A guest post by Marco Abela

When we designed PowerStore, we wanted integrations with VMware to be in the DNA of the product, and boy have we delivered on that. In this blog post we will cover what’s new in regards to these integrations.

AppsON:

One of the most differentiated features of PowerStore is the AppsON capability available in PowerStore X models, where we load the ESXi hypervisor on each of the two internal PowerStore nodes to allow users to run Virtual Machines directly on PowerStore. You can get a detailed refresher of what AppsON is in this past blog post, but in summary PowerStore with AppsON is:

  • The only purpose-built array with a built-in VMware ESXi hypervisor
  • It provides two active-active HA nodes with shared storage without limitations (such as needing an external witness)…. All in a small 2U form factor
  • Each node exposes local compute for users to run their VMs
  • All the same storage services available from the PowerStore OS
  • Tightly integrated with VMware

AppsON Use Cases

PowerStore with AppsON was designed to target infrastructure consolidation use cases, and data intensive workloads. AppsON provides small to extra large storage resources, with small to medium compute resources.

From an infrastructure consolidation standpoint, this is the use case AppsON is currently dominating. We are seeing customers extremely attracted by the small 2U footprint, and how it provides two active-active HA ESXi nodes without limitations that typically come in 2 node deployments such as needing an external witness, making it ideal for Edge and ROBO workloads. We are seeing customers transition these sites with a couple of different servers + SAN to a single PowerStoreX appliance resulting in significant infrastructure footprint and higher availability.

  • One particular manufacturer with over 30 manufacturing plants transitioned their current infrastructure of 3 ESXi servers, 2 switches, and a SAN to a single PowerStore X appliance to run their mission critical manufacturing app which consists of 4 to 8 VMs. PowerStore with AppsON was selected because of the size and integration simplicity of deploying a single 2U device to run their manufacturing application at each plant. The customer also liked the dual personality nature of PowerStore with AppsON, that apart from allowing VMs to run locally also acts as a regular SAN. This allows them to repurpose their existing servers by attaching them to the PowerStore, protecting their existing investment while modernizing.
  • Another Law firm transitioned their satellite offices from 4 ESXi hosts and a VNX SAN to a PowerStore X using AppsON to run VMs that provide local AD services, Windows File services, Windows Print Server, and a SQL data database at these sites. AppsON was selected in order to reduce footprint with an easy to manage, highly available solution that simplified their infrastructure needs at their remote offices​, allowing them to consolidate to a single 2U solution
  • Another home appliance retail chain, previously running 3 servers with local direct-attached-storage at each of their 10 stores consolidated to PowerStore X at each site to run their Point-of-Sale system after an outage had occurred with their previous implementation, resulting in sales being halted for multiple days while the system was brought back up.

Customers are also attracted to the standardization on vSphere, allowing them to manage everything with a common skillset.

  • In the last example above, the customer selected PowerStore with AppsON for each of their stores in order to give them a reliable system to run their POS system in a highly available way with as small of a form factor as possible. In addition, because of the standardization of vSphere, it allowed their small IT team to use vSphere skillset to manage everything with same experience. ​
  • Another example of this is a global software company was looking to standardize on vSphere and move away from 3-tier infrastructure. In their previous state, their edge sites would vary from 3 to 6 ESXi servers with a SAN or using direct-attached-storage to run about 16-20 VMs at each edge site. The infrastructure administration was straining their 4 person systems engineering team due to lack to technology standardization and administration across disparate infrastructures​. By standardizing on VMware based modern technology, it enableed single-pane administration across the infrastructure, using vCenter to manage for all core + edge locations; the Core datacenter is standardized on VxRail, while their edge sites will standardize on PowerStore X with AppsON.

We also have customers using PowerStore X with AppsON for some very interesting data intensive workloads, that don’t huge amount of compute, but rather either lots of storage capacity and/or a mixture of lots of IOPS and low latency.

  • A global engineering company standardized their entire datacenter on VxRail (VCF with VxRail, along with regular VxRail). The customer needed a reliable, high performing and consolidated platform to complement VxRail, to run a data intensive application with low compute requirements, but extra large capacity requirements (6 VMs with 26 TB each!) with sub-ms access time requirements. The customer selected PowerStore with AppsON as it could meet these requirements with a single 2U chasis while allowing them to scale up their storage as the solution continues to grow, while being managed from a vSphere environment similar to VxRail.
  • A bank wanted to move Some T1 and T2/T3 applications to midrange storage and HCI products so that they can balance performance with cost per TB. ​ As the bank has a big VMware footprint, AppsON  was attractive to optimizes system performance, scalability, and storage efficiency to support any workload without compromise.​ Because of the standardization on vSphere, AppsON allowed the customer to move VMs between VxRail and PowerStore, with those VMs which require more IOPS moved onto PowerStore with AppsON.
  • A world renowned sciences university was looking for high-performance storage for a chemistry research project using artificial intelligence, and a healthcare research project in partnership with the hospital to investigate the COVID-19 genome that could be integrated with their existing VMware environment in an easy way. PowerStore with AppsON is now a key factor for their virtual HPC environment, providing 6x array performance improvements while consolidating on 1/3 of the existing space.

