Category Archives: Study Guides

VMware ESXi Cookbook | Book Review

Disclaimer: I was recently approached by a representative of Packt Publishing and was asked to review a copy of this book. I therefore received an ebook for review.0068EN_VMware ESXi 5

I was a bit dubious about this book  when I read the overview on the Pack Publishing Website, the website quotes

  • Understand the concepts of virtualization by deploying vSphere web client to perform vSphere Administration
  • Learn important aspects of vSphere including administration, security, performance, and configuring vSphere Management Assistant (VMA) to run commands and scripts without the need to authenticate every attempt
  • VMware ESXi 5.1 Cookbook is a recipe-based guide to the administration of VMware vSphere

I’ve been working with VMware products for a number of years now and this book looked like a beginners guide. I was also a little disappointed that the book was based on vSphere 5.1 and not the most current release vSphere 5.5 even though the current release of vSphere was out 6 months before the book.

Who is the book for?

The book is primarily written for technical professionals with system administration skills and basic knowledge of virtualization who wish to learn installation, configuration, and administration of vSphere 5.1. Essential virtualization and ESX or ESXi knowledge is advantageous.

I personally would say it was for people who were new to Virtualization or deploying VMware vSphere products for the first time. Perhaps even a useful resource for management or project management who want to delve a little deeper into the technology. Virtualization concepts would be advantageous, however the book covers each step of a basic installation in good detail.

Areas Covered

The book is split into 9 chapters, aimed at covering a cradle to grave ‘basic’ vSphere installation.

  1. Installing and Configuring ESXi
  2. Installing and Using vCenter
  3. Networking
  4. Storage
  5. Resource Management and High Availability
  6. Managing Virtual Machines
  7. Securing the ESXi Server and Virtual Machines
  8. Performance Monitoring and Alerts
  9. vSphere update Manager

The book reads and flows well, with the explanations clear and concise. The author does a good job explaining all concepts covered in the book.

Final Thoughts

If you are a seasoned vSphere administrator/architect this book probably isn’t for you. Saying this, it does act as a handy reference if there are areas of vSphere that you aren’t familiar with that you need to review.  One thing I do like about this book, is all screenshots (where possible) are taken from  the vSphere Web Client. As many of us know, the Web Client will be the only way to manage VMware infrastructure in the not too distant future, therefore for the old skool folk like myself it also acts as a handy reference to help complete tasks in this manner.

Overall, I would say the author has done a great job in what they set out to do. Create a quick fire reference for vSphere administration tasks.



Book Review | Networking for VMware Administrators

I’ve been working with VMware products for a number of years now, from fairly simple small environments to enterprise level complex environments. The area that NetworkingForVMwareAdministratorsalways crops up as my weakness is Networking. It’s an area I never really had much involvement in when working my way through the ranks of helpdesk and Wintel server administration, however is an extremely important factor in a successful VMware deployment. Finally after years of waiting along comes this little gem from VMware Press authored by VCDX Chris Wahl and Steven Pantol. Being an avid reader of Chris’ Blog the Wahl Network I had high hopes for this book and I’m pleased to say I was not let down.

The book is split into four sections:

  1. Networking 101 – The very basics
  2. Virtual Switching – The differences from physical
  3. Storage Networking – A look at IP storage
  4. Design Scenarios – A look at vSwitch example configurations

This to me was a great layout, starting at the very basics slowly easing you into the more technical matter.

Given the title of the book, prior to reading I would have put this in the ‘deep technical’ category, however both authors have a great writing style and their sense of humour really comes through making the book a pleasure to read.

This book is a must have for any VMware admin and one that I only wish was available a few years back!

VCAP-DCD | Objective 2.5 | Build Performance Requirements into the logical design

Understand what logical performance services are provided by VMware solutions

VMware have a number of performance enhancers in the vSphere, some of which are available in all licence versions, some however require a certain licence level to make the features available.

  • Transparent Page Sharing – Shares identical memory pages across multiple VMs. This is enabled by default. Consideration should be given to try and place similar workloads on the same hosts to gain maximum benefit.
  • Memory Ballooning – Controls a balloon driver which is running inside each VM. When the physical host runs out of memory it instructs the driver to inflate by allocating inactive physical pages. The ESXi host can uses these pages to fulfill the demand from other VMs.
  • Memory Compression – Prior to swapping, memory pages out to physical disks. The ESXi server starts to compress pages. Compared to swapping, compression can improve the overall performance in an memory over commitment scenario.
  • Swapping – As the last resort, ESXi will start to swap pages out to physical disk.
  • vStorage APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) –  is a feature introduced in ESXi/ESX 4.1 that provides hardware acceleration functionality. It enables your host to offload specific virtual machine and storage management operations to compliant storage hardware. With the storage hardware assistance, your host performs these operations faster and consumes less CPU, memory, and storage fabric bandwidth.
  • Storage I/O Control (SIOC) – was introduced in vSphere 4.1 and allows for cluster wide control of disk resources. The primary aim is to prevent a single VM on a single ESX host from hogging all the I/O bandwidth to a shared datastore. An example could be a low priority VM which runs a data mining type application impacting the performance of other more important business VMs sharing the same datastore.
  • vSphere Storage API’s – Storage Awareness (VASA) – VASA is a set of APIs that permits storage arrays to integrate with vCenter for management functionality.
  • Network IO Control (NIOC) – When network I/O control is enabled, distributed switch traffic is divided into the following predefined network resource pools: Fault Tolerance traffic, iSCSI traffic, vMotion traffic, management traffic, vSphere Replication (VR) traffic, NFS traffic, and virtual machine traffic.  You can control the bandwidth each network resource pool is given by setting the physical adapter shares and host limit for each network resource pool.

