Tech Smorgasbord #6

An on-going reference series for interesting technology or projects which deserve further investigation, or for technical documentation (of one media format or another) that looks to be especially good reference material.


There’s been so much good material coming out of late that I’m going to need to put together several of these smorgasbords just to catch up. Here’s the first batch of things I think you’ll find interesting:


Automatic for the People

If you’re into network automation, you might be following the work of Kirk Byers (@kirkbyers). Kirk has been focusing on various tools and methods for automating network devices, such as Ansible, Paramiko, and Python, for awhile now – particularly with Python. His Python for Network Engineers is a good reference, and he routinely teaches classes on that subject – including free-by-email classes, the next of which starts in April. He recently blogged about NAPALM – Network Automation and Programmability Abstraction Layer – in conjunction with Ansible to automate IOS:

NAPALM, Ansible, and Cisco IOS

Another automation project, also utilizing Python and Ansible but originating from VMware, is Chaperone. The new toolkit is targeted at VMware’s SDDC products including vSphere, vCenter, vRealize Automation, vRealize Orchestrator, vRealize Operations, NSX, etc.


Virtually Anything

DoubleCloud Inc., founded by Steve Jin (@sjin2008),  has announced a new “Super vCenter” product called DoubleCloud vSearch that looks pretty interesting: Google search and big data analytics for VMware environments delivered as a single OVA and leveraging a simple HTML5 web UI.

You may also recall his DoubleCloud Interactive Cloud Environment (ICE) product that was launched last year to provide a single console for both CLI & GUI management of vCenter/ESXi environments (and the guests that run in those environments). Both vSearch and ICE are available as 60 day demo downloads, and ICE has a permanently free edition as well.

Keith Tenzer (@keithtenzer) has a really good blog covering Red Hat’s virtualization related technologies such as Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization and OpenStack. His most recent post is a nice write-up on Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization (RHEV) – Management Options.


NetApp News

Stefan Renner (@rennerstefan) has been publishing a number of interesting blog posts of late, with these two covering SnapMirror and Storage Virtual Machine (SVM) DR being of particular note.

How to create mirror-vault and version flexible SnapMirror relationship in CDOT 8.3

How to setup a SVM DR in CDOT 8.3.1 including all configuration and data

NetApp’s very own Andrew Sullivan (@andrew_ntap), co-host of the Tech ONTAP Podcast, has been very productive. He’s churned out a number of great scripting or automation focused blogs (including the first two below and more on Docker in the section), as well as co-writing this recent technical report on SDS from a NetApp/VMware perspective.

cDOT Environment Monitoring Using PowerShell

NetApp PowerShell Toolkit – Templates

TR-4308: Software-Defined Storage with NetApp and VMware

Ed Morgan (@mo6020) has written a handy little post on automating the NetApp simulator using Vagrant:

Using Vagrant to provision the Clustered Data ONTAP vSim


Docker Delights

Mr. Sullivan at work again – this time wearing his Containers Cap with a couple excellent posts on running some NetApp tools inside of Docker:

Putting the NetApp Manageability SDK Into Docker Containers

Perfstat in a Docker Container

Another NetAppian, Jacint Juhaz (@jac1nt), has a nice compendium post around using Docker Swarm on AWS with Cloud ONTAP for persistent data.


Miscellania

Microsoft acquires SwiftKey

SwiftKey has been a must-have on all of my Android devices for years now. It’ll be interesting to see what happens after this acquisition  – trepidation abounds.

Udacity is now offering an Advanced level Deep Learning course developed by Google that’s free for anyone to take so long as they’re willing to put in some time: participants are expected to take approximately 3 months when working about 6hrs/week . It’s part of Udacity’s Machine Learning Engineer Nanodegree program, which is not free overall but  – at $199/month for an expected 10-12 months worth of work – is still pretty affordable, particularly since they promise a 50% refund if you complete & graduate within 12 months. 


