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Top 3 Reasons Why You Need Cloud Management

By most accounts, the hybrid cloud approach to IT is not just in ascendancy—it’s ruling the roost. Estimates vary, but computing trend surveys are typically finding an overwhelming number of respondents have established a hybrid cloud strategy, if they aren’t there already.

(Cutting to the chase: Check out Top 3 Reasons Why You Need Cloud Management here.)

The motivation is clear: The rise of the digital economy has changed expectations for IT organizations. Applications need to get to market faster, which means IT must provide resources faster to the internal teams responsible for delivering apps. Because on-premises infrastructure is typically not sufficient to keep up with demand, enterprises are combining private and public clouds to stay on pace.

For IT leaders, the next challenge is to maintain order in the court. And the judicious move is to implement a cloud management platform, or CMP.

cloud management

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Keep Your Business Critical Apps Soaring with Custom Dashboards

By: Bekah Suttner, Blue Medora

As a systems administrator, you are pulled in a million different directions – monitoring this, ordering that, fixing environment issues, keeping up with endless emails; the list never ends. As much as you hate to admit it, at some point you’ve probably overlooked an important system in your environment and dealt with a firestorm after the system went down. In this post, I’m going to show how to monitor a business critical application — from database to storage — with a custom vRealize Operations (vROps) dashboard.

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Figure 1 – Custom dashboard used to monitor a custom CRM

In this system, I want to monitor four critical components of my company’s custom CRM: a NetApp volume, a Cisco UCS blade, a VM, and a Microsoft SQL server. In Figure 1 we see my complete dashboard; it shows the topology of the four objects, as well as capacity remaining, alerts, alert history, metrics, and an overview of the environment. Using the Topology Graph widget, I can select whether I want to see capacity remaining, alerts, and more on the volume, blade, VM, or server.

The first step to building a concise dashboard is to decide what you need to know about each component. In this case, I wanted to keep track of the capacity remaining and active alerts, and I’ve added a few additional widgets to help me dig into problems when they arise. View the vROps Widget Definitions List to see available widgets for dashboards.

To create your dashboard, navigate to Home and find the Actions drop down along the top of the manager. In the drop down, select Create Dashboard and give your dashboard a name and an optional description. Next, go to the Widget List and drag each widget you want into the workspace. You can either take the time to configure your widgets now, or wait until you’re done laying out your dashboard. I prefer to configure them after the fact, so that’s what I’ll do here.

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Figure 2 – The dashboard before the widgets are configured

Once you’ve added all of your widgets, your dashboard should look something like Figure 2. Most of the widgets don’t have a default setting for data population, so they’ll be empty until you have them configured. The next step is to determine any widget interactions. This allows selection of an object to load data about that object on another widget. Since I am interested in monitoring the four elements of this CRM, I have the topology graph feeding data to my other widgets (seen in Figure 3).

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Figure 3 – Configuring widget interactions on my custom dashboard

The final step is to select any destination dashboards for widgets. This allows you to move from certain widgets to other dashboards in your environment. For example, if you wanted to be able to move from an alert to some sort of object details dashboard, you could create that interaction here. Since I want to keep my information isolated to one dashboard, I don’t have any destination dashboards connected to my CRM Monitoring dash.

If you need to make somebody else aware of the information on your dashboard, you can create a report composed of the data from the dashboard. Simply schedule your report to be emailed to keep your administrators updated on your critical systems.

Visit the VMware vRealize Operations Manager 6.2 Information Center for more information on custom dashboards and custom reports in vROps. Visit bluemedora.com to browse management packs that extend vROps to your critical enterprise management monitoring needs.

Solarwinds NPM content pack for Log Insight

Overview
Solarwinds NPM or Network Performance Monitor is a monitoring software that monitors faults, availability, and performance of devices connected to a network which helps in detection, diagnosis, and resolution of network performance issues and outages.

SolarWinds can also monitor your databases, storage solutions, and server performance. For more information about SolarWinds, visit http://www.solarwinds.com/ .

SolarWinds NPM Content Pack creates a simplified view into the SolarWinds core services to allow you to discover and diagnose issues as soon as they occur. Items such as expired licensing, core services failing, or SolarWinds alert notifications errors can immediately be raised to the proper personnel to ensure your monitoring solutions are fully operational.

