Platform Services Controller Failures

Recently I was asked to review the vCenter 6 architecture in preparation for a move off 5.5 to 6.0.   Part of this process required a recommendation on best practices around 6.0 vCenter architecture.  I have always found the best way to understand a product is to induce failures.   It helps you understand the gaps in order to architect the best solution.


The Tale of Roles

vCenter has had a mixed up past.  It’s has gone from being physical to virtual on a single server.  To breaking out the database and vCenter roles.  To breaking out every role.   People have literally made a career out of dividing and smashing together vCenter in order to provide for customer needs.   In vCenter 6 VMware provides two total roles that can be together or divided:

  • Platform Services Controller (PSC)
  • vCenter Server (VC)


The roles are divided as shown:

The Platform service controller (PSC) provides the following functions:

  • License service
  • Component Manager
  • Identity Management service
  • Service Control agent
  • Security Token service
  • Common logging service
  • Syslog health service
  • Authentication Framework
  • Certificate service
  • Directory service


The vCenter Server (VC) provides the following functions:

  • Inventory service
  • vCenter service
  • Auto deploy services
  • VMware update manager
  • Web client
  • Third party plugins


In addition vCenter requires a database off the supported list (SQL or Oracle).  If you upgrade from a large-scale deployment with each of the following services on their own server they will all be pulled into these two roles.    You cannot deploy an Inventory only VC server.   You are stuck with a one machine or two machine deployment model.   VMware has improved the watch dog process in java making sure that invetory or vpxd processes cannot kill each other (a problem in 5.5) .  In 6 a java master process manages all the java to control resource usage instead of multiple independent java processes.  Communication between these roles is done via API access so you can mix and match Linux and Windows machines.  At this time it is not supported to mix Linux and Windows PSC’s behind the same load balancer.   I personally would stick with one format for support purposes either Linux or Windows.


PSC Options

PSC’s can be embedded (installed on same machine as VC) or stand alone (their own machine).   PSC’s can also be behind a load balancer.   PSC has two critical concepts

  • vSphere domain – defined as a authentication domain – not tied to active directory – each PSC is joined to a single domain normally called vsphere.local – to identify the local authentication source of the PSC
  • PSC Site – each vSphere domain can have multiple sites that are user defined strings – each PSC joined to a site understands it location and other PSC at the same site – replication between sites are done via a master at each site – this cuts down on network traffic

Domain is a carry over from SSO and is known in most implementations as vsphere.local (it’s the local domain for local SSO authentication)  Domain becomes a critical concept with Enhanced linked mode below.    Site is a designation provided to PSC’s to understand who is close and far away for replication and potential fail over options.   It’s not heavily used right now but keep your eyes on this option in the future.


Enhanced Linked Mode (ELM)

This is one of my favorite new features it allows vCenters in the same PSC domain to be connected.  You can login to a single vCenter web client and access all other vCenters in the same domain.   It has a current limit of 10 vCenters but provides a single point of administration for multiple vCenters allowing for a better scale out approach.   It does require that all PSC’s servicing the vCenter’s be in the same domain and stand alone PSC’s (embedded are not supported joined to domains).  It also offers the following features across all linked machines:

  • Single pane of glass for all vCenters via the web client (using enhanced linked mode)
  • Common central location for tags and categories
  • Permissions applied in a single location
  • Central authentication for all VMware services (future release)
  • Storing and generation of SSL certificates in a single location
  • Replication between sites for Authentication

Sizing for PSC

Currently the PSC has the following limits as per configuration maximums document:

Item Maximum
Max PSC per vSphere domain 8
Max PSC behind a load balancer 4
Max objects within a vSphere domain (Users and groups) 1,0000,0000
Max number of vCenters to a single PSC 4
Max number of vCenters in vSphere domain 10
Max number of Web Client sessions 180


So this sizing does provide some limits on your architecture.  The most critical is number of web client sessions.   If you have four vCenters in your ELM and login to one you just created one web client session for yourself on each vCenter.   Even if you never use the other vCenters that’s a session on all until you logout.  So if you are going to have 180 users as the same time you might have a problem.

