Power Protection for the home lab

My new HomeLab Datacenter UPS

UPS beside of my Mustang for comparison

One of the things I’ve been up to lately is getting my home lab (or my home datacenter as my co-workers like to call it) operational for doing some Zerto testing. During that process, I found that I had nowhere near the UPS capacity that I really needed.

So with a bit of luck and proper timing, I was able to pick up a used APC Symmetra LX UPS. It’s pretty big but is stupid powerful. Here is a pic beside of my Cobra for comparison.

It was in use at a small datacenter that was being dismantled, so I was able to get it at an amazing price. However, I was told that it would, probably, need some new batteries.

Fast forward a month, and I have had two of the 4 battery modules fail on me. But the other two are still running fine. My plans are to replace the 12v 9Ah batteries inside of the modules as budget allows, but even with only two modules I’m still getting over 30 minutes of runtime.

 

Lab power protection

 

Did I mention that this is a 16kVA model? Yes, it is WAY overkill.

In fact, I wanted to see what 16kVA really is capable of…. so I turned everything in my lab on after I had the UPS properly wired up… the result was a 20% load on the UPS.

To say I have some spare capacity is an understatement 🙂 So much so, that I might actually pull a couple of the power modules out of it and bring it down to 8kVA.

Wiring it up

For most, just thinking about wiring this thing up would have been a nightmare. Luckily I know enough about wiring at electricity to have no fear.

It also helps that my home lab is in the garage, right in front of my home fuse panel. All that was left to do was make a trip to Menards for some wire. The recommended breaker for this UPS in its 16kVA configuration is 100Amp, most homes have a 200Amp Main breaker for comparison. However, knowing that the load I would have on it was nowhere near what the UPS is capable of I was able to use a 60Amp breaker that was already in my panel (it was still installed for an old hot tub that the previous owner had).

60Amps * 240v = 14.4kVA  or about 14,000 watts.

My lab has never spiked above 4000 watts so we will be more than good!

Power distribution

At this point my UPS was up and running, batteries were charging, life was good! but my lab was currently all powered off of a couple of 120v circuits, and all my PDU’s were 120v.

Luckily, I have a pretty awesome ebay connection about an hour from my house. Check him out, he has pretty awesome prices, with the added bonus that I can just drive over and pickup what I need. So, anyhow, he had 240v power strips… I paid $10bucks for one… you can’t beat that! (I’ll have to get a picture of it when I get home)

The only other thing I bought was a distribution module for the UPS, its basically a piece of metal with breakers and plugs on it so that you don’t have to hardwire your outputs. They are pretty cheap on ebay, I paid $25.00 shipped.

APC power distribution module

So after getting the power module, I have an L14-30 and two L5-20 receptacles. The PDU plugs right into the L14-30, and I had a PDU t hat was L5-20 (120v) which I keep in use for things like Ubiquiti power supplies, my laptop, monitor etc. But everything else is 240v now with the help of some C13 to C14 cables.

The plan is coming together

When I wrote my Power 101 for the IT Guy article, I knew converting my lab over to 240v was the end goal in terms of power, but finding a cost-effective UPS was pretty hard. Initially, I really wanted a Liebert Nfinity but could just never find one at “lab” prices, so when this APC was available for a price that my wife wouldn’t kill me over… it was a no brainer. I no longer have to worry about if a circuit is over loaded… or if a cord is getting hot… or anything else electrical in the lab… it’s just plug and play!

Ubiquiti’s New Unifi Elite Offering

It looks like I’m a little late to the party regarding Ubiquiti’s latest (beta) announcement around the Unifi series but non-the-less we are going to take a look at what Ubiquiti calls Unifi Elite. Ubiquiti made the announcement mid-December on its community portal here. It looks like beta access is public and available to anyone who has a Ubnt.com account.

(Side note: To the best of my knowledge, none of this information is under NDA, but I do not get press briefings or release dates from Ubiquiti. So, if any of this is not supposed to be public yet, please let me know. I’ve asked several people if I can get added to whatever “press/blogger” info briefings Ubiquiti does, assuming they do something like that, but have never heard back.)

What is Unifi Elite

From what I have read in the beta announcements and what I’ve seen by using the beta controller, Unifi Elite looks like it will be a combination of two new offerings. The first part of the offering, which is in beta now, is a cloud version of their Unifi Controller. The second part is a more enterprise-friendly service and support offering.

With these new additions, it appears that Ubiquiti is looking to start putting the “enterprise stuff” into their enterprise WiFi solution. Don’t get me wrong; there is already a lot of geeky enterprise features in the offering today, but there is more to enterprise IT than product features.

Let’s take a look at why I think this announcement will bring Ubiquiti Unifi to a much larger market as well as increase its deployment size too.

Unifi Elite – Cloud Controller

The heart of the Unifi product line is the Unifi Controller. You have several ways to run a Unifi Controller, but until now all of your options were self-hosted variants:

  • Windows or Linux virtual or physical machine
  • Ubiquiti Cloud Key
  • RaspberryPi based
  • Mac application
  • AWS or other public cloud instance

In all of these controller types, the Unifi code is distributed as an application that you install on a host operating system. You then have to maintain both the Unifi updates as well as the updates to the host operating system; yet another task for the enterprise sysadmin.

With the Unifi Elite controller, you get the same features and functionality as what you can download and run locally, but the main difference is SaaS delivery; Ubiquiti handles hosting, support, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

Maybe this explains why my Ubiquiti Unifi Virtual appliance hasn’t received any “official” love or shout outs?

 

I get it, supporting a product is a huge undertaking, I work for a vendor myself. By offering enterprise-quality support to customers using the Elite Cloud Controller Ubiquiti will remove a lot of the variables that customer environments introduce and make supporting Unifi a little easier.

Reasons I would consider the Elite Cloud Controller

I found the forum posts about the Unifi Elite Controller while searching for any details I could find on running a controller on AWS. I am currently preparing that blog post, but I almost just deleted the whole thought. Why? Well even the smallest AWS instance t2.micro will cost about $20 bucks a month to run after your free tier access runs out. And, if you have worked with t2.micro instances before, you already know that they aren’t blazing fast and a sizable Unifi deployment might require a larger instance type. From what I have seen on the Unifi Elite beta posts, a stand-alone controller will be $45/month after the beta period. So for not too much more, you have a controller with no documented “maximum devices”, plus Ubiquiti will maintain it! Can’t beat that!

