Chinwag Reloaded with David Davis (@davidmdavis)



I’ve known David Davis now – wow, thinking back its coming up on a decade. I might have been at the first ever North Carolina User Conference – or perhaps it was VMworld. We’ve kept in touch along the ways – and I think have an affinity based on the fact that we have both at one time or another being instructors. Being an instructor is funny little thing – and it kind of build a bond amongst those who’ve done the job in whatever shape or form. David was at TrainSignal until they were acquired by much larger organization called PluralSight where he is now. He’s still very much focused on VMware technologies from a training perspective.

In this podcast, David looks back on last years highlights, and looks forward to what’s coming next – he also shares with us his take on what will be hot this year…

Click here to listen to the directly on this site…. or alternatively watch the youtube video below:


Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Chinwag

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Under The Covers: EVO:RAIL Architecture

Last week I was in Palo Alto working with the team, and I had the chance to get some stick-time with a physical appliance. Believe it or not much of my experience to date has been focused on our very own ‘hands-on-lab’ and improving and extending it to be ready for our Partner Exchange (PEX) in February of this year. I think this is a great illustration of these HOL environments – allowing people to play with stuff without the need for the physical hardware.

I’ve been adding all sorts of additional tasks to the new HOL including such things as:

• Adding 2nd appliance to demo auto-discovery
• Patch Management of the EVO:RAIL engine
• Simulating a failure of a node, and the replacement workflow

On top of that I’ve been working on some internal training for both our staff and partners to get folks up to speed. I think the value-prop and purpose of EVO:RAIL is starting to be understood – but I think people are looking for more detail about how the product works. Not because you need to know this stuff to get the experience, but that generally if you’re a technical person it’s just nice to know how things fit together. Appliances tend to be referred to as “black boxes” but personally I find this can lead to fear of the unknown. I’ve never been one to believe that ignorance is bliss, and often quoted the poet Alexander Pope in my classes who stated: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. So this series of posts is about making sure that there is lots of knowledge available.


So lets start with brass tacks. As you probably know by now EVO:RAIL is a 2U-4node system. In the EVO:RAIL we number each of these nodes – node 01, 02, 03, and 04, and you will see that in our UI as well. Each node has an identity that is a combination of the appliance ID and its node ID such as MAR12345604-01, MAR12345604-02, MAR12345604-03, and MAR12345604-04. The first node is an important node in that it’s where the EVO:RAIL Configuration and Management engine resides.


So here we can see that node01 is the one that initially holds the vCSA instance. Inside the vCSA instance is installed the EVO:RAIL Engine and the VMware LoudMouth daemon (incidentally, not shown in the diagram for simplicity is the vCenter Log Insight instance). The EVO:RAIL Engine is the service that provides the pretty looking Configuration and Management UI that you see in all our videos and in the HOL. VMware Loudmouth on the other hand is an implementation of “Zero Network Configuration” and it allows for the auto-discovery of the nodes, and is intimately associated with such tasks as discovery of additional appliances to increase compute and storage capacity.

You’ll notice that in the architecture diagram the vCSA and Log Insight appliances are not stored on the boot device – they are stored in a VSAN datastore. So there’s a bit of chicken and egg or Joseph Heller style Catch22 at play here if you think about it. The vCSA (as a consequence the EVO:RAIL software) is held on the storage it is about to configure. How do you power on the vCenter instance on a VSAN that has yet to be configured? After all one of the tasks of the EVO:RAIL Configuration engine is to create a VSAN datastore constructed of the 12 hard disks (HDD) and the 4 Solid-State Drives (SSD). Here’s the secret sauce.

It is actually possible to create VSAN Disk Groups and VSAN Datastore with just one node. It’s a process well documented by esteemed colleague William Lam on his virtualghetto blog:

In William’s case he was concerned with home-labbers who want to use VSAN as the primary and only storage, and have no other storage to temporarily hold the vCenter – which needs to be powered on and available to create the first HA Cluster and as a consequence the VSAN cluster as well. So when an EVO:RAIL appliance is powered on all four nodes are powered on simultaneously and node01 uses VMware ESXi “Virtual Machine Start-up/Shutdown” to power the vCSA for the first time.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.32.16

Note: This screen grab shows the vCSA and Log Insight being stored on the same Marvin-Virtual-SAN-Datastore. Incidentally, Log Insight is only powered on if you enable it during the EVO:RAIL Configuration.


Note: This screen grab shows how the vCSA appliance is set to auto-start when node01 is powered on for the first time.

