Deploying VCSA 6.0: Mind the Gap

VMware’s VCSA 6.0 brings a lot of enhancements compared to previous versions. I would seriously consider deploying VCSA in a production environment in order to replace the Windows flavor. For those not familiar with VCSA, this is the virtual appliance option to deploy vCenter in an environment. It reduces the time needed to deploy vCenter and offers an integrated database for no additional cost. Although this post may not be entirely technical, it will allow you to be aware of possible constraints that will prevent you from deploying VCSA before you invest too much time on it.

One of the great things about deploying VCSA over the Windows vCenter is that you will reduce the cost by not deploying a Windows VM as well as having to purchase an MSSQL license. VCSA sounds great so far, but there are some gaps that you need to be aware of before deploying this in an environment.

 

VCSA_mind_the_gap

Some of the shortcomings of VCSA are primarily related to its nature of not being a Windows VM. For some deployments Windows vCenters have been used to also host the VUM (Update Manager) components, as well as programs that provide additional capabilities to the virtual environment such as VSC for NetApp storage, among others. This means that you would still need to deploy a Windows VM to host VUM as well as VSC in this case. Even though you would still be deploying such VM, the need for a MSSQL server/instance is not required which translates in savings.

Another aspect to keep in mind is the installation and migration from previous versions. There is no in-place upgrade from previous versions, but migrations are possible. With this in mind, you may want to consider to just start with a new, fresh environment. I would. Same applies to the Windows flavor. The installation method now comes as an ISO image. This may cause some confusion. In order to deploy VCSA, the ISO is mounted from a Windows system (can be your computer) and installation can be done remotely.

Before installation, make sure you install the Client Integration Plugin located within the ISO under the vcsa folder.

VCSA_CIP

 

 

 

Start the installation by launching the vcsa-setup.html file from the ISO. A Web UI opens up after a few seconds, and gives you the option to install and ‘Upgrade” (migrate). During installation, just provide the target Host information, and the rest of the information needed for the installation. Make sure the VCSA appliance has a proper network connection and you can reach it from the computer deploying the appliance.

vcsa_setupvcsa_UI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Both Windows and appliance vCenter offerings have the same scalability numbers as it relates to hosts, VMs, clusters, etc.

In conclusion, VCSA is a great choice for vCenter, but just be aware of some of the constraints of not using the Windows option. By the way the Web UI in vSphere 6 is soooo much faster!!! I’m just saying.

 

vROps 6.0: Why you need it now

One of the most time-consuming activities within an IT infrastructure is “keeping the lights on”. The operations of an IT environment requires many, many man hours, and this may also vary depending on the type of tool(s) utilized. There are many operations related tools that help administrators manage an environment, but VMware’s vRealize 6.0 brings great enhancement to its predecessors, and definitely sets itself apart from the competitors.

vRealize Operations Manager 6.0 introduces smart alerts. These types of alerts are the result of the aggregation of similar alerts into a single “smart” alert. This approach reduces the number of false-positive alerts, as well as decreasing the alert storms when issues appear. vROps, also provides a mitigation recommendation based on the smart alerts and allows for automatic problem remediation from vROps to the target vCenter, without the need to go to the vCenter Web Client. This integration provides management from one single console. The same applies within the vCenter Web Client, where information from vROps is visible for each entity.

The aforementioned features are key differentiators from older vCOps versions as well as from 3rd party competitors. vRealize Operations Management suite also allows to monitor other aspects outside the VMware environment such as storage, network, OS, and applications among others. This integration is done via management packs and plug-ins that allows businesses of all sizes to monitor their IT infrastructure from one single UI. It is also important to mention that vROps is capable of providing information for both security compliance as well as regulatory compliance such as HIPAA, SOX, and PCI among others.

For those that are currently running pre-vRealize version of Operations Manager (vCOps), I highly recommend that you make the move to vRealize 6.0. The additional features are worth the migration, which by the way is a breeze. I was able to deploy a new vROps instance and import from vCOps 5.8 in less than an hour. The new version provides many additional reports and dashboards that will reduce the time spent monitoring your IT Infrastructure.

By the way, to migrate to vROps 6.0 you need at least vCOps 5.8.1 version on the source system. I have a post regarding upgrade of vCOps here. You can either deploy vROps as a virtual appliance, on Windows OS or RHEL 6.5. Please refer to VMware’s documentation for details.

Here is a dashboard comparison between vCOps 5.8 and vROps 6.0.

Figure 1: vCOps 5.8.2

vCOps5.8.2

 

Figure 2: vROps 6.0

vROps6.0

 

NetApp VSC, VASA, VAAI for VMware vSphere: Why do I need this?

In most software meetings, round tables, and customer reviews and councils I have been part of, the feedback has been about a common topic the majority of the time. Customers want to have a single location/interface to manage multiple products. Fortunately, some aspects of NetApp storage can be managed through VMware’s WEB UI by leveraging Virtual Storage Console (VSC), VASA provider, and VAAI for VMware.

VSC is a vCenter plug-in that delivers VM management for environments running NetApp storage. VSC allows for storage configuration and monitoring, datastore provisioning and VM cloning, online VM optimization as well as backup and recovery of VMs and datastores. VSC is a very useful and convenient tool that will give you a glance of your storage status and also allow you to optimize your VMs that have not been properly aligned by migrating them to another storage target and aligning the VMDKs properly.

