Monthly Archives: March 2011

VCAP-DCA Study notes–7.3 vShield Zones

vShield Zones is basically a firewall framework to protect your VMs without requiring external or hardware based firewalls. It requires Advanced or higher licencing. For study I’d suggest going through Eric Siebert’s blogposts (part one, two, and three) to start with (they cover real world issues) and then getting stuck into the official docs – they cover everything on the blueprint. There’s quite a bit to learn making this is one of the larger objectives on the VCAP-DCA blueprint.

NOTE: vShield Zones is NOT the same as vShield App, Edge, and Endpoint so make sure you download the right version. The VCAP-DCA exam only covers v1.0 of vShield Zones (not the most recent v4.1) and doesn’t cover the more feature rich vShield App Suite. See VMware’s product page for more details.


  • Identify vShield Zones components
  • Identify the four CLI command modes

Skills and Abilities

  • Configure vShield Zones
  • Backup and restore vShield Manager Data
  • Backup CLI Configuration
  • Create/Delete Layer 2/3/4 firewall rules using VM Wall
  • Install/Uninstall a vShield manually and from template
  • Configure vShield Manager plug?in capability
  • Configure VM Flow charts
  • Update vShield Zones
  • Add/Edit/Delete User Accounts
  • Assign rights to a user
  • Add/Delete Application?Port Pair mapping
  • Execute/Schedule Execution of virtual machine discovery
  • Utilize vShield Zones CLI commands to configure and monitor vShield Zones
  • Analyze traffic using VM Flow to determine root cause of network related issues

Installing vShield Zones

Deployed as an appliance with two components;

  • Setup the vShield Manager appliance
    • Deploy the vShield Manager from OVF
    • Create a port group on the vSwitch which hosts your VM traffic, named vsmgmt and amend the vNIC on the vShield Manager VM to use this network.
    • Power up the VM, login with ‘admin’ and ‘default’, then run ‘setup’ to configure the server.
    • Allocate IP details
    • Upgrade VMtools (you can use the ‘Automatic’ option – being Linux based no reboot is required)
  • Initial install of the vShield Agent
    • Deploy from OVF and then convert to a template. This simply gets the agent ready for deployment.

If you’re wondering whether VMtools make a significant difference to this customised Linux appliance see (the pointless) VMwareKB1011501! You can also find out what’s new in vShield Zones 1.0 Update 1.

Continue reading VCAP-DCA Study notes–7.3 vShield Zones

VCAP-DCA Study notes 7.2– Configure and Maintain the ESX Firewall

A blessedly quick objective this one! Quite why the ESXi Configuration Guide is listed in the blueprint is anyone’s idea as ESXi doesn’t contain a firewall! The blueprint also lists vicfg-firewall which is a typo – they mean esxcfg-firewall, as vicfg-firewall doesn’t exist!


  • Identify vicfg-firewall commands
  • Explain the three firewall security levels
  • Identify ESX firewall architecture with/without vCenter Server

Skills and Abilities

  • Enable/Disable pre?configured services
  • Configure service behavior automation
  • Open/Close ports in the firewall
  • Create a custom service
  • Set firewall security level

Firewall architecture

The ESX Configuration Guide talks very generally about where to put firewalls to protect traffic. In reality I can’t see much difference in architecture whether you have a vCenter server or not.  These two diagrams are from the ESX Configuration Guide – minimal differences!

The firewall is ESX only (there’s no ESXi firewall as no service console).

Firewall security levels

Three firewall security levels (high is default);

  1. High (outbound blocked, limited inbound allowed (902, 443,22,123 and a few other including ICMP).
  2. Medium (outbound allowed, inbound blocked apart from allowed services)
  3. Off

Continue reading VCAP-DCA Study notes 7.2– Configure and Maintain the ESX Firewall

VCAP-DCA Study notes 7.1 – Secure ESX/ESXi hosts

Security is a large topic and one you could spend a lifetime mastering. The blueprint isn’t too helpful in clarifying what level of detail you’re expected to know for this as the ESX/ESXi configuration guides cover issues not in the ‘skills and abilities’ section. More in depth still is the vSphere Hardening Guide. I guess the main thing is to focus on practical issues as the VCAP-DCA is a practical exam – knowing that the VMkernel uses memory hardening is no use in an exam if it can’t be configured or tweaked! Some of this section seems to have been added for the sake of it – how often will an admin need to modify the SSL timeouts? I could only fine one KB article about it!


