Synology DS1513+ Released

DS1513+The Synology DS1512 has been a popular choice for many home labs in recent years. I hoped that the company’s raft of recent product updates would reach this model eventually. Well my wish was granted as Synology have announced the DS1513+.

There are a few modifications to note. The one that stands out the most at first glance is the doubling of LAN capability.  The DS1513+ boasts no fewer than 4 RJ45 ports. That does seem like quite a lot. It does open up some interesting possibilities though…

The full specifications for the DS1513+ can be found here.


Get Your Homelab in the Clouds with AutoLab

screenshot327Since we have a small but significant following of people who run home labs here on vSpecialist, I thought I’d mention a limited offer that may be of interest.

If you’re not familiar with AutoLab, it’s designed to produce a nested vSphere 5.1, 5.0 or 4.1 lab environment with minimum effort. Prebuilt Open Source VMs and the shell of other VMs are used along with automation for the installation of operating systems and applications into these VMs with the end result being a useful home lab that you can stand up from scratch in a short amount of time.

Anyway, it’s possible to get an AutoLab setup and running in the cloud and BareMetalCloud actually offer it as a service. Mike Laverick has some discount codes available (use MAGICMIKE100) to the first 100 people to take up the service. Check out his post on the topic for more details and help on getting started.


Don’t over-complicate!

Having recently relocated my home office and my home lab within my house, I have set about rebuilding my lab from scratch. As it evolves or my needs change, a rebuild is good to purge out the remnants of the various experiments and tests that I’ve done. However, I will sometimes fall into the trap of trying to be too clever.

Take last night as an example. I happened to read about a piece of software called Cobbler. To save anyone having to read what is quite a lengthy man page, Cobbler manages the provisioning of operating systems from a single server. I thought it would be great if I could automate and control the complete rebuild of my entire lab from bare metal to fully functional at the touch of a few buttons with my QNAP NAS acting as the Cobbler server.

After a little more research, I grabbed the source code and tried to shoe-horn it onto my NAS. Part way through, and encountering problems, I realized that I was vastly over-complicating this rebuild. Let’s face it, how many times do I actually need to reinstall everything from the ground up? Once or maybe twice per major release at most.

Thankfully I only wasted an evening on it although it was fun. I might still try and work it out in the future but there are more important things to do in the meantime.


Reset VM Stuck at 95%

I’m not convinced that this is supported, but it did work. As with anything on a blog, use at your own risk.

I was working on rebuilding my home lab and wanted to clear down the host that my vCenter VM was sitting on. Before doing that I wanted to rescue some files from it (long story). For some reason it hung on me and wouldn’t respond so I tried to reset it. This process got as far as 95% and then got stuck 🙁

One way to unstick such a VM is to SSH onto the hosts that it’s running on and use the vm-support command. How?

Run “vm-support -x” to show the world IDs of the running VMs on the host:

The one that I wanted was 9190. Using “vm-support -X 9190” and answering “y” to the three questions that follow will, eventually, result in you getting control back of the VM without affecting anything else. Just remember, try it at your own risk 🙂


VMworld Europe 2012 – Day 0

I’m calling it Day 0 as the full conference started on Tuesday. Monday was Partner Day at VMworld and a chance for many to just turn up and register as well as take a few Hands-on-Lab sessions and do some networking.

I walked to the venue from my hotel and eventually managed to find my way into the Hands-on-Labs as I was keen to try out a few of the changes to elements of the vCloud suite (I haven’t managed to update my home lab yet since 5.1 was released).

I’ve enjoyed using the labs in the past and I did so this time as well but I came away with a few observations / suggestions that I’d like to share:

The manuals for each accompanying lab were a little tricky to navigate at times. I know a few people accidentally missed parts of the labs out. Others, like me found that there wasn’t quite enough screen real-estate available to show screenshots and their accompanying text.

Whilst the labs must of course be fairly prescriptive and cater to all ability levels, it might be nice in future years to have some options around the detail presented in the manuals so that it is possible for some to try and navigate the products themselves without being to exactly which button to press or value to enter.

As I said though, I enjoyed the labs that I did.

The remainder of the day was spent networking and in a blogger session organised by Nutanix. After that finished I attended the VMUG party at a restaurant a few miles away where I met a number of people who I’ve only ever conversed with via their own blogs or on twitter including Damian Karlson, Michael Webster, Josh Atwell, Jack McCleod and Luc Dekens – all great people to chat with.



I did promise to pop back to QNAP’s stand at VMworld Europe when I posted yesterday about them introducing VAAI across their range of storage appliances. True to my word, I popped in for a chat.

As a reminder, VAAI (vStorage APIs for Array Integration) enables ESXi hosts to offload specific virtual machine and storage management operations to compliant storage hardware – basically talking some of the storage load from the hosts and letting the storage hardware handle it.

Now whilst the functionality will be available across their range of products with release 3.8, it seems likely that they are only going to certify it on the x79 series. It will work on all of their current and past models however. The features to be implemented are:

  • Block Zeroing – used during the creation of vmdk disk files
  • Block Copy – used when deploying and cloning VMs / templates. Rather than the ESXi host copying vmdk files from the storage and re-writing them back, the copy is performed by the storage hardware.
  • Hardware accelerated locking – (aka Atomic Test & Set) used during the creation and locking of files on a volume
  • vSphere Client Integration – allows provisioning and management of datastores from within the vSphere client

QNAP said that 3.8 will be available as of November sometime although their website makes no mention of it currently. I did ask about other features, such as VASA (vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness), but there’s no word on those yet. Personally I suspect they knew a little more than they were letting on.



