Archive for August, 2013

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Virtual SAN (VSAN)

August 26th, 2013 No comments

VMware has announced its latest update to version 5.5 of its global virtualisation powerhouse, vCloud Suite.

To read the updates for all the suite components, see my post: What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Introduction

Virtual SAN (VSAN) is one of the highlights of the new vCloud Suite 5.5 and is a really strong push further into VMware’s vision of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC). VSAN was previewed at VMworld 2012 when it was then called VMware Distributed Storage. VSAN is in public beta and won’t be available with the initial release of vSphere 5.5 but with the first update which is scheduled for next year.

VSAN is a VMware developed software-based storage solution built into the ESXi hypervisor that uses the host’s local disk drives (SSD & HDD) and then aggregates them so they appear as a cluster wide pool of storage shared across all hosts.

It is a highly available scale-out clustered storage solution to host VMs. It bring CPU, memory and storage closer together which is certainly the idea that Nutanix has been successfully running with.

imageIn a simplistic way this is just another Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) but embedded within the hypervisor rather than as an appliance. However, a VSA in my opinion by itself isn’t a true part of the SDDC in the same way that a firewall that happens to be running as a VM isn’t true software defined networking.

VMware makes the VSAN more software defined than a standard VSA by implementing automated storage management with per-VM policies and per-VM QoS enforcement. That’s a lot to actually digest but I’ll get back to what that actually means.

VSAN is fully integrated with vCenter, managed through the vSphere Web Client and works seamlessly with HA, DRS and vMotion. It is very easy to setup, configure and manage and yet provides enterprise features and performance scaling from terabytes to petabytes.

Thin provisioning is available along with support for VM snapshots, cloning, backup and replication using vSphere Replication and Site Recovery Manager.

VMware is listing VSAN use cases as VDI, test/dev, Big Data and DR. I think they are covering themselves by not including production workloads as this is a version 1 release and they want to see how it works in the real world at scale before committing and will also want to mature the functionality in the future. I’d love to see anyone who considers a real VDI deployment not as important as production though!

If you’re wondering, the difference between VSAN and VMware’s own vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) is VSAN is implemented in the hypervisor, VSA is a virtual appliance presenting a NFS datastore, VSAN can use Flash as a read cache and write buffer, VSA can’t and VSAN has the whole policy-based per-VM management which VSA does not.


You need a minimum of 3 vSphere 5.5 ESXi hosts with local storage to create a VSAN. You can scale out to 8 hosts providing storage to the VSAN with the maximum cluster size of 32 hosts being able to consume that storage.

You obviously need vCenter to manage VSAN.

You need at least 1 x HDD and 1 x SSD in each host, SSDs are used as a read cache and write buffer and the HDDs are used as a persistent store. Not all hosts in the cluster have to have local storage, some can just be compute nodes but you need at least 3 with local storage to create a VSAN. They don’t have to have the same drive sizes as long as each host contributing storage has at least 1 x SSD and 1 x HDD. Hosts with no storage can still use the VSAN.

You cannot have ESXi and VSAN using the same disk and in this release VSAN won’t work with auto deploy. This means you will either need another disk or disks for the ESXi boot partition or boot from SAN or use a SD card or USB stick for the ESXi installation.

You need a SAS/SATA RAID Controller that works in pass-thru or HBA mode as the disk needs to be presented as a SCSI device to VSAN. Some PCIe Flash devices are presented as a block device and so won’t work with VSAN. You can use the same RAID controller for the SSD and HDD disks but if your RAID controller is going to be an IO bottleneck you would then need to think about having separate controllers or spreading out the IO.

The VSAN uses a VMkernel port to connect the local hosts’ storage together. You can use either 1Gb or 10Gb networking but 10Gb is obviously preferred. You tag a VMkernel port with the Virtual SAN traffic service just like you do with vMotion and FT.


Policies and QoS

VM storage policies is what sets VSAN apart from a standard VSA and really makes it software-defined but this can take a little time to get your head around so bear with me.

To understand how this works you need to separate the underlying VSAN datastore from the VM and put a layer of policy between the two.

