TheSaffaGeek

My ramblings about all things technical


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vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients Announcements

At today’s VMworld Europe conference in Barcelona VMware are announcing vSphere 6.5. There are a plethora of new features and fixes in this series of postings I plan to cover the ones that caught my eye and so for the first one let us cover the vSphere 6.5 VCSA and Clients announcements.

Overview

  • Native high availability – An all new HA solution that reduces RTO and is easy to configure. No dependency on expensive 3rd party database clustering solutions of RDMs while eliminating the single point of failure for vCenter Server
  • VMware Update Manager – is now integrated into the vCenter Server Appliance. Simple, enabled by default, and removes the requirement for a separate Windows VM.
  • Improved appliance management – an improved vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface (VMAI) brings more CPU, Memory, Network and Database monitoring right into the UI. Reduces reliance on CLI for simple monitoring tasks.
  • Native Backup and Restore – Simplified backup and restore with a new native file-based solution. Restore the vCenter server configuration to a fresh appliance and stream backups to external storage using HTTP, FTP or SCP protocols (Only available on the vCenter Server appliance)

VCSA Deployment

  • Installer support now for windows, Mac and Linux
  • An updated menu where you cannot just select to install or upgrade but also migrate and restore.

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  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included
  • VCSA and PSC install is now a two stage process
    • Stage 1- Deploy OVF
    • Stage 2 – Configuration
  • The benefits of the 2-stage deployment are:
    • Improved validation and checks
    • Manual snapshot between stages for rollback
    • Create a template for additional deployments

VCSA Migration – 6.5

  • 6.5 support for Windows vCenter 5.5 or 6.0 -> 6.5
  • Migrations for both embedded and external topologies
  • VMware vSphere Update Manager included as part of migration
  • Assumes the identity of the source Windows vCenter (UUID, IP, OS Name, Certificates)
  • Embedded and external Database support: MSSQL, MSSQL Express, Oracle
  • Migration Assistant pre-checks
  • Option to select historical and performance data

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VCSA Monitoring

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  • New vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface
  • Built in monitoring: Network, CPU and Memory
  • Visibility to vPostgres DB
  • Remote syslog configuration
  • vMon: Enhanced watchdog functionality

Native vCenter Server Appliance Backup & Restore

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  • Removes dependency on 3rd party backup solutions
  • Restore vCenter Server instance to a brand new appliance
  • Supports backup/restore of VCSA & PSC appliances
  • Includes embedded and external deployments
  • Supported protocols include:
    • HTTP/S
    • SC
    • FTP/S
  • Option for Encryption
  • Restore directly from VCSA ISO

Native vCenter High Availability

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  • VCSA Only
  • Active/Passive with witness
  • Required network configuration:
    • Eth0 – Public network
    • Eth1 – Private network (added during configuration)
  • Two configuration options: Basic and Advanced

Client Integration Plugin Deprecation

  • In 6.5 CIP is no longer required
    • Replaced by native browser functions
    • Optional plugin called Enhanced Authentication Plugin for smart card and Integrate Windows Authentication login capabilities.

vSphere HTML5 Web Client

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· Clarity UI standard

· No browser plugins

· Integrated into vCenter Server 6.5

· Fully supports Enhanced Linked Mode

Make sure you attend one of the multiple sessions by Emad Younis and Adam Eckerle to learn and see more.

Gregg


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VMware Knowledge Nuggets

Over the past few weeks I have had several discussions around VMware features and technologies via twitter where someone asked a question or made statement around a VMware vSphere feature and the subsequent discussions seemed to shed some light on things people either didn’t know or had forgotten.

 

So my idea is to create a series of blog postings trying to cover compact VMware knowledge nuggets which I hope will show people some unknown features or things they need to think about around choosing features and maybe even get some good discussions going via the comments section.

nuggets

Does excluding VMs from HA exclude them from admission control calculations?

This question was posted by fellow London VMUG attendee Ed Grigson a few weeks back via twitter as shown below

 

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Due to my aiming to reattempt my VCDX defence soon I have been reading and learning as much as is possible and had come across the answer to this during my reading of Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman’s vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deepdive book and responded to Ed with the answer which is No. Even if it is disabled within HA, it is still included in admission control calculations. So be mindful of leaving machines lying around in your cluster as depending of your admission control policy this could have varying impacts on your ability to power on machines.


