Review: Proactively Managing VMware vSphere with Goliath Performance Monitor

This unique monitoring solution allows you to be proactive in the management of VMware vSphere infrastructure while at the same time simplifying operations. In this review I will talk about how you can leverage the functionality and unique architecture to accomplish this dual purpose.

Just recently, I had the pleasure to work with the good folks at Goliath Technologies and review their solution, Goliath Performance Monitor (GPM).

My first impressions of GPM were pretty positive. If you’re unfamiliar with GPM, for VMware vSphere it’s a single solution for providing monitoring across the 5 layers of the virtual stack including Application, OS, VM, Hypervisor and Hardware. So it’s a single pane of glass to monitor your entire stack. The version of GPM I am reviewing is 11.6.0.6.

The GPM Installation Process – Up & Running within Minutes

Goliath does an excellent job in creating an installation guide for the tool so I won’t go into detail about that. I just glanced over it and my deployment may have taken about 30 minutes or so.

Within minutes, I was playing with the monitoring tool’s consoles. One thing I would like to point out from the installation guide is the pre-requisites. You will need a VM or Physical Machine with the following settings:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2 – 2012 R2
  • At least 8 vCPUs and 12GB RAM (these are soft limits but probably a good idea to follow these when deploying in production)
  • .NET 3.5 SP1 installed on the Virtual Server or Physical Machine
  • Internet Explorer Enhanced Security disabled
  • TCP ports 80 & 82 opened inbound
  • Download the Goliath Performance Monitor software
  • Proper credentials for the environments you would like to add to inventory (vCenter, XenServer, ZDC, DDC, etc.)

Goliath Performance Monitor vs vCOPs/vRealize Operations

Why XenServer credentials? Unlike some other popular tools in the space like vCOPs/vRealize Operations, GPM supports VMware vSphere and also XenServer, Hyper-V along with XenDesktop, XenApp and Horizon View.

So remember what I said about simplifying IT operations? You can use Goliath’s product to monitor VMware vSphere and everything else too. Not to mention you don’t have to fall prey to licensing that limits your functionality. Basically, you get full functionality with Performance Monitor on the base product, unlike some of its direct and indirect competitors.

As soon as the installation was complete, I pointed my browser to the IP address of the server the tool was installed on and this is where I landed.

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Memory state in ESXTOP/RESXTOP

Often times, you will question if you have enough room for another VM on your host. Now before I begin, let me clarify in a larger environment, you should certainly use capacity analysis tools. But what if you are a small shop and can’t afford one of those tools and you are only an owner of a small cluster and dont mind running ESXTOP/RESXTOP to figure this out. You can look at TPS and other areas but the memory state of the host will indicate the kind of the stress this host is under. This will be your best friend.

MemoryState

As you can tell my host is in the ‘High” state. What does this really mean? Your host can be in one of the following states: “high”, “soft”, “hard” or “low”. Your host will be in either one of these states based on the following:

high state = if the free memory is greater than or equal to 6%

soft state = if the free memory is at 4%

hard state = if the free memory is at 2%

low state = if the free memory is at 1%

As you can tell, high state is what will keep your host happy. One thing to note is in the high and soft states, ballooning is favored over swapping, in hard and low states, swapping is favored over ballooning. Of course TPS and other techniques will enable you to efficiently use the memory on your host and allow you to overcommit.  Another thing to point out is that your host maybe in ‘high’ state but you may notice your VM is still swapping. It’s not  the host, its really the limit on your VM or your RP settings that is causing this VM to swap.

The good news is that DRS will move your VM over to another host (based on your setting) if its gets under stress and moving a VM will guarantee to better its performance. But I have always found ESXTOP/RESXTOP to be an excellent tool to get an insight on whats really happening on your host. Remember a holistic view is great, and when we talk about a cloud a single host may not mean much. However, each host is a building block that forms your cloud. Understanding how memory is handled on a host level will give you better insight on the holistic stats of memory in your cloud.

