Day 3 and 4 report #VMworld

I was planning on writing up a Day 3 at the end of Wednesday but ended up at the VMworld party instead. Lets start off with Wednesday by itself though. I had a couple of sessions scheduled. A session on VMware EVO:RAIL in a slightly bigger room than the session on Tuesday (6x as big) and a panel session. The EVO:RAIL session went great in my opinion. Lots of good feedback after the session and a couple of great questions. It looks to me that everyone understands the value of a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance offering from VMware and OEM partners. The simplicity of management and configuration, the “one stop shop” approach for procurement and support, and the auto-scale out functionality are just some of the key things that were mentioned as value add! Judging by the number of people that showed up to the session and did the lab and visited the zone… VMware EVO:RAIL will be a success.

After this session I walked around the solutions exchange for a bit just to wind down and then I had the panel session with Rick, William, Scott and Chad. Funnily enough the category of questions we received was different this time. Still many EVO:RAIL questions, but a bit less NSX and a bit more generic questions around home labs etc. Derek was there again and he did a great job of capturing most of the Q&A, make sure to read that.  Good attendance, good audience participation… Lets hope it will be the same in EMEA!

VMworld party… What can I say other than: I am not a big fan of the Black Keys. All songs sounded the same, and I only really liked Lonely Boy. Judging though by the crowd going wild it probably is just me.

Thursday was a busy day for me with customer meetings. Some great conversations around the future of the datacenter, the state of converged infrastructures, practical discussions around distributed switch failure domains, stretched clustering and of course containers. I also managed to sit in on a session by Christian Dickmann on troubleshooting Virtual SAN. If you missed that one, make sure to watch the video as it had some interesting tips. Especially some of the troubleshooting commands for RVC. At the end of the day I hung out with Cormac, Fred Nix and Rawlinson, had a couple of drinks and somehow ended up at the DNA Lounge watching Corrosion of Conformity. Nice way to end VMworld to be honest, away from everything related to technology… just some nice noisy music too unwind :)

Now what? Well I am going to take a couple of days off just to get some rest… and then the preparation for VMworld EMEA will start I guess. If you have not registered yet, do so before it is too late. I promise it will be an interesting event!

I want to thank everyone who took the time to say “hi” at VMworld, I truly appreciate it and always love to hear feedback on material I wrote or just have a general conversation about what challenges people are having in their datacenters. It is always nice to know who reads your stuff. Also, it was great meeting up with many friends whom I had not seen in a long time.

Once again, great event… Thanks VMworld team for putting up another great show, and lets repeat this in Barcelona!

Day 2 #VMworld Report

Day at VMworld, today was going the be the first of 2 EVO:RAIL sessions for me… but before we get there first the keynote. The keynote was great in my opinion. It felt a bit more loosened up than last year and it looked like they were having fun up on stage and that seemed to resonate well with the crowd. There were a couple of things which stood out to me: CloudVolumes, Project Fargo (VMFork), EVO:RAIL and of course the awesome integration of vCAC an NSX / VVOL / VSAN.

After the keynote I had to go straight to my session on EVO:RAIL. I presented with Dave Shanley, the lead engineer, and the room was packed. This session was a repeat which unfortunately ended up being scheduled in a room which was way too small. They managed though to let 50 extra people in, standing room only! However, there were still people waiting in the hallway all the way too the end and around the corner. I hope that those who did not get in will be able to make the session today in Salon 7 in the Marriott at 11:30 as it fits way more people. It was a good session in my opinion and we received some excellent feedback. The best feedback came from two of our direct competitors who both acknowledged they loved the user experience and the simplicity that EVO:RAIL offers.

After my session I went straight to the EVO ZONE. Wow, that place is packed every minute of the day, and when I say packed I mean packed. Great interest from customers and partners around what it is, what it does, and how they can buy one. Some awesome conversations with a customer who had a use case for ROBO deployments, 1500 sites, he said: No longer will I need skilled IT people to manage those site because of the simplicity of this interface but also the deployment mechanism. You inject a “JSON files” with all configuration attributes and then click “just go” and you are done in minutes.

At the end of my booth visit I walked around the solutions exchange and met a lot of great folks. After that it was time for the Office of CTO party. It was great to see a lot of people at the party I had not seen at the event yet. It was definitely a well organized event, with great food, music and people.

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!

Day 1 #VMworld Report

It is Monday evening and this morning the madness started, VMworld 2014. Pat Gelsinger’s keynote was of course up first and the highlight for me was definitely the unveiling of the project (EVO:RAIL) I worked on for the last 18 months or so. It is just amazing to see everything come together, a huge engineering effort, the architectural aspects, business development and alliances work etc etc. So many things going, a truly unique experience to take a something from conception to release. I am glad I was provided the opportunity to have this experience and be part of this team. What I personally found interesting about the keynote, and also Carl’s talk, was the customer angle. Many different testimonies from customers who have been deploying SDDC in their datacenters with explanations of how it simplified their life. Also the vCloud Air announcements were interesting, that is definitely a space I will be watching in the future. I can’t wait for Ben Fathi’s keynote tomorrow, as we will get more tech detail and cool demos. I am hoping I will have a wifi connection tomorrow, so I can do some tweeting or life blogging etc.

After the keynote I had my first session… Well not really “my session” but a nice collaborative effort of many people, but the father of it all was Vaughn Steward. Vaughn invited me to be part of the VMware team on a Gameshow. The gameshow was a bit chaotic to be honest, there were some challenges with the slidedeck which is a shame, still I hope people enjoyed it though. I thought it was entertaining, but there is definitely room for improvement.

Second session of the day was with fellow bloggers/vExperts: Rick Scheerer, Chad Sakac, William Lam, Scott Lowe and I. As expected a fair amount of questions on NSX and EVO:RAIL. If you weren’t there, Derek Seaman managed to write down most questions and answers, thanks Derek! I always like these sessions as you do not know what people will ask and it is always a mix of technical to even personal questions. Early scores of this session are off the charts! I hope our repeat Wednesday will just be as good!

I am still heavily jetlagged, looking forward to tomorrow though, although I hope I will get a couple hours of sleep at least today.

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.

evo:rail logo

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

evo:rail intro

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)

evo:rail configure hostnames

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.

evo:rail configure networking

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.

evo:rail configuring

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!

evo:rail vm management

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!

evo:rail vm creation

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.

evo:rail health

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