VxRail Makes LCM Great (Again)

VxRail LCM updates are a huge differentiation to any other HCI competitor since it includes the entire stack in a single bundle file; Hardware, hyper-visor and software on top!

New LCM Changes for VxRail in 4.7.300.

There is now a new Updates Tab for VxRail LCM (Life Cycle Management). I gave this feedback way back when the first HTML5 plugin for VxRail came out. The link to check for updates was tiny and easily missed hidden away in the System tab. VxRail LCM updates are a huge differentiation to any other HCI competitor since it includes the entire stack in a single bundle file; Hardware, hyper-visor and software on top! I wrote previously about the VxRail LCM process and why it matters to HCI solutions here.

Aaron Buley was quicker than me in digging into the latest LCM improvements.

Updates Tab embedded in H5 client

The new Updates tab integrated in vSphere H5 client. So much nicer and easier to find!

The update tab gives you quick access to view the current version of ESX, vCenter and the VxRail Manager itself. The tab for Internet Upgrade is here, where you can automatically pull the latest bundle. VxRail Manager will check for VxRail LCM bundles and alert you when its available.

Applying a local bundle in offline mode.

Schedule updates and find out how long they will take.

You do not have to be online to update the cluster, you may be required to run the cluster as a dark site and manually apply updates in the Local Updates tab. This is also a great way to control which bundle you want to apply rather than take the most recent version. Some customers prefer to plan updates in a more controlled manner, and stay a version or two behind.

it is now possible to schedule an update to run in future right from the GUI interface. This means you have time to plan an update to happen out of hours and you dont have to be there to kick it off. Customers were also asking for a way to estimate how long a bundle update would take. This is built in now as well showing Minimum Estimated Time.

You can change a scheduled update or even cancel it from the GUI.

What else changed in the VxRail Plugin?

Convert vCenter Mode in GUI form…

The System Tab now has an option to “Convert vCenter mode”. There was a Script available to externalize an embedded vCenter running in VxRail already, but now its built in the GUI. This is super useful for example when customer wants to convert the VC and PSC and connect multiple VxRails to a mgmt cluster. This aligns the deployment with the VVD automatically allowing them to stay fully compliant.

easy button for externalizing the VC and PSC deployed in VxRail.

Simple SSL Certificate Management

There is a new SSL certificate tab in the VxRail plugin. This allows you to easily replace the VxRail Manager SSL Certificate.

Multi-Rack discovery using a proxy node.

There is a feature in VxRail hosts tab to expand an existing cluster to another rack with new unassigned VxRail nodes. The new rack will have its own TOR switches and may be seperated by a different VLAN to the existing cluster.

Its a simple task to declare one of the unassigned nodes to act as a proxy node using this CMD:

esxcli network ip interface ipv4 set -i vmk2 -I <Management IP Address> -N <subnet mask> -t static

Use the GUI as below to declare this new proxy at the cluster. The proxy node will transmit details of all unassigned nodes in the 2nd rack. Proceed to expand cluster by adding these new nodes as before.

ACE gets top billing now.

If you don’t know what ACE is all about yet, then pop over to this blog i wrote earlier explaining all about it. ACE is getting new updates every couple weeks now (its running on the Pivotal engine so you know its going to be adding new features fast! There is a link to the ACE FAQ in the Support Tab so that customers can quickly get connected and up and running. ACE is still free for customers.

Traffic throttle between VxRail and vCenter

Physical View of appliances now in H5!

No longer do we need to link and launch to access the Physical View of our VxRail appliance nodes. Everything is embedded in the HTML5 interface. My good buddy Jeremy Merrill wrote up an excellent blog already detailing this why not check it out.

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The best HCI appliance just got better. Introducing ACE

VxRail had an ACE up its sleeve: Data.

Every day data is generated on the health, performance and consumption of customers VxRail VSAN clusters. This data can be sent back to Dell Technologies using Secure Remote Support (SRS) and customers benefit from an improved support experience. SRS can be used to send a heartbeat and create automated alerts and to allow remote access when needed. The VxRail team store this telemetry info in a support cloud and built a platform to run analytics against this rich data set. This gives support the ability to see common issues across different customers configurations. They have now enabled a front end interface to this data lake called ACE (Analytical Consulting Engine). ACE allows customers access to their own hci appliance data including CPU, memory, storage and VM details.

ACE for existing customers no extra cost

The first phase of the ACE project comes for free to existing VxRail customers. So if you are already using SRS and sending heartbeat data home then you just need access to login to the VxRail portal. Enabling SRS is really easy using a virtual appliance and your Dell EMC support account logon and Site ID. If you didn’t deploy this initially, I highly recommend installing it now. It takes no time at all.

ACE global dashboard for all sites

What if you have multiple sites with multiple clusters? The ACE dashboard provides a simple interface to view all your sites and clusters easily at a glance. Drill down from location to Cluster to individual nodes and VMs. Customers have loved the VxRail appliance experience. Some of the largest customers have said they only thing they have been missing is a VxRail manager of managers. In future, ACE will be the answer for them.

Cluster health scores made simple

ACE uses the data collected from SRS and continually monitors the health of a customers cluster. ACE will present a health score that is easy to understand at a glance. “VxRail ACE provides a health score for you entire HCI appliance stack. Allowing you to proactively address trouble spots that may affect delivery of services. Customers can efficiently scale their HCI based on the projected growth of IT needs.” You can learn more about ACE capability in this overview here, and also find instructions on how to get connected.

How do you polish a diamond?

The VxRail team have been on an amazing tear for the last few years. They have listened to customer need and are releasing new features on a regular cadence to improve upon an already great solution. The team have stayed clearly focused on making VxRail the only appliance for VMware VSAN the best experience for customers. They did it by offering a solution to offload from infrastructure teams as much work as a any customer will allow them. Tasks like configuration, sizing, deployment as well as day 2 ops including automated full stack patching are handled by the appliance now. This reduces risks and allows those infrastructure teams to focus their energies around projects the business wants and needs. No one ever gets a pat on the back for managing infrastructure!

Where can you see ACE and learn more?

I was lucky to get to meet some of the ACE product team in Vegas at Dell Technologies World this year. I learned about the current technology and the future exciting roadmap for ACE right there at the Meet The Experts zone. As soon as I got back home to the Customer Solution Center I made sure to get my VxRail HCI appliance configured and setup for customers to test drive. As new features are added to the platform we will be able to show off the capability immediately.

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