Overview of VxRail Appliance 7.x System
In the digital economy, most applications need to provide a 24*7 Service-Level Agreement (SLA) for every customer. The IT service department provider often faces the problems of how to make applications available at any time, how to handle Life Cycle Management (LCM), how the system infrastructure can automatically scale up and out, and so on. Most traditional infrastructure architecture has some hardware and software limitations; it cannot fulfill these requirements. You may need to integrate third-party hardware and software to fulfill these requirements. However, this will increase the cost of the total solution. When new software packages or patches are released, they need to upgrade or apply the patch to the existing traditional infrastructure architecture. At this moment, some compatibility problems between the hardware and software may exist, which is why traditional infrastructure architecture is not a good solution.
With the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) platforms available on the market, most technical limitations of traditional infrastructure architecture can be resolved. The HCI platform can simplify most day-one deployment and day-two management activities. Dell VxRail Appliance is an HCI platform developed by Dell EMC and VMware. VxRail Appliance can provide different features, for example, hardware scaling, software package upgrade, centralized management, and LCM. In this chapter, we will discuss the VxRail system; you will get an overview of the VxRail Appliance 7.x platform.
This chapter includes the following main topics:
- What is VxRail Appliance?
- Dell VxRail architecture
- Dell VxRail features
- Dell VxRail management
- Dell VxRail documentation and resources
What is VxRail Appliance?
VxRail Appliance (as seen in Figure 1.1) is developed and powered by Dell EMC and VMware. It is an HCI appliance that is exclusively integrated and preconfigured with VMware vSphere and Virtual SAN (vSAN). VxRail platforms are fully integrated with VMware vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) and use a VxRail Manager plugin for vCenter. The VxRail platform provides user-friendly and centralized management; system administrators can perform day-to-day activities using the VxRail Manager plugin for vCenter in a Hypertext Markup Language revision 5 (HTML5) interface:
Figure 1.1 – VxRail system on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
The VxRail platform is powered by Dell EMC PowerEdge servers with Intel Scalable or AMD EPYC processors. VxRail Appliance can be configured with different hardware options, for example, CPU processors with different cores, different sizes of memory, the network connectivity interface, a Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter (HBA), a Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), Hybrid mode, and All-Flash mode of disks. VxRail Appliance is fully integrated with VMware solutions including VMware Tanzu, VMware NSX, VMware vRealize Suite, and VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM), and private clouds such as VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF). You can check out the VMware website (https://www.vmware.com) if you want to learn about these VMware products in more detail.
VxRail Appliance models are available in different form factors, and they come as one unit per node, two units per node, and four nodes in a two-unit chassis. The VxRail Appliance architecture is designed so the customer can buy and scale out based on their infrastructure requirements. Dell solution architects use VxRail Sizing Tool (https://vxrailsizing.emc.com) for VxRail design. VxRail Sizing Tool is an online platform that analyzes workloads and hardware requirements, then provides a VxRail hardware configuration that meets customer requirements. The Dell EMC VxRail family offers six types of platforms, that is, E (entry-level) Series, P (performance-optimized) Series, V (VDI-optimized) Series, D (durable-platform) Series, S (storage-dense) Series, and G (general-purpose) Series.
Now, we will introduce each model of Dell EMC VxRail Appliance.
VxRail E Series has three options, Hybrid, All-Flash, and NVMe. You can choose the All-Flash or NVMe model if you want high performance. For general purposes, you can choose the Hybrid model. Each node is a one-unit form factor system that is used for most scenarios. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge R650/R6515 server technology. VxRail E Series includes two models, VxRail E660 and E665. VxRail 660 runs on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R650 server, which supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces, and VxRail 665 runs on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R6515 server, which supports only 10 GB and 25 GB network interfaces.
