Friday, 29 May 2009
Nexus is a great step within the world of VMware networking, it means that the network bods now retrieve back some turf in the Virtualised datacenter and will need to start to work together with VMware peeps to design scalable networking solutions capable of delivering great network capability to Virtual Machines. This is most certainly something organisations will need as they become fully converged and virtualised with initiatives such as Cisco UCS. (god i sound brainwashed but hey it rocks)
Adoption of Nexus 1000v within datacenters will be a large hurdle that needs to be jumped, questions need to be raised in pre planning awareness workshops and design sessions, typical topics that may come up are whether the networking bods know about current de facto grass roots capability of Virtual Switches, are they are aware of the trunking and vlanning methodologies on offer. And in reverse I would expect the networking bods to provide technical benefits to the Virtual bods on how Nexus benefits virtualised worlds.
Commercially any large enterprise customers being Cisco based I won't be surprised if we will see a sideways approach to adoption, if networking divisions go and buy the Nexus family of switches that 1000v falls under no doubt 1000v will get pushed as being viable and suitable to the virtualised world that the physical Nexus switches will use.
A few great resources with information that might help education and awareness is available on the following links;
Steve Chambers provides some excellent commentary on typical issues and how to resolve http://viewyonder.com/2009/05/22/virtualization-barrier-4-the-network-engineer/
Ken Cline has a post that he could almost publish as a book! Great resource http://kensvirtualreality.wordpress.com/2009/03/29/the-great-vswitch-debate-part-1/
Wednesday, 27 May 2009
Siloed DRS Clusters - Would you, do you or will you have to?
Getting push back when wanting to Virtualise applications which are still under licensing policies that go back to the dark ages is definitely a kick in the teeth to anyone waxing lyrical about Virtualisation, also its very hard for someone who believes in the excellent benefits of cutting edge technology such as VMware that an ISV could be so backwards and cruel. The most common barrier with the licensing model you experience is you can't virtualise something due to the fact you have to license all Physical CPUs and sometimes even the Cores on 32 hosts in your DRS Cluster just to run it on a single VM instance, the cost just makes it impractical and I think any VM Lover would see sense (after punching a wall) in this.
One option to get around this is you could Silo DRS Clusters or segregate ESX hosts, This has its plus and minuses, some things I can think of are;
Implementing Silo'd clusters allows you to sensibly afford the licenses to cover for the workloads in a virtual environment that are subject to the ludicrous rules, it allows you to virtualise across say 2-3 Hosts and still reap benefits of dynamic load balancing and high availability with Vmotion but within a smaller cluster.
Indirectly this may also work well for supporting the higher end more expensively licensed database technology (hey i'm generalising here) that are subject to different SLA coverage, you may for example only want to license the underlying hosts for additional technology such as for DR purposes with VMware SRM which is licensed per CPU, you may not necessarily want to license hosts for SRM that have non critical tier 3 VM's running but have coverage for tier 1 apps.
Silo'ing clusters is going to be a pain in the arse for architects and designers to plan the Virtual landscape for large scale environments and also to plan for the DR of this. Technology wise this option limits you to embrace and achieve what VMware is designed to do of sweating your underlying Tin and Infrastructure assets.
Silo'ing doesn't allow you to make use of resource and scale out as much across the hosts in a DRS cluster to facilitate the smaller app workloads and to slot into the gaps that are available when you have larger apps running within a Cluster. On the operational side this creates more day to day management overhead within the virtual environment and management console, it also means you have more things that can go wrong in your environment and more change control considerations going forward.
I'm sure its evident that Siloing clusters is probably more hassle than its worth to acheive virtualising your un-license virtualisation freindly applications, carefull investigation is needed to ensure that the business case stacks up and you will gain benefits cost wise to virtualising your workloads. A saving grace for Virtualisation adopters is that VMware makes this possible, it allows you to design and build your environment in ways to facilitate this.
