Archive for the ‘vCenter’ Category

VMware Marvin comes alive as EVO:Rail, a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance

August 25th, 2014 1 comment

image image VMware will announce shortly today at VMworld US that it is entering the hyper-converged appliance market with a solution called EVO:Rail. This has been rumoured for a while since an eagle eyed visitor to the VMware campus spotted a sign for Marvin in their briefing center. Marvin was the engineering name and has still stuck around in parts of the product but its grown up name is EVO:Rail.

EVO(lution) is eventually going to be a suite of products/solutions, Rail is the first announcement named for the smallest part of a data center rack, the rail, so you can infer that VMware intends to build this portfolio out to an EVO:RACK and beyond.

EVO:Rail combines compute, storage and networking resources into a hyper-converged infrastructure appliance with the intention to dramatically simplify infrastructure deployment. Hardware wise this is pretty much what Nutanix and Simplivity as two examples do today. Spot the acronym, HCIA, to hunt for newly added VMworld sessions.

VMware is not however entering the hardware business itself, that would kill billions of marketing budget spent on the Software Defined Data Center message of software ruling the world. Partner hardware vendors will be building the appliance to strict specifications with VMware’s EVO:RAIL software bundle pre-installed and the appliance delivered as a single SKU. Some may see this as a technicality. VMware has always said if you need specific  hardware you are not software defined. Does EVO:RAIL count as specific hardware?

Support will be with the hardware vendor for both hardware and software with VMware providing software support to the hardware vendor at the back-end.


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What VMware’s EOL of vCenter Server Heartbeat means for availability?

June 6th, 2014 2 comments

image VMware has very surprisingly and suddenly stopped selling vCenter Server Heartbeat from 2nd June 2014. If you have already purchased vCenter Server Heartbeat you will still get support until 2018 so no panic that the whole carpet has been pulled from under your feet but it does beg the question, what to do going forward to make your vCenter installation more highlight available if you need it?

In the EOL announcement, VMware suggests first of all making your vCenter a VM to be able to take advantage of HA to provide high availability. If you cannot for some reason (and you really need to ask yourself why) run vCenter as a VM and it is/needs to be physical then the only solution is to use a backup solution to be able to restore vCenter if it fails.

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What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vSphere Replication and vCenter Site Recovery Manager

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

vSphere Replication

replication-image3.jpg What’s New:

  • The user interface within the Web Client has been beefed up. The VM and vCenter management panes have been enhanced to configure and monitor replication.
  • You can now deploy new vSphere Replication appliances to allow for replication between clusters and non-shared storage deployments and also to meet load balancing requirements.
  • There are now multiple points-in-time snapshots so if you have VM with an OS corruption that has already been replicated you can select an earlier snapshot to recover from before the corruption occurred. This isn’t the same is replicating VMs with existing snapshots which isn’t supported. Point-in-time snapshots are created at the recovery site after replication.
  • There is now Storage DRS Interoperability so replicated VMs can be Storage vMotioned across datastores without interrupting ongoing replication.
  • VSAN support has been added to protect and recover VMs running on the new VSAN datastores.

vCenter Site Recovery Manager

What’s New:

  • recovery Storage DRS and Storage vMotion are now supported when VMs are migrated within a consistency group.
  • VMs running on (Virtual SAN) VSAN datastores can be protected using vSphere Replication. You can use VSAN datastores on both the protected and recovery sites. There are a few considerations when using VSAN and SRM so read the documentation.
  • You can now recover and preserve multiple point-in-time snapshots of VMs that were protected with vSphere Replication.
  • VMs that reside on Virtual Flash (VFlash) can be protected. VFlash is disabled on VMs after recovery.
  • IBM DB2 is no longer supported as an SRM database

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vSphere App HA

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

vSphere App HA is another new product from VMware in 5.5 to provide application level HA in addition to what is available with vSphere HA. vSphere HA can only recovers VMs when an ESXi hosts dies or restart a VM if the OS hangs. It is not application aware and can’t detect and remediate software failures.

24_7 vSphere App HA provides application protection by detecting application availability issues and automatically remediating them.

Applications and their availability status are auto-discovered and a remediation policy can be created with just 3 clicks.

The policy can be configured to restart the application service and attempt a safe VM restart using the HA API if the application restart fails.

App HA is integrated with VC alarms to provide visibility to application downtime.

It is deployed as a virtual appliance and is a plug-in to the vSphere Web Client.

App HA currently supports the following services and can run up to 400 agents:

  • MSSQL 2005, 2008, 2008R2, 2012
  • Tomcat 6.0, 7.0
  • TC Server Runtime 6.0, 7.0
  • IIS 6.0, 7.0, 8.0
  • Apache HTTP Server 1.3, 2.0, 2.2.

You can only install one vFabric Hyperic server on one vCenter server with one vSphere App HA plug-in installed.

