I thought that it would be a good idea to post an update on my progress of the book/whitepaper/guide that I am writing on building a low cost VI lab. Life has been very busy in the past couple of weeks. I have therefore not been able to post a lot of articles to this site. I normally make a note of interesting things I find and then blog on them the same day. Lately I've been so busy (and on holiday last week I must add) that when I finally decide to blog on them, it's old news and not worth blogging over again. Most things are covered by Scott Lowe, Mike Laverick, Jason Boche and other top bloggers anyway.

For now I've decided to concentrate on the low cost lab book. Writing the book is taking longer that what I first anticipated because I'm doing a lot more testing than what I first thought would be necessary. But this is a good thing, as it's against my beliefs to state anything technical as facts if not tested. I don't like theories, I like facts. To also make sure that everything in the book is as true and accurate as possible, I will be passing it to a couple of peers for a peer review before it's released for download, so please bear with me.

Originally I only wanted to write a proper blog post on "Building a low cost VI lab", but I soon realised that it would be too much to fit in a single blog post, so I thought I could write a document on it. Now it's turned into a little book, rather than just a document. Most of the easy stuff is done, including hardware options and ESX installation and configuration options for non-HCL hardware and basic network configuration tasks. I've also completed most of the storage and shared storage sections of the book, but I've now turned my attention to fine-tuning iSCSI. I will then focus on advanced network configurations, like setting up secure hosting with DMZ configurations using cheap non-managed switches.

I have also decided to include service console commands for every change made within the VI Client. Also, as the whole point of the book is to illustrate a "low cost lab", I will cover configurations for both ESX 3.5 as well as ESXi 3.5 installable.

I'm just fighting the urge to start on the ESX 4 version, but I think it's best to finish this one for ESX 3.5 first. I don't really want to say "THIS BOOK WILL BE AVAILABLE ON SO AND SO DATE", but I don't like making promises that I can't keep. I do however thing the end of Feb should be a good time for the peers to have their review of the book. And yes, you will be able to download a free, full version of the book.

Thank you for your patience, I'll keep you posted.

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In the past year, I’ve been doing a lot of testing on running VMware ESX 3.5 on non-supported hardware (hardware that is not included on the VMware HCL). I’ve now got my home lab to an acceptable stage where I can do testing and studying. I’ve spent many hours on forums and blogs trying to find components that are cheap, quiet, fast-enough and most importantly, components that work with ESX 3.5!

Now that I’ve been through the trouble of finding out what works and what doesn’t, I thought it may be a good idea to blog on it and give others that would like to run ESX on cheap hardware a heads up before they go and waste money on stuff that does not work!

Although, I have blogged on this topic a couple of times before in brief, but I think it’s time for a proper post that describes the trails’ and tribulations of building a cheap ESX environment in more detail, with all the do's and don't's!

I've started writing the article as a blog, but I now realise that because of the amount detail I'm putting into it, it's going to cover a lot of pages. I therefore decided to blog some of it on the site, as well as provide a full ebook in PDF format which will contain all the information you'll ever need on running ESX on low cost hardware.

I'm hoping to have the eBook ready for download by early next week.

Thanks for reading!

 
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I’ve had a quick play with Veeam Monitor for VMware Infrastructure 3 Free Edition. Veeam Monitor looks like a good product and should come in handy if you have lots of things in your VI to monitor. It is better than the performance monitors in VMware vCenter, but then again it doesn’t take much to beat vCenter’s performance counters in detail.

I’ve installed Veeam Monitor on a Windows Server 2003 box. The installation wizard will give you an option to choose an existing SQL Database Server or to install SQL Express locally. I opted to install it on an existing SQL server. If you’re going to run Veeam Monitor in a production environment, I think it will make more sense to go with this option as well. The installation then went on and automatically created a new database on my SQL server called “Monitor”, so no need to create a database before kicking off the installation.

At first glance, Veeam Monitor looks and feels like a professional application. The GUI is clean and not cluttered with an overload of information. The graphs are easy to read and understand.

Veeam Monitor allows you to add a standalone ESX Server or a VirtualCenter or “vCenter” to monitor. In my case, I pointed it to my vCenter Server and as expected, it pulled the entire VI configuration from the VC, complete with Datacenters, Clulsters, Hosts and Resource Pools.

Now, let’s look at the information it returns. For this article I’m only going to mention the information it returned for a single “Datacenter”, defined in my VC. However, Veeam Monitor will report at a Datacenter, cluster, host, resource pool and Virtual Machine level. When looking at a virtual machine level, Veeam monitor will allow you to access the VM’s console as well as the processes inside the VM’s Guest OS** (**However the processes feature is not included in the Free Edition).

So at the datacenter level, it will return the following sets of information: Summary, Overall, CPU, Memory, Networking, Disk, Swap, Tops, Alarms and Events.

Here’s what they'll all tell you:

The Summary tab provides:

Events Count  The number of events logged for the Datacenter
 Performance data period  The time period that performance data are reported on


The Overall tab provides graphs for:
CPU Usage, Memory Consumed, Network Usage, Disk Usage and Swap Usage.

The CPU, Memory, Networking, Disk and Swap tabs provide information using 3D graphs (providing you selected 3D in the Veeam Monitor Client Options) on datacenter wide utilization. Much the same as vCenter does. It just looks a lot better and easier to read. As expected, you also have the option to select the counters that you would like to see for each graph.
Sorry that I’ve jumped past the CPU, Memory, Networking, Disk and Swap tabs without providing much detail, but it really is very similar to vCenter, at a datacenter level anyway. The Tops tab is the one I really liked. It displays the 3 Virtual Machines that are the top resource users for the last 5 minutes. They are showed as follows:

• Top CPU Users in Percentage
• Top Network Users in KBps
• Top Memory Users in MB
• Top Swap Users in MB
• Top Disk Users in KBps

The Alarms tab displays the alarms defined in VC for the selected VI object. It also shows a history of triggered alarms and gives you the option to create new alarms as well. Another function is to resolve a triggered alarm by adding a comment to the alarm. There’s also a button to clear triggered alarms when “Resolved, later than 1 day, later than 1 week, later than 1 month or all”.

