Monday, February 24, 2014

"vXpress" In Race For Top vBlog 2014 Award - Cast your votes & win exciting prizes!

With the arrival of the new year, comes the time when all the Bloggers in the VMware Community need your evaluation through a simple Vote. Like every year, in collaboration with Veeam is out their to ask your opinion about the Top Virtualization Blogs which have helped you in the Past Year to Learn, Explore & Master the Virtualization Technology & the related Eco-system.

vXpress was nominated last year (2013) and it was Voted Number 11 in the "FAVORITE NEW BLOG" category. This time around, it is nominated again for Top vBlog 2014.

if vXpress has helped you in your journey of Virtualization & Cloud Computing, I would request you to VOTE for me. Likewise, I would also want you to vote for other blogs which you find interesting and helpful. Your vote would encourage the bloggers to continue the good work they have done for the community and deliver crisp and high quality information year after year.

As this post would reach out to a number of email subscribers and readers on Social Networks, I would encourage all of you to VOTE by clicking on the following link.

Whether you Vote or Get Voted, you have a chance to win some wonderful freebies as mentioned by Eric Siebert on

"This year the top VMware & virtualization blogger voting will be bigger and better thanks to Veeam. We’ll be doing random prize giveaways both for bloggers that make it into the top 50 and for the voters as well. I’ll randomly pick 3 blogger names and 4 voter names to win prizes which include a Mac Mini, iPad Mini, HP MicroServer, Beats headphones, Roku and a Wii U."


Time for me to cast my VOTE. 
See you around!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Using vSphere Data Protection - Tell your story to win an iPAD MINI !

VMware has recently launched a contest for customers who have been using vSphere Data Protection. For those who are not aware of VMware vSphere Data Protection (VDP). Here is a quick overview:-

VMware vSphere® Data Protection™ is a backup and recovery solution for VMware® virtual machines. It is fully integrated with VMware vCenter Server™ and VMware vSphere Web Client, providing disk-based backup of virtual machines.

vSphere Data Protection is deployed as a virtual appliance with four processors (vCPUs) and four GB of RAM. Three configurations of backup storage capacity are available: 0.5 TB, 1 TB and 2 TB, which consume 850 GB, 1,300 GB and 3,100 GB of storage capacity, respectively. Careful planning is recommended to ensure proper sizing, as additional capacity cannot be added once the appliance is deployed. Base your storage requirements on the number of virtual machines to be backed up, the data quantities involved, retention periods and typical data change rates, all of which can vary considerably. 

vSphere Data Protection uses CBT during image-level backups. CBT also comes into play during virtual machine image-level restores to improve speed and efficiency. During the restore process, vSphere Data Protection leverages the vSphere API for Data Protection (VADP) to determine which blocks have changed since the selected restore point. vSphere Data Protection automatically evaluates the workload between both restore methods—restoring all blocks or calculating and restoring only the changed blocks—and uses the most efficient method. - See more about the product here.

If you have a success story with vSphere Data Protection, go ahead and share it and you might be one the lucky winners to win an iPAD MINI :-)

You can get more details from the following VMware Blog...

Tell Us Your vSphere Data Protection Story – You Might Win an iPad mini

Here is an extract form that blog article:-

Top 5 entries will win an iPad mini and a chance to have their story published on our blog.
Submit your entries to: by Monday March 31, 2014 11:59:59 PM PDT. Here are a few tips that can help you craft your story:
  • Tell us about how and where you have deployed and used VDP Advanced
  • Tell us how VDP Advanced provided value to your business – examples: time savings, lower CapEx, less OpEx, risk reduction, improved application/service uptime, an actual event where VDP Advanced saved the day!
  • Description of the evaluation done and other tools considered before choosing to use VDP Advanced.
  • Did you replace an existing backup tool/methodology?
  • Bonus points for detailed responses and VDP Advanced best practices you have learned along the way!
So go ahead and get you story out there ASAP.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Test Drive Results for VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist!!

VMware has recently released a great mobile tool for Administrators who love to manage their vSphere Infrastructure on the move. The tool is called VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist.

VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist allows you to monitor the virtual machines you care about in your vSphere infrastructure remotely on your phone. Discover diagnostic information about any alerts on your VMs using VMware Knowledge Base Articles and the web. Remediate problems from your phone by using power operations or delegate the problem to someone on your team back at the datacenter.

IMPORTANT NOTE: A VMware vSphere installation (5.0 and above) is required to use VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist. Access to your vSphere infrastructure may need a secure access method like VPN. Contact your IT department for further assistance.


Select a subset of VMs from your VMware vSphere VM inventory to tell the app what VMs to track. Use multiple lists to organize these important VMs.

Review the status of these VMs from your device including: their state, health, console and related objects.

Got an alert on your VM? Let VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist suggest what KB Articles might help you or search the web to gather more information.

Use power operations to remediate many situations remotely from your device.

For those situations where you are not able to fix an issue from the device, VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist will enable you to share the VM and alert information along with any suggested KB articles and other web pages relevant to the current problem. Your colleagues back in the datacenter can use this context to resolve the issue.

For more details refer to the following link - VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist


The entire reason behind me writing this post was the results of the Test Drive which I did with the product. To get this tool for FREE is absolutely awesome. The screenshots below explain why I think so.

You can download and install the tool from the following links:-

I installed the Android version and here is how the tool interfaces:-

You can connect to your vCenter Server from here, given you are either VPN'ed or connected to your work network. Once logged in you get the option to create your watchlist for VMs which you would like to monitor or perform maintenance tasks on. 

The entire inventory of the vCenter will be listed and you are free to select VMs by placing a check in front of them as show below in the screenshot.

I have selected my vCenter Server and my proxy system which I use to RDP in my lab on my watch list. Here is how my watch list looks like:-

I can click on this thumbnails and further drill down to monitor the related objects and perform maintenance tasks on the VMs in my watchlist.

I can monitor the utilization and get details:-

I can get to the console of the VM.

I was also able to see the objects related to this VM such as ESXI Host, Cluster, Datastore etc.

Lastly, I was also able to run maintenance tasks:-

All in all a great experience since this app is very light and smooth. Highly recommended for the Modern Sysadmin. Go Get it!!

Share & Spread the Fun!! 

Monday, February 10, 2014

VCAP5-DCA - Exam Experience & Study Tips!

I am happy to share that I have successfully upgraded my VCAP4-DCA to VCAP5-DCA. I wrote about my VCAP4-DCA exam experience back in 2012. Here is the link - My VCAP 4 - DCA Exam Experience - Better late than NEVER!!

With this article, I just wanted to add to what I had to do in addition to prepare for this version of the exam. 

Needless to say that you would need a lot of LAB TIME with the topics which are described in the Blue print, the link to which can be found on the official VMware Certification Page for this exam.

Some quick pointers about the exam format & things which I learned from my experience, keeping in mind the NDA which I signed :-)

  • 26 Questions with 225 minutes to complete them. Approx 30 minutes extra for Non-English speaking countries.
  • All the questions are Practical Only. You would have to do everything in the LAB.
  • Each question might have One or More Tasks to complete so never think that you only have to do 26 tasks.
  • Their might be TASKS which are dependent on a previous task so be careful.
  • You CAN go BACK & FORTH between questions as you like, UNLIKE VCAP-DCD so feel free to do that.
  • Official vSphere documentation in PDF format is available for you to access during examination, although it is not a great idea since the access to these files can be painfully slow and result in a waste of time.
  • You have the choice to access things via RDP or vSphere Client. Avoid RDP as much as possible especially if you have a slow access to the environment which you need to work on.
  • Give yourself enough time to study for this exam. You need a lot of time with each topic to master it. This is not the exam where you could study a night before and pass with flying colors. NaaDa.. Not going to happen!!
  • One last thing, the biggest challenge would be time, hence it is important to pace your self appropriately. Another thing which I would worry about is the slowness of some of the centers who host this exam. It might be a good idea to take a feedback from people on which is the best center to take this exam in your city or a city near you. 

