Archive for the ‘Virtualization’ Category

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Quick-Take: vCenter 5.0 dies within 48-hours of Installation, Error 1000

May 1, 2012

After upgrading a View installation for a client this weekend from View 4.0 to View 5.0 all seemed well. The upgrade process took them from vSphere 4.0U2 to vSphere 5.0U1 in the bargain – about 15-20 hours of work including backups and staging. Testing and the first 24 hours of production went swimmingly with no negative reports or hiccups. (The upgrade process and spectres of dead pilots-turned-production is an issue for another blog post.)

I got a call about vCenter 5.0 dying (and then magically working again before the local admin could get to it – a couple of minutes or so.) Two mysteries, one easy, one VERY frustrating…

Mystery One – vCenter Dies and Comes Back to Life

This was the easy one: the VMware VirtualCenter Server service is set to a “300000 millisecond” recovery delay upon failure by default. The local site admin didn’t have his prayer answered, the system just recovered as planned. (Note to upgraders – set your recovery time to more or less hold-down time as your site needs – probably no less than 120000 milliseconds.)

The VMware VirtualCenter Server service terminated unexpectedly. It has done this 1 time(s). The following corrective action will be taken in 300000 milliseconds: Restart the service.

– Service Control Manager

Why would five minutes (yep, 300000 milliseconds) be a good amount of recovery time? The socratic answer is this: how long will it take for all of the vCenter log and dump files to be written based on your environment? In the case of this issue, the dump file was about 500MB in size with about another 150MB in various other logs. At a “leisurely pace” of 5 MB/sec (let’s assume the worst), that would require about two minutes of “hold time” before restart.

Mystery Two – vCenter Died. Why?

Here’s the problem: vCenter needs to be bullet proof. vCenter’s installer asks  for your environmental size during the installation and sets parameters to accommodate the basic needs. Also, during the SQL upgrade process from vCenter 4.0 to 5.0, the SQL database is set from SIMPLE (the recommended setting for vCenter) to BULK-LOGGING, but just for the duration of the upgrade. After the upgrade it’s reset back to SIMPLE.

Fast forward 48 hours. vCenter is running with a couple of hundred virtual machines in a View environment and is tracking all of that lovely host and performance data we appreciate when dealing with complex enterprise systems. It’s happily responding to View Connection Server’s request for power-ons and power-offs when all of a sudden the worst happens: it crashes!

Suddenly, 10’s of thousands of dollars worth of infrastructure is waiting for a 5 minute recovery interval and View logins requiring VM power-ons wont happen until then. All is not right in your virtual world now, buckaroo! Let’s see if Windows Event Viewer can elicit a solution:

The description for Event ID 1000 from source VMware VirtualCenter Server cannot be found. Either the component that raises this event is not installed on your local computer or the installation is corrupted. You can install or repair the component on the local computer.

If the event originated on another computer, the display information had to be saved with the event.

The following information was included with the event:

Log directory: C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\Logs.

the message resource is present but the message is not found in the string/message table

– Event Viewer, Application Log

Okay, Event ID 1000 – there’s got to be a KB on that one, but seriously, ID 1000 sound pretty generic for me to have a ton of hope. But sure enough, VMware Knowledge Base immediately coughs up KB article 1015101, applicable to vCenter 5.0. Unfortunately, vCenter Server is not installed on an IIS platform, so this is just an empty rabit hole…

Next, let’s have a look at the vCenter Server logs (thoughtfully pointed to in the Event log, above) for vCenter at-or-around the time of failure. Sure enough, there is a gzipped log with the restart time stamp available. A quick glance at the end of the log shows the following “impending doom” quality message:

--> 
--> Panic: TerminateHandler called
--> Backtrace:
--> backtrace[00] rip 000000018013deba (no symbol)
--> backtrace[01] rip 0000000180101518 (no symbol)
 ... 
--> backtrace[60] rip 00000000708f2fdf (no symbol)
--> backtrace[61] rip 00000000708f3080 (no symbol)
-->

