In the first part of this series I introduced vCOps and it’s requirements before covering the new features in part two. This final blogpost covers the capacity features (available in the Advanced and higher editions) along with pricing information and my conclusions.
The previous trial I used didn’t include the capacity planning elements so I was keen to try this out. I’d used CapacityIQ previously (although only briefly) and found it useful but combined with the powerful analytics in vCOps it promises to be an even more compelling solution. VMware have created four videos with Ben Scheerer from the vCOps product team – they’re focused on capacity but if you’ve watched Kit Colbert’s overview much of it will be familiar;
UPDATE APRIL 2012 – VMware have just launched 2.5 hrs of free training for vCOps!
If you don’t have time to watch the videos and read the documentation (section 4 in the Advanced Getting Started guide) here’s the key takeaways;
- Capacity information is integrated throughout the product although modelling is primarily found under the ‘Planning’ view. Almost every view has some capacity information included either via the dynamic thresholds (which indicate the standard capacity used) or popup graphs of usage and trending.
- Storage is now included in the capacity calculations (an improvement over CapacityIQ) resulting in a more complete analysis. Datastores are now shown in the Operations view although if you’re like me and use NFS direct to the guest OS it’s not going to be as comprehensive as using block protocols.
- the capacity tools require more tailoring to your environment than the performance aspects but provide valuable information
- With vCOps you can both view existing and predicted capacity and you can model changes like adding hosts or VMs.
In part one of Using vCenter Operations I covered what the product does along with the different versions available and deployment considerations. In this post I’ll delve into what’s new and improved and in the final part I’ll cover capacity features, product pricing, and my overall conclusions. I had intended to cover the configuration management and application dependency features too but it’s such a big product I’ll have to write another blogpost or I’ll never finish!
Introductory learning materials
UPDATE APRIL 2012 – VMware have just launched 2.5 hrs of free training for vCOps.
Deep dive learning materials;
What’s new and improved in vCOps
Monitoring is a core feature and for some people the only one they’re concerned about. As the size of your infrastructure grows and becomes more complex the need for a tool to combine compute, network, and storage in real time also grows. Here are my key takeaways;
- there’s a new dashboard screen which shows health (immediate issues), risks (upcoming issues) and efficiency (opportunity for improvements) in a single screen. The dashboard can provide a high level view of your infrastructure and works nicely on a plasma screen as your ‘traffic light’ view of the virtual world (and physical if you go with Enterprise+). The dashboard can also be targeted at the datacenter, cluster, host or VM level which I found very useful although you can only customise the dashboard in Enterprise versions. There is still the Operations view (the main view in vCOPS v1) which now also includes datastores. This view scales extremely well – even if you have thousands of VMs and datastores across multiple vCenters they can all be displayed on a single screen.
NOTE: If you find some or all of your datastores show up as grey with no data (as mine did) there is a hotfix available via VMware support.
- Read more…
At VMworld 2011 in Copenhagen VMware unveiled a significant revamp of their management suites, including a new version of vCenter Operations Manager (v5 to align with the vSphere release). vCenter Operations is now a suite of tools which includes vCenter Configuration Manager, the new vCenter Infrastructure Navigator (which I’ll cover in a later blogpost) and vCenter CapacityIQ (which is now fully integrated into vCOps, the standalone CapacityIQ is now end of life).
Although announced at VMworld it wasn’t publicly available until Jan 2012 when VMware formally launched vCOps v5. Coming less than a year after the release of the first version it’s apparent that VMware see this as an important product which is evolving fast. Steven Herrod, VMware’s CIO stated recently at the Italian VMUG (around the 5 minute mark) that vCOps ‘is becoming the most adopted new technology that VMware has ever had’. The vCenter Operations suite is still aimed at infrastructure monitoring as opposed to application monitoring (despite the addition of Infrastructure Navigator) – VMware’s solutions aimed at the application tier belong to the vFabric suite. For a good overview of where vCOps and vFabric Hyperic fit into VMware’s cloud suite read Dave Hill’s blogpost on the subject.
If you aren’t familiar with vCenter Operations here are the kind of problems it aims to address;
- Is your virtual infrastructure healthy?
- What serious problems should I address immediately?
- Is the workload in my environment normal?
- Am I using the resources in my environment efficiently?
- How long do I have before resources run out?
- What impact did a recent change have?
A few people have already posted articles which I’d recommend reading;
With v1.0 I concluded that it was a great product but there were a few reasons why it wasn’t for me, primarily the lack of email notifications and pricing. In this post I’ll cover the requirements and deployment considerations for the new version and in part two I’ll cover day to day use and new features. The final part will cover the capacity features along with info about pricing and my conclusions.
UPDATE APRIL 2012 – VMware have just launched 2.5 hrs of free training for vCOps.
I spent some time at Christmas upgrading my home lab in preparation for the new VCAP exams which are due out in the first quarter of 2012. In particular I needed to improve my shared storage and hoped that I could reuse old h/w instead of buying something new. I’ve been using an Iomega IX2-200 for the last year but it’s performance is pretty pitiful so I usually reverted to local storage which rather defeated the purpose.
I started off having a quick look around at my storage options for home labs;
- Hardware appliances from QNAP, Synology, Iomega etc. There’s a great, comprehensive list at SmallNetBuilder.com which includes both performance and cost comparisons.
- Software appliances such as OpenFiler, FreeNAS, Datacore’s SANSymphony/SAN Melody, Starwind’s iSCSI SAN and Nexenta’s Community Edition.
