2013: Another year of blogging and tooling

The end of 2013 is near! Time to look back on this year's achievements, blog posts, HowTos and tools ... Here is my annual review, my list of highlights - in case you missed any of them ;-)

Announcing the V-Front Online Depot for ESXi software

A while ago Google announced that their Google Code service will no longer allow downloads to be hosted. Existing projects will no longer be able to create new downloads starting at January 15th 2014. So far I have made all my tools and ESXi software packages available on my Google Code page, so it's time to think about other ways to distribute my stuff.

What is the preferred way to distribute software for VMware ESXi? How does VMware do this? They use a so-called Online Depot! VSphere Update Manager makes use of this, and you can also access the VMware Online Depot using PowerCLI ImageBuilder, e.g. to build a customized ESXi installation ISO. Basically an Online Depot is just a web site (accessible via the http[s] protocol) that has a well defined directory structure and some XML configuration files to glue it all together.

And you can build your own Online Depot! HP (and other hardware vendors) did this to distribute their CIM providers and tools for ESXi. So did I, and this post is about how to use the brand new V-Front Online Depot for ESXi software.

[Release] ESXi-Customizer-PS version 2.0

I just released a new major version of my ESXi-Customizer-PS PowerCLI script that greatly simplifies and automates the process of creating fully patched and customized ESXi 5.x installation ISOs using the ImageBuilder snapin.

What's new:

VMware Tools for nested ESXi - and how to make an Offline bundle for them

Recently William Lam announced the availability of a VIB package that installs VMware Tools inside an ESXi host. This is very useful if you run virtualized (or so-called nested) ESXi hosts on a real physical ESXi machine, because then you can reboot the nested ESXi host using the vSphere client (connected to the hosting physical host). The package also implements the VIX API that you can use to trigger scripts running inside the nested ESXi host.

The VMware Tools for nested ESXi are provided as a VMware Labs fling. While it is very useful it is currently only available in the format of a VIB file. William correctly pointed out that you can use my ESXi-Customizer tool to build an ESXi installation ISO with the VIB file included (and Vladan wrote a nice walk-through of how to actually do this), but there are situations where you need to have the package available in the format of an Offline Bundle: E.g. when you want to build a customized ESXi installation ISO using PowerCLI ImageBuilder, or if you want to create an ImageProfile for vSphere Auto Deploy (and this is a must in my test lab ;-).

So, how can you make an Offline Bundle from this VIB file?

Testing Veeam v7 Tape support with the QuadStor OpenSource VTL

With the release of its Backup & Replication product v7 Veeam finally added a feature that was repeatedly requested by a lot of customers although it might appear anachronistic to a lot of people: Tape integration. Today the primary backup target media is hard disk storage: Backup-to-disk allows not only for super-fast backup and (more importantly) restore, but also enables cost-saving features like de-duplication and compression of backup data. Virtualization-aware backup products like Veeam's even allow to start a VM directly from the backup storage without restoring it to the original location at first.

Tape though has still a right to exist: It is by far the cheapest, densest and most durable backup media, and it is removable. That means you can easily ship it to a safe location and/or use it for archiving. In certain industries there are regulatory requirements to keep data for up to 30 years - you won't use hard disks for such archives, but tape!

In this blog post I'm going to demonstrate the tape integration of Veeam v7. Since I do not have a real tape drive or even tape library available in my lab I will use a Virtual Tape Library (VTL) software, specifically the free QuadStor OpenSource VTL. With a VTL you do not use real physical tape drives, but hard disk space to emulate these. I personally do not see much value in using VTL software with Veeam, because it already does an excellent job in storing backups on hard disks, but for demonstration purposes Veeam v7 and the QuadStor VTL make up a really good combination. And it allows me to introduce both products at the same time.

