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EMC World vLabs Sessions – Virtual and in the Cloud

April 19th, 2011

vLabs_LogoI got an email last night from my very, very busy EMC colleague Simon Seagrave.  He’s been working hard with the rest of the EMC tech enablement team to prepare the vSpecialist vLab sessions for EMC World in Las Vegas.

Let me just say, they have worked wonders and have a superb floor show prepared for all you who will be attending from May 9th onwards.  They have created a 200 seat hands on labs covering the EMC products shown below, something for everyone I’m sure you’d agree.

vLabs_Sessions

vLab_PicAll labs with the exception of the VMAX lab have been virtualised and are hosted in EMC’s cloud, that’s us eating our own dog food as Chad would put it.

To attend one of the vLabs then simply register at the console just outside the vLab room.  Sign up for a lab and when it’s your turn your name will flash up on the big screen and a vSpecialist will take you to your seat.  Nice simple process and you may well find that it’ll be me escorting you to your seat.  C’mon people get involved!

Events, General ,

New beginnings–Customer buy side to Vendor sell side

March 11th, 2011

Some may have picked up on this recently and others may not have even noticed but at the start of this week I started working for EMC.  As of last Monday I am now a technical vSpecialist in Chad’s army covering the UK north region as part of the wider EMEA team of vSpecialists.

So let me start off by saying this is a a huge move for me, one I am so excited about and it is a fantastic opportunity that I fully intend to grab with both hands.  I was previously working on the customer side of the fence and although I enjoyed it immensely and it taught me a lot, the lack of bleeding / cutting edge exposure often left me a little underwhelmed.  To put that in context,  I worked in the investment industry and risk awareness and being risk averse is part and parcel of that industry.  As a result bleeding / cutting edge technologies are eyed with suspicion and only implemented when fully proven or half the industry has implemented it. It always made sense to me from my previous employers perspective but it wasn’t fulfilling my desire to work with the latest and greatest kit.

Cloud_JourneyThis is where EMC and more specifically the vSpecialist team comes in! I now find myself embarking on my own personal journey, moving from the buy side to the sell side which I’m sure will be an eye opener. I’m looking forward to working hard to learn all about EMC and it’s plethora of solutions while also working to support and promote the “journey to the cloud” for EMC customers both new and existing.

What does this mean for the VirtualPro blog? Well of course I fully intend to keep it going and hope to have more to write about in the future now that my focus is primarily technology based.  Although I will no longer be viewed as independent I am a technology lover first and foremost.  If it’s worth writing about I will write about it, after all this blog is my own and has been for a number of years, it is not something EMC asks me to do.  I look forward to sharing some new and exciting content with you as my time in the industry progresses.

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A year of blogging–Top 10 posts of 2010

December 30th, 2010

So 2010 is already almost over and now that I have a little spare festive holiday time I thought it would be a good chance to reflect on my year of blogging.  I have to say I was also inspired by Eric Gray over at vCritical who had written a top 10 posts article, I thought that might be quite interesting to add in as well.

It’s been a great year for me this year, I maybe haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked to due to work commitments and the small matter of a month long trip to Alaska to indulge in my love of snowboarding. However I have had some tremendous experiences along the way this year while blogging when I could.

Highlights for me included my invite to the GestaltIT Tech Field Day in Seattle, where I got to meet a number of other bloggers from across the world and was given the chance to see and comment on some very interesting existing and new technologies.

My trip to VMworld 2010 in San Francisco was also another great chance to finally meet up with other bloggers.  The Tweet-up was a superb chance to meet the likes of John Troyer, Simon Seagrave, Eric Gray and many others.  VMworld itself was once again a superb educational event, I took part in two great group sessions, one with Chad Sakacc and one with Scott Drummonds.  Great new format for 2010 and one that I will definitely be revisiting if I get the chance to attend again.

