Jan 15

Adding a /workspace Disk to the vSphere Management Assistant (vMA)

The VMware vSphere Management Assitant (vMA) appliance allows admins to run scripts and agents against ESXi host and vCenter Server. The vMA includes the vSphere command-line interface (esxcli and vicfg) and the vSphere Perl SDK. The vMA allows you to remotely execute vCLI/esxcli and use resxtop without having to enable SSH on ESXi host.

The vMA is deployed with a single 3 GB disk with about 1 GB available after deployment. This post walks through adding a disk to the vMA appliance to provide additional storage for scripts, logs, VIBs, iso, backups, etc.

Adding a new disk the vMA appliance is pretty straight forward. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Add a new hard disk (vmdk) to the vMA appliance.
  2. Identify the new disk device in the vMA.
  3. Create a partition table on the new disk device.
  4. Format the newly created partition with the ext3 filesystem.
  5. Mount the partition so it is accessible.
  6. Configure the new partition to mount when the vMA boots.

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Jan 05

Add an Entry to ESXi /etc/hosts using PowerShell

I was looking for away to easily add an entry to an ESXi host’s /etc/hosts file without using SSH to connect to the ESXi host. I ran across this article from a while back on Using vCLI’s vifs For More Than Just Datastore File Management. I could use vCLI, and that would be easy enough, but I wanted to figure out a way to do with PowerShell. In the article @lamw mentions the file management interface can be accessed with standard GET/PUT operations. The file management interface can be accessed with a Web Browser without enabling SSH on the ESXi host.

I put together a quick example of doing this with PowerShell using Invoke-WebRequest. The script Update-HostsFile.ps1 can be found at https://github.com/herseyc/PowerCLI-Scripts/blob/master/Update-HostsFile.ps1.
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Dec 22

Locating SimpliVity Manual Backups

SimpliVity data protection is policy based and VM-Centric. A SimpliVity Backup Policy is a collection of data protection rules which define 1) how often to backup a VM, 2) how long to retain the backup for, and 3) in which SimpliVity Datacenter to store the backup. A Backup Policy is assigned to a VM, or multiple VMs, and ensures the RPOs for the assigned VM(s) are met.

SimpliVity Manual Backups can be taken at any time to provide a full point in time backup of a VM. These manual backups are useful when doing things like software updates or patching on VMs. For these types of tasks the SimpliVity Manual Backup can replace VMware Snapshots. Unlike a VMware Snapshot, the Manual SimpliVity Backup happens very quickly and has no impact on consumed capacity or the performance of the virtual machine.

Policy based SimpliVity Backups have a retention period defined in the backup policy. When the retention period expires the backup is automatically deleted from the system.

When an expired backup is deleted from a SimpliVity Federation the unique data associated with the backup is also deleted and the space is reclaimed as free space.

The backup retention period is only set when the SimpliVity Backup is Policy based. When a Manual SimpliVity Backup is taken no retention period set by default and the backup will never expire. A manual backup must be manually deleted, or manually configured with a retention period, before it will be removed from the Federation and any space associated with its unique data is reclaimed.

A customer recently asked me how to quickly identify all the Manual SimpliVity Backups in a SimpliVity Federation. One way is to use the vSphere Web Client to search each SimpliVity Datacenter from the SimpliVity Search Backups tab to locate SimpliVity Backups with the type Manual.

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Nov 03

Migrating VMs from Legacy Infrastructure to SimpliVity HCI

There are a number of ways to migrate VM workloads from a legacy infrastructure to SimpliVity. By design a SimpliVity deployment is simple (it’s in our name) but migrating workloads from a legacy infrastructure can seem like a daunting task and it can be. However, if the migration is planned properly it can be easily accomplished without a significant impact on VMs running in the environment. This post provides an overview of some common migration methods which can be used to move VMs from a legacy infrastructure to the SimpliVity Hyperconverged Infrastructure (HCI).

Integrating SimpliVity into an existing environment.
This is probably the most common scenario. SimpliVity is deployed to either replace the legacy environment, provide additional capacity to augment the legacy environment, or to support a specific use case/application. Regardless of the use case the existing vCenter is used and SimpliVity is deployed into the existing environment.

  1. Present a SimpliVity Datastore to a host in the legacy environment.
  2. Use Storage vMotion to migrate VMs to SimpliVity Datastore.
  3. Use vMotion to migrate VMs to SimpliVity node.

