Where qualified partners stand with EVO:RAIL + What does the Future Hold for the product?

SearchVMware.com have just published a two-part article of mine where I’ve discussed the different QEP offerings in EMEA and what the future holds for EVO:RAIL….

I couldn’t believe how hard it was to get decent technical material regarding some of the partners EVO:RAIL appliance… Fujitsu and HDS were the hardest to get any info from – and by info I mean how it integrates with their other products, what value-add they bring to the table, etc.

Anyways, have a read here and let me know if you agree:

http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/tip/Where-qualified-partners-stand-with-EVORAIL

http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/tip/What-the-future-holds-for-VMware-EVORAIL

What to expect at VMworld 2015… Ready for Any…

So VMworld 2015 US kicks off this weekend, and with more than 20,000 people expected to attend, it looks like it’ll be another packed out couple of days in San Fran….. again, unfortunately due to my location, I’m scheduled to head to VMworld Europe, which means all the juicy stuff will already be announced come Barcelona in October! Although that could also be a benefit as I can tailor my schedule to try and learn more about those announcements!

The theme this year is “Ready for Any” an interesting tagline which I guess tries to emphasise how VMware have positioned themselves as a company with a portfolio that can accommodate anyone and anything….. Any Application, Any Device, Any Cloud!

The great thing about VMworld (and I guess like any other expo) is the event brings together all the Management teams, Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), IT professionals, End Users, Partners, etc, and lets them mingle together and learn about the latest and greatest within Virtualisation and Cloud Technology.
There’s something for everyone – you get to hear where the direction of VMware is heading during the General Sessions with Pat Gelsinger and Carl Eschenbach, learn about shaping your IT strategy at thought-leadership breakout sessions, all the way to understanding what’s under the hood in Advanced technical sessions and Hands-on-Labs (HOLs). In addition, the Solution Exchange lets attendees check out what VMware partners have to offer!

This year there’s a new Cloud Native Applications track (in addition to the usual SDDC, EUC, and Hybrid Cloud) and I guess this is a key focus for VMware as they see DevOps becoming a core influencer in the modern IT organisation. VMware are looking to show that there are tools available within their portfolio to help DevOps teams utilise the VMware stack for Continuous Delivery, both on-prem and off-prem (CloudOps). There’s even a dedicated 3-day DevOps program at the US event (unfortunately not at the Europe event).

Apart from a huge DevOps drive, there seems to be quite a number of sessions on vRealize, NSX and Virtual SAN – and I’m guessing these are the key focus areas of revenue for VMware in the upcoming year. VMware are aware their vSphere product line has matured and are trying to transition their customers onto other products.

In addition there are a number of Expert Led Workshops (ELW) available to schedule (similar to the Hands-on-Lab sessions but with an Expert on hand to field questions). However, these sessions are extremely popular and most are full already!

So having scrolled through the hundreds of sessions that are available at both the US and Europe event, what has caught my eye?

Project Enzo – This solution is aimed at enabling fast deployment of desktops and applications on-prem or in the cloud. To borrow a marketing blurb: “Project Enzo combines the benefits of cloud-based management, intelligent orchestration and hyper-converged infrastructure to radically transform virtual desktop and application delivery.”
It looks to be an amalgamation of Project Meteor and Project Fargo – which were showcased last year at VMworld 2014, allowing Just In Time (JIT) desktop deployment (VM-forking technique which is basically Instant Cloning of VMs) – and AppVolumes which delivers applications Just in Time. All sitting on top of a HCIA like EVO:RAIL/EVO:RACK.
It also looks like they will tie in User Environment Management features from their recent Immidio acquisition.

EVO:RAIL 2.0 – There are a number of sessions around Hyperconverged Infrastructure, how to position it within the market and also the Business Advantages around a HCI stack. Building on from the launch of EVO:RAIL last year comes the announcement of version 2.0 which will utilise all the goodness from vSphere 6.0 and VSAN 6.0 – a much welcomed upgrade! It will be interesting to see whether there will be discussions around whether a multi-site EVO:RAIL cluster will be possible (see comments under VSAN).

