vMiss.net - Secret Diary of a VM Girl

Secret Diary of a VM Girl

Preparing for the VCDX Journey

So you’re starting on your VCDX journey.  Or perhaps you’re thinking about starting it.   It’s dangerous to go alone, take this.


What is this, exactly you ask? Good question.  I’ve seen a lot of people on Twitter lately trying to get started, so hopefully I can provide some ideas on how to get going. This is different for everyone, but here’s what I took along when I set out (DISCLAIMER: I am not a VCDX, however I have submitted an application and been accepted to the defense phase).

The Project.

Of course we need a design to be a design expert. It may not be perfect in its current state, but that’s all part of the process. I hate to break it to you, but chances are you won’t be able to send whatever design you have is. You’re going to make sure that you’ve all of the points within the VCDX Blueprint as part of your submission, so chances are your design will need some sort of modification. My advice would be to pick one you really enjoyed working on.  You’re about to become really, really good friends.

Several. For me, nothing quite substitutes paper. I used it to write out outlines, sketch diagrams, map design choices and basically just write things down to sanity check them. Speaking about diagrams, sometimes you’ll be on a real roll, and it will be killer to stop to draw something out on the computer. I just sketched in the notebook, took a picture, and put the image in my design doc. Then I went back later and drew them in OmniGraffle. So far I have one notebook filled, another half way there, and a third started. I started with one lined and one unlined for different purposes, but they were mainly for creating the documentation. The third I used to write down random things I learned in the process, because you will learn random things in the process.

I found this to be indispensable. Beyond your main design document, you’re going to do all sorts of other things that a lab is handy for. It’s also handy for testing out setting and configurations as you determine what features of vSphere you’re going to use to design your environment.

Whiteboad/Flip Chart.
I didn’t have a big whiteboard, but I did go out and get myself some nice big paper in the form of a flip chart. This was great for listing things out and putting things together. It was also good to leave a page open reminding me of some key aspects of my submission, such as the design quality (AMPRS/RAMPS).  Eventually, when I started prepping for the defense phase, I went out and got an Amazon special white board sheet that I hung up to practice the design scenario.  If you can put a white board in a place you can see it while you go through the process, it may be a good idea to get one up front.

A Computer.
Kind of duh on this one. I suppose there’s no rule against writing your design in calligraphy and sketching your screen shots, but the fact remains you need to send over your design in PDF format. You’ll need a computer to do this. Your computer is also a great place to store your reference material! Make sure you have several copies of your documentation in different locations. You don’t want your computer to bite the dust, and lose your work now, do you?

Blank Documents.
There’s a lot of different views out there on templates. Some say absolutely not, others say they are good reference point. Each of my design components started with a blank document that I used to fit my needs. You’re going to become really good at Microsoft Word, or whatever word processing method you choose. Make sure you figure out how you’re going to outline things, and how you’re going to use different headings and for what purpose. If you’ve never edited Word styles before, this is a great place to start. Also, custom number formats could end up being some of your very best friends, along with Captions. Don’t neglect your table of contents (or table of figures…or index of tables), and get the formatting right at the beginning so you don’t have to mess around with changing things with a huge amount of content.

Multiple Reams of Paper.
Back to paper. Have I mentioned I still love paper? I ended up printing things out and reading the paper copies as the time to submit was approaching. Along with a nice red pen, this helped me catch lots of little errors, like missing periods and incomplete sentences. I also recommend having someone else read your material. You may want to hand them a paper copy to mark up as they seem fit (thanks, Mom!). I think I need to go plant a tree after this endeavor.

Reference Material.
Books, white papers, etc. Whatever you can get your hands on that pertains to your design. Need a break? Might as well have a nice relaxing read. Derek Seaman has an awesome reading list to get you started.

You’re not alone in this journey. There are a number of VCDXs out there who have been kind enough to document their journey on their blogs. By reading them, you’ll begin to get a feel for what the journey entails, and what you need to do to make it to the end.

