Archive for February, 2012

VMware vCenter as a vCloud Director vApp

February 27th, 2012

Snagit CaptureThe way things work out, I tend to build a lot of vCenter Servers in the lab.  Or at least it feels like I do.  I need to test this.  A customer I’m meeting with wants to specifically see that.  I need don’t want to taint or impact an existing vCenter Server which may already be dedicated to something else having more importance.  VMware Site Recovery Manager is a good example.  Each time I bring up an environment I need a pair of vCenter Servers which may or not be available.  Whatever the reason, I’ve reached the point where I don’t need to experience the build process repeatedly.

The Idea

A while ago, I had stood up a private cloud for the Technical Solutions/Technical Marketing group at Dell Compellent.  I saved some time by leveraging that cloud environment to quickly provision platforms I could install vCenter Server instances on.  vCenter Servers as vApps – fantastic use case.  However, the vCenter installation process is lengthy enough that I wanted something more in terms of automated cookie cutter deployment which I didn’t have to spend a lot of time on.  What if I took one of the Windows Server 2008 R2 vApps from the vCD Organization Catalog, deployed it as a vApp, bumped up the vCPU and memory count, installed the vSphere Client, vCenter Server, licenses, a local MS SQL Express database, and the Dell Compellent vSphere client plug-in (download|demo video), and then added that vApp back to the vCD Organization Catalog?  Perhaps not such a supported configuration by VMware or Microsoft, but could I then deploy that vApp as future vCenter instances?  Better yet, build a vApp consisting of a pair of vCenter Servers for the SRM use case?  It sounded feasible.  My biggest concerns were things like vCenter and SQL Express surviving the name and IP address change as part of the vCD customization.


Although I ran into some unrelated customization issues which seemed to have something to do with vCD, Windows Server 2008 R2, and VMXNET3 vNICs (error message: “could not find network adapters as specified by guest customization. Log file is at c:\windows\temp\customize-guest.log.” I’ll save that for a future blog post if I’m able to root cause the problem), the Proof of Concept test results thus far have been successful.  After vCD customization, I was able to add vSphere 5 hosts and continue with normal operations from there.

Initially, I did run into one minor issue and that was hosts would fall into a disconnected status approximately two minutes after being connected to the vCenter Server.  This turned out to be a Windows Firewall issue which was introduced during the customization process.  Also, there were some red areas under the vCenter Service Status which pointed to the old instance name (most fixes for that documented well by Rick Vanover here, plus the vCenter Inventory Service cleanup at VMware KB 2009934).

The Conclusion

To The Cloud!  You don’t normally hear that from me on a regular basis but in this case it fits.  A lengthy and increasingly cumbersome task was made more efficient with vCloud Director and vSphere 5.  Using the Linked Clone feature yields both of its native benefits: Fast Provisioning and Space Efficiency.  I’ll continue to leverage vCD for similar and new use cases where I can.  Lastly, this solution can also be implemented with VMware Lab Manager or simply as a vSphere template.  Caveats being Lab Manager retires in a little over a year and a vSphere Template won’t be as space efficient as a Linked Clone.

Top Blog 2012 Results

February 26th, 2012

Snagit CaptureFor several years, my friend in blogging, virtualization, storage, and cigars, Eric Siebert, has conducted an annual online survey where virtualization community members can vote for their top-10 blogs.  The latest results were just released this morning along with a video counting down the top-25.  Once again, I’ve been fortunate enough to remain among the top-10 of 187 VMware virtualization blogs.  I have slipped a few spots over the past few years but nonetheless it’s an honor to be recognized among so much great talent.

My thanks and appreciation goes out to Eric Siebert who spent well over 30 of his own hours making this year’s contest successful.  Of course I’d also like to thank the readers who voted for my blog, effectively letting me know that the content I produce is valuable to the community.  That is one of the reasons I started blogging and it is the reason I will continue to do so.  Last but not least, thank you TrainSignal for sponsoring this year’s contest.