Another thing to also consider when it comes to licenses is the latest ESX licensing changes with the introduction of dare I say it vSphere Enterprise Plus. ESX Licensing across the complete ESX Landscape may mean we silo ESX versions to economically make use in datacentres of extended features such as Powerpath VE. In other areas of the datacenter this is done at application level with products such as SQL, it is not economical to put a low end 5GB DB on a Enterprise cluster so Standard clusters get built to host workloads that do not require the high end functionality.
All of these pointers and thoughts may well be something that Virtualisation peeps will cringe at the thought of doing, it certainly is not something I like as I like shared clusters and making use of my Infrastructure, but the mindset might have to change and it may have to happen due to there being no option or room for negogiation with ISV's to virtualise such workloads at both the Virtual Host and the Application licensing stack where ISV's wont budge to allow us to virtualise on a per vCPU basis.
Friday, 22 May 2009
ESX IOPs - This is NOT a HyperV bash!
Thursday, 21 May 2009
Dynamic hot add features for VM's - Friend or Foe?
"How will Hot Add features fit into current IT environments and processes?"
The general consensus and observation across various virtualisation experts on the newly introduced sets of feature is that some view the feature as a god send to operations, some as a mechanism to reduce numbers of people involved in the process to actually implement change outside of conventional outage periods and some at the opposite end see it as potentially even technically being detrimental to performance when hot add occurs, the later certainly stands quite true, when adding more CPU's this increases issues with large amounts of %RDY time if you have a workload or OS which isn't capable of dealing with multi threaded activity.
For operational change management teams I predict we will most certainly see the feature requiring careful planning and adoption control when being introduced into departments that currently already have business processes in place for planned maintenance, and lastly most organizations that also have approval processes for gaining cost approval on components associated with Infrastructure services and upgrades will need to change and control dynamic growth.
The crux is that something that anything current IT departments are looking to buy into that has a charge associated with it is almost certainly going to need a sustainable business case as to why you should purchase it. Any organisation is in the current economic climate most certainly experiencing large amounts of kickback for any future potential investment above and beyond the norm, it maybe a Small business that has been told you need to use VMware server for free rather than buying ESX or a medium business being forced to only use ESXi rather than full blown and get on with managing your hosts on a singular basis all the way through to large corporate enterprises that are being forced to reduce spend on Vmware features such as the topic of this post Hot Add.
It is definitely a dead cert that Hot Add resource will save time and money in the small and medium sized operational environments, it avoids spending money planning out of hours coverage as changes if approved are technical possible during the day, the size of the business and maturity level of Infrastructure usually means that the department has to be quite reactive when it comes to reported issues with performance. This flexibility may not be the case in larger enterprises, most larger organisations have a defined business process implemented that has a change control process enforced to ensure that large outages across the Infrastructure landscape are mitigated and also ensure that any proposed changes are regressable within decent time frames if or when that change goes wrong. Change and approval processes are also in place within organizations for things such as service improvement plans, a technical design authority within a company will approve a larger upgrade such as increase of RAM to a host or multiple CPU upgrades due to the overall effect on the larger picture i.e. your Virtualisation farm and general Infrastructure.
In comparison when you look at how a technology such as Vmotion works today, this has certainly made organisational process required to plan for maintenance and upgrade tasks to physical hosts a hell of a lot faster and hot add is no doubt going to be very similar, the premise being that you are enabling IT Operations in large amounts of organisations the opportunity to be able to mitigate and perform maintenance tasks that they would not usually perform on VM's unless pre agreed outages are approved by CAB that allows them to shutdown the VM and add resource. As with most things however their are some possible barriers which may not mean hot add is a possibility, the risk and caveat associated that I can see causing stumbling blocks in organisations are as follows;
I've investigated the support of hot removal and it doesn't exist as a supported function in Windows versions (only hot add/replace), vSphere may support hot removal at Virtual Hardware level but the important factor is at the operating system layer the OS doesn’t, this may shoot you in the foot when quoting that hot add/remove can be performed at any point in time without disruption, remember CAB's like a regression path (lack of this is quite a good excuse most times for them to defer a change) say you experience more problem than before and can't remove a CPU or RAM unless you turn the service off and you are walking a dodgy tightrope. Also reducing CPU's from VM's is NOT a cleancut 1-2 process, it needs HAL changes. (which I believe on Windows 2003 is not supported in full)
Cost approval and control
RAM and CPU is not free, yes we all know that virtualising workloads provides additional HW resource to use the underutilized hardware resources more efficiently, but each Megabyte of RAM in your hosts still costs money, this starts by you needing to ensure that lower level Virtual admins do not have access to add RAM at the click of a button the minute that a support call gets raised from someone experiencing poor application performance. This is where implementing a full vCenter delegation model is very important.
