VMworld 2017: vSphere 6.5 Upgrade Customer Perspective

Session: SER2508BU

Note: The session slides have a lot more details, KB links, etc. so grab the slides if want more details.

High Level Plan
-Test Environment


-Product landing page and KBs
-Product documentation
-Whitepapers like what’s new?
-Check the readme for bugs/issues
-Check blogs (Emad Younis)
-Hands-on labs


-Migration timeline
-Stakeholder involvement/support
-Scope for the deployment features
-Scope for the migration environment
-Ask: Greenfield or brownfield?

Test Environment (Lab)

-Learn new features
-Test/validate features
-Determine deployment considerations
-Document your design
-Physical, nested, or home lab options
-Test plan –  PSC HA, vCenter HA, VM encryption, etc.
-Determine features to implement, feature configuration, runbook


-Topology – PSC – embedded or external?
-Hardware – EVC mode, VMFS version, networking
-Document features – Predictive DRS, etc.
-Migration plan – The what, who and when (maintenance windows, etc.)
-Output: Design docs, run books, migration plan


-Use GSS – Basic, production, business critical, mission critical
-Consider VMware Professional services
-Output: Complete environment, updated design doc, updated run books, stakeholder sign-off


Backing up NVMe PC to the cloud – pick wisely

Normally I don’t blog about home PC topics, but I haven’t blogged for a bit and came across something today that I thought was worth mentioning. Basically, this is a quick review of Acronis True Image 2017. About 18 months ago I wanted to backup my PC to the cloud, as I have more than 1TB of travel photos from all over the world that are irreplaceable. I use OneDrive for my documents, so they were safe. After doing some extensive research back in early 2016 I settled on Carbonite for my PC backup. It was highly rated, and also had unlimited cloud storage.

Fast forward to today, and my home PC started acting up. Not sure what caused it, but Windows 10 was crashing and freezing on me. It came to the point where I thought about restoring to my last good backup instead of trying to troubleshoot the root cause. My home PC (and laptop) are pretty new and have NVMe drives. It really didn’t cross my mind that could be a problem for restoring from a backup with Carbonite.

As it turns out, from everything I could tell, Carbonite has been slow on the NVMe uptake and do not support booting from their recovery media and restoring to NVMe. I found a reference on their site that said NVMe was specifically not supported. They also have a very long laundry list of file extensions that are excluded from a cloud backup (but can be backed up via their local mirror option). Needless to say, I was not happy with Carbonite when it came to doing a restore.

So after more research today, I settled on Acronis True Image 2017 Next Generation. It has a number of  unique security features, such as anti-ransomware protection (important to me), digitally signed backups via blockchain, universal restore (restore a backup to dissimilar hardware), and can also backup your phone to the cloud. They also have Facebook integration for backing up all your FB photos, videos, and posts. I had used Acronis previously (in 2014), and knew recovery disk and baremetal restores were their bread and butter. I also did research on NVMe support, and it looked like I was good to go on that front.

I downloaded the trial of the premium version of Acronis True Image 2017, and was pleased at the simple installation procedure. I configured a cloud backup job, and also a local backup job to an external USB drive. I then proceeded to make a WinPE based recovery media USB stick using the MVP Custom Media tool. That was pretty easy to do. I booted from the USB stick on my NVMe Lenovo 910 and viola! It recognized my drive and if I needed, I could easily restore my data.

I now feel a lot better about being able to restore my data in case I need to re-image a computer from scratch. You can also easily inject your own drivers into the WinPE image to recognize things like NICs, WiFi, etc. So there’s a lot of room to customize the recovery image, if needed. There are also a lot more backup controls than Carbonite, and has other features like ‘clone disk’ and ‘drive cleanser’, all of which could be useful. I also installed their client on my iPhone, and started a full cloud backup. Here’s a screenshot of the main dashboard.

Acronis True Image 2017I’ll continue to use Carbonite on my PC until my subscription runs out. Can’t hurt to have files in two clouds, although Carbonite isn’t a full cloud backup whereas Acronis does backup everything (or you can select what you want via partitions or folders/files).

