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Archive for November, 2010

Planning for and testing against failure, big and small

November 30th, 2010 No comments

After my previous post about vCenter availability I thought I should expand on some other factors related to availability and what you should be thinking about to protect your business against failure.

Too often IT solutions are put in place without properly considering what could go wrong and then people get suprised when they do. Sometimes the smallest things can make the biggest difference and you can land up with your business not operating because some very small technical glitch that could have been avoided brings everything down.

Planning for failure should be a major part of any IT project and the cliche is certainly true, “If you fail to plan you plan to fail.” Planning for failure includes big things like a full site disaster recovery plan but also includes small things like ensuring all your infrastructure components are redundent and you don’t have any single points of failure.

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Why vCenter is letting VMware’s side down

November 25th, 2010 3 comments

I’ve been meaning to write this post for ages and its been gnawing at my brain for months begging to be written so grab a big cuppa and settle down for a long one!

vCenter in my opinion is now the major weakness in VMware’s software lineup.  Unfortunately it is that big fat single point of failure that just doesn’t cut it any more in terms of availability.

Lets think back to when VirtualCenter as it was then called was unleashed on the world in 2003.

At the time it was the wonder application that connected your ESX servers together allowing the game changer that was VMotion. You could easily provision VMs from templates, monitor your hosts and VMs and generate alerts.  The VMware SDK was what allowed the building of PowerCLI, one of the best powershell examples out there.  The VMware management layer was born.

Since then Virtual Center became vCenter and until probably some time last year this was all good. It was a great single pane of glass to look at and manage your virtual environment, hosts, clusters, resource groups, DRS, vMotion, HA etc.

It didn’t need to be highly available.  If vCenter went down vMotion and DRS would be affected and you wouldn’t be able to provision new VMs but your underlying VMs running on the hosts would not be affected.  HA was configured in vCenter but the information was held on the hosts so even if vCenter failed HA would still be able to recover VMs in the event of a host failure.

Now the situation is very different, there are more and more VMware management products that rely on vCenter.  Have a look at the VMware Management Products picture in the VMware Virtualization and Cloud Management solutions overview.

That’s a lot of applications that now rely on vCenter and this doesn’t even cover everything.

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vSphere Command-Line Interface Reference

November 19th, 2010 No comments

I generally avoid having to use the vSphere CLI by doing whatever I can in PowerCLI.

If you are primarily a Unix shop then the CLI is probably your scripting environment of choice.

If you run ESXi you also don’t have the use of the Service Console to run commands so can fire up the vSphere Management Assistant (vMA) and using the CLI can run commands remotely against the ESXi host. This is especially useful for looking at performance stats with resxtop.

Here’s a good command line reference on VMware’s site updated to 4.1.
http://www.vmware.com/support/developer/vcli/vcli41/doc/reference/index.html

Categories: ESX, VMware Tags: , ,

Getting rid of stale vCenter Plugins

November 17th, 2010 1 comment

ThinkVirt has posted a great way to get rid of those pesky vCenter Plugins you installed ages ago and can’t get rid of.
http://www.thinkvirt.com/?q=node/217

I had installed one from NetApp that just wouldn’t go away after an uninstall so this procedure worked perfectly.

Now its gone!

Categories: VMware Tags: , ,

Updating Broadcom bnx2x Nic Drivers with PowerCLI

November 15th, 2010 3 comments

Now that a new bnx2x driver has been released as detailed in my previous post you will obviously need to deploy it and add it as part of your hopefully scripted build.

I wish VMware Update Manager would be able to apply these driver updates so we can have a single depoyment mechanism but this doesn’t seem to be the case yet.  We live in hope!

So, without Update Manager, I always prefer PowerCLI rather than esxupdate for these kinds of deployments as it fits nicely into a PowerCLI scripted build, you don’t have to have SSH access to install and you can also roll it out easily to multiple ESX hosts.

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New Broadcom bnx2x Nic Driver 1.60 is out

November 12th, 2010 2 comments

My previous post raised the issue of ESX 4.1 and Broadcom Nic drivers and advised you to stick with 4.0 until it is sorted out.

