Mar 21 2017

An overview of current storage vendor support for VMware Virtual Volumes (VVols)

VMware’s new external storage architecture, Virtual Volumes (VVols), turned 2 years old this month as it launched as part of vSphere 6.0. The new VASA specification for VVols has been under development by VMware for over 6 years and it’s up to storage vendors to set their own development pace for supporting it. In this post I’ll provide an update on how each storage vendor is positioned to support VVols, this is entirely based on what is published in the VVols HCL (see below figure) and some research I have done. It will not cover things like the capabilities and scalability for VVols that is up to each vendor to dictate what they are capable of doing with VVols and how many VVols that they can support on a storage array.

Let’s first take a look in detail at the categories listed in the table below and explain them a bit further:

Vendor

On day 1 of the vSphere 6.0 launched there were only 4 vendors that had support for VVols. There are 17 vendors that support VVols today, almost all of the bigger vendors like IBM, HDS, HPE, EMC and NetApp support them but there are a number of smaller vendors that do as well such as SANBlaze, Primary Data, Fujitsu, NEC and Atlantis. Noticeably absent is Pure Storage which is odd as they demoed VVols at Tech Field Day back in 2014. You also might note that NAS vendors tend to be less interested in developing support for VVols as NAS allows an array to already see individual VMs as they are written as files and not using LUNs. Because of this NAS arrays already have the ability to interact with VMs using vendor developed tools so the VVols solution becomes less appealing to them with all the extra development work to achieve roughly the same outcome.

Array Model

Each array family must be certified for VVols and it’s up to each vendor to decide on how and if they want to do that. With EMC they chose to do it through Unity instead of doing it directly within the storage array. There are some additional vendors like DataCore, SANBlaze and Primary Data that sell storage virtualization products that sit in front of any brand primary storage arrays and aggregate storage to ESXi host, these vendors build VVols into their software so they can support VVols even if the back-end storage array does not. The VVol HCL will list exactly what model arrays are supported by each vendor and the firmware that is required for VVols support.

Array Type (Protocols)

Again it is up to each vendor to decide which protocols they will support with VVols on each array model, VVols is protocol agnostic and will work with FCoE, NFS, iSCSI, FV and SVD. Note some vendors will only support block protocols, others just NAS, some support all protocols. The VVol HCL will list which protocols are supported by each vendor for their arrays that support VVols. You’ll see SVD listed as a an array type, that stands for “Storage Virtualization Device”. The only 2 vendors listed for that array type are IBM (SVC) and NetApp (ONTAP).

vSphere Version

This lists the versions of vSphere that are supported by a storage array with VVols, the options include all the update versions of 6.0 (U1-U3) and 6.5. The 6.0 versions are basically all similar to each other and they all run under the VASA 2.0 specification. With 6.5, VASA 3.0 is the new VASA specification which introduces support for VVol replication. However an array can be certified on vSphere 6.5 and only support VASA 2.0, supporting 6.5 does not automatically indicate VVol replication support, this support is specifically noted in the Features field in the HCL. Right now there are only 9 vendors that provide VVol support on vSphere 6.5

VASA Provider Type

This one isn’t explicitly listed in the HCL, I had to do my own research to determine this. The VASA Provider component can be deployed either internal to an array (embedded in the array controllers/firmware) or deployed externally as a pre-built VM appliance or as software that can be installed on a VM or physical server. It is up to each vendor to determine how they want to do this, the internal method has it’s advantages by being easier to deploy, manage and highly available. The external method however tends to be easier for vendors to develop as they don’t have to modify array firmware and use array resources and can simply bolt it on as an external component. The only hardware (not VSA/SVD) storage vendors that deploy it internally are HPE, SolidFire NexGen and Nimble Storage. Some of the storage virtualization vendors like EMC (Unity) and Primary Data build it into their software so it’s considered internal.

