Virtualization Pro

Jul 3 2008   4:01PM GMT

Virtualization virtual tradeshow offers VMware networking opportunities

HannahDrake Hannah Drake Profile: HannahDrake

Trade shows are great – if you have time to attend, have staff to cover while you’re away learning about a new technology, can avoid summons back to the office during the show, can find a show in your local area or can get budget approval to attend a show that requires flight or hotel reservations.

Enter the virtual trade show (VTS); an online conference conceived to mitigate the above challenges. Last week, sister sites SearchDataCenter.com and SearchServerVirtualization.com hosted an advanced enterprise virtualization VTS. I helped staff the networking lounge and editorial booth where I had the opportunity to chat with VMware users about two of the virtualization provider’s newest tools, Site Recovery Manager (SRM) and Storage VMotion.

IM chatting with attendees
Conversations ranged from general IT talk (“Anyone use virtual desktops?”) to small talk (“What’s the weather like in Maine?”). Trying to be the friendly host, I said “Good morning” to the room. I immediately got the reply “Good evening” and was subsequently told this particular user was signed on from –literally–the other side of the world.

I ended up chiming-in on another user’s question about if anyone was familiar with VMware Site Recovery Manager (SRM). The respondent had said that he was, and I ended up asking him about his experience via private IM. SRM orchestrates your virtual machine disaster recovery (DR) plan in the event that your main data center goes down. It prioritizes which virtual machines (VMs) are brought up at the failover site based on available resources, syncs your VM configurations between the main site and the failover site, and allows for DR plan testing without having to take the system offline. It’s a relatively new addition to the VI3 lineup, having been on the market for four months (at the time of publication).

Our conversation turned to plug-ins, and he raved about Andrew Kutz’s Storage VMotion plug-in. The plug-in adds a user interface to the out-of-the-box product, which operates through a command line interface. The attendee explained that he’s primarily a “Windows guy,” so a graphical user interface makes using Storage VMotion much easier.

Kutz recently released an update to the Storage VMotion plug-in.

“The new release now ignores raw device mapping,” Kutz said. “Previously, if you had a raw device that pointed to a 300 Gig disk, the plug-in would look at it as an actual disk and screw up the disk size map.”

He also removed the majority VMware’s internal code from the plug-in (excepting the code that loads the plug-in), replacing it with code based on the VI Toolkit for .NET.

Impressive user interface
The VTS emulates the look of a physical tradeshow floor, which makes navigation a bit friendly, though not as intuitive as I would have liked. You could either move around with the help of a clickable navigation bar, or point-and-click your way from the main entryway to the desired location, be it the conference hall, vendor hall, networking lounge or “library” where you can download PDFs of presentations and various information from vendors, which then moves into your “suitcase,” displayed on your personal page.

VTSs are essentially fancy webcast packages displayed in unconventional ways. In this particular show, the topics were “Protecting your Virtual Environment: Backup and Storage,” “Virtual Infrastructure Automation and High Availability Best Practices” and “Virtual Infrastructure Tuning and Advanced Management.” The speaker was displayed on the left side of the screen presenting his slides via streaming video. The slides were displayed on the right hand side. Users could ask questions via a box at the bottom of the screen.

The VTS, if done correctly, has many more plusses than minuses. As long as there is a reliable Internet connection, there’s no need to leave the data center (if you don’t have a reliable connection in your data center, you might think about leaving for good). The content is almost exactly the same as at a physical trade show (that’s how they got the video of the speaker to begin with). And editorial staff can send IT pros direct links to helpful guides that they know of if an IT pro wants to know about, for example, virtual desktop drawbacks.

If any SearchVMware.com readers passed up the opportunity to “attend” a virtual trade show, I suggest you test it out next time a topic of interest comes around. It’s actually fun to use (think AOL in the 90’s minus the “you’ve got mail”) and offers great learning potential and networking opportunities.

An archived version of the advanced enterprise virtualization virtual trade show is available online, short registration required.

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