EMC, VMUG, VMware

VMUG for Germany west (Schwalbach am Taunus)

Just a small reminder for the people that live in my area. On Friday, June 7th, the German VMware User Group (VMUG) west will be meeting up at the EMC office in Schwalbach (click here for a PDF with the address and route). In case you don’t know what the VMUG is for, here’s a quick summary:

The VMware User Group (VMUG) is an independent, global, customer-led organization, created to maximize members’ use of VMware and partner solutions through knowledge sharing, training, collaboration, and events.

The beauty of it? It’s something set up by users for other users. That means that people come to these events to get information that is vendor neutral, and have the ability to talk freely to others without having to fear that someone is trying to only give them the marketing pitch. Or at least, that is what it should be like.

So, the Germany West VMUG Meeting is at Friday, June 7, 2013 at the following address and time:

09:30 – 16:15

EMC Deutschland GmbH
Am Kronberger Hang 2a
65824 Schwalbach/Taunus

You can use this link to register for the event, free of charge, and get to see talks on VMware Nicira, “VMware Network & Security” and other security related topics.

And one important thing to note. The VMUG is a community set up by VMware customers for VMware customers. To exchange ideas, exchange common issues or worries, learn and get to know others in the community. If you feel like you can contribute, submit a proposal for a talk, or suggest a topic for the next VMUG. The more people that participate, the better a VMUG gets!

I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

vCenter Operations, VMware, VMworld

VMworld: Vote for my session! And vote for others!

Things have been relatively quiet on my blog, and I need to apologize for that. I’ve been swamped in work, and besides work, I’ve also been busy with a suggestion for a book that was accepted by VMware Press. Plenty of stuff to do, but that is not an excuse to not blog. And for that, I am genuinely sorry.

That doesn’t mean that things haven’t moved forward though. The 2013 vExpert application was opened, and there was a call for papers for VMworld in 2013. I did actually submit one session proposal, and seems to have made it through the first round. That means it is off to public voting, and that is where I need some help.

I submitted my session titled “vCenter Operations: Advanced dashboard creation and monitoring made easy”. And I think the title speaks for itself, but let me give you an abstract anyway:

vCenter Operations: Advanced dashboard creation and monitoring made easy” does what the title says. Getting an initial start with vCenter Operations is easy, but the custom view gets people puzzled.

In my session, I will show that creating your own advanced dashboards isn’t rocket science, and try to show tips and tricks to create advanced dashboards in an easy way.

If you are interested in helping me out, the key thing to know is that you need a VMworld account. You can quickly register an account (free of charge, obviously) at http://www.vmworld.com. Once you registered your account, just follow this link:

http://www.vmworld.com/cfp.jspa

From there on everything is relatively straightforward. You will get a list of all of the session proposals, all with a small icon of a white thumb in front of the sessions. To vote, just click on the thumb. You’ll receive a confirmation window that you voted, and the thumb will turn green:

VMworld 2013 session vote

So, if you feel like this may be something that could interest you, you can help by voting for me. And in case you don’t like my proposal? I’d recommend that you still have a look through the list of proposals, and help someone else with your votes. There are cool sessions which I personally like, like for example:

  • 5076 – Design vC Ops Dashboards that make you a rockstar for your operators. Lessons learned from multi-year dashboard design using different data adapters.
  • 4872 – Operating and Architecting a vMSC based infrastructure
  • 4518 – A Technical Deep Dive on NFS Network Design
  • 4570 – Ask the Expert VCDX’s
  • 5155 – Network Virtualization for vSphere Admins: What You Need to Know
  • 4769 – An Introduction to VMware’s vCloud Network and Security Virtualization Architecture and Platform as part of the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).

And there are more good ones out there. Chad Sakac has also done a blog post on his favorite sessions here.

So please, vote for me, vote for others, but most important of all: vote! 🙂

Certification, VMware

vSphere Design: CARR – How do you know if you have them correct?

