The first Boston VMware User Group meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20. Intentionally or not, the meeting will take place on a boat in Boston Harbor, less than a mile from the site of another famous maritime revolt, the Boston Tea Party. Now we have the Boston vParty.
Before 2010, each local VMUG operated on its own with VMware’s support. In August of that year, nearly all of the local VMUGs came together and formed a worldwide, independent-but-still-closely-aligned-with-VMware VMUG. The New England group remained on its own.
That decision appears to result from dissatisfaction with the global organization’s mission, particularly its VMware-centric approach. (One of its goals is “providing a more effective interface between VMware and our customer base.”)
The New England VMUG’s shift away from this approach has been apparent at recent meetings; this spring in Newport, R.I., for example, a speaker gave a full presentation on Microsoft remote desktop and application delivery technologies.
Less subtly, this summer the New England VMUG formed a new organization, the Virtualization Technology Users Group (VTUG), whose About Us page includes this telling line:
It is the role of VTUG to ensure that the Vendors and VARs provide our end users with quality content and not inundate us with “sales pitches.”
The VTUG also plans to hold a fall event closer to Boston, instead of the New England VMUG’s traditional fall location, Atkinson, N.H.
If the New England VMUG, the nascent VTUG and the new Boston branch are all able to flourish, it will only be good for the local virtualization community. You’ll have a place to go exclusively for VMware information, and you’ll have places to go for broader but equally important topics.
If the New England VMUG suffers, however, it will continue the trend of VMware’s consolidation of power in the market. Consultant and blogger Tom Howarth caused a stir in 2010 when he pointed out that 13 of the top 25 virtualization bloggers worked for either VMware or its parent company, EMC. And at VMworld 2012 in a few weeks, more than 90% of the sessions will have a VMware or EMC employee speaking.
It’s understandable that VMware wants to control the message customers receive, but there are plenty of fiercely loyal consultants and users who can do that job just as well as (if not better than) VMware’s own employees.
VMware and the global VMUG should encourage those voices, not compete against them.]]>
The new program, called Virtual Customer Labs, will use the same underlying technologies as the Hands-on Labs at VMworld, according to a lunch session presented by Josh Liebster, a systems and sales engineer for VMware. It will allow users to test various VMware products “without having to worry about any Active Directory mishaps or storage being misconfigured.”
Technologies available on Virtual Customer Labs will include:
vCenter Operations Enterprise 1.0
vCloud Director 1.5
Users can only access the site through a service engineer request.]]>
The VMUG’s “What DBAs need to know about virtualization” session had about 25 attendees — more than a similar session I sat in on at last year’s VMworld, which is obviously a much bigger show. In Maine, VMware’s tier-one database specialist, George Trujillo, talked about how it’s easier than ever to virtualize databases, and he shared some tips for getting management on board with such projects.
“I am absolutely swamped going into large companies, showing them how to virtualize their Oracle databases,” he said.
The first question, of course, is why virtualize databases? Trujillo said DBAs spend 60% of their time on tasks such as creating new databases, moving data and applications between databases and migrating databases to new environments — all actions that virtualization can simplify, using technologies such as live migration, templates and clones.
Most of the discussion, however, focused on the many roadblocks to database virtualization — especially virtualizing Oracle databases. Oracle’s support and certification policies have a bad reputation among virtualization users, but Trujillo said they shouldn’t be deterrents.
Oracle has supported its databases on VMware for years and added support for RAC on VMware in November. Oracle does not certify on VMware, but that’s because the company only certifies to the OS level — not to the hardware level, which is what VMware is viewed as, Trujillo said.
Troubleshooting a virtualized Oracle database is another area that users shouldn’t be overly concerned about, Trujillo said. If you have a problem running Oracle on VMware, Oracle makes you replicate the problem on physical hardware, to show that VMware isn’t the cause. But Oracle does the same thing for problems on physical hardware implementations; if you’re using IBM hardware, Oracle makes you replicate the problem on a Dell or Hewlett-Packard box, to show that IBM isn’t the cause.
