What the VMware User Group means to me and how we improve it for all

First to start with an admission, I love the VMware User Group, I just think it’s brilliant. I’ve no illusions that it’s the major reason why i’ve been fortunate enough to end up working at VMware.

Act 1 – Absolute beginner

When I was first starting out in my VMware career I found it invaluable. I absorbed the content like a sponge, it was all new to me and I never attended an event without walking away with some nugget of new useful information.

Act 2 – Finding my feet

As time passed my experiences evolved; It was no longer just about listening to the speakers, it was getting access to the folks who literally wrote the book on subjects. Getting a chance to ask my questions of the people who knew it best solved some major issues for me.  I still turned up at every event, suffered through the awkwardness of the breaks, and at the end of the day made a quick exit before the true networking began.

Act 3 – Going public

Then five years ago I was asked if I would be willing to join the leadership team to help run the Scottish VMUG, at that point I would guess there were probably 3-4 people max in the community who knew who I was. I really believed in the process though and it had been invaluable for my learning so I felt it appropriate to put back in what I’d taken out. Being a leader the events changed somewhat. I was able to look at an event through a prism and see my experiences seemed pretty common to how others react, we work in an industry of introverts so that shouldn’t come as a surprise. A room full of strangers all with one common unifying thread, in the most part unwilling, or perhaps more accurately uncomfortable talking to each other.

So for the last couple of years as a leader I embarked on a crusade, the 3rd act of my User Group life unlocking the connections between people. I’d stand up at the start of a VMUG and I’d tell everyone in the room, if this is your first time at a VMUG or if you just don’t know anyone else in the room, come and find me during the breaks and I’ll talk to you. At one event I warned everyone, if during a break I see you on your own on your phone then I’m coming to talk to you. I bounded up to one guy who was reading his phone, he was adamant his colleagues were just at the toilet and he didn’t need my company, but I wasn’t so easily dissuaded, in the end I don’t think he grudged my company but if he did he hid it well.

Background

At my last event as a leader, there were lots of people in groups and there were two guys talking together but slightly away from all other groups. I knew I’d met them both before but couldn’t remember much about them and did not remember they worked together. I started chatting to them and within about 10 minutes the conversation turned to a topic of which I knew there were others that were passionate about, I pulled one person in, then another, before long there was a group of about 8 people and I felt I’d done my part and walked away. Later on that night one of the original two guys told me “you’re the nicest, of the leaders” he was right on many levels with that statement…but he then qualified it with a reason why.

Last week someone said something very similar to me about their recent experiences. I had to point out that just because the leadership are passionate about the VMUG and willing to stand at the front of a full room, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re comfortable with everything. We/They all suffer the same insecurities and difficulties, personally I’ve always been more afraid of the small intimate networking situations than I have been of speaking to a packed room.

The Lowest Ebb

I remember a few years ago being at a corporate event in London. I was late to arrive, during the breaks I was able to fake essential work on my laptop but at the post event networking event there was nowhere left to hide. It was clear there were people that worked together and other people who seemed to know each other. I found myself on the outside of every group of conversation. I loitered nearby but was never either brave enough to get involved nor was I invited in to the conversation. I found myself paralysed and completely incapable of breaking the cycle. Eventually I quit, I turned around and walked out of the building. I highly doubt anyone even noticed. It was the loneliest and one of most embarrassing moments of my career.

Now the reason he said I was “the nicest of the leaders”?  He said I was the nicest one because I always seemed to go out of my way to speak to everyone, particularly the people on their own, the shy, the timid, the first timers. He’s right I do go out of my way to do that, not because I find that easy or comfortable, instead I found that being a leader provided me a safety blanket. I was able to step outside of my fears/insecurities and throw myself into a situation and channel my inner JFK

It’s ridiculous, I didn’t have any invisibility cloak of protection, it was a pure placebo but for whatever reason it worked. I remember the sobering feeling of my lowest point all too well and that powered my desire to do anything to prevent someone else from suffering such ignominy. I was able to put myself into my most uncomfortable situation not because I enjoyed it but in the hope that it might save someone else from suffering the lows I have.

