VMware vCloud Director Quick View

The VMware vCloud Director is the browser interface to the VMware vSphere cloud. You use it to manage your applications and virtual machines plus networking, organizations, and storage.  vCloud Director is also the console for the virtual machines themselves, meaning you can use that instead of ssh or Windows Remote Desktop.

Here I present some of the features of vCloud Director by showing you how to set up a simple Ubuntu virtual machine.

Browser Support

The vCloud Director requires a plugin to Firefox.  VMware says that plugin works with Firefox and 32-bit versions of IE.  Since not many people are using 32-bit versions of IE, I use it with Firefox. I have tried it with Chrome, but the plugin crashes there at times as well as 64-bit IE.  So use Firefox, since that is where it is supported.

When you open vCloud for the first time, the browser will download and install the plugin shown below:

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How Create a new vApp and Virtual Machine with vCloud Director

A vApp is a collection of one or more virtual machines.  You create a new vApp from either your company’s or the public catalog of templates.  These templates are a collection of standard or customized Linux and Windows machines.  You can save them as templates to create additional virtual machines with similar storage profiles and hardware characteristics.

The set up screen is shown below.  As you can see, from here you can pick different versions of Linux.  Windows is available in another catalogue.

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 When you set up a vApp you indicate:

  • Memory in GB
  • Number of cpus
  • Number of cores
  • Direct network connection or connection to your VLAN or other network

You can use LDAP or specify a local root password here:

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 The virtual machines are listed in the screen below.  Here is where you power them on and off, make changes to the configuration, and login to the machine.

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 Click on the small square that represents the virtual machine to open up the console, where you log in as root, and not the user id that you used to log into vCloud Director.

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The mouse will be captured in the windows, so press (-ctl-)(-alt-) to release the mouse pointer back to your desktop or laptop PC.  (People always get stuck on that; it could be one of Google’s top VMware questions.)

From the vApps screen, you can create new virtual apps, which as I said before are a collection of one or more virtual machines.  For there you can also download vApps in OVF (Open Virtualization Format) files, in order to port them to another environment and deploy them with vCloud Director or the OVF command line tool.   You can also import a virtual machine from vSphere and make a point-in-time snapshot or revert to an existing snapshot.  If the snapshot checkbox is marked at the vApp level, that indicates that at least one of the machines in the vApp has a snapshot.

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Edge Gateway

The Edge Gateway is a software-defined network function that lets you handle multiple external networks.  There are 10 interfaces available.  Here you can configure DHCP, NAT, firewall rules, VPN, and static routing.  You can also configure the ports and URLs for health check monitoring and configure load balancing.  In the Edge Gateway, you add virtual servers and select the services the virtual server will provide (e.g., http, https, tcp).

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Storage Profiles

In vCloud Director, you configure storage pools with different storage characteristics and then assign them to virtual machines and template for virtual machines. Storage Profiles are defined by storage costs, replication support, and performance (latency).

VMware makes looking for available storage easier with VMware vSphere Storage DRS, which aggregates data storage into pools.  It assigns storage to the pool based on available disk space and storage latency.

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StratoGen

StratoGen provides you with vCloud Director to manage your vSphere environment to deliver a software defined datacenter, so that you can migrate toward your ultimate goal of having 100% of you x86 applications running on the VMware cloud.  Stratogen’s offering grows with the product, as VMware is continually adding new features, like multi-core fault tolerance to deliver additional application protection.  The vCloud Director console brings the administration function under one-web based interface to let you define Storage Profiles, vApps, Edge Networks, and virtual machines from one location.

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Science Logic Application Monitoring

StratoGen uses Science Logic Application Monitoring (SLAM) for its customers.  Customers have full access to this market-leading tool, plus StratoGen uses SLAM to help customers work through performance issues.

Extendibility

SLAM, like other monitor products, displays application metrics on dashboards.  But what makes this product different is the large collection of custom dashboards, called PowerApps, that the vendors of different applications and devices have written for Science Logic’s customers.  Plus the customer can program their own dashboards.

The customer can define custom dashboards by using the regular SNMP information output by many devices.  The customer can also program application calls using SQL, to query the database, or web services SOAP/XML, to either check the application for performance or execute actual transactions, to make sure the application is working correctly.

Features

The best way to illustrate this product is to show you some dashboards and list some of the available metric by product (e.g. Apache or EMC) and to list some of the available PowerPacks.

First we group application monitoring by type of software or hardware monitored:

Networking

Network monitoring relies mainly upon the SNMP reporting abilities of network devices and PowerPacks written by the vendor.  They show network performance and bottlenecks plus generate alerts whenever someone makes a configuration change.  Plus it can draw the topology on the dashboard.

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 Here are just a couple of available metrics:

  • Cisco CM no bandwidth avail
  • Packets dropped

Server Health

Monitoring the servers is fairly standard stuff.  Service Logic also has a server monitoring product EM7 that we wrote about here http://www.stratogen.net/blog/science-logic-em7-server-monitoring-by-walker-rowe-guest-blogger-computer-technology-writer/

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  • Busiest servers
  • CPU load

Custom App

You can monitor custom apps, meaning anything you have written yourself and deployed to an application servers or even purchased software, at the operating system level, the application server level, or by executing specific SQL queries, Hadoop MapReduce jobs, or calling the application using web services.

