Upgrades and Fixes

Spent the weekend upgrading my home systems and fixing some of the hosting issues I have. This includes

  • Upgrading a temp OpenSolaris installation to the latest Solaris Express build.
  • Upgrading the VirtualBox instances to the latest build
  • Upgrading the Ubuntu instances to the latest build
  • Upgrading PHP on a particular box to 5.2.10
  • Reviewing the MySQL databases used at the hosting provider and cleaning up staging and test instances that are no longer used.
  • Played a bit with hardware for compatibility and drivers – Onboard NICs vs. PCI NIC cards, setting SATA controllers to ahci mode, …

Still have a laundry list with me, but that is a good progress.

 

Upgrades to VirtualBox 4.x

I have been running VirtualBox 3.x on my personal Solaris Desktop as well as my work laptop. About 2-3 weeks ago, I upgraded to VirtualBox 4.x on my work laptop. Upgrade was simple and easy. I have seen considerable improvement of the way the VM Screens are handled in 4.x. The fullscreen mode is really fullscreen now and the Host Key functionality improved tremendously.

All these two weeks, I was thinking in the back of my mind about the Solaris version of the same upgrade, for my personal desktop. Didn’t spend much time on that till this morning though. This morning, downloaded VirtualBox 4.0.4 for Solaris and installed it. The installation was fairly straight forward: Uninstall it from the global zone and reinstall the new package. One notable fact though: The older version, during the uninstallation process, never checked if the application is running in the first place. It simply uninstalled, while my VirtualBox is running and a couple of VMs are in suspended state. During the install of the new version, it checked for the presence of running processes and aborted installation with the right error message. I had to stop the application and then reattempt the installation.

Having OpenSolaris 2009-06 (build 111b) installed on my system, I got a warning during installation about USB support for guests (which requires build 124 or later I guess). Other than that, the upgrade on OpenSolaris went on simply fine and I am back with all my VMs. I also installed a new instance of Ubuntu server on VirtualBox, just to test out the functionality. It is working fine (able to identify all the .vdis, grab all the previously uploaded disk images, etc.

 

Unix, Reboots and System Administration

Paul Venezia has written three good articles in the last few days and they are really worth reading. First, he talks about the nine traits of the Veteran Unix Admin, that summarized a bunch of characteristics of seasoned Unix admins. The ninth trait led to a bigger discussion on rebooting and how Unix boxes are commonly perceived as not to be rebooted right away. Then that opened up a much bigger discussion on the simplicity of rebooting in light of virtualization. Based on that, he wrote a nice article on the decline and fall of System Administration.

All these articles are good read for budding system administrators: not only the articles, but also the comments and discussion threads on these topics. They help understand various perspectives on these classic problems and help you make a judgment call based on the specific deployment and operational scenario you are working within. Have a nice time reading!

VmWare, BSD, Jails, zones, …

I liked the entire discussion here. Both the post and the comments are really interesting. There are several user land inputs related to virtualization there. Know your payload, VmWare server versus the ESXi, BSD Jails for certain native tasks, Solaris zones, etc. The post and the comments are a very good read.

The bigger giants

The big are going to be bigger: Is that what this downturn going to give us? For example, Cisco plans datacenter in a box (call it as a Cisco-Intel-MS-VMware-EMC-BMC combo offer.) IBM eyes Sun. This portfolio diversification may make some of these companies better prepared for the upturn.

The biggest take away from all this activity is simple: Virtualization is going to get leaps and bounds following. Almost every stable distribution now has a virtual appliance variant, just like a live CD. Now there are appliances made “with” virtualization in the backend.

Talk on Virtualization At Spurthi-09

It is more than 2 weeks since I did this talk on Virtualization and VMWare at Spurthi-09. The talk is well received. I couldn’t spend much “post-class socializing time” at the venue due to travel pressures. If the attendees have any further questions, they can feel free to contact me.

OpenSolaris and Ethernet Issue

Need: Use Solaris zones to test large number of connectivity hops. Installed OpenSolaris on a DELL Vostro laptop, but bitten by this bug. Had to revoke.

VMWare ESXi doesn’t detect the harddrive on this model. So  couldn’t install Solaris on top of ESX too. Now I need to think of other ways of having a solaris zones install.

Virtualization Weekend

Pretty much the whole weekend is gone to VmWare and VirtualBox 2.0. Not a decent success in making ESXi work on my laptop, but VirtualBox 2.0 is running simply fine. The ESXi hypervisor is not detecting the hard disk on my laptop. This is something that I need to look into and see if this can be patched. Have a hectic work week ahead, so next weekend should be another round to fix the gaps here.

From Book Store to Block Store

Amazon started primarily as a book store and now it started offering block store. What is this block store, or to be specific, the Elastic Block Store (EBS) service from Amazon? Read here.

One interesting facet of this model is that the pricing depends on the number of requests, not the bandwidth consumed. What that means is if I have a fewer requests on high volume of data, I will be paying less as opposed to having lot of requests on relatively small magnitude of data. Is this correct or did I miss the fine print?

BTW, this new service is part of Amazon EC2 (Elastic Cloud Computing) initiative.