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7 Quick Tips for Strengthening Your vSphere Game

I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while, and have finally gotten around to it. I've learned a few things over the years (it's true!), and some of the things we take for granted in our daily practice can be used to help others along the way. Here's a list of seven random tips that don't merit a separate blog post, but can help you today (and tomorrow) with your vSphere administration duties.

  1. Stop using Raw Device Mappings (RDMs). Seriously, look into VMware Virtual Volumes instead. I really dislike the complexity of RDMs, and how un-virtual it feels today.
  2. Take a look at VMFS volumes. Do you have some old VMFS5, VMFS4 or even some VMFS3 volumes in place? They should be upgraded to your latest hypervisor build (assuming the array's supported). But look a bit closer: is a VMFS3 or VMFS4 volume on a storage device you want to keep using?
  3. Use vSphere tags and categories. Have you given much attention to this new organizational construct in vSphere? They were introduced in vSphere 5.5 and fully updated in vSphere 6, and allow you a very flexible way to arrange virtual machines (VMs) in regard to elements not related to infrastructure. Think about tagging VMs "in-scope for PCI," "Off-Site DR," "Production," "Development" and  so on. Don't just call everything "Tag1" or "Example Tag"; use self-documenting categories and tags.
  4. Consider the replicated VM. I can't overstate the versatility of a replicated VM and how it can be used. The first usage that comes to mind may be as a failover mechanism (usually off-site), but think of intentionally using a replication engine as a way to failover to a new cluster. This will leave behind all bad past decisions in a cluster, and can be quite helpful.
  5. Give thought to non-rotational storage. There are so many options that it can become overwhelming when it comes to using flash, SSDs or memory acceleration to speed up disk systems for vSphere VMs. I'm leaning long term to VMware's Virtual SAN to have the best top-to-bottom integrated approach for vSphere, and it's improving significantly with each update. So maybe it's time to head into the lab, especially if hyperconvergence could be in your future.
  6. Keep a copy of vCenter Converter handy. In May of this year, vCenter Converter 6 came out. It's a handy way to move VMs around where a replication engine may not do the trick, or if you're dealing with some physical servers.
  7. Know which VMs take the most IOPs. Do you know? I know plenty of vSphere administrators that give a lot of thought to designing and implementing a cluster; but what about after day three? VMs change and so do their behaviors, so having visibility to address which VMs are taking the most IOPs will help you in so many ways. Get a tool to answer that question.

Do you have any random tips of your own to share? Offer them in the comments below.

Posted by Rick Vanover on 10/16/2015 at 1:58 PM


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