Posts Tagged ‘VMware’

Safely Virtualize Oracle on NetApp, VMware, and UCS

October 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Virtualizing your Tier1 applications is one of the last hurdles on the way to a truly dynamic and flexible datacenter. Large Oracle databases almost always fall into that category. In the past a lot of the concern revolved around performance, but with faster hardware and support for larger and larger virtual machines this worry is starting to fade away. The lingering issue remains what is and what isn’t supported in a virtual environment from your software vendor?
Although Oracle has relaxed their stance on virtualization, they take the same approach that most do when it comes to support in virtual environments. Take for example the following excerpt from Oracle’s database support matrix: Oracle will provide support for issues that are known to occur on the native OS, or can be demonstrated not to be a result of running on the server virtualization software. Oracle may request that the problem be reproduced on the native hardware.

That last part is the killer for most companies. How could you quickly re-create a multi-terabyte database on physical hardware once it is virtualized if there is a problem? Luckily NetApp, VMware, and Cisco UCS provide a very elegant solution to address this issue. Let’s take a look at a simple diagram depicting a 10TB virtualized Oracle DB instance connected via 10GbE and utilizing Oracle’s Direct NFS client.
The guest OS has been virtualized and resides on the VMFS datastore, the vSphere host is booting from SAN, and the database is directly hosted and accessed on the NetApp array using NFS. Each data volume in the picture is connected using a different technology to illustrate protocol independence (outside of Oracle where NFS is used for simplicity of setup).
As you can see from the diagram the real challenge is re-creating that 10TB database in a way that is cost effective and fast. NetApp’s FlexClone technology allows the instant creation of zero space virtual copies. The process is similar to VMware’s linked clones, but NetApp does it with LUN’s or file data, and with no performance hit.
To build your safety net follow the steps below.
  1. Create LUN on NetApp array
  2. Create UCS Service Profile Template
  3. Configure Service Profile Template and set to boot from LUN in step 1
  4. Deploy Service Profile from template
  5. Install same OS as virtualized instance (OEL 5.5 in this case)
  6. Create FlexClone of Oracle files/volumes
  7. Create exports and set permissions for newly created server
  8. Configure OS with mount points designed for FlexCloned file/volume
At this point you have a full physical environment of that 10TB virtualized Oracle database. The diagram below shows what this looks like.
The next step is to clean this up since you don’t want this UCS blade occupied with the test environment.
  1. Shut down the OS
  2. Delete the Service Profile (not the template)
  3. Delete the FlexClone(s)
Now in the event you have some nasty database issue, and Oracle tells you to reproduce the issue on physical hardware, you can listen on the phone as the support guys jaw hits the floor when you tell him to give you 5 minutes. The entire process can be scripted easily using the Data ONTAP and UCS PowerShell Toolkit, or using an orchestration tool of your choice.
Reserving a blade or two for this unlikely scenario may seem wasteful to some, but because of the flexibility of UCS you can quickly spin that hardware up into production for things like hardware maintenance without a performance hit or capacity on demand for your vSphere environment. With NetApp, VMware, and Cisco you can safely and efficiently take your company to a 100% virtualized private cloud environment.
Categories: netapp, VMware Tags: , , ,

Unable to commit VMware snapshot after VADP backup

May 8, 2011 Leave a comment

When doing a health check I found the following error during the remove if a snapshot in vCenter:

Unable to access file <unspecified filename> since it is locked


There is a problem when committing the snapshot after the vStorage APIs for Data Protection (VADP) backup of the VM.

In the snapshot manager in vCenter there was no snapshot visible. I needed the be sure that no snapshot is active in the background.  This can be very dangerous when snapshots still active and grows. The snapshot can allocate al the free disk space on the datastore and slow down the VM.

By enabling remote Tech Support Mode (TSM)  on the VMware ESXi server I needed the be sure that no snapshot is active by using the following command:

find /vmfs/volumes/ -iname “*delta.vmdk”

2011-05-02 15h16_20

The command displays all the “delta.vmdk” snapshot files on all the VMFS volumes.  This command show that the snapshot is still active.

