My date with the VCAP-DCA at VMworld…

After taking a small hiatus from blogging for a bit to deal with some awesome challenges at my day job, I have finally decided it is time for me to start studying for my VCAP-DCA exam. This post will not be about the materials that you can easily Google, or visit my VCAP Study Guide page, instead I will simply say that I have less than 90 days to get ready for my exam, which I scheduled while I’m out in San Francisco for VMworld 2014.

Over the course of the next 90 days, I will start digesting the Exam Blueprint and do some simple/complex walk-throughs of various topics that may or may not be on the exam.

To start with I will use these awesome materials listed below along with the latest version of the Pearson Vue VCAP-DCA study guide. My buddy, Wayne Conrad just picked this book up as he is studying for it as well.

VCAP5-DCA Information

Certification Path

VCAP5-DCA_20130623sm

Exam Blueprint

Autolab

Unofficial Exam Study Guide

vBrownBag Exam Study Guide – Nick Marshall

Mastering vSphere 5

Storage Implementation in vSphere 5

Studying isn’t fun unless you do it with some buddies, so we have been doing a small Google Hangout 2-4/month covering various topics as well, if you are interested check out the DFW VMUG Google+ Community Page for more details.

Check back soon for my first round of articles highlighting the exam blueprint and the books, labs, etc needed to get to studying for this beast of an exam!

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Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

First, I haven’t been ignoring my duties to this blog by not posting articles, the time at my job has kept me away from posting regularly scheduled articles but it hasn’t stopped me from producing some great topics for future articles, this being one of these.

ESXi5.5 Purple Screen of Death = Oh My!

In our quest to migrating our environment to ESXi 5.5 and View 5.3 we had to do some maintenance on some of our file servers, the quick and dirty was to build massive TB VMDK’s for robocopy jobs as we migrated to newer File Servers. Part of this process included kicking off Veeam backups of these temporary File Servers. During the course of the reverse incremental job (multiple rounds of robocopy!) we encountered some PSOD’s (purple screen of death) on the temporary cluster where the file servers were located.

Seeing as this was my first experience with a PSOD, yes I know I’m so lucky! I proceeded to establish a SR, support request, with VMware and Veeam. Then I began retracing my steps, trying to understand if it was a misconfiguration, something I didn’t enter correctly, etc. The cause of the host failures surprised me, considering it is such a big selling feature of ESXi5.5. What we discovered is that when you have a VMDK that is larger than 1.9TB, snapshots are in the SESparse format. There can be a memory heap issue related to ESXi5.5 that can cause host failure. So when we kicked off our Veeam Backups, Veeam uses the VMware Snapshot model for backups, the snapshot files were in the SESparse format and after 45 minutes the hosts failed.

The resolution from VMware was to reduce all VMDK’s to below the 1.9TB threshold and to wait patiently for the release of a upcoming patch to ESXi5.5 coming in July. Which brings me to my final thoughts, I have flashbacks of Jerry Springer: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

One of the big selling points for me about ESXi5.5 was the support for larger than 2TB VMDK’s think of the possibilities that this could bring an organization: Large File Servers, Exchange Datastores, SQL Databases, etc. But why? Why would you want to subject yourself, your company to the risk of placing all of your important files on one big drive, why not spread that risk out across multiple stores, servers, etc. It flies in the face of KISS, keep it simple stupid, that my friend Brad Christian constantly reminds me of!

