November 27, 2010

VMware discussion

Today I had the chance to join in a discussion with some VMware engineers. Discussion topic was about monitoring, capacity planning, backup. It was a fruitful discussion and I got to learn quite some new stuff, particularly new offerings from VMware.

VMware Alive - This tool is supposed to be able to monitor health/capacity of the esx environment and flag out any issues before host/VM performance are impacted. We were told this tool is a new offering from VMware. Have never heard of this tool previously, but a quick google online shows this is a product of the company Integrien which has been recently acquired by VMware. Looks like a cool tool, but too bad it is not free.

VMware Application Discovery Manager (ADM) - This tool provides real time monitoring of applications. I was told it monitors by processes at OS level and seems to be able to map out dependencies of any application across the virtual environment. Yet another must pay product.

VMware Capacity Planner vs VMware CapacityIQ - Due to our recent upcoming project on data migration of our existing VMs to new storage, and also some physical servers to be virtualized in the pipeline, we asked the VM engineers whether there are any good planning tools. We were told that Capacity Planner will help in P to V of servers while CapacityIQ will help us with V to V.

That seemed simple but after some research, actually while CapacityIQ can be bought as a separate component to be integrated into vCenter, and therefore can be used by the VM administrator for his own capacity planning, the Capacity Planner is actually a service that can only be provided by VMware partners or VMware Professional Services. They will then collect performance data from the servers which will then be run against their database and finally a report generated for the customer.

RDM vs VMDK - We also had another track of discussion on what is the difference between RDM and VMDK disks, and when to use which. Actually turns out there is not much difference between both, and the only real need to use RDM instead of VMDK is when there is a MS cluster between a physical host and a VM setup.

License conversion - Another adhoc topic we brought up was the conversion of licenses from 3.x->4.0->4.1. 

For 3.x->4.0, since 3.x uses a LIC file, that means conversion needs to be done online to get 4.0 serial key.

For 4.0->4.1, the same serial can be reused.

VMware Data Recovery (VDR) - Finally, our last discussion was on how to enhance our backup timeframe, which is getting very tight due to increasing number of servers deployed. The VMware team introduced the VDR product which sounds interesting in concept. It is dependent on 3 things:

  1. VDR appliance (which is a VM itself, supports up to 100 clients each)
  2. VDR plugin (to the VC)
  3. VDR destination storage (Local storage, NAS, Fibre Channel SAN, or iSCSI SAN support)

So basically during the backup process, data streams from the clients will flow to the VDR appliance. A de-duplication process occurs which is where the data will be analyzed in blocks and where similar blocks are identified, then only 1 server's data block is backup, while indexes are created for other servers. This means the entire backup can become much smaller across many clients, as compared to traditional backup.

Also, with a large environment having a few VDR appliance servers, a secondary VDR appliance can be built to stream the backup of the first level of appliances, meaning the backup can become even smaller. So in a sense, the VDR can enhance backup speed by reducing the total throughput required. This was an exciting feature which I believe will be explored more in future, but for now, that is all to update from this discussion.

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