Image linked from http://justcreative.com/2009/10/11/classic-elegant-serif-fonts/I’m a techie. I like technology, and ask me to solve a problem that involves something with a computer, and usually I’ll get it solved. My boss seems to know that, and it’s one of the reasons why I get pulled in to projects that require hands-on.

I like to talk about technology. It’s one of the reasons that I enjoy being in my current pre-sales role so much. I enjoy taking a technology, trying to simplify what it does, and then talking to a customer to see if a technology can add value in their setup, or solve one or more specific problems they might be having.

The one doesn’t work without the other for me. I need stick time with something before I’m really able to effectively communicate about it. I’m not the kind of guy to go over a PowerPoint presentation and then deduce how a product works in real life. I can do that up to a certain degree, but I won’t feel really confident without having some form of hands-on.

In comes the design part

In one of my previous posts, I asked how you learn to speak design. There are design methodologies that can help you uncover goals, and it will be up to you to identify the CARR, or written out:

  • Constraints
  • Assumptions
  • Risks
  • Requirements

And this is where the hard part is for me. I don’t deal with this terminology, in a design environment, on a day-to-day basis. And it makes it hard to actually categorize these in a correct fashion, without a lot of practice.

There is a good document on the VMware Community page that goes in to detail on “Functional versus Non-functional” requirements. The document states the following:

Functional requirements specify specific behavior or functions, for example:
“Display the heart rate, blood pressure and temperature of a patient connected to the patient monitor.”

…..

Non-functional requirements specify all the remaining requirements not covered by the functional requirements. They specify criteria that judge the operation of a system, rather than specific behaviors, for example: “Display of the patient’s vital signs must respond to a change in the patient’s status within 2 seconds.”

Which makes it relatively simple. Those are simple examples, and when you keep in mind that a non-functional requirement usually is a design constraint, you should be all set to identify constraints and requirements, right?

Maybe not so much?

Along comes something in a different form, and then the over-thinking starts:

  • “You must re-use existing server hardware”.
  • That’s great. I “must” do something, so it’s a requirement, right? But does this change the way that “my heart rate is displayed”? Well, since I’m a techie, depending on the server model, this might influence the way it’s displayed. Do I need to change my design because I’m re-using the hardware? Well, you may need to. But normally your design shouldn’t depend on the hardware you are re-using. But what if it’s not allowing me to create a cluster, or run certain workloads, or is so old that it won’t allow me to use certain features?

And the rambling goes on, and on, and on.. At least, I think this is where a lot of folks can go wrong. My gut feeling is that we perhaps over-think what is being said/asked. If we know nothing about the environment at all, but the customer tells us that we need to re-use the hardware that is already in place, then that is a?

  • Requirement? We are after all required to re-use the hardware?
  • Constraint? We are constrained from bringing in any other hardware?

What would be your take on this? And what do you use to actually differentiate and remember what is what?

VMUG, VMware, VMworld

VMUG for Germany west (Frankfurt)

Just a small reminder for the people that live in my area. On Tuesday, December 4th, the German VMware User Group (VMUG) west will be meeting up in Frankfurt. In case you don’t know what the VMUG is for, here’s a quick summary:

The VMware User Group (VMUG) is an independent, global, customer-led organization, created to maximize members’ use of VMware and partner solutions through knowledge sharing, training, collaboration, and events.

The beauty of it? It’s something set up by users for other users. That means that people come to these events to get information that is vendor neutral, and have the ability to talk freely to others without having to fear that someone is trying to only give them the marketing pitch. Or at least, that is what it should be like.

So, the Germany West VMUG Meeting is at Tuesday, December 4, 2012 at the following address and time:

10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Dell Solution Center
Main Airport Center
Unterschweinstiege 10
Frankfurt Am Main, Germany 60549

You can use this link to register for the event, free of charge, and get to see Mike Laverick give a talk on “Cloud and disaster recovery”, and more DR topics. Plus, you get the chance to go over some of the VMworld Labs.

I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to seeing you there!

