The Virtualization Frontier blog now resides on the new Dell Community site.

A Dell TechCenter blog that explores the leading edge of virtualization technology.
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MD3000i Configuration Caught on Video
11/5/2008 -- Comments

During a recent chat several people wanted to see more PowerVault MD3000i information, including demo videos. I worked with one of our storage architects in our executive briefing center to get his PowerVault MD3000i configuration demo recorded. Ward was able to put together a quick 15-minute video that shows the installation of the management software for the PowerVault MD3000i—known as Modular Disk Storage Manager or MDSM—as well as the initial configuration of the storage array and an iSCSI host.

Overall, it is a quick way to get a real understanding of exactly how the management tool for the PowerVault MD3000i works and what it takes to get it up and running from the very beginning. The video is loaded on our new Storage Demos page, where I hope to add lots of new videos in the near future. Let me know what other things you would like to see.


Todd -- Comments

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M905 Full Height Blade Server Unboxing Video
11/3/2008 -- Comments

Last week we received a couple of new PowerEdge M905 blade servers for the DellTechCenter lab. The PowerEdge M905 is a new full-height blade for the PowerEdge M1000e chassis that supports up to four AMD Opteron processors and 24 DIMM slots. To have a little fun we decided to record the unboxing and deployment into our chassis. We had a few challenges in getting everything set up to record the video as both of our laptops did not have Webcams, but we were able to borrow an XPS M1530 and use that to record.

We did the video on the first take with Scott recording and me talking and pointing. I was going to edit out the beginning where we are talking about getting started and also the end where we are trying to find the Stop button, but I decided it was much better with these parts in. If you watch closely you can see Scott's head at the end of the video as he is trying to click on Stop.

Todd -- Comments

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Why Servergeeks Should Care About Desktops
10/20/2008 -- Comments

As a self-acknowledged servergeek, I enjoy learning about the details of Microsoft Exchange 2007, SQL Server Mirroring, Oracle RAC, and VMware HA. I spend a lot of my time analyzing the configuration of systems with tons of processing cores and RAM of 32, 64, and 128 GB. I even have my own open source project (along with Dave) that is a test OLTP database for SQL, Oracle, and MySQL that includes driver programs, build files, and load scripts.

So why should I get involved with desktops? Because a lot of people are now considering using those big servers to host desktops—as Virtual Machines—inside the data center. The advantages of this approach can include better security of data, easier management of clients, and potential cost savings. In some ways it’s an extension of many of the advantages of server virtualization, but for desktops. So pay attention: the desktop may be coming into your data center.

Todd -- Comments

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Confessions of a Recovering Fibre Channel User
10/20/2008 -- Comments

I've been a user of fibre channel SANs for about 8 years. I have used the Dell | EMC based arrays throughout and have gone through few product transitions from the FC4700 to the CX-600 to most recently a CX3-80. I always liked the Navisphere management tool and was able to great perfomance across the range of applications that I setup to use the fibre channel storage.

About eight months ago I was finally convinced to try out some iSCSI arrays. First I worked with the Dell|EMC CX3-40c which has both iSCSI and fibre channel ports. This didn't really seem all that different from what I was used to with Fibre channel mostly because I was still using Navisphere. Next I setup and used a PowerVault MD3000i, and found this to really be easier in some ways although it didn't have the same features in lots of respects. Finally about four months ago I starting using some Dell EqualLogic PS5000 series iSCSI storage arrays. And I did some performance testing with them in a whitepaper that was released about a month ago. The net was that setup is really much easier and I was able to get great performance.

We are having a chat here on delltechcenter to discuss when to use what type of storage for virtualization, and expect a lot of the discussion to be about iSCSI vs Fibre Channel. Feel free to join the chat or check out the transcript - depending on when you are reading this.

So I haven't done a head to head performance comparison of Fibre Channel vs iSCSI, and I don't plan to either. I've been able to get great performance with both in the tests that I have run. It's more the ease of setup and use that makes iSCSI so compelling for me. I had resisted iSCSI for a while because I just knew that it wouldn't be good enough, but now that I have started using it I find that it works fine. I think that Fibre Channel still has places where it fits best, but I would highly recommend that iSCSI be considered for all new projects. I'm still using both in my lab. You just might find that you will like iSCSI - if you try it.

Todd -- Comments

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Great Discussion About EqualLogic and MD3000i for Virtualization
10/16/2008 -- Comments

Our recent chat on the benefits of using EqualLogic iSCSI storage for virtualization solutions like VMware and XenServer was great. We had a longtime EqualLogic guy, Tim Sherback, and quite a few expert users, who talked in detail about all of the features of EqualLogic that work so well with VMware and XenServer. Things like thin-provisioning, simplified management, and ease of expansion were mentioned. The most compelling aspect to me is the deep integration that has been done with the Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMware Edition, Auto Replication with VMware Site Recovery Manager, and the EqualLogic adapter for XenServer 5.0 Dell Edition.

In each case the virtualization software (either VMware or XenServer) is able to use the hardware features of an EqualLogic array to accomplish what would have been done in software. For example, you can use the snapshot feature of the array to make a VM snapshot. Check out the chat transcript for more details, and also check out the demo videos to see it in action.

