From Textile to Tech

Living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA I have caught a glimpse of the city's transformation from it's industrial roots of steel and coal to an economy with a finer focus on medicine, university research, and computer technology.   It is a now a city that is home to driverless cars, biotech firms and tech startups incubated out of Carnegie Mellon.  The city has revitalized itself compared to other depressed Rust Belt cities.

Last week's travel brought me to a another part of the country in which I caught a glimpse of a similar revitalization - Manchester, New Hampshire and Fall River, Massachusetts.  Both being traditional New England river towns, they share a common history, their economic base historically was composed of textile manufacturing.  The standing textile mills of these towns are quite impressive but you won't find many actively manufacturing textiles.  What has replaced them?  Many things I suppose, but I was privileged during my trip to participate in two events which certainly showcase the move of these mills from textile to tech.

150 Dow St. is the home of Dyn - the DNS guys, who started it back in 2001 in Manchester in one of these old textile mills on the river, and were later acquired by Oracle in 2016.  Dyn was this year's host of the New Hampshire TechOut competition.  This is a competition open to New Hampshire startups who, if selected, are afforded the opportunity to pitch before a live audience to share their product and vision.  Six finalists were given the opportunity to present and two were awarded a total of $300,000.  As Greg McHale, the founder and CTO of Datanomix states "TechOUT is a phenomenal event that increases awareness of all the great things happening in New Hampshire's startup ecosystem."  I would have to agree - as I sat in an old mill, the home of a successful startup, watching six others lay down their roots.

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The next day took me to Fall River, Massachusetts.  Situated about 50 miles south of Boston, I remember this town from my childhood where I boarded the USS Massachusetts as a cub scout.  Fall River provided a similar landscape to the night before as an old textile manufacturing town now meets tech.  Fall River is now the home of New England's largest data center, which is owned and operated by Congruity360 - an IT infrastructure services company that itself is transforming itself into a managed service provider.  I was joined by the Gestalt IT team on a private tour of the facility. It is incredibly impressive.  Once an old cotton mill, the 200,00 sq. ft. facility houses over 70,000 sq. ft. of datacenter space with room to grow.  The entire datacenter tour was recorded and is packed with details and historical gems of this building.

What struck me is that Congruity360 is making a solid investment in a regional datacenter and has aggressive plans to leverage this investment in support of their managed services offering.  This is a big deal for the town of Fall River and has certainly caught the attention of local officials including Jasiel Correia, the mayor of Fall River.  Mayor Correia performed the the ribbon cutting of the new facility and expressed the opening of this data center as "an incredible feat, and a big deal for us'.  You can watch his full comments and interview with Stephen Foskett on the Gestalt IT YouTube channel:  https://youtu.be/-jaLVRtkpCk

It was a great couple of days in two cities that most probably know very little about.  Two cities with a rich history and strong roots.  Two cities that are embracing and welcoming the technology ecosystem.  Two cities I hope are able to continue to transform and adapt.

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Disclaimer:  Gestalt IT covered some of my travel and accommodation costs and I was not compensated for my time.  I am not required to blog on any content; blog posts are not edited or reviewed by the respective companies prior to publication.

Nutanix Community Edition & Automation VM (NTNX-AVM) on Ravello

There is nothing that can replace a good home lab for testing and staying relevant with technology, but for me Ravello comes pretty close.  For those not familiar with Ravello it is a "Cloud Application Hypervisor" that allows you to run multi-VM applications on top of any of it's supported clouds (Oracle Public Cloud, Amazon AWS, and Google Cloud Platform).  Through the use of "blueprints" you can easily publish a lab environment to any of Ravello's supported clouds without having to run you own lab at home.  That is of major benefit to me personally because it provides me a low cost & fast way to utilize a lab environment using the blueprints that Ravello makes available in its repository.  Two of my favorites are AutoLab and Nutanix Community Edition (CE).

There are some great resources for using Ravello and in this post I will be focusing on the Nutanix CE blueprint along with a cool new Automation VM (NTNX-AVM) that was recently released by Thomas Findelkind

Installing Nutanix CE on Ravello

Nutanix Community Edition is great blueprint made available by Nutanix on Ravello for use in familiarizing yourself with the Nutanix software and Prism management interface.  It is 100% software, so it is very simple to deploy following a few simple steps which Angelo Luciani captured in a short video.  Here are my abbreviated steps:

1. Add blueprint to my Ravello Account

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2. Publish & Deploy Nutanix CE from blueprint

I like to be sure to publish with an optimization for performance, choosing a cloud location that is close.  You will notice that the CE deploys as a VM with 4 vCPU and 16GB of memory.  Public IP addresses are also assigned so that we can access the application remotely, which we will do in the next step.  Ravello also allows you to see your pricing details to run this blueprint.

3. Validate that your CE application is working appropriately.

Once the Nutanix CE application is published (which can take several minutes depending on what cloud you published to), you will notice that the VM shows in a running state.  You can connect to the Prism web interface remotely by selecting the 'External Access for' sub-interface NIC1/1, and selecting 'Open'.

