VMworld 2018 US – Day 1 General Session Round Up

So the great thing about VMworld US is that they live stream the General Session for the rest of us who can’t make it over to Vegas… whilst you can’t get the whole VMworld US experience just by watching the GS live stream, at least you get to hear the same news as those in Vegas.

Pat Gelsinger opened up the GS by showing the world his bad-ass “VMware” tattoo… not quite sure if it’s real – many commenting on VMware’s tweet that the tattoo gun doesn’t look like it has ink in it… =P
https://twitter.com/vmwarenews/status/1034109813129535488

A nice little montage to celebrate the 20th anniversary of VMware… 1998… long time… From Server Virtualisation to EUC to Network Virtualisation to Cloud and now Hybrid/Multi-Cloud.

VMware’s Vision is still the same – Any Device, Any App, Any Cloud… and we’re told businesses are still on a multi-cloud journey! The thing is, so many companies have a ‘cloud’ strategy, but many just can’t execute that cloud adoption because they are stuck trying to migrate workloads off their traditional DC into the public cloud!
This is where VMware stands apart with their partnership with AWS and their Cloud Foundations solution! Move your on-prem DC to a SDDC and then “ruthlessly automate everything!!” =)

Project Dimension was quickly mentioned as a Tech Preview that will extend VMware Cloud to the data center, ROBO and edge. It combines VMware Cloud Foundations with HCI and a VMware Cloud managed service to deliver an SDDC solution, end-to-end, operated and supported by VMware. The solution will simplify cloud deployments handling all aspects of configuration, security, and management – leaving customers to worry-less about infrastructure and focus more on their business innovations!

Dimension

There were a few nice VMC on AWS announcements…

  • firstly the rollout of its services in Sydney to serve APJ
  • secondly that vSAN will be using Amazon Elastic Block Storage (EBS) allowing customers to independently scale compute and storage requirements (and effectively allowing users to deploy storage-dense workloads)
  • thirdly Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS) on VMware making it easy for customers to set up, operate, scale and migrate Relational DBs on-prem and in VMC on AWS.

It’s amazing how far the partnership has come in a single year!

Roadmap for further rollouts:
vmconaws.png

More here: https://cloud.vmware.com/community/2018/08/26/vmware-cloud-aws-charging-ahead/

Finally there was an announcement of the acquisition of CloudHealth Technologies… From what I can see, CloudHealth Tech delivers a SAAS platform that offers Cloud Operations across AWS, Azure and GCP – it helps customers to analyze, manage cloud costs, usage and monitor performance across multi-clouds. This looks like a CMP on steroids and should complement VMware’s existing CMP and SAAS offerings (vRealize/Cloud Automation Services and Wavefront). CloudHealth will become ‘the’ Cloud Operations Platform of choice for the industry…. allowing customers to control, analyze the costs, compliance and performance of their compute environments across on-prem and public clouds!

To end it all, VMware’s CTO – Ray O’Farrell – came on stage to demo several of the new announcements and new products:

  • Migrating workloads from on-prem to the cloud – demo’ing bulk migration of an entire data centre using vSphere replication and then vMotion – with no downtime!
  • Project Dimension showing how cloud services can be ‘stretched’ between VMC on AWS and a customers on-prem DC. Also how both on-prem and edge infrastructure can be monitored as part of VMware’s managed service.
  • Short Amazon RDS demo showing the service running on-prem and in AWS.
  • A mention of something called Project Magna which leverages AI and Machine Learning to self-optimize a virtual environment…. changing the SD in SDDC from Software-Defined to Self-Driving!
  • A demo of VMware PKS showing the integration of NSX with PKS and how you can automate security of kubernetes.
  • A nice demo showing vROPs monitoring workloads requiring GPUs and the new feature of vMotion for GPU enabled VMs (a limitation previously of Horizon/vSphere)
  • Blockchain is everywhere!! Project Concord is an open source infrastructure for Enterprise Blockchains focusing on performance and scalability.
  • Dell EMC’s new factory-provisioning service for VMware Workspace ONE, where devices will ship ready for integration as end-points.
  • Workspace ONE intelligence, advising IT operations of problems with incompatible applications and patches (automate patch testing to predict whether a new patch will work).
  • A demo to show the support of ESXi on 64-bit ARM platforms.