API Sessions

API and solution connections are all not considered web client logins and in 6 have a limit of 500 connections at a time.   So the web client limit is specifically human users.


PSC Failures (the whole point of this article)

So I wanted to test what happens with PSC’s or VC’s fail on 6.   Here is my test setup:


We have three sites each with their own VC and PSC.  Each vCenter has a one to one relationship with the PSC’s above them.    All are in the same PSC domain allowing ELM.   I also wanted to test mixing and matching Linux and Windows so I used the following:

Item Description
Site 1 PSC Linux based appliance
Site 1 vCenter Linux based appliance
Site 2 PSC Windows based PSC
Site 2 vCenter Linux based appliance
Site 3 PSC Linux based appliance
Site 3 vCenter Windows based vCenter


Test Case 1:

Failure of a PSC while user is logged in to vCenter and attempting to manage each vCenter:

Scenarios Site1vc Site2vc Site3vc Logged into
Failure of site2psc logged in to site3 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site3
Failure of site3psc logged in to site3 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site3
Failure of site1psc logged in to site3 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site3
Failure of site2psc logged in to site1 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site1
Failure of site3psc logged in to site1 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site1
Failure of site1psc logged in to site1 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site1
Failure of site2psc logged in to site2 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site2
Failure of site3psc logged in to site2 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site2
Failure of site1psc logged in to site2 Manageable Manageable Manageable Site2


The short version of this test is if you are logged into any of the vCenters then a PSC becomes available all primary vCenter functions are available (like access to vm’s)  access to PSC functions for the connected vCenter are not available (like add global tags, applied tags are still present and working).

Test case 2

Failure of PSC and user attempts to login

Failure of site2psc trying to log into site1 Yes Site1
Failure of site2psc trying to log into site2 No Site2
Failure of site2psc trying to log into site3 Yes Site3
Failure of site1psc trying to log into site1 No Site1
Failure of site1psc trying to log into site2 Yes Site2
Failure of site1psc trying to log into site3 Yes Site3
Failure of site3psc trying to log into site1 Yes Site1
Failure of site3psc trying to log into site2 Yes Site2
Failure of site3psc trying to log into site3 No Site3

As you can see a user is unable to login to the vCenter if its PSC is unavailable.  Simple it only allows it’s connected PSC to authorize authenticated users.   If the PSC becomes available after login it will eventually allow the user to see and manage it’s vCenter.  All other vCenters are available.

Test Case 3

Failure of vCenter while logged in to ELM (this is the placebo test)


Scenarios Site1vc Site2vc Site3vc Logged in to
Failure of site2vc when logged into site1 Manageable No Manageable site1
Failure of site2vc when logged into site2 No No No site2
Failure of site2vc when logged into site3 Manageable No Manageable site3
Failure of site1vc when logged into site1 No No No site1
Failure of site1vc when logged into site2 No Manageable Manageable site2
Failure of site1vc when logged into site3 No Manageable Manageable site3
Failure of site3vc when logged into site1 Manageable Manageable No site1
Failure of site3vc when logged into site2 Manageable Manageable No site2
Failure of site3vc when logged into site3 No No No site3

If vCenter goes away you cannot manage it.  It takes about 120 seconds for the vCenter to be removed from vCenter as a managable object.  During that time some cached displays will still work and seem to be slow.   If the vCenter returns it requires a web client refresh to display as a manageable object.

Overall Failures

No real surprises on the PSC architecture failures.   I am happy that ELM continues to work even if the PSC has failed for as long as your session lasts.   (New sessions will not work)


Possible Enterprise architecture

One possible solution is to use a load balancer to create a high availability pair of PSC’s then tie more than one vCenter into this HA pair (or up to 4 PSC’s):


This solution will control the number of PSC’s in your environment.  Remote branch offices or other sites can be tied into the same ELM as shown on the right.   At this time VMware does not support using Linux mixed with Windows behind a load balancer (make it one or the other).   In addition the PSC’s behind the load balancer should be listed as at the same PSC site.   I have seen other architectures including a great discussion with @arielsanchezmor about a possible highly available PSC across sites.  I look forward to hearing if that architecture is supported by VMware.


Upgrade paths:

Simple answer is whatever you want the architecture to be in 6 you need to do it first in 5.5.  Don’t upgrade to 6 and make the PSC stand alone it does not work well.   VMware support has a lot of great articles on breaking out the SSO into its own machine and very little on PSC right now.   Each week the PSC documentation gets better but take my advise and break it into your designated architecture on 5.5 before you go to 6.


vBrownBag presentation:

I did a 15 minute vBrownbag presentation on this topic a VMworld which you can watch here:


Journey to an Automated Cloud Part 2

Last week I was pleased to present on the VMworld vBrownBag stage on reference architecture for automation.   I was given 15 minutes which really cannot bring the topic justice so I focused on a few simple concepts:

  • Just documenting the process you will miss all the human intelligence that goes into making the process a success
  • Human intelligence is required to make any automation a sucess (you have to identify possible situations)
  • Focus on creating standards then writing process to enforce and automate the standards
  • Once standards and process are in place test it a lot with humans who document what is missing
  • Once automation of simple modular unit’s are in place you can then add complexity and gain flexibility


Original picture source unknown

You can watch my presentation here:


Unfortunately the audio got messed up during the video’s so the originals can be found here:

The first one shows even with human knowledge you might not always make a perfect sandwich

This video shows what it’s like to be a computer literally blind.. yet still with some human intelligence showing how hard it is to automate:

My daughters were very kind to assist with the presentation and stole the show.   I am thankful for vBrownBag providing me an opportunity they are an awesome group.

VCIX-NV VMware Certified Implementation Expert Network Virtualization Exam Experience

While attending VMworld I have made a habit of taking advantage of the discounted certifications.   Each year I have pushed into a new certification and given a try.   This year I have my sights set on VCIX-NV.   I normally like to schedule these tests during the general session to avoid the impact of a 3 hour test during VMworld sessions.  (I can always watch the general sessions on YouTube Later)  This year they closed my secret loop-hole only allowing me to take it during Thursday’s general session.    This has a profound impact on my plans for Wednesday night.   Wednesday Night is the VMworld party which is always really awesome.   I am sad to say I skipped it 100% this year and spent the time studying and going to bed early.   I am happy to announce I passed the exam and earned a VCP-NV and VCIX-NV in the same day.   Here is some details on what I studied:

  • The VMware HOL labs
  • The blueprint documents (yes I read all the documentation provided by VMware except the CLI guide.. it’s a really more of a reference guide)
  • I was lucky to spend some time with Elver Sosa and Ron Flax (both VCDX-NV’s) last year that helped me understand the technology
  • Plural Sight course on NSX by Jason Nash (these are really good)
  • Time in the HOL doing things not on the list (like more firewall rules)


This test requires that you do a series of live exercises that can build upon each other.  Some time management tips are:

  • Skip ahead if allows and see how tasks fit in
  • Read carefully what is expected there are a lot of tips
  • Do what you can partial credit is points (at least I think it is)
  • Spend time before understanding how to troubleshoot nsx and verify your settings
  • Don’t be afraid to skip a question if you really don’t know time is not your friend


It was like the VCAP-DCA test something I really enjoyed doing… I really wish it didn’t have the time crunch but it was a fun exam.  The best advice I can give you is read the blueprint and documents and use the HOL from VMware to gain experience.

Awesome VMUG presence at VMworld and Me

I am really excited to attend VMworld this year.  There is so much going on.   As a VCDX, vExpert and VMUG Leader my schedule is already packed.   I just wish I had two weeks to attend sessions… there are too many sessions to attend.   I wanted to take a minute to provide the details on some of the VMUG things going on during the week:


VMUG Lounge

VMUG will not have a booth at the solutions exchange this year.  Instead they will have an area at Moscone West 2nd floor that will be open the following hours:

  • Monday 8:30 AM – 9:30 AM, 12-6pm
  • Tuesday 11:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Wednesday 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM
  • Thursday 10:30 AM – 2:30 PM

It will have a lot of things to do including:

  • Wii game consoles
  • Snacks
  • A Photo Booth
  • Ask the Experts booth
  • Charging station
  • Presentation area with meetings by VMUG CEO
  • Smoothly bar Monday and Tuesday 2:30 Pm – 4:30 PM
  • Pre-party Wednesday 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM

T-Shirts will be available for all VMUG Members… it’s free to sign up.

They will also be providing a number of giveaways including:

  • VMUG Plinko chips (handed out randomly and redeemed for prizes)
  • VMware ICM OnDemand training
  • USB Fans
  • VMUG Backpack Patches
  • Tons of other giveaways

Advantage Memberships:

They are discounting the advantage membership to $180 for on sight sign up’s and giving random prizes to people who sign up and a free VMware press ebook. Advantage is still the best way to get VMware licenses.  Prizes include:

  • Backstage passes for VMworld band
  • Six Synology Diskstations
  • $1,000 gift card to Newegg


VMUG will also be hosting a ton of events announced during the conference.  You can follow them via social media at:

  • #VMUGisReady
  • #ShareVMUG
  • @MyVMUG


VMUG stuff alone is a ton of things and every vendor is going nuts just like VMUG.   I look forward to meeting all of your out there… if anyone is looking to talk or meet up with me reach out via twitter I’ll try to keep up.  I still have some free time on Thursday :)


Pernix Data 30 days later

I have been interested in Pernix data since its initial release the idea of using flash to accelerate storage is not new to me.   Anyone who reads my blog based rants have found that I am a huge supporter of larger cache on storage arrays.   I have always found having more cache will make up for any speed issues on drives.   My thoughts on this are simple if 90% of my storage writes and reads come from cache I run at near the speed of the cache.   Spend your money on larger cache instead of faster spinning disks and performance is improved.   Almost every storage array vendor has been using ssd to speed up arrays for the last four years.   They all suffer from the same problem, they treat all I/O’s equal without any knowledge of workload.

Netfliks problem

The best way to explain this problem is using netflicks.   They have implemented a system where you rate a show based upon stars.   Then it compares your ratings against everyone else ratings and locates users with similar ratings to yours.   Once located it uses these user’s recommendations to locate new shows for you.   This is great… assuming you have 100% the same taste in shows as that user.   This has been advanced a lot in the last five years and is much more accurate and complex algorithm.  It’s pretty accurate for me except for one problem… My wife and kids share the same netfliks account and my children love to rate everything.    This produces the world worst set of recommendations… I get little girl TV shows mixed with Downton Abbey and Sci-Fi movies.   It’s a mess… Netflix literally has no idea how to recommend show to me.    This problem exists for storage arrays with cache.   Choosing which data should be cached for reads is hard, because there are lots of different workloads competing for cache.   I don’t want to devalue the algorithms used by storage vendors, they much like Netflix are a work of evolving art.  With everyone being profiled into one mass everyone’s performance suffers.   Netflix understood this problem and created user profiles to solve the problem.  They added simple versions of localized intelligence to the process.   These pockets of intelligent ratings are used to provide recommendations for the local needs.

Pernix is the intelligent user profile

Pernix is just like Netflix user profiles, it’s installed locally on each ESXi server.  It caches for that ESXi host (and replicates writes for others).   It can be configured to cache everything on the host, datastore or virtual machine.   It provides the following features:

  • The only local SSD write cache that I know of outside hyper-converged solutions
  • Local SSD read cache
  • Great management interface
  • Metrics on usage
  • Replication of writes to multiple SSD’s for data protection


Pernix is built for vSphere

Pernix installs as a VIB into the kernel and does not require a reboot.   It has a Web client interface and C# client interface.   It does require a Windows server and SQL server for reporting.   It is quick and easy to install and operate.  The cache can be SSD’s or memory for pure speed.    Pernix works only in vSphere so it’s 100% customized for vSphere.


My local Pernix SE’s were kind enough to provide me a download and license for Pernix Data.   My home lab has been documented on this blog before but the current solution is 3 hp nodes with 32Gb of RAM each as shown below:


I added a 120GB san disk SSD to each node for this test.    My storage ‘array’ is an older Synology nas with two mirrored 2TB 7,200 RPM disks via iSCSI and NFS.  My rough math says I should be getting about 80 IOPS total from this solution which really sucks, oddly it’s always worked for me.  I didn’t have any desire to create artificial workloads for my tests, I just wanted to see how it accelerated my every day workload.   All of these tests were done in vSphere 5.5 U2.

Pernix Look and feel

Pernix provides a simple and powerful user interface.  I really like the experience even in the web client.   They use pictures to quickly show you where problems exist.



As you can see lots of data is presented in a great graphical interface.   They also provide performance charts on every resource using Pernix.  Without reading any manual other than Pernix quick start guide I was able to install their solution in 15 minutes and have it caching my whole environment, it was awesome.

How do we determine storage performance?

This is a constant question, every vendor has a different metric they want to use to determine why their solution is better.   If it’s a fiber channel array they want to talk about latency then IOPS.   If it’s all flash NAS its IOPS then latency.    So we will use these two metrics for the tests:

  • Latency – time it takes to commit a write or get a read
  • IOPS – Input / Outputs per second

I wanted to avoid using Pernix’s awesome graphs for my tests so I chose to use vRealize Operations to provide all recorded metrics.



The VM that gives my environment the biggest storage workout is vRealize log insight.   It has been known to have recorded IOP’s of 300 in the environment.    Generating IOP’s is easy just click around the interface prebuild dashboards with the time slider set for all time.   Read IOP’s fly up like crazy.   So my average information before Pernix is as follows:

  • Max IOPS 350
  • Max Latency: 19 ms
  • Average Latency: 4 ms


Now with Pernix

I setup Pernix to cache all virtual machines in my datacenter.  With pernix I clicked around on multiple days and performed lots of random searches.  I loaded down a SQL server with lots of garbage inserts to create writes.   Nothing perfectly scientific with control groups I just wanted to kick the tires.   After a month with pernix I got the following metrics:

  • Max IOPS: 4,000
  • Max Latency: 14 ms
  • Average Latency: 1.2 ms


So the results clearly denote a massive increase in IOP’s.  Some may say sure you are using SSD’s for the first time, which is true.   The increase is not just SSD’s speed because the latency is greatly improved as well which is representative of the local cache.   Imagine using enterprise worthy SSD’s with much larger capacity.  Simple answer will Pernix improve storage performance… the answer is it depends but there is a very good chance.

Use Cases

With my home lab hat removed I need to talk about some enterprise use cases:

  • Any environment or workload where you need to reduce latency
  • Any environment where workload needs every more IOP’s than most of the solutions

Both of these use cases should be implemented where less latency or IOP’s is a direct cost.   Pernix can be used as a general speed enhancer on some slower environments or to improve legacy arrays.   It does push toward a scale up approach to clustering.   Larger cluster nodes with larger SSD’s will cost less than lots of nodes.  Pernix is licensed per node.   Putting in larger nodes does have a big impact on failure domains that should be taken to account.

My only Gripe

My only gripe with Pernix is the cost.  Compared to large storage array’s it is really cheap.  The problem is budgets… I need more storage performance which means the storage team buys more storage arrays not the compute team.  Getting that budget transferred is hard because storage budgets are thin already.     This will change hyper-converged is becoming very accepted and Pernix will really shine in this world.   Pernix just released the read cache for free making it a very tempting product.   They are a smart company with a great product. They are on the right path bringing storage performance as close to the workload as possible with an added element of intelligence.

VMworld Tips for 2015

I have had the pleasure of attending a number of VMworld events including two in San Francisco.   I figured since we are about a month out it would be time to post some helpful tips I have learned along the way.  Please feel free to comment with additional tips.


