VMworld Wednesday Lessons Learned

One of the strengths of a conference such as VMworld is being able to direct questions to strangers across the table at meals and often get a useful answer.  At lunch Wednesday I struck up a conversation with the folks at the table about PowerCLI to see if I could accomplish this task:
 
3. Learn some basic functions of PowerCLI
 
It turns out they were easily able to get me pointed in the right direction.  PowerCLI is an application available for download from VMware that an administrator can run on their workstation to help with mundane and repetitive tasks related to vSphere management.  PowerCLI is a VMware tool that is based on Microsoft’s PowerShell which is available on most (or all?) modern Windows OS versions.  PowerGUI, as the name suggests, is a free graphical front-end for PowerShell that can incorporate components to managed vSphere.  One of the top 10 VMworld sessions this year was “VSVC4944: PowerCLI Best Practices: A Deep Dive” (available on YouTube here)
 
I attended “Key Lessons Learned from Deploying a Private Cloud Service Catalog” (OPT5051), presented by two consultants from Greenpages Technology Solutions that implemented such a system for one of their customers. In their case study, five people spent 6-8 months working with their corporate customer building consensus between different groups within the company for what should be in the service catalog, what could be automated, and what things were deemed too complicated and would take too much effort to implement in the initial engagement.
 
They initially started the project by gathering all requirements up front and attempted to implement, but because there was so much “mission creep” after they completed some initial integrations they modified their approach to use individual “Sprints” of 2-3 weeks to build functionality incrementally.
 
The idea of having a service catalog implies the use of on-demand procurement by end-users. Setting up such a system inevitably leads to higher demand, so the system should have usage monitoring in place. When the available pools drops below a certain threshold, it should be agreed in advance that IT will procure new resources either for the internally based “private cloud” or to be able to take advantage of “hybrid cloud” technology such as VMware’s recently announced vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS).
Service catalog offerings are meant to provide on-demand service, but it’s important to include financial management tools that will track costs and either “show-back” or “bill-back” the costs to the lines of business using the service.
 
Finally, I was able to complete the NSX hands-on lab. Not surprisingly, this particular lab was the most taken lab of the week with about 6500 sittings.  Of course, the NSX lab was so long it required 2 sittings, but it’s still impressive that over 3000 people presumably took that lab.
NSX Lab Stats
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VMworld Tuesday Lessons Learned

Today’s accomplishments are focused around these particular goals I mentioned in my “Swack’s VMworld To-Do List” post:
 
1. Gain better understanding of NSX (came from vCNS/vShield and Nicira) and dive more into details of VMware networking

4. What is DevOps all about?

An Introduction to Network Virtualization” (NET5516)
For NSX, I attended an excellent session titled “An Introduction to Network Virtualization” (NET5516) with Eric Lopez and Thomas Kraus (@tkrausjr) from VMware, both formerly of Nicira.  Following are some notes I took down from their slides.

Cloud Consumers want the following, and these are driving network virtualization:

  • Ability to deploy apps at scale and with little preplanning (provisioning speed and efficiency)
  • Mobility to move workloads between different geographies and providers (investment protection and choice)
  • Flexibility to create more diverse architectures in a self service manner (rich L3-L7 network services)
NSX System Architecture consists of 3 planes familiar to most network engineers: Management, Control, and Data Planes
  • Management Plane = NSX Manager – programmatic web services api to define logical networks
  • Control Plane = Control Cluster
  • Clustered App runs on x86 servers, controls and manages 1000s of edge switching devices, does NOT sit in data plane
  • Data Plane = OVS/NVS
    • Open vSwitch (OVS) vmWare-led open source project
    • NSX vSwitch (NVS) is a software vSwitch in ESXi kernel
  • Switch software designed for remote control and tunneling installed in hypervisors, NSX gateways or hardware VTEP devices
  • Can work with vSphere, KVM, XenServer
  • vSwitch in each hypervisor controlled through API by Controller Cluster
  • NSX manager uses this API, so does cloudstack, openstack, CMS/CMP, VMware 
  • To get between physical and virtual networks, Open vSwitch NSX Gateway or HW Partner VTEP Device is used
  • NSX Controller Cluster establishes an overlay network
  • Multiple tunneling protocols including STT, GRE, VXLAN
  • Packets encapsulate with Logical Switch info
  • The tunneling protocol is NOT network virtualization, rather, it is a component of it 
NSX use cases include:
  1. Automated network provisioning
  2. Inter rack or inter DC connectivity
  3. P2V and V2V migration
  4. Burst or migrate enterprise to cloud 

