Monthly Archives: May 2012

VMware vSphere 5 Training by #TrainSignal – Random Thoughts…

Throughout my journey in achieving my VCP 5 there have been several resources which I have utilized and wrote about when compiling my OMG VCP 5 Study Guide.  I have been trying to include a review of them all and one that I have constantly mentioned has been TrainSignal's VMware vSphere 5 training and thought that it might be beneficial to my readers to let you know what I thought about it.

I've always been a fan of TrainSignal's training and have held their VMware vSphere Troubleshooting course in high regards in my review here.  Well, the VMware vSphere 5 training is no different.  This time David Davis (blog/twitter) teams up with Elias Khnaser (blog/twitter) to push out nearly 17 hours of all that is vSphere 5.  The course takes you through a whopping 36 lessons which cover everything that is listed on the VCP 510 Exam Blueprint…and more.  As you can see from the outline below you will be exposed to everything from the core installation of ESXi/vCenter, to management, configuration, administration and even things like how to understand licensing and how to make it all happen with an iPad.

VMware vSphere 5 Training – Course Outline

Lesson 1 - Getting Started with VMware vSphere 5 Training Course

Lesson 2 - Lab Setup

Lesson 3 - Course Scenario

Lesson 4 - Overview of VMware vSphere 5

Lesson 5 - Installing VMware ESXi 5

Lesson 6 - Installing vCenter 5

Lesson 7 - Installing vCenter 5 as a Linux Appliance (vCSA)

Lesson 8 - Using the vSphere 5 Web Client

Lesson 9 - What’s New in vSphere 5

Lesson 10 - Navigating vSphere Using the vSphere Client

Lesson 11 - vCenter 5 – Configuring Your New Virtual Infrastructure

Lesson 12 - Creating and Modifying Virtual Guest Machines

Lesson 13 - Installing and Configuring VMware Tools

Lesson 14 - Understanding and Using Tasks, Events, and Alarms

Lesson 15 - Virtual Storage 101 and Storage Terminology

Lesson 16 - vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA)

Lesson 17 - Creating a Free iSCSI SAN with OpenFiler

Lesson 18 - Administering VMware ESXi Server Security

Lesson 19 - vSphere Virtual Networking

Lesson 20 - Using the vSphere Distributed Virtual Switch (dvswitch)

Lesson 21 - Moving Virtual Machines with vMotion

Lesson 22 - Moving Virtual Storage with svMotion

Lesson 23 - Performance Optimization with Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)

Lesson 24 - Implementing High Availability with VMware HA (VMHA)

Lesson 25 - Super High Availability with VMware Fault Tolerance (FT)

Lesson 26 - Upgrading from VMware vSphere 4 to vSphere 5

Lesson 27 - vSphere Command Line Interface (CLI) Options

Lesson 28 - vSphere Auto Deploy

Lesson 29 - Storage DRS

Lesson 30 - Policy-driven Storage

Lesson 31 - Understanding the New vSphere 5 vRAM Pooled Pricing

Lesson 32 - Network I/O Control (NIOC)

Lesson 33 - Storage I/O Control (SIOC)

Lesson 34 - ESXi Firewall

Lesson 35 - VMware Data Recovery (VDR) 2

Lesson 36 - Administering vSphere Using an iPad

I can't go through every lesson as this post would be a mile long, but I will highlight a few of my favorite subjects from the training.

Lesson 15 – Virtual Storage 101 – Honestly, anything and everything you need to know to get you started with storage and vSphere is in this lesson.  Elias takes you through VMFS, vmdk's and all there is to know about setting up and configuring iSCSI, NFS, and Fibre Channel within vSphere 5.  

Lesson 17 – Creating a free iSCSI SAN with Openfiler – In this lesson David takes you through everything you need to know to download, install, and configure OpenFiler on a VM to get yourself an iSCSI SAN.  This is invaluable to those with limited budget for home labs.

All of the lessons dealing with new vSphere 5 features – There are a number of lessons focused around using some of the new features and enhancements in vSphere 5 such as the Web Client, vCenter Server Appliance, Storage DRS, vDR 2.0, AutoDeploy, etc…  These are all invaluable for VCP studying as you may not have the resources to put them within your lab and are all included on the VCP 510 blueprint.

