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How to run Citrix XenServer 5.5 on VMware vSphere

June 22nd, 2009

Well fresh from my return from the Citrix iForum I decided to fire head long into installing XenServer in my home lab so I could have a look at it.

I already run VMware vSphere 4i on my home lab which consists of an HP Proliant ML115 G5.  Instead of buying another machine to install Xenserver on or rebuilding my current vSphere server I thought I would try and install XenServer inside a virtual machine.  As Eric Gray over at vCritical proved you can install vSphere 4 inside a vSphere 4 virtual machine so surely the same would be possible XenServer 5.5, shouldn’t it?

Well the screenshot below should prove exactly that,  Xenserver 5.5 successfully running on vSphere 4i

xenservervm

So how did I conduct the install,  well first of all I downloaded the ISO from Citrix’s website and then did the following.

1 – Create a Virtual Machine with custom settings.
2 – Select the new Virtual Machine version 7 hardware.
3 – Select Red Hat Enterprise Linux v5 (64-bit).
4 – 1 vCPU and 1GB of RAM will suffice.
5 – I used the LSI Logic Parallel SCSI Controller.
6 – Create a disk based between 20 – 30GB (less has caused issues, see comments below)
7 – Make it thin provisioned if you want,  why wouldn’t you?
8 – Connect the ISO image to the VM and start it.
9 – Follow the prompts on screen to complete the install.

I only had one issue during install and that was when the following message appeared,  I carried on installing XenServer and it completed without issue.

xenservervm3

However when It came to starting up windows based Virtual Machines,  like the message above indicated, I couldn’t.  XenCenter showed the following error.

xenservervm4

Basically because Windows requires the hardware virtualised assist features (Intel VT or AMD-V),  hypervisor on top of hypervisor masks this underlying virtualisation assistance and hence Windows can’t operate.  What I did manage to get up and running was virtual machines running Debian Lenny 5.0,  so at least I had something to play about with and test out XenServer features such as live motion. Linux machines on XenServer start up in a para virtualised mode and are therefore supported where hardware virtualisation assist is not available.

check out the Debian Lenny based DreamLinux desktop edition,  this should give you some VM’s to play within your virtualised XenServer environment.

So although I didn’t get XenServer operating like I wanted to in Vmware vSphere, I did get  it working enough to play about with it and it’s features.  To be honest that’s all I was after in the first place!!

Citrix, VMware, vSphere, XenServer , , ,

vSphere ESX4i on a USB key / Pen Drive

May 24th, 2009

As soon as vSphere was put on General release I downloaded a copy of vSphere 4 ESXi for running on my home lab setup.  I’ve only recently started my home lab and the first machine I purchased was the HP Proliant ML115 G5 server. This was following a recommendation by Kiwi Si over at www.techhead.co.uk  who has extensively blogged about the suitability of the HP ML110 G5 and ML115 G5 for ESX labs.

If your interested in starting a home lab I can thoroughly recommend these HP server.  Simon even has a deal going with ServersPlus.com (UK) for free delivery on either the HP ML110 or ML115 server.  Get over to his hot deals page for further details.

Simon also has some great articles on getting ESXi 3.5 running from a USB pen drive.  This was a perfect place for me to start as I wanted to take advantage of the ML115 G5′s internal USB port and boot my server from a USB pen drive. So where do you start?

For those of you using an Apple Mac and wanting to conduct this excercise, check out the following article over on Tom Rowan’s blog

What do I need?

A USB Pen Drive that is over 1GB in capacity – nice and cheap at amazon
Download the vSphere ESX4i ISO image from here 
Download Shareware version of Winrar from here
Download Free Trial version of Winimage from here

How do I do it?

Once you have downloaded the ISO image open it up with WinRAR,  make sure you use WinRAR as I had problems with WinZip and UltraISO

winrar3

Double click on the image.tgz file to open the contents in WinRAR and drill down to the \usr\lib\vmware\installer directory.

Within this folder you will find a file called VMware-VMvisor-big-164009-x86_64.dd.bz2. This is another zip file so double click on it and the contents will be displayed in a seperate WinRAR window.

winrar2

Once inside extract the file VMware-VMvisor-big-164009-x86_64.dd using WinRAR and copy it somewhere locally on your PC.

Now install and open up the WinImage trial that you downloaded at the start of this process.

