vSphere 5 Storage: Yet Another Reason To Upgrade …

By | VMware, vSphere | No Comments

vSphere Version 4 previously had an absurdly low limit for iSCSI and Fiber Channel datastores at 2 Terabytes –512KB.  

Why do I say absurdly low?  

2TB isn’t that much these days and that is especially true when running SQL, Oracle, and Exchange servers. Files servers are almost always beyond the 2TB limit. With these limitations many companies were forced to commit to continuing to run servers physically. This leads to greater cost, low utilization … the list goes on and on.

Along comes vSphere 5 and I am positive in my assertion that it is the most well rounded and thought out version yet. LUNs can now be up to 64 TB in size! File sizes are still limited to 2TB –512K, but when using raw device mapping, as you normally would for such a large database, you also can present a physical RDM up to 64TB. 

Not to mention, VMFS-5 has a number of new space saving features such as smaller sub blocks and small file support (1KB or less).  

What does this mean?

I think it means we have finally eliminated the last reason to keep any server physical no matter what it is or does.

Photo Credit: jamiesrabbits

Don’t Get Hung Out To Dry With The HCL: There’s OneCommand Manager for VMware vCenter …

By | Cisco, How To, View, VMware, vSphere | No Comments

Is nothing sacred?

As the professionally paranoid, we know all too well that we cannot take anything for granted when deploying a new solution.

However, one list that has long gone un-scrutinized by the typical IT professional is the published VMware Hardware Compatibility List. A fellow friend of mine in the IT space recently underwent the less than pleasant experience of having the beloved HCL fail him – resulting in the worst kind of IT issue: intermittent complete outages of his VMware hosts. He was hung – no vMotion – the only course of action being to reboot the ESXi host and pray the VM’s survive.

With weeks between host outages, the problem was almost impossible to pinpoint. Through detailed troubleshooting eventually the breadcrumbs led to the 10G Qlogic single port converged network adaptor (CNA). You’ll be as surprised as my friend was to find that this particular card is well documented as “supported” on VMware’s HCL.

Yes! Betrayed by the HCL! Making matters worse is the fact that the card is also fully supported by HP in his new DL385 G7 servers, as well as the Cisco Nexus switch into which it was plugged. While Qlogic is a well established player in the HBA/CNA space, their email only support did not live up to the Qlogic reputation. My friend and his entire team spent countless hours working on the issue with minimal to no support from Qlogic.

Backed into a corner they decided to take a chance on Emulex OCe11102-FX converged adapters, another formidable player in the market. Issues did arise again – but not stability issues: CIM functionality issues. Unlike their competition, Emulex stepped up to the plate and served up a home run. They took the time to recreate his issue in their lab and boiled it down to the order of the CIM software.

OneCommand Manager for VMware vCenter was then installed. Once the Emulex CIM was installed prior to the HP CIM, my friend finally achieved sustained stability and solid CIM functionality. Some lessons that were learned or reinforced by this experience:

  1. Make certain the hardware you are looking to invest in is on the VMware HCL.
  2. Google the specific hardware for reviews and/or comments on the VMware support forums.
  3. Research that the hardware vendor you select offers phone AND email support – not just email support.

Photo Credit: gemtek1

VMware View Client: It’s All Fun And Games Until Someone Can’t Remotely Log On …

By | How To, View, Virtualization, VMware, vSphere | No Comments

…  to their virtual desktop while traveling in Europe.

Why is this issue occurring?

Did you configure the vSphere environment correctly?

Did the View Administrator make a change that you are unaware of?

Where is the documentation binder, if you even have one?

Where should you check first?

Since we are focusing on a remote virtual desktop, let’s trace from the client into the virtual environment … similar to following the OSI model from the Physical Layer up to the Application Layer until the problem is found. The exception is that we are following the issue from outside our network in – reference the diagram below:

[iframe src=”” width=”615″ height=”325″]


In order for our scenario to play out, let’s assume the following:

  1. A virtual machine (VM) has a connection to the virtual network.
  2. A desktop pool has been created with a dedicated desktop for the user.
  3. DNS is functioning properly – forward and reverse in the environment.
  4. SSL is configured correctly.
  5. The user is part of the proper group with appropriate permissions and entitlements.
  6. Networking on the virtual desktop is configured correctly.
  7. There are NO issues with the VM operating system (OS).
  8. Ports are configured properly for your network environment.
  9. PCoIP is configured as the primary remote display protocol and RDP is the secondary.
  10. Both display protocols are functioning properly.

