Virtualization, Cloud, Infrastructure and all that stuff in-between

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Is your local VMUG your launchpad to a VMworld session?

My main role in helping to run the UK & London VMware User Group (VMUG) is finding, arranging, press-ganging and cajoling people into giving sessions at one of our quarterly VMUG meetings – I look for primarily for solid, interesting content, especially if it’s “outside of the box” and secondly a professional speaker – I don’t care who you are or if the last presentation you delivered was when you played the carrot in the cub scout christmas play aged 8 (yes, that was me – before you ask!).

 

You’ll get a lot out of presenting at a VMUG – even if you’re nervous, or new to presenting we can help to coach you through to a successful session and VMUG audiences, even helping you to find a co-presenter to help you out – the #FeedForward initiative is also a massive supporter of YOU and the audience are ALWAYS friendly and like-minded.

 

You don’t have to be captain of a datacentre the size of the starship enterprise to have something interesting to say, my 1st VMUG presentation 5 years ago was on my 2-host lab environment, and ever since I’ve iterated that vTARDIS presentation and delivered sessions on it at VMworld and VMUGs and other conferences around the world (Melbourne, Copenhagen, Chicago) and it even won the VMworld best of show award -  it’s been a hugely rewarding and enjoyable experience and I would encourage you all – no matter how timid or insignificant you think your experiences are to get in touch with your local VMUG and volunteer to do a presentation – VMUGs are about community and content – and we (the UK/LDN committee) work VERY hard to ensure the right balance between VMware, sponsor and COMMUNITY content.

 

In recent London VMUG’s we’ve started doing a slot for lightning-talks where you deliver a short, sharp & to-the-point 5-15min presentation on a topic of your choosing, these are a great way to jump-start your presenting career locally, and maybe even globally as they’re much less daunting than a normal 45-60min slot and are an excellent way to dip your toe in the water, there are also panel & round-table discussions that are a good way to get involved.

 

Being able to present, articulate a point and hold a confident discussion on a topic is a critical career skill if you want to stand out from the crowd, or keep your seat in a world of increasing off-shoring and out-sourcing.

 

So, in short get in touch (details on about page), present something, go LARGE by submitting your talk for VMworld via the call for papers process –  Let’s be realistic, VMworld sessions are traditionally hard to get accepted for unless you’re a sponsor or a well recognised name and there is a LOT of competition, on the other hand VMUGs sometimes struggle to find people willing to present, a lot of those recognised names started their vSpeaking career by getting involved at a local VMUG first – you do the maths, literally what have you got to lose?

 

BTW Next London VMUG meeting (#LonVMUG on twitter) is 15th May 2014.

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Where are the vCAC log files

I’ve had some SRs open with VMware GSS lately on some vCAC issues, and the first thing they usually ask for is logs – to save yourself (and GSS) some time it’s worth gathering up the following logs and providing them immediately when you open your SR (using the upload tool) – this helps GSS to hit the ground running with your issue

 

Log description Log File Name Default Location
vCAC Installation log MMDDYYHHMMSS.txt c:\vcacLog
vCAC Server (everything) log All.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Server\Logs
vCAC Server (errors only) log Error.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Server\Logs
vCAC Agent logs vSphereAgent.log (name based on Agent type) C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Agents\<AgentName>\logs
vCAC DEM Orchestrator (everything) log DEM Orchestrator Name_All.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Distributed Execution Manager\<DEM-OrchestratorName>\Logs
vCAC DEM Orchestrator (errors only) log DEM Orchestrator Name_Errors.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Distributed Execution Manager\<DEM-OrchestratorName>\Logs
vCAC DEM Worker (everything) log DEM Worker Name_All.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Distributed Execution Manager\<DEM-WorkerName>\Logs
vCAC DEM Worker (errors only) log DEM Worker Name_Errors.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Distributed Execution Manager\<DEM-WorkerName>\Logs
vCAC DEM logs – Additional logging Windows Event Viewer N/A
vCAC Repository logs Repository.log C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Server\Model Manager Web\Logs
vCAC Website logs Windows Event Viewer N/A

How to monitor what your vCAC IaaS Server is doing in real-time

vCAC is a complex product with a lot of moving parts, it’s a pain to have to switch back & forth between monitoring views in the UI.

The IaaS server is a Windows box, and does most of the heavy lifting so you can’t just SSH in and tail a log file (well, you sort of could…  but)

I like to have all this info on a secondary monitor scrolling past in realtime, mainly so I can look like I am in the Matrix but it’s useful when you’re trying to debug a weird edge-case that only happens in real-time, I achieve this by..

Using mTail on my Windows administrative workstation.

Mapping a drive to the C$ share on my IaaS server

Open the following log files in mTail and put it on a secondary monitor so I can watch what’s going on in real-time (don’t forget to hit start to monitor the file)

\\IaaSserver\c$\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Agents\<NAME OF YOUR AGENT(S)>\logs\vSphereAgent.log

\\IaaSserver\c$\c$\Program Files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Server\Logs\All.log

For good measure you can also open your vCenter log files in the same way if you want to.