And to close the GS, two major annoucements around security, one for compute and one for Network…

  • Firstly – vSphere Platinum, packaging AppDefense with vSphere ESXi. This new offering will have AppDefense built in which uses machine learning and a variety of other inputs to baseline known good states of a VM. AppDefense can then act on deviations of that baseline, executing automated actions – such as changing firewall settings, alerting, offloading for deeper network packet inspection.
  • Secondly – Adaptive Micro-Segmentation, integrating AppDefense and NSX. Security solutions should “Learn, Lock and Adapt” to threats… AppDefense will offer the dynamic learning and adaption looking into the VM and applications, NSX will offer the Lock.

 

And with that…. I end my summary of the first day’s GS…. =)

 

EDIT: Day 1 General Session is now available for replay: https://www.vmworld.com/en/us/learning/general-sessions.html

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VMware vExpert vSAN 2018 Announced

Phew…. *sigh of relief* ….. thankfully this year I’ve made the cut again for the vExpert vSAN track! =)

Almost didn’t make it as I was on holiday during the application process and missed the original deadline. Thankfully the application was still live so I sneaked in an application and sent my apologies to the vExpert admin team.

Anyways, congrats to all returning vExpert vSAN members and welcome to all new members joining for the 1st time!

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2018/06/vexpert-vsan-2018-announcement.html

Let’s keep evangelising about vSAN and drive that customer demand…… as VMware announced recently, there are now over 14,000 vSAN and VxRail customers (as of the end of Q1)! That’s impressive for a product that was only launched in 2014!

I’m a big big advocate of VxRail and love talking about the HCI solution to my customers… I’m also proud that MTI are one of the leading partners in the UK for VxRail (and also one of the very first partners to sell/deploy VxRail when it launched)!

VMware vSphere 6.7 & 6.5 update 2 – Resources

Just over a fortnight ago VMware released their latest version of vSphere and vSAN – 6.7…. unfortunately for me, I was neck-deep in a tender response and was in Paris for a number of days for a meeting – so spent most of my travels looking at a small mobile phone screen trying to read up on what’s new… (mental note: time for a new phone with a bigger screen – must be getting old as my eyesight isn’t as good as it was).

When I finally got back online and started thinking about what to write about, I realised that the net was already inundated with bloggers writing about “What’s new in vSphere 6.7”. I quickly realised that I didn’t just want to regurgitate the same thing as a lot of the ‘newer’ bloggers were doing, so I decided to spend some time pulling together all the good resources that I have read over the last few weeks and write a blog about where people should go to learn about vSphere/vCenter and vSAN 6.7.

Note: This blog article has actually been in draft mode for 2 weeks as I’ve been waiting for the vSphere 6.7 lightboards to be re-released by VMware marketing – if you didn’t already know, it was posted onto VMware’s YouTube channel a week before launch and then quickly disappeared!! I’ve been waiting for them to turn up again before posting this article but for some reason they haven’t re-appeared (makes me wonder if marketing deleted the only copy they had of the lightboards… lol).
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/04/09/vsphere_6_7_vids_vanish/

 

The Knowledge Journey

The most obvious place to start your knowledge journey is none other than VMware’s own vSphere Blog and Virtual Blocks blog, the best blogs are:
https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/04/introducing-vmware-vsphere-6-7.html
https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/04/introducing-vcenter-server-6-7.html
https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2018/04/17/whats-new-vmware-vsan-6-7/

These were the first blog posts I read to understand what new features were in the latest release, and they’re very good summaries.

