Nutanix Licensing Mayhem!?!?!

A couple of weeks ago I attended a seminar in which a Nutanix competitor stated that the Nutanix Licensing was a really hard nut to crack. I immediatly went to the Nutanix licensing site to see what was so difficult about it but couldn’t explain why someone would find it so hard to figure out the Nutanix Licensing.

The Acropolis editions

So let’s see how the Nutanix Licensing is done, and start with Acropolis:

Nutanix Acropolis is a powerful scale-out data fabric for storage, compute and virtualization. Acropolis combines feature-rich software-defined storage with built-in virtualization in a turnkey hyperconverged infrastructure solution that can run any application at any scale.

Well get back on the Acropolis licensing details shortly 😀

And on the other hand Nutanix Prism:

Nutanix Prism gives administrators a simple and elegant way to manage virtual environments. Powered by advanced data analytics and heuristics, Prism simplifies and streamlines common workflows within a datacenter eliminating the need to have disparate management solutions.

So after we know the different versions of Acropolis and Prism let’s dive into the differences between the Acropolis Starter, Pro and Ultimate editions:

The first difference between the three can be Storage side of things and is clearly stated on the Nutanix Website:

So if you need more then 12 hosts in a cluster or Deduplication, Compression or Erasure coding you’ll need at least Pro, if you need some of your workloads to be pinned on flash you’ll have to switch over to Ultimate. Easy as that on the storage side, let’s continue.

The next one in the Nutanix list is Infrastructure Resilience:

In this case it is even easier, if you need enclosure or rack awereness Starter is a NoNo. You’ll need to decide on other features (like storage) if you need to go to Pro or Ultimate.

Next please 😀 That will be Data Protection:

So you need Cloud Connect or Time Stream? Move to Pro, if you want Multi Site DR, Metro Availability or Sync Replicatie and DR you’ll need to go to Ultimate, if you don’t need all of these services, you’ll do just fine with starter…

No hard nuts for me until now, but we’re not there so let’s continue:

The one thing everybody seems to be talking about these days is security, and that’s also the next on the Nutanix list:

Just need Client Authentication? Go for Starter. Also need Cluster Lockdown?:

Cluster Shield, which allows administrators to restrict access to a Nutanix cluster in security-conscious environments, such as government facilities and healthcare provider systems. Cluster Shield disables interactive shell logins automatically.

Go to Pro and if you also need Data-at-Rest encryption please continue to Ultimate 😉

The next “hard nut” to crack, would be Management & Analytics. But for me it’s another easy comparison between what is in the licensing offer:

What is important for our Prism comparison is that every Acropolis edition already offers the Prism Starter edition. We don’t really need to look at that one than, so we’ll concentrate on Pro if we get there 😀 For Management and Analytics it is kind of easy again, because if you need Rest API’s you’ll need Pro or Ultimate, otherwise you could do with Starter. But again, it depends on the other features in these licensing deals if you can choose the Starter/Pro or Ultimate.

The last one would be Virtualization, but there is difference between the three on this:

That’s all for the Acropolis site of things, and to be honest I didn’t find any hard nuts to crack. The list is very clear, and based on the business and technical requirements it should be able to choose the flavor you need.

The Prism editions

So it must be in the Prism site of things than. Let’s see how difficult this Prism thingy really is.
For the people that payed attention, I already told that all Acropolis editions included the Prism Starter edition so we can concentrate on Pro.

Just to make clear on what is in both of them:

It’s not that hard to make your choice if you ask me, but let’s explain what Prism Pro offers more than the already included Starter:

  • Prism search is an integrated google-like search experience that will help you query and perform actions with a single click
  • Customizable Operations Dashboard is a Visually rich dashboards that give actionable summary of applications, virtual machines and infrastructure state at-a-glance.
  • Capacity Behavior Analytics is a Predictive analysis of capacity usage and trends based on workload behavior enabling pay-as-you-grow scaling
  • Capacity Optimization Advisor is an Infrastructure optimization recommendations to improve efficiency and performance

So if you need one of these features you’ll need to buy the Prism Pro license.

Conclusion

It is one thing to bash your competitors and I know they all do this, including Nutanix themselves, but if you want to say something about your competitors, please make sure to know what you’re talking about. In this case (and in my “humble” opinion) the statement about the Nutanix Licensing being a hard nut to crack is really based on nothing.

The Nutanix licensing is very clear in what the licensing does and does not include and it’s up to you to create clear requirements about the environment on which you can than base you choice for the Acropolis and Prism edition you’ll need.

