Virtualization Pro


September 11, 2008  4:00 PM

Helpful VKernel SearchMyVM queries for use in VI3 environments



Posted by: Rick Vanover
Rick Vanover, Virtualization, VMware scripting

In my opinion, VKernel’s SearchMyVM virtual appliance (VA) has to be one of the most useful free virtualization management tools. I have found myself using it quite frequently to get information about my environment. I mentioned its release over on SearchServerVirtualization, and here I want to share some common queries I’ve used that you may want to hold onto for frequent use, and how they can help you:

vm.cdroms.connected=true
– Running this query will tell you which VMs have connected virtual optical media, which can inhibit VMotion on the guest.

vm.toolsStatus=toolsNotInstalled,toolsNotRunning,toolsOld
– All VMs that have VMware tools status of everything but OK.

cluster.haFailoverLevel
– Lists all cluster’s HA Failover level. This is an easy way to spot check for consistent settings.

cluster.drsEnabled
– Shows clusters that have DRS enabled. This one goes hand and hand with the HA settings to ensure that they are enabled across all environments as expected.

vm.hostName:servername
– Gives the quick query of a guest’s hostname that is like servername, this is incredibly handy if you need to quickly find what resource pool, cluster, or datacenter a virtual machine is located.

file.datastore.name:storage
– This query shows VMs located on a datastore that contains the string “storage”. By default, local datastores of ESX are named servername:storage1 for local VMFS volumes. Likewise, if your development or otherwise low-priority storage has the string ‘dev’ in it, you can replace storage with ‘dev’ and see the inventory of VMs that reside on that class of LUN.

vm.cpuLimit=-1
– This query shows the VMs that currently do not have a CPU limit, meaning, they can consume the maximum amount of GHz available to the guest.

datastore.freeSpace
– This query displays the free space of every LUN available to every datacenter in the VI3 environment.

The SearchMyVM VA enables administrators to quickly pull in information from across their VI3 environment. This beta release is available for free download from the VKernel website.

September 11, 2008  3:50 PM

What to do at VMworld



Posted by: Eric Siebert
Eric Siebert, Virtualization, VMworld 2008

VMworld is one week away and if you’re attending there will be no shortage of things to keep you busy while you’re there. With over 200 sessions, labs, breakout sessions, 200+ vendors, parties, thousands of users and much more to cram into four days, one can quickly be overwhelmed by all there is to see and do. When I first went through the online session builder I identified at least 50 sessions that interested me and I wanted to attend. When I tried to schedule them, however, I found that I could only go to about 15 of them due to scheduling conflicts and time constraints.

The sessions are only one part of the show and are geared towards teaching attendees about VMware features, technology, best practices, methodologies and more. However there is much more to VMworld then the sessions:

Networking with other users – With thousands of users attending the show it is a great opportunity to meet other users and discuss your experiences and also learn from other user’s experiences. In talking with other users you can find out how they overcame specific challenges and what strategies worked best for them. This is probably one of the most valuable parts of the show and is information that you typically won’t find in a book.

Talking to vendors – There will be 200+ vendors at VMworld showing off their products and services. If you are in the market for solutions for your environment this is a great opportunity to see all the products available. Typically you have to go out to each vendor’s website, download evaluations, call their sales team to schedule a demo, etc. At VMworld you have all the vendors under one roof for you to see their products live and get answers to any questions you have.

Talk to VMware engineers – There will be dozens of VMware engineers at the show that will be available to talk with the attendees. These are the guys that help develop the product and are subject matter experts in specific areas. Some will be giving some of the session presentations and most of them will be available in one of the seven networking lounges that will be setup for each track. If you have a specific technical question that you haven’t been able to find an answer on then these are the guys to ask.

When attending VMworld expect to get out of it what you put in to it. There is plenty of opportunity to take away a huge amount of knowledge if you take advantage of everything there is to offer there. So go there with an open mind, have fun and try and absorb all you can. If you don’t have time for all the sessions that you wanted to see don’t worry, they’ll all be posted (audio and slides) shortly after VMworld ends for attendees to review at their leisure. Also be sure and check out the VMworld community calendar for a list of the conference agenda, gathering and parties.


