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

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: Terminal Services

VMWare Server Performance – A Practical Example

 

The following screen dump is from an HP DL380G5 server that runs all the core infrastructure under VMWare Server (the free one) for a friend’s company which I admin sometimes.

It is housed in some co-lo space and runs the average range of Windows servers used by a small but global business, Exchange SQL, Windows 2003 Terminal Services.

As a result of some planned (but not very well communicated!) power maintenance the whole building lost power earlier today, when it was restored I grabbed the following screenshot as the 15 or so Virtual Machines automatically booted.

interesting to note that all the VM’s had been configured to auto-start with the guest OS, meaning there wasn’t any manual intervention required, even though it was a totally dirty shutdown for both the host and guest OS’es (No UPS, as the building and suite is supposed to have redundant power feeds to each rack – in this instance the planned maintenance was on the building wiring so required taking down all power feeds for a 5 yearly inspection..)

There are no startup delay settings  in the free version of VMWare Server so they all start at the same time, interesting to note the following points..

The blue line that makes a rapid drop is the pages/second counter, and the 2nd big drop (green) is the disk queue length. the hilighted (white) line is the overall %CPU time, note the sample frequency was 15 seconds on this perfmon.

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After it had settled down, I took the following screenshot, it hardly breaks a sweat during its working day. there are usually 10-15 concurrent users on this system from around the world (access provisioned via an SSL VPN device) and a pretty heavily used Exchange mail system.

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The box is an HP DL380 G5 with 2 x quad core CPUs (8 cores in total) and 16Gb of RAM, it has 8 x 146Gb 15k HDDs in a single RAID 5 set + hot-spare, it was purchased in early 2007 and cost c.£8,000 (UK Prices)

It runs Windows 2003 Enterprise Edition x64 edition with VMWare Server 1.0.2 (yes, its an old build.. but if it ain’t broke..) and they have purchased multiple w2k3 ent-edition licences to take advantage of the virtualisation use-rights to cover the installed virtual OS’es.

It’s been in-place for a year and hardly ever has to be touched, its rock-solidly available and the company have noticed several marked improvements since they P2V’d their old servers onto this platform, as follows;

  • No hardware failures – moving from lots of low-end servers (Dell) and desktops to a single box (10:1 consolidation)
  • The DL380 has good redundancy built in, but it’s also backed up with a h/w maintenence contract, and they also have a spare cold-standby server to resume service from backups if data is lost.
  • Less noise, the old servers were dotted around their old offices in corners, racks etc – this is the main thing they liked!
  • Simple access anywhere – using a Juniper SA2000 SSL VPN,  its easy to get secure access from anywhere
  • Less reliance on physical offices and cheap DSL-grade data communications, now the servers are hosted on the end of a reliable, data centre class network link with an SLA to back it up. if an individual office looses its ADSL connection, no real issue – people pick up their laptop(s) and work from home/starbucks etc.
  • Good comms are cheaper in data centres than in your branch offices (usually)

Hopefully this goes to show the free version of VMWare’s server products can work almost as well if budget is a big concern, ESX would definitely give some better features and make backup easier, they are considering upgrading and combining with something like Veeam Backup to handle failover/backup.

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How to stop Terminal Services Clients Beeping!

 

This always annoys me, when I connect my laptop via the MSTSC terminal services client it always beeps at logon; if it did this via the onboard sound card on my laptp that would be fine as typically it’s always muted when I’m in the office/on a client site as it’s annoying.

However it seems to use the system board loud default beep – and ignores the mute setting on my laptop and this always seems to affect VMWare workstation Win2003 VM’s at logon too – which is doubly annoying as I use them a lot.

so, for reference this kills it off permanently – I can’t really think of any situations where I’d need it to beep – especially not at a volume that totally ignores my chosen settings!

C:Windowssystem32>sc config beep start= disabled
[SC] ChangeServiceConfig SUCCESS

Some other options posted here

Support for Virtualized OS/Applications – an Open Debate..

 

Martin’s post here prompted me to blog something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

Virtualization projects and services are cool; we all understand the advantages in power/cooling and the flexibility it can bring to our infrastructures.

But what about support, if you are a service provider (internal or outsourcing) you normally need to be able to offer an end-end SLA on your services. typically this would be backed off against a vendor like Microsoft or Oracle via one of their premium support arrangements.

From what I see in the industry, with most software vendors especially Microsoft there is almost no way a service provider can underwrite an SLA as application/OS vendors give themselves significant scope to say “unsupported configuration” if you are running it under a hypervisor or other VM technology… Microsoft use the term commercially reasonable in their official policy – who decides what this is?

