13 Jul 2011
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Last night I posted an article where I showed my initial findings in regards to the changes in vSphere Licensing. In the post I showed just how much more VMware customers will have to fork out to upgrade their environments to vSphere 5. I also included some tables which showed the figures.

After looking into the licensing issue a little deeper, and after spending some time on the phone with my good friend Tom Howarth (from http://www.planetvm.net), I realized that the whole licensing thing isn’t as straight forward as my original post might have pointed out. I’m going to try and explain myself and Tom’s findings.

The first conversation I had with Tom this morning really turned into a session in which we had exchanged our feelings of disbelief and annoyance in regards to where the new licensing model would leave our customers. About half an hour to an hour after that conversation had finished, Tom gave me another call in which he said: “It’s not as bad as we had first thought”. I guess that is what really (indirectly) triggered this post.

Both Tom and I did some calculations on our own and came to the same conclusion. Although we are not entirely in favor of the new licensing model, it does seem to, in certain conditions, force you to stay with recommended best practice in regards to N+1.

I’m going to try and start off with some simple examples to illustrate just what the new licensing model would mean in terms of money.

Bear in mind that in vSphere 5, the licensing will be based on “pools” of resources which I understand is per “vCenter Server instance”. I assume that licenses can move around not only between clusters, but data centre objects as well. However, I could be wrong, so don’t quote me on that just yet.

For simplicity, I’m going to assume that we have a single vCenter server that manages a single cluster of ESXi hosts.

In my first example, I’m going to keep it real simple. In this example we have a single ESXi host being managed by a vCenter server. The ESX host has two 12-core CPUs and 64GB of RAM to start with. The calculation looks as follows:


In the table above, we see that it actually costs more to run vSphere 4 Enterprise than vSphere 5 Enterprise or Enterprise Plus. Also, notice that we require more vSphere 4 Standard and Enterprise licenses as what is required for vSphere 4 Enterprise Plus as well as all of the vSphere 5 Editions. This is because of the 6-core CPU limit on vSphere 4 Standard and Enterprise Editions.

Other than that, there’s not much else to say about the calculation above, so let’s double the memory in that host to a figure that I’m more likely to see more often in my customer environments.


Ok, the table above shows a little more about the penalty that will be paid in terms of vRAM TAX. Because there is now more than 96GB of RAM, an extra CPU license is required to legally make use of use of 100% of the physical memory.

However, as a single host is not very realistic, I’m going to up the ESXi hosts to 4. Let’s see what happens.


The table above shows 4 ESXi hosts. Although the licensing looks bad, keep in mind that we are planning to use 100% of the physical memory in the host, which is not a good idea in terms of HA and N+1. It is also very bad design practice.

So to get ourselves into a better position in regards to HA, let’s apply a rule that states we have to leave 25% headroom in terms of cluster wide memory.


As a result of applying a rule that states that we are only allowed to use 75% of the TOTAL cluster’s physical memory resources, the licensing seems to be more on target, with an equal license count between vSphere 4 and 5. Also, because of the CPU core limit in vSphere 4, notice that with the Enterprise license, vSphere 5 actually works out cheaper than vSphere 4.

Now here’s the trap. Let’s up the Target Physical memory Utilization figure to by 1% to 76% and see what happens.


As soon as we use 76% of the cluster wide physical memory resources, we are required to purchase another license. The biggest issue I have here is that VMware now contradicts itself in terms of features and licensing. For example, they would like to sell vSphere as the “clever” solution that will sort out resource contention with things like Resource Pools (Proportional Share-Based Algorithm) and Transparent Memory Page Sharing, but on the other hand, they tax you for using those features.


In the figure above, vSphere 5 is more expensive as we only have two CPU sockets in each host and are aiming to utilize 100% of the physical memory. As said before, this is a bad design!


The figure above shows that with the reduced Max physical memory utilization of 75%, vSphere 4 and vSphere 5 is on equal footing in regards to price. However, the catch is detailed in the graphs below:


The figure above starts to reveal the vRAM tax. Simply because we use 1% more than 75% of the physical memory, we now require an additional CPU license on vSphere 5


Now the figure above shows just how the vRAM tax is applied. The next figure will make it even clearer.


