SpiceWorld presentation: vSphere 6, Big, Better, Should You Be Bovvered?

May 13th, 2015 No comments

SpiceWorld_LogoI have just had the pleasure of presenting at SpiceWorld, the conference for IT Pros put on by SpiceWorks. SpiceWorks provide software for managing your IT environment and is targeted mainly at SMBs. The software is free to use and is funded with advertising and other hook-ins from vendors so you can for example inventory your PCs and then link to HP to get warranty information or purchase more RAM. They also run a very good community forum for IT Pros to help each other with any of their issues or get recommendations on how to manage their environment.
Back to the conference, plenty of sessions on the SpiceWorks software itself but also many other sessions on other technology that IT pros use on a daily basis as well as some cool presentations on the TOR Network, Malware and the Enigma Machine.

I was asked to talk about vSphere and so of course presented on the new vSphere 6.

I went through some of the editions particularly looking at what would be interesting for SMBs, highlighting the free ESXi version to be able to get started with virtualisation for free. I went through some of the new features, everywhere vMotion, SMT-FT, Enhanced Linked Mode, new stuff with vCenter, the PSC, the VCSA and then spent some more time on Virtual Volumes, then onto install and upgrades.

The session was recorded, I will post the recording when it is available, here are the slides.

Categories: ESX, Update Manager, vCenter, VMware Tags:

London VMUG presentation: Hands on with vSphere 6.0

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

vmug-logoI had the great pleasure today of presenting at the London VMware User Group. I did a presentation called “Hands on with vSphere 6.0″ where I briefly covered what’s new and then went into some of the architectural changes with the new vCenter and Platform Services Controller (PSC) and Enhanced Linked Mode.

I warned about the vast amount of incorrect information currently on the interwebs as the architecture and recommended layout changed from the Beta to the released product so make sure what you are reading is up to date. This particularly relates to VMware not recommending you run an embedded PSC if you need to link even two vCenters together but rather have an external one which requires a load balancer for true continuous availability.

I went through some of the install and upgrade steps which may mean you need to split out your vSphere 5.x SSO to an external one before upgrading to the vSphere 6 PSC. I then covered some new things related to security and how certificates are now handled with the new VMware Certificate Authority in the PSC.

Here’s a copy of the presentation.:

HP Service Pack for ProLiant 2015.04.0 released, includes vSphere 6.0 support

April 17th, 2015 No comments

HP server users may be glad to know that HP has released the latest update to its Service Pack for Proliant which will be supported until April 30, 2016.

vSphere 6.0 support has been added so super-keen upgraders now have HP driver and firmware to match.

http://h20564.www2.hp.com/hpsc/swd/public/detail?sp4ts.oid=4091567&swItemId=MTX_8f34f27973a04a71b211d728ab#tab1

This latest SPP has added support for:

  • New HP ProLiant servers:
    • HP ML10 v2
    • HP XL730f Gen9
    • HP XL740f Gen9
    • HP XL750f Gen9
    • HP ML110 Gen9
    • HP XL170r Gen9
    • HP XL190r Gen9
    • HP WS460c Gen9 Graphics Server Blade
  • New HP ProLiant options
  • Red Had Enterprise Linux 6.6, SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12, VMware vSphere 5.5 U2 and VMware vSphere 6.0
  • HP USB Key Utility for Windows v2.0.0.0 for downloads greater than 4GB
  • Select Linux firmware components available in rpm format
  • HP Smart Update Manager v7.2.0.

Release Notes are here:

ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softlib2/software1/doc/p1205445419/v108284/2015.04.0-SPPReleaseNotes.pdf

The contents list is here:

ftp://ftp.hp.com/pub/softlib2/software1/doc/p1205445419/v108284/2015.04.0SPPContentsReport.pdf

HP ESXi image for vSphere 6.0 available here:

https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details?downloadGroup=OEM-ESXI60GA-HP&productId=491

Happy patching…

 

Categories: Flex-10, HP Tags: , ,

CommVault: We’re not just a backup company but we don’t like telling you

April 8th, 2015 2 comments

I was very fortunate to attend Virtualisation Field Day earlier this year. One of the companies presenting was CommVault who bill themselves as a “data” company.