September 8, 2008  4:39 PM

VMworld 2008: Things change, but they also stay the same



Posted by: HannahDrake
VMworld 2008

With VMworld 2008 just around the corner, I reviewed sister site SearchServerVirtualization.com’s VMworld 2007 coverage to see what’s changed over the past year.

Of the various 2007 announcements, the most notable were the following:

Since then, a few things have changed. VMware ESX 3i is now known as ESXi and is now free. “VMotion for disks” has been re-named Storage VMotion and has become a perhaps invaluable tool for many VMware administrators. Viridian —which is now named Hyper-V — is priced at $28 and shipped much later date than expected. And although VMware stock had a successful IPO before VMworld 2007 with its stock price rising 76% on the first day of trading, since then it crashed, along with the rest of the market. Purchased by Citrix, XenSource has become XenServer, whose fate has been hotly debated of late. And let’s not forget that Diane Greene, longtime VMware CEO and founder, has now been replaced by Paul Maritz.

Despite all these changes, a few things have remained the same: Desktop virtualization is still met with a degree of trepidation, and VMware users and consultants still agree that VMware needs to reduce its pricing.

So what kind of news should we expect from VMworld 2008? Will Paul Maritz step into the public eye, or will he remain a more behind-the-scenes figure? Will VMware finally reduce ESX pricing? Will there be a wildcard add-on product that later becomes invaluable such as “VMotion for disks”? It’s all up for debate. But one thing’s for certain: the VMworld swag is top of the line and plentiful, so be sure to pack an extra bag to carry your VMworld 2008 trinkets home.

We hope to see you at VMworld; SearchVMware and SearchServerVirtualization.com staff will be in Las Vegas to report on the show. So stop by our editorial booth, and say hello!


September 8, 2008  2:42 PM

Bring an extra bag for the VMworld 2008 swag



Posted by: Rich Brambley
Rich Brambley, Virtualization, VMworld 2008

What is swag, or as it also is referred to, schwag? I’ve heard the term explained as an acronym for “Stuff We All Get,” but Wikipedia offers a more official explanation:

“Promotional items or promotional products refers to articles of merchandise that are used in marketing and communication programs. These items are usually imprinted with a company’s name, logo or slogan, and given away at trade shows, conferences, and as part of guerilla marketing campaigns. These items are also referred to by the slang terms swag.”

I would definitely rank the VMworld Conference SWAG I received in the past among the best of the best.

For starters, at the last two VMworlds all attendees received a conference bag or backpack with a water bottle at the registration desk. Once registered and badged the immediate next step was to find the conference t-shirt table. Then, having had attended several VMworlds in a row, the next step was to find the VMworld Alumni special gift. All of this was done before I even got to the exhibitors!

Usually, the exhibitor booths are located in the same area as, or on the way to where the meals are served, so chances are good you will spend at least a couple of hours there during the week. Don’t assume a conference bag will be enough to hold all your SWAG once the Solutions Exchange is open though. I am not exaggerating when I say I averaged four to six shirts, two coffee mugs, at least one baseball cap, eight to 10 pens, and a hacky sack or some other similar toy per day at VMworld 2007. Do not also assume that you got all the good stuff on the first time through either. Many exhibitors change their SWAG during the week. The amount of money spent on the promotional items must be in the millions.

To illustrate the type and the volume of SWAG I am talking about check out this TechTargetTV video of SearchServerVirtualization.com’s editors Bridget Botelho and Jan Stafford going through all their stuff from VMworld 2007:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Zm-o7bLovtg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

So when you start thinking about packing for VMword 2008 in Las Vegas, NV next week, be sure to allow some room in your luggage for all the vendor swag you will bring home. Be sure to allow enough room in your Inbox for all the follow up email you will start receiving soon after you get back home too. Hey, it’s part of the game. You want the t-shirt? Then get your conference badge scanned. Whether you like it or not, that’s the rules of engagement with the exhibitors in the Solutions Exchange. In my opinion it is more than worth it.


