Light Board Series: AHV Open vSwitch Networking – Part 4

We’re wrapping up our four part series on Nutanix AHV networking today with a look at the User VM Networking. Check out the Nutanix Connect Blog for full details.

We cover the difference between managed and unmanaged networks for VMs. VM networks can be rapidly created through the Prism GUI, the Acropolis CLI, or the REST API.

Light Board Series: AHV Open vSwitch Networking – Part 3

For part 3 in our series I want to tackle VLANs in AHV. I don’t actually have a light board video for this one 🙁

What I do have are some diagrams for you to look at!

Here’s the default VLAN configuration that we’d recommend:

acropolis_default_vlan

Here is a non-default configuration where a VLAN tag is added to the AHV host and the Controller Virtual Machine:
acropolis_custom_vlan

 

Learn more about VLANs in the Acropolis Hypervisor here on the official Nutanix NEXT Community Blog. Find complete details in the AHV Best Practice Guide.

 

Light Board Series: AHV Open vSwitch Networking – Part 1

I’m happy to announce the release of the first Light Board Videos I recorded with the Nutanix nu.school education team. These videos were a blast to record. The education team here at Nutanix is top notch and made my scribbles and rambling look and sound great! A video production team is an amazing asset to have sitting behind you in the office!

AHV provides an alternative to traditional hypervisors – and with that alternative comes a new virtual switch! This virtual switch bridges the VMs to the physical network.

To find more information about the video, including all of the rationale behind the decisions made – check out the Nutanix .NEXT Community blog I wrote describing AHV Host Networking.

Here’s the embedded first part of the video. I talk about Open vSwitch bridges and bonds, and how to connect the CVM and the User Virtual Machines to the 10gb or 1gb network interfaces. Follow the Nutanix .NEXT community blog, my site here, or the nu.school YouTube page to watch the rest of the series.

We’ll cover Load Balancing, Managed and Unmanaged VM networks, and more in the coming weeks!

Nutanix AHV Best Practices Guide

In my last blog post I talked about networking with Open vSwitch in the Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor. Today I’m happy to announce the continuation of that initial post – the Nutanix Acropolis Hypervisor Best Practices Guide.

Nutanix Acropolis introduced the concept of AHV, based on the open source Linux KVM hypervisor. A new Nutanix node comes installed with AHV by default with no additional licensing required. It’s a full-featured virtualization solution that is ready to run VMs right out of the box. ESXi and Hyper-V are still great on Nutanix, but AHV should be seriously considered because it has a lot to offer, with all of KVMs rough edges rounded off.

Part of introducing a new hypervisor is describing all of the features, and then recommending some best practices for those features. In this blog post I wanted to give you a taste of the doc with some choice snippets to show you what this Best Practice Guide and AHV are all about.

Take a look at Magnus Andersson’s excellent blog post on terminology for some more detailed background on terms.

Acropolis Overview

Acropolis (one word) is the name of the overall project encompassing multiple hypervisors, the distributed storage fabric, and the app mobility fabric. The goal of the Acropolis project is to provide seamless invisible infrastructure whether your VMs exist in AWS, Hyper-V, ESXi, or the AHV. The sister project, Prism, provides the user interface to manage via GUI, CLI, or REST API.

Acropolis_Prism_Block_Diagram
AHV Overview

AHV is based on the open source KVM hypervisor, but is enhanced by all the other components of the Acropolis project. Conceptually, AHV has access to the Distributed Storage Fabric for storage, and the App Mobility Fabric powers the management plane for VM operations like scheduling, high availability, and live migration.

Acropolis Architecture CVM Scale

The same familiar Nutanix architecture exists, with a network of Controller Virtual Machines providing storage access to VMs. The CVM takes direct control of the underlying disks (SSD and HDD) with PCI passthrough, and exposes these disks to AHV via iSCSI (The blue dotted VM I/O line). The management layer is spread across all Nutanix nodes in the CVMs using the same web-scale principles of the storage layer. This means that by-default, a highly available VM management layer exists. No single point of failure anymore! No additional work to setup VM management redundancy – it just works that way.