They spent the majority of their time at Virtualisation Field Day going through all the details of how they can do backups and restores and to be honest it was rather dull. Backups are hugely critical to your infrastructure and just like insurance you don’t want to find out you are not protected when it is too late. The thing though is backup nowadays is such a utility service. It would be unfair to say that backups haven’t evolved because they have particularly with virtualisation but ultimately you are still taking a copy of your data and storing it remotely from your live data. The what hasn’t changed much even if the how has.

This makes talking about backup a difficult task because your audience always certainly knows what backup does and generally how it works even if your tool may have a few differences. Being able to back something up and restore it is a given, being able to mount backups of VMs and restore files within those backed up VMs is now a given as well however your backup vendor choses to do it.

I feel CommVault did itself a disservice at Virtualisation Field Day which is evident by the lack of post game talk and analysis about their solution compared to some of the other presentations, proof that backups are not sexy.

However I feel that CommVault has an interesting story to tell if they could just elevate themselves from the backup bandwagon.

CommVault Simpana’s USP is not in the backup but in the use and analysis of the data that has been ingested. I use ingested deliberately to make the distinction between it just being a backup used to recover something some time in the future. Companies are being asked to do more and more with their data, some of it is in live databases or files but a huge amount is actually archive data, old log files, old emails, old text messages, old voicemails, old x-rays, old files. Companies are often required legally to keep this old stuff around for a long time and you know how this is stored, in a completely separate copy from backups. Emails are journalled by product x. text messages by product y, voicemails by product z. These products may be even separate companies with completely separate data formats, there’s no way you could search across them.

Read more…

What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Enhanced Linked Mode

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

VMware has finally officially announced what is to be included in vSphere 6.0 after lifting the lid on parts of the update during VMworld 2014 keynotes and sessions. 

See my introductory post: What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (about time!) for details of all the components.

vCenter Linked Mode provides a single management overview of multiple vCenter instances.

Linked Mode also provides a single login for multiple vCenter Servers and then shows you a common inventory view and allows you to search for objects across vCenters. Licenses, roles and permissions are replicated between vCenter instances.

Linked mode has always been only available for Windows vCenters (ADAM is used as the replication engine) so you couldn’t share licenses, roles and permissions with any vCenter appliances you had.

With the release of the new Platform Services Controller in vSphere 6.0, some of the Linked Mode functionality is changing and its been given a new same.

vSphere will also now include an Enhanced Linked Mode which will require and work in conjunction with the Platform Services Controller.

image

This will not rely on ADAM but have its own replication system which is a multi-master replication technology also called VMDir based on Open LDAP which means replication now works across Windows vCenter as well as vCenter appliances.

Replication will be expanded to include Policies and Tags along with Roles and Permissions. In fact the replication engine will allow VMware to sync any kind of information between Platform Services Controllers which can then be used by vCenters and other management products. Bye bye ADAM, you won’t be missed.

What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Networking

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

VMware has finally officially announced what is to be included in vSphere 6.0 after lifting the lid on parts of the update during VMworld 2014 keynotes and sessions. 

See my introductory post: What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (about time!) for details of all the components.

vSphere networking hasn’t had any huge additions in this release. This is partly to be expected as VMware’s networking messaging is mainly revolved around NSX for now.

Network I/O Control (NIOC) has however had a very useful addition, you can now have Per VM and Distributed Switch bandwidth reservations. You can therefore guarantee compute as well as network resources for your critical VMs.

IPv6 has also been beefed up but this is mainly for new greenfield deployments. It’s not easy to transition from IPv4 to IPv6 so I think VMware sees IPv6 for only new deployments. You will be able to manage ESXi purely with IPv6 and iSCSI and NFS will also be supported. In the future, VMware is looking to move to IPv6 only for vSphere management but that’s a few years out, dual stack IPv4 and IPv6 will be around for a while.

