Posted in Technology

The vRealize Operations Manager Tenant App

This post is about the features of the vRealize Operations Manager Tenant App for vCloud Director. I’ll talk about the features of the tenant app in this post and dive into its metering capabilities in the next one.

Introduction – vRealize Operations Manager

So, first a brief intro into vRealize Operations Manager (vROPs). vROPs is an operations management tool that provides intelligent visibility into vSphere environments. At a high level, it provides reports and insights on the health, efficiency, and risk of your environment and is every IT admin’s dream solution.

Below is the typical dashboard of vROPS. You can see that it shows sections for optimizing datacenters, optimizing capacity, total savings opportunities, troubleshooting and compliance & benchmarks

vROPs Tenant App for vCloud Director

VMware vCloud Director has an integration with vROPs. This integration is done through the vRealize Operations Manager Tenant App for vCloud Director. This app basically exposes vCloud director tenants to the features of vROPs. This means tenants and their users can benefit from the performance metrics that are inherent in vROPs. They also have access to various dashboards to view the overall resource distribution in their organization including VMs, vApps, Organization vDCs and other metrics.

From the various dashboards, tenants can also view performance issues and perform root cause analysis and other troubleshooting tasks without escalating to the service provider.

The image below shows the “Organization Overview” dashboard for the T1 organization. From this dashboard, you can see the number of organization vDCs, the number of vApps, VMs, running VMs, and the total cost of these components.

Below the “Organization Summary”, you have the “Capacity Overview” which shows the limits, used, and free capacity of the three main resources.

Right under the Capacity Overview section, you’ll see the “System Status” area which lists out the issues in order of criticality.

The next two sections show the vApps and vDC utilization summary. From here you can see the top 5 vApps by memory, CPU and storage. You can also see the same for the vDCs. That is the top 5 vDC by memory, CPU and storage.

That’s it for the features. In the next post, I’ll talk about metering and how to configure that and set pricing policies.

See you in the next one…

Posted in Technology

The Largest Virtualization-Specific Event

I’ll start this post with a question. What is the largest virtualization-specific event you could attend pre and post-Covid?

The answer is VMworld. Some of you may already be familiar with this word. You may even have attended the event physically before Covid and online during and post-covid.

VMworld Barcelona 2018

VMworld is the largest virtualization-specific event that brings together experts, IT enthusiasts, and customers from around the planet in one location for fun-filled, action-packed sessions.

Loads of benefits

  • VMworld provides the opportunity to hear from industry leaders and global experts on new and exciting trends in the IT world.
  • It gives you a chance to advance your skills and get the latest training, tips and hands-on labs to keep you at the top of your career game.
  • You get a chance to build your technology network. Meet people from around the globe, engage colleagues and peers and share learnings and fresh ideas.
  • Finally, it gives you time to just have some fun. There are so many games, entertainment, surprise guests and loads of freebies.

The event typically lasts for a few days. If I remember correctly, pre-covid, the event usually lasts about 4 days and was split into two main sessions – one in America, for the Americas region and the second in Europe for the EMEA region. Post-covid everything is now virtual and the event has been moved online and does not last as long as the physical sessions. The online sessions are a 48-hour global event and split into different dates for different regions. This year the dates are;

  • AMERICAS | October 5 – 6, 2021
  • ASIA PACIFIC | October 6 – 7, 2021
  • EMEA | October 6 – 7, 2021

Past experiences

VMworld 2018 Barcelona held at Fira Gran Via in Barcelona. It was a powerful mind-blowing event that has changed my thinking, perception and thoughts around IT & technology in general. Now, in 2021, I’m still yet to recover from its ripple effects.

I attended the online VMworld in 2020 but it didn’t quite compare to the immersive session I went through in 2018. While Covid has changed the way we work and has shown people that work can still get done without physically being in the office (Something I always knew and was happy I got a chance to enjoy), not being able to attend events like this in person is one thing I still miss. The online has yet to match up to the physical. Let’s see how this year’s event goes.

