What a day! The full-day Toronto VMUG on February 27th

This year is my first time as a co-leader of the Toronto VMUG for a full-day event along with Angelo Luciani, Mike Preston, and Ryan Goff. We pulled together in a big way along with the fabulous team at VMUG headquarters.

The event was made even more accessible thanks to our friends at Turbonomic, who sponsored free parking at the venue for those who had to drive down.

vCHS goodness with Michael Roy

It started off with with a bang thanks to a great morning keynote by Michael Roy, Technical Marketing Manager from VMware in the vCloud Hybrid Service team. Michael did a super job of introducing the vCHS initiative to our audience, and it was timed well along with the recent announcement of the launch of the first European data center!

It’s particularly nice to have Michael in town as we have chatted on vCHS before at VMworld 2013 and he is a Canadian living in San Francisco so that gets extra points. Plus, be sure to check out his upcoming book Instant Getting Started with VMware Fusion:

A visit from Chris Wahl!

We were lucky enough with this event to have Chris Wahl of WahlNetwork.com here to give a presentation about orchestration, process improvement and overall awesomeness titled “Stop Being a Minesweeper”. Chris is a dynamic speaker, and we had lots of time to chat on everything in technology throughout the day which was a special treat.

You may recall that Chris was one of our judges for Virtual Design Master Season 1.

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Make sure to keep your eyes out for Chris’ upcoming book Networking for VMware Administrators co-authored with Steven Pantol. It’s available for pre-order now!

Excitement in the air with VSAN and NSX

It should be no surprise that there was a lot of focus on two of the popular offerings from VMware with VSAN (Currently in Beta) and Network Virtualization with NSX. While it is often feared that the products are targeted to the large scale customer and service provider, there was a lot of buzz among the attendees from businesses large and small.

The whole agenda is available here to give you an idea of the great partner vendor and VMware presentations that where there: http://www.vmug.com/p/cm/ld/fid=4470

VMUG Expert Panel and the Big Lab Giveaway

To top off this exciting day, we had an “Ask the Expert” panel featuring Chris Wahl, Michael Roy, Toronto VMUG’s own Mike Preston, and yours truly!

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There were some great questions from the audience, and we received lots of great feedback about the event content while we where there also which was a sign of a well designed VMUG event day.

Record numbers this year

Thanks to the incredible community that is here in Toronto and surrounding area, we had a record number of registrations and attendees for the event. At the last count we had over 500 registered on site as was evident by the standing room only for the keynote session in the morning.

This was the ultimate nod to how important this community is, and we couldn’t be more pleased with all of the interaction and networking that took place during the event. Vendors were able to spend lots of time with our attendees and the feedback on the presentations was very positive.

Toronto’s first vBeers with Veeam

Another fun part of the event was a vBeers party at 5:00 sponsored by our friends Veeam at the Baton Rouge restaurant next to the Toronto Convention Centre. There were a large amount of attendees who came over with us and spent a couple of hours chatting on the day, plus everything in technology and lots of great networking was happening. This was the perfect end to a community event.

I’ll close by giving a heartfelt thank you to all of you for the work you do to make these events happen, and to give us the inspiration to make each one better than the last!

 

 




VMworld 2013 Europe: Desktone aquisition, NSX General Availability and EUC goodness!

It’s that time of year again with VMworld 2013 in Barcelona kicking off. There is a lot of excitement as the attendees descend upon the floor in Barcelona, and the announcements have already started to kick off for some news that has come from the keynote.

VMware Acquires Desktone

This is an interesting buy for VMware which is mean to augment their VMware Horizon Suite for on-premises deployments to allow the extension of VDI environments into the cloud. The DaaS (Desktop-as-a-Service) offering from Desktone is targeted toward businesses who have elastic desktop virtualization needs to be able to leverage cloud resources for scalability.

One of the key features that Desktone touts is the use of open source technology to delivery VDI hosting which targets the “Microsoft Tax” that is often seen as a barrier to deploying desktop virtualization. I feel that this is less important than the methodology that is being introduces which is the real win for what Desktone can bring to VMware. It will be interesting to see this unfold over the coming months.

The full press release is here: http://www.vmware.com/company/news/releases/vmw-euc-daas-10-15-13

VMware NSX is in General Availability

Not that it was a massive surprise to see this come, but the GA release of VMware NSX was announced at Barcelona. I did a little last-minute prediction Sunday for this one which turned out to be true 🙂

The release was scheduled for “Q4 2013” so it seemed appropriate that they package their release announcement along with their European VMworld conference since the timing was there.

