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Introducing VMware Cloud Automation Services (CAS)

My focus on a day-to-day basis for most of the last five years has been on cloud automation and orchestration, more specifically with VMware vRealize Automation (vRA) and VMware vRealize Orchestrator (vRO). I’ve worked with a variety of customers in different verticals (government, finance, service provider) to help them design and deploy an automation platform and create services to automate many use-cases, both common and unique.

So naturally, my interest in a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that does the job too was always going to manifest itself. The day has arrived though that VMware are officially launching that service. Yesterday, January 15th 2019, VMware Cloud Automation Services became generally available.

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Open roles in the Northern EMEA PSO team at VMware

vmware-logo

I may only be in my third week working for VMware PSO, but I’m enjoying it. If you have experience of delivering high quality virtualisation and cloud projects then you might be interested in applying for one of the open roles on LinkedIn at present.

In the UK:

In Sweden:

In Netherlands:

In Denmark:

 

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Installing Crashplan on ARM based QNAP

The downside of living in the boonies in the UK is that the broadband speeds can be a little on the rubbish side. When I moved to my current house 4 years ago, I knew I’d be giving up good internet for for something a bit lacking. I just didn’t think it would take so long to get something better going. This is yesterday’s speedtest:

CapturFiles-201408243_200808

Since a nice man from BT is due to visit tomorrow to sort me out with that “something better”, I can finally take advantage of some of the cloud offerings that really haven’t been practical until now. Foremost amongst these offerings for me is the ability to backup all of the photos and files that my family and I have created or acquired over the years. They are all stored on a 4-year old QNAP NAS.

Super! I thought that I’d slip Crashplan on to the NAS and set it to backup overnight. Give it a few weeks and the backups would be up to date. A weight off my mind.

Except that getting it all running wasn’t totally straightforward…

JRE Needed

Crashplan has been packaged as a QNAP QPKG file and is available to download from the QNAP forum here. It has a dependency on Java however and so a supported JRE must be installed and enabled before it can even be installed. There is one available for ARM based QNAPs in the AppCenter. However, after installing it I couldn’t confirm that it was running for some reason. Connecting via SSH and executing “java -version” didn’t have the desired results.

It seems that I wasn’t the only one to hit this issue. Instead of installing the package directly through the AppCenter though it is possible to download the package and then install it manually. Simply select the package in AppCenter and click the download link.

CapturFiles-201408243_210869

 

Once downloaded, use the “Install Manually” option in AppCenter and select the unzipped file you just downloaded.

CapturFiles-201409244_210997

With that done, checking the java version again yielded the desired result:

[text][~] # java -version
java version "1.8.0" Java(TM) SE Embedded Runtime Environment (build 1.8.0-b132, headless)
Java HotSpot(TM) Embedded Client VM (build 25.0-b70, mixed mode)[/text]

Wrong JRE?

With the JRE installed, I thought that this would be fairly easy. Again using “Install Manually” in the AppCenter, I gave my NAS the Crashplan QPKG. It failed.

Just in case it would give me some more information, I copied the QPKG file to a share on the NAS and tried via the command line:

[text][/share/Public] # sh ./CrashPlan_3.6.3_30_arm-x19.qpkg
Install QNAP package on TS-NAS…
./
./qinstall.sh
./qpkg.cfg
./package_routines
917+1 records in
917+1 records out
19288+1 records in
19288+1 records out
CrashPlan 3.6.3_30 installation failed. The following QPKG must be installed and enabled: JRE >= 1.6.
Installation Abort.[/text]

Hmm. But we have a JRE. What’s up? It’s tenuous, but the error message suggests that the JRE QPKG can’t be found, it’s not complaining that Java itself isn’t present.

Tenuous but true as it turns out. I did a little experimentation. There is a file on the NAS that contains details about the packages installed. It can be found at /etc/config/qpkg.conf.

I used vi to edit the file and replaced this section:

[text][JRE_ARM]
Name = JRE_ARM
Version = 8.0.1
Author = Optimus
QPKG_File = JRE_ARM.qpkg
Date = 2014-08-30
Shell = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM/jre.sh
Install_Path = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM
RC_Number = 101
Enable = TRUE
Status = complete[/text]

With the following:

[text][JRE]
Name = JRE
Version = 8.0.1
Author = Optimus
QPKG_File = JRE_ARM.qpkg
Date = 2014-08-30
Shell = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM/jre.sh
Install_Path = /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/JRE_ARM
RC_Number = 101
Enable = TRUE
Status = complete[/text]

Bazinga!

