FlashBlade Better than Distributed Database Backup

What would you do with an incredibly fast, all-flash, file server? It turns out that a few organizations will use it as a backup target. More specifically they will use it to deliver fast restores of databases. Pure Storage may not have planned that their FlashBlade all-flash object store would be used as a backup repository, but that is precisely how some customers are using FlashBlade. On the main stage at Pure Accelerate we heard from ServiceNow who have been able to increase physical database server density, and in a private briefing, we heard from a travel booking company that has done the same thing. Both customers moved from 2U servers to 1U by eliminating the need for storage capacity for backups.

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Adding SCSI Controllers and Disks with PyVmomi

In parts one and two of this series, I looked at connecting PyVmomi to vCenter and then creating a VM. Those code segments were taken almost directly from the examples on the PyVmomi community repository. It was when I needed to add more hard drives and spread them across multiple SCSI controllers that I ran into a gap in the repository, and the Googleable experience of the Internet. It is always a bit painful when you try to undertake a task without the support of somebody else who has done it before and written about the process. After a bit of flailing around and a lot of trial and error, I was able to get a routine together for adding SCSI controllers and disks to a VM.

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Enhanced VM Data Mobility

It may be a bit of a surprise that virtualization with vSphere has not meant that every dimension of mobility has increased. We see more ability to move a VM from one physical server to another with VMotion and the ability to move from one piece of storage to another with Storage VMotion. The thing is that all of this mobility assumes that the source and destination are VMware based environments. There has always been an issue with data mobility between VMware and non-VMware workloads.

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Private Clouds Need a Share of an SRE

There are a lot of ways that big cloud companies run their IT estate differently to how enterprise IT companies run their estate. One of the significant differences is that cloud vendors have developers operate their infrastructure, this is the Site Reliability Engineer (SRE) role that Google talk about. The SRE role is approximately like the IT operations function in Enterprise IT, but at a scale that enterprises never experience. In Enterprise IT when something is broken an Operations engineer will fix the problem, then move on to the next task. In an SRE role, the problem is not simply fixed; the SRE will make software changes to the underlying platform to avoid the problem ever occurring again. This difference in approach is one of the essential elements to moving from IT as pets to IT as cattle (or probably poultry since a cow, sheep, or goat is a pretty expensive & non-disposable asset.)

My original Platform 9 Meme, thanks for the reminder Sirish

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Create a VM with PyVmomi

This is part two of my series on using PyVmomi on Linux to work with vCentre to create a bunch of VMs. You can find part one, where we connected to vCenter and retrieved VM information here. Creating a VM with any automation tool requires specifying all of the attributes of the VM, there is no wizard like the vSphere client, so we need to construct a bunch of linked objects. The most complex object is the hardware specification object and within it the objects for disk controllers and drives. Usually, each object is created using a constructor method and then added to its parent with an operation property.

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Dell Azure Stack Is an Appliance

I am interested in seeing what customers do with Microsoft Azure Stack. I think it is a significant part of a hybrid cloud infrastructure for enterprise customers. The interesting part to me is the split in responsibilities between the customer, Dell, and Microsoft. The workload is managed by the customer as another Azure region. The software platform is managed by Microsoft with their own updating cycle. The hardware platform is managed by the hardware vendor but is on-site in the customer’s datacentre. There is an inherent risk with customer-managed premises underneath cloud provider managed software; this needs to be addressed by the hardware vendor. Even more, the complication comes if customers choose a custom, snowflake hardware configurations.


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Getting Started With PyVmomi

It does seem that there is always a new programming language to learn. I do wish that I had done some real programming courses when I was a student. My Physics degree from the 1990’s didn’t prepare me well for needing to write a lot of scripts which seem to get more complicated every month. I have been working on a project which requires a Linux virtual appliance be used to build a bunch of Linux VMs. I did start by looking at the option of running PowerCLI on Linux and quickly came to the conclusion that it was too soon for me to use that technology. So, I fell back to Python and the Python bindings for the VMware vSphere API called pyVmomi. This Python module allows me to interact with vCenter to get tasks done.

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Back to San Francisco for Pure Accelerate

The springtime conference season continues, I will be attending Pure Accelerate in San Francisco from May 22nd to 24th as a guest of Pure Storage. This will be my first time at Accelerate; the last two years conferences never quite worked out for me. I learned quite a lot about the Flash Array product when we did a vBrownBag Build Day Live event last year. I am expecting to learn a bit more about the Flash Blade product and how it is being used by real customers. Also more presence for FlashStack, which is a converged infrastructure with Cisco UCS servers and Pure Storage Flash Array. I also expect to see some evolution of the Pure1 web service that is used to manage an estate of Pure Storage arrays.  There has been quite a contingent of bloggers and influencers at past Pure Accelerate conferences; I expect to see a few friends and make a few new ones. I also have quite a few friends at Pure Storage, so it will be nice to catch up with them if they have a spare moment at the conference.

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Vendor Briefing Tocario

I am always interested in new ways of delivering virtual desktops. Although it is still not the year of VDI, there are plenty of customers who need remote access to a desktop. Tonight, I heard from Tocariowho is based in Stuttgart and have a turn-key solution for service providers and medium businesses to deliver desktops from a data center. The desktops can run any x86 operating system, as all display and device remoting are provided in the virtual hardware (KVM hypervisor) rather than using in-guest drivers and agents. The client side can be a mobile device with a native client or an HTML5 client. The HTML5 client even has screen sharing, potentially for dozens of students watching one VM’s screen in their web browser.

Deployment starts with a scale-out management component that is usually on existing virtualization but can be bare metal. Then the physical hosts are deployed from those management hosts, KVM on bare metal. The hosts consume shared storage, either NFS or iSCSI to provide resilience. The management cluster offers load balancing and the usual brokering. There is full multi-tenancy for service providers and larger businesses. Service providers also get nested multi-tenancy. A reseller can have their clients access through the reseller’s tenant portal as if the platform belonged to the reseller but without the management requirement. Service providers also get some built-in sales enablement, such as a self-service trial function built-in. All licensing is per-desktop VM; service providers pay for usage per-month while on-premises deployment is bought in packs of 10 or 100 desktops, again priced per desktop per month.

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HCI Isn’t the Only Simplified Management

Having decided that HCI is all about simplified deployment and management, I have started thinking about how simple it is to manage modern on-premises infrastructure. I feel that HCI is often compared with the technology it is replacing, rather than the alternatives that are available now. One aspect of that it when an HCI vendor says that a client replaced five racks of five-year-old equipment with half a rack of HCI. A new SAN and servers would not require five racks, so some of the reduced footprint is about hardware generations, rather than HCI. Another aspect is simplified management. HCI uses management that is centered around VMs and ideally policy based. Older architectures tend to have isolated control of each hardware type: compute, network, and storage. Comparing HCI’s simple management to a ten-year-old management practice is also not valid, HCI needs to be compared to the manageability of modern products with which HCI products compete.

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