Problems with Windows 10 (1703) and VMware Guest Customisation

This week I decided to try and help out a fellow vExpert who was having an issue with carrying out guest customisation on a Windows10 system. I’ve not done much with Windows10. And I’m keen to expose myself new problems and issues, and I like trying to fix issues. So I offered to help. We went ALL around the houses looking at the usual suspects – DHCP, Administrator credentials, DNS and so on. Turned out it was a problem with with Windows itself. In nutshell 1703 is “bad” for VMware Admins, but 1709 is fine.

I’d not seen the problem because my lab uses 1709…. and once my fellow vExpert had ditched the 1703 build of Windows10 the problem went away. To be honest the build difference was the LAST thing I checked. I went round all the houses – looking at the usual suspects…

The problem was this – put simply – when ever guest customisation was taking place the customisation was stalling and triggering the setting of Regional Settings/Keyboard and such like. It’s worth saying that Sysprep is always been crock of poop. It’s primarily designed for OEMs who ship PCs with Windows pre-installed, and need to “depersonalise” the build ready for shipping to customer. It was never intended really for customer deploying Windows NT/XP/7/8/10 en-masse least of all Windows Server.

It is however all we have – and so we have to work within its constraints – once reason to make sure if your VDI broker (aka Horizon or XenDesktop) has their own “Sysprep” – they are MUCH more functional and 1,000 times faster to process.


Posted by on March 20, 2018 in View/EUC

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Oracle Ravello Blogger Day 2018 (aka #RBD2)

Note: In classical antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to provide wise and insightful counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods.

Firstly, I would like to give John Troyer and Amy White a great big thank you for the invite to attend RBD2 at Oracle’s global HQ at Redwood Shores, CA. I’ve driven past Oracle’s offices on the 101 to/from SFO on a number of occasions and wondered what it was like up close. I want to especially thank Amy for her “herding of cats” by pulling a cabal of the industry’s top bloggers around the globe into one day. Initially, I was surprised to be included in those ranks. As you know I’ve been out-of-the-loop for a while. And it’s my hope this event marks an end to my hiatus and a return to my usual output and engagement. As you might guess it’s been quite journey. The best part is, its only just begun.

Secondly, I would like to thank the OCI – Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Team (Map OCI to AWS or GCP as equivalent acronyms) and Ravello Team (although I feel the distinction between the two will, as time goes by, become increasingly blurry). Bringing a larger group like this is not a small undertaking – and I see it as a measure of their commitment to the community that they are staging events like this – as well as giving all vExperts complementary access to their cloud – an offer I will be taking up shortly as a supplement to my homelab. My only regret was brain-fading in the late afternoon as we went thru two customer-case studies – by then I was rather battling the jet lag.

Right. Thank you’s done. Now to the meat and potatoes. I made copious notes during the event, and we were given access to a raft of PPTs as well as a roadmap which was under NDA. Only the roadmap is off limits. As it is I had a feeling that the Oracle folks were watching their words closely – which suggests there something brewing which is off-road map… I’ll dip in those later when I see something worthy of note – as often it’s the overall impression that stays clearer in the mind. Who knows maybe Oracle will buy VMware, but only once VMware has bought Microsoft after its merger with Redhat… :p

Anyway, I’m just gonna riff here and see where it takes me. And then when I’m done I will look at those PPT’s see if that inspires me more than just to copy and pasting slides into a blogpost for some visual relief…

Ravello isn’t just about running vSphere in a nested configuration on top of a cloud. So I’ve been out of the loop for a while, and wasn’t at RBD1. Before I took my gap year, Ravello had just been acquired. And the general consensus was – that just like a HP acquisition “That’s the end of them then”. Some acquisitions have habit of disappearing into the corporate matrix and never being seeing again. Yet, later when folks ask “why did we buy these people” – everyone who made decision have gone, and those left – just look blankly.

This isn’t, as far as I can tell the case with Ravello. I definitely see Oracle Cloud and Ravello seamlessly merging together as they each consume each other’s bits. Back in 2015, Ravello was an interesting hypervisor (plus some management bits) that you could run inside an AWS instance and in turn install VMware ESX, in some crazy N-levels of nested vInception that would cause the average sys-admins ears to bleed. There it was Fun. A handy way to run a vSphere lab in the cloud – without the need for a marriage limiting home lab. There were folks doing something similar like BareMetalCloud’s implementation of Alastair Cooke’s AutoLab. Since the acquisition Revello have pivoted their hypervisor to run on OCI.

