VMworld 2016: Virtual Volumes Deep Dive

Session STO7645

*LUNS Suck

Pain Points: Siloed management, rigid infrastructure, complex process, no visibility into storage, capabilities applied at the LUN level, vendor specific configuration required, LUN sprawl.

VVOls offer: storage policy-based management, capabilities applied at the disk level. Consumed on demand.

Storage policy-based model simplifies operations significantly

What are VVols?

  • Virtual disks are natively represented on an array
  • Enabled VM granular storage operations
  • Supports FC, iSCSI, NFS
  • Based on T10 industry standards
  • Uses a VASA provider for the control path
  • No filesystem
  • Data services offloaded to array
  • 5 types of VVols: Config, Data, Mem, Swap, Other

Data Plane

  • Storage container – Storage admins create the container that sets the array capabilities. Can be sized up/down as needed.
  • Virtual datastore uses protocol end points to talk to the array
  • End points can be iSCSI, NFS v3, FC, FCoE
  • Existing multi-pathing policies and NFS topology requirements can be applied to PE (protocol endpoint)
  • PEs are provided by the VASA provider to vSphere

Management Plane

  • Storage policy-based management – App centric automation
  • Intelligent placement
  • Automation at scale through policy
  • Single VASA provider can manage multiple arrays
  • ESX and vCenter server connect to VASA provider

VVols in Operation

  • Create VMs
  • Assign a VM storage policy
  • Choose a suitable datastore

Snapshots

  • Snapshots may be read-only or read/write
  • Managed snapshot – Created by vSphere
  • Unmanaged snapshot – Created and managed by array
  • Snapshot creation is offloaded to array
  • Snapshots impose no I/O penalty and can very quickly revert with re-playing logs

Future Considerations

  • Integrate data services – Replication, encryption, device advancements
  • Simplify management – Usability, operate at scale
  • VASA Replication model – “Replication group” between “fault domains”
  • Sync, failover, test failover, reverse replication

 

VMworld 2016: Day 1 Keynote

Pat Gelsinger comes on stage (VMware CEO).

In 2006 there were 29 million workloads running on traditional IT. 2% cloud (SalesForce). 160 million workloads in 2016 and 15% are public, 12% are private cloud. 255 million workloads by 2021. By 2030 52% of workloads will be public cloud. New build datacenters are on the decline starting in 2015. In 2016 was the crossover point where companies are using more service providers/clouds than internal datacenters. Internet of Things is taking off and really exploding. As cloud takes root, it expands the investment in IT. As the cloud becomes cheaper, the more companies will use it.

Cloud users:

#10 construction

#9 professional services

#8 securities and investments

#1 Technology vendor

Traditional IT is doomed to fail.

80% of all x86 workloads are virtualized today. VMware does not do non-x86 Unix and mainframe workloads.

Introducing the cross-cloud architecture. Any cloud, any device, with a common environment. Cross-cloud “services” and cross-cloud “foundation”.

SVP IBM: Robert L. Now have 500 clients on their public cloud offering. 8-10 weeks to stand up software datacenter with old technology, can now be done in hours using the IBM cloud. Companies such as Marriott and Finnair are using the IBM cloud.

Cross-cloud services: Allows you to manage and secure apps across your private and public clouds. Included vSphere and non-vSphere clouds. Set of SaaS services that lets you manage cross-cloud.

Freedom of control in private cloud, AWS, Azure, Google. Even in the age of mega clouds, you still need an IT department.

Shows a early demo of the cross-cloud services SaaS. Shows private cloud, Azure, AWS and Google clouds. They enable full network encryption on the public cloud between app tiers with just a few clicks. Microsegmentation is also just a few clicks away.

Michael Dell takes the stage. He talks with Pat about the cross-cloud platform, VXRail, Tremendous growth in converged and hyper-converged solutions.

 

Nutanix AOS 4.7 Immediately Available

What’s New in AOS 4.7? Some of these enhancements were announced at .Next last week. Here’s a full list of what’s new in AOS 4.7. It is available for immediate download on the Nutanix support portal.

