Jun 302010

The way I see it, there are two dilemmas that VMware has in the way their licensing is designed today.  One of them works against VMware and one works against VMware customers (or at least makes it harder for them).  The former is definitely the bigger of the two so lets discuss that one first.  This topic comes up frequently when new versions of ESX are coming out.  We’ve already heard that an update is coming this year so I figured that since today is the half-way point in the year, this was a good time to bring up the topic again.

You probably noticed by now that there is a limitation in Standard and Enterprise editions of vSphere to a maximum of 6-cores per CPU.  The Advanced and Enterprise-Plus editions of vSphere have a licensed limit of 12-cores per CPU.  Now that Intel’s 8-core CPUs and AMD’s 12-cores are out, what’s next?  Intel and AMD are sure to develop a proc with more than 12 cores (and probably sooner than we all think).  What will happen to VMware’s licensing then?  You have to remember that from a revenue standpoint, when a 24 core proc comes out, customers will be able to run twice as many workloads on that proc (or at least 50% more).  Moore’s Law states that processing performance of CPUs will double every two years.  With the processors doubling in power so quickly, customers are typically not doubling their number of VMs in the same time period.  The result is that customers tend to have a diminishing need to increase their ESX per-CPU licensing.  I know that there are exceptions to this rule, but in the SMB space the majority are not growing that fast (at least not in this economy).  The increase in processor performance actually works against VMware’s current licensing model. It not good to have a direct connection between your main revenue stream and someone else’s CPU release schedule.  What will happen?  What’s the right answer?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Will they go to a per-vm model?  Increase their current limits?  Find some middle-ground between the two?  Will they “grandfather” their customers like AT&T did with the iPad data plans?  Only VMware knows.  My opinion is that this is an issue that has to be dealt with eventually.  Maybe this will be the year, maybe next.

The second licensing dilemma that I run into is in Site Recovery Manager.  It’s no secret that SRM is my favorite non-ESX product from VMware.  As you probably know, SRM is licensed by the physical CPU where the protected virtual machines reside or could reside.  Here’s where that model breaks down:  let’s say I have a smaller customer who’s policy is only to have a DR plan for 5 of their most critical Virtual Machines.  Those five VMs run in a cluster comprise of 5 dual CPU hosts with HA and DRS enabled.  According to the SRM licensing model, I need 10 CPUs of SRM for those 5 VMs.  That does not fly well.  The solution I’ve heard some engineers mention is to create a separate smaller cluster for just the protected VMs.  I’m not fond of that idea because it goes against the consolidation principal.  I’ve never felt that lowering your consolidation ratio was justified because it did not fit a licensing model.

I know there are people much smarter than me at work trying to find a solution to both of these scenarios.  I’m hopeful that they will get resolved in a way that’s fair to both sides.  Maybe this is the year, maybe it is not.  Either way, we’ve made it thru half of 2010, perhaps the answers lie in the last 6 months of the year.

Jun 292010

In the past, I have reviewed all of the technical papers on the VMware site.  I’ve decided to change direction a little and I only plan on reviewing papers that would apply to the everyday VM Admin.  I’m also going to throw in my own ranking on each article (*****, 1 to 5 stars).  You will also notice a “vKeeper” reference in some of the papers.  This award is for the papers that I keep a local copy of on my computer for reference when I need them.  They are the docs that all admins should read thru and use as a reference as needed.  I have also added a section to my admin bookmark page just for the vKeeper docs.

PCoIP Display Protocol: Information and Scenario-Based Network Sizing Guide – (12 pages) A good paper with very good insight on the PCoIP protocol used in VMware View.  It gives some good suggestions and the required bandwidths needed to satisfy the end users on their desktop experience.  A must have for view deployments.  (****, 4 of 5 stars)

Application Presentation to VMware View Desktops with Citrix XenApp – (3 pages) This is a whitepaper to show how to deploy applications in VMware View desktops from XenApp.  While I can see this being useful for View admins who use XenApp, the description and instructions are very minimal.  Probably something better suited for a KB article. (**, 2 of 5 stars)

Timekeeping in VMware Virtual Machines – (26 pages) This is a very important topic for all VM Admins to know.  Time is relevant to everything in a VM, whether you are trying to authenticate to Active Directory or troubleshooting using event logs, accurate time is very important.  This paper goes into some really great detail on how VMware maintains accurate time in VMs.  If you are a VMware admin, this should be a standard read.   (*****, 5 of 5 stars, vKeeper)

SAN System Design and Deployment Guide – (244 pages of storage goodness)  I have a storage background so I specifically enjoy this one.  If you are running ESX on SAN shared storage (you should be on some type of shared storage) then this is a must read.  This whitepaper is also very helpful if you are studying for the VCP or one of the new VCAP exams.  This is another paper I keep local and definitely one all VM admins with SAN should review.  (*****, 5 of 5 stars, vKeeper)

