vCO Team: VMware announced vCenter Orchestrator 5.5

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VMware announced vCenter Orchestrator 5.5 : a major release including a lot of important new features. No more excuses to not orchestrate !


And here is the list !


vSphere 5.5 integration

vCenter Orchestrator is a component of vSphere 5.5. As such it is automatically installed and configured as part of the vCenter Windows based installation.

vCO & vCenter are integrated using Single Sign On. In the vSphere 5.5 client there is a new feature allowing to add new vCO instances to be managed and monitored.

vCO is shipping with an updated plug-in to manage vSphere 5.5.


Zero configuration through embedded directory service and embeded database

When vCO is installed as part of the Windows based vCenter Server it is pre-configured to use SSO. When the vCO appliance is deployed it is pre-configured to work with the Open LDAP server running in the appliance.

When installing vCO 5.5 as a stand alone server, the embedded OpenLDAP directory service and embeded HSQL database are configured by default. This was not the case in 5.1 where you had to manualy configure these.

Basically any of the different type of vCO installations leads to a fully functional vCO.

  • For production use it is recommended to use SSO or an external directory service (vCO supports Microsoft Active Directory, OpenLDAP, Novel eDirectory, Sun Java System Directory / Oracle Directory System.
  • For production use it is recommended to use an external database (vCO supports Microsoft SQL, Oracle SQL and PostgreSQL).


Resume workflow on failure

vCO 5.5 provides an option to resume a workflow run from the last failed activity. This option is a configuration of the workflow or can be set globally with a configuration file change.

When a workflow fails instead of stopping it reaches a new state similar to a user interaction. It is then possible to open the workflow to resume it. A key feature is that you can change the worklow parameters before attempting a resume. For example if a provisioning workflow failed because of lack of storage on a datastore you can edit the destination datastore before resuming the workflow.

This can be done from the vCO client but also from using the REST API. There is also a tiemout option allowing to fail the workflow after a certain time if it was not resumed.


Workflow debugger

The vCO client now includes a debugger allowing for runnning and debugging the workflow while editing it. You can add break points, inspect and edit inputs, outputs, attributes. You can resume, step into, step over, step return each element. The debugger works at the workflow item level, you cannot put breakpoints within a scriptable task for example.


API Explorer

Now includes a forward / back button for better navigation.


Internationalization level 1

vCO can now run in non english OS and can handle non english text and local date / time format. Localization of the workflow is supported by providing locale-specific resource files.


REST API enhancements

The REST API has been extended to support:

  • Export / import of packages and workflows
  • Setting workflow and actions permissions
  • Create, delete, edit a workflow


vCO configuration plug-in

A new plug-in is shipped with vCO. This plug-in exposes in the inventory the vCO server configuration. It allows to perform changes on the vCO server configuration using the internal scripting API or external REST API.


High availability !!!

And I kept one of the best feature for the end : vCO 5.5 supports active / active clustering !

vCO 5.5 supports to be installed in cluster mode which mean that if an orchestrator cluster node becomes unavailable in the middle of a workflow another node can take over and complete the workflow without service interuption !

It also allows to put the different nodes behind a load balancer to serve high amounts of client requests.

The cluster supports two different modes:

  • Active / Active : All the nodes of the cluster are active and provide concurrent connections
  • Active / passive : Some nodes are active, some are not. If all active nodes are down the passive node becomes active and pcocess the workflow.

Requirements : At least two vCO nodes, a shared database and shared directory service.


Other goodies

  • If you did not like the new 5.1 UI graphics, then you will be glad to know they were changed. If you liked them, well let's hope you like the new ones.
  • The workflow schema scaling / placing capabilites have been improved.
  • The appliance has been hardened to be more secure.

