Archive

Archive for the ‘Virtualisation’ Category

VMware certification exams – 25% discounts (2014 offer)

October 13th, 2014 No comments
Print Friendly

Igreenf 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 13th-17th 2014) you can book the VCP and VCAP exams at a cool 25% offeven if you’re not at the conference! This isn’t quite as good as last year’s 50% discount but every little helps. 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;

  • 2014VW25 – for the VCP exams (VCP-DV, VCP-DT,VCP-Cloud,VCP-NV)
  • 2014VWADV25 – for the VCAP exams (VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-CID, VCAP-CIA, VCAP-DTD, VCAP-DTA, VCIX-NV)

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!

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

Making the most of VMworld Barcelona 2014

September 30th, 2014 No comments
Print Friendly
vmworld2014-tag-cloud

Tag cloud generated from the content catalogue of VMworld 2014

In just under two weeks I’m heading to Barcelona for VMworld Europe. This will be my fifth year attending and I thought I’d pass on my recommendations for making the most of the conference. This isn’t a ‘book flights, wear trainers, collect swag’ kind of blogpost – remember, it’s a conference, nothing more, nothing less. Don’t be bamboozled by the hype.

1. Prepare in advance

  1. Review what was announced at VMworld in August (here, here, and here via Brian Gracely, Kyle Hilgendorf, & LatogaLabs respectively) so you don’t waste your time rediscovering the wheel. While the European show is playing second fiddle we do at least have the advantage that useful analysis is now available (thoughts on EVO:RAIL, Why VAIO will change everything, and thoughts on the Docker and Openstack announcements).
  2. Before you go reach out to people with similar interests and arrange to meet them, even if it’s informal over breakfast or a beer in the evening. The VMworld schedule builder lists speaker details and most people are easy to find via Twitter or LinkedIn and most are more than happy to engage with people (that’s why they’re speakers after all).
  3. Watch some of the VMworld sessions which are online from the US show in August. If you’ve booked time in your schedule for one of those sessions it’s time you can reuse more productively. Watching sessions in advance gives you more time to soak up new information and lets you think of questions to ask while at the conference.
  4. Write a blogpost on getting the most out of the conference and publish it. :-)

2. Spend your time doing the stuff you can only do at the conference.

  1. There’s lots of opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and make some excellent contacts, but it’s also quite easy to waste time either intentionally or unintentionally (late night parties take their toll). Most sessions are recorded, the keynotes are usually a repeat of the US keynotes with minor updates, and the lazy web provides deeper insight a few days later when full details emerge and people have had time to digest everything.
  2. If you go to sessions, ask questions! Some are designed to be interactive and watching a recording afterwards may not have the same value as participating – the vExpert Storage Game Show (STO2997-STO) and Ask the Expert vBloggers (SDDC1176) are good examples.
  3. The group discussions are an organised goldmine. Go to them and discuss.
  4. There are 50% discounts on taking certification exams during VMworld Europe, but the VCAP ones take a half day each which is valuable time lost.

3. Interact 

  1. The most valuable use of your time is speaking to people who have the same needs as you, along with product experts. The calibre of people at VMworld is second to none, though finding them among the thousands of attendees can be a challenge. See above point about preparation!
  2. Engage with the community via the vBrownBag sessions, TechFieldDay Extra (featuring yours truly),  the bloggers area and the hangspace.
  3. Join the VMUG organisation and find your local VMUG –  you’ll be glad you did.
  4. Tweet, blog, chat, drink!

4. Stay focused during the conference

  1. Set yourself an agenda and know what you want to achieve before you go. Maybe you want it to be a networking event where you meet up with old friends and share a beer, or maybe you want to focus on using the three or four days to soak up new information. Stick to it.
  2. You will suffer information overload during the event. Compensate by taking notes and make clear actions for follow up when you get home.
  3. Follow up when you get home. I have several folders of info, contacts, things to do etc from previous years and I haven’t always used them. That’s wasted opportunities.

More information about what, when, why, along with social media, parties etc can be found on Andrea Mauro’s comprehensive blogpost.

If you haven’t already it’s not too late to register!banner-eu-registerNow

Note that this link will let VMware know you registered via my blog, which may (or may not!) help me get kudos with their social media program in the future. Registrations much appreciated!

