Tag Archives: SoftwareDefined

Software-Defined Data Centers: VMware Designs


These are best practices and proven practices for how a design for all components in the SDDC might look. It will highlight a possible cluster layout, including a detailed description of what needs to be put where, and why a certain configuration needs to be made.

Typically, every design should have an overview to quickly understand what the solution is going to look like and how the major components are related. In the SDDC one could start drawing the vSphere Clusters, including their functions.

Logical overview of the SDDC clusters

This following image describes an SDDC that is going to be run on the three-cluster approach:

 

The three clusters are as follows:

  • The management cluster for all SDDC managing services
  • The NSX edge cluster where all the north-south network traffic is flowing through
  • The actual payload cluster where the production VMs get deployed

Tip: Newer best practices from VMware, as described in the VMware validated designs (VVD) version 3.0, also propose a two-cluster approach. In this case, the edge cluster is not needed anymore and all edge VMs are deployed directly onto the payload cluster. This can be a better choice from a cost and scalability perspective. However, it is important to choose the model according to the requirements and constraints found in the design.

The overview should be only as complex as necessary since its purpose is to give a quick impression over the solution and its configuration. Typically, there are a few of these overviews for each section.

This forms a basic SDDC design where the edge and the management cluster are separated. According to the latest VMware best practices, payload and edge VMs can also run on the same cluster. This basically is a decision based on scale and size of the entire environment. Often it is also a decision based on a limit or a requirement — for example, edge hosts need to be physically separated from management hosts.

Logical overview of solution components

This is as important as the cluster overview and should describe the basic structure of the SDDC components, including some possible connections to third-party integration like IPAM.

Also, it should provide a basic understanding for the relationship between the different solutions.

 

It is important to have an understanding of these components and how they work together. This will become important during the deployment of the SDDC since none of these components should be left out or configured wrong. For the vRealize Log Insight connects, that is especially important.

Note: If not all components are configured to send their logs into vRealize Log Insight, there will be gaps, which can make troubleshooting very difficult or even impossible. A plan, which describes the relation, can be very helpful during this step of the SDDC configuration.

These connections should also be reflected in a table to show the relationship and confirm that everything has been set up correctly. The better the detail is in the design, the lower the chance that something gets configured wrong or is forgotten during the installation.

The vRealize Automation design

Based on the use case, there are two setup methods/designs vRealize Automation 7 supports when being installed.

Small: Small stands for a very dense and easy-to-deploy design. It is not recommended for any enterprise workloads or even for production. But it is ideal for a proof of concept (PoC) environment, or for a small dev/test environment to play around with SDDC principles and functions.

The key to the small deployment is that all the IaaS components can reside on one single Windows VM. Optionally, there can be additional DEMs attached which eases future scale. However, this setup has one fundamental disadvantage: There is no built-in resilience or HA for the portal or DEM layer. This means that every glitch in one of these components will always affect the entire SDDC.

Enterprise: Although this is a more complex way to install vRealize Automation, this option will be ready for production use cases and is meant to serve big environments. All the components in this design will be distributed across multiple VMs to enable resiliency and high availability.

 

In this design, the vRealize Automation OVA (vApp) is running twice. To enable true resilience a load balancer needs to be configured. The users access the load balancer and get forwarded to one of the portals. VMware has good documentation on configuring NSX as a load balancer for this purpose, as well as the F5 load balancer. Basically, any load balancer can be used, as long as it supports HTML protocol checks.

Note: DNS alias or MS load-balancing should not be used for this, since these methods cannot prove if the target server is still alive. According to VMware, there are checks required for the load balancer to understand if each of the vRA Apps is still available. If these checks are not implemented, the user will get an error while trying to access the broken vRA

In addition to the vRealize Automation portal, there has to be a load balancer for the web server components. Also, these components will be installed on a separate Windows VM. The load balancer for these components has the same requirements as the one for the vRealize Automation instances.

The active web server must only contain one web component of vRA, while the second (passive) web server can contain component 2, 3, and more.

Finally, the DEM workers have to be doubled and put behind a load balancer to ensure that the whole solution is resilient and can survive an outage of any one of the components.

Tip: If this design is used, the VMs for the different solutions need to run on different ESXi hosts in order to guarantee full resiliency and high availability. Therefore, VM affinity must be used to ensure that the DEMs, web servers or vRA appliances never run on the same ESXi host. It is very important to set this rule, otherwise, a single ESXi outage might affect the entire SDDC.

This is one of VMware’s suggested reference designs in order to ensure vRA availability for users requesting services. Although it is only a suggestion it is highly recommended for a production environment. Despite all the complexity, it offers the highest grade of availability and ensures that the SDDC can stay operative even if the management stack might have troubles.

Tip: vSphere HA cannot deliver this grade of availability since the VM would power off and on again. This can be harmful in an SDDC environment. Also, to bring back up operations, the startup order is important. Since HA can’t really take care of that, it might power the VM back on at a surviving host, but the SDDC might still be unusable due to connection errors (wrong order, stalled communication, and so on).