The other really great aspect of the chat was a discussion around when to pick EqualLogic or MD3000i. There was lots of information that should help anybody trying to decide which to use. I recommend that you read the transcript to get the details—this part of the chat was toward the end, if you want to just skip right to it.

Todd -- Comments

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EqualLogic Mixes with VMware and XenServer
10/13/2008 -- Comments

A couple of days after scheduling our current chat series I got an e-mail with a new whitepaper on how EqualLogic can be integrated with XenServer 5.0. To be honest, I had scheduled tomorrow's chat (Value of EqualLogic With Virtualization) expecting to mostly talk about EqualLogic integration with VMware SRM and Auto-SnapShot Manager for VMware. Now the conversation can also include XenServer—the new whitepaper outlines how XenServer 5.0 can be integrated with EqualLogic for snapshots and thin provisioning.

There are lots of great resources out there that cover the basics of these integration features. The videos on integration with VMware Site Recovery Manager and Auto-Snapshot Manger/VMware Edition are recommended for those selecting storage for virtualization. Then come to our chat tomorrow to discuss with some EqualLogic experts.

Todd -- Comments

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iSCSI Command Line Setup with Hyper-V Server
10/9/2008 -- Comments

To follow up on the Hyper-V Server install video from last week, I added a new page to delltechcenter.com that shows how to configure a connection to an iSCSI storage array for Hyper-V Server. With a full Windows Server 2008 installation there is a GUI tool in Administrative Tools called iSCSI Initiator that is used to configure and manage these connections. Windows Server 2008 Core and Hyper-V Server do not have a GUI, so a command-line version called iscsicli.exe must be used.

The page that I added shows how to create a simple iSCSI connection by first enabling the iSCSI Initiator service with the sc (service console) command, then using iscsicli.exe to map the connection to the target iSCSI LUN, and then using diskpart.exe to do the partitioning and formatting. It's not as bad as it sounds, and is pretty straightforward once you know the commands.

To get an MPIO-type connection set up is only a little bit more involved. There is a script that I found in a Microsoft TechNet forum that is an example of how to do an MPIO connection to an MD3000i using iscsicli.exe. You can also use a GUI-based tool called Storage Explorer that is included with Windows Server 2008 to connect remotely to the Hyper-V server and create additional connections. (It doesn't see anything until you have used iscsicli.exe to get the initial connection.)

Todd -- Comments

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The Right Storage Solution for Virtualization
10/6/2008 -- Comments

So you want to know what the right storage solution is for your new VMware deployment you are planning? Or maybe you are ready to start deploying Microsoft Hyper-V and need to know which iSCSI array is right for you? Because there really isn't a single answer that is right for everybody, the answer is: It depends.

The question really should be, how do I decide what is the right storage? What questions should I ask? And how do I find the answers? Or maybe more simply, what process should I follow to find the right answer? I think that the answer is basically to ask questions, learn about the options, and learn from others’ experiences. We did a similar focus topic on selecting a server for virtualization in the summer, and now it is time to look at storage.

For the next three weeks on DellTechCenter we are going to focus on the question of what is the right storage for virtualization for a range of scenarios. There is a home page for the topic and series of three Web chats scheduled. If you have a question about storage and virtualization, get it answered here. We have lined up experts from the storage engineering teams to help out with the chats and assist in getting your questions answered.

Todd -- Comments

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Hyper-V Server Install Video for Free
10/3/2008 -- Comments

Microsoft released Hyper-V Server as a FREE download from their Web site on Wednesday. Like lots of other server geeks out there, I immediately downloaded it and installed it to see what it was like. It took me about an hour and a half to complete the whole install process. I recorded the entire session as a video file and then edited it down to five minutes by speeding up all the sections where it is loading files or rebooting.

I have decided to also give away for FREE my video of the Hyper-V Server install. Yes, that's right. You can view my video for FREE, just like you can download Hyper-V Server or ESXi and install them for FREE.

I did the entire install remotely from my desk—our servers are in another room. To do the install I connected via remote desktop into a "gateway" system in the lab, and then used a browser from that system to connect to the Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC) on the target server. Then using the remote console redirection and virtual media features of the DRAC, I did the install from the Hyper-V Server ISO that was on our file server.

Hyper-V Server is basically Windows Server 2008 Core with only the Hyper-V role included. Did I mention that it is free? Which is a really big deal—I don't remember Microsoft ever giving away something like this before. Because it is based on Windows Server Core it does not have a GUI. It does include a text-based configuration tool that enables you to set the hostname, IP, subnet, and so on (included in the FREE video). Once a Hyper-V Server is on the network you can then use the Hyper-V Manager MMC from a Windows Server 2008 or Vista system to manage it.

Todd -- Comments

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Enabling Onboard iSCSI Adapter on R805
10/1/2008 -- Comments

A thread started here on delltechcenter.com led me to do some investigation into an "iSCSI Ready" feature of the onboard Broadcom 5708 NICs on the PowerEdge R805. Turns out that the Broadcom 5708 or NetExtreme II NIC has the capability to be a TCIP/IP offload engine (TOE), which is a fairly well-known thing. It also can be a hardware-based iSCSI adapter with some iSCSI offload capability as well—which is the "iSCSI Ready" feature. It is also possible to use this adapter to boot from iSCSI as it is hardware based.