Categories: VMware, VMworld Tags: ,

Thoughts on VMware’s NSX ICM course

September 26th, 2014 No comments
Print Friendly

trainingSummary: My thoughts on the new NSX Install, Configure, Manage (ICM) course, based on sitting the beta course (the usual beta caveats therefore apply).

Back in June I sat the beta of the VMware NSX Install, Configure, Manage course at VMware’s head office (at Frimley in the UK) and I thought it would be worth detailing my thoughts and experiences now that the course is publically available. This post won’t describe the course agenda in detail as you can read the official course description (along with prices, booking info, schedules etc) but from a quick look at the agenda I’d say the content hasn’t changed much.

Do I need to be a network guru?

Before booking the course, my first concern was the target audience. For those unfamiliar with my background I’m a compute and storage guy, not a network guru, so I was curious how well I’d cope with the networking material. I spoke to the trainer in advance (Paul McSharry, who I knew from my Design Workshop a few years ago) who advised that CCNA equivalent knowledge would be fine, and even pulled a few strings to add an extra place and get me on the course after it filled up. Thanks Paul! :-)

Although the intended audience is described as “Experienced system administrators that specialize in networking” we were told that VMware are targeting the course at vSphere admins, not network admins (apparently there will be a different course released in the future). This is borne out via the official, minimal,  prerequisites listed below which have very little network focus;

  • System administration experience on Microsoft Windows or Linux operating system
  • Understanding of concepts presented in the VMware Data Center Virtualization Fundamentals course for VCA-DCV certification

Despite meeting those quite happily I found some sections challenging, particularly around VXLAN. Knowledge of network overlay concepts, and VXLAN in particular, is essential. I’ve done lots of work with vSphere but not much with vCloud, so hadn’t really worked with VXLAN in any depth and there’s a lot of terminology to understand – VTEP, UTEP, MTEP, and LIF to mention a few. VXLAN is also used in Cisco’s competing ACI product (as explained by Gary Kinghorn from Cisco) so it’s well worth learning even if you’re not going down the NSX route. Some background knowledge of routing protocols such as OSPF and BGP etc would also be beneficial. If you’ve worked with the vCNS interface, you’ll have a good headstart as NSX looks very similar.

What does the course cover?

The course content is 50% instructor led and 50% lab time and in summary covers the following topics (much of the content is available publically, and for free, on various blog series – see my links at the bottom for more info);

  • NSX Manager/controllers/clusters
  • NSX Edge Gateway appliances (basically upgraded vShield Edge)
  • Logical switching, routing, VPNs, load balancers, and firewalls (including microsegmentation)

nsx-featuresFor me the biggest benefit was access to hands on experience with NSX – unless you’re lucky enough to work with it via your company the only option is the two online HOLs (NSX for vSphere and NSX for multi-hypervisors). I believe access will become more widespread soon but it’s been frustrating many people while they wait for access to a product that’s supposedly GA.

In my case I was very lucky to have an exceedingly well educated bunch on the course with me, including Michael Haines (who works for VMware and helped create the vCloud Architecture Toolkit among other publications) and some guys who were doing the bootstrap program towards the VCDX-NV. This stimulated some great debate and meant someone in the room could answer any question I threw at them (probably in their sleep). Most courses won’t benefit from this level of expertise but it’s always worth learning from other candidates on courses regardless.

The 17 labs do a good job of slowly building up an internal network, adding multiple networks with routing, integrating it with external networks and adding VPNs, firewalls etc. As you’d expect it showcases the flexibility enabled by virtualising networks, such as the ability to move L3 networks around and microsegmentation (a killer feature say VMware). I found the labs short on context and too focused on ‘click here, type this’ rather than scenerio based – you weren’t always encouraged to think about what you were achieving and why. Overall I enjoyed the labs and felt they were very useful.

Disappointingly there was minimal coverage of the multi-hypervisor version of NSX – our instructor dug out an NSX-MH (multi-hypervisor) introduction document (including a feature comparison) for us but it would have been nice to see more included upfront.

