vCloud Director 1.5 New Features Overview

Part of the big announcements prior to VMworld this year was the announcement of vCloud Director 1.5. If you haven’t heard of vCloud director it was popularly known in the past as VMware Lab Manager (RIP).  With version 1 under its belt VMware is releasing version 1.5 and added a few new features. Below are a few of the most important (in my humble opinion) that will have the greatest impact for people already on vCloud Director.

First, and I am really excited about this, is the addition of Fast Provisioning. This feature uses linked clones so you can provision VMs from a template rather a full copy. This will allow for provisioning of a VM in seconds vs. who knows how long and will help cut your storage cost significantly. NetApp does something similar if you haven’t seen their product, I would check it out as well.

Fast Provisioning is great for the following:

  • Cloning production and pre-production workloads
  • Demo and trial environments
  • Test and Dev
  • Support Desk
  • And much much more

Second, they increased the enhancements of the vCloud API. This helps fit vCloud into existing environments with baked IT management tools. With added messaging it will be able to provide notifications to your various systems; backup, monitoring, CMDB, IPAM, and network tools for example. There is also some new SDK’s coming and better use of query service.

 

Third, they added a significant increase in support for their Microsoft SQL Database. You can actually build a vCloud Director environment using a Microsoft SQL database for all of the configuration data, which will help if you are highly invested in a Microsoft SQL database. Now you can get rid of that Oracle License you been hanging on to.

Lastly, I wanted to touch on the expansion of vShield support and will be integrating with IPSec VPN and added Firewall capabilities. More details to come on this, but know that when setting up secure cloud environments that there will be secure ways to connect external-internal cloud through a secure interface. Think DR and onsite cloud sites synching.

More to come, but excited to see this product line evolve.

Running Multiple Hypervisors Under vCenter: A Quick Look At Hotlink

Over the last couple weeks a very common question I am getting from customers is around switching off of VMware and onto another hypervisor. Usually when we go through the exercise to determine if this is something within their comfort zone we find quickly that the idea of rip and replace is much more of a burden than keeping the current infrastructure. But with that said, things are a changing and people are looking at a plan B so they are not married to a specific vendor incase of some sort of dramatic change, lets say pricing or feature set for example.

Until recently I could honestly say there wasn’t any alternatives that we would recommend that was apples to apples in features and scalability etc. Plus, even if a customer moved to a lateral competitor (Citrix or Hyper-v) they same “locked in” situation would occur. Now, only if there was a product that could manage all the different types of hyper-visors with the best of bread management software on a single platform?

Well we are all in luck because there is a new company that promises to help with this situation. Hotlink was founded last year and will be launching their new product, Hotlink SuperVISOR, very soon and I can say looking over their spec sheets that I am excited to see if this will be as advertised!

What Is it exactly:

In its simplest form it is a layer that sits in-between the hypervisor layer and your management console (vCenter for example).  Using their unique tools set including virtual object bus, transformation technology, proxy and integration services it allows for heterogeneous environment. This means, good or bad, you can run a multitude of different hypervisors under one single platform.

Benefits:

One thing that I do like about this technology is that it does take advantage of your best of breed products. For example, its first management plugin is designed for VMware vCenter and looking over the feature set this is a wise decision. Customer familiar with working in this management console will find the transition smooth with little to no disruption allowing them to leverage existing skills.

As well, you can now mix and match your hypervisors to match your application needs. This both increases efficiency and decreases cost as you put enterprise class programs on VMWare which is expensive and put tier 3 applications on Hyper-v which is less expensive. This puts you in a position to avoid vendor lock-in and if you are already running multiple hypervisors provide a single management console reducing your opex.

Unknowns:

I want to be careful when pointing out good vs. bad when reviewing this product because to be transparent I haven’t seen a demo copy or tested it in the lab as of yet. So instead I just have a lot of questions about the functionality, performance and other technical details.

For starters, I am not sure on the performance overhead of my host machines? I don’t know what this does to my environment if lets say I structurally built around VMware now running several different products under the same hood? I don’t know how this would affect my storage infrastructure and included API’s from EMC, NetApp, etc? Design, deployment, troubleshooting are all questions at this point. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I will say I would be a bit nervous putting this layer in my environment without a firm understanding of all impacts it would put on my infrastructure.

