Tag Archives: HCI

vSAN 6.6 – What’s In It For Service Providers

Last February when VMware released VSAN 6.2 I stated that “Things had gotten Interesting” with regards to the 6.2 release of vSAN finally marking it’s arrival as a serious player in the Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market. vSAN was ready to be taken very seriously by VMware’s competitors. Fast forward fourteen months and apart from the fact we have confirmed the v in vSAN is a lower case with the product name officially changing from Virtual SAN to vSAN…Version 6.6 was announced last week is set to GA today, and with it comes the biggest list of new features and enhancements in vSANs history.

VMware has decided to break with the normal vSphere release cycle for vSAN and move to patch releases for vSphere that are actually major updates of vSAN. This is why this release is labeled vSAN 6.6 and will be included in the vSphere 6.5EP2 build. The move allows the vSAN team to continue to enhance the platform outside of the core vSphere platform and I believe it will deliver at least 2 update releases per year.

Looking at the new features and enhancements of the vSAN 6.6 release it’s clear to see that the platform has matured and given the 7000+ strong customer base it’s also clear to see that its being accepted more and more for critical workloads. From a service provider point of view I know of a lot more vCloud Air Network partners that have implemented vSAN as not only their Management HCI platform, but also now their customer HCI compute and storage  platforms.

A lot for Service Providers to like:

As shown in the feature timeline above there are over 20+ new features and enhancements but for me the following ones are most relative to vCAN Service Providers who are using, or looking to use vSAN in their offerings. I will expand on the ones in red as I see them as being the most significant of the new features and enhancements for service providers.

  • Native encryption for data-at-rest
  • Compliance certifications
  • vSAN Proactive Drive HA for failing drives
  • Resilient management independent of vCenter
  • Rapid recovery with smart, efficient rebuilds
  • Certified file service & data protection solutions
  • Enhanced vSAN SDK and PowerCLI
  • Simple networking with Unicast
  • vSAN Cloud Analytics for performance
  • vSAN Cloud Analytics with real-time support notification and recommendations*
  • vSAN Config Assist with 1-click hardware lifecycle management
  • Extended Health Services
  • Up to 50% greater IOPS for all-flash with optimized checksum and dedupe
  • Optimized for latest flash technologies
  • Expanded caching tier choice
  • New Docker Volume Driver

Simple networking with Unicast:

As John Nicholson wrote on the Virtual Blocks blog…it’s time to say goodbye to the multicast requirements around vSAN networking traffic. For a history as to why multicast was used, click here. Also it’s worth reading John’s post and also the he goes through the upgrade process as if you are upgrading from previous versions, multicast will still be used unless you make the change as also specified here.

I can attest first hand to the added complexity when it comes to setting up vSAN with multicast and have gone through a couple of painful deployments where the multicast configuration was an issue during initial setup and also caused issue with switching infrastructure that needed to be upgraded to before vSAN could work reliably. In my mind unicast offers a simpler less complex solution with minimal overheads and makes it more transportable across networks.

Performance Improvements:

Service Providers are always trying to squeeze the most out of their hardware purchases and with VMware claiming 50% greater IOPS for all-flash through optimized data services that in theory can enable 150K IOPS per host it appears they will be served well. in addition to optimized checksum and dedupe along with support for the latest flash technologies. The increased performance helps accelerate tenant workloads and provides higher consolidation ratios for those workloads.

Service providers can accelerate new hardware technologies with the support of the latest flash technologies, including solutions like the new breed of NVMe SSDs. These solutions can deliver up to 250% greater performance for write-intensive applications. vSAN 6.6 now offers larger caching drive options that includes 1.6TB flash drives, so that service providers can take advantage of larger capacity flash drives.

Disk Performance Enhancements:

For those that have gone through a vSAN rebuild operation you would know that is can be a long exercise depending on the amount of data and configuration of the vSAN datastore. vSAN 6.6 introduces a new smart rebuild and rebalancing feature along with partial repairs of degraded or absent components. There is also resync throttling and improved visibility into the rebuilding status through the Health Status. Cormac Hogan goes through the improvements in detail here.

From a Service Provider point of view having these enhanced features around the rebuilds it critical to continued quality of service for IaaS customer who live on shared vSAN storage. Shorter and more efficient rebuild times means less impact to customers.

