Tag Archives: vmware

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vSAN Scalable File Services

One of the new developments that caught my eye at VMworld this year was the introduction of file services to the VMware vSAN software-defined storage platform. vSAN already offers VMDK storage to vSphere and the ability to host iSCSI volumes, but this feature will allow NFS and SMB file-shares to be hosted directly on the cluster without the need for a separate Windows Server or NFS provider.

What

Yanbing Lee and Duncan Epping discuss vSAN at VMworld Europe 2018

Yanbing Lee and Duncan Epping discuss vSAN at VMworld Europe 2018

vSAN Scalable File Services is a layer that sits on top of vSAN to provide SMB, NFS (and others in future) file shares. It’s comprised of a vSAN Distributed File System (vDFS) which provides the underlying scalable filesystem by aggregating vSAN objects, a Storage Services Platform which provides resilient file server end points, and a control plane for deployment and management.

File shares are created using the vCenter GUI or via API calls from an automation platform, and the demos at VMworld included all the functionality you’d expect with permissions, quotas and so on.

An interesting point is that all the file shares are integrated into the existing vSAN Storage Policy Based Management, and on a per-share basis. Therefore FTT, encryption,  thin provisioning, and so on can all be defined at a pretty granular level. So if only one of your file-shares has an encryption requirement that’s just a case of setting the policy in a drop down list, or likewise if a particular file-share must be configured to be site-failure resilient across a stretched cluster.

Why

Why would you want to do this? Well, a couple of use cases immediately sprang to mind. Firstly, the small office/ remote office/ branch office scenario. A company wants to host both virtual machines and file services in a compact environment- currently the choice would be to have a NAS plus compute hosts, or possibly go hyper-converged but run a VM within this serving the file data from a VMDK. vSAN file services simplifies this by providing that NFS/SMB provision from within the hypervisor- and this also means that all the benefits of resilience, deduplication, compression, and encryption can be provided to the file services.

The second case was for a SAN replacement- a traditional SAN is basically an expandable cluster of x86 servers loaded with disks running some file+disk management software. vSAN is the same thing, but can also run VM workloads. It would be an interesting price/feature comparison exercise to compare the two methodologies.

When

This offering is currently in Public Beta – details at the bottom of this article. NFS 4.1 with AD Authentication is expected at release, with SMB, OpenLDAP, vSAN Data Protection and other functionality to follow. Obviously this is all subject to change as VMware are still at the Beta stage, and a release date has not yet been confirmed.

Further Information

  • HCI3041BE – VMworld Europe 2018 session: Introducing Scalable File Storage on vSAN with Native File Services (Video and Slides)
  • HCI3728KE – VMworld Europe 2018 session:  Innovating Beyond HCI: How VMware is Driving the Next Data Center Revolution (Video)
  • www.vmware.com/go/vsan-beta – Sign up for the Beta. Phase 2 includes the ability to test vSAN File Services in your own lab environment.

VMworld Europe 2018

Quick PowerCLI- Getting VM hardware versions

A quick PowerCLI snippet for examining what VM Hardware versions exist in your virtual environment:

Using the “Group-Object” cmdlet we can run up a quick count of all the VMs on each hardware version

Get-VM | Group-Object Version

Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
42    v13                       {VM1,VM2,VM3...}
257   v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM6...}
70    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
2     v4                        {VM10,VM11}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM14...}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
2     v7                        {VM17,VM18}

This can be refined using “Sort-Object” to put the most common hardware version at the top of the list.

Get-VM  | Group-Object Version | Sort-Object Count -Descending
Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
257   v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM6...}
70    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
42    v13                       {VM1,VM2,VM3...}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM14...}
2     v7                        {VM17,VM18}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
2     v4                        {VM10,VM11}

We may only be concerned with VMs that are Powered On, so “Where-Object” can be used to filter the original list.

Get-VM  | Where-Object {$_.PowerState -eq "PoweredOn"} | Group-Object Version | Sort-Object Count -Descending
Count Name                      Group
----- ----                      -----
66    v8                        {VM4,VM5,VM19...}
51    v11                       {VM7,VM8,VM9...}
33    v13                       {VM1,VM21,VM22...}
5     v10                       {VM12,VM13,VM20...}
2     v9                        {VM15,VM16}
1     v4                        {VM10}

This quick snippet can be useful when establishing the range of hardware versions in an environment, or estimating the amount of work involved in updating VM hardware to a modern standard across an estate.

