Archive for February 2015

What’s new in vSphere 5.5


What’s new in vSphere 5.5

I needed to go through these after realising my certifications were due to expire. I was able to take the VCP5-DCV Delta Exam (VCP550D) exam with Pearson Vue which is a little cheaper for those of you with existing qualifications. See the VMware site and log into your myvmware account to check the status of your existing qualifications.

A brief summary with key points on all features

  • Hot-Pluggable PCIe SSD Devices

PCIe stands for Peripheral Component Interconnect Express. These high performance Solid State Drives can be used for local storage in ESXi. The ability to hot add has always been there with SAS and SATA and is now expanded to support SSDs. Being able to provide this functionality is of great benefit to Administrators in reducing downtime to a host system in the event of a disk failure or even to be able to add an SSD drive. PCIe is a serial based technology which means information can be sent over the bus in 2 directions at once. Each lane in PCIe can transmit in both directions at the same time. Standard PCI is parallel based technology which means all data goes in one directions around a loop. Bandwidth is not shared the same way in PCIe opposed to PCI so there is less bus congestion.

Reliable Memory Technology

This is a CPU Hardware feature that ESXi can use to place the VMkernel on a region of memory which is reported as being more reliable. ESXi runs directly in memory therefore protecting it and reducing the risk of memory errors whilst increasing resiliency will provide this protection. Hostd, Initial Thread and Watchdog are also protected. The vmware-hostd management service is the main communication channel between ESX/ESXi hosts and VMkernel. The vmware-watchdog process watches over hostd and restarts it if it detects that hostd is no longer running.

Enhancements to CPU C-States

In vSphere 5.1 and earlier, the balanced policy for host power management leveraged only the performance state (P-state), which kept the processor running at a lower frequency and voltage. In vSphere 5.5, the deep processor power state (C-state) also is used, providing additional power savings. Another potential benefit of reduced power consumption is with inherent increased performance, because turbo mode frequencies on Intel chipsets can be reached more quickly while other CPU cores in the physical package are in deep C-states.


Virtual Machine Compatibility with VMware ESXi 5.5

  • LSI SAS support for Oracle Solaris 11 OS
  • Enablement for new CPU architectures
  • New advanced host controller interface (AHCI) This new virtual-SATA controller supports both virtual disks and CD-ROM devices that can
    connect up to 30 devices per controller, with a total of four controllers
  • Hardware-accelerated 3D graphics – (vSGA) Virtual shared graphics acceleration (vSGA) support inside of a virtual machine. The existing support was limited to only NVIDIA-based GPUs. With vSphere 5.5, vSGA support has been expanded to include both NVIDIA- and AMD-based GPUs


  • There are three supported rendering modes for a virtual machine configured with a vSGA: automatic, hardware and software accessed by editing the settings of a VM

Graphics Acceleration for Linux Guests

VMware is the first to develop a new guest driver that accelerates the entire Linux graphics stack for modern Linux distributions. This means that any modern GNU/Linux distribution can package the VMware guest driver and provide out-of-the-box support for accelerated graphics without any additional tools or package installation

vCenter Single Sign-On

The following vCenter Single Sign-On enhancements have been made.

  • Simplified deployment – A single installation model for customers of all sizes is now offered.
  • Enhanced Microsoft Active Directory integration – The addition of native Active Directory support enables cross-domain authentication with one and two-way trusts common in multidomain environments.
  • Built from the ground up, this architecture removes the requirement of a database and now delivers a multimaster authentication solution with built-in replication and support for multiple tenants.

vSphere Web Client

  • Full client support for Mac OS X is now available in the
    vSphere Web Client.
  • Administrators now can drag and drop objects from the center panel onto the vSphere inventory, enabling them to quickly perform bulk actions
  • Administrators can now select properties on a list of displayed objects and selected filters to meet specific search criteria
  • Recent Items. Similar to what you find on Windows desktops , this feature allows you to go back to recently accessed objects

vCenter Server Appliance

The previous embedded database had certain limitations which caused it’s adoption to be less widely taken up. The vCenter Server Appliance addresses this with a re-engineered, embedded vPostgres database that can now support as many as 100 vSphere hosts or 3,000 virtual machines (with appropriate sizing)

vSphere App HA

In earlier versions App HA used virtual machine monitoring, which checks for
the presence of “heartbeats” from VMware Tools as well as I/O activity from the virtual machine. In vSphere 5.5, VMware has introduced vSphere App HA. This new feature works in conjunction with vSphere HA host monitoring and virtual
machine monitoring to further improve application uptime. vSphere App HA can be configured to restart an application service when an issue is detected. It is possible to protect several commonly used, off-the-shelf applications. vSphere HA can also reset the virtual machine if the application fails to restart.

