May 012021
 
Picture of NVMe Storage Server Project

For over a year and a half I have been working on building a custom NVMe Storage Server for my homelab. I wanted to build a high speed storage system similar to a NAS or SAN, backed with NVMe drives that provides iSCSI, NFS, and SMB Windows File Shares to my network.

The computers accessing the NVMe Storage Server would include VMware ESXi hosts, Raspberry Pi SBCs, and of course Windows Computers and Workstations.

The focus of this project is on high throughput (in the GB/sec) and IOPS.

The current plan for the storage environment is for video editing, as well as VDI VM storage. This can and will change as the project progresses.

The History

More and more businesses are using all-flash NVMe and SSD based storage systems, so I figured there’s no reason why I can’t have build and have my own budget custom all NVMe flash NAS.

This is the story of how I built my own NVMe based Storage Server.

The first version of the NVMe Storage Server consisted of the IO-PEX40152 card with 4 x 2TB Sabrent Rocket 4 NVMe drives inside of an HPE Proliant DL360p Gen8 Server. The server was running ESXi with TrueNAS virtualized, and the PCIe card passed through to the TrueNAS VM.

The results were great, the performance was amazing, and both servers had access to the NFS export via 2 x 10Gb SFP+ networking.

There were three main problems with this setup:

  1. Virtualized – Once a month I had an ESXi PSOD. This was either due to overheating of the IO-PEX40152 card because of modifications I made, or bugs with the DL360p servers and PCIe passthrough.
  2. NFS instead of iSCSI – Because TrueNAS was virtualized inside of the host that was using it for storage, I had to use NFS since the host virtualizing TrueNAS would also be accessing the data on the TrueNAS VM. When shutting down the host, you need to shut down TrueNAS first. NFS disconnects are handled way healthier than iSCSI disconnects (which can cause corruption even if no files are being used).
  3. CPU Cores maxed on data transfer – When doing initial testing, I was maxing out the CPU cores assigned to the TrueNAS VM because the data transfers were so high. I needed a CPU and setup that was better fit.

Version 1 went great, but you can see some things needed to be changed. I decided to go with a dedicated server, not virtualize TrueNAS, and go for a newer CPU with a higher Ghz speed.

And so, version 2 was born (built). Keep reading and scrolling for pictures!

The Hardware

On version 2 of the project, the hardware includes:

Notes on the Hardware:

  • While the ML310e Gen8 v2 server is a cheap low entry server, it’s been a fantastic team member of my homelab.
  • HPE Dual 10G Port 560SFP+ adapters can be found brand new in unsealed boxes on eBay at very attractive prices. Using HPE Parts inside of HPE Servers, avoids the fans from spinning up fast.
  • The ML310e Gen8 v2 has some issues with passing through PCIe cards to ESXi. Works perfect when not passing through.

The new NVMe Storage Server

I decided to repurpose an HPE Proliant ML310e Gen8 v2 Server. This server was originally acting as my Nvidia Grid K1 VDI server, because it supported large PCIe cards. With the addition of my new AMD S7150 x2 hacked in/on to one of my DL360p Gen8’s, I no longer needed the GRID card in this server and decided to repurpose it.

Picture of an HPe ML310e Gen8 v2 with NVMe Storage
HPe ML310e Gen8 v2 with NVMe Storage

I installed the IOCREST IO-PEX40152 card in to the PCIe 16x slot, with 4 x 2TB Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME drives.

Picture of IOCREST IO-PEX40152 with GLOTRENDS M.2 NVMe SSD Heatsink on Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME
IOCREST IO-PEX40152 with GLOTRENDS M.2 NVMe SSD Heatsink on Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME

While the server has a PCIe 16x wide slot, it only has an 8x bus going to the slot. This means we will have half the capable speed vs the true 16x slot. This however does not pose a problem because we’ll be maxing out the 10Gb NICs long before we max out the 8x bus speed.

I also installed an HPE Dual Port 560SFP+ NIC in to the second slot. This will allow a total of 2 x 10Gb network connections from the server to the Ubiquiti UniFi US-16-XG 10Gb network switch, the backbone of my network.