On the back of my VMworld trip I was also invited to talk at the Scotland VMUG, quite a daunting experience if I’m honest.  However it turned out to be something I really enjoyed and would be happy to do again.  I even enjoyed the difficult questions thrown at me by Mike Laverick, all of them great conversation starters.

Top 10 posts – 2010

1. vSphere ESX4 on a USB key / Pen Drive 6524 views
2. Virtualisation Visio Stencils – Microsoft, VMware, Citrix 4707 views
3. EMC Navisphere Simulator Download 4689 views
4. VMware Remote Console – Vi3, Vmware Server 2 3702 views
5. Virtualisation Visio stencils 3395 views
6. How to run Citrix XenServer 5.5 on VMware vSphere 3379 views
7. vSphere 4.0 – What’s new in vSphere Storage 1854 views
8. Where to start with your VMWare ESX Whitebox 1720 views
9. VMware Visio Pack available – VIOPS 1672 views
10. vSphere vMotion Processor Compatibility and EVC Clusters 1647 views

Its interesting that that people prefer the practical how to or information linking posts as opposed to the review or opinion pieces. I will keep that in mind for my 2011 blog postings.

A massive thank you to everyone who has been a visitor to this site over 2010. All that remains to be said is have a great New Year and all the best for 2011.

General

Symantec Application HA for VMware – VMworld 2010

August 16th, 2010

I was lucky enough last week to be involved in a Gestalt IT conference call with Symantec.  The conference call was designed to give us all a sneak preview of what Symantec were planning to announce at VMworld 2010 in a couple of weeks.  Unfortunately it was under embargo, that is until today!

There were a couple of announcements being made, Symantec introduced a new NFS storage product called VirtualStore and made some further announcements about NetBackup 7 and new VMware specific features.  However the most interesting announcement on the call for me was the release of Symantec Application HA for VMware.

Symantec_Virt_AdoptSymantec have been looking at why customers are not going “the last mile” with virtualisation.  Why are customers not deploying their Tier 1 applications on their virtual platforms? Symantec’s view on this was that customers still have issues with application level failure within guest VM’s.  This product has been designed to fill that void and at present is a product with no real competitors.

As the call progressed the current HA options were described by Symantec and discussed by the group. The obvious one is VMware HA which covers a physical host failure event. Within the VMware HA product there is also VM monitoring which covers you in the event of an OS level failure event, such as a  blue screen.  Then you can of course employ other technologies such as OS level clustering, however you then have to take heed of caveats that hinder the ability to use features such as vMotion and DRS.

I’m always sceptical when I see new virtualisation products, one of my fears is that companies are attempting to just jump on the crest of the wave that is virtualisation. Symantec are obviously a bit more established than your average company, but as always the jury is out until we see a final product doing the business for real.  It transpired during the call that the product is actually based on Symantec Veritas Cluster Server,  a product with a long history in application availability.

Veritas Cluster Server has a lot of in built trigger scenarios for common products such as Microsoft SQL Server, Exchange Server and  IIS.  On top of this built in, out of the box support Symantec also have a VCS development kit allowing for custom scenarios to be written.  I like this approach,  it reminds me of F5 Networks use of the customer community to support the writing of custom rules and features for their product.  If a custom rule or feature has enough demand then they spend the time developing it into their product range.    Perhaps Symantec could look at leveraging their customer base and community in this way and improve the support around VCS trigger scenarios.  One other potential use of the VCS SDK that springs to mind is for application vendors who are making specialist software, CRM, ERP, Finance systems, etc.  They could look to build in Application HA into pre-configured virtual appliances, that would be a great selling point for any software vendor.

The deployment of the product itself takes the form of a guest deployment / agent. Technical deep dive information on the exact integration between the Symantec product and VMware was thin on the ground.  However there was mention of Symantec’s integration with the VMware HA API,  something that I don’t think has been announced by VMware just yet.  The description given to us during the call was that if Symantec Application HA failed to restart the application it could send a downstream API call to VMware HA and ask it to restart the VM’s Operating System.  An interesting concept, something I am sure we’ll hear more about at VMworld.

