My VSAN home lab configuration

The excitement around VMware VSAN continues to grow and I expect to see its release or the announcement of the release data on March 6 at a webcast VMware has scheduled. I’ve been working on expanding the home lab and one candidate for the new expansion was to get a small VSAN cluster setup and do some testing.

My goal for this setup is to get comfortable with VSAN, test how stable and resilient it is and maybe see if it has a long term fit in the home lab. I’ve been thinking that if I’m pleased with the results this could be my long term management cluster for the lab. If not it will be used as a target cluster to EUC and Cloud solutions that I work with. Either way I think that VSAN will likely have a home in the lab going forward.


Home Lab VSAN Cluster

To build the cluster I am using a group of three HP DL365 G5 servers that I recently acquired. Each server has a pair of quad core AMD CPU’s and 32GB of memory. The servers have only 6 drive bays so I am some what limited to the size of VSAN that I can deploy. But I’m not too worried about that since this is more about testing the technology and seeing how it might help in my lab.

For my build each server will have a single SSD drive and four spinning disks. This will meet the requirements and give me a bit of capacity to play with also.


VSAN home lab

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Lets stop the technology snake oil

I’ve read at least a few blog posts over the last six months or so that have just made me scratch my head. People talking up technology that does not even exist or clearly have never touched it themselves. I think as bloggers and technology people we have a duty to customers and others to paint the whole picture.

I’m not sure if people are being paid for things like this and not disclosing them properly or what might be the case. But more and more I see bloggers getting briefings on a technology and taking that hour long call and powerpoint presentation and writing a glowing blog post or review. People your words carry weight and many are respected influencers in the community. I’m sure that you would not tell a friend that the new Ford focus was awesome because you watched a TV show about it.

Personally I take anything a vendor tells me with a grain of salt until I get some personal experience with the product. Performance reports are nothing but pretty lights until it passes my tests or has performed in my customers environments. If you do take performance details provided by a vendor or a paid 3rd party, I think you should clearly explain that you did not test these and they are vendor provided numbers. Many of these numbers are done with marketing in mind, a storage vendor wants to claim big numbers so they do 100% of 4K reads.

I will not write something that does not explain where the information came from. If it was from a briefing I think that should be disclosed, if I do performance tests you will see how it was tested and the results. Full disclosure is the way to live, I’ve seen this talked about before with blogging. This is what lead me to start a new blog that I will not shill here.

I know there are always new products and vendors coming out that sound awesome. Just make sure you are painting the right picture at the moment with the facts that you have. Your readers will respect that.

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Come out to Chicago VMUG to see my presentation

There is a lot of buzz around people presenting sessions at their local VMUG meetings. I think this is great and it should lead to some great discussions. I personally try to present at least once a year at a meeting and this year I will be doing my second presentation in a few weeks. Made a goal to push myself a bit more and try and be more helpful when possible.

A couple of weeks ago on February 6th I presented a session at the Detroit VMUG. This was being sponsored by Ahead my daytime employer. So I put together a session that focused on education. Specifically some of the things that I’ve seen when working with customers that can be disturbing from time to time. Historically there has been a resistance to change by many and in a time when our market is rapidly changing with many disruptions happening. I don’t think this is a time to keep the blinders on. So my session talked about what are some areas or skills that people should be looking at learning.

In a couple of weeks on March 19th in Chicago I will be co-presenting a session on vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) with a customer. This is pretty cool since its not often that we get customers to get up a speak. We will be talking about the vCHS service offering and then more specifically about how they are already putting the cloud offering to use in their environment. We look forward to seeing a bunch of great members at the meeting and this should drive a great conversation.


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Introducing Data Center Zombie a new project

I have had an idea for a new project or website for a while now. Several months ago I began discussing the idea with a co-worker Mike Mills and we came up with the idea of Data Center Zombie. The site will be focused on reviewing data center technology that we work with on a regular basis.

The idea that we had was founded on the idea of providing a real and unbiased take on how the tech works to inform people. The world did not need another news site or how to install site, there are plenty of good and bad ones of those.

Today we’re launching Data Center Zombie, a new blog that is focused on putting the Brains back in IT. What does that mean? We will be creating reviews that are all encompassing of the products that Enterprises are evaluating for todays data centers.

Our reviews will help people of differing skill levels understand how the technology would be installed, managed and perform in their data center. We will not just be doing an install blog post or a quick performance test. We strive to provide a complete view on how the technology works day 1 and through its life cycle.