UPDATE: After Ubiquiti took the Elite service GA, I have learned that each device that you connect to the cloud controller also needs to have a maintenance package associated with it. I talk about that service in the next section of this article, however, this means that you can’t just use the cloud controller you also have to pay for the device maintenance which means that this solution will get quite expensive.

Another reason I would consider running a Unifi controller in the cloud is if I had a large deployment over multiple sites. With the Google Chrome Unifi app you can tell your new AP’s where to look for a controller, so deploying AP’s and switches is pretty simple.

  1. plug the device in (let it boot up and get an IP)
  2. use your Chrome-enabled device to run the Unifi App
  3. Specify controller hostname so Unifi device can call to it
  4. Adopt the device on the Unifi controller

Pretty easy, it’s basically one extra step from running a controller onsite, and Ubiquiti has said that direct cloud adoption is coming. Can you say Cisco Meraki clone? For a 10th the price…

Lastly, if $45/month is too much for you to spend on a Unifi Elite Controller, there is a way to get it for free.

Unifi Elite – Premium Service

The second part of the Ubiquiti Unifi Elite offering is what I call Premium Service and Support. This is exactly what is required to get Unifi into the enterprise. From what I’ve read, this will be an annual maintenance contract per device that you would pay Ubiquiti. They would then provide you with faster RMA service, priority support, and warranty.

Here is a quote from UBNT-Brandon:

It will also encompass cloud, upgraded RMA, and upgraded support as well.

For Beta it is cloud only, as we march towards stable release, we will be adding these as well. So you can think of it as ‘UniFi Elite’ services – Cloud, Support, and Warranty.

So essentially it upgrades your “consumer” like warranty and support to something (because we don’t exactly know yet) that looks more like what enterprises are used to.

UPDATE: as stated above, all devices that leverage a cloud controller will have to have a premium service maintenance contract. Device pricing varies, and it can be found on the Ubiquiti website.

Setting up a Unifi Elite Controller

To get started, you login to https://unifi.ubnt.com. Right now you will also need to be a beta user (which you can opt in for in your profile).

Once logged in you should see a “Setup Unifi Elite” button at the top of the page. I would explain the setup wizard that it launches, but honestly, It just asks for your credit card info. Saying it’s easy is an understatement, but when it’s done you will see your new Unifi Controller show up in the inventory.

Ubiquiti Unifi Elite
Unifi Cloud Management showing both the Elite SaaS controller, as well as a traditional “onsite” software controller

Management of the Unifi Elite cloud controller is identical to a regular controller. You log into it and immediately you are prompted to run through the initial setup wizard, just like an on-premises controller.

Provisioning devices

Originally, to make a Unifi device work you needed a controller onsite. Unifi devices will look out on the network for a controller with locally significant DNS hostname (http://unifi:8080 by default) to see if a controller exists. This is why when you login to a local controller after plugging in a new device it will show up and be ready for adoption.

The problem is that there is no way (right now) for a Unifi device to inform (that is the UBNT term for telling a controller a new device is online) a controller in the cloud. So Ubiquiti has created a Chrome application that will let you modify the default inform address and set any IP or name that you want. So for now, if you want to start using a controller in the cloud (or just a different site without DNS) this is the process to get the AP or switch to show up to the controller.

First, download the Chrome app, it’s called “Ubiquiti Device Discovery Tool.” When you run the tool you will see something like

UBNT adoption app
Chrome dicsovery app, with new AP detected.

From here I can click the “Action” button and configure the AP to “inform” whatever controller I want it to. This is where you will enter your Elite Cloud controller’s hostname.

Enter your Unifi Elite hostname

 

Once you set this URL the device will talk to the controller you specify and from that portal, you can go ahead and adopt it and provision it just like normal.

Conclusion

I love to see the innovation that Ubiquiti continues to bring to market. Sure there are solutions that already accomplish all of this stuff, but not at the price point that Ubiquiti does. Obviously, the market thinks the same way I do because Ubiquiti stock almost doubled in price in 2016 and seems to be starting off pretty strong in 2017 as well.

As for the product, I like the idea of Unifi Elite; I think that if Ubiquiti starts to develop a channel partner program, you would see quite the uptake for this type of product and service in the SMB to commercial space. I think that most VAR’s (aka channel partners) could also develop an MSP model around the Unifi Elite services and actually take the deployment and day to day management even further for the customers that want that hands off, white glove, treatment too.

Personally, I have enough Raspberry PIs and VMware servers sitting around that I cannot see myself using it past the beta period. However, If I had to pay for a cloud key, or fire up an Amazon instance to run a Unifi controller… Well, then I would certainly consider using the Elite service, but at $45/month I doubt that there will be much uptake in the home office user space.

 

 

Create Awesome Visual Content with Visme.co

Bloggers wear many hats; we aren’t just keyboard monkeys blasting away at our next article. Most bloggers are also doing their graphics, their content editing, and their post publishing calendar. I’ve been trying to share the tools that help me pull off all the great content on my blog. I’ve already talked about tools like CoSchedule and Grammarly, but today I want to share an awesome tool that I’ve been using to create some excellent visual content.

visme.co logoVisme – Awesome Visual Content Creator

Visme.co is a product that can do a LOT, and I won’t lie, I’ve only scratched the surface of what it can do. But, even with what little I do know, the results have been pretty awesome!

If you were to call Visme a WYSIWYG editor, you would be short changing it big time! Sure you can drag and drop content anywhere you want in your document, but on top of all the editing and GUI fancy stuff, there is also the ability to host your publications as well as track the analytics all on Visme.co.

For projects that do not need to be hosted, you can export your content in a bunch of different ways. JPEG is a free export type, but for PNG, PDF, and HTML5 you will need to subscribe to Visme.

Visme Publishing Types

Templates for everything

The first step to an awesome document is to pick what type of document it will be. There are several doc types to choose from: presentation, infographic, banner, and custom.

visme doc types

I’ve played around with all of the types, and essentially they are all going to give you the same thing with one main difference: document size and shape. The graphics, text, and objects that you can use are all pretty much the same thing. Once you pick a document type you can start adding objects to the new doc, you can upload a bunch of different graphic types, or you can choose from a boatload of pre-made objects.

Pre-Made GFX

I have to admit; I know my way around the HIGH-end graphics tools like GIMP and Paint.exe, but I am pretty lazy when it comes to creating graphics for my blog. Visme.co gets brownie points because I don’t have to open up my GIMP editor if I want some sweet graphics to add to my project. Instead, they have tons of different things I can add; some are “premium,” which means you need to subscribe, but others are free to use.

visme gadgets

How to Video

Here is a good video walkthrough of how some of the tools work. This is much more efficient than having my type out a whole walk through. The main takeaway here is that you don’t need to be a graphics guru to make use of Visme.