How to make your unsupported SATA AHCI Controller work with ESXi 5.5 and 6.0

In ESXi 5.5 VMware removed driver support not only for some commodity network cards, but also for lots of SATA controllers that have never been on the HCL, but worked fine with the generic ahci driver of ESXi 5.0 and 5.1 (provided that they support and are configured for AHCI mode). For the NICs the problem could easily be solved by using the old ESXi 5.1 drivers with ESXi 5.5, but - until recently - I had no idea how to fix the issue for the SATA controllers.

The Good and the Bad of the new Native Driver Architecture in ESXi 5.5

I recently became aware of that with vSphere 5.5 VMware introduced a new Native Driver Architecture for ESXi. William Lam has written an excellent blog post describing the motivation behind and the benefits of this new architecture. I will shortly summarize it here, but also add some concerns about the way it is introduced, because - in the future - it might severely limit the ability to run ESXi on white box and commodity hardware.

[Release] VMware Converter 5.5

Shortly after the release of vSphere 5.5 VMware has also updated its Converter product to version 5.5 to restore compatibility with the Infrastructure virtualization suite. But there are also some new and unexpected cool features in the new release.

[Release] vSphere 5.0 Update 3 and ESXi 5.1 Build 1312873

Although VMware recently released vSphere 5.5 the older versions 5.0 and 5.1 are still actively maintained (as per their Lifecycle Product Matrix). Yesterday they released vCenter 5.0 and ESXi 5.0 Update 3 and a new patch for ESXi 5.1 (Build 1312873).

HP Customized ESXi 5.5 ISO is available - What's new?

When VMware made vSphere 5.5 generally available HP also published its own customized version of the ESXi 5.5 installation ISO including HP drivers and tools. But there was one important component missing in the first version of their customized ISO: The HP CIM providers that are needed for monitoring the hardware through the vSphere Client or HP SIM.

Now HP has fixed that and published an updated version that also includes the CIM provider package ...

I will be in Barcelona next week ...

Thanks to a free blogger pass sponsored by VMware I am able to go to VMworld Europe again. I enjoyed last year's VMworld in Barcelona very much and look forward to another bunch of interesting sessions, talks with other virtualization enthusiasts and the VMworld party - all at the same place this year.

FAQ: Using SSDs with ESXi (Updated)

Most state-of-the-art enterprise storage architectures make use of SSD (Solid State Disk) storage in one or the other way, and - with the inevitably dropping prices - they have become affordable even for home use. What is their benefit? Since they are based on Flash memory SSDs offer a much higher throughput and much lower latency than traditional magnetic hard disks. I can well remember my delight when I equipped my home PC with an SSD for the first time and saw Windows booting ten times faster than before, in only a few seconds ... and I always wondered how VMware ESXi and the VMs it runs would benefit from SSD storage.

Well, a while ago I upgraded the two ESXi boxes that make up my Small Budget Hosted Virtual Lab (SBHVL) to include Intel Haswell CPUs, and one of them is also running with 2x Intel 240GB SSDs now. It's time to write about what I have learnt about ESXi and SSDs: In this blog post I will summarize how ESXi can make use of local SSDs in general, and specifically what you need to think about when using them as regular datastores.

How to add the missing ESXi 5.0 drivers to the ESXi 5.5 installation ISO

In my previous post I warned that VMware has removed some drivers for officially unsupported NICs (Realtek and Marvell) from ESXi 5.5 (compared to ESXi 5.1 and 5.0 that still included them).
These drivers still work with ESXi 5.5, and if you upgrade an ESXi 5.1 host to 5.5 then you can just keep and continue using them. But what if you want to install a new machine from scratch with ESXi 5.5 that needs one of these drivers?

Well, the awesome ImageBuilder snap-in for PowerCLI can help ...

How to update your standalone host to ESXi 5.5 - beware of missing drivers and do NOT upgrade virtual hardware!

