Quick Tip - VCSIM no longer works in VCSA 6.0

I figured I do a quick blog post on the topic of VCSIM and VCSA 6.0 since I have received several questions regarding its functioanlity in VCSA 6.0. The simple and unfortunate answer is that VCSIM no longer functions in the latest VCSA 6.0. There have been enough changes to the vSphere 5.x and vSphere 6.0 code base that this internal tool will no longer function. As far as I know, there are no plans of changing this as VCSIM was primarily used internally by our Developers for certain types of functional testing. I know I will miss using the tool as it did come in handy!

VCSIM should continue to work in both VCSA 5.1 and 5.5 and you can find more details in the articles below.

Quick Tip - Determining the vCenter Server OS platform (Windows or VCSA) using vSphere API

The vSphere API is an extensively rich interface for being able to extract all sorts of useful information about your vSphere infrastructure. One useful trick that may come in handy for those requiring to perform operations directly against the vCenter Server guestOS itself is to figure out whether you are connecting to a Windows vCenter Server or the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA)? Lets say you wish to automate the deployment of the recently released VSAN 6.0 Health Check Plugin and the process to install the plugin will differ between Windows vCenter Server and the VCSA, so it would be ideal if you can easily distinguish between the two

A simplistic solution would be to quickly test for something that would exist in either Windows or Linux, but what if you wanted to perform these operations using the vSphere API and the Guest Operations API to execute the commands within the guests? Well, luckily the vSphere API actually provides this information when connecting to a vCenter Server API endpoint and you can tell if you are connecting to a Windows vCenter Server or the VCSA.

To determine the guestOS type for the vCenter Server you are connecting to, there is a property called osType which you can query when you first connect. Below is a quick PowerCLI snippet for accessing this property, you can also use a variety of other vSphere SDKs to extract this property.

The osType property for the VCSA is linux-x64

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The osType property for vCenter Server for Windows is win32-x64

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Quickly getting started with VMware AppCatalyst & AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin

At Dockercon this week, the Cloud-Native Apps team at VMware introduced two new Tech Previews: VMware AppCatalyst and Project Bonneville. In addition, I also found out today that Fabio Rapposelli who works over in the CNA team has also released a Vagrant Plugin for VMware Catalyst as well. Having spent a couple of days playing with AppCatalyst before it was released, I thought this would be a good opportunity to show how to quickly get started with AppCatalyst but also to try out the new Vagrant Plugin that had just been released.

Before jumping in, What exactly is VMware AppCatalyst? It is a slimmed down desktop Hypervisor based on VMware Fusion that has been optimized for Developers who want to be able to quickly spin up Virtual Machines to run Docker Containers. Included with AppCatalyst is also VMware Photon, an open-source lightweight Linux container host that is used to quickly instantiate new VMs that are ready for running and building Docker Containers. Instead of a traditional GUI like VMware Fusion, AppCatalyst's is consumed completely via a REST API or CLI, which is also ideal for integrating with other 3rd Party Automation tools like Vagrant. Best of all, both VMware AppCatalyst & AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin is completely Free!

Requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.9.4 or 10.10
  • VMware Fusion must not be running

Quick INFO:

  • The AppCatalyst configuration file is located in ~/.appcatalyst.conf (if you wish to change system defaults)
  • The CLI to AppCatalyst is located at /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst
  • The daemon for the AppCatalyst REST API is located at /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst-daemon
  • SSH keys to the Photon VM is located in /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/etc/appcatalyst_insecure_ssh_key
  • Additional AppCatalyst Documentation can be found here

Exploring Appcatalyst CLI:

Step 1 - Download and install VMware AppCatalyst from here

Step 2 - Once AppCatalyst has been installed, you can explore the CLI and view the list of operations by running the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst

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Step 3 - To create our first VM using AppCatalyst, run the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst vm create vGhetto1

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Note: You will see that all VMs created by AppCatalyst will be stored in /Users/[USER]/Documents/AppCatalyst and you can change this by editing DEFAULT_VM_PATH in AppCatalyst configuration file

Step 4 - To power on our VM, run the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst vmpower on vGhetto1

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Note: If you run into problems powering on your VM, there is a good chance that you may still have a VM that is running in VMware Fusion (also check docker-machine in case you are using that to power off any VMs provisioned using that tool)

Step 5 - Once the VM is powered on, we will probably want to retrieve the IP Address which could take a few seconds to be displayed by running the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst guest getip vGhetto1

Step 6 - Once we have the IP Address of our VM, we can then SSH to it using the SSH keys included with AppCatalyst by running the following command:

ssh -i /opt/vmware/appcatalyst/etc/appcatalyst_insecure_ssh_key [email protected]

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At this point, you have successfully deployed a VM based on VMware Photon image using the AppCatalyst's CLI. You can now login and start running and building Docker Containers as Docker is already pre-installed on Photon. Next we will take look at using the AppCatalyst API.

Exploring Appcatalyst API:

Step 1 - To use the AppCatalyst REST API, you will need to run the AppCatalyst Daemon by running the following command:

/opt/vmware/appcatalyst/bin/appcatalyst-daemon

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Note: You can also run the AppCatalyst daemon in the background by adding '&' to the command

Step 2 - You can easily view the AppCatalyst API by opening a browser to http://localhost:8080 (assuming you did not change the port) which is built using Swagger. You can explore and even test the API using this interface if you have not worked with a Swagger interface before.

