Thursday, May 8, 2014

Best Practices for VMware vSphere 5 on Nimble Storage

Enabling customers to transform current IT infrastructure into a private cloud, VMware vSphere provides a solid foundation with built-in availability, manageability, scalability and business continuity for the virtualization of business critical applications. To take advantage of the built-in features such as vMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduling, and vSphere High Availability, shared storage is a requirement and storage planning, along with architectural design, becomes crucial for a successful deployment.

The Nimble Storage solution is built to provide the performance of solid state storage with the capacity of hard disks using the patented Cache Accelerated Sequential Layout (CASL) architecture. Nimble Storage has revolutionized storage system management with a simple, intuitive web interface and vCenter plug-in.  A Nimble Storage array provides iSCSI target volumes (LUNs) to VMware hosts as well as guest virtual machines. Volumes created on Nimble Storage arrays are highly optimized for virtual machines and provide many benefits including:
  • In-line Compression: 50%-70% decrease of storage footprint on physical disks.
  • Thin Provisioning: Stores actual data efficiently by written rather than reserved space. 
  • Snapshot Backups: Immediate point-in-time backup that gets rid of the backup window. 
  • Zero-Copy Cloning: Preventative de-duplication to eliminate storage footprint of repetitive data. 
  • WAN-Optimized Replication: Significantly reduces bandwidth required for disaster recovery.
The following are areas of design considerations and best practices for implementing VMware vSphere with Nimble Storage arrays:

Base connectivity for high availability – Be sure that the VMware vSphere ESXi host has a minimum of two physical NICs. It is recommended to have a minimum of two physical network ports dedicated for iSCSI storage access. The preferred method for accessing Nimble Storage is through software iSCSI initiator. High availability and load distribution can be achieved through one of two methods: one VMnic per vSwitch, and one VMkernel interface per vSwitch, or two or more VMnics per vSwitch, dedicating one VMnic port to one VMkernel. Each method requires that all VMkernel ports to be bound to the software iSCSI adapter. Round Robin is the recommended path policy.

Manageability – Management is made simple with the Nimble Storage plug-in for vCenter which provides many operational management functions. These include datastore provisioning, datastore removal, datastore performance overview, and array volume management.

Virtual storage access considerations – There are three main methods that users can employ to connect networked storage to vSphere. These include connecting virtual machines directly to volumes on the Nimble Storage array using an iSCSI initiator in the guest operating system, creating a VMFS datastore on a volume, or creating a Raw Device Map (in either physical or virtual compatibility mode) to the volume presented by the Nimble Storage array. By planning your volume creation carefully, you can maximize the benefits of the Nimble Storage array.

Backup and restore – Nimble Protection Manager (NPM) provides an interface between the native interfaces of the VMware host or guest operating system and a Nimble Storage array and places the operating system and application data into a consistent state that is safe for backup and recovery.

vSphere storage features usage considerations:
  • Storage I/O Control (SIOC) – SIOC allows Quality of Service (QoS) for shares storage access between virtual machines. 
  • vSphere Storage DRS – Continuously balance storage capacity usage and I/O load between multiple storage resources. 
  • vSphere Profile Driven Storage– Presents Profile-Driven Storage for the placement of virtual machines based on SLA, availability, provided storage capabilities and restore and backup requirements.
Utilizing these design considerations and best practices enables users to fully leverage the benefits of both VMware and Nimble Storage. VMware’s virtualization enables x86 servers to run multiple operating systems and applications, for a simpler and more efficient infrastructure. Offering scale-to-fit storage performance and capacity, Nimble Storage systems provide a solid foundation for any VMware environment.


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