Upgrading your HomeLab to Windows 10 + VMware Workstation ??

I run my home lab on a PC running Windows 8.1 and VMware Workstation 10.  The PC has an i7 with HT, 32GB RAM and an SSD.

I had to upgrade from Windows 7 as the Home Premium Edition only supported 16GB of RAM, which was irritating.  I knew Windows 10 was coming but it’s End of July release date hadn’t been announced.  So when it popped up offering me my “free upgrade” I accepted and am now dutifully waiting a couple of weeks.

But what about VMware workstation?  Like quite a few home-labbers I am sure they also got their license by passing their VCP.  It’s no mean feat and after investing time, effort and £2000+ on an ICM course it’s very nice to get a copy of VMware Workstation when you pass.  After my VCP4 I didn’t get around to using Workstation 9 much at all.  But after VCP 5 I have been using Workstation 10 quite a bit to build out a lab for VCAP-DCA and subsequently NSX/VCP-NV revision.

So….will Workstation 10 run on Windows 10?

Well the official support doc here is tight lipped on Windows 10 so far http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&docTypeID=DT_KB_1_1&externalId=2088579&src=vmw_so_vex_cneal_850

It doesn’t list it as a host OS yet.  However after reaching out on Twitter Wil van Antwerpen replied with a link
to his communities post pointing out that bug fixes to Workstation 11 had been made to smooth operation with WS11 running on Windows 10.  Those same fixes didn’t appear in recent updates to Workstation 10.

That’s fine.  I understand things move with the times but now Windows 10 “Free Upgrade” was looking like it will cost me £105 to upgrade to Workstation 11.  So I thought I’d try something crazy.

On my Windows 8.1 PC I created a VM inside Workstation 10.
On that VM I installed Windows 10.
On that VM I then installed Workstation 10 (which did warn me against running WS on a virtual machine)
I then created a Debian 64bit VM with 2GB memory and it ran fine.

So, whilst it likely to be wholly unsupported and any problems that occur would come with the fix “Upgrade to Workstation 11”.

It is possible to run VMware Workstation 10 on Windows 10…..!

(NOTE: It is necessary to run Workstation as administrator or you will get an error about writing to a user folder…possibly something that can be changed with UAC or a shortcut pre-set to run as admin)



Training Resource Review: Pluralsight + Jason Nash’s NSX Courses

In a recent change of tack to my learning plan I’ve moved from revising VCAP-DCA to VCP-NV.  This has been driven by a need for work to be familiar with NSX and Multi-Hypervisor Virtualised Networking too.

I did a couple of the NSX Hands On Labs last October at VMworld but other than a few terms, and the fact some bits looked a lot like vShield from the vCloud Suite most of it had leaked out of my brain.

I started first revising the basics and thought that the VCA-NV Fundamentals free online CBT from VMware would be a good place to start.  It was but if I’m honest the woman’s voice reading it out was a bit monotonous and she was obviously reading from a script as a professional reader rather than a techy.  She often got bits wrong or pronounced them awkwardly.  But sometimes techies can be awful presenters and speakers too.

Anyway I ploughed through the 3 hours-ish skipping some of the very basic concepts of vSphere Networking I’m already fully up to speed with having used them for a long while now.  It’s a good primer even for well heeled vSphere admins as it covers some of the Networking areas such as L2/L3 routing which may not be second nature if your background isn’t networks.

I then asked a colleague what he’d used as I heard he had just passed his VCP-NV in a rush.  He mentioned Pluralsight.  This reminded me that I already had a free subscription to Pluralsight which they gave out last year for vExperts.  I didn’t apply for vExpert status to get it, but any freebie is nice.  I had used it ever so briefly in the run up to my VCAP-DCA510 but didn’t have the time to really use the site to it’s fullest.

So with the disclaimer that “I got this free” out of the way what was it like?