As you start working on it, it may take a while to hit your “groove”. This may mean you go back and complete hack and slash complete sections of your document. It is part of the process. The best advice I can give is don’t be afraid to do this. You will evolve during the process, as will your documentation. Proudly, take a break to re-read what you’ve accomplished so far, and fix it accordingly. I don’t recommend on whipping through the whole document, then trying to deal with revising it all at once. By the time my submission date was approaching, I had done thorough editing of all the sections within the document, and spent the last few days on formatting and checking for non-technical errors.

The First Sentence.
We’ve all got to get started somewhere. Start by writing a sentence.  Then another. Then another. Set aside a couple of hours to just write and do what comes naturally.  It may not be the best, it may not even be a part of your final submission, but hey!  You just got started!

24 x 7 IT Connection – VMworld 2016, Cloudy Forecast

Did you miss VMworld 2016 this year?  Or were you too busy at the poker table bouncing from session to session?  This month on 24 x 7 IT Connection, I’ve got a VMworld recap for you, with bonus information on how you can access all of the sessions right now, whether or not you made it to the event.

VMworld arrived in Las Vegas for the first time in many years this year.  The mood was also visibly shifted, beyond the change in location.  Last year saw the introduction of the DevOps focus in the lounge and a lot more experimentation as VMware looked towards their future in containers, network virtualization, and other layers in the overall IT portfolio.  vCloud Air had been struggling in some ways over recent months, and this event was going to be a state of the union for existing VMware platforms and those that may be new announcements.

Click here to read the complete article on 24 x 7 IT Connection.

My Sessions at #NetAppInsight 2016

This year, I’ll be heading to #NetAppInsight Las Vegas for the first time as a presenter.  NetApp Insight is where the original Vanna White FlexPod pose originated back in 2012, if you’ve been keeping track of those.  Little did I know back then that I would be attending NetApp Insight as a presenter on the Converged Infrastructure (aka FlexPod) track in the future!

If you’d like to attend any of my sessions, they are:

62054-3 Best Practices for VMware vSphere on NetApp FlexPod


84076-3 Starting Small with FlexPod Express for Remote Offices and Data Center Deployments

Also to note, Justin Parisi, will be giving a session that I’m hoping to attend called 60831-2 How Customers and Partners Use Network File System for Virtualization.  This session is definitely worth attending if you are heading there!  Dave Morera of the #NetAppATeam will be co-presenting with Justin.

If you’re attending the conference, I hope to see you there!

24 x 7 IT Connection – Happy 6th Birthday, OpenStack!

Its hard to believe how fast time files, especially in the technology world.  With development cycles getting shorter and shorter as new methodologies arise, we’re seeing great new features quicker than ever before.  OpenStack has come such a very long way in this time, and we’re already talking about the N-labeled release, Newton which will be coming out this fall.  To find out some highlights of Newton, as well as some highlights from the last Technical Committee Meeting, make sure to head on over to 24 x 7 IT Connection.

Since October is approaching, we also have two big things happening. The OpenStack Newton release will be out on October 10th, which will mark the 14th release of OpenStack. We can look forward to proposed improvements in the networking stack, more around encryption and security across projects including data-at-rest encryption work for Swift, and much more.

Click here to read the complete article at 24 x 7 IT Connection.

Setup and Use of the Cisco UCS Platform Emulator

This article provides an overview of how to use the UCS Platform Emulator.  It describes initial configuration and use, as well as a few tips and tricks I have picked up along the way.

Why would you want to use the UCS Platform Emulator anyway?  Great question.  You may be an administrator looking to use the platform in an environment where you can break things and not worry about impacting production.  Perhaps you are evaluating the UCS Platform and want to get a feel for day to day operations.  Whatever the use case, if you want to spin up a UCS environment and play with configuration, the UCS Platform Emulator is the tool to do it with.

The UCS Platform Emulator provides the ability to configure virtual hardware which is then accessed via UCS Manager, which is the UCS platform’s management tool.

This article is broken up into a number of sections. Click the link to go directly to a section.