AHV Networking Overview

Networking in AHV is provided by an Open vSwitch instance (OVS) running on each AHV host. The BPG doc has a comprehensive overview of the different components inside OVS and how they’re used. I’ll share a teaser diagram of the default network config after installation in a single AHV node.

acropolis_initial_install

AHV Networking Best Practices

Bridges, Bonds, and Ports – oh my. What you really want to know is “How do I plug this thing into my switches, setup my VLANs, and get the best possible load balancing. You’re in luck, because the Best Practice Guide covers the most common scenarios for creating different virtual switches and configuring load balancing.

Here’s a closer look at one possible networking configuration, where the 10gigabit adapters and 1gigabit adapters have been connected into separate OVS bridges. User VM2 has the ability to connect to multiple physically separate networks with this design to allow things like virtual firewalls.

acropolis_ovs_reco_2-10g

After separating network traffic, the next thing is load balancing. Here’s a look at another possible load balancing method called active-slb. Not only does the BPG provide the configuration for this, but also the rationale. Maybe fault tolerance is important to you. Maybe active-active configuration with LACP is important. The BPG will cover the config and the best way to achieve your goals.

For information on VLAN configuration, check out the Best Practices Guide.

Other AHV Best Practices

This BPG isn’t just networking specific. The standard features you expect from a hypervisor are all covered.

  • VM Deployment
    • Leverage the fantastic aCLI, GUI, or REST API to deploy or clone VMs.
  • VM Data Protection
    • Backup up VMs with local or remote snapshots.
  • VM High Availability
    • During physical host failure, ensure that VMs are started elsewhere in the cluster.
  • Live Migration
    • Move running VMs around in the cluster.
  • CPU, Memory, and Disk Configuration
    • Add the right resources to machines as needed.
  • Resource Oversubscription
    • Rules for fitting the most VMs onto a running cluster for max efficiency.

Take a look at the AHV Best Practice Guide for information on all of these features and more. With this BPG in hand you can be up and running with AHV in your datacenter and get the most out of all the new features Nutanix has added.

Networking Exploration in Nutanix AHV

Nutanix recently released the AHV hypervisor, which means I get a new piece of technology to learn! Before I started this blog post I had no idea how Open vSwitch worked or what KVM and QEMU were all about.

Since I come from a networking background originally, I drilled down into the Open vSwitch and KVM portion of the Nutanix solution. Here’s what I learned! Remember my disclaimer – I didn’t know anything about this before I started the blog. If I’ve got something a bit wrong feel free to comment and I’m happy to update or correct.

KVM Host Configuration

AHV is built on the Linux KVM hypervisor so I figured that’s a great place to start. I read the Nutanix Bible by Steve Poitras and saw this diagram on networking.

Networking diagram inside the Acropolis KVM Host
AHV OvS Networking

The CVM has two interfaces connecting to the hypervisor. One interface plugs into the Open vSwitch and the other goes to “internal”. I wasn’t sure what that meant. Looking through the hypervisor host config though I saw the following interfaces:

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# ifconfig 
br0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:58:91:50 
  inet addr:10.59.31.77 Bcast:10.59.31.255 Mask:255.255.254.0
eth0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:3B:1C:8C 
eth1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:3B:1C:8D 
eth2 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:58:91:50 
eth2.32 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:58:91:50 
eth3 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:58:91:51 
eth3.32 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 0C:C4:7A:58:91:51 
lo Link encap:Local Loopback 
virbr0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:74:F9:B0 
  inet addr:192.168.5.1 Bcast:192.168.5.255 Mask:255.255.255.0
vnet0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr FE:54:00:9C:D8:CD 
vnet1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr FE:54:00:BE:99:B3

The next place I went was routing with netstat -r to see which interfaces were used for each next hop destination.

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# netstat -r 
Kernel IP routing table
Destination  Gateway Genmask       Flags MSS Window irtt Iface
192.168.5.0  *       255.255.255.0 U     0 0 0           virbr0
10.59.30.0   *       255.255.254.0 U     0 0 0           br0
link-local   *       255.255.0.0   U     0 0 0           eth0
link-local   *       255.255.0.0   U     0 0 0           eth1
link-local   *       255.255.0.0   U     0 0 0           eth2
link-local   *       255.255.0.0   U     0 0 0           eth3
link-local   *       255.255.0.0   U     0 0 0           br0
default      10.59.30.1 0.0.0.0    UG    0 0 0           br0

I omitted a lot of text just to be concise here. We can see there are two interfaces with IPs, br0 and virbr0. Let’s start with virbr0, which is that internal interface. You can tell because it’s the 192.168 private IP used for CVM to hypervisor communication. I found that it was a local linux bridge, not an Open vSwitch controlled device:

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# brctl show virbr0
bridge name bridge id         STP enabled interfaces
virbr0      8000.52540074f9b0 no          virbr0-nic
                                          vnet1

This bridge virbr0 has the vnet1 interface headed up to the internal adapter of the CVM – so THIS is where the CVM internal interface terminates.

