Peak Virtualization and Time Dilation

In the movie Interstellar, one of the central themes throughout is gravity, and its effect on the passage of time. This time dilation is something that has long fascinated me, and it was great to see it fleshed out on the big screen by a master like Christopher Nolan. While not giving any spoilers, the basic scientific principle is that relative velocity and gravity both cause time to elapse at a much slower relative pace. So an astronaut could travel to Mars, and come back having aged 18 months, while someone on Earth had aged 19 months. Of course this is a dramatic oversimplification, but my goal is not to explain relativity here.

What does any of this have to do with virtualization, technology, or anything else?

One of my favorite tech podcasts these days is In Tech We Trust. This group of guys has great chemistry, and a broad array of technical experience. If you haven’t checked it out, I would encourage you to give a listen.

The past couple episodes got me thinking about the relativity between those who are technology pioneers, versus the rest of the world. There were mentions of “peak virtualization”, and how technologies like Docker, and everyone rushing to the public cloud, we could be seeing this now. And this is where I believe we can see some time dilation between the relative velocity of a handful of “astronauts”, heavily into technology on the bleeding edge, and reality down here on Earth. People who attend the multitude of different tech conferences, stream Tech Field Day events, and keep abreast of exciting developments in tech, are not in the majority.

The majority is engaged every single day in making the technology they have execute their business goals. While we are musing about OpenStack, Docker, Swift, etc. these folks are grinding it out with programs that were written long ago, and will never be suitable for those types of cutting edge deployments. I know companies right now who are planning projects to migrate core apps off mainframes. And you know how they’re doing it? They’re basically porting applications over so that they will run on open systems. They’re taking apps written in ALGOL, or COBOL, and writing them the exact same way in a language they can sustain, and deploy on open systems.

They’re not re-architecting the entire application, or the way they do business. They’re interested in satisfying a regulator, or auditor, who has identified a risk. They need to do it as inexpensively as possible, and they need to do it without introducing the risk of switching to object based cloud storage, or a widely distributed, resilient cloud model. They’re not concerned with the benefits they can glean from containerization, OpenStack, or whatever. They need to address this finding, or get off this old behemoth mainframe before it dies, or they have to spend millions on a new support contract.

In the real world, which runs on Earth time, the companies I deal with are not willing to entertain dramatic re-architecture of the core parts of their business, just to take advantage of something they don’t see a need for, or business case around. And if you happen to get an astronaut in a company like this, and he or she mentions something about cloud, or a hot new technology, the response is usually befuddlement, or outright dismissal. How can you blame the C level people? They’re constantly seeing stories about gigantic cloud providers taking massive amounts of downtime, and silly outages that affect the majority of the globe. They don’t need that. They need their bonuses.

Remember, many of these people only implemented virtualization because they couldn’t justify NOT doing it.

While many in our circle of astronauts have the luxury of ruminating on the end of virtualization, and the next big thing, the people who are still in the atmosphere have concerns that are far different. Predicting the future is definitely a fool’s errand, but based on what I can see down here, I’d have to guess that we are not yet at peak virtualization.

You Down With NTP?

(Yea! You know me!)

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NTP. How can I explain it? I’ll take you frame by frame it.

I’m sure that no readers of Virtual Insanity would ever neglect to setup NTP properly on every single ESXi host.  But occasionally, our NTP source hiccups, or something happens to skew the time.  Recently I found a host with the NTP service stopped.

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Why?  No idea really.  Maybe it was stopped while someone was troubleshooting.  Maybe it just crashed.  But it will cause issues with backups, and with applications running during backups or vMotions.

When a snapshot is taken, or a VM is vMotioned, the time is sync’d inside the guest by default.  This can be a problem if your host NTP time is off.  All my guests use Active Directory for NTP, and the Linux guests use an AD domain controller for NTP, so I do not rely on guest time syncing up to my ESXi hosts.  Or so I thought. . .

Even if you have your guests configured NOT to do periodic time syncs with VMware Tools, it will still force NTP to sync to the host on snapshot operations, suspend/resume, or vMotion.  There is a way to prevent VMware Tools from syncing the time for these events, but it’s better just to make sure NTP is up and running, and getting the correct time.  There is a clear reason VMware insists on doing these sync’s during times when I/O is quiesced, or transferred to another host.  Timekeeping in a hypervisor environment when you’re sharing CPU cycles is no trivial task.

