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

My ramblings on the stuff that holds it all together

Category Archives: vmworld

Well deserved award for LonVMUG Chair Alaric Davies

Anyone who attends the London VMUG will have been impressed by our very own chairman Alaric, who has been running the event for over 5 years – in his own typically humble words he’s “the tall bloke who bumbles around waving his hands at the start and end of the day” but without Alaric we wouldn’t have the VMUG we have today.

As an attendee you don’t always appreciate the hard work that goes into planning and arranging our quarterly meetings and especially the UK national event, it takes a lot of personal time and dedication, something Alaric has given freely over the years, and he has been appropriately awarded by the VMUG board of directors for his service to the VMUG.

Please join me in congratulating Alaric (and all the other VMUG leader award winners).


Killing vRAM is a backward step


VMware announced today that it was undoing the vRAM based licensing it announced to much boo’ing last year and will revert to the original per-CPU model (without the core limitations), I had hoped that vRAM was an intermediary step to pure per-VM licensing to help people (and the industry/channel) over the hump to move from legacy to something more radical – it would seem this will not be the case for the forseeable future.

Whilst I admire VMware for listening to customers that complained about vRAM changes and judging by the applause in the room when incoming CEO Gelsinger made the announcement you’ll probably not agree with me but I think this is a backward step given the stated vision for building cloud infrastructure. In my humble opinion they should have dispensed entirely with per-host, per-socket or even standard/enterprise/enterprise plus editions and bundles and focused purely on a per-VM (or vApp/Group of VMs) feature license. crazy? moi? maybe – but let me state my case…

Cloud is all about dynamic workloads, rapid provisioning and self-service, not being tied into X capacity or capability which has to be paid for up-front, in advance just incase you might need to use it one day – it’s about pay as you go – pay for what you use; it means you can’t take too many risks, or be too innovative because you need to sink significant cost upfront to make things happen or go to established clouds like Amazon, Azure, google etc. where someone has already taken that risk.

I’ve previously written about the need for the software industry to move away from legacy perpetual licensing models and move to a rental/subscription based model with lower cost of entry – allowing real flexibility to scale up and down, and allow businesses to attribute true cost to service lines or business units before the fact, rather than after.

Why not set a lower unit cost for vSphere per-VM but let consumers buy premium vSphere features and add-on products (like SRM, vCenter Ops, etc.) a la carte? on a PER VM basis then people can buy commodity hardware as and when they need it – without having to absorb large chunks of software license costs per physical asset, this is a good way of removing the cost barrier for small organizations (that may have them looking at Microsoft or other solutions and reduces the risk/uncertainty in planning implementation – pay for what you use (or license what you think you’ll need).

By way of a very simplistic example – with some dummy costs to illustrate the point is below

There is a base license to use (LTU) cost – which is per VM, regardless of how many ESX hosts, clusters, sites, datacenters it runs on, so you merely specify on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis how many VMs you are running – or have vSphere report the number (this is how it works for VMware’s service provider licensing – VSPP).


So the per-VM cost is built up in layers – base and premium functionality, pay for what you need, pay for what you use – don’t be tied into bundles, editions and planning for changes that may never come – easy to step up and down in levels of functionality for individual vApps (or even individual VMs).

Depending on how it’s implemented this may need some changes to the product to facilitate – maybe it’s not a hard block that you cannot enable a feature, but vCenter will report that vApp 1,3 and Test 1 are out of compliance with your licensing (think host-profiles) and give you a click-through option to uplift your VMware licensing rental agreement, or even disable the functionality for offending vApps.

Hardware is cheap and commodity but slow to procure and has a traditional manufacturing/distribution chain behind it, you can’t generally sell it back or scale it down.

Software is relatively expensive but quick to procure and implement (automatable, even in terms of the software defined datacenter)

Neither are particularly flexible today with legacy sales, channel and distribution infrastructures that underpin a massive workforce in VARs, SI companies etc.