That’s one side of the story – the next part is Open vSwitch

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# ovs-vsctl show
be65c814-5d7c-46ab-bfb1-7b2bea19d954
 Bridge "br0"
  Port "tap345"
    tag: 32
    Interface "tap345"
  Port "vnet0"
    Interface "vnet0"
  Port "br0"
    Interface "br0"
      type: internal
  Port "bond0"
    Interface "eth2"
    Interface "eth3"
  Port "br0-dhcp"
    Interface "br0-dhcp"
      type: vxlan
      options: {key="1", remote_ip="10.59.30.82"}
  Port "br0-arp"
    Interface "br0-arp"
      type: vxlan
      options: {key="1", remote_ip="192.168.5.2"}
ovs_version: "2.1.3"

OvS has a vSwitch called br0. The CVM vnet0 is a port on this bridge, and so is bond0 (the combination of the 10GbE interfaces). We also see this special “type:internal” interface – this one with the IP address assigned to it. This is the external facing IP of the AHV / KVM hypervisor host.

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 network-scripts]# cat ifcfg-br0 
DEVICE=br0
DEVICE_TYPE=ovs
TYPE=OVSIntPort
NM_CONTROLLED=no
ONBOOT=yes
BOOTPROTO=none
IPADDR=10.59.31.77
NETMASK=255.255.254.0
GATEWAY=10.59.30.1
OVSREQUIRES="eth3 eth2 eth1 eth0"

In addition to the CVM, external, and internal interfaces we see a tap345 interface tagged in VLAN 32. This matches the tagged interfaces from our “ifconfig -a” command above: eth2.32 and eth3.32. It’ll be used for a VM that has a network interface in VLAN 32.

Finally – we come to the IP Address Management (IPAM) interfaces, br0-arp, and br-dhcp. Steve mentions VXLAN and here’s where we see those concepts. The OvS can either intercept and respond to DHCP traffic, or just let it through. If we allow OvS to intercept the traffic this means Acropolis and Prism now become the point of control for giving out IP addresses to VMs that boot up. Very cool!

Now let’s take a look at the config parameters passed to the running CVM. Right now this box has ONLY the CVM running on it so only one instance of qemu-kvm running.

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# ps -ef | grep qemu
qemu 9250 1 61 Jun26 ? 1-21:13:21 /usr/libexec/qemu-kvm -name NTNX-DRM-3060-G4-1-1-CVM 
-S -enable-fips -machine pc-i440fx-rhel7.0.0,accel=kvm,usb=off,mem-merge=off -cpu host,+kvm_pv_eoi -m 24576 -realtime mlock=on -smp 8,sockets=8,cores=1,threads=1 
-uuid 1323cbbc-a20d-d66a-563e-ca7a8609cb73 -no-user-config -nodefaults 
-chardev socket,id=charmonitor,path=/var/lib/libvirt/qemu/NTNX-DRM-3060-G4-1-1-CVM.monitor,server,nowait 
-mon chardev=charmonitor,id=monitor,mode=control 
-rtc base=utc -no-shutdown -boot menu=off,strict=on 
-kernel /var/lib/libvirt/NTNX-CVM/bzImage -initrd /var/lib/libvirt/NTNX-CVM/initrd 
-append init=/svmboot quiet console=ttyS0,115200n8 
-device piix3-usb-uhci,id=usb,bus=pci.0,addr=0x1.0x2 
-netdev tap,fd=20,id=hostnet0,vhost=on,vhostfd=21 
-device virtio-net-pci,netdev=hostnet0,id=net0,mac=52:54:00:9c:d8:cd,bus=pci.0,addr=0x3 
-netdev tap,fd=22,id=hostnet1,vhost=on,vhostfd=23 
-device virtio-net-pci,netdev=hostnet1,id=net1,mac=52:54:00:be:99:b3,bus=pci.0,addr=0x4 
-chardev file,id=charserial0,path=/tmp/NTNX.serial.out.0 
-device isa-serial,chardev=charserial0,id=serial0 
-vnc 127.0.0.1:0 -vga cirrus 
-device pci-assign,configfd=24,host=01:00.0,id=hostdev0,bus=pci.0,addr=0x5,rombar=0 
-device virtio-balloon-pci,id=balloon0,bus=pci.0,addr=0x7 -msg timestamp=on

