VMworld 2014 wrap up

Wow, another VMworld just went by? This year was great. So much is changing. These are the highlights from VMworld this year:

1. VMware introduced (ROBO) remote branch office server licensing. You can compare the two editions here.

2. VMware workspace suite for Horizon and Airwatch.

3. With 5.5 U2 you can now modify version 10 virtual machines with the vSphere client. The update will also include a few feature updates.

4. Bummer, vSphere 6 is still beta. You can sign up for the beta and test it out! Nice stuff like 4 vCPU FT, vMotion changes, the web client has improved, vMotion across vCenters and virtual datacenters (just to name a few things)

5. Virtual Volumes (vVols).

6. VMware integrated OpenStack. (VIO)

7. New network certifications, VCP-NV, VCDX-NV and VCIX-NV. More certifications to add to the list!

8. vCloud Air. There will be a government services platform coming in September. In 2015 there will be an on demand version, but there will be a beta available soon. EMC Viper has a tech preview of object storage.

9. EVO:Rack and EVO:RAIL. 6 vendors so far will be selling these setups.

10. VMware vSphere data protection version 5.8 and vSphere replication. SRM is also at version 5.8.

11. VMware vCAC 6.1 will arrive in September.

12. VSAN version 2.0 is out, but in beta.

13. vRealize operations suite.

There are also a lot more announcements based on development of Horizon DaaS, vGPU from Nvidia and Project Fargo.

This was a great VMworld this year. I had a chance to meet up with some really smart guys. It was a great pleasure to see what all the storage vendors are doing in the market place. It will take some time to digest all of these great announcements coming from VMware.

 

 

 

 

VMworld 2014 goals

Whether this is your first time or twelfth time at VMworld, it is important to have a goal when going to VMworld. It is not just about the swag and attending the parties. Remember, this is a huge learning opportunity. At the solutions exchange, ask questions, put them on the spot. The specialists are there to answer questions. See if you can get away with pulling the drive on some SAN arrays.

For me this year it is all about DR and storage. The market for host based storage has exploded over the last few years. From PernixData to VSAN. All flash and hybrid arrays have really taken off as well. There are some really awesome storage arrays like Tintri that makes life really simple. There are new players on the market and old dogs with new tricks.

Take things one day at a time. Take notes on technologies you need to follow up on. You may forget them by the end of the day due to the information overload at the conference.

When good vCenters go bad

The idea of virtualizing the vCenter server is not new. I believe it was version 4.x that really started to push the virtual vCenter hard (eat your own dog food approach). 5.x gave us the Linux vCenter virtual appliance. Even with the virtual appliance, there are special considerations to keep in mind when having a virtual vCenter. Although resource requirements have changed since ver 4.x, best practices around creating and placing the virtual vCenter have not really changed. Typically it comes down to understanding your vSwitch configurations when it comes to getting out of a jam with vCenter. In the past some have relied on vCenter server Heartbeat, but that is EoA as of June 2nd 2014.

Mandvis has a couple of good posts on recovering a vCenter during an outage and also special considerations around using hardware ver 10 on your vCenter server.

I would also like to point out a couple of other scenarios to keep in mind when placing your virtual vCenter server on a host and when it comes to recovery during an outage.

Scenario 1:

You have a blade chassis with different fabrics. Fiber, 10 GB and 1GB management. Virtual machines are connected to the 10GB fabric and host management is connect to 1GB fabric. Fiber channel storage is the primary storage for virtual machines, which traverses the fiber fabric. NFS volumes are mounted to house ISO files and templates, which traverses the 1GB network. I had a situation where the network admin used 4 uplinks from each 1GB fabric and properly split them between upstream switches. This would be a proper design (see diagram below). But, instead of bonding the four 1GB cables from each switch, only 1 cable out of 8 was active to the upstream switch. From a blade perspective, all NICs look active. So when we lost the network on the upstream switch, we lost management to the entire enclosure hosting VMware blades.