vSphere App HA

vSphere App HA uses VMware vFabric Hyperic to monitor applications. VMware vFabric Hyperic is an agent-based monitoring system that automatically collects metrics on the performance and availability of hardware resources, operating systems, middleware and applications in physical, virtualized and cloud environments. It requires the provisioning of 2 appliances

  • vSphere App HA virtual appliance stores and manages vSphere App HA policies.
  • vFabric Hyperic monitors applications and enforces vSphere App HA policies
  • Hyperic agents then need to be installed in the virtual machines containing applications that will be protected by vSphere App HA
  • Includes policies to manage timings and resetting options


vSphere HA Compatibility with DRS Anti-Affinity Rules

vSphere HA will now obey DRS anti-affinity rules when restarting virtual machines.  If you have anti-affinity rules defined in DRS that keep selected virtual machines on separate hosts, VMware HA will now keep to those rules when restarting virtual machines following a host failure

vSphere Data Protection

  • Direct-to-host emergency restore: vSphere Data Protection can be used to restore a virtual machine directly to a vSphere host without the need for vCenter Server and vSphere Web Client. This is especially helpful when using vSphere Data Protection to protect vCenter Server.
  • Backup and restore of individual virtual machine hard disks (.vmdk files): Individual .vmdk files can be selected for backup and restore operations.
  • Replication to EMC Avamar: vSphere Data Protection replicates backup data to EMC Avamar to provide offsite backup data storage for disaster recovery.
  • Flexible storage placement: When deploying vSphere Data Protection, separate datastores can be selected for the OS partition and backup data partition of the virtual appliance.
  • Mounting of existing backup data storage to new appliance: An existing vSphere Data Protection backup data partition can be mounted to a new vSphere Data Protection virtual appliance during deployment.
  • Scheduling granularity: Backup and replication jobs can be scheduled at specific times; for example. Backup Job 1 at 8:45 p.m., Backup Job 2 at 11:30 p.m., and Replication Job 1 at 2:15 a.m.

vSphere Big Data Extensions (BDE)

BDE is a new addition in vSphere 5.5 for VMware vSphere Enterprise Edition
and VMware vSphere Enterprise Plus Edition. BDE is a tool that enables administrators to deploy and manage Hadoop clusters on vSphere. BDE is
based on technology from Project Serengeti, the VMware open-source virtual Hadoop management tool.

  • Creates, deletes, starts, stops and resizes clusters
  • Controls resource usage of Hadoop clusters
  • Specifies physical server topology information
  • Manages the Hadoop distributions available to BDE users
  • Automatically scales clusters based on available resources and in response to other workloads on the vSphere cluster
  • Hadoop clusters can be protected easily using vSphere HA and VMware vSphere Fault Tolerance


Support for 62TB VMDK

The previous limit was 2TB—512 bytes. The new limit is 62TB. The maximum size of a virtual Raw Device Mapping (RDM) is also increasing, from 2TB—512 bytes to 62TB. Virtual machine snapshots also support this new size for delta
disks that are created when a snapshot is taken of the virtual machine.

Microsoft Cluster Service (MSCS)

  • Microsoft Windows 2012
  • Round-robin path policy for shared storage. changes were made concerning the SCSI locking mechanism used by MSCS when a failover of services occurs. New path policy, changes have been implemented that make it irrelevant which path is used to place the SCSI reservation; any path can free the reservation.
  • iSCSI protocol for shared storage
  • Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE) protocol for shared storage

16GB E2E FC Support

In vSphere 5.5, VMware introduces 16Gb end-to-end FC support. Both the HBAs and array controllers can run at 16Gb as long as the FC switch between the initiator and target supports it.

