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Category Archives: Support

Better Together: VMware Hands-On Labs and Technical Account Managers

By Adam Eckerle

VMware HOLI've been traveling the Midwest lately speaking at VMUGs, USERCons, and vForum events. It's been a whirlwind few months talking to many people and answering questions on various topics, such as, “What's new with VMware vSphere 6?” “What are some new possibilities with technologies like VMware NSX and VMware vRealize Automation?” And—most of all—trying to answer the question, "How does a person keep up with all this new technology?" It certainly isn't easy, but there are tools available that can help. One such tool I've been amazingly lucky to be a part of has been VMware Hands-On Labs (HOLs). In my travels I've been completely amazed at how many people are not yet aware of this really awesome tool.

So what are HOLs? Think of an HOL as a large cloud environment where hundreds, or even thousands, of lab environments are spun up, used and torn down simultaneously. A lab environment could consist of a few virtual machines or complex environments with virtual ESX hosts, VMware vCenter, NSX, vRealize Automation, etc. Some of the largest labs have upwards of 25 virtual machines and half a terabyte of storage. A user can login, browse the catalog of available labs—which, by the way, includes nearly 60 pre-built, fully functional lab environments already available—and deploy any lab of their choosing. Once deployed the user has full access to that environment for up to four hours. There are no guardrails or training wheels. If you want to go in and shut down your ESXi hosts – you can do that. But your lab will be very short!

The best part about all of this is that it is completely FREE and available 24x7x365 across the world. You are guided through each lab environment by the accompanying lab manual, which guides you from setting up the lab through some learning exercises. However, if you are brave, you can ignore the lab manual and just dig right in on your own. No guardrails, remember? Some primary reasons people love the HOLs is that they can try out VMware products—as well as partner products—and have a guided learning experience. You can take a look at something like vRealize Automation without spending hours downloading the software and then installing and configuring it. There are also partner labs where you can see integrations into VMware software. For example, HOL-PRT-1468 is an InfoBlox lab that shows the IPAM (IP Address Management) integration into vRealize Automation and VMware vCenter Orchestrator. So it’s not just about VMware! HOLs are a really great resource if you ask me – but then again I may be a bit biased.

Can you guess what can make Hands-On Labs even better? If you guessed, “Combine a Hands-On Lab with your VMware Technical Account Manager,” then you are right! As a Technical Account Manager (TAM) customer, you have a really unique opportunity. Something I’ve found to be very successful, and even fun, has been sitting down with my customers and going through some HOLs together. This facilitates a great learning experience, but it is also enhanced by the questions and discussions that result from participating in an HOL as a group. TAM customers should absolutely ask their TAMs to go through HOLs with them; I know your TAM will be happy to do so.

Something else that is interesting about HOLs is that they aren't built by a group of people who are hidden away and inaccessible. All of the HOLs are built by volunteers – Sales Engineers, Technical Marketing Engineers, and even TAMs. So if you're going through a lab and have questions, we can put you in contact with the small teams who actually built and produced the lab. Sometimes this even leads to improvements in the labs and occasional corrections in the lab manuals. I mentioned we're all volunteers, right?

Finally, I think it is important to point out that we do have a lab development cycle. The cycle begins every year in March by assembling the teams of volunteers for each HOL. There is a 2–3 month development cycle to prepare the labs for VMworld U.S., which typically runs in August. Once VMworld U.S. is done, there is a small window for changes to the labs leading up to VMworld EU. There may be some exceptions, such as if new products—or major version releases of existing products—get launched, and a HOL may get released outside of VMworld as a result of this; but in general all the new labs that we're currently developing will be released in August at VMworld U.S.

In summary, the VMware Hands-On Labs are an amazing learning and product evaluation tool that's completely free and accessible from anywhere (with an Internet connection) and from any device. I've personally used the HOL instead of spending thousands of dollars on a home lab, but there are so many other reasons to leverage this resource. All that's needed to sign up is an email address. Take a look at http://labs.hol.vmware.com – there are even some introductory videos to help get you started. I encourage you to speak with your TAM about the labs you're interested in, or, if you’ve already taken HOLs, to provide feedback. We want to make sure this resource brings the most possible value to you and your organization so ANY feedback is always welcome! Thanks for reading and have fun in the labs!


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Adam Eckerle is a Technical Account Manager for VMware.

Documenting Your IT Security Posture

Jason GaudreauBy Jason Gaudreau

The VMware Security Hardening Guides contain recommended processes for deploying and operating VMware products in a secure manner given a specified risk profile. You may not need, or may not be able, to follow each step in the security Hardening Guides because of the balance of operational efficiency, cost, risk tolerance and security requirements. The security hardening practices are recommended by VMware, but equally important is having a security controls document that incorporates VMware best practice recommendations combined with your specific security policies. It can be an invaluable tool during an audit.

Security has a wide scope that touches every aspect of the datacenter; an important part of security is recognizing the tolerance of risk. To do that, you need to understand the value of the assets you are trying to protect and the cost of protecting that asset. What is the likelihood of the asset being damaged or compromised? And what does it cost the company if that asset is compromised? A risk analysis provides a cost/benefit understanding of the cost to safeguard an item compared with the expected cost of loss. The security policy should be proportionate to the value of the asset, which may range from innocuous data processing up through mission-critical business process dealing with highly sensitive information. Each of these examples represents a different risk profile, which translates to different security requirements and thus different recommendations in the Hardening Guides.

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Securing systems are not a low-cost endeavor. Even in terms of operations expenses, locking down systems can make internal operations teams less efficient when updating systems because of strict security controls. In many cases, a security policy will not be implemented unless the cost of the loss exceeds the security policy itself. In the end, you are the one who is best suited to make the decisions on the security posture of your IT assets.

You can learn all the details and begin planning your security controls document by reading the Security Controls Guide

 

 


Jason Gaudreau is a Senior Technical Account Manager, VMware Professional Services. To read more from Jason, be sure to visit his blog here.

Capacity Management Using vRealize Operations

Jason GaudreauBy Jason Gaudreau

In the physical world, we tend to overprovision because experience tells us when you have enough resources, there shouldn’t be problems. If you apply this mindset to a virtualized environment, you’ll negate the benefits of server consolidation.

What are some of the key goals of operations management?

  • Delivering high-quality infrastructure, services and applications
  • Operate IT assets as efficiently and cost-effective as possibly
  • Implement and adhere to IT policies, standards and regulatory requirements

Using a tool like vRealize Operations can assure that you are getting the most out of your technology investments by providing proactive insight into the operations of your data center. It provides greater visibility into your virtual infrastructure fabric, which decreases the amount of downtime for your business-critical applications.

Moreover, an important part of operations capacity management is helping IT leadership understand the trade-off between business demand and cost. For instance, being able to predict the impact of adding 10 more virtual machines into our Gold Cluster may result in having to purchase additional server resources or a server host. Coupled with a charge-back model and support service-level agreements (SLAs), business leaders can then decide if the new application or project should go into the Gold Cluster or a lower tier. In fact, with this kind of insight, they may decide the project should be on hold until the next budget cycle to avoid problems.

vRealize Operations can provide valuable insight into capacity planning and trending into your data center environment, and help ensure you have the required resources to meet business demand. You can learn all the details by reading the vRealize Operations 5.8 Guide.

 


Jason Gaudreau is a Senior Technical Account Manager, VMware Professional Services. To read more from Jason, be sure to visit his blog here.