What it won’t solve:

It still won’t address any licensing issues around cost reduction. True you could say move your file servers to Hyper-v which is free with Windows server licenses and only keep your primary machines under VMware but that falls into the 80/20 principle and willing to bet that most of your production applications are high to mission critical and cannot afford any downtime, which is why people move to VMware and pay the extra premium.  However it could help lead down the path were you could give VMware a solid threat to migrate and have a powerful tool at your disposal.

Pricing:

The base price for the SuperVISOR platform is $25k, which includes support for vSphere + 1 other hypervisor and 5 hosts. That is all the details I have at this point. As I hear more I will update this posting.

Conclusion:

Overall this is a great step forward and depending on execution could change the virtualization landscape. I would assume that there will be a group of similar products over the next couple months as this idea gains traction. So I will be curious to see how fast Hotlink can move to market and get adoption going. Looking to seeing more updates.

vSphere Storage Appliance Overview

 

When VMware announced vSphere 5 they mentioned a new storage appliance called VSA or vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA).  It is intended to be used by smaller VMware environments who don’t/didn’t have a SAN or NAS array at their disposal. You know, because SAN’s are expensive, complex and such. Prior to this you could still deploy vSphere but you were heavily limited on the things that made vSphere so cool; vMotion, and HA for example.

That Sounds Nifty, how does that work?

It simply makes use of your server’s internal hard drives as a pooled shared resourced, pretty simple really.

Here is some more detail. For every ESXi server you will have a VSA deployed to it as a virtual machine. Making use of the available of the local disk (those hard drives that came with your server) on the ESXi host and it will pool these together and provide a replicated NFS volume for the ESXi server.  Once you do this on several hosts, then you should have a highly resilient storage backup system, since it will replicate these across all of the hosts providing a clustered and shared data store across all of your hosts.  Make sense?

Why I like it:

  •  Easy set-up, 5+ clicks and you are good to go, supposedly done in less that 10 minutes
  • Managed from vCenter, which is nice (doesn’t depend on vCenter to stay active, so you are safe if vCenter crashes)
  • Help lower CapEx and OpEx for your IT department, this is huge!
  • Because it uses Network Mirror and local RAID it is really robust with little investment on your part
  • Some rather unique custom settings: RAID 10, RAID 1, replacement of Node in case of failure.

 So does this mean you can kick EMC and NetApp to the curb?

Sorry not yet, keep writing those big checks but it will help in a variety of different scenarios.

Any remote location or branch office where you used to put a small SAN is a perfect example. Just simply beef up the hard drives on your servers and use those hosts as pooled storage.

Lab Environments are literately perfect for this. Now instead of waiting for some ancient hardware to come your way or beg management for a little money you can have a fully functioning SAN in your environment.

Very Small environments work great too, but just know this isn’t a permanent solution as of yet and wouldn’t replace a fully robust storage platform.

Limitations:

  • This is version 1 which means that while they claim it is 99.9% availability there isn’t any guarantees, and there may be some bugs
  • There is a limited list of compatible hardware
  • It doesn’t scale too well. Only supporting three virtualized hosts per instance
  • JBOD or external disk isn’t supported. Only Internal, I believe this is due to the RAID card built into the physical server hence why it needs to be on the HW compatibility list
  • Disk Capacity and VSA-Node count cannot be changed after set-up
  • Only vSphere 5 or later will support it at this time
  • Doesn’t support non VMware Machines…as in Hyper-V or Citrix
  • You need at least 2 nodes to make it work, so you will need at least 2 servers
  • Since it is replicated data, eats up space quickly on each server
  • Haven’t seen the performance numbers, but there will be some overhead and could limit the density of your server farm
  • Lastly, it is only local backup and won’t solve geographic disaster recovery

Big Picture:

This isn’t really a new idea, virtual iSCSI appliances have been around awhile and network RAID isn’t new either, LeftHand. But what it is doing is removing external needs for a VMware environment. By taking away the need for a 3rd party storage device it shortens the deployment time for your virtual environment. I highly doubt that this is the last involvement that VMware will have with storage and see them providing much more significant tools for managing your virtual information.  More to come.

For a Technical indepth view, take a look at this link.

vSphere 5 License Entitlements Tool

 

Still don’t understand the new vSphere licensing model? Can’t quite comprehend what you are entitled to from your existing vSphere environment? Need hard cost proof why you should or shouldn’t upgrade to vSphere 5? Tired of all of these rhetorical questions?