So going forward, tread cautiously with each new feature a software comes out with, it may be great on paper, but does it really fit for your organization, your initiatives, your systems?

vSphere Virtual Machine Management Book Review

vSphere Virtual Machine Management

Ask anyone in this industry and they will tell you those pivotal moments in their careers when they were inspired, mentored, coached by a select few that sling-shot them to great times. I have been fortunate to have several of those people that I got to work with or mentored by that have pushed me in the right direction in my career. I met Rebecca Fitzhugh while attending my vSphere 5.1 Install, Configure and Manage required classroom training in 2012. She was a delight to have as a teacher not only because of her vast knowledge on the topic of vSphere and vCenter, but also because she taught more than the manual and showcased real world scenarios, that we all know so well aren’t normally covered in these types of classes although VMware does a better job than other companies! At the conclusion of the class we exchanged information knowing that there would be opportunities to network in the future. Fast forward two years, Rebecca and I continue to network and she pushes me to pursue higher-level learning from VMware. Because of her suggestions, I have attained my VCA-Cloud, VCA-WM, VCA-DCV, VCP-DCV and VCP-DT. I am also currently studying for my VCAP-DTA and DCA. She truly has been one of those people that have inspired me to push further in my career and reinforce good values when working with my clients.

Rebecca approached me at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco about a book she was writing about vSphere Virtual Machines, I was intrigued about this great opportunity for her and pressed her to keep me in the loop should an opportunity come up where I could partially return the favor for the knowledge she gave me. I am proud to be writing this review for her, because I know the knowledge that is in this book has already been put to use by me and will be by countless others. The book itself comprises of 326 pages and 10 chapters and is a nice balance of introduction, technical and deep dive with regards to vSphere VM’s.

The book covers a lot of ground for all aspects of a VMware Admin from new to experienced. The author gives a thorough explanation of what a virtual machine is and the components that make one up, how to create virtual machines, provisioning, creating templates and how to configure resource pools. This is a great book for any admin that interacts with VMware vSphere and vCenter. I particularly appreciated the fact that most of the concepts in this book are current as of vSphere and vCenter 5.5. I highly recommend this book for any die-hard VMware person or someone brand new to the software suite. Grab a copy today and see for yourself!

As a special treat to those are interested, for a limited time, if you tweet the following you can receive a free copy of her book!

Learn how to optimize your virtual machine using this new guide http://bit.ly/1jTgF53  by @RebeccaFitzhugh @VMwarevSphere #OVF #VMware

 

Cannot Uninstall View Agent – Persona Management Enabled

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 10.48.02 AM (2)

This morning I had an issue related to a full VM that required a uninstall/reinstall of the Horizon View Agent 5.2, we have been evaluating Persona Management and Folder Redirection on some View Pools. I typically follow these steps when performing a uninstall/reinstall of the View Agent:

  1. Put VM in Maintenance Mode from View Administrator Console
  2. Log in as Domain Admin (or elevated user above normal) to VM
  3. Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Horizon View Experience Agent > Uninstall
  4. Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > VMware View Agent > Uninstall
  5. Shutdown VM
  6. Power On VM
  7. Install Horizon View Experience Agent
  8. Reboot
  9. Install VMware Horizon View Agent
  10. Reboot
  11. Exit Maintenance Mode from View Administrator Console
  12. Confirm Agent is “Available”

So I began going through my 12 step process to repair a bad instance of the View Agent and came across an error I hadn’t seen before:

Screen Shot 2014-04-15 at 10.46.03 AM

I thought it strange that it wouldn’t let me uninstall the Agent when I wasn’t logged into the VM from a Persona Management enabled user. Upon further inspection I discovered that the Persona Management Windows Service was enabled and running. So now I have added a few steps to my uninstall/reinstall process as follows:

  1. Put VM in Maintenance Mode from View Administrator Console
  2. Log in as Domain Admin (or elevated user above normal) to VM
  3. Access services.msc – Stop VMware Persona Management Service and Disable Service
  4. Reboot VM and Log in as Domain Admin
  5. Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > Horizon View Experience Agent > Uninstall
  6. Control Panel > Add/Remove Programs > VMware View Agent > Uninstall
  7. Shutdown VM
  8. Power On VM
  9. Install Horizon View Experience Agent
  10. Reboot
  11. Install VMware Horizon View Agent
  12. Reboot
  13. Confirm that VMware Persona Management Service is set to “Automatic” and running
  14. Exit Maintenance Mode from View Administrator Console
  15. Confirm Agent is “Available”

Persona Management is a great tool to protect user data across floating pools for an even better end user experience. Hope this helps someone out, it made me scratch my head for a few minutes before I figured out what needed to be addressed.

vExpert 2014 Results!

