My VMware VCAP4-DCD BETA Exam Experience

Yesterday, I took the VCAP4-DCD beta exam (VDCD410), like many others have done this week. There is a thread started already in the communities forum. Just like previous beta exams with VMware, I had to take the exam at a Pearson-owned facility. There are a few within an hour of me, so I didn’t need to fly anywhere.  It’s funny, Jason Boche mentions that he couldn’t take coffee into the testing center. The person at the facility where I took the exam said no food, drink, candy, etc. The center where I usually take exams is more laid back and are OK with coffee as long as there is a lid. In fact, they offer to sell you bottled water to take in with you. VMware only requires a finger print scan and a photo with the two forms of ID. I noticed some people were getting their hand vein patterns recorded. Crazy.

Passing the VCAP4-DCD exam is one of the requirements for anyone, including a VCDX3, to achieve the VCDX4 certification. So passing this exam is very important to me.

VCDX 4 Paths

The Exam

The beta exam was 131 questions/tasks with four hours to complete. (There was a guy before me that was taking a test that lasts 630 minutes!) I would think that some of these may get cast off as improper, too easy or too hard. If all of the questions prove to be OK, then VMware has a nice, fair pool of design questions. I would also think that the “GA” exam will only be a portion of these questions.

There are three types of questions or tasks: The standard multiple guess questions, a few “match the object to a category” drag and drop tasks and a few diagramming tasks.

Exam Content – What You Need to Know!

I am under countless NDAs on this, so there will be no “scoops” here. I can say that the exam is true to the Blueprint. Rather than giving a direct link to the PDF, which could change, I will tell you to go to www.vmware.com/go/vcap. Click on the “Datacenter Design” tab. There is a link to the current blueprint there. It was just changed to fix an issue with broken hyperlinks. There are also links to a FAQ, the VCAP Communities landing page and a link to a demo of the diagramming tool.

Make sure you read and understand all of the documents and web pages that are linked in the blueprint. VMware leaves no stone unturned. I would not advise trying to memorize all of the content listed in the blueprint, your head would explode. Just comprehend what you read. Much of this is conceptual and revolves around the methodology and best practices GUIDANCE that VMware chooses to publish.

Make sure you take a look at the VCAP4-DCD Exam UI Demo. This is the exam version of a Visio tool. One of my complaints about the VI3 Design Exam was the quality of the diagramming tool. It is greatly improved in this exam. In the VCAP4-DCD beta exam, there were more than one diagramming task. I don’t think VMware is looking for the Mona Lisa. This is more of a “show your work” kind of thing. The diagramming tasks are not that complex and will only cover a few design criteria in each task.

Since this is a DESIGN exam, there are plenty of scenarios that involve capacity planning. Since you will not have any tools available to do your work, you will need to understand the math involved in capacity planning.  There is a simple calculator available via a link at the top of the screen. You will also need to understand the math involved with calculating HA, DRS, reservations, shares and limits.

Finally, with the beta, there was a time constraint. I think I had about 10 or 15 minutes left when I was done. Make sure you manage your time. There was no “back” button and there was no way to mark questions or tasks for review in the beta exam. This may or may not hold true for the “GA” exam. Remember: If there is no “back” button or way to mark a question, make sure you are OK with your answer before clicking the “next” button. I clicked it a few times as I was thinking “Maybe I should read that again….”

My Soapbox Moment

I don’t want to “toot my own horn” or sound arrogant here, but I purposely did not “study” for this exam. I did read the blueprint and skim some of the documents. The hyperlinks were broken in the 1.2 version and I didn’t try to find them too hard. I didn’t study for the VCAP4-DCA exam either (I passed by the skin of my teeth!). In my (humble) opinion, the exams require that you have EXPERIENCE in the subject of the exam. I don’t think VMware intends to have “paper VCAPs” although I am sure there will eventually be some out there.

If you want to pass the VCAP4-DCA exam, you should have experience managing a vSphere environment. If you want to pass the VCAP4-DCD exam, you should have experience in designing at least one vSphere environment. You need to go through the thought processes involved in the ASSESS – DESIGN – IMPLEMENT – MANAGE cycle. I am sure that the design workshop will assist you in gaining the knowledge and some experience in designing a vSphere environment, but it won’t give you everything you need for passing this exam. Certainly, if you want to progress to the final step and submit and defend a design, you will need EXPERIENCE. This is why there is such a high fail rate for the design defense.

A Few Gotchas With vSphere 4.1! Updated

Since everyone else in the world is heralding the release of vSphere 4.1, I figured I would post some bad news. The stuff you may want to know BEFORE you jump into upgrading to vSphere 4.1. Before I start, I want to make it clear that vSphere 4.1 is a great product overall. And I have already been leaning to ESXi, so the announcement that this will be the last release with the “traditional” ESX has been expected. I will talk about ESXi and its improvements in a later post. I just want you to be aware of these rather significant Gotchas.

Gotcha #1 – Read Only Role allows members to add VMKernel NICs

From the release notes (You actually READ these, right?):

  • Newly added users with read-only role can add VMkernel NICs to ESX/ESXi hosts
    Newly added users with a read-only role cannot make changes to the ESX/ESXi host setup with the exception of adding VMkernel NICs, which is currently possible.

    Workaround: None. Do not rely on this behavior because read-only users will not be able to add VMkernel NICs in the future.

This is a fairly big security issue. I just LOVE the workaround notes. To be fair, I have found only one installation in my experience that uses the Read-Only Role. In my opinion, if they don’t have access to the physical data center, they don’t need any access to vCenter. But this is just something that should have been corrected before release.

Gotcha #2 – ESX/ESXi installations on HP systems require the HP NMI driver

  • ESX installations on HP systems require the HP NMI driver
    ESX 4.1 instances on HP systems require the HP NMI driver to ensure proper handling of non-maskable interrupts (NMIs). The NMI driver ensures that NMIs are properly detected and logged. Without this driver, NMIs, which signal hardware faults, are ignored on HP systems with ESX.

    CAUTION: Failure to install this driver might result in silent data corruption.

    Workaround: Download and install the NMI driver. The driver is available as an offline bundle from the HP Web site. Also, see KB 1021609.

It seems that every time HP releases a new set of SIM agents for ESX, something breaks. Is this VMware’s way of putting it on HP? Or was this an “OOPS”? If you search for “HP VMware NMI Driver” you come up with nothing. No download. It was no where to be found on Monday, but I did find it today on the HP support site.

Gotcha #3 – VMware View Composer 2.0.x is not supported in a vSphere vCenter Server 4.1 managed environment

The basic issue here is that vCenter 4.1 only works on a 64-bit system. View Composer only works on a 32-bit system. From the KB Article:

“VMware View Composer 2.0.x is not supported in a vSphere vCenter Server 4.1 managed environment as vSphere vCenter Server 4.1 requires a 64 bit operating system and VMware View Composer does not support 64 bit operating systems.
“VMware View 4.0.x customers who use View Composer should not upgrade to vSphere vCenter Server 4.1 at this time. Our upcoming VMware View 4.5 will be supported on VMware vSphere 4.1.”

Don’t these guys talk to each other? Didn’t they learn their lesson with the PCoIP issues? And why can’t you just admit it in the release notes instead of putting a link to the KB article? I completely missed this Monday morning.

