Nov 172018
 

When running VMware vSphere 6 (and later) and ESXi on your hosts with VMFS6, you may notice that auto unmap (space reclamation) is not working even though it is enabled. In addition, you’ll find that manual unmap functions still work.

Why

This is because your storage array (SAN) may have a larger unmap granularity block size than 1MB. VMFS version 6 (source) requires an unmap granularity of 1MB, and does not support automatic unmap on arrays that are larger.

For example, on the HPe MSA 2040 the page size when using virtual storage is 4MB, hence auto unmap is not supported and does not work. You can still perform automatic unmap functions on arrays with block/page sizes larger than 1MB.

Additional Information and Resources

Perform manual VMFS unmap on vSphere 6.5 and 6.7 with VMFS 6 – https://www.stephenwagner.com/2017/02/07/vmfs-unmap-command-vsphere-6-5-with-vmfs-6-auto/

vSphere 6.5, 6.7 and VMFS 6 – Change storage reclaim priority from low to medium or high – https://www.stephenwagner.com/2017/02/08/vsphere-vmfs-6-change-storage-reclaim-priority-low-medium-high/

Release unused space on host and guest filesystems with thin-provisioned Sophos UTM appliance (SW) – https://www.stephenwagner.com/2018/01/18/release-unused-space-vmdk-thin-provisioned-sophos-utm/

Oct 212018
 

VMware announced the end of availability for the vDP (vSphere Data Protection) product last year. In their release, it was mentioned that no more updates would be issued for the product.

At that time, I recommended to most customers to start planning to upgrade/migrate to a different product. VMware then released some ESXi and vSphere upgrades, but didn’t immediately update the vDP appliance. It appeared as though no more updates would be issued.

Due to the the previous announcement, and a lack of an updated vDP appliance, this increased the urgency of migrating to a different product.

However, just recently I noticed that VMware is still maintaining the vDP appliance for vSphere 6.5, so you can continue to use it while you plan your migration to a new Backup/DR product, and your upgrade to vSphere version 6.7.

 

Please note: I noticed the updates to the vDP appliance are being released later than the vSphere/ESXi updates. I wouldn’t upgrade your ESXi hosts to 6.5 certain update levels until the applicable vDP updated appliance is available for that version.

Oct 202018
 

On an ESXi host when performing a manual unmap on your storage datastore, you may notice a very large (hidden) file on the datastore root called “.asyncUnmapFile”. This file could be taking up terabytes of space, and you aren’t able to delete this file.

asyncUnmapFile

Typically the asyncUnmapFile is used by the UNMAP feature on ESXi hosts to deal with unmapping and unallocating storage blocks on the SAN. When you run a manual UNMAP, this file should be created and should appear to using “0” (no) space (even if it is). When an UNMAP completes, this file should disappear and be automatically removed by the function. If an UNMAP is interupted, this file will not be deleted, allowing you to restart the process and upon a full successful completion, it should then be deleted.

The Problem

Some time ago, I had an issue when performing a manual UNMAP, where the ESXi host became unresponsive (due to memory issues). The command appeared to be completed, however I believe it caused potential issues or corruption on the iSCSI datastore. In subsequent runs, the UNMAP appeared to be functioning and working, however I didn’t realize that the asyncUnmapFile had grown to around 1.5TB.

This was noticed during a SAN storage audit, where we saw that the virtual pool on the SAN was using up way more storage than it should be on the datastore.

When we identified the file was this large and causing issues, we attempted to perform 2 UNMAPs (different reclaim sizes) to see if it would be automatically cleared afterwards. It had no effect and the file was unchanged.

We also tried to modify the permissions on the file, however when trying to delete it, it would report that the file or folder was not found, or that it does not exist. This was concerning as we were worried about potential datastore corruption.

It was also noticed that in the hostd.log and vmkernel.log we saw some errors where the host believed that the blocks on the datastore had already been freed: “on volume labeled ‘iSCSIDatastore01’ already freed by another host: This may be a non-issue”

The Solution

Unfortunately with all the research we did, we couldn’t find a clear-cut solution. With worries that the datastore may be corrupted, we needed to do something.