To “temporally” solve this problem:

Create a manual snapshot of the VM. When the snapshot is created the old “Consolidate Helper-0” is added to the snapshot manager.

2011-05-02 15h13_39

Hit the Delete All Button and the two snapshots are committed. When the remove snapshot task is completed (this can take a while depending on the size of the snapshot). Run the find command again and verify if the snapshot is committed.

I see this problem lately with more customers who using VMware vSphere 4.1 Update 1 with different backup solutions such ad Symantec CommVault and Veeam  that use VADP.  Let’s create a support incident.

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

VMware ESX & ESXi Comparison

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

VMware ESX

VMware ESXi

Service Console Service Console is a standard Linux environment through which a user has privileged access to the VMware ESX kernel. This Linux-based privileged access allows you to highly customize your environment by installing agents and drivers and executing scripts and other Linux-environment code. VMware ESXi is designed to make the server a computing appliance. Accordingly, VMware ESXi behaves more like firmware than traditional software. To provide hardware-like security and reliability, VMware ESXi does not support a privileged access environment like the Service Console of VMware ESX. To enable interaction with agents, VMware has provisioned CIM Providers through which monitoring and management tasks – traditionally done through Service Console agents – can be performed. VMware has provisioned RCLI to allow the execution of scripts.
Remote CLI VMware ESX Service Console has a host CLI command through which VMware ESX can be configured. ESX 3.5 Update 2 supports RCLI. VMware ESX Service Console CLI has been ported to a Remote CLI (RCLI) for VMware ESXi. RCLI is a virtual appliance that interacts with VMware ESXi hosts to enable host configuration through scripts or specific commands.

Note: RCLI is limited to read-only access for the free version of VMware ESXi. To enable full functionality of RCLI on a VMware ESXi host, the host must be licensed with VI Foundation, VI Standard, or VI Enterprise.

The following Service Console CLI commands have not been implemented in RCLI:

  • ESXcfg-info
  • ESXcfg-resgrp
  • ESXcfg-swiscsi
Scriptable Installation VMware ESX supports scriptable installations through utilities like KickStart. VMware ESXi Installable does not support scriptable installations in the manner ESX does, at this time. VMware ESXi does provide support for post installation configuration script using RCLI-based configuration scripts.
Boot from SAN VMware ESX supports boot from SAN. Booting from SAN requires one dedicated LUN per server. VMware ESXi may be deployed as an embedded hypervisor or installed on a hard disk.

In most enterprise settings, VMware ESXi is deployed as an embedded hypervisor directly on the server. This operational model does not require any local storage and no SAN booting is required because the hypervisor image is directly on the server.

The installable version of VMware ESXi does not support booting from SAN.

Serial Cable Connectivity VMware ESX supports interaction through direct-attached serial cable to the VMware ESX host. VMware ESXi does not support interaction through direct-attached serial cable to the VMware ESXi host at this time.
SNMP VMware ESX supports SNMP. VMware ESXi supports SNMP when licensed to a VI Foundation, VI Standard, or VI Enterprise edition. The free version of VMware ESXi does not support SNMP.
Active Directory Integration VMware ESX supports Active Directory integration through third-party agents installed on the Service Console. VMware ESXi with a Virtual Infrastructure license and in conjunction with VirtualCenter allows users to be authenticated via Active Directory. In this configuration, users can log in directly to an ESXi host and authenticate using a local username and password.

The free version of VMware ESXi does not support Active Directory integration at this time.

HW Instrumentation Service Console agents provide a range of HW instrumentation on VMware ESX. VMware ESXi provides HW instrumentation through CIM Providers. Standards-based CIM Providers are distributed with all versions of VMware ESXi. VMware partners may inject their own proprietary CIM Providers in customized versions of VMware ESXi. To obtain a customized version of VMware ESXi, you typically have to purchase a server with embedded VMware ESXi through a server vendor.

At this time, HP also offers its customized VMware ESXi Installable on Dell and IBM will soon offer their customized version of VMware ESXi on

Remote console applications like Dell DRAC, HP iLO, and IBM RSA are supported with ESXi.