If you use a backup solution that snapshots the VM, VSS quiesces the I/O inside that guest.  When it does, there’s a VSS timeout for a snapshot to complete.  If the time is exceeded by the snapshot, VSS will timeout, and your job will fail with error code 4 quiesce aborted.

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By default, this timeout is set to 10 mins on Windows guests.  Of course, my time was off on the ESXi host by 12 minutes, so when the backup job started, VSS kicked off, and then VMware Tools sync’d the time 12 minutes forward.  VSS times out instantly.  If you see this error code on your backups, an easy thing to check first is NTP.

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I recommend setting the NTP service to start and stop automatically.

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Previously, I had set this to start and stop with the host.  But if something happens, and it stops, or gets stopped for some reason, it will not restart until the host restarts.

So who’s down with NTP?

Hopefully all the homies. . .

Upgrading SRM from 5.0 to 5.5

If you’re one of those shops that skipped over 5.1, and are now catching up and going to 5.5, you will run into problems with your SRM upgrade.  Here’s how to fix them.

After you perform the upgrade, per the VMware Site Recovery Manager Installation Guide, you may run into permissions issues when launching the SRM plugin.

The error message is: Connection Error: Lost connection to SRM Server x.x.x.x:8095  -  Permission to perform this operation was denied.

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To fix this, you’ll have to go into the database, and do some editing.

First, stop the VMware Site Recovery Manager service.

Connect to the SRM database server.  If you’re not using SQL, adjust these procedures accordingly.  This is SQL specific.

First, make sure you BACKUP your database.

Under your SRM Database, you’ll see a table called dbo.pd_acedata. Right click that table, and Select Top 1000 rows.

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In your Results window, you’ll see that the only permissions that exist are old school pre-SSO “Administrators”.  We need to fix that.

To fix it, we’re going to delete that row. Right click the table again, and select Edit Top 200 Rows.

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Now, select that row with the old Administrators permission, and right click to delete it.

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Click yes.

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Now we have to do the same thing to the dbo.pd_authorization table. Edit the first 200 rows.

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Delete the first line that says DR_ACEData, and click yes again.

Now go start the SRM service.  This will automatically populate your database with the new permissions you’ll need to launch the SRM plugin, and connect. 

If you go back to the table, you can see it has the correct permissions.

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For some reason, this is a known issue, but the KB is not public.  So here’s your KB.

Don’t forget to backup your database, so you can restore if you blow it up.  Happy upgrading.

New Tintri Collateral – Backup Best Practices and Veeam Integration!

 

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Hopefully you no longer have a tape changer on staff as the above image eludes to but, just a short post to let the Tintri community know that we have released a few new technical documents to the community.  Personally I love seeing Tintri continue to produce both innovative products as well as technical collateral to support those solutions for our customer base.

 

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The first document that we released is a document that covers backup and recovery best practices while utilizing the Tintri VMstore.  This document covers topics on data protection in general built into the Tintri VMstore, i.e. snapshots and replication.  It also includes how to achieve image level backupsand supported transports, VADP, HotAdd, NBD etc.  The document also covers how to recover data, an even more important component to backups!

 

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The second document is one that has been sought after by many of my customers personally, so I am glad to see Tintri has brought this to fruition.  A great technical deep dive that documents leveraging Veeam software for data protection, and how that integrates with the Tintri VMstore.  (Nice work Dominic!).

I hope you enjoy these two new tech documents, just wanted to make a quick mention!  Look for more great things coming right around the corner, very excited to be delivering on some wonderful technical roadmap items this year!

-Scott

vCAC Integration with vCHS

Recently I have been helping several customers configure vCloud Automation Center in their environment. As part of the configuration, there has been desire to deploy not only in their private environment, but also into a vCHS instance.

As most may or may not be aware, the backend for vCHS is actually based upon vCloud Director. The vCloud Director REST API is what is used by vCAC for provisioning, de-provisioning, power on, power off, etc. After adding vCHS as an endpoint and discovering compute resources, you can add those resources to a Fabric Group and begin to create blueprints.   This post assumes you have a working vCAC environment with at least 1 Fabric Group, 1 Business Group, and a Service created for provisioning. 

