The Software Defined VMUG Advantage

vmugI’ve been a VMUG Advantage member going on three years now so I’ve experienced first hand some of the great value that it brings along with it.  Basically, if you plan on attending VMworld and doing a couple of exams or training courses throughout the year the VMUG Advantage discounts offered more than pay for the program fees.  The full VMUG Advantage beneiftis can be seen here, but for laziness sake, here’s a quick outline of the “biggies”.

  • $100 discount on VMworld
  • 20% off VMware delivered classes
  • 20% off VMware certifications
  • Access to all VMworld online content
  • 50% off VMware Workstation/Fusion
  • Discounts on VMware Learning Zone, VMware On-Demand, Lab Connect and more.

With that said, those that can’t attend VMworld or are not planning on taking any VMware training or exams might find themselves scratching their heads wondering what real value the VMUG Advantage program can bring to them.  And honestly, before now their wasn’t a whole lot.

Enter EVALExperience

New in 2015 VMUG Advantage subscribers will now have access to EVALExperience!  EVALExpereince provides subscribers with exclusive access to certain pieces of VMware software, coupled with a 365 day non-production NFR license.  Basically, VMUG Advantage subscribers will be able to download and use nine different pieces of VMware software in their home labs in order to explore new features, gain hands on experience and further educate themselves on the offerings.  So what’s included?  Well, it’s not a simple lightweight set of software – there is some expensive sweet applications included (shown below) that should be able to keep you busy for the year

evalexperienceproducts

VMware vCenter Server 5 Standalone. VMware vSphere w/ Operations Management (Enterprise Plus), VMware vCloud Suite Standard, VMware vRealize Operations Insight, VMware vRealize Operations 6 Enterprise, VMware vRealize Log Insight, VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon, VMware Horizon Advanced, VMware Virtual SAN

To me, EVALExperience is a solution to a couple of gripes within the community.  First, it adds that extra value to those VMUG Advantage subscribers that don’t attend VMworld, or don’t take any official training or certifications.  IMO the ability to evaluate and download software for longer than the usual 60 day trial period is well worth the $200 price tag of VMUG Advantage.  Secondly, it provides somewhat of a replacement to the VMTN that VMware used to offer.  The VMTN which offered a similar type solution of downloading and using NFR licenses of VMware’s products was put to rest a number of years back.  The community for a while now have been trying to get VMware to reinstate the VMTN – this to me, along with teaming up with VMUG, answers those screams about the VMTN.

So, if you are already a VMUG Advantage subscriber you should have received an email outlining how you can gain access, if you aren’t, go and sign up here.  More info on the EVALExperience program can also be found here.  For now, a big thanks to VMUG and Happy Testing!!!

A glimpse into the #VFD4 Sponsors – Simplivity, SolarWinds, StorMagic and VMTurbo

 Disclaimer: As a Virtualization Field Day 4 delegate all of my flight, travel, accommodations, eats, and drinks are paid for.  However I do not receive any compensation nor am I required to write anything in regards to the event or the sponsors.  This is done at my own discretion.

VFD-Logo-400x398In a previous post I highlighted 4 of the 8 sponsors taking part in Virtualization Field Day 4 coming up January 14th through 16th in Austin, Texas.  Now it’s time to move on to the final four!  As mentioned in the previous post, the Tech Field Day events would certainly not be possible without the support of the sponsors so a big thanks goes out to all 8 who are participating this round.  Without further ado, let’s get to it…

Simplivity

logo-wpcf_100x26If we look at the hyper-convergence market today it would be somewhat of an understatement to say that it is “red hot”.  Simplivity, along with their competitor Nutanix, and fellow VFD sponsor Scale Computing have really changed the way companies are deploying in house IT.  Even VMware has jumped on board by providing oems a go to market strategy leveraging their EVO:Rail hyper-convergence reference architecture.  It’s a fair statement to say that hyper convergence is here to stay and a big part of that is due to technology and material that Simplivity has produced.  Their product, the OmniCube provides customer with a scaleable, building block type architecture while encapsulating the server compute, storage, network, switching into a single pool of resources.  I’ve seen Simplivity’s solution in action many times during tradeshows and VMworld, but never “out in the wild.”.  Honestly, I think they have a great solution and there are a lot of things I like about it – The global source side dedup is awesome, compression is great.  I also like the overall way Simplivity goes to market, by allowing commodity x86 hardware to take their software, along with their custom built hardware accelerator PCIx card and essentially end up with a build your own adventure type deployment.  The hyper convergence market is “the in thing” right now so I can’t wait to see what Simplivity has in store for VFD4.  Simplivity has dabbled with some of the Tech Field Day happenings in previous years, such as the SDDC Symposium and the TFD Extra’s that are held during VMworld but this will be their first full go at a full Tech Field Day event.

