How I passed VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 – Notes and thoughts

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This past weekend I passed my VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test.  For me the VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test was the third test I took in 2022.  By completing it, the VCP-DCV 2022 and the VCAP-DCV Design 2022 I’ve now earned the badge of VCIX-DCV 2022.  This now qualifies me to apply for the VMware Certified Design Expert (VCDX)  In this blog post I’m going to review some tips around my testing process.

**Update – Further below, I’ve added a video commentary**

Cloud Management and Automation Design 2022

What is the VCAP-DCV Deploy 2022 test?

  • Advanced Deploy VMware vSphere 7.x (3V0-22.21N) is a 205 minute live lab with 17 Questions and costs $450 USD.
  • The live lab is very similar to the way VMware HOL labs work.
  • Currently, you can take the VCAP Deploy online via a remote proctored exam or in person at a test facility.
  • More information about this exam check out this URL

Test Taking Tips:

  1. Online Proctor Tips
    • The process to take a remote proctored test was pretty simple and convenient.  Even before COVID I’ve been taking remote proctored tests with great success.
    • After I registered for the exam, I got an email from OnVue with 2 key links.  One tested my environment to make sure I met certain standards (Audio, video, and microphone) and the other was the link for the day of the exam.
    • Be familiar with the OnVue Online proctoring technical requirements. They can be a bit strict about this, so make sure you are ready to go.
    • Only one monitor is permitted.  All other monitors will need to be disconnected.  If using a laptop with remote monitor the laptop lid will need to be all the way down.  I’d recommend using a monitor you are most familiar with and meets the requirements.
    • One requirement is to have a very clean desktop.  I have a large desk with many things to move.  The requirement is, desktop items need to be at a arms distance away.  So I only clear my desk to that requirement.  Reminding the proctor of this arms length requirement might be necessary. However, don’t argue too much as you may they may find you system doesn’t meet requirements and reschedule your exam.
  2. Be VERY familiar with VMware HOL
    • Make sure you have a good idea on how to resize the Windows display screen and the change the zoom in your browser to a level that is easy for you to read.  I had a hard time seeing the lab text, and after resizing I found where I made errors.  This may seem like basic tasks, but the HOL visibility is a bit different. Going into this test with an idea of what settings work best for you can prove to be helpful.
    • Knowing how to properly COPY, CUT, and PASTE content within the Lab OS and from the Manual into the Lab OS is key – Practice this in HOL.  Mastery of this skill is vital as it will save you time and typos.
  3. The Exam Lab Environment
    • Before I got into the exam lab environment I was presented with a Welcome Screen.  It had information around the exam, lab, passwords, and the lab layout.  I read it all and made sure I understood before I started the lab.  This did not count against my time to complete.
    • Next, I was presented with a ‘Starting the lab’ screen, as soon as I clicked next the clock started and my lab started to deploy.  Almost instantly the manual was made available on the right as the lab started to “spin up”.  The manual explained the various lab details and items at my disposal.  I took time to read and understand this. It was very similar to VMware HOL.
    • Very soon after, my exam lab OS was deployed and ready.  The lab OS was based on Windows.
    • The Windows OS had pre-installed programs and tools.  Additionally, there is a Student folder that is created.  Inside it contained locally readable and select vSphere documentation, KB’s, and important files.  As I went through my exam, I used most of them to complete tasks.
      • NOTE: The exam doesn’t give you internet access so use the tools and documents they provide to you.  Not every document or written procedure you need will be in this folder.  Some tasks you just have to know how to do it.  Don’t forget about time management, if you find yourself deeply reading the documentation it may be a waste of time if you don’t complete the question. You may want to come back to these questions if you have enough time at the end.
    • Next I moved on to the questions and completed my lab
  4. Multi-Tasked Questions:
    • A better way to describe the exam questions would be calling them multi-tasked.  I say multi-tasked as each succinct question could include multiple tasks.
    • For each question, some of the tasks go together and some of them are have no bearing on the others
    • Some questions are very short and some are very long.
    • Some take a lot of time to complete and some do not.
    • Questions or Tasks do not tell you how to do something, they simply state the task(s) it wants you to complete.
    • In reading the welcome screen, it stated something like – “the questions are mostly independent of one another” and I don’t recall any that were dependent on the exam.
    • As I progressed through the exam, I took time to read those questions/tasks closely. If you are only reading part of the question OR didn’t read it thoroughly you might easily miss something.
    • The entire question/task can task you to do something, don’t expect it to be specifically listed out in a list.  Any part of the question is fair game, read it all.
    • You don’t have to wait for a task to complete, let it run and come back to it.
    • Track the status of your questions. Since questions are multi-tasked you might start tasks but have to move on.  By the time you come back to it, you might have completed or started several other tasks.  It’s really easy to miss something when you are multi-tasking. My tip — Use the built-in white board or notepad to track your progress.  Before I started the test, I opened the white board, listed out the 17 numbers.  As I progressed through the test I marked each one complete, needs work, or a quick note.  This way when I return to the question or am doing a final review, I know exactly where I left off.  The PIC below is an example of my list, it was not actually from my test.
    • Don’t waste time — If you don’t know the answer to the question/task, mark it in your list, move on, and if time permits come back to it.  Just try to get as many questions/tasks completed as possible.