After announcing it at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco VMware has released vSphere 5.5 (and other related product updates) yesterday - surprisingly on a Sunday, so the news is not yet out on *all* virtualization related blogs, but this will surely change during this day. Duncan Epping has posted a list of all download links on his blog.

In this post I will provide a quick way to update your standalone ESXi host to ESXi 5.5 and an important heads-up for the early adopters.

VM snapshots and AD domain membership

The trust relationship between this workstation and the primary domain failed.
Virtual machines are very popular in the areas of software development, packaging or testing, because the snapshot feature allows it to keep certain known states of a VM (e.g. a fresh and clean OS install) and return to these very easily. But there are some issues associated to using snapshots that you should be aware of, e.g. this one: If you need to join your Windows test VMs to an Active Directory (AD) domain and send them back in time regularly (by reverting them to a snapshot that you created several days or weeks ago) then you are probably familiar with the annoying effect that the machines eventually "drop off the domain".

In this blog post I will provide a way to
  a) initially prevent this, and
  b) fix it in an automated way if it cannot be avoided.

[Update] ESXi5 Community Packaging Tools 2.2

I have published updated versions of my ESXi5 Community Packaging Tools. Community developers who create drivers and applications for ESXi 5.x can use these tools to package their software into the official distribution formats VIB and ZIP (Offline bundle). Easy-to-use GUIs help them to enter the package's metadata without the need to manually edit text files.

What's new in this release:

What's in ESXi 5.5 for free license and white box users?

With the upcoming release of VMware vSphere 5.5 the free version of ESXi (called vSphere Hypervisor) will also be updated. A lot of users deploy this version at home or in small businesses to learn about virtualization or run non-critical workloads on it - even on hardware that is not officially supported by VMware. What will (not) change for them?

VMware raises the bar again: The must-know new features of vSphere 5.5

It is that time of the year again ... Almost exactly two years ago VMware released vSphere 5.0 and almost exactly one year ago they announced vSphere 5.1 at VMworld 2012 in San Francisco. So it's not a big surprise that this week - at VMworld 2013 in San Francisco - VMware announced vSphere 5.5 (and other related product updates).

It is a only a minor update, but the version jump from 5.1 to 5.5 suggests that there are some important and exciting new features in this release. If you have not yet read one of the detailed lists of new features that many other bloggers have already published then you will find my short "must-know" list helpful to get started.

A myth busted and an FAQ: ESXi is *not* based on Linux! But what is it?

I have often heard or read the statement "ESXi is based on Linux" in this or some other variation when technical people discuss about how certain things work (or are supposed to work) in ESXi. This statement is not only plain wrong, but just doesn't make any sense! In fact it is like saying that horses developed from cows, because both have a head, a tail and four legs ...

In this post I will explain why, and I also answer some other questions that are closely related to this discussion. The first one - surprisingly - is ...

[Release] Veeam Backup & Replication v7

After a long lasting development phase, beta test and an impressive marketing campaign Veeam - the leader of VM Backup solutions - has released a new major version of its Backup & Replication product for VMware vSphere and Hyper-V.

Cool free tool (not only) for the lab: MobaXTerm

I am running quite a few Linux servers in my virtual lab and was always looking for a decent free X11 server software for my virtual Windows desktop that I use for managing the environment. So far I used Xming, but experienced frequent crashes with it.

But then a while ago I discovered MobaXTerm ...

[Release] vCenter Server 5.1 Update 1b

VMware has released vCenter server 5.1 Update 1b:
There are some interesting and important bug fixes included. Here are some highlights:

[Release] ESXi 5.1 Build 1157734

VMware has released a patch for its current hypervisor: ESXi 5.1 Build 1157734:
There are some interesting and important bug fixes included. Here are some highlights:

QUADstor - Open Source Storage Virtualization and VTL!

It's quite a while ago that I wrote about a small Indian startup called QUADStor and their free storage virtualization software. It enables you to turn a physical or virtual FreeBSD or Linux box into a multi-protocol (iSCSI, FC, NFS/CIFS) storage server that features thin provisioning, transparent compression, inline block-level deduplication and VAAI support for VMware ESXi 5.x!