A decision was ultimately made to Storage vMotion all the VMs (Virtual Machines) to another datastore on a separate storage pool, delete the now empty LUN, and recreate it from scratch. After this, we used Storage vMotion again to move the VMs back.

Instantly I noticed that the VMs on that datastore were running faster (it’s only been 12 hours, so I’ll be adding an update in a few days to confirm). We no longer have the file on any of our datastores.

If anyone has further insight in to this issue, please leave a comment!

Aug 272018
 

So, what happens in a worst-case scenario where your backup system fails, you don’t have any VM snapshots, and the last thing standing in the way of complete data loss is your SAN storage systems LUN snapshots?

Well, first you fire whoever purchased and implemented the backup system, then secondly you need to start restoring the VM (or VMs) from your SAN LUN snapshots.

While I’ve never had to do this in the past (all the disaster recovery solutions I’ve designed and sold have been tested and function), I’ve always been curious what the process is and would be like. Today I decided to try it out and develop a procedure for restoring a VM from SAN Storage LUN snapshot.

For this test I pretended a VM was corrupt on my VMware vSphere cluster and then restored it to a previous state from a LUN snapshot on my HPe MSA 2040 (identical for the HPe MSA 2050, and MSA 2052) Dual Controller SAN.

To accomplish the restore, we’ll need to create a host mapping on the SAN for the LUN snapshot to a new LUN number available to the hosts. We then need to add and mount the VMFS volume (residing on the snapshot) to the host(s) while assigning it a new signature and then vMotion the VM from the snapshot’s VMFS to original datastore.

 

Important Notes (Read first):

  • When mounting a VMFS volume from a SAN snapshot, you MUST RE-SIGNATURE THE SNAPSHOT VMFS volume. Not doing so can cause problems.
  • The snapshot cannot be mapped as read only, VMFS volumes must be marked as writable in order to be mounted on ESXi hosts.
  • You must follow the proper procedure to gracefully dismount and detach the VMFS volume and storage device before removing the snapshot’s host mapping on the SAN.
  • We use Storage vMotion to perform a high-speed move and recovery of the VM. If you’re not licensed for Storage vMotion, you can use the datastore file browser and copy/move from the snapshot VMFS volume to live production VMFS volume, however this may be slower.
  • During this entire process you do not touch, modify, or change any settings on your existing active production LUNs (or LUN numbers).
  • Restoring a VM from a SAN LUN snapshot will restore a crash consistent copy of the VM. The VM when recovered will believe a system crash occurred and power was lost. This is NOT a graceful application consistent backup and restore.
  • Please read your SAN documentation for the procedure to access SAN snapshots, and create host mappings. With the MSA 2040 I can do this live during production, however your SAN may be different and your hosts may need to be powered off and disconnected while SAN configuration changes are made.
  • Pro tip: You can also power on and initialize the VM from the snapshot before initiating the storage vMotion. This will allow you to get production services back online while you’re moving the VM from the snapshot to production VMFS volumes.
  • I’m not responsible if you damage, corrupt, or cause any damage or issues to your environment if you follow these procedures.

We are assuming that you have already either deleted the damaged VM, or removed it from your inventory and renamed the VMs folder on the live VMFS datastore to change the name (example, renaming the folder from “SRV01” to “SRV01.bad”. If you renamed the damaged VM, make sure you have enough space for the new restored VM as well.

Procedure:

Mount the VMFS volume on the LUN snapshot to the ESXi host(s)
  1. Identify the VM you want to recover, write it down.
  2. Identify the datastore that the VM resides on, write it down.
  3. Identify the SAN and identify the LUN number that the VMFS datastore resides on, write it down.
  4. Identify the LUN Snapshot unique name/id/number and write it down, confirm the timestamp to make sure it will contain a valid recovery point.
  5. Log on to the SAN and create a host mapping to present the snapshot (you recorded above) to the hosts using a new and unused LUN number.
  6. Log on to your ESXi host and navigate to configuration, then storage adapters.
  7. Select the iSCSI initator and click the “Rescan Storage Adapters” button to rescan all iSCSI LUNs.

