Today I actually managed to get to my first local VMUG meeting (London VMUG). I’d heard some great things about these events and today lived up to my expectations.
There were several vendor led presentations in the morning, from the likes of Arista, Embotics and Vision Solutions, each presenting their product and giving us demo’s as to how they work and fit into Cloud/Virtualisation environments.
First up was Arista, a networking solutions company, with a showcase of their switches and networking infrastructure equipment. With some very impressive technology to look deeper into the virtualised side of the network layer using their application: VM Tracer. This is some impressive kit. It’ll even automatically create VLANs on switch ports when VMware DRS starts moving VM’s to ensure networking isn’t compromised at the remote end. They’ve even got an open source, linux kernel running the switch as a “server” rather than a traditional switch. Definately one to look into when next deploying a large scale VM infrastucture…
Second to the stand was Embotics, a provider of a private cloud management application called V-Commander. This too was a very impressive. With a self service portal, change tracking and lifecycle management included I must say I was very impressed. On top of all of this, the interface was web based, extremely slick, and really did stand out as a very polished and refined product. This even has an option for “expiry” of VM’s, forcing the user to request continued access to the VM, and has cost/chargeback included. Highly impressive, and I made sure to have a chat with them and get a USB stick with a demo install pre-loaded so I can take a deeper look for myself.
After a quick break it was over to Vision Solutions for their Double-Take Availability product. I had some pre-conceptions about this product as I’ve used Double-Take applications in the past, and I wasn’t that impressed with them, but this is a replication product that copies machines with the aid of a “helper” VM to a secondary destination and does seem to be a lot better from the version I used (which to be honest was about 4-5 years ago). It can also perform all sorts of migrations (P2V, V2V & V2P) to aid in virtualization migration projects. Although the interface wasn’t all that great, it was a vast improvement from the consoles I remember seeing, and this product may well be of use for migrations and for geographically diverse replication requirements. It can perform continuous replication, and can also have it’s bandwidth restricted in order to deal with slow WAN links, at the sacrifice of continual replication. Still, looks like a good product, though the interface needs some work, and I really don’t understand why it isn’t web based yet.
After a nice lunch break, with food provided by the VMUG team it was on to presentations from fellow vGeeks. There were two tracks to choose from, though I admit I was skipping between the two.
The first presentation I attended was an update with the new features of vSphere 5. Some VERY impressive changes are on their way, including VMFS-5 allowing larger than 2TB datastores (though VM’s are still limited to 2TB disks for now) and vSphere 5 introduces a pre-built Linux based vCenter appliance, making deployment standard. The “traditional” vCenter service is still available, and the appliance will only support Oracle for an external database source, but ships with an internal PostgreSQL database capable of managing several hosts and a few hundred VM’s. Also introduced is the new Web Client, primarily created for managing VM’s. It’s got a cut down feature set from the full vSphere client application, but should do for performing basic tasks.
Another good release is the vSphere Storage Appliance… I’m really interested in seeing this in action. It’s going to take local storage in each ESXi host, and allow you to use it as shared storage, so you don’t need an expensive SAN solution in place. It’ll also replicate this data accross two ESXi hosts so that you have redundancy and can easily perform maintenance on hosts without affecting VM’s. It sounds great, and it’ll certainly help SMB’s enter the virtualisation space, opening more opportunites for resellers.
There are a lot more changes in vSphere 5 that I won’t delve into here, but I will mention that you can have a VM with 1TB of RAM now… just bear in mind how many CPU licenses you’ll need to run it based on the new vRAM based licensing model…!!!
The second presentation I skipped in favour of taking a look at vCenter Operations Manager. This is in essence a monitoring tool for VMware environments, licensed on a per-VM basis. It’ll monitor hosts as well as VM’s and provide root-cause diagnosis to show you exactly where the problem in your environment lies. Unfortunately, due to issues with my laptop I spent much of the lab trying to get the View client installed, and didn’t manage to get a decent look at this, though from what I was shown it does look like an awesome product, with a comprehensive yet intuitive interface. I’ll have to look at this in further detail when I get 5 minutes as I think it could be really useful for my client base.
The final presentation was discussing PowerCLI and helping you to complete tasks sooner using automation. This was held by one of the authors of the PowerCLI Reference book, Jonathan Medd. Having only ever spoken to Jonathan over Twitter (which began when I won the first PowerCLI Book competition), it was great to finally meet him. He’s helped me several times with some PowerCLI script issues, so it was also good to be able to thank him in person. His presentation showed how to create powershell functions, and then how to create modules filled with them. This all made sense to me… having written plenty of PowerCLI and PowerShell scripts using the same code in many of them, using functions suddenly made sense, as I could then just call these directly in. Adding them all into a module file, meant it’s even easier to gain access to multiple functions, just by importing one module, saving more time and code per script. He also showed some basic help points for those not too familiar including the “get-help” cmdlet that will give you the comment based help from any cmdlet in PowerShell, including the “-examples” switch which simply outputs example uses of a cmdlet. Overall, a great presentation, filled with laughs, and one, now very famous quote on Twitter at least “If you can pee, then you can Powershell!”.
Following the day with a final 10 minute discussion about VMware’s new licensing model, it does seem like the community is split in two… some people are OK, and don’t have a problem when it comes to their upgrade, but others are going to need a massive increase in CPU licenses just to cover systems that they already own, let alone any future expansion. Whether VMware will change the licensing model before final release to smooth out these issues, or whether they’ll force customers wanting to upgrade to purchase additional licenses remains to be seen.
And of course… after all that was a trip to the local pub for some vBeers, wish was very much enjoyed by all!
Overall, a great experience, and I really hope to make more of these sessions in the future. They’re well worth while attending if you use VMware products, finding complimentary products and extending your knowledge, and it’s a fab networking opportunity to boot.
Finally, I want to thank the LonVMUG committee again for organising the events from today. If it wasn’t for these volunteers, and of course the vendors, these events simply wouldn’t happen, and it’s fantastic to see a community making such an effort to help each other and promote a product that we all love. I’ll be trying to get some “odd” pictures of the #LonVMUG beer mats soon