It will be interesting to see how this product develops, support for more services must be on the roadmap. Perhaps this will also take over what vCenter Heartbeat currently does although I hope vCenter in the future works in a more active and federated way and doesn’t require active/passive nodes.

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCloud Networking & Security

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

sec vCloud Networking and Security has been updated with two networking enhancements, LACP and flow based marking & filtering.

Link Aggregation Control Protocol (LACP) is used to bond your physical network uplinks together to increase bandwidth, have better load balancing and improve link level redundancy. vSphere5.1 supported a simplified version of LACP with support for only a single Link Aggregation Group (LAG) per host and not much choice of load balancing algorithms.

LACP in 5.5 gives you over 22 load balancing algorithms and you are now able to create 32 LAGs per host so you can bond together all those physical Nics.

Flow based marking and filtering provides granular traffic marking and filtering capabilities from a simple UI integrated with VDS UI. You can provide stateless filtering to secure or control VM or Hypervisor traffic. Any traffic that requires specific QoS treatment on physical networks can now be granularly marked with COS and DSCP marking at the vNIC or Port group level.

Manageability has been enhanced in the vSphere Web Client with an object-policy based model.

Firewall Rule management has been made easier. You can now reuse vCenter objects in firewall rule creation and there is an option to create VM vNIC level rules with full visibility into the virtual network traffic via Flow Monitoring.


To upgrade vShield, you must first upgrade vShield Manager and then upgrade the other components in this order:

  1. vShield Manager
  2. vCenter Server
  3. Other vShield components managed by vShield Manager
  4. ESXi hosts

You can upgrade just vShield to 5.5 if you want and still run vCenter Server 5.1 and ESXi 5.0/5.1 hosts.

What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCenter Orchestrator

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 Orchestrator has a generous update to be optimised for bigger and better clouds with significant improvements in scalability and high availability.

There is now a more simplified and efficient development experience with new debugging and failure diagnostic capabilities in the vCenter Orchestrator client.


What’s New:

New Workflow debugger – You are now able to re-run workflows in debug mode without having to type the last known values for the workflow input parameters. User inputs are automatically stored and populated for the consequent workflow execution.

New Workflow Schema – Auto-scaling and auto-placing capabilities have always been part of vCenter Orchestrator Client. You can now also use non-stick placement while designing your workflow activity diagram.

New Scripting API Explorer – Consistent navigation is an important part of workflow development efficiency. The Scripting API Explorer has now been enhanced with out-of- the-box browsing history. The new Back button in the explorer allows you to navigate in reverse chronological order through the history of scripting objects they have recently worked with.

New Security Improvements – The latest vCenter Orchestrator Appliance contains a complete set of security improvements including OS updates and security hardening script enhancements.

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What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: vCloud Director

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

director vCloud Director 5.5 has been updated with changes to the Content Catalog, vApp provisioning and lifecycle management process, an improved OVF import/export function and new browser support including Mac OS.

vCloud Director Virtual Appliance

The vCloud Director Virtual Appliance is still only to be used for PoC and Eval use for simple deployment and setup. With the appliance you can choose to use an internal/embedded database or an external MS SQL or Oracle database. Hopefully the appliance is extended in the future to be the default deployment solution in some highly available way or maybe even merged with vCenter.

vCD is still a standalone web client, not integrated as an extension to the vSphere Web Client. There are contextual shortcuts to help you navigate between the two. I don’t actually think that vCD in the future will become an extension to the vSphere Web Client but the admin functionalities of vCenter and vCloud Director will merge into a single appliance but this is just speculation.

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What’s New in vCloud Suite 5.5: VMware Virtual Flash (vFlash)

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

speed VMware Virtual Flash (vFlash) or to use its official name, “vSphere Flash Read Cache” is one of the new standout feature of vCloud Suite 5.5.

vFlash allows you to take multiple Flash devices in hosts in a cluster and virtualises them to be managed as a single pool. In the same way CPU and memory is seen as a single virtualised resource across a cluster, vFlash does the same by creating a cluster wide Flash resource.

VMs can be configured to use this vFlash resource to accelerate performance for reads. vFlash works in write-through cache mode so doesn’t in effect cache writes in this release, it just passes them to the back-end storage. You don’t need to use in-guest agents or change the guest OS or application to take advantage of vFlash. You can have up to 2TB of Flash per host and all kinds of datastores are supported, NFS, VMDK and RDMs. Hosts can also use this resource for the Host Swap Cache which is used when the host needs to page memory to disk.

A VMDK can be configured with a set amount of vFlash cache giving you control over exactly which VM disks get the performance boost so you can pick your app database drive without having to boost your VM OS disk as well. You can configure DRS-based vFlash reservations, there aren’t any shares settings but this may be coming in a future release. vMotion is also supported, you can choose whether to vMotion the cache along with the VM or to recreate it again on the destination host. vSphere HA also is supported but when the VM starts the cache will need to recreate again on the recovery host.

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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.

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