Posted in Exam Preps, Technology

5V0-32.19 exam preparation

I am planning to take the VMware Cloud Provider Specialist Exam before the end of June (that’s when the voucher I bought will be expiring). I’ve had my eye on this exam for a year but have not really had time to really prepare.

I had started out by registering for the VMware vCloud Director: Install, Configure, Manage [V9.x] course a while ago (2019, I believe). It was a five-day course that was focused on installing, configuring, and managing VMware vCloud Director. It covered self-service provisioning, the creation of organizations, virtual data centers (VDCs), catalog services that include predefined virtual machines, and on-demand VMware NSX networks.

Unfortunately, I was heavily distracted when taking this course and must have skipped through a lot of the modules. I was however, able to download a few modules and will be going through them as I prepare.

I am also going through the VMware Cloud Director Fundamentals [V8.x]. This is a self-paced, free fundamentals course. It covers an overview of cloud computing and explains the solutions offered by VMware for cloud computing. In addition, the course introduces the architecture, components, and installation, and configuration of vCloud Director. Finally, it touches on the administrative and end-user tasks and network administration in vCloud Director.

For labs, I am looking at probably building an environment on my old laptop but the speed is driving me nuts. I am also considering building an SDDC environment using the free tier on Oracle Cloud. If that doesn’t work, I am thinking of going through a few of these hands on labs;

Oh yes, another important thing to go through for this exam is the exam blueprint. Actually, that should be the first thing to go check out. I didn’t mention it earlier cos I think the course already covered the different sections

I’ll post some more on this blog when I have some more updates so be sure to check back again.

See you in the next one…

Posted in Technology

VMware-based SDDC on Oracle Cloud

With the era of multi-cloud here, there has been a lot of synergy/partnerships between major cloud providers (public). Late last year, Oracle announced an Oracle Cloud VMware Solution (OCVS). For those who don’t know, Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) is an IaaS platform that delivers on-premises, high-performance computing power to run cloud-native and enterprise infrastructures.

OCI has actually built a formidable platform. As of writing this, OCI has 29 regions across multiple continents (except Africa :-(. Although, a new region is planned in Johannesburg).

OCI Region Map

You can read more about the OCI regions here.

OCVS combines the power of VMware SDDC with Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, allowing customers to leverage the best in Public Cloud Infrastructure and the best in Compute, Storage and Network Virtualization. The Solution provides customers with the ability to deploy a VMware environment with vSphere, NSX-T and vSAN installed with the relevant management stack which comprises vCenter and NSX Manager.

According to the OracleHelp Center, Oracle Cloud VMware Solution gives you a fully automated implementation of a VMware software-defined data center (SDDC) within your own Oracle Cloud Infrastructure tenancy, running on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure bare metal instances, that contains the following VMware components:

  • VMware vSphere ESXi
  • VMware vSAN
  • VMware vCenter
  • VMware NSX-T
  • VMware HCX (optional)

The following image illustrates how these VMware components work within the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure environment.

Description of oracle_cloud_vmware_solution_architecture.png follows

You can read more about the Oracle Cloud VMware Solution here and here

Posted in Technology

The Basics of Design (Part 1)

I’ve been doing design for a large part of my career and I’m not just referring to IT designs as a solutions architect.

I think my earliest memory on design was from my secondary school days. I remember building a model airplane using plastic from a household cleaning product (Vim). I started out that project by making a sketch of what I wanted the plan to look like. I think I had planned for it to have wings similar to an F-14.

In my earlier blog on 3V0-624 Preparation & Exam Experience, I mentioned that one of the things you have to learn for the exam is the basics of design. This involves the conceptual, logical and physical design.

When I first started my career in IT and had the opportunity to design a solution for a customer, I used to make the mistake of only creating a physical design or one design that covers but physical and conceptual. The VCAP design exam handles the design concepts very beautifully and I think I appreciated it more because I had done things the wrong way and this way was so much better allowing me to avoid so many issues.

For starters each aspect of the design should be signed off by the customer before proceeding to the next design. This means the customer must approve that they understand and agree with the design before the architect proceeds to the next phase.

