Posts Tagged ‘Workstation’

Mostafa Khalil Makes Twitter Debut With VMware Nostalgia

December 7th, 2011

SnagIt CaptureFor the Twitter folks… (The Real) Mostafa Khalil (@MostafaVMW, VCDX #2) is now on Twitter.  I’d recommend following him as there are some amazing changes brewing on the vSphere storage horizon.  Hopefully he’ll privilege us on a semi regular basis with bits from his great storage mind.

For the non Twitter folks…  Seven days ago, Mostafa posted the picture shown below.  It’s the Getting Started Guide for VMware Workstation 1.0 for Linux. It comes to us from the year 1999.

SnagIt Capture

Seeing this is enough to make a vEvangelist tear up.  I’d love to get my hands on this product at some point and take it for a spin.  Perhaps I’ll have a chance if the VMTN Subscription makes its return.  My VMware journey didn’t start until a year later with Workstation 2.0.2 for Windows.  Look at the file size – 5MB.

SnagIt Capture

VMware Workstation & Fusion Christmas In August Sale!

August 2nd, 2011

30% off through August 4th! All boxed and shrink wrapped copies of VMware Workstation (for Windows & Linux) and VMware Fusion (for Mac) must go!  Hurry while supplies last!  Use promo code PREHOLSALE at checkout for your 30% discount.  Mention and it is likely that nothing additional will happen.

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July 2nd, 2010

If you’ve worked with recent versions of VMware virtual infrastructure, Converter, or Workstation, you may be familiar with the fact that these products have the native ability to work with virtual machines in the Open Virtualization Format, or OVF for short.  OVF is a Specification governed by the DMTF (Distributed Management Task Force) which to me sounds a lot like RFCs which provide standards for protocols and communication across compute platforms – basically SOPs for how content is delivered on the internet as we know it today.

So if there’s one standard, why is it that when I choose to create an OVF (Export OVF Template in the vSphere Client), I’m prompted to create either an OVF or an OVA?  If the OVF is an OVF, then what’s an OVA?

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Personally, I’ve seen both formats, typically when deploying packaged appliances.  The answer is simple: Both the OVF and the OVA formats roll up into the Specification defined by the DMTF.  The difference between the two is in the presentation and encapsulation.  The OVF is a construct of a few files, all of which are essential to its definition and deployment.  The OVA on the other hand is a single file with all of the necessary information encapsulated inside of it.  Think of the OVA as an archive file.  The single file format provides ease in portability.  From a size or bandwidth perspective, there is no advantage between one format or the other as they each tend to be the same size when all is said and done.

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The DMTF explains the two formats on pages 12 through 13 in the PDF linked above:

An OVF package may be stored as a single file using the TAR format. The extension of that file shall be .ova (open virtual appliance or application).

An OVF package can be made available as a set of files, for example on a standard Web server.

Do keep in mind that which ever file type you choose to work with, if you plan on hosting them on a web server, MIME types will need to be set up for .OVF, OVA, or both, in order for a client to download them for deployment onto your hypervisor.

At 41 pages, the OVF Specification contains a surprising amount of detail.  There’s more to it than you might think, and for good reason:

The Open Virtualization Format (OVF) Specification describes an open, secure, portable, efficient and extensible format for the packaging and distribution of software to be run in virtual machines.

Open, meaning cross platform (bring your own hypervisor).  Combined with Secure and Portable attributes, OVF may be one of the key technologies for intracloud and intercloud mobility.  The format is a collaborative effort spawned from a variety of contributors:

Simon Crosby, XenSource
Ron Doyle, IBM
Mike Gering, IBM
Michael Gionfriddo, Sun Microsystems
Steffen Grarup, VMware (Co-Editor)
Steve Hand, Symantec
Mark Hapner, Sun Microsystems
Daniel Hiltgen, VMware
Michael Johanssen, IBM
Lawrence J. Lamers, VMware (Chair)
John Leung, Intel Corporation
Fumio Machida, NEC Corporation
Andreas Maier, IBM
Ewan Mellor, XenSource
John Parchem, Microsoft
Shishir Pardikar, XenSource
Stephen J. Schmidt, IBM
René W. Schmidt, VMware (Co-Editor)
Andrew Warfield, XenSource
Mark D. Weitzel, IBM
John Wilson, Dell

Take a look at the OVF Specifications document as well as some of the other work going on at DTMF. 