This will open your web browser attaching to port 9440 on the public address as shown in the image above.  It does take a little bit of time once the CE VM is up and running for Prism to be responsive.  Stay patient. My average wait time is about 15-20 minutes, but I have had take as long as 40 minutes. If you open the browser and see the following message, it is normal - you just need wait for the cluster to be fully available.

You can also ssh into the Nutanix controller VM using ssh nutanix@PublicIPAddress tied to NIC1/1 interface.  The default password is nutanix/4u  If you run a cluster status command it will show you the status of the cluster.

4. Login into Prism and explore what Nutanix can offer.  

The default user name and password for Prism is admin / admin and you will be prompted to change the password and update to the latest release if you would like. Now that we have a running Nutanix CE cluster let's put something useful on it like the NTNX-AVM automation VM.

Adding NTNX-AVM Automation VM to Ravello Blueprint

The Nutanix automation VM (NTNX-AVM) was recently released by Thomas Findelkind and was designed for easy deployment of automation 'recipes' within the context of a VM that can be deployed on and run against a Nutanix cluster.  Once deployed the NTNX-AVM provides golang, git, govc, java, ncli (CE edition), vsphere CLI and some automation scripts the community has developed all preinstalled within a VM running on a Nutanix cluster.  I think would work great within Ravello for testing some automated scripts so let's step through the process for adding it to our application & blueprint.

The full details as well as the code for installing the NTNX-AVM are available on GitHub at https://github.com/Tfindelkind/DCI, but here are my abbreviate steps for getting this up and moving on Ravello:

1. Adding a CentOS VM to my Nutanix CE Application

The NTNX-AVM is deployed using a simple bash script which will do all the heavy lifting.  This script can be run really from anywhere that can communicate with your Nutanix cluster.  I would like to eventually build a docker container for this part of the in but in the meantime an out of band CentOS VM in Ravello will do the trick.  Just so happens Ravello has a vanilla CentOS ready for me to add so that makes it easy.

In order to create and attach to this CentOS VM, a key pair needs to be created and assigned in your Ravello library.  This is easily done and downloaded for future SSH connectivity.  The VM also needs to be published as the Ravello application has been updated.  Once again, something easily done.

Assign the newly create Key Pair RavelloSSH to the CentOS VM

Once the key pair is assigned, the application can be updated to include the CentOS VM.

And we can connect to it by opening an SSH session to it's public IP address

ssh ravello@31.220.71.33 -i RavelloSSH.pem

2. Download and unzip the NTNX-AVM install files and scripts

One of the requirements for running the NTNX-AVM install is that it makes use of genisoiamge/mkisofs which my vanilla install doesn't have so, I need to pull that down after updating my CA certificates to connect to the EPEL package repository.

sudo su
yum --disablerepo=epel -y update ca-certificates
yum install git
git clone https://github.com/Tfindelkind/DCI

You can verify that all of the files have been dowloaded

3. Update the config for the CentOS recipe to deploy NTNX-AVM

Since we are using CentOS to deploy our NTNX-AVM, we need to modify the  -> "/recipes/NTNX-AVM/v1/CentOS7/config" to specify the parameters of our environment.  Things like the VM name, IP for VM, Nameserver, etc.  A quick look at the network canvas within Ravello shows us how things are connected.

In our case the Ravello application is working on the 10.1.1.x / 24 network so I will modify the configuration file accordingly.

vi ./DCI/recipes/NTNX-AVM/v1/CentOS7/config

My completed configuration file looks like this, were the new NTNX-AVM will have a 10.1.1.200 IP address assigned to it.

 

[root@CentOS63vanilla DCI]# cat recipes/NTNX-AVM/v1/CentOS7/config

name="NTNX-AVM"
desc="+Golang1.7+git+govc+java8u60+ncliCE+vSphere-CLI-6.0.0+dshearer/jobber1.1+Tfindelkind/automation"
cloud_image="CentOS-7-x86_64-GenericCloud-1606.qcow2"
cloud_image_download="http://cloud.centos.org/centos/7/images/CentOS-7-x86_64-GenericCloud-1606.qcow2"
VM-NAME="NTNX-AVM"
VM-IP="10.1.1.200"
VM-NET="10.1.1.0"
VM-MASK="255.255.255.0"
VM-BC="10.1.1.255"
VM-GW="10.1.1.1"
VM-NS="10.1.1.1"
VM-USER="nutanix"
VM-PASSWORD="nutanix\/4u"
VCENTER_IP="10.1.1.80"
VCENTER_USER="root"
VCENTER_PASSWORD="nutanix\/4u"

4. Deploy the NTNX-AVM

Now that the prep work is wrapped up, it is time to run create a place to put our NTNX-AVM on the Nutanix CE cluster and run the dci.sh script from our CentOS VM to deploy it.  First we will create a new storage container called 'prod' within Prism, as well as configure a network it can use.

