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Access a Dell EMC 14G iDRAC Using the USB Console Interface

Deploying infrastructure over the years has exposed some pretty useful shortcuts. It’s tedious to program an iDRAC using the front LED. Sometimes, unconfigured network switches hold up the entire configuration process. This method will allow you to hook up a USB console cable and control your iDRAC directly, which can be a life saver and makes configuration and deployment much easier and without the need for a network connection.

  1. Connect your laptop to the USB Management Port on the front of the PowerEdge or VxRail.
  2. Wait for your laptop to install the appropriate drivers.
  3. The USB interface on your laptop will be assigned an IP address of 169.254.0.4.
  4. Open the browser of your choice.
  5. Browse to https://169.254.0.3, which is the IP address assigned to the iDRAC USB interface.
  6. Log into the iDRAC as root.

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Flea Draining Equipment

I recently had someone ask me about flea power, or electrostatic discharge. I thought it might be useful for some to go over what it is, and how to drain it. This little procedure can be the magic touch that gets a piece of hardware up and working again.

So first, what is flea power in computer equipment?
Flea power is the residual static electricity that remains on electrical components (like the capacitors on a motherboard, for example) the computer even after it has been powered off, even if a battery has been removed.

What symptoms are typical?
This gets a little tricky. I’ve personally seen issues where a server refuses to power on. A good rule of thumb is, if you can power the server down to troubleshoot any issue with any component, a flea drain may help you resolve issues with bad power causing inconsistencies with the components.

Now, how do we fix it?
This part’s easy. Enterprise components are designed to remain powered on 24/7 but when you face an issue, a Reset of your device can make things work. There are 3 levels of Reset, all defined below. In order, you should try to …

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Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: The Aftermath

Part 1: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Before We Begin
Part 2: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Upgrading the Cluster
Part 3: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: The Aftermath

In the final post in this 3-part series, we cover some of the things that need to be done post upgrade for a VxRail 4.5 cluster.

Cleanup Process After a Successful Upgrade

  1. Log into the vSphere Web Client.
  2. Navigate to Hosts and Clusters.
  3. Delete all snapshots from the VxRail Manager service VM.
    1. Right-click the VxRail Manager VM, select Snapshots > Delete All Snapshots.
  4. Delete all snapshots from the vCenter Server Appliance service VM.
    1. Right-click the vCenter Server Appliance VM, select Snapshots > Delete All Snapshots.
  5. Delete all snapshots from the Platform Services Controller service VM.
    1. Right-click the Platform Services Controller VM, select Snapshots > Delete All Snapshots.
  6. If changes were made to avoid vSAN timeout issues during the upgrade process, change the following Advanced System Setting when the upgrade is complete.
    1. Navigate to Hosts and Clusters.
    2. Select the first node in the cluster.
    3. Select Configure > System > Advanced System Settings.
    4. Locate the VSAN.ClomRepairDelay setting.
    5. Change the current value of

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Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Upgrading the Cluster

Part 1: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Before We Begin
Part 2: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Upgrading the Cluster
Part 3: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: The Aftermath

In Part 2 of this 3-part series, we’ll cover the actual upgrade process for your 4.5 VxRail cluster and how to monitor that upgrade so you don’t end up pulling your hair out.

Upgrading the VxRail Cluster

Local Upgrade Process

The local upgrade process is preferred, because it stages the upgrade to the VxRail Manager before proceeding with the upgrade.

  1. Log into the VxRail Manager.
  2. Navigate to the CONFIG page, and click on the System tab.
  3. Click the Local Upgrade button.
  4. In the Open File dialog, navigate to the VxRail Composite Bundle previously downloaded and saved locally, and then click Open to upload it to the VxRail Manager.
  5. Once the upgrade is staged to the VxRail Manager, click on the Continue button to begin the upgrade.
  6. When prompted, enter the required credentials for the vCenter Server local administrator account, the VxRail Manager root account, the vCenter Server root account, and the Platform Services Controller root account, and click the Submit button.

