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VMworld 2014: Day Two

Posted by Sam McGeown


Day two of VMworld kicked off with a keynote session which traditionally includes demos of all that's new. It was a well presented session with a glimpse into the sysadmin's future with a demo of vCOps alerts popping up on Google glass. Since the sessions are available online I won't go into detail, but it was worth a watch (if you didn't watch the US one).

My morning consisted of preparations for the VCP NV (NSX) exam, which I detailed in a previous post. Very pleased to have passed what is a difficult exam.

As ever the networking aspect of VMworld continues to be the most valuable, meeting and chatting with some really clever guys. It always impresses me how many people are happy to give their time and expertise for the community.

One of my favourite things this year is the Destination Give Back initiative where VMware challenge you to make and throw a paper aeroplane, the further it flies the larger the donation to charity. You even choose which category the donation goes to, children, education, environment, human rights or women and girls. Over 140,000 Euros has already been pledged, with the majority going to children. It's interesting to see the choices donations, children get by far the most, with environment and human rights getting the least. One thing some people have said was why not just donate the money. My answer is that a huge part of charity fundraising is about
awareness and getting people to think about where the money is going is a huge benefit.

In the afternoon I attended my only technical session of the day, #NET1974 Multi Site Data Center Solutions with VMware NSX. This was a great session with some really practical information on designing NSX for multi site deployments. I found the comparison between how you deploy for Enterprise (typically low latency/high bandwidth intersite connections) and Cloud (typically high latency/low bandwidth) really useful, as well as strategies for using vSphere Metro Stretched Cluster for low latency sites with stretched L2 networks, Enhanced vMotion for low latency sites with multiple clusters, and NSX's Layer 2 VPN for sites with higher latency. There was also a massively useful section on DR for NSX using SRM.

In the evening was the VMworld party, featuring Simple Minds. Unfortunately I think VMware shot themselves in the foot having made a big deal of how they are promoting women in IT, but had some fairly provocative shadow dancers around the hall. Clearly not a joined up message, as I mentioned on twitter, you can either value women or objective them, but not both.

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VMworld 2014: VCP NV Exam Experience

Posted by Sam McGeown

Posts in this series
  1. VMWorld 2014: Day One
  2. VMworld 2014: VCP NV Exam Experience
  3. VMworld 2014: Day Two
  4. VMworld 2014: Day Three and wrap-up


It is with great relief that I can announce I have passed my VCP NV (Network Virtualisation) having been caught out by the difficulty of the exam and failing previously.

Exam Preparation

I was fortunate to attend a VMware internal bootcamp (roughly equivalent to the ICM course) for NSX and have had experience deploying production NSX environments, so that is by far the best preparation. As always, the exam blueprint is crucial, you *have* to know all areas covered there. I've also been reading the documentation and design and deploy guides published by VMware, and completed the basic and advanced hands on labs that are also freely available. On top of that there is the official practice exam which I strongly suggest you do as it reflects the real exam well, and there are a series of fantastic practice tests by Paul McSharry available while provide a decent test of knowledge.

Exam Experience

It's a typical VMware VCP level exam consisting of 120 multiple choice questions with 120 minutes to answer them. That's 1m per question, it may not sound a lot but there are plenty of questions you will answer in seconds. I completed the exam in about 1h25m. Other than that there's not a huge amount to say about the exam itself due to NDAs!

Advice for takers

Study the blueprint, it really does cover everything you need!
It seems obvious, but know the packet walks and understand how encapsulation changes packets
Have a clear and precise understanding of the components and architecture, and what the use cases are
If you have access to the binaries, install, break, fix, remove, repeat! If not, HOL, you don't have to follow the guides, you can do your own thing.

Next steps

My score wasn't great (a pass is a pass right?) so I'm keen to go back over some weaker areas to start with. I am definitely going to look at recertifying my expired CCNA, as this is really good knowledge to take into any NSX engagement. With the VCIX exam recently released, I'll look towards that also. Finally, lots of lab work with vCAC 6.1 and NSX to really maximise its potential. NSX shines when you see it automated.