As with all TrainSignal courses you get the DVD's which contain all the videos in formats to watch on your PC or iPad and additionally you get online access to the course through their website, printable pdfs of the notes/outlines/slides.  As many before me have stressed, the key to passing the VCP 5 is to practice and practice and lab and lab  If any training at all can get close to the benefits of having a home lab this is it.  You can watch tasks be performed right before your eyes.  I'd certainly recommend this course to everyone, even if you aren't pursuing the VCP 5 or already have it, these videos can be beneficial to you as an administrator.  And don't stop with just vSphere 5.  There are a slew of new courses from Trainsignal such as vSphere Advanced Networking and VMware vCloud Director Essentials. Go ahead and check out all the VMware training that TrainSignal has available.  You won't regret it :)

Dedup for your Dedup with #Veeam and #StarWind

Veeam does a great job at running deduplication to save valuable and expensive disk space for your backup storage however it does this per job, meaning all of the VMs within a job will be deduped with each other.  Now, I don't know anyone that has all of their VMs grouped within one single job, most the time their are multiple jobs each containing multiple VMs.  In the latter case you could be saving even more space (and money) if you could only apply deduplication to span across multiple Veeam backup jobs, and now, you can…enter StarWind Software and Global Deduplication. 

StarWind and Veeam have teamed up yet again to provide you as a Veeam customer the ability to save valuable space and money by applying deduplication across your Veeam Backup jobs, and they are doing this for the low low price of free…It's called Global deduplication for Veeam Backup and Replication and you can get it here.
 

 
By utilizing StarWind's iSCSI SAN technology and Veeam's Backup and Replication v6 you can setup your backup repositories inside of Veeam to reside on an iSCSI target provided by StarWind.  This will give you the best of both worlds.  Dedup inside the job from Veeam and more dedup across the repository by StarWind.  Did I mention that this solution was also cross-tested, certified, and fully supported by Veeam and StarWind?  Did I also mention that this solution is FREE to all Veeam customers?
 
Hopefully in the future I will have some time to put this solution together in my lab and do a few tests to see just how much space you can save and when i do I will most certainly post my results here.  For the time being, you can check out a couple of documents; 3 reasons to deploy Global dedup and the Solutions Overview which show some fantastic results and savings (up to 90%!!!!).  Also, I'd love to hear from anyone who has taken advantage of this offer and see just what their results were, leave your comments, questions, results below in the comments area…
 
On a side note, if you are not a Veeam customer you can still check out StarWind's iSCSI SAN for free by going to their product site, registering and downloading.  Also, if you are a vExpert, VCP, VCI, MCP, MCTS, or a MVP you can go and grab yourself a couple of NFR sockets worth of Veeam Backup and Replication for free by filling out the applicable form (VMware / Hyper-V)   No excuses not to try these technologies out now…

Webinar: Four Key Elements of a Successful Disaster Recovery Strategy

Join vExpert Greg Shields as he talks about 4 elements you need to consider in order to be successful when developing a great DR strategy and how one of my sponsors, AppAssure can help you along the way….  Follow the link below to register!

vCenter Operations and Virtual Machine Faults

Every morning I like to fire up vCOps and have a look at my environment and when I do this, I like to see nothing but green (maybe a bit of yellow :))  For the past week or so that hasn't been the case…  Not that I have any performance issues, but I do have what is called a 'fault' on a few of my Virtual Machines.  I've been troubleshooting an issue as of late with something causing a few of my hosts to become disconnected, and HA has been attempting (and failing) to restart a few of my VMs, which in turns generates an alarm on the VM and a fault inside of vCOps.  Well, the issue has since been resolved and everything is running fine again, however vCOps is still hanging on to those faults for some of the VMs.

Now I don't see this as a bad thing, it certainly is nice to have a record of these issues inside of vCOps, but being the persnickety fellow that I am when I log into my vCOps and see those VMs showing up on the heat map coloured in red, well, it drives me a little mental…  I thought maybe if I leave it for a week things would clear up, and while some did, others didn't.  So I guess a little manual intervention is involved.

