Tag Archives: management

Cloud Management of VMware hosts using VMware Go for new admins and SMBs

VMware Go is a is a cloud based management solution for (small) vSphere deployments and includes features such as  the IT Advisor, ESXi and vCenter installation automation and patch/inventory scanning (though my free version is prompting me to upgrade to Go Pro for those right now).

As I am setting up a new lab environment, I thought I would poke around at some of the features.  I did a basic ESXi install leaving all the defaults.  As I drill into the inventory for this host, VMware Go identified two potential configuration problems I should correct – setting an NTP server and changing the IP address.

host

Typically the IP address could be set via the vSphere Client, DCUI or command line and NTP via the DCUI or command line, but VMware Go is targeted (IMO) towards the small business or IT shops with little to no VMware experience so having the ability to set these items via a web interface seems very useful.  Click the Apply NTP Settings button worked flawlessly for the suggested NTP server (you may want to use an internal NTP source in your environment).

ntp

There is an import VM feature, but this only works from a VMware Server instance (VMware on Windows) and since that has long since been out to pasture, not sure how useful that would be.  Being able to communicate with VMware Converter running on the network seems like it would be a more useful feature.  I also have the ability to scan the host for patches, since I installed the latest 5.1 release there were none to install so I downloaded 4.1 Update 2.  Adding the host was again easy and straight forward, though the NTP setting originally threw an error but trying to apply again worked correctly.  Running a patch scan worked as expected this time, I found the missing patches and automated shutting down VMs, putting the host into maintenance mode and rebooting the server.  One thing to remember, these are “updates” not “upgrades” so you cannot bring a 4.1 host up to 5.1 or even bringing a 5.0 hosts up to 5.1.

patches41

One feature I would like to see, especially for the small IT shop who isn’t comfortable managing ESXi directly is the ability to rename the hosts, currently both my hosts are named “localhost” and have the ability to to manage other basic IP settings such as subnet mask, DNS servers and gateways.

If the free version from VMware Go is nothing else, its a great tool to keep your ESXi hosts up to date with latest patches.  As I get further in my lab setup (vCenter etc…) I will write up additional features that are available in VMware Go and activate my VMware Go Pro trial.

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Troubleshooting 101

Disclaimer – These are not all my ideas, simply a collection of ideas from people I have met over the year including some very smart folks from Softscape (former company), ICI and others.

When faced with a problem, error message, basically anything not working here are some tips to get you back quickly.

  1. Make a list.  Scott Lowe just presented on the ProfessionalVMware.com #vBrownBag (http://professionalvmware.com/?p=2931) and focused on the importance of tracking tasks so you are not bouncing back and forth and losing focus.  If nothing else, the below points might make a good list for you to walk through to ensure you are getting the right things done in a timely manner.
  2. Collect as much information you can about the problem.  Albert Einstein once said “If I had one hour to save the world, I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and only five minutes finding the solution” and this should be a lesson for all of us in technology.  We need to understand the problem before we can solve it.  What is the operating system, patch level, software application and patch level, when did the problem start, what has changed since it started are all good data points to start with.
  3. Open a support ticket with the vendor.  This was a great bit of advice I received from Brad Maltz (@bmaltz), chances are you are likely going to sit on hold, or have to wait for a support engineer to respond to your request so once you have collected as much information as you can, get the support case rolling.  While you are spending time troubleshooting you are also moving up the support queue to someone who might be able to help.  Worst case scenario, by the time they get back to you, you just close the case because you figured it out.
  4. Give the customer (remember internal IT departments you are an IT service provider, even if its just for one company) an specific time you will get back to them with an update.  Be clear about what the problem is, what system or systems are affected and that the next response may be nothing more than an update that you have no update.  Set a reminder in your calendar to send the update as well, you don’t want to promise an update at 10A and then not follow through.  I have worked through issues where I sent 3 or 4 emails stating that the system was still down and working towards a resolution and that we would respond again within the next hour (or some other time interval that is appropriate for the problem).  Give yourself enough time to hopefully find an answer, but not so short that you keep stopping your work and not so long that the customer is just left wondering.
  5. What do the logs say?  If something isn’t working, in theory there should be a log file with errors in it someplace (though I have certainly run into a few system crashes that happened so quickly the only error was that Windows didn’t shutdown properly).  Make sure you have a good system to collect and analyze log files.
  6. What does the knowledge base say?  Just about every technology company publishes a knowledge base or KB where you can look up error messages, codes or type in symptoms.  Chances are you are not the first person in the world to run into this error/problem.  If the companies KB doesn’t have anything, search the GKB (aka google.com).  In addition to the KB, customer support forums are also a great place to look.
  7. Check with your team.  The 5 steps above should have taken you no more than 10-15 minutes (collect info, open a ticket, review logs, search the KB), if you haven’t yet heard back from technical support ask your team.  Remember you are not on an island alone, even if you are a single IT person shop there are others you can lean on.  Maybe there are people the affected department who have been at the company longer than you, if its a system thats been in place for a while they may have had this happen to them before and can tell you who helped them fix it the first time.
  8. Check in the social-media-o-sphere.  If you are in technology and not taking advantage of social media and the many smart, open and helpful people out there, then I hope this blog post will have you start looking into it.  LinkedIn and Twitter are my go to places if I am just beyond stumped.
  9. Review the original project documentation.  There are certainly (many) times this may not exist, and if you find yourself thinking that YOU don’t have any documentation for your projects maybe its a good time to start.  Typically a consultant/vendor would provide a scope of work, project outline or similar documentation that should state what you are doing with this platform, why you are doing it and what is likely to go wrong in the environment given the design.
  10. Panic.  Just kidding…. well kind of… no – I am kidding (Still crack up over that comment Rob).  In all seriousness though, if by now you have not found a solution its probably time to start reaching out to local consultants/experts for the system or systems you are having problems with.  It may also be at this point that you realize a system restore is the only viable option and its time to break out the DR/backup and recovery plan so you can get the systems back online.
  11. Document and share it.  Thanks to Edward Henry (@NetworkN3rd) for the tip and reminder.  Once you have solved the problem, make sure to document the information you collected, the symptoms and how you resolved it.  If it happened once, it will probably happen again.  Share with your team, share via your online resources (customer forums, Twitter, blogs etc…) as others may see a problem, or similar problem in the future.

