Archive for July, 2010

Gestalt IT Tech Field Day – Veeam

July 15th, 2010

Gestalt IT Tech field Day – Day 1:  First on the agenda this morning is Veeam.  Their focus for today will be on Backup and Replication which is great because I was wanting more details on their SureBackup offering.  A quick introduction on some products and Veeam’s charter:

Free Products

  • Veeam FastSCP
  • Veeam Business View
  • Veeam Monitor Free Edition
  • Veeam Reporter Free Edition (announced today, available within 30 days)

Pay Products

  • Veeam Backup & Replication
  • Veeam Reporter
  • Veeam Monitor
  • nworks

The Veeam Product Strategy Alignment:

  1. Past and Present: VMware vSphere
  2. What’s next: Hyper-V

Today’s focus: Veeam Backup and Replication

Virtualization introduces a paradigm shift in our datacenter processes surrounding data protection and business continuation planning.  Traditional tools don’t fit any more.  Veeam provides the right tools for the virtualized datacenter.

Veeam has also introduced vPower: Virtualization-Powered Data Protection.  vPower is not a single product or technology in and of itself, it’s a suite of existing and new technologies.  What are the key components of vPower?  SureBackup, InstantRestore, and SmartCDP.  Let’s take a look in more detail:

  • Run a VM directly from a backup file
  • Automatically manager isolated virtual lab
  • Instant VM recovery
  • Universal application item recovery (U-AIR)
    • Wizard driven recovery for technologies such as MS AD, MS Exchange, and MS SQL
    • User directed item recovery from any application or database
  • Recovery verification
  • Rapid execution keeping RTO to a bare minimum

Veeam proceeded with a live lab demo using alpha code.  There was plenty of enthusiasm in the room from the delegates about the technology as it relates to virtualization.  The delegates revealed a strong foundation in virtualization concepts.  Generally speaking, this is cool and revolutionary technology, however, there were concerns expressed in a few areas:

  1. Networking:  How do we ensure an isolated lab environment to avoid the pitfalls of duplicate machine identities or unintentional routing on the network?
  2. Performance:  How well does the VM run which is tied to archive files?  Is there measurable, and more importantly, predictable overhead for common workload types?
  3. Understanding:  This data protection and recovery approach, while innovative, is nonetheless new. Is there a with an inherent learning curve for datacenter operators or administrators?  Enabled with a wizard driven interface, I’d argue no, not really.  So long as the product works as designed, should we care how it ticks?  Like Lab Manager or Willy Wonka, you don’t ask how it works, “it just does”.

Veeam already has solid products but it is clear they aren’t content with resting on their laurels.  They continue to push the envelope in backup, replication, and disaster recovery, making the lives of data administrators and lowering RTO.

Availability: Q3 2010 (VMworld launch?)

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. Although I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, all event expenses are paid by the sponsors through Gestalt IT Media LLC. No editorial control is exerted over me and I write what I want, if I want, when I want, and how I want.

Gestalt IT Tech Field Day Seattle

July 15th, 2010

Gestalt IT was gracious enough to invite me back as a delegate for Tech Field Day Seattle which is happening… well… now, not to put too fine a point on it.  I’m really excited about this opportunity!  For the next two days, I’ll be at the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA taking in vendor presentations and participating in peer discussions spanning a few different technology verticals. 

We kicked things off tonight with dinner, discussion, and door prizes at Cedarbrook Lodge in Seatac, WA.  There are a lot of new faces in this group of delegates.  I don’t know most of the guys but that makes for a great opportunity to meet new people and network.  In a word, Cedarbrook is gorgeous.  It has more of a resort feel to it than a hotel.  It’s too bad I won’t be spending more time here but the show must go on.

Tomorrow (Thursday), the other delegates and I will be meeting with Veeam, F5, and a stealth company which officially launches in our very presence tomorrow.  I’m familiar with most of Veeam’s offerings but as a virtualization guy, I’m hoping to see more about their SureBackup technology.  I’ve known of F5 for many years but just recently I’m seeing them push their way into the virtualization arena.  Just last week they have expressed interest in participating in the Minneapolis VMUG.  I’m anxious in seeing what value they bring to the virtualized datacenter.  We cap off the day with a party at the Museum of Flight which should be really cool.

Moving into Friday, we’ll hear from Compellent on what they have been up to in the storage arena and how they are doing things differently than other storage vendors such as EMC, NetApp, Hitachi, HP, IBM, 3PAR, Dell, FalconStor, Pillar, etc.  We’ll also be spending some time with NEC.  I’m real curious as to what they are going to present.  Talk about a diverse portfolio of products (as well as professional services).  Whatever it is, I’ll be looking for virtualization relevance.  Not only that, but will we see a landscape that continues to cater to cloud agility?  Cloud has picked up a lot of momentum.  It’s real.  Adopt, adapt, integrate, or get run over by it.  There may be one more vendor on Friday… that remains to be seen at this point.  We end Friday with dinner in the evening and then some of us will start our journey back home.

