Author: martijn

vCenter Single Sign-On Server in vSphere 5.1

VMware introduces vCenter Single Sign-On with vSphere 5.1. This solution creates a new layer between the vSphere solutions and the customers identity sources. The figure below gives a graphical representation where to position vCenter Single Sign-On.

The vCenter Single Sign-On server is the vSphere platform service that will be in between the vSphere solution, such as vSphere Web Client, vCenter, vCloud Director,etc., and the identity sources that are available within the customer infrastructure.

vCenter Single Sign-On has been introduced within the vSphere environment for the following reasons:

·       Provide one single sign-on solution for authentication across all management applications;

·       Support for multiple user identity repository solutions;

·       One central point for authorization and auditing within the vSphere environement;

·       Trust between components using token exchange, in stead of each solution having it’s own identity creation and authorization process;

·       Support for open standard authentication protocols: SAML 2.0 and WS-TRUST.

Besides the improvements mentioned above, vCenter Single Sign-On can now also be setup with a in a more resilient setup. This will result in a high availability level for authentication in the vSphere environment.

For more information about the vCenter Single Sign-On Server look at the “vSphere 5.1 – What’s New vCenter Server”

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VMware 5.1 release party!

Word is out, vSphere 5.1 and vCloud 5.1 have been released. So what’s new in this release?  A lot I can tell you that!

And that’s what the Technical Marketing has been working on the last couple of months.

Here is the list with papers that cover all the new features :

Thanks to Duncan Epping for providing this list on his blog.

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Thanks to everybody at Tech Marketing for making this information available to us!!!

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New storage books for designing cloud infra

When creating a design for your cloud environment you always have to take the physical components, such as compute, network & storage into account. These components are the foundation that your cloud environment will be build on. A good design of these components is crucial for your overall design, the performance and resilience of your solution. Fact remains that you can’t know it all, but when you do want to know it, then the best way is to learn it from the experts.

Now we have the chance to do so. Three experts in the field of storage released two books about storage in relation to virtual cloud environments.

Mostafa Khalil from VMware, released the book “Storage Implementation in vSphere 5.0”

“The more important VMware virtualized infrastructure becomes, the more important virtualization storage becomes. Virtualization storage planning and management is complex, and it’s been almost impossible to find authoritative guidance – until now. In Storage Implementation in vSphere 5.0, one of VMware’s leading experts completely demystifies the “black box” of vSphere storage, and provides illustrated, step-by-step procedures for performing virtually every task associated with it. Mostafa Khalil brings together detailed techniques and guidelines, insights for better architectural design, planning and management best practices, common configuration details, and deep dives into both vSphere and external storage-related technologies. He gives technical professionals the deep understanding they need to make better choices, solve problems, and keep problems from occurring in the first place. This book answers crucial, ground-level questions such as: How do you configure storage array from “Vendor X” to support vSphere “Feature Y”? How do you know you’ve configured it correctly? What happens if you misconfigure it? How can you tell from logs and other tools that you have a problem – and how do you fix it? Most of the author’s troubleshooting techniques are based on his own personal experience as a senior VMware support engineer helping customerstroubleshoot their own vSphere production environments – experience that nobody else has.”

At the same time Vaughn Stewart and Mike Slisinger from NetApp released the book “Virtualization Changes Everything: Storage Strategies for VMware vSphere & Cloud Computing”:

Storage is a foundational component in the support of virtualization and cloud computing – and it is dynamically evolving. It is an aspect of the datacenter that is all-too-often overlooked, but without storage, there is no data, and without data, there is no cloud. Virtualization Changes Everything, by Vaughn Stewart and Mike Slisinger, examines the evolutionary influence of host virtualization and cloud computing in breaking storage deployment out of outdated silo models and into a dynamic, flexible hosting environment. Virtualization Changes Everything reviews common goals and challenges associated with providing storage service with cloud computing, and addresses each through the application of advanced storage technologies designed to scale in order to support the ever-expanding storage needs of the future. The examples within the book are pulled from real-world experience, and often involve the integration of multiple innovative technologies. If you are looking for measured guidance on high availability, efficiency, integration and performance for the storage in your cloud, then this book is for you!”

Both execellent books on the topic of storage and the impact it has on your virtual cloud environment. A must read for everybody that wants to gain more knowledge on this topic and the impact storage has on virtual cloud environments.

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Resource management in a vSphere vApp

What is a vApp?

A vApp is a container in vSphere. It works the same way as a resource pool, but has extra options that help define a more structured approach to hosting virtual machines. With vApps you can build application stacks of virtual machines that have a relations with one another.

The most common example is always the three tiered app; a webserver, application server and a database server. With a vApp these virtual machines can be grouped together and besides grouping them together you can also control the startup order of the VMs in the vApp and allocate a specific amount of resources to the vApp.

Note : vSphere vApps are not the same as vCloud vApps! Both group workloads together, but they are not the same thing.

