Posts Tagged ‘3rd Party Apps’

RVTools 2.9.5 Released

October 29th, 2010

I missed the release (probably due to VMworld 2010 excitement), but a month later I’ve discovered that Dutch rock star Rob de Veij has provided the community with an update to his free VMware virtualization utility RVTools.  Version 2.9.5 boasts the following new features:

On vInfo tab new field: Guest heartbeat status. The heartbeat status is classified as:

  • gray – VMware Tools are not installed or not running,
  • red – no heartbeat, guest operating system may have stopped responding.
  • yellow -intermittent heartbeat, may be due to guest load.
  • green – guest operating system is responding normally.

Feedback for the next release: The heartbeat status isn’t entirely reliable. For instance, the Celerra VMs show a heartbeat status of red. In reality, the VMware Tools are reported as not installed by the vSphere Client.

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On vMemory tab new fields: Ballooned memory, consumed overhead memory, private memory, shared memory, swapped memory and static memory entitlement

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On vDatastore tab new field: Full device address (controller, target, device)

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On vInfo tab new fields: Committed storage, uncommitted storage and unshared storage

Feedback for the next release: Comma separators or larger units of storage would be extremely helpful.  These numbers are too large to deal with from a reporting standpoint.

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Very nice job Rob!  Keep up the great work!

GeekFest 2010

October 29th, 2010

Are you looking for something fun and exciting to do in November? How about a free technology event with a tie to virtualization? Nexus Information Systems, a regional leader in sales and service of hardware, storage, networking, and managed services, has cooked up something for you!

On Wednesday November 10th, Nexus is hosting an all day event called GeekFest 2010 at their offices in Minnetonka, MN. Here is what they are saying about it:

The day is comprised of different technologies and industry sessions focused around challenging data center solutions and services. GeekFest is a FREE event where you can register to come and go to just individual sessions or register for an all-day pass. Attendees to GeekFest will be exposed to the newest technologies from both industry-leading and up & coming providers.

What else is cool? GeekFest 2010 has a special guest moderator Greg Schulz of Storage IO who is a 25+ year technology veteran, storage industry analyst, and vEXPERT.

The uber agenda looks like this:

  • 8:00am – Session #1 Registration “Multi-vendor storage panel breakfast”
  • 8:30am – Session #1 Start
  • 11:00am – Session #1 End
  • 11:30am – Session #2 Registration “Emerging technologies lunch”
  • 12:00pm – Session #2 Start
  • 1:30pm – Session #2 End
  • 2:00pm – Session #3 Registration “Beyond VMworld & shadow installs of Thinapp and other VMware Technology”
  • 2:30pm – Session #3 Start
  • 4:30pm – Session #3 End
  • 5:00pm – Game Night!  Maybe it will look something like the following 😀


Nexus Information Systems is located at:
6103 Blue Circle Drive
Minnetonka, MN 55343

I hope to be there and I hope to see you there as well! Don’t forget to register.

ESXi 4.x Installable HP Customized ISO Image DNA

October 12th, 2010

Those of you who are deploying ESXi in your environment probably know by now there are a few different flavors of the installable version you can deploy from:

  • ESXi 4.x Installable (the non-hardware-vendor-specific “vanilla” ESXi bits)
  • ESXi 4.x Installable Customized ISO Image (hardware-vendor-specific bits)
    • ESXi 4.x Installable HP Customized ISO Image
    • ESXi 4.x with IBM Customization
    • ESXi 4.x Installable Dell Customized ISO Image

Each of the major hardware manufacturers does things a little differently with respect to what and how they bake in their special components into ESXi.  There doesn’t seem to be much of a standard which the vendors are following.  The resulting .ISO file naming convention varies between vendors and even between builds from a specific vendor.  The lack of standards here can make managing a library of ESXi releases among a sea of datacenter hardware difficult to to keep track of.  It seems a bit careless if you ask me, but there are bigger fish to fry.