Office of the CTO Blogs: vCloud Hybrid Service at VMworld

It’s VMworld this week and whether you’re in San Francisco or following the event announcements on the hybrid cloud front including the general availability of vCloud Hybrid Service. And while there’s lots of news to talk about, I’d like to discuss one of the upcoming ways to manage vCloud Hybrid Service

vCloud Hybrid Service users have a number of options for managing cloud workloads in a hybrid scenario, and among these is the vCHS Plug-In for the vSphere Web Client. If you run vSphere in your own facilities you likely rely heavily on the vSphere Client. Those of us who have been using VMware virtualization for several years are intimately familiar with the Windows client, but more recently VMware has begun to transition administrative functions to the vSphere Web Client.

A key feature of the Web Client is extensibility, which was possible in a limited fashion with the Windows client but lacked deep integration capabilities. The vCloud Hybrid Service engineering team is taking full advantage of the Web client extensibility to provide rich management capabilities for cloud administrators. This will provide a consistent look-and-feel whether you are managing local vSphere resources or deploying and managing workloads in vCloud Hybrid Service. Administrators can easily access vCHS from directly inside the vSphere Web Client:

The cloud instances, dedicated or shared, that are procured within vCHS are available for administrators to manage within the client.  They can drill down into the cloud instance, view the VDCs, and manage the VMs within them. VDCs are exposed within the client along with resource information and common Actions:

Administrators can also view and deploy templates located in vCHS. These templates can be synchronized from the local template catalog using vCloud Connector, so that users can access their enterprise-compliant templates within vCHS:

By drilling into a VDC, vCHS administrators can view and manage virtual machines running in them, very similar to the way they’re used to managing their local vSphere infrastructure.  The same interface also allows the administrator to manage the VDC gateways to configure NAT/Firewall rules and other network services on them:

By integrating vCHS management capabilities within the vSphere web client, the VI administrator gets a single pane of glass to view and manage both on-premise private cloud and a vCHS-based public cloud, providing a true hybrid cloud experience. The vCHS management application within the vSphere client is easy to use and follows the same standard UI workflows and wizards that are part of vSphere management. This provides a seamless transition to managing vCHS clouds within the same application the administrators are already familiar with.

Before I close, I encourage you to learn more about vCloud Hybrid Service and the numerous new hybrid cloud service capabilities we announced today at VMworld. There are many other exciting features our team is working on – one being Direct Connect – a service for customers who want to leverage their own networking connectivity between vCloud Hybrid Service and their data center. Another is DR-as-a-Service that will launch later this year. So if you’re at VMworld, check out this blog for a snapshot of everything the vCloud team has in store for you this week.

VMware Security Blog: VMware Takes the Guesswork Out of Cloud Compliance

VMware has been listening to customers, and they have been telling us that compliance requirements are impeding their cloud initiatives.  They are spending considerable time translating standards and frameworks into actionable controls; however, they still lack certainty when it comes to getting a passing grade from auditors on which controls they should implement in their software-defined data center.

Now VMware is taking the guesswork out of compliance in the cloud with auditor-validated reference architectures encompassing both VMware and third-party products. These architectures describe the applicability of the technologies to regulatory controls, how to design a software-defined data center to incorporate them, and what an audit procedure for the controls would render.

In addition, we’re going a step further by helping customers automate these controls. Customers are implementing our reference architectures in virtualized networks, enabling them to build advanced workflows automating their network provisioning, security and compliance. This not only takes the guesswork out of compliance and readiness for audit, but also delivers the agility and speed that customers are looking for in the first place.

VMware Compliance Reference Architecture Framework

Focusing Industry Efforts on Customer Needs

As part of these efforts, VMware is rolling out the new QSA Validated Reference Architecture for PCI, which is already in use by industry-leading customers and partners. This new Reference Architecture was validated by Coalfire, a leading independent IT GRC audit/assessment services firm, QSA member, and accredited VMware Consulting and Integration Partner Program partners.

PCI is one of the most important compliance regulations in the virtual/cloud world and data centers today, and VMware is delivering comprehensive technical guidance for PCI focused on virtualized PCI workloads. While PCI is detailed in itself (consisting of 12 requirements, and 200+ technical sub requirements), the published guidance for virtualization, at least until now, has not been prescriptive enough to meet customers’ virtualization requirements.