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter

  8. Ensure both check boxes are checked and hit “Ok”, wait for the scan to complete (as shown in the “Recent Tasks” window.

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter Window for VMFS Volume and Devices

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter Window for VMFS Volume and Devices

  9. Now navigate to the “Datastores” tab under configuration, and click on the “Create a new Datastore” button as shown below.

    VMware ESXi Host Add Datastore Window

    VMware ESXi Host Add Datastore Window

  10. Continue with “VMFS” selected and select continue.
  11. In the next window, you’ll see your existing datastores, as well as your new datastore (from the snapshot). You can leave the “Datastore name” as is since this value will be ignored. In this window you’re going to select the new VMFS datastore from the snapshot. Make sure you confirm this by looking at the LUN number, as well as the value under “SnapshotVolume”. It is critical that you select the snapshot in this window (it should be the new LUN number you added above).
  12. Select next and continue.
  13. On the next window “Mount Option”, you need to change the radio button to and select “Assign a new signature”. This is critical! This will assign a new signature to differentiate it from your existing real production datastore so that the ESXi hosts don’t confuse it.
  14. Continue with the wizard and complete the mount process. At this point ESXi will resignture the VMFS volume and rename it to “snap-OriginalVolumeNameHere”.
  15. You can now browse the VMFS datastore residing on the LUN snapshot and do anything you’d normally be able to do with a normal datastore.
Copy/Move/vMotion the VM from the snapshot VMFS volume to your production VMFS volume

Note: The next steps are only if you are licensed for storage vMotion. If you aren’t you’ll need to use the copy or move function in the file browsing area to copy or move the VMs to your live production VMFS datastores:

  1. Now we’ll go to the vCenter/ESXi host storage area in the web client, and using the “Files” tab, we’ll browse the snapshots VMFS datastore that we just mounted.
  2. Locate the folder for the VM(s) you want to recover, open the folder, right click on the vmx file for the VM and select “Register VM”. Repeat this for any of the VMs you want to recover from the snapshot. Complete the wizard for each VM you register and add it to a host.
  3. Go back to you “Hosts and VMs” view, you’ll now see the VMs are added.
  4. Select and right click on the VM you want to move from the snapshot datastore to your production live datastore, and select “Migrate”.
  5. In the vMotion migrate wizard, select “Change Storage only”.
  6. Continue to the wizard, and storage vMotion the VM from the snapshot VMFS to your production VMFS volume. Wait for the vMotion to complete.
  7. After the storage vMotion is complete, boot the VM and confirm everything is functioning.
Gracefully unmount, detach, and remove the snapshot VMFS from the ESXi host, and then remove the host mapping from the SAN
  1. On each of your ESXi hosts that have access to the SAN, go to the “Datastores” section under the ESXi hosts configuration, right click on the snapshot VMFS datastore, and select “Unmount”. You’ll need to repeat this on each ESXi host that may have automounted the snapshot’s VMFS volume.
  2. On each of your ESXi hosts that have access to the SAN, go to the “Storage Devices” section under the ESXi hosts configuration and identify (by LUN number) the “disk” that is the snapshot LUN. Select and highlight the snapshot LUN disk, select “All Actions” and select “Detach”. Repeat this on each host.
  3. Double check and confirm that the snapshot VMFS datastore (and disk object) have been unmounted and detached from each ESXi host.
  4. You can now log in to your SAN and remove the host mapping for the snapshot-to-LUN. We will not longer present the snapshot LUN to any of the hosts.
  5. Back to the ESXi hosts, navigate to “Storage Adapters”, select the “iSCSI Initiator Adapter”, and click the “Rescan Storage Adapters”. Repeat this for each ESXi host.

