Archive for July, 2010

It seems barely a paycheck goes by without a new release from VKernel , which of course is a great thing, no one wants a software company to stand still , and there is certainly no moss on their rolling stone !

The latest release is an update to one of their existing products – Chargeback. This was actually the first main release by the firm a couple of years back and in some respects was a little ahead of its time , addressing a challenge that many end users wouldn’t have hit yet.

Chargeback is a core piece of the puzzle for any self respecting cloud provider , but before “the cloud” was quite such a buzz it was probably the last things many shops were thinking about – Initial infrastructure design and persuading the business to virtualize production workloads were much higher up the agenda.

Speaking on my own experience of chargeback , it was quite a struggle to come up with an initial model that would ensure that the costs incurred in building out a virtual infrastructure for our application teams were suitably recovered, so we ended up with a much more static model of a fixed cost per vm/ per month.

VKernel has recognised some of these challenges and has shifted the core focus of the product from chargeback to “showback” – rather than being used as a tool to directly bill end users , it can be very effective at showing what they would have been charged at an external service provider for example.

Chargeback costs can be shown in one of 2 keys ways – allocated & measured. If a team has the view of they want to be able to use all their allocated resources and not worry about a variable cost each month then an allocated cost model is appropriate. Should they wish costs to be allocated on a more pay as you go basis , then measured costs can be shown. Both figures could be shown on a report to give end users an idea of over allocation – e.g.. You have been billed $100 for this VM in this charging period , but only actually used $30 of resources. This kind of figure could help drive a shift towards a fully measured model for virtual machine cost recovery within a private cloud.

Virtual machines can be grouped into applications / custom groups , which can then be allocated a cost centre. Each group can have its own rate for chargeback to reflect perhaps a lower tiered storage or denser overcommitted model in a non-production environment.. What would be nice is for those custom groups to be carried across into the other VKernel core products to be able to generate optimisation / capacity planning reports for that same group of applications. Brian Semple , CMO for VKernel has assured me this is a feature they like the sound of too – watch this space for further details. Reports can be automated and mailed to the relevant users in a variety of formats from Excel to Acrobat.

The biggest change with the 2.0 product is that it is no longer restricted to collecting reports from a VMWare environment. VKernel has been selected by Microsoft as a Key Chargeback Provider for the System Center Virtual Machine Manager Self Service Portal ( easily shortened to SCVMMSSP ;) )  Key Metrics from the Microsoft System center products – Operations Manager and Virtual Machine Manager can be pulled into the Chargeback appliance to generate the same level of reports and to integrate that functionality into the Self Provisioning portal built into SCVMM.

From a strategic point of view this does extend the relationship between VKernel and Microsoft and I suspect as time goes on we’ll see cross hypervisor support for more and more of the VKernel product line – Particularly as VKernel and VMware seem to be clashing horns a little. What I find interesting is does this represent a shift from Microsoft into integrating a virtual appliance based solution to management ? I’ll do a little bit of digging and follow up if possible. Personally I see the use of the virtual appliance as more of a function of the underlying development structure. VKernel’s dev team clearly specialises in the Java route , which as we know works great in a VMware based environment. By contrast Veeam rely on Microsoft .NET code in their products which I’d have thought would have potentially been a better fit from the Microsoft point of view.

One of the great things about working in a large environment is the budget for tools to make your life easier , or run more smoothly. However this isn’t always the case – sometimes that budget gets pulled mysterious from under your feet ( and the Director gets a new Jag.. no connection ;) )or sometimes its just not there. Nomatter what the size of your shop , there are still challenges which are not going to go away overnight. There is however a light at the end of the tunnel in the form of freeware tools , which I’ve blogged about on numerous occasions. My efforts in reporting these free tools are nothing compared with a fellow tweep @KendrickColeman who has put together pretty much the most comprehensive guide to what you can get for free to help you out.


Not a gent to rest on his laurels , he’s gone one better than that and put together a great bundle of these in an iso which really should make its way onto a datastore near you now.


First thinks first, get downloading the file – while thats happening , take a look at what awaits.


The ISO is split into 6 folders , each covering an aspect of your day to day work.

1. P2V Cleanup

Always a fun thing to do but a few very handy little scripts & tools to make it nice and smooth. It’ll save me having to copy the HP PSP Cleaner to every box for a start.

2. Hal upgrade / Downgrade

Sometimes you have to do this as part of a post P2V operation or when you’ve finally caved into that application team naggin for the extra vCPU ( Man up and learn to say no next time , okay ! ) and then found out it makes no difference to the app performance , so have to downgrade the HAL again after removing the vCPU.

