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

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

The 5.1s are out in the cloud

It would be foolish for me to even think that I will be among the first ones to be bringing this info to you. But like I always say, my blog is also my space to save bookmarks and important info.

All the 5.1s that have been the talk of many vGeeks is finally out. I thought, about compiling a list of links together, but my man Duncan has already have me beat, so I will just borrow his list. He says he didn’t set an alarm but I don’t buy that. Enjoy the new products below, hopefully I will have sometime to blog about some of the new features that are being introduced. This is major update, I would suggest going through the enhancement documentation below that go over the new features. Most new releases go through a vigorous beta, but I will recommend one runs them in a lab first. The vCloud Suite 5.1 is now GA.

Download links:

What’s new docs:

vSphere + SQL 2012 + AlwaysON

Over the weekend, one of my ex-colleagues reached out to me for my input on running SQL in a 2 node Microsoft Cluster. Of course, these servers were supposed to be VMs and all that. Now my initial reaction was, yeah sure you can do all this but there are restrictions that are placed on VMs that are part of MSCS. This included, affinity rules, exceptions in DRS, limited to two nodes only and all the other stuff that goes along with it.

Below are some of the limitations or stuff that you CANNOT do on VMs that are part of the MSCS. This is straight from the install guide:

  • Mixed environments, such as configurations where one cluster node is running a different version of ESXi than another cluster node.
  • Use of MSCS in conjunction with vSphere Fault Tolerance (FT).
  • Migration with vSphere vMotion of clustered virtual machines.
  • N-Port ID Virtualization (NPIV)

As I was going over the caveats, I was reminded that this will be running SQL 2012 using AlwaysON Availability Groups, and the VMs need to be in a cluster however there will bo no need for shared storage, even the quorum can be windows share somewhere on a fileserver etc. When I heard that, I was confused and asked for some time to do research. I read a few articles online, talked to folks on twitter, posted input on the secret vExpert community (which btw was very helpful and prompt) and came back with a totally different mindset to approach this.

Based on the feedback I got from everyone, from the articles I read and of course the AlwaysON intro my ex-colleague gave me I came to the following conclusion. VMs running SQL 2012 AAG in a Microsoft Cluster with no shared disk should be treated like any other VM. Which means, you can have more than 2 nodes and the limitations of  a typical MSCS VM does not apply. Why so?

To start off, what in the world is AAG? You can get some good detailed info on that here. But to put it simply, AAG is the new and improved HA and DR solution for SQL, kinda like database mirroring (the orignal database mirroring still exists but its probably on it’s way out).

It’s like mirroring, but we get multiple mirrors for many more databases that we can fail over in groups, and we can shed load by querying the mirrors.

It relies on Windows Failover Clustering and the file synchronization happens at the application layer. This means that all those contraints that are usually placed on MSCS VMs due to RDMs, dont exist here. This also means, you can vMotion the box and do everything that you would to most other VMs. To put it simply, it’s not a special VM anymore.

How is AAG better than database mirroring? Below is a list of some of the improvements extracted from this article:

  • Supports one primary database replica and allows up to 4 secondary database replicas targets.
  • Asynchronous-commit mode. This availability mode is a DR solution that works great when the availability replica copies are distributed with not so stable connection.
  • Synchronous-commit mode. This availability mode put emphasis on high availability and allows data protection over performance, con is transaction latency.
  • Allows automatic page restoration against page corruption.
  • Backupable and Read-only access to the secondary databases
  • Fast application failover is provided by availability group listeners.
  • The greater failover control is achieved by Flexible failover policy.

Of course there are a few things to consider when you run this all virtually (thanks to the VMTN feedback I received), even though you may be able to vMotion these boxes, keep in mind the Windows Failover Cluster (WFC) heartbeat is very sensitive and and the small stun time maybe enough for your cluster to assume a node has failed. So adjusting your heartbeat timeout maybe something to consider. Matt shows here how to do that here, though he is doing that on a Database Availability Group (DAG), it still relies on WFC like AAG.

Now how do you set this up? I was thinking about doing a step by step but I found someone else who already beat me to that. So here are the steps that cover setting up WFC to enabling AAG on SQL. Denny Cherry also plans to have a session around this topic at VMworld.

In the end, I think SQL 2012 with AAG will certainly help to better the relationship of SQL and virtualization. With the restrictions relaxed on this type of a setup, you can now have bigger WFC clusters within a HA/DRS cluster. With HA/DRS you get the protection from hardware related incidents and with AAG,  your application becomes intelligent. In the end you look good and find more time to do more important things in life. 🙂

PS : Lastly, we will still be doing a proof of concept to see how well this all holds up. I will encourage you to do your independent testing before introducing this in production. In paper this sounds perfect. I plan to keep this post updated with what we find / learn or at least a link to the updated post depending on how this goes. Good luck!

Free vSphere lab give away, with gears and vouchers

Wanted to get on the vSphere bandwagon but can’t figure out how to get your lab setup so that you can take it for a spin? Well, Cody Bunch over at ProfessionalVMware has made your wish come true. It’s a free lab give away which virtually has everything that you will need to get your lab going and leave you in a place where you would feel confident in stepping to the other side.

The lab give away includes, awesome books, video training, VMware Workstation, Exam voucher, 365 day eval license for vSphere plus a bunch of awesome gear and much more.

So what do you have to do? Simple:

1-3 minute video of explaining who you are and why do you think the lab will help you. All the details are here.

I think, this is an awesome opportunity to not only get your feet wet but jump right into the virtualization ocean. Hurry up, this ends on 12/13 (Midnight) and the winner will be announced shortly after (Dec 14th and no later than Dec 16th).

Good Luck!!

vCartoon of the Week (07/18/2011)

Another great idea that isn’t really mine came from old friend. So basically every Monday (I will try my best) I plan to post a cartoon in the “vCartoon” section of my blog. The vCartoons will cover the virtual world in a comical way to lighten our already long Mondays. I have never been the artistic kind so I had to reach out to an old friend of mine. The vCartoons are produced by M. Ali.

As of now I haven’t figured out how to create a link to a category. As soon as I do, you will see a link to simply view all the vCartoons on the blog. If you have a vCartoon idea please send it to me I will request Ali to make it happen. In light of the licensing fiasco, enjoy the first vCartoon.