  • Processes running or not (meaning they are down)
  • App server performance
  • LDAP and Active Directory load balancing and performance
  • Database performance

Apache and IIS

Web server metrics include those listed below and the others you would normally see in an Apache, Nginx, or IIS server.

  • CPU load
  • Requests per second
  • HTTP connections

Microsoft Exchange and Outlook Web Access

For your own organization there is the need to make sure that Exchange is performing correctly and know how many messages outbound are being blocked by spam filters.  That would show the need to contact SpaumHaus.org or any of the other organizations that maintain domain blacklists. Plus a surge in outbound viruses would indicate an infection in your systems that might not have been flagged by your security monitoring.

  • Speed of delivery and connection failure
  • Messages rejected due to viruses and blacklists
  • Inbound spam surge in volume

Messaging

Messaging is the transport layer by which data objects are sent to the application that requested them.  This is used instead of direct JNDI lookups, RCP, COBRA, and DCOM.  If a queue builds up in the queue, then applications will be stuck waiting for data.

  • Number of messages in queue
  • Queue stopped
  • Change in configuration

DNS

DNS lookup time affects app performance. With Science Logic Application monitoring you can check latency for the DNS servers that you host or the DNS servers hosted by your ISP.  This could point to the need to perhaps switch to using a public DNS server like Google (8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4) if you find any latency issues.  It could also point out the need for your customers to do that as well or contact their ISP for performance issues.

  • Lookup time for A (address), MX(mail), and NS (name server records)

Storage

With Service Logic you can monitor cloud or local storage.  This lets you verify that your storage is operating at the speed in which you need it.  Monitoring points to failed disks, which must be replaced, poorly distributed replication strategies, disk under or overutilization, and controller health.  If works for solid state storage as well as HDD.

  • pool usage
  • disk controller performance
  • IOPs
  • Reads and writes
  • Write and read errors

PowerApps

A collection of PowerApps is a PowerPack. These re grouped by type of monitoring and the vendor or customer who wrote them.  A PowerApp includes alarms, dynamic dashboards, and metrics.  Customers can build their own PowerAPps to monitor their custom applications plus they can download those written by third-parties and software and hardware vendors from the ScienceLogic portal.  Most of these are written by software and hardware vendors tailored to their specific systems. We show a sample of what is available below.

First in this download screen on the portal you can see how PowerApps are grouped:

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Here are some samples by vendor and by type of PowerPack

EMC

  • LUN performance
  • Storage processor performance
  • Raid group performance

F5 BIG-IP

  • Temperature
  • LTM service discovery
  • DCM caching

Security (All vendors):

  • Tipping Point
  • NetScreen (policy, session graph, VPN tunnel
  • Fortinet (disk usage, config, memory)

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As you can see Science Logic Application Monitoring is a flexible product that works with lots of products out-of-the-box plus it can be extended by the customer and has been extended by vendors who have written PowerApps.

StratoGen makes extensive use of this product in their cloud services.

http://www.stratogen.net/products/vmware-hosting.html

Science Logic EM7 Server Monitoring, By Walker Rowe, Guest Blogger, Computer Technology Writer

Science Logic has several cloud-based performance and operational monitoring products.  Here we are going to look at their server monitoring product.  They also have monitoring tools for services, applications, and networks.

Their EM7 tool has handsome, easy-to-understand dashboards and an interface that lets you configure different metrics and alerts and generate reports without much difficulty.  The system automatically discovers the physical and virtual machines in your environment and populates its repository with that.  It works with the most important operating systems, the leading hardware inventory and monitoring products, and with the major hypervisor vendors.

Automated Discovery

Monitoring products are almost a commodity, as they all basically measure the same metrics.  So what makes one product different from another is its set of features; how easy it is to create your own queries, reports, and dashboards; integration with other products, and the variety of operating systems it supports.  

Science Logic works with these systems, hypervisors, and protocols to gather data (plus a few more);

  • VMware
  • Citrix XenServer
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • Dell Open Manage
  • IBM Director
  • HP Insight Manager
  • MS Windows
  • UCD-SNMP and NET-SNMP

The product scans physical and virtual devices found during device discovery and builds an inventory of software and hardware including Windows service packs and hotfixes. They call this Dynamic Component Mapping.

The system gathers OS metrics that can be displayed on custom-made or out-of-the-box dashboards and even those built by other Science Logic customers.  These dashboards include this short list and more:

  • cpu
  • memory
  • file systems
  • swap space
  • various latency metrics
  • hardware inventory
  •  software inventory

EM7 works with Linux, Windows, Apple Mac, IBM z/OS, Novell Netware, and different versions of Unix.

It can integrate with your ticketing system to create support tickets when metrics are outside establish norms.

