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New Capabilities in Project Photon OS Technical Preview 2 (TP2)

Project Photon OS, the small-footprint container runtime from VMware that was first announced back in April, is making great progress. Several new enhancements to this open source initiative are especially interesting to vSphere administrators and those responsible for deployment and administration.

PXE Boot and Network Installation

Operating system ISO images may be the lingua franca of install media due to portability and ease of use across a wide range of environments, but a proper PXE boot infrastructure can be a very valuable enhancement to both lab test beds and production environments. Those that have invested the effort in PXE will be pleased to know that Photon OS TP2 can be easily booted from the network for quick installation. And by quick, we mean really quick! Photon OS is purpose-built for containers and does not include the extraneous packages found in general-purpose distributions. Administrators can expect an interactive installation to take less than a minute, and the majority of that time will likely be spent keying in a complex root password two times.

The source of the network installation is also flexible, ranging from an internal HTTP server to a public Internet-based repository for those environments that desire to keep things minimal.

Scripted Installation

Manually installing guests in vSphere is fine for one-off efforts, troubleshooting, or other experiments, but to really operationalize any process, automation is necessary. Photon OS TP2 now supports scripted installation, which can be used with either the network or ISO installation options.

While it accomplishes the same goal as traditional kickstart, the Photon OS scripted install differs somewhat in implementation.   The first and most obvious difference is the configuration file format. Instead of a plain text file with simple directives, Photon OS leverages JSON format. This is easy enough to edit by hand but also opens up the possibilities for programmatic manipulation, if desired. Another major difference is the range of directives – Photon OS is streamlined by nature and does not offer infinite control over aspects such as disk partition layout. There is, however, a means of running an arbitrary script at the end of the installation that should satisfy a great majority of customization requirements.

Guest OS Customization

In a vSphere environment, automated installation is great but it is typical to deploy new VMs from a template or Content Library – one of the new features of vSphere 6. Photon OS TP2 now has the necessary internals to support the guest OS customization that must occur after making a clone of a VM template. This is the procedure by which unique settings such as the hostname and network configuration are properly assigned.  In TP2, all of the typical naming and addressing options are supported.

RPM-OSTree

A new approach to OS deployment known as RPM-OSTree debuts in Photon OS TP2. This is an open source mechanism that combines aspects of image-based and package-based OS configuration, aimed at improving the consistency of deployed systems. Instead of updating packages on farms of individual servers through some means of configuration management, updates are made to a central reference system that is subsequently synchronized to clients.

While this approach may seem restrictive, it is actually very well aligned with a container runtime instance that needs just a small number of packages installed. Offering an advantage in areas such as stability and security, server instances become largely immutable and not subject to configuration drift that would be found in a handcrafted environment.

Photons Everywhere You Look!

Photon OS is a great open source Linux container runtime, but it is also an important ingredient in other VMware cloud-native infrastructure stacks. For instance, vSphere Integrated Containers uses a “pico” edition of the Photon OS Linux kernel for the parent VM that is repeatedly forked with Instant Clone to run containers. This “pico” edition is smaller than is practical for many Photon OS environments, but when used as an embedded component of vSphere Integrated Containers, the image can be very slim. Photon OS is also present as a container runtime in the distributed control plane that makes up Photon Controller, part of Photon Platform, the new VMware infrastructure optimized for running cloud native apps at extreme scale.

For developers, Photon OS is included in the VMware AppCatalyst product as well as through Hashicorp Atlas in the form of a Vagrant box. Speaking of Vagrant, another important new feature of Photon OS TP2 is full support for shared folders (HGFS) when using with VMware desktop hypervisors.

Getting Photon OS TP2

Photon OS continues to be offered as an open source project available on Github.  But for the most part that venue is geared toward developers from VMware as well as other collaborators working on the actual code. vSphere administrators will primarily be interested in a binary ISO release, which now comes in two different sizes, optimized for minimal or full installations.

