VMworld 2017 US: T -2

I write this while traveling to sunny and amazingly hot Las Vegas for the 2017 edition of VMworld US. I hope to provide feedback and news throughout the conference, highlighting not only the excellent content and programs but also the best the virtualization community has to offer.

Today will be a travel day as well as a day to meet up with friends, new and old. Tomorrow, the Sunday before the conference, is when the real fun begins with things like Opening Acts for me, TAM and partner content for others as well as a number of social events.

What We Know So Far

Yesterday was the day that Vmware went on a killing spree, announcing the depreciation of Windows based vCenter, the flash based vSphere web client and the vmkLinux APIs and its associated driver ecosystem. All of these enter the depreciated state with the next major version of vSphere and then will be gone for ever and ever in the revision after that. Each of these are significant steps towards the evolution of vSphere as we know it, and when coupled with the advances in PowerCLI in version 6.5 the management of our in house infrastructure has been changed for the better.

These announcements came rapid fire on the Friday before Vmworld with the death of the Windows based vCenter coming first. As we have had versions of varying success of the vCenter Server Appliances (VCSA) for over 5 years now it’s been a long time coming. I myself migrated two years ago and while it was good then with the latest 6.5 version, with its PhotonOS base, excellent migration wizard and in appliance vCenter Update Manager support it has show it is definitely the way forward.

The flash client was the next announcement to come and again, we are looking at an depreciation that needs to happen and is most definitely going to be a good thing but does come with some apprehension. With most things that have been depreciated by Vmware we’ve had at least 1 feature rich version of the replacement out and stable before they announced the predecessor’s demise. This isn’t the case with the flash based web client. While the latest builds are getting very, very good there are still major things that either are quirky or simply aren’t there yet. The good news to this is we have been given almost immediately assurances by everyone involved with the product management that we the vSphere admins will never be left without a GUI management ability for any given task we have today and I for one believe them. The last components of what is known as the HTML5 client in my opinion simply can’t come enough, I’m tired of having to hop through multiple GUIs and browsers to be able to perform basic tasks in my daily work life.

Finally the day was finished with the announced depreciation of the non-native Linux drivers. To be honest I didn’t know that these were even still a thing as every Linux VM I’ve rolled for the past many years have been able to work with the native drivers. I’m sure there are those that at this point may still need additional time but the as the removal is still a couple of versions off this should be something can be mitigated now that the end is known.

Conclusion

With all of these preconference announcements related to Vmware’s flagship product is this going to be the year where Vmworld is chocked full of improvements to vSphere. This will be my 3rd one in 4 years and each year I’ve felt their focus was elsewhere. While vSAN, NSX, and the like are definitely where the company’s seeing growth all of these things rely on vSphere as an underlay. I for one would be happy to see a little love shown here.

With that happy thought I’m going to shut it down and land. For those coming to Vmworld this weekend safe travels and for those at home look for more info as its known here on koolaid.info.

A VMworld US 2017 To Do List

If you work in the virtualization or datacenter field (are they really different anymore?) you probably know that VMworld US 2017 is next week, August 27-31. While VMware may not be the only option out there when it comes to virtualization anymore VMworld is still the defacto event for people in the field. This conference’s definition of community is unrivaled in scope with just as much if not more going on outside of the conference agenda as  in it.

As with all things worth doing conference attendance probably needs a checklist. Have you done yours? If not here are the high points of mine. I’m not going to bore you with “Jim will be attending session so and so”; well except for VMTN6699U and VMTN6700U you should totally join me at those sessions, but these are pretty general things I try to do each time.

