An ode to joy – or why you don’t have to mourn the free ESXi

An ode to joy, or why you don’t have to mourn the free ESXi. An obituary.

But before I go into depth here, I would like to declare the following:

This blog post is reflecting my personal opinion. Based on my knowledge and experience, as well as the things I have read on the internet and heard from people directly and discussed with them, I have written this blog post.

The title of this blog post says a lot. At least I think so. And I’m glad you stumbled across this blog post or clicked the link wherever it has been posted. In the last few days, there has been a lot of reading about the fact that VMware by Broadcom has canceled the free ESXi hypervisor. And yes, that may not be the fine English way to mash such a product. I don’t even know if there is a “good” way to do something like that.

Yes. It’s bad that the “free ESXi” has been canceled. At least according to what I read about on X (Twitter) and some IT news portals. People were (and still are) angry about this move of thinning out the product portfolio. I never used this free version, and I wasn’t even aware that this was such a big thing. But that doesn’t count here.

Yes. There are alternative hypervisors, like Hyper-V, Proxmox, and others, and they are free. You can run virtual machines even on storage systems like TrueNAS or Unraid (the last one does cost some bucks). And a free hypervisor, I don’t care about the flavor, might be just enough for some people. They may run a homelab with some VMs, maybe some production services for their home network like Pi-Hole, to name one.

But this is it.

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Happy New Year 2024

Last year I didn’t write such a Happy New Year blog post. I don’t know why. Maybe I didn’t had the time, or I just wasn’t in the mood. Or maybe a combination of both (and/or more factors).

Over the last two years I have had the joy and honor of celebrating some personal firsts:

  • I earned my first VMware VCP certification
  • I married my girlfriend
  • We built a house (we moved together earlier, but that wasn’t part of the past two years)
  • We became parents
  • We still have cats (ok, not a first, but the cats wanted to be mentioned here too…)
  • And some other things

To be honest, I don’t know why im listing these things here. Maybe these (and some other things) were more important than blogging. Well, I would even bet that they were for sure more important than blogging. I’m usually sharing only tech things here, mainly focusing on virtualization, and some times cloud, but rarely personal things and thoughts. So, that’s then a “personal first” too I think.

But anyway. Back to topic.

I hope that your wishes come true and that you find the courage to take new steps. For 2024, I wish you and your loved ones all the best. And I hope to see you soon!

Happy New Year!

My Top 10 Posts in 2023

Another year is coming to an end, it’s 2023 and the beginning of another year. With this blog article, I’d like to present to you my Top 10 posts of 2023. Surprisingly, the Top 10 blog posts are not all from this or last year. Obviously, people are still searching for solutions for problems they have with some “old” stuff, or they are looking for solutions to problems they have in their current infrastructure. I hope that my blog posts will help the people out there in the tech community solve their problems. I’ll do my best to keep on doing my work and sharing my knowledge.

10. How to add a new host to a vSAN cluster

During late summer this year I did some vSAN experiments in my homelab. Three blog posts about vSAN made it into the top 10 of 2023. The linked blog post shows you how to add a new (an additional) ESXi host to your vSAN cluster.

9. VMware – Clone a VM with snapshots (and consolidate it)

Some “vmkfstools” adventure to recover a VM that had a snapshot that wasn’t cleanly deleted.

8. Backup and Restore vCenter Server Appliance

This blog post covers the backup and recovery of the vCenter server appliance. An easy-to-follow guide.

7. My homelab hardware gets its own rack

Well, at least the Tweet I published for this blog post has (as per December 2023) more than 24’000 impressions. It looks like people like hardware, and also DIY stuff.

6. Changing FRU information on Supermicro servers

Probably worth a rewrite or at least an update. But back in the days I had an issue with one of my Supermicro servers. The information stored in the BIOS were not correct. This blog post shows you how to fix this by flashing the correct information into the BIOS.

5. “Starting drivers, please wait” – An HPE adventure story

This was one strange issue! Back in the day when I was working at a solution provider, a customer reported an issue. His ESXi hosts have lost connectivity to a storage system. It took some time to solve, and it was a good experience.

4. How to reset the ESXi root password?

It is sometimes necessary to reset the ESXi root password. The “officially” supported way to reset the ESXi root password is to reinstall the host from scratch. But the magic in this blog post is called “host profiles”.

3. How to shut down a vSAN cluster – and start it again

One of three blog posts related to vSAN made it to the third place of 2023. How to shut down the vSAN cluster and start it again, properly.

2. An easy way to quickly migrate a VMware VM to Synology VMM

On the second place of 2023, there is this post on how to quickly migrate a VMware VM to the Synology Virtual Machine Manager (VMM).

1. How to remove a host from a vSAN cluster

And the first place winner for my Top 10 blog posts in 2023 another vSAN blog post! It shows you how to remove a host from a vSAN cluster.

Storage performance upgrade – and how to make use of Vmknic binding

It’s been a while now (exactly two years and one month), since I bought my last Synology NAS, both for homelab and personal/private usage. Why did I buy a new NAS? There are some requirements that my new NAS had to fulfill:

  • Capable of 10 Gigabit Ethernet (integrated or with an addon card)
  • Enough slots for disks (at least five)
  • Two NVMe slots for using NVMe SSDs as read/write cache (integrated or with an addon card)
  • Can be used for homelab storage, as well as backup storage for home computers, laptops, etc.

When looking for that one NAS that could handle all of the above, I stumbled across the Synology DS1621xs+. Synology launched it in September 2020, and I ordered it about two months later.

