Shiny new vStuff — Speak at a VMUG NOW!

Having spent the last 3.5 years as a VMUG leader of two different VMUGs and spent time talking to over a dozen other leaders, one issue persists in the VMUG community: lack of customer participation. VMUG recognized this and implemented the Feed4ward program to, “encourage every interested member to share their knowledge at a VMUG local group meeting or User Conference”. Knowledge sharing is what everyone’s there for but most of the time people are nervous about public speaking, don’t think they know enough to discuss topics with others, or they think what they do isn’t that different or interesting. That can all changes now! 

With the release of vSphere 6 on March 12, everything is new to everyone. Not many people have downloaded it in their test/dev/lab environment and (hopefully) no one has deployed it in production yet! There are 11 vSphere ecosystem products that got updated and probably thousands of new features or enhancements to discuss. If you think just an “upgrading to ESXi 6” presentation will be boring, look at upgrading or starting to use one of the other supporting vSphere products such as vRealize Automation or Operations Manager. Maybe you’re a SMB and using or looking to use vSphere Data Protection or vSphere Replication. What was the upgrade or setup process like? How do you manage it? Did you ever have to recover from a backup or replica? Any gotchas? There’s plenty of opportunity now to get started giving back to your local VMUG community. If you want mentoring, look into the VMUG Feed4ward program!

The vSphere 6 documentation ca be found at: https://www.vmware.com/support/pubs/vsphere-esxi-vcenter-server-6-pubs.html.

Take this time to get out in front and start getting familiar with the new features and the associated documentation. Many organizations will look to upgrade once update 1 rolls around (I was in this crowd) which will probably be released in 6 months. Take the lead, become the expert, and be a staple in your local community.

The local VMUG leaders will probably already have a “What’s new in vSphere 6” slot carved out at the next meeting but if there’s a product feature or enhancement you like, love, or have always wanted to see, speak with them about adding a deep dive into that topic. It’s highly unlikely they’ll say no!

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Better Documentation with Infrastructure as Code

Creating documentation isn’t fun. I’ve done my fair share in 10 years of administering systems. I’ve written documentation on AD, Exchange, router and switch configurations, VoIP system configuration and operations, and so on. As a one man shop that architected all the systems I ran, I was unsure what level of detail was required. What helped the most was having an outside resource that could review the documentation and try to fix a problem given the information I documented. Whatever question he had, that also had to be added.

What I’m not used to is taking over an infrastructure or application and being tasked to administer it. Even with decent documentation from the previous admin, you really don’t know the environment until you’ve had to fix a problem.

Recently, I tasked myself with taking over and update an internal application when the previous owner left. Because it was a small (but useful) tool, documentation was non-existent. To make the necessary updates to it, I had to spend plenty of time understanding how the application was structured. Once that I was done, I was ready to add my code and begin testing it.

Here’s the problem I was faced with: I don’t want to disrupt the application in production so I need a test environment but I don’t know everything I need to install to match the production application. Sure I could clone the VM, change the hostname and IP address, etc and hack at it that way. But there’s a better tool to tackle this with that will allow me to document the application and build the environment in a repeatable way. Enter configuration management and the concept of infrastructure as code.

Tools such as Puppet, Chef, and Ansible enable this ability. By implementing the concept of infrastructure as code, admins have the ability to provide useful documentation for systems and applications in the environment and also establish a mechanism to stand up additional application components or even provision new hardware. I chose to learn Ansible because I like the fact that the syntax is very simple (YAML), it uses SSH to communicate with the host, and is agentless.

From my investigation into the app, I know I need Ubuntu Linux, PHP, Apache, Postgresql, and Python. With a little command line-fu, I can find out which versions of the software I need and ensure that my configuration specifics those versions to be installed.

By implementing the concept of infrastructure as code, relevant and detailed documentation is provided for you, your team, and those that come after you.