Good news below is a link to VMware’s vSphere Licensing Advisor. This is a tool that will let you to look at your 4.1, 4.0, or 3.5 environments and see what you are entitled to.

A Few Notes:

  • The tool requires JRE 1.6 or higher.
  • Editions are displayed as their vSphere 5.0 equivalents using standard entitlement paths.
  • If you have vCenter Servers in linked mode, you will need to connect to each vCenter Server.
  • The tool displays vRAM usage and capacity at the single point in time the data is gathered.
  • The tool will work in environments with Virtual Infrastructure 3.5, vSphere 4.0 and vSphere 4.1. Environments with vCenter Server 4.x managing Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 hosts are not supported with this tool.

It is Offical VMware and Digital Fuel Are One

If you haven’t heard yet VMware acquired a SaaS IT financial management firm, Digital Fuel. There was a quiet announcement in June but for the most part it flew under the radar as most people were not familiar with their offerings. As of July Digital Fuel has closed and is now officially part of VMware.

Digital Fuel has been around for a while and they focus on the ability for companies to plan, manage, report etc. on the value and cost of a cloud based environment. In other words, they allow for detailed reporting on each cost of a piece of a cloud system. So for example, if HR spins up a virtual machine and hosts on the same host as AP you could actually figure out their share of the project and bill it back to the appropriate department.

I like this purchase for a few reasons. First, managing any IT project is complex, let alone a CLOUD or SaaS model and most IT departments end up carrying the budget burden of undefined expenses. Internal departments love assigning misc. and technology cost back to the IT department. Management then can’t find the difference between operations, productions, or separate capital project. It sucks if you are IT director trying to explain mysterious charges to your department.

Second, it shows the new direction the VMware is heading. It is feeling more and more that they are getting out of the traditional hypervisor business. From the new products and other acquisitions you see them evolving to more of a virtualization management company focusing on the different aspects of SaaS, application development, and cloud infrastructure.

Thirdly, it shows VMware moving up the enterprise stack. While VMware has 250,000+ customers the vast majority or in the mid market space, contrasting with Digital Fuel who focused primarily on fortune 100 companies like Cicso, Dell, GE, IBM etc.  This will allow VMware to start to play with some of previous dominant players in this space, specifically IBM software, Oracle, and SAP. There very well could be a power shift in the core enterprise accounts over the next couple years.

Some More Details:

Below is some of the quotes from the press release and related documents.

“Cloud computing represents a fundamentally new model for IT, enabling enterprises to realize unprecedented gains in operational efficiency, while also understanding, managing and optimizing IT resources based on granular business metrics,” said Boaz Chalamish, VP and General Manager, VMware. “New levels of financial visibility and control in cloud environments will enable CIOs to engage with the CFO, line of business stakeholders and others around how IT investments translate to real business value. As an authority on helping organizations navigate the business operations of IT, Digital Fuel will add a significant capability to our portfolio, broadening beyond operational management to include business-centric capabilities.”

And

Digital Fuel’s portfolio for IT costing, budget, chargeback, cost optimization, vendor management and SLA management integrates with a broad set of systems, applications, data sources and third-party management technologies to deliver comprehensive, unified financial analysis.  These offerings, offered both on-premise within an enterprise datacenter and delivered via Software as a Service (SaaS) models for maximum flexibility, will complement VMware’s portfolio of management solutions including vCenter Chargeback and Service Manager. The acquisition of Digital Fuel will enable VMware’s enterprise customers to:

  • Engage more effectively with business stakeholders through meaningful measurements and reports, including a Bill of IT Services, chargeback, service level reporting, and vendor scorecards.
  • Gain complete, consolidated visibility into IT costs (Capex, Opex and Service costs) across a broad range of financial data sources.
  • Manage IT agendas with deep financial discipline, leveraging fact-based decisions across the IT portfolio to make informed financial trade-offs aligned to business priorities.

