My ramblings about all things technical


London VMUG

For only the second time I made it to the London VMware User Group (VMUG) yesterday. The day was very interesting and the most exciting part for me was I got to meet some of the top VMware people i follow and chat to on twitter.

The day started off nicely with my colleague Simon Phillips and I attending the optional early presentation by Alan Renouf (@alanrenouf) . His session was all about the VESI and how he has used it to create a whole load of scripts he uses in his daily life. He also announced that his “ PowerPack” has now been re-launched as the VMware Community PowerPack to allow anyone to add their scripts to the powerpack he had built up and it already has contributors from the likes of Jonathan Medd (@jonathanmedd), Armin Van Liesenhout (@avlieshout) and Luc Dekens (@lucd22) to name but a few. The VESI application is one I unfortunately haven’t had a very large amount of time to play with but it is now higher on my list of things to learn and play with and hopefully I can contribute a script or two to it once I have honed my PowerCLI skills. A very funny point of his presentation was his slide with a hypnotising pattern on it saying VMware works better on EMC products.

We then had a lunch break and then the “real” VMUG started. Alaric Davies welcomed everyone and detailed the itinerary and then we got right into the first presentation by the sponsors RES Software.The product they spoke of and demoed was a was highly interesting one called PowerFuse. To not say the wrong facts etc I would highly recommend downloading the introduction guide from here and reading through it yourself.

Next was a presentation by Colin Styles from Prudential all about his experiences of migrating his servers from ESX 3.5 to ESXi 4 while also migrating to a new HP blade system. His experiences were very interesting and it’s always invaluable to hear some of the problems he came across as if VMware do actually follow through with removing the COS in version 4.1 then the migrations to ESXi will be inevitable. One thing I’m glad about was that I don’t have an HP blade setup as hearing Colin and many of the other attendees numerous problems they have had with them it’s pretty scary especially seeing as how much of the market they dominate.

Then Peter Polkinghorne of Brunel University spoke all about his environment and the challenges and lessons he has learnt and why he chose specific VMware technologies to storage technologies. The discussions that came off of his presentation were very interesting especially the discussions around SNMP monitoring and how he battled once he migrated from 3.5 to 4.

We then had a very quick refreshment break as we were already 40 minutes overtime and then Simon Gallagher (@vinf_net) spoke all about Virtualising Terminal Server workloads and his experiences in doing it. I was quite impressed with the results he noticed from doing this and the idea is one I’ve never thought of doing before but is a perfect example of the capabilities of VMware and that even tier 1 applications are perfectly safe to be virtualised and even made more productive.

Then Dave Burgess from VMware spoke about VMsafe and the features it is due to bring. I’ve personally never used VMsafe before but was very impressed by what Dave said it could bring to your environment. I had only briefly read about VMsafe before so the session was very interesting. I won’t try cover what was said as I’m sure I’ll explain it wrong so check out the page for it here

Simon Townsend  also from VMware then presented and discussed VMforce as it seems not many people watched the webcast from last week all about it. I won’t embarrass myself by trying to cover everything he said as there are some brilliant blogs and nice demo of it’s capabilities and feature.

  • Parker Harris posted a blog posting all about VMforce here.
  • Rod Johnson of Springsource also posted a brilliant posting all about it
  • Then there’s the video demo which is a bit cheesy but shows all the features really well

We then started the interactive panel discussion. Mike laverick and Stevie chambers discussed the “egg’s in one basket” theories and how the real thing in the end is no one really notices the difference of a highly utilised host but everyone knows when a host goes down. Stevie then invited us all to come see the Cisco UCS environment which is a very exciting idea as it would be amazing to see it all in action and see it’s capabilities.

We then finished due to us having overrun and those of us who could make it went down to The Pavilion end pub for vBeers. I hung around a lot longer than I planned to as I ended up chatting with Simon Long (@simonlong_) of The SLOG fame , daniel eason (@daniel_eason) ,Doug Hazelman (@vmdoug) from Veeam software, Simon Seagrave (@kiwi_si) the recent joiner to the EMC vSpecialist team , Matt Roblin (@mattroblin) ,Steve Chambers (@ Stevie_Chambers) from Cisco and Ricky Alqasem (@rickyelqasem) also from Veeam. It was really great to put faces to names and chat to them all. I’m really glad I got to go to it and hopefully I’ll make it to the next one on the !5th of July.

