In talking to customers about their application Test/Dev and protection processes, there are two items, centered around a central theme, that I continuously hear: That there is a growing communication and collaboration gap between Storage Admins and Applications admin, and that increasingly Storage Admin and Application Admin responsibilities are being handled by the same person.

In fact, according to an IT Resource Strategies Survey, only 40% of Application and Storage Admins believe they are communicating well today, while 80% believe collaboration between the two functions is key to achieving organizational agility. Poor collaboration and communication between the two can lead to organizational tension which impacts the business, with a gap that is driven by technology and business trade-offs that each team is forced to make.

Although the key stakeholders share a common business goal, there are lots of natural tensions that exist between the application teams, storage teams, and the business planning functions that can limit the organization’s ability to have complete goal alignment.

All of the data movement operations, key to our business, requires tight planning and communication between the application admins and storage administrators.

Luckily, we live in an exciting time where data is a company’s most valuable asset, and the storage arrays, administrated by those trained in the craft of keeping this most valuable asset safe, are becoming smarter and smarter. With this, I am excited to share a key differentiated feature our team has been working on, an XMS VMware integration via AppSync, making XtremIO smarter by providing VMware visibility from the XMS. This features allows administrators to gain insight into what the storage LUNs they provisioned to their VMware environment are being used for, along with the ability to protect their VMware Datastores and VMs in an application consistent manner directly from the storage management interface (in this case the XMS).

First, let’s talk about providing application level visibility. Whether you are both an application and storage admin, or a standalone storage admin, administrators are transparent as to the relationship between a storage LUN and an application. This makes it difficult to communicate using the same language (Ex. “I need more storage provisioned for my Datastore called OS_Images”, or “I have a corruption on my Oracle DB copy called DB_101_Test and need an old copy restored” or to have an overall complete view of storage to application mapping from storage.

The second is local application consistent protection. You know that “someone who’s running toward you the system administrator / backup administrator moment? That’s the moment when you or a colleague just realized you or they just accidently deleted a VM or Datastore that was not meant to be deleted. In fact, I think you would agree with me that most of the data that needs to be restored is coming from the past 6-7 days. Now imagine being able to protect your VMware environment in an application consistent and aware manner, and being able to restore a Datastore or VM with the click of a button. Imagine being able to save the moment by responding with “Sure, which ESX host would you like me to restore a copy to?” “Whaaaaat? This guy knows the actual ESX hosts rather than just the server port addresses?”, the app admin will think? Your application admins will absolutely love you! And let’s not forget this is all powered by XtremIO Virtual Copies, which provide copies that are immediate, space and metadata efficient (no copied metadata or data blocks whether the copy is mounted or not), and have the same 100% performance as the original source volume without impacting it. By the way, this isn’t only for protection, the same can be done for a Datastore or VM copy, with the ability to create a copy and mount it to any ESX host the integration discovers.

This integration provides:

  • Application Awareness: Provides application information in XMS, such as correlation between VMware Datastores/VMs and the XtremIO volumes they are stored in
  • Application Consistent Copies: Provides the ability to create application
    consistent copies for backup/protection and repurposing, all while using XtremIO Virtual Copies. Storage Admins can provide Application Admins with certain SLAs for their applications
  • Ease of Use:
    One UI for admin to manage raw LUN copies (crash consistent) and application consistent copies
  • Common Language: Applications owners and storage admins are on the same page with a transparent copy workflow.

Let’s get into some details:

  • Setup: The integration works by pointing your XMS to an AppSync server. Just click Settings gearàAppSync and point the XMS to your AppSync server using the Host Name (only) of the AppSync server, and the AppSync server’s admin username and password created at time of AppSync install. (If the XMS cannot communicate with your AppSync server via hostname due to DNS resolution, please open a case with support to get the IP address of the AppSync server added to the XMS’s host file).

    This integration works in both Brownfield (existing AppSync deployments) and Greenfield (brand new AppSync deployments). You can simultaneously use AppSync from both the AppSync UI and XMS UI. Remember AppSync is absolutely free; if you aren’t using it today, download it now!