Internet

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Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Before We Begin

Part 1: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Before We Begin
Part 2: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: Upgrading the Cluster
Part 3: Dell EMC VxRail 4.5 Upgrade Process: The Aftermath

In Part 1 of this 3-part series, we’ll address what to do prior to kicking off an upgrade of your 4.5 VxRail cluster. There are a few “gotchas” I’ve run into in the past that I address here. Hopefully it’s helpful.

Generating the SolVe Upgrade Procedure

  1. Log into Dell EMC SolVe Online.
  2. Select All Products from the menu.
  3. Click the VxRail Appliance button.
  4. Click the Software Upgrade Procedures link.
  5. Select the model of the VxRail appliances being upgraded, and click the Next button.
  6. Select the VxRail software version currently installed on the VxRail appliances being upgraded, and scroll down.
  7. Select the VxRail software version targeted for installation on the VxRail appliances being upgraded, and click the Next button.
  8. Click the Generate button to generate an upgrade procedure.
  9. Save, open and read the procedure thoroughly once it has been generated.
  10. Download the VxRail Composite Bundle for the version of software targeted in the upgrade.

Before Upgrading the VxRail Cluster

  1. Log into the vCenter Server Appliance Management Interface using

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Add Download Sources to VMware Update Manager (VUM)

An ESXi host can have custom vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs) installed. Typically, this includes things like third-party drivers or management agents. In some cases, you may want to manage those installed drivers or agents with VMware Update Manager (VUM) to deploy a specific known-good configuration across a cluster with ease. Here’s how you add 3rd party download sources to VUM in vCenter:

vSphere Web Client (Flex)

  1. On the vSphere client home screen, click the Update Manager icon.
  2. On the Configuration tab, click Download Settings.
  3. Click Add Download Source.
  4. Enter the Source URL for the Download Source you want to add.
  5. Click OK.
  6. Click Download Now to upload the package, then click Apply.

vSphere Client

  1. On the vSphere client home screen, click Menu, then Update Manager icon.
  2. On the Settings tab, click Patch Setup.
  3. Click New to create a new download source.
  4. Enter the Source URL and Description for the Download Source you want to add.
  5. Click OK.
  6. On the Settings tab, click Patch Downloads.
  7. Click Download Now to download new patch definitions.

Not every manufacturer supports integration with VMware Update Manager, but here’s what I could find.

3rd Party Download Sources for

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SQL Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices: Host, Disk, CPU and Memory Considerations

Part 1: SQL Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices: Host, Disk, CPU and Memory Considerations
Part 2: SQL Server on VMware vSphere Best Practices: Availability Group, Licensing and Other Considerations

I realized recently that I never documented my process for designing high-performance Microsoft SQL environments on VMware vSphere. For the most part, what you’re about to read is a brain dump, and is intended to serve as an outline. Please make sure that you research all of the configurations for your specific deployment requirements, rather than take everything I say and dump it in to your shiny new Microsoft SQL environment. In Part 1, we’ll dive into some of the more common settings and configurations that are done in a virtualized SQL environment.

ESXi Host Considerations

Power Management

A good rule of thumb is to set Power Management to High Performance on the ESXi host. This needs to be done both in the BIOS and from within the vSphere Client to take effect.

Second Level Address Transaltion (SLAT)

It’s necessary that the host supports Second Level Address Transaltion. Most 64-bit processors support this technology. When referencing Intel processors, SLAT = Extended Page Tables. When referencing AMD processors, SLAT

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The Gamification of VMware Hands-on Labs – Meet Odyssey

Sometimes digging in and learning about all the newest things in the VMware arsenal can feel tedious and daunting. VMware apparently heard our cries, and introduced VMware Odyssey at VMworld 2019. Odyssey aims to be a brand-new approach to evaluating and learning the VMware catalog.

