VMware Virtual SAN (vSAN) is available now!

Today VMware announced the general availability of VMware Virtual SAN, a new and radically simple storage solution optimized for virtual environments. This was done during a VMware Virtual SAN online event  of which you can view the replay here. It includes a demonstration of the product, experiences of  beta customers, and highlighted performance and scalability details.

For those of you who don’t know Virtual SAN, Virtual SAN is an object based storage system and a platform for VM Storage Policies that aims to simplify virtual machine storage placement decisions for vSphere administrators. It leverages the local storage from a number of ESXi hosts which are part of a cluster and creates a

distributed vsanDatastore. Virtual SAN is fully integrated with vSphere so it can be used for VM placement, and of course supports all the core vSphere technologies like vMotion, DRS and vSphere HA.

vSAN scale.png

Scalability

VMware Virtual SAN scales up to 32 nodes in a cluster allowing for linear scalability of performance to 2 million IOPS on read-only workloads and 640,000 IOPS on mixed workloads. 

You will need at least 3 ESXi hosts to deploy Virtual SAN and you will also need at least one hard disk per host and at least one SSD per host. There are a couple of best practices I found online:

  1. VMware recommends at least a 1:10 ratio of SSD vs HDD.
    When your performance demands increase, you may need to up this ratio 2:10 or 3:10.
  2. VMware recommends as a best practice that all hosts in the VSAN cluster be configured similarly if not identically from a storage and compute perspective.

The choice of SSD is essential to Virtual SAN performance. VMware is providing a HCL which will grade SSDs on performance.

Because you can vary the SSD vs HDD ratio you can simply scale a vSphere cluster with Virtual SAN for capacity or performance.

Flexibly-Configure-for-Performance-and-Capacity.png

Versions & licensing

Staying true to the value proposition of simplicity, VMware uses a per socket based pricing model with no limits on scalability, performance or capacity that make forecasting and budgeting significantly easier without impacting hardware components selection and node configurations.

VMware Virtual SAN is available in three editions/bundles.

Virtual-SAN-5.5-Pricing-Packaging.png

All editions feature the complete set of Virtual SAN capabilities – data persistency, read/write caching, storage policy based management, etc. – and include the vSphere Distributed Switch. This means that customers can take advantage of simplified network management of vSphere Distributed Switch for their Virtual SAN storage regardless of the underlying vSphere edition they use. Data services such as snapshots, clones, linked-clones and replication are available directly through vSphere, and are already available with every vSphere edition (Essentials Plus and above).

For customers seeking to complete their storage solution with backup and recovery capabilities, VMware is offering Virtual SAN with Data Protection. A promotional bundle available for a limited time, it brings together Virtual SAN with vSphere Data Protection Advanced, VMware’s simple, efficient, and robust backup product for vSphere environments.

Virtual-SAN-Launch-Promotions.png

The VMware Virtual SAN Design and Sizing Guide can be downloaded here.

If you want a testdrive with VMware Virtual SAN, you can visit the free Hands-on Lab (HOL) which enables you to play and explore all you want.

vSphere 5.5 Update 1 which includes Virtual SAN can be downloaded here.

No internet connection results in slow vSphere client consoles

vSphere clientIn the last few weeks a customer that I am working for has been making a lot of changes within their infrastructure. Some big and some (on the surface) small. Somewhere during those weeks a change was made and the consequence of that change has gone by unnoticed at first. Then reports started to come in from colleague administrators that console sessions for virtual machines, when using the vSphere client, where really slooooowwwww. Opening a console took more than 10 seconds and trying to open more simultaneous would freeze the users screen entirely.

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Free vSphere Hypervisor limitations removed!

Last week I ran into another discussion about the hypervisor under a XenApp deployment it had to be free or very cheap. So the customer was thinking about loading Hyper-V below it. Ok can be a viable option but the admins hoped it would be VMware ESX because they know that hypervisor and it has never let them down in the past six years. So I got the question what is possible, can we use the Free vSphere Hypervisor?  I than remembered from VMworld San Francisco 2013 the limitations of the Free vSphere Hypervisor have been lifted.

So now you can use the vSphere Hypervisor 5.5 with:

  • Unlimited number of cores per physical CPU
  • Unlimited number of physical CPUs per host
  • Maximum eight vCPUs per virtual machine
  • But most important the limitation of 32GB RAM per server/host has been removed from the free Hypervisor.

So now you can use it below a XenApp deployment or in a stack where you do not need DRS, HA and vMotion. If you do need a central management solution you can use the Essentials Kit and if you need DRS, HA, vMotion etc. you can use the vSphere 5.5 essentials kit it is for max. 3 servers with 2 physical CPUs per Server.