The Storage vMotion will not have any impact on the availability of the VM being migrated. If there is processor compatibility between the legacy hosts and the SimpliVity hosts, which can be accomplished by deploying the SimpliVity nodes into a Enhanced vMotion Compatibility (EVC) enabled cluster, the VM vMotion can be done without impacting the availability of the virtual machine. If the processors are not compatible then the VM will need to be powered off and migrated using a cold vMotion. Since cold vMotions happen very quickly the downtime per VM is usually only a couple of minutes.

If the requirements are met for enhanced shared-nothing vMotion then this could also be used to live migrate storage and compute together without presenting SimpliVity storage to the legacy environment and without impact to the availability of the VM during the migration process.

This migration method could also be done by presenting the legacy storage to the SimpliVity nodes. The process would essentially be the same but the SimpliVity design would likely need to include HBAs or NICs to provide storage connectivity to the legacy storage.

A virtualized vCenter server can also be migrated on to the SimpliVity DVP, I cover the process in this post: Migrating a virtualized vCenter Server (VCSA or Windows) into the SimpliVity environment.
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Sep 25

Learning the vSphere Management Assistant (vMA)

It has been a while since I have worked with vMA. I used it fairly often when I was managing a vSphere environment. I am teaching the vSphere Optimize and Scale class during the winter semester so I spun up the vMA in the homelab to re-introduce myself to it. Using the vMA was part of the VCAP-DCA exam blueprint, but it looks like it has been removed from new VCAP-DCV Deployment exam blueprint (that makes me sad as it is a useful tool).

The vSphere Management Assistant (vMA) is a SUSE Linux virtual appliance which is packaged as an OVF. The vMA includes the vSphere command-line interface (esxcli and vicfg) and the vSphere Perl SDK. The vMA allows you to remotely execute vCLI/esxcli and use resxtop without having to enable SSH on ESXi host.

The vMA has an authentication component, vi-fastpass, which provides a credential store to cache host credentials to allow commands to be executed against target hosts without requiring authentication for each command. The vi-admin user has administrative privileges to add/remove/update servers to the vi-fastpass and the vi-user has read-only privileges to use the vi-fastpass to connect to hosts.

Hosts are added by the vi-admin user using the vifp addserver command. Once the servers have been added to vi-fastpass you can connect to the host using vifptarget. Using vifp listservers will provide a list of the hosts currently configured for vi-fastpass.

As of vSphere 6.0 esxcli/vCLI checks if a trust relationship exists between the machine running the command and the host the command is being run against. To create this trust relationship between the vMA and the ESXi or vCenter Servers registered in vi-fastpass the host’s thumbprint is added to the credential store using /usr/lib/vmware-vcli/apps/general/credstore_admin.pl add -s [server] -t [thumbprint]. Once the thumbprint is added to the Credential Store this trust relationship will exist between the vMA and the vi-fastpass configured hosts. When a target server is set (vifptarget -s [server]) the esxcli or vCLI commands can be executed from the vMA without requiring credentials.
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Sep 20

Working with ISO Images in the vSphere Client.

Here are a couple of basic guides I put together for the VMware ITN classes at TCC. Back to basics for sure, but not everyone works with vSphere environments regularly.

Here are the PDF documents I created to help students with the following tasks:

The guides are written specifically for the TCC VMware ITN classes, but someone just learning vSphere/ESXi might find them useful.

Sep 16

SimpliVity Direct Connect to 10 GbE Switched Migration

In a two node SimpliVity deployment there is no requirement for 10 GbE switching. The SimpliVity nodes are directly connected to provide connectivity for the SimpliVity Data Virtualization Platform (DVP) between nodes. In this type of deployment 1 GbE is typically used for VM network traffic. This is a common deployment option for Small/Medium businesses and also for Enterprise customers using SimpliVity to provide hyperconverged infrastructure resources for a specific application set.

As an environment grows adding additional SimpliVity nodes or compute nodes may be required. This requires 10 GbE switching for SimpliVity DVP (Storage and Federation) traffic between SimpliVity nodes within the same datacenter and/or between SimpliVity nodes and compute nodes accessing the SimpliVity DVP.