Ok, so we can clearly see that from the images above, based on 128GB of RAM per host, which I have to say, based on my experience, is an average amount of RAM for today’s blade systems, the penalty get’s heavier and heavier with every host you add to the environment.

Now, if you do end up in a situation where you need to purchase additional licenses, the only thing that can think of to cushion the blow a little would be to double the amount of physical processor packages in each host, if you have the empty sockets available to do so. Probably the worst thing I can think of is having a situation where you have more licenses than physical CPUs and still have empty CPU sockets. At least, by filling the empty CPU sockets, you’ll have the option of additional CPU resources.


13 Jul 2011
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On July 12, 2011 at about 16:00GMT, VMware announced vSphere 5 and a bunch of changes surrounding the product suite. During the event, Twitter was ablaze with updates with regards to what was being revealed by VMware. However, one of the changes seemed to have caused some concern amongst the trusted virtualisation community. The change to the vSphere licensing model is what seems to have been discussed quite a bit on Twitter.

I’m not going to expand by giving details on the licensing changes, for more information on the new licensing model, see the link below:


At first I wasn’t going to write up on this as the blogging community already came out and published pre written posts as soon as the VMware NDA time expired at 16h00 GMT. Also, I’m pressed for time at the moment, so I’m rushing this one and the research done on this post in.

After doing some number crunching, I came to a disturbing conclusion. Unless my calculations are way off, and unless VMware is drastically going to reduce the “per license” price tag, the new licensing model will offer a raw deal to VMware’s customers.Surprised

As far as I am aware, VMware has not yet published the price list for vSphere 5. As I really wanted to see what implications the new licensing strategy was going to have in terms of today’s prices, I did some calculations using today’s vSphere 4 license costs. As I said, unless VMware reduces the price per license, it would be almost impossible to sell the product to some of my current customers who already think that VMware vSphere is too expensive in comparison to rivals such as Microsoft’s Hyper-V. Well, unless I’m very wrong, it’s about to get worse!

Now, bear in mind that I did these calculations in a rather short period of time. I’ve not done a whole bunch of research on the new licensing model yet, but went by what the PDF stipulates. I could have made a fundamental mistake somewhere, and I really hope that I am wrong on this.

Please, if anyone can find a major error somewhere in my figures, please let me know.

I based my calculations on the following template as most of my customers typically run a similar setup;

  • 2 CPU sockets
  •  12 Cores per CPU
  •  128GB per Host

I compared what the new vSphere 5 model would cost in comparison to the vSphere 4 licensing model. The results are truly staggering!

Also, to give vSphere 4 a level playing field in terms of memory assignment, I assumed that we would want to be able to use up to 100% of the physical memory in the cluster, as this would not carry any penalty in terms of vRAM TAX in vSphere 4. Now I know that the license on vRAM is on allocated and not on total physical memory, but for an apples and apples comparison on possible memory consumpsion, this was the most straight forward way of calculating the numbers.

Below are my results. Now if I have made some mistakes here, please let me know. I’m looking for constructive comments here! An argument is not going to help anyoneWink













01 Jul 2011
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I am delighted to be able to finally announce that I am in the process co-authoring a book. At first the prospect of being involved in such a project seemed a bit daunting, but I very quickly realised that opportunities such as this are few and far between, and it is something that I have to take on board and make time for.

I am however not in a position to disclose any details around the project just yet, but I can say that it will be on virtualization and surprisingly enough, it will be on a subject that is not covered by any books that I know of at the moment.

If any of the many much experienced authors out there are interested in sharing some tips with me, please drop me an email or a DM tweet!! I would appreciate any advice or suggestions, as this is my first time authoring a book.

03 Mar 2011
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So I’ve had my HTC Desire HD mobile phone since it was released in October 2010. As I’m not one to follow trends, line an arrogant company’s pockets and make a fashion statement by opting to buy an iPhone 4, the HTC Desire HD really was the obvious choice for my next phone. Overall, I have to say it’s a brilliant piece of kit. Android is really easy to use and it does everything, well almost everything you ask of it very well. Then HTC put their spin on Android , they produced a device that really gives the iPhone 4 a solid competitor.