Maybe a better way to look at the CVM details is via the XML configuration:

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# cat /etc/libvirt/qemu/NTNX-DRM-3060-G4-1-1-CVM.xml
<domain type='kvm'>
 <name>NTNX-DRM-3060-G4-1-1-CVM</name>
 <uuid>1323cbbc-a20d-d66a-563e-ca7a8609cb73</uuid>
 <memory unit='KiB'>25165824</memory>
 <currentMemory unit='KiB'>25165824</currentMemory>
 <memoryBacking>
 <nosharepages/>
 <locked/>
 </memoryBacking>
 <vcpu placement='static'>8</vcpu>
 <os>
 <type arch='x86_64' machine='pc-i440fx-rhel7.0.0'>hvm</type>
 <kernel>/var/lib/libvirt/NTNX-CVM/bzImage</kernel>
 <initrd>/var/lib/libvirt/NTNX-CVM/initrd</initrd>
 <cmdline>init=/svmboot quiet console=ttyS0,115200n8</cmdline>
 <boot dev='hd'/>
 <bootmenu enable='no'/>
 </os>
 <features>
 <acpi/>
 <apic eoi='on'/>
 <pae/>
 </features>
 <cpu mode='host-passthrough'>
 </cpu>
 <clock offset='utc'/>
 <on_poweroff>destroy</on_poweroff>
 <on_reboot>restart</on_reboot>
 <on_crash>restart</on_crash>
 <devices>
 <emulator>/usr/libexec/qemu-kvm</emulator>
 <controller type='usb' index='0'>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x01' function='0x2'/>
 </controller>
 <controller type='ide' index='0'>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x01' function='0x1'/>
 </controller>
 <controller type='pci' index='0' model='pci-root'/>

##Here is the CVM interface being linked to the br0 OvS interface
 <interface type='bridge'>
 <mac address='52:54:00:9c:d8:cd'/>
 <source bridge='br0'/>
 <virtualport type='openvswitch'>
 <parameters interfaceid='7a0a4887-b8cd-4f02-960d-cca5c1ca73cc'/>
 </virtualport>
 <model type='virtio'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x03' function='0x0'/>
 </interface>

##Here is the CVM interface going to the local link bridge.
 <interface type='network'>
 <mac address='52:54:00:be:99:b3'/>
 <source network='NTNX-Local-Network'/>
 <model type='virtio'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x04' function='0x0'/>
 </interface>

 <serial type='file'>
 <source path='/tmp/NTNX.serial.out.0'/>
 <target port='0'/>
 </serial>
 <console type='file'>
 <source path='/tmp/NTNX.serial.out.0'/>
 <target type='serial' port='0'/>
 </console>
 <input type='mouse' bus='ps2'/>
 <input type='keyboard' bus='ps2'/>
 <graphics type='vnc' port='-1' autoport='yes' listen='127.0.0.1'>
 <listen type='address' address='127.0.0.1'/>
 </graphics>
 <video>
 <model type='cirrus' vram='16384' heads='1'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x02' function='0x0'/>
 </video>
 <hostdev mode='subsystem' type='pci' managed='yes'>
 <source>
 <address domain='0x0000' bus='0x01' slot='0x00' function='0x0'/>
 </source>
 <rom bar='off'/>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x05' function='0x0'/>
 </hostdev>
 <memballoon model='virtio'>
 <address type='pci' domain='0x0000' bus='0x00' slot='0x07' function='0x0'/>
 </memballoon>
 </devices>
</domain>

We saw a new reference in that last command, NTNX-Local-Network. If we look at virsh for information about defined networks we see the following:

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# virsh net-list --all 
 Name               State  Autostart Persistent
----------------------------------------------------------
 NTNX-Local-Network active yes       yes
 VM-Network         active yes       yes

If we look in the /root/ partition there are definitions for these:

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# cat net-NTNX-Local-Network.xml 
<network connections='1'>
 <name>NTNX-Local-Network</name>
 <bridge name='virbr0' stp='off' delay='0' />
 <ip address='192.168.5.1' netmask='255.255.255.0'>
 </ip>
</network>

[root@DRM-3060-G4-1-1 ~]# cat net-VM-Network.xml 
<network connections='1'>
 <name>VM-Network</name>
 <forward mode='bridge'/>
 <bridge name='br0' />
 <virtualport type='openvswitch'/>
 <portgroup name='VM-Network' default='yes'>
 </portgroup>
</network>

These two pieces of information tie everything together neatly for us. The internal network given to the CVM is the linux virbr0 device. The external network given to the CVM is OvS br0.