Gotcha #4 – vCenter Installer SILENTLY Changes SQL Server Settings to Allow Named Pipes

  • vCenter Server installation or upgrade silently changes Microsoft SQL Server settings to enable named pipes
    When you install vCenter Server 4.1 or upgrade vCenter Server 4.0.x to vCenter Server 4.1 on a host that uses Microsoft SQL Server with a setting of “Using TCP/IP only,” the installer changes that setting to “Using TCP/IP and named pipes” and does not present a notification of the change.Workaround: The change in setting to “Using TCP/IP and named pipes” does not interfere with the correct operation of vCenter Server. However, you can use the following steps to restore the setting to the default of “Using TCP/IP only.”
  1. Select Start > Programs > Microsoft SQL Server 2005 > Configuration Tools > SQL Server Surface Area Configuration.
  2. Select Surface Area Configuration for Services and Connections.
  3. Under the SQL Server instance you are using for vCenter Server, select Remote Connections.
  4. Change the option under Local and Remote Connections and click Apply.

Can you hear the DBAs pissing and moaning?

Gotcha #4a – SQL Database is changed to Bulk Recovery Model (updated 10/27)

This on is funny. I just found out about it on 10/27/2010. When is comes to SQL for the vCenter database, VMware recommends using a simple recovery model. So, with their attention to detail, the upgrade process changes the database to a bulk recovery model. Inn this model, the logs keep growing until a backup purges it. No good.

Transaction log for vCenter Server database grows large after upgrading to vCenter Server 4.1 – http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1026430

Conclusion

Again vSphere 4.1 brings some great improvements and some welcome changes. As the product matures and more vendors work with the APIs, we will see some nice features that will help you in your journey to the private cloud. The Gotchas listed above may not exist if quality assurance is tightened. I think I would rather hear that a release is delayed because of pending bug fixes. How long will we need to wait to fix these? In any case, if the Read-Only Role or the View Composer gotchas don’t apply, then jump right in and install or upgrade to vSphere 4.1. Just make sure you install the NMI drivers and fix the SQL settings.

Update 2010-07-16

I got a tweet from William Lam last night. It looks like versions are hard-coded in Capacity-IQ making it incompatible with vSphere 4.1. Will also explains two ways to make it work.

My VCAP-DCA Exam Experience

In case you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard, VMware is getting ready to release a new set of advanced certification exams that will take you along the path to become a VMware Certified Design Expert on vSphere 4 (VCDX4). Just like VCDX3, it starts with the requirement of being a VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 4 (VCP). You will then need to pass two exams before being able to submit and defend your design. VMware has decided to award new certification statuses for passing these exams. The exam to become a  VMware Certified Advanced Professional on vSphere 4 – Datacenter Administration (VCAP-DCA) is currently finishing up its beta run. The exam to become a VMware Certified Advanced Professional on vSphere 4 – Datacenter Design (VCAP-DCD) is not yet in beta. The path to achieve VCDX4 status is laid out on VMware’s site and is illustrated below:

Just like Jason Boche, William Lam and Duncan Epping, I had the privilege of taking the beta version exam. As you can see from the upgrade path, I am not required to take the exam to obtain the VCDX4, but I am a glutton for punishment I guess. Also, not having it as a requirement took some of the pre-test jitters off of me. At first, scheduling conflicts prevented me from being able to sit for the exam within VMware’s original deadline. However, I got a call on June 17th that I could take it on July 2nd. Wow…a two week notice, and on my only scheduled day off since April. But I eagerly accepted the invite. Because of the limited notice and the fact that I was juggling a few projects at the same time I debated even studying for the exam. An unscientific survey on twitter showed that 4 out of 4 followers recommended that I study for the exam. I don’t want to come across as arrogant or as a “know-it-all.” My argument here is that I am already a VCDX, I should know this stuff.  My schedule and my severe procrastination tendencies made me decide to do a little bit of review the night before.

Before I begin with my thoughts on the exam content, I want to express that I only had two “issues” with the exam experience itself. First a little bit of background: The exam consists of 41 “questions”, which are actually multifaceted problems that you need to solve with the tools that are presented to you. You have 4.5 hours to complete the exam. The problems are presented in a familiar Vue test engine. You click a button to switch to a desktop session with a few of the typical tools used  to administer a vSphere environment. The issue was with the screen refresh for the GUI based tools. When I clicked on an item, sometimes all of the tabs are not presented properly or the content is not complete. This was pretty annoying and sometimes a hindrance. When I participated in the beta exam for the VI3 Advanced Administration Exam, I did not experience this. Hopefully, this will be cleared up before the exam becomes GA. I would think that a leader in desktop virtualization would have a method to avoid this type of thing. The second issue is a provision for breaks. You can take “unscheduled breaks” but I think the clock keeps ticking. It would be nice to actually have a scheduled break without a time penalty. As you get older, you NEED the breaks…

Now, on to the content. Forget about me actually telling you the actual content of the exam. The NDA prevents this and I want to participate in future beta exams. I got my VCDX3 via beta exams and I hope to get my VCDX4 this way!

I’ll admit it. Working primarily in the SMB market limits your skills a bit. I am not as exposed to some of the more advanced features of vSphere 4 as I used to be when I worked in an “enterprise” market.  I skipped a couple of problems because of this. I intended to return to them, but the clock ran out before I could. The problems were a very good compendium of the advanced skills required of a more senior VMware Administrator. It was the toughest exam that I have ever taken. The second toughest was the VI3 Advanced Administration Exam. I thought the questions were very fair and there was nothing in the content that caused me any objections.

I was pretty relaxed when I started the exam, but started to PANIC during the last 30 minutes.

The one (personal) issue I have with this type of exam is that it measures you at a point in time on how much you have memorized. Since I don’t want to use an example of a problem that may be on a VMware exam, I will use one of my cars as an example here. Say, for instance that I am sitting in on the 1972 Ford Gran Torino Advanced Administration Exam…

Let’s say a question on the exam is to set the Ignition Points gap. This is something I did a few times on several cars. I know where to find the ignition points. I know how to set the gap. I have the proper tools to do it.  But I don’t know what that setting should be. In the REAL world, I would look it up in a manual or on Google. And I looked up the setting every time I did it. Would I fail the test because I know HOW to do it, but don’t know the proper setting? Probably. My teenie brain can’t hold all of this information – especially with all of the Monty Python references in there, not to mention the words for almost every song by Rush and Iron Maiden…

My Advice

Back on track… Echoing Duncan, Jason and William,  I have a few tips to offer for this exam:

  1. Read the Exam Blueprint. Perform each task listed in the blueprint a few times, so you know HOW to do it. You DO have access to “–help” and man pages during the exam if you are stumped. However, refer to item #3.
  2. Build a LAB! You will need it for item #1. You don’t have to go out and buy servers and storage. All you need is a reasonably fast 64bit PC or laptop with a decent amount of RAM. Some things may be slow, but you will get through it. You can make an ESX server in a VM. Use VMware Player or VMware Workstation to host your lab VMs. Every VMware product in the blueprint is either free or has an evaluation period. Didn’t you get a free VMware Workstation license with your VCP?
  3. Manage your time! I ran out of it. You have the opportunity to go back. Skip questions if you don’t know how to do it or think it will take a while. The other thing I noticed was that, since the exam is using a live lab environment, the tasks happen in real time. During my panic state, I started to multitask and work on more than one problem at a time. Instead of clicking “Next” and waiting for the task to complete, click “Next” and start on the next problem. Juggle two or three problems. Use your dry erase board to keep track of skipped problems and multitasking. I am not very fast with my typing and I am constantly mixing up letters in words. I call it “typing dyslexia” and it doesn’t help me in these situations!

