One of the things I’ve been always passionate about is integration, you see, no man is an island and when it comes to storage management, that rule is certain, we always aspire to bridge the gap between the storage administrator to the application owner, one of this integration points is a vCenter plugin known as VSI (short for “Virtual Storage Integrator”).
It’s one of these plugins that we released back in 2009 and kept improving it, the latest version, 6.6 adds so much in the context of XtremIO that I would like to take a step back and explain again its architecture, how to install it and of course, describe the features
at its core, VSI is a vCenter plugin, its an OVA that gets deployed and registered against the vCenter server, it support the entire EMC storage portfolio and its providing viewing capabilities of your storage array from one hand and provisioning and management capabilities on the other, however, don’t get confused here, the “provisioning” part is not limited to a basic VMFS/RDM provisioning, we have special integration with VDI (both CITRIX XenDesktop and VMware Horizon VIEW, we also have special integration with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) in the context of being able to failover to a specific Point In Time (PiT) image set so you see, its becoming a centralized place to do everything related to XtremIO / vSphere..
if you just want to see a demo how VSI 6.6 works with XtremIO, please watch this recorded demo i made:
Deploying VSI 6.6
deploying the OVA appliance (Solutions Integration Service) is very easy, you first need to download it from https://support.emc.com
(look for Virtual Storage Integrator), once downloaded, just use the “deploy OVF template” from vCenter, give it an IP address (or use DHCP one if it wont change) and that’s it in terms of deployment, you now need to register it.
once deployed, Browse To Solutions Integration Service with port 9443, for example, https://192.168.0.2:9443/vsi_usm/admin , then Login And Change Password (the default username is “admin” and the default password is “ChangMe”)
if you are upgrading an existing VSI deployment, please take a backup of the old one by Clicking Database in the left panel, then Select Take a Backup, click Submit, and save output file.
then, once you deployed the VSI 6.6 version, you can migrate the VSI 5.5 DB to it by Selecting Data Migration, then Choose File and Submit.
if you have migrated from VSI 5.5, there’s no need to re-register it against the vCenter, however, if it’s a new VSI deployment, you now need to register it with the vCenter server, go to “VSI setup” and enter the vCenter IP/FQDN in the “Host” box, please also ensure to insert the “Username” and the “Password” where appropriate. Lastly, press the “Register” button. You should get a confirmation in the “status” window if the registration went ok.
you can now go ahead and open the vCenter web interface and log in to it.
When Logging In, the Web Client Will Download The Registered VSI Plugin, This May Take Several Minutes.
Click vCenter In The Left Navigation Panel And You Should See The Category EMC VSI At the Bottom, VSI 6.6 Has Been Successfully Installed.
Ok, at this stage, we need to register the XtremIO array XMS, we can either register one, many, or one XMS that manage multiple XtremIO clusters (version 4.0 and above).
Click Solutions Integration Service, Select Register Solutions Integration Service from The Action Menu.
Complete Information To Register The Current VMware Account With A Solutions Integration Service Account.
you should now see this screen which indicates that the Solutions Integration Service Has Been Successfully Registered.
Similar To Solutions Integration Service Registration, you Now need to Register the Storage Systems.
as explained earlier, XtremIO v4 has multi-cluster support , that means that a single XMS can support multiple clusters, VSI 6.6 support this feature, Use the same storage registration wizard, VSI will auto discover all clusters and register them all, showing them as separate arrays. During provisioning, you can choose which array to use (Cool!)
this is how it looks like when a single XMS that’s connected to multiple XtremIO clusters looks like after being registered with VSI 6.6, note that the management IP looks the same but it actually details the multiple clusters it manage (in this example, its two.)
One of the most important features of XtremIO 4.0, is the ability to support native replication with RecoverPoint (which is by far, my most favorite EMC replication technology), this phase is of course not mandatory if you aren’t using RecoverPoint but if you are, please read ahead
registration is very easy, you can either use the SIS interface (the one that you first use to log in to the appliance (screenshot below), or you can use the vCenter SIS plugin to do do (screenshot above), I will vote for the 2nd option, you simply add the RecoverPoint management cluster IP and it will automatically detect all the other RecoverPoint clusters that have been connected to the cluster IP you specified!
remember the VMware SRM PiT integration, now its time to register VMware SRM with the plugin itself, this will allow us to then specific a specific Point In Time to be used when running a SRM Failover, this is very important since the entire design center of RecoverPoint is the ability to recover from almost any point in time but VMware SRM only allow you to failover to the last point in time, so by registering the RecoverPoint cluster IP and the SRM IP, we can now achieve this functionality! Very very cool.
registration of SRM simply can be done using the “data protection” part of the VSI plugin.
Ok, now comes the really important stuff, below you can see a demo that I recorded that actually shows all the features of VSI 6.6, if you have any question, please drop me an email, I really hope you will use and love the VSI plugin as much as I do.
There are many features VSI can do for you so let’s have a recap of everything it can (in the context of XtremIO):
Setting ESXi Host / Cluster Best Pracitces
there are many best practices when it comes to XtremIO running with vSphere, you could always apply these using the CLI or powershell scripts but you can now do it all using the VSI plugin, moreover, you can now apply these best practices at the ESXi cluster level instead of manually pointing it to each ESXi host, this version also have a new XCOPY optimization so please make sure to leverage it.