Optimize performance of Win VMs using RSS in vSphere

Recently VMware published a new white paper about network performance for vSphere 4.1. Duncan posted a link to it on his blog and I decided to take a look at what it had to offer. Without a doubt, it had some very useful information and most importantly its an easy read. So I recommend you read the white paper as well. Along with the possibility of a Linux VM receiving packets at 27Gbps, I thought the take on Windows VM was very interesting.

As mentioned in the white paper, the Linux VMs performed better than the Windows VMs as they leveraged the Large Receive Offload (LRO) which is not available for Windows. This started to make me think about some of the issues that could be addressed just by having a simple understanding of what this means. A VM that does not support LRO, its receiving packets are processed by the vCPU that it has been assigned. One important thing to note is that by default, only vCPU 0 will be used by your Windows VM. This means that even if you have a VM that has been assigned 8 vCPUs, when it comes to processing received packets, that task will only be handled by vCPU 0 as the other 7 sit back and relax. Basically your VM will still wait for it to schedule all the vCPUs before it does anything, however, when all the vCPUs have been engaged, only one will do the job.

As mentioned in the white paper as well, what you can do is enable Receive-Side Scaling (RSS) and this enables the windows VM to utilize all its assigned vCPUs when processing received packets. Your VM will wait to schedule all the vCPUs assigned, why not make use of all of them while you have ’em. This can enhance your VMs performance. Not to mention multiple vCPU should only be assigned to a VM if the application supports it and assigning multiple vCPUs will enhance the VMs performance. In a highly taxed host, a VM with multiple vCPUs for no reason will only suffer.

In a non RSS enabled windows VM where you see a spike in processor due to network utilization, you will notice adding another vCPU doesn’t solve your issue. What might happen is that if your single vCPU VM was at a 100% CPU utilization, now it will be at 50%. If you increase the vCPUs to 4, now the utilization will only be about 25%. But the performance is still the same. Whats going on? Only 1 vCPU is doing all the processing for received packets. ESXTOP will solve the mystry for you as well. By enabling RSS on this VM, you can benefit from using all the vCPUs assigned. Again, be sure that assigning more vCPUs is not causing scheduling issues in your environment. That will depend on how busy your host is.

You can find out if RSS is enabled by running netsh int tcp show global in the command line and it will show you the status.

rss enabled

Its enabled by default on Windows 2008 R2 and can be enabled on windows 2003 sp2 and up. You will also have to enable RSS in the driver setting for the VMXNET3 inside your VM and you are all set. You will need to use VMXNET3 to enable RSS, VMXNET2 will not cut it. Simple things like this can certainly assist in optimizing your environment and put you at ease with what lives in your cloud.

vSphere client for iPad (Review)

I was too excited about getting the iPad2 this year and one of the first things I started looking for was the vSphere client that VMware was supposed to make for the iPad. After standing in line and with the help of my friend, I was finally able to get my hands on Apple’s new tablet. For the next two days I religiously searched for the vSphere client for the iPad but was disappointed not to find it. Just this past Sunday, I was talking to a friend who asked me if I tried out the iPad app for vSphere. So I started searching again and it turns out I gave up searching 3-4 days before it was finally released (March 17th, 2011). After feeling left out, I finally downloaded it and took it for a spin.

You will need to download the vCMA, vSphere Client for iPad and off course a vSphere environment and an iPad will be needed. Once you have fired up your vCMA, be sure to change your password for the vCMA appliance. This is not a requirement, but if you plan on allowing remote access to your vCMA appliance, you may not want to leave it with the default password that is known by the masses. You can manage your vCMA appliance at, http://YourIP:5480. I would also assign the vCMA a static IP.

Once you have assigned the IP to vCMA, go to the settings in your iPad and tap on the “vSphere Client” and enter the IP of your vCMA in the “Web Server” field.  Read the rest of this entry »