Having confirmed connectivity, ports, protocols and finally that the VM’s are operational, based on the above assumptions – where should we check next?

Jump into VMware View Administrator using your specific URL – https://<view-connection-server-FQDN>/admin. Once you logon, open Inventory|Desktops. In the Filter field enter the name of the user’s assigned virtual desktop and determine if the virtual desktop is in use by someone other than the user. If everything checks out, open vCenter using the vSphere Client. Select Home|VM’s and Templates. Once again, locate the user’s assigned virtual machine desktop. Select the Console tab and determine if you can see the MS Windows desktop or if the screen has been locked by an administrator.

The most overlooked problem as an administrator is forgetting that a console session is viewed as a logged on user, therefore it must be logged out. When viewing the virtual desktop reboot, it is easy to forget that there is a session open. Disconnecting from the console or the VM desktop will eventually lock the current user, thus preventing someone from remotely connecting to their VMware View Client virtual desktop from that trip in Europe.

Certainly after remedying this issue, an experienced administrator would dive into vCenter to check the console for a particular VM desktop – knowing exactly what to look for. What it comes down to is learning how to perform troubleshooting the long way, so that there is a deep understanding of how all the technical components work. This knowledge will lead to more efficient troubleshooting and quicker resolution of issues in the future.

In the end it is about working smarter, not harder.

Photo Credit: VMware

Create Your Datacenter Storybook Ending Using VMware vSphere Update Manager To Update ESX/ESXi Hosts

By | How To, VMware, vSphere | No Comments

Once upon a time, I had an issue where all of my guests/VM’s would suddenly fall of the network. I could not ping the guests from anywhere in the network, yet the guests never went down; because I was still able to console into them from vSphere. After spending hours on support calls with VMware I finally got in touch with a tech who knew exactly what the problem was as soon as I described the symptoms. The fix was a simple patch which had been issued a few months prior. The tech explained the importance of using Update Manager and walked me through the steps below. If you aren’t familiar with Update Manager, it is a feature of vSphere which assists in a centralized, automated patch and version management for your ESX/ESXi hosts. Update Manager can also be used to manage your virtual machines and virtual appliances.

1.  Let’s start by attaching or creating a baseline. You can attach the baseline to either the Datacenter, Host Cluster or Host. For this example we will attach the baseline to the Host.

A)  Go to Hosts and Clusters.
B)   Select your host and click Update Manager.
C)   Click Attach.

 [iframe src=”” width=”425″ height=”375″]


2.  Using the two default baselines already created:

A)  Select both Host Patches and Non-Critical Host Patches.
B)  Click Attach.

 [iframe src=”” width=”510″ height=”350″]



3.  Next you will need to perform a scan, the process in which the attributes of a host are compared to the patches in the attached baseline to see what needs to be applied. This can be done by either:

A) Right clicking the object and selecting Scan for Updates
B)  Or clicking Scan… in the Update Manager tab.

Once the scan is finished you will see an overview of your host compliance.

 [iframe src=”” width=”480″ height=”250″]



4.  Next: staging the patches to the hosts. Staging allows you to download the patches from the Update Manager server to the ESX/ESXi hosts. Staging is optional and speeds up the remediation process, however staging will reduce the downtime of the host during remediation.

A)  You may either right click on the object and select Stage Patches … or click the Stage button on the Update Manager tab.
B)   Select the baselines you want to stage and click Next.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”269″]


C)   Deselect any patches that you don’t want staged and click Next.

 [iframe src=”” width=”488″ height=”337″]


D)   Review and click Finish.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”349″]


E)   The patches will now be staged to the host, and their progress can be monitored in the Recent Tasks window.

 [iframe src=”” width=”478″ height=”150″]


5.  Once the patches are staged they can be remediated.

A)   You can either right click on the object and select Remediate … or click the Remediate button on the Update Manager tab.
B)    Select the target objects and click Next.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”348″]


C)   Select the patches to apply and click Next.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”348″]


D)   Within Host Remediation Options you can give the task a name, a description, and schedule the remediation for later immediately or later on. For the purposes of this example we will take the defaults and click Next.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”348″]


E)   Review the options selected and click Finish.

