3 vSphere Installation and Setup Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes

vSphere InstallationHere’s the truth – I’ve made a lot of VMware mistakes.

There I said it, now here’s 3 tips to help avoid costly down time and outages caused by beginners performing a vSphere installation and setup for the first time.

vSphere for Beginners

Tip #1 – Design (No Shooting from the Hip)

Nothing is more painful than having to rebuild a vSphere cloud already being use to support 100s of VMs because it was never properly designed.

My guess is these environments grow out of a single free ESXi host installed on an old re-purposed server dug up from the bone-yard for an evaluation, but somehow it sprawled into hosting VMs for business critical applications or databases.

Does this mistake sound familiar?

Without a plan and design this will happen to you, too! So start with a design plan [and a budget] so you do not find yourself  robbing graves to build your first cloud.

The design plan should include:

1. Purpose (scope). What’s the purpose of the environment is for: POC, Test, Dev, UAT, Prod, etc.

2. Budget. Especially if it will be used for Prod, you should not use hardware that is out-of-warranty. This is an absolute no-no!

  • If you plan to use it to scale larger than one host purchase licenses and forget about the free stuff. You don’t want to be wasting time trying to figure out problems without having technical support.
  • Don’t try and use hardware not on the HCL. This will come back and bite you big time when you can’t upgrade because the hardware is not supported and there is a bug causing problems. This goes for server, storage, and network hardware.

3. Design. Have a white board session and include storage and network groups. vSphere touches all these technologies and they need to be in on the design so they are following best practices to support virtualization. Collaboration on the design is key to long-term success, scalability, and performance.

4. Documentation. Document your design and do Visio drawings of servers, networks, and storage configurations. Also create build checklists and include details such as: IP addresses, VLANS, ports, and naming conventions.

The biggest mistake I often see happening is the server team, or IT department, shooting from the hip and just doing a vSphere installation and setup from scraps, and then suffering from the pain caused by gridlock.

Tip #2 – Have a Capacity Management Plan (Contain Sprawl and Trend Utilization)

The second mistake happens in part due to the value-add virtualization offers which is the ability to leverage hardware.

Virtualization allows us to take full advantage of powerful devices and run them at greater-than 100% utilization.

Virtualizing is more efficiency, but on the down side leads to over using the hardware and causes poor performance on the servers, storage, and networks.

Without a capacity management plan to control sprawl and back-fill capacity as it is used, you cloud wit run out of resources and the performance of existing VMs will suffer.

And once the pain begins, there is no way to reduce it except to power off VM servers to free up resources, or add more physical capacity. This however presents temptation to dig up graves and bring old hardware back online while new hardware is being haggled over.

Furthermore, once old servers are brought back online they may never be decommissioned and risk costly crashes and data loss.

Avoid this issue by having a capacity management plan and budget to keep your cloud growing based on demand trends and utilization.

A basic vSphere Cpacity Management Plan should:

1. Trend Demand and Utilization. This is normally done by knowing and trending your demand so you can add resources before your CPU, memory, and storage thresholds are breached.

2. Monitor Thresholds. Thresholds should be determined and monitored so more capacity can be added once they are passed. This gives you time to get quotes, make purchases, and setup the added capacity before it is needed for new projects.

3. CAPEX Budget. CAPEX is area of major contention in environments suffering from over-subscription.

Beware of the myth that VMware saves money and provides unlimited server resources. This myth is false and can bury you.

Plan your budget to include regular CAPEX for new hardware and costly licenses and support.

Tip #3 – Develop VM Provisioning Standards (Test and Document)

Even the best design and capacity management plans cannot fix a performance problem caused by a badly provisioned virtual server configuration.

One shoe does not fit all sizes.

Even if the goal is to commoditize or streamline your build process so there are not 50 different builds, you still need to tweak VM configs to fit or you will have problems or performance issues later on.

This means one basic VM template cannot be used for any type of server build.

1. Do your own testing. Test what works best for your applications and document it.

2. Enforce your standards. Once you figure out what works best, stay true to your standards and enforce them. Don’t skimp on resources, and don’t over-provision. Your standard should be balanced and should follow best practices for resource allocation and configuration.

I recently posted a checklist for troubleshooting VM performance issues, and this VM best practices checklist goes hand in hand.

  • Did you split the VM VMDK volumes on separate datastore?
  • Did you create separate vControllers for each VMDK (especially if it is a database VM server)?
  • Did you configure ESXi, Windows or the OS to properly manage the swapfile.
  • Are VMtools updated and properly configured?
  • Are you using 1:1 memory and CPU ratios (don’t over use physical resources)?
  • Are you rightsizing and not over-provision memory or vCPUs (remember it’s not a physical server)?
  • Are you taking advantage of templates to deploy VMs?
  • Are you keeping Gold templates updated (patches, agents & middleware)?
  • Are you monitoring network and storage utilization?
  • Are you avoiding file level backups or antivirus scans on the local VM OS?
  • Are you splitting your management network traffic from your data and storage network traffic?