OverviewDashboard

Solarwinds NPM Overview dashboard

Highlights
SolarWinds events are filtered into 5 convenient dashboards:
– Overview
– AlertingEngine Events
– SyslogService Events
– SWService Events
– TrapService Events
– BusinessLayer Events

Minimum requirements
VMware Log Insight 2.5
SolarWinds NPM 10.7+

Alerting engine events overview: Respond to multiple condition checks, correlated events, network topology, and device dependencies by monitoring of alerting engine events.

AlertingEngineDashboard

Solarwinds NPM Alerting engine events

Trap Service events: Monitor events for Schedule automated discovery of SNMP & WMI-enabled network devices

TrapServiceDashboard

Solarwinds NPM – Trap service events

CP_AgentConfig

Solarwinds NPM – Agent configuration

The updated content pack can be found on the solutions exchange or via your Log Insight Server’s Content Pack Marketplace UI.

VSX – https://solutionexchange.vmware.com/store/products/content-pack-for-solarwinds

Installation
To install the SolarWinds content pack for VMWare Log Insight, follow these steps.

Log Insight Windows Agent
Log into the Log Insight Server as an administrator. In the upper-right, click the Administration menu then navigate to Agents and at the bottom of the page, click the “Download Log Insight Agent” and download the Windows Agent.

Install the Windows Agent on the SolarWinds server. During the installation, it will ask for the Log Insight hostname/IP. Enter it in and continue on with the installation.
Post installation, log into your Log Insight server and go to Administration→Agents in the upper-right. From the “Agents” drop-down menu, select the “SolarWinds – NPM” from the Available Template list. Then, add a filter for the hostname/IP address of your SolarWinds server. You should see an Agent be filtered out for the SolarWinds server. Towards the bottom, click the “Save Agent Group” to propagate the settings to the Windows Agent.
Any new events coming from SolarWinds should populate in their respective dashboards.

 

 

 

 

Using Software Component Properties for Applications Provisioning via Converged Blueprints in CMBU Project Cava

Software Components – Reusable Building Blocks

The Project Cava introduction blog mentions visually simple Converged Blueprints of Virtual Machines and Applications that can be deployed into various target platforms (vCenter, various Clouds etc.)

However, there is a complexity behind that simplicity: it resides in Software Components, building blocks of software provisioning (installation) process that gets executed by software installation agents.  An ability to create software installation components as part of the new Converged blueprint design canvas is a new important functionality of VMWare vRealize Automation 7.x and it is extensively utilized in CMBU Project Cava.

The Introduction blog mentions that “The blueprint for vRealize Automation 7.0 fits in just 8 boxes”: each of those is an instance of a previously designed and published Software Component that is dynamically configured with input parameters and scripts to be executed during its software provisioning lifecycle. Order of invocation of Components is dictated by reverse direction of the arrows on the Design canvas: installation/configuration of a Component at the arrow head should complete in order for one at the arrow start to get invoked:

Cava vRA 7.x converged blueprint designn view

Fig. 1. Project Cava vRA 7.x converged blueprint showing order of invocation of included Software Components

In the screenshot above, Common component gets invoked first, then SLES-Update, then vRA-Server, then IaaS-Server (on a different VM), then vRA-ConfigIaaS (on same VM) and finally vRA-InstallQE.

Software Components have parameters that may be static or depend on values of parameters of Virtual Machines or other components. We use computed properties, property bindings, and content properties to dynamically populate values of these parameters to be used by software installation/configuration scripts.

In Project Cava we have an Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) Software component of vRealize Automation blueprint that needs to be installed and configured after vRealize Virtual Appliance (vRA VA) is provisioned and configured.

There is a number of property values that need to be provided if vRA IaaS component get installed manually (via Interactive installer or silent Installer script), so they also need to be specified in a corresponding Component(s). Some of those properties are:

• vRA VA host name (FQDN)
• vRA VA root user name/password
• vRA VA appliance management port
• IaaS target host name (FQDN)
• IaaS Service user id/password for running services to be installed
• etc.

vRA 7.x Converged blueprint contains Software Component called “VMware-IaaS-Server-7.0” that has properties and scripts for initial installation and configuration of IaaS software modules.