There were two issues.  Losing support for the SmartLink / DDC functionality used by Flex-10.  The workaround is to use Beacon Probing which was at least a solution even though a massive step backwards.

Far more serious was a PSOD issue caused by IP checksumming.  The workaround was to disable IP checksumming support but the fix didn’t persist across reboots. Not having a real fix was the reason I recommended not going with 4.1.

Looks like a new Broadcom driver has been released by VMware, Broadcom bnx2x driver 1.60.

Unfortunately there’s nothing out yet to indicate whether this does solve either of the two problems and what others may be introduced.  All I can hope is that VMware, Broadcom and HP worked together and have finally released a driver that doesn’t cause any PSODs and fully supports DDC/SmartLink for ESX 4.1 (as it did perfectly well with version 1.48 on ESX 4.0).

http://download3.vmware.com/software/esx/vmware-esx-drivers-bnx2x_400.1.60.50.v41.2-cnic_400.1.10.2m.v41.1-bnx2i_400.1.9.1k.v41.1-1vmw.0.0.00000.320302.iso

The README has the following installation instruction options.

VMware ESX 4.0 Driver CD

Use the VMware ESX driver CD to install drivers on ESX or ESXi installations.

You can use the driver CD in several ways:
A) To install drivers for devices as part of a new ESX installation
B) To update existing drivers or install new drivers for an existing ESX
installation with esxupdate
C) To update existing drivers or install new drivers for an existing ESX or
ESXi installation with vihostupdate

A) To install drivers for devices as part of a new ESX installation:
(for ESX only)

Note: This procedure has changed since the 3.5 version of driver CD.  You will
need the ESX installation DVD to begin.

1.  Place the ESX installation DVD in the DVD drive of the host.
2.  Restart the host.
3.  Accept the terms of the license agreement.
4.  Select a keyboard type.
5.  When prompted for Custom Drivers, select Yes to install custom drivers.
6.  Click Add to eject the ESX installation DVD.
7.  Place the driver CD in the DVD drive of the ESX host.
8.  Select driver module to import drivers to the ESX host.
9.  Click Next to continue. A dialog box displays the following message:
Load the system drivers.
10. Click Yes. After loading the driver module, continue installing ESX. After
the drivers are installed you are prompted to swap the driver CD with the
ESX installation DVD.

B) To update or add drivers on existing ESX installations using esxupdate:
(for ESX only)

1. Power on the ESX host and log into an account with administrator capability.
2. Place the driver CD in the CD-ROM drive of the ESX host.
3. Mount the driver CD.
4. Navigate to <cd mount point>/offline-bundle/ and locate the
<offline-bundle>.zip file.
5. Run the esxupdate command to install drivers using the offline bundle.

esxupdate –bundle=<offline-bundle>.zip update

C) To update or add drivers on existing ESX and ESXi installations using
vihostupdate: (for both ESX and ESXi)

1. Power on the ESX or ESXi host.
2. Place the driver CD in the CD-ROM drive of the host where either the vSphere
CLI package is installed or vMA is hosted.
3. Mount the driver CD.
4. Navigate to <cd mount point>/offline-bundle/ and locate the
<offline-bundle>.zip file.
5. Run the vihostupdate command to install drivers using the offline bundle.

vihostupdate <conn_options> –install –bundle <offline-bundle>.zip

(For more details on vihostupdate, see the vSphere Command-Line Interface
Installation and Reference Guide.)

Categories: ESX, Flex-10, HP, VMware Tags: , , ,

VMotion, the story and confessions

November 11th, 2010 No comments
Categories: ESX, VMware Tags: ,

Windows 7 plays nicely with AMD to Intel conversion

November 9th, 2010 No comments

My home PC died an unceremonious death last week.  No fanfare, nothing dramatic…it just wouldn’t boot.  I went through the usual troubleshooting.  BIOS would load, it looked like everything was working, it could see all drives.  When I had a bootable DVD in the drive it asked nicely if I wanted to boot from DVD.  When bypassing this is just stopped with a lovely little blinking curser in the top left of the screen.

Must be hard disk I thought so spent some time putting an old one in and trying a restore of an image backup I take nightly of my OS drive (How Enterprise IT makes it into your home to have ultimate recovery!)

