VMworld USA 2017 – Wednesday Breakdown

Day three at VMworld was a bit of a slow start for me, the Rubrik party was a late one and there was no keynote so I decided to rest up a little try and save my energy.

Hanging out in the community areas, which is the best part of the event, was high on the agenda. Early on in the day we swung by to see our favourite Cloud Cred lady Noell Grier . I gave her a bit of a hand doing some “booth babe” duty whilst Rob Bishop collected his Go Pro 5 that he won for completing a CloudCred challenge! Noell is an awesome lady and if you aren’t familiar with CloudCred then you should go to the site, sign up, follow her on twitter and get on it!

The main highlight for Wednesday for me was heading to the customer party. Thanks to #LonVMUGWolfPack shenanigans Gareth Edwards, Rob Bishop and I ended up wearing some very jazzy VMware code t-shirts. The concert was a blast and we had a great time, I really enjoyed Blink 182 despite not being allowed on the main floor. Here are some pics of the event:

(Credit to Gareth for some of these pictures, thanks dude!)

NSX Performance
Speaker: Samuel Kommu

Samuel starts by a show of hands and it seems that most of the audience are on dual 10Gbe for their ESXi host networking.

NSX Overview of overlays
There is not much difference between VXLAN encapsulation and original ethernet frames. Only the VXLAN header is extra.
With Geneve Frame format there is an additional options field (length) that specified how much more data can be packed into the header. This can be interesting as you can pack extra information within it. This then helps capture information on particular flows or packets.

Perfomrance tuning
Parameters that matter – MTU mismatch is a pain to try and figure out. There are two places you can set it: ESXi host and on the VM level. From a performance perspective the MTU on the host doesn’t matter unless you change it at the VM level too.

There is a large chance if you change the MTU you will change the performance on your systems. The advice is to change the MTU to recommended values. The reason for this is the amount of payload vs. headers goes down therefore you are getting more for your money.

The vDS MTU sets the host MTU as that is what the host is connected to. The underlying physical network needs the same MTU setting too. Fairly standard stuff but important to check and consider.
Optimizations on TCP/IP , sending a large payload without spending CPU cycles. This is TSO. The act of sending a 1MB file for example, doesn’t happen within the system but it happens on the pNIC when chopping it up.**

With ESXi 6.5 they have brought in LRO in a software LRO rather than having the physical hardware only having it. Now it is possible to leverage LRO without physical capability on NSX 6.5.
When RSS is enabled
– Network adapter has multiple queues to handle receive traffic
– 5 tuple based hash for optimal distribution to queues
– Kernel thread per receive queue helps.

Rx/Tx filters
– Use inner packet headers to queue traffic

Native Driver – vmklinux driver data gets translated to vmkernel data structure. The native driver decreases the translation between both. Meaning less CPU cycles used.

Each vNIC now has it’s own queue down to the pNIC, rather than sharing the same queue. This scales throughput accurately through to the pNIC. It is also now possible to have multiple queues per single vNIC to pNIC.

Compatibility guide

The HCL is an obvious place to start with checking versions to ensure they are all correct and in support. It is then possible to select the right settings so that you can receive the latest and correct drivers to download and install onto your hosts.

Traffic Processes
Traffic flows, E/W and N/S traffic. E/W means a logical switch communication within the same switch to other VM’s .This is usually the most amount of traffic, smaller amounts go out on N/S traffic flow and this also goes through NSX Edge.

Long flows:
– Designed to maximums on bandwith
– Logs
– Backups
Short flows:
– Databases, specifically in memory ones or cache layers.}

Small packets:
– Keep alive messages

Not all tools are able to test the latest optmizations. Make sure the tools are right for the job. Application level is often best but be aware.
Fast Path
When packets come in, a new flow, it has different actions depending on the header. This happens throughout the entire stack regardless of E/W N/S traffic.

When you see new flows that are similar type, fast path disregards the flows actions and fast tracks to the destination, with no hash table. This is for a cluster of packets that arrive together, the flow is hashed and then sent via fast path. This causes 75% less CPU cycles.

The session got quite deep at times and went way further than my limited NSX experience could take me. I’m also not a network admin by day either so if there are any mistakes in my notes I’ll correct them as I go.

VMworld USA 2017 – Tuesday Breakdown

Tuesday starts with excitement at VMworld 2017, the keynote beings…


Pat Gelsinger and Michael Dell take the stage for Day 2, the crowds are in anticipation of a great session.

Pat opens up by talking about support and GSS. In recent years it is the opinion of some that support has been an issue and that standards might not as be as high as previous years. Pat states that he is committed to being the best technology partner and hopefully this will drive change from the top down through VMware to improve this area. This is fantastic news!