VASA Provider HA

The VASA Provider is a critical component in the VVols architecture and if it becomes unavailable you can’t do certain VVol operations like powering on a VM. As a result you want to ensure that is is highly available, with internal VASA Providers this doesn’t apply as much as the array would have to go down to take down the VASA Provider and if that happens you have bigger problems. With external VASA Providers it  is more critical to protect it as it is more vulnerable to things like a host crash, network issues, someone powering it off, etc. There are different ways to provide HA for the VASA Provider and it’s up to each vendor to figure out how they want to do it. You can rely on vSphere HA to restart it in event of a host crash or a vendor can build their own solution to protect it.

The VASA Provider HA feature in the HCL only indicates if a vendor has created and certified an active-active or active-passive HA solution for the VASA Provider using multiple VASA providers which only 3 vendors have done (NexGen, SANBlaze and IBM). Other vendors may have different ways of providing HA for the VASA Provider so check with your vendor to see how they implement it and understand what the risks are.

Multi vCenter Servers

Support for multiple vCenter Servers registering and connecting to a storage array is indicated in the feature column of the VVol HCL.Right  now there are only 5 vendors listed with that support. Again check with your vendor to see where they are at with this.

Array Based Replication

Support for array based replication of VVols is new in vSphere 6.5 as part of the VASA 3.0 specification. On day 1 of the vSphere 6.5 launch not one vendor supported it, a bit later Nimble Storage showed up first to support it with HPE recently announcing it for 3PAR and should be showing up on the HCL any day now. Having seen first hand the amount of engineering effort it takes to support VVols replication I can understand why there are so few  vendors that support it today but I expect you will see more show up over time.

 

VendorArray ModelsProtocolsvSphere VersionVASA Provider TypeVASA Provider HAMulti vCenter ServersArray Based Replication
Atlantis ComputingUSXNAS6.0InternalNoNoNo
DataCore SoftwareSANsymphonyFC, iSCSI6.0External (physical or VM)NoNoNo
DellEqualogiciSCSI6.0External (VSM VM appliance)NoNoNo
EMCVMAX, UnityFC (VMAX, Unity), iSCSI (Unity), NAS (Unity)6.0 (VMAX, Unity), 6.5 (Unity)Internal (Unity), External (VMAX) (VM appliance)NoNoNo
FujitsuEternusFC, FCoE, iSCSI6.0, 6.5External (physical or VM)NoYesNo
Hewlett Packard Enterprise3PAR StoreServ, XP7FC, iSCSI6.0, 6.5Internal (3PAR), External (XP7)N/A (3PAR), No (XP7)Yes (3PAR), No (XP7)Yes (3PAR), No (XP7)
Hitachi Data SystemsVSPFC, iSCSI, NAS6.0, 6.5External (VM appliance)NoNoNo
Huawei TechnologiesOceanStorFC, iSCSI6.0, 6.5External (VM appliance)NoNoNo
IBMXIV, SVCFC, iSCSI, SVD6.0 (XIV, SVC), 6.5 (XIV)External (IBM Storage Integration Server)Yes (active-passive)YesNo
NECiStorageFC, iSCSI6.0, 6.5External (Windows app)NoNoNo
NetAppFASFC, iSCSI, NAS6.0External (VM appliance)NoNoNo
NexGen Storage/Pivot3N5iSCSI6.0InternalYes (active-active)NoNo
Nimble StorageCS, AFFC, iSCSI6.0, 6.5InternalN/AYesYes
Primary DataDataSphereNAS6.0InternalNoNoNo
SANBlaze TechnologyVirtuaLUNFC, iSCSI6.0External (Linux app)Yes (active-active)YesNo
SolidFireSFiSCSI6.0InternalNoNoNo
TintriTNAS6.0, 6.5ExternalNoNoNo

 

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Mar 07 2017

The Top 100 VMware/virtualization people you MUST follow on Twitter – 2017 edition

John Troyer posted a list today of the Top 50 Overall VMware Influencers which is an algorithmic list that he created based on who is followed the most on Twitter by other “insiders.” I’m honored to be a part of that list and it reminded me that I had not updated my old list that I started in 2009 of my Top 100 VMware/virtualization people that you must follow on Twitter. The last time I updated that list was in 2014 so I went through it again, removed some people  that don’t tweet that much anymore or whose tweets aren’t VMware related and also added some new people that I thought were worthy of being on the list.

