VxRail – One Year Later

vxrail.frontOne year ago, EMC (yes it was still EMC at the time) launched their update to the VSPEX BLUE, EMC’s take on the EVO: Rail product.  For those who don’t remember, EVO: Rail was a joint effort between VMware and several hardware vendors to release hyper converged infrastructure to the masses.  I covered the original launch here and EMC’s spin on it.  The EVO: Rail program was a success / failure depending on who you spoke to in the industry, but it did validate that HCI is here to stay and not just a passing fad.  Later on, the EVO program was retooled under a joint venture between EMC & VMware under the VCE umbrella , and last year launched the evolution of that product … VxRail!

What went well?

What's Going Well

VxRail went GA in March of 2016 and so far sales have good, especially in the mid market, especially on purpose built deployments (VDI, Databases, etc…).  Working for a partner, I can attest that HCI adoption is going strong in the market place as more and more people look to it as a possible future.  The product has undergone several major releases, which is huge for a product that was just starting to sell.  It means that they are really listening to feedback and delivering to enhance the product regularly.  It helps that VMware has been continuously driving innovation on the VSAN side (which VxRail is built on).

What needs improvement?

What's not going well

Dell EMC will be the first to admit that they didn’t expect the sales of this product (especially given the sales of the previous generation), and thus they didn’t quite bulk up the PS side to match.  Unfortunately that mean delays while the back log was churned through.  The other side was features was prioritized over serviceability, so things like the support gateway were not built in when you would have expected it was already included.  The good news is things like this have been addressed (or are being addressed soon).

So what’s next for VxRail?

VxRail 4.0

Flash Flash Flash!  Recent sales have been leaning very heavily to all flash solutions, and that will be the trend going forward with VxRail sales which will also drive development on those lines especially in NVMe and NVDIMMs.  The shift in the recent version to use Dell PowerEdge Servers has also opened up a lot of configuration options for memory and CPU.

Multiple Node Options

With offering several different types of nodes, you can right size the product for the solution and make the price a lot more attractive (this is one of the things learned from the EVO sales).

Sean’s Take

Its great to see things are finally shaping up for the EVO program and just further validates something I’ve believed for years.  Speaking as a partner, I welcome the extra options in HCI market space because it gives the customer a better chance to get what they want, and that will greatly help more people consider HCI an option for their next step in the data center journey.  It was great to speak with Chad Dunn at Tech Field Day 13 (#TFD13) earlier this month in Austin.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the videos from Dell EMC.

Cheap and Simple MDM for the Masses!

Airwatch-by-vmware-logoAs businesses expand, IT staffs often do not.  When more and more people are added to the company, you will need a way to manage everyone’s devices.  Whether you have corporate secrets to protect, a BYOD policy to enforce, or you just want people to stop asking you for the Wi-Fi password, mobile device management is becoming a bigger part of day to day operations.  Today, VMware is proud to announce the addition of a new product, Airwatch Express!

Airwatch Express is the MDM-as-a-service offering that allows companies to manage mobile devices without going through a major investment in time or resources.  At only $2.50/month/device, this offering allows a 100% cloud based management of devices that comes in at almost half the current pricing.

AirWatch Express Blueprint_Page_05

So what do you get in this offering.  Well first, it’s 100% cloud based.  No need to install and setup a solution on premises.  Administrators manage devices by creating blueprints (similar to vRealize Automation).  The cloud based portal walks them through 7 steps including the type of devices they want to configure, what applications are required to be installed or need to be blocked (yes you can block things like youtube), as well as mail, Wi-Fi, and encryption settings.  You then assign these blueprints to your users (by either creating them in the website or using the active directory connector plugin).  It couldn’t be any simpler.

AirWatch Express Blueprint_Page_08

As someone who has worked for a startup that had a single digit sized IT team, yet was hiring 10 new employees a week, this is a great offering to get the job done and not stress out the IT staff.  While Airwatch Express might not be the most feature rich offering (it is designed as an entry level product), buyers can upgrade to other versions of Airwatch that might suit their needs better.

Turning VDI up to 11!

