Virtualization, VMworld

VMworld 2011 #vHunt: Shoot to kill, but only virtually!

If you’re visiting VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas, you’re up for a hunting trip! Like the image says, you won’t be hunting wabbits, you’ll be hunting for people.

If you know what conventions like VMworld and EMC world are like, you also know that it’s usually tough to find people there. And it’s even harder when the person you are looking for is on the move at a convention.

Luckily, you are going to have it somewhat easier, since you’ll receive some hints on where folks are at via Twitter. They’ll also be changing their outfit ever so slightly to allow you to find them (think of caps, hats and the likes). As for myself, I’ll probably be wearing some sort of cap or hat, but you probably won’t be seeing that many folks in a Nascar shirt /bowling shirt that says “vSpecialist” and is sitting in a wheelchair.

Now, why would you want to find me or one of the others? Easy, we’re nice guys and can tell you a thing or two about virtualization integration on EMC. But besides that, you’ll also get the chance to win some cool prizes like iPads, PS3’s or some Iomega gear, sponsored by EMC, Intel, VCE ,Cisco, CSC and Brocade.

So, what’s the deal? Simple, follow these steps and see if you win:

  1. Me and a some others on the vSpecialist team will be tweeting various tasks and challenges throughout VMworld. Day and Night, on the floor, in the labs, in the sessions, at the parties, etc. You can identify those tasks and challenges by looking for the vHunt hashtag “#vHunt” in our tweets. You will find all kinds of things there, facts, trivia or fun challenges.
  2. Every time you respond to one of those challenges or tasks, tag it with “#vHunt. Someone from our team will be watching those responses.
  3. During the convention (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 3x a day, our marketing folks pick winners based on the criteria above, and hand the winners their prize.

That’s all there is to it, we’ll try to not flood you with tweets and make this a fun contest. 🙂

The folks to watch out for are:

You can also follow this list that Matt put together, or just search for the “#vHunt” hashtag.

So, happy hunting and good luck! 🙂

Virtualization, VMware, vSphere

vSphere 5 introduction – Links

Hey folks,

since there is a lot going on surrounding the VMware launch of vSphere 5 today, I thought I’d just start a little page with links to the various blog posts and press announcements around this event.

So, here goes:

GestaltIT, VAAI, vCloud Director, Virtualization, VMware, VMworld, vSphere

vSphere 5, it’s here! What’s new?

It’s here, it’s here. 😉

VMware just announced their new version of vSphere 5, and as you have probably found out, general availability is targeted toward August this year. There is a whole bunch, and I mean a whole bunch, of new stuff coming out, and everyone knows what we can expect at VMworld this year.

Let me be clear that this post is in no way trying to sum up all the new things that are introduced with vSphere 5, but this is mean to give you a quick and easy to consume overview of some of the major new features.

Key stuff that is new or has changed in vSphere 5:

  • Virtual hardware limits. We can now address 32 virtual CPUs and a maximum of 1TB of RAM (note that virtual machine hardware type 8 is required). We see people running larger and larger workloads, and are seeing more and more people moving their tier 1 applications to a virtualized environent. Anyone who has tried to virtualize a large database or business warehouse system will know what I mean.

    One word of caution though. Even though we can now create very large installations, be careful. This is not a sensible size for all applications, and you should check on an application specific basis if you really need something this big, and are able to leverage all of the resources it offers.