I had a really hard time finding the any documentation about how to configure and enable the iSCSI Ready feature, so I put together a really cool wiki page that has a few screenshots and some basic guidance. Additionally, I did a quick performance test to see if it did indeed reduce CPU utilization. I found a small reduction with my test workload and posted a screenshot of that as well.

Todd -- Comments

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Hyper-V Performance with 24-Core R900
9/29/2008 -- Comments

I just posted a new whitepaper that I have been working on for the last month or two. It was a great opportunity to test out how well Hyper-V performs with a large number of virtual machines (VMs) on a richly configured R900. You'll have to check out the whitepaper for the complete details. Here I'm going to give you a little bit of the background into how the paper was done.

I found out in early summer that we would be announcing and shipping some new 6-core Intel Xeon processors in our PowerEdge R900 server (4-socket, 4U). I was being asked what I thought would be a good way to show how well it performed for virtualization and recommended that we use Hyper-V and the Dell DVD store in a test similar to some tests that I had done in the past with ESX. At the time, Hyper-V was still just a release candidate, and I was told that I wouldn't get the processors until early August. Both of these things changed—Hyper-V went officially final with an RTM build (which was great), and I ended up not getting any 6-core processors to test with until late August (which was bad because I had only one week to complete testing at that point).

I switched over to EqualLogic for the storage in this test. Previous tests had mostly been with Dell | EMC CX series storage, but I wanted to get a chance to run a heavy load against the EqualLogic iSCSI storage. It was fun to set up and test with the new arrays. I thought that setup was much easier, and I learned about setting up MPIO with the iSCSI initiator on Windows 2008.

Showing that the R900 with 24 cores was able to support 40 VMs, achieving a total of 74K DVD Store Orders per minute, wouldn't mean anything unless it was compared to something else. Using an R900 and an HP DL585 as quad-core comparison points, the testing showed an advantage in not only performance, but performance per watt as well.

So check out the full paper, and let me know if you have any questions.

Todd -- Comments

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Better Advice for Virtualization Online
9/23/2008 -- Comments

The super virtualization engineering team here at Dell recently upgraded the Dell Virtualization Advisor tool. This free, on-line tool prompts you to answer about 10 questions, and then it gives a detailed sizing of servers and storage. Additionally, it will list the available services that might be useful when implementing the proposed solution. The part that I really like is it is easy to go back and change your answers to some of the questions to see how they affect the proposed solution. For example, you can change your preferred storage from Fibre Channel to iSCSI.

In addition to support for VMware-based solutions, it will now also provide Microsoft Hyper-V– and Citrix XenServer-based solutions as well. So for those that are interested in what is needed for a Hyper-V solution with high availability and "quick migration," the Virtualization Advisor tool can help. Additionally, if you want to get the specifications for a Xen Server solution with live migration and backup and recovery capabilities, the Advisor tool has a configuration recommendation.

The other new feature of the Virtualization Advisor tool is the ability to specify what workloads you will be running on the VMs, which makes the sizing more accurate. You are able to specify the number of test and dev, file servers, Web servers, domain controllers, DNS servers, and other servers you will be running as VMs.

Take advantage of the free advice.

Todd -- Comments

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VMworld08 Was a Full Week
9/22/2008 -- Comments

I was at VMworld 2008 in Las Vegas all last week, and it was the best conference I have ever attended. During the show Scott and I used the delltechcenter twitter account to interact with other twitter heads and provided some basic coverage for those not able to attend. We also have a virtual booth and blogs (here and here) on VMworld.com, where some of the fun of the conference was captured. I also uploaded all my pictures from the conference as well.

VMware's big announcement was really more of a vision for where their virtual infrastructure is going over the next few years. Initially there are some changes coming with Virtual Center and ESX that will allow for better management and interaction with third-party tools. There was much more talk of creating a platform with APIs and partners than in previous years. Client vitalization and VDI is now a much bigger area of focus based on the amount of time that it was discussed in the keynotes and the number of breakout sessions. Ultimately, VMware talked quite a bit about being able to use the "cloud" as part of future solutions.

Some things are still going on over on VMworld.com, and I will be posting some things here and there. Some will only be in one place. Just trying to put the content where it belongs. Chime in with comments anytime.

Todd -- Comments

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Trying Out Virtual Server Inside Hyper-V VM
9/12/2008 -- Comments

I was talking to a customer a few days ago about their plans to use Hyper-V. One of their questions, that I wasn't expecting at all, was about the possibilities of running Hyper-V VMs inside of a Hyper-V VM. I knew there was some capability to run ESX inside of a VMware Workstation VM, but I didn't know about what happens with Hyper-V. So I ran a few tests to find out.

I used a PowerEdge R900 that already had Windows Server 2008 x64 with Hyper-V enabled. The first test was to try enabling the Hyper-V role inside of a 64-bit Windows Server 2008 VM. It failed with an error message that the processor didn't support hardware virtualization.

The next test was to try running Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 inside of a Hyper-V VM. I started with a 64-bit Windows Server 2008 VM and installed 64-bit Virtual Server 2005 R2 with SP1 inside that VM. I then was able to create a VM, but when I started the Virtual Server VM, it caused the Hyper-V VM that it was running in to reboot. I then tried to install the 32-bit version of Virtual Server inside the 64-bit Hyper-V VM and got an error during installation that the 64-bit version of Virtual Server was required because the host OS (THe 64-bit Hyper-V VM in this case) was 64-bit.

