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Welcome to Technology Short Take #43, another episode in my irregularly-published series of articles, links, and thoughts from around the web, focusing on data center technologies like networking, virtualization, storage, and cloud computing. Here’s hoping you find something useful.

Networking

  • Jason Edelman recently took a look at Docker networking. While Docker is receiving a great deal of attention, I have to say that I feel Docker networking is a key area that hasn’t received the amount of attention that it probably needs. It would be great to see Docker get support for connecting containers directly to Open vSwitch (OVS), which is generally considered the de facto standard for networking on Linux hosts.
  • Ivan Pepelnjak asks the question, “Is OpenFlow the best tool for overlay virtual networks?” While so many folks see OpenFlow as the answer regardless of the question, Ivan takes a solid look at whether there are better ways of building overlay virtual networks. I especially liked one of the last statements in Ivan’s post: “Wouldn’t it be better to keep things simple instead of introducing yet-another less-than-perfect abstraction layer?”
  • Ed Henry tackles the idea of abstraction vs. automation in a fairly recent post. It’s funny—I think Ed’s post might actually be a response to a Twitter discussion that I started about the value of the abstractions that are being implemented in Group-based Policy (GBP) in OpenStack Neutron. Specifically, I was asking if there was value in creating an entirely new set of abstractions when it seemed like automation might be a better approach. Regardless, Ed’s post is a good one—the decision isn’t about one versus the other, but rather recognizing, in Ed’s words, “abstraction will ultimately lead to easier automation.” I’d agree with that, with one change: the right abstraction will lead to easier automation.
  • Jason Horn provides an example of how to script NSX security groups.
  • Interested in setting up overlays using Open vSwitch (OVS)? Then check out this article from the ever-helpful Brent Salisbury on setting up overlays on OVS.
  • Another series on VMware NSX has popped up, this time from Jon Langemak. Only two posts so far (but very thorough posts), one on setting up VMware NSX and another on logical networking with VMware NSX.

Servers/Hardware

Nothing this time around, but I’ll keep my eyes open for more content to include next time.

Security

  • Someone mentioned I should consider using pfctl and its ability to automatically block remote hosts exceeding certain connection rate limits. See here for details.
  • Bromium published some details on a Android security flaw that’s worth reviewing.

Cloud Computing/Cloud Management

  • Want to add some Docker to your vCAC environment? This post provides more details on how it is done. Kind of cool, if you ask me.
  • I am rapidly being pulled “higher” up the stack to look at tools and systems for working with distributed applications across clusters of servers. You can expect to see some content here soon on topics like fleet, Kubernetes, Mesos, and others. Hang on tight, this will be an interesting ride!

Operating Systems/Applications

  • A fact that I think is sometimes overlooked when discussing Docker is access to the Docker daemon (which, by default, is accessible only via UNIX socket—and therefore accessible locally only). This post by Adam Stankiewicz tackles configuring remote TLS access to Docker, which addresses that problem.
  • CoreOS is a pretty cool project that takes a new look at how Linux distributions should be constructed. I’m kind of bullish on CoreOS, though I haven’t had nearly the time I’d like to work with it. There’s a lot of potential, but also some gotchas (especially right now, before a stable product has been released). The fact that CoreOS takes a new approach to things means that you might need to look at things a bit differently than you had in the past; this post tackles one such item (pushing logs to a remote destination).
  • Speaking of CoreOS: here’s how to test drive CoreOS from your Mac.
  • I think I may have mentioned this before; if so, I apologize. It seems like a lot of folks are saying that Docker eliminates the need for configuration management tools like Puppet or Chef. Perhaps (or perhaps not), but in the event you need or want to combine Puppet with Docker, a good place to start is this article by James Turnbull (formerly of Puppet, now with Docker) on building Puppet-based applications inside Docker.
  • Here’s a tutorial for running Docker on CloudSigma.

Storage

  • It’s interesting to watch the storage industry go through the same sort of discussion around what “software-defined” means as the networking industry has gone through (or, depending on your perspective, is still going through). A few articles highlight this discussion: this one by John Griffith (Project Technical Lead [PTL] for OpenStack Cinder), this response by Chad Sakac, this response by the late Jim Ruddy, this reply by Kenneth Hui, and finally John’s response in part 2.

Virtualization

  • The ability to run nested hypervisors is the primary reason I still use VMware Fusion on my laptop instead of switching to VirtualBox. In this post Cody Bunch talks about how to use Vagrant to configure nested KVM on VMware Fusion for using things like DevStack.
  • A few different folks in the VMware space have pointed out the VMware OS Optimization Tool, a tool designed to help optimize Windows 7/8/2008/2012 systems for use with VMware Horizon View. Might be worth checking out.
  • The VMware PowerCLI blog has a nice three part series on working with Customization Specifications in PowerCLI (part 1, part 2, and part 3).
  • Jason Boche has a great collection of information regarding vSphere HA and PDL. Definitely be sure to give this a look.

That’s it for this time around. Feel free to speak up in the comments and share any thoughts, clarifications, corrections, or other ideas. Thanks for reading!

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Welcome to Technology Short Take #42, another installation in my ongoing series of irregularly published collections of news, items, thoughts, rants, raves, and tidbits from around the Internet, with a focus on data center-related technologies. Here’s hoping you find something useful!