The Server also have 4 x Hot Swappable HD bays on the front. When configured in HBA mode (via the BIOS), these are accessible by TrueNAS and can be used. I plan on populating these with 4 x 4TB HPE MDL SATA Hot Swappable drives to act as a replication destination for the NVMe pool and/or slower magnetic long-term storage.

Front view of HPE ML310e Gen8 v2 with Hotswap Drive bays
HPE ML310e Gen8 v2 with Hotswap Drive bays

I may also try to give WD RED Pro drives a try, but I’m not sure if they will cause the fans to speed up on the server.

TrueNAS Installation and Configuration

For the initial Proof-Of-Concept for version 2, I decided to be quick and dirty and install it to a USB stick. I also waited until I installed TrueNAS on to the USB stick and completed basic configuration before installing the Quad NVMe PCIe card and 10Gb NIC. I’m using a USB 3.0 port on the back of the server for speed, as I can’t verify if the port on the motherboard is USB 2 or USB 3.

Picture of a TrueNAS USB Stick on HPE ML310e Gen8 v2
TrueNAS USB Stick on HPE ML310e Gen8 v2

TrueNAS installation worked without any problems whatsoever on the ML310e. I configured the basic IP, time, accounts, and other generic settings. I then proceeded to install the PCIe cards (storage and networking).

Screenshot of TrueNAS Dashboard Installed on NVMe Storage Server
TrueNAS Installed on NVMe Storage Server

All NVMe drives were recognized, along with the 2 HDDs I had in the front Hot-swap bays (sitting on an HP B120i Controller configured in HBA mode).

Screenshot of available TrueNAS NVMe Disks
TrueNAS NVMe Disks

The 560SFP+ NIC also was detected without any issues and available to configure.

Dashboard Screenshot of TrueNAS 560SFP+ 10Gb NIC
TrueNAS 560SFP+ 10Gb NIC

Storage Configuration

I’ve already done some testing and created a guide on FreeNAS and TrueNAS ZFS Optimizations and Considerations for SSD and NVMe, so I made sure to use what I learned in this version of the project.

I created a striped pool (no redundancy) of all 4 x 2TB NVMe drives. This gave us around 8TB of usable high speed NVMe storage. I also created some datasets and a zVOL for iSCSI.

Screenshot of NVMe TrueNAS Storage Pool with Datasets and zVol
NVMe TrueNAS Storage Pool with Datasets and zVol

I chose to go with the defaults for compression to start with. I will be testing throughput and achievable speeds in the future. You should always test this in every and all custom environments as the results will always vary.

Network Configuration

Initial configuration was done via the 1Gb NIC connection to my main LAN network. I had to change this as the 10Gb NIC will be directly connected to the network backbone and needs to access the LAN and Storage VLANs.

I went ahead and configured a VLAN Interface on VLAN 220 for the Storage network. Connections for iSCSI and NFS will be made on this network as all my ESXi servers have vmknics configured on this VLAN for storage. I also made sure to configure an MTU of 9000 for jumbo frames (packets) to increase performance. Remember that all hosts must have the same MTU to communicate.

Screenshot of 10Gb NIC on Storage VLAN
10Gb NIC on Storage VLAN

Next up, I had to create another VLAN interface for the LAN network. This would be used for management, as well as to provide Windows File Share (SMB/Samba) access to the workstations on the network. We leave the MTU on this adapter as 1500 since that’s what my LAN network is using.

Screenshot of 10Gb NIC on LAN VLAN
10Gb NIC on LAN VLAN

As a note, I had to delete the configuration for the existing management settings (don’t worry, it doesn’t take effect until you hit test) and configure the VLAN interface for my LANs VLAN and IP. I tested the settings, confirmed it was good, and it was all setup.

At this point, only the 10Gb NIC is now being used so I went ahead and disconnected the 1Gb network cable.

Sharing Setup and Configuration

It’s now time to configure the sharing protocols that will be used. As mentioned before, I plan on deploying iSCSI, NFS, and Windows File Shares (SMB/Samba).

iSCSI and NFS Configuration

Normally, for a VMware ESXi virtualization environment, I would always usually prefer iSCSI based storage, however I also wanted to configure NFS to test throughput of both with NVMe flash storage.