Now I think I finally understand that image presented at the beginning!

CVM Guest Configuration

Since we understand the KVM/AHV host configuration lets take a look in the CVM guest. This should be a little easier.

nutanix@NTNX-15SM60140129-A-CVM:10.59.30.77:~$ netstat -r
Kernel IP routing table
Destination Gateway Genmask         Flags MSS Window irtt Iface
192.168.5.0 *       255.255.255.128 U     0 0 0           eth1
192.168.5.0 *       255.255.255.0   U     0 0 0           eth1
10.59.30.0  *       255.255.254.0   U     0 0 0           eth0
link-local  *       255.255.0.0     U     0 0 0           eth0
link-local  *       255.255.0.0     U     0 0 0           eth1
default     10.59.30.1 0.0.0.0      UG    0 0 0           eth0

The routing table shows the internal and external networks, and just two network adapters. The eth1 adapter has a subinterface. This one is eth1:1 as opposed to .1. Not entirely sure what that one means – but I’ll keep it in mind in case I come across something later on.

nutanix@NTNX-15SM60140129-A-CVM:10.59.30.77:~$ ifconfig -a
eth0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:9C:D8:CD 
  inet addr:10.59.30.77 Bcast:10.59.31.255 Mask:255.255.254.0

eth1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:BE:99:B3 
  inet addr:192.168.5.2 Bcast:192.168.5.127 Mask:255.255.255.128

eth1:1 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:BE:99:B3 
  inet addr:192.168.5.254 Bcast:192.168.5.255 Mask:255.255.255.0
  UP BROADCAST RUNNING MULTICAST MTU:1500 Metric:1

lo Link encap:Local Loopback 
  inet addr:127.0.0.1 Mask:255.0.0.0

That’s it – just two simple interfaces in the CVM. One for internal traffic to the hypervisor directly, another for receiving any external requests from remote CVMs, the management APIs, and all of the other magic that the CVM performs!

This concludes our walkthrough of networking inside a Nutanix AHV machine. I hope you learned as much as I did going through these items! Please comment or reach out to me directly if you have any questions.

Nutanix .NEXT Announcement – Acropolis and KVM

I’m happy to see that Nutanix has officially announced their upcoming strategic direction at the .NEXT conference. Using Nutanix Acropolis, KVM, and Prism – data center administrators now have the ability to truly make infrastructure invisible.

What Is It?

To read more about the specific details take a look at Andre Leibovici’s post here, then come back. It has great pictures and lists of features, you’ll like it.

Key advantages for me as a UC administrator:

  1. Linux KVM as a fully featured and consumer friendly hypervisor
  2. Nutanix Prism and Acropolis presenting a seamless management interface for VMs regardless of the underlying hypervisor
  3. Management interfaces designed with Nutanix web-scale principles such as distributed-everything, shared-nothing architecture in mind
  4. Simple migration of existing VMs into a Nutanix XCP (Xtreme Computing Platform) environment

I see an exciting future for enterprises that want to virtualize but don’t want to get locked into a particular hypervisor. Real choice is now available to put workloads on the hypervisor that makes most sense.

Combined with the ability to scale compute and storage effortlessly, administrators can stop worrying about infrastructure and start planning for what truly matters, Unified Communication applications 😉 I might be a little biased there, but its applications that drive business productivity, not compute and storage infrastructure.

Your compute, storage, and now even your hypervisor can be seen as a commodity that’s just available to applications.

What Does It Mean For My UC?

Test and development virtual environments can be virtualized and managed without paying for hypervisor licenses.

Production environments that support Linux KVM can be migrated with a few clicks.

Your VM management infrastructure becomes more resilient and reliable with one-click upgrades possible for BIOS, Firmware, Hypervisor, and Storage Software for the entire infrastructure stack.

Less time spent managing infrastructure and more time spent working on UC.

