Super VMware Workstation: Supermicro X11SPL-F First Look and Basic Overview

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In this video I give a first look at the motherboard I plan to possibly use for my new Super VMware Workstation. I got a lot of great plans for this server and it all starts here.

Supporting 18TB drives with Intel Virtual RAID on CPU (VROC)

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To compliment my vSphere Home Lab I use VMware Workstation all the time. It’s great for quickly spinning up VM’s and running nested ESXi. My current workstation (See specs here) was starting to show its age and wasn’t keeping up with my needs. To replace it, I recently bought a ASRock Rack EPC621D8A motherboard in hopes of paring it with a Intel Xeon 6252 CPU, 256GB RAM, GTX 1650 Super video card, Noctua NH-D9 DX-3647 cooler, and 5 x 18TB drives. My hopes were to use this mobo as the foundation for my new SuperWorkstation, Plex Server, and to process videos.

Looking for mobo that will fit a LGA 3647 CPU is pretty hard. The lowest end mobo will set you back at least $430 USD and your choices are very limited. I chose the ASRock Rack as it checked all the boxes – lowest cost, supported PCIe x16, quad Intel NICs, onboard sound, IPMI, Dual NVMe, and many other options, plus it supported the CPU+RAM I already had.

As a test, I did install ESXi 8 on it, and it worked well. However, when I stared my build with Windows 11/PLEX and I hooked up the 5 x 18TB HDD, only one disk would be seen in the VROC, but in Windows 11 all the disks were present. This meant I could not create a RAID 5 group with VROC.

I sent in my findings to ASRock support looking for help. Soon after the video stopped working, so I had to replace the mobo. However, the new ASRock replacement board had that same issue with the 18TB drives. At this point I reached out to ASRock support around this issue.

In the mean time, I decided to start working with the SuperMicro X11SPL-F. This mobo has a similar price point but is lacking in features when compared to the ASRock Rack. It only supports dual Intel NICs, though it looks like it has true x16 PCIe slots they are only a disappointing x8, no onboard audio, and single NVMe. The good news was, there was a current BIOS update that stated it supported my larger 18TB drives. I hooked up the SuperMicro mobo, updated its BIOS, and sure enough all the 18TB drives showed up. Next, I installed Windows 11 and with some quick Intel INF updates everything was accounted for and working.

Soon after I updated ASRock support letting them know my findings. Both the SuperMirco and the ASROCK RACK use the Intel C621 with VROC and with out the VROC update to the ASRock Mobo it just won’t support those larger drives. Their last ASRock mobo BIOS update was from 2019 and their VROC was clearly out of date. I’m hoping this information helps them to reconsider updating their BIOS which should allow for larger HDD support. I got a response back very quickly and they plan to look into this item. Additionally, throughout this issue the ASRock support person was very responsive, friendly, and communicated well through email. Kudos to their support team.

*Update Jan-01-2023 – I got word from ASRock support that they are looking into updating their BIOS and VROC. They asked me to test it out and I will be doing that shortly.*

*Update Jan-29-2023 – Over the past few weeks I’ve been testing the ASRock Beta BIOS and it seems to be working perfectly with my 18TB Drives. Last check I checked on their product page they have not released an update yet. *

Thanks for reading, and please do post up a comment!

*Update* vExpert and Intel NVMe Optane Giveaway

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A few months ago I was contacted by Intel as they wanted to engage deeper with the vCommunity and vExperts. My Intel contact, Scott Sherman, was a person I new from my Phoenix VMUG days. We met back in 2009 when Scott was working with Xsigo. He remembered the great blogs I did for Xsigo back in 2011 and wanted to chat more about enabling the vCommunity with Intel hardware.

Through a series of meetings Scott and I were able to come up with a framework worthy of presenting to the vExpert team. Scott was able to allocate 600 Intel Optane P4800 375GB NVMe drives in a PCIe or 2.5 Inch formfactor. The drives came in packs of 10 which would enable us to give them away to 60 vExperts. We chose 10 drives as this would enable the vExperts to create an all flash vSAN configuration or they could use the drives for other home lab fun. The only question now was how do we get these drives in the hands of the vExperts.

We presented our ideas to the vExpert Staff (Corey Romero) and they loved the idea. We came up with the idea to ask the vExperts to fill out a surrey explaining how they would use the disks and if selected how could they promote their outcomes. We’d present this program overview to the vExperts and after they filled out the survey we would review then select the lucky 60.

