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Think IPM

Friday, May 30, 2008

3 Things you might not have know about Citrix ICA Session Reliability

More useful Citrix tidbits from Aaron Silber :

With Session Reliability enabled:

  1. You are limited to 150 concurrent connections by default. Not that you would want more to one box, but if you did, this can be changed via the following procedure:
    1. Under HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Citrix\XTEConfig add a DWord Value called MaxThreads
    2. Modify the value of MaxThreads to a decimal value equal to or greater than the number of users you expect the machine to support.
    3. After the value is set, stop and restart the IMA Service or restart the machine so that your changes can take effect.

  2. There is a bug that with Session Reliability enabled, you cannot choose to have the ICA listener only listen on a specific NIC, rather you must leave it set to All Network Adapters. The fix for this is to :
    1. Open the file httpd.conf, located in the C:\Program Files\Citrix\Xte\conf folder, in a text editor.
    2. Below the line #Citrix_End, add the following line:

      CgpSpecifiedIcaLocalAddress <server IP address, for example,>

    3. Save your changes.
    4. Restart the server.

      Once you have this functionality enabled, the IP address of CgpSpecifiedIcaLocalAddress in the httpd.conf file must match the actual IP address of the server or you will receive an error stating that there is no route to the specified subnet address. This gets me thinking that if we are using Provisioning Server and the servers are set to DHCP without reservations, we should create a script to automatically update the IP address of CgpSpecifiedIcaLocalAddress in the httpd.conf.

  3. When launching a published application with Session Reliability, ICA KeepAlive does not function. Also, after an ICA session is disconnected on the client side, the session might be recognized as in "active" status longer than the Sessions to keep active setting indicates, this is because Session Reliability handles polling to check its condition itself.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Planning your VMWorld 2008 Trip!

If you have been under a rock for a while, you might not know that VMWorld 2008 is happening in Vegas this year. (This will be a 2.0 event so I assume a lot of the kinks from last time will have been ironed out!)

Today, a colleague of mine (Thanks Aaron Silber!) sent out great little link for Microsoft's new FareCast website. Using historical data, Farecast will predict if you should buy your tickets now or wait for a lower price based on trends. I don't know how accurate it is but it is a pretty neat idea in my book.

You can also graph fares to make your own judgment calls. There are also some quick links to draw further comparisons from some of the other discount travel brokers out there (Priceline, Travelocity, etc).

See you in Vegas!

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

ESX 3.5 Cisco Discovery Protocol [CDP] Support

One cool new feature of ESX 3.5 is their Cisco Discovery Protocol Support. CDP allows ESX to capture and broadcast Cisco related information to and from the switches. Information such as management IP addresses and switch ports. The type of information that is INVALUABLE when trying to explain to a network administrator that you need 4 of the 6 network cards coming out of your 1 ESX host set for VLAN trunking! For new 3.5 users, these features are ready to go right after installation. No additional configurations necessary.

What if it's not THERE?!?

For users who have upgraded from 3.x to 3.5, the CDP information is turned off by default.

To remedy the situation, putty into your ESX host and type esxcfg-vswitch –Bboth vSwitch[x]

Replace [x] with the number of your vswitches (0,1,2, etc). esxcfg-vswitch –l to list them out in case you are not sure.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

ESX Home Lab on the Cheap II - The Free SAN!

Today, XtraVirt released a free iSCSI solution similar to LeftHand's Virtual SAN appliance.
Dubbed the XVS, it allows ESX users to tap their unused local VMFS space on different ESX host to create redundant iSCSI LUNs that can then be used for enterprise functions like vMotion, HA and DRS. Amazingly, they are offering this product for free! Optional support can be purchased through the company as well.

I think it will only be a matter of time before these types of applicances will be baked right into ESX.

Currently I have an NFR copy of Lefthand's VSA that is working great so I have not had a chance to run the XVS yet but I am curious if anyone else has?
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Virtual Machines Device Manager – GIGO

Garbage In, Garbage Out!

So, you have successfully P2V'd a physical server to your Virtual infrastructure. No Blue screens and the machines powers up just fine. There are a couple more housekeeping tasks you could do to perfect your P2V techniques. Personally, I like to remove all references of the physical hardware from the Virtual Machine.

The REAL Hidden Devices in Device Manager:
The easiest way to remove the hidden physical artifacts from device manager is to set an environment variable on the system calledDEVMGR_SHOW_NONPRESENT_DEVICES = 1.
Once set, this variable will allow you to see and remove hardware in the Device Manager that is no longer connected to the Virtual Machine. As an added precaution, always take a snapshot before removing hardware or software from the VM. Trim too much away and you can revert back to the earlier snapshot and try again!

