VMware vExpert vSAN 2018 Announced

Phew…. *sigh of relief* ….. thankfully this year I’ve made the cut again for the vExpert vSAN track! =)

Almost didn’t make it as I was on holiday during the application process and missed the original deadline. Thankfully the application was still live so I sneaked in an application and sent my apologies to the vExpert admin team.

Anyways, congrats to all returning vExpert vSAN members and welcome to all new members joining for the 1st time!

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2018/06/vexpert-vsan-2018-announcement.html

Let’s keep evangelising about vSAN and drive that customer demand…… as VMware announced recently, there are now over 14,000 vSAN and VxRail customers (as of the end of Q1)! That’s impressive for a product that was only launched in 2014!

I’m a big big advocate of VxRail and love talking about the HCI solution to my customers… I’m also proud that MTI are one of the leading partners in the UK for VxRail (and also one of the very first partners to sell/deploy VxRail when it launched)!

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VMware vSphere 6.7 & 6.5 update 2 – Resources

Just over a fortnight ago VMware released their latest version of vSphere and vSAN – 6.7…. unfortunately for me, I was neck-deep in a tender response and was in Paris for a number of days for a meeting – so spent most of my travels looking at a small mobile phone screen trying to read up on what’s new… (mental note: time for a new phone with a bigger screen – must be getting old as my eyesight isn’t as good as it was).

When I finally got back online and started thinking about what to write about, I realised that the net was already inundated with bloggers writing about “What’s new in vSphere 6.7”. I quickly realised that I didn’t just want to regurgitate the same thing as a lot of the ‘newer’ bloggers were doing, so I decided to spend some time pulling together all the good resources that I have read over the last few weeks and write a blog about where people should go to learn about vSphere/vCenter and vSAN 6.7.

Note: This blog article has actually been in draft mode for 2 weeks as I’ve been waiting for the vSphere 6.7 lightboards to be re-released by VMware marketing – if you didn’t already know, it was posted onto VMware’s YouTube channel a week before launch and then quickly disappeared!! I’ve been waiting for them to turn up again before posting this article but for some reason they haven’t re-appeared (makes me wonder if marketing deleted the only copy they had of the lightboards… lol).
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/04/09/vsphere_6_7_vids_vanish/

 

The Knowledge Journey

The most obvious place to start your knowledge journey is none other than VMware’s own vSphere Blog and Virtual Blocks blog, the best blogs are:
https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/04/introducing-vmware-vsphere-6-7.html
https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/04/introducing-vcenter-server-6-7.html
https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2018/04/17/whats-new-vmware-vsan-6-7/

These were the first blog posts I read to understand what new features were in the latest release, and they’re very good summaries.

As always, Duncan Epping was one of the first to release his articles on “What’s new” and they were very concise articles going over some of the more interesting features:
http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2018/04/17/whats-new-vsan-6-7/
http://www.yellow-bricks.com/2018/04/17/vsphere-6-7-announced/

I then started reading around the other products released as well:
What’s New with SRM and vSphere Replication 8.1 – https://blogs.vmware.com/virtualblocks/2018/04/17/srm-vr-81-whats-new/
What’s New in vRealize Automation 7.4 – https://blogs.vmware.com/management/2018/03/whats-new-vrealize-automation-7-4.html

If you want a deep-dive into all things vSphere/vCenter, then head over to Emad Younis’s blog: http://emadyounis.com.

For a deeper-dive into all things related to security, head over to Mike Foley’s blog: https://www.yelof.com.

All finally, there’s the vSphere Blog: https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/launch

 

KB article on Update sequence for vSphere 6.7 and compatible products – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/53710
KB article on Important information before upgrading to vSphere 6.7 – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/53704
Blog article on upgrading vCenter Appliance from 6.5 to 6.7 – https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/05/upgrading-vcenter-server-appliance-6-5-6-7.html

Note: Upgrades from vCenter Server 6.0 and later to vCenter Server 6.7 is supported. To upgrade from vCenter Server 5.0, 5.1 or 5.5, you must first upgrade the vCenter Server instance to version 6.0 or later releases, and then upgrade to vCenter Server 6.7.

