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  • Lab Software: Veeam offers free NFR Licenses

    In a continuation of my Lab and tools series of blog post. Veeam a leader in virtualized backup and monitoring software has a holiday gift for you, an NFR (Not for Resale) version of Veeam Backup and Replication v6. This license is available for current VMware vExpert, VMware Certified Professional (VCP), VMware Certified Instructor (VCI) or VMware User Group (VMUG) member. You can get a FREE 2-socket NFR* license for Veeam Backup & Replication v6 for your home or work lab.

    Veeam Backup & Replication is built specifically for virtual environments to provide fast backup and recovery for virtual machines running on both VMware and Microsoft Hyper-V. With a single license, from a unified console, you can support your entire virtual infrastructure with industry leading features such as instant file level recovery and streamlined VM recovery, scalability, 2-in-1 backup & replication, built-in de-duplication, centralized management and much more. You can obtain this software for both VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V.

    Links and Resources.
    Official Product Page: http://www.veeam.com/vmware-esx-backup.html?ad=menu
    Whats new in v6: http://www.veeam.com/veeam_backup_6_0_whats_new_wn.pdf
    On Demand Webinars: http://go.veeam.com/v6-backup-replication-ty.html


  • Do you need a Lab? Here is your chance

    Do you need a Lab? I know that I do. I was blessed for years with access to a corporate lab. This lab was a critical piece of my infrastructure, it is where I tested new things, practiced and mastered new skills. Without my lab I would not be where I am today, I doubt I would have my VCP and other certifications and definitly not as quickly without access to that lab. There is a giveaway in progress but you must act fast to jump on this great oppurtunity.

    Recently when I left my previous company I lost access to that resource and that is sorely missed. I am slowly working on getting pieces for my lab but I don’t expect it to be complete until the latter part of next year. So I ask, do you need a lab, if so your in luck BrownBag sessions have put together a giveaway that you can enter by sending in a short video of who you are and why you need a lab. I highly recommend entering this contest and following the brownbags if your interested in VMware certifications and knowledge.

    http://professionalvmware.com/2011/12/brownbag-blow-out-vsphere-lab-give-away/

    Things you could win. Go to the official site above for more information but do so quickly, the contest ends at MIDNIGHT on 12/13.

    Books:

    Yes, books. In fact a small vSphere library to get you started down the road. Each one of the books is being contributed by their author or through the author to the publisher.

    Video

    Possibly the best vSphere video training out there (and not just because they’re sponsors), but because from personal experience, they’re damn good.

    Gear:

    Yes, gear. What kind of learning experience would it be if we gave you all this wonderful stuff to learn about and nothing to practice on. In that vein we’ve had a number of vendors step up and contribute some gear.

    Software

    How else to test it, but with some software.

    • Thanks to Jason Langer for throwing in a copy of VMware Workstation! Boom!
    • Also, John Troyer from VMware has thrown in a 365 Day Eval of vSphere and a full license of VMware Fusion

    Live Training

    Exam Vouchers

    Courtesy of Jon Hall at VMware, we have 5x VCP Vouchers to hand out. 1 to the winner, 4 to some random runners up.

    Accessories!

    What lab would be complete without some accessories? Jason Boche is going to throw in for a vCalendar!

    Make sure you enter soon, the contest ends MIDNIGHT ON 12/13


  • VUM VMware Update Manager

    Time after time I walk into new places and I am surprised to find that they patch their VMware environment manually if at all, sometimes they are aware of VMware’s free utility to update hosts and sometimes they are not. VMware Update Manager (VUM) is a free tool bundled with your vSphere licenses to help simplify and update your VMware infrastructure.

    Key features of VUM are listed below

    • Automated remediation of patches and upgrades for VMware vSphere hosts, as well as for third-party updates from storage and server vendors. Snapshots ensure the ability to roll back in case of patching failures, and a new automatic notification service makes certain that the most current version of a patch is available on the Update Manager server.
    • A compliance dashboard provides visibility into the patch and upgrade status of hosts and virtual machines for compliance to static or dynamic baselines.
    • Preflight cluster-level checklists report on remediation readiness before you deploy patches.
    • Deploy offline bundles. vSphere Update Manager can deploy patches that are downloaded directly from a vendor website, including drivers, CIM and other updates from hardware vendors for VMware vSphere hosts.
    • Orchestrated datacenter upgrades use a host upgrade baseline at a cluster, folder or datacenter level. A virtual machine upgrade baseline can also be used to upgrade virtual machine hardware and VMware Tools at once.
    • Secure offline virtual machine patching to reduce the risks associated with non-compliant systems joining the corporate network
    • Patch staging and scheduling for remote sites to reduce bandwidth usage and make patching even easier.
    • Integration with vSphere DRS for non-disruptive patching of VMware vSphere hosts.
    • Virtual Appliance Upgrades let administrators use pre-defined baselines or create custom baselines to scan and upgrade a virtual appliance to the latest virtual appliance version.
    • Integration with the vSphere Power CLI lets administrators use PowerShell commands to automate patch management directly from a command line

