Posts Tagged ‘vmware’

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Quick Take: VMware ESXi 5.0, Patch ESXi50-Update01

March 16, 2012

VMware releases ESXi 5.0 Complete Update 1 for vSphere 5. An important change for this release is the inclusion of general and security-only image profiles:

Starting with ESXi 5.0 Update 1, VMware patch and update releases contain general and security-only image profiles. Security-only image profiles are applicable to new security fixes only. No new bug fixes are included, but bug fixes from earlier patch/update releases are included.

The general release image profile supersedes the security-only profile. Application of the general release image profile applies to new security and bug fixes.

The security-only image profiles are identified with the additional “s” identifier in the image profile name.

Just a few of the more interesting bugs fixed in this release:

PR 712342: Cannot assign VMware vSphere Hypervisor license key to an ESXi host with pRAM greater than 32GB

PR 719895: Unable to add a USB device to a virtual machine (KB 1039359).

PR 721191: Modifying snapshots using the commands vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.remove or vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.revert
will fail when applied against certain snapshot tree structures.

This issue is resolved in this release. Now a unique identifier, snapshotId, is created for every snapshot associated to a virtual machine. You can get the snapshotId by running the command vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.get <vmid>. You can use the following new syntax when working with the same commands:

Revert to snapshot: vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.revert <vmid> <snapshotId> [suppressPowerOff/suppressPowerOn]
Remove a snapshot: vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.remove <vmid> <snapshotId>

PR 724376: Data corruption might occur if you copy large amounts of data (more than 1GB) from a 64-bit Windows virtual machine to a USB storage device.

PR 725429: Applying a host profile to an in-compliance host causes non-compliance (KB 2003472).

PR 728257: On a pair of HA storage controllers configured for redundancy, if you take over one controller, the datastores that reside on LUNs on the taken over controller might show inactive and remain inactive until you perform a rescan manually.

PR 734366: Purple diagnostic screen with vShield or third-party vSphere integrated firewall products (KB 2004893)

PR 734707: Virtual machines on a vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS) configured with VLANs might lose network connectivity upon boot if you configure Private VLANs on the vDS. However, disconnecting and reconnecting the uplink solves the problem.This issue has been observed on be2net NICs and ixgbe vNICs.

PR 742242: XCOPY commands that VAAI sends to the source storage device might fail. By default, XCOPY commands should be sent to the destination storage device in accordance with VAAI specification.

PR 750460: Adding and removing a physical NIC might cause an ESXi host to fail with a purple screen. The purple diagnostic screen displays an error message similar to the following:

NDiscVlanCheck (data=0x2d16, timestamp=<value optimized out>) at bora/vmkernel/public/list.h:386

PR 751803: When disks larger than 256GB are protected using vSphere Replication (VR), any operation that causes an internal restart of the virtual disk device causes the disk to complete a full sync. Internal restarts are caused by a number of conditions including any time:

  • A virtual machine is restarted
  • A virtual machine is vMotioned
  • A virtual machine is reconfigured
  • A snapshot is taken of the virtual machine
  • Replication is paused and resumed

PR 754047: When you upgrade VMware Tools the upgrade might fail because, some Linux distributions periodically delete old files and folders in /tmp. VMware Tools upgrade requires this directory in /tmp for auto upgrades.

PR 766179: ESXi host installed on a server with more than 8 NUMA nodes fails and displays a purple screen.

PR 769677: If you perform a VMotion operation to an ESXi host on which the boot-time option “pageSharing” is disabled, the ESXi host might fail with a purple screen.

Disabling pageSharing severely affects performance of the ESXi host. Because pageSharing should never be disabled, starting with this release, the “pageSharing” configuration option is removed.

PR 773187: On an ESXi host, if you configure the Network I/O Control (NetIOC) to set the Host Limit for Virtual Machine Traffic to a value higher than 2000Mbps, the bandwidth limit is not enforced.

PR 773769: An ESXi host halts and displays a purple diagnostic screen when using Network I/O Control with a Network Adapter that does not support VLAN Offload (KB 2011474).

