VMUG

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.

Turning a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes, you can attend’ for VMworld 2018

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I’ve been lucky enough to make it to very VMworld since 2008 but it wasn’t always easy getting there. Being the former Phoenix VMUG leader and currently a 7-year VMware employee I’ve come across all types of VMworld tips. In this blog post I’ll share those tips to help turn your No into a Yes.

Setting your goals on VMworld — Okay, so you got the big No from your employer. Normal reasons for a denial are “costs too much”, “value”, or “we can’t afford to have you away”. Fair enough, but the real question should be – how prepared were you to support you ask? Imagine you are the manager and an employee somewhat casually asked you to spend $1000’s to go to an event you may never even heard of. What would your reaction be? Chances are you’d say no too. In this blog post I list out my tips to help enable you to be successful.

#1 Make VMworld your goal and your focus!

Set a goal to attend VMworld – Say it again “Set a GOAL to attend VMworld” Think about it this way — you know VMworld is going to happen, so why not add it to your yearly goals? Even if your company doesn’t have goal planning then start a personal list and think about how to achieve this goal. Next, don’t do this alone. Do you have someone who can help support your goal? Maybe it is a fellow employee, VMware account team, VMware TAM, VMUG leader / Users, and most importantly don’t forget about your partners that support the VMware community. Talk with them, tell them about your goals and the reasons why you want to achieve them, see how they can help support you. Finally, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Are other employees successful in going to training, conferences, or events? Clearly, they are successful with their requests, so why not work with them on your goals and find new ways to be successful.

Keep this in mind “We achieve what we focus on the most”. If getting to VMworld was easy for everyone then I wouldn’t be writing this blog post. If you are being turned down year after year, you might consider a change of focus. Your focus should be known but not annoying. In other words, let others know that VMware and getting to VMworld is what you are passionate about. Let them know how VMware technologies help innovate your company, how it reduces downtime, how it makes you all more secure, etc. etc. By letting others know and understand your passion you’ll go from the person asking to go, to your VMware thought leader and soon management will be coming to you telling you to go to VMworld vs. you asking to go.

Getting past the “Cost”

Having your employer pick of the tab can be a challenge. Your plan should include the total cost to attend, how you plan to fund it, and keep in mind this cost can be quite high for some companies on a tight budget. My suggestion is if you are getting the big ‘No’ due to costs then work with your company around the total costs. First find out why it’s a ‘No’ and look for opportunities to overcome this, then use my tips below to enhance your plan. In general, your fist challenges in subsidizing cost maybe your company’s policy around accepting gifts. Understand this policy well, don’t just take someone’s word as there maybe ways to accept gifts under specific circumstances. Read the current policy and ask the policy writers questions to better understand it. Explore your company – Talk with your travel department or even HR/Benefits around funding sources as there maybe programs to help employees with Education and events. Point is, ask and explore you never know what you will find and be able to achieve.

How do I get a free VMworld Pass aka the Golden Ticket?

This can be your biggest challenge. However here are some ways to get your hands on one.

  • Give-a-ways
    • I can’t tell you how many vendors do an annual giveaways contests — hit them early, often, and enter as many as you can find
    • Tips-
      • When you enter, find out who your local vendor contact is and let them know you entered then stay in contact with them all year long and then some
      • 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’ or ‘VMworld contest’, Look on Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media platforms
  • Get the word out
    • Tell your boss, workmates, vendors, partners, use 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, I cannot go, and need to give it to someone” This is pretty common just before the event and yes you can transfer a pass to someone.
      • New to Twitter, need contacts? It’s simple 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 sounds like work why do all this? Simple, distributed coverage model. The more people who 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 cannot give 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. See the current VMworld Pass features for more information but normally you can get into the larger Sessions and the Solutions Exchange
    • 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 attendees, 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 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 deal on the table with a vendor coming up, inquire if they can put passes in the deal.

What about Food, Hotel, and Travel Costs?