VAAI, VMware, vSphere

vBrownbag – VAAI on NFS session during VMworld

Well, after being in Barcelona for a week for VMworld Europe, and after some other things that I had going on, I wanted to take some time to throw out a quick blog post on somethign that I have been getting positive feedback on.

If you aren’t familiar already with the vBrownbag initiative, make sure to check it out at http://professionalvmware.com/brownbags/. To quote from the site:

The ProfessionalVMware #vBrownBag is a series of online webinars held using GotoMeeting and covering various Virtualization & VMware Certification topics.

While VMworld was going on, some of the vBrownbag crew were visiting, and set up short 10 minute sessions in which presenters could come by and discuss various topics. Topics ranging from VCDX certification, “unsupported” sessions which showed off some neat unsupported tricks, and other topics.

Fellow blogger Julian Wood, actually put up a great blog post over on wooditwork.com that directly shows you all of the recorded sessions, including my own which is titled: “VAAI tips, specifics, common pitfalls and caveats on NFS”.

It’s good that it adds video and audio commentary, but I thought I’d also add the slides, which you can find here:

http://app.sliderocket.com:80/app/fullplayer.aspx?id=34d7923b-017c-435b-8ea7-043ab0a895da

I hope that it’s of use to you, and look forward to your feedback.

Certification, Virtualization, VMware

VCAP5-DCA – My test experience

I took the VCAP5-DCA this morning, and let me start off with one thing that is key to this exam: time management!

On July 19th, VMware released the VCAP5-DCA exam. Unlike the VCAP5-DCD, this is an exam that focuses on hands-on, solving configuration problems and setting up new configurations. You do this on actual live systems, and you have the normal vCenter help available as well as PDF versions of the help files.

What does the exam environment look like?

Basically, you open up an RDP session on a 1280 x 1024 screen. Inside of this screen, you will find a small bar with shortcuts to the items you need (think RDP, vCenter Client). Easy enough to get started with, but since you don’t have a window manager that allows you to switch between programs, it can be hard to keep track of what window you are in. Also, when switching between windows, your window focus is usually off, so when you start typing nothing is showing up. You always have the option to check what the usernames and passwords are, although the password is the same for all accounts. Save some time by not maximising the windows, but create a custom size. That way you can keep track of open windows.

Is it a good exam?

Ehm… Yes, it is… Most of the time. I had one glitch during my exam where a required preconfigured item would not work. The tasks in the exam actually tell you that you need to have certain things configured because further parts of the exam will build up on these things. For me, one of those preconfigured items didn’t work, and there isn’t really a way to have this fixed during the exam. That can be quite frustrating, plus it takes up valuable time to actually troubleshoot.

Which brings me to my next point. I mentioned it before, but time management is key. You’ll be in the exam room for 4 hours for non-native English speakers and 3.5 for native English speakers, and that is a lot of time, but with 26 tasks, that means roughly 8 to 9 minutes per task. One thing that might help you, is to use the notepad that you get when you go in to the room. Note down the numbers 1 through 26, and create a note when you finish a task or if something is still open. Don’t wait for a task to finish, but move on to the next. Unfortunately, you can’t mark the question to review at the end, so having a note which questions you need to re-visit is quite helpful.

In my case? I actually did run out of time. I wasn’t able to complete 3 tasks. I was fairly confident going in to the exam, and I came out feeling pretty drained. It’s a good exam in the sense that it covers things that any advanced admin can run in to, and some that an admin will run in to. Common things like the stopping and starting of services, or administration of your storage devices might be an every day task, PowerCLI might be less common. Some folks will use Auto Deploy, and some might have other infrastructures in place to accommodate things like installations.

So what do I study?

Brush up on what you don’t know that well. The exam isn’t unbeatable, but it will give you a run for your money. Try to focus on scenarios that make sense to you, and that you would expect as an advanced admin. Brush up on a bit of PowerCLI if you haven’t before. Work with storage if you can (download one of the many virtual storage appliances out there and toy with it), and brush up on your troubleshooting skills. If you have a co-worker, have him mix up some settings in a lab/test environment and try to resolve the issues.

