Tag Archives: vCAN

Looking Beyond the Hyper-Scaler Clouds – Don’t Forget the Little Guys!

I’ve been on the road over the past couple of weeks presenting to Veeam’s VCSP partners and prospective partners here in Australia and New Zealand on Veeam’s Cloud Business. Apart from the great feedback in response to what Veeam is doing by way of our cloud story I’ve had good conversations around public cloud and infrastructure providers verses the likes of Azure or AWS. Coming from my background working for smaller, but very successful service providers I found it almost astonishing that smaller resellers and MSPs seem to be leveraging the hyper-scale clouds without giving the smaller providers a look in.

On the one hand, I understand why people would choose to look to Azure, AWS and alike to run their client services…while on the other hand I believe that the marketing power of the hyper-scalers has left the capabilities and reputation of smaller providers short changed. You only need to look at last week’s AWS outage and previous Azure outages to understand that no cloud is immune to outages and it’s misjudged to assume that the hyper-scalers offer any better reliability or uptime than the likes of providers in the vCloud Air Network or other IaaS providers out there.

That said, there is no doubt that the scale and brain power that sits behind the hyper-scalers ensures a level of service and reliability that some smaller providers will struggle to match, but as was the case last week…the bigger they are, the harder they fall. The other things that comes with scale is the ability to drive down prices and again, there seems to be a misconception that the hyper-scalers are cheaper than smaller service providers. In fact most of the conversations I had last week as to why Azure or AWS was chosen was down to pricing and kickbacks. Certainly in Azure’s case, Microsoft has thrown a lot into ensuring customers on EAs have enough free service credits to ensure uptake and there are apparently nice sign-up bonuses that they offer to partners.

During that conversation, I asked the reseller why they hadn’t looked at some of the local VCSP/vCAN providers as options for hosting their Veeam infrastructure for clients to backup workloads to. Their response was, that it was never a consideration due to Microsoft being…well…Microsoft. The marketing juggernaut was too strong…the kickbacks too attractive. After talking to him for a few minutes I convinced him to take a look at the local providers who offer, in my opinion more flexible and more diverse service offerings for the use case.

Not surprisingly, in most cases money is the number one factor in a lot of these decisions with service uptime and reliability coming in as an important afterthought…but an afterthought non-the less. I’ve already written about service uptime and reliability in regards to cloud outages before but the main point of this post is to highlight that resellers and MSP’s can make as much money…if not more, with smaller service providers. It’s common now for service providers to offer partner reseller or channel programs that ensure the partner gets decent recurring revenue streams from the services consumed and the more consumed the more you make by way of program level incentives.

I’m not going to do the sums, because there is so much variation in the different programs but those reading who have not considered using smaller providers over the likes of Azure or AWS I would encourage to look through the VCSP Service Provider directory and the vCloud Air Network directory and locate local providers. From there, enquire about their partner reseller or channel programs…there is money to be made. Veeam (and VMware with the vCAN) put a lot of trust and effort into our VCSPs and having worked for some of the best and know of a lot of other service provider offerings I can tell you that if you are not looking at them as a viable option for your cloud services then you are not doing yourself justice.

The cloud hyper-scalers are far from the panacea they claim to be…if anything, it’s worthwhile spreading your workloads across multiple clouds to ensure the best availability experience for your clients…however, don’t forget the little guys!

Released: vCenter and ESXi 6.0 Update 3 – What’s in It for Service Providers

Last month I wrote a blog post on upgrading vCenter 5.5 to 6.0 Update 2 and during the course of writing that blog post I conducted a survey on which version of vSphere most people where seeing out in the wild…overwhelmingly vSphere 6.0 was the most popular version with 5.5 second and 6.5 lagging in adoption for the moment. It’s safe to assume that vCenter 6.0 and ESXi 6.0 will be common deployments for some time in brownfield sites and with the release of Update 3 for vCenter and ESXi I thought it would be good to again highlight some of the best features and enhancements as I see them from a Service Provider point of view.

vCenter 6.0 Update 3 (Build 5112506)

This is actually the eighth build release of vCenter 6.0 and includes updated TLS support for v1.0 1.1 and 1.2 which is worth a look in terms of what it means for other VMware products as it could impact connectivity…I know that vCloud Director SP now expects TLSv 1.1 by default as an example. Other things listed in the What’s New include support for MSSQL 2012 SP3, updated M2VCSA support, timezone updates and some changes to the resource allocation for the platform services controller.

Looking through the Resolved Issue there are a number of networking related fixes in the release plus a few annoying problems relating to vMotion. The ones below are the main ones that could impact on Service Provider operations.

  • Upgrading vCenter Server from version 6.0.0b to 6.0.x might fail. 
    Attempts to upgrade vCenter Server from version 6.0.0b to 6.0.x might fail. This issue occurs while starting service An error message similar to the following is displayed in the run-updateboot-scripts.log file.
    “Installation of component VCSServiceManager failed with error code ‘1603’”
  • Managing legacy ESXi from the vCenter Server with TLSv1.0 disabled is impacted.
    vCenter Server with TLSv1.0 disabled supports management of legacy ESXi versions in 5.5.x and 6.0.x. ESXi 5.5 P08 and ESXi 6.0 P02 onwards is supported for 5.5.x and 6.0.x respectively.
  • x-VC operations involving legacy ESXi 5.5 host succeeds.
    x-VC operations involving legacy ESXi 5.5 host succeeds. Cold relocate and clone have been implicitly allowed for ESXi 5.5 host.
  • Unable to use End Vmware Tools install option using vSphere Client.
    Unable to use End VMware Tools install option while installing VMware Tools using vSphere Client. This issue occurs after upgrading to vCenter Server 6.0 Update 1.
  • Enhanced vMotion fails to move the vApp.VmConfigInfo property to destination vCenter Server.
    Enhanced vMotion fails to move the vApp.VmConfigInfo property to destination vCenter Server although virtual machine migration is successful.
  • Storage vMotion fails if the VM is connected with a CD ISO file.
    If the VM is connected with a CD ISO file, Storage vMotion fails with an error similar to the following:
  • Unregistering an extension does not delete agencies created by a solution plug-in.
    The agencies or agents created by a solution such as NSX, or any other solution which uses EAM is not deleted from the database when the solution is unregistered as an extension in vCenter Server.

