Project Home Lab – Part 1 – Hardware

A home lab can be a great resource for any App Dev,  Sys Admin or Engineer.  Its a great tool to learn about the products you are responsible for. I believe the value it will return to the company that you work for is ten fold. Think about it, you are learning at home on your own time, then bringing that knowledge back to your job to apply it towards development projects or support. Its really a win-win. My engineering team and I proposed to our department management a project to provide home labs to our engineering and app development teams. We thought it would be a great way to bridge the communication gap between the two teams and help reduce or eliminate shadow IT. One of the challenges we have come across working in a large company is knowing exactly what our development teams need to perform their job.  Is it containers, OpenStack, or just some other product that allows them to move their projects and initiatives forward?  The answer is probably yes to all or any of those questions and its more than likely already running under their desk.  Our thought was to give the various teams a supportable (internal support) platform to work creatively and learn. Also a direct line of communication from App Dev to Engineering without going through the traditional channels.  We are hoping this will provide a quicker turn around time to engineer the infrastructure to meet the needs of the developers and give them the tools they need.  At least that’s the theory behind this pilot project.  Over the next few posts ill share some of the cool things Im doing with my home lab and ill also let you know any feedback I receive from the teams using it and management.  So lets get to it!

Part 1 – Hardware

When my team first set out to select the right hardware we looked around the internet.  There are many choices and flavors of a home lab to choose from.  Gone are the days where you need some big honking old decommissioned servers that suck power and cause your wife to complain about the sound and cost of electricity.  Today’s home lab is small, quiet, powerful and efficient, and can provide a number of configuration choices for testing all sorts of builds and designs.  Our requirements were pretty simple and standard.  We wanted vSphere (no duh!) and some VSAN (yeah baby!) and a whole bunch of extra storage.  Here is the run down of what we decided to get.

  • 3 Intel NUC kits (NUC6i5SYH) – that’s a Core i5 6260U 1.8 Ghz processor
  • 3 Crucial DDR4 32GB (2×16) DIMM kits – Each NUC will get 32GB of Memory
  • 3 Samsung 850 EVO (MZ-75E2T0B) 2TB 2.5″ SSD SATA 6Gb/s – one for each NUC
  • 3 Samsung 850 EVO M.2 (MZ-N5E120BW) SSD SATA 6Gb/s – one for each NUC (VSAN Cache)
  • 3 StarTech USB 3.0 to Gigabit Ethernet NIC adapter – VSAN traffic will go over this NIC
  • 3 Kingston Data Traveler G4 – USB Flash Drive 8GB – We’ll install ESXi and Boot from them
  • 1 Synology DiskStation 5 Bay DS1515+ NAS Server
  • 5 WD Red Pro NAS Hard Drives (WD8001FFWX) 8TB SATA 6Gb/s
  • 1 Linksys (SE3016) 16 port unmanaged Switch

Full disclaimer here…. I did not purchase the hardware with my own money, my company purchased the hardware for a pilot home lab project I previously mentioned. So yeah I know what you are thinking, what a deal.  I agree, but I really believe my company will get value back for the purchase and with some conditions, they seem to believe that also. You should expect to also purchase licensing. The licenses I’m using are my own.  I have a VMUG Advantage, MSDN and I also get some free VMware licenses for being a vExpert.  Really look at VMUG Advantage, its the best option and its very affordable.  It goes without saying don’t use your production licenses. Info on VMUG Advantage can be found HERE. If your budget is tight, no worries, you can easily scale down (or up) to meet your needs and with all the options out there you should be able to build a really decent home lab.

All the hardware went together really nicely.  I have to be honest, putting together all that stuff really gets my geek flag flying. Its almost a religious experience.  Takes me back to when I was a kid home building PCs; but I digress. :).  You shouldn’t really have any issues connecting all the pieces.  One of the guys on my team did have one NUC only see 16GB of memory, he just needed to reset one DIMM and that was fixed.

In Part 2, Ill go over some design considerations and build out.

My VMworld 2016 Recap

One week a year geek enthusiasts get together to celebrate a passion that we all share. Administrators, Engineers, Bloggers, Executives and Employees converge on one city ready to learn about the latest in virtualization technology from VMware and its partners. All 23,000 of us. This year VMworld 2016 was held at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, NV.  Instead of writing about the news of the conference, Im going to recap my VMworld 2016. Hopefully you will get a different perspective than the normal Day 1, Day 2 summary.

