Monthly Archives: September 2015

Home Lab: Hardware

Let me get this out of the way first. I, Tim, am an idiot. There. I said it. I’ll get into this more momentarily.

I have needed a home lab for a while. I have a work lab, and its huge and fast, but it has morphed into some production lab environment, where I can’t do everything I want when I want. I’ve been following a company on eBay for a while that was selling refurb high-power workstation PC’s off-lease. I snagged up a Dell Precision 690 workstation.

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I had forgotten how huge these things really were. It dwarfs my full-tower Hackintosh. This PC came loaded up pretty good, and I snagged it for under $170.

CPU: Dual Xeon 5160’s (3.0Ghz)

RAM: 32GB DDR2 667

Graphics (Quadro 1700)

HDD: 250GB SATA

OS: None

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Really, not too shabby for the price. To copmlete the lab, I tacked on a Samsung EVO 850 250GB SSD.

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I setup the base OS with ESXi 5.5 Enterprise Plus with one of my existing licenses. I am now a VMUG Advantage member, which gives me access to a whole huge set of EVALExperience software. This is what is going to be in the lab. My plan was to nest a 3 host v. Sphere 6 lab with the VCSA 6, and then host a full Horizon Advanced lab, vCloud lab, and necessary AD / DNS infrastructure inside. Here is where the me being an idiot comes in. The dual Xeon 5160’s are great processors. They fully support VT -x. Do you know what it doesn’t support? EPT. What does this mean? I can nest ESXi inside the base OS all day long. I cannot, however, deploy 64-bit VM’s under those nested ESXi hosts. EPT allows the nested hypervisors to pass along the hardware VT -x  to allow 64-bit VM’s.

I guess this isn’t a HUGE problem. I just can’t put the Horizon, vCloud, and Windows labs inside the vSphere 6 lab. It won’t stop me from having the labs separate. I’ll fix that in Home Lab 2.0.

This will be a series of posts regarding the setup of the home lab. From the base hardware, to the vSphere / VCSA 6.0 lab, to the Horizon lab, etc. I also got a copy of the new @PernixData Freedom software, and plan to get a Lab Edition license of the F5 BigIP virtual appliance. Should be some good learning!

-vTimD

 

VMworld: A Guide for the First-Timer

Alright kids, this is going to be my longest rambling yet. It’s a long one, but stick with me. If you are not new to VMworld, then maybe you can add your comments here with anything I missed, or if my first-time experience doesn’t pan out past year 1. Let’s get this show on the road!

vmworld2015-logo

So, you want to go to VMworld? Boss finally said “FINE OK, YOU CAN GO, JUST STOP ASKING!”? Great. Maybe this will be of some use to you.

Let’s start from the very beginning. I had the luxury of going with 3 other co-workers who now have Alumni status (3rd year+ at the conference). They were able to prepare me a bit, and give me some pointers. Unfortunately, I can’t help you with the San Francisco logistics for next year, as VMworld will be at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. That one is going to be completely new to me. We’ll be in it together, next year.

Travel!

I highly recommend you book your travel as long in advance as you possibly can. The hotels will be over-priced (knowing a convention is coming) and will fill up almost instantly once the dates are announced. We flew in on the Saturday before, as opposed to staying through afterwards. I find that this was the best for me. The conference went full-force on Sunday, so having some time to hit the hotel and relax after the day of security, and planes, and baggage claims was great.

Hotel

 

We also go our tourist-y stuff done before the conference even started. This gave me plenty of time to try and get un-jet-lagged from CST to PST, and get relaxed and ready for the conference.

——–San Francisco Note (Not Valid for 2016 in Vegas)——–

Alcatraz is worth every penny that you will pay to go. The trip, the location, the views, the ferry through the bay…stunning, and the self-led audio tour is so damn interesting.

Local Tourism

 

——– End San Francisco Note (Not Valid for 2016 in Vegas)——–

I recommend getting as early of a flight out as you can on Thursday, unless you’re hanging out after the conference. My group was so ready to go home that we bumped our 5:00PM PST flight to 10:45AM PST so that we could just get home. We weren’t going to land until 10:30CST. Would have been terrible to get into the office the next day.

We haven’t even left the house yet. Still with me? First of all, set yourself up for success in the baggage department. You’re going to be coming home with a LOT of free stuff from vendors. Shirts, hats, pens, cups, stress balls, and possibly even a BMW! I checked a rather large, expandable, suitcase on the way out there. My hand in the image below signifies how much stuff I actually had to pack (from left to hand. Not a lot.)