These products are not compatible with vSphere 6.7 at this time:

  • VMware NSX
  • VMware Integrated OpenStack (VIO)
  • VMware vSphere Integrated Containers (VIC)

 

Some YouTube videos:
vSAN 6.7 Technical Overview Video – https://youtu.be/Ss5KWAtGvXo
vSAN 6.7 What’s New Technical – https://youtu.be/YzurWX5m4m8
Faster Host Upgrades to vSphere 6.7 – https://youtu.be/8fqE5zsnkTQ

So here’s a list of all new product releases:

  • vSphere ESXi & vCenter Server 6.7
  • vSAN 6.7
  • vSphere Replication 8.1
  • Site Recovery Manager 8.1
  • vRealize Operations Manager 6.7
  • vRealize Automation 7.4.0
  • vRealize Orchestrator Appliance 7.4.0
  • vRealize Log Insight 4.6.0
  • vRealize Business for Cloud 7.4.0
  • vRealize Suite Lifecycle Manager 1.2
  • vRealize Code Stream 2.4
  • NSX SD-WAN Edge by VeloCloud 3.2.0
  • Horizon 7.4.1 Enterprise

Finally here’s list of all the documentations:

 

It’s worth noting that last week VMware also released vSphere 6.5 update 2 which back-ports a few of the new features in 6.7 into 6.5. For more information point your browsers here: https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/05/vsphere-6-5-update-2-now-available.html

Additional updates:

vExpert 2018 Award Announcement

So last Thursday/Friday the vExpert slack channel was awash with lots of nervous energy as people were eagerly waiting for the announcement to see if they had been accepted back into the vExpert program for 2018…. Strange, but to me it seemed that everyone was a little bit more nervous this year then previous years!

On a side note – my newly favourited key stroke on Slack is Shift+Esc which clears all unread messages and notifications! =P

What probably didn’t help the nerves was when someone posted up a tweet by Eric Nielsen (who helps run the community alongside Corey Romero) showing that 1366 were accepted into the 2018 vExpert program, 305 were rejected and 183 deferred!!
Definitely made me a bit more nervous when I saw that…. >_<”

I think some people take it for granted that they’ll be re-accepted, I for one am always nervous and never take these things for granted because I see a lot of other people around me who blog a lot more than me or help out in the community a lot more than me.

Nerves were finally settled close to midnight on Friday, just as I was getting ready to go to bed…. an email pinged through with some welcoming words:
vexpert

I’m obviously glad and honoured to be considered part of this amazing group for the 4th year running. =)

The new vExpert portal looks brilliant and the directory has even updated our profiles:
vexpert-profile

For those who don’t know, the VMware vExpert program is VMware’s global evangelism and advocacy program. It’s a select group held in high regards within the VMware community as a bunch of IT professionals who ‘give back’ to the community whether by sharing their VMware knowledge by blogging or by helping within the community forums.

 

As always, much thanks has to go to those in the background who help run the vExpert and VMTN communities…. Eric NielsenCorey Romero and Katie Bradley (to name just a few… apologies if I’ve missed anyone out).

 

Finally well done to all the new and returning vExperts for 2018.

https://blogs.vmware.com/vmtn/2018/03/vexpert-2018-award-announcement.html

 

MTI Secure Hyper-Converged Infrastructure Webinar

So last Thursday I was asked by the marketing peeps at my company, MTI Technology, to run a webinar with my colleague, Andrew Tang, around what Hyper-Converged Infrastructure is all about, why it’s suddenly become so popular within the industry, and how best to secure a HCI solution.

The webinar has now been uploaded for public consumption…. and since it kind of went ok – apart from me suffering from a runny nose throughout (sorry for all the sniffing) – I’ve decided to blog about the webinar for you all to watch.