SolarWinds

400px-SolarWinds_logo (1)What more can we say about Tech Field Day and SolarWinds?!?!  They have been a long time supporter of the event participating in (I’m using abbreviations since there are a lot of them) NFD1, NFD3, NFD5, NFD6, TFD4, TFD6, TFD7, and TFD9 – That’s quite a resume when it comes to sponsorship.  As a company I really respect the way SolarWinds handles the community surrounding them.  I had the chance a few months back to participate as a thwack ambassador and I can’t give this community enough praise!  They are engaged, helpful and smart!  Be sure to check out thwack if you get a chance!  But, on to what matters – SolarWinds and their technology.  This being a day about virtualization one can only assume that SolarWinds will speak to their management software, cleverly titled “Virtualization Manager”  I’ve personally never used the product but have seen it in action many times during demos, webinars, etc.. and honestly if you are utilizing both VMware and Hyper-V in your environment and looking for a monitoring/management solution I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend that you at least check out SolarWinds.  They have a ton of fully customizable alerts and reports to help customers track things like CPU ready, Memory balooning as well a complete section to help during capacity planning by finding under and over sized VMs within the environment.  All this, integrating with other traditional SolarWinds products such as Server & Application Manager (SAM).  If you have other SolarWinds products in your environment, Virtualization Manager may be a perfect fit.  Whatever SolarWinds is presenting at VFD4 I will be all ears and for sure have the info posted here.

StorMagic

StorMagic-Wordmark-Black-CMYK-lo (1)When it comes to StorMagic they are one of those companies that I’ve heard of before, but have never really looked too deeply at.  Honestly, up until I began checking them out in more detail for this post I had assumed that they were “just another VSA vendor”.  And in some ways, well, I’m right.  But in a lot of ways, I’m wrong.  StorMagics’ product, SvSAN is indeed a VSA, but not “just another VSA”.  SvSAN seems to serve a distinct type of customer.  A customer with a large centralized infrastructure and many remote/branch offices that it supports.  In a perfect world these remote sites would have crazy awesome fibre connections back to the central office and all the applications, VMs and services would be driven from the central offices datacenter.  In the real world we have crappy WAN links and “needy” applications – These needy applications require themselves to run inside of these branch offices in order to provide  low latency and meet performance requirements.  Perfect world, we have the budget and infrastructure to throw at this problem – SANs in every remote office.  Real world, there’s no money!  Back to the perfect world, we’d have IT staff in every office babysitting all of this stuff.  Real world, we don’t, we have staff sitting in our central offices running rampant, having the person that answers the phone offsite reboot servers for them!  SvSAN really helps bridge these perfect and real worlds.  By utilizing the SvSAN VSA in the remote sites we are able to provide shared storage to our remote locations in an active-active fashion with as little as 2 nodes all managed centrally.  Watch for more on StorMagic and SvSAN next week.