I don’t know if I passed this one. I am a little bit pessimistic at this time. I will find out in “4-6 weeks”, but that is VMware Time… Good luck to all that have or are planning to take this exam.

vShield Zones – Some Serious Gotchas

OK..I’ll admit it: I am spoiled by the capabilities of vSphere. What other platform lets you schedule system updates that will occur unattended and without outages of the applications being used? I don’t mean the winders patches, they require a monthly reboot. I am talking about the hypervisor updates. VMware Update Manager coordinates all of this for you. Then along comes vShield Zones to break it all.

First, let me explain what I am trying to do. To simplify things, vShield Zones is a firewall for vSphere Virtual Machines. Rather than regurgitate how it works, take a look at Rodney’s excellent post. A customer has decided to use vShield Zones to help with PCI Compliance. The desire is that only certain VMs will be allowed to communicate with certain other VMs using specific network ports, and to audit that traffic. ’nuff said.

vShield Zones seems to be the perfect solution for this. It works almost seamlessly with vCenter and the underlying ESXi hosts. It provides hardened Linux Virtual Appliances (vShield Agents) to provide the firewalling. It provides a fairly nice management interface to create the firewall rules and distribute them to the vShield Agents. Best of all, IT’S FREE! At least for vSphere Advanced versions and above. Keep in mind, that this is still considered a 1.x release and some things need to be worked out.

Now, on to the gotchas.

Gotcha #1 – Networking

When it comes to networking, the vShield Agent is designed to sit between a vSwitch that is externally connected via physical NICs (pNICs) and a vSwitch that is isolated from the outside world. The vShield Agent installation wizard will prompt you to select a vSwitch to protect. This is illustrated below. The red line indicates network traffic flow.

Click the Image to Enlarge

Click the Image to Enlarge

This works like a champ in this configuration, using a vSwitch for management, which is naturally on an isolated network to begin with, using a vSwitch for VMs to connect to the vShield Agent and using a vSwitch to connect everything to the outside world.  This can also be deployed with limited down time. If you are lucky enough to have the Enterprise Plus version, you may want to use a vNetwork Distributed Switch or even a Cisco 1000v. You will need to make some manual configurations to make this work as outlined in the admin guide.

The gotcha is with blade servers or “pizza box” servers that have limited I/O slots. If all of the VM traffic must flow through the same physical NICs and you use a vSwitch, then you need the vShield Agent to protect a port group rather than an entire vSwitch. You will need to create a vSwitch with a protected port group and connect it to the pNICs. Then you you can install the vShield Agent. Once the vShield Agent is installed, you will need to go back to the vSwitch attached to the pNICs and add an unprotected port group. This is illustrated below. The red line is the protected traffic and the blue line is the unprotected traffic.

Click on Image to Enlarge

Click on Image to Enlarge

As you can see, there is an unprotected Port Group (ORIGINAL Network). This needs to be added to the vSwitch AFTER the vShield Agent is installed. If the ORIGINAL Network is already a part of the vSwitch, it will need to be removed BEFORE installing the vShield Agent. In order to avoid an outage, you will need to disable DRS and manually vMotion all VMs off of the ESX/ESXi host before installing the vShield Agent and modifying the port groups.

Gotcha #2 – DRS/HA Settings

The vShield Agents attach to isolated vSwitches with no pNIC connection. As you should already know, using DRS and vMotion on an isolated vSwitch could cause inter-connectivity between VMs to fail. By default, you cannot vMotion a VM that is attached to an isolated vSwitch. You will need to enable this by editing the vpxd.cfg file. You will also need to disable HA and DRS for the vShield Agents so they stay on the hosts where they are  installed. Both are well documented. Obviously, you will need to install a vShield Agent on every ESX/ESXi host in the cluster.

The Gotcha here is that, with HA disabled for the vShield Agent, there is no facility for automatic startup. There is an automatic startup setting in the startup/shutdown section of the configuration settings. First, this is an all-or-nothing setting. Second, according to the Availability Guide:

“NOTE The Virtual Machine Startup and Shutdown (automatic startup) feature is disabled for all virtual machines residing on hosts that are in (or moved into) a VMware HA cluster. VMware recommends that you do not manually re-enable this setting for any of the virtual machines. Doing so could interfere with the actions of cluster features such as VMware HA or Fault Tolerance.”

So, if a host fails, HA will restart all protected VMs on different hosts. If the host comes back on line, you risk having DRS migrate protected VMs back to that host. This will cause those VMs to become disconnected because the vShield Agent will not automatically start. If a host fails, hope that it fails good enough so it won’t restart.

Gotcha #3 – Maintenance Mode

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned how VMware Update Manager has spoiled me. VUM can be scheduled to patch VMs and hosts. When host patching is scheduled, VUM will place one host in Maintenance Mode, which will evacuate all VMs. Then, it will apply whatever patches are scheduled to be applied, reboot and then exit Maintenance Mode. It will repeat this for each host in a cluster. This works great unless there are running VMs that have DRS disabled, like the vShield Agent.

In the test environment, when a host was manually set to enter Maintenance Mode, it would stall at 2% without moving the test VMs. I am not sure the order that VMs are migrated off, but none were migrated in the test environment. This could vary in different installations. Here’s the gotcha: you cannot power the vShield Agent off because the protected VMs would become disconnected. You cannot migrate it to a different host because it would cause a serious conflict and cause protected VMs to become disconnected. The only thing you can do is place the host in Maintenance Mode, then MANUALLY (*GASP*) migrate all of the protected VMs and then power the vShield Agent off. So much for automated patch management. We’re back to the “oughts.”

Conclusion

I said already that vShield Zones is a 1.x product. It’s a great firewall, but it has a few gotchas that you need to consider. The benefits may outweigh the negatives. But vSphere is a 4.0 product.Some of this should be able to be addressed by tweaking vCenter or host settings.

vShield Zones should be smart enough to allow us to select specific port groups to protect rather than an entire vSwitch. I guess whatever scripting is being done in the background will need to be changed for this. Maybe we need a Ghetto vShield?

One of the REALLY smart people at VMware should be able to tell us the “order of migration” when a host is placed in Maintenance Mode. Once that is determined, there is probably a configuration file somewhere that we could tweak to change it.

There should be a way to set up automatic startup and shutdown of individual VMs. The Startup/Shutdown settings sort of deprecated once DRS was introduced. The only time it is useful is with a stand-alone server or in a NON-DRS cluster. I guess the only thing that could be done is to add a script somewhere in rc.d or rc.local to start up these VMs, but how can that be done in a “supported” fashion with ESXi and is it supported in either ESX or ESXi?

I brought these issues up with some VMware engineers and they assure me that they are working on this. Hopefully they will figure it out soon. I hate doing things manually. It seems like it is anti-cloud.

Creating an Automated ESXi Installer

Back in the summer, I saw Stu’s Post about automating the installation of ESXi. I was reminded again by Duncan’s Post. Then, I found myself in a situation when a customer bought 160 blades for VMware ESXi. With this many systems, it would be almost impossible to do this without mistakes. I took the ideas from Stu and Duncan and created an ESXi automated installer that works from a PXE deployment server, like the Ultimate Deployment Appliance. I took it a step further and added the ability to use a USB stick or a CD for those times when PXE is not allowed. The document below is a result of it.

