• Category Archives VMware
  • Autolab – Packaged VMware Nested Lab

    Recently Autolab, a new tool promising to make deploying your labs a LOT easier was released. I deployed my new lab yesterday using this tool and it couldn’t be simpler.


    This lab builder kit is designed to produce a nested vSphere 5.0 or 4.1 lab environment with the minimum effort. Prebuilt shell VMs are provided along with automation for the installation of operating systems and applications into these VMs. The lab build was originally created to aid study towards VCP5 certification however it has many other possible uses.

    This is version 0.5 – Please submit bug reports to feedback@labguides.com

    Installation Instructions PDF
    Nested AutoLab on Workstation 8
    Nested AutoLab on ESXi 5

    Hardware Requirements

    The hardware requirements for the lab are moderate. Hopefully you won’t need to buy a new computer, although you may need to do some upgrades.  If you can dedicate a computer to the role then the lab runs extremely well under ESXi.

    Hardware Minimum Great Choice Used to build the lab (laptop bought in 2009)
    CPU Dual Core, 64Bit Quad Core, i7 Core2 Duo
    RAM 8GB How much can you afford? 8GB
    Hard Disk 60GB free space 120GB SSD free space Second SATA hard disk, Laptop OS on small SSD
    Operating System 64 Bit ESXi 5.0 Windows 7 64Bit
    Virtualization Software VMware Player (untested) ESXi 5.0 VMware Workstation 8.0.2

    Additional software

    The AutoLab kit contains open source software and so can be freely redistributed. The full lab requires licensed software components some of which are quite large. Below is a list with download links where these are easily  available.

    For the older vSphere versions and for PowerCLI you will need an account with VMware or a good contact at VMware or a VMware partner.

    The version 4.1 components are only required if you plan to build a 4.1 environment, usually so you can run the upgrade to 5.0.

    • vCenter 5.0 Install DVD
    • ESXi 5.0 Install CDROM
    • vCenter 4.1 Install DVD
    • ESXi 4.1 Install CDROM
    • ESX 4.1 Install CDROM
    • VMware PowerCLI installer
    • VMware vSphere CLI Installer
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 180 day trial DVD
    • Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 Client 64bit
    • Microsoft Windows 2003 Server 32bit or Windows XP 32bit CDROM

  • VMware View 5.1

    VMware announced today the new features that will be in VMware View 5.1 This release has several new features worth noting.

    • View Storage Accelerator, already announced for View 5.0 and lifted at the last moment, this feature is borrowed from vSphere’s Content Based Read Cache (CBRC) and basically caches frequently used disk blocks into VDI host’s RAM avoiding frequent reading of the same informations from central storage.
    • View Persona Management is now extended to physical machine with the main purpose of VDI migrations or OSes migrations.
    • vCenter Operations (vCOPs) Manager for View is a new version, optimized for virtual desktop deployment, that provides end-to-end realtime monitoring of desktop and users. Already announced at VMworld Europe last year now includes a very requested feature: the ability to monitor PCoIP performance

    Also announced in this release are the following

    • USB Enhancements We have reworked the USB redirect feature for the Windows client.  The new USB feature no longer requires device driver to be installed on the client side. A generic USB arbitrator is implemented on the client side, while a proper USB hub is implemented in the agent. This allows VMware View to support a much broader range of USB devices while supporting fine-grained remote device policy (e.g. enable/disable mass storage file copy) even on multi-function USB devices.
    • RADIUS Support Based on customer feedback, we’ve extended the security authentication support in VMware View to other two-factor authentication vendors leveraging a RADIUS client in the View 5.1 Connection Server. This gives you more choice when implementing single sign-on or security tokens into your virtual desktops.
    • Continued PCoIP Enhancements We also continuously strive to enhance the PCoIP remote protocol following the significant progress made in version 5.0. We realize that optimal remote protocol performance cannot be achieved with code improvement alone. To help our customers make the right choice in protocol with proper performance tuning, we published a white paper comparing the tuning and test results of all state-of-the-art remote protocols:

    Improvements have also been made in how VMware View 5.1 scales out for larger deployments.