Here’s what the Install for vCenter would look like with IPv6

image

What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Certificate Management

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

VMware has finally officially announced what is to be included in vSphere 6.0 after lifting the lid on parts of the update during VMworld 2014 keynotes and sessions. 

See my introductory post: What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (about time!) for details of all the components.

VMware is at last tackling the nightmware of managing vSphere certificates in a more holistic way. Things were relatively simple until VMware started splitting up the compoments of vSphere into multiple components each requiring their own certificate with very particular settings. VMware had released the SSL Certificate Automation Tool which at least attempted to make the installation of the certificates a little easier but it took the perseverance and excellent scripting of Derek Seaman with his certificate series to make the actual process usable.
Customer feedback regarding certificate management has repeatedly highlighted the convoluted process so VMware has finally come up with a solution they believe reduces the operational overhead of managing certificates.

VMware is included two components into the new Platform Services Controller:
The VMware Certificate Authority (VMCA). This is not just a certificate management tool but actually a full blown Certificate Authority in itself. It can provision each ESXi host and each vCenter Server and its associated services with certificates that it signs.
The VMware Endpoint Certificate Service (VECS). This is a service that will store all certificates and private keys for vCenter Server and its associated services.

This means you will no longer have to manually update each separate vCenter component, you can just store all the certs in the VECS and get vCenter to use them.
ESXi host certificates will still be stored locally on each host but can be provisioned from the VMCA.
You don’t have to use the VMCA as a certificate authority or have it in your certificate chain and can choose to use your Enterprise CA or roll your own but you will need to use the VECS to store certs and keys for vCenter.

VMware is also simplifying the number of certificates it requires for vCenter internally. vCenter 5.5 needed separate certificates for at least the following:

 6.0cert1
With vSphere 6.0 there are more components but these components are now being grouped together into what’s being called Solution Users (SU). SUs now hold the certificate for the group rather than each component.
6.0cert2
This is what it looks like in the PSC
 6.0cert3
All the certificate management will be done from a CLI. If you upgrade vCenter or hosts from ESXi 5.x, they will keep their existing certificates.
There are also a number of deployment options:
VMCA Root CA
This is where the VMCA acts as your entire certificate authority and is therefore the simplest deployment. This is the default installation. You will need to trust the VMCA in your browsers to avoid pesky certificate warnings.
Subordinate VMCA
After installation you can make the VMCA a subordinate CA to your Enterprise CA. The VMCA will then mint your certificates which makes the process simpler and itself would be trusted by your enterprise CA.
External CA
After installation, all certificates are replaced from yout Enterprise CA. VMCA will still manage the certificates but it allows you to use your existing Enterprise PKI solution.
Hybrid (VMCA & External)
You can use a hybrid model where the VMCA is created during installation and your vCenter certificates are replaced. YOu can then choose which certificates to replace from your external CA and which to have the VMCA generater. You could for example have all externally facing certificates generated from your Enterprise CA and all the internal hidden from view VMware vCenter service certificates generated by the VMCA.
At last VMware is making certificate management a little easier, to be honest it should have been there when they decided you needed a million very particular certificates for vCenter but I suppose with a rather large development organisation working on different components, common certificates wasn’t high on the priority list, I’m glad it is now.

 

Categories: ESX, vCenter, VMware Tags: , ,

What’s New in vSphere 6.0: NFS Client

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

VMware has finally officially announced what is to be included in vSphere 6.0 after lifting the lid on parts of the update during VMworld 2014 keynotes and sessions. 

See my introductory post: What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (about time!) for all details of all the components.

NFS has been available as a storage protocol since 2006 with ESX 3.0 and vSphere has been using NFS version 3 for all this time. There’s been no update to how NFS works.

I’ve been a massive fan of NFS since it was released. No LUNs, much bigger datastores and far simpler management. Being able to move around, back up and restore VM disk files natively from the storage array is extremely powerful. NFS datastores are by default thin-provisioned which allows you your VM admin and storage admin to agree on actual storage space utilisation.

However, good old NFSv3 has a number of limitations, there is no multi-pathing support, limited security and performance is limited by the single server head.

vSphere 6.0 introduces NFS version v4.1 to solve many of these limitations.