This is a little different than the idea of a stateless ESXi server, where the hypervisor actually boots from PXE. This is the installer booting from PXE so that the hypervisor can be installed on local disk, an internal USB stick or SD card. You could also use it for a “boot from SAN” situation, but extreme care should be taken so you don’t accidentally format a VMFS disk.

As always, if anyone has comments, corrections, etc., please feel free to post a comment below.

The document can be found here -> Creating an Automated ESXi Installer

Summary

The ability to use an automated, unattended installation routine for a hypervisor is necessary whenever it is deployed to multiple systems or is done frequently. Automated installations help avoid a misconfiguration caused by human error, which become common when repetitive tasks are performed.  Because the “traditional” version of VMware ESX Server contains a Red Hat Linux based console operating system, we have been able to leverage kickstart scripts for automated installation. With the ESXi hypervisor, much of this functionality is not available because of the smaller footprint.

This document explains how to set up ESXi with little intervention. The modifications explained here can be used to deploy ESXi using a PXE server. In our examples we will use the Ultimate Deployment Appliance, but these methods will also transfer to such commercial packages as HP Rapid Deployment Pack, Altiris, or even a home grown PXE server. The modifications can also be used for deploying ESXi using a USB stick or a customized CD.

Requirements

  • ESXi Server Installable The ESXi CD image can be downloaded from the VMware site, however using a systems management and monitoring server, such as HP SIM or Dell OpenManage is highly recommended. Since there are usually vendor specific CIM providers to enhance the monitoring capabilities, some vendors will provide a customized CD image with the CIM providers. These additional CIM providers will also allow for more information to be displayed in the hardware sections of the vSphere Client. A search for “ESXi” on the HP and Dell sites produced links to the latest customized images.
  • Deployment Server A deployment server will allow for a controlled, automated installation of the ESXi Server software. The ability to handle multiple operating system installations is also desired. The ability to provide PXE and DHCP services is required as well. Most times, the deployment server will be running PXE services and TFTP. The DHCP services may be running on a different server in an enterprise. This document does not explain how to set up a separate DHCP server. For this document, we will be using the Ultimate Deployment Appliance (UDA) version 2.0 (beta).
  • Virtualization Software The UDA runs as a “Virtual Appliance,” which is a pre-configured virtual machine. It will run under VMware ESXi (available as a free or licensed instance), VMware Workstation (available for purchase), VMware Player (free) or VMware Server (free). In this document, VMware Workstation is used.
  • Optional software Although no additional software is required when using the UDA, you will need additional software if you plan on using a USB stick or if you plan on creating a customized CD image:
    • VMware Converter If you plan on using ESXi or Server to host the UDA, VMware Converter can be used to import the virtual appliance.
    • Syslinux In order to make a bootable USB stick, you will need the syslinux utility. This utility is available for Linux and Windows. The UDA does not include it. As an alternative, you can use the unetbootin utility.
    • CD Imaging and Burning In order to create a bootable CD image, you will need software to create the CD image (mkisofs) and then software to burn the image to the CD media (cdrecord). The cdrtools project includes versions for Linux and Windows. Most Debian versions of Linux, such as Ubuntu, come with the cdrkit, which uses genisoimage for imaging and wodim for burning.
    • Linux Desktop If you look at the contents of the ESXi CDs using Windows (Windows 7 was used), you may see all of the files listed using all capital letters. Since the ESXi software is based on Linux, all file operations are case sensitive and expect the files to be all lower case. This may cause errors when attempting to create the automated installer. For this reason, a Linux desktop is recommended. For most of the operations, UDS may be used. The only missing software on the UDA is syslinux. For a feature rich Linux desktop, Ubuntu is recommended. A few pre-configured Ubuntu Desktop virtual appliances are also available.

Conclusion

Once you have a hypervisor installed you will need to configure the server and add it to vCenter in an automated fashion. Look for a future doc covering this. For now, check out these resources for post install configurations:

http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-7364

http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-7511

http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-8170

We'll Miss You VI:OPS of Yore

VI:OPS is was a VMware Forum that dedicates dedicated itself to providing information related to operations surrounding a VMware Infrastructure. The “Proven Practice” documents are were submitted and reviewed by moderators before they are published. The published documents allow for peers to comment on the documents.

I made it point to meet Stevie Chambers because he used to be the driving force behind VI:OPS. When he took his helmet with the big red plume and his sword and armored kilt over to Cisco, everything seemed to just freeze at VI:OPS. It took a week to have my last post approved. PMs were not returned quickly. It just died. No gladiator to defend it.

This morning, I was trying to answer a VCB question on the forums. The person posting had a simple question about the operation of VCB with BackupExec. I have not been very active on the communities lately, but I still scan through them and try to post answers when I can. Most of the time, my response to VCB questions include a reference to a “Proven Practice Guide that I posted on the VI:OPS communities:

VIOPS: Proven Practices for Deploying and Managing VMware: Proven Practice: Setting Up VMware Consolidated Backup for any Backup Software

Its GONE! I suspected something was up when someone posted that they could not find the Visio stencils that were on VI:OPS. What happened? Stwike them woughly centurions!

I hastily posted the PDF here for the forum response because I was trying to hurry out the door. I am working to update the doc and will post it soon. Check out the posted copy and use the comments section or DM me on twitter with any corrections.

Setting Up VCB for any Backup Software – Revisited

Since VI:OPS seems to have died and the content was gobbled up and reindexed my the main VMware communities site (They miss you Stevie!), I am posting my VCB proven practice here. It is dated, since its last version covered ESX 3.5, but most of it still applies in ESX4. If you have comments or changes that you wish to see, please comment here.

You can get it here -> http://www.dailyhypervisor.com/?file_id=8

Is Your Blade Ready for Virtualization? Part 2 – Real Numbers

OK, so my last post brought on a blizzard of remarks questioning some of the validity of the data presented. I used what I was told during a presentation was a “Gartner recommended” configuration for a VM. My error was that I could not find this recommendation anywhere, but the sizing seems fairly valid, so I went with it. I went back to some of the assessments I have done and took data from about 2,000 servers to come up with some more real-world averages. I wanted to post these averages tonight. Remember what I said previously: This is just a set of numbers. You must ASSESS and DESIGN your virtual infrastructure properly. This is only a small piece of it.

I apologize for the images instead of tables, but I spent way too long trying to get tables to lay out properly in WordPress. Click on the images for larger views. I can post the raw data if someone wants to look at it, but I have to work on stripping away proprietary data first.  So, here we go:

Data Summary

If you have ever done a Virtualization Assessment, you will recognize this from the summary page of the workbook. We are going to look at data from 1956 servers. Average RAM usage is about 2069MB. Average CPU utilization is about 5.2%. Average network is about 31KB/s.

Performance Summary

From the same page in the workbook. From this chart, we see that the average ALLOCATED RAM is about 4342MB and the average FREE RAM is about 2273MB. This is where we get the average RAM usage from above.

Raw Data Averages

This is the averages calculated for each row in the raw data summary.