Within organisations that are currently recharging per VM and recharging back on the actual VM size this is quite important as there is scope to use more underlying resource for the same money if a corner is cut, increase the amount of RAM/CPU constantly and this cost model goes out the window and so do your bottom line figures.
Ultimately to avoid any possible issues and arguments in CAB, the key is to ensure you rightsize your Virtual Machines and match the workload correctly in the first place. Hot Add of resource for OS’s supported running in VM’s really is a great thing, it is enabling x86 Workloads to act almost non stop mainframe style which means you have very little experienced downtime for apps and services, this is exactly what you get when you use Mainframe systems and the associated benefits of non stop. This strategy of dynamic growth enables VMware to acheive the goal of turning x86 into the new mainframe, this will undoubtedly play even a small role in adding huge amount of functionality improvements and value add within your organization so make sure you embrace it but make sure it dosnt get out of control.
Sunday, 17 May 2009
VM Sprawl - prevention rather than cure
Within the virtualised world today many people who have deployed virtualisation have the problem that business leaders and purse string holders now know about the great fantastic cost benefits that they can obtain from investment in VMware and other Hypervisors, examples of some of these benefits include;
- Ability to do more with less physical infrastructure and with less upfront capital expenditure
- Capability of deploying cheaper DR
- Reductions on project opex resource costs
- Introduction of improved agility for development lifecycles
- Reductions in deployment times on production rollout of server instances
- Reductions in real estate, they can even rent out your space if your part of a massive group of organisations
Large amounts of IT shops have enforced the ever popular "Virtualisation first" policy since the virtual boom time around 2006/7, this opportunity has been enabled by the excellent benefits and the excellent work VMware have done in ensuring that production workloads can and will be most certainly suitable on a Virtualised platform. This policy and the return benefits that the end service requestee has gained however is now almost likely starting to mean that your Infrastructure is growing out of control and at quite a rapid rate due to the popularity, also you are finding due to the agile benefits requestees for projects are probably slipping in the odd extra VM in an estate which they would not typically do with Physical tin due to the associated cost and process to deploy. You may find you start to experience operational issues such as your storage array is becoming full, your Networking switching full due to host demands and in worst cases that lovely space that you gained back through aggressive P2V's strategy circa 2005/6 is now needed back for ESX hosts, all requiring investment again.
In its simplest form VM sprawl reactive resolution can start by general house cleaning, this wont require you to purchase a product as using Virtualcenter can quite easily accomplish and target reductions if needed. For example some VM's might be not registered on ESX hosts, some might be replicated or spun off to a clone due to original operational issues when the app team or ISV deployed the VM. You may also find that your actual presented VMDK's for VM's are way under filled so they can be shrunk to regain space.
On the consumed storage issues, vSphere 4 introduces a few added peices of functionality which will aid and reduce this in future, any recommendations are based on current releases. Main features include Thin Provisioning of VM's, this will enable you to grow VM usage and not have what is effectively whitespace within your VMDK's unable to be used.
Proactive planning and prevention
Every virtualised environment should have at least some kind of documented audit, if you have not got a CMDB then in simplest form an Excel spreadsheet provides a simplistic view of your Virtual Infrastructure and allocation. Virtualcenter has exportable reporting built in to contribute to build even a simple spreadsheet, to see this in action withinin your Virtualcenter today goto "VM and Template View" then select the highest level folder then select "File > Export > Export List". Some VI Admins may be quite clever with powershell scripts or by building SQL queries but this is quick and easy and intuitive. You can use this type of audit to also help capacity planning for your environment, this enables you to monitor how much space you have left and perform simplistic "What If" analysis on how much disk, RAM and CPU resource you would have when adding a new machine that is being requested.