Additionally, I normally go through ADD/REMOVE programs to remove any software that is tied to physical hardware that is no longer connected to the VM. (i.e. NIC Teaming Software, Insight agents)

Services that have physical components and are set to AutoStart are also disabled. (i.e. Compaq remote Shutdown Service)

More information on the DEVMGR Environment variable can be found @: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/315539

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

News from Citrix Synergy

Here is a good update on some of the announcements made so far at Synergy compiled by Aaron Silber.
  • Citrix is bundling XenApp into some versions of XenDesktop. This is not for an integrated suite, rather, it's just that they're including the XenApp license. You can then use XenApp to stream or provide remote ICA seamless apps, but the catch is that you can only to this to your virtualized XenDesktop users. If you want to use XenApp for non-XenDesktop users, you still need to buy the full traditional XenApp package.
  • Current XenApp Platinum Customers can add-on XenDesktop for $95 per CCU
  • Citrix acquired Sepago for their profile management product.
  • Virtualizing a XenApp Server on XenServer only amounts to a user reduction of 7.6% Citrix released a white paper (which was independently verified by The Tolly Group) where they ran performance tests on a typical XenApp server running natively, and then they took the same server and virtualized it via XenServer and only saw the number of users they could put on it drop by 7.6%. Interestingly they focused this paper on only running one XenApp VM per XenServer host, with the idea being that you can trade off the 7.6% fewer users for the other soft benefits of virtualization, like live server migration, ease of deployment, and the ability to use a standard image across different types of hardware.

    Also interesting is that Citrix compared the performance of XenApp on XenServer to XenApp on "a leading virtualization vendor's platform." The other vendor had a much worse performance hit, and the XenApp/XenServer combination was able to host 70% more users.
  • New Appliance: Citrix Branch RepeaterThe branch repeater appliance is based on Windows Server, and can kind of be thought of as a "XenApp" appliance, although it also acts as a WANScaler appliance. The idea is that you set up your apps in your central XenApp environment, and then they're streamed down to the branch office appliance where they're served locally to branch office users. Pricing starts at $5500.

Thanks Aaron!

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

70GB Snapshot, YIKES!

This week I ran into a 70 GB snapshot head on while upgrading an ESX host. The 70 GB snapshot was the result of a snap of a 100 GB SQL server VM that had been left unchecked for about a year. Surprisingly, I run into this situation a lot although, not usually so massive. People still seem to be mystified by the correct usage of snapshots and seem to use them as one time backups to be saved indefinitely. This inevitably becomes a huge untamable problem. This particular situation had numerous Virtual Machines with several GB snapshots. The 70 GB one was just the worst of the bunch. I had tried to commit several smaller ones but soon became nervous about data corruption of the VMDK files. VMware Converter to the rescue!

I decided that rather than deal with the delicate nature of committing these huge snapshots with just my fingers crossed, I would scrap them all together.

I created an ISO of VMware Converter and uploaded it to my ESX Hosts and booted each of the affected Virtual Machines into the WinPE environment as if they were physical machines. From there, I just 'converted' them into new VMs in VirtualCenter. The process was very fast – a 20 GB VM took about 15 minutes and the result was an identical Virtual Machine without any troublesome snapshots associated with it. I did have to remove the USB drive virtual hardware that was added to the newly created VM. (I wish there was a way to select the virtual hardware for a P2V destination during the process to avoid these extra steps)

A couple of fast conversions later and the systems were in a stable state again and all the Production Virtual Machines were snapshot free!

Moral of the story: Keep your snapshots for a week or two and then Commit or Discard them!

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

ESX 3.5 Console installation

Here is a quick run through of an ESX server 3.5 Console installation. The console installation is probably the fastest and easiest part of the ESX installation. Once documented, it can probably be done in a couple of minutes. It is definitely worth printing out and putting in a binder with the rest of your Disaster Recovery procedures.

The first part of the ESX installation is done at the server's console. This section details that process.

Load up the ESX server CD and Click Enter.

I normally download the latest build from VMware the day of the installation.

If you had any issues installing on particular hardware, support would direct you to add parameters on this screen to boot the installer differently.

Press Enter to begin installation.

This is the screen where you select your language.

English installations dominate my experiences choose whatever makes sense for your environment.

Choose Language and Click Next

This is the section where we choose a mouse. This mouse decision is STRICTLY for this installation period since the ESX console is text based and a mouse will not be used for operating ESX from the console.

Choose Mouse and Click Next

Not much to be said about the EULA. Most people do not read it and just click Accept and Next. If you have second thoughts on that, you can always read the EULA online at http://vmware.com/download/eula/esx_server.html

Agree to Licensing Agreement and Click Next

First time installation on the Drives will yield this warning. Nothing to worry about on new systems. Local storage for the servers should be a standard RAID 1 mirror set. All Virtual Machines should be stored on shared storage to realize maximum VMware benefits. Minimal server drive specs are necessary for the servers. RAID 1 is recommended to use at least 36 GB base drives for the local storage.