EVO:RACK – I guess after last years Tech Preview, this is one of the big launches at VMworld 2015. A solution that address how “Hyperconverged Infrastructure can be a rack-scale solution for deploying and operating a Software-Defined Data Centre” (to borrow yet another marketing blurb). Strangely after the Tech Preview last year, there hasn’t been much else said about the solution, so in my eyes I’m thinking of it as being a VBlock (or FlexPod) on automated steroids! =)
I’m really interested to learn about the underlying architecture – it’s obviously going to be a framework with several vendors becoming “qualified partners”. I know for a fact that EMC will be releasing a EVO:RACK solution (potentially EMC VxRack 1034).
What made EVO:RAIL so attractive was the software – the ease of deploying an appliance and even scaling out the HCIA cluster. What put a lot of people off was the limitations on hardware and the lack of choice you got.
I’m hoping EVO:RACK has an intelligent software stack that exceeds EVO:RAIL plus the flexibility to support a broad range of hardware combinations. In my opinion, the perfect world would see the software working on any underlying hardware (no matter how many CPUs, memory or storage is presented) – it should be clever enough to adapt the automation workflows to the hardware!

DevOps/Cloud Native Apps – I’m not going to try and pretend I know loads about DevOps, so all I’m going to do is re-iterate how VMware sees this as the next key area in IT and hence why there is a dedicated track on Cloud Native Applications.
There are sessions on how applications are developed and operated (DevOps/CloudOps), how they’re architected (microservices and 12-factor apps), and how they’re deployed (Docker and containers).  Expect some deep dives into the likes of Project Photon & Lightwave – key to VMware’s take on Microservice (which is a way of designing applications as a suite of small services, running independently of each other), and sessions on Docker integration and Containers.

NSX – NSX has slowly trundled along since launch and NSX 6.1 introduced the world to Micro-segmentation (or at least enhanced its capabilities for it), something that has resonated well with end-users – the ability to logically divide the data centre into distinct security segments based on individual workloads and define policies/services for each segment.
Checkpoint, F5 and Palo Alto (to name a few) all have technical sessions running at VMworld this year, building on their integration with NSX in securing the virtual environment, and I see that as a key selling point of NSX – the whole securing Easty-Westy traffic rather than just on the perimeter, and the ability for network security profiles to move with the VM (ie if you vMotion it, or even replicate it to another site).

Virtual SAN / vVOLs – As with NSX, Software-Defined Storage is another key part of VMware’s portfolio in trying to empower IT-as-a-Service (the whole SDDC solution). There are a number of sessions discussing the relationship SDS has with Converged Infrastructures.
Obviously with the launch of VSAN 6.0, there are a number of interesting deep-dive technical sessions – Especially the one being run by Duncan Epping and Rawlinson Rivera on “Building a Stretched Cluster with Virtual SAN”. With the addition of the fault domain feature in VSAN, this leads to the question regarding whether you could stretch a VSAN cluster across multiple sites (assuming network is flat and low latency)… and that leads to the interesting discussion about what you could potentially do with EVO:RAIL!
Since VVOLs was launched, the storage vendors have been slow to get their products to market – but understandably as the whole SAN concept is re-written with this technology. However, there are a lot more vendor sessions this year – and the “VVOLs Technical Panel” will be an interesting session where we should hear from all the storage vendors and how it’s been implemented in their arrays!

Whilst I’ve mentioned some sessions available at VMworld US, unfortunately only a handful of them ever make it over to Barcelona. So here are some sessions at VMworld Europe that I think would be worth attending! It’s also worth mentioning that these are the sessions that have jumped out at me on my first few passes of the Content Catalog, I’ve yet to go over all 375 sessions in detail!

