ESXi

Home Lab Gen IV – Part V Installing Mellanox HCAs with ESXi 6.5

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The next step on my InfiniBand home lab journey was getting the InfiniBand HCAs to play nice with ESXi. To do this I need to update the HCA firmware, this proved to be a bit of a challenge. In this blog post I go into how I solved this issue and got them working with ESXi 6.5.

My initial HCA selection was the ConnectX aka HP INFINIBAND 4X DDR PCI-E HCA CARD 452372-001, and Mellanox MHGA28-XTC InfiniHost III HCA these two cards proved to be a challenge when updating their firmware. I tried all types of operating systems, different drivers, different mobos, and MFT tools versions but they would not update or be OS recognized. Only thing I didn’t try was Linux OS. The Mellanox forums are filled with folks trying to solve these issues with mixed success. I went with these cheaper cards and they simply do not have the product support necessary. I don’t recommend the use of these cards with ESXi and have migrated to a ConnectX-3 which you will see below.

Updating the ConnectX 3 Card:

After a little trial and error here is how I updated the firmware on the ConnectX 3. I found the ConnectX 3 card worked very well with Windows 2012 and I was able to install the latest Mellanox OFED for Windows (aka Windows Drivers for Mellanox HCA card) and updated the firmware very smoothly.

First, I confirm the drivers via Windows Device Manager (Update to latest if needed)

Once you confirm Windows device functionality then install the Mellanox Firmware Tools for windows (aka WinMFT)

Next, it’s time to update the HCA firmware. To do this you need to know the exact model number and sometimes the card revision. Normally this information can be found on the back of your HCA. With this in hand go to the Mellanox firmware page and locate your card then download the update.

After you download the firmware place it in an accessible directory. Next use the CLI, navigate to the WinMFT directory and use the ‘mst status’ command to reveal the HCA identifier or the MST Device Name. If this command is working, then it is a good sign your HCA is working properly and communicating with the OS. Next, I use the flint command to update my firmware. Syntax is — flint -d <MST Device Name> -i <Firmware Name> burn

Tip: If you are having trouble with your Mellanox HCA I highly recommend the Mellanox communities. The community there is generally very responsive and helpful!

Installation of ESXi 6.5 with Mellanox ConnectX-3

I would love to tell you how easy this was, but the truth is it was hard. Again, old HCA’s with new ESXi doesn’t equal easy or simple to install but it does equal Home lab fun. Let me save you hours of work. Here is the simple solution when trying to get Mellanox ConnextX Cards working with ESXi 6.5. In the end I was able to get ESXi 6.5 working with my ConnectX Card (aka HP INFINIBAND 4X DDR PCI-E HCA CARD 452372-001) and with my ConnectX-3 CX354A.

Tip: I do not recommend the use of the ConnectX Card (aka HP INFINIBAND 4X DDR PCI-E HCA CARD 452372-001) with ESXi 6.x. No matter how I tried I could not update its firmware and it has VERY limited or non-existent support. Save time go with ConnectX-3 or above.

After I installed ESXi 6.5 I followed the following commands and it worked like a champ.

Disable native driver for vRDMA

  • esxcli system module set –enabled=false -m=nrdma
  • esxcli system module set –enabled=false -m=nrdma_vmkapi_shim
  • esxcli system module set –enabled=false -m=nmlx4_rdma
  • esxcli system module set –enabled=false -m=vmkapi_v2_3_0_0_rdma_shim
  • esxcli system module set –enabled=false -m=vrdma

Uninstall default driver set

  • esxcli software vib remove -n net-mlx4-en
  • esxcli software vib remove -n net-mlx4-core
  • esxcli software vib remove -n nmlx4-rdma
  • esxcli software vib remove -n nmlx4-en
  • esxcli software vib remove -n nmlx4-core
  • esxcli software vib remove -n nmlx5-core

Install Mellanox OFED 1.8.2.5 for ESXi 6.x.

