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

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EMC Mega Launch Event Report

Hmm….. so the Mega Launch really didn’t turn out to be that ‘MEGA’….. dribs and drabs of info released that most people in the room already knew from what they had seen and heard at EMC World (and from NDAs sessions with EMC)…..
Not to mention the poor show from the Italian marketing team with regards to the F1 pit-stop challenge – in real life EMC would have been fined as the front wheels would have come off long before the driver reached the end of the pit lane! ;oP
I’ll have to speak to the marketing people at MTI to see if we can get a team together to take part in the pit-stop challenge at EMC Forum 2013 London.

The theme was Speed2Lead, and whilst there was a lot of performance stats being thrown around, it seemed EMC marketing went into ‘overdrive’ <sic> with some of the PR stunts….. (hmm, I wonder who would win between a Scooby and a Saab?!? http://youtu.be/F0F_eAybom8)

So, what was talked about in the 6 hours at Lord’s Cricket Ground and at the MegaLaunch in Milan?

  • VNX2 – (VNX5200, VNX5400, VNX5600, VNX5800, VNX7600, VNX8000 and VNX-F), new MCx software, flash optimised, 4x performance, increased capacity, etc….. No info on the new VNXe yet…. maybe Q1 2014….. VNX5200 due soon(ish)….. Basically a faster box for (almost) similar prices as the old VNX! Obviously what most people realised is you could get away with stepping down a model from the old VNX (so if you had a VNX5500, a VNX5400 would be more than adequate) and still get better performance!
    EMC announced a single node VNX8000 SPECsfs2008 NFS benchmark result of 580,796 IOPS (impressive considering the old benchmark was using a VNX VG8 gateway with four arrays).
    VNX-CA suite – uses VPLEX virtual storage for continuous access to block data if a VNX array fails.
  • Lotus F1 sponsored VNX 5400 – looks very nice with the re-hashed front grill, but one wonders what the uplift in cost will be just to get the Lotus F1 badge on your box! Wouldn’t be surprised if they end up on eBay! =P
  • ViPR – EMC’s new Software-Defined Storage platform planned for GA end of September! ViPR delivers the ability to both manage the storage infrastructure (the “Control Plane” through the ViPR Controller) and the data residing within that infrastructure (the “Data Plane” through ViPR Data Services).
    Whilst it can manage both, you can use just the controller to manage your underlying storage arrays (EMC, NetApp, etc).
    The Object Data Services  gives you the ability to store, view and manipulate objects as files, providing “file access” performance without the latency inherent in current object storage models.
    More info can be found here.
  • VSPEX/VBlock –  VSPEX reference architectures are now powered by the new VNX arrays doubling the VM capacity….. VBlock announcement to come (Q4 2013)
  • XtremSW Cache 2.0 – update to EMC’s server-flash caching software, with integration into Unisphere and increased support of server SSDs or PCIe flash cards.
  • Project Nile – This was a surprise announcement. Project Nile is an Elastic Cloud Storage platform that EMC reckons will be the first “complete, web-scale storage infrastructure for the data centre”. It’s focused on delivering “Private Cloud control, security and flexibility with the scale, economics and ease-of-use generally associated with the public cloud”. So it sounds like they’re basically enabling IT the ability to deliver self-serve storage under a consumption model (bit like Cloud computing).
    As we were told at the event, it’s still in “Project” phase so features could change by the time it goes GA next year (?).

 

On a separate note, looks like Lotus are doing quite well in free practice at Monza! 5th & 12th in 1st practice, 3rd & 4th in 2nd practice.
Will be interesting if it rains during the race as then it’ll be down to driver skill rather than the aerodynamics and pace of the car….. Wet races are always more exciting to watch! =)

Troubleshooting a vCloud Director Installation

The problem about working full time is it’s really hard to find time to blog, and also to find topics to blog about! =)

One of the great things about my job is we have a solution centre in the office which allows me to play around with kit! =)
Our solution centre is based around an EMC VSPEX architecture….. so EMC VNX storage, Cisco UCS blades and VMware virtualisation!!

I’ve been busy the last week or so putting together a vCloud solution for some of the engineers to play around with, as well as finally completing the detailed installation guide for deploying the vCloud Suite (one of these days I promise I will post it up).