This short post focuses specifically the HP flavor of ESXi.  What’s the difference between ESXi 4.x Installable and ESXi 4.x Installable HP Customized ISO Image?  The answer is the HP ESXi Offline Bundle.  Essentially what this means is that if you install ESXi 4.x Installable, then install the HP ESXi Offline Bundle, the sum of what you end up with is identically equivalent to installing the ESXi 4.x Installable HP Customized ISO Image.

In mathematical terms…

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Where are these HP ESXi Offline Bundles?  You can grab them from HP’s web site.  Thus far, HP has been producing an updated version for each release of vSphere.  For reader convenience, I’ve linked a few of the most recent and relevant versions below:

In addition to the above, both ESX 4.1 and ESXi 4.1 on HP systems requires an add-on NMI Sourcing Driver which is discussed here and can be downloaded hereFailure to install this driver might result in silent data corruption. Isn’t that special.

Unisphere Client V1.0.0.12 Missing Federation

October 8th, 2010

A few weeks ago, the EMC Celerra NS-120 was upgraded to DART 6 and FLARE 30, in that order.  Before I get on with this post, let me just say that Unisphere is the bomb and offers at least a few opportunities for complimentary writing to give it the praise it truely deserves.  My hat is off to EMC, they answered the call (or was it the screams?) for unified management of unified storage. 

What was my opinion of the old sauce? 

  • Navisphere for CLARiiON block storage management was ok although it had a few bugs which forced a need to resort to NaviCLI once in a while.  Other than that, it looked old and was in need of a face/efficiency lift.  I’ve manged a few enterprise arrays from other vendors which have this same feel.  The biggest problem there being no end in sight of lackluster management or performance gathering tools.  Some vendors seem content with what they’ve always had which leads me to a few conclusions:
    • They don’t use their own software
    • The expectation is to use the CLI only
    • Hardware vendors can have outstanding hardware components but that doesn’t make them software developers
    • EMC has bumped it up a notch, at least with Unisphere – I can’t speak to Symmetrix management as I have no experience there
  • Celerra Manager for management of the Data Movers/iSCSI/NFS/CIFS was bug free, but very slow at times, particularly at first login.
  • Seasoned CLARiiON and Celerra TCs (as well as NetApp pros) might laugh at my tendancy to rely on GUI tools, but management of the storage is so few and far between, relearning CLI when a seldom task needs to be performed isn’t precious time well spent unless the tasks are going to be repeated often enough.

I’ve had some legacy Celerra software CDs sitting next to me in my den for several months (Navisphere, Celerra Network Server, etc.) and I will have no problem banishing them to the basement, probably not to be touched again until the next time the basement is cleaned out.  So look for some positive Unisphere posts from me in the future as I get the time.

Getting back on topic…  Earlier today I had finished taking a look at Nicholas Weaver’s SRM video.  Later, I was in the lab playing around with the EMC Celerra UBER VSA 3.2 (it’s the latest craze, you really must check it out).  I noticed a Unisphere feature Nicholas highlighted in his video which I don’t have on the Celerra NS-120’s build of Unisphere – the ability to federate storage array management in Unisphere via single pane of glass.

The Uber VSA has the ability to snap in multiple storage arrays into the Unisphere dashboard by way of an Add button:

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The Add button is missing in the Celerra NS-120’s build of Unisphere:

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The DART versions match at 6.0.36-4, however, the outstanding difference appears to be the Client Revision.  What’s worth pointing out is that the Add feature exists in the older client revision found in the Uber VSA, but is missing in the newer client revision found on the Celerra NS-120 which was upgraded a few weeks ago.

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I’m not sure if federation of multiple arrays was purposely removed by design or if it was an oversight, but it would be nice to get it back.  I should also point out that although federation appears to be missing for multiple arrays, it still exists and consolidates management intra of unified storage arrays consisting of CLARiiON block and the Celerra iSCSI/NFS/CIFS.