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter

    VMware ESXi Host Rescan Storage Adapter

  6. You’re done!
Aug 182018
 
VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist Logo

Did you know that you can monitor and manage your VMware vSphere environment (ESXi hosts, cluster, and VMs) remotely with the “VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist” app on your Android phone? Well, you can!

Download link: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.vmware.beacon

The VMware vSphere Mobile Watchlist (VMware Watchlist) Android App

For some time now, I’ve been using this neat little app from VMware (available for download here) to monitor and manage my vSphere cluster remotely. You can use the app while directly on your LAN, or via VPN (I use it with OpenVPN to connect to my Sophos UTM). I’ve even used it while on airplanes using the on board in-flight WiFi.

The reason why I’m posting about this, is because I’ve never actually heard anyone talk about the app (which I find strange), so I’m assuming others aren’t aware of it’s existence as well.

The app runs extremely well on my Samsung S8+, Samsung S9+, and Samsung Tab E LTE tablet. I haven’t run in to any issues or app crashes.

Let’s take a look at the app

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Login Prompt

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Login Prompt

The above screen is where you initially log in. I use my Active Directory credentials (since I have my vCenter server integrated with AD).

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Hosts and VM list

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Hosts and VMs

In the default view (shown above), you can view a brief summary of your ESXi hosts, as well as a list of virtual machines running.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Information

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Information

After selecting an ESXi host, you can view the hosts resources, details, related objects, as well as flip over to view host options.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Options

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Options

Under host options, you can Enter Maintenance mode, reboot the host, shutdown the host, disconnect the host, or view the hosts’ sensor data.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Sensor List and Fan Data

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Sensor Data (Fans)

Checking the HPe Proliant DL360p Gen8 fan sensor data with VMware Watchlist.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Sensor Data (Temperature Sensor List)

vSphere Mobile Watchlist Host Sensor Data (Temperature)

Checking the HPe Proliant DL360p Gen8 temperature sensor data with VMware Watchlist. While not shown above, you can select individual items to pull the actual temperature values. Please Note that the temperature values are missing a decimal (Example: 2100 = 21.00 Celsius).

vSphere Mobile Watchlist VM Information

vSphere Mobile Watchlist VM Information View

When selecting a VM (Virtual Machine) from the default view, you can view the VM’s Resources (CPU, Memory, and Storage), Details (IP Addresses, DNS hostnames, Guest OS, VMWare Tools Status), related objects, and a list of other VMs running on the same host.

vSphere Mobile Watchlist VM Options

vSphere Mobile Watchlist VM Options

Flipping over to the VM options, we have the ability to power off, suspend, reset, shutdown, or gracefully restart the VM. We also have some snapshot functionality to take a snapshot, or manage VM snapshots.

Additional Notes

In my environment I have two HPe DL360p Gen8 Servers and the sensor data is fully supported (I used the HPe custom ESXi install image which includes host drivers).

Apr 232018
 

Ready to jump the gun and upgrade to vSphere 6.7? Hold on a moment…

You’ll remember some time ago VMware announced they are dropping support for vSphere vDP (vSphere Data Protection). If you’re running this in your environment, it will break when upgrading to vSphere 6.7.

A better idea would be to migrate over to a product like Veeam, however please note that as of this date, Veeam does not officially support vSphere 6.7. Support should be coming in the next major update.

Apr 172018
 

With the news of VMware vSphere 6.7 being released today, a lot of you are looking for the download links for the 6.7 download (including vSphere 6.7, ESXi 6.7, etc…). I couldn’t find it myself, but after doing some scouring through alternative URLs, I came across the link.

VMware vSphere 6.7 Download

VMware vSphere 6.7 Download Link

Here’s the link: https://my.vmware.com/web/vmware/info/slug/datacenter_cloud_infrastructure/vmware_vsphere/6_7

HPe Specific (HPe Customization for ESXi) Version 6.7 is available at: https://www.hpe.com/us/en/servers/hpe-esxi.html

Unfortunately the page is blank at the moment, however you can bet the download and product listing will be added shortly!