  • esxcli software vib install -d /var/log/vmware/MLNX-OFED-ESX-1.8.2.5-10EM-600.0.0.2494585.zip

Ref Links:

After a quick reboot, I got 40Gb networking up and running. I did a few vmkpings between hosts and they ping perfectly.

So, what’s next? Now that I have the HCA working I need to get VSAN (if possible) working with my new highspeed network, but this folks is another post.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

The 3 Amigos – NUC, LIAN LI, and Cooler Master

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Today I wanted to look at the Cooler Master Elite 110 and compare it a bit to some other cases.

Let’s see how its foot print measures up to some familiar cases.  I stacked it up to the Intel NUC5i7RYH and my Lian Li PC-Q25 and surprisingly the Elite 110 is like a big cube that is reminiscent of older Shuttle cases. The size is nice for a small foot print PC but depending on your use it may be too bulky for appliance based work. One thing I did note the manufacture states the case is 20.8 mm but my measurements are coming out close to 21.2 mm

Note: I used my Lian Li case for my FreeNAS build, it’s a great case for those wanting to build a NAS (Click here for more PICS)

Inside the Elite 110, there are your standard edge cables (USB, Audio, Switches, and lights). The Power button is located in front bottom center and is the Cool Master logo. On the right hand side are all your typical USB 3.0, Audio, Reset and HDD LED.

The case allows for a maximum of 3 x 3.5″ or 4 x 2.5″ disk drives.  You can also work this into different combinations. For example – 3 x 3.5″ HDD and 1 x 2.5″ SDD, could make a VSAN Hybrid combination or 3 x 2.5″ SDD for VSAN All Flash and 1 x 3.5″ for the boot disk.

The mount point for these disk drives can be mount to the lefthand side and top. When mounting the disks I found it better to mount the SATA and power connectors to the rear.

Top Mount – Allows for 2 x 3.5″ or 2 x 2.5″.  In the photo below I’m using 1 x 3.5″  and 1 x 2.5″

Left Side Mount – Only allows for 1 x 3.5″ or 2 x 2.5″ disk drives.  In this photo I’m showing the 3.5″ disk mounted in its only position and the 2.5″ disk is unmounted to show some of the mount points.

The Rear of the case will allow for a standard ATX power supply, which sticks out about an inch. The case also supports two PCI Slots which should be enough for most ITX motherboards with one or two PCI Slots.

Inside we find only 4 Motherboard pre-threaded mount points and a 120 mm fan.  The fans power cable can connect to the power supply or to your motherboard.

Quick Summary – The Elite 110 is a nice budget case. Depending on your use case it could make a nice case for your home lab, NAS server or even a VSAN box. Its footprint is a bit too big for those appliance-based needs and the case metal is thin. I don’t like the fact there are only 4 mount points for your motherboard, this is great for an ITX Single PCI Slot but not so good for Dual. This is not a fault of the Elite 110 but more of an ATX/mATX/ITX standards problem. With no mount points for the second PCI slot it puts a lot of pressure on your motherboard during insertion.  This could lead to cards being miss-inserted.

Overall for the $35 I spent on this case it’s a pretty good value. Further photos can be found here on NewEgg and if you hurry the case is $28 with a rebate.

Manufacture Links:

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

Limited vCenter Server options with Windows 2016

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If you plan to update your vCenter Server to Windows 2016 then you might want to make sure you do your homework. Recently after reviewing the following KB its apparent that vCenter Server for Windows 2016 is only supported with vCenter Server 6.5. This might be a great time to consider moving to the vCenter Server Appliance (aka VCSA).

