Certainly 2020 has been an interesting year we won’t forget soon, this year has caused me to do some reflection and I realized one of the things i miss doing is blogging and documenting random things that come up in my day to day job, training and tid bits I learn along the way, failures and successes. I personally find value for me in that it helps me retain the knowledge and others have shared with me in the past they found things that were valuable to them.
So what does that mean, I am going to start blogging again pretty actively. I am going to reload my lab and start from scratch and document it both in my on-prem lab and the cloud (Azure, AWS, and GCP) for various things listed further below.
My blog will probably focus on a mix of the following that come up in my day to day job in End User Computing (EUC) space, some will be detailed, some will be micro-blogs for a particular thing. Below is a list of topics that may come up but not all inclusive.
Citrix EUC solutions
VMware EUC solutions, may do some datacenter here and there too
Microsoft – WVD, Azure, M365/O365, AD, Cloud Services, SSO, MFA, FSLogix and more
Nutanix – Files, Frame
Of particular focus for me will be certification walkthroughs based on the exam guides, i have several on the list this year.
First blogs up will be around my lab and the following certs
A common issue on higher resolution desktops when running a virtual machine is that the display inside the virtual machine icons/text appears way too small. For example when running a Windows 10 VM in Fusion on my Retina MacBook Pro.
This is what i see, no matter what I change the resolution too, it doesn’t look right. Changing icon size also doesn’t solve the issue. So how did I solve this issue
ESXi-Customizer is a great tool to add vibs and custom drivers to a VMware ESXi installation. I had to do this for my lab for the Network interface drivers which I blogged about with instructions here.
From the product page:
ESXi-Customizer is a user-friendly script that automates the process of customizing the ESXi install-ISO with drivers that are not originally included. Unlike other scripts and manuals that are available for this purpose ESXi-Customizer runs entirely on Windows and does not require any knowledge of or access to Linux
I recently went to use the ESXi Customizer as I am doing updates and refreshes of my lab (more on that later) and like many folks out there I have already taken the plunge into Windows 10 (actually have been running Win 10 Enterprise since Jan 2015).
I got the following error message.
Error: “!– FATAL ERROR: Unsupported Windows Version: 10.0. At least Windows XP is required!”
Luckily there is an easy fix. The ESXi-Customizer is a .cmd file which is easily editable so I did a search in Notepad++ (Great tool, go get it.)
Resolution: Add a REM at the beginning of line 260 as follows. This will eliminate the Operating System check as it fails on Windows 10
REM if “!WinVer!” LSS “5.1” call :earlyFatal Unsupported Windows Version: !WinVer!. At least Windows XP is required & exit /b 1
Voila!! That’s it. It worked great in my lab (and according to folks from twitter)
Logging is a critical component of a an IT infrastructure. Almost all products have logs that give you valuable data. I think logs and analytics of those logs are all too often an overlooked part of ongoing operations. The logs themselves are full of data but only useful if they are looked at analyzed.
Products like VMware Log Insight, Splunk and others can give you insight into this data and logs to isolate issues and find quick resolutions and consolidate information across multiple products.
I am a big fan of Synology NAS units, I have a small 2 bay Synology in my lab and have been working with Log Insight for a while now. Using Log Insight, I can have my logs from Synology DSM sent directly to my VMware Log Insight Appliance.
Let’s take a look at the setup. Its actually very easy to set up.
First we will add the content pack to Log Insight.
1. Navigate to the Log Insight Login page either via name or IP address. Log into Log Insight appliance.
2. In the upper right corner, click the menu button as shown in the screenshot. -> Click Content Packs
3. Click Marketplace on the Left Hand Menu Under Content Pack MarketPlace
4. Find Synology DSM Content Pack – You may have to scroll down, take a look through all of the available content packs as you may have other products that have content packs available. Click Synology DSM – A Pop Up will open in page
5. Click Install on the Synology DSM Content Pack as shown below.
6. You will get a notification that Synology DSM Content Pack has been installed.
Next you will need to set up your Synology to send logs to the VMware Log Insight Appliance.
7. Log into your Synology Web Manager GUI
8. Click the Synology Main Menu in the upper Right hand corner
9. Click the Log Center Icon
10. Click Log Sending on the left hand menu and enter the IP or name of your Log Insight appliance. I chose IP for my lab.
11. Your Synology should now be sending logs to your Log Insight appliance. It may take a few minutes to start seeing data in the Dashboards.