11It’s an exciting time in the world of HCI.  More and more people are starting to realize the benefits of consolidating their environments down to a smaller footprint.  Today, SimpliVity is taking that a step further and cranking up VDI density to 11!  Building on the momentum of the OmniStack 3.0 release, a new software update greatly improves the time to deployment and performance of VDI workloads while maintaining predictable results as you scale.  While you can read the full announcement here, I want to highlight a few of the results:

  • 1000 linked clones in 4 nodes
  • 1000 desktops in 70 minutes
  • 1000 logins in 1000 seconds

These are some pretty bold claims, and to back that up, they are all validated by LoginVSI benchmarks!

1000 linked clones in 4 nodes

So before I dive into these claims, a little background information about the environment.  These tests were performed on the all new OmniCube CN-2400 platform.  This platform give a 15%-20% boost over the CN-2200 and brings the Intel Haswell chipset to a lower cost solution.  As with all the OmniCube offerings, RAM and CPU are adjustable to fit your needs.  CN-24004 of the CN-2400s were placed in a cluster and each were given 384 gigs of ram.  As for the different type of VMs used, they were based on the industry standards for Task Worker, Office Worker, and Knowledge Worker.  Using Windows 7 64 bit, they were given 1 gig of ram, 1.5, and 2 gigs respectively.  So lets take a look at the first claim.  Loading 1000 desktops into this size of an environment delivers unheard of density in the HCI space.

1000 desktops in 70 minutes

One of the major stresses on a VDI environment is the amount of time it takes to provision desktops.  Whether you are deploying a new OS, refreshing the existing image after an update, or bringing up your environment after a disaster, users don’t want to have to wait around to get access to their work, and likewise administrators don’t want to spend all night doing maintenance (IT admins need sleep too!).

1000 linked clones in 70 minutes

As you can see from the graph above, the number of linked clone desktops scaled up linearly as they registered a desktop check-in in the Horizon View logs.  Performance of the virtual desktops did not take a hit either as the number of instances increase as seen in the graph below.

1000 linked clones performance

1000 logins in 1000 seconds

Login storms, love them or hate them, it’s a part of doing business.  Every morning, users all login around the same time, and infrastructure needs to be able to handle that.  For this test, SimpliVity wanted to see just how much load could be put on the system during a scenario such as this, so the login time was adjusted to occur every second (a 2.8x increase over the industry standard for testing) which means that by 1000 seconds, all 1000 desktops will have performed a login.

1000 logins 1000 secondsI think the results here speak for themselves.  As the number of active sessions increases, performance remains steady and well below the threshold where users would see problems.

The full results of all the testing is posted here.  I’m really excited by this development and can’t wait to see what can be achieved in the future.

VMware Announces vExperts for 2015 Second Half

vExpert-2015-BadgeYesterday, VMware announced the list of vExperts for 2015 Second Half and I am honored to be a part of that list.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, the “vExpert” designation is not based on technical expertise, but rather a recognition for excellent engagement and influence within the virtualization communities.  To quote directly from the program:

“Each of these vExperts have demonstrated significant contributions to the community and a willingness to share their expertise with others. Contributing is not always blogging or Twitter as there are many public speakers, book authors, script writers, VMUG leaders, VMTN community moderators and internal champions among this group.”

I am gracious and humbled to be considered an influencer in this community and this has reaffirmed my commitment to knowledge sharing.  I want to thank Corey Romero and the rest of the vExpert team.  Keep up the great work with this program.

Breathing new life into the home lab – Part 1: Flash Storage

M600It’s been a few years since I’ve put an investment into the home lab.  I had originally built this to teach myself enough to pass the VCP4 & my VCP5 (and i’ll use if for my VCP6 too).  But now I want to expand, learn more about VDI, the vRealize suite, as well as experiment with other technologies.  To do that, some upgrades will be needed, and the first area to start with is storage.  Spinning disk is still the cheapest way to get bulk storage, but for a home lab, I don’t need multiple TB of space when all of my VMs are thin provisioned.  Instead, to get the speed I want, i’d have to stitch together way more hard drives than I have space for.  This is where flash can really shine.  You only need a few disks to get a huge speed boost, so your costs are not astronomical.  By chance, I recently received a few 1Tb Micron M600 SSDs and these things are amazing.  After taking 1 for my laptop, the rest were loaded into a Synology 1813+.  So what do these SSDs bring to the table?

