Brad Christian

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Another VMUG Scholarship- thanks Tintri!

Tintri came through again on a scholarship for the VMware ICM class- Install, Configure and Manage. This is important because you have to take this class to pass the VCP test, which can really change your career. In Dallas Fort-Worth, several of the local community colleges offer the class at a much cheaper rate than commercial training centers. Francis Dogbey is the latest VMUG member I found a scholarship, here is the gracious thank-you note he sent:

I have started the VCP training at Collin Community College last week. I am so excited about the opportunity and value that this class offers and I am very grateful and thankful to Tintri for sponsoring me for this course. I surely intend to take the VCAP right after and then hopefully proceed to VCDX. Throughout my career, this is by far the best training class I have ever been in, not even my 3 separate tracks of CCIE (Routing & Switching, Service Provider and Security) bootcamps offered such in depth training with job aids and grants being provided by Collin College to us the students. The networking among us in the class is also great as almost the entire class members are working professionals and each class someone’s boss is looking to employ a VCP offering job opportunity to the class.

My thanks goes to Tintri and to Brad my hero, who made this happen, empowering professionals like me to get our career on track and in the right direction.

If you can’t afford the class, or your boss won’t send you because he’s afraid you’ll leave once you pass the VCP, tell me about it at the DFW VMUG meeting.

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vSAN on Cisco UCS C-series booting from FlexFlash cards

This is how to setup VMware vSAN on Cisco UCS rack mount servers connect to 6248UP Fabric Interconnects. In this case, it’s for VMware Horizon View, but this will work for a lot of use cases. The boot drive for ESX is going to be a pair of mirrored 32GB FlexFlash cards. These don’t work out of the box, so there is a few steps to get them working. There is also a few extra steps to get a the SSD to show up for ESX.

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VMware Text Expander Snippets

One of the problems working with VMware is the sheer number of VMware products, and VMware’s unfortunate predilection for renaming everything. A lot. I mean they rename their products so often, and buy so many companies, that its impossible to keep track of, much less spell everything right and get all the acronyms down.

Being a Mac and IOS guy, the solution for me is TextExpander, which a is a keyboard expansion utility that shares definitions via DropBox. For instance, I have a shortcut where I type ;sig1 and my email signature expands out. This make typing much, much faster, especially on an iPhone keyboard. 

Make sure to make one to change vmware to VMware!

Data Center Virtualization and Cloud Infrastructure

  • ;vcs -> vCloud Suite
  • ;vs -> vSphere
  • ;om -> vSphere with Operations Management
  • ;dpa -> vSphere Data Protection Advanced
  • nsx -> NSX
  • vsan -> vSAN
  • ;srm -> vCenter Site Recovery Manager
  • ;evor -> EVO:RAIL
  • vcenter -> vCenter Server
  • vcd -> vCloud Director
  • ;os -> Integrated OpenStack

Data Center and Cloud Management

  • ;real -> vRealize Suite
  • ;oi -> vRealize Operations Insight
  • ;op -> vRealize Operations
  • ;va -> vRealize Automation
  • ;bi -> vRealize Business
  • ;li -> vRealize Log Insight
  • ;cs -> vRealize Code Stream
  • ;vco -> vRealize Orchestrator
  • ;hyp -> vRealize Hyperic

Infrastructure as a Service

  • ;iaas -> vCloud Air

Desktop and Application Virtualization

  • ;ws -> Workspace Suite
  • ;view -> Horizon with View
  • ;flex -> Horizon FLEX
  • ;hair -> Horizon Air Desktops
  • ;hadr -> Horizon Air Desktop DR
  • ;vol -> App Volumes
  • ;mir -> Mirage
  • ;wp -> Workspace Portal
  • ;ta -> ThinApp
  • ;hops -> vRealize Operations for Horizon


