August 29

VMworld 2013: What’s New in vCloud Director 5.5

DISCLAIMER: I wrote these “What’s New” blogposts back in April. But had to sit on them until recent announcements. So the screengrabs can/may/will differ from the product when it GAs. But in effort to get you the lastest information in the shortest possible of time it seemed best to spend time writing these ready to be published.

There’s a number of improvements around vCD5.5, so lets start with a quickly high-level overview before we see them in action as it were!

Firstly the “Content Catalog” has been enhanced in a number of ways. It now allows you to share and synch content between sites, and allows you to share the catalog between specific Organizations. Changes that occur to the catalog and the objects within them are automagically “versioned” so you will see numbers increment as changes take place – both to the catalog and the items within in it. Content Catalogs are no longer restricted to merely holding vApp Templates and Media (iso/flp files) – although I suspect they may mainly continue to hold this sort of data. There’s also an “Update Catalog Item” option that allows you to keep your vApp Template up-to-date with new versions – its not quite like the Convert to Template/Covert to VM option you see in vSphere vCenter – but its close. I will look at this in the “Hot vApp” part of this blogpost because you really need running vApp in an Organization to see this properly…

Secondly, an even more Hot vApp – so its is possible to clone a vApp which are running and have an active memory state – call it extending hot-clone from vSphere up into the vCloud Director layer if you like. Additionally, its possible do the hot configuration of disks and NICs for those running VMs. Again, this extending functionality that’s being in vSphere for a while up into vCloud Director. Lastly customization of resources and Guest OS settings is possible during the provisioning of a VM within a vApp itself – this customization is of the hardware resources towards the end of adding a VM from a catalog…

Thirdly, improved vApp Import and Download – so you can directly upload/download OVFs to and from the vCloud Director portal, and the transfer service now supports resume feature – which will pick up on imports/exports if there was a network outage during the time of the upload/download.

Of course, there’s a whole host of smaller incremental changes – and hope to draw your attention to these during this blogpost. I’ve been working with the beta for 5.5 for sometime (since April), and having worked with the 5.1.1 release I’ve been playing that game of “spot the differences”. As ever we tend to flag up the big big changes, but there’s plenty “the sum is greater than the parts” stuff that might be missed if you were new to the product.

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August 27

VMworld 2013: What’s New in vSphere 5.5 – vCNS Manager

Disclaimer: Many of the screen grabs in these “What’s New” series came from the beta program, not from the recent GA. In effort to get this info out to you quickly I’ve retained them. However, the final GA UI’s might differ slightly… I hope to update the graphics (where neccessary) as I roll-out the GA version of the products in the coming weeks…

Before I begin with this post I want to point out an important new “feature” of vSphere5.5 in the web-client. It’s much faster. That’s it really. To be honest I think many in the user community found the first version of the web-client too slow especially when opening up menus. The “gears” icons would spin round for sometime, and some times the transitions between the menus took time to refresh.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 07.47.37

The vSphere5.5 web client is so much quicker the only way I could capture the graphic above was with a screen recorder called “Screenflow” on the mac. I played the video back frame-by-frame until I got the gears icons, and then I captured the recording with cmd+shift+4 on the mac. So… If you were previously put off by the vSphere Web-Client before because of poor performance, and felt you had to restort back to the C# vSphere Client – then I entirely understand because I did EXACTLY the same thing. But I think it might be time to look at it again. Just sayin’.

The initial setup and configuration of the vCNS or vShield Manager if you like is much the same as it was when I first played with it in anger under 5.1. For a more step-by-step coverage of this – that includes setting a static IP address – and registering the Manager with vCenter and for the “Lookup Service” check out this post in my archive:

The big difference is some (not all) of the controls over the Manager can be done from the all-new vSphere Web-Client. So there are UI extensions that a link to “Network & Security”.

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 07.27.51

When you click at this “Network & Security” icon – you get to see the core “Network Virtualization” features of vCNS including – Edge Gateway, Network Pools and Logical Networks

Screen Shot 2013-03-31 at 07.31.38

To be honest I tend to keep my admin tasks with vCNS within the scope of vCloud Director. I rarely touch this or the core vCNS Manager UI – nor do I use the CLI to the vCNS either.

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July 2

Part 74: My vCloud Journey Journal: Configuring vCloud Connector with the VMware Cloud Hybrid Service

This blogpost actually appears in full on the Nashville VMUG blog. The guys over their contacted me with two requests – one to write an article on their blog, and the other to present at one of their meetings. I was happy to oblige them. I will be attending one of the meetings virtually via the power of WebEX or some such platform in the near future.