Once the AppCenter page was refreshed, “JRE_ARM” had been replaced by “JRE”. And this time, Crashplan installed correctly:

[text][/etc/config] # sh /share/Public/CrashPlan_3.6.3_30_arm-x19.qpkg
Install QNAP package on TS-NAS…
./
./qinstall.sh
./qpkg.cfg
./package_routines
917+1 records in
917+1 records out
19288+1 records in
19288+1 records out
Starting CrashPlan once to generate config files…
CrashPlan is disabled.
Forcing startup…
Cleaning /tmp/*.jna files…
Cleaning /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan/tmp/ files…
Starting CrashPlan…
Link service start/stop script: crashplan.sh
Set QPKG information in /etc/config/qpkg.conf
CrashPlan 3.6.3_30 has been installed in /share/MD0_DATA/.qpkg/CrashPlan.[/text]

 

All that remained was to set the correct IP address on my NAS for Crashplan to listen on and then I could connect and configure it via the client software on my laptop.

CapturFiles-201408242_220865The only thing now is to wait for my broadband to be upgraded tomorrow…

 

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Get Your Homelab in the Clouds with AutoLab

screenshot327Since we have a small but significant following of people who run home labs here on vSpecialist, I thought I’d mention a limited offer that may be of interest.

If you’re not familiar with AutoLab, it’s designed to produce a nested vSphere 5.1, 5.0 or 4.1 lab environment with minimum effort. Prebuilt Open Source VMs and the shell of other VMs are used along with automation for the installation of operating systems and applications into these VMs with the end result being a useful home lab that you can stand up from scratch in a short amount of time.

Anyway, it’s possible to get an AutoLab setup and running in the cloud and BareMetalCloud actually offer it as a service. Mike Laverick has some discount codes available (use MAGICMIKE100) to the first 100 people to take up the service. Check out his post on the topic for more details and help on getting started.

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“Cloud” Backups

An increasing number of vendors are beginning to offer backup solutions where your data ends up being stored on some cloud storage platform or other (e.g. Amazon S3). As with any new technology, some people will lap it up, some will keep a curious eye on it and others will eschew it completely. Which are you? Are you likely to adopt it or not?

dlt-tapeI think the answer to that is not cut and dried. Think for a minute about why you’d want your backups to end up on a cloud storage platform. In years past, backups ended up on tape cartridges. Most sensible organizations would then store those tapes offsite and hopefully not need them again until the data expired. Of course, if you did need to perform a restore it meant getting the tape back etc. I’ve been in this industry long enough to have had to do that.

The point anyway is that backup data conventionally got stored offsite so that it was available if the worst happened. That is the concept behind cloud backups too. The only difference is that the medium has changed. So instead of your backups ending up on tape, they end up on someone else’s server effectively. You don’t know where exactly but you rely on the resilience of your chosen cloud storage provider to safeguard that data.

Is It a Good Idea?

In my view, it’s neat solution to something that used to take up a good deal of time for me or one of my colleagues a few years ago. The whole process is automated once setup. Of course it may not be the right solution for everyone for one or more of the following reasons:

  • Available Bandwidth – If your sitting on the end of a slow link to the internet then trying to push many GBs or even TBs of data to a cloud storage provider every day is going to be a non-starter.
  • Volume of Data – Related to the above, how much data do you backup, how often and how often does it change. The first backup will typically take the longest to complete but subsequent ones will be quicker. Partly though this will depend on the mechanisms the backup vendor are using to minimise the volume of data being transmitted. Different vendors are likely to have different approaches here.
  • Legal / Compliance / Security – If you’re storing your data on someone else’s infrastructure you naturally want it to be secure. I’m not saying that the cloud isn’t secure but is it the right place for exceedingly valuable or sensitive data? You wouldn’t keep the Crown Jewels in a Big Yellow storage facility.
  • You may even have a Disaster Recovery facility and backup directly to that.

As with everything in IT, the answer is that it depends. I suspect that the majority of takers for cloud backups will be SMBs and medium sized enterprises although I’m always happy to be proved wrong about such predictions. I doubt that cloud backups are going to be a rapidly passing fad but it remains to be seen whether they will see massive adoption. Still, cool technology all the same.

So, what’s my interest? Well, I’ve been working on a project recently to create and support the infrastructure elements of a software prototype. This modest infrastructure is sitting away in a data center that I’ve never been to and could not easily access. It’s quite a simple setup, it’s documented and we have all of the installation files and source code secured offsite. The infrastructure itself though represents many hours of effort and all of the application server configurations are not completely automated. If we were to lose the infrastructure or the data center…

Of course we’re running backups locally but the backup destination is just a VMDK on the same datastore as all of the VMs – not very resilient. On a semi-regular basis I have transferred the VMDK to a cloud storage provider but it’s been a manual process so I thought I’d take this opportunity to try out a couple of different backup solutions and see how they help out. Over the next few weeks I’ll post a couple of reviews.

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Using “Cloud” as a verb

I saw part of a twitter exchange between Joe Baguley and Steve Chambers yesterday where the former mentioned that he had seen that the word “Cloud” was being used increasingly as a verb. For example, someone might say that they want to “cloud an application”.

Using nouns as verbs is sometimes referred to as “verbing” but in other places it is also known as “functional shift”. Shakespeare used functional shift from time to time so surely it can’t be wrong?

