Redesigning the vCenter Client?

In fresh blog post, called “Resource pools and simultaneous vMotions” by Frank Denneman prompted a quick Twitter discussion regarding the vCenter client (and perhaps even vCenter itself). A simple

Why are there no folders under Host and Clusters view ?

from Maish Saidel-Keesing got the ball rolling.

Could it be that the design of the client itself helps perpetuate the myth the resource pools is an organizational unit, one that should be used as a way of grouping VMs? As Frank says;

This is not (the) reason why VMware invented resource pools.

I’m not going to get into why this is a bad idea, both Frank and Duncan will have far more intelligent feedback to you if you are interested in discussing this.

Now, if you could redesign the vSphere Client, based on your own experience, what would you change?

I can see that in many cases, a lightweight vCenter Simple Mode client would do the trick. Give your VM admins the Simple Mode client, and they won’t have to worry about resource pools, HA/DRS and other advanced features. Let them administer the VMs, like adding networking, powering on/off etc. The same applies for your storage admins. Give them a small, limited, client that only allows them to configure storage aspects.

I know you can do most of this with permissions etc, but I still feel a limited client could be one way to go.

In other cases, like mine, it won’t help splitting up the client into smaller chunks. As in most SMBs, I wear a lot of different hats during a normal working day. I’m the networking-/storage-/operating-systems-guy in a small shop, where there simply isn’t room for delegating all these tasks to specialized teams or even other admins.

Perhaps dividing the client into specialized sub-topics would help?

A task based user experience where you can select between “VM Operations”, “vSphere Operations”, “Storage Operations” or “Network Operations” as your initial choice, and then limit what you can configure based on your initial choice would help organize the screen real estate? You could also have sub-sections like “Monitoring VMs”, “Monitoring Storage” and so on, displaying a performance overview as the initial point of entry.

You could still have an “Advanced Mode” that works the same way the vCenter Client works today, but the default would be a simplified experience that is based on the task you have at hand.

Am I completely out on a limb here, or is this semi-rant making some sense, somewhere? What would you change, and how?

HP ProLiant MicroServer – Not Quite There Yet?

When HP announced their new ProLiant MicroServer, I really hoped that it would be the perfect answer to a specific use case I’ve been looking at lately.

Basically, what I’m looking for is a small chassis, low noise branch office server that would be used to host a single virtual machine, offering Read-Only Domain Controller (RODC) and Distributed File System (DFS) file-shares.

Initially it looked to fit the bill perfectly:

  • Small footprint; Check
  • Low Noise levels; Check

But, sadly, that’s where it stops. The first version of the HP ProLiant MicroServer comes with one CPU offering, namely theAMD Athlon II NEO N36L which isn’t all that much to run even a single-VM ESXi instance on.

The current tech spec page does not go into much details about the storage controller, other than it’s an “Integrated 4 port SATA RAID Storage Controller”, which makes it impossible to check for compatibility on the official VMware HCL.

The 1GbE NC107i NIC supplied with the server, seems to be supported by VMware though, at least according to the ProLiant option VMware support matrix.

I understand that HP created this server for a different use-case than the one I’m outlining here, and you can’t really criticize them for that, I just hope that this is just the first of several offerings from HP and that the next version comes with better CPU offerings.

A proper CPU would make this baby the perfect entry level, small footprint, low noise branch-office server.

Update: Simon Seagrave has posted as “somewhat” more verbose analysis of the HP ProLiant Microserver: New HP Proliant MicroServer – a decent vSphere lab server candidate?. His conclusion is pretty much the same as mine though; give us more CPU and a vSphere supported RAID controller and we’re all set. I couldn’t agree more.

Using the WANem WAN Emulator Virtual Appliance

During preparation and preliminary information gathering for a new internal project, I had a need to emulate various networking conditions and scenarios. More specifically I’m looking at the possibility of running the vCenter Client over high latency satellite links, with varying bandwidth availability and even packet loss scenarios.

Obviously the best way of testing this, in a controlled environment, is to use some kind of WAN emulator that lets you control the various networking characteristics. WANem is a free WAN emulator and it even comes as a VMware virtual appliance.

Setup is pretty straight forward, and I won’t get into the detailed instructions at this point. If someone requests it, perhaps I’ll make a HOWTO post later on.

After the WANem Virtual Appliance has been started and setup in your network environment, all you have to do is to route your traffic through it. In my test environment, I decided to route all traffic between my local computer and my vCenter Server through the WANem appliance. Doing so is pretty straight forward; Open up a cmd window, with administrator privileges, on your local computer and use the route command to force traffic through WANem:

the command itself is:
route add {destination IP} mask 255.255.255.255 {WANem IP}

To tune the network properties of the traffic going through WANem, open the WANem admin page in your browser and work some magic. The screenshots below are from the advanced tab:

WANem Advanced Mode Screenshot #1WANem Advanced Mode Screenshot #2

As a simple test, I decided to add 500ms latency (delay time) and a packet loss of 25%, and as you can see from the video below it works as expected


(Video has been scaled to fit, watch it in fullscreen mode for details).

Conclusion

If you need to test out how your applications or networking infrastructure works when issues like latency, jitter and even dropped packets affects your clients, WANem seems like an easy and free route (pun intended) for testing purposes.