Licensing for this new product is quite competitive, $350 per virtual machine, a small price to pay for ensuring your Tier 1 application recovery is automated.  Symantec have promised full integration with vCenter Server and the screenshot below shows Symantec Application HA in action monitoring a SQL 2008 server, click on the thumbnail to see a full size image.

If you would like to learn more about Application HA, then get along to VMware and Symantec’s break out session at VMworld. – http://www.vmworld.com/docs/DOC-4658

Alternatively you can listen to a Podcast from Symantec’s Niraj Zaveri discussing the new product.  – http://www.symantec.com/podcasts/detail.jsp?podid=ent_application_ha

General, Gestalt-IT, New Products, VMware , ,

Win a free trip to VMworld 2010

August 10th, 2010

VMworld 2010 in San Francisco is fast approaching and promises to be a fantastic event. I have two questions for you.

        – If you are not attending already would you like to?

        – Would you like someone else to pay for you to go?

I think the obvious answer to both those questions is a resounding YES!  So how do you take advantage of this very, very special offer?  Well over at Gestalt IT my friend Stephen Foskett has arranged a spectacular competition supported exclusively by the four vendors shown below.

                                  

How To Enter

Get yourself over to the VMworld contest extension page on the Gestalt IT web site and get over there quickly.  You will need to fill out the entry form by close of play Thursday the 12th of August, most importantly you need to tell us how you are going to “Pay it forward".  What does this mean,  well the following extract explains what we expect from competition entrants.

There’s always a catch, right? Inspired by winner Greg Stuart‘s desire to contribute to the community, we’re not just going to pick a winner at random. We’re going to pick the person who presents the best case for themselves.

Entrants must explain how they plan to “pay it forward” if they get to go to VMworld. Will you start a blog? Write some tutorials? Contribute to a forum or online community? Present to your local VMUG? Get creative and spread the wealth of knowledge you get from the event!

Our panel of judges is made up of none other than the most-excellent roster of past Tech Field Day delegates! They’ve proven themselves to be independent-minded and knowledgeable, and we’re sure that they will pick the best entries!

It’s pretty simple and at present there are not quite as many entries as you’d think.  Get involved people, it’s not going to take you long and could end on a nice trip to San Francisco for one of the highlights of the IT calendar.  I look forward to reading the entries and helping decide the winner!

Events, General, VMware , ,

HP Server DDR3 Memory Configuration Tool

July 26th, 2010

I’ve recently been lucky enough to be looking at purchasing a few additional ESX servers. I have spent a good few years now working with HP servers so have been looking at the HP Proliant DL380 G7 model for my particular needs.

I tend to spend a bit of time ensuring that the servers are specified correctly using the HP server quick specs. It can take a bit of time but I want to make sure that I am getting the right configuration for my virtualisation solution. To see an example follow the link to see the current quick specs for the HP Proliant DL 380 G7 server.

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While reviewing the quick specs for the DL 380 G7 I noticed the following section which I’d not seen before when buying other HP Proliant servers.

NOTE: Depending on the memory configuration and processor model, the memory speed may run at 1333MHz, 1066MHz, or 800MHz. Please see the Online Memory Configuration Tool at: www.hp.com/go/ddr3memory-configurator.

Now I usually buy memory as follows 4GB, 8GB, 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB, most people probably do I imagine.  However as it turns out that the new Nehalem (Xeon 5500) and Westmere (5600) processors have some specific rules that need to be abided by to ensure optimal performance.  This is where this particular HP tool comes in handy, whether you are configuring a new server or attempting to upgrade a current one.

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As it turned 32GB is not an optimal configuration,  something that certain resellers never picked up on.  As it turned out I needed either 24GB or 36GB to ensure my server memory runs at 1333MHz and performs at its best. 

