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Install ESXi 6.0 on a DL380 G5 – yes it works

For a VMWare Horizon View POC in our environment we recieved an old HP DL380 G5 with nice specs: 2 phy. Quad-CPUs, 32GB RAM, RAID-Controller with write Cache, and quite everything redundant.

As SSDs are getting more and more beneficial, we bought 4 Kingston 300v SSD with 480GB of space and installed them in the OEM cases of the HP disks. Yes, this works!

For our tests this hardware is more than enough.

First of all I googled around to see if there was already someone who tried to install ESXi 6.0 on an old DL380 G5 as it isn’t a supported hardware. I’ve found this article from a guy that was having problems with the HP custom iso installing it on a G5 server:

http://htluo.blogspot.ch/2015/05/esxi-60-on-hp-dl380-g5.html

So I decided to have a try with the original ISO. After booting the Image I received an error message saying that I’m using unsupported hardware. Thank’s for the information but I know this already 😉 You can accept the information an run-through.

After the installation completed, I connected to the ESXi server with the VIClient. Everything looked well with the exception of the hardware. There was no hardware listed.

This is because the HP drivers are not integrated into the image. So I downloaded the needed VIBs from the HP VIB repository and installed them (the text in the brackets is not part of the command). For those who don’t know what a VIB is, have a look on this article:

Before I could install the VIBs I had to put the ESX server in maintenance mode:

If you receive a message like this, this is because there are VMs running on the system:

So I had to check what VMs are running on the system and stop them. You can do this with the VI Client or with the shell:

Now that we have the world id of the VM (similar to the PID), we can stop the VMs with those commands:

Retry now to run the enter maintenance mode command and check the state with this command:

The output should look similar to this:

As you can see, the ESX server is now in maintenance mode. So i could begin with the installation of the VIBs. For this I used the esxcli “software vib install”. It is important that you write the full path to the VIB file. Otherwise the command ends with an error:

The output should look similar to this:

As you can see in the message, the system requires a reboot after the installation. So we can now reboot the system with the reboot command.

After the reboot we can connect us with the VIClient to the esx server and now we should see all the hardware and sensors installed on the system:

ESX Hardware

So then, I wish you happy virtualizing with your new ESXi server and do not forget to configure the rest such as ntp, ssh, portgroups, vm settings and so on.

P.S. this server is running now about 4 weeks without any problems or PSOD

Getting all Snapshots with Powershell

Every vSphere Admin knows, that if you give someone in your organization the rights to take snapshots, you will lose the control of them.

Often they forget to delete the snapshot after their maintenance. So the snapshots gets bigger and bigger. The results are full datastores, big snapshots that can’t be no-more deleted and in the worst case you will have corrupted VM.

To counter against those problems, I’ve wrote a Powershell script that gets all snapshots in your environment and sends you an email with the name, size, time and the description of the snapshots.

You just have to edit the global variables with yours and then schedule the script.

After this, you can control your snapshots much more better.

Feel free to use, edit and share it:

Check Lockdown Mode Powershell Script

For security reasons one of my customer has Lockdown mode activated on all them ESXi server. Unfortunately, with vSphere 5.5 at least, there is no way to configure the lockdown mode on the host profile. So you have to do it manually on each ESXi server that you add to the vCenter.

Then when an administrator want’s to manage something with SSH or vSphere Client directly to the ESXi host, they have first to disable the Lockdown mode. Often they forget to enable the Lockdown mode again.

For this reason I created this script whitch is scheduled on the vCenter Server with the Windows Task Scheduler. It checks every ESXi host if it has the Lockdown Mode enabled and when not, it enables it.

As an “nice to have”, it sends after every schedule an email with the hosts that were configured. If no ESXi server was configured, it sends an email saying everything is ok.

You just have to edit the 6 first variables with your system informations and it works.

Please be aware that I haven’t implemented any error handling in the script. It’s just an quick and dirty script for my own.

Feel free to use it and share it

Why is the network loadbalancing policy so important?

Last week I returned from my vacation and had allready a lot of tasks waiting for me.