Handy hint – if you are tryign to catch a specific errror in the noise of the logs, check the Filter box and put the search expression in – then it will only show when that message occurs in the logs (like doing tail –f <file> | grep “string” in *NIX). you can use the following strings to limit to certain message categories.

[Info]

[Debug]

[Trace]

Unable to launch the application when trying to connect to vCO client

 

if you’re using the vCAC vCenter Orchestrator (vCO) client to customise a workflow it uses a Java client.

If you recently updated or downloaded Java to your machine then you’ll see the following error message..

image image

This is because it is using a self-signed certificate, and the latest Java builds prevent this as a security measure, reasonable I guess.

You’ll need to add your vCAC appliance URL to the exception list, note you need to specify the port number, or it won’t work. you can set this ON YOUR CLIENT WORKSTATION via Control Panel –> Java / Security on a Windows machine.

image 

And you will now be able to connect, albeit with some warnings from the Java client..  (as shown below)

image

The moral of the story is, Java may run on 3 billion devices, but all of them break in subtle ways, each & every time when you update something :)

Why can’t I add a new VM to my vCAC blueprint

If you are trying to add a blueprint using the clone or linked clone methods in vCloud Automation Center 6.x (vCAC) using a recently created VM or template from vCenter you won’t be able to find it in the search box no matter how hard you try or esoteric your search strings.

This is because by default the vCAC server only inventories the VMs on your vCenter every 24hrs, you can either manually perform an inventory update or increase the frequency.

It was confusing (to me) as the agent logs showed by vSphere IaaS server polling the vCenter service sucessfully, frequently so I assumed it would be looking for new VMs etc, alas no.

You can see the polling & inventory activities in the agent’s log file at the following location

c:\program files (x86)\VMware\vCAC\Agents\\Logs\vSphereAgent.log

To resolve this you can either A) wait 24hrs (hmm) or B) go to Home/Infrastructure/Compute Resources
Right click on your compute resource (e.g vCenter)
And click Data Collection
Under the inventory section you can update the frequency, or click request now to force an immediate update

This took 5-10mins to complete on my fairly large test cluster.

Microsoft Retiring TechNet Subscriptions

Microsoft yesterday made the announcement that they are going to retire TechNet subscriptions as of the end of August 2013.

If you’re an IT pro home-labber, this is likely to be a big problem for you. I’ve long taken advantage of the subscriptions to keep my Microsoft skills up to date (I run SQL, AD, Exchange, IIS etc. at home) and it supports my vSphere lab and other learning activities.

Just as VMware are looking to re-instate their VMTN subscription (hopefully) this is a bit of a blow for those wanting to get hands on and dirty with Microsoft tech.

the equivalents they suggest, whilst perfectly good are not the same as “dog-fooding” Microsoft products day to day at home or in your work lab – 30 day evals, pre-built labs and VMs just aren’t as good for learning as they are a very artificial environment.

Bad move Microsoft, I hope VMware manage to remove their Windows dependencies in the next 12 months.

Using Magic Whiteboard paper to document your home lab

yes, I have a rack in my home lab… they are usually free and easy to come-by if you have the means to transport them and I’ve had this one for a number of years – it has basic shelves inside and all my kit sits inside it reasonably tidily.

Here is a quick tip, get some magic whiteboard paper – like this – this stuff is great and it sticks to pretty much everything using static, no messy adhesive etc.

If you have a spare wall, or in my case a spare side of a rack – it works very well if you stick it to the side of the rack as shown below (the magnets shown in the pic aren’t actually required – it stays on all by itself).

imageLeave some whiteboard pens nearby and you’ll find yourself actually updating even a basic form of documentation for your home lab regularly.

Even More Community Content at UKVMUG!!

For the 2nd annual UK VMware User Group Conference this Thursday not only have we secured the cream of the crop of VMware, sponsor and community speakers (main agenda here) but we’re also running what I like to call (for lack of a better name) The Community Mezzanine

These sessions will be held on the Mezzanine level at the back of the sponsor solutions exchange area, we have very limited availability and access will be on a first-come-first-served basis. The current topics and sessions are as follows;

Type Run by.. Topic
BoF Discussion Group (8-10 people) Scott Lowe “How do i build a stretched cluster, and do I need one?”
BoF Discussion Group
(8-10 people)
Simon Long “VDI – Real world experiences”
BoF Discussion Group
(8-10 people)
Scott Lowe/Mike Laverick “How do you do disaster recovery, and what would you like to do?”
Design Whiteboard
(8-10 people)
Darren Woollard Come and join an interactive design white-boarding session, bring your ideas, questions and requirements.
Mock VCDX Panel
(8-10 people)
Simon Gallagher A chance to participate in a friendly format and dry-run your VCDX defence presentation in front of your peers, offer to defend for a chance to sit on the panel and become an unofficial mock VCDX panelist.
Automation Station
(Drop-in hands-on format)
Jon Medd, Alan Renouf, William Lam Ever wondered how to automate something? PowerCLI and all things PowerShell, come and try and hands-on, informal drop-in where you can get some help, ask questions and try it out for yourself.
Staffed by the cream of the crop of automation specialists and authors (Lam, Renouf, Medd)

The timings for these sessions are currently as follows (we may need to make some adjustments on the day so check the board by the mezzanine area).