It’s hard for hardware vendors to price and sell their products on a flexible basis (they have to cover cost of design/manufacturing for a physical asset (although I’ve previously written that I think this is where VCE should have focused here instead of becoming just a reseller/SI)

Software vendors can do much better to clean up here today as they are less-burdened with a traditional manufacturing and distribution chain – whilst they obviously have shareholders to satisfy and costs to cover they can be much more innovative with how they sell and distribute their products – taking a longer vision and more incremental revenue (maybe less satisfying to shareholders and analysts, but..)

In the cloud (especially so in the private cloud) Workload is important, not infrastructure; and cost should be attributed accordingly.

None of this will change overnight – but I do believe this is a better model for the future – feel free to disagree (constructively) in the comments!

Get to VMworld Europe at an EMC discounted price


You can register for VMworld EMEA at the early bird discount price now using the link in this article–even-at-the-last-minute

You can still get this ticket at a discounted price courtesy of EMC… travel isn’t too bad at present either, there still seems to be good availability of both official and non-conference hotels in Copenhagen.

I was able to price out a 2 day, 4 night trip (fly out Monday night after work –>conference Tues/Weds –> fly back on an early AM flight Thursday) with direct flights (SAS) and hotel (CABINN City) from a London airport (LHR) for approx. £380 – it means you miss the last day of the conference, but it gets you back into London around 9am to get to the office (assuming you work near LHR).

Taking this approach you also can make the best parties (Veeam and official VMworld party). My advice = do as may hands-on labs as possible while you are on-site at the conference and take advantage of the interactive group discussions, meet the expert sessions etc. you can catch up on the presentations as you get access to most of content on-line (slide/video/audio) post-event so you can catch any sessions you miss with the compressed timescales.

Great deal if you are tight on time away from the office and you couldn’t make it to VMworld US earlier in the year

Good on EMC for providing this sponsored registration link (c.£683 after discount), which should equate to a trip cost of approx £1k (for 2 days training/networking) – you’d be hard-pressed to find a formal training course for that in the UK with equivalent deep dive content without taking you out of the office for an entire week.

Register for VMworld sessions ASAP or miss out

This year VMware are enforcing session registration for VMworld, my understanding is that if you don’t register and a session is full, you wont get in!!

this is a good thing IMHO, in previous years there have been long queues (although I hope they have better badge-scanners than in the past, otherwise there are mad queues!) and this has led to missed sessions, but the downside is that you’ll need to book, pay for and plan out your schedule early on.

So, to avoid missing out logon to the portal at and choose schedule builder – it’s pretty quick to do.

I have completed my registrations this evening but I’ve also seen a couple of sessions that are “sold-out” already, so get in quick!


vTARDIS wins Best of Show at VMworld Europe 2010


Wow, what can I say, my vTARDIS project has won 2 awards at VMworld Europe 2010 in the following user categories;

There is some good coverage of the VMworld event on the the site here


I’d like to thank <#insert <paltro/gwenneth.h>.. 🙂

But seriously I appreciate this recognition for the vTARDIS project which has burnt many of my brain-cells and personal-time over the last 12-months, as well as airport-stress as I had to convince the TSA that I wasn’t some 24-inspired nut-job shipping a suitcase-nuke round the US with me for BriForum, the Charlotte(US) VMUG and various London, UK VMUGs.

Here is a picture of it in it’s off-the-shelf Marks & Spencer shipping container (a.k.a suitcase) note:

image image

Note cool “my datacenter is bigger than yours” sticker courtesy of Solarwinds

Trying to understand what vTARDIS is is hard for many people, and it’s even harder to explain sometimes, but the concept is basically trying to build a complex, enterprise type vSphere implementation on as little hardware as possible for testing/training, but hopefully the following diagram (and the original post) explain it better at a technical level


That-said,  I particularly like how TechTarget (who sponsor the awards) phrase it..

"This is the kind of bonkers-crazy stuff that has made the virtualisation community the bedrock of innovation. The only limitation is people’s imagination, and Gallagher’s vTARDIS demonstrates imagination in spades."