Throughout some of the trials, I have come across some “gotchas.” The purpose of this post is to outline the following:

Configuring the vApp template in vCHS

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First, you will need to login to your vCHS instance and manage the vPDC in vCloud Director.  Select your vPDC in the dashboard and then click Manage Catalogs in vCloud Director

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Double click on  Public Catalogs, then “right click” one of the vApp Templates and select Add to My Cloud (I just selected one of the CentOS vApps)

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This will bring up an Add to My Cloud menu.  Give the vApp a new name and proceed through the selections accepting defaults until you get to the Configure Networking menu.  The default for Networks is set to None.  You MUST select one of the networks in the drop down.  I have chosen the default-routed network.  This step is important because you cannot use a template for a vCAC blueprint with no network defined.  If you do the vCAC deployment will fail mid-way through.

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Accept the defaults on the next two menu options and then select finish.  This will copy the vApp template to My Cloud.  This process is pretty quick for the CentOS template, it could be longer for a custom uploaded or Windows template.

Next click on the My Cloud link, select vApps and you should see the item you just added (look under the Name column, you can see my ‘Chad Lucas – CentOS’ in the illustration below).  Right click the vApp Template and then select Add to Catalog.

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The Add to Catalog menu will pop up, just select the catalog to copy to (I created a vCAC catalog under My Organizations Catalogs previously).  Be sure you select the Customize VM settings radio button to allow the newly deployed VM’s from vCAC to obtain unique IP addresses from the IP Pool.  Then click OK to finish.

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The capture process will take a minute to complete.  You can verify the item was added to your catalog by selecting Catlogs, My Organization’s Catalogs and then select the catalog you added the vApp Template to (again mine is vCAC)

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Now that the item is added to your catalog, you can remove the vApp from My Cloud.  This only removes the vApp from your cloud workspace, it does not delete the template added to your catalog.  Simply navigate back to My Cloud, select vApps and right click your vApp and select Delete.

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Adding a vCHS Enpoint

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Now that we have completed a proper template for vCAC consumption, we can add the vCHS endpoint.  Before we add the endpoint, there are 3 pieces of information needed from vCHS. 1. The vCloud Director API URL  2. The Org  and 3. The credentials used to access vCHS.  To obtain the API URL and Org, navigate back to the vPDC Dashboard and left click the vCloud Director API URL link.  You only need the url to through the :443, disregard the remaining part of the url.   The Org is the full number next to the Multi-Tenant Cloud text highlighted in the illustration below.  (Note I have demarked the highlighted areas for security purposes).

** In a vCHS dedicated model, the Org is the name of the vPDC you created.  Dedicated vCHS allows for multiple vPDC’s and thus the Org is the name of the vPDC you create.  In the non dedicated virtual private cloud offering, the Org is what I’m showing in this example.

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Log into your vCAC instance and Navigate to Infrastructure > Endpoints > Endpoints.  Click New Endpoint > Cloud > vApp (vCloud Director)

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At the New Enpoint page, give the End Point a name of your choosing, then enter the vCD API URL discussed above into the address field.  Select the credentials for your vCHS instance (if you haven’t already created those credentials, simply click the button to the right of the field and you can create them there).  Then enter the organization for your vCHS instance.  Again this is the M number referenced above.  Then click OK

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If all of the information was entered correctly the end point will show up and you can perform your first data collection.  Mouse over your vCHS endpoint and then select Data Collection.  On the next screen simply click Start.  The collection will take a couple of minutes.  You can monitor the collection process by repeating these steps but click Refresh until you see – Status: Endpoint Data collection succeeded on

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Adding vCHS resources to a Fabric Group

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Once you vCHS endpoint has been added, you now need to add those resources to a Fabric Group.  Navigate to Infrastructure > Groups > Fabric GroupsMouse over the Fabric group and click edit.  In the next screen, select the check box for your vCHS compute resources.  Then click OK.

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Creating vApp Component and vApp Blueprints

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Now that the vCHS endpoint has been added and the resources have been added to your Fabric Group, we can create a blueprint for the vCHS template we created in the first part of this post. Now let’s get to the blue print creation.  Navigate to Infrastructure > Blueprints > Blueprints > New Blueprint > Cloud > vApp Component (vCloud Director).