 

 

 

 

Advertisements

VMware vExpert 2016: NetApp Honorees

Last Friday VMware released the official list of the honorees for the VMware vExpert 2016 program. I’m proud to have been chosen for this award for the third year, and even prouder to see how many other NetApp employees, including our new Solidfire brethren, and “extended family” are on the list:

  • Chris Gebhardt (@chrisgeb), vTME and Dr. Desktop, Lord of EUC at NetApp
  • Henry Vail, Senior Architect for Converged Infrastructures at NetApp
  • Joel Kaufman (@thejoelk), TME Director for manageability at NetApp
  • Kyle Murley (@kylemurley), Systems Engineer for Solidfire at NetApp
  • Melissa Palmer (@vmiss33 and vmiss.net), TME for Converged Infrastructures at NetApp
  • Shawn Lieu (@ShawnLieu), Solutions Architect at Veeam and NetApp A-Team member

If there’s anyone that I’ve missed in the above list, please let me know and I’ll be happy to update & make sure that you’re included.

 VMW-LOGO-vEXPERT-2016-k

Tech Smorgasbord #5

An on-going reference series for interesting technology or projects which deserve further investigation, or for technical documentation (of one media format or another) that looks to be especially good reference material.


Free tech ebooks

Let’s start with something everybody loves – freebies! The New Stack has launched a new series of books on Docker and they’re giving them away. The first book is out now with four more books planned to be released over the next six months:

  1. Book 1: The Docker & Container Ecosystem
  2. Book 2: Applications & Microservices with Docker & Containers (coming in January)
  3. Book 3: Automation & Orchestration with Docker & Containers (coming in March)
  4. Book 4: Networking, Security & Storage with Docker & Containers (coming in May)
  5. Book 5: Monitoring & Management with Docker & Containers (coming in June)

http://thenewstack.io/ebookseries/


SDN under Ravello

Ravello Systems has some truly great tech enabling nested virtualization in the cloud, and many people have jumped on the bandwagon of running some – or in some cases all – of their home labs using Ravello rather than on their own equipment. It helps, of course, that Ravello have a very active presence in the VMware and OpenStack communities, provide free trials of their product, and even offer free accounts to VMware vExperts. Thanks to this, we’ve seen an explosion of blogs detailing how to run various software using Ravello’s Smart Labs – even software defined networking (SDN) technology.

NSX

Thomas Beaumont (@tleej) has a great series on running VMware’s NSX under Ravello – which lead to him being chosen as one of the three winners in Ravello’s recent blog writing contest.

http://nsx.world/nsx-on-aws-part-1/

http://nsx.world/nsx-on-aws-part-2/

http://nsx.world/nsx-on-aws-part-3/

Cumulus Networks

If you’d rather play with Cumulus Linux instead, Christian Elsen (@ChristianElsen) has you covered with a great post on getting it working with Ravello:

https://www.edge-cloud.net/2015/08/building-a-cumulus-networks-vx-cloud-lab-with-ravello-systems


Network automation

Speaking of networking, O’Reilly has just published an Early Release edition of the upcoming Network Programmabiility and Automation book by Jason Edelman (@jedelman8), Scott Lowe (@scott_lowe), and Matt Oswalt (@Mierdin). With this authorial lineup the book is practically guaranteed to be a must-read for those inclined towards either networking or automation.

In the meantime, you can check out a couple recent blog posts by Jason on the same subject:

OpenConfig, Data Models, and APIs

Network Automation with Ansible – Dynamically Configuring Interface Descriptions


Clustering with Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7

UnixArena (@UnixArena) has a highly detailed 8-part (so far, at least) series covering clustering under RHEL7 with Pacemaker. Pacemaker is one of the critical software components providing cluster high availability for both RHEL and OpenStack.

  1. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/compare-redhat-cluster-releases-rhel-7-ha-vs-rhel-6-ha.html
  2. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-redhat-cluster-with-pacemaker-overview.html
  3. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-installing-redhat-cluster-software-corosync-pacemaker.html
  4. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-configuring-pacemaker-corosync-redhat-cluster-part-4.html
  5. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-pacemaker-cluster-resource-agents-overview.html
  6. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-pacemaker-cluster-resource-group-management.html
  7. http://www.unixarena.com/2015/12/rhel-7-pacemaker-configuring-ha-kvm-guest.html
  8. http://www.unixarena.com/2016/01/rhel-7-pacemaker-cluster-node-management.html

Mac OS X Hypervisor Framework

With the release of Mac OS 10.10 (Yosemite), Apple added an intriguing new feature to the operating system with very little fan fare. The release notes only offered this brief paragraph:

Hypervisor (Hypervisor.framework). The Hypervisor framework allows virtualization vendors to build virtualization solutions on top of OS X without needing to deploy third-party kernel extensions (KEXTs). Included is a lightweight hypervisor that enables virtualization of the host CPUs.