Basically, a fault in vCOps is triggered by an event occurring from within vCenter Server.  VC Ops will hang on to this fault until vCenter Server reports that the issue has been resolved, thus resulting in a red VM like the one above, and a lower health score to boot!  In some cases (cases like mine) you may need to manually cancel and remove a fault from vCOps.  So in the case you ever need to, the following is how to do so…

Either select your VM, or any inventory item that is higher up on the inventory view and navigate to the Alerts tab.

 

In the Alerts table below, sort, filter, re-arrange however you want and select the fault(s) that you want to cancel and click the 'Cancel' Icon.

Presto!  That's it!  If you navigate back to your dashboard and heat map now you should hopefully see that wonderful greenish tint of all that excellence (after everything refreshes)!  Or in my case there is still more work to do :)  Happy Troubleshooting!

Toronto VMUG – May 7th Recap

Well, once again Angelo (twitter) did an awesome job at putting together an awesome event at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 7th.  I'm not going to include all the slide decks as I normally do, if you want to see them you can rock on over to the Toronto VMUG website and check them out for yourself.  I will however include the last presentation of the day, which was done by Eric Wright (blog/twitter), a community member who spoke about Powershell and PowerCLI and how to apply them to your everyday experiences.  In my opinion this is what the user groups are all about, the users, the members speaking about their experiences.  I understand the need for vendors to have there time to speak, without those sponsors we couldn't have events likes this, and honestly, both vendors that were at this event (Veeam and Arista Networks) did a great job and had some great presentations, but their is nothing more valuable then listening to your peers and other people just like you talk about their experiences…

Speaking of the vendor presentations, the last two VMUGs that I have attended have had some great conversation and back and forth with the vendors during their presentations and this one was no different.  A lot of great questions being asked resulting in a lot of great answers and follow up questions.   These events are amazing when the audience is engaged as they are in Toronto.

It was nice to connect with Angelo and hear about his experiences while hosting the Silicon Valley VMUG last month.  It's always great to connect and hear the things that Angelo has planned for the future for not only the Toronto VMUG but other events he is looking to host.  He really does dedicate a lot of his time to the community and I'm happy that he was recognized as a vExpert and asked to help out with the Silicon Valley VMUG.

So hats off to Angelo and a big thanks to Eric for making it a fabulous day.  And again as always, stay connected with the Toronto VMUG by reading the blog, follow them on twitter, connect on LinkedIn and circle them on Google +.  And as promised, Eric's slide deck below….

 

 

PHD Virtual Backup – A Review

First off I wanted to say Welcome and Thank you to PHD Virtual, one of the newest sponsors of mwpreston.net. It's companies like the ones to the right of this post helping to keep the community content flowing by putting out awesome products within the VMware ecosystem.  That being said with the addition of PHD Virtual as a blog sponsor I decided to write a sponsored review of there newest backup software PHD Virtual Backup v5.4.

PHD Virtual is not a new company to me.  I actually evaluated their backup solutions back when it was called esXpress in the 3.x days.  Let me first say that PHD has come a long way with their backup product since then.  Back in those days there were packages that were actually installed on the ESX hosts and it was all managed through SSH.  Now, with the release of PHD Virtual Backup 5.4 everything is fully integrated into vCenter and much much more easier to use.   Anyways, enough about my history with PHD and on to the review….

My Environment

I first wanted to mention that all of this was tested on a laptop with 8 GB of RAM running VMware Workstation and some cheap, slow NFS storage :).   Obviously things would perform a bit nicer in a production environment but this is what I have to work with for the time being.  Also, PHD supports an architecture that utilizes multiple appliances in order to improve performance and scalability, however my tests were done utilizing a single appliance.  Certainly go and get yourself a copy of PHD Virtual Backup and try it in your own environment to see its' full potential.

Installation

Honestly this step probably doesn't even need a walkthrough since it is so simple, but in the interest of being thorough I'll talk about it.    

First off you need to install the Backup Console and the vCenter plugin onto the machine that you wish to manage PHD from (normally your workstation). This is essentially three clicks in a Next Next Done fashion and your off to the races. 

Next you need to deploy the virtual appliance (the brains of the operation).  Again, this is very easy.  Simply go to 'File->Deploy OVF Template' and select your PHD Virtual Backup appliance.  I accepted all defaults as far as resources go and was up and running in less than a minute.  Once the appliance is up and running then only step that needs to be configured at the VM's console is the networking which is done by hitting CTRL+N on the console.

