Tuesday Sep 29, 2009

New blog!

I've been doing this blog for almost two years, and Ops Center has changed a lot. With the new Ops Center 2.5 release, we've done five major releases since we started, each one adding features and refining the interface. The product has come a long, long way, and I'm proud to be part of it.

The trick is that we're now simplifying the product's name by dropping the xVM - it's now Sun Ops Center. Normally a name change wouldn't be much of a big deal, except that this blog is called "xVM Central". So, as of now, I'm starting a new blog devoted to all things Ops Center. I'll beef up the content a bit - add some more interviews, walkthroughs, stuff like that - and try to make it look snazzy too. Hope to see you there.

Friday Sep 18, 2009

How expensive are your servers to run?

Mike Barrett, one of the many talented folks who works on Ops Center, recently pointed out a cool thing that you can do beginning with Ops Center 2.1: You can use it to figure out how much it costs to run your servers.

Here's how it works. Select a server from the Navigation panel in Ops Center, you can view charts of the server's power usage over different periods of time. Select the 3-week chart, and the power usage is displayed in 1-hour intervals.

Export the chart data using the button in the upper right, and find the average watts used per hour. Your power bill should tell you what they charge per kWh, so a bit of multiplication will tell you how much the server costs to run per year. It's approximate (cooling isn't included, etc.) but it's still pretty cool.

Tuesday Sep 01, 2009

User Roles in Ops Center

You might have wondered how you can control access to different systems in Ops Center. You need a root user with universal access, but some users might only need access to a subset of your assets, or might only need to monitor assets without provisioning OSes. In Ops Center, this is managed through roles.

You can add users to Ops Center's user list (they have to exist on the OS first), which creates a separate role profile for each new user. You add a user by selecting the Enterprise Controller in the Admin section, clicking Users, and then clicking the Add User icon. Once a user is added, you can assign their roles.

You can tailor roles to specific tasks. There are five roles that can be granted – Admin, Provision, Update, Update Simulate, and Manage.

By selecting the Roles tab and clicking Edit Role, you can give a user a separate set of roles for each group of assets, for all assets, or for the Enterprise Controller. They'll still be able to view all assets, but their roles define what jobs and actions they can launch.

Using a few groups, you can give very specific roles to users, granting or removing access at a fine-grained level as necessary. Pretty handy, I think.

Monday Jul 27, 2009

Sun Inventory and inventory management

One of the features added in Sun xVM Ops Center 2.1 is a link to Sun Inventory. The link doesn't come with an explanatory banner, so I thought I'd talk a bit about what Sun Inventory can do for you.

Sun Inventory is a hosted service that displays your registered gear. To use it, you register your Enterprise Controller with Sun, which associates it with a Sun Online Account. Your registered gear is then associated with that SOA. This means that you have a secure hosted version of your inventory list that can be accessed from a browser, but is separate from Sun xVM Ops Center itself.

In addition to displaying your inventory list, Sun Inventory displays detailed information about gear, including serial numbers, manufacturing and shipping dates, EOL and EOSL dates, and contract and warranty data. You can also organize your inventory into groups (separate from those in Sun xVM Ops Center) and view news feeds about inventory-related topics.

You can access Sun Inventory in one of two ways. In Sun xVM Ops Center, you can access it in the Gear section. Select All Gear, then click Launch Sun Inventory in the Actions panel. Of course, since it's hosted, you can also access it through any browser at inventory.sun.com.

Tuesday Jun 30, 2009

2.1 Quick Start Guides

In the 2.1 wiki, you'll find something a little different in the installation section - the Quick Start Guides for Solaris and Red Hat (RHEL 5.0) systems. These guides take you through the Sun xVM Ops Center software installation and configuration steps for systems that are based on these two operating systems. A number of requests came in to separate Solaris and RHEL 5.0 installation procedures, and this is our solution.

The Quick Start guides sit between the preparation procedures and the information that describes discovering gear and installing agents. And, if you're interested in establishing a high availability configuration, you'll want to review that information and build your storage solution before you use the Quick Start guides to install the software.

Your suggestions for how we might improve our documentation really do have an effect, so please continue to let us know what you'd like to see.

Integrating HA Into Your xVM Ops Center Installation

If you're considering implementing the high-availability (HA) solution in your Sun xVM Ops Center installation, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.