– vCenter vpxd-X.log file

But a sobering look above the doomsday report gives us a better idea as to the real culprit: SQL execution failed. What? Did I hear you whisper “kill your DBA?” Before walking down to the DBA and calling him out for leaving you in the lurch, let’s visit the SQL logs to find out (perhaps you will have to talk to the DBA after all if your vCenter admins don’t have access to SQL logs in the environment.) Here’s what my SQL log for the vCenter database said:

05/01/2012 08:05:21,spid62,Unknown,The transaction log for database 'VIM_VCDB' is full. To find out why space in the log cannot be reused<c/> see the log_reuse_wait_desc column in sys.databases
05/01/2012 08:05:21,spid62,Unknown,Error: 9002<c/> Severity: 17<c/> State: 4.
 ...
05/01/2012 08:00:04,spid75,Unknown,The transaction log for database 'VIM_VCDB' is full. To find out why space in the log cannot be reused<c/> see the log_reuse_wait_desc column in sys.databases
05/01/2012 08:00:04,spid75,Unknown,Error: 9002<c/> Severity: 17<c/> State: 4.

– Microsoft SQL Server Log for VIM_VCDB (vCenter)

Note that something to this effect also shows up as a diagnostic message inside the vCenter log – reducing the number of times you need to traipse down to the DBA’s cubby for  a chat. Okay, that cinches it, the DBA’s been meddling in my vCenter database again – probably with some unscheduled and undocumented maintenance. We’re definitely going to have that talk now, right? Nope.

Resolution

Remember that upgrade we did 48-hours ago? As part of the upgrade process, the database is upgraded from the vCenter 4.0’s format to the more information rich vCenter 5.0 format. Along the way, an upgrade process changes the SQL database’s mode from the preferred “SIMPLE” mode to the “BULK-LOGGING” mode so that a failed upgrade can be more easily rolled-back.

Beware:

BULK-LOGGING mode can create a HUGE transaction log during a vCenter upgrade process. There are MANY posts about the TLOG filling-up during these processes, with a consensus that the TLOG needs to be allowed to grow to at least 4x the size of your vCenter database or the process will not complete.

You’ve been warned.

In the case of this upgrade, I happen to know that the TLOG was set to at least 4x of the vCenter database PRIOR to the upgrade process. In fact, during this upgrade (final stage) it grew to 1.5X of the vCenter database size. What was unknown to me – until now – is that the TLOG maximum allowed growth was reset to 500MB when the database was returned to “SIMPLE” mode. During a time of high activity (perhaps processing the last 24-hours of data) the TLOG needed to exceed that amount, couldn’t, and vCenter crashed accordingly. The simple fix is to increase the TLOG limit back to the original settings that works well for the environment.

SOLORI’s Take:

Ouch! Someone feels setup for failure. I never want to hear a customer say: “gosh, everything was great until I logged into vCenter [with the vSphere Client] and then, “all of a sudden” things went sideways” – especially when the cause is that SQL server has been silently modified with setting known to cause it to  choke, subsequently resulting in vCenter coming to a crashing halt.

VMware: if you’re modifying my database parameters POST INSTALL you need to WARN ME or post it in the install or upgrade docs. I’ve combed them and can’t find it… let’s get the upgrade process modified so that the database settings are restored after the database is returned to SIMPLE mode, okay?

Updated 05/02/2012: Corrected intro grammar. Link to TLOG upgrade issue added.

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Quick Take: Syslog Stops Working after Upgrade to ESXi 5.0 Update 1

March 24, 2012

If you’ve recently upgraded your ESXi from 5.0 build 456551 and were logging to syslog, it’s possible that your events are no longer being received by your syslog server. It seems that there was a “feature” in ESXi 5.0 build 456551 that allowed syslog to escape the ESXi firewall regardless of the firewall setting. This could be especially problematic if your upgraded from ESXi 4.x where there was no firewall configuration needed for syslog traffic.

VMware notes that syslog traffic was not affected by the ESXi firewall in v5 build 456551. See KB2003322 for details.

However, in ESXi 5.0 Update 1, the firewall rules definitely applies and if you were “grandfathered-in” during the upgrade to build 456551: check your syslog for your ESXi 5 servers. If your no longer getting syslog entries, either set the policy in the host’s Configuration->Security Profile->Properties… control panel:

Enabling syslog traffic in the ESXi firewall within the vSphere Client interface.