VMTurbo

VMTurboLogoSmI’m pretty pumped to see VMTurbo at VFD4 since I know that one of the presenters, Eric Wright (twitter/blog) will be representing.  The thing is Eric, along with Angelo Luciani and myself are co-leaders of the Toronto VMUG – which means we have seen countless presentations and sessions sitting side by side – It will be definitely cool to see Eric on the other side of the fence and I’m sure he will knock it out of the park.  As far as VMTurbo go, like many other players they participate in the operations/management end of things.  You can truly see that they have put a lot of development, time, and efffort into their flagship product Operations Manager.  OM, like others, is a monitoring solution – looking for performance issues and troublesome areas in your environment, and making recommendations on how to alleviate them.  OM though takes a drastically different approach than most monitoring tools.  VMTurbo takes your virtual data centre and transforms it into the what they call an “economic market”.  Picture this, your resources, things like memory, cpu, etc – these are all in demand, and they all have  a cost.  The cost of these items go up and down depending on availability.  Not much memory around, cost goes up – have an abundance of memory, well, things are going to be a bit cheaper.  The VMs are the consumers running around buying up all this merchandise.  And depending on the products recommendations, say a VM was looking to move from one host to another, it may or may not be a good idea.  Things may cost more over on that other host, so in turn, althought it is experiencing issues, it simply may be more cost prohibitive to stay right where it is.  VMTurbo has been around a while, and they are a big player when it comes to community participation.  If you are looking for a good primer, check out the videos from VFD3.  Again I’m excited to see Eric, excited to see VMTurbo, and excited to learn more about the interesting model they have.

See you in Texas!

So, there you have it.  Between the above and this post we have a brief look into the 8 sponsors who will be participating in Virtualization Field Day 4 next week (Jan 14-16) in Austin, TX.  Just simply reviewing old TFD youtube videos has really got me pumped and excited and I can barely wait to sit at those tables amongst all the brain power that is attending.

If you want to watch live, you can – just head to the VFD4 landing page during the event as all sessions are live streamed.  Also, don’t forget to watch and participate via twitter using the #VFD4 hashtag.

A glimpse into the #VFD4 sponsors – CommVault, Dell, Platform9 and Scale Computing

 Disclaimer: As a Virtualization Field Day 4 delegate all of my flight, travel, accommodations, eats, and drinks are paid for.  However I do not receive any compensation nor am I required to write anything in regards to the event or the sponsors.  This is done at my own discretion.

VFD-Logo-400x398Virtualization Field Day 4 is right around the corner, taking place January 14-16 in Austin, Texas!  Now, I’m trying to be smart and perform due diligence to the sponsors by doing a little pre-blogging and research on all of the vendors that will be participating.  There are a total of 8 sponsors, and honestly, without them, Virtualization Field Day would be pretty boring.  They are the ones that derive up the content and spark up the great conversations that happen over the three days both at the event and over Twitter.

Some of the sponsors I’m very familiar with, however there are some, that I’ve simply just heard of (thus my need to research).   So, without further ado, here’s a small glimpse into 4 of the the 8 wonderful sponsors making #VFD4 possible.  Watch for a post with the remaining sponsors soon!

CommVault

commvault-logo-wpcf_100x38I had always been under the impression that CommVault was somewhat of a newer company, not quite “startup” status, but I had always just assumed they were a decade or so old – I couldn’t be more wrong.  CommVault had actually been formed as development group within Bell Labs  a way back in 1988.  To put 1988 into perspective, well, I was 10 and Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup – I have a son who will soon go through the first situation himself, the second, well, I don’t see Lord Stanley in oil country any time soon :)  Yeah, so back to CommVault.  1988 places CommVault at the 17 year mark – certainly a long period of time for a software company to be around.  The magic sauce at CommVault is their flagship product – Simpana.    Simpana dubs itself to be “A Single Platform to Protect, Manage, and Access all of your companies information” and does so by providing customers with one code base, one product that handles all of your backup, replication, archive, and recovery needs.  And by all they truly mean all – Simpana has support for physical servers, virtual servers (VMware and Hyper-V), desktops, laptops and even support for backing up and archiving individual application items such SQL databases and Exchange emails.  One driving feature behind Simpana that sparks my interest is the ability to “migrate” or backup/restore to/from VMware, Hyper-V, vCloud, etc – this can definitely give customers options in terms of disaster recovery.  Simpana has a ton of features, too many to go over on a small intro blurb so check them out yourself – I can’t wait to see what CommVault has to offer for VFD4 and you can bet that I’ll summarize it as best I can here.

