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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


  • 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.