As many of you know I have a long history of being part of the Phoenix VMUG and the Global board of director for VMUG. Now, as VMware employee I continue to support the VMUG organization however I can. Just this week they announced that users can submit a proposal to present their content at their User/Super Cons globally! This is a great opportunity for users to contribute to the virtualization community and be a thought leader not only to your VMUG community but your working peers too. Over the past almost 10 years I have presented multiple times at VMUG events, from keynotes to users presentation’s, and even open mic user discussions. In this blog post I wanted to show the process I took to submit a proposal. It’s a great primer to get you ready to submit your own proposal, not to mention I’ll put in some tips and tricks along the way.
First off — Keep this in mind: Submitting a proposal doesn’t mean you must have all your presentation content ready, it just means you are ready to submit an overview and outline of your session.
Before writing up your proposal, I would recommend reviewing all the information in this link — https://community.vmug.com/blogs/katie-lyons/2017/11/28/2018-vmug-call-for-content
From that link you may notice there are many 4 different types of speaking sessions to choose from. This is great news as it allows you to choose a session type that aligns better to your goals. Maybe you have a topic you are very deeply engaged with and could carry a 60-90 minutes session, or maybe you got a quick 15 minute session topic in mind. Either way there is a session for that.
From the link above, move on to getting yourself ready to produce your talking points (See Below). I think this is great advice to get things ready, and these are things you’ll need to answer when you submit.
Understand submission proposal review process. My tip here: Figure our who is on this Planning committee and reach out to them for further success tips.
As of this writing (12/1/2017) the dead line to submit is December 8, 2017 for the Feb and April Events. It will stay open for others to submit for other events, but I would try to submit by 12/08 – Yes its s tight time frame, so get moving…
Finally, review the schedule and pick a session or session you’d like to present at. Keep in mind this is a community volunteer organization, and by submitting to present you volunteering your time, travel costs, etc. to do so.
One last note towards the bottom of the page – Got Questions? Questions can be directed to Molly Hewitt at email@example.com
NEXT SUBMIT THE PROPOSAL:
In this section I wanted to show you the fields you’ll need to fill in to submit a proposal. It should give you a good idea what you submit.
Here is the link to start your submission and log on with your ‘planion’ user account – https://vmug.planion.com/Web.User/LogReg?ACCOUNT=VMUG&CONF=CFC18&FT=ABSREG
NOTE: When you click on the submit proposal link just note the username is NOT your VMUG User ID it is a ID for a different site. So, you’ll need to create a new user account to submit.
After you logon, you’ll see a page similar to the link/information above, simply scroll to the bottom and click on ‘Begin the Abstract Submission Process’
After clicking start the submission, simply type in your title, your speaker category (VMware, Partner, Community), session format, and length of session (90,60,40,30,15)
In the next section you will need to choose a topic focus. Be ready to make further selections as each topic focus has subcategories.
TIP: All topic focus categories have the same subcategories. Don’t over think this too much just choose what you think would be relevant to the listener.
Next choose your technical content level. For my session I’m keeping it at a 200 level as it meets with the content and over all them I have. I would recommend if you are a high level say, 300 or 400 GREAT this is the type of presentations VMUG needs, please submit those too!
Be specific when you fill out ‘Identify the need” Think of it this way… Why would you attend this session? What would you want to get out of a session like this? If you can answer those questions, then you are hitting the mark.
With your Session Description have a bit of fun with it, show your passion for your topic and show why others would enjoy this session as well.
Finally, on this page fill out the remaining questions, and click save and continue.
TIP: Before clicking on Save and Continue, make sure all fields are filled out, else the form will not alert you until you are at the end of this process. If you missed anything required then you have to go back and fill all the missing items which takes you through the process again. Yes, this happened to me
Next question is – Who is presenting? Add folks if need be.
Attestation is a funny word for “Confirmation” or ‘Agreement’ review them and if all are okay, check those boxes and click submit.
Finally, you get a long page with all the content and choices you made, review them and if okay click on continue
When you all done submitting you can now view your submission.
And that’s it… Good luck submitting and if you need any help with your submittal please do reach out I’m always glad to help!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
- File 1: VMware 6.0U2 Offline Bundle ZIP >> www.vmware.com/download
2. File 2: 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
For each command below I included a screenshot and the actual command allowing to copy, paste, and edit into your environment.
