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Architecting Virtual SAP HANA Using VMware Virtual Volumes And Hitachi Storage

VMWorld Recap: SAP HANA and VMware Virtual Volumes

This is a follow up to my earlier VMWorld blog; “Virtualizing SAP HANA Databases Greater Than-1TB On vSphere-5-5”, where I discussed SAP Multi-Temperature Data Management strategies and techniques which can significantly reduce the size and cost associated with SAP HANA’s in-memory footprint. This blog will focus on Software-Defined Storage and the need for VMware Virtual volumes when deploying Mission Critical Applications/Databases like SAP HANA as discussed in my VMWorld session.

Multi-Temperature Data Management Is By Definition Software-Defined Storage

SAP and VMware customers who plan on leveraging multi-temperature strategies, where data is classified by frequency of access as either hot, warm or cold depending on data usage is the essence of Software-Defined Storage. This can also be equated to EMC’s Information Lifecycle Management which examines the value of data to the business over time. To bring the concept of the Software-Defined Data Center and more precisely Software-Defined Storage to reality, see Table 1. This table depicts the various storage options for SAP HANA so customers can create an architecture that aligns with the business and its applications demands.

Table 1: Multi-Temperature Storage Options with SAP HANA


Planning Your Journey To Software-Defined Storage

As we get into the various storage options for SAP HANA, VMware has made it very easy to create and deploy software defined storage in the form of Virtual Volumes. However I want to stress the actual definitions of how the storage should be abstracted is a collaborative task, at a minimum you must involve the storage team, VI-Admins, application owners, and dba’s in order to create an optimized virtual architecture; this should not be a siloed task.

In my previous post I discussed the storage requirements for SAP HANA In-Memory, Dynamic Tiering, Near-Line Storage, and the Archiving Components; one last option I did not cover in Table 1 is Data Aging which is specific to SAP Business Suite. Under normal operations SAP HANA does not preload data into memory, data is loaded upon first access, so the first time you access data its always off disk.

With Data Aging you can essentially mark data so its never loaded into memory and will always reside on disk. This is not available on all modules for Business Suite, so please check with SAP for availability and roadmap with respect to Data Aging.

Essentially this is another SAP HANA feature which enables customers to reduce and manage their memory footprint more efficiently and effectively. The use of Data Aging can change the design requirements of your Software-Defined Storage, if Data Aging becomes more prevalent in your SAP Landscape, VMware Virtual Volumes can be used to address the changing storage requirements of the application by seamlessly migrating data between different classes of software-defined storage or VMDKs.

VMware Virtual Volumes Transform Storage By Aligning With SAP HANA’s Requirements

Now lets get into Virtual Volumes and the problems they solve, with Virtual Volumes the fundamental model is centered around provisioning storage based on the application needs rather than the underlying infrastructure. When deploying SAP HANA using the Tailored Data Center Integration model, the storage KPIs can be quite complex, so how do customers translate latency, throughput for reads – writes – and updates, at various block sizes to the storage layer?

Plus how does a customer address the storage requirements for SAP HANA’s entire data life cycle, whether you are planning on using Dynamic Tiering, with or without Near-Line-Storage and what is the archiving strategy storage requirements as well. Also some of the storage requirements do tie back to the compute layer, as an example with Dynamic Tiering if you plan on using Row Level Versioning there is a compute to memory relationship for storage that comes into play when sizing

Addressing and achieving these design goals using an infrastructure centric model can be quite difficult because you are tied to physical LUNs and trust me, with mission critical databases, you will always have database administrators fighting over LUNs with the lowest numbers because of the concerns around radial density. This leads to tremendous waste when provisioning storage using an infrastructure centric model.

VMware Virtual Volumes significantly reduces the storage design complexity by using an Application Centric model because you are not dealing with storage at the LUN level, instead vSphere admins use policies to express the application requirements to the storage array, then the storage array maps storage containers to the application requirements.

What are VMware Virtual Volumes?

At a high level I’ll go over the architecture and components of Virtual Volumes, this blog is not intended to be a deep dive into Virtual Volumes, instead my goal is to convey that mission critical uses cases for VVOLS and software-defined storage are real. For an excellent white paper on Virtual Volumes see; “VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes Getting Started Guide”.

As shown in Figure 1., Virtual Volumes are a new type of virtual machine object which are created and stored natively on the storage array. The Vendor Provider also known as the VASA Provider, which are the vSphere Storage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) that provide the storage awareness services and mediates out of the box communications between vCenterServer and EXi Hosts on one side and the storage system on the other side.