NSX Whiteboard Sketch

The Whiteboard snapshot above was drawn to demonstrate the basic components of NSX and how VMs communicate using the virtual overlay netowrk

The example uses ESXi on left and KVM hypervisor on right (HV1 and HV2)

  • Each connected to IP fabric
  • 3 controllers drawn in the middle
  • Intelligent Edge NVS installed on ESXi and OVS installed on KVM
  • Controllers talk with ESXi on vmkernel management interface, something similar with KVM
  • Addresses assigned that used for encapsulation and direct communication between hypervisors: 172.16.20.11/24 on left, 172.16.30.11/24 on right
  • Customer A is green, they have a VM on each hypervisor (192.168.1.11 on left, 192.168.1.12 on right)
  • Customer B is red, they have VM on each hypervisor with SAME IP ADDRESSES – logically separated similar to VRFs (I didn’t get a picture of this–sorry) 
  • Controller cluster controls virtual ports, so they can programmatically control QoS, Security, Distributed Routing
NSX Hands-On-Lab HOL-SDC-1303, continued
I was able to continue, but not yet finish, the NSX lab I started yesterday in the VMworld Hands-on-Labs (HOL-SDC-1303). This portion of the lab went into more technical detail surrounding the following diagram:

Screen Shot 2013 08 27 at 4 02 07 PM

The network drawing depicts a 3-tier web application which includes web, application, and database servers. Each server tier is on a different subnet, and thus connected to a different port group. The NSX Edge shown acts as the external layer 3 (L3) gateway for each subnet shown in blue, green, and orange.  At the beginning of this lab section we verify the web app is working properly by connecting to the website and verifying data is served from the back 2 tiers (application and database servers).  Then we disconnect the NSX Edge from the App and DB subnets/port groups and validate that the website is broken (can get to web servers but get an HTTP error saying service not working).  Next, we connect to the vCenter web client and verify that each cluster is configured and loaded with the virtual router and virtual firewall components of the NSX suite, and we configure the router and firewall to connect to the App and DB tiers and allow the appropriate traffic. Finally we verify that service is restored on the website. Part of the configuration includes OSPF connectivity between the virtual distributed router on the ESXi hosts and OSFP running in the NSX Edge routing engine. Looking at the snapshot below of the NSX Edge you can see the similarities with Cisco IOS. For instance, “show ip ospf neighbor” and “show ip route” commands are identical.
Screen Shot 2013 08 27 at 3 51 27 PM
 
I hope to complete this lab tomorrow.
 
What is DevOps?
While spending some time in the Solutions Exchange I discussed what DevOps means with someone involved in that space at the Cisco booth.  As I understand it, companies usually first get virtualized, then they implement a service catalog, then they implement a “cloud” such that it’s self-service enabled. DevOps refers to IT working closely with developers such that they create the development environment as well as production environment that the developers will deploy to. If you know more about DevOps and I’ve misunderstood, please keep me honest.
 
VMware IT Business Management Suite 
Finally, in the VMware booth I learned about the VMware IT Business Management Suite. It enables companies to understand costs and, as I understand it, implement chargeback to IT’s internal customers. The demo looked pretty impressive, and I think there is a lot of value in such a tool. It can pull General Ledger data directly from standard systems such as Oracle and SAP and presents data in a well-thought-out manner. It’s something to share with the CIO and/or accounting folks back home.

VMworld Monday Lessons Learned

Started out a productive day with my first-ever Fritatta and some delicious croissants at breakfast in Moscone South.  Having seen the debacle of “breakfast” at last year’s VMworld, the seating this year was at least an improvement with areas available in both Moscone South and West.

