VMworld 2013 – Link collection

26 08 2013

As most of you will know, VMworld is going on right now, and they kicked off this morning with the general Keynote. There were some new announcements, like for example the introduction of NSX, the public beta of VSAN, and the vCloud Suite 5.5.

As always, you’ll be flooded with blog posts and articles, so like the last couple of years, I’ll be trying to give you an overview with links. If you feel like something is missing, please leave a note in the comments, or send me a direct message on Twitter and I’ll try to get it added pronto.

So, here goes:

Nutanix – What do you mean: “You are not a storage company”…?

9 08 2013

Image copyright of the Davis Museum

Image copyright of the Davis Museum

“You are a black guy, you must be great at dancing and basketball”. “You’re a blonde? Let me explain that joke to you once more”.

Stereotypes. We all know them, we all apply them in some form or the other. We put things in boxes after a quick look, and every drawer has a different label and content to separate the stereotypes. But what if it doesn’t work that way?

Since I joined Nutanix, I’ve been in several customer and partner meetings. Some of the people I’ve get got the idea right away. We are doing something new. Others put us in to a respective box or drawer. “You are a storage company” is one of the classic pieces of feedback. Or, “So you do virtual desktop infrastructure?”.

But there’s more to it. We offer a combination of commodity hardware, combined with a piece of software, and sell that as a solution. And while the use case of virtual desktops is a great one, we can also run things like Splunk, Hadoop and classic server virtualization workloads.

And while we combine the benefits of a shared storage approach to run workloads, we’re not a storage company. We utilize features offered by shared storage to make your life easier. Each node performs its operations on the local storage, but I can use the “Nutanix Distributed File System” or NDFS to create an abstracted layer that offers many of the shared storage benefits. An example would be a shared container for my virtual machines, that are accessible to all of the hosts, enabling features like live migration between hosts.

While that works out really well with our customers, and it gives you the idea you have a SAN or NAS underneath the hoods, Nutanix’s main point is not to replace your SAN or NAS. We want to offer you a “Virtual Computing Platform”, a way to make your life easier when installing, configuring and deploying virtualized workloads and solutions.

That works great, and we’ve received great feedback. There seems to be a slight disconnect though. That begins when people start asking questions like:

What do you mean: “You are not a storage company”…?

A fair question by all means, but the simple answer is: No, we are not.

A simple example that seems to come up as of late is the following. How do I share disk space from your file system directly in to a virtual machine? While there is a way to export the storage directly in to a VM (for example via NFS), this bypasses some of the concepts we utilize. By default, we mount a datastore using an NFS IP address of, which runs over a virtual switch that has no uplinks. Since we are talking about traffic that stays within the same vSwitch, we can work at blazing speeds that are not limited by the speed of the physical NIC.

If I were to mount the NFS share from a virtual machine (or a different host), we could use the external IP of the Controller VM. The problem here, is that since the external IPs are different between controller VMs, if you were to migrate your NFS client VM to a different host, everything would go over the regular network. Also, if the controller VM that you connect to as an NFS Server would be offline, your NFS share is not accessible.

The thing is, the Nutanix block is designed to work this way. It offers great flexibility when it comes to running virtualized workloads, but it is not a 100% distributed storage system. We didn’t intend on being a storage system.

It then boils down to design. Is there a way around this? Certainly.

If you want to create a distributed CIFS file share, take a look at solutions like DFS from Microsoft. You can run multiple VMs inside of a container/datastore, and just pass the disk space of the VM through. If you need more space, just add more VMs on a different node, and add capacity, and off you go. And if you run out of space on your cluster? Just add another Nutanix node, get a VM up and running, and follow the same procedure.

That way, you are actually utilizing the distributed nature of our virtual compute platform, and running your storage services in a distributed manner. Gluster FS could be a possible solution to achieve the same thing with NFS on Linux.

And like I said, if this sounds like we are not a storage company? You are absolutely right, we are not. So you might want to categorize us under a different label, put us in a different box, or create an entirely new stereotype. 😉

Upgrading your Nutanix NX-2400 block from ESXi 5.0 to ESXi 5.1 using a USB thumb drive.

16 07 2013

At the moment, I’m lucky enough to have a Nutanix block at home that I use for demos (it’s coming along to Switzerland with me tomorrow). It’s not the model with the highest specs, but it helps in giving customers a chance to actually see the kit, and give partners some hands-on time. In case you are wondering, I’m actually working with a NX-2400, or a 4-node NX-2000 cluster, hence 2400.