Figure 1.2 – VxRail E Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
VxRail P Series only has two options, All-Flash or NVMe. Each node is a two-unit form factor system that is used for high-performance and data-intensive application scenarios. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge R750/R7515/R840 server technology; VxRail P Series includes three models, VxRail P670, P675, and P580N. It also supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces. VxRail P670 (All-Flash mode only) runs on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R750 server, which supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces. VxRail P675 (All-Flash and NVMe mode) runs on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R7515 server, which supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces. VxRail P840N (NVMe mode only) runs on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R580N server, which supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces.
Figure 1.3 – VxRail P Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
VxRail V Series only has All-Flash mode. Each node is a two-unit form factor system that is used for VDI optimized for specialized scenarios. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge R750 server technology; VxRail V Series includes only one model, VxRail V670. VxRail V670 (All-Flash mode only) supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces. Only V Series can support GPU cards.
Figure 1.4 – VxRail V Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
VxRail D Series only has two options, Hybrid or All-Flash. Each node is a one-unit form factor system that is designed to withstand extreme conditions, for example, intense heat, cold, or humidity. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge XR2 server technology; VxRail D Series includes only one model, VxRail D560. VxRail D560 only supports 10 GB and 25 GB network interfaces. VxRail D560 is available in MIL-STD and DNV-GL Maritime-certified configurations.
Figure 1.5 – VxRail D Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
VxRail S Series only has a Hybrid option. Each node is a two-unit form factor system that is used for demanding applications, for example, big data, Microsoft Exchange, and archive data. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge R750 server technology; VxRail S Series includes only one model, VxRail S670. VxRail S670 supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces.
Figure 1.6 – VxRail S Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
VxRail G Series has two options, Hybrid or All-Flash. Each node is a two-unit form factor system that is used for general-purpose virtualized workloads. It is based on Dell EMC PowerEdge C6420 server technology; VxRail G Series includes only one model, VxRail G560. VxRail G560 supports 10 GB, 25 GB, and 100 GB network interfaces. The VxRail G Series chassis can install four nodes.
Figure 1.7 – VxRail G Series on the Dell 15th-generation PowerEdge server
In the initial deployment, the first three VxRail nodes in a cluster must be identical models. VxRail Hybrid and All-Flash nodes cannot mix in a VxRail cluster.
Table 1.1 – A summary of hardware configurations on each VxRail Series
The VxRail Appliance 7.x platform supports three types of VxRail nodes, including a VxRail node with vSAN, a VxRail dynamic node, and a VxRail satellite node. We will discuss the details in Chapter 2, Benefits of Hyper-Converged Infrastructure.
What is inside VxRail Appliance?
VxRail Appliance is a black-box solution developed by Dell EMC and VMware. VMware vSphere is preinstalled and configured on each VxRail Appliance before shipping to customers. In VxRail Appliance, there are three key elements:
This table shows a summary of the software inside VxRail Appliance:
Table 1.2 – A summary of the software inside VxRail Appliance
VMware SDDC technologies
- VMware vSAN is Software-Defined Storage (SDS) that is embedded in the kernel with VMware vSphere. You can choose the edition of VMware vSAN based on your requirements when you buy VxRail Appliance, including Standard, Advanced, Enterprise, and Enterprise Plus. Each VxRail Appliance is enabled by the vSAN feature when you power it on for the first time.
In VxRail 4.7 or above, the VMware vSAN license is not embedded in each VxRail node. The vSAN license is enabled in the evaluation mode on each node when the customer powers it on for the first time. They need to add the vSAN license manually to each node.
- VMware vCenter Server is a central management dashboard that is used to configure and manage virtual machines. The VCSA instance license is preinstalled on VxRail Appliance. VCSA is a virtual appliance that is fully integrated with VxRail Appliance using the VxRail Manager plugin; we can manage VxRail appliances via VMware vCenter Server with the VxRail Manager plugin.
The embedded vCenter instance license is bundled on VxRail Appliance. If you deployed the external vCenter Server for VxRail management, the optional vCenter Server instance license is required.