Once the decision is made for one of these designs, it should be documented as well in the setup section. Also, take care that none of the limits, assumptions, or requirements are violated with that decision.

Another mechanism of resiliency is to ensure that the required vRA SQL database is configured as an SQL cluster. This would ensure that no single point of failure could affect this component. Typically, big organizations have already some form of SQL cluster running, where the vRA database could be installed. If this isn’t a possibility, it is strongly recommended to set up such a cluster in order to protect the database as well. This fact should be documented in the design as a requirement when it comes to the vRA installation.

This tutorial is a chapter excerpt from “Building VMware Software-Defined Data Centers” by Valentin Hamburger. Use the code ORSCP50 at checkout to save 50% on the recommended retail price until Dec. 15.



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Software-Defined Storage: 4 Factors Fueling Demand


As organizations look for cost-effective ways to house their ever-growing stores of data, many of them are turning to software-defined storage. According to market researchers at ESG, 52% of organizations are committed to software-defined storage (SDS) as a long-term strategy.

Some vendor-sponsored studies have found even higher rates of SDS adoption; while the findings are self-serving, they’re still noteworthy. For example, a SUSE report published in 2017 found that 63% of enterprises surveyed planned to adopt SDS within 12 months, and in DataCore Software’s sixth annual State of Software-Defined Storage, Hyperconverged and Cloud Storage survey, only 6% of respondents said they were not considering SDS.

What’s driving this interest in SDS? Let’s look at four important reasons why enterprises are considering the technology.

1. Avoid vendor lock-in

In an interview, Camberley Bates, managing director and analyst at Evaluator Group who spoke about SDS at Interop ITX,  said, “The primary driver of SDS is the belief that it delivers independence, and the cost benefit of not being tied to the hardware vendor.”

In fact, when DataCore asked IT professionals about the business drivers for SDS, 52% said that they wanted to avoid hardware lock-in from storage manufacturers.

However, Bates cautioned that organizations need to consider the costs and risk associated with integrating storage hardware and software on their own. She said that many organizations do not want the hassle of integration, which is driving up sales of pre-integrated appliances based on SDS technology.

2. Cost savings

Of course, SDS can also have financial benefits beyond avoiding lock-in. In the SUSE study, 72% of respondents said they evaluate their storage purchases based on total cost of ownership (TCO) over time, and 81% of those surveyed said the business case for SDS is compelling.

Part of the reason why SDS can deliver low TCO is because of its ability to simplify storage management. The DataCore study found that the top business driver for SDS, cited by 55% of respondents was “to simplify management of different models of storage.”

3. Support IT initiatives

Another key reason why organizations are investigating SDS is because they need to support other IT initiatives. In the SUSE survey, IT pros said that key technologies influencing their storage decisions included cloud computing (54%), big-data analytics (50%), mobility (47%) and the internet of things (46%).

Organizations are looking ahead to how these trends might change their future infrastructure needs. Not surprisingly, in the DataCore report, 53% of organizations said a desire to help future-proof their data centers was driving their SDS move.

4. Scalability

Many of those key trends that are spurring the SDS transition are dramatically increasing the amount of data organizations need to store. Because it offers excellent scalability, SDS appeals to enterprises experiencing fast data growth.

In the SUSE study, 96% of companies surveyed said they like the business scalability offered by SDS. In addition, 95% found scalable performance and capacity appealing.

As data storage demands continue to grow, this need to increase capacity while keeping overall costs down may be the critical factor in determining whether businesses choose to invest in SDS.

 



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Software-Defined Storage Products: IT Pros Offer Insight


Find out what users have to say about products in the emerging SDS market.

Software-defined storage promises two very attractive benefits to the enterprise: flexibility and lower cost. But how can IT pros know which software-defined storage (SDS) product will best meet the needs of their business?

Peer reviews published by real users can facilitate their decision-making with user feedback, insight, and product rankings that collectively indicate which products are in the lead.

Based on our real user reviews at IT Central Station, these products are some of the top choices for software-defined storage today.

Nutanix

A senior system engineer said, “The support we get from Nutanix is easily the best from all vendors we work with. If you open a case you directly speak to an engineer which can help quickly and efficiently. Our customers sometimes open support cases directly (not through us) and so far the feedback was great.”

However, a CTO at an IT consulting firm said while Nutanix has the ability to connect to Azure or AWS for storing backups, he would like to have the capability to spin up a backup on Azure or AWS for disaster-recovery purposes.

“Right now, you can only send a backup to either Azure or AWS. We would like to take a backup and spin it up to an actual server that could be connected to by users from the outside,” he added.

Here are more Nutanix reviews by IT Central Station users.

