Posts Tagged ‘3rd Party Apps’

Old Games Revisited

December 1st, 2010

I got the bug tonight to try one of my old PC games.  I still have several of them on my hard drive dating back to the early to mid 1990’s.  Each time I re-image PC, I make sure that I preserve these games by backing up and restoring their directory structures. 

I wasn’t sure if they would work under Windows 7 but I decided to give it a try.  I made a few attempts to get Doom II launched using various compatibility mode settings but none worked. 

When that failed, I quickly stumbled on skulltag.com.  It’s a free Windows download which lets you play Doom and Doom II on modern Windows platforms.  Not only that, you can play online with other players from the internet.  I downloaded and installed the software and I was literally playing online with another player within a minute.

The following videos bring back a lot of great memories of modem and LAN gaming with old friends in my 20’s and are nothing short of amazing!

Doom II finished in 14:41

 

Quake finished in 17:38

Quake 2 finished in 21:06

Flow Control

November 29th, 2010

Thanks to the help from blog sponsorship, I’m able to maintain a higher performing lab environment than I ever had been up until this point.  One area which I hadn’t invested much in, at least from a lab standpoint, is networking.  In the past, I’ve always had some sort of small to mid density unmanageable Ethernet switch.  And this was fine.  Household name brand switches like Netgear and SMC from Best Buy and NewEgg performed well enough and survived for years in the higher temperature lab environment.  Add to that, by virtue of being unmanaged, they were plug and play.  No time wasted fighting a mis configured network. 

I recently picked up a 3Com SuperStack 3 Switch 3870 (48 1GbE ports).  It’s not 10GbE but it does fit my budget along with a few other networking nice-to-haves like VLANs and Layer 3 routing.  Because this switch is managed, I can now apply some best practices from the IP based storage realm.  One of those best practices is configuring Flow Control for VMware vSphere with network storage.  This blog post is mainly to record some pieces of information I’ve picked up along the way and to open a dialog with network minded readers who may have some input.

So what is network Flow Control? 

NetApp defines Flow Control in TR-3749 as “the process of managing the rate of data transmission between two nodes to prevent a fast sender from over running a slow receiver.”  NetApp goes on to advise that Flow Control can be set at the two endpoints (ESX(i) host level and the storage array level) and at the Ethernet switch(es) in between.

Wikipedia is in agreement with the above and adds more meat to the discussion including the following “The overwhelmed network element will send a PAUSE frame, which halts the transmission of the sender for a specified period of time. PAUSE is a flow control mechanism on full duplex Ethernet link segments defined by IEEE 802.3x and uses MAC Control frames to carry the PAUSE commands. The MAC Control opcode for PAUSE is 0X0001 (hexadecimal). Only stations configured for full-duplex operation may send PAUSE frames.

What are network Flow Control best practices as they apply to VMware virtual infrastructure with NFS or iSCSI network storage?

Both NetApp and EMC agree that Flow Control should be enabled in a specific way at the endpoints as well as at the Ethernet switches which support the flow of traffic:

  • Endpoints (that’s the ESX(i) hosts and the storage arrays) should be configured with Flow Control send/tx on, and receive/rx off.
  • Supporting Ethernet switches should be configured with Flow Control “Desired” or send/tx off and receive/rx on.

One item to point out here is that although both mainstream storage vendors recommend these settings for VMware infrastructures as a best practice, neither of their multi protocol arrays ship configured this way.  At least not the units I’ve had my hands on which includes the EMC Celerra NS-120 and the NetApp FAS3050c.  The Celerra is configured out of the box with Flow Control fully disabled and I found the NetApp configured for Flow Control set to full (duplex?).