blade connections

This also effected the vCenter server that had a CD-ROM attached ISO file. The NFS mount was over the 1GB network. This caused the VM to “pause” with a warning message…

Message on vCenter01: Operation on CD-ROM image file
/vmfs/volumes/16b2bd7c-1d7757ef/VMware/VMware-VIMSetup-all-
5.5.0-1991310-20140201-update01.iso has failed. Subsequent
operations on this file are also likely to fail unless the image file
connection is corrected. Try disconnecting the image file, then
reconnecting it to the virtual machine’s CD-ROM drive. Select
Continue to continue forwarding the error to the guest operating
system. Select Disconnect to disconnect the image file.

As you can see, the VM would not resume until action was taken on the CD-ROM from the host console. This required knowing which host the vCenter VM lived on. It is still best practice to create a DRS rule to keep the vCenter VM on a known host (sometimes the first host in the cluster is best). We could not acknowledge this prompt from vCenter, because the VM was in a paused state. Once the message was acknowledged from the VM, vCenter came out of its pause state.

Scenario 2:

The host freeze. Not a PSOD, but the hypervisor going into a hung state. I have only seen this happen once. Even from the DCUI you are unable to restart the management services. But virtual machines continue to run. You are unable to log in to the host console to take action on any virtual machines. It is in a “zombie host” state. I’m not sure if host isolation elections even kicked in.

We accepted the only course of action was to pull the power cord on the host server to force a fail over. With doing this, HA should kick in and fail over the virtual machines. But even after powering off the host, the virtual machines stayed registered to the host. Even a manual “unregister” was not accepted while the host was powered off. The host would not release the locks on the VMDK files. We had to remove the host from vCenter and then re-register the virtual machines to new hosts in the cluster. So it may have been a combination of the vCenter DB and the host isolation response. This was the first time I have seen HA not work properly. Even VMware support could not pinpoint the issue.

So what do you do when you are in a scenario like this and vCenter is on the host that is in a hung state and will not release the locks on the VMDK files even after a host is powered off? I would image you would need to do something nasty to the storage volume to release those connections. Or possibly restore vCenter from backups to another host server.

Of course there are other recovery scenarios you have to keep in mind with vCenter… DB becomes full, OS corruptions, miss-configuration by other admins (like deleting the wrong SQL tables),  no DB backups or issues with any of the other components (like SSO) installed on your vCenter server.

 

VCAP-DCD 5.1 vs 5.5

 — Edit 8/26/2014 —

So I had a chance to sit the VDCD550 exam on 8/24. Unfortunately the exam crashed on me twice with only 30 minutes to go. I decided to continue on with the exam and receive a modified grade in a week, omitting the question that crashed the exam (I cannot say which one). I have now taken the 5.1 and the 5.5 exam. The biggest question that has come up is “is it easier”. Not really. Just because there are not as many questions as the 5.1 does not make it easier.

I cannot go in to detail on the type of questions I had. But I will say, read the exam blue print. Pay attention to section 1.2 “a mixture of drag-and-drop items and design items using an in-exam design tool”. Do not expect any questions that will give you a single radio button and you just move on. The blueprint tells you the style of questions you will have.

I found the design questions were not as hard on the 5.5 like they were on the 5.1 exam. They did a good job on cutting out the fluff and getting to the point. It was easy to read the scenario while you did the design. The important details will pop out at you.

I don’t think I am allow to say what the master design question is. Again, read the blue print. You have 5 “design” questions and one “master design”.

As far as the content goes, the blueprint is what you need to focus on. Just reading about the topics in each section will not help you. You need to install and configure each component like VSAN, VMware storage appliance, Auto deploy, vCenter virtual appliance, vCenter heartbeat, update manager and any other core product the ties in with vSphere. It helps to read the “what’s new” guide and go from there. Anything that can tie into 5.5 is fair game. Also brush up on the ITIL v3 documents listed in the blueprint. Be aware of storage architectures and how each one is different. Again, the blueprint tells you what you need to focus on. Get the theme? Study the blueprint.

