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VCE Launches the Development Community for Vision Intelligent Operations

This week, VCE announced the availability of the VCE™ Developer Portal. The Developer Portal provides developers with access to all of the resources necessary to develop functionality using the VCE Vision™ Intelligent Operations API.  Within the Developer Portal, you will find:

  • Developer Resources: A collection of all of the tools and materials you need to develop against the VCE Vision API, including the VCE Vision Intelligent Operations SDK.
  • The VCE Developer Community: A community of passionate individuals dedicated to creating new and exciting uses for Vblock™ Systems.


Anybody can register for and join the VCE Developer Portal.  Just go to:  www.vce.com/developers

 

 


DEVELOPER RESOURCES
A structured collection of all of the tools and materials you need to develop against the VCE Vision API.  These resources include:

  • Full documentation of the API
  • Code samples illustrating creative use of the API
  • Bindings for the Java language to the VCE Vision™ System Library through the API
  • A simulator that mimics the System Library, so you can test your code without needing actual Vblock Systems

 

WHAT IS THE DEVELOPER PORTAL?
The VCE Developer Portal is a site for developers. Individuals who are interested in developing solutions, applications, and connectors for VCE Vision Intelligent Operations and Vblock Systems are a perfect fit for this community. A few of the features that the Developer Portal offers include:

  • It is focused on developers
  • It is an external community where employees, customers, partners, and individuals can all collaborate in one place
  • It is a collaborative community with discussions, blogs, and more
  • It provides access to our SDK
  • It is a place to showcase your work


HOW DO I USE THE DEVELOPER PORTAL?

The best way to learn how things work is simply to use the site.  The community section of the portal is where the collaborative features exist.  It is comprised of three primary building blocks - People, Content, and Places. To help you find what you are looking for within the community, we have created four main Places:

  • The Developers space: This is the place where you can find almost all content.  Use this place as the main location where you can start discussions, post questions and find all developer centric content.
  • The Using the Community space: This is a place where you can ask questions or get help on using our community.  Not sure about how something works?  Just ask a question here and we'll be sure to get you a prompt response.
  • The Sample Code sub-space: This is the place where you can browse other developer's sample code or post your own.
  • The Feedback and Suggestions sub-space: This is the place where you can provide us with feedback and suggestions on the community itself.  Feedback is welcome so please do share your ideas.

 

Go join - Just go to:  www.vce.com/developers

 

What is Vision Intelligent Operations?? this is a copy/paste from VCE Mega Launch Technical Details for 2/21 Product Announcements

 

VCE's new Vision Intelligent Operations software

I saved this one for last and there is a very good reason. For the longest time, people have always wondered "what makes Vblock so different?" Today, many customers already see the benefit VCE brings in all of our value (see first paragraph). You may think just because you own V+C+E that you build your own Vblocks. That could be the furthest thing from the truth. Just because you own V+C+E, you are not capable of delivering all the operational benefits that VCE drives. VCE is now introducing software that is a new layer of foundation for everything you could want to do in your data center. Introducing, VCE Vision Intelligent Operations.

 

Previously, operations spent its time analyzing logs from every piece of infrastructure and there were always a multitude of systems trying to compete for your attention. VCE is setting out to change that by creating an overall abstraction layer of the Vblock. I want to put a stake in the ground and state that VCE is NOT creating another window, or another management piece of software. Instead, the goal is to allow existing management applications such as vCenter, vCOPs, CA, BMC, Nagios, Xangati, VKernel, VMturbo, name anything else, etc. to no longer be reliant on individual elements, but instead, see the Vblock as a single piece of converged infrastructure.

 

Let's examine how this all works. First, there is a discovery engine that collects both physical and logical characteristics of the Vblock and bring everything into an in-object memory database. This database or "system library" is what makes all the fun actually happen. Individual element managers are polled at intervals (based on time and events) to determine if there have been any physical or logical changes. This can be firmware/software updates, cables being removed or plugged in, new UCS chassis added to FIs, new DAEs, removal of disks, etc. More technically, SMI-S and CLI from the Storage Processors, CIMC from UCS C servers, SNMP traps from Nexus and MDS Switches, XML and SNMP from UCS Manager for blade servers, and CIM from vCenter all contribute to the system library. This discovery happens at both the physical and logical levels. This is a completely agentless process to always maintain an up to date object model and determine a health state. Each component inside the Vblock essentially has its own system library, but we are combining all those pieces to make everything else happen as a single unit of converged infrastructure.

