Thursday, 23 October 2014

VMworld Europe - TAM Sessions

An extra post about my favourite part of VMworld from the organised conference perspective...

I thought that the TAM sessions were by far the best sessions I attended. None of them were presented by the most well known vRockstars (they were out in the normal breakout sessions, doing their thing - and from the ones I saw, doing it very well) the TAM sessions were all by the engineers and product managers who you don't know as well, which was great.

The breakout sessions are all recorded and are hence available after the fact to every VMworld attendee. The TAM sessions are not recorded, not available anywhere, so you simply have to be there to get this invaluable opportunity to sit down with VMware folks and a small group of your peers to talk about the things that interest you most. each of the TAM sessions was kinda like a pick-your-own-content VMUG with a very limited number of  attendees, who were all super interested in the subject! As a result of this, I don't mind at all that I dropped the "Leet" EVO:RAIL 1337 session to talk about stuff that might be coming in future versions of ESX. Besides, I've already watched the origins of project Marvin online after getting home.

Monday, 20 October 2014

VMWorld Europe - Day 3

The final day, an early start to the sessions with no keynote to overrun into the first session, so I went straight into a 9am breakout session.

Session: INF2311 - vCenter Server Architecture & Deployment Deep Dive
Some good tips here for the folks running (or planning to run) vCenter 5.5 specifically around the placement of vCenter components. Do not, do not, do NOT run your Inventory service on a different server to your vCenter server service! If you do, performance will be terrible. In fact, it's best to have the inventory service installed on different spindles to the rest of your vCenter server if you can manage that. That's how important this is. You know how you always get told to have a 100GB drive for vCenter? This is why, the Inventory Service has its own local database, separate from the vCenter DB and it will take up some GB's. This is also where your tags and storage profiles etc. reside, so back it up!

VMworld Europe - Day 2

I'm on a bit of a roll now! The 'second' day of VMworld Europe started with another keynote, just the same as San Fran (same general format, same general content). Fortunately for those of us wanting to blog/tweet during this, the doors that were closed yesterday were open by the time I got to the hangspace, so I was in and settled with a coffee and pain au chocolat before 9am. This time I chose "Recharge Island" instead of the bloggers table, mainly cos I didn't have a blogger badge or pass and there was less stuff between me and the big screen this time.

Once more, this is the session in which some more of the technical content is revealed when compared to the previous day, but again we have heard a lot of it before.

Carl Eschenback had the lead in this session and introduced a number of videos followed up by chats on stage. Included in this section were some interesting points - for instance, SAP are using 75,000 VMs and are refreshing those at a rate of 30,000 a month to meet changing use cases. Those numbers make my head hurt. Then Tom Stockwell of Vodafone challenged us to consider if our business success is driven by apps/services or infrastructure. One of the themes this year was the move towards considering that hardware virtualisation is a done deal, we now need to focus on rapid app deployment. This was already mentioned in the TAM day introduction and was picked up again here.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

VMworld Europe - Day 1

Admittedly, I'd already been in Barcelona for a while after the TAM day (partner day for most people) on Monday, so we'd already had comfucion amongst the bloggers as to what day it was., perhaps we should stick with 'Tuesday' and have done with it? Apologies for any tense changes here, this post was mostly written at VMworld, but not published then.

This was my first opportunity to attend a European keynote, so I was hoping to be able to get ensconsed in the hangspace or the bloggers area and tweet or blog from there, whilst hoping it would be different from the US keynote. Unfortunately, the first 10 minutes were spent milling around outside the hang space with some of the better known UK bloggers, as we weren't allowed in! There were a number of big screens, plus coffee and breakfast nibbles going to waste, as we could see through the round window. Finally we got let in over 10 minutes late, so I missed almost everything that Maurizio Carli had to say,other than him introuducing Pat Gelsinger. Pat went through the same Fluid / Liquid routine from the US keynote, but there was a more Euro twist with features on Cancer Research UK and Lufthansa, plus commentary on how Ministry of Education Malaysia are connecting every student, 25,000 virtual desktops. That's impressive infrastructure.

VMworld Europe - Prelude and TAM Day

I have to admit to being pretty excited to attend my first VMworld in 6 Years, this time with the additional perk of having the Monday lined up as well, as part of the TAM experience. Technical Account Manager, that is. Same day as Partner Day, but for those of us who warrant or buy this level of service, I guess. I work for a large American Company so this was something I get that I was not going to get so often, as my TAM is in the US, whereas I am not!