This was my second VMworld.  The first one I attended was way back in 2007, and it was held in San Francisco, CA.  What a difference I experienced from almost ten years ago.  In 2007 I attended the conference by myself and I was with a smaller company.  This time up, the company I work for is a TAM (Technical Account Manager) customer, and is also a much larger company and that meant more vendor parties!  Yeah!  There was six of us going this year, two VMware Engineers, one VDI Engineer, one Network Engineer and two Ops folks, one of which is a VP. Most of us flew out on Saturday so we could check in at registration a day early and be able to attend the TAM Customer Day on Sunday.

TAM Customer Day

I had never been to a TAM Customer Day before, and I was really impressed. The day was filled with a morning Key note and a great discussion with Pat Gelsinger (CEO VMware) and Michael Dell (CEO of Dell Technologies).  The afternoon session was a really great CTO panel discussion with Paul Strong, Chris Wolf, Kit Colbert, Shawn Bass and Christos Karamanolis. We had a great lunch and then were able to meet and talk to a number of VMware experts on every technical topic you can imagine.
       

We also ate good!

YUM!! :)

YUM!! 🙂

Solutions Exchange

After TAM Customer Day we were able to check out the opening of the Solutions Exchange and the reception party.  The solutions exchange didn’t disappoint.  It was packed to the brim with many vendors and they were all looking to exchange your badge scan for some swag!  I scored a number of t-shirts and all sorts of items, like pens, headphones, battery chargers and a couple Google Cardboard VR.  There were a few vendors giving out some nice stuff for being a VMware vExpert.  Cohesity gave us a great Timbuk2 backpack filled with a Contigo water bottle, a battery charger, a USB drive and some connectors.  Datrium totally kicked it up a notch with a Raspberry Pi3 and awesome case. I also received a geek version of Cards Against Humanity from Solidfire and a medieval looking chalice from Catalogic and a nice baseball hat from Docker.

Sweet!

Sweet! Thanks Datrium!

We hit the Solutions Exchange a few times during the week to grab some extra stuff to bring back to our team.  Hey we like to share!

VMUG Member Party

Thee words.  OFF THE HOOK!  This was the fist year VMUG hosted a party for it’s members and it was awesome.  It was held at House Of Blues at Mandalay Bay.  The theme was an 80’s party. There was a live band that was totally kick’in.  It was great to catch up with some fellow VMUG members and enjoy some drinks (a lot of drinks) and food. It was an excellent start to the week. I had a really nice conversation with Paul Strong CTO for VMware, he even agreed to do a key note for a future UPState NY VMUG UserCon! 🙂

Session INF8097

On Tuesday I had my first presentation of the week with Tom Cronin (@Virtual_Tom) and our TAM Joe DePasquale (@DePasqualeJoe).  We spoke about meeting infrastructure high availability by deploying an out of band management cluster.  The session went very well.  I was a little nervous at the start, but once I got going, felt good.   I was happy I went through my slides with no issues.  Tom and Joe did a great job, we all did.

L to R - Joe, Me, Tom

L to R – Joe, Me, Tom

Tuesday night we hit up another vendor party at the House of Blues, which was not nearly as good as the VMUG party and then headed to Ri Ra Irish Pub for vBacon Vegas Style.  Hey it was beer and bacon, hell yeah it was fun!

Beer and Bacon Baby!!

Beer and Bacon Baby!!

Session MGT7924

Wednesday was a pretty big day.  My second presentation was with Hicham Mourad from VMware.  We were presenting on vRealize Operations Capacity Management.  The session had over 400 pre-registered attendees and ended up with over 300 showing up.  This time I wasn’t nervous at all.  I felt so comfortable on stage even though it was a much bigger room, stage and more people.  I did the welcome and opening introductions then handed it off to Hicham to go into a technical review of capacity terms, badges and a demo, then back to me to share some specific slides on how we do capacity management at the bank.  All during Hicham’s sections, I would interject with customer insight, and it worked really well.  I had about 15 minutes of material to present at the end, and Hicham gave me about 8 minutes! lol. So I had to condense my info.  Hicham and I killed it. We really did. We had a Top 10 presentation for Wednesday. Woo-Hoo!  After the presentation because my time was short, I had a number of people come up to me with questions, and handed out my card for follow up.  They were very interested in my experience with vROps at work.  It was awesome, what a rush. It was like something clicked, I really enjoyed speaking in front of so many people and presenting to them my slides and information.  It was such a thrill, I would do that full time!  You can check out my session here. Top 10 Sessions at VMworld 2016 for Wednesday  Look for vRealize Operations Capacity Explained.

That's me, killing it on stage with Hicham.

That’s me, killing it on stage with Hicham.

