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There has been lot of talks about VVols and how the storage vendors are implementing it. I am not a VMware vExpert and this blog post is not intended to give a deep dive of VVols. My colleague Cody Hosterman has done a wonderful job of explaining it in detail here. This blog post is to provide an overview of VVols from a DBA’s perspective and walk through an use case of cloning Oracle database using VVols on Pure FlashArray.
VVols addresses the key challenges with the traditional storage setup in virtualized environment of not able to perform native array based data services like snapshots, clones, replication, encryption or set storage policies at VMDK or VM level. The current implementation is at the VMFS level which leads to all or nothing behavior.
In the traditional setup, a volume/LUN is provisioned out of Pure FlashArray on which a VMFS datastore is created at the VMware level. Disks (vmdk) required by guest VMs are then provisioned out of that datastore which is visible across all the ESX hosts in the cluster. Hence the datastore can have disks from more than VM at any time.
The following diagram illustrates an example of a Linux VM (oraprod) with 2 virtual disks (VMDKs), one hosting the boot that contains Linux OS and Oracle binary and the other disk hosting an Oracle database (vmprod). For ease of understanding, let us assume the database resides on a single disk on the datastore ds_oradata. The boot disk was carved out of the datastore ds_binary which was provisioned on the Pure volume ds_binary_vol while the oracle data disk was carved out of the datastore ds_oradata that was provisioned out of the Pure volume ds_oracle_data_vol.
In this setup, if we wanted to create a clone of the database vmprod using storage level snapshots, the ideal setup would be to take snapshot of the disk that hosts the oracle database. Unfortunately, in the traditional setup, the storage level snapshot can only be performed at the LUN level which means, we have to take the snapshot of ds_oracle_data_vol that hosts the datastore ds_oradata which contains the oracle database disk (and can contain disks from other VMs).
Here is the high level sequence of steps to perform a clone of the oracle database using storage level snapshots.
As you can imagine, this process is not simple rather tedious and certainly is not efficient in using the resources. What if our database was placed on multiple datastores or what if the datastore contains disks from multiple VMs (which is very common). It can quickly become operationally inefficient and complicated in identifying disks for cloning across different data stores that resides on physical volumes. In comparison, using a physical RDM is lot more easier for database cloning than the virtual disks out of VMFS.
Before going over the process of database cloning in VVols, little bit of background on the implementation of VVols. In VVols world, there are different types of virtual volumes and of which the three main VVols are Data, Config and Swap. For every VM, there would be a corresponding Config VVol which holds the metadata information like configs, VMX etc and will always be 4GB in size under Pure FlashArray.
The physical connectivity between the ESX and the storage is through Protocol Endpoint (PE) which is like a proxy LUN that is discoverable and will have multiple paths from the SAN. Also the PE exposes a storage container (which is logical in nature) and all virtual volumes are contained within this storage container in VMware.
For every VMDK within the VM in the traditional setup there would be a corresponding Data VVol. Also for every VM that is powered on will have a Swap VVol.
These virtual volumes are natively created on the Pure FlashArray which means, they are full fledged volumes that can take advantage of all the data services like snapshots, cloning, replication at the VMDK level. For database cloning, we are interested only on the data VVol as the config VVol and swap VVol will always be unique to the VM.
Let us see how the setup would be in VVols for the same example discussed above. The VM (oraprod) now has three virtual volumes, one is the config VVol that will hold the metadata information, second is the data VVol that corresponds to the boot volume and the third is another data VVol that hosts the database (vmprod). There would be a fourth VVol for swap when the VM is powered on but for ease of understanding, it is not included in the diagram.
Here is the process for cloning the database in the virtual volumes setup.
Here is how the volumes looks like in Pure GUI.
Note: If you are wondering why the VM oraprod’s volume names are called as “slob” and not “oraprod”, it is because the initial VM was created with name “slob” and it was later renamed. The underlying virtual volumes were not renamed.
As you can see, based on the implementation of virtual volumes, database cloning at the disk level is simple and straightforward. Also the number of options opens up considerably with the implementation of virtual volumes along with the integration of Pure Storage like cloning the VM is almost instantaneous where the data volumes are cloned along with new config and swap volumes.