PDL AutoRemove

Permanent device loss (PDL) is a situation which occurs when a disk device either fails or is removed from the vSphere host in an uncontrolled way. PDL detects if a disk device has been permanently removed that is, the device will not return based on SCSI sense codes. When the device enters this PDL state, the vSphere host can take action to prevent directing any further, unnecessary I/O to this device. This alleviates other conditions that might arise on the host as a result of this unnecessary I/O. The PDL feature automatically removes a device from a host when it enters a PDL state. Because vSphere hosts have a limit of 255 disk devices per host, a device that is in a PDL state can no longer accept I/O but can still occupy one of the available disk device spaces. Therefore, it is better to remove the device from the host.
PDL AutoRemove occurs only if there are no open handles left on the device. The auto-remove takes place when the last handle on the device closes. If the device recovers, or if it is re-added after having been inadvertently removed, it will be treated as a new device.

vSphere Replication

At the primary site, migrations now move the persistent state files that contain pointers to the changed blocks along with the VMDKs in the virtual machine’s home directory, thereby removing the need for a full synchronization. This means that replicated virtual machines can now be moved between datastores, by vSphere Storage vMotion or vSphere Storage DRS, without incurring a penalty on the replication. The retention of the .psf means that the virtual machine can be brought to the new datastore or directory while retaining its current replication data and can continue with the procedure and with the “fast suspend/resume” operation of moving an individual VMDK.


A new feature is introduced in vSphere 5.5 that enables retention of historical points in time. The old redo logs are not discarded; instead, they are retained and cleaned up on a schedule according to the MPIT retention policy.

VAAI UNMAP Improvements

vSphere 5.5 introduces a new and simpler VAAI UNMAP/Reclaim command:

  • esxcli storage vmfs unmap
  • The ability to specify the reclaim size in blocks rather than as a percentage value; dead space can now be reclaimed in increments rather than all at once

VMFS Heap Improvements

In vSphere 5.5, VMware introduces a much improved heap eviction process, so there is no need for the larger heap size, which consumes memory. vSphere 5.5, with a maximum of 256MB of heap, enables vSphere hosts to access all address space of a 64TB VMFS

vSphere Flash Read Cache

vSphere Flash Read Cache enables the pooling of multiple Flash-based devices into a single consumable vSphere construct called vSphere Flash Resource, which is consumed and managed in the same way as CPU and memory are done today in vSphere.
The vSphere Flash Read Cache infrastructure is responsible for integrating the vSphere hosts’ locally attached Flash-based devices into the vSphere storage stack. This integration delivers a Flash management platform that enables the pooling of Flash-based devices into a vSphere Flash Resource.


Link Aggregation Protocol Enhancements

  • Comprehensive load-balancing algorithm support – 22 new hashing algorithm options are available. For example, source and destination IP address and VLAN field can be used as the input for the hashing algorithm.
  • Support for multiple link aggregation groups (LAGs) – 64 LAGs per host and 64 LAGs per VMware vSphere VDS.
  • Because LACP configuration is applied per host, this can be very time consuming for large deployments. In this release, new workflows to configure LACP across a large number of hosts are made available through templates.

Traffic Filtering enhancements

The vSphere Distributed Switch now supports packet classification and filtering based on MAC SA and DA qualifiers, traffic type qualifiers (i.e. vMotion, Management, FT), and IP qualifiers (i.e. protocol, IP SA, IP DA, and port number).

Quality of Service Tagging

Two types of Quality of Service (QoS) marking/tagging common in networking are 802.1p Class of Service

  • (CoS) Class of Service applied on Ethernet/layer 2 packets
  • (DSCP) Differentiated Service Code Point, applied on IP packets. In vSphere 5.5, the DSCP marking support enables users to insert tags in the IP header. IP header–level tagging helps in layer 3 environments, where physical routers function better with an IP header tag than with an Ethernet header tag.

SR-IOV Enhancements

Single-root I/O virtualization (SR-IOV) is a standard that enables one PCI Express (PCIe) adapter to be presented as multiple, separate logical devices to virtual machines.

  • A new capability is introduced that enables users to communicate the port group properties defined on the vSphere standard switch (VSS) or VDS to the virtual functions. The new control path through VSS and VDS communicates the port group–specific properties to the virtual functions. For example, if promiscuous mode is enabled in a port group, that configuration is then passed to virtual functions, and the virtual machines connected to the port group will receive traffic from other virtual machines.

Enhanced Host Level Performance

  • An enhanced host-level packet capture tool is introduced. The packet capture tool is equivalent to the command-line tcpdump tool available on the Linux platform.
  • This tool is part of the vSphere platform and can be accessed through the vSphere host cmd prompt
  • Can capture dropped packets
  • Can trace the path of a packet with time stamp details
  • Can capture traffic on VSS and VDS
  • Captures packets at the following levels
    ––Virtual switch port

40Gb NIC Support

vSphere 5.5 provides support for 40Gb NICs.  In 5.5 the functionality is limited to the Mellanox ConnectX-3 VPI adapters configured in Ethernet mode.