One noticeable change compared to previous courses is the use of online course notes, rather than a printed book. The notes are provided to you before the course starts (which is good) although you do need to install an application (rather than cloud availability) which is not so good. Like most people on the course I’d taken a laptop which allowed me to have the course manual on one screen while you work on the provided desktop, much like the VMworld HOLs. Personally I still prefer a printed book that I can stick on a shelf. A year from now when I want to reference something from the course I probably won’t be able to find the application/content (VitalSource Bookshelf) because I’ll have a new laptop etc, whereas a book would still be sitting on a shelf. That’s because I’m an old dog though – your mileage may vary! ;-)

Obviously this course is also the recommended learning path if you’re intending to take the new VCP-NV certification. If you’re already a VCP then the course is optional. I’m not sure if I’ll bother taking this exam as aside from the course I’m not using NSX day to day but if you are Paul has created a series of multiple choice NSX quizzes in similar style to a VCP exam – it’s worth taking to test your knowledge after the course. A couple of people have written up their VCP-NV exam experiences here, here, and here. There are aslo some videos over at the vBrownBag site covering objective 1 and objective 2 and I’m sure there’s more to come.

Final thoughts

I think it’s well worth taking the course even if you’re not a network guru. As the virtualisation landscape has evolved everyone has needed to learn more about compute, storage, and networking and this looks likely to continue. I’ve heard that vCNS (in many ways a predecessor of NSX) is no longer being developed and that going forward NSX (in some form) will be the core networking component for vSphere. If that’s the case then everyone needs to be familiar with it, just as they need to understand vSwitches today.

Having said that I can’t see it being a quick adoption for NSX, and therefore there’s no immediate requirement to learn the product. VMware are promising that NSX will simplify your operations, but in the short term that’s not what I see. You’ll likely be running NSX plus ‘legacy’ physical networks for a long time, plus NSX will lead to new management toolsets (think vCOPs for networking) and integration points which will take time to mature. You still need to adjust your underlying MTU settings and despite being part of the ‘software defined’ world some hardware issues will no doubt need to be tackled (think VSAN-like teething issues).

Having spent a bit more time with NSX I do now have a better understanding of where it fits. Most of the course delegates felt it was largely beneficial to large enterprises and service providers as the automation it enables requires coding and a high degree of competency. It’s also a bit rough round the edges – for example you have to have full administrator access in vCentre to use NSX, so forget delegating limited rights to your network team. Previously I’d thought NSX offered network virtualisation that would allow a layer 2 network to span datacentres (ie layer 3) but NSX only works within a single datacentre (largely a VXLAN limitation I believe). That’s set to change in the future apparently so watch this space.

As an incentive for early learners you get a 50% VCP-NV exam discount if you take the exam before the 19th of December.

Where to find more information on NSX

Most of the information in the course can already be found online (for free) although unless your company is deploying NSX, and you therefore have access to the binaries, hands on experience is limited to the two HOLs (NSX for vSphere and NSX for multi-hypervisors);

As a further alternative you can search Google for  SDN, NFV, NSX, OpenDaylight, Pyretic etc and say goodbye to any spare time for years to come….

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , , , ,

Evolution of the IT Pro (staying relevant in 2014 and beyond)

June 9th, 2014 1 comment
Print Friendly

Bob-the-BuilderSummary: The IT function is becoming a broker of services but, until that happens, infrastructure engineers will likely to fall into the ‘builder broker’ camp – you’ll need to be able to ‘stitch together’ different services but you’ll also need to build them and understand what’s ‘under the hood’.

For a few years now infrastructure engineers have been hearing how cloud computing is going to change their jobs, potentially putting many out of work. Plenty has been written about whether this will result in a net gain or loss of IT jobs (here, here, and here plus in one my first blogposts I talked about changing roles) but whatever your stance it’s undeniable that the nature of IT jobs will change – technology never stands still for long.

This isn’t theoretical or a shift that’ll start in ten years – changes are happening right now.

Gartner recently identified ‘IT as a service broker’ in their top ten technology trends for 2014 and I’d agree with those that say skills such as virtualisation are no longer enough. Here’s a few things I’ve being asked for in the last few months which is why I’m adding my voice to the ‘service broker’ trend;

  • Knowledge of alternative virtualisation/cloud platforms. “Should we be considering Hyper-V? Openstack? Oracle VM?”
  • How can we integrate Amazon’s VPC with our internal dev/test environments?
  • If we buy into a third parties managed services, what’s the impact on our production platform and technology roadmap?