I would totally accept that a vendor would not guarantee performance under a hypervisor – that’s understandable and we have tools to analyse, monitor and improve (Virtual Centre, MOM, DRS, increase resources etc.). but too many vendors seem to use it as a universal “get out of jail free card”.

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Issues of applications with dependency on physical hardware aside (fax cards, realtime CPU, DSP, PCI cards etc.) In my entire career working with VM technology I’ve only ever seen one issue that could be directly attributed to being caused by virtualization – and to be fair that was really a VMTools issue; rather than VMWare itself.

Microsoft have an official list of their applications that are not supported here – why is this? speech server I could maybe understand as it would probably be timer/DSP sensitive – but the rest? Sharepoint? I know for a fact ISA does work under VMWare as I use it all the time.

Microsoft Virtual Server support policy http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897613

Support policy for Microsoft software running in non-Microsoft hardware virtualization software http://support.microsoft.com/kb/897615/

Exchange is specifically excluded (depending on how you read the articles)

· On the Exchange Server 2007 System requirements page it only mentioned Unified messaging as being unsupportable in a virtual environment http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa996719.aspx

· Yet on TechNet it is clear stated that “Neither Exchange 2007 nor Exchange 2007 SP1 is supported in production in a virtual environment”  http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb232170(EXCHG.80).aspx

Credit due to a colleague for pulling together the relevant Microsoft linkage

But I know it….

a) works fully – I do it all the time.

b) Lots of people are doing this in production with lots of users (many people at VMWorld US last year)

c) VMWare have a fully-supportable x64 hypervisor – It’s just MS that don’t

What is the industry going to do about this?, I asked this question of peers a lot at VMWorld and at BriForum; and to be honest everyone has the same concern but have a few different approaches;

Dont’ tell/ask – 99% of the time a tech support rep won’t know its running under VMWare/a.n.other hypervisor so why complicate matters by telling them – could of course back-fire on you!

Threaten – “If you won’t support under VMWare we’ll use one of your competitors applications”; however this only really works if you are the US govt. or Globocorp Inc. or operate in a very niche application market.

Mitigate – reflect this uncertainty in an SLA, best-endeavours etc. this would kill most virtualization efforts in their tracks for an enterprise customer.

The same support issue has been around for a long time; Citrix/Terminal Services, application packaging, automated installations, etc. are treated as “get out of jail free cards” by support organisations…

But whilst there are some technical constraints (usually only affecting badly written apps) with terminal services and packaging, virtualization changes the game and should make it simpler for a vendor to support as there is no complex runtime integration with a host OS + bolt-ons/hacks it’s just an emulated CPU/disk/RAM you can do whatever you like within it.

So – the open debate; what do you do? and how do you manage it?

Please comment…

/CONSOLE switch Goes away in Windows 2008/Vista SP1/XPsp3 versions of MSTSC.EXE

 

Post here on the terminal services team blog, about why they’ve changed this switch to /ADMIN in Windows 2008/Vista SP1/XPSP3.

This is the first I’ve heard of it, not a huge issue but I can see a potential problem where the /console switch is ignored, again not huge but a bit of an annoyance just to change a bit of syntax?

if you have device CAL’s and normally use the /console switch to remotely administer a machine to my understanding that doesn’t allocate a device CAL to your admin machine (or whatever machine you are admin’ing from at the time)

What if you use this method to administer terminal servers, doesn’t this silently ignoring just eat one of your device CALs (permanatly if you do it often enough from a machine)?

The article says:

The /console switch is silently ignored. You will be connected to a session to remotely administer the server.

The /console switch is silently ignored. You will be connected to a standard Remote Desktop session that requires a Terminal Services client access license (TS CAL).

Windows Server 2008 RTM’s Also…

 

Must be the day for it! I’m looking forward to Server 2008 and have a couple of projects lined up to try and take advantage of the new terminal services functionality.

Hyper-V will follow within 180 days… MS have a long way to go to win ground from VMWare but will have the usual single-vendor support argument so it’s going to be an interesting 18 months.

Update on the Cheap ESX Home Server

 

All running well, we had a power cut the other day but the PC didn’t automatically power back on when power was restored; I wonder if there is a BIOS setting for that – PC’s always used to have something along those lines.

Bit of manual intervention to switch it on and it was back and running.. no ill effects and all the VM’s started up normally.

I’m hammering it a bit now and have some Windows Server 2008 RC1 templates setup as I need to try out the new Terminal Services functionality so I’m hoping to build a small 2008 TS farm under ESX – no customization wizard available yet for 2008 😦

Maybe will see how Windows built in NLB works under ESX Mmmm.

So, will see what performance is like when I have a lot more going on..