As always, Duncan Epping was one of the first to release his articles on “What’s new” and they were very concise articles going over some of the more interesting features:
http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2018/04/17/whats-new-vsan-6-7/
http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2018/04/17/vsphere-6-7-announced/

I then started reading around the other products released as well:
What’s New with SRM and vSphere Replication 8.1 – https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2018/04/17/srm-vr-81-whats-new/
What’s New in vRealize Automation 7.4 – https://blogs.vmware.com/management/2018/03/whats-new-vrealize-automation-7-4.html

If you want a deep-dive into all things vSphere/vCenter, then head over to Emad Younis’s blog: http://emadyounis.com.

For a deeper-dive into all things related to security, head over to Mike Foley’s blog: https://www.yelof.com.

All finally, there’s the vSphere Blog: https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/launch

 

KB article on Update sequence for vSphere 6.7 and compatible products – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/53710
KB article on Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.7 – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/53704
Blog article on upgrading vCenter Appliance from 6.5 to 6.7 – https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/05/upgrading-vcenter-server-appliance-6-5-6-7.html

Note: Upgrades from vCenter Server 6.0 and later to vCenter Server 6.7 is supported. To upgrade from vCenter Server 5.0, 5.1 or 5.5, you must first upgrade the vCenter Server instance to version 6.0 or later releases, and then upgrade to vCenter Server 6.7.

These products are not compatible with vSphere 6.7 at this time:

  • VMware NSX
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO)
  • VMware vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC)

 

Some YouTube videos:
vSAN 6.7 Technical Overview Video – https://youtu.be/Ss5KWAtGvXo
vSAN 6.7 What’s New Technical – https://youtu.be/YzurWX5m4m8
Faster Host Upgrades to vSphere 6.7 – https://youtu.be/8fqE5zsnkTQ

So here’s a list of all new product releases:

  • vSphere ESXi & vCenter Server 6.7
  • vSAN 6.7
  • vSphere Replication 8.1
  • Site Recovery Manager 8.1
  • vRealize Operations Manager 6.7
  • vRealize Automation 7.4.0
  • vRealize Orchestrator Appliance 7.4.0
  • vRealize Log Insight 4.6.0
  • vRealize Business for Cloud 7.4.0
  • vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager 1.2
  • vRealize Code Stream 2.4
  • NSX SD-WAN Edge by VeloCloud 3.2.0
  • Horizon 7.4.1 Enterprise

Finally here’s list of all the documentations:

 

It’s worth noting that last week VMware also released vSphere 6.5 update 2 which back-ports a few of the new features in 6.7 into 6.5. For more information point your browsers here: https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/05/vsphere-6-5-update-2-now-available.html

Additional updates:

MTI Secure Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Webinar

So last Thursday I was asked by the marketing peeps at my company, MTI Technology, to run a webinar with my colleague, Andrew Tang, around what Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is all about, why it’s suddenly become so popular within the industry, and how best to secure a HCI solution.

The webinar has now been uploaded for public consumption…. and since it kind of went ok – apart from me suffering from a runny nose throughout (sorry for all the sniffing) – I’ve decided to blog about the webinar for you all to watch.

I don’t really touch upon product in this webinar, as the last thing customers want is to be shoehorned into a certain vendor product… instead I hope the webinar gives enough information about what HCI is in general, why customers should be looking at HCI during their next infrastructure refresh, and more importantly what to consider when evaluating a HCI solution!

Feel free to pop along and access the webinar recording here: https://mti.com/secure-hci-webinar-page/ (sorry, you have to fill in your details to gain access….)

Finally, if you’re interested in talking more about HCI then feel free to contact me or register for one of MTI’s HCI Discovery Workshops: http://bit.ly/2C8vS14

VMworld 2017 US General Session Day 1

If like me, you’re stuck in a sweltering London enjoying the bank holiday and watching the Game of Thrones season 7 finale, you may have forgotten that over in Vegas the city is just getting over the big fight of Mayweather vs McGregor and is now inundated with people looking to attend VMworld 2017 US.

It’s great that VMware live stream their keynotes, as it gives everyone an opportunity to hear first hand what VMworld will be about this year and also what is being announced!