Acropolis Block Services

Acropolis Block Services (ABS) provides highly available and high performance block storage as iSCSI LUNs to clients. Clients can be non-Nutanix servers external to the cluster or guest VMs internal or external to the cluster, with the cluster block storage configured as one or more volume groups. This block storage acts as the iSCSI target for client Windows or Linux operating systems running on a bare metal server or as guest VMs using iSCSI initiators from within the client operating systems.

Cluster Resiliency (Degraded Node Detection)

Nutanix Engineering has introduced capabilities in AOS to identify partially available nodes and prevent them from affecting cluster availability. It can detect if a node is experiencing  network latency issues, disk or memory errors, or other issue that would affect cluster performance. AOS marks the node as degraded, places it in maintenance mode, and raises an alert to indicate its status. The node will be prevented from participating in cluster operations and cluster operations will continue. The node can rejoin the cluster once the issue is fixed. This feature is disabled by default and customers are advised to contact Nutanix Support to enable and use it. Reference internal Knowledge Base Article 3361.

Docker Container Support

The Nutanix volume plug-in for Docker enables Docker deployments to be integrated with external storage systems, in this case the Nutanix distributed file system (NDFS), and enable data volumes to persist beyond the lifetime of a single container machine host.

1-click HBA Disk Controller Firmware

The LSI host bus adapter/controller (HBA) 1-click firmware upgrade feature is available for Acropolis hypervisor (AHV) and ESXi hypervisor host environments running on NXxxxx G4 (Haswell) or NX-xxxx-G5 (Broadwell) platforms only.

In-Place Hypervisor Conversion

Previously tech preview, this 1-click feature available through the Prism web console allows you to convert your cluster from using ESXi hosts to using AHV hosts. Guest VMs are converted to the hypervisor target format, and cluster network configurations are stored and then restored as part of the conversion process. Note: This feature converts your existing ESXi cluster to an AHV cluster. You cannot start the conversion process on the AHV cluster.

Intel Broadwell Architecture

Support for platforms using the Intel Broadwell CPU and architecture.

Internationalization (i18n)

Non-ASCII user defined values (for example, entity names, descriptions, and so on) are supported in UTF-8. For the list of supported and unsupported entities and to change language settings to Simplified Chinese, see the Prism Web Console Guide.

Newly-supported platforms

Support for Nutanix Xpress platforms such as the SX-1065-G5. See the Xpress Series Compatibility Matrix in Release Notes | NX-series Hardware on page 22. Support for Lenovo Converged HX Series

Prism Central

Enhanced Prism Central Explore tab usability with custom page sizing, custom Focus views, and easier select options.

Security

Nutanix Security Engineering and Research Team (nSERT) has identified existing vulnerabilities associated with certain security concerns and this release addresses these vulnerabilities. See Resolved Issues | AOS 4.7 on page 6 of Release Notes for details.

Simplified SSD breakfix procedures for Hyper-V

Support for single SSD replacement procedures for Hyper-V clusters.

Support for the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS)

Support for the Microsoft Cloud Platform System (CPS), which bundles Windows Server 2012 R2, System Center 2012 R2 and Windows Azure Pack for easier hybrid cloud configuration. Nutanix offers the CPS Standard version preinstalled on nodes from the factory.

TRIM Support for Acropolis File Services

For Acropolis File Services, the Prism Web Console previously could not show accurate storage consumption as it did not show deleted data. Now, Acropolis File Services introduces TRIM and thin provisioning with 4.7 for better storage. TRIM is enabled by default and communicates free block information to the Prism Web Console from TRIM. AOS then performs storage distribution for better storage consumption.

Whitelist Prism Central and Prism Element to bypass proxy servers

Prism Central and AOS 4.6.2 introduce new nCLI options ncli http-proxy add-to-whitelist / ncli http-proxy delete-from-whitelist. Use the ncli http-proxy add-to-whitelist command to bypass a proxy server used by a Prism Central-managed cluster and allow network traffic between Prism Central and the cluster. Previously, if you attempted to register a cluster that implemented a proxy server, the registration failed. The Prism Central Guide describes how to configure this use case with these new commands.