Gregg Robertson



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All things virtual VIII


It’s been a very busy but also a very rewarding productive few weeks for me. Even though it came down to a relatively simple solution the working of my VMware Update Manager was a massive weight off my shoulders and a lot of lessons learnt from it which is always something valuable.

On the virtualisation news side it’s been a very interesting couple of weeks with some brilliantly written blogs and articles.

  • Vladan Seget (@vladan) did a very good posting on setting a static MAC address in VMware. This is something you learn when you’re studying for your VCP but is something that personally I’ve forgotten really easily but is a very helpful feature especially if you have a vm with software on it that requires a licence to be attached to the vm’s MAC address but you still want to be able to migrate the vm around for either HA or DRS capabilities.
  • Next is the VMware Support Toolbar by Rick Blythe (@rickblythe) aka VMwareWolf. The toolbar is a very clever idea and the only reason I’ve linked Vladan’s posting on it is that he details all the features it has and how to set it up etc and seeing as Rick linked to it at the top of his posting about the toolbar it seems he’s happy with the posting being used for his toolbar. I’ve only partly played around with the toolbar but it’s a great example of how professionals are thinking of new ways for a VMware administrator to be able to keep up to date and easily search for VMware knowledge base items.
  • Cody Bunch (@cody_bunch) of has been doing some really great VCDX brown bag sessions on all the things you should know for you VCDX and obviously as the name alludes to they are discussions amongst fellow professionals about the topics you will need to know to do your defence. A “study group” is another way of describing it. Cody was nice enough to reply to me on twitter when I enquired about the ability to watch/listen to the previous brown bag sessions and I was pleased to find out they have been recorded and the second brown bag session is already up. I’ve always found discussions amongst fellow professionals about a common technology highly beneficial as sometimes i really need someone to explain something in laymen’s terms to me for me to understand it. I’d recommend registering for the next one and to keep an eye out for the future sessions. He’s also done a few VCP brown bag sessions and theses have also been recorded so if you’re looking to write your VCP soon or even like me keep your knowledge fresh then these are perfect for this.
  • Duncan Epping of Yellow Bricks fame did a very informative posting all about aligning your VMs virtual hard disks. I spoke partly of this in one of my blog postings a few weeks back and Duncan has added some great information to this discussion and is one i learnt quite a few things from so is well worth the read. Duncan also did a very helpful posting on where to find pre-windows 2008 sysprep packages for those who are battling to find them.
  • Eric Sloof (@esloof) posted two great articles these past few weeks. The first one was a very interesting interview with one of the attendee’s of his VMware vSphere Design Workshop course and his opinions of how the course went and how good it was. After watching it it’s made me even more keen to attend the course and gain the knowledge they you can gain from it especially from fellow VMware professionals. The other is his announcing of the upcoming vSphere 4 Automation course. It shows the growing need and trend of VMware professionals to have the knowledge and ability to automate some of the tasks performed in their VMware environment as well as a great course for gaining the knowledge you will require for managing your environment in ESXi.
  • Talking of ESXi and the push by VMware for people to migrate from ESX to ESXi, Eric Siebert (@ericsiebert) of posted a very very good blog posting all about how VMware’s desire for people to adopt ESXi isn’t going as well as they may have hoped and how VMware are going to need to fix a number of issues that ESXi has that ESX doesn’t before the change over and how their motivators for the switch aren’t as strong as they make out. The article is brilliant and is especially so to me as I agree wholeheartedly with many of the points in it and myself don’t see nor agree with the whole idea of them moving over to ESXi and scrapping ESX.
