EUC Toolbox: Don’t wanna be your monkey wrench, use Flings

To remind some of whom have had previous experience with flings, or to explain flings to newbies if there still are any, in a few words Flings are apps and tools built by VMware engineers that are intended to be played with and explored. Even more, they are cool ideas worked out in cool apps and tools. Which are not only to play with but are very useful.
And, with no official production support from VMware.
This doesn’t mean the fling will tear a hole in the space-time continuum or your environment will randomly blow up at places, just be a little cautious when using a fling untested in production. Like with everything in production. Not official supported doesn’t mean the engineers stopped working on the products as soon as it is published on the Flings page. They do often respond to comments and with updates to make their cool ideas even better. And at times a fling makes it to the product like the vSphere HTML5 Web Client or ViewDBChk in Horizon.

Tools?

home_improvement

Anyway. Below is a list of my five most used EUC flings. Because well… it is an often overheard question: what do you or other customers use? And a listing disclaimer, don’t stop at number five, there are other very cool flings out there and new emerging ones coming. So keep an eye out. Hey I won’t stop at 5 either…..

VMware OS Optimization Tool aka OSOT

Guest OS systems are often designed for other form factors than virtual machines thus being very bloaty to include every variable choose and iniminie little device supported. When running these in virtual machines we have to optimize the OS so it won’t waste resources on unneeded options, features or services. Optimize to improve performance. One of these use cases is Horizon VDI or published. But personally I would like to see server components a bit more optimized as well.

With VMware OS Optimization Tool you can use templates to analyze and optimize Windows templates. Use the provided templates, make your own or use the public templates to share knowledge with the community. Made an oops and there is a rollback option.

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Get the VMware OS Optimization Tool here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-os-optimization-tool.

Horizon Toolbox

The Horizon Toolbox is een set of helpful extensions to the Horizon Administrator page. The tools are provided at a Tomcat Web portal that is installed next to the Horizon Administrator. There the downside is visible straight away, yet another portal/console in the spaghetti western of the Horizon suite consoles. But the extensions for operations and no flash are worth it.

The Horizon Toolbox adds:

  • Auditing of user sessions, VM snapshots and used client versions.
  • Remote assistance to user sessions.
  • Access to the desktops VM remote console.
  • Power policies for Horizon pools.

Get the Horizon Toolbox here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/horizon-toolbox-2.

VMware Access Point Deployment Utility

When we have use cases that need external access we have a design decision to use the Access Point in the DMZ to tunnel those external access sessions. The Horizon Access Point is an appliance that is deployed via a OVF. With the deployment you can use several methods to add the configuration options to the appliance, Web client, ovftool and Powershell for example. Another option is to use the Access point Deployment Tool fling. Especially when redeploying the appliance is faster than debugging or reconfiguring.

The VMware Access Point Deployment utility is a wrapper around ovftool. The utility let’s you input configuration values in a human friendly interface and PEM certificate format. It will create the ovf string, and will execute that string and deploy and configure Access Point. It will export the certificate and keys to the required JSON format. And it allows your input to be saved to XML and imported at a later time. This minimizes the amount of re-input required, and in result the amount of failures with reconfiguration or redeployment.

Get the VMware Access Point Deployment Utility here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-access-point-deployment-utility.

App Volumes Backup Utility

App Volumes Appstacks are read only VMDK’s that are stored on a datastore and attached to a user sessions or desktop VM that has the App Volumes agent running. When we need to back up the appstacks we have the option to use a backup solution that backs up the datastore. But not all backup solutions have this option. A lot of VADP compatible backups look at the vCenter inventory to do their backup. Appstacks, and writeable volumes for that matter, are not available as direct selectable objects in the vCenter inventory. The Appstacks are only attached when a session or desktop is active, and non persistent desktop are not in the backup in the first place.

App Volumes Backup Utility to the rescue. In short what this tool does is connect App Volumes and vCenter, create a dummy VM object and attach the App Stack and writable volumes VMDK’s to that VM. And presto backup tool can do its magic. A little heads up for writable volumes, be sure to include pre and post actions to automatically detach, and re-attach any writable volumes which are in use while the backup is running. Utility for that is included in the fling.

Get the App Volumes Backup Utility here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/app-volumes-backup-utility.

