What’s In Your Lab?

From my first involvement with working with VMware technologies I have been running some sort of a “Home Lab” to assist me with either learning or testing some new functionality of one of their products. From the initial stages of running a VMware Server on an old hand me do tower server from work, to my first true lab built on white box AMD hardware running vSphere, having your own access to gear takes your training/education to a whole different level. Fast forward five years and my home lab looks drastically different from where I started from or even where I thought I would be. From towers, to Intel NUCS’s, to NUC management cluster w/rack mounts, and now fully committed to rack mounts, your lab may start somewhere but take you and your career to another place as it changes and adapts.

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vSAN and Fault Domains, aka Rack Awareness

Keeping your virtual workloads up and running at all times while also providing the back-end data resiliency is key to any VMware vSphere deployment. This is true if   your shared-storage mode consists of a “traditional” three tier architecture (host/fabric/storage) or if you leverage Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) to     consolidate   and provide compute/storage resources. How you accomplish this task though is different. With the traditional storage array you have redundant controllers front ending your disk subsystem, or if scaling you might place multiple controller across cabinets in a “cluster” configuration. With HCI/vSAN the concepts are still basically the same, but you are now leveraging both hardware (compute/storage nodes) and the software to logically place your data across cabinets. In vSAN this means leveraging Fault Domains for rack awareness.

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Deploying a 2-Node ROBO #vSAN Cluster

While Hyper-Converged Infrastructures such as Nutanix and VMware’s vSAN are popular topics in changing the dynamics of how compute and storage resources are consumed in a primary datacenter, one use case that sometimes gets overlooked is organizations that have or support a remote or branch office (referred to as ROBO going forward).

VMware addressed this customer need in the v6.1 release of vSAN supporting 2-Node + Witness configurations and has continued to introduce new enhancement/features since. Most recently the ability to “Direct Connect” the nodes in the ROBO location bypassing the need for a switch (at least for vSAN connectivity) to be deployed in v6.5.

While setting up vSAN via the vSphere Web Client is straightforward, there is a bit of “plumbing” that needs to be accomplished (both on the physical networking and ESXi networking side) to really get his use case up and running. Let’s see how it done!

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Capacity Expansion & Disk Group Design Decisions–All Flash vSAN

VSAN_AcceptedOne of the things I like/enjoy the most in my job as a consultant is working with people to help assist in the design process to come up with a solution that solves a specific customer challenge or meets design requirements criteria. While working on these projects there usually is more then one solution or configuration that fits the stated needs, it comes down to a process of filtering the pro’s/con’s or matching the project requirements for a given solution.

This was evident recently when I was working on a VMware vSAN design for a customer. A converstation occured around the design and layout of the Disk Group(s) construct that vSAN leverages to create the underlying Datastore. Now these considerations are typically straightforward, but with the release of vSAN 6.2 and the inclusion of deduplication/compression for All Flash (AF) implementations there are both technical and operational decisions to take in account. But before we get into that, here is a quick primer on vSAN configurations.

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