Wouldn’t see the old hard disk.  Booted off two different Ubuntu CDs which would go through initial startup and hang.  Ran Memcheck….memory all passed. Didn’t think it could be CPU as that generally doesn’t partially fail.

I tried reseating everything, pulling out all additional PCI cards, etc.  Landed up trying with only one of my two DVD drives (1 x SATA and 1 x IDE) connected and still Ubuntu wouldn’t boot.

So, it dawned that it must be a partially dead motherboard, a trusty 4 year old AMD Asus board that has served me well.  I went straight onto Ebay to see if I could get another as a direct replacement and found plenty of faulty ones for sale and a refurbished one for well over £100.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and go for an upgrade.

I decided on an Intel Core i7 Quad Core 950 CPU with 12Gb RAM and a Gigabyte Motherboard, perfect for running all those lab virtual machines.

Everything was delivered and I started the task of swapping everything over. It took quite a while actually to do the physical changing as the heatsink instructions were pretty bad with small black and white grainy photographs trying to show which way round the fan was meant to go.

I was even very keen and plugged in all additional riser cards and my USB devices and hit the power button.  My new PC booted but wouldn’t boot off the boot drive.  That was easily fixed by going into the BIOS and selected the boot device.  Next attempt and it started! I logged on and waited a few minutes for devices to be recognised and drivers installed, rebooted again and nearly everything was working.  I only had to install the Nic drivers separately. 

I do need to reactivate Windows but I’ve been given three days to comply.  I always wait until the last minute for this kind of thing just in case something does go wrong and I need to backtrack.

I must say at this point I was actually particularly impressed.  First of all with myself for getting everything correctly into the case and plugged together (I managed to scrape my hand on the case at some point…I never thought PC building was a blood sport!)

Most impressive however was that Windows 7 actually booted and didn’t have an issue having AMD ripped out from underneath it and Intel put in its place. Saying that I shouldn’t really be that impressed, I should have expected this to just work. Doesn’t windows CPU support rest with the Hard Abstraction Layer (HAL). As Abstraction is in the name you would expect there to be no issues but this certainly hasn’t been the case with previous versions of Windows when I’ve had to do this.

I then actually did some retrograde research at what other people suggest when doing the same thing and the overwhelming response from some very experienced prolific posters on hardware forums was to reinstall your OS to support a new CPU

I’m very happy to report this is not required now with Windows 7.

So kudos to Microsoft for getting the abstration thing working a little better. One of the reasons to go virtual is to have this hypervisor layer between the OS and your hardware so you don’t have to worry about changing the underlying physical kit to a new model / supplier / version, seems like the OS is growing up as well to be able to handle this all by itself.

I must say I am very happy to see this in Task Manager after a week of no PC!

Categories: Windows Tags: ,

vCenter Converter drops support for Windows NT and 2000

November 3rd, 2010 No comments

Time to finish up all those conversions before it could be too late!

We all know that Microsoft Windows NT and Windows 2000 are no longer supported by Microsoft but there are still many many instances out there begging for an upgrade but running applications which just cannot easily be moved or are working fine so people don’t see a reason to upgrade.

Often these servers are also running on some very old hardware so converting them to VMs at least allows you to move off the old hardware but making them VMs using VMware’s P2V tool is going to get harder as time goes by.

VMware vCenter Converter Standalone 4.3 has dropped support for Windows NT and 2000.

It’s all there in the release notes.

You can still use the old Converter 4.0.1 to P2V your Windows NT and 2000 servers but this may be not supported by VMware depending on what ESX version you are converting to.

You can use 4.0.1 to convert to ESX 4.0 but not to ESX 4.1 although I can’t see why this wouldn’t actually work despite it not being supported.

If you need a supported conversion, hopefully you haven’t been very keen and upgraded all your hosts to 4.1 yet. You could in theory do a two stage process, migrate using Converter 4.0.1 to ESX 4.0 and then migrate the VM to 4.1.

If all your hosts are 4.1 well you may just have to be brave and go for it!

Categories: ESX, VMware Tags: , ,