VMware vSphere Review

The data center virtualization is of importance for multiple reasons. We also deploy HA + DRS clustering.

What is most valuable?

Obviously the data center virtualization is of importance for multiple reasons, but Horizon View as well.

I would consider our deployment, at least from the college’s deployment, vanilla, meaning we do not leverage a lot of the technologies VMware offers. We do deploy HA + DRS clustering, but that is about the extent of it.

Our vITA environment does have its uniqueness, and we continually attempt to develop labs that can address most of the products/features available from VMware.

How has it helped my organization?

VMware-based solutions are designed for the consolidation of servers. Also, since we had to expand our market globally to support the expense of running our vITA program, we had to come up with a delivery method to teach these courses anywhere in the world.

By using Horizon View's virtual desktop technology as the portal for participants to gain access to our virtual lab environment along with use of live online meeting tools (currently we use Adobe Connect), we became early adopters of the course delivery method now known as VILT (Virtual Instructor Led Training).

What needs improvement?

Continue to develop products that address the SMB market.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have used VMware products for ten years.

My initial use was to teach Operating Systems at Caldwell Community College & Technical Institute. Within a year after I began using it for curriculum courses, Google decided to build its largest datacenter in the world just out our backdoor. We were invited by Google to develop a program to train individuals how to become “Datacenter Technicians”. I became intimately involved with this due to my industry background and my use of open source products, including VMware. Due to the rapid turnover in courses, preparation of VMware’s Workstation product became too time consuming so I installed the VMware Server solution, which at that time was v3.5.

What was my experience with deployment of the solution?

Primarily since we were early adopters there was little expertise available, other than directly from VMware, which is one of VMware’s strong points in that they provide a wealth of information through their documentation (too much) and their community forums.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Hardware compatibility issues, in particularly early on, needed to be identified prior to attempting deployments. This is not really an issue with VMware products. Their guides refer back to verify compatibility with the HCL. Now most vendors ensure their hardware does comply. There were also issues arising from integration of vSphere with SAN vendor hardware. Again, most of these issues occurred early on due to our learning curve.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

For the college, not only being “vanilla”, we are also not a huge institution so scalability is not an issue.

For our vITA program, we had to find ways to get the most from our available hardware. We initially had old equipment from the college as they increased the use of virtualization. I actually embrace this approach since I have been in the technology field for four decades. I consider it a challenge to get the most from limited resources. If you have ample resources, time and money, you should be able to accomplish most anything technologically. The skill/talent, at least from my point of view, is being able to accomplish this without the abundance of time/money/resources.

How are customer service and technical support?

From the college, we have not had many occurrences to contact VMware support directly. Some of this is had to do with the relationship we had between myself, being the vITA Director, and the colleges Network/System Administrator. I did the research and development, which is basically what I have done both in my industry career and in my academic career, thus the college benefitted from my lumps on implementation on the production side.

With the vITA program, I was pretty much on our own, but did have access to some VMware internal information.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn't use any previous solution for server virtualization. For desktop, the college still uses XenWorks, with minimal Horizon View deployment mainly due to manpower issues and comfort.

How was the initial setup?

We were early adopters, so obviously there were complexities.

What about the implementation team?

We did it in-house.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

  • Initially identify a small deployment.
  • Get training.
  • Bring in an organization to do the initial design/implementation and sign up for at least the first year of support for maintenance.

What other advice do I have?

From my point of view, particularly in the IT industry, you need to be continually moving forward, otherwise you are moving backwards or out. But that is not to say there is no room for improvement in particular areas, for instance, in addressing products that help the small business arena. With discussions I have had with internal VMware employees, they have known this and have introduced products, like VSAN, to help address this arena.

Get buy-in from other areas within your organization, which is typically an easy sell. But do it up front and identify a relatively small test deployment and the internal level of expertise. Then fill voids with either internal training or by establishing partnerships.

This is a logical diagram of our vITA Lab environment:

Which version of this solution are you currently using?

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: We offer official VMware training.
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