I have used both products, and the bottom line is that Sun VirtualBox is a little rough around the edges. While it loads faster, sound capability is lacking. It has a much simpler interface, but at the same time the interface is a little cryptic. It does, however, load virtual disks from VMware Workstation.
To add virtual machines (VMs) to VirtualBox you must first create or add an existing virtual disk to the virtual disk manager. VirtualBox understands VMDKs from VMware Workstation 6.5 as well as those exported using VMware Converter from VMware ESX hosts. Once you have the virtual disk you can then create the VM and launch the VM.
I used Sun VirtualBox to work around the limitations within VMware Workstation’s USB support. Sun VirtualBox’s implementation of USB is much better and supported the device I need to use: LiveScribe SmartPen. When the SmartPen first came out there was no support for 64-bit Vista implementations, so I had to resort to virtual machines to get the 32-bit drivers to work, but they would not work through VMware Workstation on any version. They did work through VirtualBox. So VirtualBox allowed me to save my notes, but since there was no sound, I could not play them back. Eventually, 64-bit Vista drivers came out, all was well and I removed my VirtualBox implementation.
VirtualBox a good simple product if all you need is a spare system to run USB devices that VMware Workstation doesn’t support. If VirtualBox was given sound support it could rival VMware Workstation. Even so it is a very good tool to include in your virtualization toolbox. Simply put, however, VirtualBox is not as robust as VMware.
VMware Workstation provides many more features than the bare bones Sun VirtualBox. These features include embedded video creation, debugging modes for kernel developers, high speed inter-VM communication via VMCI, solid sound and video support, VM teaming, etc. If you need more than a bare bones, no thrills product then VMware Workstation is for you.]]>
The white paper mentioned the usual recommendations that deal with memory, CPU and disk I/O, but I was surprised to see a whole section on timekeeping (which we will talk about later). JVMs are often memory hogs depending on how you set your minimum and maximum JVM heap size and they also read and write very often. JVMs also tend to be very multi-threaded and the disk I/O will vary based on the type of applications that they are running. A summary of the best practices for each resource is below:
• As JVMs are very memory intensive, make sure your JVM has access to physical memory at all times by using memory reservations. If a JVM is forced to use its disk swap file (vswp) for memory on an over-committed host its performance will be affected. Set the memory reservation for a VM running a JVM equal to the amount of memory assigned to the VM. The VM won’t be able to utilize the transparent page sharing (TPS) feature to save memory on your host, but you save memory on a VM running a JVM anyway due to the its nature.
• Make sure to give your VM enough memory based on the maximum heap size of your JVM. JVM’s have a minimum and maximum heap size value and will quickly grow to their maximum size. If you do not have enough memory assigned to it then it will not be able to grow and performance will suffer. Check your max size and allocate another 512 MB for Linux virtual machines (VMs) and an additional 1 GB for Windows VMs.
• Use large memory pages if supported by the JVM and OS. See the following hyperlinked white paper for info on how to do this on the OS and how to enable in JVMs use the option –Xlp for IBM JVMs and –XX:+UselLargePages for Sun JVMs.
• Many JVMs will run well with one vCPU depending on how many garbage collection (GC) threads are running and may not benefit from using virtual symmetric multiprocessing. GC is the process that reclaims memory inside the JVM for objects that are no longer used. Tuning this can be tricky and relies on specific Java resource monitoring tools to see how often GCs are taking place. Check to see how many GC threads are running on your JVM and either adjust this to match the number of vCPUs in the VM or increase the number of vCPUs to match the number of GC threads. Often times its best to start with on vCPU and see how the application performs and then add another vCPU to see if it improves performance.
• You want to watch the disk I/O of your application running on the JVM for potential bottleneck issues. A JVM that is waiting to write to disk won’t perform as well as it could.