Health Checks and Monitoring Improvements:

vSAN Encryption:

VMware has introduced VM encryption native at the vSAN datastore level. This can be enabled per vSAN Cluster and works with deduplication and compression across hybrid and all-flash cluster configurations. vSAN 6.6 data Encryption is hardware agnostic, there is no requirement to use specialized and more expensive Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs) which is also a bonus. Jase McCarty has another Virtual Blocks article here that goes through this feature in great detail.

From a Service Provider point of view you can now potentially offer two classes of vSAN backed storage for IaaS customers. One that lives on an Encrypted enabled cluster that’s charged at a premium over non Encrypted clusters. In talking with service providers across the globe, data at rest encryption has become something that potential customers are asking for and most leading storage companies have an encryption story…now so does vSAN and it appears to be market leading.

vSAN 6.6 Licensing:

In terms of the licensing Matrix, nothing too drastic has changed except for the addition of Data at Rest Encryption in the Enterprise bundle, however in a significant move for vCAN Service Providers, QoS IOPS Limiting has been extended across all license types and can now be taken advantage across the board. This is good for Service Providers who look to offer different tiers or storage performance based on IOPS limited…previously it was only available under Enterprise licensing.

Bootstrapping UI:

As a bonus feature that I think will assist vCAN Service Providers is the new Native Bootstrap installer in vSAN 6.6. William Lam has written about the feature here, but for those looking to install their first vSAN node without vSphere available the ability to bootstrap is invaluable. The old manual process is still worth looking at as it’s always beneficial to know what’s going on in the background, but it’s all GUI based now via the VCSA installer.

Conclusion:

vSAN 6.6 appears to be a great step forward for VMware and Service Providers will no doubt be keen to upgrade as soon as possible to take advantage of the features and enhancements that have been delivered in this 6.6 release.

References:

http://cormachogan.com/2017/04/11/whats-new-vsan-6-6/ 

https://storagehub.vmware.com/#!/vmware-vsan/vmware-vsan-6-5-technical-overview

http://vsphere-land.com/news/an-overview-of-whats-new-in-vmware-vsan-6-6.html

https://storagehub.vmware.com/#!/vmware-vsan/vsan-multicast-removal/multicast-removal-steps-and-requirements/1

vSAN 6.6 Encryption Configuration

vSAN 6.6 – Native Data-at-Rest Encryption

Goodbye Multicast

Native VCSA bootstrap installer in vSAN 6.6

VSAN 6.2 – Things Just Got Interesting!

There is a saying in our industry that Microsoft always get their products right on the third attempt…and while this has been less and less the case of late (Hyper-V 2012 didn’t exactly deliver) it is more or less an accurate statement. Having been part of the beta and early access blogger sessions for VSAN 6.2 I can say with confidence that VMware have hit the nail on the head with this 6.2 release.

The Hyper-converged storage platform which is built into the worlds leading hypervisor platform (VMware ESXi) has reached a level of maturity and feature set that should and will make the more established HCI vendors take note and certainly act towards lowering the competitive attack surface that existed with previous releases of VSAN.

The table below shows you the new features of 6.2 together with the existing features of 6.1. As you can see by the number of green dots there are not a lot of new features…but they certainly pack a punch and fill in the gaps that had stopped VSAN being adopted for higher end workloads in comparison with existing market leaders.

Across all versions, Software Checksum has been added with Advanced and Enterprise versions getting VSANs implementation of Erasure Coding (RAID 5/6) with Deduplication and Compression available for the All Flash version and QOS IOPS Limiting available in Enterprise only.

With the initial 5.x releases of VSAN VMware where very reluctant to state that it was suitable for “enterprise” workloads and only mentioned VDI, Test and Development workloads…the language changed to extend to more enterprise workloads in VSAN 6.x but as you can see below the 6.2 release now targets all workloads…and more importantly VMware are openly confident of backing the claim.

VMware have achieved this mostly through the efficiencies that come with their deduplication and compression feature along with erasure coding which in effect adds RAID5/6 support with a FTT level of 1 or 2 set which is in addition to the RAID1 implementation in previous versions. Software Checksum has been used as a huge point of difference in comparing other HCI platforms to the previous VSAN releases so it’s great to see this added tick box to further ensure data consistency across VSAN disk group and datastore objects.

The QOS feature that applies IOPS limiting on a per VM basis is also significant for extending VSAN workload reach and allows the segmentation of noisy neighbours and allows operators to apply limits that have had a flaky history up to this point on vSphere platforms and this is probably my favourite new feature.

As with previous 6.x releases of VSAN there is an AFA option available in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions though you will pay a premium compared to the hybrid version and while I’m still not convinced VMware have the pricing right I do know that there is ongoing work to make it more attractive for enterprises and service providers alike.