But I Can’t Use KVM or Don’t Want To

Nutanix still supports using VMware vSphere or Microsoft Hyper-V and the same flexible storage and compute layer is still available. Infrastructure is still invisible, but in these cases VM Management will be performed through the corresponding VMware or MS tools.

Some UC vendors such as Microsoft already support multiple Hypervisors. MS Lync (Skype for Business) is supported on any Hypervisor listed in the SVVP program, for example. In the past, Avaya supported the Aura “System Platform” which was XenServer.

I expect the UC marketplace to open up and support alternative hypervisors in the future. Customer demand can drive vendor behavior, like it did with Cisco’s support for specs based virtualization of UC.

What NEXT?

Give Nutanix a try for your environment with the free Nutanix Community Edition. See if you can save on test or development VM environments at first. Think about what happens if you can truly separate your applications from the infrastructure stack. Where is the best place for those apps to run? If you already have a Nutanix Environment, then investigate standing up a cluster with Acropolis and KVM.

If you’re at .NEXT, stop by the Avaya booth and talk with Steven Given about the work already done to verify interoperability between Avaya’s Software Defined Datacenter and Nutanix Software Defined Storage.

Vienna Avaya Technology Forum

Part of my role on the Nutanix Performance and Solutions team is to “evangelize” the technology and tell the world about all the great work we’re doing writing documents, testing products and solutions, and assisting with customer engagements. The physical manifestation of that is me sitting in an airport typing up this blog post, on my way to the Avaya Technology Forum in Vienna, Austria.

 

Nutanix will have a booth and I’ll be doing demos of the product interface and reaching out to Avaya communications and networking customers. I’ll be joined by members of the local Nutanix team to help share the duties. I’m looking forward to meeting more of the international Nutanix team!

The Nutanix Virtual Computing Platform is a great fit for Avaya customers looking to virtualize their communications infrastructure running Avaya Aura, or IP Office. Nutanix also simplifies the compute and storage side of the data center for those leveraging Avaya Fabric Connect to simplify the network stack.

Imagine being able to scale your compute and storage seamlessly with auto discovery. Imagine one click upgrades of the entire compute and storage ecosystem (INCLUDING THE HYPERVISOR!). More importantly, imagine all the time you’ll have to work on the applications that really matter.

IP Office Reference Architecture

Avaya Aura Reference Architecture

Stop by the Nutanix booth in the Solutions Zone at the Hilton Vienna on May 5th – 8th if you’re in the area!

Nutanix Avaya Aura Reference Architecture

I’m happy to announce that the Reference Architecture for Avaya Aura on Nutanix has been completed!

Aura is a Unified Communications platform with a lot of different components. All of these pieces can now be deployed in VMware vSphere thanks to the Avaya Aura Virtualized Environment and Customer Experience Virtualized Environment initiatives at Avaya. These projects bring together different Aura apps and produce virtualization guides and OVA templates for each product.

The Nutanix Reference Architecture above goes through the most common Virtualized Environment components and breaks down the rules, requirements, and best practices for running on Nutanix.

I’m happy that this document serves as an excellent reference for the administrator in charge of virtualizing Aura. Right now the information in these Avaya docs are spread all over the place. Having a unifying reference source is pretty helpful to any Nutanix administrator sitting there thinking “How do I virtualize this again?” and even helpful to Avaya admins thinking “Where is that doc?”

Aura Components

The core components I address are as follows:

Component Purpose
Call Control Aura Session Manager and Communications Manager
Voice Mail and Messaging Aura Messaging
Presence Aura Presence Services
Configuration Management System Manager
3rd Party Integration Application Enablement Services

There are many additional components not covered directly in the guide, but I’ve included links to these where appropriate.

Planning and Design

Much like other applications on Nutanix, Aura designers and architects need to answer these question about each Aura VM:

  • How many vCPUs does this VM use and reserve (core count / MHz)?
  • How much RAM does this VM use and reserve (GB)?
  • How much storage space does this VM use (GB)?
  • What sort of IOPS are generated / required during peak hours?
  • Are there any other special requirements?

The Nutanix Avaya Aura Reference Architecture doc attempts to address all of these questions.

Here’s an example of the information for Avaya Aura Communication Manager Duplex:

cm-duplex-reqs

Put this individual machine information together with a sample layout. Your layout may vary based on the Aura design. Work closely with the Avaya Aura design team to figure out what components are required and what size those components need to be.

