Dell EMC, DevOps, And The World Of Infrastructure Automation

Disclaimer: I recently attended Storage Field Day 19.  My flights, accommodation and other expenses were paid for by Tech Field Day. There is no requirement for me to blog about any of the content presented and I am not compensated in any way for my time at the event.  Some materials presented were discussed under NDA and don’t form part of my blog posts, but could influence future discussions.

Dell EMC recently presented at Storage Field Day 19. You can see videos of the presentation here, and download my rough notes from here.

 

Silos? We Don’t Need No Silos

The data centre is changing, as is the way we manage it. There’s been an observable evolution of the applications we run in the DC and a need for better tools. The traditional approach to managing infrastructure, with siloed teams of storage, network, and compute administrators, is also becoming less common. One of the key parts of this story is the growing need for automation. As operational organisations in charge of infrastructure and applications, we want to:

  • Manage large scale operations across the hybrid cloud;
  • Enable DevOps and CI/CD models with infrastructure as code (operational discipline); and
  • Deliver self service experience.

Automation has certainly gotten easier, and as an industry we’re moving from brute force scripting to assembling pre-built modules.

 

Enablers for Dell EMC Storage (for Programmers)

REST

All of our automation Power Tools use REST

  • Arrays have a REST API
  • REST APIs are versioned APIs
  • Organised by resource for simple navigation

Secure

  • HTTPS, TLS 1.2 or higher
  • Username / password or token based
  • Granular RBAC

With REST, development is accelerated

 

Ansible for Storage?

Ansible is a pretty cool automation engine that’s already in use in a lot of organisations.

Minimal Setup

  • Install from yum or apt-get on a Linux server / VM
  • No agents anywhere

Low bar of entry to automation

  • Near zero programming
  • Simple syntax

 

Dell EMC and vRO for storage

VMware’s vRealize Orchestrator has been around for some time. It has a terrible name, but does deliver on its promise of simple automation for VMware environments.

  • Plugins allow full automation, from storage to VM
  • Easily integrated with other automation tools

The cool thing about the plugin is that you can replace homegrown scripts with a pre-written set of plugins fully supported by Dell EMC.

You can also use vRO to implement automated policy based workflows:

  • Automatic extension of datastores;
  • Configure storage the same way every time; and
  • Tracking of operations in a single place.

vRO plugs in to vRealize Automation as well, giving you self service catalogue capabilities along with support for quotas and roles.

What does the vRO plugin support?

Supported Arrays

  • PowerMax / VMAX All-Flash (Enterprise)
  • Unity (Midrange)
  • XtremIO

Storage Provisioning Operations

  • Adds
  • Moves
  • Changes

Array Level Data Protection Services

  • Snapshots
  • Remote replication

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

DevOps means a lot of things to a lot of people. Which is a bit weird, because some smart folks have written a handbook that lays it all out for us to understand. But the point is that automation is a big part of what makes DevOps work at a functional level. The key to a successful automation plan, though, is that you need to understand what you want to automate, and why you want to automate it. There’s no point automating every process in your organisation if you don’t understand why you do that process in the first place.

Does the presence of a vRO plugin mean that Dell EMC will make it super easy for you to automate daily operations in your storage environment? Potentially. As long as you understand the need for those operations and they’re serving a function in your organisation. I’m waffling, I know, but the point I’m attempting to make is that having a tool bag / shed / whatever is great, and automating daily processes is great, but the most successful operations environments are mature enough to understand not just the how but the why. Taking what you do every day and automating it can be a terrifically time-consuming activity. The important thing to understand is why you do that activity in the first place.

I’m really pleased that Dell EMC has made this level of functionality available to end users of its storage platforms. Storage administration and operations can still be a complicated endeavour, regardless of whether you’re a storage administrator comfortably ensconced in an operational silo, or one of those cool site reliability engineers wearing jeans to work every day and looking after thousands of cloud-native apps. I don’t think it’s the final version of what these tools look like, or what Dell EMC want to deliver in terms of functionality, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.