Using vCenter to Centralize User Authentication

A common issue I have seen lately is with smaller customers adopting a larger virtual environment is the use of individual host admins/users. When you only have a few starter ESX/ESXi hosts it can be easy to forgot to plan out a large deployment scenario as your environment starts to grow.

It really only takes a few moments to update an admin on a server or two. But what do you do when you have to manage 10 hosts? You would have to manually login and change all of these machines including adding users, changing your password, or making system changes. This can add a lot of time to simple tasks.

A good example of this: Lets say you currently have 2 hosts in their environment with 3 admins. Then add 3 more hosts and 2 more admins, now all of sudden you are managing 5 separate hosts and 5 admins. Imagine adding another 5 hosts?!

Fortunately managing individual login on separate ESX and ESXi hosts can be managed centrally with VMware vCenter Server.  This obviously greatly reduces the amount of time needed to manage multiple host and administrators on separate hosts.

Since vCenter Server is a Windows-based application it plays very well with Active directory and you can take the same approach of managing your user groups.  Once it is set-up, the authorized user can then login using the vSphere Client to either the vCenter Server that would connect to the ESX/ESXi host.

A thing to note about this set-up.

Once you have this process set-up, your organization should stick with it and be consistent. This is because the Wndows-based vCenter server doesn’t reconcile the user accounts with the local ESX/ESXi host’s database (they are completely separate).  This means if you create an account on a local ESX/ESXi host and then the admin tries to login with that through the vCenter Server it won’t recognize the user credentials the same is true if you made an account on the vCenter and you try and manage it through vCenter.

Hopefully this will save you some time!

vSphere installation Best Practice

Mounting a VMFS Datastore Using ESXi Install CD

Recovering an ESXi install that won’t boot can be a frustrating and difficult process. What do you do if the usual options don’t work; repair option on the install cd or booting ESXi from a USB stick? As well, wouldn’t it be nice if you were in a rush and just needed to get information off the VMFS datastore rather than rebuild the whole host? Good news, there is a way to mount a datastore to gain access to the information.

  1. Boot from an install disk, press ALT+F1 to get the console.
  2. Login with using the user root (password will be blank)
  3. Run ls /vmfs/devices/disks/ to validate that ESXi can see the host disk
  4. Load the vmfs3 driver using the vmkload_mod command.
  5. Now run vmkfstools –V to mount your existing datastores
  6. Finally, use SSH or SCP to copy files from the datastore to another location.

Hopefully this will save you time if you have an ESXi go down and all you need is to access the data to a new host.

CapIQ Can Help Streamline Your Virtual Environment

One the primary goals for IT is usually better efficiency, which tends to be a contestant obstacle as new and larger technologies are released. VMware and virtual machines is no exception to this challenge. VMware does make a tool that is pretty helpful when it comes to managing and planning your capacity needs. Capacity IQ uses the following tools to help predict what physical resources will be necessary to run a virtual machine within your performance SLA’s:

  • Physical Capacity-CPU, memory, disk space, I/O, etc…
  • Virtual Machine Capacity- Measurement of abstract capacity. Basically converting physical properties into virtual machine measurements.
  • Past through Present Trends- Tracks speed of capacity and gives insight of where and how fast it is increasing, decreasing or staying stagnate.
  • Estimated Time Remaining- This helps with planning for future upgrades and refreshes.

Once you have gone through the program and looked at the different dashboards you should be able to go through an extensive amount of information. You can now turn that data and optimize your host for capacity regaining unused resources. To do this select the Views tab, select Virtual Machine Optimization – Summary.

And you should see something below:

Which will give you the following:

  • Assess Virtual Machine Capacity usage.
  • Identify Oversized Virtual Machines.
  • Identify Undersized Virtual Machines.
  • Discover Idle Virtual Machines.
  • Discover Powered-off Virtual Machines.

You can also use a helpful tool that will allow the creation of scenarios. These “what-if” scenarios would show how capacity could change based on certain conditional changes without making actual changes to your virtual infrastructure. This is really helpful for when you want to know what deploying an application would do to your environment in advance versus just throwing it in your environment and hoping for the best.


MSRP is $495.00 per processor and you licenese it based off of vCenter servers.


Mananging capacity can be one of the most difficult parts of managing and infrastructure. Getting the most of what you have and knowing when to upgrade or expand can feel a lot like playing the stock market. CapIQ can help resolve most of these issues.

More Information.

VMware View 4.5 Demo and Features

Today I got the pleasure of viewing some of VMware’s newest technology at their traveling VMware Express Truck event. It literally is a semi truck stuffed Servers, Storage and VMware demos, and so forth. The main topic was VMware View and some of the features coming out in 4.5 which should be released very soon!