PAR6390 – VMware’s Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) Solution (Partner only I’m afraid)

SDDC4797 – EVO:RAIL 2.0 Deep Dive

SDDC5273 – VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure: From vSAN to EVO:RAIL and EVO:RACK

SDDC6642-SPO – The Bleeding Edge: A Face-Melting Technical Smorgasbord of Private, Hybrid and PaaS (just because it’s Chad Sakac – unfortunately no Vaughn Stewart this year)

STO5333 – Building a Stretched Cluster with Virtual SAN

STO4649 – Virtual Volumes Technical Deep Dive

CTO6453 – The Future of Software-Defined Storage – What does it look like in 3 years time?

CTO6630 – VMware CTO Panel

EUC5573 – Introducing Project Enzo – Low Cost, Simplified Desktop and Application Deployment and Management

HBC5201 – Technical Deep Dive on vCloud Air Advanced & Hybrid Networking Services, Powered by VMware NSX

SEC5170 – Micro-Segmented Applications and Services: Enabling The Future of Security

SEC6672-SPO – Evolving Cloud & Data center Operations with Security Management

NET4989 – The Future of Network Virtualization with VMware NSX

CNA4859 – Agility in the Datacenter – Workflows and Tools to Speed Application Delivery

CNA5379 – Panel: Enterprise architecture for Cloud-Native Applications

CNA5479 – Running Cloud-Native Apps on your Existing Infrastructure

Unfortunately quite a number of these sessions clash, and I’m still trying to juggle my Schedule Builder around so I can attend all the interesting sessions…. Once I finalise my sessions, I’ll be posting up where you can find me! =)

VMware Online Technology Forum on Now!

VMware Online Technology Forum has started…. are you attending?

Live presentations on all the new goodies from VMware – vSphere 6, vRealize Automation/Operations, virtual SAN 6, App Volumes, vCloud Air, EVO:Rail…….

If you can’t attend today, then the content will be made available on demand from tomorrow (16th April):

EMC VSPEX Blue Launch

So last year after VMware announced EVO:RAIL at VMworld I held a quick tech session with my colleagues at MTI and we discussed what effects the Hyper Converged Infrastructure Appliances (HCIA) would bring to the market…. of particular we contemplated what EMC would bring to EVO:RAIL when it was announced that they would be a QEP (Qualified EVO:RAIL Partner). Just so you know, EMC were the only QEP that didn’t have a physical appliance on show at VMWorld last year!

We were all in agreement that there were 2 things missing from the EVO:RAIL product which we hoped that EMC would address by leveraging their vast product portfolio:

  1. Backup
  2. Replication/DR

….. and last Tuesday we were mightily impressed with how EMC had taken the EVO:RAIL product and added their own twist to the whole package! Including tackling the 2 points above (and then some!)…… Welcome to the world of EMC VSPEX Blue!

vspex blue

So some of the highlights of the new VSPEX Blue appliance:

  • Two versions: Standard provides 128GB RAM, Performance provides 192GB RAM.
  • VSPEX Blue Manager – a UI that EMC have written that builds on the simplistic and functional EVO:RAIL Manager and allows you to easily deploy, configure and manage the whole VSPEX Blue solution.
  • EMC Secure Remote Support (ESRS) – this is just like what they offer with their storage arrays, it’s built into the Blue Manager and provides end-to-end support, which could either be via a live chat, community forums, or knowledge based articles. With ESRS (and Premium support), EMC can periodically monitor the EMC VSPEX Blue appliance and will be notified of any failures (like a “Phone home” service) enabling support to take preventative measures to help avoid downtime.
  • VSPEX Blue Market store – The Market provides customers with access to trusted solutions and technologies that are developed by EMC and technology partners that are pre-validated for the VSPEX Blue appliance and then made available to download. These additional Market Apps are simple and easily integrated into the VSPEX Blue appliance. (Think of Apple’s App Store or Google Play). Although at launch there are only 3 offerings:
    1. RecoverPoint for VMs – offering business continuity/disaster recovery, with replication and continuous data protection at the VM level to a remote site. 15 full licenses are offered free per appliance (licensed per VM which means protection of 15 VMs, and up to 60 if you expand the VSPEX Blue to 4 appliances).
    2. VDP Advanced – providing centralised backup and recovery (based on EMC Avamar) including disk based de-duplicated backup (ie attaching a Data Domain as the backup target).
    3. Cloud Array Virtual Edition – this is a gateway to hybrid cloud storage (AWS S3, vCloud Air, etc)! The Cloud Array solution allows you to connect to external cloud storage and present it as an iSCSI target or NAS device (SMB/NFS) to the appliance. It’s a software based solution and you will get a free license per appliance to access 10TB of cloud storage with 1TB of local cache. (So unlike NetApp who are planning to hang a FAS array off their EVO:RAIL – breaking the whole ‘hyper-converged’ concept – this allows you to access more storage without breaking the appliance mould!)

