Thoughts on the vSphere 6 Open Beta

Ahead of its annual Vmworld conference (which I will be attending this year, yay!) VMware has announced the version 6.0 of its vSphere line of products including ESXi, vCenter and just about every other VMware related topic I’ve written about here.  The company has chosen to mix it up a little bit this year in that they have made the beta program itself public, but in joining the actual program you are required to sign a NDA keeping anything you learn private. To me I take this to mean that while the wire structure is there this is still very much a work in progress, with the community at large having the opportunity to greatly influence what we are going to be seeing in the final product.

As I cannot directly talk about anything I’m learning from the beta itself I highly recommend anybody with a little space to lab go sign up for the beta, start providing feedback and try it out for yourself. Instead what I’m going to discuss here is my wish list for things to be included when 6.0 finally hits gold as well as the basics of the long discussed Virtual Volumes product that was released into beta along with vSphere.

Wish List

As I mentioned above, the beta for vSphere 6 requires a non-disclosure agreement, even if it is open to the public.  To learn what is actually coming in vSphere 6 I urge you to go join the beta for yourself as there is a great deal of information in there for those who wish to really learn and understand the product(s).  Below is a list of things that generically myself and a great many others very much so wish to see as this release comes to be.

Updating the Code of a ipbase Licensed Cisco Catalyst 3750X Switch Stack

Here in the office the Access Layer of our switching infrastructure is handled completely with a 7 unit stack of Cisco 3750X switches.  There is no need for these to do any routing other than intervlan so when purchased 3 years ago we just ordered the IP Base licensing level.  Well from what I can tell there is a universal code base and a licensed feature level of each code revision.  The universal naming convention looks like c3750e-universalk9-mz.122-55.SE1 while the ipbase looks like  c3750e-ipbasek9-mz.150-2.SE6.  What I found is that I do not have the ability to download the universal code of later releases due to my licensing level and possibly the lack of SmartNet I keep on these, but I do have access to the ipbase code.  When attempting to update the code on this stack I was presented with the error

After some searching I found reference to others trying to go from IP Base to Advanced IP Services code having to put the /allow-feature-upgrade switch on the archive download-sw code in order to allow the upgrade as well as it seems a downgrade.  Evidently this feature came about with IOS version 12.2(35).  Now the upgrade progressed and I have happy little upgrades switches.

Another note about this upgrade I found in the official release notes is any upgrade from 15.0(2)SE to later will result in a microcode upgrade which when unmitigated will lead to an exceptionally long restart of the switch.  You can mitigate this either by using the /force-ucode-reload parameter when downloading the code to the devices or by using the archive download-sw /upgrade-ucode privileged EXEC mode command afterwards.

Increase Max Attachment Size in Outlook 2007 SP2 and Above

Let me start by saying I feel very dirty for even writing this.  My basic rule in life is if the file is bigger than 2 MB, it isn’t to be sent as an attachment to an e-mail.  That said, many do not share my opinion on that and here at the office we recently had an occasion where a 200 MB file absolutely had to be e-mailed, it could be sent no other way.  A couple of years ago I wrote a post on 4sysops about how to change this in Exchange, so I thought that was an easy fix.  Instead the user continued to see this:

maxattachAfter some Googling I found a forum post saying that not only was a hard limit of 50 MB a feature of Outlook 2010 and above, but that this feature had been added to Outlook 2007 with Service Pack 2.  The good news/ bad news is that this feature can be over ridden by registry hack. Below is the code that you can copy into a .reg file and execute to insert the required registry key.  Know that this is version specific the “12.0” portion below corresponds to Office 2007, you will need to be changed based on your version of Microsoft Office.  For reference 2010 will be 14.0 and 2013 is 15.0.

 

Fully Install VMware Tools Via Yum in CentOS

I’ll be the first to admit that I know far less about Linux than is necessary to be good at it and more than necessary to be dangerous at it.  That said, if nothing else, I do try to learn more about it.  I find that in general I’ve basically committed to CentOS as my flavor of choice with it being the underpinnings of every non-appliance installation I’ve got.  Alot of this has to do with the fact that my first experiences were with RedHat and the subsequent RHEL, so with CentOS being the server side, open source derivative of RHEL it makes sense that that’s where I’d go.  In the vSphere world as you get further down the rabbit hold of monitor systems for your infrastructure you’ll find that for most things to even begin to operate effectively you’ve got to have VMware tools installed.  While there are various instruction sets out there floating around for how to get these on both, through the “Install VMware Tools” GUI and via yum (the RHEL package installation system) I’ve found that your mileage may vary greatly.

