Thursday, October 23, 2014

This post was first published on

All you need is Tools

What is VMware Tools?

VMware Tools is a free, optional but highly recommended set of utilities and drivers that enhances the performance of the virtual machine's guest operating system and improves management of the virtual machine making possible many of the ease-of-use features. With VMware Tools installed in the guest operating system, better performance and new features are available:
  • Improved video and mouse performance 
  • Sharing folders between host and guest file systems 
  • Copying and pasting text, graphics, and files between the virtual machine and the host or client desktop 
  • Provides the ability to take quiesced snapshots of the guest OS 
  • Synchronization of the clock in the virtual machine with the clock on the host or client desktop 
  • Scripting that helps automate guest operating system operations

VMware Tools components

VMware Device Drivers - replaces some of the guest operating system drivers for physical hardware to ensure network connectivity and prevent drive compatibility issues. VMware Device Drivers smooth mouse operations, make folder sharing available and improve sound, graphics and networking performance. 
VMware Tools balloon driver (vmmemctl) is among the utilities installed in the guest operating system with VMware Tools. It cooperates with the hypervisor to allocate memory from the operating system and return it to the hypervisor.
VMware Services - handles communication between the guest and host operating systems. This program, starts when the guest operating system boots and runs in the background, is called vmtoolsd.exe in Windows guest operating systems, vmware-tools-daemon in Mac OS X guest operating systems, and vmtoolsd in Linux, FreeBSD and Solaris.
VMware User Process - is responsible for features as copy and paste, drag and drop, and Unity with VMware products that support these features. The program file for VMware User Process is called vmtoolsd.exe on Windows guest operating systems and vmware-user on Linux, Solaris, and FreeBSD.

Installing VMware Tools

Although the guest operating system can run without VMware Tools, many VMware features are not available until you install VMware Tools. For example, if you do not have VMware Tools installed in your virtual machine, you cannot use the shutdown or restart options from the toolbar. You can use only the power options.
The installers for VMware Tools are ISO image files. There is an ISO image file for each type of guest operating system. When you select the command to install or upgrade VMware Tools, the virtual machine’s first virtual CD-ROM disk drive temporarily connects to the VMware Tools ISO file for your guest operating system.

Upgrade. When and How?

Is it mandatory to upgrade VMware Tools following a patch or an upgrade to vSphere? The short answer is no, in most cases a VMware Tools upgrade is optional. However, it is always recommended that you run the latest version of VMware Tools. So what’s the benefit of making the tools upgrade optional if it’s always going to be recommended?
Being aware that upgrading VMware Tools across a large number of virtual machines can be difficult, VMware has extended the tools support matrix which it allows VMs running older versions of VMware Tools to run on newer versions of ESXi and also it allows VMs with newer versions of VMware Tools to run on older versions of ESX/ESXi.
Although upgrading VMware Tools is optional, it is still highly recommended. The extended support is meant to facilitate upgrades and should not be seen as an excuse to avoid upgrading VMware Tools.
For more information check out the VMware Compatibility matrix (Fig. 1). To view the details for the VMware Tools support with each ESX/ESXi release:

  • select the radio button next to “Solution Interoperability” 
  • select “VMware ESX/ESXi” as the first solution 
  • select “VMware Tools from VMware ESX/ESXi” as the second solution 
  • select "Add" to see the result
VMware Product Interoperability Matrixes
Fig. 1 - VMware product compatibility matrixes

I plan ESX/ESXi patch or upgrade. Will I need to upgrade also VMware Tools?

Often it is useful to know in advance if VMware tools need to be upgraded after a ESX/ESXi patch campaign. That means to correlate the build number of ESX/ESXi with Tools version (four digit number). 

You can get that information from here: This web page is always updated to reflect the latest VMware Tools to ESXi host version mappings:

# VMware version-mapping file.
# This file provides a one-to-one mapping between VMware Tools for
# ESX/ESXi version-number codes, and paths to OSP repositories suitable
# for that Tools version.
# The ESXi server mapping is only to show that the particular version of
# Tools ships with that particular ESXi server build number, but the Tools
# can work with a greater range of ESXi versions.
# Column 1: Tools version on NGC/VI Client
# Column 2: ESXi server version
# Column 3: Tools version on guest Setup/About page
# Column 4: ESXi server build number
9442        ../../unsupported/tools/esx/beta2 9.7.2    1919049
9350        esx/5.5p02                        9.4.6    1892794
9349        esx/5.5ep04                       9.4.5    1881737
9349        esx/5.5ep03                       9.4.5    1746974
9349        esx/5.5ep02                       9.4.5    1750340

When do I need reboot

VMware Tools upgrades has always required an operating system reboot as new device drivers and kernel modules will not go into effect until the next reboot. For Windows operating systems, you can suppress a reboot by specifying it in advanced installer option. For UNIX/Linux operating systems, the new device drivers and kernel modules will be staged when you upgrade VMware Tools, but will only be activated upon the next reboot. In both case, you can continue to run your virtual machine in a partially upgraded state for a limited amount of time until your next maintenance window, but it is recommended that you reboot as soon as possible.
Starting with vSphere 5.1, there is something called Zero-down time VMware Tools upgrade where an Windows 2000 or later operating system reboot will no longer be required for upgrading of VMware Tools. However, this statement is partially accurate and VMware published KB 2015163 to help identify when it would require a reboot.