Winner: vTARDIS (Transportable Awfully Revolutionary Data Centre of Invisible Servers)
IT project owner: Simon Gallagher
Vendors and technology used: VMware Inc. vSphere 4.0 and 4.1
Vyatta Core
Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2
Hewlett-Packard Co. ML115 G5
Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) quad-core processors
IT project: Gallagher’s lab features low storage latency and solid performance. Gallagher’s configuration also pushes beyond the "official" use of VMware technology by using solid-state drives to reduce disk I/O and "nested VMware ESX" instances, which give the appearance of owning many ESX hosts when the entire infrastructure actually sits on one physical box. His configuration runs eight virtual ESX hosts and nearly 60 virtual machines on just the one physical server, rather than multiple PCs and storage appliances.
What the judges said: "No other entry showed the same degree of doing a lot with so little."

I hope it stands as an example of how flexible VMware technology is and what  you can do with a bit of imagination and some good, hard-graft.

But things don’t stand still in the IT world, and nor do they in my mad-scientist home-lab, look out soon for posts on further developments which are running now;

vTARDIS v2 : 20 node PXE booting, DHCP configured ESXi cluster with powershell provisioning script on a single physical 500GBP server. :  3 x 20 node ESXi cluster, DPM enabled, VMware vCloud Director, Chargeback, EMC Celerra VSA, on 3 x physical 300GBP hosts plus iomega IX4-200, 2-node Management cluster pod.

Whilst in the last couple of weeks I started working directly for VMware in the cloud practice, my vTARDIS project was started about a year ago and was demonstrated at many VMUGs and events (including VMworld SF 2010) in that time.

All of the equipment, power, space, brainpower and cooling for this project have been paid for entirely out of my own pocket/cranium, I do not receive any kind of sponsorship for this work from my current or previous employers, and it has been completed on my own (personal) time, so to invoke the Paltro convention I’d definitely like to thank my family for their tolerance and patience whilst I have gnashed my teeth at powershell and danced way beyond edges of supportability, and in many cases physics!

Stay tuned, so much more arcane geekery to come…!

vApp sprawl in the cloud


This question came up in a session at VMworld, if vApps are being used to deploy entire self-contained and silo’d application stacks won’t that lead to massive VM sprawl. Because cloud deployments are less considered and are a result of quick instant gratification provisioning in the private/public cloud by business units who don’t necessarily understand IT services and the burden of operations, integration, etc.

Well, yes – and that’s an interesting point for a number of reasons which apply equally to private and public cloud;

vApps encourage less shared application services

This is both a good and a bad thing, good in the sense that less shared typically means higher SLA’s are possible and change is simpler because there are less interdependencies to consider. But, bad in the sense that it increases the overall number of machine instances required to support all of your IT services.

image image

Traditional Shared application Services vs. vApp

Guest Software Licensing Increase

When you consider you will normally have to license the software running in each vApp, providing a shared corporate database cluster is typically a way of providing an HA Oracle or SQL database service in a cost-effective manner because those applications are expensive and more cost-effective to license by CPU in larger environments.

Software licensing needs to change for the cloud, the move to a more consumption/rental based model is underway for most major vendors; those that don’t will die.

Guest Management overhead

Now a vApp may have it’s own DNS, domain controllers, databases, web services, applications VMs each of these will need to be patched, maintained, monitored etc.

Automation solves a lot of this and is the holy grail but particularly when VUM is going to have it’s guest patching functionality removed in future releases this could be a concern.


If you think about it the costs in the vApp model are more controllable and accountable – yes you may have more machine instances than you did in the more traditional IT world but you know exactly who is using it, how much of it they are using (the charge units are more easily quantifiable) and they can easily stop using it or move it to a lower SLA tier if it’s costing too much.

The control/decision of cost/benefit is back with the consumer (internal business unit) rather than being dictated as a fixed fact by IT – moving the consumer to a different service tier is MUCH harder to do with traditional shared services, in the cloud world it’s configuration from a shared pool of infrastructure.

if a vApp isn’t used anymore it’s easier to archive the data and destroy it, it’s much harder to disentangle a tenant from a traditional shared application service like CRM or an intranet where customisations or extra components may have to remain in-situ because just uninstalling them poses a risk to overall service.