Software Component IaaS 7.0 Server properties

Fig. 2. Software Component VMware IaaS-Server-7.0 properties

Each Property has Name, Description, Type and Value. Values can be Encrypted (e.g. Passwords) so they would not show in a Blueprint view. Other flags for properties are:
Overridable: indicates whether supplied property value may be changed at run-time or not,
Required: indicates whether a property has to have a value (entered or computed) in order to allow submission of Provisioning request,
Computed: indicates whether a property value is computed during execution of the software component’s scripts. If Computed flag is set to Yes, other flags are set to No automatically since that parameter will not be displayed in a request form.

NOTE: Content type properties may also reference externally hosted scripts, for example from the above screen:
task_bootstrap     Content        http://<URL>/appd/task_bootstrap_7x7.sh

that would load a script content from an external (hosted in this case) URL location into task_bootstrap property for an execution.

In Actions section of a Component we can specify various Scripts that will be executed when that component is provisioned into a target “container” (VM or other type). Software lifecycle stages – Install, Configure, Start, Uninstall – may each have different scripts that will to be invoked when that stage becomes active. These scripts can use static or computed values using other parameters’ value (see “select property to insert” script editing option below) and can also call other scripts passing these parameter values as input.

IaaS_server-7.0-Script Editor

Fig. 3.  Software Component IaaS-Server-7.0 Install script editor showing property selector

This example shows assignment of value of install_script_path parameter to a variable called script_path and then copying value of %task_bootstrap% environment variable into task_bootstrap.bat batch script and consequent execution.

When Software components are placed into “container” VMs in Converged Blueprints Designer, their properties can also be used in combination with those associated with VMs. Screenshot below shows properties of “IaaS-Server” component instance with or without Binding to other properties defined in a scope of blueprint.

IaaS_server_properties_in_CBP

Fig. 4.  IaaS-Server-7.0 component using URL path to a resource stored in GIT repository for Configure and Install Script paths as well as values of other components.

In this example, properties domain_name, iaas_va_hostname, iaas_va-ip, lookup_hostname_override, ntp_servers are “bound” (i.e. assigned value of) to properties of other components placed into same VM called “vRA”.

In order to bind a Component parameter to other VM or Component level parameter values, click “Edit” button while parameter is highlighted, check “Binding” checkbox and either select pre defined property from a list or use “resource Object browser” to navigate hierarchy of properties by their parent objects as shown below:

IaaS_server-7.0-Object Hierarchy

Fig 5. Editing bound required custom properties by navigating “resource Object hierarchy”

Another very helpful tip to “externalize” actual scripts that will be executed for Install or Configure tasks is to actually use a URL of a script file stored under a version control system (GIT in case of Project Cava) as install_script_path and configure_script_path parameters have. More on that practice in a separate post.

Parameter scripts_basicauth_username is bound to a value of a parameter with the same name defined in the Common component, similarly ntp_servers parameter – to parameter with same name defined in Common because  that component will be provisioned first during Request processing.
Note that the above parameters are Required even though they are not displayed in a Catalog request form since Show in Request flag is set to “no”.

IaaS_server-7.0-Links GIT scripts

Fig 6. Editing not bound required custom properties by typing in values

There is an option to use “globally defined” properties for Virtual Machines that can be defined in the vRA Administration section called Property Definitions with Label, Description, data type and display style. They can be reused for user input processing by various converged blueprints as gobuild_product_vrava_number and gobuild_product_vrva_type properties are shown below:

Property Dictionary for vRA 7.x CBP

Fig 7. Tenant level Property definitions for common use in Converged Blueprint VM properties

How all That Complex Design Comes Together During Provisioning

All of that complex design/development work finally comes to realization when a Catalog request for a Blueprint containing Software components is submitted. After “Container” VMs are provisioned, Installation and Configuration scripts for these components get executed by Software Agents and results of execution first are available in temporary folders of vRA VA and then (if successful) – via Web UI.

vRA-7.x-Request-Successful_deployment

Fig. 8. Reviewing order of VM and Software Components provisioning for Cava vRA 7.x completed request

Screenshot above shows that vRA and IaaS VMs got provisioned first, then Common, SLES-Update, vRA-Server and other Components get installed and configured according to defined order in the Container converged blueprint, as described above.

