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Category: VMware (page 1 of 2)

VMware Horizon 7 Announced!

So while I’ve been writing a blog post on getting Grafana and InfluxDB setup to monitor your homelab, VMware went ahead and announced the latest innovations for their End User Computing solution.

Instead of boring you with a repeat of the announcement, I’m going to briefly highlight what I think are some of the biggest announcements.

Instant Clones WUT?!

Here’s a quick intro into what Project Meteor (Just in Time Clones) is all about.

At the basic level, it’s a in-memory clone of a powered-on reference machine (it’s quiesced and cloned as required), a virtual machine that in other words you’d be using as your desktop pool golden image. Only now, when a new client desktop instance is requested, the newly created client desktop will use the parent memory and disk, from that point the newly requested client desktop will live on it’s own. However, this newly created client desktop will use the parent memory and disk for reads. At logoff the client desktop is destroyed, not refreshed just gone.

instant-clones

That’s a very simplistic explanation, but alas here’s the benefits JIT desktops bring to your individual deployments.

Note: Composer isn’t going anywhere at the moment

Instant cloning based on vmForking is bringing many benefits

  • Reference Image and Desktop Maintenance is virtually eliminated
  • High performance
  • Enhanced user experience

Desktop management

Desktop management and maintenance windows are the hardest and most time consuming part of any virtual desktop environment. The virtual desktop needs updating, software needs to be installed.

One of the biggest pains in the asses in dealing with “Gold Reference Images” are Virus Scanners and Windows updates. We all know the drill, they never stop and you have to weigh the man hours required to keep these things current vs your current business risk requirements. Not to mention that there’s never an ideal time to perform pool recompose. With JIT desktop clones, we’ve eliminated this problem entirely.

The “Gold Reference Image” can be updated anytime because the desktop your user has just requested is created from a living breathing virtual machine, not some copy that has been lying dormant for a week. So during the day you can allow your Virus Scanner server and the WSUS server to update the software on your reference image and when the user logs on to their machine, they get an always up to date desktop.

High performance

Before JIT desktops, our composer deployed pools provisioned desktops ahead of the user’s request often leading to boot storms and requiring architects to design storage subsystems around these brief but critical performance windows. With JIT desktops, an elastic pool consists of 0 or a miniscule amount of provisioned desktops, meaning our days of deploying hundreds of desktops upfront are gone, and likewise for our boot storms.  Additionally because we’re referencing reads from a single disk our login storms are markedly reduced as well!

Enhanced end user experience

As mentioned before the experience to the end user enhanced because we no longer have to interrupt sessions for Recomposes or application updates. When IT or the business decides it’s time to deploy an update company wide, we don’t have to worry about updating “The VDI Users”, everyone is on equal footing now!

JIT desktops are now a reality with the instant cloning functionality of Horizon 7, App Volumes and VMware UEM.

v1.0 Caveats

There are a few limitations with the v1.0 release. For example, only floating desktops are supported. No dedicated desktops as of now, but v2 should have it. Also no RDSH or Apps support. The scale is up to 2000 desktops with single vCenter, single vLAN only.

  • No Nvidia GRID and there is are limited SVGA options.
  • Storage options – there are VSAN or VMFS datastores

Blast Extreme Protocol

One of the other big announcements, next to Instant clones, was Blast Extreme. When VMware first announced Blast it was a nice feature to be able to access a desktop or with recent releases even applications through a browser in a pinch, but due to feature disparity it was never widely deployed at any of my customer installs.

Recent rumors hinted at VMware giving Blast a bigger role in a new version of Horizon. Looks like that day is today.

Blast Extreme brings a lot of features that were missing in the previous revisions.

  • Grid optimized
  • Better battery life
  • Built for the Cloud
  • Feature parity

extreme1

Probably the biggest single thing about the Blast Extreme Protocol is that it supposedly has complete  feature parity between both VMware protocols. 

