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Cloud Self-service May 28, 2011

Posted by wholmes in Cloud.
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In a previous post and quick video, I spoke about Cloud (with an IaaS Cloud entry point being referred to) being defined as a means to allow for end-user self service to a multi-tenant environment. End-user self-service is critical when you look at public cloud architecture.However, for many enterprise organizations considering the benefits of a private cloud, enabling a self-service model requires significant operational changes that many comapnies may not be ready for. So if you are an organization that isn’t ready for self-service in the private cloud, does that mean Cloud is not for you?

At the heart of cloud is still multiple layers of abstraction, (typically provided by server, network and storage virtualization), consolidation, and the cap-ex and op-ex savings that these technologies provide. Even without a pure self-service model, the benefits of moving to a private cloud model are many. For some organizations, a pure self-service model may never be realistic. But the efficiency provided by the a private cloud model is almost universally applicable. When coupled with the ability to leverage public cloud resources through the formation of an hybrid cLoud (using technologies like vCloud Director and vCLoud Connector), adopting a private cloud model becomes even more enticing for the enterprise.

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Career Move February 20, 2011

Posted by wholmes in Career.
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No, I am not leaving VMware. Quite honestly, there is no technology company I can think of that I rather work for than VMware. As stated by my esteemed colleague Massimo, I find it very motivating to work for a company that is shaping the future of IT.

So what is this career move? After joining VMware a little over a year ago as a Senior Consultant in the Professional Services organization, I am transitioning into a new role, officially titled Technical Solutions Architect-Partner Cloud. This new role will allow much closer interaction with VMware product engineering, product management, and the cloud practice team. I will also be working closely with our friends over at Cisco. My main responsibility will be to work closely with the Cisco service provider business unit and VMware cloud practice teams in designing and validating cloud solution architectures. I will be responsible for working with both VMware and Cisco product management and engineering organizations to provide guidance, development and integration support for joint solution engagements.

This transition is very exciting to me, and a milestone in my career for many reasons. For the first 14 years of my career I have been a member of a services organization in one form or another. I started with IBM Global Services, where I spent 8+ years, then transitioned to a couple smaller consulting firms, and then to VMware Professional Services. So this will be the first time in my career that I will no longer be a billable consultant. While I loved working in VMware’s awesome NYC PSO group, it is exciting to be able to focus on developing new solutions that will impact the future of IT.

In reflecting on my IT career so far, I always feel grateful that I am actually in the career, and have a position that I always dreamed of having as a kid (yes, I suppose I was a nerdy kid). As a kid in the 80’s, I used to read Computer Shopper magazine (remember those huge 300+ page mags), wishing to buy an x86 computer. I could not afford one at the time, but I could spec out an 8086, 80286 or 80386 system like nobody’s business :-). When I finally did build my own PC, I immediately knew IT was the place for me. I dreamed of being in some type of IT architect position, building solutions and solving problems with the amazing capabilities provided by rapidly advancing technology. So yes, I feel very grateful because how many people can actually say they have the job they dreamed of having as a kid?

So were you a nerdy kid like me, and feel you would like to join the VMware team? Is your virtualization kung-fu strong? Want to join a winning team with really smart, motivated people? VMware is hiring for a number of positions worldwide. (if you are in the NY tri-state area, there may be an open PSO Consultant role available 😉 Checkout http://www.vmware.com/company/jobs/
If you have an questions, feel free to contact me on twitter, @wholmes.

Why Private Cloud? December 15, 2010

Posted by wholmes in Cloud, VM101.
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In talking to many people in IT, it seems that the concept of the private cloud, and the value a private cloud architecture brings is still not clear to many people. Below is a quick 5 minute video I created earlier this year, explaining the value of the private cloud. Please note, this video was made before the official release VMware vCloud Director (vCD), as it is mentioned by it’s pre-release name.

Average VCDX Age November 12, 2010

Posted by wholmes in Uncategorized.
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A comment was made on Twitter wondering who the youngest VCDX is. That made me curious also, as I believe one of the biggest indicators for whether someone will be successful as a VCDX candidate is a combination of breadth and depth of experience. And that breadth of experience usually grows with age…. So i decided to put up this totally unscientific poll. If you are a VCDX, please feel free to participate in this anonymous poll. Obviously, if I see more than 61 65 70 respondents, I will know something is awry.

vSS/vDS Static LACP Support? November 10, 2010

Posted by wholmes in Network.
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There seems to be some ongoing confusion around LACP support in VMware vNetwork Standard Switch and vNetwork Distributed Switches (vSS/vDS).
I have heard multiple references to “static LACP” support for vSS/vDS.