Identify and differentiate infrastructure qualities (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability, Security)

This has been covered in a previous Objective.

List the key performance indicators for resource utilisation

According to ITIL, a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is used to assess if a defined service is running according to expectations. The exact definition of the KPIs differs depending on the area. This objective is about server performance which is typically assessed using the following KPIs: Processor, Memory, Disk, and Network.

VCAP-DCD | Exam Experience

On Friday morning I sat the VCAP5-DCD exam and I’m delighted to say I passed! If you are a regular visitor, you’ll notice that I have started a VCAP-DCD study guide section which hasn’t been updated in a while. I wont bore you with why, however I do have all my study notes, which I will collate and continue posting alongside the relevant objectives.

Usual Disclaimer: I agreed to the NDA prior to sitting the exam so I will not divulge any exam specifics, so please don’t ask!

The exam is tough, as is the common theme with VCAP exams, and test every area of a vSphere deployment. My biggest piece of advise would be get to know the blueprint inside out, it should become your friend, and you should be comfortable with everything in it!

The multiple choice questions are more complex and tougher than those set out in the VCP exams, as you would expect being the advanced certification, however I believe these questions are very fair. The drag and drop style questions are tricky too and require some working out, don’t whizz through these questions, take your time, as I would image these are some big hitters on the overall exam scoring (I don’t know this, I’m just assuming). The Visio style diagram questions are again tough, (see a pattern emerging here?) however contain all the information you need and more to successfully answer the question.

In no particular order, here is what I would recommend to any people planning to sit the exam:

  • Blueprint, Blueprint, Blueprint
  • Keep an eye on the clock. VMware recommend 15 minutes per Visio style design question, with 6 design questions in total. Thats 90 minutes from your 225 on 6 questions
  • Don’t panic about time, keep calm and work at a consistent pace and you will be fine
  • Take as many laminate sheets as permitted, I drew my designs on here before doing them on screen so I knew what I wanted to place where, as the tool can be quite clunky

Aside from official VMware documentation, there are a few other resources I would highly recommend to use for study material, they can be found on my VCAP-DCD study guide page.

Last piece of advise would be to draw out some practise designs. Take your client or internal designs, change them and draw them out. Don’t just concentrate on hosts and clusters, include storage and networks too. Use multiple tiers of storage, multiple protocols, and throw in some DR for good measure.

Originally, for my VCAP-DTD study I used some Magic Whiteboard from Amazon, however it’s quite expensive and I went through the roll quite quickly. I’ve since purchased a clear glass dry-erase board and put it on the wall in my home office, which is much more convenient and in my opinion an essential skill that needs to be sharp for the exam!

If you are sitting the exam soon, please keep checking back for updates as I continue to post my notes against each blueprint objective and good luck! What’s next? VCAP-DCA of course!



VCAP-DCD | Objective 2.4 | Build manageability requirements into the logical design

Understand what management services are offered by VMware solutions

VMware provide us with whole host of management services within the stack, some of these are free, some come into play depending on the type of licence you have. In no particular order we have:

  • vCenter Server
  • vCenter Orchestrator
  • vSphere Management Assistant (vMA)
  • PowerCLI
  • vCLI
  • vSphere API’s
  • vSphere High Availability (HA)
  • vSphere Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS)
  • Scheduled Tasks (within vCenter server)
  • Auto Deploy
  • Host Profiles

Identify and differentiate infrastructure qualities (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security)

This was covered off in the previous Objective, however, as a reminder

Availability – The ability of a system or service to perform it’s required function when required. It is usually calculated as a percentage.

Manageability – The expense of running a system. If in a large enterprise the system is managed by a small team, the operation cost can therefore be low.

Performance – The measure of what is delivered by the system. This is usually measured against known standards. Recoverability – The ability to return a system to a working state after a failure or repair.

Security – The process of ensuring the service is used in the appropriate manner.