  • Offline Desktop Access (View Client with Local Mode)– allows you to “check out” a desktop for instances were you wouldn’t have network access, think plane or cave. This also comes in handy for Bring Your Own PC (BYOPC) and contract workers etc… Video demo at the end of the post.
  • Better Improvements to View Administrator – Including role-based administration, monitoring features, better and simplified reporting and the ability to add 3rd party application support. Which could be used for Altiris, LANdesk and more.
  • Application Assignment-Enables ThinAPP to managed centrally while delivering to pools and/or individuals.
  • Better Optimization Over WAN – Improved PCoIP protocol for better user experience.
  • Tiered Storage– Puts high-need desktops and their storage on fast disks, puts achieved or less important desktops on cheap (relative term) SATA disk. As well, strong partner ships with all the other major players so you can take advantage of hardware efficiency in addition to the software side.
  • More Security– Improved administrator control, remote wipe etc…Integration with VMware vShield.
  • Tons of End-Points To Choose From– Thin Clients, fat clients, WYSE, HP, Samsung has a monitor with the chip built in, iPhone, iPAD (running Windows 7, which was a highlight), and a number of other devices.
  • Ability to Move- Pretty cool demo, but in short you could log in with a smart card at terminal A and run to Terminal B and have the same applications running. Example would be doctor going from room to room.

Editions and Price:

  • VMware View 4.5, Enterprise Edition: MSRP is $150 per concurrent connection and includes VMware vSphere 4.1 for desktops, VMware vCenter 4.1 and VMware View Manager 4.5, a flexible desktop management server enabling IT administrators to quickly provision and tightly control user access.
  • VMware View 4.5, Premier Edition: MSRP is $250 per concurrent connection includes VMware vSphere 4.1 for desktops, VMware vCenter 4.1, VMware View Manager 4.5, View Client with Local Mode, VMware ThinApp 4.6, VMware View Composer and VMware vShield Endpoint 1.0 to enable integration of offline capabilities, image management optimization, application virtualization and centralized anti-virus protection with virtual desktop delivery and management.

Summary of Demo:

It was pretty slick and the user experience was good. There were a few questions that came up. VOIP for one is sort of a sticky question that wasn’t really resolved. Latency thresholds were a little merky. Though there are some workarounds and adaptation that goes on. Finally, how to get from idea to production wasn’t solidify there definitely was going to be a large capital investment. However, I do think VDI is here and isn’t going away and I think there is going to be a ton of offerings over the next 1-3 years!

Forgotten Tool:VMware vCenter Orchestrator

VMware makes a tool that in my personal opinion is often overlooked. vCenter Orchestrator can be used to set-up custom automated workflows. You can automate any of the 800 plus tasks that are possible with vCenter (create virtual machines, start virtual machines etc…) You can also leverage this tool to use with 3rd party solutions like service desk, change management systems, and other solutions.


  • Drag and drop components into workflows
  • There are several out of box workflows that are included. A good example of this would be a startup notification when a virtual machine is powered on.
  • Comprehensive list of functionality, a lot of which can be done by novice IT administrators.
  • Can be used with VMwares Lifecycle Manager for added functionality.


  • It is free and comes with vCenter Server!!

Why You Should Care:

Well one, time is important, you would be surprised how many of these tasks people do manually. Once Orchestrator is installed and running a lot of the mundane task can be assigned, I like to think of it as a personal assistant for your VM’s. Also, we have found that some customers actually pay professional services or for 3rd party applications when a lot of these features are included, so using this can save you some money.

Last Minute Notes:

  • Orchestrator requires a database (MySQL, SQL, and PostgreSQL) to store information such as workflows, users, roles, and permissions.
  • You will also need a LDAP server (Active Directory, eDirectory, or Sun Java Directory).
  • Make sure you set-up a static  or fixed IP.
  • Because of workloads, best practices states that the database and the Orchestrator server are on separate hosts.

More Information:

VMware vCenter Orchestrator Documentation

VMware vCenter Orchestrator Overview

VMware vCenter Update Manager 4.1 Sizing Tool

VMware has a calculator that will estimate the size of the VMware vCenter Update Manager 4.1 (VUM) databases and patch store. Once you enter some key information it will spit out the following results:

  • Update Manager 4.1 database deployment model recommendations
  • vCenter Update Manager 4.1 Server deployment model recommendations
  • Initial disk space utilization in MB for database, patch store, and temporary space
  • Monthly disk space utilization growth in MB for database and patch store
  • The higher and lower bounds on the estimation, assuming a 20% variance

You can find the estimator here.

Please note some other best practices around VUM:

  • You should use a separate database from your vCenter Server database
  • Install VUM on the same host as your vCenter Server Host

vMotion Improvements!

Here is the situation; you have built out your virtual environment the best way possible. I am talking about the best servers, storage, and network money can buy. From a bench mark perspective it is the best and everything runs perfect. However, you run into a situation where you need to vMotion several servers at a time to shut down a production server for updates.

Then you realize even though you have the best environment you still are limited to a static amount of concurrent tasks. As well, large vm’s with bigger memory configurations would be sluggish or wouldn’t even migrate all. Finally, even though you invested in a huge 10GbE network with your fancy Converged Network it seems there is always a bottleneck. What to do?

Upgrade! The good news is that with vSphere 4.1 the amount of concurrent vMotion task has been significantly increased see chart below. They call it Scalable vMotion. It does several new things:

  • Restructured how vMotion takes advantage of the network.
  • Better optimization of memory handling.
  • Optimized vMotion convergence logic.

