Tag Archives: blogtober2018

How to extend disk on a HyTrust KeyControl Appliance

Symptoms

An alert (and corresponding email) has been issued by the KeyControl service stating that free disk space is running low.

Freespace available on <KeyControl Server> has fallen below 2G. An upgrade to the storage for this system should be considered.

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Solution

Locate the appliance within vSphere and increase the size of the hard disk.

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Next, login to the web GUI of the appliance node in question and reboot the system. This restart should have no impact on the service as other node(s) in the  cluster will automatically take over.

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When the node reboots it will automatically expand the appropriate filesystem to make use of the space and an email alert is sent out confirming that the KeyControl storage pool has been resized.

See the HyTrust DataControl Audit Messages page for more information.

Rise of the Full Stack Vendors

In a recent Datanauts podcast Chris Wahl was discussing Azure and Azure Stack with fellow Rubrikan Mike Nelson and Microsoft’s Jeffrey Snover (If you haven’t already, you can check out the podcast for yourself- Datanauts #148). Jeffrey made some interesting observations about the changes in alignment of some of the major IT vendors over time (this discussion runs from 25min to 29min into the podcast).

He detailed how the big players (DEC, IBM etc) had started with a “vertical” alignment by building their own chips, boards, operating systems, and applications. This was followed by a dis-integration where the industry shifted to a “horizontal” alignment- chips from Intel/Motorola , Operating Systems from Microsoft/Sun, and applications and services coming from a wide range of vendors. He goes on to posit how cloud vendors are turning the industry back towards a vertical alignment, and gives the example of how Microsoft are designing their own chips (FPGAs, NICs, servers , the new “Brainwave” chip to accelerate AI etc)  right through to software; all to create the Azure Cloud.

This idea got me thinking about how this is happening elsewhere in the industry, and what the future might hold.

This realignment can be seen across the major IT manufacturers- in recent years Dell- traditionally just a client and server PC vendor- has formed Dell Technologies, picking up tech such as Force10’s network, EMC’s storage, and VMware’s hypervisor. This now puts them in that vertical alignment of controlling their own enterprise stack from the client device through the network to the server hardware and the hypervisor sat on it. In an on-premises setup Dell can provide the infrastructure from the end of the user’s fingers to the start of the Operating System or Container.

Amazon have started from the other direction- AWS as a cloud provider owning their own chipsets. servers, storage, and networking. They own the datacentre end of their customers today, but how long is it before we see the successors to the Kindle Fire devices and Alexa-connected displays being pushed as the end-user device of choice. Everything between the user and the application would then be in their single vertical.

We see similar activity from Google. Their cloud platform stretches down to their Android and ChromeOS operating systems, the Chrome browser, and even into hardware. Although (similarly to Amazon) the endpoint devices are today largely aimed at the consumer market, as the commoditisation of IT continues there’s nothing stopping this leaking into the enterprise.

However, these vertical orientations are not to the exclusion of horizontal partnerships and we’ve seen a lot more of that over recent years. For example VMware partnering with AWS, IBM, and Microsoft and Google for Cloud provision, or Dell-EMC powering the on-premises Microsoft Azure Stack, or IBM providing their software on Azure.

So will this continue, and what does the distant future hold? Looking far into the tech future is always guesswork, but if I had to bet I’d suggest that this alignment model will eventually swing back as these sort of things always seem to go in cycles. The verticalisation (new word?) will carry on for the next few years but over time the customers demand more choice and (in enterprise at least) less of the perceived risk of “vendor lock-in”. Eventually this leads to a tipping point, fragmentation of the stack and a turn back towards that horizontal alignment we are moving away from today.

Thanks Datanauts for the inspiration behind this, and #Blogtober2018 for convincing me to do more long-form opinion posts.

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VMworld Session Full- DON’T PANIC

If you’re planning your schedule for the upcoming VMworld Europe event, you’ll no doubt find that some sessions are at capacity. Don’t panic- there’s still options open for you.

1- Is the session being duplicated? Some sessions are available at multiple times- for example vSphere Clustering Deep Dive, Part 1: vSphere HA and DRS has a second showing added on Thursday morning.

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2- Turn up in advance of the session. If you arrive in plenty of time there is usually a wait queue outside the hall- this queue is for people who haven’t signed up in advance and the conference staff start to let these delegates in a few minutes before the session started. From personal experience the past few years at the Barcelona event I haven’t had a problem getting in by this route.

I’d suggest using the star-shaped “favourite” button in the Schedule Builder- this pops it in your calendar as a reminder.

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3- If you really can’t fit a session into your timetable, most sessions are recorded and you can catch up online after the event. The conference is only a few days long so a certain level of prioritisation is always required. I’d suggest considering which sessions you’re going to benefit the most from seeing live and having the opportunity to talk with your peers (and possibly the presenters themselves) about whilst at VMworld.

A couple more related points of note: The VMworld app is being launched tomorrow (23rd October 2018) which will allow you to work with your schedule on your phone, plus the “Agenda Export” feature of the Schedule Builder will be available from the 30th October which means you can export your timetable straight from the website to your calendar of choice.