What this means for consumers is that they can now build the VMware NSX product into their production builds if they are ready. The pricing and download are yet to be announced, but that should come within a few hours of the keynote once all the dust settles on the announcements and press releases.

vCloud Automation Center 6.0 Announced

The vCAC 6.0 edition was announced today and what is exciting about this, other than the increase amount of automation awesomeness that comes along with it, is the deployment model. With vCAC 6.0 we will now be able to deploy the self-service portal and the Application Director as virtual appliances! If you’ve ever deployed these components in the past, you will know that there is often some serious yak shaving needed to get these components up and running.

More vFabric integration is really slick for those who use the vFabric suite today because you can now manage the vFabric application deployments using vCAC through the native Application Director connection. Very cool news.

vCAC for NSX and vCHS

This is the really cool feature to me! The addition of support for VMware NSX and VMware vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) orchestration is going to the cherry on top. The vCAC toolkit is really great as it is, but the challenge for jumping to it from vCO (vCenter Orchestrator) is the pricing. While vCO is free, the vCAC (pronounced vee-Cake for those who didn’t kn0w) product line is much more full-featured and you will see the inevitable push to this platform in the coming months.

End-User Computing Focus at Barcelona

I’ve typically seen a lot of focus on EUC (End User Computing) at the Barcelona event. This year is no different as there are some great EUC features coming. The integration of

VMware Horizon View 5.2 Interface Update

Better graphics delivery thanks to the Nvidia GRID technology will be a big win for better delivery of high-resolution, 3D graphics, and dynamic applications using VMware Horizon View. This is one of the key markets that VDI has been challenged by, so we will see how the improvements increase the adoption for these types of applications.

Android Support Growth

There are now more Android devices supported for use with VMware Horizon View and the full support of iOS7 is also a part of the updates. You can even use the Google Chromebook thanks to the HTML5 browser support, although the more likely target for that is Windows 8.1 clients. I like the idea of the Chromebook as much as the next person, but it’s not quite a typical client device.

There will be some more news coming in the next few days I’m sure, but this is a pretty good start to get us salivating for the new updates. The VMware Horizon View updates are scheduled for sometime in Q4.

General Session Available for Public Viewing

You can watch the general session from Monday here: http://www.vmworld.com/community/conference/europe/learn/generalsessions?sf18340226=1 and there is also a link for the Day 2 keynote presentation which will take place on Tuesday.

 




Software Defined Networking – The policy, programmability and bedlam as VMware NSX prepares for public release

gatewayThese are very exciting times in virtualization as we prepare for the general availability launch of VMware NSX, the product of the Nicira integration over the past 14 months. The product received heavy focus at this year’s VMworld in San Francisco, so much so that it was referred to by many as “NSXWorld”.

I’ve been lucky enough to have some exposure to the product through a few different channels, and the product is very exciting. But with this excitement comes some trepidation by many as to how it will become a part of the customer ecosystem.

The reason that I have titled this to include the word bedlam is that there is a lot of really wild swings in opinion on the upcoming GA release, and how NSX will become a part of what we do today. Even beyond NSX, SDN in general invites some strong and often misguided opinions on either side of the argument for what it is, and why it is a forward thinking and inevitable shift in how we manage our networks.

A Key Point of NSX and SDN

The phrase SDN (Software Defined Networking) gets thrown around a lot, and sometimes incorrectly. Just like the use of the term “cloud”, there are some basic tenets that define a SDN product but the most notable is the separation of the data plane from the control plane.

This means that the underlying infrastructure and physical characteristics of networking are still present at the data plane, but the control plane is software managed, programmable and abstracted from the physical infrastructure.

What is a really big draw for this is the escape from hardware vendor lock-in. There will be more chat further down. One thing that cannot be denied is the buzz around what VMware is doing with NSX, and how much interest it is raising. The VMworld San Francisco Hands-On Labs were dominated by the HOL-SDC-1303

The Architects

There are some key people who began in Nicira and brought NSX into the VMware family through the acquisition last year. To start with, you may know folks such as Martin Casado, a significant player in the creation and growth of OpenFlow. Or perhaps you’ve heard of Bruce Davie, who among many accomplishments was involved in the architecture of a little thing called MPLS. Maybe you’ve heard of Ben Pfaff who was the lead developer on the Open vSwitch project.

The list goes on, and the people involved have a common theme. They were responsible for bringing game-changing networking technologies to the market. Nicira was a disruptive and innovative company on its own, and the merger with VMware has the potential to create a real juggernaut. This isn’t a fly-by-night operation that just hit the silicon valley with a little bit of VC money to create a marketing machine without any innovation behind it.

Policy and Programability

Possibly the most important feature of SDN is the policy management and programability of the networks through the use of SDN. By that, we mean that the deployment and management can be done through orchestration and automation to add network policy management into the deployment pipeline.

The exposure of APIs (RESTful is ideal) has become the top feature in being able to orchestrate the network features in our virtual and cloud deployment workflows.