From Ramin Sayar, VP, Marketing, Blog:

This is why VMware is acquiring Digital Fuel. It’s about providing our customers with the deep visibility and the right measurement tools they need to manage IT in the right way. Specifically, I’m talking about the ability to measure the costs and SLAs associated with a particular IT service whether sourced internally through your private cloud or externally from a cloud or SaaS provider. So you can stand up and have a fact-based, numbers-driven discussion with your CFO or CEO. And the combination of VMware and Digital Fuel is a perfect fit for this. The acquisition brings together our deep insight into the dynamically changing virtual infrastructure which is the very foundation for cloud computing, as well as our growing portfolio of application and end user computing solutions that are re-defining how IT is enabling your business processes. The combination of these solutions with Digital Fuel’s pioneering capabilities gives you the unprecedented ability to manage every aspect of your services from a financial – and business – perspective.

vShield 5: New Security Features Coming Soon

 

VMware vShield 5 was announced around the same time as vSphere 5 but for some reason it sort of flew under the radar. Some would say it had something to due to the licensing drama, but who really knows. What I do know is that 1) securing VM’s is an evolving problem that has been limited to hardware enforcement  and 2) VMware is starting to invest significant more resources towards their vShield suite since its launch in August 2010.

If your remember vShield includes vShield App, vShield Edge, and vShield Endpoint and if you curious what was included in more detail with that launch you can find more here from my previous post. In short it was a good start but not a full solution.

 So What’s New:

vShield App now includes Data Security designated for compliance confidence, think data scanning. This hypervisor-based application aware-firewall will create and enforce dynamic application boundries, aka trust zones based on policies vs. physical boundaries of yesteryear. This should help cut down on the hardware costs!

There is now a collaboration with RSA (Another EMC company, no surprise here) that is designed to “optimize the security for virtual and cloud environments.”  “This security protocol will enable enterprises to discover and classify sensitive data residing within the virtual machines.” So if someone is sending Social Security cards, credit cards, or personal information it can within the VM detect this leak. Plus it is host based and agent-less.

Also, based on pre-defined templates, 80 or so, you will now be able to select policies that affect your business, not sure yet if you can modify these presets or not. These policies scan the VM forsensitive data and report back the findings. You can even set a policy if it finds this data it will isolate this VM keeping the sensitive information in its trust zone. Performance shouldn’t be impacted much since it will be using a virtual appliance. The thing to note is that it will report and isolate, see below.

 Doe this solve our Data Loss Prevention (DLP) Problem?

Not so fast. They still have a long way to go. Remember detect, report and isolate not detect, report and block.  To be clear this is a just a detection tool with minor policy enforcement. It will be more clear come demo time at VMworld, but it is missing some key components to be a full DLP solution. For example it doesn’t detect data leaks in transit, won’t prohibit moving data to the cloud, and doesn’t go in-depth enough to protect ultra sensitive data.  It is a good start, and there will be a future release with API’s to integrate to other DLP software.

 Cost:

The VMware vShield 5 is expected to be available in Q3 2011 and individual products will be licensed per VM (noticing a trend?) starting at $50 per VM retail. The vShield products can also be purchased together as a vShield bundle for $300 per VM.

More Information:

http://www.vmware.com/products/vshield/overview.html

 

Running Hyper-V in vCenter!

With the announcement of vCenter Operations a few months ago I was thinking about how vCenter and how useful this interface has become over the last few years. For whatever reason I started to wonder if vCenter could handle the management of non-vSphere virtual machines. As I had a few conversations I was met with some weird expressions and utter confusion. “Why would you want to?” seemed to be a common response, more on that later.

I knew that Microsoft Virtual Machine Manager claims to manage VMware VM’s (I wouldn’t vouch for the performance ) so I was sure VMware had some sort of tool of their own, right?  After some research it turns out I was half right.

Why?

Lets back up and explain the why. First and my favorite response is always “why not?” If it can be done, why not prove it. Second and a more responsible and applicable reason is because hyper-v is free.* I am not saying replace your VMware environment, I am saying from a cost perspective if you wanted to spin up a few fully functioning VM’s for test/dev or branch office tier 3 applications hyper-v is a good and inexpensive choice.

The Solution

The part why I was only partially correct. So it turns out there is a program called vCenter XVP Manager and Converter, and it does just that.  As stated from their website.

VMware vCenter XVP Manager and Converter provides basic virtualization management capabilities for non-vSphere hypervisor platforms towards enabling centralized visibility and control across heterogeneous virtual infrastructures. It also simplifies and enables easy migrations of virtual machines from non-vSphere virtualization platforms to VMware vSphere.