Micron P420 Setup for PernixData

John Lucio over at Micron was kind enough to hook me with a couple of Micron P420 PCIe SSD cards to test in my lab. I do a lot of work with Horizon View and my poor little NAS wouldn’t be able to handle linked clones without PernixData, so I was excited to see the difference between a PCIe SSD and the regular SSDs I use.
Here is the Micron P420. For an IT guy, this is pure crack.
It was easy enough to fit on my SuperMicro X9SCM-IIF-O motherboard. I have plenty of room for the SSD and a 4-port NIC add-on card. I could probably cram some more cards in there if I had to.
Once I booted up, I went to the PernixData Tab on the Hosts and Clusters view of my vCenter C# client. I’m down-reved to to ESX 5.1 for some View work I am doing. No, I don’t use the web client if I can avoid it!
The first thing to do is click Create Flash Cluster so that I have some fault tolerance for my caching:
Create Flash Cluster
I have a cluster, now I Add Devices:
Add Devices
I pick the 2 Micron cards, which showed up with no fuss:
Select Devices
You can select all if you need to for a large deployment:
Select All Devices
The click Add Datastores and pick which LUNs you want to add horsepower to. Make sure to pick Write Through as the write policy, that’s where the sauce is.
 Write Through
Here is how much data was kept from hammering my NAS, it really adds up! App01 runs the vHipster Minecraft server, so all is good.
Flash Usage

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Awesome Home Lab Giveaway at the September 16th DFW VMUG Regional User Conference

I’m excited I got a chance to build an awesome home lab giveaway for one lucky winner at the UC coming up! I have to give a huge thanks out to all the partners that helped financially with this, including Justin Hakimi @justinhakimi at Tintri, John Lucio at Micron, and Tim Harless at Sigma Solutions.
Here is the details on the hardware and software. BTW, everything is on VMware’s compatibility list.

VMware licenses

A huge thanks to Corey Romero @vCommunityGuy at VMware for a license bundle. It includes everything to pass any test:
  • IT Business Management Suite 8
  • vCloud Suite 5
  • Horizon 6
  • vCenter Log Insight 2
  • vCenter Operations Manager 5 for View
  • vCenter Site Recovery Manager
  • vCenter Operations Suite 5.6
  • vCenter Server 5
  • Virtual SAN 5.5


As usual, Brad Farmer @bfarmdawg and Tee Glasgow @teeglasgow are helping out the DFW VMUG with a PernixData license.


My own home lab uses Cisco Meraki, and I just had to score a Meraki Lab Kit for the giveaway. It is so easy to use, I would be worried if I was a Network guy. It’s a complete Cloud-based networking kit- the config is blown down to the devices from Cisco’s cloud. It comes with:
  • Stateful firewall
  • Auto VPN™ self-configuring site-to-site VPN
  • Active Directory integration
  • Identity-based policies
  • Client VPN (IPsec)
  • 3G / 4G failover via USB modem
  • Layer 7 application visibility and traffic shaping
  • Application prioritization
  • It even has MDM! Manage your kids iPads!
MS220-8P (eight port) managed switch (trunking, yea!)
  • 8 port gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 × SFP for 1G uplink, non-shared
  • MS220-8P includes 124 W PoE / PoE+
  • Wireless access point
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n
SG 200-08
  • Consumer grade switching, for added ports.


2 x ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 Ultra Micro Tower Servers
The boxes have 16GB of RAM and I added SSDs for running PernixData. After adding a 4 port NIC card there is 7 ports, including an iLo port. This can be used in a variety of configurations. If the winner gets another Gen8 down the road, they could easily get vSAN rocking.


I owe a huge thanks to Chase over at Synology for making it possible to include a DiskStation DS1813+ 8 bay enclosure. Combining this with a PernixData FVP clustering will just scream.


Also included are patch cables, power strips, and bootable USB thumb drives on the board. I went ahead and installed ESXi already, mainly to make sure everything worked. It’ll be up to you to get the rest working!
One final thing. Whoever wins this owes me 4 blog posts about their experience settings this up at home.

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VMware Horizon Workspace Essentials Review

VMware Horizon Workspace Essentials

If your boss pops his head in your cube and asks if you can get a Horizon Workspace PoC stood up, you can confidently answer yes if you’ve read this book. I imagine as more and more VMware customers have opted for the Horizon Suite, the need to get Workspace stood up fast will increase.

This book lays out the exact steps needed for a PoC, and the authors are very good at pointing out where scale-out will need to occur as the deployment moves towards production. If you are not familiar with using a vApp, they lay out the steps for creating IP Pools and other tasks that VMware Administrators may not have had a chance to do before.

One thing I did not like was the NFS-only storage for Horizon Data, formally known as Octopus. That is not the fault of the authors, however- Horizon Data does not support CIFS, which drives me nuts.

The part that got me fired up was pulling SaaS applications and Thinapps into Workspace. The authors showed exactly how to set up SalesForce- if it works with SalesForce, it will work with anything.