Networking

  • Anthony Burke’s series on VMware NSX continues with part 5.
  • Aaron Rosen, a Neutron contributor, recently published a post about a Neutron extension called Allowed-Address-Pairs and how you can use it to create high availability instances using VRRP (via keepalived). Very cool stuff, in my opinion.
  • Bob McCouch has a post over at Network Computing (where I’ve recently started blogging as well—see my first post) discussing his view on how software-defined networking (SDN) will trickle down to small and mid-sized businesses. He makes comparisons among server virtualization, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, and SDN, and feels that in order for SDN to really hit this market it needs to be “not a user-facing feature, but rather a means to an end” (his words). I tend to agree—focusing on SDN is focusing on the mechanism, rather than focusing on the problems the mechanism can address.
  • Want or need to use multiple external networks in your OpenStack deployment? Lars Kellogg-Stedman shows you how in this post on multiple external networks with a single L3 agent.

Servers/Hardware

  • There was some noise this past week about Cisco UCS moving into the top x86 blade server spot for North America in Q1 2014. Kevin Houston takes a moment to explore some ideas why Cisco was so successful in this post. I agree that Cisco had some innovative ideas in UCS—integrated management and server profiles come to mind—but my biggest beef with UCS right now is that it is still primarily a north/south (server-to-client) architecture in a world where east/west (server-to-server) traffic is becoming increasingly critical. Can UCS hold on in the face of a fundamental shift like that? I don’t know.

Security

  • Need to scramble some data on a block device? Check out this command. (I love the commandlinefu.com site. It reminds me that I still have so much yet to learn.)

Cloud Computing/Cloud Management

  • Want to play around with OpenDaylight and OpenStack? Brent Salisbury has a write-up on how to OpenStack Icehouse (via DevStack) together with OpenDaylight.
  • Puppet Labs has released a module that allows users to programmatically (via Puppet) provision and configure Google Compute Platform (GCP) instances. More details are available in the Puppet Labs blog post.
  • I love how developers come up with these themes around certain projects. Case in point: “Heat” is the name of the project for orchestrating resources in OpenStack, HOT is the name for the format of Heat templates, and Flame is the name of a new project to automatically generate Heat templates.

Operating Systems/Applications

  • I can’t imagine that anyone has been immune to the onslaught of information on Docker, but here’s an article that might be helpful if you’re still looking for a quick and practical introduction.
  • Many of you are probably familiar with Razor, the project that former co-workers Nick Weaver and Tom McSweeney created when they were at EMC. Tom has since moved on to CSC (via the vCHS team at VMware) and has launched a “next-generation” version of Razor called Hanlon. Read more about Hanlon and why this is a new/separate project in Tom’s blog post here.
  • Looking for a bit of clarity around CoreOS and Project Atomic? I found this post by Major Hayden to be extremely helpful and informative. Both of these projects are on my radar, though I’ll probably focus on CoreOS first as the (currently) more mature solution.
  • Linux Journal has a nice multi-page write-up on Docker containers that might be useful if you are still looking to understand Docker’s basic building blocks.
  • I really enjoyed Donnie Berkholz’ piece on microservices and the migrating Unix philosophy. It was a great view into how composability can (and does) shift over time. Good stuff, I highly recommend reading it.
  • cURL is an incredibly useful utility, especially in today’s age of HTTP-based REST API. Here’s a list of 9 uses for cURL that are worth knowing. This article on testing REST APIs with cURL is handy, too.
  • And for something entirely different…I know that folks love to beat up AppleScript, but it’s cross-application tasks like this that make it useful.

Storage

  • Someone recently brought the open source Open vStorage project to my attention. Open vStorage compares itself to VMware VSAN, but supporting multiple storage backends and supporting multiple hypervisors. Like a lot of other solutions, it’s implemented as a VM that presents NFS back to the hypervisors. If anyone out there has used it, I’d love to hear your feedback.
  • Erik Smith at EMC has published a series of articles on “virtual storage networks.” There’s some interesting content there—I haven’t finished reading all of the posts yet, as I want to be sure to take the time to digest them properly. If you’re interested, I suggest starting out with his introductory post (which, strangely enough, wasn’t the first post in the series), then moving on to part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Virtualization

  • Did you happen to see this write-up on migrating a VMware Fusion VM to VMware’s vCloud Hybrid Service? For now—I believe there are game-changing technologies out there that will alter this landscape—one of the very tangible benefits of vCHS is its strong interoperability with your existing vSphere (and Fusion!) workloads.
  • Need a listing of the IP addresses in use by the VMs on a given Hyper-V host? Ben Armstrong shares a bit of PowerShell code that produces just such a listing. As Ben points out, this can be pretty handy when you’re trying to track down a particular VM.
  • vCenter Log Insight 2.0 was recently announced; Vladan Seget has a decent write-up. I’m thinking of putting this into my home lab soon for gathering event information from VMware NSX, OpenStack, and the underlying hypervisors. I just need more than 24 hours in a day…
  • William Lam has an article on lldpnetmap, a little-known utility for mapping ESXi interfaces to physical switches. As the name implies, this relies on LLDP, so switches that don’t support LLDP or that don’t have LLDP enabled won’t work correctly. Still, a useful utility to have in your toolbox.
  • Technology previews of the next versions of Fusion (Fusion 7) and Workstation (Workstation 11) are available; see Eric Sloof’s articles (here and here for Fusion and Workstation, respectively) for more details.
  • vSphere 4 (and associated pieces) are no longer under general support. Sad face, but time stops for no man (or product).
  • Having some problems with VMware Fusion’s networking? Cody Bunch channels his inner Chuck Norris to kick VMware Fusion networking in the teeth.
  • Want to preview OS X Yosemite? Check out William Lam’s guide to using Fusion or vSphere to preview the new OS X beta release.

