26-03-15

Upgrading The Home Lab Part III : Upgrading VMware Tools and Virtual Hardware

We’ve arrived at the final part of our odyssey (a small odyssey in my case, but an odyssey none the less!) in our upgrade to vSphere 6.0. We’ve upgraded vCenter (relatively trouble free), ESXi (not so much, but that was down to my Jurassic era hardware) and now we have the small matter of the VMs left, to upgrade VMware Tools and virtual hardware to the latest versions.

This might seem like the easiest task of the lot, but actually in my experience this is the hardest part. Not so much from a technical level, but from the perspective of there being large numbers of VMs to touch, and of course in times of Change Management, getting agreement to down VMs to upgrade their virtual hardware can sometimes feel like rutting stags in a field. Although from vSphere 5.1 onwards, a Windows reboot for an upgrade of VMware Tools was eliminated, we still need to power off VMs in order to upgrade their virtual hardware.

29fc1f37d00bf7a74decf694dce0559225f242e6 “Barry, let me upgrade the virtual hardware on your Exchange Server!..” “…No! Bugger off, Maurice! I can’t have 5 minutes downtime!..”

Thankfully, VUM can come to our rescue again. When it’s installed, it creates some default patch baselines. Two of which include baselines for upgrading virtual hardware and VMware Tools. You can see these by clicking on the VMware Update Manager button in the Home view in the vSphere Client. You need to click on the “Baselines and Groups” tab and then on the “VMs/VAs” button. You should see the following in your VUM screen:-

vum-vm-baselines

There is also an upgrade path for virtual appliances you can see at the bottom, we’re not going to cover that here as usually appliances are in the minority. VMs are what we’re looking at here. In order get VUM to bring our VMs up to date, we need to create a couple of Baseline Groups, or we can just use a single group if we want to consolidate both upgrades into a single operation, which is what I’ll be doing. We can do this from the same screen as above, in the right hand pane. Click on the “Create” button to start the Baseline Group as shown below:-

create-baseline-group

This starts the Baseline Group creation wizard, which only really has a couple of steps to set up, nothing too tricky. Give the Baseline Group a name, as below. And no, don’t use one of the Bee Gees like I did with the stag picture:-

baseline-1

Click Next and as we’re only upgrading VMware Tools and virtual hardware, we’re going to leave virtual appliances alone. We are going to create VM upgrades, so tick the radio buttons next to the following groups:-

  • VM Hardware Upgrade to match host (predefined)
  • VMware Tools Upgrade to match host (predefined)

This is shown below:-

baseline-types

Click Next..review the settings and click Finish and you’ll see the following screen:-

baseline-group-complete

So now we have our baseline groups created, we now need some VMs to attach them to. As I’ve said countless times before, this is a test environment, so I don’t suffer from the same constraints as a production system. That’s another way of saying “if something explodes, I don’t care”, but that being said, I do want to stage these updates to make sure everything works as I expect before I push the baseline group to a wider audience.

I am not going to update any virtual appliances as I mentioned previously, and I have no VMs right now that are Linux based. Rather than pushing out the baseline to all Windows VMs, I’m going to stage them by folder. First up is my seldom used Windows Cluster folder. This has two Windows Server 2012 R2 nodes and an iSCSI target also running Windows 2012 R2. As I hardly use this cluster, it spends most of it’s life powered off, meaning it’s a good place to test my rolling VM updates.

So to start with, if you haven’t already, create a folder and move the VMs you want to update into this folder (hint: you’ll need to be in the “VMs and Templates” view in vSphere Client to do this). Once you’ve done this, you can add the baseline group to the folder by clicking the Update Manager tab and clicking the Attach.. button. You’ll then see the dialog below:-

attach-baseline-to-folder

As you can see, I already ticked the box to add the Baseline Group to the folder. The sharper eyed readers amongst others will notice I could have done this without creating a baseline group first, but I think my way is neater ;-)

Click Attach and then you will need to perform a Scan.. just as we did with the hosts. In fact, it’s exactly the same process. Remember at this stage, we don’t care about virtual appliance updates, so make sure you untick that box and tick the other boxes for VMware Tools and virtual hardware, as below:-

confirm-tools-scan

The scan results are in, and lo and behold I’m not compliant:-

vm-scan

In which case, I need to hit the Remediate.. button to apply both sets of upgrades, just like we did with the hosts. This starts an upgrade wizard, as shown below:-

remediate-vm-1

On clicking Next.. the next step is to schedule when we want the upgrades to occur. Like I said, these boxes are my guinea pigs as they are hardly ever powered on, so I can go ahead and do it immediately. In the production world, you’d probably have to do this out of hours or whenever your maintenance windows are:-

remediate-vm-2

Give the task a name and description as shown above, and decide when you want the process to run. The scheduled intervals are applied via powered on machines, powered off machines and suspended virtual machines. By default, Immediately is set for all cases. Take care here!

One really useful feature of using VUM to upgrade VMs is the ability to create snapshots ahead of the actual upgrade processes. This is very handy on the off chance that something goes badly pear shaped. There’s no reason it should, but it’s always nice to have a safety net, isn’t it? And you are creating full offline backups, aren’t you?

remediate-vm-3

So as you can see above, I’m keeping the snapshot for 24 hours (default is 18, for some reason). You can keep them forever if you like, but if there are a lot of VMs to be upgraded, this could swallow a lot of expensive storage in a busy environment very quickly. I just want to make sure the VM boots and reports back in as up to date once the process is complete. 24 hours is plenty of time for me to validate the update hasn’t eaten my VM. As these particular VMs are already powered off, no need for me to select Take a snapshot of the memory for the virtual machine. This requires a running instance of VMware Tools and can add a lot of time to the process, so use sparingly.