VCAP-DCD |Objective 2.3 | Build availability requirements into the logical design

Understand what logical availability services are provided by VMware solutions.

The two primary availability services in vSphere are High Availability (HA) and Fault Tolerance (FT). Studying for this exam, you should be understand the differences in these features, however at a very high level: HA – Can minimise downtime by restarting VMs in case of a hardware failure FT – Provides continues availability for a VM by making a secondary copy of the VM on another physical host. To gain a better understanding of VMware’s HA, (as well as DRS, Storage DRS and Stretched Clusters) the VMware vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deep Dive by Frank Denneman and Duncan Epping is a MUST! The VMware vSphere Availability Guide is also a MUST read. Fault Tolerance, whist no doubt is a great technology, it does have limitations, which are discussed in the Availability Guide. I rarely see a business case for FT, in most cases HA is good enough.

Identify and differentiate infrastructure qualities (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability, Security)

Availability – The ability of a system or service to perform it’s required function when required. It is usually calculated as a percentage.

Manageability – The expense of running a system. If in a large enterprise the system is managed by a small team, the operation cost can therefore be low.

Performance – The measure of what is delivered by the system. This is usually measured against known standards. Recoverability – The ability to return a system to a working state after a failure or repair.

Security – The process of ensuring the service is used in the appropriate manner.

Describe the concept of redundancy and the risks associated with single points of failure.

A single point of failure is a system component, that if it fails, will then cause the entire system to fail because of it. For example, in a vSphere world, if we have a virtual switch with a single physical NIC uplink and this uplink fails, the virtual switch will fail as a result. These components can be bolstered by adding redundancy, in the above example we could add redundancy to the virtual switch by adding a second physical uplink, therefore if one uplink fails traffic could continue to pass on the second uplink. This spreads out to multiple areas of a vSphere design, hosts in clusters, components in hosts and stretching out to the wider infrastructure, with multiple physical switches, load balancers etc etc.

Differentiate Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery concepts.

Business Continuity is focussing on avoiding or mitigating the impact of risk, therefore is a proactive approach.

Disaster Recovery is focussing on the recovery of a system/service after an outage, therefore is a reactive approach.

VMware offer a free DR/BC Fundamentals training course through MyLearn. Click the following link to register

DR/BC Fundamentals



Book Review | VMware Press VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide

As I’ve already mentioned previously on this blog, and as you’ll probably have realised if you’ve started reading my VCAP-DCD study guides I’m due to sit the VCAP5-DCD exam in the next few weeks. Due to work commitments, my study has taken a nose dive, however I’m still planning on posting all my study notes covering off the objectives listed in the blueprint over on my VCAP-DCD study guides page.

I managed to get hold of a copy of Paul McSharry’s new book, VCAP5-DCD Official Cert Guide: VMware Certified Advanced Professional 5 – Data Center DesignVCAP-DCD

I’ve not used a cert guide to prepare for an exam before, normally I will study the exam blueprint, and work through the official vendor documentation whilst reading related books, so wasn’t sure  what to expect before reading this guide.

Firstly let me start by saying that the author obviously has worked on a number of vSphere design projects and is able to backup methodologies discussed in the book with real life scenarios, this for me was one of the highlights of this book.

I found the ‘Do I know this quizzes’ at the beginning of each chapter a good way to judge how well I knew the topics the chapter would cover before we started and this helped give an indication of whether further reading may be required. Alongside this, at then end of each chapter the author lays out some design scenarios for you to complete. Having completed the VCAP-DTD recently, I know how important it is to practice the scenarios so you can quickly pick out requirements and translate them into a design.

Overall the book reads very well, flows easily, covering off the objectives on the exam blueprint. I’d recommend the book to anyone looking to sit the VCAP5-DCD exam.




VCAP-DCD | Objective 2.2 | Map Service Dependencies

Identify basic service dependencies for infrastructure and application services

Service dependencies come in many forms within a vSphere infrastructure design. Services rely on objects such as DNS, NTP, Active Directory etc. What devices are communicating together? What ports are they communicating on? Which processes make up these services?

VMware did have a product to assist in this, VMware vCenter Application Discovery manager, however this has now gone EOL, and unless you have already purchased it, you wont be able to get your hands on it. The current state analysis that should have already been completed at this point should help here, in particular in identifying the applications that will be migrated. It will then be a manual process to discover and document these dependencies.

I found a good WIKI  from ServiceNow which delves deeper into application dependency mapping. This article explains how relationships are defined using the following:

  • Runs on::Runs
  • Depends on::Used by
  • Hosted on ::Hosts
  • Virtualised by::Virtualises
  • Contains::Contained by
  • IP Connection::IP Connection

They also delve deeper into upstream and downstream relationships, I’d highly recommend giving this page some attention.

Document and reference your findings to ensure every relationship and dependency is covered and accounted for in the design.

