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vSAN

Phenomenal Power: Automating Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes

Tony Foster

Tue, 16 Nov 2021 16:41:33 -0000

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Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes have Identity Modules that act at the lowest level of a node and imbues a host with special features and characteristics. In this blog, we explore how to use the attributes of the Identity Module to automate tasks in a vSphere environment.

Let’s start out by identifying all the Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes in our environment and displaying some information about them, such as the BIOS version of each host and vSphere version. After we learn about the hosts in our environment, we will discover what VMs are running on those hosts. We’ll do all of this through VMware’s PowerCLI, which is a plug-in for Microsoft PowerShell.

Note: We could also easily do this using other tools for vSphere such as Python (with pyVmomi), Ansible, and many others.

The environment we are using is a small environment using three Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes R740 with identity modules. All three nodes are running  ESXi 7.0 U2 (vSAN 7.0 Update 2). VMware vSAN is using an all flash configuration. The code we are discussing in this post should work across current Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes and current vSphere releases.

The code displayed below may seem trivial, but you can use it as a base to create powerful scripts! This unlocks many automation capabilities for organizations. It also moves them further along in their autonomous operations journey. If you’re not familiar with autonomous operations, read this white paper to see where your organization is with automation. After reading it, also consider where you want your organization to go.

We’re not going to cover many of the things necessary to build and run these scripts, like connecting to a vSphere environment. There are many great blogs that cover these details, and we want to focus on the code for Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes.

In this first code block, we start by finding all the Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes in our environment. We use a ForEach-Object loop to do this.

Get-VMhost -State "connected" | ForEach-Object { 
     if ($_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.model.contains("vSAN Ready Node")){
         echo "================================================="
         echo "System Details"
         echo "Model: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.model
         echo "Service Tag: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.serialNumber
         echo "BIOS version: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.biosInfo.biosVersion
         echo "ESXi build: " $_.ExtensionData.config.product.build 
     }
}

This code snippet assumes we have connected to a vSphere environment with the Connect-VIServer command. It then creates a view of all the hosts in the environment using the Get-VMhost command, the results of which are passed to the ForEach-Object loop using the | (pipe) symbol. We then loop through this view of hosts using a ForEach-Object command and look at the hardware.systemInfo.model property of each host. The object of focus, one of the discovered hosts, is represented by the $_ variable, and to access the properties of the host object, we use the ExtensionData property. We check each host with a conditional method, .contains(), added on to the end of the property we want to check. Using the .contains method, we check if the hardware.systemInfo.model contains “vSAN Ready Node”. This string is a property that is unique to Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes and the Identity Module. It’s set at the factory when the Identity Module is installed.

If the system is a Dell EMC vSAN Ready Node with an Identity Module, we then display information from the hardware.systemInfo and the hardware.biosInfo, specifically the system’s BIOS version. We also collect the vSphere build of the host using the config.product property of the host.

As we loop through each host, we only display these details for the Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes in the environment that have Identity Modules. This results in output similar to the following:

The remainder of the nodes are excluded from the output shown here:

PS C:> .\IDM_Script.ps1
=================================================
System Details
Model: 
PowerEdge R740 vSAN Ready Node
Service Tag: 
[redacted]
BIOS version:
 2.1.12
ESXi build: 
18538813
 

This provides relevant information that we can use to create automated reports about our environment. You can also use the script as the basis for larger automation projects. For example, when a new Dell EMC vSAN Ready node is added to an environment, a script could detect that addition, perform a set of tasks for new Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes, and notify the IT team when they are complete. These sample scripts can be used as a spark for your own ideas.

This next script uses the same for loop from before to find the hosts that are Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes and now looks to see what VMs are running on the host. From this example, we can see how the Identity Module is integral in automating the virtual environment from the hosts to the virtual machines.

Get-VMhost -state "connected" | ForEach-Object {
    if ($_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.model.contains("vSAN Ready Node")){
        echo "================================================="
 
        echo "System Details"
        echo "Model: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.model
        echo "Service Tag: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.systemInfo.serialNumber
        echo "BIOS version: " $_.ExtensionData.hardware.biosInfo.biosVersion
        echo "ESXi build: " $_.ExtensionData.config.product.build
        echo "+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++"
        echo "$_ list of VMs:"
        Get-VM -Location $_ | ForEach-Object{            
            echo $_.ExtensionData.name
        }
    }
} 

This new code snippet, shown in bold, builds on the previous example by looping through our hosts looking for the “vSAN Ready Node” as before. When it finds a matching host, it creates a new view using the Get-VM command, consisting of the virtual machines for that host. The host is specified using the -Location parameter, to which is passed the current host represented by the $_. We then use another ForEach-Object loop to display a list of VMs on the host.

This gives our code context. If an action is carried out, we can now define the scope of that action, not just on the host but on the workloads it’s running. We can start to build code with intelligence extracting a greater value from the system, which in turn provides the opportunity to drive greater value for the organization.

As I said earlier, this is just the starting point of what is possible when building PowerCLI scripts for Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes with Identity Modules! Other automation platforms, like Ansible, can also take advantage of the identity module features. We only covered the basics, but there are enormous possibilities beyond discovery operations. The nuggets of knowledge in this blog unlock numerous opportunities for you to build automations that empower your data center.  

For more information see Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes overview and the Dell EMC VSAN Ready Nodes blog site.  

Author Information 

Tony Foster 

Twitter  

LinkedIn

 

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vSAN

Identity Modules role in Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes

Inigo Olcoz

Fri, 19 Nov 2021 18:03:54 -0000

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When we think about vSAN Ready Nodes from a Dell Technologies perspective, we provide a wide portfolio of platforms to choose from, both in terms of form factors and technical specifications. We can also offer ease of operations and life cycle management, which are made possible by the graceful integration of Dell EMC Open Manage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) with VMware’s vSphere lifecycle management (vLCM). 

But…is there anything else?

The answer is yes! Behind the scenes is a simple technology that enables the Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes platform to reach advanced levels of automation.

Let me introduce the Dell EMC Identity Module.

Our first contact with this interesting subject comes when we first connect to the underlying PowerEdge iDRAC interface. As shown in the following image, the iDRAC has spotted something.

Is there anything different in this Dell EMC R740XD vSAN Ready Node than what we could observe if instead we were seeing a standard PowerEdge R740XD? Indeed. That brief description of  the R740XD vSAN Ready Node makes the difference. We’ll get to that very soon.

As you may know, vCenter is the main management console for a VMware platform such as vSAN Ready Nodes. From vCenter, we can see a very similar description of our Ready Node:

What if we were just seeing a PowerEdge server, such as a PowerEdge MX740C?


No mention of Ready Node here, just a vanilla description of the server model. So, what’s the deal about that unique chassis identification provided by the Identity Module?

That particular text string enables any programmatic interface to locate and direct an operation to that specific set of infrastructure assets. A select type primitive from an automation platform may be able to pinpoint a Dell EMC vSAN Ready Node from other servers because it has an Identity Module. This means that if we have a 100-node server farm, in which 16 are, for example, Dell EMC R740XD vSAN Ready Nodes, and the rest are other server types without an Identity Module, we can easily direct any operation coming from an automation framework such as vRealize Orchestrator, Ansible, or Puppet to our Ready Nodes, and it will respond positively to any query that is looking for a vSAN Ready Node text string.

The Identity Module, as a unique chassis identification method, allows any programmatic operation to distinguish the ready node farm from the rest of the servers in the datacentera simple feature that enables such powerful automation. On top of this, from a support perspective, the Identity Module enables Dell teams to more rapidly triage and diagnose any system anomaly. This feature helps the more than 1.800 VMware certified Dell support engineers solve above 90% of the cases in-house, avoiding the need to route level 3 tickets to VMware. 