To do this we will be working with the products for a period of time. This means real hands on experience with the technology. We cannot create this type of review experience by getting a briefing and some screen shots from a vendor, that just does not allow us to create the value that we are trying to provide.


data center

Data Center Zombie


We hope that people dig what is trying to do and appreciate any support in the process of growing this idea.



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Paying it forward, how it helps me improve as a VCDX

I still consider myself a youngster in the VCDX community. I’m not the FNG anymore since there was another two groups to certify after the VMworld SFO 2013 group that I was in. Prior and after my own VCDX process I have been lucky enough to work with some great people on their VCDX journeys and though I would write a short post on how it helps me improve as a VCDX.

With these VCDX preparation activities I think that I have benefited greatly from this interaction also. There has been a good amount of talk on twitter by many around some of the work that John Arrasjid and the VMware certification has been working on. John’s goal is to enable the community both partners and customers during their VCDX journey.


VCDX pay it forward


How does it help others?

This is probably sort of obvious, others that are preparing for their VCDX submission or defense should be seeking out help in their preparations. This is commonly done at those to major points. The first would be in preparing for their design submission, during this phase the person is documenting their design and supporting implementation and process steps. During this phase they are looking for feedback on their design choices and documentation formatting.

There are of course rules and guidelines that must be followed when helping others, you cannot give away secrets that you might have learned. What is helpful is working with applicants to make sure they are able to articulate their design vision so that others reading without any background can understand.

The other major phase would be in the form of mock defense panels. This would be find a few people that would server as panelists that you as the applicant will present your design to. The panelists would then ask you questions that are prepared and ones that come up in the process about the applicants presentation. This helps them be more prepared for the actual VCDX defense process.


How does it help me as a VCDX?

This part is what I really wanted to talk about, I think the previous items are pretty well known by most already. In doing this I hope to help show value for both sides in this type of interaction and building a stronger design community.

For myself I think that I benefit from helping others in both reviewing design documents and mock panels. I sort of enjoy reviewing other design documents, they can be very interesting some times. They allow me to get visibility to types of projects that I might not otherwise get to work on personally. During the reviews I also get to see design choices that others are making and why they might be making those choices. This helps to create questions and compare to reasons I might have made the same or different choices in the past. Its also helpful to see how someone might diagram a certain aspect of a design. An example would be maybe someone has done a very well job at diagraming a specific blade server network architecture, these can spark the creative juices and drive me to look at new ways to improve myself.

The mock panel discussions have also helped me in multiple ways. Before I successfully completed my own VCDX defense I helped others with mock panels, this helped my when it came time for my own defense. Moving forward there is still benefit to gain by participating in panels, much like what I talked about in the design review. I think that its helpful and a good learning process to verbally interact with others on their panels. This helps me become a better investigator to root out and discover technical details that might be hiding, there is also the opportunity to learn from the questions that other mock panelists answer.

I think that this whole process will continue to help me improve as a VMware architect. They will help me communicate and document better that my customers will benefit from.

My time like others is a premium, between family, work and other activities there is only a small amount of time left over for these types of activities. But I personally intend on working with others as time permits, the benefit has been worth the time to this point and I only hope that the others benefited as much as I did in the process. So when I have time and the right individuals approach I will try to help. I do try to vet out the requests, ensuring that the person is fully committed and far enough along in their process to warrant the commitment from my side.


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Nakivo releases Multi-Tenancy backup option

I was able to get an advance peak at Nakivo’s v3.9 of their backup solution. I have not had the chance to work with the product yet but the thing that excited me was the support to Multi-Tenancy. I know that this is not something that most customer IT shops have a need for but as cloud is becoming more widely used this type of offering is sure to be appreciated by customers.

The simple idea here is that as a customer of a hosted service or cloud offering I would be able to manage my own backups as expected. Also be able to control restores and any other features that are related to the product. On the hosting provider the product should be flexible enough to handle a large number of customers and the licensing model should be flexible.

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How to install vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS) plugin for web client

Last week VMware announced the availability of a web client plugin to help manage vCloud Hybrid Service (vCHS). This sounded pretty cool, but what really interested me was getting to try a plugin for the vSphere web client. There are very few plugins available for the web client at this point, as vendors are working on updating their existing plugins to work in the new world. Plugin documentation link.

For this write up I setup a test instance of the vCenter server appliance and will be using an existing vCHS account. I will install the plugin and connect it to my account.

1 register plugin


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