Call to action: #VMworld attendees, please give back and throw a paper airplane!

Yesterday at VMworld I went to the hangspace as my friends from the VMware Foundation were there. They have a great section in the hangspace where you can give back to the community by simply throwing a paper airplane. The program is called “Destination Give Back” and is a great opportunity for VMware to share our values through YOU, the community / customers /partners!

Before I explain how it works, the VMware foundation committed to donating a maximum 250.000 dollars.

How It Works:

  • As a member of the VMware community, we invite attendees to have some fun and Give Back with us by flying a paper airplane.
  • Attendees, learn about a few sample causes (Children, Education, Environment, Human Rights, Women and Girls) selected by VMware employees through the stories on display, and choose the cause they are passionate about.
  • People get to test their ingenuity by building and flying a paper airplane for the cause they have chosen. The distance the plane traveled determines the amount that will be donated by the VMware Foundation to the cause of choice.

So to be clear, you as the person throwing the plane will not make the donation… throwing the plane as far as you possibly can is all you need to do. The farther it will go, the higher the donation will be. 83 feet is the record so far. So make sure to stop by at the hangspace, spent 2 minutes of your VMworld time and give back!

Introducing VMware EVO:RAIL a new hyper-converged offering!

About 18 months ago I was asked to be part of a very small team to build a prototype. Back then it was one developer (Dave Shanley) who did all the development including the user experience aspect. I worked on architectural aspects we had an executive sponsor (Mornay van der Walt). After a couple of months we had something to show internally. In March of 2013, after showing the first prototype, we received the green light and the team expanded quickly. A small team within the SDDC Division’s Emerging Solutions Group was tasked with building something completely new, to enter a market where VMware had never gone before, to do something that would surprise many. The team was given the freedom to operate somewhat like a startup within VMware; run fast and hard, prototype, iterate, pivot when needed, with the goal of delivering a game changing product by VMworld 2014. Today I have the pleasure to introduce this project to the world: VMware EVO:RAIL™.

EVO:RAIL – What’s in a name?
EVO represents a new family of ‘Evolutionary’ Hyper-Converged Infrastructure offerings from VMware. RAIL represents the first product within the EVO family that will ship during the second half of 2014. More on the meaning of RAIL towards the end of the post.

The Speculation is finally over!

Over the past 6-plus months there was a lot of speculation over Project Mystic and Project MARVIN. I’ve been wanting to write about this for so long now, but unfortunately couldn’t talk about it. The speculation is finally over with the announcement of EVO:RAIL, and you can expect multiple articles on this topic here in the upcoming weeks! So just to be clear: MARVIN = Mystic = EVO:RAIL

What is EVO:RAIL?

Simply put, EVO:RAIL is a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance (HCIA) offering by VMware and of qualified EVO:RAIL partners that includes Dell, EMC, Fujitsu, Inspur, Net One Systems and SuperMicro. This impressive list of partners will ensure EVO:RAIL has a global market reach from day one, as well as the assurance of world class customer support and services these partners are capable of providing. For those who are not familiar with hyper-converged infrastructure offerings: it combines Compute, Network and Storage resources into a single unit of deployment. In the case of EVO:RAIL this is a 2U unit which contains 4 independent physical nodes.

But why a different type of hardware? platform What will EVO:RAIL bring to you as a customer? In my opinion EVO:RAIL has a several major advantages over traditional infrastructure:

  • Software-Defined
  • Simplicity
  • Highly Resilient
  • Customer Choice

Software-Defined

EVO:RAIL is a scalable Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) building block that delivers compute, networking, storage, and management to empower private/hybrid-cloud, end-user computing, test/dev, remote and branch office environment, and small virtual private cloud. EVO:RAIL builds on proven technology of VMware vSphere®, vCenter Server™, and VMware Virtual SAN™, EVO:RAIL delivers the first hyper-converged infrastructure appliance 100% powered by VMware software.

Simplicity Transformed

EVO: RAIL enables time to value to first VM in minutes once the appliance is racked, cabled and powered on.. VM creation, radically simplified via the EVO:RAIL management user interface, easy VM deployment, one-click non-disruptive patch and upgrades, simplified management and scale-out.

