vSphere 6.0 Public Beta — Sign Up to Learn What’s New

Yesterday, VMware announced the public availability of vSphere 6.0 Beta 2.  I can’t tell you what’s all in it due to the NDA, but you can still register for the beta yourself, read about what’s new and download the code for your home lab. There’s some pretty exciting stuff being added to vSphere 6.0 in

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Will VMware Start Selling Hardware? Meet MARVIN

The Register is running a story that VMware is preparing to launch a line of hardware servers.

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VMware Pursues SDN With Upcoming NSX Offering

Earlier this week VMware announced VMware NSX – an upcoming offering that takes network virtualization to new levels. NSX appears to be somewhat of a fusion between Nicria’s SDN technology (acquired last year by VMware) and vCloud Network and Security (vCNS – formerly known as vShield App and Edge). Since I already had intentions to

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What Really Is Cloud Computing? (Triple-A Cloud)

What is cloud computing?  Ask a consumer, CIO, and salesman and you’ll likely get widely varying responses. The consumer will typically think of the cloud as a hosted service, such as Apple’s iCloud, or uploading pictures to Photobucket, and scores more of like services (just keep in mind that several such services existed before it

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Agility Part 2 — The Evolution of Value in the Private Cloud

When an IT project is commissioned it can be backed by a number of different statements such as: “It will reduce our TCO” “This is a strategic initiative” “The ROI is compelling” “There’s funds in the budget” “Our competitors are doing it” Some of these are better reasons than others, but here’s a question.  Imagine a

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Stacks, the Vblock and Value — A Chat with EMC’s Chad Sakac

…I reached out to EMC’s Chad Sakac to gain more insights from his perspective on how the various stacks…well…stacked up….

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Should You Virtualize vCenter Server (and everything else?)

When concerns are raised around virtualizing vCenter Server, in my experience they usually revolve around either performance and/or out-of-band management. The VROOM! blog at VMware just published a whitepaper that looks closely at vCenter Server performance as a VM versus native (physical) which speaks to these concerns as well as for other workloads. vCenter Performance

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Can your VM be restored? VSS and VMware — Part 2 (updated)

The backup job for your VM completed successfully so the backup is good, right? Unfortunately it’s not that simple and a failure to effectively deal with VM backups can result in data loss and perhaps even legal consequences.

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Uncovering Value And Opportunity With Utility Computing

I recently wrote a blog post for my employer in which I discuss:

  • how utility computing can change procurement and create value
  • companies should focus on their apps, data and business — not running a datacenter
  • VMware has introduced a new value paradigm for value, which parallels additional solutions.
  • Looking beyond individual components to find value in the synergy of multiple solutions.

You can view the full blog post here.

 

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Moving On Up (in the stack)

This time of year a lot of folks are making their 2013 goals and/or predictions.  I do happen to have a professional goal that happens to be somewhat of a prediction as well – moving up in the stack.  What does that mean?

crystal ball

Taking a step back for a moment, I recall being in grade school and having AT&T come in and talk to us about the technology and innovation behind – yes telephones.  At the time it was exciting how we could actually have a conversation with someone around the world – a form of virtual reality if you will.  It was exciting to imagine new possibilities that might be available in the future (no flying cars though).

What was innovating, and cutting edge back then, we tend to take for granted today.  We’ve built so many layers of technology above this foundation that we expect to be able to have a video call on our mobile phones, or stream HD movies and music to our living rooms and mobile devices.  We continue to add layers of technology onto yesterday’s innovations as they become the foundation for even more.

I see a similar trend with virtualization and cloud computing.  I love VMware and I’ve enjoyed doing amazing things with it.  I’ve watched several entire pallets of physical servers that my team eliminated with VMware be moved out of the datacenter and leveraged virtualization to relocate datacenters, improve backup RTO/RPO, operations and much more.

vSphere and the ESXi hypervisor aren’t going anywhere and I am sure there are still more exciting innovations to come in this space, but increasingly we are seeing a greater focus on automation and agility – layers that build upon vSphere and the ESXi hypervisor.  If you’ve seen my previous blog posts you’re already familiar with my “value triangle” – the hypervisor can only address CAPEX and some OPEX benefits by itself – the lower (and smaller) half of the value triangle.  But start layering automation and operational improvements on top of this, and you can capture far more OPEX benefits in your organization and perhaps even enter the “agility” zone.