Time for one last sanity check and then hit Finish if you’re happy:-

remediate-vm-4

You can then monitor the upgrade task in the tasks pane at the bottom of the screen, as below (click to expand):-

remediate-vm-5

Once the upgrade task completes (and this could take a while, so go and make a coffee or something), you should see a fully compliant bunch of VMs. If you don’t, you can use the Tasks/Events window (Events mainly) to help troubleshoot what went wrong. The law of averages says that a couple of VMs out of dozens will need some minor hand holding. To get through them all without issues is pretty much unheard of, so don’t worry. As you can see below from the Events window, the upgrade process is ongoing:-

vum-progress

And then after a little while of VUM whirring away in the background, skidoosh! We have 100% compliance!

remediate-vms-100-percent

Don’t believe me? Here’s what one of the VMs says..

vm-status

We’re on version 11 virtual hardware (ESXi 6.0 compatible) and VMware Tools are current. All done by VUM in the background. Multiply that by a few dozen VMs and you’ve got a nice time saver there! I also wanted to show that the pre-upgrade snapshot is available for us, on the off chance something went septic:-

vm-snapshot

As you can see, VUM even puts in a useful description so we know what the snapshot is, when it was created and when it will be deleted (if applicable).

Conclusion

Upgrading VMs can often be the trickiest part of the upgrade process as there can be hundreds or thousands of objects to be updated. However, VUM can make this process pretty painless by automating the upgrades and scheduling them for a time that suits you. Don’t be like Barry and Maurice at the top of the article – get a maintenance window with the VM owner and get VUM to do all of the heavy lifting for you.

 

25-03-15

Upgrading the home lab Part II : ESXi hosts

In Part I of the “Upgrading the home lab” series, we migrated/upgraded the vCenter appliance from version 5.5 to 6.0. That all seemed to go pretty well, so the next major step on the road to vSphere 6.0 is to upgrade the ESXi hosts in the environment to ESXi 6.0. Just before we get to that, we’ve actually missed a step out. Once vCenter has been upgraded to version 6.0, you should take a few minutes to upgrade VMware Update Manager (VUM) to version 6.0 too. In my case I hadn’t got around to building a 5.5 VUM server, so I just built one out from scratch with the vSphere 6.0 installer DVD. I just did a simple install and used the SQL Server 2012 Express version for the database, as I’m just managing a single host. For 5 or more hosts, you should go and get the “full fat” SQL Server.

What’s new with VUM?

Not really a lot as far as I can see. It still requires a Windows Server (minimum 2008, but 2012 R2 should be your aim these days), still requires a SQL database (see above) and still requires the vSphere Client (not the Web Client) to perform any kind of meaningful management. In that respect, it doesn’t look much different than it did in 5.5 days. You can read what’s new in the VUM 6.0 documentation, but it seems to be more database support than anything to get excited about (like baking it into the appliance, for example).

Upgrading the ESXi host(s)

To upgrade your hosts, there are a couple of different ways you can do it. You can boot from the DVD (or remotely attach an ISO image if you have an iLO/DRAC card etc.) and perform an in-place upgrade, you can use VUM to upgrade your hosts, or you can boot from DVD/ISO and perform a fresh installation. It depends what you want to achieve in the process, obviously you want a quick and supported way of getting your hosts up to date, and VUM is VMware’s recommended method.

However, in most enterprise environments, ESXi hosts are commodity items – by this I mean all VM data (and even ISOs) are stored on shared datastores on SAN/NAS etc. In this case, you can achieve a “clean slate” installation by using the installation DVD to perform a fresh installation with the original addressing information. Consider the use of host profiles to “backup” the host configuration before you start (requires Enterprise Plus licencing).

You can also use scripted upgrades, using Auto Deploy or the esxcli command, see here for further information on supported methods. I’m lazy, so I’m using VUM.

Using VUM to upgrade your hosts

As noted above, VUM is the recommended method of upgrading hosts to the latest version of ESXi. In terms of supported prior versions of ESXi, if you’re version 5.x or above, you’re pretty much in clover. Anything older than that is basically a fresh new installation. That’s not all bad, depending of course on how many hosts you have to get through. Remember to check the VMware HCL to ensure your host hardware is supported with ESXi 6.0 and if you can, obtain the custom vendor ISO for ESXi for the best level of driver support and functionality. At the time of writing however, I was only able to find the HP version of the custom ISO (as you can see below), so I will have to use the GA ISO to upgrade my PowerEdge. Hurry up, Dell!

esxi-downloads

Once you have obtained the ESXi 6.0 ISO, ensure your VUM plugin in the vSphere Client is installed and enabled (and one step I haven’t specifically called out is to ensure you upgrade your vSphere Client to version 6.0 before you start this part. Reports of it’s demise have been somewhat premature!).  You can check this by going to the Plugins menu and selecting Manage Plugins.., you should see something similar to the following:-

plugin-manager

If you have a prior version of the VUM plugin installed or you don’t have the plugin installed, you will have to select the “Download and install” option. This runs a brief installer and does not require a reboot nor a restart of the vSphere Client. If the installation has been successful, you’ll see the plugin enabled in the Plugin Manager and you’ll also have a button on the home screen and an extra tab on the host view.