Over this past week we’ve been reviewing the surveys and there were a lot of great candidates. In fact, some of them even made special blog posts and videos!

It wasn’t easy to choose which vExperts would receive these disks. In reviewing their responses, Intel, VMware, and myself really looked at each entry and tried to surmise how they would use and promote these drives. We visited their social media platforms to get a feel of how they might plus we looked at their activity. We also considered other platforms and venues they shared with us and read each of their entries. We narrowed it down and discussed why each candidate would be chosen.

Now that we have our 1st round picks, we will be sending drives to them this week. They will be notified by the vExpert program and should see their drives the first week of January 2022. Additionally, we will be scheduling a Mid-January meeting to help enable them.

But wait there’s more! We will be sending out a “thanks for applying” email to those who were not selected in the 1st round. However don’t fret, We are working on a 2nd chance plan for those who applied but didn’t get selected. We are planning to setup a meeting to help these candidates become more viable. With a little work I have no doubt that many folks from this group will be selected.

But wait there’s even more! This is not fully confirmed but we may be able to open the 2nd round to folks in EMEA. We are working on some Intel magic to be able to ship to EMEA. Fingers crossed on this one and stay tuned!

It’s been a pleasure helping and enabling my fellow vExperts but please do keep in mind that all official communication should be coming from the vExpert team.

Why I didn’t choose a Noctua replacement fan

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We’ve all been there, we’ve picked out a new router, switch, or other device for our home lab and the fans are LOUD. First thing we do is to replace those fans with something a little more quiet. We hit up our favorite online store, maybe read some reviews, and choose a fan that fits. Sometimes that fan is an expensive Noctua fan because its promise of being quiet is so alluring. After the fan is replaced it is a bit more quiet but now the fan error lights are on or it malfunctions. Clearly it’s the wrong fan for our device.

In this blog I’ll go over some of the items you should look for when buying a replacement fan for your devices that can help you find a better fit and not break your wallet. Fair warning, the stock fans in these engineered devices were designed to be optimal for said device. Altering them in any way can be harmful to the device plus working on electronics without proper training is never advised.

First, identify the stock fan in your device and find its datasheet. You may need to remove the fan from your device. I recently replaced some fans in my Mellanox IS5022 InfiniBand Switch. The stock fan was made by Delta, the make #EPB0142VHD Subtype -R00, it has 3 wires, 12 Volt DC Brushless, and draws .18 AMPS. I underlined Subtype as it is very important when identifying your stock fan. In this case if I just search for the make I’ll get the wrong fan information. In fact EPB0142VHD with no subtype only has 2 wires.

Second, I review the stock fan specification datasheet. I already know the Voltage and Amp rating but here are the things I also need:

  • Fan Size – 40mm x 40mm x 20mm
  • Hole Mount Size – 32 mm between mount points
  • Hole diameter – 3.5 mm diameter.
  • Length of Wires – 330 mm
  • Identify the 3 wires and their purpose – 12v, Ground, and Lock Rotor
  • Db Noise rating – 32-36 Dba
  • RPM – 9000 RPM
  • CFM – 10

Not sure if you caught it but identifying the 3 wires on the stock fan is critical if you want to resolve these error lights. Most 3 wires fans are going to have 12v DC and Ground. It’s that 3rd wire that makes them unique and its one of the more important items you must find out to select the correct replacement fan.

The 3 most common types of 3 wire fans are:

  • Step RPM Speed – think of this like gears on a bike. The fan speed steps from one RPM to another. Most have between 3-5 steps in RPM.
  • PWM – Pulse Width Modulation, allows for granular speed control. Instead of instantly stepping to the next speed it is gradually sped up and down.
  • Locked Rotor (sometimes called alert) – This is a fan spin error detection. Normally, the fan will spin at one speed. 40 mm Locked Rotor fans seem to be the most common for routers, switches, and other similar devices.

Another item is the length of the wires. The datasheet shows 330 mm (+-10mm), however the fan you order could be shorter. It’s best just to measure the stock fan, and make sure the replacement fan you ordered has enough length or room to stash the wires if they are too long.

Third, now that I understand my stock fan I’m ready to choose a replacement fan that meets with my goal of reducing fan noise. In most cases, fan noise is reduced by slowing the RPM. Additionally, there are fans specifically designed to reduce noise but they can be expensive. I thoroughly looked at 40mm Noctua fans but none of them matched the voltage and Locked Rotor requirements. However, I still see a lot of folks buying Noctua 40mm fans and then complaining about the fan error lights or issues with it malfunctioning. Most just ignore these errors or alter the fan wires to send a false message to the device. Both I don’t recommend.

