** Update **
I wrote this post when I first got my MX31-BS0, since then I have updated my BIOS several times using this process. Here are my notes around my most recent updates
- 09/2018 – Mix of updates for my three hosts — Updated MX-31BS0 BIOS from R03 or R08 to R10 and 2 hosts MergePoint 8.58 to 8.73, as one host was on 8.73 already
- Noted behavior:
- After BIOS update was completed the Mobo powered off vs. rebooting as with previous updates. Had to power on the mobo to complete the BIOS install. Then the mobo rebooted one more time as expected.
- Even though the Mobo had been warm booted the BIOS Version in MergePoint web interface still showed the old version. However, the Boot BIOS screen reflected the update. A full power disconnect of the Mobo and a few ‘refreshes’ of the web browser allowed the MergePoint to report R10. I did not see this behavior with the MergePoint EMS BIOS update, it promptly reported 8.73 properly.
- Noted behavior:
- 05/2018 –Updated on host to MX-31BS0 BIOS from R03 to R08 and MergePoint 8.58 to 8.73.
- Blog readers noted issues going to R08 and could not connect to vKVM, I didn’t have any issues with update. Looks like it was a JAVA 8 Update issue (See post comments for more info)
- 09/2017 – Updated MX-31BS0 BIOS from F10 to R03 and MergePoint 8.41 to 8.58.
- 03/2017 – Original update documented below. Updated MX-31BS0 BIOS from F01 to F10 and MergePoint 8.01 to 8.41.
**** Blog Post ****
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.
** Note – Not every time but sometimes, I would notice the MP-EMS Screen would show the old BIOS Version #. However, in BIOS the updated BIOS Version # would be present. A cold boot didn’t always fix this, but eventually the MP-EMS would update and would reflect the correct BIOS #**
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 now 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 $$ in your pocket but then again if you do, what would I have to blog about?
Am I happy with the way I have to update this Mobo? Yes, I am happy with it. For the price I paid it’s really nice to have a headless environment that I can remotely update. I won’t have to do it very often so I’m glad I wrote down my steps in this blog.
If you like my ‘no-nonsense’ blog articles that get straight to the point… then post a comment or let me know… Else, I’ll start writing boring blog content.
Initially, when I decided to refresh my Home Lab to Generation IV I planned to wipe just the software and add InfiniBand. I would keep most of the hardware. However, as I started to get into this transformation I decided it was time for a hardware refresh too including moving to All Flash vSAN.
In this post, I wanted to write a bit more about my new motherboard (mobo) and why I think it’s a great choice for a home lab. The past workhorse of my home lab has been my trusty MSI Z68MS-G45(B3) Rev 3.0 (AKA MSI-7676). I bought 3 MSI-7676 in 2012 and this mobo has been a solid performer and they treated me very well. However, they were starting to age a bit so I sold them off to a good buddy of mine and I used those resources to fund my new items.
My new workhorse –
Items kept from Home Lab Gen III:
- 3 x Antec Sonata Gen I and III each with 500W PS by Antec: I’ve had one of these cases since 2003, now that is some serious return on investment
- 3 x Gigabyte MX31-BS0 – So feature rich, I found them for $139 each, and this is partly why I feel it’s the best ESXi white box mobo
- 3 x Intel Xeon E3-1230 v5 – I bought the one without the GPU and saved some $$
- 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!
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.
This is one of those great command line items to put in your toolkit that will impress your co-workers. I think this command is one of the least known commands but could have a huge impact on an admins ability to manage their environment. The vSphere command is simply ‘dcui’ and it is a very simple way to access the DCUI without having to go into your remote IPMI tools (ilo, iDRAC, KVM over IP, etc). The only down side compared to IPMI tools is it doesn’t work when you reboot your system as you’ll lose your ssh session.
How to use it:
- After your server is fully booted, start an ssh session to your target server and logon
- From the command prompt type in dcui and press enter
- From there you can use the dcui remotely.
- Press CTRL + C to exit
- Have your ssh screen size where you want it prior to going into the dcui. If you resize after connecting it will exit out of the DCUI
- The DCUI command worked great in putty but it did not work with the MAC Terminal program. Not sure why, but if you got this working on a MAC then post up!
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.