Highly Resilient by Design

Resilient appliance design starting with four independent hosts and a distributed Virtual SAN datastore ensures zero VM downtime during planned maintenance or during disk, network, or host failures.

Customer Choice

EVO:RAIL is delivered as a complete appliance solution with hardware, software, and support through qualified EVO:RAIL partners; customers choose an EVO:RAIL appliance from their preferred EVO:RAIL partner. This means a single point of contact to buy new equipment (single SKU includes all components), and a single point of contact for support.

So what will each appliance provide you with in terms of hardware resources? Each EVO:RAIL appliance has four independent nodes with dedicated computer, network, and storage resources and dual, redundant power supplies.

Each of the four EVO:RAIL nodes have (at a minimum):

  • Two Intel E5-2620 v2 six-core CPUs
  • 192GB of memory
  • One SLC SATADOM or SAS HDD as the ESXi™ boot device
  • Three SAS 10K RPM 1.2TB HDD for the VMware Virtual SAN™ datastore
  • One 400GB MLC enterprise-grade SSD for read/write cache
  • One Virtual SAN-certified pass-through disk controller
  • Two 10GbE NIC ports (configured for either 10GBase-T or SFP+ connections)
  • One 1GbE IPMI port for remote (out-of-band) management

All of this leads to a total combined of at least 100GHz CPU resources, 768GB of memory resources, 14.4TB  of storage capacity and 1.6TB of flash capacity used by Virtual SAN for storage acceleration services. Never seen one of these boxes before? Well this is what they tend to look like, in this example you see a SuperMicro Twin configuration. As you can see from the rear view, 4 individual nodes with 2 power supplies and in the front you see all the disks which are connected per group of 6 to each of the nodes!

For those of you who read this far and are still wondering why RAIL, and is it an acronym, the short answer is “No, not an acronym”. The RAIL in EVO:RAIL simply represent the ‘rail mount’ attached to 2U/4-node server platform that allows it to slide easily into a datacenter rack. One RAIL for one EVO:RAIL HCIA, which represents the smallest unit measure with respect to compute, network, storage and management within the EVO product family.

By now you are probably all anxious to know what EVO:RAIL looks like. Before I show you, one more thing to know about EVO:RAIL… the user interface uses HTML-5! So it works on any device, nice right!

If you prefer a video over screenshots, make sure to visit the EVO:RAIL product page on vmware.com!

What do we do to get it up and running? First of all rack the appliance, cable it up and power it on! Next, hit up the management interface on https://<ip-address>:7443

Next you start entering the details of your environment, look the following screenshot to get an idea around how easy it is! You can even define your own naming scheme and it will automatically apply that to joining hosts (both the current set, and any additional appliance added in the future)

Besides a naming scheme, EVO:RAIL allows you to configure the following:

  • IP addresses for Management, vMotion, Virtual SAN (by specifying a pool per traffic type, see screenshot below)
  • vCenter Server and ESXi passwords
  • Globals like: Time Zone, NTP Servers, DNS Servers, Centralized Logging (or configure Log Insight), Proxy

Believe me when I say that it does not get easier then this. Specify your IP ranges and globals once and never think about it any more.

When you are done EVO:RAIL will validate the configuration for you and then when you are ready apply it. Along the way it will indicate the stage and provide an indication of how far it is in terms of configuration.

When it is done it will point you to the management interface and from there you can  start deploying workloads. Just to be clear, the EVO:RAIL interface is a simplified interface. If for any reason at all you feel  the  interface does not bring you the functionality required you can switch to the vSphere Web Client as that is fully supported!

The interface will allow you to manage virtual machines in an easy way.  It has pre-defined virtual machine sizes (small / medium / large) and even security profiles that can be applied to the virtual machine configuration!

Of course, EVO:RAIL provides you monitoring capabilities, in the same easy fashion as everything else. Simple overview of what is there, what the usage is and what the state is.

