Wednesday, December 31, 2014

vRealize Automation 6.2 Install and Config (Live!) Videos

Earlier this month I hosted "vRA 6.2 Install and Config Live!", an open-invite social event dubbed "vRA Live" (#vralive). To my surprise, I had 185 RSVP's with more than 100 people -- VMware partners, customers, and several of my peers -- attending the 4 1/2+ hour online session. Although I tried to focus on the fundamentals of deploying vRA and associated services, the online Q&A and dialog provided by the experts panel added several examples, lesson's learned, and plenty of colorful commentary. I couldn't be more pleased with the turnout and hope to get the next session(s) queued up very soon!

Speaking of the experts panel, I'd like to thank them for all they've done to help! These rockstars provided a ton of commentary and responded to more than 150 questions posted by attendees (the Q&A is being trimmed up and will be posted soon)...
(...follow these people if you don't already!!)

Sunday, December 14, 2014

NSX Uncovered - Part 2, Solution Overview

Note: this is the much-overdue "Part 2" of my NSX info series (Part 1 can be found here)...

Network virtualization is by no means a new concept for VMware. Think about it for a moment — wherever vSphere (or any other VMware T1 or T2 hypervisor) has been implemented, a virtual switch exists and connects guest VMs to the physical world. That’s more than 500,000 customers globally, millions of vSphere hosts, and many more millions of virtual network ports backed by a standard (vSwitch) or distributed virtual switch (dvSwitch). In fact, if you count the network ports provisioned by vSphere and logically assigned to VM nics, one can argue that VMware is one of the top datalink providers on earth. Okay, perhaps that’s a stretch, but you get my point! VMware virtual networks have existed just about as long as VMware itself. And since the very beginning, there has been no shortage of innovation. The vSwitch has evolved in many ways, leading to new technologies, increased scope and scale, distributed architectures, open protocol support, ecosystem integration, and massive adoption. Over the years VMware has continued to introduce new networking technologies through organic maturity and strategic acquisition — ESXi platform security, dvSwitch (and associated services), vShield, vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS), etc. — and leveraged 3rd party integration into partner solutions, such as Cisco’s Nexus 1000v (a solution brought to market by tight collaboration between VMware and Cisco). The bottom line is VMware is no novice when it comes to networking, so it should have been no surprise when it’s ambitions to continue to evolve in this realm became evident.

And then Nicira happened...

Friday, December 12, 2014

VMware vRA 6.2 Install & Configure Live Event!

** Update 12/31/14: Videos have been posted!

* Update 12/20/14: Event Agenda Published...

Thanks to all who have shown interest in this event.  I was expecting 50 RSVP's...currently at 128!  That just about guarantees this will be a fun (and informative) event.  I have put together the following agenda based on feedback from the sign up survey.

The primary objective is to install, configure, and demonstrate vRA 6.2 from scratch.  For this, I will follow the install and configure workflow I previously covered in my vCAC 6.0 POC and Detailed Implementation Guide.  Although vRA 6.2 provides additional capabilities and a more streamlined installation, many of the concepts are the same.

Agenda (we'll kick things off right around 2PM ET)
  • Welcome and Panel Introductions
  • vRA 6.2 "What's New" Review
  • vRA Architecture Overview (POC vs. HA/Distributed)
  • Prerequisites Review (1)
  • Deploy & Configure Virtual Appliances (2)
  • Install & Configure IaaS Services (6)
  • Tenant Config (7)
  • Configure IaaS Services (9)
  • Configure XaaS Services (20)
  • ----------
  • vRA Extensibility with vRealize Orchestrator (formally vCO)
  • vRA Best Practices Discussion
  • ----------
  • Advanced Concepts Discussion (time permitting)
    • NSX Integration
    • 3rd Party Integration
The panel will be available for questions and commentary throughout the call.  My goal is to keep this casual, informative, and fun!

Friday, July 11, 2014

VMware vCAC IaaS Optimization Guide

Update 12/10/14: I have confirmed that the optimization tweaks highlighted in this article will not provide any added benefits to vCAC/vRA 6.1 or 6.2. This is due to the way the IaaS interface is now presented back to the user (via the vCAC appliance vs. directly to the user session). The good news is VMware dev's are hard at work at baking optimization right into the products, starting with a significant boost in the recently released vRA 6.2.

VMware's vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) can transform how an enterprise delivers IT. It's out-of-the-box functionality will help IT deliver Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) along with X-as-a-Service (XaaS / Everything-a-a-S) in a matter of clicks. Once extended into the datacenter's ecosystem with vCAC's extensibility engine, it will help integrate, orchestrate, and automate native and 3rd-party tools, services, and infrastructure, thrusting the enterprise into a new level of self-serviced IT efficiency. Whether empowering the sys admins or enabling end-users and tenants, vCAC has undoubtedly changed how enterprises deliver and manage applications and services.

With all that considered, there are always opportunities for improvement (as is the case with all software). I've had the opportunity to speak to many VMware customers, partners, and peers about the overall user experience after deploying vCAC. I get to hear how vCAC has helped improve application provisioning time from weeks to less than a day, how providing new services using the Advanced Service Designer (ASD) has paved the way for a Software-Defined Enterprise, and how relatively easy vCAC was to roll out (there's a guide for that!). When it comes to opportunities for improvement, there tends to be a common theme: improve UI response time. That's a fair request and precisely what this post is about. But before we jump in to the “how-to", I'd like to cover a little background for review (plus, I like to drag things out a bit).

vCAC High-Level Components
The vCAC we know and love today (6.0.x) has had it's own transformation since the acquisition of DynamicOps and subsequent VMware-branded releases of versions 5.1 and 5.2. In December 2013, vCAC 6.0 was released to deliver the next generation of cloud management and automation capabilities. The 6.0(.x) release was a re-platform, which converged a new SUSE-based virtual appliance (core services, primary UI, ASD, governance and approval engine, etc) with the Windows-based .net “legacy” code (IaaS engine). In the mix is an optional stand-alone Identity Manager to provide multi-tenanted SSO (or, optionally, customers can choose to use an existing vCenter 5.5b+ SSO instance).

