Brilliant idea: VMware Hosted Beta

BetaDuncan Epping rather unceremoniously published a blog post “New Beta Program offering: VMware Hosted Beta” yesterday, outlining the availability of the new hosted beta offering that companions some of the current VMware beta programs.

Due to the very NDA nature of the beta programs, I can´t really go into details on what is currently offered, but what I can say is this: Well done VMware!

The VMware Hosted Beta runs on the same engine that runs the VMware Hands on Labs Online – Beta, but with a little added twist. You connect to the hosted beta through a web interface, before the actual connection is handed over to a locally installed VMware Horizon View client. This works very well, and I got to play around a bit with it a bit yesterday.

The idea of a hosted beta like this really resonates with me, as one of the major time sinks when it comes to actively participating in betas is the physical setup of a lab environment. As I am currently without a properly powerful lab, something that will change very soon I hope, getting hosted beta access could not be more welcome.

This way I get to dip my toes in the beta offerings, without having to procure the required hardware. While I don´t think the hosted beta replaces the need for a dedicated physical lab, it sure does work as an excellent stop-gap in the mean time. It also means that you can jump in and out of various pieces of the beta, without having to spend a lot of time configuring an environment from scratch. In addition, this also means that you can get a working environment set up in a matter of minutes, and all you need is love an internet connection.

Of course, VMware does not want everyone to run all their beta testing in this environment, they need feedback on installation and configuration issues in “real world” scenarios as well as plain old feature testing in a controlled environment, but this is a very welcome addition in my mind.

Kudos to the HoL and Beta teams at VMware, this makes my day so much easier and I am sure it will also help them in getting better feedback from us beta testers.

Unsupported Network Configurations in Virtual Appliances

My recent experience with setting up vCenter Operations Manager on a standalone ESXi host, and the always excellent William Lam´s post Automating VCSA Network Configurations For Greenfield Deployments got me thinking.

There are several other appliances out there that require deployment to a vCenter, to be able to configure the networking options and not just default to DHCP. In many, and perhaps even most, cases you can work around that by running the vami_set_network command to change from DHCP to STATIC network configurations.

All of that is fine and dandy, and pretty straight forward, but there is one smallish caveat;

You need root access to be able to reconfigure the networking.

Without it, you will see error messages such as these (Shortened for abbreviation):

[cc lang=”bash” width=”95%” theme=”blackboard” nowrap=”0″]@localhost:~/opt/vmware/share/vami/vami_set_network eth0 STATICV4
/sbin/ifdown: line 233: /dev/.sysconfig/network/config-eth0: Permission denied
IOError: [Errno 13] Permission denied: ‘/opt/vmware/etc/vami/vami_ovf_info.xml’
Unable to set the network parameters

So, what if you don´t know the appliance root password?

Most virtual appliances are Linux based, and in this particular case the flavor used was SUSE Enterprise Linux 11.

To reset the root password on a grub based Linux appliance, like SUSE, follow the recipe below:

Note: As William Lam pointed out this procedure only works if there no grub password set, if that´s the case download a LiveCD, mount the filesystem and run the password change from there. If the filesystem in the appliance is encrypted, well, then all bets are off.

  1. In the grub menu select the kernel you want to boot and press tab to shift focus to “Boot Options”
  2. Now type init =/bin/bash and press Enter to continue.SUSE-PW-RESET-01
  3. You will see a prompt that looks like  (none):/ # in the terminal.
  4. Run the passwd command in terminal to change the password for root.
    [cc lang=”bash” width=”95%” theme=”blackboard” nowrap=”0″]
    (none):/ # passwd
    New Password:
    Reenter New Password:
    Password changed.

Reboot the appliance, let it boot up normally, and you should now be able to log on as root, with your newly configured password, and run the vami_set_network command to configure static IP adressing.

[cc lang=”bash” width=”95%” theme=”blackboard” nowrap=”0″]
localhost:~ # /opt/vmware/share/vami/vami_set_network eth0 STATICV4
eth0 device: Intel Corporation 82545EM Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Copper) (rev 01)
eth0 device: Intel Corporation 82545EM Gigabit Ethernet Controller (Copper) (rev 01)
Network parameters successfully changed to requested values
localhost:~ #

Do yet another reboot, and you should be up and running with a static IP configuration on an appliance deployed without the advanced OVF/OVA properties normally required for that kind of deployment.

Note: This procedure is more than likely NOT supported by your vendor, and changing the root password might have other consequences for the appliance. If the vendor does not supply the root password i their documentation, there is likely to be a reason for that, but the procedure above shows that not supplying it does not actually prevent anyone from changing it. USE AT OWN RISK.

Getting It Right: VMware Training and Certification

Everyone, and probably their extended family including their mother-in-law, has heard me whine and complain about the VCP training requirements.

VMware has unveiled a new lab, namely Project Nee (Next-Generation Education Environment)

and this is something I´m really excited about.

Project Nee is described as this:

VMware Project NEE is a new VMware Labs project providing a richly featured, powerful online learning and lab environment delivered from the cloud to any device, anywhere, anytime.

There aren´t many details available at the moment, except that this seems to be exactly what I have looked for from VMware;
Online access to a virtual lab environment, where you can access training resources in a flexible manner. Self paced online training, without the need to spend days on end in a classroom.

In fact, the site specifically mentions “VMware vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage” training as being specifically beta tested at the moment.

There is no information on pricing and availability just yet, but with VMworld Europe only a week away I would not be surprised if something is to be announced in Barcelona.

With the VMware Hands-On Labs going public some time soon, and now Project Nee, VMware is certainly heading in the right direction as far as lab access and training is concerned.

Dogfooding; you gotta love it!