VMworld 2013: Successfully Virtualize Microsoft Exchange Server #VAPP5613

Alex Fontana, creator of the VMware documentation about virtualizing Microsoft Exchange products told all listeners about the best practices and pitfalls you can experience.

Some information was presented last year in Barcelona, but still provided useful information which I will pass on to my Exchange friends. My highlights of this session:

  • Use EagerZeroThick virtual disks instead of thin provisioned virtual disks. I believe this is only for the disks hosting mailbox databases. This due to the fact that there is a small performance penalty when writing new blocks to a thin provisioned disk.
  • When having multiple virtual disks in your virtual Exchange server, configure multiple vSCSI adapters (4 is the max, so when having 4 or more virtual disks, use them all and split the virtual disks among the vSCSI adapters). During testing, this has brought the Exchange latency from 60 to around 10ms.
  • Exchange latency should be under 10ms and should be no more then 20ms.
  • When using vMotion, make sure you use Jumbo Frames on the vMotion network. When this is not possible, configure the ‘SameSubnetDelay’ parameter to 2000ms instead of the default 1000ms on the DAG cluster.
  • Load balancing using the vCloud Networking & Security Edge is supported and works fine. No need to use a hardware or third-party load balancer.

A nice session and experienced speaker, thanks Alex!

VMworld 2013: VMware Virtual SAN #STO5391

Before going into detail about this session, I must say that the speakers were hard to understand due to bad English pronouncement. It would be good if the speakers would train this so that everybody can understand what they are saying.

This session, primarily presented by Christos Karamanolis was all about VSAN, or Virtual SAN, the new feature available from vSphere 5.5.

In my opinion, VSAN is a replacement for the Virtual Storage Appliance (VSA) released during vSphere 5.0. And, VSAN could compete with the solution offered by Nutanix, except the intelligent software that Nutanix has developed will be more enhanced compared to VSAN.

For people not familiar with VSA; this solution will transform the local storage in your ESXi host to a VSA datastore. With a minimum of 2, maximum of 3 ESXi hosts, you can create a VSA cluster. Hosts in this cluster will replicate their VSA datastore with adjacent ESXi hosts and provide high availability (and stable performance, since it’s local storage!). You can run the VSA datastore next to your other datastore and will be able to storage vMotion between datastore types.

VSAN is enabled on ESXi cluster-level and will by default initialize all unused space on the hosts in this cluster. Advanced configuration enables an administrator to only use a specific amount or type of storage capacity. You don’t need to deploy extra VMs or vApps to use VSAN. It’s all inside vSphere 5.5.

Hardware-based (or software) RAID will not be used, but replication will be used instead. For each VM it’s possible to define how many replicas will be available using storage profiles in vSphere. This way you can protect important VMs using more replicas and provide a simple protection for the less important VMs.

Replication will keep copies of the VMDK blocks among all ESXi hosts in the VSAN-enabled cluster and removes the need for a RAID configuration. The local initialized storage (SATA, SAS or SSD drives) will be added to one big datastore presented by VSAN. This datastore will grow in size as you add extra drives. You don’t need to keep all your hosts the same, you can add extra SSD or HDD drives to specific hosts to add extra capacity of a certain drive type. The same goes for compute, but you need to have a minimum of 1 HDD and 1 SSD drive in a host to enable VSAN. A minimum of 3 vSphere ESXi 5.5 hosts are required to enable VSAN at cluster level.

The ESXi hosts need to have a 1GB or 10GB NIC and need to have VSAN virtual networks configured in order for VSAN to be enabled and be operational. When you have a RAID controller in your host, configure it as JBOD. As stated earlier, you should not configure RAID protection in combination with VSAN.

The vSphere hosts need to be on the VMware HCL to be supported for VSAN use. Of course all of your hardware is listed on the HCL.. Right? 🙂

When using replicas, write I/O will go to all replicas for that specific VM. Read I/O will go to any replica. This way of I/O pathing will provide high performance and high availability.

One last thing I would like to mention is that VSAN provides a detailed performance view which can be used for capacity management and troubleshooting.

When vSphere 5.5 is available for download I will most certainly test out the VSAN functionality and see if it can indeed replace the VSA functionality.

VMworld 2013: PowerCLI Best Practices – A Deep Dive #VSVC4944

My first scheduled session was with Alan Renouf and Luc Dekens, the PowerCLI gurus of VMware and always busy writing scripts and code to make the life of a VMware professional easier.

