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.

Unless you have been on vacation or hiding under a rock then you have heard the latest buzz in the industry that vSphere 4.1 has been released. There have been a lot of blog posts on the topic already. You can find one example here, here and what we at virtualizationpractice.com posted here. The thing I want to hit on for this post is the fact that this release will be the last release for full version of ESX. Moving forward on any new releases of ESX will be strictly ESXi. Anyone that knows me over the years knows that I have not really been a big fan of getting rid of the full version ESX Server. Call me old school and the fact that I have spent a great deal of time developing the automation used in the environments that I have supported over the years and have been really happy with what I was able to accomplish via kickstart and bash.

This day seem to start like any other but it seems like as soon as I was logged in to start my day issues arose. It seems like I lost one of my VMware 3.5 ESX servers and all the virtual machines on the host were knocked offline. This should not have been a big deal since HA was enabled but, Murphy has a way of making life really interesting. So as I logged into the vCenter client I noticed that the host in question was in a disconnected state and all the virtual machines showed up as disconnect. In past experiences I have seen HA, during a host failure, recover the virtual machines in under five minutes. So I waited and waited thinking HA should have kicked in by now. Time for a little further investigation!!

There is a cardinal rule that we should all know about, especially for those of us who have spent a lot of time developing kickstart scripts for automated builds of the VMware hosts in your environment, that you do not use windows word editors like Notepad or WordPad when working with Linux files. If you use notepad to edit Linux files it will add unwanted line feeds (LF) to the file which may cause the file to be misinterpreted. If you must use Microsoft Windows as your client OS use Microsoft WordPad which does not modify the file in this way.

There is a great deal of marketing hype about which hypervisor is better but I have spent some thinking about this and really have to wonder if the hypervisor is what we should really be focusing or concentrating on. A lot of third party vendors are starting to port their products to be able to work with both hypervisors but what about the management server itself? When third party application vendors design their applications to work with VMware or Microsoft hypervisors they have been writing plug-ins for their product to work inside the management server systems and or its client.

While doing a quick Google search to find what a Cloud is, I have found several different definitions which depend on which vendor site you pull up. One thing is for sure despite the frequent use of the term, it still means different things to different people and or companies. For my reference point I am going to use the National Institute of Standards and Technology definition referenced by Texiwill’s NIST Cloud Computing Definitions Final article.

VMware has now announced two new advanced certifications that will be available for registration in the very near future. VMware Certified Advanced Professional 4 – Datacenter Administrator (VCAP4-DCA) and VMware Certified Advanced Professional 4 – Datacenter Design (VCAO4-DCD). Both these certification and exams are a stepping stone for the VMware Certified Design Expert on vSphere 4. These new exams are in all intensive purposes an updated version of the exams needed for the VCDX certification for ESX 3 but with the added bonus of advanced certifications during the journey to achieving the coveted VCDX certification. Let’s take a quick overview of the new certifications.

When working with VMware ESX there are some tips that I can share that can help you manage your environment. This tips are not anything really new or exciting but rather a reinforcement of some best practices to live by in order to improve auditing for compliance and troubleshooting. Use of the following in conjunction with remote logging functionality will improve your compliance stance and improve your ability to troubleshoot over a period of time.

How you may ask? By using a tool that logs all local administrator actions to a remote logging host. There are two ways to do this today for ESX (SUDO and the HyTrust Appliance) and only one mechanism for ESXi and vCenter (the HyTrust Appliance).

With virtualization technology we, the system administrators, have a lot of tools available to make our day to day operation and administration of our environments easier to work with and speeds up the time it takes to do a lot of administration tasks. Take for example the ability we have to add resources to a virtual machine. You can add processors, memory and or increase disk space within a matter of minutes and very little downtime. On a physical host you would need to purchase the hardware first and wait for it to arrive and then schedule the downtime to add the resources to the machine. This speed and power can be both a blessing and a curse. Once application owners understand how easy it is to add resources to the virtual machines then comes the requests for additional resources any time the application owners think there is the slightest bit of need for any additional resources.

One thing I have learned in the time I have spent working in IT is that no software product, out of the box, will do everything that you want it to do. This especially goes for VMware’s vCenter Server. This is a great product but yet still has its shortcoming. vCenter will perform a lot of the tasks that we need to do and has the ability to report on a information we need to know about in our virtual environments but unfortunately not everything we need to know about can be easily found in bulk about multiple servers.

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