VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS technical deepdive review

March 14th, 2011 by jason 5 comments »

A few months ago, I wrote about the arrival of the new VMware vSphere 4.1 HA and DRS technical deepdive book.  Having finished reading the book, I thought I’d write a quick follow up.

This book was a pretty easy read, and by that I mean it as a compliment in that the authors did a superb job in conveying the details of deep technical discussions in a way that I think is easy to comprehend and understand at different levels.  At the same time, the coverage did not disappoint.  All aspects of HA, DRS, and even DPM were discussed at length.  Along the way, Basic Design Principles in each section were highlighted to summarize the technical detail.

Duncan and Frank cover not only the supported parameters, but the unsupported and sometimes undocumented tweaks as well.  Most important, they are very clear in pointing out what’s supported by VMware and what’s not.

I feel that I have a pretty good handle on HA and DRS but that doesn’t mean that time spent reading this book was wasted.  I picked up some design bits that I hadn’t thought about before having not been exposed to the environments in which they would apply.  Some sources do a fine job in discussion either HA or DRS, but what sets this book apart is that it expands into how the two operate together which is just about as important to understand as the individual topics themselves.  The DRS and DPM chapters exposed the computational math behind the decisions which DRS makes.  Quite honestly, I probably learned the most here.  Not that I’ll be able to keep the formulas in memory for very long, nonetheless the content and the size of the book will make it a great reference.

Capping the end of a great book I was pleasantly surprised to find an Appendix containing all of the Basic Design Principles, as well as all of the advanced parameters for HA and DRS.  If you’re short on time for reading, advanced to the 11 page Appendix in the back and you’ll get a pretty good summary of the first 18 chapters.

If you buy the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  Thanks Duncan and Frank!

VMware View Client for iPad Released

March 9th, 2011 by jason 31 comments »

SnagIt CaptureThere’s an old saying which goes “The best things in life are free”.  Even better are those things which will forever remain free.  Such is the case with the new VMware View Client for iPad, announced and made available this morning!  By the time you read this, the bits will already be available for download in the Apple App Store.  GET IT NOW!

Development efforts for the new client stem from VMware Product Manager Tedd Fox who is no stranger to iPad Apps.  Tedd also lead the development and is on the patent for the Citrix client for the iPad.  Tedd’s policy?  “I never charge for clients”.  So long as Tedd is at VMware, this client (and future versions, of which there are going to be many, rapid fired) will be free.

Following are some notable product features, frequently asked questions, as well as current limitations (and from here on out I’m going to refer to the VMware View Client as the vVC in the interest of less typing [by the way, I just made that up so if VMware adopts vVC, you heard it here first folks]):

  • The vVC for iPad will compete with Wyse PocketCloud.  A few of the differences between the two apps are:
    • vVC is purpose built for the VMware View use case and associated connectivity.  I think this will be important to keep in mind as the product is run through its paces and feature requests start to roll in.  VMware is going to pay more attention to feature requests which tie to its use with View and align with the VMware Enterprise Desktop architectural and strategic direction.
    • Instead of a hockey puck like cursor, the vVC sports a rendered track pad on the iPad surface.  VMware believes this no nonsense approach leads to a better user experience. The track pad, as well as other dockable modules such as function keys, can be moved around the display or hidden.
    • Wyse PocketCloud = $14.99 plus additional bolt on feature costs
    • vVC = $FREE
    • Other than the price tag, protocol is the biggie:  vVC supports PCoIP only.  Whereas PocketCloud supports Terminal Services/Remote Desktop RDP, View (RDP) and VNC.  We’ll see if this drives VMware View 4.6 upgrades/deployments which boast the required PCoIP gateway feature.  Alternatively, I’m assuming vVC PCoIP via VPN tunnel will also work with VMware View versions 4.6 and prior.
  • The vVC is currently available for iPad only with Android tablets targeted mid year.  There are no plans to support the smaller 7″ range of devices.  Tedd explains “the app just doesn’t feel right on smaller devices.”  No comment as of yet on HP TouchPad futures.
  • iPad 2 compatibility?  The honest answer is nobody knows at this time.  Nobody but Apple has an iPad 2 today.  vVC will likely work on the iPad 2, but there is a chance it won’t.  With future versions of vVC scheduled to come fast and furious, I doubt the wait would be long for full functionality on iPad 2, if it doesn’t already work out of the gate on March 11th when iPad 2 is released.  What we do know is that PCoIP does not currently support cameras, iPad 2 or otherwise.
  • Video and Audio:
    • vVC will support unidirectional audio. However, due to lack of Teradici integration, there will be no bidirectional audio support for this release.
    • 1024 x 768 video out is supported with the Apple VGA adapter (sold separately).
  • vVC supports connectivity to multiple brokers and multiple sessions, but not simultaneously.  Not until there’s a compelling use case.
  • There is no iPad multitasking support in the GA version but it is being worked on.  Wyse PocketCloud doesn’t have this either, or at least it doesn’t work for me as sessions are always disconnected when I multitask.
  • Dock keyboard and Bluetooth keyboard pairing support.
  • Local/LAN printing from the VDI session is supported, Apple/Air printing is not.
  • The VMware View for iPad VMTN community forum has been created at:

So enough socializing.  Feast your eyes on some candy captured by an iPad running the new View Client for iPad.

The vVC is launched and prompting for a broker.  The only information needed to get up and running with this app is a View broker URL and credentials:

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Previously visited sessions are available for selection along with a thumbnail of the desktop.  I believe the way this works is that the thumbnail is captured when the previous session is disconnected.  I don’t believe this is a dynamic representation of what’s currently displayed on the desktop.  The latter wouldn’t be very practical if desktops were locked or screen saver enabled:

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Wyse PocketCloud and iPad users in general will find the finger gestures familiar.  Comparing the two apps, there are both similarities and minor differences in how the gestures map to functions.

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Displayed here are some floating modules:  the track pad and two sets of function keys.  Also visible at the top is a pull down menu for the vVC:

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Not much to say here so I’ll add some evangelism:  I’m so pumped about a free VMware App that I’ll probably forget about Enterprise Plus and per VM licensing for at least a day:

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Here’s a demo video from VMware which showcases some of the features:

Apple has strict protocols for its App Store.  Nobody outside of the development company gets pre-release copies or BETA software.  Nobody outside of VMware has had their hands on this app yet, including myself, so I write this piece from information gathered from those at VMware who have developed and worked with the product quite extensively already.  As I stated before, I’m overwhelmed with confidence in Tedd and his passion for client technology and from what I’ve seen, this client looks very promising.  I’m looking forward to grabbing this app ASAP and I wish Tedd and VMware a very successful launch.  I also look forward to the future releases and features Tedd promises.  After all, upgrading apps on the iPad isn’t nearly the bummer that Windows or other platform application upgrades are what with the reboots, compatibility issues, etc.  I’ll end with another quote from an old friend of mine who used to commonly say “What do you want for free?”  In this case, it would seem VMware has done a pretty good job with the GA version of vVC.  At this time I couldn’t ask for much more but ask me in a few weeks once I’ve had some seat time with it.

Twin Cities Powershell Users Group Meeting March 8th

March 7th, 2011 by jason 2 comments »

The next Twin Cities Powershell Users Group will convene on March 8th at 4:30 pm (THAT’S TOMORROW!) at the Microsoft Office in Bloomington. There are three reasons I am encouraging as many people as possible to attend this event.

Date:           March 08, 2011
Time:           4:30-6:00 p.m.
Location:     8300 Norman Center Drive, 9th Floor, Bloomington, MN 55437

Please attend if you are able, and forward this invite to anybody else that you feel might be interested in attending. RSVP at this link.

http://www.tcposhug.com/

The content being presented is focused on leveraging PowerCLI to manage and monitor your VMware environment. PowerCLI is an extremely powerful set of capabilities which will allow you to automate and manage your environment in a very efficient manner. Being able to leverage PowerCLI will save you time and make you a better VMware administrator. Additionally, this skill set is applicable to many other aspects of IT.

The presenter at this event is Ryan Grendahl from Datalink. For those of you who don’t know Ryan, he is extremely strong around VMware, storage, and automation. In fact, Ryan recently attained his VCDX, becoming one of only 66 people in the world to earn this very highly regarded certification. Ryan is very proficient and knowledgeable around PowerCLI and I believe that you will learn a lot by attending.

This event is at the Microsoft office in Bloomington. I would love to see a HUGE turnout to this event so that the Microsoft staff can see how interested people are in VMware based solutions. I’m hoping that we can make this a standing room only turnout.

Tiny Core Linux and Operational Readiness

February 28th, 2011 by jason 11 comments »

When installing, configuring, or managing VMware virtual infrastructure, one of the steps which should be performed before releasing a host (back) to production is to perform operational readiness tests.  One test which is quite critical is that of testing virtual infrastructure networking.  After all, what good is a running VM if it has no connectivity to the rest of the network?  Each ESX or ESXi host pNIC should be individually tested for internal and upstream connectivity, VLAN tagging functionality if in use (quite often it is), in addition to proper failover and fail back, and jumbo frames at the guest level if used.

