Category Archives: UKVMUG

Home Lab Refresh

I’ve had my old lab a while now which consists of the following:

2 x Mac Mini w/16GB RAM and 256GB SSD upgrades

1 x Cisco SG300 24 port GB switch

1 x Synology DS412+ w/ 2 x 256GB Samsung Pro SSD and 2 x 2TB WD RED HDD

I also have an iMac with Core i7, 32GB RAM and 1TB fusion drive which allows me to spin up some workloads to ease congestion on the Mac Mini’s. 

This has served me well, however, the 16GB RAM in the Mac Minis was really a limitation, especially when I wanted to spin up and down different vApps consisting of a number of items which could easily consume the combined 32GB RAM available.

Luckily, there are a number of people in the community who had done the hard work for me in testing and blogging about various methods which meant I could be lazy and simply look for the feedback of others. The stand out two sites I looked at were that of  Frank Denneman and Fred Hoffer.

I had a few requirements that I needed to meet which were:

R01: Be quiet, be very quiet

R02: Have IPMI/WoL capability (IPMI preferred)

R03: Be able to spin up vApps containing multiple VMs (i.e., A Horizon View environment), without delay from resource constraints 

After some design workshops in my head, and avoiding talking to the CFO (in this case my wife to be) I decided I would keep a single Mac Mini as a management server (running ESXi 5.5) and I would host the vCenter appliance, a DC and a jump box which I can connect from remotely, all installed on a local 1TB SATA drive. The Mac Mini is silent and has very little power draw so I don’t mind leaving it powered on 24/7.

I already have a NAS which is more than adequate for the my needs and allows me to use the WoL function so I can power on remotely only when needed, and the switch I have, whilst is not 10GB but in reality id much more than I need.

Due to the expense of the system I went for I have only purchased one to start with, but plan on adding a second further down the line, for now though, this should keep me busy.

So, the all important kit list: (I’ll link to the manufacturer site for parts) I was lucky enough to be in the US twice already this year, so I got some parts over there! (Note: This setup may look familiar if you’ve read the above blogs)

Case: Fractal Design R4 

Motherborad: SuperMicro X9SRH-7TF

CPU: Intel Xeon E52620V2???

CPU Cooler: Noctura NH-U9DXi4

Power Supply: Corsair RM550

SSD: Samsung 840 Pro 256GB (x2)

This platform rocks and is almost silent. I’m going to upgrade to vSphere 6 shortly so will have a further post about the configuration at a later date. Thanks to the vExpert programme for giving me the ability to licence my lab!

“The Times They are a Changin”

No, I’ve not gone crazy and plan on writing a blog on Bob Dylan, this post is still a tech focussed one.

After leaving university in 2003, I found my first job working for a mortgage company working in a team supporting the mortgage application software. After a few months, I managed to get promoted/transferred into the Server Support team. I was lucky in a sense to skip the usual progression of Helpdesk to Desktop Support to Server Support, but I grabbed this opportunity with both hands and started learning about Microsoft Server OS’s (primarily 2000 and some 2003 at the time if you are wondering), AD, Exchange, Citrix PS4, Firewalls, switches and a little known software product called VMware ESX 2.5. I’d like to say I was one of the early users of ESX 2.5, but I’d be exaggerating the truth, in fact I remember the more senior members of the team evaluating the software and discussing benefits, of which I had a little understanding of at the time. This was my first introduction into virtualisation.

The company was eventually bought out by Lehman Brothers, and rather than make the ‘Big Move to the City’ I took voluntary redundancy (a huge payday for me in those days) and spent a month having fun in Las Vegas, Amsterdam and Barcelona, before starting work the following month for a local reseller who were a big HP shop, Microsoft Gold Partner and VMware VAC (Authorised Consulting Partner). I started life here on the HelpDesk, which wasn’t a backward step as you may think, as it was providing 3rd line support for the reseller contractual customers, which involved support and administration of a wide variety of platforms including VMware. From here and over 5 years I progressed to a Technical Specialist focussed on Virtualisation and Shared Storage technologies (primarily VMware and Dell EqualLogic). I spent many hours speaking to customers about the benefits of virtualisation and countless hours in front of VMware Convertor progress bars. During this time, I started to understand really grasp the benefits virtualisation brings to the business world and evangelised the technology to many first timers. And at that time there were many.