Earlier this year VMware introduced the vCloud Suite which now includes vCloud Director (vCD) and vCloud Networking and Security (vCloud N&S – formerly the vShield products).  These additional “layers” are becoming less of a high-end product and increasingly a part of the core foundation.  Additional products like vCloud Automation Center (from the Dynamic Ops acquisition) will build upon foundational layers like vSphere, ESXi and vCloud Director to enable more automation, efficiency and agility in their operations.

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One example I like to share is how long would it take to procure and deploy an n-tier application (i.e. web front end, database backend, plus middleware) in your current environment, working across the technical silos, teams and internal processes?  I’ve seen some firewall changes take weeks of back and forth until the correct changes could be implemented.  But what if you could quickly provision such complex applications consistent with PCI and other security requirements for networking?  Weeks and months become days as project delivery dates are shortened and business goals are met in significantly less time.  And you better believe you’re competitors will be looking to do this too :)

I think 2013 will be a year where a critical mass begins to focus their attention above the hypervisor and onto these empowering new layers.  In 2013 I’m planning on installing the vCloud Suite and vCloud Automation Center in my home lab and becoming more familiar with the capabilities of these products and I’m very much looking forward to the learning experience.  What are your technical and professional goals for 2013?

vCenter Operations Foundation Available to vSphere Owners

As a part of the release of vCenter Operations Manager 5.6 (a.k.a. vCOPS) a new Foundation edition has been made available to all vSphere owners.  This is a great opportunity to become familiar with the capabilities of vCOPS to monitor trends and proactively alert you to risks you may not have been aware of.  How many of us have gotten burned by an unanticipated capacity limit – either CPU, memory or storage?

The new Foundation edition of vCOPS now appears as one of the vSphere downloads right next to ESXi and vCenter Server as illustrated below.

The Foundation edition does give you some useful information on vSphere health and trends, but if you want to start looking into capacity management and trending for example, or even chargeback, root cause analysis or OS management, you’ll want to look at upgrading to a higher edition.  A detailed breakdown of the available features by definition is available here.

For those that are already using vCOPS, the 5.6 release adds new features including vSphere Web Client integration, improved capacity analysis and more (see what’s new in release notes here).

If you own vSphere, what are you waiting for?  Start with vCenter Operations Manager Foundation and begin gaining insights into the health and trends of your vSphere virtual infrastructure.  For a breakdown of the new versions and entitlements, see the chart below:

POLL: Should Microsoft have a separate OS for mobile devices?

Windows 8 has been released to mixed reviews.  The general consensus seems to be that the Windows 8 UI works well for touch devices, but is a deterrent to businesses who rely on the traditional keyboard and mouse interfaces.

Microsoft’s lead Windows Engineer, Steven Sinofsky resigned from Microsoft just weeks after the Windows 8 launch.  While some may assume this to be an admission of failure, it should also be noted that some say Sinofsky did not work well with other teams and created a “toxic environment”.

Did Microsoft make the right design choices?  Clearly there is some benefit in a consistent UI across all platforms which enables mobile computing and touch interfaces, but at what cost?  Apple for example has different operating systems for the traditional computer (OSX) and for mobile devices (iOS).

What do you think?  Vote in the poll below and then share your comments below.  If time allows I’ll be adding my own thoughts about Windows 8 and the UI experience in a future post.

Should Microsoft have made a separate OS and UI for mobile devices?

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Performance Issues with Networking on ESXi and UCS B200 / 6100

I ran into an environment which had a series of issues with the virtual infrastructure and I thought I’d share the result in the event someone else found it helpful.

This was an environment running UCS B200 servers and UCS 6100 Fabric Interconnects.  NFS storage was being used for some volumes and at times vCenter (5.0) was recording very high levels of storage latency.  This was confirmed by the VKERNEL log which showed the intermittent loss of NFS mount points and path failures.

