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Month: December 2016

VMware VCP7-CMA exam

VMware VCP7-CMA exam

A few months ago in this post I wrote about a new VMware exam which wasn’t listed in the official exam list in these days. Nevertheless, that was time when I almost finished my lab deployment of vRA and taking into account that the exams in beta phase costs only 50 $, I decided to try myself.

I scheduled the exam at 5 september during at the beginning of my holiday. The exam consisted 180 questions! There was 240 minutes for that – thats whole 4 hours, it’s even longer than VCAPs.. After 2 hours and almost 100 questions I was already exhausted. However I tried to stay focused and finished it. Since that time I didn’t have any update about my results on PearsonVue site I was able to see only the information that the exam was taken, whilst the official non-beta exam was released at 1st December. So technically you were able to take it and get the results immediately, while the Beta-takers still didn’t know if they passed or not 🙂

Yesterday in my mailbox I found the envelope from PearsonVue – it was quite strange for me because I’ve never received any envelope directly from PearsonVue. It was a nice suprise for me when I realized that there is my “summary page” with my results inside. Happily I passed – next goal achived by the end of the 2016 🙂

vCenter Server content library

vCenter Server content library

Content Library was introduced in vSphere 6.0 as a way to centrally store and manage VM templates, ISOs, and even scripts. Content Library operates with a Publisher/Subscriber model where multiple vCenter Servers can subscribe to another vCenter Server’s published Content Library so that the data stored within that Content Library is replicated across for local usage. For example, if there are two data centers each with their own vCenter Server a customer could create a Content Library to store their VM templates, ISOs, and scripts in and then the vCenter Server in the other data center could subscribe and have all of those items replicated to a local datastore or even NAS storage. Any changes made to the files in data center 1 would be replicated down to data center 2.

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With vSphere 6.5 VMware has added the ability to mount an ISO directly from the Content Library versus having to copy it out to a local datastore prior to mounting. Customers also now have the ability to run VM customizations against a VM during deployment from a VM template within a Content Library. Previously, customers need to pull the template out of CL if a customization was required. Customers can now easily import an updated version of a template as opposed to replacing templates which could disrupt automated processes.

There are now additional optimizations related to the synchronization between vCenter Servers reducing the bandwidth and time required for synchronization to complete.

Customers can also take comfort in knowing that their Content Libraries are also included in the new file-based backup and recovery functionality as well as handled by vCenter HA.

SUMMARY:

  • Improved operational features
    • Mount an ISO file from a Content Library
    • OS customization during VM deployment from a library
    • Update an existing template with a new version
  • Optimized HTTP sync between vCenter Servers
  • Part of VC backup/restore and VC HA
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

We wish you all who read our modest blog Merry Christmas!

The year coming to the end so and it is the best time to spend some time with family, take a rest and have a sensational New Year party. We wish you a healthy life and remarkable achivements in the 2017.

Pawel & Daniel

vCenter Server HA – changes in vSphere 6.5

vCenter Server HA – changes in vSphere 6.5

In vSphere 6.5 vCenter has a new native high availability solution that is available exclusively for the vCenter Server Appliance. This solution consists of Active, Passive, and Witness nodes which are cloned from the existing vCenter Server. The vCenter HA cluster can be enabled, disabled, or destroyed at any time. There is also a maintenance mode so planned maintenance does not cause an unwanted failover.

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vCenter HA supports both an external PSC as well as an embedded PSC. Note, however, that in vSphere 6.5 at GA an embedded PSC cannot be used to replicate to any other PSC. Thus, if using an embedded PSC the vCenter Server cannot participate in Enhanced Linked Mode.

vCenter HA has some basic network requirements. A vCenter HA network must be established be and separate from the currently used subnet of the primary network interface of the vCenter Server Appliance (eth0). If using the Basic workflow a new interface, eth1, will be added to the appliance automatically prior to the cloning process. eth1 will be attached to the vCenter HA private network. The port group connecting to this network may reside on either a VMware Virtual Standard Switch (VSS) or a VMware Virtual Distributed Switch (VDS). There are no specific TCP/IP requirements for the vCenter HA network other than latency within the prescribed 10 ms RTT. Layer 2 connectivity is not required.

