VMware Workstation & Fusion Christmas In August Sale!

August 2nd, 2011 by jason No comments »

30% off through August 4th! All boxed and shrink wrapped copies of VMware Workstation (for Windows & Linux) and VMware Fusion (for Mac) must go!  Hurry while supplies last!  Use promo code PREHOLSALE at checkout for your 30% discount.  Mention boche.net and it is likely that nothing additional will happen.

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USB Thumb Drive Not Recognized – 3 Fast Beeps

July 27th, 2011 by jason 5 comments »

No Earth-shattering material tonight.  In fact this tip isn’t even VMware/virtualization related other than the fact that the problem came up while working in the lab.  It has been several months since the last article I wrote under the “General” category which contains no VMware/virtualization content.

Anyway, I was working in the lab when…

My Windows 7 OS would no longer recognize my USB thumb drive.  Inserting the thumb drive into any of the USB  ports produced three quick USB-style beeps.  Having cut my x86 teeth in the days when A+ certification amounted to quite a bit, the three beeps told me something wasn’t right from a hardware standpoint but with a hint of driver hence the USB audio indicator.  I was mildly concerned because I sometimes carry data around on this drive which hasn’t been backed up or cannot be quickly reproduced.  A warm reboot of the OS produced no joy.  Neither did a power off.

Back in Windows Device Manager, the device was shown as disabled with an option to re-enable.  This did not work however.

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This being a USB device which can easily be reinstalled, the next step was to uninstall the driver by right clicking on the device and choosing Uninstall (notice the “down arrow” depicted on the device indicating it is disabled):

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After the uninstall of the driver, I unplugged the USB thumb drive, waited a few seconds, plugged it back in, and immediately heard the friendly USB sound I had been wanting all along.  Windows 7 went through a device discovery process, installed drivers, and I was on my way.

Configure a vCenter 5.0 integrated Syslog server

July 23rd, 2011 by jason 13 comments »

Now that VMware offers an ESXi only platform in vSphere 5.0, there are logging decisions to be considered which were a non-issue on the ESX platform.  Particularly with boot from SAN, boot from flash, or stateless hosts where logs can’t be stored locally on the host with no scratch partition due to not having local storage.  Some shops use Splunk as a Syslog server.  Other bloggers such as Simon Long have identified in the past how to send logs to the vMA appliance.  Centralized management of anything is almost always a good thing and the same holds true for logging.

New in the vCenter 5.0 bundle is a Syslog server which can be integrated with vCenter 5.0.  I’m going to go through the installation, configuration, and then I’ll have a look at the logs.

Installation couldn’t be much easier.  I’ll highlight the main steps.  First launch the VMware Syslog Collector installation:

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The setup routine will open Windows Firewall ports as necessary.  Choose the appropriate drive letter and path installation locations.  Note the second drive letter and path specifies the location of the aggregated syslog files from the hosts.  Be sure there is enough space on the drive for the log files, particularly in medium to large environments:

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Choose the VMware vCenter Server installation (this is not the default type of installation):

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Provide the location of the vCenter Server as well as credentials to establish the connection.  In this case I’m installing the Syslog server on the vCenter Server itself:

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The Syslog server has the ability to accept connections on three different ports:

  1. UDP 514
  2. TCP 514
  3. Encrypted SSL 1514

There’s an opportunity to change the default listening ports but I’ll leave them as is, especially UDP 514 which is an industry standard port for Syslog communications:

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Once the installation is finished, it’s ready to accept incoming Syslog connections from hosts.  You’ll notice a few new items in the vSphere Client.  First is the VMware Syslog Collector Configuration plug-in:

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Next is the Network Syslog Collector applet:

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It’s waiting for incoming Syslog connections:

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Now I’ll a configure host to send its logs to the vCenter integrated Syslog server.  This is fairly straightforward as well and there are a few ways to do it.  I’ll identify two.

In the vCenter inventory, select the ESXi 5.0 host, navigate to the Configuration tab, then Advanced Settings under Software.  Enter the Syslog server address in the field for Syslog.global.logHost.  The format is ://:port.  So for my example:  udp://vcenter50.boche.mcse:514.  This field allows multiple Syslog protocols and endpoints separated by commas.  I could write split the logs to additional Syslog server with this entry:  udp://vcenter50.boche.mcse:514, splunk.boche.mcse, ssl://securesyslogs.boche.mcse:1514.  In that example, logs are shipped to vcenter50.boche.mcse and splunk.boche.mcse over UDP 514, as well as to securesyslogs.boche.mcse over 1514.  Another thing to point out on multiple entries.. there is a space after each comma which appears to be required for the host to interpret multiple entries properly:

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There are many other Syslog loggers options which can be tuned.  Have a look at them and configure your preferred logging appropriately.

