vSphere Lifecycle Manager Enhancements in vSAN 7 Update 2
Simplified operations mean predictable outcomes. This is one of the reasons why VMware continues to make significant investments in improving the resilience and flexibility of operations with vSAN. vSAN 7 Update 2 introduces a series of enhancements that was a direct result of feedback from our customers. Beyond enhancements that improve the robustness of vSAN, the improved operational handling also includes all-new levels of visibility for customer workloads. This post focuses specifically on the enhancements to vSphere Lifecycle Manager in vSAN 7 Update 2. While vLCM can be used in any vSphere environment, this article focuses on enhancements relevant to vSAN clusters.
What is vLCM
Lifecycle management is a time-consuming chore for IT, and it remains highly manual for most organizations. IT needs purpose-built tools to update each tier of their infrastructure, and often times separate tools for the software and hardware. Often, they have multiple vendors for each component of their infrastructure as well.
vSphere Lifecycle Manager (vLCM) enables customers to update their VMware software and server firmware with a single tool. In addition, it introduced a declarative model that applies a desired image across the cluster, constantly monitors for compliance, and enables admins to remediate any drift with just a few clicks.
What’s New in vSAN 7 Update 2
Firmware Updates for Hitachi UCP HC Series
vSphere 7 Update 2 builds on the improvements in past releases with new support for Hitachi UCP ReadyNode models, offering more flexibility for our customers who use Hitachi servers to power their environment. The release of Hitachi Unified Compute Platform Advisor v3.10.0 has introduced comprehensive one-click lifecycle management for both the software and compute hardware to provide consistency, performance, and reliability across the cluster.
This release will also allow Hitachi customers deploying NSX-T on UCP infrastructure to leverage the UCP Advisor as a management tool for the physical provisioning of IP switches. UCP admins with the right privileges will be able to get inventory visibility, manage (VLANS and ports), provision and backup/restore switch configuration, perform a firmware upgrade on current Cisco & Arista network switches enabled with VMware NSX-T. For UCP RS with VCF environments, UCP Advisor will enable the management of multiple workload domains with integration into Linked multi vCenter. For more information about the Hitachi UCP advisor, visit www.hitachivantara.com.
vSphere with Tanzu using NSX-T Networking
vLCM now supports lifecycle management of vSphere with Tanzu enabled clusters, using NSX-T networking. The Tanzu layers will be able to be updated in a non-disruptive manner in conjunction with the NSX-T layers.
You can start using vSphere with Tanzu with NSX-T networking on a cluster that uses a single vSphere Lifecycle Manager image by enabling the cluster for Workload Management. Upon enabling Workload Management on a Supervisor Cluster configured with the NSX-T networking stack, vSphere Lifecycle Manager installs the Spherelet VIB on every ESXi host in the cluster. Supervisor clusters using vLCM can upgrade to the latest version of vSphere with Tanzu and also upgrade the ESXi version of the hosts in the Supervisor Cluster.
Reference Host Seeding
The workflows used by administrators for both new cluster creation, as well as a greenfield environment where a vCenter Server appliance is bootstrapped onto a single host, have been updated to accommodate the ability to easily reference a host for easy compliance. vLCM will extract the image from a single host and apply it to other hosts in the cluster in a seamless fashion, saving time and effort. You can also import an image from an ESXi host that is in the same or a different vCenter Server instance. You can also import an image from an ESXi host that is not managed by vCenter, move the reference host to the cluster, or use the image on the host and seed it to the new cluster without moving the host.
Intelligent Update Recommendations
vLCM update recommendations will now auto-regenerate after certain change events such as a refreshing of the vSphere depot or modification of the desired cluster image. Updates include ESXi versions (patch or upgrades) and vendor-addons (HSPs) – if an HSM is configured for the cluster. If no HSM is configured, then only software updates will be provided (ESXi or drivers). In addition, the administrator will be notified of new or regenerated update recommendations through vCenter events and alarms.
Faster Upgrades with Quick Boot Suspend to Memory
Host updates are a necessary task in the data center. When a host is contributing CPU, memory, and storage resources, the more quickly a host can be updated the better. Less time offline means more time in production. This is where vSphere Quick Boot comes into play, where host restarts during an upgrade can be accelerated by bypassing the hardware and firmware initialization process of a server.
vSAN 7 Update 2 provides better integration and coordination for hosts using Quick Boot to speed up the host update process. By suspending the VMs to memory, and better integration with the Quick Boot workflow, the amount of data moved during a rolling upgrade is drastically reduced due to reduced VM migrations, and a smaller amount of resynchronization data. When the circumstances are suitable, Quick boot can deliver a much more efficient host update process if the workloads are able to be suspended for a brief period of time.
Bootstrapping a vSAN cluster
Administrators have long been able to standup a fully self-contained single vSAN host leveraging the bootstrap method, but until recently, configuring vLCM was a series of manual steps needing to be performed after the install. Now with vSphere 7 Update 2, administrators can use a new vCenter CLI Installer template, ‘embedded_vcsa_onESXI’ to enable vLCM during the bootstrapping process. This greatly simplifies the deployment process and helps administrators manage vSAN clusters with a single vLCM desired image.
vLCM supports a maximum of 64 concurrent vSAN Cluster Operations. For non-vSAN clusters, vLCM can now support cluster sizes of up to 96 nodes. Concurrent operations allow administrators to remediate clusters simultaneously, which increases efficiency and saves time during maintenance windows. Hosts within each cluster are still updated in a serialized fashion. This applies to all cluster types, including vSphere clusters, standard vSAN clusters, Stretched Clusters, 2-Node, and vSAN clusters configured with Fault Domains. vLCM can now support a maximum of 400 vLCM hosts (across N Clusters) in vCenter, which was increased from 280 in vSphere 7 U1.
Lifecycle management has historically been a time-consuming and complex process. Administrators need to find the right balance between software, firmware, and drivers that are current but also supported on the VCG. This can involve several tools and considerable time and effort. vSphere Lifecycle Manager reduces the complexity of monitoring and maintaining hyper-converged infrastructure by consolidating software, driver, and firmware update tools and introducing a desired-state model of implementing the desired image. vSphere 7 Update 2 extends these capabilities with improved scalability, vSphere with Tanzu using NSX-T networking, host seeding, Quick Boot suspend to memory, and support for Hitachi UCP. vSphere Lifecycle Manager delivers simple, reliable, and consistent lifecycle operations for vSphere and HCI clusters and ESXi hosts.