The next step is to upload our ESXi ISO into the VUM repository and create a patch baseline. To do this, you need to go to the Home view in the vSphere Client and then click on the VUM button in the Solutions and Applications section, as shown below:-

vum-home

This button takes you into the VUM management view and from here we need the ESXi Images tab, as shown below:-

esxi-images

And then from there, click on “Import ESXi Image” as shown above. Browse to and select the ESXi 6.0 ISO you downloaded, click next to start the import process and you should see the following progress dialog. This only usually takes a couple of minutes or so.

iso-upload

If the import has been successful, you’ll see the following dialog:-

import-successful

We now need to create an upgrade patch baseline from this ISO so we can add it to our hosts to be upgraded. Leave the “create a baseline” option ticked and give it a meaningful name, as shown below:-

baseline-name

And click “Finish”. All being well, you should now have both the ISO imported and the baseline created, as shown below:-

baseline-iso

So now we have imported our ISO and we have created a baseline. Now we need to associate this baseline with an object to be upgraded. We basically have three choices here – we can apply the baseline at datacenter level, cluster level or we can apply the baseline at individual host level. I’m going to go for the first option, just so I can call out some differences between the options. To apply the baseline to the datacenter object, select the datacenter object in the vSphere Client, select the Update Manager tab and click the Attach.. button on the far right, as shown below:-

attach-baseline

As you can see, my datacenter has no baselines already attached. In the “Attach baseline or Group” dialog, you should see the upgrade baseline we created earlier. Tick the box and tick “Attach” as shown below:-

attach-baseline-group

Once you have attached the patch baseline to the datacenter object, the view in Update Manager should change. You will see the hosts added and a 0% compliance report. This is because we haven’t yet run a scan against the host to check what version of ESXi already exists and if the host is compatible with the ESXi 6.0 upgrade. Next, select your hosts and click the “Scan..” button in the top right.

vum-scan

In our case we just want to scan against upgrade baselines, so be sure to tick this box in the “Confirm Scan” dialog:-

confirm-scan

Click the “Scan” button and VUM will go off and query each host in turn for their compliance against the ESXi 6.0 upgrade baseline we created. This should only take a couple of minutes per host. Once the scan is complete, you should see new information in the VUM tab. In my case, my host as come back as “Incompatible”, which doesn’t surprise me in the least as this host hardware is prehistoric by any measure. However, I can still force the upgrade to run if I know the installer will complete successfully. This isn’t strictly supported by VMware, but all this basically means is that only current generations of servers are tested by VMware and their partners for HCL purposes. To recertify every piece of server hardware for each new release of ESXi does not make sense. This does not however mean that your server can’t run ESXi 6.0, I suggest you test it on some development kit first before moving forward. In my lab, I don’t care!

vum-incompatible

As you can see in the above graphic, my host is older than Bruce Forsyth and as such comes back as non compliant in VUM. No surprises there. In order to force this upgrade through, I can hit the “Remediate” button to force the upgrade to start. I have seen in the field some HCL certified kit come back as incomplete, so sometimes you do need to know how to do this to get the upgrade done. This in turn starts a 6 step wizard to push the upgrade down to the host via VUM. First up, we need to select which hosts and which baseline to use, as below:-

remediate-1

Then we thoroughly read and agree to the software EULA:-

remediate-2

The next step is “signing the death warrant”. If this goes toes up, that’s down to you! Check the box to ignore warnings and in my case, hope my offline backups are good!

remediate-3

Then we give the task a name and description (you can call it anything you like, really) and schedule when this upgrade should be done. I’m going to do it immediately, because I just can’t wait for ESXi 6.0 goodness!

remediate-4

In the final configuration step, I need to tell VUM what to do if there are running VMs on the host to be upgraded. Normally you wouldn’t change anything here as really you should already have your host in maintenance mode before you target it with the upgrade. As my vCenter appliance is on the host to be upgraded, I need to be slightly more creative and get vCenter to power VMs off.

remediate-5

Then one last sanity check before we hit the chicken switch…

remediate-6

And off we went. However, big problems lay ahead. VUM spat out my upgrade saying the CPU in my host was not compatible. OK, fair enough. I did buy it from Fred Flintstone! What I did instead was to burn the ESXi 6.0 ISO to CD and boot it off the physical DVD drive in the host. This way I can basically tell the installer I don’t care about compatibility and support issues, I’m going to bear the risk of it all turning to toast.

First off, I booted from the CD and as the files were copying (black screen with yellow thin progress bar at the top), I got the error “Error loading /s.v00 Fatal error: 6 (Buffer too small)” and the whole thing just stopped. I didn’t get it – the MD5 matched the VMware download site! I downloaded the ISO again, but this time I performed a “direct” download rather than using the Download Manager. The MD5 matched again, I burned a new CD and this time it all worked just fine.

Even though the installer complained bitterly about the host CPU, CPU virtualisation modes and a PCI device not being supported, it all seems to work just fine. The host booted and my vCenter appliance auto started as usual. For completeness, time to go back into VUM and validate my upgrade. To do this, select the host, go to the Update Manager tab and select “Scan” again, as previously. This should take just a minute or so, and then we get what we were hoping for. Green!

vum-green

So now we have vCenter at 6.0 and ESXi at 6.0. Not without a few niggles, but that’s just a consequence of using such old hardware. The moral of the story for me is that it’s high time I gave my boxen an overhaul. Finally, as a last piece of housekeeping, I’m going to validate the status of my vSphere Client plug-ins :-

plugin-error

It seems everyone is happy except Mr Auto Deploy. I don’t use Auto Deploy in my lab, but red errors kind of piss me off anyway. I performed a quick Google and found a blog post by Kyle Gleed that tells you how to fix this. You simply start the Auto Deploy service on the appliance as it’s disabled by default. God bless the internet. However, Kyle’s instructions reference a management interface to the appliance which is no longer used in 6.0. In order to configure appliance based services, you must login to the Web Client as an administrator and enable it from there.

In the main Web Client home screen, click on the “Administration” button on the left and navigate down to Deployment/System Configuration as shown below:-

deploy-sysconfig

Then click “Services”..

services

And then right click on “Auto Deploy”.. and select “Edit Startup Type”..

rightclick-autodeploy

 

Select the Startup Type, depending on how you want the service to start on appliance boot – I’m choosing “Automatic“and click OK..

startup-type

And then manually start the service by right clicking again on “Auto Deploy” and selecting “Start”..

autodeploy-start

I then go back into Plugin Manager, enable the Auto Deploy plugin (accepting any certificate warnings) and we should be free of errors!

plugin-manager-fixed

As a side effect, we also have a nice button added to the home screen:-

autodeploy-button

Conclusion

So there we go, we now have an upgraded vCenter Server and ESXi host. I wouldn’t advise forcing the upgrade through the way I did unless you have nothing to lose – i.e. it’s a test lab or something non production. If the host hardware you are installing to is HCL listed, you should whizz through a VUM focused upgrade just fine.

