Content Catalog is now live for this years VMworld….. time to start planning my schedule and moan about conflicting sessions! =)
My second article has now been published on SearchVMware.com about the new enhancements to vSAN Stretched Clustering.
Another article published on SearchVMware.com, this time on the new feature announced with vSAN 6.6 – vSAN Data-at-Rest Encryption!
It’s that time of year again when the VMware community starts to cast their votes as to which blog should be crowned “Top vBlog” for 2017…!
This year Duncan Epping (http://www.yellow-bricks.com/) and Frank Denneman (http://frankdenneman.nl) have decided to withdraw their blogs from the voting, which is admirable as they both always feature in the top 5 (or #1 for the past 8 years in the case of Duncan!!). From what I’ve read, both wish that other people get the recognition as sometimes the voting is based on popularity rather than content.
Maybe there should be a hall of fame that the likes of Duncan and Frank could be inducted into?!? =)
Last year, much to my surprise, I ended up ranked #161.. if I’m honest I didn’t even think I would rank! Anyways, thanks to those who voted for me…. hopefully I’ll rank again this year… it’s always nice to be recognised by your peers, but blogging for me is a hobby as I’ve got a hectic work and family life (a 20mth baby takes up alot of time…).
Anyways, head along to vSphere-land to read more about the voting rules:
If you’re looking for a list of all vBlogs, then head over to vLaunchPad:
Once you’re ready to cast your vote, head over to the voting site:
And if you’re interested in last years results, then here they are:
Voting runs until the 30th June.
Yes, I know I’m a bit late with this announcement as voting opened on the 1st June… Unfortunately I’m on holiday and it’s been difficult trying to find decent network reception on the canals of Wales – it seems you can only get 4G network when you’re near a town… =(
Earlier this year it was announced that vSAN had grown to over 7000 customers since launch, which is a pretty decent number given the product went GA just over 3 years ago and we’re on the 6th iteration! What’s even more impressive is how quickly VMware are turning these updates around (almost every 6 months we get an update of sorts), we only got vSAN 6.5 at VMworld last year and 6 months later we now have version 6.6 – what’s funny is half my customers haven’t even started implementing their 6.5 upgrade plan yet and now they will have to re-write that plan…. Lol… =)
In fact I see the number of customers growing quite significantly this year given the huge drive towards HCI – something that I’m seeing within my company’s customer-base (and in the market in general)!
Today sees vSAN 6.6 go GA, and it amazes me on how many new features VMware have packed into this release – features that make vSAN more faster, cost effective and much more secure! And to think that this is just a “minor” patch release! With vSAN 6.6, customers can now evolve their data centre without risk, control IT costs and scale to tomorrow’s business needs (sorry, that was a marketing blurb that I just had to fit in somewhere as it sounded good).
(Note: I know that slide says “Not for distribution”. However, the vSAN vExperts have been given permission to use the material in their blogs)
The biggest features in my opinion are vSAN Data-at-Rest Encryption, Unicast communication and Enhanced Stretched Clustering with Local Protection – these are the 3 features I’m going to concentrate on within this post, trying to expound on all the new features would involve me writing a lengthy technical whitepaper! =)
That said, other new features are as follows:
- ESXi Host Client (HTML-5) – management and monitoring functionality available on each host in the case where vCenter server is offline.
- Simpler installation/configuration – The ability to create a single node vSAN datastore by using the vCSA installer and then allowing you to deploy vCSA/PSC onto that vSAN datastore.
- Enhanced rebalancing – allowing large components to be split up during redistribution.
- Site Affinity in Stretched Clusters – a new Affinity policy rule allows users to request where a VM gets deployed to, although this is only applicable when the PFTT is set to 0. Although it’s worth noting that DRS/HA rules should be aligned to data locality!
- Always-On Protection – Enhanced repairs with Re-sync traffic throttling – allowing vSAN to respond to failed disks/nodes more quickly, intelligently and more efficiently. New Degraded Device Handling (DDH) intelligently monitors the health of drives and proactively evacuates data before failures can happen.
- Maintenance Pre-Check – enhanced checks to ensure there are enough resources for vSAN when entering maintenance mode (or decommissioning vSAN nodes).
- Stretched Cluster Witness Replacement UI – simpler method of changing the Witness host without having to disable the Stretched Cluster.