    Resources:
    Official VUM Page – http://www.vmware.com/products/update-manager/overview.html
    Installation Blog/Video – http://www.vladan.fr/vsphere-5-installing-vum-vmware-update-manager/
    VUM Set up Cheat sheet – http://blog.aarondelp.com/2009/01/vmware-update-manager-set-up-cheat.html

    Installation Video


  • VMTN Subscription – Thoughts & Another Proposal of How

    Recently there has been a lot of talk from the community regarding bringing back the VMTN subscription, this is a software based subscription very similar to Technet subscriptions for annaul licensing for non production environments for personal use. Mike Laverick and Josh Atwell and many more have been very vocal about bringing back VMTN.

    I never got to take advantage of the VMTN subscription (though I would have as it would have saved me a lot of time and rebuilds). I have taken advantage of Technet subscriptions for licenses and I have found it invaluable to have the licenses for software in my labs over the years. I will gladly pay the subscription fee for this licensing and I am sure many others would as well.

    Josh Atwell compiled a list of VMTN related post here. VMware is very good at listening to their customers as showcased recently in the vRam Licensing where the community did not think the initial vRam allocations were sufficient, VMware came back in short order and doubled the allocations. Recently regarding the VMTN subscription, Duncan Epping posted on Yellow Bricks that VMware is looking into their options of how to bring back VMTN subscription and how it would work.

    Please contribute and post your thoughts on the official community forum regarding VMTN
    http://communities.vmware.com/message/1857571#1857571

    Josh Atwell put together a suggested proposal of how he would like to see VMTN work, mine would be a variation of his design.

    VMTN Proposal

    2 Levels of VMTN

    • Admin 
    • Pro

    No media, download only
    VMTN Admin (~$200/year)

    • 1 year license Key. Renewable with new License Key 
    • 1 vCenter Server Max 
    • 3 ESXi Host Max
    • Enterprise Plus feature set available

    VMTN Desktop Admin (~$200/year)

    • 1 year license key
    • 1 year license Key. Renewable with new License Key
    • 1 vCenter Server Max
    • 3 ESXi Host Max
    • 10-15 Desktop Max
    • Desktop License feature set available

    VMTN Pro (~$400-$500/year)

    • 1 Year timer. Renewable with new license key
    • 4 vCenter Server Max
    • No ESXi Host Max
    • No Desktop Max
    • All VMware software available, including vCloud Director, Site Recovery Manager,
    • View, etc.

     May also be interesting to include:
    VMTN Mobile(~200/year)
    Horizon mobile applications once defined, released, and made GA.
    Reward the community

    • Provide 3 month trial of VMTN Admin to people when they successfully complete a required VCP prerequisite courses (ICM, etc.)
    • Provide 1 year of VMTN Admin upon succesful compltion of VCAP
    • Provide Lifetime VMTN Pro subscription to VCDX certification recipients.
    • Provide 1 year of VMTN Pro to vExperts for each year they are selected vExpert
    • Provide Vouchers to VMUG for VMTN Admin to be used as giveaways.

     Other thoughts

    • Clearly all licenses not for Production
    • As long as someone stays current in the programs described there should be no rebuild required. 
    • Upgrade license keys should be made available with new versions.
    • Beta programs remains completely separate.
    • Perhaps provide email only support for VMTN Pro subscription holders for their non-prod environments with Support level defined lower so as to not impact critical customer queues.

  • VMware Flings – Free tools by VMware

    Today during the weekly VMware Communities Roundtable, a weekly online forum for VMware experts where we get together and talk about virtualization topics, the VMware flings were mentioned and how they are not as well known or advertised as they should be. I am going to attempt to rectify this mistake and share this with the community.

     

    VMware flings are tools created by VMware labs. These engineers work on these flings Why flings? A fling is a short-term thing, not a serious relationship but a fun one. Likewise, the tools that are offered here are intended to be played with and explored. None of them are guaranteed to become part of any future product offering and there is no support for them. They are, however, totally free for you to download and play around with them!

    Today during the roundtable we talked about the the VDSPowerCLI fling, I recently blogged about PowerCLI here and this new fling has cmdlets to manage your VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch. This is a great addition that the community has been asking for. For more information about this particular fling, check out Alan Renouf’s blog.

    I have had some experience with several of these flings, here are a few of my favorite flings.

    There are many great flings so keep an eye out. I will post some here as new ones come out that catch my eye. Some of these products get integrated in new versions, some never go any further.

    Links
    VMware Flings


  • VMware HA: Isolation Response

    A friend of mine asked me to blog about VMware HA, specifically isolation response. Much of my knowledge comes from Duncan Epping’s books on HA/DRS and his website Yellow Bricks. This post is targeted at vSphere 4.1 environments. I will include links to his blog and specific books to more HA resources at the end of this blog and information regarding vSphere 5.