Michael gives his thoughts on machine learning and quantum computing topics. He talks about the sheer number of devices available now and the IoT trend. Data is growing at an exponential rate and if we are able to overlay computer science and machine intelligence to this data we reach a tremendous age of humans and computers working together for some great possibilities. He believes we are the dawn of this era.

Pat comes out with a classic line summizing this topic of conversation:

“Today is the slowest day of technical evolution in the rest of your life”.

Pat and Dell have a great rapport, this much is clear from their discussions on stage. There is a small amount of banter between them which gets the crowd laughing. It’s moments like these that make the event more enjoyable to watch as it shows that they are just guys who are passionate about technology, not multi-billion dollar CEO’s.

VMware and Pivotal are also announced as platinum partners of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Later, Ray O’Farrel joins the stage to a big applause, he is a peoples favourite. He jokes that VMworld this year is a bit like a rock concert. He asks the question, how do we build the products that they put forward for us, the customer. The main principals to this focus are:
1) Customers can take advantage of the most modern infrastructure available.
2) Pragmatic about how we consume the technologies. Robust, quality delivery.#
3) New consumption models and how things can be delivered “as a service”.
4) Developer friendliness, allow devs to leverage the infrastructure and applications via code.

Ray Demonstrates using a fictitious company “Elastric Sky Pizza”. They are using Project Leonardo to push forward the company with digital transformation. The question being how can this company use products from VMware to help this transformation?

The answer is VMware Cloud Infrastructure a Unified SDDC Platform. A dive into how this complete stack of technology delivers a complete digital transformation for the business. The most impressive thing to me in the demonstration that follows is the VMware App Defence product. It is also nice to see end-to-end use of the entire product stack. I highly recommend that people catch up on the this day two keynote!


The rest of my day after the keynote was spent catching up with fellow community members and wondering around the solutions Exchange. I met up with my buddy, and fellow @LonVMUG member Gareth Edwards and we had a flourish of creativity in order to try and win the Turbonomic competition. As luck would have it, I was judged as the most creative of the day and won an Nvidia Shield. Thank you so much!

Here are my winning entries and me collecting my prize.

In the evening, we went to the Pinball hall of fame for the vExpert party. It was great fun to chat with fellow dedicated community members! We had several drinks, some excellent food and played some old/new school pinball and video games!

The final end (or start) to the evening was attending the Rubrik Party at the Cosmopolitan Hotel/Casino. Gareth and I attended with our white VIP wristbands and went into a fully booked night club for the evening to watch Ice Cube and mingle!

A great end to the evening (at 4:30am)! Thanks to all who were out, especially a big shout out to my main Eric Lee who was on fire the entire evening. Such fun times and entirely the reason I love being a vExpert and party of the VMware community.

VMworld USA 2017 – vSphere 6.5 Storage Deepdive

So, you want to learn about storage… Who better to drop some knowledge on you other than two community legends Cormac Hogan and Cody Hosterman?

As soon as I saw the session in the content catalogue, I knew it was something I’d be attending! Here are my notes on an excellent breakout session.

A Deep Dive into vSphere 6.5 Core Storage Features and Functionality [SER1143BU]

After a quick intro, Cormac and Cody broke the content down into several sections.


ESXi hosts now support:
– 2k paths (doubled)
– 512 devices (doubled)
– 512e Advanced Format Device Support.

If your storage is set to 512n the defaults of VMFS go to 5, where as if you are 4kn or 512e it defaults to VMFS 6.

DSRNO hypervisor queue depth limit has been 256 but it now matches the HBA device queue depths.


Has two new internal block sizes small file black (SFB) and large file block (LFB), 1MB and 512MB respectively. This dictates the growth of a VMFS-6 disk. Thin disks are backed by SFB’s. Thick disks are allocated with LFB’s – this also includes vswap files. Therefore the power on/creation of eager thick zero VM’s is much quicker.

The system resource files are now extended dynamically for VMFS-6. These were previously static. If the file-system exceeds resources, the resource files can be extended to create more. This now supports millions of files assuming free space on the volume.

Journals are used for VMFS when performing metadata updates on the file-system. Previous versions used regular file blocks for journalling. In VMFS-6 they are tracked separately as system resource files and can be scaled easily as a result.

VM-based block allocation affinity is now a thing! Resources for VM (blocks, file descriptors) used to be allocated on a per host basis (host-based). This caused contention locking issues when they were created on one host and then migrated to another host.

New hosts would allocate blocks to the VM/VMDK and this used to cause locks and contention on the resource files. Thanks to VM-based block allocation this decreases resource lock contention.

Hot extend support now enables VM disk grow of VMDK’s that are larger than 2TB whilst a VM remains powered on. Previously a power off action was required. This is a vSphere 6.5 feature, so as soon as your host is updated it will be able to perform this task on VMFS-5/6 volumes. Massive win!