Port sharing will ensure that Blast is ready on day 1 for existing installs by being the preferred protocol and failing back to PCoIP if required.

blast-extreme

Honestly it wouldn’t shock me to see VMware deprecate PCoIP entirely in the not to distant future.  PCoIP has always needed some love as far as tweaking performance with bandwidth constraints, and being that Blast is based on H.264, this is likely the final nail in the coffin. Also remember PCoIP isn’t owned by VMware, it was jointly developed with Teredici and they are the sole supplier of PCoIP chips for zero clients.  With this move, it opens up the hardware ecosystem to an entirely new set of manufacturers who are able to offer Zero devices with basic H264 decoding chips as opposed to licensing Teredici Intellectual Property.

Other goodies…

AMD Graphics support for vSGA

  • Enable multiuser GPU solution for Horizon via AMD graphics hardware
  • AMD SR-IOV support (single root I/O virtualization)
  • Native AMD driver support for OpenGL, DirectX and OpenCL acceleration
  • Solidworks, PTC and Siemens ISV certification planned

Intel vDGA Graphics support

With Intel Xeon E3 – Support for CPUs with integrated Iris Pro GPU and compatible with Intel Graphics Virtualization Technologies (Intel GVT-d), with support up to 3 monitors per user.

Flash Redirection

This is in tech preview (supports only server-side fetch of the flash content). It allows the redirection of flash content from the server to the client in order to be decoded and rendered locally.

Allows flash streaming content to play more smoothly with lower bandwidth and CPU usage at the server side.

Improved printing Experience

Local and network printing is up to 4x faster.

Windows 10 Improvements

Scan and serial port redirection are finally supported, where the scanner redirection supports TWAIN and WIA standards on Windows clients. Serial port redirection allows serial port redirection from the client to the server.

URL Content Redirection

Allows Horizon to redirect the destination URL from the virtual desktop to the local browser. Admins can configure policies to control whether user can access the content with application on the server or the client. Supports HTTP and HTTPs. Can be usefull for customers who need to separate internal browsing from external browsing domains. Allows admins to secure the environment where content which is potentially dangerous is executed on the client computer instead on the VDI desktop.

Admins can configure GPOs which does restrict the content that will be opened in a browser inside the virtual desktop vs the browser on the client’s PC.

Credit to Rob BeekmansVladan Seget for the heads up!

VMware App Volumes 3.0 Announced!

I’m going to admit to being a huge fan of the VMware App Volumes product since it’s acquisition in August of 2014.  The team has done a great job of responding to customer requests for new and increased functionality and have just announced their biggest update yet with 3.0.

So what’s new in VMware App Volumes 3.0?

  • AppToggle – A new patent pending capability that enables per user entitlement and installation of applications within a single AppStack for maximum flexibility. This helps IT reduce the number of AppStacks that need to be managed, lowers storage capacity and management costs even further, improves performance, and allows applications to share or have different dependencies in a single AppStack. The AppToggle architectural approach of only installing entitled applications also offers greater security as opposed to simply hiding installed applications, which can easily be exploited.
  • AppCapture with AppIsolation – A new capability that easily captures and updates applications to simplify application packaging, delivery and isolation with a command line interface that enables IT to distribute AppStack creation to different teams and merge AppStacks for simplified delivery and management. With support for AppIsolation, AppCapture also integrates with VMware ThinApp to enable IT to deliver native applications and VMware ThinApp applications in one consistent format through AppStacks.
  • AppScaling with Multizones – Allows integrated application availability across datacenters so customers no longer need additional software to replicate AppStacks across sites. IT admins can add multiple file shares to host AppStacks and pair them to VMware vCenter™ instances. An import service will then scan the file shares and populate the AppStacks into the data stores of the vCenter instances. This removes the requirement of having a shared data store between vCenter instances to replicate AppStacks.
  • Integrated Application, User Management and Monitoring Architecture – A new modern architecture for the VMware App Volumes manager component offers the industry’s only solution that combines application and user environment management with monitoring. With an architecture streamlined for faster provisioning and context-aware user policy, this offers a flexible and reliable application and lifecycle management solution for the digital workspace.
  • Unified Administration Console ­– A single pane of glass across application management, user environment management and monitoring. This next-generation admin view recognizes patterns to create simple, yet powerful workflows for application delivery, user environment management (beta for this release), and desktop and published application environment monitoring. This removes the complexity of managing multiple consoles but still enables customers to use legacy consoles if desired. Out of the box functionality also enables IT admins to address end-user needs quickly and efficiently.