To prep my Home Lab for ESXi 6.0U2 with VSAN + IB. I wanted to ensure it was in pristine condition. It had been running ESXi 5.5 + VSAN for many years but it was in need of some updates. I plan to fully wipe my environment (no backups) and reinstall it all. Yes, that’s right I’m going to wipe it all – this means goodbye to those Windows 2008 VM’s I’ve been hanging on to for years now. Tip: If you’d like to understand my different Home lab generations please see my dedicated page around this topic.
In this post, I am going to focus on listing out my current to-do items, then describing how to flattening all SSD/HDD and finally building a custom ESXi 6.0U2 ISO with Realtek 8186 drivers.
Current to Do list –
- PM the Hosts – While they are off it’s a good time to do some routine PM (Complete)
- BIOS and Firmware – Check all MoBo BIOS, pNIC, and HDD/SDD firmware (Complete)
- Netgear Switch BIOS – It’s doubtful but always worth a check (Complete)
- Flatten all SDD / HDD with Mini-Partition Tool (This Post)
Create ISO with ESXi 6.0U2 and Realtek 8168 Drivers (This Post)
- Install Windows 2012 Server VM for DNS and AD Service (Local disk)
- Install vCenter Server Appliance (Local Disk)
- Get Infiniband Functional (Needs work)
- Setup FT and VSAN Networks
- Enable VSAN
- Rebuild VM Environment
Flatten all SDD / HDD with Mini-Partition Tool
Installing VSAN fresh on to an environment requires the SDD / HDD’s to be free of data and partition information. The Mini-Partition tool is a FREE bootable software product allowing you to remove all the partitions on your ESXi Hosts and other PCs. You can download it here >> https://www.partitionwizard.com/partition-wizard-bootable-cd.html
Once I created the BOOT CD and allowed the product to boot. I was quickly able to see all the HDD / SDD’s in my Host.
I simply right clicked on each host and choose ‘Delete All Partitions’
After choosing ‘Delete All Partitions’ for all my disks I clicked on ‘Apply’ in the upper right-hand corner. The following window appeared, I choose ‘Yes’ to Apply pending changes, and it removed all my partitions on all my disks quite quickly.
Create ISO with ESXi 6.0U2 and Realtek 8168 Drivers
ESXi no longer supports RealTek Network drivers, so home lab users who need these drivers will have to create a custom ISO to add these drivers back in. Keep in mind these are unsupported drivers by VMware, so use at your own risk. My trusty ESXi-Customizer GUI program is no more for ESXi 6. It has moved to a CLI based product. However, PowerCLI has all the functionality I need to build my customer ISO. In this section, I’ll be using PowerCLI to create my ISO. Keep in mind these are the steps that worked for me, your environment may vary.
To get started you will need two files and PowerCLI Installed on a Windows PC.
- File 1: VMware Offline ZIP >> www.vmware.com/download
2. RealTek 8186 Offline bundle >> https://vibsdepot.v-front.de/wiki/index.php/Net55-r8168
3. PowerCLI Download and install >> https://communities.vmware.com/community/vmtn/automationtools/powercli
Tip: If you don’t know PowerCLI try starting here
4. Place the files from Step 1 and 2 into c:\tmp folder
–POWERCLI COMMANDS— For each command, I have 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… now with my clean/updated hosts, flatten HDD/SDD’s, and a newly pressed custom ISO I am ready to install ESXi onto my systems. Next Steps for me will be to install ESXi, AD/DNS VM, and vCenter Server Appliance. However, my next post will be focused on getting InfiniBand running in my environment.
I’ve been running ESXi 5.5 with VSAN using a Netgear 24 Port Managed Gig switch for some time now, and though it has performed okay I’d like to step up my home lab to be able to support the emerging vSphere features (VSAN 6.x, FT-SMP, and faster vMotion). To support some of these features 10Gb/s is HIGHLY recommend if not fully required. Looking at 10Gbe switches and pNICS the cost is very prohibitive for a home lab. I’ve toyed around with InfiniBand in the past (See my Xsigo Posts here) and since then I’ve always wanted to use this SUPER fast and cost effective technology. Initially, the cost to do HPC (High-performance computing) has always been very expensive. However, in recent years the InfiniBand price per port has become very cost effective for the home lab.