Resource allocation

The allocation of resources for a vApp works with the same construct as that of a resource pool. The vApp can be allocated a specific amount of CPU and RAM resources. By default the vApp is set to unlimited and resources are expandable if needed, just like a resource pool. These settings can be changed in the same way as with normal resource pools. Reservations, limits and shares can be defined on a vApp level and can help to allocates resources depending on the requirments of the application stack.

VMs in a vApp share the resources that have been allocated to the vApp only with the other VMs in the vApp. In this way VMs are isolated from other VMs, vApps and resource pools outside of its own vApp. When resource contention takes place all VMs in a vApp will have to compete over the amount om resource that are available to the vApp.

If expendable reservations are configured, the vApp can allocate more resources if the parent resource pool has those available. However if there are no resources available the VMs in the vApp will need to compete over the resource available to the vApp. This is where normal resource mechanisms apply such as shares, limits and reservations.

Lets take the vApp with the three tier vApp (web-app-db) as an example. By default all VMs are equal in a vApp. However the database is the most important VM in this three tiered vApp and needs to be given enough resources when resource contention takes place. To define this one can set the shares for the database VM on High. By default this is set to Normal. This will give the database VM twice as much resource shares as the other two VMs in the vApp. This will elevate its priority within the vApp and provide it with half of the resources when resource contention takes places. In this way one can set a specific priority to VMs within a vApp.

More information about the allocation of resources within vSphere can be found in the book VMware vSphere 5 Clustering Technical Deepdive by Frank Denneman & Duncan Epping.

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VXLAN Explained

As IT organizations to move to a converged infrastructure and service-oriented model, many are finding that current data center networking architectures are a limiting factor. VLAN-based switching models have a long history, but suffer from the following challenges in the data center:

* Inflexibility: VLAN and switching boundaries are not flexible nor easily extensible. As requirements grow or shrink, compute and storage resources need to be allocated without major operational overhead.

* Operationally Inefficient Fault Tolerance: High-availability technologies such as VMware Fault Tolerance work best with “flat” Layer 2 networks, but creating and managing this architecture can be operationally difficult, especially at scale.

* VLAN and IP Address Management Limitations: IP address maintenance and VLAN limits become challenges as the data center scales, particularly when strong isolation is required or in service provider environments.

To solve this challenge, VMware, in partnership with leading networking and silicon vendors including Cisco Systems, has created the VXLAN technology. VXLAN is a method for “floating” virtual domains on top of a common networking and virtualization infrastructure. By leveraging industry-standard Ethernet technology, large numbers of virtual domains can be created above an existing network, with complete isolation from each other and the underlying network.

VXLAN offers the following benefits:

* Flexibility: Datacenter server and storage utilization and flexibility is maximized through the support of “stretched clusters” that cross switching and pod boundaries

* Streamlined Network Operations: VXLAN runs on standard Layer 3 IP networks, eliminating the need to build and manage a large Layer 2 underlying transport layer.

* Investment Protection: VXLAN runs over standard switching hardware, with no need for software upgrades or special code versions on the switches

The video below give a nice, easy to understand, technical overview of VXLAN in just 4 minutes.

Source for the text can be found here.

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Presenting & the effects it has on people

Consulting is giving advice. Advice means communication. In most cases with consultancy this means presenting your advice to your customer.

Presenting is an important asset when consulting. It’s delivering your message. The advice that you are providing to your customer. Important thing that you always need to keep in mind is the fact that you are talking to people. You are presenting the message, your audience needs to receive and understand your message.

Dr. Susan Weinschenk over at whatmakesthemclick.net has written a book about this subject called “100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People“.

It’s about presenting and the effects it has on people. The book reveals what you need to know about how people listen, how people decide, and how people react so that you can learn to create more engaging presentations.

Together with a book she also released an entertaining whiteboard video of “5 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People”. This video reveals 5 of the things that are also in the book. So if you want to know the other 95 things, buy the book!

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Consultancy : It’s not always about the money…

“It’s the day he had been preparing for. He had done his research, spoken to everybody in the IT department of the Money3 bank and now had to present his findings and advice to the CIO. Jack was a little bit nervous. In his career as a IT management consultant, this was the first, large financial customer that he had to present to, but Jack felt he was prepared and that he would impress the CIO with what he had to tell him. He had been researching the IT infrastructure over the last couple of weeks and had the answer : Money3 Bank had to move into cloud computing. 

Jack went into the office of the CIO. Mr. Jones was sitting at the head of the conference table with his secretary and a few of his IT managers that Jack had spoken to over the last coupel of weeks. Jack greeted everyone in the room and connected his laptop to the beamer that was waiting for him. Everybody in the room waited for the start his presentation. 

Jack started his presentation with the state of the current IT infrastructure of Money3 Bank. Presented his finding that he had gathered over the last couple of weeks and gave his advice : Money3 Bank needs to move into cloud computing. Jack had created various sheets with financial data. TCO calculations, with ROI calculations. He explained everything in detail to the people in the room. Step by step he took them through the process of what benefit it would bring to Money3 Bank. Jack finished his presentation with one big concluding slide : “Cloud computing will save Money3 Bank 1 million euros over the next 3 years!”