The Big Finish

Adults are rubbish at talking to strangers, add in the fact we’re all introverts, it’s a potent mix that threatens to derail the true power of this community. My new career at VMware has me aligned to a number of different VMUG’s rather than just my comfort blanket in Scotland. I’ll be visible and attending 3-4 VMUGs across the UK this year and I’m hoping to carry my crusade onwards.  The true power of this community is in the people, anything we can do to unlock that the better for all involved

So my ask of everyone else? Don’t be scared to talk to the person beside you. We’re all in this together, and remember just by being here there’s a bond that unites us all. As uncomfortable as you find that initial approach, you never know how appreciated it might be by the other person

Introduction to Cloud Assembly

What is Cloud Assembly?

At VMworld 2018, VMware announced their new Automation service, aptly named Cloud Automation Services (CAS) and earlier this year in January, it was announced as General Availability.

So what is CAS? Well it’s a multi cloud solution driven by the infrastructure as code methodology and delivered by VMware as a SaaS model. CAS is made up of 3 components, Cloud Assembly which allows for infrastructure and application delivery in line with devops principles, Service broker which provides a service catalog and finally code stream which focuses on the pipeline and continuously delivery. Some of these names will be familiar, e.g code stream but you should note that these are not just upgrades of previous products and they have been written from scratch for a brand-new experience.

In this post, I wanted to focus on Cloud Assembly and give a brief introduction to the service. I have been using vRA for a number of years and one main problem was the pain of installation. In short, different products stitched together (think of the SQL and postgres DB fight) meant it was a real pain to deploy consistently as part of an overall private cloud product.

Continue reading

VCP 6.5 Study Material

This has been cross posted from my own blog vGemba.net. Go check it out.

Introduction

At the recent Scottish VMUG vBeers event certification seemed to be a common topic of conversation. I recommended some study material to people so thought it would be useful to list them out here plus some others I have used.

VCP 6.5 DCV Overview

The full title for the exam is VMware Certified Professional 6.5 – Data Center Virtualization Exam. To gain the certification two exams are required.

The first is the vSphere 6.5 Foundations Exam. This exam needs to be completed before you can proceed to any of the actual certification exams such – Data Center Virtualization, Network Virtualization, Cloud Management and Automation or the Desktop and Mobility track. Passing the Foundations exam does not mean you have a certification, it means you are on the right path to you first VMware certification. This exam is available online through Pearson Vue.

Once you have completed this exam you can move onto the VCP DCV exam. The bible for you study should be the Exam Guide. This will spell out exactly all the things you may be questioned on in the exam. Make sure you know each topic inside and out! The exam has to be completed at a Pearson Vue testing center.

Continue reading

VMware Fling – DRS Dump Insight H5 Plugin

This is a cross post from my own site: www.cragdoo.co.uk

I was recently reading through fellow vExpert Wouter Kurten‘s “The VMware Labs flings monthly for September 2018” post and one of the flings in the post piqued my curiosity.

If you’re not familiar with VMware Flings, then head over to labs.vmware.com and have a look around.

“Flings are apps and tools built by our engineers and community that are intended to be played with and explored.”

The fling in question is the “DRS Dump Insight H5 Plugin”  , so I decide to get it up and running in my Ravello Cloud Lab.

Installation

a.  Head over to https://labs.vmware.com/flings/drs-dump-insight-h5-plugin

b. check out the requirements. Note this is fling is only compatible with VCSA 6.5/6.7 and not the HTML5 Client Fling. Continue reading

Free and Paid Learning Resources

This has been cross posted from my own blog vGemba.net. Go check it out.