VMware-vExpert-2014-400x57

VMware’s vExpert 2014 First Quarter results were released yesterday and the number or recipients has gone up to 754 from 581 last year. It is an honor to be included this year as it was my first year to participate in the vExpert Program. I have nothing but respect for John Troyer and Corey Romero and the VMTN crew for managing this honor.  Congratulations to all those returning and newly minted vExperts. You can find the full list here!

With this recognition, I will remain committed to providing quality posts and information on this blog, continue to serve the VMware community where I can and assist with local efforts regarding virtualization.

Build Custom ESXi 5.5 ISO using PowerCLI

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Here at work we are about to embark on a complete redesign of our virtual infrastructure from the ground up. As I’ve mentioned before with our IOPs issues with View, we went from PoC to Production without scaling all resources evenly. So starting from scratch means redoing everything, all the way down to standardizing ESXi ISO images. I have been attending vBrownBag’s (Professional VMware#AutomateAllThings  video session about how automation can help with everyday tasks to overhauling your environment.

Why not automate the creation of ESXi images for my various clusters? Great idea since each cluster has different NIC’s, Drivers, Graphics Cards, etc. so let’s throw all of my VIB’s into my image as opposed to doing it manually like I did during my vSGA evaluation.

To start you will need a few things to get started:

  • Vanilla ZIP instance of ESXi 5.5
  • All VIB’s that you want to load into your image
  • PowerCLI 5.5
  • MS PowerShell v2 (Running Windows 7 or 8 it will be installed)
  • Free Space on your Computer (kinda obvious but you never know!)

Now that we have everything let’s assume you have already installed PowerShell and PowerCLI on your workstation and are ready to start, if you haven’t here are some helpful links to aid you in installing those packages. Install PowerShell. Install PowerCLI. You probably received a prompt during the installation of PowerCLI talking about execution policy issues may arise, fear not we will take care of that right now. Navigate to your Start Menu or Desktop and locate the PowerShell icon, right click and select “Run as Administrator”. When PowerShell opens, run the following command:

Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned

Your screen should look something similar to this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.42.03 PM

You can close PowerShell since the remainder of the work will be done in PowerCLI, run PowerCLI (always run CLI as administrator) and you should see this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.43.29 PM

First let’s create a small folder structure to organize our custom ISO’s, me personally I am going to be building 3 ISO’s for three separate cluster configurations. I also wrote my scripts in Notebook++ so I can look at the individual lines for each function.

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 3.46.30 PM

Here is the framework for the script that I will run:

Get-PSSnapin -Name VMware.ImageBuilder

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\VMware-ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-depot.zip

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\igb-5.0.5.1-offline_bundle-1290233.zip

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\ixgbe-3.18.7-offline_bundle-1327252.zip

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\ESXi_Depot\Server_Cluster\NVIDIA-VMware-x86_64-319.65-1OEM.550.0.0.1331820-bundle.zip

Get-EsxImageProfile | Format-Table -AutoSize

New-EsxImageProfile -CloneProfile ESXi-5.5.0-1331820-standard -Name ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised -AcceptanceLevel PartnerSupported

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised -ExportToIso -FilePath C:\ESXi_Depot\BOXX_Cluster\ESXi-5.5.0.ServerCluster.Customised.iso

Let’s go through each step of this process and explain what each function does.

Get-PSSnapin -Name VMware.ImageBuilder

Get-PSSnapin is the call function to bring VMware Image Builder into PowerCLI if you don’t have it already loaded in your instance of PowerCLI you will need to run this command.

Add-PSSnapin VMware.ImageBuilder

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot is the call to add my ESXi image (ZIP format) and then all of my VIB’s to my image, each VIB requires a separate line.  After you run this command you will get a spit of like this:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.46.46 AM

Once you have added all of your VIB’s to the depot then we need to look at the actual ESXi image we introduced to the image builder and determine which profile we want to use, that is the intent of the Get-EsxImageProfile function. You will get a table of the profiles to choose from:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.51.07 AM

Next we use the New-EsxImageProfile to clone the profile and name it what we want!