- VMware vRealize Suite is a cloud-based management software package that integrates VMware vRealize Cloud Management products, including vRealize Automation, vRealize Operations, vRealize Log Insight, and LCM on-premises. You can enable VMware vRealize products on the VxRail Appliance system at any time.
- VMware ESXi is a hypervisor that virtualizes the physical resources (for example, CPU processors, memory, storage, and networking) on the different virtual machines.
- VMware Tanzu is used for modernizing your applications, which helps customers execute and manage different Kubernetes (K8s) clusters across the multicloud platform.
- VMware Cloud Foundation (VCF) is used to build up the Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC). This platform can deliver a variety of features, including VMware vSAN, VMware NSX, and VMware vRealize features.
VMware Tanzu and VCF are optional features on VxRail; both features are not included in VxRail Appliance.
VxRail HCI system software
The following is a list of VxRail HCI system software:
- VxRail Manager is predeployed on VxRail Appliance, and it is fully integrated into VCSA with the VxRail Manager plugin. You can execute daily operations via the VxRail Manager plugin; these tasks include system scale-up and scale-out, automatic deployments, LCM, and maintenance tasks.
- SaaS multicluster management is a Dell EMC cloud platform. SaaS multicluster management collects telemetry data from each node in the VxRail cluster via the Secure Remote Services (SRS) gateway and can deliver the proactive system monitoring of VxRail Appliance systems.
- RESTful APIs are a bundled feature on VxRail Appliance that can execute management functions.
- Automation and orchestration services include VxRail Manager delivering the automated deployment and orchestration workflow in the VxRail Appliance system, for example, system scale-up and scale-out, LCM, and an active-active solution.
- Ecosystem connectors are used to integrate the software and hardware for LCM in the VxRail cluster, including automation and orchestrating services.
Data protection options
Dell EMC RecoverPoint for VMs (RP4VM) is a Continuous Data Protection (CDP) solution from Dell EMC. It can provide protection of the virtual machine with its point-in-time synchronization or asynchronization in a local VxRail cluster or across VxRail clusters between two different locations. You can manage RP4VM directly via VCSA.
VMware vSphere Replication (VR) is a disaster recovery solution at the hypervisor level; it can deliver data protection of the virtual machine with a 5-minute Recovery Point Objective (RPO) in a local VxRail cluster or across VxRail clusters between two different locations. You can manage VR directly via VCSA, and it also can work with SRM to deliver the automated failover and failback recovery plan.
Now that we understand which software components are bundled with VxRail Appliance, let’s look at the licensing options.
- VMware vCenter Server
- VMware vSphere
- VMware vSAN
- VMware vRealize Log Insight
- VMware VR
Dell EMC software includes the following:
- Dell EMC RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines
VxRail Appliance also follows a Bring-Your-Own (BYO) vSphere license model. You can purchase VxRail Appliance with a new vSphere license or reuse any existing qualified vSphere licenses. The VxRail system supports several VMware vSphere license editions; it includes Enterprise Plus, Standard, and ROBO (Remote Office Branch Office) editions.
This table shows the difference between the preceding-supported vSphere licenses:
Table 1.3 – The difference between the preceding supported vSphere licenses
VMware vSphere Essentials and Essentials Plus are not supported with VxRail.
Table 1.4 – VMware vSAN editions feature comparison
Table 1.5 – VMware vRealize Operations Advanced edition feature comparison
A VMware vCenter Server Standard instance license is bundled with the VxRail cluster. VxRail Manager applies this license to the embedded VCSA during VxRail initialization.
Transferring an embedded VCSA license to any vCenter Server is not supported. You need to prepare a new vCenter Server license for the external VCSA if you choose external VCSA during VxRail initialization.
The preceding tables help you choose the different types of VMware vSphere and vSAN licenses for VxRail Appliance based on your required functions and features.