Update 3/4/11:  The Celerra NS-120 is now running DART 6.0.40-8, FLARE,7.30.10 (4.1), and Unisphere V1.0.0.14.  The Add feature to tie in multiple EMC storage frames into a single view is still missing.

Veeam Reporter 4.0 Free Edition

August 16th, 2010

SnagIt CaptureToday, Veeam has launched a new free version of an existing product which you may already be familiar with: Veeam Reporter Free Edition.  Veeam Reporter is an enterprise virtual infrastructure tool which is best described by Veeam on their product page:

Veeam Reporter™ discovers, documents and analyzes your entire virtual infrastructure. It maintains a complete history of all objects, settings and changes. And it trends performance and utilization. So you can really understand your virtual infrastructure—past, present and future.

When it comes to documenting and reporting on your virtual infrastructure, Reporter does it all.

This new free version contains most of the features of the full version.  The free edition can easily be upgraded to the full version of Veeam Reporter to gain these additional capabilities (A features comparison can found here):

  • Capacity planning (report pack)
  • Historical change management (beyond the most recent 24 hours)
  • Microsoft Visio reports for multipathing, network, vMotion, and datastore utilization
  • Full access to archive data—to create custom reports or update your configuration management database (CMDB)
  • Full dashboard capabilities
  • Automatic report distribution

I was invited by Veeam to take a look at the beta version of Veeam Reporter Free Edition.  I’ve captured some of my experience and documented it here.


Installation of Veeam Reporter Free Edition is fairly straightforward but I should disclose that I’m working with a beta (pre GA) version.  I installed on Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard (64-bit only) which is my preferred platform, if supported by the vendor’s product (Veeam Reporter supports it).  Veeam Reporter requires Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5.1.  In Windows Server 2008 R2, this is installed as a Feature:

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If installing the Veeam Reporter’s Web UI (the default), the IIS Role is also required during the .NET Framework instllation…plus a few extra roles:

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During the beta, I ran into a JavaScrip error message after the installation was complete:

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As it turns out, the issue has nothing to do with JavaScript, rather, the Static Content Role must be installed for IIS:

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During the Veeam Reporter installation routine, I also installed the Microsoft PowerShell component which is optional:

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The Veeam Reporter PowerShell snap-in enables users to perform reporting tasks by running single cmdlets or custom automation scripts via the command-line interface.  The PowerShell SnapIn ReporterDBSnapIn is installed which adds the following Veeam Reporter specific cmdlets to the PowerShell environment:


As is quite common with virtualization management tools, including VMware vCenter itself, a back end database is required for the storage of datacenter information.  Veeam Reporter has the ability to leverage an existing Microsoft SQL Server.  In the absence of a dedicated SQL server, Veeam Reporter will install Microsoft SQL Express and integrate with it locally.  Installation of a local SQL Express instance takes quite some time as the necessary SQL binaries (including SP1) are downloaded at this time (this also implies internet connectivity from the Veeam Reporter server is required).

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A logoff/logon is required at the end of the installation as opposed to a system reboot:

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Now that the installation is complete, the next step is to configure Veeam Reporter Free Edition.  There’s really not much to the initial configuration or data collection.  Add to that, the installation and data collection process is agentless – a definite plus. 

So before any data can be displayed, it needs to be collected from the vCenter Server(s).  This is handled by creating a Collection Job which points at the vCenter Server and pulls in the data that Veeam uses.  A collection job should be scheduled to run periodically so that it grabs updated data at regular intervals.  I set up a Collection Job to run automatically once per day at midnight.  For the purposes of instant gratification, I manually ran the job to get some data:

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In addition to configuring a Collection Job, I also set up a few of the ancillary items one would commonly find in reporting and management applications such as an Email server.

Now that I have some data, I can start creating useful reports and that’s where the fun begins.  I will cover some of the reports in the next update so stay tuned.

In the mean time, download your copy of Veeam Reporter Free Edition today and get started!


