Free VMware vSphere Client for iPad Available

March 18th, 2011 by jason 8 comments »

SnagIt CaptureIt has been an exciting couple of months for VMware in terms of product releases.  Now, VMware has done it again.  Effective immediately, the vSphere Client for iPad is announced and is generally available for download from the Apple App Store.  Leave your wallet and iTunes gift cards parked.  Similar to the VMware View Client for iPad, this app is also brought to the community free of charge.  From anywhere, we can now view key performance metrics and perform essential management tasks in a simplified and portable interface.

The new client is not meant to be functionally equivalent to the existing vSphere Client for Windows.  Rather, the idea is to be able to perform the most common vSphere administrator tasks.  This release is version 1.0.1.  As such, not all of the desired features and functionality is baked in.  Future development will be an iterative process from the GA release point forward. Feedback from end users will be collected and improvements will be built into future versions.  vMotion will perhaps be the most desired feature but unfortunately it did not make GA release.  VMware promises it will be the next feature added so that is more good news to look forward to on the horizon. 

Other potential wish list items which didn’t make the GA build are ESX Service Console, ESXi DCUI, and guest VM console access.  In my opinion, I wouldn’t look for console features any time soon.  I believe the spirit of the vSphere Client for iPad is to provide simplified management through an easy to use interface ala knobs and buttons.  Console access falls into that last 20% of advanced troubleshooting which extends beyond the intended use case of the iPad Client.

Architecture

So what’s under the hood?  Let’s take a look.  Aside from the foundational vSphere infrastructure (which is available as a free 60-day evaluation), there are two components, both free, which enable the delivery of portable management bliss:  the vCMA and the client for iPad itself.  To connect with the client from a remote location via the internet, a VPN connection on the iPad placing it local on the destination network is required.  Like the View Client for iPad, the vSphere Client for iPad is developed for iPad only.  No iPhone, iOther, etc.  The logic is built into the vCMA which will make it extensible for Android in the future.  Additionally, the vCMA will eventually be retired and its functionality will be rolled natively into vCenter Server.  I like this idea because my lab is getting to be somewhat appliance heavy which limits capacity to run the traditional VMs I want to be testing with.  Following is a visual overview of the architecture:

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As mentioned earlier, future development will be an iterative process based on customer feedback.  These discussions can be aired in the vSphere Client for iPad VMTN Community forums located at the URL below.  Do not be shy.  VMware WANTS your feedback:

http://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/vsphere/ipadclient

Now let’s take a bit of a deeper dive by looking at the installation process and the management capabilities of the app.

Installation and Configuration

  1. Download the vSphere Client for iPad application from the iTunes Store.
  2. Once the vCMA virtual appliance (available for free at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vcma) powers on, on the home screen of the iPad go to “Settings”, scroll down and tap on “vSphere Client” (an example this screen is shown below).
  3. Enter the IP Address of the vCMA virtual appliance in the “Web Server” field (again, see the sample image below).
  4. Ensure your iPad has connectivity to the vCMA virtual appliance (note: as of this writing, the vCMA has SSL enabled by default). This may entail configuring the iPad’s built-in VPN client. Consult Apple’s documentation on configuring the built-in VPN client.
  5. Launch the vSphere Client for iPad application and enter the host, username and password for the vCenter Server or vSphere Host you wish to connect to.

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Management Capabilities

Search for vSphere hosts and virtual machines.�
Reboot vSphere hosts or put them into maintenance mode.

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Manage virtual machines with the ability to start, stop and suspend.�
View and restore virtual machines’ snapshots

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Monitor the performance of vSphere hosts and virtual machines:

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Diagnose vSphere hosts and virtual machines using built-in ping and traceroute tools:

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Videos

Following are a few short video clips which VMware has made available covering the vSphere Client for iPad.

Configure the vCMA Virtual Appliance:



Configure & use the iPad app:



Summary of the iPad development by VMware at VMworld in Copenhagen October 2010:



VMware is sure to gain popularity by offering virtualization and cloud management tools for portable devices… and at the right price.  VMware is listening to feedback and has already reacted with a modified list price in this GA release.  I think last week’s launch of the View Client for iPad was a big hit.  It will be interesting to see how well received this app is, particularly by the *nix folks who have been patiently waiting their turn for some client development love.

Updated 3/20/11:  Srinivas Krishnamurti, Senior Director for Mobile Solutions at VMware, has written a piece on his blog over at the Office of the CTO.  Read it here: VMware vSphere Client for iPad has left the building…

VMware Talk Puzzler

March 15th, 2011 by jason 11 comments »

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I’ve been a fan of the Car Talk radio program since I was introduced to it in 1993.  I hope the Tappet brothers don’t mind if I borrow the theme from one of their popular segments appropriately called Puzzler.  It seemed fitting for this article which I’m going to call VMware Talk Puzzler.  Not surprising, the goal of the Car Talk Puzzler is to listen to the problem (which is typically not simple), then provide the root cause.  In this adaptation, I’ll present a real life vSphere problem.  If you choose to take a stab, your job is three fold:

1) Identify the root cause of the problem.

2) Identify the solution.

3) Identify the unique tasks or chain of events which lead to the problem.

Here we go.

I was called in to help troubleshoot a problem.  “Carl” had created a virtual machine in a VMware vSphere 4.1 Update 1 cluster.  The problem Carl was experiencing was that the VM would not power on.  Error messages in vCenter include but are not limited to:

  • “Failed to find a host for powering on the virtual machine.”
  • “The following faults explain why the registered host is not compatible.”
  • “The number of virtual CPUs may be limited by the guest OS selected for the virtual machine or by the licensing for the host.”

I asked if the ESXi cluster and vCenter were licensed.  Carl confirmed by showing me that vCenter was licensed with Standard Edition and the hosts which wouldn’t power on the VM were still using 60 day Evaluation licensing as they were just recently built.  I further verified the Evaluation licensing had not yet expired.

I asked Carl to show me details of the VM.  He proceeded to show me the VM was created with the following shell specifications:

  • Guest OS: Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (64-bit)
  • VM Version: 4
  • CPU: 8
  • Memory: 4096MB 

 

1) Identify the root cause of Carl’s vSphere problem.

2) Identify the solution for Carl.

3) Identify the tasks or chain of events which lead to Carl’s problem.

If you think you know the answer, write it on the top of a shrink wrapped pallet containing a Cisco UCS 5100 Series Blade Server Chassis, fully loaded with UCS B200 M2 Blade Servers each with 192GB RAM, UCS 6100 Series Fabric Interconnects, and a pair of Cisco Nexus 5548P next generation 10GbE switches and send to my mailing address.

Or… reply in the comments section below.

The first correct and complete answer (I hope there is just one) will receive internet recognition, real life respect, and if I can find one, a prize.  No promises on that last one but I’ll see what I can do.

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!!!