And now there are even more good news ...

Do you know where your virtual vCenter server is running?

Although there have been and will always be discussions on this issue ... it is common practice and supported by VMware to run your vCenter server in a Virtual Machine. I would even consider this best practice, because then you will have the high availability and all other advantages that a VM has over a physical server.

However, there are some things to keep in mind with such a setup. You might for example run into a situation where you lose access to vCenter, e.g. because of a network or storage issue, a guest OS crash in the vCenter VM or a host failure that is - for some reason - not accommodated for by HA (although HA does work independently from vCenter!). In such a situation you better know on what host your virtual vCenter runs (or was running), because you need to connect to this host to troubleshoot and resolve the issue and get things up and running again. The same applies to the VM that runs the vCenter database (if this is a separate one).

The v-Front Challenge #1: Solution and winners

A few days ago the V-Front Challenge #1 ended, and in the meantime I informed all the winners by e-mail. A big thanks to Trainsignal for sponsoring the prizes and to all who participated (I hope you had fun even if you are not a winner). Congratulations go to the winners of the raffle: Nikki R., Kelly M. and Johan! They receive a 30-days free training certificate from Trainsignal.

But the real challenge was the quiz part with the following question:

FAQ: CPU microcode updates and VMware ESXi

"CPU microcode update available. The guest OS tried to update the microcode ..., but VMware ESX does not allow microcode patches to be applied from within a virtual machine."
I recently installed a Windows Server 2012 on a VMware ESXi 5.0 host running on an older HP hardware (Proliant DL380 G5). Each time Windows reboots the message above is logged on the ESXi host. According to the message text it looks like I can safely ignore it, since I do not have any issues with this host or the VM. However, this made me curious - I started some research on the CPU microcode topic and decided to write up a little FAQ:

How to force a specific locale when managing vSphere

VMware does a great job with localizing their Windows based products - that means if you have your computer configured with one of the supported locales (usually identified by their ISO 639-1 codes e.g. de, en, fr, ko and zh_CN) then the menus and messages will be displayed in your local language rather than in English (which is the default).
However, this is not always useful. There might be situations where you prefer a program to use English (or another specific locale), no matter what your local computer is configured for, e.g. ...

The v-Front Challenge #1: Win cool prizes sponsored by Trainsignal!

A while back I posted a riddle (about VMware Storage VMotion) for you to solve, just for fun ... I got a lot of positive feedback for that, so I will run a similar contest again starting today. But this time there are some cool prizes to win that were sponsored by Trainsignal ...

New blog sponsor: Trainsignal

One important goal of my blog is to provide useful information/instructions and educate on technically challenging topics. I am very happy that I found a partner that is driven by the same motivation!

How to install (or update) VMware Tools in pfSense

Update 2015-01-26: If you are using pfSense 2.2 then please refer to this newer post: pfSense 2.2 was released - How to install VMware Tools (sort of). The following instructions are still valid for pfSense 2.0 and 2.1.

Update 2016-05-04: If you are using pfSense 2.3 (or newer) then please do not follow this guide, or it will break your system! Use the pfSense Package Manager to install the open-vm-tools package instead!

I blogged before about pfSense, the Open Source FreeBSD-based router and firewall appliance that I use in my hosted virtual lab (SBHVL) to implement IPv6-capable routing and firewalling and connecting two hosts through an OpenVPN tunnel.
I use the current development branch pfSense 2.1, because it supports IPv6. After a long beta phase it has recently reached Release Candidate (RC) status, and this inspired me to update my appliances, although I didn't have any problems with the beta build that I was using before.

After updating I had the challenge to get the VMware Tools up and running again.