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.16.28 PM

Finally we run the Export-EsxImageProfile function to compile our depot of VIB’s to produce our custom ESXi ISO as shown here:

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 1.18.27 PM

Now I have my custom image that I can load to my hosts when I do my complete virtual infrastructure redesign.

Big thanks to vStrong.info for his article on VMware Image Builder and Alan Renouf on getting PowerCLI setup.

Horizon View 5.3.1 is here with VSAN support!

Now that VSAN has become GA (General Availability) it makes sense that VMware will start pushing updates of it’s software offerings with VSAN support, Horizon View is no different!

What’s New in Horizon View 5.3.1

  • Requires vSphere 5.5.0 Update 1 or newer
  • Support for VSAN
  • 100 VM’s per Host using VSAN

Below is a list of links for all the vPieces to make your View VSAN environment come alive (some links require My VMware account to access):

vSphere and vCenter 5.5.0 Update 1

ESXi 5.5.0 Update 1

ESXi 5.5.0 Update 1 Readme

vSphere Client 5.5.0 Update 1

vCenter Server 5.5.0 Update 1 – Windows Instance

vCenter Server 5.5.0 Update 1 – Virtual Appliance

Horizon View 5.3.1 Feature Pack 1

Remote Experience Agent for 32-bit desktops

Remote Experience Agent for 64-bit desktops

HTML Access Web Portal installer

GPO bundle file

What’s Next?

I will be releasing my complete walkthrough of Horizon View 5.3 so stay tuned!

March DFW VMUG Mtg Wrap Up

Last Friday, the DFW VMUG hosted their latest meeting, held at Studio Movie Grille in Lewisville some of the best and brightest minds that play with VMware everyday were in attendance. PernixData and Arista gave some great presentations on their offerings and yours truly got an opportunity to share with the members about how our company is using Horizon View to take the desktop experience to the next level with SSD’s and virtualized graphics. If that wasn’t enough excitement, we got an opening day viewing of 300: Rise of an Empire (go see it now!)

PernixData

IMAG1556If you’ve haven’t been living under a rock then you’ve probably heard about this company called PernixData. Having vCelebrities like Frank Denneman doesn’t hurt but their solution to inadequate IOPS is making serious waves in the shared/converged storage market. We were fortunate enough to have Poojan Kumar, the CEO, in attendance and gave a great presentation into how Pernix got started, the value it can bring to any datacenter and where the company is going.

View in Construction

IMAG1559Scott Lowe challenged several members of the VMUG community to become mentors to the next generation of VMware Admins and guide them into presenting at VMUG’s. Tommy Trudgen and Brad Christian have been kind enough to dedicate a portion of their time to working with me on presenting at the DFW VMUG. I wasn’t expecting to present this early, a fellow VMUG member had a family emergency and I filled in for him, but why not talk about the stuff that I love playing with everyday….Horizon View and cool technology! I described my struggles with storage, successes with vSGA and some cool stuff we are playing with like Google Glasses and drone helicopters.

Arista

IMAG1560I had heard of Arista but didn’t quite know what they were doing these days. Arista Networks is the maker of several Software Defined Networking switches. Darrin Thompson gave an informative presentation on how Arista works with NSX and the upcoming standards of 10/40/100 Gigabit ethernet protocols. I was really impressed with the Extensible Operating System (EOS) that sits as a VM and manages the entire fabric, the concept of having one fabric versus isolated fabrics for switching and storage was new to me also. Arista is designed for larger environments but it’s benefits can be seen to smaller companies as well.

What’s Next for DFW VMUG?

The next quarterly meeting will be held in Ft Worth, with more information to come.