One thing we came across is this Cisco document which explains that some UCS servers have issues with Interrupt Remapping.  This can be disabled in the BIOS and vSphere, but in this case the UCS BIOS was upgraded to a current release which did noticeably improve the environment.

The other item we found is the following VMware KB which explains that the network load balancing policy “Route By IP Hash” is NOT supported with UCS B200 servers with UCS 6100 fabric interconnects.  As NFS based storage uses IP as a transport, this could explain some of the latency which was observed.  From the KB article:

When enabled, the NIC teaming policy Route based on IP hash involves a team of at least two NICs that selects an uplink based on a hash of the source and destination IP addresses of each packet. Host network performance might degrade if Route based on IP hash is enabled on ESX or ESXi because cross-stack link aggregation, or grouping of multiple physical ports, on UCS 6100 Series Fabric Interconnects deployed as a redundant pair is not supported. As a result of the network performance degradation, you may see intermittent packet loss and the vSphere Client or vCenter Server might lose connection to the ESX or ESXi host.

The sum of both changes is that storage performance issues were eliminated and began functioning as intended.

On a quick side note, this also makes a case for the value of converged infrastructure and reference architectures.  Systems are increasingly complex and when you build something on your own it is very easy to encounter issues like this and more.  Converged infrastructure and reference architectures can help here by providing a blueprint as to what components can work together and under what conditions.  When you use one of these solutions you can have the confidence that you’re not the only one operating from your blueprint and that significant level of engineering and testing was invested in your architecture.  Additionally if an issue is encountered, you can be proactively notified of the risks and what changes are recommended to mitigate them.

“What Is Cloud Computing” Revisited One Year Later

Almost exactly a year ago, I made a post on “What Really Is Cloud Computing?”.  We hear so much about private vs. public vs. hybrid and what is or is not “cloud”.  Yes, sometimes trying to define cloud computing seems like an exercise as valuable and productive as splitting hairs, but I thought it still might be interesting to take a look a year later.

In the original post I described cloud computing as being based on three pillars:  abstraction, automation and agility.   Generally speaking, I think this still works today.  Virtualization is not cloud computing per se, but it does enable new opportunities for abstraction, automation which empower us to more effectively pursue agility.

ABSTRACTION

When we talked about abstraction back then it was mostly at the compute level, but now we are seeing abstraction in the storage and networking areas – most notably with VMware purchase of SDN vendor Nicira for $1.2 Billion.  We are moving towards abstracting the entire stack (compute, storage, networking) and wrapping more automation and orchestration layers around it.

Not only are we abstracting these infrastructure elements but we are abstracting something else – applications from the traditional PC architecture.  We now have an increased proliferation of mobile applications.  Even the Windows operating itself is no longer constrained to PCs as there are variants that run on tablets and phones and data is synched across devices using online services (now commonly referred to as “the cloud”).

The point is that we are empowering our workers with flexibility, mobility and options, while behind the scenes in our datacenters, abstraction of the core infrastructure continues to provide new opportunities for automation and agility.

AUTOMATION

Most of us understand the concept of automation – less administrative overhead, means more getting done in less time and with less resources.  Or in other words, less OPEX, less time, and more agility.  There is so much going on in this area – Nick Weaver’s work with Razor comes to mind as one example of this but there is so much more.  Systems are becoming increasingly complex and it is going to require a new generation of orchestration and automation tools (as well as APIs) to help us to reach our goals. And there’s not just automation within clouds, but across them as well.

AGILITY

This is the ultimate goal – getting more done and in less time.  This is where things get fun.  And once you can bring agility to IT, the possibility exists to bring it to your business as well.  Business agility speaks to being to quickly and cost-effectively execute a business strategy and this can make all the difference in the world.  This is where the full potential of cloud computing is realized.
 

 WHAT SHAPE OF CLOUD?

