Posts Tagged ‘ESXi’

VMware next generation datacenter exploration

February 27th, 2009

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Following is a VMworld Europe 2009 preview of features VMware is developing for future versions of vSphere. There is no guarantee or time line of when these features will be introduced into vSphere. Furthermore, the features should not be thought of as a group that will be implemented together at one time. A more likely scenario is that they will be integrated independently into major or incremental future builds. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s dig in to the good stuff.

Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA). ESX/ESXi will have a new architecture for storage called PSA which is a collection of VMKernel APIs that allow 3rd party hardware vendors to inject code into the ESX storage I/O path. 3rd party developers will be able to design custom load balancing techniques and fail over mechanisms for specific storage arrays. This will happen in part with the use of VMware’s Native Multipathing Plugin (NMP) which VMware will distribute with ESX. Additional plugins from storage partners may also appear. During the lab, I explored the PSA commands using the ESXi “unsupported” console via PuTTY.

Update: Duncan Epping over at Yellow Bricks just wrote about Pluggable Storage Architecture, expanding quite a bit on its components.  View that post here.

Hot Cloning of Virtual Machines. This upcoming feature is fairly self explanatory. Duplicate or clone a virtual machine while the source VM is running. I think this feature will be useful for troubleshooting or base lining a guest OS on the fly without impacting the source by causing a temporary outage to clone the control VM into the experiment environment. Additionally, during the cloning process, VMware is going to allow us to choose a different disk type than that of the source VM. For example, the source VM may have a disk type of pre-allocated but we can change the clone destination disk type to a thinly provisioned sparse disk. Fragmentation anyone? Speaking of pitfalls, you may wonder how VMware will handle powering on the destination VM for the first time with a duplicate network name and IP address as the clone source that is currently running on the network? Simple. We already have the technology today: The Guest Customization process. While guest customization has always been optional for us, it more or less becomes mandatory in hot cloning so I’d start getting used to it.

Update: As a few people have pointed out in the comments, hot cloning of virtual machines is available to us prior to the release of vSphere. VM hot cloning was introduced in VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 2. See the following release notes:

Host Profiles. Simplify and standardize ESX/ESXi host configuration management via policies. The idea is to eliminate manual configuration through the console or VIC which can be subject to human error or neglect. To a good degree, host profiles will replace much of the automated deployment methods in your environment. Notice I didn’t say host profiles will replace all automated methods. There are configuration areas which host profile policies don’t cover. You’ll need supplemental coverage for those areas so don’t permanently delete your scripts and processes just yet. You’ll need to keep a few of them around even after implementing host profiles. Host profiles can be created by hand from scratch, or a template can be constructed based on an existing host configuration. Lastly, profiles are not just for the initial deployment. They can be used to maintain compliance of host configurations going forward. Applying host profiles reminds me a lot of dropping Microsoft Active Directory Group Policy Objects (GPOs) on an OU folder structure. Monitoring compliance across the datacenter or cluster feels strikingly familiar to scanning and remediating via VMware Update Manager.

Storage VMotion. The sVMotion technology isn’t new to those on the VI3 platform already but the coming GUI to facilitate the sVMotion is. Props to Andrew Kutz for providing an sVMotion GUI plugin for free while VMware expected us to fumble around with sVMotion in the RCLI. Frankly, the sVMotion GUI should have been built into VirtualCenter the day it was introduced. The rumor is VMware didn’t want sVMotion to be that easy for us to use, hence we could get ourselves into some trouble with it. Apparently the same conscience feels no guilt about the ease of snapshotting and the risk associated with leaving snapshots open. VMware borrowed code from the hot cloning feature and will allow disk type changing during the sVMotion process. Using the same example as above, during an sVMotion, on the fly we can migrate from a pre-allocated disk type to a thinly provisioned sparse disk.

vApps. vApps allow us to group together tiered applications or VMs into a single virtual service entity. This isn’t simply global groups for VMs or Workstation teams, VMware has taken it a step further by tying together VM interdependencies and resource allocations which allows things like single-step power operations (think one click staggered power operations in the correct order), cloning, deployment, and monitoring of the entire application workload. The Open Virtualization Format (OVF) 1.0 standard will also be integrated which will support the importing and exporting of vApps. I know what you’re thinking – What will VMware think of next? Keep reading.