- Add ESXi 6.0u2 and RealTek8186 products to the local Software Depot
2. Confirm the products are in the depot
3. List out the ESXi Image Profiles
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)
7. Add the RealTek software package to the profile
SoftwarePackage: net55-r8168 8.039.01-napi
Tip: You MUST enter the full name here, 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)
9. Export the profile to an ISO
Export-EsxImageProfile -ImageProfile “RealTek8186a” -ExportToIso -FilePath c:\tmp\RealTek8186a.iso
And that’s it… 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 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.
For nearly 10 years, I’ve compiled lots information about my home labs. From time to time I would blog about items I was working. However, readers of my blog were starting to respond with – “We enjoy your blogs around home labs. However, it’s a bit hard contextualize this information from multiple blog posts.” And “where do I start with home labs” Most recently the VMware User Group asked me to co-record a session for home lab vs. HOL Of course, I did the Home Lab side of the recording but it got me thinking more about the listener and how I could really put a focus on Who, what, why, and how around home labs. After the recording, I realized my “Home Lab Generations page” (HLG)was in major need of an overhaul.
This is when I decided to change my Home Lags Guide to “HOME LABS: A DEFINITIVE GUIDE”. It took me a few months to transform the HLG into this new approach as it puts a strong focus on Home Lab design considerations. From there I used these design considerations to document and measure my 5 Generations of home labs dating back to 2008. In doing this I got a sense this design guide could help others to measure and plan out their home labs too.
Next Steps for the Home Lab Definitive guide:
- I’ll continue to update it as I progress my home labs
I’ll continue to improve it over time but I’d love your feedback too
My hopes are you find this new guide useful and of value. Please post up your suggestions to help its continuous growth!
Also, if you are interested in applying these design practices to your home lab or even if you are just starting out, then reach out to me as I’d love to feature your design here on my blog!
I currently have an IOMega ix4-200d with 4 x 500GB Hard Disk Drives (HDD). I am in the process of rebuilding my vSAN Home lab to all flash. This means I’ll have plenty of spare 2TB HDDs. So why not repurpose them to upgrade my IOMega. Updating the HDDs in an IOMega is a pretty simple process. However, documenting and waiting are most of this battle.
There are 2 different ways you can update your IOMega: 1 via Command Line and 2 via the Web client. From what I understand the command line version is far faster. However, I wanted to document the non-command line version as most of the blogs around this process were a bit sparse on the details. I started off by reading a few blog posts on the non-command line version of this upgrade. From there I came up with the basic steps and filled in the blanks as I went along. Below are the steps I took to update mine, your steps might vary. After documenting this process I can now see why most of the blogs were sparse on the details, there are a lot of steps and details to complete this task. So, be prepared as this process can be quite lengthy.
- YOU WILL LOSE YOUR DATA, SO BACK IT UP
- You will lose the IOMega configuration (documenting it might be helpful)
Here are the steps I took:
- Ensure you can logon to the website of your IOMega Device (lost the password – follow these steps)
- Backup the IOMega Configuration
- If needed screen shot the configuration or document how it is setup
Backup the data (YOU WILL LOSE YOUR DATA)
- For me, I have an external 3TB USB disk and I used Syncback via my Windows PC to back up the data
Firmware: ensure your upgrade HDDs and IOMega are up to date
- Seagate Disks ST2000DM001 -9YN164
- Iomega IX4-200d (Product is EOL, no updates from Lenovo)
- Power off the IOMega, unplug the power, and remove the cover
- Remove the non-boot 500GB disks from the IOMega and label them (Disks 2-4), Do not remove Disk
- From what I read usually Disk 1 is the “boot” disk for the IOMega
- In my case, it was Disk 1
- For some of you, it may not be. One way to find this out is to remove disks 2-4 and see if the IOMega Boots, if so you found it, if not power off try with only disk 2 and so on till you find this right disk
- Replace Disks 2-4 with the 2TB HDDs
- Power on system (Don’t forget to plug it back in)
- The IOMega display may note there are new disks added, just push the down arrow till you see the main screen
- Also at this point, you won’t see the correct size as we need to adjust for the new disks
Go into web client
- Settings > Disks Storage
- Choose “Click here for steps…”
- Check box to authorize overwrite
- About a minute or two later my IOMega Auto Restarted
- Note: Yours may not, give it some time and if not go to the Dashboard and choose restart
- After reboot, I noted my configuration was gone but the Parity was reconstructing with 500GB disks
- This is expected, as the system is replicating the parity to the new disks
- This step took about 12 hours to complete
- After the reconstruction, I went into the Web client, type in the device name, time zone, email, and then it auto Rebooted
- After Reboot note all the disks are now healthy and part of the current 1.4TB parity set. This is expected.