One of the nice things about this event was the solutions exchange theatre/area. Here, I got to interact with various OEMs and almost everyone had some freebie and collateral to give away for FREE. I mean F-R-E-E 😀
I won and received so many freebies in Barcelona that I had to buy another bag just for them.

Then, there was the food and snacks placed at strategic areas so you can refuel as you pace around engaging with people. I mentioned pacing. Yes, there was a lot of that. During the four day period, I was doing over 14,000 steps each day. Talk about burning calories

Finally, I got the chance to enter a Tesla. Now that was an awesome experience. Tesla has a showroom about a stone’s throw from the event center.

Conclusion

VMworld 2021, is a free event do not want to miss. VMware has a reputation of outdoing themselves so I’m sure this event will be better than the last. Add this information to the benefits I listed above and it definitely going to be an exciting event.

Remember the dates as listed above, bookmark them in your calendar and be sure to register from the main landing page here. Also, check out the session types and choose the appropriate sessions for your interests and experience level. You can do that on this page.

If you’re able to join, look out for me and I’ll be happy to connect.

See you in October 🙂

Posted in Exam Preps, Technology

5V0-32.19 exam experience

I had posted earlier here about my preparation for the VMware Cloud Provider Specialist Exam 2019 exam. I am happy to announce that I passed this exam on the 29th of June 2021.

I paid for the exam using a voucher I purchased from VMware certification marketplace about a year ago. I had to purchase via the marketplace because of some restrictions Pearson placed on card transactions from my country.

After paying for the exam using the voucher, I noticed that the exam stated that it was non-proctored. Apparently, this meant that I won’t be using OnVUE software with a proctor on the other end monitoring and supervising the exam like I was used to.

Another weird thing about the exam was that I could not schedule it more than 48 hours in advance. I also could not reschedule it after it was scheduled.

After going through the objectives one more time especially the parts that were a bit confusing; Section 2 (VMware Products and Solutions) and Objectives 4.9 (Install and configure vCloud Director Extender) and 7.6 (Apply use cases for vCloud Director allocation models)

The time limit of 60 questions was sufficient to go through all the 40 questions twice and still review the questions I marked.

I was a bit uneasy throughout the exam because I had to run my router and laptop off my UPS and I wasn’t sure how long they’ll last.

All in all, I think the exam was a very good test of the skills and expertise required to deploy and manage VMware vCloud Director. It also tests the knowledge of the overall Cloud Provider Platform.

I passed with a score of 333. The passing score was 300.

Posted in Technology

Configuring a Cheaper vSAN ReadyNode (2)

In the part 1 of this post, I talked about a cheaper alternative to buying vSANReady nodes which is to configure the system nodes by using the vSAN compatibility guide. I also showed the cost comparison of buying a vSANReady node from an OEM (in this case DELL/EMC) and configuring it from DELL/EMC’s website.

In this post, I will be sharing a much cheaper alternative to brand new servers and that’s certified refurbished servers. I know, I know most folks would squirm at this idea. However, you should be good as long as you do the necessary research, purchase maintenance packages and ensure that the vendor provides certified refurbished servers from the manufacturer.

Disclaimer: The use of refurbished servers in a production environment is a personal decision and you need to properly weigh the risks involved. I am not by this post recommending its use in production environments. I however think it is perfectly okay to use in a test environment.

Now, that we have the disclaimer out of the way, let’s go back to refurbished servers. There are certain things you need to do before you take the leap to buy refurbished servers. There’s a post on Spiceworks that covers how to reduce your risk when buying refurbished servers. You should check it out and ensure you have made the necessary considerations before selecting the vendor.

One vendor I have used multiple times is ServerMonkey and these are reasons I like and still use them;

  • Cheaper prices
  • Wide range of OEMs (Dell servers, storage & switches, HP, Juniper, Cisco)
  • Clean devices (almost no scratches)
  • Great support with next business day delivery. They don’t waste your time troubleshooting a failed component. They simply FedEx or DHL a replacement part
  • Friendly team

From ServerMonkey webpage you can browser their products and select the make and model of the device you want and then build it to your desired specification. Below is how to perform the configuration task.