In response, VMware has worked with the PCI Audit Community to bring clarity to our customers who are now designing and deploying software-defined data centers and network virtualization. These customers need clarity to move forward with their highly regulated workloads, which are subject to PCI as well as HIPAA/HITECH and other compliance regulations.

With a QSA-validated reference architecture now available, customers can start to implement the right controls in their virtualized infrastructures with confidence.

VMware NSX: A Network Virtualization Platform with Extensible Services Capabilities

At VMworld® in San Francisco this week, we announced VMware NSX, the platform for network virtualization. VMware NSX will deliver the entire networking and security model from L2-L7 in software, decoupled from underlying networking hardware. The VMware NSX platform sits at the core of the new reference architecture. VMware will deliver key compliance controls with business context and extensibility which enables partners to deliver additional controls. The VMware NSX Platform coupled with the QSA Validated Reference Architecture for PCI will help simplify audits, enable validation of controls, and empower IT to tune policies. Capabilities include

  • Logical Switch that provide layer 2 isolation mandated by multiple compliance regulations
  • Logical Firewall which is virtualization and identity aware, featuring kernel-enabled line rate performance
  • Data Security scans virtual workloads for sensitive data and report regulation violations so you can quickly assess the state of compliance with global regulations.
  • Activity Monitoring provides full visibility and context into user activity and network connections initiated from workloads. This accelerates troubleshooting and monitoring of end user access problems. This addresses auditor requirements for monitoring privileged user access to highly regulated data.
  • NSX Service Composer enables security services to be consumed more efficiently in the software defined data center. Organizations can apply and visualize security policies for workloads, in one place. Workloads can be automated across different services without custom integration.
  • VMware NSX Ecosystem Partners enable customers to deploy additional network services with VMware NSX network virtualization across several categories of services:
    • Application delivery:  Citrix, F5, SilverPeak
    • Network security platforms:  Palo Alto Networks
    • Security services: McAfee, Rapid 7, Symantec, Trend Micro

Robust Compliance and Security Partner Ecosystem

Customers can leverage the select group of VMware Technology Alliance Program (TAP) and Consulting and Integration Partner Program (CIPP) partners which deliver security and compliance functionality. Coupled with VMware capabilities, customers can address the majority of technical controls specified by PCI DSS 2.0. Examples of technical controls include IPS/IDS, SIEM, AV/Endpoint Protection and Identity & Access Management. These partners include audit/advisory (CIPP), Technology (TAP) and System Integrators and Service Provider (CIPP) partners to address regulatory compliance requirements across multiple industries (PCI, HIPAA/HITECH, FedRAMP). The VMware Compliance Partner ecosystem includes Catbird, Coalfire, Forsythe, HP, HyTrust, LogRhythm, McAfee, PKware, RSA, Symantec, Trend Micro, VCE and Vormetric.

Together, VMware and our partners deliver capabilities which enable continuous compliance by automating deployment/provisioning and advanced workflow automation.  By listening to customers, we are providing the reference architectures and software solutions that businesses need to achieve compliance, along with breakthrough speed, efficiency and agility in their cloud deployments.

New Guidance from VMware and PCI Council

The PCI Council is scheduled to publish PCI DSS 3.0 later this year and VMware is working closely with the PCI QSA community to deliver an updated Reference Architecture for PCI. The new guidance will incorporate the VMware NSX and other upcoming VMware product releases. This will result in a comprehensive approach designed to address customers’ PCI requirements for the cloud.

Based on preliminary information which has been released regarding the upcoming PCI DSS 3.0 standard, we can expect to see both additional flexibility, as well as an increase in the stringency required of payment industry organizations’ compliance validation programs.  VMware and Coalfire have partnered to provide guidance which will help organizations more effectively plan, implement, and validate virtualized workloads and software defined datacenter environments for organizations with PCI DSS compliance requirements. – Noah Weisberger, Practice Director at Coalfire.

