Monthly Archives: February 2016

The Change Message is on Repeat…I Reckon Evolve! – VMUG UserCon Take Away

Yesterday I attended the Melbourne VMUG UserCon for 2016 and had a great day catching up with community friends, presenting with PernixData and attending other quality sessions. As I listened to Keith Townsend‘s morning Keynote I couldn’t help but think that I had heard one of his core messages around change before…Sure enough not one year earlier at the 2015 Melbourne VMUG UserCon we had John Troyer (@JTroyer) talk about Pivoting to the New IT

…His presentation was based around a change of expectation around what it is to be part of the IT Industry…and even though there are some IT Professionals that will not embrace the shift that’s currently happening…the VMware/vExpert/Virtualization/Cloud Community is at the forefront of driving that change and best positioned to harness the pivot that’s currently on offer.

[Have a read of my 2015 recap here where I go into more detail around John’s talk]

Fast forward back to 2016 and with Keith talking about how he had embraced significant change in his work roles I started to think about how all I have heard over the past couple of years on repeat is that we in the IT Industry need to change or die…or adapt or die.

I’m not doubting the message that’s being drilled into us and without question there are more disruptive technologies and methodologies appearing in the IT Industry almost on a weekly basis. However I almost feel that the message around change is one that is to abrupt..too harsh. And for the IT guys sitting in the audience hearing these messages I feel like it can almost come across as…What the hell can I do? What am I doing?

I saw the tweet below from the Sydney VMUG UserCon and when I referenced it in context to the Melbourne Keynote I thought to myself the message is a little too simplistic.

Why would I give up all the hard work and knowledge that I had worked extremely hard to learn and master over the first 10-15 years of my career in IT. All that I have done previously has allowed myself to evolve to where I am today in a technical and personal sense. If I hadn’t started work on Linux servers configuring BIND or SENDMAIL I wouldn’t have developed an interest for internet messaging which lead me onto working on Hosted Exchange Services which lead me onto working on Hosting Platforms which lead me onto looking into Virtualisation which got me into deploying my first Hyper-V cluster which lead me to get familiar with vSphere and ESX which lead me to Cloud Management Platforms like vCloud Director which now leads me into technologies like Network Virtualization and Hyper Converged Platforms that has in turn exposed me to consuming platforms differently via APIs which now leads me onto the next evolution of my career.

Get where I am going with this?

Don’t feel like you have to change just because…that can be harsh and change is abrupt…you can’t pivot without having your foot on the ground before planting the other…EVOLVE!

P.S I am not having a go at the presenters (or Grant via that Tweet) as I respect them 100% as community leaders and understand the messages around change needs to be heard…I’m trying to portray the message in another light based on how I have interpreted the it…feel free to comment below.

ESXi Bugs – VMware Can’t Keep Letting This Happen!

VMware is at an interesting place at this point in time…there is still no doubting that ESXi and vCenter are the market leaders in terms of Hypervisor Platform and that the vCloud Suite offers a strong portfolio of management, automation and monitoring tools. However VMware has become the hunted and is suffering what most massivly successful tech companies go through after a sustained period of uninterrupted success…there are those that want to see it burn!

There are a number of competing vendors (and industry watchers) waiting to capitalize on any weakness shown in the VMware stack and with the recent number of QA issues leading to a significant bugs popping up not abating, I wonder how much longer VMware can afford to continue to slip up before it genuinely hurts its standing.

The latest couple to watch out for have become common repeat offenders since the 5.5 release…problems with vMotion, Pathing leading to PDLs/APDs and CBT issues have seemed to be on repeat if you search through the VMwareKBs over the past twelve to eighteen months.

KB2143943 – vMotion Fails After Upgrading from a number of builds
KB2144657 – ESXi 6 may not fail over correctly after encountering a PDL

As a Service Provider the CBT bugs are the most worrying because they fundamentally threaten the integrity of backup data which is not something that IT Operation staff or end users who’s data is put at risk should have to worry about. Veeam have done a great job circumventing the issue, though these issues are being fixed with drastic measures like full CBT resets…On a IaaS Platform where machines are not easily scheduled for downtime this is a massive issue.

I know that VMware are not purposely going out of their way to produce these errors, and I am sure that there are individuals and teams getting an ass whipping internally. But it has to stop…the quality of what is released to the public for consumption can’t continue to suffer from these issues. Their lead is secure for the moment and VMware have an extremely passionate and committed supporter base and even though their hypervisor competitors are not free of devastating bugs themselves (in fact ESXi was still the least patched hypervisor platform of in the last 12 months) it’s not a lead VMware can afford to let slip any more…specially with ESXi and vCenter are still at the heart of what VMware is trying achieve through new focus products like NSX and VSAN.