I purposefully wandered past the QNAP booth in the Solutions Exchange at VMworld Europe 2012 yesterday as I have one of their devices at home connected up to my lab (although as it gets older and my demands get higher I find that I’m using it less and less). I also know a few other individuals (e.g. Jeremy – co-author on this site) who have one in their home lab setup and QNAP have a good presence in the SMB market.

As the title suggests, QNAP are going to deliver VAAI functionality very shortly. The really good thing though is that this does not mean that you need to buy a new model. As QNAP use the same OS package on all of their devices, the whole range will get the functionality as of version 3.8. Geeks (with QNAPs) everywhere will rejoice and dance in the streets!

I plan to pop back past later on and find out more about it.


New HP Proliant Microserver N40L

HP have recently updated their Proliant Microserver to sport a slightly nippier processor. As well as the 250Gb SATA drive it also now comes with 2Gb RAM as standard – although if you’re thinking of using one for a home lab Virtual Infrastructure you’d need to replace that with 2 x 4Gb sticks anyway.

HP’s ongoing cashback deal for this little gem is still running too. Before cashback they’re about £200 + VAT meaning that once you get your cheque back from HP, they work out at only £120 each. Not bad at all for a home lab and the AMD NEO N40L 1.5Ghz dual-core processor should be enough to handle a reasonable lab-like load.

ServersPlus are one of the places in the UK to pick one of these servers up. They even offer an ESXi 5 testbed bundle that includes the 8Gb RAM and an optical drive.

These little servers are great lab servers if you need something small and quiet. I have 3 of them running more or less full time at home and my wife hasn’t complained about the electricity bill… yet.


VMworld Hands-on-Labs

I thought that I should mention the Hands-on-Labs in a separate post because they were very slickly implemented and managed, a testament to the people who put them together. Not only that though, it was VMware eating their own dog food in a very public way and, in my opinion, showing that they were up to the challenge.

For those people reading this who haven’t been to VMworld before the Hands-on-Labs (HOL) are an area of the conference where you can work though a series of prescribed tasks to satisfy some requirementsconjured up in a brief scenario. It’s an opportunity for some to try out some of VMware’s products in a meaningful way.

In the HOL area, there were 240 seats available, each one equipped with dual 19″ widescreen monitors, a thin client, keyboard and mouse. Lab instructions were displayed on one screen and an RDP session to an isolated and dedicated environment for your chosen lab was displayed on the other.

In the centre of the HOL area was a control station for managing the environment and several, large screen displaying statistics for the duration of the conference.

This year there were 27 different labs available. I only managed to find the time to complete 3 but there were some people whose entire conference seemed to be taken up with lab sessions. Three of the 27 labs were also “vendor” labs with the emphasis of them being on NetApp, EMC and Cisco. Many of the other vendors exhibiting at VMworld would probably like a specific lab for next year – one even said as much to me.

Completing the labs was fairly easy once you were sat down. You simply had to decide which of the 27 you wanted to complete. The instructions were displayed on the right and the RDP screen popped up on the left. All that you then had to do was work your way through at your own pace. I didn’t encounter any problems although there were some differences between different labs in how detailed the instructions were or in how they were laid out. That was a minor issue though.

The impressive thing for me was how everything was pre-provisioned and available for each of the thousands of lab sessions that were served during the conference. How it all worked together. Simon Seagrave chatted to me briefly about it at one point and showed me how you could work out which datacenter (Amsterdam, Florida or Las Vegas) your lab was being hosted in. Simply, it was just working out which timezone the RDP session appeared to be in. As you can see below, when I took this lab at about 8.30am, I was working on infrastructure in Las Vegas!

Also interesting to note was that VMware were running vCenter Operations Suite 5 (not yet available to download) to monitor the infrastructure. I was offered a short demonstration of it by Bas Raayman (vSpecialist at EMC) but I didn’t manage to find the time to take him up on his kind offer. I also subsequently discovered that VMware had vCenter Operations for View running as well although give the rate at which lab environments were binned and re-provisioned I doubt that they would have got much useful information out of it.

I’ve asked quite a few other people what they thought of the Labs but I’d like to know what more people though about them too so please feel free to participate in the poll (in the sidebar) that’ll run through to the end of October 2011.

And, if you want to know a little more about the labs, Nick Howell (NetApp vExpert) has recently posted about them also. (UPDATE: He’s also posted about some of the stats and results on 27/10/2011)


Creating VLANs in DD-WRT (Part 3)

In the second part of this post I completed the setup of VLANs on my WNR3500L router. To make them available to hosts (and VMs) I now have to configure my Cisco SLM2008 switches.

Fortunately that turns out to be fairly simple. The SLM 2008 has a web-based GUI that does the job nicely. Once logged in it’s a matter of opening the VLAN >> VLAN Settings page. Then just tap in the VLAN ID that you want to create and click “Add”.

This then drops you into an additional page where you choose which ports to associate the VLAN with. I picked all of the ports on this switch (where my ESX hosts are located). Then I clicked “Save”.

It’s just then a case of repeating for the other VLANs that are required. And that’s the switches done. The default configuration of them doesn’t require any further tweaking.

Within vSphere, the configuration required should be obvious. Here’s a screenshot from my ESX host with a portgroup called “Test” defined.

It has a VLAN ID of 6 and one VM in it with an IP Address of It can reach the router’s primary network, the internet and be contacted from my main network and wireless clients.

Exactly what I want for now.