Study TIPS:

  1. ANY vSphere concept is fair game, even items that have been around since the beginning.
  2. READ the exam guide. Review all its links, content, and come up with a study plan.
  3. Search for labs, documents, or videos labeled something like, “What’s New in…”, take it, read it, practice it, and know it well.  Chances are if you don’t understand or know some of the latest and greatest concepts you’ll need to practice them thoroughly.
  4. Take all the VMware HOL Odyssey Labs.  They are free training or test simulation resource that will task you and keep you under a clock.
  5. For me, having a Home lab to practice on was instrumental in passing this test.

Video Commentary:

Wrap up:

I really enjoyed taking the Deploy exam.  It was interesting and challenged me technically.  Some of those questions really worked the brain cells and others I knew right away.  If  a person wants to pass this test, then I suggest study hard and lots of practice plus experience should help align them for success.  Best of luck on your certification journey!

Home Lab Generation 7: Upgrading and Replacing a vSAN 7 Cache Disk

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In this video I go over some of the rational and the steps I took to replace the vSAN 7 2 x 200GB SSD SAS cache disks with a 512GB NVMe flash device.

 

*Products in this video*
Sabrent 512 Rocket – https://www.sabrent.com/product/SB-ROCKET-512/512gb-rocket-nvme-pcie-m-2-2280-internal-ssd-high-performance-solid-state-drive/#description

Dual M.2 PCIe Adapter Card for NVMe/SATA – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08MZGN1C5

Quick NAS Topics: Serial USB Server with the LOCKERSTOR 10

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In this Quick NAS Topic video I go over how to install VirutalHere USB Server on the LOCKERSTOR 10 and its client on my Windows 10 PC. This enables the client to establish a link to the a USB NULL Model Cable which is connected directly into the NAS.  Once established I’m able to use putty to create a serial SSH connection.

** Products in this Video **

10Gbe NAS Home Lab Part 7: Network testing with iperf3 on containers

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In Part 7 I go over how I used iperf3 to test between my different NAS devices and Windows PCs. Each NAS device are running Docker and had a ubuntu container with iperf3 installed. If you want more information on how I setup the container check out my other post here. 

 

 

Quick NAS Topics: Create your own iperf3 Docker Container

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In this Quick NAS Topic video and the steps further below, I use docker to create a ubuntu container with Linux tools and iperf3.

This video is a supplement for the 10Gbe Home NAS Lab Part 7. In Part 7 I show how to use these containers to network performance test the 3 NAS devices I have.  