Friday, August 29, 2014

AWS or Know your enemy - published on

This article was first published on

Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for x86 Server Virtualization Infrastructure
Source: Gartner (July 2014)
In the leader quadrant, VMware (ESXi) is followed by Microsoft (Hyper-V), all others being either challengers, either niche players.
If we are talking about Cloud Infrastructure As A Service 2014, the crown belongs to Amazon Web Services:
Figure 1.Magic Quadrant for Cloud Infrastructure as a Service
Source: Gartner (May 2014)
Looks an AWS vs. Microsoft battle, with AWS winner. VMware is still Niche Player despite the launch with fanfare of vCloud Hybrid Services last year.
Interesting fact, AWS uses Xen, an open-source hypervisor. Xen /ˈzɛn/ has been supported originally by XenSource Inc., and since 2007 (after the acquisition of XenSource) by Citrix which claims that Xen Project and XenServer power over 80 percent of public clouds today. Beside Amazon which uses Xen Project Hypervisorfor the AWS platform, the XenServer service provider customers include Rackspace, 1&1 Internet, SoftLayer and Korea Telecom.
Interesting as well is who is using AWS? A lot of start-ups as well big names like Adobe, Citrix or Novartis. OnAmazon’s Case Studies page, we can see also Netflix, Expedia, Reddit, Pinterest.
That being said, it makes sense to describe AWS as “overwhelmingly the dominant vendor” by Gartner.

So, what is AWS?

Amazon Web Services offers a broad set of global compute, storage, database, analytics, application, and deployment services that help organizations move faster, lower IT costs, and scale applications.
In other words, AWS is a cloud services platform that offers over the internet compute power, storage, content delivery, and others.
There are two well-known products at the core of AWS:
To help new customers get started, AWS offers a free usage tier. The free tier can be used one year for: launch new applications, test existing applications in the Cloud, or simply gain hands-on experience with AWS.

Let’s get it started

It takes less than 10 min to set-up an AWS account. Then, with magic and five clicks in another 5 min you get a new Windows 2012 R2 Server:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Viability assessment – RAID log

Good design is good business - Thomas J. Watson

In IBM’s method Team Solution Design, Viability Assessment is intended to record the Risks, Assumptions, Issues and Dependencies (hence the acronym RAID).  
In other words, we document the findings, risks and recommendations as a result of Viability Assessment. A finding (and the associated risks) could be anything that is likely to influence the delivery of the solution such as:
  • The ability to meet the solutions requirements. 
  • The availability of the right skills. 
  • The stakeholder acceptance of the technical elements of the proposed solution. 
  • The ability to meet the schedule and budgetary constraints defined for the solution. 
  • Lack of reusable elements in the solution. 
Usual an ISSUE is closed / removed in viability assessment process by raising it as a RISK or as a Change request.

The result can be documented as an excel file which can be sorted and filtered on needs. 
This approach helps the reader to understand the common pitfalls of designing VMware vSphere based solutions, as well to cross-check solution activities and design elements that must considered in order to avoid risks.

Now let’s give some examples: 
  • Risk:
R/A/I/D Risk
R/A/I/D Name Having too many clusters
Description Specific requirements force to have multiple clusters with very few workloads.
Priority (H/M/L) M
Impact (H/M/L) H
Raised by
Responsibility / Owner
Mitigations / Comments In typical virtual environments, workloads should have different profiles and be as mixed as possible to yield the best consolidation ratios, and thus to minimize the number of hosts. Make sure you have clear defined requirements for having multiple clusters and that everybody understands the consequences (more hosts = more costs)
Review date
Closed date
  • Assumption:
R/A/I/D Assumption
R/A/I/D Name Host profiles
Description The solution uses host profiles which assume all host hardware is the same.
Priority (H/M/L) L
Impact (H/M/L) L
Raised by
Responsibility / Owner
Mitigations / Comments Using host profiles might create issues if hardware configuration (PCI allocation) or cabling and connections to network switches and storage devices are not consistent. Precautions during build phase of new hosts. If configuration not consistent, use separately host profile for each host type.
Review date
Closed date
  • Dependency:
R/A/I/D Dependency
R/A/I/D Name VMware tools
Description Use only supported guest OS and have up to date VMware tools version running. Many features, as well the performance are depending on VMware tools.
Priority (H/M/L) L
Impact (H/M/L) M
Raised by
Responsibility / Owner
Mitigations / Comments Most common OS used are supported. That means also VMware tools can be installed. Having VMware tools up to date is a must.
Review date
Closed date

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Why another blog about virtualization?

With my friends Bogdan and Aylin at VMworld 2013 
The inception was at VMworld 2013 in Barcelona after a memorable encounter with VMware guru - Duncan Epping.
I know that blogging was the trend few years ago, but with the rise of Twitter and Facebook, it’s fallen out of favor. Still, I think there several good reasons to maintain a blog:
- memento to myself. Found out today how to do something cool? In a year, I won’t remember how to do it … but I might remember it enough to know what to look for. 
- share and give-back. If I found out something, why not share it and save time for other people who might run into the same problem?
- professional resume. It shows what I am passionate about ... right, virtualization. Even if this blog will be just a collection of links and pictures, will show my interests and beliefs. 
- keep in touch with friends. I have 100+ friends on Facebook and Google+, 400+ connections on LinkedIn and not enough time to keep up with everything. So please, my friends, do me a personal favor and blog – I want to keep in touch with you!