VMware Cloud on AWS Storage Deep-Dive

At VMworld earlier this year I presented a deep-dive on vSAN storage for VMware Cloud on AWS with Matt Amdur. This was an interesting topic as we’d had to deliver some enhancements to vSAN for deployment onto the Amazon EC2 Bare Metal instances, now that they’ve been released there are a few more public details that can be shared!

At VMworld we covered a few key topics including the host and cluster configuration on EC2 Bare Metal instances, how we were operating the storage in AWS that would be a little different from how on-premises customers would operate, and a few peaks into the unique features delivered for VMware Cloud on AWS and a look into our plans.

At the recent re:Invent conference, AWS launched their new EC2 Bare Metal instances. VMware were early customers of this instance and worked collaboratively with AWS to ensure the new bare metal platform was a good platform for running ESXi and vSAN. With the launch of the solution, AWS was more open about talking details on their platform. Check out the session by Aaron Blassius and Matt Wilson sharing details on the new platform we are using for VMware Cloud on AWS.

VMware Cloud on AWS – Disaster Recovery and other use cases

I was lucky enough to be able to share some details about the new VMware Site Recovery service at the AWS re:Invent conference alongside Wen Yu. In the VMware Cloud on AWS technical deep dive and native service integration session we covered some key use cases customers are looking to address with VMware Cloud on AWS including:

  • Disaster Recovery
  • Database Migration
  • Securing web/content management

Check out the session (recorded the day before the official launch) on Youtube

Launch Often! VMware Cloud on AWS

At VMworld, back in August, the first version of VMware Cloud on AWS was launched. Now three months later we’re doing it again! As the Product Manager owning the storage and disaster recovery initiatives it’s been a great experience to work with the joint VMware and AWS teams as we delivered the storage platform for VMware Cloud on AWS (built with vSAN), and are now delivering new Disaster Recovery (DR) capabilities with VMware Site Recovery.

Delivering improved resiliency and DR options has been an important focus for VMware Cloud on AWS. This new capability allows customers to protect their mission-critical workloads running on-premises to VMware Cloud on AWS, or vice-versa. We also support protection between VMware Cloud on AWS SDDCs. This enables customers to protect workloads across different AWS Availability Zones, or even between AWS Regions with the newly announced support for US East (N. Virginia).

It’s also been a great experience to work closely with some of our forward-looking customers as we’ve been developing VMware Cloud on AWS. Listen to one of these early customers share their view of the collaboration between VMware and AWS, and the new capabilities we’re delivering.

More details on the VMware Site Recovery solutions can be found on the VMware Cloud Services site:

SRM 6.5 PowerCLI Module Changes

With the recent release of PowerCLI 6.5.1 the PowerCLI team moved to a more modular approach to delivering their capabilities. This new PowerCLI release also made some changes related to SRM, from their launch blog:

The SRM cmdlets have been removed from the Core module and a new SRM module has been created. The new module is named VMware.VimAutomation.Srm and features updated cmdlets that enable users to interact with the API views for the SRM 6.5 API!

The PowerCLI SRM module provides easy access to the SRM public API. To make it easier to work with the new SRM 6.5 public API I have updated my SRM advanced functions to work with the new PowerCLI 6.5.1 release and the new SRM 6.5 APIs. This new version of SRM-Cmdlets, v0.2, is not backwards compatible with earlier versions of PowerCLI and is intended for use with SRM 6.5, if you are using earlier versions of PowerCLI or SRM you should stick with the earlier release of these cmdlets.

I am hosting the SRM-Cmdlets project on Github, so you can get access to the latest enhancements there and provide feedback via Github issues.

The commands available in the v0.2 release are:

  • Add-SrmPostRecoveryCommand
  • Add-SrmPreRecoveryCommand
  • Add-SrmProtectionGroupToRecoveryPlan
  • Export-SrmRecoveryPlanResultAsXml
  • Get-SrmPlaceholderVM
  • Get-SrmProtectedDatastore
  • Get-SrmProtectedVM
  • Get-SrmProtectionGroup
  • Get-SrmProtectionGroupFolder
  • Get-SrmRecoveryPlan
  • Get-SrmRecoveryPlanFolder
  • Get-SrmRecoveryPlanResult
  • Get-SrmRecoverySetting
  • Get-SrmReplicatedDatastore
  • Get-SrmReplicatedVM
  • Get-SrmServer
  • Get-SrmServerApiEndpoint
  • Get-SrmServerVersion
  • Get-SrmTestVM
  • Get-SrmUnProtectedVM
  • New-SrmCommand
  • New-SrmProtectionGroup
  • New-SrmRecoveryPlan
  • Protect-SrmVM
  • Remove-SrmPostRecoveryCommand
  • Remove-SrmPreRecoveryCommand
  • Remove-SrmProtectionGroup
  • Remove-SrmProtectionGroupFromRecoveryPlan
  • Remove-SrmRecoveryPlan
  • Set-SrmRecoverySetting
  • Start-SrmDiscoverDevice
  • Start-SrmRecoveryPlan
  • Stop-SrmRecoveryPlan
  • Unprotect-SrmVM

This includes some new commands as well as some updates to existing commands. Hopefully these commands provide some useful examples of working with the SRM public API in PowerCLI 6.5.1.