New Features:

Lets talk about some of the new features made available in recent code upgrades, including the recent 2.0 release. Note that some of these features are applicable to PowerStore in general, and not specific to PowerStore with AppsON.

AppsON Scale out

Scale-out is now supported with AppsON, allowing more compute and storage within a PowerStore X cluster, allowing for more workloads to be consolidated with AppsON. Up to 4 appliances are supported within a cluster, and the beauty of PowerStore’s scale-out is that the cluster can be made up of completely different model appliances with completely different capacities. In addition, our uniquely awesome vVol design is such that a single stretched vVol container spans across all appliances, presenting a single pool of storage accessible to all nodes simplifying management and load balancing.


Automated VASA Registration
Previously only available with PowerStore X models, PowerStore T now supports automated VASA registration directly from the PowerStore manager, making vVol setup as easy as it can get. Simply add in your vCenter information and press connect, automating VASA provider registration for your PowerStore.

After doing so, status of the connection is displayed:

This makes the PowerStore manager VMware aware, displaying vVol VMs directly in the PowerStore manager, along with the VM details, capacity utilization, VM and storage performance (including at the individual vVol level), alerting, and protection.

You can see your VM compute performance for the VM:

Storage performance for the VM:

And even performance for a specific individual vVol:

As a reminder, PowerStore’s vVol integration was built into the very DNA of the product:

vSphere host awareness
A new capability in PowerStore 2.0 (applies to both T and X models) is that the PowerStore manager becomes vSphere host aware, showing the correlation between PowerStore objects and their corresponding vSphere host. Lets take for example that I have an ESXi host that I have added that I named “My_ESXi” host. When talking to my vSphere admin, or if I am also a vSphere admin, I want to know what this host is known as in vSphere so that I know they are the same.

In the PowerStore manager, I can see the “My_ESXi” is known as “10.245.11.107” in vSphere and is running VMware ESXi 7.0.2, 17867351.

Now lets say I want to see which hosts my VMs that are using up PowerStore vVol storage are running. In the Virtual Machines view in the PowerStore manager, I can see exactly see that my VM called “Windows2019-Base” is running on an ESXi host known as “10.245.17.252” in vSphere.


Multi vCenter support for vVols

We have documented two methods for supporting multiple vCenters with the same VASA provider for using vVols across multiple vCenters. Although not a product limitation, and instead a VMware design (we are working hard with them to improve this) limitation, we have two approved methods for supporting this.

Option 1 is to use Enhanced Linked Mode. The second option is a procedure that involves the manual sharing of vCenter certificates across vCenters. You can find more details here: https://www.dell.com/support/kbdoc/en-us/000186239/powerstore-how-to-register-vasa-provider-with-vcenters-in-different-sso-domains

vSphere ROBO support:

Introduced in PowerStore OS version 1.0.3, in addition to vSphere Enterprise Plus, AppsON now supports vSphere ROBO (Advanced and Enterprise) licenses. vSphere ROBO licenses support a maximum of 25 virtual machines. While it is still recommended to use a vSphere Enterprise Plus license, ROBO is perfect for small environments. However, note that some features are not supported by vSphere ROBO Advanced and Enterprise licenses, such as DRS:

  • vSphere ROBO Advanced does not supported DRS, and vSphere ROBO Enterprise only supports DRS for entering maintenance mode.

Bringing in an External Host into the PowerStore X vSphere Cluster

One of the unique capabilities of PowerStore X with AppsON is that it is dual personality: It allows VMs to run locally on the local ESXi nodes while at the same time also acting like a regular SAN in providing storage to external servers. Need a more compute in your vSphere AppsON cluster? Want to re-use existing servers from previous investments? No problem! As you can see here I have a two appliance PowerStore X cluster (4 hosts; 10.245.17.120-121, 10.245.17.252-253), and I have brought in my existing ESXi server called 10.245.11.107. This now provides additional compute to my vSphere cluster, and providing additional load balancing and HA if needed. This previously required an RPQ, but this is no longer needed. See the Virtualization Infrastructure Guide for more details.

Registering a host from vCenter
One of my favorite new features in the VSI plugin, is the ability to automagically “push” and register ESXi host from vCenter to the PowerStore manager. When dealing with many hosts, this is a HUGE time saver. Go to the VSI plugin in vCenter, click Storage Systems>Hosts>Add. This is applicable to all PowerStore models (T and X).

In this example I am registered my ESXi host known as 10.245.11.107 in vSphere to the PowerStore manager.

And can now see it in the PowerStore manager:

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