VMFS / RDM Provisioning
you can provision either VMFS and / or RDMs volumes, you can provision multiple datastores at the same time, do not forget to also select the specific XtremIO best practices like VAAI TP alerts (in case of running out of array space, vCenter will pop up an error that you ran out of space). As documented before, if you are using XIOS 4.0 when a single XMS manage multiple arrays, VSI understand this and will ask you from which XtremIO cluster to provision the datastores from.
Extending a Volume / VMFS Datastore.
in case of actually running out of space at the datastore level and assuming you DO have enough capacity at the array level, you can now use VSI to extend both the physical lun size and the datastore size, saving you two different places you had to do it manually.
Reclaiming Unused Space at the Datastore Level
VSI can now also run space reclamation at the datastore level and also schedule the operation, moreover, it can now be applied at the folder level and run space reclamation on all the datastores grouped under that folder, it will run on one datastore followed by the next one and so on, space reclamation is very important when running with vSphere, since you want to utilize every bit of the flash media you are using.
Note that the VSI space reclamation functionality covers only the datastore level and doesn’t perform In-Guest space reclamation, datastore space reclamation is good for the following cases, VM deletion, VM migration to another datastore, VM based snapshot deletion or refresh, VM powering off and powering on (which creates a new .vSwp file) for a more comprehensive details about the differences between volume level space reclamation to the In-Guest one, please see the following post, https://itzikr.wordpress.com/2014/04/30/the-case-for-sparse_se/
Viewing XtremIO used Logical Capacity at the VMFS level
VSI can also show you the logical capacity a VMFS datastore consume on the array level, this is also very useful on the following scenario, let’s assume you have provisioned a 5TB datastore and you have deployed 2 VMs which are 40GB each in terms of their provisioned capacity but since they only consume 20GB each (assuming no deduplication or compression for the sake of simplicity, vSphere will still show 80GB while the array will show 40GB, this is because XtremIO will discard zeroes and will not count them as part of the data reduction numbers and / or the consumed logical capacity so now you can view the logical capacity from the vCenter “datastores” tab.
Taking An Array Lun Based Snapshot
in VSI 6.6, we also introduced the ability to take array based snapshots on a VMFS datastore, this will allow you to invoke a lun level snapshots using the vCenter plugin,
once the snapshot has been taken by VSI, you can distinguish it from other snapshots that may have been taken by someone else by the fact that is will have a tag named “VSISnapshots” associated with it.
you can also distinguish between snapshots that were taken by VSI by viewing the “VSI created Snapshots” tab.
when you want to restore VMs from this VSI created snapshot, simply press the “Mount” button and select the ESXi host you want VSI to mount this volume to, VSI will do the lun mapping for you and will signature and present the VMFS datastore to the ESXi Host, you can then copy VM’s form the snapshot VMFS datastore to other datastores.
Viewing RecoverPoint Information
if you are using RecoverPoint to replicate volumes from your XtremIO array, you can now view the consisteny group details like how many point in times can this VM recover from (2)
and how many other VMs are part of the same consistency group (2)
if you are using VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM), you can now enforce SRM to use a specific RecoverPoint Point In Time to recover from, simply press the “Apply” button. This will ensure this specific PiT to be used for SRM failover.
While the VSI is capable of taking lun based snapshots by itself, you may want to leverage EMC AppSync for more complex scenarios where VM backup and restores are needed at the application level (application level consistency) and where you want to support an automated snapshot refresh, for example, you have your production DBs and you then want to refresh your test/dev environment with the production copy on a scheduled interval, AppSync also support physical environments in addition to virtual environments where the VSI plugin only support VMs running on VMware vSphere.
subscribing (adding) a datastore to an existing / new AppSync SLO is very easy, you can simply right click the datastore and press “Susbscribe” or “Create and Subscribe”, in my case, I already created the SLO, so I chose “subscribe”
once you subscribed the datastore, you can see its subscription details under the “Manage” tab, “EMC VSI” tab, and the “AppSync Management” tab. In my example, you can see that a local snapshot will be taken every 24 hours and it will include VM snapshot as part of the backup (you could disable it and just go with a volume only – crash consistent backup)
once I ran (or waited for the next interval that will invoke the run), you can see under the “Copies” tab if the backup was successful, here you will also see if more than once backup ran, remember, in my example I chose to run a backup every 24 hours, so I should see the “copies” tab being populated with more and more backups every 24 hours.
here you can see that since I ran two backup jobs so far, the XtremIO array will list these snapshots under the “AppSyncSnapshots” tag.
the restore operation is also very straight forward, you can either restore a VM, VMs, files from within a VM or mount a datastore, in my case I just want to restore a VM so I right click a VM, “All EMC VSI Plugin Actions”, “AppSync VM Restore”
that’s it, as you can see, the release of the VSI 6.6 plugin is very rich in terms of the capabilities it offer, below you can see a demo showing everything that we discussed in the post.