Dell VxRail architecture
- Intel Xeon Scalable processors (single, dual, or quad), up to 40 cores per processor, or an AMD EPYC processor with up to 64 cores.
- Up to 48 DDR4 Dual In-Line Memory Modules (DIMMs), it supports memory capacity ranging from 64 GB to 8,192 GB.
- A mirrored pair of BOSS SATA M.2 cards that are used to store the ESXi system on the node.
- A 10/25 GbE Network Daughter Card (NDC) used for VxRail’s predefined network connections.
- If you purchase a VxRail Hybrid node, it includes a single Solid State Drive (SSD) for the cache tier and multiple Hard Disk Drive (HDD) disks for the capacity tier.
- If you purchase a VxRail All-Flash node, it includes a single SSD or NVMe for the cache tier and SAS SSD, SATA SSD, vSAS SSD, or NVMe for the capacity tier.
Each VxRail Series can support different maximum software and hardware configuration, for example, the number of vSAN disk groups, the number of additional network adapters, or the total number of memory and CPU cores.
Now, we will look at a diagram for the VxRail 7.0.xxx platform:
Figure 1.8 – A diagram of the VxRail 7.0.xxx platform
- There are four VxRail P670 Hybrid appliances (a minimum of four nodes is the recommended configuration). Each node installs an NDC with four 10 GB SFP+ ports. Two 10 GB ports are used for vSAN and vMotion networks; the other 10 GB ports are used for management and virtual machine networks.
- Two 10 GB network switches are used for VxRail’s network connectivity.
- One 1 GB network switch is used for Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) connection on each VxRail Appliance.
The minimum initial configuration of a VxRail cluster is three nodes; these three nodes must be the same model.
Now, we will discuss the logical diagram for the VxRail 7.0.xxx platform. Figure 1.9 shows the following software and hardware components in this environment:
- One VxRail 7.x cluster with four VxRail nodes, and there is a vSAN datastore across these four nodes
- One VxRail Manager virtual appliance
- One VCSA
Figure 1.9 – The logical diagram for the VxRail 7.0.xxx platform
In Figure 1.9, there are four nodes with the same model (VxRail P670) connecting to the VxRail network during VxRail initialization; then it can automatically build the VxRail cluster, and vSAN features are enabled on the VxRail cluster. By default, there are two VxRail system virtual machines that will be deployed into the VxRail cluster; they are VxRail Manage and VCSA. You can easily build the VxRail cluster in Dell EMC VxRail Deployment Wizard when every requirement is ready. You can refer to Figure 1.10 for the VxRail initialization:
Figure 1.10 – Welcome page of VxRail 7.0
Please note that you can choose the VxRail software edition when you purchase VxRail Appliance: VxRail 4.7 or 7.0. VxRail 4.7 is shipped with VMware vSAN 6.7. VxRail 7.0 is shipped with VMware vSAN 7.0.
Dell VxRail features
The VxRail system can deliver different features; it includes automatic deployment, flexible scale-up and scale-out, Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM), LCM, a single management dashboard, CDP, and a single-vendor, end-to-end ongoing support service. In day-one deployment, you can select the cluster type and then deploy the VxRail cluster and configure the SDS automatically. Compared to the traditional server storage architecture, it can minimize the deployment and configuration time. In Figure 1.11, you can see how you can select the type of the VxRail cluster in Dell EMC VxRail Deployment Wizard.
Figure 1.11 – Specifying the type of the VxRail cluster in Dell EMC VxRail Deployment Wizard
You can perform all operation tasks via VMware vCenter Server with the VxRail Manager plugin after the VxRail deployment is completed. In the VxRail Manager plugin, you can see all functions, such as Updates, Certificate, Market, and Add VxRail Hosts.
