardware configuration improvements? 

Well, up until now, VxRail and SDDC management networks have been configured to use the VDS. And this VDS would be configured to use at least two physical NIC ports as uplinks for high availability. When introducing the use of NSX-T on VxRail, an administrator would need to create a separate N-VDS switch for the NSX-T traffic to use. This switch would require its own pair of dedicated uplinks for high availability. Thus, in VCF on VxRail environments in which NSX-T would be used, each VxRail node would require a minimum of four physical NIC ports to support the two different pairs of uplinks for each of the switches. This resulted in a higher infrastructure footprint for both the VxRail nodes and for a customer’s Top of Rack Switch infrastructure because they would need to turn on more ports on the switch to support all of these host connections. This, in turn, would come with a higher cost.

Fast forward to this release -- now we can run NSX-T traffic on the same VDS as the VxRail and SDDC Manager management traffic. And when you can share the same VDS, you can get away with reducing the number of physical uplink ports to provide high availability down to two and reduce the upfront hardware footprint and cost across the board! Win win! The following figure highlights this new feature.


NSX-T Dual pNIC Features


Well, that about sums it all up. Thanks for coming on this journey and learning about the boat load of new features in VCF 4.0 on VxRail 7.0. As always, feel free to check out the additional resources for more information. Until next time, stay safe and stay healthy out there!

Jason Marques

Twitter -@vwhippersnapper




Additional Resources

What’s New in Cloud Foundation 4 VMware Blog Post

Delivering Kubernetes At Scale With VMware Cloud Foundation (Part 1) VMware Blog Post

Consistency Makes the Tanzu Difference VMware Blog Post


VxRail page on DellTechnologies.com

VCF on VxRail Guides

VMware Cloud Foundation 4.0 on VxRail 7.0 Documentation and Release Notes

VxRail Videos

VCF on VxRail Interactive Demos

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VMware VxRail vLCM vSphere 7.0 NSX-T

Introducing VxRail 7.0.000 with vSphere 7.0 support

Daniel Chiu

Tue, 28 Apr 2020 13:23:14 -0000

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The VxRail team may all be sheltering at our own homes nowadays, but that doesn’t mean we’re just binging on Netflix and Disney Plus content. We have been hard at work to deliver on our continuing commitment to provide our customers a supporting VxRail software bundle within 30 days of any vSphere release. And this time it’s for the highly touted vSphere 7.0! You can find more information about vSphere and vSAN 7.0 in the vSphere and vSAN product areas in VMware Virtual Blocks blogs.

Here’s what you need to know about VxRail 7.0.000:

  • VxRail 7.x train – You may have noticed we’ve jumped from a 4.7 release train to a 7.0 release train. What did you miss?? Well... there is no secret 5.x or 6.x release trains. We have made the decision to align with the vSAN versions, starting with VxRail 7.x. This will make it easier for you to map VxRail versions to vSAN versions.
  • Accelerate innovation – The primary focus of this VxRail release is our synchronous release commitment to the vSphere 7.0 release. This release provides our users the opportunity to run vSphere 7.0 on their clusters. The most likely use cases would be for users who are planning to transition production infrastructure to vSphere 7.0 but first want to evaluate it in a test environment, or for users who are keen on running the latest VMware software.
  • Operational freedom – You may have heard that vSphere 7.0 introduces an enhanced version of vSphere Update Manager that they call vSphere LCM, or vLCM for short. While vLCM definitely improves upon the automation and orchestration of updating an HCI stack, VxRail’s LCM still has the advantage over vLCM (check out my blog to learn more). For example, VMware is currently not recommending that vSAN Ready Nodes users upgrade to vSphere 7.0 because of drivers forward compatibility issues (you can read more about in this KB article). That doesn’t stop VxRail from allowing you to upgrade your clusters to vSphere 7.0. The extensive research, testing, and validation work that goes into delivering Continuously Validated States for VxRail mitigates that issue.
  • Networking flexibility – Aside from synchronous release, the most notable new feature/capability is that VxRail consolidates the switch configuration for VxRail system traffic and NSX-T traffic. You can now run your VM traffic managed by NSX-T Manager on the same two ports used for VxRail system traffic (such as VxRail Management, vSAN, and vMotion) on the Network Daughter Card (NDC). Instead of requiring a 4-port NDC, users can use a 2-port NDC.

Consolidated switch configuration for VxRail system traffic managed by VxRail Manager/vCenter and VM traffic by NSX-T Manager

All said, VxRail 7.0.000 is a critical release that further exemplifies our alignment with VMware’s strategy and why VxRail is the platform of choice for vSAN technology and VMware’s Software-Defined Data Center solutions.

Our commitment to synchronous release for any vSphere release is important for users who want to benefit from the latest VMware innovations or for users who prioritizes a secure platform over everything else. A case in point is the vCenter express patch that rolled out a couple weeks ago to address a critical security vulnerability (you can find out more here). Within eight days of the express patch release, the VxRail team was able to run through all its testing and validation against all supported configurations to deliver a supported software bundle. Our $60M testing lab investment and 100+ team members dedicated to testing and quality assurance make that possible.

If you’re interested in upgrading your clusters to VxRail 7.0.000, please be sure to read the Release Notes.

Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing

LinkedIn

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VxRail LCM vLCM vSphere 7.0

How does vSphere LCM compare with VxRail LCM?

Daniel Chiu

Fri, 24 Apr 2020 14:35:44 -0000

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VMware’s announcement of vSphere 7.0 this month included a highly anticipated enhanced version of vSphere Update Manager (VUM), which is now called vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM).   Beyond the name change, much is intriguing: its capabilities, the customer benefits, and (what I have often been asked) the key differences between vLCM and VxRail lifecycle management.   I’ll address these three main areas of interest in this post and explain why VxRail LCM still has the advantage.

At its core, vLCM shifts to a desired state configuration model that allows vSphere administrators to manage clusters by using image profiles for both server hardware and ESXi software. This new approach allows more consistency in the ESXi host image across clusters, and centralizes and simplifies managing the HCI stack. vSphere administrators can now design their own image profile that consists of the ESXi software, and the firmware and drivers for the hardware components in the hosts.   They can run a check for compliance against the vSAN Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) for HBA compliance before executing the update with the image. vLCM can check for version drift that identifies differences between what’s installed on ESXi hosts versus the image profile saved on the vCenter Server.  To top that off, vLCM can recommend new target versions that are compatible with the image profile.  All of these are great features to simplify the operational experience of HCI LCM.