    You need to add a vCenter. In a Brownfield deployment, if a vCenter is already registered to the AppSync server, it will automatically load it. If not, add your vCenters.

  • VMware Object Visibility: Key feature of this functionality is to view the relationship between a VMware Datastore or VM, and the XtremIO volume it resides on. As a vCenter can have storage from many different storage arrays of different types, the feature has intelligence built in in which it will ONLY show you Datastores and VMs that reside on any of the XtremIO arrays that are currently being managed by the XMS you are pointing the AppSync server to.

You can see these relationships in different places:

First in the AppSync -> Datastores Tab, which will show you the Datastore name, the name of the Volume on the XtremIO array it resides on, the vCenter Server the datastore belongs to, the Size of the datastore, the type, the ESX servers its mounted on, and whether it is protected (meaning you have a Service plan subscribed to the datastore to protect it).

Second, is in AppSync Virtual Machines Tab, which will show you the VM name, the vCenter server the VM belongs to, the name of the Volume on the XtremIO array it resides on, the Datastore the VM resides in, the time the last copy of this VM was created. Note that VM discovery does not happen until a datastore has been protected via a Service Plan.

Third, is the original Configurations Volumes tab, in which we have added a new Column drop down called Datastore, and a new Related Entities Tab called Virtual Machines that will show you the Virtual Machine details of the VMs residing on this volume:

  • Application Protection: The protection of your datastores and VMs is handled via a Service Plan. The integration will load any previously defined Service Plans for VMware in a Brownfield deployment, or you can create a brand new one. When creating a brand new one, the key things to specify are:
    • Startup Type: Scheduled or On Demand
    • Consistency Type: VM Consistent or Crash Consistent.
      • VM Consistent will do it in a VMware application consistent manner, momentarily stunning the VM and then taking a copy using XtremIO Virtual Copies
      • Crash Consistent just takes a crash consistent snapshot using XtremIO virtual copies
    • Include Virtual Machines:
      • If the VM has additional disks attached to it, which are part of another Datastore or separate RDMS, selecting YES will include them, while selecting NO will include only the datastore the VM OS resides on.
    • Mount: If you want to mount the copy created, with a new signature or existing, along with unmounting the previous copy.

In order to then protect a Datastore and it’s VMs, we click ProtectàSubscribe and define the Service Plan we want to protect the Datastore with. If the Service Plan is set as Scheduled, it will run per the defined scheduled job, and if On Demand we simply click Protectà Run Now to run the Service Plan. Similarly, if i have a service Plan that is set per a Schedule and I need to run the protection Now without waiting for the next scheduled job (for example I know a maintenance window is about to happen), you can do the same by clicking Run Now.

If I run the Service Plan from within the Datastores tab, it will run it only for the subscribed Datastore. If instead, I have multiple Datastores subscribed to the same Service Plan, and I want to run the Service Plan across all these assigned Datastores, I can go to the Service Plans Tab, and select the Service Plan I want to run, while seeing all the Datastores it is assigned to, and select Run to run it across all.

  • Restore: Now that I have protected a Datastore, in the case of a failure, I now have the ability to select a PIT copy and restore the entire Datastore, or just the individual VM within a Datastore.
    • If restoring an entire Datastore, I must select the PIT to restore from, along with some options.

  • I also have the ability to restore an individual VM, without restoring the entire Datastore. Within the Virtual Machines tab, select a Virtual Machine and click Restore. Next, select a PIT copy to Restore from, along with whether you want to restore the VM to the original location, or to a different vCenter, ESX Host, or even Datastore (You actually have the ability to Restore the VM to a non XtremIO datastore as part of this flow.)

In summary, we are making XtremIO smarter by providing storage LUN to VMware level object relationship visible within the XMS, with the ability to protect or create test/dev copies of these objects in a VMware application consistent manner. Doing so from the XMS empowers the storage admins to have visibility as to what resides on their LUNs, and enables them to perform storage protection and copy functions in an application consistent manner, all from one UI. Try it today, and remember, AppSync is free!

You can see a demo on how it all works below!

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