Also, get hands-on time! Even if someone were to give you a list of all the required tasks, you will need to know your way around. There is only one advantage here, and that is getting your hands dirty. In my case, the exam environment was pretty snappy, but anything that involved scrolling was just horribly slow. Be prepared to work in an environment that you don’t know that well. And one more tip for the people working with a non-US keyboard: Learn to use a US keyboard layout. In my case, normally you would expect a German layout on the keyboard. Well, the actual physical keyboard was a UK layout, and the keyboard in my RDP session was a US version. I can touch-type on a US keyboard, which helped, but not everyone will be so lucky.

Any other tips?

Yep, also check out some of the other online resources and experiences, for example this post by Ed Grigson, or this post by Patrick Kramer. Also, check out this study guide on VirtualLanger.com, or these study resources from TheSaffaGeek.

And did you pass?

I don’t know yet. I will get my results “in approximately 15 business days”, so until that time I’ll just have to wait it out. But, pass or fail, I learned a couple of my weak spots (which I thought weren’t that weak when I started the test), and even if I should have failed, I learned additional things by studying, so the time wasn’t wasted. Either way, I’ll update this post once the result comes in. 🙂

Update – September 28th:
Got a mail during the night confirming I passed. 🙂

Virtualization, VMware, VMworld, vSphere

VMware releases vSphere 5.1

Today, at VMworld in San Francisco, VMware released a new version of their virtualization platform, namely vSphere 5.1.

To anyone who has been working with vSphere for some time, the version number won’t be that big of a surprise. Also, just before the weekend, the new version number actually showed up in the VMware Compatibility Guide (and was taken offline again over the weekend). But, as little surprise as the version number was, there was one quite big surprise that went along with all of the sparkly new features: A change in the licensing model.

Rumors were already circulating a week before the convention, and this change certainly wasn’t an easy decision for VMware. I was in an early partner briefing, and while we were getting the briefing, there were still mails going around inside of VMware, and a change in the licensing policy was actually communicated via an internal mail during the briefing. Since most people didn’t really like the change in licensing that came with vSphere 5, VMware made a subsequent change in its new licensing policy just a month after releasing vSphere 5.

So, what changed in the licensing department?

It all become much easier to deal with, since VMware dropped the VRAM licensing model. Yes, you read that right, VMware is no longer charging the virtualized RAM. The short version is this:

vRAM licensing is no longer used, the licensing is now per CPU socket.

There are other changes like the VMware vCloud Suite, but I will cover this in a different post.

And what is new in the technology department?

Well, the usual upgrade in terms of bumped maximums:

  • Up to 64 virtual CPUs
  • Up to 1TB of vRAM
  • Up to 32 hosts can now access a linked clone
  • 16Gb FC HBA support

And more things that will put vSphere and Hyper-V on par from a maximums standpoint. But I don’t really think that those limits are interesting. To find the latest maximums we can have a look at the configuration maximums guide. So, what else has changed?