The news columns are filling up with articles about changing skillsets;

Still not convinced? VMware’s flagship cloud product, vCAC, exists to orchestrate resources across multiple clouds from AWS, RackSpace, Azure and others so this talk of ‘brokering’ across heterogeneous systems is also where VMware see the future.

The requirement for inhouse engineering expertise isn’t going to disappear overnight so you’ve got time to adjust, but for many the future may be more about integrating services together than building them.

How do you stay relevant?

That’s the million dollar question isn’t it? I’ve listed my opinions below although for alternative advice Steve Beaver wrote a great article for The Virtualization Practice at the end of last year (“Get off the hypervisor and into the cloud”) which mirrors my thoughts exactly. If I’d read it before writing this I probably wouldn’t have bothered!

  1. Focus on technical expertise. As the industry coalesces towards service providers and consumers the providers need the best people they can find as the impact (at scale) is magnified. Automation is a key trend for this role as self-service is a key tenet of cloud. Luckily, while ‘compute’ has already been disrupted by virtualisation both storage and network are just getting started which will generate demand for those who keep up with technology developments.
  2. Focus on becoming an IT broker. This means getting a wide knowledge of different solutions and architectures (AWS, VMware, OpenStack, understand SOA principles, federation, integration patterns etc) and know how to implement and integrate them. You’ll also have to get closer to the business and be able to translate business requirements such that you can satisfy them via the available services. Some would argue that this is crossing over to the role of a business analyst, and they may be right.

If you’re going to go deep on technology, go work for a vendor, ISP, or big IT consultancy (sooner rather than later).

If you’re going for the broker/business analyst role make sure you’re building up your business knowledge, with less focus on the low level nuts and bolts.

Pick one or the other, but don’t stand still. Taking my own advice I’ve just taken a role with a service provider. Let’s see how this plays out! :-)

An introduction to Puppet

November 19th, 2013 No comments
Print Friendly

puppetPerfectly positioned to provide automation for the infrastructure providing both private and public clouds (and a darling of the burgeoning DevOps scene), Puppet has seen a groundswell of adoption in recent years. It’s undoubtedly very capable but may not be what some enterprises expect.

For those not familiar with Puppet it’s a tool which helps to automate system administration tasks. They’ve managed to build a large mindshare and strong brand recognition although it’s still a relatively small company of around 190 staff globally, headquartered out of Portland, Oregon in the US. The London based team is actively growing (interested in a job with PuppetLabs?) and the first usergroup meeting in London recently attracted 45 people at pretty short notice. Their financial results speak for themselves with year on year sales more than tripling and over 9 million downloads. Pretty impressive for a company which in 2010 only had 11 staff! They’re not the only show in town (Chef, Salt Stack, & Ansible are notable competition) but they seem to be getting the most traction.

Puppet’s success lies in the VM sprawl ushered in by virtualisation combined with the availability of cloud infrastructures which can scale rapidly and on demand. If you need to quickly spin up hundreds, maybe thousands, of servers and guarantee that their configuration is identical and correct, how would you do it?  How do you manage the rapid releases required by your software development lifecycle, especially if you’re aiming for continuous delivery? How do you deal with configuration drift in your test and development environments? This is where Puppet comes to the rescue.

I’ve been keeping an eye on Puppet as a configuration management tool since 2009 when it first popped up on my radar (maybe it was Thoughtworks Radar). At the time I was looking for tools to help deploy RedHat Linux 4.6 but sadly I didn’t opt for Puppet – in hindsight I consider that a missed opportunity! Earlier this year it was covered at the London VMUG and I’ve recently had conversations with PuppetLabs staff both at VMworld Europe (Jose Palafox) and in the UK (Steve Thwaites). Have a read of the official PuppetLab intro then continue reading to get my initial thoughts.

Puppet comes in two flavours Read more…

VMworld 2013 Barcelona wrapup

October 28th, 2013 2 comments
Print Friendly

2013-10-14 10.29.38Summary: Some new (and actually exciting) announcements, some good conversations about the challenges VMware face in the next few years, and business as usual in the solutions exchange, HOL, and general sessions. Still a conference worth attending!