In this case I choose the Sunon MagLev KDE1204PKV3 MS.AR.GN 40x40x20mm 3pin Low-Speed 5200RPM 6.3CFM (Locked Rotor Alarm Signal). Cost is about $6.50 US, compared to a non-compliant Noctura $14 US

How do the stock and replacement fans compare:

Item (recommendation)Delta EPB0142VHD-R00Sunon KDE1204PKV3 MS.AR.GN
DC Volts (match)1212
Amps (do not exceed stock)0.180.03
Fan Size (match)40mm x 40mm x 20mm40mm x 40mm x 20mm
Hole Mount Size (match)32 mm32 mm
Hole Diameter (close match)3.5 mm4 mm
Length of Wires (match)330 mm300 mm
3 wire purpose (match)12v, Ground, Lock Rotor12v, Ground, Locked Rotor
Db Noise rating (reduce)32-36 Dba18 Dba
RPM (close match)90005200
CFM (close match)106.3

Fourth, Prepare the fan to be installed. One item I didn’t mention was the fan edge connector. Most data sheets do not come with information on the edge connector as device manufactures may customize this. In this size of fan the edge connectors seem to be a standard size with some variants.

Some fans will need their wire order changed to match the circuitry on the device. Aligning these pins is critical, if they are wrong you could damage your device. For example your replacement fan came with Pin 1 12v Red, Pin 2 Ground Black, and Pin 3 Motor Lock Yellow (Sometimes White or Blue) you might need to reordered them to match your device. Simply use a wire pin removal tool, light pressure down, and push the pin out. Then, reorder the pins to match your device and you are good to go.

Next the replacement fan mount hole might be a factor. Some replacement fans come with screws or bolts that you may be able to use. If not, you may be able to use the stock hardware or hardware you provide. Either way, depending on the hole size you may have to work this out a bit. In my case, the stock fan screws worked perfectly. Tip – Don’t over crank or force in screws, it may damage your fan.

If your stock fan had a protection sleeve over the wires you may want to reuse it as some devices have sharp metal edges that may cut into your wires. Fan vibration may also cause this too. As an alternative, you may want to consider adding heat shrink when you re-pin the fan.

Lastly, how did my selection perform? Basically, the Sunon is a very close replacement to the Delta. It has a reduced RPM and CFM which drops its Db noise by 20 Db. Since I choose a replacement fan that is not an exact match, I’ll need to monitor the device and ensure its temps are within normal thresholds.

Very unscientifically, I used a Db meter app in my smartphone to measure the Db for the Delta and Sunon Fans. The noise reduction was notable and best of all no fan error lights.

Summary, there is no doubt that Noctua makes a quality fan product but they can be expensive and sometimes do not meet the requirements of your stock fans. If you can find one that does, it may be worth the extra spend. However, by doing just a bit of research you are sure to land on a replacement fan that will meet your goals and not break your wallet. My goal was to reduce fan noise for my home lab and by doing my homework I hit a home run with the first fan I chose.

Thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment or suggestion.

A shout to VMware Embedded OEM Partners

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Today, I’m honored to be recognized by our VMware Customer Experience and Success team for my efforts in supporting eOEM.  However, building up to this day took a lot of effort and an a industrious sprit to ensure success for my partner.  Inside of VMware, I became an internal advocate for the needs of our eOEM partners, and I’ll continue helping them through their challenges plus aligning them for success. They truly partner with you and help to ensure your success as much as theirs.  In this blog are some of my thoughts around working with VMware eOEM and some secrets to my success.

For the past 11+ years I’ve been a Technical Account Manager (TAM) with VMware. From day 1 I was assigned a VMware Embedded OEM (eOEM) Partner and I’ve loved every minute of it. When I first started, 2011, inspiring the global industrial market to move into virtualization was no small task and in working with my eOEM Partner early on it was apparent they understood their customer at a very deep level. This was something I needed to master if I was going to be successful with eOEM customer. For the past 40+ years, my eOEM Partner has held an annual global industrial users group meeting.  This event has helped to build a very loyal customer base. This event is very similar to VMUG in many ways and early on in my TAM assignment I knew this customer bond was extremely valuable. However, ensuring I understood their customers’ requirements and business objectives was the key to my success. I knew this event was an opportunity to learn as much as I could about industrial controls and their needs. When folks ask me about my first day with VMware, I like to tell them I was born at my partners event, meaning my first day with VMware was at their annual event. I was working the VMware booth talking about Industrial process and how it relates to VMware. I knew this was my opportunity to ask more questions to their customers then they asked of me. Additionally, during lunch breaks and nightly events I would always sit with folks I didn’t know. Sometimes it would be my partners employees or their customers, either way I would always push my boundaries to learn something new. Through event I started better understand their customer base and by leveraging this deep understanding of their business, I was able to help them become very successful in their market space. My eOEM Partner has been so pleased with my performance they have invited me back every year since 2011 and now their customers ask for me by name.