ESXi 6.0 Update 3 (Build 5050593)

The what’s new in ESXi is a lot more exciting than what’s new with vCenter highlighted by a new Host Client and fairly significant improvements in vSAN performance along with similar TLS changes that are included in the vCenter update 3. With regards to the Host Client the version is now 1.14.0. and includes bug fixes and brings it closer to the functionality provided by the vSphere Client. It’s also worth mentioning that new versions of the Host Client continue to be released through the VMware Labs Flings site. but, those versions are not officially supported and not recommended for production environments.

For vSAN, multiple fixes have been introduced to optimize I/O path for improved vSAN performance in All Flash and Hybrid configurations and there is a seperate VMwareKB that address the fixes here.

  • More Logs Much less Space vSAN now has efficient log management strategies that allows more logging to be packed per byte of storage. This prevents the log from reaching its assigned limit too fast and too frequently. It also provides enough time for vSAN to process the log entries before it reaches it’s assigned limit thereby avoiding unnecessary I/O operations
  • Pre-emptive de-staging vSAN has built in algorithms that de-stages data on periodic basis. The de-staging operations coupled with efficient log management significantly improves performance for large file deletes including performance for write intensive workloads
  • Checksum  Improvements vSAN has several enhancements that made the checksum code path more efficient. These changes are expected to be extremely beneficial and make a significant impact on all flash configurations, as there is no additional read cache look up. These enhancements are expected to provide significant performance benefits for both sequential and random workloads.

As with vCenter, I’ve gone through and picked out the most significant bug fixes as they relate to Service Providers. The first one listed below is important to think about as it should significantly reduce the number of failures that people have been seeing with ESXi installed on SD-Flash Card and not just for VDI environments as the release notes suggest.

  • High read load of VMware Tools ISO images might cause corruption of flash media  In VDI environment, the high read load of the VMware Tools images can result in corruption of the flash media.
    You can copy all the VMware Tools data into its own ramdisk. As a result, the data can be read from the flash media only once per boot. All other reads will go to the ramdisk. vCenter Server Agent (vpxa) accesses this data through the /vmimages directory which has symlinks that point to productLocker.
  • ESXi 6.x hosts stop responding after running for 85 days
    When this problem occurs, the /var/log/vmkernel log file displays entries similar to the followingARP request packets might drop.
  • ARP request packets between two VMs might be dropped if one VM is configured with guest VLAN tagging and the other VM is configured with virtual switch VLAN tagging, and VLAN offload is turned off on the VMs.
  • Physical switch flooded with RARP packets when using Citrix VDI PXE boot
    When you boot a virtual machine for Citrix VDI, the physical switch is flooded with RARP packets (over 1000) which might cause network connections to drop and a momentary outage. This release provides an advanced option /Net/NetSendRARPOnPortEnablement. You need to set the value for /Net/NetSendRARPOnPortEnablementto 0 to resolve this issue.
  • Snapshot creation task cancellation for Virtual Volumes might result in data loss
    Attempts to cancel snapshot creation for a VM whose VMDKs are on Virtual Volumes datastores might result in virtual disks not getting rolled back properly and consequent data loss. This situation occurs when a VM has multiple VMDKs with the same name and these come from different Virtual Volumes datastores.
  • VMDK does not roll back properly when snapshot creation fails for Virtual Volumes VMs
    When snapshot creation attempts for a Virtual Volumes VM fail, the VMDK is tied to an incorrect data Virtual Volume. The issue occurs only when the VMDK for the Virtual Volumes VM comes from multiple Virtual Volumes datastores.
  • ESXi host fails with a purple diagnostic screen due to path claiming conflicts
    An ESXi host displays a purple diagnostic screen when it encounters a device that is registered, but whose paths are claimed by a two multipath plugins, for example EMC PowerPath and the Native Multipathing Plugin (NMP). This type of conflict occurs when a plugin claim rule fails to claim the path and NMP claims the path by default. NMP tries to register the device but because the device is already registered by the other plugin, a race condition occurs and triggers an ESXi host failure.
  • ESXi host fails with a purple diagnostic screen due to path claiming conflicts
    An ESXi host displays a purple diagnostic screen when it encounters a device that is registered, but whose paths are claimed by a two multipath plugins, for example EMC PowerPath and the Native Multipathing Plugin (NMP). This type of conflict occurs when a plugin claim rule fails to claim the path and NMP claims the path by default. NMP tries to register the device but because the device is already registered by the other plugin, a race condition occurs and triggers an ESXi host failure.
  • ESXi host fails to rejoin VMware Virtual SAN cluster after a reboot
    Attempts to rejoin the VMware Virtual SAN cluster manually after a reboot might fail with the following error:
    Failed to join the host in VSAN cluster (Failed to start vsantraced (return code 2)
  • Virtual SAN Disk Rebalance task halts at 5% for more than 24 hours
    The Virtual SAN Health Service reports Virtual SAN Disk Balance warnings in the vSphere Web Client. When you click Rebalance disks, the task appears to halt at 5% for more than 24 hours.