Type of test Performance IOPS
Sequential Read (Q= 32,T= 1) 560.129 MB/s
Sequential Write (Q= 32,T= 1) 511.183 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) 357.966 MB/s 87394.0
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 32,T= 1) 365.970 MB/s 89348.1
Sequential Read (Q= 1,T= 1) 489.114 MB/s
Sequential Write (Q= 1,T= 1) 473.808 MB/s
Random Read 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) 22.846 MB/s 5577.6
Random Write 4KiB (Q= 1,T= 1) 60.840 MB/s 14853.5

Wow that’s fast!  Good job Micron!  The results above were taken using CrystalDiskMark on my windows laptop and show the most I could get out of a single drive that was direct attached.

To make the most of this storage for a lab, i think it would be best to put this into the NAS and leverage it as shared storage, and the synology is configured for a 4 x 1gig LACP connection, which should be more than enough for a home lab.  The question is, what do i do with the storage, do i do NFS or iSCSI?  RAID 5 or RAID 10?  Well, lets try them all!  I’ll create a datastore in each configuration and test it with 1 windows VM running CrystalDiskMark just like I did on my laptop and see what we get.

iSCSI_Raid_5 iSCSI_Raid_10 iSCSI_on_FS Raid_10
Type_of_test Performance IOPS Performance IOPS Performance IOPS
SR (Q=32) 113.758 MB/s 117.027 MB/s 117.316 MB/s
SW (Q= 32) 82.531 MB/s 117.046 MB/s 115.717 MB/s
RR 4KiB (Q= 32) 52.542 MB/s 12827.6 52.154 MB/s 12732.9 38.101 MB/s 9302.0
RW 4KiB (Q= 32) 35.035 MB/s 8553.5 49.571 MB/s 12102.3 66.477 MB/s 16229.7
SR (Q= 1) 86.619 MB/s 94.588 MB/s 101.082 MB/s
SW (Q= 1) 75.291 MB/s 105.702 MB/s 102.972 MB/s
RR 4KiB (Q= 1) 8.691 MB/s 2121.8 8.276 MB/s 2020.5 10.676 MB/s 2606.4
RW 4KiB (Q= 1) 10.006 MB/s 2442.9 9.594 MB/s 2342.3 11.077 MB/s 2704.3
NFS Raid 5 NFS Raid 10
Type of test Performance IOPS Performance IOPS
SR (Q= 32) 114.898 MB/s 117.439 MB/s
SW (Q= 32) 96.743 MB/s 117.007 MB/s
RR 4KiB (Q= 32) 56.588 MB/s 13815.4 66.533 MB/s 16243.4
RW 4KiB (Q= 32) 44.319 MB/s 10820.1 57.590 MB/s 14060.1
SR (Q= 1) 106.323 MB/s 109.257 MB/s
SW (Q= 1) 81.581 MB/s 106.127 MB/s
RR 4KiB (Q= 1) 12.513 MB/s 3054.9 14.132 MB/s 3450.2
RW 4KiB (Q= 1) 9.270 MB/s 2263.2 10.571 MB/s 2580.8

*I apologize for the table formatting, no matter what i set it to, wordpress is deciding to do it’s own thing.

It’s clear from these test results that i am maxing out the 1 gig connection on the sequential transfers (especialy when the queue depth is increased).  I was a bit surprised by the performance gains in the RAID 10 vs. RAID 5 and that NFS ended up being faster than iSCSI (probably cause it’s all software based iSCSI).  Clearly this will work well for a single host, but the real performance testing will happen when multiple hosts hit the NAS.  So that is where i go next, now that i’ve settled on a storage configuration, i can start planning hosts for this home lab.  Let me know your thoughts in the comments

VSPEX Blue – Evo:Rail and more!

VSPEX Blue Today EMC announced it’s latest product, the VSPEX Blue!  This 2U hyper converged offering is based of of VMware’s EVO:Rail platform that was announced last year.  While most everyone reading this is familiar with the EVO:Rail platform, the VSPEX Blue offering expands on this to give even more to the administrator.

