The Virtualization Room

October 29, 2012  3:18 PM

VMware issues SSO patch, new SSL documentation

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

VMware has released a software update to vCenter Server and a new package of documentation meant to address widespread problems with single sign on and SSL certificates uncovered by users of vSphere 5.1.

However, since the patch was released last Thursday, VMware bloggers who have gone over the release notes with a fine-toothed comb have pointed out some ‘gotchas’ and open questions pertaining to the purported fix.

Earlier this month, VMware shops were up in arms over problems with the vSphere 5.1 Single Sign-On feature, which is now a required part of vCenter Server 5.1 installation. Problems included failed vCenter services on startup and an inability to login to vCenter Server.

Various failure scenarios and the login issue are resolved issues in vCenter Server 5.1.0a.

But there are also new issues brought up in the release notes that hadn’t been publicly documented before, according to a blog post by Maish Saidel-Keesing, a virtualization architect for an Israeli technology company.

These issues include added overhead to the installation process – VMware recommends using an independent installer at this point rather than a simple installer, for example, and requires manually created database users rather than an automatically created ones.

“It is good to see that VMware have fixed some problems with the installation process,” wrote Saidel-Keesing. But he’s still left asking, “Was the release rushed out – so that these issues were not addressed beforehand?”

Separately, VMware issued a new package of documentation around updating SSL certificates, based largely on a series of blog posts by Derek Seaman, a vExpert at a major telecom company.

Michael Webster, a VMware Certified Design Expert and director of IT Solutions 2000 Ltd., a VMware consultancy based in Auckland, New Zealand, noted in a blog post that there’s still a ‘gotcha’ with SSL certificates in a certain scenario:

when vCenter system is an all in one configuration with everything on the same VM and using a local [Microsoft] SQL Server database. Update Manager will not be able to log into or register with vCenter when the SSL certificates have been changed. This prevents you from updating the SSL certs for Update Manager and Update Manager may no longer work. This does not appear to occur when the MS SQL Server database is remote.

For that reason, Webster says he is recommending that clients place vCenter Server and the SQL Server database on separate VMs, even in small environments.

In the meantime, Webster is building his own utility for SSL certificate management, called vCert Manager, which will allow completely automated management of SSL certificates in a vSphere environment.

August 30, 2012  3:48 PM

Top 9 VMworld Instagrams

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

SAN FRANCISCO — If this whole virtualization thing doesn’t work out, several VMworld 2012 attendees will have photography careers to fall back on. People at VMware’s annual conference this week took and shared hundreds of images on the mobile photo-sharing service Instagram, and quite a few came out pretty good.

We scoured Instagram for photos that either used the #vmword hashtag or used the service’s location-based check-ins to say they were at VMworld. Here are nine VMworld Instagrams that stood out:

By allruiz

By amandanicole23

By richrogers

By wdiieso

By andypiper

By gauravdj

By jonathanknorr

By timbradleyvideo

By dri374

August 29, 2012  8:14 PM

VMworld, oversubscribed

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

VMworld seems to get bigger every year, and with each leap in growth comes some overcrowding. Some years, it’s been long lines to get into first-come, first-serve sessions, for example. And perennially, according to attendees, Hands on Labs at the show have issues on the first day.

This year was no exception. There were widespread reports on Twitter Sunday that the wait for Hands on Labs could exceed 3 hours.

“Apparently there is a script that kicked off the provisioning of all the lab VMs. However, even though the script returned a positive status, the VMs were not actually started up.

“Then about 3:45PM the hosting site that had the HOL manuals died. 60 minutes into my lab, after waiting 4.5 hours, it totally fell flat and died. So that was 5.5 wasted hours,” reported one attendee.

The holdups at the Hands on Labs were such an issue that attendees reportedly appealed directly to incoming CEO Pat Gelsinger in a Q&A session Sunday to fix the problem.

Meals for attendees were also a point of contention this year. Granted, accommodating 20,000 people, even at a venue like Moscone, must be difficult. But Monday’s breakfast saw many attendees forced to find a place on the floor to eat due to inadequate seating in Moscone West. Attendee lunches in Yerba Buena Gardens were a nice idea, but again, users found themselves pulling up a spot of pavement on which to have their boxed-lunch picnics.

Maybe next year, attendees will get a few more creature comforts for their admission fee.

August 29, 2012  8:12 PM

VMware HA to add Virtual Machine Component Protection

Beth Pariseau Beth Pariseau Profile: Beth Pariseau

Virtualization users look forward to VMware’s annual confab because that’s when solutions to their biggest problems are announced – though not always. This year is no exception.

VMware shops will gain some features that improve existing products while other issues remain unresolved.

VMware’s HA is slated for a facelift next year with a new feature called Virtual Machine Component Protection, according to demonstrations at VMworld.

