Horizon 6 – EUC has finally arrived in the VMware camp!

Maybe a bit of an exaggerated title but I cannot say how long I have waited for VMware to make the jump into RDSH (Remote Desktop Session Host) Most people know that instead of embracing it they bash it to death in their documentation, quite how they put a positive spin on that marketing message is a little beyond me, but that’s why I am not in marketing!

So, why am I so excited. Well according to most vendors that I speak with we are an “odd” case. As we are running Citrix XenApp 6.5 and VMware Horizon Suite. They and you may ask why and there is good reason. We ran a POC of VMware View 4 and Xendesktop 5. We were already using XenApp 6.5 and vSphere for our Hypervisor, so you could say that Xendesktop was the logical way to go, well the logical way isn’t always the best way.

For example, I just found Xendesktop to be far to disparate and having all the different admin consoles was just annoying. I also was not sold on the VM hosted apps feature for compatibility, it just meant I had a whole host of extra XP machines to run. ThinApp was far cleaner with less management. It was also annoying that they used different architectures IMA for XenApp and FMA for desktop. I also find that the Citrix architecture is pretty complex and VMware View was a lot easier to deal with and train other people on.

I will admit that until this announcement I was considering my strategy as Citrix were finally planning with 7.5 to unite the platform. But I was very dubious as we saw with 7.1 they ditched XenApp and annoyed a lot of people. Whilst it looks like 7.5 brings Xenapp back into play it’s still based on FMA and as such loads of features are still not there! Nice one Citrix, you made my decision for me!

Time to move my Xenapp 6.5 to Horizon 6! I love the fact that I can run the two side by side, I mean that is seriously cool and incredabily shrude of VMWare. I actually have a hunch that it will be easier to migrate from XA 6.5 to Horizon than it will be to XA 7.5 as that basically means starting again.

obviously the RDSH is not the only new feature but to my mind it is the biggest and has the most impact. Not only to me but to the entire EUC space.

If time allows it I will get another post out with some thoughts on the other new features and I will detail my upgrade path from XenApp as I think that will be interesting.


VMware purchase Airwatch

*Er.. before you read this, please note that I wrote this a few days after the acquisition. I thought I had published it. Clearly not!*

I think I must have missed this one as I only discovered this latest acquisition whilst talking to a member of VMware’s technical marketing team the other day. I don’t usually write anything on this type of news but I thought I would give it a bash and see what happens!

It would seem that mobile device management has been on companies watch lists for a while and in the last year it has clearly attracted some real attention. You only need to look at Citrix buying Mobile Iron and Good and the recent purchase of MAAS360 by IBM to see that.

I was starting to think that VMware were hell-bent on getting Horizon Mobile out to market as their only offering in the mobile space. Don’t get me wrong, whilst having a hypervisor on my phone seems awesome, I am just not convinced that it would work in the enterprise. For starters it’s not available in the UK (at least it wasnt last year when I was looking at MDM) so it’s a limited market, next the phones that listed as supporting the tech was also limited and unless I am just missing the point what would be classed as the real business need for a hypervisor on a phone, I for one don’t see anyone talking about that type of requirement. Anyway that was the point of this post, so I digress and get back to the subject at hand.

In my humble opinion I can only see this as a positive move for VMware, I do wonder if it will supersede Horizon Mobile and if the two can/will co-exist. Horizon Mobile aside, if you consider that VMware appear to want to be taken seriously in the EUC space then offering a MDM solution with-in their suite makes a lot of sense, their biggest rival Citrix has a big presence in this space so why not keep up with the Jone’s so to speak. Again, this is just my opinion but I think that this purchase is more along the right track than say Zimbra or Slide Rocket for example. I never really got those purchases, why would VMware think that providing the applications would be a good idea, especially when their EUC offering at that time was seriously lacking in features.

From an architecture point I think that VMware will need to work quickly to integrate this into the suite. If I looked at my campus then I would envisage having any number of mobile devices accessing my workspace portal and having the ability to stop them at the perimeter and posture, control and deploy a secure container automatically would be pretty cool. I would never have to worry about those devices.

When I asked the Tech marketing guy how it would be licenses and when it would be available he drew a complete blank and said that there was no information to hand. I am not surprised at all but if you don’t ask you don’t get. One will assume that it will eventually be built into the Horizon Suite SKU and I am hoping that existing customers will just get it as part of their current agreement. However that will remain to be seen!

The articles that I read seemed very focused on the commercial aspect of this deal and its a large sum of money, whilst I don’t really have an opinion on that I did think to myself that there must be a few VC’s out there right now with some nice big smiles on their faces!

