My vSphere Upgrade -or- How I Broke The Network

Let me preface this by saying that this is not my first vSphere upgrade.  I’m comfortable with the procedures and I’m confident in my ability.   I still broke the network.  But, like a good admin should, I own up to it.  It was my fault.  But, also like a good admin, I tracked down the outage and fixed it.  Pointing fingers and redirecting blame doesn’t get the packets flowing again.  Ok, I’ve got that out of the way so you can’t look upon me with scorn.

It all started during a monthly maintenance cycle.  This month, I was deploying a new vCenter 5.5 Server Appliance (VCSA) to replace our non-virtualized Windows 2008 vCenter 5.1 Server.  I didn’t really care about historical data, and recreating permissions and so forth is relatively simple in this particular environment, so my plan was to stand up a new VCSA, disconnect the hosts from the old vCenter and connect them to VCSA.  Next, I used VUM to upgrade the hosts from 5.1 to 5.5.

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How to set up VMware ESXi, a Synology NFS NAS, and Failover Storage Networking

Hello, sandwich fans!  It’s been awhile since I’ve written, but I have some fresh deli meat for you today.  If you recall, last year I wrote a blog post about setting up VMware, Synology, and iSCSI MPIO.   It turns out to have been my most-read post so far, for which I thank you.  Since I’ve gotten such positive feedback, today I’m going to show you a similar setup, but this time I’m going to use NFS instead of iSCSI.

There are some pretty significant differences between iSCSI and NFS, both in terms of architecture and performance. One big difference is that NFS really doesn’t have support for multi-pathing (MPIO) in the way that iSCSI does.  It has a few work-arounds like using alternate subnets and so forth, but for today we’re going to rely on simple failover on the host side with LACP link bonding on the storage side.    Later on, we’ll compare the performance to the iSCSI system we built last year.

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Implementing LLDP and CDP in vSphere 5

In one of our data silos, we’ve been using a lot of spreadsheets and manual tracking to manage physical-to-virtual cross-connects between our physical switches and our ESXi hosts.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  The first is that up until recently, the silo was using non-Cisco switches and the second is that the licensing on our hosts don’t allow for LLDP, only CDP.  We only have Standard licensing and Enterprise is required for distributed switches.  Only distributed switches can do LLDP, so we were stuck with a protocol that we couldn’t use with our physical switches.  Now that we’re in the process of migrating the silo to some newer hardware, I’m preparing to do a small redesign of our environment.

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Performance testing a Synology NAS using Iometer

In my last post, I discussed building a lightweight VMware infrastructure for a customer using a Synology RS2414RP+ NAS.  Today, I wanted to do some performance testing and baselining to get an idea of the kind of load it would support.  To do this, I used a VMware Fling called VMware I/O Analyzer.  A Fling is an ad-hoc tool built by VMware engineers or the community as one-off side projects.

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How to set up VMware ESXi, a Synology iSCSI NAS, and Active/Active MPIO

Update:  Looking for NFS instead of iSCSI?  Check out this post: How to set up VMware ESXi, a Synology NFS NAS, and Failover Storage Networking

This week, I’ve been working on a lightweight virtualization infrastructure for a customer and I thought you’d like to see a little of how I put it together. The customer wasn’t really interested in paying for a full SAN solution that would include chassis redundancy and high performance.  They opted instead for a 12-bay Synology RS2414 RP+, a couple of HP servers for ESXi hosts, and a Cisco 2960 Layer 2 Gigabit storage switch all tied together with VMware vSphere Essentials Plus.

While not exactly a powerhouse in terms of speed and reliability, this entry-level virtualization platform should serve to introduce them into the world of virtual servers, drastically reduce rackspace and power consumption, provide the flexibility they need to recover quickly from server hardware outages, and allow them to more easily migrate off of their aging server hardware and operating systems all without breaking the bank.  Today, I’m going to show you how I set up Active/Active MPIO using redundant links on both the ESXi hosts and the Synology NAS, allowing for multipath failover and full utilization of all network links.

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SSL + DDNS on Synology NAS

Last year, I picked up a Synology Diskstation DS412+. This is a great little NAS.  It’s affordable, consisting of basically just a backplane and a chassis.  You supply your own hard drives.  I bought it because I needed a local server that could stream media to a Roku and it fit the bill perfectly.  One of the cool side benefits is that this model supports NFS, iSCSI and VAAI primitives, so it will make a nifty target for my VMware lab.  I’ll talk about all that in a later post.  In this one, I want to talk about dynamic DNS.

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Frank’s Tech Support and Pretty Good Sandwiches Grand Opening

Alright, I have to be honest here.  This very first post is not going to be my best work.  This is the post that WordPress wants you to make as part of the setup process for your account.  Bear with me.

I’ve had the idea kicking around for awhile to make a tech blog where I could share some of the solutions to virtualization and networking problems that I’ve encountered as a way to give little back to the folks who have helped me solve those problems.  I also happen to like sandwiches, and the ones I make are pretty good.  They’re not great.  I’m not a chef.  Likewise, my solutions are pretty good.  I want them to be great and I’m hoping this blog will help improve my skills.

The name came from a goofy conversation I had with my wife.  I told her I wanted to open a restaurant that served deli sandwiches and where you could get your PC defragged or whatever while you were eating.  I would have a glass-enclosed server room off to one side that the diners could view.  The place would look like a tech room or a datacenter.  The gag was that the tech counter would always be closed with a sign that said “At lunch, back in 30 minutes.” and the sandwiches would be an weird mix of whatever I felt like making that day and where I could be deliberately surly and belligerent to the customers (in stark contrast to how users usually treat I.T.).  For example, I’d serve an “Egg McMahon” which is just a plain egg salad sandwich, but it would cost a million dollars and be delivered along with a camera crew and some balloons.  I think it would be an annoying place to eat.

In the last year or so, I’ve started diving heavily into virtualization.  I took and passed the VMware Certified Professional certification and I’ve started working on my Advanced certification.  My goal, eventually, is to achieve a VCDX, although I don’t know how realistic that is.  I think it would be cool if people came here to find the answer to that annoying problem they’ve been Googling for the last three hours.  I’ll write up my solutions as best I can and hope to drag a few people out of the dark along with me.

Thanks for reading and I hope you come back!