VMware vSAN

A senior systems administrator and storage specialist in the government sector said he finds that vSAN allows for very easy administration. “The fact that you don’t have LUNs to set up and assign is great. The ability to set up storage policies and assign them at the disk level is also a great part of this product,” he said. “You can allow for different setups for different workload requirements.”

A senior manager of IT infrastructure noted that “The vSAN Hardware Compatibility List Checker needs to improve, since currently it is a sore point for vSAN. You need to thoroughly check and re-check the HCL with multiple vendors like VMware, in the first instance, and manufacturers like Dell, IBM, HPE, etc., as the compatibility list is very narrow. I would definitely be happy if there is significant additional support for more models of servers from Dell, IBM, HPE, etc.”

Read more VMware vSAN reviews by IT Central Station members.

HPE StoreVirtual

A network engineer at a tech service firm reported that “Shelf level-redundancy is one of the big things that StoreVirtual has had before some other SAN manufacturer or SAN model brands, which is pretty nice. It can be rather expensive because you are much less efficient when you have that redundancy, but it’s definitely a benefit if you really need access to that data.

But a solutions engineer at an insurance company said the product’s user interface needs to be updated. “It’s getting kind of long in the tooth, and the user interface makes it look a lot more complex than it actually is to manage, and I think that you can mask a lot of that with a refresh of the user interface. While HPE has created a new HTML5 UI for the HyperConverged 380, it is not available to the rest of the StoreVirtual population.”

Read more HPE StoreVirtual reviews.  

Dell EMC ScaleIO

An engineer at a tech vendor that is both a customer and partner with Dell EMC likes the ScaleIO user interface. “EMC has been working with storage for a long time. Therefore, they know how to clearly present any important data, including data flow and each drive’s IOPS/bandwidth; and allow the user to easily monitor bottlenecks and problems, especially the rebuild and rebalance status of child objects. It controls them, as well as maintaining them well.”

He added that “If they could introduce a write cache feature, the product would be perfect overall.”

You can read more Dell EMC ScaleIO reviews here.



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4 Software-Defined Storage Trends


As enterprises move towards the software-defined data center (SDDC), many of them are deploying software-defined storage (SDS). According to Markets and Markets, the software-defined storage market was worth $4.72 billion in 2016, and it could increase to $22.56 billion by 2021. That’s a 36.7% compound annual growth rate.

Enterprises are attracted to SDS for two key reasons: flexibility and cost. SDS abstracts the storage software away from the hardware on which it runs. That gives organizations a lot more options, including the freedom to change vendors as they see fit and the ability to choose low-cost hardware. SDS solutions also offer management advantages that help enterprises reduce their total cost of ownership (TCO).

Enterprises appear eager to reap the benefits of SDS. Camberley Bates, managing partner and analyst at Evaluator Group, said in an interview, “Adoption is increasing as IT end users get more familiar with the options and issues with SDS.”

She highlighted four trends that are currently affecting the software-defined storage market.

1. Appliances dominate

By definition, software-defined storage runs on industry-standard hardware, so you might think that most organizations buy their SDS software and hardware separately and build their own arrays. However, that isn’t the case.

“Much of the [current SDS] adoption is in the form of an appliance from the vendor, and these include categories such as server-based storage, hyperconverged and converged infrastructure systems,” Bates said.

Although the market is embracing SDS, enterprises still don’t want to give up some of the benefits associated with buying a pre-built appliance where the hardware and software have been tested to work together.

2. NVMe improves performance

Designed to take advantage of the unique characteristics of SSDs, NVMe provides faster performance and lower latency than SAS or SATA. As a result, many different types of storage solutions have begun using NVMe technology, but Bates said that SDS solutions are adopting NVMe more quickly.

She added that in her firm’s labs,  NVMe proved to have lower price for performance  than other types of storage by a significant margin based on work with Intel last summer.

3. Enterprises want single-vendor support

One of the most common problems organizations run into when deploying do-it-yourself SDS solutions is the support runaround. When they experience an issue, they call their SDS software vendor for help, only to be told that the problem lies with the hardware. And, of course, the hardware vendor then blames the software vendor.

“There is a distinct need to have a single entity responsible for the service and support of the system,” Bates said.

She also noted that the potential risk of data loss makes this support issue more significant for SDS than for other types of software-defined infrastructure.

4. Scale-out remains challenging

The other big issue that organizations face with SDS is scalability. “Scale-out designs are not easy,” Bates said. “They may do well for the first two to four nodes, but if I am creating a large-scale hybrid cloud, then the environment needs to scale efficiently and resiliently. We have seen environments that fail on both counts.”

As organizations increasingly deploy hybrid clouds, they’ll need to look for SDS solutions that help them solve this scalability issue.

Camberley Bates will discuss SDS in more depth and offer tips on what enterprises should look for in SDS solutions at her Interop ITX session, “Software-Defined Storage: What It Is and Why It’s Making the Rounds in Enterprise IT.” Register now for Interop ITX, May 15-19 in Las Vegas.



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