PR 788962: When an ESXi host encounters a corrupt VMFS volume, VMFS driver might leak memory causing VMFS heap exhaustion. This stops all VMFS operations causing orphaned virtual machines and missing datastores. vMotion operations might not work and attempts to start new virtual machines might fail with errors about missing files and memory exhaustion. This issue might affect all ESXi hosts that share the corrupt LUN and have running virtual machines on that LUN.

PR 789483: After you upgrade to ESXi 5.0 from ESXi 4.x, Windows 2000 Terminal Servers might perform poorly. The consoles of these virtual machines might stop responding and their CPU usage show a constant 100%.

PR 789789: ESXi host might fail with a purple screen when a virtual machine connected to VMXNET 2 vNIC is powered on. The purple diagnostic screen displays an error message similar to the following:

0x412261b07ef8:[0x41803b730cf4]Vmxnet2VMKDevTxCoalesceTimeout@vmkernel#nover+0x2b stack: 0x412261b0
0x412261b07f48:[0x41803b76669f]Net_HaltCheck@vmkernel#nover+0xf6 stack: 0x412261b07f98

You might also observe an error message similar to the following written to VMkernel.log:

WARNING: Vmxnet2: 5720: failed to enable port 0x2000069 on vSwitch1: Limit exceeded^[[0m

SOLORI’s Take: Lions, tigers and bears – oh my! In all, I count seven (7) unique PSD bugs (listed in the full KB) along with some rather head-scratching gotchas.  Lots of reasons to keep your vSphere hosts current in this release to be sure… Use Update Manager or start your update journey here…

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Short-Take: Nexenta 3.1 Adds VAAI Support, Auto-Sync Resume

August 3, 2011

Nexneta Systems Inc released version 3.1 of its open storage software yesterday with a couple of VMware vSphere-specific feature enhancements. These enhancements are specifically targets at VMware’s vStorage API for Array Integration (VAAI) which promises to accelerate certain “costly” storage operations by pushing their implementation to the storage array instead of the ESX host.

From NexentaStor 3.1 Release Notes, the primitives implemented in 3.1 that contribute to VAAI support include:

  • SCSI Write Same: Supported in vSphere 4.1 and later
    Example. Accelerates zero block writes when creating new virtual disks.
  • SCSI ATS (Atomic Test & Set): Supported in vSphere 4.1 and later.
    Example. Enables specific LUN “region” to be locked instead of entire LUN when cloning a VM.
  • SCSI Block Copy: Supported in vSphere 4.1 and later.
    Example. Avoids reading and writing of block data “through” the ESX host during a block copy operation by allowing VMware to instruct the SAN to do so.
  • SCSI Unmap: Supported in vSphere 5 and later. Enables freed blocks to be returned to the zpool for new allocation when no longer used for VM storage.

Additional “optimizations” and improvements from Nexenta in 3.1 include:

  • In-flight deduplication
  • ARC performance enhancements
  • multiple connections per session for iSCSI
  • DMU fast path for iSCSI (i.e. no extra copy)
  • Auto-sync “resume” with progress bar in GUI/NMV and ability to change source/destination paths OTF
  • Parallel tasks in NMV (i.e. no more busy process “hangs”)
  • Improved CIFS performance
  • Support for multiple DC/DC fail-over for CIFS
  • Better cross-forrest trusts with CIFS
  • Configuration monitoring/reporting via “ConfGuard” plug-in
  • Multiple VIP per service for HA Cluster, fail-over of local users and elimination of separate heartbeat device
  • JBOD management for select devices from within the NMV

Given the addition of VAAI features, the upgrade offers some compelling reasons to make the move to NexentaStor 3.1 and at the same time removes obstacles from choosing NexentaStor as a VMware iSCSI platform for SMB/SME (versus low-end EMC VNXE, which at last look was still waiting on VAAI support.) However, for existing vSphere 4.1+ environments, a word of caution: you will want to “test, test, test” before upgrading to (or enabling) VAAI (fortunately, there’s a NexentaStor VSA available).

Auto-Sync Resume

In the past, NexentaStor’s auto-sync plug-in has been the only integrated means of block replication from one storage pool (or array) to another. In the past, the plug-in allowed for periodic replication events to be scheduled which drew from a marker snapshot until the replication was complete. Upon extended error (where the replication fails), the failure of the replication causes a roll-back to the marker point, eliminating any data that has transferred between the pools. For WAN replication, this can be costly as no check-points are created along the way.