Putting together these types of lists is always difficult, I try and research a bit to see who is fairly active on Twitter and tweets about VMware & virtualization stuff a good amount of time. While John’s list is based more on analytics, mine is purely based on people I know and deal with. It is entirely possible I missed some people though (I’m sure I did) that should be on the list, it wasn’t easy to limit it to 100 as there are tons of great people that tweet about VMware & virtualization but I did the best I could. So I apologize in advance if I missed someone that I probably should of included.

So without further ado, click the image below to see my Twitter list of the Top 100 VMware/virtualization people you MUST follow on Twitter.

Also here are some additional lists on the 1st 25 people that I followed on Twitter and also the Top 25 & 50 vBloggers. Enjoy!

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Mar 06 2017

Top vBlog 2017 starting soon, make sure your site is included

I’ll be kicking off Top vBlog 2017 very soon and my vLaunchPad website is the source for the blogs included in the Top vBlog voting each year so please take a moment and make sure your blog is listed.  Every year I get emails from bloggers after the voting starts wanting to be added but once it starts its too late as it messes up the ballot. I’ve also archived a bunch of blogs that have not blogged in over a year in a special section, those archived blogs still have good content so I haven’t removed them but since they are not active they will not be on the Top vBlog ballot.

Once again this year blogs must have at least 10 posts last year to be included on the ballot. Some additional changes this year include adding new instruments that will contribute to the voting scoring including Google PageSpeed score, # of posts and private committee judging of your blog. Read more about these changes in this post.

So if you’re not listed on the vLaunchpad, here’s your last chance to get listed. Please use this form and give me your name, blog name, blog URL, twitter handle & RSS URL. I do have a number of listings from people that already filled out the form that I need to get added, the site should be updated in the next 2 weeks to reflect any additions or changes. I’ll post again once that is complete so you can verify that your site is listed. So hurry on up so the voting can begin, the nominations for voting categories will be opening up very soon.

And thank you once again to Turbonomic for sponsoring Top vBlog 2017, stay tuned!

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Feb 23 2017

One more vendor now supports VVol replication

A few weeks ago I wrote on how to find out which storage vendors support the new VVols replication capability in vSphere 6.5. At that time there was only one vendor that was listed on the VMware VVols HCL as supporting it, Nimble Storage. There is now one more vendor that supports it, HPE with their 3PAR StoreServ arrays with their upcoming 3PAR OS 3.3.1 release, you can read more about it in this post that I wrote, you can also expect to see them listed in the HCL very soon. Which vendor will be next? If I had to guess I would say NetApp, they are a VVol design partner as well and have historically been pretty quick with delivering VVol support.

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Feb 22 2017

The shrinking session length trend for sponsor sessions at VMUG UserCon events

VMUG UserCon’s are great events, I’ve been to dozens of them as a VMUG leader, attendee and partner over the last 6 years. Right now I’m in a battle to convince my company to sponsor them again this year and while reviewing the current year prospectus to build my business case (post coming soon on this) one thing caught my eye, the sponsor session times have shrunk to 30 minutes.

I know they were longer in prior years so I went and looked back through the prospectus that they send out each year and confirmed it, here are the sponsor session times each year:

  • 2017 – 30 minutes
  • 2016 – 40 minutes
  • 2015 – 45 minutes
  • 2014 – 45 minutes
  • 2013 – 45 minutes

I don’t know the reasoning for shortening the sessions, I can assume it has something to do with time management and scheduling. Will the extra time be used on VMware sessions? More time slots with less sponsors in each slot? More time for networking? So I went and checked out one of the agenda’s from an upcoming event, there are only smaller size event agendas currently available. And from it I can see they kept the VMware session slots at 40 minutes and it looks like they added more and longer breaks after every session now for a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes throughout the day to mingle and interact with sponsors.

Whatever the reasoning behind this, as a sponsor it’s kind of disappointing to have the session length chopped down yet again, I know I cram my sessions full of technical and educational content and having only 30 minutes now really cuts down on what I can deliver to attendees. I compared this to an agenda in prior years and it looks like they had around 60-70 minutes total for break time to visit partners back then. So on the flip side while my sponsor session might be shorter, I am getting more value out of the increased free time for attendees to visit my booth. There is an entire hour now after the morning keynote free before any of the session tracks begin and longer breaks throughout the day.

