Apr 09 2016

Your very last chance to nominate for Top vBlog categories and get your blog on the ballot

The vLaunchPad is completely up to date with all the new blog submissions that have come in the last few weeks, so if your blog is not listed there this is your very last chance to include it in the Top vBlog voting that starts soon. Use this form to get your blog added to the vLaunchPad.

Also if you haven’t nominated your own blog for the special voting categories this is your last chance for that, everything will be locked down by the end of next week so voting can begin. See this post for the category nomination form.

Apr 06 2016

What do Zerto and NASA have in common?

Answer: They’ll both be present at ZertoCon that is being held from May 23rd to May 25th in Boston, MA.

zertoconMore and more smaller technology companies are having their own user conferences which is a nice trend to see as they can often get drowned out in some of the larger conferences such as VMworld. I believe this is their inaugural conference so if you want to have a few days of deep diving on BC/DR with Zerto and also hear from a real-life NASA astronaut (Story Musgrave) and other great speakers then go sign-up.

It’s being held at the Boston Convention Center and features keynotes, session tracks, labs and of course the best part of these types of events, the networking with industry people. In addition they have a pretty kick ass band playing at their customer appreciation party, Lez Zeppelin. Even more cooler is their welcome reception on Monday will be held over at historic Fenway Park. So head on over to their event page and see for yourself what’s in store for you and get registered for a conference that promises to be out of this world, hurry up as early bird pricing ends 4/15.

Apr 04 2016

Nominations for the 2016 Top vBlog voting categories are now open!

vsphere-land-top-vblog2016-logoJust like prior years in addition to the traditional top 50 voting I’m opening it up to allow voting in specific categories as well to help distinguish certain types of blogs. To do this I have created a form to allow you to nominate your blog or website for one of the categories that I have defined if your blog fits one or more of the categories, if it does not then don’t nominate it as all blogs on the vLaunchpad will automatically be included in the general top blog voting.

This form is not the general voting poll for the top VMware/virtualization blogs, this form is only to nominate your blog for certain categories if it fits. Once the nominations are collected I will open the polls for voting for the top blogs where voters will be able to rate their top 10 blogs and also vote in each of the categories.

You should only nominate your own blog/website, these nominations will be used to populate the category choices when voting opens. If your blog doesn’t fit one of these categories then do not nominate it, all blogs on the vLaunchPad will automatically be included in the general top blog voting. If your blog is not currently listed on the vLaunchPad use this form to let me know (I still have some recent submissions that I am adding to it).

The criteria for the categories to see if your blog qualifies for them are as follows:

  • Best New Blog – Blog must have been started in 2015
  • Best Storage Blog – Must have greater than 50% posts as storage related
  • Best Independent Blog – Must not work for VMware or a Technology Partner (i.e. EMC, Dell, IBM, Unitrends, etc.), basically this means customers, resellers and integrators only.
  • Best Scripting Blog – Must have greater than 50% posts as scripting related
  • Best VDI Blog – Must have greater than 50% posts as VDI related
  • Best Podcast – Easy one, you must have a podcast
  • Best Female Blogger – Special recognition for women in tech, must be a female blogger

Top vBlog 2016 Category Nomination

Fields marked with an * are required

Mar 28 2016

Introducing Top vBlog 2016

It’s that time of year again, time to vote for your favorite VMware & virtualization blogs to see who are the most popular bloggers. Category nominations will open in a few days so you can submit your blog for special consideration in different categories and voting will kick off in about 2 weeks. But before we begin I wanted to recap last year, some changes for this year and most importantly introduce the sponsor for this year.

Last year there were over 2200 votes from over 60 different counties. There are 411 blogs in the voting last and there were 7 position changes in the top 10. There were 4 blogs in the top 25 that were not in there previously, 2 blogs that were newcomers in the top 25 and there was 1 blog new to the top 10. You can read more about last year here and here and watch the results show here.

This year the one major change will be to implement a minimum post requirement of 10 blog posts in 2015 to be on the voting ballot. You can read more about that here, this will dramatically reduce the number of blogs and make it more fair for the harder working bloggers and easier for the voters.