But, and it’s a big but, it is part of VMware Lab’s department and isn’t fully supported. So while it is a tool that exists, I can’t claim it is a full-fledged product. With that said use at your own risk.

Fine Print

It is new and doesn’t look like it was tested very much as the forums are looking a bit full. The technical requirements are a little strict. For example you actually need Virtual Machine Manager running and the host must also have Windows Remote Management (WinRM) v1.1. Performance and features are limited with its primary purpose bridge to managing a mixed environment.

*I don’t want to get bogged down on true cost of Hyper-V, it has been overly communicated if you want more information feel free to Google it, but just know nothing is free and you do end up paying something for Hyper-V.

Below is some more details and I have provided some links.

Features

  • Management of the following Microsoft Hyper-V platforms:
    • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 (64-bit) with Hyper-V role enabled
    • Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008 R2
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V role enabled
  • Familiar vCenter Server graphical user interface for navigating through and managing non-vSphere inventory
  • Ease of virtual machine migrations from non-vSphere hosts to vSphere inventory
  • Compatible with VMware vCenter Server 4.0 & 4.1
  • Scalable up to management of 50 non-vSphere hosts

If you find it interesting:

-Here is a link on a guide to Hyper-V Features for the VMware administrator.

VMware Q4/2010 Year Results

Today VMware announced their Q4 Results, very impressive. Strong growth with good profit margins and healthy cash flow make for a good company. Below are some highlights.

  • Revenues for the fourth quarter were $836 million, an increase of 37% from the fourth quarter of 2009.
  • Revenues for 2010 were $2.9 billion, an increase of 41% from 2009.
  • Operating income for 2010 was $428 million, an increase of 95% from 2009. Non-GAAP operating income for 2010 was $813 million, an increase of 68% from 2009.
  • Operating income for the fourth quarter was $131 million, an increase of 84% from the fourth quarter of 2009. Non-GAAP operating income for the fourth quarter was $248 million, an increase of 57% from the fourth quarter of 2009.
  • Operating cash flows for 2010 were $1.2 billion, an increase of 19% and free cash flows for the year were $1.2 billion, an increase of 43% from 2009.
  • Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments were $3.3 billion and deferred revenue was $1.9 billion as of December 31, 2010.
  • U.S. revenues for 2010 grew 40% to $1.5 billion from 2009. International revenues grew 43% to $1.4 billion from 2009.
  • License revenues for 2010 were $1.4 billion, an increase of 36% from 2009. Service revenues, which include software maintenance and professional services, were $1.5 billion for 2010, an increase of 46% from 2009.

Recent Highlights & Strategic Announcements

In October 2010, VMware announced expansion of VMware Ready(TM), a program to include mail security solutions that can easily extend the Zimbra(TM) solution with a virtual appliance running on top of VMware vSphere(R). Symantec and Trend Micro were among the first customers to deliver VMware Ready.

In October 2010, VMware announced plans to provide a complete suite of cloud-based development and collaboration tools aimed at simplifying the entire application development process. Part of VMware’s Cloud Application Platform strategy, Code2Cloud is intended to build on leading open source development projects to deliver a completely unified, setup-free development infrastructure that delivers cloud as a service.

In November 2010, VMware announced intent to provide a desktop virtualization solution based on the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) and VMware View(TM) 4.5 that will help channel partners accelerate deployment of virtual desktop solutions, scaling to meet customers’ business needs and regulatory requirements while reducing risk and total cost of ownership (TCO).

More Details Here

New 4.1 Patches Released Today

VMware announced some new patches for 4.1 and other products today. One is listed as critical. it is recomended that you upgrade soon as possible. Links are below:

Critical vSphere 4.1 Patch

There is also a Security Patch with the following issues resolved:

This patch resolves multiple security issues by updating the likewisekrb5, likewiseopenldap, likewiseopen, and pamkrb5 packages. The Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures project (cve.mitre.org) has assigned the names CVE-2009-0844CVE-2009-0845CVE-2009-0846CVE-2009-4212, and CVE-2010-1321 to these issues.

In addition, this patch fixes the following issues:

  • When an user who is a member of more than 32 groups attempts to log into an ESXi host by using KVM, any one of the following issues might occur:
    • ESXi host restarts
    • ESXi host becomes unresponsive

    Note: With this patch, a user who is a member of more than 128 groups can access the console, but loses any group information beyond the 128th group.

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