Another method to configure and enable syslog on an ESXi 5 host would be to use esxcli.  The commands for each host look something like this:

~ # esxcli system syslog config set –loghost=192.168.110.16
~ # esxcli system syslog reload

Now I’ll ensure outbound UDP 514 is opened on the ESXi 5.0 firewall.  If the Syslog ports are closed, logs won’t make it to the Syslog server:

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Back to the vCenter (Syslog) Server, you’ll see a folder for each host sending logs to the Syslog server:

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And here come the logs:

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The same logs are going to the Splunk server too:

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This is what the logs look like in Splunk.  It’s a very powerful tool for centrally storing logs and then querying those logs using a powerful engine:

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And since this host actually has local disk, and as a result a scratch partition, the logs natively go to the scratch partition:

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Notice the host I configured is also displayed in the Network Syslog Collector along with the general path to the logs as well as the size of each host’s respective log file (I’ve noticed that it sometimes requires exiting the vSphere Client and logging back in before the hosts show up below):

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Earlier I mentioned that I’d show a second way to configure Syslog on the ESXi host.  That method is much easier and comes by way of leveraging host profiles.  Simply create a host profile and add the Syslog configuration to the profile.  Of course this profile can be used to deploy the configuration to countless other hosts which makes it a very easy and powerful method to deploy a centralized logging configuration:

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For more information, see VMware KB 2003322 Configuring syslog on ESXi 5.0.

VMFS-5 VMFS-3, What’s the Deal?

July 21st, 2011 by jason 25 comments »

New in vSphere 5 is the VMFS-5 file system for block storage.  VMware customers who upgraded from VMFS-2 to VMFS-3 will likely remember the shell game which had to be played in order to migrate VMs from VMFS-2 to VMFS-3.  It worked but it wasn’t the easiest process, particularly if spare storage was not available in order to move VMs around.

VMware has drastically improved the VMFS upgrade process with vSphere 5.  Not only can existing VMFS-3 datastores be upgraded to VMFS-5 in place, but the upgrade can be performed with running VMs on the storage being upgraded.  Now you might be asking yourself a few questions:

  1. If ESXi 5.0 hosts can run VMs on VMFS-3 or VMFS-5 (there’s a flexible improvement right there), then why even bother upgrading to VMFS-5?
  2. Is there any technical difference or advantage between net new VMFS-5 datastores  and upgraded VMFS-5 datastores which were once VMFS-3?

By now, you may understand what new features VMFS-5 offers.  A unified block size, 64TB datastores without using extents, improvements surrounding sub block allocation (SBA), support for many more files on a datastore, and a new partition type which is what enables datastores larger than 2TB.  These new features should answer the first question of “VMFS-5: what’s in it for me?”  But what about the 2nd question of “Does it matter which migration path I take to get my datastores to VMFS-5?

The tactical approach differences are subtle but nonetheless could be impactful depending on the environment.  I’ve compiled information from vSphere 5 beta documentation and VMware blogs.  I then categorized the information into two bulleted lists to compare similarities and contrast the differences.

Similarities between upgraded and newly created VMFS-5 datastores:

  • Both upgraded VMFS-5 and newly created VMFS-5 support the new 64TB datastore limit. Obviously you’ll need an array which supports growing the existing datastores beyond their original size which would have been 2TB-512B or less.
  • Both upgraded VMFS-5 and newly created VMFS-5 support the new 64TB passthru (physical) RDM limit.
  • The maximum size of a non-passthru (virtual) RDM on VMFS-5 is still 2TB -512 bytes.
  • The maximum size of a file (ie .VMDK virtual disk) on VMFS-5 is still 2TB -512 bytes.
  • The VMFS-3 to VMFS-5 conversion is a one-way process. After you convert the VMFS-based datastore to VMFS-5, you cannot revert back to VMFS-3 without creating a new VMFS-3 datastore (which by the way vSphere 5 supports along with the legacy 1, 2, 4, 8MB block sizes).

