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Taking virtualization to the next level

The mobile-cloud era has cast a new reality upon IT services. With more users are operating from more endpoints and moving more data, business expects increasingly more capabilities from IT—often more than a resource-strapped IT organization can rightly deliver.

Bridging this “expectations gap” calls for a different approach to managing IT. We believe the VMware Software-Defined Data Center provides you with that approach.

Perhaps you’ve already embraced a virtualization platform such as vSphere to consolidate your servers and pack more computing power into less space. But the Software-Defined Data Center takes you beyond the benefits of vSphere; with the Software-Defined Data Center you can also virtualize networking and storage while you apply intelligent management to your entire infrastructure.

What is the Software-Defined Data Center? It’s a highly automated, easily managed platform that embraces all applications, providing fast deployment across data centers, clouds, and mobile devices. And to help you establish a Software-Defined Data Center, VMware has introduced VMware® vSphere with Operations Management™.

VMware vSphere with Operations Management combines the most trusted server virtualization platform with the capabilities for intelligent management. With this tool you can confront virtualization’s challenges, including:

  • VM sprawl. With virtual machines easier to create, they are more difficult to manage.
  • Over provisioning. Underutilization of VMs is common.
  • Poor visibility and monitoring. With early virtualization technology, data center monitoring is reactive.
  • Complex troubleshooting. Most performance problems are slow to resolve.

Simplified management is essential to keeping pace with business expectations. vSphere with Operations Management provides an intuitive dashboard to help you assess the health of your virtualized environment, monitor risks to IT performance, and identify opportunities for greater efficiency. You’ll possess the power to address performance resolution, capacity management, and future planning for your data center, and you’ll have the solution for the “expectations gap.”

 

 

To learn more about the difference that operations management can make in your virtualized environment, read our new white paper Take Virtualization to the Next Level with vSphere with Operations Management.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Four Ways a BC/DR Plan Can Help Your SMB – Part 3: Software-Based Replication

By: vExpert Gregg Robertson                        

A Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) iplan s something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and implementing. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities of AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security)  are availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every virtualization design, no matter if it is data center virtualization, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four-part blog series, I am going to cover four ways BC/DR can help your small/midsized business (SMB) through the usage of solutions available to you. In this third blog, I will cover the benefits of automated software-based replication built in as a feature in VMware vSphere.

Automated Software-Based Replication

With the release of VMware vSphere 5.1, came the availability of vSphere Replication (VR), which was previously only available in VMware Site Recovery Manager 5.0. VR is a software-based replication engine that works at the host level rather than the array level. Identical hardware is not required between sites, and in fact, customers can run their VMs on any type of storage they choose at their site – even local storage on the vSphere hosts, and VR will still work. It provides simple and cost-efficient replication of applications to a failover site. VR is a component delivered with vSphere Essentials Plus and above editions, and also comes bundled with vCenter Site Recovery Manager. This offers protection and simple recoverability to the vast majority of VMware customers, without additional cost.

vSphere Replication allows single site replication and protection. This is perfect for SMB organizations that may have a local campus, with a single cluster spanning two floors of a building where recoverability is within a proximal datacenter. If a floor loses power and the primary hosts and disks are unreachable, the administrator could simply point to the replica VMDK within VR and choose to recover it. The administrator deploys a single VR Appliance to act as both the replication manager and also the recipient and distributor of changed blocks. Then the admin configures a VM and one or more of its VMDK files to be replicated, giving the local VR Appliance as the target, and selecting a different datastore for the replica of the VM. The vSphere Replication Agent on the appropriate vSphere 5.x host that holds the running VM then starts tracking changes to disk as they are being written, and in accordance with the configured RPO sends the changed blocks to the VR Appliance.  The VR Appliance passes the changed block bundle via NFC to a host to write the blocks to the replica VMDK.

VR is also a perfect fit for IT managers looking to protect virtual machines in ROBO scenarios.

In this model, hosts at remote sites are not managed by distributed vCenter Server instances, but from a central ‘head office’ datacenter. A single vCenter Server instance manages both local vSphere instances and remote clusters or hosts.

VMs from multiple remote sites need to be replicated to the central office in this scenario.  At the remote sites, as long as the hosts are vSphere 5.x, there is no change necessary to be implemented. They will have the necessary vSphere Replication built in to the kernel.