Here is a direct link in case the video doesn’t show up https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY8CQc5n1IY&t=369s

My Visme creations

JPaul.me Media Information Kit

The media info kit is an infographic for helping attract advertisers and guest bloggers to my blog. It took me about 8 hours to create. I worked on it off and on over a two day period, but I probably spent half the time to gather content and stats to use. Creating the document was very quick and easy.

Check out the Advertising page, where I’m able to embed a responsive version of the kit. Or see the JPG version and the PDF versions.

Anatomy of a Cisco UCS System

Have you ever bought something that was so complicated that you wished there was a cheat sheet? That is exactly what the Cisco UCS Anatomy guide is! It helps people understand what components are, inside of the Cisco UCS system.

Check out this post to see Visme.co in action.

The bottom line

I like Visme. I have used it a few times now for projects that I could have used GIMP, Visio, or MS Office instead, but the results turned out much nicer in Visme. I like how the tools flow inside of the program, and overall it has a smooth user experience. I also like the ability to extend the size of the infographics by manually sliding down the sizer tool… no need to manually tell my graphic editor

I do have one thing to be a little nitpicky about too; it’s one thing I would like to see be added to the app. The ability to change document types would be really useful. For example, when I did my “Media Kit” infographic I also wanted a printable copy. Infographics don’t print well unless you have some long ass paper. So I needed a “presentation” type document.

The only way I could find to do this was to manually resize the document and then create a bunch of slides and then manually copy and paste objects onto each slide. It worked, but it was clunky at best. In a perfect world, the Infographic template would have “print page break” lines or something. So when I’m creating my infographic I could see right where the pages are going to break.

Overall it’s certainly worth a try if you are in the business of making great looking visual content!

Thanks for reading, and please leave some feedback if you decide to check it out.

Tips for configuring your Zerto Commit Policy

What is a Zerto Commit Policy?

If you are a Zerto customer, you have probably seen this phrase when doing Moves and Live Failovers. But, unless you are the manual reading type, you probably have no idea what it means. I used Zerto for a year or so before Sean Masters (www.seanmmaster.com) was like “you idiot, do you not know what a commit policy is?” (I would venture to say that is verbatim how he said it too.) So don’t feel bad if you don’t know. Plus I’m going to explain it to you. 🙂

A Zerto commit policy allows you to either automatically commit or delay committing to a particular point in time when going to a recovery site copy of your data. This is a major differentiator for Zerto because it means that you aren’t stuck with a bad copy of the data after you failover. If the point in time (or checkpoint in Zerto speak) isn’t what you want, then you can get out of that copy and move to a different checkpoint quickly and easily.

Real world example

If your file server gets hit with a cryptovirus and all of you data is encrypted, you are probably going to want to fail over to your DR copy. But do you know EXACTLY when the virus started? Zerto gives you incredible granularity with its checkpoints, so if you know exactly when it started, you can recover with minimal data loss. (If you don’t you can always roll back farther, but the idea is to minimize data loss.)

We will assume that the virus hit at 10 AM; therefore our first checkpoint selection might be from 9:59:35 in the journal. Next, we tell Zerto to do a live failover, and the VM boots up. After logging in, we realize that the virus is still there and files are already encrypted. I guess that checkpoint isn’t going to work. So how to we go to a different point in time? EASY!

We tell Zerto to rollback instead of commit. Then we are essentially right where we started; we can again go through and pick a new checkpoint, say 9:55:00, and fire up that copy. If it looks right, we will “commit” to this copy of the data. Why do we have to commit? Well, we want Zerto to know that this checkpoint is good and that we are ready to start reverse replication back to the other site. Committing to a checkpoint will allow that process to start.

Zerto Commit Options

There are three options that you can pick from for commit policy.

zerto commit policy
Zerto’s Global Failover/Move Commit Policy

None

None is the easy one to explain. Commits do not happen automatically when you select “None”. You must manually come back to Zerto after checking the failed over virtual machines and tell Zerto to Commit or Rollback. The “None” commit policy is what I illustrated in the example above.

The downside to the “none” commit policy is that if you leave a VM in a not-committed state for too long, it can run out of scratch disk space. This will cause the VM to lock up. The “none” policy also does not consolidate the journal and base disk automatically, so it will cause your VMs to use more datastore space than needed after a while.

Auto-Commit

Auto-Commit means that after a predetermined amount of time, Zerto will assume that everything is OK with the virtual machines it has failed over and automatically commit those VM’s. Reverse replication can then start if it was supposed to. By default, Zerto waits for zero (0) minutes before auto-commit happens. In other words, if you haven’t modified your commit policy either manually during VPG failover or move, or globally, Zerto will automatically commit you to whatever checkpoint you picked without asking you to confirm.

Why is that a bad thing? Well, when you commit to a checkpoint, all other checkpoints in the journal are consolidated and removed to save disk space. So by committing, you are essentially saying “I no longer need my journal history, this is the point in time that I want.” Sounds like a that could be risky if you don’t know what you’re doing, doesn’t it? (Mainly because once the journal is consolidated Zerto can’t magically go back to any other point in time… hence why we call it “commit.”)

However, in a situation where your goal is to failover to a DR site after a disaster, this option is the “easiest.” After clicking failover you literally have nothing else to do, everything is automated to bring VMs online at the DR site. Which is super awesome, if that is your goal. But again, it can be a problem if you are trying to recover from data corruption and you aren’t sure exactly what checkpoint to use. Bottom line, if you are unsure of the checkpoint you want to use, change the time before auto-commit from zerto to something else (10-60 are good options).

Auto-Rollback

Auto-Rollback is the opposite of Auto-Commit. However, because Auto-Rollback is not the default option, you will have to specify the number of minutes to wait before the rollback happens. The process then looks something like:

  • Failover the VMs
  • wait for “X” minutes
  • if the user doesn’t manually commit to the failed over VMs
    • power off failover VMs
    • assume it didn’t work and allow the admin to start over
  • if the user does manually commit consolidate the journal
    • turn the failed over VMs into “regular” VMs
    • Start reverse replication if desired

I like to think of auto-rollback as the “dead man’s switch,” meaning that if you go grab a pizza after starting a failover, Zerto will take control of things after the number of minutes specified have passed. Its goal is to put things back to the way they were before you clicked failover. So essentially, “tell me everything is good to go, or I’ll reverse everything we have failed over.”

