How does Pure Storage integrate with vSAN?

I get this question quite a bit–in fact I got this question just today while discussing ways to grow the Pure Storage/VMware business. To folks who are close to the VMware storage ecosystem it might seem like an odd question, but it’s a good question!

VMware puts a lot of energy and time into vSAN. Lots of technical information, lots of marketing, lots of webinars, lots of great people discussing its ins and outs at VMware. So if vSAN is such a big storage thing at VMware, how does Pure support vSAN? What do we do with it? How can use deploy vSAN to use Pure Storage FlashArray storage?

Well let’s first take a look at what VMware really is offering with storage. VMware, at the highest level of storage is offering Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM). In a strong and steady movement away from caring about specific datastores, it is much more about the features and protections you want to apply to your VMs, or more specifically their disks. I want it replicated, I want it encrypted, I want it fast. Etc.

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Digging into vSphere Workload Management Options

Note: This is another guest blog by Kyle Grossmiller. Kyle is a Sr. Solutions Architect at Pure and works with Cody on all things VMware.

VMware Tanzu is a great way for VMware users to manage their virtual machine environments while in parallel coming up to speed with containers all under the same familiar pane of glass. In fact, that’s possibly the biggest value proposition that Tanzu gives us today: extending vSphere and all of its enterprise features and goodness to the realm of K8s in a recognizable context.

There’s a catch, though. Before one can start to use Tanzu one has to get Tanzu setup. While it’s reasonably straight forward to do so – it is also important to note that there are multiple ways to enable Tanzu and to distinguish the pros/cons of each of them. It’s also key to understand what these underlying components are and how they interact to help troubleshoot any potential problems. This post will focus on two of these methods: vCenter Network Option (HA-Proxy) and NSX-T (VMware Cloud Foundation). Cody covered the 3rd option of directly deploying Tanzu Kubernetes Grid to vSphere in an earlier post that can be found here.

It’s critical to note that you must be at a minimum of vSphere 7 before you can use either of these below methods we will cover. ESXi 6.7U3 and up is supported via the method shown in Cody’s post I linked above. The two Workload Management enablement networking options are built right into the vSphere 7 UI under Workload Management when you add a cluster:

The other important prerequisite is that you will need one or more SPBM (Storage Policy Based Management) policies defined in order to get the Supervisor Cluster up and running. There are a couple of KB articles on our Platform Guide which shows how to do this on the FlashArray and the differences between VMFS and vVols based policies.

So let’s lay out the key components and differences between the vCenter Server Network and NSX-T backed Workload Management options and provide some more information on how to enable each of them…

The vCenter Server Network option allows customers to get Workload Management working in their vSphere environment by deploying a single OVA (known as HA-Proxy) and does not require any other external products like NSX-T or SDDC Manager. This OVA and associated information can be found at this link on GitHub. The main benefit of this option is the relative simplicity of getting Tanzu running since the only items you need to setup are a distributed switch portgroup to handle your Kubernetes ingress/egress ranges and the HA-Proxy OVA itself. The HA-Proxy will act as the load balancer for kubernetes traffic and provide the supervisor cluster API endpoint. The downside is that the HA-Proxy VM represents a single point of failure and larger kubernetes deployments at some point will more than likely overwhelm the CPU/memory resources available to it. This option is best for those who want to look at Tanzu in a POC/exploratory type of setup.

Here’s a quick narrated technical video I created showing how to setup Workload Management with the HA-Proxy OVA:

After Workload Management was enabled, I created another quick demo video showing how to create Namespaces and deploy a Tanzu Kubernetes Guest Cluster:

NSX-T based Workload Management is recommended to be backed/managed by a VMware Cloud Foundation deployment. This option gives you all of the enterprise grade features, resilience and lifecycle management that comes embedded with SDDC Manager. The con of this option is there is more setup work and moving pieces involved than the other Tanzu deployment choices and it requires additional licensing once the trial period expires. The key component that needs to be setup for Tanzu in particular is called an NSX-T Edge Cluster. An Edge Cluster is comprised of at least one (but really it should be two for resiliency) Edge VMs which help route and load balance network traffic from your top of rack switch to the underlying kubernetes deployments. The Edge Cluster deployment can be automated to a large extent from within SDDC Manager via a wizard.