Why Windows 2003 VMs suddenly lose network connectivity

This blog post is really a drama. The location is the IT department of a medium sized or enterprise business, the characters are Infrastructure Administrators. Any resemblance to real persons and incidents is by far not coincidental, but fully intended.

Creating vCenter alarms with PowerCLI

I stumbled over some GUI limitations in the vSphere Web Client and the Legacy C# client when trying to create an alarm to monitor vSphere Replication RPO violations, and finally I wondered: Who uses GUIs anyway? ;-) Let's script this task with PowerCLI!

Easier said than done ...

Monitoring vSphere Replication RPO with vCenter alarms

I'm currently exploring the possibilities of stand-alone vSphere Replication in my lab. A first and very important outcome was my post about how to automate VM recovery. This time we will look at how you can monitor vSphere Replication RPO violations using vCenter alarms.

When configuring replication for a VM you specify a target RPO (Recovery Point Objective) that can range between 15 minutes and 4 hours. I chose the minimum for most of my VMs, and this means that vCenter (resp. the vSphere Replication Appliance) should replicate changed data so frequent and fast that the state of the replica lags behind the primary VM for at most 15 minutes. It depends on a number of factors whether this is always successful or not:

Automating VM recovery with stand-alone vSphere Replication

With vSphere 5.1 VMware introduced the stand-alone vSphere Replication feature that enables you to continuously replicate Virtual Machines between different hosts using different storage. Formerly this feature was only available with SRM (Site Recovery Manager), this is why I call the SRM-less version "stand-alone" here, although this is not the official product name.

Stand-alone vSphere Replication is included with the vSphere Essentials Plus Kit, the Standard, Enterprise and Enterprise Plus Editions. It requires at least one vCenter server and one vSphere Replication Appliance (vSRA) per vCenter and uses the new Web Client as a management GUI for configuring and managing replication and VM recovery. For more detailed information I recommend reading Ken Werneburg's excellent Introduction to VMware vSphere Replication white paper.

[Release] vCenter Server 5.1 Update 1a

Not long after VMware has published vSphere 5.1 Update 1 there is now Update 1a available, and all customers planning to move to vSphere 5.1 should grab and use this latest release:

What's new:

The SBHVL project - Part 4: Spanning a private network over multiple hosts

It's SBHVL time again! This acronym stands for "Small Budget Hosted Virtual Lab" and for a series of posts that I wrote about my vSphere lab that runs on a dedicated physical box at a hosting provider. Until now I covered the basic setup and networking, backup / DR and management / remote access.

How to install HP Offline bundles on non-HP hardware

HP offers customized installation ISOs for ESXi 5.x that include drivers for HP specific hardware, their Offline Bundles for hardware monitoring and useful tools like hpacucli for managing SmartArray adapters. However, you can only install HP branded ProLiant servers with these ISOs. If you try to install a non-HP/whitebox hardware with an HP Customized ISO you will run into this error:

Quickest way to update your standalone host to ESXi 5.1 U1

This is a sequel to my popular posts about How to update your (free / whitebox) ESXi server to ESXi 5.1 and the FAQ Are ESXi 5.x patches cumulative?. Since Update 1 was released I got several e-mails asking how to apply it and also saw this question raised in forums again. The process is the same as going from ESXi 5.0 to 5.1 GA, and it also applies to any other ESXi 5.x patch:

vCenter SSO update/installation oddities and hints

I have just updated my lab with the recently released vSphere 5.1 Update 1 and want to share some oddities I encountered with the Single Sign On (SSO) component.

[Release] VMware Converter 5.1, finally with GPT support!

After a long public beta test VMware has released an important update to its free Converter product: version 5.1.

What's new

[Release] vSphere 5.1 Update 1

VMware has released Update 1 for vCenter Server 5.1 and ESXi 5.1:
Both updates include tons of bug fixes. Here are some highlights of what issues were fixed (read the release notes for a full list):

HP Offline Bundles April 2013 Updates

HP has recently released updated Offline Bundles that are available in the directory http://vibsdepot.hp.com/hpq/apr2013/. Unlike the other release directories (feb2013 was the latest up to now) it is not (yet) properly set up as an Online Depot, so you can not add it as a download source to Update Manager.