    • Increased scale in NFS attached clusters — now you can scale your VMware vSphere clusters up to 32 ESXi hosts
    • Reduce storages costs with View Storage Accelerator — combine VMware View 5.1 with VMware vSphere 5 and substantially optimize read performance using in-memory cache of commonly read blocks — totally transparent to the guest OS
    • Standalone View Composer Server — VMware View Composer can now be installed on its own server, opening up several new capabilities

    To begin understanding large scale VMware View designs, you need the basic building blocks found in all successful VMware View implementations. The three key building blocks are the View Pod, View Block, and Management Pod. These are logical objects, but they do have some tangible boundaries.

    To learn more about these components and scalability improvements, please check out the Demystifying VMware View Large Scale Designs

  • RVTools 3.3 Released

    RVTools is one of my favorite VMware community tools that every VMware admin should be using. Today version 3.3 has been released. I have been using this tool for many years and it has saved me from disaster many times.

    RVTools is a windows .NET 2.0 application which uses the VI SDK to display information about your virtual machines and ESX hosts. Interacting with VirtualCenter 2.5, ESX Server 3.5, ESX Server 3i, ESX Server 4i, VirtualCenter 4.0, ESX Server 4.0, VirtualCenter 4.1, ESX Server 4.1, VirtualCenter 5.0, VirtualCenter Appliance or ESX Server 5 RVTools is able to list information about VMs, CPU, Memory, Disks, Partitions, Network, Floppy drives, CD drives, Snapshots, VMware tools, ESX hosts, HBAs, Nics, Switches, Ports, Distributed Switches, Distributed Ports, Service consoles, VM Kernels, Datastores and health checks. With RVTools you can disconnect the cd-rom or floppy drives from the virtual machines and RVTools is able to update the VMware Tools installed inside each virtual machine to the latest version.

    This Application Supports:

    •  ESX Server 3.5
    • VirtualCenter 2.5
    • ESX Server 3i
    • ESX Server 4i
    • VirtualCenter 4.0
    • ESX 4.0
    • VirtualCenter 4.1
    • ESX 4.1
    • VirtualCenter 5.0
    • VirtualCenter Appliance
    • ESX 5

    Changes in 3.3

    • GetWebResponse timeout value changed from 5 minutes to 10 minutes (for very big environments)
    • New tabpage with HBA information
    • On vDatastore tab the definition of the Provisioned MB and In Use MB columnswas confusing! This is changed now.
    • RVToolsSendMail accepts now multiple recipients (semicolon is used as separator)
    • Folder information of VMs and Templates are now visible on vInfo tabpage
    • Bugfix: data in comboboxes on filter form are now sorted
    • Bugfix: Problem with api version 2.5.0 solved
    • Bugfix: Improved exception handling on vCPU tab.
    • Bugfix: Improved exception handling on vDatastore tab.

    Links –
    Offical Site
    Download RVTools

  • vExpert 2012

    I am honored to be included in the 2012 vExpert list as awarded by VMware. There are just over 400 experts annoucned this year and I am proud to be included in this distinguished list of Experts.

    The annual VMware vExpert title is given to individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. The title is awarded to individuals (not employers) for their commitment to sharing their knowledge and passion for VMware technology above and beyond their job requirements

    Links –
    vExpert Directory and Information
    vExperts 2012

  • VCP 5 Resources: How I intend to Pass

     A friend and ex-coworker recently asked me for resources on obtaining his VCP, I currently hold my VCP4 and I am planning to take the VCP5 early next year, prior to the end of February, more on why this date is important later. The VMware VCP is the entry level certification to showcase your skills with VMware vSphere and supporting products. For my reference and for others I thought I would summarize the resources, such as blogs, books videos etc that I am using to prepare for the VCP5 exam.

    Start at the official certification site and examine the blueprint, take the practice tests. Going through these materials and official documentation will help provide the necessary foundation to pass the VCP5. Make sure you have also met the requirements for sitting the exam including any classes. The class requirement is waved for existing VCP4 until February 29th 2012

    Official Links

    One of the best write ups I have seen as of yet for obtaining your certification is How to Pass VCP5 by Greg Stuart, This site can walk you through what you need from beginning to end. Many of the same links that I include here are also referenced on the site below.

