5 things you need to know about VMware vSphere Alarms

Virtualization is an awesome thing but just like any piece of your IT infrastructure, you need to be alerted when something goes wrong (and ideally, before something goes wrong). VMware vSphere has a powerful alerting or notification system built in called “Alarms” (call them whatever you want but if you want to use them in vSphere, you should start calling them “alarms”). Alarms can be configured to tell you when specific events, conditions, or states occur within the vSphere inventory.

1. vSphere has 33 Pre-Configured and Enabled Alarms

Like many network management systems, I would assume that when you go to the list of alarms in a new vSphere infrastructure, that it would be blank. However, VMware is trying to look out for us by creating 33 pre-configured and already enabled alarms. Almost all of these are configured on ESX hosts and virtual machines but there is one pre-configured alarm on your vSphere storage.

All of these pre-configured alarms are configured at the highest level – the vCenter server

2. Alarms Trickle Down the vSphere Inventory Hierarchy

As I said, the default alarms are configured at the vCenter level. However, vSsphere alarms trickle down the inventory hierarchy. Thus, an alarm defined at the datacenter level for a virtual machine, will apply to all virtual machines in the entire inventory because that alarm “trickles down”. In Figure 2 below, you can see how the alarms on a VM say that they are defined at the vCenter level. The “defined in” link is a link to where the alarm is defined so that if you click on the “vCenter40.wiredbraincoffee.com” in Figure 2, will be taken to the vCenter server level and to that particular alarm.

3. vSphere has a Triggered Alarms and an Alarm Definitions View

Just like Tasks & Events, you will find an Alarms tab at every level of the hosts & clusters inventory, the VMs & Templates, the Datastores inventory, and the Networks inventory. This tells you that alarms can be configured (defined) and triggered at every level of the vSphere infrastructure. For you, as a vSphere Admin, this is a great feature.

Once you select the Alarms tab, you will notice that there are two views. You can view the Triggered Alarms and the Alarm Definitions. As we talked about, in point #1 and #2 in this article, as there are 33 default alarms and they trickle down the inventory hierarchy, it is very likely that you will see defined alarms for just about any inventory item you select. However, it is unlikely that you will see triggered alarms unless your infrastructure has an issue that has triggered a default alarm. As the default alarms are pretty conservative, I highly recommend that you checkout the reason the alarm was triggered as there could be a serious issue you need to resolve.

To create (define) a new alarm, you (obviously) need to go into the Defined alarms view. From there, you can right-click, select New Alarm, and follow the procedure in point #5 of this article. The alarm definitions view will look just like it does in Figure 2.

One more place that you can always go to see alarms is the Triggered Alarm pane at the bottom of the vSphere client. By default, this pane will show only Tasks. Here is where you click to view the triggered alarms in every windows of the vSphere client:

4. vSphere has 8 Alarm Monitoring Types

When you go to create an alarm, as I will walk you through in point #5 below, you will find that there are 8 different vSphere alarm monitoring types. This is important for a couple of reasons. First, these alarm monitoring types tell you what vSphere alarms can monitor (just about everything). Second, these alarm monitoring types must be set right for you to be able to select the right trigger when you get to the second tab on this window, the Triggers tab. In other words, say that you select a Hosts alarm type, when you go into the Triggers tab, you will only see the option to create alarm triggers based on things that would affect hosts.

You won’t have any options to monitor VMs, cluster, datastores, networks, or other inventory items. So, when you go to create your alarm make sure that you are at the right level of the vSphere infrastructure. In other words, if you are going to create an alarm on a VM called “Windows 7”, you need to go to that VM and go to the Alarms tab for that VM. You won’t be able to create an alarm for that VM if you have selected, say, the Datacenter or the cluster that the VM is located in.

5. An Alarm is defined by with a type, trigger, and action

Finally, how do you create an alarm? Simple.

STEP 1 – go to the level of the vSphere infrastructure that you want to create an alarm on. If it is on a particular VM, go to the alarms tab on that VM. If it is for all hosts in the datacenter, go to the datacenter view, then click on alarms.

STEP 2 – go to the Alarm Definitions view

STEP 3 – Right-click and click New Alarm

STEP 4 – Give the alarm a useful and descriptive name (to you and others) and select the correct alarm type

STEP 5 – Select between Monitor for conditions / state and Monitor for specific Events and go to the next tab, Triggers

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5 recession-proof IT skills

The enterprise data center has become the corporate center of attention. If you want in, here are the skills you need to have:

1. Virtualization.
A foundational technology for state-of-the-art IT infrastructures, virtualization skills almost go without saying.

Rick King, CTO at Thomson Reuters, Legal, in Eagan, Minn., puts it this way: “Today people who have spent a lot of time with virtualization technologies can pretty much work any place they want — and that will be true for some period of time, until almost all data centers are running almost everything in a virtual environment.”

2. Services management.
As enterprises shift into the use of public or private cloud service providers, data center personnel need to ratchet up their service management skills, says John Ryan, the global portfolio executive responsible for platform and end user services at technology consulting firm CSC.

“It’s no longer enough to know how to manage the hypervisor and workloads moving across the infrastructure. People have to shift their thinking into an environment where capacity and demand management come together. They have to be skilled in services management,” he explains.

Joanne Kossuth, vice president of operations and CIO for Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Mass., agrees. “Things like software and infrastructure as a service already exist, and some are more highly adopted than others. But five years down the line, it really will be about a combination of these things and data center folks are going to manage all that.”

3. Unified computing.
“The trend today, as it will for the next three to five years, will be unified computing – look at Cisco with its Unified Computing System, HP with BladeSystem Matrix and IBM with its cloud computing strategy,” says Rockwell Bonecutter, data center technology and operations lead for North America at Accenture, a technology services consulting company. “The natural assumption you can derive from that is that this will be the hot button for new skills.”

As such, data center personnel of every ilk must get up to speed on unified compute concepts, principles and architecture, he says. As a result, we’ll have data centers staffed by people who understand how to deliver business value and services rather than only knowing how to add more processing power or storage, for example.

4. Green IT.
Going green is a corporate mandate the world over, and that leaves many IT organizations deciding whether they need a point person for green efforts across the data center, King says. “This professional would focus on deploying green technologies — as well as steering away from deployment of non-green technologies. Because green technologies often improve operational efficiencies, such people would actually pay for themselves over and over again,” he adds.

5. Resource management.
Along the same lines, the ability to finesse conversations between IT and facilities is becoming a critical skill in the data center, says David Cappuccio, managing vice president and chief of research for the infrastructure teams at Gartner. “Building a capacity plan when you don’t take into account energy consumption and heat dissipation is a plan in a vacuum,” he adds. “You need somebody on staff who can actually track these things, talk a facilities language and translate it back to IT.” These skills are sometimes packaged in a position called resource manager or facilities liaison, Cappuccio says.

At Citigroup, they’re wrapped up into a position called data center planning and critical systems engineer, says Jim Carney, executive vice president of data center planning for the New York-based global financial services firm.

In fact, Carney says, “No data center manager I would ever hire could be blind to the facilities side of the business because it’s so integral to their uptime.”