Wednesday was also the VMUG Leader Lunch.  They served us a nice meal, unfortunately I had to leave early for my presentation and didn’t get to stay for the speakers. Hopefully next year I wont have a conflict.  One highlight is that I had a chance to meet VIRT. (@vmug_virt).

Me and @vmug_virt

Me and @vmug_virt

VMworld 2016 Party

Wednesday night was the VMworld party at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  It was a super hot night, like 103 at the time of the party.  That was the first time I experienced elbow sweat!  The party was a lot of fun, food was good, lots of entertainment and I had a ride around the track in a car.  Capital Cities opened for Fall out Boy.  Both bands were great, but Capital Cities really was awesome.  I always feel like I don’t have enough time to experience everything the party has to offer, but its always fun and its great that VMworld provides rides to and from the event.

Last day of VMworld 2016

The conference wrapped up on Thursday September 1st.  I had a couple of sessions scheduled in the morning and MGT7770 was my favorite session of the week.  It was VSAN Management using vROps plus the Management Pack for Storage Devices (MPSD) with 100% live demos on a multi-cloud private\public VMware cloud foundation infrastructure.  The speakers were Jeff Godfrey and Rawlinson Rivera.  I really enjoyed this session.  After that session I went back to the VMvillage one last time before I headed out.  The end of VMworld is bitter/sweet.  The environment and experiences are so much fun.  Seeing friends and meeting new people and attending great sessions are some of the best parts of the week and this year speaking in two presentations was by far the highlight for me; however I’m really ready to get back home to my family and return to normal life.  Vegas was great, and a huge shout out to the blue shirts and event staff for really making the week great.  They were so helpful and welcoming, always smiling; who dosent miss the box lunches, am I right?!  All in all it was a really educational and fun week.  I’m definitely looking forward to next year back in Las Vegas! Who knows you might even see me back up on stage! 😉

Hear are some additional photos from my trip.

 

 

 

vRealize Operations Manager 6.3 – What’s New!

Today VMware has released vRealize Operations Manager 6.3. vROps will maximize capacity utilization and enable optimum performance and availability of applications and infrastructures across vSphere, Hyper-V, Amazon, and physical hardware.  Streamline key IT processes with out-of-the-box and customizable policies, guided remediation and automated standards enforcement. Optimize performance, capacity and compliance while retaining full control of IT operations.

After I get back from VMworld I will be testing all the new features.  I’m looking forward to the DRS Dashbords!  Until then check out below all the new features.

What’s New in vROps 6.3

vRealize Operations Manager 6.3 is a release update that enhances product stability, performance, and usability.

Enhanced Workload Placement and vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) Integration:

  • Recommended Actions on landing page
  • Configure DRS from vRealize Operations Manager with Cluster/DRS Dashboard
  • Data Collection Notification toolbar
  • Perform Actions from Workload Utilization Dashboard

Improved Log Insight Integration:

  • Management Pack for Log Insight included in product
  • Improved Log Insight and vRealize Operations Manager alerting

Enhanced vSphere Monitoring:

  • Support vSphere 6.0 Hardening Guide
  • vRealize Operations Manager Compliance for vSphere 6.0 Objects
  • vRealize Operations Manager and vCenter Software-Defined Data Center (SDDC) Health Dashboards

General improvements:

  • New API Programming Guide
  • New licensing plan for vRealize Operations Manager Standard and Advanced Editions
  • Filtered SNMP Trap Alert Notifications
  • Enhanced SuperMetric capabilities
  • Reduction in default metrics collected

Source – vROps 6.3 release notes

Removing a Solution from vRealize Operations Manager 6.x

The great thing about having a lab environment is I get to test out a number of solutions for vROps.  One that I have been evaluating is the Cisco UCS Management Pack for vROps.   We started with a beta version for vROps 5.x then updated the pack for vROps 6.1 and now I wanted to install the newest version of the pack for 6.2.  One problem, the old solutions are just kinda stuck in there.  They don’t update and when you think you are removing the solution, you are really just deleting the adapter settings.  In this article ill go through the steps on how to remove the old management packs and get everything clean and ready for the new version.

***Caution!*** – we are going to be editing some sensitive files so you really should open up a service request with VMware support if you are doing this in production.  I’m working in my lab environment  so if things went FUBAR, its not a big deal.   I will have to eventually do this in production, (well not me, the operations team) and so far I haven’t had any issues going through this, but ya never know.  Open up an SR before touching your production vROps.  This way in an event of an issue or a mistake VMware support can help guide you through fixing it. Okay, enough of that.