DSC03006

Alan Renouf and Luc Dekens slicing the PowerCLI cake.

During this session, Alan and Luc were sharing their best practices when using PowerCLI 5.5 Release 1 and PowerShell v3. I basically wrote down a list of these best practices and specifically the ones that come in handy during my activities. Hopefully it will come to good use for others.

  • Use tags (introduced in vSphere 5.1). Tags can be read and written, which was not possible in earlier releases of PowerCLI
  • vDS support. Now you can configure distributed switches
  • Open your VM console using PowerCLI and share the URL with administrators to enable them to directly login to the VM console without logging into vSphere Web Client.
  • vCloud Director 5.5 support
  • Configure ESXi host licenses
  • Make sure when processing data, that you filter the search before filtering the results to speed up the processing of your command or script.
  • Don’t use Write-Host, instead use Write-Verbose or Write-Warning
  • Use venter Alert Actions to automate in a very easy way. Let’s say after deploying a VM, you want to automatically run a script in the VM that installs AntiVirus software, or your CMDB gets updated automatically. There are numerous amount of alerts available in vCenter which you can use out-of-the-box
  • WebCommander, a VMware fling which presents PowerCLI scripts, for any kind of product (View, vCloud Director, vSphere etcetera) in a web-based view available to you, the scripter/programmer and also your users. It’s even possible to give users a direct link to your scripts. Looks like an App store for PowerCLI scripts 🙂
  • Check out PS-Remoting to re-use PowerCLI sessions open to your vCenter Server. This decreases load on your vCenter server and increases the speed of your scripts, since the initial load only happens once, when you open up the session.
WebCommander, a fling by VMware

WebCommander, a fling by VMware

Thanks to Alan and Luc for their session and dose of humour 🙂

VMworld 2013: General Session #GS-MON

This morning Robin Mattlock opened the General Session at the Moscone Centre-North with an awesome intro movie and prepared everyone for the Software Defined Data Center topics coming up the rest of the event.

She welcomed some ‘Alumni Elites’ on stage, persons who participated all VMworld events, for 10 years.

Robin mentioned that the number of VMs managed by an admin has been tripled when looking at the following ‘virtualization phases’:

  • Compute virtualization (120 VMs managed per admin)
  • Virtualizing Business Critical Applications (BCA) (170 VMs managed per admin)
  • IT-as-a-Service (350+ VMs managed per admin)

Soon after Pat Gelsinger took stage and announced that everything has to be virtualized and VMware will never stop chasing the vision of virtualizing all apps, including the Business Critical Apps mentioned earlier.

Next, Pat announced the release of vSphere and vCloud Suite 5.5 introducing support for large datastores and bigger virtual disks (64TB!), overall capabilities and application-aware High Availability.

VMware Virtual SAN is finally coming to GA as is VMware NSX which was announced by Martin Casado. I really have to show the features and capabilities provided by NSX to my networking colleagues, they will be flabbergasted! Most features you know of usual Virtual Machines like snapshotting and cloning will be made available to the networking aspects.

Ebay, Citi and GE Appliances came on stage telling their experiences with NSX and how they have (completely or partly). That proves that the technology is production capable.
They told us that no physical changes were needed in the infrastructure which sounds promising to me but I think more is needed to completely transform your networking infrastructure to a full virtualized infrastructure.

The last announcement I want to write about is VMware vCloud Hybrid Service, the public cloud solution provided by VMware and providing customers with an extension or even a replacement of their own datacenter. Solutions like Disaster Recovery as a Service can be provided easily and saves customers the need and costs for building their own failover site.

Pat states that VMware is the number one VMware Cloud Management provider and the fastest growing provider as well.

From what I can tell now, last year, VMworld 2012 was all about providing SDDC (Software Defined Data Center) services for Virtual Machines and now the next step has arrived for storage, networking and automation.

Thanks for reading!

VMworld 2013: Arrival and registration

My first post from San Francisco and I have some catching up to do. Since I haven’t been doing nothing once the plane touched down in Frisco. So let’s get my story going!

After a long day I have finally arrived in ‘Frisco’ yesterday around 5PM, while at home the clock was already pointing at 2AM. What do you mean, back to the past?