3. Partition Alignment

sadly Kendrick wasn’t able to include all the tools he wanted to on this ( while they are free , he wasn’t allowed to redistribute ) – but to get your Windows 2003 VM’s running as best as they can, you really want to work through a few of these.

4. Reclaim Space

Thin provisioning is a wonderful thing , but  all it takes is some bright spark to try and defrag the VM or copy a large file temporarily and the drive fills out quicker than my jeans on a trip to the US. Use Sdelete to zero out the deleted space and svmotion to thin the VM back out again.

5. Analysis

At some point in life , it will be necessary to do a little bit of benchmarking , be it on new storage or hardware. using iometer to generate comparative results of a VM’s performance pre & post aligning , or on a new datastore , or Loadstorm to stress test that new cluster should help you achieve that.

6. Sysprep files

Last but not least , these will save you the download for when you deploy a new vCenter and need to set up guest customisation.


If anyone would like to create a pretty front end menu for these – then get in contract with Kendrick – his mail address is in the post.


Great as it is to take a week off to go on a classroom based training course , its not always possible due to restrictions on work / home life. Do not despair , you can still assimilate knowledge quicker than Neo in a battered recliner chair thanks to some of the many video training providers. These allow to to press your study at your own pace from work or from home. If you are looking for VMware training videos , then you need look no further than Trainsignal , who have been producing some of the best VMware training videos I’ve seen for quite some time.

The most recent release is the second volume of the vSphere Pro Series, a video training series that seeks to really go beyond VCP level , not only teaching you things you need for the exam but skills you are much more likely to need in your day to day life as a VMware admin. Series 1 covered such topics as VMware view, Power CLI and the Cisco Nexus 1000V virtual switch. Series 2 takes you into some vSphere Advanced features , VMware Site Recovery Manager , more PowerCLI , VMware Data Recovery and what I think is a first of many a section on 3rd party tools , in this case the Veeam series of products for vSphere , but more detail on all of that to follow.

The Keystone presenter of the Trainsignal VMware videos is David Davis – a voice you’ll recognise well from the old videos in the series and also from his free video site at – if you like the content on there , you’ll know the Trainsignal videos are worth every penny.

He’s not alone though , in this series you’ll also hear from Eric Siebert ( ) , Sean Clark ( ) and Hall Rottenberg ( ) a Trio of fellow vExperts who should all feature heavily in your RSS Reader & twitter feeds.  Having more than one presenter makes this series for me as not only does a change of voice break things up a little , you get the feeling that each presenter is giving a talk on his strongest subject the he really does know inside and out ( and in many cases *did* write the book on! )

For a summary of the lessons , I’ll refer you to the link below – The TS folks describe their products much better than I can !

As you can see – there is a LOT of content in this pack – and mean a lot- 21 Hours. I anticipate needing a lot of redbull to try and watch them all in one session. However if I had to pick my favourites out  of the lessons so far, I felt that the Direct Path & VMCI sessions from Eric Siebert’s sections really taught me something new – not having the biggest home lab , I’ve yet to get a play with SRM , but found great value from Sean Clarks sessions. The most topical for me personally was the sections on Veeam’s Backup & Replication – as a product I am in the middle of rolling out I am going to try and persuade the powers that be that the purchase a multiple licence for this set so we can make use of the videos as on demand training sessions.

You are also spoilt for choice in terms of formats – not only do you get the DVD’s them selves , but on disk 3 there is also a copy of the Videos in MP3 / iPOD video / WMV and finally high quality AVI. As a non apple type person , I uploaded the WMV versions straight to my Touch HD2 to keep me occupied on the train back from the London VMware user group, The MP3’s went straight onto a USB stick to play in the car on my drive to work. The videos are also available as streaming content via the Trainsignal website – handy when you find yourself with a little spare time and a web connection.

I still have a few more videos to watch but I have a pretty quite weekend ahead , so I’m going to find a comfy chair , laptop and before you know it….


EDIT: In the interests of disclosure I would like to make it clear that I received a complimentry copy of the video reviewed.

I tried to avoid a “me too!” post on today’s vSphere 4.1 release , but afraid I failed miserably. I’m not going to cover a full set of updated features as there are many many of my fellow bloggers who have done a very fine job of that, and to emulate them would be a little watered down as I’ve yet to have much time to play with it. If you have been hiding under a rock for the last 24 hours or so , then head on over to and click away to your heart’s content!


