The Easier way to Use the VMworld Schedule Builder

I wanted to share this tip – since it is not so obvious and after doing it myself the hard way – I found a much easier way to find the right sessions for VMworld which will most probably save you a lot of time and headaches

If you go into the Schedule Builder – after you have already logged (as I said in my earlier post) you will be presented with this screen. Splash page

Trying to find which sessions you would like is not easy. You can apply a filter on the top or on the left:

  • Type
  • Day
  • Track
  • Technical Level
  • Area of Interest

But it is still not an easy way to organize your schedule.

Here is the way I found – much easier IMHO

On the left you have the Site Menu

Site Menu

From the drop down click on Schedule


This will present you with your schedule so far (if you have not yet added any sessions of course it will be blank)

My Schedule

Click on Edit Schedule

Edit Schedule

This will open a layover windows with your schedule and all the sessions on that day.
Already organized

Session per day

Hovering over the sessions on the left will bring up the timeslot for the session on your schedule on the right.

Time slots

So much easier this way. You can see the conflicts, adding the session in will notify you that it will remove the previous ones, also if there is an overlap in the times.


Should be the default way to build the schedule - if you ask me.

I Hope I saved you some time..

VMworld Schedule Builder is Live!!

No official announcement yet – but you can get in.

Got to the VMworld site and login with you account.

Sign in

Once logged – open the link to the Schedule builder which should allow you to then choose your sessions.

You cannot book a time slot twice (and this is not my real schedule..)


I would have so wished that VMware would have made the option to filter by day – it would make life so much easier.

I retract that – this has already been fixed!!

Remember the sessions are limited – and you have to register to get in.


Aligning the Business Goals With Your Own

I had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine last week. We were talking about goals and targets.

Let me first start with a question. Do you know what your company's goals are for the year 2012? Can you name them?

I am not talking about general goals like keep doing what we are doing, continue our sales. Honestly ask yourself - are you fully aware of the company's goals??

Who sets the goals? Usually upper management or your BOD, not you the guy that works in IT or you the consultant. So why would you care? If you have no control of the companies goals then why should you care? You come in and do your job - keep things running. That is what you are paid to do and what you care about.

Well that is not the correct attitude and therefore this post.

Your goals should always be aligned with the business goals. It does not matter if you are a manager, a developer, a support professional, a sales genius or a janitor - it does not matter.

Each department in the company should have their goals as well. It is important though these goals are aligned with the business goals. The reason being of course is if they are then you stay relevant. You work with the business to achieve its goals. You help the business. You stay focused on what is important and not what you might think is important.

Let us take an very simple example.

Company 123 has defined the following goals for the year 2012:

  1. Increase sales in US by 10%
  2. Develop 2 new technologies
  3. Improve support for Project X

So how could IT align their goals for the year with those of the business? In this case:

  1. Improve remote connectivity for the road-warriors so they can improve Sales.
  2. Provide the underlying infrastructure to R&D teams for the new technologies
  3. Provide IT expertise and assistance to Customer Operations for supporting Project X

As you can see each of the goals above are in direct correlation to the business goals. This can help IT focus on what is important - and stay relevant.

When a conflict of interests arises between two projects that both need immediate resources or attention, it is much easier to prioritize - based on what the business considers a priority.

And of course each member of IT should have their personal goals defined that are - yes you guessed correctly... aligned with those of the department.

A lot of talk is going around about how to change IT, BYOD, and why "rogue" IT is growing in the enterprise. A large part of this is due to (IMHO) to the fact that IT is not aligned with the business.

I do feel that with the goals defined and clear, we the employees can perform our work better and become more efficient. This is not always as simple as the example I provided above but I do hope you get the general idea.

So if you do not know what the company’s goals are – go ask your manager. If you do not know what your personal goals are – then sit down with your manager and define them – be they short-term or long term. And of course – align them with the business.

As always I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. Please feel free to leave them in the comments below.

What is this vSEL thing anyway?

As of late I have seen multiple mentions of vSEL – and always by VMware employees.
So what is this vSEL that they are talking about?
Google led me to some answers. Hany Michael (now a VMware employee) – has a comment from Mike Dipetrillo on his post
VMware also has an internal environment called vSEL that runs nearly all of the products in a nested environment. vSEL (the virtual SE Lab) let’s our tech resources in the field deploy and learn our applications as well as do demos and training with customers and partners. This “cloud” services over 1,200 tech people today inside of VMware.
From the VMworld Blog: The VMworld 2011 Demo Cloud
The best resource to learn about vSEL will be the session given by Ford Donald at VMworld 2011:
Virtual SE Lab (vSEL) Building the VMware Hybrid Cloud CIM 1436

This session is not public – unless you were at VMworld and have access to the sessions (but it will not be long until VMware allow public access to all of last year’s content). It is an interesting session and gives a lot more detail about the environment.
Update: The sessions were released - so you the link now points to the VMworldTV channel and the video is embedded above.