I flew in to Barcelona on Sunday and after getting the VMworld bus to the Fira Europa site, picked up the VMworld backpack and also a free metro pass, which is a nice touch. 10 free metro trips would be enough for the week. I'd followed the good advice from Jonathan Medd's Blog and booked a flat instead of a hotel (way, way cheaper!)  so the first metro trip was to get me "home". Then once settled there, I had just enough time to get myself ready before it was time to head over to the Hard Rock cafe for the vRockstar party. Now I'm not the most widely known person in the VMware community, but there were plenty of faces I knew already on hand to introduce me to a whole lot more. Plenty of beers and conversation meant that this was a good start to the week. Possibly too good!

Barcelona's warm, even at 8AM in October and especially if you are on the metro with a hangover. Lesson learned.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

VMware VCP550D 'delta' exam for VCP5-DCV holders

A couple of days ago, VMware announced that they would offer existing VCP5-DCV certified folks a shortcut to extending their certification, by introducing a new delta exam. The new test is a Pearson Vue delivered test as you would expect and has the code VCP550D. The exam is the same duration (75 minutes) and length (65 questions) as the normal VCP5 exam, but it is taken remotely like the introductory level VCA exams and is also considerably cheaper than the full exam, at £80. Delegates only have until the end of November to take the exam and once you sign up and pay for your exam, you only have a couple of days to take the test.

The content is described as being the new material released between vSphere 5.0/5.1 and vSphere 5.5.  That's somewhat confusing as there are 65 questions to get through and the presence of 5.1 there is possibly superfluous, as I assume it's differences between 5.0 and 5.5 in reality. Also, the exam blueprint you are pointed to is in reality the standard 5.5 exam blueprint!

I say kudos to VMware for providing a cheaper means to recertify for those people who only hold a VCP5-DCV cert and don't yet want to undertake a VCAP or have exposure to cloud, horizon or network virtualisation. A lot of people will see their VCP5-DCV certification expire early in 2015 and there won't be another version of vSphere out in time to have a VCP6-DCV exam in place. This basically buys a chunk of VCPs the best part of two years before any recertification issues crop up again. It's an utterly pointless gesture for other people of course. I fell somewhere in the middle ground as I had to do something to avoid becoming uncertified and that was originally going to be a stab at the VCP-Cloud IaaS exam, using the Hands on Labs to help me thought the blueprint, as I don't use a cloud in my day job. This seemed to be an easier option.

Those of you watching tenses will guess that I have dealt with this situation and you'd be right. I took the exam this evening and passed, with a 380. Now I have 2 years to get my act together and deal with exams I really want to look at and this will either be VCP-NV or VCAP-DCD (or both). It could be that I don't take a other VCP-DCV exam for quite a long time!

If I am honest, the exam was pretty tough, as I was not really sure what the content would be. I did not expect many 'gimme' questions either compared to the 5.0 exam, as there wouldn't be any questions on topics that have been in vSphere since version 2 that everyone knows backwards. I did find it interesting that there is no mention of open book like the VCA or closed book, like the full VCP5, so this may be interpreted as a bit of a dumbing down of the exam, but of course to qualify for the delta exam, you had to pass previously in a test centre. There's no way you will just pass this using Google or the vSphere online manuals if you've been doing something other than vSphere for the past 2 years, as you have just over a minute per question. You have to know your stuff, even if you are not in the test centre for this exam. This exam was nothing like the VCA-DCV (as you'd expect).

I passed the 3.5 exam after attending the 3.0 course and the 5.0 exam before attending the optimise and scale course, so I am used to assembling my own cram content and as such, always look in to the new products that plug in to the current vSphere suite. I guessed that VSOM and the other different ways you can buy vSphere these days would figure today, since they were not in my 5.0 exam. Previously, I focused on the differences between standard and distributed switches and the associated teaming, shaping features etc. and looked over NFS and iSCSI since I don't really run those (we use 1000v at work too, which doesn't always help). That approach worked for 5.0 so I assumed that 5.5 would be no different. I also relied on some of the content I have been reading recently (good job I bought the VSAN and Networking for vSphere Admins books recently for instance, since some of that is still fresh in my mind). Before starting the exam, whilst making a brew, I had a quick think on the differences between the web client and the c# client as all the new features are web client only of course. That was about it. It was just enough.