EMC’s offering of EVO:RAIL is by far the best ‘packaged’ product available from QEPs…. they’ve really taken some time to address the question of “What would an EVO:RAIL customer want to do with this product apart from run VMs”….. I wouldn’t be surprised if they end up as the #1 EVO:RAIL partner!!

Anyways, if you wish to delve a bit more into the product then pop along to Chad Sakac’s blog as he has a very good article on it: http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2015/02/vspex-blue-hello-world.html

VMworld Europe 2014 – Day 3 round up

Well I was planning on posting this on Thursday night, but after the flight back to Gatwick, the drive home and the unpacking, I was just too knackered to sit in front of my laptop and write a blog entry…… yesterday I got bogged down with sorting out some stuff for work which means I’m posting this update 2 days late…

So the final day of VMworld is usually a very hard slog…. not only is everyone recovering from the aftermath of the VMworld party the night before, but they’re also suffering from the effects of lack of sleep, too much booze and an overload of information from the previous breakout sessions! =)
And with that in mind I decided to schedule 5 session to attend on day 3…. clever eh?
-_-”

MGT1918 – Extending vCOPs Capabilities using Hyperic

Now for some reason I can’t find the photos I took of the slides during this session, I think I may have inadvertently deleted them off my camera…. =(
The session focused on using the Hyperic agents to help extend the functionalities of vCenter Operations Manager (or vRealize Operations). Hyperic is agent-based and so doesn’t care if it is deployed on a physical server or a VM – it integrates with the OS and auto-discovers the system resources, processes and services, and can even discover applications and their dependencies.

The session demo’d quite a few plugins (MSSQL, SAP), the one that caught my eye was the Microsoft Exchange Plugin and showed how the Exchange environment was auto-discovered and how it was viewed within the vCOPs dashboard.
It’s an “out-of-the-box” plugin that auto-discovers mailboxes, CAS components, DAGs, etc….. and for each component it has custom health definitions to provide clear understanding of the Exchange environment.

SDDC1337 – Technical Deep Dive on EVO:RAIL

So this was the 2nd topic I was looking forward to (the 1st was VVOLs on Day 2) and I actually decided to choose this session over the annual Chad & Vaughn double act (STO2496) that was happening at the same time!! =(

Thankfully I wasn’t disappointed! We had key engineers from Project MARVIN (Modular Automated Rackable Virtual Infrastructure Node) give us a deep dive on how the project came about and show us the 8-9 months lifecycle from design to the EVO:RAIL solution.

So what is EVO:RAIL? Well it’s the worlds’ first VMware-integrated hyper-converged infrastructure solution. The engineers primarily set out to create a solution that would be simple to deploy, simple to configure and simple the manage…. and they’ve achieved their goals!
Once you’ve finished racking and cabling the appliance, all you need to know is how IP addresses work, and you go from power on to a fully working VMware environment in 15mins!! O_o”
The GUI is amazingly simple and user-friendly and the demo of it actually deploying looks so easy that my 3 year old nephew (or 63 year old dad) could probably do it! (For the more techie guys, you can still get into the guts of vCenter so the underlaying software is still accessible).