  • VMFS version 5. With the updated version of the VMFS there are some modifications being made. For one, you no longer need to use extents to create volumes over 2TB in size, and they have added support for physical RDMs that are over 2TB.
  • The service console is missing. Well, it's not really missing, but there is no more service console, due to the fact that you will now only find ESXi as the hypervisor. Although some people might be missing some things without the traditional ESX service console, this does offer some advantages like having only a single vSphere package, hardened security and less patches. But this should probably be one of the changes that almost everyone has seen coming, so I'm not going to go in to the depths on the pros and cons of this choice.
  • VAAI has again been enhanced. With vSphere 5, there are enhancements for both block and file based storage:
    • for block:
      • Thin provision stun has been added, which is basically an option to get feedback when a thinly provisioned LUN is full. You will now get a message back from the array, and the affected guests are “stunned”. This allows the admin to add some more free space to the LUN, after which the guests can resume normal operation.
      • Space reclaim is the second feature that has been added. Now, one caveat is that this hardware offload is dependent of VMFS version 5. Anything prior to that won’t do the job. If that prerequisite is in place, any blocks that are freed up by VMFS operations, things like VM deletion or snapshot deletion, will now return their blocks to the pool of free blocks.
    • For file:
      • You can now use NFS full copy. Somewhat similar to the block version, copying of files can now be offloaded to the array, which of course should speed up things like clone creation.
      • Extended stats adds the ability to get the extended information from files. Information about actual space allocation or the fact if the file is deduplicated can now be retrieved.
      • We can now use space reservation, to actually pre-initialize a disk and allocate all of the required space right off the bat.
  • VMware has redesigned HA. The new architecture should help people who want to work with streched clusters.

    Basically, VMware has moved away from underlying EMC Autostart based construct to an entirely new model. The HA agent is now called the FDM, and one of the nodes in the cluster will now take on the role of master. All of the remaining nodes in the cluster are slaves to this master, which means that we are no longer using the primary/secondary concept that was common with the previous version of HA. During normal operation, we should only see one master node per cluster.

    Benefits of the new construct are that we are no longer that susceptible to DNS issues. Also, VMware has added additional communication paths, -we can now also leverage so called “Heartbeat datastores”-, that will aid us in the detection of failures. And, as a bonus VMware has also added support for IPv6.

    Since the entire HA stack has been rewritten, there are a lot of changes coming, and I’m planning on getting down to the nitty gritty in a future post, and I’m sure that my friend Duncan will also be explaining this in great detail on his blog.

  • VASA, or “vSphere Storage API for Storage Awareness” is basically a way for the storage array to actually tell vSphere what it can do, or what it is currently doing. Imagine getting feedback if your storage is cable of VAAI. Or something more simple like telling vSphere what RAID level a datastore has. Sounds sensible right? Now combine that with the new Storage DRS in vSphere 5, and you get a pretty good picture of what VASA can help you with.
  • Storage DRS. The DRS feature in vSphere is already pretty well known, and it’s something that I see in use a lot at customer sites.

    Well, now you can also use DRS for your storage. To enable this feature, you create a so called “datastore cluster”, which is in essence nothing more than several datastores combined. Now, when you create a new VM, it is placed inside of a datastore cluster, and storage DRS balances everything out based on some key criteria like space utilization and I/O latencies. More to follow in a different post.

Now, this is by no means a complete overview, and I’ll be going in to these an other new features in upcoming posts. And I don’t want to flood you with information that can also be found on plenty of other blogs out there, but this should give you a good start. Look back for the things mentioned up here, but also for things like the added support for software based FCoE initiators, APD / PDL, the vSphere storage appliance, the new SRM 5 or vCloud Director 1.5.

Virtualization, VMware, VMworld

VMware is raising it’s bar, still time to register!

I’m sure most of you will have already known this, but some might have forgotten to register, or some wanted to but never got around to it, so here’s a reminder.

Tomorrow, July 12th, VMware is having an online event called “Raising the Bar, Part V”, where VMware is going to be “presenting on the next generation of cloud infrastructure”, or as VMware has put it:

Register now for this online event

July 12, 2011
9am-Noon Pacific Time

VMware CEO Paul Maritz and CTO Steve Herrod will be presenting on the next generation of cloud infrastructure. Join us and experience how the virtualization journey is helping transform IT and ushering in the era of Cloud Computing. 