Unfortunately the I see that the session 2350 Evolving VMware vSEL: The Journey to OneCloud - Ford Donald is not listed on the catalog – so I am not sure it will be at VMworld – it would have been interesting to hear.
The VMware vSEL portal - https://vsel.vmware.com/
(Disclaimer – all the information here is openly accessible on the internet. I have never actually had access to this portal – and this of course is a VMware internal-only resource. I am sure that if possible – a VMware employee will be able to provide more details on exactly what the full feature set contains).


IBM ESXi Customized Offline Bundle

Oh…..  how I have searched for this… For hours… really. And to just come across this by chance today. Duh!

Search for a customized bundle for HP hardware and it is very easy to find.

Try the same search for IBM – no…….

My frustration has been expressed on Twitter a number of times – because this is not the way it should be.

I would like to thank Darryl Miles for his post IBM’s customized ESXi 5.0 FAQ’s – and just by chance – I see that he had another post about the VIB’s IBM VIBs for VMware ESXi 4.1U2 and 5.0 – which I had never noticed before.

Thank You!! Thank You!! Thank You!!

1. Package Contents  =================================================================
This is a VMware ESXi patch for IBM IMM CIM providers. The following CIM providers are included:

fupb                  5.01-7.170
concretejob           500-2ACE12AUS
filetrans             500-2ACE12AUS
fwupdate              500-2ACE12AUS
hwckvm                500-ESXI01ACN
immpassthru           500-2ACE12AUS
pciinfo               500-PRIVATE
soibms                500-ESXI01ACN
ilfu              500-1.01.20120504
brcmfwup          500-1.00.20120507

2. Hardware Support =================================================================
The bundle can be applied to the following servers:


3. OS Support
The bundle can be applied on the following OS platforms:

    * VMware ESXi 5.0u1 build 623860

4. Additional Notes ===================================================================
1. This IBM bundle only includes the providers created by IBM.
2. ilfu/brmfup have no added value without LSI and Broadcom providers installed.

After the bundle is installed on ESXi system, IBM ToolsCenter UpdateXpress System Packs Installer can be used to upgrade ESXi system, or to update firmware of IMM, uEFI, pDSA and FPGA. IBM ToolsCenter Dynamic System Analysis can be used to get information of IBM IMM and other hardware devices.

The links he provided there did not really work for me – IBM’s search engine did not find what I wanted. Here are the correct links (you will need an IBM ID to download) – I did not find any differences between the models – so here are the links to each package

IBM Fix Central - IBM CIM Providers for VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.0u1

IBM Fix Central - IBM CIM Providers for VMware vSphere Hypervisor 5.0

IBM Fix Central - IBM CIM Providers for VMware vSphere Hypervisor 4.1 U2

This is what is inside the package that you download.


And the bundle itself contains


One last request to IBM. Please make this available as a depot so that it can be added to Update Manager and the CLI tools. PLEASE!!!

Perhaps I should just create my own depot….. (but I do not know how legal that is…)


Things I Don’t Like About the vCenter Virtual Appliance

VMware are looking to move everything to a virtual appliance model. That is pretty obvious. And of course the most central component is your vCenter,

I wrote a post a while back about Should You Patch the vCenter Server Virtual Appliance? but since then I am finding more and more issues with the VCVA (vCenter Virtual Appliance) and differences in functionality between the Windows and Linux Versions of Virtual Center.

Lets Start. (Items are marked with my opinion of their impact Green, Yellow, Red)
  1. Patches (Red) – see  the above post.
  2. vCenter Orchestrator (Green - another VM to manage) – is bundled with the Windows version – but requires a separate VM in addition to the VCVA.
  3. vSphere Update Manager (Green - another VM to manage) – not bundled with the VCVA – requires a separate Windows VM – and is usually installed on the vCenter (Windows) itself.
  4. Management of the bundled DB2 database on the VCVA (Yellow)
    Does anyone know how to manage the database?
    How many DBA’s do you know that know how to deal with DB2?
    How do you back it up?
    How do you restore it?
    How do you troubleshoot it?

    Compare the number of KB articles that are on the VMware Knowledge base relating to DB2 to those relating to Oracle or SQL.

    Either DB2 just works – or it is so new in VMware – that no-one knows how to use it properly yet.
  5. Migration path away from a VCVA (Yellow) with a bundled DB is non-existent. At least with the bundled SQL database – there is a way to move over to a fully licensed SQL instance when your environment grows. What happens if I start out with the embedded DB2 and want to move over to a production database after that – be it Oracle or SQL – is there a migration path? I do not think so. So that means a complete re-install.
  6. CLI interface on the vCenter Server (Yellow). This is useful – very useful. Be it vCLI or PowerCLI – both of these can be used to run scripts on the vCenter itself. Where does this become useful? If you would like to perform an action with the trigger of an alarm in vCenter – you can.
    Try doing that with the VCVA – you cannot install vCLI on the VCVA – believe me I have tried. So you will need all kinds of workarounds. But the functionality is not there.
  7. Minimum resources (Green) needed for VCVA – 4GB/ 2vCPU’s – by default – it is deployed with 8GB/2vCPU’s – which is usually too high.
There are of course a large number of benefits with the VCVA – and I do think that this is the future – but until some of these items are addressed – I cannot whole-heartedly recommend to deploy a VCVA in your production environment.