For those of you unfamiliar, EVO:Rail offers a simplified VMware cluster setup that lets you go from power on to provisioning virtual machines in about 15 minutes with limited interaction from the administrator.  For more information about the software and basic interface, read this blog post from Duncan Epping.

So what do you get?

On the outside, each VSPEX Blue appliance is a standard Phoenix 2U chassis that contains 4 nodes.  Each node contains 2 gigabit ethernet ports, and 4 storage drives to make it vSan compliant.  The diagram below explains in detail what to expect from a hardware perspective.

VSPEX Blue Hardware

One differentiating factor in the hardware is that this is the first EVO:Rail solution to offer both a standard and performance model.  The only difference is that the standard has 128GB of ram and the performance has 192GB.  The below slide explains what you get in each node.

VSPEX Blue Node

 

So what sets this apart from the other vendors?

That is an interesting question.  While there is a slight hardware differentiation in RAM options, the biggest differences come in the form of software.  On top of the standard VMware offering comes the VSPEX Blue Manager.  This is built into the standard EVO interface, so what you get is extra options in a familiar presentation.  A key section is the hardware manager which allows you to view the hardware status of each component in the appliance in an interface that reminds me of Unisphere.

VSPEX Blue Manager Appliance View

 

You can visualize exactly which part has failed and this makes it easy for the administrator to replace the parts themselves.  Tied with this also comes the EMC Remote support options including ESRS found on EMC’s traditional storage platforms.  You can click right from the VSPEX Blue Manager interface and get knowledge base access and live chat available to you.  EMC will be handling the support for all issues relating to the VSPEX Blue appliance and will interface with VMware as needed.  The administrator will not need to call 1 company for hardware and another for software.

The other major addition from EMC is the VSPEX Blue Marketplace.  This is a great place to click and automatically deploy additional VMware related software solutions.  When VSPEX Blue goes GA in 2 weeks, it will launch with the following options from the marketplace:

  • EMC Recoverpoint for VMs (Licensed for 15 VMs per appliance)
  • CloudArray Virtual Edition (1 TB of cache and 10TB of cloud storage)
  • vSphere Data Protection Advanced (Alowing you to backup to Avamar and Datadomain)

VSPEX Blue MarketThis is just to start, as the product evolves more offerings will be available from EMC and from partners.

My take on this offering

So after looking at all the launch partners, it’s clear that while EMC is last to market, they haven’t just been wasting their time.  This is the first appliance i’ve seen that offered something more than just the standard EVO:Rail offering and laid the groundwork for a bigger ecosystem.  Given that this is the first instance that there are 2 different hardware offerings, i can see some people saying that EMCs relationship with VMware allowed them something special.  My understanding (and i could be wrong about the specifics on this) is that this option is available to all partners, so we may see some new offerings from the existing launch partners as well.

This appliance is also a partner only sale, so EMC Sales reps won’t be selling them directly (unless you want to buy a lot of them) and they will be sourced directly from the OEM manufacturers, which means the partner will be in charge of delivery instead of EMC.

VSPEX Offerings

Finally, this offering now really shows the VSPEX offerings at all sizes.  With the internalization of VCE, EMC can now offer converged options for small, medium, and large business.  And no i’m not going to talk about that 4th option in the photo above.

 

A few initial thoughts about VMware vSphere 5.1

654375636VMware released vSphere 5.1 this past week, and while there is a large amount of people who have been holding off on upgrading, I have had the pleasure of upgrading both my home lab and the non production lab I use at the office.  Having played with it for a few days now, I wanted to share my first impressions.

 

The upgrade process

imagePrevious vCenter server upgrades simply consisted of just upgrading the server component (and the upgrade and away you go.  Now VMware has introduced two new components to the mix: vCenter Inventory Service & vCenter Single sign-on.  To take a lot of the guess work out of this, VMware provided the “simple installer” to the mix.  This runs through each of the setup applications in the proper order and makes the process very simple and I applaud VMware for this.  A couple things to note:

  • As with all vSphere upgrades, make sure you upgrade vCenter server BEFORE you upgrade any hosts.
  • If you plan on using LDAP authentication, make sure that you are logged in with an LDAP account when you install the single sign-on service.
  • If an upgrade fails during the “simple install”, you will need to continue installation by hand.
  • You won’t need to reboot the vCenter Server machine after the upgrade, the upgrade process will restart all the required services for you.
  • After upgrading the hosts, they did not automatically reconnect to vCenter, and you have to click reconnect on them.