Again VMware Virtualcenter will at some point this year have functionality within a module called CapacityIQ to enable you to gain this functionality from within the vCenter console, for more information see http://www.vmware.com/products/vcenter-capacityiq/ on this. I've seen it in action and its great, it provides out of the box functionality which will most certainly aid what I've said about within this post.
The Rolls Royce solution
For larger enterprise sized Virtual environments, keeping track of the constant demand and growth demand is impossible and to succeed IT services ideally need to be self service based with the end user or customer being able to request what they want through web mechanism. It would sound stupid to provide the enduser with control to increase even more the created problem of sprawl that you are experiencing, however to combat this the SSP (self service portal) can be provided with delegated privileges, pre defined object creation control, approval processes to higher level management or project support offices and also they can provide proactive benefits such as what if analysis and tombstone of Virtual Machines. All policy within the technology which is applied is set by IT governance policies and defined according to business requirement within the tools.
Two example products which provide self service portals include;
- Vmware Lifecycle Manager (also Lab manager and Stage) http://www.vmware.com/products/lcm/
- DynamicOps http://dynamicops.com/
These technologies are currently rather low on uptake and adoption within organisations today, there maybe more technologies on the market but with using example functionality in the above products we will certainly start to see more and more as IT departments struggle with the demands from the business for Infrastructure. I also predict that the technologies will also start to become known as has with VMware the killer app to reduce lost productivity gain within organisations and project teams.
The issues today with the products are they currently they do have medium to large price tags associated which puts off the typical bean counter when businesses cases are put forward, so before building any proposals do your research on the product and see where you feel it is able to reduce and cut current tedious expensive business processes, VM Sprawl and improve your budgeting cost projects so this can be equated into a measurable deliverable ROI post deployment of such product.
Wednesday, 13 May 2009
And the VM war continues....
Monday, 11 May 2009
Cisco UCS - Direct feedback to the blogosphere
Cisco have provided direct from the horses mouth responsive feedback on comments such as mine that industry bloggers have raised and I am mightily impressed they have done this, it certainly takes a lot for an individual to represent the organisation to provide responses to feedback and possible criticism composed on various web blogs. The interview with Wendy Mars Cisco Director of the UCS Intiative is available in video format to view on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDUbttbatBo&feature=channel_page , responses were very good and cisco like, analytic and positive with no fear of that what has been said by the likes of myself is likely to give UCS a damaged impression at such an early stage and it is a very positive review. Cisco have as i've said before not got into the blade server market to dabble, they are here to become number one.
Collectively the blog commentary has probably come across in some respects as quite a hard critism on Cisco and pointed quite aggressively and looked at flaws that the new converged strategy they are using. Run up to the California UCS Launch was marketed from the outset by Cisco themselves in moderate build up and I think a lot of people not privy to internal discussions with Cisco directly were quite amazed at how architecturally basic the technology and strategy is yet on the flipside of this amazed at how it is likely to turn datacentre consolidation up a notch by the sheer simplistic nature of converged backplanes and converged IO between SAN and LAN with FcOE.
In response to my question which was "Do enterprises want to unify networks, storage and servers?", It does seem that large amounts of views on UCS have come from a bottom up engineering nuts and bolts perspective not from the top down C level view or even a middle view which is an Architect who needs to invest in the right technology yet not sacrifice functionality, scalability etc for their organisation/customer.
I think a lot of engineering folk are most likely afraid or more probably concerned at how Converged networking affects the SAN or LAN admin as we know it and the role that they both play in IT today, I think it will be very hard to find any C level bods that have as a harsh view on how it will integrate, post descriptive recommendation from trusty aide they will most likely love the overall benefits with the reduced opex costs of running a datacentre with fewer cabling requirements and costs of fabric switching and Lan switching (longer term not immediately). Engineering folk will probably find it similar to Server Virtualisation and blade backplane technology such as Virtual connect and will need to find time to adapt with the new way of working within a structured IT department.
