Archive for November, 2009

vSphere 4.0 Quick Start Guide Released on Amazon

November 23rd, 2009

What a great way to kick off the new week – The highly anticipated book, vSphere 4.0 Quick Start Guide: Shortcuts down the path of Virtualization, has arrived at! I look at this new release as the 2nd edition or vSphere edition of RapidApp’s Quick Start Guide to ESX 3.0 which is still available and was a huge success.

The vSphere 4.0 Quick Start Guide was written by a lineup of new authors who are well known rock stars in the virtualization community: Bernie Baker, Thomas Bryant, Duncan Epping, Dave Mischenko, Stewart Radnidge, and Alan Renouf. I obtained a preview copy of this book at VMworld 2009 in San Francisco and I can tell you that this it is absolutely amazing. Nowhere else will you find as much information in such a small and convenient footprint. Its small size allows you to put it in your pocket and take it virtually anywhere: On the plane, on the bus, into a meeting, or into the datacenter. As with the first edition, there are several blank pages in this book which allow you space to write down notes, command line information, configuration maximum changes, information about your environment, helpful URLs, etc. The authors did a great job on this book and considering the cumulative years of experience and combined expertise packed into this book, you can’t beat the price. I don’t think a better value exists. My copy has been traveling with me daily in my laptop bag. I give it two thumbs up.

Old vCenter Server Name Shown In Title Bar; Update Manager Plugin Fails

November 22nd, 2009

I recently rebuilt a vCenter Server on a new Windows host having a different name than the vCenter Server host used previously. Wanting to maintain my existing datacenter configuration and layout, I chose to connect to and preserve the existing SQL database back end.

The installation went well and my existing datacenter configuration was in tact, however, I noticed one anomaly having two symptoms. After establishing a vSphere Client connection to the new vCenter Server named vc40.boche.mcse, the vSphere Client title bar showed jarjar.boche.mcse which was the old vCenter Server name.

Furthermore, the Update Manager plugin was failing to load because it could not establish a connection to jarjar.boche.mcse. I wasn’t surprised a connection could not be made since jarjar was retired and no longer on the network. But why was the legacy vCenter Server name persisting in my new installation?

At first, I thought there was some funky DNS reverse lookup going on but I was able to quickly rule that out when I remembered that I had assigned a new IP address to the new vCenter Server host.

I quickly came to the conclusion that there was a row in the SQL database tattooed with the old vCenter Server name which was showing up in the vSphere Client. With that thought in mind, I used the vSphere Client to access the Administration|vCenter Server Settings menu option.

There it was, under Runtime Settings, the old name of the vCenter Server from the original installation. I was able to simply change the Name from jarjar.boche.mcse to vc40.boche.mcse

Afterwards, the vSphere Client title bar was updated with the correct name of the vCenter Server vc40.boche.mcse. No reboot or recycling of any services needed. The Update Manager plugin had also followed suit, making its connection to the correct vCenter Server name instead of the old one which no longer existed.

Simple stuff but I thought I’d write it up in case anyone else ran into this and was pulling their hair out.

Create a 32-bit vCenter DSN on a 64-bit Operating System

November 21st, 2009

As I had pointed out in this blog post, VMware hints that 64-bit may be the future for vCenter Server. I decided that for my upgrade to vCenter 4.0 Update 1 this weekend, I would take the opportunity to rebuild my vCenter server from Windows Server 2003 32-bit to Windows Server 2008 64-bit.

Once the 64-bit base operating system build was complete, I installed the 64-bit Microsoft SQL Server Native Client drivers (downloadable here) since my back end database is Microsoft SQL Server 2005 on a remote server. A key thing to remember about this installation is that it installs both 64-bit and 32-bit DSN drivers.

The next step is to create the vCenter ODBC DSNs. Although vCenter Server runs on 64-bit operating systems, it currently requires a 32-bit ODBC DSN. This is important to remember because the Windows Start Menu launches the 64-bit ODBC DSN tool, not the 32-bit version I needed.  The vCenter Server (and Update Manager) installation will not complete without a 32-bit DSN.

To create a 32-bit DSN on a 64-bit operating system, run the following executable:


Once the utility opens, you’ll be greeted by all the legacy 32-bit ODBC DSNs you’ve likely seen for years working with tiered Windows platforms. If using Microsoft SQL Server 2005 like me, be sure to select the SQL Native Client driver towards the bottom of the list, and not Driver da Microsoft para arquivos texto highlighted below:

Proceed with the creation of the vCenter Server and Update Manager ODBC DSNs and complete the vCenter Server and Update Manager installations.

