Lifecycle management of data center infrastructure is an ongoing challenge for today’s administrators. Businesses are constantly upgrading to address security concerns or to gain additional value out of technology investments.
The challenge of lifecycle management
Lifecycle management often has several hidden downstream effects that businesses overlook. For example, upgrades to solutions need to be performed with regularity to enure smooth and secure functioning of the ecosystem. In an environment where infrastructure has been built up as a set of individual components, the act of upgrading can easily cause significant issues in the infrastructure.
These version management issues span across the entire IT spectrum, including unified management interfaces, integrated APIs, BCP/DR and interactions with service portals. Integrated lifecycle management simplifies the complexity of ensuring that processes are standardized and automated to a very large degree. This has tremendous savings in time and effort. TCO analyses across multiple projects have shown that overall cost of operations in hyper-converged systems like VxRail is 59 percent lower (Villars, Sheppard, Marden 2017). Overall, according to IDC, these systems are 73 percent faster to deploy (Villars et al 2017).
The first step in any upgrade process is researching interoperability and compatibility. This burdensome task falls on the shoulders of the IT staff. Researching takes the IT staff away from activities that are strategic and aligned with the business’ initiatives. While these activities seem tedious, the integration testing of components is a crucial step in the overall process in order to ensure success.
Upgrades and patching also can cause disruption to the day-to-day business operations. Maintenance typically requires downtime or migrations in order to complete the activity non-disruptively. These activities typically need to be scheduled with change control and may require multiple events to get the infrastructure to the desired end state. Any time administrators make changes to an environment, they introduce additional risk and increase the potential extended outages to revert the changes back to the original state in the event of an undiscovered incompatibility.
Lifecycle management simplified
So how do we better manage the lifecycle of a product/stack? The answer is easy: VxRail.
Dell has made significant investments in developing VxRail to help businesses overcome these challenges. Dell realizes lifecycle management is costly and burdensome and takes away from innovation time. Customers that are leveraging the power of VxRail today are seeing the below benefits.
The ongoing efficenies of the IT staff and improvement in unplanned downtime have a direct correlation to Dell EMC’s approach to lifecycle management. Let’s explore what that looks like from a 20,000-foot view.
Single, one click upgrades of the hardware and software included with the an HCI cluster seems like nirvana, but with VxRail, it is a reality. Dell spends over 25,000 hours on more than 2,500 unique tests to eliminate the need for the IT staff to research and test the upgrades (Dell EMC VxRail System Techbook 2019).
They basically test every potential combination of software, firmware and patches, bundle them together in a complete package, and allow the IT staff to simply select their desired validated state and click upgrade. VxRail Analytical consulting engine knows the deployed state of every cluster so that you can globally monitor the life cycle of your entire VxRail environment. They have taken the guesswork out of patching to reduce risk to the business!
The upgrade process completes in as few as four steps. The first step is to download the desired validate state bundle. This is done either via the Internet or if you have a higher security environment, updates can be applied via a local network drive or a USB storage device.
Unlike competitors in this space, VxRail is the only product that includes every component in the cluster: VxRail HCI Systems Software, ESXi, vSAN, vCenter, Firmware and drivers. This allows them to have ensure that all components deployed through an upgrade are thoroughly tested together as a single unit.
After the bundle is downloaded, an automated readiness check is completed to ensure that the cluster is in a state where it is ready to be upgraded. This step lists the components that will be upgraded, whether or not reboots will be required and an estimated time for completion. Once the checks are complete, the bundle is staged to be deployed.
The next step is for the administrator clicks start on the upgrade, which is performed in an automated fashion. The upgrade process is a rolling, non-disruptive process in which the VMs are relocated to other nodes in the cluster akin to a standard VMware upgrade. In order to speed up the upgrade process, the bundle is pre-staged to the next node in the upgrade sequence. Finally, once the cluster is completely upgraded, the upgrade performs its post check and makes the recently installed bundle the new recovery bundle. It’s that simple.
So why is this important? IT staff is constantly asked to do more with less. VxRail is a great way for customers to reduce the overhead associated with lifecycle management. VxRail takes the guess work out of upgrades, major releases or even quick security patches. It frees up the administrator to perform other business critical tasks and assures that your environment is in a continuously validated state.
Explore more with WWT
This is just one aspect of why VxRail is a popular choice for customers today. We've spent many hours testing VxRail with Dell EMC and have countless VxRail clusters running in our labs today to show various soultions built on VxRail. Additonally, we have a hands-on lab where customers can explore the features and functionality of VxRail for themselves.
If you want to dive deeper in to VxRail or HCI as whole, we offer a HCI Workshop to explore the ways that you can leverage HCI to take your infrastructure to the next level.
- Villars, R.L., Sheppard, E., Marden, M. (2017, October). The Business Value of Modernizing Infrastructure with Hyper-Converged Systems. IDC. 1-14. Retrieved from partner.dell.com.
- Sheppard, E., Marden, M. (October 2018). Delivering Efficent Business Expansion with Dell EMC VMware-Based HCI. IDC. 1-17. Retrived from partner.dell.com.
- (December 2019). Dell EMC VxRail System Techbook. Dell Technology Solutions. 39 Retrieved from partner.dell.com.