One of the great things about VSAN is the ability to build your own platform from whatever combination of HCL approved hardware you want. This flexibility is only comparable to EMCs ScaleIO but also means that some extra thought needs to go into a VSAN build if you don’t want to go down the Ready Node path. In my testing…if sized correctly the only limitation in terms of performance is the speed of your network cards and I’ve been able to push VSAN (Hybrid) to impressive throughput numbers with importantly low latency numbers.

Finally, the 6.2 version of VSAN expands on the Health and Monitoring components that existed in previous versions. VMware have baked in new performance and capacity monitoring into the vCenter Web Client that gives insights in VM storage consumption and how that capacity is taken up by the various VSAN components.

There is also a new Cluster Performance Menu to gives greater details into VSAN Cluster throughput, IOPS and latency so there should be no need to get into the vSphere Ruby Client which is a blessing. The UI is limited by the Web Client and not as sexy and modern as others out there but it’s come a long way and now means you don’t need to hook in external systems to get VSAN related metrics.

As suggested by the posts title, I believe that this VSAN release represents VMware’s official coming of age into the HCI market and will make the other players take note which will no doubt spark the odd Twitter fuelled banter and Slack Channel discussions about what’s missing or what’s been copied…but at the end of the day competition in tech is great and better products are born out of competition.

Things just got Interesting!

For a more detailed look at the new features check out Duncan Epping‘s post here:

First Look: Dell PowerEdge FX2 Converged Platform

For the last six months or so I’ve been on the look out for server and storage hardware to satisfy the requirement for new Management Clusters across our Zettagrid vCloud Zones… After a fairly exhaustive discovery and research stage the Dell PowerEdge FX2 dropped at the right time to make the newly updated converged architecture hardware platform a standout choice for a HCI based solution.

I plan on doing a couple of posts on the specifics of the hardware chosen as part of the build that will end up as a VMware VSAN configuration but for the moment there is a little more info on the FX2 PowerEdge (below) as well as a Virtual Unboxing video that goes through the initial familiarization with the CMC and then walks through the FC430 System and Storage Configuration as well as what the new BIOS menu looks like:

 

Below are some specs from the Dell site going through the compute and storage hardware…as you saw in the video above we went for the 1/4 Blade FC430’s with two FD322 Storage Sleds.

Server blocks at the heart of the FX converged architecture are powered by the latest Intel® Xeon® processors. They include:

  • FC430: 2-socket, quarter-width 1U high-density server block with optional InfiniBand configuration
  • FC630: 2-socket, half-width 1U workhorse server block ideal for a wide variety of business applications
  • FC830: Powerful 4-socket, full-width 1U server block for mid-size and enterprise data centers
  • FM120x4: Half-width 1U sled housing up to four separate Intel® Atom® powered single-socket microservers offers up to 16 microservers per 2U.

The FC430 features:

  • Two multi-core Intel® Xeon® E5-2600 v3 processors or one multi-core Intel® Xeon® E5-1600 v3 processor (up to 224 cores per FX2)
  • Up to 8 memory DIMMs (up to 64 DIMMs per FX2)
  • Two 1.8″ SATA SSDs or one 1.8″ SATA SSD (w/front IB Mezzanine port)
  • Dual-port 10Gb LOM
  • Access to one PCIe expansion slot in the FX2 chassis

The FD332 provides massive direct attached storage (DAS) capacity in easily scalable, modular half-width, 1U blocks. Each block can house up to 16 direct-attached small form factor (SFF) storage devices. Combined with FX servers, the FD332 drives highly flexible, scale out computing solutions and is an excellent option for dense VSAN environments using optimized ratios of HDD/SSD storage (including all flash) .

  • Up to 16 SFF 2.5″ SSDs/HDDs , both SATA and SAS
  • Up to three FD332 blocks per chassis (with one FC630 for processing). Other storage options include one or two blocks with different combinations of server blocks
  • 12Gbps SAS 3.0 and 6Gbps SATA 3.0
  • PowerEdge RAID Controller (PERC9), single or dual controllers, RAID or HBA modes, or mix and match modes with dual controllers

My first impressions are that this is a very very sexy bit of kit! I am looking forward to getting it up and firing and putting it to use as the basis for a solid Management Cluster platform.

http://www.dell.com/us/business/p/poweredge-fx/pd?oc=pe_fc430_1085&model_id=poweredge-fx&l=en&s=bsd