If you get any odd errors in the Web Client, try deleting your browser cache and also the Flash Player cache from Control Panel. There could be something caught up in there from 5.x days.

Next stop is upgrades to the virtual machines – virtual hardware and VMware Tools. That is to come in Part III !

 

23-03-15

Upgrading the home lab Part I : vCenter Server

vSphere 6.0 has finally shipped, so I decided to take the plunge and upgrade the home lab to vSphere 6.0. In the next couple of posts, I’ll outline the steps required to perform the upgrade, plus any issues I encountered along the way. I think most people know that most articles I write are focused around VDI, so let me express this straight out of the gate. vSphere 6.0 does not support Horizon View until release 6.1. So basically, don’t upgrade any environments to vSphere 6.0 where View is in use, stuff will probably break. When is View 6.1 out? I don’t have a clue right now, but seeing as the release notes have been posted up, I can’t imagine it’s too far away.

If you’re project planning and you need to have certified upgrade paths (I know some project documentation requires this in some companies), the current (at the time of writing) interoperability matrix result is shown below:-

Compatibility Matrix

 

So my home lab is a very simple affair indeed. It comprises a single host which is a Dell PowerEdge 1435SC with 32GB RAM and two Opteron processors. Old hat I know, but it gets the job done. For those wondering how I deal with power management on such old kit, it’s simple. I turn the bugger off when I’m not using it! As I’m often on the road, I don’t see a lot of value having the beast humming away in the attic when I’m not around to use it.

Anyway, that aside, it’s currently on ESXi 5.5 U2 and runs the vCenter Server Appliance. I chose the appliance because it’s quick and simple, and I don’t have to faff around with Windows licenses. I know Linux quite well, so I don’t have any fear knocking around on the command line. In vSphere 6.0, the back end architecture of vCenter changes somewhat. If you recall, in vCenter 4.x and 5.0, everything was pretty much just baked into one installer. In vSphere 5.1 and 5.5, Single Sign On was broken out (and made good in 5.5!), as was the Inventory Service to provide a more modular environment should you wish to break things out a little for scalability and to mitigate the “all eggs in one basket” factor.

Further to that, vCenter 6.0 now has the concept of the “Platform Controller”.  Put simply, the Platform Controller are infrastructure or access services such as SSO, License Service, Lookup Service and the Certificate Authority. vCenter Server is basically everything else, so Inventory Service, PostgreSQL, Web Client, Dump Collector, et al. For my simple purposes, I’m just going to upgrade from my current vCenter 5.5 appliance to the 6.0 appliance, I don’t really need to start making the design overly complex. In fact, because it is just a lab environment, I’m not massively bothered if the upgrade process blows up, I can just rebuild from scratch. Obviously in a live environment, I’d be slightly more circumspect!

One important caveat to note is in the VMware documentation:-

You cannot switch the models after deployment, which means that after you deploy vCenter Server with an embedded Platform Services Controller, you cannot switch to vCenter Server with an external Platform Services Controller, and the reverse.

For full information of the pros and cons of either method, please refer to the product documentation. I’m not going to go into that level of detail here. What is reassuring for me with my one host and a dozen VMs is the following comment in the documentation:-

vCenter Server with an embedded Platform Services Controller is suitable for most environments.

Cool, I feel kind of validated now. I couldn’t see at first blush how the sizing of your environment effects your design decision, I suspect it’s more to do with geographical constraints, multiple vCenters and other VMware products that integrate with it, such as vRealise Automation. More on that in the future once I understand it better!

The Appliance Upgrade Process

The process of upgrading your vCenter appliance from 5.x to 6.0 is actually more of a migration than an upgrade. In essence what you’re doing is spinning up a new appliance as 6.0 with temporary IP address information, using SSH to copy over the database from the source 5.x appliance (and historical data if you so choose), changing the target appliance’s IP address to the source’s address and then dropping the source 5.x appliance.

Meeting Prerequisites

As you might expect, there are several prerequisites to be met before actually copying over any files or making any changes. First and foremost – have a backup and no, a snapshot is not a backup! By all means take a snapshot of your vCenter Server prior to starting the process, but have a block based backup too, whether that’s via Veeam or any other backup method. Don’t rely on snapshots. If you do, you’re upgrade deserves to fail!

Again the product documentation is the best place to refer to, as I’m sure over time these will change as experiences come back from the field when the product is being deployed. Once pre-requisites have been met, we’re hot to trot and ready to install our vCenter Server 6.0 appliance.

Download the appliance ISO file from MyVMware (at the time of writing this is VMware-VCSA-all-6.0.0-2562643.iso) and you may notice from the off we’re not downloading an OVA/OVF as we did previously. This is because the upgrade method is slightly different. Instead we’re going to take the ISO and mount it locally on our Windows machine (if you’re on Windows 8.1, you can right click and select Mount to mount the ISO to your DVD drive) as shown below:-

mount-vcsa

 