Take a look at Project Photon OS Technical Preview 2 and explore containers on your trusted vSphere infrastructure today!

How To Choose The Best Infrastructure Stack For Your Cloud-Native Applications

Cloud-native applications are gaining mindshare, especially containerized apps that align well with the requirements of DevOps workflows, microservices, and immutable infrastructure trends. Developers and infrastructure experts must soon identify the platform for their next-generation workloads. Wouldn’t it be great if existing investments in skills, infrastructure, and technology ecosystem continued to offer the best environment to run all applications — including containerized apps?

Acknowledging that a single architecture may not satisfy the sometimes mutually exclusive requirements for traditional and third platform applications, VMware is gearing up for two new approaches in support of containerized apps.

Whether integrating with existing vSphere infrastructure to run alongside other workloads, or building an entirely new footprint optimized for high scale and churn, VMware has all of the bases covered!

vSphere Integrated Containers – Technology Preview

For those customers needing to support developers that are in the initial stages of deconstructing monolithic enterprise applications through microservices, Agile development, and DevOps workflows, the vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC) approach will serve them well.

VIC takes the basic constructs specified by the Open Container Initiative and maps them to the vSphere environment, exposing a virtual container host that is compatible with standard Docker client tools but backed by a flexible pool of resources to accommodate apps of many sizes. In this model, VMs essentially become containers and other aspects, such as storage and network, are mapped to corresponding elements of the vSphere platform. A tiny variant of Photon OS forms the basis of the container runtime in VIC. Performance and density is optimized through the use of Instant Clone – a feature of vSphere 6 that enables a running VM to be rapidly forked so that child VMs consume only resources that change from the parent base image.

Based on Project Bonneville technology, this is the most seamless way to provide a Docker container runtime environment with several advantages over bare-metal Linux container architectures. Hardware-level isolation of individual containers paves the way for capabilities in VIC that cannot be matched through a shared Linux kernel model.

Inherent benefits of the vSphere platform such as administrator tool choices — from the rich Web Client GUI to the productivity-boosting PowerCLI – are further extended by comprehensive application management and monitoring capabilities in vSphere and vRealize. These resource management features deliver enhanced abilities to meet enterprise SLAs for compute, network, and storage.

Photon Platform – Technology Preview

For those customers with new initiatives that have advanced cloud-native requirements, VMware is introducing the Photon Platform.  The platform is a collection of technologies that provide infrastructure with just the features needed to securely run containerized applications, controlled by a massively-scalable distributed management plane with an API-first design approach. Photon Platform benefits from the solid heritage of the VMware ESXi hypervisor but favors scale and speed over the rich management features offered by vSphere.

Photon Platform consists of the following components:

  • Photon Machine
    • Secure ESX Microvisor based on the proven core of VMware ESXi and optimized for container-based workloads
    • Photon OS – the lightweight Linux container runtime designed to integrate with VMware infrastructure
  • Photon Controller
    • Distributed management plane provides massive scale and resiliency
    • API/CLI for flexible integration with DevOps workflows

Photon Platform will also provide an extensible provisioning capability that allows administrators to quickly instantiate popular consumptions surfaces for containerized applications such as Cloud Foundry, Kubernetes, or Mesos.

Scale, Speed, and Churn

For developers on the cutting edge of application architecture, a pattern is emerging that favors re-deployment over painstaking configuration management approaches often found in the traditional datacenter. This trend, sometimes called immutable infrastructure, forces deployments to be described programmatically and helps eliminate human bottlenecks and errors. Configuration changes can require many new VMs or containers to be deployed while old ones are rapidly destroyed, even further amplified when multiple development and test environments must also be delivered. These frequent deployments are automated, essentially eliminating the need for rich graphical interfaces and comprehensive wizards. Photon Platform foregoes full-featured centralized management tools, as they do not add the same value here that they do in traditional datacenter environments.

