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VMware Skyline Health for vSAN improves system check capabilities

VMware's announcement to merge vSAN Health and Skyline offers admins a comprehensive portfolio of various VMware support technologies under a common umbrella.

On Nov. 3, 2019, VMware announced an integration of products known as Skyline Health for vSAN, a support service that combines vSAN Health with VMware Skyline. The VMware Skyline Health for vSAN promises faster issue resolution and less system downtime for vSAN 6.7 and later. IT administrators with active support contracts can access the Skyline Health module through the vSphere Client.

VMware vSAN is a software-defined storage product integrated into VMware vSphere. VSAN consolidates direct-attached storage devices across a vSphere cluster to create a pool of shared storage resources, generally as part of a hyper-converged infrastructure.

Admins can use vSAN's policy-based management features to automate common tasks and balance storage resources, and take advantage of built-in caching, deduplication, compression, encryption and erasure coding.

Introducing VMware Skyline Health for vSAN

VMware introduced Skyline Health for both vSphere and vSAN to unify the various support technologies into a common service portfolio. As with vSAN Health, admins can access Skyline Health for vSAN through the vSphere Client. Skyline Health supports all the health checks that were available in vSAN Health, which provides a smooth transition to the new service.

With Skyline Health, admins get a native, in-product experience along with consistent and proactive analytics. Even admins with Basic Support contracts can use Skyline Health in their vSAN systems and enable them to benefit from Skyline without having Production or Premier support contracts.

Merging vSAN Health with the Skyline service provides admins with a more effective mechanism for identifying potential problems and analyzing service requests.

Admins can also use the service even if they don't enable internet access on vCenter Server or join the Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP), although VMware recommends that admins do both to get the most out of Skyline Health.

Merging vSAN Health with VMware Skyline provides admins with a more effective mechanism for identifying potential problems and analyzing service requests. Admins can take advantage of analytics based on data from thousands of vSAN deployments, even if they don't implement Skyline Connector or send data to Skyline. With Skyline Health, they end up with systems that are more stable and reliable and do so with a lot less effort.

VMware Skyline offers system monitoring capabilities

To support vSAN, VMware Skyline collects and aggregates product usage data about features, configurations and admins' system performance. The service also supports vSphere, NSX-V, Horizon 7 and vRealize Operations. VMware Skyline is available to admins with active Production Support or Premier Support contracts at no additional cost.

Skyline monitors systems for changes and events and then uses the collected data to perform system-specific predictive analytics. With this analysis, Skyline provides admins with proactive recommendations to help make their systems more stable and reliable. Skyline also helps to resolve reactive support issues faster.

At the heart of Skyline's analytics functionality is a rules engine that carries out a variety of tasks, from simple operations such as patch and upgrade verification to complex, cross-application checks. A large analytics library supports the rules engine and contains detection rules, support intelligence, product knowledge and processing logic for incoming data stream analysis.

Another integral component of Skyline is the Skyline Collector, which is a stand-alone virtual appliance that automatically collects product usage data and support-related log bundles from admins' VMware systems. Skyline Collector listens for specific changes and events and then streams the data to Skyline in real time. This functionality comes preconfigured and is available in the Open Virtual Appliance format, which admins can download from VMware Cloud Services.

VSAN Health offers system health checks

VMware vSAN Health is an on-premises service that identifies and resolves potential issues in admins' vSAN systems. Introduced in vSAN 6.1, vSAN Health started out as an external plugin that provided basic system checks.

VMware integrated vSAN Health v6.2 into Skyline Health for vSAN and its capabilities expanded to include more checks. In addition, admins can access the service directly through the vSphere Client. With each release, vSAN Health became more comprehensive and incorporated findings based on data from thousands of vSAN systems, as well as from knowledge-based articles and best practices.

In addition to monitoring a system's general health, vSAN Health can perform dozens of configurations and state checks across 10 different categories, making it possible to diagnose issues, detect misconfigurations and troubleshoot problems.

Unlike vSphere Health, admins could use vSAN Health without requiring vCenter Server to have internet connectivity or prior enlistment in the CEIP.

However, if vSAN admins decide to use vSAN Online Health, which provides additional health checks, they also have to do both. The CEIP provides VMware with data to improve its products and services, as well as fix problems and recommend deployment best practices. VMware Skyline Health for vSAN combines both the capabilities of Skyline with vSAN Health to provide a more cohesive way take advantage of these products.

Transition to Skyline Health for vSAN

VMware Skyline Health for vSAN can help admins move from a reactive support model to a proactive one. However, Skyline Health has been available only for a few months and only to admins running vSAN 6.7 U3a and above. It could take a while for admins to get a better sense of how well the new service works in their systems.

Even so, merging vSAN Health with Skyline seems a natural step for VMware as admins demand more intelligent and proactive support, especially with diverse and data-intensive workloads. Given the benefits of both Skyline and vSAN Health, the new service should benefit most admins; it just might take a little time to get there.

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