I have to mention the flight by British Airways which was a pleasure to experience. An entertainment system with new movies (watched Iron Man 3!), free drinks and 3 meals to make our travel as comfy as possible. Seen the fact that our flight endured 10 hours and 30 minutes 🙂

WP_20130824_006

DSC02922

To celebrate our arrival, my colleague and me grabbed a burger at the local diner and enjoyed some local beers before leaving to the hotel and catch a good night sleep. At least, if the beds were a little bit more comfy:

This morning we had breakfast at 8AM and went for the Moscone centre to pick up our badges and backpack. I made some photos of the Partner Exchange which was still being built up but already looked very awesome. Oh, and I shook hands with Alan Renouf, the PowerCLI Guru and creator of the vCheck script.

A little bit off-topic, but like the second picture of this post suggested, we visited Alcatraz this afternoon. A cool experience and people who haven’t been there should really check it out. The  audio tour was even available in Dutch!

DSC02952

While on the boat and island (or like they say here; the rock) I made some cool pictures I want to share with you.

One last thing, check out the URL below to find the blog of my colleague Eelco de Boer.
Thanks for reading!

VMworld 2013: Countdown!

Tomorrow my trip to San Francisco will start together with a colleague and I can’t wait to get there!

Got to have some patience tho, starting with a flight in Amsterdam to London in the morning and having a 2 hour break before taking off to San Francisco (which is a 12 hour flight). My first experience in a plane for longer then 4 hours.. Hmpf =D

Arriving in SFO we will be heading to Union Square, drop off our bagage and hopefully having some nice (American!) dinner. If we still have some energy I want to go and check out the surroundings for a bit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sunday the fun starts with a trip to Alcatraz and picking up our VMworld badge/bag and other coolness. On monday, tuesday, wednesday and thursday I will report exclusively about my experiences at the VMworld convention. Stay tuned for news around VMware products and solutions!

Of course there are also some parties along the week. If the photos and stories are not rated M for Mature, I will post them on my blog for my faithful readers.

Signing out and will be back soon with fresh news. Thanks for reading =)

VMworld 2013: Content Catalog online

For those who didn’t noticed yet; the Content Catalog for VMworld 2013 is available online. Be sure to preview the available sessions (which are still subject to changes) and get ready for the Schedule Builder.

Check out the Content Catalog using the following URL:
https://vmworld2013.activeevents.com/connect/search.ww

The Schedule Builder for US will be online on the 25th of July and for Europe on the 15th of August.

VMworld 2013: San Francisco Ahoy!

Hey everyone,

I’m one of the lucky attendees of VMworld in San Francisco this year!
This will be my second visit to VMworld and I can’t wait to see what sessions will be given.

Given the fact I have been working with vCloud Director a lot lately without any training or literature knowledge, this will be a nice opportunity to get more experienced with the product and add-ons.

Every day after arriving in San Francisco I will publish a new blog posting to share my thoughts and experiences with the sessions, hands-on labs, discussions and of course.. The parties =)

Can’t wait till’ August!

VMworld 2012: Final day

After 3 days of an information overload, the final day started off with PowerCLI scripting with Alan Renouf and Luc Dekens showing new features when using PowerShell 3.0 and some example scripts showing what PowerCLI can do.

Some other tips that were very useful to me is knowing about the existence of the SDK Referance guide, which contains all information about commands inside PowerCLI. The other tip was that when using PowerGUI, you can easily find all extended properties using the Debug mode that will help you create even more advanced scripts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After the sessions I was able to talk with Luc about the vCheck script I customized for multiple environments at my employer and ask how to improve it even further. When I get back coming week, I will try to make some time and post my improvements here for other people to use. Most of the improvements are applicable to environment-specific elements, but who knows; maybe it can still be used by others! =)

Next I went to the VCAP Datacenter Quickstart Session. This sessions is meant to prepare you for the VCAP Datacenter Administration and VCAP Datacenter Design and give you some pointers of what to do to prepare yourself like using the Exam Blueprint and some practical tips like study when you had enough sleep and to be on time at the exam to prevent stress.

The VCAP exams (Administration and Design) consist of live labs that you will be working with during your exam assignments. A (what I think) cool thing, is that the idea about using live labs is that you are actually working on a live environment. When you break your ESX host during the exam, it will be game over and you will fail the exam. If I recall correct, the Administration has 26 labs which you have to complete and afterwards you will hear if you passed or not. The Design exam is somewhat different, as you have to create diagrams in a Visio-like application where after it has to be reviewed by an examinator, which will take a while (approximately 2 weeks).

Finishing up with the quickstart session, I went to the Certification Lounge and did two labs that reflect the same kind of labs during the VCAP exam. These went well, so hopefully after (finally!) upgrading my VCP from 3.5 to 5.1 I will be allowed to do the VCAP exams.

