April 23rd, 2015 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

**Disclaimer: I am an EMC employee, this post was not sponsored or in any way required by my employer, it is my experience getting to know this particular product.**

One of the upcoming tools I will be working with is ViPR SRM. ViPR SRM is a storage management tool that allows for monitoring the end-to-end health of your environment. I know what you’re thinking, “C’mon now Frapp that sounds awfully marketingy” and you’re right – it does, BUT let me give you an example of why some of the tools in ViPR SRM interest me.

network-is-fineHave you ever went over to a friends cube to chat and they say the app it ain’t no good? The reports are slow, the app keeps crashing, and the chicken taste like wood. Okay, but seriously how many times has someone walked over and said “my application is slow/down/broken” with no further detail, leaving it up to you to isolate what is going on? It has happened to me often. Worse is when you are the personal responsible for storage and someone else responsible for networking does the Jedi hand wave and says the network is fine, it must be storage.

 

That is where ViPR SRM comes it, it can show you the relation from virtual machine, through the hypervisor, datastore, data path to the storage array hosting the virtual machine. Further, for heterogeneous it supports multiple types of applications, operating systems, hypervisors and storage arrays. Of course it supports more EMC products, since it is an EMC product but you don’t necessarily have to run an EMC array to leverage ViPR SRM.

Below are some of the systems supported by ViPR SRM, an updated list can always be found at emc.com.

vipr

While getting ready for the installation, know that you can deploy as either a pre-packed vApp or install the application on 64-bit versions of RedHat, CentOS, SUSE, or Windows; during my post I will be deploying the vApp version which includes 4 virtual machines. The 4 virtual machines each have unique roles as a typical multi-tier application would – there is a web front end for UI and reporting, database backend for storing data, and collector for, well, collecting data. In large environments with multiple arrays you may deploy multiple collectors.

vipr-srm-components

In my next few blog posts I’ll be reviewing the installation of ViPR SRM, and review some of the dashboards and how they might help you in the day to day monitoring, and troubleshooting of your environment. If you’d like to learn along with me check out the ViPR SRM free e-Learning on ECN.

Getting to know ViPR SRM

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July 11th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

If you are a Symantec customer and want to expand you knowledge of your products and their other available products, you can now access their eLearning library known “Symantec’s eLibrary for free by registering at as http://techcenter.symantec.com/ecampus/enterprise which was previously $1400 per user.  This is a nice step by Symantec and follows what many in the industry such as VMware and EMC do with many of their eLearning titles.

Symantec for me used to be my go to for years for anti-malware and backup, however Backup Exec fell on some hard times in my opinion circa 2008-2010 and made me look for alternatives.  Whether or not they have been able to make up ground to the likes of Unitrends with UEB and UVB and Veeam remains to be seen.  This step, however, is a good opportunity to train current and potential new customers on how to properly use their products and avoid frustrated customers like I was and jumped the fence to greener pastures.

Attention Symantec Customers – eLearning now free

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July 10th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

I have been personally using a Lenovo Thinkpad W540 everyday for the last two months after having supported a few deployed out in the field prior to that.  After having had to use it for two months, I want to offer my sincerest apologies for the people that we bought them for prior to this.

The Thinkpad W540 is touted as a “Mobile Workstation” and the specifications certainly support that – up to an Intel i7 quad-core processor, 16GB of RAM, nVidia graphics and available with SSDs.  However, beyond the specifications many of us look for are a few fatal flaws with this laptop.

First and foremost, the Synaptics touch pad used on the laptop is nothing short of atrocious.  Attempts to integrate advanced features have left the touchpad nearly unusable – even things like dragging windows or highlighting text is near impossible.  Next,Lenovo chose to remove all additional function buttons you find on many laptops such as Wi-Fi switch, sound and brightness controls and chose to share those with normal function (“F#”) keys.  The problem with this approach is I now need to use an extra keystroke to use the F# keys which I use much more often than sound or brightness control – a very poor usability choice in my opinion.

The biggest flaw however with this laptop is stability.  When we started to deploy these to the field we were getting reports of freezing, or even crashing on a regular basis.  I chalked this up to “PEBKAC” – after all its pretty much the same hardware in any laptop – Intel processors, memory, drives etc.  We would update the BIOS and send the user on their way until a few days later when more complaints of freezing and crashing would come in.  Having personally used this computer for two months now, those problems seem legitimate.  On at least a weekly basis I am forced to hard power off my laptop because it crashed.  On my previous Dell  Latitude e6530 I only ever had to reboot for patches.

Other minor annoyances include recognizing multiple monitors (also Lenovo) through the supported docking station, often requiring me to re-dock or sometimes reboot to recognize the second monitor as well as often running into video driver problems that requires a re-install.