Consider it another technology tidbit that helps differentiate Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes from other similar offerings. 

To read more about Identity Modules driven automation, check out this blog (Tony’ blog on IDMod automation, when available).

For more technical information on Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes, check here.

Author Information

Inigo Olcoz, Senior Principal Engineering Technologist at Dell Technologies  

Twitter: @VirtualOlcoz

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AI PowerEdge VxRail VDI machine learning vSAN GPU

Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes: Taking VDI and AI Beyond “Good Enough”

Tony Foster

Mon, 18 Oct 2021 12:52:37 -0000

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Some people have speculated that 2020 was “the year of VDI” while others say that it will never be the “year of VDI.” However, there is one certainty. In 2020 and part of 2021, organizations worldwide consumed a large amount of virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Some of these deployments went extremely well while other deployments were just “good enough.”

If you are a VDI enthusiast like me, there was much to learn from all that happened over the last 24 months. An interesting observation is that test VDI environments turned into production environments overnight. Also, people discovered that the capacity of clouds is not limitless. My favorite observation is the discovery by many IT professionals that GPUs can change the VDI experience from “good enough” to enjoyable, especially when coupled with an outstanding environment powered by Dell Technologies with VMware vSphere and VMware Horizon.  

In this blog, I will tell you about how exceptional VDI (and AI/ML) is when paired with powerful technology.

This blog does not address cloud workloads as it is a substantial topic. It would be difficult for me to provide the proper level of attention in this blog, so I will address only on premises deployments.

Many end users adopt hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) in their data centers because it is easy to consume. One of the most popular HCIs is Dell EMC VxRail Hyperconverged Infrastructure. You can purchase nodes to match your needs. These needs range from the traditional data center workloads, to Tanzu clusters, to VDI with GPUs, and to AI. VxRail enables you to deliver whatever your end users need. Your end users might be developers working from home on a containers-based AI project and they need a development environment, VxRail can provide it with relative ease.

Some IT teams might want an HCI experience that is more customer managed but they still want a system that is straightforward to deploy, validate, and is easy to maintain. This scenario is where Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes come into play.

Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes provide comprehensive, flexible, and efficient solutions optimized for your workforce’s business goals with a large choice of options (more than 250 as of the September 29, 2021 vSAN Compatibility Guide) from tower to rack mount to blades. A surprising option is that you can purchase Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes with GPUs, making them a great platform for VDI and virtualized AI/ML workloads.

Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes supports many NVIDIA GPUs used for VDI and AI workloads, notably the NVIDIA M10 and A40 GPUs for VDI workloads and the NVIDIA A30 and A100 GPUs for AI workloads. There are other available GPUs depending on workload requirements, however, this blog focuses on the more common use cases.

For some time, the NVIDIA M10 GPU has been the GPU of choice for VDI-based knowledge workers who typically use applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint and YouTube. The M10 GPU provides a high density of users per card and can support multiple virtual GPU (vGPU) profiles per card. The multiple profiles result from having four GPU chips per PCI board. Each chip can run a unique vGPU profile, which means that you can have four vGPU profiles. That is, there are twice as many profiles than are provided by other NVIDIA GPUs. This scenario is well suited for organizations with a larger set of desktop profiles.

Combining this profile capacity with Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes, organizations can deliver various desktop options yet be based on a standardized platform. Organizations can let end users choose the system that suites them best and can optimize IT resources by aligning them to an end user’s needs.

Typically, power users need or want more graphics capabilities than knowledge workers. For example, power users working in CAD applications need larger vGPU profiles and other capabilities like NVIDIA’s Ray Tracing technology to render drawings. These power users’ VDI instances tend to be more suited to the NVIDIA A40 GPU and associated vGPU profiles. It allows power users who do more than create Microsoft PowerPoint presentations and watch YouTube videos to have the desktop experience they need to work effectively.