Bottom line, if you have backup software, make sure you can restore from it on your hardware! Today we aren’t just dealing with simple SATA drives so don’t assume if you have a fancy NVMe or PCIe drive that you can restore to it from bootable media. If you do want to purchase Acronis True Image 2017, be sure to do it through the Ebates.com portal for 20% cash back.

How To: Building a dual-head 4K PC

Update 5/31/2016: Got all my parts and built the PC. Apparently there’s an industry wide problem with the Z170 HDMI 2.0 output that results in blank screens on many new 4K monitors (works at 1080P). I’ve seen it reported on the Intel forums for Asus and Gigabyte motherboards. I opened a ticket with Gigabyte today. For the time being I’m using my nVidia GTX 760 Ti for dual 4K, and it works great for 60Hz support. No HDCP 2.2, but today that’s not a big deal. YouTube 4K streams are smooth on this card.

Update 6/4/2016: None of the Thunderbolt adapters I tried solved my dual head 4K 60Hz problem. The Intel forums moderator for the thread following this issue is less than helpful. So I doubt this Intel driver problem will get fixed anytime soon. Thus, I’m now recommending a PCIe graphics card *IF* you want dual 4K 60Hz displays. If you are OK with just dual 1080P or 1440P, the built-in Intel graphics are just fine. The AMD Radeon RX480, due out end of June 2016, looks like the best choice for full 4K/HDCP 2.2 compatibility. It also supports HDR, DisplayPort 1.3/1.4, and H.265 hardware encode/decode offload. It should run around the $200 mark, which is great. In my mind, this AMD card checks all of the 4K “boxes” and should even provide a great gaming experience for resolutions less than 4K.

So my home PC, which is a daily ‘beater’ PC, was just over its 3 year anniversary mark. It’s a SandyBridge PC, and has served me well. While I wasn’t seeing any real performance issues (I’m not a gamer), I figured it was a good time to spec out a new PC and get all the latest goodies like NVMe, USB 3.1, ThunderBolt 3, 4K graphics, etc. In the past year I upgraded my home theater to 4K, so figured it was about time to do the same for my workstation.

Note, this is NOT a gaming rig nor do I care about overclocking. Think of this as state-of-the-art desktop PC for office work, photography, watching 4K YouTube videos, Netflix, etc. Power was also a concern, as well as being super quiet. If you want to read all about the Skylake processors and Z170 chipset, check out Anand’s article here.

I found this great website called PCPartPicker that lets you build a system, get an estimated cost, and does compatibility checks. You can find the full parts list for this build here. It also estimates system power, and my configuration comes out to 169w. It also lists the website with the lowest price and a very cool price history feature.

Researching this build I learned more about display protocols, chipsets, and HD copy protection than I ever wanted to know. This is a complicated field. Put on your thinking cap! If you aren’t in a hurry for a new PC but are thinking early 2017 you will upgrade, then watch out for the Kaby Lake CPUs and 200 series chipsets. These provide minor tweaks over the Skylake and Z170 series chipset.


First up, I had to choose the processor. I wanted the latest Intel offering (Skylake), but still stay within a reasonable budget. Intel does an amazing job with their ARK pages where you can quickly see processor specs, list prices, and features. So I wondered over to the 6th Generation Intel Core i7 Processor list. A quad core processor with hyperthreading is all I need, so I had a few choices. I chose the i7-6700 which was released in late 2015. It’s a 14nm process, 4 cores, 8 threads, and 3.4GHz base frequency and just 65w TDP. It also has Intel HD Graphics 530 built in, which supports 4K @ 60Hz. You can pick it up from Amazon for $298.

If you want to constrain your budget a bit, the i5-6600k is an excellent choice, with real world performance nearly that of the i7 big brother. It’s about $50 cheaper at $242 from Amazon. This processor is unlocked, meaning you have an easy time overclocking if you are into that.











Now that I have chosen a processor, the next major component is the motherboard. For this, I had a few requirements which eliminated 99% of the shipping boards. First, for full future compatibility, I wanted HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. HDMI 2.0 enables 4K at 60Hz, which the i7-6700 supports. While HDCP isn’t a show stopper for a workstation, if you ever want to play UHD content on your PC it will be required. I also wanted the fastest possible flash storage, and that would be NVMe M.2 (or U.2) x4 support. This interface far exceeds SATA III, at 32Gb/s (vs. 6Gbps)! SATA SSDs are now old school and “slow”.