As mentioned previously, timekeeping is very important to a JVM. First you should make sure you sync the clock on your VM using either VMware Tools, W32Time or another network time protocol time source. What’s important here is the affect timer interrupts have on a JVM. Higher resolution timer interrupts cause more work to be done by ESX on behalf of the VM then lower resolution timer interrupts. The guest OS determines the timer interrupt of a VM. Most Linux guests allow you to configure the timer interrupt in the OS but Windows guests must rely on a JVM setting. Due to a weird bug in the JVM the –XX:+ForceTimeHighResolution option in the JVM actually has the opposite effect of lowering the time resolution.
For more information check out VMware’s white paper on Java virtual machines and be sure to check out the documents referenced at the end of it.]]>
First, you need to find alternate storage to place the VM’s on. This could be a workstation, a Windows or Linux server or an NFS/iSCSI storage device with enough free space to temporarily hold the VMs. Once you find your temporary home, there are several methods that you can use to move the VMs.
Method 1: Create a network-based data store
The first method is the simplest and involves creating a network-based data store on the ESX host. You can do this with a network file system (NFS) or by using a software iSCSI initiator. If you have a Windows or Linux server that supports NFS, you can create a NFS share and then map your ESX host to it to use as a data store by creating a new data store. You can also setup one of the open-source iSCSI appliances like OpenFiler to use as a data store for your ESX host. Once you have a new data store you simply shut down the VMs and use the service console command-line tools to move the VM to the new data store. The vmkfstools –i command will allow you to clone the VMs disk to another VMFS datastore. Then, after you copy the VMs disk to the new data store, you simply add the data store back to the newly rebuilt ESX host and use vmkfstools –i to copy the disk back to it and create a new VM, and tell it to use an existing disk.
Method 2: Use VMware Converter
Another method is to use VMware Converter to migrate the VM to a local workstation or network drive. To do this just install Converter on the VM, choose to convert the local server, and for the destination choose “Other Virtual Machine.” You can then select a network path to store the new VM. It’s a good idea to resize the VM so there is less data to transfer; you can always resize it back to its original size when you move it back to the ESX host.
Method 3: Use a secure copy (SCP) file transfer utility
Finally, the last method is to use one of the secury copy (SCP) file transfer utilities to copy the VM’s files to a local workstation or network drive. FastSCP works best for this. It copies data the fastest because it does not encrypt the data being copied. Then you simply copy the data back to the host after it is rebuilt and either re-register the VM or create a new one and tell it to use an existing disk.
Once you copy virtual disks to an ESX host it’s always a good idea to clone them before using them using vmkfstools as it allocates all the disk space at once which results in a disk with less fragmentation. Tools like FastSCP only allocate space as the data is copied which can result in more fragmentation of the virtual disk file. To clone a disk with vmkfstools just type vmkfstools –i . Once the cloning process completes you can remove the existing disk from the VM and add a new one and browse to the newly created virtual disk.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you have a good backup of the VM before starting.]]>
Andrew Kutz, developer of the Storage VMotion graphical user interface (GUI) plug-in, recently launched Virtualization Manager Mobile (VMM), another convenience tool to ease virtual machine (VM) management tasks. But this time, there’s a catch: If you want the convenience, you’ll have to pay for it.
The Storage VMotion plug-in, which Kutz gave away for free as an open source tool, has been out for 12 months. As the plug-in boasts 60,000 downloads to date, Kutz thought he’d try to capitalize on his idea this time around.
But will people buy it?
“We’ll see,” Kutz said. Storage VMotion has 60,000 downloads to date, and VMM is off to a good start with 422 downloads to date, 317 since this morning’s beta update and 105 since last Friday’s debut, according to Kutz.
VMM can manage VMware and Citrix virtual machines from their phones. Kutz said that with the beta 2 release, Hyper-V support will come, which will be the final release before the first commercial release.
The idea wasn’t entirely his. Kutz said he got the idea from Slicehost, a company that offers virtual private servers (VPSes). One of the management tools Slicehost offers is an application for that lets customers manage their VPSes via mobile phones. “I thought I’d create it for VMware, and after working with it for a week I realized I could make it work for any hypervisor,” Kutz said.
VMM shows CPU and Memory stats for each VM, and allows you to stop, start, pause and reset.