VSC_Main

 VSC Main Page

 

VSC_Align

VMDK alignment using VSC

 

The VASA provider for NetApp ONTAP is a virtual appliance that supports VMware’s VASA (vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness). It leverages VSC as the console and provides information to the vCenter about NetApp Storage that has been associated with VSC. VASA allows for the management of storage profiles defined as Service Level Objectives (SLO) as well as alarms to monitor the NetApp environment when aggregates and volumes are nearing their storage capacity.

The last piece of the puzzle is VAAI. VMware VAAI (vSphere Storage APIs – Array Integration) allows for hardware acceleration and offload certain operations that originally occurs at the host level, to the storage system. This reduces the overhead and consumption of resources on the ESXi host and improves performance. VAAI is great for speeding up I/O operations on the VMware side.

You could pick and choose which of these components to install as you see fit, but ideally you would want to deploy all three to take advantage of these enhancements and integration. The VSC software is installed on a server and associated with a specific vCenter. The NFS plug-in for VMware VAAI is installed on each VMware host and the VASA provider is deployed as a virtual appliance. It is important to point out that VSC  can also be utilized to set NetApp’s recommended values on ESXi hosts for better performance.

 

VSC_Logo

VSC_HostOptions

 VSC ESXi Host Options

 

VSC_VM_Options

VSC VM Options

 

vCOPS vApp Migration to new vCenter

I really like vCOPS, as it makes my life easier. I can easily run a stress reports and show undersize/oversize percentages within a VM, among other cool reports.

Anyway, I’m migration most of my vCenters from 5.1 to 5.5, and I opted to create new vCenters since the “old” 5.1 vCenter have been in-place upgraded since 4.5. I know, I’m not a fan of in-place upgrades either. Migrating VMs from VC to VC is easy enough. Just attach the storage to both vCenters and remove from inventory from the source vCenter, then register the VMs by right clicking the .vmx file and register VM, or add to inventory depending on what flavor of UI you are using.

To migrate the vCOPS vApp, we need to remember a few key points that are important. An IP Pool is required for vCOPS. The vCOPS vApp holds critical information such as the IP addresses of the UI and analytics VM as well as the timezone and start order among other settings. Moving the vCOPS VMs is pretty straight forward, but how about the vApp?

Moving vCOPS to a new vCenter is actually really easy. You could export the entire vApp to an OVF or OVA and then import it to the vCenter. While this is the method I’ll be describing it takes quite some time to export your vCOPS VMs and it is an unnecessary space requirement in my opinion. To quickly move vCOPS do the following:

  • Write down the timezone and IP addresses under the vApp properties
  • Shutdown your vApp
  • Remove vCOPS VMs from inventory and register them in the new vCenter
  • Next you need to export your vApp to an OVF template
    • If you try to do this now, it will fail because there is no known network as described within the vApp, since the vApp has no VMs with network interfaces.
    • Just create a dummy VM as a placeholder within the same network as the other vCOPS VMs, and use thin provisioning so you don;t waste any storage.
    • This will allow you to export the vApp
  • Once you have exported the vApp. Import it into the new vCenter
  • Add the “migrated” vCOPS VMs into this vApp
  • Remove the dummy VM
  • And you are done… Well, not quite yet.
  • Remember the vCOPS requires the IP Pool aka (Network Protocol Profile)
  • So create a new IP Pool in the new vCenter and you should now be able to bring up your migrated vCOPS environment

vCOPS_vApp_prop                       vCOPS_vApp_OVF

 

 

vCenter Alarm Definition Migration

Alarms play a very important role in vCenter in order to keep the VMware admins aware of what’s going on with their environments. Even if you have vCOPS configured, I personally still like to have alarm definitions set up, specially in the event that the vCOPS vApp is shutdown, etc.

One of the use cases for alarm definition migration is the creation of a new vCenter, or even just wanting to have all vCenters configured with the same alarms. You can do all this manually, but If you have defined alarm definitions in the past, you already know this a very time consuming task and new versions of vCenter include more and more alarms as new releases are introduced. You can also have your own alarms, in which case, it make sense to have a method to copy such definition when needed.

VMware has a KB article with a script dating from 4.x version. I used this script, which works well, but it leaves out a couple of minor details that may be overlooked, specially with people with little to no experience with Power Shell and PowerCLI. In KB1032660 VMware has a script that can do this for you, all you have to do is edit the script and run it. However, the picture shows PowerShell ISE “run” button for the screen shot. In an “out of box” environment, this will fail. Why? Because this script requires PowerCLI cmdlets (connect-viserver, etc.) and those are not part of PowerShell ISE unless you import the snap-ins manually, which is totally feasible.

Error

To make the script work, you’ll have to either add the PSSnapins or run the script from PowerCLI. The easiest way is to just run the script from PowerCLI. Although this is self explanatory, I will show how to go about doing that.

Overview:

  • Download latest version of PowerCLI from VMware downloads that match your environment
  • Download the script from VMware’s site KB1032660
  • Open the script using PowerShell ISE, notepad, notepad++, or your editor of choice
  • Edit the variables for $vc1 and $vc2 and line 92 to (true), then save the script

variables

ifTrue

  • Open PowerCLI
  • Navigate to the location where you saved your script and run the script from there

navigate

  • You will get a few prompts, just hit Y [default]

At this point you should see all the vCenter alarms copied to your target vCenter server. As you add alerts to your source vCenter, you can use this script to keep all your vCenters in sync until VMware comes up with this tool.

Feature request!?!?