Integration with third-Party Inventory and Monitoring Tools

When you connect to a new system, the system proposes a monitoring template based upon the type of application or system that you are connecting to.  For example, if you are connecting to IBM Director, the system builds a template based on the functions provided by IBM Director, whose long list of metrics we have shorted to this:

chassis, serial number, operating system, CPU model, CPU socket number, CPU speed, PCI board name, PCI slot, PCI slot speed, PCI slot width, total physical memory, front side bus Speed, fan and temperature information, power supply condition and location, storage information like RAID type, disk controller, and a host of more physical hardware metrics

There are similar features with HP Insight and Dell OpenManage, which are also hardware inventory and monitoring tools for the data center.

Virtualization Monitoring

EM7 provides component and end-to-end monitoring in a hypervisor environment. End-to-end means monitoring from the end-user point of view by monitoring application latency across the whole of the application and not just individual components.   The system discovers relationships between components and then builds its model based on that.  This way the user can trace a transaction from storage, across the application server, to the web server, and across the network.

The system also allows the administrator to define which services and devices are assigned to which application and groups, providing a manual way to map out the application.

EM7 traces transaction elapsed time end-to-end but not all the granular details.  Doing the second part of that is a technical challenge not really addressed completely by any monitoring product I have seen.  That would involve matching up the GET or POST all the way to the SELECT, INSERT, or DELETE in an application, and with so many abstracted layers and shared services, one would probably have to give up on that and turn back to component monitoring to make sure all of that is working well.

Create Custom Dashboards

You create dashboards by choosing among template or looking in the pool of dashboards create by other Science Logic customers who have shared those.

 Here we pick CPU usage by machine:

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You can then click on that add a time series graph to the right.  That, of course, shows CPU usage over time.

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Solving Virtualization Challenges

How does all of this fit together? In a whitepaper “Solving Virtualization Challenges,” Science Logic discusses some of the technical challenges of maintaining an application in the cloud and how their product can take away some of the burden of that and improve productivity.

They say that EM7 is a compressive cross-vendor set of tools that does more than one individual tool, like VMware VCenter can do, since that is focused on just one aspect of your infrastructure. Well, yes, that is what we would expect a monitoring product to do, which is to work across platforms and systems. I told you earlier it was tough for performance monitoring marketing people to differentiate themselves; so we try to do that there.

To illustrate the importance of the wide-angle view, Science Logic points out that their monitoring tool keeps on working when VCenter is down, since it monitors the physical device and the storage and not just the virtual machines. When VCenter comes back online, it returns to feeding those metrics to EM7. That’s good to note.

Science Logic in their white paper has coined a new phrase “correlate performance and availability,” which is a succinct and accurate way of expressing what one tries to achieve with performance monitoring.  I think I will use that phrase again.

Science Logic EM7 Screen

Here is one of the EM7 screen.  It shows a nice feature which the ability to create thresholds based on the standard deviation rather than a fixed value.  This is what Analytics is all about, which is to use statistics to make informed decisions.  Plugging in one fix value for a threshold, like 65% cpu usage, would create alarms on events that are not statistically significant.  The standard deviation is a measurement of the variation from the average, so it is more in keeping with the analytical approach to measuring that.

Science Logic says their software also helps prevent “VM sprawl:” that is the cloud-equvilant to “server proliferation” which is the tendency to proliferate too many underutilized virtual machines.  Tools have made them easy to create with just a few mouse clicks with your cloud service provider.  But that also runs up your subscription feeds with your vendor.  The ability to measure utilization across the application should help minimize overkill.

What else can it do? Science Logic illustrates how their product can find memory leaks.   Just to review, a memory leak is a coding issue in the C or C++ program whereby a running program keeps consuming more memory, because it is not freeing up variables when they go out of scope.  Eventually that will cause problems for the whole machine.  Java and other interpreted languages do not have this problem. Science Logic says EM7 has a “view into the application stack.”  They says this lets the virtual machine report on how much memory each process is consuming, thus allowing the administrator to find the program with the issue.  I am not sure why they highlight this in their whitepaper, as any monitoring tool is going to give you that as it is a basic OS metric.  Again what is important is now how the vendor tries to differentiate themselves from the others but the presentation layer and the flexibility to work with that.  EM7 performs well on both fronts.

VMware VCenter creates 500 different alerts.  EM7 lets you group these by importance and then rank them by escalation priority.  This helps ignore what is not important and focus on what is.
Overall we can say that EM7 is a solid product, with a large customer base, with the ability of customers to contribute the dashboards they have created to the user community. It supports most of what is out there and is intuitively easy-to-understand and configure and integrates nicely into a cloud environment.

StratoGen
At StratoGen we use EM7 for our customers, plus we use it for ourselves. We use it to monitor your environment and notify you about alerts and make suggestions for changes to boost your application’s performance.  Also, our licenses with Science Logic let you sit in the driver’s seat and take control of the monitoring tool and modify it as you need.  Either way, EM7 keeps your internal and external customers happy by helping you keep your application running well.

http://www.stratogen.net/products/vmware-hosting-private-cloud.html