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Back To Basics: Managing Virtual Machine Snapshots

Post by Mike Laverick, Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist, Competitive Team
This post originally appeared on Mike Laverick’s blog

Snapshots offer a way of capturing the VM memory and disk state prior to making any changes. It’s particularly useful in situations where the outcome of given action is unknown, and the administrator wants a quick and easy way to roll-back any changes made. A typical example might be some software upgrade for instance. When a snapshot is taken all the drives that make up the VM are snapped, this means data loss could occur when reverting the snapshot on data volumes. So care must be taken to stop end-users connecting and making changes.

More commonly, Snapshots are used in virtual machine backups. This is where running backup agent within the guest operating system is dispensed with, and instead backup is taken of their virtual disks. Snapshots allow release the file system locks that normally persist, and allows the backup software to back up the virtual disks. Since the advert of “Change Block Tracking” (CBT), backups this way are as efficient from speed and space perspective as any in-guest backup agent. The first backup takes a normal back up of the VM, and subsequent backups are taken merely of the blocks that have changed since that backup.

Snapshot work by creating a copy of the contents of memory, and saving this to a file – this allows a snapshot to be taken whilst the VM is running, and indeed it allows for the quiescing of the file system leveraging components within the guest operating system such as Microsoft’s Volume Shadow Copy feature. The time it takes to create a snapshot is dependent on the amount of memory allocated to the VM, and the time it takes to create this snapshot file. Whilst a snapshot is being created, at same time a “delta” virtual disk is create for each virtual disk allocated to the VM. This normally takes the format of <virtualmachinename>0000N.vmdk. This file starts its life as 16MB in size, and grows as changes accrue in the VM. When a VM snapshot is “deleted” the contents of the delta is copied (or consolidated or merged if you prefer to use those words) into the regular virtual disk, and the snapshot files discarded, along with the memory file.

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Note: The .VMSN is the memory contents of the VM. win2012R2-00001.vmdk is the delta virtual disk snaphot file. .VMSD is a small management file that keeps record of snapshot taken.

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Keep Your Business-Critical Applications Running with VMware, Part 2

Selecting the right virtualization solution to increase IT efficiency, protect your business-critical applications and lower your overall infrastructure costs can help improve your SMB’s bottom line.

In Part 1 of this blog series, we showed you how VMware keeps your business-critical applications up and running by bringing proven technology into your data center and simplifying and integrating management. In Part 2 of this series, we’ll discuss three more ways that VMware ensures your business-critical applications run smoothly:

1.    Increased Reliability

When business-critical applications are virtualized, reliability is paramount. Your applications need to stay up and running and protected from faults in code or outside attacks.

Because VMware vSphere is a thin, legacy-free, purpose-built hypervisor dedicated solely to virtualization, administrators need not waste time patching, maintaining and securing code unrelated to virtualization. The small footprint of VMware vSphere also provides the ability to run stateless, which other solutions with indirect driver models cannot do. Running stateless with vSphere enables cleaner patching, easier deployment of host servers and simpler configuration management.

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Keep Your Business-Critical Applications Running with VMware, Part 1

Every business runs applications that are critical to its daily function – if any of these applications or programs go down, the business runs the risk of grinding to a halt. Traditionally, businesses have run vital applications on physical systems, with the idea that doing so would provide stable operations and maximum uptime. But what happens when the physical system running the application fails?

By running business-critical applications on a virtualized infrastructure, IT staff at SMBs can enjoy the uptime, reliability, and availability that they thought was best provided in a physical-only environment.

To virtualize business-critical applications and gain those benefits, you need a reliable hypervisor that eases the burdens of manual management and monitoring and keeps your critical apps up and running. VMware’s hypervisor was purpose-built for virtualizing critical applications.

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Why Your Organization Should Consider Cloud-Based Disaster Recovery

For many small or mid-sized organizations, downtime caused by a disaster can have a detrimental impact on the business. That’s because most SMBs lack the datacenters, internal expertise or budget to have a full-blown disaster recovery solution in place.

However, according to a recent IDG market survey, many organizations are looking away from traditional disaster recovery solutions and to the hybrid cloud. Earlier this year, we announced vCloud Hybrid Service – Disaster Recovery, a comprehensive, affordable and easy to use recovery-as-a-service solution that allows SMBs to leverage comprehensive cloud-based disaster recovery at a price they can afford, while using the tools they’re already familiar with.

Built on vSphere technology, vCloud Hybrid Service – Disaster Recovery enables mid-size businesses to easily protect their business or mission-critical applications running in a vSphere virtual environment, without heavy investment or complex restrictions that are typical of traditional DR solutions.

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Back To Basics: Common Virtual Machine Settings (Part 3)

Post by Mike Laverick, Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist, Competitive Team
This post originally appeared on Mike Laverick’s blog

This section covers common virtual machine settings and options that every administrator should be aware of. This is by no means exhaustive – but it should be good starting point to learn about alternative configurations. So it covers stuff such as:

  • Enabling Time Synchronisation and VMware Tools Updates
  • Managing Virtual Disks (Increasing size, adding new disks, adding RDMs)
  • Adding New Adapters and other devices
  • Hot Adding CPU and Memory

VMware Tools – Time Synchronisation and Updates

It’s common in most environments for VMs to receive time updates from the physical VMware ESXi host – which in turn is configured to an external NTP time source. Additionally, as user patch and maintain VMware ESX which can be done seamlessly without effecting VMs, its not unusual for VMware Tools to become out of date. Two settings on the properties of the VM can enable time synchronisation and also instruct the system to automatically update VMware Tools when ever a VM is powered on.