 [iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”348″]


F)   The remediation process will take a while and can be monitored in the Recent Tasks window. The remediation process puts the host into Maintenance Mode and must be rebooted at least once.

6.  When the remediation process is complete you can verify that all the patches have been applied by going to the Update Manager tab and viewing the Host Compliance.

[iframe src=”” width=”498″ height=”260″]


And your datacenter and Update Manager lived happily ever after!

Photo Credit: Florin Gorgan

Caught In IT Barbed Wire: VMware vSphere vCenter New Resource Pool Icon Is Grayed Out: What Now?

By | How To, VMware, vSphere | No Comments

For seasoned engineers working with VMware vSphere, there seems to be no shortage of surprises and gotchas here and there that we often begin to resolve based on reflex. The reflexive response in the field is great, but it sure doesn’t help the greenhorn. 

Define “greenhorn”? The symptoms include staring intensely at the monitor waiting for the “New Resource Pool” icon to change to a pretty purple and blue pie chart, incessant clicking on the same icon with a scattering of right clicks or an open Google search engine with frantic eye movements side to side.

So, let’s cut to the chase and figure out how to solve the issue and why it occurs in the first place. After all, what good is a solution if you do not understand the underlying reason why something happens?

The Million Dollar Question: Why is the “New Resource Pool” icon grayed out?

[iframe src=”” width=”550″ height=”300″]


Let’s get right to the meat of the issue:


1. Right-click cluster (Lab-Cluster) and select “Edit Settings…


[iframe src=”” width=”550″ height=”500″]


2. Determine if VMware DRS is unchecked or checked.


[iframe src=”” width=”480″ height=”450″]


3. Since we want to be able to add a resource pool to our cluster to support linked-clone desktops, check the option to turn on VMware DRS and click OK.


[iframe src=”” width=”550″ height=”480″]


4. Confirm in vCenter that the “New Resource Pool” icon is active and available.


[iframe src=”” width=”480″ height=”300″]


Million Dollar Answer

Ah-ha, there are two answers for a million dollars – the “New Resource Pool” icon may be grayed out because:

  1. VMware DRS is not enabled or …
  2. You do not have proper licensing for vSphere.  You can only enable VMware DRS with vSphere Enterprise or Enterprise Plus licensing.

Note:  You can enable VMware DRS in the 60-day evaluation mode – for the critics.

Aside from a configuration setting not being checked, there is a deeper reason that vCenter will not allow you to add a new resource pool to a cluster without configuring VMware DRS. Straight from VMware themselves:

VMware KB Article: 1004098

“The New Resource Pool option is disabled because the hosts in a cluster are meant to be interchangeable in case of host failure. Host-level resource pools in a cluster may dramatically impact the behavior of the virtual machine if it were to be failed over to another ESX host in the cluster to which the resource pool does not belong.”

There you have it past greenhorns – navigating the IT barbed wire to bring our readers clarity!

Photo Credit: cliffbeckwith

Clearing The VMware vSphere 5 Licensing Fog

By | Virtualization, VMware, vSphere | No Comments

Last week, VMware announced the upcoming release of  vSphere 5. While the release contains many new exciting features, it has been clouded with noise about the new licensing. VMware has decided to move to vRAM licensing and is removing the previous maximums on the amount of RAM or the number of CPU cores (see the VMware PDF for further detail).

I will be completely honest and transparent here and tell you that, yes, my initial reaction upon learning there would be a new licensing model was fear. However, after having time to digest the changes and ruminate how it affects our customer base, I don’t necessarily have the same emotion. I think it does give us as integrators an opportunity to guide our customers down the appropriate path for VMware licensing. Yet, I do believe that the licensing does open up the financial value of memory overcommitment and high consolidation ratios, not the technical value.

The biggest concern I’ve heard from customers and peers is that licenses will cost much, much, much more for the new vSphere 5 than they did for the “old” vSphere 4. You can imagine innumerable scenarios that would indicate the new licensing model as much more expensive, which would attribute to existing customers not upgrading to vSphere 5. This is false.

Just by looking at our customer base,  less than 5% would be affected by upgrading with the new licensing model. I encourage customers who feel they may be affected to re-evaluate how they are deploying virtual machines.