Figure 1.12 – VxRail System information
Storage Policy Based Management (SPBM) is a core feature in the VxRail cluster; the system administrator can define the availability, storage rules, and advanced policy rules. In the Availability tab, you can choose No data redundancy, 1 failure - RAID-1 (Mirroring), and 1 failure - RAID-5 (Erasure Coding). You can refer to Chapter 4, Design of vSAN Storage Policies, for more details.
Figure 1.13 – Defining the storage rules of the virtual machine storage policy
VxRail’s architecture supports flexible scale-up and scale-out. The compute and storage resources can be increased and rebalanced when adding a new node to the existing VxRail cluster (Figure 1.14). You can refer to Chapter 5, Design of Cluster Expansion, for more details:
Figure 1.14 – The Add VxRail Hosts dashboard
When a system has been live for a few years, operating system and system patch upgrades are required. In a traditional server storage environment, the system administrator may spend a lot of time on the preparation and compatibility verification before the system upgrade.
LCM is one of the key features of VxRail Appliance; VxRail’s one-click upgrade feature can easily handle LCM. The system administrator can easily upgrade the VxRail system with a single image that is prevalidated with Dell EMC and VMware. They can perform a one-click upgrade in vCenter Server with the VxRail Manager plugin (Figure 1.15). The single image includes VxRail Manager, VCSA, Dell PTAgent, VxRail Manager VIB, and VMware ESXi:
Figure 1.15 – The VxRail software update dashboard
Dell EMC RP4VM can provide data protection of the virtual machine with its point-in-time snapshots in a local VxRail cluster or across VxRail clusters between two different data centers. You can refer to Chapter 9, Design of RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines on VxRail, for more details.
VxRail’s support service can deliver single-vendor support from Dell’s support team. When the customer issues a request to Dell’s support team, they can handle and resolve the Dell and VMware technical problems. This support service works with Support Connect Gateway (SCG); it includes three types of service support-level agreements, Basic, ProSupport, and ProSupport Plus. You can refer to Figure 1.16 for details:
SRS is replaced with SCG in VxRail 7.0.350 and above; it can deliver a single connectivity technology for Dell EMC products, such as server, data storage, and hyper-converged solutions. It can proactively monitor system health and create a case automatically over a secure connection.
Figure 1.16 – A comparison of Dell support services; this information is copyright of Dell Technologies (https://www.delltechnologies.com/asset/cs-cz/services/support/briefs-summaries/prosupport_enterprise_suite_brochure.pdf)
Dell VxRail management
VxRail Manager is a core management virtual machine that is fully integrated with VMware vCenter Server via the VxRail Manager plugin for vCenter, as shown in Figure 1.17. The system administrator can perform all deployment and configuration activities from the vCenter HTML client:
Figure 1.17 – VxRail Manager plugin for vCenter
- Register ESXi hosts with vCenter Server.
- Create the storage policies on vCenter Server.
- Set up the hostnames on ESXi hosts.
- Rename the vCenter Server network on ESXi hosts.
- Set up Network Interface Card (NIC) bonding on ESXi hosts.
- Set up vSAN, vMotion, and virtual machine networks on ESXi hosts.
- Set up NIC teaming on ESXi hosts.
- Set up DNS on ESXi hosts.
- Restart the loudmouth service on ESXi hosts.
- Set up the clustering for ESXi hosts.
- Rename the database.
- Configure the root account on ESXi hosts.
- Copy files to the vSAN datastore.
VxRail LCM can deliver internet and local software updates. The LCM upgrade will provide an estimated time to complete the upgrade, warnings and recommended actions, and some components that will be updated (Figure 1.18):
Figure 1.18 – VxRail LCM update dashboard
When the VxRail administrator executes the maintenance tasks on the VxRail system, for example, scale-out, hardware placement, or software package upgrades, they can perform these tasks via the VxRail Manager plugin for vCenter.
Dell VxRail documentation and resources
In this last section, we will discuss where you can access the VxRail documentation and resources, which include the Dell Technologies support website, Dell Technologies SolVe Online, and VMware documentation.
