VMware vSphere 5 VAAI support for EMC CX4

In vSphere 4 the VAAI test harness only included functionality.  So if a storage array supported the VAAI primitives and passed VMware’s functionality test then VAAI was listed as a feature of the supported array in the Storage/SAN Compatibility Guide.  vSphere 5 added a VAAI performance test.  This is due to some of the issues it discovered when it released their Thin Provision Reclaim VAAI feature in vSphere 5.

EMC’s CX4 did not pass VMware’s performance test harness for XCOPY/Block Zero.  Atomic Test and Set (ATS) Hardware Offloading did pass the performance testing but since the XCOPY/Block Zero didn’t pass then VMware considers all VAAI as unsupported on the CX4.

Chad Sakac (Virtual Geek) lays it all out at the end of the PPT and recording in the post VNX engineering update, and CX4/VAAI vSphere scoop.  In that he proposes the following EMC support model:

  • Running with VAAI block acceleration on a CX4 with ESX5 is considered an unsupported configuration by VMware.
  • EMC will support the use of VAAI block under ESX5 with CX4 arrays.
  • If customers running this configuration have an issue, EMC recommends they turn off the VAAI features. If the condition persists, VMware will accept the case. If the problem is no longer occurring, contact EMC for support.

vSphere 4 did not have a performance test harness.  So if they were happily running vSphere 4 with VAAI enabled then they can upgrade to vSphere 5, leave VAAI enabled, and likely enjoy the same experience they have now for their CX4 on vSphere 4.

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Validate that the VAAI block primitives are enabled in vSphere

The hardware offloading and acceleration benefits of VAAI in vSphere are well documented. Check here for one of many explanations.  I am frequently asked by customers how to know if VAAI is enabled and where to check.

Here are the instructions to validate that the VAAI block primitives are enabled in vSphere.

Verify Hardware Assisted (Accelerated) Locking is enabled

  1. From the vSphere Client click Home > Inventory > Hosts and Clusters
  2. Select a host, click the Configuration tab, and select Advanced Settings
  3. Select VMFS3 and note that the VMFS3.HardwareAcceleratedLocking parameter is set to 1

Verify Block Zeroing (Hardware Accelerated Zero) is enabled

  1. From the vSphere Client click Home > Inventory > Hosts and Clusters
  2. Select a host, click the Configuration tab, and select Advanced Settings
  3. Select DataMover and note that the DataMover.HardwareAcceleratedInit parameter is set to 1

Verify Hardware Accelerated Copy is enabled

  1. From the vSphere Client click Home > Inventory > Hosts and Clusters
  2. Select a host, click the Configuration tab, and select Advanced Settings
  3. Select DataMover and note that the DataMover.HardwareAcceleratedMove parameter is set to 1

vSphere 5 licensing entitlement checker

vSphere 5 was launched almost a year ago and with much discussions around their new vRAM based licensing model.  Personally the whole idea makes sense to me especially considering the evolution to cloud computing and determining a common measurement to find the least expensive place to run your virtual machines and applications.  If a public cloud provider charge $X per GB vRAM then your private cloud needs to be able to do it for $X minus a little bit or provide a better service that makes it worth the additional cost.  I am frequently asked if it’ll cost more to run a VM/app in vSphere 5 versus vSphere 4.  Luckily “there’s an app for that”.

Here’s the link to the VMware tool to check vSphere 5 licensing entitlements.

http://www.vmware.com/products/datacenter-virtualization/vsphere/upgrade-center/vsphere-licensing-advisor.html

I also recommend watching this video by one of my former vSpecialists colleagues to show you how to use it.

http://www.virtu-al.net/2011/08/11/vmware-license-advisorofficial-tool/