As my knowledge and belief in virtualisation grew, I decided I wanted to move on to bigger and better projects at an enterprise level and start looking at other benefits aside from server virtualisation, such as private/public cloud, VDI and automation. Almost three years ago, I joined the consulting team at Xtravirt and was thrown straight into a 4K seat VDI deployment spanning EMEA. The past three years have seen me involved in some large VDI deployments as well as some big deployments with the vCloud stack.

It’s been an interesting journey to see how the term ‘Software-Defined’ is now more the focus extending virtualisation concepts across the technology stacks, not just compute. Vendors are now concentrating on making the entire datacenter Software-defined to make IT available as a service.

So, if you’re still reading this (which I hope you are), the reason for me writing the article is to announce that I’ll be leaving Xtravirt and joining Nutanix as a Systems Engineer on 21st October 2014. I’ve had the pleasure of working on a large scale VDI deployment over the last 7 months hosted on a Nutanix platform, the web-scale architecture and SDS (software-defined storage) approach Nutanix bring to the market genuinely excites me. This is a change of role for me moving into a product focussed pre-sales role, but when you truly believe in something, it makes the decision a much easier one.

My blog will still remain heavily focussed on the VMware side of things, however as I start to learn about Microsoft Hyper-V and KVM you may see some of that sneaking in too!

I’d like to thank Xtravirt for the past three years, and look forward to the future with Nutanix!

 

VMworld EMEA | See you there?

no limits

With just two weeks to go, VMworld EMEA is fast approaching and I’m lucky enough to be one of the handful of the Xtravirt team to be in attendance. Xtravirt are sending a large group across to Barcelona, not only to liaise with our partners and attend sessions for personal development, but also to network. This will be my fourth VMworld (all EMEA based) and I can honestly say these events are not only fantastic for content (both technical and business) but also networking. I’ve lost count of the number of people I’ve met, and stayed in contact with, be it at VMUGs/LinkedIn/Twitter over the years.

I’m not going to be posting a list of the sessions I plan to attend as this is likely to change, however you can be certain to find me in the bloggers/hang space area at some point most days, so be sure to come and say hello! Also, I’ll be sure to be watching a number of the vBrownBag sessions as these guys never fail to provide awesome community content.

There are a number of vendors in the Solutions Exchange I’ll be stopping at to say hello, they are:

Nutanix

pernixdata

VMUG

VMware (for EVO:Rail)

VMware (for vCloud Air)

Pure Storage

SimpliVity

Cloud Physics

As I’ve already mentioned, there will be a number of the Xtravirt team in attendance, so If you want to speak to any of us about the services Xtravirt offer, or just want a chat, be sure to come and say hello, alternatively, if you would like to arrange an official meeting please click here.

xtra

 

#SWUKVMUG | VDI Made Easy with Nutanix

Last week, I was asked to present at the South West UK VMUG, alongside Nutanix to present a real world deployment story. I talked at a high level about how using Nutanix in a 6K seat VDI deployment, not only made my life easier as one of the the architects on the solution, but how it also helped my client meet their requirements easily.

I’ve linked to my slides below, for those who are interested.

Big thanks to Michael Poore, Simon Eady, Barry Coombs and Jeremy Bowman for the invite to come and speak, also big thanks to Nutanix for allowing me to take half of their presentation time!

If you would like to view the presentation, then you can download it by clicking the link

 

Nutanix Configuration with vSphere 5.5

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been involved in a fast paced VDI project that is planned to scale up to 10K seats.

nosan
Of  late, I’ve not had much involvement with VDI projects and have been focussing more on Private Cloud projects, however this project quickly got my attention as Nutanix were the chosen vendor for the solution.
Given this constraint, the design process was easy, made even easier with the first phase use case.
For those not already aware of Nutanix, here is a great video explaining How Nutanix Works and gives a great insight into the offering.
I wanted to share some of the configuration changes we made to during the build phase and to the vSphere 5.5 platform.