The other change is our sponsor, right after last year’s voting, VMTurbo jumped in and wanted to sponsor this year’s voting. So you have them to thank for helping make all this possible. This whole process is a lot of work and the coins are costly so give them your support and a shout out if you can. I hear they might also have some special surprises as well but I’ll let them announce that.

The final change is with the commemorative coin that bloggers that make the top 50 get. Of course we can’t use the same design each year so this year we have a new logo (RSS), new sponsor, slightly different design, new color (VMTurbo green) smooth sandblasting and a new edge design (pleated). Also I kept the same metals as last year, with the exception of the top 11-25 which has changed from antique silver to shiny nickel which pops a bit more. The size of the coin is also the same (2″). Below are last years coins and below that are the new design for this year, the design graphics don’t do it justice, it will look much better in person.

20150211_203831-small6cfa-28291-final-goldSo watch for more info here in the coming days, you can use the subscribe widget in the sidebar to be automatically notified when no posts are made so you don’t miss anything. All blogs that are listed on the vLaunchpad will be in the voting as long as you meet the minimum post requirement. It is mostly up-to-date with the exception of about a dozen submissions that I still need to add, if you don’t see your blog listed you can add it here. Stay tuned and let the voting begin!

Mar 18 2016

VMworld 2016 Call for Papers now open through April 12th

VMworldCFP-cropIt’s that time of year again (actually a few weeks earlier this year), time to submit your best session ideas for VMworld for that oh so slight chance that it might get accepted. Believe me there is a chance, I was presently surprised and shocked when I had one of mine accepted last year. They haven’t published the timelines for the whole CFP process yet but below are what they were last year with the exception of the first one. And don’t forget, VMworld is in Vegas this year!

  • Call For Papers opens March 16, closes April 12
  • June 12 (+/- a few days) Speaker Resource Center opens
  • June 23 Content Catalog goes live
  • July 14 (August 18 in Europe) Schedule Builder launches
  • 2 weeks prior to each show room assignments are announced

One thing I can’t stress enough is don’t wait for until the last minute and rush through it, plan it out now and write your submissions up so they are well thought out. From previous experience I can tell you to have a catchy title as it’s your sessions curb appeal. Many people won’t make it past your title and you miss a chance to interest them with your abstract if you have a boring and un-interesting session title. As a former content committee judge I can also tell you to spend some time on your abstract and don’t rush to throw something together without thinking it through. I’ve seen lots of session proposals that lacked any real detail about what the session was about. Here are some additional tips that VMware provides:

Tips for Creating Effective Titles for Submission

  • Do not use abbreviations or acronyms under any circumstances in the titles of your submissions.
  • Do not use competitor or other company names in your submission titles. If you are highlighting other companies within your session, you can adopt these names within the session description.
  • Start with the Benefit: Ex: Shorten Adoption Time by Using VMware’s XXX.
  • Use clear and concise language that attendees will immediately understand. The agenda will eventually host hundreds of sessions and attendees need to easily identify sessions of interest. Straight forward language like “Introduction to”, “Deep Dive” and “Case Study” are popular examples because they quickly tell the attendee important information about the session.

Typical Reasons for Abstract Rejection

  • The abstract is poorly written—ideas are not clear, goals are not established, there are grammatical errors, etc.
  • The content is not relevant to the indicated audience.
  • The session value is not clearly identified.
  • The session topic is not unique or overlaps with another more appropriate abstract.

Tips for Writing Winning Abstracts

  • Avoid beginning your session description with the phrase, “In this session we will…”, or “In this session you will learn…”. It does not add value and becomes tedious on an agenda of several hundred sessions. Instead try a rhetorical question, or an interesting industry data
    point to start your session abstract.
  • Ensure that what you submit will be what you present. Nothing will upset attendees more than signing up for a session that is not what it is advertised to be.
  • Your abstract should generate enthusiasm‐ make sure your content is relevant, but also generates excitement. What invaluable information will be shared during the session?
  • Thoughtfully leverage the tags in the system for topics, level, and roles. Who is the target audience? What products or topics does this session cover outside of the track name? What roles would specifically benefit from this session? Do not check every check box if your session is applicable to all.
  • Be Original – Attendees want to see new presentations that cover the latest innovations in technology. Take the time to create well‐written titles, abstracts, outlines, and the key takeaways for your submission. A thoughtful proposal will have a better chance of being
    selected and if accepted, will be seen by thousands of attendees once published in the course catalog.
  • Be Educational –VMware requires that sessions focus on the educational value of the presentation. Be sure that your proposal doesn’t sound like a sales pitch but rather an exciting opportunity for attendees to learn something new.
  • Be Timely – Make sure your topic is relevant to the audience you’re targeting. Review the content topics before submitting a session.