When you create a vSAN cluster, you select the local disks to use across your hosts and a vsanDatastore is created automatically. You don’t actually just deploy a VM directly to this vsanDatastore, that wouldn’t be very software-defined would it!

What happens is the vsanDatastore tells the VSAN using the standard VMware vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) a number of capabilities it can offer VMs such as how many host or disk failures to tolerate and a way to define how many IOPS a VM requires and how much of a VMs reads should always be kept in SSD cache.

What you then do is create a VM Storage Policy to define how you want your VMs to use these capabilities. The standard explanation for these kinds of things is Gold, Silver and Bronze policies but that isn’t particularly meaningful. You can in fact use different policies for individual VM disk files (called storage objects).

You could create a simple VM Storage Policy called “High Performance VMs” which would say that VM disks based on this policy are stored with at least 6 replicas for higher performance. You could then create another simple policy called “Critical Availability VMs” which would ensure that VM disks based on this policy are stored on at least 3 hosts so even with two host failures your VMs will continue to function. You can also create policies which specify multiple capabilities such as “High Performance Critical Availability VMs” which would ensure there are 6 data replicas for higher performance spread across at least 3 hosts (remember, you can have multiple disks in a host).

For VSAN, you can create policies based on 5 capabilities:

Stripe Width

The number of physical disks across which each replica of a storage object is distributed up to a max of 12. Having more replicas can give you better performance (throughput and bandwidth) but also results in higher system resource use as multiple copies means more writes.

Component Failures To Tolerate

Defines the number of host, disk or network failures a storage object can tolerate up to a maximum of 3. For “n” failures tolerated, “n+1” copies of the object are created and “2n+1” hosts are required.

Proportional Capacity %

Percentage of the logical size of the storage object that should be reserved (thick provisioned) up to 100%. The rest of the storage object is thin provisioned.

Cache Reservation

Flash capacity reserved as read cache for the storage object which is specified as a percentage of the logical size of the object up to 100%. This is only used for addressing read performance issues. Reserved flash capacity cannot be used by other objects and unreserved Flash is shared fairly between all objects.

Force Provisioning

If this option is enabled, the object will be provisioned even if the policy specified
in the storage service level can’t be satisfied with the resources currently available in the cluster. VSAN will try to bring the object into compliance if and when resources become available. This is disabled by default.


When you deploy a VM you don’t actually select a datastore on which to provision the VM disks but rather assign the VM storage provisioning to one of the policies you have created with possibly separate policies for each VM disk.

When the VM is deployed, the VM Storage Policy is sent down to the VSAN which then lays out the VMDK across the cluster to satisfy the policy settings. Any VM deployed with your “High Performance Critical Availability VMs” policy is therefore stored based on the policy rules.


With VSAN this means you can create a single cluster wide datastore and enforce different QoS policy levels for each VM or virtual disk. That is pretty powerful stuff. Also if you then decide to change the policy, all VMs or disks based on that policy will have their storage layout amended to comply.

This policy based system isn’t just for VMware VSAN. EMC, NetApp, Dell etc. will have their own set of capabilities their storage arrays can provide which will be sent up through VASA to be used within Storage Policies.

VSAN is pretty exciting as it brings shared storage to everyone without requiring a traditional SAN. What is even more interesting is we can see the power of policy based VM storage provisioning. I can already think of ways this can be extended by having capabilities available for replication based on various RPOs and RTOs.

It will be interesting to see how the recently released PernixData FVP plays in this area as FVP is a transparent storage performance tier and also runs as part of the hypervisor leveraging SSD for high performance and HDD for capacity but has deduplication built in. Can you use FVP on top of VSAN? Interesting times.

Categories: vCenter, VMware, VMworld Tags: , ,

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Server SSO

August 26th, 2013 No comments

VMware has announced its latest update to version 5.5 of its global virtualisation powerhouse, vCloud Suite.

To read the updates for all the suite components, see my post: What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Introduction

key vCenter SSO gets one of the major updates. This is welcome news to anyone who installed SSO in vSphere 5.1 which was plagued with an overly complex and restrictive design. SSO in 5.1 was apparently an OEM component which VMware customised. SSO in 5.5 has been completely rewritten from the ground up internally.