Conceptual Design

This is the first phase and involves representing the ideas behind the solution to the problem at hand. This design comes first and follows a meeting with the customer to gather information of what their perspective is. It is where the architect tries to represent the business drivers (inputs and activities that drive business results) and constraints (decision points that have already been made and cannot be changed or what the design must have/include).

Below is a sample of what a conceptual design may look like. Some architects initially scribble this design on a paper.

Conceptual Design – P2V Conversation & Server Consolidation

The above conceptual design was something I prepared years ago to represent a customer’s requirement to convert their physical server to a virtual one. This was the first phase of their requirement.

Along with this design is categorizing the information the architect must have gathered from the first meeting into requirements, constraints, assumptions, and risks categories.

So, if I were to use the above customer scenario;

Requirements:
Applications running on physical server must be virtualized

Constraints:
The existing physical server must be utilized in the design. Meaning I must install ESXi on it. This is a constraint cos it forces me to use the server even though it may not be compatible

Risks:
There are no IT personnel in the current branch to manage infrastructure once deployed

Assumptions:
All datacenter infrastructure has already been put in place by the organization

Posted in Technology

Time to Empower (2021)

It’s that time of the year again. Time to Empower yourself, network with your peers in the IT industry, gain some relevant skills and rub minds with experts in whatever technology field you are interested in.

VMware EMPOWER is an annual partner conference which delivers the same content to partners that was originally developed for VMware’s very own internal sales and technical teams.

EMPOWER is focused on partner enablement, training, accreditations, certifications, strategies and sales tools for VMware partners in both technical and sales roles.

As a result of the pandemic, most events have been moved online and this is no different. The link to register is here.

One of the exciting things for me is a chance to win some freebies especially exam vouchers. I was lucky enough to win two free vouchers last year from attending the Empower and VMworld. Those vouchers got me my VCIX-DCV and I didn’t have to pay the whooping $450 for each exam. So, it’s definitely worth attending.

This year’s solution areas include:

App Modernization – Build new cloud-native apps, modernize existing apps, and operate infrastructure that serves them all across any cloud.


Multi-Cloud – Consistently manage and govern your environment across public, private and hybrid clouds.


Anywhere Workspace – Make it easy for employees to work anywhere, anytime, on any device, without compromising security.


Virtual Cloud Network – Connect and secure apps and data, regardless of where they run, from the data center to the cloud to the edge.


Intrinsic Security – Leverage your infrastructure and control points in new ways to protect apps and data from endpoint to cloud.

What else is there to say – make sure you register and I hope I see you online.

Posted in Technology

Why every design should include VMware vSAN

vSAN is VMware’s enterprise-class storage virtualization solution. In other words, it is a virtual storage solution. If you’re familiar with server virtualization, this concept of virtual storage is easy to understand.

Intro

So, let’s start with a quick introduction to virtualization. Virtualization in simple terms refers to the process of creating software copies of a server/computer’s physical resources. Physical resources here refers to memory, CPU, storage and networking.

Enter vSAN

Now that you have an understanding of server virtualization. You can understand storage virtualization as a process of replacing the physical components of a typical storage with a distributed software based storage system.

VMware’s official definition is;

vSAN is enterprise-class, storage virtualization software that, when combined with vSphere, allows you to manage compute and storage with a single platform. With vSAN, you can reduce the cost and complexity of traditional storage and take the easiest path to future ready hyperconverged infrastructure and hybrid cloud. Evolve to an integrated hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) solution with vSAN to improve business agility, all while speeding operations and lowering costs.

One of the main benefits for me of using vSAN over a traditional storage array is the fact that it provides a greater redundancy than your traditional storage. In essence, vSAN gets rid of the dreadful SPOF which beseeches every design. SPOF stands for Single Point of Failure. Eliminating single points of failures is a key design requirement because a single point of failure in an infrastructure could render the entire platform unavailable. I’ve experienced this and its painful 🙁

Posted in Technology

The ISCSI device shows up as “Not consumed”

A few months ago, my team ran into a problem when we tried to mount a VMFs datastore with ISCSI backed LUN to particular hosts in a cluster. At the time all hosts were running VMware ESXi 6.7 U3

Problem

We had purchased a few new servers and for some reason, the VMFS datastore which was already connected to the existing servers in the current cluster was not showing up properly.