Since then, there hasn’t been a lot of further discussion on the topic, either – except for the fine folks at pagetable.com. First there was a fascinating article in January of last year on using the framework to run a DOS emulator (hvdos), and then in June came the announcement of xhyve, a port of FreeBSD’s bhyve hypervisor.

(Interesting aside: bhyve was initially developed and open-sourced by NetApp back in 2011, and you can find more information, including numerous conference presentations and recordings on the FreeBSD site.)

And now Veertu Labs has launched their new virtualization product for the Mac based on Apple’s hypervisor framework. Maish Saidel-Keesing (@maishk) has a good write up here:

http://technodrone.blogspot.com/2016/01/native-mac-osx-virtualization-with.html

I haven’t played with it yet myself, but I’m looking forwad to giving it a spin, while still keeping an eye on xhyve’s future.


All CLI all the time

If you’ve perused much of my prior posts, you’ll know that I enjoy using the CLI quite a bit – whether it’s for the operating system, an application, or an infrastructure device, textual interfaces just seem more fun and (usually) more efficient to me. Sadly, despite the UNIX power of Mac OS X, its rich CLI is often overlooked so it was a nice surprise to stumble across Herb Bischoff’s Awesome OS X Command Line. It’s by no means exhaustive, but there’s quite a few little tips, tricks, and hints captured of which I wasn’t previously aware.

I also came across a nice study guide for PowerCLI put together by Christophe Calvet which includes a good conceptual introduction and links to a number of additional resources for both PowerCLI and PowerShell.


Attack Methods for Gaining Domain Admin Rights in Active Directory

Earlier in my IT career I spent a large amount of time on the job dealing with security issues: physical security systems, firewalls, operating system hardening, corporate security policies, etc.  While it’s been a few years since I’ve  had any real security responsibilities, infosec remains an area of significant interest to me. This article by Sean Metcalf (@PyroTek3) is a nicely detailed examination of some of the common vulnerabilities in Microsoft’s Active Directory today and how to mitigate against them. Lots of references and backing sources provides a treasure trove of related reading.

https://adsecurity.org/?p=2362


 

 

Seasonal Learning Opportunities 2015

This a brief update to last year’s post on good deals for our continuing quest to Always Be Learning.

The following are simply in alphabetical order, and I’m sure only represent the tip of the iceberg of good deals. Please share any others you hear about in the comments.

Books and Videos

Apress

Apress are offering a Cyber Monday sale of $10 each for any of their ebooks ($20 each for any of the Spring ebooks) until 11:59pm tonight, November 30th. The  site normally offers an Apress ebook Deal of the Day as well as a Springer Daily Deal.

CiscoPress

Cisco Press are having a Cyber Monday Sale with 55% off eligible items using code CM2015. This includes books, ebooks, video training, practice exams, and more. They also consistently offer eBook and Video Deals of the Week (from their home page).

Manning Publications

This year they’re again having a “Green Tuesday” sale until the end of November where all eBook purchases under $50 are 40% off (codegt112415acc) and purchases over $50 are 50% off (code gt112415bcc). They’re also having a “Countdown to 2016” sale during December with a different discount deal each day, a chance to win a free ebook each day, and a chance to win an Apple iPad Pro.

And of course they have a Deal of the Day selected from across their entire catalog (eBooks, physical/printed books, or “MEAPs” – Manning Early Access Program books similar to O’Reilly’s Rough Cuts where books are made available as chapters are completed).

O’Reilly

O’Reilly have been one of the premier publishers of IT books for decades, and in recent years have of course added ebooks, videos, and other media to their output. While O’Reilly have Ebook Deals of the Day (usually two) and Video Deal of the Week, their biggest sales are at this time of year.

Their Cyber Monday Sale is running again this year (till December 1st 5am PST) and you can score 50% off any ebook or video, or 60% off when ordering $100 or more. And remember – O’Reilly sell/distribute books by other publishers as well including No Starch Press, Wrox, Wiley, Sybex, and many others.

