May 14

EVO:RAIL – The vSphere Environment – The Metadata (Part1)

One of the most common questions I get is what the vSphere environment looks like after EVO:RAIL has done its configuration magic. I think this is quite understandable. After all many of us, including myself, have spent many years perfecting the build of the vSphere environment and naturally want to know what configuration the EVO:RAIL Team decided upon. I like to think about this from a “design” perspective. There’s no such thing as a definitive and single method of deploying vSphere (or any software for that matter). All configurations are based on designs that must take the hardware and software into consideration, and that’s precisely what the EVO:RAIL Team has done with VMware’s hyperconverged appliance.

When I’m asked by this question by customers I often use the hardware resources that vSphere and EVO:RAIL present and start from there, although this can overlook certain object types that reside outside of CPU, Memory, Disk and Network – I’m thinking of logical objects such as vCenter Datacenters and Cluster names. There other objects that are created at the network layer which shouldn’t be overlooked, such as portgroups. If you like you could refer to this as the “metadata” that makes up vSphere environment.

So before I forget, let me cover them right away.

Logical Objects or “Metadata”

By default a net-new deployment of an EVO:RAIL appliance instantiates a clean copy of the vCenter Server Appliance. EVO:RAIL creates a vCenter datacenter object currently called “MARVIN-Datacenter” and a cluster called “MARVIN-Virtual-SAN-Cluster” followed by a very long UUID. Incidentally, this is the same UUID that you will see on the VSAN Datastore, and is generated by the Qualified EVO:RAIL Partner (QEP), during the factory build of the EVO:RAIL Appliance


A common question is whether this datacenter object and cluster object can be renamed to be something more meaningful. The answer is yes. The EVO:RAIL Configuration and Management engine does not use these text labels in any of its processes. Instead “Managed Object Reference” or MOREF values are used. These are system-generated values that remain the same even when objects like this are renamed. As for other vCenter objects such as datastore folders or VM folders, the EVO:RAIL engine does not create these. The System VMs that make up EVO:RAIL such as vCenter, Log Insight and our partner’s VMs are merely placed in the default “Discovered Virtual Machine” folder like so:


Similarly, the datastore that is created by VSAN can be renamed as well. And although technically renaming the “service-datastore” is possible – there’s really little point, as it cannot be used as permanent storage for virtual machines. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that in the EVO:RAIL UI you cannot select which datastore VMs can be used, there is nothing to stop that happening if you use the vSphere Web Client or vSphere Desktop Client.


EVO:RAIL uses Standard Switches – as you might know these have always been case-sensitive, and need to be consistent from one ESX host to another. Now, of course EVO:RAIL ensures this consistency of configuration by gathering all your variables and applying them programmatically and consistently. The portgroup names themselves are trickier to change after the fact.


It would be relatively trivial to add the virtual machine portgroups above, to Staging, Development and Production. However, it would have to be consistent across every ESXi host. Given how EVO:RAIL 1.1 now allows for up to 8 appliances with 32 nodes per cluster that would not be a small amount of administration. If I were forced to make a change like that, I would probably use PowerCLI with a for-each loop to rename the portgroups for me. If you want an example of that – I have some on the VMUG Wiki Page here:

There’s two examples there – of connecting to vCenter, and then create VLAN16 portgroup on every host in a vCenter, and also creating a range of VLAN portgroups VLAN20-25 on every host in the cluster.

As for the EVO:RAIL generated portgroups such as “vCenter Server Network” and the vmkernel ports – I would recommend leaving these alone – unless you have an utterly compelling reason to do so. They aren’t exposed to those who create VMs and consume the resources of the EVO:RAIL.

vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) Configuration

Finally, I want to draw your attention to the configuration of the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA). What you might not notice is that, at the factory, the vCSA is modified and we do allocate more resources to it than the default values contained in the .OVF or OVA file. So in EVO:RAIL allocation are changed to 4vCPUs and 16GB of memory. This is essentially a doubling of resource from the default vCSA that would by default normally receive 2vCPU and 8GB of memory.

Well, that wraps up this post about vSphere inventory metadata – on my next post I will be looking at the resources of Compute, Datastores and Networking in more detail….

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Posted May 14, 2015 by Michelle Laverick in category "EVO:RAIL