I liked the website.  It’s clean, gets straight to the point with a search box to find what you want (who uses menus/hierarchies anymore?).  Importantly it works on Chrome/IE for Windows, it even runs in Chrome for Android so it’s not hooked on Flash which was refreshing and made it feel ever so slightly modern!  The HTML5, I presume, player easily expands to full screen, has simple transport controls and my favourite bit of all is the speed control which I will give it’s own section!

There’s a great Android app which replicates the same simple interface that gets you watching course material quickly after log in.  The transport controls are replicated along with a nice, pop-in from the side, index/contents menu.  That brilliant speed control was there again even more easily accessible in the app.

I didn’t try offline via the website if there is the option, but using the app there is an option to store 30 modules (that’s sections within a course not 30 courses and the module count varies per course).
So I saved the two NSX courses for offline viewing at lunchtimes at work on my tablet.  It synchronised them quickly and used up 11 out of my 30 offline module slots.  If you do keep online then it will synch or at least remember the furthest point you got through a course.  Having my tablet with me at work meant I could lunch and learn without being online.

Part of the reason I hadn’t thought to check Pluralsight before my colleague told me he’d used it was last time I checked…there wasn’t any NSX material on the site.  Searching now threw up two courses by the inimitable Jason Nash.  He is currently CTO at Varrow.  I won’t rewrite his bio here but he has been in the industry for a while and is a VCDX (and CCNP which is relevant for this course).
The two courses were:
VMware NSX for vSphere Introduction and Installation
VMware NSX for vSphere: Network Services
The first course was a great starter from VMware’s aquisition of Nicira right into installation of NSX Manager, NSX Controllers and how it integrates with vCenter Server.  Including all the necessary bits in between providing good revision for anyone rusty on their dvSwitches.  The background bits were relevant without wandering off into personal anecdotes.
I’ve only done a couple of modules of the second course but this is a deeper dive into the constituent part of NSX and follows a similar format to the first.
Edit: A colleague who works with SDDC/SDN asked what the detail level of NSX-MH is in these courses.  The simple answer is very little.  Jason explains the history of and what the NSX- MH version is and why you would use it instead of the vSphere version but these courses are aimed at “NSX for vSphere”.

Speed Learning
As promised this section is simply repeating again the virtues of the speed control.  I’m trying to cram as much information in as possible and I’m used to learning fast.  That’s for a number of reasons, not least because with young kids I have to get information in before I fall asleep if I’m revising at night!
Jason speaks nicely and clearly but he is quite a relaxed American (I’m from Manchester, UK and speak quite quickly) so it’s very very easy to notch him up to 1.25x speed and barely notice it has been tweaked.  For some of it though I was able to soak in details even with the speed cranked up to 1.5x  This meant a 3 hour course only took 2 hours to listen to and absorb.

This is one of the biggest advantages of this system and may not seem revolutionary to those who found the feature on YouTube videos ages ago.  However couple it with the great content presented by a knowledgeable techie rather than a hired voice and I can honestly say that I’d happily fork out the $29/month fee to get access to the courses and mobile apps, however I have noted that for offline viewing it jumps to $49/month.  A couple of months or even just one to cram for an exam, as I’m doing I think could justify that and then cancel perhaps or drop back down to $29.  Maybe lean on your employer to pay it!

Either way you can get 10 days free, so why not use and abuse that and make your own choice 🙂

****As noted above I got free access to Pluralsight for a year through becoming a vExpert in 2014/15.  However I have had no other incentive, financial or otherwise*****

VMware News Roundup: Announcement-ageddon!!!

There was armageddon, then snowmageddon and now announcementageddon.

Twitter is on fire with frantic retweeting and updates on what people are excited about on the VMware front.  And there’s plenty to be excited about right now.

The biggest unsurprising but best bit is vSphere 6.0 goes GA. Now everyone can try long distance vmotion, VVols, 4vcpu Fault Tolerance, Instant Clone and more.
Register for a trial and download below

To help you along with that comes the vCenter 6.0 Deployment Guide.  Fun bedtime reading for vExperts and kids alike.

