This past week, we had a great talk with Martin Hayes (@hayes_martinf), Distinguished Member Technical Staff at Dell Technologies about running VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) on VxBlock 1000 converged infrastructure (CI). It used to be that Cloud Foundation required VMware vSAN primary storage but that changed a few years ago. . When that happened, the Dell Technologies team saw it as a great opportunity to support VCF on VxBlock CI.
This is the first GreyBeards podcast for Martin, but he was extremely knowledgeable about VxBlock and Cloud Foundation technologies. He’s been a technical product manager on the VxBlock converged infrastructure at Dell Technologies for many years. He’s an expert on Cloud Foundation and he knows an awful lot more about VMware NSX-T networking than seems reasonable (good thing). In any case, Martin’s expertise covers the whole gamut of VCF services as well as VxBlock 1000 infrastructure. The podcast is a bit longer than our normal sponsored podcast but there was a lot of information to cover. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
With VCF enabling primary storage on networked storage systems, all the storage vendors in the world gave a mighty cheer. But VMware Cloud Foundation still requires the vSAN servers to run its management domain. Late in 2020, VxBlock 1000 from Dell Technologies released a new software defined version of its Advanced Management Platform (AMP) to run on vSAN Ready Nodes. AMP is VxBlock’s management platform but also runs management domains for VCF and NSX-T.
For workload domains, VxBlock 1000 offers Cisco UCS M5 rack and blade servers, that can be configured to support just about any workload needed by a data center.
Historically, VMware vSphere problems with DR weren’t as much storage replication issues as networking problems. But NSX-T and VCF seemed to have solved that problem.
And with vRealize Automation plugins and NSX-T APIs, customers can have 0 touch network provisioning which enables the use of IaaS or infrastructure as code for their data center.
VMware vVOLs are now available with Dell EMC PowerMax storage. So, now VxBlock 1000 customers can use vSphere storage policy-based management (SPBM) as well as automated vVOL replication for data on PowerMax.
VMware NSX-T implements Application Virtual Networks (AVNs) using a GENEVE overlay network, which make extensive use of encapsulation. But where there’s encapsulation, de-encapsulation must follow to access outside networks. All this (encapsulation on ingress, de-encapsulation on egress) is done through NSX-T Edge clusters.
The net result of all this is that VMware customers have more choice, i.e., now they can run VCF on HCI or CI. And with VxBlock 1000 CI, VCF customers can select a best of breed components for each level of their 3-tier infrastructure.
Martin Hayes, DMTS, Dell Technologies
Martin Hayes is a Technical Product Manager at Dell Technologies, where he develops and executes data center product strategies that incorporate virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) and converged systems.
Previously, he served in network advisory and architect roles at Dell EMC, converged systems pioneer VCE and Irish broadband provider eircom.
In this, our yearend industry wrap up episode, we discuss trends and technology impacting the IT industry in 2018 and what we can see ahead for 2019 and first up is NVMeoF
NVMeoF has matured
In the prior years, NVMeoF was coming from startups, but last year it’s major vendors like IBM FlashSystem, Dell EMC PowerMAX and NetApp AFF releasing new NVMeoF storage systems. Pure Storage was arguably earliest with their NVMeoF JBOF.
Dell EMC, IBM and NetApp were not far behind this curve and no doubt see it as an easy way to reduce response time without having to rip and replace enterprise fabric infrastructure.
In addition, NVMeoFstandards have finally started to stabilize. With the gang of startups, standards weren’t as much of an issue as they were more than willing to lead, ahead of standards. But major storage vendors prefer to follow behind standards committees.
As another example, VMware showed off an NVMeoF JBOF for vSAN. A JBoF like this improves vSAN storage efficiency for small clusters. Howard described how this works but with vSAN having direct access to shared storage, it can reduce data and server protection requirements for storage. Especially, when dealing with small clusters of servers becoming more popular these days to host application clusters.
The other thing about NVMeoF storage is that NVMe SSDs have also become very popular. We are seeing them come out in everyone’s servers and storage systems. Servers (and storage systems) hosting 24 NVMe SSDs is just not that unusual anymore. For the price of a PCIe switch, one can have blazingly fast, direct access to a TBs of NVMe SSD storage.
HCI reaches critical mass
HCI has also moved out of the shadows. We recently heard news thet HCI is outselling CI. Howard and I attribute this to the advances made in VMware’s vSAN 6.2 and the appliance-ification of HCI. That and we suppose NVMe SSDs (see above).