This next image shows the cost of building the system. A total of $70,660.00 for a four node system. Compare that with $220,292.00 when building from Dell.com and $245,632.24 when buying a vSANReady node from an OEM.

This is a significant discount. Almost 4 times cheaper.

So, there you have it, purchasing a refurbished server and using it to buying your vSAN cluster by utilizing the vSAN compatibility guide may just help you slash your vSAN budget.

See you in the next one…

Posted in Technology

Configuring a Cheaper vSAN ReadyNode

vSAN ReadyNodes are great. They provide OEM (original equipment manufacturer e.g HP, Dell/EMC and Supermicro) device(s) that have been certified to run VMware vSAN. vSAN ReadyNodes provide the most flexible server options to build Hyper-Converged Infrastructure (HCI) environments that are based on VMware vSAN.

Using vSAN ReadyNodes also makes it very easy to build an SDDC environment without spending too much time thinking about how the different components work together. But, this is as long as your budget is large enough to hand it.

Living and working in a developing country where the exchange rate is very volatile, we don’t have the luxury to afford such high-end devices. As I write this, the current exchange rate is 498 times my country’s currency. Four hundred and ninety-eight times. Yea, I said it again for emphasis.

Before we go further, here’s the link to the vSAN compatibility guide. I’ll reference it in a bit. The guide description is as follows;

The purpose of this document is to provide VMware® vSAN ReadyNode™ configurations from OEM vendors.
vSAN ReadyNode™ is a validated server configuration in a tested, certified hardware form factor for vSAN deployment, jointly recommended by the server OEM and VMware. vSAN ReadyNode™ are ideal as hyper-converged building blocks for larger data centre environments looking for automation and a need to customize hardware and software configurations

Thankfully, the vSAN ReadyNode list is just a guide. Just like with VMware’s HCL (hardware compatibility list), the devices and components that make the list are VMware’s recommendations which have been tested and certified. It does not necessarily mean that every single aspect must be exactly the same.

As an example, let’s take a look at the AF-8-DELLEMC-R640. This is an all-flash vSAN ReadyNode by DELL/EMC that utilizes the PowerEdge R640 servers. Below, is a screenshot from the compatibility guide. From there, you can see that the guide contains all the components of the node including the system, CPU type and quantity, memory modules and quantity, disk drives and so many other details.

From vsansizer.vmware.com, we can see some other details of this node.

And calculate the capacity and memory distribution per server

If I was to buy this node, it would cost about $61,408.06 per node (this is according to the price I received from a distributor a few months ago). Since we have four nodes in this system, the total cost would be $245,632.24. This is a lot especially when I convert it to my local currency (times 498).

As I alluded to earlier, to reduce this cost, we could pick up the compatibility guide, go to the Dell website and build the node selecting the exact accessories and components that are listed in the guide.

This is what I’ve done and shown in the screenshot above. The four-node system costs $138,302.18. Compare this with the previous amount of $245,632.24. Granted, Dell offers a total savings of $81,989.82 but even if they didn’t the total amount would be $220,292.00 which is still $25,340.24 cheaper than the vSAN ReadyNode.

You can download the full specifications of what I built below to compare these specifications yourself.

Let me know your thoughts down in the comment section and I’ll see you in the next one

Disclaimer: It is recommended that you use and purchase a vSAN ReadyNode from an OEM for production environments. The steps above are not recommended officially and should be used at your own risk.

Posted in Exam Preps, Technology

3V0-21.18 Preparation & Exam Experience

When I was initially preparing to take the 3V0-21.18: Advanced Deploy vSphere 6.5 Exam, my first thought was that the exam should be fairly straightforward since I have basic experience in managing a vSphere environment. Boy was I was wrong.

First of all the environment, I had been managing was a relatively small one with about 12 hosts, a vCenter, VMware vRealize Operations (vROPs) and no vSAN. vROPs was not really utilized to its fullest. Also, because my environment was small, I didn’t need to do certain things like backup the vCenter server configurations or execute VMware Cmdlets and Customize Scripts Using PowerCLI. These two are part of the objectives.

Finally, I did not have and manage an environment that was built in accordance with VMware’s Validated Design. This meant I was not using a standard environment in which the exam would test you on.

My first attempt at this exam was on the 30th of August 2019. At the time there was only one location that could offer this exam in my country and I had planned to take the previous version (3V0-623: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Deployment Exam). When I went in for the exam, it didn’t load on the only computer the centre had and that was a few days before the exam was to be retired. (I’m not going to go into why the centre only had one computer 🙁 ). I had to push for a refund.

The refund from Pearson came as a voucher and when it came I was in Dubai on vacation with my family and was not preparing to write the exam. Considering the issues I faced in my first attempt I decided to risk it and schedule the exam immediately (on the 19th of September 2019). I only had a few hours to brush up on what I knew and read weeks before.

The questions were not majorly difficult but I found that I was ratholing a lot. Victor Forde explained this term properly in his blog – victorforde.com

This was his advice;

Don’t Rat-Hole: This was another lesson which i thought I learned as a child but clearly ignored come exam day. If you are struggling with a question for too long, do not rat-hole digging deeper and deeper doing Root Cause Analysis, move on. I lost lots of time on a couple of questions I wouldn’t move past because of ego. Some tasks are quicker than others but in the general sense there are 17 questions and 205 minutes to complete them so spending 20 minutes on a question for example like I did, is too long.

…and that was my major mistake. If I had skipped tough questions early and come back to them later. I would have faired better in the exam.

The result came in on the 30th of September 2019. It was a few weeks of suspense and I felt horrible when I saw that I was soo close with a score of 290. The passing score was 300. :-(.

Third Time’s a Charm

For my third attempt, I had to find some way to get the funds to pay for the exam. Thankfully, I got some vouchers from my participation at the 2020 VMworld and Empower.

Now that the funding was out of the way, it was time to study and prepare.

Preparation

As always, the first step when preparing for any exam is to download and thoroughly go through the exam guide. You can find it here.

The next thing I did was search the internet for other folks that have taken the exam and read their experiences. Just like you are reading mine. I also reached out to some other guys I had contacted when I took the exam earlier.

  • Ricardo Conzatti has a VCAP simulator that was very helpful in my second attempt.. Here’s the lnk to it.
  • Victor Forde who I quoted earlier was able to explain his experience in his blog. Here’s the link again. He really breaks down all the steps to take to ace the exam so there’s no need to repeat them here.

While working with the exam guide, I followed Kyle Jenner’s VCAP6-DCV Deployment Study Guide. I loved the way he broke down each objective into the various sub-areas/topics. His study guide is for 6 but is still relevant for 6.5

On my part, my preparation involved dusting up an old laptop and setting up a nested lab environment on it using VMware Workstation and Nested ESXi appliances from William Lam (I mentioned his nested appliances in an earlier post). I built my lab using this guide from NAKIVO Inc. They have an updated guide for vSphere 7 here.

My home lab environment though slow helped me test out some of the objectives especially on PowerCLI since I was not familiar with that. I used the lab alongside Kyle’s guide.

Exam Day

I scheduled the exam for the 17th of November 2020. This was the expiry date of the voucher. I needed all the time I could get. I used the same centre that had issues loading in my first attempt. There was still one system but it was upgraded and I hoped that would mean it was faster. Sadly, the exam had to be loaded several times for it to work and I lost almost 45 minutes.

The questions were easy enough and I could feel the difference practising made in my speed. I was sure not to fall into the trap of rat-holing. When I hit a wall, I marked the question and moved on.

The results came in on the 18th of November 2020 and I remember falling to my knees in my kid’s room as I saw my score. “Thank you, Lord”were the words that fell off my lips as I knelt.

My score was 329

Posted in Life, Technology

Finding my path as a Solutions Architect

Introduction

Somehow, I like to start with definitions cos I feel someone reading may not know what I’m speaking about or may not understand.

So, the first term I’m defining is Solutions Architect. In simple terms, a solutions architect is a problem solver. one way to think about this role is to look at the second part of the phrase – Architect. An architect is a builder. He/She sees an end result in his/her mind’s eyes and work with the civil engineers and other construction workers to bring that vision/dream to light. A solution Architect does the exact same thing with solving problems by using IT technology.

Now, because a solution architect uses technology to solve problems, they need to understand the foundations and basics of that technology (Information Technology in this case). This is why great solution architects were once hard core engineers who had gotten their hands dirty in implimenting technology solutions.

My Begining

This brings me to how I started my career in IT. My journey started around 18 years ago 2003. I was in my second or third year in my bachelor’s degree for the Electrical and Computer Engineering course.

At the time I knew almost nothing about IT or computers. Those days we had mostly desktop computers and I didn’t have one. Windows ME & Windows 2000 were the most popular OSes at the time. There was also Ubuntu 6 or so (I can’t remember the first version I installed). They used to ship the disks then.

A friend and neighbor gave me his desktop computer and that’s what got me hooked. He gave me one advise then which I have cherished till today and have told others I mentor – “use it, break it and fix it”. I did break the PC several times and he was always available to help me whenever I escalated to him.

Because of my inquisitive nature, I remember he used to call me Doctor Q. Q was for questions not quantum. Even though quantum would have been a very cool superhero name 😁. I had been very curious even as a young boy. I always felt ever problem had a solution even in play.

Curiousity – the key to architecting

Fast forward many year into the future, my curiousity had grown especially in technology. I took my first certification in 2007. This was the CompTIA Network +. I felt then that networking was the foundation so that influenced my decision to do this exam. I had to convince my mum then to help with the funds for this. I’m so glad she did. Thanks mum!

I think curiosity is everything. It’s the underlying motivation to learn. It’s a characteristic where you acknowledge you don’t know everything and perhaps there are better ways to do things. I’m always nervous about people who aren’t curious about anything in the world. – Simon Sinek

The reason why I believe curiousity is the key to architecting is because this character compels my mind to see things where others may not and especially to see solutions to problems around me that others may miss. In my head, I’m constantly asking why. I am constantly questioning whether a current solution is the best. Sometimes, this means I question a solution I had already worked on. (Sometimes I mistake this habit or character for perfectionism)

As I bring this post to a close, my advise for upcoming Architects is to cultivate a curious mind. Remember that every problem has a solution. Don’t give up when you hit several brick walls. The walls will eventually break down and you’ll be delighted to see that your persistence paid off.

It also feels very good to see a solution born out of your persistence and to see that you, yes, you! can come up with a solution to what was once a problem folks struggled with.

One last quote from Aaron Swartz.

Be curious. Read widely. Try new things. What people call intelligence just boils down to curiosity.

Posted in Business, Technology

Acquisitions, I love them – Pluralsight/ACG/Linux Academy

I’m not sure why but I have always been fascinated about mergers and acquisitions. I guess the fact that someone or a group of people can sit down with an idea, turn that into a “living organism” and increase its value to the point that it is valuable enough for someone else to acquire.

I had living organism above in parenthesis because I think an organization is a type of living organism or at least it should be. A quick Google search defines an Organism as a living thing (organizations have a birth date which is the certificate of incorporation and a death date which is the day they file for bankruptcy) that has an organized structure (organizations have a structure; departments, units, processes…etc), can react to stimuli (stimulus is something that rouses or incites to activity. Organisations react to external and internal stimulus), reproduce (this is where you have the concept of parent and child companies or subsidiaries), grow (organizations grow in revenue, assets and employee base), adapt (to survive, organizations need to adapt to changes in laws, market trends and their environment), and maintain homeostasis (so, this is a big word that refers to the property of cells, tissues, and organisms that allows the maintenance and regulation of the stability and constancy needed to function properly. I would say the leadership and management of most organizations perform this function by ensuring stability and constancy of the organization and its processes).

Earlier on, I also said “valuable enough for someone else to acquire”. Now, I’m aware that there are a ton of other reasons acquisitions happen including, diversification, growth/spread and to silence the competition. In this post, I’m focusing on the value the acquired company has developed.

In the news today, I read that A Cloud Guru (ACG) has come to an agreement to be acquired by Pluralsight. Both companies are known for their online learning platforms especially for IT trainings and courses. I’ve known Pluralsight longer than ACG. In fact, I only knew about ACG from a recent acquisition. I’ll talk about this next.

For me, one interesting thing about this acquisition is the fact that ACG acquired Linux Academy a little over a year ago (December 2019). I’ve known Linux Academy longer than ACG. They have been around since 2012 and provided over 200 self-paced courses and 1,000 Hands-On Labs.

Pluralsight on the other hand has been around since 2004. So the trend is the older company acquires the younger company, ACG founded in 2015. ACG, an older company acquires a younger company, Linux Academy founded in 2012 🙂.

In fact,while writing this post, I did a little research and found out that Pluralsight has been on an acquisition spree. Exciting, the plot thickens. 😁

According to Tracxn Technologies, Pluralsight has made 7 acquisitions and 2 investments. The company has spent over $ 326M for the acquisitions which include TrainSignal, PeepCode, Digital-Tutors, Smarterer, GitPrime, Train Simple and HackHands.

Besides the companies they have been acquiring in the past few years, Pluralsight themselves were acquired this year (2021) by Vista Equity Partners (“Vista”) for $22.50 per share.

A truly interesting story. I hope you’re excited as I have been reading about these acquisitions.

See you in the next one…

Posted in Technology

vSphere Mobile Client – New Features

I’ve been using the vSphere mobile client for a while now. I found out about it from a colleague and installed it about a year ago. It has been a convenient way to access my vSphere environment directly from my mobile device. Especially because there are some days where getting to your laptop is almost impossible.

The app is freely available for download from the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store. VMware has recently released an update for this app and its got some new stuff. One of which is a feature which allows the users to choose to connect to both On-Premises and VMware Cloud deployment.

Other features of the mobile app includes the ability to interact with the virtual machine console (where the live console is shown) and explore hosts and clusters. You can get information about a host’s connection status or maintenance mode status. You can see the list of hosts, in each host card and you can find details like resource usage, issues indicator, related objects with or without issues.

For more details of these new features and more, check out the full post here. (FYI, the GIFs above were gotten from here)

Posted in Technology

Critical Security Advisory – VMSA-2021-0010

Well, like the post title states, this is a critical security advisor and it needs immediate attention for anyone using vCenter Server. This means stop whatever else you’re doing and get this done. But you can keep reading to get more details then go apply the fix immediately.

The products impacted by this vulnerability include;

  1. VMware vCenter Server (vCenter Server)
  2. VMware Cloud Foundation (Cloud Foundation

This advisory ID contains two vulnerabilities, CVE-2021-21985 & CVE-2021-21986. VMware has evaluated the severity of this issue to be in the Critical severity range with a maximum CVSSv3 base score of 9.8 and in the Moderate severity range with a maximum CVSSv3 base score of 6.5 respectively.

You can check out the original advisory located here and also sign up for Security Advisories by entering your email address on this page – https://www.vmware.com/security/advisories.html. (see screenshot below)

Without wasting much time here, Bob Plankers has detailed everything you need to know about this vulnerability. His post talks about who is affected, when you need to do something about the vulnerability, why you are affected, what you should do to protect your self and tips for patching.

Posted in Technology

Making the switch from NSX-v to NSX-T

NSX-V has been around for a while and has powered a lot of software defined and cloud environments. If you are VMware cloud provider and are still using NSX-V, you should make the switch and this is why.

First, an intro for those who are not familiar with VMware NSX, NSX is VMware’s Network Virtualization solution. It allows you to build software-defined networks in virtualized datacenters that are abstracted or separate from the physical networks. This means that you can create virtual networks including switches, ports, routers, and firewalls all in software having it run over your physical network devices, any physical network device.

VMware NSX comes in two flavors, NSX-V and NSX-T. NSX-V is typically called NSX for “vSphere” and is the first version that has been around for years. It was designed for on-premise VMware vSphere deployments such that a single NSX-V manager is associated with or tied to a single vCenter Server instance.

NSX-T is the second type of platform and is typically called NSX “Transformers”. (yea, cool name). It was released and designed to address the deployment models that NSX-V could not fix and features an agile software-defined platform for building cloud-native application environments. Unlike its predecessor, NSX-T is built to handle multi-hypervisors, cloud, containers, and bare metal server environments and incorporates agents to perform microsegmentation on non-VMware platforms.

NSX-T Anywhere Architecture – Source: NSX-T Reference Design Guide 3-0.pdf

As shown in the figure above, the NSX-T architecture is designed around four fundamental attributes that span from any site, to any cloud, and to any endpoint device. This enables greater decoupling, not just at the infrastructure level (e.g., hardware, hypervisor), but also at the public cloud (e.g., AWS, Azure) and container level (e.g., K8, Pivotal); all while maintaining the four key attributes of platform implemented across the domains.

For VMware Cloud Providers, VMware has released a migration tool – VMware NSX Migration for VMware Cloud Director 1.2.1. This tool helps providers running a VMware Cloud Director environment to migrate NSX Data Center for vSphere (NSX-V) to NSX-T Data Center. The tool is an external automation tool that initiates and completes the migration process with minimum downtime.

Check out this VMware blog for more features of this tool and the considerations you need to make before proceeding. It was written by Romain Decker, a Staff Technical Product Manager within the Cloud Services Business Unit (CSBU) at VMware.

In addition, there’s an older 24-page white paper also by VMware that details several ways to migrate from NSX-V to NSX-T. The white paper looks at various approaches available for migration and also focuses on Migration Coordinator, a tool built into NSX-T that simplifies in-place upgrade of NSX-V based infrastructure to NSX-T.

Posted in Technology

ESXi on SD Cards no longer supported

One of the clusters in our environment contains Dell PowerEdge R730 servers. We recently noticed that a few hosts were failing and throwing up an error during the bootup process. One common thing about these hosts was that we had ESXi installed on the internal SD modules. Rebooting the server results in an error message and reinstalling the OS on the SD card still gives the same error.

This is a known issue with ESXi 7.0 installations on SD cards. One Reddit user gave the explanation that “The new partition layout in esxi 7.0 has more writes and the writes aren’t throttled anymore like in earlier releases, therefore VMware also recommends not to use sd cards anymore.”

The official information from VMware on this issue is located in this KB. The issue is triggered by a VMFS-L Locker partition corruption on SD cards in ESXi 7.0.

As of 7.0 Update 1, the format of the ESX-OSData boot data partition has been changed. Instead of using FAT it is using a new format called VMFS-L. This new format allows much more and faster I/O to the partition. This ESX-OSData partition is where frequent data is written and combines the product locker and scratch log partitions which were used in previous versions of ESXi. This partition is more commonly seen as the /scratch partition. 

VMware has listed one of the main reasons why the /scratch partition fails on ESXi 7.0 as

The level of read and write traffic is overwhelming and corrupting many less capable SD cards.

Finally, as a workaround, the KB says;

The version 7.0 Update 2 VMware ESXi Installation and Setup Guide, page 12, specifically says that the ESX-OSData partition “must be created on high-endurance storage devices”.

Another workaround is (this is actually the only workaround that worked for us);

Once the new drive is installed, and ESXi has been reinstalled, you can immediately move the /scratch partition to a location not on the boot drive, per directions in System logs are stored on non-persistent storage

Posted in Technology

Using Virtual Appliances in your Home Lab

As part of my learning and development processes, I typically have to set up a home lab environment to test out the new technology. I’ve found out that the fastest way to learn something new is to build it yourself. I guess the lessons stick harder.

Most of the lab environments I’ve built are VMware-based. I build nested ESXi hosts as virtual machines in VMware Workstation or Virtualbox (for some reason this does not slow down my host laptop as much). The last lab environment I built was when I was preparing for the VCAP-DCV Deploy exam. I will write about my exam experience in one of my next blogs.

Anyway, when building nested ESXi hosts, I have found a really easy way of cutting down the provisioning time is to use nested ESXi virtual appliances. A virtual appliance is a pre-configured virtual machine image, ready to run on a hypervisor. Or in my case a guest operating system. William Lam has been creating these appliances for years. I think since ESXi 5.5. You can check out his collection here. I’ve found them to be pretty reliable.

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