9:00-9:45 Paul and Steve present – live online streaming
10:00-12:00 five tracks of deep dive breakout sessions
10:00-12:00 live Q&A with VMware cloud and virtualization experts

The event is free — if you sign up today you'll get an email reminder. This is a not-to-miss event!

These vExperts will be on-site at the event in San Francisco and will be covering the event live! (Also watch for live-tweeting from @VMwareEvents and @jtroyer with the #vmwarecloud hashtag)

After the event, you'll still be able to ask questions on Twitter. And on Wednesday, we'll be recapping the event on our VMware Community Roundtable — join us for an hour of live Q&A.

See you there!

Some people say they already know what’s coming. For me, that would be all the more reason to register and see what kind of cool stuff VMware is showing during the event. And, if you register for the event, you’ll automatically be entered in to the free drawing for a ticket to VMworld. More info about the drawing can be found here

Virtualization, VMware

vExpert – Let’s act as if it didn’t happen!

I received a mail over the weekend. It’s content was something like this:

Dear Bas Raayman,

We’re pleased to designate you as a vExpert 2011 as recognition of your contributions to the VMware, virtualization, and cloud computing communities. You’ve done work above and beyond, and we’re delighted to communicate more closely, to share resources, and to offer other opportunities for greater interaction throughout the year as we continue to grow knowledge and success in the community of IT professionals. Welcome to the vExpert 2011 Program!

[more stuff]

Now, first of all, it’s great to receive such a mail! I’ve been doing a lot of stuff with VMware as a part of my job, but I spend quite a bit of time outside of my job trying to share information related to VMware and virtualization in one way or the other. Being awarded with the title of vExpert is quite cool, and I would like to thank John Troyer and his accomplices who were busy trying to select the the people, reviewing what must have been hundreds of submissions.

But there’s one more thing to this package. Creating good content that people are actually willing to read and feel is valuable to them. After all, you are taking the time to read my posts, and I also need to thank you for that!

So, I’ve decided to do one thing. I’m going to act as if it didn’t happen, and as if I needed to take it up two notches to get the vExpert title. After all, it’s the effort that got me here in the first place, and me working even harder to create some good content can only benefit you as a reader, and myself by learning even more in the process of content creation.

So here’s to receiving the title, and at the same time to acting as if it didn’t happen. 😉

Virtualization, VMware, VMworld

VMworld session voting has opened | Update: And has now closed

Vote for someone else!

There, i’ve said it. And if you’re wondering if I took something, you are actually wrong.

As you most likely will know when you read my blog, I work for a company that is well known for their storage products, and is also known for software solutions in a boat load of ranges like backup, replication, business continuity and much more. And a large part of my job is working with customers that use, or considering using, virtualization technologies like VMware.

VMware has a big convention each year called VMworld, which brings the top speakers and topics to a central location for a couple of days to talk shop and show people what’s new and what’s good.

This year, like every year, there was a call for papers. Basically A request for people to send in their ideas and suggestions for topics and sessions that should be presented. And boy, did they get some feedback on their call. There were boatloads of papers submitted and reviewed by the VMware guys and girls, and in the end they left roughly 800 session in their system.

Now, 800 sessions might be a bit much for one convention, which means they need help in selecting the best ideas and the hottest topics, and they need your help.

How? Just go to the VMworld, register an account if you don’t already have one, and go through the list with session abstracts and vote for the ones that you think are best.

Did I also submit a session? Yep, and if you want to look it up, it’s session number 1863 and goes by the title of “vStorage APIs – What has changed since the introduction / How does it help me in real life?”.

But as I stated in the first sentence, vote for someone else. I’ve only partially seen the list of topics, but there are so many good sessions proposals out there! I’ve seen so many folks blowing their own horn over their sessions, and I’ve decided to take a different route. Take your time, go through the list, and pick the ones you like best. If that should include my session? Great! If not? No problem, since you get to decide what sessions should be included, and you make the difference in making sure that VMworld will be a rocking event with only the best info and sessions. And the only way to do that, is by making sure you vote for the sessions you want to see.

