vSAN and Data-At-Rest Encryption – Rebooted (i.e. Part 2)

 

Encryption is here, now shipping with vSphere 6.5.

I first wrote about vSAN and Encryption here:

Virtual SAN and Data-At-Rest Encryption – https://livevirtually.net/2015/10/21/virtual-san-and-data-at-rest-encryption/

At the time, I knew what was coming but couldn’t say. Also, the vSAN team had plans that changed. So, let’s set the record straight.

vSAN

  • Does not support Self Encrypting Drives (SEDs) with encryption enabled.
  • Does not support controller based encryption.
  • Supports 3rd party software based encryption solutions like HyTrust DataControl and Dell EMC Cloud Link.
  • Supports the VMware VM Encryption released with vSphere 6.5
  • Will support its own VMware vSAN Encryption in a future release.

At VMworld 2016 in Barcelona VMware announced vSphere 6.5 and with it, VM Encryption. In the past, VMware relied on 3rd party encryption solutions, but now, VMware has its own. For more details, check out:

What’s new in vSphere 6.5: Security – https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/10/whats-new-in-vsphere-6-5-security.html

In this, Mike Foley briefly highlights a few advantages of VM Encryption. Stay tuned for more from him on this topic.

In addition to what Mike highlighted, VM encryption is implemented using VAIO Filters, can be enabled per VM object (vmdk), will encrypt VM data no matter what storage solution is implemented (e.g. object, file, block using vendors like VMware vSAN, Dell Technologies, NetApp, IBM, HDS, etc.), and satisfies data-in-flight and data-at-rest encryption. The solution does not require SED’s so it works with all the commodity HDD, SSD, PCIe, and NVMe devices and integrates with several third party Key Management solutions. Since VM Encryption is set via policy, that policy could extended across to public clouds like Cloud Foundation on IBM SoftLayer, VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware vCloud Air or to any vCloud Air Network partner. This is great because your VM’s could live in the cloud but you will own and control the encryption keys. And you can use different keys for different VM’s.

At VMworld 2016 in Las Vegas VMware announced the upcoming vSAN Beta. For more details see:

Virtual SAN Beta – Register Today! – https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2016/09/07/virtual-san-beta-register-today/

This vSAN Beta includes vSAN encryption targeted for a future release of vSphere. vSAN Encryption will satisfy data-at-rest encryption. You might ask why vSAN Encryption would be necessary if vSphere has VM Encryption? I will say that you should always look to use VM Encryption first. The one downside to VM Encryption is that since the VM’s data is encrypted as soon as it leaves the VM and hits the ESXi kernel, each block is unique, so no matter what storage system that data goes to (e.g. VMware vSAN, Dell Technologies, NetApp, IBM, HDS, etc.) that block can’t be deduped or compressed. The benefit of vSAN encryption will be that the encryption will be done at the vSAN level. Data will be send to the vSAN cache and encrypted at that tier. When it is later destaged, it will be decrypted, deduped, compressed, and encrypted when its written to the capacity tier. This satisfies the data-at-rest encryption requirements but not data-in-flight. It does allow you to take advantage of the vSAN dedupe and compression data services and it’s one key for the entire vSAN datastore.

It should be noted that both solutions will require a 3rd party Key Management Server (KMS) and the same one can be used for both VM Encryption and vSAN Encryption. The KMS must support the Key Management Interoperability Protocol (KMIP) 1.1 standard. There are many that do and VMware has tested a lot of them. We’ll soon be publishing a list, but for now, check with your KMS vendor or your VMware SE for details.

VMware is all about customer choice. So, we offer a number of software based encryption options depending on your requirements.

It’s worth restating that VM Encryption should be the standard for software based encryption for VM’s. After reviewing vSAN Encryption, some may choose it instead to go with vSAN encryption if they want to take advantage of deduplication and compression. Duncan Epping provides a little more detail here:

The difference between VM Encryption in vSphere 6.5 and vSAN encryption – http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2016/11/07/the-difference-between-vm-encryption-in-vsphere-6-5-and-vsan-encryption/

 

In summary:

  1. Use VM Encryption for Hybrid vSAN clusters
  2. Use VM Encryption on All-Flash if storage efficiency (dedupe/compression) is not critical
  3. Wait for vSAN native software data at rest encryption if you must have dedupe/compression on All-Flash

 

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Citrix & VSAN

There are many VMware and Citrix customers happily running Citrix XenApp and XenDesktop on VMware vSphere clusters with Virtual SAN enabled.