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Rethink Your vSphere Virtualization Infrastructure for your SMB

I just wanted to repost this just in case people don’t follow the VMware SMB blog page. The below blog posting was posted by me on this blog over a week ago (I’m very busy at work doing cool vRealize Automation stuff which I hope to blog about very soon) . Hopefully this is of interest to a number of people and so keep an eye for my future blog posting via the SMB blog.

In recent years, virtualization has dramatically changed the infrastructure of companies and helped them to consolidate and optimize their environments. With the change and growth of the VMware vSphere® family of products, a number of features and solutions that were only part of the Enterprise and Enterprise plus licencing packages are now available for the small and midsize business (SMB) market as well. This change is causing SMB customers to rethink and re-evaluate their vSphere virtualized infrastructure to leverage these new offerings and realize the benefits of advanced reporting, data protection, enhanced optimization and advanced service offerings, to name a few.

In the past, many of these new features and technologies made a perfect fit for the SMB market, but costs made them prohibitive. That is now changing with a new wave of virtualization 2.0 technologies, including:

As a senior consultant doing work as a VMware partner and as an extension of VMware PSO, this change is something I am evangelising and explaining to all my customers. I especially want the small and midsize businesses I work with to know the capabilities and solutions that are now available at no extra cost to them, which can help enhance and optimize their virtualized infrastructure.

A large portion of these successes have been through the ability of SMB customers to now utilize vSphere with Operations Management to do reporting, monitoring and future planning through smart alerts, built in reports and health dashboards designed to optimize the utilization of hardware resources, such as CPU, memory and storage.

As shown in the screenshot below, this dashboard enables SMB customers to monitor the state of the environment through the current health score, the potential risks to the environment, the future health of the environment and how well the environment is running through the efficiency score. Each of these scores can be expanded to give further information and methods to improve these rankings. I always like to explain these scores like the the health of a person – the higher your health score is, the healthier you are, and the higher your risk factors, the bigger the chance of your health being impacted. Your efficiency is how well you are doing things and how you could do things better.

Download Here

I’ve written a whitepaper around the need for SMBs to rethink their virtualization infrastructure and to elaborate on a number of the features and solutions that are now available to SMB customers, like vRealize Operations built into vSphere with Operations Management, as briefly detailed above. Download the whitepaper to learn how these solutions can help your business and your customers.

If you require any more information or consultancy about the solutions and technologies covered in the whitepaper, then please don’t hesitate to contact VMware Professional Services.


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vSphere 5.1 Announced with Site Recovery Manager 5.1

With the announcement of vSphere 5.1 is also the announcement of Site Recovery Manager 5.1. Below are some of the new features and enhancements coming with SRM 5.1

Application Quiescence for vSphere Replication

The new VR has improved VSS integration and doesn’t merely request OS quiescence, but flushes app/db writers if present.

This is due to better handling of VSS through the VMware Tools present in vSphere 5.1 and requires no work to configure – merely select the quiescing method and VR will handle it.

If VR is asked to use VSS, it will synchronize its creation of the lightweight delta with the request to flush writers and quiesce the application and operating system. This ensures full app consistency for backups.

vSphere Replication is presented the quiescent and consistent volume produced by the OSS flushing the VSS writers, and that consistent volume is used to create the LWD for replication.

If for some reason the VSS can not quiesce correctly or flush the writers, VR will continue irrespective of the failure and create an OS consistent LWD bundle at the VM level, and generate a warning that VSS consistency was not able to be created.

All Paths Down Improvements

The way vSphere 5 handles hosts with devices in an “All Paths Down” state has been improved to ensure that the host does not get stuck in a loop attempting I/O on unavailable devices.

APD states often occur during disaster scenarios, and as such it becomes important for SRM that the platform not cause delay for recovery.

SRM now checks for a datastore’s accessibility flag before deciding whether or not to attempt to use that datastore. A datastore may become inaccessible because of various reasons, one of which is APD.