Failover can occur when an entire node is lost (host failure for example) or when certain key services fail. For the initial release of vCenter HA an RTO of about 5 minutes is expected but may vary slightly depending on load, size, and capabilities of the underlying hardware. During a failover event a temporary web page will be displaying indicating that a failover is in progress. That page will then refresh to the vSphere Web Client login page once vCenter Server is back online. In the case where a user is not active during the failover they may not be prompted to re-login. When compared to other high availability solutions, vCenter HA has several advantages:

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PSC High Availability

After making vCenter Server highly available we also need to consider the availability options for the Platform Services Controller.

As you remember in vSphere 6.0 to provide HA for the PSC a supported load balancer was required –. If automated failover is not required we got option to manually repoint a vCenter Server between PSCs within an SSO site.vcenter12

In vSphere 6.5 VMware is  providing PSC HA solution that doesn’t require a load balancer but there is some integration work to be completed with other products in the SDDC portfolio before native PSC HA can be enabled.

I plan to test new vC and PSC HA  features in our lab environment – will provide separate article with my configuration details. At this moment let me point you to VMware KB as additional  reference:

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1024051

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2147672

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2147018

VCAP6-DCV Design exam experience(s)

VCAP6-DCV Design exam experience(s)

Finally, I’m pround to announce that VCIX6-DCV goal is achived!

Previously I passed the Deploy Exam (you can read about it in this post) which for me personally was far more intuitive and effortless. If you are a practitioner person than visioner and designer it would be quite tought to get used to these kind of questions and reasoning. In my opinion there are a few points which I can not agree with and I would be glad to discuss with the authors of these questions about their points of view 🙂

However, as I read on one of the blogs this is a VMware exam and they could have their own point of view and opinion about best practicies in designing virtual environments.

As you realized I used plural in word experience – it’s not so hard to guess why. Yes, I had to take the exam twice. Nevertheless, I finished the first try quite satisfied and full of hope the reality was brutal. 243 points appeared not to be enought to pass it…That was a food for thoughts.

That made me aware that I need to prepare better and figure out about the key used in design quiestions. It’s not exacly the key but the way of designs constructions. As usually Internet was priceless. First of all I found tips that the exam is similar to VCAP5 version and fallowing this idea I read the VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide. This was quite useful. Then I tried to think about the design questions I met and gind out what could be wrong there.

After a few more white papers, blog articles and other readings I took the second try and happily this the reult was much more better and of course I finally managed to pass and gain complete VCIX title.

The few tips from me:

  1. Be fresh and rested at the exam day ( there are 205 minutes, it’s quite a long to sit in front of the screen).
  2. Stay focused and read carefully all the questions and instructions at least twice.
  3. Start from the design questions which would take you a little bit more time.
  4. Be prepared.

Materials I found usefull during preparation time:

  1. VCAP6-Design Blueprint and all associated documents especially those from objective 1.2 and 1.3 should be read more than once
  2. VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide
  3. Study Guides of other people
  4. Google+ VCAP-DCD Study Group

I also recommend to get yourself familiar with scoring methodology described at The Cloud JAR’s Blog

 

 

 

VCSA monitoring and recovery options

VCSA monitoring and recovery options

The new vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface is still accessed via port 5480 for any vCenter Server or Platform Services Controller appliance. This refreshed UI now includes additional resource utilization graphs to provide a simple-to-consume visualization of CPU, Memory, Disk, and Database metrics :

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Above screenshot to the right shows the new vCenter Database monitoring screen that provides some insight into the PostgreSQL database disk usage to help prevent crashes due to running out of space. There are also new default warnings presented in the vSphere Web Client to alert administrators when the database is getting close to running out of space and a graceful shutdown mechanism at 95% full to prevent database corruption. Customers can also configure syslog in this improved VAMI.

SUMMARY

  • New vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface
  • Built in monitoring : Network, CPU, and Memory
  • Visibility to vPostgres DB
  • Remote syslog configuration

New in vCenter Server 6.5 is native backup and restore for the vCenter Server Appliance. This new out-of-the-box functionality enables customers to backup vCenter Server and Platform Services Controller appliances directly from the VAMI or API. The backup consists of a set of files that will be streamed to a storage device of the customer’s choosing using SCP, HTTP(s), or FTP(s) protocols. This backup fully supports vCenter Server Appliances with embedded and external Platform Services Controllers.