At the head office datacenter, at least one vSphere Replication Appliance must be deployed to manage the replication of all the VMs (both remote and local targets). This single appliance will usually be sufficient to handle the incoming replications, but sometimes customers will want to isolate replication traffic by source, or will need to scale up the number of recipient servers to handle more incoming replications.

In that case, administrators can deploy more VR Servers (Not the full VR Appliance – there is only one per vCenter) to handle isolating the incoming replication traffic or to adjust for scale.

Each VR Server can be used as a dedicated target for one or more remote sites.

Within the main datacenter, the VR Servers will pass the incoming replication data to the recovery cluster via Network File Copy for committing to local replica copies of the remote VMs.

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Four Ways BC/DR Can Help Your SMB – Part 2: Automated High Availability

By: Gregg Robertson ,vExpert

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BC/DR) is something every business, no matter how big or small, should be thinking about and planning for. Whilst preparing for my VCAP-DCD and even for my VCDX attempt, BC/DR was a very important topic, as two of the infrastructure qualities of AMPRS (Availability, Manageability, Performance, Recoverability and Security) designs should show impact on availability and recoverability.

In my daily role as a consultant, BC/DR is a core component for every virtualization design no matter if it is data center virtualization, end-user computing or hybrid cloud. In this four-part blog series, I am going to cover four different ways BC/DR can help you with your small/midsized business (SMB) IT infrastructure.  In this second blog, we will cover the benefits of automated high availability built in as a feature in VMware vSphere.

Automated High Availability For SMB’s

BC/DR is met and ensured with features that have been part of vSphere for years, like VMware High Availability (HA), which, since vSphere 5.0, has been rebuilt from the ground up to use the Fault Domain Manager (FDM) agent instead of the legacy AAM agent (Legato Automated Availability Management). This rebuilding of a new agent has introduced higher resiliency and less complexity and means that HA can be enabled with as little as five clicks and be installed onto ESXi hosts in seconds rather than the minutes that it took previously. HA allows you to protect the virtual machines running on your hosts from isolation and/or recover from host failure by restarting the virtual machines on the affected host to the remaining working hosts, thereby bringing your applications and solutions back online as soon as possible. With the new FDM agent, this also allows partitioned hosts to elect a master node within the partitioned section and maintain the uptime of the virtual machines on the affected hosts. HA also has a number of features that provide additional checks to ensure that hosts are indeed non-responsive before rebooting the virtual machines through the usage of Datastore Heartbeating and the setting of additional isolation addresses.

HA can also restart virtual machines if the application in a virtual machine fails through the usage of application monitoring. By utilizing the appropriate SDK or an application that supports VMware application monitoring, HA can setup customized heartbeats for your applications.

vSphere HA has several advantages over traditional failover solutions, including:

Minimal setup – After a vSphere HA cluster is set up, all virtual machines in the cluster get failover support without additional configuration.

Reduced hardware cost and setupThe virtual machine acts as a portable container for the applications and it can be moved among hosts. Administrators avoid duplicate configurations on multiple machines. When you use vSphere HA, you must have sufficient resources to fail over the number of hosts you want to protect with vSphere HA. However, the vCenter Server system automatically manages resources and configures clusters.

Increased application availability – Any application running inside a virtual machine has access to increased availability. Because the virtual machine can recover from hardware failure, all applications that start at boot have increased availability without increased computing needs, even if the application is not itself a clustered application. By monitoring and responding to VMware Tools heartbeats and restarting nonresponsive virtual machines, it protects against guest operating system crashes.

Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) and vMotion integration – If a host fails and virtual machines are restarted on other hosts, DRS can provide migration recommendations or migrate virtual machines for balanced resource allocation. If one or both of the source and destination hosts of a migration fail, vSphere HA can help recover from that failure.

High Availability Overview

Fault Domain Manager Agent

HA’s architecture is fairly simple with the FDM agent being installed on each ESXi host within a vSphere cluster that has HA enabled. As of vSphere 5.0, there is now only a single master node and all the remaining hosts within the cluster are slaves which report their health to the master node as well as the vCenter server. This is unlike HA in versions previous to vSphere 5.0, where there were Primary and Secondary nodes, which constrained you to a limit of 5 primary nodes and the need to have at least 1 primary node available. The below diagram shows a simplistic view of the FDM agent on each host and the allocation of the master and slave roles to the hosts.