.Next 2016: Don’t leave behind Baremetal Workloads

Presenters: Mike McGhee (NTX), Tabrez Memon (NTX), Tim Issaacs (NTX)

Why bare metal? Oracle Licensing, performance perception, Legacy apps (Sun, IBM, HPUX), investment protection

High Performance Databases – a few times you might not virtualize

  • Licensing cost
  • Virtualized limits for max DB (SAP HANA, etc.)

3-tier applications

  •  Run your 3-tier app entirely on Nutanix
  • Nutanix can run VMs plus block storage

How ABS (Acropolis block services) works:

  • Serve block storage via iSCSI to physical servers
  • Eliminates the need for iSCSI MPIO
  • Client intervention not required when the cluster scales out
  • Inherits all Nutanix features
  • Run VMs while serving external storage

First release RHEL 6, Windows Server 2012 R2, Oracle 6. On the road map is support for other OSes including ESXi (~3 months).

iSCSI supports SCSI-3 persistent reservations for clustered volumes

Evenly balances I/O across all cluster nodes

Tabrez goes into a deep dive of how we negate the need for client MPIO. Basically we hide all the complexity using various iSCSI commands like virtual targets, iSCSI redirection, etc.

You can create a ABS sub-group, and limit the iSCSI connections to a subset of the cluster nodes.

All data reduction features are supported (compression, dedupe, ECX), thin provisioning, SCSI UNMAP, CHAP authentication

Use cases:

  • Exchange + iSCSI Clustering
  • Shared storage clustering
  • MS SQL Clustering
  • Oracle RAC
  • Bare metal
  • scale-up performance

.Next 2016: Business Continuity for Tier-1 Apps

Presenters: Partha R (NTX), Mike McGhee (NTX), Ryan Sheldon (AMGEN)

Tier-1 apps are different for different customers. Could be ERP, EPOS, email, etc.

Need to be prepared for the worst: IT Productivity, recovery, end-user productivity, business disruption, lost revenue, etc.

Data protection requirements: RPO, RTO

Understand consistency: Application consistency (e.g. VSS). Most beneficial in the context of backup and restore.

Technologies: Application (Exchange DAGs, SQL AAGs, Oracle Dataguard), Hypervisor (hyper-v replica, vsphere replication), storage (infrastructure centric, Nutanix Data Protection)

What am I protecting? Application dependencies? One or multiple methods? How frequently do you backup and replicate? Sync vs. async?

Where does Nutanix native replication fit in?

Timestream – RTO of minutes, RPO of minutes

Cloudconnect – RTO hours, RPO hours

Async replication – RTO minutes, RPO minutes

Sync replication – RTO near-zero, RPO zero

Nutanix Local Snapshot (Time stream)

  • Protection against guest os corruption
  • Snapshot of VM environments
  • VM or vdisk granularity
  • Low performance impact
  • VM and application level consistency

Nutanix Async Replication

  • Delta changes
  • Dedupe on the wire
  • Compression on the wire
  • Flexible topologies
  • Bandwidth schedules

Nutanix Cloud Connect

  • Hybrid cloud solution from Nutanix
  • Integration with Azure and AWS
  • For archiving and backup
  • Easy to setup and manage
  • WAN optimized replication
  • Interop with Nutanix DR

Volume Groups with Async Replication

  • Exchange + iSCSI
  • MS SQL Clustering
  • Oracle RAC
  • Bare Metal

Consistency options: VSS

  • VMware Tools or Nutanix guest tools
  • Pre and post scripts for Linux

Consistency options: Consistency Groups

  • For a group of VMs and a consistent restart point

AMGEN

Manufacturing is key. They leverage Metro availability to provide high uptime. Customer set it up in about 10 minutes. With MA they can converge services like DNS, DHCP, etc. and save on licensing costs.

Nutanix:

What’s next: Metro Availability Witness coming out in Asterisk, which will automate site-failover.

.Next 2016: Day 1 First General Session

Here we are, at the second Nutanix .Next conference! Last year it was in beautiful Miami, and this year it’s in hot Las Vegas. I’m not sure which is hotter, the weather or our announcements. Like last year, this event is sold out and more than double the size! I’ll be live blogging the sessions that I’m attending this year. As always, then are real-time notes and don’t have time to take slide photos and insert them in the blog posts. But I try and capture the essence of each session

All of the attending Nutanix NTCs are lined up on stage and several of them do introductions.

