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Configuring VASA with EMC arrays – CLARiiON, VNX and VMAX

December 20th, 2011

Since last week I have seen a number of questions in and around VASA and how it is configured for EMC arrays.  I got a couple while doing the Q&A for EMC’s recent VNX best practices with vSphere 5 live WebEx and the day after I was asked by Cormac Hogan over at VMware to take a look at a question asked on the VMware blog site.  So I’ll admit now,  I hadn’t really had a chance to look at VASA in-depth, shame on me!  However I thought that this was as good a chance as any to learn and I thought I would do a post on how to configure it for both EMC’s VNX and VMAX systems. Big thank you to my EMC colleague Garrett Hartney for providing both his time and an environment that we could set this up in.

EMC’s VASA implementation

For those not familiar with VASA I strongly suggest reading this article to familiarise yourself with the what and why around this new VMware API. For those who just want the short version, VASA is essentially an API that allows storage vendors to publish array capabilities up to vCenter.  This allows VMware admins to see characteristic information about the storage underpinning their datastores and also allows them to use VMware storage profiles to enforce VM storage placement policy compliance, e.g. This SQL VM will always sit on performance disks.

The table below shows how EMC currently publishes it’s array capabilities through VASA 1.0 up to vCenter.

Capabilities

An example of how this looks for a datastore when pulled through to vCenter can be seen in the screenshot below.

vCenter_View

Core Components and architecture

Regardless of which array you are connecting to, EMC’s implementation of VASA is done using Solution Enabler and something known as the SMI-S provider.  Together these two components act as a middle tier between vCenter and the different arrays being queried.  It’s worth pointing out that the SE \ SMI-S server supports in-band (SAN attached) and out of band (network) connectivity for VNX and CLARiiON arrays and in-band connectivity only for Symmetrix arrays. The architecture of the setup is demonstrated in the diagram below.

VASA_SMI-S

SE / SMI-S server deployment

To get started with VASA you will need to download SMI-S version 4.3.1 which already comes pre-bundled with Solution Enabler 7.3.1.  This software can be downloaded from the link below and comes with an option for 32 and 64 bit Windows as well as Linux.  For full details on OS support see the release notes for SMI-S 4.3.1 – (PowerLink Account Required for downloads)

Home > Support > Software Downloads and Licensing > Downloads S > SMI-S Provider

As part of my own deployment I am using a Windows 2008 R2 64 bit server to deploy the core components.  The server has been built as standard with no special configuration required.

  • We first of all need to deploy Solution Enabler and SMI-S on your designated server, locate the installation media and run the install package.

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  • When presented with the welcome screen click next.

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  • Leave the install location as default and click next.

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  • When prompted select the array provider only and click next.

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  • Review the installation settings and space requirements and click next to install.

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  • Once the install is complete, click finish.

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  • Configure the environment variables on the server to include the SYMCLI path

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  • Locate the following file and open it for editing

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  • Locate the line below and change the value from 100 to 1200, save and exit the file.

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  • Navigate to the services console and restart the ECOM service

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  • navigate to the location shown below and run testsmiprovider.exe

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  • the next step is to connect to the SMI-S provider. I used the defaults which are shown in the square brackets, just hit enter on each line to use the default.

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  • Once connected you will see the following at the command prompt

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  • type the dv command at the prompt to display version information about the SMI-S provider install.  This basically proves that everything is working as expected

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  • that concludes the basic installation and configuration of the SMI-S and Solution Enabler server,  now all we need to do is add in the storage arrays we want displayed to vCenter via the VASA api.

CLARiiON and VNX

SUPPORTED – CLARiiON Navisphere Release 28, 29 & 30, VNX Unisphere Release 31
(SMI-S supports many earlier CLARiiON releases but vSphere 5 does not)

Earlier I mentioned that the CLARiiON and VNX arrays could be added to SMI-S in-band or out of band.  The most common method and the one I intend to use here is to connect out of band, i.e. across the network.  If you do want to connect in-band with direct SAN connection then check out page 39 of the SMI-S v4.3.1 release notes.

One major pre-requisite for connecting CLARiiON and VNX is that the user account used to connect to the arrays must be an administrator login with global scope. At this point you should hopefully still be connected to the testsmiprovider.exe application used earlier,  if you are not then please repeat the command line steps shown above to reconnect.