Best Practices for Running vSphere on NFS Storage – (14 pages) On the heels of the SAN design and deployment guide, this paper describes the best practices for running NFS on vSphere.  I like the fact that this article references outdated best practices that have changed and why they have changed.  This is a HUGE help to admins who google a topic only to find conflicting information.  My only regret on this paper is that I would like to see more detail on the advanced options and how they affect the performance of NFS.  Still a important doc for VM Admins using NFS storage.  Should be reviewed by all of them to make sure they are current in their deployment of NFS best practices.  (****, 4 of 5 stars)

Location Awareness in VMware View 4 – (8 pages) Good information for View Admins to know where to find out where their clients are connecting from.  This is a common request from hospitals to have printers “follow the user” as they float from terminal to terminal.  There are some advanced topics in this article and some Active Directory knowledge is definitely required especially when using loopback mode in group policy processing.  Good info and hopefully View will include some GUI-based  native features in the future to assist with this.  (***, 3 of 5 stars)

VMware vSphere 4.0 Security Hardening Guide – (70 pages) This is a outstanding reference for any VM Admin.  Security affects everyone’s environment, from the 3-man shop to the largest infrastructure.  Setting the precedence of a solid, secure enviornment from the ground up will provide you with a infrastructure that is solid as a rock. I recommend reviewing this paper often and keeping this one handy   (*****, 5 of 5 stars, vKeeper)

VMware vStorage Virtual Machine File System – Technical Overview and Best Practices – (13 pages) This is a entry level paper on some of the very basics of VMFS and how they relate to RDMs.  This should be a good introduction to VMFS to new VM Admins.  I hoped with “Best Practices” in the title that there would be more technical references (advanced options for VMFS and how tweaking them affects the storage performance for instance).  I was also disappointed to see the LUN size question answered vaguely, suggesting to refer to the storage vendor to size your LUNs appropriately.  I prefer Duncan’s approach to LUN sizing and it’s what I recommend to all of my customers.  (***, 3 of 5 stars)

Look for the vPaper Report again next quarter (hopefully with some new releases in between). Until then, happy reading!

Jun 102010

I’ve always been a fan of this little backup app.  It has just been upgraded to v1.2 and can be downloaded here.  Good information in the enhancements section of the release notes:

The following enhancements have been made for this release of Data Recovery.

File Level Restore (FLR) is now available for use with Linux.
Each vCenter Server instance supports up to ten Data Recovery backup appliances.
The vSphere Client plug-in supports fast switching among Data Recovery backup appliances.
Miscellaneous vSphere Client Plug-In user interface enhancements including:
The means to name backup jobs during their creation.
Additional information about the current status of destination disks including the disk’s health and the degree of space savings provided by the deduplication store’s optimizations.
Information about the datastore from which virtual disks are backed up.

You can also see a nice little writeup from the developers and a little video showing the new stuff here.

Jun 102010

vCenter 4.0 was updated to Update 2 tonight.  You can download the new release here.  For reference, here’s the what’s new section from the release notes:

This release of VMware vCenter Server 4.0 Update 2 offers the following improvements:

Guest Operating System Customization Improvements: vCenter Server now supports customization of the following guest operating systems:
Windows XP Professional SP2 (x64) serviced by Windows Server 2003 SP2
SLES 11 (x32 and x64)
SLES 10 SP3 (x32 and x64)
RHEL 5.5 Server Platform (x32 and x64)
RHEL 5.4 Server Platform (x32 and x64)
RHEL 4.8 Server Platform (x32 and 64)
Debian 5.0 (x32 and x64)
Debian 5.0 R1 (x32 and x64)
Debian 5.0 R2 (x32 and x64)

Jun 102010

Not the big release we’re all waiting for but an important one nonetheless. You can download the updated release here.  As always, here’s the very important what’s new section from the release notes:

The following information provides highlights of some of the enhancements available in this release of VMware ESX:

Enablement of Fault Tolerance Functionality for Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors without Fault Tolerance. vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables Fault Tolerance functionality for the Intel Xeon 56xx Series processors.
Enablement of Fault Tolerance Functionality for Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors without Fault Tolerance. vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables Fault Tolerance functionality for the Intel i3/i5 Clarkdale Series and Intel Xeon 34xx Clarkdale Series processors.
Enablement of IOMMU Functionality for AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors— vSphere 4.0 Update 1 supports the AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors without input/output memory management unit (IOMMU). vSphere 4.0 Update 2 enables IOMMU functionality for the AMD Opteron 61xx and 41xx Series processors.
Enhancement of the esxtop/resxtop utility— vSphere 4.0 Update 2 includes an enhancement of the performance monitoring utilities, esxtop and resxtop. The esxtop/resxtop utilities now provide visibility into the performance of NFS datastores in that they display the following statistics for NFS datastores: Reads/s, writes/s, MBreads/s, MBwrtn/s, cmds/s, GAVG/s(guest latency).
Additional Guest Operating System Support— ESX/ESXi 4.0 Update 2 adds support for Ubuntu 10.04. For a complete list of supported guest operating systems with this release, see the VMware Compatibility Guide.