To sum up, go and get this book! This is an important part of a VDI admins toolkit. I’m really glad we have something more than the standard documentation.

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Tintri Lab Setup Part 1

I was recently lucky enough to get ahold of a Tintri VMstore T540 (here are the specifications) to use in my test lab, so I thought some unboxing and setup pics would be appreciated. The plan is to beat on the T540 a while and get a good idea of how long it takes to setup and how many IOPS it can deliver. I’ll be using Horizon View and vCAC on it over the coming weeks and see how it handles noisy neighbors. Hat tip to Justin Hakimi over at Tintri for setting this up.

I was originally going to use this in my home lab, but it was too loud, so I worked with Brett Wish @vrazorback to get it setup in our Austin office.

It took longer to grab the pics and do this write up than it took to set the unit up. If you’re not doing anything fancy like link aggregation, its a half hour, tops.



Yes, it was heavy.


Top view of one of the two controller blades.


Here is the motherboard model number, X8DTS-F. This is an older demo unit, however, so your milage may vary.


The fans are LOUD. My wife got pretty pissed.


The unit comes with 8 x 300 GB (MLC) RAID6 hot-plug 3.5” carriers and 8 x 3 TB RAID6 hot-plug 3.5” carriers for 13.5TB usable. The promised IO from flash is > 99%, i’ll be putting this to the test in the next few posts.


Rack and stack complete.


Pardon the glare. Here is the Tintri unit mounted in the fishbowl at our Austin office. One of the beauties of working for a VAR/Integrator is that we are truly hardware neutral (we get to play with all the nice toys).

Initial Setup

The setup is pretty straight-forward. Use the KVM dongle that is provided and connect to the blade on the right (from the rear). There is a short console session required to give the appliance a management IP address and the usual other network details- there is an idiot-proof set of instructions for this part. Open a browser and hit the address you entered.


The main page comes up with a Getting Started window. This makes it simple to see the NFS mount info you need for vSphere.


The array was previously configured, so we’ll need to change the IP address for the NFS ports. We are waiting some new Arista 10G switches, so we will be leaving Jumbo Frames off and use a 1GB switch and see how it performs (it was instantly obvious that the network was the bottleneck)


Here is the main console before we messed it up with a bunch of VMs.

Connect to vCenter


I’ll list the steps, but this is really easy.


We have some security options, I’ll use to keep VDI hosts separate from server stuff.



We don’t have a replication license or a second array to use for a replication partner. We’d love to detail a SRM deployment on Tintri. Justin, do you have another one of these laying around? Just kidding. Well, kinda.



The alerts section is a little different. You can set the types of email alerts that are sent by moving a slider bar. There are three settings:

  1. Get Alerts Only
  2. ???
  3. Alerts & All Notices

Add the usual To/From email addresses and an internal relay server. Optionally, click on “more” to configure mail server login and SSL settings.

The array can also send SNMP traps and do Syslog forwarding.


Autosupport is no longer optional- they’re virtually expected these days. Enabling it is as simple click to a check box. I think we’ll leave this unchecked during stress testing.



Configure DNS and then check out the LACP options. We’ll be playing with these at both 1GB and 10GB.

Add the Tintri Datastore to vCenter


Add a Network File System and click Next.


Enter the server address, the folder name and a meaningful datastore name.


And Finish.

As you can see, it’s dead easy to add a pretty significant amount of fast storage to your virtualized datacenter. I’ll be doing some follow up posts on stress testing this puppy and how it interacts with Horizon View and vCloud Automation Center. We’ll also compare and contrast with some other storage platforms out there.

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VMware Certified Professional Scholarships

It has suddenly got a lot easier to get your VMware Certified Professional! The Install, Configure and Manage class is the prerequisite for the VCP exam. I’ve always liked the fact that a real class with a lab was a prerequisite for the entry level VMware exam. It keeps the VCP meaningful and avoids the creation of a lot of paper tigers, like the MCSE went through back in the day.

However, there is a lot of deserving people that can’t get into the class, which often carries a $2000-3000 price tag. While there is some online options which mitigates travel expenses, a lot of employers won’t foot the bill for their people to attend the class. They’re afraid if their employees get the VCP, they will understand the value of their certification and leave. Sometimes you have to move out to move up, after all! These employers, often SLEDs (State & Local Government and Education), fail to see that it can be even worse if their staff doesn’t get training and they stay.

