November 27, 2023

A Closer Look at the M7i Instance on VMware Cloud on AWS

VMware will provide more flexibility and scalability storage options with a storage-disaggregated instance type for customers on VMware Cloud on AWS. This blog post details tech preview information with a quick demo showcasing the new instance type.


During AWS re:Invent 2023, the new instance type for VMware Cloud on AWS is announced; The disaggregated M7i.metal-24xl instance type. This means customers benefit from the latest compute innovations and freedom of choice when it comes to storage options. This blog post details tech preview information with a quick demo showcasing the new instance type.

Storage Options

A major difference to current VMware Cloud on AWS instance types is that M7i.metal-24xl doesn't include local NVMe devices, meaning vSAN is not part of this instance type. For customers and workloads better suited for vSAN, the I3en or I4i nodes are the go-to choices. This new instance type will just be another option for our customers and partners.

Both VMware Cloud Flex Storage and Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP are supported with M7i.metal-24xl. Both are NFS datastores exposed to the ESXi hosts level like 'regular' datastores in the vSphere Client, and use familiar capabilities like Storage vMotion or storage policies for tagging purposes for example. VMware is not providing managed storage policies for external NFS workload datastores. Workload datastores should be configured by customers themselves to fit their needs. M7i instances can be deployed on a single availability zone (AZ) per cluster at first, meaning no stretched clusters.

See the demo below for an overview of the provisioning process. The latest current SDDC release, version 1.24 comes with key updates to benefit external NFS storage. Also, while vTGW is supported, it is highly recommended to use the new VPC Peering methodology for connecting to Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP for VMware Cloud on AWS. This comes with some prerequisites that are discussed in the linked article

Do note that customers can still mix and match instance types in an SDDC, meaning one cluster can be running M7i instances, while another is using vSAN with I4i instances. The cluster is the boundary for instance type options.

Datastore on M7i

Like with all VMware Cloud on AWS instance types, storage capacity is required to store the management plane (vCenter and NSX appliances, and potential integrated services appliances like HCX). As part of the SDDC provisioning process, a managementDatastore is created. The managementDatastore is VMware-managed and part of the first cluster in an SDDC. The logical capacity is 100 TiB. On the backend, a minimum of 6 TiB is reserved for management appliances. If more storage capacity is required, for example with Hybrid Cloud Extensions (HCX) configurations, more reserved capacity should be requested. Customers' storage requirements for HCX deployments vary based on the scope of the services they plan to run. The managementDatastore cannot be used for customer workloads.

Compute Specs

The M7i.metal-24xl instance uses Intel Sapphire Rapids CPU packages. Sapphire Rapids is a codename for Intel's fourth-generation Xeon Scalable CPUs. It comes with 48 physical cores, with Hyper-Threading enabled resulting in 96 logical processors. The cores have a base frequency of 2.4 GHz with an all-core Turbo frequency up to 3.9 GHz. Memory capacity is 384GB per host.

M7i Host Details

One of the benefits of running workloads on the provided Intel CPU package is its Intel Advance Matrix Extensions (AMX) accelerator, which accelerates matrix multiplication operations for deep learning (DL) inference and training workloads.

M7i virtual hardware 20 Intel AMX

With the 1.24 SDDC version release for VMware Cloud on AWS, the vSphere 8 Update 2 bits are used with the latest VM hardware version 20. Be aware that by default a VM is created using VM hardware version 19 today, so you explicitly need to configure it with version 20 as shown in the demo. VM hardware version 20 exposes the Intel AMX instructions to the guest OS as seen in the above screenshot. This helps to improve the performance for AI/ML workloads, analytics, and HPC workloads. A great example of this is found in this compelling blogpost.

Demo number 1

The following demo provides a walkthrough of a M7i.metal-24xl SDDC provisioning process and configuration of Amazon FSx for NetApp ONTAP using VPC Peering. Once in place, a new workload is instantiated and updated with VM hardware version 20, as the default is VM hardware version 19, to support Intel AMX:


Demo number 2

This demo focuses on how easy it is to use the VMware Cloud on AWS M7i instance with VMware Cloud Flex Storage.




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