I went to the General Session at 9am, but as I was seated towards the back I couldn’t see the bottom of the screens. There were no screens overhead, only 3 or 4 large screens up front. In addition, the vmworld2013 wireless SSID was nowhere to be seen. The Press SSID (vmwaremedia) was available but locked down. Attempts to use my AT&T MyFi were stifled due to the overwhelming RF interference in the area. And I had AT&T cell coverage but no throughput.  Having seen how well wireless CAN be delivered at Cisco Live, even in this kind of space for 20,000+ people, I was very disappointed.  I decided to go watch the Keynote from the Hang Space, but that was full to capacity with a line waiting to get in. I finally gave up and walked over to Moscone West, 3rd floor, and sat at a charging station watching the live stream while waiting for my first breakout session. (Kudos at least for the stream working.)

My first session was “Moving Enterprise Application Dev/Test to VMware’s internal Private Cloud — Operations Transformation (OPT5194).” This was a great story of how leadership from the top pushed VMware to implement Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS). Kurt Milne (@kurtmilne) (VMware Director of CloudOps) and Venkat Gopalakrishnan (VMware Director of IT) shared lessons learned during VMware’s internal implementation of a service catalog and the automation of processes which used to require manual intervention by cross-functional teams over the course of weeks.  The process of standing up a new Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) series of dev/test/uat/stage/prod environments has been greatly automated and provisioning time reduced from 4 weeks to 36 hours and they plan to reduce it to 24 hours in the near future.  If you’re going through a similar journey in your organization, this session is a must see when recordings and slides are released after the conference. I believe the session was also live-tweeted by @vmwarecloudops.

The other session I attended today was the very popular “What’s New in VMware vSphere” presented by Mike Adams (http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/author/madams). We reviewed some of the new features released in vSphere 5.1 last year as well as some of the changes made for vSphere 5.5 this year.  Some key takeaways for me (your mileage may vary):

  1. vSphere is now wrapped up with Operations Management, i.e., vCenter Operations Manager (vCOPS). Referred to as “vSphere with Operations Management” it’s now available in the Standard, Enterprise, and Enterprise+ flavors, each of which includes vCOPS Standard. See snapshot of feature breakout and license cost.
    VSphere with Ops Mgmt Cost Features Chart
  2. vCloud Suite variations all include vSphere Enterprise+, vCloud Director (vCD), and vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS). The individual flavors depend on the version of vCOPS and vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) which are Standard, Advanced, and Enterprise. In addition, the Enterprise SKU also includes vCenter Site Recovery Manager (vC SRM).
  3. vSphere Web Client is replacing vSphere Windows Client, so we “better get comfortable with it.” If I understand correctly, vSphere 5.5 includes support for all functionality in the Web Client now but not the Windows Client.
  4. New features in vSphere 5.5 include: VMDK file support up to 62TB, 4TB memory per host, 4096 vCPUs per host.
  5. vSphere Replication allows full copying of workloads, including the VMFS files, without shared storage. This perhaps saves the cost of more expensive synchronous or asynchronous storage replication, but has a somewhat limited Recovery Point Objective (RPO) of about 15 minutes.  Still, this may be a good fit for some organizations for DR (including mine).

In addition to the sessions I was able to complete three labs (between yesterday and today) all related to VMware’s recently announced vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS). HOL-HBD-1301, HOL-HBD-1302, and HOL-HBD-1303 give a good introduction to the components and steps necessary to migrate workloads from a vSphere or vCloud Director environment in your own datacenter to the vCHS environment, as well as networking & security components and managing the service. 

One big announcement during the morning General Session/Keynote was the release of VMware’s network virtualization product called NSX.  This is the marriage of Nicira (an earlier VMware acquisition) and vCNS/vShield in a new product.  As a network engineer by background and training, this is particularly interesting to me. I was able to start the NSX lab (HOL-SDC-1303) but couldn’t yet finish as I ran out of time. I plan to finish tomorrow. More to come on that.