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If you are looking at buying a new HP server, or simply looking to add memory to an existing server I strongly suggest taking a look at this tool to ensure you get it right.

http://h18000.www1.hp.com/products/servers/options/tool/hp_memtool.html

General, Servers , ,

Gestalt IT Seattle Tech Field Day – Day 1 Summary

July 15th, 2010

So that is Day 1 of the Seattle Tech Field Day out of the way and what a day it has been.  We’ve been out to Microsoft Redmond HQ, or “the temple” as John Obeto calls it.  We saw some new products from Veeam and were privileged enough to be the first port of call for a new and very exciting storage start-up, Nimble Storage.

There has been a lot of information flowing about today, an awful lot. My plan is to spend some time assimilating all the information and doing more detailed posts on everyone we’ve seen, so for now I think a summary will suffice.

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Veeam are a company that needs very little introduction.  They’ve not been around long (3 years to be exact) but they are a well known and well respected brand in the virtualisation space.  Today Veeam were announcing a new product / concept that they have at the development stage, one that got delegates quite excited.

Veeam were introducing vPower a new product made up of 3 products, SureBackup, Instant Restore and CDP (a much debated point).  What stood out most for Tech Field Day delegates was the some of the Instant Restore functionality, the ability to run your VM direct from backup image was well received.  My personal thought at the time was who wouldn’t want to have a mechanism available to test your backups actually work.  The added bonus was that Veeam also provide network isolation and an almost Lab Manager ability to create groups of machines that should be recovered together. The idea of verifying your backups by running them from the back up storage was one thing,  Veeam had however written their own NFS in order do this.  This means that technically in the event of an outage you can run your machine directly from the Veeam backup server NFS datastore.  It’ isn’t going to be fast but it’s running which is the main thing you should be concerned about.  It was all good stuff and general consensus was that it was a step in the right direction and quite a shift in the VM backup space.

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Our surprise for the day was a new Tech start-up who were launching themselves and their product for the very first time.  Nimble Storage is a new start company who consist of a number of high pedigree employees with a proven track record at companies such as NetApp and DataDomain.  This is further backed up with an experienced board of directors and top venture capital investment and last but not least, a pretty good product at a good price point.

Without going into to much detail Nimble storage have produced a new array that probably reshapes the way people think about primary and backup storage as well as the use of flash storage within an array. Right at the outset they stated that their aim was to introduce flash storage to the mid size enterprise while also utilising a lot of the features being pioneered by other vendors.  Nimble’s approach is different in that it provides a converged appliance, one that does primary and secondary storage within the same device while also introducing flash caching to provide high performance.  Through the use of inline compression, flash cache, sequential write down to disk, efficient snapshots and replication as well as zero space cloning, Nimble is packing a lot into their product. At the top end you are paying a list price of  $99,000 + $6,000 annual maintenance.  For this you are looking at 18TB of primary storage (not including flash cache) + 15,000 IOPS from a SATA / Flash Mix. They were also looking at 216TB of backup capacity within that same device, driven primarily by their use of space efficient snapshots.  I have a lot of notes on this particular presentation and will be expanding upon this in the coming weeks.

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Now F5 was a company I was really interested to see, primarily because I wasn’t entirely sure what they offered.  Sure I knew they were into networking but even then what did they do in the networking space, I had no idea.  We were treated to 4 different presentations that covered the following.

  • WAN optimised geographical vMotion
  • Coding of IRules and IControls for the BIG-IP appliances
  • Intelligent client VPN connectivity via BIG-IP’s Edge gateway module.
  • Data Management and Routing using F5’s ARX appliance, file system virtualisation.