  • Identify configuration files related to network security
  • Identify virtual switch security characteristics

Skills and Abilities

  • Add/Edit Remove users/groups on an ESX Host
  • Customize SSH settings for increased security
  • Enable/Disable certificate checking
  • Generate ESX Host certificates
  • Enable ESXi lockdown mode
  • Replace default certificate with CA?signed certificate
  • Configure SSL timeouts
  • Secure ESX Web Proxy
  • Enable strong passwords and configure password policies
  • Identify methods for hardening virtual machines
  • Analyze logs for security?related messages

Virtual switch security characteristics

vSwitch security (layer2) settings (can be overridden at portgroup level);

  • Promiscuous mode – needed for packet sniffing, vShield Zones (and virtual ESX hosts). Disabled by default.
  • MAC address changes –affects inbound traffic. May need to be enabled if you’re using MS load balancing in Unicast mode, or the iSCSI software initiator with certain storage arrays. Enabled by default.
  • Forged transmits – affects outbound traffic. Enabled by default.

Other network security measures (IPSec, VLANs, PVLANs etc) are dealt with in section 2, Networking.

Host security

Customise SSH settings (ESX only)
  • Edit /etc/ssh/sshd.conf and set ‘PermitRootLogin’ to YES (default is NO). See VMwareKB for a list of other settings you can adjust (including the available ciphers).
  • You can use PKI to authenticate using SSH without being prompted for a password. This is a standard Linux procedure – for step by step instructions see VMwareKB1002866.
  • By default only SSH server is enabled. Configuration -> Security Profile to enable SSHClient, or use ‘esxcfg-firewall –e SSHClient’.

Continue reading VCAP-DCA Study notes 7.1 – Secure ESX/ESXi hosts

VCAP-DCA Study Notes – 4.2 Deploy and test VMware FT

The main document to work through for the VCAP-DCA is the Availability Guide but there are plenty of good white papers and blog posts which give useful background information (see the bottom of this post). If you have access to the 2010 VMworld content it’s worth watching session BC8274 which covers most of the material on the blueprint.


  • Identify VMware FT hardware requirements
  • Identify VMware FT compatibility requirements

Skills and Abilities

  • Modify VM and ESX/ESXi Host settings to allow for FT compatibility
  • Use VMware best practices to prepare a vSphere environment for FT
  • Configure FT logging
  • Prepare the infrastructure for FT compliance
  • Test FT failover, secondary restart and application fault tolerance in a FT Virtual Machine

FT requirements (hardware, software and feature compatibility)

  • Firstly you have to make sure your host hardware will support FT – it’s more demanding than many other VMware features.
    • The main requirement is to have Intel Lockstep technology support in the CPUs and chipset. Rather than list the processor families which support FT you can read VMwareKB1008027.
    • Hardware virtualisation must also be enabled in the BIOS (not always on by default).
  • You need to ensure the guest OS and CPU combination is supported (as the Availability Guide states, Solaris on AMD is not for example).
  • Must have HA enabled on the cluster
  • Licencing– you need Advanced or higher to run FT
  • Host certificates need to be enabled. If you did a clean install of vSphere 4.x this is enabled by default but if you upgraded from VI3.x you have to explicitly enable it (vCentre settings, SSL)
  • Should avoid mixing ESX and ESXi hosts in a cluster with FT-enabled VMs (VMwareKB1013637)

There are also VM level requirements;

  • No USB or sound devices
  • No NPIV
  • No paravirtualized guest OS
  • No physical mode RDMs
  • Hot plug (memory, CPU, hard disks etc) is automatically disabled for FT-enabled VMs
  • No Serial or parallel ports

FT places quite a few restrictions on the features you can use;

Continue reading VCAP-DCA Study Notes – 4.2 Deploy and test VMware FT

VCAP-DCA Study Notes – 4.3 Supporting MS Clustering in vSphere

The main guide for this section is the ‘Setup for Failover clustering and Microsoft Cluster Service’ whitepaper. It’s a difficult topic to test in a lab unless you’re lucky enough to have FC in your lab! Very little has changed in regards to running MSCS on VMware since the VI3 days so if you’re familiar with that (and it was on the VCP syllabus) then don’t read any further! If you want a refresher however (and a few tidbits which are new to vSphere 4.1), read on….


  • Identify MSCS clustering solution requirements
  • Identify the three supported MSCS configurations

Skills and Abilities

  • Configure Virtual Machine hardware to support cluster type and guest OS
  • Configure a MSCS cluster on a single ESX/ESXi Host
  • Configure a MSCS cluster across ESX/ESXi Hosts
  • Configure standby host clustering

Tools & learning resources

Supported MSCS configurations

Three options;

  • Cluster in a box
  • Cluster across boxes
  • Standby (one physical node, one virtual node)

Solution requirements

Physical hardware

One of the main requirements is a FC SAN (this is one of the rare features which doesn’t work with NFS).

Continue reading VCAP-DCA Study Notes – 4.3 Supporting MS Clustering in vSphere