To be fair the VMware team do a great job and keep everyone up to date with issues as they arise and are generally fixed in quick time…VMware can’t afford to have many more:

Resolution:
This is a known issue affecting ESXi 6.0.
Currently, there is no resolution.

Especially if they are repeat bugs!

http://blogs.vmware.com/kbdigest/ 

Melbourne VMUG UserCon – Best Virtualisation Event Outside of VMworld!

“Best Virtualisation Event Outside of VMworld!” …now there is a big statement if ever there was one! Without insulting every other VMUG UserCon around the world, what I didn’t add to the blog title was “…in the southern hemisphere”. This will be my third Mebourne VMUG UserCon and without disrespecting Sydney’s VMUG UserCon happening a couple of days earlier the Melbourne event is up there when it comes to quality content, quality presenters and community feel.

The last couple of years I have attended the event in Melbourne I have taken away a lot of great technical and non-technical knowledge back home with me and with keynote speakers the likes of no less than Scott Lowe and Keith Townsend together with industry superstar Chris Wahl and other great local presenters I expect the same for the 2016 edition.

The Agenda is jam packed with virtualisation goodness and it’s actually hard to attend everything of interest with schedule conflicts happening throughout the day…my recommended sessions are listed below:

If you do feel like skipping Chris Wahl’s session at 10:30am I’ll be presenting with Frank Fan from PernixData on Using Infrastructure Analytics to Modernize Storage Management where we will be talking about FVP and Architect and how it’s helped detect bottlenecks in the ZettaGrid Labs as well as help the normalization of production workload performance. 

So though I live in Perth and help run the Perth VMUG I believe Melbourne is the true spiritual home of virutalisation in Australia and this UserCon is not to be missed…so if you are in Melbourne next week try and get down to The Crown Casino to participate, learn and contribute and hopefully we can catch up for a drink.

Another vExpert Post – Listen Up! It’s about the Advocacy

Last Friday Cory Romero announced the first intake of the 2016 VMware vExperts. As a five time returning vExpert it would be easy for me to sit back enjoy a perceived sense of entitlement that comes with being a vExpert…but times have changed. The award has changed and the way people feel about the program has changed…when I first become a vExpert back in 2012 there was approximately 300 world wide…fast forward to 2016 and there are now 1360 give or take.

Over the past few years there are always comments and questions around the swelling of the numbers and how there should be a more stringent approval and acceptance structure. I myself shared those thoughts in previous posts…however my opinions around this have changed mainly because I have come to understand what the vExpert program (and other vendor programs) are all about and where myself, and VMware can achieve maximum value.

The vExpert program is designed to aid in your success and help amplify your internal and or external personal brands and channels. So whether you are a external evangelist or a internal champion we want to be sure you have the resources needed for the program so you can be more successful. Make no mistake that this program exists to help VMware push it’s products and services through the advocacy of the people in the group. The reward is given to those who in previous 12 months have shown themselves to be active in that advocacy. That doesn’t always mean that you need to be an active blogger or present at events, but it does mean that in your day to day role within the IT Industry you should be championing VMware as a company and break that down to champion VMware products that you use or sell.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t be involved in looking at and advocating other vendor technologies (I am a Veeam VanGaurd and PernixPro as an example) but as Corey mentioned in his email quoted above, the criteria used to have achieved the award implies that those activities need to be VMware focused.

Once you have the title it’s important to understand that there is a responsibility associated with it…it’s not just about the free gear though as I have stated before you should accept that as a perk of being part of the program and you shouldn’t feel like a “vendor whore” for accepting that shirt or coffee mug. Going back to responsibility, what I mean by that is that you should wear the badge proudly…understand that you have taken the time to apply/reapply for the award because you believed yourself worth of filling the selection criteria and use the award as a stepping stone to improve on the activities that got you there the year before.

Don’t rest on your laurels and expect the award to come to you every year…the vExpert team put a lot load of effort into keeping the program running and as a group we get significant exposure and opportunity from VMware and their partners…make it count and don’t waste it! Make sure you engage with others in the community through Twitter, LinkedIn or the Slack vExpert Channel or get down to your local VMUG or VMware event and engage directly.

vExpert On and Advocate!

VSAN 6.2 – Things Just Got Interesting!

