Author: martijn

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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Want to change the process; provide options!

imageChanging things starts with analyzing how things are done today. And changing things, is a big part of consultancy. If everything worked fine, there would be no need to change things and there would be no need for consultancy. The world would be perfect and nobody would have to change things for the better. Unfortunately : Utopia!

We are living in a dynamic world, things around us change faster then we sometimes want them to. But people like habits and processes. It’s easy. So from time to time you hit that wall when trying to change something: "That’s not the way we do things over here". Which also comes in other forms, like "Our processes don’t not allow that" or "I can’t see how this must be changed, we’ve been doing this for years".

In short in comes down to the fact that people have been stuck in the same old process, but never have gotten around to challenge the process from time to time. Or even worse, they are afraid to change anything because it could have repercussions. Nobody want to be the one “sticking their head above the parapet”.

Unfortunately this won’t lead to change. If you do what you’ve always been doing then you’ll end up with the same results as the results you’ve always gotten in the past. And wasn’t my job as  a consultant to provide you with better options?

This is were consultancy takes place. Options need to be created. Let people see what the benefits are of doing things in a different way(s).  Key to this is to “deliver the message”. Not only to the people that are involved, but also to the rest of the company. Involving everybody will expand the base to change the process. To get a higher acceptance rate and let people see what you are doing.

The next time you hit the “Can’t be changed” wall”, thinks of the different options, present them and make everybody part of the thinking process.

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VMware’s next steps in EUC

VMware is one of the market leaders in making the post-PC era reality. With the new virtual desktop solution, View 5.1, everybody can now work anytime, anywhere with the same user experience as sitting behind your "old PC".
 
This virtual desktop is accessible from devices that are already standard for customers. iPad, iPhone, Android, almost every device is able to connect to your virtual desktop.
 
This version comes together with the release of new Enterprise IT applications that are based on web applications that are being used on the web today, but still give the enterprise the control they need.
 
The following VMware applications are announced :
 
* Horizon; Application portal that gives the user a web-based desktop. Able to start enterprise applications from a central locations, but with enterprise access control. Even has the ability to provide Windows applications over the web.
 
* Socialcast; Facebook for your enterprise. Allows users to communicate with one another via a social media like interface. Ability to integrate with a variety of content based enterprise applications.
 
* Octopus; Dropbox for enterprises. Nobody like to store his data in public clouds that are not in control of the enterprise. Octopus provides an easy way to provide files to your end users, similar to the way Dropbox and Google drive work.
 
In the end it’s all about the Enterprise IT end user. They are the ones working every day with the applications that keep the business going. So making their life easier will result in better productivity and a better user experience.
 
 
For more information you can see the news release over here.
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The Post-PC era = Consumerization

The new marketing term is getting more and more traction in the IT industry; “Post-PC era” is the new buzz term to add to the long list of IT trends that are transforming the IT business. Although I like the marketing buzz word, I question if there really is a “post era” as the term suggest. In my opinion there isn’t. It’s just a natural evolution from another trend that has been going on for some time now : Consumerization of Enterprise IT.

There is a transformation going on in Enterprise IT. Using Information Technology in an enterprise environment  always has been in the mindset of “we need to control what our users do”. This wasn’t a big surprise since most users of IT resources weren’t savvy with the usage of IT. But over the last decades IT has made it’s way into every home and everybody now a day has computer, laptop, media device, tablet and / or mobile smartphone. So at home the “Post PC-era” already kicked in.

Besides the new devices to access information, people also started to interact in a different. This way due to technical enhancements, but also with the arrival of new types of applications. Facebook, Hotmail, Picasa, LinkedIn. All applications that are accessible via the web, applications that are living in “the cloud”. Not that the user cared where this application lived. As long as she / he can access it anytime, anywhere.

But what about Enterprise IT?

There it’s a little bit different. Changing the direction of your speedboat only takes seconds, changing a mammoth tanker to take another course takes a little bit longer. Same goes for consumers and Enterprise IT. Consumers over the last decade have been exposed to nice new technologies and applications, they are easy to adapt and change, while Enterprise IT is still stuck in the PC era. A static desktop, accessible from one location with applications installed locally.

Thankfully we now see a paradigm shift happening. No longer Enterprise IT is leading the way into IT technology, but the IT needs of consumers drives the development of important IT tech. Ok, this consumerization isn’t something new, but the impact of this we now see more and more being applied in Enterprise IT environments. This trend improves organizations, reducing the amount of money spend on IT and bringing agility to the business. The business being able to focus on its business, not on IT.

So living in a “Post-PC era” is that such a bad thing? I don’t think so, bring it on!

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Awarded with the vExpert Title for 2012

Great start of the week : I’ve been awarded the vExpert title for 2012!

It’s VMware’s recognition to those that have made a contribution to evangelize the word of virtualization and cloud computing. This year the application for the title was also open for VMware employees and according to the listing I’ve also been awarded the vExpert title for 2012. So hereby I would like to thank VMware for recognition. Special thanks to John Troyer and Alex Maier for making this possible and driving the VMware community!

More information about the vExpert announcement here.

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Powertool for your vCloud : vCloud Connector

Lately I’ve been playing around with vCloud and all the whistles and bells that come along with it. One of the tools that really got my attention was vCloud Connector. Although it might seem as a simplistic tool, it actually is pretty powerful. Especially when you take a look at the use cases for this tool. That when it shows its real value : being the interconnect between vClouds, the hybrid cloud facilitator.

The construct of vCloud Connector

To get a better understanding of vCloud Connector we have to first look at the construct. The following picture gives a good representation of how vCloud Connector is setup.