This information and much more can be found in the ESX and vCenter Server Installation Guide, page 73.

64-bit vCenter Server Coming? VMFS-2 Support Going Away?

November 20th, 2009

Looking at the VMware vCenter 4.0 Update 1 Release Notes, it appears we may be looking at 64-bit only versions of vCenter Server in the future:

“Future releases of VMware vCenter Server might not support installation on 32-bit Windows operating systems. VMware recommends installing vCenter Server on a 64-bit Windows operating system. If you have VirtualCenter 2.x installed, see the vSphere Upgrade Guide for instructions on installing vCenter Server on a 64-bit operating system and preserving your VirtualCenter database.”

I’m hoping this won’t be a deal breaker for anyone as we should all have 64-bit hardware in the datacenter by now. However, we may be temporarily inconvenienced with Windows Server platform upgrades from 32 to 64-bit.

In the same document, I also noticed verbiage about VMFS-2 support going away in future vSphere releases. If you’re not completely rid of ESX2 and VMFS-2 in your environment by now, I’d start planning on it soon.

vSphere 4 Update 1 Released

November 19th, 2009

While the Dutch and UK bloggers sleep, VMware has released Update 1 for ESXi 4, ESX 4, and vCenter 4.

Notable improvements include:

  • View 4 support
  • Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 support (Support for Windows 7 was timed nicely for View 4)
  • DB2 database back end support (Who requested this? Sound off, I’d like to hear your comments)
  • HA cluster hosts can now support 160 VMs each in a cluster of 8 hosts or less. 9 or more hosts in an HA cluster are still limited to 40 VMs per host (This still bugs me a little. Anyone loading up a host with near 160 or more VMs?)
  • Paravirtualized SCSI support has been extended to Windows 2003 and 2008 boot drives
  • vDS performance improvement (Important if creating VMkernel portgroups on vDS for NAS storage)
  • vCPUs per core limit increased from 20 to 25 (“Lorraine – You are my density…”)
  • Intel Xeon 3400 series CPU support
  • Improved support for Microsoft Clustering (Yes, more changes to the wonderful MS clustering document)
  • Rumors of comma separators in report/graph numbers (This could be my favorite new feature)
  • Many resolved issues

Last but not least, we can still reboot our ESX 4 hosts with CTRL + ALT + DEL at the console 🙂

Tame Electrical and Heating Costs with CPU Power Management

November 11th, 2009

A casual Twitter tweet about my power savings through the use of VMware Distributed Power Management (DPM) found its way to VMware Senior Product Manager for DPM, Ulana Legedza, and Andrei Dorofeev. Ulana was interested in learning more about my situation. I explained how VMware DPM had evaluated workloads between two clustered vSphere hosts in my home lab, and proceeded to shut down one of the hosts for most of the month of October, saving me more than $50 on my energy bill.

Ulana and Andrei took the conversation to the next level and asked me if I was using vSphere’s Advanced CPU Power Management feature (See vSphere Resource Management Guide page 22). I was not, in fact I was unaware of its existence. Power Management is a new feature in ESX(i)4 available to processors supporting Enhanced Intel SpeedStep or Enhanced AMD PowerNow! power management technologies. To quote the .PDF article:

“To improve CPU power efficiency, you can configure your ESX/ESXi hosts to dynamically switch CPU frequencies based on workload demands. This type of power management is called Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS). It uses processor performance states (P-states) made available to the VMkernel through an ACPI interface.”

A quick look at the Quad Core AMD Opteron 2356 processors in my HP DL385 G2 showed they support Enhanced AMD PowerNow! Power Management Technology:

There are two steps to enabling this power management feature. The first step is to ensure it is enabled in the server BIOS. On an HP DL385 G2, CPU power management is enabled by default. In this particular server model, it is configured via the BIOS by hitting <F9> at the end of the POST (would require a reboot obviously)

A slightly easier method might be to verify and/or configure the policy through HP’s out of band (OOB) iLO 2, however, a reboot will be requested by the iLO 2 for a policy change to take effect. On an HP server, configure for OS Control mode, but again, this appears to be the default for the HP DL385 G2 so hopefully no reboot is required for you to implement this power saving measure in your environment:

After enabling power management in the BIOS, the second step is to modify the Power Management Policy on each ESX(i) host from the default of static to dynamic. The definitions of these two settings can be found in the .PDF linked above and are as follows:

static – The default. The VMkernel can detect power management features available on the host but does not actively use them unless requested by the BIOS for power capping or thermal events.

dynamic – The VMkernel optimizes each CPU’s frequency to match demand in order to improve power efficiency but not affect performance. When CPU demand increases, this policy setting ensures that CPU frequencies also increase.