Learn More at VMworld 2013

VMware compliance solutions and reference architectures will take center stage at VMworld 2013, August 25-29 in San Francisco. Attend one of these sessions to learn more about solving your cloud compliance challenges. VMworld Networking and Security & Compliance Sessions

Additional Resources

Download the complete VMware Reference Architecture for PCI at the following links:

Download VMware Compliance Partner Solution Guides at VMware Partner Solution Guides for PCI

For more information on all VMware compliance solutions, email the VMware Compliance Solutions team at compliance-solutions@vmware.com

Chris King, Vice President, Product Marketing

Networking and Security Business Unit

VMware Network Virtualization Blog: VMware NSX Virtualizes the Network to Transform Network Operations

Summary:

  • VMware announces VMware NSX™, the platform for network virtualization
  • Leading Companies to Virtualize Their Networks to Speed Innovation
  • Partner Ecosystem Aligns with VMware to Support Customer Transition to Virtual Networking

Today at VMworld®, we announced VMware NSX, the platform for network virtualization. This announcement is another giant step for VMware as we evolve from being a server virtualization vendor into a supplier of an entire solution for the data center. At the show, our CEO Pat Gelsinger talked about how VMware is helping to transform the network to radically simplify IT as part of his VMworld keynote presentation.  He was joined on stage by several leading companies, including CITI, eBay and GE, to discuss the value of network virtualization. Additionally, more than 20 partners announced support for VMware NSX.

Now, we know customers have been virtualizing their networks for some time. In reality, network virtualization is not a future technology. It is here today, helping customers address many of the networking challenges that have been a barrier to their cloud initiatives.  So why is this announcement so significant?

The answer is simple.  VMware has a rich tradition of innovation, and is delivering broad data center and cloud solutions that will help customers accelerate their adoption of a software-defined data center architecture. VMware NSX is another clear example of our continuous cycle of innovation and will position us to revolutionize networking in the same way it did for compute with server virtualization.

Network Virtualization Delivers New Network Operating Model

The adoption of server virtualization over the past decade has resulted in a completely new operational model for provisioning and managing application workloads in the data center. The ability for a server to be dynamic – i.e., to treat physical compute (hosts) as a pool of CPU, memory and storage capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand – transformed the server market landscape and saved businesses billions of dollars. However, the operating model of the network to which these dynamic workloads are connected has not kept pace. The network is now a barrier to achieving the full benefits of virtualization because:

  • Network provisioning is CLI-based and manually intensive, taking days or weeks to provision even simple network topologies
  • Workload placement and mobility is limited by physical network constraints and topology
  • The network is operationally intensive, requiring significant manual hardware configuration and maintenance, and vendor-specific expertise

VMware NSX – The Platform for Network Virtualization

VMware NSX is software that will virtualize the network and will deliver the entire networking and security model from L2 through L7 in software.  The platform decouples the network from the underlying hardware, yet takes advantage of the existing network infrastructure without changes to enable new levels of service delivery speed, agility and cost reductions. VMware NSX will deliver a completely new operational model for networking that breaks through current network barriers and enables data center operators to achieve significantly better agility and improved economics.

 As a fast growing company, WestJet identified some challenges with our security and network infrastructure; it was beginning to become difficult to meet our evolving business requirements,” said Richard Sillito, IT Security – Technologist, WestJet. “In response, we developed a functional model that includes network, security and virtualization creating an aligned architecture. It was also important to create an implementation strategy that will meet our future business objectives while leveraging existing technology investments and supporting both our tactical and strategic direction. We initially looked towards more traditional approaches to solving these challenges which involved the use of big iron based solution but found these to be very costly. We believe that VMware NSX™ capabilities such as L2, L3 distributed routing and virtual firewalls will enhance our core infrastructure, while allowing us to meet our future business needs with a datacenter that is more cost effect, agile and secure.”

VMware’s approach to network virtualization will enable data center operators to treat their physical network as a pool of transport capacity that can be consumed and repurposed on demand.  VMware NSX virtual networks can be programmatically provisioned and managed, utilizing the underlying physical network as a simple IP connectivity.  VMware NSX provides a platform to deliver logical network services offered by VMware and the VMware NSX Partner Ecosystem.  The platform is built around a controller cluster that manages the distribution of logical network functions into hypervisors throughout the data center. With VMware NSX, data center operators will be able to provision complex, multi-tier virtual networks in seconds, independent of the underlying topology or network components.