Here is the KB around the compatibility – https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/2091273?language=en_US

vSphere 6.0 / 6.5 Cross reference build release for ESXi, vSAN, and vCenter Server

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I love the Correlating build numbers and versions of VMware products (1014508). This one KB has made my job, and I’m sure yours too, so much easier. Before this KB was released it was a bit difficult to correlate build, patch, and update levels to vSphere Environments. Now with just a few clicks one can find out all this information and more. However, I really need the ability to correlate multiple core products. Typically, I work with — ESXi, vCenter Server, and vSAN. So, today I took the time today to align all this information.

It took me about 5 mins to build the chart below but it will save me loads of time. Can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked which version of ESXi was related to which version of vSAN and Oh, what version of vCenter Server was released with it? Well with this cart below you can answer those questions and more.

~ Enjoy!

vSAN version

ESXi version

Release Date

Build Number

vCenter Server

Version

Release Date

Build Number

vSAN 6.6.1

ESXi 6.5 Update 1

7/27/2017

5969303

vCenter Server 6.5 Update 1

7/27/2017

5973321

       

vCenter Server 6.5 0e Express Patch 3

6/15/2017

5705665

vSAN 6.6

ESXi 6.5.0d

4/18/2017

5310538

vCenter Server 6.5 0d Express Patch 2

4/18/2017

5318154

vSAN 6.5 Express Patch 1a

ESXi 6.5 Express Patch 1a

3/28/2017

5224529

vCenter Server 6.5 0c Express Patch 1b

4/13/2017

5318112

vSAN 6.5 Patch 01

ESXi 6.5 Patch 01

3/9/2017

5146846

vCenter Server 6.5 0b Patch 1

2017-03-14

5178943

vSAN 6.5.0a

ESXi 6.5.0a

2/2/2017

4887370

vCenter Server 6.5 0a Express Patch 1

2/2/2017

4944578

vSAN 6.5

ESXi 6.5 GA

11/15/2016

4564106

vCenter Server 6.5 GA

11/15/2016

4602587

vSAN 6.2 Patch 5

ESXi 6.0 Patch 5

7/11/2017

5572656

     

vSAN 6.2 Express Patch 7c

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 7c

3/28/2017

5251623

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 3b

4/13/2017

5318200/5318203

vSAN 6.2 Express Patch 7a

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 7a

3/28/2017

5224934

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 3a

3/21/2017

5183549

vSAN 6.2 Update 3

ESXi 6.0 Update 3

2/24/2017

5050593

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 3

2/24/2017

5112527

vSAN 6.2 Patch 4

ESXi 6.0 Patch 4

11/22/2016

4600944

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 2a

11/22/2016

4541947

vSAN 6.2 Express Patch 7

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 7

10/17/2016

4510822

     

vSAN 6.2 Patch 3

ESXi 6.0 Patch 3

8/4/2016

4192238

     

vSAN 6.2 Express Patch 6

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 6

5/12/2016

3825889

     

vSAN 6.2

ESXi 6.0 Update 2

3/16/2016

3620759

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 2

3/16/2016

3634793

vSAN 6.1 Express Patch 5

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 5

2/23/2016

3568940

     

vSAN 6.1 Update 1b

ESXi 6.0 Update 1b

1/7/2016

3380124

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 1b

1/7/2016

3339083

vSAN 6.1 Express Patch 4

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 4

11/25/2015

3247720

     

vSAN 6.1 U1a (Express Patch 3)

ESXi 6.0 U1a (Express Patch 3)

10/6/2015

3073146

     

vSAN 6.1

ESXi 6.0 U1

9/10/2015

3029758

vCenter Server 6.0 Update 1

9/10/2015

3018524

vSAN 6.0.0b

ESXi 6.0.0b

7/7/2015

2809209

vCenter Server 6.0.0b

7/7/2015

2776511

vSAN 6.0 Express Patch 2

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 2

5/14/2015

2715440

     

vSAN 6.0 Express Patch 1

ESXi 6.0 Express Patch 1

4/9/2015

2615704

vCenter Server 6.0.0a

4/16/2015

2656760

vSAN 6.0

ESXi 6.0 GA

3/12/2015

2494585

vCenter Server 6.0 GA

3/12/2015

2559268

 

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

2 VMTools Secrets your mother never told you about!

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These are pretty common asks amongst operators of ESXi – ‘Which VMtools version came with my ESXi Host’ and ‘Where can I view and download all the VMTools directly?’ The answers are below and the outputs aren’t pretty but they sure are useful!

