Long Distance vMotion by Cisco & VMware

Cisco and VMware are currently working on a new technology called Long Distance vMotion. This makes it possible to move application workloads between multiple datacenters without any downtime. The vMotion technology is already available within VMware vSphere. It is used to migrate one VM from one host to another or wit Storage vMotion move the VMs data from one storage location to another. This with the machine being fully operable and available to the end-user.

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The changing model of data center management and provisioning allows VMware VMotion to be used for several purposes without violating the application SLAs.

Data center maintenance without downtime: Applications on a server or data center infrastructure requiring maintenance can be migrated offsite without downtime.
Disaster avoidance: Data centers in the path of natural calamities (such as hurricanes) can proactively migrate the mission-critical application environments to another data center.
Data center migration or consolidation: Migrate applications from one data center to another without business downtime as part of a data center migration or consolidation effort.
Data center expansion: Migrate virtual machines to a secondary data center as part of data center expansion to address power, cooling, and space constraints in the primary data center.
Workload balancing across multiple sites: Migrate virtual machines between data centers to provide compute power from data centers closer to the clients (“follow the sun”) or to load-balance across multiple sites. Enterprises with multiple sites can also conserve power and reduce cooling costs by dynamically consolidating virtual machines into fewer data centers (automated by VMware Dynamic Power Management [DPM]), another feature enabling the green data center of the future.

In these cases the secondary cloud can be provided by a service provider through a “virtual private cloud” connected to your “internal cloud”. Bringing down the TCO of your server infrastructure, using capacity in the secondary datacenter only when you need it and making use of a pay-per-use model for the consumed capacity. So this technology is a real cloud enabler!

For more information about this technology can be found here. Written by Omar Sultan.

Read the paper on this subject created by Cisco and VMware here.

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VMware opens the door to the vCloud

Today the Technology Preview version (0.8) of the vCloud API was released. This opens the door to build your own cloud based upon proven VMware technology. This is the next step of VMware entering the Cloud Computing arena.

 

Who is the vCloud API targeted towards?

The vCloud API is targeted towards developers and IT Admins across our service provider, ISV and enterprise customer community

What are some key distinguishing characteristics of the vCloud API?
  • Pure virtual nature makes it very easy to use and implement
  • Supports the industry standard OVF 1.0 format.
  • It is designed to support existing customers as well as enterprise still running applications on physical hardware to move their legacy applications into the cloud.
  • Developing an application to the vCloud API, makes it compatible with a large number of VMware-based internal clouds or external service provider clouds à broad application compatibility and choice of SPs (no lock in)

This API opens the cloud to application vendors, service providers and enterprise IT. Simplifying the way applications are deployed and managed within the cloud.

For more information see the VMware vCloud Deverloper Forum where you can also find a FAQ, documentation and a forum to discuss the vCloud.

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What’s the deal with Cloud Computing?

Well it’s going to be big (and is already being hyped as such). It’ll be a paradigm shift in the world of IT as we know it. But as I explained in an earlier post: we still have a long way to go before it’ll be mainstream. Cloud Computing is the come together of multiple technologies that already exist. It can be compared to a chemical reaction : Every component is there, we are now in the process to evolve to a new level in IT.

Defining Cloud Computing seems to be something that nobody can agree upon. Here goes mine:

Cloud Computing is an IT model which allows business to scale IT capabilities in such a way that it suits the needs at any time. This can be realized real-time through on-demand self-service. It will be delivered as-a-service anytime, anywhere and will be paid per use afterwards. 

Such a definition can be broken down into 4 characteristics that build up Cloud Computing:

  • Elastic & dynamic infrastructure; The infrastructure on which Cloud Computing is build should be able to handle the ever changing demand from business. In such in needs to be elastic and dynamic to supply this demand. Virtualization is the method to provide this flexibility.
  • On-demand self service; Business needs to have the ability to self service their needs real-time. Controls should be provided that service this need without the help of external parties.
  • Location independent; End-users should be able to access the service anytime, anywhere. Internet is the highway that will connect the service to standard input devices.
  • Pay per use; A consumption model must be in place where one pays for the services that have been provided to them. No more, no less. Just the capacity that has be used should be billed afterwards. 