Let’s dig deeper so you can get a better appreciation for how these capabilities are delivered.  vLCM relies on the Cluster Image Management service to allow administrators to build that desired state.  At the minimum, the desired state starts with the ESXi image which requires communication with the VMware Compatibility Guide and vSAN HCL to identify the appropriate version.  In order to build a plugin to vCenter Server that includes hardware drivers and firmware on top of the ESXi image, hardware vendors need to provide the files needed to fill out the rest of the desired image profile. A desired state complete with hardware and software is achieved when capabilities such as simplified upgrades, compliance checks, version drift detection, and version recommendation can benefit administrators the most.  At this time, Dell and HPE have provided this addon.

https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/files/2020/03/vlcm.png

vLCM Image Builder – courtesy of https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2020/03/vsphere-7-features.html

While vLCM’s desired state configuration model provides a strong foundation to drive better operational efficiency in lifecycle management, there are caveats today.   I’ll focus on three key differences that will best help you in differentiating vLCM from VxRail LCM:

1. Validated state vs. desired state – Desired state does not mean validated state. VxRail invests in significant resources to identify a validated version set of software, drivers, and firmware (what we term as Continuously Validated State) to relieve the burden of defining a desired state, testing it, and validating it off the shoulders of administrators. With over 100+ dedicated VxRail team members, over $60 million of lab investments, and over 25,000 runtime hours to test each major release, VxRail users can rest assured when it comes to LCM of their VxRail clusters.

vLCM’s model relies heavily on its ecosystem to produce a desired state for the full stack.  Hardware vendors need to provide the bits for the drivers and firmware as well as the compliance check for most of the HCI stack.  Below is a snippet of the VxRail support matrix for VxRail 4.7.100 to show you some of the hardware components a VxRail Continuously Validated State delivers.   Beyond the storage HBA, it is the responsibility of the hardware vendor to perform compliance checks of the remaining hardware on the server.  Once compliance checks pass, users are responsible for validating the desired state.


2. Heterogeneous vs. homogeneous hosts – vCenter Server can only have one image profile per cluster.  That means clusters need to have hosts that have identical hardware configurations in order to use vLCM.  VxRail LCM supports a variety of mixed node configurations for use cases, such as when adding new generation servers into a cluster, or having multiple hardware configurations (that is, different node types) in the same cluster. For vSAN Ready Nodes, if an administrator has mixed node configurations, they still have the option to continue using VUM instead of vLCM -- a choice they have to make after they upgrade their cluster to vSphere 7.0.  


3. Support – troubleshooting LCM issues may well include the hardware vendor addon.   Though vLCM’s desired state includes hardware and software, the support is still potentially separate.  The administrator would need to collect the hardware vendor addon’s logs and contact the hardware vendor separately from VMware. (It is worth noting that both Dell and HPE are VMware certified support delivery partners. When considering your vSAN Ready Node partner, you may want to be sure that that hardware provider is also capable of delivering support for VMware as well.)  With VxRail, a single vendor support model by default streamlines all support calls directly to Dell Technical Support. With their in-depth VMware knowledge, Dell Technical Support can resolve cases quickly where 95% of support cases are resolved without requiring coordination with VMware support.  

In evaluating vLCM, I’ll refer to the LCM value tiers. There are three levels, starting from lower to higher customer value: update orchestration, configuration stability, and decision support:

  • Automation and orchestration is the foundation to streamlining full stack LCM. In order to simplify LCM, the stack needs to be managed as one.  
  • Configuration stability delivers the assurance to administrators that they can efficiently evolve their clusters (that is, new generation hardware, new software innovation) without disrupting availability or performance for their workloads.
  • Decision support is where we can offload the decision-making burden from the administrator.


Explaining the Lifecycle Management value tiers for customers

vLCM has simplified full stack LCM by automating and orchestrating hardware and software upgrades into a single process flow.  The next step is configuration stability, which is not just stable code (which all HCI stack should claim), but the confidence customers have in knowing that non-disruptive LCM of their HCI requires minimal work on their part. When VxRail releases a composite bundle, VxRail customers know that it has been extensively tested against a wide range of configurations to assure uptime and performance. For most VxRail customers I’ve talked to, LCM assurance and workload continuity are the benefits they value most.

VMware has done a great job with its initial release of vLCM. vSAN Ready Node customers, especially those who use nodes from vendors like Dell that support the capability (and who can also be a support delivery partner), will certainly benefit from the improvements over VUM. Hopefully, with the differences outlined above, you will have a greater appreciation for where vLCM is in its evolution, and where VxRail continues innovating and keeping its advantage.  


Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing

LinkedIn

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HCI VxRail SmartFabric PowerSwitch OpenManage

SmartFabric Services for VxRail

Karol Boguniewicz

Fri, 24 Apr 2020 13:50:14 -0000

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HCI networking made easy (again!). Now even more powerful with multi-rack support.


The Challenge

Network infrastructure is a critical component of HCI. In contrast to legacy 3-tier architectures, which typically have a dedicated storage and storage network, HCI architecture is more integrated and simplified. Its design allows you to share the same network infrastructure used for workload-related traffic and inter-cluster communication with the software-defined storage. Reliability and the proper setup of this network infrastructure not only determines the accessibility of the running workloads (from the external network), it also determines the performance and availability of the storage, and as a result, the whole HCI system.

Unfortunately, in most cases, setting up this critical component properly is complex and error-prone. Why? Because of the disconnect between the responsible teams. Typically configuring a physical network requires expert network knowledge which is quite rare among HCI admins. The reverse is also true: network admins typically have a limited knowledge of HCI systems, because this is not their area of expertise and responsibility.

The situation gets even more challenging when you think about increasingly complex deployments, when you go beyond just a pair of ToR switches and beyond a single-rack system. This scenario is becoming more common, as HCI is becoming a mainstream architecture within the data center, thanks to its maturity, simplicity, and being recognized as a perfect infrastructure foundation for the digital transformation and VDI/End User Computing (EUC) initiatives. You need much more computing power and storage capacity to handle increased workload requirements.

At the same time, with the broader adoption of HCI, customers are looking for ways to connect their existing infrastructure to the same fabric, in order to simplify the migration process to the new architecture or to leverage dedicated external NAS systems, such as Isilon, to store files and application or user data.


A brief history of SmartFabric Services for VxRail

Here at Dell Technologies we recognize these challenges. That’s why we introduced SmartFabric Services (SFS) for VxRail. SFS for VxRail is built into Dell EMC Networking SmartFabric OS10 Enterprise Edition software that is built into the Dell EMC PowerSwitch networking switches portfolio. We announced the first version of SFS for VxRail at VMworld 2018. With this functionality, customers can quickly and easily deploy and automate data center fabrics for VxRail, while at the same time reduce risk of misconfiguration.

Since that time, Dell has expanded the capabilities of SFS for VxRail. The initial release of SFS for VxRail allowed VxRail to fully configure the switch fabric to support the VxRail cluster (as part of the VxRail 4.7.0 release back in Dec 2018). The following release included automated discovery of nodes added to a VxRail cluster (as part of VxRail 4.7.100 in Jan 2019).


