Archive for July, 2009

High Quality Rack Layouts

July 31, 2009

I’ve seen many different ways to represent rack layouts in the past.  The most common is usually it is a simple Excel spreadsheet.  This generally works pretty well, doesn’t take much time and makes it relatively easy to represent each “U” of the rack buy using an Excel cell to represent each 1U in the rack.  The “fancy” way to do it is to use Visio.  In the past I always avoided the Visio route because a) I wasn’t too efficient with Visio, and b) I was lazy and perceived this method to take too long.  Now, in a lot of cases we try to do rack layouts for most of our clients when appropriate so sending an Excel spreadsheet was not an option (not a good one anyway).

After doing a few rack layouts with Visio I realized it was actually faster, easier and without a doubt looked MUCH better.  The biggest challenge initially was finding all the right Visio Stencils for all of the different components.  For the rack itself you can use the generic rack templates built in to Visio or use some actual rack templates from APC and other rack vendors.  I like the APC template best for a 42U rack whether you actually have an APC rack or not.  So, to save everyone Google time I put together a list of some links to some of the more popular stencils for the major manufactures.  Many of the links go straight to  which is a great site for finding all kinds of stencils.




 EMC (login required)



Here is a sample of what the end result can look like.

Front View



Rear View


XenServer and VMware vSphere – A Cost Comparison

July 24, 2009

I work for a reseller of both Citrix and VMware products.  In many client meetings we often debate over which virtualization platform a client should use for server virtualization and which one is “better”.  Now, if I were to ask all of our engineers (and I have) which hypervisor they would choose (XenServer or VMware) if all things were equal (price, performance, features….) they would almost unanimously say VMware vSphere/ESX.  As we know ALL things are seldom equal especially pricing and this is where the debate gets interesting.

 Usually the statement “XenServer is free which saves us lots of money.  Why should we look at VMware which is much more expensive?” comes into play at some point.  There is no question that this is a very valid point.  So let’s take a look at the two solutions and see where they net out.

First off, the blanket marketing statement “XenServer is free” is, in my opinion, not completely accurate.  If you are just looking for a base hypervisor that will let you consolidate servers, simplify management and perform some other basic feature then yes the “free” XenServer will work, so will ESXi or HyperV.  In fact, you won’t get much argument out of me that XenServer has the most rich feature set of all the free hypervisors.  That being said in most production environments there are going to be certain enterprise level features that you will want and in most cases need, like High Availability and the ability to “vMotion” or move vm’s live between hosts.

For me I see the minimum level of enterprise features being present in VMware vSphere Advanced and Citrix XenServer with Essentials for XenServer Enterprise.  Both of these solutions give you High Availability and vMotion and some other functionality.  So let’s take a look at what each one really costs.  I’ll use MSRP pricing and an environment consisting of 3 hosts.

VMware vSphere                                                                           

Advanced Acceleration Kit (3 servers)                                                                                                    $10,495

Platinum Support (24×7 unlimited)                                                                                                           $2,395

Total                                                                                                                                                                      $12,890


Citrix XenServer with Essentials Enterprise

Essentials for XenServer Enterprise ($2500 each)                                                                              $7500

24×7 Support (5 incidents max)                                                                                                                  $3000

Total                                                                                                                                                                      $10,500

 Difference                                                                                                                                                          $2390


Now, $2390 is still a decent chunk of money but all of a sudden the price gap between the two solutions is not nearly as drastic as $12,890 vs. FREE and this is a much more accurate comparison in my opinion.  Both products are very good and capable of running in a production environment and have similar core feature sets.  You should look at competing products before your spend your or your companies money but in my opinion and experience vSphere Advanced is well worth the extra $2390.  So test them both and you decide. 

So I guess the short answer to “Which one is better?” is the infamous IT answer “it depends”!

In my opinion some things to consider above and beyond price should include:

–          How proven is the solution in production environments?

–          How stable?

–          How easy is it to use and maintain?

–          How scalable?

–          How does it handle backups and DR?

–          General availability of third party products?

–          How well does it integrate with your storage?

Here are a few links to compare products:

VMware – vSphere – vSphere editions chart

Citrix – XenServer – XenServer Essentials

Microsoft Linux Move Puts Pressure on VMware

July 21, 2009

Microsoft stuns Linux world, submits source code for kernel

July 21, 2009

VMware vSphere Licensing deciphered

July 10, 2009

As everyone is probably aware now the newest release of VMware ESX has landed.  Now,  just to keep its customers (and resellers) confused VMware has changed, the name – vSphere, the licensing scheme – now per processor instead of per 2 processors and the number of levels of the product – Enterprise Plus in particular is what we’ll focus on.