Initial Setup of Emulator

Logging into the UCS Platform Emulator

Managing Virtual Equipment



Saving an Equipment Configuration

Launching UCS Manager

Saving the UCS Manager Configuration

Importing (Restoring) the UCS Manager Configuration



Initial Setup of Emulator

First, download everything you will need from the Cisco website by clicking HERE.  Note, you will need to login to the Cisco site to download.  You should download the OVA or Zip file, and the user guide.  Hopefully the information in this post will help you skip reading most of the user guide.  Make sure to select the version of UCS Manager you are looking to emulate, as there are several currently available as well as archived.  I’m going to be using UCS Manager 3.1(1ePE1).

You will also need to decide what your virtualization platform of choice is.  You can use VMware Player, VMware Fusion, ESXi, or Hyper-V.  The tool is deployed as an OVA.  Deploy the OVA into your environment and start the virtual machine.  This article assumes you know how to deploy an OVA.  By default, the VM will use DHCP, but you can put in static IP addresses if you would like.

If you want to continue with DHCP, hit a to view your current IP address.

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If you want to use a static address, hit n for modify network settings.

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Logging into the UCS Platform Emulator

Navigate to the IP address of the VIP in a browser, and you will be greeted with the UCS Emulator interface. There are two main parts of the interface, the Equipment Inventory and UCS Manager. First, we are going to start with the equipment interface.

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Managing Equipment

The UCS Emulator comes with equipment already “installed”. This may work for you, or you may need further customization. There’s a lot of things I don’t want in there, so I’m going to start with removing what I don’t need. Click Equipment in the Inventory pane on the left to get started.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.21.27 AM

Removing Equipment

Let’s start by getting rid of a rack server. Click the green circle under Insert/Remove. You will see a little box that says “Remove?” With a Green Checkmark and a Red X. You may be tempted to click the Red X, but it is asking you to confirm you are removing the hardware, so click the Green Checkmark.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.29.25 AM

Now you will see the message that your removal has launched successfully.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.30.08 AM

This may take a bit of time, but when the device is ready to remove, the green circle will be red, and you will be able to click the Red X under Delete Device.  It will not ask you to confirm deletion, it will just delete the device.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.31.36 AM


Your device will be deleted.  Continue to use this process for everything else you would like to delete in the inventory.

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Note, that if you delete a blade chassis, it will also delete all the blade servers in it.

Adding Equipment

Now that I’ve gotten rid of everything I don’t need, I’m going to add some equipment. To add something simply click the + button next to what you would like to add and select the model. I’m going to add a new chassis and call it Chassis1.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.35.27 AM


Now I need to edit my chassis.  I can click on the Chassis in the equipment link.  Yes, it will say Chassis CH3 because I deleted the two that were already in the inventory.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 11.36.48 AM


Now we need to add all of the components to the chassis.  We need to add blades, power supplies, fans, and IO modules.  To add something, click the item in the bottom pane and drag it to the Chassis1 pane.  Enter the slot you are putting the hardware in (or a range like 1-4 if you want to fill 4 psu slots with the same device) and repeat these steps for all components.  You must have appropriate power supplies and fans in the system, or it will not be happy once you start UCS Manager.


When it comes time for the blades, I like to pick the configurations from the template section, as it has a number of configurations for various servers.  After we have everything we want in our chassis, we need to connect it by clicking the Connect button next in the Manage Links of Chassis pane.  It will then give you the box with the Green Checkmark and the Red X.  Click the Green Checkmark to connect the chassis.  After we see everything connected, we can go ahead and duplicate that chassis if we need multiple ones.

connect chassis

Now, after you’ve cloned any additional chassis, view the chassis one by one in the equipment pane and click connect in the Manage Link of Chassis Pane.

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Now that all of our chassis are connected, it is time to insert them into UCS Manager.  Click the red circle under Insert/Remove, then click the Green Checkbox to insert the chassis.  Repeat this for all chassis.Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.21.33 PM

You’ll notice the blades have also inserted themselves when you inserted their chassis.  Now, once you’re greeted with green circles representing all of your hardware, you are ready to launch UCS Manager.

