Thursday, September 30, 2010

VMware Manage for Performance course (VSMP)

This is primarily from memory now as I post this, so no real “details” as such, just a personal view. I hope there’s nothing that breaches the terms of the course with regard to describing content - it’s pretty much all taken from the readily available resources.

So, I took this course in the middle of August in London. It was switched from it’s original venue about a week before to the Regus Broadgate Tower. I believe from what was said, it was the first time Global Knowledge had run the course in the UK - if I’m wrong about that, I apologise.

The course was small in terms of numbers - 4 others besides myself and (of course) the instructor. I prefer this, as in larger number courses, there’s a tendency for time to drift, especially during lab sessions, as people finish at different times and time is lost as chatter descends. This was still a problem to an extent here, primarily as there’s a lot to cram into the 3 days. But the larger the numbers, the larger the problem in general.

First day starts with your standard introductions. As most time, I get the overwhelming feeling of being the small time player here, when hearing about the other environments people are in. Interestingly one of the students in discussing his environment highlights performance problems they’re experiencing which he hopes he will be able to have a better grasp on upon completing the course. This kind of real world thing (in my view) can help make or break a course. Courses by and large are designed to work. Designed to a roadmap, a schedule. The labs work. Usually (not always) when they don’t, it’s a layer 8 problem.

So, as the problem is described, the instructor starts making notes about it on the whiteboard. He has an idea already what he thinks the problem will be, but over the course of the 3 days, we will return to it on a fairly regular basis, to try and piece it together.

The course structure is

Day 1
Module 1: Course Introduction

Module 2: Performance in a Virtualized Environment
Discuss the vSphere performance troubleshooting methodology
Monitor performance using vCenter Server performance graphs and the ESX/ESXi resxtop command

Module 3: Virtual Machine Monitor
Discuss software and hardware virtualization techniques and their impact on performance

Module 4: CPU Performance
Discuss the CPU scheduler, NUMA, and CPU cache contention
Monitor key CPU performance metrics
Troubleshoot common CPU performance problems

Day 2
Module 5: Memory Performance
Discuss memory reclamation techniques and memory overcommitment
Monitor key memory performance metrics
Troubleshoot common memory performance problems

Module 6: Network Performance
Discuss the performance features of modern network adapters
Monitor key network performance metrics
Troubleshoot common network performance problems

Day 3
Module 7: Storage Performance
Discuss how storage protocols, VMFS configuration, load balancing, and queuing affect performance
Monitor key storage performance metrics
Troubleshoot common storage performance problems

Module 8: Virtual Machine Performance
Discuss guidelines for configuring a virtual machine for optimal performance

Module 9: Application Performance
Discuss what applications can be virtualized
Discuss how VMware vCenter AppCenter manages application performance

There’s some introductory time going through performance in a virtualised environment - monitor mode, , CPU hardware virtualization, MMU virtualization etc, and a general troubleshooting methodology (based on the living vSphere4 performance troubleshooting document)

There’s a look at the GUI and performance aspects within, but a lot of the key time is spent working through tools such as esxtop and resxtop as these tend to dominate the remainder of the course. Although familiar with the tool beforehand, it is eyeopening just how many options and how many times you can apply it. I suspect I won’t be the only person who completes this course whose first action upon returning to work will be to fire it up. A lab usually follows a lesson, or sometimes held back to the end of the module. The labs entailed remote desktop into your own vSphere setup, and running everything from within your RDP session. Again, good to me that none of it was local, as it gives it a more real world feel. Looking back through the lab book, there are 12 labs in total, and they can take a bit of time eg, establishing a baseline, then generate load or contention or whatever eg, single threaded program in dual vCPU Vs dual threaded program in dual vCPU etc. A great deal of the course is taken around CPU and memory - I’d say between 1 3/4 - 2 of the 3 days.

Lab 1 : VMware Monitor Modes
Lab 2 : VMware Monitoring Tools
Lab 3 : Monitoring CPU Performance
Lab 4 : Diagnosing CPU Performance
Lab 5 : Monitoring Memory Performance
Lab 6 : Diagnosing Memory Performance
Lab 7 : Working with Resource Controls
Lab 8 : Network Peformance
Lab 9 : Diagnosing a Network Performance
Lab 10 : Monitoring Storage Performance
Lab 11 : Using VMware vscsiStats
Lab 12 : Guest Operating System Timer Interrupt Rates

Prior to the course, I’d read a review , and collected the various documents referenced, and had a read through them - some were familiar, some not so. I also have some linux experience (not great, but enough to get by, and also to know my comfort zone). This certainly helps as most of the work is done from the shell.

There were faults, though none were showstoppers.

As alluded to earlier, time was lost during labs as chatter ensued and labs probably dragged on longer than they needed to (I’ve never attended a course where this wasn’t the case - hmmm, maybe it’s me then). When it’s directly related to the course, or VMware in general, it’s not so bad, but there were times where this wasn’t really directly related to the course, and this tends to be distracting. We basically ended up skipping one lab over the duration of the course, and there was also a problem with another lab which the instructor and myself worked together to resolve while everybody else went to lunch. Not a problem, but if everyone had been a bit more focussed at that point, we may have sorted it quicker (plus the others will have actually missed out on troubleshooting an actual problem - always better than scripted problems). No big problem, and I suspect a reflection on being the first or one of the first times they’d run the course. Timing will get tightened I’m sure.

I also suspect that someone with plenty of VMware experience in larger organisations, and with experience in Linux, won’t find too much new here. A lot of the information is already out there eg, the performance troubleshooting document I mentioned earlier, Duncan Epping’s esxtop pages etc. But it’s often just little nuggets, the information having been pulled together in a focused manner, the time to actually spend on things and the shared experience and tales that are told that help to make a course worthwhile.

