Archive for August, 2009

VMWorld 2009 – DAY 1

August 31, 2009

Ok, so here we go.  1st off I am really excited just to be here.  10,000+ virtualization nuts in one place has got to be interesting.  2nd, the whole east coast, west coast time difference thing REALLY bites.  I love me some VMware, don’t get me wrong, but not enought to be motivated to roll down to the convention center at 4 am, which is what my brain thought was really 7 am.  Oh yeah, and to my sales rep who called me at 8 am east coast time…..I’ll be calling you back around 11 pm west coast time!

So on to the conference.  My first session this morning was all around competitive advantage or “Hyper-V smack down!” whichever you prefer.  VMware must be feeling the heat cause, WOW, lots of anti-Microsoft inuendo (no complaints here by any means though).  There was lots of focus around the “Cost per Application” vs just the cost of licensing.  Basically the short of it was that if you look at the cost per application VMware really isn’t more expensive than those “free” hypervisors.  Of course there was some obvious marketing spin but overall most were very valid points that clients need to consider.

Session 2 – Getting to Yes, Keys to Launching a Successfu Datacenter Virtualization Program

This session was really geared toward the financial/executive audience such as CIO’s and Directors.  The presentation was given by the Executive Director of IT for the MGM Mirage casinos in Las Vegas (yeah, I’d be down with that job).  He did a really good job of laying out what IT executive need to think about and plan for when embarking on any IT virtualization project.  I had a gap in my schedule and this was the only session available but it gave some good insight into the decisions our clients face everyday.

Session 3 – The Partner Track

This was a session strictly for partners.  3 hours long but a very good overview of VMware’s focus going forward and the importance of their partners around the world.  First was and intro by the CEO of VMware.  He concentrated on the industry as a whole and VMwares drive to simplify IT infrastructure.

 Next was a VP of the Server Business Unit.  There was a strong focus of how vSphere is now a “Datacenter Platform” instead of just server consolidation. 

There was a presentation on VMware View and the goal to be a top player in desktop virtualization.  PC over IP was mentioned a few times but nothing too technical.

Finally there was segment on pulling it all together, improving competencies as a partner and soon to be implemented initiatives including simplifying licensing renewals.

Sorry, there’s nothing more technical today but it is what it was.  More to come.  Stay tuned…..

Capacity Planning for Data Domain DD510 and DD530 Appliances

August 28, 2009

 I am slowly learning the models, options and capacities of the Data Domain line now that EMC has swallowed them up.  In this week’s post I want to take a look at the 500 series appliances with the way the drives are configured and note some things to think about.

There are 3 models in the 500 series line, the DD510, DD530 and DD565.  The DD565 is the first model of the DD line that can be expanded with extra disk trays so for this blog I’ll exclude it from the discussion.  The DD510 and DD530 are available either with 9 drives or 15 drives based on the capacity you need.  Once you hit 15 drives that’s it and you have to buy another appliance. They can be purchased initially with 9 drives and then upgraded with an additional 6 drives or purchased fully populated with 15 drives.  In most cases, people will tend to buy what they need now and then expand if necessary.  In most cases that is a good plan but you should take a close look at your data growth before you choose the 9 drive option and then upgrade later.  In this particular case 9+6 does not equal 15 exactly.  DD appliances are configured using RAID6 (dual parity).  When you purchase the lower capacity models with 9 drives those 9 drives are installed in a RAID6 configuration including 2 parity drives and a hot spare.  When you purchase the 6 drive expansion to increase your available space the now 15 drives are not reconfigured into a 15 drive RAID6 set.  Instead, the additional 6 drives are added in a completely new RAID6 set.  So now you end up with 4 parity drives instead of two.  Realistically, does this have a huge impact in your available space?  If you consider a 20:1 de-duplication ratio, YES.  The raw space difference may only be 1TB or 2TB depending on the model, but multiply that times 20 and you’re talking an extra 20 to 40TB+ of additional backup storage.

So if you are looking at a mid-size Data Domain solution you should really take a look at your projected data growth.  If you know you are going to have to expand beyond the standard 9 drive configuration in the near future it might be a good idea to just go ahead and buy the 15 drive configuration up front and gain the additional space.

Citrix XenServer and VMware vSphere – Gangs and Hypervisors!

August 23, 2009

A few weeks back I posted a blog titled “XenServer and VMware vSphere – A Cost Comparison” where I voiced my OPINION on some of the costs and features of the two hypervisors.  I was surprised by a few things very shortly after the post went up.  First, I received lots of responses so my very first thought was “man, people actually read this stuff”.  The second surprise was that I received something I had never got before…….. hate mail…… cool.

Now, it is no big secret that I’m a big fan of the VMware hypervisor (they’ve got great Cool Aid) and I’ve stated before that I think (again my OPINION) that it is the best choice for running production environments.  Does that mean that I think Citrix has a “bad” product? Absolutely not.  I’ve installed and used XenServer and it is a very good product and a very viable alternative to VMware.   In my previous post I merely tried to point out SOME of the costs associated with each product.  Conclusion:  At the end of the day, VMware IS more expensive, no question.

So, let’s get back to the hate mail.  Most of the responses I received were good, constructive and brought up valid points of comparison between the products.  Those responses got approved and posted for all to see (thanks for the feedback guys).  The other responses that threatened to blow up my house, eat my dog, described me with all kind of colorful adjectives and even made references to farm animals (to that guy….there’s only one N in donkey man!), those comments obviously didn’t get posted.  Sorry. 