First, it's important to know that the HA solution for Sun xVM Ops Center is based on being able to transfer the /var/opt/sun/xvm directory structure from one system to another. So, the work that you do to create the HA configuration mainly focuses on building a transportable storage solution to hold this directory structure. The big thing to keep in mind is that you need to create this storage solution so that it holds the /var/opt/sun/xvm directory structure on the primary Enterprise Controller before you install the Sun xVM Ops Center software.

Second, there are three LOFS mounts and one NFS share that happen within /var/opt/sun/xvm, so you'll have to manage these when you transfer the storage to the secondary Enterprise Controller. Unlike on the primary, on the secondary Enterprise Controller you install the Sun xVM Ops Center software before you transfer the /var/opt/sun/xvm directory structure to it.

All of this is documented in the High Availability section of the 2.1 wiki. Have a look through this if you're interested in the HA solution.

Sun xVM Ops Center and Windows

You probably know that you can use Sun xVM Ops Center to monitor your Solaris and Linux systems, but did you know that you can also manage and monitor your systems running the Windows OS? You might need to configure your system for remote monitoring, but once that's done, you can set monitoring thresholds and watch your Windows system without running around.

To enable remote management and monitoring operations, you must use the Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) infrastructure to grant access through your Windows Firewall. WMI is usually installed on Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows 2003, Windows Vista, and Windows 2008, but is disabled.

Once you configure your system for remote monitoring, you can discover it, install the agent software, and then begin monitoring. You can set thresholds and monitor your CPU, memory, swap space, file system, I/O, and power information. If you're interested in trend analysis and forecasting, you can chart a history of the CPU, memory, I/O and power data.

See Monitoring a Windows OS for more info.

Thursday Jun 18, 2009

Upgrading from 2.0 to 2.1

I know that a lot of the people currently using Sun xVM Ops Center 2.0 have been eagerly awaiting an upgrade path to go to version 2.1. Well, the wait is over: The update bundle is now available.

You can get the update bundle by talking to Sun Support Services, or if you're running Sun xVM Ops Center on a Solaris system, you can download it through the BUI. The procedures are on the wiki (for both Red Hat and Solaris).

If you're currently using 2.0 and considering upgrading, I'd definitely recommend it. I've used both versions a fair bit in my documentation work, and 2.1 has some significant performance enhancements and additional features. It's free if you've already got 2.0, and once you've got the bundle the upgrade itself is a very quick procedure. So try it!

Monday Jun 08, 2009

Features in the 2.5 release

Steve Wilson has had a few blog posts recently about features that will be part of Sun xVM Ops Center 2.5. Odds are that you've already seen them, but I thought I'd highlight a couple.

The most recent one is about the getting-started process. With 2.5, we're working on a wizard that explains your setup choices in more detail, and walks you through configuration and an initial discovery. It also shows you more clearly what prerequisites are not met or are questionable, and what they'll affect. I've played with this wizard, and it makes the startup process a lot easier to understand.

There are a couple of posts about LDOMs and zones (Solaris Containers). The Zones one has some more spoilers about what you'll be able to do with zones in 2.5.

And finally, in an excellent segue, Steve had a post about Windows in Sun xVM Ops Center 2.5. We haven't talked much about what you can do with Windows systems in 2.0 and 2.1, though, so I'll be doing a post soon going into detail about that. Watch for it.

Wednesday May 13, 2009

Video about BUI and features

A while back I had a post explaining the browser user interface in Sun xVM Ops Center. I've also been working on a video that walks you through the BUI, and though it took me a while, it's ready.

In addition to explaining the interface itself, it also talks about the major features of Sun xVM Ops Center - where they're located in the BUI and what they can do. If you're relatively new to Sun xVM Ops Center, it's a good place to start.

Also, Steve recently mentioned the Getting Started with Sun xVM Ops Center training that's now available. I've looked through it, and it goes over all of the major concepts and dives deeper in a few major areas. It's free and it's an hour long, so it's also a good idea if you're, well, getting started.

Friday May 01, 2009

Steve returns

Steve Wilson put a post up yesterday about the whole Sun xVM Portfolio, which I'd recommend. In addition to discussion of Sun xVM Ops Center 2.0 and 2.1, he talks about Sun xVM Server, which I know we've been quiet about for a while. So have a look.

Friday Apr 24, 2009

Sun xVM Ops Center 2.1 is released

Sun xVM Ops Center 2.1 was released today. The big focus with the 2.1 release was quality - there have been a lot of performance improvements and bug fixes. However, there are also some front-end changes.