Insert your USB key and then select Disk and restore virtual hard disk image on physical drive as per the screenshot below.

winimage1

 Select the physical USB drive from the list and click OK,  when prompted for the virtual disk file navigate to the dd file you extracted to your local PC.  This will now image your USB Key with the vSphere ESX4i hypervisor.

Once complete stick the USB key in a server / whitebox that supports 64 bit computing and away you go.  The screenshot below shows my own HP Proliant ML115 G5 running vSphere ESX 4i and all this from a simple 2GB USB pen drive.

viclient

ESX, VMware, vSphere , ,

VMware vSphere – General Availability

May 21st, 2009

Today is the day, VMware is now available for download and some really good news is that VMware are offering a 60 day evaluation trial of vSphere Enterprise Plus and vCenter Server Standard.

Three links for you, the first is the VMware vSPhere Download page and the second is the free 60 day evaluation download link.  For those who want to use the free version of ESX 4i and have a computer / server capable of supporting 64 bit you can get your free copy at this link.

Documentation for the various vSphere components can be found here http://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/vs_pubs.html

Credit to Michael Hany over at www.hypervizor.com for the links to these awesome video’s below, which should help you get to grips with some of the new vSphere 4 features.

ESX Installation and Configuration
ESXi Installation and Configuration
VMware vCenter Server
VMware vSphere Client
Networking configuration
Storage configuration (iSCSI)
Create and manage virtual machines
VMware Host Profiles
VMware Storage VMotion
VMware vCenter Server Linked Mode
VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS)

ESX, New Products, VMware, vSphere , ,

vSphere 4.0 – What’s new in vSphere Storage

May 17th, 2009

This weekend I finally had the chance to catchup on some of the new storage features released as part of vSphere 4.0,  there are quite a few changes to cover,  some of them quite exciting.

VMFS Upgrade

Once of the good pieces of news to come out is that the VMFS changes in vSphere are minimal.  vSphere 4.0 introduces a minor point release (3.3.0 to 3.3.1) with some subtle changes,  so much so that it’s not really been documented anywhere.  Most of the changes with VMFS are actually delivered within the VMFS driver at the VMKernel level,  this is where most of the I/O improvements and features such as thin provisioning have been delivered as part of vSphere.

Upgrading VMFS was a major step in the upgrade from VMFS 2 to VMFS 3,  good to hear that there are no major drivers to upgrade VMFS as part of your vSphere upgrade.  Any new VMFS datastores created with the new vSphere hosts will of course be VMFS 3.3.1 however this is backwardly compatible with earlier versions of ESX 3.x.  If you really want to move onto the new version of VNFS, format some new datastores and use Storage vMotion to move your VM’s onto the new VMFS 3.3.1 datastores. 

Thin Provisioning

Thin provisioning is one of the areas that excites me most about the new vSphere release.  I conducted a very quick survey of my employers development and system test ESX environments recently and found that currently we were only utilising 48% of virtual storage that had been provisioned.  It’s easy to see where immediate savings can be made simply by implementing vSphere and thin provisioning.  I’ll be using that in the cost benefits case for sure!

Thin provisioning is nothing new,  it has been available at the array level for a while now, so one of the big questions is where should I thin provision?  Well that really depends what kind of environment you have I suppose.  Smaller customers will benefit greatly from VMware thin provisioning as they probably don’t own arrays capable of TP.  Bigger companies on the other hand might well benefit from carrying out both as they have both the skill sets and the equipment to full utilise it at both levels. 

Chad Sakac has written a superb article entitled “thin on thin where should you do thin provisioning vsphere 4.0 or array level” which goes deep into the new thin provisioning features and the discussions around what’s the best approach. I strongly suggest people give it a read,  it explains pretty much all you need to know.

Storage VMotion

The Storage vMotion in ESX 3.5 had a few limitations which vSphere addresses.  It’s now fully integrated with vCenter as opposed to being command line based in the previous version,  it allows for the moving of a VM between different storage types, i.e. FC, ISCSI or NFS.  One excellent usage of Storage vMotion is the ability to migrate your thick vm’s and change them to thin VM’s.  Perfect for reclaiming disk space and increasing utilisation without downtime, brilliant!
 
