vSphere 6.7 on single CPU ProLiant - fan hardware status

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I recently upgraded our demo lab to vSphere 6.7, despite the known issues with VEEAM and other tools not being ready for the big changes 6.7 brings with it. I was curious to see the new web interface and the other new features and well, what is a demo lab for if not for testing....

VCSA upgrade was easy from 6.5 to 6.7 (except you have made the mistake and installed 6.5 U2 on any of your systems, then upgrade is not supported at all) and a few hours later I upgraded the first of our three HPE ProLiant systems to ESXi 6.7. The frst host is a DL380p Gen8 system with a single CPU. Running on top of vSphere 6.5 I never saw a hardware status error but immediately after upgrading to 6.7, vCenter shows a hardware failure with the system fans.

 

DL380 fan

VMware obviously still has a problem with translation of error messages already created so the text is still in german.... Don't care, it only says that the fan status is critical.

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vSphere 6 - critical VMXNET3 bug

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With vSphere 6 update 2 VMware fixed several bugs but also introduced a new one. Update 2 includes a critical bug in the VMXNET3 vNIC that can produce PSODs (purple screen of death). The problems occur if:

 

  • the VM is running virtual hardware version 11
  • the VM is configured with VMXNET3 virtual nic
  • Large Receive Offload (LRO) for VMXNET3 NICs is enabled

Currently there is no resolution but a workaround. All details are published in KB2144968.

VMware VCSA root password expiration

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VMware's vCenter based on the linux appliance (VCSA) will be the only supported vCenter version after vSphere 6.7. Windows vCenter is deprecated so time to say goodbye. Currently the Windows version is still available but you should plan for a migration to VCSA. Before you start upgrading your 5.x or 6.0 Windows vCenters to Windows vCenter 6.5 keep in mind that the fabulous vCenter migration wizard currently only supports migrations to VCSA 6.5 from 5.5 or 6.0. There is no support for migrating a Windows based vCenter 6.5 to VCSA 6.5. There are some inofficial scripts flying around in the internet but you should stay at officially supported migration pathes. So before you ever think about upgrading your Windows vCenter to 6.5, plan the migration to VCSA. It's nice, it's uncomplicated and VCSA is much faster than the Windows version.

Please keep in mind that when migrating to or installing a new VCSA you will get prompted for a root password. This root user will be used when directly connecting to the VCSAs management, either via WebGUI or SSH. You need this access to configure the VCSA and to do updates (Update Manager currently does not support updating the VCSA as it also didn't support updating/upgrading the Windows version since the beginning). Unfortunately the default setting for the root password is to expire after a specific amount of time. The default is 365 days. If you forget or don't need to configure a SMTP server and activate email alerting then you will never get the password expiration email and no other hint that your root password is going to expire. If it expires then you are locked out from any management functionality. Your only solution now is to reset the root password with booting into single user mode. This requires some effort as you have to press a button during the boot loader phase and set the single user mode option. The fact that the VCSA boots up very quickly and your only console interface is a quite sedate web browser window will make this task nearly impossible. So better be prepared and either extend the password validation period to more than 365 days or disable password expiration at all. You can do that in the web management of the appliance.  

 

Patch for VMware ESXi 6.x CBT bug

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Recently I wrote about the newly observed CBT bug in ESXi 6.x that, once again, could render your backups unusable. For the last two weeks only workarounds were available which could potentially lead to a extremely larger backup window and therefore making things not really better.

Fortunately VMware is used to fix these kind of problem quite fast these days and on 25th November they released an update to KB 2136854 with a hotfix included.  VMware ESXi 6.0, Patch Release ESXi600-201511001 (2137545) will fix the new CBT bug and hopefully this is the last patch we have to wait for until CBT works as designed.

As also written in the notes to Patch 201511001 there is still a problem with HP ProLiant Gen9 servers that won't see their local disks after patching to ESXi 6 Update 1 and later. Keep this in mind when patching an older unaffected version of ESXi 6 to Update 1 or newer on a Gen9 server.

