Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Rubrik Drops 3.2 - Cloud Clusters and More!

Today the fine folks over at Rubrik dropped their 3.2 release and it is packed with quite a few nifty little features, especially for a .2 release. Quick aside here, if you dont follow the below folks on social media you're missing out. They have at least a quorum between them of VCDXs and each and every one of them are accomplished technologists with strong social media presence. Quite a stout tech marketing group for a small company if you ask me.

In their 3.1 release, Rubrik enhanced their support for Microsoft SQL Server, added bare metal Windows/WSFC support, rolled out a custom reporting interface, and added Software encryption. Now that we are done with that brief recap, lets dig into what 3.2 brings to the table.

Cloud Clusters

Rubrik has a fairly pragmatic view of what most customers experience during their cloud adoption journey, and it looks something like this.

One could argue these as the prescriptive steps for all organizations but I think its a fair argument that a lot of organizations start out tiering off archive data, then move towards test/dev on IaaS and SaaS based application delivery models where it makes sense, and finally (..eventually? ...hopefully?) arrive at an automated IT service delivery model based on a cloud first strategy and heavily backed by tools like Automation, SDx, CM, etc. as well as the appropriate org structure and processes to support such a consumption model.

With this model in mind it's pretty clear to see why cloud clusters make sense and where Rubrik is heading with this release. Here's what the architecture might look like in a customer scenario.

Essentially, we now have the ability to stand up a 4 node cluster as either EC2 or Azure VMs and with that cluster we can do a few different things.
  • Act as an in region backup target
  • Replicate down to a physical cluster somewhere
  • Act as a replication target for a physical cluster somewhere
  • Archive off to cloud targets
Very cool if you ask me. As of 3.2 you have cloud workloads such as SQL Server, Windows, and Linux filesets, you can now back them up, in region, via Rubrik without having to worry about paying for egress bandwidth. Additionally, that data could be replicated to an on-prem, or multi-cloud cluster for the sake of resiliency. Lastly if you only have one site and you need a DR target, this architecture has you covered as well, although the recovery workflow currently leaves much to be desired. I wonder how Rubrik might get around that one day... hmmm :) Lastly, you can take advantage of the same cloud archive you have come to know and love, potentially even in region!

Other Enhancements

Native NAS Support

Native NAS backups are now supported. As of 3.0 NAS was officially supported via a proxy VM that you mounted the NAS on to in order to back it up. Rubrik has done away with that model and will now mount NAS shares directly to the cluster for backing up. Both NFS and SMB are supported and you simply add the share by IP/FQDN, supply credentials, and configure the fileset definition as you would in a Windows/Linux environment.

Policy-Based On-Demand Snaps

On-demand snaps now offer up the following retention options:
  • Assign an existing policy
  • Create and assign a new policy
  • Retain forever (manual deletion)
All SLA based snaps are visible through managed objects and adhere to SLA domain compliance rules. Retain forever snaps are unmanaged and will persist until deletion. Handy for stuff like legal or other data holds.

Replication Enhancements

Rubrik has introduced an enhancement to their replication capabilities known as Distinct Retention. In the past, your retention settings applied to all copies of that data. Including replication and archival targets. This could was problematic for stuff like edge use cases where you might want to retain the replica longer than the original. Now with Distinct Retention you can selectively determine how long the replica is retained.

Key Management

3.1 brought Software D@RE into the mix leveraging Rubrik's internal key manager enabled by an embedded TPM chip. 3.2 extends the D@RE capabilities of Rubrik by offering support for external key managers. r300/r500's are supported and key rotation is done via a one-time UI operation allowing movement to the external key manager. From there on out you can us the API to automatically rotate keys as necessary.


There are quite a few other enhancements worth digging into whenever you get some time to cozy up next to the fire with a glass chardonnay and your favorite medium for reading release notes. Here are a few bullet points to whet your appetite.

  • API Enhancements
  • Pure Storage Snapshot/Proxy based VM Backups
  • Time Zones!
  • Configurable Support Tunnel Timeouts
  • Custom Edge Builds for MSPs

That's It!

As always, thanks for taking time out of your busy day to read my blog. Feel free to follow me @vDingus and lets learn something new together! Have a great day.

Warm Regards,


Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Dell EMC {code} Catalyst Program Launch!

Let's blow the dust off this blog...

To say that my industry has evolved a lot since my last blog post would be a bit of an understatement. In fact it has changed to such a degree that probably merits a blog post of it's own, but suffice it to say next generation IT and cloud native applications are and they are here to stay.

What I am here to discuss today is an exciting new evangelist program from the great folks over at {code} by Dell EMC.