So the sponsor sessions are shorter this year, sponsors will just have to deal with it. More importantly though, regardless of how long the session is, as a sponsor you should make the most out of that session opportunity and deliver content that VMUG attendees will want to see and hear. I highly encourage any sponsors to read through my session tips in this post which will help you fill your session rooms and make attendees appreciate and value your session.

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Feb 14 2017

VMworld 2017 Call For Papers is open – here’s how to get people to vote for and attend your session

VMware just announced that the Call for Papers for VMworld 2017 is now open until March 14th. It seems each year VMware does this earlier and earlier, last year the CFP for VMworld opened in March 16th and went to April 12th. Remember VMworld US is again back in Vegas this year at the Mandalay Bay from Aug. 27th-31st, VMworld Europe is in Barcelona from Sept. 11th-14th. Here are the key dates for the CFP process this year:

  • June 9, 2017 – Speaker Resource Center Live (US and Europe)
  • June 9, 2017 – Speaker Notifications (US and Europe)
  • June 20, 2017 – Content Catalog Live (US and Europe)
  • July 18, 2017 – Schedule Builder Live (US)
  • July 18, 2017 – Presentation First Drafts Due (US and Europe)
  • July 25, 2017 – Schedule Builder Live (Europe)
  • August 3, 2017 – Final Presentations Due (US and Europe)

Last year they ended up extended the deadline a few days, but one thing I can’t stress enough is don’t wait for until the last minute and rush through it, plan it out now and write your submissions up so they are well thought out. From previous experience I can tell you to have a catchy title as it’s your sessions curb appeal. Many people won’t make it past your title and you miss a chance to interest them with your abstract if you have a boring and un-interesting session title. As a former content committee judge I can also tell you to spend some time on your abstract and don’t rush to throw something together without thinking it through. I’ve seen lots of session proposals that lacked any real detail about what the session was about.

If you want to impress both the content committee and public voters who will determine if your session is approved I encourage you to follow the tips listed below for the best chance of getting your session approved. For sponsors in particular I highly encourage you to read this post I did last year entitled: Sponsor sessions at VMware events: If you build it right they will come. In that post I detailed what works and what doesn’t to make your session attractive to attendees, this is based on my personal experience at VMworld last year and how I was able to get almost 1,000 people to register for my session. To summarize the winning formula for a good session tends to be:

  • Knowledgeable, technical speaker + educational/technical content – sales/marketing pitch = great attendance

Here are some additional tips that VMware provides:

Tips for Creating Effective Titles for Submission

  • Do not use abbreviations or acronyms under any circumstances in the titles of your submissions.
  • Do not use competitor or other company names in your submission titles. If you are highlighting other companies within your session, you can adopt these names within the session description.
  • Start with the Benefit: Ex: Shorten Adoption Time by Using VMware’s XXX.
  • Use clear and concise language that attendees will immediately understand. The agenda will eventually host hundreds of sessions and attendees need to easily identify sessions of interest. Straight forward language like “Introduction to”, “Deep Dive” and “Case Study” are popular examples because they quickly tell the attendee important information about the session.

Typical Reasons for Abstract Rejection

  • The abstract is poorly written—ideas are not clear, goals are not established, there are grammatical errors, etc.
  • The content is not relevant to the indicated audience.
  • The session value is not clearly identified.
  • The session topic is not unique or overlaps with another more appropriate abstract.