The new solution

This week we are excited to introduce a major new release of SFS for VxRail as a part of Dell EMC SmartFabric OS 10.5.0.5 and VxRail 4.7.410.

So, what are the main enhancements?

  • Automation at scale
     Customers can easily scale their VxRail deployments, starting with a single rack with two ToR leaf switches, and expand to multi-rack, multi-cluster VxRail deployments with up to 20 switches in a leaf-spine network architecture at a single site. SFS now automates over 99% (!) of the network configuration steps* for leaf and spine fabrics across multiple racks, significantly simplifying complex multi-rack deployments.
  • Improved usability
     An updated version of the OpenManage Network Integration (OMNI) plugin provides a single pane for “day 2” fabric management and operations through vCenter (the main management interface used by VxRail and vSphere admins), and a new embedded SFS UI simplifying “day 1” setup of the fabric.
  • Greater expandability
     
    Customers can now connect non-VxRail devices, such as additional PowerEdge servers or NAS systems, to the same fabric. The onboarding can be performed as a “day 2” operation from the OMNI plugin. In this way, customers can reduce the cost of additional switching infrastructure when building more sophisticated solutions with VxRail.

 

Figure 1. Comparison of a multi-rack VxRail deployment, without and with SFS


Solution components

In order to take advantage of this solution, you need the following components:

  • At a minimum a pair of supported Dell EMC PowerSwitch Data Center Switches. For an up-to-date list of supported hardware and software components, please consult the latest VxRail Support Matrix. At the time of writing this post, the following models are supported: S4100 (10GbE) and S5200 (25GbE) series for the leaf and Z9200 series or S5232 for the spine layer. To learn more about the Dell EMC PowerSwitch product portfolio, please visit the PowerSwitch website.
  • Dell EMC Networking SmartFabric OS10 Enterprise Edition (version 10.5.0.5 or later). This operating system is available for the Dell EMC PowerSwitch Data Center Switches, and implements SFS functionality. To learn more, please visit the OS10 website.
  • A VxRail cluster consisting of 10GbE or 25GbE nodes, with software version 4.7.410 or later.
  • OpenManage Network Integration (OMNI) for VMware vCenter version 1.2.30 or later.


How does the multi-rack feature work?

The multi-rack feature is done through the use of the Hardware VTEP functionality in Dell EMC PowerSwitches and the automated creation of a VxLAN tunnel network across the switch fabric in multiple racks.

VxLAN (Virtual Extensible Local Area Network) is an overlay technology that allows you to extend a Layer 2 “overlay” network over a Layer 3 (L3) “underlay” network by adding a VxLAN header to the original Ethernet frame and encapsulating it. This encapsulation occurs by adding a VxLAN header to the original Layer 2 (L2) Ethernet frame, and placing it into an IP/UDP packet to be transported across the L3 underlay network.

By default, all VxRail networks are configured as L2. With the configuration of this VxLAN tunnel, the L2 network is “stretched” across multiple racks with VxRail nodes. This allows for the scalability of L3 networks with the VM mobility benefits of an L2 network. For example, the nodes in a VxRail cluster can reside on any rack within the SmartFabric network, and VMs can be migrated within the same VxRail cluster to any other node without manual network configuration.

Figure 2. Overview of the VLAN and VxLAN VxRail traffic with SFS for multi-rack VxRail

This new functionality is enabled by the new L3 Fabric personality, available as of OS 10.5.0.5, that automates configuration of a leaf-spine fabric in a single-rack or multi-rack fabric and supports both L2 and L3 upstream connectivity. What is this fabric personality? SFS personality is a setting that enables the functionality and supported configuration of the switch fabric.

To see how simple it is to configure the fabric and to deploy a VxRail multi-rack cluster with SFS, please see the following demo: Dell EMC Networking SFS Deployment with VxRail - L3 Uplinks.

Single pane for management and “day 2” operations

SFS not only automates the initial deployment (“day 1” fabric setup), but greatly simplifies the ongoing management and operations on the fabric. This is done in a familiar interface for VxRail / vSphere admins – vCenter, through the OMNI plugin, distributed as a virtual appliance.

It’s powerful! From this “VMware admin-friendly” interface you can:

  • Add a SmartFabric instance to be managed (OMNI supports multiple fabrics to be managed from the same vCenter / OMNI plugin).
  • Get visibility into the configured fabric – domain, fabric nodes, rack, switches, and so on.
  • Visualize the fabric and the configured connections between the fabric elements with a “live” diagram that allows “drill-down” to get more specific information (Figure 3).
  • Manage breakout ports and jump ports, as well as on-board additional servers or non-VxRail devices.
  • Configure L2 or L3 fabric uplinks, allowing more flexibility and support of multiple fabric topologies.
  • Create, edit, and delete VxLAN and VLAN-based networks, to customize the network setup for specific business needs.
  • Create a host-centric network inventory that provides a clear mapping between configured virtual and physical components (interfaces, switches, networks, and VMs). For instance, you can inspect virtual and physical network configuration from the same host monitoring view in vCenter (Figure 4). This is extremely useful for troubleshooting potential network connectivity issues.
  • Upgrade SmartFabric OS on the physical switches in the fabric and replace a switch that simplifies the lifecycle management of the fabric.


Figure 3. Sample view from the OMNI vCenter plugin showing a fabric topology

To see how simple it is to deploy the OMNI plugin and to get familiar with some of the options available from its interface, please see the following demo: Dell EMC OpenManage Network Integration for VMware vCenter.

OMNI also monitors the VMware virtual networks for changes (such as to portgroups in vSS and vDS VMware virtual switches) and as necessary, reconfigures the underlying physical fabric.

Figure 4. OMNI – monitor virtual and physical network configuration from a single view


Thanks to OMNI, managing the physical network for VxRail becomes much simpler, less error-prone, and can be done by the VxRail admin directly from a familiar management interface, without having to log into the console of the physical switches that are part of the fabric.

Supported topologies

This new SFS release is very flexible and supports multiple fabric topologies. Due to the limited size of this post, I will only list them by name:

  • Single-Rack – just a pair of leaf switches in a single rack, supports both L2 and L3 upstream connectivity / uplinks – the equivalent of the previous SFS functionality
  • (New) Single-Rack to Multi-Rack – starts with a pair of switches, expands to multi-rack by adding spine switches and additional racks with leaf switches
  • (New) Multi-Rack with Leaf Border – adds upstream connectivity via the pair of leaf switches; this supports both L2 or L3 uplinks
  • (New) Multi-Rack with Spine Border - adds upstream connectivity via the pair of leaf spine; this supports L3 uplinks
  • (New) Multi-Rack with Dedicated Leaf Border - adds upstream connectivity via the dedicated pair of border switches above the spine layer; this supports L3 uplinks

For detailed information on these topologies, please consult Dell EMC VxRail with SmartFabric Network Services Planning and Preparation Guide.