It’s also worth reading through the Known Issues section as there is a fair bit to be aware of especially if running NFS 4.1 and worth looking through the general storage issues.

Happy upgrading!

References:

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vsphere/60/vsphere-vcenter-server-60u3-release-notes.html

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vsphere/60/vsphere-esxi-60u3-release-notes.html

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2149127

vSphere 6.5 – Whats in it for Service Providers Part 1

Last week after an extended period of development and beta testing VMware released vSphere 6.5. This is a lot more than a point release and is a major major upgrade from vSphere 6.0. In fact, there is so much packed into this new release that there is an official whitepaper listing all the features and enhancements that had been linked from the release notes.  I thought I would go through some of the key features and enhancements that are included in the latest versions of vCenter and ESXi and as per usual I’ll go through those improvements that relate back to the Service Providers that use vSphere as the foundation of their Managed or Infrastructure as a Service offerings.

Generally the “whats new” would fit into one post, however having gotten through just the vCenter features it became apparent that this would have to be a multi-post series…this is great news for vCloud Air Network Service Providers out there as it means there is a lot packed in for IaaS and MSPs to take advantage of.

With that, in this post will cover the following:

  • vCenter 6.5 New Features
  • vCD and NSX Compatibility
  • Current Known Issues

vCenter 6.5 New Features:

Without question the enhancements to the VCSA stand out as one of the biggest features of 6.5 and as mentioned in the whitepaper, the installer process has been overhauled and is a much smoother, streamlined experience than with previous versions. It’s also supported across more operating systems and the 6.5 version of vCenter now surpasses the Windows version offering the migration tool, native high availability and built in backup and restore. One interesting sidenote to the new VCSA is that the HTML5 vSphere Client has shipped, though it’s still very much a work in progress as a lot of unsupported functionality mentioned in the release notes…there is lots of work to do to bring it up to parity with the Flex Web Client.

In terms of the inbuilt PostGreSQL database I think it’s time that Service Providers feel confident in making the switch away from MSSQL (which was the norm with Windows based vCenters) as the enhanced VCSA Management Interface (found on port 5480) has a new monitoring screen showing information relating to disk space usage and also provides a way to gracefully start and stop the database engine.

Other vCenter enhancements that Service Providers will make use of is the High availability feature which is something a lot of people have been asking for a long time. For me, I always dealt with the no HA constraint in that vCenter may become unavailable for 5-10 minutes during maintenance or at worse an extended outage while recovering from a VM or OS level failure. Knowing that hosts and VMs are still working and responding with vCenter down leaving only core management functionality unavailable it was a risk myself and others were willing to take. However, in this day of the always on datacenter it’s expected that management functionality be as available at IaaS services…so with that, this HA feature is well welcomed for Service Providers.

This native HA solution is available exclusively for the VCSA and the solution consists of active, passive, and witness nodes that are cloned from the existing vCenter Server instance. The HA cluster can be enabled, disabled, or destroyed at any time. There is also a maintenance mode that prevents planned maintenance from causing an unwanted failover.

The VCSA Migration Tool that was previously released in 6.0 Update 2m is shipped in the VCSA ISO and can be used to migrate from Windows based 5.5 vCenter’s to the 6.5 VCSA. Again this is something that more and more service providers will take advantage of as the reliance on Windows based vCenters and MSSQL becomes more and more something that’s unwanted from a manageability and cost point of view. Throw in the enhanced features that have only been released for the VCSA and this is a migration that all service providers should be planning.

To complete the move away from any Windows based dependencies the vSphere Update Manager has also been fully integrated into the VCSA. VUM is now fully integrated into the Web Client UI and is enabled by default. For larger environments with a large numbers of hosts AutoDeploy is now fully manageable from the VCSA UI and doesn’t require PowerCLI to manage or configure it’s options. There is a new image builder included in the UI that can hit local or public repositories to pull images or drivers and there are performance enhancements during deployments of ESXi images to hosts.

vCD and NSX Compatibility:

Shifting from new features and enhancements to an important subject to talk about when talking service provider platform…VMware product compatibility. For those vCAN Service Providers running a Hybrid Cloud you should be running a combination of vCloud Director SP or/and NSX-v of which, at the moment there is no support for either in vSphere 6.5. No compatible versions of NSX are available for vSphere 6.5. If you attempt to prepare your vSphere 6.5 hosts with NSX 6.2.x, you receive an error message and cannot proceed.

I haven’t tested to see if vCloud Director SP will connect and interact with vCenter 6.5 or ESXi 6.5 however as it’s not supported I wouldn’t suggest upgrading production IaaS platforms until the interoperability matrix’s are updated.

At this stage there is no word on when either product will support vSphere 6.5 but I suspect we will see NSX-v come out with a supported build shortly…though I’m expecting vCloud Director SP to no support 6.5 until the next major version release, which is looking like the new year.

Installation and Upgrade Known Issues:

Having read through the release notes, there are also a number of known issues you should be aware of. I’ve gone through those and pulled the ones I consider the most likely to be impactful to IaaS platforms.