  • Take Your Vitamins– I hate to say it but the Vegas Flu is a real thing. Between being in the recirculated air of a jumbo jet for any number of hours to bookend event and being in the recirculated air of a Vegas hotel/casino/conference center I always seem to get at least a mild head cold at some point during the week. Start about now taking whatever version of Vitamin C supplement you like and do so throughout the event to help head this issue off.
  • Bring Sharable Power- The average conference attendee has 3 devices on them at all times, phone, tablet and laptop. These things will start to get low on battery about midday and that just won’t do. In theory lots of places will have power outlets but with 25,000+ attendees they are still in short supply. I typically bring a big battery pack, a travel surge protector and USB power cables for everything under the sun so that I can plug in and share at sessions and keynotes.
  • Get There Early and Be Ready To Learn– While the conference doesn’t start in earnest until Monday the 27th I always try to arrive midday Saturday because there is so much going on before the conference starts. One of the highlights of the entire conference to me each year is Opening Acts, a series of panel sessions put on by VMunderground and vBrownBag on Sunday afternoon. These sessions always prove to be insightful and are traditionally more career-centric or more wide-ranging than your typical VMworld session. The fact that this is followed by the always awesome VMunderground party that night is not lost on me either. Also, if you are a VMware TAM customer there is exclusive content for you on Sunday afternoon.
  • Be Comfortable Being Yourself– So what do you wear? My friend Matt Crape covered this well in his recent post but I would like to add that go with what makes you most comfortable networking with your peers. If you are good with shorts and a t-shirt, go for it. Me personally I’m a golf shirt and jeans kind of guy so that’s most of what you’ll see from me. Your days at VMworld are most likely going to be between 15-20 hours so go with what feels good unless that’s naked. Nobody needs to see that. 😉
  • Get Out and Be Social– This is not a “Woo Hoo, It’s Vegas So Let’s Party” topic. Yes, you can do that if that’s your prerogative, but keep in mind some of the smartest minds in your chosen career are going to be here and out at both events in the evening as well as in the hang space during the day. Go meet people as they are typically pretty nice and cool. While the VMworld sessions are what’s being sold as the content of the conference I will book very few of those, choosing instead to spend my time learning from others how they are dealing with many of the same issues that I have and make connections that can prove helpful down the road.
    Where to go be social? During the day the HangSpace/ VM Village is the place to go. In the evenings there is a never-ending list of gatherings to find your way to. I personally will be making sure I attend the Veeam party and VMunderground as they are my 2 evening must do’s each year and are typically among the biggest. Past that I’ll just go with the flow.
  • Be Social Online Too– If you are a tweeter be sure to use not only the #VMworld hashtag but also that of whatever session or event you are currently in. If you look around it will typically be on a wall somewhere. This will help you extend the conversation during the session. If you aren’t on twitter yet you may want to consider that, often this is a great way to see what your colleagues are saying about announcements and such in real time. It also serves a great way to meet up with others at the conference.
  • Get Some Sleep When Possible– I know this sounds counter-intuitive to the previous topic but if you are a 40-year-old like me this week will catch up to you. It is definitely possible to do events and conference from 7:30 AM to after midnight each day and while that’s a lot of fun, by Wednesday there are so many zombies walking around Mandalay Bay it looks like an episode of the Walking Dead. If you’ve been working on the session builder already take a look at your schedule and make room for you to sleep in a morning sometime midweek. You can catch up on the sessions once you get back.

While there’s more than that for me those are the basics. If you are going please hit me up @k00laidIT on twitter, I’d love to have a coffee, a beer or just a conversation with you. Have a great time!

P.S. Wear comfortable shoes!

VMworld 2015: What We Know So Far

As the first general keynote is wrapping up here in San Francisco I’ve been trying to keep track of what’s been announced this morning both in the keynote but also by way of the blogsphere. Long story short my take is there isn’t any thing new for the traditional vSphere customer, but if you are ready to start moving some of those workloads to the cloud there is going to be plenty of new things to enable what VMware is calling the hybrid cloud (repeatedly); the ability to support both your legacy apps (you know what we’re actually using) as well the new, shiny cloud native apps your developers are deploying at the speed of light.

Please forgive the notes based format found below, but I wanted to get the information out there.