 

All were very impressive and I will definitely be looking to dig a little deeper and examine in full some of the technology presented and discussed.  I was particularly impressed with F5’s vision for data management / file level virtualisation, as they seem to be one of the only companies in this space that I am aware of.  This vision was demonstrated to us as a mix of onsite primary tier 1 storage and off site cloud storage.  The ARX appliance would sit as a director presenting a unified view of the storage to the end user, while internally keeping a routing table of up to a billion files.  This will allow IT departments to place files across multiple types of storage, whether that be differing internal storage devices or storage in the cloud. The concept sits well with the current cloud strategies being developed by most major IT companies, what’s surprising is that nobody else is doing it.  There is a lot more to be said about F5,  I plan to delve a little deeper and write some more,

Summary

It’s been a very busy day,  one however that has been exceptionally rewarding. Tech Field Day has been everything I expected it to be so far,  there has been a wealth of information shared and a lot of feedback given. The biggest win for me though is getting the time to learn more about vendors and their product offerings, that and hearing the comments of my fellow delegates.  There is a good mix of intelligent people from varied backgrounds and that has only added to the experience so far.

We ended the night with a tour of the Boeing museum of flight and a couple of drinks with dinner.  It’s now midnight and after just 6 hours sleep last night and a busy schedule ahead for tomorrow,  I am going to call it a night there.

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, however all event expenses are paid by the sponsors via Gestalt IT Media LLC. The views and content expressed here are my own and is in no way influenced by the sponsors of this event.

Events, General, Gestalt-IT, Tech Field Day , , ,

Windows Virtual Desktop Access Licensing – What is it?

June 24th, 2010

I try and avoid licensing at all costs, it’s a horrible subject and one that strikes fear in to many.  When you add virtualisation in to the mix it tends to get a little more complicated and you often find that the rules change on a reasonably regular basis. I was involved in a discussion today about Citrix XenDesktop and an interesting point came up when discussing licensing Virtual PCs.  Someone mentioned something called the Microsoft VDA,  I hadn’t a clue what they were talking about so I did a little digging around to find out more.

In summary this is what I found, it’s not pretty reading. As of the 1st of July 2010 Microsoft is changing the way it licences the Windows OS in VDI environments.  The following changes will take place

Windows® Virtual Enterprise Centralized Desktop (Windows VECD) and Windows VECD for Software Assurance (SA) will no longer appear on the price list.

Virtual desktop access rights will become a Windows Client Software Assurance benefit. Customers who intend on using PCs covered under SA will now be able to access their Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) desktops at no additional charge.

Customers who want to use devices such as thin clients that do not qualify for Windows Client SA would need to license those devices with a new license called Windows Virtual Desktop Access (Windows VDA) to be able to access a Windows VDI desktop.Windows VDA is also applicable to third party devices, such as contractor or employee-owned PCs.

What does it all mean?

In it’s simplest terms you don’t licence the windows virtual machine itself, you instead licence the end point its being accessed from. To further break this down there are two distinct endpoint categories to consider.

1. The end point is a Windows OS covered by Software Assurance (SA)

2. The end point is a non windows device or is a windows device without SA

In the first category you are covered to access a windows virtual machine as Virtual Desktop Access (VDA) is included as a Software Assurance benefit.  In the second category however you need to purchase a VDA subscriptions for each end point device.  Unfortunately this is not a one off purchase either, this is a $100 per year per device subscription cost.

As an example, say you have  a sales person who uses a company laptop and a company smart phone to access their VDI virtual machine.  You would need to have the laptop installed with a software assured copy of windows and buy a VDA subscription for the smart phone.  Alternatively if you have a non SA copy of windows on the laptop you need 2 VDA subscription licences to cover both devices.  This latter example would obviously be the same if the laptop was MAC OS or Linux based.

There is some good news though in that Microsoft have something called extended roaming rights with the windows VDA licence.  In short the primary user of a VDA licensed device can access their VDI desktop from any device that is not owned by the users company.  Examples would be a users home PC, airport kiosk or hotel business centre

There is a lot to take in with licensing, especially in the VDI space. I suggest everyone running or planning to deploy VDI takes a look at the recent changes and considers how they effect existing or planned deployments.  Some people will see this as Microsoft stifling the growth of Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, others will argue that it may actually acts as an enabler.  In truth I’m just not sure. I’m still digesting what it all means and playing through the various scenarios and combinations of VDI access.  On the surface I can see it hindering as opposed to helping this growing virtualisation sector.

