VMware Workstation 8.0 – Mini review and walkthrough of some features


I have up until now been using my VCP 4 copy of Workstation 7.0 for all my VM and vSphere Lab purposes. It has been great, and has allowed me to do a lot more testing / prototyping. Workstation 8.0 was recently released, so I decided to grab the evaluation version to play around with. My first impression: “Wow!” There are tons of new features available, as well as a nice newly redesigned UI. I’ll detail the features that mean the most to me to start with, and then walkthrough a very handy feature of VMware Workstation 8.0 – importing VMs from your local Workstation into a vCenter environment!


Virtualising Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI

First off, the main pull of Workstation 8 for me was the ability to virtualise Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI. When enabled, this passes through these special CPU feature sets into your VMs, which for ESXi / vSphere labs, means you can now run nested x64 virtual machines. Previously with Workstation 7.0 I was limited to only being able to power up 32 bit VMs in my virtualised vSphere lab environment. Enabling this option for virtualised ESXi 4.1 or 5.0 hosts now allows me to power up 64 bit VMs, which is great!



Connect Workstation to a vCenter or ESXi host

This is also a solid new feature. I was able to easily add my Virtualised vCenter server into Workstation (the platform that was running the VM anyway!) as a node. From there you open up other new features, such as…


Uploading VMs running in Workstation to vCenter

Awesome feature in my opinion. In the past I would have used something like VMware Converter to convert a Workstation VM into a vSphere compatible VM and then upload it to vCenter. Now it is a simple case of drag and drop, or a couple of menu clicks once you have added your vCenter server as a node in Workstation.


3D Acceleration and Surround audio features for VMs

This is something I have been waiting for from VMware, not the typical kind of thing I would usually look at for business purposes (unless I was doing CAD or 3D modelling), but I am an avid gamer, so this is of great interest to me. I’ll definitely be testing running a couple of my games inside a VM to try this out.


A quick walk through uploading VMs from Workstation to vCenter


Uploading a Virtual Machine running on your local machine running in Workstation 8.0 to your vCenter server or ESX / ESXi host is really simple – either a drag and drop affair, or you can right click the machine you need to move and choose to upload it somewhere else. Here’s a quick rundown on how to do this.


I’ll be adding my vCenter server to Workstation. Just click File -> Connect To Server and then specify the IP / name of your vCenter server. Specify some valid vCenter credentials and click OK. Here is my vCenter server added as a node:



Next up, we just simply right-click a VM running in Workstation 8, and choose Manage -> Upload



Select your vCenter server connection, specify a folder or location to place the VM, choose a shared Datastore to store the VM on, and then finish the wizard. Your VM should begin to upload to vCenter! If you hit any problems, check the permissions of the account you connected to vCenter with, as well as DNS – if your local workstation does not resolve the FQDN of your vCenter server or ESXi hosts correctly it will give you an error.






Out of interest, here is the spike in Write traffic to my lab’s iSCSI Datastore being used to house the imported VM whilst the upload was in progress.



So that is the quick walkthrough – nice and simple. You could save yourself a couple of clicks in the process above by simply dragging and dropping the VM too! Have you tried Workstation 8.0 out yet? What are you primarily using it for? I would also like to know whether VMware will be handing out version 8 licenses to candidates who pass their VCP 5 exams too. I’ll be taking my updating my VCP 4 to 5 soon and would love to have an upgrade to my Workstation 7.0 license!


vSphere 5 & HA Heartbeat Datastores


I was busy updating my vSphere lab from 4.1 to 5 and ran into a warning on the first ESXi host I updated to ESXi 5.0. It read: “The number of vSphere HA heartbeat datastores for this host is 1, which is less than required: 2”. The message itself is fairly self-explanatory, but prompted me to find out more about this as I immediately knew it must be related to new functionality.