As I’ve done for the last couple of years (2012, 2011, 2010) I recently attended VMworld Europe, which was in Barcelona for the second year. As you can see from my photo on the right, it looks much the same as last year (unsurprisingly)! Blue skies, warm weather, and a large conference venue stocked to the gills with techies and technology…

The keynotes

IMG_2596

VMware’s timeline – what will it say in a couple of years time?

As is the case every year I’ve been the keynotes are largely a repeat of the US sessions with a few additions to keep the masses happy. Typically it’s management products that get announced at Europe although this year I’m glad to say they felt more substantial than previous years (a full list can be found on the official VMworld blog);

  • vCAC v6.0 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year) including vFabric Application Director and integration with Puppet.
  • Log Insight v1.5 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
  • vCOPs v5.8 announced (though not available until towards the end of the year)
  • In the EUC space VMware announced the acquisition of Desktone, a ‘desktop-as-a-service’ company. Given the complexity of VDI I think this has a lot of potential to increase adoption.
  • vCHS to launch in the UK in Q1 2014. The vCHS Online Marketplace was also launched although I’ve not had a chance to look at it yet.

nsxThe vCAC integration with vFabric Application Director and Puppet look like great additions (and allowed VMware to jump on the DevOps bandwagon) and the announcment that vCHS will be available in the UK early next year is welcome. NSX conversations were a recurring theme throughout the four days – everyone agrees that it looks good but also agrees that adoption faces quite a few challenges and the fact that pricing is a per-VM model won’t help. I’m no longer quite as grumpy or pessimistic as I was after VMworld US but I still think VMware are in for a tough few years. Read more…

Categories: Cloud, Storage, VMware Tags:

VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide – my thoughts

October 16th, 2013 1 comment
Print Friendly

vcap-dcdSummary: A good book which is ideal for those new to design with plenty of real world examples and exam preparation tips.

I’ve been meaning to take my VCAP5-DCD certification for a couple of years but still haven’t made the required time available.  I attended the Design Workshop (last year) and was lucky enough to have Paul McSharry as my instructor – I’d not met him previously but I was familiar with his work through his website (www.elasticsky.co.uk) and via Twitter.

Now Paul’s written the official VMware Press certification guide to the VCAP5-DCD exam. This book takes a slightly different approach compared to other study resources as it includes a practice test and considers the mental transition a VCP-DCV certified engineer might need to make when moving into design. To quote Paul;

I decided to approach the guide with the mindset of a VCP5-DCV qualified engineer who has yet to complete a full design.

 How do you make the transition from engineer to architect? Whats the process? 

I like the format of the book and found Paul’s writing style to be very easy to read. In many ways the VCAP5-DCD is a less technical exam compared to the VCAP5-DCA but there are some concepts which can be hard to wrap your brain around if you’re used to an operational focus (which I am). There has been plenty of discussion on the web around functional vs non-functional, logical vs physical designs, and constraints, risks, assumptions, and requirements and Paul’s book tackles them all pretty well.

One thing you’ll notice when you look at the contents page is Read more…

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

VMware certification exams – 50% discounts (2013 offer)

October 14th, 2013 13 comments
Print Friendly

defy-conventionIf 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 14th-17th 2013) you can book the VCP and VCAP exams at a cool 50% offeven if you’re not at the conference! 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;

  • VWBAR50 – for the VCP exams (VCP-DV, VCP-DT,VCP-Cloud,VMware IaaS, VMware View)
  • VWADVBAR50 – for the VCAP exams (VCAP-DCA, VCAP-DCD, VCAP-CID, VCAP-CIA, VCAP-DTD)

UPDATE 15th Oct: There is also a code for the new VCA exams (completely free) which looks to be good until the end of the month (October 2013).
CORRECTION 15th Oct: I incorrectly stated the VCAP code as VMADVBAR50, which has now been corrected (as above).

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!

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

Converged infrastructure: an introduction

September 9th, 2013 No comments
Print Friendly

For the last couple of years adoption of ‘converged infrastructure’ has been on the rise but until recently it wasn’t something I’d needed to understand beyond general market awareness and personal curiosity. I was familiar with some of the available solutions (in particular VCE’s vBlock and Netapp’s Flexpod) but I also knew there were plenty of other converged solutions which I wasn’t so familiar with. When the topic was raised at my company I realised that I needed to know more.