The ideal Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes platform for the A40 GPU is based on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R750 server. The PowerEdge R750 server provides the power and capacity for demanding workloads like healthcare imaging and natural resource exploration. These workloads also tend to take full advantage of other features built into NVIDIA GPUs like CUDA. CUDA is a parallel computing platform and programming model that uses GPUs. It is used in many high-end applications. Typically, CUDA is not used with traditional graphics workloads.

In this scenario, we start to see the blend between graphics and AI/ML workloads. Some VDI users not only render complex graphics sets, but also use the GPU for other computational outcomes, much like AI and ML do.

I really like that I can run AI/ML workloads in a virtual environment. It does not matter if you are an IT administrator or an AI/ML administrator. You can run AI and ML workloads in a virtual environment.

VMware + NVIDIA AI-Ready Platform

Many organizations have realized that the same benefits virtualization has brought to IT can also be realized in the AI/ML space. There are additional advantages, but those are best kept for another time.

For some organizations, IT is now responsible for AI/ML environments, whether delivering test/dev environments for programmers or delivering a complete AI training environment. For other IT groups, this responsibility falls to highly paid data scientists. And for some IT groups, the responsibility is a mix.

In this scenario, virtualization shines. IT administrators can do what they do best: deliver a powerful Dell EMC vSAN Ready Node infrastructure. Then, data scientists can spend their time building systems in a virtual environment consuming IT resources instead of racking and cabling a server.

Dell EMC vSAN Ready nodes are great for many AI/ML applications. They are easy to consume as a single unit of infrastructure. Both the NVIDIA A30 GPU and the A100 GPU are available so that organizations can quickly and easily assemble the ideal architecture for AI/ML workloads.

This ease of consumption is important for both IT and data scientists. It is unacceptable when IT consumers like data scientists must wait for the infrastructure they need to do their job. Time is money. Data scientists need environments quickly, which Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes can help provide. Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes deploy 130 percent faster with Dell EMC OpenManage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) (Based on Dell EMC internal competitive testing of PowerEdge and OMIVV compared to Cisco UCS manual operating system deployment.)

This speed extends beyond day 0 (deployment) to day 1+ operations. When using the vLCM and OMIVV, complete hypervisor and firmware updates to an eight-node PowerEdge cluster took under four minutes compared to a manual process, which took3.5 hours.(Principle Technologies report commissioned by Dell Technologies, New VMware vSphere 7.0 features reduced the time and complexity of routine update and hardware compliance tasks, July 2020.)

Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes ensures that you do not have to be an expert in hardware compatibility. With over 250 Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes available (as of the September 29, 2021 vSAN Compatibility Guide), you do not need to guess which drives will work or if a network adapter is compatible. You can then focus more on data and the results and less on building infrastructure.

These time-to-value considerations, especially for AI/ML workloads, are important. Being able to deliver workloads such as AI/ML or VDI quickly can have a significant impact on organizations, as has been evident in many organizations over the last two years. It has been amazing to see how fast organizations have adopted or expanded their VDI environments to accommodate everyone from knowledge workers to high-end power users wherever they need to consume IT resources.

Beyond “just expanding VDI” to more users, organizations have discovered that GPUs can improve the end-user experience and, in some cases, not only help but were required. For many, the NVIDIA M10 GPU helped users gain the wanted remote experience and move beyond “good enough.” For others who needed a more graphics-rich experience, the NVIDIA A40 GPU continues to be an ideal choice.

When GPUs are brought together as part of a Dell EMC vSAN Ready Node, organizations have the opportunity to deliver an expanded VDI and AI/ML experience to their users. To find out more about Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes, see Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes

Author: Tony Foster Twitter: @wonder_nerd LinkedIn: https://linkedin.com/in/wondernerd



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vSAN Ready Node

The Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes Differentiator

Inigo Olcoz

Thu, 14 Oct 2021 20:45:18 -0000

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It’s been over a decade since hyper converged infrastructure (HCI) disrupted technology. An ideal architecture for HCI would be a simple, modular architecture, in which all datacenter components (compute, storage, and networking) are consumed in a virtualized way to simplify allocating and managing resources. With this architecture, all physical components reside in the same box. When we combine these boxes, we can scale our datacenter power in all resource domains to accommodate almost any type of workload. This is due to extremely fast processors, large and efficient storage devices, and advanced network connections.