Dell

dell_blue_rgb-wpcf_60x60This was one of those lesser known companies that I’ve never heard of and had to do a little research on (Sorry – that was really a bad joke :) ).  This will be Dell’s first time presenting at a Virtualization Field Day – they have certainly been present at Networking Field Day, Storage Field Day as well as a couple Tech Field Days but this is their first go at a VFD.  Dell is a huge player in terms of virtualization and the company covers almost, if not all components of a virtual data center – meaning they sell servers, networking, storage, software and services all relating to virtualization (server, desktop, networking, storage) technologies.  With that said, the mystery of what component Dell is going to present on is definitely making Dell number 1 on my most anticipated sessions.  The fact that the Dell sessions will be held deep within the guts of their Austin headquarters is also a pretty awesome perk.

Platform9

Platform9Logo-wpcf_100x42Less than 6 months after coming out of stealth Platform9 is positioned to give their first ever appearance at a Tech Field Day event on Wednesday afternoon.  From what I can tell Platform9’s goal is really to take the simplicity, agility, and convenience of the public cloud and apply that to a customers on site, local hardware – kind of like, yup, you guessed it – a private cloud.  There is a lot of competition in this space – and to tell you the truth, I personally don’t have a whole lot of experience with either Platform9 or their competitors, so I can only go on what I see on their website and what I have heard others say – this will change come next week during VFD4.   Currently Platform9 supports KVM, vSphere, and Docker – whether or not this will be expanded I have no idea.  The highlights I have noticed are the fact that the Platform9 management layer is somewhat hypervisor/technology agnostic, meaning vSphere/KVM VMs, along with Docker containers are all treated as what is called an instance within Platform9, and it’s 100% cloud managed, delivered in a SaaS model.  All of this, built on OpenStack – which could be a huge +1 on their part if they have simplified this enough.  Again, I can’t find very much in terms of demos or videos out there, so I’m very excited to see what Platform9 has to offer come next Wednesday.

Scale Computing

Scale_Logo_High_Res-wpcf_100x38Scale Computing has been around since 2009 which makes them somewhat of a veteran in terms of converged infrastructure – but the fact is, unlike Simplivity and Nutanix, Scale started out on a different path.  They broke into the IT world by shipping scale-out storage – NAS/SAN models which were targeted toward the SMB market to help drive companies cost of storage down while providing a very simple, easy to use storage solution.  This all changed in 2012 when Scale announced the availability of HC3 – a scale-able, clustered hyper-converged node architecture that included their core storage, but now with compute and virtualization thrown into the mix.  By 2012 Nutanix already had a piece of hardware shipping, with Simplivity not long to follow the year after – but their seems to be a few things that differentiate the HC3.  Perhaps the biggest being target audience – Scale has always, and is still very focused on the SMB market, which means price is one of the major differences.  In order to drive down price, Scale developed their very own fork of KVM, meaning their offering comes complete – no need for VMware or any other hypervisor/management licensing.  The HC3 peaks my interest as SMB has a lot of potential with virtualization – a lot of small companies just getting started or still exploring virtualization options.  I’ve not explored HC3 in enough detail to see if they have what it takes in terms of benefits and features to become a viable player – so I’m very anxious to see what they have to offer at VFD4.

And then there were four…

In efforts to keep this post small enough for someone to read (and to give me a break from writing) I think I’ll take the remaining four VFD4 sponsors (Simplivity, SolarWinds, StorMagic and VMTurbo) and place them in a second post.  Watch for that sometime soon!

Virtualization Field Day 4 kicks off next Wednesday, January 14th – As always, it is always live-streamed so you too can join into the action by watching live stream one the VFD4 landing page and participate in the conversations via Twitter using the hashtag #VFD4.  Can’t wait!

Disclaimer: As a delegate all of my flight, travel, accommodations, eats, and drinks are paid for.  However I do not receive any compensation nor am I required to write anything in regards to the event or the sponsors.  This is done at my own discretion.

VeeamON 2 – Return of the green!