Additionally it seems they’re breaking out the functionality of the new release into multiple editions… It will be interested to see how these are priced and also how they’re integrated into existing offerings like Horizon Enterprise.

  • Standard – A new edition starting at only $60 per user that includes AppStacks, Writeable Volumes and integrated UEM
  • Advanced – Includes scalable enterprise management capabilities such as AppToggle, AppCapture with AppIsolation, and AppScaling for organizations with 1,000 or more seats.
  • Enterprise – Includes application monitoring in addition to the capabilities available in the Advanced edition

You can find more info about the announcement by visiting : http://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2016/02/vmware-app-volumes-3-0.html

vRealize Operations Manager 6.2 Released

A shiny new version of vRealize Operations Manager has been released, bumping the version number up to 6.2.  Here’s a few highlights that come with the new version.

vRealize Operations Manager 6.2 is the latest release of the VMware integrated vRealize Operations Suite. Updates cover all major areas of the product including installation, configuration, licensing, alerting, dashboards, reports, and policies. This release introduces the following enhancements.

  • Enhanced Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) Integration
    vRealize Operations now offers enhanced integration with the vCenter Distributed Resource Scheduler (DRS) when making and executing workload placement recommendations. The vRealize Operations Manager analytics determine cross-cluster placement opportunities, while vCenter Distributed Resource Scheduler determines the best destination within clusters. The enhanced integration uses all DRS rules, constraints, and enterprise-class capabilities.
  • New Workload Utilization Dashboard
    The Workload Utilization Dashboard enables you to see the object workload utilization for Cluster, DataCenter, and Custom DataCenter containers. The new dashboard incorporates an updated Utilization widget, capable of operating in either a capacity or workload utilization mode.
  • Ability to Import Single Sign-On Users
    As an Administrator, you can now add and authorize new users for vRealize Operations Manager by importing them from a Single Sign-On source.
  • Telemetry Enablement on Upgrade
    This release includes a one-time dialog after you upgrade that allows you to participate in the VMware Customer Experience Improvement Program. This program collects anonymous product configuration and usage data to enhance future versions of vRealize Operations.
  • Portable Licensing
    The portable licensing feature adds the ability for customers to license use of the product in vSphere as well as non-vSphere environments.

    • This is part of a larger effort to decouple VMware licensing from a single deployment method. You should be seeing more information on this in the next couple of weeks!

On top of the new features listed above, it’s now possible to mix license keys from Advanced and Enterprise deployments.

Applying License Keys

vRealize Operations Manager 6.2 allows customers to install multiple Advanced and Enterprise editions in the same vRealize Operations Manager deployment. This enhancement lets customers deploy single choice and suite licenses together.

License counting for individual license keys is handled through licensing groups. You can mix editions or licensing models in one of the following ways:

  • Deploy vCloud Suite Standard, vSphere with Operations Management, and vRealize Operations Standard together in one deployment.
  • Deploy vCloud Suite Advanced or Enterprise, vSphere with Operations Management Advanced, vRealize Operations Insight, and vRealize Operations Advanced or Enterprise in one deployment.

Note: You cannot deploy a Standard edition license with either an Advanced or Enterprise license in the same deployment.

Head on over to https://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vrops/62/vrops-62-release-notes.html to get all the info on what’s changed and what’s new!