The engine allows a throughput of 8GB/sec on a 10GbE link, which is 3 times the performance of version 4.0. This will significantly improve data-center performance and help with larger migrations. As well, this should improve the adoption among cloud service providers and the better acceptance for the private cloud.

How To: Changing The Name of a Virtual Machine While It Is Running

Did you know?

That if you change the name of a virtual machine while is powered on; the files that consist for that VM will not be changed.  This would mean that vCenter would display a different name that would be found in the file system level. To resolve this while the VM is running it is recommended that you:

  1. Change the name.
  2. Use VMotion to move the machine to a new datastore (This will rename the files that are copied).
  3. VMotion back.
  4. Done!

This will avoid confusion and having to shut down the VM for any scheduled downtime. On the flipside, you can do it the proper way:

  1. Make sure there is no snapshots etc.
  2. Shutdown the virtual machine.
  3. If you are using VirtualCenter, remove the virtual machine from the inventory but do not delete the files from disk.
  4. Connect to the ESX Server host on which the virtual machine resides over SSH.
  5. Unregister the virtual machine using command: vmware-cmd -s unregister <path to config file>
  6. Where <path to config file> is the path to the configuration file as determined by ‘vmware-cmd –l’ . ‘/vmfs/volumes/storage1/vm1/vm1.vmx’
  7. Rename the folder, .vmx file, and .vmdk (+ flat) file to match the new name.
  8. Edit the vmx file to reflect the name of the new descriptor file.
  9. Locate the scsi0:0.fileName line.
  10. Save the file and exit
  11. Edit the .vmdk file to reflect the name of the new flat file.
  12. Locate the Extent description section of the .vmdk file.
  13. Register the virtual machine.
  14. Add the virtual machine back into VirtualCenter inventory using the Virtual Infrastructure Client by browsing the data store, finding the .vmx file, right-clicking and adding it to inventory.

For more details.

Liquidware Signs Deal with VMware

This is pretty exciting news! Liquidware has singed an agreement with VMware for desktop assessment. This will help with the assessment lead approach of architecting a VMware View environment.

“The true benefits of this agreement with VMware, and other organizations using Stratusphere, are the results seen by shortening the sales cycle for next generation desktops, an increase in user adoption and productivity, and an increase in service levels for end-users.”

This takes effect immediately for any customer and can help with all aspects of the VMware View. Ultimatley, this help with a higher adoption rate of VMware View. The rest of the press release is below.

Beginning immediately any customer who is in the exploratory, deployment, comparative, or optimization phase of a virtual desktop project can benefit from the visibility Stratusphere provides backed by the expertise and experience of VMware Professional Services. VMware Desktop Virtualization Assessments are aided tremendously when customers have relevant information on the real-time use of their infrastructure, networks, user activity, storage, applications, and application servers. Customers are encouraged to reach out to their VMware account team or VMware Professional Services to learn more about VMware Desktop Virtualization Assessment Services and for program details and implementation.

The proper planning, design, and implementation of a virtual desktop and application strategy requires true visibility. “Liquidware Labs gives VMware Professional Services additional solutions to complete comprehensive Desktop Virtualization Assessments for our customers, which are critical in the early phases of VMware View™ implementations,” said Andy Knosp, Senior Director,VMware Professional Services.

Stratusphere collects performance metrics in order to evaluate how well the infrastructure will perform when moving to a next generation desktop such as VMware View, and/or Windows 7. In addition, questions of sizing and scaling, infrastructure needs, and TCO/ROI can be more easily quantified as design decisions are rooted in contextual measurement vs. theory.

Liquidware Labs Stratusphere is available for a trial download at


VMware Capacity Planner

Frequently when I speak to clients about how they designed their VMware environments; there isn’t much of a response.  Basically, they explain it was simple to install and it makes sense; I mean that has always been the draw to VMware, how easy and quickly it is to deploy virtual machines. While this is great for testing and getting familiar with VMware’s features if it isn’t planned correctly it can cause a lot of headache in the future i.e. server sprawl, performance issues, resource allocation, etc.

But don’t fear there is a pretty good tool out there that VMware offers, VMware Capacity Planner, that is designed specifically to resolve these problems. There is a heterogeneous agent less tool that discovers and takes inventory of your IT assets; it measures system workloads and capacity utilization. The core analytical engine uses advanced algorithms that solve capacity optimization problems while providing trends, benchmarks, and whole lot of other analysis.

Overall it is a useful tool and it is pretty simple to install and setup. Also they have the ability to benchmark your results against a wide variety of other customer data providing a good reference point.  Also, the have the ability to use scenario modeling, trending, and “what-if” analysis so there is some solid framework behind their recommendations.

There is some time involved, and you will want to make sure you allow for decent amount of time to gather all of the information. While VMware offers this service, it can be provided from a wide of variety of partners, so there are some options. One thing to note, is that this process tends to be one sided and VMware focused. It is often helpful to look at this from that perspective and take your whole architecture into consideration (storage, networking, management, etc.) when making your final decisions.

If you want a much detailed look at VMware Capacity Planner, Rich Brambley over at VM/ETC has a very good write up and detailed summary. Check it out here.

More Information.