Note: COS agents have a longer lineage than CIM Providers and are therefore more mature. VMware is actively working with its 250+ partners to close the CIM Provider–Service Console agent gap.

Software Patches and Updates VMware ESX software patches and upgrades behave like traditional Linux based patches and upgrades. The installation of a software patch or upgrade may require multiple system boots as the patch or upgrade may have dependencies on previous patches or upgrades. VMware ESXi patches and updates behave like firmware patches and updates. Any given patch or update is all-inclusive of previous patches and updates. That is, installing patch version “n” includes all updates included in patch versions n-1, n-2, and so forth.
VI Web Access VMware ESX supports managing your virtual machines through VI Web Access. You can use the VI Web Access to connect directly to the ESX host or to the VMware Infrastructure Client. VMware ESXi does not support web access at this time.
Licensing VMware ESX hosts can be licensed as part of a VMware Infrastructure 3 Foundation, Standard, or Enterprise suite. VMware ESXi hosts can be individually licensed (for free) or licensed as part of a VMware Infrastructure 3 Foundation, Standard, or Enterprise suite.

Individually licensed ESXi hosts offer a subset of management capabilities (see SNMP and Remote CLI).


ESXi – Free License

(ESX not available without VI)

VI Foundation

(with ESX or ESXi)

VI Standard

(with ESX or ESXi)

VI Enterprise

(with ESX or ESXi)

Core hypervisor functionality





Virtual SMP










VirtualCenter Agent




Update Manager




Consolidated Backup




High Availability





Storage VMotion






Categories: VMware Tags: , , ,

Top 6 VMware vSphere Design Questions

April 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Should I use a distributed vSwitch or a standard vSwitch?

  • Do you need to delegate network configuration or the advanced functionality a dvSwitch offers?
  • Trade convenience for additional considerations
  • Network configuration now dependent upon vCenter Server
  • Affects running vCenter Server as a VM
  • Requires Enterprise Plus licensing
  • A “hybrid” approach utilizing both vSwitches, where possible, provides the best of both worlds

Should I run vCenter Server as a virtual machine?

  • Both options are fully supported by VMware
  • Virtual has advantages (can leverage HA, for example)
  • Physical has advantages (no dependencies on the infrastructure it manages)
  • Virtual introduces new considerations:

–      Need vCenter for dvSwitch control plane

–      What if vCenter is VM and runs across dvSwitch?

–      Creates circular dependency

–      Operational concerns with DRS, EVC, VUM

Should I use blades or rack mount servers?

  • From a compute perspective, it’s a wash
  • The impact falls primarily in high availability

–      Must consider HA cluster size and cluster members per chassis

–      Can’t use redundant cards in blades in many instances (no redundant NICs or HBAs)

  • Newer blades offer as much connectivity as many rack mount servers (12 NICs, dual HBAs)
  • More exotic connectivity (InfiniBand, FCoE, PCIe extenders) not as widespread

Should I choose VMware ESX or VMware ESXi?

  • A common but not long-lived question
  • vSphere 4.1 is the last version to contain VMware ESX; all future versions will use only ESXi
  • So, perhaps a better question is, “How can I transition to ESXi?”
  • One step is to familiarize yourself with the vSphere CLI and/or the vSphere Management Assistant
  • If you’re a CLI junkie, get used to “vicfg-” instead of “esxcfg-”

Should I put all my hosts into a single large cluster

  • There is no one right answer!
  • Are you using blades?

–      Keep <5 cluster members per chassis

–      Must scale number of chassis to scale cluster size

  •  With vSphere 4.1 and VAAI, SCSI reservation conflicts are not a gating factor
  • Clusters are not vMotion boundaries, only DRS/HA/FT organizational unit

Should I lump all my VMs together in one big LUN?

  • LUN layout should be driven more by I/O profile than capacity or number of VMs
  • VAAI hardware-assisted locking eliminates SCSI reservation conflicts
  • There are potential performance benefits to multiple LUNs (multiple queues per LUN)
  • Less management overhead with fewer LUNs
  • The key is proper storage design to accommodate I/O requirements
Categories: VMware Tags: , ,