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Category Archives: Uncategorized

Introducing VMware Hyper-Converged Software

VMware Hyper-Converged Software

Powering the industry’s largest Hyper-Converged Infrastructure ecosystem

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) is transforming the way private datacenter infrastructure is being built –see this post for an overview of HCI.  It eliminates the traditional hardware silos of compute, storage and networking, to move all the intelligence into a single software layer running on industry-standard x86 servers.  By doing so, HCI makes private infrastructure a lot simpler, higher performing, and more cost-effective.  In essence, the infrastructure starts looking like the datacenters of web-scale companies such as Google or Amazon.  We’re seeing these benefits play out across thousands of VMware customers that have deployed and expanded their HCI deployments over the past year.

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure

Hyper-Converged Infrastructure relies on both great hardware and great software.  The hardware consists of industry-standard x86 building blocks, serving as the foundation for the entire datacenter.  This hardware convergence relies on critical innovations such as flash and faster CPUs.

At the same time – it’s clear that HCI is first and foremost about the software.  Software innovation is what makes HCI possible.  Compute, storage, networking and management are now delivered as software. For storage specifically – this requires a software-defined, distributed, shared storage model with all the data services typically provided by external SAN or NAS – but all delivered as software on the hypervisor.  This distributed software is very hard to build, hence why only a few vendors are able to pull it off.

Let’s introduce you to VMware Hyper-Converged Software

At VMware, we believe we have an incredibly valuable and innovative set of software assets that enables HCI:

  • vSphere is, of course, the most widely deployed and proven hypervisor in the industry. It also delivers basic Virtual Machine networking capabilities with vSphere Distributed Switch.
  • Virtual SAN provides high-performance, enterprise-class shared storage
  • vCenter Server provides unified management across the stack

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Oracle U2VL With Virtual SAN And The Batch Processing Use Case

Unix to Virtualized Linux (U2VL) is a critical step towards SDDC, it targets to migrate applications and data from physical Unix servers to Linux virtual machines running on x86 virtualized infrastructure. These applications are typically business critical, therefore, customers normally take a very cautious approach by doing a carefully planned and executed Proof-of-Concept (POC) in order to validate performance, availability, and scalability, among many other areas.

My colleagues in China (a big shout out to Tony Wang and his team!) recently did one such POC with a large local bank, and naturally they chose Virtual SAN hyper-converged architecture for all of the compute and storage needs. The test results were so illustrative of many of the Virtual SAN benefits, I’d like to share this POC and some of the test results here, although I’m not allowed to mention the customer name due to reasons you probably understand.

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VMware Virtual SAN Delivers Enterprise Level Availability

One of the slides we showcased during the VMware Virtual SAN 6.1 Launch that got a lot of attention was the following slide:

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A lot of eyebrows in the audience were going up wondering how we came to the conclusion that VSAN delivers 6-9s availability level (or less than 32 seconds of downtime a year). While, Virtual SAN uses software-based RAID, which differs in implementation from traditional storage solutions, it does have the same end result – your data objects are mirrored (RAID-1) for increased reliability and availability. Moreover, with VSAN your data is mirrored across hosts in the cluster not just across storage devices, as is the case with typical hardware RAID controllers.

The VSAN users can set their goals for data availability by means of a policy that may be specified for each VM or even for each VMDK if desired. The relevant policy is called ‘Failures to Tolerate’ (FTT) and refers to the number of concurrent host and/or disk failures a storage object can tolerate. For FTT=n, “n+1” copies of the object are created and “2n+1” hosts are required (to ensure availability even under split brain situations).

For the end user, it is important to quantify the levels of availability achieved with different values of the FTT policy. With only one copy (FTT=0), the availability of the data equals the availability of the hardware the data resides on. Typically, that is in the range of 2-9s (99%) availability, i.e., 3.65 Days downtime/year. However, for higher values of FTT, more copies of the data are created across hosts and that reduces exponentially the probability of data unavailability. With FTT=1 (2 replicas), data availability goes up to at least 4-9s (99.99% or 5 minutes downtime per year), and with FTT=2 (3 replicas) it goes up to 6-9s (99.9999% or 32 seconds downtime per year). Put simply, for FTT=n, more than n hosts and/or devices have to fail concurrently for one’s data to become unavailable. Many people challenged us to show them how the math actually works to arrive at these conclusions. So let’s get to it.

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Virtual Volumes and Storage Policy-Based Management for Databases

In the first part of this series we provided a high level view of the benefits of using Virtual Volumes enabled storage for database operations. In the second part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes can improve the backup and recovery capabilities for business critical databases, specifically Oracle .In the third part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes works in a crash consistent manner for backup and for cloning operations.