The only real downside to this option is the lack of automation. If you have someone who isn’t familiar with Zerto at the controls during an actual disaster, and you walk them through the failover process, you will also have to walk them through the Commit process as well.

So what is the best option?

Good question, but I’m not going to give you an answer. This is one of those questions where there is no right or wrong answer, it just depends on what is best for you and your situation. I’m sure there has been an internal debate at Zerto about what to make the default option. Each option has pro’s and con’s, so it’s not always an easy decision, but hopefully this article has helped you understand what each of the options will do and situations in which you would want them.

Personally, I think that once you are educated on what the options are and how to use them, that you should change the global policy to something other than Auto-Commit after zero minutes. (at least increase it to 5-10 minutes) As this locks you into whatever your first choice is. Why do I think this? More than likely, you will have disasters consisting of virus’s or data corruption many more times then you run into an actual natural disaster.

Also keep in mind that after making a choice for the default policy, you can always change it on a per failover/move basis on the execution parameters tab of the failover wizard.

Commit policy manual change
Changing the commit policy manually in the wizard

Thanks for reading, and let me know if you have any questions!

 

Zerto Cloud Service Provider How To – Part 3 Networking

Zerto Cloud Service Providers are the group of people who leverage Zerto Virtual Replication to provide disaster recovery as a service to customers who do not wish to own a DR site. Essentially they (the service provider) have all of the needed infrastructures in place to allow customers to fail over their virtual machines into that service providers environment. So what does it take to be a Zerto cloud service provider?

This article is the third in a series and will describe how I’ve done multi-tenant networking in my cloud provider lab, as well as what some of the other options are.

Overview

Networking in a multi-tenant cloud is the most interesting part of the series, for me anyhow.

Essentially the goal of networking in a multi-tenant cloud is to provide a secure, isolated network for each customer while still allowing them to get to their data.

To make these goals happen, there are several categories of networking that you will need to configure.

The first type is internal VLAN networking, meaning the networking that lives inside of your four walls and separates one customer’s data from another’s. There is also external networking, meaning networking that brings customer traffic from their site to yours. The third type is the networking that glues the previous two together; like firewalls, VPNs, and routers.

It doesn’t matter if you are the smallest ZCSP or the biggest, you will always have these three networking components in some form. Lastly, before we get started, you should note that Zerto doesn’t really care about which WAN type you pick, or what firewalls you use, etc. It works with them all equally well. The only concern Zerto has is that it can route data from one site to another.

Conceptual Layout

The easiest way to start is probably to show you one way that Zerto Cloud Provider networking can be configured.

What the following diagram is trying to show is that you can have customers with a variety of different WAN connectivity types terminating into your facility. Once inside of your four walls the traffic is processed the same way for everyone. It is first put into a VLAN, then sent to the ZCC. From there the ZCC gets the data to the proper Zerto component on the management network.

Some ZCSP’s use dedicated replication VLAN’s; others allow replication to flow through the “Failover Production” portgroup / VLAN. To Zerto it doesn’t really matter.

 

In my environment, I terminate remote sites into the same VLAN as the “Failover production” VLAN. Here is what it looks like:

ZCSP Block Diagram

Also in this diagram, you can see that the ZCSP’s Management network is completely separate from any of the customer VLAN’s. All of the shared Zerto components like the ZVM, ZCM, and VRA are all installed in the management network.

This is important the understand. For infrastructure to be multi-tenant it has to be effective at isolating tenants from each other as well as isolating ALL backend management components so that tenants cannot access them. If they are not properly isolated you do not have a secure environment.

So a ZCSP should have all of their Zerto components as well as all of their VMware vSphere components in one or more management networks that are isolated. Personally, I keep my VMware and Zerto management components all in the same management VLAN.

Replication Traffic Flow

Zerto has created a method to get replication traffic from the client data center to the management network at the ZCSP. If you look at the diagram again, you can see the component that straddles the two networks, this is the Zerto Cloud Connector or ZCC for short.

Here is an animated version of the diagram to help you visualize what is going on with replication to a ZCSP.

ZCSP data flow animation

Replication traffic generated by the client site VRA’s is sent across the WAN to the ZCC that sits at the ZCSP datacenter. The ZCC verifies the data needs to be transferred to the management network, then forwards it to the proper VRA at the ZCSP site. Management traffic is also passed through the ZCC to get back and forth through the client network.

In a sense, the ZCC is acting as a proxy server for replication traffic as well as Zerto management traffic. When you are configuring your ZORG’s (we will talk about these more in a later article), you will set up your ZCC to have an IP and default gateway pointing to the VPN router that can talk to the client site as well as an IP in your management network. The ZCC then configures the needed static routing and default gateway to make this all work.

During reverse replication, or in situations where the production VM’s are running at the ZCSP site, the data flow is the same but in the opposite direction.

 

My ZCSP networking and other options

Internal Networking

My setup

Inside my infrastructure things look almost identical to the diagrams I have used in this article. I have two VLAN’s defined for each ZORG, one production VLAN, and one test VLAN. Inside of VMware I use a distributed virtual switch and create port groups for each of the VLANs. I also create all of the VLANs on my switching gear as well.

If you read the first two articles in this series you know I’m not using NSX, so these are just regular 802.1q VLANs.

Each customer also has a pfSense Firewall doing routing and VPN work. (again because I’m not using NSX)

Other options

Internal network architecture and product selection will vary depending on budget, and how large you want to scale your environment. Remember there are about 4000 usable VLAN’s. That may seem like a lot, but if you allocate each client 5 VLAN’s each, you are now limited to about 800 customers. Plus you will probably use a few VLAN’s for management too. So to be safe let’s say that 600 is the practical limit (since some customer will probably want more than 5 VLANs.)

Keep in mind too, that I am saying that this maximum would be per core switch. So even if you have 5 POD’s as we talked about in the last article, this maximum would be imposed on as many pods as there are sharing a core switch.

 

Each customer will need at a minimum 2 VLAN’s. One for their Zerto fail-over test network, and another for their production fail-over network and replication traffic. This minimum assumes several things:

  • The customer wants a test VLAN
  • The customer only needs one production VLAN
  • Replication traffic will flow through the production VLAN

If any of the above isn’t the case, then your VLAN count per customer will vary. (That’s why I said figure 5 per customer just to be safe)

The takeaway here is that if you plan to scale more than 600-800 customers, then you may need to look at VXLAN. The only other option would be to build an entirely different POD, with different core switching. Because of the second, independent core switch, you have another 4000 VLANs to work with.

VXLAN, on the other hand, will give you about 16 million segments.