12. Log into Log Insight – Click on Dashboards. Using the drop down menu on the left as shown in the screenshot below, click Synology DSM under Content Pack Dashboards
I decided in order to show some data to throw some bad logins into my Synology. You can see those represented by the light blue, dark blue logins were a success.
I will dive more into this and other content packs as well as more advanced functions and features in a future post.
Another year, another great Varrow Madness event is now in the books. This is one of the big events I look forward to every year. This annual free conference is a juggernaut and showcases some of the best solutions and technologies in the industry and is a balanced approach of showing where things are heading in the market and more immediate trends and needs. This year was held at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro North Carolina.
Varrow Madness is themed and centered around March Madness basketball tournament. North Carolina has a special connection with the tournament with the number and density of in state teams that make the sweet 16 year after year. IT folks can be very passionate about their technology but NC IT folks can also be very passionate about their basketball. When NC State won with the buzzer beater, there were some very happy people and some not so very happy people.
I am a VA Tech fan so take that for what it’s worth, Let’s go Hokies… We are not in it this year though… always next year.
After the video Varrow CEO and co-founder Jeremiah Cook took the stage to welcome everyone and provide a very touching keynote and kick off Varrow Madness to our Varrow family of customers, partners and all other attendees. It is always a treat to hear Jeremiah speak and reminds me every time on why I wouldn’t want to work anywhere else.
There were over 45 individual breakout sessions in one day with a fantastic lineup of Varrow and special guest speakers so it is really hard to choose what to attend. As it is a one day only event, none of the sessions are repeated. With topics from traditional datacenter, software defined networking from both NSX and ACI, Cloud technologies, Mobility, End User Computing (EUC), Security and DevOps we had it all. There really is something for everyone at this event.
So what did I do at Varrow Madness, glad you asked…
Breakout #1 EUC Layering – Comparing and Contrasting the Options by Varrow Architect Earl Gay
About Earl: (Give him a follow on twitter He will make you laugh and learn). Earl also delivers great information on his blog as well.
About the session: Layering technologies can help ease application management for both physical and virtual desktops. There are many different technologies that fall under the layering umbrella, even though many of them work in dramatically different ways. In this session, we will discuss the options available from different vendors.
This technical session was packed with great information around the current players delivering layering technologies in the market today.
Also don’t fret if you couldn’t make Varrow Madness. Earl will giving the EUC Layering Smackdown at Briforum Denver this July 20th – 22nd, don’t miss it.
Breakout #2 Automate your life with PowerCLI 6.0 by Alan Renouf
About Alan: Alan Renouf is a Product Manager at VMware focusing on Automation Frameworks and CLI, he is responsible for providing the architects and operators of the cloud infrastructure with the toolkits/frameworks and command-line interfaces they require to build a fully automated software-defined datacenter. Alan is a frequent blogger at http://blogs.vmware.com/PowerCLI and has a personal blog at http://virtu-al.net. You can follow Alan on twitter as @alanrenouf.
Attend this session to find out why PowerCLI 6.0 is the best way to automate your life, remove those common unwanted tasks, manage your environment from vSphere to vCloud and even improve your love life! Find out how PowerCLI can automate the latest vSphere 6.0 features and make you a superhero.
This was a great session packed with information, PowerCLI 6.0 is a great release with a ton of new enhancements, enhancements that enable other products like VSAN, vCloud Air, module based approach that could enable faster development of PowerCLI enhancements in the future.
For a full rundown of PowerCLI 6.0 Check out the announcement post here. I am a big fan of PowerCLI and Alan, Alan has done a lot for the community including his well known vCheck Script.
If you haven’t started with Powershell or PowerCLI, anyone can learn and use powershell and make their lives easier. Alan has also written several books about PowerCLI as well that would be excellent resources for getting started with PowerCLI. Keynote #2 Alexis Ohanian – Co-founder of Reddit and and has been involved in a number of other startups such as Hipmunk and more…
Alexis Ohanian is an American internet entrepreneur, activist and investor based in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, best known for co-founding the social news website Reddit, helping launch travel … Wikipedia
I wish i had video I could share of this keynote, but what I can share is this was a great engaging keynote, he capture the audience with his colorful keynote.. He also made me want to go eat Waffles at Waffle House, go on a binge watching Smooth McGroove videos and look at pictures of grumpy cat… I also had to go play a game of Scorched Earth for old times sake.
