Tuesday, July 30, 2013

NGD: 1997 Fender American Standard Strat

I scored this one from GC Used for roughly half the going used rate.  The reason is because it was refinished - and it was either a terrible job or the previous owner tried to relic it.  Either way, the body needs a little TLC.

Until I have the time to properly refinish it, I stuck some stickers on it - one of which may look familiar to some of you.  It covers the name "Anna" that was carved into it.  I think it looks better now!

Yeah, the stickers really improved the tone. ;)

I've blogged about 90's strats before - the necks are great.  The bodies are typically heavier than more modern strats and don't have the same cuts/route measurements.  But I think their saddles are an acoustic improvement.  I understand the return to "vintage: rolled saddles, but they aren't "better".   I A/B this one with my 2011 Fender American Standard strat unplugged and the 90's was certainly louder, more acoustic with more "ring" to it (if that makes any sense).

The '97 pickups are as stratty-quack sounding as any I've heard.  The only confusing thing was the lack of a TBX tone pot.  It has three CTS pots so my guess is the stock pots were replaced.  Whoever did the replacement did it right as all pickups and switch positions function and sound as they should.

It didn't come with the trem bar but I happened to have an extra righty lying around so NBD.  I actually like the (opposite) curve though I might try to straighten it out jut a bit.

The neck is in great condition as are the frets.  There is some binding at the nut - the slots probably need to be widened a bit with a small dab of graphite.  No case but at the price I paid I can't complain.

So there it is, the VMware strat!

Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 VMware vExpert!

Looks like 2013 is going to be another stellar vYear!  I found out last week that I was awarded the vExpert designation again this year.  The official announcement and list can be found here:

VMware has a good thing going with this program - it gives them the opportunity to recognize those that are active in the virtualization community and provides benefits to the receivers from both VMware and it's partners.  Here's a partial list of the benefits I've received thus far:

  • Eval licenses from VMware
  • Polo shirt from Tintri (now x2)
  • Free year subscription from Train Signal
  • $100 off VMworld registration
  • Free license for V-locity Performance Accelerator from Condusiv
  • Access to various VMware beta programs like vSphere and Project NEE

On a related note, I also completed registration for VMworld 2013 last week.  A decade of VMworld!  Keep watching for my VMworld recap in early September.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Re-Purposing an Old EMC Celerra

One of the reasons I was hired by my current employer was to implement an EMC Celerra NS352 NAS/SAN that was purchased the year before.  That was six years ago.  Since then I have moved all workloads off of this storage and on to other SANs.  So what to do with this device?  We tried selling it to four different vendors that specialize in used hardware - none of them would take it, not even for free.  Ouch!  Instead of paying a recycling company to come pick it up, I decided we could re-use it for tier II or III data.  Note that the Celerra has a CLARiiON SAN back-end.  I was never impressed with the Celerra's performance (putting it nicely) but connecting the CLARiiON directly to the SAN fabric and shutting-down/disconnecting all of the NAS head components should be worth the effort.  It does have roughly 13TB of 2Gb fibre drives after-all.

A word about maintenance:  This NAS/SAN system EOL'ed in February of this year.  Now the data I'm hosting on here will not be very important - backups, temporary data, test VMs, etc, but if a disk or other component fails (and it will), it would be more than nice to get the item replaced in a timely manner.  Enter third-party maintenance.  The Celerras were already under third-party maintenance, I simply worked with the existing vendor to convert the asset from Celerra to CLARiiON.  This also had the unexpected benefit of further reducing the cost of the maintenance contract.

The following sections document the process and procedures I used to re-purpose the CLARiiON back-end of two Celerras, giving a little more life to what would have otherwise been sent to the scrap heap.

Shutdown and Cabling

  1. Power off Celerra NAS head (not CLARiiON disk shelves or Service Processor bay)
  2. Disconnect Ethernet and fiber cables from SP bay.

Re-IP The Service Processors

  1. Connect a laptop to the Ethernet port on SPA
  2. Change laptop's IP to
  3. Browse to (SPA)
  4. Logon using nasadmin/nasadmin
  5. Drill down to SPA, right-click and choose properties
  6. Under the Network tab, change IP and SP Network Name.
  7. Unplug the Ethernet cable from SPA an connect to SPB.
Repeat steps above but Browse to (SPB).
Connect both SPs to Ethernet switch.

Now the remaining steps can be performed remotely.

User Management

I recommend setting up an administrative user to coexist with nasadmin. There is also an existing "admin" user that I would just leave there. I create an account named "Administrator" with a unique password.
  1. Go to the Tools menu and select Security\User Management\Add.

