Configuring VMware VASA for EMC VNX

vSphere Storage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) are one of several VMware vSphere Storage APIs.  VASA, new in vSphere 5.0, provides vCenter with a way of interrogating storage array LUNs and associated datastores to gain visibility into the underlying hardware and configuration of the storage layer.  Storage capabilities, such as RAID level, thin or thick LUN provisioning, replication state, caching mechanisms, and auto-tiering are presented through VASA to vCenter (a unidirectional read operation by vCenter against the array).  With VASA, vCenter can identify which datastores possess certain capabilities.  By associating a VM – or specific virtual disks within a VM – to storage profiles, we can begin to take advantage of VMware’s Profile Driven Storage capabilities.  With VASA helping to guide VM placement, IT can deliver a higher quality of service to match SLA’s.VMware vSphere Storage API's

A few examples of how using VASA can help IT guarantee SLAs are:

  • A user-defined storage profile defined for ‘High Speed Sequential Write’ could be associated with a VMDK used for database logging.  This same profile would be assigned to VMFS datastores based on RAID10, with ample write cache.
  • VM’s running critical applications could be associated with a storage profile for ‘Synchronous Replication’.  Datastores protected by a SAN-based replication package (such as EMC SRDF or EMC RecoverPoint) would be assigned this profile to guarantee replication of VM’s on the datastore.  VMware SRM would then be used to guarantee crash and application consistency, and automated failover/back capabilities.
  • Test/Dev VM’s could be associated with a storage profile for lower tiered disk without a flash based caching mechanism (i.e. EMC FAST Cache) to keep low priority machines from consuming expensive disk and cache.
  • A cloud provider configures multiple tiers of storage in a gold/silver/bronze fashion and assigns appropriate storage profiles to the datastores.  Customers choose which tier they want (based on cost vs. performance) and have VM’s automatically provisioned on the correct storage tier.  This can be done in vCenter or in vCloud Director!

vSphere Storage Profiles Gold Silver Bronze

VASA-enabled profile driven storage can be combined with vSphere Storage DRS for automated capacity and performance (IOPS) load balancing of like-datastores.  Greater degrees of automation decrease risk while improving SLA’s.  Taken one step further, VMware’s forthcoming vVols technology will basically create a bidirectional VASA capability, where a VM can tell the underlying storage what performance, features, and capabilities it requires and the storage array will automatically create a VMDK on itself to match the demands from the VM.

EMC VNX fully supports the current version of VASA in vSphere 5.1.  To give you an idea of what data can be seen through VASA, here are the storage capabilities exposed to one of the vCenters running against a VNX 5500 (OE 32) in the Clearpath lab:

Capability Name Description
Auto Tier Storage Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled
Auto Tier Storage; FAST Cache Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; FAST Cache enabled
Auto Tier Storage; FAST Cache; Space Efficiency Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; FAST Cache enabled; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Auto Tier Storage; FAST Cache; Thin Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned
Auto Tier Storage; FAST Cache; Thin; Space Efficiency Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Auto Tier Storage; Space Efficiency Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Auto Tier Storage; Thin Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; thin-provisioned
Auto Tier Storage; Thin; Space Efficiency Multiple drive tiers with FAST VP enabled; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
NL-SAS/SATA Storage NL-SAS or SATA drives
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; FAST Cache NL-SAS or SATA drives; FAST Cache enabled
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; FAST Cache; Space Efficiency NL-SAS or SATA drives; FAST Cache enabled; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; FAST Cache; Thin NL-SAS or SATA drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; FAST Cache; Thin; Space Efficiency NL-SAS or SATA drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; Space Efficiency NL-SAS or SATA drives; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; Thin NL-SAS or SATA drives; thin-provisioned
NL-SAS/SATA Storage; Thin; Space Efficiency NL-SAS or SATA drives; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Solid State Storage Solid state drives
Solid State Storage; FAST Cache Solid state drives; FAST Cache enabled
Solid State Storage; FAST Cache; Space Efficiency Solid state drives; FAST Cache enabled; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Solid State Storage; FAST Cache; Thin Solid state drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned
Solid State Storage; FAST Cache; Thin; Space Efficiency Solid state drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Solid State Storage; Space Efficiency Solid state drives; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
Solid State Storage; Thin Solid state drives; thin-provisioned
Solid State Storage; Thin; Space Efficiency Solid state drives; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
SAS/Fibre Storage SAS or Fibre Channel drives
SAS/Fibre Storage; FAST Cache SAS or Fibre Channel drives; FAST Cache enabled
SAS/Fibre Storage; FAST Cache; Space Efficiency SAS or Fibre Channel drives; FAST Cache enabled; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
SAS/Fibre Storage; FAST Cache; Thin SAS or Fibre Channel drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned
SAS/Fibre Storage; FAST Cache; Thin; Space Efficiency SAS or Fibre Channel drives; FAST Cache enabled; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
SAS/Fibre Storage; Space Efficiency SAS or Fibre Channel drives; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression
SAS/Fibre Storage; Thin SAS or Fibre Channel drives; thin-provisioned
SAS/Fibre Storage; Thin; Space Efficiency SAS or Fibre Channel drives; thin-provisioned; additional efficiency features such as de-duplication or compression

Enabling VASA against an EMC VNX is very simple.  As of OE (Flare) for Block 5.32, the VASA provider is embedded in the storage processors.   The same is true for OE 7.1 for File and Unified systems, where the VASA provider is embedded in the Control Station.  If your VNX runs versions prior to these I recommend upgrading (feel free to give us a call at Clearpath to discuss your upgrade process and solution compatibilities).  If you can’t upgrade just yet, you’ll need to do a few extra steps of installing the EMC Solutions Enabler to broker access between vCenter and the Storage Processors for VASA.  Here’s the step-by-step procedure for configuring VASA against a VNX running OE 5.32 or later:

From your vCenter Server vSphere Client switch to the Storage Providers node under Administration:

vSphere Client Storage Providers

In the Web Client, switch to vCenter -> Storage -> ‘Manage’ tab -> Storage Providers:webclient_vasa

Click Add to add a new Vendor Provider:Add VASA Vendor Provider

Enter the details for your array.  For VNX Block, this will be the Name/IP of one of your Storage Processors (SPA or SPB).  You should register only one SP per array for VASA – using both SPA and SPB on the same array is not supported.  I suggest adding a dedicated user account for VASA on the VNX to prevent account lockouts.  The URL should be added in this format: https://<Name or IP of SP>/vasa/services/vasaService:

Add VASA Vendor Provider Details

If you get an error: “A problem was encountered while registering the provider”, try using the vSphere Web Client or log into the vCenter Server and launch the C# vSphere Client there to complete the addition of the Vendor Provider.

Error Registering VASA Provider

You may be prompted to accept certificates when adding the Vendor Provider.  These are certificates from the VNX.  Click Yes to accept them.

Security Alert

Give vCenter some time to sync with the VASA Provider on the VNX.  After a few moments you can review your array datastores to see discovered VASA information:

Datastore with VASA Info

You can now Manage Storage Capabilities, Enable VM Storage Profiles, and Create VM Storage Profiles.  To do this, switch to the VM Storage Profiles tab under the Home | Management screen on the vSphere Client:

vSphere Client VM Storage ProfilesCreate and Manage VM Storage ProfilesFrom here you can take several actions:

  1. First, Manage Storage Capabilities to verify that all of the characteristics you want to expose have been discovered through VASA.  You can also define your own Capabilties
  2. Next, create VM Storage Profiles (as pictured here) to associate one or multiple storage capabilities with your profile.  For example, you might select “Solid State Storage, FAST Cache, Synchronous Replication” for a Platinum tier VM Storage Profile.  For example, you could create a User-Defined Storage Capability for ‘Busted up old SAN’ and associate it with your old Dell iSCSI array, and a User-Defined Storage Capability for “New Hotness in a EMC VNX wrapper”.  You would assign these User-Defined profiles to their respective datastores.  You could then mix and match capabilities present on both arrays with the busted/hotness capability to have VM’s provisioned to the right LUN type on the correct array.
  3. Finally, Enable VM Storage Profiles.  Storage Profiles are enabled at the Cluster or Host level, and require Enterprise Plus vSphere Licensing.

With profiles defined in vCenter, you can now edit the settings of individual VM’s and assign your desired VM Storage Profile to the entire VM, or selectively apply profiles to individual VMDK’s depending on their needs.

VM Storage Profiles on VM

If you assign VM Storage Profiles to a VM that you later clone or convert to a template, those VM Storage Profiles stay with the VM so any new VM’s created/cloned inherit the same settings.

You’re done.  Your vCenter is now using VASA to communicate with your VNX to enable Profile Driven Storage – a basic building block in the Software Defined Datacenter!

If you have problems, wonder about creating a user account for VASA on the VNX, or want to see other best practices, I recommend EMC Primus 297057: “Login to the VASA Provider on the VNX Control Station fails with “A problem was encountered while registering the provider.””

Comments

  1. “VASA-enabled profile driven storage can be combined with vSphere Storage DRS for automated capacity and performance (IOPS) load balancing of like-datastores.” I think in the case of FAST/FAST VP it has been recommended to disable the performance side of DRS load balancing to avoid conflict in performance mitigation between the array and vSphere. I believe the reasoning is that a storage vmotion will cause the data to have to be re-analyzed and re-tiered by the array and will thus add overhead and could, in theory, exacerbate the condition that triggered storage DRS activity in the first place. It is still recommended to leverage the capacity load balancing of SDRS, however.

  2. Hi Josh,

    Shouldn’t the URL format be https://:5989/vasa/services/vasaService

    Just noticed as we are setting it up here ourselves.

    • Great question, Cormac. I thought the same until I set it up. Per the Virtualization for EMC® VNX® VNX OE for Block 5.33.000.5.015 VNX OE for File 8.1.0.15 Release Notes doc:

      VASA requires network connectivity between the vCenter server and the Unisphere management ports on the VNX array. The default settings are port 443 on the VNX Storage Processors and port 5989 on the VNX Control Station.

      I was setting up VASA against the block side of my VNX (just VNX, not VNX2), so port 443 is the port number to use, and because the VASA URL specifies https:// we don’t actually need a port number in the URL. If you are consuming NFS from a Unified VNX you would use :5989 and the IP address of the control station.

      For others reading this, the Release Notes doc that I linked to has a ton of great info on VASA for a VNX, like this tidbit on page 6 that I see fairly often:

      To add a VNX Block storage system *twice* to the list of Vendor Providers (once for each Storage Processor) is not a valid configuration. This results in duplicate data being returned to vCenter Server. To remove one of these duplicate connections also de-authorizes the vCenter Server on the other (remaining) connection, and results in this connection becoming offline.

      Hope this helps!

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  1. […] Standard Edition are 3 of the 4 Storage API’s for vSphere: vSphere API for Storage Awareness (VASA), vSphere API for Array Integration (VAAI), vSphere Storage APIs for Multipathing.  The fourth, […]

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