However, as I said before, I’m not one to follow trends, but I’m also not one who likes arrogant companies like Apple, and now Google. How can I say Apple is arrogant? Well easy! They charge an arm and a leg for a device that will only be good for 6 months to a year (if you’re one that follow fashion trends) before they replace it with “Version 2”. To make it worse, they don’t even give you an option to change simple things like the battery. However, this post is not to slam Apple, as I use a MAC myself with Final Cut Studio, a software package that is very powerful, easy to use, and compared to similar products from other vendors, rather cheap (and we all know the cheap word and Apple don’t go together all too often). No, this post is to slam Google for not listening to its customers when all we want to do is keep your text messages once we have received them.


Yes that’s right! All I want is for my text messages to live happily ever after on my Android device after I have received them! Is that too much to ask from a mobile device? For a 10 year old Nokia device that’s been dropped, kicked and lived life to its fullest? No problem. For a brand new Android device? Well, that could be a problem.


Many people, including non technical people will be asking why someone would be complaining about a new, state-of-the-art device’s functionality surrounding the rather ancient technology known as Text Messages and also known as SMS messages. But I have to say, it is rather annoying if your shiny new, all-bells-and-whistles mobile phone (or for you guys in the America, Cell Phone) randomly decides to delete all of your text messages. What’s more annoying than that is when it happens for a second time two months later. What’s even more annoying than losing more than a thousand text messages over a period of 3 months is the fact that the great search engine giant responsible for the Android operating system, Google doesn’t seem to be bothered about the issue. At first, I thought it’s an issue that only affects the HTC Desire HD handset, but a quick search on Google revealed that the issue affects most, if not all Android devices.


My mobile phone have now on two occasions randomly decided to delete all of my text messages! How? Well easy! I decide to send a text message, and when I open Text Messages on my phone, all my messages are gone!

When this happened to me again last night, I decided that I’ll jump on Google.com and have a look if anyone else is having the problem. Sure enough. It turns out that the issue has been around for a very long time. Many people have complained about losing thousands of text messages and in some cases photos and contact information and this has been going on since 2009.


The issue, known on Google Code forums as issue 5660, has been around for more than a year. Since 26 December 2009, a whopping 959 posts of complaints have been made regarding this problem on this forum thread: http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=5669


Yes, that’s right. People have been losing data on their handsets for more than a year and Google still hasn’t replied, or to my knowledge even acknowledged that there is an issue.


When Apple launched their iPhone 4, the entire world kicked up a fuss surrounding a small issue where the phone had signal problem in certain cases. That, in my book isn’t an issue compared to data loss. However, the peeps at Apple were forced to respond with advice on how to fix the issue as it was a media frenzy. Now my question is.... WHERE IS THE MEDIA FRENZY on this one? Why is Google allowed to get away with not listening to their customers.


You know what. Everyone out there, if you are unsure on what the next mobile phone you would like to buy, BUY AN iPhone. Don’t buy an Android device. Google doesn’t deserve your support as clearly we, the consumers and users of their operating systems isn’t important enough for them to care. It’s a sad day, as I love my HTC Desire HD, but in reality, until they fix the issue surrounding data loss, I cannot trust it with ANY of my data at this point in time.

27 Jan 2011
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It’s been a while since I last sat down to write a blog post. I have to admit, 2010 was not exactly my best year on the bloggers sphere. I do have my reasons that will explain why, but that conversation is outside the scope of this post.

As many would know by now, in the past month I’ve been able to achieve both the VMware VCAP-DCA and the VCAP-DCD certifications. I only have one more hurdle to clear in order to obtain VCDX certification, and that will undoubtedly be the hardest part. That is, I need to successfully defend a vSphere design that I’ve done before a VCDX panel of gurus.

As for the current certification path for VMware (until the next major release) it would be safe to say that with the exception of VCDX, I have come to the end of the technical certification road. It is one of the reasons that I have decided to destroy my very trustworthy vSphere lab that has brought me through a few vSphere Beta programs and has played a major role in achieving VCP and VCAP certifications. Yes, indeed, I will be replacing the lab (for now at least) with Hyper-V.

There is more than one reason for my decision to replace my vSphere lab with Hyper-V, and I will try my best to describe in detail how I have come to this decision.