I don’t really touch upon product in this webinar, as the last thing customers want is to be shoehorned into a certain vendor product… instead I hope the webinar gives enough information about what HCI is in general, why customers should be looking at HCI during their next infrastructure refresh, and more importantly what to consider when evaluating a HCI solution!

Feel free to pop along and access the webinar recording here: https://mti.com/secure-hci-webinar-page/ (sorry, you have to fill in your details to gain access….)

Finally, if you’re interested in talking more about HCI then feel free to contact me or register for one of MTI’s HCI Discovery Workshops: http://bit.ly/2C8vS14

End of General Support for vSphere 5.5 and other Products

So there’s 7 months left from today until vSphere 5.5 and complimentary VMware products go out of General Support. The official EoGS date for vSphere 5.5 is 19th September 2018.

The products going EoGS on that same date are:

  • Site Recovery Manager 5.5/5.8
  • vSAN 5.5
  • vCenter Server 5.5 (including Update Manager 5.5)
  • vSphere Replication 5.5/5.6/5.8
  • vSphere Data Protection 5.5/5.8

When products go End of General Support, this typically means those products stop getting updates/upgrades and patches – including any new security/bug fixes! The only support offered is web based Support Requests for assistance on existing patches and bug fixes. Fortunately any issues with Spectre/Meltdown will still be addressed post Sept 19th as they’re classed as existing security issues (phew).

My suggestion is that you start planning your upgrades to vSphere 6.5 now as typically from experience with my customers, an upgrade project tends to take 2-3 months to plan/design and another month to execute.

There are quite a number of differences with 6.5, and I’ve blogged about it previously here:

There are 2 VMware KBs I recommend people reading before planning an upgrade:

 

Finally the best website to visit to help with any upgrades is VMware’s own Upgrade Center: https://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/upgrade-center.html

Spectre & Meltdown Update

So it seems that the microcode patches released by VMware associated with their recent Security Advisory (VMSA-2018-0004) have been pulled….
https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/52345
So that’s ESXi650-201801402-BG, ESXi600-201801402-BG, or ESXi550-201801401-BG.

The microcode patch provided by Intel was buggy and there seems to be issues when VMs access the new speculative execution control mechanism (Haswell & Broadwell processors). However, I can’t seem to find much around what these issues are…

For the time being, if you haven’t applied one of those microcode patches, VMware recommends not doing so and to apply the patches listed in VMSA-2018-0002 instead.

If you have applied the latest patches you will have to edit the config files of each ESXi host and add in a line that hides the new speculative execution control mechanism and reboot the VMs on that host. Detailed information can be found in the KB above.

 

Finally William Lam has created a very handy PowerCLI script that will help provide information about your existing vSphere environment and help identify whether you have hosts that are impacted by Spectre and this new Intel Sighting issue: https://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2018/01/verify-hypervisor-assisted-guest-mitigation-spectre-patches-using-powercli.html

Spectre & Meltdown Vulnerabilities

So at the beginning of the new year, news broke via The Register that there could be a potential security vulnerability to Intel processors (Meltdown) and how it was a problem which couldn’t be easily fixed by a microcode update because of how the Intel architecture does speculative execution of code (in a nutshell this is how modern processors try to ‘predict’ the code it needs to execute next, before the current executing code produces a result – all modern processors do this to some extent in order to fill its internal pipeline and speed up processing)…. this quickly blew up into a storm where additional vulnerabilities were identified (Spectre) which affects Intel, AMD and ARM processors!

Three closely related vulnerabilities involving the exploit of speculative execution in CPUs were made public:

Variant 1 & 2 have been branded as Spectre, with Variant 3 known as Meltdown.

The fallout is spectacular…. lawsuits being filled against Intel…. videos of exploits (proof of concepts) already on youtube….. customers going crazy that Russians/North Koreans could be stealing data from their systems….. all this because chip manufacturers tried to outdo each other by putting speed of processing above security.