Thing is though, that it was running an older version of the Nutanix Operating System (NOS), which I upgraded to the latest version (NOS 3.1) without a hitch, and it was running ESXi 5.0. And to play with some of the latest features, I actually decided to upgrade to ESXi 5.1, and I figured I might as well share how that worked out for me.

The steps are relatively simple, but I figured I’ll document them here anyway. One word of caution though:

    This was done with the latest info from the Nutanix knowledge base. Be sure to check if there are updated instructions available prior to upgrading your own block.

So, step one is to actually get the installation media for ESXi 5.1. In case of the NX-3000, you can use the standard ESXi 5.1 image. For the NX-2000 systems, you need to use an image that is customized by Nutanix. Contact myself or your local systems engineer to get the download location.

Next, create a bootable USB stick using the image. Easiest way I found is to actually format the stick with FAT32 as the filesystem. I recommend using a Windows system, or a Windows VM, since no matter what I tried, I couldn’t get it to boot using a Mac. Once the drive is formatted, I used UNetbootin:

UNetbootin ESXi 5.1 Nutanix

Click on “Disc Image” and select the ISO file. Make sure “USB Drive” is selected, and point it to the correct drive. Then click on “OK”, and watch it go to work. If it gives you a message stating that menu.c32 is already present, click on the “Yes” button.

We’ll also need to edit the NFS heartbeat timeout settings. To do that, log on to vCenter, select the node and go to “Software” -> “Advanced settings”. There go to the NFS entries, and modify the “NFS.HeartbeatTimeout” setting to 30 seconds. Do that for each host.

Next, we need to make sure the multiextent module is loaded. Add the following lines to /etc/rc.local.d/local.sh on each host (if not already there):
#added to support multiextent
localcli system module load -m multiextent
#end of adding

Then restart the host.

Once you are done, it is time to start the upgrade. Go in to the BIOS (using the Delete key) on the node you want to upgrade, and change the boot order so that you actually start off of your USB stick. Once you save the config and restart, you will be given a menu where you select the second option:

Unetbootin - Nutanix ESXi 5.1 upgrade menu

After that you should be able to see the trusted ESXi boot sequence:
ESXi 5.1 boot screen

At the installation screen, just hit the “Enter” key to continue with the installation. Read the license agreement, and continue with F11. Next, you are asked where the installation should reside. Normally you should see the Intel SSD already have a VMFS partition, indicated by the small asterisk in front of the disk. Select that disk and press “Enter” to continue:
ESXi 5.1 upgrade VMFS

Next, a prompt should show up asking if you want to upgrade. Select that option, and press “enter” once more:
Upgrade VMFS ESXi 5.1

The final step is to confirm your upgrade by pressing the “F11” key. Once the upgrade is done, remove the USB thumb drive, and reboot the server by again hitting the “Enter” key. Let the node reboot, change the boot order to the original sequence, and, tadaaaaaa:
Nutanix - ESXi 5.1 upgrade complete

Now, obviously this would be easier using the vSphere Update Manager, but this was the solution I used, since I only installed the vCenter virtual appliance. Not pretty but it works.

One key thing left to do, is to re-register the controller VMs on your ESXi host. You can do this via the vSphere client going directly to the ESXi host. Just right-click the VM and select “remove from inventory”. Then browse the datastore, go to the folder saying “ServiceVM-1.24_Ubuntu” and add the VM to the inventory using the VMX file. You can now start your VM after you confirmed that you moved it. 🙂

The other alternative to re-register your VM using vim-cmd via an SSH session on to your ESXi host. Just check which VMs you have running:
vim-cmd vmsvc/getallvms

Vmid Name File Guest OS Version Annotation
190 NTNX-TRAIN2-S11317022510746-A-CVM--2- [NTNX-local-ds-S11317022510746-A] ServiceVM/ServiceVM.vmx ubuntu64Guest vmx-07
Remember the VMID and de-register the VM:
vim-cmd vmsvc/unregister [vmid of controller VM]Now simply re-register the VM:
vim-cmd solo/register [/full/file/path/to/the/controller_vm_name.vmx]You might want to rename the controller VM once you have registered it.

Should you have any issues starting the VM, make sure that there is no line saying:
sched.mem.prealloc = "TRUE"in the .vmx file of you VM. If this line is present, remove it, and re-register your VM.

Idea to make your presenter life easier on the road

22 06 2013

A little while ago, Apple introduced their new operating system: OS X Mavericks. It seems like they ran out big cats to name the different versions of their operating system.