Tips for Writing Winning Abstracts

  • Avoid beginning your session description with the phrase, “In this session we will…”, or “In this session you will learn…”. It does not add value and becomes tedious on an agenda of several hundred sessions. Instead try a rhetorical question, or an interesting industry data
    point to start your session abstract.
  • Ensure that what you submit will be what you present. Nothing will upset attendees more than signing up for a session that is not what it is advertised to be.
  • Your abstract should generate enthusiasm‐ make sure your content is relevant, but also generates excitement. What invaluable information will be shared during the session?
  • Thoughtfully leverage the tags in the system for topics, level, and roles. Who is the target audience? What products or topics does this session cover outside of the track name? What roles would specifically benefit from this session? Do not check every check box if your session is applicable to all.
  • Be Original – Attendees want to see new presentations that cover the latest innovations in technology. Take the time to create well‐written titles, abstracts, outlines, and the key takeaways for your submission. A thoughtful proposal will have a better chance of being
    selected and if accepted, will be seen by thousands of attendees once published in the course catalog.
  • Be Educational –VMware requires that sessions focus on the educational value of the presentation. Be sure that your proposal doesn’t sound like a sales pitch but rather an exciting opportunity for attendees to learn something new.
  • Be Timely – Make sure your topic is relevant to the audience you’re targeting. Review the content topics before submitting a session.

Read the full submission guidelines here and the FAQ here.

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Feb 12 2017

Looking for vSphere 6.5 information? Check out my huge Link-O-Rama

One of the behind the scenes things I do on this site is constantly maintaining my link list collections which serve as a master index for all the content on the inter webs related to a specific topic (i.e. VVols, VSAN, vSphere versions, etc). This makes for a one stop shop for anyone looking for information on that topic so they can easily find it without searching all over the internet for it.

I coined the term “Link-O-Rama” (which others have shamelessly stole) as my fun name for these link collections. I use a variety of sources to collect links including google custom search filters that email me, my Planet vSphere-land blog aggregator, Planet V12N, Twitter and more. This results in a big collection of links that I have to vet to make sure they are quality links, then add to my link collections sorted by category, the end result is a lot of behind the scenes work that keeps my link collections growing.

My latest link collection is focused on the vSphere 6.5 release, I have been maintaining that one for about 7 months and it has now grown to over 400 links. So if you want to know anything bout vSphere 6.5 head on over to my vSphere 6.5 Link-O-Rama and dig in to all that great content. Want the condensed (TLDR) version, be sure and check out my hand-picked top 10 things you must read about vSphere 6.5 post.

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Feb 08 2017

vExpert 2017 announced and there are still too many vExperts

Last year I wrote how I felt there were too many vExperts and it doesn’t distinguish based on the level of contributions that would qualify someone to earn the vExpert distinction. This year it’s become even worse, almost 1,500 people were named a vExpert based on the simple qualification that they “have demonstrated significant contributions to the community and a willingness to share their expertise with others”. I’m not going to reiterate my opinion on this, you can read all about it in my post last year, I have strong feelings that: a) the bar is too low, b) applications aren’t vetted that well and c) there needs to be classes or levels as there are some that contribute way more than others.

Now I don’t have access to the application data, but a cursory search through the published list for 2017 and looking up a few people on Twitter shows the appearance that some people didn’t do much to earn it. I’ll take one in particular who I will not name, hasn’t blogged since 2015, mostly just re-tweets things on Twitter, works for a partner so can’t be involved in VMUG leadership, so what exactly did they do to earn the vExpert title. Now again, I don’t have access to what they put on their application and unless I’m missing something, just because you have a blog and tweet doesn’t necessarily mean you have made “SIGNIFICANT” contributions to the community.

Now I don’t necessarily blame VMware, 1,500 people is a heck of a lot to process and vet and anyone can pretty much write what they want as justification to become a vExpert on the application. I just feel strongly that some of the people that have put a whole lot more effort into it than others are getting buried in the huge pool and not being called out for their extra effort. The vExpert community started almost 10 years ago recognizing about 300 people and now has grown to 1,500, it seems like anyone with a blog who bangs out a few posts can become a vExpert these days. I initially wrote about my thoughts on what I thought it means to be a vExpert back in 2009. For me being named a vExpert is still an honor but it just doesn’t have the same meaning to me that it did 9 years ago.

I do thank VMware for your hard work to maintain this program year after year, but please try and set the bar higher by redefining “significant” and/or have different classes or levels based on how truly significant a person’s contributions have been for the year. I’d really like this program to have more meaning for me and I can bet there are plenty of others out there that feel the same way.

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