NFS 4.1 introduces multi-pathing by supporting session trunking using multiple remote IPs to a single session. Not all vendors will support this so best to check. You can now have increased performance from load-balanced and parallel access, with it comes better availability from path failover.

image

imageThere is improved security using Kerberos authentication. You need to add your ESXi hosts to AD and specify a Kerberos user before creating any NFSv4.1 datastores with Kerberos enabled . You then use this Kerberos username and password to authenticate against the NFS mount. All files stored in all Kerberos enabled datastore will be accessed using this single user’s credentials. You should always use the same user on all hosts otherwise vMotion and other features might fail if two hosts use different Kerberos users. NTP is also a requirement as usual when using Kerberos. This configuration can be automated with Host Profiles.

 

NFSv4.1 now allows you to use a non-root user to access files. RPC header authentication has also been added to boost security, it only supports DES-CBC-MD5 which is universal rather than the stronger AES-HMAC which is not supported by all vendors. Locking has been improved with in-band mandatory locks using share reservations as a locking mechanism. There is also better error recovery.

There are some caveats however with using NFS v4.1. NFSv4.1 is not compatible with SDRS, SIOC, SRM and VVols but you can continue to use NFSv3 datastores for these.

NFSv3 locking is not compatible with NFSv4.1. You must not mount an NFS share as NFSv3 on one ESXi host and mount the same share as NFSv4.1 on another host, best to configure your array to use one NFS protocol, either NFS v3 or v4.1, but not both.

The protocol has also been made more efficient by being less chatty by compounding operations, removing the file lock heartbeat and session lease.

All paths down handling is now different with multi-pathing support. The clock skew issue that caused an all path down issue in vSphere 5.1 and 5.5 has been fixed in vSphere 6.0 for both NFSv3 and NFSv4.1. With multi-pathing, IO can failover to other paths if one path goes down, there is no longer any single point of failure.

No support for pNFS will be available for ESXi 6.0. This has caused some confusion, best to have a look at Hans de Leenheer’s post: VSPHERE 6 NFS4.1 DOES NOT INCLUDE PARALLEL STRIPING!

Very happy to see NFSv4.1 see the light of day with vSphere for at least the multi-pathing as this caused many people to go down the block protocol route with the added complexity of LUNs, however, its a pity NFSv4.1 is not supported with VVols. I’m sure VMware must be working on this.

What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (at last!)

February 2nd, 2015 No comments

Series:

  1. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Finally Announced (at last!)
  2. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: vCenter and ESXi
  3. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Enhanced Link Mode
  4. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Virtual Volumes
  5. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Content Library
  6. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Virtual Datacenter (removed from release)
  7. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Fault Tolerance
  8. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Cross vCenter and Long Distance vMotion
  9. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Networking
  10. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: NFS Client
  11. What’s New in vSphere 6.0: Certificate Management

Finally, the time has come for VMware to publicly announce its latest update to version 6.0 of its ever growing virtualisation platform, vSphere.

It’s been a rather strange and somewhat convoluted journey to get to the actual announcement.

For the first time ever for VMware (kudos!), there was a very large public Beta (more than 10,000 people) but participants had to sign an NDA to join which meant they couldn’t talk about it. VMware itself then outed many of the features during keynotes and sessions at VMworld San Francisco 2014 (to the consternation and surprise of some product managers!) but still had to call the beta a Tech Preview. Pat Gelsinger himself called out the name during his keynote despite everyone else at VMware trying to keep quiet on the official name. All this left many people unsure what they could and couldn’t talk about. The apparent legal reason for not being able to officially announce vSphere 6.0 is all to do with financials. VMware didn’t want to announce a future product in 2014 as they would then be obliged to account for future earnings. So, the whole song and dance is nothing to do with technology and all to do with financial reporting, isn’t life fun!

Personally, I don’t think this was handled in the best way, fantastic to have a public beta but no point trying to strictly control the messaging with an NDA with so many people involved. Even Microsoft and Apple have more open public betas nowadays.