Coupled this with the DeskTone purchase VMware are clearly here to stay in the EUC space and like it or not I don’t see that changing for quite some time.

You can read more about this acquisition from the horses mouth so speak.

vSphere 5.1 Error – Failed to attach filter ‘null’ to scsi0:0

You have to love some of the errors that vSphere has up its sleeve for you and this morning I came into see one of our critical file servers powered off. I tried to power it on and I got this lovely error message.

HBR Filter Error 1

A quick look on the VM summary page and I saw this message relating to replication, HBR was my imediate thought but I didnt think that we replicated this VM. So I had a look at all of the outbound replications and sure enough this VM was listed. These things dont just start replicating so I asked around…. I wont go into detail but the net result was that someone decided to take the initiative and replicate it and something went worng!

HBR Filter Error  6So we removed it from HBR and tried to power the VM back on back again this nasty message showed up. This VM only has one VMDk and that is the system drive on SCSI 0:0, the rest are RDM’s. So we tried to move the VMDK to another SCSI adapter and it still failed. We took that VMDK and added it to another VM and we could see and access the files.

This left one place to look and that was the VM, so I had a look in the VMX file and a quick search for HBR showed the following entries.

HBR Filter Error VMX File Entries

So I deleted the HBR lines and tried again. This time VM got a bit further and looked like it would power on but it didnt. In the interest of time I restored the VMX file, hoping that having one prior to HBR would get around the error, which it did. I wish I had a bit more time to fiddle but its pretty clear what the cause of the problem was.

Hope this helps someone else as I did not find anything that fitted my error from the Internet.

Odd vCentre issue – Not seeing any performance data

Just thought I would share this little oddity that I found on one of our ESXi hosts the other day. It’s a 5.1 host by the way…

I noticed that two of our host were warning of high CPU usage which was not the norm. Looking a little bit closer I noticed that DRS had been busy moving VMs and had left one node devoid of VMs bar a couple of low use servers.

Again, it seemed odd as there was evidence in the logs that a host had failed. Then I noticed this on the summary screen.

ESX host not showing performance data 1

No performance data at all! How odd, I continued my digging.

The next thing that I noticed was that none of the VMs were showing any stats. I should add that the VM below that is showing stats was vMotioned from a working host. Odd that its stats show up ok.

ESX host not showing performance dataI then had a quick look at the perofmance charts and what vCenter Ops could see. Both showed nowt and vCops looked like the screen shot below… Very helpful.

ESX Host not showing performance counters vcops view

I fixed this issue by a simple management agent restart. I must confess that I didnt have time to get down and dirty with the hosts logs to see if there was a cause. But what I can say is that I have noticed we have to restart the management agents more often since running 5.1. Has anyone else seen that?

VMware Cloud Cred

I heard about this a few weeks back on the VMware Communities roundtable podcast with @jTryoyer and co.

Last night I decided to logon and see what its all about and also see if it could help me on my road to becoming a vExpert in 2014, see my post here on that topic.

After a short time racking up a few points I jumped off, and here are some initial thoughts.

1. Anyone who believes that this is a valid route to getting vExpert should think again, and having a high Cloud Cred score will not make you a vExpert. The tasks in the vExpert category (in my opinion) seem considerably harder to do than what I think is required in the actual program, which is good as it does not give an easy route that dilutes the community.

2. Some of the tasks are crazy easy and some are just not achievable for me. For example get five points for following Apple on Twitter (really!) or you go the other way and have to teach a high school or tech class (Seriously!) the latter of which is under the vExpert tasks.

3. With the best will in the world I do wonder about the longevity of the game, as I actually got a bit bored after completing just a few tasks. Perhaps as it grows they will become more engaging but time will tell.

4. Clearly this is a marketing exercise but I question how much of this is about giving VMware Cred over you. I would also debate that VMware has a great community and do they need this game to make it any better?

5.  Points make prizes and cloud Cred is no exception. VMware have put up some marketing dollars to front prizes that range from badges to a trip to VMworld Barcelona. I just wonder how many people will rack up the tasks with no real passion/interest as they just want to win a big prize.

So things are not perfect but I take my hat off to VMware for trying, is a lot like the Microsoft MVA where they reward you with a points score for completing tasks. In the interest of being balanced I want to talk about some of the things that I do think are good.

I can see this being a great ice breaker for people new to the community. You join a team of people who all have the same goal – earn points. It’s also pretty crazy to think how these types of games unite teams of people around the world who you would never normally meet in your day-to-day work.

I think it can also help ease people into Social. Some people take to it like a duck to water, but I admit that I am not one of those people.