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SimpliVity announcements

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

Today, April 5, 2016, SimpliVity announced new capabilities of the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform. The announcement consists of three subjects:

  • OmniStack 3.5
  • OmniView
  • Hyper-V

Omnistack 3.5

This new version is the first major update of this year and I hope there will come more updates. The latest major release, version 3.0, was in the early second half of 2015. SimpliVity say this new version will deliver new capabilities optimized for large, mission-critical and global enterprise deployments. Besides improvements to the code, this release will add three new main capabilities to the OmniStack Data Virtualization Platform.

Stretched Clusters

The first improvement in the OmniStack software is the ability to create multi-node stretched clusters. In the current versions it is only possible to create a stretched cluster with a total of 2 nodes divided over two sites. This limit is now increased and supported by default. With a stretched cluster it will be possible to achieve a RPO of zero and a RTO of seconds.

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Intelligent Workload Optimizer

The second new capability is the Intelligent Workload Optimizer. SimpliVity will use a multi-dimensional approach to balance the workload over the platform. The balancing will be based on CPU, Memory, I/O performance and Data Location. This will result in less data migrations and a greater virtual machine improvement.

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REST API

And the last new capability in the OmniStack Software is the REST API. In version 3.5 it will be possible to use the REST API to manage the SimpliVity data virtualization platform. It was already possible to integrate with VMware vRealize Automation but now it will be a lot easier to integrate with third-party management portals and applications.

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OmniView

OmniView Predictive Insight tool is the second part of the announcement. OmniView is a web-based tool that gives custom visualization of an entire SimpliVity deployment. It can give predictive analytics and trends within a SimpliVity environment and helps to plan future grow. The tool can also help to investigate and troubleshoot issues within the environment. OmniView will be available for Mission-Critical-level support customers and approved partners.

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Hyper-V

The last part of the announcement is support for Hyper-V. The OmniStack Data Virtualization platform will be extended to this platform to give customers more choice. SimpliVity will support mixed and dedicated Hyper-V environments with the release of Windows Server 2016. Planning and timing about the availability is aligned to the release of Microsoft Windows Server 2016.

 

Conclusion

The announcement is a great step in the right direction and I think just-in-time. For me the most important part of the announcement is the announcement of version 3.5 and more specifically the support for stretched clusters. In more and more large European organizations stretched cluster support is a requirement nowadays and SimpliVity will now have the ability to support this. Also the REST API will help to integrate SimpliVity in an existing ecosystem of a customer.

The OmniView Predictive Insight tool will give customers insight to their SimpliVity environment and provide predictive analytics and forecasts. In the current 3.0 version it was only possible to get some statistics about the storage but now you will have a self-learning system which customers can use to improve their environment.

The Hyper-V support announcement is also a long-awaited one. Now we only have to wait till Microsoft will release Windows Server 2016 to use this feature.

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NLVMUG 2016 impression

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

VMUG01This year, The anual NLVMUG UserCon was on March 17, 2016 in the city of Den Bosch. Last year was my first time at the NLVMUG and this year I was one of the speakers. Together with my colleague Ronald van Vugt we presented “De kracht van de blueprint”, translated to English “The power of the blueprint”. Our presentation was scheduled at 11.30 right after the first coffee break.

The day started with a keynote presentation of Kit Colbert from VMware about Cloud-Native Apps. His presentation began with an example of John Deere, the tractor company, who formerly sold only tractors but now also collects and analyze data from all their equipment. VMUG02With this data analitics they can advise the farmer about the way they can optimize their equipment and land. Companies like John Deere need a co
mpletely different kind of apps, architecture
and how they develop and maintain applications. In his presentation he showed how VMware can support these new apps and how the VMware platform can support this. For these new apps VMware has developed the vSphere Integrated Containter architecture and the VMware Photon platform.

After the keynote it was time for us to do some last preparations for the presentation. We checked the VPN connection for the live demo, all demo steps and the presentation script. In the coffee break, just before our presentation we had enough time to setup our equipment and test the microphone. Then it was time for the presentation!
VMUG03The main subject of our presentation was vRealize Automation and the way you can automate your application environment. In the first part of the
presentation we introduced the product and the functionalities. After the background information it was time to start with our live demo. In the demo we showed how you can automate the deployment of a two tier WordPress application with vRA and VMware NSX. Live on stage we composed the application environment, with all network services, relations and policies. After the demo there was some time for questions. If you are interested in our presentation and demo you can download the presentation including screenshots of the demo steps here.