A full compilation of results and categories can be found at Eric’s site using the link above.  Following is an excerpt displaying the top-25:

Blog Rank Previous Total Votes Total Points #1 Votes
Yellow Bricks (Duncan Epping) 1 1 697 5440 243
Scott Lowe 2 3 480 3034 25 (Eric Sloof) 3 4 419 2592 45
Virtual Geek (Chad Sakac) 4 2 381 2298 46
Frank Denneman 5 6 373 2214 19
RTFM Education (Mike Laverick) 6 5 337 1775 6
Virtu-al (Alan Renouf) 7 9 294 1599 10
Virtually Ghetto (William Lam) 8 25 288 1522 21
Virtualization Evangelist (Jason Boche) 9 8 283 1392 15
vSphere-land (Eric Siebert) 10 7 264 1267 9
The SLOG (Simon Long) 11 11 225 1258 23
Virtual Storage Guy (Vaughn Stewart) 12 15 218 1245 48
vReference (Forbes Guthrie) 13 19 219 1123 14
LucD (Luc Dekens) 14 21 174 1055 20
Gabe’s Virtual World (Gabriel Van Zanten) 15 10 204 995 19
Nickapedia (Nicholas Weaver) 16 24 171 948 14
My Virtual Cloud (Andre Leibovici) 17 39 150 914 25
TechHead (Simon Seagrave) 18 14 166 904 17 (Various) 19 13 179 815 21
ESX Virtualization (Vladan Seget) 20 23 138 804 19
Chris Colotti 21 119 733 28
VMware Tips (Rick Scherer) 22 18 155 718 5
Pivot Point (Scott Drummonds) 23 17 114 615 1
Brian Madden 24 96 581 6
Stephen Foskett, Pack Rat 25 116 562 1


February 25th, 2012

I receive a lot of communication from recruiters, some of which I’m allowed to share, so I’ve decided to try something.  On the Jobs page, I’ll pass along virtualization and cloud centric opportunities – mostly US based but in some cases throughout the globe.  Only recruiter requests will be posted.  I won’t syndicate content easily found on the various job boards.  If you’re currently on the bench or looking for a new challenge, you may find it here.  Don’t tell them Jason sent you.  I receive no financial gain or benefit otherwise but I thought I could do something with these opportunities other than deleting them.  Best of luck in your search.

In case you missed the link, the Jobs page.

Configuring Zimbra Mobile

February 19th, 2012

Shortly before VMware Partner Exchange, Microsoft Certificate Services in my long-in-the-tooth lab domain died and unfortunately took a handful of integrated services with it.  One of those dependent services was Microsoft Exchange 2010.  After attempts to repair and later rebuild and restore the Microsoft CA failed, I decided the time had finally come to ditch the boche.mcse Windows Active Directory domain which I originally built when Windows 2000 and Active Directory first launched.  There were a number of other lingering issues with the domain which I haven’t been able to repair and the time investment and frustration really wasn’t worth it.  I had been waiting for a catalyst in addition to a block of weekend time and today was the day.

I had been hosting Microsoft Exchange Server since version 5.5 and although I had accumulated quite a bit of experience over the years in building, migrating, and maintaining a small Exchange environment, the truth is Exchange has gotten way too complex and bloated for me to keep up with.  Being a VMware guy, I’ve had the itch to give Zimbra a try since the acquisition.  It seemed like a win-win solution: Ditch the complexities of Exchange and replace with a VMware messaging solution.  So after building the new domain this afternoon Exchange 2010 was retired and Zimbra was born.

Zimbra is incredibly easy to set up, especially when deploying the appliance version in .OVF format hosted on vSphere 5.  I was up and running with incoming and outgoing email in very little time.  One area I was concerned with when replacing Exchange with Zimbra was the integration and end user experience.  Zimbra ships with an HTML Outlook Web Access like interface which can be used for processing mail on a regular basis.  Would I lose the ability to use Outlook as a mail client or mobile device compatibility?  The answer was no on both accounts.  In addition to the web interface, I can continue to use Outlook 2010 connected to the Zimbra server via IMAP.  This is just about as easy to set up as attaching Outlook to a native Exchange environment.  Outlook detects the mail services provided by Zimbra and negotiates an IMAP configuration.  Done.