More problematically, there has been no way to recreate a replication service in the event it has been either deleted or missing (i.e. zpool moved to a new host.) This creates a requirement for the replication to start over from scratch – a problem for very large datasets. With Auto-Sync 3.1, later problem is resolved, and provided NexentaStor can find at least one pair of identical snapshots for the file system.

Where I find this new “feature” particularly helpful is in seed replications to external storage devices (i.e. USB2.0 arrays, JBODs, etc.). This allows for a replication to external, removable storage to (1) be completed locally, (2) shipped to a central repository, and (3) a remote replication service created to continue the replication updates over the WAN.

Additionally, consider the case where the above local-to-WAN replication seeding takes place over the course of several months and the hardware at the central repository fails, requiring the replication pool to be moved to another NexentaStor instance. In the past, the limitation on auto-sync would have required a brand new replication set, regardless of the consistency of the replicated data on the relocated pool. Now, a new (replacement) service can be created pointing to the new destination, and auto-sync promises to find the data – intact – and resume the replication updates starting with the last identical marker snapshot.

NexentaStor Native Transport

The default transport for replication in NexentaStor 3.1 is now NexentaStor’s TCP-based Remote Replication protocol (RR). While SSH is still an option for non-NexentaStor destinations, netcat is no longer supported for auto-sync replications. While no indication of performance benefits are available, two tunable parameters are available for RR auto-sync services (per service): TCP connection count (-n) and TCP package size (-P). Defaults for each of these are 4 and 1024, respectively, meaning 4 connections and 1024KB PDU size for the replication session.

Conclusions

For VMware vSphere deployments in SMB, SME and ROBO environments, NexentaStor 3.1 looks to be a good fit, offering high-performance CIFS, NFS, iSCSI and Fiber Channel options in a unified storage environment complete with VAAI support to accelerate vStorage applications. For VMware View installations using NexentaStor, the VAAI/ATS feature should resolve some iSCSI locking behavior issues that have made NFS more attractive but remove SCSI-based VAAI features. That said, with the storage provisioning changes in View 4.5 and upcoming View 5, the ability to pick from FC, iSCSI or NFS (especially at 10G) from within the same storage platform has definite advantages (if not complexity implications.) Suffice to say, NexentaStor’s update is adding more open storage tools to the VMware virtualization architect’s bag of tricks.

NexentaStor 3.1 is available for download now.

Update, 8/12/2011:

Nexenta has found some problems with 3.1 post Q/A. They’ve released this statement on the matter:

Nexenta places the highest importance on maintaining access to and integrity of customer data. The purpose of this Technical Bulletin is to make you aware of an issue with the process of upgrading to 3.1. Nexenta has discovered an issue with the software delivery mechanism we use. This issue can result in errors during the upgrade process and some functionality not being installed properly. Please postpone upgrading to v3.1 until our next Technical Bulletin update. We are actively working to get this corrected and get it back to 100 % service as fast as possible. Until the issue is resolved we have removed 3.1 from the website and suspended upgrades. Thanks for your patience.

Nexenta Support, Aug. 6, 2011

According to sources from within Nexenta, the problems appear to be more related to APT repository/distribution issues “rather than the 3.1 codebase.” All ISO and repository distribution for 3.1 has been pulled until further notice and links to information about 3.1 on the corporate Nexenta site are no longer working…

Update, 8/17/2011:

Today, while working on a follow-up post, the lab systems (virtual storage appliances) were updated to NexentaStor 3.1.1 (both Enterprise and Community editions). Since a question was raised about the applicability of the VAAI enhancements to Community Edition (NexentaStor CE), I’ve got a teaser for you: see the following image of two identical LUNs mounted to an ESXi host from NexentaStor Enterprise Edition (NSEE) and NexentaStor Community Edition (NSCE). If you look closely, you’ll notice they BOTH show “supported” status.

vSphere VMFS5 Datastores provided by NexentaStor Community (VSA04) and Enterprise (VSA03) editions.

Update, 8/19/2011:

Nexenta officially re-released NexentaStor 3.1 today in the form of version 3.1.1 – it is available for download now.