So after extensive research, only two motherboards met this requirement. The Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 7 and the Asus Z170-Deluxe. The Asus option was the most expensive, around $300, and had built-in WiFi. My house has wired GiG-E, so I didn’t need WiFi. The Gigabyte option was around $200, didn’t have WiFi, but had better audio and met all my other requirements. It also has USB 3.1, and Thunderbolt 3 (click here for all the advantages of Gigabyte’s usage of Intel’s Alpine Ridge chip). I called Gigabyte tech support, and they confirmed it will support dual 4K @ 60Hz (with HDCP 2.2 via HDMI) displays using the Intel Iris graphics.

Other articles I’ve read said the Skylark processors can drive 2x 4K @ 60Hz monitors, so the Gigabyte support agent was right. If you want to get geeky, you can check out the spec sheet of the HDMI bridge chip here which clearly states 4K @60Hz and HDCP 2.2). The motherboard only supports DP 1.2a, which does not have HDCP 2.2. Even the Kaby Lake chipset (due out this year) is rumored to only support DP 1.2a. We will likely have to wait until Cannon Lake in 2017 for a supporting chipset. So should you want to connect this MB to a TV for 4K gaming/UHD content, only use the HDMI port. We will need to wait for a DP 1.3 MB to get HDCP 2.2 via DP…in late 2017. There is a DisplayPort 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 w/ HDCP 2.2 dongle that you can buy. That would HDCP 2.2 enable dual monitors. You can find the Club-3D dongle specs here and buy it on Amazon for $29. You can pick up the Gigabyte board from Amazon for $195.

Graphic below is from Anandtech:










Note: Gigabyte has a number of firmware updates that you need to apply, including one each for HDMI 2.0 and Thunderbolt 3, along with a BIOS update. You can find the updates here. If you are super concerned about security, you can add a TPM 2.0 module.









If you disagree with using the built-in Intel Iris graphics, then you will need to buy a third party PCIe graphics card. But, according to Intel, the Skylake GPUs will beat 80% of the discrete video cards on the market. So unless you are a hardcore gamer, try the integrated graphics first. Unfortunately, we are in a time of flux and finding a discrete video card that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 is nearly impossible. I did see mentioned that the GTX-960 does have HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. I’m sure later this year it will be much more common. So if you can live with the Intel graphics for now, I would wait and get a new graphics card later this year or validate that it does support HDCP 2.2. The GTX-960s seem to start at $190 and go up from there. You can see an example on Newegg, where it does call out HDMI 2.0 support. This article claims it has HDCP 2.2 support. But a post here says HDCP 2.2 isn’t yet enabled/functional. Who is right? I don’t know.

This MB has significantly upgraded audio via the Creative Sound Core3D quad-core processor. This should provide improved audio over the ever present cheap Realtek chips. However, this MB also has dedicated USB DAC ports (two of them) for use with a USB DAC. The Verge has a good write-up on various DAC options that run around $100. Personally I’m sticking with the built-in audio.


Next up, was memory. My old PC has DDR3, but that’s been eclipsed by DDR4. Corsair is a good brand, so I looked through their options for a 16GB kit (2x8GB). The Vengeance LPX line is their high performance memory, and has built-in heat spreaders. It also has a lifetime warranty, which is great. I settled on the Vengeance LPX 32ooMHz C16 kit. On Amazon it’s just $70 for 16GB, which is a great price. The motherboard has 4 DIMM slots, so you could bump it up to 32GB if you needed the memory.






Flash Storage

Next up was flash storage for my boot drive. As I previously mentioned, SATA III SSDs are slow and bottlenecked by the old 6Gbps interface. If you truly want the best storage today, it’s NVMe. The various options can be a bit confusing, so let me quickly cover those. NVMe is fastest when used with a PCIe Gen3 x4 interface. You can use either the M.2 connector which lets you mount the NVMe module directly to the motherboard. Or, you can use the U.2 connector. The U.2 module fits into the same M.2 slot, but allow you to plug in a U.2 cable to an externally mounted NVMe drive such as the Intel 750 series. The Gigabyte motherboard comes with dual PCIe Gen3 x4 M.2 connectors, so I wanted a NVMe solution to match. I decided on the Samsung 950 Pro 512GB. You can buy it from Amazon for $316. Yes it does cost more per GB than a SATAIII SSD, but it has 5x the bandwidth. Plus you don’t have to deal with cables and mounting a 2.5″ drive in your chassis. Samsung offers a 256GB version for $177 if that is more appealing.