VMware Logon Monitor

VMware Logon Monitor fling monitors Windows 7 and 10 user logons. It reports a wide variety of performance metrics. It is firstly intended to help troubleshoot slow logon performance. But it can also be used for insights if you happen to miss vROPS for Horizon for example. Or when you want to find out how your physical desktop is doing in this same process when assessing the environment.

Some of the metrics categories include logon time, shell load, profile, policy load times, redirection load times, resource usage and the list goes on and on and on. VMware Logon Monitor also collects metrics from other VMware components used in the desktop. This will provide even more insight in what is happening during the logon process. For example what is that App Volumes AppStacks adding to the logon process……

Install Logon Monitor in your desktop pool and let the collection of metrics commence. Note that the logs are locally stored and not on a central location. The installer will create and start VMware Logon Monitor service.

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VMware Logon Monitor will log to C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware Logon Monitor\Logs.

Get the VMware Logon Monitor here: https://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-logon-monitor.

And there’s more where that came from…..

And probably some that make your order of appearance a little bit different. Just take a look a https://labs.vmware.com/flings/?product=Horizon+View for the Horizon View tagged flings. And be sure to also check without this tag as for example the App Volumes related flings are not in this tag listing.

– Enjoy the flings!

Sources: labs.vmware.com/flings

VMware Flings – Horizon View Configuration Tool

An other post in the VMware Lab Flings series. This time a fling that will make life a bit simpler in deploying Horizon View 5.3, the Horizon View Configuration Tool. Check it out here http://labs.vmware.com/flings/horizon-view-configuration-tool.
What is this tool about? It is a virtual appliance with the required components to automate a VMware Horizon View 5.3 deployment. This means no longer going around with installers at servers and watching those installers go by. With just inserting a licensed Windows server image, some unmanaged ESXi hosts (they will be managed afterwards), configuration parameters (yes you will have to input something yourself) and Horizon licenses and you are set up with the following components:

  • Optional, VM with Active Directory Domain Controller configured. Optional as you can choose to integrate with an existing domain.
  • Windows 2008R2 VM with Horizon View Connection Server installed.
  • Windows 2008R2 VM with Horizon View Composer installed.
  • vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) deployed and configured.

Use case?

The automation tool in it’s current initial state is very useful for doing basic Horizon View infrastructures for small deployments or Proof of concepts. Be aware that there is no official support from VMware for flings, it is a little on the own risk (with help from the community and fling engineers of course).

The Composer is set-up with a SQL Express database, maybe here should be an option to include an external database server.

What is needed?

For the servers that will be deployed a Windows 2008R2 ISO is needed together with a license to operate them.

The configuration parameters for networking (one DHCP scope IP plan, either managed or unmanaged depending on greenfield DC or integration), some storage (VMFS datastore with at least 250GB for the infrastructure VM’s plus data store for your VD’s) and VD ESXi hosts (not yet managed).

For the hosts make sure that Secure Shell (SSH) and the ESXi Shell are both set to running.

You will ofcourse need the Horizon View Configuration Tool downloaded and next to it you need VMware Studio to download here https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/details?downloadGroup=STUDIO2600GA&productId=193.

Installation

Deploy both the VMware Studio and the Horizon View Configuration tool to one of your ESXi hosts. Deployment is straightforward, accepting the EULA (with the deployment and after start up) and configuring the correct networks and storage locations.

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Both hosts should be powered on and configured for there IP addresses. Standardly they will try to get a DHCP lease, but if your doing an greenfield with a DC and unmanaged DHCP this could be a chicken egg story. For this a static IP is recommended. But if you have a managed DHCP elsewhere a reserved DHCP with DNS records is no problemo. The Horizon View Configuration Tool must be able to reach the VMware Studio (it will check in configuration, bobo’s will be determined there)

For the purpose of test driving I am installing both appliances in VMware Workstation. I have a Windows DC there with DHCP set up. I got two ESXi 5.5 hosts not managed. I have an OpenFiler NFS data store setup to store the infrastructure VM’s on to.

My VCT is running with a DHCP lease and DNS record. I can access the webservice at http://<fqdn vct or IP>/vct.