EssentialsKit edition.png

In Europe the Essentials Kit will cost 690 Euro for 3 years and the Essentials Plus Kit will cost 5.554 euro for 3 years. If you want to have support on your VMware vSphere Hypervisor you can now purchase Per Incident Support for it.

VMware vCloud Suite 5.5, vSAN and NSX walk-through

VMware has launched three new websites which will help you to get up to speed with VMware vCloud Suite 5.5, vSAN and NSX.

An extensive website gives you a detailed overview of the entire vCloud Suite with all the new features VMware released at VMworld. VMware vSphere DataProtection, VMware App HA, vSphere Flash Read Cache and all the other ingredients of the vCloud Suite.

The total walk-through includes:vCloud Suite.png

- vSphere DataProtection
- vSphere App HA
- vCloud Director
- vSphere Replication
- vSphere Flash Read Cache

 

The NSX website provides a step-by-step overview of VMware NSX, the Security and compliance issues and NSX partner integration.

Here’s the table of content for the NSX walk-through:VMware NSX.PNG

- Introduction to VMware NSX
- VMware NSX
- NSX for vSphere
- Security and Compliance
- NSX Partner Integration

 

 

Besides NSX there’s also a website on VMware vSAN. This website provides a step-by-step overview of VMware vSAN, configuring, storage policies and high availability.

Here’s the table of content for the vSAN walk-through:VMware vSAN.PNG

- Configuring vSAN
- Deploying VMs using VM Storage policies
- Changing VM Storage policies
- Failure Resilience & Availability
- Interoperability – vSAN and vSphere HA

 

You can check out the walk-throughs here:

- VMware vCloud Suite 5.5
- VMware vSAN
- VMware NSX

Acronis vmProtect

Acronis LogoRecently we where approached by Acronis if we would be interested in having a look at their backup and replication product called vmProtect. vmProtect is suitable for environments that have up to 100 virtual clients in a vSphere virtual infrastructure.

The installation and reviewing is based on vmProtect version 8, in the mean time however Acronis released version 9.

In this article we will have a look at some of the features and the GUI for vmProtect version 8 and I will point out some new features for version 9.

First off let’s have a look at the installation of vmProtect. Starting the installation file offers you three options:

  • Install vmProtect as a Virtual Appliance (linux based) into your existing vSphere infrastructure. At this moment hypervisor support is limited to VMware vSphere 4.0 and later.
  • Install vmProtect on the system you are currently logged on to. Installation can be done on both windows desktops as windows servers.
  • Extract the installation files for usage on a later time or other location (you will get to choose which files (OVF / MSI) and to what location you want to extract the files)

For the review I selected the first option and installed vmProtect as an appliance.

During the installation of the appliance you will need to enter the vCenter or ESX(i) server IP address or DNS name and a user name & password. The next step of the installation will ask for the:

  • Appliance name: You can use a name convention that is used within your own server infrastructure.
  • ESX(i) host: If you choose to use vCenter in the previous step, you can now select the host on which the initial deployment will be executed.
  • Network: Select the portgroup that you want to use.
  • Storage: Select the datastore that you want to use.
  • Enable vCenter integration: This enables the plugin for vCenter and allows you to manage all vmProtect jobs.
  • Automatically start the VA after a host reboot: Allow the appliance to be started automatically after the host reboots

Next you can choose for the appliance to use DHCP or enter manual IP settings. After choosing the IP settings the deployment of the appliance will commence.

When the deployment is finished you can connect to the appliance in several ways:

  • Console of the VA: This will allow you to change settings like appliance name, time zone, IP settings. Also this is the place to add more storage for the appliance to use with the backup & replication jobs. Finally you have the option to power off or reboot the appliance.
  • Web browser: Using the format https://server_name you can access the management console for vmProtect. This allows you to manage and create new jobs for backup, restore and replication actions.
  • vCenter plugin: Offers the same functionality as the web version but then from the vSphere client

The first time that you open the management console you will need to enter the licenses. Licensing is done per CPU that is present within the ESX(i) host. Also on the page you will be offered to create the first backup job.

For the creation of a backup job you only have to select the vm’s that you want to backup, when you want the backup to occur (both one time runs or repeated) and where you want the backup to be located. With additional options you can choose whether to store all backups in one file or separate files, to automatically delete older backups and you can enter a second location for the backups to be stored.

Now I can write down every single process on how to create the jobs, but creating jobs is really easy and straight forward. This isn’t only true for the creation of backup jobs but also for settings up replication and restore jobs. The screenshots below will show some of the management pages that you can expect. The interface is nice and clean and shows exactly what you need to exceed in your current goal.