Build note: Install this NVMe module on the bottom M.2 connector, so it uses less SATA PCIe lanes. If you want to go hog wild and get dual NVMe modules, you lose all but SATA_5 on the Intel SATA controller. But there’s an additional SATA controller which gives you two more SATA ports. I also read one customer removed the sticker and placed tiny heat sinks on each memory module. You can find those here.





CPU Cooler

Now, I wanted to find a super quiet CPU cooler. I will be sitting next to this box, so the last thing I want is a noisy PC. Noctua is a stellar brand in the CPU cooling and case fan world, so I went a checked out their products. I wasn’t planning on overclocking, so I didn’t see anything too crazy or something like water cooling. I also wanted to make sure it wouldn’t interfere with the DIMM slots or PCIe cards. Noctua’s 6 year warranty was also appealing. I decided to get the Noctua NH-U9S. It met all my requirements, had stellar reviews, and is nearly silent in operation. You can find it on Amazon for $58.











One of the final pieces is the case. Cases are very personal, and people have strong opinions. For me, I really don’t care. I don’t need clear sides, fancy lights, or a lot of storage bays. Given the size of the CPU fan, I could not use a super slim HTPC style case. So a mid-tower case it was, and I wanted something quiet. It should also support USB 3.0 ports, which really is standard these days. I stumbled upon the Corsair Carbide Series 330R Quiet mid-tower case. I liked the fact that it has noise reducing damping material, smart airflow, lots of fan options, tool free disk drive installation, and looked very clean. It can be had on Amazon for $103. Do take note that it does NOT come with a power supply, so this case is more expensive than some that come with (crappy) power supplies. Reviews did mention the front case fan wasn’t silent, so I picked up the Noctua NF-A14 PWM fan, which I’ve read is nearly silent. It’s on Amazon for $22.










Power Supply

Because the case doesn’t come with a power supply, it was time to do a little research. For maximum efficiency, you don’t want to get a PS that is vastly over rated what you will be drawing. You also want to look for near silent (or totally) silent operation. Modular power supplies are also great, which avoids having to bunch up a lot of cables in your case and making for a messy installation or interfering with airflow. I’ve had excellent past experience with Seasonic, but I also knew Corsair was a solid choice. I did not want to spend a bundle, since this is not a high wattage gaming rig. But I do value quality and features. I settled on the Corsair RMi Series, which comes with some unique monitoring software that is fed via a USB cable to the power supply. I wanted the lowest wattage version, which unfortunately was a beefy 650 watts. So I’ll be running on the low end of the efficiency scale. But it does feature a fanless mode, if the power draw is sufficiently low. You can find it on Amazon for $120. Yes, you can most certainly find cheaper solutions (like a SeaSonic S12II-430 for half the price). So feel free to spend less. But I like quality, and the monitoring software as gimmicky as it may be, tipped me over the edge.








4K Monitors

Update 5/26/2016: After more intense research, I found a great monitor.

Here’s where the rubber meets the road, and quite frankly the current solutions are extremely scarce. The problem is HDCP 2.2, or should I say, the lack of support. After extensive googling and research I found the LG 27UD88-W that supports HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. And it even has a USB 3.0 type-c connector on it as well. It retails for $699. You can buy it from Amazon for $668. There is the 32″ Dell UP3216Q monitor that advertises HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2. It’s a pricey $1,400.  It’s a sure bet that more 24″ and 27″ HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 4K monitors will ship, the question is just when. Monitors can last a good 5 years or more, and the good 4K monitors can run north of $700. So I want to get something that will last 5+ years. There are cheaper 4K options (such as those from Dell), but a big hobby of mine is photography so accurate colors are a must. The LG option specific states accurate colors, is calibrated, and aimed at video/photography enthusiasts. I’m in!