- vSAN Cloud Analytics – pro-active, real-time support notifications and recommendations with real-time custom alerts through the vSAN health Service.
- API enhancements – vSAN SDK updated to handle all new features, with additional enhanced PowerCLI support.
- vSAN Config Assist / Firmware Update – Enhanced health monitoring and HCL checks using health-check assistant to ensure the vSAN hardware has the latest firmware and drivers installed.
- Enhanced Performance – up to 50% higher all-flash IOPs performance per host and Health Monitoring
- New Hardware Support – Support for Intels new Optane technology, NVMe SSDs and larger 1.6TB SSDs for cache drives.
- Support for Photon Platform 1.1 as well as a Docker Volume Driver – great for customers (ie DevOps) who prefer working with micro-services/containers. This allows customers to use vSAN as storage for Docker VMs giving them the ability to apply storage based polices (such as FTT, QoS, access permissions, etc) to the VM, it also gives customers the ability to support persistent storage to allow stateful container apps to be built (such as DBs).
EMC love calling this by the acronym D@RE…. But this hasn’t quite filtered down to the VMware team…. =)
VMware vSAN 6.6 introduces the industry’s first native HCI security solution with software-defined data-at-rest encryption within the hypervisor. Data-at-rest encryption is built right into the vSAN kernel, and is enabled at the cluster allowing all vSAN objects to be encrypted (ie the entire vSAN datastore).
In my opinion this is one of the most important new feature in vSAN 6.6 – we all know that security within IT has become top priority, featuring very high on a company’s risk-register, but IT Admins have always been reluctant to either deploy encryption at the OS level or let application owners encrypt their apps and data. Data-at-rest encryption takes away that decision by encrypting when the data resides on your vSAN Datastore.
It’s hardware-agnostic which means you can deploy the storage hardware device of your own choice – it doesn’t require the use of expensive Self-Encrypting Drives (SEDs)!
vSAN Encryption is available for both All-Flash and Hybrid configurations and integrates with KMIP 1.1 compliant key management technologies. When vSAN Encryption is enabled, encryption is performed using an XTS AES 256 cipher and occurs both at the cache and capacity tier – wherever data is at rest, which means you can rest assured that if a cache or capacity drive is stolen the data is encrypted! Plus vSAN Encryption is fully compatible with vSANs all-flash space efficiency features, like dedupe, compression and Erasure Coding, delivering highly efficient and secure storage – as data comes into the cache tier it’s encrypted, then as it de-stages it’s decrypted and any relevant dedupe or compression occurs to the data (4k blocks) before it’s re-encrypted as it hits the capacity tier (512b or smaller blocks). As it’s data encryption at rest, I believe that vSAN traffic traversing the network maybe sent in the clear which means you will need to ensure vSAN traffic is protected accordingly.
It’s worth mentioning that whist the cryptographic mechanics are similar to VM encryption that was introduced in vSphere 6.5 (ie it requires a KMS and uses the same encryption modules), there is a vast difference in the way they’re implemented – VM encryption is per-VM (via vSphere API for IO filtering – VAIO), whilst with vSAN encryption it is the entire datastore. Also you get space-saving benefits from vSAN encryption as previously mentioned. The other major difference is that vSAN encryption can carry on functioning if vCenter Server is lost or powered off because the encryption keys are transferred to each vSAN host and via KMIP each host talks directly to the KMS, whereas VM encryption requires you to go through vCenter Server to communicate to the KMS. Not to mention VM-encryption does have some performance impacts and requires Ent Plus licenses.
Turning on vSAN encryption is as simple as clicking a checkbox within the settings of the vSAN cluster and choosing your KMS (which does need to be setup prior to enabling encryption). However, it’s worth noting that a rolling disk reformat is required when encryption is enable which can take a considerable amount of time – especially if large amounts of data residing on the disks must be migrated during the reformatting.
With the enhanced API support, customers who like to automate their infrastructure will be able to setup an encrypted vSAN cluster with all the relevant KMS configuration via scripting – great for automating large scale deployments!
Removal of Multicast
Another big announcements with vSAN 6.6 is that VMware are switching from multicast to unicast for their communication mechanism. This obviously makes networking a lot simpler to manage and setup as customers won’t need to enable multicast on their network switches, or IGMP snooping, or even PIM for routing. It may even mean that customers could use cheaper switches (which may not handle Multicasting very well).