1st – Check out the URL below to see all the ESXi Host build to released versions.

https://packages.vmware.com/tools/versions

2nd – Where can I view and download all the VMTools directly

https://packages.vmware.com/tools/esx/index.html

Finally, if you read this far then you are in luck here is the best tip — Watch this video and you’ll know more about VMtools than your mom :)

http://vmware.mediasite.com/mediasite/Play/6d33be3f5da840a19ec1997e220aedfe1d

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

 

Home Lab Gen IV – Part IV: Overcoming installation challenges

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One of the joys of working with a home lab is doing something that no one has done before. Sure, your configuration might be similar to others, but in a way your home lab is unique. However, with this uniqueness comes its share of installation challenges. My new lab was no exception, there were a few challenges and one major issue I uncovered while setting up this new environment. In this blog post I am going review the environment I am working on, break down some of the hardware layout placement challenges, fun using the MAC PowerBook to complete the installation, and finally overcoming ESXi installation challenges.

Here is my new environment:

  • Mac Powerbook with macOS Sierra (Used for remote connection into my environment, normally I use a PC)
  • Gigabyte MX31-BS0
  • Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5
  • 32GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1 x Mellanox Connectx InfiniBand HCA
  • 4 x 200GB SSD, 1 x 64GB USB (Boot)
  • 1 x IBM M5210 JBOD SAS Controller
  • 1 x Mini SAS SFF-8643 to (4) 29pin SFF-8482
  • 1 x 64GB USB Boot Stick:

Hardware layout/placement challanges:

32GB of RAM: Pay attention to the placement of the RAM. As Channel 1 for the RAM are the two closest slots to the CPU, channel 2 being the two farthest away. Normally you would place the RAM pairs in like colors however this Mobo is a bit different

Mellanox Connectx InfiniBand HCA: Placed it in the 16x slot right next to the CPU. The HCA requires an 8x slot so this slot should not slow it down. No BIOS changes were required and I could see this HCA in the BIOS.

IBM M5210 JBOD SAS Controller: Placed it in the 8x slot which goes through the C232 chipset on the motherboard. Next, I needed to update the firmware but this proved to be a challenge. Keep in mind the M5210 with NO cache will not allow you to enter its BIOS management page (aka MegaRAID webbios). This means you’ll need to use the command line or other software to update and view its information. Initially, I tried several command line options (UEFI Shell, DOS CLI, etc.) with the MegaRAID CLI but I just could not find the right combination to get it to work. My solution — I simply used an older SSD drive, installed Windows Server 2012 on it, and used the Windows exe to update the firmware. It worked perfectly with no issues.

After the update, I had some issues decoding the M5210 running firmware version vs. the vSAN HCL. As you know when running vSAN in a home lab the closer you are to the HCL and vSAN HCL the better. (NOTE: as I’m sure you know production environments MUST match the HCLs). The published firmware version on the vSAN HCL is 4.660.00-8218. However, when the M5210 boots it shows 24.16.0-0104.

Solution: When you are looking at the boot screen you are seeing the FW Package number not the Firmware of your controller. Simply look at the release notes for the ‘FW Package’ and you’ll find the correct MR FW versions that match the vSAN HCL.