The idea is to hasten failover by choosing virtual machines (VM) within a host to vMotion according to specific failover conditions. For example, if some VMs within a host are attached to a SAN and others are attached to NAS and the SAN fails, only the VMs attached to the SAN would fail over.

Whither SMP FT?

Meanwhile, technology that was in tech preview at last year’s VMworld, fault tolerance for symmetric multiprocessing systems, still has yet to make it into shipping product –but the company offered another preview here this week.

Fault Tolerance keeps VMs in lockstep with one another through synchronous replication, and should one fail, can cut over without service interruption to users. VMware Inc.’s HA feature, by contrast, involves a brief interruption. Fault Tolerance is therefore more suited for mission-critical applications, but its lack of support for multiprocessing disqualifies it from use with many databases and other Tier 1 workloads.

Given that, it’s obviously an important goal for VMware to support SMP FT in vSphere, but why it remains stalled in preview is a mystery.

VM stall redux?

It appears that VM stall is still happening in enterprise IT shops. An average of 60% of workloads are virtualized — up from 2008’s 25%, but far from VMware’s goal of 90%, according to outgoing VMware CEO Paul Maritz in his keynote.

Possible culprits suggested by attendees: lack of SMP FT as discussed above, stubborn server-huggers, and stubborn storage I/O bottlenecks.

VMware VSA 5.1 update underwhelms

The vSphere Storage Appliance lives.

The appliance, which is designed to make direct-attached storage (DAS) look like a pool of network attached storage (NAS), has gotten a few improvements in version 5.1, released this week. These include the ability to add disks on the fly. Before, whatever configuration users started with couldn’t be changed.

The new version also supports RAID 5, 6 and 10, allowing for less storage overhead in provisioning for high availability.

However, industry sources said users still can’t start with two nodes and scale to three, and there still appears to be no integration between the storage appliance and vSphere Replication.

Surely VMware, with all its talk about the software-defined data center, and owned by the biggest storage company in the world, has more up its sleeve when it comes to software-based storage.

August 28, 2012  1:33 PM

VMware vSphere licensing changes — decoded

Alyssa Provazza Alyssa Provazza Profile: Alyssa Provazza

Beth Pariseau, Senior News Writer

— As expected, VMware made a grand show of ending the much-reviled vRAM pricing program this week at VMworld 2012 in favor of per-CPU licensing and bundled up its products into a vCloud Suite.

Now, some IT shops wonder what they’re supposed to do with the additional licenses they bought to accommodate vRAM requirements for vSphere 5 last year.

VMware stated that vSphere licenses purchased for vRAM capacity can be used to license processors and expand existing vSphere environments.

Unfortunately, customers may also have scaled out servers, which racks up costs in network ports and other software licenses, rather than scale up and consolidate more VMs onto beefier hosts thanks to vRAM.

Though VMware maintains that it doesn’t try to compete with Microsoft on price, competition from Hyper-V was a factor.

“Competition forces you to listen to your customer base,” said Rick Jackson, a VMware spokesperson, during a press conference at VMworld 2012 here this week.

“You don’t compete with Microsoft on price…you compete with Microsoft on value,” he added.

There were also pricing details surrounding vCloud which might have gotten lost in the vRAM ruckus.

First, there are actually three editions of the vCloud Suite that are bundled into packages available as single SKUs:

  • Standard, which includes vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCloud Director, vCloud Connector, and vCloud Networking and Security Standard,  is priced at $4,995 per CPU, plus support and subscription;
  • Advanced, which includes vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCloud Director, vCloud Connector, vCloud Networking and Security Advanced, vCenter Operations Management Suite Advanced costs $7,495 per CPU, plus support and subscription; and
  • Enterprise, which includes  vSphere Enterprise Plus, vCloud Director, vCloud Connector, vCloud Networking and Security Advanced, vCenter Operations Management Suite Enterprise, vFabric Application Director, and vCenter Site Recovery Manager Enterprise. Itis priced at $11,495 per CPU plus SnS.

VMware vSphere remains available, in all its editions, as a standalone product as well.

The vSphere Storage Appliance is now bundled in with Essentials Plus licenses, and vSphere Replication has been added to all vSphere editions, rather than being packaged solely with VMware’s Site Recovery Manager.

But beyond the immediate, what is VMware’s long-term plan for pricing its wares? Is per-CPU licensing really the way of the future?

It depends. Site Recovery Manager, for example, remains priced per VM when bought standalone, though it is priced per CPU when purchased as part of the Enterprise vCloud Suite.

“When you’re just using SRM as a point solution, per-VM makes more sense,” said Neela Jacques, a VMware vCloud product spokesperson. “But when you’re using multiple products, it makes more sense to buy the suite.”

