Shorts: discount codes for VMware certifications

28 08 2013

I just received word that because of VMworld, there are some discount codes for the VCP and VCAP certifications. To use the discount, you need to register for the exam at the Pearson VUE website. Don’t forget that the VCAP certifications requires you to register for the exam on the VMware website before scheduling the test on the Pearson VUE website. Just click this link here, go to the certification you want to take, and click the “Register for the exam” button at the top.

Once you receive the clearance, there will be an option at the top of the Pearson Website (where you input your payment details), where you can apply the discount code.

The discount code “VWSF50” will work for the following exams:

  • VCP-DCV
  • VCP-DT
  • VCP-Cloud
  • VMware IAAS
  • VMware View

The discount code “VWSFADV50” will work for the following exams:

  • VCAP-DCD
  • VCAP-DCA
  • VCAP-CID
  • VCAP-CIA
  • VCAP-DTD

To be eligible for the discount, your test must be scheduled by August 29th 2013, and taken by October 31st 2013.

Good luck on the tests if you decide to schedule one! 🙂





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 192.168.5.1, 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.





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!





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

10 12 2012

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 for Germany west (Frankfurt)

6 11 2012

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!





VCAP5-DCA – My test experience

30 08 2012

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. 🙂








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