How to Choose

While VIC will quickly launch a container VM on demand, the magnitude would typically be in the tens, or possibly hundreds, at a time for an application. Photon Platform, on the other hand, is designed for environments where thousands or tens of thousands of containers are needed in a very short time – imagine how pleased your developers will be to learn that they can have a new Kubernetes endpoint with 1,000 nodes available for use within minutes — and another one a few minutes later!

Regardless of your cloud-native infrastructure needs, VMware will continue to be your trusted partner extending a strong record of innovation. Think of vSphere Integrated Containers as the enterprise-grade onramp to containerized applications, leveraging existing investments in technology and skillsets. Imagine Photon Platform as the next-generation infrastructure to support future initiatives that require incredible scale and churn for a range of popular container-centric consumption surfaces.

Both vSphere Integrated Containers and Photon Platform are currently Technology Previews. Please contact your VMware account team for more information or to learn about potential opportunities to participate in private betas.

Technology Preview: Enriching vSphere with hybrid capabilities

 

Today VMware is revealing a Technology Preview of Project SkyScraper, a new set of hybrid cloud capabilities for VMware vSphere that will enable customers to confidently extend their data center to the public cloud and vice-a-versa by seamlessly operating across boundaries while providing enterprise-level security and business continuity.

At VMworld, we will demonstrate live workload migration with Cross-Cloud vMotion and Content Sync between on-premises and vCloud Air.  These features will complement VMware vCloud® Air™ Hybrid Cloud Manager™ – a free, downloadable solution for vSphere Web Client users, with optional fee-based capabilities. Hybrid Cloud Manager consolidates various capabilities such as workload migration, network extension and improved hybrid management features into one easy-to-use solution for managing workloads in vCloud Air from the vSphere Web Client.

Cross-Cloud vMotion is a new technology based on vSphere vMotion that allows customers to seamlessly migrate running virtual machines between their on-premises environments and vCloud Air. Cross-cloud vMotion can be used via the vSphere Web Client, enabling rapid adoption with minimal training. The flexibility provided by this technology gives customers the ability to securely migrate virtual machines bi-directionally without compromising machine up-time; all vMotion guarantees are maintained.

Content Sync will allow customers to subscribe to an on-premise Content Library and seamlessly synchronize VM templates, vApps, ISOs, and scripts with their content catalog in vCloud Air with a single click of a button. This feature will ensure consistency of content between on-premise and the cloud, eliminating error prone manual sync process.

Learn more about these two capabilities under Project Skyscraper by visiting us the VMware booth at VMworld 2015.

VMworld US 2015 Spotlight Session: Project Capstone, a Collaboration between VMW, HP & IBM

No Application Left behind

This year at VMworld 2015 US in San Francisco, over 40 sessions focused on Business Critical Applications and databases will be delivered by a broad cast of VMware experts. These experts include VMware product specialists, partners, customers, and end users (developers and data scientists).

One specific session that we would like to shine the spotlight on is VAPP6952-S, “VMware Project Capstone”, in which VMware, HP and IBM will announce a collaborative effort to virtualize the highest demanding applications. As a result of this partnership between VMware, HP, and IBM, we can now more than ever, confidently claim that all applications and databases are candidates for virtualized infrastructure.  This joint effort, which utilizes an HP Superdome X and an IBM FlashSystem with massive 120 vCPU VMs on vSphere 6 running Oracle 12c constitutes the most significant advancement in the area of virtualization of Business Critical Applications in many years.

The session takes place Monday, August 31st at 5PM. Join us for this session to learn about this game changing initiative.

https://vmworld2015.lanyonevents.com/connect/search.ww#loadSearch-searchPhrase=6952&searchType=session&tc=0&sortBy=&p=

VMware Project Capstone, a Collaboration of VMware, HP and IBM, driving Oracle to Soar Beyond the Clouds using vSphere 6, an HP Superdome X and an IBM FlashSystem ®

 Abstract: When three of the most historically significant and iconic technology companies join forces, even the sky is not the limit.  VMware, HP and IBM have collaborated on a project whose scope both eradicates the long accepted boundaries of virtualization for extreme high performance and establishes a new approach to cooperative solution building.