Better Controls not Less Control

It gets tiring to hear the argument between network admins and sysadmins over who will be managing the infrastructure components as network virtualization becomes widely used. There are going to be clear delineations just as there are today. We won’t have sysadmins wildly creating networks and reorganizing the topology. Just as we will not have network admins drilling down into the VM networks to change designs and policy on the fly.

If you lack the controls to manage your environment today, network virtualization will not save you from it. If anything, it will highlight that you have an issue. The goal of any NV deployment is to enhance the ability to delivery policy and features programmatically which simplifies your change control and separation of administration.

The polices are created by people, and the system applies them through orchestration and/or centralized management tools. The control lies in the fact that the policies, and the application of those policies is done using a system. That system allows for stronger controls, auditing, and logging.

The Cost

This is probably one of the biggest questions that is floating around even beyond the technical viability of the product. The truth of the situation is that it will be a non-trivial capital cost to you for running NSX in your environment. Many SMB (Small to Medium Business) customers may find themselves priced out of NSX at launch. Many SMB folks today don’t even have vSphere Enterprise Plus or vCloud deployed.

Cost will be a strong factor in defining who the target customer is for VMware NSX. If bringing vCloud into your shop is already a limiter because of cost, then we can be sure that this will take some serious thought and justification. That is the capital cost side of things at least.

There is an intangible cost that comes with having, or not having a technology such as NSX in your environment. That comes with the processes and efficiency that you are able to gain by adding orchestration into your network infrastructure management.

Breaking the FUD

There are some really strong opinions for and against what is being done with NSX as it prepares for GA release. Much of the challenge from industry pundits comes as hardware vendors and ASIC providers present the case that using software abstraction creates overhead, and thus lowers the efficiency.

The truth about overhead: it exists. The real question that we have to ask ourselves is whether the challenges with overhead are outweighed by the effectiveness given with creating a singular, programmable ecosystem in which to manage your network platforms.

Is your current production workload maxing out your physical network infrastructure? If so, you need to rethink your architecture anyways. The addition of network virtualization won’t be what tips the scales towards or against your infrastructure issues. Bringing NV into your environment is going to be a fundamental shift in the way you manage your networks which is the both the cause and result of what NV does for us.

Another classic that we hear is “so do we have to get rid of our physical networking gear?” Seriously?! If this is your argument then you need to back up a bit and think about what network virtualization does. If you have 700 physical ports lit up today with your bare metal infrastructure running your virtualized and physical server environment, you will need 700 after you deploy NSX.

What about Cisco being noticeably absent from the partner ecosystem diagrams during VMworld in San Francisco? The truth is that we are reading much more into it than we should. There are indications of some exciting news coming from Cisco and VMware on innovations soon, so this may just be like the Oscar speech where the actor forgot to thank the assistant director and viewers think it’s a snub.

“Network virtualization will reduce my FTE (full-time equivalent) count which could affect jobs” is another one that I’ve been hearing. This is as old an argument as the “robots will replace workers in manufacturing”. So far, automation, orchestration and virtualization of physical infrastructure hasn’t reduced jobs. In fact, it may have not just increased the number of jobs, but the quality of those available.

Are we just moving from hardware vendor lock-in to software vendor lock-in?

This is the nub of the argument. The pro-SDN camp is pushing the concept of escaping vendor lock-in. But if we are fully diving into using VMware NSX in our environment as the SDN technology of choice, aren’t we just moving to a vendor lock-in at the software side.

It’s a valid argument, but the tipping point for me, and many others is that the change in process and methodology is the real innovation that is coming with SDN. Technology is the enabler, not the goal. The goal is to fundamentally change and improve network management and deployment.

Understand the Use-Case

The core and fundamental requirement of bringing network virtualization into your environment is mapping the use-case against your business. If you are still not at a point where you are orchestrating and automating significant portions of your infrastructure, you may not gain significantly from adding NSX or any NV product into your toolkit.

The addition of NSX as an option in the virtualization world is a clear and solid step towards wider adoption of orchestrated infrastructure and abstraction of the physical infrastructure away from your network operations. You may not be hitting F5 in your browser every day looking for the GA code and price list on the VMware website, but ignoring what the release of this product means to the industry as a whole is the same as when this quote came out:

[quote]”As nice as the Apple iPhone is, it poses a real challenge to its users. Try typing a web key on a touchscreen on an Apple iPhone, that’s a real challenge. You cannot see what you type.” – BlackBerry (formerly RIM) Co-CEO Jim Balsillie, November 2007.[/quote]

Even if you don’t plan to deploy NSX at the launch, you should be ready to look at how the paradigm shift can bring your network and virtualization practices to the next level. It is as important to understand why you may not need this as understanding why you do.