1000-user_layout

Once we know how many VMs and what their specs are, we can figure out the resource utilization of the end system:

1000-user-reqs

With all this information together, the right Nutanix virtualization platform can be chosen. You can use the system with right CPU core count, the right amount of RAM, and the storage capacity and performance to provide exceptional end-user experience.

Your Aura design will certainly differ from the one listed above, but the processes laid out in the guide can help plan for a system of any size with any number of components.

If you have questions feel free to leave a comment, or head over to next.nutanix.com forums and visit the Workloads & Applications > Unified Communications section.

 

Survivable UC – Avaya Aura and Nutanix Data Protection

I wanted to share a bit of cool “value add” today, as my sales and marketing guys would call it. This is just one of the things for Avaya Aura and UC in general that a Nutanix deployment can bring to the table.

Nutanix has the concept of Protection Domains and Metro Availability that have been covered in pretty great detail by some other Nutanix bloggers. Check out detailed articles here by Andre Leibovici, and here by Magnus Andersson for in depth info and configuration on Metro Availability.

Non-redundant Applications

In an Avaya Aura environment, most machines will be protected from failure at the application level. A hot standby VM will be running to take over operation in the event of primary machine failure such as with Session Manager and Communication Manager. In the following example we see that System Manager, AES, and a number of other service don’t have a hot standby. This might be because it’s too expensive resource wise, licensing wise, or the application demands don’t call for it.

1000-user_topology

If multiple Nutanix clusters are in place, we actually have two ways to protect these VMs at the Nutanix level.

Nutanix Protection Domains

First, let’s look at Protection Domains. With a Protection Domain, we configure a NDFS (Nutanix Distributed Filesystem) level snapshot that happens at a configurable interval. This snapshot is intelligently (with deduplication) replicated to another Nutanix cluster. It’s different than a vSphere snapshot because the Virtual Machine has no knowledge that a snapshot took place and no VMDK fragmentation is required. None of the standard warnings and drawbacks of running with snapshots apply here. This is a Nutanix metadata operation that can happen almost instantly.

We pick individual VMs to be part of the Protection Domain and replicate these to one or more sites.

In the event of a failure of a site or cluster, the VM can be restored at another site, because all of the files that make up the Virtual Machine (excluding memory) are preserved on the second Nutanix cluster.

ProtectionDomain

 

Nutanix Metro Availability

But I hear you saying, “Jason that’s great, but a snapshot taken at intervals is too slow. I can’t possibly miss any transactions. My UC servers are the most important thing in my Data Center. I need my replication interval to be ZERO.” This is where Metro Availability comes in.

Metro Availability is a synchronous write operation that happens between two Nutanix clusters. The requirements are:

  1. A new Nutanix container must be created for the Metro Availability protected machines.
  2. RTT latency between clusters must be less than 5 milliseconds (about 400 kilometers)

Since this write is synchronous, all disk write activity on a Metro Availability protected VM must be completed on both the local and the remote cluster before it’s acknowledged. This means all data writes are guaranteed to be protected in real time. The real-world limitation here is that every bit of distance between clusters adds latency to writes. If your application isn’t write-heavy you may be able to hit the max RTT limit without noticing any issues. If your application does nothing but write constantly to disk, 400km may need to be re-evaluated. Most UC machines are generally not disk intensive though. Lucky you!

MetroAvailability

In the previous image we have two Nutanix clusters separated by a metro ethernet link. The standalone applications like System Manager, Utility Services, Web License Manager, and Virtual Application Manager are being protected with Metro Availability.

In the even of Data Center 1 failure, all of the redundant applications will already be running in Data Center 2. The administrator can then either manually (or through a detection script) start the non-redundant VMs using the synchronous copies residing in Data Center 2.

Summary

Avaya Aura Applications are highly resilient and often provide the ability for multiple copies of each app to run simultaneously in different locations, but not all Aura apps work this way. With Nutanix and virtualization, administrators have even more flexibility to protect the non-redundant Aura apps using Protection Domains and Metro Availability.

These features present a consumer-friendly GUI for ease of operation, and also expose APIs so the whole process can be automated into an orchestration suite. These Nutanix features can provide peace of mind and real operational survivability on what would otherwise be very bad days for UC admins. Nutanix allows you to spend more time delivering service and less time scrambling to recover.