The storage containers are pools of raw storage that a storage system can provide to virtual volumes and unlike LUNS and NFS, they do not require pre-configured volumes on the storage side. Also with virtual volumes you still have the functionality you would expect when using native VMDKs

Virtual Datastores represents a storage container in a vCenter Server instance, so it’s a 1:1 mapping to the storage systems storage container. The ESXi Hosts have no direct access to the virtual volumes on the storage side, so they use a logical I/O proxy called a protocol endpoint and as you would expect VVOLs are compatible with industry standard protocols, iSCSI, NFS, FC, and FCoE

The Published Storage Capabilities will vary by storage vendor depending on which capabilities have been exposed and implemented. In this blog we will be looking at the exposed capabilities of Hitachi Data Systems like latency, throughput, Raid Level, Drive Type/Speed, IOPS, and Snapshot frequency to mention a few.

Figure 1: vSphere Virtual Volumes Architecture and Components


VMware HDS: Creating Storage Containers, Virtual Volumes, and Profiles for Virtual SAP HANA

Now Virtual Volumes are an Industry-wide Initiative, essentially a who’s who of the storage industry are participating in this initiative, however this next section will be representative of the work done with Hitachi Data Systems

And again the guidance here is collaboration when architecting software-defined storage for SAP HANA landscapes and for that matter any mission critical application or database. Because the beauty of software defined storage is once created and architecture correctly you can then provision your virtual machines in an automated and consistent manner.

So in the spirit of collaboration, I got together with Hitachi’s SAP alliance team, their storage team, and database architects and we came up with these profiles, policies, and containers to use when deploying SAP HANA landscapes.

We had several goals when designing this architecture; one was to use virtual volumes to address the entire data life cycle of SAP HANA, the in-memory component, Dynamic Tiering, Near-Line storage, and archiving or any supported combination of the above when creating a SAP HANA landscape. And secondly we wanted to enable rapidly provisioning of SAP HANA landscapes, so we created profiles, policies, and containers which could be used to deploy SAP HANA databases whose in-memory component could range from 512GB to 1TB in size.

I’ll review some of the capabilities HDS exposed which were used for this architecture:

  • Interestingly enough we were able to meet the SAP HANA in-memory KPIs using Hitachi Tier 2 storage which consisted of 10K SAS drives for both log and data files, as well as for the Operating System and the SAP HANA shared file system. This also simplified the design. We then used high density SAS drives for the backup areas
  • We enabled automatic storage managed snapshots for HANA data, log and the OS; and set the Snapshot frequency based on the classifications of Critical, Important, or Best Effort.
  • So snapshots for the data and log were classified as Critical while the OS was classified as Important and the backup area we didn’t snapshot at all
  • We also tagged this storage as certified, capturing the model and serial number, since the SAP HANA in-memory component requires certified storage. We wanted to make sure that when creating HANA VM’s you’re always pulling from certified storage containers.
  • The Dynamic Tiering and NLS storage had similar requirements so could be provisioned from the same containers and since these are disk based columnar databases we selected Tier 1 storage SSDs for the data files based on the random read/write patterns
  • And stuck with SAS drives for the log files since sequential workload don’t benefit much from SSDs. Again because of the disk based access we selected Tier 2 to satisfy the IOPS and Latency requirements.
  • Then finally for the archiving containers we used the lowest cost & highest density storage, pretty much just a file system.

Now there’s just too much information to cover in this effort with HDS but for those of you interested, VMware and Hitachi we will be publishing a Co-Logo White Paper which will be a much deeper dive into how we architected these landscapes so customers can do this almost out of the box.

Deploying VMware Software-Defined Storage With vSphere and Hitachi Command Suite

Example: SAP HANA Dynamic Tiering and Near-Line Storage Tiers. These next couple of screen captures will show how simple virtual volumes are to deploy once architected correctly

Figure 2: Storage Container Creation: SAP HANA DT and NLS Tier


Figure 3: Create Virtual Machine Storage Policies SAP HANA DT/NLS Data/Log File


Figure 4: Create New SAP HANA DT VM Using VVOLS Policies With Hitachi Storage


Addressing Mission Critical Use Cases with VMware Software-Defined Storage

SAP HANA and Multi-Temperature Data Management is the poster child for mission critical software-defined storage use cases. VMware Virtual Volumes solves the complexities and simplifies storage provisioning by using an application centric model rather than an infrastructure centric model.

The SAP HANA in-memory component is not yet certified for production use on vSphere 6.0, however Virtual Volumes can be used for SAP HANA Dynamic Teiring, Near-Line Storage, and Archiving. So my advice to our customers is to start architecting now, get together with your storage admins, VI Admins, application owners, and database administrators to create containers, policies, and profiles correctly so when vSphere 6.0 is certified you are ready to “Run SAP HANA Simple”.