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Short-Take: Clock Ticking on VI 3.5 Updates, June 1 Deadline

May 26, 2011

If you’re still not quite ready to upgrade from VI 3.x to vSphere, time may be running out on your ESX hosts to stay “current” inside of VI3 unless you act before June 1, 2011. If your VMware VI3 hosts have not been patched since November of 2010, you are at risk for losing update/patching capabilities unless you apply ESX350-201012410-BG before the deadline. This patch ONLY addresses the expiring secure key on the ESX host which will otherwise become invalid on June 1, 2011.

If you need to bring your hosts current (without upgrading to vSphere) the last full patch release from VMware for VI 3.5 addresses the following issues:

Enablement of Intel Xeon Processor 3400 Series – Support for the Intel Xeon processor 3400 series has been added. Support includes Enhanced VMotion capabilities. For additional information on previous processor families supported by Enhanced VMotion, see Enhanced VMotion Compatibility (EVC) processor support (KB 1003212).

Driver Update for Broadcom bnx2 Network Controller – The driver for bnx2 controllers has been upgraded to version 1.6.9. This driver supports bootcode upgrade on bnx2 chipsets and requires bmapilnx and lnxfwnx2 tools upgrade from Broadcom. This driver also adds support for Network Controller – Sideband Interface (NC-SI) for SOL (serial over LAN) applicable to Broadcom NetXtreme 5709 and 5716 chipsets.

Driver Update for LSI SCSI and SAS Controllers – The driver for LSI SCSI and SAS controllers is updated to version 2.06.74. This version of the driver is required to provide a better support for shared SAS environments.

Newly Supported Guest Operating Systems – Support for the following guest operating systems has been added specifically for this release:

For more complete information about supported guests included in this release, see the VMware Compatibility Guide: http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=software.

  • Windows 7 Enterprise (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 7 Ultimate (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 7 Professional (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Standard Edition (64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise Edition (64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Datacenter Edition (64-bit)
  • Windows 2008 R2 Web Server (64-bit)
  • Ubuntu Desktop 9.04 (32-bit and 64-bit)
  • Ubuntu Server 9.04 (32-bit and 64-bit)

Newly Supported Management Agents – See VMware ESX Server Supported Hardware Lifecycle Management Agents for current information on supported management agents.

Newly Supported Network Cards – This release of ESX Server supports HP NC375T (NetXen) PCI Express Quad Port Gigabit Server Adapter.

Newly Supported SATA Controllers – This release of ESX Server supports the Intel Ibex Peak SATA AHCI controller.

Note:
  • Some limitations apply in terms of support for SATA controllers. For more information, see SATA Controller Support in ESX 3.5. (KB 1008673)
  • Storing VMFS datastores on native SATA drives is not supported.

This patch comes with a roll-up approach that VMware describes this way:

Note: As part of the end of availability for some VMware Virtual Infrastructure product releases, the ESX 3.5 Update 5 upgrade package ESX350-Update05.zip has been replaced by ESX350-Update05a.zip in order to remove dependencies upon patches that will no longer be available for download. Hosts upgraded using ESX350-Update05a.zip are equivalent to those upgraded using the older package, but patch bundles released before ESX 3.5 Update 5 will not be required during the upgrade process.

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Short-Take: Windows 7 for iPad, Free

March 9, 2011
Windows7 running on iPad

Windows7 running on iPad

Remember that announcement about View 4.6 and the PCoIP Software Gateway (PSG) a week or so back? If the existence of PSG got your imagination drifting towards running Windows7 over PCoIP on your iPad or Android tablet, then some of you are going to be very excited and some of you will have to wait a little bit longer.

Today VMware is taking mobile desktop to a new level by announcing the general availability of the View Client for iPad V1.0 – Android tablet users will have to wait! This is a iPad-native, PCoIP-only client for View 4.6 environments (i.e. PCoIP w/PSG support) with  gesture-enabled navigation and virtual mouse pad. If you liked accessing your View desktop in Wyse’s PocketCloud for iPhone & iPad (RDP mode only), you’re going to love the View Client for iPad because it unlocks the rich, PCoIP goodness that you’ve been missing.