  • After upgrading to vCenter Server 6.5, the ESXi hosts in High Availability clusters appear as Not Ready in the VMware NSX UI
    If your vSphere environment includes NSX and clusters configured with vSphere High Availability, after you upgrade to vCenter Server 6.5, both NSX and vSphere High Availability start installing VIBs on all hosts in the clusters. This might cause installation of NSX VIBs on some hosts to fail, and you see the hosts as Not Ready in the NSX UI.
    Workaround: Use the NSX UI to reinstall the VIBs.
  • Error 400 during attempt to log in to vCenter Server from the vSphere Web Client
    You log in to vCenter Server from the vSphere Web Client and log out. If, after 8 hours or more, you attempt to log in from the same browser tab, the following error results.
    400 An Error occurred from SSO. urn:oasis:names:tc:SAML:2.0:status:Requester, sub status:nullWorkaround: Close the browser or the browser tab and log in again.
  • Using storage rescan in environments with the large number of LUNs might cause unpredictable problems
    Storage rescan is an IO intensive operation. If you run it while performing other datastore management operation, such as creating or extending a datastore, you might experience delays and other problems. Problems are likely to occur in environments with the large number of LUNs, up to 1024, that are supported in the vSphere 6.5 release.Workaround: Typically, storage rescans that your hosts periodically perform are sufficient. You are not required to rescan storage when you perform the general datastore management tasks. Run storage rescans only when absolutely necessary, especially when your deployments include a large set of LUNs.
  • In vSphere 6.5, the name assigned to the iSCSI software adapter is different from the earlier releases
    After you upgrade to the vSphere 6.5 release, the name of the existing software iSCSI adapter, vmhbaXX, changes. This change affects any scripts that use hard-coded values for the name of the adapter. Because VMware does not guarantee that the adapter name remains the same across releases, you should not hard code the name in the scripts. The name change does not affect the behavior of the iSCSI software adapter.Workaround: None.
  • The bnx2x inbox driver that supports the QLogic NetXtreme II Network/iSCSI/FCoE adapter might cause problems in your ESXi environment
    Problems and errors occur when you disable or enable VMkernel ports and change the failover order of NICs for your iSCSI network setup.Workaround: Replace the bnx2x driver with an asynchronous driver. For information, see the VMware Web site.
  • When you use the Dell lsi_mr3 driver version 6.903.85.00-1OEM.600.0.0.2768847, you might encounter errors
    If you use the Dell lsi_mr3 asynchronous driver version 6.903.85.00-1OEM.600.0.0.2768847, the VMkernel logs might display the following message ScsiCore: 1806: Invalid sense buffer.Workaround: Replace the driver with the vSphere 6.5 inbox driver or an asynchronous driver from Broadcom.
  • Storage I/O Control settings are not honored per VMDK
    Storage I/O Control settings are not honored on a per VMDK basis. The VMDK settings are honored at the virtual machine level.Workaround: None.
  • Cannot create or clone a virtual machine on a SDRS-disabled datastore cluster
    This issue occurs when you select a datastore that is part of a SDRS-disabled datastore cluster in any of the New Virtual Machine, Clone Virtual Machine (to virtual machine or to template), or Deploy From Template wizards. When you arrive at the the Ready to Complete page and click Finish, the wizard remains open and nothing appears to occur. The Datastore value status for the virtual machine might display “Getting data…” and does not change.Workaround: Use the vSphere Web Client for placing virtual machines on SDRS-disabled datastore clusters.

These are just a few, that I have singled out…it’s worth reading through all the known issues just in case there are any specific issues that might impact you.

In the next post in this vSphere 6.5 for Service Providers series I will cover, more vCenter features as well as ESXi enhancements and what’s new in Core Storage.

References:

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vsphere/65/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-65-release-notes.html

http://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/whitepaper/vsphere/vmw-white-paper-vsphr-whats-new-6-5.pdf

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vsphere/65/vsphere-client-65-html5-functionality-support.html

VMware on AWS: vCloud Director and What Needs to be Done to Empower the vCAN

Last week VMware and Amazon Web Services officially announced their new joint venture whereby VMware technology will be available to run as a service on AWS in the form of bare-bones hardware with vCenter, ESXi, NSX and VSAN as the core VMware technology components. This isn’t some magic whereby ESXi is nested or emulated upon the existing AWS platform, but a fully fledged dedicated virtual datacenter offering that clients can buy through VMware and have VMware manage the stack right up to the core vCenter components.

Earlier in the week I wrote down some thoughts around the possible impact to the vCloud Air Network this new offering could have. While at first glance it would appear that I was largely negative towards the announcement, after having a think about the possible implications I started to think about how this could be advantageous for the vCloud Air Network. What it comes down to is how much VMware was to open up the API’s for all components hosted on AWS and how the vCloud Director SP product team develops around those API’s.

From there it will be on vCloud Air Network partners that have the capabilities to tap into the VMC’s. I believe there is an opportunity here for vCAN Service Providers to go beyond offering just IaaS and combine their offerings with the VMware AWS offering as well as help extend out to offer AWS PaaS without the worry that traditional VM workloads will be migrated to AWS.

For this to happen though VMware have to do something they haven’t done in the past…that is, commit to making sure vCAN providers can cash in on the opportunity and be empowered by the opportunity to grow VMware based services… as I mentioned in my original post:

In truth VMware have been very slow…almost reluctant to pass over features that would allow this cross cloud compatibility and migration be even more of a weapon for the vCAN by holding back on features that allowed on-premises vCenter and Workstation/Fusion connect directly to vCloud Air endpoints in products such as Hybrid Cloud Manager. I strongly believed that those products should have been extended from day zero to have the ability to connect to any vCloud Director endpoint…it wasn’t a stretch for that to occure as it is effectively the same endpoint but for some reason it was strategically labeled as a “coming soon” feature.

Extending vCloud Director SP:

I have taken liberty to extend the VMWonAWS graphic to include what I believe should be the final puzzle in what would make the partnership sit well with existing vCloud Air Network providers…that is, allow vCloud Director SP to bridge the gap between the on-premises compute, networking and storage and the AWS based VMware platform infrastructure.

vCloud Director is a cloud management platform that abstracts physical resources from vCenter and interacts with NSX to build out networking resources via the NSX Manager API’s…with that it’s not hard in my eyes to allow any exposed vCenter or NSX Manager to be consumed by vCloud Director.