- Now that the Iomega has accepted the 3 x 2TB disks we need to break parity group and add the final 2TB HDD
- First, you have to delete the shares before you can change the parity type.
- Shared Storage > Delete both shares and check to confirm delete
- Now go to — Settings > disks > Manage Disks > Data Protection
- Choose “Without data protection
- Check the box to change data protection
- Once complete the Power off the IOMega
- Dashboard > Shutdown
- Allow device to shutdown
- Replace Disk 1 with last 2TB Disk
- Power On
- Validate all disks are online
- Settings > Disks > “Click here for steps….” Then check box to authorize overwrite, choose OK.
- After the last step observe the error message below and press ‘OK’
- Go to Dashboard > Restart to restart the IOMega
- After the restart the display should show “The filesystem is being prepared” with a progress bar, allow this to finish
- Now create the Parity set with the new 2TB Disks
- First, remove all Shared folders (See earlier steps if needed)
- Second go to Settings > Disks > Manage Disks > Data Protection > Choose Parity > Next
- Choose “check this box….” then click on apply…
- After clicking apply my screen updated with a reconstruction of 0% and the display screen on the IOMega showed a progress bar too.
- Mine took more than 24+ hours to complete the rebuild.
- After the rebuild is complete then restore the config
- Finally, restore your data. Again, I used syncback to copy my data back
Part of the joy of building out a home lab or virtualization workstation is finding those one-off items that enable you to build something great, cheap, and unique. Below is a list of some those niche items and distributors I’ve found along the way. I’ll continue to update this post as we go along and I encourage you post up some of your findings too!
This place is full of all types of unique adapters and gadgets to make your home lab or workstation PC better. What I like about their product line focus is the support of cards with a PCIe x1 slot. Various server based add on cards (example 2/4 port NIC cards) typically require a PCIe x4 or x8 port. However, most home labs typically have plenty of x1 slots and very little to no support for x4 and x8. Syba seems to make a “plethora” of add on cards that support x1. There only downside poor documentation / support.
Some products I like from them —
- 2 Port Gbe PCIe x1 card (SY-PEX24028): I own and use several of these, they seem to work quite well. Dislikes – No Jumbo frames and it uses a Realtek 8111e chips set which means you must add these drivers to support ESXi
- Another cool item they make is a M.2 to 4-port SATA III Adapter. This little RAID controller allows you to plug directly into a M.2 port and allow for 4 mort SATA devices. I think this would be handy for smaller systems (ie. NUC builds)
StarTech is really becoming a great company with a very diverse and well supported / documented product line. I think they are really starting to give Blackbox a run for their money. I really like their cable and adapter card lines.
I’ve been using their Startech Null Modem DB9 to USB to run the CLI on my Netgear manage Switch since 2012 and have yet to have an issue with it.
William Lam has blogged many times around the use of NUC style home labs with StarTech Single and Dual USB 3.0 network adapters.
Winyao is a “boutique” distributor specializing in NICs, Fibre adapters, and Transceivers. One item I find of value is their PCIe x1 Dual NIC with Intel or Broadcom chipset. Personally, I don’t know much about this company or own any of their products, but at $40-$60 per brand new adapter I wished I had found them before buying the Syba adapters.
If you are looking for your next server, workstation, media, or top of the line PC case then take a peek at Fractal Design. Founded in 2007 and based out of Sweden they have really started to dominate the custom case design market. Their innovative designs blend elegance with flexibility, which I might add is a hard combination to find. I like their Arc Midi and Arc Mini R2 line of cases for home lab build outs. However, when or if my trusty Antec Sonata from 2003 lets me down, then Fractal will be next on my list. Here is a great blog post from Erik Bussink around his use of Fractal Design for his 2014 Home Lab.
** 09/06/2017 – Here are some updates to this list **
Came across this interesting case / mod company that builds all kinds of custom cases, cables, etc to mod your PC’s. I like the Prodigy Mini-ITX case, with 2 PCI Slots and a spare slot for Disk or other mods it could be a good fit for a NAS project. However I’m not fond of the excessive top and bottom ornaments.
