My vSphere 6.7 homelab upgrade experience

vSphere 6.7 was released several months ago, and I’ve been meaning to upgrade my homelab for a while now. vSphere 6.5 has been pretty rock-solid, but it’s time for me to keep up with the Joneses. This post covers my upgrade process and experiences.

vCenter Migration

My original vCenter server was built straight on to version 6.5 when that first launched, way back when. In theory there was nothing wrong with it, except for a deployment decision that I was no longer happy with. When I deployed my vCenter previously, I configured it with an external Platform Services Controller (PSC) as I wanted to mess about with load balancing PSCs at the time. The messing around didn’t take long and I moved on to other things. Problem is, you cannot (currently) go from an external PSC to an embedded one and the external PSC was an extra piece of complexity that I just didn’t need anymore.

That pretty much left me with one option: migrate to a new vCenter.

Deploying vCenter is a doddle, and I won’t cover how that works. What I will mention though is how I moved my hosts and VMs across. The first step was to liberate one of my 6.5 ESXi hosts from the original cluster and add it to the new vCenter. At this time, I didn’t upgrade the host itself to 6.7 for reasons that will be apparent in a minute or two.

Secondly, I went through the VMs that I had registered in my original vCenter and weighed up whether or not I still needed them. Things like old distributed vRA deployments to a quick trip to the virtual bin, other things like AD, jumphosts, remote access solutions etc were powered down and removed from the inventory before being re-added to the new vCenter.

Before long, there wasn’t much left and what little is left will probably be left idle for a couple of weeks before I bin it completely.

So far, so good. Continue Reading

Automated NIC names in Linux on VMware vSphere

A colleague of mine was working with a customer recently on some changes to their automated VM provisioning process (they’re not vRA customers… yet). He got stuck trying to get around a particular challenge with the automatic naming of network interfaces in certain Linux distributions.

The customer in question is using vRealize Orchestrator (vRO) to create (not clone) their Virtual Machines from a JSON structure that is supplied by an external system. In that structure there are definitions for the hardware, OS network identity (name, IP etc) and OS installation sources (ISO file for installation and floppy image for a ks.cfg (KickStart) file).

Once the JSON object is provided to the vRO workflow, the VM is created, booted and automatically starts to install and configure itself.

Customer’s Simple VM

Simple VMs have a number of disks defined (for root, opt, var, swap etc partitions) that are attached to a single ParaVirtual SCSI adapter. The VM is also equipped with a single VMXNET3 network adapter.

In this configuration, there is no problem. The installation of the OS runs through to completion and the VM is handed off to Puppet and eventually goes in to service.

Customer’s Complex VM

For the provision of Linux-based Oracle servers however, the customer wanted to be able to specify not only extra disks and partitions, but extra SCSI controllers too. Continue Reading

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Documenting vCenter Privileges with PowerCLI

A customer that I’m working with at present asked this week if the minimum privileges required for vRA to access a vSphere Endpoint could be documented. As someone who isn’t a fan of unnecessary wheel re-invention, my initial response was to direct them to the relevant VMware documentation (vRA 7.3 vSphere Agent Requirements).

Then they explained why that wouldn’t quite cover their requirement. I won’t explain exactly why, but they wanted a matrix that showed exactly what privileges each of the vRealize products (and associated management packs) needed in vCenter to provide to their security team. Somewhere in the dark and dusty reaches of my mind, a lightbulb flicked on…

lightbulb

Wait, I’ve done this before!

Like a number of other bloggers in my industry, I started this as a place to record some of things that I was doing in the hope that they might be useful to someone else, or even useful for myself in the future. Continue Reading

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Review: Learning PowerCLI

0167EN_Learning PowerCLI_CoverUnless you’re new to vSphere, you’ll probably have heard about PowerCLI. You may already be using it regularly or perhaps you’ve found the occasional use for it and used one or more of the many excellent scripts that can be found on the internet. Either way, unless you’re an advanced user (or even a guru) of PowerCLI, there’s a book that’s been released recently that could be worth a look.

Learning PowerCLI”, by Robert van den Nieuwendijk, was released just a few weeks ago from publishers Packt Publishing. The author has posted many times on his blog with useful scripts, one-liners and tips for using PowerCLI in the past. Several times an issue that I’ve had has lead me to his blog so I was very interested to see if his knowledge and experience had translated well into book form.

Although I did read through the book from cover to cover, it’s not really that sort of book. PowerCLI and Powershell are technologies that you can easily dip into when a specific need arises and I found that trying to absorb the entire contents of the book was hard-going. That shouldn’t be taken as any sort of slight against the author’s writing style, it’s just the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to being the kind of book that you can’t put down. It is, though, the kind of book that you want to pick up and learn from. I’ve been using Powershell and PowerCLI for many years and I was surprised at the number of things that I learned!

The book starts simply enough by covering the installation and instantiation of PowerCLI as well as proving a few common examples of PowerCLI’s most commonly used cmdlets so that a reader new to the technology can see some immediate benefit. Before things get too heavy, Robert covers some of the most useful Powershell commands available: Get-Help, Get-Command and Get-Member. He also covers a number of useful Powershell tips and best practices whilst simultaneously keeping the reader’s mind on PowerCLI before delving into some more focussed topics, such as:

  • Working with vSphere hosts
  • Working with Virtual Machines
  • Working with Virtual Networks and Storage
  • Managing core vSphere / vCenter functionality

As I’ve already stated, I found the book very useful as it taught me a number of things I didn’t already know, allowing me to correct some bad scripting habits and improve a number of areas of scripts that I’m producing for a current project. People with a very strong grasp of Powershell and PowerCLI already might find that there’s a limit to what they gain from the book but beginners and intermediates alike should find that there’s plenty to take away and use.