Evolving vCenter is a major undertaking as it was originally built as a monolithic platform with everything included in one place. VMware’s strategy is to pull out all the core central services from vCenter and have them run stand-alone.

In the future, vCenter may not in fact be the only management option. I can think of other future management options such as OpenStack or even Microsoft System Center or some other partner management ecosystem, all obviously at cloud scale. Today SSO has been re-built to scale serving vCloud Director, vCenter Orchestrator and Horizon View.

What’s New:
The whole architecture has been redesigned with a multi-master model with built-in replication both between and within sites. There are no longer primary and secondary SSO servers. Site awareness is part of the design, you can add new sites and SSO can be aware of the original site.

Read more…

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Server and ESXi

August 26th, 2013 1 comment

VMware has announced its latest update to version 5.5 of its global virtualisation powerhouse, vCloud Suite.

To read the updates for all the suite components, see my post: What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Introduction

vCenter Server has been tweaked with this upgrade keeping its two deployment options, installed on a Windows Server or as an appliance.

VMware is strongly recommending using a single VM for all vCenter Server core components (SSO, Web Client, Inventory Service and vCenter Server) or to use the appliance rather than splitting things out which just add complexity and makes it harder to upgrade in the future.

What’s New:


vSphere5 vCenter 5.5 on Windows has been made much more efficient with many performance improvements in the database and overall system. vCenter 5.5 on Windows now supports up to 1,000 hosts and 10,000 VMs. The vCenter Appliance has also been beefed up and with its embedded database supports 500 hosts and 5000 VMs or if you use an external Oracle DB (No MSSQL support planned) the supported hosts and VMs are the same as for Windows.

The vCenter 5.5 installation has changed the order of the simple install from 5.1 by swapping the order of the Web Client and Inventory Service installations so you have the Web Client available earlier on in the install chain for troubleshooting if something goes wrong.

IBM DB2 is no longer supported as a database for vCenter Server 5.5.

Read more…

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Introduction

August 26th, 2013 1 comment

vmw_logo_1CloudComputing_2 VMware has announced its latest update to version 5.5 of its global virtualisation powerhouse, vCloud Suite.

I would say that this is an evolutionary rather than revolutionary update being the third major release in the vSphere 5 family (5.0,5.1,5.5).

There are however some significant storage additions such as Virtual SAN (VSAN) and VMware Virtual Flash (vFlash) as well as a new vSphere App HA to provide application software high availability which is in addition to vSphere HA.

VMware has also responded to the customer frustration over Single-Sign on (SSO) which is an authentication proxy for vCenter and made some changes to SSO to hopefully make it easier to deploy. Every component of the suite has been updated in some way which is an impressive undertaking to get everything in sync.

Here are all the details:

  1. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Introduction
  2. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Server and ESXi
  3. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Server SSO fixes
  4. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: Virtual SAN (VSAN)
  5. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: VMware Virtual Flash (vFlash)
  6. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCloud Director
  7. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Orchestrator
  8. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCloud Networking & Security
  9. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vSphere App HA
  10. What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager
    VMware is certainly evolving their strategy of the software defined data center, this release puts software defined storage (SDS) on the map at least from a VMware perspective, a multi-year project. VMware vVolumes hasn’t made it into this release which shows what a major undertaking it is, we will have to wait for vSphere 6!
    SDS is going to have a huge push this year from VMware and of course all the other storage vendors, expect some exciting innovation.
    Software defined networking is the next traditional IT infrastructure piece to “Defy convention” and is arguably by far the hardest one to change. Another multi-year project is just beginning.

VMworld US 2013: The Day 0 Buzz

August 26th, 2013 No comments

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The 1st part of VMworld US kicked off today in San Francisco starting with the TAM day with sessions tailored for VMware’s TAM enterprise customers rather than the general sessions for other attendees. I flew in yesterday from London and headed to the social start of VMworld at vBeers at The Chieftain. There were so many people from the VMware global community so it was great to meet new people and catch up with old friends.