September 4, 2008  5:09 PM

VMware achieves Microsoft SVVP validation – New reason to upgrade to ESX 3.5 Update 2



Posted by: Rich Brambley
Microsoft Windows, Rich Brambley, Virtualization, VMware ESX

Now there is added incentive to upgrade your VMware hosts to ESX version 3.5 Update 2 (ESX 3.5 U2). Today VMware announced that they are the first hypervisor to be validated by Microsoft in the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP). This means that VMware customers that run Microsoft applications like Exchange and SQL (full list of applications here) on ESX 3.5 U2 virtual machines now are entitled to expanded, cooperative support from both companies. It is important to note that the only SVVP validated version of VMware’s ESX hypervisor is the latest, version ESX 3.5 U2. This means that VMware customers still running any previous versions do not qualify for the new support policy. Both VMware and Microsoft published helpful information about this news today.

VMware’s official announcement explains the following:

“Under this program, Microsoft offers cooperative technical support to customers running Windows Server on validated, non-Microsoft server virtualization software, such as VMware ESX 3.5 update 2. Customers with support policies in place, and running Windows Server-based applications on VMware ESX 3.5u2, can receive cooperative technical support from Microsoft. VMware also offers an extra layer of protection for customers, outside of Microsoft’s Server Virtualization Validation Program, who work directly with VMware for support. The additional protection is a part of the VMware Premier Support contract with Microsoft that enables VMware to escalate application issues rapidly and work directly with Microsoft engineers to expedite resolution. “

The Windows Virtualization Team Blog published a post titled The Validated Hypervisor.

“ESX 3.5 update 2 now joins Windows Server 2008 Hyper-V as being validated to run Windows Server and associated Microsoft server applications. And now that ESX 3.5 has passed SVVP, VMware customers will join Novell customers as receiving cooperative technical support (if there’s a support policy in place, and the customer is running the validated configuration) for Microsoft software running in/on their virtualization software.”

This same Windows Virtualization Team Blog post also refers to Microsoft’s KB article 897615 originally published on August 19, 2008:

“… for vendors with whom Microsoft has established a support relationship that covers virtualization solutions, or for vendors who have Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) validated solutions, Microsoft will support server operating systems subject to the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy for its customers who have support agreements when the operating system runs virtualized on non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software. This support will include coordinating with the vendor to jointly investigate support issues.”

For more information on this great news read the complete articles and posts at the links above. Although ESXi 3.5 is not mentioned in either the Microsoft or VMware announcements today, I would assume since the kernel is the same for both versions ESXi 3.5 U2 is also considered validated under the SVVP policy. However, this is just my guess.

I would expect that any administrators that are currently skeptical about upgrading to ESX 3.5 U2 now have a compelling reason to reconsider.


August 28, 2008  3:59 PM

Introducing Hyper9



Posted by: Eric Siebert
Eric Siebert, VI3, VMware ESX, VMworld 2008

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with the folks from Hyper9 and check out their upcoming Virtual Infrastructure Search and Analytics product. Hyper9 is a new company that recently emerged from stealth mode and is currently in development of a new VI3 reporting and analytics product. The Hyper9 team consists of some well known names in the industry including David Marshall, Wade Reynolds, Dave McCrory and Chris Ostertag. Hyper9’s product is currently in a private beta and is due to be released for a public beta later this year. Their product promises to be a unique approach to monitoring and reporting and is based on using a Google style search engine to build queries to report on many different metrics that are available on the ESX hosts, VirtualCenter server and the virtual machines. It collects data from the virtual layer to the operating system all the way down to the physical hardware. Their product is agentless and works by utilizing the VMware Infrastructure SDK and also other methods like Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to gather information on the virtual machines.

The product utilizes its own database to collect and store data and utilizes indexing technology to ensure that query results are quickly returned. It has a very attractive and easy to use interface that offers many powerful features and functionality. One great feature is the ability to view the state of a host or VM over a period of time to identify things that have changed between time periods and look for trends. It also has a powerful alerting mechanism that greatly improves on the very limited alerting that VirtualCenter provides.

The product is still evolving and Hyper9 plans to show it off at VMworld before the public beta begins. Their website currently does not have a great deal of information on the product but hopefully that will change the closer they get to releasing it. When I inquired into how much they planned on charging for the product to my surprise they said it would be free with optional add-on modules that can be purchased. From what I saw this product has the potential to be a great business intelligence tool and will be an invaluable part of any VMware environment. I encourage you to check out the public beta once it is released and if you are at VMworld this year stop by their booth and check them out.