The changes in how vSphere handles these devices enables SRM to differentiate APD from other types of inaccessible states such as and Permanent Device Loss (PDL).

If SRM sees a datastore in an APD condition, it will stop immediately and try again later, since APD conditions are supposed to be transient, rather than time out trying to access a missing device.

SRM also has been improved to use a new unmount command to gracefully remove datastores from the primary protected site during the execution of a recovery plan. Since SRM needs to break replication and unmount the datastore from the protected environment the new method allows for a graceful dismount and generation of an APD situation rather than an abrupt removal of the datastore.

During a disaster recovery, however, in some cases hosts are inaccessible via network to gracefully unmount datastores, and in the past the isolated hosts could panic if their storage was removed abruptly by SRM.

With vSphere 5.1 there are new improvements to the hosts and storage stacks that allow them to remain operative even through an unplanned APD state.

Forced Failover

Forced failover was introduced in SRM 5.0.1 for recovery plans using array based replication protection groups. With SRM 5.1 forced failover is now fully supported for all protection group types.

In some cases SRM will be unable to handle storage failure scenarios at the protection site. Perhaps the devices have entered an APD or PDL state, or perhaps storage controllers are unavailable, or for many other reasons. Perhaps the original SAN is reduced to a puddle of molten slag.

In these cases, SRM can enter a state where it waits for responses from the storage for an untenable amount of time. For instance, timeouts have been seen to last as long as 8 hours while waiting for responses from ‘misbehaving’ storage at the protected site.

Forced failover handles these scenarios. If storage is in a known inconsistent state, a user may choose to run a recovery plan failover in “forced failover” mode. Alternately, if a recovery plan is failing and timing out due to unresponsive protected site storage, the administrator could cancel the running recovery plan and launch it again in forced failover mode.

Forced failover will run *only* recovery-side operations of the recovery plan. It will not attempt any protected site operations such as storage unmounts or VM shutdowns. During a forced failover execution of a recovery plan any responses generated by the protected site are completely ignored.

Array-based replication forced failover worked with SRM 5.0.1, and after extensive testing has now been introduced to work with vSphere Replication as well.

Failback supported with both Array and vSphere Replication

SRM 5.1 now includes vSphere Replication in the “automated failback” workflow!

With SRM 5 VMware introduced the “Reprotect” and failback workflows that allowed storage replication to be automatically reversed, protection of VMs to be automatically configured from the “failed over” site back to the “primary site” and thereby allowing a failover to be run that moved the environment back to the original site.

Taken together as “automated failback” this feature was well received by those using array-based replication, but was unavailable for use with vSphere Replication.

With SRM 5.1 users can now do automated reprotects and run failback workflows for recovery plans with any type of protection group, both VR and ABR inclusive.

After running a *planned failover only*, the SRM user can now reprotect back to the primary environment:

Planned failover shuts down production VMs at the protected site cleanly, and disables their use via GUI. This ensures the VM is a static object and not powered on or running, which is why we have the requirement for planned migration to fully automate the process.

The “Reprotect” button when used with VR will now issue a request to the VR Appliance (VRMS in SRM 5.0 terminology) to configure replication in opposite direction.

When this takes place, VR will reuse the same settings that were configured for initial replication from the primary site (RPO, which directory, quiescence values, etc.) and will use the old production VMDK as seed target automatically.

VR now begins to replicate replicate back to the primary disk file originally used as the production VM before failover.

If things have gone wrong at the primary site and an automatic reprotect is not possible due to missing or bad data at the original site, VR can be manually configured, and when the “Reprotect” is issued SRM will automatically use the manually configured VR settings to update the protection group.

Once the reprotect is complete a failback is simply the process of running the recovery plan that was used to failover initially.

vSphere Essentials Plus Support

SRM 5.1 is now supported with vSphere Essentials Plus, enabling smaller companies to move towards reliable disaster recovery protection for their sites.

•vCenter version 5.1 is the only version that will work with SRM 5.1. Lower versions of vSphere/VI are supported, but vCenter must be up to date.

•At time of shipping, only vSphere 4.x and 5.x are supported.

•ONLY ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 will work for vSphere Replication as the VR Agent is a component of the ESXi 5.x hypervisor.