With that I think it is time to conclude this already lengthy blog post. I will however follow up on this shortly with a series that looks a bit more in-depth to some of the details around EVO:RAIL with a couple core team members. I think it is fair to say that EVO:RAIL is an exciting development in the space of datacenter infrastructure and more specifically in the world of hyper-convergence! If you are at VMworld and want to know more visit the EVO:RAIL booth, the EVO:RAIL pavilion or one of the following sessions:

  • Software-Defined Data Center through Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (SDDC4245) Monday 25th August, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM – Moscone South, Gateway 103 with Mornay van der Walt and Chris Wolf
  • VMware and Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (SDDC2095) Monday 25th of August, 4:00 PM – 5:00 PM – Moscone West, Room 3001 with Bryan Evans
  • VMware EVO:RAIL Technical Deepdive (SDDC1337) Tuesday 26th of August - 11:00 AM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 1 with Dave Shanley and Duncan Epping
  • VMware Customers Share Experiences and Requirements for Hyper-Converged (SDDC1818) - Tuesday 26th of August, 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM – Moscone West, Room 3014 with Bryan Evans and Michael McDonough
  • VMware EVO:RAIL Technical Deepdive (SDDC1337) Wednesday 27th of August - 11:30 AM – Marriott, Yerba Buena Level, Salon 7 with Dave Shanley and Duncan Epping

Day 0 #VMworld report

I arrived yesterday in San Francisco, still jet lagged from my previous trip (came back home from SFO on Tuesday). After a nice walk we had some dinner and stopped by at vBeers… Was nice to talk to some folks I have never met before and an interesting conversation around VCDX for networking and storage. Also bumped in to some EMC and NetApp friends, and a bunch of Coho Data guys at the hotel. After that I called it quits and went to bed early, only to wake up early again due to jet lag, doze off again and then woke up because my whole room was shaking. I have never experienced an earth quake before, the 6.1 earth quake in Napa was a strange way of being welcome to SF for VMworld. Judging by the tweets around the time I wasn’t the only who was freaked out. I guess being on the 15th floor of a hotel doesn’t help either as it only amplifies the experience. Anyway, after that it was time for a run with some of my European colleagues, 15.5KM is not bad for a jetlagged earthquacked Sunday morning.

I didn’t have much planned for today, originally my schedule was booked but due to some changes around when we could start talking about upcoming products things got cancelled. So I got registered… received my nice shiny badge, and prepped for my upcoming sessions.

I guess for me the madness starts on Monday. For those who want to attend one of my sessions, here is the list:

  • Monday 12:30 - The vExpert Storage Game Show – STO2996-SPO
  • Monday 5:30 - Ask the Expert vBloggers – SDDC1176
  • Tuesday 11:00 - VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (EVO:RAIL) Technical Deepdive – SDDC1337
  • Wednesday 11:30 - VMware Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (EVO:RAIL) Technical Deepdive – SDDC1337
  • Wednesday 4:00 - Ask the Expert vBloggers – SDDC1176

Some of the sessions are not fully booked yet as they were added to the scheduler late (SDDC1337), so you can still sign up… some of the sessions seem to be full right now.

VMware / ecosystem / industry news flash… part 1

I did these startup news flash newsletters for a long time and it kind of died down. Reason for it being that it felt like I missed out on updates of companies who were way beyond the stage of being a startup, which is a shame. I do feel there is a need, or there is a market for these types of blog articles. So lets give it another try but this time with a different name and a slightly different angle. In this VMware / ecosystem / industry news flash I will feature interesting (to me) news items of VMware and its ecosystem. This could range from Nexenta releasing a new version of their software to an acquisition or new round of funding. I hope you will find it useful. Besides a pointer to the originating article, I will also provide some of my thoughts, and I would like to encourage you to do the same via the comment section!