Even better, O’Reilly are the force behind SafariOnline, the premier tech ebook/video subscription service which is having its own Cyber Monday sale today: 50% off the normal annual subscription price of $399! So for $199 you can get an all-you-can eat tech buffet – this is one of the best deals out there if you consume (or want to consume) a large amount of tech content. And yes – it includes offline (tablet/laptop/etc.) access!

Pearson IT Certification

Pearson are having the same Cyber Monday Sale as Cisco Press with 55% off any digital items. On their site you’ll find not only tech books from Cisco Press but also VMware Press,  and others, and of course video training, practice exams, and more.  If you miss this sale, they also consistently offer eBook and Video Deals of the Week (different from the ones on the Cisco Press site).

Training

GNS3 Academy

You may know GNS3 as the best vendor-neutral networking simulator around, but did you realize they also offer training? This year they’re offering a Black Friday sale where all of their courses (normally priced between $19 – $49) are only $15 using coupon code BLACKFRIDAY. They also have several free courses to check out at any time.

INE

If you’re ready to take the leap for your CCIE, check out INE‘s Cyber Monday Sale.  They’re offering 3 deals: 33% off their Routing & Switching Everything Bundle, 50% off rack rental tokens, and 20% off INE apparel.

Pluralsight

The company offering the best catalog of tech video training – by some of the best, most knowledgeable instructors – are going to be offering a Cyber Monday sale, too. What is it? They still haven’t announced it, but given that a Pluralsight subscription (as low as $299/year)  is tied with SafariOnline for the best tech learning value per dollar, you’re going to want to check back to see what deals they’re offering!

 

SafariOnline

Yes, this is a double listing, but only because Safari does include a number of video training classes in their inventory – and because at $199 a Safari subscription is an incredible deal!

Unrelated Good Deal

SpiderOak

My favorite backup/synch service is offering their unlimited plan for only $149/year as a Cyber Monday deal (until December 1st). SpiderOak combines the granual backup of products like CrashPlan with the synch capabilities of Dropbox, but with a core focus on zero-knowledge security and privacy. If you value your data – and the privacy of that data – you should seriously think about using them.


Take advantage of everything that’s out there, and get prepared for annother year of learning and growth!

Kicking the Tires: VMware vCloud Air OnDemand

Before We Begin

Cloud Computing. The Cloud. Private Cloud. Public Cloud. Hybrid Cloud.Cloud apps. Cloud platforms. Cloud automation. Cloud bursting. Intercloud. Multicloud. Cloudcloudcloudcloudcloudcloudcloudcloud

CloudAgain

Ok, enough of that, then.

Private and Public

VMware, as everyone know, is the 800 pound gorilla of infrastructure virtualization, of Infrastructure-as-a-Service, of private cloud. Despite this,  and despite VMware’s aggressive pursuit of being more than just the King of Virtualization, it has not historically been focused on, or a leader in, public cloud.

Clearly, Amazon Web Services is the 800 pound – nay, 800 ton – gorilla of public cloud.  Why? A number of reasons: early market entry, parent brand recognition, aggressive pricing, sustained investment,  and many others. But the biggest reasons are almost certainly the simplest: speed and ease. A relative novice can quickly setup an AWS account and within a few minutes have a virtual machine running on the Internet – all payment taken care of easily via credit card and all charges based on a simple utility usage model. Pay for what you use when you use it, and by how much of it you use. If you use it less, you pay less, and if you don’t use it at all then you don’t pay anything.

If you’re reading this, you’ve undoubtedly used AWS yourself and understand this well. If you haven’t actually gotten your hands wet, you should and you can – just go sign up for the AWS Free Tier for a year and see for yourself: http://aws.amazon.com/free/.

A Step In the Right Direction

VMware’s initial foray into public cloud with vCloud Hybrid Service, now renamed as vCloud Air, was fairly self-explanatory and focused on offering hybrid cloud services where a customer’s private cloud (already running on vSphere) could be expanded and extended into a cloud provider’s infrastructure (in this case VMware’s). Built on vSphere and vCloud Director, it was a powerful platform that leveraged a company’s existing familiarity and trust with VMware’s products to (relatively) easily work with off-prem infrastructure services. It just wasn’t really public cloud , nor were the acquisition & usage models the same: you couldn’t just go sign up with a credit card, and your billing would follow a subscription model for blocks of resources (like your cable TV bill) rather than only actual resources used (like your utility bill).