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vCloud Connector is constructed via a server-slave principle. One vCloud Connnection Server (vCCS) is needed. This is the central point access point and responsible for managing the nodes. The nodes are vCloud Connector Nodes (vCCN). Per vCloud instance or vSphere instance a node has to be installed and the have to be attached to the Connection Server. Both the vCloud Connector Server and the vCloud Connector Node can be downloaded at the VMware site

Through the User Interface (UI) the Connection Server can be controlled. The UI is available as a vSphere Client plugin or can be accessed via the web portal http://vcloud.vmware.com. This is were the nodes can be attached and after that the fun can start.

Use Cases for vCloud Connector

Fun being no more that copy-ing or moving workloads between vSphere and / or vCloud instances. Simple, but so effective. I’ve defined the 5 use cases I see. Bare in mind that workload need to be power off. It’s not a (long-distance) vMotion yet, it’s a start. Maybe in the future online will become a reality… Who knows!

#1 Hybrid Cloud; Probably the most referred use case. Moving workload from the private, internal cloud to a vCloud instance provided by a VMware vCloud enabled partner cloud; a public cloud. Drag-and-drop and the workloads will be moved or copied to it’s new home.

#2 Moving between external providers; Nobody likes to be stuck at some provider. At some certain point the decision is made to move your workload from provider A to provider B. Maybe it’s cheaper or the new service provider has got better service levels. Whatever the reason there is always the part of moving from A to B. vCloud Connector makes this task easy as copy-and-past in Windows. Just shut down the vApps and move the workloads to the new vCloud enabled provider.

#3 Migrating to the vCloud; One of the first questions I always get is how to migrate from vSphere to vCloud. vCloud Connector is the way to do this. It connects to the vCenter server and give the option to move or copy virtual machines and templates to a vCloud Director Organization vDC (Org vDC). Easy and simple.

#4 Moving vApps (Templates) between Org vDCs in different organizations; vCloud Connecor can be setup to move vApp (Templates) between Org vDC in different organizations. Normally an organization is a boundary within vCloud Director. By using vCloud Connector vApp (Templates) can be moved or copied between Org vDCs in different organizations.

#5 vCenter to vCenter; Maybe not the first use case to be thought of, but actually you can setup vCloud Connector to copy / move workloads between vCenter instances. This can be done in other ways, I know. We’ve been doing that for years. But vCloud Connector really makes this an easy task. Leveraging this ability through the use of a vSphere Client plugin.

Hopefully this gives a little bit more insight on how vCloud Connector can be used. I would at least advice everybody to install and configure it within their vSphere infrastructure. A powertool to move worlds, at least VM worlds!

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Understanding vSphere stretched clustering and SRM

Stretched clustering is one of the challenging topics I get when meeting with customers. Many customers think that stretched clustering is the ultimate disaster recovery solution and that it makes SRM obsolete. This is due to the fact that people think that HA will solve all their problems when it comes down to DR and that they still have the advantage of vMotion to have workload mobility between two data centers.

This however isn’t always true and there are some catches to the implementation of stretched clusters. In some cases, depending on the customers requirements, it even is better to have an SRM implementation to fulfill the requirements.

The table below give a graphical representation of which solution best suits which requirement.

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So in the end its up to the customer to decide which solution best suits its requirement. To help make this decision VMware Tech Marketing created a whitepaper to help make the right choice. A must read for everybody involved with disaster recovery and availability within a vSphere infrastructure.

The whitepaper can be found here.

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Introducing vFabric Application Director

VMware is releasing a nice application as addition to the vCloud solution stack. vFabric Application Director (a.k.a. App Director) is one of the latest additions and is a really nice tool to use within your private and public cloud.

App Director presents the user with a portal that can be used to build custom application stacks through a drag-and-drop web interface. The user himself can select the virtual machines OS, the middleware and the applications that are needed. All can be selected from a pre-populated catalog which has been created by the  App Director administrators. This way a self-service portal is created for application owners. They can log in to the portal and create their own application stack at any given time.

At the backend App Director integrated with VMware’s vCloud solution. Creating vApps on the fly on the users request and giving him / her the ability to deploy the application on any vCloud enabled platform. This can be your private, public or hybrid cloud.

In short vFabric Application Director has three core values  :

1. Application Portability; Deploy whatever you created anywhere, anytime
2. Improved Operational Efficiency; Through self-service applications can now be deployed on-the-fly
3. Simplified and Standardized Deployments; By using a standard catalog every deployment as easy as going to a webshop and selecting standardized products

In my opinion App Director is a nice addition to the VMware vCloud stack and really makes self-service a What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get experience!

For more info see this YouTube video explaining vFabric Application Director.

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VMware vSphere Distributed Switch Best Practices

VMware vSphere Distributed Switch (VDS) is a key virtual network platform that is scalable and extensible. It also provides advanced networking features and operational simplicity that helps build a flexible network for the cloud. The advanced networking features such as NIOC, LBT, NetFlow, and Port mirror are available on VDS and not on a virtual standard switch (VSS). This paper walks through the design process of incorporating VDS and its advanced features in different customer deployments. Customers typically have various types of server hardware and network adapter configurations in their environment. Following standard server hardware configurations are considered during the VDS design discussions.

1) Rack Server with Eight 1 Gigabit network adapters
2) Rack Server with two 10 Gigabit network adapters
3) Blade Server with two 10 Gigabit network adapters
4) Blade Server with Hardware assisted multiple Logical network adapters

For all these above hardware configurations different VDS design approaches will be presented along with their pros and cons. Along the way some best practices and important parameters of virtual and physical switches will be highlighted. Finally, some operational aspects of the VDS will also be discussed.

The whitepaper can be downloaded here.

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