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Step 3 - Lets quickly test the GET /vms operation which will list the VMs that are being managed by AppCatalyst. We will be using cURL by running the following command:

curl http://localhost:8080/api/vms

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As long as the AppCatalyst daemon is running, you will be able to interact with the REST API using a variety of methods including the examples I have shown above.

Note: A known issue is that VMs powered on using the AppCatalyst API can not be managed by the CLI until they have been powered down using the API. Hopefully this issue will be resolved in a future update.

Exploring Appcatalyst Vagrant Plugin:

Step 1 - Ensure you have Vagrant already installed on your system, if not you can download it here.

Step 2 - Install the Vagrant Plugin by running the following command:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-vmware-appcatalyst

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Step 3 -  You can either run "vagrant init" or manually create a file name Vagrant file that contains the following:

The above Vagrant file will create two VMs called gantry-test-{1,2} using the VMware Photon Box hosted on Atlas by HashiCorp.

Step 4 (Optional) - If you decide to use the example above with VMware Photon Box, you will need to install an additional Vagrant Plugin for managing Photon Guest by running the following command:

vagrant plugin install vagrant-guests-photon

Step 5 - Ensure that the AppCatalyst daemon is running before proceeding with the next step as the Vagrant Plugin uses the AppCatalyst REST API.

Step 6 - To start the deployment, run the following command:

vagrant up --provide=vmware_appcatalyst

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Step 7 - To login to one of the VMs that have been created by Vagrant, simply run the following command and specify the name of the VM to SSH to:

vagrant ssh gantry-test-1

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Step 8 - Finally, we can also confirm that the VMs created by the AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin is also visible using just the AppCatalyst REST API and we can perform another "GET" operation to verify the two VMs that we had just created.

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Hopefully this quick primer has been useful in getting you introduced and started with VMware AppCatalyst as well as the new AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin. If you have any feedback or questions, feel free to leave a comment in the VMware AppCatalyst Forum and for feedback/questions on AppCatalyst Vagrant Plugin, you can file issues here.

Hope to see you at VMworld 2015

The VMworld 2015 Content Catalog just went live this morning and I am please to announce that I have two sessions that were accepted at both VMworld US and Europe. The first session will be a Technical Deep Dive on our new Content Library feature which was introduced in vSphere 6.0 and I will be co-presenting that with James Chang, one of the Content Library Engineers. The second session will be covering a topic that is near and dear to my heart which is the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) and I will be covering some of the best practices along with some of the tips and tricks that you may not know about the VCSA. I hope to see you in one of these sessions and I look forward to meeting and chatting with some of my readers at VMworld!

INF5106 - Content Library Technical Deep Dive

What’s the best place to store and maintain your VM templates, ISOs, and vApps? How do you share them with other administrators and users in your organization or between two sites? The solution is a content library, a content management tool within vCenter that manages and replicates content across data centers. In this talk you will learn how to organize your VM templates for the best VM provisioning speed, pick up best practices for automatically sharing your content between sites, and understand how to migrate content from your existing vCloud Director to vCenter with the least amount of effort. And all this right from the vSphere client that you are already familiar with! Next, we will dive into advanced features like external webserver support (e.g. Amazon S3), HTTP mirroring for scale, and rapid sync using array replication technologies. Lastly, we will conclude the talk with a product demonstration showcasing the advanced content management and consumption use cases within a software defined data center

INF4528 - vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) Best Practices & Tips/Tricks

In this session, I will go through some of the best practices and considerations when deploying and managing the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA). I will walk through some of the changes between past releases and the new vSphere 6.0 release. In addition, I will also provide tips and tricks on using the VCSA as well as ways in migrating from a Windows based vCenter Server to the VCSA

Using latest PowerActions 1.5.0 to issue VMFS UNMAP API in vSphere 6.0 Web Client

Last week, the popular PowerActions Fling was updated to version 1.5.0 which now finally adds support for vSphere 6.0. PowerActions is a vSphere Web Client Plugin that allows administrators to easily execute PowerCLI scripts against inventory objects within the vSphere Web Client. This is a very powerful capability that PowerActions is providing and allows users to easily extend new and custom operations that may not be available within the vSphere Web Client. One such example is being able to easily issue a VMFS UNAMP which in vSphere 5.5 was only available through the use of ESXCLI, I actually demonstrated how easy it is to provide this capability using PowerActions which you can read more about here.

With the release of vSphere 6.0, we now have the ability to issue a VMFS UNMAP using the vSphere API which I have blogged about here among other new vSphere 6.0 APIs. Given that PowerActions now supports vSphere 6.0, I figured this would be a good opportunity to take advantage of the new vSphere 6.0 API using the updated version of PowerActions. I have created a new PowerCLI script called Issue UNMAP 2.0 on Datastore.ps1 which now uses the new UnmapVmfsVolumeEx_Task vSphere API to perform the VMFS UNMAP. I have also submitted a new pull request for this example to Alan Renouf's PowerActions Github repository.

Here is a screenshot of my running the new VMFS UNMAP PowerActions operation against one of my vSphere Datastores and you can that it successfully completed in the Recent Tasks bar.

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In addition to the new VMFS UNAMP operation that can be added as a PowerAction, here are just a few other examples of new vSphere 6.0 capabilities that you can easily extend into a PowerAction:

I am personally excited for the future and potential of PowerActions and I hope to see the PowerActions framework extend beyond just PowerCLI and support other scripting languages. I think this will be a very powerful capability that the vSphere Web Client can offer to our administrators, operators and developers.