Earlier, I created the datasets for all my my NFS exports and a zVOL volume for iSCSI.

Note, that in order to take advantage of the VMware VAAI storage directives (enhancements), you must use a zVOL to present an iSCSI target to an ESXi host.

For NFS, you can simply create a dataset and then export it.

For iSCSI, you need to create a zVol and then configure the iSCSI Target settings and make it available.

SMB (Windows File Shares)

I needed to create a Windows File Share for file based storage from Windows computers. I plan on using the Windows File Share for high-speed storage of files for video editing.

Using the dataset I created earlier, I configured a Windows Share, user accounts, and tested accessing it. Works perfect!

Connecting the host

Connecting the ESXi hosts to the iSCSI targets and the NFS exports is done in the exact same way that you would with any other storage system, so I won’t be including details on that in this post.

We can clearly see the iSCSI target and NFS exports on the ESXi host.

Screenshot of TrueNAS NVMe iSCSI Target on VMware ESXi Host
TrueNAS NVMe iSCSI Target on VMware ESXi Host
Screenshot of NVMe iSCSI and NFS ESXi Datastores
NVMe iSCSI and NFS ESXi Datastores

To access Windows File Shares, we log on and map the network share like you would normally with any file server.

Testing

For testing, I moved (using Storage vMotion) my main VDI desktop to the new NVMe based iSCSI Target LUN on the NVMe Storage Server. After testing iSCSI, I then used Storage vMotion again to move it to the NFS datastore. Please see below for the NVMe storage server speed test results.

Speed Tests

Just to start off, I want to post a screenshot of a few previous benchmarks I compiled when testing and reviewing the Sabrent Rocket 4 NVMe SSD disks installed in my HPE DL360p Gen8 Server and passed through to a VM (Add NVMe capability to an HPE Proliant DL360p Gen8 Server).

Screenshot of CrystalDiskMark testing an IOCREST IO-PEX40152 and Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME SSD for speed
CrystalDiskMark testing an IOCREST IO-PEX40152 and Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME SSD
Screenshot of CrystalDiskMark testing IOPS on an IOCREST IO-PEX40152 and Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME SSD
CrystalDiskMark testing IOPS on an IOCREST IO-PEX40152 and Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME SSD

Note, that when I performed these tests, my CPU was maxed out and limiting the actual throughput. Even then, these are some fairly impressive speeds. Also, these tests were directly testing each NVMe drive individually.

Moving on to the NVMe Storage Server, I decided to test iSCSI NVMe throughput and NFS NVMe throughput.

I opened up CrystalDiskMark and started a generic test, running a 16GB test file a total of 6 times on my VDI VM sitting on the iSCSI NVMe LUN.

Screenshot of NVMe Storage Server iSCSI Benchmark with CrystalDiskMark
NVMe Storage Server iSCSI Benchmark with CrystalDiskMark

You can see some impressive speeds maxing out the 10Gb NIC with crazy performance of the NVME storage:

  • 1196MB/sec READ
  • 1145.28MB/sec WRITE (Maxing out the 10GB NIC)
  • 62,725.10 IOPS READ
  • 42,203.13 IOPS WRITE

Additionally, here’s a screenshot of the ix0 NIC on the TrueNAS system during the speed test benchmark: 1.12 GiB/s.

Screenshot of TrueNAS NVME Maxing out 10Gig NIC
TrueNAS NVME Maxing out 10Gig NIC

And remember this is with compression. I’m really excited to see how I can further tweak and optimize this, and also what increases will come with configuring iSCSI MPIO. I’m also going to try to increase the IOPS to get them closer to what each individual NVMe drive can do.

Now on to NFS, the results were horrible when moving the VM to the NFS Export.

Screenshot of NVMe Storage Server NFS Benchmark with CrystalDiskMark
NVMe Storage Server NFS Benchmark with CrystalDiskMark

You can see that the read speed was impressive, but the write speed was not. This is partly due to how writes are handled with NFS exports.