“There is not one known error in the Oracle knowledge base that they can attribute to VMware,” Trujillo said.
The final roadblock is an internal one: IT managers and CIOs who fear that virtualizing databases will lead to more trouble than it’s worth. To overcome this challenge, the key is to make a good first impression, because if the performance of the first database you virtualize isn’t up to par, you may not get the chance to virtualize another, Trujillo said.
He noted that the performance hit on virtualized Oracle databases has dropped from 30% to 60% on ESX 2 to 2% to 10% on vSphere 4, but that’s if you do everything right. Avoid memory overcommit and over-consolidation, which can create a fight for resources among your database VMs, and monitor your VMs closely to identify potential problems before they affect performance, he said.
If DBAs can get their higher-ups to be more comfortable with database virtualization, it will be a big step on the road to 100% virtualization. But there’s still another mountain to climb: SAP virtualization, which I asked several VMUG attendees about. They all said they don’t know of any shop that’s doing that.
Photo (cc) by tuppus on Flickr and republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.]]>
VMware attempted to clarify its sometimes-confusing virtualization management strategy at yesterday’s New England VMware User Group meeting, highlighting the role of vCenter Operations. The tool, which monitors capacity and performance in virtual and physical infrastructures — but also has some overlap with other VMware products — debuted earlier this year.
Mike DiPetrillo, VMware’s chief global architect for cloud, explained that vCenter Operations is meant to augment your existing monitoring tools, not replace them.
“This is an aggregation of other monitoring systems that you have in place,” he said.
VCenter Operations uses plug-ins to pull in information from other monitors and display the status of clusters, hosts and virtual machines (VMs) in a simple, colorful dashboard. (VMware engineers actually call it the “Skittles view” because it displays rows of green, orange, yellow and red circles.)
DiPetrillo explained that, as you drill down in search of the root cause of a problem, you may very well end up back at one of your existing monitoring tools. But he said the value of vCenter Operations is that you won’t have to go into each of those tools individually to get a “high-level view of what’s happening in your data center.”
“What I need to understand is what normal is and what a deviation from normal is,” said Eddie Dinel, a vCloud group product manager. “That’s a different kind of analysis than you see from your traditional IT management.”
Early vCenter Operations reaction has been positive, although several third-party tools offer similar functionality.]]>
But even then, users are worried about a tiered pricing and feature structure that could make it cost-prohibitive for them to take advantage of vCenter Operations’ advanced capabilities.
Virtualization management was the theme of the day at the VMUG meeting. Mike Eisenberg, a VMware senior systems engineer, said during his keynote that VMware’s hypervisor market share — he put the number between 80% and 85% — is “nice, but you can’t stop there.”
“As the creator of vSphere, VMware can give you a complete and accurate view of your available resources,” he said.
Despite the issues with the number of VMware management products and their costs — not to mention their per-VM licensing structure — users said they do like the tools. One product that caught my eye yesterday was vCenter CapacityIQ, a capacity management tool.
When I think of capacity management, I usually think of processes and technologies designed to eliminate bottlenecks and improve performance. (Greg Shields just wrote a great tip on how the capacity management process can do just that.)
But Eisenberg focused on how CapacityIQ can improve server consolidation: It sets recommended resource levels for each VM, based on its workload, then identifies those with overprovisioned memory or vCPUs. If you allocate fewer resources to those VMs, voila, you now have the room to add more guests on that host.
This is nothing new, of course. CapacityIQ came out in 2009, and capacity management problems date back to virtualization’s beginnings. But with all the hype around the cloud lately, it was good to see VMware go back to basics and focus on the issues that still keep admins up at night. Even if only for a day.]]>
In addition, these were the five most popular VMworld 2010 labs:
1. View 4.5 installation and configuration
2. VSphere performance and tuning
3. ESX 4.1 new features
4. VCloud Director installation and configuration
5. Basic vSphere installation and configuration