Boot Screen

Release notes

200GB SSD: The Sonata cases I am using are a bit dated but they fully meet my needs so there is no need to replace them. There are 4 x 3.5″ bottom mount disk trays in each case. Bottom mount means you insert your 3.5″ drive into the tray and bolt it to the tray from the bottom. I bought several 3.5″ to 2.5″ converters which will allow me to mount my 2.5″ SSDs. However, the converters didn’t have bottom mount holes that lined up with the standard 3.5″ holes. Fix — I used a hole in the existing tray to secure the converter to the tray. I also made sure I mounted the converter as far back as I could to ensure the SAS cables would not be on the side of the case. This mount position moved the drives back about 1.5″(38mm). The red line in the PIC show where the original mount point was.

Mini SAS SFF-8643 to (4) 29pin SFF-8482: From the PIC above you can see the disk end of the SAS cables. What is nice about them is each one has a disk number labeled and has integrated power and all 4 drives go back to a single connector. The only downside to the cable I bought was they seemed a bit frail, so I’d recommend if you plan to mod your environment frequently look into a better-quality cable. If you interested more in SAS and the associated cables I would recommend this wiki page – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_Attached_SCSI

64GB USB Boot Stick: I decided to use the internal USB port freeing up the rear ports for other items. The USB stick I am using is the SanDisk Ultra Fit 64GB USB 3.0 Flash Drive. ESXi will only take up ~10GB of this stick, so is 64GB overkill? Keep in mind I plan to run vSAN 6.6.x and one of the benefits is the log files now write to RAM and in case of a system failure, they can write these logs to the USB stick. However, the default partition sizes (2.5GB for diags) might not be large enough. The vSAN team as released a nifty script that will estimate and resize you USB partitions. I’ll cover this topic in later posts and show you how to “auto-resize” your USB storage after you have installed vSAN.

Fun with the MAC:

Function Keys: One of the challenges was MAC keyboard mapping into the remote KVM. For some reason, the function keys on a MAC always assume you want to their special function vs. the F# key you are pushing. This proves to be a challenge when you are trying to pass standard function keys. Simple fix: System Preferences > Keyboard > Ensure ‘Use F1, F2, etc. as standard function keys’ is checked.

Another option for F# keys is to create a macro inside of the vKVM Viewer to pass the key. The screenshot below shows where you can setup user defined Macros and in the background is the MeregPoint console for one of my ESXi hosts.

Java: One of the joys of this motherboard is the use of vKVM viewer and VM Media. However, these functions need JAVA installed and up to date to function properly. If your JAVA is behind, trust me just update it’ll save you hours of pain. Here is the remaining gotcha. In the Mergpoint web page, you simply click on the ‘Launch Java vKVM Viewer’ button to start your host remote session. The webpage will download a .jnlp file. If you just click on this file you are presented with an error stating it can’t be opened because it is from an unidentified developer. Solution – After the java app downloads, click on the down arrow next to the file and choose ‘Show in finder’. When finder launches select that file by holding down the control key and right-clicking on it. A pop-up window will appear, release the control key and finally choose open. This allows you to override the ‘unidentified developer’ error and launch the viewer.

ESXi Installation:

Setting up the ESXi hosts had one big challenge – after the install of ESXi I could not see my SAS disks. I am using the ESXi 6.5U1 Rollup.iso to do my installs and my main goal was to install and boot ESXi from the 64GB USB stick and be able to access the 4 x 200GB SSD attached to the IBM M5210

Problem – During the install of ESXi, I booted the host using the ESXi6.5 ISO via virtual media console. The installer program would recognize the IBM M5210 controller, the attached 4 x SAS disks, and the 64GB USB stick. The installation would complete without issue. However, after ESXi booted the SAS disks and the controller would not appear but I could see the 64GB USB stick.

Other observations –

First, in the ESXi Log files I noticed the megasas was having firmware issues:

2017-09-21T10:26:31.310Z cpu5:66065)<6>megasas: Waiting for FW to come to ready state 2017-09-21T10:26:31.310Z cpu5:66065)<7>megasas: FW in FAULT state!!