Clearly iSCSI is the best performing method for ESXi host connectivity to a TrueNAS based NVMe Storage Server. This works perfect because we’ll get the VAAI features (like being able to reclaim space).

iSCSI MPIO Speed Test

This is more of an update… I was finally able to connect, configure, and utilize the 2nd 10Gbe port on the 560SFP+ NIC. In my setup, both hosts and the TrueNAS storage server all have 2 connections to the switch, with 2 VLANs and 2 subnets dedicated to storage. Check out the before/after speed tests with enabling iSCSI MPIO.

As you can see I was able to essentially double my read speeds (again maxing out the networking layer), however you’ll notice that the write speeds maxed out at 1598MB/sec. I believe we’ve reached a limitation of the CPU, PCIe bus, or something else inside of the server. Note, that this is not a limitation of the Sabrent Rocket 4 NVME drives, or the IOCREST NVME PCIe card.

Moving Forward

I’ve had this configuration running for around a week now with absolutely no issues, no crashes, and it’s been very stable.

Using a VDI VM on NVMe backed storage is lightning fast and I love the experience.

I plan on running like this for a little while to continue to test the stability of the environment before making more changes and expanding the configuration and usage.

Future Plans (and Configuration)

  • Drive Bays
    • I plan to populate the 4 hot-swappable drive bays with HPE 4TB MDL drives. Configured with RaidZ1, this should give me around 12TB usable storage. I can use this for file storage, backups, replication, and more.
  • NVMe Replication
    • This design was focused on creating non-redundant extremely fast storage. Because I’m limited to a total of 4 NVMe disks in this design, I chose not to use RaidZ and striped the data. If one NVMe drive is lost, all data is lost.
    • I don’t plan on storing anything important, and at this point the storage is only being used for VDI VMs (which are backed up), and Video editing.
    • If I can populate the front drive bays, I can replicate the NVMe storage to the traditional HDD storage on a frequent basis to protect against failure to some level or degree.
  • Version 3 of the NVMe Storage Server
    • More NVMe and Bigger NVMe – I want more storage! I want to test different levels of RaidZ, and connect to the backbone at even faster speeds.
    • NVME Drives with PLP (Power Loss Prevention) for data security and protection.
    • Dual Power Supply

Let me know your thoughts and ideas on this setup!

Apr 252021
 
Screenshot of a Hybrid Azure AD Joined login

If you’re using Azure AD, and have Hybrid Azure AD joined machines, special considerations must be made with non-persistent VDI workstations and VMs. This applies to Instant Clones on VMware Horizon.

Due to the nature of non-persistent VDI, machines are created and destroyed on the fly with a user getting an entirely new workstation on every login.

Hybrid Azure AD joined workstations not only register on the local domain Active Directory, but also register on the Azure AD (Azure Active Directory).

The Problem

If you have Hybrid Azure AD configured and machines performing the Hybrid Join, this will cause numerous machines to be created on Azure AD, in a misconfigured and/or unregistered state. When the non-persistent instant clone is destroyed and re-created, it will potentially have the same computer name as a previous machine, but will be unable to utilize the existing registration.

This conflict state could potentially make your Azure AD computer OU a mess.

The Solution

In my own testing and after researching, there are a few workarounds to clean this up:

  1. Utilize login/logoff scripts to Azure AD join and unjoin on user login/logoff. You may have to create a cleanup script to remove old/stale records from Azure AD as this can and will create numerous computer accounts on Azure AD.
  2. Do not allow non-persistent virtual machines to Hybrid Domain Join. This can be accomplished either by removing the non-persistent VDI computer OU from synchronization with Azure AD Connect (OU Filtering information at https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/azure/active-directory/hybrid/how-to-connect-sync-configure-filtering) or by disabling the scheduled task to perform an Azure AD join.

In my environment I elected to remove the non-persistent computer OU from Azure AD Connect sync, and it’s been working great. It also keeps my Azure Active Directory nice and clean.

Jan 172021
 

After upgrading from Horizon 8 2006 to Horizon 8 2012, audio stopped working. When connected to a VDI session, audio is not being passed through to the client.