Bottom line if scalability is a concern VXLAN is probably the answer, but it comes at a premium price from VMware. It’s been a while since I reviewed the VMware service provider license agreement, but if you check you will see that there is probably still an upcharge for leveraging NSX.

External Networking

My setup

In my ZCSP lab, I am using VPN connections to remote sites. The are provided by the pfSense firewall VM’s that I talked about earlier. While they are not an enterprise class solution, they are proving to be pretty reliable and work very well for my use case. The two that I have in place have been operating flawlessly for over a year now, probably because once they are configured they “just work” and have had no config changes, just security updates.

Other options

In the real world external networking is going to vary with almost every customer. The biggest thing to remember here is that Zerto does not encrypt traffic between VRA’s and Zerto does not support NAT between any Zerto components. So, protecting replication traffic is the job of the network layer.

There are two things to remember when determining if a particular WAN connection with work with Zerto:

  • Zerto does not support NAT between any Zerto components; or between Zerto and vCenter
  • Zerto does not encrypt network traffic

 

This means that you will need to provide a single layer two network shared between sites, or you need to have layer three routing between sites. Make sure that NAT is not anywhere in the middle.

Remember Zerto does not support NAT between any Zerto components

 

WAN security is provided via a VPN or MPLS or some other type of connection that is natively secured.

Conclusion

Zerto is very flexible regarding networking. The only real requirements are no NAT and a secure connection from the client site to the ZCSP. Outside of that Zerto has no preference as to what vendor, or what type of connection you are using.

Another thing to take away is that Zerto doesn’t list a “best practice” or specific requirements on how you setup your cloud networking. All of the decisions are up to you and what is best for your customers, as long as you can deploy ZCC’s and get replication traffic from the client site through the ZCC and into the management network.

Lastly, Zerto networking is more complicated to setup than some of the other “offsite backup/DRaaS” offerings. But what good is VM recovery if it isn’t accessible? When you configure a client for Zerto replication, they are also configuring everything they need to take advantage of those VM’s once they fail over. This isn’t something that you get out of the box with a solution that is tunneling recovery data over a single SSL connection.

ZCSP Post Series

This post is post 3 of many in a series. I’d love for you to follow along and provide feedback and input as I go. If you are not already following my blog, I encourage you to sign up on the right under the sponsor ads. Don’t worry; you will only get mail when new articles get published.

For a list of other articles in this series, please visit the series homepage here.

Need more info on how to be or get started with a ZCSP? Let me know.

 

Zerto 5.0 Host Maintenance Mode Automation

This article is part of a series of posts that deep dive into the new Zerto Virtual Replication 5.0 feature set. To view the other posts check out the index post here.

Overview

VMware Host Maintenance Mode has been around since the first version of vSphere. It allows administrators to place certain hosts into a state where they are excluded from cluster HA and DRS calculations. This is extremely important if you have a host that is acting up or needs patches.

VMware also leverages maintenance mode as part of its Update Manager product for applying patches and upgrades to ESXi hosts.

Unfortunately, in all previous version of Zerto, the VRA running on each host would cause the maintenance mode operation to fail, and the host would never enter maintenance mode. The only way around this was to manually shut down your VRA before placing the host into maintenance mode.

While it sounds like more of a formality, this actually creates some interesting problems when automating administrative tasks in VMware.

What’s New

Starting with version 5.0, Zerto will recognize when you place a host into maintenance mode. Once it has recognized this, it will shut down the VRA that lives on the host and allow the host to go into maintenance mode, just like if Zerto wasn’t installed.

When exiting maintenance mode, Zerto will also automate the powering on of the VRA so that as other VM’s are migrated back to the host they can be protected.

The Video

The best way to show how this works is with a video. So this video will walk through what happens with Zerto 4.5 and then show you how the new ZVR 5.0 features help fix the issues.

Thanks for watching!

Upgrading to Zerto 5.0 Video Guide

This article is part of a series of posts that deep dive into the new Zerto Virtual Replication 5.0 feature set. To view the other posts check out the index post here.

Overview

VMware Host Maintenance Mode has been around since the first version of vSphere. It allows administrators to place certain hosts into a state where they are excluded from cluster HA and DRS calculations. This is extremely important if you have a host that is acting up or needs patches.

VMware also leverages maintenance mode as part of its Update Manager product for applying patches and upgrades to ESXi hosts.

Unfortunately, in all previous version of Zerto, the VRA running on each host would cause the maintenance mode operation to fail, and the host would never enter maintenance mode. The only way around this was to manually shut down your VRA before placing the host into maintenance mode.

While it sounds like more of a formality, this actually creates some interesting problems when automating administrative tasks in VMware.

What to remember

Before starting your Zerto upgrade to 5.0, make sure that any existing alerts have been remediated. Also keep in mind that during some Zerto upgrades the VIB driver will also need to be upgraded. This can cause a delta sync to occur if protected VMs are not migrated off on the ESXi host that you are upgrading. In the video, In the video, I walk through the workaround and how to minimize delta syncs during upgrades.

Also keep in mind that while you can mix and match different versions of Zerto Virtual Replication, you should have a plan to bring all ZVM’s and VRA’s up to the latest version. This will minimize the work that will need to be done during future upgrades and will ensure that you can support the latest version of your hypervisor platform as well.

The Video

The first thing I want you to remember is that my video editing skills are “newb” at best, so keep that in mind while you check out this video. 🙂

So without further delay, here is the video of doing a Zerto 4.5 to 5.0 upgrade. Also for the best viewing experience make sure to select 1080p as the video format. Enjoy.

299 Top vBlogs to follow

299 virtualization blogs for your RSS reader

Here is my OPML export of all the top vBlogs according to Eric Siebert’s http://thevpad.com/ site.

This list includes not only the “top 100” but also all those who are listed in the “more blogs” section. There are also a few that I’ve found useful in the VMware field thrown in as well.

happy reading!

Download the OPML

10 great VMware books to check out while it’s cold outside!

If you’re like me, you try to avoid leaving the house as much as possible when it’s freezing outside. Usually, around mid-January I run out of indoor projects to work on (I just got done with my latest one.. a DIY Laptop Stand). So I thought I’d put together a list of 10 VMware related books that you should add to your reading list if you get board this winter.

Step 1 – Get the Kindle App

Most of these are cheaper as ebooks, but there is also paperback and hardback versions available. If you don’t already have an Amazon Kindle, you can install their free app on pretty much any device out there. (If you need the app click the banner below to get it.) The advantage of the Kindle version (even if you don’t have a Kindle) is that it is searchable. This makes it a lot easier to find something while troubleshooting or researching for a project.