•While both Storage DRS and sVmotion are not supported with SRM 5.1, they will work in some scenarios even though unsupported.

•While Storage vMotion with array-replicated protected VMs can be done by an administrator, they must then ensure that the target datastore is replicated and that the virtual machine is once again configured for protection. Because this is a very manual process it is not officially supported.

•Storage DRS compounds this problem by automating storage vmotion, and thereby will cause the VMDK of the protected virtual machines to migrate to potentially un-protected storage. Because of this it is unsupported with SRM 5

•Storage vMotion and Storage DRS are not supported at all with SRM 5 using vSphere Replication as migration of a VMDK will cause the migrated VM to reconfigure itself for protection, potentially putting it in violation of its recovery point objective.

 


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VCDX Spotlight: Duncan Epping

Name: Duncan Epping

Twitter Handle: DuncanYB

Blog URL: http://www.yellow-bricks.com

Current Employer : VMware

VCDX #: 007

 

How did you get into using VMware?

I guess like many people… we were looking for a way to consolidate servers as we were growing out of our datacenter. Especially cooling was a huge problem for us so we needed to drastically lower the amount of iron in our datacenter. We explored several options but VMware was the only enterprise solution at that point. It proved to be the right decision, and that is also what was a huge change of direction in my career. Cause I changed from being a Windows admin to focusing purely on the virtual layer.

 

What made you decide to do the VCDX?

Well I worked for VMware already at that time. I was invited to take two early beta exams for VI3, which are now known as VCAP-DCA and DCD. Our group were literally the first group to take those exams. After about 6 months of waiting I finally found out that I passed those exams. When I was told I could do the VCDX Defense Panel I figured why not. Back then, and I was the first to actually take the exam (together with Richard Damoser who was in the room next to me), the process was slightly different though… You could say the early group did the beta defense.

 

How long did it take you to complete the whole VCDX journey?

From those beta exams to the defense itself probably 9 months in total. Funny thing is that in my case I heard 10 days before the defences were scheduled that I got a slot. Because I did not anticipated on it I didn’t have my docs ready. Although I heard it 10 days before, I only really had 4 days to complete the design as the panel of course needed to review and prep as well… on top of that I had a holiday with the family scheduled. So every night when my kids were in bed I was typing like a mad man. I guess I work best when under extreme pressure as the docs were accepted and the outcome of the defense was a pass 🙂

 

What advice would you give to people thinking of pursuing the VCDX accreditation?

Don’t just talk about it, DO IT! If you want to become a VCDX you better start prepping today. It takes a lot of time to produce a proper set of documents and those documents are the key to success. Before you go to the defense make sure you know your design. I know many will think “hey I do know my design”, but go over it with a colleague. Let him question you… You will notice that some decisions were made “just because it is a best practice”, well that is not the right answer I can tell you that. Know why it is a best practice, know why it met you customer’s requirements. Know your design inside out!

 

If you could do the whole VCDX journey again what would you do differently?

Not much to be honest. I used two existing designs and merged these. I made sure I had constraints, assumptions, risks etc. There were politics involved in those projects and I made sure I exactly knew what drove some of the crazy design decisions in there.

Life after the VCDX?  How did your company respond?  Was it worth it

When I took my defense we were at an “off-site” in San Francisco. The people who passed that week were all pulled up on stage during an “award dinner”. I can tell you that I felt really honoured receiving my VCDX plaque from the VP of Technical Service back then, Enis Konuk. Besides that, how cool is it to be up on stage with people like Mostafa Khalil, Kamau Wanguhu and John Arrasjid.