Now VMware is expanding to provide a true public cloud experience with the development of vCloud Air OnDemand: a pay-as-you-go cloud utility service aimed more squarely at AWS and other public cloud service providers. I was fortunate enough to be selected as an early access participant through the vCloud Air OnDemand Ambassador program, and got to play a bit with it.

ondemand-ambassador-stamp-Eric-Railine

Clouds in the Air

In a nutshell: it’s pretty darn good. It certainly looks a lot nicer, cleaner, and more professional than AWS, and it provides a much needed simplified UI in front of vCloud Director (though direct access to the vCD UI is also available throughout the vCloud Air UI for those more comfortable with it or who need to use some of the more advanced features and configurations).

The initial setup is straightforward: login, click on “Virtual Private Cloud OnDemand”, choose your first datacenter to place your workload, and begin provisioning virtual machines.

The wizard for creating your VMs is simple and straight forward, and provides detailed visibility into the costs associated with your configuration choices. You can look at either the per-hour or  the per-month cost for the VM, and tweak the setting to your heart’s – and bank account’s – content.

You can also create a VM “from scratch” outside of this simple wizard, which will bounce you out to the vCloud Directory UI instead where you can build new vApps as custom as you like, or import existing vApps and OVFs.

The on-going management dashboard is divided into Resource Usage (i.e. what you’re using & how much it’s costing you), Virtual Machines (the default tab you are taken to), Gateways, and Networks. The majority of your daily VM operations are easily done from here.

Manage_VM

Quibbles and Nits

It’s the little things that trip you up: the untied shoelace, the toy in the wrong place, the step that you didn’t see. Despite the polished look of the vCloud Air interface, there were a number of things that proved annoying or made the product more difficult to work with than it needed to be:

  • Root passwords: If you use any of the pre-created operating systems in the catalog, the automation will set a new random root password (and provide that password to you in the interface) which you then need to change upon login. Seems reasonable, right? Except that every VM I created this way would never take the new password but would instead return to the login prompt without the change taking effect. Over and over. I tried this with different choices (CentOS 6.3 64-bit, CentOS 6.4 32-bit, Ubuntu Server 12.04 64-bit, Ubuntu Server 12.04 32-bit) across different datacenter locations (US Virginia 14, US California 13) with no difference in behavior. An easy workaround is to simply boot into single user mode, enter the  random password, and then manually change using the ‘passwd’ command. Easy, but annoying (and not an issue I’ve encountered with images from AWS, Digital Ocean, etc.).
  • Intermittently, the web UI would display incorrectly – usually either calculated fields wouldn’t update automatically or in some cases fields simply wouldn’t display, like this one:

UI_error

  • Help and Support: Choosing the Help option from the upper-right menu takes you to the vCloud Air Documentation Center, which is very good. Choosing the Support Center option takes you to the vCloud Air Support Center – which looks good, but any searches are run against the entire VMware support site and not filtered by (or at least sorted for) vCloud Air. Worse, there’s no  option for vCloud Air in the product list on the left for the user to filter their own results.
  • Internet access:  I’ll go out on a limb & say that in the vast majority of cases, users will need a newly-created VM to be able to access the Internet (for OS updates or software installation if nothing else). For most public clouds, including AWS, the default state of a new VM is Internet-accessible, including inbound access. Yet here it’s not enabled by default, there’s nothing presented in the UI to configure it simply (it’s actually a three step process), and how to do so is semi-buried in the documentation where it is not really clearly described.

In the end, the above are just unnecessary friction for an otherwise slick and powerful product.

Verdict

VMware has done a good job of moving into the utility cloud space with OnDemand. If you’re looking for a cloud service built on the most enterprise-class virtualization products available, run by the company that built those products, and which can allow seamless import/export between the cloud service and your existing private cloud – you want vCloud Air. If you want the power of vCloud Director yet with a simpler interface, you want vCloud Air. And if you want the speed and ease of AWS with the same technology you’re used to in your datacenter, you want vCloud Air OnDemand.

And like AWS, it’s easy to try – just go sign up for an account and get $300 in service credits for the first 90 days!