Alternatively, you can right click and extract with 7-Zip (for example) and create a source directory of files. However, for my purposes, I’m going to keep it simple and mount the ISO in Windows. Once mounted, we need to navigate to the DVD drive and go to the \vcsa folder. In here is the installer for the Client Integration Plugin, which we will need for this process. As a good habit, don’t forget to right click the installer and select “Run as Administrator”, as shown below:-

client-runasadmin

You’ll need to close any running browsers as plugins are installed, and then step through the simple installer, which should take just a minute or so. Once this install is complete, no reboot should be required and we can jump back into the root of the installation DVD and run the main installer vcsa-setup.html. I ran this with IE, I don’t know how well it works with other browsers. You will need the browser plugin access to start the installer, so click “Allow” (if you’re using IE):-

allow_installer

You should then be greeted with the option to install or upgrade. If you don’t see this screen, go back and check your client integration plugin installation (a reboot may help):-

install

Time for another quick sanity check at this point that the pre-requisites have truly been met. In my case I’m running a 5.5 version of the virtual appliance, as shown below:-

old-vc

 

so I’m good to go:-

sanity-check

Now to the meat and potatoes of the installer itself, and a nine part wizard now has to be negotiated in order to kick the upgrade process off. First up is the usual EULA. I read this thoroughly (twice!) and consider myself happy with it and click “I accept..” and click Next:-

part1-eula

Next I need to input details of the ESXi host to which I’d like to push out the new virtual appliance. Note the caveats listed at the bottom of this step – disable lockdown or maintenance mode and if you’re using a VDS, initial deployment of the appliance must be to an ephemeral port group. Click Next:-

part2-esxi

Accept the certificate warning by clicking Yes in order to continue:-

part2-cert

Your host credentials will then be validated as shown below:-

part2-creds

Step 3 is setting up the appliance name and SSH options. I’m calling mine the highly imaginative and original name of “vCenter” and I’m turning SSH on because it’s a lab and I’m not massively fussed about security. In the real world, leave this disabled unless you specifically need it. Click Next to proceed.

part3-vm

Step 4 is configuring the source information for the migration, so your existing vCenter Server. In this screen you need to enter IP/DNS details of the current appliance, version number, your administrator@vsphere.local SSO password (and if you’re a buffoon like me and forgot what the password was, you can reset it using this KB!), the root password for the appliance and host information along similar lines. You can optionally choose to migrate performance and other historical data. I’m going to enable this option, and I can’t think of any great reason in the real world why you wouldn’t do this (unless your database is mah-oosive). Before you proceed, check the caveats at the bottom of the page – that lockdown mode and maintenance mode is disabled and the source appliance’s DRS setting is disabled so it doesn’t move off that source host part way through. Click Next:-

part4-source

Once the credentials have been accepted, take care to check the information presented to you on what happens post upgrade. The new appliance will inherit the old appliance’s IP address. Also make sure no firewalls prevent SSH access between both appliances as this is the transfer method used during the migration/upgrade. The installer will start the SSH process will be started on the source appliance if it is not already running. Click Yes:-

part4-warning

In step 5, we have the choice of choosing what size appliance we’d like. This is pretty similar to the Windows based installation and helps determine JVM heap sizes are set appropriately, amongst other things. I feel quite inadequate choosing the “Tiny” option, but it is what it is and I have no requirement to go any bigger than that. Size clearly is everything in this case. Make your selection as appropriate and click Next:-

step5-size

Step 6 is choosing which datastore you’d like the appliance to go on. I’m going to choose the one with the most available space and I’m also going to thin provision it. This appliance won’t be doing a great deal in my lab and the datastore isn’t likely to fill up quickly, so I have no real need to thick provision here. Click Next:-

step6-datastore

Step 7 is the creation of some temporary network details for the new appliance as this is a migration really as opposed to an in place upgrade. In this step, we should pick the same port group as the source appliance and use the same subnet as well if possible, especially if the data migration is going to be large. My database is small and it’s a single host, so speed shouldn’t be an issue. Fill out the details appropriate to your environment and click Next:-

step7-network

Step 8 is the “Ready to complete” or final sanity check. Review the information presented and check for typos, wrong IP addresses, what size appliance you need (sometimes “Tiny” just ain’t enough!) and when you’re happy, click Finish:-

step8-ready

All being well, the process should start by initiating the appliance deployment to your ESXi host as below:-

Deploy

You can also monitor what is going on by connecting to the ESXi host with your vSphere Client and clicking on the “Events” tab of your target appliance, you should see something similar to below:-

transfer

And some while later, I was greeted with the following screen. The process took around an hour, but bear in mind this is a “tiny” and simple deployment. Larger enterprises should budget a lot more time for this process when migrating between appliances:-

finished

I double checked my “old” appliance has been powered off, and the new appliance is up with the original appliance’s identity:-

appliance-screen

Once the install is completed, you may like to perform some housekeeping before you put the appliance into production. By default, my appliance came up with the DNS name localhostI don’t really want that, so I quickly logged into the appliance console to change it. Something you may notice that’s new is that the vCenter appliance has now been set to behave just like an ESXi host, so once you press F2 to customise the system and entered the root password, the menu structure should be something that’s pretty familiar:-

appliance-menu

I like that VMware use a different colour scheme on the appliance to save any confusion with connecting with an ESXi host. Even though you can see it’s the appliance at the bottom of the screen, with many screens open it may help prevent costly mistakes! To go back to the original housekeeping, go into Configure Management Network and then DNS Configuration. Input the appropriate values for your appliance, as shown below:-

new-dns

I also like to disable IPv6, though there is a mixed bag of opinion on this. I say if you don’t use it, don’t enable it. However, this is a subjective thing and purely optional. To disable IPv6, go into Configure Management Network and then into IPv6 Configuration. To disable it, hit the space bar to uncheck the box as shown below and restart your appliance.

disable-ipv6

Once rebooted, you can see we’re up to vCenter 6.0!

about-vsphere6

Post upgrade issues

I have only really come across two issues so far – firstly I got an “Error #1009” which I cleared by deleting cookies etc from my web browser (and also upgrading the Flash Player in Firefox to the latest version).