In order to review execution results of Install or Configure scripts, click on a elliptic icon near Component first and look into pop-up window containing Install and Configure tabs which display outputs produced by execution of those scripts:

IaaS_server_Configure_outputFig 9. Sample output of Configure script for IaaS-Server 7.0 component upon its completion

If there are no fatal errors in Components’ Install and Configure scripts, their execution results in fully configured and running vRA 7.x software system with basic Tenant set up that Project Cava users can use for their purposes.

Our Users Can Do This Too!

In Project Cava we have put some advanced vRA Converged Blueprint authoring techniques to work and built blueprints that through their Software components take advantage of external content, pass values between components and compute properties at a runtime without intermediate vRO workflows. This gives us and you as vRA users an opportunity to build complex application stacks that are installed and configured using reusable modular Software Components!

Read ’16 Gartner Cloud Management Platform Market Guide FREE from VMware

Cloud Management Platform

With the emergence of cloud service providers, the Business now have alternatives to IT. The rise of cloud computing has created IaaS, PaaS, and SaaS offerings allowing vendors to directly target your users. A host of cloud services is available at the swipe of a credit card. Your Business users know what they are going to get, how much it’s going to cost, and when they are going to get it. And they no longer have to wait.

(Editors Note: Download Gartner Paper here).

cloud management platform
In this world, IT needs to recognize that its role has radically evolved from being the sole provider of infrastructure and applications to one where it has to compete for the Business’s business. Today’s successful enterprise IT organization must demonstrate its value as a strategic partner to its business stakeholders, delivering IT services in an agile and cost-effective manner, while ensuring the company and its data remains compliant and secure. And it must be able to source and manage those services, whether from a private, public, or hybrid cloud.

According to Gartner, Cloud Management Platforms are integrated products that provide for the management of public, private and hybrid cloud environments. Gartner has recently released the 2016 version of the Market Guide for Cloud Management Platforms: Large, Emerging and Open-Source Software Vendors. Learn more about the rapidly changing Cloud Management Platform (CMP) market and the guidance Gartner provides for the acquisition and usage of CMPs to see which CMP is right for you.

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5 Common Errors While Installing vRealize Operations Manager

By: Tim Sheldon, Blue Medora

vRealize Operations image placeholder

Understanding the most common errors associated with installing VMware’s vRealize Operations Manager (vROps) can drastically improve user experience. Currently, 85% of Blue Medora’s support tickets are related to user error during vRealize Operations installation and configuration. Below, I have outlined the top five errors that we see vROps users encountering, and how to avoid them if you’re looking to install vRealize Operations or integrate third-party management packs.

  1.  Undersized nodes.

    During the initial configuration of a vROps node, you are required to select a specific size. Once the size is selected, a set number of virtual resources are assigned to the node, such as CPU.

    The size of the node is dependent on how many objects are in your environment and what resources are being collected. This problem most commonly occurs is when vRealize Operations users do not follow the correct sizing guide or they underestimate the amount of metrics that will be collected. For a listing of all sizing guidelines for vCenter/vRealize Operations versions, refer to VMware’s Knowledge Base article (2093783).

  2. Malfunctioning nodes.

    If you create a new node and forget to restart vRealize Operations before you begin adding management packs, it will start malfunctioning. A few of the biggest problems we have found from customer interactions are sometimes vRealize Operations won’t let you license correctly, collections won’t come up properly, and object relationships will not populate.

    If you are seeing the above consequences of a malfunctioning node, do not despair! Oftentimes, a simple redescribe can solve the issue.

    Here are the steps to manually redescribe the adapter:

    1. Log in to the vRealize Operations Manager user interface.
    2. In the left-pane of vRealize Operations Manager, click the Administration tab, then click Support.
    3. Select Redescribe.
  3. Issue with third-party hardware.