My final scenario was to create a new Hyper-V VM and install 32-bit Windows Server 2008. I then installed 32-bit Virtual Server 2005 successfully, and was able to create and start a VM. So this was success! The problem was that the performance was not very good. I tried to install 32-bit Windows Server 2003 in the new Virtual Server VM and after about two hours it was almost finished.

The conclusion was that this was not really a workable solution. In addition to the problems that I ran into, I am sure that it would not be supported.

The solution that I proposed to the customer was to use private virtual switches to create a set of VMs that were only accessible to each other and a "gateway" VM that was also connected to the "regular" network.

Todd -- Comments

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VMware and Microsoft Repeat Free Free Offers
9/9/2008 -- Comments

Microsoft announced yesterday that they are basically matching VMware's free ESXi download with a free slimmed down version of Hyper-V to also be a free download. Previously both companies had charged money for this virtualization software, but will now make them available for free. VMware announced on July 28th 2008 that ESXi would be available as a free download and Microsoft announced on September 8th 2008 that they would have a slimmed down version of Hyper-V available as a free download. The two products are not exactly the same - there are feature differences between the two but I think it is fair to say that they are comparable in most respects.

This is actually almost an exact replay of history from about two years ago.

On Februrary 6th, 2006 VMware announced that the product previously known as GSX server would now be called VMware Server and would be available as a free download. About two months later on April 3rd, 2006, Microsoft announced that Virtual Server 2005 was becoming a no-charge download. Again these products previously cost money and were not the exactly the same feature for feature, but they were comparable.

Have fun reading through the old press releases and comparing them to the recent ones from the last month.

Todd -- Comments

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Measuring Total CPU Utilization on Hyper-V Servers
9/5/2008 -- Comments

I just finished up testing for a new whitepaper on Hyper-V performance and one of the initial things I had to figure out was how to measure the CPU utilization on the server. What is known as the parent partition (the initial Windows Server 2008 that is installed on the server and then used to enable the Hyper-V role) does not include the CPU utilization for its VMs in the main Processor Utilization performance counter. This was surprising to me at first, but makes sense when you consider the architecture of Hyper-V. In this architecture, the VMs do not go through the parent partition to access the processors. (Although I/O does to use the device drivers of the parent partition.)

In order to solve this problem Microsoft has created some new performance counters that are specific to the Hyper-V Hypervisor. Early on in the betas for Hyper-V it wasn't clear what these counters did, as I blogged about back in January, but it is now much clearer with some guides from Microsoft.

In order to measure the total CPU utilization on a Windows Server 2008 system running VMs under Hyper-V use the Hyper-V Hypervisor Logical Processor % Total Run Time counter in Performance Monitor (more affectionately known as perfmon). If you just look at the % CPU Utilization or the performance tab of Task Manager you will only see the CPU utilization of the parent partition and not the VMs.

Todd -- Comments

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ESX 3.5 Update 2 Completes Microsoft SVVP Certification
9/3/2008 -- Comments

Wow that was fast. It was only a couple of weeks ago that VMware joined the Microsoft Software Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) and now ESX 3.5 Update 2 has been offically certified under that program. This means that now ESX and Hyper-V are supported virtualization platforms for running Microsoft applications. This removes a big issue that many customers had regarding support for Microsoft apps like Exchange, SQL Server, and SharePoint when running on VMware ESX. Check out the Microsoft Virtualization Team Blog and Scott Lowe's blog for some some additional details.

Todd -- Comments

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Testing with Unreleased Multi-Core Processors
8/26/2008 -- Comments

Last Friday I got some new processors to put in one our our 4-socket servers. These processors aren't released yet, but I am doing some testing with them for a planned white paper. The tests aren't finished yet, so I don't have anything to report on that front. I also can't say anything about the processors as they are not released yet. I did take this screen shot of the task manager performance window where you can see that it likes to start a second row of boxes when you go over 16.

Cool Task Manager Pic

Todd -- Comments

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Hyper-V Theme Song
8/22/2008 -- Comments

During our weekly tuesday chat, I told ye110wbeard that I would send him a TechCenter shirt if he created a theme song for Hyper-V. I felt secure that I would not have to actually payout. Unbelievably, he had a Hyper-V theme song and video and lyrics up by late Wednesday. I think the song is kinda catchy and the lyrics are pretty good. Check it out when you get a chance. And I am working on sending out not only a nice TechCenter shirt, but also a nice coffee mug tumbler thing as well because he went above the original challenge and added video!

Todd -- Comments

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VMware ESX Gets Close to Being Supported for Exchange
8/20/2008 -- Comments

It was officially announced that VMware has joined Microsoft's Software Virtualization Validation Program - known as SVVP. This is big news because it means that VMware hypervisors can become a validated and supported platform for Microsoft applications, including my favorite Exchange. The catch currently seems to be in the details. VMware ESX has not yet been certified (MS KB article with supported 3rd party hypervisors), although VMware has joined the SVVP.

I think that Microsoft and VMware coming to agreement on a process that leads to better support is a big win for their customers (Many of which are Dell customers too). Although the certification tests have not yet been run with ESX, it is my humble opinion that it is just a matter of time until it is a validated and supported hypervisor through the SVVP. The other big benefit here is that I will be able to remove some of the footnotes from my Exchange on VMware whitepapers once this is all settled.

