Boomerang to beam your VMs

Recently I got an opportunity to take BoomerangTM for a spin. I wasn’t familiar with the product prior to this opportunity. Boomerang allows you to move your VMware vSphere workloads to Amazon AWS. It allows you to do the following:

  1. Move your load to AWS
  2. Use AWS as a DR or backup
  3. Bring your load back from AWS to your vSphere environment

Boomerang has a very simple deployment, perhaps which would explain the absence of countless PDFs on their website. The steps to get going are simple. You will need the following:

  1. A vSphere environment
  2. An AWS account
  3. Connectivity between 1 and 2

To get started, you will download an appliance which is right under 600MB. Once deployed, the appliance can be powered on. It will acquire an IP address if DHCP is enabled and publish that in the summary page of the appliance in the vSphere client. But if DHCP is not enabled, accessing the appliance becomes a little interesting. I found some details here. Luckily for me I have DHCP available and was simply able to hit the appliance acquired IP once it was up. The default username and password are both ‘admin’ and it would obviously make sense for you to change them to something else. When you provide the appliance with the default credentials, you will be asked to provide the license key and the email associated with it. This will also be a good opportunity for you to change your default password. With a few other choices to make you will be ready to rock and roll within seconds.

In the Boomerang world you have the option to create protection groups that serve as containers. These containers are made up of VMs. In order to create a protection group, you will need to provide the following:

  1. vSphere admin credentials
  2. vSphere IP/DNS
  3. AWS access key
  4. AWS secret key
  5. S3 Bucket name

Once you provide this information, you will be able to create a protection group. In my case I used a PHDVBA appliance I had laying around. My only reason for picking this versus others was its smaller disk footprint. It would have been relatively faster for me to move this to and from AWS considering my Internet connection is not the fastest. Read the rest of this entry »

VMworld Virgin Tips by vExperts

So it’s finally happening or at least it seems that way (Thanks to John Troyer and my boss). All the planets have lined up and it looks like I will finally be attending my very first VMworld conference in Vegas this year. I have been trying to attend this conference for some time now and it just didn’t happen. Now that my flight is booked, I started to look around for some tips for VMworld virgins like myself. To my surprise I didn’t find a lot of information. So I asked the vExpert community for any suggestions that would prove to be beneficial for first time attendees, and like always I got awesome feedback. In hopes to help out someone who might also be attending for the first time, I figured it will be best if I summarize the feedback I got. Of course, after attending the conference if I find out that anything needs to be altered below, I will certainly update this post. Calvin Z., Chris D.David M.VMroyalmbletschincaldwelrrcardona2k and Christoper K. were among the few who responded promptly.

Your priority should be as follow:

  • Networking
  • Sessions and labs (that seem most beneficial)
  • Vendor booths (thats where all the free stuff is :D)

Although VMworld is an awesome place for one to get introduced to new topics and tools. The sessions and labs at VMworld are priceless but most of the sessions will become available online and can be viewed later. The labs, well thanks to VMware you can always create your own labs. Dont get me wrong, labs and sessions are still very important and be sure to sign up for labs and sessions that you think will be most beneficial to you. However, VMworld provides a platform for one to build/expand their network and this conference should certainly be used for that as much as possible. Here you will not only get to see some really awesome tools but also the even more smart people who designed the tools we use everyday. This is your chance to reach out to them, introduce yourself and get a conversation going.. pick their brains.. Most bloggers that are followed will also be here and if you have been following a blogger for sometime now, here is you opportunity to finally meet them and ask them questions. By the way did I mention that Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman will have the opening session at VMworld US 2011. The topic will be “Clustering QA” and I will be damned if I miss that.

Try to be approachable and feel free to engage in conversations with others. The sooner the better, dont wait till the last day. This year VMworld requires you to signup for sessions and labs prior to the conference. The good thing is that you wont have to stand in line like before. So based on the feedback I received, the best thing that you can do for yourself is signup for all the sessions that you think will be beneficial to you, and when the time comes to attend nobody will hold a gun to your head if you fail to show up. However, it will be best if you only signup for sessions that interests you or else you might fill up a session for no reason and waste seats that could have served a purpose otherwise.

VMworld provides great opportunities for some excellent labs and this might be a good place for you to familiarize with new products or products you haven’t used before. These hands-on labs can be beneficial for everyone and there is always something for everyone. But again, don’t get lost in the coolness of the labs and sessions, make sure you use this opportunity to expand your network with some extremely smart people that will certainly show up there. There is no need for me to stress upon the importance of a good network in IT. VMroyal from VMTN said:

I always find it very helpful to walk around Sunday and get the lay of the land.  That way, come Monday you know where everything is and aren’t scrambling trying to figure all of that out.  Sunday is also a great day to walk around and meet people, as there won’t be as many people there and the environment is a bit less hectic.

Lastly, vendors from all conners will also be at VMworld marketing their products. Use some time walk across the hallway and see if there is anything you like. You never know, you might come across something that might make you look like superman in front of your boss. Moreover, Christoper K. pointed out the opportunities to win things at VMworld and a lot of free stuff that is given away by vendors. If you are like me, there is no need to expand on how cool geeky free stuff can be. Again, while you are signing up for things that you could potentially win, don’t forget to exchange business cards.