I prepared by reading the vSphere design books, doing the PluralSight videos, reading blogs, watching the vBrownbag sessions and making myself flash cards. I’m telling you though, you need to go through the design process yourself. Use your home lab and come up with a scenario to create concept, logical and physical designs. As crazy it may sound, come up with a project to deploy vSphere and oracle on a laptop and go through the design process. Yes, it will not work, but document the process. If you have a good home lab with multiple whitebox hosts and central storage, that will help.

If for some reason I do receive a failing grade, I will be creating a comprehensive study guide made from the exam blue print for VDCD550. I think the exam was a tough but good one.

Who do I think this exam is good for? Anyone who wants to achieve it. I have been doing architecture for the past 5 years at the same company. I have been in IT for the past 18 years. I have had projects from time to time that require some form of project documentation, but nothing as intense as a vendor coming in to deploy a new technology.

Who do I think would have no problem passing this exam? Consultants who work with multiple different customers to deploy solutions. It is they’re bread and butter to come up with a design to win business. Someone who does consulting for a living would have not problems with this exam.

Who do I think would have a tough time passing the exam? Admins who are not involved in the design process. Usually a process is handed over and tasked to the admins to build. Architects who have been at the same place for a long time and know the infrastructure. Is is not a challenge to think about storage or network architecture you work with every day unless the workloads for a project require something else. It would also be tough for admins or architects who do not have VMware as they’re only focus. Someone who must work on Microsoft or other platforms 50% of the time outside of the VMware infrasture may have a hard time. If you have a project to deploy a large SharePoint  environment leading up to the exam, it may be a little tough passing the exam.

But hey, I could be wrong. There could be some super smart guys out there who are helpdesk pursuing CCIE or VCDX. It is up to you to know what you feel confident with. Rise to the challenge and defeat the exam!

 

 

_______

VCAP-DCD 5.1
– 225 minutes
– 100 questions
– 6 design questions

VCAP-DCD 5.5
– 195 Minutes
– 46 questions
– 5 design questions
– 1 Master design question

One big change I also see – there is no mention in blocking you from going back to review flagged questions. This is a big change. Although time management may not allow a whole lot of time to review flagged questions. I am guessing the design questions will still take 15 to 20 minutes a piece. The Master design question needs 30 minutes.

The “Master design question” still remains a mystery.

If you are sitting the exam, you still have the option to cancel your current exam and reschedule for the 5.5 version. I had to problems at all with scheduling the new exam. Just make sure you do it before your cancellation window.

VDCD550 https://mylearn.vmware.com/lcms/web/portals/certification/VCAP_Blueprints/VCAP-DCD-VDCD550-Exam-Blueprint-v3_2.pdf

VDCD551: https://mylearn.vmware.com/lcms/web/portals/certification/VCAP_Blueprints/VCAP5-DCD-Exam-Blueprint-v3_0.pdf

 

Exam discounts: http://www.vmworld.com/community/conference/us/learn/training

You will still need to request authorization for the exam even if you were approved for 5.1. https://mylearn.vmware.com/

 

VCAP-DCD VMworld 2014 study group

I want to see how many people would be interested in getting together on 8/23 for a study session on VCAP-DCD. I am not a certified instructor, this will be a group discussion. Or we can cut out a bunch of VMware visio shapes and slap stuff together for a design practice session (pin the vSwitch on the donkey). This is very informal, no sponsors and no budget. If there are just a handful of people, I think whom ever has the best hotel lounge, that’s where we can meet. Let’s make it a couple of hours, 6PM to 8PM. If we get hundreds or thousands of people, I’m going to jump in the river. Or we can try to relocate to a park. I will put the word out on twitter.

I am staying at the Triton Hotel. After looking at pictures of the lounge, maybe 5 or 10 people can fit. Email me if you are interest: james.burd@burdweiser.com