Howard Ting takes stage.

In our first year we expected 500 to 700 attendees, we ended up over 960 people. This year the goal was 2000, and our registration total is 2,500.

Howard covers some of our great customers, such as airlines that run critical airline operations, a company that prints billions of coupons on Nutanix, or hospitals running critical operations on Nutanix. “You’ll love Nutanix”. “Love” is not a word you hear much about IT infrastructure. Nutanix is on a journey to build the enterprise cloud. In reality, only 7% of companies have built a true private cloud. Most think they have just by virtualizing.

Nutanix: Enterprise  Cloud Platform

Dheeraj Pandey (CEO/Founder) takes the stage

The Growth Paradox: Most executives cite internal factors, not market forces, for what slows growth.

Founder’s mentality: Insurgent mission, owner mindset, obsession with the front line

Ambition, Attention-to-detail

One click upgrades: One click mover

Dheeraj talks about Community Edition and brings Richardarsenian on stage. They show off a drone which has Nutanix community edition running and controlling it.

DataGravity: Data driven security

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

Sunil Potti takes the stage

Nutanix wants to be the AWS for the enterprise – Enterprise cloud platform on my terms

Shipping very shortly  will be v4.7 and Asterix

Within one week of the 4.6 release, 500 clusters were upgraded. After 100 days, nearly 50% of all clusters were upgraded.

We support: Mainstream virtual apps, now all virtual apps,

Sunil shows a performance graph, where customers got a 4x improvement for free just via software upgrades.

For Broadwell servers all models now support all flash configurations. Or hybrid, your choice.

Michael Tempora from Vonage comes on stage. They are rapidly expanding into the business VoIP sector. Vonage cloud platform is powered by Nutanix.

Why stop a virtual workloads? Nutanix now supports bare metal via Acropolis Block Services featured in 4.7. Run 3 tier apps entirely on Nutanix. 200,000 random Oracle IOs in 2U.

Demos Citrix on AHV with MCS integration and Acropolis File Services (AFS). They also show the cluster running heavy SQL loads, plus bare metal Oracle workloads using ABS. The true power of a unified fabric.

15% of Nutanix clusters now running AHV

Jake Yang, Nasdaq Global Infrastructure director. Believes the hypervisor is now a commodity. Big adoption of AHV.

New: Acropolis Container Services. A native container platform, Docker support, persistent portable storage volumes.

One click upgrades: BIOS, BMC, Storage controller, disks, hypervisor, AOS, NCC, Foundation

Asterisk: 1-click self-service. Shows a demo of the new “Self-Service” tab in PRISM.

On demand Nutanix Community Edition: Can launch a public cloud hosted CE cluster and use for free for 2 hours.

Asterisk: You will no longer need to login to vCenter to manage ESXi. PRISM will support multi-hypervisor support.

T-Mobile’s Kevin Luu, Sr. Director Infrastructure and DevOps to talk Nutanix.

AOS 4.7: Microsoft CPS on Nutanix. Factory installed, deployed in hours, 1 click upgrades, full stack support from Nutanix.

Clutter-free organization: New filtering, labels, and great new search features

Machine intelligence: X Fit algorithms, Predictive workload scheduler, just in time forecasting. Recommends new hardware based on predicted capability.

Asterisk: Visualization of the network. An all new network view coming to PRISM.

 

How To: Building a dual-head 4K PC

Update 5/31/2016: Got all my parts and built the PC. Apparently there’s an industry wide problem with the Z170 HDMI 2.0 output that results in blank screens on many new 4K monitors (works at 1080P). I’ve seen it reported on the Intel forums for Asus and Gigabyte motherboards. I opened a ticket with Gigabyte today. For the time being I’m using my nVidia GTX 760 Ti for dual 4K, and it works great for 60Hz support. No HDCP 2.2, but today that’s not a big deal. YouTube 4K streams are smooth on this card.