 

Or use ESXCLI to do the work (especially with multiple hosts):

esxcli network firewall ruleset set –ruleset-id=syslog –enable=true

esxcli network firewall refresh

That will take care of the “absent” syslog entries.

SOLORI’s Take: Gotcha! As ESXi becomes more like ESX in terms of provisioning, old-school ESXiers (like me) need to make sure they’re up-to-speed on the latest changes in ESXi. Ashamed to admit it, but this exact scenario got me in my home lab… Until I stumbled onto KB2003322 I didn’t think to go back and check the ESXi firewall settings – after all, it was previously working 😉

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Quick Take: VMware ESXi 5.0, Patch ESXi50-Update01

March 16, 2012

VMware releases ESXi 5.0 Complete Update 1 for vSphere 5. An important change for this release is the inclusion of general and security-only image profiles:

Starting with ESXi 5.0 Update 1, VMware patch and update releases contain general and security-only image profiles. Security-only image profiles are applicable to new security fixes only. No new bug fixes are included, but bug fixes from earlier patch/update releases are included.

The general release image profile supersedes the security-only profile. Application of the general release image profile applies to new security and bug fixes.

The security-only image profiles are identified with the additional “s” identifier in the image profile name.

Just a few of the more interesting bugs fixed in this release:

PR 712342: Cannot assign VMware vSphere Hypervisor license key to an ESXi host with pRAM greater than 32GB

PR 719895: Unable to add a USB device to a virtual machine (KB 1039359).

PR 721191: Modifying snapshots using the commands vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.remove or vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.revert
will fail when applied against certain snapshot tree structures.

This issue is resolved in this release. Now a unique identifier, snapshotId, is created for every snapshot associated to a virtual machine. You can get the snapshotId by running the command vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.get <vmid>. You can use the following new syntax when working with the same commands:

Revert to snapshot: vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.revert <vmid> <snapshotId> [suppressPowerOff/suppressPowerOn]
Remove a snapshot: vim-cmd vmsvc/snapshot.remove <vmid> <snapshotId>

PR 724376: Data corruption might occur if you copy large amounts of data (more than 1GB) from a 64-bit Windows virtual machine to a USB storage device.

PR 725429: Applying a host profile to an in-compliance host causes non-compliance (KB 2003472).

PR 728257: On a pair of HA storage controllers configured for redundancy, if you take over one controller, the datastores that reside on LUNs on the taken over controller might show inactive and remain inactive until you perform a rescan manually.

PR 734366: Purple diagnostic screen with vShield or third-party vSphere integrated firewall products (KB 2004893)

PR 734707: Virtual machines on a vNetwork Distributed Switch (vDS) configured with VLANs might lose network connectivity upon boot if you configure Private VLANs on the vDS. However, disconnecting and reconnecting the uplink solves the problem.This issue has been observed on be2net NICs and ixgbe vNICs.

PR 742242: XCOPY commands that VAAI sends to the source storage device might fail. By default, XCOPY commands should be sent to the destination storage device in accordance with VAAI specification.

PR 750460: Adding and removing a physical NIC might cause an ESXi host to fail with a purple screen. The purple diagnostic screen displays an error message similar to the following:

NDiscVlanCheck (data=0x2d16, timestamp=<value optimized out>) at bora/vmkernel/public/list.h:386

PR 751803: When disks larger than 256GB are protected using vSphere Replication (VR), any operation that causes an internal restart of the virtual disk device causes the disk to complete a full sync. Internal restarts are caused by a number of conditions including any time:

  • A virtual machine is restarted
  • A virtual machine is vMotioned
  • A virtual machine is reconfigured
  • A snapshot is taken of the virtual machine
  • Replication is paused and resumed

PR 754047: When you upgrade VMware Tools the upgrade might fail because, some Linux distributions periodically delete old files and folders in /tmp. VMware Tools upgrade requires this directory in /tmp for auto upgrades.

PR 766179: ESXi host installed on a server with more than 8 NUMA nodes fails and displays a purple screen.