As of vSphere 4.1, only the Nexus 1000v truly supports LACP (Link Aggregation Control Protocol) port groups. For link aggregation using vSS/vDS, ports must be configured as static link aggregation groups (called static EtherChannel in the Cisco world, AKA static LAG or just static 802.3AD depending on the switch vendor) as vSS/vDS does not support LACP frames.

The terms EtherChannel and LACP seems to be incorrectly used interchangeably by some, and they are not the same. Any references to vSS/vDS support of “static LACP” is inaccurate. LACP is a specific protocol that is dependent on LACPDU frames to form the link aggregation group between ports. Only the Nexus 1000v supports sending LACPDU frames. If you see the term “static LACP” support used in relation to vSS/vDS configuration in any official VMware documentation, please comment below on where these references exist.

And just to make things a little more confusing, LACP and Port-Channels are no longer defined in IEEE 802.3AD, the definition has been moved to the IEEE 802.1AX standard.

This pdf shows features supported by vSS/vDS/Nexus1000v in vSphere, including the type of link aggregation supported by the differnt swithces. While it states vSphere 4.0 update 1, it is still applicable up to the current release, vSphere 4.1.

VMware Ionix acquisition March 2, 2010

Posted by wholmes in Uncategorized.
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VMware has purchased some of the technology and IP under the EMC Ionix portfolio. So what exactly did VMware purchase? See below.

· FastScale technology simplifies application and server stack management and optimizes deployment for physical, virtual and cloud infrastructures – allowing data centers to run up to three times more virtual machines without downgrading performance.

· Ionix Application Discovery Manager­ provides continuous discovery and mapping of applications, their dependencies, and configurations with respect to their underlying infrastructure in data center environments.

· Ionix Server Configuration Manager collects, stores, and manages configuration settings from servers and workstations, across physical and virtual environments.

· Ionix Service Manager  is a 100 percent Web architected solution that automates IT Service Management (ITSM) processes in enterprise organizations.  The solution is independently verified to the highest level of ITIL compatibility for Incident Management, Problem Management Change Management, Release Management, Configuration Management, Service Level Management and Availability Management.

Linked Clones February 28, 2010

Posted by wholmes in Linked Clones.
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Below is a compilation of material and my own findings, regarding linked clone technology.

Linked Clone Architecture:

“Copy on write” (COW) disks are the disk structures utilized by Linked Clone technology found in VMware Lab Manager and View Composer.The COW disk starts as an empty (16MB) file and captures all writes to the instance it represents in a sparse format. By reading from both the COW disk and the underlying base disk(s) you get the equivalent of a new disk instance. A multitude of COW disks can reference the same base disk to create many copies of that disk. COW disks can also be built off of other COW disks, so the eventual structure looks like a tree of disks, whose internal nodes are shared. Lab Manager limits the tree to a depth of 30, and there is no limit to the width of the tree. Lab Manager also ensures that all internal nodes are read-only at the application level, and that leaf nodes are the only nodes on the tree that can be “run” so that we don’t destroy dependent COW disks.  All COW operations are block-level operations.

When COW disks are used, their data structures take up ESX kernel memory (the “COW heap”). The default COW heap is 40MB in ESX 3. Most of the COW heap is taken up by “root entries” that use 4 bytes of COW heap for every 2MB of disk represented by COW disks. The result is that we can only open COW disks representing a sum of 20TB (40Mb/4b*2Mb) of base disk on each ESX 3.x server. This includes all nodes in a chain of COW disks, so if you are deploying VMs having a 10-deep chain of COW disks built off 250GB base disks, you could only open 8 of those VMs before running out of COW heap.

In ESX 4.x, the default COW heap has been increased to 192MB, allowing 96TB of disk to be represented (192Mb/4b*2Mb) by linked clones. It is still recommended to keep the chain depth 30 deep or less.