Get planning! The event kicks off in less than two weeks- see you there.

 

Happy 18th

Lighted Candles on CupcakesOctober 2018 marks my 18 year anniversary working in Higher Education IT (so yes, about the same time since this year’s Freshers were born). It’s been a long ride and things have changed dramatically from technology, personal, and industry perspectives in that time. In this post I’ll be discussing a few of those differences, so gather round and imagine me sat in a rocking chair holding a pipe and talking about the olden times.

October 2000 was a time of change in technology- the perils of the millennium bug were nearly 10 months behind us, Napster had gone legal, the last major release on LaserDisk hit the shelves, Sony released the Playstation 2, and Amazon was best known for selling books online.

I arrived fresh faced to the University department and one of the first tasks in my new role was to order some parts for my new computer. There was little budget for IT and we scraped things together from what was around. If memory serves I ordered a motherboard, memory and AMD K6 processor and coupled this up with an existing beige case, power supply, 14″ CRT monitor, and old hard disk from the recycling pile.

These days we order laptops and desktops from (insert major manufacturer here) and my office desk has a 15″ 8th-Gen-i7 hooked up to a pair of 29″ widescreen displays. As well as the advances in technology this is one of the most apparent signs of the professionalisation (and some might say commercialisation) of IT within Higher Education. There’s less scrabbling to recycle outdated components and squeeze assets for decades and a lot more focus on allowing IT to spend it’s time fixing and improving things.

Behind the scenes the server infrastructure consisted of tower cases on a desk in the corner of my office- a sneaky way for a junior employee to get an office to themselves- there was a small UPS on the floor under the table, and the entire lot ran off a single wall outlet. Windows NT 4 was the platform of choice here, about a year later upgrading to Windows 2000 and Active Directory. Fast forward and we saw the proliferation of rackmount servers and disk arrays in purpose built datacentres. Then there was the arrival of virtualisation, VMware Server and then ESX providing the opportunity to run multiple servers on one piece of tin. These days we’re putting some of these servers “out in the cloud” on the other end of an internet connection, something we wouldn’t have considered 18 years ago.

The network joining all these things together has changed as well. Gone are the days of 10Base2, crimping BNC connectors on cables we’d threaded through the suspended ceilings, and troubleshooting T-pieces and terminators.

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CentreCOM 3012SL Hub

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Today Gigabit ethernet to the desktop is norm, the datacentres run on fibre and 10G copper, and you can sit outside by the campus lake and get a Wifi connection.

As with the network, storage capacity has increased dramatically. On my first day in the office I had a 15 MB quota on my network home drive. In addition to storing all my personal files and settings this also had to hold my POP mailbox which I accessed by Eudora. Jump to 2018 and I’m working at a University where staff get a 1TB OneDrive account and a separate 100GB for their email.

Personally, whilst staying in the HE sector I’ve developed from a “Generic IT Support bod #7” to a more senior role, whilst keeping myself technical. I still retain some of that generalist approach, but my day-to-day work has become much more focused- particularly around virtualisation, servers, and automation.

In conclusion, as with everywhere else technology has definitely moved on dramatically in the past 18 years. Network, Storage, and Compute have all grown incredibly and this has allowed us to do things we wouldn’t have considered back in 2000. As well as that though, I believe the UK Higher Education industry has also changed and it’s IT departments have worked hard to adapt to that. We now take on many more of the processes and technologies you’d expect from our colleagues in more commercial backgrounds in a bid to provide a modern, up-to-date IT environment for the teaching and research activities of Universities in the current era.

As I finish writing this post, someone has just brought in a laptop from 1992 which they’ve just decided is no longer required. Please ignore the text above about how things have changed.

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Dev 4 the Ops Team Preview

In one month from now I’ll be speaking at VMworld in Barcelona with a concise session on coding skills for the IT operations team. To quote the abstract for the session:

I believe every IT Ops person, SysAdmin, and vSphere administrator should do some coding

This belief is one I definitely work to in my day-to-day IT activities, and something I encourage my colleagues to do as well. My intention isn’t that every Systems Administrator becomes a full-time developer, writing (or contributing to) large-scale applications. However, I do mean for this coding to be more than just using the command line in place of a perfectly good graphical user interface.

imageA good base in coding leads to better understanding of how admin tasks should be performed and it can provide you with better documentation and more auditable processes.  Even small amounts of coding can greatly improve your productivity when tasks must be repeated and can be a stepping stone to more automation of the IT environment.

Here is the remainder of the abstract:

… this session will explain how to get started. This session will cover the core concepts required along with some PowerShell/ PowerCLI examples. The session is aimed at vSphere admins with little coding experience and they should come away understanding that coding isn’t something to be fearful of.

To see the whole presentation, come along to the VMTN theatre on Wednesday afternoon, or catch up after the show with the recording (link tbc). Click Here to view the session in the VMworld Europe Content Catalog and add it to your schedule.