So go out there and vote and help make it a rocking event, and who knows, maybe we’ll get to see each other there!

Update: May 19th 2011

And the voting has now closed. Thanks for voting folks!

EMC, General, Storage, Virtualization

Post convention melancholy

I’m sitting on board of a delayed Airbus A320 from Las Vegas to Chicago while I’m writing up this small post.

I left for Las Vegas must over a week ago to help set up gear for EMC World, and my week has been amazing. After landing inVegas, I met up with some of the guys, went to dinner and to bet, just to be wide awake at two in the morning due to jet lag. Ain’t that just the way it goes?

Anyway, after attending some conference calls, the rest of the team was up and that meant it was time to get started setting things up. Part of it was wrapping up the guides that were created for the labs, and converting them to a format that was suitable for the lab guide reader that was created by fellow vSpecialist Nick Weaver.

Part of it was also to get the backup system up and running on site, because even though we ran the entire vLabs off of the infrastructure located on the other side of the USA, we needed a backup system that would be able to support the labs in case of issues. And one of the first challenges was to actually get the back hardware to the convention center, and actually getting the truck to the right spot to offload the hardware wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Not to mention the fact that it’s hard to work when people actually relocate you from room to room on what seemed to be an hourly basis.

But, all worked out in the end. We were able to get everything loaded and working, and actually started setting up shop in the vLabs area I the convention center. 200 WYSE consoles, custom written lab management software, almost 20 different labs to pick from, and a team of well over 25 folks helping out assured that the vLabs were a good experience.

Did it all run smoothly? No, not all of the time. If you eat your own dog food, want to be bleeding edge and run your service in the cloud, you are bound to run in to some glitches and hiccups. Think of things like firewalls that get in your way, switches not cooperating, or even something like a simulator that tends to crash more than it works (I’m looking at you RecoverPoint 3.4 Sim….). Then, there’s also the fact that this was a first for us in such an environment and at such a scale.

And even with those things, we managed to do an incredible job. We had a great team on site that pulled all nighters to get our environment up and running. Some of us have been living off of about 3 hours of sleep per night, but we still managed to provision over 3000 VMs (exact numbers to be published soon).

And besides the hard work we also had a lot of fun. We got to play craps with two Elvi, perform a pit stop for Wayne and Garth (errr, Chad and Wade), and the random Hangover quotes on our lab headsets were always good for a chuckle.

And now, I’m flying back home and am feeling somewhat melancholic. It’s been a hell of a ride, and coming down from the chaos, or not getting to hang out with my colleagues until I see them again the next time is sort of a strange feeling. It’s like saying goodbye to a dear friend that is leaving for a while, and although you have some very good memories, it leaves you with a sort of funny feeling.

So, for now I want to thank all of the guys that made this week an incredible experience. Folks like Aaron, Erin, Nick, Dave, Rick, Travers, Fred, Tommy, JT and Heather. And of course all of the others that I won’t all name here right now. Thanks guys!

And as the king said it: Viva Las Vegas!

General, Storage, Virtualization

Want to meet up in Las Vegas for vBeers and storagebeers?

Beers on the Street - East London, UKSo, since there will be two big events going on in Las Vegas (EMC World and Interop), it looks like we will have a lot of folks in one spot that have a passion about storage, virtualization and all things IT.

This led me to the initiative to set up a get together to have some drinks, food, and just talk and geek out. Most of these folks on Twitter have heard about storagebeers and vBeers, and now we are trying to set one up in Las Vegas. Currently this is based on a PYOB (Pay Your Own Bill) model, but I will try to see if we can get some vendors to perhaps give out a round.