VMUG04In the afternoon there was a second keynote of Jay Marshall from Google about the Google Cloud Platform. He showed how Google has grown from search engine to a big player in the cloud market. He also showed the
partnership between VMware and Google to create a hybrid cloud. After this keynote I attended to some other presentations about vSAN and vRealize Automation and vRealize Orchestration. After the last presentation it was time for the reception and the prize drawing of the sponsors. After the price drawing the day was over.

I look back at a great event and an awesome new presentation experience. It was fun to be on stage to share our knowledge at the biggest VMUG in the world. I want to thanks the NLVMUG organization for all their hard work and I hope to meet you next year.

Attachment: NLVMUG 2016 handouts PDF

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Cisco HyperFlex: A new HCI solution

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

After teasing the market with a photo containing three servers, the word Hyper and some blank puzzle pieces, Cisco announced their own Hyper-converged Solution: Cisco HyperFlex. This solution is an extension of Cisco’s Unified Computing System (UCS). Until now the UCS platform portfolio did not contain a native Cisco storage solution. Finally Cisco entered the highly competitive Hyper-converged Infrastructure (HCI) market with HyperFlex.

The Cisco HyperFlex solution combines compute, storage and the network in one appliance. Cisco says the solution is unique in three ways: flexible scaling, continuous data optimization and an integrated network. All other HCI vendors do Hyper-converged with compute, storage and networking, but none of these have a complete integrated network solution. As expected of a former networking only company, Cisco also integrated the network.

The platform is built on existing UCS components and a new storage component. The servers used in the solution are based on the existing Cisco UCS product line. Networking is based on the Cisco UCS Fabric interconnects. The new storage component in Cisco’s platform is called the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform, which is based on Springpath technology.

Springpath HALO and Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform

Springpath was founded in 2012 and Cisco co-invested the start-up. Springpath has developed its own data platform using HALO (Hardware Agnostic Log-structured Object) architecture. The HALO architecture offers a flexible platform with data distribution, caching, persistence and optimization. Cisco has re-branded this to the Cisco HyperFlex HX Data Platform.

All data on the Cisco HX Data platform is distributed over the cluster. Data optimization takes place by using inline de-duplication and compression. Cisco indicates most customers should reach 20-30% capacity reduction with de-duplication and another 30-50% with compression without any performance impact.

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VMware and Cisco HyperFlex

First the HyperFlex solution will only be available with the VMware hypervisor using NFS as storage protocol. A Data Platform Controller for communication with the physical hardware will be used for the HyperFlex platform. This Data Platform Controller requires a dedicated number of processor cores and dedicated amount of memory. The controller integrates the HX Data Platform with the use of two preinstalled VMware ESXi vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs): IO Visor and VAAI. IO Visor provides a NFS mount point and VAAI offloads file system operations.

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Management

The HyperFlex storage is managed with a vCenter plug-in. There are currently no details available about the layout and functionality of this plug-in. We expect the plugin will be the same as Springpath with Cisco branding.

The physical server and network is managed like any other Cisco UCS server. Each server will be connected to the Fabric Interconnect and managed from the UCS manager interface.

Cisco HyperFlex range

The HyperFlex platform is available in three different models, an 1U and 2U rack based server and a combination of rack servers with blade servers. The first model is for a small footprint, the 2U model is for maximal capacity and the last option is for maximal capacity and high compute.

All configurations must be ordered with a minimum of four servers. As far as we know at this stage the maximum number of servers in a HyperFlex cluster is eight. Each server will be delivered with VMware pre-installed.

The hardware configuration of the HyperFlex nodes is not fixed. You can choose your type of processor, amount of memory and the amount of disks. On the Cisco Build & Price website all available configuration options can be found. You can always scale your cluster by adding storage and/or compute nodes.

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Licensing

Cisco has an interesting licensing model for the HyperFlex HX Data Platform. The HX Data Platform will be licensed on a per year basis. In the configuration tool by default a server is configured with a license for one year. This licensing model deviates from other HCI vendors who base their license model on raw or used TB’s, or use a perpetual license.

Conclusion

Cisco is a new and interesting player in the rapidly growing Hyper-converged market. The technology used provides some nice features, capabilities and an interesting licensing model. Time will tell if the product will be successful and what the roadmap will bring for the future. But at first sight it looks like a good alternative for the leading Hyper-converged solutions.

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Upgrading vRealize Automation 7 to 7.0.1

This is a cross post from my Metis IT blogpost, which you can find here.

Last week VMware released a new version of vRealize Automation (vRA), version 7.0.1. In this version most of the version 7.0.0 bugs and issues are resolved. In the release notes you can find the list of all resolved issues. In this blog I will guide you through the upgrade process.