One of them was to add some new ESXi-server to a persistent cluster.

No problem, I thought. This will be a quick task after my vacation.

After looking on the persistent esxi hosts, i’ve seen that they use LACP/etherchannel as network configuration, a lot of VLAN tags and so on.

With this information I went to our network provider and gave him the needed information.

After a hour I recieved an email with the confirmation that  the network was ready.

So I installed the ESXi server, added two vmnics and changed the load balancing policy to “routed based on IP hash” what mean’s that with this configuration you can use LACP. (see KB2006129)

vswitch

Now I began to test the network by removing one vmnic and trying to ping the VMs on the ESXi server.

Every time I removed one vmnic, I loosed the connection to the VMs on the ESXi server. So i tried all possible configurations on the ESXi server but I never had a successful fail over on the network.

cmd

After trying everything on my site I was quite sure that the network guys did not configure the switchs as I’ve told them.

So I went there and we looked at the configuration. They did forgot to activate LACP/etherchannel on the ports. They had no port-channel configured. This was also the reason why I loosed each time the connection to the VMs when I removed one vmnic.

After they changed the configuration I tested it again and I neither loosed one ping when the network had to make a switch over.  This is how it is proposed to run!

While I was troubleshooting my problem I’ve found some interesting posts from other guys and from VMWare which I would like to share with you. They helped me to find out my problem.

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2006129

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1004088

and here my favorite one (only in German available):

http://www.admin-magazin.de/Das-Heft/2010/05/Redundante-Netzanbindung-mit-VMware-ESX

Hope this can help someone 🙂

RV Tools – the quickest way to get all information from you vSphere environment

RV Tools is one of my favorite 3rd party tools for vSphere. If you are not familiar with PowerCLI this is a “MUST HAVE” for you. With this tool, you can get quite all the information you need from your VMWare environment. You can check all information from your VMs, ESX(i), vCenters, Clusters, vSwitchs and so on.

Here a short extract from their website with a print screen:

RVTools is a windows .NET 2.0 application which uses the VI SDK to display information about your virtual machines and ESX hosts. Interacting with VirtualCenter 2.5, ESX Server 3.5, ESX Server 3i, VirtualCenter 4.x, ESX Server 4.x, VirtualCenter 5.0, VirtualCenter Appliance, ESX Server 5.0, VirtualCenter 5.1, ESX Server 5.1, VirtualCenter 5.5, ESX Server 5.5. RVTools is able to list information about VMs, CPU, Memory, Disks, Partitions, Network, Floppy drives, CD drives, Snapshots, VMware tools, Resource pools, Clusters, ESX hosts, HBAs, Nics, Switches, Ports, Distributed Switches, Distributed Ports, Service consoles, VM Kernels, Datastores, Multipath info and health checks. With RVTools you can disconnect the cd-rom or floppy drives from the virtual machines and RVTools is able to update the VMware Tools installed inside each virtual machine to the latest version.

rvtools

Normally I use the tool to make Excel extracts from the VMs to know which VM tools are outdated. An other nice feature that I use is the vDatastore tab. There I have a nice overview of all datastores to check free space, quantity of VMs and so on.

However, my favorite tab is the vHealth tab. There you can find a lot information about misconfigurations ore threshold values that have passed over. Here some possible error messages from a customer’s environment(the VM/ESX/Datastore names were cutted out):vhealth_errors

Please feel free to visit the developer’s page, register and download the tool for free:

http://www.robware.net/

There are a lot of nice features and information to use with this tool. Go ahead, install it and try it!

If you like this tool as much as I do, you can also donate some money via paypal!

Snapshots with quiescing fails directly after starting the snapshot

A new customer who I’m working for, has Avamar from EMC as their backup solution for VMware and all other products.

By chechking the activities of the backups, I’ve seen that both Exchange Server VM backups fails every night.