Last week a group of vExperts were briefed on the iPad app by its development team leader Tedd Fox who came to VMware in August, 2010 after nearly 8 years of work at Citrix (co-inventor/designer of Citrix Reciever for iPad & iPhone). To say Tedd knows iPad/mobile and remote app/desktop is an understatement, and VMware has committed to an aggressive “feature update” schedule for the iPad app on the order of every 1-2 months (typical of mobile application norms.)

Needless to say, we had a few questions. Here’s just a few of the responses from our Q/A and demonstration session:

vExpert: Will there be a iPhone link for touchpad control?

Tedd: No. Due to some patent-pending issues, we decided not to tread on that ground.

vExpert: Has it been enhanced for the iPad2?

Tedd: No. It’s [iOS] 4.3 “ready” but nobody’s got an iPad2 so no one knows if there application’s going to work. We’ve tested on dual-core architecture before, just not Apple’s dual-core architecture.

vExpert: Dual-core tested? So there’s an Android app coming?

Tedd: Android app is coming! We’re looking at mid-year for the Android. I just spent a few weeks in China getting that in alpha-alpha mode; so we actually have a UI and everything – we’re just building-up the bits… it’s going to be tablet only. It works on a 7″ right now, but we’re not sure if that’s a useful form.

vExpert: Is that because it’s too small [i.e. 7″ screen]?

Tedd: It’s because of the mouse pad and everything… it just doesn’t feel right – the resolution and everything.

vExpert: Not even with panning and side scrolling [small screen]?

Tedd: Not really. Panning a windows desktop is “okay” for like 10 minutes, after which you develop something like Tourette syndrome with curse words and all. We actually ran tests on that to figure that out, but it could change [given the right demand/use case.]

vExpert: Will it support bi-directional audio?

Tedd: No, uh, uni-directional is definitely on the roadmap so doctors can dictate and stuff like that. Otherwise, we’re going to see how the protocol matches up for [more complex] audio applications.

vExpert: Can we get more information on the Android app?

Tedd: I don’t want to get into the Android client because everything is still “in flux” and we’re still designing it…

vExpert: Will [View Client for iPad] work with bluetooth mouse and keyboard?

Tedd: Yes… You have to go into the iPad settings and pair them… then with you do the three-finger tap on the screen – like to activate the on-screen keyboard – that’s how you activate the bluetooth keyboard [only, no mouse support per Apple policy], and the [on-screen] toolbar drops down to the bottom of the screen… It’s very nice to use.

vExpert: Will it support multitasking, multiple sessions and session swapping?

Tedd: No. We’re working with Teradici on full-multitasking for one of the feature revs this year.

vExpert: It seemed that logging-in and getting to your desktop seemed pretty quick. What would you say?

Tedd: This [demo] is on 3G – by the way – so it’s fairly quick. The only [downside] is if you’re using RSA tokens: you’ve got to read the token and put it in… If the broker policy allows users to save their passwords, then you’d only need the token code.

vExpert: Is there a way to transfer data to/from the iPad from the [View client desktop]?

Tedd: Working on that – that’ll be in the next rev or two. There’s a grey area there with the shared foldering system in iOS – some people are like “yeah, awesome” but if you talk to DoD they’re like “heck no” so we’re working on an elegant solution.

vExpert: What about dropbox or something like that?

Tedd: If we have an internal solution then yes. I don’t want to be [bound by a third party] on our app – I want to keep it as “pure VMware” as possible. If the market screams for it in enough number, then of course I’m going to listen… If it’s allowed in your desktop’s environment [dropbox will work.]

vExpert: How’s the performance of the View client while other programs are in the background on the iPad?

Tedd: You don’t even notice it. If you know me you know I’ve constantly got white earbuds on. One of my test cases was working on a desktop while running on Pandora in the background.

vExpert: Price is free?

Tedd: Yeah, as long as I’m with VMware it will always be free.

Over the course of the demonstration, we saw Tedd put the application through its paces. It’s fast – even on the original iPad. The gesture interface looks well thought-out, has been thoroughly tested – Tedd says “rock solid” – and repeated three-finger abuses [rapid toggling the keyboard] won’t crash the View iPad app. Can’t wait to get it into SOLORI’s lab…

Gesture Help for iPad View Client

View Client for iPad Keyboard (three-fingers to pop-up)

View for iPad soft mouse pad and cursor keys

 

Client support for tap-hold loupe: zoom near mouse pointer.