Note, that SFS for VxRail does not currently support NSX-T and VCF on VxRail.

Final thoughts

This latest version of SmartFabric Services for VxRail takes HCI network automation to the next level and solves now much bigger network complexity problem in a multi-rack environment, compared to much simpler, single-rack, dual switch configuration. With SFS, customers can:

  • Reduce the CAPEX and OPEX related to HCI network infrastructure, thanks to automation (reducing over 99% of required configuration steps* when setting up a multi-rack fabric), and a reduced infrastructure footprint
  • Accelerate the deployment of essential IT infrastructure for their business initiatives
  • Reduce the risk related to the error-prone configuration of complex multi-rack, multi-cluster HCI deployments
  • Increase the availability and performance of hosted applications
  • Use a familiar management console (vSphere Client / vCenter) to drive additional automation of day 2 operations
  • Rapidly perform any necessary changes to the physical network, in an automated way, without requiring highly-skilled network personnel


Additional resources:

VxRail Support Matrix

Dell EMC VxRail with SmartFabric Network Services Planning and Preparation Guide

Dell EMC Networking SmartFabric Services Deployment with VxRail

SmartFabric Services for OpenManage Network Integration User Guide Release 1.2

Demo: Dell EMC OpenManage Network Integration for VMware vCenter

Demo: Expand SmartFabric and VxRail to Multi-Rack

Demo: Dell EMC Networking SFS Deployment with VxRail - L2 Uplinks

Demo: Dell EMC Networking SFS Deployment with VxRail - L3 Uplinks


Author: Karol Boguniewicz, Senior Principal Engineer, VxRail Technical Marketing

Twitter: @cl0udguide 


*Disclaimer: Based on internal analysis comparing SmartFabric to manual network configuration, Oct 2019.  Actual results will vary.


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HCI VxRail Xpert

Join the VxRail Xpert Crew (open to Partners!)

KJ Bedard

Wed, 22 Apr 2020 19:40:51 -0000

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Read Time: 0 minutes

Join the VxRail Xpert Crew (open to Partners!)

VxRail is #1 in hyperconverged systems, and the fastest growing HCI product in the industry today[1]. Join a thriving community of >800 VxRail global experts who, like you, are interested in the most relevant, critical, and timely information for Sales awareness.

What is this? A community for VxRail Xperts who are advocates in their selling circles, regardless of organizational alignment and position in his/her company. Although this forum is not exclusive to SEs, our primary focus is on pre-sales efforts and initiatives. Our mission is to provide timely and technical information, knowledge, and tools in an effort to cultivate consistency for architecting, sizing, and configuring any VxRail solution. This is not a forum for post-sales or customer support.

Who is eligible? Any Dell Technologies employee or Dell EMC partner who passes the VxRail Xpert Crew assessment exam. VMware partners are welcome to join if they are also Dell EMC partners. Due to the NDA nature of this community, customers are not permitted.

Why should I join?
There are many reasons to pass the assessment and join the VxRail Xpert crew, including:

  • A dedicated communication platform with other Xperts
  • 24x7 access to a Global community with ~800 active members (including ~150 partners)
  • Opportunity to provide feedback to the VxRail BU team
  • Early access to information (performance data, product roadmaps, analyst data and more...)
  • Special events for community members only
    • Intel announcements
    • Exclusive technology sessions - monthly

What are my responsibilities as a member?

  • Collaborate: Share and learn with other Xperts
  • Participate: Stay active in the community
  • Stay smart: Be current, be knowledgeable and be relevant
  • Walk the talk: Be the Xpert in your selling circles

How do I join?

  • Know your stuff - read, learn, and master VxRail technology by reviewing materials listed below
  • Test your knowledge and pass the exam
  • Follow the onboarding process to become a full-fledged member of the VxRail Xpert crew

How do I access the exam?

Exam details:

  • You will execute the exam via SABA deeplink and using your partner login.
  • Assessment details: 60 questions, 90 minutes to complete, 75% for passing score, 5 retakes allowed (there is a 24 hour wait period between retakes).
  • Be sure to follow the instructions upon completion of the exam. (The onboarding process for the Xpert Crew is not automated.)
  • Dell EMC Technology partners having access to the partner portal can access the assessment exam here: https://education.dellemc.com/content/emc/en-us/csw.html?id=933229657. (If you have issues accessing this URL, please send email to vxrailxpertcrew@dell.com.)

What should I study? (some items are gated assets requiring login)

Additional/Suggested Resources

VxRail Ordering and Licensing Guide

VxRail vCenter Server Planning Guide

VxRail Interactive Demos

[1] IDC WW Quarterly Converged Systems Tracker, Vendor Revenue (US$M) Q4 2019, March 19, 2020

KJ Bedard, Twitter - @kjbedard, Linked In - linkedin.com/in/kj-bedard-50b25315

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Oracle VxRail VCF Oracle RAC VMware Cloud Foundation

Built to Scale with VCF on VxRail and Oracle 19C RAC

Vic Dery

Fri, 17 Apr 2020 05:21:03 -0000

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Built to Scale with VCF on VxRail and Oracle 19C RAC

The newly released Oracle RAC on Dell EMC VxRail with VMware Cloud Foundations (VCF) Reference Architecture (RA) guides customers to building an efficient and high performing hyperconverged infrastructure to run their OLTP workloads. Scalability was the primary goal of this RA, and performance was highlighted as the numbers were generated. As Oracle RAC scaled, TPM increased to over 1 million TPM, while read IOPs showed sub-milli-second (0.64-0.70 ms) performance. The performance achieved with VxRail is a great added benefit to the core design points for Oracle RAC environments of which the primary focus is the availability and resiliency of the solution. Links to a reference architecture (“Oracle RAC on VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail”) and a solution brief (“Deploying Oracle RAC on Dell EMC VxRail “) are available here and at the end of this post.

The RAC solution with VxRail scaled-out easily — you simply add a new node to join an existing VxRail cluster. The VxRail Manager provides a simple path that automatically discovers and non-disruptively adds each new node. VMware vSphere and vSAN can then rebalance resources and workloads across the cluster, creating a single resource pool for compute and storage. 

The VxRail clusters were built with eight P570F nodes; four for the VCF Management Domain and four for the Oracle RAC Workload Domain. 


 


Specifics on the build, including the hardware and software used, are detailed within the reference architecture. It also provides information on the testing, tools used, and results.


 

This graph shows the performance of TPM and Response Time when increasing the RAC node count from one to four. Notice that the average TPM increased with near-linear trendline (shown by the dotted line) as additional RAC nodes were added, while total application response time was maintained at 20 milliseconds or less.