In our lab, I went the route of manually deploying a 2 node Edge Cluster within NSX-T as this gives a better ‘under the hood’ view of how everything works together. As most customers likely do not have top of rack switch access to setup BGP, I also decided to use the static routing option within NSX-T. Here’s a video showing how to set this up end-to-end:

With the EdgeCluster built, the next step is to enable Workload Management which is shown in this video:

Hopefully this post has provided a bit of guidance and insight in terms of what Tanzu solution might be right for your environment. We are continuing to investigate and document how to best leverage the FlashArray with kubernetes so please check back here and our platform guide often for updates. Thanks for reading.

What’s New in Purity 6.1: ESXi NVMe-oF Fibre Channel Boot from SAN

One of the initial limitations around NVMe-oF was the (in)ability to boot from SAN–though this is no longer the case. And you need some fairly new drivers across the board to do it. As far as I am aware, (as of the publication of this post) boot from SAN via NVMe is only currently supported via Fibre Channel, not RoCEv2. But I will keep an eye on that. You do need NVMe-oF/FC capable HBAs–a list of them can be found here:

https://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=io&details=1&pFeatures=361&page=1&display_interval=10&sortColumn=Partner&sortOrder=Asc

I am using Emulex LightPulse LPe32002-M2 2-Port 32Gb Fibre Channel Adapter in my server, so I will go through the Emulex instructions. The ESXi-side of things will be similar for other vendors, but the HBA driver version/configuration will be different.

First off, want to learn more about NVMe? Check out this from SNIA:

https://www.snia.org/educational-library?search=nvme&field_edu_content_type_tid=All&field_assoc_event_name_tid=All&field_release_date_value_2%5Bvalue%5D%5Byear%5D=&field_focus_areas_tid=All&field_author_tid=&field_author_company_value=&field_release_date_value=All&items_per_page=20

In order to boot from SAN via NVMe/FC you need a few other things:

  1. ESXi 7.0 Update 1 (or later)
  2. 12.8.x release (or later) of the lpfx and brcmnvmefc drivers from Broadcom/Emulex
  3. FlashArray//X or C withPurity 6.1 or later (Pure customers of course) and FC ports.
  4. Latest release of the HBA firmware
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What’s New in Purity 6.1: NVMe-oF/Fibre Channel

NVMe. A continued march to rid ourselves of the vestigial SCSI standard. As I have said in the past, SCSI was designed for spinning disk–where performance and density are not friendly to one another. NVMe, however, was built for flash. The FlashArray was built for, well, flash. Shocking, I know.

Putting SCSI in front of flash, at any layer, constricts what performance density can be offered. It isn’t just about latency–but throughput/IOPS per GB. A spinning disk can get larger, but it really doesn’t get faster. Flash performance scales much better with capacity however. So larger flash drives don’t get slower per GB. But this really requires the HW and the SW to take advantage of it. SCSI has bottlenecks–queue limits that are low. NVMe has fantastically larger queues. It opens up the full performance, and specifically performance density of your flash, and in turn, your array. We added NVMe to our NVRAM, then our internal flash to the chassis, then NVMe-oF to our expansion shelves, then NVMe-oF to our front end from the host. The next step is to work with our partners to enable NVMe in their stack. We worked with VMware to release it in ESXi 7.0. More info on all of this in the following posts:

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Configuring FlashArray Offload to AWS S3

I am working on some new integration efforts around a feature we call “offload” and figured since I am setting it up, I might as well document it.

For the un-initiated we have a feature called Snapshot Offload that creates snapshots of one or more sets of volumes in a write-consistent manner and sends them to a non-FlashArray target (similar to our snapshot replication from one FlashArray to another conceptually). Those snapshots can then be ingested back to that FlashArray, a different one, or a Cloud Block Store instance in AWS or Azure.

Snapshot offload allows you to send to either some object store, so AWS S3, Azure Blob, GCP Object, or a random NFS target:

For this post I am going to walk through creating an AWS S3 bucket, providing credentials, and then configuring a protection group.

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ESXi NVMe-oF Namespace IDs, LUNs, and other Identifiers

In the world of SCSI, a storage device is generally addressed by two things:

  1. LUN–Logical Unit Number. This is a number used to address the device down a specific path to a specific array, for a specific host. So it is not a unique number really, it is not guaranteed to be unique to an array, to a host, or a volume. So for every path to a volume there could be a different LUN number. Think of it like a street address. 100 Maple St. There are many “100 Maple Streets”. So it requires the city, the state/province/etc, the country to really be meaningful. And a street name can change. So can other things. So it can usually get you want you want, but it isn’t guaranteed.
  2. Serial number. This is a globally unique identifier of the volume. This means it is entirely unique for that volume and it cannot be change. It is the same for everyone and everything who uses that volume. To continue our metaphor, look at it like the GPS coordinates of the house instead of the address. It will get you where you need, always.