I’m looking forward to a couple of great days.

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. Although I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, all event expenses are paid by the sponsors through Gestalt IT Media LLC. No editorial control is exerted over me and I write what I want, if I want, when I want, and how I want.

New VMware vCenter Lab Manager Video Tutorial Series

July 8th, 2010

VMware has started a new Lab Manager video series and has kicked things off by posting three inaugural videos:

  1. Lab Manager Introduction and Product Overview
  2. Organizations within vCenter Lab Manager
  3. Workspaces within vCenter Lab Manager

VMware states that the next videos in the series will be:

  • Managing Users and Groups within vCenter Lab Manager
  • Networking within vCenter Lab Manager

The videos are authored by Graham Daly who works for VMware out of the Cork, Ireland office.  The videos are short at well under 10 minutes each and provide introductory level information on Lab Manager components and administrative containers.  If you haven’t used Lab Manager before, it’s enough to get you curious.

KB article (1020915) is going to act as a central location or a “one-stop-shop” for tutorial style videos which will discuss and demonstrate the various different topics/aspects of the Lab Manager product. As new videos become available, they will be added to the article.

I haven’t seen any books to date on use of Lab Manager.  From a training and education standpoint, the Lab Manager installation guide and the Lab Manager user’s guide actually isn’t too bad.  Someone last night was looking for advice on Lab Manager training and I recommended printing these two .PDF documents out and sticking them in a 3-ring binder like I did.  You’ll be able to whip through them in a few hours as much of the content is repeated time and again in the user’s guide.  Beyond that, the best Lab Manager training is continuous use of the product.  As I stated last night, Lab Manager is a bit of a different animal, even for a VMware junkie (like me).

Boil down the complexity and black magic of the Lab Manager product by looking at it as a tiered application consisting of

  • virtual infrastructure (ESX(i) and vCenter, you know this already),
  • a web front end (that’s the Lab Manager server, which by the way runs great as a VM),
  • and a database (which also runs on the Lab Manager server and only on the Lab Manager server – yep, it’s local MS SQL Express, and yep, it has scaling and migration issues).

The Tomcat on Windows web interface is the front end where Lab Manager environments are built and managed.  The web interface sends tasks to the vCenter Server which in turn commands the ESX(i) hosts (ie. build this VM, register it, power it on, make a snapshot, now clone it, etc.)  State information and other configuration items are stored in the database.  For obvious reasons, the database and vCenter always need to be on the same page.  When they get of sync is where hell begins but I’ll save that discussion for a distant blog post entitled “Lab Manager: fun to build and play with, no fun to troubleshoot”. It’s a lot like Citrix Presentation Server in that respect.


July 2nd, 2010

If you’ve worked with recent versions of VMware virtual infrastructure, Converter, or Workstation, you may be familiar with the fact that these products have the native ability to work with virtual machines in the Open Virtualization Format, or OVF for short.  OVF is a Specification governed by the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) which to me sounds a lot like RFCs which provide standards for protocols and communication across compute platforms – basically SOPs for how content is delivered on the internet as we know it today.

So if there’s one standard, why is it that when I choose to create an OVF (Export OVF Template in the vSphere Client), I’m prompted to create either an OVF or an OVA?  If the OVF is an OVF, then what’s an OVA?

 7-2-2010 8-00-01 PM

Personally, I’ve seen both formats, typically when deploying packaged appliances.  The answer is simple: Both the OVF and the OVA formats roll up into the Specification defined by the DMTF.  The difference between the two is in the presentation and encapsulation.  The OVF is a construct of a few files, all of which are essential to its definition and deployment.  The OVA on the other hand is a single file with all of the necessary information encapsulated inside of it.  Think of the OVA as an archive file.  The single file format provides ease in portability.  From a size or bandwidth perspective, there is no advantage between one format or the other as they each tend to be the same size when all is said and done.

7-2-2010 8-13-26 PM

The DMTF explains the two formats on pages 12 through 13 in the PDF linked above:

An OVF package may be stored as a single file using the TAR format. The extension of that file shall be .ova (open virtual appliance or application).

An OVF package can be made available as a set of files, for example on a standard Web server.

Do keep in mind that which ever file type you choose to work with, if you plan on hosting them on a web server, MIME types will need to be set up for .OVF, OVA, or both, in order for a client to download them for deployment onto your hypervisor.