The ISCSI device shows up in the storage devices section of the vSphere client but the datastore displays “Not consumed”

We had escalated to VMware support but they pointed us to the storage vendor referring to the logs that show that the connection between the two was being dropped. We had also tried formatting the datastore but that didn’t work either. It just gave an error – “Failed to create VMFS datastore Test – Cannot change the host configuration

Solution

I decided to set up a nested ESXi to try to simulate the issue since we didn’t have any spare servers to test it on. I downloaded the appliances from William Lam’s site – virtuallyghetto – https://www.virtuallyghetto.com/nested-virtualization/nested-esxi-virtual-appliance

Decided to try out 6.7 then 7.0. For some reason the appliance deployment for 6.7 failed so I went ahead to use the 7.0 appliance.

After installing and configuring the hypervisor as I would the physical server, I went on to configure the iSCSI software adapter as well and voila! I could see, mount and create a datastore from the LUN.

I went on to upgrade one of the hosts that were previously not connecting and it worked. I guess the conclusion is that the issue, whatever it was, was fixed in v7.0

Update:

After upgrading a few hosts we realized the issue still occurs on some of the hosts. This meant that the issue was not with the version of ESXi.

We took another look at the hosts that were working and compared them with those that were not and realized that it appears the MTU was different. Some hosts had 9000 and some others had 1500. The MTU was really not consistent all through.

Solution

We changed the MTU on the hosts that were not connecting to the storage and that solved the issue. It was amazing that after a few weeks of troubleshooting, the issue rested on the MTU.

Anyway, unto the next discovery….

Posted in Technology

vExpert – Your application was not approved

In December 2020, a colleague mentioned the vExpert program. He basically prompted me to apply saying “I think you should apply. I will too. Even if we don’t get it then at least we tried

I had already heard about the program and was planning on applying. I had already selected a mentor and reached out to him.

by the 4th of January 2021, I had put together all the information required and took my shot. Once I submitted. I kept my fingers crossed and was actually hopeful that I’d be selected.

On the 10th I saw this tweet and started getting quite anxious. If I had long fingernails, I’d be smashing my teeth into them.

By the 11th, I must have refreshed my mailbox a hundred times. I had also logged into the vExpert portal to see if there were any changes. I checked out the directory, filtered it to show 100 entries per page and memorized the number of pages. Then, I kept refreshing to see if it would increase. Crazy huh? 😉

I got this tweet from the Steve Athanas congratulating all the vExperts and that’s when it hit me. If I was selected then I should have already gotten the email. My heart sank and I felt terrible. But I was happy for the new vExperts and spent the remaining hours of the day on LinkedIn congratulating all the vExperts that showed up on my wall.

I finally got the denial mail and somehow felt comforted that it was personalized. It also gave some tips on what the panel is looking out for.

The award is for those who have gone above and beyond your day job. It’s sometimes difficult to dig into work vs. community work when sessions of work are under the same company you work for.

Now, I can’t wait for November when I can take another shot at it and hopefully I’ll write about that experience 🙂

Posted in Technology

2020 In Review

2020 started with a list of badges & certifications that could show the skills I’ve built over time and also what I love doing. I’ve built some great things over the years so some badges won’t be bad 🙂

I’m proud to say that target is now complete with the achievement of the VMware Certified Implementation Expert and the VCAP-DCV Design certification.

With all that 2020 brought, it was the year that I made the greatest investment in myself through learning & development. There were many long days and nights and a lot of sacrifices from my family.

What’s next for 2021? I’ll probably explore VMC on AWS, GCP (especially the VMware engine) and the VMware Specialist – Cloud Provider

My advice to others thinking about something similar – “Make a plan and start somewhere”

Posted in Exam Preps, Technology

3V0-624 Preparation & Exam Experience

First off, if you haven’t read my previous post on my Journey to the vSphere Design. Do click the link and you’ll find there a portion of my journey to achieve this certification.

