As 2014 is about to start, December is always a time to have internal IT meetings on how to improve processes, workflows and responsiveness. This year our IT department experienced positives and negatives in those categories from power outages to unexpected server down times. The big takeaway from 2013 was being a more proactive team when it comes to our virtual system and resolving problems before they become downtime scenarios.
So as I set out to do research (read: Google) on proactive monitoring solutions for our virtual infrastructure I came across several good candidates like SolarWinds, Xangati, vCOPS and Veeam. I think money grows on trees, my bosses think otherwise so I decided to deploy VeeamONE Free Edition to see if it cut the mustard for what we wanted and if the free version is an actual solution or just a digital carrot dangling in front of the budget waiting to be purchased.
There are a few differences/limitations to the free version, I have highlighted them below, now that we have that covered let’s find out if VeeamONE is really free and usable.
Installation was quite easy to stand up. Built out a VM with the necessary “hardware” requirements on a Windows 2008 R2 x64 box. Everything was pretty much next, next, next, except for a restriction we have on SQL creations, that was an easy fix. We simply ran the CREATE script that came packaged with the installer, ran it in SSMS and the database was created. Verified the default ports and linked VeeamONE to our primary vCenter server and assigned some users to the Users and Admin groups. Reboot once and everything came back up just fine.
Configuration was a breeze, there are two types of roles, Admins and Users, biggest difference I can see is Users are limited to what changes can be altered to events where as Admins have higher control. Email notifications are limited to the canned responses in the Free edition but is sufficient for what we wanted. Setup your SMTP settings and go! With notifications you can include known KB articles with a specific issue, this is a helpful step for your lower tier Help Desk guys if they don’t live on VMware’s KB site like I do! If you have a broader SNMP capture system, VeeamONE links up nicely. On to views and the dashboard.
Views and Dashboard
This is where I personally think VeeamONE shines, you have 3 views to choose from: Infrastructure, Business and Data Protection. In the Free Edition, Data Protection is unavailable as it relates to Veeam Backup & Replication and Enterprise Manager for a higher level view of your environment as it relates to your data integrity, this is a view we would like, but completely understand why Veeam left it out of the free edition. The Infrastructure View is where I live, it gives me a complete breakdown of my vCenter environment separated by Datacenter, Clusters, Hosts, VM’s, Resources and Datastores. As referenced in the free vs. paid chart, some notifications are limited but it is still a ton of information to get you closer to resolution.
My favorite is the Dashboard view, we are a VDI shop at so I built out a Kiosk Mode VM that auto loads the VeeamONE Client in full screen mode (pictured above) that gives me a dedicated station in my office to turn around and focus on a specific problem or event. Lately we have been testing some VDI users on a certain Synology DS3612XS with SSD’s (article coming soon!), it’s been nice to see statistics on performance and be alerted if the datastore spikes with latency.
VeeamONE Free Edition is a great compliment to your vCenter environment and has helped up isolate issues that we weren’t even looking for. Veeam has done a great job giving a lot of functionality in a free edition, there are some limitations that will make us seriously consider the paid version (Management likes reports!). But with some knowledge in PowerShell and PowerCLI vCheck can help with this! We have only had it up and running for 2 weeks and I obsessively knock out all the events that come across my inbox from the notification system. It has made us think twice about issues before diving in. I would highly recommend standing up the free version in your environment, what do you have to lose but a little more pro-activeness and maybe a different view on your vCenter environment!