Note: This slide shows the performance deployment options… So basically, what they are saying is Revello+OCI is ready for production, and Revello on AWS/GCP is really only good for testing and vSphere labs because the performance is sub-par based on having too many rings of vInception with underline hypervisor that’s to optimised. I don’t doubt these performance figures are achievable but I’m less sure about the “secret sauce”. If I moved my nested home lab on to bare-metal I could show improved performance stats too… It’s a kind of truism. Remove the roadblock things move quicker… There were lots and lots and lots of other improvements listed. But let’s faces it few vendor’s products get worse as the years go by. Features matter less than a good, stable product that gives good performance at a reasonable price. It grieves me to say this – but features don’t make or break a software purchase (within reason).

Oracle is serious about cloud. Okay, they aren’t building DC’s, that would be a silly waste of money. They are however, putting some serious spondoolicks in the game. The kind of money where you won’t see a return on your investment in just two years. Certain (ahem) vendors jump into public cloud and get out of the game pretty quickly when they don’t see traction inside of 2-3 years. I won’t mention any names. You know them. Just sayin’.

So where are they spending their dollars – in hardware and software development. What was noticeable was the hardware side of the house. I mean serious hardware – at the network level the sort of bandwidth where concepts such as QoS become irrelevant as advertising the spindle speed on a SSD –  or the insulation properties of chocolate teapot.

Note: Some powerful specs.

Note: This is horrible slide – and has no place any deck worthy of a customer. Only marketing wonks who know diddley squat about IT create this sort of collateral. If a competitor or partner saw this – you have just kicked the ball towards you own goalpost as they proceed to demonstrate the performance and management capabilities. The delete key is your friend.

Note: Got to have slide that includes big arrow rising upwards. Sales people love this stuff!

Why is Oracle serious about cloud? You’d have to ask them to get the corporate line. I feel my wild conjecture is more fun to read, even if it turns out completely wrong. My feeling is Oracle has woken up and smelled the bacon. As an ISV whose revenue streams still come from product lines that were the companies “killer app” – they are witnessing growth in the public cloud (AWS, Azure and so on). It just so happens that these providers are competitors too – and once they have the customers workloads, the next logical step would be for Microsoft to push its products, and AWS to push there’s – despite the fact that both these vendors offer Oracle products-as-a-service. Does AWS/Azure exist to preserve Oracle’s bottom line? No. Would they take any opportunity to squeeze Oracle out of the equation? Why yes. That’s the nature of the ball game.

Most software vendors are built around a core-application that founded the company – if they are lucky they may stumble upon killer app No2, and No3 – but for the vast majority killer app No1 is the crown jewels. And believe me (God that sounds, like Mr Trump!) they will do anything to protect that revenue stream… [I’m pointing my index finger in the air. Kill me now please. It would be a mercy killing]

How is Oracle Cloud different from other Public Clouds? During the course of the day one of the delegates (I didn’t see who) said “So this is basically public cloud as designed by database people”. I found that a funny wise crack amusing not least because like all good jokes, there’s an element of truth. It goes back to the “serious about cloud” in the sense that the hardware specification is screamingly fast. So much so that big workloads should/could/would get a massive performance boost – in a “throwing hardware at the problem” kind of way. But more than that Oracle Cloud seems designed for the “Enterprise Types” who seem to be congenitally conservative, patrician, and risk-adverse. We all remember how hostile and sceptical DBAs were to virtualization. Well, guess what those DBAs are going to be same about any form of public cloud. That’s right – conservative, patrician and risk-adverse.