It also has the advantage of potentially providing a higher net SLA, there are less inter-dependent parts across the enterprise so less scope for things to break as a result of subtle incompatibilities.

Likewise you can clone an entire vApp in-situ to a test or DR environment with data and configuration in-place and run it in isolation from the production copy to fully test changes, this is much harder with traditional IT shared application services.

So in conclusion; Yes it could lead to some degree of silo’ing of application services which is somewhat at odds of what virtualization has done in breaking down and consolidating these silos from an infrastructure perspective. Strategically, software architecture frameworks will make applications move to a different deployment model that is more “cloud friendly” and less tied to machines, operating systems and infrastructure.

The net benefit is choice and cost control for the end-user.

vApps moving centre-stage


vApps were introduced as part of the vSphere 4 release but were largely a forgotten area of functionality until now.

The concept of a vApp is as a bar-code for an IT service, where that service consists of a number of inter-dependent virtual machines containing applications that provide a service – for example a website. the vApp contains a number of virutal machines and is tagged with required levels of service and other pertinent information like start-up order, dependencies and required networks etc. to allow them to run successfully.

For example a corporate Sharepoint service could be grouped and deployed as a vApp containing relevant domain controllers, DNS, SQL and MOSS VMs to allow it to run – from a VMware perspective you manage and deploy the servers as a whole vApp rather than individual VMs.

With the vCloud Director (vCD) announcements it’s clear what VMware’s intention was; vApps are core to the service catalog concept for vCD, you don’t just pick virtual machines you can pick ready-to-use and self-contained application stacks to deploy and un-deploy.

However, if you think about it, it’s not as simple as it might seem once you go beyond the infrastructure level as you’ll still need to do in-guest engineering and automation to make this sort of deployment model successful but it’s a good foundation to work from.

This type of rapid provisioning and the level of in-guest automation required to make it useful can be problematic with Windows guest OS’es – there are still tight dependencies on domain controllers, forests and domain SIDs to get around for many applications. As more and more Microsoft applications move to PowerShell at the core this becomes more feasible but architecturally speaking it’s a problem for anything other than trivial applications.

The guest automation story is much better for Linux VMs deployed as part of vApps as scripting and automation is at the core of Linux deployment and always has been but it’s not done for you, vCD just handles the {virtual} infrastructure provisioning; tailoring and automating the resultant guest OS images is up to you but there is much more precedent on this space.

Strategically, Springsource makes a lot of sense for these sort of container deployments, the use of application frameworks breaks the dependencies on the underlying OS and makes applications much more flexible and portable, but this is an evolution away from current enterprise applications.

VMworld 2010 SF – Day 1


I took a different approach to VMworld this year, usually I try to cram in as many sessions as possible and don’t usually spend much time on the hands-on labs. – this year I am planning to do a 60/40 mix of labs and sessions. Because the sessions are audio recorded I can review them at a later date and make the most of the hands-on labs whilst I’m on-site.

From what I saw today queues for sessions can be big, although if you get there early it’s not too bad, but this isn’t a new problem for VMworld I don’t think they’ll solve it unless they start to move to Tech-Ed scale venues. with 16k attendees at this VMworld in the US maybe the tipping point is coming, although they have added Moscone West to the facility this year which has helped a lot.

Whilst session queues may have been long the hands-on labs have been pretty quiet in Moscone West with no major queues and it’s open 8am until 10pm Monday and Tuesday so I think I’ll focus on that.

There wasn’t a main keynote on day 1, I quite like this as in VMworld’s of old there was a general keynote on day 1 which was more marketing/product announcements with the more interesting technical keynote and demos on Tuesday.