Additionally the Exchange team blog has an excellent post with a link to a doc with their recommendations for running Exchange on Hyper-V which should be of great assistance to customers looking to do such a solution.

Todd -- Comments

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Poor Man's Fail-over for Free ESXi
8/19/2008 --

During last week's chat the we discussed ESXi licensing and features. In the features portion of the discussion flakrat asked if it was possible to setup two ESXi servers with shared storage to be able to do a manual fail-over of a VM between the two servers. I was able to create this setup and confirm that it works. Read on for details.

The setup that I used to test was two PowerEdge R805 servers with ESXi Update 2 refresh installed on the hard drive. This was the currently available "free" ESXi installable from VMware's web site. To install I used the Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC) virtual media capability to boot from the ESXi ISO I downloaded. I selected the local hard disk as the location to install and let it complete. Once installed, I used the ESXi configuration to set the password, IP, gateway, and hostname for each server. I then installed the Virtual Infrastructure client on a windows server and used that to manage each of the R805 servers individually.

For shared storage I used a PowerVault MD3000i iSCSI storage array. I enabled the iSCSI software initiator on each server and discovered the the MD3000i. On server A, I created a VMFS partition and created a new VM called VMTest1. I installed Windows Server 2008 64-bit Enterprise Edition. After install completed I shutdown the VM on server A. I then went to server B and rescanned the storage adapters. It found the new VMFS partition on the shared iSCSI LUN. I created a VM using the same settings as I had on Server A including the same virutal hard disk file. I then boot the VM successfully.

The most interesting part of this test was to verify that the cluster file system of VMFS was still working without Virtual Center in the picture. So with the VM still running on Server B, I tried to start it on Server A - and I got an error message that the file was in use by another server. This was great because it showed that it would not be possible to run the VM at the same time on both servers.

We will chat more about this on today's chat - ESX and ESXi.

Todd --

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Getting Ready for VMworld 2008 with Twitter and Blogs
8/14/2008 -- Comments

My plan for VMworld this year was to get to present another session on a cool topic like virtualizing Exchange, virtualizing SQL Server, or why ESXi is so cool. All three ideas were rejected each with a separate rejection email (although it was very nicely worded). So I was resolved to just be an attendee this year, and probably spend some time helping out in the Dell booth on the expo floor. Then somebody mentioned doing twitter from VMworld - which fits perfectly with what we are doing here on delltechcenter.com. The details are still being worked out, but Scott and I will both be doing live twitter posts and blogs from the show. So watch this space and our twitter account for what is going on at VMworld 2008.

For the conference, I'm flying in on Monday and leaving Thursday night. I don't get back to Austin until pretty late, but otherwise I got some really nice flight times. I managed to get into the host hotel, the Venetian, so it should be easy to get to and from the conference everyday. I would like to meet any DellTechCenter members that will be at the show and maybe we could even plan to all meet somewhere. Any suggestions?

Todd -- Comments

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The Day After with ESXi
8/12/2008 -- Comments

We are having a chat this afternoon, at 3 pm central time, that is officially titled ESXi Features and Licensing. I think that I should have named it The Day After with ESXi because that more clearly gets to the questions that I people are having. Many have downloaded the newly free ESXi in the last month. Installation and creating an initial VM are usually the first steps that are taken. Then you go home, sleep on it, and start to really evaluate how to use ESXi the next day.

Initially a single server running ESXi maybe all that is needed. Questions about how it works and what it can do will need to be answered. This is the Features part of the chat today. Some will arrive at the conclusion that they may need some of the features that are included with VMware's Virtual Infrastructure which includes things like live migration, high availability, load balancing, and centralized management. There are actually lots of options in terms of licensing to upgrade the free ESXi into Virtual Infrastructure. This is the Licensing part of today's chat.

Todd -- Comments

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What to do with Free ESXi
8/7/2008 -- Comments

VMware announced a couple of weeks ago that ESXi was being made available as a free download. There was lots of talk and discussion about what this means. Detailed price analysis have been done. On twitter I have seen several posts where people were downloading, installing, or deploying ESXi. It's twitter so you don't get a lot of detail, but it does seem to indicate that people are doing something with it.

I just wonder exactly what to do with ESXi and does it really change things dramatically.

What you get with the free ESXi download - A high performance enterprise class hypervisor with a web based management tool to create, modify, monitor, and generally do cool stuff with all the VMs that are running on that server. This is a really good deal, especially considering the price.

For a single physical server or maybe a few servers, the free ESXi should be a really great solution.

What is not included is Virtual Center and all of the features of that are multi-server related. This means that there is no VMotion, no HA, no DRS, no multi-server management of any kind.

The great thing is that it is possible to buy the correct licenses (I'll let the license experts handle exactly what this means) and then be able to enable all of these great features with Virtual Center and ESXi. So you can use ESXi as a starting point and grow into a full blown enterprise virtualization solution - later. In many ways this seems to be the same exact thing that VMware did when they made GSX Server free and renamed it to VMware Server. They even renamed ESX 3.5i to be ESXi.

There are some things that I still wonder about. Is ESXi easy enough to use for those just getting started with virtualization? Will ESXi get more SMBs to try out VMware's virtualization?

