Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 16.00.06HAVE YOU GOT A QUESTION ABOUT EVO:RAIL?


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Resources (User Guide, Datasheet, Technical Videos) –

At power on of the first EVO:RAIL appliance a configuration UI is presented which guides the customer through the Initialization, Building, Configuring and Finalizing stages.  The team that have developed the EVO:RAIL has completed the automated the entire configuration process of vSphere 5.5 U2 environment – that includes the VMware ESX host, vCenter, LogInsight. So in a way EVO:RAIL is a new product, but in another way its not – its the same vSphere products you might have been using in your environment for the last 10 years or more.

The EVO:RAIL opens with the Hello, my name is EVO:RAIL page:

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The next thing you will see is the “Lets Started” page with the “Customize Me” and “Just Go” buttons. When you buy an EVO:RAIL you can supply the OEM partner with all the variables needed to complete the setup. Before the box ships they use this data to setup an .XML file or JSON file. It’s essentially a text file which holds all the variables. This pretty typical stuff such as VLAN IDs, IP ranges (for management, Virtual SAN, vMotion) as well as other IP/FQDNS such as vCenter IP DNS IP(s), NTP FQDNs, and BMC IP adresses. The JSON file can also other configuration variables such as Time Zone configuration… So IF everything goes to plan – the JUST GO button would read this preconfigure JSON file and configure the EVO:RAIL with ZERO interaction. Alternatively, the “Customize Me!” button allows the operator to modify these defaults. It’s entirely possible that a customer might say they want VLAN101 for a VM network on 10.20.30.x and – and after the order, and before the appliance arrives to want to change that. The Just Go! options would take you striaght into the Initalize, Build, Configure and Finalize pages – which should take around <15minutes to complete.

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So, remember if everything goes to plan in the ordering process – shouldn’t really need to use the “Customize Me!” option – Just Go!. But I want to show you those pages just in case you think you need them.

If you click Customize Me! then you will see the Configure EVO:RAIL pages. The break down in to four sections covering Hostnames, Networking, Passwords and Globals. Let look at each of those in turn.

The hostnames page allows you to configure the prefix (host, esx, whatever) and seperator (none or a dash), and then iterator (1,2,3 or 01, 20, 03) together with the Top-Level Domain parameter – so I could have as my naming convention for example. This UI also allows you to rename the vCenter Server hostname and TLD as well. Notice also in the bottom right-hand corner its possible to supply your own alternative XML/JSON file (indicated by the red arrow…). There are sample formats in the EVO:RAIL user guide. This can be used as an alternative to the default-config-static.json file that is on the appliance when its first shipped to the customer.

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The Networking page actually contains 5 different sub-pages which allow you to specify network parameters used for the Management (ESXi Hosts), vMotion, Virtual SAN, vCenter Server and VM Networks. I think this is so easy to understand – its like any other IP management tools you have used such as IP Pools in vSphere or vCloud Director – or even IP Subnets in DHCP. It’s just the beginning end and range of contigious IP data (no exclusions are allowed by the way) together with Subnet Mask and Default Gateway. You’ll notice in the ESXi Hosts page the option for VLAN ID is not available. This is because when the EVO:RAIL is order you specify this VLAN ID, and it is encoded by the OEM supplier when order an EVO:RAIL. All the networking here is being done using Standard Switches – without the need for Distributed Switches – the edition that ships with the EVO:RAIL is the Enterprize Plus version.

Incidentally, all these pages have validation behind them – to stop obivious fat fingering – such not including enough IP and so on. Generally the recommendtion here would be the make the starting/ending ranges have enough IP space for the maximum number of EVO:RAIL nodes. That’s 4 EVO:RAIL appliance, containing 4-nodes = 16 nodes altogether. That way when a new EVO:RAIL is railed-up (is that a new word?) then it just gets discovered and added to the existing cluster…

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The vMotion pages and Virtual SAN pages look very similiar – but notice how the VLAN ID parameter is modifiable

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The next networking page concerns vCenter Server. For the most part you shouldn’t need to change the default IP address that was set when the EVO rail was ordered. But if you did change the ESXi host IP Ranger, you would need to change the vCenter IP address to reside within that network. Notice how you can’t modify the Subnet Mask or Default Gateway – as vCenter and ESXi should reside on the same network. And yes, the version of vCenter used is the Suse-based VCSA edition. So that why EVO:RAIL can be setup and configured without the need of any Microsoft licensing.

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Next you can specify the VM Networks, that EVO:RAIL ESXi host will support – these are just tagged portgroups on a Standard Switch… Customers can modify or add additional networks in this inital configuration UI as they see fit.

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Under the Password page, you can see the passwords used for each part of the system. By default the logon to the EVO:RAIL and the Web Client (should you chose to use it) is the SSO account administrator@vsphere.local. If you wish using the Web Client you can complete the AD configuration to allow for delegation to Active Directory User and Groups. The Show Passwords? button will actually replace the behind the astrisks ****** to show the passwords originally decided upon when the EVO:RAIL was order, and of course you can change them – the password file changes passwords for ESXi and vCenter.

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The Active Directory configuration basically handles the AD portion of vCenter Server Appliances https://5480 UI that’s built upon VMware Studio. If you haven’t ever used that UI before (because you use the Windows version of vCenter) it looks like this:

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To make the vCenter Server appliance (and as consequence the EVO:RAIL Management UI) work completely with AD after the EVO:RAIL appliance is configured you would need to use the vSphere Web Client to complete the delegation process… I’ve written about this process in the Back To Basic Series:

Back To Basics: Post-Configuration of vCenter 5.5 Install (Web Client) in the Adding Microsoft Active Directory and Delegating Responsibility section

Back To Basics: Enabling AD User/Groups to Manage VMware SSO

Finally, The Globals page allows you to configure your TimeZone, Set NTP using a comma to seperate multiple NTP servers, DNS Servers (not hard requirment as the EVO:RAIL has its own open-source DNS service) and I imagine most people would set their internal DNS servers here. Again, comma seperated variables can be used to set the primary/secondary DNS server. Log Insight is built-in to EVO:RAIL, this can be changed to external SysLog services if you would prefer to use an alternative. Finally, proxy server settings can be used to allow the EVO:RAIL to speak to external systems for updates (offline upgrades/updates are available).

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The Validate button checks your configuration  – and once your ready you can go ahead and Build Appliance.

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IF you have changed the IP address of vCenter, you will recieve this message.

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You connect this to the appliance to watch the build out animations – theres a progress bar here that will show what’s going on. It’s in the “Configuring” page that EVO:RAIL implementation of Zero Network Config is happening – something we call “LoudMouth” it allows us to configure the IP address on the ESXi host even when it doesn’t have one.

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From this point onwards, you ready to go off and have a cup of tea (or coffee if you prefer). Have a chat with some by the water cooler. Check your FB, Twitter or if you going grey like me – your email… By the time you get back (<15mins) you should see this message – and the EVO:RAIL is ready to use.

IF you didn’t change the IP address of the EVO:RAIL’s vCenter – then it will be same IP address that was used to connect to the Configuration Steps. At this point the EVO:RAIL is ready for VMs. You can use either the EVO:RAIL Management UI to do that

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or else point your Web-Browser to to get the vSphere Web-Client. So that’s 9443 for the vSphere Web Client and 7443 for the EVO:RAIL Management client. The choice is yours.