VMware ESX Health Check Tools

Duncan Epping has put together a "what's-in-my-toolbox" post on his blog, Yellow Bricks, that lays out what he uses to deliver a health check engagement in his capacity as a VMware Professional Services Organization practitioner.  It's always interesting and useful to see what a pro adds to the "standard" toolkit, and we at Replicate are proud to know he considers RDA of value in ascertaining the health of a VMware installation.

Health Check tools I use » Yellow Bricks

A few days ago Scott Lowe asked me which tools I use to deliver a health check engagement. A health check is a standard VMware PSO engagement, a VMware Consultant will be on site to check the status of your environment and will draw up a report. ...


Virtual Routing - Route the node, not the packet.

Andreas Antonopoulous of Nemertes Research picked up on a comment by Doug Gourlay at the Cisco C-Scape Conference last week.  It's one of those forehead-slapping ideas that is obvious once you give yourself permission to think about next generation technology without the preconceptions of the last generation.

Server virtualization is ripe for a number of these kinds of ideas.  It probably comes as no surprise that the use of server virtualization to create small network appliances to be used as both active and passive probes in a datacenter is one of my favorites.  This is how we accomplish a number of functions in Replicate's RDA related to datacenter discovery.  I have a couple more about which I should start posting.

In any case, please enjoy Andreas' post and the conversation that's ensued which elicited comments from Doug and John Burke (also of Nemertes).  Thanks, guys.

Virtual Routing - The anti-matter of network routing | Nemertes Research

Routing: Controlling the flow of network traffic to an optimal path between two nodes

Virtual-Routing or Anti-Routing: VMotioning nodes (servers) to optimize the flow of traffic on the network.

Using netflow information, identify those nodes (virtual servers) that have the highest traffic "affinity" from a volume perspective (or some other desired metric, like desired latency etc) and move (VMotion, XenMotion) the nodes around to re-balance the network. For example, bring the virtual servers exchanging the most traffic to hosts on the same switch or even to the same host to minimize traffic crossing multiple switches. Create a whole-data-center mapping of traffic flows, solve for least switch hops per flow and re-map all the servers in the data center to optimize network traffic.

There's a startup there somewhere. Route the node, not the packet.


Cameron Haight's CCBOE - Cloud Computing Board of Exchange

Cameron Haight of Gartner has an interesting post, with a thought that's crossed my mind more than a few times.  Ever since I came to believe in the portability of machine images and a standard form of description (e.g. the contents and instructions for deployment) like OVF, it's been a nice past-time to think about the byproducts.  My favorite is a marketplace, or possibly, a trading pit, in which the customer (consumer) of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) would shop for resources, based on an optimization profile.  Want to deploy a storage-intensive, multi-tier application? Who's got the best prices on storage with the necessary QoS?  Who's willing to bid for my "contract"?

The notion of a "utility" (as in utility computing) should have a notion of fungibility... perhaps several different flavors of it.   In the IaaS environment, the ability to shop for infrastructure resources or put them out for bid requires its own infrastructure.  Whether it leads to a commodities market scenario like mine, or the comparison shopping scenario (or both), is material for recreational speculation with an alcoholic beverage in hand.  I like Haight's notion of using UDDI for description and discovery.  His notion of comparison shopping for offers brings to mind images of looking for airfares on Expedia or Travelocity.  But I also think that there's a more responsive, flexible market mechanism that's likely to emerge in addition or as a complement.  Maybe that's the next startup to consider.

Thinking Aloud on Clouds

With several vendors to choose from that can run the same server image, I need to determine a criteria for selection. But wait .. how did I know “who” was out there that could host my server in the first place? I’m thinking that there needs to be some sort of registry that I could query perhaps ala UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration) - which I don’t think ever really materialized at least along the concept of an “uber” Internet registry that was heavily talked about in the early SOA days. Then I need something else - price and QoS information. And I probably want this updated pretty frequently as perhaps in the future prices will fluctuate according to demand (along the lines of how airlines perform revenue or yield management to maximize their passenger capacity).  ...


Eric Siebert - More on PCI and Virtualization

Eric Siebert has responded to the announcement that VMware will now participate in the PCI council that has responsibility for establishing the PCI-DSS standard.  He identifies four improvements which, in his opinion, would move the conversation and the use of virtualization within the PCI community to a level of viability needed to start addressing the more nuanced aspects.  The four suggestions:

  1. Include virtual hosts in the scope of the PCI-DSS standard.
  2. Clarify the "one-primary-function-per-server" dictum in the standard
  3. Expressly identify those security items and practices that are valid for BOTH virtual and physical hosts
  4. Start the process of addressing virtual networks, independent of the virtualized host issues.
None of these, on their face, seem unreasonable to me.  On the contrary, this seems to be a very thoughtful list, and without some of the drama that's accompanied the conversation.  A good place to start.  Vendors, PCI SSC and QSAs... please take note.

Adding virtualization to the PCI standard — Server Virtualization Blog

Earlier this month, I wrote about how the PCI standard was recently updated but still failed to take virtualization into account. Shortly after, VMware announced its participation in the PCI council to help address virtualization within the PCI data security standards. While this is certainly good news and will help tighten up the security standards around electronic credit card payments, the outcome of this announcement remains to be seen.  ...


New EMA Research on V12N Management

Enterprise Management Associates is certainly becoming one my first stops when looking for empirical evidence of what's happening in the virtualization management market, and, in particular, the responses of the mid- and top-tiers of the customer population.  In the newly announced results of a recent survey, EMA points to the newly realized perception that server virtualization in the datacenter doesn't necessarily impact costs or ease of management in the way that might have been promised.  In fact, they note that when it involves security, software control and distribution, or configuration in the datacenter, virtualization is perceived as making these functions more difficult for operations, administration and management.

Virtual servers present management challenges for midmarket firms

New research suggests that as a growing number of midmarket companies implement virtual servers, IT executives are finding major benefits and paybacks. But they're also discovering that virtualized environments are a lot more difficult and complex to manage than they anticipated.

An independent, CA Inc.-sponsored survey asked 300 top IT executives whether they had realized their primary virtualization objectives. Results were mixed: 63% of U.S. firms and 43% of firms worldwide reported that they had achieved easier hardware provisioning and software deployment through virtualization. Fifty-three percent of U.S. companies and 34% of companies worldwide reported that virtualization had enabled them to lower total cost of ownership. Only 37% of companies worldwide and 42% of U.S. firms reported being able to optimize performance on their virtualized platforms.

Behind these figures are management challenges that companies are only starting to recognize, let alone address, the surveys found. Only 24% of respondents to an Enterprise Management Associates Inc. survey of 627 corporate IT decision makers published last April said they thought virtualization makes security administration easier -- as compared with 42% in 2006. Just 32% said software control and distribution is easier in a virtualized environment, down from 58% two years ago. And configuration management numbers plummeted from 58% to 32%.   ...