This is not the actual video from our event but a TED Talk
After the keynote, I got to meet Alexis for a few minutes. This guy is awesome, I am now a fan. On Slack we were talking about how much Alexis reminded us of one of our own Varrowites, AJ Kuftic. In fact they were talking together, I even think there is even a resemblance between the two…
If you are not using Slack for internal communications, you should be. Slack was also given a big shout-out during the DevOps Toolkit session I attended next.
BreakOut #3 The DevOps Toolkit – Jonas Rosland, EMC – aka @virtualswede
Jonas works for EMC Code – perhaps a lesser known division within EMC that focuses on Open source tools and development to help the community and EMC. Check out their Github page.
“CODE OPEN, DEPLOY EVERYWHERE” – EMC believes in open source. CODE is here to share and collaborate with developers worldwide.
Business opportunities change all the time, and every business opportunity is now an IT project. In this session, you’ll learn about the toolkit that IT needs to understand to better survive in this more rapid and fluid world of IT/Business intersection. Learn about Automation, Continuous Deployments, working with Public Clouds and other tools/techniques to deal with projects that need to move at the speed of business.
This was another fabulous session and really got me thinking about DevOps, this is something that has crossed my mind from time to time. As someone who has dabbled in development of things from scripts and automation, this session hit a spark for me to really start digging further in DevOps and how this can help enable business and IT, both internally and more importantly for our customers.
BreakOut #4 and final session for me. Last but not least and saving the best for last.
The last session of the day for me was the “Mobility Panel”
The panel consisted of an all star team of Varrow engineers and the scary thing is this just a bit of the depth that Varrow has in this technology.
Jim Ryland – Just about every Citrix certification you can imagine – extremely smart and talented
And me… let’s move along
This is an open Q&A session with Varrow Mobility’s best and brightest. Are you considering VDI? Wondering how to reign in those mobile devices? Curious what your peers are doing in the end user computing space? Bring your questions and get a chance to ask Varrow’s Mobility experts.
This session was great, lots of questions about End User Computing and mobility trends with everything from Desktops as a Service (DaaS) Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Enterprise Mobility Management questions that cover products like Airwatch, XenMobile, application management technologies like layering and much much more. We could have easily went another hour with questions. What I did not get to do: I missed a number of great breakout sessions from a lot of great guest speakers like Scott Lowe (VMware), Chris Colotti (VMware, VCDX), Brian Gracely (ECM Code), Sean Cummins (EMC VMAX), Andy Gossett (Varrow CCIE), Rawlingson Rivera (VMware, aka Captain VSAN), Mike Foley (VMware Security), Nelson Estevez (Citrix Netscaler), Geremy Meyers (Citrix) Art Harris (Varrow Citrix), Sarath Velagaleti (Varrow Citrix), Josh Coen (Varrow VCDX), & Jason Nash (Varrow CTO, Dual VCDX-NV & DCV) & Many more
I do wish the sessions were recorded, maybe one day.
Event Closing The event ended with a ton of prize give sways and a Thank you to all attendees of the event. After all the many prizes were handed out, there was one last piece of business to attend to and that would be the St. Patrick’s Day Happy Hour.
Invitation for Next Year. Next year Varrow Madness will be held in Charlotte North Carolina at the Westin – Stay Tuned as we get closer to the event. Come join us next year, you won’t be disappointed.
I drive… a lot and one of my favorite things to do when driving is listen to training and podcasts. There are a lot of good podcasts out there and I decided to post some of them that I listen to and ask what podcasts you listen to…
I am only going to list the ones that are technology related for me, mostly focused on VMware, Citrix and end user computing (EUC). I have broken them up into groups below. I also encourage you to join live when you can, sometimes the best moments are after the recordings stop 🙂
Size Matters is a podcast focused on enabling small business IT pro’s. Topics range from technology deep dives to more business focused topics to help IT people not only become more proficient with technology, but in support the organization.
Ted Talks – Lots of great things to listen to – not specifically a Tech related but a wealth of great topics to listen to
EUC – End User Computing
The End User Computing Podcast (www.eucpodcast.com) is a community driven podcast for IT Professionals. The content covered on the EUC Podcast is primarily geared toward community support and enablement for application, desktop, and server virtualization technologies
Eric gets a lot of emails from his blog visitors and customers of his training. Many of the questions are being repeated time after time. So, Eric decided to dedicate an entire podcast show to answering your questions instead! Each episode is only 5-8 minutes
I am not saying this is a requirement today for every use case or workload but I think in some ways it will be standard. Recently a conversation on twitter from a few folks I highly respect instigated this thought exercise. Today vGPU isn’t even a capability with vSphere (though it is coming) though vSphere does have vDGA and vSGA for graphics acceleration. XenServer has had vGPU since 2013 where it was announced as a tech preview with 6.2 but let’s take it back a step on what vGPU is first, and then I will present my irrational thoughts on the matter.