HCI makes an awful lot of sense for application clusters that VMware is touting these days. CI was easy but an HCI appliance cluster is much, simpler to deploy and manage
For VMware HCI, vSAN Ready Nodes are available from just about any server vendor in existence. With ready nodes, VARs and distributors can offer an HCI appliance in the channel, just like the majors. Yes, it’s not the same as a vendor supplied appliance, doesn’t have the same level of software or service integration, but it’s enough.
[If you want to learn more, Howard’s is doing a series of deep dive webinars/classes on HCI as part of his friend’s Ivan’s ipSpace.net. The 1st 2hr session was recorded 11 December, part 2 goes live 22 January, and the final installment on 5 February. The 1st session is available on demand to subscribers. Sign up here]
Computional storage finally makes sense
Howard and I 1st saw computational storage at FMS18 and we did a podcast with Scott Shadley of NGD systems. Computational storage is an SSD with spare ARM cores and DRAM that can be used to run any storage intensive, Linux application or Docker container.
Because it’s running in the SSD, it has (even faster than NVMe) lightening fast access to all the data on the SSD. Indeed, And the with 10s to 1000s of computational storage SSDs in a rack, each with multiple ARM cores, means you can have many 1000s of cores available to perform your data intensive processing. Almost like GPUs only for IO access to storage (SPUs?).
We tried this at one vendor in the 90s, executing some database and backup services outboard but it never took off. Then in the last couple of years (Dell) EMC had some VM services that you could run on their midrange systems. But that didn’t seem to take off either.
The computational storage we’ve seen all run Linux. And with todays data intensive applications coming from everywhere these days, and all the spare processing power in SSDs, it might finally make sense.
Finally, we turned to what we see coming in 2019. Howard was at an Intel Analyst event where they discussed Optane DIMMs. Our last podcast of 2018 was with Brian Bulkowski of Aerospike who discussed what Optane DIMMs will mean for high performance database systems and just about any memory intensive server application. For example, affordable, 6TB memory servers will be coming out shortly. What you can do with 6TB of memory is another question….
For this episode we preview VMworld by talking with Lee Caswell (@LeeCaswell), Vice President of Product, Storage and Availability, VMware.
This is the third time Lee’s been on our show, the previous one was back in August of last year. Lee’s been at VMware for a couple of years now and, among other things, is leading the HCI journey at VMware.
The first topic we discussed was VMware’s expanded HCI software defined data center (SDDC) solution, which now includes compute, storage, networking and enhanced operations with alerts/monitoring/automation that ties it all together.
We asked Lee to explain VMware’s SDDC:
HCI operates at the edge – with ROBO-2-server environments, VMware’s HCI can be deployed in a closet and remotely operated by a VI from the central site.
HCI operates in the data center – with vSphere-vSAN-NSX-vRealize and other software, VMware modernizes data centers for the pace of digital business..
HCI operates in the public Cloud –with VMware Cloud (VMC) on AWS, IBM Cloud and over 400 service providers, VMware HCI also operates in the public cloud.
HCI operates for containers and cloud native apps – with support for containers under vSphere, vSAN and NSX, developers are finding VMware HCI an easy option to run container apps in the data center, at the edge, and in the public cloud.
The importance of the edge will become inescapable, as 50B edge connected devices power IoT by 2020. Lee heard Pat saying compute processing is moving to the edge because of 3 laws:
the law of physics, light/information only travels so fast;
the law of economics, doing all processing at central sites would take too much bandwidth and cost; and
the law(s) of the land, data sovereignty and control is ever more critical in today’s world.
VMware SDDC is a full stack option, that executes just about anywhere the data center wants to go. Howard mentioned one customer he talked with at FMS18, just wanted to take their 16 node VMware HCI rack and clone it forever, to supply infinite infrastructure.
Next, we turned our discussion to Virtual Volumes (VVols). Recently VMware added replication support for VVols. Lee said VMware has an intent to provide a SRM SRA for VVols. But the real question is why hasn’t there been higher field VVol adoption. We concluded it takes time.
VVols wasn’t available in vSphere 5.5 and nowadays, three or more years have to go by before a significant amount of the field moves to a new release. Howard also said early storage systems didn’t implement VVols right. Moreover, VMware vSphere 5.5 is just now (9/16/18) going EoGS.
Lee said 70% of all current vSAN deployments are AFA. With AFA, hand tuning storage performance is no longer something admins need to worry about. It used to be we all spent time defragging/compressing data to squeeze more effective capacity out of storage, but hand capacity optimization like this has become a lost art. Just like capacity, hand tuning AFA performance doesn’t make sense anymore.
We then talked about the coming flash SSD supply glut. Howard sees flash pricing ($/GB) dropping by 40-50%, regardless of interface. This should drive AFA shipments above 70%, as long as the glut continues.