Here’s what IDC had to say about VMware NSX:

IDC believes the increasing use of public and private cloud services, and the desire from enterprises for faster, more agile service and application delivery, are driving the enterprise and service provider markets toward an inevitable era of network virtualization,” said Brad Casemore, research director for Data Center Networks at IDC. “In virtual networks, where hardware and software are decoupled, a new network operating model can be achieved that delivers improved levels of speed and efficiency. Network virtualization is becoming a game shifter, providing an important building block for delivering the software-defined data center, and with VMware NSX™, VMware is well positioned to capture this market opportunity.

VMware NSX Partner Ecosystem

VMware NSX will be an extensible platform that will include a distributed service framework for easy insertion of partner services. This framework will allow service composition at multiple points in the virtual network.  VMware NSX partners cover the portfolio of applications customers require to implement the network virtualization lifecycle, and include: network service gateways to bridge physical and virtual environments, network security platforms that provide multiple services such as firewall and threat prevention, security services including anti-virus, IDS/IPS and vulnerability management and application delivery services including load balancing, application delivery and WAN optimization. For more details and commentary from VMware NSX partners, read our blog post here.

As businesses move to the cloud to compete more effectively in today’s economy, the network must not be a barrier to innovation and business velocity. Network operations need to evolve, to become more automated, programmatic and agile. The VMware NSX network virtualization platform will provide intelligent software that leverages the existing IP infrastructure and a broad community of best-in-class partner services to transform network operations.

Stephen Mullaney, Senior Vice President and General Manager

Networking and Security Business Unit

Introduction to VMware vSphere Virtual SAN


Many of you have seen the announcements by now and I am guessing that you are as excited as I am about the announcement of the public beta of Virtual SAN with vSphere 5.5. What is Virtual SAN, formerly known as “VSAN” or “vCloud Distributed Storage” all about?

Virtual SAN (VSAN from now on in this article) is a software based distributed storage solution which is built directly in the hypervisor. No this is not a virtual appliance like many of the other solutions out there, this sits indeed right inside your ESXi layer. VSAN is about simplicity, and when I say simple I do mean simple. Want to play around with VSAN? Create a VMkernel NIC for VSAN and enable it on a cluster level. Yes that is it!

vSphere Virtual SAN

Before we will get a bit more in to the weeds, what are the benefits of a solution like VSAN? What are the key selling points?

  • Software defined – Use industry standard hardware, as long as it is on the HCL you are good to go!
  • Flexible – Scale as needed and when needed. Just add more disks or add more hosts, yes both scale-up and scale-out are possible.
  • Simple – Ridiculously easy to manage! Ever tried implementing or managing some of the storage solutions out there? If you did, you know what I am getting at!
  • Automated – Per virtual machine policy based management. Yes, virtual machine level granularity. No more policies defined on a per LUN/Datastore level, but at the level where you want it to be!
  • Converged – It allows you to create dense / building block style solutions!

Okay that sounds great right, but where does that fit in? What are the use-cases for VSAN when it is released?

  • Virtual desktops
    • Scale out model, using predictive (performance etc) repeatable infrastructure blocks lowers costs and simplifies operations
  • Test & Dev
    • Avoids acquisition of expensive storage (lowers TCO), fast time to provision
  • Big Data
    • Scale out model with high bandwidth capabilities
  • Disaster recovery target
    • Cheap DR solution, enabled through a feature like vSphere Replication that allows you to replicate to any storage platform

So lets get a bit more technical, just a bit as this is an introduction right…

When VSAN is enabled a single shared datastore is presented to all hosts which are part of the VSAN enabled cluster. Typically all hosts will contribute performance (SSD) and capacity (magnetic disks) to this shared datastore. This means that when your cluster grows, your datastore will grow with it. (Not a requirement, there can be hosts in the cluster which just consume the datastore!) Note that there are some requirements for hosts which want to contribute storage. Each host will require at least one SSD and one magnetic disk. Also good to know is that with this beta release the limit on a VSAN enabled cluster is 8 hosts. (Total cluster size 8 hosts, including hosts not contributing storage to your VSAN datastore.)