Gestalt IT Tech Field Day – F5

July 15th, 2010




We’re on to our 3rd and final presentation here at Gestalt IT Tech Field Day.  After a short road trip into beautiful downtown Seattle, we’ve arrived at F5.  At 1,800 employees strong, F5 was named one of the best places to work in the Seattle area.  From a high level, F5’s business goal is to optimize the end user experience.

Today, F5 showed us simulated long distance vMotion.  F5 enables this with mid-range BIG-IP appliances stretching a Layer 2 network between two geographically disbursed datacenters along with providing WAN Optimization to access IP based storage between datacenters.  In addition, the hardware appliances expose APIs which VMware Orchestrator uses to assist the F5 into directing traffic between sites.  F5 has tested at up to 300ms round trip latency and a 10Mbps link.  This is what it looks like:

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Another thing I learned today is that just a few months ago, in March 2010, F5 released the BIG-IP LTM VE.  This is a virtual appliance that falls in the BIG-F5 family of products.  Today that appliance is supported on only one virtualization platform and it should come as no surprise that the hypervisor of choice is VMware.

BIG-IP® Local Traffic Manager™ (LTM) Virtual Edition (VE) takes your Application Delivery Network virtual. You get the agility you need to create a mobile, scalable, and adaptable infrastructure for virtualized applications. And like physical BIG‑IP devices, BIG-IP LTM VE is a full proxy between users and application servers, providing a layer of abstraction that secures, optimizes, and load balances application traffic.

Speaking of F5 and VMware, Why would you want F5 for VMware vSphere?

•F5 Management Plug-In for VMware vSphere
The F5 Management Plug-in simplifies common BIG-IP LTM administrative tasks in a vSphere environment, reduces the risk of error and enables basic automation.

•Integration with vCenter Server
Respond automatically to changes in the infrastructure with seamless integration between VMware and F5.

•Increased VM density by up to 60 percent
Free up server resources by offloading CPU-intensive operations to achieve maximum utilization and consolidation.

Long-distance vMotion
Enable fully automated long-distance VMotion and Storage VMotion events between data centers without downtime or user disruption. 

•Acceleration of VMotion and Storage VMotion
Accelerate VMotion events over the WAN up to 10x by compressing, deduplicating, and optimizing traffic.

Other virtualization considerations with F5
File Virtualization
Infrastructure Virtualization
Server Virtualization

 F5 and VMware Solution Guide

What about F5 and Cloud Benefits?

•Reduce Complexity
With a reusable framework of services that can be leveraged across static, dedicated servers as well as across multi-site cloud deployments, you immediately gain value that grows as your applications grow.

•Increased Control
By integrating traffic management, dynamic provisioning, access control, and management, you can more readily outsource the processing of applications and data without giving up ownership and control.

•Context Awareness
Having a complete picture of the user, network, application, and services gives you a unique ability to use context to determine how applications and data are delivered.

•Reduced Switching Costs
With a centrally controlled method of delivering applications and data, you can move resources anywhere at a moment’s notice without worrying about the capabilities of host locations.

This was a great session where I think I picked up the most information so far.  F5 is one of those technologies I see a lot in the datacenter but I’ve not worked intimately with.  I like their value-added integration with virtualization and adoption of a cloud vision.

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. Although I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, all event expenses are paid by the sponsors through Gestalt IT Media LLC. No editorial control is exerted over me and I write what I want, if I want, when I want, and how I want.

Gestalt IT Tech Field Day – Nimble Storage

July 15th, 2010

7-15-2010 11-31-48 AMNext up at Gestalt IT Tech Field Day is Nimble Storage who comes out of stealth mode and officially launches today.  Nimble Storage provides a unique iSCSI storage platform by eliminating traditional backup windows using efficient snapshot technology coupled with high performance flash drives.  A handful of use cases have already been identified for both virtualized and bare metal OS and application platforms.  I’m baffled as to how much competitive room there is in the storage realm, particularly with giants like NetApp, EMC, Hitachi, and others.  I believe this is a compliment to each of the players as it takes incredibly bright minds and innovation to stake and maintain a claim.