    I would also recommend Damian Karlson’s aka @sixfootdad on twitter blog for a solid comparison of  VCP4 vs VCP5 item by item as a critical resource.

    Blog / prep guide on preparing for VCP5. Many good articles on the site

    Additional Practice test and resources can be found on Simon Long’s blog AKA the SLOG

    Condensed vSphere5 documentation and notes by Forbes Guthrie

    There is also a community supported weekly series of blogs centered on VMware certifications called Brownbags. Recordings are available online and topics include VCP5 certification and much much more. I highly recommend listening to these and joining into the podcasts as they happen, you might even have a laugh and more importantly learn something.

    Books I am using as reference material (in no particular order)

    This list of resources will get you started and is by no means comprehensive. I would also highly recommend joining twitter if you haven’t already. The VMware community is very active and has some great minds that you can learn from and are happy to help you. For a list of VMware resources to follow, I highly recommend this list of VMware vExperts as a start to follow.

    vExperts are defined as individuals who have significantly contributed to the community of VMware users over the past year. vExperts are book authors, bloggers, VMUG leaders, tool builders, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others. These vExperts have gone above and beyond their day jobs to share their technical expertise and communicate the value of VMware and virtualization to their colleagues and community

  • UBERAlign – Free tool to Align your VMware Environment

    UBERAlign is a new tool by Nick Weaver aka @lynxbat on twitter that promises to help us align our entire VMware environment. Disk Alignment is a critical issue where the storage doesn’t align with the Operating system causing severe performance impact. One of the best articles I have read on the impact of Disk Alignment can be found on TCPdump. This affects all VMs and the effects are staggering, proper disk alignment can improve performance from 10%-40% on average over a non aligned volume.

    Now back to the tool UBERAlign, this is a very powerful tool that can not only align your enviornment but assist in disk reclamation using thin provisioning.

    Quoted from “Nickapedia.com”  below are the features. Also check out the link at the bottom of the page for his official site and links to download. There are several videos that I highly recommend watching.


    • Allows for fast alignment checking of virtual machines with detailed logging.
    • Can perform alignment to any offset you want. Even the crazy ones that you shouldn’t choose.
    • Works with both Windows 2000/XP/2003/2008 (NTFS) and Linux Distros (EXT2/EXT3/EXT4).
    • Is able to work on NTFS boot drives perfectly. It does this by rewriting NTFS Metadata (the right way).
    • Auto detects Windows 2008 and Windows 7 native installs (alignment not needed). Will not touch a System Reserved Partition (important for Windows 2008).
    • Preserves all Windows drive mapping (AFAIK only one to do so). This means no having to remap drive letters and complete support for non “C:”  system drives with some Windows builds (some Citrix stuff).
    • Doesn’t trash the NTFS and Boot mirrors like other tools.
    • Handles Primary and Extended partitions like it is no big deal on both Windows and Linux.
    • Has the ability to handle multiple disks for a VM.
    • Multiple disks + Multiple Partitions + Multiple types (primary, logical) + Multiple file systems (NTFS, EXT#) =  no problem
    • Also allows for optional Space Reclamation on both NTFS and Ext! That’s right: you can choose to do space reclamation at the same time as an alignment or as a option to itself. This means you can retrieve space no longer used on Thin VM’s using UBERAlign.
    • Operational model allows for completely CONCURRENCY with processing VMs. You can run up to 6 simultaneous jobs per Console and as many Consoles as your VCenter can handle. This was designed to allow people with big environments to process through a large set of VM’s.
    • Options to check, align, or reclaim any choice of disks in a VM.
    • Powerful very simple to use graphic console and easy to deploy OVA’s.
    • Orchestration for batch operations allowing you to process groups of VM’s with just a couple clicks.
    • Getting started is simple with just entering VCenter credentials/IP and pointing at a vAligner.
    • Space Reclamation should also help with possibly speeding up defragmentation of some NTFS file systems after. Your mileage may vary.
    • Space Reclamation can help you turn a thick VM into a thin one and actually get the space back!
    • Does all operations IN-PLACE! My first big goal was this. No more having to copy disks using the ESX command line(especially since ESX is going away). This will process a VM’s disks in-place.
    • Automatically makes a snapshot before running for failback. If you turn on your VM to check it and see anything you don’t like you can simply revert to the UBERAlign snapshot and be right back. (You should always have a backup and test also, see prereqs)
    • Automatically rolls the snapshots back if it sees an error. UBERAlign has the ability to do health check throughout the jobs and if it sees something wrong it will roll back it’s own snapshots for you.
    • Automatically enables CHKDSK scanning on each NTFS volume on the next boot.
    • Completely Storage Array agnostic. That’s right: if it connects to vSphere and host storage UBERAlign will work with it. This includes local disks (see prereqs below) and arrays other than EMC. Don’t say that the EMC vSpecialists don’t love all VMware users.
    • Completed tested against vSphere 4.1 / 5 environments.