    Isolation Response is the action a host takes when it determines its been isolated as part of an HA enabled cluster. There are three actions that a vSphere 4 environment can take when a failure is detected. I will explore each of these settings in more detail below.

    • Leave Powered On (default)
    • Power Off
    • Shut down

    This setting can be changed on the cluster properties as shown in the screen shot below.

    Leave Powered On: Leaves the VMs powered On in an HA event, this is the default option. This can help in the situation to mitigate against false positives such as a network failure but host/datastore are not impacted.

    Power Off: Initiates a hard stop to the guest immediatly powering them off. This is a hard stop.

    Shut Down: Initiates a graceful shut down of the guests on the host during an HA event. This can take some time to complete depending on the state of the VMs VMware tools is a requirement for this to work, if this has not competed after 5 minutes a Power Off is initiated.

    In all of these cases HA will attempt to restart the VM on another host in the cluster. If it is simply an isolation from the network the files will be locked on the datastore and the VM will not be able to be restarted.

    An except from Duncan’s blog on Design is below as well that may help you make your decision.


    Basic design principle 1: Isolation response should be chosen based on the version of ESX used. For pre-vSphere 4 Update 2 environment with iSCSI/NFS Storage I recommend to set the isolation response to “Power off” to avoid a possible split brain scenario. I also recommend to have a secondary service console running on the same vSwitch as the iSCSI network to detect an iSCSI outage and avoid false positives.

    Basic design principle 2: Base your isolation response on your SLA. If your SLA dictates that hosts with degraded hardware should not be used, make sure to select shutdown or power off.

    Please see the following links for more detailed information on HA and Isolation Response

    I would also highly recommend picking up Duncan’s books on HA/DRS for both vSphere 4/5 if you haven’t already.


  • VMworld Vegas 2011

    First let me say that VMworld is an event that one shouldn’t miss.

    I know this post about VMworld 2011 is late as the EMEA conference is about to start but better late than never. This was my second VMworld and certainly won’t be my last. Out of all the conferences that I have attended in my career the VMworld conference has taught me the most and I have made some great friends over the past two years. Last year’s conference and this year’s keep me inspired and invigorated to blog, speak and share with the community.

    This year I concentrated my sessions this year on advanced technical discussions focusing on Site Recovery Manager, Networking topics such as the Cisco Nexus 1000v by Jason Nash and two sessions on obtaining my VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX). I guess this is my official announcement that is one of my goals and I will be blogging about my path torward this high level certification. More will be posted about this in a future post.

    I spent quite a few hours this year in the Hands on Labs which I think are an invaluable experience.  The hands on labs give you a chance to learn and touch systems that you may not have access to, get hands on experience with new products that are being announced etc..

    Access to experts and vendors are another great reason to attend. The solutions hall is very comprehensive and a lot can be learned there if you spend some time there. 

    I saw and met a lot of good friends at VMworld 2011, including some I met at VMworld 2010. The community events and the vendor parties give a chance for attendees to continue the fun and networking after hours for most of the week. The parties were too numerous to mention but let me highlight a few that rocked.

    • VMunderground Party
    • #CXI Party
    • Fusion IO
    • Veeam
    • EMC
    • Official party and concert with The Killers and Recycled Percussion (they both rocked the house)

    I saw very little of my hotel room that week and slept for over 12 hours after getting back but it was well worth it.

    P.s. Special thanks to Jason Nash and Papa Joe for showing a Vegas newbie how to play craps.


  • Cisco UCS – Is Diskless preferred, you decide.

    Recently on twitter I got into a discussion on Cisco UCS about using local disk. One of the strengths and advantanges of the UCS platform is that you can move service profiles from one blade to another either for hardware failure, planned maintenance and even upgrades to hardware as the service profiles contain the identity of a server. I consider this hardware virtualization as it seperates the unique information such as MAC address, WWNN, WWPN etc. (I recently stumbled on a great article by Chris Atkinson  @chrisatkinson78 on UCS benefits, highly recommend) 

    If you are using local disk in a UCS blade, you are tied to that physical hardware and each time you move a service profile (which should not be often but should be a non event if you have to), you will need hands on site to move the Hard disk from server to server. During the day this may be easy but in the cases of remote datacenters or after hours work this could be a challenge for many.

    If you are using Cisco UCS, i would be willing to bet that you mostly likely have a SAN or shared storage environment, leverage that resource and boot your blades from the SAN and store your data there. Your san may also have other benefits such as backups and snaps to help protect your data that local disk do not have. Its also less remote parts to monitor for failure, replace, lowers the cost (albeit slightly per blade).

    There are many design reasons why you may want to decide to use disk or go diskless but weigh all of the options and choose wisely, no one decision is right for all solutions. I wanted to give you something to think about.

    Edit: Added link to Boot from SAN 101
    Boot from SAN 101 can be found  http://jeffsaidso.com/2010/11/boot-from-san-101-with-cisco-ucs/