PR 769677: If you perform a VMotion operation to an ESXi host on which the boot-time option “pageSharing” is disabled, the ESXi host might fail with a purple screen.

Disabling pageSharing severely affects performance of the ESXi host. Because pageSharing should never be disabled, starting with this release, the “pageSharing” configuration option is removed.

PR 773187: On an ESXi host, if you configure the Network I/O Control (NetIOC) to set the Host Limit for Virtual Machine Traffic to a value higher than 2000Mbps, the bandwidth limit is not enforced.

PR 773769: An ESXi host halts and displays a purple diagnostic screen when using Network I/O Control with a Network Adapter that does not support VLAN Offload (KB 2011474).

PR 788962: When an ESXi host encounters a corrupt VMFS volume, VMFS driver might leak memory causing VMFS heap exhaustion. This stops all VMFS operations causing orphaned virtual machines and missing datastores. vMotion operations might not work and attempts to start new virtual machines might fail with errors about missing files and memory exhaustion. This issue might affect all ESXi hosts that share the corrupt LUN and have running virtual machines on that LUN.

PR 789483: After you upgrade to ESXi 5.0 from ESXi 4.x, Windows 2000 Terminal Servers might perform poorly. The consoles of these virtual machines might stop responding and their CPU usage show a constant 100%.

PR 789789: ESXi host might fail with a purple screen when a virtual machine connected to VMXNET 2 vNIC is powered on. The purple diagnostic screen displays an error message similar to the following:

0x412261b07ef8:[0x41803b730cf4]Vmxnet2VMKDevTxCoalesceTimeout@vmkernel#nover+0x2b stack: 0x412261b0
0x412261b07f48:[0x41803b76669f]Net_HaltCheck@vmkernel#nover+0xf6 stack: 0x412261b07f98

You might also observe an error message similar to the following written to VMkernel.log:

WARNING: Vmxnet2: 5720: failed to enable port 0x2000069 on vSwitch1: Limit exceeded^[[0m

SOLORI’s Take: Lions, tigers and bears – oh my! In all, I count seven (7) unique PSD bugs (listed in the full KB) along with some rather head-scratching gotchas.  Lots of reasons to keep your vSphere hosts current in this release to be sure… Use Update Manager or start your update journey here…

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In-the-Lab: NexentaStor vs ESXi, Redux

February 24, 2012

In my last post, I mentioned a much complained about “idle” CPU utilization quirk with NexentaStor when running as a virtual machine. After reading many supposed remedies on forum postings (some reference in the last blog, none worked) I went pit-bull on the problem… and got lucky.

As an avid (er, frequent) NexentaStor user, the luster of the NMV (Nexenta’s Web GUI) has worn off. Nearly 100% of my day-to-day operations are on the command line and/or Nexenta’s CLI (dubbed NMC). This process includes power-off events (from NMC, issue “setup appliance power-off” or “setup appliance reboot”).

For me, the problem cropped-up while running storage benchmarks on some virtual storage appliances for a client. These VSA’s are bound to a dedicated LSI 9211-8i SAS/6G controller using VMware’s PCI pass-through (Host Configuration, Hardware, Advanced Settings). The VSA uses the LSI controller to access SAS/6G disks and SSDs in a connected JBOD – this approach allows for many permutations on storage HA and avoids physical RDMs and VMDKs. Using a JBOD allows for attachments to PCIe-equipped blades, dense rack servers, etc. and has little impact on VM CPU utilization (in theory).

So I was very surprised to find idle CPU utilization (according to ESXi’s performance charting) hovering around 50% from a fresh installation. This runs contrary to my experience with NexentaStor, but I’ve seen reports of such issues on the forums and even on my own blog. I’ve never been able to reproduce more than a 15-20% per vCPU bias between what’s reported in the VM and what ESXi/vCenter sees. I’ve always attributed this difference to vSMP and virtual hardware (disk activity) which is not seen by the OS but is handled by the VMM.

CPU record of idle and IOzone testing of SAS-attached VSA

During the testing phase, I’m primarily looking at the disk throughput, but I notice a persistent CPU utilization of 50% – even when idle. Regardless, the 4 vCPU VSA appears to perform well (about 725MB/sec 2-process throughput on initial write) despite the CPU deficit (3 vCPU test pictured above, about 600MB/sec write). However, after writing my last blog entry, the 50% CPU leach just kept bothering me.