Anyways, so I ended up installing two RHEL 6.2 VMs as my vCD cells on a MS SQL 2008 R2 DB, load-balanced using a vCNS edge….. but when I tried to start the vCD services on my linux VMs, they would say they’ve started (simple service vmware-vcd status command) but wouldn’t give me the vCD web console/UI….. all I got was a Blank Grey Webpage and after a while it would error out saying it couldn’t connect to the website!! Hmmmm……

Anyways, this gave me a good opportunity to test out my troubleshooting skills and offer a topic for my blog! =)

So here goes……

Troubleshooting vCD….

The Log files for vCloud Director are located at /opt/vmware/vcloud-director/logs. There are three main files to look at (well there’s more than 3 but these are the ones I usually use and 99% of the time I can work out what’s wrong):

1. cell.log

This log file provides information on the status of the vCloud Director cell services and the application as it starts up.
Use tail -f cell.log to view the live status when starting a vCloud Director Cell.
A successful start up will allow you to access the vCD web-console/UI and will display a started status for each service, plus 100% for Application Initialization.
Image

Usually if there is an issue with accessing the web-front end UI then it is more than likely that the services are still waiting to complete, as below:

Image

If you’re seeing lots of services showing a “WAITING” status, then check the other logs to determine what could be causing this issue.

2. vmware-vcd-watchdog.log

This log file shows any alerts, errors or information that the vCloud Director cell services maybe experiencing. A healthy vmware-vcd-watchdog.log looks similar to the below:

Image

If there’s an issue, then you could get an ‘Alert’ entry, similar to the one below:

Image

I believe vCloud Director will automatically try to re-start the services as I didn’t see a time stamp for an entry when I manually restarted the service. Also this log looks very similar to what you would get if you typed in ‘service vmware-vcd status‘ as that command reports on both the vmware-vcd-watchdog and vmware-vcd-cell services.

3. vcloud-container-info.log

This log file shows the status of the initial installation of vCloud Director and will log how the application is currently functioning. If you have any errors or failures during installation, this log file will provide you with the details required to troubleshoot the cause of the failure.
In addition, this log will also provide information on any errors that may cause the vCloud Director services to fail to start.
In my case, after doing a cat vcloud-container-info.log | more I discovered the following error:

Image

Turns out that the error shows that the vCloud Director cell could not resolve its hostname in DNS.

When I went through the pre-reqs before installation, I realised that I had only put in DNS entries for the two IPs used for the HTTP and the Remote Console access….. I forgot to put an entry into DNS that resolved the hostname of the Linux VM to the HTTP IP address.
A quick edit to DNS and then a restart of the vCD services fixed the problem I experienced.

4. vcloud-container-debug.log

This log file shows the debugging information. The detail in this log file will be dependant upon the level of debugging set. I didn’t actually end up looking at this log as the error was discovered in the -info.log…. However, it’s another port of call if you can’t work out what’s causing your vCD services to fail.

Rights….. blog entry over…… I’m off to eat my dinner! =)

vForum 2013

Just a quick blog before I hit the sack regarding an upcoming VMware event that some people may not have heard of….

VMware Forum 2013

http://www.vmwareforum2013.com

VMware run this FREE event across the world and it’s coming to London at Wembley Stadium on the 2nd May 2013. (There’s another in Manchester at Old Trafford – on the 22nd May).

It is predominantly aimed at End-users and IT professionals who are keen to learn how they can engage with VMware and what they can do with the VMware portfolio either to start their virtualisation journey or to expand their virtual environment.

The agenda this year will be focusing on 3 key areas:

Cloud Computing – this will be focused around the vCloud Suite of products and how VMware envisage a ‘software defined datacenter’.

Virtualization – with the majority of clients having an idea of what virtualisation is about, this looks to be focusing on virtualising business critical/tier-1 applications as well as managing/monitoring an users virtual environment.

Mobility – this is pretty much End User Computing focusing on the new Horizon Suite and how it will affect VDI.

Whilst I would love to go to the event, it’s pretty much a non-partner event (i.e. VMware Partners – like my company MTI – are not really invited!). So if you’re interested in finding out more about VMware and how to introduce it into your IT environment….. register NOW and head down to Wembley! =)

Right… off to bed…. got an early start as  I’m heading down to an EMC VSPEX event organised by MTI at the London Transport Museum…. should be interesting stuff! (http://ecommunication.mti.com/acton/rif/1192/e-0481-1302/-/l-tst:30/l-tst/showPreparedMessage)