Step 2 – The books!

OK so now on to the list! These are in no particular order, some have to do with certifications (if you are on a cert track go for those), while others are more practical knowledge that you would use day to day.

VMware vSphere Performance

VMware vSphere Performance

Paperback version – Kindle version

You might recognize the authors of this book. Matt, Chris, and Rynardt go through how to design VMware environments when you need horsepower!

Aimed at VMware administrators and engineers and written by a team of VMware experts, this resource provides guidance on common CPU, memory, storage, and network-related problems. Plus, step-by-step instructions walk you through techniques for solving problems and shed light on possible causes behind the problems.

VMware vSphere Design Book

VMware vSphere Design

Paperback versionKindle version 

Here is another book from a list of authors you will certainly recognize if you are involved in the VMware social media space.

Forbes Guthrie and Scott Lowe team up to bring this design related book to market. It is a little dated.., but there is still a TON of great info in this book. Forbes and Lowe both work at VMware these days but are also bloggers too.

Scott’s blog is one of the first I remember running across in my VMware search, and I’ve had to pleasure of meeting him several times… Great guy and a great source of knowledge!

You might have already seen Forbes’ blog as well. He has designed a bunch of vReference Cards which are a must see too!

Packed with real-world proven strategies, it’s the perfect guide for deploying a new design or transforming an existing one. Inside, you’ll explore:

  • The fundamentals of designing VMware environments
  • The overall design process
  • Key things to consider, such as server hardware selection and sizing, security, virtual machine templates, and more
  • How networking and storage landscapes impact vSphere design
  • Design decisions that a typical company encounters, taking into consideration availability, manageability, performance, recoverability, and security
  • Designing VMware vCloud Director environments

VMware Software Defined Storage

VMware Software-Defined Storage

Paperback version – Kindle version

I switched from the VAR side to the vendor side of my career just as VSAN was taking off and because of that, I haven’t gotten an opportunity to implement it first had. So this book is on my shortlist of things to read.

An in-depth look at VMware’s next-generation storage technology to help solutions architects and operational teams maximize quality storage design. Written by a double VMware Certified Design Expert, this book delves into the design factors and capabilities of Virtual SAN and Virtual Volumes to provide a uniquely detailed examination of the software-defined storage model.

Here is Martin’s twitter profile if your not already following him.

Networking for VMware Administrators

Networking for VMware Administrators

Paperback versionKindle Version

How much do you really know about VMware’s networking components? Probably not as much as you should. (unless of course your a network guru already 😉 )

This book from Chris Wahl and Steven Pantol goes through all of the different network types and designs in VMware vSphere.

If you are looking to design out a new VMware cluster, or if you’re a network guru when it goes to physical devices, then this book will get you up to speed on what you need to know about virtual networking inside of VMware vSphere.

Mastering VMware vSphere 6

Mastering VMware vSphere 6

Paperback versionKindle Version

This is a more general guide to understanding what there is to know in vSphere 6. If you are getting started as a vSphere admin, or just want a refresher on what’s new in 6, then this is probably the book for you.

This book is the ultimate guide to vSphere, helping administrators master their virtual environment. Learn to:

  • Install, configure, and manage the vCenter Server components
  • Leverage the Support Tools to provide maintenance and updates
  • Create and configure virtual networks, storage devices, and virtual machines
  • Implement the latest features to ensure compatibility and flexibility
  • Manage resource allocation and utilization to meet application needs
  • Monitor infrastructure performance and availability
  • Automate and orchestrate routine administrative tasks

VMware vSphere 6 Datacenter Design Cookbook

VMware vSphere 6.X Datacenter Design Cookbook

Paperback versionKindle version

Can you tell that I like design books? I guess the way I think about it is that if you know how to properly design a solution, then you have all the knowledge you need to troubleshoot it.

What You Will Learn

  • Identify key factors related to a vSphere design and apply them to every step of the design process
  • Mitigate security risks and meet compliance requirements in a vSphere design.
  • Create a vSphere conceptual design by identifying technical and business requirements
  • Determine the type of database to use based on the deployment size.
  • Design for performance, availability, recoverability, manageability, and security
  • Map the logical resource design into the physical vSphere design
  • Create professional vSphere design documentation to ensure a successful implementation of the vSphere design
  • Leverage the latest vSphere 6.x features to ensure manageability, performance, availability, and security in a virtual datacenter design

 

VCP6-DCV Official Cert Guide

VCP6-DCV Official Cert Guide

Paperback versionKindle version

Here you go! If you are taking the VCP6-DCV soon, then this is a must have.

The official study guide helps you master all the topics on the VCP6-DCV (#2VO-621) exam, including:

  • Securing vSphere environments
  • Implementing advanced network virtualization policies, features, and Network I/O control (NIOC)
  • Configuring and using VMware storage protocols, VSAN and VVOL software-defined storage, ESXi host interactions, and Storage I/O Control (SIOC)
  • Upgrading vSphere deployments to 6.x, including vCenter Server and ESXi Hosts
  • Planning and using Resource Pools
  • Implementing backup/recovery with VMware Data Protection and vSphere Replication
  • Troubleshooting performance, storage, networks, upgrades, clusters, and more
  • Successfully configuring Auto Deploy environments with host profiles and virtualized workloads
  • Configuring and administering vSphere high availability
  • Using advanced VM settings, content libraries, and vCloud Air connectors

VMware vSphere Troubleshooting

VMware vSphere Troubleshooting

Paperback versionKindle Version

What You Will Learn

  • Configure vSphere management assistant and troubleshooting tools
  • Use troubleshooting tools to monitor performance and troubleshoot different issues
  • Learn how to troubleshoot High Availability and other commonly known problems with clusters such as insufficient resources, failing heartbeats
  • Use Direct Console User Interface (DCUI) to verify configuration
  • Diagnose storage issues including iSCSI, NFS and VMFS problems
  • Manage vSphere Network Virtual and Distributed Switches, Trunks, VLANS
  • Monitor and shape network traffic, configure routes and DNS
  • Quickly resolve common day-to-day problems by analyzing logs of VMware vSphere hosts and VMware vCenter Server
  • Debug and resolve commonly known vSphere Cluster problems

Implementing VMware Horizon 7

Implementing VMware Horizon 7

Paperback versionKindle version

What you will learn

  • Walk through the configuration of VMware Horizon, including the new Horizon Access Point appliance
  • Implement a multi-site VMware Horizon pod using the Cloud Pod Architecture feature
  • Understand the integration between VMware Horizon and VSAN, and see how they are deployed together
  • Explore how to implement and maintain Microsoft RDS and Linux and Windows Desktop Pools Create and optimize desktop master images.
  • Understand how to manage the SSL certificates for each of the VMware Horizon components.