  • There has always been the discussion of scale up versus scale out when you are creating a Virtual environment and over the past few weeks there have been a few great postings from some of the top virtualisations bloggers about this discussion. It seems the whole thing kicked off from a blog posting Duncan Epping did about scaling up due to the release of the new Intel 5600 series that has six cores. Which set off a blog posting by Ian Koenig at titled scale up or scale out in which he brings up some brilliant check points every VMware administrator should ask when determining whether to scale up or scale out. Scott Lowe then commented on Ian’s posting  in his Virtualization Short Take #37 and gave his opinion on the discussion which in turn made Steve Chambers (@Stevie_chambers) write an article about how he feels UCS is the solution to the worry about having “all your eggs in one basket”. His blog posting is also very informative about the features UCS has and how it allows you to have all your machines on one big server. This in turn brought Scott to write a posting describing his opinions in full and how he feels as is always said for anything in IT “it depends”  on a number of factors and one model or decision is never the same for every company/environment/situation. Lastly a great blog posting by a twitter friend of mine and top VMware professional Daniel Eason(@Daniel_Eason) about High Density Virtual Hosts gives a great insight into more of the factors you need to consider when building a “Super ESX Host(my own words)”. All of these articles are brilliantly informative and as with any great article they encourage discussion. You make your own decisions and I encourage you to read all the comments below each of the articles as these are as good if not maybe a little bit better than the articles.
  • This past week the applications for the VMware vExpert award have been opened. The vExpert for anyone that doesn’t know it is “a way for VMware to acknowledge and help those who ‘go the extra mile’ and give back to the VMware user community by sharing their expertise and time. vExperts are bloggers, book authors, VMUG leaders, event organizers, speakers, tool builders, forum leaders, and others who share their virtualization expertise.” As you can imagine there has been a very large amount of chat in twitterverse about the applications and who may be honoured by the awarding of it. Personally I’d love to become one and hope that with my continued efforts to give back to the community and grow my contributions to the field I’ll one day soon be awarded the title. If you know of anyone that deserves this award then get an application in for them. But be warned that multiple nominations don’t count extra so applying for yourself 100 times and asking loads of people to apply for you won’t help you to win this.
  • In my Distributed Virtual Switches blog posting i detailed the process of upgrading your virtual machines hardware version to version 7 but Sander Daems (@sanderdaems) posted a very helpful posting on how to downgrade your vm hardware level from 7 to 4 if it is needed to fix an issue you may be having. It always makes me smile when a blog posting like this is posted as I’m always so focused on the newest things and the latest versions of software that i forget that sometimes the need for rolling back to an older possibly more stable version is the option.
  • Even though this next posting is old it’s one I feel is very important and useful in the growth of anyone’s scripting knowledge. Alan Renouf created a very helpful Quick Reference Guide for the VI toolkit which you can print off and obviously reference whenever you need it.
  • VMware have recently posted a new white paper detailing performance results of tests conducted of a vSphere 4.0 environment using Microsoft SQL Server 2008. The white paper can be downloaded here.
  • Rich Brambley (@rbrambley) posted all about the reasoning and some fixes/solutions you can make as to why cloning a vm from a template can take such a long time. Rick’s posting has some great links for IOPS and gives some very in depth solutions and reasons as to why the problem might happen. The posting is very helpful and sheds light on points some people may miss in their aim of making their virtual environment run as quickly and smoothly as possible.
  • Arnim van Lieshout (@avlieshout) did a great blog posting about how to setup and get running The VESI (Virtualization EcoShell Initiative). If you’ve never heard of The VESI before then i would recommend reading the FAQ before reading and then implementing the solution into your environment. Arnim has detailed every step and installation needed in getting it working and is a massive help for someone trying to get it setup.
  • Last by definitely not least was a posting by Devang Panchigar (@storagenerve) with the video of the VBlocks presentation at the GestaltIT Tech Field Day 2010 in Boston Massachusetts this past week. The presentation was highly informative and a great insight into the solution and is well worth the watch.

As I’ve said before I’m always happy for people to leave a comment below or add me on twitter at @greggrobertson5. If you feel I’ve missed something or not given credit or wrongly described yours or someone else’s posting as this is the last thing i mean to do, please tell me an I’ll change it.

Gregg Robertson