Last week saw the end of the conference season with both the US and EU VMware’s event all done and dusted – so it seems timely to try to pull together some of my observations around the events. It might seem odd to mention this but by far the biggest announcements were the end of vRAM licensing, and the pulling together of the Cloud Suite. Now that both San Fran and Barcelona have had their major product announcements we can begin to see how things are taking shape.
Bye, Bye vRAM!
But first, vRAM. For those like me who are very active in the VMware Community it might seem odd to put this at the top of the news. After all doesn’t everyone know about this already? Well, you’d be surprised. I’ve been to a number of VMUG events where the news has yet to filter down. It’s probably fair to say I live my life in a bit of bubble given how so focused I’ve been on the VMware technology stack – that I forget that for some its just one part of the daily life. But with that said I don’t want to over the egg this. It’s good that its gone. It means we can steamroll into a future denser and denser vSphere hosts, and using memory over-commitment of the Hypervisor – which drove the initial success of virtualization in the early years. It means features that utilize server RAM as a cache – like View’s “Storage Accelerator” can be used freely. On the other side of the house we have the new vCloud Suite. This much more than just bundling exercise because we have successfully aligned the development, QA and release process such that all the products arrive on a train – more or less one after another. That was something we were less successful in the past where there was a gap between the release of vSphere, and its associated technologies. As you might know there is a free upgrade to the Standard Edition of the vCloud Suite for a limited period. Of course, there’s no such thing as free lunch – and there is SnS to consider. But a number of customer I spoke to in the US and EU said their SnS contracts had more than year to run. For them the upgrade to additional components is forgone conclusion. I think this twin track approach to licensing will do a great deal to keep customers happy, and at the same open up a new vista of technologies to deploy.
One highlight for me was the start of vBrownBag sessions in the “hangspace”. In case you don’t know the vBrownBag are bunch of like minded individuals who put together what is essentially free training for the community. I’m currently following their series on VCP-Cloud/IaaS as part of my prep for the VCP-Cloud Exam. San Fran/Barcelona introduced a kind of “community track” with folks registering to deliver “lightening sessions” which were live-streamed from the hangspace floor. I was really pleased that this happen – as a couple of years ago I tried and failed-miserably to kickstart a “VMware Losers” setup, that gave folks who had a session rejected for VMworld a platform to get their message across. Perhaps folks reacted negatively to being called losers! 🙂 I did two vBrownBag sessions one unplanned (on VDI) and the other more prepared (and long) on my take on the software-defined datacenter. It’s one of number of new presso I’m working on for my EMEA/VMUG tour which kicks of next month. The idea is too talk VMware vision/technologies without using the official VMware corporate deck. My session is online now along with fellow vBrownBaggers.
I hope we see this effort repeated in years to come and that it will become a permanent fixture of the event. Although personally I think we need to think of locating the event in such away that it retains its “community” feel whilst improving up the sound quality. There’s a lot of background noise in the hangspace which comes across in the recordings, and makes it tricky to keep an audiences attention…
The Barcelona VMworld will be memorable one for me. I made a return to attending breakout sessions. For the last couple of years I felt a bit “jaded” by VMworld, and couldn’t work out why. So started to think about how things had changed over the years. The main thing identified is that I just wasn’t attending sessions like I used to. Back when I was jobbing freelance VCI (VMware Certified Instructor) the main purpose of VMworld was to attend VMworld sessions (perhaps speak at one as well!) and soak up useful knowledge to pass on to my students. In the last 2-3 years I’ve morphed into a (social) media type, and found myself overly focused on podcasts and other work (awards, solutions exchanges, meeting the vendors for the vendorwags etc), and lost sight of the original objective. In short my tech-brain wasn’t being fed by the event. I was determined to carve out sometime to attend session in Barcelona – as well as keeping up my presance (I did two “Engineers Unplugged” sessions with Cisco, and also did a spot of “booth duty” for the Global VMUG on the Solutions Exchange floor). That really worked out for me, although I would have to say next I’m going to have to go back to really planning out breakout session schedule, rather than approaching it the loosey-goosey way that I did.
