Monday, July 21, 2014

vCenter 5.5 Install - Did You Check To See If It's Plugged In?

Hi Friends,

Have you ever gotten an error that you just had no idea what to do about, you ask your boss or co-worker for help and they say, "Hey, did you make sure <fill in the blank> works?"  And you just want to smack your head because it's so simple that you can't believe you didn't check!

And then to make things worse THAT'S what fixes the problem?  Ugh!  Sometimes I wonder if my two remaining brain cells are firing on all cylinders...  So I dedicate this to blog to Mike, you saved me from myself!  :-)

So I'm installing vCenter 5.5 and I get this error message, Error.  Setup failed to create the vCenter Server repository.  Oh no!

So I check the vpxd.log file and I see a couple of login failed messages.  Hmmm, what's the deal?  For some reason Windows authentication wasn't working.  So I changed my ODBC System DSN to use SQL authentication and tried to log in with SA.  No good.  Hmmm, Firewall is off, authentication mode is SQL Server and Windows Authentication, SA is enabled.  What could it be?!

So I ask my boss and he says, "Did you try to login as SA with SQL Server Management Studio?"  Ummm, did I?  I thought I did....  I tried so many things, I've lost track....  I try it and blamo, doesn't login!

I get some weird message saying the connection worked but couldn't continue because, "No Process Is on the Other End of the Pipe"  What??  Is this what I think it is, Named Pipes?

So I go search Google and sure enough, an article on Microsoft says to see if Named Pipes is enabled.  Ugh!  Named Pipes!

Sure enough, I restart SQL Server and SA can now login.  I restarted the vCenter Server installation, chose SA instead of Windows Authentication and it worked!  Hurray!

So, what's this teach us?  Make sure the darn thing is plugged in!  Thanks again Mike!


Friday, July 18, 2014

Invalid Configuration for Device '0' - Resizing VMware Hard Disk

Hi Friends,

Got a weird one for you.  I needed to revert my environment back from a snapshot which worked great, but unfortunately anything I had done since the snapshot was gone.  The main thing was resizing my vCenter server's hard drive because I was running out of space.  This is one of the coolest features, I just go and edit the setting of my vCenter virtual machine, add some space, go into Windows 2008 R2 and extend the volume!  I LOVE technology!!  But that's not why I'm writing this article.  I'm writing it because something broke down in the process and I'm sharing my pain/learnings with you.

So I go into the vCenter "edit settings", increase the size of the drive and WHAMO, "Invalid Configuration for Device '0'"  Hey, you just worked a little while ago, what gives?!

I know, I'll look on the Internet, the Internet knows all!

WHAT?!  No answer?  Oh sure, there's other folks that got the "Invalid Configuration for Device '0'" error, but not for resizing their hard drive.   Hmmm, well, maybe one of the other articles has a clue.  So I took a look at this VMware Knowledge Base article where you get this error if you try enabling a NIC.  Not the same, but maybe the same culprit.

One of the work arounds was to restart the ESXi Management agents.  Okay, how do I do that?  I know, the Internet knows all!

A quick search and found this VMware Knowledge Base article which you how to restart the services!

I opted for the SSH route:

/etc/init.d/hostd restart
/etc/init.d/vpxa restart

At first I got the same error message and then it worked!  So if you get this error message, maybe try restarting your management agents.

Until Next Time!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

RBAC for Nimble vCenter Plugin

Hi Friends,

If you haven't had a chance to take a look at the Nimble plugin for vCenter, it's VERY cool!  It comes built into newer versions of Nimble OS and you just need to point it to your vCenter server to get some great storage features right inside vCenter.

Like what you ask?  Well, you can create, delete, edit, clone, resize or take snapshots of your datastores.

But what about RBAC?  Say I have a user that has administration access to vCenter, but I only want him to have read access to the storage.  Can that be done?  It sure can because Nimble works with your vCenter and your AD server.  Here's an example.  I've created a user called neil1 and I've given him admin access to vCenter, but I only want him to have read-only access to the storage plugin.

I've created a vCenter Role called Test.  In Test you can specify all of the normal vCenter permissions, but you also get a Nimble Storage, Inc. which provides the ability to give specific Nimble permissions to your users.  Here I've given the Test Role read-only access.

In the example below I've already created my neil1 user in AD and I'm assigning him to the Test Role in vCenter.