You might be asking yourself by this point “Ok, this is nice, but what’s the trade off?” Note the wording in the dynamic definition above “improves power efficiency but does not affect performance”. This is a win/win configuration change!

This step can be performed one of a few ways on each host (again, no reboot required for this change):

  1. Using the vSphere Client, change the Advanced host setting Power.CpuPolicy from static to dynamic
  2. Scriptable: Via the ESX service console, PuTTY, or script, issue the command esxcfg-advcfg -s dynamic /Power/CpuPolicy

The impact on my home lab was quite visible. After 12 hours, the blue area in the following 24 hour graph reflects average electrical consumption was reduced from an average 337 Watts down to 292 Watts. All things being equal and CPU loads balanced by DRS, that’s a reduction in energy consumption of over 13% per host:

An alternate graph shows Btu output dropped from 1,135 Btu to about 1,000 Btu. All things being equal, a reduction of about 135 Btu per host:

A Btu is heat – explained more at wiseGEEK’s What is a Btu? Heat is a byproduct of technology in the datacenter and in most cases is viewed as overhead expense because it requires cooling (additional costs) to maintain optimal operating conditions for the equipment running in the environment. If we can eliminate heat, we eliminate the associated cost of removing the heat. This is known as cost avoidance.

Eliminating heat is as much of an interest to me as reducing my energy bill. The excessive heat generated in the basement eventually finds its way upstairs causing the rest of the house to be a little uncomfortable. The air conditioner in my home wasn’t manufactured to handle the excessive heat. Now, I live in the midwest where we have some frigid winters. Heat in the home is welcomed during the winter months. I could turn off CPU Power Management raising the Btu index as well as my energy bill, in favor of reducing my natural gas heating bill. I don’t know which is more expensive. This could be a great experiment for the January/February time frame.

In summary, we can attack operating costs from two sides by using VMware CPU Power Management:

  1. Reduction in excess electricity used by idle CPU cycles
  2. Reduction in cooling costs by reducing Btu output

I’m excited to see what next month’s energy bill looks like.

Update 11-17-09:  I was just made aware that Simon Seagrave wrote an earlier article on CPU power management here.  Sorry Simon, I was unaware of your article and I did not intentionally copy your topic.  Your article covered the topic well.  I hope we’re still friends 🙂

VMware Workstation 7.0 Released – New and Improved!

November 8th, 2009

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I typically focus on Datacenter products. I am a VMware Workstation user as well. VMware’s inaugural product is the first hypervisor I ever used and has a lot to do with my career shift and focus on the exciting world of virtualization. Although I don’t use Workstation quite as much as I used to, I still like to keep current with new releases. As a Virtual Infrastructure user, one reasons for this is that I get a preview of features in Workstation that will eventually make their way to Virtual Infrastructure in the product development cycle.

VMware Workstation 7.0 was released on October 27th and boasts an array of new features as well as support for new guest operating systems. I upgraded last week and started taking a look around. Having not read the “What’s New” release notes yet, I had noticed some features that, to me, looked new or improved.

The first thing I noticed about VMware Workstation 7.0, before installing it, is that VMware did away with separate license keys for Windows and Linux distributions. It has absolutely bugged me for years that I could not transfer my VMware Workstation installation from Windows to Linux or from Linux to Windows without purchasing an additional license. One license key now works with both Windows and Linux versions of VMware Workstation. I validated this by looking it up on VMware’s website. Here’s what I found:

“Q: Can I switch between VMware Workstation 7 for Windows and Linux?
A: Yes. Starting with VMware Workstation 7, you can switch between Windows and Linux version of VMware Workstation using the same license key. If you decide to switch host operating systems, you must uninstall Workstation from the host operating system you no longer plan to use. If you plan to run VMware Workstation 7 on both a Linux and Windows host, you need to purchase two licenses.”