Rise of the Full Stack Vendors

In a recent Datanauts podcast Chris Wahl was discussing Azure and Azure Stack with fellow Rubrikan Mike Nelson and Microsoft’s Jeffrey Snover (If you haven’t already, you can check out the podcast for yourself- Datanauts #148). Jeffrey made some interesting observations about the changes in alignment of some of the major IT vendors over time (this discussion runs from 25min to 29min into the podcast).

He detailed how the big players (DEC, IBM etc) had started with a “vertical” alignment by building their own chips, boards, operating systems, and applications. This was followed by a dis-integration where the industry shifted to a “horizontal” alignment- chips from Intel/Motorola , Operating Systems from Microsoft/Sun, and applications and services coming from a wide range of vendors. He goes on to posit how cloud vendors are turning the industry back towards a vertical alignment, and gives the example of how Microsoft are designing their own chips (FPGAs, NICs, servers , the new “Brainwave” chip to accelerate AI etc)  right through to software; all to create the Azure Cloud.

This idea got me thinking about how this is happening elsewhere in the industry, and what the future might hold.

This realignment can be seen across the major IT manufacturers- in recent years Dell- traditionally just a client and server PC vendor- has formed Dell Technologies, picking up tech such as Force10’s network, EMC’s storage, and VMware’s hypervisor. This now puts them in that vertical alignment of controlling their own enterprise stack from the client device through the network to the server hardware and the hypervisor sat on it. In an on-premises setup Dell can provide the infrastructure from the end of the user’s fingers to the start of the Operating System or Container.

Amazon have started from the other direction- AWS as a cloud provider owning their own chipsets. servers, storage, and networking. They own the datacentre end of their customers today, but how long is it before we see the successors to the Kindle Fire devices and Alexa-connected displays being pushed as the end-user device of choice. Everything between the user and the application would then be in their single vertical.

We see similar activity from Google. Their cloud platform stretches down to their Android and ChromeOS operating systems, the Chrome browser, and even into hardware. Although (similarly to Amazon) the endpoint devices are today largely aimed at the consumer market, as the commoditisation of IT continues there’s nothing stopping this leaking into the enterprise.

However, these vertical orientations are not to the exclusion of horizontal partnerships and we’ve seen a lot more of that over recent years. For example VMware partnering with AWS, IBM, and Microsoft and Google for Cloud provision, or Dell-EMC powering the on-premises Microsoft Azure Stack, or IBM providing their software on Azure.

So will this continue, and what does the distant future hold? Looking far into the tech future is always guesswork, but if I had to bet I’d suggest that this alignment model will eventually swing back as these sort of things always seem to go in cycles. The verticalisation (new word?) will carry on for the next few years but over time the customers demand more choice and (in enterprise at least) less of the perceived risk of “vendor lock-in”. Eventually this leads to a tipping point, fragmentation of the stack and a turn back towards that horizontal alignment we are moving away from today.

Thanks Datanauts for the inspiration behind this, and #Blogtober2018 for convincing me to do more long-form opinion posts.

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VMworld Session Full- DON’T PANIC

If you’re planning your schedule for the upcoming VMworld Europe event, you’ll no doubt find that some sessions are at capacity. Don’t panic- there’s still options open for you.

1- Is the session being duplicated? Some sessions are available at multiple times- for example vSphere Clustering Deep Dive, Part 1: vSphere HA and DRS has a second showing added on Thursday morning.

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2- Turn up in advance of the session. If you arrive in plenty of time there is usually a wait queue outside the hall- this queue is for people who haven’t signed up in advance and the conference staff start to let these delegates in a few minutes before the session started. From personal experience the past few years at the Barcelona event I haven’t had a problem getting in by this route.

I’d suggest using the star-shaped “favourite” button in the Schedule Builder- this pops it in your calendar as a reminder.

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3- If you really can’t fit a session into your timetable, most sessions are recorded and you can catch up online after the event. The conference is only a few days long so a certain level of prioritisation is always required. I’d suggest considering which sessions you’re going to benefit the most from seeing live and having the opportunity to talk with your peers (and possibly the presenters themselves) about whilst at VMworld.

A couple more related points of note: The VMworld app is being launched tomorrow (23rd October 2018) which will allow you to work with your schedule on your phone, plus the “Agenda Export” feature of the Schedule Builder will be available from the 30th October which means you can export your timetable straight from the website to your calendar of choice.

Get planning! The event kicks off in less than two weeks- see you there.