Category Archives: Virtualisation

questions or decision making concept

Does it matter how we define ‘hyperconverged’?

Print Friendly

Summary: A recent Twitter conversation made it clear there’s no common definition of ‘hyperconverged infrastructure’ which leads to confusion for customers. Technical marketing and analysts can assist but understanding requirements, risk and costs yourself is always essential.

Hyperconverged infrastructure has been around for a few years (I first came across it at Gestalt IT’s SFD#2 with Nutanix back in 2012) and long enough for Gartner (here) and IDC (here) to create ‘magic quadrants’. Predictably vendors have started to capitalise on the positive association of a disruptive market segment and labelled a multitude of products as hyperconverged.

What is ‘hyperconverged’ (and what isn’t)?

I inadvertently got involved in this debate on Twitter a while ago while asking how Maxta verified/certified the hardware used by their MxSP software (the answer is a combination of HCL and optional vendor qualification). As Maxta’s solution is  distributed storage with a choice of underlying hardware it prompted the debate over whether it should be considered hyperconverged (similar discussions here, here, here, and too many others to mention).

Seriously, who cares?

The technical part of my brain enjoys these type of discussions (and there were some interesting discussion points – see below) but customers are mainly interested in the cost, the complexity, and the level of risk of any solution and these gets less column inches. Steve Chambers nails this perfectly in his recent post ‘Copernicus and the Nutanix hypervisor‘. I also really like Vaughn Stewart’s statement in his blog for Pure Storage;

Often we geeks will propound and pontificate on technical topics based on what I call ‘the vacuum of hypothetical merits’. Understanding and considering the potentials and shortcomings satisfy our intellectual curiosity and fuel our passion – however often these conversations are absent of business objectives and practical considerations (like features that are shipping versus those that are in development).

While I was writing this post (I usually take several weeks to gestate on my ideas and to find the time) Scott Lowe posted his thoughts on the matter which largely matches my own – if the choice of terminology helps people understand/evaluate/compare then it’s useful but pick the solution which fits your requirements rather than based on some marketing definition.

Do we need a definition?

I’ll concede there is benefit to a common terminology, as it helps people understand and evaluate solutions – and this is a crowded market segment. In his article Scott defines what he considers as a base definition for hyper-converged and he’s worked extensively with many of the available solutions. Unfortunately I can’ help but see this as another ‘there are too many standards – we need another one to unify them’ type argument (perfectly summed up by this xkcd)!

Final thoughts

Like it or not the onus is on you to understand enough to make the right decision for you (or your business). Don’t expect anyone to do it for you. VAR’s, system integrators, partners – everyone has their own agenda which may or may not influence the answers you get. Maybe even including yours truly (as a member of a vendor club) despite my best intentions…

..and for the analysts and techies…

If EVO:RAIL is just the usual vSphere components plus h/w bundled by OEM’s, is it really hyperconverged? Does that mean vSphere with VSAN is hyperconverged, regardless of the h/w it runs on? Enquiring minds must know! :-)

Further Reading

Simplivity’s take on what’s hyperconverged

Gabriel Chapman’s posts on Hyperconvergence (good read)

What differentiates converged and hyperconverged infrastructure? (Tom’s IT Pro)

DeployOrchestrator

vRealize Orchestrator 6.0 – deployment gotchas

Print Friendly

Summary: vRealize Orchestrator v6.0 is now out but I found deployment wasn’t as simple as it could be. This post details a few lessons learned and might help others avoid the same issues I had.

Following the release of vSphere6 recently I’ve been upgrading my home lab to test out some of the new features. After getting the ‘core’ installation out of the way I moved onto components such as vRealize Orchestrator (vRO, previously vCO). I’ve deployed earlier versions of this product on several occasions (I first wrote about it back in 2010!) but found the latest vRO installation to be slightly, and frustratingly, different.

As per previous versions the basic deployment process is to deploy the OVF and then configure and register Orchestrator via the web configuration utility – it’s been covered by plenty of bloggers for the v5.5 release (good guide here, and here for example). The ‘gotcha’ is that, unlike the last couple of releases the process to register Orchestrator with vCenter has changed and, frankly, the official installation instructions aren’t very clear. Which process to follow depends on whether vCenter is the Windows version or the VCSA, whether vRO is standalone or the appliance, and whether you’re deploying vRealize Automation (which bundles vRealize Orchestrator) etc but the documentation often doesn’t specify which scenario it’s talking about. The v6.0.1 release notes state that there’s an ‘updated model’ for installation, but omits to mention the specifics of how to actually do it;

vRealize Orchestrator 6.0.1 has an updated model for installing the vSphere Web Client plug-in for vRealize Orchestrator. vRealize Orchestrator 6.0.1 supports the vSphere Web Client integration and context execution of vRealize Orchestrator workflows as part of vSphere Web Client 6.0.