Now there is another option in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.  The Collin County Community College now has official VMware training offered at a fraction of the cost of larger training facilities- under $700. The classes are not offered in one week-long class, but spread over Monday and Wednesday nights from 6pm to 10pm CST. The course will run for 5 weeks to cover the necessary 40 hours for the Install, Config, and Manage class. Check out the Collin County Community College’s website, and the Spring Semester Catalog.

As the DFW VMUG leader, its a pleasure to get the word out. In fact, I’d like to take this opportunity to ask the partner community to help me fund scholarships for deserving administrators and engineers. I’ll be setting up the criteria for those that can demonstrate financial need for this chance. Members of the DFW VMUG, particularly people that work for SLEDs, will be candidates. For you partners out there, I encourage you to contact me about helping the user community grow. The next class starts March 17th, so reach out to me via email dfwvmug (at) or on Twitter @bchristian21 if you want to help the next generation of VCPs get rolling.

Edit: I just found out that there is a Northlake class too!

There is a course where you can actually get college credit

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Running a VCDX study group and some lessons learned

I was told that no one had ever organized all of the VCDX candidates before, so I thought I would write down what we did- combined the VMUG style of sponsored meetings with a hard-core study group. At one point, we had 15 VMware architects crammed into a conference room. It was pretty awesome.

In preparation for defending the VCDX at PEX this year, I organized all the candidates I could find into a study group so that we could do mock defenses together. We ended up doing 3 weeks of mock defenses in the run-up to PEX. I also asked for a supportive vendor I met through running the DFW VMUG to help us get a conference room with a whiteboard. Steve Kaplan from Nutanix was gracious enough to exceed our expectations- we had a conference room at the W Hotel in downtown San Francisco the weekend before the defenses. We ended up having numerous VCDXs stopping by and helping us do mock defenses, design scenarios and troubleshooting scenarios. People like James Charter (@davesrant), Tim Antonowicz (@timantz) and Mark Gabryjelski (@markgabbs) were mainstays, spending a lot of time giving constructive feedback over the weekend.

I ended up gathering 10 of the candidates for practice defenses, the majority of which passed. Each and every one of them have e-mailed me and thanked me for running the mock defenses, and they have consistently attributed their success to the numerous mock defenses we did.

Unfortunately I didn’t pass this time. I’m still waiting for my feedback letter, but I can tell you I won’t do a View design for DCV again, thats for sure. The actual VCDX-DT path just opened last Monday, so I will pursue that track now.

Here is some tips for running a VCDX study group:

  • Keep a semicolon separated list of everyone’s e-mail address. This can be quickly pasted into Webex.
  • Make everyone create a Dropbox link to their design. IMPORTANT– your design is not super secret IP that you need to hide. Obfuscate names if you need to, but the more people who see your design, the better your chance of success. Share the slidedecks too, it helps everyone if you do.
  • Make sure you keep time zones straight. Not everyone deals with APAC, NORAM and EMEA time zones, so take the time to clarify.
  • Keep an e-mail thread with the Dropbox links and e-mail addresses called “Consolidated Design List”. Use this to forward to new people and the VCDXs that will drop in and help. Consider putting the time zone next to each person’s name.
  • Twitter is your friend. Tweet often about what you are doing. We got VCDXs dropping in out of the blue all the time.
  • The amount of time doing mocks correlates directly to passing. Everyone who was involved for three weeks passed, except me.
  • Vendors have no problem helping if need a conference room. Nutanix is a huge supporter of the VCDX program, for instance.
  • Make everyone get a twitter account. Even if you don’t use it now, you will if you have the VCDX. All of the guys that wouldn’t get a twitter account got one once they passed. Save time and get it now.
  • Run, don’t walk to and start making flashcards for yourself. The next time I try the VCDX, I am going to make my design, my slide deck and my quizlet flash cards together.

I will be defending again at Cambridge or VMworld, so drop me a line at @bchristian21 if you are going for it. Editor– James Bowling (@vsential), fellow Texan and Houston VMUG Leader, is circulating a sign-in form for a study group on twitter, please look at the #VCDX hashtag for it. He just volunteered to all the hard work of running the next study group- sucker!

Two of the guys who passed, Derek and Sean, sent in some thoughts on passing the VCDX.