Update 11/30/2015

Veeam tested the patch against their backup product and it seemes that resetting CBT on all VMs is 100% mandatory to get the patch to work. So simply installing the patch is not enough, you HAVE TO reset CBT.

vSphere 6.5 with Intel X710 network adapter

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In the past I was really impressed by Intel's product stability and support. You could take every single hardware from Intel, put it into your server and all applications and operating systems supported them instantly. Driver support was excellent so no reason to think about sometimes instable chipsets from QLogic, NetXen, Emulex or even Broadcom. With the release of the X710 chipset this success story should continue. Don't ask my why but I had my first Intel X710 NIC installed in a new hardware used for vSphere 6.5 these days. I installed ESXi 6.5 and as expected, the hardware was correctly recognized. 

After base configuration of two of these ESXi hosts I connected them to vCenter. The first one could be attached successfully, the second one was unable to connect. I double checked all settings like ip address, VLAN, password etc. The system was even pingable. The error from vCenter directed to not running management agents on the ESXi hosts. Well, this was a brand new installation and I never had to restart the host or the management agents before I can attach the host to vCenter. Nevertheless, I restarted the management agents and, voila, the second ESX host connected to vCenter.

In the next few minutes I configured host 2 to macth my standard. Suddently host 1 disconnected from vCenter. The system was still pingable but reconnect didn't work. Restarting the management agent did the job once again. During the day no more disconnets were observed so I didn't crawl any deeper into this problem. The weekend came and on monday the customer told me that all of his VMs were in suspend mode and both ESXi were disconnected from vCenter. Sh.....!

Once again checking and restarting the management agents causes both ESXi to reconnect. Vms were shutdown because of an HA isolation event. Nothing special here, this is the default setting for host isolation response.

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VMware vSphere 6 CBT bug - the nightmare continues

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For all of you who hoped to see the CBT bug vanishing at least with the latest patches and rollups like vSphere 6 update 1a, you have to wait a bit longer.

Once more a critical bug was found in CBT that affects all VM backups, fulls as well as incrementals. The root cause is found (but not published by VMware) and it seems that heavy write I/O on a VM will cause CBT information to be wrong and thus causing incremental backups to contain corrupt data.

Full backups are also affected as CBT is used to find zeroed out space regions to be skipped by the backup solution.

Currently there are only two workarounds: downgrade to vSphere 5.5 (not really an option for all of the users already made the effort to upgrade to version 6) or disable CBT usage inside their backup application. To do this in Veeam foolow this link. This will make backups take longer as all data has to be read from the source disk to compare which blocks have benn changed since the referencing backup but has a lower impact on your environment.
A third workaround is mentioned in the KB article from VMware but I don't think that shutting down a VM before taking incremental backups doesn't really make sense.

Probably VMware will release a patch soon but how long is "soon" and how long can you take the risk of having corrupted and therefore unusable backups? So my recommendation is to switch off CBT, make a new full backup of your VMs just to be sure you have a valid base and then wait for another CBT patch from VMware.

VMware has a KB article, to be found here. Subscripe for updates and patches to this bug.

VMXNET3 compatibility problem

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Microsoft released convenient rollup update for Windows 7 and Server 2008 R2 in late May 2016. This rollup update will bring your installation to the latest patch level with only a few installations but it has a bad side effect. All VMs running on vSphere (it seems that ALL vSphere versions are affected) and use the VMware proprietary VMXNet3 type of virtual network card will prbably being hit by network issues. The reason behind this is that after applying the update, the OS will create a new vNIC but the settings for the old vNIC will still reside in the registry. This will lead to network problems.

You can get some more details on the link above or here. VMware currently recommends to delay installation of this rollup package until there is a resolution from Microsoft.

VMware VSAN 1-2-3

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VMware VSAN is a cool technology and probably something you already heard of (100% if you constantly follow my blog). As there are a huge amount of information available on the internet I decided to strap them down a bit and focus on the key aspects in form of a FAQ. This blog post is not meant to give you any special technical information about how to configure or use any VSAN component but rather gives the VSAN newbies a quick overview what VSAN is, what it does and if it fits for you.

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