The best article I’ve read that explains how Speculative Execution works and how these vulnerabilities could be exploited can be found here: http://frankdenneman.nl/2018/01/05/explainer-spectre-meltdown-graham-sutherland/

It seems that at the moment the only way to minimise your exposure to potential exploits is to patch the OS or Hypervisor, however this isn’t without issues as people have started reporting that it adds an overhead to performance. In all honesty, I doubt personal users will notice a performance hit on their day to day usage (home/office applications or games), it will however impact anyone that undertakes high IO or system-call intensive applications (such as DBs, email, Big-data/data-mining)… a performance hit of between 5-30% depending on application!!

VMware have stated that at present they don’t believe Meltdown to be an issue to their products because ESXi does not run untrusted user mode code, and Workstation and Fusion rely on the protection that the underlying operating system provides. For Spectre, they have released an article detailing their response to the issues and 2 Security Advisories which addresses the vulnerabilities and how they can be mitigated, VMSA-2018-0002 has been superseded by VMSA-2018-0004.

From what I can see, the first Security Advisory consists of security patches to ESXi that addresses the vulnerability to mitigate against leakage from the hypervisor or guest VMs into a malicious guest VM – these were patches made available late last year before the news broke (which makes you wonder how long the industry have known about it).

The second Security Advisory is a full minor update to vCenter (5.5, 6.0 and 6.5) in order to support both newer vSphere ESXi patches and Microcode/BIOS patches to hardware. This seems to be what they call “Hypervisor-Assisted Guest mitigation” which virtualises the new speculative-execution control mechanism for guest VMs so that a Guest OS can mitigate leakage between processes within the VM – and this mitigation requires specific microcode patches from platform vendors which seem to introduce these new ‘speculative-execution control features’. More information on how to apply this Security Advisory can be found here: https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/52085.

Note: The update patches found in VMSA-2018-0004 will mean that these new CPU features will be exposed to Guest VMs and as such vMotion to ESXi hosts without the microcode or hypervisor patches applied will be prevented. However, if you have an EVC cluster, it looks like vCenter will suppress the new features from VMs to enable vMotion compatibility until all hosts have been upgraded (after which it will enable those features) – unpatched hosts will not be allowed to join an EVC cluster that has been patched.

It’s worth noting that Guest VMs should also have their OS updated with the latest security patches for effective mitigation of these known vulnerabilities!

Finally, VMware have released an article regarding these vulnerabilities and whether their virtual appliances are affected: https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/52264. It currently looks like vSphere Integrated Containers and vRealize Automation have not been patched yet.

vSphere Central – new resource centre

A little while back I caught the vSphere blog about vSphere Central being launched and ended up bookmarking the portal to have a look at a later date. I had totally forgot about it till today when I needed to look up the PSC topology diagrams and Google sent me to the new vSphere 6.5 Topology and Upgrade Planning Tool (more on this later). Turns out this portal is exactly like Storage Hub (resource portal for everything vSAN, SRM and storage related)!

Everything technical you need to know about vSphere and vCenter can be found on this portal:

  • How to install vCenter and vSphere
  • How to migrate to vCSA
  • How to upgrade vCenter and vSphere
  • vCenter and PSC architecture
  • SSL certificate management
  • PSC Deployment Types
  • Product Interoperability Matrix
  • All the new features in 6.5 explained (vCenter HA, Backup/Restore, etc)

It really is a great resource portal, and even better you can download each section as a PDF! Beats the documentation site for vSphere as it’s far more easier to navigate!

The content is in a range of formats, most of it is text taken from the technical pdf documents, but there are videos and walkthrough demos also scattered throughout the topics.

One of the things launched with vSphere Central was the vSphere 6.5 Topology and Upgrade Planning Tool.

This tool aims to help customers plan and execute both upgrades to vSphere 6.5 as well as new deployments. With this initial release, the tool is focused on the most common upgrade paths and deployments of vCenter Server 6.5. The tool works by asking a series of questions while providing some guidance along the way to help answer those questions eventually making some recommendations on topology and upgrade and deployment steps.

