VMware NSX – First Impressions

One of the first “killer applications” on the PC platform was Lotus 1-2-3, a spread sheeting program that greatly improved the productivity of the people using it and making a clear case for buying PCs.  More recently, we’ve seen this sort of thing happening in IT infrastructure, with virtualisation, automation, cloud and “as a service”.  VMware’s NSX product is the latest in a line of products from VMware in this sort of area.

If we go back to the “good old days” of getting a server up and running, it could take weeks.  The diagram below shows the amount of effort involved.

Old school server provisioning
Old school server provisioning

While some of these numbers may have been more or less depending on circumstances, in many cases it could’ve taken over 150 business hours to get a server ready for use.  Or almost a full month.

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VMware Horizon 7 – First Impressions

VMware Horizon is a Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) product which initially allowed provisioning of Virtual Desktops off a base image in an easily to manage fashion.  Over time, VMware have added extra functionally, such as the ability to add Remote Desktop Services (RDS) servers.

Version 7 has added a number of interesting features and improvements.  The one mentioned first in the release notes is Instant Clones.  This is a technology I’ve been following for a while, ever since I read about it.  Originally known as VMFork, it’s a technology to allow very rapid, almost instant, provisioning of Virtual Machines.  Duncan Epping wrote a good overview of VMFork/Instant Clone back in 2014.  Support for Virtual Volumes and Linux desktops are some of the other features that have been added.

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Results from Telstra’s Free Data Day

Telstra had another free data day on Sunday 3rd April and this time I decided to take advantage of it since my phone has been capable of giving back speed test results of 90Mbits/sec compared to 12 on my ADSL.

Prep & Setup

Unfortunately I made the assumption that my wifi adapter would work again since the Windows 10 upgrade I performed on my PC.  I went to bed early and set the alarm so I would wake up around 3am.  Due to issues with getting the adapter working, I lost about an hour and started around 4:30am.  The primary aim was to download a number of games on Steam that I hadn’t downloaded yet.

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SQL As A Service Proof of Concept with SQL 2012 and vRealize Automation

Standing up a redundant/highly available database infrastructure can be one of the more complicated pieces of work.  Doing it by hand is a long process with any points where errors could happen.  It was with this in mind that I decided to use this as my first “project” with vRealize Automation.

A Brief History of SQL Server High Availability

When discussing redundancy or high availability (HA) for databases, there’s two distinct outcomes – firstly to ensure the continued delivery of the service in the event of infrastructure failure (the actual HA part) and secondly to ensure the data is kept in an orderly fashion (data integrity, no loss of data, etc).  Where these two activities happen depend on the technology used.

In older versions of SQL Server, these outcomes were achieved using SQL Clustering.  In SQL Clustering, the HA function was achieved at the server level by having 2 or more servers, while data integrity was maintained by the database residing on shared storage.

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Want hands on with Virtual Volumes? EMC has a Virtual Appliance for that

Virtual Volumes (VVols) is a new method of managing storage introduced in VMware vSphere 6.0.  Unlike many of the new features in vSphere 6.0, VVols requires not just vSphere 6.0 to work, but a storage device that supports the technology.  Fortunately, EMC have produced a virtual appliance that emulates a storage device with VVol support, so you can get some practical exposure to Virtual Volumes without needing a shiny new storage array.  Download and documetation can be found at http://www.emc.com/products-solutions/trial-software-download/vvols.htm  The process for getting Virtual Volumes completely working is rather long, as the flow chart from EMC’s documentation below shows:

Virtual Volumes Workflow
Virtual Volumes Workflow

I’ll run through the steps in getting the Appliance and Virtual Volumes working on a vSphere installation.

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vRealize Automation 7.0 – First Impressions

vRealize Automation is, as VMware puts it, cloud automation software. It’s the black box where the magic that happens between a customer or consumer of your cloud services and the infrastructure the cloud sits on, providing the services we would normally associate with a cloud service such as self-service, elasticity and multi-tenant support.

vRealize Automation - The Black Box
vRealize Automation – The Black Box

In the past, this product was known as vCloud Automation Center, or vCAC. It was rebranded along with a number of other VMware products under the vRealize banner. However, the newly branded vRealize Automation product still retains some references to vCAC.

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Travel Report – Cairns, January 2016

I had decided last year that I wanted to travel more during the course of the year, but repeating the sort of trip I usually do around November was out since it ends up being very expensive and time consuming. So the plan was to bounce over to the east coast of Australia or maybe to a close overseas location now and then for a break.

As it happened, QANTAS had a sale offer to Cairns that was valid over the Australia Day long weekend. So I went for it, booking as economy and putting in upgrades requests. 3/4 of the requests were granted automatically with the final leg (Sydney to Perth) sitting in “Confirmed” status.

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An argument against out of hours system maintenance

Late night again...
Late night again…

“You have no problem with out of hours work, right?”

It’s that question during the interview that causes a knot in your stomach. You hope, even pray, that what they mean is the occasional bit of emergency response work or a crunch period at a critical part of a project, both of which you have no issue with. But after you accept that job you find out that the work is routine system maintenance.

I’m going to put forward the argument that in this, dare I say it, golden age of automation, continuous deployment, commodity hardware, virtualisation, micro-services and other cloud-related fluff that there is very few situations why this work needs to be done out of hours. If anything using this model incurs additional risk.

(To any prospective employers out there, don’t take this as my refusal to do such work, this piece is simply about thinking about the issue differently)

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