Not enough for you to play with? Or you did all that 6.0 stuff in the Public Beta?
Ok Download VIOS, VMware’s Integrated Open Stack

Finally a pre-Easter treat from VMware Certification.  1/2 Price VCP-NV until June 30th.  So if you’re wanting to get all Software-Defined in your network then get learning and register/book your VCP now on the cheap!

And that is your lot.  If it’s not enough then you are insatiable and it’s not my job to sate you!

Best VCAP Study Aid is another person’s time & help

Like many I’m currently cramming for my VCAP-DCA.

The reason behind the cramming is that it’s on the 15th Jan and it’s DCA510 which has been retired so I couldn’t push it back despite not getting the voucher long ago or starting studying long ago enough.

That’s my excuses out of the way early.

So I could write my own blog posts breaking down the blueprint.  Well that is useful to me, being able to explain something to a level where someone else can understand it is a good demonstration of your knowledge of something usually….but that’s been done to death.  There are hundreds of VCAP Blueprint blogs out there, some great, some ok.  I’ll list out some resources at the end.

The reason for this post is that in searching for study aids I found Josh Andrews blog http://sostechblog.com/ There are lots of VCAP blog posts on there, including interesting ones about setting up your own lab, something I’ve done (another post coming on that too!), and most importantly his Test Track Lab.  Hmmm my interest was piqued here.  There was an RDP file and a mention of login instructions!??

I read on and Josh had set a basic lab, 2 nested hosts, DC, VC and some powered off VMs on the nested hosts.  He had tried to make it as representative of a VCAP test without breaching any NDAs.  As you will have seen from the description of a VCAP exam and the demo flash http://mylearn.vmware.com/courseware/82526/VCAPDCA_Tutorial.swf much of the setup is described here and is what 99% of us will have in our home labs:

  • 2 nested hosts (or running on an HP Microserver or equivalent)
  • DC (with Powercli and putty and viclient installed)
  • vCenter
  • It didn’t have VMA, it didn’t have a VUM server. Both of those you can configure and add easily yourself

Nothing amazing thus far.  But here is the great bit.  Just before VMworld 2012 Josh created his lab on a laptop roughly described above.

  • He then went further and wrote some scenarios that you should know if you’re going to attempt VCAP-DCA.  Currently these focus on VM management, Storage Management, Network Management and Miscellaneous tasks.
  • He wrote four sets of these.
  • His lab also contains scripts to reboot and reset the lab in between Sets of tasks
  • He also wrote powershell scripts to check your homework!
    It’s pretty amazing and the final amazing part is……….
  • He let’s strangers on to this lab remotely!!!!  Giving away his compute, electricity and hard work for the benefit of fellow VMware enthusiasts.

I think this is a great example of how the VMware community can really do amazing things.  Taking time out of his day to setup and schedule me a slot to use his lab and scenarios has really boosted my thirst for learning.  I quickly realised there were some areas I needed to brush up.  But in others I confirmed what I knew and I even found a glitch in one of the scoring scripts 😉  (That is in no way a criticism as the lab was set up some time ago and any edits can easily be lost with the non-persistent disks and also covers 5.1 and 5.5)

Josh is already, unsurprisingly, a vExpert and a VCI/VCP/VCAP……  If you’re looking for something to test our your skills and to inspire you to better automate and configure you own home lab then I highly recommend looking through Josh’s posts and getting in touch with him via Twitter or e-mail.

Here’s where I got started with Josh’s Test Track


Getting Back on the Horse! (Destination VCAP5-DCA)

After passing my VCP, and subsequently falling back into the bad habit of not studying! I’ve managed to get the

  • VMware authorisation
  • Pearson Vue confirmation
    and now
  • A voucher (for the $$$ bit) from my lovely employer 🙂

Well ok the last bit has been all rubber stamped and approved but it’s somewhere in our suppliers system to churn a handle to actual give me a code….anyway that’s an aside, as soon as it comes through I’ll be booking the exam on pearson giving myself 3months/12weeks to prep.