Below is a list of commands that I’ve finally got happy with to get these installed and allow for complete control over the VM much like you do with your Windows VMs via the VI client.  With the exception of a couple of modifications regarding your revisions of vSphere and CentOS you can pretty much copy and paste this into your elevated prompt (root) on your linux box and get all the information and monitoring you need.

1. Add the VMware GPG keys
rpm --import http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-DSA-KEY.pub
rpm --import http://packages.vmware.com/tools/keys/VMWARE-PACKAGING-GPG-RSA-KEY.pub

2. Copy the following to create a yum repository with all of the relevant information. You will need to change … Go Read More

Blogging in the New Year

Happy New Year’s Everybody! While it most definitely had its high points 2013 over all was a bit challenging for me. So with that said and a liberal dose of optimism I have to say that I am looking forward to what 2014 will put before us. While I’m sure the employer will have me start outlining some goals to work towards there, I’d like to share some personal goals I’ve thought of for 2014.

Enhance my scripting skills. Namely this means powershell, python, and esxcli with the end goal being to start performing greater automation throughout the enterprise. For years I’ve got by with some decent use of vbscript to do the basics on the Windows side of the shop because that’s where most of the need was. As our needs have started shifting towards the virtualization side and with the coming wave of Software Defined Networking (SDN) it’s about time I start learning something new.

Become VCP5 certified. Last year ended up being a pretty Cisco centric year for me from an educational standpoint with me reupping my CCNA and adding a CCNA Voice to the mix, not to mention attending Cisco Live. This year I want to build upon the VCA-Datacenter I gained recently and finally get around to doing the VCP 5 Datacenter exam. I’m still not a big fan of Vmware’s enforced class policy for certfication, but as I’ve already taken the Install, Configure and Manage vSphere 4 class this means all … Go Read More

Jim’s Healthy Chili

Healthy food doesn’t always have to mean no taste.  As I’ve had to deal with various health issues over the past few years I’ve had to learn to make some things that I really love in a new way.  One of these things is chili, which I could happily eat every single day without issue.  Below is the recipe I’ve been tinkering with for a while now and I’ve got it to the point where I really like.  Give it a shot and if you find a way to improve it by all means please let me know!

Start with…

  • 3 lbs ground lean turkey
  • 1 large diced sweet onion
  • 3 diced bell peppers (colors of choice)
  • 1  petite diced poblano pepper

…brown all that together with a covering of chili powder, mrs dash table blend, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder drain about half the resulting liquid In big pot add the previous mixture with…

  • 3 cans no salt added diced tomatoes
  • 3 cans no salt added kidney beans
  • 1 can low sodium black beans
  • 2 or 3 stalks of thinly sliced celery
  • a handful of shredded carrot
  • a handful of diced fresh cilantro
  • 3 regular size cans of no salt added tomato sauce
  • low sodium tomato juice to desired consistency (I don’t use much)

Spices below to taste, but in general i use

  • .5-.75 cup chili powder
  • 2 tbsp white pepper
  • .25 cup garlic powder
  • .25 cup coarse ground black pepper
  • .33 of a normal sized bottle of Texas Pete’s
  • 2 tbsp splenda brown sugar
  • “some” bacon salt to taste

Cover it and let it simmer on low no less than an hour, but as long as you can until time to serve.  When done in a perfect world I really like it … Go Read More

Cisco Unified Contact Center Express Scripting Stuff

I recently participated in one of Cisco’s Collaboration User Group (CUG) briefings on scripting their Contact Center Express product.  While I took the official class, UCCXD, I haven’t really had to do much with it because we had a vendor taking care of stuff for us.  Well, that has now gone by the wayside so I’m trying to get myself back up to date on how to manage the application powering our call center.  I had forgotten how much of a PITA it was to find the scripting documentation on Cisco’s site, so after finding it I thought it prudent to Provide a listing and some links here so I can find it later (and for you if you need it.)

The scripting documentation for UCCX is organized into 3 separate documents.  The general link for all supported version is to here.  The links below are for the current 9.0 release.