After wasting several hours researching and tweaking with very little (positive) effect, a client e-mail prompted a NMV walk through with resulted in an unexpected consequence: the act of powering-off the VSA from web GUI (NMV) resulted is significantly reduced idle CPU utilization.

Getting lucky: noticing a trend after using NMV to reboot for a client walk-through of the GUI.

Working with the 3 vCPU VSA over the previous several hours, I had consistently used the NMC (CLI) to reboot and power-off the VM. The fact of simply using the NMV to shutdown the VSA couldn’t have anything to do with idle CPU consumption, could it? Remembering that these were fresh installations I wondered if this was specific to a fresh installation or could it show up in an upgrade. According to the forums, this only hampered VMs, not hardware.

I grabbed a NexentaStor 3.1.0 VM out of the library (one that had been progressively upgraded from 3.0.1) and set about the upgrade process. The result was unexpected: no difference in idle CPU from the previous version; this problem was NOT specific to 3.1.2, but specific to the installation/setup process itself (at least that was the prevailing hypothesis.)

Regression into my legacy VSA library, upgrading from 3.1.1 to 3.1.2 to check if the problem follows the NexentaStor version.

If anything, the upgraded VSA exhibited slightly less idle CPU utilization than its previous version. Noteworthy, however, was the extremely high CPU utilization as the VSA sat waiting for a yes/no response (NMC/CLI) to the “would you like to reboot now” question at the end of the upgrade process (see chart above). Once “no” was selected, CPU dropped immediately to normal levels.

Now it seemed apparent that perhaps an vestige of the web-based setup process (completed by a series of “wizard” pages) must be lingering around (much like the yes/no CPU glutton.) Fortunately, I had another freshly installed VSA to test with – exactly configured and processed as the first one. I fired-up the NMV and shutdown the VSA…

Confirming the impact of the "fix" on a second fresh installed NexentaStor VSA

After powering-on the VM from the vSphere Client it was obvious. This VSA had been running idle for some time, so it’s idle performance baseline – established prior across several reboots from CLI – was well recorded by the ESXi host (see above.) The resulting drop in idle CPU was nothing short of astounding: the 3 vCPU configuration has dropped from a 50% average utilization to 23% idle utilization. Naturally, these findings (still anecdotal) have been forwarded on to engineers at Nexenta. Unfortunately, now I have to go back and re-run my storage benchmarks; hopefully clearing the underlying bug has reduced the needed vCPU count…

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In-the-Lab: NexentaStor and VMware Tools, You Need to Tweak It…

February 24, 2012

While working on an article on complex VSA’s (i.e. a virtual storage appliance with PCIe pass-through SAS controllers) an old issue came back up again: NexentaStor virtual machines still have a problem installing VMware Tools since it branched from Open Solaris and began using Illumos. While this isn’t totally Nexenta’s fault – there is no “Nexenta” OS type in VMware to choose from – it would be nice if a dummy package was present to allow a smooth installation of VMware Tools; this is even the case with the latest NexentaStor release: 3.1.2.

I could not find where I had documented the fix in SOLORI’s blog, so here it is… Note, the NexentaStor VM is configured as an Oracle Solaris 11 (64-bit) virtual machine for the purpose of vCenter/ESXi. This establishes the VM’s relationship to a specific VMware Tools load. Installation of VMware Tools in NexentaStor is covered in detail in an earlier blog entry.

VMware Tools bombs-out at SUNWuiu8 package failure. Illumos-based NexentaStor has no such package.

Instead, we need to modify the vmware-config-tools.pl script directly to compensate for the loss of the SUNWuiu8 package that is explicitly required in the installation script.

Commenting out the SUNWuiu8 related section allows the tools to install with no harm to the system or functionality.

Note the full “if” stanza for where the VMware Tools installer checks for ‘tools-for-solaris’ must be commented out. Since the SUNWuiu8 package does not exist – and more importantly is not needed for Illumos/Nexenta – removing a reference to it is a good thing. Now the installation can proceed as normal.