For those of you unfamiliar with them, the {code} group's motto is:

It's boom times for the open source movement, and {code} has been contributing like mad to the open source community along side numerous other developers outside of the group in order to make next generation IT approachable and consumable for the whole industry. Originally being a pure play infrastructure guy myself, I thank them for it. 

They also have a great slack team that I highly recommend you join. They are always willing to help out, even if you are just getting started with basic stuff like OSS or development. I promise you will learn something new and exciting. If you are interested, reach out to @jonasrosland on twitter for more info.

Due to the aforementioned, I am honored and excited to announce that I have been selected as one of the initial members of the newly launched {code} Catalyst Program! 

You can read more about the launch on the {code} by Dell EMC blog as well as the Dell EMC Pulse blog but I will do my best to inform you here as well.

So, what exactly is the {code} Catalyst Program?

"The program is is focused on promoting thought-leading members of the open source community by creating a candid dialogue between open source advocates, developers and project managers across company boundaries. The goal is to create an ecosystem of innovative open source advocates who lead and advance emerging technology to support software-based infrastructures."

Needless to say, I am honored to have been included in the program. I am relatively new to OSS at least in any professional capacity. It's exciting and motivating to have been granted the opportunity to learn from and work with such a great group of folks.

What role do {code} Catalyst members play?

"The members are influential advocates of open source. They educate others on projects they are involved in, engage in conversations to advance next-gen open source infrastructure and share real-life experiences with other members of the larger {code} Community. Members should have vast knowledge in industry-changing open source projects that redefine how modern data centers are run, from containerization to automation to large-scale CI/CD pipeline implementations."

All I can say is wow, thats quite a standard to live up to. I look forward to continuing to engage with the members of the {code} team and the community at large as a Catalyst.

What's Next?

The Catalyst program is going to be just that for my public facing social media presence. While I have been active on many slack teams lately, blogging and twitter have certainly fallen behind. Here are a few things I hope to accomplish sooner rather than later now that I am back in the saddle.

  • This blog needs a facelift. Probably going back to Wordpress. Might even stand up something on AWS as opposed to going with Wordpress.com. More to follow here.
  • Series on AWS Certified Solutions Architect Associate cert that I am pursuing
  • re:Invent 2016 update post
  • Updates as the Catalyst program progresses
  • Random thoughts on technology, usually rife with misspellings and the occasional profanity

Thank you!

Seriously, thank you for taking the time to read. This blog has been dormant for way to long and those of you that took the time to come here from twitter, slack, linkedin, etc. to read are greatly appreciated. Everyone in IT has too much to do and not enough time to do it, its flattering that you are willing to carve off some of your time to read this blog.

Have a great day and leave it in the comments or hit me @vDingus if you want to talk more.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Q3 Wrap Up - Life is a whirlwind

Those of you that read this blog with any sort of frequency probably realize that I tend to produce more install/configure or break/fix type posts than anything else. This post is a departure from that paradigm, at least for a little while. Life has been crazy lately, so let's have a recap! Following PEX in February, I announced in this post that I was going to take on a VCDX and that's pretty much where I left it. Since then, lots has changed, here's an abridged list:
  • I changed jobs, not companies, I still work for the best company in North Carolina (and probably the world!) but I have moved from our Operational Services team over to a Solutions Architect role. So now I get to help design and build the solutions we support. It's a massive paradigm shift, and I am really enjoying the opportunity to look at technology from an operational and architectural perspective.
  • I spoke at Varrow Madness, this is something I try to do at least once a year. I love evangelizing about technology and this is a great opportunity to do that. Really appreciate Varrow letting me take part in such a great event.
  • I became a vExpert! This is a huge accomplishment and one that I have been aiming at for quite some time. Thank you all for reading this blog and to all my friends in /r/VMware for helping me accomplish this goal.
  • I submitted a VCDX Application. The design process itself was ripe with learning opportunities, putting a design like this together has taught me so much about the process that even if it gets rejected (it wont!) I feel like the time invested was well spent. Thanks everyone who has supported me throughout that process, I couldn't have done it without everyones (especially the wife's) support.
  • I finished my Master's Degree! ...and not a moment too soon, lets just say higher education and I have come to an uneasy truce. I doubt we will be crossing paths again in the traditional sense. Glad to be done.
Suffice it to say, things have been busy, really busy, and it doesn't look like they are slowing down. My National Guard unit is mobilizing and it looks like I will be going with them. As always, Varrow is going above and beyond with regards to accommodating me through the process and I know that I am going to be coming back to an awesome job and an great group of people in a year or so. In the interim I am going to tie up loose ends around work and prepare for the transition. Hopefully I will be defending VCDX in October while on leave from the Army. So in no particular order are some of my goals while I am away with the Army.
  • Be an outstanding Army Officer - I've never been mobilized and this mission is going to require planning, intelligence, and flexibility, hoping I am up to the task.
  • Get my VCDX - The closer I get the more real it becomes. Hoping that the defense goes well and I knock this one out. Hit me up @vDingus if you are interested in mocks.
  • Stay in touch with the community - This mobilization might actually afford me more opportunity to blog more, maybe even do a Pluralsight course the intent is to stay hooked into the community despite being away from home. Maybe I will do an EMEA #vBrownBag.
  • Get some other certs - looks like some potential for a testing center near our location, so perhaps I will be able to get CISSP / CCNP R&S since they relate to my Army role.