From VCDX #125 Derek Seaman (

In no particular order:

  • Definitely need to form study groups early on, at least ~8 weeks prior to package submission. Peer feedback is huge.
  • At least 4 weeks prior to submission find multiple VCDXs to get feedback on your near complete architecture guide. VCDXs are quite busy, so need to get on their plate early to increase  the chance of feedback.
  • Don’t just rely on one or two VCDXs for feedback. Everyone has their own take, and depth of feedback. Aim for at least 3-4 in-depth reviews. This takes time so DO NOT wait to the last minute.
  • Immediately upon the invitation to defend, start working on your presentation slide deck. It is very important, and doing comprehensive backup slides takes a lot of time. DO NOT wait until the last minute.
  • At least 3 weeks prior to defense date, start doing mocks. Participating in mocking others is very valuable, as well as being mocked yourself. Don’t just mock with C level or management types. Find guys that will destroy you on a technical level.
  • Do not just rely on WebEx mocks. Try and do them in person as well, so you get a more realistic feel.
  • Do not just mock the design defense. Although that seems to have the most weight, I know I didn’t do as well in the customer design and troubleshooting, since we didn’t practice those much.
  • Mocking in person the weekend prior in the sponsored room was a HUGE benefit. Cannot understate the benefit of cramming everyone in the room, and having the VCDX ‘coaches’ in there.
  • By week 3 of the mocks you may want to shoot yourself. Hang in there….it will pay huge dividends.

From VCDX #130 Sean Howard

As far as my personal prep beyond the nightly mock ring, I did the following:

  • Made almost 500 flash cards in Quizlet and had my wife ask me them
  • Wrote out a justification and an alternative for every single decision in my design (like 100 or so)
  • Listened to all of the VCDX brownbag sessions, and VMworld 2013 sessions.   Every night just hop on the elliptical or go for a walk and listen to one.
  • Same thing for general youtube videos / podcasts from existing VCDXs (Mostafa has a good one he did with Nutanix where he expounds on a lot of stuff in his book)
  • Spent the week of PEX basically doing nothing but prepping from 9am-9pm

The listening to videos thing was probably the most helpful because over the course of 4 months I was just slowly absorbing a lot of stuff rather than trying to cram it all in.  It also requires very little discipline compared to trying to read books.

I also wish I had practiced the design scenario more.  That’s tough to do I know, but TBH I blew it off until the last week and I just got lucky I think.


Google Hangouts for VMware User Groups (VMUGs)

The Dallas-Fort Worth VMUG recently started using Google Hangouts to do smaller, impromptu meetings in the evenings. It makes it a lot easier to get good speakers after-hours, and the format of an encrypted video conference chatroom makes it much easier for people to ask questions, share screens and really get conversations flowing. Best of all, it can done from any modern smartphone, tablet or laptop.

Here is a quick how-to on getting started with Hangouts.


Google Hangouts are quick and easy to use. There are a few requirements. First, you need a Google account and you must enable Google+. If you’ve been resisting Google+ because you don’t want more social media in your life, try it anyways. Google+ is perfect for focused special-interest communities like VMUGs. You will not see pictures of kittens on Google+.  Join the Dallas-Fort Worth VMUG community to see examples.

A small plug-in needs to be installed as well. The perma-link to it is Users will be prompted for the plug-in, and it takes a few seconds to install. In addition, it is much easier to setup a Google+ community to send the invites out, though individual users can be invited as well.


Note: You always enter a Google Hangout muted! This causes all sorts of shenanigans, even for a bunch of VMware smart guys.


Setting up a Hangout

You have two options when setting up a Google Hangout. If your group is less than 10 people a normal hangout will work fine and the setup is trivial. If you have more then 10 you will need to broadcast the hangout using Hangouts On Air.

Hangouts On Air

If you are doing a Hangout on Air you only want to invite speakers, if there will be greater than 10 people. You simply send out the link in the address bar to people who will be listening in, and there is an “Embed” link at the top of the page to embed the broadcast on your blog- the community site will get it automatically.  You will also need to link your Google+ account to a YouTube account. Once setup is complete your broadcast will be recorded to review later or to link. Once you complete your hangout it will save and be ready for you to share.


Make sure to experiment with the Google Hangout widgets. Q&A is a must-have, as is Cameraman and Google Effects (Google Effects is half the fun!).


An Example

Here is the hangout from last night with @vtexan @virtualchappy and me, @bchristian21


A big hat tip to John McConnell at UT Dallas and a VMUG co-leader for talking me into trying this! I was very against more social media at first.

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Notes from MWhite

Sharing of ideas and knowledge to empower people through easier and smarter technology use

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