I got to thinking, “man what did I write to pull all the crazies out of the woodwork”?  It wasn’t like I called their baby ugly or said “Windows is the best OS ever” (I bet that’d generate some hate mail).  As I tallied all the responses over a few weeks one common denominator stood out, ALL of the hate mail…….yup, from Citrix fanatics.  Not one evil comment came from the VMware community, even after I basically said “yeah Citrix is cheaper than VMware”. 

So despite the death threats, I’m still sticking with VMware for my hypervisor of choice.  As for the “but XenServer is FREE” rebuttal that keeps coming up, you need to look at it and decide for yourself what your true cost of ownership is and if it makes sense for your business.  If cost is the only consideration, run XenServer.

All that being said, if the hypervisor debate ever got physical……..I’m rollin’ with the Citrix gang because they’re the most likely to bring a gun to a knife fight! 

Obviously I still can’t /won’t post comments with questionable language, threats or the word donkey misspelled but short of that fire away (figuratively speaking)!

Data Domain and Avamar – De-duplication from Different Points of View

August 16, 2009

The recent acquisition of Data Domain by EMC will surely give EMC a powerful advantage in the area of data de-duplication.  We’ve had some questions and statements from clients basically asking “isn’t that going to hurt the sales of Avamar?”.  So I’d thought I’d weigh in with my opinion on this, which in short is, I don’t think so.

For those of you not completely familiar with data de-duplication there are basically two flavors, target based and source based.  Target based meaning that all the data is sent to a device (Data Domain) and de-duplicated after it gets there.  Source based is the opposite, where the data is de-duplicated at the source before it is sent across the network (Avamar).  Typically the “well which is better?” question comes up and to that the typical “it depends.” answer comes flying back (what a surprise).  One size definitely doesn’t fit all for either of the products. 

In some situations where you may have lots of remote offices and would like to back them all up to one central location an Avamar solutions will probably be just what the doctor ordered.  You can dedup your data before you send it across your WAN and save your precious bandwidth.  In addition you save on the administrative resources required to backup your remote sites.

Now let’s look at a slightly different situation that involves your datacenter backup environment.  Suppose you have large volumes of database data that needs to be backed up and requires the faster restore times of a backup to disk environment.  This data already resides in your datacenter and doesn’t really need to traverse slower WAN connections.  You still can benefit from data de-duplication to reduce the size of your backups but this doesn’t necessarily have to happen at the source.  With a Data Domain solution you could easily achieve your goals and probably at a lower cost point than an Avamar solution.

In my opinion, for a lot of environments, a combination of both Avamar and Data Domain may provide the best solution in the end.  Use Avamar to achieve very high dedup ratios of your file data and other data that is relatively static or if you have remote office environments.  Use Data Domain to backup data that has higher change rates, like databases, and data that may never have to “leave” the datacenter.

I also think in the end it will come down to the cost of ownership.  Avamar is a very powerful product but not all companies can afford it.  Data Domain offers a simple, less expensive way to de-duplicate your data but it does have some downsides. 

I’ll try to do a side by side Avamar to Data Domain comparison in an upcoming post.  Stay tuned…..

VMware View Reference Architecture

August 7, 2009

Reference architectures are great for seeing how the manufacture recommends designing their solutions for a particular environment.  I was going through the reference architecture for VMware View for large environments (1000 users +) a few days ago and found it pretty interesting.  The document is fairly detailed and lengthy so I thought I’d summarize some of the high points to show how VMware built out their architecture.

For VMware View, VMware uses what they call “Building Blocks” to scale their solution.  A building block is designed to handle 1000 VMware View users.  Each building block is comprised of 2 ESX clusters (detailed below).  Building blocks are put together to form a “POD” which is 5 building blocks capable of handling 5000 users.  Outside of the building blocks you will still need to have your typical infrastructure components like vCenter, Active Directory………..


  • VMware View Cluster = 500 Users across 8 ESX Hosts
  • VMware View Building Block = 1000 Users or 2 Clusters
  • VMware POD = 5000 Users or 5 Building Blocks


  • 8 ESX 3.5 Hosts
    • 2 x Quadcore Processors
    • 32GB RAM
  • Network
    • 48 Port Switch
    • 10GB Uplink to core network
  • Storage
    • Shared storage infrastructure

Building Block

  • 2 VMware View Clusters = 16 Hosts
  • 2 Network components (two 48 port switches uplinked to a core with load balancing)
  • 2 VMware View Manager Connection Brokers for redundancy


  • 5 Building Blocks
  • 5 VMware View Manager Connection Broker servers
  • 5 Network Components tied back to the core and load balanced

Network Recommendations

  • Minimum bandwidth for RDP = 30Kbps per session
  • 100 – 150 is a good rule of thumb per session (LAN)
  • 150ms minimum latency for RDP

Storage Component (per Building Block)

  • 5 x 4+1 RAID5 groups using 300GB 15k Fibre Channel drives
    • 1 R5 group for Full Clones
    • 4 R5 groups for Linked Clones
  • 16 iSCSI LUNS
    • 1 LUN for Home Drives
    • 1 LUN for Full Clones and Templates
    • 14 LUNs for Linked Clones

Virtual Desktops

  • 8 Virtual Desktops per Core
  • Windows XP
    • 512MB RAM
    • 8GB Disk

Obviously this is a very high level overview of what a large environment would look like.  If you want to read all the details and look at the pictures you can view the entire 36 page document here:  It does require a quick registration.