If you are in the DFW area and haven’t had a chance to make it out to a VMUG you owe it to yourself and your career to network with peers and learn about some awesome products, not to mention there is free swag and activities while you are there.

For more information about DFW VMUG visit the website, Google+ or Twitter.

vExpert 2014 is here!

Two weeks ago, the VMTN Blog was buzzing with exciting news, the Annual vExpert designation is upon us! What is a vExpert? I’m glad you asked, the VMware Technology Network recognizes “Experts” of virtualization each year in three categories: Evangelist, Customer and Partner. People can either nominate themselves or others during an application period, then vExperts are announced! That is way too simple of an explanation of what it is because there are a ton of benefits with the program, not to mention the honor of being recognized by your peers as a solid contributor to the amazing world of virtualization.

PKGuild has a very thorough breakdown of the vExpert program here.

Applications are being accepted until March 6th @ Midnight PST. If you know someone who has contributed above and beyond the call of duty and feel they should be considered nominate them, if you feel you are one of those contributors then go for it! There are some changes this year regarding quarterly nominations so read the blog post below for more details.

The vExpert membership is a high honor and recognition of those dedicated to serving the virtualization community.

The below information is from VMTN’s Blog Post regarding the vExpert 2014 program and application details:

vExpert 2014 applications are open

Each year, we bring together in the vExpert Program the people who have made some of the most important contributions to the VMware community. These are the bloggers, book authors, VMUG leaders, speakers, tool builders, community leaders and general enthusiasts. They work as IT admins and architects for VMware customers, they act as trusted advisors and implementors for VMware partners or as independent consultants, and some work for VMware itself. All of them have the passion and enthusiasm for technology and applying technology to solve problems. They have contributed to the success of us all by sharing their knowledge and expertise over their days, nights, and weekends.

vExperts who participate in the program have access to private betas, free licenses, early access briefings, exclusive events, free access to VMworld conference materials online, and other opportunities to interact with VMware product teams. They also get access to a private community and networking opportunities.

Changes for the 2014 vExpert Program
This year we are implementing two new changes to the vExpert program. The first change is fast track current vExperts into the 2014 program. If you are a current 2013 vExpert, your 2014 application process has been shortened. Since you are a proven vExpert all we want to know is what you have been doing since the May 2013 vExpert announcement. Simple, right?

The second change is quarterly nominations into the 2014 vExpert program. We will leave the application open year round and at the end of each quarter we will begin the voting process for new vExperts from the previous quarter. So even if you are not picked to become a vExpert 2014 right away, we will allow for quarterly voting and nominations.

Evangelist Path
The Evangelist Path includes book authors, bloggers, tool builders, public speakers, VMTN contributors, and other IT professionals who share their knowledge and passion with others with the leverage of a personal public platform to reach many people. Employees of VMware can also apply via the Evangelist path. A VMware employee reference is recommended if your activities weren’t all in public or were in a language other than English.

Customer Path
The Customer Path is for leaders from VMware customer organizations. They have been internal champions in their organizations, or worked with VMware to build success stories, act as customer references, given public interviews, spoken at conferences, or were VMUG leaders. A VMware employee reference is recommended if your activities weren’t all in public.

VPN (VMware Partner Network) Path
The VPN Path is for employees of our partner companies who lead with passion and by example, who are committed to continuous learning through accreditations and certifications and to making their technical knowledge and expertise available to many. This can take shape of event participation, video, IP generation, as well as public speaking engagements. A VMware employee reference is required for VPN Path candidates.

Apply for vExpert 2014
Current 2013 vExperts use the 2014 vExpert Fast Track application: http://bit.ly/1ikZ8hi
2014 vExpert application: http://bit.ly/LMJqB5
Recommend a colleague to apply for 2014 vExpert: http://bit.ly/1bobFfF

Questions & Updates

For questions about the application process or the vExpert Program, please send email to  vexpert@vmware.com. Be sure to follow @vExpert for updates on the 2014 vExpert program.