VMware vSphere PowerCLI Reference

VMware vSphere PowerCLI Reference

Paperback versionKindle Version

Luc Dekens is the scripting master for VMware! If I were an admin or actually liked to do scripting, I would probably already own this book! LOL

This book is your complete reference for managing vSphere in a Windows environment, with expert instruction and real-world application.

  • Automate vCenter Server deployment and configuration
  • Create and configure virtual machines, and utilize vApps
  • Monitor, audit, and report the status of your vSphere environment
  • Secure, back up, and restore your virtual machines
  • Work with other vSphere components from your PowerCLI scripts
  • Take control of your PowerCLI scripts through versioning and structured testing

vSphere 6.0 HA deepdive

VMware vSphere 6 Clustering Deepdive

FREE E-Book – https://ha.yellow-bricks.com/

If you’re counting this is book number 11, but it was worth adding to the list!

Have you ever wanted to know how VMware HA and DRS works? I mean like really in-depth… brain melting info?

Then this is the book for you. Duncan and Frank had been publishing this as a paperback and kindle book for a while, but have decided to start releasing it as a GitBook.  Definitely worth a look.

What books have you found useful?

If you have found a different book useful post a comment! If you are an author, feel free to post your book up too!

DIY Laptop Stand

My Laptop Stand

If you follow my personal facebook page then you might have seen pictures of this DIY laptop stand before. However, this post will have a shopping list, a cut list, and some instructions on how to make one of these for yourself.

If you aren’t a maker, or you just want something fast, Amazon does have some laptop stands. The reason I didn’t go with one is because most have wheels on them and they won’t slide under a chair or couch if it is low to the floor.

I assume that you have power tools for this project, it is probably doable with hand tools but you will have better results with power tools. At a minimum, you will need a compound miter box saw and a handheld drill.

Shopping List

For this stand, I recommend some type of hardwood. Hardwood will make the stand more sturdy than if you go with pine. I used poplar for mine, but you could also use oak, both are around the same cost. I will provide links and pricing for poplar boards from Lowes, but again, use whatever is easy for you to obtain. (Note – I get no kickback from Lowes, I simply live closer to them than their competitors, which is why I use them)

Also if you aren’t a woodworker, please note that I am using the “common” sizes, the actual size of these boards will be smaller… don’t freak out that is normal. For example, a 1″ board is actually .75″, and a 2″ wide board is actually 1.5″, etc etc.

  • Qty 1 – 1in x 12in x 6ft Board – $33 – For Base, Upright, and Laptop Base
  • Qty 1 – 1in x 3in x 8ft Board – $9 – For Upright Supports, Hinge board, Laptop Base Supports
  • Qty 1 – 1in x 2in x 2ft Board – $6 – (you could also trim some scraps from the other boards) this is the laptop base edge piece that keeps the laptop from sliding off)
  • Qty 1 – 12in continuous hinge – $6 – This is only needed if you want to laptop base to hinge
  • Qty 1 box – 1.25in Kreg Screws – $5 -You only need these if you are using the Kreg Pocket Joint Kit (which makes this much easier)

Total we are at about $60 for poplar. If you go with pine you would be looking at about $27 total.

If you want to stain and seal or paint the stand you will need to add that cost on to the above.

Pocket Joint Tools

If you don’t already own a pocket joint tool, this is the perfect project to get one for. After you have it you will be surprised at how many times you end up using it. I have two different sizes and they both have been worth the money. You don’t have to use pocket joints for this project, but expect to drill pilot holes with countersinks in order to hide the screw heads and to prevent the wood from splitting. I also tend to think pocket points are stronger than a normal butt joint.

 

Kreg Tool Kit From Amazon

I have one that is for larger projects, like the loft bed I made for my daughters or the kitchen table I made for my mother-in-law, or any other project that involves 2x4s. The second one I have is much smaller and is designed for things that involve 3/4″ wood… like my desk, our master bedroom closet organizer, the shoe and coat locker I built a while ago, or even this project.

What you will want to get are the following tools:

If you are going to buy from Amazon, I also found a kit that has everything in it along with a box of course screw for $36. Here is the link to the Kreg Kit.  For this project, I would use fine screws but course screws would get you by too.

Total is about $47 at Lowes or $36 for the kit on Amazon. If you don’t want to make the investment I would see if anyone you know has one you can borrow.

Cut list

Once you have all your boards and tools it is time to start doing some cutting. I like to cut all my boards first because I have a limited sized workspace, and I tend to put away the saw to make room for assembly.

12in wide board

You will cut three pieces of the stand from this board; the base, the upright, and the laptop base.

  • Base – actual size 24in long x 11.25in wide x .75in thick (I put a bevel on the one end of this base so that when it slides under the couch or chair it doesn’t rip any fabric)
  • Upright – actual size 28in long x 11.25in wide x .75in thick
  • Laptop Base – actual size 15in long x 11.25in wide x .75in thick (note that we will use this board long ways, so if your laptop is wider than 15″ you will want to increase the LENGTH of this cut)

If you started with a 6ft board you will only have about 4-5 inches left over.

3in wide board

This board has a bunch of pieces to cut.

  • Upright Supports – QTY 2 – actual size 12in long x 2.5in wide x .75in thick – also you may want to cut an angle off one corner so there isn’t a point sticking out. I cut mine at a 45 degree.
  • Laptop Base Hinge – actual size 15in long x 2.5in wide x .75in thick
  • Laptop Base Supports – QTY 2 – actual size 7.75in long x 2.5in wide x .75in thick – these boards will get an angle cut into them later on
  • Cross brace – QTY 2 – actual size 10in long x 2.5in wide x .75in thick (we will trim these to the exact length later)

You will need 73 inches total for all of these cuts, plus the 1/8th inch you lose to the cut each time… probably around 74inches when all said and done. So that would leave you with about 22 inches left.

2in wide board

We only need one board cut from this size board. For mine, it was a 15inch long piece, but if you increase the length of the laptop base to accommodate a larger laptop you will want to increase this board as well.

  • Laptop Base Edge – actual size 15in long x 1.5in wide x .75in thick – again if your “Laptop Base” from above is longer than 15in, make this longer too.

That does it for the cut list. In total, you should have 11 pieces when you are finished. If you have eleven then pack-up the saw and break out the Kreg tool.