Jack stood there infront of the presentation screen. He though to himself “This went great!”. Everybody in the room now turned there attention to Mr. Jones. He was silent and said nothing. Jack got nervous. “Why is he silent?” “Didn’t he like what I told him?” “Why doesn’t he respond?” But Mr. Jones kept silent. He was just looking out of the windows. Nobody in the room said anything. Jack really felt uncomfortable with the situation. He really didn’t know what he had to do. Then after a minute or so Mr. Jones looked at Jack and said : “Money3just made 1 million euros. I like your story, I like saving money, but could you now please tell me how you are going to solve my problems?” 

The moral of the story is the fact that money isn’t a primary concern for most of your clients. Clients have challenges and want a solution to those challenges. Everybody knows that challenges will cost money and yes, everybody also wants to spend as less money as possible or get a nice return on investment for the money they are spending, but in most cases that is a nice to have.

The fact is that consultancy is a personal matter. It’s not only about the numbers, it’s about trying to solve real challenges that your customers face today. They want to be provided with a  solution that solves those challenges and in the end makes sure that they will get a good nights sleep. It’s about understanding your customers and getting to know what drives them. Trying to connect with them on their level and trying to help them in everyway that you can to help them to the next level. To do that you need to know their goals and what they are trying to achieve. And in most cases it’s not what you think is right, it’s what the customer thinks is right. Cause in the end : customer is king!

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VMware’s road to the heterogeneous cloud

VMware acquired DynamicOps yesterday. Not the biggest news of all. VMware regularly acquires virtual and cloud software products that will then be integrated in the overall portfolio, but DynamicOps is a little bit different in my opinion. DynamicOps is a software company that builds cloud automation solutions that enable provisioning and management of IT services across heterogeneous clouds. The last part of what they do is the most interesting : “… across heterogenous clouds”.

This makes the solution a little bit different from the other acquisitions. This product not only manages VMware products, but also is capable of managing other cloud solutions of other vendors. Making it possible to move services between different vendors of cloud products.

This is a change of direction for VMware. Before this acquisition VMware had no management solutions to for other products then the VMware products. The acquisition of DynamicOps changes this and has huge benefits for the customers of VMware products. Now they can easily manage there IT services with one product. DynamicOps’s multi-platform and multi-platform service integration will help deliver the best IT solutions to the business easily and effectively.

For VMware this means that they’ve gone into the path of delivering heterogeneous cloud solution to their end customer. In my opinion a positive direction. A new path in delivering IT solutions that help customers to deliver IT in a flexible and easy way. Bringing more agility to the business.

For more information see :

VMware press release
Ramin Sayar’s blog
Leslie Muller’s blog (CTO & Founder, DynamicOps)

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SRM is a tool, not a goal

“Technically almost everything is possible.” One of the first things I will say to a customer when they ask advice about IT related stuff. This is also true with Site Recovery Manager (SRM), an excellent tool for enabling Disaster Recovery within your vSphere environment.

And the focus here is on “for enabling”. SRM is a means to an end. SRM is a tool and not a goal. It al starts with the definition what needs to be protected. Most of the times SRM is already bought and paid for, but during the implementation the question comes up : “What do we need to protect?”.

This is the other way around. It the same as building a house, but you don’t know how many people need to live in it. It must start with a definition what needs to be protected. What do you want to be failed over in case of disaster. In what time do you want this to happen? And how much data loss do you consider acceptable?

These are just a few questions that need to be answered before building your Disaster Recovery solution. Thankfully VMware has created a book on this topic with the title “A Practical Guide To Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery”.

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The picture above is from this book and defines the process that needs to be followed when implementing a DR solution. In companies where IT processes have been defined, for example by using ITIL, “Business Process” most of the times is already there. You can find the answers to you questions in Service Level Agreements (SLA) or other documents that define the agreements between the business and the IT department with regards to application requirements.

Next is to define the applications that need to be protected by your DR solution. And especially insight needs to be created in the application chain. Most applications are depended on other applications for doing their job. So in case of a disaster it would be nice to have the complete application chain, in stead of just the web frontend. Products like VMware Infrastructure Navigator are nice tools to show these applications dependencies and to give you an overview of your applications chains.

After gathering this information the implementation of SRM is pretty straight forward. You can easily define your recovery plans and make sure that all virtual machines that need to be protected are identified and replicated to the recovery site.

Think first, build later… That’s what it all comes down to with SRM!

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vSphere : Storage protocol comparison

This whitepaper by VMware Technical Marketing really is a great comparison between the most common storage protocols that are being used with vSphere Infrastructure. When designing your virtual infrastructure it is important to know what the characteristics are of the various protocols that can be used to connect your ESXi host to a shared storage environment.

This document describes and compares the following storage protocols:

* iSCSI
* NFS
* Fibre Channel
* Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE)

The whitepaper can be found here.

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