Browse Month

September 2015

Virtualization, the way the industry sees it. Part 1

First off, I won’t claim to speak on behalf of the entire industry… this is going to have a VMware bias. With that in mind, lets move forward.

So… in my last post (Virtualization, the way the school teaches it…) I talked about desktop virtualization apps. This is really where it all started. In the beginning there was CP-40 (1964)… no wait, too far back. Lets just start with the desktop virtualization on x86 server beginnings. IN THE EARLY DAYS (before I got into this), there was VMware who released a software called Vmware Server or Vmware GSX Server. This was the first x86 virtualization platform that ran on Windows Server. So, much like the last post, you have the Host, which is the physical hardware, the OS which is Windows Server, the Application which is VMware Server and the VM that runs inside of VMware server. (The VM has an OS and virtual hardware which are really just shared resources that the application pulls from the OS and the OS pulls from the physical server).

Ok, history lesson and recap over, lets move on. Unlike the desktop applications that most schools use during computer science or IT classes, working in an IT role, you’ll experience something called a Hypervisor. Fancy name! So what does a hypervisor do, that a desktop application can’t?

First lets consider the following in a desktop method, if the resources of the physical computer was cake and we had to feed those resources to each thing that needed it, you you would first have to feed the OS on the host. In this instance lets say that that is Windows. So the computer gives CPU, RAM, Network and Video resources to Windows. Well, Windows is running another application that is also running an Operating System, lets say Linux. So Windows needs to pass some cake to the App so it can pass it to Linux. BUT, we need to make sure there is enough cake for Windows too! If you don’t leave enough cake for Windows… its won’t be able to run the app, which won’t be able to run Linux. Starting to feel a bit like office space in here:


So now lets look at the hypervisor! In this case we will look at VMware’s current offering called ESXi. Instead of running Windows on the host physical hardware, lets remove it from the equation. Now thats one less thing to give cake to. ESXi is a very slim operating system, its sole purpose in life is to run VM’s. The biggest difference you will find, is that instead of plugging in a monitor into the computer, opening an app and SEEING the VM running and looking at its video output, you only see this:


Not much to look at huh? So here is the deal, as I stated before, the sole purpose of the hypervisor is to run VM’s. Running a VM and outputting the display from the VM to the VGA port isn’t a big concern because all Operating Systems have a method of remote access, and even if they don’t, VMware provides a tool to manage this server remotely, and that tool… can see the VM. GASP! Yes, you can still see the video output, but you have to use the tool. At this time, the tool is called the vSphere Client. The client is not only used to manage the VM’s but the configuration of host resources as well.

The hypervisor doesn’t just virtualize a server, it virtualizes the main components of the physical host. Unlike desktop virtualization where you are sharing the resources that the main OS is using, in a hypervisor, you setup a Virtual Switch for managing networking between hosts and VMs, Datastores for storing the virtual hard drives of VMs and CPU cores to allow multiple VMs to share the CPU clock scheduling.

So again, why the hypervisor? Short answer is, save the resources. Without Windows, you don’t have to provide resources to the bare-metal OS (Windows). Hypervisors are slim in comparison, and provide a LOT more functionality, which we will talk about later. So we save those resources, which means we can run MORE VM’s per server. Cool… more consolidation means more savings on hardware which makes your boss happy, the accountants happy and trust me… from a management perspective, you will be happier too.

So let me just add this here, ESXi is built by VMware and is provided free of charge. Yes, you read that correctly, FREE. The number of features available for free are slim in comparison to the paid version of vSphere (we will talk about the vNames later, there are a lot of them). But, for a small company, that may not matter. Free is free is free is free… too much? Nah. So for free, you have the ability to install a hypervisor (ESXi) on a physical server, configure it (later), and connect to it via a tool and build, manage and use Virtual Machines.

