Automating FlexPod with VMware vRealize Suite

This is a guest post by Bhumik Patel – Partner Architect, VMware. You can follow Bhumik on Twitter @bhumikp 


In June, we saw an announcement on FlexPod passing $3Billion in joint sales for Cisco and NetApp – which also means more customers continue to leverage the benefits of deploying the converged infrastructure for their applications. Over the years, VMware vSphere continues to be the leading platform for FlexPod solutions and majority of benefits for customers deploying FlexPod are around having pre-validated & tested solutions with co-operative support agreements between Cisco, NetApp and VMware. These pre-validated solutions are provided through Cisco Validated Design (CVDs) and the following latest CVDs on FlexPod with vSphere 5.5 are now available:


  • vSphere 5.5 U1 design guide with NetApp FAS8000 with UCS B-200 M3 blades and C-240 M3 rack mount servers and Nexus 9000 standalone as detailed here.  
  • vSphere 5.5U1 design & deployment guides with NetApp FAS8040 with UCS B200-M3 blades and Nexus 5548UP as detailed here.

For customers looking to implement virtual and infrastructure management and automation solutions with their current FlexPod, there is a choice of solutions to leverage from. VMware vRealize Suite provides comprehensive automation & management solutions for both virtualized and physical infrastructures.

Let’s look at these specific integrations across the vRealize Suite with both Cisco UCS and NetApp storage systems starting with first level of management integrations with VMware vCenter. This integration is achieved via NetApp Virtual Storage Console (VSC) providing integrated and end-to-end storage management within vCenter. This includes discovery and automation of VMware storage settings, improved performance with VAAI, simplified backup & recovery and rapid provisioning leveraging underlying NetApp snapshot capabilities. vCenter integrations with Cisco UCS is achieved via Cisco UCS Plug-in for vCenter. Once imported into vCenter, it provides granular visibility into the UCS domain from vCenter including correlation of ESXi with UCS servers; chassis & fabric interconnect information and insights into service profile, service profile templates and other policies. This enables IT administrators with a number of use cases for efficiently managing their infrastructure. As an example it enables deploying native ESXi servers rapidly by associating predefined service profiles created for ESXi to non-ESXi servers. This will completely configure the physical infrastructure and in conjunction with Auto Deploy, provision ESXi as well. There are number of such use cases that we discuss in the jointly published white paper on VMware Cloud Management Integrations with Cisco UCS.

Next level of integration is with VMware vRealize Operations Manager and vRealize Operations Insight (formerly vCenter Operations Manager and vCenter Log Insight) providing management capabilities for structured and un-structured data respectively. The NetApp adapter for vRealize Operations Manager developed by Blue Medora extends the core operational management capabilities of vRealize Operations Manager to NetApp storage. It provides end-to-end visibility into storage with metrics such as capacity utilization, latency and throughput, read/write operations etc. This allows administrators to proactively manage their NetApp storage systems similar to managing a virtualized environment through dashboards and performing issue resolutions using predictive analytics and smart alerts. To further achieve operational efficiencies, NetApp content pack for vRealize Operations Insight provides pre-defined dashboards and extracted fields from data ONTAP logs providing powerful log analysis and search on storage data. Similarly, Cisco UCS content pack for vRealize Operations Insight allows log analytics to be performed on data from entire UCS domain – Fabric Interconnects, IOM, FEX events, blade and managed rack events, UCS domain and UCS central events.

Once the environment is setup to leverage operational efficiencies from the underlying virtual and physical infrastructure, in order to achieve next levels of efficiencies in the data center, automating provisioning of infrastructure, platform and virtualized workloads is required.  vRealize Automation (formerly vCloud Automation Center) provides simplified policy-driven automation capabilities with a self-service portal and catalog providing IT to deliver resources as a service as required. The orchestration and automation of resources is handled by vRealize Orchestrator (formerly vCenter Orchestrator) and is extended to Cisco UCS compute and NetApp storage systems by means of extensible plug-ins. With NetApp, the vRealize Orchestrator plug-in communicates with NetApp Workflow Automation (WFA) which exposes several built-in ONTAP workflows that can be built as part of the Orchestrator workflows. These workflows can be leveraged for initial storage provisioning and for automating day to day operations such as applying QoS policies or adding thin provisioning to an existing volume, remove existing volume etc. This solution is described in TR-4306 and TR-4308


Gig 1: vRealize Diagram

Similarly Cisco UCS plug-in for vRealize Orchestration provides access to built-in UCS workflows such as creating service profile, associating service profile template, removing service profile, set service profile power state etc. These are derived from the communication with UCS XML APIs and in addition to the built in workflows, custom ones can be created as well using the UCS APIs.

Bringing all this together via these extensible plug-ins and adapters provides our joint customers to leverage automation and operational analytics on their existing FlexPod deployments. These plug-ins are available from respective partners and also posted on VMware Solutions Exchange. If you are going to be at Netapp Insight, we will share more details on these solutions at VMware’s breakout session VI-1-3130 on Tuesday October 28th 4:30-5:30PM and I look forward to meeting you at our VMware booth.