So you want to build a VMware Homelab…

So you want to get started learning VMware technologies huh?  Well  you’re going to need something to practice on.

Now, there’s nothing wrong starting out by running a lab environment on your primary desktop or laptop, assuming you have 16+GB of ram at a minimum. If this is the route you’re planning on taking, I suggest getting started with VMware Workstation and downloading a prebuilt environment called AutoLab.  It makes setup of the environment and it’s solutions fairly easy, the only downside is it isn’t updated very frequently so it’s often behind on it’s support for new products.

But what happens when you want to start playing with scenarios in the real world with hardware that’s dedicated to that purpose?  Well first you’re going to need to find some.
When it comes to homelab kit, most of us have a few rules.

  1. Quiet
  2. Low Power
  3. Cheap(ish)

Let’s face it, you don’t want your closet to sound like a 747 is taking off, nor do you want to be shelling out the money to cool some 5U behemoth server just to run through some application testing.  Now if you’re made of money, and have a garage or basement that’s going to be housing your lab; move along, this is not the homelab article you’re looking for.

As mentioned above, a good home server is inexpensive, silent and has a low power consumption. I’m going to show you a few options for buying the building blocks of a VMware homelab starting with the hosts.  Our candidates for today are as follows…

  • HP Microserver N36L / N40L / N54L
  • HP Microserver Gen8
  • Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC)
  • Gigabyte BRIX

 

HP Microserver N36L / N40L / N54L

These guys were the defacto standard solution for a lot of homelabbers when they first came out. I won’t go into the previous generations of the device, and instead will tell you that the latest available N54L has an AMD Dual Core 2.20GHz CPU. The Gen7 Microserver is a capable system that can run ESXi without any problems. It checks a number of the items off our list coming in at around 25W idle with no drives installed, and at around $300 it’s one of the lowest cost solutions on our list and it supports 16GB of RAM.

704941-421_5_1600x1600

However, due to the age of these guys, the price doesn’t get you a whole lot of power.  The Turion chip inside these Gen7 microservers is serviceable at best.  Running windows updates on a VM is a multi-hour affair (especially .NET).  But if you’re not constantly tearing down and rebuilding systems on your lab and are looking for a device that can support a more static workload, you’d be hard pressed to find a guy more capable.

Now while these guys aren’t exactly up to today’s standards when it comes to performance as an ESXi host, they definitely have a place in our homelab!  In addition to my Synology 1515+ I have in the lab I’ve also got one of these Gen7 microservers running the XPenology project, which is essentially all of the best bits of Synology’s DSM software running on your own hardware.

Due to their 4 drive bays and PCI-E slot these guys are rock stars as a shared storage solution for your homelab.  Pair one of these with a Quad Port PCI-E 1x card (like this one) and you’ve got yourself one hell of a NAS.  Need some more storage? Throw in a SAS expander card (like this HP P410 which supports 8 drives across 2 4x SAS ports) and run an external enclosure (like this!) next to it! For all of the gripes people have about the CPU performance, these truly are versatile little devices!

  • AMD Turion CPU with 2x 2.20GHz
  • Up to 16GB Memory
  • 4 HDD Slots
  • 1x Gigabit LAN onboard
  • 2 PCI-e Slots (16x, 1x)
  • Remote Access Card available
  • ESXi 6.0 works without any modifications

What to Buy?

Using as a ESXi Host…

Using as a shared storage SAN / NAS…

 

HP Microserver Gen8

So we just talked about previous generation of the Microserver, now let’s talk about the current version. The Generation 8 Microserver is a revised platform and comes with more power, upgraded ports and an integrated iLO. It is also the only system in this list that is officially supported by VMware and listed in the Hardware Compatibility List. The Ivy Bride Intel CPU has great performance. The primary downside to the Gen8 is it’s price.  Unfortunately the Xeon based systems are somewhat substantially higher cost than their Pentium and Celeron based brothers.