Storage Summary Report

This final chart is from a storage summary report. Average disk read bytes per sec (442,00) + average write bytes per sec (200,000) is about 600,000 bytes. So, total I/O bytes is about 632,000 (600,000 storage + 32,000 network). I used Google to convert this to gigabits: 632 000 bytes = 0.00470876694 gigabits. This is WAY less than the 0.3Gb recommended. So, here is my calculated AVERAGE VM sizing:

  • RAM = 2GB
  • I/O = 0.005Gb
  • Network I/O = 0.0002 Gb
  • Storage I/O = 0.004 Gb

I am not going to claim that this is my recommendation for a VM configuration, because it isn’t. My recommendation is still and will always be to ASSESS YOUR UNIQUE ENVIRONMENT and come up with your own data. I am not going to redo my previous post with these numbers because it is pointless. The intent of the previous post was to come up with a number of VMs in a chassis or rack based on a set of criteria. I also wanted to show a comparison of capabilities of each blade. If I use the numbers from this post, it will only show that each blade in question is capable of hosting even more VMs.

Is Your Blade Ready for Virtualization? A Math Lesson.

I attended the second day of the HP Converged Infrastructure Roadshow in NYC last week. Most of the day was spent watching PowerPoints and demos for the HP Matrix stuff and Virtual Connect. Then came lunch. I finished my appetizer and realized that the buffet being set up was for someone else. My appetizer was actually lunch! Thanks God there was cheesecake on the way…

There was a session on unified storage, which mostly covered the LeftHand line. At one point, I asked if the data de-dupe was source based or destination based. The “engineer” looked like a deer in the headlights and promptly answered “It’s hash based.” ‘Nuff said… The session covering the G6 servers was OK, but “been there done that.”

Other than the cheesecake, the best part of the day was the final presentation. The last session covered the differences in the various blade servers from several manufacturers. Even though I work for a company that sells HP, EMC and Cisco gear, I believe that x64 servers, from a hardware perspective, are really generic for the most part. Many will argue why their choice is the best, but most people choose a brand based on relationships with their supplier, the manufacturer or the dreaded “preferred vendor” status.  Obviously, this was an HP – biased presentation, but some of the math the Bladesystem engineer (I forgot to get his name) presented really makes you think.

Lets start with a typical configuration for VMs. He mentioned that this was a “Gartner recommended” configuration for VMs, but I could not find anything about this anywhere on line. Even so, its a pretty fair portrayal of a typical VM.

Typical Virtual Machine Configuration:

  • 3-4 GB Memory
  • 300 Mbps I/O
    • 100 Mbps Ethernet (0.1Gb)
    • 200 Mbps Storage (0.2Gb)

Processor count was not discussed, but you will see that may not be a big deal since most processors are overpowered for todays applications (I said MOST). IOps is not a factor either in these comparisons, that would be a factor of the storage system.

So, let’s take a look at the typical server configuration. In this article, we are comparing blade servers. But this is even typical for a “2U” rack server. He called this an “eightieth percentile” server, meaning it will meet 80% of the requirements for a server.

Typical Server Configuration:

  • 2 Sockets
    • 4-6 cores per socket
  • 12 DIMM slots
  • 2 Hot-plug Drives
  • 2 Lan on Motherboard (LOM)
  • 2 Mezzanine Slots (Or PCI-e slots)

Now, say we take this typical server and load it with 4GB or 8GB DIMMs. This is not a real stretch of the imagination. It gives us 48GB of RAM. Now its time for some math:

Calculations for a server with 4GB DIMMs:

  • 48GB Total RAM ÷ 3GB Memory per VM = 16 VMs
  • 16 VMs ÷ 8 cores = 2 VMs per core
  • 16 VMs * 0.3Gb per VM = 4.8 Gb I/O needed (x2 for redundancy)
  • 16 VMs * 0.1Gb per VM = 1.6Gb Ethernet needed (x2 for redundancy)
  • 16 VMs * 0.2Gb per VM = 3.2Gb Storage needed (x2 for redundancy)

Calculations for a server with 8GB DIMMs:

  • 96GB Total RAM ÷ 3GB Memory per VM = 32 VMs
  • 32 VMs ÷ 8 cores = 4 VMs per core
  • 32 VMs * 0.3Gb per VM = 9.6Gb Ethernet needed (x2 for redundancy)
  • 32 VMs * 0.1Gb per VM = 3.2Gb Ethernet needed (x2 for redundancy)
  • 32 VMs * 0.2Gb per VM = 6.4Gb Storage needed (x2 for redundancy)

Are you with me so far? I see nothing wrong with any of these yet.

Now, we need to look at the different attributes of the blades:

2009-12-31_112613

* The IBM LS42 and HP BL490c Each have 2 internal non-hot plug drive slots

The “dings” against each:

  • Cisco B200M1 has no LOM and only 1 mezzanine slot
  • Cisco B250M1 has no LOM
  • Cisco chassis only has one pair of I/O modules
  • Cisco chassis only has four power supplies – may cause issues using 3-phase power
  • Dell M710 and M905 have only 1GbE LOMs (Allegedly, the chassis midplane connecting the LOMs cannot support 10GbE because they lack a “back drill.”)
  • IBM LS42 has only 1GbE LOMs
  • IBM chassis only has four power supplies – may cause issues using 3-phase power

Now, from here, the engineer made comparisons based on loading each blade with 4GB or 8GB DIMMs. Basically, some of the blades would not support a full complement of VMs based on a full load of DIMMS. What does this mean? Don’t rush out and buy blades loaded with DIMMs or your memory utilization could be lower than expected. What it really means is that you need to ASSESS your needs and DESIGN an infrastructure based on those needs. What I will do is give you a maximum VMs per blade and per chassis. It seems to me that it would make more sense to consider this in the design stage so that you can come up with some TCO numbers based on vendors. So, we will take a look at the maximum number of VMs for each blade based on total RAM capability and total I/O capability. The lower number becomes the total possible VMs per blade based on overall configuration. What I did here to simplify things was take the total possible RAM and subtract 6GB for hypervisor and overhead, then divide by 3 to come up with the amount of 3GB VMs I could host. I also took the size specs for each chassis and calulated the maximum possible chassis per rack and then calculated the number of VMs per rack. The number of chassis per rack does not account for top of rack switches. If these are needed, you may lose one chassis per rack most of the systems will allow for an end of row or core switching configuration.

Blade Calculations

One thing to remember is this is a quick calculation. It estimates the amount of RAM required for overhead and the hypervisor to be 6GB. It is by no means based on any calculations coming from a real assessment. The reason why the Cisco B250M1 blade is capped at 66 VMs is because of the amount of I/O it is capable of supporting. 20Gb redundant I/O ÷ 0.3 I/O per VM = 66 VMs.

I set out in this journey with the purpose of taking the ideas from an HP engineer and attempted as best as I could to be fair in my version of this presentation. I did not even know what the outcome would be, but I am pleased to find that HP blades offer the highest VM per rack numbers.

The final part of the HP presentation dealt with cooling and power comparisons. One thing that I was surprised to hear, but have not confirmed, is that the Cisco blades want to draw more air (in CFM) than one perforated tile will allow. I will not even get into the “CFM pre VM” or “Watt per VM” numbers, but they also favored HP blades.

Please, by all means challenge my numbers. But back them up with numbers yourself.