As expected, VSAN heavily relies on SSD for performance. Every write I/O will go to SSD first, and eventually they will go to magnetic disks (SATA). As mentioned, you can set policies on a per virtual machine level. This will also dictate for instance what percentage of your read I/O you can expect to come from SSD. On top of that you can use these policies to define availability of your virtual machines. Yes you read that right, you can have different availability policies for virtual machines sitting on the same datastore. For resiliency “objects” will be replicated across multiple hosts, how many hosts/disks will thus depend on the profile.

VSAN does not require a local RAID set, just a bunch of local disks. Now, whether you defined a 1 host failure to tolerate ,or for instance a 3 host failure to tolerate, VSAN will ensure enough replicas of your objects are created. Is this awesome or what? So lets take a simple example to illustrate that. We have configured a 1 host failure and create a new virtual disk. This means that VSAN will create 2 identical objects and a witness. The witness is there just in case something happens to your cluster and to help you decide who will take control in case of a failure, the witness is not a copy of your object let that be clear! Note, that the amount of hosts in your cluster could potentially limit the amount of “host failures to tolerate”. In other words, in a 3 node cluster you can not create an object that is configured with 2 “host failures to tolerate”. Difficult to visualize? Well this is what it would look like on a high level for a virtual disk which tolerates 1 host failure:

With all this replication going on, are there requirements for networking? At a minimum VSAN will require a dedicated 1Gbps NIC port. Of course it is needless to say that 10Gbps would be preferred with solutions like these, and you should always have an additional NIC port available for resiliency purposes. There is no requirement from a virtual switch perspective, you can use either the Distributed Switch or the plain old vSwitch, both will work fine.

To conclude, vSphere Virtual SAN aka VSAN is a brand new hypervisor based distributed platform that enables convergence of compute and storage resources. It provides virtual machine level granularity through policy based management. It allows you to control availability and performance in a way I have never seen it before, simple and efficient. I am hoping that everyone will be pounding away on the public beta, sign up today: http://www.vmware.com/vsan-beta-register!

"Introduction to VMware vSphere Virtual SAN" originally appeared on Yellow-Bricks.com. Follow me on twitter - @DuncanYB.

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Introduction to vSphere Flash Read Cache aka vFlash


vSphere 5.5 was just announced and of course there are a bunch of new features in there. One of the features which I think people will appreciate is vSphere Flash Read Cache (vFRC), formerly known as vFlash. vFlash was tech previewed last year at VMworld and I recall it being a very popular session. In the last 6-12 months host local caching solutions have definitely become more popular and interesting as SSD prices keep dropping and thus investing in local SSD drives to offload IO gets more and more interesting. Before anyone asks, I am not going to do a comparison with any of the other host local caching solutions out there. I don’t think I am the right person for that as I am obviously biased.

As stated, vSphere Flash Read Cache is a brand new feature which is part of vSphere 5.5. It allows you to leverage host local SSDs and turn that in to a caching layer for your virtual machines. The biggest benefit of using host local SSDs of course is the offload of IO from the SAN to the local SSD. Every read IO that doesn’t need to go to your storage system means resources can be used for other things, like for instance write IO. That is probably the one caveat I will need to call out, it is “write through” caching only at this point, so essential a read cache system. Now, by offloading reads, potentially it could help improving write performance… This is not a given, but could be a nice side effect.

Just a couple of things before we get in to configuring it. vFlash aggregates local flash devices in to a pool, this pool is referred too as a “virtual flash resource” in our documentation. So in other words, if you have 4 x 200 GB SSD you end up with a 800GB virtual flash resource. This virtual flash resource has a filesystem sitting on top of it called “VFFS” aka “Virtual Flash File System”. As far as I know it is a heavily flash optimized version of VMFS, but don’t pin me on this one as I haven’t broken it down yet.

So now that I know what it is and does, how do I install it, what are the requirements and limitations? Well lets start with the requirements and limitations first.