After having a look at the Avamar logs, i found an error indicating some problems with quiescing:

avamlog3

avvcbimage Error <17775>: Snapshot ‘Avamar-1430951406e32d32fac65d442458b882c72e09fdd7bd3b0a79’ creation for VM <PATH_TO_VM> task creation encountered a quiesce problem (Log #2

So first of all I tried to make a manual snapshot with the quiesce flag from the vCenter:

snapshot

Directly after the snapshot started, it failed again with the following message:

snapshot2

An error occurred while quiescing the virtual machine. See the virtual machine’s event log for Details.

For me this was now clear that this had to be a vmware related problem. As the error message recommended, I checked the event log of the virtual machine witch is normally located in the VM Folder on the datastore. Scrolling around on the log, I’ve found e interesting error message:

avamlog

ToolsBackup: not enough empty nodes (needed 8, found 7)

For some reason the VM is saying that the SCSI Controller has no more empty nodes. By searching in the vmware knowledge base, I have found a KB article where this Problem was explained: http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1037071

When you use quiescing for snapshooting a VM, you can’t add more than 8 disks to a SCSI controller. Normally you can add up to 16 disk to one controller.

It seems like when you snapshot the disks with quiesce option, vSphere adds an additional disk for each disk that is attached. This must be the reason.

So the only way to resolve this problem, was to add an additional SCSI Controller and attached 4 of the disks to the second controller. After this, the VM was snapshoted without any issues:

snapshot3

vCenter Server Appliance in vSphere 6.0 (vCSA)

The vCenter Server Appliance was in older releases a nice feature that was never ended in development.

A lot of features and functions that you had with the Windows Server based vCenter server, were not possible with the appliance. So the appliance was only interesting for really small vSphere environments or for labs.

With vCSA 5.5 we were going better and better. But there were still some things that weren’t supported like:

  • Less scalability
  • Linked Mode
  • Heartbeat
  • IPv6
  • PowerCLI
  • VUM
  • 3d party software plugin

Now let me show you an actual chart from VMWare where they compare the vCSA with the windows based vCenter:

vCSA_6_0

As you can see, the vCSA has now the same scalability as the Windows based vCenter Server. Quite every feature is also integrated in the appliance.

So why we do not just use the appliance? Well there are unfortunately still some reasons for that we will need the Windows vCenter Server:

  • no MSSQL support
  • no Update Manager (the most critical point in my view)

I can’t understand why they don’t port the VUM to the vCSA. With those features on board, I’m quite sure that the Windows based vCenter will no more be used by SME’s with small vSphere environments.

For this I’m already curious to see the features that the new vCSA release will include and hope that this appliance is getting more and more important for vSphere and VMWare. This appliance will simplify many administrators life!

Whats new in vSphere 6

VMWare recently released the new vSphere 6 “Suite”.

Because of this, I would like to show you some (the most important for my use) of the new features and extensions.

HYPERVISOR

  1. As usual the scalability is extended with each new release. With the new one, you can run up to 480 logical CPUs, 12TB of RAM and 1024 VMs.
  2. Now you can cluster up to 64 ESXi Hosts with a total of 8’000 virtual machines.
  3. There is a new advanced system setting to configure the password complexity for local user accounts.

VIRTUAL MACHINES

  1. The new hardware version is 11 and supports up to 128 vCPUs and 4TB of RAM.
  2. The the new HW Version brings a new xHCI cotroller for USB 3.0 support.
  3. Some new OS’s are noew supported like Mac OS X10.1, Solaris 11.2, Ubuntu 14.04 and so on. You can check all supported OSs on this link: http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility/search.php?deviceCategory=guestos
  4. Windows Server Failover Clustering is fully supported with vMotion and RDMs
  5. Support for Windows Server 2012 r2 Cluster has been added.