I did actually manage to get some sleep despite the time zone change which was a good start and I even managed to go for a scenic run as well with Alaric Davies and Eric Wright and ran into Chad Sakacc!
VMworld TV 2013 Tease

Categories: VMware, VMworld Tags: ,

The VMworld Fringe Tech Talks by #vBrownbag

August 22nd, 2013 No comments

vbrownbag VMworld starts next week and up to 22,000 people are descending on San Francisco.

VMware as expected has a massive schedule of talks, discussion groups and labs for you to attend all carefully orchestrated to ensure VMware and their partners get their message out.

But VMware does have a wild side that isn’t just the parties.

The fabulous #vBrownbag crew have put together a schedule of lightning 10 minute talks which are not part of the official program. This means VMware or even the #vBrownbag crew don’t get to decide what is said, the only rule is there isn’t any blatant company marketing.

So, you can get independent community content from your peers who feel they have something to contribute to VMworld that could be unsupported, unconventional, uncensored and unbelievable!

There are some serious industry titans presenting so make time in your official schedule to see them.

The list of talks is in this post which is being refreshed as presenters confirm their times.

I’ve been very lucky to be accepted for 2 talks:

  • Help, my VDI project is hell! on Monday at 17:15
  • HP Virtual Connect Quick Deep Dive on Tuesday at 15:00

A few generous sponsors are contributing to make this possible so have a look at their products which help to keep independent community content alive.

BTW the reference to the fringe is from the city of Edinburgh which hosts is a huge official Edinburgh International Festival in August. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is not part of the official program and is now the largest arts festival in the world. The Society that runs the fringe festival is not allowed to vet the festival’s program so anyone with a story to tell and a venue willing to host them can take part resulting in the weird and the wonderful having their say.

Categories: Flex-10, HP, VDI, VMware, VMworld Tags: , , , ,

How to get the most out of VMworld – 2013 edition

August 20th, 2013 No comments

vmw-web-vmworld-social-media-toolkit-250x400-CTA VMware’s mega-conference, VMworld kicks of in San Francisco in less than a week.

Nearly 22000 attendees are expected so you can get some idea of the scale of the opportunity or the challenge you have set for yourself if you are attending. The problem you have is actually too much to choose from and too much to do and its just impossible to fit everything in.

So, a plan of action is needed to get the most out of it. I’m sure there are a few people on expensed trips who fancy a bit of sightseeing, quite a few beers, a lie in and oh, yeh, attending a few sessions and enjoying a break from the office.

I’m an independent consultant so I have to pay my own way to be there so want to make sure I use the chance wisely and I would think most attendees in our vibrant community are interested in the same. VMworld is a fantastic opportunity to get fully immersed in the world of virtualisation/cloud and take advantage of being in the same place with other like minded tech enthusiasts, so if you are like me getting as much out of VMworld as possible is pretty important.

So, we know there’s plenty going on, here’s a summary:

Read more…

Categories: VMware, VMworld Tags: ,

NetApp PowerShell Toolkit, DataONTAP 3 released with new Performance Monitoring and full ONTAP 8.2 API Support

August 9th, 2013 No comments

NetApp has updated its PowerShell Toolkit, DataONTAP to version 3.

Two major features have been added:
A new cmdlet Invoke-NcSysstat which is like Invoke-NaSysstat and allows you to monitor cluster system performance stats for:  System, FCP, NFSv3, NFSv4, CIFS, iSCSI, Volume, Ifnet, LUN, and Disk.

Invoke-NcSysstat works in both the cluster and Vserver context for Data ONTAP 8.2 and up. For Data ONTAP versions previous to 8.2, Invoke-NcSysstat must be run in the cluster context. Ifnet and Disk performance stats aren’t available when running against the Vserver context.


Invoke-NcSysstat can also aggregate performance stats for selected objects.

imageONTAP 8.2 API support is now complete with 67 new cmdlets in the clustered ONTAP set and 27 cmdlets with new parameters for Data ONTAP 8.2for a total of 1738 cmdlets.

Read more…