Replays of Virtual SAN Sessions at VMworld 2016 That You Didn’t Want to Miss

What a great week last week at VMworld 2016. I had many good meetings with customers, participated in 3 breakout sessions, met up with some old friends and met some new ones. If you missed VMworld, well, then you missed a bunch of great sessions. There’s no way you could have seen them all, so, VMware has made them available here: http://www.vmworld.com/en/sessions/2016.html.

I participated in two sessions:

The first one was a customer panel discussion on Tuesday afternoon. I need to thank Glenn Brown from Stanley Black & Decker, Mike Caruso from Synergent, Tom Cronin from M&T Bank, and Andrew Schilling from Baystate Health who all did a fantastic job representing themselves, their companies, and their use of Virtual SAN. We had great interaction from the audience with lots of good questions. For a replay of the session check this out:

Four Unique Enterprise Customers Deployment of VMware Virtual SAN [STO7560]
Glen Brown
, System Engineer, Stanley Black and Decker
Michael Caruso, AVP Corporate Information Systems, Synergent
Tom Cronin, Sr. Staff Specialist – Platforms Engineering Group, M&T Bank
Frank Gesino, Senior Technical Account Manager, VMware
Andrew Schilling, Team Leader – IT Infrastructure, Baystate Health Inc.
Tuesday, Aug 30, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

The other session I was involved in was on Wednesday and repeated on Thursday. I had the good fortune to present with two VSAN Product Managers who are responsible for making VSAN great. Vahid Fereydounkolahi is responsible for driving new features into the VSAN product and Rakesh Radhakrishnan is responsible for making sure all the vendor hardware components are properly qualified for VSAN and for looking out into the future of new technologies like NVMe and RDMA to adopt into VSAN. For a replay of the two sessions check these out:

Peter Keilty, Office of the CTO, Americas Field – Storage and Availability, VMware, Inc.
Rakesh Radhakrishnan, Product Management & Strategy Leader, VMware
Wednesday, Aug 31, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Vahid Fereydounkolahi kicked this one off discussion VSAN features, capabilities, and how it works, I took over in the middle to discuss Day 2 operations, and Rakesh Radhakrishnan finished it off discussing the Ready Node program as well as current and future flash and IO technology that VSAN incorporates or will incorporate.
Virtual SAN Technical Deep Dive and What’s New [STO8246R]

Thursday, Sep 01, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Vahid wasn’t able to make this time so I kicked things off talking about VSAN features, capabilities, how it works, and Day 2 operations, and Rakesh Radhakrishnan finished it off discussing the Ready Node program as well as current and future flash and IO technology that VSAN incorporates or will incorporate.
Virtual SAN Technical Deep Dive and What’s New [STO8246R]

In my previous blog post I highlighted the sessions you wouldn’t want to miss. So here, I’ll provide the links to those sessions. A few either haven’t been uploaded yet or won’t because of legal or future looking reasons:

Christos Karamanolis is literally the brains behind VSAN since its inception and our chief visionary for Storage. If you want the whole picture wrapped up in a 1 hour session, this is it.
An Industry Roadmap: From storage to data management [STO7903]
Christos Karamanolis, VMware Fellow – CTO of Storage and Availability, VMware
Wednesday, Aug 31, 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Continue reading “Replays of Virtual SAN Sessions at VMworld 2016 That You Didn’t Want to Miss”

Virtual SAN Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss at VMworld 2016

Shameless self-promotion here. I’m very excited to be presenting 2 sessions at the upcoming VMworld 2016 in Las Vegas. So, of course I think you shouldn’t miss them. The first is a customer panel session that I’ll be hosting. I’ve worked with each of these customers who have had VSAN running production workloads for well over a year. Everything wasn’t always perfect, but, they continue to expand their usage of VSAN in their data centers. In two of the customers, they are now standardized on VSAN for any new workloads. These customers will provide an overview of their deployments, answer some of my questions, then take questions from the audience.

Four Unique Enterprise Customers Deployment of VMware Virtual SAN [STO7560]
Glen Brown, System Engineer, Stanley Black and Decker
Michael Caruso, AVP Corporate Information Systems, Synergent
Tom Cronin, Sr. Staff Specialist – Platforms Engineering Group, M&T Bank
Frank Gesino, Senior Technical Account Manager, VMware
Andrew Schilling, Team Leader – IT Infrastructure, Baystate Health Inc.
Tuesday, Aug 30, 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

This VSAN Deep Dive session will cover features of the latest VSAN release, how they work, and some best practices for deploying VSAN. I’ll be presenting along with our lead VSAN Product Managers. This session will be held on two different days.