Citrix XenApp is fully supported on VSAN.

Citrix XenDesktop PVS is fully supported on VSAN.

Citrix XenDesktop MCS is still not supported on VSAN by Citrix at the time of this writing on October 7, 2016. Citrix has a fix that is in 7.8 and 7.9 already and customers have reported that the fix works, however Citrix claims the fix has not been qualified by them and thus is not supported. ETA for their official support is unclear at this point but is the responsibility of Citrix. If you are needing this feature, please reach out to Citrix to let them know.

Our friends at Dell Technologies (EMC/VCE) have tested XenApp, XenDesktop PVS and MCS on VxRail and have produced a report here:

Citrix XenDesktop 7.9 and VMware vSphere 6.0 with VCE VxRail Appliance
http://www.emc.com/collateral/technical-documentation/h15433-euc-citrix-xendesktop-vxrail-sg.pdf

In it they state “Citrix official support of MCS on VMware Virtual SAN is expected in a future release of XenDesktop. EMC tested this configuration and found no observable issues.

For the record, I’ve been a fan of Citrix since I first deployed Citrix WinView in my data center and remote sites back in 1994. Yes, I’m that old. I’m sure this will all get worked out.

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

 

 

 

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”

Virtual SAN 6 – What Does a Maxed Out 64 Host VSAN Cluster Look Like?

The big VMware vSphere 6 launch was yesterday and along with it comes Virtual SAN (VSAN) 6. Here are a couple of good summaries:

Rawlinson Rivera – VMware Virtual SAN 6.0

What’s New: VMware Virtual SAN 6.0

The big news is that a vSphere cluster will now scale to 64 hosts and thus VSAN will too. So what does that look like fully scaled up and out with the maximum hosts, maximum disk groups, and maximum disks per disk group? By the way, for details on how VSAN scales up and out check Is Virtual SAN (VSAN) Scale Up or Scale Out Storage…, Yes!.

Virtual SAN (VSAN) Enabled vSphere Cluster Scaled Up and Out to 64 hosts (nodes).

64 host VSAN

Oh yea, the overall VSAN performance is significantly improved. Plus with double the number of hosts that doubles the performance. In addition, VSAN now supports an All-Flash configuration that even further increases the performance.

Virtual SAN 6 Rack Awareness – Software Defined Self Healing with Failure Domains

I continue to think one of the hidden gem features of VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN) is it’s software defined self healing ability. I wrote about it a few months back here in: Virtual SAN Software Defined Self Healing

Since Virtual SAN is such a different way to do storage, it allows for some interesting configuration combinations. With vSphere 6 (built into vSphere 6), VMware will be introducing a new add-on feature for Virtual SAN called “Rack Awareness” accomplished by creating multiple “Failure Domains” and placing hosts in the same rack into the same Failure Domain. This “Rack Awareness” feature exploits the # Failures To Tolerate policy of Virtual SAN.

The rest of this post will look a lot like the previous post I did on self healing but will translate it for the Rack Awareness feature.

Minimum Rack Awareness Configuration

Lets start with the smallest VSAN “Rack Awareness” configuration possible that provides redundancy: a 3 rack, 6 host (2 per rack) vSphere cluster with VSAN enabled and 1 SSD and 1 HDD per host. In VSAN, an SSD constitutes a disk group so the 1 HDD is placed into a Disk Group with the 1 SSD. The SSD performs the write and read caching for the HDD’s in its disk group. The HDD permanently stores the data.

Lets start with a single VM with the default # Failures To Tolerate (#FTT) equal to 1. A VM has at least 3 objects (namespace, swap, vmdk). Each object has 3 components (data 1, data 2, witness) to satisfy #FTT=1. Lets just focus on the vmdk object and say that the VM sits on host 1 with replicas/mirrors/copies (these terms can be used interchangeably) of its vmdk data on host 1 in rack 1 and host 2 in rack 2 and the witness on host 3 in rack 3. The rule in Virtual SAN is that each of these three components of an object (data 1, data 2, witness) must sit on different hosts. With Rack Awareness, they also must be in different hosts in different racks.

RackAware01

OK, lets start causing some trouble. With the default # Failures To Tolerate equal 1, VM data on VSAN should be available if a single SSD, a single HDD, a single host fails, or an entire rack fails.

Continue reading “Virtual SAN 6 Rack Awareness – Software Defined Self Healing with Failure Domains”