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Give the Blueprint a name and select the Machine Prefix from the drop down.  Note I have given this blueprint a name of New vCHS Centos

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Now select the Build Information tab.  Leave the first 3 text boxes as their default.  Then click the button to the right of “Clone From:” and select the template we created in the first vCHS step of this post.  My template name if you recall is “Chad Lucas – CentOS”.  This will auto populate the minimum Machine Resource fields.  You can optionally specify Maximums if you wish.  Leave everything else as defaults and click OK.

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Now that the component Blueprint is complete.  We need to create the vApp blueprint for publishing.  Navigate back to Infrastructure > Blueprints > Blueprints > New Blueprint > Cloud > vApp (vCloud Director).  **Note, we are selecting vApp (vCloud Director) this time, NOT vApp Component (vCloud Director)

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Give this Blueprint a Name, select the Machine Prefix and also specify the amount of Archive (days). Note I have given the name of “New vCHS Centos – Deploy” Then click the Build Information tab.

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On the Build information tab, select the correct vApp Template in the Clone From text box.  Again in my case it is Chad Lucas – CentOS

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Next, click the Pencil under the Components section and select the vApp Component Blue print you created in the previous step then click the Green check mark then click OK.

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Now it’s time to publish the Blueprint.  You should be at the correct screen after click OK in the previous step, however you should be at Infrastructure > Blueprints > Blueprints.  Mouse over the blueprint just created and click Publish then click OK at the Confirm Publish screen.

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Entitle the Catalog Item and Add to a provisioning service

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Now that the Blueprint is published, we need to entitle it and add it to a service.  This assumes you already have a service created.  Navigate to Administration > Catalog Management > Catalog Items.  Click the “Down” arrow next to the newly added catalog item and click Configure.

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At the configure screen, make sure the status is active and then select your service from the drop down.  Mine is titled vCHS Deploy.  Then click Update.

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Next click on EntitlementsAdministration > Catalog Management > Entitlements.  Then select the drop down arrow next to the service you select above and click Edit.

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On the Edit Entitlement screen, select the Items and Approvals tab.  Click the plus sign next to Entitled Catalog Items then check the box next to the newly added catalog item.  Then click OK then Update.

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Now navigate to the Catalog screen.  Then select the service you added the catalog item to.  Remember in my case, the service was vCHS Deploy.  If you only have one service, then the catalog item should just appear under there.

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You should now be able to request this catalog item.  Select Request and at the next screen just leave the defaults and click Submit.

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After submitting, you can monitor the request from the Requests tab in vCAC.  However, you can see the actual provisioning from within vCHS.  Let’s take a look there.  Log back into your vCHS instance.  Click your Virtual Datacenter.  Then click the Manage Catalog in vCloud Director.  Select My Cloud then VM’s.  You should at some point see the Machine as Busy (while it’s customizing the name etc).

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After customization is complete, it will power on the VM with the naming convention from the Machine Prefix we chose when creating the blueprint.  In this example that is corp-vchs-linux-036.

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You can also verify the successful deployment under the Requests tab of vCAC.

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This post is pretty basic and anyone familiar with vCAC knows there is a ton of customization you can do.  I did not go into any of the governance aspects that an Enterprise implementation would surely require.  In either case I hope this provides some additional clarity for provisioning from vCAC to vCHS.

Thanks!

Chad Lucas

Feedback is old and busted. Feed Forward is the new hotness.

We’ve all been there. You just sat through a terribly boring presentation that could have been so much better. If only the feedback form you’re about to fill out had made it to the presenter yesterday.

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Since most of us spend all our free time on IT, and virtually none on quantum physics, there’s no way we can accomplish that kind of preemptive feedback.  Sure, you can run through a presentation with the wife, or with your Uncle Si.  But they’re not able to give you the kind of feedback you really need to make your presentation a huge hit. If only you had that time machine.

Apparently Duncan Epping, Scott Lowe, and Mike Laverick have been studying physics in their spare time, because they have come up with a solution.  It’s called Feed Forward, and it’s about to take off in a major way with the VMUG organization around the globe.

What exactly is Feed Forward?  It’s a program where a potential presenter can get help, and feedback from pros before giving a presentation. The program is just getting off the ground, but some of the early experiences have been great.  I believe this program will be a way to get more, and better content to VMUG’s. A lot of people who have experiences, or relevant expertise to share, are reluctant to step up. This program would allow them to pitch their presentation at others without risk, and get feedback that helps them understand how their presentation would benefit the group.