It’s also possible that you could gain more traction for your blog and personal brand, either by meeting new people or actually getting a blog post published.

Cloud cred seems like a good way to learn a little bit more about Cloud and its eco systems. So I will try to find the time to get some of the tasks that interest me completed.

VMware Nee – Hands on labs – First thoughts

We are the knights of Nee.. Er. I mean VMware! My hats off to VMware for coming up with an acronym that I just can’t say seriously. For those not sure what I mean, just google Monty Python and the knights of nee. Classic!

Nee actually stands for Next-Generation Education Environment and I think its very similar to what Microsoft have done with the MVA. Which I have blogged about here  Note I say similar as a lot of the MVA content was video or text based, the VMware content is full on labs, you get a full server with the full product. So if your like me and you want to click outside of the manual you can.

What you get is a clean interface that allows you to select from a small number of labs, that I believe have come from labs that were on offer at VMworld 2012(not fact checked, just my assumption). So far I have done around four labs, the screen has been responsive and the spin up time was actually pretty quick.

I do like how they have allowed you to move the manual around the screen, especially as I am not to bothered about printing them out. The lab content itself, in terms of what they have you do was good. Some of it is clearly high level entry stuff but everyone has to start somewhere and there is no harm in VMware offering a refresher for one and all.

It would be nice if the Lab manual had a content section so I could skip to particular parts but thats a minor gripe.

The one thing that I really do want is to be able to access the content on my iPad, I would hope that this is on the road map. It just says that your device is partially supported and all I can see is the lab manual. When clicking on the Open remote console option it just loads. Not had a chance to check this out as it could be my iPad!?

I also noticed some samples of the new online courses, which will count as the pre req to take the VCP exams, so no need to travel to a class room. For some that will be great news, but one of the biggest wins of class room training is the banter and experieince that the delegates bring with them. Something that could be lost in this new forward thinking NEE world?

This would also mean that certain content would be free and some paid for. I kind of hope that is the case as getting access to this kind of content helps me in a number of ways.

Such as reviewing new applications or features to bring back to the business, self learning a product that we already have, or just learning something new. Not being a “fan boy” but it also strenghens my opinion of the VMware product suite.

All I need now is a few more hours in the day so I can get a few more labs complete. The Horizon labs are next on my list.

How to clone a XenApp 6.5 server with VMware

I have been working with XenApp a lot just lately and I find myself knee-deep in the Citrix e-docs a lot. However I think that they don’t cover some topics particularly well, especially when they don’t seem to want to acknowledge that other vendors exist.

So, here are my simple steps using VMware and Citrix. You don’t need to bother with provisioning server etc. I am aware that there are many ways of doing this but I consider myself to be a Citrix novice so keeping it simple is the way to go!!

Please note this was done on a 2008 R2 server running XA 6.5 FP1.

  • Ensure that you have configured a guest customisation script in your virtual centre. If you don’t you could use Sysprep, I would suggest using generalize and oobe.
  • Jump onto a XenApp server, so long as it’s not the first server in the farm, as you should not image that. Ensure that you have all of your apps installed and configured and ensure that no users are logged in.
  • Open the Citrix role manager. Select the XenApp role and click configure. If you cannot find it either someone has uninstalled it or go and find it under C:\Program Files (x86)\Citrix\XenApp\XenAppServerRoleManager\
Citrix Role Wizard
Citrix Role Wizard
  • Select to prepare the server for imaging
Citrix Role Wizard
Citrix Role Wizard
  •  Now I wanted my server that I was imaging to remain in the farm, so I unchecked the top tick box. This means that my server will just rejoin the farm after the next reboot. This also means that I don’t want the database locations to be wiped. So I left the bottom check box clear. This also means that I didn’t have to create any policies to set the server information.
Citrix Role Wizard
Citrix Role Wizard
  • Finish the wizard and go to services. You will need to stop and disable the Citrix IMA service

XenApp Server Clone 6

  • Now, if you’re not using a VMware customisation script, now would be the time to use Sysprep. You will find Sysprep in C:\windows\system32\sysprep
  • Now shut the server down and use VMware to clone the server, your customisation script should rename the server and sysprep the machine. I am not going to detail these steps, but if you get stuck drop me a comment and I will give you a hand 🙂
  • You could now power up the machine that you imaged and set the IMA service to automatic and start it up.
  • Then you can power up your clone and do the same with the services, but only after you have checked over Windows.

That should be job done, clearly you could do multiple clones and you could do a clone to template but there may be some other caveats there, so I would do a little R&D before you do that.

Hope this helps someone out.