Announcements so far:

  • Picture2-1024x475EVO SDDC Manager
    • “Single Pain of Glass for managing all the hardware in your datacenter racks including
      • EVO:Rail for compute, storage
      • Partner networking devices for management, spine and top of rack
      • Rack power distribution
      • Covers vRealize Suite, NSX 6.2, VSAN 6.1, vSphere 6
    • Is this the EVO:Rack they hinted at last year?
    • http://www.vmware.com/radius/vmworld-2015-the-end-of-the-beginning-lets-go/
  • Vmware Integrated OpenStack 2
    • Updates to the Kilo release, enabling features including
      • Expanded language support
      • Multi-region, multi-hypervisor support
      • Load Balancing as a Service
      • Autoscaling
  • vSphere Integrated Containers & Photon Support
    • Enables the truly hybrid cloud, with Photon/Bonneville/ESXi handling life under vCenter and Photon Machine powering your Cloud Native Apps
  • Project SkyScraper; hybrid cloud capabilities for vSphere allowing for extending DC to public cloud while supporting on premises standard concerns like security and business continuity ideas
    • Cross Cloud vMotion & content sync between on-prem and vCloud Air
    • vCloud Air Hybrid Cloud Manager- free download behind fee based capability
  • NSX 6.2 update allowing for deeper integration with the physical devices below it
    • Allows for the microsegmentation of physical servers, big differentiator past when compared to Cisco ACI
    • Will need partners, not known at this point but I’m guessing not Cisco
    • Also now supports cross vCenter vMotion over VXLAN
    • Has a TraceFlow capability allowing visability to what data is passing through
    • Announced late last week that there are now over 700 NSX customers, about double what was announced at Vmworld last year
    • Greater reliability through support for a secondary NSX manager that will take over if the primary fails
    • http://www.crn.com/news/networking/300077934/vmware-gets-physical-with-latest-nsx-software-defined-networking-update.htm
  • VSAN 6.1
    • 3rd total release
    • VSAN Stretched Cluster support, can now have geographically diverse clusters with synchronous replication between sites
    • VSAN for ROBO- Seems interesting, can have large number of 2 node VSAN clusters at your Remote Offices that are then centrally managed through vCenter.
      • Does it make use of stretched cluster for for data protection per site?
    • Now supports native Windows and Oracle clustering methods, WSFC and RAC
    • New high performance hardware supportd in ULLtra DIMM SSDs and NVM interfaces
    • New management features such as a Web Client Health Check plugin for VSAN and a management pack for vROPS
  • SRM 6.1
    • Stretched Cluster as well, seems to be the theme this year
    • Storage Policy Protection Groups; uses tags 1. tag a VM; 2. tag a datastore; protect the datastore with SRM
    • http://www.viktorious.nl/2015/08/31/vmworld-2015-srm-6-1-whats-new-stretched-cluster-support-and-more/
  • Other:
    • vSphere Content Library will be able to sync content between on-prem and vCloud Air bidirectionally
    • Vmware identity services, VMW’s assault on Active Directory

Where In The VMworld Is Jim?

Two weeks from today the official start to VMworld 2015 begins and to say I am excited to head out is a bit of an understatement. VMworld is a great place to learn more about a different branch of virtualization, see the bleeding edge of this technology and meet new people or renew conversations with some of the brightest minds in the industry. I myself will be focusing on VDI, specifically in the case of Disaster Recovery, and looking at Hyper-Converged systems this year along with all the other fun stuff. While this is only my second year going I’ve found that one of the biggest challenges to VMworld is schedule management; if you are interested in the social/community side of things you can very well go 20 hours a day Sunday through Thursday. Even with that you are going to be challenged to hit all the things you want because there is a great deal of overlap. With a paid conference attendance you (or VMUG Advantage membership) you will be able to view the vast majority of sessions online after the fact, but that doesn’t help with the get out and meet people stuff.

Since by nature I am a schedule driven kind of guy I took some time this weekend to kind of map out the whats and the wheres to what I want to do and in hopes of getting to meet up with the 5 people who may read this blog I’ll throw a copy of it out here. The sessions are still in flux because there a few that are full that I still  hope to make it into, especially a couple of the Expert Led HOL Workshops, but I think I’ve got the rest of it worked out. Hope to see you there!