Cisco B200M1 Cisco B250M1 Dell M710 Dell M905 IBM LS42 HP BL460c HP BL490c HP BL685c
Max RAM 4GB DIMMs 48 192 72 96 64 48 72 128
Total VMs Possible 16 64 24 32 21 16 24 42
Max RAM 8GB DIMMs 96 384 144 192 128 96 144 256
Total VMs Possible 32 128 48 64 42 32 48 85
Max Total Redundant I/O 10 20 22 22 22 30 30 60
Total VMs Possible 33 66 72 73 73 100 100 200
Max VM per Blade (4GB DIMMs) 16 64 24 32 21 16 24 42
Max VM per Chassis (4GB DIMM) 128 256 192 256 147 256 384 336
Max VM per Blade (8GB DIMMs) 32 66 48 64 42 32 48 85
Max VM per Chassis (8GB DIMM) 256 264 384 512 294 512 768 680

vSphere 4.0 Quick Start Guide Released

The vSphere 4.0 Quick Start Guide: Shortcuts down the path of Virtualization has finally arrived!

I received a pre-release edition of the book at VMworld 2009. This guide has a great selection of shortcuts, tips and best practices for setting up and maintaining vSphere 4. I would be an excellent addition to any VMware administrator’s bookshelf. The book’s size also makes it a great reference for consultants as well. It will easily fit into your backpack.

It was authored by the following geniuses from the community:

Shows these guys some love and pick up a copy to support their efforts.

VMware Workstation 7, VMware Player and Microsoft Virtual PC

A little over a week ago,  I was pleasantly surprised by an email from VMware announcing the  release of VMware Workstation 7. Since I actively participated in the beta, they gave me a free license key for the new version. That’s reason enough to love it in itself! But, to be honest, I have been using VMware Workstation for quite some time now. I vaguely remember Y2K testing with it back when is was an IT pup. Since I got the fresh copy, I decided to completely redo my laptop with a fresh install of Winders 7 and all of my handy convenience programs (Office, TortoiseSVN,  TweetDeck, FeedDemon, Firefox, Pandora, etc.). Since Winders 7 and IE8 have some compatability issues with some things, I decided to create a hybrid of what I did when I ran Ubuntu as the host OS. Since I was making things fresh, I created a Winders 2003 template then spawned a VM to host all of my favorite tools for VMware. I will most likely create spawns of the template for other things, like SAN tools. This gives me modules to do the job of the day and portability in case the host crashes.

So, let’s say I didn’t get a free copy of Workstation. What are the options? Would I be able to justify the $189 for it? Let’s look at some of the differences, starting with the free stuff:

Windows Virtual PC

The newest version of Windows Virtual PC is available as a free download. I want to say that I did NOT download or install it, so my comparison is based on marketing materials from the Evil Empire’s site.

Pros

  • It’s free
  • “Access your Windows 7 Known Folders.” I think this compares to shared folders, but it looks like it may be limited to the folders in the “Libraries.”
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Seamless Applications. It sounds like their version of unity, which I almost never use anyway.
  • It supports Windows XP mode in Windows 7

Cons

  • Requires AMD-V or Intel-VT CPU feature. They list this as a feature…
  • It only runs on specific versions of Winders (The newest version only runs or Win7)
  • It only runs Winders guests
  • No VM Teams
  • No snapshots

VMware Player

The newest version of VMware Player is also available as a free download. It also installs when you install Workstation. Unlike previous versions, this new version allows you to create VMs.

Pros

  • Its free
  • Easily share ANY folder
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Unity mode
  • Supports many versions of Windows and Linux for host and Guest Operating systems
  • It supports Windows XP mode in Windows 7

Cons

  • No VM Teams
  • No Snapshots
  • No Clones

VMware Workstation 7

The newest version of VMware Workstation is available for free download for a 30 day evaluation.

Pros

  • Easily share ANY folder
  • USB Support
  • Clipboard Sharing
  • Unity mode
  • Supports many versions of Windows and Linux for host and Guest Operating systems
  • VM Teams
  • Multiple Snapshots
  • Automatic VM Backups

Cons

  • Not free

As you can see, even VMware Player offers much more than Windows Virtual PC. It supports Windows XP Mode for Windows 7 users, and it does it even better than Virtual PC. You do, however need to use VMware Converter to change the Windows XP VHD to a VMDK. It also supports many more operating systems as hosts and guests. It even supports more versions of Windows. This MAY be good enough, but not for me. Here are the features I most like about VMware Workstation:

VM Teams

The idea of a VM Team is similar to then new vApp found in vSphere, but it has been in workstation for quite some time. I guess I should say that the vSphere vApp is similar to a VM Team. It allows you to create a set of VMs that work with each other. You can set startup delays, bandwidth throttling, etc. It offers you a thumbnail view of all of the VMs in the team as well.

VM Team

Multiple Snapshots

The ability to take multiple snapshots has been around for a while, too. It allows you to take snapshots on the fly and revert to a point in time if needed. This comes in handy for developers testing code. I use it for a few things. I have a “Virtual Data Center” set up with an ESX server, and ESXi server and a vCenter Server. I have it set up with snapshots at certain states of the installation process. If I need to create a script for a certain task or create a dcoument, I can create a linked clone of the team based on a certain point in the process.

Snapshot Manager

AutoProtect

The new AutoProtect feature is my favorite. It automatically creates snapshots to back up your VM. You can set it to create restore points every hal-hour, hour or day and how many snapshots to retain. It will tell you how many hourly, daily and weekly snapshots it will keep and how much additional disk space it expects to use. Its great for me because I sometimes forget to take a snapshot before installing something.

AutoProtect

Free VMware Workstation Training!

VMware is offering a self-paced online course to introduce you to VMware Workstation. It covers many of the important features.

Conclusion

As a technical professional, you really cannot do without the features provided by VMware Workstation. There are so many things that you can do with it that you can’t do with Virtual PC or VMware Player that it should justify the cost. Looking for a free copy? If you are in the Philadelphia area on November 19th, consider attending the PAVMUG meeting, you may just win a copy. My next post will be covering what is planned for this day.

A Different Take on CEE and FCoE

Last Month, I attended a Brocade Net.Ed Session that covered Converged Enhanced Ethernet (CEE) and Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) and the idea of Server I/O Consolidation. If you missed the Net.Ed sessions, you can learn about it at Brocade’s Training Portal.  Once you register / login, click on Self-Pased Training and search or browse for FCoE 101 Introduction to Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE).  It’s free. Here is an unabridged report about the Net.Ed session with some of my opinions wrapped in:

Trends

With cloud computing, the consolidation of servers, storage and I/O are becoming popular. Once upon a time, server consolidation ratios were bound by processor and RAM count. With the introduction of servers with higher core count, faster processors and higher RAM capacities, the new boundaries are becoming I/O. related. And the I/O stack is answering the call for faster speeds. If you look at the trends, Fibre Channel speed has gone from 1Gb to 2Gb to 4Gb and now 8Gb. Soon, 16Gb FC will be the norm. Ethernet has gone from 10Mb to 100Mb to 1Gb and now 10Gb. The next chapter will bring 40Gb or 100Gb or both.

Fibre Channel and Ethernet have been in a leap frog contest since Fibre Channel was introduced. And there are plenty of arguments about which is “better” and why. Remember how iSCSI was going to take over the world with storage I/O? Why? Because people think they can implement it on the cheap. If it is implemented properly, it may not be that much cheaper than FC. I see too many instances where admins will implement iSCSI over their existing network, without thought of available bandwidth, security, I/O, etc. Then they complain how iSCSI sucks because of poor performance. Consolidation magnifies this. To top it off, iSCSI doesn’t help when dealing with things like FICON or the many tape drives that need faster throughput than what iSCSI can offer.