Suitcase

A few pairs of pants, weeks worth of underwear and socks, and a few shirts (got most shirts from the Expo.) COMFORTABLE SHOES, COMFORTABLE SHOES, COMFORTABLE SHOES!!! I hit 10k steps at a bare minimum each day. Averaged more of 15k on the good days. Toiletries were in another pack that I carried on. This extra space I had free in the bag was 100% full on the way home. I actually only walked the vendor expo 1 day, but snagged roughly 30 lbs in stuff (Or so the luggage scale at the Airport said).

As far as getting around during the event, I highly recommend Uber. You can walk between sessions and all, but if you want to go out for dinner, or breakfast, or a vendor event, and it is pretty far. Skip the cab.

uber-car

The cabs were smelly, old, and the drivers were generally impolite. The Uber drivers we had were all very cool. The pricing was fair, even for the XL (Large SUV). Take this advice how you will, but we did Uber, Lyft, and Cab. Uber will be my go-to from now on in situations like that.

Food!

The conference provides continental breakfast and boxed lunches every day of the actual conference (Monday – Thursday). Breakfast includes things such as bagels and fruits, with juice and yogurt. Not terrible, but standard-issue large quantity cheap breakfast.  We tried a few of the local breakfast joints, and it was WAY better. (Should out to @thombrown for the Sears recommendation!)

Food

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The boxes lunches were of a semi-decent quality. They had a vegetarian dish, a wrap, a sandwich, and a salad option each day. Each plate came with a side (macaroni salad, cole slaw, potato salad) a fruit, and a dessert. Not terrible. Note: The food may vary from venue to venue. Who knows how the Mandalay Bay will be next year.

The Conference!

Moscone

Man, it seems like I’ve been rambling for hours. Just now getting to the actual conference. Really, not a whole bulk of info here. The conference itself has a TON going on, and it’s all going on at once. You will not get a chance to see it all. Not even close. You will have just enough time to do the bare minimum of what you wanted to. I signed up for just about every EUC session I could fit into my schedule. Make sure you go in and register for sessions the moment the Schedule Builder is available. Also, be sure you have enough time to get from one session to another. Remember, though, your conference pass gets you a subscription to the years recordings. You’ll spend weeks after watching all the other sessions you didn’t get to go to.

The Moscone Center was not big enough to hold the entire VMworld conference. VMworld spilled over into the Mariott hotel down the block. I had just enough time between some sessions to literally RUN from the far end of the Moscone Center (3rd floor) to 3 stories below the Mariott for the next session in a small conference room. Don’t even get me started on finding time to eat during the bulk of the conference days. Make sure you know when and where your sessions are.

Also, know what kind of session it is. I ended up in one that turned out be what they call a Group Discussion. This was, by far, the best session I was in. It was about 20 guys sitting in a small room, with a big-wig in the VMware EUC business unit. We sat there and shot the shit and talked real-world Q&A of the VMware EUC products (Was supposed to be UEM, but we got off on a Win 10 and App Vols tangent). I will do as many Group Discussions as possible next time, as I found I was easily able to get the most info pertaining to MY deployments.

One of the least enlightening, but most entertaining, sessions… the General Session!

General Session

This is their “all-call” sessions during the week where people like big daddy Pat Gelsinger get on stage and talk about the current market, whats happening, and product announcements. While it was a really cool spectacle to be a part of (thousands of people in 1 room with a bunch of lasers and loud music) it was not huge. The best part of all the General Sessions was being on Twitter. Following things like the @vBrownBag buzzword bingo, and all the people melting down over the use of the word Premesis… That was where the real action was. If you aren’t on twitter, get on it. Now. It will help you in your VMware career like you can’t even believe. More on that later.

Vendor Events!

You will have, no doubt, been told about the millions of events that you just MUST attend. Unfortunately, even if they made the conference 3 weeks long, you wouldn’t make it to all of them. Each night has 10 different options. Sunday night, we went to #VMunderground. It was fantastic. Image below is from the place, but not an exact image from the event.

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Your entire next week’s worth of vendor events can be setup the first night. My team was introduced to the @vBrisket crew. Even though we hadn’t signed up, we got setup to go to their event. vBrisket was by far the single coolest event all week. A fantastic event, put on by a great group of guys, with some really great sponsors. Also, I didn’t get to make it due to sleep, but vBacon is one of the more sought-after events. Of course you will have all the vendor-driven events by companies like Veeam, Tintri, VMTurbo, etc. Note that some of these require Vendor invites. You can get those by simply walking the expo and meeting people. I found that if 1 guy on my team got an invite, we could all go. They didn’t really discriminate. Also check twitter for when and where you can get VIP entry to some of these events.