I’d better wrap this up now, or it’s going to turn into one of Chad’s posts. (Just kidding, Chad!) Thanks for taking the time to read this far!

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Welcome to Technology Short Take #17, another of my irregularly-scheduled collections of various data center technology-related links, thoughts, and comments. Here’s hoping you find something useful!

Networking

  • I think it was J Metz of Cisco that posted this to Twitter, but this is a good reference to the various 10 Gigabit Ethernet modules.
  • I’ve spoken quite a bit about stretched clusters and their potential benefits. For an opposing view—especially regarding the use of stretched clusters as a disaster avoidance solution—check out this article. It’s a nice counterpoint, especially from the perspective of the network.
  • Anyone know anything about sFlow?
  • Here’s a good post on VXLAN that has some useful information. I’d just like to point out that VXLAN is really only intended to address Layer 2 communications “within” a vApp or a collection of VMs (perhaps a single organization’s VMs), and doesn’t do anything to address Layer 3 routing/accessibility for clients (or “consumers”) attempting to connect to those systems. For that, you’ll still need—at least today—technologies like OTV, LISP, and others.
  • A quick thought that I’m still exploring: what’s the impact of OpenFlow on technologies like VXLAN, NVGRE, and others? Does SDN eliminate the need for these technologies? I’d be curious to hear your thoughts.

Servers/Operating Systems

  • If you’ve adopted Mac OS X Lion 10.7, you might have noticed some problems connecting to older servers/NAS devices running AFP (AppleTalk Filing Protocol). This Apple KB article describes a fix. Although I’m running Snow Leopard now, I was running Lion on a new MacBook Pro and I can attest that this fix does work.
  • This Microsoft KB article describes how to extend the Windows Server 2008 evaluation period. I’ve found this useful for Windows Server 2008 instances in the lab that I need for longer 60 days but that I don’t necessarily want to activate (because they are transient).

Storage

  • Jason Boche blogged about a way to remove stubborn hosts from Unisphere. I’ve personally never seen this problem, but it’s nice to know how to address it should it occur.
  • Who would’ve thought that an HDD could serve as a cache for an SSD? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Normally, that would probably be the case, but as described here there are certain instances and ways in which using an HDD as a cache for an SSD can improve performance.
  • Scott Drummonds wraps up his 3 part series on flash storage in part 3, which contains information on sizing flash storage. If you haven’t been reading this series, I’d recommend giving it a look.
  • Scott also weighs in on the flash as SSD vs. flash on PCIe discussion. I’d have to agree that interfaces are important, and the ability of the industry to successfully leverage flash on the PCIe bus is (today) fairly limited.
  • Henri updated his VNXe blog series with a new post on EFD and RR performance. No real surprises here, although I do have one question for Henri: is that your car in the blog header?

Virtualization

  • Interested in setting up host-only networking on VMware Fusion 4? Here’s a quick guide.
  • Kenneth Bell offers up some quick guidelines on when to deploy MCS versus PVS in a XenDesktop environment. MCS vs. PVS is a topic of some discussion on the vSpecialist mailing list as they have very different IOPs requirements and I/O profiles.
  • Speaking of VDI, Andre Leibovici has two articles that I wanted to point out. First, Andre does a deep dive on Video RAM in VMware View 5 with 3D; this has tons of good information that is useful for a VDI architect. (The note about the extra .VSWP overhead, for example, is priceless.) Andre also has a good piece on VDI and Microsoft Outlook that’s worth reading, laying out the various options for Outlook-related storage. If you want to be good at VDI, Andre is definitely a great resource to follow.
  • Running Linux in your VMware vSphere environment? If you haven’t already, check out Bob Plankers’ Linux Virtual Machine Tuning Guide for some useful tips on tuning Linux in a VM.
  • Seen this page?
  • You’ve probably already heard about Nick Weaver’s new “Uber” tool, a new VM alignment tool called UBERAlign. This tool is designed to address VM alignment, a problem with how guest file systems are formatted within a VMDK. For more information, see Nick’s announcement here.
  • Don’t disable DRS when you’re using vCloud Director. It’s as simple as that. (If you want to know why, read Chris Colotti’s post.)
  • Here’s a couple of great diagrams by Hany Michael on vCloud Director management pods (both public cloud and private cloud management).
  • People automatically assume that “virtualization” means consolidating multiple workloads onto a single physical server. However, virtualization is really just a layer of abstraction, and that layer of abstraction can be used in a variety of ways. I spoke about this in early 2010. This article (written back in March of 2011) by Brad Hedlund picks up on that theme to show another way that virtualization—or, as he calls it, “inverse virtualization”—can be applied to today’s data centers and today’s applications.
  • My discussion on the end of the infrastructure engineer generated some conversations, which is good. One of the responses was by Aaron Sweemer in which he discusses the new (but not new) “data layer” and expresses a need for infrastructure engineers to be aware of this data layer. I’d agree with a general need for all infrastructure engineers to be aware of the layers above them in the stack; I’m just not convinced that we all need to become application developers.
  • Here’s a great post by William Lam on the missing piece to creating your own vSEL cloud. I’ll tell you, William blogs some of the coolest stuff…I wish I could dig in as deep as he does in some of this stuff.
  • Here’s a nice look at the use of PowerCLI to help with the automation of DRS rules.
  • One of my projects for the upcoming year is becoming more knowledgeable and conversant with the open source Xen hypervisor and Citrix XenServer. I think that the XenServer Design Handbook is going to be a useful resource for that project.
  • Interested in more information on deploying Oracle databases on vSphere? Michael Webster, aka @vcdxnz001 on Twitter, has a lengthy article with lots of information regarding Oracle on vSphere.
  • This VMware KB article describes how to enable centralized logging for vCloud Director cells. This is particularly important for HA environments, where VMware’s recommended HA strategy involves the use of multiple vCD cells.