As a venue, we received no lunch (snacks yes), so it was a case of popping out to grab a bite. Not personally a big deal to me, but I know a lot of people want the added extras when they do a course (personally I’ll sacrifice a meal for a good course).

My main nitpick, well, I understand, but, I’d *really* love to be able to have a copy of course notes as a PDF (or any other suitable electronic format). Most (all?) courses don’t do it - for understandable reasons, but I tend to find with all courses that the notes just get tossed aside once the course is complete, because they’re not convenient. When in truth, I know there’s lots of time’s I’d like to reach for them to check something, jog the memory. I don’t know if there’s a way to reasonably make the notes available to course attendees, but I can continue to wish.

Overall, a very good course. Certainly one of the better ones I have attended, and if you work with VMware and have sufficient experience (or the VCP) to be able to skip the Fast Track, and take this instead, it’s highly recommended. It is packed - we finished at around 4:45pm on the final day. It is one of the recommended courses for the VCAP-DCA (which I hope to feel vaguely ready to attempt at some point in 2011), and you can understand why. If your employer gives you the opportunity, take it.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Passed VCP 410

So, I did my VCP 4 exam today. Having passed the version 3.5 exam, I was able to take advantage of the (dual) offer of taking the exam before the end of the year without the need for a course, and taking a free second shot should I fail the exam.

So, the last month has been cramming to try and feel ready to take it on, but still leave enough time to schedule that second shot if needed.

I was fortunate enough to pass, and with a far better score than I expected.

So, resources / technique that I used - and also to take the time to acknowledge the work of others who help make studying a whole lot easier.

Well, I manage an (albeit small and V3.5 based) infrastructure in work. So dealing with it everyday in my job helps.

I have a number of HP ML110 machines at home that I run ESXi on for testing / learning - coupled with VMs using my Technet subscription for the more Microsoft centric aspect of my work. So, I’ve been running V4 on these since a couple of days after it was released back in May. Setup for HA/DRS, I use an Iomega IX4-200D unit which allows me to carve up disks space and present as iSCSI and NFS based volumes (was using OpenFiler before that with a VM to provide iSCSI storage to other VMs for testing). All in all, it allows me to do a lot - albeit I don’t have things such as FT working, or VLAN support on my network switch etc.

Documentation - the VMware documentation is where it’s at.

Mastering vSphere 4 by Scott Lowe. Supplements the VMware docs - often easier/more succinct - though remember, whatever happens, whether you agree or not, for the exam, the VMware docs trump all.

Simon Long’s VCP resources - many, many people who have passed reference this material. I don’t know him, but it is well organised and invaluable. I also used his sample exam on several occasions, which gave me the confidence that I was at least heading in a positive direction.

VMware exam blueprint and test exam. I must admit, I only tried the exam here the once - I got enough to pass the actual exam, and used it as a gauge in that respect. If I had failed spectacularly, I think I would have reverted to the sample exam more, until it felt right. The blueprint is what Simon Long’s site listed above follows.

Forbes Guthrie’s resources. The Reference card - used for the VCP 3 exam as well, and his v4 notes. Basically he has summarised a lot of the official documentation into about 36 crammed pages of A4. Again, cuts to the chase. It kind of feels wrong in one sense - someone else did the hard work, but it’s incredibly useful to again quickly reference facts or figures.

In addition, there’s still the old 3.5 resources which, in general are still valid. The VI3 Advanced Technical Design Guide - that they’ve kindly made available as free PDFs - though I have the book as well.

I also have a Safari digital library subscription. With this, I have access to electronic editions of, for example, the O’Reilly VMware Cookbook, VMware vSphere and Virtual Infrastructure Security, VMware VI3 Implementation and Administration plus a few others.

So that’s it really. Kind of boils down to a few things :

Hands on practice. Really, this is what you need to do. The documentation suddenly makes a whole lot more sense when you do it. Or sometimes the other way, maybe you still don’t get the docs, but you get it in practice. A small lab and you can do a surprising amount. You have to practice. The emergency services run drills and practice their procedures time and again for when they need them for real. You need to practice your procedures as well.

Reading. You’ve got to read the documentation and use the resources available via people such as Simon Long and Forbes Guthrie as mentioned above. And blogs. There’s a whole bunch that I frequently review that help clarify something, or point out hidden gems. I’ll pull a list together at some point, but I’m sure if you check blogs for VMware related information, you’ll know the ones.

It doesn’t all stick. I know that I’ll soon be back looking in the docs, checking the maximums PDF, keeping a copy of the reference card(s) close by. Re-reading the stuff to try and clarify things that I still feel unsure of - but without the added pressure/stress/motivation of needing to pass an exam again soon.

Friday, January 2, 2009

VMware Infrastructure 3: Advanced Technical Design Guide

I’ve had a copy of this since just after it was released - good book, some issues with the indexing and a few image references etc - but hey, mistakes happen.

Anyway, the good news according to this entry on (one of) the author’s site, is that they’re going to give away 2 PDF chapters every 2 weeks, allowing you to in effect get an overall PDF version of the book.

As this is one of the essential VMware books, then this is a pretty good offer (to say the least).

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Running ESXi from USB pen drive

I run ESXi from a USB pendrive on an HP ML110 G5. Works like a dream. The following link is helpful for details on installing ESXi to a suitable pendrive.

Additionally I use Openfilerto provide storage as iSCSI (and to allow for vMotion etc)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


So, part of my work at the moment includes virtualisation (yes, with an S) using VMware ESX. A couple of months back, I did one of the official courses. Then a few weeks ago (actually, the day after the VMware Time Bomb issue), I did the exam, and managed to pass.

Today, the certificate was waiting for me at home, so that’s me a VCP now.