And finally, did you customize the VM configuration to the best practices for the type of virtual server being built, and then clone it as many times as needed to avoid configuration drift [fat fingering errors]?

Download the VM Best Practices Checklist.

Only do what works best for your environment.

A common VMware beginner mistake is trying to use every trick you read about.

Different types of servers require varying resource configurations and by doing your research you will find there are 100s of best practices for database, web, and application servers on the web, even I post a few.

But be warned, each best practices is different depending on the environment [and use cases] so evaluate them and only use what works best for your applications.

Summarizing these Tips:

Have a solid vSphere cloud design that includes participation from other stakeholders. Getting network and storage teams involved in the beginning avoids battles later on over ownership, and is one of the most common vSphere beginner mistakes.

Have a capacity management plan so you avoid reusing old hardware once it’s retired. Trend growth and budget for more demand.

And having standards for your virtual server builds so your team follows best practices for the type of servers being deployed. Test and develop your own best practices and document them in your own checklist.

Check out these other posts I’ve written on the same topic:

These tips are all to help avoid mistakes beginners make when installing and managing a vSphere Cloud for the first time.

Do you have a tip or mistake you’d like to share?

BIG Picture

Get "Strategic Ideas That Transform Your Mindset " Sent To You

Leave a Reply

vSphere Data Protection EOA
3 Alternative vSphere Backup Replacements For VDP

Important Notification: vSphere Data Protection (VDP) End of Availability (EOA) That...

vSphere 6
8 Updates That Make vSphere 6 Better – Keith Barker

Editor’s note: Keith Barker has been a CBT Nuggets Trainer since 2012. Some...

VMware Interview Questions
25 VMware Interview Questions And Answers: Tough & Technical (Download PDF)

Free VMware vSphere Interview Guide In this VMinstall Guide I’ll share a...

Project Photon
VMware Project Photon: Technical Review for Linux Admins

My quick and dirty review of Project Photon. I was very happy...

DevOps Plan
Best DevOps Strategy Hack (Winners Start With Why)

What is DevOps? It’s a model. It’s a culture. It’s a...

DevOps Tools Download
DevOps Toolchain: Download 3 Free Tools Used By Pros (Ansible, Git, Jenkins)

Hack Your Resume with DevOps Skills Lately I’ve been getting a...

DevOps Guide
Microsoft DevOps: 25+ Powerful Windows SysAdmin Skills (NEW Guide!)

What is Microsoft DevOps? This is an interesting question because first off,...

continuous integration tools
DevOps Training Courses That Will Give You The Edge (Perfect For Beginners Who Want Skills That Are Noticed By Google & Facebook…)

When I was just a fledgling starting out as a Jr...

Click here to learn how to Optimize WordPress Speed
WordPress Speed Optimization: Part 4 – VPS Case Study To Make VMinstall.com Rank Higher In Google Through Faster Hosting & High Availability @ Lower Cost

This is going to be a quick and dirty part 4...

Best Hosting for WordPress
Case Study: Best VPS For Easy WordPress Migration

Why I moved my WordPress blog off slow shared hosting… Let’s...

cloudways review updated
11 Cloudways Review Pros & Cons From My Deep Dive Testing (VPS Series: Part 2)

Which is a better cPanel alternative of a VPS – Cloudways...

ServerPilot Review
ServerPilot Review: Installing WordPress On DigitalOcean (VPS Series: Part 1)

How to install WordPress on a cloud server like a Pro...

tensorflow training
TensorFlow Tools for Beginners (7 Easy Takeaways To Get You Started)

Introduction To Deep Learning As a follow-up to my book review...

job rut
How To Get MOVING When You’re Stuck In A Career Rut (Video)

You worked hard to get your degree and after graduation you...

Storage Engineer Skills
Why Storage Engineer Skills Are HOT! (Can You Say Big Data?)

3 BIG Skills New Storage Engineers Are Missing Out On… Behind...

Rise of the Robots
I’m Amazed After Reading Rise of the Robots – Best Jobs In 2017 (You won’t Guess what’s going on!)

Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford is the Best Book...

Open Source Storage Software
3 Open Source Storage Software Alternatives For Beginners

Build Your Own Storage Solution! Reflecting on my trip to VMworld...

VMware VCP FOR Hire eBook
Read Excerpts from VCP for Hire eBook

BIG Thanks… Before I share the excerpt of VCP for Hire,...

How to Self Publish Your VMware eBook KDP
How to Self Publish Your VMware eBook KDP

Do you have a VMware book you’d like to self publish...

free chef for 5 servers
Free Hosted Opscode to Try Chef On 5 Servers Before You Buy

Is Chef the configuration management and automation tool for your operations team?...