Hardware consolidation is also popular, and sometimes occurs during the server consolidation project. Blade servers are becoming more popular for many reasons. Less rack space, less cables, centralized management, etc. are all good reasons for blade servers. I just LOVE walking in to a data center and looking at the spaghetti mess behind the racks! Even with blade servers, the number of cables is still crazy. Some people still have Top of Rack switches, even with blades. More enlightened people have End of Row or Middle of Row switches. But there is still that mess in the back of the rack. I especially love when some genius decides to weave cables through the handles on a power supply….

Consolidate Your I/O

Enter I/O consolidation. Brocade calls it Unified I/O.  This is supposed to reduce cabling even more. I say “maybe.” In order to consolidate I/O, different protocols, adapters and switches are necessary. OH MY GAWD! New technology! This means the dreaded “C” word…Change. In a nutshell, it reduces the connections. You go from two to four NICs and two to four FCAs to two Converged Ethernet Adapters (CNAs). It is supposed to reduce cabling and complexity. It’s supposed to help with OpEx and CapEx by enabling more airflow/ cooling, and saving money on admin costs and cable costs, blah blah blah… Didn’t we hear this about blades too?

The Protocols (Alphabet Soup)

In order to make all of this work and become accepted, you need to worry about things like low latency, flow control and lossless quality. This needs to be addressed with standards. The results are CEE and FCoE. The issue arises with CEE. Not all of the components have been finalized. Things like priority based flow control (IEEE 802.1Qbb), Enhanced Transmission Selection (IEEE 802.1Qaz), Congestion Management (IEEE 802.1Qau) and. The IETF is still working on Transparent Interconnection of Lots of Links (TRILL) which will enable a layer 2 multipath without STP.

Feature/Standard

Benefit

Priority Flow Control (PFC)
IEEE 802.1Qbb

Helps enable a lossless network, allowing storage and networking traffic types to share a common network link

Enhanced Transmission Selection (Bandwidth Management)
IEEE 802.1Qaz

Enables bandwidth management by assigning bandwidth segments to different traffic flows

Congestion Management
IEEE 802.1Qau

Provides end-to-end congestion management for Layer 2 networks

Data Center Bridging Exchange Protocol (DCBX)

Provides the management protocol for CEE

L2 Multipathing: TRILL in IETF

Recovers bandwidth, multiple active paths; no spanning tree

FCoE/FC awareness

Preserves SAN management practices

Source: Brocade Data Center Convergence Overview Net.Ed Session
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My Two Cents

So, without fully functioning CEE, the FCoE cannot traverse the network. This stuff is all supposed to be ratified soon. Until these components are ratified, the dream of true FCoE is just a dream. The bridging can’t be done close to the core yet. So People who decided to start using CNAs and Data Center Bridges will need to place the DCBs close to the server (No Hops!) and terminate their FC at the DCB. In the case of the UCS, this is the Top of Rack or End/Middle of Row switch . In the case of an HP chassis, it’s the chassis, and they don’t even have this stuff yet.

My question is this: Why adopt a technology that is not completely ratified? Like I said before, all of this requires change. You may be in the middle of a consolidation project and you are looking at I/O consolidation. Do you really want to design your data center infrastructure to support part of a protocol? Are you willing to make changes now and then make new changes in six months to bring the storage closer to the core?

So, let’s assume everything is ratified. You have decided to consolidate your I/O. How many connections do you really save? Based on typical blade chassis configurations, it may be four to eight FC cables. But look at it another way: You are losing that bandwidth. A pair of 10Gb CNAs will give you a total of about 20Gb of bandwidth. A pair of 10GbE Adapters and a pair of 8Gb FC adapters gives you about 36Gb. So, sure, you save a few cables. But you give away bandwidth. When you think about available bandwidth, is a pair of 10Gb CNAs or NICs enough? I remember when 100Mb was plenty. If consolidation is becoming I/O bound, do you want to limit yourself?  How about politics? Will your network team and storage team play nice together? Where is the demarcation between SAN and LAN?

I first saw the UCS Blades almost a year ago and I was excited about the new technology. Their time is coming soon. The HP Blades have always impressed me since they were introduced. They will never go away. I have used the IBM and Dell blades. My mother always said that if I didn’t have anything nice to say about something, don’t say anything at all…

When I take a look at the server hardware available to me now (HP and Cisco), I see pluses and minuses to both. The UCS Blades have no provisions for FC, so you need to drink the FCoE Kool Aide or use iSCSI. The HP blades allow for more I/O connections and can support FC, but not FCoE. If you want to make the playing field similar, you should compare UCS to the HP Blades with Flex-10. This will make the back-end I/O modules similar. Both act as a sort of matrix to map internal I/O to external I/O. Both will pass VLAN tags for VST and both will accommodate the 1000-v dvSwitches. The thing about Flex-10 is that it requires a different management interface if you are already a Cisco shop.

There’s a fast moving freight train called CHANGE on the track. It never stops. You need to decide when you have the guts to jump on and when you have the guts to jump off.

ESX vs. ESXi Which is Better? Revisited.

For over a year now, I have started off telling customers in Plan and Design engagements that they would be using ESXi unless we uncovered a compelling reason to NOT use it. The “which do I use” argument is still going strong. Our blog post “ESX vs. ESXi which is better?“  was posted in April and is still the most popular. It seems to be a struggle for many people to let go of the service console. VMware is trying to go in the direction of the thinner ESXi hypervisor. They are working to provide alternatives to using the service console.

VMware has provided a comparison of ESX vs. ESXi for version 3.5 for a while. Well, VMware posted a comparison for ESX vs. ESXi for version 4 last night. It’s a great reference.

VMware Workstation Release Candidate Available Now

VMware Workstation 7 RC is available now. A while back, I posted about how to disable debug mode and quickly made it private because I was under NDA. Well, as of October 2nd, it is in RC and available to the public.

Since I changed jobs, I am back to a Winders laptop as my primary host. Its very convenient to spark up an Ubuntu VM to allow me the *NIX native commands I use when working with ESX Servers, like scp and ssh. I know I can do it with things like Putty, but I am more comfortable using Linux for these tasks. It makes editing bash and kickstart scripts a little easier too. It seems that Microsoft has made an OS that sucks less than Vista (Winders 7), but many of the simple .Net tools, like the vSphere Client, won’t work without stoopid tricks. So, I also have a stripped down XP VM that I keep updated with all of the kewl tools, like the VMware Clients, PowerCLI, vSphere CLI, The VESI, Converter, Capacity Planner, RVTools and the Host Update Utility. I actually created the VM back when Ubuntu was my primary laptop OS and it is nice to have the ability(and security) to take a snapshot before upgrading any of the tools or programs that I use. Someone once said that it adds extra layers when I am trying to do my job. But think about this: If my laptop takes a nosedive, regardless of the OS, I can just jump on any machine – even a netbook – and run the VM using VMware Player from a USB Stick.