Note: TPM near-linear trendline is shown in the above graph (blue dotted line), As additional RAC nodes are added, an increase in performance is seen as well as an increase in RAC high availability. TPM linear performance (scale equal performance per each note) growth is not achieved due to RAC nodes’ dependency on concurrency of access, instance, network, or other factors. See the RA for additional performance related information.

Summary of performance

Different-sized databases kept the TPM at the same level (about one million transactions) while keeping the application response time at 20ms or below. When increasing the database size, the physical read and write IOPS increased near-linearly, as reported from the Oracle AWR. This indicated that more read and write I/O requests were served by the backend storage, under the same configuration. Overall, when the peak client IOPS was up to 100,000, vSAN still provided excellent storage performance at sub-milliseconds at read and single-digit milliseconds latency at write.

Sidebar about Oracle licensing: While not mentioned in the RA; the VxRail offers several facilities to both control Oracle licenses and in some cases eliminates the need for costly licensed options.  These include a broad choice of CPU core configurations, some with fewer cores and higher processing power per core, to maximize the customer’s Oracle workload performance while minimizing the license requirements. Costly add on options such as encryption and compression can be provided via vSAN and are handled by VxRail. Further, and the vSphere hypervisor features, like DRS, allow Oracle VMs to be contained to only licensed nodes. 

You can speak to a Dell Technologies’ Oracle specialist for more details on how to control Oracle licensing costs for VMware environments. 

Conclusion

Oracle Database 19c on VxRail offers customers performance, scalability, reliability, and security for all their operational and analytical workloads. The Oracle RAC on VxRail test environment was first created to highlight the architecture. It also had the added benefit of showcasing the great performance VxRail delivers. If you need more performance, it is simple to adjust the configuration by adding more VxRail nodes to the cluster. If you need more storage, add more drives to meet the scale required of the database. Dell Technologies has Oracle specialists to ensure the VxRail cluster will meet the scale and performance outcomes desired for Oracle environments.


Additional Resources:

Reference Architecture - Oracle RAC on VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail

Solution Brief - Deploying Oracle RAC on Dell EMC VxRail

Author: Vic Dery, Senior Principal Engineer, VxRail Technical Marketing

@VxVicTX

Special thank you to David Glynn for assisting with the reviews  



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VxRail VCF VMware Cloud Foundation Cloud Foundation on VxRail Cloud Foundation Lifecycle Management LCM

VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail Integration Features Series: Part 1 -- Full Stack Automated LCM

Jason Marques

Fri, 03 Apr 2020 21:39:05 -0000

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VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail Integration Features Series: Part 1

Full Stack Automated Lifecycle Management

It’s no surprise that VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail features numerous unique integrations with many VCF components, such as SDDC Manager and even VMware Cloud Builder. These integrations are the result of the co-engineering efforts by Dell Technologies and VMware with every release of VCF on VxRail. The following figure highlights some of the components that are part of this integration effort.

These integrations of VCF on VxRail offer customers a unique set of features in various categories, from security to infrastructure deployment and expansion, to deep monitoring and visibility that have all been developed to drive infrastructure operations.

Where do these integrations exist? The following figure outlines how they impact a customer’s Day 0 to Day 2 operations experience with VCF on VxRail.

In this series I will showcase some of these unique integration features, including some of the more nuanced ones. But for this initial post, I want to highlight one of the most popular and differentiated customer benefits that emerged from this integration work: full stack automated lifecycle management (LCM).

VxRail already delivers a differentiated LCM customer experience through its Continuously Validated States capabilities for the entire VxRail hardware and software stack. (As you may know, the VxRail stack includes the hardware and firmware of compute, network, and storage components, along with VMware ESXi, VMware vSAN, and the Dell EMC VxRail HCI System software itself, which includes VxRail Manager.)

With VCF on VxRail, VxRail Manager is integrated natively into the SDDC Manager LCM management framework through the SDDC Manager UI, and through VxRail Manager APIs for LCM by SDDC Manager when executing LCM workflows. This integration allows SDDC Manager to leverage all of the LCM capabilities that natively exist in VxRail right out of the box. SDDC Manager can then execute SDDC software LCM AND drive native VxRail HCI system LCM. It does this by leveraging native VxRail Manager APIs and the continuously validated state update packages for both the VxRail software and hardware components.

All of this happens seamlessly behind the scenes when administrators use the SDDC Manager UI to kick off native SDDC Manager workflows. This means that customers don’t have to leave the SDDC Manager UI management experience at all for full stack SDDC software and VxRail HCI infrastructure LCM operations. How cool is that?! The following figure illustrates the concepts behind this effective relationship.

For more details about how this LCM experience works, check out my lightboard talk about it!

Also, if you want to get some hands on experience in walking through performing LCM operations for the full VCF on VxRail stack, check out the VCF on VxRail Interactive Demo to see this and some of the other unique integrations!

I am already hard at work writing up the next blog post in the series. Check back soon to learn more.

Jason Marques

Twitter - @vwhippersnapper

Additional Resources

VxRail page on DellTechnologies.com

VCF on VxRail Guides

VCF on VxRail Whitepaper

VCF 3.9.1 on VxRail 4.7.410 Release Notes

VxRail Videos

VCF on VxRail Interactive Demos

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HCI VxRail API REST PowerShell DevOp

Take VxRail automation to the next level by leveraging APIs

Karol Boguniewicz

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:20:04 -0000

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Read Time: 0 minutes

VxRail REST APIs

The Challenge

VxRail Manager, available as a part of HCI System Software, drastically simplifies the lifecycle management and operations of a single VxRail cluster. With a “single click” user experience available directly in vCenter interface, you can perform a full upgrade off all software components of the cluster, including not only vSphere and vSAN, but also complete server hardware firmware and drivers, such as NICs, disk controller(s), drives, etc. That’s a simplified experience that you won’t find in any other VMware-based HCI solution.

But what if you need to manage not a single cluster, but a farm consisting of dozens or hundreds of VxRail clusters? Or maybe you’re using some orchestration tool to holistically automate the IT infrastructure and processes? Would you still need to login manually as an operator to each of these clusters separately and click a button to maybe shutdown a cluster, collect log information or health data or perform LCM operations?

This is where VxRail REST APIs come in handy.

The VxRail API Solution

REST APIs are very important for customers who would like to programmatically automate operations of their VxRail-based IT environment and integrate with external configuration management or cloud management tools.

In VxRail HCI System Software 4.7.300 we’ve introduced very significant improvements in this space:

  • Swagger integration - which allows for simplified consumption of the APIs and their documentation;
  • Comprehensiveness – we’ve almost doubled the number of public APIs available;
  • PowerShell integration – that allows consumption of the APIs from the Microsoft PowerShell or VMware PowerCLI.

