#VMworld Europe 2016

VMworld is coming back to Europe this autumn, with thousands of delegates attending hundreds of sessions to keep up-to-date in virtualisation technologies. The annual conference has been running since 2004, and since 2008 there’s been a European event alongside the US one. My first VMworld was last year and this year I’m privileged to have been offered an official Bloggers pass to the 2016 event in Barcelona. Many thanks to Corey Romero and the VMware community team for this opportunity.

In my opinion VMworld is an awesome event, showcasing the entire landscape of VMware products from End User Computing through to the Software Defined Datacentre. The week not only profiles the latest and greatest offerings from VMware themselves but also from the other vendors that make up the surrounding ecosystem; Solutions in storage, server hardware, networking, HCI, management and monitoring, End User Computing devices and more fill the Solutions Exchange and some of the sessions.

Hands on Labs at VMworld Europe 2015

Hands on Labs at VMworld Europe 2015. Register Now for 2016

Outside of the formal sessions (primarily lecture style, group discussion, and hands-on-labs) there’s the opportunity to meet and network with fellow IT Professionals from all around the world. You can take the opportunity to discuss your own challenges and solutions with such a wide variety of experts from all manner of countries and industries.

VMworld 2015 Step Count

VMworld 2015 Step Count -Comfy shoes are a must.


So go on, register now then check out my 5 Conference Tips from last year- and I’m not joking about the need for comfortable shoes, as my Fitbit step count from last year shows. If you do make it out to Barcelona this autumn, look me up and say hi!

VMworld 2016


VMworld 2016 Disclaimer: Whilst this blog always strives to be unbiased in any opinions and uninfluenced by an offer of a free T-shirt, readers should be aware that VMware have provided me with a conference pass for this event and also that during the event VMware and their partners may be providing SWAG or entertainment to promote their products. Neither VMware nor their partner companies review what is written here prior to publication, but factual corrections post-release are welcome and will be noted if included. The general disclaimer for this site can be found here but I should reiterate that this is my personal site and not affiliated with my employer in any way.

VMware Certified Associate 6 – Data Center Virtualization Resources

This post contains a list of resources for anyone planning on taking the VMware VCA6-DCV Qualification. This certification is obtained by passing a single, online, exam and unlike the more advanced VMware awards requires no mandatory training course.

London VMUG June 2016

VMUG LogoA rainy day in June saw me back in London for the latest VMware User Group event. For anyone who works with VMware products but has never been to a VMUG I cannot stress enough how great they are. VMUG is a community focussed and community run event filled with a bunch of really friendly, knowledgeable IT Professionals, and- thanks to vendor sponsorship- it’s free of charge so there’s little or no impact on your training/conference/personal budget or wallet.

Simplivity HCI for vSphere
This London event kicked off with a talk from one of the sponsors- Simplivity– discussing their Hyper-converged Infrastructure products for vSphere environments. This HCI solution is available as a turnkey appliance, or with third party hardware, such as Cisco or Lenovo.
The presentation and demo mentioned how crucial deduplication and compression are to this technology. Aside from saving physical disk space, there’s also the added benefits of backup and restore becoming faster and less costly from a network perspective.
For example when restoring a backup the software starts by sending the metadata- block hashes of the deduped backup. The target system can then determine which blocks it already has and which it doesn’t and only those new blocks need to be transmitted across the LAN/WAN to the system where the restore is happening. Additionally, these are the only blocks that need writing to disk so the amount of time spent on disk activity is also cut.

Simplivity Demo

Stuart Gilks of Simplivity demonstrating the power of dedupe and compression in HCI.


Server Hugger or “To the Cloud”
Following this we had a more light-hearted session. As it was the day of the Brexit vote, two teams of speakers attempted to persuade the attendees to be a Server-Hugger and vote to remain in the datacentre, or take the alternate path and vote to Leave for the Cloud. The general consensus was that Hybrid was probably the best option, but as that wasn’t offered it was down to the two choices and the Server-Huggers won the day.
Server Hugger
VMware EUC Update
After a quick break the meeting split into two tracks. I opted for the VMware EUC update with Howard Bliss covering developments in WorkspaceONE, Horizon, and TrustPoint.
WorkspaceOne is a great idea- taking the EUC features of Airwatch, Identity Management, and Horizon and packaging them up in one platform. From the end-user point of view this looks slick, they download an app for their device from the regular appstore, sign in with their corporate email address, a profile is installed over the net and they are all set.
However I’m not sure it’s a fit for me from a Higher-Education IT point of view as the licensing is per-seat not based on concurrent users. Licensing this for tens of thousands of students a year could get expensive very quickly.
Horizon 7 went GA in March, and is “Hybrid-Cloud Ready”- offering the ability to manage cloud and on-prem VDI environments through a single pane of glass. Just-in-time Delivery means that 2000 desktops can be deployed in under 20 minutes, making the pre-loading of VMs for the start of a working day no longer necessary. This is helped along by February’s release of AppVolumes 3- apparently a preview of even better things to come later this year.
The Horizon Client has been improved, offering offloading of encoding from the CPU to an NVidia card and Blast extending to Linux to allow software encoding of Linux desktops. There’s also better integration with the OSX Keychain on the Mac client, and Aero window snapping, credential passthrough, and keyboard locale improvements in the Windows version.
The final piece of this EUC triumvirate is TrustPoint- The Image Service (Mirage) and the Security Platform (Tanium). The Image Service provides some useful abilities for those looking to do Win7 to Windows 10 migrations- including the ability to do an in-place upgrade from x86 to x64 platforms if you have any 32-bit installations that you want to lose. Amongst the benefits of the Security Platform is the ability to pick up and report on unmanaged endpoints appearing on the LAN within 15 seconds of them connecting.