So let’s look at a typical situation.  You have a VMware ESX 3.5 Enterprise environment with 4 dual-quad core processors (8 sockets).  Your maintenance is up to date and you have 10 months left until it expires.  You would like to move to vSphere.  To do this cost you nothing.  Because your maintenance is up to date you can simply install vSphere Enterprise which is your direct upgrade path and your maintenance will still expire in 10 months.  Sounds simple right, it is.  So what am I blabbing on about being confusing?

Here’s a slightly different scenario.  Take the same ESX 3.5 Enterprise environment with 4 dual-quad core processors and same 10 months left on maintenance.  Now you would like to upgrade to vSphere Enterprise Plus from your current ESX 3.5 Enterprise licenses.  GREAT!  Enterprise Plus provides a lot of added functionality and we are recommending it to most of our clients.  So what do you need to buy?

First you need to buy the promotional upgrade to vSphere Enterprise Plus.  List price for that is $295 per processor so you’d need eight.  So far so easy.  Ok so here’s the kicker, you MUST buy maintenance with the upgrade (initially the minimum was 1 year).  1 year of Platinum Support for vSphere Enterprise Plus is $874 per processor (you need 8). Now if you just went to your CFO to get money for the ESX 3.5 maintenance 2 months ago and now have to go ask him for more money for another year of maintenance, best case, you’ll probably get some questions or more than likely, worst case, you’ll get thrown out of his office.  Now, if you were lucky enough to get the additional money you would now have 1 year and 10 months of maintenance on your new vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses so you didn’t really “loose” anything.

To reduce the cash outlay required to upgrade to vSphere Enterprise Plus VMware came out with a 2 month support option which runs about $140 per cpu for Platinum support.  In this case you could purchase 8 vSphere Enterprise Plus upgrades with 8 2-month sku’s.  You would now have 12 months of Platinum support for the new vSphere Enterprise Plus licenses to cover your 4 servers.

For a detailed matrix of the differences between all levels of the new vSphere product click the link below.

A Few Apps for your CrackBerry

July 1, 2009

I thought I’d blog about something that is very close to me (literally), the BlackBerry.  When I got to thinking about it about the only place this thing doesn’t go with me is in the shower.  During the day it’s on my hip or pressed against the side of my head and a night it is on the table next to the bed.  As much as I depend on this for both business and personal I thought I’d mention a few of the apps that I’ve come across that I find useful.

First if you haven’t upgraded your OS to version 4.5 go ahead and do it.  There are a lot of little improvements that in my opinion are worth it.  You can find instruction on how to do the upgrade at or on your cell provider’s page.  Don’t do the upgrade during the day though, mine (AT&T) took about 2 hours!

Here are just a few apps that I use to squeeze more in to my day:

Yahoo Messenger – Although I don’t use this as much as I do on my laptop, if the app works just like the one on your PC.

Google Maps – If your job requires you to track mileage like mine or if you have zero sense of direction (like me) then this is a must have.  It works with your GPS if you have one built-in to your phone to show your location within a few meters.  I also find this useful when my TomTom GPS is confused or lost because I refuse to pay $99 for updated maps, Google is much more intelligent.

Yammer – A social networking tool that allows you to keep up with what everyone is doing.  We use this internally for work so being able to access it via the BlackBerry is much more efficient.

Anagram – This is a great tool for capturing contact information from emails and turning it into Outlook contacts.

Quick Pull – Have you ever noticed it is difficult to truly “reset” your BlackBerry and clear out all the stuff in memory?  Pressing the power button doesn’t do it and most of the time yanking the battery doesn’t either.  This little app allows you to do a true reset of your BlackBerry.  Even better, it has a scheduling feature that allows you to schedule a daily “reboot” or your BlackBerry so it starts out clean.  I schedule mine for 4 am and it’s worked perfectly so far.

Zhiing – I won’t call this one totally “useful” but it is pretty cool.  If you ever wanted to send someone your GPS location this app does a pretty good job.  It integrates with Google maps and with a few clicks you can send your location (determined by your phones GPS chip) to anyone with an email address.

All of these apps are free and most can be downloaded via BlackBerry App World on your phone.