Monday, June 16, 2014

NSX Uncovered - Part 1, Introduction

VMware's Network Virtualization Platform, NSX, is an immensely powerful technology that can transform a datacenter’s infrastructure and streamline network service delivery across the enterprise. NSX’s scope, scale, and capability will easily impress techies, CCIE’s, and IT stakeholders alike. NSX changes the topology of a traditional hardware-bound network by eliminating the dependency on all that “intelligence” baked into proprietary hardware. Instead, the logic and associated services are delivered through a software control plane. Separating the control and data planes effectively reduces the physical network to a glorified IP packet forwarder.

With that said, it is also important to understand that NSX is not a re-write of your network and the fundamental concepts it is built upon. The abstraction of the logic from the physical underpinnings is a modern approach to designing, building, and servicing network architectures, but the fundamentals — the protocols, tools, concepts, etc. — are still at play. And for that reason, i’m often baffled when I enter into a debate with a “traditional" network engineer about the ins-and-outs of physical vs. virtual networking technologies like NSX. What I quickly realize is they are not defending the concepts or technology, they are defending their skill set. It’s a fear or reluctance of straying from what they know best. Does this sound familiar? Remember the all-out fights that had to occur before server virtualization became mainstream? Back then there were always a few individuals pushing to try something new. It was these sys admins that knew there was a better way to provision and manage servers — whether one at a time or at massive scale. It was about learning knew technologies, expanding their skill set and scope, but still applying all the fundamentals. It was a new way of doing things — and everyone on that bandwagon excelled and continues to do so. There were those who waited for the top-down mandate and had to play catch-up, and the others who took the bull by the horns and became the go-to talent. It’s no surprise that server virtualization became the de-facto for x86 compute…nor should it be a surprise when network virtualization follows suite.

This is history repeating itself.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Resetting vCloud Automation Center 6.x Service Account Passwords

VMware vCloud Automation Center uses Active Directory service accounts to run several internal services and processes. In many environments it is required to reset the passwords for these service accounts at various intervals. As you can imagine, resetting the password for a given service account will cause the associated services to stop functioning until they are updated with the new password. A customer recently pointed out that there is no official documentation that provides guidance for updating the services used by vCAC to prevent a service outage. So, naturally, I figured I'd put this out there until such documentation is provided...

Before proceeding, determine exactly which service accounts are mapped to which services to prevent a misconfiguration. Follow these steps after changing the service account password and during a maintenance window…. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Using VSAN Storage Policies in vCloud Automation Center

VMware vCloud Automation Center is the center piece of VMware's Software-Defined Enterprise vision. It is also the primary user and admin interface for enterprise and application services, and therefore it makes a lot of sense for vCAC to be the core integration point for the SDDC.

Rawlinson Rivera (@PunchingClouds) recently posted a blog post titled "VMware Virtual SAN Interoperability: vCloud Automation Center", where he highlights the use of vCloud Automation Center (vCAC) 6.0 to deploy applications directly to a VSAN Datastore while also leveraging a VM Storage Policy. In short, the desired storage policy is applied to the template backing the vCAC Blueprint. Once provisioned, the resulting machine adopts the associated storage policy and the rest is glorious, app-centric VSAN storage consumption. I recommend reviewing that post to get a better idea of what we're doing here...

vCAC + VSAN,  VMware vSphere Blog

The integration between vCAC and VSAN can greatly enhance how applications are provisioned.  Since storage policies can be configured per-application or VM, you can specify varying policies based on the use case, tier, application criticality, SLA, etc...all backed by a common VSAN Datastore. If you are not familiar with VM Storage Policies, I highly recommend gaining an understanding of when/why/how to use them before continuing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

vCloud Automation Center 6.0 POC and Detailed Implementation Guide

In keeping up with my extracurricular doc-building activities, I am happy to release the latest iteration of my vCAC implementation guide for the deployment and configuration of vCAC 6.0. This unofficial Proof of Concept and Detailed Implementation guide is provided, with no guarantees (or support), to assist with the end-to-end implementation of vCloud Automation Center 6.0 in a pre-configured vSphere 5.x environment.

The guide walks through – in plenty of detail – vCAC 6.0’s deployment, concepts, technologies, and features as they would be used in a real-world implementation. This document can also double as an unofficial hands-on training guide which covers:

- New Features in vCAC 6.0
- Deployment Architecture
- Implementation on VMware platforms (vSphere)
- IaaS and XaaS Configuration
- Usage and Navigation
- Advanced Concepts and Use Cases

vCAC 6.0 Implementation Workflow

Click to Download

Update (06/20/14): this is v1.1 of the guide, which includes some minor updates and fixes.  Be sure to be on the lookout for updates here or on my twitter feed.

DISCLAIMER: This guide is intended for use in a test/dev or sandbox environment and NOT for a production build and comes with no guarantees, support, etc.

Happy Installing!