There’s been much oscillating about why private cloud is better, public cloud is better and so on.  Does one model possess more cloud-like attributes than the other?  The advantage of public clouds is that they meet the low-cost utility model.  Relatively quick to access and consume and you don’t have to get involved in the messy details (a.k.a. costs) of running a datacenter.  But there will also be times where a private cloud is compelling for security, auditing compliance and several other reasons (A previous post on this here, but I would especially recommend reading what Rodney Rodgers had to say on this topic).

In short there is no universal answer answer to what the best cloud model may be.  For many environments the best answer will be to leverage hybrid cloud management tools to transcend across and leverage BOTH private and public cloud, so that each application/workload is placed on the more appropriate and effective platform.

A bit of a tangent here but to summarize there is no “one-size all” answer to what a cloud should look like.  A debate on public/private clouds can descend into something about as useful as what the best diet is – the best answer may be different for everyone.

The more important thing is that you recognize cloud computing as a strategy – identify products and technologies that can help, and change your infrastructure, processes, teams and cultures to work effectively with this new paradigm.

DECLARATION OF CLOUD INDEPENDENCE

Who Signed this RFP?!?

If there were a Declaration of Cloud Independence – freedom from the IT-as-a-Cost-Center model where projects are slow, operational expense is high and IT is a big money pit – I think it might start with this line:

We hold these truths to be self-evident – that not all datacenters are created equal but they are endowed by their creators the ability to empower using Abstraction and Automation in the pursuit of Agility.

It’s the abstraction and automation which allow us to pursue agility – and not just within IT but for the business as well.  This is the vision for cloud computing and the potential that it holds.  Cloud computing is not a product, not a reference architecture, but a strategy.  A strategy and vision that requires inspired and enlightened insights into technology, products, workflow, culture, organizational management, and process.

Cloud computing is not a product or even a technology.  It’s abstraction and automation in the pursuit of agility.  It’s a new approach to doing IT which takes IT out of the cost-center and into the boardrooms with IT as a trusted partner to help facilitate the execution of bus iness strategy.  We’ve come a long ways, but we have an even longer ways to go.

Rainbows and Unicorns Will Not Appear Until You Truly Believe

I read an excellent post from Mark Thiele this morning and It inspired a few thoughts I was going to tweet, and then I thought “why not make it a quick blog post even if it’s only a few short paragraphs”.   I recommend that you read Mark’s full post first, but the premise is basically about a potential cloud backlash – many vendors are selling “cloud solutions”, but is the customer successfully utilizing these solutions to pursue increased Agility?

To give one example, I’m a big fan of converged infrastructure (FlexPod, Vblock, etc.) and using it to get to a cloudier place – lower OPEX and more Agility.  But can we get there just by deploying one of these solutions, or does it require seeing a new vision of IT and pursuing that vision?  Does it require rethinking our processes, our team composition and even our org charts?  Does it require a shared vision and a cultural change within the organization?  A product alone can never address these things.

As Mark points out, both the sales side and the customer side need to change – and understand and believe in the cloud vision – for things to improve here.  So much of sales is driven by numbers, end of quarter deadlines and a gap-fit analysis of the biggest needs.  The customer is out of space and/or end of life on their SAN, let’s sell them a new SAN.  Or is there something more?  What if the sales team was not just someone you called when you had a problem, but was a trusted strategic adviser operating at the CxO level to take a holistic view of the organization and make strategic decisions that improve OPEX and Agility consistent with business goals.  Don’t just sell them a SAN.  Take a step back and look into their disaster recovery process, their provisioning process, the virtualization stack (storage API integration and more), multi-tiering, flash solutions, operations and the whole nine yards.  Look at the synergy of the entire infrastructure stack working together.  Educate on the vision and how IT processes can be retooled for better OPEX and Agility.  Don’t just “sell a SAN”.  By taking this approach the sales team will not only likely have the opportunity to sell more, but they will become a trusted adviser with the client and will have created far more value for the client than a one-off band-aid solution.