VMFS-3 Online Volume Grow. I like to read more into a name or a phrase than I probably should. Does this mean we will see online volume grow in VI3 before the release of VI4? Or does this mean that in VI4, VMFS is unchanged and stays at the “3” designation. The latter would be something to look forward to because personally I can do without datastore upgrades, although with the emerging VMware technology, shuffling VMs and storage around, even hot, makes the process of datastore upgrades pretty easy, however, we still need the time to plan and perform the tasks, plus the extra shared storage to leap frog the datastore upgrades. So what is online volume grow? Answer: seamless VMFS volume growing without the use of extents. OVG facilitates a two step process of growing your underlying hardware LUNs (in a typical scenario this is going to be some type of shared storage like SAN, iSCSI, or NFS), then extending the VMFS volume so that it consumes the extra space on the LUNs. For the Microsoft administrators, you may be familiar with using the “DISKPART” command line utility to expand a non-OS partition . Same thing. Now, not everyone will have the type of storage that allows dynamic or even offline LUN growth at the physical layer. For this, VMware still allows VMFS volume growth through the use of extents but doing so doesn’t make my skin crawl any less than it did when I first learned about extents.

vNetwork Distributed Switch. I think VMware idolizes Hitachi. Any storage administrator who has been around Hitachi for a while will know what I’m talking about here. Hitachi likes to periodically change the names of their hardware and software technology whether it makes sense or not. More often than not, each of their technologies has two names/acronyms at a minimum. In some cases three. VMware is keeping up the pace with their name changes. What was once Distributed Virtual Switch (DVS) at VMworld 2008, is now vNetwork Distributed Switch (vNDS). Notice the case sensitivity there. I have and will continue to ding anyone for getting VMware’s branding wrong, but I promise to try to be polite about it because I realize the number of people who are as anal as I falls within the range of nobody and hardly anyone. The vNDS is a virtual network switch that can be shared by more than one ESX host. I think the idea behind the vNDS falls in line with host profiles: automated network configuration and consistency across hosts. Not only will this save us time from having to manually create switches and port groups (or generate the scripts to automate the process), but it will help guarantee we don’t run into VM migration problems which more and more enterprise features are dependent on (basically any feature that makes use of hot or cold VMotion or sVMotion). Add the Cisco Nexus 1000v into the mix and we see that VMware networking is becoming more automated, robust, and flexible, but with added complexity which could mean longer time to resolve network related issues.

Last but not least, Fault Tolerance. Truth be told, this is another VMware technology that has gone through a Marketing department name change but this was announced at VMworld 2008 and I’ve already ranted about it so I’ll let it go. In a single sentence, FT is an ESX/ESXi technology that provides continuous availability for virtual machines using VMware vLockstep functionality. It works by having identical VMs run in virtual lockstep on two separate hosts. The “primary” VM is in the active state doing what it does best: receives requests, serves information, and runs applications on the network. A “secondary” VM follows all changes made on the primary VM. VMware vLockstep captures all nondeterministic transactions that occur on the primary VM. The transactions are sent to the secondary VM running on a different host. All of this happens with a latency of less than a single second. If the primary VM goes down, the secondary takes over almost instantly with no loss of data or transactions. This is where FT differs from VMware High Availability (HA). HA is a cold restart of a failed VM. In FT, the VM is already running. At what cost does this FT technology come to us? I don’t know. VMware is tight lipped on licensing thus far but I can tell you that FT is enabled at an individual VM by VM level, not at a global datacenter, cluster, or host level. Have you figured out the other significant cost yet? Virtual Infrastructure resources. CPU, RAM, Disk, Network. The secondary VM is running in parallel with the primary. That means for each FT protected VM, we essentially need double the VI resources from the four food groups. This is a higher level of protection of VM workloads, in fact, the highest level of protection we’ve seen yet. This level of protection comes to us at a premium and thus I expect to see carefully planned and sparse usage of FT in the datacenter for the most critical workloads. Hopefully all will realize this isn’t VMware gouging us for more money. I expect FT to be a separately licensed component and by that, VMware gives us the choice whether to implement or not. That’s key because not all shops will have a need for FT so why should they be forced to purchase it? Customers want options and flexibility through adaptive and competitive licensing models.

