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Top 10 VMware tips of 2010

None of us has a perfect memory. But don't worry -- our top 10 VMware tips of 2010 will refresh your knowledge on the year's most popular expert advice on VMware technologies.

By Alyssa Wood, Assistant Site Editor

VMware released two key products in 2010: vSphere 4.1 for server virtualization and cloud computing, and VMware View 4.5 for desktop virtualization. The compact ESXi hypervisor became more popular -- and necessary -- for VMware administrators.

It's no surprise the IT world was hungry for tips and explanations about the virtualization king's new products. And of course, it's always good to brush up on the old.

We're reviewing the top 10 VMware tips of 2010 to help you refresh your VMware skills. From vCenter to PowerCLI and Site Recovery Manager to VMware home labs, we recap the year's most popular tips:

10. Creating a VMware home lab: Dollars and sense
If you want to learn about technologies in an environment that won't affect production, build a VMware home lab. But watch out: A home lab might be more costly than you think. Determining your requirements and choosing the right hardware are the first steps to building a test lab on your budget. Also, consider networking and shared storage devices to enhance your home lab.

9. Customizing Site Recovery Manager recovery plans with PowerCLI
Install Microsoft PowerShell to the Site Recovery Manager (SRM) server at your recovery site; then install the VMware PowerCLI tools. Together, these services help manage recoveries. By automating RAM allocation with PowerCLI scripts, for example, you can reduce the amount of RAM that VMs use during the recovery process. If you don't want SRM to run scripts automatically, you can control the commands manually.

8. Upgrading to VMware Workstation 7
VMware announced Workstation 7 only a few days after Microsoft released Windows 7 this year. To get Windows 7 support, you can upgrade from Workstation 6 to the new version -- which also boosts performance. Workstation 7 supports Windows 7 as a guest VM and runs inside Windows 7 as the host operating system. You'll also see other new features when you upgrade to VMware Workstation 7, including automatic snapshots, driverless printing and the ability to run Windows 7 in either 32-bit or 64-bit modes.

7. Introducing NetApp Rapid Cloning Utility 3.0
NetApp's virtual machine copying tool, Rapid Cloning Utility (RCU) 3.0, allows you to create and mount new data stores without accessing the storage management tools. That means easier maintenance for VMware admins who manage their own storage. The utility clones VMs and facilitates day-to-day administration. Used with NetApp's Virtual Storage Console, RCU makes vCenter servers much more flexible.

6. Upgrading hosts from ESX to ESXi in seven steps
Don't rush into upgrading from ESX to ESXi, because managing the two hypervisors is different. A test environment is a good way to get hands-on experience with ESXi first. Become familiar with PowerCLI, vSphere Management Assistant and the Tech Support Mode console. Make sure your backup and hardware monitoring tools will work with ESXi hosts, because not all third-party software is compatible. And document your host settings, because they'll get lost in the conversion, and you need those settings to reconfigure the new ESXi host.

5. Booting ESXi Installable from a USB drive
If you don't want to install hard drives in your host servers, you can boot ESXi Installable from a USB flash drive. Most ESX and ESXi hosts use shared storage, so that leaves unused local storage from which to install ESXi. Plus, if there's a failure, you can easily replace the server without reinstalling the operating system and applications. Just remove the thumb drive from the old server and place it into the new one. There are a few methods for installing VMware ESXi on a USB drive.

4. VMware View licensing explained
VMware View licensing is tricky if you don't know your options. One license is the bundled version, an all-in-one product that's best if you have a dedicated VMware vCenter cluster for your virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). The add-on license allows you to run only the VDI VMs; you must obtain the proper licenses for VMware ESX and VMware vCenter on your own. You can also choose between the Enterprise and Premier editions. Your decision will depend on the amount of VMs you need to run and their resource requirements.

3. Top 10 VMware tools an administrator can't live without
The VMware vSphere Client is probably the most essential management tool, but you can't run a VMware infrastructure without some third-party products. PuTTY, a free secure shell client, can connect to ESX hosts and manage them from the command line. You probably need an SCP client, virtualization-specific backup tools and performance monitoring tools as wekk. And to automate tasks, you can use PowerCLI -- a scripting tool for vSphere based on Microsoft's PowerShell. Choose your favorites from these top 10 VMware tools.

2. Configuring vCenter Server Linked Mode
With the vCenter Server Linked Mode feature, a single server can support up to 10,000 VMs. Linked Mode offers a consolidated view of management zones and uses Windows Active Directory to communicate between zones. Before you install a new server, make sure its configuration meets the Linked Mode requirements. Linked Mode does not let you migrate a VM from one server to another, though, and you'll view separate environments through a single management pane.

1. VMware boosts performance with vSphere 4.1
When VMware released vSphere 4.1, it introduced storage IO control (SIOC), which increases administrator control over I/O resource allocation on virtual machines. The new version also added network IO control and increased the number of simultaneous vMotions. VSphere 4.1 includes a memory compression feature that compresses data to free up memory resources on a VM. Learn about high availability, Distributed Resource Scheduler, Active Directory integration and vStorage APIs in the new release.

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