Performance:

Linked clone performance varies, and at times can perform better than monolithic disks. One reason for potentially greater performance is metadata caching. On VM Startup, metadata dictating which file to access to get data is written to the ESX COW heap . When a VM does a virtual SCSI read and hits the metadata cache, each virtual read will result in a single physical read. However, if there is a ESX cache miss, there will be a virtual read in addition to multiple physical reads for a VM reading across many disk sectors.

Linked clone performance can be further boosted at a lower level in the architecture through storage array caching. This can cause commonly used COW disks to be read from storage array memory cache instead of disk. Ample storage array cache will greatly benefit an environment utilizing linked clones.

Creation:

Linked Clone creation is supported through VMware Lab Manager, VMware View, and the vSphere Web Services SDK. The following document details Linked Clone creation through the vSphere Web Services

http://www.vmware.com/support/developer/vc-sdk/linked_vms_note.pdf

(note, this document incorrectly states a limitation of 8 VMs in a linked virtual machine group. The true limitation is based on the COW heap, noted above)

There are also a number of unsupported scripts available within the VMware community to create linked clones within ESX 3.5, such as the following created by William Lam.
http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-9020

Caveats:

A number of in guest operations can cause large amounts of disk writes to occur, increasing the size of the delta disk and negating space savings. These operations should be limited/avoided in linked clones when possible.

  • Disk-defragmentation
  • system memory-dumps
  • application generated file writes/logs

Reference: http://communities.vmware.com/thread/221114

Virtualization for the Luddite -Part 2 February 20, 2010

Posted by wholmes in VM101.
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In my previous post,  I discussed the difficulties in explaining the virtues of virtualization to the average consumer. Today I will focus on a target audience that is familiar to all of us in the IT field, that being the “old-school IT Professional”. Before I continue, let me clearly define what I mean by old-school. It is not a reference to an IT Professionals age, specialty, or even to any specific product they support (after all, even Novell has a Cloud Computing strategy now 😉 ).  Old-school is more a reference to a mentality that resists the natural progression of change. Whether one realizes it or not, we are in the middle of a transformative era in the IT industry. I believe x86 virtualization has been the most disruptive technology since the advent of the WWW. And the full impact of virtualization is still far from being fully actualized.  Gartner estimates less than 20% of the worlds servers have been virtualized, and an even smaller fraction of that number for desktops. That number is estimated reach 50% by 2012. As virtualization cements itself as a key enabler of Cloud Computing, the full impact of the technology will become even more evident.

The Old-School IT Professional

So back to my friend Mr/Ms.Oldschool. The old-school professional doesn’t like change. Whether he/she is the application developer that says, “my app will never run on a virtual machine”, or is the infrastructure professional that has been happily managing their Windows/Linux/network/storage environment for years and says “if it isn’t broke, why change it”. They could even be the security professional that resists virtualization because, in their eyes “it has not been proven secure”. All of these people share one thing in common, a fear of change. So how do we convince someone like this the benefits of virtualization. Even before getting into the technical nitty-gritty of explaining to Mr/Ms. Old-school why virtualization is beneficial to them, I think we have to understand what Mr/Ms. Old-school is really afraid of.

Many times, the fear of change felt by Mr/Ms. Old-school is because they feel their job may be threatened. They have heard of the efficiencies gained by virtualization, and fear their job may become obsolete. Is this true? The most common retort to this fear is explaining their job will not disappear, but change as they will be freed to work on projects in proactive manner, instead of in a reactionary state of always putting out fires and fulfilling last minute requests. But my opinion differs slightly. Yes, their current job/role will become obsolete. Their job MUST become obsolete for the future datacenter to reach the efficiency businesses demand today. Whether your job disappears or not is up to you, Mr/Ms. Oldschool.

To stay relevant in the IT field, every professional needs to reinvent themselves multiple times throughout their career. This has never been truer than in the environment we live in today. The combination of socio-economic policy such as the “go green” initiative, corporate  fiscal conservatism coming out of the recent recession, and the maturation of a really powerful technology has created a perfect storm of change. One can either be swept away by said storm, or ride it out to new career heights. The choice lies with each individual.

So what can we do to convince Mr/Ms. Oldschool that it is worthwhile to invest in virtualization. For that, I think I will employ a little whiteboarding….