Let’s take a quick peek at the speed InfiniBand brings. When most of us were still playing around with 100Mb/s Ethernet InfiniBand was able to provide 10Gb/s since 2001. When I state 10Gb/s I’m talking about each port being able to produce 10Gb/s and in most cases Infiniband switches have a non-blocking backplane. So a 24 Port InfiniBand Switch, 10Gb/s per port, Full duplex, Non-blocking switch will support 480Gb/s! Over time InfiniBand speed has greatly increased and over time the older switches have dropped in price making InfiniBand a good choice for a growing home lab. For most home labs a 40Gb/s per port QDR switch is financial achievable. Even the 20Gb/s DDR or 10Gb/s SDR switch give ample speed and are VERY cost effective. However, step above QDR and you’ll find the price point is a bit too steep for home lab use.
So let’s take a look at the price / speed comparisons for InfiniBand vs. 10Gb/s Ethernet.
|InfiniBand HCA||2 Port 10Gb/s ($15-$75)||2 Port 20Gb/s ($20-$100)||2 Ports 40GB/s ($30-$150)|
|InfiniBand Switch||24 Ports SDR (~$30-$70)||24 Ports DDR (~$70-$120)||8-36 Ports QDR (~$250-$500)|
|InfiniBand Cable||CX4 (SFF-8470) ($15-$30)||CX4 (SFF-8470) ($15-$30)||QSFP (SFF-8436) ($15-$30)|
|Ethernet Switch||8 Ports 10Gbe ($700-$900)|
|Ethernet pNIC||2 Port 10Gbe ($300-$450)|
|Ethernet Cable||1M / 3ft. CAT 6a ($5-$10)|
Let’s break this down a bit further. I used the high dollar from each line item above and figured 3 x HCAs or pNICs and 6 cables for my 3 hosts.
Ethernet 10Gb/s – (3 Host Total cost $2310)
- Cost Per Switch – $900 Switch / 8 Ports = $112 per port
- Cost to enable 3 Hosts with 3 pNICs and 2 Cables -(3 Hosts x $450 pNICS) + ((2 Cables x 3 Hosts) x $10 each) = $1410 for three hosts or $470 per Host
- Total Cost to enable 3 hosts and switch cost – $1410 + $900 = $2310
- Fully populated 8 Port switch supporting 4 hosts = $2776
InfiniBand SDR 10Gb/s – (3 Host Total Costs $385)
- Cost Per Switch Port – $70 / 24 Ports = $2.91 per port
- Host Costs – (3 Hosts x $75 HCA) + ((2 Cables x 3 Hosts) x $30 = $315 (Per Host $105)
- Total Cost to enable 3 hosts and switch cost – $315 + $70 = $385
- Fully populated 24 port switch supporting 12 hosts = $1330
InfiniBand DDR 20Gb/s – (3 Host Total Cost $510)
- Cost Per Switch Port – $120 / 24 Ports = $5 per port
- Host Costs – (3 Hosts x $100 HCA) + ((2 Cables x 3 Hosts) x $30 = $390 (Per Host $130)
- Total Cost to enable 3 hosts and switch cost – $390 + $120 = $510
- Fully populated 24 port switch supporting 12 hosts = $1680
InfiniBand QDR 40Gb/s – (3 Host Total Cost $1040)
- Cost Per Switch Port – $500 / 24 Ports = $20.83 per port
- Host Costs – (3 Hosts x $150 HCA) + ((2 Cables x 3 Hosts) x $30 = $540 (Per Host $180)
- Total Cost to enable 3 hosts and switch cost – $540 + $500 = $1040
- Fully populated 24 port switch supporting 12 hosts = $2660
From these costs you can clearly see that InfiniBand is TRULY the best value for speed and port price. Even if you got a great deal, let’s say 50% off on 10Gbe, it still would be slower and it would cost you more. Heck, for the price you could easily buy an extra switch as a backup.
With this in mind my plan it to replace my backend Gbe network with InfiniBand. Using IPoIB (IP over InfiniBand) for VSAN, vMotion, and FT traffic and my 1Gbe network for the VM’s and ESXi management traffic. However, without knowledge wisdom cannot be achieved. So, my next steps are to learn more about InfiniBand and review these great videos by Mellanox. Then come up with a plan to move forward using this technology.