10:00 – 10:45 am

vSphere Design Whiteboard Session
Darren Woollard

BoF
“How do I build a stretched cluster + do I need one?”
Scott Lowe

Automation Station
PowerCLI Drop-in hands-on

10:45 – 11:15 am Break

11:15 – 12:00 pm

SPARE

BoF
“How do you do Disaster Recovery, and what would you like to to?”
Scott Lowe & Mike Laverick

Automation Station
PowerCLI Drop-in hands-on

12:00 – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00pm – 1:45 pm

vSphere Design Whiteboard session
Darren Woollard

Mock VCDX Defence Panel
Simon Gallagher

Automation Station
PowerCLI Drop-in hands-on

1:45 – 2:15 pm Break

2:15 – 3:00 pm

BoF
VDI – “What are your experiences?” Simon Long

Mock VCDX Defence Panel (Cont.)
-or-
Design Whiteboard /w Scott Lowe

Automation Station
PowerCLI Drop-in hands-on

3:00 – 3:15 pm Break
3:15 – 4:00 pm

Repeat of popular session

Repeat of popular session

Automation Station
PowerCLI Drop-in hands-on

4:00 – 4:15 pm Break    

Official registration is now closed for the event but we will be able to accommodate walk-in registrations if you are able to make it, hope to see you there, it’s going to be Epic!

13 Inch 2011 MacBook Pro vs 2012 13 Inch MacBook Pro Retina

After some “fun” with UPS missed deliveries I have my 13” MacBook Pro with a Retina screen in my hands, this is a quick hands-on set of photos for anyone considering an upgrade.

My reasons for the upgrade were as follows;

  • I replace my Mac’s annually – and they hold their 2nd hand value so well it’s cost-effective to do so (compared to HP, Dell etc.)
  • I wanted the higher resolution screen, that is the only thing I didn’t like about my 2011 13” model

The only down-side is that I upgraded my 2011 model to 16Gb RAM (see this link) and the maximum in the 2012 model is 8Gb, upon reflection most of the lab VMs I now run live on my vTARDIS lab so I am less dependent on running large sets of VMs on my laptop, a MacBook Air doesn’t quite cut it for me in the amount of available storage and CPU but the 13” MBP is perfect.

Here are some side-by-side photos incase you were wondering what the difference is..

The 2012 model is slightly smaller in all dimensions..

2012-11-06 19.51.40 2012-11-06 19.53.07

 2012-11-06 19.54.13

Lower-profile case..

2012-11-06 19.54.242012-11-06 19.52.55

Hope that is useful.

VMware Training for Contractors

As a freelance contractor you need to strike a careful balance between managing your own professional development, earning a living and delivering for your customers.

You don’t benefit from paid holidays or paid-for training courses during work hours from your employer and I also find it hard to schedule courses into downtime between engagements or slotting in a training course around customer demands for your 9-5 availability.

So, I was particularly interested to see today the mention of vFLEX-ILT Flexible instructor-led training from VMware and a partner. You can see a video at the following link, but the basic concept is that you “virtually” attend a real-life training class with what look to be excellent remote access tools and HD video conferencing, the modern world has come to training Smile

You can see details of the courses and a demo video here:

http://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrReg/plan.cfm?plan=32083&ui=www_edu

This isn’t that new, some companies have been offering WebEx based training for a while but the inclusion of 2-way HD video is good and brings in some of the interactivity you would normally lose with remote access.

But, what particularly caught my eye is that the courses are delivered out of the US, opening the possibility that (with a bit of sacrifice of personal time and some double-shifting) you could feasibly do you your UK contract day-job but then virtually attend one of these classes in the evenings.

Courses that start at 9am Arizona time are towards the end of the UK day.

image

Cost-wise it isn’t too bad either – if you take the example of the View 5.1 install, configure, manage course (and assume that NC sales tax is similar to UK VAT – these prices are excluding tax)

Cost to attend virtually is currently £1,475 GBP + VAT @20% (note the cost to attend in-person in the US is the same as the virtual option, which I guess is understandable, they’re not buying you lunch – but they still need to pay for the trainer and your remote facilities).

image

The same in-person course delivered in the UK is between

£1, 950 +VAT  http://www.magirus.com/uk/training/vmware/view-5-install-configure-manage

£2,076 + VAT http://www.globalknowledge.co.uk/courses/vmware/virtualisation/vmview.html

£2,175 + VAT http://www.qa.com/training-courses/technical-it-training/vmware/vmware-view/vmware-view-51-install,-configure,-manage/

So, if you are a contractor or paid by the hour/day outside of the US (and have good English skills) you could potentially use this technology and some of your personal time to save £500 over an in-person course and still be able to meet your day job commitments.

(Assuming you can keep up the pace of some short-term double-shifting, e.g doing a day-job then an evening course for 4 days) and still meet your customer’s requirements. Not a problem for many IT people in my experience.

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