VMworld 2014 – Opening Keynote

Ch-ch-ch-changes – the theme of the VMworld keynote on Monday, August 25th 2014. Robin Matlock, CMO at VMware, opened the keynote as she did the year before. While I think it’s terrific VMware has a woman open the conference, it would be nice if she could be somewhat technical. She made pithy comments such as “change can either be a barrier or an opportunity” and mentioned SDDC, but there was absolutely no technical information for the entire 15 minutes she was speaking. She did mention a pretty cool program they are doing with paper airplanes, however. The idea is to build a paper airplane and fly it. Depending on precision and performance, VMware will donate to any one of five charities (involving children, education, environment, Human Rights, and women and girls). A great idea in my opinion.

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ACI APIC – Building a Fabric

Cisco Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) is a brand new way of networking that allows network engineers and architects to not only implement network virtualization within their data center, but also manage their physical network from the same management console. For more information please see my previous article here or check out the Cisco documentation here. In this article I’m going to use the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller, or APIC, to create an ACI Fabric and start using ACI.

The APIC is essentially the brain of the ACI solution. Most, if not all, of your configuration will be done through the APIC either via the GUI or some other sort of orchestration tool accessing the APIC. The APIC is available now and while it’s a software solution, currently it is shipping on a hardened Cisco UCS C220 M3 server. Every fabric should have at least three APICs in any production environment to provide for redundancy, though you could get away with one APIC in a testing environment.

Fabric Discovery:

To get started with Fabric Discovery, which literally means finding the leaf and spine nodes we need to start with connecting an APIC to a leaf node. We can do this manually or programmatically using the APIs. Let’s go through the manual process here. First we’ll need to login to the APIC by opening a browser and going to the APIC. We’ll then click on the Fabric menu at the top as shown in the figure below.

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Getting Started with SaltStack

I, along with seemingly everyone else, am jumping on the automation bandwagon as much as I possibly can. There are a ton of options out there from vendors and then several open-source(ish) solutions out there as well. In this article I’m going to go through what it takes to get started with SaltStack (or Salt for short). Some opine that Salt is a configuration management tool for the operations side of IT, making the scripting/dev part easier while still maintaining some flexibility and offering some awesome orchestration.

Salt is built for simplicity and is founded on remote execution. It uses what is called a ZeroMQ topology to enable high speed communication. ZeroMQ allows for parallel communication between many nodes in a datacenter.

Salt is similar to Puppet Enterprise in that it runs a master server with clients which in the Salt world is referred to as the Master and Minion roles. For my Salt master I chose to use Ubuntu 14.04. However, there are several options. The following steps are all for Ubuntu, though.

Install Salt

First I added the Salt repository and updated the software packages on the linux VM:

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