Today EMC released the long awaited VSI Web Client (VSI WC abbreviated for this blog) that works directly with VMAX and VNX. The first version of the VSI WC (6.0) only worked with ViPR and while you could provision from VMAX or VNX, it was only possible through ViPR. With VSI WC 6.1 provisioning can be done through the SMI-S Provider for VMAX (FC only, no iSCSI) or directly for the VNX. For those of you familiar with the current VSI “Classic” thick client, the difference between that and VSI WC is that VSI Classic consists of various features delivered as individual executables and installed on a system with the vSphere Client. In other words it is a plug-in to the vSphere Client. Therefore the VSI Classic features are only available from that system and are not integrated directly into the vCenter. Each separate system that needs access to VSI Classic features must have the executable(s) installed. VSI WC on the other hand is registered directly with the vCenter as a plug-in and is available from the vSphere Web Client by anyone (with privilege) accessing it. This greatly simplifies things and is in line with VMware’s move away from the thick client to the Web Client for future releases.
I like to think of VSI WC as VSI Lite, both because of the implementation in the Web Client and because initially it will start with the core VSI Classic capabilities and build from there. There are some features, for instance, that will remain in VSI Classic – RecoverPoint Management and the SRA Utilities come to mind as they are used with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) which is not a plug-in in the vSphere Web Client. Others may not be ported at all as they were designed for earlier vSphere releases like the Path Management feature. VSI WC, however, provides the two most important features for VMAdmins – in-context storage resolution and storage provisioning. I’m going to quickly run through the basic implementation of VSI WC and its capabilities. For detailed information the Product Guide is the best source.
VSI WC is deployed as a vApp called the Solutions Integration Service (SIS) and requires a single IP. Once deployed, the vCenter is registered in SIS and then subsequently the SIS is registered in the vCenter accessed through the vSphere Web Client. Here is what the administration page of SIS looks like after the initial login.
On the left-hand menu is a Register VSI Plug-in option. Enter in the required information and select Register.
Now that VSI WC is registered in the vCenter (in other words the plug-in is installed in the vCenter), we need to register SIS in the newly installed VSI WC plug-in. When you log in to the vCenter through the vSphere Web Client and navigate to the vCenter you will see the VSI plug-in on the bottom of the tree. Note that the vSphere Web Client need not be installed on the vCenter server itself.
Navigate to Solutions Integration option which will bring you to a screen where you can register SIS. Select Register Solutions Integration Service from the Actions menu.
A dialog box will now appear. As when you registered the vCenter in SIS, here input the SIS information into the vCenter. Some fields will be inaccessible as they are pre-populated for you. Note in particular one of these fields, the EMC SIS User Name. This is how SIS identifies my root user for my vCenter vApp, with @<vCenter_IP>. This is important because as I will mention below, that is the user name SIS will expect when I setup my storage access. The other field worth pointing out is the vCenter User Name, again an inaccessible field. In my case, the user is what I logged into the vCenter as; however, the user name may appear differently than the logged in user. For instance you may log in as email@example.com but the user name in this field may only say “administrator“. This is not a cause for concern and I only mention it for that reason.
Once SIS is entered, the plug-in is able to facilitate adding storage systems. Since my focus is VMAX naturally let’s see that. We go back to the VSI plug-in menu but this time select Storage Systems. Using the Actions drop-down menu, select Register Storage System.
In the subsequent screen, enter in the SMI-S information and select Retrieve Arrays. Select the desired array and hit OK and it will be registered. Note that this process must be repeated for each array you wish to add as multi-selection is not possible.
Returning to the Storage Systems my array is now visible.
An alternative way to add an array is to use the SIS. You would first login to SIS with the EMC SIS User Name, in this case firstname.lastname@example.org. Then navigate to Storage Access Control where you can add an array. Once added the array will be available in VSI WC. Just a word of caution about adding systems this way. It will require the user to know the entire serial ID of the array. As you can see below there is no ability to retrieve the arrays as in VSI WC, the ID must be manually entered.
So now that our array is available we can provision from it. I am not going to go through the whole process here as it is akin to VSI Classic. The VSI menu is accessed the same way by right-clicking on a host or cluster and choosing New EMC Datastore (the other functions listed are for the VNX arrays).
From there the wizard proceeds through selecting the storage array, thin pool to which the user has access and masking view, and finally the user specifies the size. VSI will then create the device, present it to the host(s) and create a datastore on it.
One feature that is new in VSI WC and is not available in VSI Classic is RDM provisioning directly to the VM. With VSI Classic you can only create devices for RDMs, but they still need to be manually assigned. With VSI WC you can right-click on the VM itself and provision. Here is the menu option you will see.
Once again the wizard will be similar to the datastore provisioning. The RDM will be created, presented to the host(s) and added to your VM automatically. This new feature is a great time-saver since the user avoids multiple steps and the potential for assigning the wrong disk to the VM.
Once you have the RDM or datastore, VSI WC has in-context storage information. Looking at the detail of our newly created datastore, I can see two panels, Storage System and Storage Device, both populated by EMC. Here I can find important information about the VMAX attributes of my device like RAID type and device ID.
Similar information is available at the VM level for RDMs and virtual disks through a new sub-tab called EMC Storage Viewer in the Monitor tab.
VSI WC also has a user-access control function, much like VSI Classic. The user who first adds a storage array from within the vCenter or SIS (the logged in user) “owns” that array. That means they have control over who can access it. There also is no “shared” control – once the array is registered the user owns it and a second user cannot add it also. He has to be given access. Below I log back into SIS to assign some access control. You may note my user is root@<vCenter_IP>. I am using a vCenter appliance so normally I just use “root” to login to the vCenter, but SIS is going to require the IP as I mentioned above. I’ll just give a quick example below, explaining the process but not necessarily showing every screenshot. Once I am logged into SIS, I go into the Storage Access Control menu where I can see what storage arrays I have registered, in this case just the one. From there I can see what users are available in SIS, and if I desire I can add them to the array – the VMware_User in this example. When the user is added, then I can decide what thin pools I want to allow provisioning from by selecting Storage Pool. By default all pools will be disabled, so I have decided to enable two of them.
While I can dictate what thin pools the user can access, unlike VSI Classic I cannot limit the masking views of the user.
Well I hope that was useful to those of you who have waited for this new product and capability. Expect future VSI WC releases to build upon this functionality. Remember VSI WC is a free download and can be found on support.EMC.com, along with a Product Guide that will flesh-out all the details around what I have covered here. Give it a shot!
Demo of VSI with VMAX integration:
Download the VSI software: