Monthly Archives: October 2012

Supermicro teething troubles and voltage warnings

During my recent build of the vHydra server I found myself rather frustrated with Supermicro for a couple of reasons.

Firstly their UK distribution doesn’t seem to be working particularly well as there’s a two week wait for most parts which are apparently shipped from the US on demand. There are UK based resellers (I tried www.boston.co.uk) but even then some parts still have a long lead time (around a week) and I found them to be expensive compared to alternative web based vendors.

Secondly their technical support was somewhat lacking. Once I’d built the server I found I was getting an overvoltage warning on the second, empty, CPU socket. As I was planning on populating this socket (once the second CPU and heatsink arrived, another three weeks wait :-() I was keen to know if this was a false positive or whether the board should be returned as faulty.

I emailed Supermicro technical support who went through the usual information gathering – firmware, BIOS, motherboard details etc. They identified that the IPMI firmware was out of date Continue reading Supermicro teething troubles and voltage warnings

Home labs – a scalable vSphere whitebox

Having recently upgraded my home lab’s storage I decided it was also time to upgrade my aging hosts which date back to 2007. They’ve done well to survive and still be useful(ish) five years later but they’re maxed out at 8GB RAM and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to do anything with that. I briefly considered adding SSDs as host cache but that doesn’t address some of their other shortcomings such as no support for Fault Tolerance, VMDirectPath or any type of KVM functionality.

A quick look around the blogosphere revealed a few common options;

More power!

The problem for me was that these solutions all maxed out at 16 or 32GB RAM per host, a limitation of the single socket Xeon’s architecture. That’s a lot of memory for a home lab server today but to ensure that this server can last five years I really wanted more scalability. I wasn’t too fussed about noise as I use my cellar for my lab, and power consumption was a secondary concern. The server features of the Supermicro boards appeal to me (and many Supermicro motherboards are compatible with vSphere) so I browsed their range looking for the one that best met my requirements. My final parts list ended up as;

Must….have…more…POWER..the vHydra!

The total cost comes to around £1150. I’m branding mine the vHydra after the mythical multi-headed dragon!
Note: In the US this is significantly cheaper, coming in at $1450, or about £900.

For the money I get a powerful server that can replace all three of my current 8GB hosts and more than match their performance while consuming less power and space, plus Continue reading Home labs – a scalable vSphere whitebox

Storage Field Day #2 – I’ll be there!

Following on from the first storage focused Tech Field Day in April this year (known as Storage Field Day) there’s a second session running from November 8th-9th and I’m excited to say I’ve been invited and will be there. The brainchild of Gestalt IT’s Steve Foskett, Tech Field Day brings together influential individuals and innovative product vendors who assemble in Silicon Valley (San Jose) for two days of brain drain!

The day before (November 7th) is a Next Generation Storage Symposium (which I’m also attending) with the following vendors;

  • Nexsan
  • Nimbus Data
  • Permabit
  • Pure Storage
  • Scale Computing
  • Solid Fire
  • Tegile

I’m familiar with many of the sponsors presenting at this event and I’ve just been looking at some of their products at the recent VMworld Barcelona conference. For those that I’m less familiar with I’m hoping to do some pre-event research providing my son allows me the time! For a full list of sponsors check out the official webpage which also lists the delegates. I’ve met a couple of the delegates previously but most I’m only familiar with via the twitterverse – I’m looking forward to learning from both the sponsors and the other delegates who are a talented bunch.

As you’d expect from a leading technology event it’ll be streamed live over the Internet and via various forms of social media including Twitter (#TechFieldDay and/or follow @TechFieldDay) and inevitably some blogposts from the assorted panel. If you’ve an interest in storage and would like to use the event to question the vendors on specific subjects just let me know – I’ll happily proxy some questions on your behalf. Videos will be available after the event via the Tech Field Day website.

VMworld 2012 Barcelona wrapup

This year my VMworld experience started in a more relaxed fashion than previously as I flew in ahead of time on the Sunday night. After checking in to my hotel and getting my orientation in the city I headed (along with LonVMUG’s Luke Munro) to the vRockstar party at the Hard Rock Cafe organised by Marco Broeken and Patrick Redknapp. This coincided nicely with ‘El Classico’ when the two giants of Spanish football, Real Madrid and Barcelona, play each other in the Spanish league. This ensured the Hard Rock Cafe was rammed full so it was a good thing they’d reserved an area for us. Food, (free) drink, and good conversation – thanks for organizing a great start to VMworld guys!

Next day registration at the conference venue was very quick partly because it was partner day and the masses had yet to arrive. There was some misleading information about the HOL being closed although after a quick Twitter shoutout to John Troyer that was quickly remedied. As I’m a customer not a partner I didn’t have access to the partner breakout sessions so I figured my day was going to be a mixture of labs and people networking. Compared to Copenhagen the weather was a distinct improvement, hovering around 25 degrees and quite humid, although inside the air conditioning kept everyone cool.

The Keynotes and announcements

Tuesday signaled the first day of the main conference when all 7000 attendees turned up. The day started with the keynote from Pat Gelsinger and Steve Herrod and was largely a repeat of the US keynote with a few notable exceptions which I’ll cover later. For those that haven’t seen the US keynotes here’s the highlights;

  • there is a new vCloud Suite which bundles many of the VMware products together in a more compelling and cost effective package
  • vRAM is no more (cost is now per socket)
  • the launch of vSphere 5.1
  • new certification tracks including a vCloud track

VMware always like to hold back some product launches so that VMworld Europe has something to get excited about. Here’s a summary of the announcements at Barcelona;

With the swift integration of the Dynamic Ops technology VMware obviously want to manage heterogeneous clouds having spent the last five years saying there was no demand. Should we take this as indirect endorsement of Hyper-V? 🙂

Continue reading VMworld 2012 Barcelona wrapup

VMware certification exams – 50% discounts

If you’re in the market to take a VMware certification exam, there’s some good news – provided you’re quick. For the next couple of days (while VMworld Barcelona is running, Oct 9th-11th 2012) you can book the VCP and VCAP exams at a cool 50% off. For VCP that’s a saving of approx £50 and more like £200 for the VCAP exams! If you want to blitz some of the new certification tracks recently announced you’re not limited to just one – study your little legs off and you could save even more by taking multiple exams….

The codes you need to register with are;

  • VMWBAR50 – for the VCP exams (VCP-DV, VCP-DT,VCP-Cloud etc)
  • ADVBAR50 – for the VCAP exams (VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD etc)

Conditions:

  • You MUST book the exam while VMworld Barcelona is running. You don’t have to be attending the conference, it’s just the period of time the offer is valid.
  • You MUST take the exam by the end of the year.

What are you waiting for? Head over to VMware Certification and get registered certification junkies!