Pushing Virtual Limits

Mea culpa – An excuse for my abscence
September 21, 2008, 3:48 pm
Filed under: vmware | Tags: , , , ,

So I am sure most of you have seen or looked at – or maybe played with – EMC Documentum CenterStage?

I have been spending a LOT of time with it. Hopefully I will be able to go live with some of the neat things we have made happen even with the beta. When this client gets released to the Documentum public I can’t wait to hear the reaction.

Beyond that I have added on another 4 servers to my ESX deployment and then started working with some fresh VM stuff to see how that is going to impact how we work.
Favorite new feature in VC 2.5u2 – Hot cloning – We implemented the update and our users found the feature before we even told them about it! Now that is reading the market correctly.

Beyond the normal craziness I officially start a new role within EMC on Monday. The up side – I still get to keep my virtual infrastructure. It should be lots of great new stuff and I will be working with a group that handles ALL of EMC software. This should give me the opportunity to talk with some really smart folks about how they would work on some of the niggling VMware issues I have found.

My plan for Monday is to get some time with our #1 networker engineer and see if he can enlighten me on all the things I have been missing in my very limited NW deployment. (1 VM out of 555+)

Vkernel has pushed out a number of great updates to their Capacity Analyzer 2 Beta – I am getting some real value add from having all my virtual centers on one screen.

On a side note I hope everyone read about VMworld and ESX4 – All I can say is I am excited by what I saw publicly discussed. Powerpath in ESX – Drool


Managing a Growing VMware deployment in a Software Development and Testing Environment
July 20, 2008, 3:29 am
Filed under: vmware | Tags: , , , ,

Big title, Big problem.

I think anyone here gets the basics and probably has a VCP or some other certificatation to prove they know what they are doing. On a technical level I have my fair share of challenges right now (SQL2k to 2k5 upgrade of the VC, an ESX Host that has decided two of its NICs are dead, and a variety of client issues) but those are pretty straight forward. VMware support has been challenging lately(see my earlier post on how they told me SQL2k was no longer a support DB backend with VC2.5 and told us we HAD to upgrade) but with the forum and other people out there posting I don’t think anyone ever hits a “unique” technical problem.

What we all hit that is unique is our management structure, our IT structure, and the ever changing requirements of the security teams. These not technical obstacles have always proven to be the limiting factor in my deployment and I doubt I am alone.

Let me set the stage a bit for the discussion that will follow. Right now our environment is working on at least three major new products and providing sustaining and support for at least twelve others. Our average machine profile – 1 cpu, less than 2gb of ram (1gb avg), under 60GB total hard disk space. The problem is we add or remove a dozen or more a day and have 100+ users with Virtual Machine Administrator rights.

The tricky problem comes in when you take a look at 26 hosts spread across more than five business units. Now that we are fully utilizing DRS the “I bought this host and therefore it is all mine” mentality becomes challenging. If one team has excess capacity shouldn’t they be part of the solution rather than hoarding an easily reclaimed resource?

At EMC we have this concept of “One|EMC” to try and bring all the acquisitions together. There are good things and bad things with this policy but I think this is an opportunity to do a real good. In this effort my management team has been very supportive with “lending” our excess capacity to other teams.

My BU owns the hardware, licensed the software, and pays for all upgrades and maintenence. There are a ton of costs associated with this effort and we have no intention of “charging” for utilizing idle assets (exactly what VMware excels at). What I do need to do is provide “cost visibility” to my management and the business units we work with. In order to do this we have purchased and are implementing VKernels “Chargeback Appliance.” The plan will be to provide scheduled reporting based on the following levels:

Deployment Total

Business Unit

Project teams within each BU

(Other reports as necessary)

The great thing is that these reports will be ready at anytime and I can give a login right to my management structure so they don’t have to ask me to generate reports for them. We will also be going one step further to show just how much we save by buying big iron – we will create a cost in VMware vs a physical system cost. VKernel has provided a great baseline for costing out the big numbers as well as all those little things that I just assume will be there (like electricity). Metrics matter and here they matter more than at most places. We know we have had a great thing for the past few years but now I finally have the tools to collect the metrics to show the big guys exactly how much money we are saving.

VMware Management Suite Showdown – vCharterPro vs V-Kernel Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer

This review is long overdue. A quick trip around the country to meet with customers and setup a new Virtual Infrastructure Lab have put me behind schedule. Mea Culpa

First, I want to comment about the support I received from both VizionCore and V-Kernel. Glen P from Vizioncore kept them in the running a lot longer than anyone else could have. Kudos to him and that team for trying to work through all the “glitches” we ran into. The whole team at V-Kernel was also very helpful and successful in diagnosing and resolving the defects I hit.

That being said I hit major defects with both of these products. Both teams released patches or provided workarounds in short order but the ability of V-Kernel to quickly adapt and address new problems was definitely a positive mark for them.

In the end we never got vCharterPro working 100% due to some data collection issues. After two months of working with support and their team I had to compare their “sort of” product against one from V-Kernel that was now doing everything it promised it would do.

When comparing features I found that my deployment was not par for the course. Anyone who has read my previous posts understands that my mantra is that “Hosts Don’t Matter!” All my vms live in the Virtual Machines and Templates views in a heavily nested folder structure. Running reports against business units is a breeze if the application is aware of this folder structure.

vCharterPro had no awareness of the folder structure. It assumed a Host or Cluster based reporting model (kind of silly when you have a huge Cluster running DRS and two or three departments sharing it)

V-Kernel has a native folder level awareness. They let me easily create groups for analysis based on the nested folder structure or via the traditional host/cluster method. This flexible group creation was ultimately the winning feature. Having lots of data in bad groups is useless but if we can get the data into meaningful reports or views it adds immediate value.

Where vCharterPro clearly excelled was in the looks department. Both products are bringing back roughly the same data (vCharterPro has a fixation on disk I/O vs actual space used) but vCharterPro presents it in a very pleasing fashion. Utilizing their parent companies framework they provide a seriously customizable interface to really tweak the dashboard view to be exactly what you want.

V-Kernel CBA has clean looks but it is nothing to get excited about.

As I am sure it is now apparent that I went with V-Kernel’s product suite. We chose it because it had intellegent grouping that worked with my environment as is rather than requiring me to reorganize everything from scratch. It collected all the data I needed accurately and efficiently (vCharterPro wanted a 4cpu box with 2GB+ ram versus CBA which is 1 CPU with 1 GB ram). I really appreciate that V-Kernel is going with a ready made appliance that is easy to deploy and just as easy to upgrade.

In the near future I will start sharing some of the reports that I am running and the value add I get out of them. I am very interested to see what other people see from this data. We will also be implementing V-Kernel’s ChargeBack product within the next few weeks (pending the next release). At that point I will share some pictures of that.

Also – Check out Rob’s blog over at the V-Kernel main site to get an interesting take on a variety of challenges facing the virtualization industry. I promise it is worth at least a quick perusal.