We get asked a lot about how Runecast Analyzer deals with the most common issues faced by VMware admins. We decided to make a list of those and answer those questions publicly. We asked Technical Engineer and virtualization veteran Wade Carlsen for help, so he shared his list of Top 10 issues that he dealt with as a VMware admin before joining Runecast in 2019.
1. Troubleshooting complicated issues – finding relevant fixes
This seems to be one of the most arduous and time-consuming tasks that admins have to deal with, far more often than anyone wants to be doing it. And it’s not like troubleshooting was when you were a kid working on something as simple as a bicycle or battery-powered toy, today’s complex IT environments are the real deal, with seemingly infinite layers of potentiality toward good or evil.
Runecast automatically analyzes your entire virtual infrastructure and correlates any findings to a knowledge repository that includes known documented issues by VMware, technical communities, and blogs, while also leveraging knowledge from it’s own on-staff team of virtualization experts. You get an overview of any issue identified, symptoms, related findings and resolution steps. This eliminates the need for and your time wasted to troubleshoot, research and identify the problem. And the knowledge repository is constantly being updated, so no worries about becoming outdated.
2. Staying current with patching
Keeping up with all of the patches in your IT environment is overwhelming. From VMware infrastructure to virtual machine tools, to security specific vulnerabilities, bios and firmware version control... it is easy to find yourself always behind. The first step in all of this is identification... Then comes remediation...
Runecast helps with both. Runecast analyzes your entire environment automatically and reports on all of your gaps. You can then easily formulate a plan and remediate knowing the exact patch or update to apply.
3. Upgrading VMware – Planning and success rates
VMware is always busy revising and upgrading their product offerings. It is difficult to stay on top of all of the version updates to maintain compliance, supportability and control. It is also difficult to stay current on the endless hardware configurations that are available and their compatibility with each version of vSphere.
With Runecast’s HCL analysis check, this is all done for you automatically. You can see a report of your entire environment and each object’s compatibility with the current version you are running. As a bonus, Runecast also has a built-in simulator that analyzes your hardware against a later version you are considering upgrading to. Gone are the days of failed upgrade attempts and painful version rollback exercises.
4. Resource constraints/Bottlenecks
Let’s face it, in every virtual environment where resources are shared there are always constraints and bottlenecks. The nature of the constraint or bottleneck will determine whether a single server has issues or that many do.
Runecast finds and identifies where all known issues exist and where your configuration is not aligned to best practices. Each of these then allows you to modify the environment to reduce any constraint or bottleneck, which then results in the utmost efficiency.
5. Capacity Management
There are a number of products in the marketplace devoted to managing your capacity and optimizing your VMware infrastructure. An approach that these can employ is to simply throw more hardware or resources at the problem(s) and/or move the problem(s) around in your environment.
Runecast addresses the issue at its root with a unique approach, instead of moving the problem around in your environment. Runecast shows you where you are not configured to best practice recommendations and illustrates underlying known issues that will eventually cause interruptions, latency or problems. You see the exact nature of the finding, symptoms you can expect, and steps to remediate. So, instead of the common approach of throwing more hardware or resources at the problem, you can be confident in knowing that your environment is optimally configured.
6. Hardware refreshes
Hardware gets old. Mechanical devices fail. Software and operating systems are constantly getting better and requiring better hardware. Refreshing hardware is a necessary task for any IT environment. We generally tend to use the guts out of it before we spend money on new, which makes perfect business sense. But eventually this approach is asking for trouble.
With Runecast you can constantly have a health check on your server hardware and the cards installed in them. You can then validate your hardware against VMware’s hardware compatibility list (HCL). You can then also simulate upgrades to new versions of VMware against the HCL. This will help you proactively identify when it's time to refresh your hardware.
7. Staying current with hardware firmware, bios and I/O device drivers
Everything said in point 2 above applies here as well. The main difference is that you will likely get away with aging FW and Bios versions longer than patching control. This is also the area that may be the most neglected in the majority of environments. Generally we order hardware and update everything when we get it. Or not. Then we deploy it and ignore it…forever. The problem with this approach is the inevitable outage that occurs down the road that is next to impossible to find a resolution for. Some obscure firmware on an I/O device causes a complete cluster or environment outage. Needle in a haystack comes to mind when thinking about troubleshooting this one.
Runecast solves all of these problems by quickly, easily, and automatically showing you where you have incompatibilities and outdated versions.
8. Keeping VMtools updated
Hmm. I’m not sure that I ever managed a VMware environment where all of the VMtools on all of the virtual machines were up to date. Maybe after a new upgrade of everything and I took the time. Then the inevitable would happen and I would soon realize that the very next host patch put me back at being out of date.
Runecast itself will not update your VMtools, but it does report where they need to be updated and shows direct relation to any known issues with them.
9. Maintaining templates
Ugh. The constant need to update templates to include latest configurations, OS updates, patches, application updates, permission settings etc. You can tell this is far from my favorite chore.
Runecast helps you with best practices regarding sizing, storing, configurations and everything else at the infrastructure layer. Sorry, Runecast doesn’t (yet) have a magic button to update the VMs themselves.
10. Security controls/Audits
Last but not least, this one may be one of the most impactful aspects of maintaining an airtight stack, as repercussions can be extremely costly to both operations and business reputation if left unchecked. But, like tax laws, the various complex security standards are extremely difficult to keep up with, and new ones are being introduced regularly.
Runecast includes about a half dozen major industry standard security guidelines – PCI DSS, HIPAA, DISA STIG, BSI, CIS etc. You can elect to check your environment against any number of them or all of them. Within seconds, you will have results with a pass/fail for all security controls defined within these frameworks. No more manual checks and looking at a generic reports line by line to see the health of your environment or steps needed to fix it.
About the Author
Wade Carlsen joined Runecast in 2019 as a Technical Presales Engineer. Before Runecast, he was a Senior IT Management Consultant for DXC Technology and a 20-year veteran of many hats for Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HP & HPE). A graduate in Computer Information Systems from Idaho State University, Wade now lives somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, from where he provides valuable support to virtually every Runecast team.
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