Introduction

As IT professionals we are always learning. I thought I would highlight some free and paid for learning resources that I use to improve my skills.

vBrownbag – Free

vBrownbag is a community driven website and YouTube Channelthat provides weekly webcasts that teach new skills in under an hour. Topics have included certification tracks, automation, Cloud, careers, VMware technologies, Docker, networking, etc.

They also do Community sessions & recordings at VMworld which are excellent. They provide a great opportunity for community members who did not get to speak at the full conference a way to present a topic. For instance at VMworld US 2018 we had recordings such as the vExpert Daily, Powershell, Blogging, and many others.

I have presented on Terraform and it was a great experience. If you have an idea for a talk reach out to the vBrownbag Team.

Skylines Academy – Paid

A recent newcomer to the on demand video training model is Skylines Academy. This has been started by Nick Colyer and focuses on Azure training. The courses are low cost and once you purchase them you receive lifetime updates. Continue reading

Burnout in IT

This article has been cross posted from my own site www.cragdoo.co.uk.

At a recent Veeam User Group UK meeting I presented a session on burnout within IT. The title of my session was “And now for something completely different ….with Irn Bru“. I deliberately kept the title vague and non-descriptive, so the attendees/listeners could come into the session with pre-conceived ideas. The idea was to give every attendee a can of Irn Bru and open the session up to them to discuss a couple of slides about the subject. I have to say it felt like the session was well received, with some discussions and general nodding of heads all round.

Disclaimer

Let me start by putting a disclaimer in place. I am not a councillor, a psychologist or a qualified professional. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition

Intro

About 5-6 months ago I was driving into work, very close to tears and to be honest I was asking myself “what’s the point of going there, I’m really not enjoying my work anymore“, That’s when I realised that I might have a problem. I have been working for the same company for over 15 and 1/2 years, and honestly this was the lowest I felt in those 15 and 1/2 years. I decided to start looking for some kind of understanding or information about what could be the reason behind all this. Now you may be reading this and saying “well 15 years in the same job will do that to you” and you would be correct, if it wasn’t for the fact my role had changed over the years and every week brings something new. So it had to be something else.

During my searches I came across 2 excellent videos :- Continue reading

vRO Composite Types

I have used vRO for quite some time, yet I have never really had a need to use Composite Types – until recently! This vRO feature is pretty cool and allows you to create arrays which can be polled by a Workflow and what is really a benefit for me is that allow you to minimise the amount of WFs needed or even the amount of input parameters into a Workflow.

I am a real advocate of using configuration files in vRO, and as anyone who attended my Glasgow VMUG session will (hopefully) remember that these are used for global settings which mean we don’t need to update individual Workflows if we point to these central configuration files. So where do Composite Types fit in here? Well recently I had a requirement around DNS information which had potential to impact manageability of Network Profiles in vRA. The requirement was around how DNS information would be added to a VM during deployment depending on things like location or operating system. Using vRA out the box IPAM meant that in order to achieve this I would have to create many profiles just to map different DNS info and then resolve complexity of splitting the IP ranges within the Profiles. An alternative way to meet this requirement along with making it easy to manage and fulfill any need to grow as more sites where added was composite types!

Lets have a look at how its done:

Continue reading

Scottish VMUG – Edinburgh October 4th 2018

Scottish VMUG – Edinburgh October 4th 2018 – Assembly Roxy

As per usual it’s set to be a cracking day, we’re honored to be welcoming Chad Sakac on his inaugural visit to Scotland and if you’ve never seen him speak then you’re in for a treat. We’ve got our usual mix of awesome sponsor’s on the day and some fantastic first timer’s and returning favourites from VMware

Yet again we’ve got two VCDX’s attending so it’s all shaping up to be a memorable day and of course there’s a special vBeers planned for afterwards. If you haven’t registered yet…what are you waiting for?
Registration

We will update the details as we get them so this blog page may change

Keynote – Chad Sakac – Pivotal

“Getting into fewer, smarter bar fights: a look at the debates that drag us down, and the dialogs that lift us up”

Sponsors –

Dell Technologies – Simplify your VDI solutions planning and management with Dell Technologies – Darren Oakley

IBM – How to Overcome the Challenges of moving VMware to the Cloud- Jim Mckay, IBM Cloud Solution Architect

Learn about the range of VMware offerings available on IBM Cloud including VCF with HXC. Demo will include live use of IBM cloud portal to deploy VMware cluster and will include overview of the many 3rd party offerings which can also be deployed.