First off lets start at the beginning…
So what is vGPU – From NVIDIA’s web page
NVIDIA GRID™ vGPU™ brings the full benefit of NVIDIA hardware-accelerated graphics to virtualized solutions. This technology provides exceptional graphics performance for virtual desktops equivalent to local PCs when sharing a GPU among multiple users.
GRID vGPU is the industry’s most advanced technology for sharing true GPU hardware acceleration between multiple virtual desktops—without compromising the graphics experience. Application features and compatibility are exactly the same as they would be at the desk.
With GRID vGPU technology, the graphics commands of each virtual machine are passed directly to the GPU, without translation by the hypervisor. This allows the GPU hardware to be time-sliced to deliver the ultimate in shared virtualized graphics performance
So to break that down…
NVIDIA came up with some really cool graphics cards that you could split up the graphical ability of the card to multiple virtual machines directly which greatly improves the performance. The NVIDIA Grid K1 and K2 cards designed for just this purpose.
Example of what vGPU can do..
Gunnar Berger (CTO of @Citrix Desktops and Applications Group did a great video on Youtube when he was an analyst with Gartner on comparing vSGA and vGPU. I highly recommend checking out other videos he has posted as well on this and other subjects.
So back to the original topic at hand..
Oone only needs to sit and reflect on the history and evolution of desktop PCs and see that times are changing. Browsers, Microsoft Office and other programs all benefit and are accelerated by GPUs. This is not solely relegated to the likes of those working with digital images, AUTOCAD, Solidworks, MATLAB, GIS programs etc. Sure vGPU is designed to be able to handle these workloads. One might call these graphic intensive programs the last mile of desktop virtualization, i.e. workloads that were bad fits for VDI. But in my mind this is just the beginning as almost every program out there begins to take advantage of the almighty GPU.
As the desktop progresses and adds capability so must VDI to be able to even keep up. Many people strive for equal or better than desktop performance but even today’s cheapest laptops and desktops come with HD video card chipsets and share the ever increasing on board RAM. I just purchased a PC for one my many children to build him a gaming machine, he is using the on-board card for now and running games like Skyrim, Minecraft (uses more GPU than you think, go look at these FPS charts based on the video cards). Sure your typical office worker may not be playing games or maybe they are…
Software developers are NOT designing their programs to look simple any more whether it be a web app or good old installable based application. They are designing them to run fast and look great and using all of the resources at their disposal including hardware GPUs. They are not trying to design programs that only run in a virtual desktop.
How can we deliver even equal performance to the desktop they have today without giving these capabilities when even the core applications like Microsoft Office and your Browser (which many apps are now rendered in) are using hardware acceleration via your GPU. Look at products like HP Moonshot that give dedicated quad core CPU / 8 GB of RAM and an integrated Radeon GPU. The writing is on the walls, GPU in VDI is here to stay. Were just at the beginning of the curve.
So I submit that GPU is a requirement, please feel free to share your thoughts on this.
If you have been in the SBC or VDI space for any amount of time, you have heard or seen Login VSI whether in a whitepaper, reference architecture, blog, or something. If you have not heard about Login VSI you have been hiding under a rock and should start here. Login VSI is the most prevalent load testing software around for testing scalability and performance at scale.
Today Login VSI steps into the world of monitoring and alerting announcing today Login PI (formerly Login VUM). There are many different monitoring products, but rather than looking at systems-level performance or CPU, Login PI focuses on what end users actually experience, such as logon times and application start times. This product reminds me a lot of Citrix EdgeSight Active Application Monitoring but more advanced, I am not aware of another product like this today and this could compliment your existing monitoring focusing on more user centric criteria and enabling you
How it works Login PI will launch a virtual user similar to how you would use Login VSI to launch sessions to simulate workloads. Instead of launching a massive amount of sessions and giving you statistics related to that. It will launch specific sessions, and track “User Experience” metrics that you can configure alerts for if thresholds are reached. You can also run reports and watch trends to look for system degradation over time. Out of the box, Login PI measures log-on times and application launch times for Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and Adobe Reader. The workload can be customized to include other line of business apps for startup performance measurement. Alerts Alerts can be configured to do the following.