Related Links:

[Update: View 4.x -> View 4.6 (iPad Client designed for View 4.6 and PSG). Added community blog link, virtual keyboard and loupe screenshots. Remote add -> Remote app. Added link to Andre’s VDI calculator. Clarification on bluetooth mouse support. Related links section with PCoIP off-load.]

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Short-Take: vCenter Operations, Launched

March 8, 2011

vCenter Operations Standard, Launced Today

I think “launched” is a good description of a product that represents a company’s first release from a product acquisition that was already somewhat mature. No surprising new features, no trend-setting advanced in interface or integration – just a solid, usable “pane of glass” to improve “visibility” into an existing product set. That’s how I’d describe VMware’s “new” vCenter Operations appliance for vSphere.

The product launches initially as a virtual appliance (similar to VMDR, vMA, vCMA, etc.) that enhances vCenter’s ability to track performance, capacity and changes in the vSphere environment. This initial offering is called VMware vCenter Operations Standard and is priced per-VM (I’ll get to those details later.) vCOPS Standard will be available for download and trial beginning March 14, 2011. Here’s how VMware describes it:

Proactively ensure service levels, optimum resource usage and configuration compliance in dynamic virtual and cloud environments with VMware vCenter Operations. Through automated operations management and patented analytics, you benefit from an integrated approach to performance, capacity and configuration management. You’ll gain the intelligence and visibility needed to

  • Get actionable intelligence to automate manual operations processes
  • Gain visibility across infrastructure and applications for rapid problem resolution
  • Proactively ensure optimal resource utilization and virtual/cloud infrastructure performance
  • Get ‘at-a-glance’ views of operational and regulatory compliance across physical and virtual infrastructure.

If you’re like me, that description won’t make you find a place in your strained IT budget for VMware’s new plug-in. Eventually, VMware will find the right messaging to sell this add-on, but let’s see if it can sell itself, shall we? Located deep within a “related whitepaper” there is an indication of how vCOPS differentiates itself from the crowd of “pretty statistics loggers” and delivers some real tasty goodness. I believe this is the real reason why VMware shelled-out $100M for the technology.

Dynamic Thresholds

Yeah, I thought that too. What the heck is a “dynamic threshold” and why do I care? For one thing, it takes VMware two pages of white paper just to describe what a “dynamic threshold” is, let alone describe how it adds value to vCenter. In short, VMware’s statistics logger applies eight proprietary algorithms to live and historical data to “predict” what “normal” operating parameters are for a specific VM, host, cluster, etc. and then make decisions as to whether or not anomalous conditions exist in the present operating state.

vCenter Operations' stats engine tries to see performance data as a seasoned admin would.

Effectively, VMware’s dynamic threshold takes a sophisticated look at the current trend data just like a seasoned IT admin would – except it does it across your entire virtual enterprise every 12 hours and predicts what the next 12 hours should look like. This “prediction” becomes the performance envelope, hour by hour, for the next 12 hours of operation. So long as your virtual object’s performance stays within the envelope, the likelihood of anomalous behaviour is low; however, when it is operating outside the envelope, outliers are likely to trigger performance alarms.

The following transforms are applied to statistical data every 12 hours:

•    An algorithm that can detect linear behaviour patterns (e.g., disk utilization, etc.).
•    An algorithm that can detect metrics that have only two states (e.g., availability measurements).
•    An algorithm that can detect metrics that have a discrete set of values, not a “range” of values, (e.g., “Number of DB User Connections,” “Number of Active JMVs,” etc.).
•    Two different algorithms that can detect cyclical behaviour patterns that are tied to calendar cycles (e.g., weekly, monthly, etc.)
•    Two different algorithms that can detect general non-calendar patterns (e.g., multi-modal)
•    An algorithm that works, not with time-series or frequently measured values, but with sparse data (e.g., daily, weekly, monthly batch data)

VMware claims this approach – to borrow a recently over-used term – “wins” versus typical bell-shape algorithm approaches many times over. In statistical analysis against real-world VM metrics, VMware says typical bell-shape analysis “barely shows up” and, in the few cases where it “wins” the bell-shape approach does so only slightly. In enterprise applications, being able to present “anomalous behaviour” of related systems in opposition can more quickly lead to root-cause identity. Here, VMware demonstrates how anomaly counts for separate, related application tiers can be compared and correlated visually:

Anomaly count comparison across separate tiers. Note "smart alert" gets triggered early in the process (Enterprise Edition).