Configuring Zimbra Mobile wasn’t as straight forward but I was able to piece together the steps.  Zimbra’s documentation is decent but in some areas it feels explicitly vague, lacking step by step configuration detail.  With Outlook and the web client functioning well, the last step was to integrate Zimbra with my mobile devices: the iPhone and iPad.  These are the steps I followed:

Log into the Zimbra Collaboration Suite Appliance web console (https://<f.q.d.n.>:5480/).  On the Zimbra Administration tab, change the pull down box from All addresses or Accounts to Profiles.

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In a default out-of-box deployment, there should be just one profile named ‘default’.  Modify that profile by enabling Mobile Sync on the Zimbra Mobile tab.  Save the changes to the profile.

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Now that we have Mobile Sync enabled in a profile, we can apply that profile to each Zimbra user who needs messaging access from their mobile handheld.  Going back to the Dashboard tab, change the pull down box from Profiles to Accounts.  Modify the account in which you’d like to grant Zimbra Mobile access.  On the General Information tab for the user account, uncheck the box labeled ‘auto‘ and then begin typing the first few letters of the profile name of ‘default‘ in the Profile box.  After the first few letters of the profile are typed, the default profile name will appear and that can be selected with the mouse.  Now save the changes.

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Now it’s time to configure the iPad and iPhone to connect to Zimbra Mobile.  The first step is to create a new mail account.  The type will be Exchange.

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I found configuring the account with Zimbra Mobile easier than with Exchange 2010.  Provide the following values:

2. Email – this should match the email address tied to the account in Zimbra.

3. Server – this will be the f.q.d.n of the Zimbra server.  By default an SSL connection over port 443 will be attempted which Zimbra supports.  You can optionally specify an alternative port.  For example, I could come in externally over port 8080 and then have that translated by NAT to port 443 and sent to the Zimbra server.  Without a port defined, 443 is implied.

     Domain – not required with internal Zimbra authentication.  If authenticating with LDAP integration, this field would likely need to be populated.

4. Username – the name tied to the account in Zimbra.

5. Password – 12345

     Description – not used in Zimbra Mobile configuration.  It’s merely a differentiator for the account on a mobile device which may have multiple accounts set up.

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If things are working correctly, you’ll be able to tap the blue Next button and you’ll be prompted to verify the synchronization of all three types of items: Mail, Contacts, and Calendars.  Once the account configuration is saved you’ll also see an additional slider showing that SSL is ON (the default).

Next up is to configure my wife’s Kindle Fire.  I don’t expect any issues there.

VMware VCAP5-DCD BETA Exam Experience

February 13th, 2012

This morning I sat the VCAP5-DCD BETA exam just as soon as the certification doors opened here at VMware Partner Exchange 2012 (follow the action using the Twitter hash tag #VMwarePEX).  As usual, I can’t cover exam content in detail but I’ll briefly cover the experience in explicitly vague detail so as not to violate any policies.

Just like the VCAP4-DCD BETA I sat over a year ago, the exam length was 130 questions to be answered within a 225 minute time constraint.  From what I gathered, all questions asked were fair in that they came straight from the beta blueprint.  When you read through the blueprint, pay attention to any areas of coverage new to you – it’s all fair game for the exam.  If you’re not familiar with some of the content, be sure you obtain at least a baseline understanding to have a chance at fielding the questions with success. As was the case with the VCAP4-DCD, question types include multiple choice, choose 2 or 3 that apply, drag -n- drop to match this to that, and build a diagram.  Questions can be marked for review but the navigational button to go back to a previous question did not work for me once I had advanced to the next question.  Many of the non-multiple choice questions inherently have a lot of reading associated with them.  Digest the information as quickly and accurately as possible and move on.  Be sure to understand what version of vSphere the question is referring to – there are design and operational differences between vSphere 4 and vSphere 5.  Some of the questions involved performing math on the dry erase board.  A calculator provided with the exam would have saved a little time.