The podcast runs ~21 minutes. Lee’s always great to talk with and is very knowledgeable about the IT industry, HCI in general, and of course, VMware HCI in particular. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
Lee Caswell, V.P. of Product, Storage & Availability, VMware
Lee Caswell leads the VMware storage marketing team driving vSAN products, partnerships, and integrations. Lee joined VMware in 2016 and has extensive experience in executive leadership within the storage, flash and virtualization markets.
Prior to VMware, Lee was vice president of Marketing at NetApp and vice president of Solution Marketing at Fusion-IO. Lee was a founding member of Pivot3, a company widely considered to be the founder of hyper-converged systems, where he served as the CEO and CMO. Earlier in his career, Lee held marketing leadership positions at Adaptec, and SEEQ Technology, a pioneer in non-volatile memory. He started his career at General Electric in Corporate Consulting.
Lee holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Carleton College and a master of business administration degree from Dartmouth College. Lee is a New York native and has lived in northern California for many years. He and his wife live in Palo Alto and have two children. In his spare time Lee enjoys cycling, playing guitar, and hiking the local hills.
Sorry about the background noise, but we recorded live at the show, with a huge teleprompter in the background that was re-broadcasting keynotes/interviews from the show.
At the show
Howard was at Dell EMC World2017 on a media pass and I was at the show on an industry analyst pass. There were parts of the show that he saw, that I didn’t and vice versa, but all keynotes and major industry outreach were available to both of us.
As always the Dell EMC team put on a great show, and kudos have to go to their AR and PR teams for having both of us there and creating a great event. There were lots of news at the show and both of us were impressed by how well Dell EMC have come together, in such a short time.
In addition, there were a number of Dell partners at the show. Howard met Datadobi on the show floor who have a file migration tool that walks a filesystem tree and migrates files as well as reports on files it can’t. And we both saw Datrium (who we talked with last year).
Servers and other news
We both liked Dell’s new 14th generation server. But Howard objected to the lack of technical specs on it. Apparently, Intel won’t let specs be published until they announce their new CPU chipsets, sometime later this year. On the other hand, there were a few server specs discussed. For example, I was impressed the new servers would support many more NVMe cards. Howard liked the new server support for NV-DIMMs, mainly for the potential latency reduction that could provide software defined storage.
That led us on a tangent discussion about whether there is a place for non-software defined storage anymore. Howard mentioned the downside of HCI/software defined storage on upgrading server (DIMM, PCIe card) hardware.
However, appliance hardware seems to be getting easier to upgrade. The new Unity AFA storage can be upgraded, non-disruptively from the low end to high end appliance by just swapping out controller hardware canisters.
Howard was also interested in Dell EMC’s new CloudFlex purchasing model for HCI solutions. This supplies an almost cloud-like purchasing option for customers. Where for a one year commitment, you pay as you go (no money down, just monthly payments) rather than an up front capital purchase. After the year’s commitment expires you can send the hardware back to Dell EMC and stop paying.
We talked about Tier 0 storage. EMC DSSD was an early attempt to provide Tier 0 but came with lots of special purpose hardware. When commodity hardware and software emerged last year with NVMe SSD speed, DSSD was no longer viable at the premium pricing needed for all that hardware and was shut down. Howard and I discussed how doing special hardware requires one to be much faster (10-100X) than commodity hardware solutions to succeed and the gap has to be continued.
The other big storage news was the new VMAX 950F AFA and its performance numbers. Dell EMC said the new VMAX could do 6.7M IOPS of RRH (random read hit) and had a 350µsec response time. Howard noted that Dell EMC didn’t say at what IO load they achieved the 350µsec response time. I told him it almost didn’t matter, even if it was a single IO at that response time, it was significant.
The podcast runs about 40 minutes. It’s just Howard and I talking about what we saw/heard at the show and the occasional, tangental topic. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
In this episode, we talk with Andy Banta (@andybanta), Storage Janitor (Principal Virt. Architect), Netapp SolidFire. Andy’s been involved in Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and other VMware API implementations at SolidFire and worked at VMware and other storage/system vendor companies before that.
Howard and I were at VMworld2016 late last month and we thought Andy would be a good person to discuss what went there this year.
No VVOLs & VSAN news at the show
Although, we all thought there’d be another release of VVOLs and VSAN announced at the show, VMware announced Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. If anything the show was a bit mum about VMware Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) and Virtual SAN™ (VSAN) this year as compared to last.
On the other hand, Andy’s and other VVOL technical sessions were busy at the conference. And one of them ended up having standing room only and was repeated at the show, due to the demand. Customer interest in VVOLs seems to be peaking.