Bit of background:
Typically IP Multicast is used to efficiently send communications to many recipients. The communication can be in the form of one source to many recipients (one-to-many) or many sources to many recipients (many-to-many).
vSAN used multicast to deliver metadata traffic among cluster nodes for efficiency and to optimise network bandwidth consumption for the metadata updates. This eliminates the computing resource and network bandwidth penalties that unicast imposes in order to send identical data to multiple recipients. vSAN depended on multicast for host discovery – the process of joining and leaving cluster groups, as well as other intra-cluster communication services.
While Layer 3 is supported, Layer 2 is recommended to reduce complexity. All VMkernel ports on the vSAN network subscribe to a multicast group using IGMP. IGMP snooping configured with an IGMP querier can be used to limit the multicast traffic to only the switch ports where the vSAN uplinks are connected to – this avoids unnecessary IP multicast floods within the Layer 2 segments.
Although one of the issues that could occur was when multiple vSAN clusters reside on the same layer 2 network – the default multicast address should be changed within the additional vSAN clusters to prevent multiple clusters from receiving all multicast streams.
I believe vSAN now relies on vCenter Server to determine cluster membership, however I haven’t yet read about how the vSAN team have managed to implement unicast communication as that information is still in limited supply. It’ll be interesting to understand how they have done it considering multicast was an efficient and easy way of replicating instructions to multiple nodes within the vSAN cluster when a node needed to perform an action. Although one thing worth noting is that unicast communication probably lends itself to cloud platforms a lot easier than trying to implement a multicast solution!
Local Protection for Stretched Clusters
Stretched vSAN Clusters were introduced back with vSAN 6.1 and built on the foundations of Fault Domains, it was basically a RAID-1 configuration of a vSAN object across two sites – which basically means a copy of the data in each site with a witness site for cluster quorum type services during failure events. The problem was if 1 site failed you would only have a single copy left and an additional failure could lead to data loss. It also meant that if a single host failed in any of the sites then the data on that host would need to be resynced again from the other site (to rebuild the RAID-1).
This new enhancement to Stretched Clusters now gives users more flexibility with regards to local and site protection. For example, you can now configure the local clusters at each site to tolerate two failures whilst also configuring the stretched cluster to tolerate the failure of a site! Brilliant news!
When enabling Stretched Clusters, there are now two protection policies – a “Primary FTT” and a “Secondary FTT”. Primary FTT defines the cross-site protection and is implemented as a RAID-1. It can be set to 0 or 1 in a stretched cluster – 0 means the VM is not stretched whilst 1 means the VM is stretched. Secondary FTT defines how it is protected within a site, and this can be RAID-1, RAID-5 or RAID-6.
One thing to note is that the witness must still be available in order to protect against the loss of a data site!
This new feature doesn’t increase the amount of traffic being replicated between sites as a “Proxy Owner” has been implemented per site, which means instead of writing to all replicas in the second site, a single write is done to the Proxy Owner and it’s then the responsibility of this Proxy Owner to write to all the replicas on that local site.
So that’s about it for now…. if you require more information then pop along to the following sites:
Duncan Epping (Chief Technologist in the Office of CTO for the Storage & Availabiliy BU at VMware) has created some great demos of vSAN 6.6 which can be found on his blog site: http://www.yellow-bricks.com
Things to Note
The underlying release for vSAN 6.6 is vSphere 6.5.0d which is a patch release for vSphere 6.5. For existing vSAN users upgrading to vSAN 6.6, please consult VMware Product Interoperability Matrices to ensure upgrading from your current vSAN version is supported.
Please note that for vSAN users currently on vSphere 6.0 Update 3 – upgrade to vSAN 6.6 is NOT yet supported.
The parent release of vSAN 6.6 is vSphere 6.5 and as shown by VMware Product Interoperability Matrices, an upgrade from 6.0 U3 to vSphere 6.5 (and hence vSAN 6.5) is NOT supported. Please refer to this KB Supported Upgrade Paths for vSAN 6.6 for further details.
p/s: I’ve always liked Rawlinson Rivera‘s Captain vSAN cartoon!! =)
Hmm…. so that was an interesting announcement from VMware last week!….. although if I’m honest it makes perfect sense!
