VMware / ecosystem / industry news flash… part 3

It has been a couple of weeks since the last VMware / ecosystem / industry news flash… but we have a couple of items which I felt are worth sharing. Same as with the previous two parts I will share the link, my thoughts around it and hope that you will leave a comment with your thoughts around a specific announcement. If you work for a vendor, I would like to ask to add a disclaimer mentioning this so that all the cards are on the table.

  • PernixData FVP 2.0 available! New features and also new pricing / packaging!
    Frank Denneman has a whole slew of articles describing the new functionality of FVP 2.0 in-depth. If you ask me especially the resilient memory caching is a cool feature, but also the failure domains is something I can very much appreciate as it will allow you to build smarter clusters! The change in pricing/packaging kind of surprised me, an “Enterprise” edition was announced and the current version was renamed to “Standard”. The SMB package was renamed to “Essentials Plus” which from a naming point of view now aligns more with the VMware naming scheme, which makes life easier for customers I guess. I have not seen details around the pricing itself yet, so don’t know what the impact actually is. PernixData has upped the game again and it keeps amazing me how fast they keep growing and at which pace they are releasing new functionality. It makes you wonder what is next for these guys?!
  • Nutanix Unveils Industry’s First All-Flash Hyper-Converged Platform and Only Stretch Clustering Capability!
    I guess the “all-flash” part was just a matter of time considering the price point flash devices have reached. I have looked at these configurations many times, and if you consider that SAS drives are now as expensive as decent SSDs it only makes sense. It should be noted that “all-flash” also means a new model, NX-9000, and this comes as a 2U / 2Node form factor. List price is $110,000 per node… As that is 220k per block and with a 3 node minimum 330K it feels like a steep price, but then again we all know that the street price will be very different. The NX-9000 comes with either 6x 800GB or 1.6TB flash device for capacity, and I am guessing that the other models will also have “all-flash” options as well in the future… it only makes sense. What about that stretched clustering? Well this is what excited me most from yesterdays announcement. In version 4.1  Nutanix will allow for up to 400KM of distance between sites for a stretched cluster. Considering their platform is “vm aware” it should be very easy to select which VMs you want to protect (and which you do not). On top of that they provide the ability to have two different hardware platforms in each of the sites. In other words you can run with a top of the line block in your primary site, while having a lower end block in your recovery site. From a TCO/ROI point of view this can be very beneficial if you have no requirement for a uniform environment. Judging by the answers on twitter, the platform has not gone through VMware vSphere Metro Storage Cluster certification yet but this is likely to happen soon. SRM integration is also being looked at. All in all, nice announcements if you ask me!
  • SolidFire announces two new models and new round of funding (82 million!)
    What is there to say about the funding that hasn’t been said yet. 82 million in series D says enough if you ask me. SolidFire is one of those startups which have impressed me from the very beginning. They have a strong scale-out storage system which offers excellent quality of service functionality, a system which is primarily aimed at the Service Provider market. Although that seems to slowly change with the introduction of these new models as their smallest model now brings a 100K entry point. Note that the smallest configuration with SolidFire is 4 nodes, spec details can be found here. As stated, what excites me most with SolidFire is the services that the systems brings: QoS, data reduction and replication / SRM integration.

Thanks, and again feel free to drop a comment / leave your thoughts!

vSphere 5.1 Clustering Deep Dive promotion & major milestone

This week when looking at the sales numbers of the vSphere Clustering Deep Dive series and Frank and I noticed that we hit a major milestone! In September 2014 we passed the 45000 copies distributed of the vSphere Clustering Deep Dive. Frank and I never ever expected this or even dared to dream to hit this milestone.

When we first started writing the 4.1 book we had discussions around what to expect from a sales point of view and I recall having a discussion with Frank around the sales number, Frank said he would be happy with 100 and I said well 400 would be nice. Needless to say we reset our expectations many times since then… We didn’t really follow it closely in the last 12-18 months, and as today we were discussing a potential update of the book we figured it was time to look at the numbers again just to get an idea. 45000 copies distributed (ebook + printed) is just remarkable, and we are very humbled, baffled and honoured!

We’ve noticed that the ebook is still very popular, and decided to do a promo. As of Monday the 13th of October the 5.1 ebook (kindle) will be available for only $ 0.99 for 72 hours, then after 72 hours the price will go up to $ 3.99 and then after 72 hours it will be back to the normal price. Make sure to get it while it is low priced!

You can pick it up here on Amazon.com! The only other kindle store we could open the promotion up for was amazon.co.uk, so that is also an option.

Project Fargo aka VMFork – What is it?

I have seen various people talking about Project Fargo (also known as VM Fork) and what struck me is that many are under the impression that Project Fargo is the result of the CloudVolumes acquisition. Lets set that straight first, Project Fargo is not based on any technology developed by the CloudVolumes team. Project Fargo has been developed in house and as far as I can tell is an implementation of Snowflock (University of Toronto / Carnegie Mellon University), although I know that in house they have been looking at techniques like these for a long time. Okay, now that we have that out of the way, what is Project Fargo?