ESC[7m2017-09-21T10:26:31.310Z cpu5:66065)WARNING: vmklinux: pci_announce_device:1486: PCI: driver megaraid_sas probe failed for device 0000:07:00.0ESC[0m 2017-09-21T10:26:31.310Z cpu5:66065)LinPCI: LinuxPCI_DeviceUnclaimed:257: Device 0000:07:00.0 unclaimed.

And… even though ESXi saw the M5210 as vmhba1, its status was unknown

vmhba1 Avago (LSI) MegaRAID SAS Invader Controller

vmhba1 0000:07:00.0 PCI 0:0:29:0 PCI 0:7:0:0 Slot1 UNKNOWN

Second, I use Partition Wizard bootable ISO to remove all partitions prior to installing ESXi. I noted that sometimes after I booted to it as virtual media it would see the 4 x SAS disks and other times it would not.

Third, Installation of ESXI onto SAS or SATA SSD as the boot disk worked perfectly. After booting I could see the M5210 and SAS disks but my goal of using the 64GB USB stick for the boot device was not achieved.

Fourth, occasionally when I booted the ESXi host to the USB stick it would work okay, but upon reboot would not

Final Solution – The core reason why I could not see the SAS disks with ESXi or Partition Wizard was the boot type was UEFI and not legacy. During boot time the boot order would sometimes change if I had virtual media connected, meaning sometimes it would boot the 64GB USB stick or Partition Wizard as UEFI and other times as legacy. Apparently, UEFI boot was giving the M5210 firmware issues not allowing the SAS disk to come online.

FIX – I went into the BIOS of the motherboard > Advanced > CSM Configuration > changed ‘Boot option filter’ to ‘Legacy Only’ and all my issues went away.

Summary – I spent a lot of after-hours and weekends working out all various installation tweaks but what can I say, this is the joy of setting up a home lab! My hopes are in some way this post helps you move your home lab forward too. In my next post, I’ll be going over how to enable the InfiniBand HCA in ESXi 6.5.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

Home Lab Gen IV – Part II: Design Considerations

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I have decided to move my Home Lab away from Gen III into Gen IV. In doing this I am going to follow my best practices laid out in my ‘Home Lab Generations’ and ‘VMware Home Labs: a Definitive guide’. As you read through the “Home Lab Generations page” you should notice a theme around planning each generation and documenting its outcomes and unplanned items. In this blog post, I am going to start laying out Design Considerations which include the ‘Initial use case/goals and needed Resources as they relate to GEN IV.

Design Considerations:

Initial Use case / goals:

  • Support vSphere 6.5 and vSAN 6.6 All Flash Environment
  • Move networking vSAN and FT to  high-speed InfiniBand
  • Support headless ESXi Environment

Resources needed:

  • To meet the initial use case/goals I’m will be investing quite a bit into this total refresh.
  • Some initial GEN IV resource choices (Still in the works and not all proven)
    • Reuse the 3 x Antec Cases / Power Supplies (No cost)
    • BitFenix Case to support Windows 10 PC
    • Mobo: Gigabyte MX31-BSO ($140 x 3 Ebay)
    • RAM: 32GB DDR4 ($144 x 3 Jet.com)
    • CPU: E3-1230v5 Xeon ($245 x 3 Jet.com)
    • IBM M5210 SAS RAID (Found on Ebay $75 x 3)
    • Mini SAS SFF-8643 to (4) 29pin SFF-8482 (Amazon 3 x $18)
    • 12 x 200GB Enterprise Class SDD (Found on an Ebay lot deal)
    • InfiniBand (All on Ebay)
      • Mellanox IS5022 40Gb/s 8 Port Switch ($250) << Do not recommend, no Subnet Manager
      • Mellanox ConnectX HCA rebranded as HP INFINIBAND 4X DDR PCI-E HCA CARD 452372-001 ($35 x 3)
      • 6 x Infiniband Cables (Mellanox MCC4N26C-003 Cable ($60)

Notes around some of the choices above:

Mellanox IS5022 – I liked the footprint of this device over it not having built-in IB subnet manager.  An IB subnet manager is required to manage the “network paths” on an IB network. Without an active IB subnet manager available your IB HCAs will not connect. Since the IS5022 I chose does not have an IB Subnet manager I will need a place to supply this service.   I can choose an ESXi Host or a Windows Host.  Since my ESXi hosts will be going up and down I plan to use my Windows PC as my subnet manager as it is always on and available.