There is a saying in our industry that Microsoft always get their products right on the third attempt…and while this has been less and less the case of late (Hyper-V 2012 didn’t exactly deliver) it is more or less an accurate statement. Having been part of the beta and early access blogger sessions for VSAN 6.2 I can say with confidence that VMware have hit the nail on the head with this 6.2 release.

The Hyper-converged storage platform which is built into the worlds leading hypervisor platform (VMware ESXi) has reached a level of maturity and feature set that should and will make the more established HCI vendors take note and certainly act towards lowering the competitive attack surface that existed with previous releases of VSAN.

The table below shows you the new features of 6.2 together with the existing features of 6.1. As you can see by the number of green dots there are not a lot of new features…but they certainly pack a punch and fill in the gaps that had stopped VSAN being adopted for higher end workloads in comparison with existing market leaders.

Across all versions, Software Checksum has been added with Advanced and Enterprise versions getting VSANs implementation of Erasure Coding (RAID 5/6) with Deduplication and Compression available for the All Flash version and QOS IOPS Limiting available in Enterprise only.

With the initial 5.x releases of VSAN VMware where very reluctant to state that it was suitable for “enterprise” workloads and only mentioned VDI, Test and Development workloads…the language changed to extend to more enterprise workloads in VSAN 6.x but as you can see below the 6.2 release now targets all workloads…and more importantly VMware are openly confident of backing the claim.

VMware have achieved this mostly through the efficiencies that come with their deduplication and compression feature along with erasure coding which in effect adds RAID5/6 support with a FTT level of 1 or 2 set which is in addition to the RAID1 implementation in previous versions. Software Checksum has been used as a huge point of difference in comparing other HCI platforms to the previous VSAN releases so it’s great to see this added tick box to further ensure data consistency across VSAN disk group and datastore objects.

The QOS feature that applies IOPS limiting on a per VM basis is also significant for extending VSAN workload reach and allows the segmentation of noisy neighbours and allows operators to apply limits that have had a flaky history up to this point on vSphere platforms and this is probably my favourite new feature.

As with previous 6.x releases of VSAN there is an AFA option available in Enterprise and Enterprise Plus editions though you will pay a premium compared to the hybrid version and while I’m still not convinced VMware have the pricing right I do know that there is ongoing work to make it more attractive for enterprises and service providers alike.

One of the great things about VSAN is the ability to build your own platform from whatever combination of HCL approved hardware you want. This flexibility is only comparable to EMCs ScaleIO but also means that some extra thought needs to go into a VSAN build if you don’t want to go down the Ready Node path. In my testing…if sized correctly the only limitation in terms of performance is the speed of your network cards and I’ve been able to push VSAN (Hybrid) to impressive throughput numbers with importantly low latency numbers.

Finally, the 6.2 version of VSAN expands on the Health and Monitoring components that existed in previous versions. VMware have baked in new performance and capacity monitoring into the vCenter Web Client that gives insights in VM storage consumption and how that capacity is taken up by the various VSAN components.

There is also a new Cluster Performance Menu to gives greater details into VSAN Cluster throughput, IOPS and latency so there should be no need to get into the vSphere Ruby Client which is a blessing. The UI is limited by the Web Client and not as sexy and modern as others out there but it’s come a long way and now means you don’t need to hook in external systems to get VSAN related metrics.

As suggested by the posts title, I believe that this VSAN release represents VMware’s official coming of age into the HCI market and will make the other players take note which will no doubt spark the odd Twitter fuelled banter and Slack Channel discussions about what’s missing or what’s been copied…but at the end of the day competition in tech is great and better products are born out of competition.

Things just got Interesting!

For a more detailed look at the new features check out Duncan Epping‘s post here:

Learning VMware NSX: Special Discount Offer

Continuing on from post earlier on the week on the release of the new Learning VMware NSX Book by Ranjit Singh and reviewed by myself @jfrappier…the guys at Packt Publishing are offering readers of this post a 50% discount on the book. So if you are looking to grab a copy, you have until the 4th of March to claim this offer.

Click here to claim the code and grab the book.

Rubrik Hands On: Initial Setup and Configuration

Late last year I attended a bloggers briefing for the launch of Rubrik Converged Data Management where the secondary storage startup announced version 2.0 of their hardware plus software backup platform. This week Rubrik will be presenting at Tech Field Day 10 and have just relaunched their website to coincide with some new announcements.

Is it safe to say backups are cool again…and even though Veeam have been making backups cool for a while Rubrik are looking to raise the bar and make backups even cooler and above all…highly salable and trustworthy.