August 27, 2012  4:07 PM

VMware’s growth under Paul Maritz

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

SAN FRANCISCO — During his final VMworld keynote this morning, outgoing VMware  CEO Paul Maritz shared these figures showing how much VMware and its community grew under his four-year tenure from 2008 to 2012:

Intel-based servers virtualized: 25% to 60%

VMware Certified Professionals: 25,000 to 125,000

VMworld attendees: 13,000 to more than 20,000

Once new VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger took the stage, he said more than 90% of servers will be virtualized within the next three years. Maritz received a nice standing ovation from the crowd when he left the stage.

August 22, 2012  7:12 PM

Why VMware shouldn’t give up on new licensing

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

A little more than a year ago, VMware ignited a firestorm by overhauling its vSphere pricing and licensing. Next week, the company will reportedly go back to the old way of doing things, in the hopes that we’ll all forget this whole fiasco even happened.

But it did happen. And it showed a serious lack of foresight on the part of VMware. The vRAM licensing model was supposed to answer the question, “How does VMware align its business model with its vision for the future?” As implemented, it didn’t. But going back to per-CPU licensing won’t answer that question either.

In case you’ve been living under a mainframe for the past 13 months, here’s a very quick rundown of the controversy:

Why VMware is giving in

The question now is, what’s VMware’s motivation? What changed between July 2011 and now that led the company to make this change? Signs seem to point to a less-than-overwhelming response to vSphere 5 among customers.

“I haven’t seen any hard numbers as to the uptake of vSphere 5, but there have been hints that it has not been as fast as VMware had hoped,” wrote blogger Nate Amsden. “… I have little doubt that VMware was forced into this change because of slow uptake and outright switching to other platforms. They tried to see how much leverage they had at customers and realized they don’t have as much as they thought they had.”

Elizabeth H. Henlin, analyst with Technology Business Research, tweeted that this change was overdue, because vSphere 5 licensing drove market share gains for VMware competitors Microsoft, Citrix Systems and Red Hat over the past year.

And blogger Gabriel Chapman wrote that going back to the old model will help VMware compete better with Microsoft, which challenged VMware on price.

“This also takes away a key leg of the Microsoft Hyper-V 3 marketing playbook,” he said.

Short-term fix, long-term problem

With those comments in mind, it’s easy to see why VMware made this move: to address an immediate problem. In the long term, however, bigger problems await.

VMware championed cloud computing for years, and in a way, the vRAM licensing model marked the culmination of that push. You can say the underlying hardware is irrelevant all you want, but it doesn’t really matter until you put your money where your mouth is — and VMware did just that.

Assuming that VMware does in fact revert to the per-CPU licensing model, however, there’s a disconnect. The company still promotes private cloud and the utility model of computing, but its business model is based on the old way of doing things.

VMware should have better anticipated customers’ angst over new licensing and spent more time evaluating options that met customers’ needs without compromising its corporate strategy. After all, it doesn’t matter how strong a company’s vision is if it can’t figure out how to make money on that vision.

August 10, 2012  12:47 PM

A VMUG Game of Thrones

Colin Steele Colin Steele Profile: Colin Steele

For years, the independent New England VMware User Group has held large quarterly events for the VMware community in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and New Hampshire. Next month, the global VMware User Group will move in on its turf.

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.

June 25, 2012  5:04 PM

Bon Jovi, I’ll be there for you at VMworld 2012

KeithKessinger Keith Kessinger Profile: KeithKessinger

I’ve been Livin’ on a Prayer that VMware would pick a respectable band for the upcoming VMworld 2012 conference. With INXS and Foreigner headlining previous shows, however, it was hard to Keep the Faith. In fact, I’d rather Runaway and not Come Back than sit through another cheesy ‘80s hair band.

Last year, in choosing The Killers, VMware gave me Something to Believe in: The virtualization company could attract musicians who weren’t 25 years past their prime.

And, this year, VMware pulled off a Miracle: Jon Bon Jovi will be performing. Hopefully, he flies over the Moscone Center in a Blaze of Glory, similar to below:

June 21, 2012  5:56 PM

The rates are too damn high…for VMworld 2012 hotels

KeithKessinger Keith Kessinger Profile: KeithKessinger

If you haven’t booked your hotel room for VMworld 2012, prepared to be gouged. I haven’t seen prices this marked up since I tried buying milk and bread before Hurricane Irene.

After seeing some Twitter users grumbling about hotel rates around the Moscone Convention Center, I decided to investigate (i.e., go to  I restricted my search to hotels that are less than a quarter mile away from the VMworld epicenter. After all, who wants a long trek back to bed after “networking” until last call?

On the high end, there is The St. Regis at $774 a night. The most affordable is The Westin at $381 a night. (Hurry! Only 4 rooms remain!) And there is a smattering of choices in between those prices.

That said, you could stay at The Mosser for $139 a night, but it’s a hostel and you have to share a bathroom. Just be sure to check in early, so you can claim the bottom bunk.

Luckily, many companies use travel agency for better rates. But you should still anticipate a pretty hefty lodging bill, regardless. Where’s Jimmy McMillan when you need him?

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