Virtual SAN Technical Deep Dive and What’s New [STO8246R]
Peter Keilty, Office of the CTO, Americas Field – Storage and Availability, VMware, Inc.
Rakesh Radhakrishnan, Product Management & Strategy Leader, VMware
Wednesday, Aug 31, 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, Sep 01, 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Other VSAN Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss

There are so many great VSAN sessions it’s hard to pick just a few. So, here are the ones I am most familiar with that I’m confident will be great. But that doesn’t mean that some of the others won’t be.

Christos Karamanolis is literally the brains behind VSAN since its inception and our chief visionary for Storage. If you want the whole picture wrapped up in a 1 hour session, this is it.

An Industry Roadmap: From storage to data management [STO7903]
Christos Karamanolis, VMware Fellow – CTO of Storage and Availability, VMware
Wednesday, Aug 31, 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Continue reading “Virtual SAN Sessions You Won’t Want to Miss at VMworld 2016”

VSAN In 3 Minutes Series

These are so cool I had to recognize them. If you are like me and would rather see things in action than read about them in a manual, then the VSAN In 3 Minutes Series is for you.

VSAN in 3 Minutes Series

Check the videos out. A big shout out to my colleague Greg Mulholland who does a great job putting these together.

VMware Virtual SAN at Storage Field Day 9 (SFD9) – Making Storage Great Again!

On Friday, March 18 I took the opportunity to watch the live Webcast of Storage Field Day 9. If you can carve our some time, I highly recommend this.

Tech Field Day‎@TechFieldDay
VMware Storage Presents at Storage Field Day 9

The panel of industry experts ask all the tough questions and the great VMware Storage team answers them all.

Storage Industry Experts VMware Virtual SAN Experts
  • Alex Galbraith @AlexGalbraith
  • Chris M Evans @ChrisMEvans
  • Dave Henry @DaveMHenry
  • Enrico Signoretti @ESignoretti
  • Howard Marks @DeepStorageNet
  • Justin Warren @JPWarren
  • Mark May @CincyStorage
  • Matthew Leib @MBLeib
  • Richard Arnold @3ParDude
  • Scott D. Lowe @OtherScottLowe
  • Vipin V.K. @VipinVK111
  • W. Curtis Preston @WCPreston
  • Yanbing Le @ybhighheels
  • Christos Karamanolis @XtosK
  • Rawlinson Rivera @PunchingClouds
  • Vahid Fereydouny @vahidfk
  • Gaetan Castelein @gcastelein1
  • Anita Kibunguchy @kibuanita

 

The ~2 hour presentation was broken up into easily consumable chunks. Here’s a breakdown or the recoded session:

VMware Virtual SAN Overview

In this Introduction, Yanbing Le, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Storage and Availability, discusses VMware’s company success, the state of the storage market, and the success of HCI market leading Virtual SAN in over 3000 customers.

What Is VMware Virtual SAN?

Christos Karamanolis, CTO, Storage and Availability BU, jumps into how Virtual SAN works, answers questions on the use of high endurance and commodity SSD, and how Virtual SAN service levels can be managed through VMware’s common control plane – Storage Policy Based Management.

VMware Virtual SAN 6.2 Features and Enhancements

Christos continues the discussion around VSAN features as they’ve progressed from the 1st generation Virtual SAN released in March 12, 2014 to the 2nd, 3rd, and now 4th generation Virtual SAN that was just released March 16, 2016. The discussion in this section focuses a lot on data protection features like stretched clustering and vSphere Replication. They dove deep into how vSphere Replication can deliver application consistent protection as well as a true 5 minute RPO based on the built in intelligent scheduler sending the data deltas within the 5 minute window, monitoring the SLAs, and alerting if they cannot be met due to network issues.

VMware Virtual SAN Space Efficiency

Deduplication, Compression, Distributed RAID 5 & 6 Erasure Coding are all now available to all flash Virtual SAN configurations. Christos provides the skinny on all these data reduction space efficiency features and how enabling these add very little overhead on the vSphere hosts. Rawlinson chimes on the automated way Virtual SAN can build the cluster of disks and disk groups that deliver the capacity for the shared VSAN datastore. These can certainly be built manually but VMware’s design goal is to make the storage system as automated as possible. The conversation moves to checksum and how Virtual SAN is protecting the integrity of data on disks.

VMware Virtual SAN Performance

OK, this part was incredible! Christos laid down the gauntlet, so to speak. He presented the data behind the testing that shows minimal impact on the hosts when enabling the space efficiency features. Also, he presents performance data for OLTP workloads, VDI, Oracle RACK, etc. All cards on the table here. I can’t begin to summarize, you’ll just need to watch.