Technology Preview: Enriching vSphere with hybrid capabilities


Today VMware is revealing a Technology Preview of Project SkyScraper, a new set of hybrid cloud capabilities for VMware vSphere that will enable customers to confidently extend their data center to the public cloud and vice-a-versa by seamlessly operating across boundaries while providing enterprise-level security and business continuity.

At VMworld, we will demonstrate live workload migration with Cross-Cloud vMotion and Content Sync between on-premises and vCloud Air.  These features will complement VMware vCloud® Air™ Hybrid Cloud Manager™ – a free, downloadable solution for vSphere Web Client users, with optional fee-based capabilities. Hybrid Cloud Manager consolidates various capabilities such as workload migration, network extension and improved hybrid management features into one easy-to-use solution for managing workloads in vCloud Air from the vSphere Web Client.

Cross-Cloud vMotion is a new technology based on vSphere vMotion that allows customers to seamlessly migrate running virtual machines between their on-premises environments and vCloud Air. Cross-cloud vMotion can be used via the vSphere Web Client, enabling rapid adoption with minimal training. The flexibility provided by this technology gives customers the ability to securely migrate virtual machines bi-directionally without compromising machine up-time; all vMotion guarantees are maintained.

Content Sync will allow customers to subscribe to an on-premise Content Library and seamlessly synchronize VM templates, vApps, ISOs, and scripts with their content catalog in vCloud Air with a single click of a button. This feature will ensure consistency of content between on-premise and the cloud, eliminating error prone manual sync process.

Learn more about these two capabilities under Project Skyscraper by visiting us the VMware booth at VMworld 2015.

Introducing the vSphere Host Client fling

Have you ever wanted to connect directly to your ESXi host via a web browser and take a quick look at the available resources on the host? How about checking on the status of the vCenter VM? Conduct host administrative tasks through the browser? Today I’m happy to introduce the vSphere Host Client fling, an HTML5-based UI client served directly from the ESXi host.

The Client is distributed as a VIB that once installed, allows you to point your web browser at the host IP, and begin directly managing the host. Underneath the covers, the Client interfaces with the host through the VIM API similar to other host access methods such as the Web Client or PowerCLI.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.36.46 PM

The current Client feature set include:

  • Display host, VM, storage, and networking information
  • Execute tasks such as create/update/delete of host resources
  • Support of VM console access
  • Configure the host NTP
  • See summaries, events, tasks and notifications
  • Configure advanced host services and settings

The Client will work on ESXi 6.0 and 5.5U3 when the update release becomes available later this year. You can find browser requirements, download and installation instructions from our Fling website:


We’d love to get your feedback or if you have questions:


Many many folks contributed to this fling: George Estebe, Etienne LeSueur and Kevin MacDonell our development team for bringing the Client to life, Jehad Affoneh for the proof of concept that inspired what you see today, William Lam and Kevin Christopher for their ongoing (and vocal!) guidance each step of the way, and our ESXi leadership team for allocating the time and resources to make this all happen.

Going forward, we plan to add more features to the fling including additional VM and host resource management actions, datastore operations, performance charts and metrics. Based on your feedback/community support and resource prioritization, we hope to incorporate the Client into a future ESXi release as a formalized offering.

vSphere 6.0 Lockdown Mode Exception Users

In vSphere 6.0 we now have a new concept called Exception Users. The intent of Exception Users is that they are not general admin users. I would consider them more of a “Service Account” type of access.

As a matter of fact, just the other day I got an email from someone internal at VMware that brought up a great use case for Exception Users. They were talking to a customer that wanted to access ESXi via a PowerCLI cmdlet (Get-VMHostAccount) to list out the local accounts on an ESXi server as part of their normal security reporting.

But they also wanted to enable Lockdown Mode and were finding it difficult to comply with both things. In vSphere 6.0 this is now much easier to address. Let’s get started.

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vSphere 6.0 Lockdown Modes

Lockdown mode has been around in various forms for many releases. The behaviors have changed a few times since 5.1 with varying levels of usability success. For vSphere 6.0 we are trying to address some of these issues. Personally, what I’d love to see happen with all customers running V6.0 is that you run at a minimum the “Normal” Lockdown Mode.

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vSphere 6 – Clarifying the misinformation

With the Announcement of vSphere 6 this week there is a lot of information being published by various sources. Some of that information is based on old beta builds and is much different than what we’ll see in the final product. In this post I aim to correct some of the information based on the beta builds that’s floating around out there.

First off there’s confusion on the maximum number of virtual machines per cluster vSphere 6 supports. This is in part my fault, when we wrote the What’s New in vSphere 6 white paper the number was 6000. Additional scale testing has been done and that number is now 8000. The what’s new paper will be updated soon to reflect this.