The easiest way to start using and access these APIs is through the web browser, thanks to the Swagger integration. Swagger is an Open Source toolkit that simplifies Open API development and can be launched from within the VxRail Manager virtual appliance. To access the documentation, simply open the following URL in the web browser: https://<VxM_IP>/rest/vxm/api-doc.html (where <VxM IP> stands for the IP address of the VxRail Manager) and you should see a page similar to the one shown below:

Figure 1. Sample view into VxRail REST APIs via Swagger

This interface is dedicated for customers, who are leveraging orchestration or configuration management tools – they can use it to accelerate integration of VxRail clusters into their automation workflows. VxRail API is complementary to the APIs offered by VMware.

Would you like to see this in action? Watch the first part of the recorded demo available in the additional resources section.

PowerShell integration for Windows environments

Customers, who prefer scripting in Windows environment, using Microsoft PowerShell or VMware PowerCLI, will benefit from VxRail.API PowerShell Modules Package. It simplifies the consumption of the VxRail REST APIs from PowerShell and focuses more on the physical infrastructure layer, while management of VMware vSphere and solutions layered on the top (such as Software-Defined Data Center, Horizon, etc.), can be scripted using similar interface available in VMware PowerCLI.

Figure 2. VxRail.API PowerShell Modules Package

To see that in action, check the second part of the recorded demo available in the additional resources section.

Bringing it all together

VxRail REST APIs further simplify IT Operations, fostering operational freedom and a reduction in OPEX for large enterprises, service providers and midsize enterprises. Integrations with Swagger and PowerShell make them much more convenient to use. This is an area of VxRail HCI System Software that rapidly gains new capabilities, so please make sure to check the latest advancements with every new VxRail release.  


Additional resources:

Demo: VxRail API - Overview

Demo: VxRail API - PowerShell Package

Dell EMC VxRail Appliance – API User Guide

VxRail PowerShell Package

VxRail API Cookbook

VMware API Explorer


Author: Karol Boguniewicz, Sr Principal Engineer, VxRail Tech Marketing

Twitter: @cl0udguide 

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VxRail Multi-cluster management

Latest enhancements to VxRail ACE

Daniel Chiu

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 11:26:20 -0000

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VxRail ACE

February 4, 2020

One of the key areas of focus for VxRail ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine) is active multi-cluster management.  With ACE, users have a central point to manage multiple VxRail clusters more conveniently.  System updates for multiple VxRail clusters is one activity where ACE greatly benefits users.  It is a time-consuming operation that requires careful planning and coordination.   In the initial release of ACE, users were able to facilitate transfer of update bundles to all their clusters with ACE acting as the single control point versus logging onto every vCenter console to do the same activity.  That can save quite a bit of time.

On-demand pre-upgrade cluster health checks

In the latest ACE update, users can now run on-demand health checks prior to upgrading to find out if their cluster is ready for a system update.  By identifying which clusters are ready and which ones are not, users can more effectively schedule their maintenance windows in advance.  It allows them to see which clusters require troubleshooting and which ones can start the update process.  In ACE, on-demand cluster health checks are referred to as a Pre-Check.  

For more information about this feature, you can check out this video: https://vxrail.is/aceupdates

Deployment types

Another feature that came out with this update is the identification of the cluster deployment type.   This means ACE will now display whether the cluster is a standard VxRail cluster in a VMware Validated Design deployment, in a VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail deployment used in Dell Technologies Datacenter-as-a-Service, a 2-node vSAN cluster, or in a stretched cluster configuration.

Daniel Chiu, VxRail Technical Marketing

LinkedIn

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VxRail VMware Cloud Foundation Dell Technologies Cloud

VCF on VxRail – More business-critical workloads welcome!

Jason Marques

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:11:17 -0000

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Read Time: 0 minutes

New platform enhancements for stronger mobility and flexibility 

February 4, 2020


Today, Dell EMC has made the newest VCF 3.9.1 on VxRail 4.7.410 release available for download for existing VCF on VxRail customers with plans for availability for new customers coming on February 19, 2020. Let’s dive into what’s new in this latest version.

Expand your turnkey cloud experience with additional unique VCF on VxRail integrations

This release continues the co-engineering innovation efforts of Dell EMC and VMware to provide our joint customers with better outcomes. We tackle the area of security in this case. VxRail password management for VxRail Manager accounts such as root and mystic as well as ESXi have been integrated into the SDDC Manager UI Password Management framework. Now the components of the full SDDC and HCI infrastructure stack can be centrally managed as one complete turnkey platform using your native VCF management tool, SDDC Manager. Figure 1 illustrates what this looks like.

Figure 1


Support for Layer 3 VxRail Stretched Cluster Configuration Automation

Building off the support for Layer 3 stretched clusters introduced in VCF 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300 using manual guidance, VCF 3.9.1 on VxRail 4.7.410 now supports the ability to automate the configuration of Layer 3 VxRail stretched clusters for both NSX-V and NSX-T backed VxRail VI Workload Domains. This is accomplished using CLI in the VCF SOS Utility.


Greater management visibility and control across multiple VCF instances

For new installations, this release now provides the ability to extend a common management and security model across two VCF on VxRail instance deployments by sharing a common Single Sign On (SSO) Domain between the PSCs of multiple VMware Cloud Foundation instances so that the management and the VxRail VI Workload Domains are visible in each of the instances. This is known as a Federated SSO Domain.

What does this mean exactly?   Referring to Figure 2, this translates into the ability for Site B to join the SSO instance of Site A.  This allows VCF to further align to the VMware Validated Design (VVD)  to share SSO domains where it makes sense based upon Enhanced Linked Mode 150ms RTT limitation.

This would leverage a recent option made available in the VxRail first run to connect the VxRail cluster to an existing SSO Domain (PSCs).  So, when you stand up the VxRail cluster for the second MGMT Domain that is affiliated with the second VCF instance deployed in Site B, you would connect it to the SSO (PSCs) that was created by the first MGMT domain of the VCF instance in Site A.


Figure 2


Application Virtual Networks – Enabling Stronger Mobility and Flexibility with VMware Cloud Foundation

One of the new features in the 3.9.1 release of VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is use of Application Virtual Networks (AVNs) to completely abstract the hardware and realize the true value from a software-defined cloud computing model. Read more about it on VMware’s blog post here. Key note on this feature: It is automatically set up for new VCF 3.9.1 installations. Customers who are upgrading from a previous version of VCF would need to engage with the VMware Professional Services Organization (PSO) to configure AVN at this time. Figure 3 shows the message existing customers will see when attempting the upgrade.


Figure 3


VxRail 4.7.410 platform enhancements

VxRail 4.7.410 brings a slew of new hardware platforms and hardware configuration enhancements that expand your ability to support even more business-critical applications.