VMWorld 2014: Day One

Posted by Sam McGeown


After a bit of a rocky start (missed my flight and the partner day due to tendonitis in my knee) I arrived in Barcelona for my 2nd VMworld Europe. I headed straight from the airport to the PernixData party and caught up with the rest of the Xtravirt guys.

Tuesday morning started as ever with a keynote address. It was a little disappointing, but not unexpected, that there were no real announcements or reveals in the keynote. It was essentially a repeat of the VMworld US keynote with a couple of new betas announced. Nothing really revolutionary, a new vCloud Air datacenter in Germany and some new partners for EVO:RAIL. It's interesting to see that the pace of traction for both cloud and hyperconverged is increasing for VMware's portfolio though.

My first session of the day was #MTG1969, vCloud Automation Center and NSX Integration Technical Deep Dive. This was a great session covering the integration of NSX and vCAC, two areas close to my heart :) Combining the two allows for repeatable on demand application delivery, from simple one tier to multi tier multiple blueprint applications. NSX really comes alive and shines when paired with automation. I was particularly pleased to see the vCenter Orchestrator plugin for NSX is fully featured in 6.1 and some significant improvements have been made.

After  a quick lunch and some time in the hang space and solutions exchange I went to my second session of the day, #NET1743, VMware NSX Technical Deep Dive. I have been fortunate enough to have been on the VMware internal NSX training and actually done some real world deployments, so I have had a lot of exposure to NSX. Unfortunately this meant there was no new content for me, but the session was presented well and was well received.

To cap off a day of NSX focus, I also spent some time working through HOLSDC1425, VMware NSX Advanced. This is a great way to get some hands on experience with advanced NSX services (over and above the standard routing, switching and firewall functionality available in the basic NSX HOL). Subjects included DHCP relay, scale out L3 connectivity including configuring OSPF and ECMP (very cool!) and Layer 2 VPN. There are also some examples of 3rd party integration with Symantec and Riverbed.

In the evening we headed over to the solutions exchange for the drinks reception, then on to the vExpert/VCDX reception, and finally the vJamon event. By far my favourite was the vJamon event, which was hosted in a great venue with live music and good food, and overall a really good event sponsored by Cisco and Intel. These events are a fantastic opportunity to network with peers and meet up with colleagues and are one of the most valuable features of VMworld for me.

All in, a great first day, even on crutches! Looking forward to more tomorrow.

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vCAC 6.1 build out to distributed model: Clustered vCAC Appliances

Posted by Sam McGeown

With the release of vCAC 6.1 there have been some great improvements in the setup of the clustered vCAC appliances - none of the previous copying of configuration files between appliances - just a simple wizard to do it all for you. In my opinion this is superb.

You'll need to have deployed a load balancer of some sort - vCAC 6.0 build-out to distributed model – Part 3.1: Configure Load Balancing with vCNS or vCAC 6.0 build-out to distributed model – Part 3.2: Configure load balancing with NSX

Deploy vCAC Appliances

Deploy three vCAC appliances by running through the OVF deployment wizard, two to be configured as vCAC Appliance nodes and one to be the external vPostgres database.

  • vCAC-61-PG-01.definit.local
  • vCAC-61-VA-01.definit.local
  • vCAC-61-VA-02.definit.local

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vCAC 6.0/6.1 build out to distributed model: Deploy the Identity Appliance

Posted by Sam McGeown

SSO is a fundamental requirement when deploying vCAC, whether for a distributed or simple installation. This walk through goes through the deployment and configuration of the vCAC Identity Appliance, which provides a stand alone SSO instance for vCAC.

Some of the posts in this series are completed with vCAC 6.0.1, others will be with 6.1. Where there are differences I will aim to point them out!

Deploying the OVF

Deploying the OVF is very simple, just run through the wizard:

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The appliance will perform a reverse lookup to get it's hostname - if you have pre-staged a DNS A and PTR record, and have a reservation set for the VM. If you statically assign an IP address, make sure you use the FQDN in the hostname field - not doing so will cause issues with the self-signed certificates and also when you join the Active Directory domain.

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