Update 6/4/2016: None of the Thunderbolt adapters I tried solved my dual head 4K 60Hz problem. The Intel forums moderator for the thread following this issue is less than helpful. So I doubt this Intel driver problem will get fixed anytime soon. Thus, I’m now recommending a PCIe graphics card *IF* you want dual 4K 60Hz displays. If you are OK with just dual 1080P or 1440P, the built-in Intel graphics are just fine. The AMD Radeon RX480, due out end of June 2016, looks like the best choice for full 4K/HDCP 2.2 compatibility. It also supports HDR, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 hardware encode/decode offload. It should run around the $200 mark, which is great. In my mind, this AMD card checks all of the 4K “boxes” and should even provide a great gaming experience for resolutions less than 4K.

So my home PC, which is a daily ‘beater’ PC, was just over its 3 year anniversary mark. It’s a SandyBridge PC, and has served me well. While I wasn’t seeing any real performance issues (I’m not a gamer), I figured it was a good time to spec out a new PC and get all the latest goodies like NVMe, USB 3.1, ThunderBolt 3, 4K graphics, etc. In the past year I upgraded my home theater to 4K, so figured it was about time to do the same for my workstation.

Note, this is NOT a gaming rig nor do I care about overclocking. Think of this as state-of-the-art desktop PC for office work, photography, watching 4K YouTube videos, Netflix, etc. Power was also a concern, as well as being super quiet. If you want to read all about the Skylake processors and Z170 chipset, check out Anand’s article here.

I found this great website called PCPartPicker that lets you build a system, get an estimated cost, and does compatibility checks. You can find the full parts list for this build here. It also estimates system power, and my configuration comes out to 169w. It also lists the website with the lowest price and a very cool price history feature.

Researching this build I learned more about display protocols, chipsets, and HD copy protection than I ever wanted to know. This is a complicated field. Put on your thinking cap! If you aren’t in a hurry for a new PC but are thinking early 2017 you will upgrade, then watch out for the Kaby Lake CPUs and 200 series chipsets. These provide minor tweaks over the Skylake and Z170 series chipset.

Processor

First up, I had to choose the processor. I wanted the latest Intel offering (Skylake), but still stay within a reasonable budget. Intel does an amazing job with their ARK pages where you can quickly see processor specs, list prices, and features. So I wondered over to the 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor list. A quad core processor with hyperthreading is all I need, so I had a few choices. I chose the i7-6700 which was released in late 2015. It’s a 14nm process, 4 cores, 8 threads, and 3.4GHz base frequency and just 65w TDP. It also has Intel HD Graphics 530 built in, which supports 4K @ 60Hz. You can pick it up from Amazon for $298.

If you want to constrain your budget a bit, the i5-6600k is an excellent choice, with real world performance nearly that of the i7 big brother. It’s about $50 cheaper at $242 from Amazon. This processor is unlocked, meaning you have an easy time overclocking if you are into that.

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Motherboard

Now that I have chosen a processor, the next major component is the motherboard. For this, I had a few requirements which eliminated 99% of the shipping boards. First, for full future compatibility, I wanted HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. HDMI 2.0 enables 4K at 60Hz, which the i7-6700 supports. While HDCP isn’t a show stopper for a workstation, if you ever want to play UHD content on your PC it will be required. I also wanted the fastest possible flash storage, and that would be NVMe M.2 (or U.2) x4 support. This interface far exceeds SATA III, at 32Gb/s (vs. 6Gbps)! SATA SSDs are now old school and “slow”.

So after extensive research, only two motherboards met this requirement. The Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 and the Asus Z170-Deluxe. The Asus option was the most expensive, around $300, and had built-in WiFi. My house has wired GiG-E, so I didn’t need WiFi. The Gigabyte option was around $200, didn’t have WiFi, but had better audio and met all my other requirements. It also has USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt 3 (click here for all the advantages of Gigabyte’s usage of Intel’s Alpine Ridge chip). I called Gigabyte tech support, and they confirmed it will support dual 4K @ 60Hz (with HDCP 2.2 via HDMI) displays using the Intel Iris graphics.