For one, there were some enhancements in Gear Monitoring. The big one is power monitoring: Individual pieces of hardware as well as groups now have power utilization charts, which can show current and historical data. There's a configuration tab for each gear that shows which Proxy it belongs to and how it's reachable.

A number of the other changes focused on Proxy Controllers. You can set a Proxy Controller as a default, which routes jobs to it wherever possible. There are also changes to Custom Discovery that give you more control over which Proxy is handling specific gear.

If you're looking for more information, the documentation for Sun xVM Ops Center 2.1 is open, and there's also a demo from Tony Tomarchio that goes through a lot of the features in detail. I'll also answer your questions next week.

Friday Apr 03, 2009

Halcyon's Neuron Integration

I talked with Iain McKone and Mike Kirk at Halcyon on Monday about Halcyon's Neuron Integration for Sun xVM Ops Center. I knew that they'd come out with a new version of Neuron Integration to interface with Sun xVM Ops Center 2.0, but I didn't know much about what Neuron actually does.

As Iain and Mike explained, their goal with Neuron Integration was pretty simple. There are a lot of customers out there with existing network operating center frameworks - IBM Tivoli, HP Openview, CA Unicenter, or Sun MC, for instance - who like a lot of what Sun xVM Ops Center can do but don't want to stop using their current tools. Halcyon meant for Neuron Integration to fill this gap. One of its biggest features is that it lets you route notifications and alerts from one program to another. So, if you've got Tivoli, you can have all of the notifications from Sun xVM Ops Center show up there.

There are also customers who want to monitor gear that Sun xVM Ops Center doesn't cover or are looking for more detailed data. Neuron Integration is meant to bridge those gaps as well. Using Sun MC agents, Neuron Integration can monitor older generation SPARC systems and hardware from other vendors that Sun xVM Ops Center can't currently monitor. In addition, in the latest release, you can monitor applications and databases using Neuron Agents and send that information to Sun xVM Ops Center or to other tools.


The latest release, which is being released today, also lets you send notifications from other programs into Sun xVM Ops Center. Basically, you choose what monitoring tools you want, and then choose where to funnel their information.

So, in short, if you've got an existing management and monitoring framework that you want to keep using, but are interested in using some of Sun xVM Ops Center's capabilities as well, Neuron Integration is worth a look. There's a Solution Brief and a Readme on their website.

And if you're a partner company that sees a niche with Sun xVM Ops Center, I must point out that Mike said that the resources and support provided to Halcyon as they worked on Neuron were 'fantastic.'

Wednesday Apr 01, 2009

Unpacking Option

Sun xVM Ops Center, as you probably know, can manage most aspects of datacenter operation - discovery, management, provisioning, and updates. However, up until this point it's been necessary to order, unpack, and plug in hardware by hand. Now, thanks to the unpacking option which we've just finished testing, that's no longer necessary.

The Unpacking option uses the list of discovered gear and information about hardware and power use to ensure that your current hardware is sufficient. If it determines that your current setup falls short, it orders new hardware for you using your corporate account.

When the new hardware arrives, Sun xVM Ops Center facilitates the quick delivery of the hardware, taking control of exterior doors, security cameras, and elevators as necessary. Once the hardware is delivered, Sun xVM Ops Center ensures that it is installed properly, using local speakers to issue direction to those nearby. If necessary, it also locks nearby doors to ensure that installation workers stay on task.

We hope that the unpacking option is just one of the features that you'll find useful in our next release of Sun xVM Ops Center. I'll keep you posted on additional new features as they're announced. In the meantime, enjoy your April Fools' day.

Friday Mar 27, 2009

Our Facebook Group

First off, I apologize for the dead air recently. I've been pretty busy with the upcoming 2.1 release of Sun xVM Ops Center. Still, my fault.

I wanted to let you know about the Sun xVM Ops Center Facebook group. I'm not the sort of person who checks Facebook often - I think I've done it once since they redesigned it - but the Sun xVM Ops Center group has a couple of interesting videos. In addition to the Sun xVM Ops Center tour, which you may have seen elsewhere, there's also a video about partnering with Sun xVM Ops Center. I'm sure there'll be more videos and links in future as well.

Also, speaking of partners, I'm going to be talking a bit more about Sun xVM Ops Center partners next week, starting with Halcyon and their Neuron Integration.

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This blog provides news and insights about Sun's xVM products, including Sun xVM Ops Center and Sun xVM Server.

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