One thing I learned in the CUG briefing is that included in each version’s documentation bundle, but evidently not linked anywhere that I can find on Cisco’s site, is a Sample Script Repository.  This is updated for each release.

Finally if you work with Cisco collaboration/ voice products much I highly recommend that you think about joining CUG as it has proven to be a very nice resource not only with troubleshooting problems with production release software but also to gain access to betas of what’s coming next.

Raising a Woman in STEM

My daughter is 19 months old and already has a pretty good idea of what to do with an iPhone and iPad.  As a technical person myself I have great hope that my daughter will pursue a future in a STEM (short for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related career; not because I want to her to follow in Dear Old Dad’s footsteps, but because I see the promise it holds for a life of learning and prosperity.  Driving into work this morning I was listening to a report on NPR regarding a recent study at the University of Texas found that girls are more likely to take Physics in High School and follow a more STEM related path when they grow up with a presence of women working in STEM.  While there are IT and engineering folks around, there is not a strong technology related community in my area, especially females, which got me to thinking about how can I help to get my daughter interested in such things? What can we as her parents do to make technology a potential path in her mind?

At home we try to do things that get her involved with technology even now.  We have family spread all over so she usually has a Facetime or Skype video call at least every couple of days, but we haven’t got into the games yet.  Looking at pictures on the iPad is a favorite activity as well.  While not necessarily tech, we abide by the old adage of “thou shalt read to thy child,” something that is a fact of nature in any of the STEM fields.

Going forward I’ve been looking at is the various summer camp options as she gets a bit older.  Locally (Huntington/ Charleston, WV area) I’ve been … Go Read More

Getting Started with Veeam Backup & Replication v7

Come one, come all virtualization geeks, the latest installment of Veeam‘s excellent Backup & Replication suite has arrived.  As noted in lots of places, v7 boasts a boatload of new and new-to-them features that the community has been requesting for some time.  Among these are a few that I am quite excited about as they should in theory make my job as an admin easier; built in WAN acceleration, support for tape libraries, a vSphere Web Client Plugin, and the ability to create backup copy jobs to support your basic Grandfather-Father-Son backup strategy without external help. Among the biggies are:

  • Built in WAN acceleration * – will be great for me, I’ll only need to take one backup of each VM a night now (didn’t like the rsync or xcopy methods).
  • Ability to take backups from storage snapshots * (as long as you have HP Storage devices)- According to Veeam, should be high performance, capable of near continuous data protection without impacting production performance
  • Plugin for the vSphere Web Client * – manage Veeam directly from within the vSphere Web Client
  • Self Service Recovery * – Let them eat cake!
  • Tape Library Support – Straight to tape from Veeam as long as it can directly see it.  This has been requested for a while
  • Virtual Labs for Hyper-V – Us VMware guys don’t get to have all the fun now, you can now sandbox and test backups in Hyper-V now too.
  • Parallel Processing of VMs and disks within VMs
  • Backup Copy Jobs – Built in ability to create a Grandfather-Father-Son policy on per VM and per Job basis.

* These items require the new Enterprise Plus licensing level.  While Veeam is currently giving existing customers free upgrades from Enterprise to Enterprise Plus, understand that … Go Read More

Allowing Supervisors to Modify Skill Levels in UCCX 9

Since we installed Cisco’s Call Manager Express call center system a couple of years ago I could set my watch by the requests from our group of supervisors to modify the skill level of our various agents for the various Customer Service Queues (CSQs).  Generally at the same time they will request access to do this themselves.  Imagine my excitement when UCCX 9 was released and one of the features was a mobile browser application called, creatively, Mobile Skill Manager to do just that.  Further you can imagine my chagrin when after upgrading we quickly realized that the app doesn’t work particularly well at this point, either in a mobile browser or through any of the major standard browsers.

So to twitter I went trying to find a way to make this happen and lo and behold I found the answer within the System Parameters of UCCX.  Start by logging into the web interface and look in System> System Parameters.  Then under the Application Parameters section you will find an option called “Supervisor Access.”  By default this will be set to No Access to Teams, and if you want to provide access you will need to choose one of the other two options depending on  your need, Access to All Teams or Access to Supervisor’s Teams only.  For us we chose the former because we are a relatively small call center where all the Supervisors cross train.

uccx9-after-screenshotSo what does this do?  Changing this setting allows Supervisors access to a subset of the menu when they log in with their own credentials … Go Read More