I did all of the labs for an upcoming cloud related product that cannot be named until tomorrow – which is funny as you can take the cloud director (oops :)) labs today, which is going to be useful as I’ll be working with it when I start at VMware next week 🙂

I also did my joint session with Eric Siebert and Simon Seagrave, we ran out of time for most of the demos I had lined up so I’m going to upload them to YouTube in the next couple of days and post them on my blog if you are interested to see how the vTARDIS performs and is configured.

I look forward to the keynote tomorrow and will try and blog as much as possible – although there are certainly a lot of people doing twitter this year, so maybe just click this link and watch the #vmworld hashtag 🙂

Come see the vTARDIS at VMworld on Monday


I am presenting a joint session on affordable lab/SMB environments with Eric Siebert and Simon Seagrave on Monday at 12:00pm, Moscone West room 2007 (V18328: Building an affordable vSphere environment for a lab or small business).

I am covering nested ESX functionality, whilst I haven’t physically transported the vTARDIS all the way to the US this time I am doing demos (hopefully live), so if you want to see how to build an 8 node cluster with shared storage and layer 3 networking on a single low-cost server this is the session for you

This nested ESX functionality that in in vSphere 4 (unsupported as far as I know.. but it works) is what enables most of the hands-on labs.

vTARDIS screenshot – each vmesxi-nn.lab node is really a virtual machine (see the manufacturer field below), but vCenter doesn’t care, and they are all running on a single $600 PC server with just 8Gb of physical RAM (over commit – yeah!)



If you want to see how to do this cool stuff and a whole lot more, come to the session 🙂

VMworld 2010 Hands-on Labs


Along with a number of other bloggers I was lucky enough to get a sneak preview of the VMworld 2010 labs setup today.

Wow, the setup is impressive, there is a massive self-paced labs room in Moscone West, offering 480 multi-lab seats, unlike previous years there are no specific areas for each lab, each workstation is self-contained and connects you your chosen lab from the "Lab Cloud" – which will be much better in managing the load and waiting times for popular labs.

You will have to register at the entrance and your session will be allocated to your badge number, there is a comfortable waiting area whilst you are called forward to do your labs; combined with the fact that each seat can be for any lab this is a great idea for managing foot-fall and waiting times.

There are a number of labs sessions pre-provisioned and ready to go and some will be provided on-demand when you are logged on, the ops team will be keeping a close eye on demand and can dynamically adjust the number of pre-provisioned labs to reduce start-up times for popular labs.

There are also labs upstairs where a subject matter expert (or “lab captain”) will run an audience through a presentation of the lab session and will be able to take Q&A and provide more information on the background.

The lab cloud is a heavily customised Lab Manager/vSphere environment offering up 30 different lab setups – each lab session runs from a dedicated vPod – a group of virtualized ESX, AD, vCenter hosts built from a totally automated template and accessed by a thin-client; making heavy use of virtualized ESX hosts (ala vTARDIS, but on a massive scale :))

The back-end infrastructure providing the lab cloud is split across 3 sites, 2 external DC’s and an on-site facility – the lab is closely monitored and automation deals with distributing load across the 3 facilities with resilience – the same infrastructure will be scaled down and will support VMworld Europe, although VMworld Europe 2010 will only have approx 1/2 the number of self-paced lab seats.

As you’ll see from the picture below the self-paced labs room is large, the podium in the middle is the operations centre where VMware staff co-ordinate and manage the labs environment, statistics will be relayed on realtime on the large projection screens.


Each lab workstation has a help button where you can request help from the on-site subject matter experts, I like this model better as it means the SMEs can be dispatched anywhere in the room to help out whilst allowing the maximum number of seats to be balanced across the available labs "on-demand"

I’d strongly encourage you to check out the labs, remember the normal presentation sessions are audio recorded (keynotes are usually video’d) and slides are available post-VMworld but labs are not, so this is your only chance to go hands-on – although the team know this is high on the list of "wants", the .PDF lab manuals will also be made available for download post-VMworld.

Interesting stat of the day, the environment will be creating/destroying about 5,000 virtual machines per HOUR, and over the course of the week they expect to handle 75-100,000 virtual machine create/destroy operations.