There are several types of VMs or appliances which can be used to generate basic network traffic for operational readiness testing.  One that I’ve been using recently (introduced to me by a colleague) is Tiny Core Linux.  To summarize:

Tiny Core Linux is a very small (10 MB) minimal Linux GUI Desktop. It is based on Linux 2.6 kernel, Busybox, Tiny X, and Fltk. The core runs entirely in ram and boots very quickly. Also offered is Micro Core a 6 MB image that is the console based engine of Tiny Core. CLI versions of Tiny Core’s program allows the same functionality of Tiny Core’s extensions only starting with a console based system.

TCL carries with it a few of benefits, some of which are tied to its small stature:

  • The minimalist approach makes deployment simple.
  • At just 10MB, it’s extremely portable and boots fast.
  • As a Linux OS, it’s freely distributable without the complexities of licensing or activation.
  • It’s compatible with VMware hardware 7 and the Flexible or E1000 vNIC making it a good network test candidate.
  • No installation is required.  It runs straight from an .ISO file or can boot from a USB drive.
  • Point and click GUI interface provides ease of use and configuration for any user.
  • When deployed with internet connectivity, it has the ability to download and install useful applications from an online repository such as Filezilla or Firefox.  There are tons of free applications in the repository.

As I mentioned before, deployment of TCL is pretty easy.  Create a VM shell with the following properties:

  • Other Linux (32-bit)
  • 1 vCPU
  • 256MB RAM
  • Flexible or E1000 vNIC
  • Point the virtual CD/DVD ROM drive to the bootable .ISO
  • No HDD or SCSI storage controller required

First boot splash screen.  Nothing real exciting here other than optional boot options which aren’t required for the purposes of this article.  Press Enter to continue the boot process:

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After pressing Enter, the boot process is briefly displayed:

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Once booted, the first step would be to configure the network via the Panel applet at the bottom of the Mac like menu:

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If DHCP is enabled on the subnet, an address will be automatically acquired by this point.  Otherwise, give eth0 a static TCP/IP configuration.  Name Servers are optional and not required for basic network connectivity unless you would like to test name resolution in your virtual infrastructure:

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Once TCP/IP has been configured, a Terminal can be opened up and a basic ping test can be started.  Change the IP address and vNIC portgroup to test different VLANs but my suggestion would be to spawn multiple TCL instances, one per each VLAN to test because you’ll need to vMotion the TCL VMs to each host being tested.  You don’t want to continuously be modifying the TCP/IP configuration:

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What else of interest is in the Panel applet besides Network configuration?  Some ubiquitous items such as date/time configuration, disk and terminal services tools, and wallpaper configuration:

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The online application repository is packed with what seems like thousands of apps:

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After installing FileZilla, it’s available as an applet:

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FileZilla is fully functional:

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So I’ve only been using Tiny Core Linux as a network testing appliance, but clearly it has some other uses when paired with extensible applications.  A few other things that I’ll point out is:

  1. TCL can be Suspended in order to move it to other clusters (with compatible CPUs) so that both a host and a storage migration can be performed in a single step.  Once TCL reaches its destination cluster, Unsuspend.
  2. During my tests, TCL will continue to run without issue after being severed from its boot .ISO.  This is possible because it is booted into RAM where it continues to run from that point on.

I’ve been watching Tiny Core Linux for several months and the development efforts appear fairly aggressive and backed by an individual or group with a lot of talent and energy which is good to see.  As of this writing, version 3.5 is available.  Give Tiny Core Linux a try.

WordPress 3.1 Upgrade Issues

February 27th, 2011 by jason 3 comments »

I noticed this evening that WordPress 3.1 was available and my blog’s dasboard was coaxing me to upgrade.  Every single time I have upgraded, I have made a backup before hand.  At the end of a long week, my logic was shot and I proceeded with the upgrade without a backup.  As luck would have it, my Windows Server 2003 and IIS based blog no longer worked.  Page loads were an endless hourglass, no 404 or any other web browser errors.   However, another symptom included the w3wp.exe process (this is IIS) on my server consuming extremely heavy CPU utilization during the endless page loads.  When cancelling the page load, the CPU utilization goes back down to normal.

