The Virtualization Practice

Author Archive for Steve Beaver

Steve Beaver
Steve BeaverStephen Beaver is the co-author of VMware ESX Essentials in the Virtual Data Center and Scripting VMware Power Tools: Automating Virtual Infrastructure Administration as well as being contributing author of Mastering VMware vSphere 4 and How to Cheat at Configuring VMware ESX Server. Stephen is an IT Veteran with over 15 years experience in the industry. Stephen is a moderator on the VMware Communities Forum and was elected vExpert for 2009 and 2010. Stephen can also be seen regularly presenting on different topics at national and international virtualization conferences.

The speed that technology changes are absolutely amazing in that as soon as you buy something, the next faster, bigger model comes out. I think back to around when I started my career and remember a workstation that I was using with a 200MHz processor and I was really thrilled when I got it bumped up to 64MB of ram. Now although the hardware was changing at blazing speeds you used to know you had a three to five year run with the operating system before you had to worry about upgrading and refreshing the operating systems. VMware has been changing the rules the last few years on major releases coming around every two years.

The “cloud” has become quite the buzz word and in all appearances truly loved by the marketing side of the fence also. “Take it to the cloud.” That is one of my favorite lines from a Microsoft commercial campaign that I think really shows how mainstream the cloud has become. Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, Oxygen, Amazon and Acronis are all examples of different cloud services that I connect to on a regular basis. Services for the end users are becoming more and more abundant, which is absolutely fantastic for us, the consumer.

I cannot believe the month of December is almost upon us. Every year around this time I like to reflect upon the year and give my review and remarks. This is a special year for me because it was around this time a decade ago that I was introduced to a cool new technology called virtualization from this neat new product called VMware Workstation. It was a magical moment when I first discovered the ability to run multiple operating systems, at the same time, on a single computer. I remember this moment well because it was true love at first install. Within a year I was playing with VMware ESX Server 1.5 and was given my first virtualization proof of concept that was followed by my first production design and deployment. The rest, as they say, is history as well as an amazing ride.

I am not sure how other people have learned their craft and mastered the technology they support, but for me, the learning started after the books ended. I have learned so much more from breaking something and having to find the fix than I ever did from reading a book. Back in the day around 2005, VMware released The VMTN Subscription. This was an amazing program that was something like the Microsoft MSDN subscription. These programs gave you the ability to run any of the core software packages for a year at a time for a subscription fee.

A Look At VMstore from Tintri

One of the biggest things I took away from the VMworld 2011 in Las Vegas was the all advancements within the storage part of virtualization. For me, this was the year for storage. One product that really got my attention was the new NAS appliance, VMstore from Tintri. This 3U appliance, well 5U if you count the UPC, is a single datastore with 8.5TB of usable storage. This appliance was a collaboration of some very smart individuals from different companies like VMware, Datadomain, NetApp and Sun. They put their minds together and built this NFS appliance from the ground up with specially engineered file system to work with virtualization. What makes this VM-aware appliance different from other typical storage designs is VMstore uses VM’s and virtual disks as the abstractions instead of the conventional storage abstractions, volumes, LUN’s and files that we have all been accustomed to. Each I/O request will map directly to a virtual disk all while VMstore monitors, controls the I/O and presents disk performance statistics per VM or per VMDK.

VMware Capacity Planner – A Special Use Case

I have had the opportunity to perform a few VMware Capacity Planner assessments over the years and I have been, more the most part, pretty happy with the process and the results of the reports. The assessment is really pretty straight forward. We had physical servers to the project, making sure we have proper permissions to perform all the tasks and then let the process run over an extended period of time. For the most part, this way of sampling over an extended time frame will give you a very good idea what can be virtualized and the number of hosts that will be needed.

Whether you are building a new or adding to an existing virtual or cloud environment on a shoestring budget, whether for work or for home use, there is quite a bit to consider before you purchase anything and it all boils down to your requirements which will dictate the technology you need for your virtual environment. In addition, this is a perfect time to address any deficiencies in your environment to not only address capacity issues, requirements, and security. Along with those considerations, planning the environment for the next three to five years can help shape the overall design. In fact that design, will be based on the answers from a growing list of questions.

Since the introduction of virtualization there has been sheer joy and excitement when having to work with application owners on the amount of resources they will need and not what they really think they want. I have seen all kinds of minimum, maximum, and special recommendation for all kinds of application over the years. In most cases, applications have evolved to be able to thrive in a virtual environment without too many limitations. Now it seems we have to verify which VMware features are fully supported with certain virtualized application also.

One of the cool things about attending VMworld every year is seeing what is new on the horizon and this year, ironically, there is something called Project Horizon and the first milestone of that project called VMware Horizon Application Manager. Horizon is a hosted service that will centrally manage the provisioning, access and usage of software-as-a-server (SaaS) applications while at the same time applying the companies standardized security and access controls. This will give the end users of the application the ability to use the applications via VMware ThinApp or View products to stream the application across multiple devices all with a single login. The end users will also have self-service access to a corporate store for their SaaS and Web-based applications. Managing these applications will be completely user based with no need to worry about the underlying device the software or application is running on.

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