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But first upload the 2008R2 ISO with WinSCP or something similar to the VCT appliance. Just put the ISO (with friendly name) in the root (that is /) of the appliance. The default user is root and password is vmware. When the ISO is on there, you can open up and fill in the values for the existing/integration or new DC deployment.

Fill in the values on the tab’s. First start with the ESX connection, AD DS, vCenter, Connection server and finish with the composer.

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When you want servers in trail mode, don’t fill in a product key for the Windows server components.

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Troubleshooting

With the automation kicking in the only places to look for what is happening are the connections to the hosts (but without a vCenter deployed this is limited with a vSphere client) and the log files on the VCT appliances. Just log in with SSH (or check with WinSCP if you still have that open from uploading the ISO) and look for files named VCT_timestamp.log in root.

– Happy automating your VMware Horizon View deployment!

VMware Flings – Nested ESXi VMtools

When I was at Barcelona I first heard William Lam (http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/) talking about the soon release of a VMware fling that would be around VMware tools for nested ESXi hosts. The soon release was 11 November 2013.

I use lab setup often, to try out a few steps for education or to present features in a demo lab environment. That is, when those features don’t need much resources else I am currently bound to the availability of Hands on Labs.

Labs are pretty much setup with nested ESXi, whether just a data center lab, cloud setup of for mobility with Horizon. Testing and demoing comes with a lot of hosts actions, and we (it’s not just me) are lacking a simple way to control the host (or interact with the vSphere API as William is explaining in his http://www.virtuallyghetto.com/2013/11/w00t-vmware-tools-for-nested-esxi.html blogpost). And with simple I mean not having to go to the console or SSH and for example shutting down the host from DCUI.
With the nested ESXi tools it’s just right click and shutdown guest for a clean shutdown.

Great! But to be clear, as this is a VMware fling there is no official support just use it in a lab set-up (non production warning).

But what do we need?

You will have to go to the flings page and download the VIB (or you can use the vmware.com source when you have a Internet connection on your hosts). You can find it at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vmware-tools-for-nested-esxi.

Put the VIB on a datastore that is accessible from your host.

Next open a console to enable SSH or enable the SSH service in your host’s security profile. Putty to that host.

Install the VIB with the following one liner: esxcli software vib install -v /vmfs/volumes/[DATASTORE]/esx-tools-for-esxi-9.7.0-0.0.00000.i386.vib -f

Where [DATASTORE] is replaced with the datastore you placed the tools.

It should return installation successful.

And you wil notice that a reboot is required. So either reboot or esxcli system shutdown reboot will do the trick when your in the SSH session.

In your web client you will now notice to VMware tools running in your hosts summary.

You can also use this for ESXi installations in VMware Workstation. The shutdown guest will nicely shutdown the guest os (just take a peek with ALT+F12 in the console or compare with a none ESXitools host that will be off in a second)

One thing, you cannot click the upgrade VMware Tools. You will have to monitor new releases and install them as a VIB.

– Thanks for this fling guys!

WebCommander – VMware Lab Flings

An other post in the VMware Lab Flings series. This time a fling that I was re-introduced to when following the PowerCLI session at VMworld Europe.

So what’s is WebCommander?

Webcommander is a GUI framework around PowerShell and PowerCLI scripts. It gives an easy to use web interface. This can be used to provide users with scripts without those users knowing the PowerCLI commands, or to give users access only to specific prepared tasks without giving them access to the web client (they still need to have permissions to do there operations). A great way in delegating specific tasks!

What’s needed, WebCommander Architecture?

WebCommander is a package that uses or needs the following components:

– Windows Server 2008 or 2012.
– PowerShell v3 or v4.
– vSphere PowerCLI.
– IIS (minimal v8).
– PHP 5.

The installer also needs .Net Framework 3.5 to be installed on the system. And of course the WebCommander package from the VMware Fling site. This can be found at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/web-commander. At that site there is also a install instruction manual.. Setup of WebCommander is done by installing above apps and running the Setup powerscript supplied with the WebCommander installer. Here you add the default password to connect to ESXi hosts. Default user is set to root, default guest user is set to administrator (you can select them in several of the actions).

Before running the setup script you have to change the Execution policy to unrestricted first…

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Change the default user to Adminstrator in IIS Manager after installation is finished. 