Preparation

  • First off, go through the exam guide several times. Everything you need for the exam is in there including everything else I’ll list below in this section.
  • Understand the basics of design – Conceptual, Logical, Physical. A great explanation of the differences is outlined in Rebecca Fitzhugh’s blog
  • VMware Product Interoperability Matrices – This provides information about how various VMware products interoperate.
  • Upgrade guides & steps for VMware products – You need to be familiar with how to upgrade different products from different versions and some of the best practices in doing so. You can find loads of information about this on the VMware validated designs.
  • Resource utilization – This is basically Objective 3.4 – Determine appropriate computer resources for a vSphere 6.x physical design
  • VSAN configuration guides. VSAN is a crucial component in almost every design so you need to understand this thoroughly. According to the exam guide, you need to be familiar with the following documents.
    1. VMware vSAN 6.5 Technical Overview
    2. vSAN Stretched Cluster and 2 Node Guide
    3. vSAN 6.2 for Remote and Branch Office Deployment
    4. vSAN Overview
  • Requirements, Limits, and Licensing of several VMware solutions – vSphere, vCenter, FT etc
  • Understand how to identify a set of goals, requirements, assumptions and constraints from interviews with various stakeholders – this was somewhat confusing because not many businesses in my region have roles broken down into CIO, CTO, SMEs. Bottom line, there are a lot of overlapping roles. The vBrownBag video by Mark Gabryjelski helped with this
  • Understanding the difference between functional and non-functional requirements – Check out Rebecca Fitzhugh’s blog.
  • Analyse design decisions and options – vBrownBag videos from Joe Clarke and Paul Cradduck helped clarify these
  • Finally, the VCAP6-DCV Design Quiz by vMusketeers helped place me in the exam scenario. I wish the questions were up to 60 though

Exam Day

  • Get enough rest/sleep. I’m ashamed to say that I dozed off several times during the exam. A consequence of not getting enough sleep.
  • Be sure to visit the loo 😉
  • Check-in early and go through the checking process. I had issues during my exam and spent two hours getting it fixed with Pearson Support. Later found out that it was an issue with the TLS version in Internet Explorer.
  • Read, read and re-read the questions before looking at the options
  • Don’t assume that the first few statements in the question point to the answer. Sometimes a large part of the question is designed to through you off balance 🙂
Posted in Exam Preps, Technology

Journey to VCAP-Design

My journey to achieving the VCAP Design started in 2015 when I attended the VMware vSphere: Design Workshop [V5.5] training in the UAE. At the time I had the VCP5-DCV and about 4 years of experience “managing and building” vSphere environments. I have that in inverted commas because the environment I was managing at the time was a tiny one comprising of 2 hosts and less than 10 VMs. I also had not designed environments that were bigger than 5 or 6 hosts.

The training course was a huge eye-opener for me. It exposed me to validated designs and VMware best practices and the lab environment was well…huge! :-D. Needless to say it was a lot of information to process. The course came with a free voucher and since my flight from the UAE was 48 hours after the last day of the course. I had to take the exam within that window. I attempted the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center Design (VCAP-DCD) exam on the 15th of December but I was not very prepared and I failed – Ouch!

My second shot at the design exam was in 2019. I registered for the VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Design Exam (3V0-624). A few years had passed after my first try so I felt I should be good. I also figured that I had some more experience designing vSphere environments and had learnt and used more VMware technologies.

Sadly, I still did not completely have a grasp of the design methodologies and failed again. My score was 260 out of a passing score of 300. Double Ouch!

From the score report, the list below shows the areas I missed and what I needed to improve on;

  • Gather and analyze application requirements
  • Determine risks, requirements, constraints and assumptions
  • Map Business Requirements to a vSphere 6.x Logical Design
  • Build Availability Requirements into a vSphere 6.x Logical Design
  • Build Manageability Requirements into a vSphere 6.x Logical Design
  • Build Performance Requirements into a vSphere 6.x Logical Design
  • Build Security Requirements into a vSphere 6.x Logical Design
  • Transition from a Logical Design to a vSphere 6.x Physical Design
  • Create a vSphere 6.x Physical Network Design from an Existing Logical Design
  • Create a vSphere 6.x Physical Storage Design from an Existing Logical Design
  • Determine Appropriate Compute Resources for a vSphere 6.x Physical Design
  • Determine Virtual Machine Configuration for a vSphere 6.x Physical Design
  • Determine Datacenter Management Options for a vSphere 6.x Physical Design