Then we will run the dci.sh script.  The full syntax of the script can be found in Thomas' writeup.  The syntax and settings I used are as follows, with the 10.1.1.11 being the IP address of the Nutanix CVM and prod being the container we are saving the VM to.

./dci.sh --recipe=NTNX-AVM --rv=v1 --ros=CentOS7 --host=10.1.1.11 --username=admin --password=nutanix/4u --container=prod --vlan=VLAN0 --vm-name=NTNX-AVM

The dci.sh script will do the following:

  • First it will download the cloud image from a CentOS. Then it will download the deploy_cloud_vm binary.
  • It will read the recipe config file and generate a cloud seed CD/DVD image. Means all configuration like IP,DNS,.. will be saved into this CD/DVD image called “seed.iso”.
  • DCI will upload the CentOS image and seed.iso to the AHV image service.
  • The NTNX-AVM VM will be created based on the CentOS image and the seed.iso will be connected to the CD-ROM. At the first boot all settings will be applied. This is called the NoCloud deployment based on cloud-init. This will only work with cloud-init ready images.
  • The NTNX-AVM will be powered on and all configs will be applied.
  • In the background all tools/scripts will be installed
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After the script is complete we can see that our NTNX-AVM is deployed on our Nutanix CE cluster but it is powered off.  This is because we are working with limited memory in our Ravello environment, so the memory on our VM needs to be adjusted from 2GB down to 1GB. 

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Once that adjustment is made, the VM powers on nicely for it to complete it's configuration and tools/scripts installation.  We can check the status of this final process by simply connecting via ssh to the NTNX-AVM IP, which is 10.1.1.200 in my case.  We can check the /var/log/cloud-init-output.log to see our progress and make sure that all tools are fully installed because this is done in the background after the first boot.

So let’s check if /var/log/cloud-init-output.log will show something like:

We know everything is complete when we see the 'The NTNX-AVM is finally up after NNN seconds." message.

5. Using the Nutanix Automation VM: NTNX-AVM

Now that we have a working NTNX-AVM, we have access to a number of great automation tools with more coming thanks to Thomas' automation scripts.  To be sure all is good, let's utilize an ncli command on the NTNX-AVM to check our cluster status.

ssh nutanix@10.1.1.200
cli -s 10.1.1.11 -u admin
cluster status

I look forward to using this new addition to my Ravello Nutanix CE blueprint for future automation.

Heading to Tech Field Day

We all have those moments during our day, week, month or year that we absolutely look forward to.  Morning coffee, 3:00 Friday afternoons, summer vacation, an upcoming conference.  Tech Field Day has worked its way into my 'something I look forward to' category.  I honestly love hitting the do not disturb button, firing up the browser, logging into twitter, throwing the headphones in, and connecting up to the live stream.  I have found myself camped out in the lab, a remote part of the datacenter, hotel rooms, and sometimes in the convenience of my home office to take in all of the TFD goodness.

Some folks like reality television, sitcoms, or bing watching their favorite series - but for me, I must admit Tech Field Day provides for me a simliar level of enjoyment.  Maybe it is the thrill of being "front and center" and catching the latest in what the industry has to offer.  Maybe it's the joy of the "damn that is cool" or "why didn't I think of that" thoughts that cross my mind.  Maybe it is the guilty pleasure of watching the interaction between the delegates and the presenters, anticipating what is going to happen next.  Maybe it is spontaneity of the whole thing - like the nerf gun war during the Pure presentation, which I still remember to this day.  Maybe it is the "ah ha" moments and realizing just how much I don't know and jotting down a bunch of things I need to go learn about.  I am sure it is a combination of all of the above.

Last year, I was fortunate to engage with TFD in a new way, and participate first hand at TFD Xtra at VMworld as a presenter for DataGravity, which was an absolute highlight.  Once getting warmed up and getting a few of the nerves out (which goes along with sitting in the proverbial "hot seat"), I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  It was a blast to share customer stories, dialogue and answer questions from the delegates, as well as  listen and gather input.  TFD provides such a valuable format for all those involved and as I have seen directly the impact it makes for a presenting company, with new features and functions being introduced as a result of delegate feedback.

And so now, in less then two weeks I have been invited to participate in yet a new way to this series of events for which I have become so fond.  It is an absolute privilege to be asked to participate as a delegate at the upcoming Storage Field Day 10.  Sometimes I have to pinch myself that all of this is happening but not for too long, as there is some good work to be done. After all, this is my rookie debut as a delegate and so some solid preparation is required - like reading the newbie FAQs, reviewing past presentations from the tech vendor lineup, and catching up on some rest before the event.

To state that I am excited would be a major understatement.  What a great opportunity to engage with TFD in a new way, with a new perspective, working alongside amazing delegates - all while learning about some of the great new innovations coming out of the tech community.  My geek tank is full.  See you in Silicon Valley or on the twitter stream at #SFD10

 

Disclaimer: I am attending Storage Field Day 10 as a guest of GestaltIT and they paid for travel and accommodations. I have not been compensated for my time and am not obliged to blog.