Finally, the only slight caveat for VMFS-6 is that you have to decommission your old data store and migrate data and reformat to the new file-system. There is no upgrade option, however, thanks to SDRS it’s not the end of the world right?


ATS Miscompare handling (Atomic Test & Set) unlocks the scale-ability of VMFS.

Every so often there used to be a mis-compare; between the test and set option there is a comparison from the previous test and set operation. Sometimes the timeout was too low and the storage array would take time to respond. This used to confuse host and storage comparison and cause issues. More often than not, issues that arose were down to a false mis-compare. Meaning that there was no real issue – just potentially some high latency. These small issues occurred anywhere between the vSphere, Storage Array and HBA.

Good news is that now, in the event of false mis-comapres now, VMFS will not immediately abort IO’s. It retries ATS Heartbeat after a short interval (less than 100ms). Meaning a smoother process all around.

UNMAP was introduced in 5.0. It enables the host to understand that blocks have been moved or deleted on the back-end on a thin disk. This allows to reclaim the freed blocks, freeing up space.

Automatic UNMAP is back for VMFS-6. Hosts asynchronously reclaim space by running UNMAP crawler mechanisms. This does require a 1MB reclaim block size on the back-end array. This is an automatic process and can take 12-24 hours to fully reclaim the space.

In-guest UNMAP was introduced in 6.0. A thin provisioned guest was able to inform the host of dead space within the file-system, this would then UNMAP down to the array.

Linux support has now been introduced thanks to introduction of SPC-4 support in vSphere 6.5.


Storage policy based management, also known as VAIO filters.

It is a comon framework to allow storage and host related capability to be consumed via policies.

Rules are built for data services provided by hosts, such as “I want a VM on storage dedupe but no encryption, with X availability requirement”. These rule sets can be applied to a provisioned VM and it receives the policies and rules.

Two new I/O filters have been shipped with 6.5. VM Encryption amd storage I/O control settings.

VM Encryption requires an external KMS. The encryption mechanism is implemented in the hypervisor, making it guest OS agnostic. It doesn’t just encrypt the VMDK but the VM home directory contents too (vmx files, etc).

NFS 4.1

VAAI-NAS primiatives have been improved. It is now possible to offload storage tasks to the backend array.

IPv6 support added for NFS 4.1 kerberos.


Now supports haing the iSCSI initiator and target residing in difference subnets WITH port binding. Apparently VMware had many customers wanting to achieve this!

VMware now supports UEFI iSCSI boot on Dell 13th gen servers with dual NICs.


New virtual storage node option on the hard disk option in guest VM, a new HBA for all flash storage.

Supports NVMe specification v1.9e mandatory admin and I/O commands.

Interoperability for this exists within all vSphere features except SMP-FT.

That is the end of my notes on the session. I highly recommend to anyone to come back and re-watch this session when it is publicly available. I had a quick chat with the guys after the session, with many others, to try and soak up any additional knowledge they had on offer. The guys were also nice enough to let me grab a picture with them for the blog. Thanks again for an excellent session!

VMworld USA 2017 – Monday Breakdown

Monday has started and VMworld is in full swing: registrations have happened, VMunderground party has been attended and here I am….ready.


After a vibrant musical start to the first day keynote, Pat Gelsinger comes out on stage full of energy and praise for the VMware community.

(Apologies for the picture quality, camera is a potato)

“Science fiction is becoming every day science fact!”

Pat talks of older films such as Alien and how now there are similar cyber suits in Korea offering similar functionality. Dreams are becoming reality thanks to advances in technology. This means that we have a very exciting future ahead of us!

The question is, out of all changes in technology, what is the most profound? Our expectations are the most prominent it would appear. It is hard to believe that the next generations perspective has changed so much in recent times. He jokes about self driving cars driving like his old Grandma and how there is a dynamic of tech leaving the nest of tech.

He states VMware’s strategy of “Enabling businesses to create and deliver apps for their businesses”:
– Any device
– Any application
– Intrinsic Security

He talks of how the industry is reaching further than ever before; companies working together to unleash the potential of users most valuable resources. There is a reference to this with Fujistu working with Toyota to bring the next generation of pulse IoT for next gen user experiences.

Pat later shows footage of an early VMware sales call, it is full of 90’s references: from the Nirvana T-shirt rocker guy to the terribly dressed and over enthusiastic board meeting member acting. Funny stuff. Since those early sales calls everything has changed: virtualised data centers and public/private clouds. Pat’s passion and enthusiasm is clear when he discusses dusting off his old electronics kit and building a computer with his grandson.

