Automating FlashStack with SmartConfig and VMware Cloud Foundation

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.

One of the (many) fun things we get to work on at Pure is researching and figuring out new ways to streamline things that are traditionally repetitive and time-consuming (read:  boring).  Recently, we looked at how we could go about automating the deployment of FlashStack™ end-to-end; since a traditional deployment absolutely includes some of these repetitive tasks.  Our goal is to start off with a completely greenfield FlashStack (racked, powered, cabled and otherwise completely unconfigured) and automate everything possible to end up with a fully-functional VMware environment ready for use.    After some thought, reading and discussion, we found that this goal was achievable with the combination of SmartConfig™ and VMware Cloud Foundation™. 

Automating a FlashStack deployment makes a ton of sense:  From the moment new hardware is procured and delivered to a datacenter, the race is on for it to switch from a liability to a money producing asset for the business.  Further, using SmartConfig and Cloud Foundation together is really combining two blueprint-driven solutions:  Cisco Validated Designs (CVDs) and VMware Validated Designs (VVDs).  That does a lot to take the guesswork out of building the underlying infrastructure and hypervisor layers since firmware, hardware and software versions have all been pre validated and tested by Cisco, VMware and Pure Storage.  In addition, these two tools also go through setting up these blueprints automatically via a customizable and repeatable framework.  

Once we started working through this in the lab, the following automation workflow emerged:

Along with some introduction to the key technologies in play, we have divided the in-depth deployment guide into 3 core parts.  All of these sections, including product overviews and click-by-click instructions are publicly available here on the Pure Storage VMware Platform Guide.

  1. Deploy FlashStack with ESXi via SmartConfig.  The input of this section will be factory reset Cisco hardware and the output will be a fully functional imaged/zoned/deployed UCS chassis with ESXi7 installed and ready for use with VMware Cloud Foundation.
  2. Build VMware Cloud Foundation SDDC Manager on FlashStack.  The primary input for CloudBuilder is, not ironically, the output of the work in part 1.  Specifically, ESXi hosts and their underlying infrastructure, from which we will automatically deploy a Management Domain with CloudBuilder.
  3. The last section will show how to deploy a VMware Cloud Foundation Workload Domain with Pure Storage as both Principle Storage (VMFS on FC) and Supplemental Storage (vVols).  Options such as iSCSI are covered in additional KB articles in the VMware Cloud Foundation section of the Pure Storage support site.

Post-deployment, customers will enjoy the benefits of single-click lifecycle management for the bulk of their UCS and VMware components and the ability to dynamically scale up or down their Workload Domain deployment resources independently or collectively based upon specific needs (e.g. compute/memory, network and/or storage) all from SDDC Manager.

For those who prefer a more interactive demo, I’ve recorded an in-depth overview video of this automation project followed by a four-part demo video series that shows click-by-click just how easy and fast it is to deploy a FlashStack with VMware from scratch. 

Craig Waters and I gave a Light Board session on this subject:

And this is an in-depth PowerPoint overview of the project:

Finally, this is a video series showing the end-to-end process in-depth broken into a few parts for brevity.

Extending vVols to VMware Cloud Foundation

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

As we’ve covered in past posts, VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) offers immense advantage to VMware users in terms of simplifying day 0 and 1 activities and streamlining management operations within the vSphere ecosystem.  Today, we dive into how to use the Pure Storage leading vVols implementation as Supplemental storage with your Management and Workload Domains. 

First though, a brief description of the differences between Principal Storage and Supplemental Storage and how it relates to VCF is in order to set the table.  Fortunately, it is very easy to distinguish between the two storage types:

Principal Storage is any storage type that you can connect to your Workload Domain as a part of the setup process within SDDC Manager.  Today, that’s comprised of vSAN, NFS and VMFS on Fibre Channel, pictured below.  We’ve shown how to use VMFS on FC previously.

Supplemental Storage simply means that you connect your storage system to a Workload Domain after it has been deployed.  Examples of this storage type today include iSCSI and the focus of this blog:  vVols.

Continue reading “Extending vVols to VMware Cloud Foundation”

First Class Disks and VVols

One of the major advantages we have seen with VVols is making a virtual disk a first class citizen on the array. We can restore, copy, replicate them (and their VMs) as storage objects were meant to be restored, copied, replicated etc.