Interface

After installing and checking your installation you can open the default interface.

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There are several categories of PowerShell/PowerCLI included with the installation. You have the option to do Active Directory, View Broker, Guest, VM and vSphere actions. Actions for adding, removing, start/stop/restart operations, renaming and taking snapshots are included.
Of course you can add (or remove) you own specific organisation tasks. The how to is also included in the installation manual.

When running a command a screen is shown where you can add the VC or ESXi host FQDN/IP, and select the users.

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After running the results also show an URL with the command just run. You can give this URL to your user when you want only access to this command. Great feature!. Unfortunately the supplied password is in plain text in the URL (in this case root……).

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– Enjoy commanding your environment! Thank to the developers of this fling.

VMware vBenchmark – Lab Flings

Last month I did a blog post of a fling I often use in project phases (read it at https://pascalswereld.nl/post/58225706990/vmware-io-analyzer-fling). I want to blog about another fling you can use in a project and also in normal management of virtual infrastructures.

This fling is called vBenchmark and can create reports of your virtual environment with measurements of the performance of your (just to state the obvious; VMware) virtualized infrastructure. These measurements can be used to report to IT management about the benefits brought with a implementation or migration project. You can also use this in a assessment phase to baseline report your existing environment prior to making (to be beneficial) changes.

The report is targeted at IT as measurement metrics are mostly technical of art, but hey that’s what a virtualization infrastructure is made off.

Measure metrics are categorized as follows:
– Configuration: for example, how much virtual vs physical RAM is registered.

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– Efficiency: for example, how is you environment utilized.

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– Agility: for example, how much time do you take on average to provision a VM, or how productive can your administrators be (do not get overexcited, this is only from the infrastructure prospective ;-) ).

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– Quality of Service: for example, how much downtime do you avoid by using availability features, or how much downtime have you experienced.

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The environment metrics can be uploaded to a VMware server to compare (based on your license type and organisation) your metrics with the outside worlds matched peers. Your metrics will be anonymously uploaded.

You can add one or more vCenters to vBenchmark. Be sure to save your session data or you will have to do them again in vBenchmark. But you won’t have a reference data set..

vBenchmark is a OVF appliance that can be downloaded from this link: http://labs.vmware.com/flings/vbenchmark

Test Driving

I have downloaded vBenchmark and I will deploy vBenchmark to my test Lab. My lab environment are 3 ESXi 5.5 hosts managed by a vCenter 5.5 server appliance. There are around 4 VM’s operational so not quite the environment, but large enough to get some metrics in.

The deployment is straightforward, deploy as OVF. Add name, location, storage (deploying on VSAN) and add networks. From the OVF template the IP is defined as static, but there is no configuration.

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vBenchmark actually supports IPv4 DHCP (and you can change the network settings via the appliance admin app at https://<vbenchmark&gt;:5480/), and that’s what I’m using. Finish and power on.

After power on go to a console and set the root password. You will have to do this else you can’t access the web interface.

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Open up your favorite browser and go to the system. In the startscreen you will have to add a vCenter server to vBenchmark.

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After that you can select a statistics period and start adding statics.

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When finished collecting you can select to include your cluster in the reports. And you are redirected to your dashboard.

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From here on you can create vCenter server groups, share (upload) your metrics to included peer metrics and save your configuration for future references.

-Enjoy vBenchmarking!

VMware vSphere Auto Deploy and the GUI fling

As in my earlier IO Analyzer blog post, flings in VMware labs are an excellent place for very useful tools and extra’s for your VMware environment. You can find the VMware flings page at http://labs.vmware.com/flings/.

One of the flings I want to blog about is the Auto Deploy GUI. This fling is a front end graphical user interface to the Auto deploy server. The standard auto deploy proces is heavily VMware PowerCLI based. This can be a problem at some organisation where IT personnel is not yet PowerCLI/Powershell familiar. No excuse, but it can be helpful to lower prerequisite knowledge and add a GUI to the process. This way it might be easier for those organizations to accept VMware auto deploy.

Let me be clear…… this is no excuse to not learn PowerCLI. So please up your PowerCLI/Powershell skills as you will use that at a lot of places (also outside of the VMware infrastructure) and makes you life a lot easier (well, that is… after you learn it).