Figure 4


Figure 5


There you have it! We hope you find these latest features beneficial. Until next time…


Jason Marques

Twitter - @vwhippersnapper

Additional Resources

VxRail page on DellTechnologies.com

VCF on VxRail Guides

VCF on VxRail Whitepaper

VCF 3.9.1 on VxRail 4.7.410 Release Notes

VxRail Videos

VCF on VxRail Interactive Demos 


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VMware VxRail

Announcing all-new VxRail Management Pack for vRealize Operations

Daniel Chiu

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:14:28 -0000

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Now adding VxRail awareness to your vRealize Operations 

January 22, 2020


As the new year rolls in, VxRail team is now slowly warming up to it.  Right as we settle back in after holiday festivities, we’re onto another release announcement.  This time, it’s an entirely new software tool: VxRail Management Pack for vRealize Operations.

For those not familiar with what vRealize Operations, it’s VMware’s operations management software tool that provides its customers the ability to maintain and tune their virtual application infrastructure with the aid of artificial intelligence and machine learning.  It connects to the vCenter Server and collects metrics, events, configurations, and logs about the vSAN clusters and virtual workloads running on them.   vRealize Operations also understands the topology and object relationships of the virtual application infrastructure.  With all these features, it is capable of driving intelligent remediation, ensuring configuration compliance, monitoring capacity and cost optimization, and maintaining performance optimization.  It’s an outcome-based tool designed to self-drive according to user-defined intents powered by its AI/ML engine.

The VxRail Management Pack is an additional free-of-charge software pack that can be installed onto vRealize Operations to provide VxRail cluster awareness.  Without this Management Pack, vRealize Operations can still detect vSAN clusters but cannot discern that they are VxRail clusters.  The Management Pack consists of an adapter that collects 65 distinct VxRail events, analytics logic specific to VxRail, and three custom dashboards.  These VxRail events are translated into VxRail alerts on vRealize Operations so that users have helpful information to understand health issues along with recommended course of resolution.  With custom dashboards, users can easily go to VxRail-specific views to troubleshoot issues and make use of existing vRealize Operations capabilities in the context of VxRail clusters.  

The VxRail Management Pack is not for every VxRail user because it requires a vRealize Operations Advanced or Enterprise license.  For enterprise customers or customers who have already invested in VMware’s vRealize Operations suite, it can be an easy add-on to help manage your VxRail clusters.

To download the VxRail Management Pack, go to VMware Solution Exchange: https://marketplace.vmware.com/vsx/.

Author:  Daniel Chiu, Dell EMC VxRail Technical Marketing

LinkedIn

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VxRail 4.7.410

VxRail drives the hyperconverged evolution with the release of 4.7.410

KJ Bedard

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:16:22 -0000

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VxRail announces new hardware and software in this latest release

January 6, 2020

VxRail recently released a new version of our software, 4.7.410, which we announced at VMworld EMEA in November. This release brings cutting-edge enhancements for networking options and edge deployments, support for the Mellanox 100GbE PCIe NIC, and two new drive types.  

Improvements and newly developed functionality for VxRail 2-node implementations provide a more user-friendly experience. Now supporting both direct connect and new switched connectivity options. VxRail 2-node is increasingly popular for edge deployments, and Dell EMC continues to bolster features and functionality in support of our edge and 2-node customer base.

This release also includes improvements for VxRail networking capabilities that more closely align VxRail with VMware’s best practices for NIC port maximums and network teaming policies.   VxRail networking enhancements more efficiently handle network traffic due to support for two additional load balancing policies. These new policies determine how to route network traffic in the event of bottlenecks, and the result is better/increased throughput on a NIC port. In addition, VxRail now supports the same three routing/teaming policies as VMware. 

Dell EMC also announced support for Fiber channel HBAs in mid-summer of 2019, and with that, the 4.7.410 release has broadened capabilities by supporting external storage integration.  VxRail recognizes that an external array is connected and makes it available to the vCenter for use as secondary storage.  The storage is now automatically recognized during day 1 installation operations, or on day 2, when external storage is added to expand the storage capacity for VxRail.

In addition to the 4.7.410 release, VxRail added a new set of hardware choices and options to include the Mellanox ConnectX-5 100GBe NIC cards benefitting a variety of use cases including media broadcasting, a larger 8TB 2.5” 7200 rpm HDD commonly used for video surveillance, and a 7.6TB “Value SAS SSD”. Value SAS drives offer attractive pricing (similar to SATA) with performance slightly below other SAS drives and are great for larger read-friendly workloads. And finally, there’s big news for the VxRail E series platforms (E560/E560F/E560N) which all support the T4 GPU.  This is the first time VxRail is supporting GPU cards outside of the V series. The Nvidia T4 GPU is optimized for high-performance workloads and suitable for running a combination of entry-level machine learning, VDI, and data inferencing.

These exciting new features and enhancements in the 4.7.410 release enable customers to expand the breadth of business workloads across all VxRail implementations.

Please check out these resources for more VxRail information:

VMWare EMEA Announcements 

VxRail Spec Sheet

VxRail Network Planning Guide

VxRail 4.7.x Release Notes (requires log-in)


By:  KJ Bedard - VxRail Technical Marketing Engineer

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/kj-bedard-50b25315/

Twitter: @KJbedard

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VxRail SAP HANA

New all-NVMe VxRail platforms deliver highest levels of performance

Daniel Chiu

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:24:55 -0000

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Two new all-NVMe VxRail platforms deliver highest levels of performance

December 11, 2019

If you have not been tuned into the VxRail announcements at VMworld Barcelona last month, this is news to you.  VxRail is adding more performance punch to the family with two new all-NVMe platforms.   The VxRail E Series 560N and P Series 580N, with the 2nd Generation Intel® Xeon® Scalable Processors, offer increased performance while enabling customers to take advantage of decreasing NVMe costs.

Balancing workload and budget requirements, the dual-socket E560N provide a cost-effective, space-efficient 1U platform for read-intensive workloads and other complex workloads.   Configured with up to 32TB of NVMe capacity, the E560N is the first all-NVMe 1U VxRail platform.  Based on the PowerEdge R640, the E560N can run a mix of workloads including data warehouses, ecommerce, databases, and high-performance computing.  With support for Nvidia T4 GPUs, the E560N is also equipped to run a wide range of modern cloud-based applications, including machine learning, deep learning, and virtual desktop workloads.

Built for memory-intensive high-compute workloads, the new P580N is the first quad-socket  and also the first all-NVMe 2U VxRail platform.  Based on the PowerEdge R840, the P580N can be configured with up to 80TB of NVMe capacity.  This platform is ideal for in-memory databases and has been certified by SAP for SAP HANA.  The P580N provides 2x the CPU compared to the P570/F and offers 25% more processing potential over virtual storage appliance (VSA) based 4-socket HCI platforms that require a dedicated socket to run (VSA).