Click YES to initialize the Drive

This screen gives us a choice of Recommended or Advanced Partitions for ESX installation. I always choose Advanced and create the partition table below from scratch.

Mount Point


Size (MB)





EXT3 – Primary




EXT3 – Primary




SWAP – Primary




EXT3 - Extended


3rd party Logs


EXT3 - Extended


Temp Space


EXT3 - Extended

/boot – 250 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

The Boot Partition holds the Boot kernel files for VMware. This is similar to the NTLoader files for Windows.

EXT3 is a standard linux file system format. Similar to NTFS.

250 MB is plenty of room for these kernel files. ESX 3i for example uses a 32 MB kernel.

/ - 10240 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

/ or Root is the main file system. If / runs out of space, the system will Panic or Purple Screen (BAD). / is similar to the C drive for windows.

We create all the other partitions to protect / from running out of space.

SWAP – 1600 MB (EXT3 - Primary)

This partition is the SWAP partition. This SWAP partition is strictly for the ESX service console. The Service Console will have a maximum of 800 MBs of memory allocated to it so the SWAP is recommended to be 2 times the memory.

The ESX server and running Virtual Machines will have their own separate swap files and area.


The VMKCore partition is a VMware specific partition format. Used by the VMKernel during a time of PANIC, the Kernel will dump it's memory contents to this partition. The partition is limited to 110 MBs at this version.

/var – 10240 MB

The VAR directory is similar to Windows Program Files. 3rd party programs typically use the VAR partition to write files, logs and sometimes settings to. Since 3rd party programs can be unpredictable, it is essential that we keep VAR as a separate partition to protect the root partition.

/tmp – 10240 MB

This is the Temp Partition. I normally use this for file transfers, ESX Upgrade staging areas and things like that. This is obviously similar to Windows Temp directory.

Once the Partitions have been created,

Click Next to Continue.

Select Boot Specification (MBR)

This screen typically does not need to be changed. The default settings are the correct settings for most ESX installations.

Click Next to Continue.

This screen is where we give the Service Console, its network information. This screen allows us to choose a network device (I normally choose the On Board nics) and set the IP information.

Since this is a Linux Based service Console, you should register the IP addresses with your DNS servers ahead of time.

I uncheck the Create Default network since I want MAXIMUM control over my VMware installation.

Enter TimeZone : Eastern and Click Next

Since this installation is happening in New York, select Eastern Time Zone.

Be sure to also select the UTC offset tab and select Daylight Saving

Set the password for Root. This is equivalent to the Windows Administrator Password. It should adhere to your corporate policies.

To change a root password, use the service console command passwd.

The password can be change at any time for security without issue. No VMware related processes depend on the root password for operation.

Review your installation choices and click Next to begin the ESX Console installation.

VMware Service Console will boot up.

After this point in the installation, Configuration is done through the Virtual Infrastructure Client.

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

vRanger Pro Part I

vRanger Pro is an excellent Backup product by VizionCore. The product which can run on a Physical or Virtual Machine talks with VMware (with or without VCB) in order to take Image level backups of your Virtual Machines. vRanger also offers Brick Level backups and a P2V-DR module which I may write about in the future. The installation and operation of this great product is very straight forward. KISS is in full effect here. Once you have downloaded their software and licenses, you are ready to go. They do offer a trial periods for all their products.

vRanger Pro Installation

Once you have downloaded the product, double click the MSI file and accept the License Agreement.

Click Next to Continue.

The Default Folders are fine for installation.

Note that the Program directory still uses their old name of ESXRanger Professional.

For new implementations, I normally change this to C:\PROGRAM FILES\VIZIONCORE\VRANGER PRO

Once vRanger is successfully installed, you can optionally install the additional plug-in components:

  1. File Level Restore Plug In.
  2. VCB Plug In.
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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Sysprep Windows 2008 in VMware

Today, I ran into an interesting problem using VirtualCenter's Clone to New Machine which integrates sysprep functionality.

Apparently, Guest Customization of Windows 2008 is not supported at this time (5/8/2008). Luckily, I found excellent solutions on the VMTN Forums.

If you switch the template's OS specification to VISTA, you are able to proceed with your clone.

This change to the version allows the Customization Wizard to continue.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Everything you wanted to know about me. Mostly.

Carlo Costanzo (Me) – I am a Senior Virtualization Consultant working remotely in Oviedo, Florida for IPM.  I have been with IPM since 1997 and have focused my energy on Server Virtualization(VMware/Xen/Hyper-V) and Application Delivery (Citrix/TS).  My hope for this blog* is that it’s contribution to the virtualization community helps me give  back as much or more than I take away from it.
* This blog is an independent effort of mine and the views and opinions are my own and are not that of my employer.
My picture is to the left and you can find me on the following services and probably more if you look hard enough.
(For subscriptions use this link!)
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VMware vExpert
2009 – 2017
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