One of the aspects that caught my eye however was the announcement of a new licensing model for some of the vSphere Management products.

from : the official press release 

“VMware vCenter AppSpeed, VMware vCenter Chargeback, and VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager will be sold in VM packs on a per VM basis starting on September 1, 2010. VMware vCenter Application Discovery Manager and VMware vCenter Configuration Manager are already licensed on both a per VM and physical server model. Per VM licensing for VMware vCenter CapacityIQ will take effect in the fourth quarter of 2010.”

This new model supersedes the existing per processor model in place for AppSpeed , Chargeback and SRM products that you can still purchase today. VMware suggests that this will enable customers to move to a more cloud like model for their virtual estate ( as far as the “side dish” products go , this announcement does not cover the core product … yet )

It got me thinking about possible scenarios , along with a couple of comments made by the community on twitter , that it seems possibly a little counter productive. However , playing my own Devils Advocate , I can also think of situations where it would be advantageous.

Currently SRM is licensed per CPU on the Hosts you want to run protected VM’s on. Lets take a hypothetical enterprise. They have a primary Datacenter , running vSphere across 10 hosts. In order to drive utilisation/consolidation ,these hosts host a mixed lifecycle of machines , some production (say,50% ) , some non production hence not really considered important enough to require automated recovery.

A smaller VI estate is provisioned at the secondary site , to host those production VM’s are part of an SRM Install. However as the production VM’s are spread over 10 hosts , they end up buying 40 SRM licenses ( lets assume they are running quad socket hosts )

Due to growth or political reasons , they decide to separate out their life cycles and move the non production VM’s onto a different environment , possibly even running a lower cost hypervisor. No further SRM licences required of course.

The business grows and due to all the spare capacity on the production cluster , they are able to double the number of VM’s on that cluster and really push for a high consolidation ratio. All without having to purchase any further hypervisor licences (or OS licences , if they where clever and purchased Windows Data centre edition licences for the hosts )

Under the new cost model , they will have to go through an audit of VM count to cover the increased average growth in production VM’s ( VMware’s graph showed VM numbers going up and down quite quickly , but in my experience in a production environment , once a server is commissioned for production , it tends to stay there unless there is a very good reason to decommission it )  This may well be balanced out by the lower initial cost but that’s down to the consolidation ratio on those production hosts. The new model would seem to favour a lower consolidation ratio for your hosts , possibly diluting all those cost savings you told your management about that would come from a highly consolidated environment!

If you can pick and choose which guests you would like to cover with these “side dish” products , then the model does enable clusters which cross lifecycles as you may not need the full functionality for every guest , but it does require careful licence management – wasn’t Virtualisation supposed to reduce management overheads like this ?

I can however see some benefit on the financials , especially where organisations have made those steps towards a cloud model as the licence is easier to roll into the setup charge / periodic charge for a VM rather than having to commit to the capex for the licence cost for the whole cluster before you have got any money back from chargeback.

If this is the future for VMware’s licensing across the board , is it going to lead to “host sprawl” as new hosts are popped up with lower spec or possibly reuse/extended lifetime of old machines – a bit of a plus point when it comes to not requiring disposal , but not when you have to power and cool legacy kit which may be less efficient than the hosts at the top of your list. More hosts also means more patching and even with the best automation models in place it’ll still end up causing more work. Financially stretched clients might decide to scale applications up rather than out due to increased licence costs – before we know it , we’re back to 4 years ago with a large number of servers running consolidated services on them.

Time will tell , but in the mean time I think I’ll continue to support ecosystem partners such as Veeam & vKernel – I like my all you can eat buffet :)


thanks to @rootwyn & @kendrickcoleman for the feedback & sanity check !

It seems that barely a week goes by without one of the better known bloggers in the Virtualisation world announces that they’ve been snapped up by a major vendor , be it VMware themselves or part of the major vendor coalitions.notvspecialist

I wont be making such an announcement ( for a few years at least ! ) but I am happy to say I will be changing roles with my current employer , moving a little further back from the operational coalface and working closely with other parts of the organisation, helping them progress their technology roadmap. My experience in operations ought to give me a helping hand in terms of interpersonal relations , but its a fantastic way for me to evolve from a purely operations mindset to that of a more design / advisory stance.

The best practices I’ll be guiding people down might not always be those passed down directly from a vendor as I personally feel they have a tendency to be a little bit “one size fits all” – our groups will benefit more form a more tailored approach to their estate. This does lead me down the route of thinking about best practice and who its best for–but that’s a post for another day :)

On a different note , it does leave a little bit of a hole in our technical team , so if you are interested in working with an Enterprise level infrastructure with a good selection of technologies , you don’t have to be a VMware Guru , just be happy to take a technology and make it your own. Living near Milton Keynes would be a bonus too. Still interested ? drop me a mail chris AT