OVH Group announcing it’s intent to acquire the vCloud Air Business from VMware: https://www.vmware.com/radius/vmware-cloud-air-evolves/
Last year when VMware announced their tie up with AWS – vCloud on AWS – many had already started wondering what that partnership would do to VMware’s own cloud offering. The talking point was made more real when VMware also announced their Cross-Cloud Architecture which would allow a customer to choose which cloud platform to deploy their workloads onto – all from a single common operating environment. Then to make things worse, VMware announced VMware Cloud Foundation on IBM Cloud (or what was Softlayer)… an SDDC stack running VMware goodies on IBM Cloud compute!
That triple whammy pretty much made everyone think that vCloud Air’s time was up!!
I had a number of discussions at VMworld Europe last year where we talked about whether VMware would just shut down vCloud Air, or would they migrate it all onto AWS. Although the general consensus was that maybe they would sell off/spin off that part of their business – after all, VMware is a software business and vCloud Air was always seen as a ‘weird’ sibling…. not to mention that it competed against all it’s vCAN (VSPP) partners who were offering their own cloud services built on VMware technology!
I guess there’s no shame in what VMware are doing, Cisco, Dell and HP tried and failed to do what Amazon and Google are doing well at… although surprisingly Microsoft have managed to get Azure up and running well!
In a way, VMware are getting rid of what they probably saw as a hefty investment on infrastructure and hosting for little returns (I doubt there were many customers using vCloud Air to justify the expense of keeping it). Makes more sense to sell it to an existing cloud provider who knows how to sell Public Cloud services and IaaS! Although, I kind of have to wonder what OVH will do given VMware hosted vCloud Air in Equinix/Telstra data centres around the world….. guessing they’ll run down the contract with those providers and bring it all back in house!
In my opinion, selling off vCloud Air is probably a smart move….. VMware’s vision is to enable a customer to run “Any Application on Any Cloud, accessed by Any Device”, and it was going to be difficult to be Cloud-Agnostic if they owned a Public Cloud service! The whole Cross-Cloud Architecture would have produced a conflict of interest if they kept vCloud Air…. now that they’re shot of it, they can concentrate on pushing out their vCloud stack onto Azure and maybe even GCP given that they’re well on their way with the AWS partnership. Why try and beat them at their own game? It’s far easier to embrace them and partner!!
VMware are positioning themselves to be the broker of cloud services…. a single management point that allows end users to decide which public cloud is best for their workloads! In a way it’s a clever move, firstly because it puts the decision-making back with the end user, and secondly it now means that VMware can state that it’s the only virtualisation company that doesn’t tie you into a single cloud vendor (much like how Microsoft tries to ram Azure down the throat of Hyper-V customers).
Interesting times ahead……
Wow…. ok….. so this was an interested announcement to receive. Whilst I kind of understand that VDP wasn’t really deployed by the masses, it was still nice to be able to have a free backup solution if you were deploying a small VMware environment.
The EoA of vSphere Data Protection pretty much means anyone wanting to backup their VMs will now need to pay for a 3rd party product! That kinda sucks!
VMware vSphere 6.5 is the last release which includes the VDP product!
You can read more about the announcement here: http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/data-protection.html
Also worth checking out the VMware KB article for more info: https://kb.vmware.com/kb/2149614
And if you have VDP deployed then don’t worry, any installations where you have an active Support and Subscription (SnS) will continue to be supported until the End of General Support (EOGS) date – the EOGS date can be found on the VMware Lifecycle Product Matrix.
It’s worth noting that this does not affect the vSphere Storage APIs – Data Protection (VADP) which most 3rd party vendors utilise.
It’s also worth noting that Dell EMC are helping those who have VDP deployed by offering them 3 years of free Avamar Virtual Edition (AVE) licensing to protect the first 4TB of protected data – although Maintenance costs will continue to apply during this 3-year period. Offer valid through October 15, 2017.
The offer can be found here: http://dellemc.com/vdpeoa
Finally, the FAQ released will assist with any questions you may have: http://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/products/vsphere/vmw-vdp-eoa-faqs.pdf
So over the past few months I’ve been seeing a lot of customers within the Public Sector and Education looking at transitioning off VMware vSphere and onto Microsoft Hyper-V! With tightening budgets or even budget cuts, IT admins in these industries are looking for quick wins in slashing their IT bills and many see dropping VMware for the ‘free’ Microsoft hypervisor as an obvious choice!