Storage vMotion has also been enhanced from an operational perspective. Previously storage vmotion involved taking a snapshot of a disk,  copying the parent disk to it’s new location and then taking the child snapshot and re-parenting the child disk with the parent.  This process required the 2 x the CPU and memory of the VM being migrated in order to ensure zero downtime.  In vSphere 4.0 Storage vMotion uses change block tracking and a process very similar to how vMotion deals with moving active memory between hosts.  The new Storage vMotion conducts an iterative process scanning what blocks have been changed, each iterative scan should result in smaller and smaller increments and when it gets down to a small enough size it conducts a very quick suspend / resume operation as opposed to using the doubling up resources method that it previously needed to.  Making it faster and more efficient than it was in it’s previous incarnation.

Para Virtualised SCSI

Para Virtualised SCSI (PVSCSI) is a new driver for I/O intensive virtual machines. VMware compare this to the vmxnet adapter,  which is an enhanced and optimised network driver providing higher performance.  PVSCSI is similar, it’s a specific driver that offers higher I/O throughput, lower latency and lower CPU utilisation within virtual machines. Figures discussed by Paul Manning on the recent Vmware community podcast included 92% increase in IOPS throughput and 40% decrease in latency when compared to the standard LSI / BUSLogic virtual driver.

A caveat of this technology is that the guest OS still has to boot from a non PVSCSI adapter (LSI / Buslogic),  you would look to add your PVSCSI adapter for your additional data virtual disks.  Currently only Windows 2003, Windows 2008 and RH Linux 5 have the software drivers to take adavantage of this new adapter.

Update  - Chad Sakac has posted a new EMCWorld I/O Performance comparison of the vSphere PVSCSI adpater vs the LSI SCSI adapter, check out the link for more details.

VMware Storage Book

Paul Manning mentioned on the recent podcast that VMware are planning a book dedicated to Virtualisation and storage in an attempt to consolidate the amount of documentation out there on Storage configuration and best practice.  Currently users need to look through 600 pages of the SAN Config guide and vendor guidelines. VMware would hope to try boil this down to a much more manageable 100 – 150 pages.

If you can’t wait that long, Chad Sakac has written the storage chapter in Scott Lowe’s new vSphere book which I believe is available for pre-order on Amazon

vSphere Storage WhitePaper

Paul Manning who I’ve mentioned in this blog post has written a great 10 page white paper explaining all of these features in more detail along with some of the more experimental features I haven’t mentioned. 

http://www.vmware.com/files/pdf/VMW_09Q1_WP_vSphereStorage_P10_R1.pdf

Gestalt-IT, New Products, Storage, VMware, vSphere , , , ,

vSphere VCP – Official certification paths

April 30th, 2009

Following the completion of my post last night about the potential paths that the VMware certification was going to take,  VMware have made an official announcement on the vSphere VCP.

To see the official VMware VCP certification path diagram click the link

For more information check out the following VMware education services page. This confirms that existing VCP’s can sit the exam without sitting the “what’s new in vSphere” course, which is great news !!

Certifications, VMware, vSphere , ,

vSphere VCP Certification Paths

April 29th, 2009

I’ve been trying to find out a bit more information on what is going to happen to the VCP qualification now that vSphere has been launched. Way back in January this year I blogged about the impending changes to the VCP exam and since then there have been a number of posts speculating as to what will be involved in retaining or obtaining vSphere VCP status.

The best post by far,  which I admit I only stumbled upon today, is by a gentleman by the name of Arnim van lieshout .  This was originally published back at the beginning of March and refers to vSphere as NGen4 (Next Generation 4). Now, it’s very detailed and official looking,  I’m not sure he did this himself and I have actually seen a few blog posts suggesting that this material is covered by the VMware NDA.  However the cat is out of the bag so I’m going to share it with you anyway,  luckily I’m not covered by any NDA agreement because I’m not a VMware beta tester (though I would like to be one).

What Arnim’s diagram tells us is that there will be a new vSphere Install, Configure and manage course exactly like there was for VI3.  There will also be a what’s new course,  this designed for existing VCP’s who want to upgrade to the new vSphere VCP.  It would also appear that VMWare is keen to maintain the quality of their certification and will continue enforcing the courses as part of the certification path. This is something I am happy to see as it protects my own personal investment in gaining VCP status and makes it mean something.