See pic in the below blog post, first 8 VCDX’s

http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2009/05/15/vcdx-award-dinner/


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Upgrading from vSphere 4.1 to vSphere 5

Yep the time has yet again come round that the bi yearly mass upgrade of all of my VMware environments needs upgrading to the latest version. Thankfully this upgrade process hasn’t been too difficult but seeing as so many people said they found my posting all about the upgrading of my environments from 4 to 4.1 helpful I thought I’d keep the idea going and do one for my upgrading to 5 and give people some hints on things that slowed me down and things to plan for before doing the upgrade

  • First is the upgrade notes, I would recommend reading through this and following it step by step and using it as a reference guide as it really does flag up all the things you need to think about and know before during and after the upgrade.
  • Second is the Licencing. If you haven’t upgraded your licencing then i would recommend going to the licencing page where you can get all the answers to your licencing questions and concerns.
  • Next is the checklist to make sure you have planned for everything and you won’t get any nasty surprises
  • Make sure you run the vCentre Host Agent Pre-Upgrade Checker to make sure all your hosts are compatible
  • The upgrade follows the same steps as previous upgrades with:
    • Upgrade the vCentre Server: I already have my vCentre on x64 etc so there was no need for major changes this time if you do need to follow the steps then I covered them in my upgrade from 4 to 4.1 posting)
    • Upgrade your VMware Update manager Server: This was straightforward to do and is really helpful to do prior to the upgrading of your hosts, as there are already two patches for ESXi 5.
    • Upgrade your hosts to ESXi 5: This can be done in numerous ways, the one major snag I hit was that 80% of my hosts needed their BIOS updated to the latest version to be able to run ESXi 5. Not sure when they added this as ESXi 5 beta worked on them so they must have changed something last minute before GA but I wrote about all my steps in my posting PSOD while trying to install vSphere ESXi5 on a Dell PowerEdge 1950 and OMSA 6.5 installation. As the title states there is also a currently unsupported version of OMSA for ESXi 5 (OMSA 6.5) which I would highly recommend installing prior to upgrading your host and the new variable to allow you to connect to the host via the Dell Management Console (DMC). Also don’t forget to verify your hosts so that HA is enabled, i spent a bit of time scratching my head wondering why the HA agents were failing on my hosts until i remembered the step to verify them, Administration->vCentre Server Settings-> SSL –> verify the hosts in the bottom box clip_image001
    • Upgrade your Virtual Machines: This also follows the same steps of update all the vmtools on your virtual machines, then upgrade the hardware version to version 8 on all of them. If you have machines you don’t want to take down then it’s not a train smash as vSphere 5.0 fully supports running virtual machines with VMware Tools version 4.x as well as versions hardware versions 4 and 7. So you’ll have plenty of time to plan for that outage upgrade window to do the work at a later date.
    • Upgrade your Datastores : Personally, I’m waiting this out as we change datastores relatively often so when the time comes to make a change I’m going to upgrade them to VMFS 5. The steps to do it are really simple and vSphere supports VMFS 3 up so you can take your time upgrading your datastores, although obviously, the new VMFS does have all the new features and capabilities so don’t wait too long.
  • There are two videos created by VMware detailing how to upgrade you hosts to ESXi 5 with the installer and with VUM which are really great to watch before you do the upgrades and give you the peace of mind you’re doing it correctly.
  • Also there is the VMware upgrade community which is a great place to see problems people have had and the fixes they found for them if you hit any problems or if you just want to have a look and see if there is anything that may apply to you and will save you having the same problem

That’s my list and how I’ve done my upgrades. Apart from the need to have a large number of my hosts on the latest BIOS revision, the process was fairly simple in my opinion.

Gregg


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All Things Virtual 22

 

Yet again I’ve been a bit slack on my posting of an All Things Virtual every fortnight (a personal aim I made for myself) due to a few things namely, any blog site/twitter/nonstandard website being blocked due to heightened security at EMC after the RSA break in, my studying and sitting of the EMC Information Storage Management exam and good old work keeping me busy. Also the increase in my studying for the VCAP-DCA has meant a large portion of my spare time has been allocated to it.

A few of the below articles are a few weeks old but are still very applicable and ones I have been reading with interest and are ones I believe fellow virtualisation professionals will find interest and informative, which is the idea of these All Things Virtual postings.

As I mentioned in my reasons for the delay of this All Things Virtual, I set myself the goal of obtaining my EMC Information Storage Associate accreditation by sitting the EMCISM exam. I won’t go into detail about this as I have already done a posting all about the exam and my preparations and study resources here for anyone thinking of attempting the exam themselves. I will say though that it was something different to learn as I’ve never done a storage course or exam before and it did help me solidify a lot of knowledge I have learnt via work experience.