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The Restore workflow is launched from the same ISO from which the vCenter Server Appliance or PSC was originally deployed or upgraded. You can see from the lower screenshot that we have a new option to restore right from the deployment UI. The restore process deploys a new appliance and then uses the desired network protocol to ingest the backup files. It is important to note that the vCenter Server UUID and all configuration settings will be retained.

There is also an option to encrypt the backup files using symmetric key encryption. A simple checkbox and encrypted password is used to create the backup set and then that same password must be used to decrypt the backup set during a restore procedure. If the password is lost there is no way to recover those backup files as we do not store the password and do not use reversible encryption.

SUMMARY:

  • Restore vCenter Server instance to a brand new appliance
  • Supports backup/restore of VCSA & PSC appliances
  • Includes embedded and external deployments
  • Supported Protocols include:
    • HTTP/S
    • SCP
    • FTP/S
  • Option for Encryption
  • Restore directly from VCSA ISO
VCSA deployment and migration options

VCSA deployment and migration options

The vCenter Server Appliance deployment experience has been enhanced in the vSphere 6.5 release. Installation workflow is now performed in 2 stages. The first stage deploys an appliance with the basic configuration parameters: IP, hostname, and sizing information including storage, memory, and CPU resources.
vcenter4

Stage 2 then completes the configuration by setting up SSO and role-specific settings. Once Stage 1 is complete we can now snapshot the VM and rollback if any mistakes are made in Stage 2. This prevents from having to start completely over if anything were to go wrong during the deployment process.

NOTE!!! There are versions of the deployment application available for Windows, Linux, and macOS.

 vcenter5

 A new feature in vSphere 6.5 is the ability to migrate a Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to a vCenter Server Appliance 6.5. The migration process starts by running the Migration Assistant, which serves two purposes. The first, pre-checks of the source Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to determine if it meets the criteria to be migrated. Second, it is the data transport mechanism that migrates data from the source Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0 to the target vCenter Server Appliance 6.5.

The Migration tool will automatically deploy a new vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 and migrate configuration, inventory, and alarm data by default from a Windows vCenter Server 5.5 or 6.0. If you want to keep your historical and performance data (stats, events, tasks) along with configuration, inventory, and alarm data there is the option to also migrate that information. The vSphere 6.5 release of the Migration Tool provides granularity for historical and performance data selection.

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Both embedded and external topologies are supported, the Migration Tool will not allow changing your topology during the migration process. Changing of topologies will need to be done before the migration process if consolidation of your vSphere SSO domain is required.

SUMMARY:

  • 5 support for Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 à 6.5
  • Migrations for both embedded and external topologies
  • VUM included
  • Embedded and external Database support: MSSQL, MSSQL Express, Oracle
  • Option to select historical and performance data
vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 – new default deployment choice

vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 – new default deployment choice

vcenter1The vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 is the first VMware Appliance to run on Photon OS, it is a Linux OS optimized for virtualization which will become in near future  standard for all VMware virtual appliances. Photon OS provide many benefits to the performance of the vCenter Server Appliance, which includes about 3x performance gain over its Windows counterpart and significantly reduces boot and restart times. This also means no more dependency on 3rd party for OS patching and should greatly reduces the amount of time it takes VMware to deliver security patches and updates to the vCenter Server Appliance.

VCSA – main features:

  • Native High Availability
  • VMware Update Manager
  • Improved Appliance Management
  • Native Backup / Restore

In vSphere 6.0 we saw performance and scalability parity for the vCenter Server Appliance when compared to it’s Windows-based counterpart. With vSphere 6.5 we now see feature parity and even new features that are exclusive to the vCenter Server Appliance. Let’s take a quick look at each of these new features before addressing them in more details later:

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Let’s start with vCenter High Availability which is a native HA solution built right into the appliance. Using an Active/Passive/Witness architecture, vCenter is no longer a single point of failure and can provide a 5-minute RTO. This HA capability is available out of the box and has no dependency on shared storage, RDMs or external databases.

Next, we have the integration of VMware Update Manager into the vCenter Server Appliance. Now VMware Update Manager is included by default into the vCenter Server Appliance and makes deployment and configuration a snap.