Virtual Volumes integrates with Storage Policy-Based Management, the same framework to manage data services in vSphere. In this part we will look at how Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) can be leveraged to manage mission critical databases. Continue reading

Crash consistent backups and database cloning with Virtual Volumes

In the first part of this series we provided a high level view of the benefits of using Virtual Volumes enabled storage for database operations. In the second part of this series we examined in more detail how Virtual Volumes can improve the backup and recovery capabilities for business critical databases, specifically Oracle.

The backups for Oracle can be Database consistent or Crash consistent. In this part we will look at Crash consistent backup and recovery and also how database cloning is simplified by the use of VVol. Continue reading

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

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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

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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

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

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

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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”.

 

 

Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS): Reference Architecture with VMware and Tintri

Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS) is a real-world example of cloud computing that delivers databases and database applications through self-service portals without IT intervention. Providing multiple copies of relational database servers for testing and development is traditionally a complex operation that involves the combined efforts of multiple teams and the creation of custom scripts. Yet the ability to quickly provision instances of Oracle and SQL Server databases can reduce the time to create, test, deliver, and deploy new applications.

A study of DBAAS with VMware vRealize Automation (vRA), Tintri storage done by VLSS highlights the capabilities of these platforms to do this efficiently and in an automated manner. The DBaaS reference architecture is only useful if end-users can deploy a catalog of VMs under varying conditions and workloads. These test results highlight three accomplishments in the vRA DBaaS reference architecture with Tintri.

1. VAAI enabled offload allowed the Tintri storage array cloning feature to drop the average time to provision 50 VMs from 17 minutes to 6 minutes; a 65% drop.
2. The DBaaS provisioning times were low and stable even as the load is increased significantly on the DBaaS systems.
3. Even when an extreme workload is applied to the Tintri VMstore storage array, the DBaaS provisioning times were consistently low.

The attached White Paper goes into detail on this study.

Virtual Volumes: A game changer for operations of virtualized business critical databases

This is first of a series of posts on deploying vSphere Virtual Volumes for Tier 1 Business Critical Databases. Although this article is written with a focus on Oracle databases, much of this discussion holds good for any Mission critical application.
Business critical databases are among the last workloads virtualized in enterprises, primarily because of the challenges that they pose with growth and scale. Typically the low hanging fruits are virtualizing the Development, Testing/QA, Staging databases after running a successful POC and then moving on the big guy’s i.e. the Production databases.

There are many common concerns about virtualizing business critical databases that inhibit and delay virtualization of these workloads:
• Business critical virtualized databases need to meet strict SLAs for performance and storage has traditionally been the slowest component
• Databases grow quickly, while at the same time there is a need to reduce backup windows and their impact on system performance.
• There is a regular need to clone and refresh databases from production to QA and other environments. However, the size of the modern databases make it harder to clone and refresh data from production to other environments
• Databases of different levels of criticality need different storage performance characteristics and capabilities.
• There is a never-ending debate between DBAs and Systems administrators regarding filesystems VS raw devices and VMFS VS RDM. These are primarily due to some of the deficiencies that existed in the past with virtualization.
Levels of database operations on VMware environments

Generally speaking there are 3 levels from which regular database operations (i.e. backup, cloning, etc.) can be triggered: application level, vSphere level, and storage level.

Furthermore, each approach has benefits but also drawbacks. For instance, application level operations (Oracle RMAN, SQL) may provide finer operation granularity but performance is not optimal. vSphere level operations offer VM granularity but a VM level snapshot will stun a VM for some time during snapshot coalescing/deletion (KB 1002836: A snapshot removal can stop a virtual machine for long time). Finally, storage level operations offer better performance but lack VM granularity as operations are executed at LUN level.

The ideal solution to address database operation challenges

An ideal solution would combine the built-in storage capabilities with the granularity of VM-level operations, like snapshots. More specifically:
• The solution should be able to trigger backups and clones with VMDK granularity at the same time.
• Do a storage level snapshot triggering the operation at the VM level, which is the fastest and the ideal among all the three above solutions.
• The solution would allow different database components to be aligned with different storage data services needed.

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.

Oracle on vSphere book – Tech Target Interview of Authors

Tech Target has completed and published an interview of the authors (Don Sullivan and Kannan Mani) of the Oracle on vSphere VMware press book.  The published interview is linked  below:

The official VMware press book and the definitive authority on the subject of Oracle on vSphere: http://www.amazon.com/Virtualizing-Oracle-Databases-vSphere-Technology/dp/0133570185 “Serious Databases Require Serious Virtualization”

— Putting Oracle databases on a virtualized infrastructure – http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/feature/Putting-Oracle-databases-on-a-virtualized-infrastructure — The perks to virtualizing Oracle on vSphere 6 – http://searchvmware.techtarget.com/feature/The-perks-to-virtualizing-Oracle-on-vSphere-6