As an ardent supporter of the National Forensics League, I believe strongly that public speaking, and empirical presentation skills are invaluable. Unfortunately, not everyone has access to programs like this growing up. Too often, people reach a point in their career where their inability to present holds them back. We all need to be able to present, because in the end, we are all salespeople. Whether we’re selling the boss on a new idea, or simply selling ourselves to a perspective employer, practice helps tremendously.

Feed Forward is one way to get that practice, and get some constructive feedback from people who are adept at presenting, and understand the subject matter that is most relevant to your perspective audience.

I am not sure if this will be limited to VMUG presentations in the long run, or if it will expand beyond that to VMworld, and even presentations for other groups. But I have to say, I am on board 100%, and I strongly encourage our readers to sign up here to stay abreast of Feed Forward developments. Also, if you have ideas or comments on Feed Forward, I am sure the guys would love to hear them.

The Evolution to Evangelism: Same great company, exciting new role

I have accepted a new role at Tintri as the company’s Principal Technology Evangelist. This means I will be taking a more customer-centric approach to shaping and articulating Tintri’s technology and strategy and I will be more closely aligned than ever before with Tintri’s Engineering, Product Management, and Marketing Teams. I will be working with our field employees, customers, partners, media, analysts, and the IT marketplace in general, to ensure our message is resonating across the spectrum. I’m incredibly excited to be taking on this role as I’ve been ‘all in’ on Tintri since the day I saw the technology in action.

IdeaBoyUSE-300x300Speaking of that day … There have been two powerful light bulb moments in my career. One was at VMworld 2007 and the other was about 15 minutes into my first face-to-face conversation with Tintri back in March of 2009.  The person at Tintri I met with showed me a bit of their Virtual Machine Aware storage in action. I instantly got it.  No lengthy explanation was needed.  The light bulb moment was very compelling.  What was supposed to be an initial 60-minute meeting turned into a three hour discussion as I couldn’t stop asking questions and digging deeper into all aspects of the company. I left the meeting feeling like I had to be a part of what Tintri was building.

Since then, I have loved watching customers have that same light bulb moment when we dig into all the Tintri goodness. In my new role, one of my goals will be to evoke as many of these light bulb moments as possible across the entire community.

As far as interaction with the community, another goal of my will be to focus on blogging and connecting with more people through social media. But I won’t be hiding behind this blog or Twitter. I will be in front of customers, prospects, and partners. I will be attending as many industry events as possible and I’ll be in Silicon Valley regularly. So if you see me, come say hello, introduce yourself, and let’s start a conversation.

I’ll wrap up this post by saying I’m thrilled that my new role with allow me to devote a large amount of my time focused on interacting with the virtualization community. Actively participating in the community has helped me learn and grow faster than I could have on my own, and I have a huge level of appreciation and gratitude for that.

::This blog was originally posted at – http://justinlauer.wordpress.com/2014/04/04/the-evolution-to-evangelism-same-great-company-exciting-new-role/ – please leave any comments via that blog link.

Call to Action: VMworld 2014 Call for Papers is open

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Today VMware opened the Call for Papers registration for VMworld 2014.  You can login an submit an abstract here: http://www.vmworld.com/community/conference/cfp

This year there are only four main tracks, each with subtracks, as follows:

End-User Computing
· Horizon Desktop
· Horizon Mobile
· Horizon Social
· Desktop-as-a-Service

Hybrid Cloud

· Public Cloud

Software Defined Data Center
· Cloud Infrastructure
· Management
· Storage and Availability
· Networking and Security

Partner Track

· Technology Exchange for Alliance Partner

The Abstract Submission Guidelines can be found here: http://download3.vmware.com/vmworld/2014/downloads/abstract-submission-guidelines.pdf

Please note these dates.  There is less than one month to submit abstracts.
- April 4: Call for Papers opens
- May 2: Call for Papers closes

Good luck to all those who submit!

Protecting the Software-Defined World

Today, EMC announced their next generation of backup and recovery solutions.  I was unable to attend the announcement.  A replay of the announcement can be found here.  The new announcements include Data Protection Suite enhancements, a New Data Domain OS and new deployment models for VPLEX.