UPDATE 10:15AM MST: The Download link is now live!

More information on the release of vSphere 6.7 can be found here, here, here, here, here, and here.

An article on the upgrade can be found at: https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2018/05/upgrading-vcenter-server-appliance-6-5-6-7.html

Happy Virtualizing!

Jan 262018
 
10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

In an effort to truly showcase the capabilities of VMware Horizon View and the 10ZiG 5948q Zero Client, I wanted to put together a demo showing the ability to run Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL 7.4) in a VDI environment.

First and foremost, this was super easy to setup. It was almost too easy…

Please see below for video:

You’ll notice during login that after the credential prompt multiple desktops were available (we chose to log on to the RHEL instance) to choose from. You’ll see further on in the video versioning and specifications as well as video playback. Again, please note that my environment does not have any GPU or 3D rendering.

Please Note: The momentary black border on the bottom right side during login, was due to a resolution change on the VDI session. This was the first time logging in with this client, and the border doesn’t normally occur unless changing resolutions.

Equipment/Software used in this demo:

Please note, my company Digitally Accurate Inc, is a VMware Solution Provider Partner, 10ZiG Partner, and Red Hat Ready Business partner. Please don’t hesitate in reaching out for anything VDI! We design, sell, implement, and support VMware and VDI environments!

Jan 202018
 
10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

As promised in my previous post which covered my first impressions, here are some pictures and video of the 10ZiG 5948q zero client in action! In the videos I demonstrate video playback as well as the USB redirection capabilities of the 10ZiG Zero Client and VMware Horizon View. Scroll down to the bottom for videos!

Pictures

10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

 

10ZiG 5948qv Zero Client VMware Horizon View

10ZiG 5948qv Zero Client VMware Horizon View

 

10ZiG 5900 Series Zero Client VMware Horizon View Login

10ZiG 5900 Series Zero Client VMware Horizon View Login

 

10ZiG 5948q Series Zero Client Configuration Menu

10ZiG 5948q Series Zero Client Configuration Menu

 

Videos

In this video, I demonstrate the capability of the 10ZiG 5948q zero client connected to a VMware Horizon View server (via a Unified Access Gateway) playing a video from YouTube. Please note that the ESXi server does not have a GPU and 3D rendering is disabled for the test (this is as low performance as it gets).

In this video, I demonstrate the capability of the 10ZiG 5948q zero client using USB redirection on a live VDI session.

And finally, here’s a video of a 10ZiG zero client cold boot for those that are interested.

And remember, my company Digitally Accurate Inc. is a VMware Solutions Provider and 10ZiG Partner. I’m also regularly posting content on these on the corporate blog as well!

Jan 202018
 
10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

It’s an exciting weekend as I got my hands on 2 new 10ZiG 5948q Series Zero Clients (the 10ZiG 5948qv to be exact). My company Digitally Accurate Inc. in Calgary, Alberta purchased these for internal testing and demo purposes since we sell VMware VDI solutions. I figured I’d do a brief post to offer my first impressions, offer a few pictures, as well as a brief write up.

UPDATED POST – More pictures and videos can be found on a new post here!

For a brief backstory, zero clients are used for environments and businesses that use desktop virtualization (VDI) instead of traditional computers. This means that an employee won’t actually have a computer, instead they will be using a zero client which relays video/keyboard/mouse (it’s actually more complicated than that, lol) to a desktop computer that’s virtualized on a server (either in the cloud, data center, or on-premise). This allows the company to save on hardware, provide better performance to end users, and really simplify a big portion of the IT landscape.

I’m a big fan of VDI, particularly the VMware Horizon View product. My company has a full demo/test VDI environment we have available to showcase this technology.

What’s really awesome is that you don’t necesarily even need to use a zero client. You could instead use an old netbook, laptop, computer, or even a cellphone to connect to these virtualized desktops using the VMware Horizon View client.