1. Select the VM in the inventory, in the Summary Tab select Edit Settings

2. Under the VM Options tab, expand >VMware Tools

3. Enable the options X Check and Upgrade VMware Tools before each power on and X Synchronize guest time with host

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VMware July Online Webcast Schedule for SMB IT Pros Now Available

Join VMware for our upcoming live and on-demand online webcasts in July. Make the business case for Virtual SAN by exploring the features that enable lower TCO, and learn how to outline a framework for cost comparison. Move beyond the basics of virtualization with a technical deep-dive into vSphere with Operations Management. Explore hybrid cloud and learn the three easy steps to get started. Sign up today to reserve a spot, and be sure to check back, as webcasts may also become available on-demand.

Building a Business Case for Virtual SAN

Thursday, July 17, 2014, 10:00am PT

VMware Virtual SAN is the industry leader in hyper-converged, software-defined storage for virtual environments. Join us for this webcast and take a deep dive into the factors that enable Virtual SAN to deliver lower TCO. We will cover both capital and operational expenditures savings, showcase some case studies, and outline a framework for building a cost comparison.

Attend this webcast and learn:
• Best practices for deploying Virtual SAN
• Common pitfalls and how to avoid them
• What hardware considerations and tradeoffs to take into account
• How to build your cost comparison based on overall TCO

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Hybrid Cloud: A New Way of Thinking About Disaster Recovery

This post was originally published on the vCloud blog.

Protecting business applications against outages, failures, disasters and other causes of downtime is a top priority for many organizations, but as we discussed in our last blog, not all companies have the budget, expertise, time or staff to spare to improve their IT resiliency. For organizations that do have DR services in place, the challenge lies in maintaining the solution on an ongoing basis – this has led many to look into refreshing their options, in order to cut on spending and leverage existing investments as much as possible.

Customers want DR to be faster, cheaper and simpler. And with only 5% of today’s applications protected by DR, Gartner predicts that mid-size enterprises are the expected growth market for recovery-as-a-service. For those that lack a comprehensive DR plan or the expertise and resources to configure, manage, and test an effective DR plan, the answer to disaster recovery is in the hybrid cloud.

With hybrid cloud, organizations can easily extend their on-premise DR solution on- or off-premise, without heavy upfront investment. Hybrid cloud also allows DR to be within reach for more customers, giving them the ability to cost-effectively cover tier 2 applications not included in their existing DR plan. And even more importantly, it enables companies to utilize the same tools and technology they currently run and are already familiar with in their datacenters. Continue reading

Back To Basics: Installing VMware Tools (Windows & Linux) (Part 2)

Post by Mike Laverick, Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist, Competitive Team
This post originally appeared on Mike Laverick’s blog

Once the guest operating system has been installed the next step is to install a package called VMware Tools. This package adds drivers and additional software services to improve performance and allow for easier controls. These include being able to reboot the VM by sending a soft instruction to the operating system and a heartbeat service that will send alerts based on the VM’s state.

1. On the Summary Tab of the VM. The Web Client will alert that VMware Tools has yet to be installed, and offer a link to trigger the installation. This actually mounts DVD .ISO on the host to the VM.

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Horizon 6 is Here!

This post originally appeared on the VMware End-User Computing Blog  

By: Courtney Burry, Director of Product Marketing, End-User Computing, VMware

It’s here—right in the middle of the World Cup! VMware Horizon 6 is officially shipping.

With this release, IT can now deliver RDS hosted applications alongside virtual desktops through a single platform. And these desktops and applications—inclusive of packaged ThinApp, SaaS apps, RDS hosted apps and even Citrix XenApp applications—can all be accessed by end-users through a unified workspace.

Horizon 6 graphic

This is a big deal for customers looking for a cost-effective alternative to supporting end-users who may just need access to a few applications across mobile devices or remote locations.

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Back To Basics: Creating Virtual Machines (Part 1)

Post by Mike Laverick, Senior Cloud Infrastructure Evangelist, Competitive Team
This post originally appeared on Mike Laverick’s blog

It might seem odd at this stage to have section introducing virtual machines. Ideally, this something you already know something about – or else why would you be here? But its perhaps worthwhile taking a little history lesson about the development of the virtual machine since VMware became to gain mass recognition in the 2003/4 period. Back then the hardware capabilities of the VM were more modest. The maximum number of vCPUs was just two, and the maximum amount of memory was just 3GB. On the virtual disk side of the house, the VMDK maximum size was a merely 2TB. Fast forward to the current period the scale of the VM has increased massively – to the degree that the only barrier to virtualization is whether it is economic. Nowadays, a VM can have up to 64 vCPUs, 1TB of RAM, and 62TB virtual disks. Advancements have also introduced the ability to give the VM direct access to hardware, where IO performance demands require it. Continue reading