Read the full submission guidelines here and the FAQ here.

Mar 17 2016

Confused about OpenStack, want to learn more, check out this free eBook

I’ll freely admit, I know very little about OpenStack and I should probably study up on it as it’s gaining traction in the Enterprise. If you’re like me then you might want to check out this free E-Book that VMTurbo has just published entitled: OpenStack For Enterprise – The Tipping Point Cometh!

After reading this E-Book you’ll know:

  • A brief history of OpenStack
  • OpenStack releases, programs and their roles
  • How some of the biggest companies are adopting and using OpenStack
  • And much more…


Mar 16 2016

vSphere 6 Update 2 now available – includes VSAN 6.2

VMware just released the latest version of vSphere, version 6 Update 2 which of course contains all the new enhancements in VSAN 6.2. Despite VSAN being embedded in ESXi, VMware treats VSAN almost as a separate product and as you may have noticed the version between vSphere (6.0 U2) and VSAN (6.2) doesn’t really match despite them being in the same code base. It would be nice if they would combine the versioning to be less confusing and make the vSphere release as 6.2 as well. You’ll also notice their is no mention of the new VSAN enhancements in either the ESXi or vCenter Server release notes. In addition to ESXi & vCenter VMware also just updated vRealize Log Insight & Orchestrator and Data Protection, you can see all the downloads on this page.

Anyway here are some links to get you started with this latest release:

Release Notes:


VSAN 6.2:

Mar 14 2016

Happy Birthday VVols – VMware provides a one year update on adoption

VVols-bday1-cropOne year ago vSphere 6.0 was released and along with it came the new Virtual Volumes (VVols) storage architecture for shared storage. Many years in the making VVols revolutionized how storage arrays interact with VMs going from the archaic LUN-centric model to a new VM-centric model. VMware just published a blog post on this 1 year milestone for VVols and I thought I would comment and provide my perspective as well.

In a recent blog post VMware published some stats on VVol deployment that are supposedly based on real-life customer adoption but I don’t feel their numbers provide much meaningful information on how customers are using VVols. To be honest their numbers don’t make sense to me, they stated the following in their blog post:

“The median number of datastores deployed by a customer using VVols is two, serving on average just over 30TB of capacity with about half of that consumed by Virtual Machines.”

VVols doesn’t use datastores, it uses Storage Containers which is a purely logical entity as their is no physical storage assigned to a Storage Container. In most cases you are only going to use a single Storage Container as their isn’t too much benefit to using multiple storage containers besides logically separating VMs on a storage array. So when they say 2 datastores that’s confusing, again there are no datastores, are they referring to Storage Containers, if so I would think more people are using one then 2.

Next on capacity, with VVols their is no over-provisioning like you do with VMFS so their is no wasted space, you are using exactly the amount of space that your VMs need. So to say that you have 30TB of capacity allocated to VVols with only half that used by VMs doesn’t add up. Your VVol capacity should exactly equal the capacity used by your VMs on VVol storage, again this is confusing.

One metric that they don’t provide which I feel would be the most useful is the average numbers of VVols associated with a VM. This would be a key metric that would help determine how many VMs an array could support based on vendor max VVol limitations. This will vary by customer largely based on snapshot usage but I’m always curious to see what customers are averaging with this.

They mention VVol use cases and not being sure how customers are using them, I think at this point it is more dev/test, low hanging fruit apps that aren’t mission critical as most people are still testing the VVol waters right now before going all in. They also mention the benefits and highlight snapshots, I agree this is a big one along with space reclamation and no more over-allocating space. The new snapshot mechanism that VVols uses will have a big impact on backup efficiency as I highlighted in this post.