VMware for some years now have been the de facto standard in x86/64 virtualisation. That is why so many IT professionals have fallen in love with their products. Still to this very day, the VMware vSphere’s feature set and in most cases, performance is unbeaten by any other product. Yes, I probably have some Citrix and Microsoft evangelists’ blood boiling by saying that, but hey, the truth hurts. Yes sure, Hyper-V has come a long way and has improved immensely during the last two years, however, it still cannot match the feature set of vSphere. How can I say this? Well, it’s not me, its Microsoft themselves.

The following question was asked to a Microsoft sales person: “How do you approach a customer who has the intention of buying vSphere? How do you fight your corner? Do you compare features?” The Microsoft sales person’s answer to that question was: “Never that. We never compare features!”

I get the feeling Microsoft is not trying to steal VMware’s customers, at least not for now. Instead they seem to have opted to go for customers where they know will be an easy sell. Maybe someone that already has a Data centre license where the initial outlay of licensing costs is minimized compared to vSphere. I mean, after all VMware is quite expensive.

“So, why are you swapping your lab to Hyper-V if they can’t match the features?” You might be asking. Well it’s simple. I don’t know enough about the product and its capabilities and the best way to find out is to play with it. No, seriously, I’m aiming for Hyper-V certification before I depart for California at the end of March.

Many people might ask why bother? Why bother learning Hyper-V if you know much about the better product? The answer to that is maybe not as simple, but let me try to explain.

Hyper-V will sell. That is a fact. There is no point in fighting it, it will sell. The Microsoft badge will sell the product. It always has sold many products, and it will continue to do so. We have seen this before. Let’s use directory services as an example. Anyone remember NDS (Novell Directory Services), or more recently eDirectory? In my opinion (and sorry if I offend Microsoft evangelists here, but I’m entitled to my opinion, so I don’t really care) NDS / eDirectory was and still is a much better directory service than Microsoft Active Directory (AD). You see, the thing is, even though many of us have installed eDirectory in our environments, and client environments, the majority of infrastructures today are based on Active Directory. Many will disagree, but I still firmly believe that the old NDS / eDirectory will crush AD with regards to functionality, ease of use, performance and stability but sadly today, the product is nowhere to be found. Even though NDS was/is better, AD has killed it off and today Novell is all but dead! Microsoft just knows how to run a company! It doesn’t matter how good the other products are, the Microsoft badge will still help them sell their products. We can look at other products as well. What about WordPerfect? Better than Microsoft Word? Hell yeah. Guess what, WordPerfect is nowhere to be found and it used to be everywhere.

I know, I’ve hit a sensitive point here, and I’m sure VMware and (past) Novell evangelists (I am a VMware evangelist and certainly used to be a Novell one) are cursing at their monitors now for reading this, but just think for a minute. At the end of the day VMware, Microsoft, Citrix, these guys exist for one reason and one reason only, profit. I have realised over the past week or so that it doesn’t matter to my finances which one is better. I can be a top technical person in VMware products today and maybe next year and a few years thereafter, but it would be foolish to not want to learn about Hyper-V. Ok, fair enough. I can’t see what the future holds, but I can learn from the past, and the past shows me that all my friends who kicked against AD in favour eDirectory are today lagging behind and struggling to find contracts. These guys were Master CNEs. Today they don’t have much to boast about.

Who knows, maybe VMware will still somehow be going as strong s they are today in 20 years or so (heck with their pricing strategy, I’m not sure how they’ll fight off M$), but for today, I’ll be covering my basis and laying some foundations with some knowledge of Hyper-V. At least Microsoft gives us TechNet Plus, something VMware doesn’t seem to understand either. Talk about stingy! WE NEED NFR LICENSES VMWARE, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Don’t get me wrong on this. I love vSphere. I love vSphere more than any other IT product / technology out there today and I will still try and sell vSphere over Hyper-V, just because it’s a much better product. It’s going to break my heart to destroy my beloved vSphere lab, but it’s got to be done.

I believe it’s time to stop kicking and start working with VMware and Hyper-V.

The views expressed in this post and on this entire website are that of my own and not those of my employer or any vendor. I am solely responsible for the contents on this website.

10 Dec 2010
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Yesterday, December 9, 2010 at 10:45am I took the VMware VCAP-DCA exam thinking that I would probably be able to finish it off in about 1 and a half hours or so. Wrong.

