Vendor Briefing – Runecast

I have written (ranted) before about how I like management tools that are focused on helping me do my job, rather than showing me how much data they gather. I get the feeling that the team at Runecast have the same desire for management tools. I know they built the tool that they wanted in their previous life looking after a lot of production vSphere

The basic premise for Runecast is simple. Most vSphere problems are caused by issues that are already known. The issues are usually documented in the VMware knowledgebase. Usually, the KB has a resolution or mitigation recommendation. If customers knew every KB and checked their environment for every issue, then there would be less unplanned downtime. What is needed is a tool that automatically does the analysis. Enter Runecast.

The little virtual appliance connects to your vCenter and receives logs from your ESXi servers. The appliance then analyses the configuration and log data to see whether there are any known issues. Along with the VMware Knowledgebase, the appliance also knows the security hardening guides and best practices around vSphere configuration. A dashboard displays any latent issues and contains information about the remediation actions. Log scanning happens in real time and configurations on a periodic scan basis, with a configurable schedule. All analysis is completed on-premises, within the appliance. The appliance will need to be updated as VMware release new and updated KB articles. Updates can be scheduled, or manually initiated. Updates can even be downloaded and brought to a dark site for secured vSphere deployments.

I’m very impressed with Runecast. With very little effort you can be advised of latent issues in your environment and able to prevent downtime, rather than respond to failures. There is a free trial, so you can see how you stand today and prove out the value Runecast brings. It looks very easy to deploy and start using. They also have some great plans for future development.

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Mobile Home vSphere Lab?

The most interesting prize at the Australian VMUG UserCons last week was from QNAP. They gave away a portable NAS that contains a 5 port gigabit switch and also runs VMs. The TBS-453A NASbook seems like it would be right at home in a mobile vSphere lab. It has iSCSI and NFS, as well as a heap of other storage and network protocols. The device looks more like a Wi-Fi router than a NAS as it uses M.2 SSDs for storage, no space for spinning disks.

I’ve been building my portable lab to take to Houston with me for next week’s vBrownBag Build Day which is dedicated to HPE’s HC380. My portable lab is a couple of NUCs and a Cisco switch. The big limitation is that I don’t have shared storage, just the storage inside one of the NUCs, for VMs. The second NUC is a management workstation. If I had a NASbook then it would replace the Cisco switch and the management workstation. I would be very interested to see whether it could also run the vCenter server and maybe a domain controller. Then the NAS could be a tiny management cluster all by itself and the two NUCs could be my workload cluster. Unfortunately, I don’t think the 8GB RAM would be quite up to the job.

The downside is that by the time you add four M.2 SSDs to the NAS the cost climbs. With four Crucial 525GB SSDs and the 8GB NASbook it looks like the total price would be US$1,200 from Amazon.

Food for thought as I’m considering an air-mobile lab.

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Chat with @RebeccaFitzhugh at #TFD13

The second interview that I recorded at the start of February (ages ago, so slack of me) was with Rebecca. I first met Rebecca at VMworld EMEA last year, shortly after she had achieved her VCDX. Rebecca travels a lot, we met up at TFD13 in Austin and I spent some of last week with her at the Australian VMUG UserConferences in Sydney and Melbourne.

We had a chat about mentorship in your career development.

We were in the lobby of the Hilton Austin airport, just as someone was moving a serving trolleys across the lobby.

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February Writing

February is the height of summer in New Zealand. We have had weeks of daytime highs hitting 80F (27C), and 90% humidity overnight. My Raspberry Pi with a temperature and humidity sensor shows a consistent pattern. With no air conditioning in our house, it is perfect weather for an afternoon siesta. Despite this, I managed to write a few articles here on my personal blog. I have also been getting some briefings from VDI monitoring vendors for an upcoming buyer’s guide on TechTarget.

Speaking of TechTarget, I took a look at some of the things you should do to prepare your environment after you decide to deploy a hyperconverged infrastructure.

I also wrote about seeing the Toshiba mobile zero clients. This was really a chance encounter at VMworl EMEA just as the solutions exchange was being shut down. The two guys from Toshiba were surprised to find someone who got excited about mobile zero clients and walked me through the product. The Toshiba website is very sparse on these products, probably because the market is very small.

Over on the Virtualization Practice, I commented on the trend that IoT is driving IT back on-premises as well as to the cloud. I have some thoughts about the kind of physical devices I think this will be, maybe I’ll write about that this month. On a related topic I looked at the possibility of having a serverless platform on premises, rather than the assumption that serverless means public cloud.

I did a bit of digging around alternative hypervisors and VDI and found that the only serious player is Nutanix, who need to have VDI integrated with their Acropolis hypervisor.

I also opened up on fake news, but not the kind that makes the headlines. I outlined where I see fake news in IT and the importance of understanding that bias is everywhere and everyone has an agenda to push (including me).

Looking forward into March, I will be at both the Sydney and Melbourne VMUG UserCons. We will be doing vBrownBag TechTalks as side tracks to both events and I am planning to do a few interviews with people I meet at the events. If you are at either then stop by and say Hi, I will be wearing a vBrownBag polo shirt and twirling my mustache.