While you have endless options on the study material, I would highly recommend that you go through the Pluralsight's (formerly Train-signal) VMware vSphere Optimize and Scale (VCAP-DCA). Jason Nash (the instructor for this course) has covered each and every section on the blueprint in detail and this helped me a lot during my preparation. 

With this I am all set for my VCDX certification. I hope these tips will help you.

Share & Spread the Knowledge!! 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Part 6 (Final) - Architecting vSphere for Business Critical Apps - A Scoop From my vForum Prezo!

This article throws light on Architecting vSphere Infrastructure for running workloads which are critical to your business. With this article I will end this series which I have been writing on Architecting vSphere Infrastructure. I thought I would conclude this with something which I am interested in evangelizing in the days to come as I not only see a huge learning & business opportunity in this area, but I also see the next major shift which virtualization is going to bring. 

Before we begin, here are the links to the first 5 articles in this series in case you are interested:

While creating my vForum Presentation (See Part 1 for more details), I realized that I would have a number of people in the crowd who will be interested in discussing the virtualization of their business critical workloads, since they have already exhausted all of their Tier 2 & Tier 3 applications running on physical x86 boxes, by converting them into virtual machines.

With this article we will look at some of the grey areas which we should be aware of when we are planning to Virtualize business critical applications on a vSphere Environment. At this point let me also highlight the fact that these are specific areas which may or may not suit all the applications/workloads. These are general recommendations which will help you iron out a lot of issues which I have seen organizations facing while taking this task on hand.

As always, let us first look at the single slide which I used during my presentation and then we will discuss each point as we move along.

While the above slide is quite self-explanatory, I would like to elaborate on a few of the pointers which might need some more explanation and clarification to put my point across to you and also due to recent changes in the vSphere 5.5 platform.

FOLLOW ASTBUL - This is not a technical jargon or a industry standard term. I coined this term to ensure that we do not rush into virtualization of business critical workloads. ASTBUL stands for ASSESS, SETUP, TEST, BENCHMARK, UAT & LIVE. When organizations begin with virtualization, they chose the low hanging fruits which are not only easy to virtualize, but can also live with downtime if it happens. We all know that it is not a rocket science to run a P2V conversion tool like converter to virtualize physical workloads. Similarly all the organizations with a decent virtualization footprint would have a Virtual First policy leading to virtualization of most of the new workloads as well. What does this mean to the C-Level people? Savings, infact let me say HUGE SAVINGS

While this was all good with Tier 2 and Tier 3 type of workloads, such an approach CANNOT be followed for applications/servers which are critical to an organization. What I mean to say is that you cannot, rather should not follow the approach of throwing business critical workloads on your virtual platform which is not architected or ready for them. You are actually making sure that all the hell will break lose and your whole idea of agility, savings, mobility etc with virtualization would be deemed foolish.

With BCA (Business Critical Applications) you need to ensure that you follow the strategy of ASTBUL. You begin with ASSESSMENT of the workload with tools like VMware Capacity Planner, SETUP a parallel to production setup in an isolated environment after inputs from application owners and hardware vendors, TEST the workloads in this environment to the maximum limit to see the Highs & Lows of compute, storage & network performance, BENCHMARK & publish the performance results to the business to get a buy in, run a User Acceptance Test (UAT) to get a buy in from the end users of the application and then finally pull the plug out of that EXPENSIVE physical server and  make your Virtual Workload LIVE. With this approach you will be successful 99% of the time. I believe in luck so would leave the rest of 1% on LUCK :-)

PLAY SMARTLY - The credit for the second point on the slide goes Michael Webster of Long White Virtual Cloud fame. Michael needs no introduction for the people who are active in the Virtualization Community, but for those who are not, he is the first VCDX in New Zealand and one of the finest craftsmen when it comes to Architecting vSphere Environments for running Business Critical Workloads. I would highly recommend you visit his blog to see all the great work he has done around Virtualization. Michael in one of his posts says that if you are virtualizing applications which are network intensive and they have a need to talk to other VMs in the same VLAN, one should try and place such VMs in an affinity. This will ensure that they will run on the same ESXi host and be a part of the same PortGroup/dvSwitch. In this way their network traffic would never leave the ESXi hosts and would transmit at the speed of memory between the VMs. This will not only save your network from choking but would also remove any performance bottlenecks which might result from sharing physical up-links. 