Google research quickly found a converged infrastructure primer at Wikibon which had the quotable “Nearly 2/3rds of the infrastructure that supports enterprise applications will be packaged in some type of converged solution by 2017“. The Wikibon report is well worth a read but it didn’t quite answer the questions I had, so I decided to delve into the various solutions myself. Before I continue I’ll review what’s meant by ‘converged infrastructure’ with a Wikipedia definition;

Converged infrastructure packages multiple information technology (IT) components into a single, optimized computing solution. Components of a converged infrastructure solution include servers, data storage devices, networking equipment and software for IT infrastructure management, automation and orchestration.

In a series of blogposts over the coming months I’m planning to summarize the converged offerings from various vendors including VCE, Netapp, HP, Oracle, IBM, Dell, Hitachi. If I find time I’ll also cover the newer ‘hyperconverged’ offerings from Nutanix, Scale Computing, Pivot3 and Simplivity. This is largely for my own benefit and as a record of my thoughts – there’s quite a bit of material out there already so it may turn into a compilation of links. I don’t want to rediscover the wheel!

Q. Will this series of blogposts tell you which converged solution you should choose?
A. Nope. There are many factors behind these decisions and I (unfortunately) don’t have real world experience of them all.

CI solutions vary considerably in their degree of convergence and use cases. Steve Chambers (previously of VCE, now CanopyCloud) has a good visualisation of the various solutions on a ‘convergence’ scale. If you haven’t read it already I’d strongly recommend you do so before continuing.

Why converged infrastructure?

Before I delve into the solutions let’s have a look at some factors which are common to them all – there’s no point looking at any solution unless you know how it’s going to add value.

  • Management. The management and orchestration tools are often what add real value to these solutions and that’s typically the component that people aren’t familiar with. Run a POC to understand how effective these new tools are. Do they offer and API?
  • Simplicity – validated architectures, preconfigured and integrated stacks of hardware and software, and built in automation all promise to ease the support burden of deploying and operating infrastructure. Who do you call to resolve problems? Will you be caught between vendors blaming each others components or is there a single point of contact/resolution? While a greenfield deployment may be simpler, if you add it to the existing mix (rather than as a replacement) then you’ve added complexity to your environment, and potentially increased your TCO rather than reduced it. Changes to existing processes may also impact job roles – maybe you won’t need a storage admin for example – which can be a benefit but may require considerable change and entail uncertainty for existing staff.
  • Flexibility – Is deploying a large block of compute/network/storage granular enough for your project? Many vendors are now producing a range of solutions to counter this potential issue. While deployment may be quicker, consider ongoing operations – because the engineered systems need to be validated by the vendor you may not be able to take advantage of the newest hardware or software releases, including security patches. For example Oracle’s Exalogic v2, released in July 2012, ships with Linux v5 despite v6 being released in February 2011. The CPU’s were Intel’s Westmere processors (launched in Jan 2011) instead of the E5 Romley line which were released in March 2012. This isn’t just Oracle – to varying degrees this will hold true for any ‘engineered’ system.
  • Interoperability. Can you replicate data to your existing infrastructure or another flavour of converged infrastructure? What about backups, monitoring etc – can you plumb them into existing processes and tools? Is there an API?
  • Risk. CI solutions can reduce the risk of operational issues – buy a 100 seat VDI block which has been designed and pretested for that purpose and you should be more confident that 100 users can work without issue. But what if your needs grow to 125 VDI users? Supplier management is also a factor – if a single vendor is now responsible for compute, networks, and storage, vendor lock in becomes more significant but consolidating vendors can also be a benefit.
  • Cost. CI is a great idea and easy to grasp concept but there’s no such thing as a free lunch – someone is doing the integration work (both software and hardware) and that has to be paid for. CI solutions aren’t cheap and tend to have a large initial outlay (although Oracle have recently announce a leasing scheme which some are sceptical of!) so may be more suited to greenfield sites or larger projects. TCO is a complex issue but also bear in mind support costs – engineered systems can be expensive if you need to customize them after deployment. CI system’s integrated nature may affect your refresh cycle and have an impact on your purchasing process.
  • Workload. Interestingly virtualisation promised a future where the hardware didn’t matter but the current bundling of CI solutions could be seen as a step backwards (as eloquently described by Theron Conrey in this blogpost ‘Is converged infrastructure a crutch?‘). There’s an interesting trend of extending the convergence through to the application tier as seen in Oracle’s Exadata/Exalogic, VCE’s’specialised’ solutions (SAP Hana etc) and Netapp’s Flexpod Select solutions. This promises certification/validation through the entire stack but does raise an interesting situation where the application teams (who are closer to the business) increasingly influence infrastructure decisions…