Asystec – From Complex to Simple – An HCI Journey with VxRail Stretched Cluster – Victor Forde Asystec Solution Architect and Sandy Bryce Baillie Gifford Lead Technical Architect

Focussing on the Baillie Gifford’s recent VxRAIL implementation which is the first phase of their SDDC Strategic goal. You will get to understand the business objectives, the VxRail Stretched Cluster Deployment in all its phases, the criteria for success and how it was rigorously tested. Included will also be tips and tricks as well as lessons learned from deployment challenges encountered.

Zerto – Delivering IT Resilience in a Changing World – Nick Williams

– What is IT Resilience
– What changes are we seeing in the industry
– How an IT Resilience platform can help keep you on the right side of these.

SITS Group – Protecting your Office 365 data – What is your back-up strategy?’ – Ian Sanderson

VMware

Richard Machen – NSX SD-WAN by VeloCloud, how to simplify and improve wide area networking and access to the cloud.
Adam Bohle – VMware Cloud on AWS Update (including RDS)
Sam McGeown – Automating Micro-segmentation with vRealize Automation and NSX

vRealize Automation and NSX are both powerful tools in their own right, but together they really come alive. Based on real-world experience implementing micro-segmentation with vRealize Automation for all sorts of customers, learn the methods that work and how to avoid common mistakes. Compare out-of-the-box implementations with custom day-2 automation, and the challenges and benefits of both.

Matt Evans – To Re or not to Re(purpose) Desktops

The desktop market offers many desktop re-purposing solutions based on Windows, Linux and Chrome. In this session we will take a deep dive into those technologies, share our test results and present a comparison of the different vendor offerings to help you make an informed choice. Examples of our findings will cover costs, system requirements, performance, device management and limitations.

Robbie Jerrom – Cloud Native Apps Update

Coommunity –

Allan McAleavy– Hunting noisy neighbours using VROPS & Grafana.

When hunting for noisy neighbour workloads from a high level storage viewpoint we can only drill down as far as an ESX Host or VMFS Volume. This initially led to the development of dashboards within VROPS to allow top-down (ESX Host to VM) and bottom-up (VMFS to VM) analysis to identify these workloads. This approach worked well however teams had to use different tools & different dashboards to correlate the data. In this talk I will show how we use the VROPS python API to gather I/O data and correlate this with array data using Grafana to hunt down noisy workloads from an ESX node and VMFS view. I will also show how we can use this methodology to Identify high CPU workloads and also help us look at overall ESX and VM performance using this data.

Sponsors –

Dell Technologies
IBM
Asystec
Zerto
Capito / Pure Storage
Login VSI
SITS Group
Softcat

VMware Workstation Tech Preview 2018 REST API

This has been cross posted from my own blog vGemba.net. Go check it out.

Introduction

VMware recently announced the release of VMware Workstation Tech Preview 2018. This has a number of new features:

  • DirectX 10.1 support
  • REST API
  • Support for Windows 10 High DPI
  • Host level high DPI
  • The ESXi Host / cluster view when connecting to vCenter
  • USB Auto Connect functions for a virtual machine
  • Support for Wayland architecture for Linux hosts

The feature I am most interested in is the REST API. After listening to Craig Dalrymplepresent a session at the last Scottish VMUG called Making Your 1st Restful API call to VMware I wanted to try using an API. I had not tried it in my home lab or production at work as I didn’t want to screw anything up, so using Workstation is ideal.