Requirements and limitations:

  • vSphere 5.5 (both ESXi and vCenter)
  • SSD Drive / Flash PCIe card
  • Maximum of 8 SSDs per VFFS
  • Maximum of 4TB physical Flash-based device size
  • Maximum of 32TB virtual Flash resource total size (8x4TB)
  • Maximum of 400GB of virtual Flash Read Cache per Virtual Machine Disk (VMDK) file

So now that we now the requirements, how do you enable / configure it? Well as with most vSphere features these days the setup it fairly straight forward and simple. Here we go:

  • Open the vSphere Web Client
  • Go to your Host object
  • Go to “Manage” and then “Settings”
  • All the way at the bottom you should see “Flash Read Cache Resource Management”
    • Click “Add Capacity”
    • Select the appropriate SSD and click OK
  • Now you have a cache created, repeat for other hosts in your cluster. Below is what your screen will look like after you have added the SSD.

Now you will see another option below “Flash Read Cache Resource Management” and it is called “Cache Configuration” this is for the “Swap to host cache” / “Swap to SSD” functionality that was introduced with vSphere 5.0.

Now that you have enabled vFlash on your host, what is next? Well you enable it on your virtual machine, yes I agree it would have been nice to enable it for a full cluster or for a datastore as well but this is not part of the 5.5 release unfortunately. It is something that will be added at some point in the future though. Anyway, here is how you enable it on a Virtual Machine:

  • Right click the virtual machine and select “Edit Settings”
  • Uncollapse the harddisk you want to accelerate
  • Go to “Flash Read Cache” and enter the amount of GB you want to use as a cache
    • Note there is an advanced option, at this section you can also select the block size
    • The block size could be important when you want to optimize for a particular application

Not too complex right? You enable it on your host and then on a per virtual machine level and that is it… It is included with Enterprise Plus from a licensing perspective, so those who are at the right licensing level get it “for free”.

PS: Rawlinson created this awesome demo, check it out:

"Introduction to vSphere Flash Read Cache aka vFlash" originally appeared on Yellow-Bricks.com. Follow me on twitter - @DuncanYB.

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VMware vSphere Blog: Announcing vSphere with Operations Management 5.5 – Increasing Performance and Availability for Your Business Critical Applications

We’re excited to announce the release of VMware vSphere with Operations Management 5.5!

Back in March 2013, we launched vSphere with Operations Management as our next iteration of the vSphere platform. Watching our customers struggle with managing capacity through the old-school method of spreadsheets convinced us that by adding a single pane of glass that provides visibility into workload capacity and health to our flagship virtualization platform, we would make our customers’ virtualization journey much smoother.

This 5.5 release offers several enhancements, all related to helping our customers 1) deliver better performance and availability for business critical apps and 2) support next-gen workloads (Big Data anyone?). These enhancements include:

  • Greater Scalability – Configurations have doubled from previous limits when it comes to physical CPUs, memory and NUMA nodes. Virtual disk files also now scale up to 64TBs.
  • vSphere Customization for Low Latency Applications – vSphere with Operations Management can be tuned to deliver the best performance for low latency applications, such as in-memory databases
  • vSphere Flash Read Cache – Server side flash can now be virtualized to provide a high performance read cache layer that dramatically lowers application latency.
  • vSphere App HA – This new level of availability enables vSphere with Operations Management to detect and recover from application or operating system failure.
  • vSphere Big Data Extensions – Apache Hadoop workloads can now run on vSphere with Operations Management to achieve higher utilization, reliability and agility.

To learn more, check out our official page.
If you’re at VMworld, don’t forget to:

  • Play with the product at our VMworld Hands-On Labs (Moscone South – Esplanade Level)
  • Hear how our customers are using vSphere with Operations Management at VMworld Session VSVC4686 on Wednesday, August 28th at 1 pm PT.
  • Learn about pricing/packaging at VMworld Session VSVC1002-GD on Monday, August 26th at 1 pm PT.
  • Caption: Big Data workloads are now supported on vSphere with Operations Management 5.5.