I guess I should wrap it up here, before this post gets any longer. Thanks for reading this far, and feel free to speak up in the comments!

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I’ll start this off with a disclaimer: this post is really more for my own benefit than the benefit of anyone else.

OpenBSD is my OS of choice when it comes to setting up a quick, simple UNIX-based virtual machine (VM). Need a virtual firewall? Use OpenBSD. Need a router? Use OpenBSD. Need a web server or an FTP server? Use OpenBSD. Need to run some network security tools? Use OpenBSD.

The problem is this: once I get an OpenBSD system up and running, it runs so well that I rarely have to go set up another one. Because there is then this length of time between installations, I always find myself forgetting the steps to take when installing an OpenBSD system. Thus, the need for this post and why I say it’s really for my benefit more than anything else. Next time I need to install OpenBSD in a VM for some reason, I can quickly come back and reference my list. (I will say that the installation of OpenBSD in recent versions has gotten much simpler than it was in the past.)

Oh, another disclaimer is probably necessary here, too: this is not to be considered some sort of “best practices” guide, so please don’t hammer the comments with stuff like “You know, you really should…”. This is just a quick and simple setup.

With those disclaimers out of the way, here’s the installation procedure. This was written for use with OpenBSD 4.6:

  1. Boot from the OpenBSD installation ISO image. When prompted, choose “i” to install.
  2. Press Enter for the default keyboard layout (unless you need a different layout, naturally).
  3. Enter the system’s hostname in short form.
  4. Enter the name of the network interface to configure. When installing on VMware Fusion 3.0.2 on my Macintosh, the default interface is em0. On VMware vSphere 4, the default interface is vic0.
  5. Enter the IPv4 address or press Enter to use DHCP.
  6. Enter the IPv6 address or press Enter to not assign an IPv6 address.
  7. Press Enter to complete the configuration of network interfaces.
  8. Press Enter not to perform any manual network configuration.
  9. Enter and confirm the root password.
  10. Press Enter to start sshd by default.
  11. Press Enter not to start ntpd by default.
  12. Enter “no” to indicate that you will not be running the X Window System.
  13. Press Enter not to change the default console to com0.
  14. Press Enter not to create an additional user. (I generally prefer to create an additional user after installation is complete.)
  15. Press Enter to accept the default disk as the root disk. On my Mac running VMware Fusion 3.0.2, the default disk is wd0.
  16. Press Enter to use the whole disk.
  17. Press Enter to use auto layout of partitions on the disk. (I’m not sure what version of OpenBSD added this feature, but it is quite handy for simple installations.)
  18. Press Enter to use the CD to install the sets. The CD in the VM should be mapped to the ISO image of the OpenBSD 4.6 install CD.
  19. Press Enter to use the default CD (which showed up as cd0 on my system).
  20. Press Enter to use the default path to the sets.
  21. Remove the X Window System sets by entering “-x*” and pressing Enter.
  22. Verify that the X Window System sets (xbase46.tgz, xetc46.tgz, xshare46.tgz, xfont46.tgz, and xserv46.tgz) are unselected, then press Enter to complete set selection. OpenBSD will start installing the sets.
  23. Enter the timezone, such as “US/Eastern”.
  24. Enter reboot to reboot your new OpenBSD VM. You should now be ready to perform final configuration of OpenBSD, such as using pkg_add to install packages or editing rc.conf.local to control what daemons are launched at startup. (Of course, those are tasks for an entirely different blog post).

That’s it. Again, this not a best practice/ideal installation. It’s just a “drop dead simple” installation in a VM for when you need to get something done quickly.

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Welcome to Virtualization Short Take #34, my occasionally-weekly collection of virtualization-related links, posts, and comments. As usual, this information is a hodge-podge of information I’ve gathered from across the Internet over the last few weeks. I hope that you find something useful or helpful here, and thanks for reading!