VMware Virtual SAN Operational Model

Rawlinson Rivera takes over and does what he does best, throwing all caution to the wind and delivering live demonstrations. He showed the Virtual SAN Health Check and the new Virtual SAN Performance Monitoring and Capacity Management views built into the vSphere Web Client. Towards the end, Howard Marks asked about supporting future Intel NVMe capabilities and Christos’s response was that it’s safe to say VMware is working closely with Intel on ensuring the VMware storage stack can utilize the next generation devices. Virtual SAN already supports the Intel P3700 and P3600 NVMe devices.

This was such a great session I thought I’d promote it and make it easy to check it out. By the way, here’s Rawlinson wearing a special hat!

Make Storage Great Again

 

 

 

How to delete the RAID configuration from drives managed by the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller

The content of this blog post was created by a couple of colleagues of mine, David Boone and Bradford Garvey. These guys do a phenomenal job making sure VMware Virtual SAN customers get a great experience with the product by helping them plan, configure, and test VSAN. Because of this, they end up uncovering interesting information like what’s to follow.

Sometimes Cisco UCS hardware intended to be used for VMware Virtual SAN has previously been configured for other uses. In these cases, sometimes a RAID configuration has already been configured on the drives. VSAN requires the individual drives be presented to ESXi either raw via the I/O controller set in Pass-Through Mode (See: How To Configure the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller for Pass-Through Mode) or disks set in their own RAID 0 disk groups. Best practice is to set the I/O Controller in Pass-Through Mode (Enable JBOD).  However, if a RAID configuration previously existed, on the Cisco UCS platform there are a few extra steps to complete after enabling JBOD mode for the controller.

If drives were already configured as RAID virtual devices, delete the RAID configuration from the drives.  One way to do that is to Clear the entire VD configuration:

Clear the entire VD configuration

  • Log into the Cisco UCS Manager
  • Open a console to the host
  • Reboot the host
  • On boot up hit Ctrl+R to enter the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller BIOS Configuration Utility
  • Hit Ctrl-N until the “VD Mgmt” page is selected
  • In the “VD Mgmt” screen, navigate to the controller, and press the F2 key.
  • Navigate to “Clear Configuration” and press Enter.  You should see this popup:

CiscoUCS - Remove RAID 1

  • Press “Yes” to delete all the virtual drives

Drives will then be in an “Unconfigured Good” state.  They might look something like this:

CiscoUCS - Remove RAID 2

If you see this, these 10 drives are in an “Unconfigured Good” state. They need to be converted to a JBOD state.

There are two options. You can convert a bunch of Unconfigured Good drives to JBOD drives (from the “VD Mgmt” screen) or you can convert a particular Unconfigured Good drive to a JBOD drive (from the “Drive Management” screen)

Option 1: Convert a bunch of Unconfigured Good drives to JBOD drives

Perform the following steps to convert a bunch of Unconfigured Good drives to JBOD drives:

  • In the “VD Mgmt” screen, navigate to the controller and press the F2 key.
  • Navigate to “Make JBOD”, and press Enter.
    The “Convert Unconfigured Good to JBOD” dialog appears, which shows all Unconfigured Good drives in the system.

CiscoUCS - Remove RAID 3

 

  • Select the Unconfigured Good drives which you want configured as JBODs for VSAN.
    To select or deselect all the Unconfigured Good drives at one go, select the topmost square backets in the “Unconfig good drives” box.
  • Press “OK”.
    The selected Unconfigured Good drives are converted to JBOD drives.

Option 2: Convert a particular Unconfigured Good drive to a JBOD drive

Perform the following steps to convert a particular Unconfigured Good drive to a JBOD drive:

  • In the “Drive Management” screen, navigate to an Unconfigured Good drive, and press the F2 key.
  • Navigate to “Make JBOD”, and press Enter.
  • Press “OK” in the message confirmation box to continue.

After converting all the 10 drives above to JBOD, the screen looks like this:

CiscoUCS - Remove RAID 4

Result

After rebooting, the BIOS will report all 10 drives and ESXi will see all of them in a JBOD (Pass-Through) configuration, with all the benefits of JBOD like being able to retrieve S.M.A.R.T.S. info from the physical drives.

The information obtained to create this post was gathered from the Avago – 12Gb/s MegaRAID® SAS Software – User Guide

Thanks again to David Boone and Bradford Garvey for providing this information.