How to vMotion from Intel to AMD - and why not to do it.

Have you ever been bugged by a vMotion Compatibility check error that you couldn't really explain e.g. while you tried to put a host into maintenance mode for doing some urgent work?

Have you ever dreamed of live migrating VMs from a cluster of hosts with Intel CPUs to another cluster of hosts with AMD CPUs (in a hardware migration scenario or just for fun)?

How to build device drivers for ESXi 5.x - Update

A while ago I posted about How to build device drivers for ESXi 5.x and pointed you to Dave Mishchenko's vm-help.com forums where trickstarter has started a series of awesome blog posts on this topic. Here is an update ...

The VMware Tools GUI is gone - Now what?

If you run Windows VMs on VMware ESXi 5.1 hosts or Workstation 9 then you may have noticed that VMware silently made an important change to the recent VMware Tools (for Windows) versions. Older versions exposed a GUI for configuring and using the VMware Tools that was accessible via a tray icon and a Control Panel applet. With the latest version this GUI has been replaced by simple "About" box that just shows the VMware Tools service status and build number:
The reduced GUI of VMware Tools version 9

A VMware Storage vMotion riddle - survey results and resolution

A week ago I invited you to think about a little riddle concerning something I called "self-referential Storage vMotion". What happens if you try to migrate a VM on to a datastore that this VM provides itself? Here is the resolution:

How to prevent HP SIM from scanning the VMotion port

If you run your ESXi hosts on HP hardware and have a look at the vmkernel.log files from time to time then you have probably already stumbled over messages like these:
vmkernel: cpu4:2741)MigrateNet: vm 2741: 1982: Accepted connection from <x.x.x.x>
vmkernel: cpu4:2741)MigrateNet: vm 2741: 2052: dataSocket 0x41002750c600 receive buffer size is 563560
vmkernel: cpu4:2741)WARNING: Migrate: 215: Invalid message type for new connection: 542393671.  Expecting message of type INIT (0).
Instead of x.x.x.x you will see an IP address that might be familiar to you: It belongs to a server that has the HP System Insight Manager (SIM) software installed for inventorying / managing / monitoring hardware devices in your network. This software is commonly used in HP shops, because it does a fairly good job with monitoring the hardware health of your servers and alerting if something is wrong, and this basic functionality is for free.

A VMware Storage vMotion riddle - Can you solve it?

It is a while ago now that I tried this, and I always wanted to blog about the result, but was never really sure how to present it. I think I found a fun way now ...

For those of you who are not aware of what Storage vMotion is: It is a functionality that is available in the more advanced editions of vSphere, and it allows you to migrate a VM from one datastore to another while it is running. This has been around for a while now, but is still a very cool feature. Soon after it became generally available I was thinking about this little experiment:

How to build device drivers for ESXi 5.x

Since I published my ESXi-Customizer and ESXi-Customizer-PS tools to slipstream driver packages into an ESXi installation ISO I was asked dozens of times if I can provide a driver for the unsupported device xyz or whether I can give instructions on building such a driver. So far my answer was always No, because - although I'm quite familiar with using Linux - I do not have any of the Linux kernel hacking skills that I thought would be required to do this.

ESXi embedded vs. ESXi installable FAQ

With the rise of ESXi - starting with version 3.5 in 2007/8 and now being the exclusive type-1 hypervisor architecture of VMware - there has always been some confusion about the meaning of the terms "ESXi embedded" vs. "ESXi installable".

With this blog post I will try to answer the FAQs around this topic and provide some useful background information.