This is particular post concerns the configuration of vCloud Connector to VMware’s all new “vCHS” or VMware Cloud Hybrid Service – an array of datacenters currently across the US, where you can run vSphere VMs and vApp. It’s all part of this new fangled “public cloud” everyone is talking about. 😉

Configuring vCloud Connector with the VMware Cloud Hybrid Service

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June 17

Part 73: My vCloud Journey Journal: Windows 2012 HyperV with SCVMM with vCloud Automation Center

Yes, I know a VMware guy showing how to add Microsoft into our management domain. How mad is that? But you will notice that not only do we have vCAC supporting System Center Virtual Machine Manager and Windows 2012 HyperV. But we have also release the Multi-Hypervisor Manager (MHM) – so I will be looking at both in due course. One thing I know I need to do for my own development is be more knowledge about our competitors products if I’m to grow. But I’m also firm believer that any cloud or SDDC project is only as good as its underlying virtual layer – and of course, as a long time user, consultant, trainer and now employee of VMware – I think that’s still VMware vSphere!

In previous versions of vCAC an Agent was used to connect to HyperV, and indeed you will see that listed when ever you install the agent itself. This now regarded as a mainly legacy functionality now – if you have the Windows 2012 HyperV instanced managed by SCVMM then it can be added into vCAC directly.

Note: The HyperV Agent in vCAC is now regarded as a ‘legacy’ function…

One thing to mention though is you will need to install the SCVMM Console to the vCAC instance – and I would recommend after doing so reboot the vCAC host. If you don’t have the SCVMM console installed you won’t have the SCVMM Powershell plug-ins that it uses to connect to the SCVMM. In vCAC “WorkFlow History” you will see references to:

“Failed with the following exception: The term “Get-VMMServer” is not recognised as the name of a cmdlet, function, script file or operable program. Check the spelling of the name, or the path was included, verify that the path is correct and try again”

Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 19.15.49

To install the SCVMM 2012 Sp1 you will need Windows PowerShell version 3.0 installed the vCAC host as well. Both of these are downloadable from Microsoft website – as we know PowerShell is for free, and SCVMM is available as evaluation download:

Microsoft System Center 2012 SP1

Windows Management Framework 3.0

Once you have these badboys installed, your ready for the vCAC configuration. In fact the hardest part of the vCAC setup is getting the software from Microsoft installed – the vCAC part is very simple. These are following (hopefully now familiar from previous post) steps.

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May 29

Part 72: My vCloud Journey Journal: Upgrading vCloud Director Appliance…

The vCloud Director appliance is a quick start method of getting familiar with vCloud Director – without the pain of having to setup a database and install the product itself. Critically, its not designed for production use, and doesn’t support upgrades. Of course, in your homelab your vCD appliance might live longer than you originally thought – and the appliance itself doesn’t come with an “upgrade” option like a production virtual appliance would – like say the vCenter Server Appliance. So I thought I would have go at upgrading vCD appliance, despite the fact its not supported. Now, you could just re-deploy – which I’ve done once between 5.1 and 5.1.1. I hadn’t got that far in my journey, so putting the car in reverse and going back a mile or two didn’t seem like such a big deal. But now I’m 6+ months in my journey, and I don’t feel like going that far back…

1. First using something like WinSCP copy the .bin file across to the appliance. You might need to enable SSH access to the appliance to do this. In my case from day one, I edit the sshd_config file to allow root to SSH directly to the appliance. Naughty I know, but hey its a homelab okay?

2. Next we need to change the permission on the .BIN file which contains the installer for the vCloud Director using chmod +X vmware-vcloud-director-5.1.2-1068441.bin

3. Next we can execute the .bin file. Before you do might want to check out KB2047922 which talks about problem with the Guest Operating System nic settings when upgrading from 1.5 to 5.1. When you run the .bin file with ./vmware-vcloud-director-5.1.2-1068441.bin you should see warning about the KB article – and the vCD installer will detect that its running on SUSE Linux (which isn’t officially supported – RHEL is the currently supported)

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 14.58.20

4. The installer will extract itself – and then ask you if you want to upgrade.Choose [Y]

5. This should install the software, leaving you with a prompt to run the upgrade script:

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 15.03.29

6. So, stop the vCloud Director cell with service vcd-vmware stop and then run the upgrade script (this does take sometime to respond). It does take a little time update the database schema. Along side updating the schema, you will also be asked if you want to upgrade the indexes, database statistics

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 15.12.01

7. Once the upgrade has completed you can start the service with service vcd-vmware start. Remember it can take a wee while for the vCD service to complete – you can monitor the status by using tail -f /opt/vmware/vcloud-director/cell.log. You can check your vCD version by clicking the “about” link on the main dashboard.