Some of the technical specifications of the NAS:

  • It has 2 x M.2 2280 NVMe slots
  • It comes with 8 GB DDR4 ECC SODIMM (expandable up to 32 GB, and yes I upgraded to 32 GB)
  • It is equipped with an Intel Xeon D-1527 4-core 2.2 GHz CPU that has a Turbo Boost up to 2.7 GHz
  • In terms of connectivity, there are two 1 GbE and one 10 GbE RJ-45 ports
  • If you fancy, you could install some PICe card (the NAS has one 8-lane x8 slot), but I don’t know why or what
  • And you can install up to six 3.5″ or 2.5″ drives

So that’s the basics covered. Let’s get back to the topic.

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vExpert Applications are open

The vExpert applications for 2024 are open now. Nice! But what is this?

Some vendors have special programs for the IT folks around the world. These programs are designed for ambassadors and evangelists. Microsoft with its MVP, Veeam with the Vanguards, and many more.

As benefits, you may get early access to beta versions, marketing information, they help you promote your blog posts and many other great things. The VMware vExpert program is VMware’s global evangelism and advocacy program.

There is no certification exam for becoming a vExpert, no course requirement. It is kind of an award or an accreditation. You have to apply for the vExpert program, and a committee will review your application, and then accept your application or reject it.

Do I have what it takes?

Yes! The vExpert program is about “giving back”. You work in your job, you do great things, and help your users and customers. You’ve got experience in IT technology and working for some years already in that area. You may work at VMware, at a partner, or you may be a VMware customer.

Giving back means sharing your knowledge. Did you fix a problem? Blog about it! Did you set up a new solution for a customer? You may speak about it at VMworld! If you’re not a writer, then there are various groups on social media, or you can find forums like the VMTN (and many other non VMware related forums). There are a lot of users, both partners, and customers, asking for help. Help them with your experience and knowledge! You may have written a book about VMware solutions, or you’re focusing on a specific VMware product. Maybe you are a public speaker or a VMUG leader. You have the knowledge, you have experience, share it!

How can I apply?

It is very easy to apply. There are two applications per year. One is starting during the summertime, and one is starting in early December. Both application windows are open for some days. After this period, the committee will close the applications and start their voting. This may take some time too. The results for the December applications are usually announced in February, the summer application will be announced somewhen in August.

If you’re already a vExpert or even a VCDX, you have to reapply. There are also vExpert sub-programs, like Application Modernization, HCX, Cloud Management, and many others, that you can apply for if you’ve been awarded a vExpert.

The December vExpert applications are open now, and the results will be announced in February 2024 (my guess). And it might be one of the most eagerly awaited emails, at least if you read about it on some blogs, or see it popping up on Twitter.

Click here to apply for vExpert 2024!

Can I get help?

Yes! VMware announced the vExpert PRO program. There are more than 100 vExpert PROs around the world that are helping you. They can help you with mentoring, tell you what you have to do, and outline the process of the applications. Just reach out to the vExpert PRO close to your area!

What benefits can I get from the vExpert program?

If you check the list on the vExpert website, you can see that there are a lot of benefits. I’m not listing every point here, but I’d like to mention at least some of them.

You will be part of a global network roughly 1600 other vExperts. They are on social media, Twitter, active on blogs and forums. There is also a Slack channel for vExperts. You’ll get a certificate signed by the VMware CEO. One of my personal favorites is the access to 365 day eval licenses for most of the VMware products, like vSphere, vSAN, etc. Throughout the year, you got the opportunity to join private webinars with VMware partners. You will be featured on the vExpert Directory. Also before VMware Explorer (former VMworld), there are pre-launch briefings for bloggers, which means that you may get a sneak peek at some products or announcements. Also, at the VMware Explore event, there will be vExpert parties both in the US and Europe locations. And I tell you, these parties are awesome!

My personal view

I’m working for about 23 years in IT now, including my apprenticeship. I learned many things, and I’m still learning. I had the chance to gain insights into different industries during my work. When I was awarded a vExpert for the first time, I felt honored. It meant a lot to me to be one of only a few hundred to receive such an award. It showed also that my efforts are worth it, and that they have been noticed. I was working on a partner level for many years, helped my customers to build their infrastructure, helped them with troubleshooting. Now, I’m working at a customer, fighting with daily business problems, architecting data centers, migrating workloads, and designing cloud concepts. I just recently applied to a new job and switched my focus from managing datacenters to managing VMware Horizon VDI workloads. But I still have strong bounds to the datacenter, as I am an infrastrucutre guy, and will ever be an infrastructure guy.

Some people kept smiling at my vExpert status because they didn’t believe in certifications, accreditations, etc. But that didn’t bother me. I did my thing. I wrote blog posts, and I still write (even if not as often or regularly as I want). I’m active in forums and help people with troubleshooting. And I’ve always stood up for one thing. I’m grateful for becoming a vExpert, it meant a lot to me, and it still does.

Personally, I have the feeling that, especially in contact with technical support, it enables a different level of communication if the other person recognizes my status as vExpert. A problem may escalate upwards faster, and you may have faster access to 3rd level support. Things like this. But also during projects, when I’m in contact with internal customers and external consultants, they recognize my status and see that I’m not just some random IT technician or IT dude. I know some stuff, I’m experienced, and someone voted for me so I could become a vExpert. As mentioned, it’s not a certification exam you can learn for. It is the personal commitment that shines through here.