If your budget is more around $500 per monitor and highly accurate colors are not a requirement, then I would wait on a purchase. No doubt HDCP 2.2 compliant 24″ and 27″ monitors will be released, and I would bet by the end of 2016.

Mass Storage

If you are in the market for quality mass storage, check out the HGST Deskstar NAS lineup at Amazon. You can get a 4TB 7.2K SATA drive for $164. HGST got the highest reliability marks in a BackBlaze blog post you can read here. If you want the enterprise grade SATA drive the 4TB “ISE” model runs $275 at Amazon. It has twice the MTBF of the consumer NAS drive.


I tried to balance quality, performance, price, while meeting my requirements in a solid workstation. The total price without tax and shipping comes in around $1,200. Yes, you could shave off some $$ by going with cheaper/slower parts. I also left out spinning HDD and optical media. I was thinking of a UHD/4K Blu-ray drive, but decided against it. First, we are too early in the UHD uptake to see any real drive options (a quick search didn’t turn any up). Second, I’m not planning on viewing UHD movies on my PC. That’s why I have a 4K home theater. Even UHD Blu-ray players are scarce, with Samsung being the primary option. Later this year I’ll re-investigate 4K monitors and hopefully the market will have a few HDMI 2.0/HDCP 2.2 options. Remember, only the HDMI port supports HDCP 2.2, so if you connect this MB to a 4K TV, use the HDMI port.

After I get all of the parts and assemble it, I’ll update this post with any gotchas. So if you are thinking about buying these parts, you might want to wait a few weeks until I can fully test the system with Windows 10 x64. It should work just fine, though. Remember that the free upgrade to Windows 10 expires on July 29th. So I plan on loading this PC with my old copy of Windows 8.1, activate, then upgrade to Windows 10. I could use the free Samsung utility to drive copy my old Windows 10 SSD to the NVMe drive, but then Windows will become deactivated and I’ve seen accounts of Microsoft refusing re-activating and telling customers they need to buy a copy.

Do take note that Amazon will cover return postage of any DOA item, unlike many other retailers like NewEgg. So if you have the choice between Amazon and say NewEgg, lean towards Amazon.

Win Free Tickets to VMworld 2016!

VMTURBO VMWORLD® 2016 SWEEPSTAKES turbostack-active

VMworld 2015: What’s new in SRM

  • Application  uptime is key for businesses
  • 40% of companies still use tape for DR purposes
  • Legacy DR solutions can lead to extended periods of downtime
  • Announcing SRM 6.1 and site recovery manager air
  • From private cloud to public cloud – the hybrid cloud
  • SRM automates every workflow of DR orchestration
  • Non-disruptive testing, automated failback, automated failover, planned migrations
  • Introduced in 2008

What’s new in SRM 6.1

  • Policy-based management – New protection groups using vSphere policies & vRA integration
  • Integration with VMware NSX – Automated network mapping
  • zero-downtime application mobility – Orchestrated cross-vCenter vMotion using recovery plans

Policy Based DR

  • Association of new datastores with SPPG (storage-profile protection group)
  • Protection of VMs on replicated datastores within SPPG
  • Removal of VMs from SPPG when datastore is removed

NSX Integration

  • Network virtualization reduces OpEx and accelerate recovery
  • SRM 6.1 supports NSX 6.2 cross-vCenter logical switches
  • Automatic mapping of networks
  • Federated NSX security rules on recovered VMs
  • Faster recovery time by 40%

SRM support for Active-Active Datacenters

  • New support!
  • Production apps at both sites
  • Zero downtime for planned events
  • Typically limited to metro distances
  • Uses cross-vCenter vMotion for planned events
  • Day 0 support for EMC VPLEX, IBM SVC, HDS VSP
  • Can enable zero RTO/RPO

SRM Family enables hybrid cloud availability and mobility

  • DRaaS
  • Cloud on-ramp
  • Fast time-to-market
  • Site Recovery Manager air automates vCloud air disaster recovery
  • Deployed and managed as DRaaS
  • Not available today, but coming in the future
  • Provides detailed reports of recovery execution plans
  • Demos SRM air

VMworld Ticket Sweepstakes

Just like last year, VMTurbo is giving away a select number of free tickets to VMworld. They cover the conference fee, you cover travel and hotel. A great deal for those where your company won’t send you, or you are an independent consultant. There are three drawings, one each on May 29, June 19, and July 10th. Entry is free, so try to secure yourself a ticket today! Use this link for entry.