Recent Blogs on Virtual Blocks

I’ve been quiet on my personal blog (I aim to rectify that) but in the meantime here a list of some of the blogs I’ve written over at Virtual Blocks, the blog for the Storage and Availability Business Unit at VMware about VMware Virtual Volumes (VVols).

VMworld 2015

VMworld 2015 is about to kick off in a few days and will be a hectic few days up in San Francisco. I’ll be there mostly talking and presenting on a variety of things like Virtual Volumes (VVol), Storage Policy-Based Management (SPBM), vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (VAIO) as well as covering some interesting work the SRM and NSX teams have been working on together.

As always at VMworld there are far more sessions to see than time in which to see them, having said that here are a few sessions on topics I am interested in that look to be particularly interesting:

Normally I only try and present one session at VMworld but circumstances conspired to pull me into multiple sessions this year. If you want to see me on stage I will be involved with the following, sure to be awesome :-), sessions:

And I will also be taking part in a group discussion with @vmKen about VVols and a meet the experts session.

I’m looking forward to meeting lots of new faces this year! If you are going to VMworld feel free to reach out and connect with me on twitter – @BenMeadowcroft

Automating vSphere Replication and SRM with vRealize Orchestrator

With the release of the vSphere Replication plugin for vRealize Orchestrator there are a whole set of new automation capabilities when it comes to Disaster Recovery for your VMware environment. The new plugin enables you to configure vSphere Replication:

  • to vCloud Air Disaster Recovery Service
  • to another vCenter deployment
  • or even within the same vCenter deployment

I’d recommend reading the release notes for more details on what capabilities are on offer. In this blog post I want to demonstrate how you can easily combine the vSphere Replication plugin with the SRM plugin to automate the end to end replication and DR protection of your Virtual Machines. Without further ado here’s where we want to end up:

In this short video you saw that the administrator selected a handful of Virtual Machines they wanted to protect, invoked a VRO workflow from the context menu, and was able to completely configure the replication and protection of the VMs in just a few seconds! In fact most of the video was me driving the UI to show you all the items (replication schedules, protected VMs, protection groups, recovery plans, etc.) that were created by the workflow.

So What do We Need to Make It Work?

The demonstration used the following products:

How Did You Build The Workflow?

The workflow was built by linking together various out of the box workflows provided by the VR and SRM plugins. I actually built two workflows so I could separate out the workflow that linked together the two plugins capabilities, and another workflow that wrapped the more complex workflow with some predefined attributes and a little scripting to simplify the presentation and make it easy to call from the vSphere Web Client.

As you can see the workflow assigned to the context menu provides is basically a wrapper with a little scripting to allow me to use predefined RPO tiers when presenting the workflow and some predefined attributes to allow me to simplify the what I choose to present to the user.

vro-workflow-1

The workflow that ties the VR and SRM workflows together looks more complex, but most of it is simply chaining together out of the box workflows.

vro-workflow-2

The green and blue highlighted sections are the workflows provided by the VR and SRM plugins for vRO. The red highlighted section was custom built to handle a simple lookup from an instance of VC:VirtualMachine to an instance of SRM:UnassignedReplicatedVm. The script to do this is a one liner:

replVm = Server.findForType("SRM:UnassignedReplicatedVm", sourceVm.id);

Conclusion

Hopefully this has given you a glimpse into what you can achieve with these new automation capabilities. While there is a learning curve to vRealize Orchestrator there is also a lot of potential to streamline your operations. Being able to combine the automation capabilities of VR and SRM opens up a lot of new possibilities to explore.

Update: Presenting RPOs as a Dropdown list

One of my colleagues asked me how I was able to present the RPO values as a drop-down list. To do that required me to configure the presentation properties of the workflow. Within vRealize Orchestrator you are able to control how parameters are presented to the end user in the presentation tab. Here I simply added a set of Predefined answers to a field I called ReplicationTier (you can also order and group the parameters that you present to the customer as well in this tab).

vro-workflow-presentation

The selected value is then passed to a short script that parses the value selected by the user and determines what the RPO value, in minutes, should be set as:

RPO = 4 * 60; // set default to 240 minutes, i.e. 4 hours.
if (ReplicationTier.indexOf("Gold") > -1) {
    RPO = 15; // 15 minute RPO
} else if (ReplicationTier.indexOf("Silver") > -1) {
    RPO = 4 * 60; // 4 hour RPO
} else if (ReplicationTier.indexOf("Bronze") > -1) {
    RPO = 12 * 60; // 12 hour RPO
}

This is the Lookup RPO from tier script task in the first workflow schema image shared above. Of course this is not necessary, you can just ask for the RPO value as a number input (with min and max values) but I thought the dropdown selection was a nice option to demonstrate.