  • proliant_microserver_800x600_00003Multiple CPUs available eg. Intel E3-1220V2 with 4x 3.1GHz
  • Up to 16GB Memory
  • 4 HDD Slots
  • 2x Gigabit LAN onboard
  • Integrated iLO
  • MicroSD Slot for ESXi
  • ESXi 6.0 works best with HP Customized Image

What to buy?
Now before you go buying one of these, if you can hold off a little while, there are rumors about a Gen9 microsever being released soon. Quantities of Gen8 hardware is in short supply around the channel partners right now, and HP’s own web store has slashed the prices of Gen8 hardware around the globe.  Unfortunately there aren’t any official announcements, but if I had to guess it’d be in the next month or so.

If you’re looking to catch a good deal, it’s probably worth your while to see if you can get one at a decent price around the web.

 

5th Gen Intel Next Unit of Computing (NUC)

The Intel NUC (Next Unit of Computing) is an interesting little device. The latest generation (5th) of the NUCs based on the Intel Broadwell chips are available with, or without 2.5″ drive support. Whether you have a 4th, or a 5th Gen NUC, these systems are a great choice and very wide-spread as VMware Homelabs. FYI… In order to install ESXi 6.0 you will need to create a customized ESXi Image.

  • maxresdefaulti3, i5 and i7 Broadwell Intel CPU available
  • Up to 16GB Memory supported (1.35V SODIMM)
  • It’s possible to get 32GB of RAM using Intelligent Memory
  • 1x Gigabit LAN onboard
  • M.2 SSD support
  • 2.5″ HDD/SDD support

What to buy?
If you’re considering a NUC for your VMware hosts, ensure that you don’t buy one with a Celeron chip inside. If you can find a good deal on a Gen 4 NUC, feel free to snag it up. The Haswell chips inside the Gen 4 devices work just as well often for a lower price.

 

Gigabyte BRIX

Now to a device that is similar to the NUC in design and function.  The Gigabyte BRIX Pro are high performance systems with 2.5″ HDD/SDD support and a quad-core CPU. They also have VT-d support and are good candidates for ESXi. The fastest available CPU is an Intel Core i7-4770R (4x 3.90 GHz) which is a little crazy for such a small package. Comparative to the NUC devices, the BRIX are a little less expensive, but should have all of the same fuctionality as they’re built based off the NUC reference design. As with the NUC, if you’re installing ESXi 6.0 you’ll need to create a customized install image.

  • i3, i5 and i7 Intel CPU available
  • Up to 16GB Memory supported (1.35V SODIMM)
  • 1x Gigabit LAN onboard
  • mSATA SSD support
  • 2.5″ HDD/SDD support

What to buy?
BRIX s and BRIX Pro have 2.5″ HDD support and are the best choice for ESXi. You should buy at least an i5.

So that’s the list of devices that I’ve played with in the past, do you have your own hardware you’ve got running and want me to include it here?  Shoot me a comment!

Crap… where does the time go?

As you can see I haven’t really been very thorough in making some updates to the site, and I’m getting the urge to get back into the  swing of things.  

Since I’ve been gone, I’ve gone through a couple of different jobs in the Hampton Roads area, primarily because each position I accepted pretty much had me sitting at a desk waiting for something to do.  Which is exactly the opposite of what I told them I wanted to be doing. That being said I’ve found a position with a great new company in central Virginia as a VMware Solutions Architect.  Getting to meet new customers and help them along their journey to a more streamlined and automated infrastructure environment is what I love to do.

I’m going to start posting regularly here on what I’m seeing customers struggling with in addition to some VMware product updates and how-to’s.

In addition to the new activity going on here, make sure you check out all of the new websites that we’ve got up and running at The New Tech.

If you have any suggestions for content here, please don’t hesitate to shoot me an email.  See you guys soon!

 

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