One of the keys to protecting the software-defined world is being able to deliver Data Protection as a Service.  The goal is to integrate with hypervisors, segregated tenant workloads as well as support for public, private and hybrid clouds.  Another item of importance is to meet SLA requirements at scale, from continuous availability to backup and replication to archive and compliance.

The enhancements to the Data Protection Suite include Avamar 7.1, Networker 8.2 and MozyEnterprise.  One of the exciting announcements from my perspective is a new Avamar plug-in for vCloud Director.  This is the first standard API for VMware service providers.  The Avamar plug-in will allow for embedded backup services within vCloud Director.  Another Avamar enhancement includes the ability to backup all workloads to Data Domain including applications, virtual environment, remote offices as well as desktops/laptops.  There is now much closer integration between Avamar and Data Domain.

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Chad Sakac wrote an excellent post here that talks about vCloud Suite and vCHS Protection realized from today’s Data Protection announcement.

As mentioned, there were some enhancements made to Networker.  One of my favorites is support for both block and NAS based snapshots with support for VNX, Isilon and NetApp (NAS).  Snapshots are now auto-discovered and cataloged providing a centralized view of all snapshots.  The ability to rollover to a backup media such as tape is now supported which helps drive down data protection cost and is part of the overall data protection continuum.

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Data Domain now allows you to backup enterprise applications such as SAP, SAP Hana, SQL and IBM DB2 using DD Boost.  Touching upon the ability to data protection to private, public and hybrid cloud, Data Domain can now protect a workload in any of these cloud environments.  Tenant management is included which provides logical data isolation for administrators as well as the ability to assign roles for users and admins.

Not to be forgotten is a new virtual edition of VPLEX.  VPLEX VE leverages ESXi and leverages the mobility and availability of vSphere.  Included is a plug-in for vCenter.  Right now VPLEX VE support iSCSI-based storage only with VNXe being the first iSCSI-based array being supported.  Additional storage arrays are on the roadmap.  The current distance limitation is 5ms of round-trip latency.

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The final announcement is the introduction of Metro-Point which will provide continuous availability utilizing multiple sites.  Basically 3 sites will be utilized with only a single DR copy being used for continuous availability.  CDP is utilized both sides of Metro Point.  It is completely heterogeneous with support for XtremIO, VNX, VMAX, IBM and HP being mentioned during the announcement.

Of course Chad Sakac wrote a great post about VPLEX VE as well, it can be found here.

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Honored to be a vexpert for the sixth time!

This week VMware announced the vExpert class of 2014.  This year 754 outstanding members of the community received the award.  I’m honored to have been selected as a vExpert for the sixth year in a row.  The vExpert community is a fantastic mix of passionate people from all walks of life within our industry – Customer, Partner, Vendor, Analyst.  I’ve made a number of great industry friends via this group over the last six years, and have had some of the best technical conversations and debates with these same people.  The value I’ve received simply by being able to collaborate with this group has been the single biggest reward. 

I did want to take a second to congratulate my fellow Tintri teammates, Scott Sauer, Rob Girard, Trent Steele and Rob Waite, who were also part of the 2014 vExpert class.  Well done guys!

After the 2014 announcement was posted I started thinking about that first year the program was around… 

Flashback to 2009

That first year about 300 people were selected (see the 2009 announcement here).  For giggles I decided to search through my .PST archives for that original email that was sent out by John Troyer in February of 2009.

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The highlight of that inaugural year for me was the first official vExpert meeting that took place at VMworld 2009.  I walked into the room looking around at all amazing minds in one place, it was a pretty surreal feeling.  John Troyer put together a nice agenda for us starting with then VMware CTO Stephen Herrod who did a Q&A session (part of it was recorded and posted here by Eric Siebert).  Next up were presentations by Jason Boche and Steve Kaplan (check out the recap Steve did about his presentation here).

It has been great to see the vExpert program grow larger year after year and watch those who have been involved in the program grow in their careers as well.  Thanks again to John Troyer and Corey Romero for the continual effort in establishing, growing and maintaining this awesome community.

::This blog was originally posted at – http://justinlauer.wordpress.com/2014/04/03/honored-to-be-a-vexpert-for-the-sixth-time/ – please leave any comments via that blog link.