As part of its ongoing testing of the VMware vSphere 4 platform, eWEEK Labs puts the new host profiles feature to the test. Host profiles streamlines the configuration of new ESX hosts, and makes it easier for administrators to check for compliance.
New in VMware vSphere 4 is the ability to streamline the configuration of new ESX hosts. As part of my ongoing testing of the vSphere 4 platform, I put the new feature through its paces in the lab.
Host profiles help to solve the finicky problem of ensuring
uniformity among the groups of physical ESX host systems that support
the virtual machine environment. The host profile feature is a good
addition to vSphere 4, but the need for it may be lessened by the
abilities of the new distributed switch that was also added in this
overhaul of VMware's flagship data center virtualization platform.
That said, the host profiles feature handles much more than just
network configuration, touching memory and security settings, too. And,
during my tests using the host profiles feature, it was relatively
simple to reapply a profile to a system to ensure that its
configuration hadn't deviated. Further, the host profile is an integral
part of the vSphere 4 package; there is no extra cost for taking
advantage of the profiling features.
I used host profiles in my VMware vSphere test center running on
Hewlett-Packard and Sun servers. I'm currently using an HP DL380 G6 and
an HP DL360 G6, along with a SunFire x4170. All three servers are
loaded with Intel Xeon 5500 series processors and 12 GB of RAM.
For this test, I basically optimized the ESX configuration on my
DL380, then created a host profile based on that configuration and
applied the profile to the vSphere ESX installation running on my DL360
and SunFire x4170 systems. The host profile acts on the VMware ESX
software configuration and does not require exactly matching hardware.
However, I would be cautious about applying a host profile to a
physical system that wasn't at least within the same processor family.
Creating the ESX configuration can be as simple or as complex as you
wish. I installed a fresh copy of ESX 4 on my reference server and set
up memory reservation, storage, networking, time/date and firewall
details. Once the details were set, the actual process of creating a
profile took just seconds.
Once created, a host profile must be attached to a cluster or host
before it can be applied to a system. The procedure for attaching a
profile is straightforward--you just right-click on the host in the
vCenter management console.
Hosts must be in maintenance mode before a host profile can be
applied. A system message in the management console clearly indicates
what changes are to be applied to the host, and then the process is
In my test case, I took the host profile I'd created on the HP
system and applied it to a ESX installation on the Sun system. The
profile applied correctly, and the ESX system on the Sun server
functioned as expected. With no further configuration effort on my part
(beyond specifying IP address assignments that I chose to make when I
created the profile), the Sun system was integrated with my iSCSI data
store. I was then able to migrate virtual machines from one host to
another with no loss of connectivity or application functionality.
Host profiles make new host configuration a snap. However, an
experienced VMware engineer will still need to create and vet the
configurations that will be the basis for new host systems. Once this
is done, junior administrators can be given the relatively simple task
of deploying the profile.
Host systems can easily be checked for compliance with current host
profile settings. During tests, I removed the iSCSI network virtual
switch from the ESX installation on my Sun system. When I manually
checked for compliance, the missing virtual switch was highlighted.
Reapplying the profile solved the configuration problem.
In the future, I'd like to see a little more automation of host
profiles. Manual checks such as those I performed to check for for
compliance could be easily scheduled as a recurring task in off-peak
times. Aside from this rather small point, the new host profiles
feature is a nice advance in ESX configuration administration.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at email@example.com.
Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.