Since I do a lot of posts related to Veeam Backup and Replication I thought I would give any readers who haven’t already heard a quick heads up that VeeamON, Veeams premier data center availability event has been scheduled for a second appearance in Vegas come 2015!  That’s right!  It’s back!

veeamon2015

The return of the green

I was lucky enough to be one of the bloggers selected to attend VeeamON 2014 and I can say from first hand experience that if you have anything to do with Veeam, whether you are a customer implementing it, an administrator managing it, a partner selling it or even the person who signs the dotted line on the purchase order you will find something worthwhile at this conference.  The highlight for me, other than the most epic party ever, was definitely the technical sessions that Veeam puts together for this event.  Anything and everything in regards to Veeam Backup and Replication is covered during this show – and the sessions do not disappoint in terms of technical level.  There are a ton of Veeam engineers present at the show, so let’s just say no question should go unanswered!  The expo lounge was great, more low-key than most events which was really nice to have conversations (and beers) with both Veeam and the vendor ecosystem surrounding them.

veeamonkeynote

Last year the show was held at the Cosmopolitan, this year they have moved across the road (if that exists in Vegas) to the Aria Resort in order to support a projected growth of attendance.   Let me just say that having the conference all enclosed under one roof (even though it is a Vegas roof) is very nice as it provides a more intimate setting and allows you to easily run back to your room to drop off swag, do some work, etc.   Just as last year you can pick yourself up some deeply discounted VMCE training, however this time starting a few days early to allow attendees to take in both the training as well as all the conference has to offer – a great opportunity for those looking to get certified!

If any of this (education, learning, certification, networking, partying) seems to spark your interest you can go ahead and pre-register for VeeamON 2015 here!  Taking place October 26 through the 29th it should be a great time and I hope to see you there again!  For now, keep calm and VeeamON!

What’s in a name? – The importance of naming conventions

namebookAll to often I find myself in the following situation – I’m in the midst of deploying a new service or project into our environment.  I have gone through tons of user manuals and articles, went through weeks of training and technical tutorials, successfully completed proof of concepts and pilots, yet as I’m beginning the production deployment I sit at my desk puzzled, staring into space in deep thought, perplexed by the multitude of options running through my mind over what I am going to name this server.  In the Windows world, those 15 simple characters allowed in the NetBIOS name puts my mind in such a tailspin – sure, we have our own naming conventions for servers, first three digits are dedicated to a location code, followed by a dash, then whatever, then ending in a “-01” and increment – so that leaves me now with 8 characters to describe the whatever part that I’m deploying, and in some instances, it’s those 8 simple characters that tend to be the most difficult decision in the project – even with somewhat of a server and endpoint naming convention in place.

But it goes beyond just servers and endpoints.

Sure, most companies have naming processes in place for their servers and workstations – and I’ll eventually come up with something for those 8 characters after a coffee and some arguments/advice from others.  The most recent struggles I’ve had though, apply not to servers, but to inventory items within vSphere.  There are a lot objects within vSphere that require names – Datastores, PortGroups, Switches, Folders, Resource Pools, Datacenters, Storage Profiles, Datastore Clusters…..I can go on for quite some time but you get the point.  All of these things require some sort of a name, and with that name comes a great deal of importance in terms of support.  For outsiders looking in on your environment and their understanding of what something is, as well as for your own “well-being” when troubleshooting issues – a name can definitely make or break your day.

So how do we come up with a naming convention?

boy-61171_640This sucks but there is no right or wrong answer for your environment – it’s your environment and you need to do whatever makes sense for you!  Unlike naming children we can’t simply pick up a book called “1001 names for vSphere Inventory Items” and say them out loud with our spouses till we find one that works – we need something descriptive, something we can use when troubleshooting to quickly identify what and where the object is.

Back to my recent struggle – it had to do with datastores.  For a long time I’ve had datastores simply defined as arrayname-vmfs01 and increment.  So, vnx-vmfs01, vnx-vmfs02, eva-vmfs01, etc…  This has always been fine for us – we are small enough that I can pretty much remember what is what.  That said, after adding more arrays and  a mixture of disk types (FC, SAS, NLSAS, SATA) I began to see a problem.  Does eva-vmfs01 sit on SAS or SATA disks?  Is it on the 6400 or 4400?  Is it in the primary or secondary datacenter?  Is this production or test storage?  Does it house VMs or backups?  What is the LUN ID of eva-vmfs01?  I know – most of the questions can be answered by running some CLI commands, clicking around within the vSphere client or performing a little more investigation – but why put ourselves through this when we can simply answer these questions within the objects name?