What is Auto Deploy?

Before you add something to a infrastructure, the Auto Deploy components should be known. vSphere Auto Deploy facilitates a infrastructure for automatic server provisioning and network deployment of the ESXi hypervisor. The deployment can be on local storage, statefull on HDD, SD or USB or stateless to the hosts ram. It works in conjunction with:

– vCenter,
– host profiles,
– TFT server,
– Auto Deploy server and Image Builder,
– a PXE boot infrastructure with a DHCP service.

These service can be installed on the vCenter host or hosted/integrated on specific services.  When using the stateless host option be sure to have a high available Auto Deploy infrastructure.

Auto Deploy and host profiles are available from the Enterprise plus Edition.

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Auto Deploy server can be installed on a Windows based server, or can be used on or with the vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA).

Why a VCSA, when the 5.1 version with embedded database is for small deployments (maximum of 5 hosts) I hear you ask? Automation and centralized management! …And the fact the vCSA 5.5 will support a lot more hosts…..

As we need a Windows based service for the GUI and normally would need a Windows server for Update Manager, we can combine those on Windows based server.

For this blog post I’m using a 5.1 vCSA installation and Windows based server operating on Windows 2008R2 running Update Manager and Auto Depoy services (including DHCP for PXE boot).

Setting up Auto Deploy services

Here we had a choice (why always these choices…..) to use the vCSA vCenter server components together with Auto Deploy service or you a standalone Windows server for auto deploy services working together with the vCSA for vCenter services. The last makes a little more sense as the Auto Deploy GUI also needs Windows components, and so will Update Manager. If you happen to want to use auto deploy on the vCSA the service needs to be started. Like stated above I’m doing a Windows based installation in conjunction with the VCSA for vCenter services.

How the lab is build:

– VCSA5.1 downloaded and setup.
– Also downloaded the vCenter VIM installer to install Auto Deploy on the Windows host (You will also need this installer if any other vCenter service need to be on a Windows system. For example Update Manager).
– Windows 2008R2 Set up. All defaults.
– DHCP Role added to Windows 2008R2. You can setup your IPv4 scope here, but I will set it up when I’m ready for the TFTP to service. (And don’t forget other devices that offer DHCP such as your internet router, separate the traffic. I have added a LAN segment and let the W2K8R2 DHCP only serve this network. ESXi VM should be connected to this same network).
– Downloaded TFTP Server from Solarwinds (Free version at http://www.solarwinds.com/products/freetools/free_tftp_server.aspx).
– The TFTP server needs .Net Framework 3.5, and so does Auto Deploy Gui so install it to the server (Add Feature).
– Installed TFTP server on Windows 2008R2 and setup starts it. The folder c:TFTP-Root is used default.
– Install PowerCLI.
– Install Auto Deploy service. The default installer will register Auto Deploy with the VCSA.
– Setup a DHCP scope with option 66 = Boot Server Host Name to the IP of the Windows server. And add option 67 = Nothing Yet. We are gonna add the BootFile name later.
– Let’s check if the DHCP scope can serve a ESXi host. Create a VM to the DHCP served LAN segment. And start it up. DHCP is received, TFTP is looked up. And fails because it can’t find Nothing Yet. But we know DHCP is ok.

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We can setup the boot image by opening the vSphere client and connecting to the vcenter. Click Auto Deploy (Administration). This will open the following screen:

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Now click the download TFTP Boot Zip link and save to (and extract) to the TFTP-Root directory. You will probably need to change the file download to enabled to the IE security settings for Internet zone.

Change the DHCP option 67 to “undionly.kpxe.vmw-hardwired”. (still the PXE boot will fail because no ESXi image is yet prepared)

Setting up Auto Deploy with GUI

First we install the GUI this is really straightforward. This adds an plugin under Solutions And Application to your environment.

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(This actually also has the link to download TFTP Boot zip).

Next up configuring your environment.

