Saturday, October 17, 2009

VMware Resources

There are plenty of resources on how to architect a virtual infrastructure and do it correctly. These resources will help you gain knowledge and experience with VMware so you can make sure your virtualization project is successful.

  • Documentation – VMware has excellent documentation and many individual documents for specific areas. You may not read all of them, but at least review the release notes, configuration maximums and installation guides before installing VMware. Then read the Server Configuration and Resource Management Guides.
  • Classes – A great way to kick-start your learning is to spend a week in a class on how to implement virtualization. You will learn from the material, can ask questions of the instructor and will have hands-on labs to practice what you learn. While classes can be a useful tool, they are expensive. But classes are a requirement if you want VMware Certified Professional (VCP) certification.
  • Books – VMware experts have written several books that share these experts' knowledge and experience. Search your favorite book website on VMware and you will have plenty to choose from.
    Websites – There are lots of great websites full of VMware information, news, tips, webcasts, videos and much more like TechTarget's and
  • Blogs – Dozens of VMware- and virtualization-specific blogs provide a wealth of information from experienced VMware veterans. For a complete listing, including TechTarget's own Virtualization Pro blog, check out vLaunchpad.
  • VMworld – VMworld is the greatest annual virtualization show on the planet. So if you're serious about using VMware, you should attend. Besides more than 200 great technical sessions, there are hundreds of third-party vendors and partners at the show and thousands of customers, industry experts, VMware employees and more.
    Webcasts/Podcasts – VMware has regular technical webcasts and podcasts that are a great way to learn about specific topics. TechTarget also has a large library of webcasts on both and websites. If you miss a live one, you can access them in the archives.
  • VMware User Groups – VMware user groups, or VMUGs, are a great way to meet your local VMware crew, watch technical presentations from VMware, customers, partners and vendors and to meet other local users. It's a great way to share information and to get answers to questions. Most large cities have a VMware users group, and groups typically meet every few months. You can view the upcoming schedule of VMUG meetings and sign up to attend at VMware's website.
  • Knowledgebase – When you think of a knowledgebase, you usually think of a repository of documents that cover problem causes and solutions. VMware's knowledgebase is a lot more than that, though; it is full of how-to and informational documents that go well beyond how to solve specific problems. If you have a question on any VMware-related subject, this is a good place to start looking for answers.
  • Virtual Infrastructure Operations – Virtual Infrastructure Operations, or VI:OPS, is a VMware community portal that contains great information from VMware employees, customers and partners. It includes information such as proven practices, how-tos and other great information focused in specific areas such as strategy, security, management and more.
  • Forums – Support forums such as VMware's VMTN forums and TechTarget's IT Knowledge Exchange are a fabulous way to get answers to questions, share ideas and experiences and learn from other experienced users. Even if you don't have a specific question, you can browse through the many thousands of posts or answer a fellow IT pro's question.
  • Social Networking – When you think of social networks tools like Twitter, you might think of users posting what they had for dinner or the weather. You might be surprised to learn that many users using Twitter post questions, comments and experiences about virtualization-specific topics. And you'd be surprised what you can learn in 140 characters. So sign up for an account, and if you're looking for virtualization-related people to follow, try following the followers for people like John Troyer, Hannah Drake or Eric Siebert.

Practice makes perfect

Gaining knowledge is a great way to become educated, but gaining experience is what will really help you improve your virtualization skills. Knowledge and experience go hand in hand. You can learn only so much by reading. To become truly knowledgeable, however, you need to take it to the next level by actually doing the things you read about, and to do that you'll need software and hardware.

Getting the software:

  • Free products – Products like VMware ESXi and VMware Server are great free products that you can install to start gaining experience with virtualization. While VMware Server installs on Windows/Linux systems and is more of a desktop product, ESXi installs on bare-metal and is a true data center virtualization product. Both products will install on a variety of server hardware (including older hardware) and are a way to gain experience before you invest in the more expensive editions of ESX and ESXi.
  • Evaluations – VMware offers 60-day evaluation copies of its full-featured VMware ESX and ESXi editions as well as its vCenter Server management application. This is a great way to experience higher-end products and gain experience configuring enhancement products, such as Distributed Resource Scheduler and Fault Tolerance.

Getting the hardware:

  • White-box and older hardware – Bare-metal products such as ESX and ESXi are officially supported only on specific hardware listed on VMware's Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) but fortunately ESX and ESXi will run on a lot of hardware that isn't listed on the HCL. Not everyone has spare server hardware to use to learn virtualization but you can use white-box (generic) hardware and older name-brand server models (i.e. Hewlett-Packard G2 and G3 models) for this.

You can find many cheap older servers on auction sites like eBay, but be aware that they may not support some of the newer features such as Fault Tolerance, which require the latest CPUs. Also, vSphere requires 64-bit hardware. Using new white-box hardware is a cheap alternative to buying new brand-name servers will often support features such as Fault Tolerance. Additionally you can find many cheap iSCSI/Network File System (NFS) network-based storage devices such as the Iomega 1X2 so you can use some of the advanced features that require shared storage.


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