After the changes, installation completes as normal.

That’s all there is to getting the “Oracle Solaris” version of VMware Tools to work in newer NexentaStor virtual machines – now back to really fast VSA’s with JBOD-attached storage…

SOLORI’s Note: There is currently a long-standing bug that affects NexentaStor 3.1.x running as a virtual machine. Currently there is no known workaround to keep NexentaStor from running up a 50% cpu utilization from ESXi’s perspective. Inside the NexentaStor VM we see very little CPU utilization, but from the performance tab, we see 50% utilization on every configured vCPU allocated to the VM. Nexenta is reportedly looking into the cause of the problem.

I looked through this and there is nothing that stands out other that a huge number of interrupts while idle. I am not sure where those interrupts are coming from. I see something occasionally called volume-check and nmdtrace which could be causing the interrupts.

Nexenta Support

A bug report was reportedly filed a couple of days ago to investigate the issue further.

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VMware vCenter5: Revenge of Y2K, aka Worst Host Import Fail Ever!

January 6, 2012

I was recently involved in a process of migrating from vSphere 4 to vSphere 5 for an enterprise client leapfrogging from vSphere 4.0 to vSphere 5.0. Their platform is and AMD service farm with modern, socket G34 CPU blades and 10G Ethernet connectivity – all moving parts on VMware’s Hardware Compatibility List for all versions of vSphere involved in the process.

Supermicro AS-2022TG Platform Compatibility

Intel 10G Ethernet, i82599EB Chipset based NIC

Although VMware lists the 2022TG-HIBQRF as ESXi 5.0 compatible and not the 2022TG-HTRF, it is necessary to note the only difference between the two is the presence of a Mellanox ConnectX-2 QDR infiniband controller on-board: the motherboards and BIOS are exactly the same, the Mellanox SMT components are just mission on the HTRF version.

It is key to note that VMware also distinguishes the ESXi compatible platform by supported BIOS version 2.0a (Supermicro’s current version) versus 1.0b for the HTRF version. The current version is also required for AMD Opteron 6200 series CPUs which is not a factor in this current upgrade process (i.e. only 6100-series CPUs are in use). For this client, the hardware support level of the current BIOS (1.0c) was sufficient.

Safe Assumptions

So is it safe to assume that a BIOS update is not necessary when migrating to a newer version of vSphere? In the past, it’s been feature driven. For instance, proper use new hardware features like Intel EPT, AMD RVI or VMDirectPath (pci pass-through) have required BIOS updates in the past. All of these features were supported by the “legacy” version of vSphere and existing BIOS – so sounds safe to assume a direct import into vCenter 5 will work and then we can let vCenter manage the ESXi update, right?

Well, not entirely: when importing the host to vCenter5 the process gets all the way through inventory import and the fails abruptly with a terse message “A general system error occurred: internal error.” Looking at the error details in vCenter5 is of no real help.

Import of ESXi 4 host fails in vCenter5 for unknow reason.

A search of the term in VMware Communities is of no help either (returns non-relevant issues). However, digging down to the vCenter5 VPXD log (typically found in the hidden directory structure “C:\ProgramData\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter\Logs\”) does return a nugget that is both helpful and obscure.

Reviewing the vCenter VPXD log for evidence of the import problem.

If you’ve read through these logs before, you’ll note that the SSL certificate check has been disabled. This was defeated in vCenter Server Settings to rule-out potentially stale SSL certificates on the “legacy” ESXi nodes – it was not helpful in mitigating the error. The section highlighted was, however, helpful in uncovering a relevant VMware Knowledgebase article – the key language, “Alert:false@ D:/build/ob/bora-455964/bora/vim/lib/vdb/vdb.cpp:3253” turns up only one KB article – and it’s a winner.

Knowledge Base article search for cryptic VPXD error code.

It is important – if not helpful – to note that searching KB for “import fail internal error” does return nine different (and unrelated) articles, but it does NOT return this KB (we’ve made a request to VMware to make this KB easier to find in a simpler search). VMware’s KB2008366 illuminates the real reason why the host import fails: non-Y2K compliant BIOS date is rejected as NULL data by vCenter5.

