Category Archives: VDI

#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 and VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI) – Quick Tip

In the second of my series of Quick Tip’s with Nutanix I wanted to cover off  VMware APIs for Array Integration (VAAI).

The Nutanix platform supports VAAI which allows the hypervisor to offload certain tasks to the array. This vSphere feature has been around a while now and is much more efficient as the hypervisor doesn’t need to be the “man in the middle” slowing down certain storage related tasks.

Nutanix support all the VAAI primitives for NAS

  • Full File Clone
  • Fast File Clone
  • Reserve Space
  • Extended Statistics

If you are not aware of what these primitives mean, I’d suggest reading the VMware VAAI Techpaper.

For both the full and fast file clones an  NDFS “fast clone” is done meaning a writable snapshot (using re-direct on write) for each clone is created. Each of these clones has its own block map meaning that chain depth isn’t anything to worry about.

I’ve taken the following from Steven Poitras’s Nutanix Bible

The following will determine whether or not VAAI will be used for specific scenarios:

  • Clone VM with Snapshot > VAAI will NOT be used
  • Clone VM without Snapshot which is Powered Off –> VAAI WILL be used
  • Clone VM to a different Datastore/Container –> VAAI will NOT be used
  • Clone VM which is Powered On –> VAAI will NOT be used

These scenarios apply to VMware View:

  • View Full Clone (Template with Snapshot) –> VAAI will NOT be used
  • View Full Clone (Template w/o Snapshot) –> VAAI WILL be used
  • View Linked Clone (VCAI) –> VAAI WILL be used

What I haven’t seen being made clear in any documentation thus far (and I’m not saying it isnt there, I’m simply saying I havent seen it!), is that VAAI WILL only work when the source and destination resides in the same container. This means consideration needs to be given as to the placement of ‘Master’ VDI images or with automated workloads from vCD or vCAC.

For example, if I have two containers on my Nutanix Cluster (Master Images and Desktops) with my master image residing in the master images container, yet I want to deploy desktops to the Desktops container VAAI will NOT be used.

I don’t see this as an issue, however more of a ‘Gotcha’ which needs to be considered at the design stage.

Nutanix Networking – Quick Tip

I’ve spent the past 4 months on a fast paced VDI project built upon Nutanix infrastructure, hence the number of posts on this technology recently. The project is now drawing to a close and moving from ‘Project’ status to ‘BAU’. As this transition takes place, I’m tidying up notes and updating documentation. From this, you may see a few blog posts  with some quick tips around Nutanix specifically with VMware vSphere architecture.

As you may or may not know, a Nutanix block ships with up to 4 nodes. The nodes are stand alone it terms of components and share only the dual power supplies in each block. Each node comes with a total of 5 network ports, as shown in the picture below.

Back_of_Nutanix

Image courtesy of Nutanix

The IPMI port is a 10/100 ethernet network port for lights out management.

There are two 2 x 1GigE Ports and 2 x 10GigE ports. Both the 1GigE and 10GigE ports can be added to Virtual Standard Switches or a Virtual Distributed Switches in VMware. From what I have seen people tend to add the 10GigE NICs to a vSwitch (of either flavour) and configure them in an Active/Active fashion with the 2 x 1GigE ports remaining unused.

This seems to be resilient, however I discovered (whilst reading documentation, not through hardware failure) that the 2 x 10GigE ports actually reside on the same physical card, so this could be considered a single point of failure. To work around this single point of failure, I would suggest incorporating the 2 x 1GigE network ports into your vSwitch and leave them in Standby.

With this configuration, if the 10GigE card were to fail, the 1GigE cards would become active and you would not be impacted by VMware HA restarting machines in the on the remaining nodes in the cluster (Admission Control dependant) .

Yes, performance may well be impacted, however I’d strongly suggest  alarms and monitoring be configured to scream if this were to happen. I would rather manually place a host into maintenance mode and evict my workloads in a controlled manner rather than have them restarted.

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!