Also in the release notes it states;

The Orchestrator configuration interface has been deprecated in vCenter Orchestrator 5.5.1 and it is planned to be removed in the next major release of vRealize Orchestrator. 

I’m not sure if this means VMware missed their target of removing it in v6.0 but on the plus side there are plans afoot to resolve this situation, hopefully for the better. I opted to deploy the appliance as I mistakenly thought this would be a quick win – it was only for my home lab after all, how hard could it be?

Setting up Orchestrator v6.01 – the missing ‘quick start’ instructions

The first two steps are largely unchanged from earlier versions;

  1. Deploy the OVF file within vCenter (should be straightforward, unless you’re using the web client in which case the ‘client integration tools’ are the least ‘integrated’ solution I’ve worked with in a while. That’s probably Windows 2012/IE 11’s fault as much as it’s VMware’s).
  2. Configure Orchestrator, using the web configuration service. Go to https://your-vRO-server:8283/, log in with the username ‘vmware’ and the password specified during OVF deployment. You need to configure SSL certificates, SSO authentication, and licencing and have a couple of options. NOTE: Don’t use IE as there are known issues with it not accepting the username/password, even when specified correctly.
    • Use the new configuration ‘wizard’ included with the vRO appliance. Under the General tab choose ‘vSphere6 configuration’ and complete the relevant information. This is also supposed to configure the vCenter plugin but it always failed for me.
    • Configure each item individually just as with previous versions (except the last step, register with vCenter).
      Orchestrator-wizard
  3. Register Orchestrator with vCenter. Again you have a few choices;
    1. Use REST API calls (documentation here) which wasn’t something I wanted to spent time on. Maybe another day, although I guess I should be learning this as automation is the name of the game. 😉
    2. Using Orchestrator workflows (as per VMware’s documentation). This requires installation of the Orchestrator GUI client, which can be done via the link on the vRO webpage (http://your-vRO-server/).
      1. Install the Orchestrator GUI client and login. Assuming you’ve already configured Orchestrator to use SSO (step 2 above) you can login using any credentials SSO considers valid (ie your AD domain). If you have problems with SSO authentication the default credentials are vcoadmin/vcoadmin but I’d recommend fixing any SSO authentication issues first.
      2. Go to the ‘Workflows’ tab (fourth from left) and run the ‘Add a vCenter Server instance’ workflow;
        Orchestrator-workflow

        • On the first screen enter your vCenter IP or FQDN. Choose to ‘ignore certificate warnings’.
        • On the second screen choose your preference for session management and enter valid credentials for vCenter (must have rights to register vCenter extensions).
        • Then login to the web client and voila, you should see a registered Orchestrator server and a tree of workflows;

Orchestrator-success

Troubleshooting

I spent a lot longer than planned to get this up and running in my lab and I wouldn’t have got it working at all without some excellent technical support from Jad El_Zein and Ilian Iliev via the vRO forums. Thanks guys – you managed to turn around an extremely frustrating experience into something more positive. Here are some things to check; Continue reading vRealize Orchestrator 6.0 – deployment gotchas

The VMTN subscription is back (via VMUG Advantage)

Print Friendly

vmtnSummary: It’s not quite the full VMTN Subscription that I think some envisaged but it’s a very good start. Through the VMUG Advantage program you can now get 365 day eval licences for various VMware products. About time.

Back in the mists of time (2005 through 2007) VMware offered the VMTN subscription, their equivalent of Microsoft’s Technet program (itself now sadly gone to heaven/clouds too). This allowed various people to licence software. However this was discontinued in 2007 as it was felt that newly introduced free editions (VMServer and VMPlayer) combined with an expanded partner program provided sufficient access.