In the past I used to refer to the VMware KB on deployment topologies: https://kb.vmware.com/kb/2147672

Some of the guys in the vSphere technical marketing team then came up with the PSC Topology Decision Tree which was a large poster – https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/04/platform-services-controller-topology-decision-tree.html

This tool was inspired by the Decision Tree poster and extends its capability.

What I especially like about the tool is that after answering a series of questions regarding how I’m planning to design the vCenter/PSC deployment it gives me a recommended Topology diagram and then explains the steps to go about deploying the solution:

topology

Anyways, it’s a great tool…. and the portal is a brilliant collection of resources! Go use it! Bookmark it now…! =)

Horizon Cloud on Azure – GA

Interesting tie up between VMware and Microsoft…. is this the beginning of a new relationship? Have Microsoft woken up (post-VMworld) to the awesome VMware Cloud on AWS and realised they also want in on the party? (although if i’m honest this partnership has been bubbling in the background for a while now).

Anyways, after a round of beta testing in the US, Horizon Cloud has now gone GA on Azure: https://blogs.vmware.com/euc/2017/10/vmware-horizon-cloud-on-microsoft-azure-now-available.html

When Horizon Cloud was launched earlier this year, the concept of enabling end-user organisations the ability to deploy feature-rich VDIs and applications across multiple deployment options was very promising. From a single management console, end users are able to deploy virtual desktops onto on-premise infrastructure, to the Cloud, or a hybrid combination of both. TBH, some of this concept was already available in Horizon Air (which came out of the Desktone acquisition), but this is an evolution of that product.

Horizon Cloud is a cross-cloud architecture for VDI – much like how Cloud Foundation is for SDDC – however, in the case of Horizon Cloud, the Portal which acts as the control/management plane resides solely in the cloud (you get a choice with Cloud Foundation’s SDDC Manager), administrators log into this portal to deploy and manage their VDI sessions – whether on prem or cloud.

3 offerings currently:

  1. Horizon Cloud Hosted – so VDI infrastructure provided by VMware (IBM Cloud is currently the only provider), where you just choose the type of desktop and apps to deploy via the portal – DaaS. Infrastructure management/maintenance/SLAs are fully undertaken by VMware.
  2. Horizon Cloud On-Premise – based on HCI technology and acts like a stepping stone to Cloud VDI. VDI stored locally on prem, but management is all from the Cloud, perfect for data-residency issues, for end-users who require high performance VDI, and for IT admins who wish to have greater control over their VDI infrastructure.
  3. Horizon Cloud on Microsoft Azure – delivering RDS VDI and apps hosted in Azure datacentres. Connecting a customers Azure IaaS subscription to Horizon Cloud. So VMware manages the VDI aspects and Microsoft the underlying infrastructure. Also worth noting that currently only Azure deployments support vGPU-accelerated infrastructure.

Whatever the deployment option, customers will get a VDI infrastructure that’s easily scalable (whether cloud or on-prem) and easy to deploy. The best part is you get the flexibility of subscription based pricing.

With Horizon Cloud on Azure, you can import gold images from Azure marketplace which will then be configured and deployed for Horizon.

One key element of the Horizon Cloud technology is justin-time (JIT) provisioning of virtual desktops and applications. Using the configurations made in the cloud-control
plane, Horizon Cloud leverages VMware App Volumes, User Environment Manager, and VMware Instant Clone technologies to assemble personalised virtual desktop and application environments when an end user logs in, giving IT administrators high flexibility in leveraging the infrastructure.

I like the idea that if I have a persistent VDI deployed in Horizon Cloud, then I can access that VDI or hosted apps whether I’m in the office or on the move (as long as there is data connectivity). I can start writing a document in the office, then leave it open mid-sentence as I leave the office, or jump on a train – I can even power off my endpoint device – then I can re-establish the session and carry on without any interruption… an Always On desktop!

I also like the idea that with Azure, I could deploy a VDI session to the datacentre in the UK, then as I jump on a flight to the US I can re-deploy that VDI session to an Azure datacentre in the US. Although, I’m not quite sure you can migrate live VDI sessions between datacentres yet – I haven’t seen any articles that say you can live-migrate VDIs (but one would think this would be the ideal end-goal).