There were some questions that I had absolutely no idea about at all but to be honest, I'm not sure I would have known what those answers would be if I had studied and crammed for weeks. There were some multi choice questions where 2 answers were clearly wrong or just felt wrong - I guess that using VMware every working day for years does help! Since I always read right through every question a couple of times to see what they're really asking, even if I think I know the answer, then I did not have a lot of time to spare - in fact my time ran out whilst I was rereading the last question I still had marked for review!

I'll be interested to hear how other people get on with this exam and if they decide to take it or not. I found this exam to be useful as I am going to be pretty busy till Christmas and now I can focus on something new for getting certified next year.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

VMware enters the Hyper-Converged space with VMware EVO.

In a move that justifies (if that's the right word) the developments made by Nutanix, Simplivity et al, VMware announced two releases of their Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Appliance (HCIA) products, which are called VMware EVO. This is the Project Marvin initiative which has been whispered about for a while since an internal VMware poster was seen up on a wall by someone who shouldn't have seen it! The EVO part means Evolution and the product names RAIL and RACK are down to the amount of space they take up in the datacentre. Rail for the fact it goes in on one set of rails and rack, well, it's in a rack.

EVO:RAIL is a 2U/4Node unit, with each node running vSphere and VSAN and functioning overall as a vSphere Cluster. There is a specification available to partners, who have to build hardware to support at least this standard. These partners include Dell, SuperMicro, EMC and Fujitsu, who most people will know, plus Inspur from China and NetOne from Japan. interestingly, no HP on this list, which is what has raised most eyebrows to this point. Definitely a smart move to leave the hardware to the hardware guys, but since VMware EMEA CTO Joe Baguley has said that if something needs specific hardware then you cannot call it "software defined" then is this really a building block of the Software Defined DataCentre? Well, maybe this is actually Software Defined Hardware (SDH)? Hahaha, you heard it here first.

The configuration of EVO:RAIL appears extremely simple. It's also an HTML5 interface, so you can administer it from pretty much anything. Setup only takes 15 minutes, which is impressive. This gives you a fully prepared VCenter, 4 hosts in a cluster and standard switches, with your VLANs etc. in place. Additionally, you can add up to 3 more units to the first one, with them being detected by VMware Loudmouth (think Apples bonjour service) so expanding your setup is easy too. So far so good.

Who better to go over the details of this than Duncan Epping, VMware's Chief Technologist.

EVO:RACK is a much bigger beast, with full vCloud Suite and NSX built in, again, with its own management built in too. EVO:RACK can also scale up to tens of racks it seems, so that is pretty much your entire datacentre covered. Clearly targeted at more enterprise level operations, IaaS and VDI use cases are to be addressed first, with more to follow, such as PaaS and big data. The deployment model here is to have a rack implemented in under 2 hours from being pushed into the data hall to running workloads. Rack-n-Roll they say. Geddit?

See what Raj Yavatkar has to say on this, on the VMware Office of the CTO blog.

So, I briefly mentioned 2 established vendors in this space at the start, briefly by design. I don't think they'll be overly worried at this point, especially not when you look in to this and see that they're some way ahead, feature wise. For instance, there's no dedupe in VSAN at this point and that is a key factor for someone like me at the moment. Simplivity is built on the fact that data is never written to the storage twice (well, other than the fact it's written to 2 different Simplivity devices at the same time) but then after that it's just metadata that gets written when duplicate blocks are sent to disk. That's likely to be pretty important if you are looking at spinning up a whole bunch of relatively identical workloads or are dealing with large databases etc. Then again, if you get EVO:RAIL then you get a 2u solution with 14TB of storage, that could well be enough!

Of course, if you have a well established relationship with Dell or Fujitsa, for instance, with a RoBo office expansion to buy for, then EVO:RAIL really fits the bill. Especially given the speed and simplicity of the setup, no more weeks on the road visiting many branches of your company - but do you need another vCenter each time you need a few hundred VMs?

I'm interested to see how this goes for the hardware partners (and if we see more partners) and also how it may push progress on VSAN in particular. I am not sure that it's the right fit for me personally within my company right now, but I can see the use cases being mentioned getting sales, for sure.