The Problem

Audio simply does not work. Using the Chrome and multimedia redirection, audio will work, but this is most likely due to the fact the client is handling multimedia.

The Fix

Removing the audio drivers (forcing uninstall/deleting the audio driver) and re-installing the agent does not correct this.

Uninstalling and reinstalling the Horizon Client does not correct this.

Audio does function on the Horizon Android client so I isolated this to the Windows client.

After further troubleshooting, I opened the Windows Sound mixer (Right click on the audio icon in the system tray, select “Open Volume Mixer”). I noticed that not only was the VMware Horizon client at 0, but it was also muted.

VMware Horizon View Client Audio Mixer

Unmuting this and raising the volume slider resolved the issue.

Jan 132021
 
Adobe Flash Disabled Logo

As most of you know (or didn’t), Adobe Flash reached it’s End of Life on December 31st 2020, and as of January 12th 2021 does not function at all!

Since Adobe is no longer supporting Flash, they are blocking and disabling all Flash content beginning January 12 2021 from web browsers including Chrome.

For IT folks, this causes big problems when managing, maintaining, or dealing with older systems that use Adobe Flash, such as older versions of VMware vSphere, vCenter/vCSA, and VMware Horizon. This is because the admin interfaces utilize Adobe Flash. This will also apply to other software and systems.

The Problem

Up until now while approaching the end of life date, special steps were required to allow Adobe Flash because of security concerns.

As of January 12, 2021 these steps no longer work. Even when choosing to “Allow” flash, Adobe will deliberately block it. You’ll see something similar to below.

Adobe Flash Disabled Logo
Adobe Flash Disabled Logo

The Workaround

This workaround should only be used for emergency situations as you should truly try to reduce your dependence on Flash.

In order for this workaround, you will need Chrome Version 87 or earlier. Version 88 does not include Adobe Flash.

On Windows, you’ll need to create a file called “mms.cfg” in the following path:

C:\Users\USERNAME\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\User Data\Default\Pepper Data\Shockwave Flash\System\

On a Mac, you’ll need to create a file called “mms.cfg” in the following path:

/Users/USERNAME/Library/Application Support/Google/Chrome/Default/Pepper Data/Shockwave Flash/System/

Make sure you replace “USERNAME” with your own account.

On Linux, you’ll need to create a file called “mms.cfg” in the following path:

~/.config/google-chrome/Default/Pepper Data/Shockwave Flash/System/

The contents of the “mms.cfg” file should be as follows.

EnableAllowList = 1
AllowListUrlPattern = http://COMPUTERNAME/
AllowListUrlPattern = https://IP.ADDRESS/
AllowListUrlPattern = *://server.domain.com/

Feel free to add as many “AllowListUrlPattern” items as you require. These URL patterns are sites you’re allowing to run flash on.

To access a URL:

  1. After creating this file and populating it, open up Chrome
  2. Navigate to the page you want to view
  3. Click on the “Secure”, “Not Secure”, or the padlock to the left of the URL tab.
  4. Change “Adobe Flash” from “Ask” to “Allow”, then close the popup.
  5. Click on “Refresh” when Chrome prompts
  6. A new pop-up will open saying Flash is out of date. DO NOT UPDATE, click on “Run once without updating”.

And you’re set! Leave a comment and let me know if it worked for you.

For more information on Adobe Flash End of Life and End of Support, click here.

For more information on the workaround, view the “Enterprise Enablement” section of the Adobe Flash Player Administration guide.

Dec 142020
 

Well, it looks like it’s going to be an interested day with Google Services down. Today, December 14th 2020, it appears a number of Google Services including YouTube, some Google Account functions, Google Drive, and “Backup and Sync from Google” aren’t functioning.

Update Dec 14th 2020 6:00AM MST: It appears services have been restored.

I first noticed this thismorning when I logged in to my computer. Backup and Sync from Google was signed out and asking me to sign in. Attempting to sign in presented the following error.

Google Services, Backup and Sync from Google in a down state, asking to login but presenting a 400 "invalid_request" error.
Google Services Down: Backup and Sync from Google Drive

At first I thought there may have been some type of security issue, issue with my firewall, but after some brief investigation (thank you Twitter), I was able to identify it’s a very large interruption.