I have to give a big thumbs-down to VMworld’s requirement that we all get our badges scanned as we enter lunch.  I don’t remember this last year, nor have I ever seen this at any other conference I’ve attended.  What gives?  It’s hard to hold a herd of hungry humans back from the food!

Finally, I visited with some fine folks at the Rackspace booth in the Solutions Exchange, including Waqas Makhdum (@waqasmakhdum). I now understand that Rackspace’s Openstack platform uses a different hypervisor solution than VMware or Amazon EC2, but they offer guaranteed uptime with a phone number to call for support and apparently pretty reasonable costs for running a VM you control or even hosting the VM and just having you run your application on it. Also, I learned they offer VMware-based Managed Virtualization to allow you to “Set up a single-tenant VMware environment at our data center, rapidly provision VMs, and retain full control using the orchestration tools you’re familiar with.” (Ref: http://www.rackspace.com/managed-virtualization/)

I’m failing to mention all the great people I met and conversations but one would expect nothing less from a great conference!

VMworld Hands-On Labs, Follow-Up

Vmworld2012 us live

In case you hadn’t heard, VMworld became “VMwait” today as I, along with quite a few other strong-willed geeks, waited well over seven (yes, that’s SEVEN) hours before being seated for our first Hands-On Lab (HoL). Despite the hardships sustained by all, including the folks in green shirts running the labs, we all came through it alive and stronger for it.  To make it up to us, they decided to stay open until 10pm at which time no new folks could enter but those of us that were there could finish what we started. Proudly, I managed to get three labs in (at least most of them) before heading back to my hotel for the night (sorry v0dgeball and VMunderground, I couldn’t make it…maybe next year). Unfortunately, I heard some labs were still having problems even once they got the environment up and running. But luckily for me, I had fairly minimal issues and was able to learn lots!

I want to give a HUGE shout-out to Mr. Irish Spring who did an outstanding job listening to our feedback today and made sure we were supplied with refreshments when we got hungry and kept us informed.

Irish Spring

Also many thanks to Ms. Jennifer Galvin who spent some time chatting with some of us, listening to our (mostly justifiable) grumbling about the experiences of the day.

Jennifer Galvin

In all fairness to VMware, I understand that some of the back-side tech being used this year is different than last year (indeed, some of it isn’t even being announced until Monday morning’s keynote). They took a risk and ended up having some problems. It’s certainly happened to me. I’m betting it has (or will) happen to you.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for everyone involved with the labs.

IMG 0847

VMworld Hands-On Labs, First Look

My Sunday here at VMworld began with a good breakfast at a local bakery. I then headed to Moscone West shortly before the Hands-On Labs (HoL) were scheduled to open at 11am and was greeted with this scene:

IMG 0809

I was able to navigate through the Traditional HoL crowd to the slightly shorter Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) line, indicated by this nice guy:

IMG 0810

After the doors opened, I followed the line inside to the BYOD Check-In Desk. While in line, some very helpful green-shirted VMware folks explained how to prepare our machines for the HoL. After handing over my conference badge to the folks at the table, they entered me into the system and I proceeded to the BYOD Configuration Desk across the room:

IMG 0821

I’d decided to take someone else’s advice and use my iPad to login to the http://vmwarecloud.com site from the HOL wifi (only available inside the HoL area). That way I can access the lab guide instructions on my tablet and then I could use my MacBook Pro to connect to the lab environment with the View Client. The waiting continued in the “Holding Tank” where I hung out with about 100 other folks waiting for my name to proceed up to the top of this screen:

IMG 0822

While waiting, they had a small seating area set up where the folks that wrote the labs were presenting whiteboard sessions:

IMG 0820

Once my name reached the top of the screen I headed to the Seating Desk where I obtained my password and access code to login to the HoL site.

IMG 0825

With this single-use code in hand I was guided to the BYOD HoL seating area where I set up to do my first lab! Based on what I’ve heard from previous VMworlds, I think it’ll all be worth the wait.

See you on Twitter!