Starting the REST API

The REST API needs to be started from the command line. The file you need to run is located in C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation. You can then vmrest.exe --help to see some basic help:

C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation>vmrest.exe --helpVMware Workstation REST APICopyright (C) 2018 VMware Inc.All Rights Reservedvmrest 1.1.0 build-8888902Usage of vmrest.exe:  -c, --cert-path <cert-path>        REST API Server certificate path  -C, --config        Configure credential  -d, --debug        Enable debug logging  -h, --help        Print usage  -i, --ip <ip>        REST API Server IP binding (default 127.0.0.1)  -k, --key-path <key-path>        REST API Server private key path  -p, --port <port>        REST API Server port (default 8697)  -v, --version        Print version information

To start the REST API you simply type:

C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation>vmrest.exeVMware Workstation REST APICopyright (C) 2018 VMware Inc.All Rights Reservedvmrest 1.1.0 build-8888902-Using the VMware Workstation UI while API calls are in progress is not recommended and may yield unexpected or unintended results.-Serving HTTP on 127.0.0.1:8697-Press Ctrl+C to stop.

You can see that there is a web based Swagger interface for browsing the API on http:\\127.0.0.1:8697:

Swagger Interface

Authentication

If you now try to do anything through the API it will not work as we are not authenticated. We need to configure some credentials. This is done using vmrest --config but remember if the API is running you will need to stop it by pressing CTRL+C:

C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation>vmrest --configVMware Workstation REST APICopyright (C) 2018 VMware Inc.All Rights Reservedvmrest 1.1.0 build-8888902Username:cwestwaterNew password:Retype new password:Processing...Credential updated successfullyC:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation>

You simply enter a username and password for authentication to the API. Start the REST API again using vmrest.exe. Now in the web interface click the Authorize link in the top right, enter the username and password and then click the Authorize button:

Authorization

There does not seem to be any visual indication that you are logged in, the only way to check is to do something.

Swagger Interface

The Swagger interface is a great way to try the API. You don’t need to use things like Curl, PowerShell, Postman, etc. you can simply use the web interface to perform API operations. You can see that there are four main sections available with various operations available under them:

GET VMs

There are quite a few operations available in the API. Lets try out a few.

Simple GET Operation

A quick check to see if things are working right is to use the Swagger interface and try a GET operation. GET means reading something, no changes are made – safe!

Browse to VM Management...Show/Hide..GET /vms then click TRY IT OUT! The Response Body shows the two VM’s I have in Workstation:

GET VMs

So in the above screenshot you can see from the interface some useful information. We can see what the response should look like, the HTTP response codes (200 means we were successful), the Curl command, and what we actually want to see, the Response body:

[  {    "id": "3SFU5DH6CKR349853CVSG5T1E9TJCMEB",    "path": "C:\\Users\\a-cwestwater\\Documents\\Virtual Machines\\Linux-01\\Linux-01.vmx"  },  {    "id": "RG98SS5QSA90GAP42Q7M4IVAT1VOH2EV",    "path": "C:\\Users\\a-cwestwater\\Documents\\Virtual Machines\\Linux-02\\Linux-02.vmx"  }]

Now we have a list of the VM’s and their IDs we can try something else. Let’s get some VM setting information for a particular VM. To do this use GET /vms/{id}. In the web interface expand VM Management...Show/Hide..GET /vms/{id}. Under the parameter section we need to use one of the ids from above, in this case I will use "id": "RG98SS5QSA90GAP42Q7M4IVAT1VOH2EV".

In the parameters section it is looking for parameter of id. Copy and paste the id of the VM into the field:

GET VM settings

One this id is entered click TRY IT OUT!. The Response Body section gives us the details of the VM:

Get VM settings

The VM has a single CPU with 64MB of RAM.

Simple PUT Operation

A PUT operation updates something. In this case we want to add a CPU and some memory to a VM. This is under VM Management...Show/Hide..PUT /vms/{id}. We again need to define some details in the Parameters section. The first is the id of the VM like we did above.