The process for migrating from direct-connect to 10 GbE switched is pretty simple and can be done while the SimpliVity nodes are in production. I recently assisted a customer with a migration to a 10 GbE switched deployment and this post provides an overview of the process.
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Sep 12

A Few Pictures from VMworld 2016

Great time at VMworld 2016 with the SimpliVity Team!!! Had a fantastic time with the SimpliVity team talking with our partners, current customers, future customers, and the AWESOME people in the VMware community. Even some great chats with competitors. VMworld 3 word: Educational, fun, exhausting… 🙂

A couple weeks have passed and there are plenty of write ups about the show. Just wanted to share a few pictures from the event.

The SimpliVity team looking good in our booth in the Solution Exchange.
TeamsimpliVity3_VMworld 2016_Vegas

Always great to catch up with the #vCoffee crew in real life. Great seeing @tscalzott, @coolsport00, @susangude, and @mattvogt! Wish we could do this in person more often.
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Sep 11

SSL Certs for View Access to TCC Labs

I have been working on a project for the next generation of lab environments for the VMware IT Academy Program and the Cyber Security Program offered at Tidewater Community College. We now have quite a few classes using this new lab environment we stood up over the summer: the VMware ICM class I teach on Thursday evenings, four Cyber Security classes, and two Linux classes. There are around 120 students using the environment and this will probably quickly expand over the next few semesters.

The primary purpose of the environment is to allow students to access secure and isolated lab environments containing all the resources necessary to complete lab work required for each of the classes. In the past students were required to build out there own labs on standalone machines located on campus. With this project we are also able to allow students to access their lab environments remotely. Each student lab environment is isolated and access is provided through a virtual desktop. Currently we are using VMware Horizon View 6.2 to provide this access.


We are a bit over 3 weeks into the 2016 Fall semester and so far things have been working great. As with anything new there have been a few challenges but most of the issues we have encountered have been easy to correct.

We have been using the default self-signed certificates. One of the things on my project list is to update the self-signed SSL certificates to CA signed SSL certificates. This post covers the process I followed and includes some of the resources I found helpful for replacing the default self-signed certificates with certificates signed by a CA.
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Aug 19

SimpliVity’s Straight from the vExperts Presentations at VMworld 2016

VMworld 2016 is just a little over a week away. I am very much looking forward to it. Most of my time at VMworld this year will be spent at the SimpliVity Booth, #1911, in the Solutions Exchange. Looking forward to meeting new folks, catching up with many who I have not seen in a while (since last year), drinking lots of coffee, and talking about how SimpliVity continues to provide the most innovative and complete hyper-converged infrastructure solution.

The SimpliVity booth will have a lot of great things going on this year including: Live demonstrations of the SimpliVity solution, partner presentations from Nvidia, Login VSI, Eaton, F5, and Turbonomic, customer presentations, a Genius Bar where you can chat with SimpliVity technical experts, and a series of Straight from the vExperts presentation.

Here is the current schedule of SimpliVity vExpert Presentations:

Sunday 8/28/2016
6:00 PM – What’s New with End User Computing and SimpliVity – Jason Shiplett @jshiplett

Monday 8/29/2016
2:00 PM – Extreme ROBO: Enterprise Grade for the Remote Office – Matt Vogt @mattvogt
4:00 PM – Hyperconverged Infrastructure Market Trends – Scott Lowe @otherscottlowe

Tuesday 8/30/2016
2:00 PM – Data Protection is More Than Just a Feature – Brian Knudtson @bknudtson
4:00 PM – API/Automation – Hersey Cartwright @herseyc

Wednesday 8/31/2016
2:00 PM – Deduplication Fundamentals, Now with Secret Sauce – Alastair Cooke @DemitasseNZ
4:00 PM – Disaster Recover: The Bacon of SimpliVity – Tim Antonowicz @timantz

For the full booth presentation schedule check out SimpliVity VMworld 2016 Booth Presentation Schedule

For most of the show I will be at the SimpliVity Genius bar and the SimpliVity Demo Stations. I am also presenting as part of the Straight from the vExperts series. My presentation is on Tuesday (8/30/2016) at 4:00 PM and I will be talking about the SimpliVity REST API. Stop by and check it out if you can.

Or just stop by the SimpliVity booth (#1911) to talk SimpliVity, virtualization, data protection, EUC/VDI, or coffee with me and the other great members of the SimpliVity team.

Hope to see you there!

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