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Web Guide: Virtual Volumes Quick Start Guide

With the Purity 5.0.0 release, Pure Storage introduced support for vSphere Virtual Volumes on the FlashArray storage platform. This quick start guide will provide the necessary information to get Virtual Volumes up and running on the FlashArray and configured in the VMware environment. This guide assumes use of the FlashArray Plugin for the vSphere Web Client.


Quick Start Checklist

Please ensure the following before attempting VVol setup and configuration:

  • Upgrade FlashArray to Purity 5.0.9+ or 5.1.3+
    • Recommended to be running Purity//FA 5.1.5+ for Key Improvements to VVols
  • Configure NTP on every ESXi host, vCenter, and FlashArray involved in VVol management
  • Run vCenter 6.5 and ESXi 6.5 or later (6.5 Update 1 is highly recommended).
  • vCenter and ESXi management networks must have TCP port 8084 access to the FlashArray controller management ports
  • Create a local array admin if running Purity 5.1+ to register the storage providers.
  • Configure host and host groups with appropriate initiators on the FlashArray prior to VVol setup

If using Virtual Volumes and FlashArray replication, ensure that anticipated recovery site is running vSphere 6.5 or later. As always, please ensure you follow standard Pure Storage best practices for ESXi

Introduction to Virtual Volumes

Traditional storage provisioning of VMware-based virtual machines was done via a datastore mechanism.
The process was typically as follows:

  1. VMware administrator requests storage
  2. Storage administrator creates a “LUN” and provisions it to the ESXi environment via a protocol like iSCSI or Fibre Channel.
  3. VMware administrator rescans the SCSI bus of the ESXi host(s), identifies the device, and then formats it with the Virtual Machine File System (VMFS).
  4. A virtual machine is then created with various virtual disks. Each virtual disk was a file on that datastore. These virtual disks were then presented as block devices back up the virtual machine.

While this process could be automated via plugins and the like, it still presented a variety of problems. First off, every time additional capacity was needed, this process was required to be followed. Also, if a virtual machine needed a certain array feature (replication for instance), how was that achieved? Array based replication was at the datastore level, so enabling a feature on that datastore affected all of the other virtual machines on that datastore (for better or for worse). Furthermore, how could the VMware administrator be sure that feature was, at any point in the future, still configured properly or even enabled?

There were not a lot of great answers to these questions.

Enter VMware vSphere Virtual Volumes (henceforth referred to as VVols).

VVols solve these problems. At a high level, VVols offer the following benefits:

  • Virtual Disk granularity on the array:
    Each virtual disk is a physical volume on the array.
  • Automatic Provisioning:
    When a new virtual disk is requested for a VM, VMware automatically has the array create a corresponding volume and present it to that VM. A 100 GB virtual disk means a 100 GB volume on the array. When that virtual disk is resized, so is the array volume. When the virtual disk is deleted, so is the array volume.
  • VM-insights on the array:
    Since the array now sees each virtual disk, it can report on that granularity. It also understands the virtual machine object, so an array can now manage and report on a VM itself or its individual virtual disks.
  • Storage Policy Based Management:
    Since the array now has virtual disk granularity, features like array snapshots, or array-based replication can be provided at the exact granularity needed. With VVols, VMware can communicate to the array to find out what features it supports and allow the VMware administrator to assign, change, or remove functionality on a VVol on demand and via policies. If a storage administrator overrides a configured feature on a VVol, the VMware administrator is alerted becausre the VM is marked as non-compliant with its assigned policy.

Configuring the vSphere Web Client Plugin

While the FlashArray Plugin for the vSphere Web Client is not required for VVols on the FlashArray—it does help streamline some processes that would require coordinated use of multiple GUIs or scripting work.

The 3.0 version of the plugin introduces VVol feature support.

  • To verify installation of the 3.0 plugin in the flex/flash-based vSphere Web Client , navigate to the home screen and click on Administration followed by Client Plug-Ins.

If it is not there, or it is earlier than version 3.0—please install/upgrade the plugin to enjoy the VVol plugin feature support. Upgrading/installing can be easily performed from the FlashArray Web Interface. 

  • Log in to the FlashArray Web Interface as a storage or array admin. Navigate to the plugin installation screen by clicking on Settings left-menu option then on the Software tab. 