Since I run my vCenter server with an internal database and on a virtual machine, I was able to simply snapshot the VM in the event that something went wrong.  Luckily nothing did and both my upgrades went smooth.

 

vCenter Server 5.1

imageOne of the things I noticed right away was the startup time of vCenter server from boot up.  It is at least 4x longer than vCenter server 5.0 and earlier.  A simple look at task manager during the start up process shows that the java process is eating up most of my CPU, so my guess is this delayed startup is due to the revamped web interface being used.  Needless to say, it threw me for a loop the first time and I thought my upgrade had been borked.  So just keep that in mind that it may take 20 minutes or so for vCenter to come up and be stable.

 

Now when using the standard vSphere client to connect, you will notice things are very similar to older versions.  This is be expected as I believe VMware is trying to make a shift to everyone using the Web Interface (more on this later).  Do keep in mind that the regular vCenter client does not give you access to all of the new features.  One of the big ones to note, is that the new enhanced vMotion can only be found in the web client (again more on this later).

 

vCenter Web Client

imageIt’s clear that VMware has spent a lot of time improving upon the web interface and it shows.  That’s good news for Mac users as they now have a fully functioning method for administering the environment.

 

Right away, you’ll notice a new icon that is not present in the standard vCenter client.  VMware has included vCenter Orchestrator right into the mix and I hope this is a sign of more plugins to be installed.  With that being said, I was disappointed to see that the update manager was not present in the web client, so you must still use the classic vCenter client to perform those updates.

 

One of the things I noticed (and was pointed out by Frank Denneman) was that the new Enhanced vMotion (the one that lets you change both hosts and datastores while the guest is powered on) can ONLY be found in the web client.  I’m not sure this was the best play by VMware, but my guess is that VMware’s long term plan is to make the web client the primary interface for management.

 

Final Thoughts

As with every upgrade, I’m always amazed by the refinement that is introduced.  More and more drawn out processes are being simplified and it seems like VMware really cares about the advanced users as well as those just getting started.  As with any major upgrade, first adopters have some challenges and I wanted to list out a few things that you should be aware of before you upgrade:

As with all my blog posts, I like to hear from the readers.  If you had a good or a bad upgrade experience, let me know in the comments.

Introducing EMC’s VNX Storage Analytics Suite (and Early Access Program)

imageWith VMworld in full swing, today EMC finalized the announcement of the new VNX Storage Analytics Suite (and you can try it out on the show floor).  You may remember that this was demoed first at EMC World.  As development was nearing completion, you may remember my call for beta testers (I hope you got in and got a chance to try out the technology).  Now we can start getting as excited as the software will be available for general consumption in Q4 of 2012.

 

imageThe VNX Storage Analytics Suite will offer you a an extensive platform to proactively identify bottlenecks, balance workloads and pinpoint the root cause of potential problems around health and performance.  The software is available as a stand alone product as well as integration for VMware’s vCOps Enterprise platform.  Pairing the two together allows you to have a full end-to-end visibility of your entire infrastructure from virtual machine to lun and every point in between.

 

imageFor those of you who are already familiar with vCOps, you will be presented with same interface just with extra options for looking at metrics.  The charts and display is the same.  Green is still good and Red is still bad.  This allows you to quickly visualize the health of your arrays (both block and file) using a simple “Performance-at-a-glance” tab.  Armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to attach the problem directly instead of waiting for someone to tell you there is a slowdown in the environment.

 

imageBesides general health information, you can dig down into the specifics of utilization on the array.  In the picture to the right, you’ll be able to see the results (both historically and in real time) of enabling fast cache on your array and what it did to the overall health of your environment.  By focusing on the performance of the array and the pool disks, Fast Cache was able to increase the throughput of the SP while decreasing the strain on the spinning disk storage.