I had 3 other sessions planned for today, but I went to the Solutions Exchange to have some conversations with HP, Cisco, VMware, Citrix, EMC and Mozy to get some information that might be of value in the environments I administer. The second reason for this is scoring goodies for my colleagues back in the Netherlands =)

At 16:00 I went to a session about vSphere replication with my colleagues and am very positive about this product! It’s free when you have a vSphere Essentials license and gives you the ability to replicate on VM-basis in a ROBO or backup site environment to make sure that during an outage, your VMs can be brought back online and ensure availability with a minimum downtime.

This will be my last blog about VMworld 2012 in Barcelona! I hope I was able to bring out the VMworld feeling to people reading my posts!

Thanks for reading and keep checking for new blog postings, as I will be filling it with tweaks, scripts, best practices and everything you can think of that can be of value when you are running into problems or setting up a new environment.

VMworld 2012: Day three

A late post of day three, because of the VMworld party that has been going on =)

This morning a keynote about End User access using VMware View and Mirage. Very cool stuff! You will be able to use your virtual desktop from any device: tablets, macbooks, Windows machines and all able to synchronize your desktop back to the datacenter. No more lost data when your device gets stolen or crashes due to a hardware failure!

The big vendors like HP, Cisco and EMC had to ‘battle out’ this morning for the best presentation, each given 4 minutes. EMC won, probably because of my vote 😉

After the keynote I followed the sessions listed below. Today a new feature in my blog: “Personal Highlights”! I made some notes during these sessions that are nice to know or are in some way applicable to the environments I work with. Hopefully they are of value to readers!

Session #1: GD26 – vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA) and Virtual Volumes (VVols) with Suzy Visvanathan
Personal Highlights: “A VSA cluster is formed using 2 or 3 nodes, but when using only 2 nodes you need a special plugin to provide a quorum. If you have the ability, use 3 nodes. The VSA supports RAID5,6 and 10 and supports online expanding of logical volumes starting from VSA 5.1. It’s possible to run the VSA on a host that already has VMs running so you don’t need to configure a new ESXi box running only the VSA!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Session #2: INF-VSP1367 – Upgrading vSphere
Personal Highlights: “I already performed some upgrades of vCenter/ESXi environments including dvSwitches and VMFS filesystems but still wanted to confirm my knowhow with the VMware specialist. Note to self: Upgrade VirtualCenter first, then your ESXi hosts, followed by the VMware Tools and Virtual Hardware. Upgrading these last 2 components is optional. Check out the new enhancements like more vCPUs or memory capacity but if you don’t need it, it’s not a requirement. If you are upgrading, make sure you upgrade the Virtual Hardware after upgrading all ESXi hosts in the cluster.

Session #3: OPS-CIM2179 – Transforming Your Cloud with VMware: Day One – Building Your Cloud
Personal Highlights: “It’s really important to know the demands of your environment to decide whether you want to implement vCloud Director or not. The VMware technician told me that if you CAN wait, then you SHOULD wait until the 2nd quarter of 2013 because of a new version coming out that will seamlessly run within ESXi.

Session #4: APP-BCA1684 – Virtualizing Exchange Best Practices
Personal Highlights: “A lot of stuff I didn’t know about virtualizing Exchange: Thin disks are not supported, as well as machine snapshots (Could’ve guessed this but ok..) and using a thick eager zeroed disk for your mailbox database disks.

Session #5: INF-VSP1800 – vSphere Performance Best Practices
Personal Highlights: “When in a stable environment, the Transparent Page Sharing mechanism is active at all times, but when you are in trouble, or just warned of performance issues, this is when the Balooning, Compression or Swapping is going on. When setting your power profile in BIOS to OS controlled, it is possible to regulate power from the vSphere Client. Using a low-power profile is not recommended since you can experience performance issues. Last but not least the use of shares is recommended for CPU, memory and storage (Storage I/O).

Brainfart: “General discussions are cool! It’s a really interactive way to form a session using feedback of attendees and input your own question to it!

Today was a good day and saw about 30 minutes of sun today because of the interesting sessions! I just got back from the VMworld party and enjoyed some beers with my colleagues. Getting a little hungry now because of the small appetizers we had for dinner =)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

Thanks for reading again! Tomorrow will be the last day of VMworld 2012: Barcelona so that’s where my blogging will end for VMworld. I will keep this blog filled with technical information so people can learn of use my experiences.