ASUS came out with a great M.2 to U.2
option allowing users to interface with SAS disks. They claim this option will help users to interface with SAS SSD and get extreme performance. There are some contrains around this (cables, disks, chipsets, etc) so read up on this before you buy.
You’d think by now manufactures would have a solid and concise process around updating their products. They are quick to warn users to not update their BIOS unless there is a problem and quick to state if there is a problem they usually won’t support it. This total cycle of disservice is a constant for low-end manufacturers, heck even some high server platforms have the same issues. I have these same concerns when I started to look into updating my current MX31-BS0 Motherboard (mobo).
What can soften this blow a bit? How about the ability to update your BIOS remotely? This is a great feature of the MX-31BS0 and in this blog post, I’ll show you how I updated the BIOS and the remote MergePoint EMS (MP-EMS) firmware too.
Initial Steps –
- My system is powered off and the power supply can supply power to the mobo.
- I have setup remote access to the MP-EMS site with an IP address and have access to it via a browser. Additionally, I have validated the vKVM function works without issue
- I downloaded the correct Mobo BIOS and BMC or MP-EMS Firmware and have extracted these files
- Steps below were completed on a Gigabyte MX31-BS0 from BIOS F01 > F10 and MP-EMS 8.01 > 8.41, your system may vary
1 – Access the MergePoint EMS site
Start out by going to the IP address for MP-EMS site. From the initial display screen, we can see the MP-EMS Firmware versions but not the Platform (or Mobo) BIOS Version. Why not you may ask? Well, the MP-EMS will only display Mobo information when the Mobo is powered on. Before you power on your Mobo I would recommend opening the vKVM session so that you can see the boot screen. When you power on your mobo (MP-EMS > Power > Control > Power On ) use the vKVM screen to halt at the ‘boot menu’ or even go into setup and disable all the boot devices.
In this PIC, we can see my Firmware for the MP-EMS is 8.01 and the BIOS is blank as the Mobo is not powered on.
2- Selecting the Mobo BIOS Update
I choose the following to update the Mobo BIOS. Start out by uploading the file: Update > ‘BIOS & ME’ > Choose File > Image.RBU > Upload
Once the upload is complete, click on ‘Update’ to proceed. NOTE: a warning dialog box appeared for me stating the system would be powered off to update the BIOS. Good thing I’m in the Boot Menu as the system will just directly power off with no regard of the system state
3 – Installing the Mobo BIOS Update: Be Patient for the BIOS install to complete
Once I saw the message the ‘BIOS firmware image has been updated successfully’ I then exited the browser session and vKVM . Note: I’d recommend closing the browser out entirely and then reopening a new session.
Once I restarted my vKVM and MP-EMS sessions and then powered on my Mobo. This allowed the BIOS update to continue.
Here is the patience part – My system was going from BIOS F01 > F10 and it rebooted 2 times to complete the update. Be patient it will complete.
Here is the behavior I noted:
- First Reboot – The system posted normally, it cleared the screen, and then white text stated a warning message about the BIOS booted to default settings. Very shortly after it rebooted again.
- On the 2nd reboot, it posted normally and I pressed F10 to get back to the Boot menu. I did this because next, we’ll need to update the MP-EMS firmware.
Once the system had rebooted I then refreshed my MP-EMS screen and viola there it was BIOS Version F10.
4 – Selecting the MP-EMS Firmware
While the Mobo is booted and I’m in the boot menu, I went into the MP-EMS session and choose the following Update > BMC > Choose File > 841.img > upload
5 – Installing the MP-EMS firmware update
Once the file was uploaded I could see the Current and New versions. I then choose Update button which promptly disconnected my vKVM session and Status changed from None to a % Completed.
Again, be patient and allow the system to update. For my systems the % Complete seemed to hang a few times but the total process, for me, took about
At 100% complete my system did an auto-reboot. When I heard my system beep I then closed my MP-EMS session and started anew.
Shortly after the system booted I went into the MP-EMS and validated the firmware was no 8.41.