 

Hopefully this new VMware-Microsoft partnership will lead onto Microsoft accepting to run Cloud Foundation on Azure (VMware Cloud on Azure) which will then give end users the freedom to move their workloads from on prem to either AWS or Azure!! Almost Cross-Cloud (just need GCP to step up).

VMworld 2017 US General Session Day 2

….. This update is a bit late going up because Tuesday evenings is 5-a-side footie for me…. =)

So what was the General Session on Day 2 all about… well it kicked off with a fireside chat between Pat Gelsinger and Michael Dell, answering a few questions that were submitted the previous evening from attendees. In my opinion there wasn’t any major revelations or probing questions asked/answered, what we do know is that Michael Dell likes Peanut Butter & Chocolate… =P

It’s interesting that Dell thinks that we’re in for some exciting times with AI and machine learning…. although he didn’t quite pin his flag like Zuckerberg and Musk recently… =)
The amount of data created from IoT is stupendous, and the possibilities of using that data are endless – however, companies need to start thinking about how to use the vast amounts of data they have to try and improve processes, products and services – if they don’t then they could be left behind (Just like Elastic Sky Pizza were)!

However, one of the more memorable quotes from Pat was that “Today is the slowest day of technological evolution of the rest of your life!” Great quote, and how true it is…. In IT we live in an ever-changing world!

One thing I did pick up on was VMware Skyline – a new and innovative support technology which will offer pro-active support for VMware solutions. It will consist of a Collector appliance that end-users deploy, it then sits there securely collecting environmental-data from different VMware components (such as configuration, performance, and product usage) whilst performing machine-learning analytics to ensure the overall solution functions correctly. If it detects any changes, events or patterns that will cause a deviation from best practices or validate designs then it will alert the customer. Skyline is aimed at improving support experience through data analytics.

Both Pat and Dell were then joined on stage by Rob Mee (CEO of Pivotal) – it was really interesting to hear that Pivotal Cloud Foundry was being used in over 50% of the Fortune 500 – I wonder what the percentage is in the UK FTSE? Pivotal has be “pivotal” (excuse the pun) in helping enterprises and their digital transformation – how to run legacy production workloads alongside developing new cloud-native applications, yet still providing the availability and security whilst also reducing cost! Pivotal Cloud Foundry addresses all these issues.

The biggest announcement of the day was the unveiling of Pivotal Container Services (PKS) – a partnership between VMware, Pivotal and Google Cloud. Pivotal has been working with Google for a while – Project Kubo – and now with the partnership with VMware, PKS will enable enterprises to deliver production-ready Kubernetes on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform (GCP), with compatibility to Google Container Engine (GKE) – all secured by – yup you guessed it – NSX. Pat went on to say that they’re not stopping there and will start to integrate other VMware products such as vRealize Automation and Operations, along with Wavefront (who VMware acquired in May – it’s a “real-time metrics monitoring and streaming analytics platform designed for developers to optimize their clouds and modern applications that rely on containers and microservices”)

PKS-Image

Pat, Dell and Rob were joined on stage by Google’s Sam Ramji (VP of Product Management – Developer Platforms). It’s interesting how Google are pouring in vast amounts of their knowledge on containers into Kubernetes – a way of giving back to the community! Sam also announced that Pivotal and VMware were to become as Platinum Members of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation – home of Kubernetes.

The rest of the General Session involved a fictitious company called “Elastic Sky Pizza” which was stuck in the past and needed assistance in transforming their business. Loads of demos and presentations showing how VMware’s suite of Cloud products work – including PKS, AppDefense, NSX, Pulse IoT (Edge LIOTA).

 

PKS looks amazing, but I do still think that containers is an enterprise play – which kind of goes against one of the questions during the fireside chat about looking after the SMB market… this is probably going to be priced above what SMBs can afford!