Once installed, the first new feature that jumped out at me was during the creation of a new VM. The ability to assign CPU cores to a guest OS and its applications. Differentiating between CPU sockets and CPU cores has obvious licensing advantages for both applications and operating systems which licenses per socket. Support for 4 processors is also apparent:

The next item I saw was the ability to select VMware ESX as a guest operating system. This is handy new feature that will save time by eliminating the need to hack the .vmx file or manually add advanced settings in order to run an embedded hypervisor as well as nested VMs. I’ll add that for some reason, both ESX and ESXi seem to run a lot faster or more efficient in VMware Workstation 7. Two or more of the same workloads running concurrently in VMware Workstation 6 on my Dell Latitude E6400 laptop would create loads of I/O congestion resulting in long delays in keyboard and mouse response, as well as screen redraw. I can’t account for why but I’m certainly not complaining:

Next up is a virtual disk “Utilities” menu…

…which reveals an option to mount the virtual disk as a Windows drive letter in the host operating system. In the old days, VMware offered a VMware-mount.exe command line utility to accomplish this task. The integrated GUI version is a nice touch. Mounting a .vmdk disk in your native file system allows such tasks as out of band file injection, data rescue, etc. I’ve used the old command line utility many times in the past for refreshing DR images offline with application code updates:

The Virtual Network Editor looks like it got a face lift, with most of the configurable items streamlined into a single property sheet for better visibility and ergonomics:

This is cool, and sort of uhh… Citrix or Terminal Services ‘ish. Driverless printing from guest through the host operating system. A Virtual Printer device can be added in the virtual machine settings (the guest OS must be powered off)…

…which maps host printer connections (both local and network printers) inside the guest VM. Automatically imported printers have the comments “Printer created by TPAutoConnect“, indicating integrated technology from ThinPrint in VMware Tools:

This was the extent of my observations thus far while using VMware Workstation 7.0. If any of the items I talked about above existed in previous versions of VMware Workstation, please let me know. Since I do not use Workstation as much, it is possible that I missed an item or two while using an earlier version.

I decided to look at the VMware Workstation 7.0 Release Notes to see the complete list of improvements and new features:

New Support for 32-Bit and 64-Bit Operating Systems

    Operating System

    Host and Guest Support

    Windows 7 Home Basic
    Windows 7 Premium
    Windows 7 Business
    Windows 7 Enterprise
    Windows 7 Ultimate
    Host and guest
    Windows 2008 SP2, R2 Guest
    Windows Vista SP2 Guest
    Debian 5 Guest
    Ubuntu 9.04 Host and guest
    Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Host and guest
    CentOS 5.3 Guest
    Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.3 Guest
    OpenSUSE 11.x Host and guest
    Mandriva 2009 Host and guest
    SUSE Linux Enterprise 11.x Host and guest