The main event was the VMware party on Wednesday night. In San Francisco VMware rented out all of AT&T Park, where the Giants play. All the food and beer vendors were open, and not charging a dime. The field was open and covered in carnival games and rides.

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They had the Neon Trees and Alabama Shakes playing. They are not really my cup of tea, but apparently they are popular. All in all, it was a great event. Good times with a whole lot of cool people.

Networking!

This is one of the most important bits I can get to. This applies to everything, not just VMworld. The main point here is two-part:

  1. Get a Twitter
  2. Get a Blog

First off, setup a twitter. Do it before the show. Go through this link and follow each and every one of them.  Top100Virt

Start searching twitter for tags like #vmware #vExpert or #VCDX. Follow anyone and everyone you see. When those people start talking to other people, and re-tweeting… follow the people they re-tweeted. Start interacting with people. Ask questions, tweet things you learned that day. Make friends. The VMware community is very welcoming. But, how does this fit into VMworld? MEETING PEOPLE! I specifically sought out people that I knew from twitter whom I would have never met otherwise. VCDX you follow that always helps out? Buy them a beer. Recognize that principal architect from his twitter picture? Run him down on the street. Knowing these people can do nothing but help you down the road.

The next one is getting a blog. This isn’t AS important, but oh man has it helped me. My first REAL blog was a technical dump of an issue we were having. I tweeted the link to the man who literally wrote the book on vSAN. He and a few others helped to answer my question. It would have taken weeks to get an answer without a blog or twitter. VMTN is super useful, but sometimes can be overrun with people and their 2 cents.

Wrap-Up!

I truly hope my ramblings were helpful, or at least entertaining for some of you. I had such an incredible time this year, and hope I get the opportunity to do it again next year, for sure. It was an invaluable experience personally, and professionally. If you make it out next year, and I make it out there, find me. Lets get a beer. Take it easy!

-vTimD

Bonus:

My GoPro footage from some of the VMworld 2015 fun!

App Volumes: Architecture, Security, Storage, and Logs…Oh My!

So, you’ve gone and gotten yourself a copy of App Volumes, or are thinking about it? Welcome to the club. It is a pretty slick piece of software, and I am really enjoying working with it. We have replaced our Unidesk deployment with Horizon Enterprise using App Volumes for application delivery. If you already have App Volumes deployed, or are even just thinking about it, here is some info that may be of use. Shout out to @chrisdhalstead and @VirtualStef for all the great info presented here. They put on some great sessions at VMworld this year.

Architecture Considerations:

2 App Volumes Managers at minimum, load balanced.

SQL Express for Dev / Test ONLY

Clustered SQL servers

App Volumes – Storage

AppStack

  • Read Only
  • 1:Many
  • 20GB Default Template
  • Dedicated Datastore Recommended for AppStacks
  • Right-Size your templates (No need for 20GB template for a 10MB program)

Writable Volumes

  • Read / Write
  • 1:1 Per User
  • 10GB Default Template
  • Right-Size your templates here too.

Optimize storage volumes for Writable Volumes

  • Consider RAID 1 or RAID 10

Flash Storage Array Support

User Concurrency for each application and storage requirement may impact IOPS

Security Considerations

Replace default self-signed SSL certificate for App Volumes Manager (svserver.crt)

Deploy ThinApp packaged applications to leverage isolation modes

Use a read-only Active Directory service account for App Volumes

  • vCenter Administrator Privileges required for mount operations.
  • ESXi root required if using local mount option

App Volumes – Agent Log Files

The App Volumes Agent has 2 log files that can be found on the machine. These two files are the svservice.log and the svdriver.log. Both of these logs can be found in the same directory:

C:\Windows\*.log

The App Volumes Agent can be found in the Windows Services, as with any other agents. Check there if you’re not getting any response or issues from the agent.

App Volumes – Manager Log Files

The App Volumes Manager also has 2 log files that can be found on the App Volumes Manager server. These logs are called production.log and svmanager_server.log. Both of these logs can be found in the same directory:

C:\Program Files(x86)\CloudVolumes\Manager\*.log

——————–

Hopefully some of this info was helpful to you. If you have any questions or concerns about your deployment, feel free to leave a comment or tweet in my general direction. Happy Stacking!

-vTimD

VMW-LGO-CERT-PRO-6-DSKTP-MOBILITY

Free VMworld 2015 Sessions & Keynotes

So, I am back from VMworld 2015. I have a TON of notes and content swirling around, I just need to find some time to get them down into some semi-coherent blogs. To get you going before all that, VMware has posted the Keynotes as well as some selected full sessions, for FREE on the VMworld YouTube page. You can access this content here. Enjoy!

-vTimD