Check out these Videos: InfiniBand Principles Every HPC Expert MUST Know!
I was working on a remote server today and I needed better stats around ping and trace route. I could not install additional software and then I came across the windows command ‘pathping’. Its hard to believe this tool has been around since NT4 days and I don’t recall ever hearing about it. Give it a go when you get a chance and I’m adding it to my “virtual” tool belt.
More information here… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PathPing
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.
There are two simple checks a virtual infrastructure (VI) admin should be doing to ensure ESXi Datastores and the Windows VM’s are properly aligned. If either are misaligned then performance issues will follow. Though I’m not going to get into the whys and how’s of alignment issues I will show you how to quickly check.
1 – ESXi Datastores (DS)
By default if the VI admin formats the DS with vCenter Server or directly connected to a host via the VI Client the starting sector will be 2048. A starting sector of 2048 will satisfy nearly all of the storage vendors out there, however 2048 starting sector should be validated with your storage vendor.
If the VI Admin chose to format the DS via a script then they should choose a starting sector of 2048 or what the storage vendor recommends
Example — partedUtil setptbl \$disk gpt “1 2048…..” More info here on partedUtil
Here is a simple command to check your “Start Sector”. SSH or Direct console into a host that has DSs you want to check and run this command.
~ # esxcli storage core device partition list
Some note about this –
RED Box – Is the local boot disk, so its starting sector will be 64, this is okay it’s just a ESXi Boot disk
Yellow, Green, and Blue – Are all VSAN Disks and all have a starting sector of 2048 << This is what I’m looking for, I want to make sure all DS disks start at 2048, if not they could experience performance issues.
2 – Windows VM Check
Windows checks are pretty easy too, the starting sector offset should be 2048. Note the screenshot below shows the Partition starting offset of 1,048,576, also note it’s in labeled in bytes not sectors. To find the starting sector just divide the Partition Starting Offset by the Bytes per Sector. Simple math tells us its right — 1048576/512 = 2048 Sector. If your Partition Starting offset is anything other than 1,048,576 Bytes or 2048 Sectors then the VM is not aligned and will need adjusted.
From a Command Prompt, type in ‘msinfo32.exe’ to bring up this screen, navigate as shown below, and note your Partition Starting Offset.
VSAN Observer is a slick way to display diagnostic statics not only around how the VSAN is performing but how the VM’s are as well.
Here are the commands I entered in my Home Lab to enable and disable the Observer.
Note: this is a diagnostic tool and should not be allowed to run for long periods of time as it will consume many GB of disk space. Ctrl+C will stop the collection
How to Start the collection….
- vCenter239:~ # rvc root@localhost << Logon into vCenter Server Appliance | Note you may have to enable SSH
- /localhost> cd /localhost/Home.Lab
- /localhost/Home.Lab> cd computers/Home.Lab.C1 << Navigate to your cluster | Mine Datacenter is Home.Lab, and cluster is Home.Lab.C1
- /localhost/Home.Lab/computers/Home.Lab.C1> vsan.observer ~/computers/Home.Lab.C1 –run-webserver –force << Enter this command to get things started, keep in mind double dashes “—” are used in front of run-webserver and force
- [2014-09-17 03:39:54] INFO WEBrick 1.3.1
- [2014-09-17 03:39:54] INFO ruby 1.9.2 (2011-07-09) [x86_64-linux]
- [2014-09-17 03:39:54] WARN TCPServer Error: Address already in use – bind(2)
- Press <Ctrl>+<C> to stop observing at any point ...[2014-09-17 03:39:54] INFO WEBrick::HTTPServer#start: pid=25461 port=8010 << Note the Port and that Ctrl+C to stop
- 2014-09-17 03:39:54 +0000: Collect one inventory snapshot
- Query VM properties: 0.05 sec
- Query Stats on 172.16.76.231: 0.65 sec (on ESX: 0.15, json size: 241KB)
- Query Stats on 172.16.76.233: 0.63 sec (on ESX: 0.15, json size: 241KB)
- Query Stats on 172.16.76.232: 0.68 sec (on ESX: 0.15, json size: 257KB)
- Query CMMDS from 172.16.76.231: 0.74 sec (json size: 133KB)
- 2014-09-17 03:40:15 +0000: Live-Processing inventory snapshot
- 2014-09-17 03:40:15 +0000: Collection took 20.77s, sleeping for 39.23s
- 2014-09-17 03:40:15 +0000: Press <Ctrl>+<C> to stop observing
How to stop the collection… Note: the collection has to be started and running to web statics as in the screenshots below
- ^C2014-09-17 03:40:26 +0000: Execution interrupted, wrapping up … << Control+C is entered and the observer goes into shutdown mode
- [2014-09-17 03:40:26] INFO going to shutdown …
- [2014-09-17 03:40:26] INFO WEBrick::HTTPServer#start done.