Mellanox ConnectX HCA rebranded as HP INFINIBAND 4X DDR PCI-E HCA CARD 452372-001 –  I initially choose these HCAs based on some other blog posts.  They are at an attractive price point but they are much older and no longer have driver support.  I was able to get them operational with ESXi 6.0 and will be soon working with them on ESXi 6.5   My advice is Mellanox has great products and support, however, I would recommend if you can afford it to go with a newer card that supports ESXi and save yourself the trouble of modifying ESXi software vibs.  I’ll post more on this topic as I start deploying them with ESXi 6.5

Windows PC – I repurposed my Gigabyte Z68XP-UD3, i7 CPU, 90GB SSD, 16GB of DDR3 and then bought a cheap BitFenix case to build out my Windows PC.  This PC will serve as my Plex Home Media Server and IB Subnet Manager.  I also plan to run Workstation 10 and set up various service VM’s (AD, vCenter Server / VUM, DNS, etc).  So far it’s working pretty well but this Mobo has been known to give me issues.

ESXi Hosts – I have 3 Antec Sonata cases, one that I have had since 2003 that I will reuse in this environment.   I choose the following parts to make up my new ESXi Hosts: Mobo: Gigabyte MX31-BSO, 32GB DDR4, E3-1230v5 Xeon, and 4 x 200GB SSDs per host. This mobo is a bit limited on the ports but so far it seems to be working out well.  For the boot disk, I plan to use the onboard USB port and a 64GB USB Stick.  However, the question should be – What am I going to so with those 6 x 1TB SATA disks from GEN III — I put them into my old IX4 

Here are a few PICs of the current build:

Next Post I’ll be going over the Gigabyte Motherboard.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

Create ISO with ESXi 6.0U2 and Realtek 8168 Drivers

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ESXi no longer supports Realtek Network drivers. To be able to install ESXi with the Realtek drivers users will have to create a custom ISO. Keep in mind these are unsupported drivers by VMware, so use at your own risk. Normally I would use my trusty ESXi-Customizer GUI program but it is no longer supported for ESXi 6.  In replacement they offer a CLI supported program. However, at this point I’d rather rely on the VMware tools vs. 3rd party tools as you never know when 3rd party tools will go away. VMware enables users to create custom ISOs via PowerCLI and in this blog I’ll explain how I used PowerCLI create my ISO. Keep in mind these are the steps that worked for me, your environment may vary.

— Required Tools and Files —

To get started you will need two files and PowerCLI Installed on a Windows PC.  You can skip these steps if you have the ESXi Offline Bundle, PowerCLI installed, and the RealTek Drivers.

  1. File 1: Download VMware 6.0U2 Offline Bundle ZIP >> www.vmware.com/download

2. File 2: Download RealTek 8186 Offline bundle >> https://vibsdepot.v-front.de/wiki/index.php/Net55-r8168

3. If you haven’t yet download and install PowerCLI >> https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/automationtools/powercli

Tip: If you don’t know PowerCLI try starting here

4. Next Place the files from Step 1 and 2 into c:\tmp folder

–POWERCLI COMMANDS—

Now that you have your files and PowerCLI ready follow these steps.  For step below I included a screenshot and the actual command allowing you to copy, paste, and edit into your environment.