I booked this exam quite a long time ago. If I remember correctly, I got a call from VMware around October 8, 2010 asking me for a preferred date. I think I said “Late November please”. Anyway, the exam was originally booked for 29 November, but thanks to the London Underground workers taking an unpaid day off work (strike), I thought it would be wise to reschedule.

I thought that I would at least have time to study and play in my lab before the exam as I had 2 months! Nope, I had no time. Even in two months…No time to study! Ok, well I had the odd day here and there, but I don’t think I actually learnt anything during those days. In fact I think I’ve managed to study more for the VCE310, and believe me, although I passed that exam, it still was an “unprepared” attempt. I did get through the first few pages of the VCAP-DCA exam blueprint though. In the end I guess I thought that my experience with VMware products should [hopefully] be enough!

So, on the day of the exam, I arrived at Holborn Underground station at 10:10am. The Pearson Professional test Centre is a short walk from Holborn station. However I was waiting at the traffic lights to cross Kingsway road when the police stopped all traffic in all directions. After about 30 seconds the queen pulled up right in front of me! Way to go!!! I’ve never seen the queen in person before! She was about 3 meters away from where I was standing. Cool!

Anyway, back to the VCAP-DCA. Arriving at Pearson Vue, the standard procedure is followed. You present two forms of ID (I presented my passport and UK drivers license), sign an electronic pad and, get our picture taken! Then you place all personal belongings (wallet, phone, keys, wristwatch, etc. in a locker provided). You should only take the locker key and your passport into the exam room.

I was then told to go to room 3, a room where I’ve spent many hours before! The lady at room 3 took a full 10 minutes to get me signed onto a workstation as her PC sort of crashed. I could tell she got really worked up after a while. But I was relaxed and really couldn’t be bothered to get grumpy with the slow sign on as… I’ve just seen the queen!!!

I finally got signed into workstation 32. The good old VMware Certification Survey thingy appeared. I hurried through that as I couldn’t wait to start [and finish] my exam. And there it was! This biggest surprise of the day [apart from seeing the queen]! No multiple choice questions. That’s right, not a single one! The entire exam is one big lab session, so all you Test King lovers (or in other words, cheaters), please browse away from Test King if you are intending to pass this exam.

Once you click start, the lab session launches to an RDP session somewhere (I guess probably at VMware HQ). All you get in the RDP session is a Putty Client, the vSphere Client, Adobe Reader (yes, that’s right, however I’m not sure I’m allowed to say what it’s for), and I’m sure there was something else, but I cannot remember what it was! I guess I didn’t need it after all.

At the top of the screen you’ll find a bar that allows you to switch between the actual lab and the lab questions. A full list of usernames and passwords for the different systems in the lab is provided at the bottom of each question, so there’s no need to take them down before you start.

I have to say that the VCAP-DCA lab environment has been improved over what was provided as a lab environment with the VCE310. I didn’t have any graphical glitches, although the session only ran at 1024x768 which was problematic at times. Also, don’t bother using the Adobe reader provided as scrolling through pages are extremely slow and will only cost you valuable time.

The exam was about 3 and a half hours and there were 35 questions / scenarios. There is no link between the question that you are on and the component you are using in the lab. It is a live lab and any changes made in question 1 will remain in place throughout the rest of the exam.

Also, some lab questions will result in you configuring specific components in the lab, which you’ll find will need to be in place as a prerequisite to successfully complete other questions later on in the exam. For instance, one question might ask you to successfully configure a DRS cluster, and then maybe 20 questions later you will be asked to configure some resource pools. Resource pools cannot exist without DRS. This might be a simple example, but believe me the real exam will require complex configurations that depend on each other to be correctly configured.

Some questions were complex and tricky to complete. Others were way too easy in my opinion. There are questions that you will never be able to answer unless you have extensive experience in enterprise size environment and FC storage, unless you are some kind of freak that knows every line of every PDF ever written on enterprise storage and virtualisation.

At the end of the exam you are told that you will receive your results within 10 business days [I’d like to see that happen first before I believe it though]

Overall, I’d say it’s probably the most fun I’ve had writing an exam [if the words fun and exam are allowed to be used in the same sentence]. I think it was well thought out and well presented. It will certainly separate the men from the boys in regards to experience and definitely separate the real IT professionals from the book crammers, which is a very good thing.



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