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Launching UCS Manager

You can launch UCS Manager by clicking the UCS Manager symbol on the top of the Hardware Inventory pane.

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Click Launch UCS Manager.  You may be promoted to install JRE if you do not already have it.

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If you’re using a Mac, something to note is that your Mac may not want to run UCS Manager.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.38.05 PM

The easiest way to get around this is to locate the file in your finder and open it from there.  Right click the file in finder and select open.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.38.27 PM

It will ask you if you want to open it since it is from an identified developer, click Open, and you will be good to go.  It will then ask if you want to run UCS Manager.  Of course you do, so click yes!

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.38.46 PM

Finally log into UCS Manager with the username/password UCSPE/UCSPE.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 12.39.17 PM

Then you’ll be asked about setting up anonymous reporting.  I didn’t bother because, well, it’s an emulator.

Welcome to UCS Manager!  If you click equipment on the navigation pane on the left, you will see your chassis and fabric interconnects.


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Expand one of your chassis by clicking the triangle next to it.  Then click the triangle next to servers to see the specs of a server.  As you can see our chassis is full of B200 M4 servers, just like we configured it.

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Saving and Loading Hardware Configurations

After all this work, you may want to save your virtual hardware configuration. To do this, head back to the UCS Platform Emulator page and click equipment. Then click the fourth icon from the left and select Export XML. The XML file will open in a new window. This will be handy if you want to re-load your configuration or transfer it to another simulator. You can import it by clicking the first icon on the right and selecting Import from a Saved XML.

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Saving the UCS Manager Configuration

Once you restart the VM, or restart the services, your configuration is gone.  I repeat, your configuration is gone.  The emulator does not save the UCS Manager state.  Luckily, UCS has backup functionality built right in.  Navigate to the Admin tab in the left pane, and you will see Backup Configuration under Actions.  Click Backup Configuration, and Create Backup Operation.
Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.02.03 PM
Admin State Enabled means back up right now, so make sure to click the Enabled radio button if you are backing up to a network location.  The UCS Emulator Platform does not support Full State backups, so select any of the others.  I like to select All Configuration and Preserve Identities.  You can backup to a server, or locally.  I just back up locally by selecting Location of Backup File as Local File System.  Browse to the location you would like to select, and type a file name at the end ending with XML – and no spaces in the name.
Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.06.35 PM

You will get a popup that says your Backup File has successfully downloaded. Save the Port Channels!

Importing (Restoring) UCS Manager Configuration

Navigate to the admin tab in the left pane. You will see Import Configuration under Actions. Select Create Import Operation and select your configuration file. As with backing your configuration, Admin State Enabled means do it right now. Then click OK. You will see a message that the configuration has imported successfully and you can pick up where you left off. Your Port Channels are back!
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This section lists some issues you may run into during use of the UCS Platform Emulator.

Help! I’m clicking but nothing is happening when I’m setting up my hardware configuration in the web interface!

Keep in mind this is just a little VM running all of this virtualized hardware. Every once in a while it may simply…not work. It did not seem to be very happy when I rolled through connecting eight chassis fairly quickly, or when I was trying to connect them all. To restart the UCS Emulator processes, go back to the console screen and type s and hit enter. If you’re using DHCP like I am, your IP addresses may have changed so make sure to verify them. Remember, restarting the processes or VM will destroy any configuration you have done with UCS Manager.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 10.49.31 AM

Hey, my chassis are all Red and Orange and stuff. What do I do?

I haven’t figured out exactly what’s up with this yet. When I didn’t add PSUs and Fans it was much much worse.  While some of the chassis are loaded with faults, they aren’t that bad from a usability perspective. There’s some thermal and power issues with some of the servers it looks like. Overall, the chassis says operable so I wouldn’t worry too much.  Also, when you configure something not quite right UCS Manager will probably throw a fault at you, so it is a good idea to take a look at them every once in a while.

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 1.19.12 PM

Um…what’s the username and password for UCS Manager?


I rebooted the emulator VM and IT’S ALL GONE!

Did you backup the configuration inside UCS Manager?  No?  Start over, and make sure you do that next time!