Clean-up Existing LUN

There will likely be many LUNs that were configure for and consumed by the Celerra NAS part of the system.  I simply deleted all of these, event the DART/OS LUNs and RAID Groups.  I did not have any hosts defined/registered.

Enable Access Logix

  1. Right-click on the CLARiiON (serial number) and choose Properties
  2. In the Storage Access tab, in the Data Access pane, check "Access Control Enabled"

Disk Layout/Hot Spares

Next I generate a disk layout report to see what disks are assigned as hot spares. Go to the Reporting node and generate a Configuration\Available Storage report.  Check to see where the current hot spare disks are located. I typically like to have these at the end of the disk cabinet/bus enclosure. Move the spare(s) to the appropriate drive(s) as needed.

The last EMC recommendation I'm aware of is 1 hot spare per 30 disks.

SAN Fabric Configuration

Time to connect the CLARiiON to your fibre fabric. 
  • Each SP should have 2 ports. Connect one port to each fabric.
  • Both SPs should be connected to both fabrics.
  • Create an alias for each port/WWN in your SAN switch.
  • Create the zones in your SAN switch to allow the hosts to "see" the CLARiiON.
  • Save and enable the new configuration.

Host and LUN Creation, Masking

Now that the CLARiiON can see the hosts, its time to register the hosts with the CLARiiON:
  1. Right-click on the CLARiiON (the serial number) and choose Connectivity Status
  2. Note that you will need to know the WWNs of each FC port of your hosts. All of my hosts are ESXi servers, so the following instructions will be for these types of hosts.
  3. Highlight the Initiator Name and click Register
  4. The Initiator Type should be "CLARiiON Open"
  5. Enter the HBA information
  6. Enter the Host information
  7. When finished click OK
  8. Click the Refresh button and you should see the host name appear in the "Server Name" column
  9. Complete the remaining initiators.
After you have all of the hosts registered, its time to create the LUN(s) you want the hosts to consume:
  1. Create a RAID Group -
    1. Right-click on the RAID Groups node and choose 'Create RAID Group'
    2. RAID Group ID: leave the default value ("0" for the first one)
    3. Number of disks: this is the stuff that starts religous wars. To keep it simple I use groups of 5 using RAID5.
    4. RAID Type: RAID 5
    5. Disk Selection: you could leave the default of "Automatic" and Navisphere will choose for you. However, I've never liked it's choices, so set it to manual and choose the disks that make the most sense (for example, the first 5 disks in enclosure x).
  2. Create the LUN -
    1. Right-click on the RAID Group you just created and choose "Bind LUN"
    2. RAID Type - default should match the RAID Group setting
    3. RAID Group - should be the same ID as the one you selected
    4. Rebuild Priority - leave default
    5. Verify Priority - leave default
    6. Default Owner - Choose Auto
    7. LUN Size - Choose MAX from the drop-down list

Connecting It All Together

  1. Create the Storage Group -
    1. Right-click on Storage Groups and choose "Create Storage Group"
    2. I used the name of my cluster since this storage will be shared among all hosts in that cluster
  2. Add hosts to the storage group - 
    1. Right-click on the storage group name and choose "Connect Hosts"
    2. Select all of the hosts that should be a member of this group and move them to the right-hand pane
    3. Click OK
  3. Add LUNs to the Storage Group -
    1. Right-click on the storage group and choose "Select LUNs"
    2. Expand out the appropriate component and select the LUN(s)
    3. Click OK
That's it! Your hosts should now be connected to the CLARiiON storage and consuming LUNs per what youy have configured above.

Other Notes

  • I recommend documenting the config as your setting this up. This includes network names, IPs and SP WWNs which can be found at:
         Storage Domains\LocalDomain\[SerialNo]\Physical\SPs\SPA(B)\Ports
         (It's the second half of each WWN)
  • Don't forget to recan your ESXi hosts and check to make sure the paths are using RoundRobin, VMW_SATP_CX and IOPS=1
  • I would also generate a new Available Storage report after each RAID Group/LUN creation event. I save these to an Excel spreadsheet for future reference
  • Use a tool such as Solarwinds Storage Manager to monitor SAN usage and availability.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cool Tool: Seagate Wireless Plus

Okay, the Seagate Wireless Plus is probably closer to a cool "toy", but it is cool nonetheless.  I was skeptical at first - why do I need yet another storage device for media when I have Spotify for music (or one of the countless online streaming music providers)?  Why not just use Amazon Video On Demand (or one of the countless streaming movie providers)?  Well, it stores movies, music and pictures.  It can stream up to four HD movies simultaneously.  Built-in 10hr battery, Wi-Fi broadcasting, apps for iDevices and Android devices, hmmm...