For more information look at the following information sources :

NIST Working Definition Of Cloud Computing

Maria Spinola – An Essential Guide to Possibilities and Risks of Cloud Computing (whitepaper)

Burton Group – Cloud Computing: Transforming IT (whitepaper / needs free registration)

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Cloud Computing: Uhm, yes… ?

Cisco asked a couple of people to give the definition of Cloud Computing. Look what they came up with.

 

This movie proves two things to me :

1. Defining Cloud Computing is still difficult for most IT people. 
2. Cloud Computing & Squirrels are in some way connected to one another… Question is : HOW?

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Beyond the Hype of Cloud Computing

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As we all have noticed Cloud Computing has become the next best thing that has hit IT in a long time. Every company all of a sudden has a product that is “in the cloud”. It’s good to see that a lot of companies are boarding the train, but it also results in confusion and a feeling that is “it’s just to good to be true”.

This can also be seen in Gartner Hype Cycle for Cloud Computing. Cloud Computing is currently at the top op the so called “Peak of Inflated Expectations”. It has been hyped by the IT industry and is indeed generating a lot of expectations. As Gartner predicts this will eventually result in “disillusionment”. Thinking that it’s just one of those “IT things” that will eventually fade away and be replaced by another big hype.

It will however become mainstream in next 2 to 5 years. Evolving into mature business model for provisioning IT services. The “fog” surrounding Cloud Computing will eventually clear the sky. Till that time follow the next simple rules:

  • Proceed with caution; Don’t believe everything that is said / written about Cloud Computing. There is a lot of rubbish out there. Rational thinking is the key.
  • Inform yourself; Knowledge is power! Gather as much information as possible about the subject. But again Proceed with Caution!
  • Fit it into your strategy; No rush! But Cloud Computing should eventually fit into your IT strategy. Keep it in mind making future decisions. 
  • Your not the only one; There are more people / companies out there dealing with the same “cloud”. Talking amongst peers helps a lot in generating your own vision regarding “cloud computing”.
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vSphere launched!

April 21th was the big day the VMware community was waiting for. Finally the next generation of Virtual Infrastructure was release by VMware. As already announced the new name for this bundle of software is vSphere! It was announced by VMware’s CEO Paul Maritz during a simulcast. You can still view the presentation here.

So the word is finally out. Let’s have some fun with this new product, but that probably won’t be a problem because of all the nice new features. And remember this is just the beginning. After this initial product release more will come. VMware will release new product which will integrate with vSphere in the next couple of months. The list can be found here. And not only VMware is going to release new products, but also the partners will release new innovative product which will make vSphere even a better product. So you’d better stay virtually connected to get the latest update!

 

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Power over vSwitch back to where it belongs

With the upcoming new version of ESX on the horizon, Cisco published more an more detail on the Nexus 1000V. The Nexus 1000V is Cisco’s virtual switch which intergrates directly with ESX creating one distributed over all your ESX hosts. Besides this distrbuted switch Cisco also integrates the them in their management software. This gives network administrators the possibility to manage all switches, physical and virtual. Giving the power of networking  back to where it belongs; with the network admins.

Cisco Nexus 1000v with policy based VM connectivity

Cisco Nexus 1000v with policy based VM connectivity

More information about the Cisco Nexus 1000V can be found here. A nice video can be found here.

But during a presentation I attended Cisco also explained the Unified I/O concept. That was something that was new to me. But it’s going to be possible to combine network and storage traffic over one connection a.k.a. Unified I/O. Wow! That’s great. That would result in only two cables going into my server. But how does it work? Currently we have 10 Gbit available, but in the next year 40 / 100 Gbit will be introduced.

Combined with the ever growing capacity of CPU and RAM in servers this will result in VM host monsters. But how are all these new techonologies going to integrate with one another. Thankfully Brad Hedlund a Consulting System Engineer with Cisco and CCIE has written an article to explain this in detail. You can read about it here.

And as always a picture says more then a thousand words :

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Click on picture for more detail

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CommVault Backup Solution For Virtual Environments

On January the 26th CommVault introduced their new datamanagement solution Simpana 8. Normally I’m not that much into backup solution. They need to do their job, period! But this one looks very impressive. In my opinion it’s more like “backup virtualization”. Out-of-the-box it provides data-deduplication. How wonderfull is that. This includes embedded-deduplication (backup to disk) and device-deduplication (backup to tape). Resulting in a reduction of data management costs by up to 40% in the first year and reduces the tape consumables by up to 90%!

