Posts Tagged ‘profile’

vSphere Host Profiles: Using Customization Files

February 15, 2020

Overview

If you own vSphere Enterprise Plus licences, using vSphere Host Profiles is a no brainer. Even if you rarely add ESXi hosts to your cluster, why configure them by hand if you can do that by a few mouse clicks in a fast and consistent manner.

Host profiles are usually created by setting up one ESXi host according to your requirements and then capturing its state. Some settings in a host profile are unique to each host, which include the host name, VMkernel adapter network settings, user name for joining host to AD, etc. When you apply your profile to a new unprepared host, vCenter will ask you to specify these settings. This step is called host customization.

You can either type these settings manually or if you want to take your automation game one step further, you can use a customization file, which is simply the list of setting in .csv format.

This feature was first introduced in vSphere 6.5 and official documentation is a bit light on this topic. Purpose of this post is to close this gap by demonstrating where to find this configuration option.

Create

To create a customization file, right click on a ESXi host and choose Host Profiles > Export Host Customizations. This host has to have host profile already applied to it (including all customization settings), otherwise this option will be grayed out. This can be the first host you used to capture the original host profile.

Open .csv file in your editor of choice and change settings accordingly. If you adding multiple hosts to your cluster, you can write a script to generate multiple copies of this file for each new ESXi host you’re adding.

Apply

Host customization settings are specified (manually or using a customization file) when host profile is being applied to the host. So first right click on the host and choose Host Profiles > Attach Host Profile. Then on Customize hosts page import customization file by clicking on the Browse button:

Note: If you hit the “Host settings validation failed” error after applying host customizations, read my blog article here that explains the problem.

Conclusion

Pretty simple, isn’t it? Key is to not forget that customization file can be specified either when you are applying host profile or, alternatively, you can skip host customization step and use Host Profiles > Edit Host Customizations later. For host that doesn’t have a host profile associated with it, Edit Host Customizations option will always be greyed out.

vSphere SDRS Design Considerations

June 26, 2016

data storageIf you happen to have your vSphere cluster to be licensed with Enterprise Plus edition, you may be aware of some of the advanced storage management features it includes, such as Storage DRS and Profile-Driven Storage.

These two features work together to let you optimise VM distribution between multiple VMware datastores from capability, capacity and latency perspective, much like DRS does for memory and compute. But they have some interoperability limitations, which I want to discuss in this post.

Datastore Clusters

In simple terms, datastore cluster is a collection of multiple datastores, which can be seen as a single entity from VM provisioning perspective.

datastore_cluster

VMware poses certain requirements for datastore clustes, but in my opinion the most important one is this:

Datastore clusters must contain similar or interchangeable datastores.

In other words, all of the datastores within a datastore cluster should have the same performance properties. You should not mix datastores provisioned on SSD tier with datastores on SAS and SATA tier and vise versa. The reason why is simple. Datastore clusters are used by SDRS to load-balance VMs between the datastores of a datastore cluster. DRS balances VMs based on datastore capacity and I/O latency only and is not storage capability aware. If you had SSD, SAS and SATA datastores all under the same cluster, SDRS would simply move all VMs to SSD-backed datastores, because it has the lowest latency and leave SAS and SATA empty, which makes little sense.

Design Decision 1:

  • If you have several datastores with the same performance characteristics, combine them all in a datastore cluster. Do not mix datastores from different arrays or array storage tiers in one datastore cluster. Datastore clusters is not a storage tiering solution.

Storage DRS

As already mentioned, SDRS is a feature, which when enabled on a datastore cluster level, lets you automatically (or manually) distribute VMs between datastores based on datastore storage utilization and I/O latency basis. VM placement recommendations and datastore maintenance mode are amongst other useful features of SDRS.

storage_drs

Quite often SDRS is perceived as a feature that can work with Profile-Driven Storage to enforce VM Storage Policy compliance. One of the scenarios, that is often brought up is what if there’s a VM with multiple .vmdk disks. Each disk has a certain storage capability. Mistakenly one of the disks has been storage vMotion’ed to a datastore, which does not meet the storage capability requirements. Can SDRS automatically move the disk back to a compliant datastore or notify that VM is not compliant? The answer is – no. SDRS does not take storage capabilities into account and make decisions only based on capacity and latency. This may be implemented in future versions, but is not supported in vSphere 5.

Design Decision 2:

  • Use datastore clusters in conjunction with Storage DRS to get the benefit of VM load-balancing and placement recommendations. SDRS is not storage capability aware and cannot enforce VM Storage Policy compliance.

Profile-Driven Storage

So if SDRS and datastore clusters are not capable of supporting  multiple tiers of storage, then what does? Profile-Driven Storage is aimed exactly for that. You can assign user-defined or system-defined storage capabilities to a datastore and then create a VM Storage Policy and assign it to a VM. VM Storage Policy includes the list of required storage capabilities and only those datastores that mach them, will be suggested as a target for the VM that is assigned to that policy.

You can create storage capabilities manually, such as SSD, SAS, SATA. Or more abstract, such as Bronze, Silver and Gold and assign them to corresponding datastores. Or you can leverage VASA, which automatically assigns corresponding storage capabilities. Below is an example of a datastore connected from a Dell Compellent storage array.

datastore_capabilities

You can then use storage capabilities from the VASA provider to create VM Storage Policies and assign them to VMs accordingly.

VASA.jpg

Design Decision 3:

  • If you have more than one datastore storage type, use Profile-Driven Storage to enforce VM placement based on VM storage requirements. VASA can simplify storage capabilities management.

Conclusion

If all of your datastores have the same performance characteristics, such as a number of LUNs auto-tiered on the storage array side, then one SDRS-enabled datastore cluster is a perfect solution for you.

But if your storage design is slightly more complex and you have datastores with different performance characteristics, such as SSD, SAS and SATA, leverage Profile-Driven Storage to control VM placement and enforce compliance. Just make sure to use a separate cluster for each tier of storage and you will get the most benefit out of vSphere Storage Policy-Based Management.