As of today, that’s now officially water under the bridge (although I hope they learn some things for next time). The covers have finally been lifted and VMware has officially announced vSphere 6.0

imageVMware says there are three focus areas for this vSphere release:

  1. Continue to be the best and most widely used virtualisation platform
  2. Be able to virtualise all x86 workloads. Run all today’s traditional datacenter apps however big they are such as Oracle, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics and Java and build on that foundation to run the next generation of cloud applications as part of a Software Defined Datacenter such as NodeJS, Rails, Spring, Pivotal and Hadoop
  3. Create operational efficiency at scale by reducing manual steps with mre automation

Although numbered 6.0 I would say as with vSphere 5.5, this is another evolutionary rather than revolutionary update and other than VMware’s recent cadence of a major update every two years could have been part of the vSphere 5 family. VSAN and NSX were the major new product announcements at VMworld 2013 and VMware decided to leave the big announcement infrastructure wise for VMworld 2014 to EVO:RAIL and its vCloud Air and vRealize rebranding.

As for vSphere 6.0, VMware has called this release the foundation for the Software Defined Datacenter.

image

The major new highlight as everyone knows is Virtual Volumes (VVols) which VMware has been talking about publicly since VMworld 2011 (I called vVols VMware’s revolutionary approach to storage) and  is a very significant update. VVols completely change the way storage is presented, managed and consumed and certainly for the better. Most storage vendors are on board as their software needs to be able to support VVols and they’ve been champing at the bit for VVols to be released. Talk was it was technically ready for vSphere 5.5 but VMware decided to keep it back, perhaps to let VSAN have its year in the sun and to give vSphere 6.0 something big.

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VVols may be the headliner but there’s plenty else VMware has been working on:

  • Hosts up to 480 pCPUs, 12TB RAM, 64TB data stores and 1000 VMs
  • VMs up to 128 vCPUS and 4TB RAM
  • 64 nodes in a cluster and up to 6000 VMs.
  • Per VM Storage I/O Control
  • VVols
  • NFS 4.1 with Kerberos
  • vMotion across vCenter Servers, virtual switches, and long distance
  • Fault Tolerance for Multi-Processor VMs
  • vSphere Web Client enhancements
  • Certificate Lifecycle Management via a command line interface
  • New abilities to replicate and backup to the vCHS (vCloud Air) cloud
  • Better vSphere Replication RPOs to 5 mins
  • Network IO Control VM and distributed switch bandwidth reservations
  • Multi-Site replicated content library to store VM templates, vApps, ISO Images and scripts
  • AppHA expanded support for more applications

 

Virtualisation Field Day 4 Preview: SolarWinds

January 8th, 2015 No comments

Virtualisation Field Day 4 is happening in Austin, Texas from 14th-16th January and I’m very lucky to be invited as a delegate.

I’ve been previewing the companies attending, have a look at my introductory post: Virtualisation Field Day 4 Preview.

400px-SolarWinds_logo[4]

logo for SolarWinds IT management software including server monitoring and network performance monitoringlogo for SolarWinds IT management software including server monitoring and network performance monitoring

Everyone has heard of SolarWinds and either used your seen their ubiquitous network monitoring product Orion but you may or may not be surprised to know that they do a lot more. They have a bunch more networking products apart from their monitoring product, know of Kiwi Syslog Server, that’s SolarWinds. They do server and application monitoring for over 150 apps as well as VMware, Hyper-V, Windows, AIX, UNIX, Solaris and Linux so fairly broad then.

They do security software with SIEM log and event management, Secure FTP, 3rd party patch deployment (Adobe, Java, Oracle etc.), firewall config management, database performance analysis (SQL, Oracle, DB2, Sybase)

So basically, SolarWinds provides products for monitoring every aspect of your infrastructure, I’m sure Docker is either done or on the roadmap!

This being Virtualisation Field Day, I would think SolarWinds will be talking about its Virtualization Manager to manage VMware and Hyper-V. You can monitor performance and capacity to your hearts content, manage VM Sprawl, track configuration changes, look at dashboards galore, map dependencies and use a module for VDI performance monitoring.

Read more…