Notes:

Docker Ubuntu/iperf3 Basic Steps:  Items in-between [ ] and the brackets should be removed

  • On the NAS:
    • Ensure devices can access the inet OR not covered in this blog, you’ll need to manually import and export images, etc. 
    • Ensure Docker-ce and if needed Shell-in-a-box and portainer are installed and basic configuration is done.  The Synology didn’t need shell in a box or portainter
    • Test Docker Install
      • docker -v << Shows the version
      • docker images << Show the images that are available
      • docker ps  << Shows the running containers
    • Elevate local privileges to run docker commands
      • It may be necessary to use ‘sudo’ in front of docker commands to get them to execute, followed by the admin/root password.  Example:  sudo docker ps
    • Download and run Ubuntu
      • docker pull ubuntu   << Image is located here https://hub.docker.com/_/ubuntu
      • docker run -it ubuntu bash  << Creates an instance of this image for us to modify and opens up the terminal
    • Update the Ubuntu running container
      • apt-get -y update
      • apt-get install iproute2
      • apt-get install net-tools
      • apt-get install iputils
      • apt-get install iputils-ping
      • apt-get install -y iperf3
      • Test with ping and iperf3 -v
      • Do not exit
    • Commit and push the new image
      • docker ps -l  << Check for the latest running container, and note the Container ID of the container that was just updated with these steps
      • docker commit  [Container ID]  [repository name]/[insert-container-name] 
      • docker images  << will validate that the image is now there
      • docker push [repository name]/[Container you want to push] 
  • Testing Steps
    • Check basic ping between all devices
    • Put one device in server mode iperf3 -s
    • On the other device start the test iperf3 -c [Target IP]

Tips for installing Windows 7 x32 SP1 on Workstation 16.1.2

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This past weekend I needed to install Windows 7 x32 to support some older software. After installing Windows 7 x32 I noticed VMware tools is grayed out.  I then tried to install VMware tools manually but it failed. There are a few tricks when installing Windows 7 x32 on to Workstation 16.1.2 and in this blog I’ll cover the the steps I took.

So what changed and why all these extra steps?

You may recall that Workstation 16.0.0 could install Windows 7SP1 x32 without any additional intervention. Starting September 2019, Microsoft added SHA-2 algorithm requirements for driver signing.  As Workstation 16 released updates it too included updated VMtools that were complaint with the Microsoft SHA-2 requirements.  So if you deploy the Windows 7 SP1 x32 ISO (which doesn’t have the SHA-2 patch) the vmtools install will fail because it cannot validate the drivers. For a bit more information See VMware KB 78655.

What are options to fix this?

By default Windows 7×32 SP1 doesn’t include the needed SHA-2 updates.  Users have 2 options when doing new installs.

Option 1: Create an updated Windows 7SP1 ISO by slip streaming in the Convenience Rollup Patch (More details here) and then use this slipstreamed ISO to do the install on Workstation. From there you should be able to install VMTools.

Option 2: After Windows 7 SP1 installation is complete, manually install the SHA-2 update, and then install VMtools.  See steps below.

Steps for Option 2:

  • First I created a new Workstation VM. When creating it I made sure the ISO path pointed to the Windows 7 SP1 ISO and Workstation adjusted the VM hardware to be compatible with Windows 7 SP1.  I allowed the OS installation to complete.
  • After the OS was installed I applied the following MS Patch.
  • After the rebooted, I went into Workstation and did the following:
    • Right clicked on the VM > Settings > CD/DVD
    • Made sure ‘Devices status’ was check for connected and connect at power on
    • Clicked on ‘Use ISO Image’ > Browse
    • Browsed to this folder ‘C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\VMware Workstation’
    • Choose ‘windows.iso’
    • Choose OK to closed the VM Settings
    • Back in the Windows 7 VM I went into File Explorer opened up the CD and ran setup.exe
    • From there I followed the default steps to install VM Tools and rebooted
  • Screenshot of the final outcome

Home Lab Generation 7: Part 2 – New Hardware and Software Updates

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In the final part of this 2 part series, I’ll be documenting the steps I took to update my Home Lab Generation 7 with the new hardware and software changes.  There’s quite a bit of change going on and these steps worked well for my environment.