How to launch the web interface…
I used Firefox to logon to the web interface of VSAN Observer, IE didn’t seem to function correctly
Simply go to http://[IP of vCenter Server]:8010 Note: this is the port number noted above when starting and its http not https
So what does it look like and what is the purpose of each screen… Note: By Default the ‘? What am I looking at’ is not displayed, I expanded this view to enhance the description of the screenshot.
Well folks it’s my long awaited blog post around moving my Homelab from FreeNAS to VMware VSAN.
Here are the steps I took to migrate my Home Lab GEN II with FreeNAS to Home Lab GEN III with VSAN.
- I am not putting a focus on ESXi setup as I want to focus on the steps to setup VSAN.
- My home lab is in no way on the VMware HCL, if you are building something like this for production you should use the VSAN HCL as your reference
The Plan –
- Meet the Requirements
- Backup VM’s
- Update and Prepare Hardware
- Distribute Existing hardware to VSAN ESXi Hosts
- Install ESXi on all Hosts
- Setup VSAN
The Steps –
Meet the Requirements – Detailed list here
- Minimum of three hosts
- Each host has a minimum of one SSD and one HDD
- The host must be managed by vCenter Server 5.5 and configured as a Virtual SAN cluster
- Min 6GB RAM
- Each host has a Pass-thru RAID controller as specified in the HCL. The RAID controller must be able to present disks directly to the host without a RAID configuration.
- 1GB NIC, I’ll be running 2 x 1Gbs NICs. However 10GB and Jumbo frames are recommended
- VSAN VMkernel port configured on every host participating in the cluster.
- All disks that VSAN will be allocated to should be clear of any data.
Backup Existing VMs
- No secret here around backups. I just used vCenter Server OVF Export to a local disk to backup all my critical VM’s
- More Information Here
Update and Prepare Hardware
- Update all Motherboard (Mobo) BIOS and disk Firmware
- Remove all HDD’s / SDD’s from FreeNAS SAN
Remove any Data from HDD/SDD’s . Either of these tools do the job
Distribute Existing hardware to VSAN ESXi Hosts
- Current Lab – 1 x VMware Workstation PC, 2 x ESXi Hosts boot to USB (Host 1 and 2), 1 x FreeNAS SAN
- Desired Lab – 3 x ESXi hosts with VSAN and 1 x Workstation PC
End Results after moves
- All Hosts ESXi 5.5U1 with VSAN enabled
- Host 1 – MSI 7676, i7-3770, 24GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 60GB SSD SATA III), 5 xpNICs
- Host 2 – MSI 7676, i7-2600, 32 GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 90 GB SSD SATA III), 5 x pNICs
- Host 3 – MSI 7676, i7-2600, 32 GB RAM, Boot 160GB HDD, VSAN disks (2 x 2TB HDD SATA II, 1 x 90 GB SSD SATA III), 5 x pNICs
- Note – I have ditched my Gigabyte z68xp-UD3 Mobo and bought another MSI 7676 board. I started this VSAN conversion with it and it started to give me fits again similar to the past. There are many web posts with bugs around this board. I am simply done with it and will move to a more reliable Mobo that is working well for me.