The food at this venue is universally hated.  It personally does not agree with me.  It’s not VMware’s fault the food is provided by the venue.   I think there are two factors that contribute to my dislike of the food:

  • There is too much food (snacks every two hours with drinks plus two meals)
  • The food is not the kind of food I would eat everyday

I am a person who eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day… all the options really don’t agree with me.   So my advise is pace yourself.   Don’t over eat the convention food.  San Francisco has tons of really good restaurants so you might be tempted to skip the meal situation 100%.   This is a major mistake… the meal time is the best peer networking you will be able to do.   At every table there are hundreds of people with the same problems as you.   I started eating before the meal and just going for the networking.   I highly recommend not skipping the meals for the networking.

If you are looking for food options similar to what you might eat at home try the following (see map for locations):

  • Mel Diner and Drive in (Blue) ($12 per plate) – it’s a good american food location
  • Whole Foods (Green) – They are a market but include a food bar with lots of hot and cold options ready to eat
  • Target (Brown)- It’s a target store downtown which has a lot of food options and the cheapest prices in the city as far as I can tell (it’s also right across the street from the convention) bring your own bags they will not provide plastic bags (city rules)
  • Metreon – It’s like a mall with a movie theater across the street from the convention – they have a food court with mostly asian options on the first floor
  • Westfield San Francisco Centre (Purple) – it’s a real mall with a movie theater and lots of food options




I don’t drink any type of alcohol so I don’t know any of the good spots to drink.   As for non-alcohol you conference attendance normally comes with a backpack and water bottle.  The venue does not provide any bottled water.  They have cooled water available everywhere but no bottles.  They offer coffee and tea all day long and soft drinks in the afternoon.   I highly recommend that you drink lots of water… your out-of-town and want to flush with water.


You booked early and got a close hotel right?  My first year I didn’t and was stuck at fishermans wharf.  Which was a lot of fun… it’s a tourist trap with lots of seafood.  It was fun… other than the 20 minute bus ride to the convention each day.    Or the 45 minute walk.   If you booked a convention hotel they have shuttles for free.   Just catch them outside the West building.    At this point I hope you have a hotel.


You will see just about every type of dress code.  The CIO’s and VMware brass will be wearing sport coats and dress shoes.   Duncan Epping will be wearing a tee-shirt and levi’s it really just depends on what you want to wear.   I do recommend you wear comfortable shoes (I always wear tennis shoes) you will do a ton of walking and standing.   You really want the comfortable shoes.


This is not a party convention during the day.   Respectful attitudes and conversation are a good idea.    You will knee-deep in vendors, customers and partners all with their own agenda’s.   Be respectful of everyone… no one enjoys having their product thrown under the bus by the random walk by.


There are at least 3 parties each night.  Talk to your vendors before you go to get invites.  The official VMworld party is different each year but normally is drinks, food, music and games / sports.  It is loud if you like that sort of thing.  I understand it will be at the baseball stadium again this year… which was awesome in the past.  Last time they had stadium food (all you can eat… don’t eat that much) carnival games and of course the band.   It was a lot of fun.  Don’t kill yourself with parties… it will remove your ability to learn from the sessions.


The forms of transport available are:

  • BART’s (metro train system) they have an app for smart phones that rocks.  It’s very inexpensive and safe to ride.  It’s a great cheap way to get from the airport to hotel.  If you plan on riding Barts get the app.  You can also see routes here :
  • Cabs – Yep they are available and a pain to hail… you stand by the side and stick out your hand… make sure they turn on the meter…
  • Uber – Yep it’s available and works great just download the app and setup before you need a ride
  • Cable cars – the classic cable cars are more a tourist attraction than a method of transport.   If you really want to ride one (for example market street to fishermans wharf)  just walk past the first stop to the next stop on the line and your will avoid all the crowds at the first stop
  • Cars – don’t rent a car… parking is really expensive
  • Bikes – you can rent bikes everywhere
  • Walking – San Francisco is a very walking friendly city the area near the convention are pretty safe, I would avoid finding yourself alone on a dark street in parts of SF thou.

VMworld sessions

The first instinct is to attend everything.  Bad idea.  Do not schedule back to back sessions… most will require walking between buildings.   The sessions are draining on a good day you will only get to four sessions.   Remember that most major sessions are recorded and available afterwards so you can rewatch.   This year there is a new type of session called quick talk (30 minute)  I think these sessions will be really awesome and look forward to attending a lot of them.