Todd -- Comments

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Virtualization Blog en espanol
8/4/2008 -- Comments

Jose Maria, a Dell virtualization guru and member of delltechcenter, has his own virtualizaiton blog that he writes en espanol. Even after taking 2 years in high school and 2 more years in college I still need lots of hand waving and gesturing to get by when attempting to speak Spanish. Jose Maria is a native speaker who does very well with English as well, but has started his blog to reach the large audience of technical minded Spanish speakers. He has many excellent posts and updates it several times a week with entries that disucss the latest developments in the virtualization industry. This is a great opportunity for those of you that would prefer to get some technical content en espanol and for me to brush up on my Spanish.

I've put a link to his blog right on the delltechcenter home page, giving it some international feel.

Todd -- Comments

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Cool Tricks with Excel and MD3000i Data
7/30/2008 -- Comments

In response to a few questions that came up, I put together a video that shows how to do a cool trick with Microsoft Excel to create graphs of MD3000i array level performance data. I posted an entry here last week and also put up a wiki page about how you can use the smCLI command line tool to get array level performance data (Individual storage processors, array totals, and individual virtual disks) from an MD3000i. The output of this command is a csv (comma separated values) text file. I included on the wiki page a nice graph of the performance based on the data from this output file. What I didn't go into was how to create such a graph.

So now you have this great little video that will show you one way that you can use Excel to create a graph based on the data in the file. I don't claim to be a know-it-all when it comes to Excel, but the way that I do it in the video works. I would love to hear from anybody who knows of other (possibly better) ways to do it.

Todd -- Comments

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Hyper-V VM Clone with SCVMM Demo
7/29/2008 -- Comments

I just posted a new video to delltechcenter.com on the virtualization demos page. It is a demo of how Microsoft System Center Virtual Machine Manger 2008 (SCVMM), which is currently in beta, can be used to clone a Hyper-V virtual machine. This was fun to put together because this is the first chance I've had to work with SCVMM 2008.

There were a couple of surprising things that I discovered around the cloning demo. The first was that a VM must be prepared in advance by running sysprep (at least for windows VMs) before doing the clone. With VMware Virtual Center it is possible to have the sysprep and other customization done as part of the clone. The second surprise to me was that Windows Server 2008 includes sysprep. In the Windows\system32\sysprep directory it is there waiting to be run. And when it is run there are only a couple of very simple options to pick from. I think that it is a much easier tool to use this way. With previous versions of Windows Server the sysprep tools were on the installation cd in a deploy.cab file, which meant you had to track down the cd. I like it better just included with the OS install - although I wonder if this is a potential problem.

In addition to the Hyper-V clone demo, Scott also put up a cool demo of SCVMM managing some VMware ESX Servers and VMs. So you might want to check them both out while you are there. We're going to talk about these demos in today's chat on Hyper-V Management.

Todd -- Comments

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Run ESX in a VM Just For Fun
7/24/2008 -- Comments

Did you know that it is possible to run multiple ESX servers, a Virtual Center server, a NAS appliance all on a laptop? Even more cool is that VMotion will work to live migrate VMs between the two ESX servers, which by the way are running on a single laptop. It is important to note that none of this is supported, but it does give you a really cool ESX testing environment - on your laptop!

The complete details about how to get this installed and running were contributed to delltechcenter.com on a new wiki page - Virtual Infrastructure Test Environment. Jose Maria from Dell in Europe uses this configuration to show how VMware ESX Server and VirtualCenter work together. He gets lots of questions about how he did it so he put together this doc to explain. He's included lots of screen shots which makes it easy to follow.

The basic configuration that he uses is a Dell Latitude D630 with 4GB of RAM running VMware Workstation.

Todd -- Comments

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Virtualizing SharePoint on VirtualGeek
7/21/2008 -- Comments

Virtual Geek has a some great performance and power consumption numbers up on his blog for virtualizing Microsoft Sharepoint. I've gotten lots of questions over the past year or so about how SharePoint would perform in a VM and this is the best data that I have seen to answer those questions. He has info about how you can download the full report from EMC's Powerlink site, but the charts and info in his blog post seem to cover the main points. The amount of savings in terms of power are so big as to be unbelievable, but after looking at the details behind them it all seems to add up. An excellent read - I recommend that you check it out.

Todd -- Comments

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Tons of Data on MD1120 and PERC 6 Performance
7/17/2008 -- Comments

A few months ago Dan Hambrick from our System Performance Analysis team had completed and published a performance report of what I thought to be a very complete and thorough look at the PERC 6 (PowerEdge RAID Controller). It posted to our humble site and I did a blog entry to highlight how cool I thought it was.

About a month later Dan comes back to my cube and tells me that he is getting all kinds of requests to do more testing. Of course any new factor could grow his already very large matrix and double the amount of testing. He ends up figuring out how to do a round of testing with the new MD1120 array and get the data into a form that is understandable in a relatively small number of graphs.

The new paper was posted just a few days ago and the amount of data that is behind it is staggering. The numbers behind the graphs are all in the Appendix if you are brave enough to take a look, but I would highly recommend that you stick with the really cool graphs.

Todd -- Comments

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Array Level MD3000i Performance Monitoring
7/15/2008 -- Comments

During the weekly DellTechCenter Tech Tuesday chat a couple of weeks ago a question came up about performance monitoring with the PowerVault MD3000i iSCSI array. The initial question was how to do performance monitoring from Linux and we addressed it in a followup discussion thread. The answer at this point was to use iostat for Linux or perfmon in windows to monitor performance on each host that was attached to the MD3000i array. This lead to a follow on question which was how to monitor the performance for the entire array.