August 28, 2008  3:45 PM

ESX 3.5 Update 2 and VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 1 configuration note



Posted by: Rick Vanover
Rick Vanover, VI3, VirtualCenter, Virtualization, VMware ESX

For those of us who determined we were smart by not being so quick to upgrade to upgrade to ESX 3.5 Update 2 after the product expiration debacle, I should point out an important note so that you do not make the same mistake that I did. Given that VMware corrected the issue with the initial release of Update 2 (build 103908), I determined it was a good time to look at the new version in a test and development capacity. Today, I stood up two ESX 3.5 Update 2 host systems in my development cluster that are managed by the same VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 1 server that manages all clusters.

The build of the 3.5 Update 2 system was painless and indistinguishable from that of the previous releases, and it added into VirtualCenter just fine. The issue was that while I could add the ESX 3.5 Update 2 hosts into VirtualCenter, they were not listed as a compatible solution in the release notes compatibility matrix.

What is missing from the release notes is that by not compatible, VMware actually means “will break your VirtualCenter”. While yes, it is “not compatible,” my expectation was that it would either not permit the system to be added or it would not deliver the incremental functionality. The issue occured when I tried to restart the VirtualCenter service. Due to some scheduled database maintenance, I had planned to stop the service and restart it. The restart of the VirtualCenter (vpxd) service would not succeed, and I found this log file entry:

[2008-08-26 23:25:15.325 'App' 1872 error] [VpxdMain] Failed to initialize: not well-formed (invalid token)

The newer version of ESX within the VirtualCenter environment causes this issue. So, the following options were presented to this situation:

-Upgrade to VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 2
-Restore the database to a point in time recovery of before the addition of the two newer hosts (and shutdown the newer hosts)

If you are contemplating the Update 2 products, hopefully this gentle reminder to start with VirtualCenter will save you some surprises.


August 25, 2008  8:31 PM

Restarting the VirtualCenter service remotely



Posted by: Rick Vanover
Rick Vanover, VI3, VirtualCenter, Virtualization

While VirtualCenter service restart operations are rare, administrators find themselves doing just that. There are a number of reasons for needing to restart the service, such as a network interruption to the database. Here is a quick script you can run to restart the service:

sc \\SERVER1 stop "vpxd"
sc \\SERVER1 start "vpxd"

In the above example, Server1 is the name of the VirtualCenter server. The Windows SC command interacts with the service controller and functions like the service.msc snap-in from the command-line. The image below shows these two commands stopping then starting the service from a remote system:

Figure 1

Even better: the command can be run remotely on a Windows system with a Power User permission account on the VirtualCenter server — you may not even have to log in to the VirtualCenter server to run this task. When the service stops, the ESX hosts are unmanaged from a resource perspective, and features such as DRS and HA are not enforced.

Depending on your environment and the behavior you observe with the VirtualCenter service, you may wish to schedule a periodic restart of the service during a maintenance window. It is also a good idea to have notification if the service is not running. Keeping this service running is a critical part of a healthy and effective VI3 environment.


August 19, 2008  6:37 PM

Chargeback for virtualization: VKernel’s approach



Posted by: HannahDrake
Chargeback and virtualization, Virtualization

Increasing demands on busy virtual hosts often call for purchases of new, virtualization-optimized hardware. Chargeback systems, which provide utilization data to ensure fair billing for compute resources, then become particularly useful in justifying and allocating those costs.

A good chargeback approach can also keep departments from overspending. “Implementing a chargeback system forces virtual machine owners to re-evaluate their resource needs to see if there is any way to reduce the amount that they are using,” Eric Siebert, senior systems administrator for restaurant chain Boston Market Corporation, told me recently.

Alex Barrett and I recently talked with Alex Bakman, president and CEO of VKernel. Barrett wrote about a 2007 Bakman interview in the case for chargeback and virtual appliances

VKernel’s chargeback model

VKernel’s chargeback model is borrowed from lessons Bakman learned while working with mainframe chargeback – chargeback based on actual resource consumption. As the developer of CleverSoft and Ecora Software, Bakman had two successful software ventures under his belt before launching VKernel.