Differences between upgraded and newly created VMFS-5 datastores:

  • VMFS-5 upgraded from VMFS-3 continues to use the previous file block size which may be larger than the unified 1MB file block size. Copy operations between datastores with different block sizes won’t be able to leverage VAAI.  This is the primary reason I would recommend the creation of new VMFS-5 datastores and migrating virtual machines to new VMFS-5 datastores rather than performing in place upgrades of VMFS-3 datastores.
  • VMFS-5 upgraded from VMFS-3 continues to use 64KB sub-blocks and not new 8K sub-blocks.
  • VMFS-5 upgraded from VMFS-3 continues to have a file limit of 30,720 rather than the new file limit of > 100,000 for newly created VMFS-5.
  • VMFS-5 upgraded from VMFS-3 continues to use MBR (Master Boot Record) partition type; when the VMFS-5 volume is grown above 2TB, it automatically switches from MBR to GPT (GUID Partition Table) without impact to the running VMs.
  • VMFS-5 upgraded from VMFS-3 will continue to have a partition starting on sector 128; newly created VMFS-5 partitions start at sector 2,048.

Based on the information above, the best approach to migrate to VMFS-5 is to create net new VMFS-5 datastores if you have the extra storage space, can afford the number of Storage vMotions required, and have a VAAI capable storage array holding existing datastores with 2, 4, or 8MB block sizes.

For more information about vSphere 5 storage enhancements and VAAI, take a look at the following links:

Make-A-File – File Creation Utility

July 20th, 2011 by jason 4 comments »

Part of being successful it your role is having the right tool for the job.  If you work a lot with storage, storage performance, tiering, snapshots, or replication (ie. some of the new storage related features in vSphere 5), this tool might come in handy: Make-a-File.  A colleague introduced me to this Windows based utility which creates a file at the size you specify, up to 18 ExaBytes.

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Using the tool is simple, launch Make-a-File.exe

Configurable Parameters:

  • Filename: Specify name and path for the file to be created.
  • Size: Specify a file size between 1 Byte and 18 ExaBytes.
  • Random content: Fills the file with actual random data rather than all zeroes.  Analogous to creating a “thick” file.  For effective storage tests, enable this option.
  • Quick Create: Creates a thin provisioned file using the specified file size to mark the beginning and end geometry boundaries. Doesn’t actually fill the file with data.  Utilizes the SetFilePointer() function to set the end of the file.

Download Make-a-File_src.zip (23KB)

Make-A-File home page

Virtual Bridges Slashes VDI Storage Costs with Latest VDI Gen2 Solution

July 20th, 2011 by jason No comments »

Press Release:

Virtual Bridges Slashes VDI Storage Costs with Latest VDI Gen2 Solution

VERDE Adds New Features Including Cache I/O Storage Saver and Integrated Endpoint Management

AUSTIN, Texas (July 20, 2011)Virtual Bridges, Inc. today announced enhancements to VERDE, the industry’s first “VDI Gen2″ solution. Key additions include a new cache I/O storage saver that removes CAPEX hurdles long associated with VDI, and integrated endpoint management that delivers on the promise of desktop management infrastructure solutions.

Industry analysts have cited storage costs as one of the top 10 inhibitors for organizations looking to implement VDI. Unlike competitive solutions that focus on storage capacity (terabytes needed), VERDE StorageSaverTM uses cache I/O technology to reduce the number of Input/Output Operations Per Second (IOPS) required, the single most important metric in VDI desktop performance. Additionally, Copy-on-Write and Copy-on-Read features reduce external storage requirements by using local disks. On average, VERDE’s storage-related costs are one-third of other VDI solutions.

VERDE also now integrates PC Life Cycle Management (PCLM) policy and patch management into the virtual desktop. This includes integration with IBM’s PCLM solution, Tivoli Endpoint Manager built on BigFix technology, to ensure consistent policy across both physical and virtual desktops. VERDE is also now a management component within BigFix and other PCLM vendor frameworks including Novell zCM, Microsoft SCCM and more.  The result is smarter, faster endpoint management that also reduces risk and complexity.

Other VERDE highlights include:

  • Integrated Third-Party Application Management streamlines the deployment of applications inside the Gold Master with unified policy management and improves overall manageability; works with application virtualization solutions, including VMware ThinApp, Novell SPOON/ZenWorks, Cameyo and InstallFree.
  • Enhanced HA Clustering increases high availability of VERDE with automatic ClusterMasterTM (CM) failover in less than two minutes for any candidate without manual intervention; improves manageability by simplifying installation updates and eliminates the need for third party tools; adds cluster-wide licensing and unattended cluster-wide install/upgrade, offering native CM fail-over.
  • Enhanced Desktop Use Case Coverage extends support beyond traditional productivity/power users who do not need to install their own images, to cover a wide range of users scenarios including:
    • Long Life Dynamic Desktops – Improves security of the virtual desktop for VERDE LEAF users, such as traveling sales executives, who sporadically connect to the corporate network but often use public networks in airports or coffee shops.
    • Static Desktops – Provides greater control for fully persistent users, such as developers or engineers, who need to manage their own applications.
    • Non-Persistent Desktops – Provides ease of use without the need for customization for those who do not persist user data, such as workers at call centers or kiosks.
    • Dynamic Desktops – Continues to deliver robust user experience for productivity and power users who do not need to install their own images, but expect to have persistence for personal settings and documents.