Monday, 25 August 2014

VMworld 2014 Day 1

A personal snapshot of some of the big news from the show;

The keynote from day 1 mentioned IT bravely delivering brave products by making brave decisions, bravely. There were also some new product numbers announced, which is what people really want to hear, I guess. I'm sure Pat Gelsinger broke the vSphere 6.0 Beta NDA by mentioning that it contained VVols, but who's gonna tell him? There was also an update to the cloud stack, with vCloud Suite 5.8. Gelsinger also mentioned the VSAN 2.0 beta and the new bundle of VMware vRealize Suite. You might know this as vCAC + vCOps Suite + Log Insight + IT Business Management Suite!

There is now a VMware OpenStack distribution available in beta today, called VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIOS) which combines the APIs from  both vSphere and OpenStack. I assume this will allow VMware to both manage and integrate with OpenStack. VMware also announced their Gold Level Open Compute Project membership. OCP was launched by Facebook back in 2011. VMware draw parallels between SDDC and OCP, so claim it is a natural fit.

Also new, VMware are collaborating with Docker, Google and Pivotal to increase enterprise exposure to Containers. This should integrate Linux Containers with vCloud Air in time. VMware’s Project Fargo is designed to enable containers on virtual machines. There's a lot of container based releases here, I expect more information to come out over the course of the rest of the show.

Bill Fathers announced that vCHs is now rebranded as VMware vCloud Air and suggested that the number of VMs in the public cloud has risen from 2% to 6% over the past 5 years. Bill also covered DR as a service, Desktop as a service, Platform as a service, DevOps as a service, DB as a service (SQL and MySQL first, with others to follow) quite a lot of scope there. Another interesting point was that VMware have brought a vCloud datacentre online at a rate of one a month in the year since it was announced!

Q3 will also see vCloud Government for US Government customers and there will also be object storage based upon EMC VIPR technology, offering the ability to store unstructured data long term.

VMware EVO: VMware's Project Marvin - their stab at Hyper-converged infrastructure. The simple ground level product is EVO:RAIL, named for the fact that it fits into your infrastructure on the 1 rail, promising a universal HTML5 interface and a wizard driven deployment, to get you going in 15 minutes. Then there's EVO:RACK, a step up from the basics, which comes with the full vCloud suite and deploys in a couple of hours.

Finally (it seems like it's been a long time coming) we have the new certifications for networking VMware Certified Professional - Network Virtualisation (VCP-NV) and VMware Certified Implementation Expert (VCIX-NV) were both launched and are available from today. I've signed up for the VCP today, since you can just take the exam if you already hold a VCP certification and this will renew your VCP's. I was thinking of taking the VCP-Cloud to then give me 2 years to hit the VCAP's for DV, but as NSX is the new hotness, this NV track seems more viable.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

VMware announces public Beta of vSphere 6

I've been talking to my VMware Technical Account Manager about access to the vSphere Beta for a while now but in a surprising move (for me at least) VMware have just announced the public beta of vSphere 6. Of course, the usual beta rules apply, meaning no public disclosure about the contents of the beta, but since it's a public beta, anyone and everyone can sign up for it.  That means I don't need to tell you anything as you can go and look for yourself.

To join the Public Beta
  •  Browse to and click the big  “JOIN NOW!” button on the right hand side!
  • Log in with your My VMware account. (it's easy to register for an account if you don’t have one).
  • Once you have an account and are logged in, you will have to accept the Master Software Beta Test Agreement (MSBTA) and Program Rules screens if you have not already done so in the past.
  • After doing this you should be in the vSphere Beta 2 community.
There are also a number of public webinars coming up to review a number of the intended new features which start on July 8th, so get in quick....
I'm downloading all the new goodies now, well, the basics of vSphere 6.0 at least. Seeya on the beta forums...

Install and Boot ESXi from a USB stick

An increasing number of motherboards these days have USB sockets built in, which makes it very easy (and cheap) to run an ESX host, without having to obtain any local DAS storage. Good for the home labber, also good for the corporate guy who's boot-from-SAN usually.

There's no point re-inventing the wheel here, since there are already blogs out there that talk you through the entire process - like this one from Brian Graf at vtagion;

He's also got the get-out for when you are finished with the USB key as well, since Windows only shows you the installer / ISO image size not the full size of the USB key, if all you have done is use the USB key to install to local disk, which for windows users like me, leverages diskpart;

Whilst writing this, I thought I would have need of this for a quick install job, but it turned out that I didn't. However, this is a good-to-have-in-the-back-pocket setup which is just the sort of thing I can blog about for posterity or maybe it will even help someone else?