A fellow engineer extraordinaire (Mike Evans) inspired me to write up this blog post. Mike and I have been using the “notes” attribute for virtual machines for a few years. It has come in very handy to track who requested the virtual machine resource, and the date the virtual machine was provisioned. If your not familiar with the notes field, it’s at the bottom of the summary page of a virtual machine properties page.
This little piece of information might seem trivial to the layperson but the larger your virtual environment grows, the more complex it becomes. Having a way to track this fluid, ever changing infrastructure becomes more and more important as your begin to scale up and out.
The “Notes” field was great for us except that we began to notice the variations of details that we had entered into each virtual machines properties. Not probably a huge deal if you have a small VMware environment but when you start tracking several hundreds of virtual machines, it really starts having an affect on reporting. A newer feature that was added to Virtual Center was the ability to use attributes, or pre-defined fields that can be populated. This gives a VMware administrator the ability to have a common format for reporting on Virtual Infrastructure. Below is a screen shot of the Custom Attributes you can find in Virtual Center:
Notice there are three different categories I have displayed in this view, Global, Host, and Virtual Machine. You can set attributes at multiple places in your VI environment that you wish to track. You can see we are interested in Virtual Machines attributes for certain variables (Owner, Provision Date, Provisioned By, Purpose). We have a different interest at the host level (Build Date) for maintenance tracking purposes of physical hardware assets.
Here is where all your hard work starts to pay off.
It’s audit time, you are tasked with trimming the fat in your environment because once again you are out of capacity, and the budget just got crushed for the rest of the year because “Insert your reason here” the UPS batteries just exploded! Go into Virtual Center and generate a report of your virtual infrastructure so you can get a report of who owns what, and what date it was deployed. Go to your Virtual Machine view, select your datacenter, go to the menu option “Export” and then select “Export List”. Save the export as a Excel Spreadsheet, and view your results. Notice the highlighted columns K through N, these are the custom attributes that we added above.
Virtual Center custom attributes are a great way to help manage your growing environment. Sit down with your team, or your potential customer and find out what values matter most in your environment. Create the custom attributed at the various places in Virtual Center. Make sure you are diligent about filling out the details when you bring up new systems and make it part of your internal process and documentation. You will thank yourself down the road.