So how does this change with NVMe? Well these things still exist, but how they interact is…different.

Now, first, let me remind that generally these concepts are vendor neutral, but how things are generated, reported, and even sometimes named vary. So I write this for Pure Storage, so keep that in mind.

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Pure Storage Plugin for the vSphere Client 4.5.0 Release

Howdy doody folks. Lots of releases coming down the pipe in short order and the latest is well the latest release of the Pure Storage Plugin for the vSphere Client. This may be our last release of it in this architecture (though we may have one or so more depending on things) in favor of the new preferred client-side architecture that VMware released in 6.7. Details on that here if you are curious.

Anyways, what’s new in this plugin?

The release notes are here:

https://support.purestorage.com/Solutions/VMware_Platform_Guide/Release_Notes_for_VMware_Solutions/Release_Notes%3A_Pure_Storage_Plugin_for_the_vSphere_Client#4.5.0_Release_Notes

But in short, five things:

  1. Improved protection group import wizard. This feature pulls in FlashArray protection groups and converts them into vVol storage policies. This was, rudimentary at best previously, and is now a full-blown, much more flexible wizard.
  2. Native performance charts. Previously performance charts for datastores (where we showed FlashArray performance stats in the vSphere Client) was actually an iframe we pulled from our GUI. This was a poor decision. We have re-done this entirely from the ground up and now pull the stats from the REST API and draw them natively using the Clarity UI. Furthermore, there are now way more stats shown too.
  3. Datastore connectivity management. A few releases ago we added a feature to add an existing datastore to new compute, but it wasn’t particularly flexible and it wasn’t helpful if there were connectivity issues and didn’t provide good insight into what was already connected. We now have an entirely new page that focuses on this.
  4. Host management. This has been entirely revamped. Initially host management was laser focused on one use case: connecting a cluster to a new FlashArray. But no ability to add/remove a host or make adjustments. And like above, no good insight into current configuration. The host and cluster objects now have their own page with extensive controls.
  5. vVol Datastore Summary. This shows some basic information around the vVol datastore object

First off how do you install? The easiest method is PowerShell. See details (and other options) here:

https://support.purestorage.com/Solutions/VMware_Platform_Guide/User_Guides_for_VMware_Solutions/Using_the_Pure_Storage_Plugin_for_the_vSphere_Client/vSphere_Plugin_User_Guide%3A_Installing_the_vSphere_Plugin

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Managing vVol Storage Policies with PowerShell

I just posted about some new cmdlets here:

Also in that release are a few more cmdlets concerning storage policy creation, editing, and assignment. They were built to make the process easier–the original cmdlets and their use is certainly an option–and for very specific things you might want to do they might be necessary, but the vast majority of common operations can be more easily achieved with these.

As always, to install run:

Install-Module PureStorage.FlashArray.VMware

Or to upgrade:

Update-Module PureStorage.FlashArray.VMware

These modules are open source, so if you just want to use my code or open an RFE or issue go here:

https://github.com/PureStorage-OpenConnect/PureStorage.FlashArray.VMware/

For detailed help on a cmdlet, run Get-Help

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New vVol Replication PowerShell Cmdlets

Happy New Year everyone! Let’s work to make 2021 a better year.

In furtherance of that goal, I have put out a few new vVol-related PowerShell cmdlets! So baby steps I guess.

The following are the new cmdlets:

Basics:

  • Get-PfaVvolStorageArray

Replication:

  • Get-PfaVvolReplicationGroup
  • Get-PfaVvolReplicationGroupPartner
  • Get-PfaVvolFaultDomain

Storage Policy Management:

  • Build-PfaVvolStoragePolicyConfig
  • Edit-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • Get-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • New-PfaVvolStoragePolicy
  • Set-PfaVvolVmStoragePolicy

Now to walk through how to use them. This post will talk about the basics and the replication cmdlets. The next post will talk about the profile cmdlets.

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Improved Certificate Management for Pure1 PowerShell Module

I have made some basic improvements to the Pure1 PowerShell Module that should make it easier to authenticate and connect.

In the 1.4.1.1 release there are two new cmdlets:

Get-PureOneCertificate

Set-PureOneDefaultCertificate

And some minor changes to:

New-PureOneCertificate

New-PureOneConnection

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