This year I’ve been working on a VMware design for a large enterprise customer, and had various conversations with the solutions team on everything from storage sizing to networking (that was one day!). This prompted me to address one topic that I feel deserves more attention, and that is the Cisco Nexus 1000V. If you are new to the 1000V virtual switch, then you might want to read the guide I published back in April 2012 on How to Deploy the Cisco Nexus 1000V. For now, grab a coffee and let’s begin with load-balancing policies…
Since the days when exams were written with chalk and slates and blog posts were cave paintings, it is obligatory to share the experience of taking exams within the community. I hope the title didn’t get you too excited as I signed an NDA and really can’t tell you how to pass this exam. But, what I can do is give you advice and help you focus your study where it really matters. For starters, if you are reading this then you are probably wondering about the VCP5 and the VCAP5 exams. I wouldn’t blame you if you are opting to hold on for the release of the VCAP5 exams, but as it stands whilst I write this post we have no idea when they will be released. It’s likely to be next year sometime, but that is a pure guess. Gregg over at TheSaffaGeek has already started compiling some material to help you with studying for the VCAP 5 exams. However, if you have decided to jump straight in and sit the VCAP-DCD4 (VDCD410) exam then here are my thoughts.
This exam is HARD-ass. There are a few peeps that say it’s easy, but I personally found this harder than the VCAP-DCA due to the shear number of questions (113 in total as stated in the blueprint). If you are a native English speaker then you get 3 hours 45 minutes (4 hours for non-native), and the key to passing this exam is primarily being able to skim-read a case study or scenario and understand design requirements, constraints, risks, assumptions and translate these into one or more of the possible answers. If you spend time reading each question in detail then you are likely to run out of time. It’s also a hard exam to study for because it tests your general experience with vSphere and design knowledge, so you are not just remembering where something is configured.
This is the second part to my VCAP-DCA study guide on storage (section 1.1 of the blueprint). As mentioned in part 1, I intend to focus these study notes on what you need to know with essential learning points. There is a big section on LUN masking using PSA related commands in this part of my study guide, and also an introduction to analysing performance stats with esxtop. Whilst esxtop is covered in many of the VCAP-DCA blueprint sections, 1.1 is the first section it is mentioned in regards to assessing storage performance, so at the very end of this post I have included the topic ‘Using ESXTOP for Storage Performance Analysis’.
This is the very first subject on the VCAP-DCA blueprint, and I intend to focus these study notes on what you need to know with essential learning points. Throughout my study notes I have made a few assumptions about the reader. You will:
- Already have a good grasp of vSphere and are comfortable using the vSphere client.
- Have a good understanding of storage types, RAID levels, iSCSI, fiber channel, NFS.
- Have some basic Linux knowledge, such as using Vi or Nano, and navigating around the file system.
- Not be very familiar with using the vMA, PowerCLI, Service Console, or DCUI (at least not for anything advanced).
- Need further guidance on using ESXTOP / RESXTOP and other performance and troubleshooting methods.
With that in mind I recommend that rather that following the exam blueprint in order, you try and focus on the topics you find the hardest. If I’ve not included notes on some topics (RAID for example) it is because there is already a wealth of information available. This way, your VCAP-DCA study can be focused on key learning points that target gaps in your knowledge or areas of weakness. Also bear in mind that at the time of writing this I haven’t taken the VCAP-DCA yet, but as a former virtual infrastructure team lead and admin, in addition to recent knowledge in the field I hope my notes help not only myself, but others to pass the certification too.
Configuring the default user profile in Windows 7
When creating your base (parent) image you may want to configure the default user profile so when new users log into the desktop for the first time, it retains certain customisations such as the desktop background colour, shortcuts, etc. Prior to Windows 7 you were able to copy a user profile to the default user profile, but Windows 7 does not permit this method. Instead, you must create an unattend.xml (unattended installation file) with Windows System Image Manager (WSIM) which is part of the Windows Automated Installation Kit.
If you have no or little experience with Windows PowerShell, but want to jump straight into VMware PowerCLI then you may find you have some gaps in the knowledge required to get started. How do you add the VMware PowerCLI snap-in (VMware.VimAutomation.Core) for example? How do you construct a foreach statement? How do you work with variables? There are some excellent resources available on the web, and one of my favourites is Alan Renouf’s website Virtu-Al. He also has a great article on Working with events. Definitely work a look!
If you are looking to deploy multiple ESX/ESXi servers then there are plenty of methods and tools out there, some more complex than others. There are vendor specific deployment products available such as HP Rapid Depuployment Pack (RDP) which uses Altiris, or alternatively there are free deployment tools such as ESX Deployment Appliance (EsleeDA) and Ultimate Deployment Appliance (UDA). UDA is my favorite tool for the job as it offers great flexibility such as the use of subtemplates (discussed later), and therefore this will be the basis of this article. It was created by Carl Thijssen and thanks to Mike Laverick of RTFM, it also supports ESX/ESXi deployments, and the latest build supports ESX/ESXi 4.1.
In this article I detail the steps required to configure your vMA as a Syslog server, and configure your ESX/ESXi hosts to send logging information to the vMA. Logging is often overlooked, but when managing multiple hosts it is far easier to send your logs to a Syslog server. I’m studying for the VCAP-DCA exam, and using vicfg-syslog is a requirement of the exam (Section 6.1) and the vMA is also essential to understand (Section 8.1). I hope my notes help you as they have helped me.
VMware View 4.6 has just been released which includes over 160 bug fixes and support for PCoIP with Secure Gateway servers. See the release notes here: http://www.vmware.com/support/view46/doc/view-46-release-notes.html
The vSphere Management Assistant (vMA) runs a 64 bit operating system (RedHat Enterprise Linux) and features the VMware vCLI in addition to vSphere SDK for Perl, Java JRE, CIM vSphere profiles, VMware tools and an SNMP agent. The vMA virtual machine requires a single vCPU with 512MB memory and a 5GB virtual disk. If you are studying for the VCAP-DCA exam then you will need to know how to install and use the vMA to manage a vSphere environment. The best way to learn how to use the vMA is to setup your own home lab. I’ve already posted an article on building a whitebox VMware vSphere server for your home lab (click here), otherwise you can always use VMware Workstation on your PC or laptop.
I have just received an email from VMware Education Services highlighting the new VMware vCloud training courses that are now available. If you are new to VMware then they offer a 1-day vCloud Overview course (see below), for seasoned VCP’s they offer a more advanced 3-day course Architecting the VMware vCloud, in addition to other courses and e-learning available.
This week VMware officially announced that VMware vCenter Lab Manager will not see further major releases and support will continue until 1st May 2013. Over the past few years I have spent a considerable amount of time supporting a large development team with Lab Manager since version 2.5 so I’m kind of sad to see it go, but this is an exciting time in a new era of VMware vCloud Director…