 

With the system library, we are now able to poll it and get any sort of variable or characteristic we want. This makes the Vblock an intelligent informer to the operator. Later on, we can also push to it to make any changes we want (aka Orchestration using vCAC, vCO, CIAC, OpenStack, Cloupia, etc).

 

If we examine closer on the discovery portion, the system library is polled to determine "is this a Vblock"? The polling that takes place is first verifying that all of the physical components are there. Second, verifying the system cabling and port map which is described in a XML file is correctly aligned. This is where we really determine the difference between V+C+E and a VCE Vblock. Every Vblock is cabled the same way and VCE knows which ports are designated to certain functions. There is a relationship for the mappings.

 

Even though we now have 4 Vblock models in our product line, there is a single VCE Intelligent Operations code base that covers all Vblock models. This allows for new developments to happen in a very repeatable manner while covering all the core platforms.

 

The identification stage is really simple. After the Vblock as been discovered, we can assign a label to that Vblock. In addition, the discovery of the Vblock then applies a model based on what is discovered, for instance Vblock 300HX. Instead of having to know which storage array, servers, and network components are all interacting with one another and creating a label for each, we can put a Vblock stamp across all these pieces and correlate that to a label such as "Serial #3451" or "Houston" or "Tiles 23-25" or "SQL, Sharepoint, & Exchange". Now we can create a unique single system identity for every Vblock. One piece of software is able to correlate all these components into a single logical unit. Every Vblock by default is given a serial number. This makes support easier by being able to look up all the components of your Vblock under one entry. The support staff knows when the Vblock was delivered and how the base system was configured. In addition, this "identity" is made available to consumers of the API or SNMP. For large data centers, this is extremely helpful. Think about how many Nexus 5548s there are in your DC? Some may have 100+. How are you able to manage the SNMP traps coming from those Nexus switches and how do you know what each is connected to and responsible for? This is where the identification can create a masking layer for the nexus switches in the Vblock and you know exactly what it belongs to, where it's located, and what it's responsible for.

 

The validation principal is pretty fascinating stuff. Remember the top paragraph where i talked about The VCE Certification Matrix - Ensuring Integration? This is where the automation of "checking against" the matrix comes to play. This automatically ensures the reliability and performance of a Vblock system without you having to go and check every element manager and piece of the stack individually. The accelerates resolution of problems to VCE support and validates successful matrix upgrades. There is an API available for the validation that can be exported to any other software. The API allows anyone to customize the matrix or add new benchmarks. These scans can all be scheduled and filtered using search criteria. A screenshot of this will be shown later on. The module for this software was written in a very "templatable" manner. In the future, we can explore other templates such as PCI, HIPPA, SOX, vSphere Hardening Guide, etc and benchmark that. As this develops, things such as an "easy button" for applying the entire vSphere Hardening Guide can be done.

 

Health Monitoring goes hand in hand with the discovery engine. Every discovery, based on either time or events, generates health based information. All the information collected is tested against VCE's design practices to determine the health score. We know what state components are in and can correlate that into upstream consumption used to identify any issues for operators. This leads to faster troubleshooting and time spent doing so has more quality because there is a streamlined information flow. The short-list of things considered when computing the score is the FI, UCS Chassis, Blade, SAE, DPS, Disks , SPs, 1000v, 9148, and N5K states. This is all represented below by vCOPs.

 

Logging is important to everyone. Tracking changes is critical to any enterprise. The problem exists when you get a flood of logs from many different IPs and need to determine who belongs to what. What does you syslog server look like when it's receiving information from a pod infrastructure? 32 servers, 2 ethernet switches, 2 SAN switches, Blade chassis, and multiple SPs probably looks like a mess. VCE takes the identity configured of your Vblock and correlates that into all the logging of all the sub-components. A couple of the ways we convey logging information is via Syslog, SNMP, and AMQP streams. This allows any monitoring software today to monitor a Vblock. Nothing is private to the system library, so anything it knows about, you can know about. There is functionality built-in to allow segregated application logs from AAA logs. SNMP traps are displyad as Vblock traps. Syslog data streams are passed though un-altered. The AMQP stream is for system related events. Each one of these takes multiple streams for all the sub-components and presents them as one. The cool part about this...monitoring protocols that didn't exist for individual components before, well, now they do. The AMQP stream is an event level alerting mechanism and almost every hardware product doesn't offer this type of alerting. Even, vSphere doesn't offer AMQP events. Now, we can utilize the vCO AMQP Plug-in to trigger orchestrated events from any event we see pertinent in the Vblock. Let your mind start going wild of all things that you can do.