List of Google Services Down

As of right now, I’m seeing reports that the following services are down:

  • Google Drive
  • Google Gmail
  • YouTube
  • Some account services
  • Backup and Sync from Google

Final Note

While it’s easy to love cloud services, it’s not fun when they go down. I’ll update this post as I get more information.

Dec 072020
 
Picture of a business office with cubicles

In this post I’m going to explain what VDI is in the most simplest form and how you can benefit from virtualized desktops with your EUC strategy.

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI)

VDI standards for Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. Think of your existing physical desktop infrastructure (your desktop computers, also called end user computing), now virtualize those desktop computers in a virtual environment much like your servers are, and you now have Virtual Desktop Infrastructure.

End User Computing (EUC)

Traditionally end user computing has been delivered by means of deploying physical (real) computers to each user in your office (and possibly remote users). This brings with it the cost of the systems, the time/cost to maintain the systems and hardware, and the management overhead of maintaining those systems.

By utilizing VDI, you can significantly reduce the cost, management, and maintenance required to maintain your EUC infrastructure.

So seriously, what is VDI?

When you implement a VDI solution, you virtualize your desktops and workstations on a virtualization server, much like your servers are probably already virtualized. Users will connect via software, a thin client, or a zero client to establish the session to transmit and receive the video, monitor, and keyboard of workstation that is virtualized.

This might sound familiar, like RDS (Remote Desktop Services). However, in an RDS environment numerous users share the same server and resources and access it un a multi-user fashion, whereas with VDI they are using a virtualized Windows instance dedicated to them running an OS like Windows 10.

How does VDI work?

Using the software, thin client, or zero client, a user establishes a session to a connection broker, which then passes it along to the Virtual Machine running on the server. The Virtual Machine encodes and compresses the graphics and then connects the users keyboard and mouse to the VM.

What’s even cooler, is that remote devices like printers and USB devices can also be forwarded on to the VM, giving the user the feeling that the computer that’s running on the server, is actually right in front of them.

And if that isn’t cool enough, in an environment where 3D accelerated and high-performance graphics are required, you can use special graphics cards and GPUs to provide those high end graphics remotely to users. Technically you could game, do engineering work, video and graphics editing, and more.

Why use VDI

So your desktops are now virtualized. This means you no longer need to maintain numerous physical PCs and the hardware that is inside of them.

You can deploy a standardized golden image that instantly clones as users log in to give them a pre-configured and maintained environment. This means you manage 1 or few desktops which can get deployed to hundreds of users, instead of managed hundreds of desktops.

If a thin client or zero client fails you can simply re-deploy a new unit to the user, which are very inexpensive, and reduces downtime.

In the event of a disaster, your VDI EUC environment would be integrated in to your disaster recovery solution, meaning it would be very easy to get users back up and running.

One of the best parts is that the environment can be used inside of your office and externally, allowing you to provide a smooth experience for remote users. This made business continuity a breeze for organizations that need to deploy remote users or “Work from home” users on the fly.

The cost of VDI

The cost to roll out a VDI solution varies depending on the number of users, types of users, and functionality you’d like.

Typically, VDI is a no-brainer for large organizations and enterprises due to the cost savings on hardware, management, and maintaining the solution vs traditional desktops. But smaller organizations can also benefit from VDI, examples being organizations that use expensive desktops and/or laptops for uses such as engineering, software development, and other uses that require high-cost workstations.

One last thought I want to leave you with; imagine an environment with 50-100 systems, and all the wasted power and CPU cycles when users are just browsing the internet. In a virtual environment you can over-allocate resources, which means you can identify user trends and only purchase the hardware you need to based on observed workloads. This can significantly reduce the cost of hardware, especially for software development, engineering, and other high performance computing.

For more information on VDI, take a look at my other VDI related blog posts.

Oct 232020
 
vCSA Update Installation

When updating VMware vCenter vCSA 7.0 U1 (Build 16858589) to vCSA 7.0 U1 (Build 17004997/17005016, Version 7.0.1.00100), you may notice that the update fails and reports issues with pre-update checks.