How To Configure the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller for Pass-Through Mode

Yesterday I was at the New England VTUG event which is always a great event to meet up with familiar faces and be introduced to some new ones. I met up with a relatively new VMware Virtual SAN customer and we discussed lots of fun things about VSAN and their implementation experience. One frustrating thing they mentioned is that they couldn’t find anywhere that documented how to put the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller in Pass-Through mode. They explained that after lots of searching on VMware and Cisco’s site, they contacted Cisco and were provided the information. They were kind enough to capture a screenshot of the setting and provide it to me.

The procedure is:

  • Log into the Cisco UCS Manager
  • Open a console to the host
  • Reboot the host
  • On boot up hit Ctrl+R to enter the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller BIOS Configuration Utility
  • Hit Ctrl-N until the “Ctrl Mgmt” page is selected
  • In the bottom right hand corner, make sure the “Enable JBOD” field shows an X per the screen shot below.
  • Hit Ctrl-S to save Reboot

Cisco 12G SAS Enable JBOD

That’s it. Easy.

If this is a brand new, unconfigured host, the unclaimed disks in the host will now get passed to ESXi and VSAN can use them for the VSAN datastore.

However, if this host IO Controller had previously been configured with RAID, you should check out: How to delete the RAID configuration from drives managed by the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller

I hope that helps others save some time in getting VSAN up and running.

Special thanks to Stephanie Forde and Matthew Gabrick from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission for pointing this out and providing the screenshot.

Queue Depth and the FBWC Controller Cache module on the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller for Virtual SAN

If you scan the bill of materials for the various Cisco UCS VSAN ReadyNodes you’ll see a line item for:

Controller Cache: Cisco 12Gbps SAS 1GB FBWC Cache module (Raid 0/1/5/6)

If you’ve followed Virtual SAN for awhile you might wonder, why would the ReadyNodes include controller cache when VMware recommends disabling controller cache when implementing Virtual SAN. Well, it turns out that the presence of the FBWC Cache module allows the queue depth of the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller to go from the low 200’s to the advertised 895. The minimum queue depth requirement for Virtual SAN is 256 so including the FBWC Cache module allows the queue depth to increase above that minimum requirement and improve Virtual SAN performance.

Steps to Implement the Correct I/O Controller Driver for the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller for Virtual SAN

This is my third post this week, possibly a record for me. All three are centered around ensuring the correct firmware and drivers are installed and running. The content of this post was created by my colleague, David Boone, who works with VMware customers to ensure successful Virtual SAN deployments. When it comes to VSAN, its important to use qualified hardware but equally important to make sure the correct firmware and drivers are installed.

Download the Correct I/O Controller Driver

Navigate to the VMware Compatibility Guide for Virtual SAN, scroll down and select “Build Your Own based on Certified Components”, then find the controller in the database. Here’s the link for the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller and the link to download the correct driver for it (as of Nov. 20, 2015): https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details?downloadGroup=DT-ESX55-LSI-SCSI-MEGARAID-SAS-660606001VMW&productId=353

Install the Correct Driver

Use your favorite way to install the driver. This might include creating a custom vSphere install image to deploy on multiple hosts, rolling out via vSphere Update Manager (VUM), or manually installing on each host.

Continue reading “Steps to Implement the Correct I/O Controller Driver for the Cisco 12G SAS Modular Raid Controller for Virtual SAN”

What if the SSD and HDD Firmware Versions are Newer Than What is Listed on the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for Virtual SAN?

No problem, this is OK.

If you want to know more detail, keep reading…

Last week I was working with a customer to implement a VSAN ReadyNode. Before enabling VSAN on a cluster it’s a best practice to validate that the firmware of the host I/O Controller, SSD’s (SAS, SATA, PCIe, NVMe, or UltraDIMM), and HDD’s (SAS, NL-SAS, or SATA) are up to the required versions. Each hardware vendor has a different way of doing this.

In reviewing this particular customers hardware, we found that the SSD and HDD Firmware Versions were newer than what is listed on the VCG.

Note that for SSD’s and HDD’s, the hardware vendors provides the VMware Virtual SAN team with the firmware version they tested and qualified for VSAN. VMware then lists that firmware version for that model of disk on the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for Virtual SAN. If the hardware vendor comes out with “new firmware” then it does not require VSAN re-certification of the SSD or HDD. VMware supports disks with “newer firmware” for Virtual SAN but VMware leaves the VCG alone and continues listing the “old firmware”. However, if the hardware vendor wants VMware to remove the “old firmware” from the VCG listing and replace it with the “new firmware” VMware would do that upon their request. This would typically happen if the hardware vendor discovers an issue/bug with the “old firmware”.