So let’s focus on some of the features that are offered by vmProtect:

  • Replication of vm’s.
  • Recovery of a single file for a vm.
  • Single-pass technology adds protection for Microsoft Exchange on granular level.
  • Multiple-destination and staging of backups.
  • Run vm’s directly from backup.
  • vmFlashback decreases recovery time by skipping unchanged blocks.
  • Migrate servers (P2V or V2V) with the use of imaging technology.
  • Backup to Cloud storage.

New features added in vmProtect version 9 are:

  • Centralized Dashboard enables you to manage multiple vmProtect instances from one management console
  • Protection for Microsoft SQL, SharePoint and Active Directory on agranular level.
  • Configuration Restore enables the option to create a backup of vmProtect settings so all you tasks and settings can be restored for vmProtect itself

To me vmProtect seems like a very good candidate to be using in smaller infrastructures. The installation, configuration and management of the appliance are simple, the interface is very clear and seems like a complete backup solution. Drawbacks might be that there is no support for backup to tape, like with Veeam Back-up & Recovery. Also you won’t be able to backup physical servers and servers that are hosted on other hypervisors, like MS Hyper-V. If these drawbacks are no issue for your infrastructure or you can work around them then I would suggest you try out Acronis vmProtect.

VMware Labs does it again, ProactiveDRS

VMworld 2013.png

Just when you think it cannot get any better VMware comes up with an interesting new fling, Proactive DRS.

Proactive DRS was the winning entry in last year’s 2012 Open Innovation Contest. VMware promised to create a Fling of the winning entry, and here it is!

What is ProactiveDRS? It is a way for DRS to  react to changes in the virtual cluster, and to act on predicted changes in resource demands before hosts become stressed. For example, if you have a VM that historically uses 100% CPU at 8am every morning, ProactiveDRS  makes  sure that the CPU resources will be available for that VM before 8am. These actions ensure that your cluster runs smoother and reduces the amount of reactive VM rebalances that occur.

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Enterprise Hypervisor feature comparison (RHEV added)

Back by popular demand, the Enterprise Hypervisor feature comparison.

After the release of our latest comparison I’ve received a lot of requests to include RedHat’s RHEV to the comparison. Although I’ve never encountered it in enterprise environments, I decided to add it as a service to our readers.

I based the RedHat features on their 3.1 version which is in beta right now. This is because I’ve limited knowledge of the product and I received an updated comparison from one of our readers based on this version.

I hope you find the new Enterprise Hypervisor comparison useful and feel free to contact us when you have feedback for us to improve the list.

NEW Enterprise Hypervisor comparison

Two weeks ago VMware released the new version of their vSphere hypervisor, so it’s time to update our Enterprise Hypervisor comparison. It very impressive to see how quick VMware has reacted to the Hyper-V 3 announcements and has taken most of the wind out of the Microsoft sails.

I hope you find the new Enterprise Hypervisor comparison useful and feel free to contact us when you have feedback for us to improve the list.
The information on Microsoft Server 2012 Hyper-V features is very inconsistent, many different values out there.

In this version I added 10 new criteria. Many of these criteria should, in my opinion, be available in hypervisors suitable for enterprise environments.

You can find the new and improved Enterprise Hypervisor comparison here.

Last update: August 27th, 2013

VMware vSphere 5.1 available NOW

At VMworld 2012 VMware announced the newest version of vSphere, version 5.1.
Today this new version is finally available! So, in DOLBY DIGITAL available NOW ;-)

You can download VMware vSphere 5.1 from the VMware download site.

If you’re wondering what’s new in vSphere 5.1, check out Alex’s article from August 27th.

One of the major changes is the disappearance of the vRAM limit for VMware vSphere 5.x.

VMware Enhanced vMotion demo

VMworld 2012 San Francisco / Barcelona

 

 

One of the most useful new features in VMware vSphere 5.1 is Enhanced vMotion. This new features enables customers to vMotion virtual machines to other hosts without the use of a shared storage solution. Check out the VMworld TV video below and watch a demo at the VMware Storage/vMotion booth.
 

VMware releases version 5.1 of vSphere and vCloud Director

 

 

Today VMware announced a whole list of new major releases of their product portfolio. A few big features up front? How about these:

  • No more vRAM limits, vRAM = GONE
  • vMotion without shared storage
  • the MonsterVM got even stronger, going for 64 vCPU’s, 1 TB of RAM and more than 1.000.000 IOPS per VM

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StarWind Offers Free NFR Licenses for Lab Testing, Demonstration, and Training Purposes

Starwind is an innovative company and one of the first to offer an iSCSI initiator on the Microsoft Windows platform without a lot of hassle. The company offers Not For Resale (NFR) licenses to some specific groups of IT professionals.

If you hold or are one of the following:

  • VMware vExpert
  • VMware Certified Instructor (VCI)
  • Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP)
  • Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT)
  • Citrix Technology Professional (CTP)
  • Citrix Certified Instructor (CCI).

you can get a free NFR license for its best-of-breed High Availability SAN solutions software to fuel your Lab. What do you need to do?