While there are a lot of new features in there, as well as an upgrade of some features to bring the OS up to par when compared to for example Windows 8, one of the best additions in my opinion is the “multiple displays” feature. You can get the Apple overview here. Basically, you can hook up monitors to your mac, and they are now able to work just like your main display. That’s great if you have a dual or multi monitor setup (which I don’t have), but for me what is really cool, is that this also works with an Apple TV.

I was playing with this feature today, and I created a quick video that I wanted to share for anyone that might not be familiar with what you can do, and show a very simple demo:

I’ll admit that the clip isn’t that spectacular, but after playing a bit more, I figured that this scenario could make my life on the road a lot easier. I present at a fair share of conventions and events, and while there usually is a TV or monitor hanging around, usually your controls would be far far away, and you’d have to dig out your laptop to get to anything to do with the system settings or the likes. You would have to run cables from your laptop to the display, and if you forgot a display adapter for you MacBook, usually you were just plain and simply screwed.

Someone else wanted to present from their Mac? Sure, copy the presentation over via AirDrop, USB stick, or you would have to switch the cable to a different laptop.

I’ve decided that I’ll try something different in the future. I’ll just bring along an Apple TV and hook that up to the TV or display. One HDMI and power cable, and I’m set. I’ll be able to just monitor my screen, and if one of my colleagues wants to present, he can just as easily use it without copying presentations or swapping cables. And since this also works with iPads, anyone that has their presentation in Keynote format on their iPad should also be good.

I’ll admit this isn’t a solution for a mixed environment (PC and Mac, not to mention monitors or TVs that only have VGA or DVI), but I’m seriously considering just giving this a try to see how far it takes me. I’m fully aware that the video dongles are lighter than the Apple TV, but hey, I’m a geek and I want to play with technology. 😉

Nutanix – 2013 vExpert gift

5 06 2013

nutanix-logo-transparent-hirez300So, this is something I found out just after my first day at Nutanix. There is a Facebook post by Nutanix, stating the following:

Nutanix would like to congratulate all #vExpert winners with a personalized pint glass at #VMWorld! Winners- reach out to us if interested.

I sent out a tweet, and got back a couple of replies. Some folks don’t use Facebook, some won’t be visiting VMworld in the US (or Europe for that matter), and it wasn’t quite clear what info was needed.

In an effort to consolidate this a bit more, I set up a Google spreadsheet, that just has some basic info. Your first name, last name, Twitter handle, and if you will be visiting VMworld in the US or Europe. You don’t have to sign in, editing is possible when accessing the document using the direct link.

Should you not visit, I think we can arrange that the personalized pint glass will be shipped to you, and we will follow up with you regarding details on shipping. Just make sure that you either follow the Nutanix Twitter account, or my Twitter account so that we can send you a direct message should we need your shipping information.

The link to the document is: http://bit.ly/Nutanix_vExpert_2013

And in case you are wondering, I took the liberty of filling out the info of the people who had already replied to me via Twitter. And yes, we will be checking if you are on the official list. 😉

VMUG for Germany west (Schwalbach am Taunus)

22 05 2013

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!

Time for a change: Keep calm and…

15 05 2013

Keep calm and join Nutanix.

Keep calm and join Nutanix - Picture by Christian Mohn

Keep calm and join Nutanix – Picture by Christian Mohn

Yep, no sense in beating around the bush. I resigned with EMC, and after wrapping up open topics, I will be starting as the first German systems engineer for Nutanix on June 17th.

I’ve learned incredibly much at EMC. After joining EMC in 2010, I was lucky to be part of a team that has done some incredible things. I feel like the vSpecialist team set a bar on how customer interaction can work, how a team of great individuals can combine in to something much more, and transform the way a company goes about. I learned ways to present information (hopefully in an interesting way), made friends, was able to help customers, worked on several certifications, and always had the feeling that I was still the dumbest guy on the team. I loved the fact that I was able to still ask tough questions internally, without being viewed as “that guy that just sits around nagging”. I’ve got so much to be grateful for, and I am. People like Chad Sakac or Wade O’Harrow who saw some potential in me, or someone like Holger Daube who has been a better boss to me than I could wish for. There are too many to name and thank individually, but thank you to all of you!

But I am moving on. After talking to several people, and discussing, reading things like this, I can’t help but feel that this is a great chance. I can try to set up something new, help define solutions, and get to see what it looks like working in a smaller company, with what I’m expecting to be an even crazier pace.

So, here’s to seeing you on the flip-side, and having fun with something new! 🙂

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