VSAN Part 1 – A first look at VSAN

vsan flyer frontAt last, VSAN is launched. Over the coming weeks and months, I plan on doing a series of VSAN (or Virtual SAN to be more accurate) posts. I will start with a brief introduction to the product which was announced at VMworld 2013 with a public beta.

The first thing to understand is that the name is a bit of a misnomer. VSAN has got nothing to do with SAN in the traditional sense. Instead it leverages the local storage from a number of ESXi hosts which are part of a cluster. A distributed vsanDatastore is then created leveraging the local storage from each of the ESXi hosts. This can then be used for VM placement, and of course supports a range of core vSphere technologies like vMotion, DRS & vSphere HA.

Virtual SAN is fully integrated with vSphere. It is an object based storage system and a platform for VM Storage Policies that aims to simplify virtual machine storage placement decisions for vSphere administrators. Its goal is to provides both high availability as well as scale-out storage functionality. It can also be thought of in the context of quality of service (QoS) in so far as VM Storage Policies can be created which defined the level of performance and availability required on a per virtual machine basis.

VSAN can be though of as both a converged platform (of both compute and storage) as well as hybrid storage solution (since it leverages both SSDs and traditional spinning disks).

The scale-out aspect is not to be overlooked. If you need additional storage, additional storage can be added to the hosts and automatically added to the vsanDatastore (which may be configured to increase its capacity on the fly). Should additional compute be needed, then it is simply a matter of dropping a new ESXi host into the cluster. Any storage on this new ESXi host may also be claimed by VSAN if configured to do so.

And there are no additional VIBs or appliances to deploy either. VSAN is baked completely into vSphere 5.5. All components required to create a VSAN product are built into ESXi and vCenter server (both the Windows and the appliance version).

Needless to say, this is something very exciting for us all here at VMware. While we have dipped our toes into the storage space in the past with the vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), VSAN is a different product entirely.

Last but not least, why not get involved in the VSAN beta. All the details are here, and it will provide you with an opportunity to provide direct feedback on VSAN (plus there are a couple of prizes for the first sign-ups):

VSAN BetaGet notification of these blogs postings and more VMware Storage information by following me on Twitter: @VMwareStorage

vSphere 5.5 nuggets: vCenter Server Appliance limitations lifted!


For those who haven’t seen it… the vCenter Server Appliance limitations that there were around the number of virtual machines and hosts are lifted. Where the vCenter Server Appliance with the embedded ternal database used to be limited to a maximum of 5 hosts and 50 virtual machines this has been increased with vSphere 5.5 to 100 hosts and 3000 virtual machines. If you ask me, this means that the vCenter Server Appliance with the embedded database can be used in almost every scenario! That makes life easier indeed.

Couple of other awesome enhancements when it comes to vCenter Server:

  • Drag and drop functionality added! So you can simply drag and drop a VM on to a host again, or a host in to a cluster
  • OS X support, I know many of you have been waiting for this one.
  • Support for Database Clustering solutions, finally!

By itself they appear to be minor things, but if you ask me… this is a huge step forward for the vCenter Server Appliance! Some more details to be found in the what’s new whitepaper in vSphere 5.5 for Platform.

 

"vSphere 5.5 nuggets: vCenter Server Appliance limitations lifted!" originally appeared on Yellow-Bricks.com. Follow me on twitter - @DuncanYB.

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Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Memory Limits

Windows Server 2012 Memory LimitsThe following is a useful summary table that outlines the physical memory limits found with Microsoft Windows Server 2012 (W2K12).  Just as a reminder Windows Server 2012 is only available as an X64 distribution.

Although I’m not a big fan of the new user interface I will be starting to move my virtualization lab based servers over to W2K12 sometime soon.

Windows Server 2012 Version Physical Memory Limit
Foundation 32GB
Essentials 64GB
Standard 4TB
Datacenter 4TB
Storage Server 2012 Workgroup 32GB
Storage Server 2012 Standard 4TB
Hyper-V Server 2012 4TB

The post Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Memory Limits appeared first on TechHead and was written by Simon Seagrave.