- Virtual appliances such as UberVSA, LeftHand, Netapp’s ONTAP Simulator (Netapp customer’s only and capacity limited)
- Or you can spin your own using a variety of base OSs: Oracle Solaris 11, Oracle Solaris 11 Express (free for non-commercial), FreeBSD (older version of ZFS), OpenIndiana and the upcoming Illumian project which is a fork from the now discontinued OpenSolaris. An interesting project is napp-it.org which shows you how to build your own NAS server using ZFS – well worth a look! Jimmy Dansbo has just published his ‘Poor man’s storage appliance‘ which also looks very interesting and has an .OVA available for quick deployment.
Why pick Nexenta?
I’d used OpenFiler and FreeNAS before (both are very capable) but with so much choice I didn’t have time to evaluate all the other options (Greg Porter has a few comments comparing OpenFiler vs Nexenta). Datacore and Starwind’s solutions rely on Windows rather than being bare metal (which was my preference) and I’ve been hearing positive news about Nexenta more and more recently.
On the technical front the SSD caching and VAAI support make Nexenta stand out from the crowd.
As the complexity of virtual infrastructures increases it’s becoming harder to manage using conventional monitoring tools which were built with a more static environment in mind. In March 2011 VMware released the vCenter Operations product (vCOPS) to address this pain point. I’ve been running the 60 day trial at my company and now that the trial’s ending it’s time to share my thoughts.
What is vCOPS?
To quote the product page at VMware;
VMware vCenter Operations uses patented analytics and powerful visualizations to automate performance, capacity and configuration management. It collects and analyzes performance data, correlates abnormalities and identifies the root cause of building performance problems. VMware vCenter Operations provides capacity management to optimize resource usage and policy-based configuration management to assure compliance and eliminate sprawl and configuration drift. (emphasis my own)
The key differentiator is this promise to learn and understand the context of multiple metrics (CPU, memory, storage and network) and provide root cause analysis without you needing to manually define thresholds, benchmarks etc. Bear in mind that vCOPS is an infrastructure monitoring solution rather than application layer (which is more the domain on VMware’s AppSpeed, Quest’s solutions or ManageEngine’s Application Manager). I’m not the first blogger to cover this product so here’s some reading to get you up to speed;
While technically a ‘v1′ release the product comes from VMware’s purchase of Integrien (in August 2010) where it was originally marketed as VMAlive. Integrien have been working on the patented algorithms for several years so while the integration and VMware branding are new the guts of the product are not. VMware have published some YouTube videos or you can listen to VM Communities podcast #119 to get an overview of what vCOPS can offer. Read more…
- Identify resxtop/esxtop metrics related to memory and CPU
- Identify vCenter Server Performance Chart metrics related to memory and CPU
Skills and Abilities
- Troubleshoot ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine CPU performance issues using appropriate metrics
- Troubleshoot ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine memory performance issues using appropriate metrics
- Use Hot‐Add functionality to resolve identified Virtual Machine CPU and memory performance issues
Tools & learning resources
This is another objective that’s hard to quantify – experience will be the main requirement! There are some great general purpose resources out there;
Note that resxtop (built in to the vMA) does not offer the ‘replay’ mode available in ESX classic. Source: VMworld session MA6580, vMA Tips and Tricks. Read more…
It’s hard to know what to cover in this objective as performance tuning often implies troubleshooting (note the recommended reading of Performance Troubleshooting!) hence there’s a significant overlap with the troubleshooting section. Luckily there are plenty of excellent resources in the blogosphere and from VMware so it’s just a case of reading and practicing.
- Identify appropriate BIOS and firmware setting requirements for optimal ESX/ESXi Host performance
- Identify appropriate ESX driver revisions required for optimal ESX/ESXi Host performance
- Recall where to locate information resources to verify compliance with VMware and third party vendor best practices
Skills and Abilities
- Tune ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine memory configurations
- Tune ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine networking configurations
- Tune ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine CPU configurations
- Tune ESX/ESXi Host and Virtual Machine storage configurations
- Configure and apply advanced ESX/ESXi Host attributes
- Configure and apply advanced Virtual Machine attributes
- Tune and optimize NUMA controls
Tools & learning resources
Identify BIOS and firmware settings for optimal performance
This will vary for each vendor but typical things to check;
- Power saving for the CPU.
- Hyperthreading – should be enabled
- Hardware virtualisation (Intel VT, EPT etc) – required for EVC, Fault Tolerance etc
NOTE: You should also enable the ‘No Execute’ memory protection bit.
- NUMA settings (node interleaving for DL385 for instance. Normally disabled – check Frank Denneman’s post.
- WOL for NIC cards (used with DPM)
Identify appropriate ESX driver revisions required for optimal host performance
I guess they mean the HCL. Let’s hope you don’t need an encyclopaedic knowledge of driver version histories!
Tune ESX/i host and VM memory configurations
Read this great series of blog posts from Arnim Van Lieshout on memory management – part one, two and three. And as always the Frank Denneman post.
Check your Service Console memory usage using esxtop.
Hardware assisted memory virtualisation
Check this is enabled (per VM). Edit Settings -> Options -> CPU/MMU Virtualisation;
Enabling h/w CPU/memory assist for a VM
NOTE: VMware strongly recommend you use large pages in conjunction with hardware assisted memory virtualisation. See section 3.2 for details on enabling large memory pages. However enabling large memory pages will negate the efficiency of TPS so you gain performance at the cost of higher memory usage. Pick your poison…(and read this interesting thread on the VMware forums)