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VMworld Hands-on-Labs

I thought that I should mention the Hands-on-Labs in a separate post because they were very slickly implemented and managed, a testament to the people who put them together. Not only that though, it was VMware eating their own dog food in a very public way and, in my opinion, showing that they were up to the challenge.

For those people reading this who haven’t been to VMworld before the Hands-on-Labs (HOL) are an area of the conference where you can work though a series of prescribed tasks to satisfy some requirementsconjured up in a brief scenario. It’s an opportunity for some to try out some of VMware’s products in a meaningful way.

In the HOL area, there were 240 seats available, each one equipped with dual 19″ widescreen monitors, a thin client, keyboard and mouse. Lab instructions were displayed on one screen and an RDP session to an isolated and dedicated environment for your chosen lab was displayed on the other.

In the centre of the HOL area was a control station for managing the environment and several, large screen displaying statistics for the duration of the conference.

This year there were 27 different labs available. I only managed to find the time to complete 3 but there were some people whose entire conference seemed to be taken up with lab sessions. Three of the 27 labs were also “vendor” labs with the emphasis of them being on NetApp, EMC and Cisco. Many of the other vendors exhibiting at VMworld would probably like a specific lab for next year – one even said as much to me.

Completing the labs was fairly easy once you were sat down. You simply had to decide which of the 27 you wanted to complete. The instructions were displayed on the right and the RDP screen popped up on the left. All that you then had to do was work your way through at your own pace. I didn’t encounter any problems although there were some differences between different labs in how detailed the instructions were or in how they were laid out. That was a minor issue though.

The impressive thing for me was how everything was pre-provisioned and available for each of the thousands of lab sessions that were served during the conference. How it all worked together. Simon Seagrave chatted to me briefly about it at one point and showed me how you could work out which datacenter (Amsterdam, Florida or Las Vegas) your lab was being hosted in. Simply, it was just working out which timezone the RDP session appeared to be in. As you can see below, when I took this lab at about 8.30am, I was working on infrastructure in Las Vegas!

Also interesting to note was that VMware were running vCenter Operations Suite 5 (not yet available to download) to monitor the infrastructure. I was offered a short demonstration of it by Bas Raayman (vSpecialist at EMC) but I didn’t manage to find the time to take him up on his kind offer. I also subsequently discovered that VMware had vCenter Operations for View running as well although give the rate at which lab environments were binned and re-provisioned I doubt that they would have got much useful information out of it.

I’ve asked quite a few other people what they thought of the Labs but I’d like to know what more people though about them too so please feel free to participate in the poll (in the sidebar) that’ll run through to the end of October 2011.

And, if you want to know a little more about the labs, Nick Howell (NetApp vExpert) has recently posted about them also. (UPDATE: He’s also posted about some of the stats and results on 27/10/2011)

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Trying vCenter Operations

As I mentioned a little while ago, vCenter Operations is a new management product that VMware are bringing out. Well, actually they’ve now brought it out as of Monday. I thought I’d check it out…

Downloading

To sign up for a trial and download vCenter Operations, you simply need to head over to VMware’s “Support and Downloads” page and expand the “Infra & Ops Management” section.

Follow the download link, register for a free trial, accept the Ts & Cs and download the software.

vCenter Operations comes as virtual appliance (you download an OVA file) that’s about 600MB+ in size. Depending on the size of your internet connection, you may want to do something else right now.

Installing

I don’t want to teach people how to suck eggs but if you’ve never install a virtual appliance before, it’s pretty much just a case of clicking “Deploy OVF Template” from the file menu in your vSphere Client and following the instructions. It’s very easy and takes only a couple of minutes.

As soon as it’s complete, find the appliance in vCenter and power it on. It won’t have any network configuration setup yet though.

 

Setup

Now it’s running, we need to configure the appliance. This is done in two stages. The first part involves getting the appliance connected to the network. The second part is establishing a connection to a vCenter server and licensing the appliance.

Network Configuration

In this example I’m using a static address. Before you start makes sure you know which address, subnet mask, gateway and DNS servers that you want to use. Also the appliance needs a hostname.

First, open the VM console.

As you can see, the appliance doesn’t have an IP address yet. Switch mouse and keyboard focus into the VM and use the cursor keys to highlight “Configure Network” and press Enter.

Follow the prompts, entering “y”, “n” or whatever configuration data it asks for. You can see above how I have configured mine. Eventually you’ll be prompted to confirm the settings. If you do, the network gets configured and you get dropped back to the welcome screen again.

Connecting to vCenter and Licensing

The next stage is accomplished using a web browser and the vSphere Client. First, point a web browser at the IP address you gave the appliance (and move past the SSL certificate warning).

Once you login with the default user name and password (admin / admin) you’ll be prompted to change the password. Next you’ll get prompted to add a vCenter Server.

You may want to set up a dedicated account which the appliance uses to talk with vCenter as it’s bad practice to use your own account! You’ll see a certificate warning as the appliance connects to the vCenter server. This can probably be ignored in most cases.

If the action is successful, you’ll then get prompted to head over to the vSphere Client and apply a license.

There are some other settings that you can make through the web browser (SMTP and SSL settings for instance) but I’ll leave you to play with them.

In the vSphere Client, head to the “Licensing” page and click on the “Manage vSphere Licenses” link.

In the wizard, enter your vCenter Ops trial license and complete the wizard, assigning the new license to the vCenter Operations appliance in the process. (Note that when assigning the key, the vCenter Operations appliance can be found on the “Solutions” tab.)

That’s it, job done.

What Next?

That’s the basic configuration of the appliance done. Now it will interrogate vCenter for lots of information. To have a look at what it has collected and determined, head back to the home screen of your vSphere Client. At the bottom you will see a new icon under “Solutions and Applications”.

Click it and go!

As Steve Bryen (@virtualportal) so eloquently put it this morning, “Plenty of pretty colours”. In my case, I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or not yet. Either way, go and try it out for yourself.