So lets recap:

  • Desktop Virtualization requires more resources to run the underlying OS
  • Hypervisor Virtualization does not output VM video to the host video output port
  • Hypervisors allow for greater density of servers per host by using a slimmed down OS built for virtualization
  • Hypervisors provide greater functionality, management and customization.
  • Hypervisor tools such as vSphere Client provide remote console access to VM’s while also managing host/VM resources and configuration.

Hypervisors will be briefly talked about in classes, but for the most part, not typically taught unless you are interested in taking a class towards a certification. If you are interested in trying out a hypervisor, seeing what it is capable of, then I suggest downloading a copy of ESXi from (you have to register), and get started. If you are working towards a career in IT, I recommend that you start learning it sooner rather than later.

Virtualization, the way the school teaches it…

In schools, when a student that is working towards a degree in IT, MIS, IST or anything of the like… typically the virtualization method of choice by the teachers is to use Virtualbox or some other desktop virtualization software. These tools are great for building up an operating system and testing it, without actually installing it on hardware. If you have never done something like this before, its pretty neat.

Essentially, you build what is called a Virtual Machine or VM for short (remember that). A VM consists of a few files typically. First you have the configuration file. The config file tells the VM how many CPU processors or cores it has, how much RAM is allocated for the VM, what type of network card setup to use, how large the virtual hard drive is as well as where that disk is located. There are other items in there as well, but lets stick to the basics. It covers all the needs of a basic computer, CPU, RAM, Network, oh and of course Video card.

Things to remember:
Host – the physical computer
VM – the Virtual machine that is running inside of the App
The App (Virtualbox) – the Application that runs on the host, that provides resources from the host to the VM (CPU, RAM, Network)

So where is this whole thing running? Well, good question! Your actual computer is the physical machine, it is running its operating system, that would be either Windows, Mac OS X or some flavor of Linux (not as likely, but sure). Now inside of that Operating System you have applications. Virtualbox is just another application, but what it does is takes ANOTHER Operating System and pass the CPU, RAM, Network and Video capabilities of the physical machine, onto the Virtual Machine. Getting it yet? You are running an Operating System, inside of an application. You tricked the OS into thinking that it is on REAL hardware. Thats pretty nifty in an of itself.

Because of this, you share all of the same resources the “bare-metal” operating system uses. I.E. – don’t give the VM 100% of the CPU, RAM and Network… or else there isn’t enough for the actual computer to use that is running the VM. Now, because you share the network, the cool thing is you can connect to the VM just like its connected to your physical network. Inside the application that runs the VM, it is acting like a network switch (virtual networking, remember that). There are a couple different settings for this, but just know that you can either make it available to the host (your physical machine) only, or shared the network input and let the VM talk to the other devices on your network. To repeat, host-only means the VM can only talk to the physical machine running the app that runs the VM. Shared means that other devices on the network can also see the VM that is running inside the host.

Now, there is NOTHING magical about a VM on Virtualbox, it doesn’t have extra powers or run faster. You still have to install the OS by putting in a “CD”, or in this case you get an ISO (image file of a disc, what you normally burn to a CD) and you take that ISO and pass it to the VM, and install from the CD image. The same way you physically put a CD that was made by burning an ISO to a disc, and pop that sucker into a physical machine when you are installing an Operating System for the first… second or hundredth time.

After you install the OS, you’ve got a Virtual Machine, you can use it to test software out, and if it gets screwed up, you just delete it and start again. Its awesome because doing that on a physical machine is a pain in the butt. At least with this method, you aren’t wiping the machine, just a virtual hard drive. Let me just say that there is nothing wrong with this method, but once you step outside of this into the world of Hypervisors… it gets SOOO much more interesting.

Next Up: Virtualization, the way the industry sees it… with a little (a lot of) VMware bias.

New2 posts

I’ve considered blogging for awhile as a way to relay a simpler method of understanding some of the work I do in Virtualization. One of the moments that really shot out at me was when I first started to work with Virtual Distributed Switches in ESXi (more on that later). It came to my attention that the majority of documentation was meant for people who had already had some time under their belts with Virtual Standard Switches (also more on that later)… and that there wasn’t too many simpler explanations.