The management tool for the MD3000i, PowerVault Modular Disk Storage Manager, does not include any performance stats beyond basic iSCSI port level stats. Some investigation into the command line interface for the MD3000i revealed that there is a command to capture the performance stats on the array. Using the smcli, which is installed as part of the MDSM, it is possible to collect the performance stats for the array, controllers, and virtual disks to a csv file.

This turns out to be pretty cool and not too hard to do. Just a simple command and a little bit of spreadsheet magic and you too can produce cool performance graphs of your MD3000i. The details are posted here on delltechcenter.com.

Todd -- Comments

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Guaranteed Better VMworld Keynote
7/10/2008 -- Comments

There has been a lot written over the past couple of days about the abrupt departure of VMware's CEO Diane Greene. I think that she did a great job of building and leading the company she co-founded into the incredible position that it has today. VMware been one of the best tech companies over the past seven years or so and I would credit Diane and her leadership as partly responsible. That said, it might be time for new leadership to be brought in with more operational experience to take VMware to the next level.

All that said - there is one thing that I am excited about (and I know that a lot of you are thinking it too). We are all basically guaranteed a better VMworld keynote from the CEO this year. See previous recordings of Diane's VMworld keynotes here.

Todd - Comments

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New Performance Data on 2-Socket vs 4-Socket
7/9/2008 -- Comments

In the past I was somewhat biased towards 2-socket servers for virtualization - which was due to the results of some testing we did. I had of course realized over the past year or so that things had changed and the 4-socket servers were now more competitive. So when I ran the series of chats on Selecting a Server for Virtualization, I decided that it was a good opportunity to re-run some of those exact same tests with the brand new R900 that had arrived in the lab. I posted the results on a TechCenter page so you can see the full results, but the short summary is that the R900 stacks up as more efficient than the 2950 we tested in the previous paper. The R900 showed 10 to 23 percent better performance per watt than the older 2950. The question that remains is how would the R900 compare to a current generation 2950?

Todd - Comments

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Storage VMotion Support for iSCSI
7/7/2008 -- Comments

The VMware VI Team Blog recently had an entry announcing that Storage VMotion is now supported with iSCSI. Although many of you may not have known, until this announcement Storage Vmotion was only supported with fibre channel storage. I did a video demo of Storage VMotion a few months ago when it came out. The funny story is that I actually had to redo the video after recording it the first time because initially I had used an the iSCSI based PowerVault MD3000i as the source. When I found out that iSCSI wasn't supported, I had to re-record it - no big deal - but it made me really appreciate this announcement of support. This really makes Storage VMotion much more compelling as you can use it to migrate your VMs between fibre and iSCSI without interruption.

Todd - Comments


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Benefits of iSCSI Over Fibre Channel
7/1/2008 -- Comments

Our upcoming chat today on benefits of iSCSI and Virtualization led me to some quick research to see what I could find. The first hit was for a Dell Whitepaper on why iSCSI is the best storage for virtualization. Turns out this is a whitepaper that I reviewed internally before it was published about a year ago.

I was a long time fibre channel user and thought that some of the points in the paper were a bit harsh. The funny thing is that reading it now I agree with it much more. The paper didn't change, but my experience in the last year with iSCSI has changed me. I really do think that iSCSI is easier and the performance concerns that I had, for the most part, don't concern me anymore. Although I must admit that I still like my CX3-80 fibre channel storage.

Todd - Comments

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Cluster Filesystem for Hyper-V
6/17/2008 -- Comments

I ran across Scott Lowe's blog entry on Melio FS, Hyper-V, and VMware ESX earlier today. Scott talks about his discussion with Jeff Woolsey - Senior Program Manager for Virtualziation at Microsoft - while at Tech Ed. Specifically how Microsoft has allowed storage partners to create a cluster file system that can be used by Windows 2008 \ Hyper-V. Such a cluster file system could enable the VMFS type functionality of having multiple physical hosts access a shared disk at the same time. This would remove the requirement of one LUN for one VM when doing quick migration with Hyper-V. Specifically Sanbolics' Melio FS was identified as capable of doing this.

I think this is excellent news and means that Hyper-V customers will have a cluster file system option for their Hyper-V hosts. This can greatly simplify storage management when you have more than just a few VMs. On the downside is the additional cost of such a cluster file system. There is not pricing listed on the Sanbolic website, but the Network World article states that the price is $5000 per host. If the cost is anywhere near that, then the price of VMware's ESX doesn't seem that bad in comparison to Hyper-V - assuming that you need or want the cluster file system capability.

Todd -- Comments

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Support of Microsoft on VMware VMs
6/13/2008 -- Comments

A question that has come up many times over the last several years is that of support of Microsoft software when running in VMware VMs. This blog entry by Mark Bowler at Liquefying IT has some great stats that show a majority of people are running Microsoft in their VMs and that the support picture is fuzzy for some of them. If you have a Microsoft Premier Support agreement they will support you when running on VMware, but they do reserve the right to have you reproduce it on hardware. Mark then points out a new program from Microsoft to provide validation of virtualized environments which would then lead to the ability for customers to receive technical support.