Since not everyone has the same agenda, I’ve created this list to try and find out when we can get the most people together. Feel free to enter the date where you think you would be available, and I’ll see to it that a mail gets sent out with the final date. Also, if you know a good spot to have these drinks, feel free to add them to the location field, or just e-mail me at bas.raayman (AT) I look forward to seeing you all (again)!

Oh, and just as a short disclaimer, I won’t sell your e-mail adresses, abuse them for spam or anything alike. It’s just to set up this event and send you an update on it, and that’s it. After the event, all mail addresses will be deleted.

Update: 1 round is on Storage Staffing, thanks!
Update 2: Date is set to May 10th, 20:00 (Pacific) at Harrah’s Piano in Las Vegas. A seperate update via e-mail will be sent out to the folks who joined the online meeting. Feel free to join us if you haven’t registered here ! 🙂

as a Service, Certification, Virtualization

How about them cloud architects?

I was on EMC training last week. To be more specific, I was on “Virtualized Data Center and Cloud Infrastructure” training, and took the “E20-018 – Virtualized Infrastructure Specialist for Cloud Architects” afterwards.

First off, I passed the exam, which I’m happy about. Second, I’m still not sure how happy I am about the training and the exam itself.

The training

When it comes to the training itself, we are talking about a week long, instructor led training. It covers several aspects of what would or could be considered elements of a virtualized data center, as well as cloud technologies.

You will start off with an overview of some of the definitions that make up cloud computing. A reference there is the definition of cloud, as it is defined by NIST. There is a reference the three service models of cloud computing, as well as the phases that you usually see when building a cloud infrastructure and the five key characteristics of a cloud delivery model.

You will also get an overview of the technologies that can be used to deliver a cloud like infrastructure. That includes stuff like different synchronization models, hypervisor types, link speeds (think of dark fibre as an example) and technologies used within a virtualized environment that range from a live migration, to the ability to offer services and service catalogs in a self service environment.

You also take a stab at things like governance, risk and compliance. You will get an idea of the things you can run in to when you create or even work with such an environment. You will references to things like the Sarbanes–Oxley Act, and business driven frameworks and best practices like ITIL.

Mix that up with some labs that focus on giving you food for thought when designing a cloud like infrastructure (there is no hands on in the labs, just paper and teamwork), and it sounds like you have a pretty decent training.

Or does it?

I have two main problems with the course itself. For one, I think that it’s based too much on the standards and concerns out of the US. I think that people absolutely need to be aware of things like the Sarbanes–Oxley act, but I also feel that models and concerns should be highlighted for companies that are not bound by this act. Or at least tell these people why the rationale for these acts might be useful to implement, besides the “you legally have to” way of explaining.

Don’t get me wrong, you need to consider these kinds of things, especially in a cloud like environment where you more quickly are able to cross global and legal boundaries, but then also focus on things that you might encounter outside of the United States.

The second concern is much harder to address, since one might get the feeling that you are not being taught anything new. And I think this is the much bigger issue. In a sense, anyone who has been working on the “* as a Service” environments will not really encounter anything new, and they might feel that EMC is just stating the obvious in their course. Techies that attend the training will probably leave with a feeling of “not enough examples and hands on, too much fluffy stuff”.

I think that they are partially right. For me it was a large part of what I have already encountered more than once. On the other hand, it’s good to see that people are working on standards, and the course itself brings together a lot of the things that you encounter, but might not knowingly consider. It’s “food for thought” if you will. And as with all such classes, you get a chance to exchange ideas and perspectives with your classmates, and that might be the most valuable thing about this class, especially with a topic that is harder to grasp (from an actual technology used/where do i start standpoint).

The exam

Read carefully! The biggest piece of advice I can give you, since sometimes the wording of the questions is just plain odd. Also, make sure you have an idea of the technology used in data centers, and virtualization across different tiers. Examples of the last one could be things like storage and network virtualization.

Spend some time on getting to know what governance, risk and compliance is all about. Have some sort of insight of what are the driving factors behind GRC.

