Tag Archives: vmware

Datrium @ vRetreat May 2020

Last week I received an invitation to the latest in the vRetreat series of events. These events bring together IT vendors and a selected group of tech bloggers- usually in venues like football clubs and racetracks, but in the current circumstances we were forced online. The second of the two briefings at the May 2020 event came from Datrium.

To paraphrase their own words, Datrium was founded to take the complicated world of Disaster Recovery and make it simpler and more reliable, they call this DR-as-a-service. The focus of this vRetreat presentation was around their ability to protect an on-premises VMware virtual environment using a VMware Cloud on AWS Software-Defined-Data-Centre as the DR target.

These days the idea of backing up VMs to a cloud storage provider and then being able to quickly restore them is fairly commonplace in the market. Datrium, however, take this a step further and integrate the VMware-on-AWS model to reduce RTO but also ensure reliability by enabling easy, and automated, test restores.

When Disaster Strikes

In the event of a disaster Datrium promises a 1-click failover to the DR site through it’s ControlShift SaaS portal. One of the great benefits here is the DR site2020-05-19 (44)– or at least the compute side of it- doesn’t exist until that failover is initiated. This means the business isn’t paying for hardware to sit idly by just in case there’s a disaster.

The backup data is pushed up to “cheap” AWS storage and at the point the failover runbook is activated a vSphere cluster is spun up and the storage is mounted directly as an NFS datastore. VMs can then start to be powered on as soon as the hosts come online – with Datrium handling any required changes in IP addresses etc.

Whilst the system is running in this DR state, changes are monitored so that when the on-premises environment is restored failback only requires the delta change to be synchronised back from the cloud. And at this point the VMware environment on AWS is removed until the next time one is required.

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Testing – Practice Makes Perfect

This ability to spin-up and decommission the entire DR site on demand enables realistic testing to be performed without risk to the production workloads. Test restores can be run, and workload-specific tests run on the test environment, but the SDDC built on AWS only exists for the duration of the test.

The Datrium platform contains runbooks, and these are not just restricted to disaster events, but can be used to automate testing. The system will, on a schedule, spin up some or all of the VMware environment in a temporary SDDC then run some specified tests and shutdown and destroy the test infrastructure when complete. The results of this testing are compiled into an audit report.

Conclusion

As I’ve alluded to at the top of this post, there are plenty of “Backup” and “DR” products out there servicing Enterprise IT and leveraging the public cloud to do so. Of those, I think Datrium is worth considering particularly if you are focussed on protecting a vSphere environment with a short RTO, and are interested in using VMware on AWS as a DR solution but not that keen on the not-insubstantial costs of running that DR SDDC 24/7.

Please read my standard Declaration/Disclaimer and before rushing out to buy anything bear in mind that this article is based on a sales discussion at a sponsored event rather than a POC or production installation. I wasn’t paid to write this article or offered any payment, aside from being entered in a  prize draw of delegates to win a chair (I was not a winner).

VMworld Europe 2019-Day 2 Keynote highlights

The Wednesday General Session at VMworld Europe is usually where VMware puts the meat onto the bones of the Tuesday announcements and this year was no exception. Here’s a quick rundown of my highlights.

imageExecutive VP Ray O’Farrell kicked off proceedings with a video of a near-future environment where a person is making use of futuristic apps, devices, and transport- a storyline which was then tied in to the new VMware announcements. Following on from the success of Elastic Sky Pizza in 2017, attendees were introduced to the latest (ficticious) company- Tanzu Tees – who must be opening a European branch following their success at VMworld US in August.

The Keynote was divided into four sections to follow this theme- “Build and Run”, “Connect and Protect”, “Manage” and “Experience”. This split the hour into 10-15 minute sections and showed the breadth of todays’ VMware profile.

Less than 7 minutes into the show and we’re already diving into product demos, with Joe Baguely brought in to show an application being built with Spring Initializr to build out a framework for developers, deploying this to a Bitnami catalogue with Project Galleon and make it available in VMware Cloud Marketplace.