Sessions (So Far:)

8/31 10:00-11:30 Keynote General Keynote
9/1 10:30-12:00 ELW-MBL-1651 Horizon 6 Advanced Workshop
9/1 12:30-1:30 INF-4535 5 Functions of Software Defined Availability
9/1 3:30-4:30 INF-5211 Automating Everything VMware with PowerCLI
9/2 9:30-10:30 STO-6552-GD Meet the VVols Engineering Team with Patrick Dirks
9/2 11:00-12:00 INF-6396-GD Platform Security with Mike Foley
9/2 2:30-3:30 INF-5123 Managing vSphere 6 Deployments & Upgrades, Part 2
9/3 10:30-11:30 EUC-5067 NSX and Horizon Ref. Architecture
9/3 12:00-1:00 INF-4529 VMware Certificate Management for Mere Mortals

vBrownBag TechTalks in the VMworld Hangspace

8/31 1:15 Gina Minks- Why you need to #BackThatSaaSUp
8/31 2:00 Jaison Baily and the vBrisket Community
8/31 3:00 In Tech We Trust Podcast

Socially:

Saturday: Inbound
Sunday: Aug. 30
8-11 AM vBreakfast Mel’s Drive-In
1-4 PM Vmunderground/vBrownBag Opening Acts City View at Metreon
4-7 PM Welcome Reception VMworld Solution Exchange
8-11 PM Vmunderground WUpaaS City View at Metreon
Monday: Aug. 31
5-6 PM SolidFire vExpert VIP Dinner Thirsty Bear Brewing
6-9 PM SolidFire Pursuit of Hoppiness Thirsty Bear Brewing
7-11 PM vBrisket Party Southpaw BBQ
Tuesday: Sept. 1
2:30-4 PM VMworld Bloggers Meetup VMworld Hang Space
4:30-6 PM VMworld Hall Crawl Solutions Exchange
7-10 PM vExpert Party Julia Morgan Ballroom
8 PM-12-AM Veeam Party City View at the Metreon
Wednesday Sept. 2
5-7 PM Red Hat Happy Hour Restaurant LuLu
7:30-10:30 PM VMworld Party AT&T Park
Thursday: Sept. 3
3 PM- ? vFootball Pete’s Tavern

vExpert 2015

The 2015 vExpert List was released today and I am honored to be on the list for the second year in a row. The vExpert program was developed to recognize those who active discuss and help others with VMware’s virtualization products in a number of ways, but notably through blogging and social media. To other vExperts that may be reading this please accept my hearty congratulations on your inclusion, whether it’s your first or your fifth time around.

While it isn’t really the point, there are a number of benefits to being a vExpert with most of them compiled and listed by Romain Decker on his website. This can include anything from swag to free or heavily discounted training to NFR licenses for your home lab from many companies in the virtualization industry.  In truth what I’ve found to be the biggest benefit is getting to know, at least virtually, some exceptionally bright people in our field.

If for some reason you either didn’t apply and or didn’t make the cut this time around and would like to be considered for inclusion there will be another round of applications this year but it hasn’t been announce yet. A best bet to be notified of when this opens would be to either follow the VMTN blog feed or the @vExpert twitter account.

What’s New in vSphere 6: Licensing

Today's release of vSphere 6 brings about quite a few new technologies worth getting excited for. This includes things such as Virtual Volumes (VVOLs), Open Stack Integration, global content library and long distance vMotion. Now for many of us, especially in the SMB space, the question is can we afford to play with them. As usual VMware very quietly released the licensing level breakout of these and other new features and I have to say my first take is this is another case of the rich getting richer.

If you are already Enterprise Plus level licensed you are in great shape as everything discussed today except VSAN is included. Specifically this includes

  • cross vCenter/ long distance vCenter
  • Content Library
  • vGPU
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack

While that's great and all and I applaud their development, they have quite a few other licensing levels that have been left out. Personally my installations are done at either Standard or Enterprise levels. The only major feature with across the product line support is VVOLs, which is nice but I honestly expected them to at least move some version 5 features such as Storage DRS down a notch to the Enterprise level and I figured the Content Library would maybe come in at the Essentials Plus level or Enterprise.

As Mr. Geitner alluded to in his talk about half of all vSphere licenses are Enterprise Plus, my guess is the company really want to see that number grow. Here's to hoping that like vRAM this recent trend of heavily loading features into the highest level is a trend that will be quickly rectified because I think this is going to be just as popular.

 

 

Managing your vSphere 6 Environment

VMware released their long awaited version 6 of its vSphere 6 products today and as I’m sure you’ll be running out tomorrow to go update all your production environments….