Thank you to all who have participated in years past,
Corey Romero & the vExpert Team

Horizon View & vSGA – Part 3 – Pool Creation and Results

In Part 2, we installed the VIB and configured ESXi to accept the graphics card. Now we need to build a pool of desktops to utilize vSGA and see the results compared to a non vSGA VM. Here’s a detail breakdown of the Pool Settings, I will walk through each step and notate some things I’ve learned about pool creation with regards to vSGA along the way.

  • Pool Type: Automatic
  • User Assignment: Floating
  • vCenter Server: View Composer Linked Clones
  • Pool ID: vSGA_Test_Pool
  • Pool Display Name: vSGA Workstations
  • Pool Description: Pool of Desktops evaluating vSGA Graphics Virtualization
  • General State: Enabled
  • Connection Server Restrictions: None
  • Remote Desktop Power Settings: Take No Power Action
  • Automatically Logoff After Disconnect: Never
  • Allow Users to Reset Their Desktops: Yes
  • Allow Multiple Sessions per User: No
  • Delete or Refresh Desktop Upon Logoff: Refresh Immediately
  • Default Display Protocol: PCoIP
  • Allow User to Choose Protocol: No
  • 3D Renderer: Automatic (512MB)
  • Max Number of Monitors: 2
  • HTML Access: Enabled
  • Adobe Flash Settings: Default
  • Provisioning – Basic Settings: Both Enabled
  • Virtual Machine Naming – Use a Naming Pattern: vSGATest{n:fixed=2}
  • Max Number of Desktops: 8
  • Number of Spare Desktops: 1
  • Minimum Number of Provisioned Desktops during Maintenance: 0
  • Provision Timing: Provision All Desktops Up Front
  • Disposable File Redirection: 20480 MB
  • Replica Disks: Replica and OS will remain together
  • Parent VM: TestGold
  • Snapshot: vSGA Prod SS
  • VM Folder Location: Workstations
  • Cluster: vSGA Cluster
  • Resource Pool: vSGA Cluster
  • Datastores: SynologySSD
  • Use View Storage Accelerator: OS Disks – 7 Days
  • Reclaim Disk Space: 1 GB
  • Blackout Times: 8-17:00 MTWTHF
  • Domain: View Service Account
  • AD Container: AD Path
  • Use QuickPrep: No Options
  • Entitle Users after Wizard Finishes: Yes

From those Pool Settings, there are a few things I want to point out. You must force all sessions to use PCoIP so the Automatic, Hardware and Software options are available. After all the secret sauce to Horizon View is PCoIP!

I set vSGA pools to “Automatic” so if I have other desktops on this cluster of hosts, they aren’t fighting for resources if they aren’t needed. I can relinquish GPU resources for other desktop workloads. The Gold Images we use contain some beefy applications (AutoCAD, Revit, Navisworks, etc) so we like our disposable disks large to handle central model caching and other cached loads to move outside of the persistent disk.

It seems silly but I like when my users can reset their own machine, the delay in help desk resolution depending on the current workload could be minutes, no need to have my users wait on us! For this test I am going to push it to 11 (512MB is overkill for most task workers but our CAD guys have enjoyed the higher GPUs).

Lastly, View Storage Accelerator, is a big help in reclaiming disk space 1GB at a time, I have set the blackout window for normal business hours to protect the SAN from unwanted IOPS spikes. You should see vCenter Notifications at 5:01….it looks like a stock ticker tape!

Now that we have built our Pool, we can entitle our group or users and let them log in and start playing with vSGA enabled virtual desktops.

Our test group of users were impressed with the fluid motion of Google Earth, AutoCAD, Revit and Navisworks. Is it amazing? Yes on the ability to provision multiple workloads to a single GPU and No because it doesn’t get us to that 100% physical experience just yet, is it a step in the right direction for fully virtualizing GPUs? Absolutely! I hope this small 3 part series has been informative, I will be back soon with a 3 part session for vDGA for Horizon View 5.3 but it would be nice to have a walkthrough on how to upgrade to Horizon View 5.3 first…..up next!