Other articles I’ve read said the Skylark processors can drive 2x 4K @ 60Hz monitors, so the Gigabyte support agent was right. If you want to get geeky, you can check out the spec sheet of the HDMI bridge chip here which clearly states 4K @60Hz and HDCP 2.2). The motherboard only supports DP 1.2a, which does not have HDCP 2.2. Even the Kaby Lake chipset (due out this year) is rumored to only support DP 1.2a. We will likely have to wait until Cannon Lake in 2017 for a supporting chipset. So should you want to connect this MB to a TV for 4K gaming/UHD content, only use the HDMI port. We will need to wait for a DP 1.3 MB to get HDCP 2.2 via DP…in late 2017. There is a DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 w/ HDCP 2.2 dongle that you can buy. That would HDCP 2.2 enable dual monitors. You can find the Club-3D dongle specs here and buy it on Amazon for $29. You can pick up the Gigabyte board from Amazon for $195.

Graphic below is from Anandtech:

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Note: Gigabyte has a number of firmware updates that you need to apply, including one each for HDMI 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3, along with a BIOS update. You can find the updates here. If you are super concerned about security, you can add a TPM 2.0 module.

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If you disagree with using the built-in Intel Iris graphics, then you will need to buy a third party PCIe graphics card. But, according to Intel, the Skylake GPUs will beat 80% of the discrete video cards on the market. So unless you are a hardcore gamer, try the integrated graphics first. Unfortunately, we are in a time of flux and finding a discrete video card that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 is nearly impossible. I did see mentioned that the GTX-960 does have HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. I’m sure later this year it will be much more common. So if you can live with the Intel graphics for now, I would wait and get a new graphics card later this year or validate that it does support HDCP 2.2. The GTX-960s seem to start at $190 and go up from there. You can see an example on Newegg, where it does call out HDMI 2.0 support. This article claims it has HDCP 2.2 support. But a post here says HDCP 2.2 isn’t yet enabled/functional. Who is right? I don’t know.

This MB has significantly upgraded audio via the Creative Sound Core3D quad-core processor. This should provide improved audio over the ever present cheap Realtek chips. However, this MB also has dedicated USB DAC ports (two of them) for use with a USB DAC. The Verge has a good write-up on various DAC options that run around $100. Personally I’m sticking with the built-in audio.

Memory

Next up, was memory. My old PC has DDR3, but that’s been eclipsed by DDR4. Corsair is a good brand, so I looked through their options for a 16GB kit (2x8GB). The Vengeance LPX line is their high performance memory, and has built-in heat spreaders. It also has a lifetime warranty, which is great. I settled on the Vengeance LPX 32ooMHz C16 kit. On Amazon it’s just $70 for 16GB, which is a great price. The motherboard has 4 DIMM slots, so you could bump it up to 32GB if you needed the memory.

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Flash Storage

Next up was flash storage for my boot drive. As I previously mentioned, SATA III SSDs are slow and bottlenecked by the old 6Gbps interface. If you truly want the best storage today, it’s NVMe. The various options can be a bit confusing, so let me quickly cover those. NVMe is fastest when used with a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface. You can use either the M.2 connector which lets you mount the NVMe module directly to the motherboard. Or, you can use the U.2 connector. The U.2 module fits into the same M.2 slot, but allow you to plug in a U.2 cable to an externally mounted NVMe drive such as the Intel 750 series. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 connectors, so I wanted a NVMe solution to match. I decided on the Samsung 950 Pro 512GB. You can buy it from Amazon for $316. Yes it does cost more per GB than a SATAIII SSD, but it has 5x the bandwidth. Plus you don’t have to deal with cables and mounting a 2.5″ drive in your chassis. Samsung offers a 256GB version for $177 if that is more appealing.

Build note: Install this NVMe module on the bottom M.2 connector, so it uses less SATA PCIe lanes. If you want to go hog wild and get dual NVMe modules, you lose all but SATA_5 on the Intel SATA controller. But there’s an additional SATA controller which gives you two more SATA ports. I also read one customer removed the sticker and placed tiny heat sinks on each memory module. You can find those here.