Screen Shot 2013-05-28 at 15.37.22

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May 28

Part 71: My vCloud Journey Journal – Amazon EC2 Setup with vCloud Automation Center 5.1


Acknowledgement: I found this “” blogpost very helpful in writing this piece up relative to my own environment:

As I had already setup both vCenter and vCloud Director as computer resources for vCAC, I thought I would start to look outside of the VMware family of technologies. vCAC comes with out of the box support for Amazon EC2 – so I thought I would give that a try before looking at foreign virtualization platforms such as HyperV and Xen. To get my vCAC aware of them means for me a trip to the colocation facility to setup those hypervisors. Whereas setting up Amazon EC2 should be doable from the comfort my office chair…It’s perhaps worth stopping for a moment and thinking front Amazon EC2 access via vCAC might worthwhile in doing. There are many reports of people in large corporates yanking out the credit cards and paying for compute capacity on Amazon. The story goes something like this:

Manager: How long will it take to spin up these resources to get the project started

Developer: Dunno boss… Despite “The Infrastructure” guys having internal virtualization it still takes them ages to get anything done… Things seemed to be quicker when I had a bunch of PC under my desk…

Manager: Have you forgotten already that apps developed on PC’s don’t tend to scale. So we just sit about and wait for them?

Developer: Well, you could get the project of the ground using your credit card and Amazon?

Manager: How much that cost?

Developer: Not much. Pay-as-you-go. Turn it off when were done…

Manager: Here’s my credit card…

The said manager/developer then exposes the company to unseen cost, and unseen risks – as the developer keys in data that’s worth thousands, millions, billions of dollars to the company.  The Manager then reads a new article called US report warns on China IP theft… For the record I find such tales somewhat alarmist. If your a US company and your data is in the US, some might say the Manager/Developer are being “imaginative” in finding a workaround to there problem.

I’ve personally never used Amazon EC2 before – so I set about creating a user account there, and just looking at their own packages and UI for creating new VMs. It is possible to setup a free user account, and use “Micro.Instances”. There are number of pre-packages templates that qualify for “free” usage so long as you don’t exceed the maximum usage amounts per month. I think that could be quite useful for folks in the vCommunity who want to play with vCAC and its integration with Amazon.  The free account does require you to register a credit card with Amazon, but it doesn’t get billed so long as you run within a certain constraints:

  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Linux Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – enough hours to run continuously each month
  • 750 hours of Amazon EC2 Microsoft Windows Server Micro Instance usage (613 MB of memory and 32-bit and 64-bit platform support) – enough hours to run continuously each month
  • 750 hours of an Elastic Load Balancer plus 15 GB data processing
  • 30 GB of Amazon Elastic Block Storage, plus 2 million I/Os and 1 GB of snapshot storage

There’s a couple of ways of looking at this 750hrs. You could view at as one instance for 750hrs OR as 750 provisioning tests you could do via vCAC so long as each instance lived for just an hour. Remembering this is going to be important if you don’t want your credit card to be charged unexpectedly. Just sayin’…

There are some of bits and bobs chucked in a long the way – for more details consult – Everything in Amazon is handled via a web-browser and I had problems using Chrome for some actions – for example the built-in Java based SSH Client didn’t work, but it did work fine with FireFox. This seems to be an increasing issue – I seem to spend my life bouncing around web-browsers with different web-based systems I manage – having to remember that A works with XBrowser, but B works with ZBrowser…

When you request an new “instance” (or virtual machine as we would normally call it) you will be confronted by a wizard like below. This ones marked with yellow star indicate they are free to use under the free account T&Cs. Of course, Amazon do have a “marketplace” were often there are pre-built appliances. Many of these a billable by the hour of usage – but often they are as little a couple of US cents to use.

Screen Shot 2013-05-23 at 15.17.13
Note: This is the “classic” wizard used to create new instances…

Of course what I’d prefer to do is have more control via vCAC to Amazon. So I could wrap my manager/developer folks up in neat audit bundle, and impose my own controls on how they grift the companies expenses for their own purposes.

