Category: General


I’ve recently been trying to keep some of my knowledge sharp by lurking on the VMware Community Forums – I’m happy to help out other people and more often than not , pick up some fresh knowledge of my own. Generally people are not in as bad a state as they think they are and with a little advice and a gentle nudge in the right direction , they are able to resolve the situation themselves – this is much better than a spoonfed answer to a solution in my opinion.

 

One in a while , you come across something I can only desribe as a car crash post which you have to read twice before you belive it. This poor guy is one of those…

 

“Hello all, please help me with this.

I have a hp proliant 165 G7 server running with windows server 2008 R2. I decided to install ESXI 4.1 on it and it seems ok, i installed the vsphere client on another machine and the connection between client and ESXI host as succeed. But the problem is that the server do not boot from windows server 2008 anymore!! It boots from vmware Hypervisor and stops with the following screen:

"VMware ESXI 4.1.0 (VMKernel Release Build 348481)

HP Proliant DL165 G7

AMD Opteron ™ Processor 6128

12 GB Memory

Download tools to manage this host from:

http://xxxxx/

http://xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx./ (DHCP)

<F2> Customize System                                         <F12> Shut Down / Restart

Please help me!!!”

 

I’m not going to post the link as I suspect its not going to help him get his server back.  Let this poor guys experience be a warning to others. when you see the screen below that says existing partitions will be removed , it really does mean it.

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The only time you would do something like this is part of the VMware GO! process , which uses a sacificial windows install on the machine you are going to create a hypervisor on. See http://www.vmware.com/products/go/overview.html# for more details.

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Look closely at the photo above and you’ll notice something missing in terms of a usual workstation setup … the PC itself. Its not hidden under the desk , but infact behind the phone.

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I’ve been able to get my hands on one of the Cisco VXC 2111 Series thin clients. These clients are part of Cisco’s virtualisation experience infrastructure (VXI) strategy and come in a number of flavours. The one above is designed to integrate with the 9971 phone it is attached to and should you have a suitably juicy PoE+ setup be powered from it too. Cisco are able to supply the clients with a PCoIP or HDX firmware in order to connect to your VMware View or Xen Desktop based solution.

For those without a suitable phone , there is a micro tower form factor available. I’ve only had time to build a view environment for the client to talk to but its been very painless so far ( short of finding a USB keyboard ! ) What would be great is to be able to see some tighter integration between the phone and client but I don’t believe it is available at this stage. I can see this being great for the contract center business – although the key differentiator is only currently due to the physical integration with the phone to reduce desktop clutter – although if you had a more conventional thin client solution you could use softphones and eliminate the phone itself so the benefit is possibly a little clouded. Its almost certainly a big step in the right direction and illustrates Cisco’s commitment to Desktop Virtualisation. The “year of VDI” might not be here , but with big vendors getting behind it like this, it surely can’t be far away.

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As the tweet above proves I’m about to out scoop Eric “Scoop” Sloof of ntpro.nl fame and would like to be the first to break the news on the innovative Pork Product Delivery system (PPDS)  from your favourite real time monitoring provider , Xangati.

 

In a recent briefing on the new VDI/VI Dashboards I was able to grab a screen shot as the present flicked to a preview screen that proves this to be the case.

 

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Not only is Xangati able to provide role based dash board of real time data about your VI environment that reflect the real health issues within a system , but they are able to monitor the Saltiness Levels for Admins ( SLA’s ) and trigger off an Automated Bacon Delivery Service (ABDS) provided via a network of bacon resellers ( ButcherNet). This was already been successfully beta  tested at Tech Field Day. Turkey based Bacon Substitute (TBBS) is available for environments that don’t dig on swine.

I’ve recently come across a great use case for VMware thin provisioning which I felt worthy of sharing , not so much as a “how to” guide as I’m sure that thin provisioning has been covered before , but more of a proven use case.

 

The Latest and greatest version of Cisco Secure ACS can be shipped as an appliance where it will colour co ordinate with all of the other “cornflower blue” devices in your datacenter ( what is the official name of Cisco Blue anyhow ? )

 

 

And a lovely little box it is too , but underneath the covers , its just an x86 server and ripe for hosting on your virtual infrastructure. Being the forward thinking chaps that Cisco are , they make ACS available as a VM , which is fantastic , but they mandate that the VM has the same hardware spec as the appliance. Such so that if you attempt to install the software onto a VM that does not meet those requirements it will go into evaluation mode.