Finally, as an aside – the boot device can either be a conventional HHD, or it could be a 32GB SLC SATADOM with reservation pool. This reservation pool holds back cells on the SLC SATADOM, so if cells become depleted, there are some in reserve that can be utilized. Typically these local boot devices are formatted with VMFS and labeled with the naming convention of appliance-nodeID-service-datastore1. This screen grab below shows this “service-datastore” together with the VSAN Datastore called MARVIN-Virtual-SAN datastore.

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.40.20

One thing to mention about the service-datastore is that each node has a “reset” folder that contains a backup file of each node (ConfigBundle.tgz). And that node01 service-datastore1 holds copies of the vCSA .OVF and Log Insight OVF in an “images” folder like so:

Screen Shot 2014-12-04 at 10.44.34

That’s it for now for this first installment of “Under the Covers”. Check back with me in a couple of days time for the next post. The main take away here is the importance of node01 and how fundamentally vCSA and Log Insight end up being stored in the same cluster they help create and manage. That means they do not represent a single-point of failure as they are protected by the same technologies as any normal VM. An end-user just using the EVO:RAIL UI will not see the vCSA and Log Insight virtual appliance. We’ve hidden them away to provide a cleaner UI experience, but if you open either the vSphere Web Client or Desktop Client you will see them there like any other VM.

Note: To make things less complicated the vCSA and Log Insight virtual appliance are hidden to give a cleaner UI for customers who prefer the simplicity of creating VMs from the EVO:RAIL Management UI.


Posted by on January 28, 2015 in EVO:RAIL

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Datacenter Insiders Podcast with Simon Seagrave (@Kiwi_Si)

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 11.55.32

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of chatting with Simon Seagrave all about EVO:RAIL. I’ve known Simon now for a few years, and think we first met through the London VMUG User Group. He works at EMC currently, but he’s probably as well known for his blog Like many in our community Simon’s a big fan of home labs, and like me we are both work-at-homers. Despite having access to remote labs from our respective employers – we both feel maintaining a home lab is still important – not least because you have cart blance freedom to configure things however you like with access too all the settings. Simon’s blog is well-known for special homelab deals as well as reviews of new gear – to be honest I’m jealous he has such good access!

Simon has been responsible for a number of podcast in the past and currently – sadly both his podcast & blog output has been rather curtailed by recent illness. But I’m so pleased to see him back on his feet, and getting back in the ring. Welcome back to the community, Simon. We’ve missed ya!

Anyway, back to the podcast – you can here it over here. In the podcast Simon asked me the following questions…

  • What is EVO:RAIL?
  • What is a Hyper-Converged Infrastructure?
  • How is EVO:RAIL easy to install, configure and manage?
  • What parts of the EVO:RAIL solution does VMware provide & which components/parts do EVO partners provide in the overall solution?
  • What are some of the differentiators between EVO partner’s offerings?  eg: is it just the hardware it runs on? Also, is there the ability for them to include additional functionality/value-add to the solution at the software layer?
  • Typical/planned EVO:RAIL use cases
  • How does EVO:RAIL differ from EVO:RACK?
  • How to find out more about EVO:RAIL

Posted by on January 16, 2015 in EVO:RAIL

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Are you VMUG EVALExperience(d)?

Screen Shot 2015-01-15 at 18.04.07

Well, I never thought I’d see this day. But it is a very happy day indeed. Working in conjunction with VMware and the VMUG – folks can now subscribe on a yearly basis to receive evaluation non-production VMware software for 365-day period. The access is delivered as one of the very many benefits associated with the VMUG Advantage program. Thus the folks at VMware who manage the VMUG program, have succeed where countless others have failed before them.  As you might recall before I joined VMware in 2012, I helped spearhead a popular movement to get the “VMTN Subscription” in stated. Although this was followed up on two occasions internal, for various reasons it just didn’t come to fruition…

Late last year I was approach by my colleagues at VMware who help manage the VMUG program – to ask me for my arguments and views on why this should be done. To be honest, I wasn’t from previous experience that optimistic. But I’m pleased to say that their attempt has been successful. It’s a great triumph for them. In late December I was part of small group of people asked to test the new delivery system from a download perspective.