They talk about the partner ecosystem which is still a work in progress, they show a lot of partner logos but only 14 of them support VVols after one year, I did an update on that a few weeks ago. It’s nice to see VVols hit the one year milestone and start to mature and to see customer interest and adoption in VVols grow. I think it will take another year and another big vSphere release though before it gains good momentum much the same way that VSAN did (it turned 2 years old this month). For more on my perspective on customer adoption of VVols you can read this post I did a few months back.


Update below from Ben Meadowcroft at VMware that clarifies this, author of the blog post and product manager, thanks Ben!:

I appreciate the write up and commentary on my blog post. There are a couple of items I’d like to clarify and add some context to if I may:

> VVols doesn’t use datastores, it uses Storage Containers

Storage Containers are the array side construct but within vSphere the storage container is exposed and consumed as a datastore. When you want to expose a storage container to vSphere you are in fact adding a new datastore to the inventory.

> In most cases you are only going to use a single Storage Container as their isn’t too much benefit to using multiple storage containers besides logically separating VMs on a storage array. …if so I would think more people are using one then 2.

I agree that the primary reason why you would want to do this are logical separation, perhaps taking advantage of vSphere permissions to restrict access to specific datastores to different users for example. This is why it is important to note that a storage container is exposed as a datastore within vSphere and so you get all the permissions capabilities that you previously had with the new storage model as well. Another (and probably more likely) explanation would simply be that some customers are following old habits, perhaps trying VVols on a couple of clusters and deciding to carve it out as a container per cluster say.

> Next on capacity, with VVols their is no over-provisioning like you do with VMFS so their is no wasted space, you are using exactly the amount of space that your VMs need. So to say that you have 30TB of capacity allocated to VVols with only half that used by VMs doesn’t add up. Your VVol capacity should exactly equal the capacity used by your VMs on VVol storage, again this is confusing.

This is a good point, there is a difference between the consumption on the array with VMFS and VVols that is an important consideration with VVols. The numbers from my blog are taken from what is reported by the datastore metrics. While the storage container is a logical entity it does have an associated capacity value (that is reported via VASA and reported against the datastore metrics received by VMware). It is this capacity that is picked up in the reports in the post. You are correct to highlight that the VVol storage container is not consumed at configuration time as a LUN with VMFS would be. I consider the capacity associated with the storage container to be more like a logical limit on the capacity that can be consumed by the container (and as it is logical it can be adjusted). I apologize that this was confusing, I can see how it could have been communicated more clearly.

Thanks again for your write-up, your article are a great resource and always an interesting read.

Mar 09 2016

Interesting lawsuit against VMware regarding their use of Linux in ESXi

I came across this one a few weeks ago and thought it was interesting. In a nutshell one the biggest contributors to the Linux kernel (Christoph Hellwig) is trying to sue VMware over GPL (General Public License) violations from VMware taking the Linux kernel and modifying it for use with their own ESXi vmkernel. As you may know VMware has longed used the Linux operating system in both the ESX & ESXi hypervisors. ESX used a almost full-blown Linux install as part of the Service Console and ESXi used a smaller and streamlined Linux shell called BusyBox that serves as the console for ESXi. VMware essentially took the Linux code and modified it into their own module that they call vmklinux.

Well one Linux developer didn’t like what VMware was doing with the Linux code that they were using in ESXi and tried to get them to comply with the terms of the GPL licensing for Linux. VMware attempted to comply in some areas and refused in others which prompted the lawsuit. This diagram below from the Software Freedom Conservancy is a good depiction of how VMware blended Linux with their own vmkernel:

linux-vs-vmkernel_enFrom reading through the documents that are published it’s not completely clear what they are wanting from VMware. It looks like they are trying to get VMware to publish the complete source code for vmklinux or quit using it entirely. Apparently VMware has requested all court documents not be released to the public as it contains many examples of their source code. It appears that they have a pretty strong case against VMware but I can see this one dragging on for many years and by that time VMware may have dumped the Linux code for something else that they developed. You can read about the latest court updates that occurred a few weeks ago in this blog post from someone who attended it. You can read the whole FAQ on the case from the SF Conservancy that provides a good overview of the case and is an interesting read.

Mar 07 2016

Has VMware jumped the shark?

VMware has been in the spotlight a lot recently in regards to some business level news about the state of the company. On one hand you see them declared one of the best companies to work for, but on the other hand you see that they are laying off people and there seems to be a leadership revolving door. In this post I wanted to give my thoughts and perspective on this news about VMware.