Heartbeating

As of vSphere 5.0, there are now two different heartbeat mechanisms that HA uses to ensure the health of the ESXi hosts within the HA enabled cluster. The first of these is datastore heartbeating, a new feature as of vSphere 5.0. Datastore heartbeating adds an additional check where HA utilizes the existing VMFS file system locking mechanism of creating a heartbeat region. The heartbeat region is where at least one file per host is kept open per selected heartbeat datastore (default is two datastores). HA does a check whether the heartbeat region has been updated and if it has, then the host still has storage connectivity and therefore the virtual machines on the host don’t need to be restarted elsewhere. The below diagram shows the selection of three datastores and that currently, only two of the hosts within the cluster are attached to the two datastores. Good design practice is to allow HA to select the datastores, as HA will choose the datastores with the most connected hosts and if applicable NFS and FC/iSCSI datastores to ensure added resiliency.

The other method of heartbeating is the standard way of using the heartbeat network to talk to the master and the master sends a heartbeat to the slaves, as I mentioned earlier in this blog. When a slave stops receiving heartbeats from its master, it will start trying to ascertain if it is isolated/partitioned or if the master is isolated or failed. To learn more about the various states of isolated, partitioned and failed hosts, this vSphere documentation on host failure types and detection describes it perfectly, as does the vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deepdive book by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman.

High Availability Installation

The installation of HA is actually as simple as ticking the box to Turn ON vSphere HA during the creation of a vSphere cluster or by going into the settings of an existing cluster and enabling HA from within the cluster setting panel as shown below:

Selecting Enable admission control allows the admission control mechanism to control and protect a determined percentage of resources or number of hosts worth of resources for failover capabilities. I won’t go into all the different options and the permutations, as there are many, but the capabilities and settings of HA are defined and explained in depth in the vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deepdive book by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman.

Conclusion: High availability benefits for SMBs

VMware vSphere High Availability allows three nines (99.9%) of availability, which is the sweet spot for SMB customers looking for automated and intelligent failover of their virtual machines in the event of hosts being lost/failing. The configurations enabled by the multiple heartbeating checks and the assurance via admission control that resources are set aside in the event of a host or more failure means HA is a brilliant solution for SMB businesses.

Look out for the third part of this series, where I will be covering how BC/DR through the usage of vSphere Replication can help your SMB.

 

Gregg Robertson is a senior consultant, professional blogger, vExpert 2011 – 2014, VCAP5-DCA/DCD, VCP-Cloud, VCP 3/4/5, VMware communities moderator and co-host of the EMEA vBrownbag weekly webinars/podcasts. Gregg’s blog, TheSaffaGeek , started as a place to write down fixes plus VMware certification links and resources, but has quickly found a large following of readers and subscribers.

 

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* HA Architecture diagram from vSphere 5.0 Clustering Deepdive book by Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman

Gain Complete Operations Visibility with VMware vSphere with Operations Management

When it comes to optimizing your virtual machine environment, visibility across your entire environment is imperative.  Often times, virtual environments are over provisioned, not fully optimized and difficult to troubleshoot.  With VMware vSphere with Operations Management, those challenges are a thing of the past.

With VMware vSphere with Operations Management Monitoring, Operations Visibility and Capacity Optimization, you can achieve greater capacity utilization, consolidation ratios and hardware savings, while reducing the time required for diagnosing and resolving problems before they impact your entire business.

With an easy to understand performance dashboard, you can get the insight you need to manage and grow your virtual environment with ease. With instant access to information on your virtual environment’s health, risk and performance issues and statistics on efficiency, you have the ability to proactively monitor performance and improve availability in one place.

The vSphere Operations Management dashboard features three badges for easy monitoring. The health, risk and efficiency badges each display a score highlighting where your virtual environment is accelerating, and were it needs work. To see how this dashboard works, and how it can make your job easier, check out the VMware vSphere Operations Management dashboard overview, where you can explore the dashboard in detail.

If you’d like to try out VMware vSphere Operations Management, click here or register now for our free hands-on lab.

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EVALExperience by VMware: Extended Product Evaluations for VMUG Advantage Subscribers

In today’s business world, companies expect their IT professionals to stay current on new and emerging technologies. With budget limitations and increased need for knowledge about new technology, ongoing product experience is a key for individual professional growth. A new VMUG Advantage offering, VMware’s EVALExperience, allows tech enthusiasts to expand their knowledge of innovative IT technologies.

VMware and VMUG have partnered with Kivuto Solutions to provide VMUG Advantage Subscribers a customized web portal that provides VMUG Advantage Subscribers with self-service capability to download software and license keys on a select set of products.