This is an exciting list of new features and functionality that I look forward to working with. Hopefully we see them in the coming year. Those from the competing virtualization camps that think you are catching up with VMware – here’s your answer. VMware will continue to raise the bar while you play catch up. You’ve not done your homework if you thought VMware would sit back and relax, resting on its laurels. When has VMware ever been known for this? VMware has hundreds of ideas in the queues waiting for development. Ideas for innovation larger than you or I could imagine. Personally I think there is room for all three of the major hypervisor players in the ecosystem. Certainly the competition is good for the customer. It forces everyone to bring on their “A” game. Game on.

VMworld Europe 2009 Tuesday keynote

February 24th, 2009

DSC00569 The general session keynote was kicked off by Maurizio Carli, General Manager EMEA. Maurizio briefly talked about VMware EMEA growth:

  • VMworld Europe 2008 4,500 attendees
  • VMworld Europe 2009 4,700 attendees
  • 100 sponsors this year

DSC00570 Paul Maritz President and CEO began his keynote discussing today’s IT problems and how they are not sustainable into the future. The solution is:

  • Efficiency
  • Control
  • Choice

VMware addresses the above with the following initiatives:

  1. VDC-OS – Foundation for the Cloud
  2. vCloud – Choice and Cloud Federation
  3. vClient – Desktop as a Service


DSC00575 The Cloud as Architecture from the bottom up. Virtualization is the key to making all of this happen in an evolutionary way:

  • Datacenter/Cloud

VMware vSphere

    • Existing Apps/New Apps – Existing and multiple future app models
    • Management – SLA management model
    • Policies – Security, Compliance…
    • Software – Scale and availability through software
    • Hardware – Industry standard building blocks

Paul went on to discuss the vSphere Architecture and its components. Other than the vSphere name being introduced, the slide looked identical to that of what was presented at VMworld 2008 and what exists on the VDC-OS web page.

VMware vCenter Suite SLA Driven Management Model:

  • Availability
  • Security
  • Performance

2009 is the year virtualization users have been waiting for. Quoting Paul, there will be no reason why we can not virtualize 100% of the workloads in our environment. That is a confident statement and it makes me enthusiastic about things to come.


I have been witness to a lot of discussion, including a degree of uncertainty (including my own), concerning cloud computing. VMware is addressing the concerns by working with service providers to ensure compatibility between internal and external clouds (ie. Sungard). In addition, they are working with standards bodies to avoid a “Hotel California” situation where you can check in but never check out.

Paul brought up a few guest speakers to talk about the cloud and they performed live demos as well.



Unfortunately at this point, wireless went down and I was scrambling to reproduce content above that was lost and I hadn’t saved yet.  That said, I didn’t get as much of the vClient content as I would have liked.  Brian Madden was licking his chops for desktop content so hopefully he can round out the discussion.

VMware View Enables Desktop as a Service. Layers from the bottom up:

  • VMware View
  • vCenter
  • VDC-OS/vSphere
  • Hardware

VMware View: Complete Roll-Out in 2009:

  • Management
    • Centralized template-based management
    • App virtualization
    • Thin provisioning
  • WAN
    • Hi latency
    • Low bandwidth
    • Productive Desktop
  • LAN
    • HD video
    • Flash
    • 3D graphics
  • Local
    • Use local resources
    • Optimal media experience
    • Rich portable desktop

The next speaker to take the stage talked about SAP.  Rather than listen to him, I spent some time editing this post for final submission.

I’m now heading on to the sessions.

For those interested, don’t miss the VMTN:  Ask the Experts session today and tomorrow at 13:00 in the Community Lounge.  My wife Amy baked chocolate chip cookies for those who attend.  Hurry before they run out!