Simply said: Project Fargo is a solution that enables you to rapidly clone a running VM. When I say “rapidly clone”, I mean RAPIDLY… Within seconds. Yes, that is extremely fast for a running VM. What should be noted here of course is the fact that it is not a full clone. I guess this is where the “VMFork” name comes in to play, the “parent” virtual machine is quiesced and forked and a “child” VM is born. This child VM is leveraging the disk and memory of the parent (for reads), this is why it is so extremely fast to instantiate… as I said literally seconds, as it “only” needs to create empty delta files, create a VMX and instantiate the process, and do some networking magic as you do not want to have VMs popping up on the network with the same MAC address. Note that the child VM starts where the parent VM left off, so there is no boot process it is instant on! (just like you suspend and resume it) I can’t reveal too much around how this works, yet, but you can imagine that a technique like “fast suspend resume” (FSR), which is the corner stone of features like Storage vMotion, is leveraged.

The question then arises, what if the child wants to write data to memory or disk? This is where the “copy on write” technique comes in to play. Of course the child won’t be allowed to over write shared memory pages (or disk for that matter) and as such a new page will be allocated. For those having a hard time visualizing it, note that this is a conceptual diagram and not how it actually is implemented, I should have maybe drawn the different layers but it would make it too complex. In this scenario you see a single parent with a single child, but you can imagine there could also be 10 child VMs or more, you can see how efficient that would be in terms of resource sharing! And even for the pages which would be unique compared to the parent, if you clone many similar VMs there is a significant chance that TPS will be able to collapse those even! One thing to point out here is that the parent VM is quiesced, in other words it’s sole purpose is allowing for the quick creation of child VMs.

project fargo

Cool piece of technology I agree, but what would the use case be? Well there are multiple use cases, and those who will be attending VMworld should definitely visit the sessions which will discuss this topic or watch them online (SDDC3227, SDDC3281, EUC2551 etc). I think there are 2 major use cases: virtual desktops and test/dev.

The virtual desktop (just in time desktops) use case is pretty obvious… You create that parent VM, spin it up and it gets quiesced and you can start forking that parent when needed. This will almost be instant, very efficient and also reduce the required resource capacity for VDI environments.

With test/dev scenarios you can imagine that when testing software you don’t want to wait for lengthy cloning processes to finish. Forking a VM will allow you to rapidly test what has been developed , within seconds you have a duplicate environment which you can use / abuse any way you like and destroy it when done. As the disk footprint is small, create/destroy will have a minimal impact on your existing infrastructure both from a resource and “stress” point of view. It basically means that your testing will take less time “end-to-end”.

Can’t wait for it to be available and to start testing it, especially when combined with products like CloudVolumes and Virtual SAN this feature has a lot of potential.

** UPDATE: A lot of people asked questions around what would happen with VMFork now TPS is disabled by default in upcoming versions of vSphere. I spoke with the lead engineer on this topic and he assured me there is no impact on VMFork. The disabling of TPS will be overruled per VMFork group. So the parent and childs belonging to the same group will be able to leverage TPS and share pages. **

RE: The VCDX candidates advantage over the panellists

I was reading Josh Odger’s post on the VCDX Defense. Josh’s article can be summarised with the following part:

As a result, the candidate should be an expert in the design being presented and answering questions from the panel about the design should not be intimidating.

Having gone through the process myself, knowing many of the VCDX’s and having been on countless of panels I completely disagree with Josh. Sure, you do need to know your design inside/out… but, it is not about “who’s having an advantage”, the panel member is not there to fail or pass the candidate… they are there to assess your skills as an architect!

If you look at the defense day there are three parts:

  1. Defend your design
  2. Design scenario
  3. Troubleshooting scenario

For the design and troubleshooting scenario you get a random exercise, so you have no prior knowledge of what will be asked. When it comes to defending your design of course you will know your design (hopefully) better then anyone else. However, the questions you get will not necessarily be about the specifics or details of your design. The VCDX panel is there to assess your skills as an architect and not your “fact cramming skills”. A good panel will ask a lot of hypothetical questions like:

  • Your design uses NFS based storage, how would FC connected storage have changed your design?
  • Your design is based on capacity requirements for 80 virtual machine, what would  you have done differently when the requirement would be 8000 virtual machines?
  • Your design …

So when you do mock exams, prepare for these types of hypothetical questions. That is when you really start to understand the impact decisions can have, and when during your defense you get one of these questions and you do not know the answer make sure you guide the panel through your thought process. That is what differentiates someone who can learn facts (VCP exam) and someone who can digest them, understand them and apply them in different scenarios (VCDX exam).

As I stated, it may sound like that you knowing your design inside out means having a big advantage over the panel members but it probably isn’t… that is not what they are testing you on! Your ability to assess and adapt are put through the wringer, your skills as an architect are tested thoroughly and that is where you will need to do well.

Good luck!

VMware patches for #shellshock

Last night a whole bunch of patches for the shellshock security issue were released. Although I am hoping that all of you have your datacenter secured for outside threads and inside threads by isolating networks, firewalls etc… It would be wise to install these patches ASAP. Majority of linux based VMware appliances were impacted, but luckily patching them is not a huge thing. Below you can find a list of the patches and links to the downloads for your convenience.

Note that the downloads are in the middle of the list, so you need to scroll down before you see them. There are also patches for products like the VMware VSA, vSphere Replication, VC Ops etc. Make sure to download those as well!