Fast forward to 2011 and the range of VMware products had multiplied. Independant consultants, bloggers, and even customers were beginning to struggle with limited trials and restrictive licencing. Cue Mike Laverick, a well known blogger, calling for the return of the VMTN subscription in a forum post which to date consists of over 23 pages of comments, with almost universal agreement that it should be brought back. As recently as June this year there was no sign it was ever going to happen – indeed Mike (who now works for VMware) had chatted to the relevant people internally and been told it wasn’t likely. There’s now a comment (quick work Duncan Epping) that most will welcome…

This morning it looks as if VMware finally relented. It’s not comprehensive access to every product VMware offer (consider it a v1.0 release) but it’s a good start including the following products;

  • VMware vCenter Server™ 5 Standalone for vSphere 5
  • VMware vSphere® with Operations Management™ Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCloud Suite® Standard
  • VMware vRealize™ Operations Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations™ 6 Enterprise
  • VMware vRealize Log Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon®
  • VMware Horizon® Advanced Edition
  • VMware Virtual SAN™

Luckily I’m a VMUG Advantage member so have access as of this morning (you should get an email if you’re a member). I get many of these as a vExpert but it’s nice to know there’s a more inclusive way of getting this access. For the small army of home lab enthusiasts the cost of a VMUG Advantage membership is well within reach (approx £130, or US$200pa) and means no more rebuilding labs every 30 days. Combined with the freely available HoLs there really is a good choice now.

I think this will massively drive adoption of VMUG Advantage. Previously the benefits were of limited use – the best discount was on full training courses and the rest were largely ignored. I must admit I was likely to let mine lapse at the end of the year but I may now reconsider.

Cloud-discussion

VMware’s hybrid cloud – a discussion with customers

Print Friendly

Summary: Hybrid cloud gets a lot of press and VMware are claiming a stake in a market predicted to grow massively over the next few years. I discuss with customers what vCloud Air can offer businesses and what you need to consider.

On Tuesday 25th November I took part in an online discussion about the hybrid cloud with a couple of vCloud Air customers (Schalk van der Merwe from The Hut Group and Matthew Garrett from Cloud Business) along with VMware’s Rick Munro (Chief Technologist, vCloud, EMEA), and well known blogger Julian Wood. The discussion lasted around an hour and we discussed topics such as;

  • Is hybrid cloud just a stepping stone to the public cloud?
  • Is data sovereignty an issue for customers?
  • Are clouds converging to a global platform or diverging into niches (market verticals like healthcare, government etc)?
  • Is the rapid pace of change a challenge when making a business case for cloud?
  • Does adopting cloud lead to changes in established ways of doing business, from a people/process/technology perspective?

You can view an edited version our discussion below which (luckily for you dear reader) is only 18 minutes;

If you don’t have time to watch, some of my takeaways were;

  • agility is a key driver of cloud adoption, more so than cost savings (which in my experience aren’t always expected or delivered). Results speak louder than RFPs!
  • it’s not a case of ‘private’ OR ‘public’ OR ‘hybrid’ cloud – you can, and probably should, use all three depending on your use case
  • start small and build on success (just as the DevOps crowd advocate!).
  • hybrid cloud may be a stepping stone, but it’s essential to take a first step
  • vCloud leverages your existing knowledge and skills so is an easy first step

Personally I think hybrid cloud is here to stay. Mainframes are still with us (from the 1950’s) and email has been available as a SaaS offering for at least 18 years (Hotmail started in 1996) yet today there are still thousands of companies running their own email systems.  For many enterprises ‘hybrid cloud’ will actually mean a multitude of different clouds including vCloud Air, AWS etc, despite the additional management overheads that will introduce. Time will tell!

 

missing-piece

Transitioning away from vCloud Director – the unspoken plan

Print Friendly

Summary: vCloud Director, once the flagship product spearheading VMware’s vCloud Suite, is slowly winding down for enterprise customers – potentially leaving some companies with a roadmap challenge.

Having just started work for a cloud service provider in the Channel Islands (Foreshore) my focus has shifted and vCloud Director is a product I’m working with. After VMworld last year I wrote about how badly VMware communicated their product shift away from vCloud Director (vCD) and this year I’ve not seen much sign that communication has improved. At VMworld Barcelona this year only one session out of over 400 was about vCD. Yep. One (although to be fair it was ‘vCD roadmap for service providers’ – more on that later). How the mighty have fallen.

 What do we know about the vCD roadmap?

As announced last year the vCloud Suite roadmap involves the current features moving into other products, both in the vCloud Automation Center (now vRealize Automation) and the core vSphere product. It’s likely that the provisioning aspects will go into vCAC (now vRealize Operations) and some of the network functionality (multi-tenancy in particular) will go into the ‘core’ vSphere product. vCloud Director will continue to exist for service providers but for enterprise customers there is a migration to be done. There was also the following statement;

Yes, VMware will offer a product migration path that enables customers and partners to move from vCD to VCAC…

So far, so good.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is it’s been a year since that announcement and there’s been near radio silence since then. If enterprise customers need to transition off vCloud Director then VMware need to provide information, preferably sooner rather than later, on how that’s likely to work.

Continue reading Transitioning away from vCloud Director – the unspoken plan