The not-so-zero downtime VMware Tools Upgrade in vSphere 5.1

One of the cool new features of vSphere 5.1 is something that was announced as "Zero downtime VMware Tools upgrade". On my personal Top 5 list of vSphere 5.1 new features I even rated it #2, not without being skeptical about the zero downtime promise ...

A recent post by William Lam on the VMware vSphere Blog clarifies in what scenarios the zero downtime really applies. It is worth being fully read, but for readers who are always in a rush (or have a too short attention span ;-) I will wrap it up in a few bullet points:
  • It works for Windows guests only, starting with Windows Vista
  • If device drivers that are needed for booting (Display, vmscsi, pvscsi) are updated then a reboot is still required
  • KB2015163 explains in detail if and when a reboot is still required after updating the Tools in a Windows VM
Please note: Given the fact that device drivers are rarely updated this is still a great progress compared to the pre-5.1 VMware Tools that would always require a reboot after an update!

VMware, please fix IPv6 support in ESXi!

In a recent blog post I wrote about my efforts to implement IPv6 in my hosted virtual lab. This is working all fine for my VMs now, but to complete the picture I also wanted to configure IPv6 for the public management / VMkernel interface of the physical ESXi host (Please note: you do not need IPv6 support for the management interface if you just want to use IPv6 with your VMs - these are really two different networks!)

To come to the point: I am currently not able to make my ESXi host use IPv6!

Top VMware and Virtualization Blog voting 2013 now open

Just a quick note: Eric Siebert over at vsphere-land.com just launched this year's voting for the Top VMware and Virtualization Blogs. This blog is listed in the categories "Independent Blogger" (and among "all" of course). Make yourself heard and vote here!

HP releases Service Pack 2013.02.0 for ProLiant and updated software for ESXi 5.x

Yesterday HP released version 2013.02.0 of their Service Pack for ProLiant (SPP). This is a (bootable) ISO file that contains the latest firmware and driver packages for ProLiant servers. What's new:
  • Added online deployment of a select set of firmware components to systems running VMware ESXi 5.x (that means you can now deploy Smart Components through HP SUM!)
  • Support for new hardware devices and OS versions
  • Support for PXE booting the SPP ISO
  • Updated HP Smart Update Manager (SUM) to version 5.3.5
Additional information:
On http://vibsdepot.hp.com/ there are updated Offline bundles and drivers for VMware ESXi 5.x available (see the feb2013 directory for downloads).

The latest versions of the HP customized installation ISOs are available for ESXi 5.0 U2 and ESXi 5.1. As usual they do not include the latest ESXi patch level. For instructions on how to build a custom ISO with the latest VMware patch level and the latest HP stuff please see this blog post.

I have updated my HP & VMware Links page to include the new releases.

Implementing IPv6 in a hosted virtual lab

Did you know that the IPv6 standard was drafted more than 14 years ago, in Dec 1998? Adoption grew very slowly since then, but with today's ongoing exhaustion of IPv4 addresses IPv6 is gaining momentum:
  • Almost all important ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and big companies that make business on the Internet already use and support IPv6.
  • More an more other companies and institutions look into implementing IPv6 for their Internet-facing services (mainly public web sites).
  • All modern Operating Systems have built-in support for IPv6. Many of them (inlcuding Windows 7/8) have it enabled by default.
IPv6 is inescapable. It's here. It's here to stay. It matters. Are you ready?

My ownCloud adventures, Part 2: Certificates and Windows access

This is the second part of my postings about ownCloud, an Open source solution for managing your data in the cloud. The first part covered the installation and initial configuration of the BitNami ownCloud stack virtual appliance. I will continue with explaining how to secure access to your data with SSL certificates and using WebDAV in Windows to access your ownCloud files.