Andy Jassey, CEO of AWS joins Pat on stage to discuss their recent partnerships in the public cloud. This partnership, as most know, is quite huge. They discuss the roadmap for the future, which is driven by us…the customers! It is good to know that our collective input is being considered in the platform that is delivered. Geographic expansion is a large part of this roadmap and future, which I will be watching with interest.

The discussion of security arises and how things can be secured for the better:

– Architect security into the infrastructure, making it native.
– Deeply architect the integrated ecosystem
– Return to basics and follow simple “cyber hygine” principals are adhered too.

This leads to the into the announcement that VMware AppDefense is off the product line and ready to go. It is going to improve security by monitoring applications in a virtual environment to provide reactive, real-time defence against potential malicious attacks.

Later, the Red Cross join Sanjay Poonen on stage. There is a moving video intro showing all the good work they do across the world. It is quite eye opening to understand the logistics of the organisation and how IT drives them forward. Examples given this really underpin the value of IT Industry in organisations such as this, making a difference in peoples lives.

As he wraps up the keynote, Sanjay states whats coming up in the forthcoming days for the delegates. It looks to me that there is lots of exciting content on the way and I’m looking forward to blogging about it. Michael Dell is due on stage tomorrow to have a chat with Pat and Sanjay which will be fantastic. News of a secret announcement on its way…

VMTN + Blogger Info

I have been hanging out in the VM Village catching up with folks and have had the pleasure of catching up/meeting with Corey, Katie, Elsa and others regarding the latest work coming out of the Digital Marketing social media teams.


VMware Communities

A lot of work has gone into VMTN in the last year or so with noticeable upgrades specifically focused on performance. This is down to the great work that Katie Bradley has put in.

There is combined effort with the VMware blogging program underway to make improvements to VMTN and blogs.vmware.com which will involve pulling together all the community content and digital assets for community consumption. This is coming soon so make sure you register to be a VMTN member if you haven’t already! The main program that is launching is coming out in Beta around the end of September. It’s a bi-directional object server to enable bloggers/digital-content-creators to display exceptional content from the community that will be hosted on the server.

The blogger program is hopefully going to start with a monthly round table call. The aim will be to have a 30 minute touch base and understand if there any pain points for us and how the blogging community can be further improved. There will be a top bloggers of the month award and they will receive prizes, with potential VMworld ticket prize give aways! There will be experts come in on the call to discuss topics and provide extra content to blog about.

Finally, there are going to be some improvements where there will be targeted content based on trending subjects and hopefully additional benefits for those who are looking to promote their blogs.

It all sounds great and I’m excited to see what comes out in the next few months!

VMworld USA 2017 – Here I come!

Most of the time reading my email, be it personal or work, isn’t that enthralling. However, not so long ago I opened up an email from VMware’s CommunityGuy confirming that I had been awarded a blogger pass to go to VMworld 2017 in Las Vegas!! It is indeed an honour and a privilege to be selected, I know there are many vExperts out there who might not have been so lucky this year, so I’m going to do as I did last time and try my absolute best to bring home some of the conference to those who didn’t get to go.

To all those reading who might have never been, I posted in 2015 about why you should consider it and some useful tips if you do register to go!

My previous post’s from when I attended VMworld 2015 can also be found here.


“I am shaping the future”
“I am an innovator”
“I am a visionary”
“I am expanding opportunities”
“I am a game changer”
“I am challenging the ordinary”
“We thrive together”

The tag lines from the event marketing this year are bold and perhaps what the cynical among you might expect and groan at. I’m the opposite, working in IT is mostly an invisible thankless job which can be challenging at times as most people don’t appreciate or understand what it is that we do to make their lives better (for the most part I hope). These tag lines, whilst a little cheesy, are what many of us are/do without the reminder of it on frequent basis. We are the pioneers of driving technology forward, using our technical know-how and foresight to shape the IT landscape in front of us for the best possible outcome. Finally, the last line is most important to me – thriving together as a community is the only way I see the aforementioned being achieved. Sharing knowledge and being part of something bigger makes such a massive difference and I’m glad that I’m apart of the excellent VMware community. I’m thrilled to be going back this year and getting to reacquaint with friends that I made first time around!

If you haven’t already, you should register for the event as it’s going to be great! If you are a fan of Blink 182 or Bleechers then you should definitely register as they have only just recently been announced as the Wednesday night party acts!


As a side note, here are just a few of the great posts out there from some well known bloggers about this years VMworld:

Fabian Lenz (@Lenzker) – Why #VMworld 2017
Duncan Epping (@DuncanYB) – VMworld 2017, which sessions & tips
Anthony Spiteri (@anthonyspiteri) – VMworld 2017 Session Breakdown and Analysis

I plan on posting soon with my thoughts on the sessions and what I plan to attend. Until then, see you next time!