    Many times when users have issues with their install, it is because they intend to integrate with third-party hardware, which is not functioning correctly. In these situations, there might be additional installation or configuration actions that must take place outside of vRealize.

    If you are running into issues, be sure to review the vRealize prerequisites, as well as the prerequisites for the third-party hardware you plan to use.

  4. Management Pack and license are out of sync.

    Occasionally, users will receive an error reporting an invalid license. First, check to make sure you do in fact have a valid, unexpired license. If this isn’t the issue, it is possible that the Management Pack and vRealize system are out of sync. This can often be resolved with a redescribe or rebooting the individual node or cluster. Please refer to the steps outlined in error #2 above on how to complete a redescribe.

  5. Firewall blocking the ports.

    Ports need to be unblocked. If ports are being blocked, users may experience a variety of errors. Most commonly, the Test Connection will fail if a firewall is preventing communication between vRealize and the node you are attempting to monitor.

    If you are running into issues, be sure to review vRealize prerequisites, as well as the Management Pack prerequisites for which ports need to be accessible.

These are the five most common errors that Blue Medora’s support team has encountered with customers while installing and configuring vRealize Operations Manager. For more helpful support articles and guides to navigate through vRealize Operations and third-party management packs, visit support.bluemedora.com.

vRealize Suite Standard: Simplify IT Operations

vRealize Suite Standard: Simplify IT Operations

vRealize Suite Standard

With vRealize Suite Standard, IT organizations of all sizes can boost performance and avoid business disruption. And become more efficient with comprehensive visibility across applications and infrastructure. All in one place.

Traditional operations management systems do not meet the requirements of today’s virtual and cloud infrastructure. IT is reactive because they lack the intelligence to aggregate, correlate, and analyze metrics across applications and infrastructure stacks. The key operations management component is vRealize Operations.

See how you can convert your IT nightmares into stuff of IT Dreams with our new vRealize Suite infographic.

What vRealize Operations Does

Intelligent IT Operations

Maximize capacity utilization and enable optimum performance and availability of applications and infrastructures across vSphere, Hyper-V, Amazon, and physical hardware. Proactively identify and solve emerging issues with predictive analytics and smart alerts. Manage capacity and resolve resource contention with intelligent workload placement.

Unified IT Management

Gain comprehensive visibility in one place and across applications, storage, and network devices with an open and extensible platform supported by third-party management packs for solutions from Microsoft, SAP, and other hardware and software providers.

Policy Based Automation

Increase efficiency by streamlining key IT processes with out-of-the-box and customizable policies. Optimize performance, capacity and compliance while retaining full control.

vRealize Suite Standard InfographicKey Benefits of vRealize Suite Standard

  • Capacity Management
  • Performance and Troubleshooting From apps to infrastructure
  • Across physical, virtual and cloud
  • Capacity reclamation, opimtization and planning
  • Workload placement
  • Infrastructure costs, metering and consumption
  • Health, performance and troubleshooting
  • Real-time log analytics for root-cause analysis
  • Application dependency mapping
  • Storage and network visibility
  • OS, Database, Middleware and Application Monitoring
  • Open and Extensible Platform

Wake up to vRealize Suite Standard and take your first step towards a cloud management platform.

What is Delivered

vRealize Suite Standard helps companies with Intelligent Operations to proactively address health, performance and capacity management of IT services across heterogeneous and hybrid cloud environments in order to improve efficiency, performance and availability.

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vRealize Automation 7 Catalog API In Action

I’ve written before about the improvements we made to the self-service API in vRealize Automation 7.0, but where APIs are concerned, working code is worth a thousand words. I’m pleased to present the vRealize Automation Reference Application, an open source sample application we developed to show the new API in action.

Login page

Login page

Catalog Items page

List of entitled catalog items with search and filtering

Machine Request page

Catalog item details and request form

We had several goals with this project:

  • Simplicity. We wanted to provide a very lightweight application that demonstrates the most common API use cases — the self-service consumption scenarios. The design is intentionally no-frills so that the data elements stand out.
  • Clarity. Any developer should be able to look at the code and understand how the API was used to implement the features of the sample application, whether you’re using another language, framework, or even no UI at all. The application follows the best practices for interacting with the catalog API.
  • Flexibility. This application is meant to be a foundation that can be a starting point for any self-service portal and that could be expanded with additional functionality in the future.