I hope this helps clarify how VMware treats SSD and HDD Firmware Version listings on the VMware Compatibility Guide for Virtual SAN.

What Makes EVO:RAIL Different

EVO:RAIL is the only Hyper-Converged solution that ships Pre-Built with VMware software and is ready to deploy VM’s when it arrives. There, that’s it.

OK, maybe you want more detail than that.

This analogy has been used before but it’s worth repeating for those who haven’t heard it before. This comes from my days as a vSpecialist at EMC. If you want a cake, you have 3 primary options.

cake

The first way to get a cake is you Build your own. You purchase the ingredients (flour, eggs, milk, etc.), you measure the quantities you think you need, mix them together, and make a cake. The second time you make one it might be a bit better based on some lessons learned. Eventually, if you do it enough, you’ll probably get pretty good at it.

The second way to get a cake is to buy a Reference Architecture. This is a specific set of pre-measured ingredients that you buy, but you still have to make it. You open the box, add eggs and water to the mix and the end result is a cake. If you make another, it’ll probably be pretty similar to the last one.

The third option is you go to a bakery and buy a cake. It’s professionally made and ready to eat. And if you want another one just like it, your favorite bakery can reproduce it and get it to you pretty quickly.

Lets now shift this analogy to data center infrastructure. The first way to get data center infrastructure is to build your own (i.e. bake a cake). Purchase your favorite servers, network switches, and storage system, connect them together, configure them, install VMware software, and eventually you’ll have a place to provision virtual machines. The next time you need to build out infrastructure you’ll likely be able to do it a bit faster, with less configuration errors, and have it run more optimally based on some lessons learned. Eventually, if you do it enough you’ll get pretty good at it.

The second way to get data center infrastructure is to purchase a prepackaged reference architecture solution, but you still have to make it (i.e. cake mix). You get the hardware, connect it to the network, install VMware software, and you have infrastructure. The performance is fairly predictable since the hardware was chosen to meet a certain workload profile.

The third option to get data center infrastructure is to purchase a pre-built solution (i.e. bakery). And this is where EVO:RAIL is different. There are only 3 ways I know of to purchase infrastructure pre-built with VMware software that is ready to provision VM’s when they arrive. The first way that emerged several years ago is VCE Vblock or VxBlock. The second way now available is the Hyper-converged EVO:RAIL from an Qualified EVO:RAIL Partner (Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, HP, Hitachi, inspur, NetApp, netone, and SuperMicro). Receive the system, power it on, and start provisioning VM’s since its already running the VMware software you need to do so. The third way is EVO:RACK which is currently available as a tech-preview from a few Qualified EVO:RACK Partners. More information is available here: EVO: RACK Tech Preview at VMworld 2014

That’s it, no one else, without a specific agreement to do so, can ship hardware pre-built with VMware software, just VCE and Qualified EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK Partners. All other “converged infrastructure” solutions, require you to obtain the hardware (either by picking and choosing components yourself, or by going with a reference architecture). None of them are able to arrive with VMware software already installed. Once the hardware arrives the VMware software must be installed first. And in the case of all other “converged” infrastructure solutions other than VMware Virtual SAN, you must install the storage software on top of vSphere. VI wrote about this here: What Makes VSAN Different?

OK, lets review with a diagram I put together based on EMC’s recent definition of Blocks, Racks, and Appliances. See the Virtual Geek blog here for more info: EMC World Day 1: BLOCKS, RACKS, APPLIANCES.

Block, Rack, Appliance

Notice that the concept of Build your own converged infrastructure combining compute and storage on the same host is not unique. There are approximately 15 companies with this solution including VMware. It’s a crowded space. VMware Virtual SAN is unique here in that it’s the only one that is built into the hypervisor.

Next notice that the concept of Reference Architecture converged infrastructure is not unique. There are approximately 5 companies with this solution including VMware. VMware Virtual SAN is unique here in that it’s the only one that is built into the hypervisor.

Finally, notice that there is only 1 way to obtain Pre-Built converged infrastructure and that’s EVO:RAIL which uses the VMware Virtual SAN storage that is built into the hypervisor. All you need to do is rack it, cable it, power it on, and start consuming VM’s. Kind of like buying a cake from the bakery, getting a fork, and start eating it.

OK, one last analogy… today, if you need a Virtual Machine and even EVO:RAIL isn’t a quick enough way to get it, it’s possible to simply provision one on demand from a service provider like vCloud Air. Now, wouldn’t it be great if you could get a piece of cake on demand? How long until this becomes a reality?

Data cake