Eric Sloof at NTPro.NL has posted a video (7 minutes) and screen shots that shows vCenter Operations Standard in operation. While Eric describes vCOPS as a “great new product,” Kendrick Coleman takes issue with VMware’s price model and questions its true value proposition (at least with the “Standard” edition.)

Do Fries Come with That?

From some of the back-peddling overheard in the vExpert pre-launch conference, VMware’s testing the waters on where the product fits at the low-end. Essentially, this is an enterprise class product offering that’s been paired-down to fit into a smaller IT budget. Like most VMware products, a generous “free” trial period will be granted to allow you to try before you buy. However, the introductory price (i.e. official pricing is not posted on VMware’s site) is set at $50/VM (hence Kendrick’s quandary) for up to 500 VMs (about $25K).

Since VMware intends to offer an inclusive pricing scheme, all registered VMs will need to be licensed into the Standard Edition’s footprint. In the vExpert call, there was “talk” about extending analysis only to specific VMs (and allowing for a paired-down licensing footprint) but that is conjecture today. In a typical enterprise where 70-80% of workloads are non-mission critical, the cost and license model for vCOPS could be an obstacle for some – or at least force the use of a separate vCenter and cluster arrangement. Let’s hope VMware comes-up with a mission-critical license model quickly.

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Quick-Take: VMware View 4.6 and PCoIP Software Gateway

March 1, 2011

VMware View 4.6 has been released. Andre Leibovici has a nice summary of the PCoIP Software Gateway (PSG) functionality – new in 4.6 – that finally allows PCoIP to be negotiated without external VPN tunnels.

VMware View 4.6 has been just released and as everyone expected this release introduces support for external secure remote access with PCoIP, without requirement for a SSL VPN. This feature is also known as View Secure Gateway Server. VMware’s Mark Benson, in his blog article, does a very good job explaining why tunnelling PCoIP traffic through the Security Server using SSL was never a viable solution because VMware didn’t want to interfere with the advanced performance characteristics of the protocol.

Andre Leibovici – myvirtualcloud.net

Other enhancements in the 4.6 release include:

  • Enhanced USB device compatibility – View 4.6 supports USB redirection for syncing and managing iPhones and iPads with View desktops. This release also includes improvements for using USB scanners, and adds to the list of USB printers that you can use with thin clients. For more information, see the list of View Client resolved issues.
  • Keyboard mapping improvements – Many keyboard-related issues have been fixed. For more information, see the list of View Client resolved issues.
  • New timeout setting for SSO users – With the single-sign-on (SSO) feature, after users authenticate to View Connection Server, they are automatically logged in to their View desktop operating systems. This new timeout setting allows administrators to limit the number of minutes that the SSO feature is valid for.For example, if an administrator sets the time limit to 10 minutes, then 10 minutes after the user authenticates to View Connection Server, the automatic login ability expires. If the user then walks away from the desktop and it becomes inactive, when the user returns, the user is prompted for login credentials. For more information, see the VMware View Administration documentation.
  • VMware View 4.6 includes more than 160 bug fixes – For descriptions of selected resolved issues, see Resolved Issues.
  • Support for Microsoft Windows 7 SP1 operating systems

SOLORI’s Take: The addition of WAN-enabled PCoIP functionality takes VMware’s flagship desktop protocol to the next level. However, considerable tuning at the PCoIP desktop agent is necessary for most WAN configurations. The upside is the solution maintains PCoIP’s UDP basis without tunneling inside TCP.

Since PCoIP has always been AES encrypted by default, this is not really an issue of security but one of performance and delivery. Right-sizing the PCoIP payload for the intended WAN application will be challenging for most, so expect to see PSG use in campus-wide applications where security of PCoIP (UDP) has been difficult.