The first commercially available version should be released by the end of February at the latest, according to Kutz, with beta 2 being the final beta before first full release.
Here are a few quick facts about VMM:
So now you don’t only have to worry about losing your laptop. Better keep tabs on your cell phone, too. (Even though VMM requires you to log-in again after a certain amount of time.)]]>
Converting a physical machine into an ESXi virtual machine works best when you use the latest version of VMware Converter, version 3.0.3. While prior releases, such as 3.0.2 had support for ESXi, it has improved greatly with the updated 3.0.3 release. ESXi has a more updated version as well, version 3.5 Update 3. Likewise, if you are using PlateSpin’s PowerConvert or Vizioncore’s vConverter, you should make sure the version you are using supports ESXi as a target.
For most situations, converting machines to an ESXi host is not a big deal. The only practice issue that you may encounter would be the destination log-in selection of the converted virtual machine. Like many administrators, I have frequently used vCenter as the destination. If vCenter is not present in ESXi, ESXI will use the host as the destination log-in. The figure below shows the log-in:
Performing P2V conversions directly to ESX or ESXi hosts (no vCenter credentials) will use the local password to authenticate, and root is the default credential for ESXi. Beyond that, vCenter Converter converts machines to ESXi host nicely. Guest conversions can be placed in resource pools if set up on the host, as well as selected storage on VMFS volumes that are iSCSI, local,or fibre channel SAN. More information on vCenter Converter can be found on the VMware website.]]>
iSCSI is quite easy to configure. ESX’s iSCSI support is fully available in the form of a software initiator that uses a VMkernel interface. “That easy?” you ask? Yes, it is really that easy.
Using Ethernet is convenient. Until this point, I have exclusively used fibre channel storage for virtual machine file system (VMFS) volumes. With the ESX iSCSI software initiator, I simply dedicated some gigabit network interface cards to the VMkernel interface and was ready to configure the iSCSI adapter. There is experimental support for a hardware initiator with the QLogic 4010 interface.
There is a minimal configuration for the storage adapter. ESX has an iSCSI software adapter listed in the storage adapters section of the VMware Infrastructure Client. Once you configure this interface, the system is ready to receive a LUN. The figure below shows the configuration of the software iSCSI interface:
After those pointers, I was quickly running with a LUN provided from the storage system. Once the LUN is presented to the host, it is indistinguishable from other VMFS volumes. Full VMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler and other VMware tools are available on these volumes, including the esxcfg- series of commands.
If you are getting started with iSCSI, be sure to go through the drills related to configuration steps on ESX. Also, visit your system architecture plan and make sure that the iSCSI interfaces are provisioned well by not also holding other traffic, and be sure to check out VMware’s iSCSI configuration document available for download from the VMware website.]]>
The first video I found was on VMware’s VMworld.com website. It’s a cute little video that has various kids describing what they think a virtual machine is (free registration required to view it). I also found several other good videos posted there, including one that was a spoof on the PC versus Mac commercials entitled VMware vs. production servers, another called Are you hip to virtualization and one on The future of the cloud with Paul Maritz. Additionally they have all the video confessionals from VMworld 2008 where people sat in a booth and were filmed talking about VMware and virtualization. Also check out the Best of VMworld award presentation if you haven’t already seen it.
Doing some further digging around on YouTube I found the infamous Falconstor giveaway gone wrong video from VMworld 2008, a VMware Infrastructure 3 demo video and a Site Recovery Manager (SRM) demonstration video with Richard Garsthagen from VMware. I also found a cool distributed power management video with an interesting soundtrack, another interesting video called Live it, love it, VMware it from a company that I just found out is right down the street from me.
SearchVMware.com contributor and blogger David Davis also has many useful VMware training videos on his website that you can check out. And of course I couldn’t possibly talk about videos and VMware without mentioning Eric Sloof who is the Steven Spielberg of virtualization videos. Eric always seems to have a video camera with him and posted tons of videos during his travels to VMworld 2008. He’ll also be at VMworld Europe next month so watch for lots of great video coverage from him also.
