Show Me the Honey: Sweet VMware Integration with EMC Unity

Catch The Buzz
Those aren’t bees flying around the office.  It’s the buzz created from EMC’s latest storage platform.  Our new entry/midrange all flash Unity system has received great marks in the industry and customers are voting with their wallets for this simple and affordable data storage and services platform.  VMware is even excited about it and we’ve done a blog and a podcast with them.


How Sweet Is Unity?

  • Customers love the simple HTML5 interface and how easy we’ve made it to manage one or multiple systems from an intuitive interface that requires no training.
  • Storage geeks love the modern all-flash architecture and how we added data services via Linux and Docker containers (yes, we were doing containers before containers were cool). We support the latest TLC flash drives, the latest Intel processors, and have committed to an aggressive roadmap
  • IT managers love the flexibility of Unity – they can deploy a SW-defined virtual storage appliance, an all flash array, or a converged server/network/storage Vblock 350 – all based on the same operating system. It’s fully unified with file, block, NAS or SAN that lets it professionals store just about anything on these systems. Go Anywhere with Unity!
  • Financial types love the affordability of this system – with a starting price of FREE for the UnityVSA and under $10,000 for a Unity system, it’s a no brainer to at least spin up a copy in your VMware lab and try it out.

Gettin’ Jiggy With VMware
EMC Unity and our free UnityVSA feature tight integration with VMware vSphere to improve the ease of use, performance, and flexibility for VMware virtualized environments.   Let’s focus on the top 5 VMware integration points with EMC Unity that make this truly a special system for VMware admins.

  1. VMware Aware Unisphere
    Unity’s lightweight, HTML Unisphere management page includes a dedicated Access VMware page that allows for the end-to-end discovery of a VMware vSphere environment. Information about the VMware vCenters, ESXi Hosts, Virtual Machines, and Virtual Disks is imported and displayed directly in Unisphere and also also registers the VMware hosts onto the Unity system so they can be granted access to LUNs, VMFS Datastores, NFS file systems or datastores, or VVol datastores.  That saves a lot of time.
  2. VMware Optimized Provisioning
    Traditionally, when provisioning a datastore, a LUN or file system is created first and then access is granted to an ESXi host. Then, the VMware administrator performs a rescan and builds a Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) on the LUN or mounts the NFS export.Unisphere allows for creation of VMFS and NFS datastores that are optimized for VMware. Unity simplifies datastore provisioning by automating the tasks that are normally performed by the VMware administrator. When a datastore is created and access is provided to an ESXi host, it is automatically rescanned and made available as a datastore in vSphere. These datastores can take advantage of the same data services that are available to LUNs and File Systems, such as snapshots and replication. Another huge time saver.
  3. A New, More Scalable and Powerful UnityFS
    NFS datastores leverage UnityFS, a 64-bit file system architecture, which includes several advantages. UnityFS offers 64TB file system sizes, file system shrink, replication, snapshots, increased limits, and more.  The key difference between this and any of our competition is that our file systems was designed to support traditional and transactional file workloads.
  4. Extensive vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) Integration
    vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) improves ESXi host utilization by offloading storage-related tasks to the Unity system. Since these tasks are processed by the array, the ESXi host’s CPU, memory, and network utilization is reduced. For example, an operation such as provisioning full clones from a template VM can be offloaded to Unity. Unity processes these requests internally, performs the write operations, and returns an update to the ESXi host once the requests are complete.  For a list of the operations supported with Unity, we have created a whitepaper that goes into the details!
  5. Native vStorage API for Storage Awareness (VASA) and VVOLs
    vStorage API for Storage Awareness (VASA) is a VMware-defined and vendor neutral API that enables vSphere to determine the capabilities of a storage system. The API requests basic storage information from the Unity system, which is used for monitoring and reporting storage details to the user. For example, if a datastore has FAST Cache, thin, and autotier capabilities, this information is displayed and also used to monitor whether or not it’s compliant with defined policies.

Unity has a native VASA provider which supports both the VASA 1.0 and 2.0 (Virtual Volumes) protocols, so no external plugins or add-ons are required. In order to leverage VASA, the Unity system must be added as a Vendor Provider in vSphere.  VVOLs are truly awesome and will truly change the game for IT departments who want to leverage the full power of these APIs.

Don’t Listen To Me, Try it Out
If you need more information, I would suggest downloading our free UnityVSA and trying it out in a test lab.  It’s a simple way to get started and experience the sweet Unity integration for yourself.

About the Author: Brian Henderson

Brian Henderson is Director of Product Marketing for Unstructured Data Solutions at Dell Technologies. In this role, he manages the product marketing team responsible for the Dell EMC PowerScale, Isilon, Object Storage, Streaming Data Platform and DataIQ solutions.