The completion of the SAP HANA certification for the P580N which coincides with the P580N’s general availability demonstrates the ongoing commitment to position VxRail as the HCI platform of choice for SAP HANA solutions.  The P580N provides even more memory and processing power than the SAP HANA certified P570F platform.  An updated Validation Guide for SAP HANA on VxRail will be available in early January on the Dell EMC SAP solutions landing page for VxRail.

For more information about VxRail E560N and P580N, please check out the resources below:


VxRail Spec Sheet

All Things VxRail at dellemc.com

SAP HANA Certification page for VxRail

Dell EMC VxRail SAP Solutions at dellemc.com

Available 12/20/2019 - Dell EMC Validation Guide for SAP HANA with VxRail


By: 

Daniel Chiu

linkedin.com/in/daniel-chiu-8422287

Vic Dery

@VxVicTx

linkedin.com/in/vicdery

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VxRail VMware Cloud Foundation Dell Technologies Cloud

Innovation with Cloud Foundation on VxRail

Jason Marques

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:24:55 -0000

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VCF 3.9 ON VxRail 4.7.300 Improves Management, Flexibility, and Simplicity at Scale 

December, 2019

As you may already know, VxRail is the HCI foundation for the Dell Technologies Cloud Platform. With the new Dell Technologies On Demand offerings we combine the benefits of bringing automation and financial models similar to public cloud to on-premises environments. VMware Cloud Foundation on Dell EMC VxRail allows customers to manage all cloud operations through a familiar set of tools, offering a consistent experience, with a single vendor support relationship from Dell EMC.

Joint engineering between VMware and Dell EMC continuously improves VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail. This has made VxRail the first hyperconverged system fully integrated with VMware Cloud Foundation SDDC Manager and is the only jointly engineered HCI system with deep VMware Cloud Foundation integration. VCF on VxRail to delivers unique integrations with Cloud Foundation that offer a seamless, automated upgrade experience. Customers adopting VxRail as the HCI foundation for Dell Technologies Cloud Platform will realize greater flexibility and simplicity when managing VMware Cloud Foundation on VxRail at scale. These benefits are further illustrated with the new features available in the latest version of VMware Cloud Foundation 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300.

The first feature expands the ability to support global management and visibility across large, complex multi-region private and hybrid clouds. This is delivered through global multi-instance management of large-scale VCF 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300 deployments with a single pane of glass (see figure below). Customers who have many VCF on VxRail instances deployed throughout their environment now have a common dashboard view into all of them to further simplify operations and gain insights.

Figure 1

The new features don’t just stop there, VCF 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300 provides greater networking flexibility. VMware Cloud Foundation 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300 adds support for Dell EMC VxRail layer 3 networking stretch cluster configurations, allowing customers to further scale VCF on VxRail environments for more highly available use cases in order to support mission-critical workloads. The layer 3 support applies to both NSX-V and NSX-T backed workload domain clusters.

Another area of new network flexibility features is the ability to select the host physical network adapters (pNICs) you want to assign for NSX-T traffic on your VxRail workload domain cluster (see figure below). Users can now select the pNICs used for the NSX-T Virtual Distributed Switch (N-VDS) from the SDDC Manager UI in the Add VxRail Cluster workflow. This allows you the flexibility to choose from a set of VxRail host physical network configurations that best aligns to your desired NSX-T configuration business requirements. Do you want to deploy your VxRail clusters using the base network daughter card (NDC) ports on each VxRail host for all standard traffic but use separate PCIe NIC ports for NSX-T traffic? Go for it! Do you want to use 10GbE connections for standard traffic and 25GbE for NSX-T traffic? We got you there too! Host network configuration flexibility is now in your hands and is only available with VCF on VxRail.

Figure 2

Finally, no good VCF on VxRail conversation can go by without talking about Lifecycle Management. VMware Cloud Foundation 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300 also delivers simplicity and flexibility for managing at scale with greater control over workload domain upgrades. Customers now have the flexibility to select the clusters within a multi-cluster workload domain to upgrade in order to better align with business requirements and maintenance windows. Upgrading VCF on VxRail clusters is further simplified with VxRail Smart LCM (4.7.300 release) which determines exactly which firmware components need to be updated on each cluster, pre-stages each node in a cluster saving up to 20% of upgrade time (see next figure). The scheduling of these cluster upgrades is also supported. With VCF 3.9 and VxRail smart LCM, you can streamline the upgrade process across your hybrid cloud.

Figure 3

As you can see the innovation continues with Cloud Foundation on VxRail.

Jason Marques  Twitter - @vwhippersnapper  Linked In -  linkedin.com/in/jason-marques-47022837

Additional Resources

VxRail page on DellEMC.com

VCF on VxRail Guides

VCF on VxRail Whitepaper

VMware release notes for VCF 3.9 on VxRail 4.7.300

VxRail Videos

VCF on VxRail Interactive Demos 


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VxRail Multi-cluster management

Analytical Consulting Engine (ACE)

Christine Spartichino

Mon, 30 Mar 2020 15:27:16 -0000

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VxRail plays its ACE, now generally available 

November 2019

VxRail ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine), the new Artificial Intelligence infused component of the VxRail HCI System Software, was announced just a few months ago at Dell Technologies World and has been in global early access. Over 500 customers leveraged the early access program for ACE, allowing developers to collect feedback and implement enhancements prior to General Availability of the product.  It is with great excitement that VxRail ACE is now generally available to all VxRail customers. By incorporating continuous innovation/continuous development (CIDC) utilizing the Pivotal Platform (also known as Pivotal Cloud Foundry) container-based framework, Dell EMC developers behind ACE have made rapid iterations to improve the offering; and customer demand has driven new features added to the roadmap. ACE is holding true to its design principles and commitment to deliver adaptive, frequent releases.


Figure 1 ACE Design Principles and Goals

VxRail ACE is a centralized data collection and analytics platform that uses machine learning capabilities to perform capacity forecasting and self-optimization helping you keep your HCI stack operating at peak performance and ready for future workloads. In addition to some of the initial features available during early access, ACE now provides new functionality for intelligent upgrades of multiple clusters (see image below). You can now see the current software version of each cluster along with all available upgrade versions. ACE will allow you to select the desired version per each VxRail cluster. You can now manage at scale to standardize across all sites and clusters with the ability to customize by cluster. This becomes advantageous when some sites or clusters might need to remain at a specific version of VxRail software.

If you haven’t seen ACE in action yet, check out the additional links and videos below that showcase the features described in this post. For our 6,000+ VxRail customers, please visit our support site and Admin Guide to learn how to access ACE.

Christine Spartichino, Twitter - @cspartichino   Linked In -  linkedin.com/in/spartichino

For more information on VxRail, check out these great resources:

VxRail ACE Solution Brief

VxRail ACE Overview Demos

VxRail ACE Updates

VxRail ACE Announcement

All Things VxRail

Support (for existing customers)

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