Some interesting notes about Workstation 7 RC:

  • Ability to create a VM that will run ESX 3.5 or ESX 4
    • This was “allowed” in WS 6.5, but you had to manually edit the .vmx to make it work. Now you can tell the wizard that the guest OS is ESX Server.
    • Great for testing scripts, etc.
    • Seems to support all Enterprise Plus features except Fault Tolerance
  • Better Network Configuration GUI for Winders hosts
    • The are using the Virtual Network Editor GUI that we have used on Linux hosts for a while.
    • Seems that Winders hosts will only allow a single NAT network. I always had three or four on my Linux hosts.
  • Better ALSA sound support for Linux hosts
    • No sound output conflicts
  • Driverless printing via ThinPrint
    • Very convenient!

They don’t say how long it will be in RC status and I would speculate that pricing will be similar to WS 6.x pricing. What are you waiting for? Go git some!

http://communities.vmware.com/community/beta/workstation

What is Cloud Computing? I Don’t Care!! Part Two

As an update to yesterday’s “I don’t care” post, Mike DiPetrillo has claimed ownership of the original “I don’t care” quote.

And just so everyone understands completely, the “I don’t care” is for the users. The administrators should absolutely care. Users should not need to care. The design of the cloud should be such that the user doesn’t need to care.

Did you put all your stuff in containers yet?

What is Cloud Computing? I Don't Care!!

So , today I sat in a seminar hosted by VMware, EMC, Cisco and SunGard. It was called “Take the Risk Out of Cloud Computing“. It was the same old mantra…Create your Internal Cloud now in preparation for the coming of the External Cloud. SunGard puts an availability twist with its view on things: “Let us be your hosted cloud and/or your DR cloud.” The sessions seemed to be designed to inform someone who knows about virtualization, but may not understand cloud computing. I was there to see what SunGard’s take on it was. In the Cloud realm, they do two things and they do them well: hosting and DR. (I have to admit, I served a five year sentence with SunGard…)

When Clair Roberts got up to speak, the first thing he did was read the official VMware definition of Cloud Computing. Then he gave his own definition: “I don’t care!” Later, I spoke with him and he admitted that he borrowed it from someone else at VMware, so I am going to borrow it from them, too.

Think about it. “I don’t care!” I don’t care where it is. I don’t care about the hardware. I don’t care how it got there. I don’t care how it cooled. I don’t care how it is powered. I DO care that it is there when I need it and is reasonably responsive from anywhere at any time. That’s it. That’s what cloud computing should be.  Plain and simple: “I Don’t Care!”

Later, David Freund from EMC gave another good analogy of how Cloud Computing should be. He compared it to Intermodal Freight Transport.  You buy or rent a STANDARDIZED CONTAINER and put stuff in it. You don’t care how it gets to the destination, only that it gets there.

Today’s assignment is to put your stuff in the standardized container. That way we can put it somewhere later.

Another great job by the VMware Performance Team!

I just stumbled upon a fresh post by Hal Rosenberg, a Performance Engineer from VMware. Its a great doc, titled Performance Troubleshooting for VMware vSphere 4. It has some great flowcharts and steps to take to come to a root cause analysis for performance issues. Although it is written for vSphere 4, much of the methodology applies to earlier versions as well.

Another great job by the VMware Performance Team! Thanks Guys!

The Science of VMware and the Art of Photography

While attending VMworld this year, I participated in Greg Lato’s VMworld 2009 Portrait Project. Greg works days for VMware and freelances as a photographer. I can barely maintain one blog, Greg has two. Latoga Labs chronicles his vocation and Latoga Photography chronicles his art. Below are a couple of great examples of his art. Even Greg can make my ugly mug look pretty good. Add both of his blogs to your feed reader.

UPDATE: Greg posted a portrait of each of the participants on his blog the other day. Check it out here.

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Thanks to Greg Lato

Greg's point of view

It seems like there are quite a few of us out there that at least dabble in photography. The VMworld 2009 Photos thread can attest to this. Even I posted a few pics on my Facebook page.


VMworld 2009: Hey VMware / Moscone WTF?!? My Rant

First off, I want to say that this is my first time in San Fransisco. It seems to be a great city, but I don’t have time to do any site-seeing. The Moscone Center, although small compared to the Las Vegas venues, seems to be able to accommodate all of the sessions. Somehow, the Labs ended up a couple blocks away at the Mariott instead of around the corner in Moscone West.

So, now for my rant, and I will repeat this on the overall survey when I get the email:

Hey Food Service – How about some coffee at 7:00am ?!? I found five coffee urns that were empty. WHat the hell is up with that? When I get my “breakfast” (Well discuss this next) I like coffee!

How about “breakfast”?  Little donuts and muffins do not cut it. Last year, we had hot breakfast, cereal, yogurt, etc. SOme protien is nice to start a big day of walking miles back and forth in the Moscone Center.

Did you get some lunch on Tuesday? I went to the Moscone meal area at about 12:45 and they only had a few veggie meals. I had to find this little building about a block away only to find veggie meals. On to the Mariott – found a Rainbow Beef and Rubber Cheese sammich. All the freaking soda was diet!

Then there was the rumbling mob of fat geeks fighting over the candy bars in the afternoon. Coffee urns were empty again.

So, I stop into the View Design Session and there are cookies and soda in the back of the room. Slightly nice touch. But don’t clean it up in the middle of the session and shut up! I find it very distracting listening to ten conversations and a VMware Engineer trying to teach me something.

It is a damn shame. The Moscone Center is nice, the sessions are excellent, the attendees and most of the staff are great. These few little things can ruin a good experience for some…

UPDATE: I thought Moscone was reforming its ways with the food. Everything was a little better on Wednesday. At least there was coffee in the morning and the lunch was OK for a box lunch…BUT today, they “ran out of juice” at breakfast. There was none. I was maybe the 100th person in line. Hey VMware, if you’re going to cut costs, maybe we can have a few local cover bands instead of Foreigner, which is really a bunch of old dudes (like me) and a guys who is trying to be like Lou Graham in his heyday.

VCDX and VCP4

Monday was my first day at VMworld. I didn’t attend any sessions, but I did defend a design for my VCDX and I took the VCP4 Certification test. After that, I tried to attend the View Advanced Config and Troubleshooting Lab, but the line was huge, even for registered users. The one nice thing about being a registered VMworld attendee is that all of the materials eventually make it to the VMworld site and I can download the LAB and do it on my own time. So someone on the wait list probably took my spot.

Ok, on to the VCDX Design Defense. First off, its pricey, so make sure you are serious. The defense is the final step in the process for VCDX. I reported to the VMware San Fransisco office at the appointed time Monday morning. My facilitator came out to greet me and explain the process. Then I met the Uber Geeks (I mean that in a good way) from VMware. These guys were the first to recieve the VCDX certification and they really know their stuff. They regularly host the more advanced sessions at VMworld and Partner Exchange. The first part is to spend 15 minutes giving an executive presentation about your design, then you spend about an hour “defending” that design. Once that is done, there is a hypothetical design scenario and a hypothetical troubleshooting scenario. They guys were great and it was a really good experience. Hopefully, I will hear the results in a few weeks.

The VCP4 Test was similar to the VCP3. Questions were added for new features and the new maximum configurations were in there. I glanced at the blueprint last week and it seems to be a pretty good indication of what you will need to know to pass. The systems were slow as hell on Monday. Usually with multiple guess tests, I rifle through the questions and answer them using my gut. I will mark a few as I go along if I am unsure weather my gut is giving me an answer or if it is just gas. It took about a minute for each question to load after I hit the next button. So it took over an hour for me to get through it instead of the usual 15-30 minutes. Very frustrating, but hey, no I are one!