Step1: Adding Credentials from Amazon to vCAC…

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May 22

Part 70: My vCloud Journey Journal – vCloud Director Setup with vCloud Automation Center 5.1

As we saw in Part 69 (adding vCenter/vSphere endpoints), adding an endpoint to vCAC requires credentials to be setup, and then a path/FDQN or URL to be specified in order to gain access to the resource. The same principle backs adding a vCloud Director instance into the system. I’ve have a number of public vCloud Director systems to access (Stratogen, iland and VMware’s very own vCloud Evaluation Service). Each one has different credentials and URLs to be specified.

Step1: Add vCloud Director Credentials

In vCloud Director (in case you don’t know this already!) the system is divided into Organizations. This creates an environment where each tenant is represented by an Organization and possess their own unique credentials which they do not share with others.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 12.21.14

I think its highly likely that your “provisioning” groups are likely to map very closely to these Organizations – so that the right people get to see the right contents – and they don’t wind up seeing or accessing the Organization contents of another business, business unit or application group. In my case in my previous part of my journey I created Organizations called COIG, CorpHQ, iStoxs and Quark – based around a made-up holding company called CorpHQ. In my case ask I ask owner of the CorpHQ Organization (rmoorcroft) to create an account in their Organization (corphq-orgadmin) used for this purpose.

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 15.15.57

vCAC Credentials for my vCloud Director instance can be added like so under vCAC Administrator and Credentials

Screen Shot 2013-05-21 at 15.17.52

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May 20

Part 69: My vCloud Journey Journal – vCenter Setup with vCloud Automation Center 5.1

In my last previous two posts on vCloud Automation Center (VC-AC or vCake if you prefer) I looked at ensuring you had the pre-requisites and doing the installation itself – suitable for PoC or HomeLab. Now I want to turn my focus to how you configure vCAC to speak to vCenter – vCAC has the ability to provision to whole host of resources – virtual, physical and cloud. But I imagine in the first instance it will be to vSphere that you might first turn.

With a clean installation there’s a couple of admin constructs to put together before you can deploy your first VM. These are:

  • Credentials – These are the usernames/passwords used to authenticate to the resource. Interesting they held separately from the actual adding of the resource itself. 
  • Endpoints – These are where the URLs or FQDNs of the resources are held, and once you’ve typed in the URL for the vCenter, you select the credentials you established earlier. That’s an interesting separation – because if your provisioning resources – vSphere, HyperV, Xen – use the same domain username/password to gain access – the credentials could be re-used. I bet in the real world were people have a hybrid sources for provisioning they have different username/password for additional security. Rather than one ring to rule them all.
  • Install an Agent – Dependent on the resource in question – you will need to install an agent on the vCAC server to communicate through to the resource. vCAC has one single agent setup.exe – from within which you use radio buttons to select which resource you’re connecting to.
  • Enterprize Group – This is system wide container that you can use to pull in existing VMs, vApps, Templates – and then advertise them to business units within the vCAC instance. If you know your way around vCloud Director I guess its akin to having an Org that just contains catalog which is then published to all other Orgs. I think the way vCAC does this is neater – because to do this in vCD you need to create an Org and a OrgvDC just to make collection of vApps available to every other Org in the same vCD instance – which seems somewhat contrived configuration – a workaround rather than by design. Just sayin’
  • Machine Pre-fixes – This is one of the methods vCAC has for naming VMs, and it kinda reminds me a little like VMware Horizon View method of naming VMs in a virtual desktop pool – it allows prefix piece of text followed by a numbering mechanism to create machines with a naming convention like corphq001, corphq002 and so on which is fine for quick provisioning tests.
  • Provisioning Group – Are method of controlling who has access to which resources by assigning AD groups to vCAC roles such as Manager, Support or User roles. Using these provisioning groups you can assign the Machine Prefixes and AD DSN Values to control users/groups can be added. Once created you assign allocations of number of VMs, CPU%, Memory% and Storage allocations using reservations.
  • Reservations – As you would expect you can create reservations in vCAC and assign them to provisioning groups – the important thing here is unlike with say vCloud Director – tis doesn’t create resource pools on the VMware HA/DRS clusters. These reservations/allocations are monitored and tracked by vCAC – so if they are meet its vCAC that prevents them from being exceeded. If you like vCAC becomes the source of admission control to the tenants – although fundamentally it’s where those resources come from vSphere, vCloud Director, HyperV, Xen that decided if they are granted.
  • BluePrints – Are VMs, collections of VMs or physical definitions that actually give the tenant something to select when they need a new compute resource – they are akin to vCloud Director vApp Templates or vSphere Templates. These blueprints also have security settings so you can control if someone can connect to the compute resource with SSH, RDP and so on – as well as many other privileges and rights. BluePrints can be defined by the Enteprize Admin and made Globally Available to every provisioning group, or they can be created by the Provisioning Group Manger and made available just to its members.
  • Self-Service Portal – The core vCAC is portal in its own right which only displays the right content to the right context based on the user credentials – however, there is a much simpler self-service portal which offers a UI which might be a bit more easier on the eye.