  • First up is Arne Fokkema’s PowerCLI script to check Windows VM partition alignment. As one commenter pointed out, the fact that the starting offset isn’t 65536—which is what Arne’s script checks—doesn’t necessarily mean that it isn’t aligned. Generally, you can align a Windows partition by setting the starting offset to any number that is evenly divisible by 4096 (4K). If I’m not mistaken, setting the partition offset to 65536 (64K) also ensures that the partition is stripe-aligned on EMC arrays.
  • Here’s a useful reminder to be sure to keep your dependencies in mind when designing VMware vSphere 4 environments. If you design your environment to rely upon DNS—a common situation, since VMware HA is particularly sensitive to name resolution—then be sure to appropriately architect the DNS infrastructure. This “circular dependency” is one reason why I personally tend to keep vCenter Server on a physical system. Otherwise, you have the virtualization management solution running on the infrastructure it is responsible for managing. (Yes, I know that it’s fully supported for it to be virtualized and such.)
  • Forbes Guthrie’s article on incorporating Active Directory authentication and sudo into the kickstart process is a good read. With regard to his note about enabling root SSH access because of an inability to access the Active Directory DCs: I know that in ESX 3.x you could still log in at the Emergency Console when Active Directory connectivity was unavailable; does anyone know if this is still the case with ESX 4.0? I haven’t taken the time to test it yet.
  • Oh, and speaking of Active Directory authentication, Forbes also published this note about Likewise AD authentication supposedly included in ESX 4.1. Looks like someone at Likewise accidentally spilled the beans…
  • I’m sure that everyone has seen the article by Duncan about the ESX 3.x bug that prevents NIC teaming load balancing from working on the global vSwitch configuration, but if you haven’t—well, now you have. Here’s the corresponding KB article, also linked from Duncan’s article. Duncan also recently published a note about an error while installing vCenter Server that is related to permissions; read it here.
  • Are there even better days ahead for virtualization and those involved in virtualization? David Greenfield of Network Computing seems to think so. The comments in the article do seem to bear out my statements that virtualization experts now need to move beyond consolidation and start helping customers tackle the Tier 1, high-end applications. I believe that this is going to require more planning, more expertise, and more knowledge of the applications’ behaviors in order to be successful.
  • Stephen Dion of virtuBLOG brings up a compatibility issue with Intel quad-port Gigabit Ethernet network adapters when used with VMware ESX 4.0 Update 1. Anyone have any updates or additional information on this issue?
  • If you’re considering virtualizing Exchange Server 2010 on VMware vSphere, be sure to read Kenneth’s article here about Exchange 2010 DAGs and VMotion. At least live migration isn’t supported on Hyper-V, either.
  • Want to run a VM inside a VM? This post on nested VMs over at the VMware Communities site has some very useful information.
  • Paul Fazzone (who I believe is a product manager for the Nexus 1000V) points out a good point-counterpoint article with Bob Plankers and David Davis that discusses the benefits and drawbacks of the Cisco Nexus 1000V. Both writers make excellent points; I guess the real conclusion is that both options offer value for different audiences. Some organizations will prefer the VMware vSwitch (or Distributed vSwitch); others will find value in the Cisco Nexus 1000V. Choice is a beautiful thing.
  • Jason Boche published some performance numbers for the EMC Celerra NS-120 that he’s recently added to his home “lab” (I use the term “lab” rather loosely here, considering the amount of equipment found there). Not surprisingly, Fibre Channel won out over software iSCSI and NFS, but Jason’s numbers showed a larger gap than many expected. I may have to repeat these tests myself in the EMC lab in RTP to see what sorts of results I see. If only I still had the NS-960 that I used to have at ePlus….sigh.
  • Joep Piscaer has a good post on Raw Device Mappings (RDMs) that definitely worth a read. He’s pulled together a good summary of information on RDMs, such as requirements, limitations, use cases, and frequently asked questions. Good job Joep!
  • Ivo Beerens has a pretty detailed post on multipathing best practices for VMware vSphere 4 with HP EVA storage. The recommendation is to use Round Robin with ALUA and to reduce the IOPS limit to 1. Ivo also presents a possible workaround to the IOPS “random value” bug that Chad Sakac discussed in this post some time ago.
  • Here’s yet another great diagram by Hany Michael, this time on ESX memory management and monitoring.
  • This post tells you how to modify your VMware Fusion configuration files to assign IP addresses for NAT-configured VMs. If you’re familiar with editing dhcpd.conf on a Linux system, the information found here on customizing Fusion should look quite familiar.
  • Back in 2007, I wrote a piece on using link state tracking in blade deployments. This post wasn’t necessarily virtualization focused, but certainly quite applicable to virtualization environments. Recently I saw this article pop up on using link state tracking with VMware ESX environments. It’s good to see more people recommending this functionality, which I feel is quite useful.
  • Congratulations to Mike Laverick of RTFM, who this past week announced that TechTarget is acquiring RTFM and its author, much like TechTarget acquired BrianMadden.com (and its author) last year. Is this a new trend for technical blog authors—build up a readership and then “sell it off” to a digital media company?

Here are some additional links that I stumbled across, but for which I haven’t yet fully assimilated or processed. You might see some more in-depth blog posts about these in the near future as they work their way through my consciousness.