A common misconception about resource pools

In vSphere resource pools are a great way to divide your overall compute resources into multiple independent pools and prioritize resources among different VMs. But before you create and use them you should make sure that you have fully understood how resource pools work, and what effect their settings have. In the vSphere Resource Management Guide there is a long chapter about Managing Resource Pools that describes how to set them up and how they work using some real world examples. And still it looks like this information is not clear enough (or maybe there is just a part missing in the documentation that explains how resource pools do not work), because there are surprisingly many vSphere environments that use them in the following way:

My ownCloud adventures - Part 1: Installation and Initial Configuration

If you own multiple different computing devices (portable computers and Desktop PCs at different places, Smartphones, tablets, ...) - and I bet you do - then you will sooner or later feel the need to share your personal files between them in a seamless, convenient way. You may e.g. want to have your music files and pictures available on any device at any place without manually copying them around. This is why using a Cloud Storage provider is becoming more and more popular: Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.net, ... just to name a few. They will offer you a limited amount of online storage for free - if you pay them a monthly fee then you will get more. However, if you want to have a lot of space (1 TB, 2 TB?) then this will get very expensive ... and there are also other concerns: Data security, privacy, ...

Luckily there is software available that enables you to be your own Cloud Storage provider like the Open Source solution ownCloud. I have started playing with ownCloud in my hosted virtual lab and will blog about how I got this up and running, configured for my needs, and what else is needed to make good use of it. This first post is about installing and initial configuration.

Importing virtual disks of hosted formats in ESXi 5.1

Recently I stumbled over a new issue that really puzzled me. I was trying to import a virtual appliance (the Bitnami ownCloud stack) into my lab ESXi host. This appliance is provided with a virtual disk in 2gbsparse format to make it compatible with VMware Workstation. For using it in ESXi instructions were given to clone the disk into an ESXi supported disk format using vmkfstools like this:

   vmkfstools -i bitnami-owncloud-4.5.5-0-ubuntu-12.04.vmdk owncloud.vmdk

On my ESXi 5.1 box this command promptly failed with a very confusing error message:
  "Failed to open 'bitnami-owncloud-4.5.5-0-ubuntu-12.04.vmdk': The system cannot find the file specified (25)."
Of course the file existed in the current directory, so how could it not be found?!?

How to write your own esxcli plugin

Last week I published an esxcli plugin that allows to run any shell command through esxcli. In this post I want to share what you need to know about the esxcli plugin system to be able to write your own plugins.

[Updated] esxcli plugin to run shell commands (new version)

[Please note: I have updated this blog post to reflect a new version of my esxcli-shell plugin and the changes in there. What's new in version 1.1 (of 2012-01-12):
- supports for advanced shell function like pipelines, I/O redirection
- execute multiple shell commands at once (or a single command spanning multiple lines)
- logging of shell commands to /var/log/shell.log ]

The esxcli command is a very powerful tool to query and configure various aspects of an ESXi host's configuration, and you can not only use it in an ESXi shell, but also remotely through the (perl based) vSphere CLI and the (PowerShell based) vSphere PowerCLI.

The esxcli commands are organized in so-called namespaces (e.g. hardware, software, network etc.) for managing the sub-components of the server, and - out-of-the-box - you are limited to the commands that are exposed through these namespaces. But you cannot run arbitrary ESXi shell commands through it ... until now!

How cool is that: VM console screenshots just by browser

Recently William Lam posted about a lesser known vSphere feature that I was not yet aware of: You can produce and look at screenshots of your VMs just by pointing a web browser to your ESXi host or vCenter server. If you have already read his post you will probably agree that this is very cool, but you might also wonder what this can be actually used for. So I want to share this knowledge again while adding some useful comments ... and use cases.

How to use the latest VMware Tools with older vSphere versions

With vSphere 5.0 VMware made an important change regarding the compatibility and supportability of the VMware Tools: The Tools that come with vSphere 5.0 (and newer releases) can also be used with earlier vSphere releases (down to vSphere 4.0). For e.g. the latest VMware Tools of ESXi 5.1 the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix shows the following:

VMware Tools of ESXi 5.1 interoperability