Pre-update checks done prior to the update will pass and allow you to proceed, however it’s the installation that will fail and crash reporting this error.

After the installation fails, you will no longer be able to log in to the vCSA VAMI reporting the error “Unable to Login” using the root account.

You are able to login via SSH. Resetting the root password via SSH will not resolve this issue.

The Problem

In the past, issues with the root password expiring have caused similar behavior on the vCSA VAMI. Changing the root password does not resolve this specific issue.

Further troubleshooting, it appears that special characters in the root password such as “!”, “.”, and “@” caused this issue to occur in my environment.

I was not able to fix the broken vCSA after the failed update. Access to the vCSA was not possible, however vCenter functions were still operating.

The Solution

To resolve this situation in my environment, I restored a snapshot of the vCSA taken prior to updating.

After restoring the snapshot, I changed the root password for VAMI and restarted the vCSA.

Another snapshot was taken prior to attempting the upgrade, which was now succesfull after removing special characters out of the root password.

Oct 182020
 
Screenshot of The Tech Informative Side Chat - HPE Integrated Lights-Out

A new Side Chat Episode of the Tech Informative is now live on YouTube. In this episode we are covering HPE Integrated Lights-Out, also known as HPE iLO.

The Tech Informative Side Chat on HPE Integrated Lights-Out (HPE iLO)

The Tech Informative is a video podcast by Stephen Wagner and Rob Dalton that hopes to explore everyday technologies from the perspective of Information Technology professionals.

Rob Dalton is a lover of IT and a Director by profession. Rob considers himself a jack of all trades, an IT veteran, and is also the author of “Secured Packets”, a technology blog with a focus on security. Rob’s blog can be found at: https://www.securedpackets.com

Stephen Wagner is the President of Digitally Accurate Inc., an IT Solutions and Managed Services company. Stephen is also the author of “The Tech Journal”, an online Technology Blog. Stephen’s blog can be found at: https://www.stephenwagner.com

In this Side Chat, we cover the following:

What is HPE iLO

  • iLO and OneView
  • iLO Amplifier Pack
  • iLO, InfoSight, and HPE Servers

What does iLO do

  • Remote Access
  • Firmware Management
  • Server provisioning (Install OS, Recover, DR, etc.)
  • Features we find most valuable

How is HPE Integrated Lights-Out licensed

Competing Products

  • iDRAC
  • IPMI

We also cover what’s on the next episode of The Tech Informative

Don’t forget to like and subscribe! Leave a comment, feedback, or suggestions in the video comments section.

Oct 152020
 
VMware vCLS VM in VM List

Did a new VM appear on your VMware vSphere cluster called “vCLS”? Maybe multiple appeared named “vCLS (1)”, “vCLS (2)”, “vCLS (3)” appeared.

VMware vCLS VM in vSphere Cluster Objects
VMware vCLS VM in vSphere Cluster Objects

This could be frightening but fear not, this is part of VMware vSphere 7.0 Update 1.

What is the vCLS VM?

The vCLS virtural machine is essentially an “appliance” or “service” VM that allows a vSphere cluster to remain functioning in the event that the vCenter Server becomes unavailable. It will maintain the health and services of that cluster.

Where did the vCLS VM come from?

The vCLS VM will appear after upgrading to vSphere 7.0 Update 1. I’m assuming it was deployed during the upgrade process.

It does not appear in the standard Cluster, Hosts, and VMs view, but does appear when looking at the vSphere objects VM lists, Storage VM lists, etc…

Is it normal to have more than one vCLS VM?

The vCLS VMs are created when hosts are added to a vSphere Cluster. Up to 3 vCLS VMs are required to run in each vSphere Cluster.

The vCLS VMs will also appear on clusters which contain only one or two hosts. These configurations will result in either 1 or 2 vCLS VMs named “vCLS (1)” and “vCLS (2)”.

A note on licensing in regards to the vCLS VM

For VMware environments that use VM based licensing like vSphere for ROBO (Remote Office Branch Office), vCLS VMs are shown in the licensing interface as counting towards licensed VMs. Please Note that these VMs do not official count towards your purchased licenses as these are VMware System VMs. Please read VMware KB 80472 for more information on this.