But in order to get here you have to have a vision for what can be done with cloud computing (one that can be reconciled with reality) and you have to believe in it to the point that you can both evangelize and execute on it.  The same goes for the IT customer.  The more all the players and stakeholders in the organization can envision the OPEX and Agility benefits of moving towards the proverbial cloud, the easier it will be for the organization to get there and fully exploit it.  I’ve seen many organizations implement various virtualization, SAN, monitoring and automation solutions and often times use only a small fraction of the capability – never fully realizing the full OPEX and Agility benefits that could be available with the right vision and execution of that vision.

Cloud computing is a new way of doing IT, but it requires new thinking – both by sales teams and those that would consume those solutions.  When both sides can get to a shared vision of cloud computing and commit to executing on it, things can get very fun and rewarding.  But to get to that shared vision will require some discovery, education and evangelization of exactly how cloud solutions can reduce OPEX and promote both operational and business agility.

LG Optimus Zip Review — Help Raise One Million Dollars for the Make-A-Wish Foundation

The Make-A-Wish Foundation has partnered with Straight Talk Wireless in an effort to raise one million dollars for the Make-A-Wish foundation.  I was provided with the one of the phones and I wanted to take the opportunity to review the LG smartphone, the Straight Talk service and this special promotion which benefits the Make-A-Wish Foundation (you can read about my family’s own experience with the Make-A-Wish foundation here).

I received my phone last week and activated it, but I did not have time to write up the review for a week later, but fortunately there is still one more week left on the promotion.

THE PROMOTION

The promotion is that for each demonstration of a Straight Talk phone at a WalMart, one dollar will be donated to the Make-A-Wish foundation (visit oneminuteonemillion.com to check for time and hours at your local WalMart store).  If you are unable to demo a phone in person, ten cents will also be donated for every unique view of the promotional video at oneminuteonemillion.com.

THE SERVICE – STRAIGHT TALK WIRELESS

LG Optimus Zip

Straight Talk is a service provided by TracFone Wireless and according to their website they are America’s largest no-contract provider with over 19 million subscribers.  The way it works is that you first purchase a phone, which you then own outright.  Then you purchase time in monthly (30-day) increments.  There is no contract, and you don’t ever have to worry about counting minutes.  For $45 you get all the bandwidth you can consume for 30 days.  If you decide that you don’t need to maintain service on the phone, then simply don’t refill your phone after the 30-days.  On the flip side you also have the option of purchasing multiple 30-day “chunks” and they will automatically be added on to the end of your current term.

Keep in mind that this is unlimited voice AND data for $45 a month.  For comparison I just reviewed prices for Sprint and Verizon.  Sprint is $110 monthly for unlimited voice & data and Verizon is $100 for unlimited voice and 10GB of data.  If you desire an unlimited data plan, the StraightTalk service seems to have the potential to save $50 a month or more, and you don’t ever have to commit with a contract.

As for the quality of the service, I did not notice any significant difference between the Straight Talk service and the Sprint service on my phone.  Almost every time I checked my signal meter was just as strong as my Sprint service if not better (I tested the phone exclusively in NorthEast New Jersey).

ACTIVATION

I received my phone and the activation process took about 20 minutes.  You have the option of performing the activation process over the phone or using the Straight Talk website.  I went to the Straight Talk website and created a profile and then registered the serial number of my phone.  Then I added the keycode for the first 30 days of service, dialed a few numbers to work with a guided programming of the phone, rebooted the phone and I was able to place and receive calls.  For most the activation process will take around 20-30 minutes and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.

THE PHONE – LG OPTIMUS ZIP

The LG Optimus Zip (pictured below) runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread), so you can run most of your favorite Android apps, including Netflix (which I tested successfully), Pandora, YouTube, Google Maps and many more.  Here’s a short list of the basic phone capabilities:

  • •    Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)
  • •    3.2” touch screen
  • •    GPS, WI-FI, and Bluetooth 3.0 enabled
  • •    3.2 Megapixel rear-facing camera with video capability (VGA resolution)
  • •    Slideout QWERTY keyboard

The LG Optiumus Zip has a 3.2” touch screen which makes the viewing area just a bit smaller than the iPhone 4 (3.5”) for a reference point.  The phone is very nice and compact, but the slideout keyboard on the bottom does add just a bit of thickness and weight to the phone.