The Superdome X is HP’s first Xeon based Superdome and when combined with an IBM FlashSystem ®  and virtualized with vSphere 6, the raw capabilities of this stack challenge the imagination and dispel previously held notions of performance limitations in virtualized environments.  The Superdome X and the FlashSystem  comprise a unique stack for all Business Critical Applications and databases. The most demanding environments can now be virtualized. It is no longer obligatory for VMware to claim that 99.9% of all applications and databases are candidates for virtualized infrastructure, as that number is now 100%.  This spotlight session features senior executive management from VMware, HP and IBM and an introduction of the tests results of this unprecedented collaborative effort.

Key Takeaways:

  1. The methodologies that are being used to drive the Superdome X and the IBM FlashSystem ® to the far edges of known performance.
  2. The reasons behind the joint effort of these three renowned companies as well as the aspirations for this collaboration.
  3. An understanding of how this new landmark architecture can affect the industry and benefit customers who have extreme but broad performance requirements.

VMWorld Topic: Virtual Volumes (VVOLS) a game changer for running Tier 1 Business Critical Databases

One of the major components released with vSphere 6 this year was the support for Virtual Volumes (VVOLS). VVOLS has been gaining momentum with storage vendors, who are enabling its capabilities in their arrays.

When virtualizing business databases there are many critical concerns that need to be addressed that include:

  1. Database Performance to meet strict SLAs
  2. Daily Operations e.g. Backup & Recovery to complete in set window
  3. Cut down time to Clone / Refresh of Databases from Production
  4. Meet different IO characteristics and capabilities based on criticality
  5. Never ending debate with DBAs
  6. File Systems v/s Raw Devices (VMFS v/s RDM)

VVOLS can offer solutions to mitigate these concerns that impact the decision to virtualize business critical databases. VVOLS can help with the following:

1. Reduce backup windows for databases
2. Provide ability to have Database consistent backups
3. Reduced cloning times for multi-terabyte databases
4. Provide capabilities for Storage Policy based management

Details on the solutions available with VVOLS and its impact on “Virtualized Tier1 Business Critical Databases” will be discussed in detail at vmworld 2015 in session STO4452:

STO4452 –  STO4452 – Virtual Volumes (VVOLS) a game changer for running Tier 1 Business Critical Databases
Session Date/Time: 08/31/2015 03:30 PM – 04:30 PM

vSphere Content Library: distribute your content effortlessly

More and more data is generated every day, and the same is true for “virtual” content, such as VM templates, vApps, ISO images, and scripts. The industry is paying more attention to how to streamline maintenance procedures, distribute the content, and deal with emergencies.

Now, imagine that you work at the head office in San Francisco. Your company recently opened three new branches in Denver, Atlanta, and Minneapolis and asked you to provide them with all required software. And of course, you have a VM that has all they need. So, what do you do next?

map -final

Content Library is a new feature in vSphere 6.0 that will help you to solve this and many other problems. Let me demonstrate how.

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vSphere 6 Web Client UI Deepdive – vMotion

New series of vSphere Web Client UI Deepdives

With vSphere 6 adoption going up, the new features are helping our customers manage their environments better than ever before.  vSphere Web Client is the most common way that these new features and enhancements are used, but sometimes the UI changes get lost in the discussion.  The following is a deepdive into the changes and new pages in the vMotion workflow, and if you find this insightful, please let us know in the comments and we can do more posts!  The credit for the below work goes to Dimitar Dimitrov, a member of the engineering team in Sofia, Bulgaria that felt passionate about showing our customers improvements to the UI.