Install ESXi on all Hosts
Starting with Host 1
- Prior to Install ensure all data has been removed and all disk show up in BIOS in AHCI Mode
Install ESXi to Local Boot HD
- After the install I experienced the ESXi hanging at Boot – ‘Starting up Services – Running usbarbitrator start’
- Solution – Stop usbarbitrator service
- Setup ESXi base IP address via direct Console, DNS, disable IP 6, enable shell and SSH
- Using the VI Client setup the basic ESXi networking and vSwitch
- Using VI Client I restored the vCSA and my AD server from OVF and powered them on
- Once booted I logged into the vCSA via the web client
- I built out Datacenter and add host 1
- Create a cluster but only enabled EVC to support my different Intel CPU’s
- Cleaned up any old DNS settings and ensure all ESXi Hosts are correct
- From the Web client Validate that 2 x HDD and 1 x SDD are present in Host
- Installed ESXi Host 2 / 3, followed most of these steps, and added them to the cluster
Logon to the Webclient
Ensure on all the hosts
- Networking is setup and all functions are working
- NTP is working
- All expected HDD’s for VSAN are reporting in to ESXi
Create a vSwitch for VSAN and attach networking to it
- I attached 2 x 1Gbs NICs for my load that should be enough
Assign the VSAN License Key
- Click on the Cluster > Manage > Settings > Virtual SAN Licensing > Assign License Key
- Under Virtual SAN click on General then Edit
- Choose ‘Turn on Virtual SAN’
- Set ‘Add disks to storage’ to Manual
Note – for a system on the HCL, chances are the Automatic setting will work without issue. However my system is not on the any VMware HCL and I want to control the drives to add to my Disk Group.
Add Disks to VSAN
- Under Virtual SAN click on ‘Disk Management’
- Choose the ICON with the Check boxes on it
- Finally add the disks you want in your disk group
- Allow VSAN to complete its tasks, you can check on its progress by going to ‘Tasks’
- Once complete ensure all disks report in as healthy.
Ensure VSAN General tab is coming up correct
- 3 Hosts
- 3 of 3 SSD’s
- 6 of 6 Data disks
- Check to see if the data store is online
Migrating from FreeNAS to VSAN was relatively a simple process. I simply moved, prepared, and installed and the product came right up. My only issue was working with a faulty Gigabyte Mobo which I resolved by replacing it. I’ll post up more as I continue to work with VSAN. If you are interested in more detail around VSAN I would recommend the following book.
I’ve been lucky enough to make it to every VMworld since 2008 and 2014 will be my 7th. time in a row. In this blog post I wanted to share with you a breakdown of some of the tips and tricks I’ve used to get to these events. Being the former Phoenix VMUG leader I’ve shared these tips with fellow VMUG users and now I’m sharing them with all of you. Users would tell me cost is the number one reason why they don’t go – “My Company sees value in this event but will not pay for it”. This breaks down to Food, Hotel, Travel, and the infamous golden ticket, aka the VMworld pass. So how do users overcome the cost to attend? This is what this blog post is all about…
Working with your employer –
Having your employer pick up the tab not only benefits them as a company but yourself too. As you know VMworld is full of great content and the socialization aspects are second to none. Chances are you’ll be asked to put together a total cost to attend and this cost can be quite high for some companies on a tight budget. My suggestion is if you are getting the big ‘No’ then work with your boss around the total costs. First find out why it’s a ‘No’ and look for opportunities to overcome this. Maybe your company will pay for some of the items. Example – They might be able to cover airfare, but the rest is on you. Don’t forget if your company has a VMware TAM (Technical Account Manager) reach out them. Even if you are not directly working with the TAM they are your best resource not only for VMware Technology but also for getting you to VMworld. They don’t have passes but they usually know the community very well and can assist.
Sometimes I hear “My employer will not allow me to accept gifts”. True your company may have a policy around the type of gifts you can receive and by all means follow this policy. However, keep in mind you may be able to take vacation time and represent yourself at this event not your employer. Then there is a possibility gifts could be accepted but on the premises you don’t represent your company. Some companies are okay with this but just make sure they are. If you are able to do this I would suggest you represent it as ‘personal development’.
How do I get a free VMworld Pass?
This can be your biggest challenge. However here are some ways to get your hands on one.
- I can’t tell you how many vendors have giveaways contests right now — hit them early and enter as many contests as you can find
- When you enter, find out who your local vendor contact is and let them know you entered. Then stay in contact with them.
- Keep in mind not all contests are the same, some are based on random drawing and others are not. This is why I say keep in contact with the vendor.
- How do I find give-a-ways >> Google ‘VMworld getting there for free’
Get the word out
- Tell your boss, workmates, vendors, and partners. Post on Twitter, Linked-In, etc. and Repeat again and again. By doing this you let others know about your strong interest in getting there, in turn they might get a lead for you.