 

By this point you might be saying “Sean, this is so cool, I can’t wait until Q4!  How can I get my hands on this now?”.  Well for those of you who did not participate in the beta (and those of you who did and want to see the results of your feedback) there is good news.   EMC is going to be doing an Early Access program, it won’t cost you a penny, and I’ve got all the details right here!  The bad news is that it’s limited to 100 customers and it’s filling up fast.

 

If you may remember during the beta program I was asking people to email me if they wanted in.  This time I have no control over the process and you must go through your TC.  Before I tell you just how to get in, I need to make sure you have what is required in your environment.  You will need to meet the following prerequisites:

  • vCenter Operations Manager 5.0.1 Enterprise or higher (vApp distribution)
  • EMC VNX series system (Block: R31 OE version 05.31.000.5.720 and higher and VNX OE R32 version 05.32.000.5.006 and higher; File: VNX OE 7.0.35 and higher).

Seems simple enough, right?  Now on how to get in, as I said before you will need to contact your TC or Account Representative.  Have him or her place a Sales Evaluation order in Direct Express using Model # SASCONN-T90 and complete an RPQ.  Again, this is a no cost evaluation period and if you are selected, you will receive further instructions.  At the end of the preview period (which I believe is somewhere in Q4), you will be given the opportunity to purchase a license or uninstall the software.

 

If you are attending the show, please let me know your thoughts about the software in the comments section below.

The NEVMUG Summer Slam is just 1 week away!

NEVMUG 025It was about 6 months ago that I was writing about the NEVMUG Winter Warmer.  It was my first VMUG and it was great.  For a free conference / user group, it was packed full.  The presentations were great, the sponsors had great break out sessions, and the conversations with attendees were inspiring.

 

Now it’s time to do it all over again, this time in Maine.  On Thursday, July 19th, the Virtualization Technology User Group will be presenting the New England VMware User Group Summer Slam in Brunswick, Maine.  The day will be filled with vast amounts of knowledge transfer via keynotes (including one by Chris Colotti of VMware), break out sessions (which will feature speakers such as Mike Foley, Ed Haletky, and Luigi Danakos), and the sponsors EXPO.  Once it’s all said and done, there will be a giant lobster bake over at Gritty’s.

 

I’ll be walking around, taking photos (and live tweeting a few for those of you who can’t make it), and taking in all that the NEVMUG has to offer.  I’ll also be heading up the night before, so if you want to grab a late drink and some food, hit me up on twitter.  For more information about the NEVMUG Summer Slam, go to the VTUG website.

The NEVMUG is only 2 days away!

NEVMUG

The New England VMware User Group Winter Warmer is an event I’ve been looking forward to for a while.  I’ve heard a lot of good things from this and the one during the summer over the years.  Unfortunately I’ve never been able to attend one in the past, so this will be my first VMUG ever.

 

So since this is my first VMUG, I’m not quire sure what to expect.  Greg Stuart did an excellent post on what the VMUG is and what to expect from it.  Just like it says in his blog post, I expect to be bombarded with a wealth of knowledge from people who are very passionate about virtualization.  I’m also looking forward to tech demos and hands on labs from the sponsoring vendors that make this event possible.  The event schedule is as follows:

 

  • 08:00 a.m. Registration and Networking
  • 09:00 a.m. What Oracle DBAs need to know about Virtualization
    • Cloud: vCloud Director Deep Dive: Paul Lembo/Chris Colotti
    • Healthcare: ISV Case Study : Scott Carpenter
  • 10:00 a.m. Building Your Cloud Infrastructure with VMware
  • 11:00 a.m. Scott Davis; VMW End User Computing Innovations for 2012
  • 12:00 p.m. Lunch
  • 01:30 p.m. Breakout Session 1
  • 02:00 p.m. Breakout Session 2
  • 03:00 p.m. Breakout Session 3
  • 04:30 p.m. Happy Hour / Giveaways
    • Sponsor Expo is open all day.

 

This looks like a very full day and I expect it to be very busy.  You can register for the event here and keep and eye out for Matt Brender and myself as we may be recording interviews for an “I Tech Therefore I Tool Around” podcast.  See you there!