VMworld 2014 Roundup: Day 3

SDDC1337: EVO:RAIL Technical Deep Dive

I was fortunate to be able to get a seat in this class with its clever session number. Duncan Epping (@DuncanYB) and Dave Shanley (@daveshanley) treated the room to a provisioning walk-thru, showing off how polished and straight forward the EVO:RAIL interface is. It really had the vibe of a well designed consumer router UI experience and in my opinion seems targeted at those businesses that are upper end SMB. They can cut a reasonable P.O. to acquire quality gear, however they may be running a no-person or one-person IT department and can benefit from the extreme ease of use that EVO:RAIL provides. If there’s a need to do some work “under the hood” as it were, the regular vSphere Web Client interface is still available.

VMware has set some hardware specifications for equipment bearing the EVO:RAIL moniker. Each hyper-converged infrastructure appliance (HCIA, or “the box”) is a 2U/4N form factor. Meaning there are 4 nodes within the space of 2U. This gives you four ESXi hosts per HCIA. EVO:RAIL “auto-scales” to a maximum of four HCIAs, giving you a maximum of 16 ESXi nodes. Note that in addition the HCIA(s) you’ll also need a top-of-rack switch to offer connectivity to both the rest of your network and between HCIAs. Each HCIA node should ship with dual 6-core Intel processors, 192 GB of RAM and three 1.2 TB drives (for a total of about 13.1TB usable space per HCIA). It’s also important to note that to take advantage of VSAN with the EVO:RAIL you need to support L2MC, plus the new EVO:RAIL engine requires IPv6 for such things as autodiscover and mDNS.

From the software end of things EVO:RAIL includes vSphere 5.5. Enterprise Plus, VSAN, Log Insight, the EVO:RAIL engine mentioned earlier plus maintenance and support. The EVO:RAIL interface is pure HTML5 (no Flash!) and that includes the VM console. Updating of EVO:RAIL and its software is done via a new update mechanism where the appropriate files (presumably in the form of “patches” or “updates”) are uploaded to the HCIA through the EVO:RAIL interface. This suggests that admins will have to download the requisite files to their local systems or network drives and then follow a manual process to “kick off” the updates. Once uploaded the update processes itself is automated as well as non-disruptive since each node of the HCIA is automatically evacuated, put into maintenance mode and updated sequentially.

From initial implementation to first VM is clocked in as little as 15 minutes, which is pretty impressive. Assisting this process is a factory customization experience where default values are identified and applied at time of purchase. Once the EVO:RAIL HCIA is received, if there is no need to differ from the defaults, then there is a “Just Go” option that automates the full deployment of the HCIA. Otherwise customization can be made by going through the DVR-like implementation process. Alternatively a customized config file, in JSON format, can be uploaded at the time of implementation to apply customized settings all at once.

Some of the VM provisioning workflow, as well as having a really slick and intuitive UI, introduces some new features. There are guest sizes defined out of the box for the administrator to chose from when deploying a new VM. They’re labelled Small, Medium and Large and the specs for each vary depending on the VM type (based on guest OS). There’s also a step for the admin to chose a security policy level which is based on the Risk Profiles within the vSphere Security Hardening Guide. We were told that William Lam (@lamw) is to thank for getting that feature included. Both of these would be welcome additions to the vSphere Web Client, especially the security policy option. Anything to help foster the adoption of more specific and considered security stances is a plus, in my book.

All-in-all the EVO:RAIL offering is quite promising and it should be interesting to see how well VMware’s hardware partners deliver against initial expectations. I’m reservedly hopeful that some of the more tight-margin focused partners might be able to deliver an EVO:RAIL HCIA that becomes palatable as a (higher end) lab-in-a-box.

SDDC1600 – Art of Infrastructure Design

This session continued for me the theme of infrastructure design and the path to VMware Certified Design Expert certification. This was a panel discussion with some audience questions towards the end. Similar to the VCDX Bootcamp on the previous Saturday, an overview was provided of the VCDX program. There was a discussion of various points to watch out for and peer and study groups were emphasized as excellent approaches to improve your chances of success.

This session was very well done and there was some variety in message, however it overlapped quite well with the VCDX Bootcamp, as I mentioned, so I’ll keep the summary here brief.

Dee Abson

Dee Abson is a technical architect from Alberta, Canada. He's been working in the field of technology for over 20 years and specializes in server and virtualization infrastructure. Working with VMware products since ESX 2, he holds several VMware certifications. He was awarded VMware vExpert for 2014-2020. You can find him on Twitter.

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5 Responses

  1. @xinity_bot says:

    VMworld 2014 Roundup: Day 3 http://t.co/eIWnC1ZFFt #General #VMworld

  2. @deeabson says:

    New Post: VMworld 2014 Roundup: Day 3 http://t.co/Fapy70GXcl http://t.co/4yNjMLhEuG

  3. Dee Abson says:

    Update: I’ve read some estimates on the expected price ranges for EVO:RAIL since publishing this article. Looks like EVO:RAIL is expected to be in the $80k-$250k range. Likely a decent value considering what comes in the box (including three years of support!) but well outside of home lab territory. Ah well, dare to dream!

  4. @1cloudroad says:

    #VMWorld2014 Roundup: Day 3 – T.B.D. by @deeabson via @1cloudroad http://t.co/c3NE9EunVG @VMware

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