There’s a thought provoking article at Computer Weekly discussing modular datacentres which takes the converged concept even further. Why bolt together building blocks in your datacentre when you can buy a complete datacentre in a box. Convergence on a larger scale! Next thing you know they’ll be using shipping containers for datacentres… :-)

Further Reading

Converged infrastructure primer (Wikibon)

Management of converged infrastructures (the Virtualization Practice)

Engineers Unplugged session on hyperconverged infrastructure (7 mins)

The Future of Convergence think tank (2hr video)

EMC’s white paper “Time for Converged Infrastructure?” – some good points but with an obvious bias

Containerized datacenters – is a box a good fit?

Converged infrastructure and Object Oriented programming

The state of Converged infrastructure (Zenoss 2013 survey results)

VMworld 2013 – Is it just me?

September 3rd, 2013 No comments
Print Friendly

vmworld2013logo-300x169Overall I guess I feel disappointed. Over the last week I’ve been trying to keep up with developments from VMworld and to be honest it’s not been as tough as I thought because most of the announcements were already known quantities and very little ‘new’ information was given. I see this as a reflection of the growth and maturity of VMware – release cycles are getting longer, innovation takes longer to gestate, and the low hanging fruit of ‘wow’ features has been exhausted (and having written that I see Chris Wolf’s article which says much the same thing. I’m in good company). Chris Wahl’s blog has full details of the new stuff.

caveatUPDATE 4th Sept: It’s been pointed out to me that as a vExpert and blogger I do tend to have early access to both information and beta releases so what I consider new and what most attendees consider new is different. Fair comment.

Eric Siebert, a long time veteran of VMworld and the technology involved, has a great writeup of the main announcements along with his thoughts, which largely mirror my own. Maybe we’ve been spoilt over the years by the ‘cool’ factor of the vMotion and svMotion, maybe I woke up on the wrong side of bed, or maybe VMware aren’t delivering the goods as they used to.

vSphere ticks along

vSphere has been on a two year release cycle for major versions but that seems to have slipped. The next release of the core vSphere platform will be out later this year (probably at VMworld Barcelona as with v5.1 last year) but even when it does v5.5 is not much to write home about;

  • SSO has been rewritten but it probably shouldn’t have been released as it was in the first place :oops:. OK, there are a few new features too.
  • New maximums will probably only help the minority
  • VSAN might be nice but isn’t even in beta yet and will still be an extra cost when it is released.
  • We still have two clients, both of which are required. The web client has been improved but they haven’t discontinued the GUI client as expected.
  • App HA is apparently significantly improved from previous editions but application support is still limited. Good for MS SQL maybe but there’s no Oracle, SAP etc. It’s also an Enterprise+ feature. SMP support for VMware’s FT feature (which could be great) is still just a technical preview with no release date.
  • OK – vSphere Flash Read Cache is a nice addition, as is lifting the 2TB VMDK limit and OSX support for the remote console (a personal gripe there) :-) Shame vFRC is also Enterprise+ only…
  • OK – the vCSA can now handle larger environments, but vCenter is still not a scalable, highly available service. Yeah, I’m grumpy.