  • Food
    • 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 but check the schedule
    • For dinner, find out where the nightly vendor events are as they usually have food
    • Talk with Vendors they might take you out, you never know
  • Hotel
    • 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:
        • San Fran try the Best Western Carriage Inn and The Mosser
        • Las Vegas there are lots of options but try Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel (usually very quiet not a casino) or The Westin Las Vegas Hotel & Spa
    • 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
  • Travel
    • Airfare
      • 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
    • Local Travel
      • Use the following –
        • VMworld Shuttle
        • Bus
        • Uber
        • BART
      • 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….

Year Pass Travel Food Hotel
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
2012-2018 Employee Pass Employer Paid Employer Paid Employer Paid

Summing it up…

My take is, 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 these relationship as you never know if you’ll need help again, or you want to help someone else get there.

Best of luck and do reach out with suggestions, comments, or great stories around how you got there!

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.

VMworld 2018 Call for Papers

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VMWORLD 2018 is right around the corner and its time for ‘call for papers’. Call for Papers opened on February 13 and ends on March 13. Proposals can be considered for VMworld US, Europe, or Both.

For more information and submissions guidelines check out these links:

My TIPS:

  • Keep in mind you are NOT submitting a presentation, but you are submitting an abstract around what you want to present
  • Follow the guidelines EXACTLY – this is the number one reason why abstracts are rejected.
  • Give the review team a good reason to want to read and fully review your abstract – How? For starters use a catchy and effective Titles
  • Before you submit – Have your peers review your submission, gather their feedback and improve it.
    • The more eyes on your submission the better
    • It’ll help ensure accuracy and topic relevance
    • If you want I’d be glad to review your submission, just ask me nicely.

Good luck and I hope you are selected!

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.

Submit a proposal to present at a VMUG Usercon or Supercon!

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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.

START HERE:

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 mhewitt@vmug.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!

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.

VMware Home Labs: A definitive guide

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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!

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.

Passed VMware Certified Professional 6 – Data Center Virtualization Delta Exam 2V0-621D

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I passed my VCP 6 – DCV Delta Exam today! Here are some of my notes around it.

  • The test was 65 Questions and you have 75 Minutes to complete it, I had about 30 Mins left.
  • I did get several configuration maximum questions. The questions were more around applying the known maximums vs. just memorizing the data points.
  • I did get some Virtual SAN , vROPS, and LOTS of questions around Lockdown mode
  • Know your licensing Models and what features belong to what.
  • Lots of questions around iSCSI, FCoE, APD, Path loss, PSP Modes
  • Know all about SSO, Authentication types, and don’t forget those newer features like Content Library
  • Make sure you review vSphere Replication and those always fun resource pools
  • Know your command line tools – esxcli and the like
  • In general, questions seem to be straight to the point vs. lengthy paragraphs
  • I followed the blueprint, read my documents, and made sure I read every ‘Note’ section
  • For more information about this test click here

10-30-2015 Phoenix VMUG this event is going to be EPIC!

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Back in the day when I lead the Phoenix VMUG the other leaders and I put our attention on the quality of the event vs. trying to drive attendance. We knew producing quality events would lead to more users wanting to attend. Man were we right. Our first VMUG in 2008 drew a crowd of 65, not too bad for our first showing. However we worked hard, listened to our attendees, and in just 2 years time we built an event framework to support 300-500 users and 20+ sponsors ever quarter! The framework we created was so successful it was key in creating the framework for the VMUG UserCon.

Flash forward to October-30-2015 and one of the most EPIC VMUG events ever is about to take place in Phoenix! I never use the word epic unless there is something absolutely stunning. Example – Me doing a selfie drinking a soda is not epic. However – when VMware COO Carl Eschenbach, Principal Architect Rawlinson Rivera, Senior Technical Marketing Architect Doug Baer, Chris Wahl, Josh Atwell, Instructor lead labs, 30+ Partners/Sponsors, multiple breakout sessions, and cocktails at the end of the day come to your VMUG, then this is EPIC!

I know that was quite a bit to take in but like it said EPIC, for now I’d recommend registering for the event and downloading the VMUG UserCon App.

Registration – To register for this event go here >> https://www.vmug.com/p/cm/ld/fid=10175

Download the App – To help you manage your day at this event. Install the VMUG UserCon App >> https://www.vmug.com/p/cm/ld/fid=9653

The overall agenda should be posted soon, and when it does I’ll post up my recommendations around this event!