Their are a number of other tips & tricks which can help you get the best results for your business critical workloads. It is important that you TEST & BENCHMARK them as mentioned in the last point.

DE-MYSTIFYING NUMA - NUMA a.k.a. Non Unified Memory Access is another critical area to consider especially when you are virtualizing BCA. Their are a number of articles out their which discuss NUMA and I will not re-invent the wheel here by writing another one. Let's first look at the articles here and then I will add my 2 cents to this concept by trying to simplify & summarize this for you.

To begin with you should read this article from Wikipedia to understand what is NUMA. Then you should understand what is vNUMA and then read the following 3 articles:-

All the above mentioned articles are amazing as they clearly explain the concept of NUMA, vNUMA & the affects of assigning cores instead of sockets. The bottom line is this :-

  • Ensure that you do not cross the physical NUMA boundaries if possible. In-case you need to, GO AHEAD, but ensure that you have all the pre-requisites for vNUMA to do the smart scheduling for you.
  • Upto vSphere 5.1 vNUMA wont kick in if you use more than 1 core per socket while allocating vCPU AND you are crossing the NUMA boundary with your overall allocation. So do not use this setting unless you need to save on CPU license for the application and you can take the performance hit.
  • The point above nullifies with vSphere 5.5 as vNUMA in 5.5 is smart enough to ensure that it will allocate the number of vCPU required with the best possible combination of cores and sockets as per the architecture of the physical NUMA. Hence even if you goof up while allocation, vSphere will take care of it. For eg. if you assign 1 CPU with 16 cores, it will automatically size the machine as 2 CPU with 8 Cores each.

CRITICAL DOES NOT MEAN COMPLEX - When you speak to people about virtualizing business critical applications, the first thing which comes to their mind is "This has to be a complex architecture". This is where things start to become a little overwhelming as architects try to make use of each and every BEST PRACTICE and feature available. A classic example would be to run OS & Application clustering over and above vSphere HA. You need to go to the business and ask them the up-time requirement vs the cost of providing the up-time and you will always see that they are okay with the restart of HA rather than putting complex and expensive clustering technology which is difficult to deploy, manage and troubleshoot. Keep things as simple as possible & you will get the most optimum results from your efforts of running business critical applications in a virtual machine.

VIRTUALIZING BCA- IT'S NOT ABOUT THE MONEY HONEY - While the prime attraction towards virtualization was always monetary benefits, this mindset has to change with BCA (Business Critical Applications). In simpler terms, you might be saving money by moving your business critical workloads from a UNIX to LINUX platform and then virtualize it with vSphere, what you should NOT do is to practice things live OVER-COMMITMENT or HIGH CONSOLIDATION. All the money which you might be saving should be re-invested to ensure that you are successful at virtualizing business critical workloads. This investment should be done in running parallel Test Setups, Running Benchmarks, Zero Commitment of CPU & Memory, High Performance Storage platforms etc. Remember savings is not the only benefit of virtualization. Things such as Ease of Upgrade, scaling up of RAM and CPU on the fly, options to take Snapshots before Upgrading, quickly Rolling out new services, options to Clone from templates, easily moving from TEST to UAT to PROD and vice-versa, Zero-Downtime during hardware maintenance without having to invest in complex clustering solutions are some of the major benefits you get from virtualizing Business Critical Applications and this is what you should AIM for.

I would want to conclude by saying that it is an Art and not a Science, so its important that you INVOLVE THE EXPERTS. Its a fact that you need more experience than skills to architect a vSphere environment suitable for running business critical applications which is stable, secure & highly available.

With that note I will close this article and the entire series. I hope this has and will help you while you architect better for your organization or a customer. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, feel free to use the comments section and I would love to have a constructive debate on this and other topics.

Share & Spread the Knowledge!!