Our discussion begins with why VVOLs was sidelined this year. One reason was that there was a focus from VMware and their ecosystem on Hyper Converged Infrastructure (HCI) and HCI doesn’t use storage arrays or VVOL.
Howard and I suspected with VMware’s ecosystem growing ever larger, validation and regression testing is starting to consume more resources. But Andy, suggested that’s not the issue, as VMware uses self-certification, where vendors run tests that VMware supplies to show they meet API requirements. VMware does bring in a handful of vendor solutions (5 for VVOLs) for reference architectures and to insure the APIs meet (major) vendor requirements but after that, it’s all self certification.
Another possibility was that the DELL-EMC acquisition (closed 9/6) could be a distraction. But Andy said VMware’s been and will continue on as an independent company and the fact that EMC owned ~84% of the stock never impacted VMware’s development before. So DELL’s acquisition shouldn’t either.
Finally we suggested that executive churn at VMware could be the problem. But Andy debunked that and said the amount of executive transitions hasn’t really accelerated over the years.
After all that, we concluded that just maybe the schedule had slipped and perhaps we will see something new in Barcelona for VVOLs and VMware APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA), at VMworld2016 Europe.
Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services
What VMware did announce was VMware Cloud Foundation and Cross-Cloud Services. This seems to signal a shift in philosophy to be more accommodating to the public cloud rather than just competing with them.
VMware Cloud Foundation is a repackaging of VMware Software Defined Data Center (SDDC), NSX®, VSAN and vSphere® into a single bundle that customers can use to spin up a private cloud with ease.
VMware Cross-Cloud Services is a set of targeted software for public cloud deployment to ease management and migration of services . They showed how NSX could be deployed over your cloud instances to control IP addresses and provide micro-segmentation services and how other software allows data to be easily migrated between the public cloud and VMware private cloud implementations. Cross Cloud Services was tech previewed at the show and Ray wrote a post describing them in more detail (please see VMworld2016 Day 1 Cloud Foundation & Cross-Cloud Services post).
Howard talked about how difficult it can be to move workloads to the cloud and back again. Most enterprise application data is just too large to transfer quickly and to complex to be a simple file transfer. And then there’s legal matters for data governance, compliance and regulatory regimens that have to be adhered to which make it almost impossible to use public cloud services.
On the other hand, Andy talked about work they had done at SolidFire to use cloud in development. They moved some testing to the cloud to spin up 1000s of (SolidFire simulations) instances to try to catch an infrequent bug (occurring once every 10K runs). They just couldn’t do this in their lab. In the end they were able to catch and debug the problem much more effectively using public cloud services.
Howard mentioned that they were also using AWS as an IO trace repository for benchmark development work he is doing. AWS S3 as a data repository has been a great solution for his team, as anyone can upload their data that way. By the way, he is looking for a data scientist to help analyze, this data if anyone’s interested.
In general, workloads are becoming more transient these days. Public cloud services are encouraging this movement but Docker and micro services are also having an impact.
One can even see this sort of trend in VMware VVOLs, which can be another way to enable more transient workloads. VVOLs can be created and destroyed a lot quicker than Vdisks in the pasts. In fact, some storage vendors are starting to look at VVOLs as transient storage and are improving their storage and meta-data garbage collection accordingly.
Earlier this year Howard, Andy and I were all at a NetApp SolidFire Analyst event in Boulder. At that time, SolidFire said that they had implemented VVOLs so well they considered “VVOLs done right”. I asked Andy what was different with SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. One thing they did was completely separate the Protocol endpoints from the storage side. Another was to provide QoS at the VM level that could be applied to a single or 1000s of VMs
Andy also said that SolidFire had implemented a bunch of scripts to automate VVOL policy changes across 1000s of objects. SolidFire wanted to make use of these scripts for their own VVOL implementation but as they could apply to any vendors implementation of VVOLs, they decided to open source them.
The podcast runs over 42 minutes and covers a broad discussion of the VMware ecosystem, the goings on at VMworld and SolidFire’s VVOL implementation. Listen to the podcast to learn more.
Andy is currently a Storage Janitor acting as a Principal Virtualization Architect at NetApp SolidFire, focusing on VMware integration and Virtual Volumes. Andy was a part of the Virtual Volumes development team at SoldiFire.
Prior to SolidFire, he was the iSCSI Tech Lead at VMware, as well as being on the engineering teams at DataGravity and Sun Microsystems.
Andy has presented at numerous VMworlds, as well as several VMUGs and other industry conferences. Outside of work, and enjoys racing cars, hiking and wines. Find him on twitter at @andybanta.