HPE SimpliVity Build Day Wrap Up

What a week, the HPE SimpliVity Build Day was a whole week of work in the data center. Our third Build Day showed you what it is like to deploy a SimpliVity HyperConvered Infrastructure (HCI) into an existing vSphere environment and migrate workloads. We implemented two SimpliVity clusters, migrating workloads into the first and adding disaster recovery capabilities with the second. You can find all of the videos in this YouTube Playlist. With 14 videos in the list, this is our most comprehensive Build Day. As usual, we have a range of content from HPE portfolio through a hardware tour to deep dives into the SimpliVity special sauce. My SimpliVity friend, Hersey Cartwright, has done an impressive job of cataloging everything that we covered in the nearly four-hour live stream. If there is a specific part of the process that you want to see, then you can use Hersey’s blog post to jump to the specific area.

One of the central features of the SimpliVity is the data efficiency of the storage platform. It turns out to be somewhat low key to demonstrate as functions like cloning, backup, and replication. Everything just happens nearly instantly. I recommend watching the SimpliVity Deduplication deep dive video; I find the way that SimpliVity does deduplication very interesting and very powerful.

One thing that made for a long Build Day live stream was that each SimpliVity node took nearly half an hour to deploy. The Deployment Manager made the process easy, a wizard gathered all the settings required and then the deploy process looked after itself. We could leave the wizard to complete and do other work during the 20-25 minutes of the deployment. The deploy process took a while because it did a full build of the ESXi server. One of the first questions in the wizard was which version of ESXi to deploy. The elapsed time isn’t an issue in production deployments. It is easy to get half a dozen SimpliVity nodes deployed in a single day, provided your network is setup right (see below).

The Build day was impacted by the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. We had to postpone two weeks from the originally planned date, and we were lucky that the SimpliVity servers were already in the datacentre. The whole ground floor of the building flooded, as did many of the adjacent buildings in the HPE campus. The Factory Integrated rack that we unboxed had been delivered to the data center before the flood, which is good because the freight elevator was still out of action. It was great to see exactly how that Factory Integrated rack is packaged for delivery and the process to get it unboxed and ready to finish the build.

The live stream was only a single day, but we spent the whole week doing dry-runs of the deployment process. As usual, these dry runs showed up a few of the challenges that real customers will experience:

  • One problem was consistent networking, having all the VLANs on all the switch ports and allowed on the VLAN trunks as well as having the right MTU configured end-to-end.
  • When a SimpliVity node is deployed into a cluster, the cluster must not have vSphere HA enabled. Part of the deployment process creates the OmniStack Virtual Controller (OVC), which is SimpliVity’s Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA). As usual, the OVC uses local resources in the node and cannot be protected by HA. If HA is enabled, then the OVC fails to create. After the wizard creates the OVC,  it is flagged as a service VM and excluded from HA. Disabling HA on the cluster to add a new node means that I want to expand my SimpliVity clusters during a maintenance window. Even though there is no outage, there is a reduction in protection.
  • We had some challenges trying to add the SimpliVity nodes to an existing vSphere cluster with VSAN enabled. We decided to create a new cluster for the SimpliVity nodes, then present the SimpliVity storage to the existing nodes. This allowed is to do a Storage VMotion separately from moving VMs from one cluster to another.

I did a lot of work with SimpliVity before the HPE acquisition, in fact, I saw small traces of my work in some of the presentations during the Build Day. I was already quite familiar with SimpliVity, but the Build Day was the first time I saw the process of deploying a node. It is a pretty smooth process and while the build takes a while the wizard asks all the questions at the start. You can safely go for a coffee, or lunch, while the build proceeds. One thing that we did not show is that the nodes have an internal SD card with the install media. Anytime you need to re-deploy a node you can boot from that card and be ready to rerun the deployment. More convenient than finding the USB key with the right image or setting up an image streaming solution on your laptop.