Nimble OS 2.1 Part 3: Introduction to the NEW VMware Plugin

Blog Post created by rfenton Employee on Aug 6, 2014

In the last blog post in the Introduction to Nimble OS 2.1 series, Phil Davies introduced you to Simplified Networking and VTIP in 2.1.  Today I will focus on the new VMware Plugin that ships as part of 2.1.   Unfortunately there is so much information to cover, I've had to break this blog into two parts.  Today's blog will introduce you to the new functionality from a high-level and the next blog will look at some of the new workflows in specific detail (including some video demonstrations).


For a long time Nimble have had a vCenter plugin which allows the VMware administrator to interact with the Nimble Storage device without having to leave the confines of the vCenter environment.  The plugin was extremely useful but over time, as ourselves and VMware have innovated new features, it has starting to show it's age a little and exhibited a few quirks! (like allowing you to try and create a VMFS5 datastore with a block size > 1MB!)


In Nimble OS 2.1, the plugin has been completely rewritten and redesigned, providing much more advanced integration than was previously available but also fixing some of those little nuances that crept up on the old plugin.


When you install Nimble OS 2.1 you will see the following features added:


  • New Plugin GUI Design
  • CHAP Support
  • vCenter Role Based Access Control support
  • Enhanced vCenter Task Integration
  • Support for Volume Collections
  • Storage Performance Latency Charts
  • Completely redesigned workflows to:
    • Create New Datastores
    • Expand existing Datastores
    • Delete Datastores
    • Manage Datastore Backups


So let's look into these in a bit more detail:


New GUI Design

The new GUI has been completely rewritten, not only allowing us to redesign the aesthetics of the interface but also allowing us to revisit the workflows to make them even more intuitive and also prepare the infrastructure for future management platforms.  The plugin today still requires the vCenter Client to be used but a lot of work achieved in this release is an enabler for future support for the vCenter Web Client (I'm yet to find someone who likes that interface!).


Here's some examples of the plugin's new interface.


Datastore Overview


Detailed Datastore View


Editing Backup Schedules



Over the years I've seen lots of storage backup/snapshot schedule interfaces but this is a really nice visual design to see how and when backups are being taken.  Note: you can also click on list view and get a more traditional view, if fields, rows and columns are more your thing


For now this is just a teaser,  we will look into these in a lot more detail in the next blog in the series...


CHAP Support

Nimble has always supported the ability to connect to volumes using CHAP authentication, however before 2.1 if you wanted to configure CHAP access you would have to do so via the Nimble Web GUI.  In 2.1 the vCenter Plugin now supports entering CHAP credentials for access when you create or clone a datastore.


You can configure CHAP either at the iSCSI software adaptor or at the Dynamic Discovery within each host.  Each host can be configured to 'Use CHAP' or 'Not to use CHAP' (depending on your preference).


vCenter Role Based Access Control

When you register the new vCenter plugin, a set of privileges are installed within vCenter allowing for the use of the plugin to be controlled based on the users identity, role and privileges within vCenter.   This can also be governed by Active Directory.


You'll notice from the picture above that there are several privileges each aligned to the functions of the storage plugin that can be enabled or revoked.


Adding the privileges to a role allows users that are governed by that role to have that capability.  It is therefore now possible to distinguish different users roles with the capabilities that they can use within the plugin (for instance an operator may only have view privileges but no ability to create or delete objects via the plugin).


If the user doesn't have the correct privileges for a given task then that capability is simply removed from the GUI.


Enhanced vCenter Task Integration

Logging within vCenter is much more granular as the team have redesigned the task management and reporting, creating sub-tasks and alerting directly into the Event Viewer page.   Not only are the tasks detailed and much more clearly presented in this version but also error messages are passed directly through to the Task description allowing for clear indication why something failed (should anything fail).


Volume Collection Support

When configuring backups of the datastores, instead of creating new volume collections for each new datastore,  now a user can define an existing volume collection and simply join that.




Using existing Volume Collections, not only eases administration but also promotes consistency with the backup and DR aspects of configuring datastores and failover/handback to replicas in the event of a datacentre handover.



Latency Charts

Finally, the datastore charts in the plug-in show the storage latency being reported by the storage array (along with a heap of other useful information like the devices euid very handy for SmartStack configurations, IOPS, Bandwidth, Access control, Snapshots etc)





Also with the old plugin, if you selected a non-Nimble datastore the plugin would throw an rather non-descript error.  This is much clearly stated in the new version:






Rather than cover all the new workflows here, in the next blog in this series, we will perform a deep dive on the new functionality, along with some walk-throughs and a demonstrations.



So how do you install the new plugin ?  Well, there is no change when installing the plugin on 2.1 (in fact the process is identical to 1.4 and 2.0).  Login to the Nimble array, click on Management > vCenter Plugin and then just register the plugin with the appropriate vCenter credentials.




Gotcha: prior to upgrading to 2.1 you should unregister the existing plugin before performing the upgrade.   If you forget you can manually deregister the plugin from within vCenter and then re-register the new plugin, this process is described in knowledge base article KB-000053.


It should be noted as before the Plugin is redirecting to the Nimble Web Interface so there is very limited footprint being installed on the vCenter Server.


Finally in order to run the new plugin you will also need to be on:


  • vCenter 5.5, 5.1, 5.0, 4.1 (Update 1), the vCenter Server Appliance version is supported.
  • Nimble OS 2.1.4+ (of course!)


I hope you found this introduction to the plugin a nice teaser for a deeper dive look at the workflows which will follow this blog.  Until then if you have any questions please feel free to post them below !