Lab Experiment: Hypervisors (Virtualization Review)
The Backup Blog: Avamar and VMware Backup Revisited
VMware vSphere Capacity IQ Overview – I’m Impressed!

Well, that wraps it up for now. Thanks for reading and feel free to speak out in the comments below.

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Here’s Virtualization Short Take #27, a collection of news, tidbits, thoughts, articles, and useless trivia I’ve gathered over the last week or so. Perhaps you’ll find a diamond in the rough among these items!

  • Interested in more information on how it is, exactly, that Cisco is going to provide so much memory in their UCS blades and rack mount servers to make them ideal virtualization hosts? This article from CommsDesign and this “Catalina” article by Rodos Haywood both provide some great information on how Cisco is working around the Intel reference architecture limitations introduced with the Xeon 5500 and Quick Path Interconnect (QPI).
  • This article provides a handy reference on how to unregister the Nexus 1000V vCenter Server plug-in. I wish I’d known this information several weeks ago…
  • Need to view some configuration files on an ESX host? Just browse to http://<IP address of ESX server>/host and you’re all set. I learned of this handy little trick via Virtual Foundry.
  • And speaking of handy little tips, here’s one Eric Sloof shared regarding the vCenter Ops Dashboard. Again, just browse over to http://<IP address of vCenter Server>/vod/index.html to view the vCenter Ops Dashboard.
  • Adam Leventhal describes using the latest version of VirtualBox—which now includes OVF support and host-only networking—to run the Sun Storage 7000 Simulator. This is pretty cool stuff. I hope Oracle doesn’t kill it like Virtual Iron…
  • I just mentioned Virtual Foundry a bit ago, but forgot to mention this great post on hardening the VMX file. Good stuff.
  • For others who are, like myself, pursuing the elusive VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX) certification, Duncan’s recent post describing the VCDX design defense is a great resource. Thanks, Duncan!
  • The VMware networking team addresses some questions around using VMware for virtualized DMZs, and how to protect against Layer 2 attacks.
  • Want to do manual linked clones in VMware Fusion? Here’s how.
  • Via Matt Hensley, I found this VIOPS document on configuring a VMware vCenter Data Recovery dedupe store.
  • This article has more information on installing ESXi 4.0 to a flash drive, a process I have yet to try. (Instructions for burning ESXi 3.5 to a flash drive can be found here.) Anyone else done it yet? I’d be interested in how it went.
  • If you have any questions about SAN multipathing, Brent Ozar’s two part series on the topic may help straighten things out (here’s Part 1 and Part 2). I’m not sure that I agree with Brent’s statement regarding the ability of desktop-class SATA drives to saturate 4Gbps Fibre Channel, but I’m no storage expert so I could very well be wrong.
  • VMware SE and friend Aaron Sweemer provides a handy script that can help fix Service Console networking when performing automated builds of VMware ESX.

That wraps it up for this edition of Virtualization Short Takes. Feel free to share thoughts, questions, or corrections in the comments, and thanks for reading!

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A colleague recently bought a MacBook Pro. As a switcher, I figured he would need some recommendations on applications to use on his new Mac, and I know it had been quite some time (3 years!) since I’d discussed what Mac applications I use on a day-to-day basis. To kill two birds with one stone, I figured I would post a quick list about some of my recommended Macintosh applications.

Free or Open Source Applications

We’ll start with free and/or open source applications. (I break out “free” and “open source” because there are applications that may be available at no charge, but whose source is not available.)

Adium: This multi-service IM client is, in my opinion, the best Mac OS X IM client available, hands down. Aside from not supporting video chat—the only reason I can come up with to use iChat instead of Adium—this client does pretty much everything you need. Adium supports AppleScript and Growl notifications. Support for OTR (Off The Record) chat encryption is built in. Adium is available for download from the Adium web site.

Camino: Camino is a Mac OS X-native web browser from Mozilla. Unlike Firefox, Camino was built from the ground up to be a Mac application. It uses the same rendering engine as Firefox, but doesn’t support Firefox extensions. If you’re big on Firefox extensions, stick with the Mac build of Firefox. Visit the Camino web site for more information. If I had one complaint about Camino, it would be the fairly limited AppleScript support in the current release.

Colloquy: Into IRC? This is an excellent IRC application for Mac OS X. It supports AppleScript, Growl notifications, and can connect to multiple servers. I especially like Colloquy’s Smart Transcripts feature, which let me filter out conversations in busy chat rooms so that I can see the ones I’m most interested in joining. That’s pretty handy at times. Colloquy’s web site has more information.

Cyberduck: Cyberduck is an FTP/SFTP application. It supports AppleScript and Spotlight, Growl notifications, and Bonjour. It’s not the fastest FTP/SFTP application out there (last time I checked, that honor went to Interarchy), but it’s pretty slick. Visit the Cyberduck web site for downloads.

Growl: Growl isn’t an application per se; it’s a way for applications to supply notifications to the user in a consistent yet highly customizable fashion. Growl support is quickly becoming a “must have” for Mac applications, and you’ll see that almost all the applications I use support Growl. Surf on over to the Growl web site to download the latest version.