At IDS, the buzz has been around how important capacity planning tools like VMware’s Capacity IQ are, and how overallocation can potentially cost an organization more money than they potentially have to spend. Utilizing capacity planning tools to scan your environment is important to reclaim resources and see just where every dollar is spent.

To really get an understanding of how many vSphere 5 licenses you will need, sum up the total amount of vRAM allocated in all powered-on VMs, and divide that total amount by the vRAM entitlement for the particular vSphere 5 edition you are running. vSphere 5 licensing needs are determined by only 3 factors:

  1. Number of VMs.
  2. Amount of vRAM per VM.
  3. What vSphere 5 edition you are running. The entitlements for the different editions are available here.

There are also many resources available to help customers in this transition, VMware has provided a tool that can help you add the total amount of vRAM allocated in your VMs so that you can run this calculation. There is also an accompanying video explaining how to use the tool. In addition, we have noticed a few similar tools developed by the community.

Also keep in mind that if you are an existing customer with a valid support contract, you get a free  upgrade of your CPU license to vSphere 5. Current vSphere 4 Advanced Edition customers will be upgraded to vSphere 5 Enterprise license since there is no more Advanced edition in vSphere 5.

vSphere will cost you more when you go above the 32GB per CPU (or 48GB per CPU for Enterprise Plus). But even then there are a number of things to keep in mind:

  • A new Standard license is $200 more expensive but now includes vMotion and Data Recovery compared to the old Standard license.
  • Old Advanced customers get a free upgrade to Enterprise which gives them Storage vMotion and DRS.
  • Don’t just compare physical RAM to vRAM but keep at least an 85% ratio.
  • This is the time to take a closer look the difference between VM RAM usage and VM RAM assignment.
  • VMware View Premier Bundled licensing will not be affected, it will still be based on concurrent desktop connections. This is extremely important to know as we see many of our higher consolidation ratios in the desktop space.

Photo credit: jeffsmallwood

VMware vSphere 5 Unveiled, ‘Cloud Suite’ Launched in Company’s Largest Product Release

By | VMware, vSphere | No Comments

Yesterday, VMware representative Jon Raines joined us here at IDS HQ in Chicago for the live reveal from VMware regarding their new VSphere 5.0 release and launch of their Cloud Suite. Jon had this to say after the announcement:

I’m thrilled to be here at IDS today for the cloud infrastructure launch to learn the new updates to the VMware product suite with their team. VMware has raised the bar once again with their improved platform and new feature set in VSphere 5.0. I had the privilege of spending the morning with IDS today, we had some great conversations around the launch details and they really get it. From their line of questioning to the depth of understanding they have around the new product suite I can tell they are pumped to share this information with their customers.

He’s right, we are pumped! So here’s a few high-level breakdowns of the information VMware released yesterday: [framed_box]

C less manpower & maintenance
U replication cost has decreased
S control of more workload
T intelligent policy management
O arrival of linked clones
M quicker request responses than ever
E profile driven storage
R lower hardware costs

B  E  N  E  F  I  T  S







While we can tell you all day long how awesome VMware’s new Cloud Suite will be, read from the expert’s twitter handle @vcloud some slides that may clarify the exponential benefits of the suite as well as why some of the new features are important …

First an introduction to the Cloud Suite…

[image title=”Cloud Suite” size=”small” align=”center” width=”400″ height=”300″][/image]

Next, how you can utilze upgrades to the Cloud Suite …

[image title=”Cloud Suite Upgrades” size=”small” align=”center” width=”400″ height=”300″][/image]

Some information on the arrival of linked clones to the Suite and how they reduce VM provisioning:

[image title=”Linked Clones” size=”small” align=”center” width=”400″ height=”300″][/image]

Additionally, a slide showing the percentages of workload instances that are virtualized:

[image title=”Percentage Virtualized” size=”small” align=”center” width=”400″ height=”300″][/image]

Finally, how the Suite delivers agility to your environment and management capabilities …

[image title=”Profile Driven Storage” size=”small” align=”center” width=”400″ height=”300″][/image]

While the initial response to the licensing of the Cloud Suite has been mixed, and many users are confused by the licensing components, the overall message and delivery of the Cloud Suite is one of overwhelming positivity. After the dust settles a bit next week we will be posting a follow-up blog to the release from one of our highly certified/award-winning engineers that will address some users concerns and confusion. If you have any questions you want directly addressed, please email me:, and I will pass your question along to our engineers.