With that allowed, any AWS vCenter dedicated instance can become a Virtual Datacenter object in vCloud Director and consumed by an organisation. For vCloud Air Network partners who have the ability to programatically interact with the vCloud Director APIs, this all of a sudden could open up another 70+ AWS locations on which to allow their customers to deploy Virtual Datacenters.

Take that one step further and allow vCD to overlay on-premises compute and networking resources and then allow connectivity between all locations via NSX hybridity and you have a seriously rock solid solution that extends a customer on-premises to a more conveniently placed (remember AWS isn’t everywhere) vCloud Air Network platform that can in turn consume/burst into a VMware Dedicated instance on AWS and you now have something that rivals the much hyped Hybrid Cloud Strategy of Microsoft and the Azure Stack.

What Needs to Happen:

It’s pretty simple…VMware need to commit to continued/accelerated development of vCloud Director SP (which has already begun in earnest) and give vCloud Air Network providers the ability to consume both ways…on-premises and on VMware’s AWS platform. VMware need to grant this capability to vCloud Air Network providers from the outset and not play the stalling game that was apparent when it came to feature parity with vCloud Air.

What I have envisioned isn’t far off becoming a reality…vCloud Director is mature and extensible enough to do what I have described above, and I believe that in my recent dealings with the vCloud Director product and marketing teams at VMworld US earlier this year that there is real belief in the team that the cloud management platform will continue to improve and evolve…if VMware allow it to.

Further improving on vCloud Directors maturity and extensibility, if the much maligned UI is improved as promised…with the upcoming addition of full NSX integration completing the network stack, the next step in greater adoption beyond the 300 odd vCAN SPs currently use vCloud Director needs a hook…and that hook should be VMWonAWS.

Time will tell…but there is huge potential here. VMware need to deliver to their partners in order to have that VMWonAWS potential realised.

 

VMware on AWS: Thoughts on the Impact to the vCloud Air Network

Last week VMware and Amazon Web Services officially announced their new joint venture whereby VMware technology will be available to run as a service on AWS in the form of bare-bones hardware with vCenter, ESXi, NSX and VSAN as the core VMware technology components. This isn’t some magic whereby ESXi is nested or emulated upon the existing AWS platform, but a fully fledged dedicated virtual datacenter offering that clients can buy through VMware and have VMware manage the stack right up to the core vCenter components.

Note: These initial opinions are just that. There has been a fair bit of Twitter reaction over the announcement, with the majority being somewhat negative towards the VMware strategy. There are a lot of smart guys working on this within VMware and that means it’s got technical focus, not just Exec/Board strategy. There is also a lot of time between this initial announcement and it’s release first release in 2017 however initial perception and reaction to a massive shift in direction should and will generate debate…this is my take from a vCAN point of view.

The key service benefits as taken from the AWS/VMware landing page can be seen below:

Let me start by saying that this is a huge huge deal and can not be underestimated in terms of it’s significance. If I take my vCAN hat off, I can see how and why this was necessary for both parties to help each other fight off the growing challenge from Microsoft’s Azure offering and the upcoming Azure Stack. For AWS, it lets them tap into the enterprise market where they say they have been doing well…though in reality, it’s known that they aren’t doing as well as they had hoped. While for VMware, it helps them look serious about offering a public cloud that is truly hyper-scale and also looks at protecting existing VMware workloads from being moved over to Azure…and to a lesser extent AWS directly.

There is a common enemy here, and to be fair to Microsoft it’s obvious that their own shift in focus and direction has been working and the industry is taking note.

Erasing vCloud Air and The vCAN Impact:

For VMware especially, it can and should erase the absolute disaster that was vCloud Air… Looking back at how the vCloud Air project transpired the best thing to come out of it was the refocus in 2015 of VMware to prop back up the vCloud Air Network, which before that had been looking shaky with the vCANs strongest weapon, vCloud Director, being pushed to the side and it’s future uncertain. In the last twelve months there has an been apparent recommitment to vCloud Director and the vCAN and things had been looking good…however that could be under threat with this announcement…and for me, perception is everything!

Public Show of Focus and Direction:

Have a listen to the CNBC segment embedded above where Pat Gelsinger and AWS CEO Andy Jassy discuss the partnership. Though I wouldn’t expect them to mention the 4000+ strong vCloud Air Network (or the recent partnership with IBM for that matter) the fact that they are openly discussing about the unique industry first benefits the VMWonAWS partnership brings to the market, in the same breath they ignore or put aside the fact that the single biggest advantage that the vCloud Air Network had was VMware workload mobility.

Complete VMware Compatibility:

VMware Cloud on AWS will provide VMware customers with full VM compatibility and seamless workload portability between their on-premises infrastructure and the AWS Cloud without the need for any workload modifications or retooling.

Workload Migration:

VMware Cloud on AWS works seamlessly with vSphere vMotion, allowing you to move running virtual machines from on-premises infrastructure to the AWS Cloud without any downtime. The virtual machines retain network identity and connections, ensuring a seamless migration experience.

The above features are pretty much the biggest weapons that vCloud Air Network partners had in the fight against existing or potential client moving or choosing AWS over their own VMware based platform…and from direct experience, I know that this advantage is massive and does work. With this advantage taken away, vCAN Service Providers may start to loose workloads to AWS at a faster clip than what was done previously.