Before I begin I want to point out how many years ago many people were stating that VMware might be the next Novell who’s Netware product  was the dominate player in the user networking/file sharing realm. I personally worked with a lot of Netware installations back in the day. The other players in that biz were Linux and OS/2, and of course Microsoft Windows (NT/Server). The major threat to Netware was Windows and by 2000, Novell was in major decline and eventually faded into tech obscurity.

The similarities between VMware and Novell are mainly that Microsoft is the biggest threat to their business and they were both market leaders by a large margin, but that’s where the similarities end as VMware has done an excellent job adapting and evolving and not becoming a one trick pony like Novell largely was. Despite the claims that Hyper-V would eventually crush vSphere as it was embedded into Windows, that hasn’t happened and VMware still enjoys a very big slice of the hypervisor market share and I don’t see that declining very much in the future.

Let’s start with VMware being named one of the best places to work by Fortune magazine. Not sure what the process is for picking that is, VMware is listed as #40 (Google is #1), I have never worked for VMware but from what I’ve seen and heard I think that is well deserved. They seem to treat their employees the right way, have a wonderful campus and people I know genuinely seem like they love working there. It’s nice to be recognized on this list but it really doesn’t have much bearing on how successful their business is. On a side note I was actually pictured in Fortune magazine back in 1995 when they did best states to work in before they picked the best companies to work at. That’s me front and center below.

fortune-me-cropSo if VMware is such a great company to work for why are so many executives abandoning ship? I’m sure they all had their own reasons but one of the biggest influences is undoubtedly the upcoming EMC-Dell merger. When companies merge or are bought out, management is usually the first thing that gets scrutinized and cut. If I was on the management team at EMC or VMware I would definitely be nervous and maybe proactively looking for greener pastures with better job security. It also doesn’t help that EMC has been a constant nagging parent to VMware which makes VMware management constantly prone to scrutiny and second guessing.

So management is a bit unstable at VMware, is that such a big deal though, what’s most important as John Troyer point’s out in his latest Tech Reckoning Dispatch is that the smart techies that are the worker bees at VMware are staying put. That’s whats most important to a company, their intellectual property, the management ladder will eventually sort itself out, the VMware ship is heading in the right direction and their are still plenty of good management types there. Personally I think the management revolving door is more FUD and less a legitimate concern. However I think VMware would of thrived a lot more had they remained a truly independent company without being owned by any other company.

So has VMware jumped the shark? Maybe, maybe not, I think their glory days are definitely over and it’s reality check and tighten the belts time at VMware. VMware recently announced their first ever large scale lay-offs, to me that’s not a big concern, it’s just them right-sizing the business as they prepare for tougher times. Microsoft still remains a legitimate threat along with other big players and of course the whole OpenStack movement has gained momentum. VMware definitely has it a lot tougher today then they did 5 years ago and one big reason for that is that almost all of their once valued technology partners are now mainly competitors to VMware. Back when VMware only sold a hypervisor product their partners built a very strong ecosystem around them which made for a powerful combination. Now that VMware has extended their line-up into just about every area including networking, storage, management, data protection, cloud, automation, etc. there is a lot more friction between VMware and it’s partners and of course competition.

VMware may have some tough days ahead of it but they have proven very resilient and will persevere and remain a dominate player. VMware is a software company, there overhead is mainly employees which is also their best asset. Once the acquisition process is over and management solidifies I think you’ll see VMware stay strong and remain focused without any chance of becoming a footnote in tech history like once dominate companies such as Novell, NetScape and Atari eventually became. Where VMware once swam in a mostly empty sea, they now swim in a sea full of sharks and only time will truly tell but my money is on VMware staying afloat and remaining strong and relevant.

