Top 10 problems VMware admins face

We are often asked how Runecast Analyzer handles the most common issues VMware admins face. We decided to create a list of these issues and answer these questions publicly. We asked technical engineer and virtualization veteran Wade Carlsen for help, so he shared his list of the top 10 issues he faced as a VMware admin before joining Runecast in 2019.

1. Troubleshooting complicated problems – finding relevant solutions

This seems to be one of the most tedious and time consuming tasks admins have to deal with, much more often than anyone wants to do it. And it's not like when you were a kid working on something as simple as a bicycle or a battery-powered toy, today's complex IT environments are the real deal, with seemingly infinite layers that can potentially be good or even bad.

Runecast automatically analyzes your entire virtual infrastructure and correlates all results with VMware's knowledgebase of known and documented issues, technical communities and blogs , while also leveraging the knowledge of its own team of virtualization experts. Get an overview of all identified problems, symptoms, related results and solution steps. This eliminates the need and your time wasted on troubleshooting, researching and identifying the problem. And the knowledge base is constantly updated, so you don't have to worry about it becoming outdated.

2. Staying up to date with VMware patches

Keeping up with all 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's easy to get behind all the time. The first step in all of this is identification… Then comes remediation…

Runecast helps with both. Runecast automatically analyzes your entire environment and reports on all your gaps. You can then easily formulate a plan and take remedial action if you know the exact patch or update you want to apply.

3. VMware upgrade – planning and success rates

VMware is constantly revising and updating its product offerings. It is difficult to keep track of all version updates to ensure compliance, supportability and control. It's also difficult to keep up with the endless hardware configurations available and their compatibility with each version of vSphere.

Runecast's HCL analysis check does all this for you automatically. You can view a report of your entire environment and the compatibility of each item with the current version. 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 any virtual environment where resources are shared, there will always be limitations and bottlenecks. The nature of the limitation or bottleneck determines whether a single server will have problems or whether many problems will occur.

Runecast finds and identifies where all known problems exist and where your configuration is not aligned with best practices. Each of these processes then allows you to modify the environment to reduce constraints or bottlenecks, which then leads to maximum efficiency.

5. Capacity management

There are a number of products on the market dedicated to managing capacity and optimizing your VMware infrastructure. One approach they can use is to simply try to use more hardware or resources to solve the problem and/or move the problem(s) around in your environment.

Runecast addresses the problem with one at its root. Runecast shows you where you are not configured according to best practice recommendations and illustrates the underlying known issues that will eventually cause interruptions, latency, or problems. You can see the exact nature of the finding, the symptoms to expect, and the steps to take to fix it. This gives you confidence that your environment is optimally configured, rather than throwing more hardware or resources at the problem as usual.

6. Hardware upgrade

Hardware gets old. Mechanical devices fail. Software and operating systems continue to improve and require better hardware. Updating hardware is a necessary task for any IT environment. We generally tend to delay the purchase of new hardware, which makes perfect business sense. But ultimately, this approach is fraught with difficulties.

With Runecast, you can have the health of your server hardware and the cards installed in it constantly checked. Then you can 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 helps you proactively identify when it's time to upgrade your hardware.

7. Keep hardware firmware, bios and I/O device drivers up to date

Everything said in point 2 above applies here as well. The main difference is that you're likely to get away with aging FW and bios versions for longer than you would with patch control. This is also the area that is likely to be most neglected in most environments. Generally, we order hardware and upgrade everything when we get it. Or not. Then we deploy them and ignore them… forever. The problem with this approach is the inevitable failure that occurs over time for which it is almost impossible to find a solution. Some obscure firmware on an I/O device causes a complete cluster or environment failure. It feels like looking for a needle in a haystack when thinking about troubleshooting this device.

Runecast solves all of these problems by quickly, easily and automatically showing you where incompatibilities and outdated versions exist.

8. Keep VMtools up to date

Hm. I'm not sure I've ever managed a VMware environment where all VMtools were up to date on all virtual machines. Maybe after a new upgrade of everything and I took the time. However, then the inevitable would happen again right away, and I would soon find out that it is already outdated again with the next host patch.

Runecast itself will not update your VMtools, but it will report where they need to be updated and show the direct link to any known problems with them.

9. Maintenance of templates

Ugh. The constant need to update templates to include the latest configurations, operating system updates, patches, application updates, permission settings, etc. to consider. You can tell that this is far from my favorite task.

Runecast helps you with best practices on sizing, storage, configurations and everything else at the infrastructure level. Sorry, Runecast doesn't (yet) have a magic button to update the VMs themselves.

10. Security controls / audits

If nothing else, this could be one of the most important aspects, as the impact can be extremely costly to both operations and reputation if left unchecked. But like tax laws, the various complex security standards are extremely difficult to comply with, and new ones are introduced regularly.

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