Calling all Thin Client Vendors

Aside from my day job, buying a new house, studying for VCAP exams, presenting at VMUG’s (The Belgian VMUG is next week), I have a couple of personal side projects I’m working on, both virtualization related of course. The first exciting project is well under way and I hope to announce it very soon. They second is still in it’s infancy and is the reason for this blog post, so I’m hoping it works!

I’d like to reach out to all thin client vendors who offer  thin clients with Teradici PCoIP chips built in to ‘donate’ or ‘loan’  a unit to me for some testing. You may be thinking, I work for a well known virtualization consultancy, surely I have some contacts I could call upon. Yes, I do, however I want to be completely upfront and honest this probably wont lead to a sale and is not in anyway associated with Xtravirt. You may also be thinking why don’t you just go and buy one for yourself. I could, but I’ve just bought a house, also buying a single unit wont get me any relationship with a vendor. Whilst I’m not intending to pester any vendor for information, perhaps some questions may come from my testing.

So why provide me with a unit? Well, I’ll certainly blog about your kindness, so please ping me a message on Twitter and let’s have a chat!

 

Citrix PVS | Windows 7 BSOD

During a recent project, I was at the deployment stage of the PoC. This particular piece of work was using VMware vSphere as the underlying hypervisor, with Citrix XenDesktop as the broker solution and Citrix Provisioning server for the image deployment.

It was a relatively small PoC, just to test out the designs to ensure they would stand up in the pilot phase, and to ensure we had relevant communication ports open.

The install went very smoothly, until I started to create the VHD’s with Provisioning server and boot test machines from that VHD image. Whilst the image conversion completed without any ‘major’ errors in the log (there were a number, but not to worry about) and the image we copied was in perfect health, the VHD would constantly produce a BSOD.

Now, I had already followed Citrix recommendation to ensure the servers and the desktops were making use of the VMXNET3 network adapter. I had also installed the Microsoft hotfix described here to resolve the known issues with the VMXNET drivers to no avail.

After going through a few different troubleshooting steps mentioned in forums (such as removing the MS hotfix above, then removing the PVS software from the target, reinstalling the hotfix the the PVS software) I was starting to become a little frustrated. A colleague then cast his eye over everything when we discovered the the VMware tools were out of date on both the desktop image and the PVS server. Although these had been initially updated after the VM templates were deployed  the hosting infrastructure was upgraded from 5.0U2 to 5.1 U1 during that day, carried out by a separate team within the customers IT department. As soon as the tools were updated to the latest revision on both the PVS server and the desktop image, the image was re-imported into the PVS server, and as if by magic the issue was resolved.

Lesson learnt – Keep an eye on VMware tools versions and ensure (where possible) they are up to date and consistent when using Citrix PVS.

My Study… What’s Next?

I’ve decided, after a week break from study to pursue my next exam milestone(s), in the form of the VCAP exams for Data Center Virtualisation. It seems to make logical sense to focus on the Data Center design exam first, having just spent a lot of time studying for the desktop design exam. I’ve spent the past 18 months, more hands off the day to day administration of vSphere and focusing predominately on design work so, the VCAP-DCA will take a bit more effort wiping away the cobwebs, therefore I’m aiming to complete in the early part of next year.

I plan on completing study guides covering off the objectives in the same way I did for the VCAP-DTD. I appreciate many have done this before me, and there are too many sites to mention here, however I find this way of studying the most beneficial, therefore will continue, If I can help others in the process, all the better!

Before this however, and partly due to a change in direction in my work role to focus more towards private cloud, I took advantage of a recent discount offer and booked my VCP-IaaS exam, which I’ll study for alongside my VCAP-DCD studies. I’ve decided not to focus as much time writing study guides for the VCP exam, however decided I’d share a list of materials I’ll be using to focus on the VCP-IaaS.