Lets hope we see more response to blogger opinions and questions on the internet, the organisations and companies that we comment on are nine times out of ten obtaining free marketing for large amounts of revenue gain in return so videos like this to appease us are the least they can/should do.
Sunday, 10 May 2009
Hot Add CPU - Vsphere
- Windows 2003 Enterprise (RAM Only) and Datacenter (CPU & RAM)
- Windows 2008 Enterprise (RAM Only) and Datacenter (CPU & RAM)
- Linux running kernel 2.6.14 or above
Tuesday, 5 May 2009
vSphere emergency dumps
Sunday, 3 May 2009
Oracle support backlashing
Being an early adopter of Vmware Virtualisation has meant that in the past I have faced this type of support hurdle many a time and felt of the same opinion, one example being SAP, from the way I see it, it took SAP large amounts of use case and almost eating the dog food themselves first internally to gain trust with ESX 2 being used to host its main B2C training and demo suites.
The scalable benefits of ESX VI3 arrived with larger than 3.6GB of addressable RAM per VM, multiple CPU's and it was then the start of them being able to comfortably provide customers with full blown production support for running SAP within a Virtualised environment. Microsoft is another one, they have in the last year introduced the SVVP program http://www.windowsservercatalog.com/svvp.aspx to ensure that Microsoft software customers play straight dice and align MS software versions to the latest releases and service pack revisions to gain break fix support from them. Although larger enterprises were able to gain acknowledgement for support entitlement under their Premier support agreement it was always a grey area of what would actually happen when the inevitable phone call had to be made and you had to migrate or replicate a problem with the software which was running say 10000 Exchange accounts! (it just wasnt practical lets face it).
In regards to why we still have a lack of clear positive Oracle alliances is that they more than likely still see Vmware (and other Hypervisors or soft parition mechanisms) as a threat to licensing and associated revenue, this is one of or if not the most important part of Oracles business model. Run considerably more Oracle workloads on less physical processors or run Oracle within a DRS cluster and that's less revenue for them. On the licensing front they do seem to have tailored licensing for VMware (bit funny as its not supported) to mean that you have to license ALL possible hosts that a VM running Oracle could run upon, as you can gather this is just ridiculous and almost a non starter.
When it comes to aligning Oracle to any goal or hope of a complete virtualised datacentre you can see its just not going to fly and add up on your business case (or at least be easy at the moment), the licensing model is no doubt designed for large mainframe Iron which has no dynamic virtualisation capability such as Live migrate or resource scheduling. Interestingly however they now support LDOM's which is a Hypervisor based Virtualisation tool (this was predate the SUN acquisition), http://sun.systemnews.com/articles/133/4/opt-sysadmin/21419 I can't find if they have tailored licensing plan for this yet (they do for CMT Sparc processors) but this is a Hypervisor so no technical issues or arguements exists here then with the hypervisor indirection being used so this just increases the suspicion that Licensing rules the roost over virtualisation support.
Hopefully in future we will see some real movement in Oracle licensing schemes and acknowledged support, it is obvious that they are dependant on each other. Other issues arise within larger enterprises as it is hard to determine and show your data/dba teams that running Oracle on VMware is a reality, I could probably add loads of detail on how and what you can do to achieve this but will save for another rainy day.
The whole support, licensing and 100% virtualised datacentre vision will start to become more interesting when Vsphere arrives with all of its great scalable benefits along with the high availability benefits that are brought to organisations that can enable you to consolidate Tier 1 workloads, This was what happened in my example of SAP and others around release of ESX 3 so hopefully Oracle will acknowledge this and can forklift customers into building enough revolt to get Oracle on the straight and narrow and get focused on who is the most important person at the end of the day.....the paying customer.
Saturday, 2 May 2009
The Oracle - still helping red pills?
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