SysTrack EUC Analytics
After lunch I chose the Lakeside Software session on using SysTrack in a Horizon Environment. In a bid to avoid PowerPoint poisoning they treated us to a short marketing video (see below) and then it was straight into a demo of the product in action.

I’ve used other tools in this space before, but it was interesting to see what SysTrack offers as an End-User analytics tool. There’s lots of information there and the ability to answer many questions- how many users are having a poor experience? (and is this number going down over time?) Are users in a particular department or location suffering? What resources do we need to migrate traditional desktops to VDI?
Data is collected by an agent that sits on the endpoint which works alongside browser plugins and VMware API calls for the monitoring of services hosted by vCenter. This agent data is pushed to a collector once a day to provide this trend analytics ability but there’s also realtime monitoring of the environment- spotting the apps causing a current peak in network traffic for example.

Lakeside Software Demo

Live Demo of SysTrack from Lakeside Software


Boldly Going Where No DC has gone before
The formal part of my day concluded with a session titled “Extreme VMware Datacentres”, a chance for some of the more seasoned VMUG members to discuss their best war stories. We heard about some of the “awesome” places that VMware datacentres have ended up – in everywhere from dusty warehouses to nuclear submarines (you put a datacenter at each end so you can make end-to-end failover jokes!)or dark sites where nothing goes in or out, especially not a USB stick with an installation script on. Each location provides it’s own set of challenges, and requires the IT Pro to come up with new and unique solutions. This was thoroughly entertaining content from some community speakers.

Thanks!
No VMUG post would be complete without a personal thank you to the sponsors- Simplivity, Tintri and Lakeside Software. Further thanks to 10-Zig, PernixData, and Nutanix for sponsoring the after-event vBeers. Finally, thanks again to the London VMUG committee for organising a great event.

The UK national VMUG User Conference, held in Birmingham, is in November and I hope to make it. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Quick Tip- Deleting iOS Apps

iOS OneDrive AppProblem: I’m trying to delete an iOS app from an iPad (9.3.2) , I hold down my finger on the icon on the homescreen till they all jiggle but no little x appears on the icon.
Solution: In the Settings App, under “General” then “Restrictions” ensure that “Deleting Apps” is allowed. Go back to the home screen and try again- the small x should now appear.
Enable Deleting Apps on iOS

The Home Lab

Automated Deployment in the HomeLab- Part 1

I’m commencing a project with my HomeLab- I’m going to build a system whereby I can produce custom mini-lab environments by means of a script. There are off the shelf solutions to do this (see AutoLab as an example) but if I build this myself I get something tailored exactly to my needs (and available resources) and hopefully learn something along the way- which is what the HomeLab is all about really. This is the first post in what should develop into a series showing how I work through the process to create my automation system.

 

The Aims

a.k.a. what I want to achieve

  • ExampleMiniLabThe ability to run a script to deploy a predefined lab environment. For example running “Build-Project-Lab-One.ps1” makes 3 Windows Server VMs, connected on a private switch, with one running AD/DNS/DHCP roles, one acting as a Gateway, and one ready for whatever experiment I throw at it
  • The ability to quickly and easily modify a copy of that script to produce a lab with a different configuration. Then I can have a script that builds me a WDS platform, or another one that produces a SCOM test environment. I can use this library to quickly rebuild, or build a copy of, and of my environments within the HomeLab
  • This script should also create a second script for decommissioning  /destroying the lab environment when I’ve finished.
  • Whilst perhaps not meeting full “production” standards, the scripts should be at least in a state whereby I can post them online and not have to hide in a cave for the next decade whilst they get laughed at.

 

The Resources

a.k.a. what I have to play with

  • One Intel NUC host running vSphere ESXi 6 providing some compute, memory, storageIntel NUC
  • One VMUG Advantage Subscription complete with VMware EVAL Experience licensing- this provides VMware vCenter amongst other things.
  • One Microsoft DreamSpark Subscription and Microsoft Evaluation Licensing (see “Microsoft Licensing” on the Open Homelab Project for details on how to get these)
  • Me with my knowledge of Windows, vSphere, PowerShell, PowerCLI, and how to Google for stuff.
  • The community who not only kindly put content up on the internet for me to Google for but also are there for me to tweet, slack, and (shock, horror) talk to when I encounter problems or lose direction.