For a twist on PSG using Internet connections with dynamically assigned IP addresses, check-out Gabe’s Virtual World post – powershell included!

[updated to include links to VMware’s View release notes, and link to Gabe’s post.]

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Quick-Take: Is Your Marriage a Happy One?

November 12, 2010

I came across a recent post by Chad Sakac (VP, VMware Alliance at EMC) discussing the issue of how vendors drive customer specifications down from broader goals to individual features or implementation sets (I’m sure VCE was not in mind at the time.) When it comes to vendors insist on framing the “client argument” in terms of specific features and proprietary approaches, I have to agree that Chad is spot on. Here’s why:

First, it helps when vendors move beyond the “simple thinking” of infrastructure elements as a grid of point solutions and more of an “organic marriage of tools” – often with overlapping qualities. Some marriages begin with specific goals, some develop them along the way and others change course drastically and without much warning. The rigidness of point approaches rarely accommodates growth beyond the set of assumptions that created the it in the first place. Likewise, the “laser focus” on specific features detracts from the overall goal: the present and future value of the solution.

When I married my wife, we both knew we wanted kids. Some of our friends married and “never” wanted kids, only to discover a child on the way and subsequent fulfillment through raising them. Still, others saw a bright future strained with incompatibility and the inevitable divorce. Such is the way with marriages.

Second, it takes vision to solve complex problems. Our church (Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama) takes a very cautious position on the union between souls: requiring that each new couple seeking a marriage give it the due consideration and compatibility testing necessary to have a real chance at a successful outcome. A lot of “problems” we would encounter were identified before we were married, and when they finally popped-up we knew how to identify and deal with them properly.

Couples that see “counseling” as too obtrusive (or unnecessary) have other options. While the initial investment of money are often equivalent, the return on investment is not so certain. Uncovering incompatibilities “after the sale” provides for difficult and too often a doomed outcome (hence, 50% divorce rate.)

This same drama plays out in IT infrastructures where equally elaborate plans, goals and unexpected changes abound. You date (prospecting and trials), you marry (close) and are either fruitful (happy client), disappointed (unfulfilled promises) or divorce. Often, it’s not the plan that failed but the failure to set/manage expectations and address problems that causes the split.

Our pastor could not promise that our marriage would last forever: our success is left to God and the two of us. But he did help us to make decisions that would give us a chance at a fruitful union. Likewise, no vendor can promise a flawless outcome (if they do, get a second opinion), but they can (and should) provide the necessary foundation for a successful marriage of the technology to the business problem.

Third, the value of good advice is not always obvious and never comes without risk. My wife and I were somewhat hesitant on counseling before marriage because we were “in love” and were happy to be blind to the “problems” we might face. Our church made it easy for us: no counseling, no marriage. Businesses can choose to plot a similar course for their clients with respect to their products (especially the complex ones): discuss the potential problems with the solution BEFORE the sale or there is no sale. Sometimes this takes a lot of guts – especially when the competition takes the route of oversimplification. Too often IT sales see identifying initial problems (with their own approach) as too high a risk and too great an obstacle to the sale.

Ultimately, when you give due consideration to the needs of the marriage, you have more options and are better equipped to handle the inevitable trials you will face. Whether it’s an unexpected child on the way, or an unexpected up-tick in storage growth, having the tools in-hand to deal with the problem lessens its severity. The point is, being prepared is better than the assumption of perfection.

Finally, the focus has to be what YOUR SOLUTION can bring to the table: not how you think your competition will come-up short. In Chad’s story, he’s identified vendors disqualifying one another’s solutions based on their (institutional) belief (or disbelief) in a particular feature or value proposition. That’s all hollow marketing and puffery to me, and I agree completely with his conclusion: vendors need to concentrate on how their solution(s) provide present and future value to the customer and refrain from the “art” of narrowly framing their competitors.

Features don’t solve problems: the people using them do. The presence (or absence) of a feature simply changes the approach (i.e. the fallacy of feature parity). As Chad said, it’s the TOTALITY of the approach that derives value – and that goes way beyond individual features and products. It’s clear to me that a lot of counseling takes place between Sakac’s EMC team and their clients to reach those results. Great job, Chad, you’ve set a great example for your team!