Anyway, I won’t bore you with a very long details description of the session I attended. But keep it high-level…
I attended a session on vShield or as we are calling it now – vCloud Networking and Security (vCNS). It was quite a high-level session I was pleased to finally bump into former VMware employee Matthew Northam as an attendee – Matt was instrumental in helping get on aboard for the vShield Endpoint product for the eucbook.com. The big thing I got from this session is how improved vShield Load-Balancing is. Previously, this feature only did port 80/http traffic. It’s now support for all TCP traffic as well as port 444/https. The eucbook.com used F5 BIG-IP as load-balancing example because I couldn’t use vShield Edge to load-balancing across the View Security and View Connection Servers with the 5.0. I intend to keep up my good relations with F5 Networks as they are one of VMware’s key partners – but I now see that customers have choice based on their needs. If they need a full-fat all-singing-and-dancing Application Controller device (that’s how companies like F5 now describe themselves) then there’s the 3rd party market – but if customer just need bog standard load-balancing then vShield Edge Gateway is viable candiate. As part of my personal development around vCloud Director for the VCP-Cloud – I’m looking for good candidates for vApps – and I’ve identified apps like WordPress, Wiki, VMware Horizon Application Manager and Zimbra as good example/sample candidates – all of which will benefit from load-balancing at the web-front ends. I’d love to get VMware View 5.next working as vApp as well (for experimental purposes) and revist this load-balancing issue from scratch. My esteemed colleague William Lam has already beaten me to the documentation on this – but its something I want to do for myself for my own satisfaction.
Generally session was good opportunity to voice concerns about extending support for Endpoint beyond Windows, and how to meet the increasing challenges around certificate management within the vCloud Suite. On this second point I was made away of the “vCert Manager” project over on LongWhiteClouds.com which I’ve signed up for the beta that’s been pilotted by Virtual Systems Solutions. With my new lab environment being constructed of lots of our virtual appliances which are then registered with the vCenter Server Appliance – I’m looking for method to more effectively manage my SSL certificates, where previously I’ve just accept self-signed certificates.
The other thing I learned was about how we handle agents and auto-deploy. I’ve been considering using auto-deploy mainly because I have hosts that lack DRAC/ILO and I want an easy way to swap in/out different vSphere Host builds. There’s trouble with this. Agents are “installed” by the agent manager and are not VIBs. That means that when you PXE boot, then install the agent – that agent is “lost” on the next reboot. The recommendation from the vCNS folks is to install the vSphere host software and use their agent tools to handle manage it. Remember it’s not just the vShield Agents I’m thinking of here, but also the vCD Agent and the VXLAN Agent as well. All of this got me thinking that they maybe life in the old “Ultimate Deployment Appliance” and the “ESX Deployment Appliance” yet.
Finally, the other thing I got was good usage cases that I hadn’t considered before especially for vShield App. In case you don’t know this allows to control communication between VMs on the same network portgroup. Whereas Edge Gate protects the perimeter of the network, App protects vCenter objects and assets. The example was using App to protect virtual desktops from each other – whilst still allowing outbound access to the Internet. You could use App to stop a compromised virtual desktop from speaking to and speading its evilness to other virtual desktops…
The other nuggets of information I picked up on concerned VXLAN. Although VXLAN is frequently compared to protocols from the like Cisco – its common that people talk about VXLAN as allowing for layer2 across different sites and thus “solving” the dreaded “re-ip” issue for actions like VMotion and failover’s with SRM. I know I’ve mentioned it. What I didn’t know is VXLAN is not supported (yet) across sites, its support for internal site networking at the moment. It’s really intend to bridge the gap between multiple clusters which have been silo’d by network or storage – to allow the VM to move from one clusters to another – without having to create a flat network VLAN structure that spans multiple clusters. The other interesting fact I learned about VXLAN was this. Did you do a hands-on-lab in SanFran or Barcelona? If you did you used VXLAN. Apparently our HOL regularly hits the VLAN limits (max 4096 VLANS) and we used VXLAN to get the segmentation we need in what has to be the ultimate demonstration of multi-tenancy (imagine all those lab takers as being their own cloud tenant?).
Finally, Barcelona will always be memorable for me for much bigger reason. I finally did the decent thing and proposed marriage to my long-term girlfriend Carmel. You will be pleased to hear that this wasn’t in a breakout session and no PowerPoint were used. Instead I did the traditional thing – romantic restaurant in the old city, down one knee. Some people have said I’m an “old romantic” – but I keep on saying – hey, less of the old. Don’t realize I’m actually 64 and the rejuvenating and revitalift which is virtualization is keeping looking younger and smoothing away the dryness lines of aging!