 

The Plan

a.k.a. How I’m hoping to achieve those aims with those resources.

To do all this I’m starting out by preparing a vSphere template of Windows Server 2012R2. I can deploy this- with customisations- using PowerCLI to form the building blocks of the lab environment. Once I have Windows VMs deployed I need to be able to configure them- this is where PowerShell remoting will come in handy- I can deploy roles and features and do some basic configuration. I’ll put together a PowerShell function to do all that. This function can then be re-used in the script to deploy multiple VMs with different configurations. For example:

CreateVM "Server1" $TemplateName $CustomizationSpec "Web-Server"
CreateVM "Server2" $TemplateName $CustomizationSpec "WDS"

I’ll use PowerCLI to deploy a private network within the Hypervisor and connect the VMs to it. This method will also be used to configure the connections to the gateway -one NIC pointing at the private switch and one at the internet-facing vSwitch already in place.

Some more in-depth PowerShell (possibly also arranged into reusable functions) to do the in-depth configuration of the roles. For example, when the script completes I want the Active Directory to be up and running, the Gateway providing an internet connection to the VMs, the VMs getting IP addresses from the lab DHCP and domain-joined. Basically I want to be able to run the script, make a brew, and come back and find a fully configured system ready to go.

 

Coming Soon- Part 2, full of scripting goodness.

vSphere HTML5 Web Client

HTML5 Fling iconWith ESXi 6.0 update 2 we were treated to a HTML-based web host client. This meant we were no longer confined to using the Windows (“C++”) client for host management, however it was still necessary to use the Flash-based web client for managing a vCenter infrastructure. The vSphere HTML5 Web Client is the solution to this- providing a HTML5, standards-based, web front end to a VMware virtual infrastructure. The product is currently in the “Fling” stage- so it’s out there to try but not quite finished to “production” standards yet.

vSphere Web Client

vSphere Web Client Fling running in Chrome on Windows Desktop

In my Homelab environment, installation was simple- I downloaded and deployed the OVA from the Flings website and then followed the comprehensive instructions on the vSphere Blog. Within a few minutes I had the client up and running and it sits alongside the existing host client and flash-based vCenter client (via VCSA) so all my existing management interfaces are preserved.

vSphere Web Client

vSphere Web Client Fling running in Edge on Windows Mobile

So, what does this give me? Well, apart from giving an insight into the future direction of the VMware hypervisor management console, it allows me to do basic vCenter management tasks from my mobile phone or non-flash compatible portable devices (although there’s a little way to go to make the app really usable on my mobile at least- see screenshot). I’ve blogged before about using the Host client on the Xbox One, and now it’s possible to manage some vCenter functions from the console too.

With the news that the “fat” C++ based Windows client will be depreciated in the next release of vSphere having started being phased out in version 5.5, I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes.

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Timeout Value on vSphere Host Client

If you’re running the HTML ESXi Host Client that comes with version 6.0 Update 2, you may find your screen reverting to the login prompt after only a short period of inactivity. This is because there’s an Application Timeout setting that defaults to 15 minutes.

Application Timeout

Application Timeout setting (Click for full size image)


To change this setting login to the host client and locate the user@host drop down menu in the top right hand corner, select “Client Settings” and then “Application timeout”. The timeout can be set to 15, 30, 60, or 120 minutes, or disabled completely.

In an important production environment it’s obviously more secure to keep this enabled as it will prevent you accidentally leaving yourself logged into the client and open to malicious passers wreaking havoc on your infrastructure. However, in a test environment, or your Home Lab, it’s probably quite safe to lengthen or disable this timeout assuming that you’re not concerned about small family members or pets getting hold of the mouse and playing with your VMs.

The Open HomeLab Project

Open Homelab ProjectIf you run a HomeLab, or have ever considered setting one up, you should check out the new Open HomeLab Project. This is a new wiki-based initiative to collect together information on the Home Lab ecosystem for newbies and hardened enthusiasts alike.

The Project was kicked off by Alex Galbraith following the London VMUG event in April and in the build up to today’s public launch a team has been busy collating together plenty of information on the uses, costs, hardware, and software of a HomeLab. If you’re learning about IT infrastructure and want somewhere to experiment, or if you just feel the need for a semi-enterprise IT environment in your house or garage, then there’s something here for you and the project would love to have input on what you’re up to.

I’m a relative newcomer to the “proper” HomeLab scene, having started in earnest back in January (check out my HomeLab series here), but found myself as one of the founding members of the project and have already been able to contribute some content from my experiences. This is proof that this can be a real community driven resource- you don’t need to be a multi-qualified VCDX, MCP wielding enterprise architect to be able to participate and share your knowledge and experience with others.

The site is now in a public Alpha, so here’s your chance to get in early. Go and have a look, peruse, and add content: http://openhomelab.org/