How is it a brand-new approach, you ask? Simply, they’ve added gamification elements to the VMware Hands-on Labs that we know and love.

VMware Odyssey is a series of 15-minute tasks that challenge your knowledge and expertise across the entire VMware portfolio. VMware developed a game engine that will automatically check that a Hands-on Lab task was completed correctly, and it gives you instant feedback. There’s even a leaderboard to see how you stack up to others that have taken the Odyssey-enabled Hands-on Labs. Check out this video to learn more:

Not bad, eh? Expect to see more from the VMware Odyssey team in the future.…

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VMware Ports and Protocols Tool

If you’re tired of pouring through VMware documentation to find specific port requirements for their software like I am, this post is going to be a god-send for you. With VMware announcing new features, products and services regularly, it can be hard to keep up with what software and version have specific requirements that you need to deploy to make everything work well. VMware offers a little-advertised tool to help you discover, digest and retain all of the ports and protocol information. I don’t think it’s been around long, since I just discovered it this year. If you haven’t seen it…

Allow me to introduce the VMware Ports and Protocols website. The site is mobile friendly, and pretty intuitive.

This tool allows you to select specific software suites, and displays the required ports and protocols for you to make it easy for you to understand your networking requirements before you deploy anything at all. There are even export options. You can download Excel or CSV formatted files, and print the results. Here’s an example of the output:

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How to Change the IP Address of an ESXi Host via ESX CLI

I recently had a colleague reach out with a need to change the IP address of an ESXi host without access to the GUI. I thought it might be useful to outline the steps here, in case it’s helpful for someone else.

Changing the IP address of a host is actually pretty straight forward with ESX CLI. Before you get started, list all of the VMkernel NICs using this command:

esxcli network ip interface ipv4 get

That will return a list of all of the VMkernel interfaces and their details. Now you can change the IP address of the VMKernel adapter:

esxcli network ip interface ipv4 set -i vmkX -I <IP_ADDRESS> -N <SUBNET_MASK> -t static

And that’s it, you’re all done. You’ll lose connection to the host and need to SSH back in, but the host will have the new IP address.…

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VMware Mangle – Chaos Engineering Made Easy

In any enterprise organization there’s an immediate need to test and validate fault-tolerance and recoverability. If you have a VMware virtual environment, testing just got a lot easier. Meet VMware Mangle.Mangle enables folks like us to run chaos engineering experiments against applications and infrastructure components, and allows us to quickly assess resiliency and fault tolerance. It was designed to introduce faults with minimal pre-configuration and can support any infrastructure that you might have including K8S, Docker, vCenter or any Remote Machine with SSH enabled. Included in Mangle is a pretty powerful plugin model that allows the engineer to define a custom fault of their choice based on a template and run it against the environment without building code from scratch.

For those of us that want a quick and easy way to install Mangle just about anywhere, grab the container images.

If you’re not that fancy yet, or prefer to deploy a virtual appliance on vSphere that is pre-packaged with Mangle, you can grab the .ova files.

In either case, refer to the VMware Mangle website for detailed instructions on deployment and configuration.…

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How to Install, Update, and Remove the Nimble Connection Manager on ESXi

There are a few ways to install Nimble Connection Manager (NCM) on your ESXi hosts. The easiest way is to add the appropriate download source to VMware Update Manager (VUM) in your vCenter, then create and attach a baseline for Nimble Connection Manager to each of your ESXi hosts attached to the HPE Nimble array. Doing so will ensure that Nimble Connection Manager is installed or updated during your normal VMware Update Manager update cycle which will keep Nimble Connection Manager updated across your infrastructure. For those that need them, here are the source URLs:

Nimble Connection Manager Download Sources for VMware Update Manager
ESX VersionDownload Source
ESXi 5.xhttps://update.nimblestorage.com/esx5/ncm/index.xml
ESXi 6.0https://update.nimblestorage.com/esx6/ncm/index.xml
ESXi 6.5https://update.nimblestorage.com/esx6.5/ncm/index.xml

Now that you have the download sources, what do you do with them? For starters, add them to VMware Update Manager (VUM). For detailed instructions on how to do that, check out my blog post on the subject, or VMware Docs.