Ok now that we’re done laughing what you probably are going to want to get into is getting your lab updated or built so you can work out the changes yourself, possibly using your EvalExperience licenses you got with VMUG Advantage? Once you get it up and running you’ll notice that a few things have changed from the administration point of view. In this post I’m going to take a quick look at the Management features of vSphere 6.

Platform Services Controller

One thing you’ll find right off is that many of the underlying vCenter services have now been lumped together into what they are calling the Platform Services Controller. These services include Single Sign-On, licensing and certificate management.  At installation you are given two options on how to deploy the PSC, either embedded, where the PSC always rides along with vCenter, or External where the PSC is installed on its own VM and each vCenter talks back to the central services controller.

There are a couple of design requirements here if you chose to go the embedded route. You can have a maximum of 8 embedded or external PSCs per Single Sign-On site, and if you choose to go the embedded route it will increase the minimum RAM required to 8 GB.

vSphere Web Client

As has been the trend VMware has spent some serious time improving the Web Client, this time focusing on loading time, login time and a more streamlined component layout. It is still Flash based, but still a bit better. Time will tell with this one.

vSphere Host Client

Is the death of the installable VI client we’ve been hearing about for years here? Yes but it’s been replaced with a new version that is to be used only for connecting to the hosts directly or Update Manager. No, the new C# client for vSphere 6 will function much in the same way as the 5.5 client, you will be able to manage your infrastructure fully with it, but in terms of editing virtual hardware you will only be able to do so fully on VMs version 5-8.* The good part about it is the new C# client is not version based, rather it can be used to manage hosts running hardware versions 8-11.

Multi-Site Content Library

This one is probably what I am most excited about. Instead of having to update the ISO datastore in each of your locations, as well as building or copying your base templates for each vCenter, with the Content Library you can create a repository for all of your ISOs, templates, vApps and scripts and that repository will automatically be synchronized across all sites and vCenter Servers.

Virtual Datacenters and Policy Based Management

These two are the ones that I frankly still need to dive deeper into.  The concept is that you create virtual datacenters, spanning multiple locations (both local and cloud service) and then use policy to define what resources are available and where when spinning up a VM.

Certificate Lifecycle Management

Finally on the management side a new command line interface has been added for managing both the VMware and third-party certificates. I recently used fellow vExpert Derek Seaman’s excellent tool and blog series to use Microsoft Certificate Services certs in my vSphere infrastructure, I have to believe this will make that process easier. As the documentation gets finalized I’ll provide a link to the docs for this here.

All in all it should be an exciting time for us virtualized folks, with lots of new toys and technology to try out.

*After the big Feb. 6 announcement VMware saw fit to let everybody know that there are major changes between what was there in the betas and what will be there in the GA build, this being one of them.

VMware’s Big February 2nd Announcement

VMware will be having a big announcement event next week, most likely regarding the public release of their vSphere 6 suite of products. Version 6 has been in a “private” beta that anyone can join for the past 5 months or so and looks to include various features to move the product along. The beta program is still open for enrollment with the latest version being an RC build, you can sign up here to gain access to the bits themselves but also various documents and recorded webinars regarding the new features.

Just going by what was discussed at VMworld 2014 what is included in this version includes

  • Virtual Volumes: A VMware/Storage vendor interoperability technology that masks much of the complexity of storage management from the vSphere administrator and makes the storage more virtualization-centric than it already is. There is a lot of information out there on this already available through the power of Google, but the product announcement on the VMware blogs is nice and concise.
  • The death of the fat VI Client: This is the release where we are supposed to be going whole hog on the vSphere Web Client. Can you feel the enthusiasm I have for this?
  • vMotion Enhancements: One feature really worth getting worked up for is the ability to across the both vCenters and datacenters, neither of which was possible in the past. This is great news.
  • Multi-CPU VM Fault Tolerance: While the fault tolerance feature, the ability to have in essence a replica of protected VMs on separate hosts within your datacenter, has been around for years it has been relegated to the also featured category due to some pretty stringent requirements for VMs to be protected in this manner. In vSphere 6 the ability to protect VMs with multiple CPUs will finally be supported.

In any case the announcement will be available for all to attend online. You can register to attend the event at VMware’s website.