As you can also see from the above screen shot, I was having issues with the Client Integration Plug-In. It was definitely installed from when we started the migration process, and all three browsers I had reported the issue (IE11, Firefox, Chrome) so I uninstalled the plug-in from Add/Remove Programs, rebooted, downloaded the plug-in again from the Web Client login page, installed it and as you can see below, all was good:-

integation-enabled

Conclusion

In conclusion, I’d say well done to VMware for streamlining the upgrade process for the vCenter appliance. Yes, it has a couple of quirks and yes you should ensure all pre-reqs are met, but by and large I was pretty impressed with the whole process. Next up, my ESXi host….!

 

03-03-15

Top vBlog 2015 Voting Is Open!

Anyone who know me knows that I am as shamelessly competitive as the next man, but if you hadn’t heard, voting is now open in the annual 2015 Top vBlog competition, over at vSphere-Land.com. There are dozens and dozens of fine blogs from which to choose, from the industry heavyweights such as Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman, to jobbing journeymen like me.

I’ve already voted in the poll and in keeping with the spirit of the competition, I’ve not voted for myself and neither have I voted for anyone who is a friend but whose blog I don’t commonly visit.

Why vote?

Blogs take time, money and energy to keep going. More often than not, they are written in the author’s own time and on web sites paid for out of their own pocket. Certainly in my case, I’ve learned a lot over the years from blogs, and if you’ve been in this game long enough, a blog posting somewhere (usually from years back) will have got you out of a pickle at some point.

By voting for your favourite blogs, it’s your way of giving these folks a pat on the back for the fine work they continue to do, not just about VMware products but also related ecosystem products such as networking, storage and utilities. It costs you nothing except about 10 minutes of your valuable time and you should pick the blogs you read and enjoy the most. I read Duncan and Cormac Hogan’s blogs a lot, so I made sure I voted for them. There are no massive cash rewards for this, just the knowledge that people enjoy and respect the effort that goes in, and more than anything else, the willingness to share it.

So vote now!

The poll is open until 19th March, but don’t leave it until the last minute or you’ll just forget. As I said earlier, the whole thing is simple and takes 10 minutes, tops.

I will! What’s involved?

Basically pick your 10 favourite blogs and then rank them into order of preference. I won’t say who I voted as number 1, but I suspect it will be the same as many others!

Then choose your favourite storage blog, your favourite scripting blog, favourite VDI blog (cough Virtual Fabric, cough, splutter!), favourite new blogger and favourite independent blogger. There are also categories for favourite news site and favourite podcast.

Enter your e-mail address (not shared with anyone) , complete the captcha and you’re done! Do it now and pat your favourite blogger virtually on the back!

Click here to vote.

16-02-15

Elite Implementer Status : A Few Thoughts

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(Image taken from vmware.com)

There is a lively thread going on over at LinkedIn regarding the new VCx 6.x tracks that I felt compelled to jot down a few thoughts on. Firstly, once the new track becomes live, the VCAP level certs will be renamed to VCIX (VMware Certified Implementation Expert) and will require two exams as before. One for administration and one for design. So far, so good. Two exams as before, presumably of similar lengths as the VCAPs now with the same core set of skills being measured. However, instead of having two certifications to your name (VCAP-DCx and VCAP-DTx), you’ll have one. Fine, I suppose it makes sense and I don’t have a problem with that.

Now comes the interesting bit – “Elite Implementer status will be granted for candidates who complete multiple VCIX certifications”. I’m glad VMware have recognised the amount of effort and skill required to complete multiple Advanced tracks, however these exams aren’t yet live (I’m guessing it will be  around VMworld time before we see them in the wild) and there are a lot of people out there whose VCAP certifications are current and have completed multiple tracks.

In my opinion, there is no reason why VMware cannot enact this change right now. It costs them nothing and provides recognition to those who have spent a minimum of around 12/14 hours sitting these tough VCAP exams and getting through them. Think about it. Yes, we’d all like to be VCDXs, but the crushing reality is often that this certification requires a level of commitment way over and above anything I’ve seen from any other certification. I simply don’t have the time and energy to commit to around 100-150 hours on putting together a design and submitting it to VMware and then defending it in front of a panel, much as I’d love to.

The VCAP exams are tough, make no mistake. Not only do you need to have “operational” experience with all the respective products, but you also need to have a good understanding of the overlapping ecosystem – such things as third party solutions, Active Directory, Group Policy, storage, networking and more. Anyone with a VCAP cert has been through the mill to get it and deserves a pat on the back. To have both design and administration certs for multiple different VMware technologies elevates you to another level still.

So in short, come on VMware, recognise your multi-track vRockstars now and give them Elite Implementer status. It’s a small gesture that will go a long way and keep existing holders motivated for when the 6.x track comes on line. For more information on the 2105 track announcements, please visit MyLearn.

Comments and opinions are welcome, maybe with enough weight we can make it happen!

 

29-01-15

VCP-DT6 – What’s New?

I noticed the other day when looking for something entirely unconnected that the latest iteration of the VCP-DT has sneaked out, somewhat under the radar. The exam is intended to test your skills around the full Horizon View stack, including Workspace, vCenter Ops for View and Mirage. AppStacks doesn’t make it in there, but that’s not a great surprise. The ink is barely wet on the acquisition paperwork, so I suppose that will form part of the VCP7 track, or whatever it gets called.

So then, what’s new? The most obvious items that leap out from the exam blueprint are Mirage and Horizon Workspace. If you’ve been hiding under a rock or EUC stuff just isn’t your thing, Mirage is a product acquired from Wanova a couple of years back which performs layered image management of physical and virtual desktops. Horizon Workspace is a web based portal that runs from a Linux appliance which can present virtual desktops, applications and such via a unified web portal.

The exam itself is 120 questions, which does sound like rather a lot but you have 120 minutes in which to answer them all, so 1 question per minute. Even I can work that one out! If English isn’t your mother tongue, then you get an extra 30 minutes.