And it’s of no surprise that VMware have continued to strengthen their vision on “Any Device, Any Application, Any Cloud” with the keynote by Pat Gelsinger. Whilst heterogeneous is a great thing that leads to the consumerisation of IT, it plays havoc with IT admins who’s key focus is to contain and secure a company’s data – and it’s worth noting how much emphasis is being placed on security within VMware – NSX is intrinsic to every solution that was mentioned during the keynote!

Vision

The first thing that was covered was how the digital transformation is affecting end users – the goal for any company is to ensure that their employees are well connected, yet the challenge is a complex one when you realise how many different technologies an end user has access to – smartphones, tablets, laptops – even smartwatches and cars now! So how do you deliver an unified workspace securely across multiple technologies?

Simple – Workspace ONE – piecing it all together to give companies a “consumer simple but enterprise secure” solution. Delivered in 3 areas:

  1. Apps and Identity – applications with a consistent feel across multiple devices. Secured by a common identity framework with a simple Single Sign-on experience.
  2. Management and Security – IT in control, delivering consistent management & security. Drastically improving  tasks that were previously costly, time consuming, and resource intensive, whilst still in control of data by combining identity and device management to enforce Data Security and Endpoint Compliance.
  3. Desktop and Mobile – Device Management and Compliance provided by AirWatch Unified Endpoint Management, protecting sensitive data as well as conditional access to how that data can be consumed by end-users.

workspaceone

Next Pat went on to explain that virtualisation has led to end-users deploying a private cloud within their own data centres, yet making such a transition is not an easy step – deployment isn’t straight forward, lifecycle management and day 2 operations isn’t always easy, and trying to secure different technologies of a private cloud is painful!

VMware’s goal is to “make Private Cloud Easy and that’s where Cloud Foundation comes along – a fully integrated SDDC stack that ‘just works’…. simple… agile… secure! version 2.2 was announced and is now GA.

Pat was then joined by Andy Jassy, CEO of AWS, to announce the General Availability of VMware Cloud on AWS. Announced as a tech preview at last years VMworld, it should be noted that it’s currently only available today in the US West Coast region Availability Zone, it will then be rolled out across the East Coast AZ before rolling out to the rest of the AWS global AZs by the end of 2018. So I guess we’re going to expect it in the UK late 2017/early 2018!

VMware Cloud on AWS allows you to seamlessly take a workload running on vSphere in your data centre and migrate it to AWS Public Cloud running a VMware stack – using the same tools (vCenter Server) to manage both your private and your public cloud workloads from a single pane of glass! A consistent feel no matter where your workload resides. What Andy Jassy said was correct – in the past customers hated the fact that if they wanted to consume public cloud, there was no easy way of migrating workloads across without some form of translation occurring. It was also painful and costly to manage as you couldn’t use a single tool to manage both private and public cloud.

VMware’s Cloud Strategy is as follows:

cloud

The first 7 VMware Cloud Services were announced as available for consumption.

VMware Cloud Services

NSX Cloud is an interesting service that addresses networking and security operational challenges inherent with using multiple public clouds. Unfortunately at launch it’s only available on AWS to protect EC2 workloads (ie native AWS workloads – not vSphere workloads which is what VMware Cloud on AWS gives). It differs from on-premise NSX as it is delivered as a service and managed by VMware.

As I previously said, NSX is a key foundation to every solution at VMware currently:

nsx

Security is hugely important… and Pat breaks it down into 3 components:

  1. the need to build it into the infrastructure
  2. the need to integrate with the current security vendor ecosystem
  3. the need to ensure good cyber hygiene and ensure security policies are in place. The 5 pillars of Cyber Hygiene are:
    • Least Privilege
    • Micro-segmentation
    • Encryption
    • Multi-factor authentication
    • Patching

Two years ago, VMware first began talking about the concept of the “Goldilocks Zone” where the hypervisor sits at the ideal location in the network to improve security. During the keynote VMware announced a new product named AppDefense which looks to be the fruition of Project Goldilocks.