That's it!  You have a copy of PHD Virtual Backup installed now.  A few notables on the appliance

  • Appliance runs Linux and Postgres - To me this is as good as gold.  No windows licenses to take care of, no MSSQL lisense to worry about.
  • The fact that its an OVF – It's nice to just import the appliance and configure, rather than have to install a base OS, patch the base OS, install all the pre-requisites for the software, then pull down the software and install it.  It's all done in one simple step for you.

Configuration

So now that we have everything installed it's time to configure the appliance by attaching some storage to it, setting up email settings, retention settings etc..  Here is where the vCenter integration shines.  Right-click any object in vCenter and select PHD Virtual Backup -> Console.    After the console has loaded all of the configuration is done by clicking on (you guessed it!) configuration.  Having that integration right inside of vCenter is very nice, for instance you can kick off a backup or replication job by accessing PHD's items on the right-click context menu. 

For the most part configuration can be broken down into the same categories as the tabs that it displays; General, Backup Storage, Network, Email, Backup Retention, Replication, and Connectors.

The 'General Tab' isn't very exciting.  It's basically used as you can see from the screenshot to setup some of the more basic settings such as your time zone, NTP settings as well as vCenter credentials.

The 'Backup Storage Tab' is used to setup your actual storage that you are going to use for your backups.  You can attach backup storage to an appliance through either a directly attached vmdk, CIFS, or NFS.  For my testing I chose to use NFS.  Also in this section you can set some percentages to trigger warnings or actually stop backing up depending on free space available as well as enable/disable compression on your backups.

The 'Network Tab' is pretty self explanatory.  Allows you to change the appliance's IP address or edit/configure DNS settings.

The 'Email Tab' is just that.  Allows you to setup your SMTP server as well as sender and receiver information.

The 'Backup Retention Tab' is where you define how many and how long you want to keep your backups.  There are a couple of predefined configurations (Keep all and Typical), but you are also able to customize your retention based on how many recent backups to keep and in addition to that how many daily, weekly, monthly and yearly backups to maintain.

The 'Replication Tab' is where you will setup your pointers to your appliances backup storage.  Meaning you specify which backups you would like to replicate to another appliance.  Replication is explained in more detail further down in this post.

The 'Connectors Tab' is where you would setup the shares in order to use the Backup Data Connector (BDC).  The BDC gives you the functionality to access your backups in their native format in order to archive to a tape or disk.  I didn't get a chance to fully test this but I like having the ability to do so.

So for the most part that is all the configuration that you need to do.  So far so good, a very easy install and quite an intuitive configuration.  Now it's time to get into the thick of the application and do some backups and restores.

Backup

Getting a backup job created and running is a very simple task in PHD Virtual Backup.  You can either set the backup job from within the console or (again with the vCenter integration) right click the VM you want to backup and select PHD Virtual Backup -> Backup.

 If choosing the first option you have a few ways to backup your VMs.  Selecting the Hosts & Clusters view will allow you to select a datacenter, cluster, host or specific VM.  The VMs and Templates view allows you to select a Datacenter or a folder from within your vCenter inventory.  

Next you will need to select which PHD appliance you would like to back the VMs up to.  Since I'm testing this out on a workstation lab with only one appliance this is a pretty easy decision for me, but if you were in production you would have the ability to deploy multiple appliances attached to different backup storage in order to distribute your backups across different types or tiers of storage.

From there you need to schedule your backup (Now, Once, Daily, Weekly) and move on to the backup options.  Here you have the ability to be run a verify task (on all blocks or just new blocks) on your backup job.  You can also check whether to include powered off VMs, mark the backup as archived (meaning it will not be deleted by the retention policy), chose whether to use VMware's change block tracking and whether or not to quiesce the OS if backing up and Windows guest.