That pretty much covers it, life is a whirlwind and will continue to be I feel like there is a lot of opportunity coming for me in the future. Right now the plan is to make the best out of every moment I have at my disposal. As always, thank you for reading, and please comment or hit me on twitter if you want to talk more.

Friday, August 1, 2014

VMware Fusion 6.0 - Hung Resuming VM

I haven't blogged in ages and I have lots to share in a more thought thorough post - but for now, a quick fix.

Twice now I have run into this problem on my Windows 8 VM in Fusion 6 so I figured it's time to share this with the world as well as document it for myself. That way next time I don't need to rely on my google-fu to fix the issue.

Let me set the stage - Suspend seems to be more problem than it is worth with Fusion6 and Win8 at least in my case. Every once in a blue moon, my VM just will not come back from suspend and the same sequence of events occurs.

  1. When resuming I get a progress bar that goes nowhere, basically it spins and never fills up.
  2. In my infinite genius, hold alt, open the virtual machine, and force it to shut down.
  3. I try to boot my virtual machine back up, and I get a greyed out resume button and nothing happens.
  4. I can't quit fusion, I have to force quit it, re-opening does not even display my VM any longer.
  5. I reboot, try to power it up, and we are back at step 3.
  6. Facepalm:

Ok then.. I have myself convinced that I am a pretty smart guy... Lets go in and delete the suspend state files and the vmx, memory, and vmdk locks. That should fix it. Delete them all, reboot so fusion will act right, and power up my VM...


Oh wait, this thing probably creates logs! Lets take a look. Head to your VMs location, right click it, show package contents, and open my most recently updated vmware-#.log, crap.

Luckily, google was able to solve this one - here's how we repair the VMDK.

  1. Kill fusion
  2. Delete .lcks again
  3. Open terminal
  4. Run this command replacing vmdk location and names with your own (KB Here):
sudo /Applications/VMware\ Fusion.app/Contents/Library/vmware-vdiskmanager -R /Users/yourusername/Documents/Virtual\ Machines.localized/Windows\ XP.vmwarevm/Windows\ XP.vmdk

Reboot for good measure, and....

Hope that helps, now back to my design. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Varrow Madness 2014 - Auto Deploy, Image Profiles, and Host Profiles Slide Deck

Another Varrow Madness is behind us, and the feeling is bittersweet. So much fun and such great content, but I would be lying if I didn't say that we all look forward to it every year. It was a huge success with a great speaker, Shawn Achor, check out his Ted Talk if you havent. Also, we had some AMAZING speakers including but not limited to Scott Lowe, Chris Colotti, Jim French, Mike Foley, Chad Sakac, Rick Scherer, and of course, The Jason Nash. In addition to these big names there were a host of other industry experts from both inside and outside of Varrow that also contributed amazing content. I attended what sessions I could given the need for me to help out with the conference and I was blown away by the quality of the content. As always, highly impressed by what Varrow has done given the size of our organization.

Anyhow... While at madness I did a session on deploying stateless hosts with Auto Deploy, Image Builder, and Host Profiles. It covers a few of the VCAP-DCA objectives so I figured I would post the deck here. If I have time later, I will make a video of the demo portion and post it as well. Hope its helpful!

Friday, February 28, 2014

PernixData FVP 1.5 Reinstall

One of my favorite things to do is try to squeeze as much performance out of my home lab without buying more expensive gear or generating excessive amounts of heat since I already have space and cooling issues in my 15x15 office at home (yay townhouse). To that end, PernixData's FVP seemed like a perfect fit. These guys are awesome and one of their Engineers, Charlie Gautreaux has been really helpful as far as aiding me in getting this set up in our Greensboro lab and my home lab.