The problem is, you can argue about VM densities per host, resource scheduling, live migrations, DR, and other technical aspects of why vSphere trumps Hyper-V…. However, the reply is always the same…. “Well Hyper-V is Good Enough for our environment…. and it’s Free!!”
Yes, Hyper-V is good enough as a hypervisor… and yes it’s free…. but when you have a large estate, the density ratio impacts the amount of servers you need to buy and you still need to invest in System Center with Virtual Machine Manager (SCVMM) if you want to effectively manage a cluster of Hyper-V hosts.
Unfortunately, I’m now of the impression that VMware advocates can no longer keep using the same argument when doing comparisons between vSphere and other hypervisors…. IT admins just don’t care any more…. “if the hypervisor is free and can virtualise my servers, then that’s the one I’m going for!!”
Anyways, I ended up sitting down and writing an opinion piece for SearchVMware.com on this topic….. you can view it here:
With all the news around vSphere 6.5, one might forget that the majority of customers are still probably running 6.0….. at least VMware haven’t forgotten about you guys! =)
vSphere 6.0 Update 3 was released last week and with it updates to vCenter Server, vSAN, vSphere Replication.
I can’t see anything major within the new update for vSphere/vCenter – minor update to ESXi Host Client, and support for Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol.
Biggest update seems to be with vSAN 6.2 with some important fixes to aid with vSAN performance issues relating to large sequential writes and large file deletes when vSAN data services is turned on (such as dedupe and compression). Optimisation has also been made to the checksum code path. Details are available through VMware KB article vSAN performance enhancements delivered with vSphere 6.0 Update 3
- vSphere 6.0U3 – release notes
- vCenter Server 6.0U3 – release notes
- vSAN 6.2 – release notes
- vSphere Replication 6.1.2 – release notes
Other products released:
- Site Recovery Manager 6.1.2 – release notes
- vRealize Log Insight 4.3.0 – release notes
- vRealize Operations Manager 6.5 – release notes
- vRealize Business for Cloud 7.2.1 – release notes
- vRealize Network Insight 3.3 – release notes
- NSX for vSphere 6.3.1 – release notes (more info about the new version of NSX can be found here)
- vCloud Director 8.20 – release notes (note this is only for VMware Service Providers)
During a meeting with a client when I was going over how packets are processed within the IOChain between a VM and a vSwitch, I was asked a question that stumped me…. what happens at Slot 3?
It’s common knowledge that the first 4 and last 3 slots in the IOchain are reserved for VMware and slots 4-12 are reserved for 3rd parties where services are inserted (or traffic redirected).
During my discussions I’ve only ever spoken about Slots 0-2 and 4-12…..
After much digging around and questioning the NSBU SEs, I was told that there was no real answer apart from it’s probably a VMware reserved slot for future use. =)
It’s also worth noting that Slot 15 used to be classed as a “reserved slot for future use” but is now intended to be used for Distributed Network Encryption when it becomes available (makes sense that encryption is the last thing that happens on the IOChain for packets leaving a VM, and decryption being the first for packets entering the VM).
Anyways, decided it’s probably worth blogging about IOChain slots. =)
So when a VM connects to a Logical switch there are several security services that each packet transverses which are implemented as IOChains processed within the vSphere kernel.
Slot 0: DVFilter – the Distibuted Virtual Filter monitors ingress/egress traffic on the protected vNIC and performs stateless filtering and ACL.
Slot 1: vmware-swsec – the Switch Security module learns the VMs IP/MAC address and captures any DHCP Ack or ARP broadcasts from the VM, redirecting the request to the NSX Controller – this is the ARP suppression feature. This slot is also where NSX IP Spoofguard is implemented.
Slot 2: vmware-sfw – this is where the NSX Distributed Firewall resides and where DFW rules are stored and enforced (so firewall rule and connection tables).
Slot 3: reserved for future use by VMware
Slot 4-12: 3rd party services – this is where traffic is redirected to 3rd party service appliances
Slot 13-14: reserved for future use by VMware
Slot 15: Distributed Network Encryption (when it becomes available)