2nd Batch of vSphere Patches Arrive (Critical)

August 7th, 2009 by jason No comments »

The list is short, but critical, and impacts both ESX 4.0 as well as ESXi 4.0 hosts.

ESXi400-200907401-BGCritical http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1013016

This patch fixes the following issue – If the RAID controller battery backup unit is completely discharged after a shutdown, or if a locally attached disk is removed and not returned to the system, data corruption might occur because the RAID controller cache is not cleared while shutting down the server.  See KB 1013016 for more details.  NOTE:  Cisco Nexus 1000v customers using VMware Update Manager to patch ESXi 4.0 should add an additional patch download URL as described in KB 1013134

ESX400-200907401-BGCritical http://kb.vmware.com/kb/1013026

This patch fixes the following issue – If the RAID controller battery backup unit is completely discharged after a shutdown, or if a locally attached disk is removed and not returned to the system, data corruption might occur because the RAID controller cache is not cleared while shutting down the server.  See KB 1013026 for more details.  NOTE:  Cisco Nexus 1000v customers using VMware Update Manager to patch ESXi 4.0 should add an additional patch download URL as described in KB 1013134

It’s coming… vCalendar

August 6th, 2009 by jason 30 comments »

What could it be?

Update 8/17/09: There have been some fantastic guesses in the comments! Such efforts must be rewarded. The clarity of the image has been improved some. In addition, fellow virtualization blogger Tom Howarth has correctly (and precisely I might add) guessed a letter position via Twitter. The title of this blog post has been updated accordingly. Looking back through the comments once more, it looked like VMDoug was onto something big when he mentioned ‘NDA’. Hmmmm…

Update 8/19/09: Not much activity since the last clues were given two days ago. Did everyone lose interest or they tired of being teased? VMDoug didn’t realize at first how closely his NDA comment was tied to this project. Blog post title has been updated.

Update #2 8/19/09: Cat is out of the bag. vCalendar is launched & avail at VMworld. Congrats @RickVanover & @davikes on solving the mystery! Head on over to the vCalendar page for more details:
http://www.boche.net/blog/index.php/vcalendar/

For those keeping track, 1.5 weeks till VMworld 2009.

VCDX Enterprise Administration Exam

August 5th, 2009 by jason 6 comments »

In my pursuit for VCDX (VMware Certified Design Expert) certification, I sat this exam on Tuesday July 21st at 8am. I read somewhere that statistically speaking, humans are better test takers in the morning than in the afternoon. This statistic applies to me. I’ve passed every certification exam I’ve sat before noon and the only exam I’ve ever failed was Microsoft Networking Essentials in 1997 and that was an afternoon exam.

Anyway, the Enterprise Administration exam is part written, part hands on lab. Because of the lab piece, it takes VMware 10-12 business days to grade the exam. My exam was no exception. On business day 11, today, I receive the results this morning on my Blackberry while in a VMware BCS support meeting. The initial email read:

Hello Jason,

Thank you for participating in the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) program. Attached you will find your score report for the Enterprise Administration Exam. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding your score.

Kind Regards
The VMware Certification Team

My initial thought was this doesn’t sound good. Every other blog post I read from people who passed this exam stated they were greeted with “Congratulations” meaning they had passed. My notification basically looked to me like “Thanks for the 400 bucks, your failed score is in the attached .PDF document, contact us if you need suicide prevention”. Don’t take that literally, I’m being dramatic here. The fact is, after taking this exam, I was not at all confident I had passed. In fact, I had returned to the office that morning pretty upset with myself. It was clear to me that on the written exam, I hadn’t drilled down deep enough into some of the blueprint topics, mainly topics dealing with Red Hat Enterprise Linux as well as identifying multiple methods to pull the same information through different CLI commands. As other bloggers have pointed out, the written exam makes up 60% of the passing grade. The hands on lab portion of the exam, for me anyway, was much more familiar although I won’t say it’s a cake walk. It gets into advanced administration and troubleshooting situations which you won’t always find solutions spelled out explicitly in a book. You’re on your own in a live lab to assemble what you feel is the solution. You can get creative and 10 different candidates may solve a lab problem 10 slightly different ways. What counts is what the lab proctor finds in your resulting virtual infrastructure come grading time. Either you satisfied the outlined requirement through your processes, or you didn’t. The lab accounts for the other 40% of the passing grade.

After the first day went by, I was no longer depressed. I focused on my work and other things realizing there was nothing I could do to change my prior performance in the exam room. If I had failed, it is what it is, I accept it, and I clearly knew what areas needed more attention. $400 is a tough learning experience though, for me the cost of this endeavor adds pressure. As the days passed, it became clear VMware really was going to stick to its 10-12 business day grading policy, and I wasn’t going to receive my results early.

So I opened up the attached .PDF score report on my Blackberry. Of course, it opens slowly adding more drama and suspense. However, in the end I was pleased to see:

Congratulations on passing this exam. Passing this exam is the second of the four parts
required to achieve the VMware Certified Design Expert designation. The next
component is the VMware Design Exam. You will be sent registration information to this
exam when it is publicly released in August 2009.

No doubt I was stoked to see I had passed but my focus quickly turned to my score.  I had been thinking that in the remote possibility I had passed this exam, then it was going to be by the hair of my chin. The score report showed I wasn’t nearly as close to the pass/fail threshold as I thought I’d be. I had plenty of buffer with my score and I think I owe my passing grade plus the additional buffer to the lab portion of the exam which I feel I was perfect on. By the way, I had no time to spare on this exam. I was working on the last of the 11 lab problems 5 seconds before time ran out on my exam. I wasted significant time in deep thought during the written part of the exam and almost didn’t leave enough time to complete the labs – I really had to rush through the labs. My lab was also having technical issues which added several minutes of delay and anxiety at one point as a vCenter task sat there hung for several minutes which a successful configuration was dependent on (I don’t believe this was intended to be part of the lab experience).