  • VMware announced the intention to acquire CloudVolumes
    I looked in to CloudVolumes about 5 months ago. I was very intrigued with what they developed and how they go about layering applications on top of virtual machines both for the server and desktop space. Especially when it comes to updating applications I was impressed how seamless and flexible CloudVolumes was. What stood out most was that they simply connect a VMDK to a VM instead of streaming data across the network… it was so simple, but yet so innovative and smart at the same time that I am not surprised VMware acquired them.
  • Ubuntu Now Available on VMware vCloud Air
    I guess there are two things here… vCloud Air formerly known as vCloud Hybrid Services, a new name. And Ubuntu being available in the catalog by default which is great. If I have to pick any Linux distribution to work with it typically is Ubuntu, and as it is one of the most used distributions out there in cloud environments this makes sense to me.
  • Nexenta Enables File Services on VMware VSAN
    I did not see this one coming to be honest and I am not sure what it will look like from an implementation perspective. It is interesting though to see the ecosystem layering services on top of VSAN and I am wondering what else is in the pipeline!
  • DataGravity out of stealth… (Steve Foskett opinion, Howard Marks thoughts, Robin Harris)
    I have read multiple articles on DataGravity and it seems they are playing in the same space as Nimble and Tintri with their hybrid storage solution. But what DataGravity adds on top of that in-sight in to the data being stored. It sounds interesting but I do wonder what the target market is as I would suspect that many who need this type of data analytics already have layers on top of their storage systems which will provide this detail for them. I will try to set some time aside at VMworld to chat with them.
  • Pernix Data announced a new round of funding (Business Insider, Venture Beat)
    35 million dollar C round of funding is significant I would say. On top the growth numbers that Pernix published are impressive, but not surprisingly if you look at what they have to offer and still have in the pipeline.
  • Atlantis announced USX 2.0 (vClouds.nl, Andrea Mauro)
    I have always been intrigued by USX. I played around with 1.0 on top of Virtual SAN and was impressed by the capabilities added and the efficiency of their data services, however at the same time I also realized that layering USX on top of Virtual SAN kind of diminished the Virtual SAN policy based management capabilities. However with USX 2.0 it appears that USX will support VVOL and as such SPBM to a full extent, and hopefully also will require a lower number of USX related virtual appliance to be deployed. Will try to explore USX 2.0 in the near future.

Vendors to check out at VMworld…

While I was making a list of companies to visit on the Solutions Exchange I figured I would share them. Cormac did so a week ago and it is an excellent list, make sure to read that one! My list is also mainly around storage, but includes some different types of solutions.

  • SimpliVity, one of the big players in the hyper-converged market… I always try to stop by, because what they deliver is a nice all-round solution. With CRN reporting that SimpliVity will start shipping on  Cisco gear soon I am guessing they will get a lot of traction!
  • Nimble, probably one of the most successful storage startups of the last 5 years… Worth looking into when you are considering investing in to new storage
  • Ravello, running nested workloads on top of AWS… who would have thought that a year or two ago?
  • Atlantis, rumor has it a new version of USX is coming out at some point in the near future and I am assuming they will demo it at VMworld…
  • Micron, seen tweets of them about an “all-flash VSAN solution” which got my attention instantly. For sure will be checking that one!
  • PernixData, well I always wanted to shake Frank Denneman’s hand ;-). Plus they just had a new major round of funding and announced great sales/growth numbers!
  • SolidFire, one of the most interesting scale-out storage solutions out there that offers end-to-end QoS!
  • Scality, object storage solution which seems to be getting good traction, want to see what it is about!
  • CloudPhysics, they always demo something exciting at VMworld. First year it was the HA simulator that blew people away… Last year they showcased a great cost comparison solution for vCHS / AWS and Azure. what will it be this year?
  • DataGravity, I have not been briefed by them… they were introduced to the world yesterday and will showcase their technology at VMworld. Recommend reading Steve Foskett’s update and visiting their booth!
  • ThousandEyes, a couple of months back someone dropped this name. I have not had much time yet to look at what they do extensively so maybe VMworld is the right time. It sounds interesting doing end-to-end monitoring of traffic from the end-user to the datacenter with all layers in between!
  • Platform9, recently came out of stealth… wrote an article on it, will want to see their demo on KVM / vSphere / Docker management.

That is it for this round, sure there are many many interesting companies on the show floor but these are just some that stood out to me for various reasons. If I have missed the name of your company please don’t feel offended, with a long list of hundreds of exhibitors I had to pick a couple.