Another option is to install Nimble Connection Manager directly to the host. There are a few prerequisites for this method:

  1. Enable SSH on the host.
    1. Select the host, click Manage, and keep Settings selected.
    2. Click Security Profile.
    3. In the

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How to Cleanly Uninstall the Nimble Connection Manager Before an ESXi Upgrade

If you’re using HPE Nimble storage arrays to back your VMware environment, there’s something that you should know. Lets start from the top. As of this writing, the Nimble Connection Manager (NCM) for ESXi comes in three different flavors. There’s a version available for use with ESXi 5.X, one available for use with ESXi 6.0, and one available for use with ESXi 6.5. Add the appropriate download source to VMware Update Manager (VUM), then create and attach a baseline for Nimble Connection Manager to your hosts. Doing so will ensure that Nimble Connection Manager is installed or updated during your normal VMware Update Manager update cycle which will keep Nimble Connection Manager updated across your infrastructure. For those that need them, here are the source URLs:

Nimble Connection Manager Download Sources for VMware Update Manager
ESX VersionDownload Source
ESXi 5.xhttps://update.nimblestorage.com/esx5/ncm/index.xml
ESXi 6.0https://update.nimblestorage.com/esx6/ncm/index.xml
ESXi 6.5https://update.nimblestorage.com/esx6.5/ncm/index.xml

I recently upgraded my entire VMware environment from vSphere 5.5 to 6.5. Because I had Nimble Connection Manager installed on the hosts, and the version installed was compatible with ESXi 5.X, I had to do a few things before I could upgrade the hosts. If you leave the older version of Nimble

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How to Cleanly Uninstall Legacy NSX and Trend Micro from ESXi

So I recently migrated from a vSphere 5.5 environment to 6.5 using the migration utility. Overall, I had a great experience with a few exceptions, both of which were my fault. We’ll cover one of them in this post.

We were running Trend Micro Deep Security, which means we had NSX deployed in support of that product throughout our environment. My thinking, incorrectly, was that after the vCenter upgrade, I could upgrade the existing NSX components of the environment and I would be off to the races!

That was a mistake, and I thought it might be worth it for me to share what I saw unfolding, and how I resolved the issues. So here goes…

After the vCenter upgrade was successful, I noticed that I no longer had an NSX manager registered, which was odd. I was seeing issues with DRS, and the only way to get around the virtual machines hanging and eventually erroring out during DRS triggered vMotions was to manually migrate the virtual machines to other hosts and place the affected host in Maintenance Mode while I took steps to remove all things NSX, Guest Introspection and Trend Micro.

Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough of how I …

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Configure Data Deduplication on Windows Server 2016 File Servers

If you manage a Windows Server 2016 file server and your company won’t allow Quotas or File Screening for your file server, or even worse hasn’t bothered defining data retention policies, you’ve probably found yourself running low on storage. A new feature in Windows Server 2016, Data Deduplication, can help you address the pesky problem of running low on space by, well, deduplicating your data.

What does that mean? Read the Data Deduplication Overview from Microsoft to find out what the Data Deduplication feature is, and how it can help you reclaim your sanity.

Step 1: Install the Data Deduplication Feature

In Windows Server 2016, Data Deduplication is a role that can be installed. You’ll find the role under File and Storage Services, File and iSCSI Services.

  1. In the Add Roles and Features wizard, select Server Roles.
  2. Expand File and Storage Services.
  3. Expand File and iSCSI Services.
  4. Select the Data Deduplication role.
  5. Click Next until the Install button is active, and then click Install.

Of course, you can also use PowerShell. If you’re logged into the server you want to install the Data Deduplication role on, use this command to install the role:

Install-WindowsFeature 

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