In truth VMware have been very slow…almost reluctant to pass over features that would allow this cross cloud compatibility and migration be even more of a weapon for the vCAN by holding back on features that allowed on-premises vCenter and Workstation/Fusion connect directly to vCloud Air endpoints in products such as Hybrid Cloud Manager. I strongly believed that those products should have been extended from day zero to have the ability to connect to any vCloud Director endpoint…it wasn’t a stretch for that to occure as it is effectively the same endpoint but for some reason it was strategically labeled as a “coming soon” feature.

VMware Access to Multiple AWS Regions:

VMware Virtual Machines running on AWS can leverage over 70 AWS services covering compute, storage, database, security, analytics, mobile, and IoT. With VMware Cloud on AWS, customers will be able to leverage their existing investment in VMware licenses through customer loyalty programs.

I had mentioned on Twitter that the image below was both awesome and scary mainly because all I think about when I look at it is the overlay of the vCloud Air Network and how VMware actively promote 4000+ vCAN partners contributing to existing VMware customers in being able to leverage their existing investments on vCloud Air Network platforms.

Look familiar?

 

In truth of those 4000+ vCloud Air Network providers there are maybe 300 that are using vCloud Director in some shape or form and of those an even smaller amount that can programatically take advantage of automated provisioning and self service. There in lies one of the biggest issues for the vCAN…while some IaaS providers excel, the majority offer services that can’t stack up next to the hyper-scalers. Because of that, I don’t begrudge VMware to forgetting about the capabilities of the vCAN, but as mentioned above, I believe more could, and still can be been done to help the network complete in the market.

Conclusion:

Right, so that was all the negative stuff as it relates the vCloud Air Network, but I have been thinking about how this can be a positive for both the vCAN and more importantly for me…vCloud Director. I’ll put together another post on where and how I believe VMware can take advantage of this partnership to truly compete against the looming threat of the Azure Stack…with vCAN IaaS providers offering vCloud Director SP front and center of that solution.

References:

http://www.vmware.com/company/news/releases/vmw-newsfeed.VMware-and-AWS-Announce-New-Hybrid-Cloud-Service,-%E2%80%9CVMware-Cloud-on-AWS%E2%80%9D.3188645-manual.html

https://aws.amazon.com/vmware/

VMware Cloud™ on AWS – A Closer Look

https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&vertical=default&q=VMWonAWS

VMworld Europe 2016: vCloud Air Network Out in Force!

VMworld Europe is a little over a week away and while I won’t be attending the even in Barcelona in looking through the session catalog for Partner Exchange and VMworld proper the refocus on the vCloud Air Network that was announced last year at VMworld 2015 is being put well into action. Though since VMworld in the US I have been a little more skeptical given the Cloud Foundations and Cross Cloud Platform announcements…however I am sure that VMware is focused on ensuring the success of it’s vCAN Service Providers as IaaS continues to grow in this new hybrid world.

With another successful VMworld US and VMware Partner Exchange in the books, the vCloud Air Network team is headed to Barcelona, Spain for VMworld Europe 2016 – held at the Fira Gran Via from 17-20 October.

If you are attending Partner Exchange there are a bunch of great sessions that should be on your list for the Sunday ranging from an overview of the vCloud Architecture Toolkit, sessions on Hybrid Cloud with vCloud Director and sessions around storage and networking specific for vCAN Service Providers. I’ve listed down my top picks below pulled from the vCloud Teams recent blog and added links to them for easy searchability in the VMworld Session Catalog.

  • PAR3700 – Building and Enabling a Hybrid Cloud with vCloud Director – a Perspective for Service Providers
  • RTM3702 – Route to Market Session – vCloud Air Network Service Provider Partners
  • PAR3831 – Hybrid Cloud Networking & Security
  • PAR3708 Hyper-Converged, Software-Defined Storage: A New Profitable Revenue Path for Cloud Service Providers
  • PAR3714 – Winning SDDC and Hybrid Cloud Deals Against Competition
  • PAR3728 – Hybrid Cloud Migration Strategies

Looking through the breakout sessions and quick talks at VMworld proper there is still a lot of content relating to vCloud Air…however this seems to be more DR focused and there are a lot of sessions around leveraging NSX for Hybrid Cloud and enhanced vMotion capabilities in vCenter.

  • HBC7602 – Build True Hybrid Clouds: See How Service Providers Can Use NSX to Extend Customers On-prem Data Centers
  • HBC8474 – Making it Easy to Orchestrate and Automate Your Hybrid Cloud Environment
  • HBC8799 – How OVH, vCloud Air Network Service Provider, is Using NSX to Easily Onboard Your Workloads to the Cloud
  • HBC7700 – Disaster Recovery in the Cloud with VMware Availability
  • HBC9171 – Intercontinental vMotion with Purpose

There is also a decent looking self paced HoL looking at building a vCD based IaaS Platform.

  • SPL-1787-USE-1 – VMware vCloud Director for Service Providers – Building IaaS Platform

Apart from what I have listed above there will be a bunch of vCAN talent hovering around the conference so make sure you make an effort to connect, network and share vCAN experiences. We are effectively all in this together and if the vCAN grows stronger…we all grow stronger.

#LongLivevCD

Cross Cloud: Why The VM Shouldn’t Be The Base Unit of Measurement

I’ve been sitting on this topic since the VMworld 2016 US Keynote where VMware announced the Cross Cloud Architecture. I posted some raw thoughts the day after keynote and have been reflecting on how the Cross Cloud Platform could impact on VMware’s vCAN business. As mentioned previously I believe it’s representative of how VMware is worrying over it’s future relevance and reacting to current market fads all while ultimately worrying about how the hyper-scalers will impact their core infrastructure business.