The second demo showed off the new Tanzu Mission Control managing Kubernetes clusters across vSphere, AWS, VMware Cloud, Azure, and Google Cloud- all on one screen. A key feature here was the ability to apply policies across all these different platforms from one consistent interface- no need to dive into 3, 4, or 5 different workflows, each with their own GUI, CLI, and API components to deal with.

A demo of Project Pacific followed this. I’ve heard lots of people say how much they appreciated these demonstrations and being able to see what the products actually look like as slide decks can only take you so far.

In this third demo we saw the vSphere Client we all know managing Kubernetes clusters alongside VMs and container pods- all natively within ESX. VMware are already using this technology in house- currently creating and destroying 800,000 containers weekly- a number which is growing.

Moving onto the “Connect and Protect” section Ray was joined onstage by Marcos Hernandez who had more demos. The first of these looked at the NSX Intelligence features- picking up risks, threats, and vulnerabilities which have been surfaced using the new Distributed IDS/IPS technology in NSX and then applying recommended firewall rules to remediate the faults.

Marcos’s second demo looked at how Carbon Black Cloud Workload adds another layer to protecting the application- spotting known vulnerabilities, locations in the infrastructure where encryption wasn’t implemented, The demo included a simulated hack on the Tanzu Tees application and showed how Carbon Black and AppDefense detected the intrusion attempt.

The “Manage” segment brought Purnima Padmanabhan to the stage. Wavefront was the first product up here, collecting metrics from the components of the Tanzu Tees apps and drilling down into individual microservices to diagnose performance problems- in this demo identifying a specific SQL query which was the root cause.

Project Magna was next up in the demonstrations- this uses AI and ML to optimise application performance- in this example by modifying cache size based on the current workload on the storage device.

CloudHealth was used by Tanzu Tees to analyse the usage of the components of the applications and recommend right-sizing of VMs and produce budget alerts to help proactively manage cloud spend.

The final section- “Experience” – was led by Shikha Mittal who continued the demo heavy theme by showing how Horizon Virtual Desktops sites can be created on both AWS and Azure clouds and use on-premises style images alongside the Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktops deployments of Windows 10.

VMware Workspace One was shown managing a variety of end user devices, and connecting to Carbon Black to spot anomalies in usual device behaviour, for example spotting malicious logins and potentially compromised endpoints. Again VMware uses this internally for their 60,000 endpoints across the globe.

The new CTO of VMware, Greg Lavender, closed out the presentations talking through some of the forward-looking activities of his office including using Bitfusion appliances to provide GPU resources across a network thus sharing a pool of GPU resources amongst a CPU-only ESX infrastructure.

In summary this was a session full of product demonstrations- definitely worth a watch or picking out the bits relevant to you. You can now tune into the full keynote (1 hour) on Youtube.

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VMworld Europe 2019-Day 1 Keynote Highlights

VMworld Europe is happening in Barcelona this week, and today saw the annual Tuesday keynote start the morning off. I’m not amongst the 14,000 attendees from 111 countries at the event this year, so I’m recapping the highlights from the comfort of the sofa thanks to the online broadcast.

PG-Welcome-VMworld2019As has become normal for this European keynote, Jean-Paul Brulard (Senior VP and GM for VMware EMEA) welcomed the audience and introduced CEO Pat Gelsinger to deliver the core of the session. Pat focused on how digital technology has permeated all areas of our life and looked into the future to see how technologies such as AI and 5G will continue to accelerate this development.

VMware’s vision of Any Device, Any Application, and Any Cloud continues to be refined year on year- and the show looked at how VMware works to help provide consistence to the technologists trying to master the breadth of applications, clouds,  and devices in the modern world.

The product features started with Joe Beda being brought onstage to talk Kubernetes. VMware’s new Tanzu portfolio of products is designed to help build, run, and manage Kubernetes in the enterprise and is sold as a product to help both developers and IT. This section included the announcement of the betas of  Project Galleon which takes the Bitnami catalogue to the enterprise and Project Pacific which is vSphere rearchitected with Kubernetes at it’s core. VMware’s Tanzu Mission Control product which helps manage Kubernetes deployments on any platform has reached Private Beta.

