Category: VCDX
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OpenStack Neutron likes to use some pretty awesome reference IDs for the tenant network objects. You know, helpful strings like ec43c520-bfc6-43d5-ba2b-d13b4ef5a760. The first time I saw that, I said to myself that is going to be a nightmare when trying to troubleshoot an issue.

ve_nsx_neutron_troubleshoot01

Fortunately, VMware NSX also uses a similar character string when it creates logical switches. If NSX is being used in conjunction with OpenStack Neutron, magic happens. The logical switch is created with a string like vxw-dvs-9-virtualwire-27-sid-10009-ec43c520-bfc6-43d5-ba2b-d13b4ef5a760.

ve_nsx_neutron_troubleshoot02

A keen eye will have noticed the OpenStack Neutron reference ID is included in the NSX logical switch name!

From there you can reference the NSX Edge virtual machines and see which interface the NSX logical switch is attached to. This tidbit of information proved useful today when I was troubleshooting an issue for a developer and is a piece of information going into my VCDX SOP document.

ve_nsx_neutron_troubleshoot03

Enjoy!

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Caution, this post is highly opinionated.

I am deep into the process of completing my VCDX design documentation and application for (hopefully) a Q2 2017 defense. As it so happens, a short conversation was had on Twitter today regarding a post on the VMware Communities site for the VMware Validation Design for SDDC 3.x, including a new design decision checklist.

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The latest version of the VMware Validated Design (VVD) is a pretty awesome product for customers to reference when starting out on their private cloud journey. That being said, it is by no means a VCDX design or a set of materials that could simply be re-purposed for a VCDX design.

Why? Because there are no customer requirements.

For the same reason a hypothetical (or fake) design is often discouraged by people in the VCDX community, the VVD suffers from the same issue. In a vacuum you can make any decision you want, because there are no ramifications from your design decision. In the real-world this is simply not the case.

Taking a look at the Design Decisions Checklist, it goes through the over 200 design decisions the VVD made in the course of developing the reference architecture. The checklist does a good job of laying out the fields the design decision covers, like:

  • Design Decision
  • Design Justification
  • Design Implication

Good material. But if you’ve read my other post on design decisions, which you may or may not agree with, it highlights that a decision justification is made based on a requirement.

Let’s take a look at just one of the design decisions made by the VVD product and highlighted in the checklist.

vvd_decision_screencap

The decision is to limit a single compute pod to a single physical rack, as in no cross-rack clusters. Sounds like a reasonable decision, especially if the environment had a restriction on L2 boundaries or some other requirement. But what if I have a customer requirement that said a compute node must be able to join any compute pod (cluster) regardless of physical rack location within a data center?

Should I ignore that requirement because the VVD says to do otherwise?

Of course not.

My issue with the Twitter conversation is two-fold:

  1. The VVD design decisions are not in fact design decisions, but design recommendations. They can be used to help a company, group or architect to determine, based on their requirements, which of these “decisions” should be leveraged within their environment. They are not die-hard decisions that must be adhered to.
  2. From a VCDX perspective, blindly assuming you could copy/paste any of these design decisions and use them in a VCDX defense is naive. You must have a justification for every design decision made and it has to map back to a customer requirement, risk or constraint.

I also do not think that is what  was saying when he initially responded to the Tweet about the checklist. I do think though that some people may actually think they can just take the VVD, wrap it in a bow and call it good.

My suggestion is to take the VVD design documentation and consider it reference material, just like the many other great books and online resources available to the community. It won’t work for everyone, because every design has different requirements, constraints and risks. Take the bits that work for you and expand upon them. Most importantly, understand why you are using or making that design decision.

Let me know what you think on Twitter.

Again, this post is highly opinionated from my own limited perspective. Do not mistake it for the opinion of VMware or any VCDX certified individuals.

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nsx designated instance

While a great show, we are going to talk about something slightly different — the NSX Distributed Logical Router (DLR) Designated Instance. NSX has many great features and also many caveats when implementing some of those great features — like having a Designated Instance when using a DLR.

So what is a Designated Instance? Honestly, I did not know what it was until a conversation earlier today with a few co-workers who are a bit more knowledgable with NSX than me. Essentially a Designated Instance is an elected ESXi host that will answer all new requests initially — also known as a single-point of failure.

Let’s look at the logical network diagram I posted yesterday.

nsx-dlr-openstack

Pretty sweet right?

The issue is when the DLR is connected directly to a VLAN. While technically not a problem — it does exactly what you’d expect it does — it results in having to have one of the ESXi hosts in the transport zone act as the Designated Instance. The result is that if the Designated Instance ESXi host encounters a failure, any new traffic will fail until the election process is complete and a new Designated Instance is chosen.

So is it possible to not need a Designated Instance when using a DLR? Yes.

It involves introducing another logical NSX layer into the virtual network design. If you saw my tweet earlier, this is what I meant.

I like , but sometimes I think it adds a little too much complexity for operational simplicity.

Adding a set of ECMP edges above the DLR and connecting the two together will eliminate the requirement for NSX to use a the Designated Instance. Here is what an alternative to the previous design would look like.

external openstack

Essentially what I’ve done is create another VXLAN, with a corresponding NSX Logical Switch and connect the uplink from the DLR to it. Then the ECMP Edges use the same Logical Switch as their internal interface. It is on the uplink side of the ECMP Edge where the P2V layer takes place and the VLAN is connected.