As you can see there’s quite a bit of work to do in first setup – the savings in time come once you have consumers onboard and using the system itself. As the post title suggests my focus is on vCenter/vSphere in this instance, but I will be walking through all the other compute resource endpoints as my learning progresses…

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May 2

Part 68: My vCloud Journey Journal – Installing vCloud Automation Center 5.1 (HomeLab)

This is picture of what real “automation” looks like…

Acknowledgement: I should thank Adam Bohle and Kim Ranyard who have been unofficially supporting me, and helping me. Without Adam and Kim’s assistance over the last couple of days this blog post wouldn’t have been possible. Thanks guys!

Previously, I spent an entire post just talking about meeting the pre-requisites for an installation of vCAC. By the end of the process I now have two setups – one that’s fully-distributed and product like with multiple Windows instances for the different vCAC roles – and another I’m calling “Uber-vCAC” which is one big Windows instance that will do the whole shooting match. I wanted to try both types of install – because I know the 1st one would be done in production and the second one would be done in a homelab. I must admit creating the Uber-vCAC was very easy. I guess it just shows that in IT once you have done a task more than two or three times it becomes second nature to you, and feels qualitative easier.

Now that I happy that all those pre-requisities have been met I think I’m ready to proceed to the installation part. As ever you need permissions and rights in order to install anything into Windows. That means what ever account you use it must have “Local Administrator” rights. I guess this is why so much software gettings installed using the credentials of the Domain Admin in our world. To be bit more specific the user rights that stuck out for me in reading the install guide were:

  • Manager Service Install – needs at least DBO privileges to the vCAC Database.
  • Manager Service Install – if you need to authorise users to Active Directory, the Manager Service user must have rights to the “Windows Authorisation Access” group on the Domain

For this reason I created an “vCAC-Admin” account with the appropriate rights including membership of the groups. It was this account I used for the local login for the installation.

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April 30

Part 67: My vCloud Journey Journal: vCloud Connector 2.0 and the VMware Cloud Service Evaluation

vCloud Connector 2.0 and the VMware Cloud Service Evaluation

One source for Service Provider would be VMware’s very own Cloud Service Evaluation – which is currently in beta. The evaluation is just recently been upgraded to vCloud Director 5.1 and support vCloud Connector 2.0. I think there was originally some confusion. From the start the “vCloud Server Evaluation” wasn’t intended as production grade hosted experience – its merely intended as taster of how vCloud Director works. However, when we announced our intention build our own Hybrid Cloud solution – the two became conflated with each other. So on the day of the announcement many people thought this eval was the Hybrid Cloud – when it was just announcement – a statement of intent. Sadly, the poor evaluation got pretty hammered in this time. I guess the good intention was try and get our naming ducks in a row, but people were confused about to two different initiatives if I can call them that.

The sign-up process for the VMware Cloud Evaluation  is nice slick affair – usual suspects apply and there’s SMS PIN validation of the sign-up process which I rather like nowadays – you’ll need a credit card handy. I would recommend digging out your corporate company credit card. That’s what I did. Please don’t tell Jeff my manager. Okay? Fortunately, my friends over in the vCloud Evaluation provided me with a voucher number – so I have some credit already…

I’ve already written posts about the setup of the vCloud Connector private use already, as well as documenting the setup with a public provider like Stratogen, as well the process of copying, content sync and stretched deploy – so I won’t repeat myself.

There is PDF guide that walks you through Cloud with specific emphasis on vCloud Connector, and page 17 is where the document begins to talk about using the Cloud Evaluation with vCloud Connector:

Getting Started with vCloud Connector in the VMware Cloud Evaluation

1. The first step is to create a new user specifically to be used by the vCloud Connector itself. This can be be done under the “Administration” tab by clicking the “Add A User” button. This user must be an Organization Administrator – and no you cannot use the “admin” account generated during the sign-up process – and used as the primary login to the VMware Cloud Evaluation.

In my case I found the vccnode account was already there. That’s because I’ve been on the eval for a while, and it was default user (albeit disabled). The documentation now indicates you have to create this user now…

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