Note: Oracle supports Oracle products. Phew. There’s a relief. 😉

Lift “n” Shift and Move “n” Improve. There’s another philosophical difference between say Oracle and AWS. AWS is really a developers/DevOps cloud. AWS is about spinning countless cattle-instances, ideally interfacing with -as-a-services features such as S3, Lambda, into your data-pipeline. I was at the London AWS summit last year where every presentation ended with the exhortation to re-write your application to work with these native Amazon services – get to the serverless-model, and keep the number of EC2 instances you have to the minimum. There were lots of very big (truly global) enterprises singing the praises of AWS – saving money and improving performance. The only fly in the ointment – was for those businesses built-on shrink-wrapped enterprise software, where “the developers” were shown the door some time ago – the idea of re-writing core line of business apps probably fills them with horror, dread and fear – not least the open-ended commitment to an application re-write with unforeseen and unexpected snags.

Oracle’s approach mirrors to some degree VMware’s approach to virtualisation in the 2000’s. Back then we were P2V’ing existing apps unmodified into VMware ESX clusters OR else installing the apps natively, and just moving the data across – and later adopting “VM First Policies”. This strategy presented the least risk, and the least effort – and a “easy win” for the infrastructure team. So, Oracle’s strategy is to say to customers lift “n” shift those apps to Oracle Cloud which should in the move, improve them. My fellow delegates cringed at the “Move and Improve” corporate-marketing speak – but I rather like it. It sounds like being compelled to do more physical exercise more by a personal trainer!

Moving the needle. Will this approach work? Is Oracle going head-to-head with the 300-pound gorillas in the room – AWS and VMware. No, that would be that dumbest move since Harvey Weinstein slipped into a bathrobe. In this game you “pivot” away from large gorillas. Moving the needle is all about coming into the market – perhaps behind others who are more established with bigger customer basis in that particular sector – and getting noticed and at the very least a seat at the table when it comes to the discussion. So, what does any vendor (great or small) need to do to move the needle, and what are the consequences if you don’t?

  1. Have unique value prop – that no-one else has…
  2. Demonstrate massive performance improvements
  3. Demonstrate outstanding cost savings
  4. Ideally do 2 & 3 at the same time…
  5. Do 1,2 and 3 very quickly so you catch your competitors napping with their pants down! By the time you have secured a reasonable market share – you should have a sustainable profitable business which, if you diligently stick at it will sustain itself, or ideal grow at such a rate that the C-Class executives don’t get twitchy at year-end.

What happens if you don’t follow this plan. You have about 18-24 months to make headway before you customers move along to the next car-crash at the side of the road. Oracle are convinced they are doing No5 having added a truck load of features in 2017, and opening new regions this year…

Yes, I know like VMware, Oracle doesn’t have a great reputation for No3 (demonstrating costs savings). They are regarded sometimes wrongly as a “premium” product – a Lincoln, not a Ford. However, Oracle claim they are significantly more “cost effective” (you never say cheaper in this business) than AWS/Azure. The other thing I would praise them for is not grifting the customer for bandwidth usage – specifically on egress traffic.

I have a feeling one of the reasons “Lift & Shift” doesn’t really happen is because of the egregious costs of egress traffic. It’s a classic “Hotel California” play forcing customers to just take their data and rebuild their app back on premises or with a different cloud vendor. This is easy if you are DevOpsy with Containers, less so if you mainly accept the defaults and click the “next” button when building apps.

[Aside: Why have the terms ingress/egress suddenly become in vogue? In my day inbound and outbound just worked fine… rambles on until taken away by the folks in white coats the to the great IT rest home in the sky…]

Customer aren’t competition. During the day I asked who Oracle/Ravello thought their main competition was. I’m very pleased to report that there was no going negative and dumping on competitors. Temptation was laid in their way – and they did not take the bait(ing). Full marks. One classic line I heard when asking this on the vendorwag podcast was saying that their biggest competition was customers, and their loyalty to legacy approaches and legacy systems. Yes, that legacy SAN you bought last year. 😉

In fairness this classic evasion is to avoid awkward questions about competitors, you might be in co-operation talks with, and because the point is to talk about your bits, not someone else’s.

But there is another type of competition. It’s internal BUs, groups and individuals who see your project as a threat to their bonus or very existence. I’m talking about silo’d politics within large software/hardware vendors have grown into global players. One of the unspoken truths about software vendors – is whilst they cheerfully cajole and berate their customers about outmoded practises, intransigents silo’s and lack of “agility”. They themselves can be as riven with unseen infighting and politics.