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Review: VCP5 Study Guide by Brian Atkinson

A few months ago Erik and I passed our VCP-510 Exam, we used several different resources to get the job done. Several people asked us how to prepare for the VCP-510 exam. Fortunately Brian Atkinson a fellow vExpert, wrote a “small” book (almost 800 pages!!) as a study guide for everyone who wants to prepare for the exam and to get their VMware Certified Professional on vSphere 5 title. The book helps you prepare for this tough exam, it points out things you normally don’t touch in your daily work with vSphere.

While reading the book it felt like I was taken on a journey, from What is New in vSphere 5 to How to Plan, Install, Configure and Upgrade vCenter Server and VMware ESXi with this new version. But you aren’t finished after installing vSphere. Eye for details, like The way you secure vCenter Server and ESXi and how to Plan and Configuring vSphere Networking and Storage to get the most out of your installation, are unfolded. So you now have the basis and want to Create, Deploy and Manage VMs and vApps.

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Set Timeout on Windows Guest OS to avoid Blue Screens/Errors

Today I got another question about several Windows VMs breaking down and generating lots of errors after a SAN switch failed. The active paths switched through a path failover. I have seen this behavior before with several customers who use SAN storage and Windows for guest operating system in the VM. I sure had to dig around in my memory which setting to switch to 60 seconds. So I thought I would make this blog post for future references.

Path failover refers to situations when the active path to a LUN is changed from one path to another, usually because of some SAN component failure along the current path. A server usually has one or two HBAs and each HBA is connected to one or two storage processors on a given SAN array. You can determine the active path, the path currently used by the server, by looking at the LUN properties.

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Installing the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance

One of the things that has been on my to do list for a very long time was to check out the vCenter Appliance. I finally found the time to install the vCenter appliance in my own lab and fool around with it.

This post is a mix between my findings and some kind of installation instruction.

But first of all, what’s the VMware vCenter virtual appliance and what are the pro’s, cons and limitations.

The VMware vCenter virtual appliance is a SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 running VMware vCenter on a internal embedded DB2 database or an external Oracle database. The appliance is available for download on the VMware website and is configured with 2 vCPUs, 8GB RAM, LSI Logic SCSI controller, VMXNET 3 network interface and the VMware Tools.

The advantages over a traditional vCenter implementations are:

  • Lower TCO by eliminating Windows licenses;
  • Simple and rapid deployment;
  • Reduce operational costs – vCSA is easy to upgrade – deploy a new appliance, connect it to the external Oracle database or import configuration data from the previous installation.
The disadvantages are the same as the limitations.The vCenter Server virtual appliance has the same features as the Windows vCenter Server but does not support the following:

Updated Enterprise hypervisor comparison

During the last few years we published several Enterprise Hypervisor comparisons and we got very positive comments and feedback on it. With the release of vSphere 5, XenServer 6 and a service pack for Hyper-V it was time for an update.

It very interesting to see how some of the products have improved over the years and how the three major manufacturers look at each other and copy features. But you can’t trust all manufacturers by just a simple green checkbox. Some claimed features need third party add-ons, aren’t suitable for production workloads or are only supported on a limited set of operating systems. You have to investigate further and I hope I’ve done most of that work for you with this new enterprise hypervisor comparison.

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Why can’t I run your OS on my virtual box, Steve?

Ever since I’ve been working on a Apple Classic II, many many years ago, I was caught by the way of thinking at Cupertino. Design combined with functionality was actually possible! Well, back then we thought it was beautiful, anyway :)

Now, many years have gone by, a lot of people in the world seem to have recently discovered Apple. With the consumerization of the IT business, more and more Macs appear in the landscape. And why not? Sleek design combined with a stable OS where you don’t waste performance and money on staying free from virii and other malware (at least, for now), who doesn’t want that? So, it’s logical that wishes and demands for a virtual server or desktop in the Windows world, also be true for OS X. With vSphere 5, this might be possible!

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How to: Upgrade to vSphere 5

On July 12th, VMware announced the release of vSphere 5.

With the release comes the challenge to upgrade your existing installation.

However, there are a few caveats:

  • vSphere 5 is the first version which comes in a ESXi version ONLY! ESXi 5 is available in an embedded or installable version. If you’re running ESX 3.x or 4.x you should do a clean installation. You can find more information here.;
  • VMware changed their licensing method. Familiarize yourself with this and check if you need to upgrade/extend your licenses. You can find more information here.

Because I run a VMware vSphere 4.1 environment, this is a upgrade from vSphere 4.1 to 5.

The upgrade is a straight forward five step process.

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