LG Optimus Zip with keyboard extended

No this is not an iPhone 5 or a Samsung Galaxy S III, but it is a very capable smartphone, loaded with a full slide out keyboard which can do most anything that we expect our smartphones to do, from GPS navigation, email and text messaging, music/movies/books and the full array of Android apps available in the Google Play store.  Some parents may even like this type of phone for their children as the monthly renewal of the service could be contingent on maintaining adequate grades for example, and you never have to worry about exceeding data limits or additional charges.

LG Optimus Zip (left) next to an iPhone 4 (right)

The bottom line is that this is a very capable Android smartphone and some will find the $45 unlimited data quite appealing.  You never have to worry about contracts or minutes – just purchase time in 30-day increments at a rate that is often half that of what competing networks would charge for a month of unlimited voice and data.

And there’s another good reason to check this phone out – for each person who tries out the phone at a participating WalMart, $1 will be donated to the Make-A-Wish Foundation with a goal of raising one million dollars for an incredible organization that does so many wonderful things.  If you can get a chance, take one for a test drive.  For more information on the Straight Talk and Make-A-Wish promotion, please visit oneminuteonemillion.com.

One Minute — One Million

The Make-A-Wish Foundation is close to my family’s heart (our experience is detailed here), so when I learned that Straight Talk Wireless was teaming up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation for a great promotion, I wanted to spread to help spread the word.

Straight Talk Wireless is donating one dollar for each individual who demos an LG smartphone at their local Walmart on either Saturday October 6, or Saturday October 13.  Just for demoing the phone, Straight Talk Wireless will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation — and if you can’t make it to a Walmart — each video viewed on oneminuteonemillion.com will result in a donation of 10 cents.  The goal of the program is to raise one million dollars for the Make-A-Wish foundation — all you have to do is experience one of their phones!

Straight Talk Wireless and the Make-A-Wish Foundation were kind enough to provide me with an LG Optimus Zip this past Friday and I’m just now getting around to getting it setup.  I’ll post back here in a day of two with a more detailed review of the phone, and the Straight Talk wireless service.  For more information about the program between Straight Talk Wireless and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, please click the graphic below.

 

“Dude! Where’s my Server?” – Firewall Edition

Remember when server virtualization was still new and untested and we (endearingly) referred to the skeptics as “server huggers”? You know the type. They’d walk into the server room and say “which server is mine?”  You could always answer in confidence and tell them that their server is “somewhere in one of these first 3 rows of server racks”. Maybe they just wanted to know where to put the asset tag? Or perhaps give it one last hug and feel the warmth eminating from the air vents.  And when it came to P2V, remember the look on their faces right before they said “you want to do what to my server?!?”

We humans don’t naturally accept change very well, but eventually most server huggers would come to accept server virtualization as being safe. Not only has virtualization become socially normalized, but the economic drivers of CAPEX, OPEX, Agility – and even performance have led many former server huggers to accept server virtualization. After all, it is the abstraction of physical resources which is perhaps the biggest enabler of a new paradigm shift of benefits – and to enable and take advantage of these new benefits we had to think differently when it came to servers.

WHAT ABOUT FIREWALLS?

Firewalls can be abstracted too. When we start going over our Visio diagrams of networks and thinking about VLANS, routes and security often times we think in terms of physical hardware. “I need to have two firewalls here – load balancers there, and another firewall for this remote web farm”.  But what if we could abstract firewalls and virtualize them such that perhaps for some elements we didn’t need to purchase and deploy a physical firewall?

VMware vSphere customers who are at the Enterprise Plus level essentially just got a free upgrade to vCloud Suite Standard which includes virtual application firewall capabilities in both vShield App and vShield Edge. And those who upgrade to vCloud Suite Advanced also gain a virtualized load balancer.  Cisco also makes a virtual edition of their Adaptive Security Appliance (ASA) – the Cisco ASA 1000V – which can be integrated into VMware vSphere environments as well.

 

Virtual Firewalls? Sweet Dude!