  • Virtual Shared Graphics Acceleration (vSGA)
    “vSGA expands upon existing non‐hardware accelerated graphics capabilities for basic 3D workloads, by supporting accelerating VDI workloads using physical GPU resources. With this new capability, it is now possible to virtualize physical GPU resources, sharing them across virtual desktops. This functionality supports an array of graphically rich and intense applications such as full motion video, rich media services, and more demanding 3D graphics”To actually use this feature, you currently need an NVIDIA GPU that is based on the GF100 architecture (Fermi) such as the Quadro 4000, Quadro 5000 or Quadro 6000  series. For people who like to dig around, this is also what the X server is for in the installation media.
  • No more reboots to upgrade the VMware tools
    You read that right. You can now perform an online upgrade of the VMware tools for any VM that is running Windows Vista, or a later Windows release.
  • Network Health Check
    “Assures proper physical and virtual operation by providing health monitoring for physical network setups including VLAN, MTU or Teaming. Today, vSphere administrators have no tools to verify whether the physical setup is capable of deploying virtual machines correctly. Even simple physical setups can be frustrating to debug end to end. Network health check eases these issues by giving you a window into the operation of your physical and virtual network”
  • Single Sign On (SSO)
    “The vSphere 5.1 SSO feature simplifies the login process for the Cloud Infrastructure Suite. You can log into the management infrastructure a single time through the vSphere Web Client or the API and be able to perform operations across all components of the Cloud Infrastructure Suite without having to log into the components separately SSO operates across all Cloud Infrastructure Suite components that support this feature.”This is a great addition. You can now use your vCenter installation as a SSO source, or you can integrate directly in to existing OpenLDAP and Active Directory sources. Scheme support is present for LDAP, LDAPS and NIS.
  • vMotion
    You can now simultaneously vMotion memory and storage. I hear you thinking that “you could do that for a while now”, and you are correct. But with vSphere 5.1, you can finally do it online. Additionally, there is no need for shared storage to perform a vMotion. This means that you can use local disks, inside of your hosts, and online migrate your virtual machines between hosts without having centralised storage, using NBD/NFC in the background. In my book, this is a great feature when working with a home lab.

Those are some pretty neat things, and there are even more out there, but there is one major change that I wanted to save. Previously, VMware announced the vSphere Web Client about a year ago (David Davis has done a nice writeup of it here), and set the tone for the future interface. Now, in vSphere 5, they made it very clear:

To use new things like the newer VM hardware version, the shared nothing vMotion, or any of the other new features, you have to use the new vSphere Web Client.

And that’s ok. The Web Client works like a charm. It did have some smaller bugs during testing, but to me proved to be quite reliable and easy to use. Plus, it allows you to search for objects from any location, adds features like custom tags that you can add to resources, and has modifications that make life easier. An example of that last point, is when you add a new datastore to a host. If you re-use the name, the Web Client will detect this, and will ask you if you would like to use the same settings, saves a bit of time.

There is one problem with this strategy though. You won’t be able to completely switch to the Web Client. For four tasks, you will still need the classic vSphere Client:

  • Import and export host profiles. You cannot import or export host profiles with the vSphere Web Client.
  • vSphere Update Manager. vSphere Update Manager isn’t available in the vSphere Web Client.
  • Datastore Browser inflate thin disk option. The Datastore Browser in the vSphere Client has an option to inflate a thin disk to a thick disk. The vSphere Web Client does not have this option. You cannot inflate a thin disk using the vSphere Web Client.
  • vSphere Authentication Proxy Server.

That might change once the final version is available for download though. Also, with the Web Client, the way that vCenter plugins work, has changed. This will mean that if you rely on any plugins for your daily operation, now is the time to contact your software/hardware vendor, and ask them if they are planning on the release of a new plugin that will work in the Web Client.

All in all?

All in all, I would say that with vSphere 5.1, the maximum configurations were aligned with what other hypervisors offer, and we again see some nice additions in functionality. A lot of folks will welcome the change in licensing policy, and all of those Mac users will welcome the fact that they can now perform their daily administration, without having to install a VM or connect to a remote desktop.

Some things aren’t entirely logical, like the fact that not all of the functionality was ported to the Web Client (yet), but I think it’s safe to say that there is more good than bad in this release. If you want to learn more about the technical side, or the rest of the VMware vCloud Suite, make sure to check every now and then, since I’ll be posting follow ups with exactly that info. In terms of the software being released, we are still waiting for an official release date, but I’ll update this posting once the date has been announced.

Update – August 31st:

The Dutch VMware Twitter account (VMware_NL) just gave me an expected release date for the vCloud Suite, and for vSphere 5.1: September 11th 2012. Keep in mind that this may change though.

Update – September 18th:
You can now actually download the release. It went live during my holiday, so I didn’t update the post. Download it from the VMware website. Also, the configuration maximums guide got released. Download it at: http://www.vmware.com/pdf/vsphere5/r51/vsphere-51-configuration-maximums.pdf.