 

The last piece to this is the Open API. VCE wants to allow extensibility for developers to be creative. This will spawn new management tools, applications, and software services. Using the SNMP or REST interface, developers can create tools, applications, or plug-ins for existing applications to report Vblock system performance or do overall health monitoring. You can create orchestrated events by responding to the AMQP bus. Look to the future for using this API to intelligently control the Vblock using products such as vCO, vCAC, CIAC, Cloupia, BMC, CA, OpsWare, and maybe even OpenStack. Think of the "easy button" to provision a new VLAN that touches every piece of your infrastructure. Inside of the SDK, there is going to be a "virtual Vblock" to develop applications without even owning a Vblock. The SDK contains Documentation, Java Libraries, databases (for VB100, VB200, VB300, and VB700 systems), and sample code (REST, AMQP Client and Publisher, and System Assurance examples). The SDK will all be distributed through a developer portal going live soon at http://www.vce.com/developer.

 

VCE is introducing 2 new products that use the Vision Intelligent Operations API. First is the vCenter Plug-in. On the home screen of the vSphere Web Client, there will be a new Vblock Logo. After clicking that Logo, you will be brought to the tree view where you can see your physical Vblock inside of vCenter. This is where we begin to start bridging the gap of the physical and virtual world. You can see how each is tied to one another. In this first view, we can see where we have assigned an identity to our Vblock as "MRO Red VB700". A serial number has also been assigned to the Vblock as a whole. The system health state is also defined as Critical which allows us to drive down even deeper to see where the issue lies. These screenshots are taken from the beta product that we are announcing today. Look forward to seeing even more information when this product goes GA.

 

We can continue to expand out our Vblock to dig further into the sub-components. We are pulling information related to every component and can see each's System Health, serial number, firmware versions, etc. A lot of good information can be pulled from here. At the same time, we can also see that Chassis 2 Blade 4 is r7mx2 ESXi host. Much easier to decipher that information that typical ways such through UCSM.

 

Speaking of UCSM, from this screen we are also able to launch access to individual element managers. Instead of having to remember a boat load of IP addresses, a simple right click brings us a new menu. We can launch UCSM directly from the vSphere Web Client to make any quick changes to service profiles. We can Rename anything we want in the stack. As well as launch the VCE Help menu.

 

Remember when we talked about automating the process of the matrix checking? Well here it is. On the root Vblock menu item, there is a "Manage" tab. Within here, you can schedule runs or you can run it immediately. This is a sample that shows you we are checking this Vblock 700 against certification Matrix 3.0.2. We can see that alot of components don't match up correctly. The score is weighted based on the most critical components. Such as having your Flare code not match up with the supported vSphere version.

 

If we go into each individual tab, we can see what pass and what failed. If we drill into the network tab we can clearly see all the networking components.

 

Lastly, we have the VCE Vision for vCenter Operations Plug-in. This plug-in is able to monitor everything from individual switch ports to fans inside the Vblock. A very powerful plug-in that lets you drill very far down to find the root cause of issues. We can also get an overall health status of our Vblock and each individual sub-component. This heat map shows what we need to inspect in our Vblock to get it back to peak performance.

 

I'm merely scratching the surface of what's inside of these plug-ins. I would encourage you to get in touch with a VCE partner to learn more and request demos of the software.

 

To sum it up, Vision is an API for the Vblock that creates a new layer of abstraction for Intelligent Operations. But why is this so important? Lets think bigger picture. I hope by now, you're reading this and realizing that infrastructure is boring. Sure, I gave you some pretty cool specs on new Vblock models, but if you really think spending your time architecting vSphere environments has career longevity, I have some bad news for you. vSphere administrators need to start thinking higher in the stack. Higher in the stack is pushing towards a cloud model. A cloud model can't be achieved with silos focused on implementing different infrastructure pieces. If you remove all the time spent on delivering core infrastructure and start figuring out how to deliver IaaS, PaaS, etc utilizing Cloud products and orchestration, you will become more streamlined in your operations. Vblocks help you achieve that efficiency by spending quality time focused on operational value. Vision gets you further and enables operational efficiency by collecting the sum of its parts and intelligently informs you of what's important and where to focus your attention.

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