With solutions like these – abstracting firewalls and network security – it is now possible in many cases to build your security policy into your virtualized environment. Need a web server policy to open 443 and 80 for a specific group of servers while only allowing a custom high-level SQL port back inside? We can do that.  Firewalls between servers which might even be running from the same physical host?  No problem.  By abstracting network security to logical boundaries we might be able to provision applications more quickly and more securely — and perhaps also not needing to purchase as much physical network hardware as we are accustomed to thinking. And with VMWare’s acquisition of Nicria this movement to abstract the network layer has only just begun.

Physical network hardware isn’t going away, but as we review our designs we might want to start thinking about virtualizing certain components of our network security and consider it as an option. Over the longer run, I suspect we will see even more abstraction at the networking level over the years.

It’s Christmas in August for VMware Customers

Some huge announcements were made at VMWorld today, many of which will be warmly received by VMware customers. I’m not referring to some of the great new features like the vSphere 5.1 web client, but things like new product entitlements, improved licensing and more.

Licensing and vRAM

Last year VMware announced a new vRAM licensing component with some controversy. If customers wanted to deploy a large server with 512GB of RAM for example, they would have to purchase additional vSphere licenses to accommodate the memory consumption.  This “vTax” on memory-dense servers has now been lifted, leaving per processor licensing as the only component.  This will enable customers to immediately leverage the new 64 vCPU capabilities of vSphere 5.1 for large virtual machines without having to incur additional licensing costs.

vShield

vShield was formerly sold separately as three products:

  • vShield Endpoint (antivirus protection for VMs)
  • vShield App (Virtual Application Layer Firewall)
  • vShield Edge (Gateway Security Appliance (firewall/NAT,VPN, etc.))

vShield Endpoint is now included in vSphere 5.1 Standard and higher editions. Current vSphere customers with support essentially are getting vShield Endpoint for free.

The other two vShield products, App and Edge (not to be confused with Bono and Edge) have been rolled up into a new product called vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS) which is a part of the new vCloud Suite. vSphere customers at the Enterprise Plus tier are entitled to a free upgrade to the Standard edition of vCloud Suite. Eligible customers who take advantage of this are essentially getting vShield App and Edge for free.

vShield features such as high availability for firewalls and load balancing will require an upgrade to the Advanced Edition of vCloud Suite.

vCloud Director (vCD)

vCloud Director is a key and integral part of VMware’s IaaS solution framework, and because it is also a part of the new vCloud Suite, eligible customers will essentially get vCloud Director (and vCloud Connector) for free. Very nice!

Breaking It Down

Here’s a basic table summary of the new product entitlements available to vSphere customers:

New vSphere Benefits

StandardEnterprise Enterprise Plus
no vRAM license restrictionno vRAM license restrictionno vRAM license restriction
vShield EndpointvShield EndpointvShield Endpoint
vShield App & Edge
vCloud Director & Connector

Those are some pretty nice benefits which I suspect many VMware customers will be very pleased with.

VMware vSphere 5.1 Feature Preview

vSphere 5.1 might technically be a “minor” update, but just like vSphere 4.1 there are some very significant new features – many around increased scalability and improved operations.  I had the opportunity to spend a little bit of time with the vSphere 5.1 beta and I thought I’d quickly share some of the new feature highlights and perhaps drill into some of these in more detail in the future.

UPDATE:  

vSphere 5.1 now includes vShield Endpoint for AV protection!  For more details on what’s new in vSphere 5.1 also see this whitepaper from VMware

SCALABILITY

The maximum number of hosts which can share a file in read-only mode has been increased from 8 to 32.  These improvements in VMFS locking will enable larger clusters in environments which use linked clones, such as VDI and vCD environments.

The “Monster VM” has also been taking his vitamins as 64 – yes, sixty-four! – vCPUs can now be assigned to a virtual machine.  VMware also announced the end of vRAM as a licensing component which means organizations will be able to utilize these features in larger VMs without an additional license penalty.

And finally improvements have been made in MSCS support to enable Failover Clusters with up to 5 (five) nodes.