CommVault data deduplication methods

CommVault data deduplication methods

Backing up all of a sudden became an easy job and besides that eliminating the backup window.

But also cool is that CommVault has a very nice backup solution for virtual environments. It works for both Microsoft Hyper-V and VMware ESX. It includes data-protection, archive, replication and reporting. All this integrated to deliver a complete virtualization solution managed from a single console. How wonderfull is that.

Besides that the software delivers the following capabilities to protect virtualized environments:

– Automated discovery of virtual machines using default protection policies
– Agentless backup of virtual machines eliminating resource consumption
– Multiple backup options, including image-level, file-level, and volume-level
– Multiple recovery options, from individual files to entire virtual machines from any physical server
– Embedded, global deduplication eliminates redundant data and reduces storage footprint
– Flexible architecture for seamless, consistent, reliable data protection across physical and virtual servers
– Fast, cost-effective, and reliable disaster recovery for business continuity
– Centralized management of virtualized and non-virtualized environments

 All great features you want from your backup solution. Giving you an easy to manage backup solution at various datalayers in your virtual environment. I’m impressed, hope to try this a.s.a.p. 🙂

For more information go here.

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To ESXi or not to ESXi? That's the question…

ESXi is the small footprint hypervisor created by VMware. It can be implemented on bare-metal servers and is used to host virtual machines. It can be managed by vCenter and is supported by all other VMware product.

So as far as the above few lines state, it is the same as VMware’s “thick” hypervisor : ESX. And there are even some advantages which the “thin” ESXi has over ESX, being :

  • It’s “thin”; As I already stated above, ESXi is a small footprint installation. 32 Mb(!!!) agains approx. 2~3 Gb.
  • Quick install; Boot,accept license, choose disk, install, run. A simple installation method to install it on your server. You can even use a USB drive to boot from.
  • Easy update; Updating ESXi can be compared to flashing a BIOS. Because it’s such a small footprint, just download the newest version and replace the current one. Fast and easy.
  • Simple configuration menu; ESXi comes with a simple configuration menu (again BIOS like) which provides you with all the options you can configure in ESXi. No more service console!
  • More secure; ESXi having such a small footprint (less patches!) and having no external communication interface (CLI for example) except for VC / RCLI makes it more secure then ESX.

Ok, so why don’t we all switch to this small and practicle hypervisor? Well there are some disadvantages which can withhold you from implementing ESXi in a IT production environment, being :

  • Service console is gone; For people already working with the fat ESX : No more service console. Which can be a disadvantage if your IT department frequently uses the command line.
  • No central unattended distribution method; You can’t install ESXi unattended. Which is something you want if you have a large VI. Currently there are no unattended distribution methods as far as I know.
  • Can’t install local agents; There is no service console anymore. So you can’t use local agents on your ESXi host. Everything needs to be able to communicate with the VI API or any other remote connect method to gather information.

Conclusion : ESXi is very suitable for corporate production environment. ESXi has the same functional specs as ESX; you can host virtual machines on it and it can be managed using vCenter. However ESXi has advantages and disadvanstages over ESX. Every environment needs to be evaluated if ESXi is suited for it. If currently you are still dependent on something ESXi can’t provide, for example agent in service console, then continue using ESX.

But switching to ESXi is the future! So if you decide not to  switch now, prepare yourself for the future. Start using ESXi in your test environment, gain experience. Communicate current flaws to VMware and your third party tooling / hardware vendors. They can make this product better with your input!

For more information look at following links. There is a lot of information about ESXi. Read it and make your decision.

VMware whitepaper The Architecture of VMware ESXi

VMware whitepaper Managing VMware ESXi

Presentation by Amir Sharif (VMware) Managing ESXi in the datacenter (Need VMworld login account)

David Sumsky : Differences between ESX and ESXi

David Sumsky : Technical differences between ESX and ESXi

KB 1006543 : ESX and ESXi comparison

KB 1003345 : Differences in supported networking features between ESX server 3.5 and ESX server 3i

Update: When using ESXi you can install agents in VMware’s VIMA. Which also can be used to run the esxcfg commands (Thanx for the additional info goes to Duncan Epping)

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