Y2K Date Requirement, Really?

Yes, the spectre of Y2K strikes 12 years later and stands as the sole roadblock to importing your perfectly functioning ESXi 4 host into vCenter5. According the the KB article, you can tell if you’re on the hook for a BIOS update by checking the “Hardware/Processors” information pane in the “Host Configuration” tab inside vCenter4.

ESXi 4.x host BIOS version/date exposed in vCenter4

According to vCenter date policy, this platform was minted in 1910. The KB makes it clear that any two-digit year will be imported as 19XX, where XX is the two digit year. Seeing as how not even a precursor of ESX existed in 1999, this choice is just dead stupid. Even so, the x86 PC wasn’t even invented until 1978, so a simple “date check” inequality (i.e. if “two_digit_date” < 78 then “four_digit_date” = 2000 + “two_digit_date”) would have resolved the problem for the next 65 years.

Instead, VMware will have you go through the process of upgrading and testing a new (and, as 6200 Opterons are just now available to the upgrade market, a likely unnecessary) BIOS version on your otherwise “trusty” platform.

Non-Y2K compliant BIOS date

Y2K-compliant BIOS date, post upgrade

Just to add insult to injury with this upgrade process, the BIOS upgrade for this platform comes with an added frustration: the IPMI/BMC firmware must also be updated to accommodate the new hardware monitoring capabilities of the new BIOS. Without the BMC update, vCenter will complain of Northbridge chipset overheat warnings from the platform until the BMC firmware is updated.

So, after the BIOS update, BMC update and painstaking hours (to days) of “new” product testing, we arrive at the following benefit: vCenter gets the BIOS version date correctly.

vCenter5 only wants Y2K compliant BIOS release dates for imported hosts

Bar Unnecessarily High

VMware actually says, “if the BIOS release date of the host is in the MM/DD/YY format, contact the hardware vendor to obtain the current MM/DD/YYYY format.” Really? So my platform is not vCenter5 worthy unless the BIOS date is four-digit year formatted? Put another way, VMware’s coders can create the premier cloud platform but they can’t handle a simple Y2K date inequality. #FAIL

Forget “the vRAM tax”, this obstacle is just dead stupid and unnecessary; and it will stand in the way of many more vSphere 5 upgrades. Relying on a BIOS update for a platform that was previously supported (remember 1.0b BIOS above?) just to account for the BIOS date is arbitrary at best, and it does not pose a compelling argument to your vendor’s support wing when dealing with an otherwise flawless BIOS.

SOLORI’s Take:

We’ve submitted a vCenter feature request to remove this exclusion for hundreds of vSphere 4.x hosts, maybe you should too…

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Quick-Take: VMworld 2011, Thoughts on the Airplane

August 28, 2011

On the way to VMworld this morning this morning I started-out by listening to @Scott_lowe, @mike_laverick and @duncanyp about stretched clusters and some esoteric storage considerations. Then i was off reading @sakacc blogging about his take on stretch clusters and the black hole of node failure when I stumbled on a retweet @bgracely via @andreliebovici about the spectre of change in our industry. Suddenly these things seemed very well related within the context of my destination: VMworld 2011.

Back about a month ago when vSphere 5 was announced the buzz about the “upgrade” was consumed by discussions about licensing and vRAM. Naturally, this was not the focus VMware was hoping for, especially considering how much of a step forward vSphere 5 is over VS4. Rather, VMware – by all deserved rights – wanted to hear “excited” conversations about how VS5 was closing the gap on vCloud architecture problems and pain-points.

Personally, I managed to keep the vRAM licensing issue out of SOLORI’s blog for two reasons: 1) the initial vRAM targets were so off that VMware had to make a change, and 2) significant avenues for the discussion were available elsewhere. That does not mean I wasn’t outspoken about my thoughts on vRAM – made obvious by contributions to some community discussions on the topic – or VMware’s reasoning for moving to vRAM. Suffice to say VMware did “the right thing” – as I had confidence they would – and the current vRAM targets capture 100% of my clients without additional licenses.