VMOTION

Host vMotion can now take place in the absence of shared storage.  Needless to say a low latency environment (such as a Metro Area Network or better) is ideal, but this can empower new scenarios for migrations and many other scenarios.

Also Storage vMotion is now supported for up to 4 parallel operations across 8 volumes.

STORAGE

  • Install ESXi onto an FCoE LUN
  • Suport for 16GB HBAs
  • Improvements for handing All Paths Down (APD) conditions
  • Improved Storage DRS for Linked Clones
  • Install ESXi to FCoE disks
  • Space Efficient Sparse Virtual Disks for Linked Clones

The last is especially interesting as in the past you had to use SDELELTE and manual cumbersome steps to reclaim space from a VM.  Recall that Windows does not delete blocks when a file is deleted, it only removes the directory entry.  Now VMware Tools can initiate a scan in the OS of unused blocks and reorganize those blogs to leave a contiguous collection of blocks at the end of the disk.  Then a SCSI UNMAP command will be sent to the SAN allowing the space to be reclaimed from your thin disks.

Another advantage on the new sparse disk model is that snapshot chains no longer consume space when deleting snapshots.  In the past it was possible to get into a situation where the volume was full and you didn’t have any free space available to consolidate any open snaps.  Because now each snap in the chain consolidates directly into the base disk (as opposed to other snaps and then the base last) no additional free space is required to consolidate snapshots.

NETWORKING

At times, physical networks uplinks on the ESX host can be configured in such a way that proper function is not possible.  vSphere 5.1 includes a new health monitor for networks which checks teaming, VLAN and even MTU settings such that an alarm is created if a network configuration might not deliver the intended results.

In many environments, backups of switch and router configurations are maintained and always at the ready in the event a prior state needs to be restored.  Now your vDS switches and their port groups can be backed up and restored, which could come in useful if your vCenter server were to become unavailable.  The system can also automatically rollback to the previous networking state if networking is found to have been disrupted.

In addition vDS will now support both Port Mirroring and LACP.

TAGGING

This is a nice feature which can help to organize various vSphere building blocks (VMs, networks, volumes, etc.) and relate them to applications, teams or whatever groupings might be helpful.  It works much like tagging pictures for anything to do with “cooking”, “bird watching” or “family” for example.  You can tag virtual machines that exist across different vSphere clusters as being part of the same application, business unit or whatever construct you find useful.  Then when you search for a tag, you can quickly bring up a list of all the objects which possess that tag.

Web Client

The vSphere Web Client has gone through a complete overhaul and I think that most will be pleasantly surprise at just how much of the vSphere GUI functionality is now in the web client.  I tested the web client with Google Chrome and it was fast, response and an enjoyable experience such that the web client did not feel like a second-class citizen.

vSphere 5.1 Web Interface on Google Chome

Single Sign On

Single Sign On is now provided across the web client and the vCloud infrastructure suite, without having to login to the components individually.

VMware Tools & Upgrades

For those that remember the pre-virtualization days, it was often a chore to update hardware driver components (think HP SIM, Dell OpenManage, etc.).  Often times you’d get notification that a certain driver was not the current release, but did that mean there was a compelling reason to upgrade?  Now VMware Tools are yesterday’s hardware drivers and with the version changing  with some ESX patches, how important is it to update VMware Tools and incur a reboot on your guests?

The new model hopes to reduce this by mapping VMware Tools to the virtual hardware version (now “virtual machine compatibility” in the Web UI.  Furthermore, reboots will be required less often in future VMware Tools releases (after the update to 5.1) due to improved driver management.  I think that reboot-free VMware Tools upgrades will be a popular feature in many environments.

GRAPHICS

VMware View environments will benefit from the ability to leverage GPUs to increase the quality of virtual desktops, especially in the areas of full motion video, 3D graphics, and more.

AUTODEPLOY

Auto Deploy now supports stateless caching to enable operations to continue when an Auto Deploy server becomes unavailable.  Also a new Stateful Install option can make it possible to deploy an ESX host more quickly in several scenarios.

SUMMARY

Those are some of the bigger highlights I was able to capture .  I’ll be looking for even more details as VMworld progresses.