So other than Mirage and Workspace, what else does the exam cover? As you’d expect, as View requires a vSphere stack, there are some questions relating to the install and configuration of vCenter and ESXi hosts. That’s been in there since the start, so no real surprises there. You’ll also need to know the basic building blocks of a View infrastructure, so Connection Servers and the like. I notice the blueprint makes mention of RDSH (Terminal Services in old money), which of course is new in View 6.x., so as well as firewall rules you’ll need to know how to manage RDSH. There are also objectives around creating RDSH farms and desktop and application pools for RDSH apps.

View Cloud Pod architecture is featured as objective 2.6 – this again is a new feature of View 6.x and is lovingly referred to by me alone it seems as Linked Mode for View. This is where you can have two separate View instances and tie them logically together as one for fault tolerance and high availability.

Section 5 is pretty heavy on VMware Mirage, so my inference here is that you’re going to have to know this product reasonably well if you want to pass the exam. Installation and configuration seems to be the order of the day, so know how to install and configure the major components such as Management Server and Console, Web Manager, Mirage Server and Mirage Gateway Server. If you’ve not come across Mirage before and you want a primer to get you going for the exam, I recommend giving the free VMware Hands On LabHOL-MBL-1455 – Managing Desktops with VMware Mirage“a go.

Section 6 hammers Workspace Portal. As users become more and more mobile and have expectations of a consumer type “App Store” environment, I forsee Workspace Portal becoming ever more popular. It can also serve as a single point of entry for virtual desktops, RDSH applications and ThinApps. Again, if you don’t have time to spin up a test environment and you want to get to grips with the product a bit better, try the hands on lab “HOL-MBL-1453 – VMware Workspace Portal – Explore and Deploy“.

Virtual SAN gets a mention in objective 9.2. I suppose this is more of a product awareness thing, as in it’s first iteration it has a reasonably narrow use case in my opinion, certainly in the EUC space. Again the Hands On Labs come to the rescue to give you the insight on the product basics, try “HOL-SDC-1408 – VMware Virtual SAN 101“, which I would expect to give you enough knowledge to get past any questions you might have about Virtual SAN.

Finally, objective 12.3 covers off vCenter Operations Manager for View. Yes, I know it isn’t called vCOps anymore, but there was obviously a timing issue with the exam and the rebranding of the product! V4V is basically a View specific driver that snaps into the regular vCOps product, so you’ll need to know how to do that too. Guess what? There’s a lab for that! Have a look at “HOL-MBL-1452 – Horizon View – Use Cases” to get a first hand view of what V4V is all about.

As for me, I doubt I’ll sit this exam unless I have to (maintain Partner status etc.) as I’ll wait for the VCAP updated exams. I actually prefer the VCAP exams as they focus a lot more on “doing” rather than memorising numbers of scale and things like “What version of SQL do I use for vCenter?”. I’m also busy at the moment with other vendors’ certs, so hopefully the VCAP updates are a few months off yet!

If I get some time, I’ll try and put together a short study guide for the VCP6-DT exam, so I’ll tweet about that if and when it happens.

23-12-14

AirWatch Local Event Review

IMG_20141210_094337648_HDR

A bit dated I know, but on 10th December my wanderlust took me to Milton Keynes, the home of concrete cows and the National Bowl. As an aside, I have mixed feelings about the place – saw the Foo Fighters there in 2011 and had one of the best days of my life but then I paid £7 for fish and chips at the same event, which frankly brought me out in a cold sweat. They weren’t even that good!

Anyway, I digress. The purpose of me attending this event was to get a much better idea of what the AirWatch suite of products is all about. Obviously I’m primarily a Horizon View and EUC guy and now that VMware have acquired AirWatch, there is an obvious overlap between the two technologies. In point of fact, some of the AirWatch solution is now bundled in the Horizon Suite. The event itself was for both partners and end users, and looking at the name tags there was quite a decent spread of industries represented, from partners to local government, education, legal and emergency services.

The day was hosted by Dave Horton of AirWatch and basically took the form of a single presenter with multiple different focuses throughout the day, which was slightly unusual but seemed to work pretty well and there was a good flow to proceedings. I’d assumed beforehand that AirWatch was simply another MDM solution, but as it turned out I couldn’t have been further from the facts. Each section I broke down below.

Company Update

As at 2014, the company has 14,000 customers worldwide which represents growth of 8,000 from two years ago when the figure was 6,000 customers. The interesting thing about AirWatch as a suite of products is that not only is it the market leader, but it is in the top right corner of the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I take some industry analyst information with a grain of salt, but I know these sorts of facts hold a lot of influence with C-level decision makers, so this is an important differential for AirWatch to have.

What struck me about the customer breakdown was the breadth of industries where the AirWatch solution was present. As a snapshot, see below:-

  • 4 out of 5 Fortune 500 companies
  • 6 out of 10 top airlines
  • 3 out of 5 top ranked universities
  • 2 out of 3 worldwide hotel groups

So as you can see from above, the solution doesn’t just fit well in one vertical but across many, and I thought this pretty impressive. 17 languages are supported, from support through to the software interfaces themselves and technical support. Product development is primarily centred on Atlanta but there is also a development centre in Bangalore. There is a strong presence in the UK out of the Milton Keynes office which hosts technical support, sales, Professional Services and marketing.

AirWatch was acquired by VMware for $1.5bn, which I think the presenter said was the same worth as YouTube when that was bought. Take that, fact fans!