Most importantly, along the theme of drinking our own champagne, we wanted to prove to ourselves that the API we introduced in vRA 7 was really as intuitive as we wanted it to be. For a developer trying to implement an end-to-end scenario, is it clear how to navigate through the API? Is the right information available in the right context? Can we reduce multiple API calls to one?

The learning we gained from writing the application has already led us to make enhancements to the API in 7.0.1, particularly around performing actions on provisioned machines.

Machine Details page

Machine details with resource actions

As with any initial release, there’s plenty more we can do. We wanted to get this out into the world so developers can download the code and experiment with it and give us feedback. Our plan is to continue to iterate on this and keep it up to date as we roll out enhancements to vRealize Automation itself in future releases. In the meantime, if you have any use cases in mind that you’d like to see added to the reference application, please let us know.

VMware Software Defined Data Center and vRealize Suite Management Transform IT at CNRA

by Rich Bourdeau

CNRAThe California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA) is made up of 33 different organizations chartered with protecting and managing the historical and natural resources of California.  In the past each organization had their own independent IT shop.  Over the past few years, CNRA has been on a journey to unify IT operations in order to leverage economies of scale and become an better business enabler to their different departments.  To do this the leveraged VMware’s Software Defined Services so that Infrastructure and applications could be delivered much quicker to the business.  The also wanted to leverage hybrid cloud resources in order scale their infrastructure more cost effectively to meet peak usage periods. Continue reading

What can we achieve with a simple “uptime” output in Log Insight

If we want to know whether a child is sick, we measure fever. Sure, it’s not a perfect method, but a stuffy nose and the temperature are sufficient for a quick diagnosis.  Usually we will not run blood analysis, computer tomography or microbiological tests. Although some doctors and mums may prefer to. 

This is similar in the world of IT: we don’t allways need all possible details. Sometimes we don’t want to deploy and manage powerful monitoring agents. In some cases having a very basic performance information is sufficient.

Let’s take a look at a simple example. Unix based systems have plenty of commands to display the current health state of the system: uptime, w, iostat, vmstat, mpstat, netstat, nmon – just to mention some of them. In this example I will use the uptime command, runnig it periodically through the crontab and redirecting the output to the system logs. I am assumin that the system logs are forwarded – integrated to the Log Insight server either through the agent or directly.

So in the first step we just use “crontab -e” command and add  the following or similar entry to the crontab:

*/1 * * * * /usr/bin/uptime | /usr/bin/logger

Crontab will run /usr/bin/uptime command every minute and redirect the output to logger. (Some distributions have different path for the uptime and logger commands: /bin/uptime and /bin/logger).
Now we should start seeing Linux uptime messages in Log Insight:
2016-05-17T11:23:01.980976+00:00 vcsa logger: 11:23am up 5 days 20:06, 1 user, load average: 2.09, 2.05, 1.88
or similar but slightly different from MacOS:
May 17 13:24:00 macmini baublys[5578]: 13:24 up 1 day, 51 mins, 2 users, load averages: 2.09 2.24 2.21

In the next step we just need to import this minimalistic content pack Uptime-Output-v1.2.vlcp_.zip unzip and install it. Choose the option “Import in to my content” in order to be able to edit and improve it without having to clone it.  Once imported you will be able to see new fields extracted from the uptime command output. Then we can use it, for example, to correlate the number of logged in users with the load of the system:

tb_sc_2016-05-13_02-19-45_PM

By viewing the events in context we may dig deeper and find out who logged in to the system. At least we will have a suspect:

tb_sc_2016-05-13_02-23-34_PM

Looking at the dashboard which was imported through the provided content pack, we will have a nice colourful overview about the systems integrated, providing us information on the load, uptime and logged in users. Keep in mind, that this is achieved with a single command in the crontab and minimal work on the Log Insight.

tb_sc_2016-05-17_11-26-02_AM

I hope this example will inspire you to collect additional information and to create your own monitoring dashboards. There are no limits for Log Insight.