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Introducing the vSphere Host Client fling

Have you ever wanted to connect directly to your ESXi host via a web browser and take a quick look at the available resources on the host? How about checking on the status of the vCenter VM? Conduct host administrative tasks through the browser? Today I’m happy to introduce the vSphere Host Client fling, an HTML5-based UI client served directly from the ESXi host.

The Client is distributed as a VIB that once installed, allows you to point your web browser at the host IP, and begin directly managing the host. Underneath the covers, the Client interfaces with the host through the VIM API similar to other host access methods such as the Web Client or PowerCLI.

Screen Shot 2015-08-02 at 5.36.46 PM

The current Client feature set include:

  • Display host, VM, storage, and networking information
  • Execute tasks such as create/update/delete of host resources
  • Support of VM console access
  • Configure the host NTP
  • See summaries, events, tasks and notifications
  • Configure advanced host services and settings

The Client will work on ESXi 6.0 and 5.5U3 when the update release becomes available later this year. You can find browser requirements, download and installation instructions from our Fling website:

https://labs.vmware.com/flings/esxi-embedded-host-client

We’d love to get your feedback or if you have questions:

https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/vsphere/hostclient

Many many folks contributed to this fling: George Estebe, Etienne LeSueur and Kevin MacDonell our development team for bringing the Client to life, Jehad Affoneh for the proof of concept that inspired what you see today, William Lam and Kevin Christopher for their ongoing (and vocal!) guidance each step of the way, and our ESXi leadership team for allocating the time and resources to make this all happen.

Going forward, we plan to add more features to the fling including additional VM and host resource management actions, datastore operations, performance charts and metrics. Based on your feedback/community support and resource prioritization, we hope to incorporate the Client into a future ESXi release as a formalized offering.

Big Data Virtualization: Talks and Related Events at VMworld 2015

Here is a list of the Big Data technical talks and events at VMworld 2015 for your conference planning. The big data team at VMware will be delighted to see you at some or all of these events during the conference coming soon. Please register for these through the schedule builder on the VMworld website.

Sunday, 30th August

4:00pm VAPP6442-QT Quick Talk on VMware and Big Data

Monday, 31st August

12:30pm VAPP4567 – Big Data Partnering – Cloudera and VMware Work Together

3pm EXPERTS  – Meet the Big Data Experts

Tuesday, 1st September

11:00am Book Signing at DigitalGuru Bookshop in Moscone Lobby

12:00pm Theater Talk and Book Signing at the VMware Booth in Exhibition Hall

1:00pm VAPP6428GD – Group Discussion on Big Data

2:00pm INF4566 – A Customer Deployment with Hadoop on vSphere

4:00pm VAPP4588 – Virtualizing Big Data – a Customer Panel

Wednesday, 2nd September

08:30am CNA4725 – Scalable Cloud-Native Apps

3:30pm INF4551 – Customer Case Study: Skyscape’s Hadoop-in-the-Cloud Deployment

Big Data Hands-on-Lab HOL-SDC-1609 – available on each day of the show

Big Data Extensions/Hadoop Demos – at the vSphere/VSOM pod on the VMware booth

The vSphere 6.0 Learning Path at VMworld

VMworld US is only 3 weeks away, and by now you are probably going through the Content Catalog and using Schedule Builder to create your own personal agenda. Since vSphere is still a very popular topic among our customers, particularly with the release of vSphere 6.0 earlier this year, I decided to provide a list of sessions on vSphere 6.0 that are being present at this year’s show. This list is organized by type of sessions, so you can decide which ones best suit your needs.

Sessions on vSphere 6.0 Deployment

Deep Dives into specific features of vSphere 6.0

Hands-on Labs on vSphere 6.0

Of course, there are a lot of other great sessions that go into more general (version-independent) vSphere topics, but these are the sessions to attend if you want to learn specifically about the latest version. Don’t forget also to visit the VMware booth in the Solutions Exchange, where you can see demos of vSphere 6.0 features (plus a lot of other surprise goodies too).  I hope you have a great VMworld!