Although I didn’t give an in-depth review of Veeam Monitor (Because I just don’t have all the time in the world right now), I do think it’s a good product.

Just note that there are a few features that are not available in the Free Edition. The ones I came across are:

• No Alarm Modelling
• No reporting
• Only 24 hours of history displayed
• No access to the Guest OS Processes running inside the VM.

All in all, as with Veeam FastSCP, Veeam has got my thumbs up for Veeam Monitor!

Here are some screen shots:

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Today I've enabled PDA/Mobile Device functionality for this site. I've tested it on the Nokia E90 Communicator and the iPhone 3G. It seems to be working fine as far as I can see.

When you browse http://www.virtualvcp.com/ from your mobile device, you will see the PDA version, which should make your life a little easier in trying to browse for articles and technical tips from you mobile device.

 I will still be tuning this in the days to come to make it easier and faster to find articles.

Please contact me via the contact form or comment on this is you find any issues with the PDA site.

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I have decided to enable full article length RSS feeds as from yesterday, 08 December 2008.

Although I do realise that it may have an impact on the overall visitor count of the site, as users won't have to visit the site to read a full article anymore, I do hope that it makes life a little easier for my readers as you will be able to simply use your RSS reader without having to open your browser to get the article.

I will also NOT be running ads in the RSS feeds as it I myself really dislike being distracted by annoying ads while I'm reading articles on other sites.

Let's see how well this works. In the end, my main goal with the site is to post my findings in day-to-day tasks and troubleshooting, not to advertise.

 

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So, in less than a year, VMware has gone from a strong fast growing public offering "to a company whose slowing growth and plummeting shares led to the ouster of its former CEO and co-founder Diane Greene." I remember just shortly after VMware listed on the NYSE, I bought some shares in VMW at around $70 per share. Shortly after that the stock went on a rally and turned at around $125 per share. Back then I thought that this is going to get good, but as the shares rose to $125 I realised that it would not be wise to buy more at such a high share price.

However, as fast as the share price went up, it came down. Lucky for me, I sold all my VMware shares at around $113 per share, so I still made some good profit in a very short period. Just after I sold my shares, the stock went on to crush down to around $70 again. It got even worse and dropped to around $50. Yeah sure, it went up a couple of times, but in the long run it went down more than up and that's when Dianne Greene got the sack! Surprise or not, but after she left the stock slumped even more to $35. On 12 Nov, the stock took another drop by $1.22 or 5% to $22. Back at the $125 mark, a $1.22 drop is not much, but at the $24 mark it does matter a lot.

Let's just hope that the new CEO, Paul Maritz can pull something back with the mounting battle over cloud computing. At the moment the computing power shift is moving towards tech giants like Microsoft, Google and Amazon. VMware needs to get it right if they want to be a player in the cloud computing league.

Call it lucky or not, but I'm just glad I sold off my stake in VMware at the best of times. I'm no stock broker so don't ask me where it's going but who knows, maybe a year from now they'll be back on the rise. Time will tell.

 

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VMware has now released and made available for download VMware ESX Server 3.5 Update 3. It can be downloaded from http://www.vmware.com/download/vi/

 

What's new in this release:

The following information provides highlights of some of the enhancements available in this release of VMware Infrastructure 3:

Note: Not all combinations of VirtualCenter and ESX Server versions are supported and not all of these highlighted features are available unless you are using VirtualCenter 2.5 Update 3 with ESX Server 3.5 Update 3. See the ESX Server, VirtualCenter, and Virtual Infrastructure Client Compatibility Matrixes for more information on compatibility.

New features and supported IO devices:

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"Advanced Conversion Tool Helps Customers Move to Virtual Infrastructure; Provides Cost Effective Disaster Recovery for Physical Machines"

Buffalo Grove, IL, November 5th, 2008 – Vizioncore Inc., a market leader in server virtualization management, today announced the availability of vConverter 4.0, the most rapid and versatile physical-to-virtual (P2V) and virtual-to-virtual (V2V) conversion tool on the market. vConverter 4.0 automates and accelerates conversions to Microsoft, Virtual Iron, VMware and XenServer environments, allowing customers to migrate workloads between platforms as part of scheduled conversion projects or for disaster recovery purposes.

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I found this very interesting atricle on how Virtualization and Cisco Nexus combine to eliminate blade servers. Now, personally I've never been the biggest fan of Blade servers. yes, maybe for Citrix environments, they seem to be perfect, but I've never seen the need and flexibility of them in virtualized environments.

The article below looks at why blade servers have never really made sense in Virtual Infrastructure Architectures, and I have to say I agree with all of it!

http://www.dabcc.com/article.aspx?id=9114

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VMware ESX 3.5 update 2 is the first hypervisor to be listed under the Microsoft Server Virtualization Validation Program, providing VMware customers who run Windows Server and Microsoft applications with access to cooperative support from Microsoft and VMware.

The announcement came from VMware on 3 September 2008.

“Virtualization is now well within the IT mainstream and our relationship with Microsoft underscores how far virtualization has come by providing VMware ESX users with access to valuable support for their virtualized Microsoft applications,” said Bogomil Balkansky, senior director of product marketing, VMware. “VMware and Microsoft are working cooperatively to help ensure that our joint customers can employ the benefits of virtualization along with the peace of mind that professional product support can provide.”

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