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Logging USB devices plugged into ESXi


I just found an interesting question on an internal message board here in VMware. A customer was wondering if it was possible to disable USB ports at the ESXi level. They are a very security conscience organization and they want to block any opportunity for someone internally with malicious intent to plug in a USB drive. Normally, this would be done at the BIOS level of the hardware but some device manufactures don’t implement that functionality.

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vCenter Server 5.5 Update 2 Released

Today VMware released Update 2 of its vSphere management solution, vCenter Server. In this release there are updates to the supported database versions and many resolved known issues.

What’s New

  • vCenter Server database support: vCenter Server now supports the following external databases:
    • Oracle 12c. Important: For pre-requisite requirements, see KB 2079443.
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Service Pack 1
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2014
  • vCloud Hybrid Service: The vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) introduces a new container, Hybrid Cloud Service, on the vSphere Web Client home page. The Hybrid Cloud Service container contains the vCHS installer and the new vCloud Connector installer.
  • Customer Experience Improvement Program: The vSphere customer experience improvement program is introduced to collect configuration data for vSphere and transmit weekly to VMware for analysis in understanding the usage and improving the product. For more details, see the vSphere Documentation Center.

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Introducing VMware vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Editions

At VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, we introduced VMware vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard and Advanced editions. These exciting offerings will allow us to provide new and existing customers of all sizes with enhanced service level, standardization and availability capabilities for remote and branch office locations.

Customers can expect vSphere Remote Office Branch Office to deliver:

  • Faster provisioning of servers through virtualization
  • Enforcement of configuration standards
  • High availability of IT infrastructure at remote sites via vSphere’s business continuity features such as vMotion, Storage vMotion, Replication and Data Protection

These new offerings feature a per virtual machine licensing metric that offers customers the flexibility to deploy only the number of workloads required at each remote site. vSphere Remote Office Branch Office Standard and Advanced is expected to be available in Q3 2014. They will be available in packs of 25 virtual machines priced at $3,000 for the Standard edition and $4,500 for the Advanced edition. These packs can be distributed across multiple remote sites.  These new offerings will replace existing vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus Kits for Retail and Branch Offices.

Note that the regular non-Retail/Branch Office Essentials and Essentials Plus Kits (that come in 6 CPU packs with 1 vCenter Server Essentials) will continue to be available.

For more info, go to:  http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/compare.html

If you’re at VMworld this week, you can learn more about using vSphere in Remote Office and Branch Office environments in the following session:

INF1212 – “Best Practices in Virtualizing Remote Offices and Branch Offices with VMware”

  • Tuesday, Aug 26, 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PT
  • Wednesday, Aug 27, 11:30 AM – 12:30 PM PT

Coming soon: vSphere 5.5 Update 2

We’re also announcing vSphere 5.5 Update 2. The new release offers support for new chipsets, guest operating systems, business critical application and 6TB hosts. It is expected to be available in Q3 2014.

Get details on the pending release at the following session:

INF1502 – “What’s New in vSphere?”

  • Wednesday, Aug 27, 8:00 AM – 9:00 AM PT
  • Thursday, Aug 28, 1:30 PM – 2:30 PM PT

vSphere Beta Program Continues

On June 30, we opened up the vSphere Beta Program for everyone to enroll and to help us define the direction of world’s most robust virtualization platform. Over the last couple of months, beta participants have offered up heaps of feedback on product functionality, configurability, usability, and performance in the private beta community. Additionally, they have had the chance to learn more about vSphere through weekly webcasts and interaction with our product teams.

We’re committed to make the next release the strongest possible with your help. The beta program remains open, and we’re still seeking participants. It’s not too late to download, install, and evaluate the vSphere beta software in your environment today.

Join the vSphere Beta Program today at: https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/vsphere-beta

There will be a technical previews pod in the VMware booth (1229) showcasing some of the features in this vSphere Beta.  Please stop on by to learn more.

Managing Virtual SAN with RVC: Part 2 – Navigating your vSphere and Virtual SAN infrastructure with RVC

In our first article in this series, we looked at the history, features, and setup of the Ruby vSphere Console. Built upon the Ruby interface to the vSphere API (RbVmomi), the Ruby vSphere Console is a powerful management utility for the vSphere infrastructure, as well as an efficient integration option for third party applications and cli-based automation.

In today’s article, we will begin digging further into the features and usage of the Ruby vSphere Console by leveraging it to explore the vSphere and Virtual SAN infrastructure. Within RVC, the vSphere infrastructure is presented to the user as a virtual file system. This allows us to navigate its managed entities and even execute commands against them as well.

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