 

I have no doubt that there will be situations and environments that will require all 500GB of drive space that the ACS appliance requires & will also require 4GB of Memory and dual vCPU. However being a fan of the concept of one size not necessarily fitting all I was asked how I could deploy the appliance into an environment that had enough drive space to hold the required logs , but not the full 500 Gb. Concerns were also made about allocating that much RAM to the VM.

 

One thin provisioned volume later and I have a fully functioning ACS VM that will meet the clients requirements without having to purchase additional storage.

And this time its not because I’ve passed a certification , in fact I recently sat the beta for the new VMware Certified Associate , Desktop exam – covering much of the things a VMware View 4.5 Admin would do on a day to day basis. Not being a View admin I found it a little harder than that , but time will tell :)

 

The reason for new cards is a change of role – I might have let it slip on twitter / linked in during my notice period that I was moving on from my current position with Delloite to pastures new. I won’t be eating one of my former blogs , which may or may not be gently poking fun at the “bloggers in bowling shirts” from EMC either as I’m still not a vSpecialist! I’ve had a fantastic 4 and a bit years in my current role , taking my from “just another windows engineer” to really finding my niche in virtualisation and a bit of a segway into social media!

I shall be starting tomorrow with ONI , one of the UK’s fastest growing Cisco Partners as a project engineer within the Datacenter Team. I have some pretty big boots to fill as the rest of the team all hold the Cisco CCIE certification , so as the token non-networky guy, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little apprehensive about working with quite such a smart team ! With the two VCAP exams under my belt , I’d like to think that a VCDX will show that I’m capable of running at the same speed.

I will still be continuing to blog and record the podcast , hopefully with some new experiences as I get to grips with the UCS range of Kit and some equally shiny storage to hook it up to. While I’ve had a great time as an infrastructure architect , I am missing getting my hands dirty with systems so the change is very much welcome.

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Yesterday was a particularly busy day for me , not only was I presenting on the trials and tribulations of trying to migrate 700 VM’s across the Atlantic but the latest episode of the vSoup podcast went live – Ed, Christian and myself were joined by Bob Plankers for an informal natter about networking , books and certifications. Head over the vSoup page for your serving..

 

http://vsoup.net/2011/02/vsoup-big-fat-pipes-with-bob-episode-4-2/

 

If you would like to have a peak through my slide desk from the VMUG presentation , I’ve embedded it below. As for the shirt, it’s a beta test for Simon Long , who was sadly not able to make it to the Meeting , but he was with us via the medium of pink shirts Winking smile

 

Train Signal is The Global Leader in Profiessional Computer Training

 

While the rest of us were stuffing our faces with Turkey , drinking just a little bit too much port and falling asleep in front of the TV over Christmas , David Davis from Trainsignal has been hard at work with a screen recorder to put together his latest in a very comprehensive series of vSphere videos.

Loosely following a similar outline to the VMware course on the same subject , David takes you over a bit of a recap on subject you might miss as part of your day to day work , or if you haven’t seen some of the previous videos , such as deploying & installing the vMA appliance & a Distributed switch refresher – I found the latter of these very handy as not being an Enterprise Plus customer I dont use VDS on a day to day basis.

There are a few lessons devoted to logging – finding , collecting , viewing and analyzing from a number of different sources. Log files are hardly the most fun thing in the world to look at but if you really want to know what’s going on , they are the best weapon in your arsenal.

The next major section is on networking – I though this was particularly well done as not personally coming from a packet pushing background , a few of the concepts are pretty new to me. If I’d had access to this video set (especially the PVLan Lesson! ) before I sat my VCAP-DCA exam beta , then there are certainly a couple of questions I’d have not torn my hair out in frustration at :)

Storage trouble shooting is next on the list, looking at general storage log analysis and diving deeper into NFS and iSCSI storage – again very handy refreshers if you don’t use those technology every day. If you are running a home lab as all budding VCAP candidates should be – there’s a great walkthrough on NFS configuration with openfiler & common issues you might get including some pretty misleading error messages !

The last part of the course is around a more general troubleshooting section – looking at Vmotion / Svmotion troubleshooting along with DRS and HA troubleshooting. Finally there is a troubleshooting kickstart which not only has some handy things to keep in mind for an exam but all those little tips and tricks that’ll make you look like a superherorockstarninja ;) in front of your managers and workmates !