Think of the phrase “cloud the issue“. You might even have used it before (I have). In such a context cloud is used as a verb. My issue with using cloud as a verb in an IT context however is that the word is synonymous with: blur, obfuscate, distort, perplex and puzzle. These are not words and concepts that I’d want associated with cloud computing when talking with business owners.

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CloudCamp London 24/10/2012

It’s been some time since I went to CloudCamp – January if I remember correctly. Well, it’s on again and I’m due to be in the country so I’ve just registered for it.

For the uninitiated, CloudCamp is an unconference (a participant-driven meeting) where people who are interested in Cloud Computing exchange ideas and look at pictures of kittens (you’ll understand if you go).

On the agenda…

Registration, beers and networking from 6pm. Followed by:

  • Kick-off 6.30pm
  • Introduction to CloudCamp Joe Baugley EMEA CTO Cloud at VMware.
  • Lightning Talks; to include Kuan Hon from Queen Mary University of London School of Law talking on cloud contract negotiations, Steve Chambers on Cloud Star Ratings, and more talks to be announced.
  • Unpanel – cloud experts volunteer to join the panel to answer questions from the floor
  • Unconference – an opportunity for everyone to further discuss the topics surfaced in the unpanel that require further discussion.
  • From 8:30pm: Networking, drinks and pizza
  • 9:30pm close

Find out more and how to register (it’s free) at cloudcamp.org/london.

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VMware Cloud Training

I notice that VMware are starting to produce courses that have a focus on the Cloud and vCloud Director. They very kindly sent an email to me this morning about it too.

The following is shamelessly copied from that email.

Developing for the Cloud Workshop

Learn the basics of cloud technologies and how to develop software for it by attending this one-day workshop.

VMware vCloud Director Fundamentals eLearning

If you are designing and implementing public and private-cloud deployments, make sure you know all of the vCloud Director features and functionality needed to reap the benefits of this product. Attend the new, four-hour eLearning that consists of self-paced guided tours and product demos.

VMware vCloud: Overview

Take this one-day course to learn about the features and benefits of VMware vCloud™ and how it delivers IT services in the Cloud. Students perform hands-on labs and the instructors demonstrate the basics of how the vCloud solution abstracts, allocates and meters IT resources in a vCloud environment.

VMware vCloud: Architecting the VMware Cloud [V1]

If you want in-depth, hands-on training on designing and implementing a VMware vCloud, attend VMware vCloud: Architecting the VMware vCloud. Students must have VCP-level knowledge of vSphere, so this class isn’t for beginners!

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Review: CloudCamp January 2010

CloudCamp is a conference (they call it an “unconference”) where end users, IT professionals and vendors meet to swap ideas about Cloud Computing. I’d never been to one before and both the format and the topic intrigued me.
As a virtualisation consultant I am of course aware of cloud computing but the reality of my day job means that clouds are things representing the internet on infrastructure diagrams or the things that I see out of the office window just before it’s time to go home. However there is no denying that there is a movement out there and it is in the general direction of the clouds. Time for me to think and learn more about it.
So that’s one motivation for me attending. Another one was that several of my favourite bloggers and twitterers were due to be in attendance and I wanted to meet them.

Format

The format of the evening was quite refreshing. Six lightning talks by various speakers to be followed by a question panel and focused break-out sessions. (See the full agenda here). The lightning talks in particular were slightly new to me but very effective. Having just five minutes to talk about a subject without being too vendor specific can’t be easy. In a minimalist way it forces the speaker to focus on the important things. Of the six speakers / subjects I found that Kate Craig-Wood’s five minutes on the “UK G-Cloud” got me thinking the most as I have done a lot of work with central and local government bodies.

Unpanel

The question panel (“unpanel”) featured six volunteers giving their thought / answers about various questions posed by the other audience members. Again the idea is not to be too vendor specific and a red card system was in place to send off any of the panel who strayed too far in one direction or another. There were some interesting questions asked and some very good answers given. Plenty for me to think about on my train home.

Breakout Sessions

The topics for the sessions were nominated by anyone with an idea for one. “The role of the government in the Cloud” was booed as a suggestion and “The role of Microsoft in the Cloud” was met with stony silence. That the session on “Interoperability and Standards” was chaired by a man from Microsoft was met with several undisguised chuckles.
I had meant to attend to join in with one of the discussions but after a drinks / beer break I was chatting about all sorts with bloggers Simon x 3 (Gallagher, Long and Seagrave of vinf.net, simonlong.co.uk and techhead.co.uk respectively) and Stuart (vinternals.com).

Thoughts on Clouds

I’ve had numerous thoughts about Cloud Computing in recent months and more after last night. At some point I might write some of it down and share it.
As for CloudCamp, I enjoyed it and I definitely got something from it. I might not attend every one in the future but I’d certainly recommend it for anyone with an interest or potential interest in Cloud Computing and the future of virtualisation.