The point is……..IT’S BACK ON!  I’ll be studying again and blurting out blogposts about the activity.

As always, step 1 is READ THE BLUEPRINT!



VCP 5: Objective 1.2: Host/Configuration Tab (in essence!)

So here I’m going to describe what many possibly have done before, but it’s needed for the exam…..so here goes.

1. Configure NTP on an ESXi host.
Connect to the ESX/ESXi host using the vSphere Client.
Click the Configuration tab.
Click Time Configuration/Properties/Options/NTP Settings.
Click Add. Enter the NTP Server name. Click OK.
Click the General tab. Click Start automatically under Startup Policy.
Click Start and click OK. Click OK to exit.

2. Enable/Disable/Configure Hyperthreading
Connect to a host in vSphere Client
Click the Configuration tab.
Select Processors/Properties.
In the dialog box, you can view hyperthreading status and turn hyperthreading off or on (default).

3. Enable/Disable/Configure Memory Compression Cache
Connect to a host in vSphere Client
Click the Configuration tab.
Click Software/Advanced Settings
Select Mem from the options on the left.
On the right Mem.MemZipEnable can be set to 1 to enable or 0 to disable
Mem.MemZipMaxPct sets the maximum target size as a % of VM size.  Default 10%, Range 5-100

4. License an ESXi Host
Connect to a host in vSphere Client
Click the Configuration tab.  (Anyone seeing a pattern here??)
Click Software/Licensed Features
Click Edit
In there you can assign an existing license key or enter a new one.
Alternatively you can license from a vSphere Level via
Click Manage vSphere Licenses
From here you can add license keys (with labels for your identification then assign or remove them)

The End.

VCP5: Ditching Auto-Deploy!

After being an evangelist last week I’m now converting my Auto-Deploy ESXi hosts into Stateful installs and therefore ditching their wonderful ephemeralness!

Why?  Well  for the purpose of a small lab which I will have to rebuild at some point I don’t have the time to configure the supporting architecture which would mainly be the host profiles and dhcp/pxe environment.

Also it’s another option and part of using Auto-Deploy.  You can choose to apply a host-profile, once the machine has first booted into ESXi which will then write the install to disk.

Presuming you did assign some storage to your ESXi host (be it virtual or physical) then it is quite simple to make your stateless install stateful in about 2 minutes.

  1. Ensure some storage is available to your host (as per the vSphere Docs this should be 5.2Gb minimum to host a 4GB scratch Partition on the boot device)
  2. If this is the first host then Right click the host in VI Client or Web client and select Host Profile>Create Profile from Host
  3. Give the profile a name then drill down into the following option in Profile/Policy on the left
    System Image Cache Profile Settings
    Set the dropdown to “Enable Stateful installs on the host”
    Set Arguments for first disk to be “local” if you intend to use the first local disk found (There are other options detailed int he vSphere Documentation such as controller names)
    Tick Check to overwrite any VMFS volumes on the selected disk if you want to overwrite your storage that ESXi finds
  4. Ok the profile and return to hosts/clusters view
  5. Right click the host you want to make “stateful” now and select Host Profile>Manage Profile
  6. Select the profile you just created and click OK
  7. Wait, not done yet!!! You’ve only attached it.
  8. Put your host into maintenance mode………………
  9. Then apply the profile via Host Profile>Apply Profile
  10. vCenter shows you the configuration changes it will make to get the host in what it believes will be a complaint state to match the profile.
    This should  just be listing the Disk to be used for stateful installs
    and also VMFS volumes on that disk will be overwritten.
  11. Click Finish and go and get a brew whilst the Apply host configuration step completes.  This took 15 minutes on my virtual ESXi host and then 5 minutes to reboot!

Just as a minor memory saver I’ve stopped Auto-Deploy on the vCenter Appliance too.

That will conclude my adventures in Auto Deploy land but it has led me nice and gently into host profiles and I’ll be working on them in the next blog (as you’ll find if you do the steps above..you won’t end up with a perfect ESXi host after the reboot step!)

Bedtime now!