Next I'm going to log out of vCenter as Administrator and log back in as neil1.  If you compare this screenshot to the second screenshot you'll notice all of the storage tools are grayed out, allowing neil1 read-only access to the Nimble.  Pretty cool huh?

Until Next Time!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Nimble Snapshots, is There ANYTHING They Can't Do?

Hi Friends,

Today I wanted to share how cool Nimble Snapshots are and how easy it is to restore your entire VMware test environment after you destroy it.  Not that I've destroyed my environment or anything...  <mumble mumble>

Hey, how about those Snapshots!  So say you're upgrading your environment and your boss wisely told you to take a snapshot before you start and for once you actually listened to him.  (Hi Mike!)  You'll be in luck because when everything explodes and you're left with a smoldering pile that used to be your test environment, you'll still have your pristine Nimble Snapshots!

Taking a snapshot is really easy, you just go to your volume and click on Take Snapshot.  Let's backup a bit...  This array is so darn easy to use that in the words of my friend Steve, they're going to replace me with a small shell script.  Just a reminder...  Whatever state your environment is in, that's what your snapshot will be.  So if this is a test environment, shut everything down on the datastore/volume you want to snapshot.  This way everything will be clean when you restore.  Now I know in a production environment you can't do that, so take a look at the Nimble site for in depth best practices on how to quiesce your apps while they're running.

Okay, so you've single handedly destroyed your environment and need to restore.  Head over to the Nimble GUI, select your volume, then click on the Snapshot tab.  Select your snapshot you made before you made the mess and click on Restore.

You'll get this warning that the volume is going to go offline.  Remember, everything attached to this volume is going to go offline and get reverted back, so make sure this is what you want to do!!


Remember to set the volume back online.  Not that I have any experience forgetting to do that...

Now, head on over to Virtual Center, and if Virtual Center was part of what was restored, go to the ESXi server that hosts Virtual Center.

You might notice that the virtual machines that are hosted on that datastore will have the little bubble by them and your datastore will most likely be listed as inactive.

If you see something like this you're in a weird state.  vCenter wants some more information about the virtual machines it's hosting and you can't get your datastore back until you address it's questions.

Click on each virtual machine and see what vCenter is concerned about.  Here vCenter is telling us that the storage is missing for this virtual machine.  It's a bit of a chicken or the egg situation here, so I find the best thing is to click Cancel so vCenter can get out of the loop looking for the storage for the virtual machine.

Once you do that, your machines names will probably change from their names to "Unknown".  That's okay, don't panic yet!  Click on the Rescan-All link so vCenter will re-discover the datastore.  Once your datastore comes back, your virtual machines will re-gain their names and you'll be ready good to go!

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Network Outage? What Network Outage? Nimble Seamless Network Failover

Hi Friends,

A co-worker of mine is a data protection wizard and he was looking at our array and asked what would happen if the management network went down on the active controller?  Hmmm, good question....  Networks are so darn stable these days we don't really even worry about management networks anymore.  Back in the good old days you had to worry about autonegotiate, hard coding, mis-match collisions, you name it!  But these days, stuff is so stable, sometimes we don't even plug in the redundant management cable because we don't need to worry about it.

But, what about the unknown factor, like people.  I've said it before that people are chaotic, unpredictable, and generally abusive to hardware.  So what happens if the management port goes down?  Well, data keeps flowing because those are on the 10gig iSCSI lines, but administration, calls to backup programs, and generally anything that happens outside of the array just won't work.  Is it mission critical, probably not, but it can certainly ruin your day.

So my friend decided to try out a test.  He added two more management cables, one to each controller, to see how easy it is to configure and if link failure was disruptive or not.  So how hard is it to configure in the Nimble?  SIMPLE!  Yeah, so easy even **I** can do it!  You plug in the secondary NIC and set it to management in the GUI.  That's it!  Now of course you can get fancy, but he put it on the same subnet because that's what is the easiest and 9 times out of 10 its what you'll probably want to do.  In the past if you wanted redundancy you had to do some sort of NIC teaming or put stuff on multiple subnets or networks and it might not be automatic, the list goes on.

So how easy is it?  Well, take a look at the GUI.  You go into Interfaces for eth2 and literally just select Management!  NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!  It can't be that easy!!