What do you think of the steps above?  Do you use similar steps?  What tips do you have?

Building a Business Case for Social Business Software via @JiveSoftware #socbiz

Back in a previous life I was asked to take on two projects, an “intranet” upgrade and an “customer portal” – the requirements for both were lose and the intranet upgrade seemed fairly obvious, just upgrade from SharePoint MOSS 2007 to 2010 (or 2013 depending on timing).  For the customer portal project I partnered with the Director of Marketing to define the scope of the project and determine what our constraints might be – budget and executive buy in where the two biggest concerns which was odd to me since the CEO asked for the customer portal in the first place.  As we started down this path I quickly realized what people wanted in an intranet, and what we wanted to provide to our customers had almost the exact same requirements – the projects converged and the rest, well we got acquired so the project never launched but I met a great company called Jive Software and the rest of this article was information provided at their Jive Road Show from the spring of 2012 to help build a business case for Social Business (or Social Enterprise) software.

  1. Okay so I didn’t agree with their number 1 – the first order of business is to learn what “social” means to different people in your company.  Once you have this understanding, develop training – one on one, department or for the entire company about what being “social” means in today’s digital world.  Everyone needs to be on the same page or your project won’t get off the ground.  “We are already a social business” said one executive who sat in his office all day behind closed doors – made my skin crawl, he wasn’t even social in the sense of talking to people never mind how to be social in a digital format.
  2. (This is where Jive started) Align the social business initiative to your companies critical business initiatives – this is an important step so you can align the cost of the project to actual initiatives for the business, in our case it was creating a customer portal, increasing sales and improving the customer experience.
  3. Gain strong executive (and Finance) sponsorship – obvious but critical for any project.  Get as much money in the bank as possible – I had CEO and CFO approval, and a free 6 month pilot lined up and it still got denied (but we were also in the process of getting acquired)
  4. Select the right initial groups and engage key people early – This is why I added my own number 1 requirement – it may be difficult to know WHO the right/key people are with, well, being social!  I opted to ask the entire company for volunteers and created a team of 20 people to tell me what they wanted, what would help them in their day to day job and with their customers (be it internal or external).  If you know of someone who is completely opposed, thinks that “social is for kids” get them in on the project early – your biggest opponent can quickly become your biggest proponent (proponent…is that a word?  meh)
  5. Mindfully model and mentor through content and interaction seeding – social enterprise is all about engagement.  If your not using the software, not having conversations, sharing information it will just become a document management system, or that system you wasted the companies money on!  Help people start conversations and discussions, maybe start with how it can be leveraged within just groups or departments and then show how it can span the entire company.
  6. Design and build for engagement – provide guidance and examples for people to model their usage after until they are comfortable with the platform, at which point it will start to be natural and the growth/engagement organic.
  7. Communicate bottom up and top down – short version – everyone needs to be engaged on the platform.  If the CEO is not listening, its not working.  A platform like this can generate so much great information for the business leaders to act on.
  8. Measure – take baselines, before and after the project launches.  Know what you business initiatives were (item 2) and know how those performed both before and after you go live.  Is employee satisfaction up?  Customer retention up?  Having these metrics will continue to provide proof that transforming your business into a social business matters.

8 Habits Of Highly Effective Google Managers via @tbi_warroom + 2

Last week an old article trended on LinkedIn that caught my attention, it was a list of 8 attributes that Google identified in good managers and 3 pitfalls (Read the article here).  I loved the list and think its a great starting point but there were two I wanted to add (one kind of addressed in the pitfalls list).

First (well 9th I guess) is be consistent – it is important for your employees to know what to expect in certain situations, whether its how flex time works (or the ability to use flex time), how and when to get approval for certain tasks, etc…  If on Monday you tell an employee they are permitted to make a decision on a certain topic, and then Friday you come down on them for making that same decision you will not only hurt morale but also performance as they will need to ask you how to handle certain situations every time they come up.

Second – be self aware, possibly one of the hardest things to do.  It is important for you to recognize when external factors such as personal life, car problems or challenges with a vendor etc… affect your mood and response.  Being able to identify when other external factors might be affecting your tone will help you fight through and focus on productivity and morale.  The flip side, similar to my first point is the negative effect it can have on morale and productivity.

via Forbes.com – Time to be an entrepreneur

From http://www.forbes.com/sites/alanhall/2012/07/15/kiss-your-boss-goodbye-its-time-to-be-an-entrepreneur/

I love this excerpt:

“…to company management.   Who do you think does all the work in your business?  Who do you think makes your products, sells them, provides support, collects receipts and pays workers? It’s not you, my friend.  Have you forgotten that you hired these people as a resource to help you build a highly profitable business? Have you forgotten they are a precious asset to be valued and protected? How long do you think you can mistreat quality workers until they bolt? In a word, it’s not very long.  Do you get the picture?  Am I making sense? In sum, your financial success, your promotions, your glory, all depend on how well you treat those subordinates who have placed their trust and confidence in you.” – Alan Hall