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Vendor Briefing – Login VSI with Login PI

What is the end user experience of your VDI platform? Losing sight of the end user experience is a fundamental mistake in VDI. Yet it is surprising how few products monitor the user experience of accessing a desktop through VDI. Today I spent an hour learning about Login PI, from Login VSI. You may be familiar with Login VSI from the product that bears this name and from vendor VDI benchmarks. Login VSI measures the responsiveness of a VDI platform with a controlled desktop count and a consistent real-world workload inside each desktop. They drive real applications inside the VDI desktop and measure the response time of those applications. For benchmarking, Login VSI drives a large number of desktops with a consistent workload. It helps to identify the maximum number of desktops that can be supported at an acceptable response time. This is great to identify the capacity of a platform or the impact of a change, before it is committed to thousands of live users.

What I saw today was Login Pi, which is a monitoring product rather than a benchmarking product. It launches a connection to a single desktop, inside a production desktop pool alongside production users. The single desktop runs through a sequence of application functions and reports the response times. These test desktop connections can be launched from multiple remote sites. Usually from each site where your users reside and to multiple desktop pools. Each session reports back the connection success, network bandwidth, and application response times. The reports go to a central monitoring console where a rolled-up view of the user experience is shown. Right now, the dashboard is fairly simple, it will tell you overall health and let you identify problem clusters, sites or datacenters. I really like the simple and clean dashboard, not overloaded with data. Login Pi will help VDI administrators identify the scope and location of VDI user performance issues. When a user or group of users complain of slow performance, Login PI will help identify whether it is a network issue or a datacenter issue. There are displays to help identify whether it is the WAN to one site or the network inside one data center. The application response time information will highlight data center issues distinctly from network issues. This is not something that end users understand when they report a slow desktop. You may realize that I really like Login Pi. I loved concept when the product was launched a little over a year ago and I like what they are doing to develop it further.

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An Interview with Josh @EuroBrew at #TFD13

I sat down for a few minutes with Josh De Jong while we were both at Tech Field Day 13. We only managed to grab a few minutes before we had to rejoin the TFD train. That is the way TFD events run, they are very packed and it is hard to snatch a few minutes away. There is also the fear that you can miss out on the funniest and most interesting conversation if you find a quiet place to record, so we were in the awesome SolarWinds training room for the recording.

I did manage to find a few minutes to record with another delegate. Hopefully, I’ll get that posted soon.

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From the Beginning, Getting Started with SolarWinds

SolarWinds has hit my radar a couple of times, both as an exhibitor at Tech Field Day events and as a management tool that I see deployed at customer sites. After a briefing  and Tech Field Day 13 I decided that it was high time that I gave the tires a kick. One of the first questions is what products do you want to test? SolarWinds have about twenty products just in their on-premises IT and network management category. They also have a service provider category and a SaaS category, which I won’t be looking at today.

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Removing Orphaned VMs from the vSphere 6.5 Web Client

As you probably know, vSphere 6.5 has removed the vSphere Client Windows application. Now all vSphere management is through the web client or the new HTML client, confusingly also called vSphere Client. My lab has been vSphere 6.5 for a few months and running the vCenter appliance since there is now an upgrade process from the Windows vCnter 6.0 to VCSA 6.5. Naturally, my lab is a messy place, I try things that end up breaking and leaving a mess around. I ended up with a few orphaned VMs. Orphaned VMs are when vCenter has a VM registered but the ESXi server does not have the same VM. Happily, my orphaned VMs were disposable and I did not loose anything when they went away dues to a VSAN experiment. But I was left with three orphaned VMs in my inventory, making it look messy. In the Windows vSphere client, you can simply right click on the VMs and remove them from the inventory.

In the Windows vSphere client, you can simply right click on the VMs and remove them from the inventory. In the web client, the right click menu is much shorter and does not include Remove from Inventory. After a little poking around through all the sub-menus, I did locate the right option and was able to remove the orphans. It is quite deep in the submenus, rightly so as you will seldom need to remove VMs without deleting the files (Delete from Disk action). The web client is not a direct replacement for the old vSphere client, expect to take some time to learn new ways to do old tasks.

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My Writing in January

January is summer here in New Zealand, our holiday season starts with Christmas and school is out until early February. Traditionally almost nothing happens in New Zealand during January. Certainly nothing business related. Despite this, I wrote a few articles here in January, a sure sign that I wasn’t traveling. In addition, I wrote on TechTarget and TVP, as usual.

I wrote about preparing to deploy HCI in Streamline your implementation of hyper-converged technologies. This is about things that happen after you commit to HCI.

I also wrote about some of the changes in positioning that VMware is doing with its cloud architectures in Is Hybrid DMZ Reference Designs for vCloud Air what it claims to be?

I am a  little cynical about IT as a science in enterprises, I thin it is more of a craft. No Matter How Many Tools You Have, IT Is Practised by People.

I also had some thoughts on HPE buying SimpliVity. HPE’s HCI Just Got Real: It Bought SimpliVity. I really hope that my friends are treated well by HPE, they worked hard to make SimpliVity what it was before it was acquired.

Today I wrapped up my first training course fo O’Reilly media. It was two half days of live online training and was all about operating in a vSphere environment. I will be teaching the course again every couple of months for a while. The next one is in April and is starting to fill up. These courses are free to attend for subscribers to Safari Books. I am also planning to develop some more courses. Maybe a performance tuning course or some deep dives into VMware technologies.

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Fitting My Application in a Container

I wrote before about why I decided to put an application into a Docker container. Today I’m going to cover a bit more of the how. I originally wrote the application fast and dirty. It was my first serious use of Python and my first distributed system application. Like many coders, I used what I knew rather than losing time learning lots of new things at the same time.

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