Now, I’m not saying that this is the case at Oracle. I have no insight to that. But if there’s one thing that can upset the apple-cart is internal people who see a project as a threat to the existing shrink-wrapped on-premises business. There is only one way to overcome this as far as I can tell. Stuff people’s mouths with gold.

Salespeople with the best will in the world are “coin-operated”. If they have been at a company for a while – they get fat, lazy and complacent. They are so used in pulling the one-armed lever on a slot machine, and it coming up jackpot every time. They become unable to sell anything else. In the parlance of big corporates vendors – you need to “incentivise” your sale people, and “compensate” them richly to encourage selling ProductA to ProductB.


Is moving from on-premises VMware vSphere to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) going to deliver the exact same feature set? No. But then again, no cloud provider offering that level of granularity from a feature perspective. Once of the points of public cloud is to de-complexify your environment where you focus just on the layer your responsible for.

HOWEVER, that does mean kissing goodbye to all the features, tweaks and tuning you have perfected and tooled over the last decade or more. I do hope customers are not going make the same mistake they made with Citrix, with VMware. But that is whole other blogpost….

Does OCI match pound for pound all the features you would get in AWS? No. There’s still plenty of work to be done. But they are moving quickly. The marketing people are going to busy with their arrows pointing ever upwards.

What barriers persist in convincing customers to look at the offering? There’s that persistent perception that Oracle “expensive”, but also an antagonism about how Oracle has reacted to the virtualization that happened underneath them. It’s always been a sore point in the VMware Community, and pretty much Oracle’s response has been – we don’t care – suck it up. In fairness that was no better or worse than Microsoft’s in the early days. But that is as they say ancient history.

And… well customers did suck it up – but only creating VMware clusters tightly packed with Oracle VMs to keep the “Oracle CPU Tax” down to a minimum. You see the trouble with unreasonable rules and regulations meant to shape human behaviour, is we creative learn to game them. But that same time get irritated by the unnecessary hoop-jumping and wanton technical compromises it generates. Oracle need to work hard to undo this poor perception. This is way above my pay grade – but maybe, just maybe – that’s the direction of travel. And if this is a road to Damascus conversion then should be welcome by all. In the world IT leopards should be allowed to change their spots.


Posted by on March 16, 2018 in Oracle Revello

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London VMUG – 22nd March 2018

Erm, that’s “Next Thursday” to you and me! I’ll be there. Train tickets paid for at £81. The cheapest ticket gets me in for 9.45am, and then I have to cross London. So I won’t be there for the 10am kick off. I’ll sneak in at the back…

Register here at this unfeasibly long URL –

Just in case your not sure where it is..

Dates on a beer mat for the future…

The Agenda



Posted by on March 12, 2018 in VMUG

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Multi-Site/Multiple vCenters and Enhanced Linked Mode Configuration in vSphere 6.5 U1

Note: As ever before you begin – make sure the FQDNs of your proposed PSC and vCenter are listed in DNS – and reserve your IP addresses accordingly. The vCenter install validates your IP/DNS configuration and won’t let you proceed until its correct.

WARNING: Please pay close, close attention to your FQDNs as during the process built-in certificates are created which if you subsequently correct/change hostname will be invalid.

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 14.15.02.png

In this scenario – I wanted the appearance of multiple vCenters across many sites – and wish to link them together for ease of administration – and the sharing of licensing repositories. This ensures licenses can be assigned freely around the organisation – and not be “locked” to specific site location. This more distributed model is not supported with the “embedded” deployment type – where the vCenter and PSC service reside in the same instance – and seems to have been introduced with vSphere 6.5 U1. So I would have two PSC and vCenters one for New York and the other for New Jersey.

There now 8 supported topologies for multiple vCenters and “Enhanced” Link Mode – and 3 depreciated one as well. Far too many possible permutations for me to cover – so I would seriously considering studying the documentation in full. I would recommend starting which gives a good round-up of all them.