It is possible to upgrade to this new version from any supported vRealize Automation 6.2.x version and the latest 7.0 version. In this blog I will focus on an upgrade from version 7.0.0 to version 7.0.1. If you still use an earlier version of vRA you have to upgrade frist to version 6.2.x. The environment we will upgrade is a minimum deployment based on version 7.0.0.

The following steps are required for a successful upgrade of vRealize Automation.

  1. Backup your current installation
  2. Shut down vRealize Automation Windows services on your IAAS server
  3. Configure hardware resources
  4. Download and install upgrades to the vRA appliance
  5. Download and install updates for IAAS
  6. Post Upgrade Tasks

Backup your current installation

Before you start  the upgrade it is important to backup some components of the existing installation. If something goes wrong you can always go back to the current version.

Configuration file backup

First start with a backup of the vRA configuration files. This file can be backupped with the following steps:

  1. Login with ssh on the vRA appliance
  2. Make a copy of the following directories:
    • /etc/vcac/
    • /etc/vco/
    • /etc/apache2/
    • /etc/rabbitmq/

First create a directory backup.

mkdir /etc/backupconf

Copy now all directories to this folder:

cp -R /etc/vcac/ /etc/backupconf/

Perform these steps for each folder.

Database backup

Make a SQL backup of the vRA IAAS database. For the integrated postgres database it is enough to snapshot the complete vRA appliance.

  1. Login to the database server
  2. Open the MSSQL Management Console and login
  3. Click left on the vRA database and choose Tasks and choose Backup Up…
  4. Choose the location for the backup and click on OK.
  5. Wait for the completion of the backup.

 

Screenshots of the tenant configuration and users

If something goes wrong with the upgrade it could be possible that this configuration information is changed. For safety it is recommended to capture this information.

  1. Login as administrator to the vRA interface
  2. Make a Screenshot of your tenantsafb1
  3. And the Local Users of the tenantafb2
  4. And the Administratorsafb3

Backup any files you have customized

The vRA upgrade will possibly delete or modify all customized files. If you want to keep this files please backup them. In our environment we don’t use any customized files.

Create snapshot of the IAAS server

To take a snapshot of the IAAS server is the last step in the upgrade process.

  1. Shutdown the IAAS server and the vRA appliance in the correct order.
    1. Login to vCenter
    2. First select the IAAS VM and select shutdown guest. If the shutdown is complete select the vRA appliance and choose again for shutdown guest.
  2. Right-click on the IAAS VM and select Snapshots and Take Snapshot. Fill in the name of the snapshot and click on OK.
  3. Power On the IAAS VM

Disable the IAAS services

  1. Login on the IAAS server, open msc and stop the following services:
    1. All VMware vCloud Automation agents
    2. All VMware DEM workers
    3. All DEM orchestrator
    4. VMware vCloud Automation Center Service

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Configure hardware resources of the vRA appliance

For the upgrade it is  necessary to extend the existing disks of the vRA appliance. But before we do this, create a copy of the existing vRA appliance.

  1. Right-click on the vRA appliance, select Clone and Clone to Virtual Machine
  2. Give the VM a unique name and select the resources for the new VM and click on Finish.
  3. Wait for completion.
  4. Right-click on the original VM and select Edit Settings.
  5. Extend the first disks (1) to 50GB and click OK.afb5
  6. Create a snapshot of the VM. Select the VM, click on Snapshots and click Take Snapshot.
  7. Wait for the snapshot.
  8. Power on the vRA VM.
  9. Wait for the machine to start
  10. SSH to the vRA VM and login with the root
  11. Execute the following commands to stop all vRA services:

Service vcac-server stop

Service vco-server stop

Service vpostgres stop

  1. Extend the Linux file system with the following commands:

Unmount swap table:
Swapoff –a

Delete existing partitions and create a 44GB root and 6GB swap partition. This command and the next command return an error about the kernel that is still active at this point. After a reboot at step 13 all changes will be active:
(echo d; echo 2; echo d; echo 1; echo n; echo p; echo ; echo ; echo ‘+44G’; echo n; echo p; echo ; echo ; echo ; echo w; echo p; echo q) | fdisk /dev/sda

Change the swap partition type:

(echo t; echo 2; echo 82; echo w; echo p; echo q) | fdisk /dev/sda

 Set disk 1 bootable:

(echo a; echo 1; echo w; echo p; echo q) | fdisk /dev/sda

 Register partition changes and format the new swap partition:

Partprobe

Mkswap /dev/sda2

Mount the swap partition:

Swapon –a

  1. Reboot the vRA partition
  2. When the appliance is started again login with SSH and resize the partiation table:

Resize2fs /dev/sda1

  1. Check the resize with command df -h

Install the vRA update

  1. Login on the management interface: https://vRAhostname:5480
  2. Click on the Services tab and check the services. All services should be registered except the iaas-service.