VKernel’s Chargeback Appliance is currently in version 1.3.3. It operates like this:

  • The administrator defines the various consumer groups as folders, and drags and drops the virtual machines that they use into their folder.
  • Costs are calculated either manually or by a spreadsheet available from VKernel’s website. The form asks the administrator about prior purchase costs and suggests the amount the IT department should charge for memory and storage use.
  • Finally, the appliance monitors each VM’s activity, and reports usage on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis, in a similar fashion and appearance to an electric bill.

The 2.0 version, slated for release later this year, will include the Fixed Plus Overage chargeback method as well as new report types, Christian Simko, director of marketing communications for VKernel told me. The Fixed Plus Overage method enables system administrators to establish a fixed cost for virtual machine use via the current method and bill for overage costs as necessary.

VKernel’s products are modeled in a way so that the system administrator can pick and choose the systems management products they want and need to use, rather than purchasing an entire suite and having to spend time learning how to use it in order to get one or two functions out of the product’s capability.

Ease of use was Bakman’s goal, and the appliance model made that possible. Other chargeback systems he’d reviewed produced complex resource usage graphs which required many hours and a lot of expertise to analyze.

“At one university,” Bakman told me, “an IT department hired an intern to analyze the resource consumption to optimize performance. He quit after 20 days.” In general, he said, systems administrators are “overworked, overburdened and don’t have the time.”

IT pro Rick Vanover chose the VKernel appliance for its ease of use. “As a system administrator, I don’t have time to be an expert in everything,” said Vanover, system administrator for a worldwide vehicle glass repair and replacement company. “The VKernel appliance is easy to get up and running quickly, and it delivers usable information.”

A peek ahead

VKernel also sells a Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer virtual appliance and has two more coming down the pipe. The first, named Search, is slated for release in late August and will allow admins to search their virtual infrastructure for returns on a variety of queries, including, for example, which virtual machines have VMware tools installed and which don’t.

Capacity Modeler, which will debut at VMworld 2008, will allow admins to model changes to the virtual infrastructure before implementation and the outcomes of those changes on the virtual infrastructure as a whole.

Pricing on both Capacity Bottleneck Analyzer and Chargeback is as follows: $299 per CPU for the enterprise edition, $199 per CPU for standard, with support plans at 20% of the total purchase price for one year, or 15% per year for three years if paid in advance. The average total purchase price ranges from $5,000 to $10,000 according to Bakman.


August 18, 2008  8:14 PM

VMware Server 2.0 Release Candidate 1 offers hot new features



Posted by: Rick Vanover
Rick Vanover, Storage

The VMware Server 2.0 RC1 version, released on July 1, has six new features previously not available in the beta releases. These features include:

-The use of Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for snapshots of Windows VMs
-More efficient communication between the host and guest or between the guest and multiple guests on the same host using the Virtual Machine Communication Interface (VMCI)
-The ability to add new disks to running VMs
-Guest VM direct SCSI support for devices such as a tape drive
-Additional browser support for VMware Infrastructure Web Access to include FireFox 3
-Redirection of devices on the guest VM to the web client

I had a chance to install the RC1 version, and the new features are welcome additions from the previous betas. One of the new features that I want to touch on is the ability to add a new disk to a running VM. This feature allows an administrator to add storage to the VM’s inventory with the normal options of disk size, disk type and the option to use an existing .VMDK file. The figure below shows the wizard within the web interface to add the hard disk to the running VM:

Figure 1

Once the wizard is completed, the drive is available to the operating system. At that point, different operating systems handle the arrival of a hard disk differently. The figure below shows the new hard drive on Windows Server 2008 after a rescan task:

Figure 2

In the example used with the VM above, the hard drive can be added and used in the operating system immediately. Other VMware products, such as ESX have had this functionality, but it is the first time for the Server product. This feature is a welcome addition to the free product series as many organizations use VMware Server in a live workload capacity.

More information on the VMware Server 2.0 RC1 version can be found in the release notes on the VMware website.


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