VMware’s “Linked Mode” feature has a number of names – from Linked Mode to Enhanced Linked Mode, to now it being also called “Hybrid Link Mode”. Most of the changes have come about as the company pivots away from vCenter’s historical Microsoft Windows roots, to being purely a Linux based Virtual Appliance. However, In 2017, VMware announced a partnership with Amazon to extend vSphere functionality into Amazon Datacenters and integration with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. This development prompted VMware to modify linked-mode functionality to also include management of assets in Amazon’s cloud. Hence “Hybrid” mode is now the favoured term. Hybrid mode in its full functionality is only available for those who have both vSphere on-premises and a vSphere subscription with Amazon. Whatever its name – linked mode addresses a scenario for where multiple vCenter persist for geographical or political reasons – and it has been decided to provide one-login identity to both systems.

It’s entirely possible that you may wish to install another vCenter at different site or location. In this configuration I had a single PSC Domain (vsphere.local) and single Active Directory Domain (corp.local) – but with two SSO sites – one called New York, and the other called New Jersey.

In our case I have two different vCenters and PSC in two different sites – however, they will part of the same SSO domain and linked together. The KB article referenced at the beginning of this section outlines this accordingly – although in my case there will for the moment just one vCenter under each PSC.


1 Single Sign-On domain 1 Single Sign-On site 2 or more external Platform Services Controllers

This configuration is not without limitations:

  • In the event of a Platform services Controller failover the vCenter Servers will need to be manually repointed to the functioning Platform Services Controller.
  • vCenter Servers attached to higher latency Platform Services Controller may experience performance issues

New York: PSC – Establishing the SSO Domain

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Posted by on February 21, 2018 in vSphere

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Lalala… America… Lalala… America

In a couple of weeks I’ll be heading out the States. It will be my first trip across the pond since I attended VMworld in 2016, and had brief but memorable vacation in Shenandoah region of West Virginia. I’m in the Silicon Valley/Bay Area and the guest of Ravello – who as you recall were acquired by Oracle some time ago. If your a vExpert you might interested to know that team at Oracle Ravello Free Lab Program for vExperts will continue again this coming year. I’ll be there because as their team to host Oracle Ravello Blogger Day 2018 (aka #RBD2). It’s a day long event scheduled for March 8, 2018 hosted at the Oracle Conference Center in Redwood Shores, CA. The event will be educational, so I hope to share what I learn on the day with my readers here – and I hope to able catch-up with many of my friends from the community too. As you might know Revello developed what is called the HVX hypervisor – a hypervisor designed to run in a virtual machine – which then allow other hypervisors to run with it – this “nested configuration” is something that has been popular in the world of homelabbers for sometime – but it was Revello who made it commercial available. The concept allows you to folk lift an entire vSphere environment that maybe running on a bare-metal setup – and have it run nested. I know a number of people who switched to in preference to having to maintain and operate physical environment at home. That appears to be just the start – and the company has developed the ability to do this without the VMware ESXi component.

Given the distances involved I opted to spend the week out in the area – mixing catching up friends, a little site seeing (I’ve got an idea to visit the Museum of Computing – as its one of those things I’ve never had the time to do whilst I was out there before)  – as well catching up with my former colleagues from VMware. On the Tuesday I will be meeting a friend and former colleague of mine from my time in the hyper-convergence team at the VMware campus. If anyone wants to hook-up and say hi on the day – and catch-up it would be my pleasure to see you there.


Posted by on February 19, 2018 in Announcements

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Fun and Games with the Platform Service Controller and vCenter in vSphere 6.5 U1

This week I had a run in with the PSC and vCenter in vSphere 6.5 U1. I’m ashamed to admit it was really all my fault – being a bit fat-fingered and hasty in my inputting – I put a bump name in DNS, and then a bum name in the installer as well. That result in SSL certificate mismatches and errors…

So I seriously needed to clean out the guff I’d created and try again. There are couple of KB articles and blogpost that cover this scenario. I found I need to do four step. My life was made easier by enabling SSH on all the appliances along the way – and of course switching to the “Bash” prompt after logging.

I started the process by log in on to one of my functional PSC’s using SSH….

1.) Run cmsso-util command on a functioning PSC to clean out the bum PSC and vCenter references

cmsso-util unregister –node-pnid vcnj.corp.local –username administrator@vsphere.local –passwd VMware1!

cmsso-util unregister –node-pnid vcnj.corp.local –username administrator@vsphere.local –passwd VMware1!