 

One last point of the Trainsignal Course delivery – not only do you get instant access online  , but the DVD set arrived 36 hours later from the US , complete with DVD’s & Mobile device friendly formats – which make it an invaluable companion on a long journey. I look forward to seeing the rest of the VCAP series , but think this would be a great resource for some post VCP upskill work.

Centrix Software [LOGO]

I was invited to a call with Rob Tribe from Centrix software last week – following advice from Marketing Guru & London VMUG ring-mistress Jane Rimmer for vendors to get in touch with bloggers – fine advice if you ask me :)

I was aware of the existence of Centrix , having seen their booth at VMWorld Europe, but sorry to say I didn’t get a chance to speak to them there , so aside from a brief look at their site , it was something new.

Starting off with a brief look at how the company came to be, which was that it grew from a number of VMware staff who recognised the challenges from taking the same approach to a VDI implementation as a server consolidation project. When an application is installed on a server , there is a fairly good chance that its going to be used. When you have a VDI image with *every* application that’s been put into the requirement specification for that desktop golden image , its going to a) get quite bloated b) require some considerable licensing c) possibly not get all that heavily utilised.

 

Knowing what is current deployed in your environment is not a new concept by any means. There are armfuls of packages available to collect an inventory from your clients , ranging from the free to the costly and over many different platforms. To get the best from an inventory , many of these applications will deploy an agent to the endpoint in question.

 

Centrix can deploy its own agent , or take a feed from your existing systems management package and apply some nifty analytics to it in order to give you a more accurate picture of the environment. Currently the key metric in this would be executable start and stop times. This of course will give you the best kind of data when your environment is rich in fat clients or installed software and will give you a true meter of not only total usage , but at what times of day those products are used, thus enabling you to build up a map of utilisation across your estate.

 

This kind of information would be of great help when planning your VDI environment. Not only are you going to be able to know about the concurrency of the current landscape , but which applications are most frequently used ? Planning which applications should be a core part of your master images and which ones can be deployed via an application virtualisation layer would be made a lot smoother.

 

Having given an overview of the product, I was looking forward to seeing a bit more under the hood as to how this “workspace intelligence” was achieved.

 

Rob started with the Raw data as shown below – this isn’t anything massively new to write home about , but its interesting to know that the BIOS date of a physical machine is considered a reasonable metric for the age of the deployment , given few machines would have a bios upgrade after they have been deployed to a user.

 

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The unique users field is also an indication of boxes that have not been logged into during a given monitoring period. This data would be of less importance for servers , after all if a server has remained functional without anyone having to log into it , then its defiantly a good thing ! An unused workstation could be put onto a watch list of systems to decommission perhaps ?

For Each device you can drill down to further information , picking up installed hardware and other common metrics.

 

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So that’s the raw data , how do you go about presenting it ? The example graph below shoes the numbers of applications a given workstation is running over the capture period.

 

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We can look at this data in a number of ways to help build up our application “map” . For example , looking at some metric of MS Office utilisation…

 

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Based on the above data , would you deploy PowerPoint to your VDI base image ? The number of times an application is opened doesn’t give you much of a picture of how heavy hitting that application is. For this metric , Centrix have elected to pick Avg CPU time ( rather than % utilisation – given the heterogeneous nature of CPU across the estate )

 

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In addition to looking at the software utilisation over your workstations , the same details can be used to help with licence management. Rob was clear to point out that Centrix isn’t a licence management product , but could certainly help make some decisions around the deployment of per-instance licensed software.

 

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With the main features of the product suitably demonstrated, we talked a little around the product itself. It is a regular 2 Tier application, running on windows with a Microsoft SQL Back-End. We didn’t have too much time to talk around the scaling of the product up to an enterprise space , but I’d like to see how it would cope with estates of over 40 or 50,000 workstations.

The agent itself is pretty streamlined – they have managed to get it down to a 500k install , which seems small enough in footprint , though I’d like to see what the footprint of an agent actively collecting would be on a workstations resources.

“Out of the box” – the product ships with 40 different reports on the raw data , to enable you to pull out the common detail with ease. While I don’t generally harp on too much about vnext features , the version 5 of the product due for launch early in the new year will feature a community reporting portal , hopefully along the lines of Thwack! the Portal from Solarwinds that enables Content exchange between users of the Orion products.