Then the rationalization, er... use case, hit me - since my kids have Android tablets, I could replace the bulky CD carrier and flaky behind-the-seat DVD players in the mini-van.  Sweet!  The kids keep pulling out the cables to the point where I'm re-splicing them once every couple of months.  With this thing I can turn it on, put it in the glove box and forget about it.  Nice!

Problem!  How do I get all of those movies ripped and copied on to the drive.  Well, its going to take two more (cool) tools to get this done.  First up, Slysoft's AnyDVD HD.  One year of updates is roughly $80 and 2 years is around $103 (I'd get 2 years).  It's worth every penny.  This handy little software sits between your DVD/Blu-ray drive and your software player such that the disc appears to be unencrypted.  We need the disc to appear this way for the ripping tool to work.

Now that we have unfettered access to our movie, how do we rip and compress it into one file?  Note that if we don't compress it we'll fill up the wireless drive much sooner than we might have otherwise.  Also remember we're streaming moving to 7" Android tablets, we don't need the HD detail Blu-ray (1080p) or even DVD (480p) gives us.  After searching the Interwebs for some time I discovered the answer: DVD Catalyst 4.  As of this writing its on sale for $10 but it's worth even the full price of $20.  This product is simply amazing - the number of supported devices is staggering.

This actually presented another problem - my kids have two different devices, an Acer A100 and a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 (which has much better hardware specs).  Which device do I choose?  I tried a couple of different options but found the best compromise to be the Acer A101.  Using this profile, movies stream and playback fine on both devices.  They even work on my Samsung Galaxy S3 phone nicely.

With these two tools working together, ripping a disc to an MP4 file is an easy 2-3 click process.  After that, connect the drive via the USB port to the computer and copy the files to the "Video" folder.  That's it!

I'm about two-thirds through the discs and just now starting to break 100GB (out of 900GB+ free).  The kids have used it a dozen times on various trips w/o issue - they're happy so I'm happy!

I can highly recommend this product.  Note that I haven't discussed all of the features such as wireless Internet connectivity pass-thru.  I'm sure there are other "use cases" that I didn't even touch on.  If you need a portable drive that can be accessed wirelessly, this is it.

VMworld 2013: Are you ready?

VMworld 2013 - 10 years of VMworlds!  Registration is open - time to sign-up.  There were 45 of us that have attended every VMworld.  I predict 35 this year - time to start an office pool.

I'm on the VMworld Content Committee again this year and I'm seeing some fantastic sessions in the Business Continuity and Storage tracks.  Some are some reoccurring themes again this year such as Cloud and the Software Defined Datacenter, but I'm seeing more focus on specific aspects of these concepts - backup in the cloud, cross-cloud backup and recovery, Software Defined Storage and Software Defined Networking.  I'm seeing more on distributed storage than in past years.  I saw a demo of VMware's distributed storage tech at a session last year (I think they were calling vSAN).  I was very impressed.  Lot's of questions remain on scalability, performance and of course, when it will be released.  But given they had a working prototype last year, I have to believe it will be soon.

I remember the first VMworld - everything was anemic compared to today's event: standing-room-only sessions (if you could get in), a couple of dozen exhibitors, etc.  I do remember being blown away by some stats given by Diane Greene in the General Session, especially those on processor utilization - Mainframes=85%, Unix/mid-range=50%, x86/Wintel=5-15% (or something very similar).  Unfortunately, this video is not on the VMworld site.  However, for a blast down memory lane, check this one out:

I won't get to sign-up of another week or two but as my mom used to say "beggars can't be choosers".  And that's okay - the main thing will be getting a decent hotel within a decent walking distance.  May not be
possible this year but we'll see.

Overall it looks to be another good one.  What will be theme?  The party?  Who's the band? I'm guessing VMware has something special planned this year.  Another office pool?

See you there!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

ERROR: Call fails for “HostDatastoreSystem.QueryVmfsDatastore- CreateOptions”

I've run into this several times now when re-deploying servers as iSCSI SAN storage systems for vSphere.  What happens is there's an old filesystem partition (or two) on the device\disk so ESXi refuses to configure it as a datastore.

To fix this problem you have to delete these partition(s) from the device\disk.

Word of warning:  make sure you delete the correct partition!  If you delete the wrong partitions, you may have to recover/re-install ESXi.  The correct partitions should not be difficult to find, but now if you screw something up you can't blame me - you've been warned!