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vCenter’s Number – Is It Up?

(This is all based on information that’s in the public domain at the time of writing and is all my own opinion. I may very well be wrong!)

ESXi first saw the light of day as version 3.5 in 2007 / 2008. Rumours were rife after ESXi 4.0 was released in 2009 that the clock was now ticking on ESX “Classic”. With the release of 4.1 in 2010 VMware finally confirmed the rumours and, from 5.0 onwards it’s been ESXi only.

You know this already of course if you’ve been working with vSphere for any length of time. The reason that I’m bringing it up though is because I think it’s a clue as to what’s going to happen to vCenter in the future.

The vCenter Server Appliance (vCSA) first appeared as a technology preview called “vCenter 2.5 on Linux”. It became vCSA as of vSphere 5. Subsequent releases (5.1 and 5.5) have seen many changes and it’s becoming more compelling with each version. Could it be only a matter of time before VMware announce that vCSA will be the only version of vCenter available? I believe it is VMware’s intention, yes.

Consider VMware’s recently published convergence plan for vCD. It states that the functionality offered in vCD will gradually be separated and merged into either vSphere / vCenter or into vCAC. The timetable for this change isn’t clear yet but given that vCD is Linux based, it might be more logical (or simpler) to integrate some of its functions into vCSA rather than into vCenter for Windows.

Look at many of VMware’s other products and a good number are linux appliance based. Of course there are exceptions, with perhaps some of the biggest currently being vCAC and Horizon View, but they’re both acquired products.

Increasingly we’re also seeing a move away from a Windows vSphere Client to a Web Client. Some functionality in vCenter 5.5 is only accessible via the Web Client. Of course the Windows Client might be kept on as a means to administer the free version of ESXi – time will tell.

None of these things are concrete proof of intent but they, and other things, make my spider senses tingle. It might not happen with vSphere.next as there could be some challenges to overcome still. There would have to be complete support and integration with VMware’s other products as one example. As another example, some customers might want vCSA to support MSSQL before they’d consider it ready for production.

In short though, I think that vCenter’s days on Windows are numbered. What that number is though, I couldn’t say.

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VMTurbo Make Monitoring Free

vmt-logoToday, VMTurbo have launched their Virtual Health Monitor tool and they are letting it loose on the world for the whopping figure of… wait for it…

$0 – That’s right, free.

The tool is an updated and evolved version of the Community Edition of VMTurbo’s Operations Manager product and comes without restrictions on where and how often you deploy it and what it monitors. Ok, that’s not so clear.

The tool is downloaded as an appliance from VMTurbo’s website in a format optimised for one of the following platforms:

  • VMware vSphere
  • Microsoft Hyper-V
  • RedHat Enterprise Virtualisation (RHEV)
  • Citrix XenServer

The format of the appliance is the only difference that you should find between the versions though as it’s capable of monitoring all of them at the same time. You just download the format that matches the virtual infrastructure where you want to host the tool.

The features that VMTurbo offer with the tool include:

  • Instant visibility to health and performance;
  • Unlimited use across virtual data centers of any size;
  • Free monitoring and reporting for any hypervisor;
  • Lowest total cost of ownership (TCO) due to innovative product architecture;
  • Weekly analysis of utilisation rates and areas to improve efficiency and reduce risk

As I’m waiting for the 428Mb appliance to download over the wet bit of string that is my broadband tonight I can’t speak to the experience of deploying it and what it looks like yet but I hope to have the time to kick the tyres on it tomorrow.

Download Virtual Health Monitor from VMTurbo’s website.

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New Book – VMware vSphere Design (2nd Edition)

Forbes Guthrie and Scott Lowe have been busy. I very much enjoyed the first edition of the VMware vSphere Design book and now the second edition is up on Amazon for download in Kindle format or pre-order for print copies. In this edition, there’s also a chapter on vCloud design by Kendrick Coleman.

Besides being a good read in and of itself, the first book was good to help with VCAP4-DCD preparation. I imagine that this edition will be equally useful for VCAP5-DCD preparation. I look forward to reading it. Well, I will when my copy shows up (family rule: I’m not allowed to buy anything for myself in the month of my birthday).

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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.

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Fixing “DRS Invocation Not Completed”

I ran into an error today that I haven’t seen before. My vSphere 5.0 cluster displayed the message “DRS invocation not completed” on the Summary tab and, I noticed, it stopped moving VMs around automatically too.

screenshot305

I tried changing some of the DRS settings and running DRS from the DRS tab of the cluster just to try and see if that would get things going but to no avail.

Interestingly, I couldn’t find any mention of the message on the VMware KB site or anything useful in Google. I was tempted to turn DRS off completely and then try re-enabling it but that would have removed my resource pools.

It was then that I noticed that some of the hosts weren’t reporting any memory or CPU utilisation even though I knew them to be hosting VMs.

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As an experiment I tried disconnecting and then reconnecting these hosts in turn. Once reconnected I started seeing DRS initiated vMotions occur to rebalance the cluster and the message disappeared from the cluster’s summary tab.

So, I’m not sure why it happened but a simple, non-disruptive solution fixed it.

Just thought I’d share…