AirWatch 7.3 Release Highlights

IMG_20141210_103557536

Dave then went over what is new in version 7.3 of the product, which I think he said has been available for around three months now. It’s easier to break this down into bullet points, see below:-

  • MDM – Enrolment to MDM can be restricted and there is a new feature for custom terms of use/EULA
  • QNX Agent support – this is at a fairly early stage but QNX is Linux based and forms the basis for BlackBerry 10 OS. It is also used in an increasing number of things such as cars and also appliances (Internet of Things, etc)
  • It is now possible to create a temporary administrator account for troubleshooting
  • Smart Groups can be created to exclude users from profile assignments (less restrictive for VIPs, for example)
  • Profiles now have version control
  • Compliance rules can be applied per platform (iOS, Android, WinPho etc.)
  • There is a self service portal where a user can self register a device into AirWatch, thus reducing impact on the Service Desk
  • Android is not easy to develop to, as there are up to 16,000 variants of the code out there on devices
  • Samsung SAFE and KNOX are now supported
  • Amazon Fire devices, HTC devices now fully supported with silent application install and uninstall prevention
  • OSX AirWatch AppCatalog now supported and the Apple Device Enrolment Program is also supported, iOS can be pre-locked when shipped
  • Windows 8.1 now has MDM APIs and a VMware Fusion profile
  • Windows 8.1 has remote lock, enablement of Metro applications without a Live ID, agent compliance with Windows Updates, BitLocker enforcement and Firewall status
  • Rugged Android and Windows Mobile support
  • Mobile Application Management has application wrapping, Volume Purchasing Program renewable sTokens. Integration with Horizon Workspace
  • AirWatch Inbox application now optimised for iPad with 1 click conference call
  • AirWatch Tunnel provides SSL-VPN on iOS
  • AirWatch agent can tell if a device has been rooted or jailbroken, if the device has been compromised a remote wipe can be performed
  • Secure Content Locker can whitelist/blacklist file types and creation of secure content on mobile application is now supported. Possible to set policy to require uploads to be backed up to corporate storage
  • Geofencing uses GPS to tie profiles to physical locations, though this is not as feature complete as NPS
  • App wrapping now supports single sign on
  • Applications flagged as corporate and managed by AirWatch will be deleted by Enterprise Wipe even if it is a public applications from iTunes etc.
  • URLs can be transparently redirected to use SSL-VPN

Laptop Management

IMG_20141210_104017658

  • Configuration management of laptops can provide the following features:-
    • Connections to wi-fi, VPN, Ethernet etc.
    • Certificates
    • OWA and Outlook accounts
    • Proxy settings
    • Software distribution over the air
    • Automated workflows for installation

IMG_20141210_105613864

  • Asset tracking can provide the following features:-
    • Detailed laptop and end user inventory
    • Export reports and logs from the AW console
  • Enterprise wipe removes applications and it’s data because the app has a sandbox – other data is left intact (including personal data)
  • AirWatch Inbox and browser currently available on Windows only
  • In the profile wizard, hover over the platform with the pointer to see what policies can be enforced (wi-fi, FDE, etc)
  • Device or user profiles can be used
  • BitLocker keys can be stored in AirWatch
  • Full Disk Encryption for personal and/or corporate applications on OSX
  • Android Secure Launcher features:-
    • Highly restricted
    • Drag and drop icons onto simulated screens in management console to simulate the end user experience
    • Add wallpaper, folders, app icons etc to the start screen
    • Device restart always restarts on secure launcher

Windows Phone 8.1

  • Blacklist applications by vendor, i.e. Rovio
  • Disable Store option
  • Lock wi-fi settings
  • Silent install and update

Android

IMG_20141210_103643426

  • Android Workspace is classed as managed which is not as featured as MDM managed but is a better option for BYOD use cases as opposed to corporate devices
  • Analytics, so which applications are used and when and for how long, web browser which sites are visited and for how long etc
  • Workspace provides “dual persona” mode for personal devices, so corporate information can be wiped leaving personal data intact

Content

IMG_20141210_103353288

  • Dynamic watermarks can be added – can see who may have leaked corporate documents. Fully customisable.
  • Set effective expiration date for documents
  • Content can be stored anywhere:-
    • AirWatch Cloud
    • Office 365
    • OneDrive
    • Google Docs
    • Amazon S3
    • SharePoint on premises
    • Hybrid solutions
    • Network share
  • Documents stored in Secure Content Locker can be edited, annotated and add comment tags, also has activity feed
  • New in 7.3 is creation of documents in SCL
  • Report on content statistics – expiring content/missing devices etc
  • SCL can be used with MDM, Workplace or standalone mode
  • SCL is HTML5 so drag and drop files and multiple file selection is available
  • 36 repositories available – anything that supports the CMIS standard is supported
  • Use the Mobile Access Gateway (MAG) when services are not public facing
  • SCL sync client for Windows and Mac OSX like DropBox with automatic synchronisation
  • Share documents on SCL with external users, password protection provided
  • AirWatch MarketPlace has partner solutions that integrate with AirWatch
  • Real time chat collaboration with audit compliance and encryption like BBM. Integration with Lync is on the roadmap

The main takeaway from this event was that AirWatch is far more than just mobile device management. I went there with a pre-conceived idea that it was basically for management of iOS and Android devices, but it’s a whole lot more. I know that we are getting good traction at ANS around Secure Content Locker, as many customers want “Enterprise Grade DropBox”. It was interesting to see how consumer electronics have bled features and expectation into the usually highly management and slow to react corporate environment.

The other thing I was very impressed with was the management interface for AirWatch. It was very slick and very well designed, and the workflows seemed very intuitive. Obviously a demo only shows you so much, but I hope to get much more hands on in 2015 with the product suite, it’s easy to see why it is the market leader and well regarded by industry analysts. It can cover a wide spread of use cases and platforms and has excellent integrations into other platforms which may already be in customer use. I also liked the way that the issue of preserving corporate data and ring fencing personal data on non corporate devices has been addressed in this release.

 

IMG_20141210_113212588

 

Apologies for the poo pictures – the perfect storm of a camera phone and the projector not being too bright!