I hinted that VS5 answers a lot of the hanging questions from VS4 in terms of facilitating how cloud confederations are architected, but the question is: in the distraction, did VS5’s “goodness” get lost in the scuffle? If so, can they get back the mind share they may have lost to Chicken Little reactionaries?

First, if VMware’s lost ground to anyone, it’s VMware. The vast majority of cool-headed admins I talked to were either not affected by vRAM or were willing to take a wait-and-see outlook on vSphere 5 with continued use of vSphere 4.1. Some did evaluate Hyper-V’s “readiness” but most didn’t blink. By comparison, vSphere 4.1 still had more to offer private cloud than anything else.

Secondly, vSphere 5 “goodness” did get lost in the scuffle, and that’s okay! It may be somewhat counter intuitive but I believe VMware will actually come out well ahead of their “would be” position in the market, and it is precisely because of these things, not just in spite of them. Here’s my reasoning:

1) In the way the vSphere 5 launch announcement and vRAM licensing debacle unfolded, lot of the “hot air” about vRAM was vented along the way. Subsequently, VMware gained some service cred by actually listening to their client base and making a significant change to their platform pricing model. VMware got more bang-for-their-buck out of that move as the effect on stock price may never be known here, given the timing of the S&P ratings splash, but I would have expected to see a slight hit. Fortunately, 20-30% sector slides trump vRAM, and only Microsoft is talking about vRAM now (that is until they adopt something similar.)

On that topic, anytime you can get your competitor talking about your product instead of theirs, it usually turns out to be a good thing. Even in this case, where the topic has nothing to do with the needs of most businesses, negative marketing against vRAM will ultimately do more to establish VMware as an innovator than an “already too expensive alternative to XYZ.”

2) SOLORI’s law of conservation of marketing momentum: goodness preserved, not destroyed. VMworld 2011 turns out to be perfectly timed to generate excitement in all of the “goodness” that vSphere 5 has to offer. More importantly, it can now do so with increased vigor and without a lot of energy siphoned-off discussing vRAM, utilization models and what have you: been there done that, on to the meat and away with the garnish.

3) Again it’s odd timing, but the market slide has more folks looking at cloud than ever before. Confidence in cloud offerings has been a deterrent for private cloud users, partly because of the “no clear choices” scenario and partly because concerns about data migration in and around the public cloud. Instability and weak growth in the world economy have people reevaluating CAPEX-heavy initiatives as well as priorities. The bar for cloud offerings has never been lower.

In vSphere 5, VMware hints at the ability for more cloud providers to be transparent to the subscriber: if they adopt vSphere. Ultimately, this will facilitate vendor agnosticism much like the early days of the Internet. Back then, operators discovered that common protocols allowed for dial-up vendors to share resources in a reciprocal and transparent manner. This allowed the resources of provider A to be utilized by a subscriber of provider B: the end user was completely unaware of the difference. For those that don’t have strict requirements on where their data “lives” and/or are more interested in adherence to availability and SLA requirements, this can actually induce a broader market instead of a narrower one.

If you’ve looked past vRAM, you may have noticed for yourself that vSphere has more to deliver cloud offerings than ever before. VMware will try to convince you that whether cloud bursting, migrating to cloud or expanding hybrid cloud options, having a common underlying architecture promotes better flexibility and reduces overall cost and complexity. They want you to conclude that vSphere 5 is the basis for that architecture. Many will come away from Las Vegas – having seen it – believing it too.

So, as I – and an estimated 20K+ other virtualization junkies – head off to Las Vegas for a week of geek overload, parties and social networking, my thoughts turn to @duncanyp‘s 140+ improvements, enhancements and advances waiting back home in my vSphere 5 lab. Last week he challenged his “followers” to be the first to post examples of all of them; with the myriad of hands-on labs and expert sessions just over the horizon, I hope to do it one better and actually experience them first hand.

These things all add up to a win-win for VMware and a strong showing for VMworld. It’s going to be an exciting and – tip of the hat to @bgracely – industry changing week! Now off to the fray…

References:

See Mike Laverick’s chinwag podcasts

See Chad’s Sakacc’s VirtualGeek blog on stretched cluster issues to overcome

(excuse typos today, wordpress iPad…)