AppDefense allows a virtual machine to learn its manifest and understand what is a good and secure process, it’s then able to determine whether the runtime behaviour of a VM or application deviates from its intended state. Finally it’s able to trigger an automated/orchestrated response to remediate or quarantine any detected anomalies.

appdefense

 

Strange that searching the VMworld Europe Content Catalog for AppDefense doesn’t bring up any sessions…. which is a shame as I was hoping to schedule a session after hearing the keynote and reading about it.

Roll on Day 2….

 

vExpert 2017 Announcements

Congratulations to those who have been recognised as vExperts and will be joining the group for the 2nd half of 2017!

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2017/08/vexpert-2017-second-half-announcement.html

Also congratulations to existing vExperts who have been recognised as experts in the 2 sub categories – NSX and vSAN!

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2017/08/vexpert-nsx-2017-award-announcement.html

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2017/08/vexpert-2017-vsan-announcement.html

 

I’m fortunate enough to be once again considered as a vSAN vExpert for this year! =)

HCIBench 1.6.2 – Testing vSAN performance

Over the past month or so I’ve been running a number of performance tests on VxRail and vSAN solutions.

HCIBench is a brilliant tool to help end-users understand the type of performance that they can achieve with their vSAN solution.

It’s essentially an automation wrapper around the popular Vdbench tool. Vdbench is an utility specifically created to help engineers and customers generate disk I/O workloads to use for validating storage performance and storage data integrity. Vdbench is a complex beast to run, with lots of different variables that can be configured via CLI… so the HCIBench wrapper helps simplify workload profiles and makes it so much easier to run benchmark tests!!

Please note, HCIBench is a VMware Labs Fling and so there’s limited support available and it shouldn’t be used in production environments (although the latter is just to cover themselves). If I’m honest, the creators of HCIBench are pretty good at replying to comments and feedback!

https://labs.vmware.com/flings/hcibench

It’s definitely worth remembering that as a benchmark tool, it can’t quite simulate real-world workloads! However, if you understand how your workload behaves (ie block size, read/write ratio, etc) then you can get pretty close to creating a workload profile that matches your workload (albeit running a test at max. workrate rather than the bursty rate we see in real-life).

 

HCIbench was updated 2 days ago in response to the recent release of vSphere 6.5u1, and in my opinion is even cooler now that it can utilise the new vSAN Performance Diagnostic feature of vSAN 6.6.1 (API integration with the new Performance Diagnostics part of vSAN Cloud Analytics).

You can now run an HCIBench test and view detailed results of the test in Performance Diagnostics with supporting graphs – you’re able to select a goal for the test based on “Max IOPS”, “Max Throughput” or “Min Latency”, and then get details on potential issues found in the analysed data which you can then use to improve the workload profile you’re using in HCIBench.

Point your browser here for more info:
https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2017/07/31/what-to-expect-from-hcibench-1-6-2/

Note: You need to have Customer Experience Improvement Program(CEIP) and vSAN Performance Service turned on to get this feature enabled

More on vSAN Encryption

So not long after my article was published on SearchVMware, the guys at Virtual Blocks (VMware’s own storage blog) released 2 articles which went into vSAN encryption in a bit more detail.

https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2017/06/24/vsan-encryption-1/
https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2017/06/24/vsan-encryption-2/

It’s definitely worth noting that using hardware encryption does have an overhead whenever you need to rekey (eg when you need to rekey every drive), obviously because vSAN encryption is within the hypervisor this overhead is significantly reduced.

The First article simply goes over what vSAN encryption is all about, the second dives into more detail on how it’s setup, the trust model of the KMS, and also how the disk format is changed when vSAN encryption is enabled. I find this 2nd article very informative in trying to understand how vSAN encryption works.

There’s also a new KB that briefly goes over the different between vSAN encryption and VM encryption: Understanding vSAN Datastore Encryption vs. VMcrypt Encryption

Enjoy…. =)

VMware vSAN 6.6 launched – so What’s New?

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).

vSAN features

(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).

 

Data-at-Rest Encryption

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 DARE

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.

vsan-encrypt

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

vSAN 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).

vSAN ESC

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!! =)