VxRail Review

Good automation makes this solution practical

What is our primary use case?

The general use case for VxRail was to deal with the obsolescence because the current infra was not adequate to deal with the licensing and the support as we were running on the older hardware and the ESX version, and being a manufacturing site we didn't have a good level of redundancy.

We have two server rooms there. But if we lose one server room, we will not be able to run all our workload from the existing server room. So we deployed the V Service cluster during this deployment, wherein we have four modes in total in each room, and in the corporate data center.

We also deployed a backup solution with the Data Domain application. Then even if we lose one server room we have all the backup data in the other server room. So now at least we have local redundancy.

So the main use case is redundancy, obsolescence, better architecture, better throughput, and better back up time. Pfizer was not very responsive after we did the VxRail with the vCenter architecture with the upgraded styles. So we got feedback that Pfizer was responding well. Their help was good.

Also the backup time is good. Pfizer has the 1.5 PV. It used to take five to six hours on the back up but now it takes almost half of the time. So we are saving back up time and throughput is good. After deploying we have been getting some good benefits. Even the local businesses are happy with this solution.

So we are now deploying VxRail to more manufacturing sites.

What is most valuable?

The feature that I have found most valuable with VxRail is its upgrade. Because if you talk about the normal ESX process you have to upgrade the firmware, the bios, and you have to manage the compatibility. You have to do a lot of things. But in the case of VxRail, it's a single upgrade, end to end. You simply upload the bundle, click next, it will do some pre-checks, if those pre-checks pass, it will update everything one by one. It will put one ESX in the maintenance and move other VM's to another mode. There is no downtime to the VM's.

It will upgrade end to end infra, including bios from there, your ESX host, everything. So this is a really good feature. Then in new mode feature, they only have to configure it from the network standpoint and it can listen on a second mode. If they see a new mode in the network, the cluster will automatically have that mode as a new member.

VxRail has helped us with the automation. So we are happy with that.

What needs improvement?

As I said, one place for improvement would be the automated update for VMware Tools. Additionally, better integration with ServiceNow because if there are some issues, we could directly get the notification through IPS and Tools, so that integration is missing.

Somehow they did it, but it was not a very smooth integration because we have to use email features since they are sending emails. We contacted someone at ServiceNow at our end and we sent emails to ServiceNow and they converted it to some incidents or something. If we could have some out of the box ideas in integration, I think that would be a great feature.

VxRail provides more automation. For example, the process going from VMware to Tools is still a manual process where we have to manually update the VMware Tools. There should might be an option to upgrade VMware Tools automatically. We know that we need some downtime, but still, there should be a possibility to do this as an automated process.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using VxRail for about six months. We deployed it back in September and did the migration, so it's been three or four months in the company.

I think we're using version 4.7 because we had some limitations with respect to vCenter and Vserver costing because ESX was the older version. So we went with VxRail 4.7 rather than going with VxRail 7, which is the latest.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We are maintaining this solution ourselves. We have some level of support from Dell, as well, but they are not directly responsible for the support. We are the ones who are supporting it.

Initially, it had some issues. As I said, the version we deployed had some known issues. But the stability is pretty good. There were some issues here and there, but that was not due to ESX, but due to some network fluctuation we had.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

VxRail is especially useful for a manufacturing site. I can't really know many end users are there, but I know that they are participating in the manufacturing process. This is a pharma company and for us, VxRail is critical in our process.

So far, looking at its specifications, it looks good. It's scalable.

How are customer service and technical support?

In general cases, technical support is good. They're pretty responsive. But besides that, there have been some issues with the cluster. For example, the version that we deployed had some bug which was a known bug. Later on we were advised to get this upgraded. But that advice came to us after two or three reassignments within their own IT section because one person evaluated it and they collected multiple logs. Then he transferred the case to somebody else, then she then collected some further logs and did some analysis. I'm not saying they were not good. They were pretty good. They had some good technical skills. They did all the analysis. Then they assigned it back to the IT guy. But as soon as the IT guy came in, he saw the version. He immediately said we have to update it because this version is having some known issues.

I would say they are pretty good. I'm not complaining about them, but this is the feedback that I personally have - that technician should have come in the very first place by just looking into the VxRail version and told us there is a known bug in this version and we should upgrade it. But that took almost two or three weeks to identify.

But still, I'm happy with the Dell services. No complaints. But just constructive feedback. The rest are good.

They are always helpful. If we join the call, they are very polite and knowledgeable. They bring more people as required, so overall, it's good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a complete HCI product, but we had storage-defined software, like Datacode and EqualLogic. Now we are replacing Datacode and EqualLogic with this VxRail because we are using it in vCenter.

How was the initial setup?

In terms of the initial setup, only the network part was a little complex for us. Maybe because we were doing it for the very first time because there is a very strict firewall applied there, being a manufacturing site. We had multiple firewalls there, so we had to open each and everything one by one. That was the only thing.

Once the network part was done, everything was smooth and we had a product life support from Dell. It was Dell who basically deployed it from a remote session with our presence. We only give them some input around the infra set up and they actually did the end to end deployment.

It took one day for rack and stacks and then two days for its set up, installation, and configuration as per our department. Later on we did the migration on our own based on the downtime that we received because we had to update the VMware Tools. We had to configure the backup, et cetera. We did it slowly, one by one, three, four servers a day.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

In terms of pricing, I would say it's reasonable, not cheap and not too costly. If you compare it with some other HCI solutions, for example, there were a lot of discussions around Cisco UCS for one of the manufacturing sites. The local ITP had a preference for Cisco UCS because they had some prior experience working on it. We had already successfully deployed VxRail in some of the manufacturing sites and we found that Cisco UCS is much too costly. 

In the deployment, all the softwares were included, only the vCenterv was excluded because we were using an external vCenter, so we had to manage an external vCenter license. All the rest was included.

Some licensing, like vRealize was not included, so we have not taken it.

What other advice do I have?

I would definitely recommend VxRail. But again, it depends upon the use cases. If they have a big data center, then you have to look for some other version of VxRail, maybe VxBlock, but for normal sites, for a small manufacturing R&D site, or for remote sites, they may go with VxRail.

On a scale of one to ten, I would give VxRail a nine out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner
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