Next we need to add some definition of what the VM needs to be changed too. This is in the parameters text box. There is an example shown just to the right:

PUT VM settings

Again click the TRY IT NOW! button and we get the response:

PUT VM settings

The VM now has 2 CPUs and double the amount of RAM. We can check using the API again:

PUT VM settings

DELETE Operation

Finally I want to delete the VM as I am done with it. This is found under VM Management...Show/Hide..DELETE /vms/{id}. There is a warning with DELETE operations. Unlike the GUI there is no confirmation or check you actually want to delete, it just does it. So be aware!

DELETE VM settings

Again we need to define the id of the VM we want to delete then click TRY IT OUT!. This time we get a Response Body and Response Code of:

DELETE VM settings

Not the usual response we have seen above. Usually we get a Response Code of 200, but this time it’s 204. That is 204? Scroll up in the web interface and you see:

DELETE VM settings

So 204 is the VM was deleted. We can confirm using GET /vms:

DELETE VM settings

The VM with the id of RG98SS5QSA90GAP42Q7M4IVAT1VOH2EV is gone.

Wrap Up

When I started with this blog post I had never used an API before, but within an hour I was using the Swagger interface to interface with VMware Workstation. 30 minutes later I was using Postman to do the same. I think using the ‘safety’ of Workstation to get used to the VMware API is a great way of learning how to using the API.

I plan to investigate further as I use Workstation as my lab, so being able to automate operations using the API could help me a great deal. I expect further development of the API as the Tech Preview progresses.

ESXi scripted builds via PXE/kickstart

Periodically we spin up a slew of new hypervisors. If like me you find yourself desiring more automation (and the uniformity that comes with it) but are somewhere between building ESXi by hand and the scale out auto-deploy tooling for hundreds of systems. You may find this useful, especially if you already maintain a kickstart server.

This is my experiences with scripted installations of ESXi 6.5 via kickstart and PXE booting. The beauty of this is it only requires two options set in your DHCP server, the rest of the configuration is static. The net result is, configure your DHCP, let the host PXE boot and within a few minutes you have a repeatable and dependable build process.

So, how to get there?

First up you need to  have the physical environmental basic’s taken care of, e.g. rack & stack, cable up NICs etc. Once that is in place, this process will require DNS entries populated for your new servers, plus explode the ISO on your tftpserver.

n.b. this scripted install uses the “–overwritevmfs” switch so it’s imperative that you do NOT have the host in a state where it can see any storage other than it’s local disks e.g. if you are rebuilding existing hypervisors or the HBA’s have been zoned into something else previously. This is imperative as this switch has the capacity to overwrite the existing filesystems with the new VMFS’d install, therefore it must ONLY see it’s own local disks 😉

Overview of PXE & Kickstart boot workflow:

" <a href=https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/techpaper/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-60-pxe-boot-esxi.pdf (pay attention to “/“ and UEFI !)

[1] the boot loader files on the tftpserver. This is an exemplar showing both UEFI and non UEFI sitting side by side on the same install base.

screenshot1

 

[2]  The contents of the CGI script that gleams the FQDN details

screenshot2

[3]  An exemplar of a kickstart file

screenshot3

 

The boot itself

So with that all in place all you need to do is determine if the server you’re booting is legacy BIOS boot or UEFI. The difference being in the boot loader we’ll point at & insert the relevant DHCP-fu for you;

legacy boot

66=your.tftpserver.com

67=esx-6.5/pxelinux.0

UEFI boot

66=your.tftpserver.com

67=esx-6.5/mboot.efi

then simply set the next boot to PXE reboot and watch the little birdy fly!

There you have it. Effectively two DHCP settings and you can rinse and repeat bringing up dozens of systems quickly with repeatable builds. There are of course many other options, all of which have their merits. This one is perhaps most useful if you are already invested in scripted builds/kickstarts.