Here’s another item of interest.  VMware vSphere hosts are configured out of the box to auto negotiate Flow Control settings.  What does this mean?  Network interfaces are able to advertise certain features and protocols which they were purpose built to understand following the OSI model and RFCs of course.  One of these features is Flow Control.  VMware ESX ships with a Flow Control setting which adapts to its environment.  If you plug an ESX host into an unmanaged switch which doesn’t advertise Flow Control capabilities, ESX sets its tx and rx flags to off.  These flags tie specifically to PAUSE frames mentioned above.  When I plugged in my ESX host into the new 3Com managed switch and configured the ports for Flow Control to be enabled, I subsequently found out using the ethtool -a vmnic0 command that both tx and rx were enabled on the host (the 3Com switch has just one Flow Control toggle: enabled or disabled).  NetApp provides a hint to this behavior in their best practice statement which says “Once these [Flow Control] settings have been configured on the storage controller and network switch ports, it will result in the desired configuration without modifying the flow control settings in ESX/ESXi.”  Jase McCarty pointed out back in January a “feature” of the ethtool in ESX.  Basically, ethtool can be used to display current Ethernet adapter settings (including Flow Control as mentioned above) and it can also be used to configure settings.  Unfortunately, when ethtool is used to hard code a vmnic for a specific Flow Control configuration, that config lasts until the next time ESX is rebooted.  After reboot, the modified configuration does not persist and it reverts back to auto/auto/auto.  I tested with ESX 4.1 and the latest patches and the same holds true.  Jase offers a workaround in his blog post which allows the change to persist by embedding it in /etc/rc.local.

Third item of interest.  VMware KB 1013413 talks about disabling Flow Control using esxcfg-module for Intel NICs and ethtool for Broadcom NICs.  This article specifically talks about disabling Flow Control when PAUSE frames are identified on the network.  If PAUSE frames are indicative of a large amount of traffic which a receiver isn’t able to handle, it would seem to me we’d want to leave Flow Control enabled (by design to mediate the congestion) and perform root cause analysis on exactly why we’ve hit a sustained scaling limit (and what do we do about it long term).

Fourth.  Flow Control seems to be a simple mechanism which hinges on PAUSE frames to work properly.  If the Wikipedia article is correct in that only stations configured for full-duplex operation may send PAUSE frames, then it would seem to me that both network endpoints (in this case ESX(i) and the IP based storage array) should be configured with Flow Control set to full duplex, meaning both tx and rx ON.  This conflicts with the best practice messages from EMC and NetApp although it does align with the FAS3050 out of box configuration.  The only reasonable explanation is that I’m misinterpreting the meaning of full-duplex here.

Lastly, I’ve got myself all worked up into a frenzy over the proper configuration of Flow Control because I want to be sure I’m doing the right thing from both a lab and infrastructure design standpoint, but in the end Flow Control is like the Shares mechanism in VMware ESX(i):  The values or configurations invoked apply only during periods of contention.  In the case of Flow Control, this means that although it may be enabled, it serves no useful purpose until a receiver on the network says “I can’t take it any more” and sends the PAUSE frames to temporarily suspend traffic.  I may never reach this tipping point in the lab but I know I’ll sleep better at night knowing the lab is configured according to VMware storage vendor best practices.

Q: What’s your Windows template approach?

November 7th, 2010

Once upon a time, I was a Windows Server administrator.  Most of my focus was on Windows Server deployment and management. VMware virtualization was a large interest but my Windows responsibilities dwarfed the amount of time I spent with VMware.  One place where these roads intersect is Windows templates.  Because a large part of my job was managing the Windows environment, I spent time maintaining “the perfect Windows template”.  Following were the ingredients I incorporated:

Applications    
Adobe Acrobat Reader Advanced Find & Replace Beyond Compare
Diskeeper MS Network Monitor MS Resource Kits
NTSEC Tools Latest MS RDP Client Symantec Anti-Virus CE
MS UPHClean VMware Tools Windows Admin Pack
Windows Support Tools Winzip Pro Sysinternals Suite
Windows Command Console BGINFO CMDHERE
Windows Perf Advisor MPS Reports GPMC
SNMP    

 

Tweaks    
Remote Desktop enabled Remote Assistance disabled Pagefile
Complete memory dump DIRCMD=/O env. variable PATH tweaks
taskmgr.exe in startup, run minimized SNMP Desktop prefs.
Network icon in System Tray Taskbar prefs.  
C: 12GB D: 6GB  
Display Hardware acceleration to Full*    
     
* = if necessary    

 

VMware virtualization is now and has been my main focus going on two years.  By title, I’m no longer a Windows Server administrator and I don’t care to spend a lot of time worrying about what’s in my templates.  I don’t have to worry about keeping several applications up to date.  In what I do now, it’s actually more important to consistently work with the most generic Windows template as possible.  This is to ensure that projects I’m working with on the virtualization side of things aren’t garfed up by any of the 30+ changes made above.  Issues would inevitably appear and each time I’d need to counter productively deal with the lists above as possible culprits.  As such, I now take a minimalist approach to Windows templates as follows:

Applications
VMware Tools

 

Tweaks    
C: 20GB VMXNET3 vNIC Activate Windows
wddm_video driver* Disk Alignment Display Hardware acceleration to Full*
     
* = if necessary    

 

In large virtualized environments, templates may be found in various repositories due to network segmentation, firewalls, storage placement, etc.  As beneficial as templates are, keeping them up to date can become a significant chore and the time spent doing so eats away at the time savings benefit which they provide.  Deployment consistency is key in reducing support and incident costs but making sure templates in distributed locations are consistent is not only a chore, but it is of paramount importance.  If this is the scenario you’re fighting, automated template and/or storage replication is needed.  Another solution might be to get away from templates altogether and adopt a scripted installation which is another tried and true approach which provides automation and consistency, but without the hassle of maintaining templates.  The hassle in this case isn’t eliminated completely.  It’s shifted into other areas such as maintaining PXE boot services, maintaining PXE images, and maintaining post build/application installation scripts.  I’ve seen large organizations go the scripted route in lieu of templates.  One reason could simply be that scripted virtual builds are strategically consistent with the organization’s scripted physical builds.  Another could be the burden of maintaining templates as I discussed earlier.  Is this a hint that templates don’t scale in large distributed environments?

Do you use templates and if so, what is your approach in comparison to what I’ve written about?

EMC Celerra Network Server Documentation

November 6th, 2010

EMC has updated their documentation library for the Celerra to version 6.0.  If you work with the Celerra or the UBER VSA, this is good reference documentation to have.  The updated Celerra documentation library on EMC’s Powerlink site is here: Celerra Network Server Documentation (User Edition) 6.0 A01.  The document library includes the following titles:

  • Celerra Network Server User Documents
    • Celerra CDMS Version 2.0 for NFS and CIFS
    • Celerra File Extension Filtering
    • Celerra Glossary
    • Celerra MirrorView/Synchronous Setup on CLARiiON Backends
    • Celerra Network Server Command Reference Manual
    • Celerra Network Server Error Messages Guide
    • Celerra Network Server Parameters Guide
    • Celerra Network Server System Operations
    • Celerra Security Configuration Guide
    • Celerra SMI-S Provider Programmer’s Guide
    • Configuring and Managing CIFS on Celerra
    • Configuring and Managing Celerra Network High Availability
    • Configuring and Managing Celerra Networking
    • Configuring Celerra Events and Notifications
    • Configuring Celerra Naming Services
    • Configuring Celerra Time Services
    • Configuring Celerra User Mapping
    • Configuring iSCSI Targets on Celerra
    • Configuring NDMP Backups on Celerra
    • Configuring NDMP Backups to Disk on Celerra
    • Configuring NFS on Celerra
    • Configuring Standbys on Celerra
    • Configuring Virtual Data Movers for Celerra
    • Controlling Access to Celerra System Objects
    • Getting Started with Celerra Startup Assistant
    • Installing Celerra iSCSI Host Components
    • Installing Celerra Management Applications
    • Managing Celerra for a Multiprotocol Environment
    • Managing Celerra Statistics
    • Managing Celerra Volumes and File Systems Manually
    • Managing Celerra Volumes and File Systems with Automatic Volume Management
    • Problem Resolution Roadmap for Celerra
    • Using Celerra AntiVirus Agent
    • Using Celerra Data Deduplication
    • Using Celerra Event Enabler
    • Using Celerra Event Publishing Agent
    • Using Celerra FileMover
    • Using Celerra Replicator (V2)
    • Using EMC Utilities for the CIFS Environment
    • Using File-Level Retention on Celerra
    • Using FTP on Celerra
    • Using International Character Sets with Celerra
    • Using MirrorView Synchronous with Celerra for Disaster Recovery
    • Using MPFS on Celerra
    • Using Multi-Protocol Directories with Celerra
    • Using NTMigrate with Celerra
    • Using ntxmap for Celerra CIFS User Mapping
    • Using Quotas on Celerra
    • Using SnapSure on Celerra
    • Using SNMPv3 on Celerra
    • Using SRDF/A with Celerra
    • Using SRDF/S with Celerra for Disaster Recovery
    • Using TFTP on Celerra Network Server
    • Using the Celerra nas_stig Utility
    • Using the Celerra server_archive Utility
    • Using TimeFinder/FS, NearCopy, and FarCopy with Celerra
    • Using Windows Administrative Tools with Celerra
    • Using Wizards to Configure Celerra
  • NS-120
    • Celerra NS-120 System (Single Blade) Installation Guide
    • Celerra NS-120 System (Dual Blade) Installation Guide
  • NS-480
    • Celerra NS-480 System (Dual Blade) Installation Guide
    • Celerra NS-480 System (Four Blade) Installation Guide
  • NS20
    • Celerra NS20 Read Me First
    • Setting Up the EMC Celerra NS20 System
    • Celerra NS21 Cabling Guide
    • Celerra NS21FC Cabling Guide
    • Celerra NS22 Cabling Guide
    • Celerra NS22FC Cabling Guide
    • Celerra NS20 System (Single Blade) Installation Guide
    • Celerra NS20 System (Single Blade with FC Option Enabled) Installation Guide
    • Celerra NS20 System (Dual Blade) Installation Guide
    • Celerra NS20 System (Dual Blade with FC Option Enabled) Installation Guide
  • NX4
    • Celerra NX4 System Single Blade Installation Guide
    • Celerra NX4 System Dual Blade Installation Guide
  • Regulatory Documents
    • C-RoHS HS/TS Substance Concentration Chart Technical Note