The secret sauce is in Nimble’s CASL (pronounced “castle” Cache-Accelerated Sequential Layout) Architecture which can be thought of as a reincarnation of VMware co-founder Mendel Rosenblum’s Log-Structured File System.

  • Inline Compression
  • Large Adaptive Flash Cache
  • High-Capacity Disk Storage
  • Integrated Backup

Resulting advantages provided are:

  • Inline compression (2:1 – 4:1 ratio)
  • High performance
  • Low cost SATA disk stores both primary data as well as 90 day snapshot retention
  • WAN-efficient offsite replication for cost-effective DR
  • Storage and Backup Optimized for VMware/Microsoft environments
  • Benefits for Sharepoint, SQL, and Exchange as well

From the Nimble Storage website:

Storing, accessing, and protecting your data shouldn’t be so complicated and expensive. Nimble’s breakthrough CASL™ architecture combines flash memory with high-capacity disk to converge storage, backup, and disaster recovery for the first time. The bottom line: High-performance iSCSI storage, instant backups and restores, and full-featured disaster recovery — all in one cost-effective, easy-to-manage solution.

Benefits for VMware Deployments

•Dramatic VM Consolidation and Cost Reduction
Groundbreaking CASL architecture includes innovations that enable dramatic consolidation of Virtual Servers and desktops. The hybrid flash and low-cost HDD-based architecture deliver very high random performance for demanding workloads at very low cost. Built-in capacity optimization and block sharing capabilities provide large capacity savings for both flash and disk. The net result is a single array that can easily serve the performance and capacity requirements for hundreds of high performance virtual servers, dramatically reducing cost, rackspace, power, and management expense. Further consolidation and cost savings come from the built-in capacity optimized backup capability, which eliminates dedicated disk backup devices, while enabling 90 days of efficient backup.

•Backup and Restore VMs Instantly
Nimble arrays enable instant Hypervisor consistent backup and restore of datastores and VMs, while eliminating backup windows. Nimble Protection Manager integrates with vCenter APIs to simplify management of Hypervisor-consistent backups, replicas and restores for VMware environments by leveraging Nimble’s instant, capacity optimized array-based snapshots. This converged solution enables dramatically better RPOs and RTOs compared with traditional solutions.

•Automated, Fast Offsite Disaster Recovery
WAN-efficient replication and fast failover enable quick, cost effective disaster recovery. Combined with instant backup capabilities, this enables rapid restore and very granular recovery points in the event of a site disaster. The entire failover process can be automated via management tools such as VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM) which leverages a Nimble SRA to control the storage level failover capabilities.

•Simplified Virtual Infrastructure Management
Using predefined ESX performance and data protection policies, storage for new datastores can be provisioned and protected in just three steps. The Nimble Protection Manager integrates with vCenter APIs to simplify management of Hypervisor-consistent backups, replicas and restores for VMware environments, by leveraging Nimble’s instant, capacity optimized array based snapshots. A vCenter plugin simplifies and accelerates the task of cloning datastore or VM templates, by leveraging Nimble’s instant, high space efficient zero copy clones.

Two 3U capacity offerings available, both of which are served by an identical configuration of Active/Passive controllers, large flash layer, multicore Intel Xeon processors, and 2x quad GbE NICs (10GbE ready and available soon):

  1. CS220: 9TB primary + 108TB backup
  2. CS240: 18TB primrary + 216TB backup

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Follow them on Twitter at @NimbleStorage.

Introduction to Nimble Storage at Tech Field Day Seattle from Stephen Foskett on Vimeo.

Note : Tech Field Day is a sponsored event. Although I receive no direct compensation and take personal leave to attend, all event expenses are paid by the sponsors through Gestalt IT Media LLC. No editorial control is exerted over me and I write what I want, if I want, when I want, and how I want.