  • The exam blueprint, the first port of call for any exam. I’ll download and review the blueprint, then refer back to this throughout my study to ensure I can confidentially cover off all the requirements in each objective.  I’ll also read all the suggested official documentation in the blueprint.
  • My home lab. You need hands on exposure on all exams. I’ll predominately be using the vCD appliance (which I already have setup) however I’ll install vCD in a RHEL server a few times, to ensure I can cover this off.
  • TrainSignal (or PluralSight if you prefer) offer three vCloud focussed training courses:
    • VMware vCloud Director 5.1 Essentials by Chris Wahl
    • VMware vCloud Director Essentials by David Davis and Jake Robinson
    • VMware vCloud Director Organisations by Jake Robinson

As the first title suggests, Chris Wahl’s series is based on 5.1, whereas the exam focuses on 1.5. There is still bucket loads of good information in here, so well worth watching. If you do not subscribe to TrainSignal, it truly is worth it, subscribe here!

If I use any further materials, then I’ll update this post. The VCAP-DCD study guides should also start coming fairly soon!

VCAP-DTD | What materials I used to study

As part of my recent studies towards the VMware VCAP-DTD I used various training materials, so, I thought I would cobble a post together letting everyone know what I used, and what I thought was best.

Before anyone asks, no, I didn’t use an exam cram, that’s what makes the VMware VCAP exams different to many other industry qualifications, it’s one you can be proud of achieving through dedication and hard work as you can’t cheat!

I was lucky enough to attend the two day instructor led View design workshop to kick off my studies, however I think this course can really be hit or miss depending on the students in attendance. Unfortunately, I found myself in a fairly quiet group, so most of the banter I looked forward to, discussing other peoples design decisions didn’t happen and at times I found myself and the instructor having one to one design discussions with the rest of the group looking on and sometimes looking a bit lost. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a dig toward the instructor, in fact I thought he was actually very good, if it wasn’t for his persistence with the remainder of the students it would have been a boring couple of days with little takeaway. Overall, I’d recommend the class, however just hope you get an active group if you are planning on attending. Even though the course wasn’t spectacular discussion wise, the course material was good and very comprehensive and ended up played a major part in my study.

After the course, with the exam booked (with plenty of time to study further) I downloaded the blueprint and used this as the base of my study. I can’t recommend highly enough to know the exam blueprint inside out. Everything asked of you in the exam is covered off in the blueprint. Read all the suggested material as everything is in there. Head over to Jason Langer’s site, he has kindly downloaded all the material and bundled together in a single zip file, even putting all the files into their respective objective folders. Good work Jas, thanks!!!

After reading through all the official VMware material, I re-visited some of the books I had in my collection around VMware View.  I’ve mentioned these before, they can be found here.

At this point, I started my own study guides, which of course can be found here. Where I took each objective from the blueprint and wrote study notes on each element to ensure I was going to be comfortable with every section of the blueprint. The info in my study guides is a mixture of real world experience and information obtained from all the above sources, but hopefully written in a way which is simple to understand and to digest. Hopefully it will assist many of you looking to sit the exam. They are not intended to suggest that the official courses are not worthwhile, or the books are not worth reading, far from it. I’ve just cobbled together my study notes and posted them in the hope they help others as they helped me pass the tough, but passable VCAP-DTD.

I also signed up to Trainsignal. At $49 a month with no contract tie-in, or $39 a month when you sign-up for a year, I think these are simply fantastic value for money. Whilst perhaps the material they have doesn’t have direct relevance to the VCAP-DTD exam, they do have a series on View, although more aimed at the VCP-DT, they have a series on VMware vSphere design by the one and only Scott Lowe which is simply brilliant and is a fantastic aid in this exam. I’ve started some of the other courses on their site recently to assist with other studies and I cannot recommend them highly enough. With their recent acquisition by Pluralsight, you now have a whole heap more content available at the same price as before!! If you are not already a member I’d seriously recommend you take a look here

I also wrote a post on the exam experience which can be found here

VCAP5-DTD Exam Experience

So, today, Tuesday 10th September 2013, I sat my first ever VCAP exam (the VCAP-DTD) and I’m delighted to say I passed. I thought, as I have blogged about the exam already and worked through the exam blueprint, I would talk a little about the exam and hopefully try and pass on some useful tips/information.