The concept of cross cloud isn’t new and in truth a lot of vendors today are working to, or have solutions that aim to convert workloads from one platform to another. Zerto do this with their Cloud Fabric with the ability to move certain VMs from ESXi to Hyper-V, AWS and Azure and every combination in between. Veeam also have a new feature where you can restore ESXi or Hyper-V VMs to Azure…again, limited in functionality but a strong indication of what’s to come given the latest Veeam announcements.

Both Zerto and Veeam market their solutions well, however those that have been involved in V2Vs know that only under certain conditions do conversions go smoothly. There is no doubt this cross platform world is getting more reliable and more and more vendors are chasing the perfect conversion. However what Veeam and Zerto are offering is Backup and DR services that complement VM workloads either on-premises or in a cloud…the end game with these products isn’t mobility…its availability.

Focusing back on VMware it was clear to almost everyone that the Cross Cloud Platform featuring Azure and AWS workload migrations, was tech previewed to show that VMware is relevant in an enterprise multi cloud world but I am going to argue that the focus on the VM as the base unit of measurement is misguided…especially when it comes to VMware supporting it’s vCloud Air Network providers. I understand it as a necessity being able to have a class of portable applications in this new microservice and serverless world while having them transportable between multiple clouds. Again, I don’t believe the VM should be the base unit of measurement and the unit shown to be the most transportable.

Service providers need to play to their strengths, which in the vCAN world is no bill shock fixed cost IaaS workloads. This remains the base platform for a significant portion of any on-premises or cloud workload. Service providers take most of their revenue stream from compute, storage and networking that are the building blocks of instance based and resource pool offerings from which VMs can be provisioned and consumed. If you ask any service provider they would say that they would like total VM stickiness and any mechanism that aims to make VMs more portable will impact the bottom line and threatens ongoing viability.

Having customers access a VMware provided console that moves VM workloads off VMware based infrastructure and onto AWS or Azure to my mind is close to madness, and while there is an argument to suggest that cloud is the new hardware and VMware want to manage this new hardware…it still doesn’t make up for the fact that most revenue is made by having VMs staying local and not having an easy way to migrate them to platforms where smaller margins are the norm.

Going back to the point of this post around the theory that the VM shouldn’t be the base unit in a cross cloud world, I believe that for the sake of the vCAN VMware should be focusing within the VM and the applications that run within them…working towards a truly hybrid scenario whereby Platform and Feature as a Service offerings are managed, configured and operated via the Cross Cloud platform. This will help achieve a sustained revenue stream for IaaS providers that in truth, still represents the best value for money for the vast majority of critical business applications that are in existence today, all while allowing consumers the choice of going out and finding the best “As a Service” offering that specifically suits application requirements.

At the end of the day I do wonder which side of the VMware business wins out…the one that derive their revenue from Enterprise…or the one that derive their revenue from Service Providers. Unfortunately I know where the bigger revenue streams lie and that doesn’t bode well for Service Providers. It’s all about the corporate dollar after all.

VMworld 2016: Cross Cloud Platform – Raw Thoughts

I’m still trying to process the VMworld 2016 Day 1 Keynote in my mind…trying to make sense of the mixed messages that myself and others took away from the 90 minute opening. Before I continue, I’ll point out that this is going to be raw post with opinions that are purely driven buy what I saw and heard during the keynote…I haven’t had much time to validate my thoughts although from my brief discussions with others here at the conference (and on Twitter) it’s clear that the Cross Cloud migration tech preview is an attempt at VMware catering to the masses. I’ll explain below why that’s both a good and bad thing and why the vCloud Air Network should be rightly miffed about what we saw demoed on stage.

Yesterday’s opening was all about Pat trying to make sure that everyone who was listening understood that VMware is still cool and relevant. The message around be_tomorrow was lost for me by the overall message that VMware has grown up and matured, but are still capable of producing teen like excitement through cool and hip technologies. If there was ever a direct reaction to the disruptive competitors VMware has had to deal with (looking at you Nutanix) then this was corporates attempt to mitigate that threat. Not sure that it worked, but did it really need to be done when you are effectively preaching to the converted?

Pat Gelsinger used his keynote to introduce the VMware® Cross-Cloud Architecture™. This is a game-changing new architecture that, as he says, “will enable customers to run, manage, connect, and secure applications across clouds and devices in a common operating environment.

During the first part of the keynote things where looking good for the vCAN with vCloud Air not getting much of a mention over the strong growth in the vCAN as shown on stage in the image above. Pat then went through and talked about trends in public and private clouds which lead into the messaging that Hybrid Cloud is the way of the future…no one cloud will rule them all. This isn’t new messaging and I agree 100% that there is a place in the world for all types of clouds, from the HyperScalers through to the smaller but more agile IaaS providers and managed private clouds.

AWSworld? – vCloud Air Network Concerns:

The second part of the keynote was where things got a little confusing for me. We saw two demo’s of Cross Cloud Architecture in tech preview. Let me start by saying that the UI looked consistent and modern and even managed to integrate vRealize Network Insight (Arkin) seamlessly and the NSX network extension is a brilliant step forward in being able to extend cloud networks between on-premises to public to vCAN Service Provider.

Where things got a little awkward for me was when the demo of the Cross Cloud Management console went through managing services and instances on AWS and Azure…without any mention or example or listing of any vCAN service provider. Not withstanding the focus on the growing partnership with IBM Softlayer in the new Cloud Foundation ecosystem that naturally competes directly against vCAN service providers the specific focus of AWS made a lot of providers uneasy.

Now, I understand that the vCAN can’t do everything and the there is an existing and future sense of inevitability around clients using more hyper-scale cloud services…but here is why I found this to be a bit of a slap in the face to the 4000+ strong vCAN. If you are going to demo the use of cross cloud why not focus on what the hyper-scalers do best that is PaaS? Don’t demo creating and moving traditional workload instances on AWS and then move it to Azure.