Mar 04 2016

Some Friday vHumor for you…

I’ve seen Craigslist used for many different things but this is the first time I’ve ever seen someone try and get VSAN tech support on Craigslist. I can only imagine the responses they will get. While you’re there it’s always fun to read the Craigslist Best Of posts


Feb 29 2016

It’s the end of the road for these VMware products in 2016

I was browsing through the latest docs in the VMware KB this week and noticed one describing the end of availability of vSphere Enterprise, vSphere with Operations Manager (vSOM) Standard and Enterprise edition. That got me to browsing through VMware’s product lifecycle matrix which provides dates for every VMware products on GA, end of availability, end of support and end of technical guidance. Going through the huge list (VMware has so many products past and present), these are the key ones listed that are ending support in 2016:

  • VMware App Volumes 2.5, 2.6, 2.7 – 2016/12/09
  • VMware Data Recovery 2.0 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware EVO:RAIL 1.0 and 1.1 – 2016/09/09
  • VMware EVO:RAIL 1.2 – 2016/12/10
  • VMware Fusion 7.x – 2016/03/03
  • VMware NSX for vSphere 6.1 – 2016/10/15
  • VMware vCenter Log Insight 2.0 – 2016/06/10
  • VMware vCenter Operations 5.8.5 – 2016/12/31
  • VMware vCenter Server 5.0 and 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware vCenter Site Recovery Manager 5.0 and 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware vCenter Update Manager 5.0 and 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware vCloud Automation Center 5.2 – 2016/12/10
  • VMware vCloud Networking and Security 5.5 – 2016/09/19
  • VMware vRealize Operations 6.0 and 6.1 – No earlier than 2016/12/09
  • VMware vSphere Data Protection 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware vSphere Replication 5.1 – 2016/08/24
  • VMware Workstation 11.x – 2016/06/02

Again these are the end of support dates for these products which means if you have SnS, VMware offers maintenance updates and upgrades, bug/security fixes and technical assistance until these dates. After these dates they have typically have a technical guidance phase which lastes for a fixed duration and provides support through their self-help portal only (no telephone support), they do not offer new hardware support, server/client/guest OS updates, new security patches or bug fixes during this phase. You can read more about these different product support phases here. So for those of you still on vSphere 5.0 & 5.1, the clock is ticking, better start planning your upgrades.

Feb 28 2016

vBlogger Spotlight: Duncan Epping


Top vBlog 2016 is about to kick off so I’m continuing my vBlogger Spotlight series that I started last year to shine the spotlight on several prominent bloggers in the community to give you some insight into their experiences with blogging. Today’s spotlight is on Duncan Epping, the un-disputed king of the bloggers and voted #1 top vBlog for 7 years straight. Duncan sets the bar pretty high for how a virtualization blog should be run and has demonstrated all the characteristics of a great blogger when it comes to longevity, frequency and quality. Over the 7 year history of Top vBlog nobody has come close to knocking him off that #1 spot and as he is showing no signs of slowly down it’s unlikely that anyone ever will. So without further ado enjoy a Q&A session with Duncan Epping, you can read the other vBlogger Spotlight series here.

What year did you start your blog?

[Duncan] I started my blog in December of 2007. Had been playing around with a theme and a logo though for a couple of weeks. First article was on 18 December, 2007.

What inspired you to start a blog?

[Duncan] I’d been active with regards to writing for a long time, but on a completely different topic: hardcore punk / metal core. I was working for a consultancy company in the Netherlands and needed a place to document my finding, share my problems and solutions. I was an avid reader of Mike Laverick and Scott Lowe’s blog and figured that I could do something like that. Considering I would normally write multiple CD reviews a week and do interviews, I figured when I stopped with the online community that this tech blogging would be a nice way to fill that gap. I never expected it to take off like this though.

So what inspired the blog name?

[Duncan] When I started blogging most people had a “vSomething” name. None of them really stood our for obvious reasons. I wanted something different, something that stood out, something that sounded cool and was easy to remember. Simply looked at my fav. bands and song titles, and this name came out. (Based on Old Yellow Bricks by Arctic Monkeys)

Describe your early blogging experiences and how you have evolved over the years?

[Duncan] To be honest, I’ve always blogged about the things that I am passionate about and things I encounter. Whether that was an issue discovered at a customer site, a new product or something cool I learned. I don’t think that has changed. My blog is still my blog and usually reflects what I am working on, or what I am thinking about. The big change over the years probably has been moving from shorter “I had this problem and this is how you fix it” articles to more “educational” pieces where I explain (short or long) how something works. But still, I very much enjoy doing the “problem/solution” articles.

What has kept you blogging over the years and not quitting at it?