So, having been relatively new to quote a few VMware products and learning more an more as I go, I figured that a majority of my posts would center both around the perspective of being new to a feature or system as well as blogging about my experiences as I grow within the Virtualization Community (its a pretty awesome group of people).

If a post is tagged with “New2”, its either going to be my first experience with a feature, tech or function… OR its going to be my explanation for the next guy looking for a simpler idea of what the hell this feature is, how it works and why you might want to use it.

There is going to be quote a few posts regarding this at the beginning, but I hope this helps students or younger professionals looking to get started. Those are the people I want to help as it turns out. So here goes nothing…

Post-VMworld, first time and hopefully not the last

Its the week after VMworld 2015. I’ve successfully survived my first very LARGE conference. For those reading this heading to VMworld 20XX at some point, I’ll leave something at the end for you. For the most part though, it was amazing.

First couple of days for me was the Partner Exchange. I’m lucky enough to work for a VMware Partner which, at the benefit of my first VMworld meant 2 days of additional sessions before the main event. Day 1 consisted of sessions at the VMware HQ discussing different areas around NSX, SDDC, vRA or any other number of VMware acronyms relating to Data Center Virtualization and Automation. One of the great things about Day 1 is meeting other partners and talking with them about challenges they face in their own industry around virtualization.

Day 2 of Partner Exchange took place at Moscone West and really starts off with the General Session. Part of that experience is that VMware does talk about some things early with partners, so that when those partners meet with their customer the next day, they have the chance to prepare for meetings with them regarding some of the announcements. Although that doesn’t seem like a lot of time, In my mind it can make a bit of difference in the eyes of the customer. I don’t have any direct customers that I would need to have that integration with, but it made for some nice “oh thats cool!” moments ahead of the main VMworld General Session.

Now, Partner Exchange, that was nice and quiet compared to VMworld itself. There were approximately over 7000 partners that joined VMware in San Francisco for the Saturday and Sunday events. When it came to Monday, that was a little over 23,000 total. I’ve never been to a conference that large… so for me it was a little intimidating. It crowded and despite being among so many people, if you don’t know anyone there, it can feel a little lonely if you have a little bit of an introvert in you.

First big thing on the docket for Monday or Day 1 VMworld is the General Session, this is the one where product announcements are shown. The big ticket was Cross-Cloud vMotion. The feature was presented by Yanbing Li, whose presentation skills were pretty fantastic. If you don’t believe me, just take a look at the #vmworld twitter feed as she was up on stage. There were of course other announcements in the way of VSAN 6.1 updates and cross application support within different products. Altogether, those features didn’t present anything that made me jump out of my seat. As it stood, there was nothing major in the way of fundamental Data Center Virtualization that made me want to cheer.

I will say that the blueprints deployment across both private and public clouds did intrigue me to a point, but these are expected evolutionary jumps in virtualization. With “Hybrid Clouds” being the moniker for deploying across multiple platforms and infrastructures, deploying new apps easily across that and making it look like a single infrastructure plane is key. Growth in management and ease of use between two or more SDDC infrastructures is a given to me. Regardless, these are big steps for VMware and I don’t want to down play them as if they aren’t important. They are, just not to me or the infrastructure currently where I work. That may change in the future, but for now… i’m good ‘ol on-premises.

Sessions spread out over the next few days allowed for more technical deep-dive views into areas that I both currently need to know more, as well as VMware offerings that could be beneficial for the company I work for. Thinks like NSX that we don’t currently use, but could be something to consider later on. Now, when I talked with someone and they found out this is my first VMworld, the question was always the same… “Do you have a full schedule?”, and yes… I did. I did not make it to all of my scheduled sessions, but they are available online after the fact. Thankfully. Some of them I was really looking forward to.