NetNewsWire: I’m into RSS feeds, and my RSS reader of choice is NetNewsWire. NetNewsWire offers integration with various del.icio.us clients (like Pukka) , weblog editors (like ecto), and supports AppleScript and Growl notifications. You can get NetNewsWire from the Newsgator web site. NetNewsWire is free, but not open source (at least, not to my knowledge).

Quicksilver: How does one describe Quicksilver? To call it an application launcher doesn’t really do it justice. Yes, you can use it to quickly launch applications, but you can also use it to build ad-hoc workflows like finding a contact in Address Book and creating a new e-mail message to that contact. Or finding a document and attaching it to a new e-mail message. Or quickly opening a URL in your default web browser. Or initiating a Google search. Or…well, you get the idea. I believe you can still get Quicksilver from the Blacktree web site, as well as from a Google Code site. (Some people have reported problems getting Quicksilver to run, but it’s been rock solid for me.)

Paid Applications

There are a number of paid applications that I use on a daily basis as well.

ecto: This weblog editor allows me to compose all my blog entries offline and then post them later. It works with a number of different weblog systems. I’ve been using ecto since the very first days of this site and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. More information on ecto is available from their web site.

Microsoft Office 2008: Like it or not, compatibility with the rest of the professional world still remains a critical issue, so I use Microsoft Office 2008. Yes, I know that OpenOffice exists (and has a native Aqua port), and I know that iWork supports Office formats, but it’s easier for me to just use Office and not have to worry about it. At least in this version Microsoft has added Automator support for building workflows using Office applications.

OmniFocus: If you are a GTD fan, you’ll like OmniFocus. (You may also like OmniFocus for iPhone as well, which has the ability to synchronize with the Mac version.) Projects, contexts, next actions—it’s all there. And it supports AppleScript, comes with a plug-in of sorts for Apple Mail, and leverages Growl notifications. See the OmniGroup web site for information.

OmniGraffle Professional: Also by the same folks that make OmniFocus (as if you couldn’t tell by the name of the application) comes OmniGraffle. It’s the closest you’ll come to Visio on the Mac, and in fact has the ability to read Visio binary (.VSD) files. It can also export Visio XML (.VDX) files. The OmniGroup web site has more details.

TextMate: There are numerous free text editors out there, but something about TextMate makes me like it. UNIX die-hards like it, Mac fans like it, and it offers great integration with other applications (like your FTP/SFTP client, so that you can edit files directly on remote servers). Visit the Macromates web site for information on TextMate.

Well, that’s not all the applications I use, but these are the ones that I find myself using on a daily basis. I can’t think of a day that goes by that I’m not running Adium, Camino, NetNewsWire, OmniFocus, TextMate, and Office—typically all at the same time.

Some other applications that I also use include:

So there it is—my list of most commonly-used Macintosh applications. I hope it’s helpful to some of you switchers out there!

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Despite the fact that I’m out of town this week at NetApp Insight, I wanted to go ahead and get out the latest installation of Virtualization Short Takes—my sometimes-weekly collection of interesting or useful links and tidbits.

  • Much ado has been made about VMware’s acquisition of Trango and the announcement of VMware MVP (Mobile Virtualization Platform). Rich Brambley has a great write-up, and I completely agree with Rich and Alex Barrett about what this really means: don’t expect to see Windows XP on your smartphone any time soon. Alex said it best: this is virtualization, not emulation, and Windows XP doesn’t run on ARM.
  • I’m curious—how many people agree with my comments in Alex’s article about the Citrix ICA client for the iPhone. Is there any real, actual value in being able to access a Windows session from your iPhone? I tend to think not, but it would be an interesting discussion. Speak up in the comments.
  • Duncan points out that the issue with adding NICs to a team and keeping them all active—the workaround for which required editing esx.conf—has now been fixed in ESX 3.5 Update 3. It’s now possible to add NICs using esxcfg-vswitch and there’s no need to edit esx.conf. Excellent!
  • If you haven’t yet checked out Leo’s Ramblings, go give it a look. He’s got some good content. It’s worth subscribing to the RSS feed (I did).
  • Rick provides a helpful tool to resolving common system management issues with VMware Infrastructure. Thanks, Rick!
  • Regular readers may recall that Chad Sakac of EMC and I had a round of VMware HA-related posts a few months ago (check out the VMwareHA tag for a full list of VMware HA-related posts). As part of that discussion there was lots of information provided about Service Console redundancy, failover NICs, secondary Service Console connections, additional isolation addresses…all sorts of good stuff. Duncan joined in the conversation as well with a number of great posts, and has been keeping it up since then. His latest contribution to the conversation is a comparison of using failover NICs vs. using a secondary Service Console to prevent VMware HA isolation response. According to the documentation, using a secondary Service Console can help reduce the wait time for VMware HA to step in should isolation actually occur. Good stuff, and definitely worth some additional exploration in the lab.
  • As a sort of follow-up to the discussion about using NFS for VMware, this VMware Communities thread has some great information on why the NFS timeouts should be increased in NetApp NFS environments. If you’re like me, you like to know the reasons behind the recommendations, and this thread was very helpful to me. Let me also add that we’ve recently started recommended to customers to increase their Service Console memory to 800MB when using NFS, so that might be something to consider as well.
  • Need to change the path of where Update Manager stores its patches? Gabe shows you how here.
  • Eric Gray of VCritial explores the question: what would things be like without VMFS? Well, as he states, you can just ask a Hyper-V user, since Hyper-V doesn’t (yet) have a shared cluster filesystem. Yes, that will change in 2010 with Shared Cluster Volumes in Windows Server 2008 R2 and Hyper-V 2.0. I know. Or you can just add Melio FS from Sanbolic today and get the same thing. This is not anything new to me; I discussed this quite extensively here and here. Now, what would really be interesting is for VMware to work with Sanbolic to co-develop a more advanced version of VMFS that eliminates the SCSI reservation problems…
  • Need a nice summary of the various network communications that occur between different components of a VI3 implementation? Look no further than right here. Jason’s site is another one that’s worth adding to your RSS reader.
  • If you really like living on the edge, here’s a collection of some RPMs for VMware ESX 3.5. Keep in mind that installing third-party RPMs like this is not recommended or supported…
  • Andy Leonard picked up the DPM video by VMware and is looking forward to DPM no longer being experimental. What he’d really like, though, is some feature to move his VMs via Storage VMotion and spin down idle disks. Andy, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
  • If you are a Fusion user (if you own a Mac and need to run Windows, you should be a Fusion user!), this hint might come in handy.
  • Eric Siebert has a good post on traffic flow between VMs in various configuration scenarios—different vSwitches, same vSwitches, different port groups, same port groups, etc. Have a look if you are at all unclear how VMware ESX handles traffic flow.