The program is called the Windows Server Virtualization Validation Program (SVVP) and currently lists four other virtualizaiton vendors: Citrix, Novell, Sun, and Virtual Iron. Notably absent from the list is VMware.

Dell provides support for Microsoft operating systems running in VMware VMs which is detailed in this customer letter and on VMware's webpage on Support for Microsoft Software in VMware Virtual Machines:

"For customers who purchase OEM VMware products with Dell hardware and Dell Gold Enterprise Support or Dell ProSupport, the vendor provides end-to-end support—including the VMware software and certified Microsoft operating systems that are run within virtual machines."


Todd -- Comments

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Pictures of R805s Arriving in Lab
06/11/2008 -- Comments

Our shipment of four brand new PowerEdge R805 servers arrived yesterday afternoon. We got them loaded up with Quad-Core AMD Opteron 2356 2.3 GHz processors, 64 GB of RAM, and a Quad-Port Intel NIC (in addition to the four onboard NICs). I just love opening up new servers and I was pretty excited to open these up and get them in the rack - but not as excited as this.



Here is a picture of the new servers in our lab from this morning. I have also uploaded a few more pictures in the Photo Gallery that show the inside of the R805, the included VMware ESX Server 3i, and the servers installed in the rack.

The only thing left to do now is use VMotion to get some VMs onto these systems and put them to work.

Todd -- Comments

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Storage Choices for Virtualization Can Be Easy
06/10/2008 -- Comments

After spending the last few weeks looking into which server to choose for virtualization, a natural next question is – What should I use for storage? I think that the answer here may be easier in some ways, but more complicated in other ways.

Mark Farley, on the InsideIT blog, highlighted a recent video by Darren Thomas, General Manager of Storage – aka Chief Storage Guy - here at Dell, that focuses on how storage virtualization works well with server virtualization. Just as VMs are able to use live migration to move from one physical server to another, virtualized storage can move those same VMs from one storage array to another. The result is that you have a tremendous amount of flexibility and availability.

There are three major categories for storage: local, iSCSI, and Fibre Channel. There are lots of choices within these, but I think that when deciding what to use to support your virtualization servers this is the best starting organization. If you are going to only have one virtualization server (or one per location) then local storage will work just great. If you already have an existing fibre channel SAN and existing expertise to manage it, then fibre may be the best solution for your virtualization server farm. Everybody else should probably take a really hard look at iSCSI.

Within the iSCSI category at Dell we have three areas to pick from: PowerVault MD3000i, Dell EqualLogic PS Series, and Dell | EMC AX and CX iSCSI arrays. I think that the decision here also breaks down very similar to how we arrived at the type of storage. For smaller deployments or those that do not need array level features like replication the PowerVault MD3000i (with an attractive entry-level price) is a good choice. For customers that already have some Dell|EMC fibre channel or iSCSI it might be a good idea to extend this environment with additional iSCSI for your virtualization needs. I think that the Dell|EqualLogic PS series is a strong contender for all other solutions.

Of course it’s really a bit more complicated than this, but this is the way that I frame up a conversation around storage for virtualization solutions.

Todd -- Comments

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Wiggle Room in Deciding on a Virtualizaiton Server
06/05/2008 -- Comments

What is the best server for virtualization? This is a question that comes up often in discussions, although it is sometimes phrased differently. It might be "How many NICs do you recommend for ESX?" or "How much RAM can you put in an R805?" or "Are blades the most power efficient server?". The really cool thing is that the answer to all of them ends up being the same - If you can tell me what you are trying to do, and the key requirements that you have, I can give you the best answer. Sometimes you need tons of RAM, sometimes you oodles of NICs, and sometimes you are looking for the best value.

We can give you some basic guidance and even provide you with reference architectures, but ultimately everybody has to customize their virtualization solution based on their needs. To provide you with the ability to be able to customize, you have to be educated about what your choices are what the ramifications are for each choice. That's what this focus topic on Selecting a Virtualiation Server has been all about. Connecting people with the information as well as each other for discussion about the process. This played out in each of the three chats that we did, and can continue on the discussion threads.

This really isn't anything new in the IT world. Almost all solutions have required a certain amount of planning and sizing that was specific for each organization. The advantage with virtualization is that there is more wiggle room to adapt and learn as you go. Because virtualization provides a layer between the VMs and the physical servers, things can be changed, modified, tuned much more easily than without virtualizaiton. If you find that a server is overloaded with too many VMs, you can use VMotion to move some to another server. If you find that you are out of capacity, you can add another server to the farm and redistribute the VMs to take advantage of the new capacity - without any downtime.

Use this community to keep the discussion going about what the best server is for virtualization - all questions around this topic are welcome. The opportunity to interact with your peers and find out why and how they made their decisions is really the best answer to a question that has a different answer for everybody.

Todd -- Comments

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Inside IT Video is Still True
6/2/2008 -- Comments

I didn't get a chance last week to draw attention to the nice video that Marc Farley put up on the InsideIT blog last week about our TechCenter web chats. Marc is a regular attendee of our weekly chat sessions and he is also the lead blogger on InsideIT. The video is cool, short, and just as relevant this week as last. This week's chat (Tues 3 PM CST) will be about when to select blades for your virtualization server platform.

Todd -- Comments

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