What’s most interesting is that Arnim’s then describe’s the differences between the coloured lines in the diagram.  Orange lines relate to shortcuts available in the first 9 months from the general release of vSphere and the black lines relate to the mandatory path you must take after 9 months when the shortcuts have been removed. Seeing as it’s been a long day I’ve included out takes from Arnim’s blog post which describe it better than I do.

The options (black arrows):

Everybody new to VMware MUST attend the NGen4 ICM training

Everybody who attended the VI3 training (I&C or DSA only), but didn’t passed the exam MUST  attend the NGen4 ICM training again

If you are a VCP on ESX 2.x you MUST attend the NGen4 training

If you are a VCP on VI3 you MUST attend the NGen4 What’s New training

The shortcut options (orange arrows):

From the date of general release VMware will offer the shortcut paths for 9 months

If you are VCP on VI3 than you are allowed to take the new NGen4 exam WITHOUT attending the NGen4 “What’s New” training

If you are VCP on ESX 2.x you are still allowed to take the VI3 exam in order to become VCP on VI3 and then take the NGen4 exam

If you attended the VI3 training (I&C or DSA only) but didn’t passed the VI3 exam, you are offered 2 options:

Take the VI3 exam, and become VCP on VI3 and then take the NGen4 exam

Attend the NGen4 “What’s New” training and take the NGen4 exam

I wonder how much of this will materialise into hard fact,  we obviously await the official VMware announcements regarding certification.

Another post that I found quite interesting and one that is quite recent was from VMware certified instructor Scott Vessey.  He kindly informs us that once the vSphere launch is done VMware will start beta testing the exam in preperation for wider distribution.  He estimates that Pearson Vue will be offering the exam within 6-8 weeks of the product release.  Personally I will be trying to sit the upgrade exam without the course as my work won’t pay for it this year and I can’t afford it myself. Better get studying hadn’t I !!!!

Certifications, VMware, vSphere , ,

vSphere – Fault Tolerance

April 27th, 2009

Been busy putting together a case on why its a good idea to take advantage of VMware’s current vSphere  upgrade deal. For those who are not aware, you can upgrade Standard to Advanced for $795 per CPU. This roughly a 50% discount over the normal upgrade price and is only available until the 15th December this year.

So, as I was putting the benefits case together I was busy drafting out the description of the new fault tolerance feature and selling it as one of the big bonuses. Now I’m very much into the technical aspects of what I do and sometimes get bogged down in the details when trying to make a benefits case. So I went looking for a video which would undoubtley explain it better at management level. So here it is, VMware CTO Steve Herrod explains VMware Fault Tolerance in relatively plain english.

Now for those like me, who do want to know the technical detail, the following link Fault Tolerance 800 x 600 Demo is to a high quality video demonstration of the new Fault Tolerance feature in vSphere.

A word of warning though,   I found a significant caveat on VMware’s Fault Tolerance web page!  It only supports VMs with a single virtual CPU.  This is bad news because I was looking at this as a potential solution to protect an  exchange server which I very much doubt will have a single vCPU.  You can find said Caveat at the bottom of the Fault Tolerance feature page. I’m busy trying to find out from the community at large if there are any timelines on increasing the limit on this.

New Products, VMware, vSphere ,

vSphere – Vmware Data Recovery Demo Video

April 26th, 2009

 Just having a little look through the videos on VMwareTV on YouTube and noticed that they’ve posted a new video on the new vSphere Data Recovery feature, I’ve included it below for your viewing pleasure.

New Products, VMware, vSphere ,

VSphere Launch – What to make of it all

April 25th, 2009

This morning I finally got the chance to sit down and review all the various announcements surrounding the new vSphere release.  There was a lot to take in and to be honest I’m still digesting a lot of it and what it means for the company I work for.

First thing I have to comment on was the impressive nature of the launch,  it was obvious that VMware worked hard on this launch to make it as slick as possible.  From the vSphere Simulcast live launch with CEO’s explaining the bigger vision, to the excellent resources such as the vSphere upgrade advisor and the great step by step upgrade videos within the upgrade centre.  This was a key announcement for VMware, they needed to continue to stay way ahead of the competition being that they’ve made up a little ground recently. From what I’ve seen so far VMware appear to have made another gigantic leap ahead of the rest.

New features aside (See here for more information) what were some of the major changes to note, looking through it the following jumped out immediately as they were relevant to my current employer.