“This release of VERDE is a true collaboration with our customers, tackling their biggest challenges including storage, endpoint management and third-party application management,” said Jim Curtin, CEO of Virtual Bridges. “VDI Gen2 continues to deliver significant advancements to make VDI easier and more cost effective than ever.”

As the first VDI Gen2 offering, VERDE features core capabilities that include online, offline and branch VDI, a Gold Master provisioning model, a Distributed Connection brokering architecture, flexibility to run both Windows and Linux desktops, branch-level VDI at LAN speeds, the ability to span both on-premises and hosted deployment modes and desktop portability on a USB stick.

Virtual Bridges has been named a “Major Player” in desktop virtualization by IDC, a “Cool Vendor” in Personal Computing by Gartner, an MIT Sloan CIO Symposium Innovation Showcase finalist, and one of 15 desktop virtualization vendors to watch in CRN’s Virtualization 100.

For more on VERDE visit http://www.vbridges.com/products/.

About Virtual Bridges

Virtual Bridges VERDE is the industry’s most comprehensive desktop management and provisioning solution that leverages virtualization to deliver desktops either on-premises or in the cloud. The VERDE solution lets enterprises transform their desktop TCO by simplifying desktop management, improving security and compliance by centralizing the administration of desktop images and data, and increasing the organizational agility by quickly providing desktop and application access to users on any client machine (PC, Macintosh, Linux, thin client, home computer or on a portable drive) at any time.

StarWind Software Releases their iSCSI SAN Software with Asynchronous HA

July 19th, 2011 by jason No comments »

Press Release:

StarWind Software Releases their iSCSI SAN Software with Asynchronous HA

New StarWind iSCSI SAN Software release, version 5.7, with asynchronous HA, improved performance and Data Deduplication.

Snagit CaptureBurlington, Mass. – July 19, 2011StarWind Software, a global leader in storage virtualization and a pioneer in iSCSI storage, today announced the release of StarWind 5.7, an iSCSI SAN software platform which turns any industry-standard x86 or x64 Windows server into a fail-safe, fault-tolerant storage device that will be continuously available even in the event of failure.

The latest software release is the first step to turn HA (High Availability) to a new architecture. The main innovation of StarWind 5.7 is that HA targets are now working in asynchronous mode and this greatly affects its performance. Also, HA targets can be grouped together for greater convenience.

A second substantial addition is the implementation of QoS. Now, users have the ability to choose any traffic and give it the priority status directly from the interface. Data Deduplication that allows substantial disk space savings, reduces storage requirements, and improves bandwidth efficiency, was also modified. Now, it is possible to use blocks from 512b up to 256kb.

Other StarWind 5.7 innovations include: a performance monitor that allows a view of the total server load, the number of IOPS and MB per second, a snapshot manager that allows management, delete, and split snapshots directly from the interface.

In addition, it is possible now to use multiple iSCSI sessions to optimize channel utilization.

“The release of StarWind 5.7 is a sequential step in development of iSCSI SAN solution,” said Artem Berman, Chief Executive Officer of StarWind Software. “Nowadays our customers require cost-effective solutions for high availability and continuous data access. StarWind 5.7 meets these requirements while providing optimized performance and efficiency to organizations regardless of their size and demands.”

About StarWind Software Inc.
StarWind Software is a global leader in storage management and SAN software for small and midsize organizations. StarWind’s flagship product is SAN software that turns any industry-standard Windows Server into a fault-tolerant, fail-safe iSCSI SAN. StarWind iSCSI SAN is qualified for use with VMware, Hyper-V, XenServer, Linux, and Unix environments. StarWind Software is focused on providing small and midsize organizations with affordable, highly availability storage technology which previously was only available in high-end storage hardware. Advanced enterprise-class features in StarWind include Automated HA Storage Node Failover and Failback (High Availability), Replication across a WAN, Snapshots, Thin Provisioning, and Virtual Tape management.

Since 2003, StarWind has pioneered the iSCSI SAN software industry and is the solution of choice for more than 30,000 customers worldwide in over 100 countries, from small and midsize companies to governments and Fortune 1000 companies.

For more information on StarWind Software Inc., visit: www.starwindsoftware.com