Got a good VMware or virtualization related video to share? Let us know in the comments below.]]>
The VI Client’s built-in data store browser only displays files on VMFS data stores (as its name implies) and will not show other files that are located on the ESX service console. It displays the files in a virtual machines (VM’s) directory, but when displaying .vmdk disk files it displays them in a friendly format and not how they actually appear on the file system. The data store browser will only display one of the two .vmdk files that make up a virtual disk (the small descriptor file and the larger data –flat file) and the size will be that of the larger data file. Also, if you use thin disks it will show you the actual size of the thin disk and not the maximum size as the other methods do.
Thin disks grow as the disk blocks are written to and can only be created on VMFS datastores using the command-line vmkfstools utility. In the image below you can see the Test.vmdk file which is a 10 GB virtual disk, and created as a thin disk, is displaying its true current size of 720 MB. Also you can see that only the Test.vmdk file and Test-000001.vmdk (snapshot) disk files are displayed, and the Test-flat.vmdk and Test-000001-delta files are hidden.
Using WinSCP will let you browse the entire file system of an ESX host, including all the disk partitions that the service console uses and all of the VMFS data stores that the host can see. WinSCP will show you all of the files located on VMFS data stores including the two disk files that make up a virtual disk. When it comes time to showing the size of a thin disk, WInSCP shows the maximum size and not the actual current size as it is not aware of the special VMFS file system. In the image below you can see the Test.vmdk file is displaying as 10 GB and not 720 MB. Also you can see, both .vmdk files for each virtual disk are displayed.
Finally, using a service console command-line utility is the Linux equivalent of the MS-DOS dir command and similar to using WinSCP. It also displays the entire file system of an ESX host, VMFS data stores and all other files but displays thin disks as their maximum size and not actual current size. You can use various options (-l displays more detailed information, –h displays the file sizes in KB, MB or GB form instead of in bytes) with the ls command to show the output in different formats. As you can see in the image below, the Test.vmdk file is displaying as 10 GB and not 720 MB, and you can see both the .vmdk files for each virtual disk.
Click to enlarge.
As you can see, there are differences between the methods, mainly with how virtual disk files are displayed. Using the VI Client data store browser is the best method as it best understands VMFS data stores, but the other methods are useful when you want to see everything on your ESX host.]]>
The vExperts may not get many material things, but they will get the recognition they deserve for their contributions from VMware and the community as a whole. If I was to grant the vExpert Awards I would possibly include invites to VMworld conferences at no cost, vouchers for future VCP exams, not-for-resale product licenses, and reduced cost training. What the real vExpert Award will entail is unknown at this time.
The number of awards is limited and an exact number or individuals to be rewarded has yet to be released. It is possible to nominate those you think should get the reward, but multiple nominations will not have much effect according to John Troyer of VMware in a Twitter response. You can also nominate yourself.
vExperts Award titles last one year only — you can claim to be a vExpert ’09, ’10, ’11, etc. I expect that some of the awards may be given sometime at VMworld Europe, but definitely before VMworld 2010 in San Francisco.
Good luck everyone, I look forward to seeing the first class of VMware vExperts!]]>
Reflex Systems has added real-time and historical performance monitoring for memory, disk, CPU, networking and more, and it presents this data in a much more attractive and usable interface then vCenter Server. In addition, Virtual Management Center has some cool features that let you automatically correlate performance data with events and changes that have taken place in the environment. It overlays the event/change data on top of the performance graphs so you can get a visual indicator of where changes were made and their effect on system performance.
This can be very useful when troubleshooting a problem as you could quickly pinpoint a specific change that may have caused it.
The performance data is displayed in various graphs and you have the ability to overlay different data (i.e. CPU, disk, etc.,) on top of other data charts so you can easily spot trends and correlations among different resources. There are many custom and ad-hoc reports that you can run on this data, and you can export it to a website or a variety of other formats. You can also do a historical comparison of the performance data and compare data between different VMs.
It appears that Reflex Systems is not resting on its laurels after winning Best of Show at VMworld 2008. The new product has many new useful features. I look forward to trying it when it is available.]]>