Have a great and safe July 4th weeekend, and congratulations to the Dutch on their win today in World Cup Soccer.  I for one will be glad when it’s all over with and our Twitter APIs can return to normal again.

VMware Workstation Upgrade to 7.1

May 26th, 2010

Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
VMware Workstation 7.0.1 build-227600

I had heard VMware Workstation 7.1 was released.  Unfortunately, the VMware Workstation “check for updates” feature doesn’t seem to be serving its intended purpose as it told me no updates were available.

I downloaded the installation package manually and performed the upgrade.  Two reboots were required:

  1. After the uninstall of my previous version of Workstation
  2. After the install of Workstation 7.1

I hope the usability experience is better than my upgrade experience.  I realize some of the reboot business is on the Microsoft Windows 7 operating system but come on, would someone please figure this out?  Is there no way to perform an in place upgrade of Workstation to minimize the reboots to one?

What’s New in VMware Workstation 7.1

•Support for 8 virtual processors (or 8 virtual cores) and 2 TB virtual disks.

•Support for OpenGL 2.1 for Windows Vista and Windows 7 guests.

•Greatly improved DirectX 9.0 graphics performance for Windows Vista and Windows 7 guests. Up to 2x faster than Workstation 7.

•Launch virtualized applications directly from the Windows 7 taskbar to create a seamless experience between applications in your virtual machines and the desktop.

•Optimized performance for Intel’s Core i3, i5, i7 processor family for faster virtual machine encryption and decryption.

•Support for more Host and Guest Operating Systems, including: Hosts: Windows 2008 R2, Ubuntu 10.04, RHEL 5.4, and more Guests: Fedora 12, Ubuntu 10.04, RHEL 5.4, SEL 11 SP1, and more.

•Now includes built in Automatic Updates feature to check, download, and install VMware Workstation updates.

•Ability to import and export Open Virtualization Format (OVF 1.0) packaged virtual machines and upload directly to VMware vSphere, the industry’s best platform for building cloud infrastructures.

VMware Workstation 7.0 Released – New and Improved!

November 8th, 2009

If you’re a regular follower of my blog, you’ve probably noticed that I typically focus on Datacenter products. I am a VMware Workstation user as well. VMware’s inaugural product is the first hypervisor I ever used and has a lot to do with my career shift and focus on the exciting world of virtualization. Although I don’t use Workstation quite as much as I used to, I still like to keep current with new releases. As a Virtual Infrastructure user, one reasons for this is that I get a preview of features in Workstation that will eventually make their way to Virtual Infrastructure in the product development cycle.

VMware Workstation 7.0 was released on October 27th and boasts an array of new features as well as support for new guest operating systems. I upgraded last week and started taking a look around. Having not read the “What’s New” release notes yet, I had noticed some features that, to me, looked new or improved.

The first thing I noticed about VMware Workstation 7.0, before installing it, is that VMware did away with separate license keys for Windows and Linux distributions. It has absolutely bugged me for years that I could not transfer my VMware Workstation installation from Windows to Linux or from Linux to Windows without purchasing an additional license. One license key now works with both Windows and Linux versions of VMware Workstation. I validated this by looking it up on VMware’s website. Here’s what I found:

“Q: Can I switch between VMware Workstation 7 for Windows and Linux?
A: Yes. Starting with VMware Workstation 7, you can switch between Windows and Linux version of VMware Workstation using the same license key. If you decide to switch host operating systems, you must uninstall Workstation from the host operating system you no longer plan to use. If you plan to run VMware Workstation 7 on both a Linux and Windows host, you need to purchase two licenses.”

Once installed, the first new feature that jumped out at me was during the creation of a new VM. The ability to assign CPU cores to a guest OS and its applications. Differentiating between CPU sockets and CPU cores has obvious licensing advantages for both applications and operating systems which licenses per socket. Support for 4 processors is also apparent:

The next item I saw was the ability to select VMware ESX as a guest operating system. This is handy new feature that will save time by eliminating the need to hack the .vmx file or manually add advanced settings in order to run an embedded hypervisor as well as nested VMs. I’ll add that for some reason, both ESX and ESXi seem to run a lot faster or more efficient in VMware Workstation 7. Two or more of the same workloads running concurrently in VMware Workstation 6 on my Dell Latitude E6400 laptop would create loads of I/O congestion resulting in long delays in keyboard and mouse response, as well as screen redraw. I can’t account for why but I’m certainly not complaining:

Next up is a virtual disk “Utilities” menu…

…which reveals an option to mount the virtual disk as a Windows drive letter in the host operating system. In the old days, VMware offered a VMware-mount.exe command line utility to accomplish this task. The integrated GUI version is a nice touch. Mounting a .vmdk disk in your native file system allows such tasks as out of band file injection, data rescue, etc. I’ve used the old command line utility many times in the past for refreshing DR images offline with application code updates:

The Virtual Network Editor looks like it got a face lift, with most of the configurable items streamlined into a single property sheet for better visibility and ergonomics:

This is cool, and sort of uhh… Citrix or Terminal Services ‘ish. Driverless printing from guest through the host operating system. A Virtual Printer device can be added in the virtual machine settings (the guest OS must be powered off)…

…which maps host printer connections (both local and network printers) inside the guest VM. Automatically imported printers have the comments “Printer created by TPAutoConnect“, indicating integrated technology from ThinPrint in VMware Tools:

This was the extent of my observations thus far while using VMware Workstation 7.0. If any of the items I talked about above existed in previous versions of VMware Workstation, please let me know. Since I do not use Workstation as much, it is possible that I missed an item or two while using an earlier version.

I decided to look at the VMware Workstation 7.0 Release Notes to see the complete list of improvements and new features:

New Support for 32-Bit and 64-Bit Operating Systems

    Operating System

    Host and Guest Support

    Windows 7 Home Basic
    Windows 7 Premium
    Windows 7 Business
    Windows 7 Enterprise
    Windows 7 Ultimate
    Host and guest
    Windows 2008 SP2, R2 Guest
    Windows Vista SP2 Guest
    Debian 5 Guest
    Ubuntu 9.04 Host and guest
    Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.3 Host and guest
    CentOS 5.3 Guest
    Oracle Enterprise Linux 5.3 Guest
    OpenSUSE 11.x Host and guest
    Mandriva 2009 Host and guest
    SUSE Linux Enterprise 11.x Host and guest