In a nutshell, EVO:RAIL is a single SKU product that consists of a 2U high 4-node appliance with approximately 100GHz of compute, 768GB of memory and 14.4TB of raw storage (plus 1.6TB of flash capacity for IO acceleration). It can scale out up to 4 appliances and scaling out is as simple as connecting it in and letting the appliances auto-discover each other!
Underneath the hood, it consists of vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCenter Server Appliance, virtual SAN, Log Insight, and the EVO:RAIL Engine.
IMG_0193

The recommended maximum of VMs on a single appliance is around 100 VMs or 250 VDIs.

Unfortunately due to scheduling constraints, I didn’t have time to get to play with an EVO:RAIL appliance…. I would have loved to take up the EVO:RAIL challenge that was going on in the hang space!

TEX2692 – How to Deliver Actionable Recommendations for Alerts with vCOPs

One of the new features of the forth-coming vCOPs 6.0 is the ability to create actionable recommendations to events triggered within vCOPs. You basically use adapters to capture metrics as well as trigger actions for remediation.

It was quite a technical session, delving into how you would create XML files and workflows within vCO to help implement recommendations to an alert generated by vCOPs.
TBH, it was too much depth for me and I should have really looked at one of the other vRealize Operations sessions instead.

INF1502 – What’s New in vSphere?

Alot was discussed around what features were in vSphere 5.5u2 and vCD 5.5u2, the new vSphere for ROBO SKUs and of course the vSphere 6.0 beta program.
IMG_0223

I’ve already highlighted some of the main talking points of vSphere 6.0:

  • vMotion Across vCenter Servers – builds on the ‘share-nothing’ principle already seen in Storage vMotion.
  • Long Distance vMotion – cross-continental deployments (UK->Paris/Munich) as long as the Round Trip Time (RTT) is less than 100ms. This would obviously help with migrating between data centres across the other side of the country, maybe even help with “follow the sun” type migrations of business services!
  • Multi-vCPU Fault Tolerance – well, at least support for up to 4 vCPUs to start with! Seems they’re moving from the old ‘record/replay’ technology to ‘fast checkpointing’. I believe at present it will be limited to 8 vCPUs used per host for FT.
  • Content Library – providing storage for VM templates, ISOs and OVFs and allows publishing and versioning of the content.
  • Virtual Data Center – aggregating of resources to help automate policy-based provisioning.

SDDC2370 – VMware + OpenStack

This was an overview session (funnily the deep dive was scheduled before the overview session!), so it mainly discussed the interaction between VMware and OpenStack over the past few years. What they’ve contributed to the open source project and how they are enabling customers to adopt OpenStack.

It seems that in the market, not many people know what OpenStack is for and they were very quick to highlight that some C-level members assume that they can get rid of their virtualisation technology and simply drop in OpenStack. OpenStack is actually a framework for providing developers with APIs and tools that has to sit on top of a virtual infrastructure!
IMG_0241

OpenStack is an area I’m not very clued up on, and this session was more for me to understand what the VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO) was about. The following slide shows how certain VMware products will integrate with OpenStack.
IMG_0247

 

So now that VMworld is over, I have to say that I’m happy that the two topics that I had earmarked to learn as much as I could on was fulfilled – the technical deep dives on VVOLs and EVO:RAIL were the two sessions I was looking forward to the most, and they didn’t disappoint!

The only criticism I have for VMworld – and it’s the same problem I experienced last year – was that the whole event is REALLY hard going for those who actually want to go to VMworld to LEARN!! If you pack your sessions full like I did, you’re pretty much running to each room due to over-running sessions and you’re also trying to find some time in between to nip to the toilet, to grab a coffee or drink, or even to grab lunch! I don’t think I ate a proper lunch on any of the days of the conference!

Then again, maybe it’s a ploy by VMware to try and get you to exercise and diet in order to rid yourself of the liquid-rich dinners!! ;oP

All in all, it was another great VMworld for me, I learnt loads and left feeling a lot more knowledgeable! =)

…… all I have to do now is download the stacks of presentations for the other breakout sessions that I couldn’t attend! >_<”

Note: If you’re UK based, then stay-tuned for the VMworld 2014 update session that I will be running alongside my MTI colleagues in the not-too-distant future!