Pre-Update-Steps:

  1. Check Product Interoperability Matrix (VCSA, ESXi, NSX, vRNI, VRLI)
  2. Check VMware Compatibility Guide (Network Cards, JBOD)
  3. Ensure the vSAN Cluster is in a health state
  4. Backup VM’s
  5. Ensure your passwords are updated
  6. Document Basic Host settings (Network, vmks, NTP, etc.)
  7. Backup VCSA via the Management Console > Backup

Steps to update vCenter Server from 7U2d (7.0.2.00500) to 7U3a (7.0.3.00100):

  1. Downloaded VCSA 7U3a VMware-vCenter-Server-Appliance-7.0.3.00100-18778458-patch-FP.iso
  2. Use WinSCP to connect to an ESXi host and upload the update/patch to vSAN ISO-Images Folder
  3. Mount the ISO from step 1 to VCSA 7U2d VM
    • NOTE: A reboot of the VCSA my be necessary for it to recognize the attached ISO
  4. Went to VCSA Management Console > Update > Check Updates should auto-start
    • NOTE: It might fail to find the ISO. If so, choose CD ROM to detect the ISO
  5. Expanded the Version > Run Pre-Update checks
  6. Once it passed pre-checks, choose Stage and Install > Accept the Terms > Next
  7. Check ‘I have backed up vCenter Server…’
    • NOTE: Clicking on ‘go to Backup’ will Exit out and you’ll have to start over
  8. Click Finish and allow it to complete
  9. Once done log back into the Management console > Summary and validate the Version
  10. Lastly, detach the datastore ISO, I simple choose ‘Client Device’

Change Boot USB to SSD and upgrade to ESXi 7U3 on Host at a time:

  1. Remove Host from NSX-T Manager (Follow these steps)
  2. In vCenter Server
    1. Put Host 1 in Maintenance Mode Ensure Accessibility (better if you can evacuate all data | run pre-check validation)
    2. Shut down the host
    3. Remove Host from Inventory (NOTE: Wait for host to go to not responding first)
  3. On the HOST
    1. Precautionary step – Turn off the power supply on the host, helps with the onboard management ability to detect changes
    2. Remove the old USB boot device
    3. Install Dell HBA330 and M.2/NVMe PCIe Card w/ 240GB SSD into the Host
    4. Power On the Host and validate firmware is updated (Mobo, Disk, Network, etc.)
    5. During boot ensure the Dell HBA330 POST screen displays (optional hit CTRL-C to view its options)
    6. In the Host BIOS Update the boot disk to the new SSD Card
  4. ESXi Install 
    1. Boot the host to ESXi 7.0U3 ISO (I used SuperMicro Virtual Media to boot from)
    2. Install ESXi to the SSD Card, Remove ISO, Reboot
    3. Update Host boot order in BIOS for the SSD Card and boot host
    4. In the ESXi DUCI, configure host with correct IPv4/VLAN, DNS, Host Name, enable SSH/Shell, disable IPv6 and reboot
    5. From this ESXi host and from another connected device, validate you can ping the Host IP and its DNS name
    6. Add Host to the Datacenter (not vSAN Cluster)
    7. Ensure Host is in Maintenance mode and validate health
    8. Erase all partitions on vSAN Devices (Host > Configure > Storage Devices > Select devices > Erase Partitions)
    9. Rename the new SSD datastore (Storage > R-Click on datastore > Rename)
    10. Add Host to Cluster (but do not add to vSAN)
    11. Add Host to vDS Networking, could be multiple vDS switches (Networking > Target vDS > Add Manage Hosts > Add Hosts > Migrate VMKernel)
    12. Complete the Host configuration settings (NTP, vmks)
    13. Create vSAN Disk Groups (Cluster > Configure > vSAN > Disk Management)
    14. Monitor and allow to complete, vSAN Replication Objects (Cluster > Monitor > vSAN > Resyncing Objects)
    15. Extract a new Host Profile and use it to build out the other hosts in the cluster
  5. ESXi Install – Additional Hosts
    1. Repeat Steps 1, 2, 3, and only Steps 4.1-4.10
    2. Attach Host Profile created in Step 4.15
    3. Check Host Profile Compliance
    4. Edit and update Host Customizations
    5. Remediate the host (the remediation will to a pre-check too)
    6. Optional validate host settings
    7. Exit Host from Maintenance mode
    8. Before starting next host ensure vSAN Resyncing Objects is completed