Smarter people than me (for instance, Nash and Wahl) have already blogged in depth on the architecture and performance gains offered by FVP so I wont dive too deep here. Suffice it to say the technology leverages local flash drives in your hosts as an intelligent read/write cache to accelerate storage performance. There is also a write back option that will mirror your writes to other hosts before acknowledgement rather than flushing to the datastore immediately further improving performance and ensuring data integrity if you lose a host.

Instead, what I am going to blog here real quick is an uninstall/reinstall of 1.5. please note there is an upgrade process for the management server, but I prefer to just dig it all out and start fresh. Refer to Pernix's documentation for an in place upgrade. This will give you an idea of how easy the product is to use in addition to the massive performance gains it offers up. With that, lets dive in.

Flash Cluster Removal

Before we start messing around with the managment server I am going to disable the acceleration on my datastore, remove the flash devices from the cluster, and delete the cluster.

So lets hop into our flash cluster from the web client and start working:

We will need to add the security exception to manage FVP since I am using Chrome:

And now we can mange our flash cluster, first I am going to remove acceleration from my iSCSI datastore:

Next, I am going to remove my flash devices from the cluster:

Once that is all done we can delete the flash cluster without issue, you may be able to delete the flash cluster outright and have it clean up for you, but I like to control all these mechanics. Also ignore the fact that my screenshot shows 3 flash devices in the cluster, you should see 0. I was just too lazy to take another screenshot:

This should be the end result:

Host Extension Removal

Next we need to uninstall the host extension from each of the hosts, so go ahead and throw one in maintenance mode, SSH into the host, then remove the host extension using Pernix's uninstall script: 

Once this is done, reboot the host, exit maintenance mode, vMotion some VMs, wash rinse and repeat.

Management Server Uninstall

Now that all the host extensions are uninstalled, we can uninstall and reinstall the management server. So lets start the uninstall:

Management Server Reinstall

Sweet, now we can install the latest management server, download the executable, and kick it off:

Accept the EULA:

Select an install type, I've always done complete:

Installation location:

Point it at your vCenter server and give it credentials to connect, the checkbox is for fairly niche use cases where you need to run the mgmt server as local admin rather than a domain account:

Give it credentials to the DB, I am am using my sql SA account b/c it is a lab, this is not a good security practice. Windows integrated auth works fine too:

Select the name used to identify this management server, I am using local hostname:

Away we go:

All set!

Host Extension Reinstall

First stick one of your hosts in maintenance mode. Then, upload your new host extension to one of your datastores, and kick off the extension installation using the following command:

esxcli software vib install -d /<PATH TO VIB>/PD-host-extension-version# --no-sig-check 

Where path to vib is the path to the folder location of the vib on your datastore and version# is the appropriate version# string for your extension. No sig check is necessary for now but eventually you can do this all through VUM once it is signed.

Once this is done, you can pull that host out of maintenance mode, and move on to the next. Continue until all of your hosts have the new extension on them.

Flash Cluster Recreation

Now that the management console and the host extensions are reinstalled we can rebuild our flash cluster. You will need to log out of, then back into the vSphere web client in order to get started.

Once logged back in you should see Flash Clusters listed under your vCenter server:

Click on the flash cluster and then click the add icon to create a new flash cluster:

Give it an appropriate name and select the cluster you are working with:

Once it's creation is complete select it, then head to the manage tab, then flash devices, and click add devices to bind your host flash devices to the FVP cluster:

Next, Select datastores/vms and add either the datastores you want to accelerate or the specific VMs you want to accelerate, make sure you choose write back if you want peak performance, and select the write redundancy you are comfortable with. I usually power off one of my hosts and this is a lab so I am only doing 1 network flash device for redundancy:

Voila! In short order you will be able to use the monitor tab to see your individual VMs consuming flash cache, make sure that your write policy matches what you had selected earlier:

Hopefully this is helpful, FVP is awesome and I really hope it gains some real traction out there. Hit me on twitter if you have questions!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

PEX Recap - Time for VCDX!

On the 14th I returned from VMware PEX in San Francisco, California and man, what a trip. First of all if you haven't been to San Francisco, the city itself is worth the trip. Extremely hilly, but full of delicious food, great coffee, wine, the arts, you name it. I consider myself a bit of a pizza snob being from very near New Haven, CT which is basically Mecca for the pizza lover. However, my friend and co-worker Tom Queen outshines me in this discipline to an exponential degree, and he had nothing but positive things to say about the pizza in San Francisco. I agree with him 100%, check out 00 Pizza if you get the chance.