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CPU Cooler

Now, I wanted to find a super quiet CPU cooler. I will be sitting next to this box, so the last thing I want is a noisy PC. Noctua is a stellar brand in the CPU cooling and case fan world, so I went a checked out their products. I wasn’t planning on overclocking, so I didn’t see anything too crazy or something like water cooling. I also wanted to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with the DIMM slots or PCIe cards. Noctua’s 6 year warranty was also appealing. I decided to get the Noctua NH-U9S. It met all my requirements, had stellar reviews, and is nearly silent in operation. You can find it on Amazon for $58.

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Case

One of the final pieces is the case. Cases are very personal, and people have strong opinions. For me, I really don’t care. I don’t need clear sides, fancy lights, or a lot of storage bays. Given the size of the CPU fan, I could not use a super slim HTPC style case. So a mid-tower case it was, and I wanted something quiet. It should also support USB 3.0 ports, which really is standard these days. I stumbled upon the Corsair Carbide Series 330R Quiet mid-tower case. I liked the fact that it has noise reducing damping material, smart airflow, lots of fan options, tool free disk drive installation, and looked very clean. It can be had on Amazon for $103. Do take note that it does NOT come with a power supply, so this case is more expensive than some that come with (crappy) power supplies. Reviews did mention the front case fan wasn’t silent, so I picked up the Noctua NF-A14 PWM fan, which I’ve read is nearly silent. It’s on Amazon for $22.

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Power Supply

Because the case doesn’t come with a power supply, it was time to do a little research. For maximum efficiency, you don’t want to get a PS that is vastly over rated what you will be drawing. You also want to look for near silent (or totally) silent operation. Modular power supplies are also great, which avoids having to bunch up a lot of cables in your case and making for a messy installation or interfering with airflow. I’ve had excellent past experience with Seasonic, but I also knew Corsair was a solid choice. I did not want to spend a bundle, since this is not a high wattage gaming rig. But I do value quality and features. I settled on the Corsair RMi Series, which comes with some unique monitoring software that is fed via a USB cable to the power supply. I wanted the lowest wattage version, which unfortunately was a beefy 650 watts. So I’ll be running on the low end of the efficiency scale. But it does feature a fanless mode, if the power draw is sufficiently low. You can find it on Amazon for $120. Yes, you can most certainly find cheaper solutions (like a SeaSonic S12II-430 for half the price). So feel free to spend less. But I like quality, and the monitoring software as gimmicky as it may be, tipped me over the edge.

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4K Monitors

Update 5/26/2016: After more intense research, I found a great monitor.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, and quite frankly the current solutions are extremely scarce. The problem is HDCP 2.2, or should I say, the lack of support. After extensive googling and research I found the LG 27UD88-W that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. And it even has a USB 3.0 type-c connector on it as well. It retails for $699. You can buy it from Amazon for $668. There is the 32″ Dell UP3216Q monitor that advertises HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. It’s a pricey $1,400.  It’s a sure bet that more 24″ and 27″ HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 4K monitors will ship, the question is just when. Monitors can last a good 5 years or more, and the good 4K monitors can run north of $700. So I want to get something that will last 5+ years. There are cheaper 4K options (such as those from Dell), but a big hobby of mine is photography so accurate colors are a must. The LG option specific states accurate colors, is calibrated, and aimed at video/photography enthusiasts. I’m in!

If your budget is more around $500 per monitor and highly accurate colors are not a requirement, then I would wait on a purchase. No doubt HDCP 2.2 compliant 24″ and 27″ monitors will be released, and I would bet by the end of 2016.

Mass Storage

If you are in the market for quality mass storage, check out the HGST Deskstar NAS lineup at Amazon. You can get a 4TB 7.2K SATA drive for $164. HGST got the highest reliability marks in a BackBlaze blog post you can read here. If you want the enterprise grade SATA drive the 4TB “ISE” model runs $275 at Amazon. It has twice the MTBF of the consumer NAS drive.