Vendor Hall

The vendor hall is awesome.  It’s a great place to meet vendors and understand their wares on the surface.   It’s my experience that most vendors don’t bring their highly technical people to VMworld.   It’s mostly sales people.  It’s also too noisy for any real technical conversation.   I have my best conversations with the small new vendors.   If it’s swag you want then this is the place.  Every kind of swag will be available.    Near the end of the conference they have an awards show where VMware awards new vendors and products (titles like most innovative new product etc..) .   Watch for this list/presentation and visit these vendors.


VMware offers discounted training the week before VMworld if you want to attend.


VMware certifications are normally 50-75% off so it’s a great time to get some certifications done.

Hands on Labs

This is a site to see.. VMware provides on site labs for hundreds of people.   Most run in vCloud air and are awesome.   I personally skip this event all the labs are available two months later to be done in your own home for free.   If you are feeling tired and want some computer time it’s a good place to hide (I prefer the movie theater).  For last years labs go to

What to bring

It’s hard to determine what to carry for the conference.  I would carry as little as possible.   I suggest you bring the following:

  • Notepad – yep I am old school (replace with ipad or tablet of choice if you prefer)
  • Back pack – you will get stuff to carry
  • Business cards – yes bring lots with you it’s an awesome networking experience
  • Twitter – it’s used a ton get a twitter account to track activities and goings on
  • Extra phone batteries – I use my phone a ton in between and with the app… you want a small phone battery add-on

Outside the conference

The city is awesome.  Fishermans Wharf and chinatown are great.   The redwoods north of town also rock.   Honestly I could walk around this city for years it’s a ton of fun.


I hope to see you there this year.   Feel free to follow me on twitter @Gortees

VMware Home Lab 2015

Well it’s about time I post about my home lab 2015 edition.  Last year I was running a happy home lab on HP workstations using Operton 2xxx processors.   This year VMware releases vSphere 6 and I loose support for Operton 2xxx processors.   So I had to start over again.   I am a very cheap man so I want the cheapest thing that will reasonably work.  This time I wanted to get three nodes for possible vsan so here is my home lab.


After pricing out all kinds of stuff I stuck with the HP workstations.   They are normally server class hardware with great life and lightly used.   They also don’t sound like a Jet engine when running.   The HP version of ESXi installs out of the box without any problems and does not require any modification which is a huge win.    I wanted to make sure the processor was on the HCL (I don’t care about the server being on the HCL because I am cheap) so I browsed options and found the E5404 was on the HCL for ESXi 6.   Searching ebay I found some great deals on the HP xw6600 workstations with a single quad-core E5404 processor.    Normally they ship with two broadcom 1GB nic’s and 4GB of RAM.   They max out at 32GB of RAM with a single processor.   The only real downside is you only get four cores, but it’s $79.99 each right now.   You add some RAM – 32GB for $88.99 and you get 4 cores and 32GB of RAM for $167 per node.   This forms a very solid cluster with three nodes.



Shared storage is critical to a good cluster.  You have a few options:

  1. VMware vSAN
  2. Additional PC providing NFS or iSCSI
  3. Some type of NAS (Synology)


vSAN requires at least one SSD and one spinning disk per node.   So you are looking at roughly $300 total to go this way.   It also requires a license from VMware.


Additional PC providing NFS or iSCSI – use FreeNAS or something similar.   It’s cheap and easy if you have hard drives and PC’s sitting around.


Synology – These sell for cheap on ebay and rock so much.   I love them… you can buy with drives on ebay for around $150 if you are lucky.


I personally have vSAN and a synology nas in place.



You really need a Gigi-Managed Switch for VMware implementation.  Buy one for $120 or so or find one on ebay.



Here is the sticky bit… you need licenses.  There are two options available at this time for low-cost:

  • VMware vExpert – This program provides great access to licenses and is not hard to get into at this point
  • VMUG Advantage program – for $200 a year you get licenses and lots of other benefits


Let me know if you have any questions.