  • Change of licensing from 2 CPU pricing to single CPU pricing in vSphere
  • Editions - Essentials, Essentials +, Standard, Advanced, Enterprise and Enterprise +
  • Higher maximums and increased performance for “virtualise everything” strategies

 

Licensing and New Editions

 

The change of licensing and the introduction of different versions introduces a complexity for existing VI3 customers.  The afore mentioned vSphere upgrade advisor should help with that but customers are going to have to re-evaluate their current licensing, determine what new edition they’ll get based on their current licensing and decide what features they actually want from vSphere in case they need to upgrade.  The vSphere edition comparison should help you distinguish what you do get with the different versions and Jason Boche’s vSphere licensing article  brilliantly explains some of the more notable licence changes. 

With the introduction of the new editions,  there are obviously changes in the pricing structure which on first glance would appear to make VMware that bit more expensive. You can bet your bottom dollar Microsoft and Citrix will jump all over this and use it to their advantage if they can.  The vSphere pricing guide PDF should help you determine what the differences are in the editions, what the costs are when buying from scratch and upgrading.

It’s worth noting that VMware have a special offer on until the end of the year.  Upgrade vSphere Standard to vSphere Advanced for $745 per CPU and upgrade vSphere Enterprise to Enterprise Plus for $295 per CPU.  There is also a special deal on upgrading to Enterprise Plus and the Cisco Nexus 100V for $795 per CPU. Contact your local VMware sales manager for localised pricing.

Configuration Maximums and Performance

 

Moving on lets talk about the increase in performance and configuration maximums,  the area that interests me greatly as this really does allow companies to say “lets virtualise everything”.   There have been some pretty major leaps in what is possible allowing even the biggest businesses to look at virtualising their tier 1 applications. Support for 8 VCPUs and 256 GB of memory per VM as well as improved networking and vastly improved I/O should technically cover any software application.  The example below shows the potential size of cluster you could have,  it’s obviously an unlikely scenario but just goes to show the sheer scalability of the vSphere software. 

VMware made some big claims as part of this launch.  They claimed to be able to drive up to 8900 db transactions per second per virtual machine,  to put that into context Visa conduct 5000 transactions per second worldwide.  With disk they say they can get more than 200,000 I/O operations per second per VMware ESX host, which is a 100% increase over VI 3.5.  On the network I/O front they claim to be able to get an 85% increase over the networking in VI 3.5.  These are some pretty meaty figures and when you hear them saying that they managed to server 3 billion web pages a day in testing,  3 times eBays daily traffic you have to think that this is a platform that offers some serious muscle.

 

Step-By-Step Migration Videos

 

Just to finish off,  I’d like to draw peoples attention to these great videos from the upgrade centre which detail how to go about upgrading from VI3 to the new vSphere software.  Top marks to VMware for this,  this will be a great help to people trying to figure out what they have to do to upgrade successfully.

Part 1 of 4
VMware VirtualCenter Management Components                     

 

 

Part 2 of 4
VMware ESX Host Migration Methods                     

 

 

Part 3 of 4
Virtual Machine Upgrades (VMware Tools and Virtual Hardware)                     

 

 

Part 4 of 4
Implementing VMware vSphere Licensing                     

 

 

VMware, vSphere ,

VMware Certified Professional – VCP vSphere

January 7th, 2009

It would appear that with the upcoming release of VMware vSphere (VI4) there will be an update to the VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification.

Eric Sloof over at NTPRO.NL has posted an article on his site about this news.  He references a post on the vmware communities site which has the following comments from John Hall (Technical Certification Developer)

There is no time limit between when you take the class and when you take the exam. The only thing I will say is that at some point this year we will announce a new VCP certification that will apply to the new release of our datacenter product. The training you took will apply to the VCP on VI3 certification exam, but there may be some additional requirements in order to apply your training to the newer certification. Even after we announce the new certification, you can still achieve the VCP on VI3 certification using your existing training.

Jon C. Hall
Technical Certification Developer

This was always likely to happen as the next release of Virtual Infrastructure is a major release with many new features included.  I will be very interested in finding out what the upgrade path will be for going from VCP VI3 to VCP vSphere.  Will there be a requirement to attend an upgrade class or will you be able to just sit the exam straight away. Keep your eyes peeled for more news later in the year.

Certifications, VMware, vSphere , ,