Though one thing about virtual disks is that by default–they are not first class citizens in vSphere, VVols or otherwise. To create one, it has to be associated with a VM.

To retrieve one in PowerCLI (for example) get-harddisk requires a datastore or a VM to return a result:

Same if I want to create a new one:

Continue reading “First Class Disks and VVols”

PowerCLI and VVols Part VIII: Running a Failover–Planned Migration

In the previous post in this series I explored how to run a VVol-based test failover of a virtual machine. Now I will walk through running an actual failover.

There are two types of failovers; a planned migration (everything is up an running) and a disaster recovery failover (part or all of the original site is down).

For this post, I will start with running a planned migration.

Continue reading “PowerCLI and VVols Part VIII: Running a Failover–Planned Migration”

PowerCLI and VVols Part VI: Running a Test Failover

This post I will talk about using PowerCLI to run a test failover for VVol-based virtual machines. One of the many nice things about VVols is that in the VASA 3.0 API this process is largely automated for you. The SRM-like workflow of a test failover is included–so the amount of storage-related PowerShell you have to manually write is fairly minimal.

Continue reading “PowerCLI and VVols Part VI: Running a Test Failover”

1.1.0.2 Release of the Pure Storage VMware PowerShell Module

I have released a new version of the VMware/Pure PowerShell module which can be automatically installed from the PowerShell Gallery.

Pure Storage PowerShell VMware Module

Updates in this release are focused on VVols. Creating VVol snapshots, copying them, creating new disks from them, retrieving them etc.

Version 1.1.0.2

I wrote a blog post below on using some of the new cmdlets:

PowerCLI and VVols Part V: Array Snapshots and VVols

Continue reading “1.1.0.2 Release of the Pure Storage VMware PowerShell Module”

VMware & Pure Integration Training Videos

A few months back I was reviewing our VMware training for our field (and after some direct feedback) realized it wasn’t really doing what our field needed. It was too nuts and bolts technical–which isn’t really what was needed by the masses. There was more of a desire to understand the value of the VMware product, the value of the integration and the value that we as Pure can bring to it.

The ones that wanted/needed more technical training could get that as needed.

In short, what they wanted to be able to do was have the “I’m staffing a booth at a conference and someone asks me about vRealize Orchestrator”. Not being an expert in the product, how to do I quickly understand the value, so I know if I am chasing the right product/solution and I should inquire further.

There are so many options out there, the “why” sometimes can be the most important question. Continue reading “VMware & Pure Integration Training Videos”

Virtual Volumes and Array Snapshots Part I: Managed Snapshots

One of the first technical benefits users can enjoy around VVols is the use of snapshotting. Snapshots created through VMware of VMs have always been a point of contention which as severely limited their usability (see a post I did around the performance impact of them here).

With VVols, when you right-click on a VM and choose take snapshot, VMware does not create the performance-impacting delta VMDK files that were traditionally used, but instead VMware entirely offloads this process to the array. So the array creates the snapshots and VMware just tracks them.

But since VMs are now a collection of individual volumes on the array (a VVol is just an array volume) you can also snapshot and restore individual virtual disks as well directly on the array.

So what does all of this mean?

Continue reading “Virtual Volumes and Array Snapshots Part I: Managed Snapshots”

Troubleshooting Virtual Volume Setup

VVols have been gaining quite a bit of traction of late, which has been great to see. I truly believe it solves a lot of problems that were traditionally faced in VMware environments and infrastructures in general. With that being said, as things get adopted at scale, a few people inevitably run into some problems setting it up.

The main issues have revolved around the fact that VVols are presented and configured in a different way then VMFS, so when someone runs into an issue, they often do not know exactly where to start.

The issues usually come down to one of the following places:

  • Initial Configuration
  • Registering VASA
  • Mounting a VVol datastore
  • Creating a VM on the VVol datastore
Continue reading “Troubleshooting Virtual Volume Setup”

PowerCLI and vVols Part II: Finding vVol UUIDs

One of the great benefits of vVols is that fact that virtual disks are just volumes on your array. So this means if you want to do some data management with your virtual disks, you just need to work directly on the volume that corresponds to it.

The question is what virtual disk corresponds to what volume on what array?

Well some of that question is very array dependent (are you using Pure Storage or something else). But the first steps are always the same. Let’s start there for the good of the order.

Continue reading “PowerCLI and vVols Part II: Finding vVol UUIDs”