Early last week the applications for vExpert 2011 were opened and unlike years before VMware have now asked that everyone submit their own applications so VMware can get a better idea of your contributions to the community in 2010. I’m not going to go into depth about the process and criteria as I’ve already done a posting all about it, where you should apply and nominate someone for the award here. Good luck if you are applying.

As I’ve posted a number of times on this blog I try to attend and participate in the London VMware User Group’s whenever they are happening. I haven’t been able to attend the last few due to work commitments unfortunately but the next London VMUG has been announced and so far it looks like I’ll be able to attend. This VMUG is a bit different from the rest as it is aimed at “Your Journey to the Cloud” with live labs and differing tracks for you to do during the day. Chris Dearden of JFVI fame was the first person I noticed to have blogged about it so if you’re interested in attending or learning more then have a read of his London VMUG–May 12th 2011 “Your Journey to the Cloud” blog posting and hopefully I’ll see you there.

As mentioned in my previous All Things Virtual Duncan Epping of Yellow Bricks fame and Frank Denneman have released an HA DRS book. For those of us who are a bit geeky and would rather have a kindle version of it, the Kindle version has now been released and is available for download. Frank has detailed the release of the kindle version on his blog posting here

One of the latest announcements from VMware is the release of VMware Cloud Foundry. I was fortunate enough to attend a fair portion of the VMware Communities Roundtable call where it was announced and detailed but seeing as I have yet to play with it and that talkshoe kept crashing me out of the call, I would recommend watching Eric Sloof’s video on Getting Started with VMware Cloud Foundry just like I will be when I have an opportunity and listen to last weeks VMware Communities Roundtable Podcast.

Another of the fairly recent announcements was the release of VMware vCentre Operations, a tool you can deploy into your VMware environment via a vApp downloadable from the VMware site which is supposedly going to be “Your Future Performance Dashboard” I am yet to have a chance to play with the product but Eric Sloof has yet again done a great posting on the product in his posting vCenter Operations – Your Future Performance Dashboard and Christian Mohn of vNinja.net and most recently vNinja.com fame has done a brilliant posting all about Installing and configuring VMware vCenter Operations

Next is the leak of a number of the VMware vSphere 5 future technologies and features. I saw loads of the tweets about this as it was announced that someone had posted these but due to the location of them, I decided against trying to access the link. Beth Pariseau from SearchServerVirtualization.com was happy enough to access the site and has listed all the features mentioned by the leak and given a description of them on her blog posting here. There are some very exciting features mentioned and I hope a number of them are true as they could really help make my daily job a lot easier and the running of my virtual environments a lot smoother. vSphere 5 is as you should know by now only going to have ESXi as vSphere 4.1 was/is the last release containing ESX. To help with this transition and the learning of all the features of ESXi, VMware have released a free VMware eLearning course and ebook offer. The course is an online one which people can obviously attend in their own time and once you have completed the course and done the quick survey you can obtain the free ebook all about ESXi. I’m planning to try doing the course in the coming weeks and getting myself the free ebook clip_image001

Vladan Seget has posted all about the release of the next version of the vSphere4.1 Hardening guide. As I mentioned in my VMware vSphere: Manage and Design for Security Course Experience posting, a large portion of the course is based around this Security Hardening guide and so this new version with feedback from the community is a must read for anyone looking to do the VCAP exams. I’ve already downloaded my copy. Talking of security Eric Siebert has written a great article on five ways to maximize VMware hypervisor security . A number of them should be obvious to people but as Eric mentions I’m sure a large amount of people have made their environments less secure by making changes to allow them to access their servers more easily and then have forgotten to re-enable those security features. The article is a must read for anyone looking after a VMware environment.

Lastly are two postings asking for the participation of the VMware community. One is from Duncan Epping asking people to fill out a survey all about virtual machine storage and snapshots and the other is a posting by Scott Lowe asking for the communities input in answering a reader’s design question. The survey is really quick and will help VMware better understand people’s needs and the design question should hopefully give those of us with less experience in the designing of VMware environments a better understanding of the things to know and think about in our designs

Gregg