  • Once connected successfully type the commands addsys to begin adding the array
  • Enter the IP address / DNS name for Storage Processor A and hit enter.
  • Enter the IP address / DNS name for Storage Processor B and hit enter.
  • You can continue to add additional arrays here or hit enter to move to the next step.
  • Accept the default for the address type, i.e. IP/Nodename by hitting enter.
  • Continue answering this question for each storage processor / array added
  • enter the global scope administration user account for connecting to the arrays.
  • enter the password for the administration account being used
  • You will then see the message +++++ EMCAddSystem ++++

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  • After a while you will see the output from the addsys operation, as you can see below the output is 0 which indicates success.  The details of the system added are then listed.

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  • If you now run the dv command the arrays added will be listed as connected.

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  • Now that the array is registered we now need to add the VASA provider into vCenter. Log into vCenter and navigate to the home screen, locate and click on the storage providers icon.
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  • Within the storage provider screen click on the add button as shown below.

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  • Enter a name for the provider and enter the URL shown below,  the IP address of the server hosting SE / SMI-S should be entered where it has been blanked out below.  The user name is admin and the password is #1Password.

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  • When prompted accept the certificate for the SMI-S provider

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  • Once successfully added you will see the provider displayed

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  • Highlight the provider and you will see the array that was connected to the SMI-S provider server earlier.

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  • To check that VASA is working correctly in vCenter click the VM Storage Profiles icon on the home screen within vCenter.

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  • When setting up a new Storage Profile you should be able to see the storage capabilities presented to vCenter,  these are shown below and are marked with system.

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  • Job done, VASA successfully deployed and storage capabilities showing in vCenter!

DMX4, VMAX and VMAXe

SUPPORTED – Enginuity 5875
(SMI-S supports earlier Enginuity releases but vSphere 5 does not)

Now unfortunately I do not have access to a Symmetrix to complete my testing, however the release notes for SMI-S state the following which makes it sound very easy.

When started, the SMI-S Provider automatically discovers all Symmetrix storage arrays connected to the host on which the Array provider is running. No other action is required, such as running a symcfg discover command.

As mentioned earlier Symmetrix discovery is done in-band through small gatekeeper LUNs presented to the SE / SMI-S server.  If it is a virtual server then ensure that the LUNs are presented to the VM as physical mode RDMs.  The SMI-S release notes has the following to say about best practice.

When using the SMI-S Provider to manage Symmetrix arrays, it is recommended that you configure six gatekeepers for each Symmetrix array accessed by the provider. Only set up these gatekeepers for the host on which the SMI-S Provider is running.

So in theory it should be as simple as completing the following steps

  • Present the gatekeeper LUNs to the server (physical or virtual)
  • Restart the ECOM windows service to restart the SMI-S provider (auto discover arrays)
  • Use testsmiprovider.exe tool,  run the dv command, verify Symmetrix array is attached.
  • Thanks to my colleague Cody Hosterman (who does have a Symm) for the screenshot.

Symm_Config

One point to note, if you have SMI-S installed on the same host as the EMC Control Center (ECC) Symmetrix Agent or Symmetrix Management Console (SMC) there are a couple of steps you need to take to avoid some spurious errors.  Check out page 37 of the SMI-S v4.3.1 release notes for further information on the changes required to avoid this.

Summary

I think the important thing to remember here is that this is version 1.0 of VASA. It may not be the most elegant solution in the world but it is a start on what I think will become a key feature in years to come. We are fast moving into an age where VMs become objects where we simply check a box to ensure our requirement or service level is delivered.  Imagine a scenario where a VM is created and as part of the creation process you select the storage based on the VASA information passed up to vCenter from the array.  Do I want it on a RAID 5 or RAID 6 protected datastore? Do I want it on a RecoverPoint replicated datastore? Do I want it on a vPlex distributed datastore? Do I want it on a datastore that is SRM protected?  Although it is v1.0 you can see the potential use cases for this feature in the future are going to continue to expand.

Some of you may well have seen Chad Sakac’s blog post back in September entitled Help us make VASA (and EMC’s VASA provider) better! It includes a questionnaire with questions about what you, the end customer wants to see from VASA. This is a great chance to have your say and influence how EMC implement VASA going forward, lets make v2.0 of VASA a feature that delivers on the huge potential V1.0 has shown.

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