For additional information I’d recommend checking out the following Microsoft FAQ article and for those of you who are Gartner customers the linked article below breaks it down quite nicely into simple terms.

Microsoft VDI suites & Windows VDA Frequently Asked Questions PDF

Gartner – Q&A for understanding Microsoft Licensing Requirements before deploying HVDs

General, Gestalt-IT, Microsoft , , , ,

Windows 2008 VM’s losing default gateway

June 17th, 2010

I am currently in the process of deploying a number of new Windows 2008 virtual machines and came across an interesting little issue.  Every time I reboot the server the default gateway blanks itself, meaning I cannot connect to it via RDP as it is in a remote data centre.  Thank goodness for vCenter console access, if this was a physical server it would be a real pain in the you know what.

So how do you fix it? well simply open a command prompt and type the following

netsh int ip reset c:\resetlog.txt

This is basically a reset of the TCP/IP components and as a result all IP information for your network connections will be wiped back to the default dynamic DHCP setting. So now you need to re-enter the static IP information for the server and restart it. It’s worthwhile doing a couple of reboots just so you can be sure that the problem has actually disappeared.

Further information can be found in Microsoft KB article 299357

General, Microsoft

SNAPVMX – View your Snapshots at VMFS/virtual disk level

June 9th, 2010

Following a recent implementation of VMware Data Recovery manager we ran into a few issues.  We eventually had to kill the virtual appliances due to the issue we were having and as a result we had a couple of virtual machines with outstanding snapshots.  These snapshots were taken by VDR and as a result could not be viewed or deleted using the snapshot manager.

We raised a call with VMware support and they started a WebEx session to look at the issue.  I always love watching VMware support personnel operating at the service console level, I always pick up a command or two that I didn’t know before.  On this occasion the support engineer was using something called SnapVMX to view the hierarchy of snapshots at the virtual disk level.

At first I thought this was an inbuilt VMware command but it turns out it’s not. It was actually a little piece of code that was written by Ruben Garcia.  What does it do?  well the following extract from the download pages explains it pretty well.

  • Displays snapshots structure and size of snapshots for every disk on that VM
  • Calculates free space needed to commit snapshots for the worst case scenario
  • Checks the CID chain of the analysed files and displays a warning if broken.

I’ve included a little demo screenshot to show what it can do. On the left hand side is  a screenshot from Snapshot Manager within vCenter.  On the right hand side is the same VM being viewed with SnapVMX in the service console.  Put the two together and you get a better idea of the snapshot disk hierarchy and the size of each snapshot.

SnapVMX_1SnapVMX

The other interesting feature is that it tells you what space is required to commit the snapshots.  So for example, say you had taken 5 snapshots of a machine as it was being built and configured.  Say that the overall effect of those 5 snapshots is to fill up your VMFS datastore completely. Chances are that you’re not going to be able to commit the snapshots within the current VMFS datastore.  SnapVMX will be able to tell you the worse case scenario on how much space would be required to commit the snapshots.  Armed with this information you could cold migrate to another datastore that has at least that amount of free space in order to allow you to commit the snapshots.  The screenshot below isn’t the best but the best I could do due to the length of the statement.

SnapVMX_2

For the download and full documentation on how to use this piece of code head over to the following web site. Worth a look if you’re a big user of snapshots.

http://geosub.es/vmutils/SnapVMX.Documentation/SnapVMX.Documentation.html

While searching for a link to Ruben Garcia to put on this article I found that he has a blog site and within that I found a link to a superb troubleshooting VM snapshot problems article which I will definitely be keeping a link to and suggest you check out.  Truly excellent stuff Ruben!

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