Solutions Exchange, AKA the largest swag treasure trove I’ve ever seen in one place, was HUGE. Vendors for all different areas surrounding Data Centers, Virtualization, VDI, Automation, Storage, Network and SOOO many more topics. All present, either with a small booth, or a massive booth stretching almost to the height of showroom ceiling. One of the best places to check out was the “Genius Bar” type setup at the VMware booth. Nice to be able to talk out an issue with someone from support so quickly. Have a decision question, there’s a person for every area or product covered under VMware’s portfolio. There were also a lot of smaller companies on the showroom floor that caught my interest. Look forward to following up with them later on their products.

Hangout space, that was pretty neat. In the event that you realize that the general session room is too… packed, the Hangout Space gives you a more comfortable area to still watch the Keynote speech, but find a table or chair that isn’t in a crowded space. During the Keynote, the extra things in the space are stopped. Things like the pool tables, ping pong, foosball and even the EVO Rail challenge. Obviously, they want to respect the people on stage and the those watching the keynote in the room. But ultimately.. during some downtime, I got to catch a breathe and relax before running across to another building for a session. It also just happens to be where you can meet and chat with some of the bloggers that you follow. Yes you can talk to them, they are pretty easy going and don’t mind chatting up on different topics.

Events, well that could be put in a post all of its own, but… there are many. You will never make it to all f them, much like you won’t make it to all of your chosen sessions. The first two days of VMworld can have anywhere from 8-10 different private and public (Don’t need an invite) events. I started with vBeers and I’m glad I did. I met some really incredible people during that event that eventually introduced me to others throughout the week. People like Tony Foster and his Rebecca Foster (his wife), Alexander Nimmannit, Julia Weatherby and so many others! As the days went on, I’d bump into them again with others, and everyone is always happy to introduce you to someone else that might do something really interesting within this virtualization industry. Ending with the main party at AT&T Park, the events are fantastic and if you hold yourself up in your room for any reason… well you’re doing VMworld wrong.

Networking… well, one of the challenges as a newcomer to VMworld is trying to meet new people. Though if you just stop moving for any second, say hello to a person next to you, its actually not that hard. So my challenge was that any time I felt like I wasn’t being social (there were quite a few times), I’d find someone else that also seemed to be on their own. Its amazing the people you meet. One of those people ended up being David Klee over breakfast at Mel’s. If you do anything with SQL by the way, reach out to him! On many occasions, that turned into someone that I really wanted to follow on twitter, just to see what they might be working on.

Certifications, typically if you want to spend a little less on the test, you could wait for VMware Education to post on twitter discounts for classes, tests and materials. At VMworld, the tests were 50% off and there were discounts for the classes as well. I took on VCAP-DCA and passed and I saw atlas 10 other people in the testing room going for other various tests. The room looks to seat about 40 or so at a time, so there is room to accommodate a lot of people. Either way, try your hand at a certification and expand both your knowledge and your resume. It’s worth a try.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         cn

Tips I was given before hand? Tips I would pass along? Here is my short list:

  • Shoes: These make all the difference, I bought some new running shoes beforehand because my typical shoes were wearing a bit thin. Thankfully they came in with at least a couple days before leaving so I could sort of break them in.
  • Sanity check your day before leaving the hotel: Don’t find yourself doing what I did and having to go pick something up or drop something off at your room. You’re already going to walk about 30 miles that week, try not to make it 31 because you forgot something.
  • Take some nightly walks at home before the convention: Get ready for the pure leg muscle pains. I’m a Florida boy, born and raised. I don’t walk that often, its too damn hot for that. This was definitely a wake up.
  • Stay hydrated: that goes without needing to be stated.
  • Battery backup packs are your friend: VMware and vendors at solutions exchange will hand some out, but I took a larger Anker battery with me and only charged it once, right before I left on my flight to SF. I’ve only just now charged it for a second time. That will save your butt in some of those hard-to-get-service underground session rooms.

I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have attended VMworld. It was an amazing experience and I met a lot of incredible people. I truly hope it isn’t my last. If you are headed to VMworld for the first time, or by yourself, just make the most of it and enjoy yourself. You’ll never make it to all of your scheduled sessions and you’ll just have to learn to be okay with it.