Summary

I tried to balance quality, performance, price, while meeting my requirements in a solid workstation. The total price without tax and shipping comes in around $1,200. Yes, you could shave off some $$ by going with cheaper/slower parts. I also left out spinning HDD and optical media. I was thinking of a UHD/4K Blu-ray drive, but decided against it. First, we are too early in the UHD uptake to see any real drive options (a quick search didn’t turn any up). Second, I’m not planning on viewing UHD movies on my PC. That’s why I have a 4K home theater. Even UHD Blu-ray players are scarce, with Samsung being the primary option. Later this year I’ll re-investigate 4K monitors and hopefully the market will have a few HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 options. Remember, only the HDMI port supports HDCP 2.2, so if you connect this MB to a 4K TV, use the HDMI port.

After I get all of the parts and assemble it, I’ll update this post with any gotchas. So if you are thinking about buying these parts, you might want to wait a few weeks until I can fully test the system with Windows 10 x64. It should work just fine, though. Remember that the free upgrade to Windows 10 expires on July 29th. So I plan on loading this PC with my old copy of Windows 8.1, activate, then upgrade to Windows 10. I could use the free Samsung utility to drive copy my old Windows 10 SSD to the NVMe drive, but then Windows will become deactivated and I’ve seen accounts of Microsoft refusing re-activating and telling customers they need to buy a copy.

Do take note that Amazon will cover return postage of any DOA item, unlike many other retailers like NewEgg. So if you have the choice between Amazon and say NewEgg, lean towards Amazon.

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Goodbye vSphere C# Client

So for as long as I’ve been using VMware, the Windows C# client has been a staple of my workflow. Even when VMware started transitioning to the icky Flash based interface, I know many MANY people still used the C# client. Between dodgy performance, reliance on Flash (and all it’s security problems), re-jiggered UI, difficulty in finding objects, no VUM interface, etc. The Flash based interface went over like a lead balloon in the vSphere community. To VMware’s credit they did make improvements over the years, but it was still Flash based and slow.

Today VMware is announcing that in their upcoming release of vSphere, the Windows C# client will no longer be offered. Yes, after years of warning us about the client going it, it is now dead. Buried, and one for the history books.

Now you ask, what will it be replaced with? Yes, they will now offer a full HTML5 client.  A while back VMware released a HTML5 ‘fling’ (which is unsupported for production usage) for embedded host management. Frankly I’ve been too busy to try it, plus customers can’t use it in production. Although it does appear to have made it into vSphere 6.0 U2.

Other enterprise products have had HTML5 interfaces for years (e.g. Nutanix), and I’m so glad I can stop installing Flash on servers. So I do welcome this change in VMware management. But the proof will be in the pudding, on how well they implement it. Will it be performant? Will it be intuitive? Can we manage VUM, SRM, and third party products? How about third party plug-ins that still rely on Flash? Only time will tell how these are addressed. I was on the vExpert call earlier this week that VMware hosted, and the community was very concerned about the usability and knowing which plug-ins will or won’t work.

I welcome the change, but only time will tell how well VMware can execute. As a side note, Nutanix never has had a vCenter plug-in. We have a comprehensive HTML5 interface called PRISM that manages our HCI solution. So unlike other vendors, you won’t have to play a waiting game with vSphere .Next and wait for any updated Nutanix plug-in. Once our QA tests vSphere v.Next and we whitelist the ISO, you will be good to go.

vSphere 6.0 Toolkit Update

In my new role at Nutanix I’ve had the pleasure of working with end customers, and configuring their vSphere 6.0 environment. During this process, SSL certificates have come up. Surprisingly, thus far my clients have chosen the VMCA method of deploying certificates. This is great, as it automates certificate deployments in a vSphere 6.0 environment. Even with the VMware certificate tools, there are some manual steps for configuring the VMCA. My vSphere 6.0 toolkit automates most of those steps.

However, while going through the process we stumbled upon a slight bug in my Toolkit when using an intermediate certificate authority. I’ve since fixed that bug, and uploaded the latest vSphere 6.0 SSL Toolkit here.

I’ve been exceptionally busy the last few months, which is why blogging and updating the Toolkit script has taken a back seat. But I did want to get this script update pushed out so other customers don’t run into VMCA problems.

If you are unfamiliar with my vSphere 6.0 SSL Toolkit, then read up on my full vSphere 6.0 installation series here.

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