Time management was a challenge for me on this VMware BETA exam.  I ran out of time leaving many questions either unanswered or in the case of lengthy questions requiring a lot of reading, answered with a guess.  If you plan on sitting this VMware BETA exam, you might consider saving all of your feedback for a consolidated email to after the exam, rather than providing feedback on each individual question during the exam itself.  One needs to study everything on the blueprint but in my opinion, this is still an experience based exam for the most part.  Sure there is some material you can get through from book and white paper knowledge but the scope of the exam itself is broad enough that several titles would be required to cover all of the content.  I felt confident enough in the material covered that I can pass the exam based on content alone.  If I need to sit the exam again, in all likelihood it will be due to my lack of adequate time management. I should have my results within a few months.

As far as the Partner Exchange testing center – a few tips for those at Partner Exchange who will spend some time in the exam room this week:

  1. It’s cold. Wear a long sleeved shirt or sweater.
  2. It’s loud (large events going on nearby).  Bring some ear plugs if you have any.
  3. Time management once the exam begins. I can’t stress that enough on the advanced level exams.
  4. I asked if coffee was allowed in the exam room.  They told me clearly it was not so I got rid of mine only to find out several candidates had coffee with them in the testing center.  Don’t ask, just walk in with your drink unless they stop you.
  5. The on site staff is very friendly and did a great job.  Be sure to ask questions if you have any.  If you paid the $200 beta exam fee because the discount voucher didn’t work when you registered, the staff will refund that for you.
  6. Enjoy your testing experience.
  7. Good luck!

I’ve heard only rumors so far on Twitter, no formal announcements from VMware, that the VCAP5-DCD exam will qualify towards VCP5 certification and possibly VCDX5.  We’ll have to wait and see what develops there.  One thing is absolute:  VMware made it clear there was a February 29 deadline to obtain VCP5 upgrade certification without requiring formal classroom training (and the associated costs).  Because of this, many individuals, including myself, rushed to shell out the exam fee for VCP5 before the deadline in order to avoid training costs if sitting the VCP5 exam after February 29.  I speak for myself when I say that if I had known a VCAP5-DCD exam would qualify for VCP5 certification without additional training, I would have waited to save money on the VCP5 exam fee.

Update 4/25/12: Pass/Fail results were sent out today by VMware which confirmed my time management needed improvement.  A more detailed score report will be sent sometime in May.  I’ll be sitting this exam again when the final version is launched.  I saw a lot of tweets today announcing a pass.  My congratulations go out to those folks.

Update 7/19/12: I passed the GA version of the VCAP5-DCD exam.  That experience was different and I’ve written about it here.

View Pool And Desktop Hung in Deleting State

February 7th, 2012

The VMware View 5.0 environment in the lab has been running well and has proven itself as an extremely reliable remote access replacement for the old Citrix Presentation Server 4.0 solution I had in the past.  However, in an effort to address a licensing issue related to the View App for iPad demo environment, I managed to force both a pool and a single desktop from within that pool into a perpetually stuck state of ‘deleting’.  In addition, the VM representing the desktop was gone, but I could see from within vCenter the parent replica for the pool still remained.  I spent some time poking at it from several angles including the View Connection Server, the vCenter Server, and the View Composer Server.  It became clear that the underlying issue was deeper, in a database perhaps, and couldn’t be resolved using the standard management tools VMware offers.

The issue isn’t an uncommon one and I quickly turned up familiar hits at VMware’s community forums spanning a few different versions of VMware View.  The root cause is explained in VMware KB Article 1008658 which applies to View versions 3.x through 5.2.x (this KB article also walks through the steps of manually deleting pae-VMs from the ADAM database as well as manually deleting dubious SVI_rows from various tables in the View Composer database as necessary).  Also see Manually deleting linked clones or stale virtual desktop entries from VMware View Manager 4.5 and later at VMware KB 2015112 (which uses the SviConfig.exe View Composer utility and is linked from KB 1008658):

This issue occurs if a table in the database has an incorrect data. It can also occur if the virtual machine name has been changed in the vCenter Server manually after the pool has been created, causing View Composer and vCenter Server to refer to the same virtual machine with different names.

The problem can largely be avoided by managing the View environment with the intended tool – the VMware View Administrator interface as opposed to making changes outside of View, such as using VMware vCenter.

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Resolving the issue is achieved by following the detailed in the KB articles above.  Follow the steps carefully and slowly in a production View environment and keep in mind that not all steps may be required for your particular situation.