If everything is checked, click on the update tab. If not all services are running and you are using a proxy server, check this Vmware article: https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2144067

  1. Click on Check Updates. The new update will be displayed.afb6
  2. Click now on Install update and Click OK.
  3. The follow the installation you can check the following log files: /opt/vmware/var/log/vami/updatecli.log

/opt/vmware/var/log/vami/vami.log

/var/log/vmware/horizon/horizon.log

The most useful information can be found in the vami.log and updatecli.log. In these log files you can see the download progress and information about the upgrade status.

Use tail –f /opt/vmware/var/log/vami/* to show all log files

  1. Wait untill the update is finished.afb7
  2. If the upgrade is finished, reboot the appliance. Click on the System tab and click on

Upgrading the IAAS server components

The next step in this process is to upgrade the IAAS components. The IAAS installer will also upgrade the MSSQL database. In earlier upgrade processes it was needed to separately upgrade the database. To start the IAAS upgrade, follow the following steps:

  1. Open your favorite webbrowser and go to: https://vRAhostname:5480/installer
  2. Click the IAAS installer Save the prompted file. (Do not change the filename!)
  3. Open the installer and follow the wizard.
  4. Accept the license agreement and click on Next.
  5. Provide the Appliance Login Information. Click on Next.

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  1. Choose for Upgrade. Click on Next.
  2. Provide the correct Service Account for the component services and the authentication information of the SQL server. Click on Next.
  3. Accept the certificate of the SSO Default Tenant and provide the SSO Administrator Credentials. Click on Next.
  4. Click now on Upgrade to start the upgrade.afb9
  5. Click on Next and finish to complete the IAAS upgrade.

Post upgrade tasks

After the IAAS upgrade first check the correct operation of the vRA appliance. Click on the infrastructure tab and click on endpoint. Verify the endpoint overview is correct. Next try to request a blueprint and check if everything will finish successful.

If everything is correct, the last step is the upgrade of the vRA agents on the OS templates. The new agents also contain some bug fixes. In our environment we use CentOS and Windows Operating Systems. We will first start with the upgrade of the CentOS agent followed by the Windows Agent.

CentOS agent

  1. Convert the CentOS template to a VM and boot the VM.
  2. Download the prepare_vra_template.sh script from the following location: https://vRAhostname.local:5480/service/software/download/prepare_vra_template.sh
  3. Allow execution of the script with:

chmod +x prepare_vra_template.sh

  1. Execute the script: ./prepare_vra_template.sh.
  2. Follow the wizard and provide the correct information. I choose for vSphere, no certificate check and the install Java.
  3. Wait for completion and shutdown the VM.
  4. Convert the VM back to a template.

Windows Agent

For the upgrade of the Windows Agent we will use the script made by Gary Coburn. He developed a script that will install all the needed components and the vRA agent on Windows. Thanks to my colleague Ronald van Vugt for this modification on this script because of newer java version. The original script is based on vRA version 7.0.0 which included version jre-1.8.0-66. The java version included in version 7.0.1 is newer, so a modification to the script is required.

  1. Download the original script from here or here. And open the script and search for the following line:
    $url=”https://” + $vRAurl + “:5480/service/software/download/jre-1.8.0_66-win64.zip”
  1. This line must be edited to:
    $url=”https://” + $vRAurl + “:5480/service/software/download/jre-1.8.0_72-win64.zip”
  1. If the script is edited run the script with the following parameters:

./prepare_vra_template.ps1 vra-hostname iaas-hostnamePasswordofDarwinUser

  1. The script will sometimes ask for confirmation.
  2. Wait till the installation is complete.
  3. Shutdown the VM and convert it again to a template.

Verify the installation

Now request some of your blueprints to verify the correct operation of the vRA appliance, IAAS server and the guest agents. If everything is OK, then it is time to delete the snapshots of the vRA appliance and IAAS server.

  1. Select the VM, choose for snapshots and Manage Snapshots
  2. Delete the snapshot you have made before installation.
  3. Do this for both VMs

Conclusion

Before executing this upgrade in a production environment it is recommended to plan the upgrade and verify that all dependencies will work after the upgrade. Also plan enough time for this upgrade, so you have the time to check and verify the installation.

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