Use the vSphere client - on the ESXi host go to the Configuration tab, Storage, Devices.  Take note of the device name your trying to configure as a new datastore.

SSH into the ESXi host.
Run the following command:
fdisk -l

This will list the partitions on that disk device.

Now you need to delete these partitions:
fdisk /dev/disks/[DEVICE_NAME]

When prompted, delete each partition.  Press "d" for delete, then "1" for partition 1.  Do this for all partitions on this device.

When finished, press "w" to write the changes to disk.

You should now be able to go back into the vSphere client and create a new datastore using this device!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Using the vSphere 5 CLI for Storage Configuration

When Adding a new host, SAN or LUN to your vSphere environment there are some CLI commands and configuration settings you should consider.  Since Windows 7 is my primary desktop OS, I use the VMware vSphere CLI for Windows.  You can download the latest version from VMware's downloads site.

Before using any of the commands below, please review your SAN manufacturers best practices documentation for vSphere environments.  Can't find any?  Then you bought the wrong SAN!  Seriously, most manufacturers provide something around documentation - if Google doesn't help try using Bing... better yet, try contacting your VAR.

View Devices and Their Settings
To view devices and some of their related settings, use the following command:
esxcli -s [HOSTNAME] -u root -p [PASSWORD] storage nmp device list

Set Storage Array Type and Path Selection Policy
One of the first things you'll want to do is change the DEFAULT Path Selection Policy (PSP) for whatever storage array types (SATP) you're using.  This way, when adding a new LUN/device, the type will be set to the proper type automatically.  Most modern arrays support ROUND ROBIN.  To change the array type, use the following command:
esxcli -s [ESXHOST] -u root -p [PASSWORD] storage nmp satp set --default-psp VMW_PSP_RR --satp VMW_SATP_ALUA (or VMW_SATP_CX, etc.)

Note that this will not change/update existing LUNs/devices.  I recommend using the vSphere client for this unless you have many that need to be updated.  In this case, use the following command:
FOR /F %G IN ('esxcli --server [HOSTNAME] --username root --password [PASSWORD] storage nmp device list ^| findstr naa.600') DO esxcli --server [HOSTNAME] --username root --password [PASSWORD] storage nmp device set --device %G --psp VMW_PSP_RR

Note 1: In the above command, I loop through and set the RR policy for all devices that begin with "naa.600" - set the NAA ID for your environment as needed.

Note 2: the Linux command uses grep but Windows has FINDSTR.  Took a bit for me to figure out but if nothing else, this is the big find in this article - your welcome!

Set the IOPs Value
Finally, most array manufacturers recommend setting IOPS to "1".  To change the IOPs parameter, use the following command (again, thank you FINDSTR!):
FOR /F %G IN ('esxcli --server [HOSTNAME] --username root --password [PASSWORD] storage nmp device list ^| findstr naa.6005') DO esxcli --server [HOSTNAME] --username root --password [PASSWORD] storage nmp psp roundrobin deviceconfig set -d %G --iops 1 --type iops

Note:  As in the previous command, I loop through and set the IOPs parameter for devices that start with "naa.600" - set this for your environment as needed.

Now the "devices" hosted on your array should be optimally configured for use by vSphere 5.  Don't forget to go through and check each host.

Other Helpful Commands

esxcli storage vmfs extent list
esxcli storage core device detached list
esxcli storage core device detached remove -d [NAA ID]
esxcli storage core adapter rescan [ -A vmhba# | --all ]
esxcli storage filesystem list
esxcli storage filesystem unmount [-u <UUID> | -l <label> | -p <path> ]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

vSphere 5.1 Upgrade: Home Lab

Being a vExpert has its benefits, one of which is getting a year-long evaluation license for VMware vCloud Suite 5 Enterprise.  Since this includes vSphere 5.1 (vCenter and ESXi), I was inspired to get my home lab back up and running again.

Heads-up warning:  this stuff is never as easy as it's supposed to be.  We had an old saying at my previous employer: "it takes 100 hours"!  When someone complained that they were spending too much time on a task, the joke was always, "did you put your 100 hours in?"  Anyway, I digress...

Setting Up the Environment
The first step was getting my old/used Dell 2950 server racked and connected.  Racking it up and connecting to a KVM was easy.  Connecting it to my network was not.  I recently moved my old rack out of my office to an unfinished part of my basement - with no network drops, of course.  So I bought a small 4-port GbE switch and 50ft cable with the idea of running the cable to my existing switch still located in my office.  Since my office is in the finished part of my basement, I needed to run the cable through the ceiling and down the far wall.  I had done this several times using a draw-string to pull the cable through.  Well this time the string decided to break - I heard a snap! - the cable didn't even make it half way.