Tripwire Annoucement

February 19th, 2009

Press release from Tripwire.  I haven’t had time to take a look at the product yet but the announcement comes from a trustworthy and reputable source whom I respect.  I look forward to seeing some commentary either on the blog here or over at

Tripwire OpsCheck addresses key virtual infrastructure operational issues; offers an opportunity for virtual infrastructure professionals to share ideas and best practices

Portland, OR – Feb. 17, 2009 – Tripwire, Inc. today announced a major new initiative for virtual infrastructure (VI) professionals, which includes Tripwire OpsCheckTM, a free tool to manage VMware VMotion, and an online community for VI administrators. Tripwire OpsCheck assesses common configuration problems that may prevent VMotion from operating properly, and provides troubleshooting tips for configuring VMotion based on Tripwire OpsCheck test results. To download Tripwire OpsCheck, go to

To further support the needs of VI professionals, Tripwire has unveiled, an online community built around the concerns of VI professionals. Virtualization administrators, engineers and architects are invited to join the community and conversation to share best practices, network, and gain new resources and tools. For more information about the forum, visit

“Virtualization professionals are faced with unknown territory, requiring new tools to manage the complexities and risks of virtual environments,” said Dan Schoenbaum, chief operating officer of products, Tripwire. “That’s why Tripwire is committed to developing utilities specifically for virtualization, such as OpsCheck and ConfigCheck, and to creating a forum where VI professionals can share their experiences and knowledge.”

Tripwire ConfigCheck, released in 2008, provides an immediate assessment of the configurations of a VMware ESX hypervisor, comparing them against VMware hardening security guidelines, and then providing remediation instructions if any are needed. ConfigCheck is also available for free and can be downloaded at

About Tripwire, Inc.
Tripwire helps over 6,500 enterprises worldwide reduce security risk, attain compliance and increase operational efficiency across virtual and physical environments. With its industry leading configuration assessment and change auditing software solutions, IT organizations achieve and maintain configuration control. Tripwire is headquartered in Portland, Ore. with offices worldwide.

VMGURU to release 4 chapters of VI3 book today

February 10th, 2009

Scott Herold of and co-author of the book VMware Infrastructure 3: Advanced Technical Design Guide and Advanced Operations Guide has announced today the release of four of the book’s chapters in PDF format today.

I’ve read the previous version of this book a few years ago and I’m in the middle of reading the current version.  I HIGHLY recommend this book.  It is worth it’s weight in gold and the fact that the authors are going to begin giving it away for free to the virtualization community is baffling to me but yet at the same time it is a symbol of their generosity and commitment to providing the community with top notch technical and operations detail on VMware virtual infrastructure.

Generally speaking, many technical authors don’t make a pile of money writing books.  Be sure to thank the authors Ron Oglesby, Scott Herold, and Mike Laverick for their hard work and generosity.

More information about this book can be found here and here.  Stay tuned to for the official release of these chapters which should happen sometime today.

Critical ESX/ESXi 3.5.0 Update 3 patch released

January 31st, 2009

VMware ESX/ESXi 3.5.0 Update 3 introduced a bug whereby planned or unplanned pathing changes in a multipathed SAN LUN while VMFS3 metadata is being written can cause communication to the SAN LUN(s) to hault, resulting in the loss of virtual disk access (.vmdk) for VMs.  The issue is documented in full in VMware KB article 1008130.

A patch is now available in VMware KB article 1006651 which resolves the issue above as well as several others.

For users on ESX/ESX 3.5.0u3, I highly recommend applying this patch as soon as possible.

Train Signal training discount through the month of February

January 31st, 2009

Train Signal is offering an astounding 25% off any virtualization product they sell through the month of February 2009.

Here is a short sample of their VMware ESX training video where instructor David Davis talks about templates and cloning virtual machines:

To take advantage of the 25% off, use the code BOCHENET at checkout.

I know first hand that the economy is tough.  Take advantage of this offer and get top shelf training for your dollar.  Train Signal offers a 90 day money back guarantee if you are not completely satisfied.

New product launch: iBac VIP for VMware Virtual Center

January 29th, 2009

Another VMware virtual infrastructure backup option. Options are good! This product works with both ESX as well as ESXi (requires VCB).