And now in Jan, 2015 they are ready to announce the program – called EVALExperience. Personally, I think this is a great coup for the VMware Community. Whilst other companies have pulled up the draw-bridge and withdrawn access to their software in this manner. VMware has (finally) listened to the community and re-opened theirs. The world is changing fast and increasingly it seen as the IT-Professionals job to keep their skills up-to-date – to both keep their job but also further their careers. Its in my view that the EVALExperience goes along way to address these issues. Once again, the VMUG Advantage program (of which it is part) has demonstrated how the relatively small fee, pays for itself.

VMware and VMUG have partnered with Kivuto Solutions to provide VMUG Advantage Subscribers a customized web portal that provides VMUG Advantage Subscribers with self-service capability to download software and license keys. Licenses to available VMware products are regularly updated and posted to the self-service web portal. The licenses available to VMUG Advantage Subscribers are 365-day evaluation licenses that require a one-time, annual download. Annual product downloads ensure that Subscribers receive the most up-to-date versions of products.  Included products are:

  • VMware vCenter Server™ 5 Standalone for vSphere 5
  • VMware vSphere® with Operations Management™ Enterprise Plus
  • VMware vCloud Suite® Standard
  • VMware vRealize™ Operations Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations™ 6 Enterprise
  • VMware vRealize Log Insight™
  • VMware vRealize Operations for Horizon®
  • VMware Horizon® Advanced Edition
  • VMware Virtual SAN™

A new 365 entitlement will be offered with the renewal of your yearly VMUG Advantage Subscription. Software is provided to VMUG Advantage Subscribers with no associated entitlement to  support services, and users may not purchase such services in association with the EVALExperience licenses. I understand that existing subscribers will be able to add the EVALExperience to their existing subscription. The EVALExperience is bundled as part of the VMUG Advantage which offers other benefits and discounts including:

  • 35% discount on the all-new VMware Learning Zone
  • 35% discount on the VMware Lab Connect environment
  • 20% discount on instructor-led training courses
  • 20% discount on VMware On-Demand self-paced training
  • 20% discount on VMware Certification Exams
  • $100 off your VMworld Admission (useable with other discounts such as Alumni status)
  • Free access to VMworld 2014 Online Content (usually $699)
  • 50% discount on VMware Fusion and Workstation licenses


Posted by on January 15, 2015 in VMUG

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Chinwag Reloaded with Nick Howell (@datacenterdude)



I’ve known Nick Howell off and on for a few years now. I think we first met face to face at NetApp’s location at RTP, North Carolina. That was back when I was still an independent, freelance instructor – albeit affliated to TechTarget after their acquisition of my old “RTFM Education” site. Nick’s been handy resource for all things NetApp/SRM related, as well being handy touch stone for what’s happening over there in StorageLand. Nick runs the NetApp podcast – here’s some linkage:

I think they used to use TalkShoe like the VMware VMTN Communities Round-table podcast. But they moved away from it because it was unreliable (perhaps there’s message there for us!).

We cover off a couple of topics including:

  • Nick Howell of NetApp talks about vVOLs
  • His views on “Software Defined Storage”
  • NetApp storage in Amazon
  • NetApp Insight Conference and its relationship with the community
  • Engineers Unplugged…

Click here to listen to the directly on this site…. or alternatively watch the youtube video below:


Posted by on January 8, 2015 in Chinwag

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Back To Basics: vSphere High Availability (PowerCLI)

Creating a vSphere HA Cluster

You can name clusters in anyway you see fit – Gold, Sliver, Bronze or by their location in the datacenter HALL2-RACK55 for instance. The new-cluster cmdlet support the enablement of both High Availability (HA), Distributed Resource Manager (DRS) and Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC). With the advent of VMware’s VSAN technology, the new-cluster cmdlet all so supports its functionality as well. We have chosen to document the enablement of all these features in this section as this is the most like the requirement in most environments.

Each setting with – often support multiple parameters not shown in the sample below. These have been documented below the sample.


The New-Cluster cmdlet does NOT support:

  • Enabling the VM Monitoring feature
  • Enabling Distributed Power Management (DPM)
  • Cannot configure the datastore heartbeat parameter. This cannot be modified until ESXi hosts have been added to the vSphere Cluster

New-Cluster -Name “GoldCluster01″ -Location “New York DataCenter” -HAEnabled -HAAdmissionControlEnabled -HAFailoverLevel 1 -HARestartPriority “Low” -HAIsolationResponse “PowerOff” -VMSwapfilePolicy ‘InHostDatastore’ -DRSEnabled -DRSAutomationLevel ‘FullyAutomated’ -EVCMode ‘intel-nehalem’

HA PowerCLI Settings Explained:

  • -HAEnabled, -DRSEnabled and -EVCMode each in turn enable the core vSphere clustering features.
  • -HAAdmissionControlEnabled enables strict admission control indicating that if the cluster lack enough reserved resources for failure, then VMs will not be allowed to power on.
  • -HAFailoverLevel defines the failover capacity by a static number of hosts. This can be number from 1 to 4.
  • -HARestartPriority set the default restart policy. By default this is usually “Normal”. Other options include “Disabled”, “Medium” and “High”. By default all VMs share the same priority, until some are configured with a custom priority that’s lower or higher than the default.
  • -HAIsolationResponse controls what happens if an ESXi host becomes disconnected from the rest of the cluster. This is often indicative of a network failure. In this case the assumption is that if both the primary and secondary management networks of the host are unreachable, and the host cannot access its default gateway – is that it has failed. VMs will forcibly powered off.

DRS PowerCLI Settings Explained:

  • -DRSAutomationLevel controls whether VMs are automatically moved by DRS or require a level of administrator interaction, acceptable values are FullyAutomated, Manual, and PartiallyAutomated.

Enhanced vMotion Compatibility Settings Explained.

  • -EVCMode – EVC enforces a CPU policy or mask to prevent incompatible hosts from joining the cluster. It can also in some circumstances mask CPU difference to enfore compatibilty by hidding different CPU attributes from one hosts to another. EVC comes in an AMD and Intel flavour. Supported values for Intel processors include ‘intel-merom’, ‘intel-penryn’, ‘intel-nehalem’, ‘intel-westmere’, ‘intel-sandybridge’ and ‘intel-ivybridge’.

IMPORTANT: When vSphere Hosts are added to a EVC Enabled Cluster there must be no powered or running VMs on the host. For this reason EVC is best enabled early in the build process. Additionally, this can also cause problems if vCenter is running the vSphere Host as vCenter must be running in order carry out the move or joining the cluster.

Adding Multiple vSphere hosts to a HA Enabled Cluster

Adding vSphere Hosts to a cluster can be achieved in two main ways. If the vSphere Hosts are already registered to the vCenter and have been appropriately configured they can be moved into the cluster – this has the effect of enabling the HA Agent on each host. This script hosts 01 to 03 with the name are moved into the cluster called GoldCluster01.

1..3 | Foreach {
$Num = “{0:00}” -f $_
move-vmhost esx”$Num” -Location “GoldCluster01″

Advanced settings can applied to the vSphere HA Cluster using PowerCLI. It does however require that vSphere HA is disabled and re-enabled in order for them to take effect. Again, you might prefer to configure these options prior to joining or moving the vSphere hosts to the cluster. This can be achieved by the New-AdvancedSetting cmdlet to pass the new parameters, together with Set-Cluster to disable and re-enable vSphere HA.

This process does take sometime and some worrying alarms are triggered – but once the HA Agent has been fully restarted these disappear.

$cluster = Get-Cluster -Name GoldCluster01
New-AdvancedSetting -Entity $cluster -Type ClusterHA -Name ‘das.isolationaddress1′ -Value -confirm:$false
New-AdvancedSetting -Entity $cluster -Type ClusterHA -Name ‘das.usedefaultisolationaddress’ -Value false -confirm:$false
Set-Cluster -Cluster $cluster -HAEnabled:$false -confirm:$false
Set-Cluster -Cluster $cluster -HAEnabled:$true -confirm:$false


Posted by on January 7, 2015 in BackToBasics

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Chinwag Reloaded with Alan Renouf (@alanrenouf)


Alan Renouf blogs at Despite the name, Alan or Al to his friends is most certainly not French. But rumour has it his family go all the way back to 1066 and the Battle of Hastings. I first met Alan via the London VMUG when he used to do workshops in the morning about all things PowerCLI/PowerShell related. Imagine that? Those folks were being “taught” by the guy who would go on to the be Product Manager! Just goes to show the hidden value of VMUGs, you often meet the rising stars of the future there…

I caught up with Alan at the VMware CorpHQ Campus in Palo Alto, CA. I happened to be in town doing one of my monthly catch-ups with the EVO:RAIL team, so it was great to catch-up with Al over lunch. As you might suspect our discussions were very PowerCLI orientated, but we did range around other subjects to including:

  • What have you learned about products now that you manage one? Much jive between your experience as user?
  • PowerActions
  • What’s new in 5.8
  • Why have you stopped blogging (joke!) but serious no blogs between June til Sept – is that life as PM


The links above Alan’ss photo take you to the feeds – iTunes for Video/Audio versions of the blog as well as a generic RSS feed location as well. Please subscribe! The Twitter icon will take you to Scott Lowe’s twitter. Please follow Scott because he only 18K+ followers and could do with the boost! [JOKE!]