That does it for this round. Speak up in the comments if you have any interesting or useful links to share with other readers. I’d also be interested in readers’ thoughts on the whole Citrix on the iPhone discussion—will it really bring any usefulness?

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Fusion 2.0 Released

The next major version of VMware Fusion, version 2.0, has been released and is now available for download. The best part? It’s a free upgrade for registered owners of Fusion 1.x. I have to applaud VMware’s approach on this; rewarding early adopters with a free upgrade is something a lot of vendors should consider.

I won’t go through the whole long features list here; just go read it for yourself from VMware’s site.

As soon as I’ve been able to download the new version and install it (which, at the rate of The Venetian’s Internet connection, may not be until next week), I’ll post more information.

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While browsing the list of Virtual Strategy Magazine’s list of virtualization blogs, I came across the link for x86virtualization.com, a site that I have browsed from time to time in the past. On this particular occasion, one particular article caught my attention:

Concerns Over VMware Fusion 2.0 Beta 2 and Parallels Desktop:

VMware touts the updates to their newest beta release of VMware Fusion to be: More Seamless, Safer, More Mac-friendly, with More Tech-Pro Tools. Now is it safer, or did it cross the lines of “The Rules of Virtualization”.

In the post, the author proceeds to elaborate on the “3 Rules of Virtualization,” similar to Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics. I’ll let you read the full article to get the idea, but basically the author is stating that virtualization should not cross “boundaries” between the guest operating systems and the host systems on which the virtualization solution is running.

In the data center, I’d agree with that. Products like VMware Infrastructure, Hyper-V, and XenServer should strictly adhere to the basic properties of virtualization; namely, encapsulation, partitioning, and isolation. Interaction between host and guest are strictly against the rules.

On the consumer side, though, where this article squarely hits—let’s be honest, VMware Fusion and Parallels are hardly enterprise data center products—I couldn’t disagree more. In fact, the blurring of lines, the removal of boundaries between virtualized and non-virtualized should continue. This is something I first suggested and advocated almost 2 years ago when I introduced the idea of “application agnosticism”. It was then, when VMware Fusion was still in beta and Parallels was in early release, that I suggested that the blurring of boundaries was exactly what needed to occur on the client/consumer side.

Virtualization makes many things possible. The discussions that led up to the introduction of application agnosticism centered around the future of the OS, where some believed that the future of computing revolved around the idea of a collection of VMs—an Internet browsing VM, a security VM that provided anti-virus/firewall/IPS functionality, a third VM for productivity applications, etc. Lots of geeks have setups similar to this on a smaller scale. But ordinary users aren’t geeks. They don’t understand “virtual machines” and all that jazz. They just want a computer that works. So for virtualization to succeed on the desktop, it has to disappear. It has to fade away into the background, to become unnoticed and invisible. And that’s exactly what VMware Fusion seeks to do, and it’s what is being added to version 6.5 of VMware Workstation. That’s exactly what Microsoft is doing with the technology acquired from Kidaro. They are making virtualization disappear into the background, so the users can focus on what they really want: getting stuff done.

Does the blurring of boundaries create problems? Certainly. So does connecting your computer to the Internet, but I don’t see people crying doom and gloom over that! We just install our anti-virus, update our anti-malware, turn on our multiple firewalls, and off we go. Why should it be any different with consumer-grade virtualization? It shouldn’t.

On the consumer side, virtualization won’t succeed until it becomes transparent. Just like in the recent film I, Robot, where the Three Laws of Robotics had to be broken in order to move forward, in the evolution of consumer/client/desktop virtualization the Three Laws of Virtualization are going to need to be broken before we can move forward.

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