If you look at the benefits they’re largely for the admin or behind the scenes. If I have to justify time and resource to upgrade my hosts, what benefit does the business get? I’m on Enterprise licencing, so precious little sadly. :-(

reality

vCloud Suite still isn’t as compelling as it should be

With public vs private vs hybrid cloud all the rage I can understand why VMware aren’t focusing on the hypervisor so I was expecting a big vCloud push. There was much fanfare about the launch of VMware’s public cloud, vCHS, but I’m still unconvinced;

  • It’s launch is US only and is potentially missing some key functionality (though I think some of those referenced features are less in demand for enterprise apps). I accept that the US cloud market leads the world but as a European this leaves me somewhat in limbo – I’m sure it’ll reach us eventually but Amazon and Azure (among others) are already available….
  • I’ve not seen any official statement from VMware so take it with a pinch of salt, but vCD looks like it’s on the chopping block and being replaced by vCAC (though both are still included in v5.5). This is a product that’s been at the pinnacle of VMware’s spearhead into the cloud market and it’s being ‘retired’ at only three years old? What about the vCloud Service Providers? Apparently it’ll live on for them but for how long? The launch of vCHS probably didn’t please too many service providers and this move looks set to alienate them further, along with many customers who have invested in vCD. One of the big selling points for vCHS is the seamless experience of running VMware’s stack for both your private and public clouds, but how do I start down that road today? Should I buy into the vCloud Suite and invest in vCloud Director knowing it’s going away? By the same token I know vCAC is going to change significantly in the next year or two and today it lacks key functionality like multi-tenancy. Maybe I should wait a year or two and see how things pan out? In that case, where’s the synergy in vCHS? Unfortunately VMware don’t have a great history in providing seamless upgrade paths – need I mention Lab Manager, Stage Manager, VDP…

After VMworld last year I speculated that VMware needed to accelerate their customer’s journey to the cloud or suffer and I don’t think this reshuffle/repositioning helps matters. For something of such strategic importance would you want to be an early adopter of the vCAC/vCD amalgamation? Dynamic Ops were initially a competitor to vCD, then post VMware acquisition they became mutually beneficial, and now vCAC is becoming the primary cloud solution. VMware have always excelled at promoting a vision which helped get ‘buy in’ – you knew that when you were ready for the next step it’d be waiting for you. Now I’m not so sure. On the bright side the pricing for the vCloud Suite seems better than I realised. Looking at pricing for vSphere Enterprise+ vs vCloud Standard it’s almost the same despite the fact you also get vCD, vCAC, and vCOPS with the vCloud suite.

fojtaUPDATE 1st Sept: A twitter conversation with Tom Fojta and Dave Hill, both of whom work for VMware (though tweets are their own) implied that vCD may not be retired but merely realigned because enterprise and service providers need different solutions. This makes more sense as it will at least minimise the disruption. Let’s hope there’s some official clarification from VMware soon as I’m not the only one with concerns.

UPDATE 4th Sept: VMware have now provided a directional statement which confirms how this will affect customers, how functionality will migrate to vSphere/vCAC, and clarifies that vCD will continue in use with service providers.

EUC moves forward

I’m not much of an end user computing guy as my company haven’t bought into it conceptually, and with the release of the Horizon suite earlier this year we finally have some of the products VMware have been talking about for the last few years. I’m excited about the possibility of desktops in the cloud but Brian Madden, a well known VDI guru, seems to think the vision is spot on but execution and delivery are lacking.

SDDC is a grand vision but can it succeed?

I like the idea of the software defined datacenter but it’s going to be a tough sell for VMware. It’s disrupting major technologies, networks and storage, which are well embedded in the datacenter which puts them in competition with many of their major partners.

Storage is going through an exciting time and VMware are now beginning to promote their storage credentials. With the addition of VSAN and vFRC they’re pushing vSphere storage towards the ‘software defined’ concept they’ve coined  although I was hoping for some advance on the Virsto acquisition. The announcements and sessions around NSX, VMware’s network hypervisor, do look interesting and if they can be successful we’re in for quite a ride! Maybe this is where VMware can recapture some of that magic they had four or five years ago. Even if they succeed the SDDC will arrive slowly because of financial, technical, and social factors. Given the potential complexity and disruption introduced by SDDC we need a clear value statement otherwise the perception may be that we’ll all be better off in a cloud where someone else manages it for us…

The process of writing and researching this article has actually made me more optimistic and I still think VMware have huge potential to innovate and disrupt (in a positive way) the datacentre of the future. I think I’m just grumpy because we still don’t have the VMTN Subscription! I’m sure I’ll soak up the boundless energy VMworld Barcelona generates and be back to my optimistic self later in the year.

Cloud threatens VMware

Categories: Cloud, VMware Tags: , , ,