Ignite: Overview of Skype for Business

Session: FND2201

  • Skype for business is the next generation Lync
  • UI redesigned to mimic that of Skype. Lync client is dead.
  • Shows a demo of new UI that is very Skype-like but has Lync control features
  • Shows off the Polycom Roundtable 100, a small room enabling video system
  • Skype for business for iOS and Android: Fall CY 2015; Mac end of CY 2015
  • Broadcast Skype for Business meetings: Familiar, scalable, reliable, Extensible. Scales up to 10,000 users. Launched later this summer.
  • Increases the limit from 250 people in a meeting to 10,000
  • Demos a Skype directory search that can include location
  • Shows off a Webkit SDK demo of a medical app with an embedded Skype video window
  • Skype will support SQL AlwaysOn Availability groups
  • Cisco and Tandberg interop with direct meeting join
  • PBX integration as well
  • Easier hybrid setup and management
  • In place upgrade from 2013
  • Uses the same hardware specs as Lync 2013. Very minimal downtime and no new hardware needed.
  • New reporting tool for call quality validation. Part of the IT Pro toolkit
  • Can drill down into call quality stats down to the subnet and location to pinpoint issues
  • Third party tools by Event Zero, Nectar, Unify2
  • Can deploy an end to end managed network with Office 365 and certain service providers. Complete QoS end to end.

Top vBloggers Announced!

Each year Eric Siebert from vSphere-Land.com has an annual voting for the top vBloggers in the world. Competition is fierce and back in 2013 I was honored with getting position #24, for which I was thrilled. Then came along more SSL woes with vSphere 5.5, and my vCenter Toolkit was born. In 2014 I then moved up to position #12, and couldn’t have been happier. A lot of other great Nutanix talent also rounded out the Top 25 last year. Now, in 2015 I’m proud to say that I broke into the top 10 at #7!

I want to thank everyone that voted. All of the Top 25 bloggers do amazing work, and I’ve learned a lot from all of their posts. Blogging takes a lot of time, and How-to’s are especially time consuming due to all the testing. For the full list of Top 25 bloggers, you can read Eric’s post here.


Top Blogger Voting in Full Swing!

2015-03-03_7-55-50Each year Eric Siebert over at vSphere-land.com spends an enormous amount of time setting up the top blogger voting. This recognizes the very hard work that the top bloggers do, and the support they give to the community. Recognition is always fun, but shouldn’t be the primary purpose to blog.

So this year you, again, have your chance to vote for the top bloggers in various categories. When voting, think about what is important to you in a blogger. More ‘newsy’, or hard-core how-articles, or are they more opinion based? How frequently do they post? Do you keep referring back to them, or do they provide scripts/tools that make your job easier? Do they repeat content from other sites/sources or is it original?

Those are some of the criteria I think about when putting in my vote. As a quick year in review for my blog I’ve been consistently updating my vCenter 5.5 SSL toolkit, did a long SQL 2014 Always-On How-To series, live blogged from VMworld 2014 and PEX 2015, plus some Nutanix content.

Weigh in your mind which content has been most valuable to you, then vote based on that information. Last year I made it to #12, which I think had a lot to do with the popular vCenter SSL toolkit. This year I’ll be covering vSphere 6.0 and providing an updated SSL Toolkit.

Voting only runs for two weeks, so take 5 minutes out of your day right now and vote here. Don’t delay or you might forget. Also, remember you can only vote once. So don’t try and game the system, as Eric keeps a close watch out for duplicate or fake votes.

VMTurbo Win a Home Lab

Disclaimer: VMTurbo is a sponsor of this blog.

Do you need a free home lab? Then register for the upcoming VMTurbo 5.1 webinar and get a chance to win a free home lab. Three lucky winners will be chosen at random so carve out an hour of your day and see what’s new with VMTurbo 5.1. Register for free here.


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