Lee Marzke on 13 Nov 2009 10:16:21 -0800

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Re: [PLUG] cheapass VM host platform?

Mike Sheinberg wrote:
> Lee,
> Thanks for your insight into the caveats of working with ghettoVCB. It
> sounds like from the way they've locked down the ESXi server that I
> won't get a free reliable backup solution without some serious
> hacking. I'm still concerned with pitching the costs of
> this to management but honestly the risk of not getting consistent
> backups utilizing our current VMWare Server is not good.
> From my end it also kinda sucks the level of Microsoft we have to
> deploy in order to get ESX running. Do you know if there are any
> performance concerns from utilizing the free SQL Express for VCenter?
Well,  you really only need one Windows box with SQL server express, 
and maybe one box for the Vmware Client that
you can RDP into.   The Linux Client is in beta,  haven't tried it yet.

SQL Express is quoted to be good for up to 5 hosts and 50 VM's if I
remember.  The downside is that SQL Express
doesn't have automated backups,  so you should login once a month and
dump your SQL data.    Your VM's
would still run without this,  you only could lose VCenter permissions,
groupings, etc.

Also your VCenter users would be defined either on the Vcenter server (
or optionally you would need Active Directory )
I've heard that LDAP or other Linux authenication is in the works.

Yes it's a pain,  but it is good news that Vmware is finally addressing
the Linux shops.

BTW,  VCenter server uses  Tomcat internally to generate it's Web
interface, not IIS  so they just need to solve
the database and authentication issues for a cross platform solution.

> Does anyone also have any experience with getting a relatively
> inexpensive solution going with other Virtualization tech (such as
> KVM, Citrix, etc.) ? From past experience VMWare has been a really
> great platform but I'd like to weigh all my options when making the
> pitch for our VM infrastructure.

> Thanks again for your feedback Lee, I'm already glad I signed up for
> this group :)
> -Mike
> On Wed, Nov 11, 2009 at 11:29 PM, Lee Marzke <lee@marzke.net
> <mailto:lee@marzke.net>> wrote:
>     Mike Sheinberg wrote:
>     > Anyone have any experience configuring (free) backups with ESXi 4?
>     > Currently I'm working for a company utilizing VMWare Server which
>     > really lacks a lot of the great features/performance I've seen in
>     > previous ESX versions (3.5). Many VMware users on forums
>     recommend the
>     > 'ghettoVCB' script (following
>     > http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-8760). Anyone have any
>     > experience with this method or have any other suggestions for do it
>     > yourself ESXi backups?
>     >
>     > Thanks!
>     > Mike
>     >
>     Mike,
>     I was forced to use Vmware server for a year until I got funding for
>     VCenter/ESXi on 2 new DL-360 G5
>     hosts and a SAN.
>     The tradeoff, is that VCenter provides better use of RAM,  VM
>     Templates,
>     thin provisioned disk that
>     don't severely fragment the NFTS file system,  and of course with
>     Enterprise edition you get Vmotion
>     and Storage Vmotion that allow you to move the machine to a new
>     host, or
>     move the storage to
>     a new volume without shutting it down.
>     Since a VM move/copy may take 2 to 6 hours or more,  the Storage
>     Vmotion
>     feature will save a lot
>     of downtime, as you can do that while the machine is running under
>     light
>     load.
>     For backup on Vmware Server I have some scripts that automate the
>     shutdown, copy,  zip, and restart
>     of the VM.   However in practice ( with 4 hosts and 12 VM's )  I found
>     that one or more scripts/backups
>     failed every day.  The VM's were down for 3 or 4 hours each for the
>     copy,  and we had to stagger
>     the copies.  A single backup would also tie up the Vmware Server
>     host's
>     SATA disk so much that the
>     other VM's would be unresponsive.   If you want these scripts let me
>     know off-line.
>     So basically this strategy with moderate size VM ( 10 to 40G each
>     ) just
>     didn't work in practice.
>     If you try to do the same using ghettoVCB I imaging the problems would
>     be similar.   Also just getting a
>     command line prompt on ESXi voids your warrentee and support.  On
>     top of
>     that,  standard tools are not
>     available ( only busybox ) and important files ( even crontab ) are
>     overwritten at each boot - so anything
>     you configure is wiped out on reboot.
>     Yes, I've run some commands from ESXi command line,  but for instance
>     the ghettoVCB script is
>     mostly parsing text configuration files, and running commands
>     Sample portion of ghettoVCB:
>     for VM_NAME in `cat "${VM_INPUT}" | sed '/^$/d' | sed -e
>     's/^[[:blank:]]*//;s/[[:blank:]]*$//'`;
>            do
>            VM_ID=`grep -E "\"${VM_NAME}\"" /tmp/vms_list | awk -F ";"
>     '{print $1}' | sed 's/"//g'`
>     This depends on the config file text format of that version of
>     ESX,  and
>     overall is a very fragile way
>     of controlling ESX.   I think you would have just as many problems
>     with
>     this script
>     ( and indeed the comments on the forums agree )
>     If your running development or production on these machines,  you
>     really
>     should invest in VCenter
>     for all the advantages above.
>     If you get the VMware Essentials Plus package,  it includes a
>     supported
>     "Disaster Recovery" program
>     that will do what you want.     This includes VCenter,  gives you
>     template support,  and the DR program
>     for something like $2995 ( for up to 3 hosts with 2 CPU's each ,
>      and a
>     free copy of Vsphere Essentials
>     server, and the DR program )
>     http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/buy/editions_comparison.html
>     http://www.vmware.com/products/vsphere/buy/overview.html
>     So spending a week setting up ghettoVCB, and then futzing with it,
>      will
>     already cost
>     more than buying Essentials Plus.   Plus  you will have template
>     support
>     to help manage
>     your VM rollouts.
>     Also,  I found that generally if you present the options to management
>     with costs and reliability explained it is
>     usually possible to get funding,  because it just make sense,  while
>     spending a week of your time to
>     get an unreliable solution does not make sense.
>     Lee

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