[Duncan] Some seem to think that blogging is part of my job, it isn’t. Sure VMware highly appreciates all that I do, but there are no goals or even expectations when it comes to blogging. To be honest, it is who I am. I’ve been writing for such a long time now, I need it to stay sane.

When you are not blogging or working what do you enjoy doing?

[Duncan] I do many different things, but typically: running, watch my kids practice taekwon-do, crossfit/weightlifting, day trips to cities / museums etc. Basically a lot :)

What was your best experience or fondest memory related to blogging?

[Duncan] Don’t really have a fondest memory or “best experience”, but I can tell you that it is an awesome feeling when you walk through the VMware headquarters and you see an engineer reading your blog… Or you see your blog being referenced on an internal engineering wiki page. It is great to see that it doesn’t only help users / architects, but also helps people internally. I guess the biggest compliment though was when the HA and DRS team bought a bunch of copies of the HA/DRS deep dives and gave them to new employees and interns… they could not ask any questions until they finished the book. That was definitely the best compliment ever, and Frank and I smiled from “ear to ear” :)

If you had to choose a theme song for yourself what would it be?

[Duncan] You really had to ask me this question, man there are so many great songs I wouldn’t even know where to start. I also listen to so many different styles of music it is very hard to pick a song. But if I have to pick one, State of Love and Trust by the almighty Pearl Jam. Probably my all-time fav. song. I can listen to that one a million times in a row and it doesn’t bore me and I find myself always singing along the words “And I listen for the voice inside my head Nothin’, I’ll do this one myself…”

Any advice for others who are new to blogging?

[Duncan] Just do it, but if you start… Don’t do it because you want to be a vExpert, or because many others are doing it. Do it because you enjoy writing, you enjoy sharing knowledge / experience, do it because you want to learn. If you do it for other reasons chances are big you won’t last long, as it is a lot of work.

What’s your favorite tech gadget?

[Duncan] Not sure I have one really, I spend a lot of time on my phone checking the different social networks and keep up to date, but not sure it is my favourite as it also causes me to sometimes forget what is happening around me. I try to stay away from my phone as much as possible in the evening, but it is very tempting. Love/Hate relationship I guess.

Feb 27 2016

Worried about Leap Year bugs in 2016, VMware has you covered

bkpam2160482_12355920_1018130441584156_2007192750_oDate anomalies such as Y2K, Leap Years, and the infamous1970 bug can be disruptive if software code is not designed to handle them properly. You might remember the infamous VMware time bomb bug a few years back which made them look bad. In 2016 we once again have a Leap Year and VMware has gone out and tested the impact of that date across their entire product line to ensure nothing is impacted by this once every four year date occurrence. VMware has published the results of their testing in a KB article which appears to cover all of their products and which are unaffected by Leap Year. I expect they didn’t test every past version of these products but as Leap Year isn’t really new and occurs every four years I don’t expect you’ll see any issues regardless of which version of a VMware product you are on. So with this reassurance in mind hopefully you will sleep better Sunday night and not get woken up by any surprises.

Feb 26 2016

Why and how to find out if your I/O Adapter will support Virtual Volumes (VVols)

VMware’s new Virtual Volumes storage architecture required some changes to the SCSI specifications for block arrays to support the new sub-LUN model that VVols uses. Because of this it required I/O vendors to update their software to be able to support the new Protocol Endpoint component in VVols that is used as the data path between hosts and VMs (VVols) residing on storage arrays. Early on after VVols was released many I/O vendors were in catch-up mode to introduce support for this into their I/O adapter firmware. As a result there is a good chance that the I/O adapter that you are using may not work with VVols or may require a firmware upgrade to support it.

Let’s first look at what changed with VVols that required changes to be made to I/O adapter firmware to support VVols. A traditional block I/O adapter connects to a LUN on a storage array where your VMFS datastore is located. To connect to the LUN it simply needs the data path information (WWN) which includes HBA #, controller and of course the LUN ID of the volume associated with the VMFS datastore. You’ll see this in the vSphere client when selecting an I/O adapter with a syntax similar to vmhbaAdapter:CChannel:TTarget:LLUN (i.e. vmhba1:C0:T3:L1).