I will update this post with more points as they come along. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.


Completing the Missing Piece in the VMware HA Puzzle

I cannot remember the number of times I have been saved by VMware High Availability. To protect an application in my datacenter from hardware failure has never been easier. Just put your VM in a VMware HA cluster and Bam! you are done. It is that easy.

And for your more critical VM’s here you have Fault Tolerance. Granted today that will only help you for your low hanging fruit VM’s that have 1 vCPU – but that will most probably change in an upcoming version.

But what is still missing? I feel that piece is clustering at the application level.

Let me explain what I mean.

VM HA monitoring – will only restart your VM in the case of a loss of the Heartbeat with VMware Tools on your VM – but it can do nothing else but restart your VM. This covers the case where your VM has Blue-Screened – or has panicked. HA will pick up on this and restart the VM for you.

Next is Symantec ApplicationHA. They go a step further – utilizing the vCenter API they will monitor a specific process inside the VM – and if that process is not running (and there is even built in for certain applications already) – it can issue a command to the Guest OS to restart the service X number of times and if that does not help – it will restart the VM. This is a step forward – but this is still not where I want to get to. (Just to clarify – this is not a free product and is priced on a per VM basis)

Take the following scenario where we will see that neither of the solutions above help me.

I have a SQL database – which I need to make highly available. None of the solutions above will help me out in the case that SQL decided to go “Belly Up”. Say for some reason – my sqlserver.exe process decided to go on a trip and stopped working, because someone did something really, really bad to the Master database or there was a bug in the software.

So my OS is up and running – so VM HA monitoring will not help here and will not even kick in at – from its perspective – the VM is fine. VMware Tools are running and responding. The OS is responding. There is activity both on the Network and Disk. So no reason to perform any action to restart the VM.

Let’s see what would happen with Symantec ApplicationHA. If my sqlserver.exe process stopped – then it would restart it – but my master database is now mush – so it will not start. It will retry to restart the process X number of times – but will fail each time. The next plan of action (by default) is to restart the VM. Now needless to say – that if my VM had something else running on it – besides SQL (and not dependent on SQL) then whoa!!! I just lost that service as well – because the VM was restarted. I am pretty sure though – that this can be configured as well on the ApplicationHA side – not to restart if need be. But of course the restart does not help – remember the mush????

So how does one protect themselves from such a failure? By using Application Clustering Software. If I put SQL into a Microsoft Cluster – then if my one node does go down – then it will failover to node 2.

Same with Oracle, Redhat, Veritas etc.. etc..

Ok Maish – What is your point???

What I would like to see in the future is the following. I do not actually know if this is (technologically) possible or not.

My wish is for VMware HA to handle the application layer as well.

Take the following scenario. I have an application that need to run in an active-standby model. Let us take a simple webserver for example. (I am explicitly not taking a Database application – but perhaps this model could be adapted for this as well).

HostA is running GuestA that in turn is running an http service. This provides service for a web site. The configuration/data files for this service are on a shared location. I cannot afford to have this VM go down – if so – I lose $$$$ per minute. Therefore on HostB I put GuestB that will have the same configuration – with the same access to the same shared location – but the http service is not started (active-stanby). The only way today that I can failover the service from GuestA to GuestB os by putting that service under an Application Cluster and configure it that GuestB will take over from GuestA in the case of a failure.

What if vCenter HA could take care of this for me?

Let’s look at how deep VMware can actually see into the OS today.

  • Guest up/down – Available today
  • Process up/down – Available today – with the use of API.
  • Group of processes (a service) – surprisingly enough – yes it is available. VMware Infrastructure Navigator – can identify services and relationships between applications – without the need to install any agent on the VM – just using the VMware Tools.
    (and I gather some closed API as well)

I would find it highly beneficial if I could define a rule in my HA settings – that would say:

  • GuestA and GuestB should never be on the same host (available today)
  • GuestA and GuestB are part of and application cluster
  • The cluster model is Active/Passive
  • The processes / service that is part of the cluster is A,B,C
  • When Process A,B,C stop responding
    • Trigger an alarm
    • Try X number of times to restart the process
    • If not successful trigger an alarm
    • Start Process A,B,C on the second node in the cluster (failover to another node)
    • If successful ensure that the process does not come up on GuestA

I do admit that this is a primitive example and granted it will not be so simple as the steps above – but for the end user – this would be an amazing benefit if this functionality would be added to HA.

No more having to worry about an application cluster solution – and if packaged well enough could even be encapsulated in such a way that the end user will not even care what the guest OS is. They could save on expensive licenses needed for their clusters.

What do you say? Is this something that you could use? Would it be beneficial to you? Am I way off?

Please feel free to add your comment below.