If you are interested in taking this exam and you’re looking for some study material, Duncan Epping has this recent post which is pretty comprehensive although the first link to the study guide appears to need fixing and the study guide is one of the best resources in the list. Also, as Duncan points out, in hind sight I also feel the DSA course would have been incredibly beneficial in addressing this exam’s objectives.

Now I move on to the Design written exam.  I am waiting for VMware to schedule this for me.  It will probably take a few weeks for that to happen which is just fine because I’m very busy right now at work, at home, and getting things ready for VMworld (I’ve got a little surprise for the VMware community I’ve been working on).  I expect the Design exam to be a little bit more theory and high level concepts rather than detailed CLI commands and switches.  I’ve also heard from one person they felt the Design exam was more difficult than the Enterprise Administration exam.  I’ve got my work cut out for me. At no time did I expect this would be easy.

Lab Manager Customization

August 1st, 2009 by jason 1 comment »

Although VMware does not support much along the lines of Lab Manager web interface customization, feature requests from VMware Partners and end users are likely to see the light of day in future versions as discussed in this thread by VMware employee Steve Kishi.

Through the examples of Hany Michael over at Hypervisor.com, there are a few changes that can be made that I think are pretty safe. I noticed in Hany’s Lab Manager 4 video (located at the link above), he had modified Lab Manager branding in a few places by dropping in his own artwork. Rather than modifying the web interface code, he merely located the image files and replaced them with his own.

At the login screen,

VMware’s generic Lab Manager branding:

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Becomes Hany’s own creation by replacing the .gif file at C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware vCenter Lab Manager\WebSrvr\Resources\Default\Images\Login\Login.gif:

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Once inside,

The logo in upper left corner:

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Is replaced by Hany’s brand by modifying the .gif file at C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware vCenter Lab Manager\WebSrvr\Resources\LM\Images\LeftNav\logo.gif

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In Lab Manager 3, we can add a MOTD or splash screen message for end users or developers by modifying the image at C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Lab Manager\WebSrvr\Resources\LM\Images\Common\login_back.gif:

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Look for MOTD and branding features, as well as others mentioned in the thread above, to be implemented in future versions of Lab Manager.

4 New ESX Patches Released

July 30th, 2009 by jason 1 comment »

Four new patches have been released for ESX 3.5.0. It appears ESXi, ESX4, and other versions of ESX are not impacted.

3 of the 4 patches are rated critical.

ESX350-200907403-BG – VMware Tools Update (General)

Adds support for Windows XP Embedded with Service Pack 2 guest operating system.

Installing VMware Tools on Ubuntu 9.04 virtual machines display a message stating that no drivers are available for Xorg 7.5. This patch provides the VMware SVGA and mouse drivers for Xorg 7.5.

ESX350-200907404-BG – critical

Applications in a virtual machine using SSSE3 instructions might fail under certain conditions. The vmware.log file might display an entry or entries similar to:
May 20 17:14:44.398: vcpu-0| vmcore/decoder/decoder.c:655 0xd1e357 #UD e41d380f sz=4 ct=0.

When SUSE Linux Enterprise 11 virtual machines installed with Virtual Machine Interface (VMI) kernel or virtual machines supporting VMI are booted into VMI mode, the virtual machines might stop responding or become extremely slow.

ESX350-200907405-BG – critical

On IBM systems having iBMC/IMM devices, during boot time, the CDCEther driver could not complete its device discovery due to a timing issue in the device firmware. This patch fixes the issue.

ESX350-200907407-BG – critical

The maximum username length of UserAccount in the VMware VI Toolkit is increased from 16 to 32 characters.

Fixes an hostd memory leak issue with HTTP connection recycling when communicating with UI, SDK etc.

When a mounted NFS volume goes offline in an ESX Server cluster, it might cause the heap size to grow and might cause the ESX Server to stop responding.

VMFS locks on ESX Server hosts might be incorrectly broken, when a previous unlock operation from the same host fails.

Some virtual machines including Red Hat, Windows, and SUSE Linux Enterprise boot very slowly or might not boot at all when an EMC Symmetrix LUN in Not Ready state is attached to the virtual machines as an RDM device. After applying this fix, the virtual machines boot normally.

New Cisco Nexus 1000v Video

July 27th, 2009 by jason No comments »

I’m not sure what I like better – the informative video, or the fact that I can embed it neatly into my blog.

Please enjoy!

Hyper9 version 1.4 to be released July 22nd

July 22nd, 2009 by jason No comments »

Hyper9, a virtualization management startup company based out of Austin, TX, is expected to release version 1.4 of its self titled flagship management product on Wednesday. This is an exciting release as many notable improvements have been made to the user interface.

New to this release is a dashboard which is designed to help the end user “hit the ground running” immediately after the product is installed. Upon login, the administrator will immediately presented with the “My Environment” tab of the dashboard. “My Environment” contains many of the most useful canned reports about the environment in which Hyper9 has been instructed to catalog.

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If you find “My Environment” is jumping in just a bit too fast, take a look at the “Getting Started” tab which contains several instructional videos that can be launched from within the Hyper9 console.

Veteran Hyper9 users will find that the “Results” display has been cleaned up with no-nonsense resource indicators that are very much appealing to the eyes in my opinion.

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Hyper9 has been making great strides with their products and I’ve been very impressed with the amount of end user feedback they have taken to their developers and integrated into future product versions.  Hyper9 is available today on a subscription basis.  Head on over to their site for more information.  While you’re there, be sure to check out their other products, such as the Virtualization Mobile Manager (VMM) which allows administrators to manage their infrastructures from a hand held device.