I ran a few different jobs on various OSes (Linux and Windows).  The backup speed was great, the compression and deduplication were great.  Obviously that first initial seed takes a bit of time to complete, but from then thereafter if utilizing CBT the subsequent incremental backups are very efficient and sometimes occur in less than 5 minutes depending on the number of changed blocks. Also worth mentioning, for each job you are able to get a nice detailed view as to what happened behind the scenes in regards to the speed and deduplication.   Again, a few notables

  • Once again, very easy, very intuitive – documentation isn't needed in order to start using this PHD's software.  The step by step wizards guide you through everything.  If you are familiar with vCenter and vCenters inventory views you should be fine using this application.
  • Retention options are great – I like the ability to archive or save weekly\y/monthly/yearly backups. 
  • Retention is applied to the VBA - Here's a wish list item.  It would be nice to apply different retention settings to individual VMs within a job or to the job itself. 

Restore

Restoring is handled in two different fashions by PHD Virtual Backup.  You can restore the complete VM or perform a file-level restore to just get individual files.  The full VM restore is pretty straightforward and once again easy to perform.  You simply need to find your restore point you wish to restore inside of the backup catalog and click 'Restore' along the top toolbar.

The Restore Job wizard doesn't require much from a user perspective.  Simply select your storage or where you want to place the restored VM, and select a few options in regards to the networking on the newly restored VM (which network to attach it to and whether to generate a new MAC address).  Just as the backup process my testing with full VM restores went flawless.  

The file-level restore is handled by setting up an iSCSI target to the backed up VM on the PHD appliance, then connecting your client to that iSCSI target using the Windows iSCSI Initiator. You can kick of a FLR wizard in a few ways, either by selecting your VM within the Backup Catalog or clicking 'Create' in the File Recover section of the application.  Either way will invoke the wizard.  There are really only a few steps within the wizard…

 

First, select your VM and restore point that you wish to grab the files from.  It looks simple in this screenshot but if you have 100's of VMs with 100's of restore points there are some great filters at the top that allow you to narrow down your search.  

Secondly you can chose to mount the created iSCSI target to your local machine by simply checking the box.  If you are going to be restoring the files on your local machine immediately this is the best option, otherwise if you need to mount the target later you can do so by clicking 'Mount' on the File Recovery section.

Once the wizard is complete, if restoring from a Windows guest you should be able to see the folders and files within explorer.  Linux guests require a separate third party application (ext2explore) to be downloaded and installed in order to perform FLR

Notables

  • Full VM restore – works flawless and very easy to perform.
  • FLR for Linux VMs – you need to download a separate application in order to perform and FLR on your Linux guests.  Would love to see this fully integrated into the application.
  • Exchange item level recovery is available via a partnership with Lucid8.  If you have time check out this video which takes you through it.

Replication

Technically I don't have the gear to fully test replication so I will just explain how replication works within PHD Virtual Backup.  Unlike most products that perform their replication on the VM level, PHD actually performs their replication on the backup level, meaning that your production VMs are not affected at all.  Essentially once a VM has been backed up, as long as you have added your backup storage as a replication target, you can now perform a replication on the backup files of that VM.   Replication is meant to occur from site to site, or from appliance to appliance, giving you a true DR solution in the event of a site failure.

Notables

  • Only changed blocks are replicated, making the replication just as efficient as the backup process.
  • Built in test mode allows you to completely test the functionality of the replicated VM in a standby environment.  This is great, just as the Verify Backups option is on the backup jobs.  What good is a backup or a replica if it doesn't work?  This way, you will know it does.

Conclusion

Certainly if you are looking for a backup solution for your vSphere environment check out PHD's Virtual Backup.  The software is very easy to use and is fully integrated into vCenter making it very easy to access what you need when you need it.  Installation is a breeze, configuration is simple and quick.   Utilizing CBT, the incremental backups run extremely fast which will allow you to minimize backup windows.  I like the different approach to replication which leaves production VMs untouched and affects only the backups.  Also, the scalability of this product is great and when using multiple appliances throughout the network you can really distribute the load as much as you want.   As with any product there are certainly some spots where that they could improve on or features that they could add such as support for more granular control per VM inside of a backup job and the ability to add more than one type of backup storage to an appliance.  That being said however, PHD Virtual Backup does a tremendous job at doing what it was built for; backing up your virtual infrastructure.  A very intuitive interface makes this application a breeze to install, set up, configure and to use.  I can guarantee that you won't need a training course to figure this one out :)  Certainly don't just rely upon me, go grab a trial version from PHD and check it out yourself.