So I set out to Twitter, asking if anyone had any ideas in regards to naming conventions for datastores – and I got a ton of responses, all with some great suggestions, and all different!  So to sum it all up, here are a few suggestions of what to include in a datastore name that I received.

  • Array munufacturer/model/model number
  • Disk Type (SAS, FC, NLSAS, SATA, SCSI)
  • Lun Identifier/Volume Number
  • Destination Type (Backups, VMs)
  • Storage Tiers (Gold, Silver Bronze/Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier3)
  • Transport type (iSCSI, NFS, FC, FCoE)
  • Location/Datacenter
  • Raid Levels
  • vSphere Cluster the datastore belongs to
  • Of course, Description

Yeah, that’s a crap-load of information to put in a name – and maybe it makes sense to you to use it all but in my case it’s just too much.  That said, it’s all great information, the toughest part is just picking the pieces you need and arranging them in an order that you like.  Having something named DC1-TOR-HP-EVA-6400-FIBRE-FC-R6-VM-GOLD-CLUSTER1-L15 is a little much.

And in the end

So what did I chose?  Well, to tell you the truth I haven’t chose anything yet.  I thought by writing this post I might spark some creative thinking and it would pop into my head – but no – I’m more confused than ever.  Honestly, I’m leaning towards something like array-disktype-lunid, like EVA-FIBRE-L6 or VNX-NLSAS-L4, but I just don’t know.  This stuff is certainly not a deal breaker, but I’m just trying to make my life a bit easier.  If you think you have the end all be all of naming conventions feel free to leave a comment!  I’m always open for suggestions!

#VFD4 – A Canadian in Texas?

VFD-Logo-400x398I know, I didn’t leave much to the imagination with the blog title and as you may of guessed I’m going to be attending Virtualization Field Day 4 in Austin, Texas this January!

I was ecstatic when I received the invitation and it didn’t take much convincing to get me to go!  I’ve been a huge fan and supporter of the Tech Field Day format over the years, and not too many of them go by where I don’t catch a few session on the livestream.  The fact that Austin is on average 30 degrees Celsius warmer than here in January sure does help too!

The event

Aside from the heat I’m definitely looking forward to being a part of VFD4.  This will be the fourth installment of Virtualization Field Day and it takes place January 14th through the 16th in Austin, Texas.  The Tech Field Day events bring vendors and bloggers/thought leaders together in a presentation/discussion style room to talk everything and anything about given products or solutions.  I’ll point you to techfieldday.com to get a way better explanation about the layout of the events.

The Delegates

This will be my first time as a delegate and I’m feeling very humbled for having been selected.  Honestly I get to sit alongside some of the brightest minds that I know.  Thus far Amit Panchel (@AmitPanchal76), Amy Manley (@WyrdGirl), James Green (@JDGreen), Julian Wood (@Julian_Wood), Justin Warren (@JPWarren), and Marco Broeken (@MBroeken) have all been confirmed as delegates with more to be announced as time ticks on.  Some of these people I’ve met before, some I know strictly from Twitter and others I haven’t met at all so I’m excited to catch up with some people as well as meet some new people.

The Sponsors

So far there have been 6 sponsors sign up for #VFD4 – Platform9, Scale Computing, Simplivity, Solarwinds, StorMagic and VMTurbo.  Just as with the delegates some of these companies I know a lot about, some I know a little, and others I certainly need to read up on.  Having seen many, and I mean many vendor presentations in my lifetime I have tremendous respect for those that sponsor and present at Tech Field Day.  The sessions tend to be very technical, very interactive, and very informative – three traits that I believe make a presentation.  I’m really looking forward to seeing my fellow Toronto VMUG Co-Leader and friend Eric Wright (@discoposse) sitting on the other side of the table :)

Be sure to follow along via Twitter by watching the #VFD4 hashtag leading up to and during the event.  Also a livestream will be setup so you too can watch as it all goes down.

I’m so grateful to everyone for getting this opportunity – so thank you to my peers, the readers of this blog, Stephen Foskett and all the organizers of all the great Tech Field Days and the virtualization community in general – See you in Texas!