If you’re looking for more Celerra documentation, check out the Celerra Network Server General Reference page.

Hyper9 Pulse Check

November 5th, 2010

SnagIt Capture

It has been several months since I’ve written about Austin, TX based Hyper9. I know they’ve been hard at work with continuous development of their flagship Hyper9 management product in addition to a strong nationwide marketing campaign.  Just last spring they presented at a quarterly Minneapolis VMUG meeting here locally.

What’s the latest news in the Hyper9 camp?  I’m glad you asked…

Leadership Updates:

  • 27-year veteran Bob Quillin joins Hyper9 as Chief Marketing Officer.  Quillin was formerly with VMware where he led vCenter virtualization and cloud management solution marketing for the configuration and compliance management product lines.  Bob has a background comprised of enterprise, systems, application, and network management, including tenure at storage giant EMC.
  • Greg Barone joins Hyper9 as Vice President of Worldwide Sales.  Greg’s 18-year background is in sales and sales management for tech companies ranging from startup to multi-billion dollar enterprises.  He held the role of V.P of Worldwide Sales at Cognio (a Cisco acquisition).

Q3 2010 Highlights:

  • Q3 revenue doubled over the prior period and represents Hyper9’s best performance to date.
  • 400% year-over-year revenue growth with revenue doubling each quarter this year.
  • A broad range of new business from customers of various sizes and verticals.
  • Successfully road tested at large scale in enterprise deployments consisting of tens of thousands of VMs.
  • Introduction of Cloud Cost Estimator Lens which provides comparisons to providers such as Amazon EC2.
  • New partner alliances designed to catapult Hyper9’s growth into global markets

This sounds like great news for Hyper9.  As someone who has been involved with Hyper9 product development in the earlier stages, it has been fascinating to watch this company evolve into a successful ecosystem partner.

Do you use Hyper9?  What do you think of the product?  I’d like hear your honest opinion of the product and so would Hyper9.

Veeam Backup & Replication 5.0

November 4th, 2010

Back in July of this year, I attended Gestalt IT Tech Field Day in Seattle.  You may recall that I was the recipient of a presentation from Veeam and wrote about their upcoming Backup & Replication product and new vPower technology. 

Backup & Replication 4.0 had already been known as a category finalist at last year’s VMworld conference.  Veeam was not content in the runner up position. In September, the Columbus, Reading, and Sydney based organization showcased their new development at VMworld 2010 San Francisco and walked away with Best of Show and Best New Technology.  I can tell you as an attendee of the conference for several years that the competition in the Solutions Exchange is rivaled by nothing else that I’ve ever seen before.  For Veeam to win as they did in these categories is a pretty big deal.  I know they are both excited and proud about this year’s results.