New Features in VMware Workstation

  • Windows 7 — Create and run Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines using VMware Workstation. VMware Workstation has been enhanced for performance and to take advantage of the new Windows 7 features including Live Thumbnails and Aero Peek.
  • Aero Glass — A new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) graphics driver has been developed for Windows Vista and Windows 7 virtual machines. The WDDM driver can display the Windows Aero user interface, OpenGL 1.4, and Shader Model 3.0. For more information on the VMware recommended graphics hardware, see the VMware Workstation User’s Manual.
  • Windows XP Mode Compatible — Import a Windows XP Mode virtual machine using VMware Workstation 7.0 and run the virtual machine without being prompted to enter a Windows XP license key. VMware Workstation enables the Windows XP Mode virtual machine to take advantage of more than one processor, render high-end graphics, integrate seamlessly with Unity, and transfer files easily with drag and drop, and shared folders. VMware Workstation also has the ability to run concurrently with Windows XP Mode.
  • 3D Graphics Improvements for Windows XP guests — OpenGL 2.1 and Shader Model 3.0 support is now available for Windows XP virtual machines. The XPDM (SVGAII) graphics driver works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. However, only Windows XP virtual machines install the XPDM graphics driver by default. To switch graphics drivers in the guest operating system, see How to Switch Between SVGAII and WDDM Drivers.
  • vSphere 4.0 and ESX Support — Install and run ESX 4.0 as a guest operating system. VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs) and technical professionals can install the latest server virtualization software and experiment with server setup, conduct training, show demos, and test production configurations. Running ESX as a guest eliminates the need to have spare hardware available to run ESX natively and enables ESX to run on systems that are not listed on the ESX hardware compatibility list (HCL). For more information on the supported processors and host operating systems, see Considerations for Running an ESX Guest.
    This feature is intended for educational and demonstration purposes only and should not be used in production environments. To use this feature, you must download vSphere 4.0 from the VMware Web site and follow the installation documentation provided with vSphere to install ESX.
  • Virtual Printing — Print from virtual machines without mapping network printers or installing printer drivers in the virtual machine. With virtual printing enabled in the virtual machine setting, all of the printers installed on the host operating system are available in the guest operating system. This functionality is enabled through a partnership with ThinPrint, Inc.
  • Four-Way SMP — Create and run virtual machines with a total of four processor cores, which can consist of four single-core processors, two dual-core processors, or one quad-core processor like the new Intel i7.
  • 32GB Guest Memory — Run virtual machines with up to 32GB of memory using VMware Workstation.
  • 256-bit Encryption — Secure your virtual machines with AES256-bit encryption to prevent unauthorized users from accessing or running the configuration files.
  • AutoProtect —Schedule snapshots of your virtual machine to be created at a regular interval to ensure that you always have a snapshot available to revert to when needed.
  • Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) — ALSA significantly improves the sound of virtual machines running on a Linux host and streams the audio from each virtual machine on a separate channel so that multiple virtual machines can be heard simultaneously.
  • Cross-Platform License Keys — Use the VMware Workstation 7.0 license key on both the Windows and Linux versions. Make sure you read the EULA for the terms and conditions that must be met when switching platforms.
  • Pause a Virtual Machine — Free your CPU resources instantaneously without powering off or suspending the virtual machine.
  • Expand Virtual Disks — Increase the size of the virtual disk from within VMware Workstation. For Windows Vista and Windows 7 guests, the disk partitions can be adjusted without the use of additional software.
  • Compact Virtual Disks — Reclaim unused space from a virtual disk so that the host or another virtual machine can use it.
  • Shared Folder Compatibility — Increased compatibility with many Windows applications that previously were unable to read or write files to shared folders.
  • On-Demand VMware Tools Download — On-demand download capability provides the latest VMware Tools for the guest operating system. This feature reduces the overall download size of VMware products by downloading only the required set of VMware Tools and and enables VMware to release new versions frequently.
  • Drag and Drop Enhancements — Drag and drop enhancements include support for new file types including images and formatted text and extend the existing ability to drag and drop files to a broader set of guest and host operating systems.
  • Virtual Network Editor — User interface enhancements have simplified creating and configuring virtual networks.
  • Fuse Mount for Linux — Use Fuse to mount .vmdk disks on to the file system of Linux hosts.
  • Simplified Collection of Support Information — Gather detailed information about multiple virtual machines and the host machine at the same time. The information is packaged in a compressed file so that you can email it to VMware support or post it on the VMware Workstation forums.
  • IPv6 Support — Create a bridged connection to an IPv6 network on VMware Workstation virtual machines.

Developer Tools

  • Replay Debugging — Enhancements in replay debugging make the feature faster and easier to use. Developers can attach to a particular process instance, attach to a process in the middle of a recording, and ensure that the executables and symbols on the host machine match the guest. Developers can remotely view the exact state of the machine when the system failed and replay the recording to see the circumstances that led the system to fail. For more information about replay debugging, see the new Integrated Virtual Debugger for Visual Studio Developer’s Guide and technical note for Replay Debugging on Linux .
  • SpringSource Tools Suite Integration — Use the latest version of the SpringSource Tools Suite to run and debug Java applications in a VMware Workstation virtual machine without leaving the development environment. You can download the latest SpringSource Tools Suite from the Spring Source Web site.
  • Remotely Debug C and C++ Applications for Eclipse — Set a remote debugging session inside a controlled C and C++ environment where the guest operating system is different from the host. For more information about remotely debugging C and C++ for Eclipse, see the Integrated Virtual Debugger for Eclipse Developer’s Guide .
  • VMware Tools Configuration Utility – Use the new VMware Tools command-line interface (CLI) to automate configuration of VMware Tools in guest operating systems. With CLI you can modify VMware Tools settings, shrink virtual disks, connect and disconnect virtual devices, and more. For information on the VMware Tools configuration utility, see the new VMware Tools Configuration Utility User’s Guide.

Additional VMware Workstation 7.0 links:

There is some good stuff in this release. More than I originally thought. I’d like to take this moment to admit guilt in showing a lack of enthusiasm when Workstation 7 was first launched. My initial understanding of the major new features amounted to Aero support and VMware ESX as a guest OS. My reaction was “who cares”. I take it back. This is a solid release with increased configuration maximums as well as new and improved features.