The Thinkpad W540 has amazing specifications, but the usability of the laptop can be quite painful.  If you are considering this laptop, it may be worthwhile to scratch it off your list.

Lenovo Thinkpad W540 Review – Poor design with great specs

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June 4th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

**Disclaimer:  I am an EMC employee.  This post is my opinion of the test and training materials and was not paid for, asked for, required, reviewed or edited by anyone at EMC other than myself. **

Last week I passed the EMC Cloud Infrastructure and Services (EMCCIS), the first step in achieving the Cloud Architect Expert certification.  Having taken CompTIA (A+, Network+, iNet+), Microsoft (MCSE 2000), Cisco (CCNA) and VMware (VCP-DCV, VCAP-DCD) I can say that this particular exam and related course work are quite a bit different than what I am used to.

I think all of the exams I have taken have focused on a very specific product or technology (CompTIA being vendor agnostic), however the Cloud Infrastructure and Services exams really focused on process and design considerations versus just knowing how a specific piece of EMC technology worked.  This exam was very broad, and covered areas such as storage (obviously!), virtualization, security and business process.  While many exams may expect you to know how to make certain features work, this exam wanted you to know how different processes and disciplines applied to a business, for example  understanding the role of Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC); something that all of us should think about every day but is generally out of sight from our every day lives as vPeople.  There were a few “exam questions” but that is par for the course on any technical certification test (at least that I’ve taken).

The exam is broken into a few different sections including:

  • The Classic Data Center covering topics such as networking, storage, and management
  • The Virtual Data Center with various sections to cover compute, storage, networking, VDI and backup/business continuity
  • Cloud Computing covering the types of services available (this IaaS, PaaS, etc…), management and security

If you have been working with virtualization, storage and cloud computing for several years, you might pass this test without any study (there are no class requirements) however there were some concepts I had not considered which caught me off guard.

Given what I learned through the training and test, I am looking forward to taking the Virtualized Data Center and  Cloud Infrastructure Planning and Design, the “specialist” level which is the next step moving towards Cloud Architect.  You can find out more about the Cloud Architect track here (https://education.emc.com/guest/campaign/CloudArchitect/default.aspx)

Exam Recap – EMC Cloud Infrastructure and Services #EMCProven #CloudArchitect

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May 29th, 2014 by JFrappier

Jonathan Frappier Virtxpert

I wanted to specifically call out this comparison was done for my home lab, specifically to provide basic internet access for my isolated physical ESXi host which would run several nested ESXi VMs and other support VMs such as AD and vCenter.  Whether Untangle or Vyatta is right for you will come down to your specific project, and the requirements for that project.  My requirement was to have an easy to configure virtual router running in VMware Workstation to provide access to an isolated  network that would not otherwise be able to communicate with my home router.

Most of the work in either case for me was in VMware Workstation, setting up proper bridging on my “home” computer which uses the WLAN adapter for every day internet access – this would end up being the “external” interface for my virtual router and the LAN connection which is connected to a switch along with the VMkernel interface for my physical ESXi host (8-core 32GB home lab build notes here).

Once the networking was setup, next stop was Vyatta Community Edition, I’m not sure what Brocade is doing with the site, but I had quite a hard time accessing it and was ready to give up until one night it worked and I was able to download the bits.  I created a VM with two network interfaces, one on each network segment and powered up the VM.  I had expected an installation process to start, but alas it did not, it had to be manually started.  After a bit of messing around and reading these two posts (install and DNS/NAT) I thought I’d be just about set.  From my Vyatta router I could ping 8.8.8.8 (internet working) but my physical host could not.  After reading through the Vyatta documentation here and making a few more changes I thought a reboot would be in order.   When my VM came back up I could no longer ping 8.8.8.8, I started looking around and none of my configuration was preserved!  I set it back up only to run into the same road block – it wasn’t working and I’m not interested in becoming a Vyatta Certified network admin/engineer.  Time to punt and try something else.

My next try was using Untangle.  I was using the same VMware Workstation VM and network configuration.  I powered on the VM, was prompted to run through an installer (as I’d expect when booting from an ISO/installer image) and configured the networking the same way I had (tried) with Vyatta.  The results, however, were much different.  With essentially no effort (other than the network setup in Workstation) I not only had internet access from the Untangle / router VM but also from my ESXi hosts which were using it as the Default Gateway.

While this isn’t a true bake off, feature for feature or comparing the power of each, I can say that Untangle was far simpler for a basic setup.  Vyatta may well be the more powerful option, but as I stated earlier right now I really have no desire to learn yet another CLI, I’m quite happy keeping my Cisco CLI vaulted and don’t want to burn those brain cells for something I’m unlikely to use in production.  If I end up on a project with different requirements, maybe I’ll find Vyatta gain but for now its Untangle!

Untangle vs Vyatta for home lab use

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