More Information on vCLS VMs

For more information and technical specifics, you can visit the link below:

https://docs.vmware.com/en/VMware-vSphere/7.0/com.vmware.vsphere.vcenterhost.doc/GUID-96BD6016-4BE7-4B1C-8269-568D1555B08C.html

Hope this posts helps, and puts some minds at ease. Your VMware environment has NOT been compromised.

Oct 102020
 

If you’re like me and use an older Nvidia GRID K1 or K2 vGPU video card for your VDI homelab, you may notice that when using VMware Horizon that VMware Blast h264 encoding is no longer being offloaded to the GPU and is instead being encoded via the CPU.

The Problem

Originally when an environment was configured with an Nvidia GRID K1 or K2 card, not only does the card provide 3D acceleration and rendering, but it also offloads the VMware BLAST h264 stream (the visual session) so that the CPU doesn’t have to. This results in less CPU usage and provides a streamlined experience for the user.

This functionality was handled via NVFBC (Nvidia Frame Buffer Capture) which was part of the Nvidia Capture SDK (formerly known as GRID SDK). This function allowed the video card to capture the video frame buffer and encode it using NVENC (Nvidia Encoder).

Ultimately after spending hours troubleshooting, I learned that NVFBC has been deprecated and is no longer support, hence why it’s no longer functioning. I also checked and noticed that tools (such as nvfbcenable) were no longer bundled with the VMware Horizon agent. One can assume that the agent doesn’t even attempt to check or use this function.

Symptoms

Before I was aware of this, I noticed that while 3D Acceleration and graphics were functioning, I was experiencing high CPU usage. Upon further investigation I noticed that my VMware BLAST sessions were not offloading h264 encoding to the video card.

VMware Horizon Performance Tracker
VMware Horizon Performance Tracker with NVidia GRID K1

You’ll notice above that under the “Encoder” section, the “Encoder Name” was listed as “h264 4:2:0”. Normally this would say “NVIDIA NvEnc H264” (or “NVIDIA NvEnc HEVC” on newer cards) if it was being offloaded to the GPU.

Looking at a VMware Blast session (Blast-Worker-SessionId1.log), the following lines can be seen.

[INFO ] 0x1f34 bora::Log: NvEnc: VNCEncodeRegionNvEncLoadLibrary: Loaded NVIDIA SDK shared library "nvEncodeAPI64.dll"
[INFO ] 0x1f34 bora::Log: NvEnc: VNCEncodeRegionNvEncLoadLibrary: Loaded NVIDIA SDK shared library "nvml.dll"
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetEncoderCapacity: 127
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetProcessUtilization: 127
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetGridLicensableFeatures: 127
[INFO ] 0x1f34 bora::Log: NvEnc: VNCEncodeRegionNvEncLoadLibrary: Some NVIDIA nvml functions unavailable, unloading
[INFO ] 0x1f34 bora::Log: NvEnc: VNCEncodeRegionNvEncUnloadLibrary: Unloading NVIDIA SDK shared library "nvEncodeAPI64.dll"
[INFO ] 0x1f34 bora::Log: NvEnc: VNCEncodeRegionNvEncUnloadLibrary: Unloading NVIDIA SDK shared library "nvml.dll"
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetEncoderCapacity: 127
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetProcessUtilization: 127
[WARN ] 0x1f34 bora::Warning: GetProcAddress: Failed to resolve nvmlDeviceGetGridLicensableFeatures: 127

You’ll notice it tries to load the proper functions, however it fails.

The Solution

Unfortunately the only solution is to upgrade to newer or different hardware.

The GRID K1 and GRID K2 cards have reached their EOL (End of Life) and are no longer support. The drivers are not being maintained or updated so I doubt they will take advantage of the newer frame buffer capture functions of Windows 10.

Newer hardware and solutions have incorporated this change and use a different means of frame buffer capture.

To resolve this in my own homelab, I plan to migrate to an AMD FirePro S7150x2.