    Verify that the plugin version that the array hosts is version 3.0, by looking at the Available Version listing. If it does not, please go to a FlashArray that does host the 3.0 version, or contact Pure Storage Support for the latest plugin release. 
  • To install, click on the edit button in the upper right of the vSphere Plugin box. 
  • Then enter your vCenter FQDN or IP and administrative credentials and click Save
  • The returned screen will show the current plugin install information of that target vCenter. If the Version on vCenter field is “-“ or earlier than 3.0, click Install or Upgrade respectively. 

Once installed, the wizard will confirm success. To install the plugin into other vCenter instances repeat the process as necessary. 

  • To verify the installation from within vCenter, log in to vCenter (or if already logged in, first log out and then log back in). A Pure Storage logo icon should be in the vSphere Web Client home screen. 
  • To authenticate your FlashArray(s) into the plugin, click on the Pure Storage icon or use the drop-down menu and choose Pure Storage from the home menu button at the top of the screen.  
  • Click on Add FlashArray.
  • Enter in your FlashArray credentials (storage admin or higher permission level) and connection info. 
  • Click Add to authenticate that FlashArray with the plugin. Add additional FlashArrays as needed.

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Registering the FlashArray VASA Provider

The quickest method for registering the FlashArray VASA Provider is through the use of the FlashArray Plugin for the vSphere Web Client. It should be noted that this plugin is NOT required to be installed to use VVols with the FlashArray—though it does help streamline some processes such as this.

Pure Storage recommends using a local array admin to register the storage provider.  A local array admin user can be created starting in Purity 5.1 and higher.  This process is outlined here.

NOTE:  VASA registration using the plugin does not work in vCenter 6.5 U2 due to a bug in the JDK version in that release--we cannot work around it in our plugin.

storage provider fail.png

Therefore in that release manual registration of the VASA providers is required as documented here.

  • For each FlashArray for which you would like to register their VASA providers, right-click on the array listing and choose the menu option Register Storage Provider
  • In the window that appears, enter your FlashArray credentials (storage admin permission level or higher) and click Register
    • If your plugin is 3.1+ and you have vCenters in Enhanced Linked Mode, you will be able to select the vCenters you want to register.
      vSphereView 2 Register Storage Provider Wizard.png
    • If you are on Plugin 3.0, if you are in Enhanced Linked Mode, when you register the storage provider, it will register it for all vCenters.

Enter credentials for a FlashArray administrator registers the array’s two VASA providers to all vCenters present in the vSphere Single Sign-on Domain.  The FlashArray will log all subsequent VVol operations from those vCenters under the user used to register the storage providers.  Pure Storage recommends the user of a local user to register the storage provider.  The user will be able to create a local storage admin for this purpose starting in Purity 5.1 and higher. 

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Mounting the FlashArray VVol Datastore

Once VASA has been registered, the FlashArray Plugin for the vSphere Web Client can automate the process to connect a PE to a cluster and also mount the VVol datastore. 

  • This is performed by navigating to Hosts & Clusters, then right-clicking on the desired cluster or host in the vCenter inventory pane. Next, click the Pure Storage menu option and choose Create Datastore
  • Next, choose the VVol radio button and choose a FlashArray to provision from. Then, if required, enter a friendly name for the VVol datastore. 
  • If the VVol datastore on that FlashArray has already been mounted to a host or cluster in that vCenter, the name will already by populated and the entry box will be greyed out.
    If you clicked on a cluster, you can either mount it to the entire cluster or you can choose a specific host. 
  • Click Create. If there is an error message, this usually means that a corresponding host group has not been created, or it is created improperly. Refer to the section Configuring Host Connectivity for more information. 

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Creating VM Storage Policies

A quick option for the creation of VM storage policies is to use the FlashArray Plugin for the vSphere Web Client. The 3.0 release of the plugin offers the ability to import one or more FlashArray Protection Groups and create respective storage policies in vCenter. 

  • To do this, navigate to the FlashArray Plugin home screen in the vSphere Web Client, either from the home menu or the home drop down at the top of the page. 
  • The window that pops up will show the available protection groups on that FlashArray and a quick summary of their local snapshot policy and replication policy. For a more detailed description, refer to the protection group directly. 
  • Select the protection groups that you would like to import and then click the Import button. Note that if a protection group is grayed out (cannot be selected) that means a storage policy that matches that protection group already exists.