For an overview of what Rubrik is and what it’s trying to achieve, click here to go through my introductory post. Below are some screen shots and a quick walk though of the Rubrik setup and first configuration steps taken from the POC box that I have in the Zettagrid Labs testing with the help of Frank Yoo.

Initial Setup and Configuration:

As with most startups these days the initial setup and configuration is heavily guided with the help of a Rubrik engineer…they even offered to fly out the resource (Frank) to do an onsite install over here in Perth which wasn’t required. After racking and stacking the R344 series appliance we connected up a laptop to the same subnet as the management network ports. The setup is fairly automated and makes use of the Bonjour service as well as the inbuilt smarts Rubrik have baked in.

Once the initial node has been reached via a web browser you are ready to set up the default admin user and you go through and configure the basic network settings (note these can’t be modified later without getting into the backend) and NTP configuration.

You next set each of the four nodes Management and Data addresses. The data network will be used to talk to the ESXi hosts and act as the pathway to mount NFS shares for VM restores.

After about 5 minutes you are ready to log in. The architecture of the Rubrik block is such that you can hit any of the IP addresses to enter the management UI.

The interface is fluid and simple to operate with a number of informational dashboards throughout the various menu options.

From the Top Right Configuration Icon you can work through the different options and the Rubrik team have made it straight forward to configure users, add target vCenter instances as well as setting replication and archive endpoints.

You can add multiple vCenter servers and all you need to connect is the IP address and a vCenter account with the necessary privileges.

You can also connect to an Active Directory domain for user authentication however this feature is still a little underdone and doesn’t let you do any role based access control yet.

Once connected to AD you get a list of all users from which you can modify through the UI and grant access permissions to.

The left hand menu is used to navigate through the Backup operations as well as reporting.

The static images don’t do the UI justice and as you can see below there is lots of details when it comes to node configuration, usage and overall health as well as current IO throughput numbers and disk performance.
So there is a quick walk through of some of the main screens of the UI as you install and configure the Rubrik Backup Appliance for the first time. It really is a quick start to finish from the time the nodes are first powered up to when you are able to do your first VM backup and there isn’t too much to grasp in terms of mastering the interfaces knobs and dials.

I am hoping that there are some more great announcements at TFD10 that further enhance the feature set included in v2.0 and I’m looking forward to going through a few more blog posts around setting up SLA Domains that essentially dictate backup frequency as well as the archival and replication features that are currently available.

I like the fact Rubrik have well and truly shaken up the backup market and that can only serve to increase the quality of all vendors in the space as backups continue to be a challenge within IT.

References:

http://www.rubrik.com/solutions/automated-backup-instant-recovery/

Quick Post: CloudPhysics Weekly Digest

CloudPhysics are still quietly working away in the background continuing to improve their analytics service…and apart from recently announcing record results for 2015 have started to send out a weekly digests which gives a great snapshot of whats happened in your vSphere environment over the course of the previous week.

The digest contains the following:


 

Environment Summary As of 1 Feb Weekly Change
vCenters 3 0
Observers Online 3 0 —
Observers Offline 0 0 —
VMs 4071 0
Powered on 3086 3 ▲
Powered off 979 2 ▼
Suspended 6 1 ▼
Templates 0 0 —
Hosts 169 1
Clustered 168 1 ▲
Standalone 1 0 —
Avg. VMs (on) / Host (on) 30.7 0.4 ▼
Clusters 13 0
Datastores 64 0
Total Storage 1805.09 TB < 0.01 TB ▲
Free Storage 1477.48 TB 2.02 TB ▲
Events: 25 Jan – 1 Feb
VMs with Config Changes 90
VMs Created 7
vMotions 337

Issues: As of 1 Feb

We found 5 critical issues from VMware and top datacenter vendor knowledge base articles that are highly relevant to your vSphere installation.

Visit KBA Card

1 virtual machine(s) have snapshots using more than 75% of the disk space used by all their respective virtual disks.

Snapshots Gone Wild

4 host(s) are running unsupported VMware ESXi versions.

3 host servers are not supported by VMware.

Host Inventory

26 VM(s) have experienced performance degradation due to datastore contention in last 24 hours.

VM I/O Contentions

2 datastore(s) are in inaccessible state.

Datastore Space

Best Regards,
CloudPhysics


 

They have also made public the vCenter “Deep Linking” feature which I had been beta testing and using for a while…its a great mechanism to attend to issues directly from the CloudPhyics web UI and have the vCenter Web Client launch directly to the areas that requires attention.

Click here to start a free trial that can be up and running in 15 minutes!