Other Notes / Thoughts:

Host Profiles: You may be thinking “why didn’t he use ESXi Backup/Restore or Host Profiles to simply this migration vs. doing all these steps?”.  Actually, at first I did try both but they didn’t work due to the add/changes of PCIe devices and upgrade of the ESXi OS.  Backup/Restore and Host Profiles really like things to not change for them to work with out error.  Now there are adjustments one could make and I tried to adjust them but in the end I wasn’t able to get them to adjust to the new hosts.  They were just the wrong tool for the first part of this job.   However, Host Profiles did work well post installation after all the changes were made. vSAN Erase Partitions Step 4.8:  This step can be optional it just depends on the environment.  In-fact I skipped this step on the last host and vSAN imported the disks with out issue.  Granted most of my vm’s are powered off, which means the vSAN replicas are not changing.  In an environment where there are a lot of powered on VM’s vSAN doing step 4.8 might be best.  Again, it just depends on the environment state. If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ videos and blogs that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start posting really boring content!

Home Lab Generation 7: Updating the Dell HBA330 firmware without a Dell Server

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In this quick video I review how I updated the Dell HBA330 firmware using a Windows 10 PC.

 

This video was made as a supplement to my 2 Part blog post around updating my Home Lab Generation 7.

See:

Blog >> https://vmexplorer.com/2021/11/10/home-lab-generation-7-part-1-change-rational-for-software-and-hardware-changes/

Firmware >> https://www.dell.com/support/home/en-ng/drivers/driversdetails?driverid=tf1m6

Quick NAS Topics Changing Storage Pool from RAID 1 to RAID5 with the Synology 1621+

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In this not so Quick NAS topic I cover how to expand a RAID 1 volume and migrate it to a RAID 5 storage pool with the Synology 1621+. Along the way we find a disk that has some bad sectors, run an extended test and then finalize the migration.

** Products / Links Seen in this Video **

Synology DiskStation DS1621+ — https://www.synology.com/en-us/products/DS1621+

Home Lab Generation 7: Part 1 – Change Rational for software and hardware changes

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Well its that time of year again, time to deploy new changes, upgrades, and add some new hardware.  I’ll be updating my ESXi hosts and vCenter Server to the latest vSphere 7 Update 3a from 7U2d. Additionally, I’ll be swapping out the IBM 5210 JBOD for a Dell HBA330+ and lastly I’ll change my boot device to a more reliable and persistent disk.  I have 3 x ESXi hosts with VSAN, vDS switches, and NSX-T.  If you want to better understand my environment a bit better check out this page on my blog.  In this 2 part blog I’ll go through the steps I took to update my home lab and some of the rational behind it.

There are two main parts to the blog:

  • Part 1 – Change Rational for software and hardware changes – In this part I’ll explain some of my thoughts around why I’m making these software and hardware changes. 
  • Part 2 – Installation and Upgrade Steps – These are the high level steps I took to change and upgrade my Home lab

Part 1 – Change Rational for software and hardware changes:

There are three key changes that I plan to make to my environment:

  • One – Update to vSphere 7U3a
    • vSphere 7U3 has brought many new changes to vSphere including many needed features updates to vCenter server and ESXi.  Additionally, there have been serval important bug fixes and corrections that vSphere 7U3 and 7U3a will address. For more information on the updates with vSphere 7U3 please see the “vSphere 7 Update 3 – What’s New” by Bob Plankers.  For even more information check out the release notes.   
    • Part of my rational in upgrading is to prepare to talk with my customers around the benefits of this update.   I always test out the latest updates on Workstation first then migrate those learnings in to Home Lab.  
  • Two – Change out the IBM 5210 JBOD
    • The IBM 5210 JBOD is a carry over component from my vSphere 6.x vSAN environment. It worked well with vSphere 6.x and 7U1.  However, starting in 7U2 it started to exhibit stuck IO issues and the occasional PSOD.  This card was only certified with vSphere/vSAN 6.x and at some point the cache module became a requirement.  My choices at this point are to update this controller with a cache module (~$50 each) and hope it works better or make a change.  In this case I decided to make a change to the Dell HBA330 (~$70 each).  The HBA330 is a JBOD controller that Dell pretty much worked with VMware to create for vSAN.  It is on the vSphere/vSAN 7U3 HCL and should have a long life there too.  Additionally, the HBA330 edge connectors (Mini SAS SFF-8643) line up with the my existing SAS break-out cables. When I compare the benefits of the Dell HBA330 to upgrading the cache module for the IBM 5210 the HBA330 was the clear choice.  The trick is finding a HBA330 that is cost effective and comes with a full sized slot cover.  Its a bit tricky but you can find them on eBay, just have to look a bit harder.

  • Three – Change my boot disk
    • Last September-2021, VMware announced boot from USB is going to change and customers were advised to plan ahead for these upcoming changes.   My current hosts are using cheap SanDisk USB 64GB memory sticks.  Its something I would never recommend for a production environment, but for a Home Lab these worked okay.  I originally chose them during my Home Lab Gen 5 updates as I need to do testing with USB booted Hosts.  Now that VMware has deprecated support for USB/SD devices it’s time to make a change. Point of clarity: the word deprecated can mean different things to different people.  However, in the software industry deprecated means “discourage the use of (something, such as a software product) in favor of a newer or better alternative”.  vSphere 7 is in a deprecated mode when it comes to USB/SD booted hosts, they are still supported, and customers are highly advised to plan ahead. As of this writing, legacy (legacy is a fancy word for vSphere.NEXT) USB hosts will require a persistent disk and eventually (Long Term Supported) USB/SD booted hosts will no longer be supported.  Customers should seek guidance from VMware when making these changes.

    • The requirement to be in a “Long Term Supported” mode is to have a ESXi host be booted from HDD, SSD, or a PCIe device.  In my case, I didn’t want to add more disks to my system and chose to go with a PCIe SSD/NVMe card. I chose this PCIe device that will support M.2 (SATA SSD) and NMVe devices in one slot and I decided to go with a Kingston A400 240G Internal SSD M.2  as my boot disk. The A400 with 240GB should be more than enough to boot the ESXi hosts and keep up with its disk demands going forward.   

 

Final thoughts and a important warning.  Making changes that affect your current environment are never easy but are sometimes necessary.  With a little planning it can make the journey a bit easier.  I’ll be testing these changes over the next few months and will post up if issues occur.  However, a bit of warning – adding new devices to an environment can directly impact your ability to migrate or upgrade your hosts.  Due to the hardware decisions I have made a direct ESXi upgrade is not possible and I’ll have to back out my current hosts from vCenter Server plus other software and do a new installation.  However, those details and more will be in Part 2 – Installation and Upgrade Steps.

Opportunity for vendor improvement – If backup vendors like Synology, asustor, Veeam, Veritas, naviko, and Arcoins could really shine.  If they could backup and restore a ESXi host to dislike hardware  or boot disks this would be a huge improvement for VI Admin, especially when they have tens of thousands of hosts the need to change from their USB to persistent disks.  This is not a new ask, VI admins have been asking for this option for years, now maybe these companies will listen as many users and their hosts are going to be affected by these upcoming requirements.