Licensing: One license ($5,495) covers all VMs and ESX hosts. Comparably speaking, another 3rd party virtualization management vendor charges approximately $500 per ESX/ESXi host CPU socket and also requires VCB for ESXi hosts. VCB licensing aside, in this comparison, iBac becomes attractive for infrastructures having 5+ 2-socket hosts, or 3+ 4-socket hosts (thankfully we don’t get dinged for multi core processors yet – who will be the first brave vendor, after Oracle, to license this way?)

From Idealstor:

“Idealstor, a leading developer of disk-to-disk backup solutions, announced today the release of iBac VIP for VMware Virtual Center. iBac VIP for Virtual Center was created to simplify VMware backups by offering a single license that backs up every virtual machine regardless of how many ESX hosts have been implemented.

Nandan Arora – Chief Technology Offer at Idealstor is quoted in this release

“Virtualization offers a unique set of tools that enables companies to consolidate servers but also to quickly provision new server instances as needed without having to incur the costs of implementing a physical server. Most software companies on the market today ignored this and released VMware backup solutions that are tied to the number of virtual machines, physical processors or ESX hosts running on the network. iBac VIP for Virtual Center was designed to turn this licensing model upside down. VIP for Virtual Center lets you backup any number of virtual machines regardless of the number of processors or ESX hosts being run.”Idealstor, a leading developer of disk-to-disk backup solutions, announced today the release of iBac VIP for VMware Virtual Center. iBac VIP for Virtual Center was created to simplify VMware backups by offering a single license that backs up every virtual machine regardless of how many ESX hosts have been implemented.

“iBac VIP was launched in 2008 and offers an enterprise backup solution for VMware virtual servers. The goal of iBac VIP was to offer an easy to use and easy to license backup solution for VMware virtual environments. The original release of iBac VIP was licensed based on the number of ESX hosts that were being run regardless of the number of VMs or processors on the host server. With the release of iBac VIP for Virtual Center, Idealstor seeks to further simplify VMware backups by offering backup administrators the options to choose between licensing the product per ESX host or Virtual Center. Suggested retail price for iBac VIP for Virtual Center is $5495.00.

iBac VIP ties into the VCB framework provided by VMware. Rather than having to run scripts or purchase expensive backup agents to backup each virtual machine, iBac VIP offers an easy use interface that allows backups administrators to efficiently manage their VMware backups. VIP backups can be managed from the proxy/backup server or from a remote machine running the VIP management console. Scheduling, advanced logging and email reports are available for all backup jobs. Recovery can be done at the file level or entire virtual machines can be recovered on the proxy or a specific ESX host.

“When we entered the VMware backup market we realized that most backup vendors were ignoring the flexibility and cost savings that were inherent to virtualization”, said Nandan Arora, chief technical officer at Idealstor. “Virtualization offers a unique set of tools that enables companies to consolidate servers but also to quickly provision new server instances as needed without having to incur the costs of implementing a physical server. Most software companies on the market today ignored this and released VMware backup solutions that are tied to the number of virtual machines, physical processors or ESX hosts running on the network. iBac VIP for Virtual Center was designed to turn this licensing model upside down. VIP for Virtual Center lets you backup any number of virtual machines regardless of the number of processors or ESX hosts being run. The only limitation is that the backup proxy server will need to be able to handle the load, but we feel that iBac VIP is affordable enough that if another proxy server needs to be added to handle the load, we will still be far more competitive than the existing players in the VMware backup space.”

About Idealstor
Idealstor manufactures removable/ejectable disk backup systems that are designed to augment or completely replace tape as backup and offsite storage media. The Idealstor Backup Appliance has been on the market for over 5 years offering a fast, reliable and portable alternative to tape based backup systems. Each Idealstor system uses industry standard SATA disk as the target for backup data and as offsite media. Systems range from 1 removable drive up to 8 and can be used by a range of businesses from SMB to corporate data centers. Disk capacities mirror that of the major SATA manufacturers. Uncompressed capacities of 200GB, 320GB, 400GB, 500GB, 750GB, 1TB and 1.5TB are currently available.”