Using this design allows the environment to use a dynamic routing protocol between both the DLR and ECMP Edges and ECMP Edges and the upstream physical network — although mileage may vary depending on your physical network. The ECMP Edges introduce additional scalability — although limited to 8 — based on the amount of North-South network traffic and the bandwidth required to meet the tenant needs. Features like vSphere Anti-Affinity rules can mitigate a failure of a single ESXi host, which you cannot do when there is a Designated Instance. The design can also take into consideration a N+x scenario for when to scale the ECMP Edges.

So many options open up when NSX is introduced into an architecture, along with a lot of extra complexity. Ultimately the decision should be based on the requirements and the stakeholders risk acceptance. Relying on a Designated Instance may be acceptable to a stakeholder, while adding more complexity to the design may not be.

Until next time, enjoy!

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This next post in the series about multi-tenant OpenStack with NSX will discuss the use of a Distributed Logical Router as the bridge between OpenStack and the physical network. If you have not read the previous posts in the series, you can catch up by reading this one.

Originally the plan had been to segment each OpenStack tenant off with their own HA-pair of NSX Edges. However, after discovering that OpenStack does not honor the tenant-id parameter, nor the disabling the Shared parameter within the external network object and adjustment had to be made. Working through the problem it became clear that a NSX Distributed Logical Router (DLR) could be leveraged and would also scale as the environment grows beyond a few dozen tenants. The new multi-tenant network design for OpenStack now looks like this:

nsx-dlr-openstack

The logical diagram shows how the uplink of the DLR is the upstream (north-south) boundary for the environment. The internal interface on the DLR is the external OpenStack network, and is leveraging VXLAN to provide the floating IP addresses the OpenStack tenants will consume. If you are unfamiliar with how a DLR operates, I recommend reading this post from Roie Ben Haim on his blog.

Basically, the DLR relies upon two components — the control VMs and a kernel module inside vSphere to inject routing on each ESXi host within the NSX transport zone. It is the inclusion of this kernel module on every ESXi host that will allow this virtual network design to scale as the environment does. In the previous design, the individual NSX Edges would merely be deployed in an HA-pair and only the active VM would be handling all of the traffic for that particular tenant. With the DLR, although all tenant traffic will be going through the single layer, that layer is distributed across the entire workload environment.

After the DLR is created, the routes can be see within each ESXi host, as shown in the following image.

ext_openstack_dlr19

The downside that still remains is the shared pool of IP addresses for all tenants to consume from. Operationally it will mean having to manage the tenant quotas for floating IP addresses and making sure there is no over-allocation. I would still like to see the OpenStack community take on the extra work of honoring the tenant-id parameter when creating an external network within OpenStack so that the option would exist to have individual tenant floating IP address pools.

Tuesday’s post will include detailed instructions on how to deploy and configure both the NSX portion of this deployment and the OpenStack pieces to tie it all together. Enjoy!

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The last couple of months leading into the end of the year has seen me focusing once again on earning the VCDX certification. In the process of doing a fair amount of examination of my skills, especially my areas of weakness, I knew a new design was needed. Fortunately a new project at work had me focusing on building an entirely new VMware Integrated OpenStack service offering. Being able to work on the design from inception to POC to Pilot has provided me a great learning opportunity. One of my weaknesses has been to be sure I understand the ramifications of each design decision being made in the architecture. As I worked through the process of documenting all of the design decisions, I settled on a template within the document.

The following table is replicated for each design decision within the architecture.

dd_summary_template

One of the ways I worked to improve my understanding of how to document a proper design was the book, IT Architect: Foundation in the Art of Infrastructure Design. In the book I noticed the authors made sure to highlight the design justifications throughout every chapter. I wanted to incorporate that same justifications within my VCDX architecture document and be sure to document the other risks, impacts and also the requirements that were achieved by the decision.

In the design I am currently working on, an example of the above table in action can be found in the following image.

dd_summary_example01

Here a decision for the compute platform was made to use the Dell PowerEdge R630 server. Requirements like the SLA had to also be taken into consideration, which you see in the risks and risk mitigation. The table helps to highlight when some design decisions actually add in additional requirements for the architecture — usually found in the Impact or Decision Risks section of the table. In the case of the example, the table notes,

Dell hardware has been prone to failures, includes drives, SD cards and controller failures.

I documented the risk based on knowledge acquired over nearly a decade of using Dell hardware, especially most recently in my current role. Based on that knowledge, I documented it as a risk which would need to be addressed — which created an ancilliary requirement needing to be addressed. The subsequent Risk Mitigation fulfills the new requirement.

A 4-hour support contract is purchased for each compute node. In addition, an on-site hardware locker is maintained at the local data center, which contains common components to reduce the mean-time-to-resolution when a failure occurs.

The subsequent decision to purchase a 4-hour support contract from Dell for issues, combined with the on-site hardware locker, allow the design to account for the SLA requirements of the service offering while also solving a known risk — hardware failure. In my previous VCDX attempt, I did not do a good enough job working through this thought process and is a key reason why I was not successful.

The process of documenting the table has helped me make sure the proper amount time is spent thinking through every decision. I am also finding documenting all the decisions to be helpful as I review the design with others. All-in-all it has been a great process to work through and is helping me to be sure to know and comprehend every aspect of the design.

As noted previously, I am still pursuing my VCDX certification right now and so these opinions may not be shared by those who have already earned their VCDX certifications.

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