Stage 5: Deploying the virtualized servers
About a month after the purchase orders went out for the hardware and software selected for the server virtualization project, the Fergenschmeir IT department was up to its elbows in boxes. Literally.
[ Start at the beginning of Fergenschmeir's server virtualization journey ]
This was because server administrator Mary Edgerton ordered the chosen HP c-Class blades from a distributor instead of buying it directly from HP or a VAR and having it pre-assembled. This way, she could do the assembly (which she enjoyed) herself, and it would cost less.
As a result of this decision, more than 120 parcels showed up at Fergenschmeir's door. Just breaking down the boxes took Mary and intern Mike Beyer most of a day. Assembling the hardware wasn't particularly difficult; within the first week, they had assembled the blade chassis, installed it in the datacenter, and worked with an electrician to get new circuits wired in. Meanwhile, the other administrator, Ed Blum, had been working some late nights to swap out the core network switches.
Before long, they had VMware ESX Server installed on nine of the blades, and VirtualCenter Server installed on the blade they had set aside for management.
Unexpected build-out complexity emerges
It was at this point that things started to go sideways. Up until now, the experience Mike had gained working with VMware ESX at his college had been a great help. He knew how to install ESX Server, and he was well versed in the basics of how to manage it once it was up and running. However, he hadn't watched his college mentor configure the network stack and didn't know how ESX integrated with the SAN.
After a few fits and starts and several days of asking what they'd later realize were silly questions on the VMware online forums, Ed, Mary, and Mike did get things running, but they didn't really believe they had done it correctly. Network and disk performance weren't as good as they had expected, and every so often, they'd lose network connectivity to some VMs. The three had increasing fears that they were in over their heads.
Infrastructure manager Eric Brown realized he'd need to send his team out for extra training or get a second opinion if they were going to have any real confidence in their implementation. The next available VMware classes were a few weeks away, so Eric called in the consultant that had helped with capacity planning to assist with the build out.
Although this was a significant and unplanned expense, it turned out to be well worth it. The consultant teamed up with Mary to configure the first few blades and worked with Ed on how best to mesh the Cisco switches and VMware's fairly complex virtual networking stack. This mentoring and knowledge transfer process proved to be very valuable. Later, while Mary was sitting in her VMware class, she noted that the course curriculum wouldn't have come anywhere near preparing her to build a complete configuration on her own. Virtualization draws together so many different aspects of networking, server configuration, and storage configuration that it requires a well-seasoned jack-of-all-trades to implement successfully in a small environment.