Disclaimer: I’ve obviously accepted the NDA before sitting the exam, so I will not release any direct information on the exam, so please don’t ask!

I’ve already blogged about the exam in some detail over on my VCAP5-DTD page so I won’t repeat that here, go take a look if you are not already up to date.

The exam itself is, as others have said in their exam experience blogs, is tough. Very tough. It not only tests your ability to design large scale and complex VMware View environments, you need to be able to design the supporting components that the View infrastructure will reside on (vSphere, Network and Storage).

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:

  • Time is of the essence in the exam, with 195 minutes available, I ran out of time when reviewing some the of the questions I flagged to return to at the end. Ensure you don’t get bogged down with the Visio style questions.
  • Take care to read the questions multiple times. At times, you may think you don’t have all the required information. It will be there, in-fact I found there was more than needed, so ensure you understand what the question is asking of you, especially with the Visio and drag and drop style questions.
  • Take extra laminate sheets in for your workings out. You WILL need them, I took 3 sheets and used up both sides of all, with little space for the last few questions.
  • In contrast to what I stated over on the VCAP5-DTD page, I did have access to a calculator within the exam. Perhaps they realised some of the maths you need to do is simply too much of an ask given the type of exam and time restraints. Perhaps others can let me know if they have experienced any different lately?
    • Even with a calculator, be prepared to size your designs from raw numbers.
  • Know how to size environments of all sizes. Ensure you know how many infrastructure components (vCenter, Security Servers, Connection Servers, Load balancers) are required to support varying sizes of scenarios.
  • Understand the storage options available to you in VMware View, and be prepared to be questioned on all of them.
  • Be prepared to answer question on VMware ThinApp and ensure you understand Load Balancing concepts and methods of 2 factor authentication.
  • Read the exam blueprint, know it inside out. It’s there for a reason and covers everything you need to pass the exam. I did, and I passed at first attempt.

With regard to study materials, what would I suggest? My VCAP5-DTD study guides of course, they helped me pass! Aside from these be sure to check my list of books, I used them all at various points, also check out the APAC vBrownBag’s previous recordings as these were also very valuable. Finally, after some general advice from my esteemed Xtravirt colleague Gregg Roberston, practise diagramming different scenarios. I got some Magic Whiteboard from Amazon and drew out countless scenarios until I could do them fairly quickly. It think this helped in the exam.

So, onto the next exam(s)… VCP-IAAS, VCAP-DCA and VCAP-DCD – Yes I am a glutten for punishment.

Thanks for reading and if you are sitting an exam soon, good luck!

VMW-LGO-CERTIFIED-DESKTOPDESIGN-K

VCAP-DTD | Objective 6.3 | Determine Management Requirements for a View Client Design

Determine patching requirements

Depending on the client being used there are a number of methods that can be utilised.

Zero clients have no operating system and no local storage, therefore no OS patches are required, not anti virus or anti spyware. There maybe occasional firmware updates to the hardware, however this will be managed by the vendors propriety software. Wsye for example, have Wyse device manager, Samsung utilise MagicRMS.

Thin Clients will again have their own management software that will allow for updates to be sent, however for those clients running embedded versions of Windows, patch updates and AV solutions will need to be managed via another product. Windows WSUS is an option, however there are more comprehensive solutions available such as Shavlik, Lumension and even SCCM.

Fat clients can continue to be managed as they have been managed previously.

Normally little consideration needs to be given to mobile devices as software is updated from their respective App stores. If your design will need to accommodate a large number of mobile devices, then a MDM solution should be considered.

Establish software distribution requirements

Most thin and zero clients will already come pre-installed with the View client so nothing will need to be installed here, the updates will be managed though the broker software.

For traditional fat clients, then GPO could be used, alternatively, Lumension or SCCM.

Identify client peripheral requirements

This has already been discussed in Objective 6.1, refer back to this post.

Establish security requirements

This has already been discussed in Objective 6.1, refer back to this post.