VMUG Advantage Eval Experience

Do you find yourself longing for the good old days of the VMware Technical Network (VMTN)? Do you have a home lab you are wanting to use to learn more about the VMware ecosphere. Well good news, the fine folks at VMUG today announced the addition of a service called Eval Experience to their already excellent service VMUG Advantage. Eval Experience will provide 365 day evaluation licenses for a variety of VMware’s products including

  • vCenter Server Server 5 Standalone
  • vSphere with Operations Management Enterprise Plus
  • vCloud Suite Standard
  • vRealize Operations Insight
  • vRealize Operations 6 Enterprise
  • vRealize Log Insight
  • vRealize Operations for Horizon
  • Horizon Advanced Edition
  • Virtual SAN (VSAN)

That is a great list that includes the vast majority of technologies that one wanting to break into virtualization would look for. Really the only thing missing in my opinion is NSX and frankly I’m flummoxed as to why it isn’t there considering VMware’s big push in the SDN direction of late.

In any case, considering the $200 price tag for an Advantage subscription this is a good deal for evaluation licensing kit. For comparison, the best deal I ever got for Microsoft Technet (#RIP) was $250 per year. Nevermind the fact that you get a number of other discounts and services as part of your subscription.

Unsupported Configuration when using VUM for a Major Upgrade

I’ve recently been working on getting my environment upgraded from vSphere 5.1 to 5.5. Last week I replaced one vCenter server with a clean install and upgraded another, in process implementing home brewed certificates thanks in no small part to Derek Seaman’s excellent SSL toolkit and tutorials. With that done and nice and clean this week I turned towards getting the ESX hosts updated. Like all right thinking folks, I typically like to use vSphere Update Manager for this task in a vCenter supported environment.

The first host went very well and was up and patched without issue. After that the wheels fell off for the other two. I was continuously getting “Unsupported configuration” when I would try to scan the host, if I tried to push through and Remediate it would fail with “Software or system configuration of host <hostnamehere> is incompatible. Check scan results for details.” Nice error messages right? I tried a few things, reinstalling the management agents via VMware KB 1031919, rebooting the host, etc. After no luck there I logged a case with VMware where we began trying to find more information in the vua.log and verifying the correct fdm agent is installed via the esxcli software vib list | grep fdm command. In the end we were able to find my issue but I’ll be honest the documentation and logging in this scenario is pretty bad.

When Veeam Backup & Replication creates a vPowerNFS share, mounting your backup datastore as an addressable datastore to your host that is added in at least one way as a series of lines in the /etc/vmware/esx.conf file as shown below:

 

tasks-and-events-outputThis is great except as I’ve moved from Veeam server to Veeam server with different names and I dismounted and removed the different datastores from the hosts the old lines of config weren’t removed from esx.conf.  Further after finally seeing the “Error in ESX configuration file (esx.conf)” we got lead down the rabbit hole of the preprocessing of a VUM upgrade. Evidently one of the first steps (at the 12% mark of the remediate task in my case) is to run a variant of the esxcfg-info CLI command which in my case was producing this:

scan-afterwhere backupserver.domain.local was the name of an old Veeam server we had used. When the unfiltered esxcfg-info command it would begin listing but would eventually bomb with the same error.

After seeing the command output I opened up the esx.conf file with vi, found the offending lines of configuration and removed them. After saving the file I was able to scan the host again and the scan reported the host as being non-compliant instead of incompatible, just what we were looking for.  A remediation then was successful and I was back in business. One item of note if you find yourself wanting to try this yourself is make sure you take a backup of the esx.conf file as a miss step here could result in production datastore being unavailable. For those not too familar with Linux style commands you can do this easily with

original-errorConclusion

In the end what I do know is that the act of adding a NFS datastore to an ESX host and then later removing it both from ESXi configuration as well as the underlying DNS zone is what caused the blocking of my upgrade. Now what I don’t know if this is due to it being programmatically added by Veeam and then manually removed at a later date or if this is a situation that is common to the use of NFS datastores in general.  More importantly, it would be great if VMware would work on how it is reporting such configuration issues. Even taking me out of the equation, if it takes your own Support Engineer 1.5 hours to track it down it isn’t documented enough.