VVols introduces the concept of Secondary LUN IDs which is essentially an additional layer of LUN numbering that supports a lot more sub-LUNs than a array traditionally supports. The way this works is that a host will connect to a special Administrative LUN on the storage array via the Protocol Endpoint. This Admin LUN has no storage allocated to it and serves as a gateway to the sub-LUNs beneath it, it’s LUN ID is usually greater than 255 to identify it as a non-data LUN. A host cannot connect directly to a sub-LUN and must go through the Admin LUN to get to it. These Secondary LUN ID’s are provided to a host via the VASA Provider, so you can see why it is an important component. You can also see why direct to SAN backup is not supported with VVols as you cannot connect to a sub LUN without going through a ESXi host. The relationship between these components is outlined in the figure below:

VVol-archThe architecture is a bit complex and introduces additional identifiers beyond the LUN ID to connect to VVols on the array. These additional identifiers include secondary level IDs (SLLID), VVol IDs and Reference counts, the PE LUN still has a traditional WWN associated with it. Now while both block and NFS arrays utilize protocol endpoints and SLLIDs, the special Admin (PE) LUN only applies to block storage arrays, if you are using a NFS array with VVols this doesn’t apply as their is no special PE LUN.  With block arrays PEs are discovered via an in-band path using the standard SCSI command, REPORT_LUNS which reports the WWN of the PE, with NFS PEs are discovered via an out-of-band path using an API which returns the IP address and mount point of the PE. PE LUNs on block storage are recognized differently from traditional data LUNs as they have a special conglomerate bit set (LU_CONG).

VMware has patented this new storage architecture that they refer to as “Computer system accessing object storage system“, here are a few diagrams from the patent, if you want to deep-dive into this new architecture give the patent a read.

vvols-patent3-4vvols-patent1-2This new sub LUN architecture required VMware to submit update proposals to the T-10 committee for SCSI specifications to support it and the end result of all this was I/O adapters had to be updated to support this as well.

So know we know the why, let’s look at the how, as in how do I know if my I/O adapter will support VVols? Perhaps the quickest and easiest way is to simply look it up on the VMware HCL. If you go the VMware HCL and select I/O Adapters you will notice a new Feature there that you can select that is called “Secondary LUNID”. You can simply select that feature and select your I/O Adapter brand name, optionally the device type (i.e. FC) and then search as shown below.

VVol-hcl1In the results you will see the firmware versions needed to support VVols and links to any special drivers that might be needed for ESXi to support it as shown below.

VVol-hcl2From what I’ve seen there are some I/O Adapters that will work using the standard ESXi image, some require custom server ESXI images (i.e. HPE, Dell) and other that require you to download and install a driver into ESXi. You can see many of these in the vSphere Drivers/Tools download page.

One thing to note is if your I/O Adapter does not support VVols or does not have the firmware to support it you will see this error in your vmkernel logs:

Sanity check failed for path vmhbaX:Y:Z. The path is to a VVol PE, but it goes out of adapter vmhbaX which is not PE capable. Path dropped.

To check if your HBA is VVol capable you can run this command on your ESXi hosts: esxcli storage core adapter list , you should see Second Level Lun ID (SLLID) listed under the Capabilities column if the I/O Adapter supports VVols as shown below, VMware has a KB on this as well.

VVol-pe-check2Once you are sure your I/O Adapter has the required firmware and the proper ESXi I/O driver is present you can check from the host to see if it is able to recognize the Protocol Endpoint (Admin LUN). You’ll need to make sure that your VASA Provider is enabled and setup before you can do this though. Once that is setup you can use the esxcli command run from each host to see if the PE is visible to it, the syntax for the command is esxcli storage core device list –pe-only as shown below.

VVol-pe-checkIn the output that is produced if you see a value of “true” for “Is VVOL PE” that confirms that the host is able to connect successfully to the array PE to access VVols. Often times this will be false if your I/O adapter does not support VVols or VVols is not setup correctly.

So there you have it, it may seem a bit complicated but there is a good chance that your I/O Adapter already supports VVols and you really won’t have to do anything to start using it. It’s always a good thing to check though and make sure your I/O Adapters and storage arrays have the required firmware level to support VVols. Hopefully this gives you a better understanding of how VVols works under the hood and the relationships between hosts, protocol endpoints and VVols.

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