- Most importantly, reach out to your local VMUG leader and ask them for tips in your area. They are usually well connected and might have a lead for you as well.
Follow Twitter and Linked-In – You never know who is going to post up “I have a pass and need to give it to someone”. Yes that is right, before the event you can transfer a pass to someone.
- New to Twitter, need contacts? It’s a pretty simple to get started. Simply find the #VMworld hastag, see who is posting to it and start following them. Then look at all their contacts and follow them too, soon you’ll have a gaggle of folks.
- This sound like work. Why do all this? Simple, distributed coverage model. The more people know the more likely they are to help and in turn the more likely you’ll succeed
Don’t forgo an Expo-Only or Solutions Exchange Pass
- If you get offered this pass take it. I can’t tell you how many vendors have these passes and have trouble giving them away, seriously this is gold but folks don’t know how to leverage them.
- First off this pass has great value, there is a TON of value here.
Second this pass can get you on to the Solutions Exchange floor where all the vendors and partners are.
- Once there start talking to all the vendors, fellow attendee, all those folks you meet on Twitter, etc. as you never know who has a full pass they couldn’t get rid of, take it and upgrade yours.
- Third, while you are there with an Expo Pass use Twitter and the VMworld hash tags to let folks know you’re here and you are looking for a full pass.
- Stop by the VMUG booth on the Expo floor, you never know who will be there and you never know if users there might be able to help you.
Vendors and Partners
Find out who is sponsoring VMworld this year, and then…
- Start calling the ones you know well, ask them for support getting there.
- Don’t forget to call the ones you don’t know so well too.
- If you have an upcoming deal on the table with a vendor, inquire if they will throw in passes, travel, etc.
What about Food, Hotel, and Travel Costs?
- There will be free food everywhere, in-fact feel free to give some to the homeless I usually do.
- If you get a pass then lunch and usually breakfast are included.
- For dinner, find out where the nightly events are as they usually have food.
- Talk with Vendors as they might take you out, you never know.
- Ask a Vendor to pay for just the room or ask them to gift hotel points to you.
- Room Share with someone at the event << Think about it, you won’t be in the room that often and chances are from 7AM till 10PM you’ll be out of your room.
Use travel sites to cut down the cost.
- Secret Hotels: Best Western Carriage Inn and The Mosser. Good if you’re on a budget but chances are they are full this year (2014).
- Use your hotel or other travel points to book the hotel for free.
- Get a low cost hotel away from the event, but watch your travel costs.
- Ask a vendor to pay for just the airfare, or maybe they have points they can gift you.
- Use your own travel points to pay for this.
Rideshare to the event
- See if one of your connections are driving to the event, offer to split fuel costs.
- You drive someone to the event, and they pick up the hotel or vise versa.
Use the following –
- VMworld Shuttle
- Once again hit up those vendors, they might have a way to get you around for free
Finally here is a breakdown of how I got to so many events and how/who paid for it….
|2008 VMworld||Vendor Sponsor – Full Pass||Employer Paid||Vendor / Event||Employer Paid|
|2009 VMworld||VMUG Sponsored – Full Pass||Vendor paid for Airfare with Miles||Vendor / Event||Employer Paid|
|2010 VMworld||VMUG Sponsored – Full Pass||Vendor paid for Airfare with Miles||Vendor / Event||Vendor Sponsored|
|2011 VMworld||Vendor Sponsor – Expo Pass but I got an upgrade to Full by asking others||I drove two others and I paid for the fuel||Vendor / Event||Travel Companion paid for room|
|2012 VMworld||Employee Labs||Employer Paid||Employer Paid||Employer Paid|
|2013 VMworld||Employee TAM||Employer Paid||Employer Paid||Employer Paid|
|2014 VMworld||Employee TAM||Employer Paid||Employer Paid||Employer Paid|
Summing it up…
My take is this, if you REALLY want to go you’ll get there but sometimes it takes effort to do so and if you do it right it might not cost you a thing. Don’t let anything stop you and find your way there.
Finally, after you’ve been to the event don’t forget about the folks who got you there and say ‘Thank you’. Then over the next year continue to build this relationship, as you never know if you’ll need help again, or you want to help someone else get there.