Physical Datacenter

Above is Mr/Ms. Oldschool in the physical datacenter. They have to manage all these resources, and is driven by management to provide and adjust resources on the fly as business drivers dictate change. But this is no easy task, as the process to change these physical resources is extremely time consuming and labor intensive. In the upper right and corner, are the users, with never ending requests dictating business drivers like the march of undead zombies. As can be seen, no one in this environment is very happy. As pressure increases from the demands of the business, Management has even had to crack out the whip!

Virtualized Datacenter

Next we have Mr./Ms. Oldschool in the virtualized datacenter. The stream of requests from the undead users still pour in, but the workload on Mr/Ms.Oldschool is not nearly as time-consuming or labor intensive. Mr.Oldschool now has a pool of virtualized compute resources, abstracted from the physical resources, to allocate as needed, and meet the needs of the business. As can be seen, Management now no longer has to employ the whip.

While the virtualized datacenter is a far improvement over the physical datacetner, it is still not the final destination in the virtualization journey. Business drivers are still driven through a serial path, with Mr./Ms. Oldschool still many times in a reactionary state. The major improvement is it now takes a few hours to react and meet the needs of the business instead of days or weeks.

vCloud

Finally, here Mr/Ms. Oldschool has reached the holy grail of the datacenter. This is the vision of VMware vCloud. The foundation of virtualization has now been built on top of with a self-service portal that ties back into the nebulous compute resources provided by virtualiztion. The never-ending stream of requests from undead users now can be self-fulfilled in parallel, allowing the allocation of compute resources to automatically be more closely tied to business drivers. If available compute resources suddenly wane, resources can be leveraged from an external public cloud. Business continuity is provided by another cloud hosting DR resources. As can be seen, everyone is very happy in this scenario. Mr/Ms. Old-school now can focus on a preemptive tasks such as capacity planning, planned change control, and further automation. Management is happy as all the business requests no long stream through them. Management is so happy in fact, that they are throwing money at Mr/Ms. Oldschool!

So hopefully, in understanding that virtualization is the building block and foundation of the dynamic datacetner, the old-school IT professional will get on-board and realize resistance is futile. Next, In the third and final installment of the Virtualzation for the Luddite series, we will discuss explaining the merits of virtualization to the IT Executive…

Virtualization for the luddite February 15, 2010

Posted by wholmes in VM101.
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In the course of my day to day life, there are many times I am asked what I do for a living. Most times my answer will be a generic response of “I work with comptuers”. But at times, the questioner actually wants to know a little more, and I am at a loss to give a quick, simple, succinct explanation to someone not familiar with the IT field. I want to give a meaningful answer, but not one so entrenched in the weeds that the persons eyes start to glaze over. So that got me thinking, how does one explain the concept of virtualization to different target audiences.

The Average Consumer

I love VMware and it’s technology, and think VMware should be a household name ala Apple, Microsoft or IBM. While VMware does not have alot of focus on the consumer market at this time, the technology is so cool that even my Grandma would appreciate it. I believe the capabilities of virtualization can benefit even the average consumer. So how does one communicate the ‘coolness’ of VMware to the tech uninitiated?

If the person is a Mac user, the explanation could be as easy as explaining VMware Fusion as a product that moderates and ends the famous “im a Mac”, “im a PC” battle on television ads. I could even see a commercial with the VMware guy refereeing the battle. Explaining VMware Fusion allows a PC to be run as a self-contained unit on-top of a Mac should peek the interest of alot of consumers.

In the PC world, using  products such as VMware Workstation and Player is second nature to many IT professionals. However, these products are far from household names. Technology such as EMC/Iomega’s v.Clone is a really cool VMware enabled product aimed at the consumer. But even the consumer oriented v.Clone can be a little confusing to the average consumer at first site. That initial confusion scares many people away from learning about a tool that could be extremely useful in their day-to-day computing lives. So what do the rest of you guys think? Should VMware be a household name? Is it ready? How do you explain the benefits to your friends and relatives. Do you even bother trying. :-)…

In my next two posts in the “Virtualization for the luddite” series, I will discuss a couple target audiences within the Enterprise,  that can be even more stubborn and resistant to change and new technology.

The “Old School” IT Professional

The Executive