Another exclusive feature of the vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 is the improved appliance management capabilities. The vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface continues its evolution and exposes additional health and configurations. This simple user interface now shows Network and Database statistics, disk space, and health in addition to CPU and memory statistics which reduces the reliance on using a command line interface for simple monitoring and operational tasks.

Finally, VMware have added a native backup and restore capability to the vCenter Server Appliance in 6.5 to allow for simple out-of-the-box backup options in addition to the traditional supported methods including VMware Data Protection and VMware vSphere Storage APIs – Data Protection (formerly known as VMware vStorage APIs for Data Protection or VADP). This new backup and restore mechanism allows customers to use a simple user interface to remove reliance on 3rd party backup solutions to protect their vCenter Servers and Platform Services Controllers.

Note !!! All these new features are only available in the vCenter Server Appliance.

HTML5 Client – the new way of managing vSphere environment?

HTML5 Client – the new way of managing vSphere environment?

Since vSphere 6.5, VMware killed standard Windows vSphere Client. However, it was promised so we should not be suprised (anyway I am still shocked ;)).

Fortunatelly, every cloud has a silver lining. I reckon that VMware is aware that the current Web Client is not a perfect solution. That’s why they released completely new HTML5 vSphere Client which seems to be quite useful, intuitive and what’s the most important – it works as it should in therms of response times. Some of Administrators claims it reminds the old GSX console.

The darker side of the new Client is that it’s constrained in terms of functionality and it will not let you perform all of the administrative tasks. But do not worry it’s the first release and I hope VMware will expand the functionality quickly.

The HTML5 Client could be accessed by energing the FQDN or IP address of our vCenter in the Web browser, then you will see two possible options – classic Web Client and the new one. You will also notice that there is a caution saying that it has only partial functionality.

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The list of non supported functionalities you will find here.

After you sign in to the new administration interface you will see quite grey and simple but in my opinion still good looking interface.

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The whole structure of it is designed to be intuitive expecially for those Admins which are still using mostly just the standard vSphere client. In my option the design combines the best things from Web and Windows Client in one interface. The problem is just the lask of functionality. I decided to try it and start with configuring iSCSI in my new nested LAB. However, I was quickly brought to the heel – there was not an option to add software SCSI adapter. This suddenly ended my adventure with new HTML5 Client 🙂

To sum up, it would be a handy tool in the future, it just need to be completed in terms of functionality.  Unfortunatelly, for those who want to migrate to vSphere 6.5 there will be still a need to use Web Client.

VirtualVillage’s home LAB

VirtualVillage’s home LAB

It is possible to learn especially about VMware products using just books, official trainings, blogs, etc. However, we believe that the real knowledge is available only by practice and not all could be tested or verified using production environments 🙂

And again, you can test a lot just using Workstation on your notebook (providing it is powerful enough) but these days there are more and more virtual infrastructure component which requires a lot of resources. Furthermore, having real servers and storage array is also a little bit different than deploying a few small virtual machines running on a notebook.

That is why a few years ago we decided to join forces and build the real laboratory where we are able to test even the most sophisticated  deployments not only with VMware products without being constraint by the resources.

The main hardware components of our lab infrastructure are included in the table below.

Hardware Component Quantity Details Purpose
ServerFujitsu TX200 S7 2 2x CPU E5-4220, 128 GB RAM Payload Cluster
Server Fujitsu TX100 S1 2 Router/Firewall and Backup
Server Fujitsu TX100 S3 3 1x CPU E3-1240, 32 GB RAM Management Cluster
NAS Synology DS2413+ 1 12 x 1 TB SATA 7,2K Gold Storage
NAS Synology RS3617+ 1 12 x 600 GB SAS 15K Silver Storage
NAS QNAP T410 1 4 x 1TB SATA 5,4K Bronze Storage (ISO)
Switch HPE 1910 1 48x 1 Gbps Connectivity

 

Of course we didn’t buy it at once. The environment evaluates with increasing needs. ( In the near future we are going to expand management cluster with 4 host and deploy NSX).

The logical topology looks like this:

lab

 

Despite the fact that most of our servers use tower cases, we installed them in a self made 42U Rack. Unfortunatelly, especially during the summer it could not go without air conditoning (this is one of the most power consuming part of the lab..)

 

Later, either me or Daniel will describe the software layer of our Lab. I hope, it will give an inspiration to anyone who is thinking about own lab.