VCAP-DCD | Objective 2.1 | Map business Requirements to the Logical Design

Explain the common components of logical design

We’ve already briefly touched on the logical design back in Objective 1.1. The logical design is a lower level design than the conceptual, yet still should not focus on physical detail such as host names, IP addresses, LUN sizes etc. The logical design will should consider the conceptual design along with any constraints, risks and assumptions. This enables you to understand if the design will meet the goals and requirements whilst taking into account all of the constraints.

To summarise, the logical design is based upon the documented information in the conceptual design. It will consider all the constraints and risks associated with the project, whilst communicating all risks with recommended actions aligned to enable the project to progress without delay.

List the detailed steps that go into the makeup of a common logical design

  1. Consider the conceptual design, ensure constraints risks and assumptions are documented
  2. Document recommended items to workaround risks
  3. Do NOT include physical details such as hardware, vendors, IP’s, port numbers etc
  4. Ensure capacity analysis is kept in mind, however don’t be tempted to delve into physical detail
  5. Ensure all relationships are covered between all components of the infrastructure
  6. Diagram how the infrastructure components will be arranged
  7. Document with diagrams, tables and text
  8. Ensure all requirements are met!

Differentiate functional and non functional requirements for the design

A functional requirement specifies what a system should do. A requirement specifies a function that a system or component must be able to perform. A function is described as a set of inputs, the behaviour and outputs that should be measurable. A functional requirement for a vSphere design could be “The platform must support creation of new workloads from a template” or “The platform should allow for 20% growth over the next 3 years”.

A non-functional requirement specifies how the system should be have. A non-functional requirement is a statement of how a system must behave, it is a constraint upon the system behaviour. A non-functional requirements specifies criteria that can be used to judge the operation of the system rather than specific behaviours. Non-Functional requirements can also be constraints. A non-functional requirement for a vSphere design could be “The platform will be built on VCE’s Vblock infrastructure” or “vSphere 5.1 will be used over vSphere 5.5 to ensure application support”.


VCAP-DCD | Objective 1.3 | Determine Risks, Constraints and Assumptions

Differentiate between the general concepts of a risk, a requirement, a constraint, and an assumption.

A project vision will generally consists of an idea or multiple ideas that make up a project. As well a the idea(s), the vision will layout a scope, requirements, constraints, assumptions and risks.


The scope is a statement that details what is included in, and what is not included in a project. This will aid the project team in setting a clear defined goal which all parties are able to understand and adhere to. This also helps eliminate any stray tasks to be consumed as part of the project. For example, you may be virtualising a Microsoft Exchange workload running Exchange Server 2003, however upgrading the Exchange Server to Exchange 2010 at time of migration is out of scope.

The scope will also set out different phases of the project. For example, you wouldn’t (or at least I hope you wouldn’t) expect to have a target of virtualising 100% of workloads in one go. The scope is likely to specify groups of workloads, simple candidates or workloads of high priority.


A requirement is a need that the design must meet or a goal that the project must achieve. A requirement can be of business or technical focus. The requirements should be listed and referenced in the design documentation.

Examples of requirements include:

  • Must be SOX compliant
  • Must meet SLA of 99.9% uptime

A requirement will affect a design choice substantially.


A constraint is something that plays the part of a restriction or limitation. It could well limit a design choice. Much like a requirement, a constraint can be of business or technical focus.

Examples of constraints include:

  • Existing vendor relationships will continue, therefore Cisco UCS will provide compute resource
  • Workloads cannot experience downtime outside of any agreed maintenance windows
  • All workloads must remain under full vendor support

The constraints should be listed and referenced in the design documentation.


An assumption is something that will be true to the project design, but is something that has not been fully tested nor verified.

Examples of assumptions include:

  • There will be sufficient bandwidth between primary DC and DR DC for replication to take place
  • There will be enough power and cooling in the primary DC to house the new kit
  • Business stakeholders will provide certain application before a given date

The assumptions should be listed and referenced in the design documentation.


A risk is something that could hinder or prevent completion of the project, or perhaps could adversely effect the design.  Risks are common place in every project and should be identified early to eliminate any aspect of surprise.

Examples of risks include:

  • The software and technology being used is cutting edge, has it been done before and to this scale
  • Existing hardware is unstable and unsupported
  • The project has a set completion date

The risks should be listed and referenced in the design documentation.

Given a statement, determine whether it is a risk, requirement, a constraint, or an assumption

I think I’ve covered off this deliverable in the above,refer back to ensure ability to understand the differences.

Analyse impact of VMware best practises to identified risks, constraints, and assumptions

I’m not a huge fan of the term ‘best practise’. I would always suggest referencing vendor documentation and guidelines however always use these as just that, guidelines. They should never be used as set rules.

Using vendor guides can help a design avoid known ‘constrains’ which will help eliminate ‘risk’.