As I have an ongoing obligation to blog sponsors, not to mention I was mentally drained, I was feeling pretty screwed at this point, but was prepared to restore from the previous night’s Veeam file level backups.  I turned to Google looking for other WordPress upgrade experiences.  Search results quickly lead me to this thread which provided a ton of users having the same issue.  A chap by the moniker of jarnez had the solution, or at least workaround which worked for me as well as others.  Open the blog’s admin dashboard (thankfully this is still functional) and install the Permalink Fix & Disable Canonical Redirects Pack plugin and all is back to normal again. 

Thank you jarnez!!!

VMTurbo Introduces Real-time Management Suite for Virtualized Data Centers

February 18th, 2011 by jason 2 comments »

Press Release:

VMTurbo Introduces Real-time Management Suite for Virtualized Data Centers

Holistic suite ‘ties the viewing with the doing’ by proactively preventing problems and recommending and automating corrective actions for healthy and efficient environments

Valhalla, NY, February 15, 2011 — VMTurbo, provider of software to analyze, optimize and control the virtualized data center, today announced availability of the full VMTurbo Virtualization Management Suite.  Unique in its ability to turn insights into actions, VMTurbo pinpoints problems, identifies their impact and recommends corrective actions, which can be automated to ensure healthy and efficient virtual environments.

“VMTurbo has given HD Supply the visibility required to eliminate storage I/O bottlenecks and stabilize VM availability in our data centers,” said Brad Cowles, director of information technology at HD Supply, one of the largest diversified wholesale distributors in North America. “At the same time, VMTurbo is collecting the data HD Supply needs to optimize the environment as we move toward our goal of virtualizing 75% of our enterprise applications by 2014.”

VMTurbo is the only virtualization management solution to:

Combine real-time operational performance metrics with unique analytics to drive a broad set of workload management actions that maintain virtual infrastructure operations within pre-defined performance constraints, in order to guarantee service levels and maximize the ROI of server, storage and data center facilities;

Deliver performance at lowest infrastructure cost by automating the decision of what workload to run where and when in order to maximize the ROI of virtualized and cloud environments, and reduce both operating and capital expenses;

Ensure ongoing pro-active management to maintain a healthy and efficient data center;

Support systemic life-cycle management of the data center via an integrated suite that helps administrators and IT leadership organize operational management into consistent integrated workflows.

“By ensuring quality of service for mission-critical applications through proper workload balancing and eliminating and preventing problems, VMTurbo lets system administrators and infrastructure operations managers sleep at night,” said Shmuel Kliger, President and CEO, VMTurbo.  “With the enterprise-class ability to scale to thousands of VMs and beyond, VMTurbo is a life-saver as enterprises scale out their virtualization deployments to distributed data centers and cloud-scale environments.”

The VMTurbo Virtualization Management Suite – which includes Monitor, Reporter, Planner and Optimizer modules – is packaged in a single virtual appliance, making it easy to deploy, configure, operate and upgrade. Installed in minutes, the appliance automatically discovers and then monitors and analyzes your virtual infrastructure.  A single virtual appliance can manage thousands of VMs across multiple Virtual Centers, scaling out for large and cloud environments.

Availability and Pricing

The VMTurbo suite is currently available for the VMware ESX Server or vSphere 3.5u2 or later, and VMware vCenter 2.5 or later, priced at $399/socket.

Related Links

VMTurbo Optimizer: http://www.vmturbo.com/products/optimizer/

Top 10 Reasons to Choose VMTurbo: http://www.vmturbo.com/why-vmturbo/

About VMTurbo

VMTurbo provides an integrated software suite for proactive and automated management of workload and resources in virtualized data centers. Only VMTurbo provides a holistic view of your virtual infrastructure as well as detailed action plans with respect to workload placement and resource allocation.  Our customers accomplish ever more, with less IT resources, by using our suite to analyze, optimize and control their virtual infrastructure.

Deploy ESX & ESXi With Hidden Lab Manager 4 Switch

February 17th, 2011 by jason 9 comments »

SnagIt Capture200 million years from now, divers off the west coast of the U.S. will make an incredible discovery.  Miles beneath the Pacific Ocean, in a location once known as the Moscone Center in San Francisco, evidence will emerge which reveals spectacular gatherings that once took place.  Humans from around the globe would assemble semi-annually to celebrate virtualization and cloud technologies from a company named VMware which made its mark throughout history as the undisputed and mostly uncontested leader in its space.  What this company did changed the way mankind did business forever.  Companies and consumers alike were provided with tremendous advantages, flexibility, and cost savings.