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In the hybrid cloud arena, VMware Cloud Director Service has been introduced to allow the 4000 VMware Cloud Provider Partners (VCPP) to provision the infrastructure from the hyperscale clouds to their customers. This is available on AWS and IBM clouds today and expected in Azure by the end of the year.

The VMware on AWS platform is continuing to be developed- now available in 4 times the number of regions that it was a year ago, and the Outposts product getting closer to being delivered which will open up AWS zones in customer datacentres. When Tanzu ships next year it will be also feature on the VMWonAWS platform.

rJr0l480_400x400Microsoft also got a mention, VMware are partnering there to provide the HCX migration tools on Azure, and integrating Workspace One with Microsoft Endpoint Manager. Azure SQL 2019 on VMware vSphere is an interesting concept- providing the public cloud database service but on-premises.

Staying on-prem, the private cloud is covered with VMware Cloud on Dell EMC is now available – this couples VMware Cloud Foundation with Dell’s VXRail hardware to provide Datacentre-as-a-Service.

NSX, the “secret sauce” of previous VMworld keynotes, continues to develop- the acquisition of AVI Networks providing load balance capabilities and software-defined intrusion detection to bring features only seen within the datacentre in special purpose devices or next-gen firewalls right down into the hypervisor and adjacent to the applications.

Sanjay Poonen (COO) interspersed customer chats in amongst the presentation and towards the end took centre stage to discuss VMware’s security stance.  Their strategy is to provide proactive security whilst tying the network security, endpoint security, cloud security, identity, and analytics together. The Carbon Black acquisition closed between the US and Europe events and this technology will be layered into vSphere, Workspace One, and NSX, providing agentless antivirus protection and threat detection.

There’s a wide range of announcements here- and whilst a lot of the content is similar to the US event back in August, albeit further along the roadmap- it sets up for a good week in Barcelona. You can tune in to the full keynote (1 hour 48 minutes) on Youtube.

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Improving Documentation via the Community.

Have you ever had to deal with incorrect documentation? Or been frustrated by a typo? Or been annoyed that a how-to guide uses an old version of an interface?

Now you can fix it!

Many software providers are now using community-editable documentation online. This isn’t a Wikipedia style free-for-all, but a carefully moderated process ensuring that the resulting document is accurate.  If you come across an error in an online doc, or even a PowerShell help page, check and see if you can submit edits.

Continuous deployment pipelines mean that these edits can make it into live documentation in a matter of hours or days- impressive times if you’ve ever submitted an errata to a printed book, or submitted a bug request to get online documentation fixed.

docs.Microsoft.com

If you visit a Microsoft docs page, you’ll see an Edit link at the top of the screen (see (1) in the screenshot below). Clicking on this takes you to a page on Github with the source of the document. Click there to edit the file and a git fork will be made under your own profile- make your edits and submit a merge request and, once approved, your updates will appear in the original website. You’ll even get a little credit (see (2) in the screenshot below) for your contribution.

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In this particular example I was following the step-by-step guide and noticed that the wording in the document no longer matched the Azure Portal. I was quickly able to suggest a fix and later that day the page was updated and anyone else following the instructions wouldn’t be misled. Two minutes of my time hopefully saved ten minutes of head-scratching by someone else.

VMware PowerCLI Example Scripts

As the name suggests, the source code for some example PowerCLI scripts has been published by VMware supported by members of the #vCommunity. If you find an error in the scripts you can pop over to Github and correct them- and remember this isn’t just the code of the script, but also it’s accompanying documentation.

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In this example a typo in the get-help file was spotted and quickly corrected. Whilst the spelling mistake wasn’t a show-stopper this shows how quick and easy it is to contribute to these projects without being a coding guru.

Summary

Many of these projects use Github and learning how to use that version control platform isn’t arduous- especially for small changes like these- and is a useful skill to pickup if you don’t already have it. The important message here is you don’t need to be a developer to contribute to the code.

So, next time you spot a mistake in documentation, see if you can fix it yourself and help the next person who comes along.