  1. Open PowerCLI (Tip: If you don’t know PowerCLI try starting here)
  2. Add ESXi 6.0u2 and RealTek8186 products to the local Software Depot (Tip: All commands below assume your files are located in the c:\tmp folder)

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\tmp\update-from-esxi6.0-6.0_update02.zip

Add-EsxSoftwareDepot C:\tmp\net55-r8168-8.039.01-napi-offline_bundle.zip

2. Confirm the products are in the depot

Get-EsxSoftwareDepot

3. List out the ESXi Image Profiles

Get-EsxImageProfile

4. Create a Clone Image to be modified – Ensure you are targeting the “ESXi…..standard” profile from step 3

New-EsxImageProfile -cloneprofile ESXi-6.0.0-20160302001-standard -Name “RealTek8186a”

Forward-Looking Tip: Whatever name you choose it will show up in your boot ISO

5. Set the Acceptance Level to Community Supported – Remember RealTek is unsupported by VMware

Set-EsxImageProfile -Name RealTek8186a -AcceptanceLevel CommunitySupported

For ImageProfile Enter – RealTek8186a

6. Ensure the RealTek net55-r8186 driver is loaded from the local depot (Screenshot shortened)

Get-EsxSoftwarePackage

7. Add the RealTek software package to the profile

Add-EsxSoftwarePackage

ImageProfile: RealTek8186a

SoftwarePackage[0]: net55-r8168 8.039.01-napi

Tip: For the SoftwarePackage you MUST enter the full name, if you just use the short name it will not work

8. Validate the RealTek drivers are now part of the RealTek8186a Profile (Screenshot shortened)

(Get-EsxImageProfile “RealTek8186a”).viblist

9. Export the profile to an ISO

Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “RealTek8186a” -ExportToIso -FilePath c:\tmp\RealTek8186a.iso

And that’s it… You should find your new ISO in the c:\tmp folder.  From here you can burn your ISO to a media of your choice or boot the ISO via ilo, iDRAC, virtual media etc.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

How to pinpoint ESXi hardware devices with vmkchdev

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If you have ever had trouble identifying specific hardware devices (NIC’s, Storage Adapters, Disks, etc.) on the vSphere compatibly guide the following command is for you! As I’m sure you know, there can be multiple device descriptions listed on the VCG and it can be confusing to know which device matches the device you have. When this happens, it is necessary to locate the following ID’s:

  • VID = Vendor Id
  • DID = Device Id
  • SVID = Sub-Vendor Id
  • SSID = Sub-Device Id (aka Max SSID)

These IDs enable users to pinpoint the device without question and help to ensure you have the correct hardware guidance. VMware’s guidance to pinpoint devices is outlined in KB1021534 This KB is very helpful and its where I found my new favorite command. With this one command it will produce nearly all the IDs in one shot vs. multiple commands.

vmkchdev -l << that is -l as in lama

In this example, I am looking to identify vmhba1.

I simply input the ID numbers into the VGC and it pinpoints the product, NO more guessing.

 

Summary – By using this simple command and the vendor ID you’ll be sure you are identifying your hardware devices properly.

 

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.

 

 

Enabling Service advisories for VMware vSAN and other products

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One question I get a lot as a TAM is – “How can users of VMware products, such as vSAN, stay current with various service advisories?” One very simple way is to enable your my.vmware.com profile for product subscriptions. Product subscriptions allow you to choose products of interest and then you will receive emails around the various service advisories. It’s a very simple way to keep up to date and it only takes a few minutes to enable.

Here are the steps:

  • Log on to your my.vmware.com portal account
  • In the upper right-hand corner choose your name then click on profile

  • After the profile page loads click on Subscriptions
  • Under Product subscriptions, click edit

  • You’ll find vSAN under ‘Datacenter & Cloud Infrastructure, simply choose it and/or other products, then click on save

  • From there periodically, you’ll receive information and advisories around the products you select.

Sum it up: I have had these subscription services enabled for years now and I have only received valuable and timely information and not SPAM emails.

If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.