Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Adding a VMWare node, and my big one for the year...

So I got the go-ahead to add another VMWare node to our infrastructure. This makes sense in lots of ways - I've only got two nodes at the moment and they're oversubscribed really - I couldn't run all my VM's on one box if the other fell over. I've also got another reasonably powerful, new box sitting around from our stalled Email project, so my only cost right now is in licences.

So I went to the reseller, and said simply - I want to add a new node. I'll add right now, I'm no VMWare guru. I can do what I need to with ours, I've built a fair few virtual machines on both ESX and VmWare free - we have a touching aquiantance, let's say. Our existing infrastructure is ESX 3 nodes, Virtual Center / Server 2.

Which they don't sell anymore - we're onto ver 4 - VSphere. Which doesn't work quite as wholeheartedly as the reseller led me to believe. My own silly fault for not going religiously through the upgrade section on the VMWare website, which would have pointed this out to me. This is, of course, an omission on my part of which my boss is going to remain blissfully ignorant.

The next fly in the ointment is that our existing estate is out of support. So I went back to our reseller and got a quote to renew it (without which I can't upgrade our existing nodes to VSphere and restore harmony to the universe.) Then, I thought, I'll cover my arse properly this time. So I raised a support ticket with VMWare themselves to confirm that this support contract covered everything I needed. Not too difficult, but that was a month ago, and I'm still waiting for an answer.

Anyway, licensing fun and my biggie aside, the installation's been incredibly easy. I created another VM datastore on our HP SAN, pointed the new and both old nodes towards it. The new node's picked everything up, the older ones won't pick up the new storage until they're rebooted. So now I have three datastores on the same SAN. I know I could have added extents to my existing datastores, but given the expansion in our VMWare holding that's likely over the next couple of years, I don't see that as a problem. I've got two Citrix XenApp VM's purring away on my new VSphere node, I can import VM's from the other two if required - I just can't use VMotion or HA, and I'm having to administer it for now through the VSphere client.

Which is all well and dandy, but if that's what I wanted then I could have got Citrix XenServer for nothing. Come on, VMWare, get your arse in gear.

Yeah, do stuff...

The latest dictat from up high is that we, the IT department, are to start selling laptops to students. This is because that another institution, revered by our CEO, does so.

Well, not quite. They actually provide a room for their hardware supplier to knock out stuff to students. That's it. Us being small, provincial, and in a different county from their supplier, our CEO reasons we can do the same thing ourselves, being as they've probably pissed themselves laughing down the phone when he mentioned it. (Likely sales, I'd guess, might amount to ten laptops a year.)

Quite apart from it not saying - not once, I've checked - on my resume that I am, ever have been, or have any desire to be a shopkeeper - I have a few objections, here.

Firstly, we're an HP shop. And as anyone who's ever had the desire to dig through the HP website can find out, becoming an HP reseller ain't a piece of cake. It requires things of their partners like certified hardware techs, which in turn would require the institute to bother investing in its people. I can understand why they don't, because confronted with a continual stream of half-baked ideas like this one (to which our corporate culture is that it's not OK to raise obstacles, as they interfere with the deep, deep, blue-sky thinking going on upstairs), most of the IT staff, when confronted with the prospect of being actually certified would either:

a) apply for another job straightaway
b) refuse to take the course as they'd have to repay the money in two months when the job they've just applied for is due to start
c) go sick from shock

So being an HP reseller is probably out, then. But he's adamant that we've got to have it, so at some point we'll have to find a way of doing it. Selling ten laptops a year from someone else, jeopardizing our relationship with HP - one which saved us a third of the cost of replacing our network infrastructure with (lower-spec) Cisco gear eight months ago. And I don't even want to know what sort of a deal they gave us on the couple hundred new PC's we ordered at the same time.

I will bet, however, it was worth more than the profit margin on ten laptops. And I haven't even discussed the prospective joy I feel at students coming into my office to make a warranty claim on whatever half-assed arrangement we ultimately inherit. I could go on and say something else, but you get the picture.

Monday, August 10, 2009

It's been a while...

A long time since I posted last. It's been a long time too, since I last built a Citrix farm, but even though the name's changed and we're three versions on from the last time I built one, the good bits about the install are still good and the bad bits are still crap. Although I think we can add the main GUI for the install list to the bad pile: it looks like Mr Citrix's three year old got hold of the crayons.

One of the other niggles I've always had with Citrix has been building the new farm directly onto SQL during the install process, and I can report that hasn't changed. It doesn't seem to matter how careful I am setting up and testing ODBC connections, even whether or not I set the ODBC connection up using the SA account (not recommended, just out of experimental curiosity to see if it was a rights issue) - I'll always get an error.

And when you get that error, you'll get it again if you try and confirm the farm membership using CHFARM, at least if you go straight from a failed SQL install to another attempted SQL install. The solution here's to run CHFARM, set up a local Access based farm, then run the CHFARM operation again, having first taken care to flatten your SQL database. I don't know why it should be that way - it just always has been...