Great, now I have to figure out how to fish the cable through and find it to pull it back down near the area where my switch lives.  Long story short, there went my first 50 hours, but I did finally get the cable and new pull string through.  Did I mention that I hate pulling cable?

Physical Server Installation and Configuration
Next up - updating BIOS and component firmware of the server.  This went w/o a hitch.  The Remote Access Card works great, no need to stand in front of the server in the basement.

I then installed ESXi 5.1 to a 2GB Kingston flash drive plugged into the back of the server.  Again, installation completes successfully.  I rebooted the server, connected via the vSphere client and configured the standard settings - NTP time, local datastore, etc.

Installing the First VM
I created a VM to host the Active Directory domain controller.  I decided to use Windows Server 2012 since this was a brand new install in a new home lab network.  This allows me to explore/learn the new features of AD on Sever 2012 and give me some future-proofing.

Installing vCenter 5.1
With the domain controller up and running it was time to create a VM for vCenter 5.1.  I'm using the simple installation method since this is for a home lab and I'm keeping all of the components on the same VM.  I decided to use Windows Server 2012 again to be consistent, if for no other reason.  I know this is not supported per the compatibility list, but have read other admin using this version with success.  Not my luck though.  I got an error message stating the the installation was interrupted before it could be completed, and that I should check the logs.  Hmmm... I tried again using a different service account during the installation but no luck.  I even tried logging on as the local administrator security context and still no luck - each time I got the same error.  So vCenter 5.1 simple install on Windows Server 2012 = FAIL.  There goes another 25 hours!

At this point, I've decided to try the vCenter Server appliance.  This should actually be the easist and fastest way to deploy a new instance of vCenter, right?  There are other benefits as well: this will be the only option within the next several releases, the appliance is easy to upgrade, it includes a better, built-in database (vPostgreSQL) and most of the limitations of the 5.0 vCenter appliance have been removed.  Seems like a no-brainer.  Too bad it didn't work either(!).  I'm not sure how a brand new instance deployed on a brand new install of ESXi can fail, but it did.  The OVA deployed fine, vCenter appears to start fine, but 2 plugins failed to start: "VMware vCenter Storage Monitoring and Reporting" and " vCenter Service Status".    The error is "the request failed because the remote server took too long to respond".  Manually enabling the storage monitoring plugin works, gut the service status plugin still fails.  I'd had enough of that so I deleted the VM.  There goes another 10 hours!

Since that experiment failed, I wanted to go back to using a Windows OS which is not a bad thing since I suspect that this is what most environments will be using for some time to come.  Getting back to using a compatible OS, I deployed a Windows Server 2008 R2 VM.  Again, I start a simple installation of vCenter.  This time, I get a different (SSO) error:
Error 29148.STS configuration error.

What the heck!?!?  This is a plan, vanilla install on a newly built VM!  Now I'm losing confidence of vCenter 5.1 and SSO.  I decided to try again, this time choosing to use the local network account for the service account and making sure I choose as many defaults as possible (although I was mostly doing this previously).  And finally, SUCCESS!!! (And final 15 hours!)

I logged on to the new vCenter instance via the vSphere client, added and licensed the new ESXi host and everything looked good.

Whew!  At the end of the day, I wished I could have used the vCenter appliance - it would have been more than enough for my little home lab.  But the Windows-based vCenter still works great and now I'm ready to move on.

Next up:  Web Client and Update Manager installations.  I don't expect any problems (famous last words).  Later this week or early next week I'll post how this went along with the upgrade in my company's dev/test environment.  Quick preview:  SSO issues galore.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Extending A vSphere Replicated Virtual Disk

I recently had a VM that needed one of its virtual disks extended.  vSphere Replication needed to be disabled for this disk before vCenter would allow this operation.
When reconfiguring replication for this VM/disk, it detected the original/smaller disk:
Duplicate File Found. Do you want to use this file as an initial copy?
If you choose yes, it will try to use this file instead of re-sending the entire virtual disk.  This option didn't work. I think the files are just too different (size) and it doesn't know how to handle it.

If you choose no, you can configure a different datastore, but it won't let you use the same one.  This would leave the original replicated virtual disk out there unnecessarily taking up space.

I ended up manually deleting the original replicated VMDK and had VR resend the virtual disk again.  No big deal this time as it was just Disk 0/C: drive but this could be a real PitA if you need to extend a larger disk.

Lessons learned:

  1. Size your drives properly the first time.
  2. Consider creating a new disk instead of extending an already large virtual disk (30, 40, 50GB+).