Well, let's try a test.  Let's pull eth1 and see what happens...

Yep, eth1 is down...  and...  so...  In your face skeptics!!  :-)  We keep happily running eth2, no loss of connectivity, no problems.  Okay, I know what you're thinking, what happens if both NICs go out on that controller.  I like the way you think!  Let's pull eth2 and find out.

Still NO down time, OH YEAH!  Both NICs are down and we've failed over to Controller B.  Remember, Nimble runs Active/Standby, so switching over doesn't cause downtime.

So even if you accidentally pull the wrong network cord, like that would ever happen, we've got your back!

Special thanks to Bill Roth for thinking of and testing this scenario!

Until Next Time!

Monday, July 7, 2014

3D Printing is Awesome!

Hi Friends,

Okay, a slight change of pace today, no VMware, Citrix or storage today.  BUT, and it's a big but, I wanted to share my latest obsession with you.  I heard about 3d printing awhile back, but the machines were still way too expensive and I just couldn't justify the price for a new toy.

If you haven't heard of 3d printing, let me explain!  Basically, it's like drawing a 3d object with a hot glue gun.  Most things are printed in plastic and so far the most popular plastics are ABS and PLA.  ABS comes from petroleum and PLA comes from plants.  I've only printed in PLA so far, the cool thing is it's biodegradable, and it smells a bit like pancakes cooking when it's building the object!  :-)  Probably not a good idea to sniff the vapors while it's printing though!!

So you buy a big spool of your filament in the color you want and the diameter your printer will print.  Here's what the stuff looks like in a natural color, but there's tons of colors to choose from, even glow in the dark!

You put the filament on a holder, either on the back of the printer, or something else you have in mind, feed it into the printer and away you go!

When I get a bug about something, I usually start researching like crazy, looking at reviews, prices, etc.  So I got the bug and started looking into getting a printer.  I really like looking on Amazon because they have machines, plus they have pretty good reviews.  I'd heard of the MakerBot and started looking into them.  They have some great machines and a huge community of folks that have created things to print and share them because they are just cool!  Take a look at the MakerBot's site thingiverse and you'll see what I'm talking about!!  Being the frugal gentleman I am, I kept poking around and found a company called FlashForge and their Creator printers.  They had some really good reviews on Amazon and a really competitive pricing, so I pulled the trigger and got the Creator X printer.

When it arrived it had broken switch, probably damaged during shipping.  I emailed the company and they were VERY responsive and sent me a new switch.  I was very impressed with the support I got from them!

They also send you two random spools of filament, unfortunately I got two rolls of ABS and wanted to print in PLA, so luckily I ordered two rolls of PLA from Amazon the same time I ordered the printer.  I got black and glow in the dark.

Let me tell you, this 3d printing is challenging stuff!  There's lots of useful information out there, but you have to find it and make sense of it.  The big challenge is heat, speed and feed.  The nozzles can be heated to a specified temperature, the plate can be heated, then you have to decide how fast the motors will move and how fast the filament will flow out.  Like I said, a bit challenging when you're first starting.  After a few duds I found a good speed, heat and feed and decided to tackle a pretty big project.  I found a really cool clock on thingiverse and started printing!  I'm just amazed how talented some people are!  If you follow the link, take a look at the individual pieces, he drew each one in a CAD program.

So here's the almost finished product, it's missing the dial and hands.  It's built, but I'm running into friction problems.  Unfortunately the model was designed to used metric rods and I could only find imperial diameter rods. :-(  So, I had to drill the holes a bit and unfortunately I didn't do the best job.  I haven't given up hope yet and hopefully will have a running clock soon!

This clock is actually very cool in that it doesn't use a pendulum to regulate the release of energy, but uses a balance and spring like the way a watch works.  Yep, that spring is printed too!  Trust me, I've probably printed a dozen of them because I keep breaking them.

So while I'm pondering how to fix my manual clock I saw a really cool robot clock on thingiverse!  I rushed out and purchased a little quartz clock from my local hobby store and got to work printing this guy out!, some assembly required!  :-)

He's not quite done yet.  There's a clock dial that gets put on the disk and then a chest plate and back piece that I've printed, but don't have shown here.

I've got lots more I want to do, so expect updates from time to time.  If you've got any questions, feel free to ask, the learning curve is pretty steep when you start 3d printing.