    So as you can see UBERAlign got to be a bit of a beast along the way.
    2UBERAlign comes in two pieces. The UBERAlign Console which is a graphical interface meant to be run on a Windows XP/7/Server system with .Net 4.0 or greater. And the UBERAlign vAligner vAppliance which is deployed from OVA into a vSphere environment. The console connect to the vSphere via SOAP and to up to 6 vAligners via REST interface. The way it works is: each vAligner can process VM’s on the storage the vSphere Host it lives on has access to. So you should spread vAligners across clusters and make sure one is on any vSphere Host that has local storage you want to access.
    These features are meant to make the life of a VMware admin much easier when taking on this kind of task. But, let me cover some prereqs and how-to information.

    • All VM’s must be turned off to run any operation on. I won’t go into detail on why in-place + on is risky but suffice to say I wasn’t going to give it to you Smile
    • Console has been tested on Windows 7 SP1 and Windows 2008 R2. You need the very latest .Net 4.0 updates also.
    • As said above: only VM’s powered off and residing on storage visible to an attached vAligner will be selectable. You don’t have to restart the console but it may take up to 60 seconds for you to see a newly turned off VM.
    • Only vAligners managed by the VCenter you connected will be useable. One VCenter per console.
    • Concurrency is based on the VM level. Which means each vAligner can handle and process through different VMs. But, a single VM with multiple disks will not be split across multiple vAligners. They will process in a linear fashion one at a time.
    • If UBERAlign detects an error on a VM disk when a previous disk was processed it will revert the previous jobs also. This is because snapshots are handled at a VM-level.
    • When doing multi-disk Windows VM’s it is recommended to align them all and to use the same offset. When the System disk is processed it assumes all the disks will be done and at the same offset. You don’t HAVE to do this but you may have to remap drive letters otherwise (not a huge deal, just annoying).
    • In order for Space Reclamation to work you must boot VM (check that it is healthy), delete all snapshots, svMotion to a different datastore while specifying that you want it thin (important). Another option is to clone the existing VM from a power off state to a new VM on another datastore while 1specifying Thin for the disk format.
    • By default *Natively* installed Windows 2008 and Windows 7 installs don’t need alignment. Upgrades from Windows 2003 do. But Space Reclamation works on all of them.
    • Space Reclamation does make alignment jobs take about 15-20% longer. It all depends on the speed of the storage underneath.
    • You need to have at least 20% free space on any NTFS volume to safely align/reclaim. This can be less on a very large volume but is a safe rule to follow. If you have to, expand a drive to make a little extra room. The alignment check reports information you can use to check.
    • vAligners currently pick up a DHCP address. You can view what the address has become by looking at the info pane in VCenter. Or you can set an IP manually. The vAligners are running Ubuntu and the login is root/UBERAlign.
    • I have tested the console over WAN (Texas –> North Carolina) and it works very well.

    Ok, before I go any further I want to mention one important thing. UBERAlign is an experimental tool and carries no support from EMC Corporation or myself (Nicholas Weaver). It is being released in beta state and while it does have functions that allow for failback you should only perform operations on Virtual Machines for which you have a solid backup. Also, I recommend you test in your lab thoroughly to make sure you understand it fully. You accept full responsibility when you use this tool.