In October, Veeam released Backup & Replication 5.0 to the public.  Companies of all sizes can now leverage the technology and realize the features, efficiency, and savings Veeam brings to the table.

So what’s baked into 5.0?  Veeam B&R alumni will find a significant portion of what made previous versions so great.  At a high level,  2-in-1 data protection for VMware virtual infrastructure: Backup and Replication features consolidated into a single no-nonsense solution.  New in version 5 you’ll find the following:

1. Instant VM Recovery: Restore an entire virtual machine from a backup file in minutes. Users remain productive while IT troubleshoots the issue.

2. U-AIR™ (Universal Application-Item Recovery): Recover individual items from any virtualized application, on any operating system, without additional backups, agents or software tools. Eliminates the need for expensive special-purpose tools and extends granular recovery to all applications and users.

3. SureBackup™ Recovery Verification: Automatically verify the recoverability of every backup, of every virtual machine, every time. Eliminates uncertainty and sets a new standard in data protection.

4. On-demand Sandbox: Create test VMs from any point in time to troubleshoot problems or test workarounds, software patches and new application code. Eliminates the need for dedicated test labs and the overhead that extra VMware snapshots place on VMs.

5. Instant File-level Recovery for any file system: Recover an entire VM or an individual file from the same image-level backup. Extends instant file-level recovery to all VMs.

SnagIt Capture

Personally, I’ve been accumulating quite a bit of experience with Veeam Backup & Replication.  Over the past year, I have been using it to provide various levels of protection for tiers of data in my lab which myself and my family are immensely dependent on.  Last year at this time I was backing up to tape.  Those with growing data sets know that the tape model isn’t sustainable long term.  Not to mention, tape is a datacenter fashion faux pas, even for a lab environment I was catching hell about it in the social media streams.  Now the tape library is gone, the lab is 100% virtualized and Veeam backs up all of it.  Included in that figure is data which I cannot put a price on: well over a decade of my technical work, financial and tax data, and 81GB of family pictures and videos which are irreplaceable.  Today, Veeam is the provider which I trust as the sole safety net between peace of mind and utter disaster.  Beyond its intrinsic functionality,  I used Veeam Backup & Replication as a solution in my VCDX design submission and successfully defended it last February.  Assuming it fits the business requirements and design constraints, it’s a solid choice in a VMware virtualized datacenter.

As I said before, version 5 is currently shipping.  List price starts at $599 USD per socket for Standard Edition and $899 USD per socket for Enterprise Edition.  If you’ve been carrying B&R maintenance as of 6/30/10, you’re already eligible for a free upgrade to Enterprise Edition.

If that weren’t enough to tantalize your tentacles, Veeam is honoring a Competitive Upgrade program through 12/24/10.  New customers receive a 25% discount on the price of Standard or Enterprise Edition with proof of purchase of another backup product.

Download a free 30-day trial of Veeam Backup & Replication 5.0 here.

VMware KB Mobile App Launched

November 3rd, 2010

Got an Apple iPhone, iPad, or Android and a desire to search the VMware Knowledgebase or watch the latest KBTV videos on the go?  VMware has your covered with Monday’s launch of the VMware KB Mobile App.  Don’t head to the App Store to download this application – you won’t find it there.  It’s written in HTML 5 meaning you’ll access it like any other web page through your browser.  The link for the application is http://wbxapp.com/vmwarekb.  Following are some screens I grabbed from the iPad:

The VMware KB Mobile App home page.  You’ll find several items of interest here, some of which is dynamic content and will change over time:

photo1

Here’s a look at VMware KBTV which has been in existence for quit some time on YouTube.  I watched several vCloud Director video clips from this page:

photo2

Here we see an example of searching the Knowledgebase.  There appears to be no granular ability to confine the search to a specific forum or selection of forums.  Given VMware’s wide variety of forums, more often than not search method is going to produce results which are not desired or don’t apply.  Not good:

photo3

The search criteria Vcenter actually forwards us to the kb.vmware.com site and yields 300 results, presumably across all product and discussion forums:

photo4

Many people have handheld devices which are already HTML 5 compatible or soon will be (Blackberry for example).  This app is FREE.  Take it for a spin and provide feedback to VMware so that they can build in more usefulness in future versions.