If we abstract the hardware layer in this architecture and imagine a solution that fills all the roles previously described, (virtualization of the three infrastructure domains, compute, network and storage) VMware can easily come to mind. VMware has a strong portfolio of software defined compute (vSphere), storage (vSAN), and networking (NSX family) to create a best of breed hyper-converged infrastructure product.

It will come as no surprise that VMware leads the HCI market due to its vSAN based systems, as reported by IDC1:

 

In this VMware led market, Dell PowerEdge servers stand out as a logical choice in terms of providing the modular box (server), for this hyperconvergence paradigm. Dell Technologies, as a global server market leader (Worldwide Server Market, IDC), has a long tradition of Ready Systems that allow a simpler  customer deployment experience.

Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes (vSAN Ready Nodes) are a great example of an HCI implementation, providing a robust and mature datacenter platform — pre-configured, tested, and certified to run VMware vSAN. 

This HCI market is especially relevant as its current growth rate far surpasses that of the server market.  According to Gartnerwhile the server market is growing at 5.6%, the HCI market is increasing by 23 percent (IDC3). That represents a growth rate more than four times that of the server market:

Server market growth:

HCI market growth:

In this prosperous landscape, Dell Technologies holds an outstanding leading place, with a wide portfolio of HCI offerings, led by Dell EMC VxRail in tandem with vSAN Ready Nodes. More than 20 years of collaboration endorses the relationship between Dell Technologies and VMware, specifically in the server space, where we have worked to simplify our joint customers’ technology experience.4  

Dell EMC Ready Nodes simplify and accelerate infrastructure modernization providing IT a strategic advantage with their flexibility, simplified operations, and breadth of choice. 

This leadership is founded on four pillars:

  1. Form factors: Dell Technologies offers an unmatched portfolio of vSAN Ready Nodes options, ranging from 1 to 2U rackmount servers, tower models, and MX series blade options. There are more than 250 different configurations available for Dell EMC vSAN Ready Nodes. As part of this rich offering, Dell provides unique solutions that scale up to four processors per node. 
  2. Identity Module: This module declares the system a vSAN Ready Node, distinguishing it from a standard off-the-shelf server. All vSAN Ready Node capabilities derive from this Identity Module, facilitating the Day 0 operations provided by vLCM in unison with OMIVV.
  3. OMIVV (OME): The Dell EMC Open Manage Integration for VMware vCenter (OMIVV) is designed to streamline the management processes in your data center environment by allowing you to use VMware vCenter Server to manage your full server infrastructure, both physical and virtual.
  4. vSphere Lifecycle Management (vLCM): Consistency across ESXi hosts is essential for creating reliable and high performing platforms, but it is difficult to obtain, especially at scale. vLCM solves the complexity by enforcing consistency across ESXi hosts in a cluster using a declarative model. vLCM not only accomplishes this by using an ESXi base image but extends it with the desired state for firmware and driver versions as well.

Watch for my next blog where I’ll provide more info about the rich variety of vSAN Ready Nodes form factors available from Dell Technologies and how that represents a significant business advantage. For the latest technical content on vSAN Ready Nodes, check out our Info Hub site!

Author Information

Inigo Olcoz, Technical Marketing Engineer at Dell Technologies 

Twitter: @virtualOlcoz

References

  1. IDC’s Q32020 Worldwide Quarterly Converged Systems Tracker, December 15th, 2020
  2. Worldwide End-User Spending on IT by Technology Segment and Subsegment, 2019-2025 (Millions of U.S Dollars).
  3. IDC Converged Systems Tracker Forecast, Q4020, March 2021
  4. IDC Quarterly Converged Systems tracker, 2021-Q1.


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