Nutanix Build

First off, Nutanix have recently changed the way they ship their blocks to site. They used to be shipped with a specific flavour of VMware ESXi, however with added support for KVM and Hyper-V, as well as there being a number of different ESXi versions used in the workplace, they found customers always wanting to change the out of the box software. Nutanix now installs the Nutanix Operating System (NOS) controller virtual machine (CVM) and a KVM hypervisor at the factory before shipping. If you want to use a different hypervisor (such as VMware ESXi) nodes must be re-imaged on site and the NOS CVM needs to be reinstalled. Sound daunting? Well, it’s not really.
Nutanix will provide you with two tools named Orchestrator (Node imaging tool) and Pheonix (Nutanix Installer ISO). Once you have these files and your chosen hypervisor ISO, you’ll need to download and install Oracle VM VirtualBox to get underway. This process is very well documented so i’m not going to replay that here, however I would suggest:
  1. Ensure the laptop/desktop you are configuring the Nutanix block from has IPv6 enabled. IPv6 is used for the initial cluster initialization process.
  2. If configuring multiple Nutanix blocks, only image 4 nodes at a time. We attempted 8 at a time, however imaging this many nodes at a time proved troublesome for the installer.
  3. Keep your ESXi VMkernels and CVM VM’s on the same subnet. This is well documented, however for security we had to attempt to split these on different VLANs. This caused some issues with the auto-pathing feature.

I’ll point out here, after we configured out first, 2 block, 8 node cluster, we decided to manually install the second 2 block 8 node cluster and skip using the automated imaging process. This process again is very well documented and took less than 1 hour to have 8 VMware ESXi nodes up and running with storage presented to all nodes. Compare that to the traditional way and this is still a very impressive setup time.

When you’ve built your nodes, boot them into the BIOS and configure the Power Technology from Energy Efficient to Max Performance to ensure power savings don’t dampen performance.

vSphere Configuration

In this particular environment, we were making use of Nutanix de-duplication, which increases the overhead on each CVM. We therefore increased the RAM on each CVM from the default of 16GB to 32GB and set a vSphere reservation to ensure it always has this physical RAM available.

Nutanix have done a very good job with their documentation which detail recommended configurations per vendor for things such as HA and DRS in vSphere. After reading an Example Architecture blog by Josh Odgers I decided to add an advanced parameter to my HA configuration to change the default isolation address by adding “das.isolationaddress1 | Nutanix Cluster IP address”. I chose the cluster IP address over a CVM IP address for a simple reason. If a CVM hosting the cluster IP address fails, the cluster IP automatically is moved to another CVM in the cluster. The cluster IP is a new configuration option that was released for Hyper-V support, but we can make good use of it in the VMware world.

Each CVM resides on local SSD storage in the form of a 60GB SATA DOM. When you logon to the vSphere client and try and deploy a new workload you will have the option of deploying out to this 60GB SATA DOM SSD storage. This deployment was solely going to be used for a VDI project, therefore all workloads would be provisioned directly from a broker meaning we can control in the broker which datastores the workloads will reside in.  So, to avoid any confusion and to stop an over eager admin deploying out to the SATA DOM disk, I created a Datastore Cluster with all Storage DRS and IO options disabled and named it along the lines of “Nutanix NOS Datastore – Do Not Use”.

Overall, the Nutanix devices are very easy to deploy and you can be up and running in next to no time. Now, I’ve managed to get all this down in a post, I can do some performance tests for my next post!

UKVMUG | Thursday 21st November 2013 | Agenda Live

It’s approaching the time of year again, when the massively popular UKVMUG hits Birmingham. This year’s event is looking to be one of the biggest yet, with a vRockstar lineup stronger than ever (many fresh from presenting at VMworld), it looks set not to disappoint and all for FREE!!!! The full agenda can be seen below:

Main Agenda

 

There will also be a number of community sessions being held alongside the main sessions, one of which I will be holding! The session is titled ‘VDI White boarding’. I plan on it being an open, free flowing session where anything ‘VDI related’ goes.

The full community agenda is below.

Community

After sadly missing out on VMworld this year, I’m very much looking forward to the UKVMUG, if you haven’t registered already then you can do so by clicking here. I hope to meet many new faces on the day so please do stop and say hello.