1. First up VMware depot, Right click and check or add VMware depot url to https://hostupdate.vmware.com/software/VUM/PRODUCTION/main/vmw-­‐depot-­‐index.xml. (default it is in)
2. Next HA depot. Right click HA depot url. This should read http://<vchostname>/vSphere-­‐HA-­‐depot/index.xml. Else add it.
3. If you need a specific custom component (for example a Nexus VEM) you can add a zip depot.
4. This will fill up the Images in the Image Builder screen. Here you can build up your organization specific images (with specific software packages). For now I leave the defaults and move on.
5. Now we create the first deploy rule. Click the add rule and fill in the name,
6. I set it to the ESXi5.1 standard image, select where it must land (I select a host folder I created), select an host profile we skip (not yet created, if you have select your appropriate profile), in the rule set you can setup up a specific pattern (for example asset tag or vendor) very useful but not for this demo. I select apply all.

This will start up tasks to inject VIB’s to the cache. After this the rule is created.

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7. Activate the newly created rule by right clicking and selecting active.

Start up the test VM created earlier (or reboot when it’s still is failing) and see if the host is added to the Auto Deploy Host folder.

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Yup this time it found an image. Loading and you will notice a cache loading of ESXi next.

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Received a DHCP address for the booted host. Let see if vCenter shows the host added to the correct host folder.

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Success, base image and add to a vCenter managed infrastructure is done. Warning is about the unconfigured state and to non-persistant storage for the scratch partition.

What’s next?

To use your ESXi hosts in auto deployment scenario you will have to set up host profiles and add this to a deployment rule (or more if you have several environments).
Configure a host to be setup according to your environment (DNS, NTP, networking, name it….). Create a host profile from this host and fill up an answer file. Check compliancy to be sure this one’s correct.

Add this profile to the deployment Rule and voila you ESXi is deployed and setup in a profile.

– Enjoy your Auto deploy infrastructure with the Auto Deploy GUI! Be sure to learn PowerCLI another time!

VMware IO Analyzer – lab Flings

Flings in VMware labs is a great place for (very) useful tools or applications. This time I want to blog about a fling I often use in a test phase for implementation projects or in health assessments, see what synthetic load an environment can handle and if your vSphere design is up to the right io charactics and capacity.

Important in these kinds of test is your test methodology and plan: Assess, Filter test, plan, collect, analyse and report. With several of these steps IO Analyzer can be the player.

IO analyzer can configure, schedule and run several IOmeter workloads or replay vSCSI traces.

Download at:

http://labs.vmware.com/flings/io-analyzer

Import ovf to your environment. Start with more then one, so you have some dedicated workers thoughout your environment.

After deployment change the second vmdk for the defaulted “small” configuration to approx 4GB plus (and Thick Eager). Why? Because the small amount of disk is used as disk test and fits in most storage cache. We need to get out of that and hit some real scenario’s.

One (or yes two) more things, logon to the consoles of all the appliances. Open a console, choose first option or press enter and login with root and password vmware. *ssst a very secret vmware user*. An other usage of the console is checking or monitoring the IOmeter tests i the console when they are running.

Demo:

Type down one of the ip’s or hostnames of the appliances, and will use that one as the controller.

Open a browser (chrome or firefox) and type http:// and you will reach IO analyzer in your environment.

There we have the following options

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For this I will use the workload configuration to add two tests to two appliances and check the results. Test scheduler is not used, will run immediately.

In this screen we first add the hosts where our test machines are, use the root password to connect to the hosts. When a connection is established the VM’s on that host are visible in the Add Workload Entry. Here you can find all kinds of IOmeter tests.

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I have created two workloads, one Exchange 2007 on our first appliance and SQL 64K blocks on the other appliance. The duration is changed from the default 120 seconds to a 5 minute (300 seconds) schedule. This configuration is saved as Demo config.

Click on Run Now to let the test run. After a initialization you can see the progress in the console of one of appliances.

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After completion of the tests you can view the test results in View Test Results (so it is not just a clever name :)).

Here you can check the two tests and the different VM and host metrics saved from IOmeter and esxtop (if there are any, you will get as a bonus the metrics of other VM’s on the hosts). More detailed information about these metrics, see the following URL: https://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-9279. Duncan Epping also has a good article about esxtop metrics and more. Go see his site when waiting for the test to finish: http://www.yellow-bricks.com/esxtop/

Here see the results of our Demo tests (I’m not going over in detail in this post).

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Enjoy stress testing.