The next question you may be asking, is what about graphics quality? Well, you can implement special graphics cards to virtualize GPUs (such as the AMD FirePro MxGPU class of cards) and provide high end graphical capabilities to your users.

In my deployment we’ve been using software based VDI clients, but it was time to get our hands dirty with some zero clients. We decided to partner up with 10ZiG, and order a couple of these units for internal and demo purposes.

 

Now let’s get started!

10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

10ZiG 5948 Zero Client

The 5948q series is part of 10ZiG’s power class of zero clients. This bad boy is the latest and greatest model and supports 3 displays (yup, that’s right) and 4K UHD resolutions. The hardware itself is based off an Intel Braswell (refreshed version) CPU. The device has 1 HDMI port, as well as 2 DisplayPort connections. It also has a microphone, audio line out,  and a ton of USB ports (including both USB2 and USB3) for USB redirection. You can choose from 4GB or 8GB RAM configurations.

The 5948q runs off 10ZiG’s NOS operation system. This is a compact and lightweight operating system that includes the VMware Horizon View client, as well as all the configuration utilities you’ll need to get up and running (as well as troubleshoot the device if needed).

When I received the first two units, I noticed that the boxes were very heavy (I was actually really surprised).

10ZiG 5900q Series Zero Client Box Shot

10ZiG 5900q Series Zero Client Box Shot

 

10ZiG 5948q Series Zero Client Box Shot

10ZiG 5948q Series Zero Client Box Shot

 

The packaging was very nice, and the contents were safely secured with proper cardboard spacers to avoid items shifting during transport.

Finally it was time to take the zero client out! It is a very sleek, and very well put together device (I was actually surprised). As mentioned, it has some weight to it. It just looks great…

10ZiG 5948q Zero Client

 

The bottom of the device swivels and turns to expose 2 hidden USB ports which can be used for any type of USB device. The device also has 2 x USB3.0 ports on the front, an additional 1 x USB2.0 on the front, and 2 x USB2.0 ports on the back.

Plugging in the device and turning it on, it brings you to a big 10ZiG splash image and then on to first time configuration. In the first time configuration you specify your locale and region settings, date and time, and others. One problem I came across, is that when choosing Canada, it defaulted the keyboard to French for some reason. I actually didn’t even realize this until later when trying to log in to my VDI session (it was registering the wrong characters when pressing keys) and rejecting my password. It actually took me over an hour to realize this when I finally started poking around in the console and noticed that the “/” key was triggering an entirely different character. Changing the keyboard to US English fixed this (although in my opinion it should have been the default).

Moving on…

After the first time setup is complete, the interface is very simple yet powerful. You can configure your VMware View Connection Server address (and properties for the connection), as well as all the hardware components of the zero client, this includes: Network, Display, Mouse, Keyboard, USB devices, printers, etc…

After specifying my View connection server and then leaving the control panel, I logged in to my VDI session and it worked great!

Initially I tested some videos on YouTube, which looked great, and then moved on to trying some other things that involved audio and all was perfect. This product was production ready! I also tested the USB redirection by connecting a USB thumb flash drive to a USB port. The Windows 10 VM detected the USB drive, and I was able to partition, format, and use the stick without any problems. Initial testing resulted in 4MB/sec USB redirection speeds.

I’m really hoping that when my budget permits, I can purchase an AMD MxGPU S7150 card so I can test the 10ZiG with some high performance graphic applications. In the meantime though, this works great!

 

Now before I leave you, there are two important things I want to mention:

  1. The 10ZiG zero clients can be completely centrally managed and provisioned by the 10ZiG Manager, which is completely free if you own the products. You’d use this to deploy many zero clients (hundreds, thousands, etc…) in large scale deployments.
  2. You can use the 10ZiG Manager to reflash the firmware of the devices and use them for different desktop virtualization platforms including Citrix XenDesktop, and Microsoft VDI over RDP using Remote Desktop Services (RDS).

 

All in all, I’m very impressed with the device and have absolutely no complaints. I’ll be doing some more write ups and videos on the device soon! Stay posted!