New Features in VMware Workstation

  • Windows 7 — Create and run Windows 7 32-bit and 64-bit virtual machines using VMware Workstation. VMware Workstation has been enhanced for performance and to take advantage of the new Windows 7 features including Live Thumbnails and Aero Peek.
  • Aero Glass — A new Windows Display Driver Model (WDDM) graphics driver has been developed for Windows Vista and Windows 7 virtual machines. The WDDM driver can display the Windows Aero user interface, OpenGL 1.4, and Shader Model 3.0. For more information on the VMware recommended graphics hardware, see the VMware Workstation User’s Manual.
  • Windows XP Mode Compatible — Import a Windows XP Mode virtual machine using VMware Workstation 7.0 and run the virtual machine without being prompted to enter a Windows XP license key. VMware Workstation enables the Windows XP Mode virtual machine to take advantage of more than one processor, render high-end graphics, integrate seamlessly with Unity, and transfer files easily with drag and drop, and shared folders. VMware Workstation also has the ability to run concurrently with Windows XP Mode.
  • 3D Graphics Improvements for Windows XP guests — OpenGL 2.1 and Shader Model 3.0 support is now available for Windows XP virtual machines. The XPDM (SVGAII) graphics driver works with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7. However, only Windows XP virtual machines install the XPDM graphics driver by default. To switch graphics drivers in the guest operating system, see How to Switch Between SVGAII and WDDM Drivers.
  • vSphere 4.0 and ESX Support — Install and run ESX 4.0 as a guest operating system. VMware Certified Professionals (VCPs) and technical professionals can install the latest server virtualization software and experiment with server setup, conduct training, show demos, and test production configurations. Running ESX as a guest eliminates the need to have spare hardware available to run ESX natively and enables ESX to run on systems that are not listed on the ESX hardware compatibility list (HCL). For more information on the supported processors and host operating systems, see Considerations for Running an ESX Guest.
    This feature is intended for educational and demonstration purposes only and should not be used in production environments. To use this feature, you must download vSphere 4.0 from the VMware Web site and follow the installation documentation provided with vSphere to install ESX.
  • Virtual Printing — Print from virtual machines without mapping network printers or installing printer drivers in the virtual machine. With virtual printing enabled in the virtual machine setting, all of the printers installed on the host operating system are available in the guest operating system. This functionality is enabled through a partnership with ThinPrint, Inc.
  • Four-Way SMP — Create and run virtual machines with a total of four processor cores, which can consist of four single-core processors, two dual-core processors, or one quad-core processor like the new Intel i7.
  • 32GB Guest Memory — Run virtual machines with up to 32GB of memory using VMware Workstation.
  • 256-bit Encryption — Secure your virtual machines with AES256-bit encryption to prevent unauthorized users from accessing or running the configuration files.
  • AutoProtect —Schedule snapshots of your virtual machine to be created at a regular interval to ensure that you always have a snapshot available to revert to when needed.
  • Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) — ALSA significantly improves the sound of virtual machines running on a Linux host and streams the audio from each virtual machine on a separate channel so that multiple virtual machines can be heard simultaneously.
  • Cross-Platform License Keys — Use the VMware Workstation 7.0 license key on both the Windows and Linux versions. Make sure you read the EULA for the terms and conditions that must be met when switching platforms.
  • Pause a Virtual Machine — Free your CPU resources instantaneously without powering off or suspending the virtual machine.
  • Expand Virtual Disks — Increase the size of the virtual disk from within VMware Workstation. For Windows Vista and Windows 7 guests, the disk partitions can be adjusted without the use of additional software.
  • Compact Virtual Disks — Reclaim unused space from a virtual disk so that the host or another virtual machine can use it.
  • Shared Folder Compatibility — Increased compatibility with many Windows applications that previously were unable to read or write files to shared folders.
  • On-Demand VMware Tools Download — On-demand download capability provides the latest VMware Tools for the guest operating system. This feature reduces the overall download size of VMware products by downloading only the required set of VMware Tools and and enables VMware to release new versions frequently.
  • Drag and Drop Enhancements — Drag and drop enhancements include support for new file types including images and formatted text and extend the existing ability to drag and drop files to a broader set of guest and host operating systems.
  • Virtual Network Editor — User interface enhancements have simplified creating and configuring virtual networks.
  • Fuse Mount for Linux — Use Fuse to mount .vmdk disks on to the file system of Linux hosts.
  • Simplified Collection of Support Information — Gather detailed information about multiple virtual machines and the host machine at the same time. The information is packaged in a compressed file so that you can email it to VMware support or post it on the VMware Workstation forums.
  • IPv6 Support — Create a bridged connection to an IPv6 network on VMware Workstation virtual machines.

Developer Tools

  • Replay Debugging — Enhancements in replay debugging make the feature faster and easier to use. Developers can attach to a particular process instance, attach to a process in the middle of a recording, and ensure that the executables and symbols on the host machine match the guest. Developers can remotely view the exact state of the machine when the system failed and replay the recording to see the circumstances that led the system to fail. For more information about replay debugging, see the new Integrated Virtual Debugger for Visual Studio Developer’s Guide and technical note for Replay Debugging on Linux .
  • SpringSource Tools Suite Integration — Use the latest version of the SpringSource Tools Suite to run and debug Java applications in a VMware Workstation virtual machine without leaving the development environment. You can download the latest SpringSource Tools Suite from the Spring Source Web site.
  • Remotely Debug C and C++ Applications for Eclipse — Set a remote debugging session inside a controlled C and C++ environment where the guest operating system is different from the host. For more information about remotely debugging C and C++ for Eclipse, see the Integrated Virtual Debugger for Eclipse Developer’s Guide .
  • VMware Tools Configuration Utility – Use the new VMware Tools command-line interface (CLI) to automate configuration of VMware Tools in guest operating systems. With CLI you can modify VMware Tools settings, shrink virtual disks, connect and disconnect virtual devices, and more. For information on the VMware Tools configuration utility, see the new VMware Tools Configuration Utility User’s Guide.

Additional VMware Workstation 7.0 links:

There is some good stuff in this release. More than I originally thought. I’d like to take this moment to admit guilt in showing a lack of enthusiasm when Workstation 7 was first launched. My initial understanding of the major new features amounted to Aero support and VMware ESX as a guest OS. My reaction was “who cares”. I take it back. This is a solid release with increased configuration maximums as well as new and improved features.