Click here to listen to the directly on this site…. or alternatively watch the youtube video below:


Posted by on December 19, 2014 in Chinwag

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London VMUG: Its not the X-Factor, It’s the V-Factor!

This year I helped spearhead an initiative to promote more people speaking from the vCommunity at VMUGs in general. VMUGs have always had a fair slice of “vendor” speakers, which I guess I must admit I’m part of – now that I work for VMware. But I still passionately believe that User Group meetings should be about Users, not the vendors – who let’s remember are largely there to pimp their warez. If you haven’t heard of the “Feed4ward” program – toddle off to the landing zone to learn more.

There’s now another initiative called vFactor which is the name adopted by the London VMUG – to describe a more carrot than stick approach to garnering your contributions. So team there have put together vFactor – which award prizes for the best session delivered by a member of the community. The prizes are so jaw-droppingly excellent – I’m considering resigning my position at VMware, to throw my hat in the ring [JOKE!]

  • 1st Prize: MacBook Air
  • 2nd Prize: iPad Air
  • 3rd Prize: iPad Mini
  • 4th Prize: Amazon voucher
  • 5th Prize: Amazon voucher

So basically – Come and present a 10min talk at London VMUG on 22nd Jan 2015 and have the chance to win Apple shiny good or Amazon vouchers – you can submit abstract & the rules here now –

The VMUG committee pick 5 submissions from the entries to present at the event and the closing date is 19th December 2014 – everyone who presents will win something, and the audience will vote for their favourite to determine what loot you go home with from the above list…

You may be no Duncan Laverick, or Mike Dennemann. But if you regularly tell your colleagues what your project is and how its evolving you can speak at a VMUG…

Finally, is it me or is the prospect of Duncan Laverick – one the most horrifying thought experiments ever to be born?



Posted by on December 12, 2014 in VMUG

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UK VMUG raises £400 for Blood Bikers


Last months UK VMUG was a roaring success in more ways than one. At the event we managed to raise £400 for the “Blood Bikers” charity (National Association of Blood Bikes). Their volunteers are (mainly retired) bikers who ferry plasma, blood, milk, and other medical supplies around the country from one hospital to another from the hours of 7pm at night, round the clock til 7am. It’s a great charity – because of the great outcomes – but also saves our NHS thousands (perhaps millions?) a year in providing service for free. The money was raised in a raffle at the vCurry and the event itself – and was won by none other than Chris Wahl.

The breakdown of the money raised is a little bit funkier than the straight £400. We actually raised £325.10. But the runners-up in the vCurry Quiz (the somewhat risque named “Team vCOC”) donated their prize of £45 in Amazon vouchers to the cause. It’s proved difficult to change this donation in back into cash. So I’ve “bought” the vouchers, and added the cash to the total. My wife and I figured we would probably spend the money on Amazon at Christmas anyway. That brought the total £380.10. So we then made a personal donation to the pot of £19.90 to bring the grand total of £400. Phew!

Anyway, in the interest of transparency – below is record of the transactions – including a letter from National Association of Blood Bikes

Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Announcements

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Chinwag Reloaded with Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe)


Scott Lowe blogs at We’ve known each for a while – I think we met first at VMworld in Las Vegas. Ever since I’ve been bumping into him at VMworlds, and once unexpectedly at Heathrow Airport. In this episode of the chinwag we talk about the following topics

  • Closing Comments in blogs – Does signal an end of era where bloggers developed an active dialog, and now were broadcasters?
  • Intel Rack-Scale
  • Vagrant. What is it? Yet another scripting language to master or something really game shifting?
  • Open Source  – where do you feel the movement is going. Is it still really for ISPs and uber companies with deep pockets and full time development staff?


The links above Scott’s photo take you to the feeds – iTunes for Video/Audio versions of the blog as well as a generic RSS feed location as well. Please subscribe! The Twitter icon will take you to Scott Lowe’s twitter. Please follow Scott because he only 18K+ followers and could do with the boost! [JOKE!]

Click here to listen to the Podcast on this site…. or alternatively watch the youtube video below:


Posted by on December 4, 2014 in Chinwag

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