As you can see in Figure 1.19, you can access the VxRail software, knowledge base, and documentation on the Dell Technologies support website if you are a Dell partner or employee. The access link is at https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-us/product-support/product/vxrail-appliance-series/overview:
Figure 1.19 – Dell Technologies support site
Please note that some VxRail software and documentation can only be accessed by Dell Technologies employees.
Dell Technologies SolVe Online is a web-based tool (Figure 1.20) used by Dell Technologies employees, partners, and customers. This tool is used to generate detailed installation and configuration procedures for all Dell hardware and software products, for example, VxRail Appliance and RP4VM.
Figure 1.20 – Dell Technologies SolVe Online
You can access SolVe Online with this link: https://solve.dell.com/solve/home.
Please note that some installation procedures are only accessed by Dell Technologies employees and certified partners. Dell Technologies SolVe also has an interactive edition, SolVe Desktop.
Since VxRail Appliance is fully integrated with VMware products, the VMware documentation is also valid for the VxRail environment. In Figure 1.21, you can see the documentation of VMware vSphere and vSAN at https://docs.vmware.com/:
Figure 1.21 – VMware documentation website
In this chapter, you learned about the different series of the VxRail Appliance 7.x system, architecture, and management for VxRail. Compared to the traditional architecture of server and storage, you learned how VxRail helps and how you can offload the operation and configuration on VxRail.
You will learn about the benefits of VxRail Appliance in the next chapter, including VxRail on the 15th-generation PowerEdge portfolio and the different types of VxRail nodes.
The following are a short list of review questions to help reinforce your learning and help you identify areas which require some improvement.
- Which license is not bundled with VxRail Appliance?
- VMware vCenter Server Appliance
- VMware vSAN
- Dell EMC RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines
- VMware vRealize Log Insight
- VMware Cloud Foundation
- Which VxRail Series does not exist?
- E Series
- P Series
- S Series
- K Series
- V Series
- If the customer is planning to deploy some virtual machines with high performance, as a system consultant, which VxRail series should you propose to the customer?
- VxRail P670F
- VxRail V670F
- VxRail E660
- VxRail S670
- VxRail G560F
- Which of these is an unsupported configuration of VxRail?
- VxRail V Series All-Flash
- VxRail E Series Hybrid
- VxRail V Series NVMe
- VxRail S Series Hybrid
- VxRail G Series Hybrid
- What are the software components that exist in the VxRail system?
- VMware Site Recovery Manager
- VMware Cloud Foundation
- VMware vRealize Operations
- VMware vSphere Replication
- VMware Tanzu
- Which vSAN license editions can be supported with RAID-5/6 Erasure Coding?
- vSAN Standard
- vSAN Advanced
- vSAN Enterprise
- vSAN Enterprise Plus
- vSAN ROBO
- Which vSphere license edition is used in a remote office environment?
- vSphere Standard
- vSphere Advanced
- vSphere Enterprise
- vSphere Enterprise Plus
- vSphere ROBO
- Which of these is not a feature of VxRail?
- Continuous data protection
- One-click upgrade
- Storage policy-based management
- Data-at-rest encryption
- Storage replication
- Which of these can be supported on NVMe configuration?
- VxRail V Series
- VxRail E Series
- VxRail P Series
- VxRail S Series
- VxRail G Series
- VxRail D Series
- Which VxRail service-level agreement includes Service Account Manager?
- Enterprise Plus
- ProSupport Plus
- None of the above
- Which resources do you use to generate installation procedures for the VxRail system?
- Dell Technologies support website
- Dell Technologies SolVe Online
- My VMware support website
- VMware documentation website
- Dell Technologies SolVe Desktop
- Which VxRail system virtual machines do not exist on the VxRail 7.0. system?
- vRealize Log Insight
- VxRail Manager
- vCenter Server Appliance
- vCenter Server Platform Controller
- vRealize Operations Manager