  • 320 physical CPUs
  • 4TB Memory
  • 16 Numa nodes
  • 4906 vCPUs per ESXi host

Excel 2010: Not enough system resources to display completely


The Problem

When opening an Excel file or running calculations within an Excel file, you may get the following error


This is a very miscellaneous error and one that is not easily solved sometimes but here are a few things to try

  1. If you have any COM add-ins installed, un-install them unless they are absolutely required or just untick them to test.  COM add-ins are a special type of add-in written in machine language. They are often installed without explicit approval.  COM add-ins are often reported as causing memory problems
  2. To see if you have multiple sessions open, press CTL-ALT-DELETE and check how any Excel applications are running.  There should be just one running. If a new Excel session opens each time you double click on a workbook, try unchecking the Excel Option “Ignore other applications” if it is checked on the Options General tab.
  3. Excel may think your worksheets are larger than you do.  This can consume a lot of memory. Normally your scroll area controlled by the scroll bars is very small.  However, sometimes Excel thinks there are cells well below your used range. One way is to check where Excel thinks the last cell is located.  Do this by pressing CTRL+SHIFT+END.  If it well below your used range, then select all “unused” columns in this range and delete them. Then select all unused rows in this range and delete them .  Then close and re-open Excel
  4. Install the latest upgrades to your version of Office.
  5. You can try deleting temp files. There is a nice piece of software called Temp File Deleter
  6. If you are using Google Desktop Search, un-install it.  Google Desktop Search appears to be a memory hog and has been reported to interfere with Microsoft Excel.  Specifically, it installs a COM add-in that monitors every action in Excel so that it can index it which can slow everything down
  7. If you are using Excel 2010-2013, click File, Options, Advanced, and go to the General section. Check if you have an alternate startup folder and check its content, and remove anything you do not need
  8. Check and see if you have an un-needed add-in or workbook in your XLSTART folder. This folder may vary location wise depending on local and roaming profiles
  9. Delete your XLB file. (Search for *.XLB) It can become corrupt but cause no visible problems. If corrupt it can consume lots of memory. Excel will recreate, but button customization will be lost.  This is a file where Excel stores its toolbar settings.   To delete it, use the XLB File Deleter which is a free product. There have been reports that doing this will solve problems.
  10. Your printer or its driver may be causing the problem.  HP printers have a history of causing a memory problem with Excel.  We do not know if HP fixed the problem and it may still be around or surfacing again.  Change your default printer if you have other printers available as a test
  11. Use of macros that do very extensive file creating, data manipulation, and graphing have been known to cause memory leak problems. Such macros are ones that typically run for 30 minutes or longer.
  12. If you have Track Changes turned on in Excel, turn off Track Changes as it uses a fair amount of memory.  The default is Off.
  13. Turn off AutoRecovery, as this takes up Excel memory.  However, have a backup if you do. To turn off AuoRecovery go to File,Options, Save. Uncheck Auto Recovery
  14. Problems in your application data folder for Excel can be the cause.  The folder is typically “c:\documents and settings\%username%\application data\microsoft\excel”.  This is a hidden folder, so set your Explorer options to show hidden folders. After backing up, rename or delete this folder and its subfolders.  Reboot the machine and open Excel.  Excel will recreate the folder and needed contents.
  15. Run the following 2 commands. “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\excel.exe” /unregserver and “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\OFFICE11\excel.exe” /regserver. (Change the number 11 to 12 for Excel 2007, 14 for Excel 2010 and 15 for Excel 2013) These commands remove most of the Excel registry entries and then resets them.  However, they do leave some residual settings.
  16. A more extensive way to clean the registry is to rename the Excel registry key and let Excel recreate it. It depends on the version of Excel.  First, close Excel.  Then do Run, Regedit and go to the Excel registry key.  It will be “HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Office\%version_number%\Excel”
    where %version_number% is 11 for Excel 2003, 12 for Excel 2007, 14 for Excel 2010 and 15 for Excel 2013. Rename this to OldExcel (this will back it up). Then re-open Excel.  Excel will rebuild the registry entry.  You will need to manually install any needed add-ins
  17. It may be the case that the Server or PC that Excel is running on needs more memory or that you need to close other running apps which may be interfering with Excel or taking up more memory that Excel needs
  18. Try opening Excel in Safe Mode. For example C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\Excel.exe /s
  19. Try opening Excel whilst holding the shift key down to stop any macros from executing or type Click Start, Run, “C:\Program Files\Microsoft Office\Office\Excel.exe” /Automation



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