The certification can be achieved, even without the training, but I feel the way some questions are asked is perhaps the biggest issue you can face in passing the exam if you already have some experience in designing or working in cloud like environments.

And let me wish you some good luck if you attempt to take he certification! One important note is that the EMC E20-001 is a mandatory prerequisite before attempting the certification, so make sure that you have that one if you want to be an EMC certified cloud architect.

GestaltIT, vCloud Director, VMware, vSphere

Shorts: VMware vCloud Director not displaying the web portal

A colleague of mine approached me today with a question on our vCloud Director environment. He tried to log in to the vCloud Director portal, and was unable to log in, because there was no page being displayed at all.

After checking if I was able to ping the interface, I logged on to the machine to see if there were any obvious errors. The vCloud Director daemon was still running and so was the database, but a netstat did not show any listeners on the vCloud Director IP. So, after going over the vCloud Director log files, there was a pretty obvious error in the vcloud-container-info.log:

ORA-28001: the password has expired

So, you now stop your vCloud Director daemon and switch to your Oracle user to see what was going on inside of the DB:
sqlplus "/ as sysdba"

Now, list all the users to see if they have an expired password:
select username,ACCOUNT_STATUS,EXPIRY_DATE from dba_users;

Or display just the specific user:
select username,ACCOUNT_STATUS,EXPIRY_DATE from dba_users where username='VCLOUD';

And guess what came up:
-------- -------------- ---------

Expired is something that you don’t want to see for a user that is being used actively. So, let’s set the password again and unlock the user:
alter user VCLOUD identified by replace_this_with_your_password;
alter user VCLOUD account unlock;

So, once that is done, let’s check one more time:
SQL> select username,ACCOUNT_STATUS,EXPIRY_DATE from dba_users where username='VCLOUD';
-------- -------------- ---------

Now, start your vCloud Director daemon again, and in the log file you should no longer see the error, and the web interface should be working normally again.

Update – April 11th 2011:

One of my other colleagues actually ran in to the same issue and found my blog post. He gave me some feedback asking if I would not be able to add how to find the sqlplus binaries since not everyone is a Linux master, so here goes:

Normally, if Oracle is installed on Linux, it is one of the prerequisites to set the environment variables. Basically this means that you tune your system to allow Oracle to run on it. You perform tasks like telling the system how much shared memory to use, you set semaphores and create a seperate user under which the Oracle installation runs.

Part of these tasks usually also means setting the path to the Oracle binaries for this user I just mentioned. Now, in some situations, your database is already installed, but you don’t know as what user or in what directory. This is not necessarily an issue. Just use the “ps” command to list all processes from all users. Use something like:

ps -efor
ps auxf

and look for the Oracle processes. At the start of the line you should see as which user these processes are running.

Once you have identified the user, switch to said user, using the following command:

su - user_name
Obviously, replace the user_name with the actual username. The “su” (or “switch user” if you will) is a command to actually switch to a different user. The dash or minus sign that is appended after the “su” command, makes “su” pass the environment along unchanged, as if you were actually logged in as the specified user.

The benefit of adding the dash, is that the user environment is set correspondingly, meaning that your path for the Oracle user is also set. This in turn means, that you normally don’t have to worry about the exact path to the Oracle installation. Normally you can just enter “sqlplus” in the way described above, and you should be set.

Should you still not be able to find sqlplus, you can try using the “find” command to search for sqlplus. Try using something like this:

find / -name sqlplus
This actually tells the find command to start searching in the “/” or root-directory for files with sqlplus in their names. Depending on your Linux release, you could also change the “-name” option to “-iname”, which changes the search to ignore the case in your search. This way, your search would also return a result if the binary would be called SQLplus (most Unices and Linux installations are case sensitive).

Once you have found your sqlplus binary, just enter the full path to the binary and you should be set.

If you have any other feedback, just let me know folks, and I’ll be more than happy to append it to my post.