What You Need to Know About SRM 6.0

With the launch of VMware Site Recovery Manager 6.0 here are some useful resources for people that want to learn more about the new features, roll out a fresh deployment, or who are looking to upgrade.

What’s New

Here are my posts about some key changes in SRM 6:

I’d also recommend checking out the blogs by GS Khalsa for SRM 6.0 and Jeff Hunter for vSphere Replication 6.0.

Where Can I Download the Bits?

Planning a Fresh Install or Upgrade to SRM 6?

Here are some resources you will find useful when planning the setup and deployment of SRM:

In addition to the SRM documentation I highly recommend reading the vSphere installation documentation and the following KB articles and white papers that are relevant to a multi-site and multi-product deployment:

Network Ports to Open for SRM and vSphere Replication 6.0

Because you do actually want to replicate the VMs don’t you?

What Do I Need to Know About Deploying SRM 6 in Larger Environments?

SRM 6.0 now supports up to 2,000 VMs replicated with vSphere Replication (up from 500 in the 5.8 release). SRM 6.0 continues to support protection of up to 5,000 VMs with array based replication.

What Site Topologies Does SRM 6 Support?

SRM 6.0 continues to support a variety of deployment topologies:

Where Can I Learn More?

The SRM Administration Guide is a great resource, also Eric Shank’s SRM 5.8 guide is also largely applicable to SRM 6.0. If you have any questions on SRM I’d recommend posting in the SRM community at VMTN.

 

SRM 6 Inventory Mapping Improvements

With the release of SRM 5.8 the user interface was significantly updated to integrate with the vSphere Web Client for the first time. As part of the update of the user interface we improved a lot of things, like being able to add paired array managers at the same time, creating reverse inventory mappings, or my personal favorite enabling rule based IP reconfiguration.

When demoing these new improvements to customers the feedback on these changes was very positive. One piece of feedback that I heard consistently (even in the SRM 5.8 beta) was the need to make it easier to create inventory mappings, especially at scale. As a result of that customer feedback one of the UI enhancements introduced in the recent SRM 6.0 release is the introduction of streamlined inventory mapping for networks and folder structures.

Introducing A New Option To Create Inventory Mappings by Matching Folder and Network Names

Picture a scenario where you have a large number of folders or networks that you want to create inventory mappings for. In SRM 5.8 that process involved you either creating the mapping one-by-one in the user interface (and being able to create the reverse mapping automatically) or automating the process via the SRM public API or VRO plug-in. Now with SRM 6.0 you can just select the root of a hierarchy you want to map and all the child elements will be automatically matched by name for you.

If you maintain consistent folder or network naming across sites this could potentially save a lot of time in creating the initial inventory mappings, especially for large inventories.

Walkthrough Auto-Mapping Folders by Name

A lot of customers use folders to organize their VM inventory, in this example the VMs are organized by department and the same naming scheme is used on both sites for consistency. Here are the two sites, Anaheim and Boulder, with all the departmental folders organized under a top level “Production” folder at each site.

srm-6-mapping-1

When creating an inventory mapping you are now prompted to either select the existing mapping behavior where you select items manually, or the new automatic behavior based on matching names. Choose the new option and proceed to the next screen.

srm-6-mapping-2

Now you will select the source and target “roots” for the folders you want to map. You choose the root folder on the left for the first site, followed by the target folder on the right for the second site. Then click the Add mappings button to generate the automatic mappings.

srm-mapping-3

A small confirmation box will pop-up showing the results of the automatic mapping.

srm-mapping-4

Next you can review the suggested mappings and go onto the next step in the mapping process.

srm-mapping-5

The final step is to decide whether you want to create the reverse mappings or not for these folders. If you do you can either select them one by one, or just click the “Select all applicable” link to select them all at once and then complete the folder mapping dialog by clicking finish.

srm-mapping-6

Walkthrough Auto-Mapping Networks by Name

Just as we could use name based matching to speed up the creation of inventory mappings for folders we can also do the same thing for networks.Here’s an abbreviated walkthrough showing the same approach to configuring inventory mappings of distributed switches.

First we can see that we have some distributed switches where the associated port groups have matching names across the two sites.

srm-mapping-7

In the same way we could select automatic mapping mapping for folders we can select the option to automatically map our networks as well.

srm-mapping-8

For the next step we select the distributed switches as the root of the mapping on both sites and click the “Add mappings” to generate the matches.

srm-mapping-9

After dismissing the popup and reviewing the proposed mappings we can continue on with the rest of the wizard to completion.

Summary

If you are doing a small scale SRM deployment with just a couple of folders or port groups these enhancements are not going to be a huge deal. If however you deal with 10’s of folders or networks and have adopted consistent naming across both sites there is the potential for this to make your initial setup of SRM much more efficient.

Further Reading