At these events, massive amounts of compute resources were harnessed to power “virtual laboratories”.  These laboratories (or labs as they were called for short) were dynamically provisioned on demand and at large scale by the attendees themselves.  Archaeologists in Miami, Florida and Ashburn, Virginia made similar discoveries and they believe that the three sites were somehow linked together for the twice a year event called “VMworld”.  Scientists estimate that the combined amount of resources would easily be able to support the deployment 50,000+ “virtual machines” in just a few days.

How did they accomplish this?  Without a doubt, by automating.  The fossilized remains suggest they may have used one of their own development products called “Lab Manager” which was first introduced in the year 2006 A.D. and retired by vCloud Director just seven years later in 2013 according to the scriptures.  The Lab Manager product was a special use case tool which many businesses with internal software development processes flourished by, and a whole lot more when it morphed into vCD.  What wasn’t widely shared or known beyond the VMware staff was that it shipped with some special abilities that were locked and hidden.  Scientists believe these abilities assisted in the automated deployment of virtualized ESX and ESXi hosts within Lab Manager.  This was the key to automating the VMworld labs.  Details aren’t 100% complete but there’s enough information such that future researchers may be able to find or synthesize the missing DNA to recreate a functional replica of what once existed. 

Disclaimer: What follows is not supported by VMware.  Before you get carried away with excitement, ask yourself if this is something you should be doing in your environment.

The Lab Manager 4 configuration is stored in a SQL Express database installed locally on the Lab Manager 4 server.  To unlock the virtualized ESX(i) support, a hidden switch must be flipped in the database.  Add a row to the “Config” table in the Lab Manager database:

Cat: settings
Name: EsxVmSupportEnabled
Value: 1

This can be accomplished this by:

  1. granting a domain account the SysAdmin role using the SQL Server 2005 Surface Area Configuration tool inside the Lab Manager server
  2. and then executing the following query via a Microsoft SQL Server Management Studio on a remote SQL 2005 server (or use OSQL locally if you know how that tool works):

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The next step is to Clear Cache via the Uber Administration Screen in the Lab Manager web interface (this screen is available with or without the above database hack).  How does one get to this uber-admin page?  Log into the Lab Manager web interface as an administrator, click the About hyperlink on the left edge Support menu.  Once at the About page, Use CTRL+U to access the uber-admin page.  Click the Clear Cache button:

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Next step.  By virtue of having installed and performed the initial configuration of Lab Manager at this point, it is assumed one has already prepared the Lab Manager hosts with the default Lab Manager Agent.  To facilitate the automated deployment of virtual ESX(i) hosts in Lab Manager, the special ESX-VM support specific Lab Manager agents need to be installed.  To do this, simply Disable your Lab manager hosts, Unprepare each Lab Manager host, then Prepare again.  Because the hidden database switch was flipped in a previous step, Lab Manager will now install the ESX-VM support specific Lab Manager agent on each ESX(i) host.

The next two steps do not exploit a hidden feature, however, they do need to be followed for virtual ESX(i) deployment.  Navigate to Settings | Guest Customization.  Uncheck the box labeled Only Allow Publishing of Templates With a Version of VMware Tools That Supports Guest Customization.

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In the final step, Enterprise Plus customers making use of the vDS must disable host spanning on each Lab Manager host by unchecking the box Enable host for Host Spanning:

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Now that the required changes have been made to support virtual ESX(i) hosts in Lab Manager, the resulting changes can be seen within Lab Manager.

Create a new VM Template.  I’ll call this one ESXi 4.  Take a look at the new virtualized VMware ESX(i) Guest OS types are now available for templating and ultimately deployment:

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Immediately after creating the base template, select it and choose Properties.  Here we see several new fields for automating the deployment of virtual ESX(i) hosts: Licensing, credentials, shared storage connectivity, and vCenter configuration:

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For an ESX guest OS type, an additional field for configuring a VMkernel interface is made available:

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Finally, create a Configuration using one or more of the new virtual ESX(i) templates and take a look at the custom buttons that show up:  Configure vPod, Add ESX-VMs to External vCenter, Attach External NFS to ESX-VMs, and Attach External iSCSI to ESX-VMs.  These added functions could be used for manual provisioning post deployment, copying files, or for troubleshooting:

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This is enough to get started and experiment with.  Unfortunately, it’s not 100% complete.  What’s missing is a guest customization script which runs inside the virtual ESX(i) host post deployment and contains more of the automation needed to deploy unique and properly configured virtual ESX(i) hosts in Lab Manager.  Perhaps one day these scripts will be discovered and shared, or recreated.