2.) Shutdown the bum virtual appliances

3.) Run the vdcleavefed to really clean out the bum PSC and vCenter references. Despite running cmsso-util the ghostly remains of failed deployment haunted the web-client – indicating they were still there… vdcleavefed allowed me to remove the properly…

/usr/lib/vmware-vmdir/bin/vdcleavefed -h psnj.corp.local -u administrator -w VMware1!

/usr/lib/vmware-vmdir/bin/vdcleavefed -h vcnj.corp.local -u administrator -w VMware1!

4.) Delete the bum virtual appliances

Note: For future reference – it was these two KB articles stitched together that helped me resolve the issue.


Posted by on February 16, 2018 in vSphere

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Finding the vSphere 6.5 U1 ZIP Administration Guide bundle

This week I had a need to download the official PDF guides to vSphere 6.5 U1. I like having the guides offline because Apple’s Spotlight can index them and make them available for search queries – but also if you in a place where internet access is restricted you can use the offline docs to lookup stuff.

The official landing page for documentation around vSphere is located here:

The documentation is in a html and pdf.

Recently VMware has moved all its ‘administration guides” online in a HTML format called “VMware Docs Home” – It is still possible to download an “offline” PDF copy as single .ZIP file. But they have rather “tucked” it away where its tricky to find.  If you need it – it can be found under a node called “Archive Packages”. These links down a single .ZIP file containing all the PDFS

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 09.01.56.png

You can download a zip file of all vSphere documentation as a zip file using this link which is current as of today, 14th Feb, 2018….


Posted by on February 14, 2018 in vSphere

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Restoring a backup of MediaWiki to Bitnami MediaWiki

This week I caused to restore a backup of a mediawiki implementation to a local VM of Mediawiki. I got sent a backup of the database and the image files, and opted to use the pre-package Bitnami Mediawiki Virtual Appliance. Standing up the VM was a relatively easy matter – but the restore of the database took me sometime to crack. I was massively assisted by the Mediawiki formums – in particular Ciencia Al Poder. Who single-handedly reinvigorated my belief in community support models, and was pivotal in getting me up and running.

The Bitnami Mediawiki VM can be downloaded as an .OVA and deployed to a virtualization platform of your choice:

1.) Record the Bitnami MediaWiki Accounts:

One thing I struggled with was locating all the login. So I’ve brought them all together here. Both the “user” and “root” accounts share the same autogenerated password that’s printed to the console at first boot.

  • To Login to the Virtual Console – username: bitnami password: bitnami
  • To Login to the MediaWiki webpage: username: user password: console screen
  • To Login to PhpAdmin: username: root password: console screen

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Posted by on February 11, 2018 in VMUG Wiki

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Free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide (

My good friend, Neil Anderson has been bizzy again. He’s found the time to write a free Cisco CCNA Lab Guide. Readers  can use it to pass the CCNA exam or as a configuration reference for Cisco routers and switches. There’s a few free guides online but they all cover old out of date exam topics and aren’t great quality, which I guess isn’t surprising when they’re being given away for free. So Neil wanted to produce a guide which is more complete (350+ pages), up to date, better quality and simple to use than all the paid guides out there, but which people can use completely for free. He also has put together a video course, but the PDF stands alone as a complete lab guide which could really help your audience further their careers.

The guide can be found over at this URL:


Posted by on October 17, 2017 in Announcements

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A word from my sponsor… Vembu

Vembu is a leading software product development that has been  focussing on Backup and Disaster Recovery software for data centers over a decade. It’s flagship offering- the BDR Suite of products consists of VMBackup for VMware vSphere and Hyper-V, Disk Image backups for Physical machines, Workstations. Backing up individual files and folders to physical servers and cloud can be performed with Vembu Network Backup and Online Backup respectively.

Moreover, it has multiple flexible deployment like on-site, off-site and to the cloud through single user interface. Another offering of the Vembu BDR Suite is to be able to configure item level backups like Microsoft Exchange Servers, Sharepoint, SQL, My SQL, Office 365, G Suite etc., This latest version of Vembu BDR Suite v3.8.0 has come out with the few notable features in two major offerings- one unlimited features for three virtual machines and the second thing being able to backup unlimited virtual machines with restricted features.

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Posted by on October 13, 2017 in Announcements

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