At 41 pages, the OVF Specification contains a surprising amount of detail.  There’s more to it than you might think, and for good reason:

The Open Virtualization Format (OVF) Specification describes an open, secure, portable, efficient and extensible format for the packaging and distribution of software to be run in virtual machines.

Open, meaning cross platform (bring your own hypervisor).  Combined with Secure and Portable attributes, OVF may be one of the key technologies for intracloud and intercloud mobility.  The format is a collaborative effort spawned from a variety of contributors:

Simon Crosby, XenSource
Ron Doyle, IBM
Mike Gering, IBM
Michael Gionfriddo, Sun Microsystems
Steffen Grarup, VMware (Co-Editor)
Steve Hand, Symantec
Mark Hapner, Sun Microsystems
Daniel Hiltgen, VMware
Michael Johanssen, IBM
Lawrence J. Lamers, VMware (Chair)
John Leung, Intel Corporation
Fumio Machida, NEC Corporation
Andreas Maier, IBM
Ewan Mellor, XenSource
John Parchem, Microsoft
Shishir Pardikar, XenSource
Stephen J. Schmidt, IBM
René W. Schmidt, VMware (Co-Editor)
Andrew Warfield, XenSource
Mark D. Weitzel, IBM
John Wilson, Dell

Take a look at the OVF Specifications document as well as some of the other work going on at DTMF. 

Have a great and safe July 4th weeekend, and congratulations to the Dutch on their win today in World Cup Soccer.  I for one will be glad when it’s all over with and our Twitter APIs can return to normal again.

A piece of my VMware history

July 1st, 2010

Much of what I do revolves around Email, or at least is at some point recorded in Email.  Just about every day I process email that has entered my inbox both at home and at work. And just about every day I’m reminded what an Email pack rat I am.  I keep all Email, or at least I attempt to.  Yeah, I’m kinda that guy who sometimes uses email as a file server.  At one point I was so bad, I used to keep SPAM messages as well but fortunately I came to the realization that:

  1. I had gone too far and was one step away from being clinically insane.
  2. As my volume of mail to process grew, including SPAM, I honestly never had any intention to go back and read SPAM, not even from a humor or posterity point of view.

So tonight I’m processing some items in my inbox at home.  In the back of my mind, I’m again reminded of the fact that I’ve got loads of old mail saved in my .PST file.  As a result, my curiosity suggests taking a break and locating the oldest piece of Email.  Since I have several folder catagories for Email I receive and in the interest of time, I decide not to bother searching each folder containing Email I which I have received.  The best bang for the buck here is to choose the folder which contains sent items, and then choose the oldest piece of Email based on sent date.  Who did I write to?  What was the subject?  When did I send it?

Would you believe this?

 7-1-2010 10-51-33 PM

The oldest recorded Email in my possession was sent in August 2003 to my friend Dawn in California, with the subject of VMWARE.  Well, I’ve provided the screenshot above; you can read it for yourself. 

I couldn’t have staged the results any better.  I guess this constitutes my first recorded act of VMware evangelism.  Mind you, it’s about a year before my account creation and first post on the VMTN forums, and two years before I started using ESX, sat the ICM class, and became VCP 2712 on VI2.  There had never been a VMworld yet, and John Troyer was still a self employed consultant in the computer software industry (I would later meet John for the first time in 2006 at a bar in Los Angeles, but I digress).  In this particular point in time I’m still using VMware Workstation and probably experimenting with VMware GSX in the lab and formulating a plan for using GSX at the DR/BCP recovery site.

In case you’re curious, I received a reply from Dawn less than an hour afterwards:

You have told me about it and we have it here at work. If I ever add another machine at hole I’ll get it from you, but I don’t see that happening too soon, I just don’t have room for more computers…


To which I replied five minutes later:

With VMWARE, you add more virtual computers on your existing machine. It doesn’t mean you have to go buy more computers. That’s what VMWARE is all about, doing more with what you have. Only thing is that the computer you run you VMs on should have lots of memory and hopefully a decent CPU (P3 or better)


If I get real ambitious, I could add a second post to this later where I mount my .PST files from my previous job which go back to 1998.  Sometime in the 2000/2001 timeframe is when I was introduced to VMware by a former co-worker Paul.  Some of my earliest conversations could be great fun to look at.  I remember having extreme curiosity about how this VMware could possibly work.  In addition, I was totally nervous about installing Windows as a VM as I thought it would wipe out the boot record on my workstation.

And there you have it.  A little history about VMware and my early beginnings with it.  I’m sure everyone has a story to tell.  I’d like to hear yours in the comments below.