Wrapping this up…
Ever heard the saying “It really is a simple process we just make it complicated”? Recent BIOS updates and overall system management sometimes feel this way when trying to do simple processes. Not trying to date myself but BIOS/Firmware updates have been around for decades now. I’ve done countless updates where it was simply extracting an update to simple media and then it completes the update on its own. Now one could argue that systems are more complicated and local boot devices don’t scale well for large environments and I’d say both are very true but that doesn’t mean the process can’t be made more simple.
My recommendation to firmware / bios manufactures — invest in simplicity or make it a requirement for your suppliers. You’ll have happier customers, less service calls, and more $$ in your pocket but then again if you do, what would I have to blog about?
Am I happy with with the way I have to update this Mobo? Yes, I am happy with it. For the price I paid it’s really nice to have a headless environment that I can remotely update. I won’t have to do it very often so I’m glad I wrote down my steps in this blog.
Initially, when I decided to start this refresh my Home Lab to GEN IV I planned to wipe just the software, add InfiniBand. I would keep most of the hardware. However, as I started to get into this transformation I decided it was time for a hardware refresh too including moving to All Flash vSAN.
In this post, I wanted to write a bit more about my new mobo and why I think it’s a great choice for a home lab. The past workhorse of my home lab has been my trusty MSI Z68MS-G45(B3) Rev 3.0 (AKA MSI-7676). I bought 3 MƒSI-7676 in 2012 and this mobo has been a solid performer and they treated me very well. However, they were starting to age a bit so I sold them off to a good buddy of mine and I used those resources to fund my new items.
My new workhorse –
Items kept from Home Lab Gen III:
- 3 x Antec Sonata Gen I and III each with 500W PS by Antec: I’ve had one of these cases since 2003, now that is some serious return on investment
- 3 x Gigabyte MX31-BS0 – So feature rich, I found them for $139 each, and this is partly why I feel it’s the best ESXi white box mobo
- 3 x Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 – I bought the one without the GPU and saved some $$
- 3 x 32GB DDR4 RAM – Nothing special here, just 2133Mhz DDR4 RAM
- 3 x Mellanox Connectx InfiniBand cards (More to come on this soon)
- 4 x 200GB SSD, 1 x 64GB USB (Boot)
- 1 x IBM M5210 JBOD SAS Controller
Why I chose the Gigabyte MX31-BS0 –
- Headless environment: This Mobo comes with an AST2400 headless chipset environment. This means I no longer am tied to my KVM. With a java enabled browser, I can view the host screen, reboot, go into BIOS, BIOS updates, view hardware, and make adjustments as if I was physically at the box
- Virtual Media: I now can virtually mount ISOs to the ESXi host without directly being at the console (Still to test ESXi install)
- Onboard 2D Video: No VGA card needed, the onboard video controller takes care of it all. Why is this important? You can save money by choosing a CPU that doesn’t have the integrated GPU, the onboard video does this for you
- vSphere HCL Support: Really? Yep, most of the components on this mobo are on the HCL and Gigabyte lists ESXi 6 as a supported OS, its not 100% HCL but for a white box its darn close
- Full 16x PCIe Socket: Goes right into the CPU << Used for the Infiniband HCA
- Full 8x PCIe Socket: Goes into the C232 << Used for the IBM M5210
- M.2 Socket: Supporting 10Gb/s for SSD cards
- 4 x SATA III ports (white)
- 2 x SATA III can be used for Satadom ports (orange) with onboard power connectors
- 2 x Intel i210 1Gbe (HCL supported) NICs
- E3 v5 Xeon Support
- 64GB RAM Support (ECC or Non-ECC Support)
- 1 x Onboard USB 2.0 Port (Great for a boot drive)
Dislikes: (Very little)
- Manual is terrible
- Mobo Power connector is horizontal with the mobo, this made it a bit tight for a common case
- 4 x SATA III Ports (White) are horizontal too, again hard to seat and maintain
- No Audio (Really not needed, but would be nice)
- For some installs, it could be a bit limited on PCIe Ports
Some PICS :
The pic directly below shows 2 windows: Window 1 has the large Gigabyte logo, this is the headless environmental controls. From here you can control your host and launch the video viewer (window 2). The video viewer allows you to control your host just as if you were physically there. In windows 2 I’m in the BIOS settings for the ESXi host.
This is a stock photo of the MX31-BS0. It’s a bit limited on the PCIe ports, however, I don’t need many ports as soon I’ll have 20Gb/s InfiniBand running on this board but that is another post soon to come!