All boards cut and ready to start drilling pocket joints

Assembly

Kreg Tool to the rescue!

OK, so this is the part where you get to put $50 worth of Kreg tools to work. I like to drill the pocket joints as I’m assembling the project, this is mainly so that I can visualize where the screw holes will be best placed.

Base and Upright

The first thing to start with is the base and the upright. These are the two large boards but are the easiest to put together. Using a tape measure, put a mark about every 1.5in across the bottom of the upright board. Then using the Kreg jig and clamp, drill pocket joints on the vertical board. I had seven total pocket holes when I was done.

Base and Upright showing pocket hole joint

After you have all of the pocket holes drilled, you can join the vertical board to the base. I measured from the back of the base, 6 inches and drew a line. Then I started driving in the pocket screws, make sure to keep the upright on the line you drew so that it is square with the base.

Next, you can attach the upright supports.

Upright Supports

These are the two 12in x 3in boards that we also cut a 45″ angle. Use the Kreg jig to drill one hole in the bottom side and three in the long side of each of the support pieces. Make sure to drill the pocket holes on the inside of the board so that it looks nicer too.

Upright supports with pocket joints

These guys will keep the vertical support from breaking off the base even if you lean on the laptop stand a bit. I wouldn’t put 200 lbs on it, but from what I can tell it will hold quite a bit.

Laptop base assembly

Next, we will assemble the laptop base; this is where the laptop will sit. Then after assembling that we will attach it to the upright, and then finally we will install the support boards for the laptop base.

You will need three boards that you cut as well as the 12″ hinge.

First, install the hinge between the “laptop base hinge” and the “laptop base” pieces you cut earlier. It should be obvious, but make sure to put the hinge on the side of the boards that is 15 inches long ;).

Then use your Kreg tool to install four pocket holes in the laptop base, on the same side as the hinge.

Laptop base with pocket joint holes

 

Now attach the “laptop base edge” to the “laptop base.” I have mine so that only about 3/8 of an inch is above the laptop base. This is because the MacBook is only about that thick. It might make sense to have all 3/4 of an inch above the base if your laptop is thicker.

Edge board, just high enough to keep the laptop from sliding off

What I would do is measure how thing your laptop is and see what makes sense.

While we have the Kreg jig out, put some pocket holes on the “laptop base hinge” board. These pocket screws will anchor the laptop base to the upright. Here is what the laptop hinge board looks like once you have the pocket holes and the hinge laid on it.

Hinge Support board + Laptop base + hinge assembly

Now join the laptop base hinge board to the upright board using the pocket holes you drilled.

At this point, you should have what looks like a stand with the laptop base swinging downward as there is nothing to support it. Next, we will attach the laptop base supports so that we have some rigidity.

Laptop Base Supports

OK, I lied. We are going to need your saw again. Personally, I used a jigsaw for this part as the pieces are pretty small and I didn’t want to lose a finger in the box saw.

What we want to do is cut an angle on the support pieces as well as a groove for the hinge to sit in. Otherwise, the hinge will prevent the laptop base from sitting on the support boards. After we do the cutting, then we can drill some pocket joint holes as well as a regular hole so our adjustable top brace can move.

Step 1 – Cut the Angle

This is what we are shooting for in step one.

Support with no groove for hinge

On one end measure up 1in and put a mark. Then on the top of the other end, measure over 2.5in and put a mark. Then draw a line from one mark to the other, that is what you want to cut off. When finished, you will have the shape above.

Step 2 – Cut the Groove

Because our 12in hinge is under the two top boards, we need to have some place for it to sit.

Groove for hinge

You can eyeball this part… make it just big enough for the hinge to sit while allowing the other two boards to sit nicely on top.

Here is how I got an idea of how much material I would need to remove.

Checking to see how much material to remove.

Once assembled with the top it will look like this:

Support brace with groove attached to upright and hinge board

Note that the top is locked in the “up” position by the brace board. But if it were allowed to travel down it would sit on the angled brace.

Step 3 – Pocket join holes

We will need to drill three pocket joint holes in each of the support boards. Make sure to do them on the “inside” part of each board so that once assembled the screws won’t show.

I ended up going with just two pocket holes instead of three; either way, will work.

Pocket joint locations

Step 4 – Hole for brace

The last thing we need to do to the braces is drill a small hole down at the small end. (See picture above).

This hole needs to be about 1/8 of an inch; it only needs to be big enough so that a screw can go through it into a brace board we will install later.

Step 5 – Install supports on the upright

The last step is to install these braces on the upright. Two screws will go into the upright, and one screw will go into the hinge board. Make sure to keep this board as tight as possible to those two boards. You may need to flip the laptop stand on its back or upside down to install these properly.

When you are finished, it should look like this. Note that the laptop base has been removed in this picture to show how the supports get mounted.

Upright with support boards.

Cross Brace Support

As you can probably tell these braces are pretty wobbly on their own. So next we will install a brace between them which will stiffen them up.

There are two boards that you cut to 10in x 2.5in x .75in; one is for this support, and the other is for the adjustable support. But before we can install them you will want to trim them to the right length. Mine were 9-7/8″ in the end.

Double check support board with and cut to fit

After cutting to length put four pocket joints in it and then screw it into place. Mine is about in the middle of the two outward braces. You want it just far enough to allow the next brace to rotate all the way down, but not too far back that it is ineffective.

Brace board installed

Adjustable Brace installation

The last step…

This board is what will lock the laptop base into the upright position. (sounds a lot like an airplane manual doesn’t it). Basically what we need to do is run a screw through each of the holes that you drilled int he support boards and then screw them into the ends of this support board. You can reference the picture above for what it will look like.

If you have a table saw you might want to bevel the one edge which will make the board rotate a little easier once installed.

Cut or sand a bevel into the support board

You want these screws tight enough that the board is slightly tight and takes some effort to turn, but not so tight that you can’t turn the board.

Finishing

You could leave your laptop stand unfinished, but at some point the wood will get stained and start looking dirty. Your best bet is to either stain it then put some polyurethane on it, or paint it.

Personally, I will be staining mine, and I’ve heard that poplar can be a pain in the butt to stain. To reduce the chance of blotches and color inconsistency, I would recommend using a pre-stain first, then use a stain of your choice, and then finish it up with a wipe on polyurethane.

I have always had good luck with Minwax, but have used other brands as well.

Pre-Stain

Stain

Wipe-on poly

 

Hope you enjoyed the how to, and let me know if you build one!

My Laptop Stand