 

 

 

  • Explore VMware technology for a 365 day period in a non-production environment
  • Enhance Skills with hands on experience with selected desktop and infrastructure software for personal use
  • Easily access applications provided at no additional cost beyond the $200 annual VMUG Advantage Subscription fee

 

 

 

For more information on this exciting new offering please visit: http://www.vmug.com/evalexperience

 

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VMware January Online Webcast Schedule for SMB IT Pros Now Available

This January, join VMware for our free, upcoming live webcasts to learn how to make important IT decisions for your SMB.   Join VMware CTO Ben Fathi for guidance as you build your roadmap to moving beyond server virtualization during our January 15th webcast.  Or, discover the benefits of VMware vCloud Air and learn how you can plan your cloud implementation during our January 22nd webcast.  Sign up today to claim a spot! Webcasts are free – and make sure to check back, as many will become available on-demand.

A Practical Roadmap to Moving Beyond Server Virtualization
Thursday, January 15, 2015, 11:00 AM PST

You’ve spent considerable resources virtualizing your servers, but what’s the next step on your roadmap? In order to become more efficient, responsive, and innovative, strategic IT professionals are moving beyond server virtualization to the software-defined enterprise. Who better than to provide guidance, but VMware’s own CTO?

Join us on January 15, 2015 at 10 a.m. PST for a webcast on moving beyond server virtualization where you’ll hear VMware CTO Ben Fathi and Charlie Nichol, Systems Engineer Manager for VMware, provide practical tips for creating your roadmap.

You’ll learn how to:

  • Develop the building blocks for a software-defined enterprise
  • Move from IT as a cost center to IT as a service broker
  • Create policy-based management and automation

Register for this free webcast and start 2015 off right with a plan for greater agility, efficiency, and cost savings.

Set Your Cloud Agenda with VMware vCloud Air
Thursday, January 22, 2015, 11:00 AM PST

 Join us on January 22 at 11am PST, to learn why you should plan your 2015 cloud agenda with vCloud Air. This free webcast reveals all of the benefits of vCloud Air, including its on-demand pay-as-you-go service model and its enhanced security controls to help IT organizations support a variety of business goals.

Register for this webcast to learn how you can plan your cloud implementation with vCloud Air, with enhancements that provide:

  • Affordable disaster recovery with automated workflows to protect your applications and data
  • Enhanced security controls and streamlined networking
  • Pay as you go, self-service option to meet on-demand capacity needs

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Continuous Learning Where You Set the Schedule

VMware Learning Zone is a subscription service that delivers a full year of continuous, 24×7 access to official VMware video-based training. When you subscribe to the Learning Zone you get just-in-time instruction that helps you troubleshoot, configure, deploy and extend the use of your VMware products and solutions.

Learning Zone training modules are based on VMware’s most common customer scenarios and issues. Your paid subscription gives you access to training developed and presented by VMware Certified Instructors and experts along with:

  • Training on the latest products and technologies for the most up-to-date content on leading VMware products including vSphere, Virtual SAN, vCloud Automation Center, Horizon and more.
  • Powerful search functionality that lets you search for keywords across the entire library or within a specific video, even drilling down to your keyword.
  • Content that delivers the help you need on advanced topics that include troubleshooting, deployment and configuration to help you optimize your VMware products and solutions.
  • Mobile and community access allows streaming to your tablet, smartphone or laptop, with functionality that lets you take notes, make comments, create bookmarks and join channel discussions.

Extend Your Learning Beyond the Classroom

Learning Zone takes your VMware learning beyond the classroom and lets you build on existing knowledge and skills. All training modules are aligned to best engineering practices.

View sample videos and the list of currently available titles at www.vmware.com/go/learningzone.

The Evolution of IT Disaster Recovery

Like all things in the data center, disaster recovery approaches have evolved, needing to account for the volume and types of content that are now an every day reality.  Traditional manual disaster recovery solutions can’t keep up with these changes, making automation necessary.

These approaches took a big step forward with the adoption of virtualization. Back in 2001, many organizations were turning to virtualization to enable business continuity and disaster recovery, as well to save money, increase IT efficiency, and improve business agility.

And then came the growing challenges stemming from rising DR requirements at the storage layer. By 2004, replication could account for 30 percent of a DR solution’s cost.[i]

Today the storage picture looks even more daunting. Demand for data storage is expected to grow 41 percent in the next two years.[ii] This increase is putting an even bigger burden on IT to determine how to handle this increased need for storage with budgets that are remaining flat.