I think the product is quite niche & and sell of its features to budget holders isn’t necessarily around the technology / cost side of the product ( approx real cost of £20 / desktop )  but around the compliance / political side – Stakeholders have a tendency to object to user management via IT & and perceived “Big Brother” feeling that inventory / software metering agents tend to invoke with a user population.

I look forward to seeing how the product develops , with v5 proposed to go beyond analysis of thick client usage , into looking at how thin client application access via a browser are used. Matching this kind of data up with traditional monitoring data from the application backend would be most interesting.

In order to round off the post I made about attending this roundtable a couple of months ago, The Media wizards have polished up the video taken at the event. The more I see these videos , the more I can a) see the value in them and b) remind myself to stick to appearing on podcasts, I’m not very photogenic !

 

Starting off with the Q&A session – some pretty tough ones posed I felt.

Going a little bit back to front here , but this was Zanes main “pitch”

 

And finally yours truly at 0:28 :)

 

The focus of the roundtable was very much around the Platform as a service offering from Microsoft – with recent announcements around office online ( Office 365 ) I look forward to see what Microsoft have got to say about Software as a Service.

At Tech Field Day , NetApp , VMware and Cisco presented on their flexpod solution for a scalable and secure multi tenant virtualised infrastructure. If you’d like to watch the recording of the presentation, its available here . What would appear to differentiate the flexpod from other products is that is a not a blackbox device , designed to drop into a data centre to provide X number of VM’s , when you have X+1 VM’s, you just go out and buy another device.

While you can approach a VAR and order a flexpod as a single unit , the design and architecture is what makes it a “flexpod” – being a single bill of materials that can be put together to give a known configuration. The view of this being that it offers a greater agility of design , for example using a NetApp VServer head to present storage from another vendor to the solution.

To me , this seems a little bit like buying a kit car.

imageYou get a known design and list of components you have to source – although the design may well recommend where you source the components. Sometimes you can get them part built or pre built, but if you want to run it with a different engine , you can drop one in should you so desire.

 

The VBlock from the VCE guys is a different kettle of fish – its not a design guide , its a product. You chose the VBlock that suits the size of deployment that you want to do , order it and sit back and wait for the ready built solution to arrive on the back of a lorry ( truck to our US friends ;) ) This is like ordering a car from a dealership.

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Of course you could just go to any reseller and buy a bunch of servers , network & hardware and then install ESX on it. The Stack vendors might compare this to trying to hand cast your car from a single block of metal !

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At the moment many of us who can already design a solution from scratch are at that hand casting level , and while I wont deny we’ve been through a few pain points , we’ve usually been able to fix them. Its part of the skill that keeps us employed. By going for an “off the shelf product” the pain of that part of a system design is divorced from the solution and perhaps it would allow focus on what may be the next part of the design at the service and application level –don’t worry about build a car , worry about driving it! . If you need a car to drive to work and do the weekly shopping in, you buy one from a dealership – but if you have a specific need , then you may have to get into the workshop and build a car that meets those needs.If you want to concentrate

When a prebuilt solution  develops a problem that requires support , the offerings from the major vendors seem to differ a little. If you have a VBlock, you have one throat to choke ( presumably not your own , its only a computer problem , don’t let it get to you ;) ) and one number to call. They will let the engineers from the different divisions fight it out and fix your problem , which is ultimately the only thing of concern to you as an owner.

The situation with a flexpod seems a little less intuitive. As its not a single SKU – you would require a separate support contact with each vendor ( of course this may be marshalled by the VAR you purchase through ) , You would initiate contact with the vendor of your choice – they then have a channel under the skin to be able to work with engineering functions of the other partners at the network, storage , compute & hypervisor arms as required. I would like to think this does not mean the the buck gets passed for a couple of rounds before anyone takes ownership of the problem , but I’ve yet to hear of anyone requiring this level of support. If you have and had a positive or negative experience , please get in contact.

If you have “rolled your own” solution , then support is up to you ! make sure that you have a similar SLA across the stack , or you could find yourself in a situation where you have a very fast response from your hypervisor people , but when they work out its your storage at fault , they might make you wait till the next day / end of the week. If this does happen to you , then I’m sure you’ll have plenty of time to clear your desk….