Again, this is a raw post and I do need to digest this a little more and I will follow up with a more in depth post and make no mistake that I do see value in the tool…but it does nothing to build and grow the vCAN…and that is the sore point at this point in time.

VMworld 2016: Top Session Picks

VMworld 2016 is just around the corner (10 days and counting) and the theme this year is be_Tomorrow …which looks to build on the Ready for Any and Brave IT messages from the last couple of VMworld events. It’s a continuation of VMware’s call to arms to get themselves and their partners and customers prepared for the shift in the IT of tomorrow. This will be my fourth VMworld and I am looking forward to spending time networking with industry peers, walking around the Solutions Exchange on the look out out for the next Rubrik or Platform9 and attending Technical Sessions.

http://www.vmworld.com/uscatalog.jspa

The Content Catalog went live a few weeks ago and the Session Builder has also been live allowing attendees to lock in sessions. There are a total of 817 sessions this year, up from the 752 sessions last year. I’ve listed the main tracks with the numbers fairly similar to last year.

Cloud Native Applications (17)
End-User Computing (97)
Hybrid Cloud (63)
Partner Exchange @ VMworld (74)
Software-Defined Data Center (504)
Technology Deep Dives & Futures (22)

VMware’s core technology focus around VSAN and NSX again has the lions share of sessions this time year, with EUC still a very popular subject. It’s pleasing to see a lot of vCloud Air Network related sessions in the list (for a detailed look at the vCAN Sessions read my previous post) and there is a solid amount of Cloud Native Application content. Below are my top picks for this year:

  • Virtual SAN – Day 2 Operations [STO7534]
  • Advanced Network Services with NSX [NET7907]
  • A Day in the Life of a VSAN I/O [STO7875]
  • vSphere 6.x Host Resource Deep Dive [INF8430]
  • The Architectural Future of Network Virtualization [NET8193R]
  • Conducting a Successful Virtual SAN 6.2 Proof of Concept [STO7535]
  • How to design and implement VMware’s vCloud in production [SDDC9612-SPO]
  • PowerNSX and PyNSXv: Using PowerShell and Python for Automation and Management of VMware NSX for vSphere [NET7514]
  • Evolving the vSphere API for the Modern Era [INF8255]
  • Multisite Networking and Security with Cross-vCenter NSX: Part 2 [NET7861R]

My focus seems to have shifted back towards more vCloud Director and Network/Hybrid Cloud automation of late and it’s reflected in the choices above. Along side that I am also very interested to see how VMware position vCloud Air after the shambles of the past 12 months and I always I look forward to hearing from respected industry technical leads Frank Denneman, Chris Wahl and Duncan Epping as they give their perspective on storage and software defined datacenters and automation. This year I’m also looking at what the SABU Tech Marketing Team are up to around VSAN and VSAN futures.

As has also become tradition, there are a bunch of bloggers who put out their Top picks for VMworld…check out the links below for more insight into what’s going to be hot in Las Vegas this VMworld. Hope to catch up with as many community folk as possible while over so if you are interested in a chat, hit me up!

My top 15 VMworld sessions for 2016

Top 5 Log Insight VMworld Sessions

be_TOMORROW at VMworld 2016 – Key Storage and Availability Activities

 

My Top Session picks for VMworld 2016

http://www.mindthevirt.com/top-vmworld-sessions-category-1247

PowerCLI Script to Calculate VSAN vCAN Points Per Month

There is no doubt that new pricing introduced to vCAN Service Providers announced just after VSAN 6.2 was released meant that Service Providers looking at VSAN for their IaaS or MSP offerings that had previously written it off due to price, could once again consider it as a viable and price competitive option. As of writing this blog post there is no way to meter the new reporting mechanism automatically through the existing vCloud Usage Meter with the current 3.5 beta also lacking the ability to report billing info.

I had previously come across a post from @virten that contained a PowerCLI script to calculate VSPP points based on the original allocated GB model. With VSAN 6.2 pricing was now based on a consumed GB model which was a significant win for those pushing for a more competitive pricing structure to be able to push a now mature VSAN as a platform of choice.

Before I post the code it’s worth noting that I am still not 100% happy with the interpretation of the reporting:

The VsanSpaceUsage(vim.cluster.VsanSpaceUsage) data object has the following two properties which vCAN partners can use to pull Virtual SAN usage information: a) totalCapacityB (total Virtual SAN capacity in bytes) and b) freeCapacityB (free Virtual SAN capacity in bytes). Subtracting b) from a) should yield the desired “Used Capacity” information for monthly reporting.

I read that to say that you report for any fault tolerance or data resiliency overheads…that is to say if you have a VM with a 100GB hard disk consuming 50GB on a VSAN datastore utilizing RAID1 and an FTT=1 you will pay for the 100GB that is actually consumed.

With that in mind I had to add in a multiplier into the original script I had hacked together to cater for the fault tolerance and raid level you may run. The rest is pretty self explanatory and I have built on @virtens original script by asking for which vCenter you want to log into, what VSAN licensing model you are using and then finally ask for the RAID and FTT levels you are running. The result is the total amount of consumed storage of all VM disks residing on the VSAN datastore (which is the only value hard coded) and then the amount of vCAN points you would be up for per month with and without the overhead tax.

The code is below, please share and improve and note that I provide it as is and should be used as such. Please let me know if I’ve made any glaring mistakes…

If someone can also let me know how to round numbers and capture an incorrect vCenter login gracefully and exit that would be excellent! – [EDIT] Thanks to Virten for jumping on that! Code updated!

References:

PowerCLI Script to Calculate VSAN VSPP Points

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