vmware: where do I start?

My first real work experience with vmware was a project that I was assigned to virtualize a remote data center and move it to our main data center. I was tasked to design and build the infrastructure at our main location and to help those at the remote location P2V the servers there and get them to the main data center. I was really excited because I had always wanted to learn more about vmware. So, now I know what I need to do but where do I start? What do I do? Where can I find what I need?

This post is a quick reference for those that are getting started. Hopefully it will help you find the resources you need to be successful in designing, building, testing, maintaining and troubleshooting your infrastructure.

The first place to start is vmware’s website. It’s not easy to find stuff, but start with the documentation section and then download and read as much as you can about the version that you are working with. Click on Support and Downloads on the top and then click “Documentation”. Once there, look under the “Server Virtualization” section for the version you want, for example, ESX 4.1 Download and read the

Hardware compatability guide:

Technical resources for virtual networking:

However, you might want to start with the following. Don’t get tripped up on the docs being from ESX 3, the concepts and recommendations are stil relevant to current versions (and vmware hasn’t created any updated docs).


vmware Infrastructure 3 in a Cisco Network Environment:

Technical Papers:

Interpreting esxtop statistics:

Duncan Epping

Twitter – I was hesitant to get started with Twitter for a long time, mostly because I didn’t see the value of it. However, I just started using it recently and have found a wealth of information about vmware. The trick is knowing who to follow. Here are some that I follow:

Duncan Epping

Eric Sloof

Scott Drummond

Vmware resources
I found one site that has a list of a lot of the top VMware blogs and sites, you can find it here:
Definitely check ou the first 5-10 sites unter the “Top 25 Blogs” section.
VMware’s site has a lot of good stuff, but it’s kind of hard to find simetimes. There are some really cool new things happening with CPU and memory management in 4.1. Here are some links to some of the newest info that you might want to check out:
From the above link:
Some cool tools:

Fun with VMware vSphere

So lately at work I’ve been tasked with implementing our new VMware vSphere virtualization infrastructure. We’ve been looking forward to getting into the virtualization space for some time now and we were really happy that the decision was made to go with VMware. Not only did we get the software, but I got the hardware that I thought would be necessary to get us started. We ended up purchasing 3 IBM x3650 M2 servers with dual Xeon 5560 procs and 32GB of RAM. Although, I think I short changed the server when it comes to RAM so future servers will have at least 64GB of RAM. The one downside to all of this was that we were hoping to get a NetApp SAN but ended up with a Hitachi USPV, AMS 2500 and ENAS Gateway.

Anyway, the last month or so has been spent downloading and printing out white papers and docs on VMware and NetBackup as I have tried to familiarize myself with everything and how it works. I’ve also had fun setting up VMware’s vCenter Server and playing with clustering, HA and Fault Tolerance. I did run into a couple problems at first with the UEFI of the x3650 M2’s and ESX (see and comments by MCJJJJ). But, after doing research I decided to go with ESXi because it appears that VMware is moving forward with that rather than ESX (see ESXi Chronicles). Nothing major to really hold us up though.

In my testing I’ve been impressed with the functionality and resilience of this product. One of my tests involved running the vCenter Server in a VM and powering off the host that it was running on. A couple minutes later it came back up on the other host in the cluster and chugged right along. Similar tests with VMs were just as successful. It’s nice to run tests and actually have them work as advertised. 🙂 Also, having them clustered makes it really easy to update the hosts for whatever reason.

Fault Tolerance is another cool feature but at this point we really don’t have anything that merits the resource overhead associated with running it or that needs that kind of reliability.

Then there’s the backup solution. We weren’t really sure what to do there but since we already have NetBackup deployed, setting up a VCB (VMware Consolidated Backup) proxy seemed like the best solution for now. More docs and reading for that one. 🙂

Finally I got everything setup and it appears to be working. I am having some problems with the backups though, but this mainly appears to be with snapshotting SQL servers. One is on Windows 2000 Server and the other is on Windows Server 2003. I’m looking into it now but I think it’s because it’s not quiescing the server correctly before it takes a snapshot. I know the best way would probably be to put an agent on the actual guest but that costs more money and since the data is actually getting backed up to disk on that server through SQL jobs I think we’re fairly safe for now…I hope. Like I said, I’m still looking into this. However, as far as backups of the other servers go, it’s working great. I love how much faster it is and that we have the ability to restore individual files from the snapshot if we need to.

Overall, I’m really satisfied with the product and what it does.  It hasn’t been a real pain to get setup either (unlike some of the Microsoft stuff I’ve worked with). It works, and that’s nice.

© 2017 Jason McReynolds

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