VMware PEX

As much as I wish it was, my trip to San Francisco was not for pizza alone. The main purpose of my trip was VMware Partner Exchange, a conference dedicated to VMware partners where they share roadmap information, conduct technical breakout sessions, offer Hands on Labs, and give us as engineers the opportunity to network with some really sharp folks. I am extremely grateful that my employer afforded me such a great opportunity.

Mirage Bootcamp

The first couple days I spent in a Horizon Mirage boot camp, such a great product and fairly simple to use. Basically it decouples the base OS from the Application and User data via a layering technique, then uses an agent to apply the appropriate layers to the corresponding VM or physical workstation. The tool can then be used as a backup and recovery mechanism, even supporting file level restores initiated by the user via a web portal. Additionally, Mirage offers a smooth migration path to Windows 7 by allowing the administrator to apply a new OS layer and then reapply the application and user data layers back on top of the OS. There are already some integration points with Horizon View, and I foresee this increasing eventually giving View admins real flexibility in how they handle user and application data as well as how they manage their base images. Mirage makes heavy use of compression and block de-duplication, meaning that after the initial sync bandwidth utilization back to the data center is kept to a minimum.

General Sessions

Monday I spent in an all day session by EMC. Lots of great roadmap info in here that unfortunately I cannot share due to NDA. Suffice it to say that the Software Defined Datacenter is where things are going. We all need to get our automation hats on and prepare to interact with technology in a very different way. Speaking of software defined, I also sat in on some great sessions on VMware NSX and VSAN. The NSX course was introductory but it's great to see the focus shifting away from designing for the network and towards designing for the application. NSX is going to offer a lot of opportunity for rapid network configuration and application deployment. This includes stuff like load balancing, firewalling, etc. Which has traditionally been a bit of a hurdle for application developers to get over when spinning up new instances. VSAN is also very cool, leveraging local host storage (SSD and Spinning Disk) to create an elastic datastore that can scale out or scale up. Really, looking forward to getting my hands deeper into these technologies.

On top of the technical sessions I sat in on some really good process oriented sessions. The first of which was a Mirage based session focused on where Mirage compliments competing technologies and where it competes head to head. The other session on this track that I attended was an EUC experts panel focused on View. The big takeaway here was that you need to take a strategic approach to EUC engagements and sometimes try to get the customer to do things that they may not want to do initially in order to deliver the best overall solution. Plan and Design sessions as well as Environmental Assessments are crucial to a successful VDI deployment because there are so many factors that go into the end user experience. Aside from properly sizing the environment from a compute, network, and storage perspective, we have to ensure that the proper applications installed and working, that there is no extra bloat in the base disk, and that we are designing both for the administrator and for the end user. I have pages of notes on this stuff that I won't bore you with, but it's a hot topic and I really enjoyed the session.


On top of all the great speakers and sessions VMware offers up the opportunity to take a discounted exam at PEX so I figured I would take a go at the VCAP5-DCD. I am in a Master's program focused on IT management, have a good amount of vSphere experience including my VCAP5-DCA, had spent a bit of time watching Scott Lowe's course on the DCD, as well as watched a few of the #vBrownBag podcasts on the topic but really hadn't put any real time into studying or preparing. Well, imagine my surprise when I actually passed the thing, and what a bear it was. This exam is not particularly fun like the DCA exam. It's 100 questions focused around translating business requirements into VMware solutions. If you are going to take this exam you will definitely want to tap some of the resources I mentioned prior, as well as possibly attending one of the VMware design workshops if you are able. Stuff like RTO, RPO, Constraints, Risks, Requirements, Assumptions, Resource Pool sizing, LAN and SAN architectures, CPU and Memory sizing should all be second nature by the time you take this exam if you want any chance at passing it. Also be sure to watch the VCAP-DCD Exam Demo on myLearn ahead of time because the design tool can be pretty confusing at first glance.

What's Next?

I found that I was asking myself this question a lot after getting the DCD, after all that was my next goal and I wasn't really mentally prepared for actually passing it this time around, I was planning on getting a feel for the exam then retaking it back home in a few weeks. Given the progress and momentum I have in the VMware Data Center cert track right now, the next logical step is VCDX. Just typing at this point seems surreal, Derek Seaman said it best in his post describing his 180 day VCDX journey, "...I mean, those people are book authors, world renowned bloggers, and levitate at will, right?" In all seriousness, it's a very intimidating prospect, but I think I am ready. Right now I am searching for a design opportunity as I do not have a past design that I feel will meet the submission requirements. Once I find a good fit, I will begin the design process, and hopefully defend in October. I have watched the vBrownBag bootcamp series, picked up the required reading materials, and to be frank, I am pretty pumped. Lets see where this roller coaster goes...