VCENTER

  1. The vCenter Installation was simplified. Now you have only two Modules whitch you can install separate: the Platform Services Controller (PSC) & the vCenter Management Server. The PSC includes the old vCenter SSO, licensing and certificate management. The vCenter Management Server includes the Inventory Service, WebClient and the vCenter which cannot be installed separate.
  2. For a quick install like Labs and so on, they use Postgres as the SQL database and no more the Microsoft SQL Express.
  3. vCenter can now be installed as an full supported Appliance with the same features as the Windows vCenter Server. The appliance is a Suse Server with a Postgres SQL database. You can also install it on an external Oracle database.
  4. The new Web Client design was changed and it looks now like the well know VIClient. The performance was also imense improved but you still need the Flash Player from Adobe.
  5. VMotion is getting more and more flexible: You can vMotion virtual machines across virtual switches, vCenter Server systems, and long distances of up to 150ms RTT.
  6. Fault Tolerance (FT) was completely rebuilt. With the new limitation of 4 CPUs and 64GB of RAM you can finally use FT for most of the Server.
  7. High Availability (HA) supports now also storage errors.
  8. My favorite feature with vCenter is the new “Multisite Content Library”. There you can save all your templates, scripts and ISO files you need for your vmware environment. So you just have to upload it up to this portal and everybody can use the files there. You don’t need anymore a Datastore where you have to upload the files.

STORAGE

  1. vSphere Data Protection is now full integrated in the WebClient and icludes agents for application Backups like Exchange, SQL and Sharepoints
  2. With Virtual Volumes, VMWare introduces a new way to manage Storage on your vSphere environment. You don’t have anymore the need of handling with a lot of LUNs.

NETWORK

  1. You can now use multiple TCP/IP stacks to configure to each a own gateway or routing tables.
  2. vSphere Network I/O control was also increased. You can now configure down the limits and reservations to each vmnic on every single virtual machine.

SUMMARY

As you see, we have a lot of nice new features to work with and a lot new things to learn. I will try to show you some of the new features in the next few weeks more detailed. This is a good preparation for upcoming migrations.  If you need more information’s  of the features have a look on the VMWare PDF what’s new. There you have a more detailed information about it. I did also used this document to write this post.

There is also already the what’s new course available for vSphere 6:

http://mylearn.vmware.com/mgrreg/courses.cfm?ui=www_edu&a=one&id_subject=60896

How to get your VCP5-DCV

Some weeks ago I finally got my VCP5-DCV (VMWare Certified Professional – Data Center Virtualization) certification. Now I would like to share the collected information with you.

First of all here we go with some facts:

  • The exam organizer is Pearson Vue
  • To be proved for the exam you have to visit a vmware certified course. Here some of the courses you can visit.
    • vSphere: Install, Configure, Manage
    • vSphere:  Fast Track
    • vSphere: Optimize & Scale
  • After participating a course, you can request on the VMWare Learning page
  • You have to respond 135 questions
  • The passing score is 300 of 500
  • You have a total of 120 minutes for the exam
    • If your native language isn’t english, you have extra 30 minutes
  • All questions are multiple choice questions with 4 possibles answers

Now lets go to the themes of the exam:

Well let me say you that the actual exam is not like before. I know from business partners that older exams where only questions about architecture limits,  key data and some simple functions of the vSphere suite. With some theory know-how everybody could pass older exams.

But now it’s quite more difficult to pass the exam. There are a lot of workplace related questions which you only can know if you also work with them. Another challenge is the great variety of the questions. You will be asked for ALL vSphere products and possible additions like vSphere Data Protection, Syslog Collector, vSAN, Update Manager and so on. But the focus of the exam are troubleshooting with logs or the newer features like the vCenter Appliance, vSAN, Replication and so on.

If you need more topics for preparing your exam, have a look at the Blueprint at the of this post.

How you can prepare for the exam?

As I already mentioned, its quite impossible to pass the exam without practice. So the best thing you can do, is to install the whole vSphere Suite on a lab and play a little bit with all features. Another hint I can give, is to have a look at CBT Nuggets and watch the learning video. They explain a lot of the themes that were asked at the exam. And now for the end, I can only wish you good luck!

 

btw. the never VCP 6 exam was already released but mosts of those informations i wrote in this post, you can also use for the newer exam.

 

I’ve got the exam facts from the VMWare Blueprint for the exam:

https://mylearn.vmware.com/lcms/web/portals/certification/VCP_Blueprints/VCP-DCV-VCP550-Exam-Blueprint-v3_7.pdf