Getting to Know NSX

There is one great way to start, and that is with the VMware Hands-On Labs HOL-SDC-1303 that you can do online:

1303

Plus, there are numerous resources on NSX at the VMware Network Virtualization blog: http://blogs.vmware.com/networkvirtualization as well as lots of other resources on NSX and NV in general:

Start there, and let’s see what NSX will do for you in your organization.




VMworld – Keynote and Announcements

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This is going to be an incredible few days as we wrap together all the information about the keynote and the big announcements that just came out. So let’s talk about what we’ve heard from the morning keynote.

vSphere 5.5

The new version of the flagship VMware vSphere ESXi platform is the new version 5.5 that adds many new features which include amazing capacity increases. How about doubling everything? Sounds good right? That’s exactly what VMware has done for us.

With vSphere 5.5 you can now increase your host RAM to 4 TB, 4096 vCPUs versus 2048, and we now have up to 16 NUMA nodes versus the previous 8 in 5.1 hosts.

vsphere55configmax

While this may not have been a limit for some of the small to medium business space, there are a lot of organizations that were near or at the limits of the previous iterations.

On the guest side, you have huge increases too, and most prominently on the disk side. The 2 TB limit on VMDK files has been lifted for vSphere 5.5 up to 64 TB on both VMFS and NFS! RDM connections to your guests is also available up to 64 TB, so growth limits are really not an issue on the storage side.

For an amazing recap of the guest storage changes, check out Chris Wahl’s post on the VMDK changes here: http://wahlnetwork.com/2013/08/26/vsphere-5-5-improvements-part-3-lions-tigers-and-62tb-vmdks/

Flash cache support with hot-plug SSD at the host is now in place for server side caching which will be a big advantage to customers now that we can leverage flash for those high performance workloads. The ability to do vMotion consistent caching in flash will be a significant improvement for your vSphere cluster efficiency and performance.

Support for 40 GB Ethernet at the host has also been added. For a lot of us, 10 GB Ethernet on the host side is more common, but the future compatibility for 40 GB is welcome as we are seeing some big increases in hardware availability on the server side. 40 GB isn’t just for the backbone network anymore!

Clouds in the forecast with vCloud Suite 5.5

The new ESXi OS comes with many other VMware products, and most prominently the vCloud ecosystem has been updated to version 5.5 also.

Improvements on vCloud include big changes on the vCloud networking side. The integration of the Nicira technologies into the vCloud suite is the most active change to the platform, and in my opinion, the most positive.

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NSX is a phenomenal technology, and as we see the full integration come over the next short while, we will see big changes in how we manage our physical and virtual networking.

For more on the operational changes and improvements in vCloud Director, Julian Wood has a nice post over here: http://www.wooditwork.com/2013/08/16/whats-new-vcloud-suite-5-5-vcloud-director/

VMware Virtual SAN (VSAN)

This exciting new software-defined storage (SDS) product evolved from the vSphere Distributed Storage product into the VSAN environment offered with the vSphere 5.5 environment.

VSAN instances   Leveraging the JBOD deployment method, we can now distribute our storage across hosts, storage hardware, and the ability to apply policy to storage and fully leverage

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On-premise Cloud Foundry

Now, all of the advantages of the Cloud Foundry ecosystem can be brought into your datacenter, and the hybrid deployment capability will bring flexibility for your application virtualization using this really great product. I’ll refer you back to my predictions post from early this year, because this was one of the key products that I felt was going to be featured for VMware this year.

OpenStack

Obviously, you’ve seen some OpenStack stuff coming out of the blog here and from my Twitter feed, so the increase in OpenStack integration into the VMware ecosystem is a particularly exciting. By adding multi-hypervisor support in the networking layer with NSX, we can build out incredibly flexible cloud designs. This will be an exciting year in this area for sure.

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vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) is now General Availability

Looking back to my previous post on vCHS (VMware Hybrid Cloud  Launch Day), this a really exciting and directionally interesting product from VMware. The move from being a software and hypervisor provider to being a full-service physical and logical cloud host is new to VMware, and this is a sign of their commitment to cloud development.

Customers can use their vCloud Connector to leverage the vCHS environment to move workloads on-premises and to the cloud, plus they have different models of consumption in the public side for either dedicated cloud or private cloud.

image courtesy of VMware (click for source page)

image courtesy of VMware

The addition of two new physical datacenters to their vCHS offering, and a roadmap to expand to European markets is a start to this great offering.

So with all of that, we can clearly see that VMware has thrown down the gauntlet to industry competitors, and in fact this puts them in a class all their own.

There will be much more information that comes out through this week and I will do some more deep dives on the specifics, and some other key announcements that are happening with partner products to the VMware ecosystem.