The Configuration Issue message


Pre-vSphere 5.0, if a host failed, or was just isolated on its Management Network, HA would restart the VMs that were running on that host and bring them up elsewhere. (I have actually seen this happen in our ESX 4.0 environment before!) With vSphere 5.0, HA has been overhauled and I believe this new Datastore Heartbeat feature is part of making HA more intelligent and able to make better decisions in the case of the Master HA Host being isolated or split off from other hosts. This Datastore Heartbeat feature should help significantly in the case of HA initiated restarts, allowing HA to more accurately determine the difference between a failed host and a host that has just been split off from the others for example.


vCenter will automatically choose two Datastores to use for the Datastore Heartbeat functionality. You can see which have been selected, by clicking on your cluster in the vSphere client, then choosing “Cluster Status”. Select the “Heartbeat Datastores” tab to see which are being used.


Cluster Status - viewing the elected HA Heartbeat Datastores


Without going into too much detail, this mechanism works with file locks on the datastores elected for this purpose. HA is able to determine whether the host has failed or is just isolated or split on the network by looking at whether these files have been updated or not. After my lab upgrade I noticed a new folder on some of my datastores and wondered at first what these new files were doing there! If you take a look at the contents of the Datastores seen your Heartbeat Datastores tab, you should see these files that HA keeps a lock on for this functionality to work.


Files created on HA Heartbeat Datastores for the new functionality


So, if you notice this configuration issue message, chances are your ESXi 5 host in question simply doesn’t have enough Datastores – this is likely to be quite common in lab environments, as traditionally we don’t tend to add many (well at least I don’t!) In my case this was a test host to do the update from 4.1 to 5 on, and I only had one shared datastore added. After adding my other two datastores from my FreeNAS box and an HP iSCSI VSA, then selecting “Re-configure for HA” on my ESXi host, the message disappeared as expected. I believe there should be some advanced settings you could also add to change the number of datastores required for this feature, but I have not looked into these yet. Generally, it is also always best to stick with VMware defaults (or so I say) as they would have been thought out carefully by the engineers. Changing advanced settings is also usually not supported by VMware too. However, if you find you are short on Datastores to add and want to get rid of the error in your lab environment, then this shouldn’t be a problem to change.

PowerCLI – Get HA Restart Priority and Memory Overhead for VMs


Another day, another PowerCLI automation script. Here is a handy cmdlet that will fetch you a list of VMs in your environment based on whether they are currently powered on.


The interesting bit of info retrieved is their current HA Restart Priority. This will be returned whether the VM itself has its own HA Restart Priority defined, or if the VM is getting this setting from the cluster it is running in. Another interesting bit of info we fetch is the VMs current Memory Overhead figure. Additionally, we also fetch some other useful information such as which Host the VM runs on and the RAM & vCPU assignments for the VM, sorting the whole list by the name of each VM. Remember that the Memory Overhead that is reported back is what the current overhead for the VM is. This can change and there is quite a bit involved in how it is worked out. Further reading on Memory Overhead for VMs can be done here. Read Table 3-2 on page 30 of the linked PDF for the specifics.


(Get-VM | Where {$_.PowerState -eq "PoweredOn"}) | Select Name,PowerState,NumCpu,MemoryMB,VMHost,@{N="MemoryOverhead";E={$_.ExtensionData.Runtime.MemoryOverhead/1MB}}, HARestartPriority | Sort Name | ft


If you don’t want a result formatted in a table, just remove the “| ft” at the end of the cmdlet, and remember if you want to push the results of this into a CSV file, you can also just replace the “ft” with a “Export-CSV C:\yourfile.csv”. If you have any improvements to the above script, suggestions or comments, please add do add them!

Get a list of VMs in a cluster and find their HA Restart Priority with PowerCLI


This is just a quick post today using one of the most common PowerCLI cmdlets, Get-VM.


I needed to find a list of VMs in a specific cluster, and grab their respective HA Restart Priority settings. PowerCLI makes this nice and simple. First of all, connect to your vCenter server, then find the name of your cluster you would like to search. You can use the Get-Cluster cmdlet on its own to list all clusters in a specific vCenter installation.


Connect-VIServer yourvcenterservername


Next, use this one liner to list all the VMs in your specified cluster along with their respective HARestartPriority settings. This will also sort the list in alphabetical order and export it into a CSV file in C:\temp. If you wish to rather just list the items in your shell instead, remove the Export-CSV bit at the end.


Get-Cluster "yourclustername" | Get-VM | Select Name,HARestartPriority | Sort Name | Export-CSV C:\temp\vmrestartpriorities.csv