Know thy open snapshots

December 2nd, 2008

VMware snapshotting is a wonderful and powerful technology that affords IT and Developer staff great flexibility and recovery options with virtual machines (VMs) that weren’t so flexible with physical machines or flat out did not exist. With this technology comes the responsibility of using it properly and knowing its limitations. Snapshots have a shelf life that varies somewhere between the moment the snapshot was created and infinity. Boy, that was real helpful wasn’t it?

Let me see if I can explain a little better. When a snapshot is created, a delta file is created on the VMFS volume and in the folder where the VM resides. The initial size of the delta file is 16MB. The purpose of the delta file is to maintain the delta changes to virtual disks since the snapshot was taken. This would be any disk write I/O activity inside the guest VM OS.

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Disk write I/O inside a guest VM may be seldom or it may be very active. It depends on the role of the VM and more specifically the software and features installed inside the VM. When the initial 16MB delta file fills to capacity with the delta changes it maintains, it dynamically increases its size by another 16MB. Once again, if and when the delta file fills to capacity with delta changes, it grows by another 16MB. For those who excel in math, our delta file is now 48MB in size. Do you see the pattern? The delta file will continue to grow in 16MB increments to a maximum size of the parent file (and in some cases very rapidly!) unless one of a few conditions is met:

  1. Someone closes the snapshot
  2. Someone creates an additional child snapshot (perpetuating a potential problem)
  3. The snapshot file somehow becomes corrupted before or during closing of the snapshot (bad news)
  4. The VMFS volume where the VM and delta file are stored runs out of available storage space (update your resume. All other VMs on the same VMFS volume, snapshotted or not, as well as VMKernel swap and VM logs are now also out of write space)

Let’s connect the dots. The amount of time a snapshot should be left open is going to vary because of factors identified above. The amount of available VMFS storage, the rate at which the delta file is growing since the VM was snapped, number of VMDKs snapped, decaying VM disk performance as the delta file becomes fragmented across non-contiguous spots on disk, time to recovery if the snapshot is lost and the VM has to be restored, your personal comfort level, etc. To compound the anxiety, there are likely other VI administrators in your shop or automated backups creating and leaving snapshots open that you are unaware of on a regular basis. The urgency to have all open snapshots on your radar has increased.

Unfortunately in the current builds, VMware doesn’t give us real good (or automated) visibility of open snapshots. I liken it to handing a loaded gun to a child – it’s only a matter of time before an accident happens. That analogy is quite extreme but it gets my point across on the importance of preventing such an accident from happening. What we have right now from the Virtual Infrastructure Client console (as well as a few of the hosted product consoles) is called the Snapshot Manager. Snapshot Manager displays open snapshots and their hierarchy – but only when we open Snapshot Manager and that’s on a VM by VM basis. Very tedious.

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So how do we gain better visibility of snapshots that’s not going to tie up a bunch of our valuable time? Fortunately there are some good 3rd party solutions available for free to help us out. A few that I like are Xtravirt’s Snaphunter, RVTools, and Hyper9.

Snaphunter is a simple piece of code that you install on an ESX host and schedule scanning and emailed reports via CRON. I get two Snaphunter reports emailed to me daily at noon (1 for PROD storage, 1 for DEV storage):

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RVTools is a .NET Windows application that you can run from your desktop and get visibility of all VMs managed by a VirtualCenter instance. In addition to snapshots, RVTools shows a bunch of other cool stuff. This utility is worth checking out:

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Hyper9 is an up and coming enterprise architected product (currently in beta, GA to release in early 2009) which will report on open snapshots as well as a many other facets of the virtual infrastructure:

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Snapshots are so easy to create and there in and of itself lies its Achilles heel – snapshot sprawl and lack of native tools from VMware to keep them under control and keep us safe from danger.

Go forth and virtualize – but let’s be safe out there.

VMware launches referral program

November 18th, 2008

This evening, VMware launched a campaign that encourages grass roots promotion of VMware products through word of mouth, email, website, and blog widgets. A buyer taking advantage of the promotion receives special discounts on select VMware products. Then, VMware is rewarding its loyal followers with cash, gift cards, or donations to charity for qualifying referrals.

You can find my particular referral widget on the right hand side of this page (look for the VMware logo and a white background. You can’t miss it).

Read more about the announcement here.