The fist step is to log into the vROps node that has the incompatible solution. In my lab I only have one node, so that’s pretty straight forward.

navigate to /storage/db/pakRepoLocal/  to determine which solution you want to uninstall.  I have a couple different UCS solutions installed.

Run this command to determine the actual adapter name and take note of the “Name” field.
cat /storage/db/pakRepoLocal/Adapter_Folder/manifest.txt

The next step to uninstall the solution pack is to change to /usr/lib/vmwarevcops/tools/opscli/   and run the opscli.sh with the uninstall option
./opscli.sh solution uninstall “Name_of_the_pak”

Once the process has completed you will see a return that states the uninstall has been successful. Like in the example below.

After the above step is complete, run this for some additional clean up.
$VMWARE_PYTHON_BIN $ALIVE_BASE/../vmwarevcopssuite/utilities/pakManager/bin/vcopsPakManager.py –action
cleanup –remove_pak –pak Name_of_Pak     (replace Name_of_Pak with the name from above)

Next you will have to remove the solutions .pak file from the .pak files directory.
Go to $STORAGE/db/casa/pak/dist_pak_files/VA_LINUX  and rm the pack file name.

Now open /storage/db/pakRepoLocal/vcopsPakManagerCommonHistory.json in a text editor and delete all entries related to the removed solution from { to }   Don’t forget to save it!

Lastly go back to the /storage/db/pakRepoLocal/  directory and remove the sub directories, files and parent directory for the solution you removed.  Use the rm and rmdir commands.   You may also have to delete any dashboards that were installed with the solutions pack from dashboards in the vRealize Operations Manager UI.  Also note that in order for the changes to take effect, you will need to log out and back into the UI.

Take your time running through the steps and you will see its not all that difficult.  I’ve also used this process when a solution doesn’t install successfully before I try and reinstall it and remember to take caution when doing this in a production environment.

VMUG Member Party at VMworld

**UPDATE 7/30/16 ** – The VMUG Member Part is at full capacity.  I hope you registered and Im looking forward to seeing everyone there!

VMUG (VMware Users Group) is an organization that is led by VMware customers. I’ve been a member for a while now and the last few years I have been a co-leader for my local Buffalo, NY group. Its very rewarding for me to help expose different technology to our members and the best part is connecting with other VMUG members and learning about all the different ways they are improving their environment through VMware virtualization. If you are not a member, sign up. Its free. VMUG.com.

This year VMUG is hosting a party at VMworld. Its the first one they have done, and it looks like its going to be a great opportunity to network with other VMUG members and leaders from around the world. I’m looking forward to learning what other leaders are doing to increase awareness of VMUG in their area. The Party is at the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay Sunday August 28th. For more info and to get your free ticket go to http://bit.ly/29qbk35. I hope to see you there!

Reclaiming CPU and Memory in vROPs 6.2

Hi there everyone, where I work we’re pretty lucky to have a really nice test lab. This is an environment that is for the most part isolated from production, development and certification. Its an Engineering only sandbox for proof of concept and testing; however its still a fully functioning data center and there are a number of infrastructure systems that are relied on to keep the lab running smoothly and even though we have a budget for adding virtual infrastructure capacity there comes times when we start to run hot on CPU and more so memory in our VMware environment. The cool thing is we can use the Reclaimable Capacity section in vROps to identify which resources are being consumed and which guests are the trouble makers and by configuring the vCenter Python Action Adapter we can modify objects in vCenter right from vRealize Operations Manager… how awesome is that!

I wanted to write up a nice walk through on how to configure the Python Adapter and use the Reclaimable Capacity section in vRealize Operations Manager to figure out which guests and how much capacity you can recover; however when I was doing some research on the subject I came across Jason Gaudreau’s blog where he expertly explains in detail everything I would of shared with you all. Jason and I have spoke on the phone a few times as he has helped me work out a couple things or given me direction. He’s really an expert so check out his post Right-Sizing with vRealize Operations 6.0

Come See Me at VMworld 2016 – Mandalay Bay Las Vegas

Hi Everyone! If you have never been to VMworld, you really should. There are a number of great sessions to attend as well as the solutions exchange and the always awesome VMworld party! I’m very honored to announce that I will be speaking at two sessions at VMworld 2016 in Las Vegas. Check out the session info below, and don’t forget to register for VMworld 2016. Shout out to my colleague and vExpert Tom Cronin who will be speaking with me. Tom will also be part of a panel session on VSAN. You can follow Tom on Twitter @Virtual_Tom. Thank you to Joe DePasquale ( @DePasqualeJoe) our VMware TAM for helping us submit our session abstracts and build our presentations. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter too! 🙂 @anothergeek