From what I have heard, just like other conferences, wifi may or may not be as good as one may like. If you are looking into carrying around your laptop for live blogging or whatever reason be sure to be independent for your internet connectivity. If the conference wifi does not work to your likings, you might be carrying extra weight for no reason. Also like Christoper K. pointed out:

This is Vegas.  A very safe, and secure city (I do not say that in jest…)  casino employs their own security staff, you have Homeland security on the streets, the LVPD, and who knows what other number of things.  However, things do/will get lost.   You don’t want to lose your laptop or have it get snatched when some trespassing thief decides to grab your loose bag.

So if you don’t need your laptop, don’t carry the extra weight. You can always get a really cool EMC or Netapp notepad to take notes with a vKernel pen :). It has been suggested to me that a small video camera may also be a good alternative to talking notes.

This is basically what I have to help you get started for the conference of your life. As always, these are just suggestions and you don’t necessarily have to strictly follow them. I figured they will be useful to someone who is attending VMworld for the first time like myself. I will try to keep this post updated if I receive any new information thats worth adding. I also plan to share my experience of VMworld US 2011. Hopefully if you reading this, I will see you in about a month 🙂

vCPU worlds

While going through series of esxtop or should I say resxtop stats, I noticed that certain VMs had a higher count of worlds they were involved with. Considering I was researching an issue with performance of some of the VMs in the envirnoment, it only made sense to look further into this. Typically a vSphere VM with a single CPU would see 3 worlds (VMX, MKS and the vCPU), however a couple of my single vCPU VMs saw four, the additional world was “Worker” in one instance and “psharescan” in the other. Google didnt help much neither did the endless pdf I went through to figure out what was their purpose. However, upon vMotioning these trouble makers to a different host, the number of worlds got cut down to 3. The number never went back up but not knowing what those unknown worlds were is driving me crazy. One day I will figure it out.

Moral of the story; vCenter may have improved over the years and with 4.1 now we have more stats than ever with storage and networking I/O and what not. With all that in mind, esxtop/resxtop still remains a very nifty tool in every VMware Admin’s toolkit. If you don’t use it, get used to using it because at some point you will find yourself playing with it.


Fault Tolerance – Blues

Vmware introduced a new groundbreaking technology with vSphere that promised to give IT professionals some sanity after work. However, I am personally more disappointed by how much fault tolerance really offers.

Basically Fault Tolerance is a feature that runs a shadow copy of a VM on a different hosts. If the host running the primary VM dies, the shadow VM becomes the primary VM and starts another shadow VM on a differnt host. It sounds wonderful, but there are certain things that are often overlooked. According to VMware, “the Primary VM captures all nondeterministic events and sends them across a VMware FT logging network to the Secondary VM. The Secondary VM receives and then replays those nondeterministic events in the same sequence as the Primary VM, typically with a very small lag time.   As both the Primary and Secondary VMs execute the same instruction sequence, both initiate I/O operations. However, the outputs of the Primary VM are the only ones that take effect: disk writes are committed, network packets are transmitted, and so on. All outputs of the Secondary VM are suppressed by ESX. Thus, only a single virtual machine instance appears to the outside world.”

What is the cost?

  • You have to have vSphere Advanced at a minimum.
  • FT requires that the hosts for the Primary and Secondary VMs use the same CPU model, family, and stepping. Approved CPU list:
    • Intel :3100 Series, 3300 Series, 5200 Series (DP), 5400 Series, 7400 Series, 3400 Series (Lynnfield), 3500 Series, 5500 Series
    • AMD: 1300 and 1400 Series, 2300 and 2400 Series (DP), 8300 and 8400 Series (MP)
  • A dedicated Fault Tolerance Network (vSwitch and connectivity). Each host must have a VMotion and a Fault Tolerance Logging NIC configured. The VMotion and FT logging NICs must be on different subnets
  • The primary and secondary ESX hosts and virtual machines have to be in an HA-enabled cluster
  • Ensure that there is no requirement to use DRS for VMware FT protected virtual machines
  • Hosts that are running the primary and the secondary VM are on the same ESX/ESXI build
  • VMware Consolidated Backup (VCB) is not supported with Fault Tolerance
  • Different operating systems react and behave differently on the different approved CPUs. The following link provides a good bit of detail.
  • Virtual machines must have thick-eager zeroed disks
  • Storage VMotion is not supported for VMware FT VMs
  • Snapshots are not supported for VMware FT protected VMs
  • Ensure that the virtual machines are NOT using more than 1 vCPU

There are more restrictions and requirements but these are some of the generic once. One point to be noted here is that if the primary VM experiences a blue screen, so will the secondary VM. So in essence, FT really provides protection from HW failure of host. If all the requirements don’t turn you off and all the restrictions don’t make you upset, then go for it. I am personally not impressed with this technology yet or maybe I haven’t found a need to implement it yet. Or maybe I am spoiled by the higher standards VMware has gotten me used to.