SNMP Trap to a 3rd party Network Management Tool such as another monitoring solution
Execute a command.
Log a Windows Event
A key goal of Login PI is to provide connectors to communicate with commonly management and monitoring tools, so it’s not another console to monitor. PI notifications can be pushed to the consoles already in use in IT today. – I really like this, as you can integrate with the tool you already use and not have to add another console to manage for day to day operations.
This is your canary in the coal mine protecting your miners before they start having issues…
Varrow just announced their release of its hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud environment they are showcasing at the Carolina Panthers game on Oct 30th. I got to see a live demo and it was impressive to say the least and I don’t impress easily. A lot of work obviously went into it led by Josh Coen and Chris Horn of Varrow.
This demo was exciting to see and it showed what these solutions can do when combined and set up properly. I have seen a lot of demos and several companies talk about setting up a true hybrid cloud envionrment but this was one of the first time I saw all of the puzzle peices put together.
From the release regarding the goals of the lab.
In the design of its hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud, Varrow set out to build a hybrid cloud environment where both public and private cloud resources could be monitored and managed from one point of control, where workloads could easily be moved to and from public and private clouds, and where normally complex and time-consuming tasks are automated and reduced to a few mouse clicks.
Cloud has always been a bit of hype and buzzwords but this is the closest I have seen to the “vision”
Automation is something I find near and dear to my heart and can be a complex undertaking but is well worth the effort and was one of the highlights for me. It is one of the lynchpins of a true Hybrid Cloud in my opinion. There is a lot that goes into this solution from a technology standpoint.
The infrastructure platform for Varrow’s hands-on enterprise hybrid cloud is built upon industry leading solutions from VMware, Cisco and EMC. The VMware software stack is built around VMware’s vCloud vRealize suite and includes integration of VMware’s vCAC, vCO, LogInsight, and vCOPS with Cisco UCS compute and Nexus 9000 switches, providing full 40Gb connectivity and a solid foundation for software-defined networking (SDN). EMC storage infrastructure includes Isilon, XtremeIO, VPlex, VNX, VNXe and VMAX; all storage platforms are abstracted and managed via EMC’s software defined storage platform, EMC ViPR. The Varrow Enterprise Hybrid Cloud is currently federated with Peak 10, Amazon AWS, Azure, and vCloud Air, allowing for the seamless migration of workloads from the Private to Public Cloud.
From what I saw in the demo I think they nailed it and it was very compelling. This was not just another cloud presentation or bullet in a product brief talking about product capabilities. This was not vaporware. They actually pulled together all of the pieces you would imagine in a real hybrid cloud scenario and showed it from an Administrator’s view and how people at various levels of the business could see and interact with it.
There is a lot of news and chatter going on around right now about the OpenSSL vulnerability Heartbleed. This is a critical issue. as documented here. So what is Heartbleed and what makes it so dangerous.
The (1) TLS and (2) DTLS implementations in OpenSSL 1.0.1 before 1.0.1g do not properly handle Heartbeat Extension packets, which allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information from process memory via crafted packets that trigger a buffer over-read, as demonstrated by reading private keys, related to d1_both.c and t1_lib.c, aka the Heartbleed bug.
This is a very wide reaching issue and considered critical. Patching OpenSSL or products alone will not be enough to solve the issue. Your certificates would have to either be regenerated or rekeyed and depending on how your programs interact this may require additional work for programs that connect to each other such as XenDesktop connecting to a vSphere instance as it imports the certificate for trust so if you update vSphere certificate you also need to import your new vCenter certificate into XenDesktop.
Citrix has released a Security Advisory detailing the products affected by Heartbleed. Other vendors are also coming out with articles detailing their products affected such as VMwareEMC and Cisco. Per the Security Advisory released from Citrix most of the products that Citrix has in its portfolio are unaffected but check the article to confirm and they are still researching some of their products.
Many Citrix environments run on VMware vSphere and some versions such as vSphere 5.5 are affected by Heartbleed. XenDesktop (any version) as well as XenApp 7.x and higher are dependent on the certificate that vCenter uses. If you resolve the issue and regenerate the certificate for your vCenter, you will need to import the certificate into XenDesktop following these instructions again that were completed on the initial setup.
My general advice is to find and document the items in your environment that are affected and map out any dependencies and create an attack plan to resolve these as this is a major compromise in your security. If you aren’t sure of what those may be, reach out to your partners who may have detailed information on what to look for.