Knowing your TAM customers business, ensuring support alignment, and being their best advocate are just a few examples of how I aligned my eOEM Partner for success. I put a focus on bringing the best value to our partner, helped them build a broad offering with our products, and in turn both companies have flourished. Additionally, having our efforts recognized helped to solidify the efforts that we both put into their product line. In 2017, we won two awards: Partner Innovation OEM Award and the TAM award for Emerging Trends and Technology. The team was presented the TAM award at VMworld 2017 by Pat Gelsinger.

Noctua NH-D9 DX-3647 4U Install

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There aren’t many choices when it comes to Socket LGA 3647 CPU coolers and Noctua seems to have a solid, yet expensive, option. Based on their reputation in the industry alone I expected better instructions but this cooler soon let me down. After reading the instructions serval times I got it all together. I choose to make a video on the installation of this CPU cooler and share a few tips that might help others with their install.

Quick Start with Power CLI 12.7

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I was tasked with setting and testing a quick PowerCLI command today and my system was a bit behind. Of course I took to Youtube to find how to get started quickly with PowerCLI but most of the videos I located were too complex. In this quick blog post I’m going to go over the steps I took to update my Windows Environment with PowerShell, Install PowerCLI, and get it up and running.

Note: this procedure is for Windows systems that are connected to the Internet. There are manual ways to install PowerCLI. However, this post doesn’t cover that process. Additionally, there are Prerequisites to installing PowerCLI, check out this link for more information.

First — I checked to see what version of PowerShell (PS) I have installed. I opened a PowerShell command window as Admin and entered the following command. $PSVersionTable. From the output I could see I had 5.1.19041…

I could have also entered $PS.versionTable.PSversion

Note: Newer versions of Windows should have PowerShell installed by default. If you don’t have PowerShell installed follow this guide for 5.1.

Second – Now it was time to install PowerCLI

  1. Open the PS5 App as Admin
  2. Run this command to download – Install-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI
    • Read and answer Yes or All when prompted (Be patient it may take a bit)
  3. Next you’ll need to Set Execution Policies:
    • Enter the command – ‘Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned’
    • More info on Execution Policies HERE
  4. Next command: ‘Set-PowerCLIConfiguration -InvalidCertificateAction Ignore -Confirm:$false’

Third – Ensure PowerCLI Commands are working

  1. With the PowerShell APP open try this commend to see the version of PowerCLI
    • ‘Get-PowerCLIVersion’ << Deprecated command, but works for now
    • Also ‘Get-Module’ will tell you the version
  2. Connect to your vCenter Server
    • Enter the command ‘Connect-VIServer [FQDN or IP]
    • Once Connected try the command ‘Get-VM’ to see a list of VM’s

These commands might seem simple but I was amazed by the amount of trial and effort it took to get PowerCLI up and running. I’m sure there are other issues folks might run into. If you do run into an issue post a comment below and I’ll be glad to help out.

#VMUG Keynote around being Left-handed and DE&I

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I had the honor of presenting the keynote session at the Phoenix Usercon last week. It was my first time in public talking about how my laterality (left-handedness) broadened my view of #diversityequityandinclusion. I got some really great feedback from the audience and I’m hoping it helped them broaden their view too. If you want to know more check out my article here.…/being-left-handed-dei…/ #vmug #vexpert #diversity #vmware

10Gbe NAS Home Lab: Part 8 Interconnecting MikroTik Switches

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It’s been a long wait for Part 8 but I was able to release it today! If you are interested on how to network performance test your storage environment this session might help. The purpose of this session is to show how to interconnect two MikroTik switches and ensure their performance is optimal when compared to a single switch. The two NAS devices in this session have different physical capabilities and by no means is this a comparison of their performance. The results are merely data points. Users should work with their vendor of choice to ensure best performance and optimization.