VMware did not disappoint! Finally NSX supports vSphere 6.5 and then some…

Yesterday VMware released both NSX for vSphere 6.3.o as well as the accompanying  vCenter 6.5a and ESXi 6.5a.

Before upgrading your NSX environment to 6.3 you would need to upgrade your vCenter and ESXi hosts to 6.5a as describe in the KB 2148841

It seems there was a pretty good reasons for VMware holding out on NSX so long since they introduced a lot of great new features with just a fews standouts listed below:

  • NSX kernel modules now independent of ESXi version: This enhancement helps reduce the chance of host upgrades failing due to incorrect kernel module versions since every ESXi upgrade in an NSX environment required at least 2 reboots.
  • Rebootless upgrade and uninstall on hosts: On vSphere 6.0 and later, once you have upgraded to NSX 6.3.0, any subsequent NSX VIB changes will not require a reboot. Instead hosts must enter maintenance mode to complete the VIB change.
  • NSX 6.3.0 also checks for NSX readiness before taking a host out of maintenance mode
  • Controller Disconnected Operation (CDO) mode: A new feature called Controller Disconnected Operation (CDO) mode has been introduced. This mode ensures that data plane connectivity is unaffected when hosts lose connectivity with the controller.
  • Compliance features for FIPS, Common Criteria and ICSA.
  • Improved Layer 2 VPN performance: Performance for Layer 2 VPN has been improved. This allows a single Edge appliance to support up to 1.5 Gb/s throughput, which is an improvement from the previous 750 Mb/s.

  • Linux support for Guest Introspection
  • Better interoperability between vCloud Director 8.20 and NSX 6.3.0 helps service providers offer advanced networking and security services to their tenants. vCD 8.20 with NSX 6.3.0 exposes native NSX capabilities supporting multiple tenants and tenant self-service.  (Very interested to test this and hopefully have a write up in upcoming weeks)

 

Links:

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/nsx/6.3.0/releasenotes_nsx_vsphere_630.html

https://kb.vmware.com/kb/2148841

http://pubs.vmware.com/Release_Notes/en/vsphere/65/vsphere-vcenter-server-650a-release-notes.html


 

 

vCenter Server 6.5 announcement and detailed new features list

VMware finally pulled the curtains on their new vSphere 6.5 products during the European VMworld 2016 in Barcelona.  No release dates were announced but there are a lot of good stuff here.

  • vCenter 6.5
  • SRM 6.5
  • vRops 6.3
  • vRA 7.2
  • vSAN 6.5
  • VVOLS 2.0

I was fortunate enough to be part of the vCenter 6.5 beta and was impressed with the new features and VMware’s renewed focus on their core application stack.  I also have a couple of JFJ (JumpForJoy) moments which I listed below.

  • Auto-deploy finally got a UI and is now available for configuration in the vSphere Web client.
    • Creation of image profiles
    • Creation and activation of deploy rules
    • Management of deploy rules with ability to check compliance and remediation.
    • Ability to manually match non-deployed ESXi hosts to rules.
  • Enhancements to host profiles
    • Ability to search for a specific setting name, property name, or value by filtering the host profile tree while editing the host profile.
    • Copying setting from one host profile to another profile
    • Mark host profile settings as favorite and filter based on favorites.
  • Current Web client UI and usability improvements
    • Performance improvements
    • Keyboard shortcuts
    • Keyboard support in dialogs, Wizards and Confirmations
    • Recent objects global pane
    • Related objects tab replaced with object category tabs
    • Object details title bar displays the selected object’s icon and name, action icons, and the Actions menu
  • Live refresh, yes live!  JFJ moment!  This feature is awesome and not sure why it it took this long to make this available especially since we now have to use HTML5.   The real time updates are also done across users who are logged into vSphere client at the same time.
    • Live Tasks, Trigger alarms and reset alarms.
    • Navigation tree updates
    • Custom attributes
  • Oh yes and then there is the HTML5 web client.
    • HTML5 (<vcenter>/ui) and vSphere web client (<vcenter>/vsphere-client) are both available.
    • HTML5 web client does not yet have feature parity with vSphere web client and hopefully this will happen soon, but I recommend using the HTML5 as much as possible.
  • New and updated HA features.  JFJ moments all over the place!
    • Enhancements in the way calculations and configuration is done to determine failover capacity within a cluster.
    • Cluster Resource Percentage will be the default admission control moving forward.  The default failover capacity percentage will automatically be re-calculated based on the number of hosts in the cluster
    • Admission control – “VM Resource Reduction Event Threshold” setting
      • In past versions if a cluster did not have enough failover capacity during a hardware failure event, a number of VM’s would not be allowed to restart onto other healthy hosts. This new settings is a new feature that allows admins to specify the amount of resource reduction they are willing to tolerate in the cluster, potentially allowing additional VMs to be restarted even though capacity is not present, in exchange for potential performance degradation of VMs.
      • Setting this value to 0% means that you will not allow any resource reduction of any VM resources in your environment in the event of hardware failure.
    • Configuring orchestrator restarts!
      • Allow admins to specify the order of VM restarts as well as VM dependencies (critical applications, multi-tiered applications, and infrastructure services) at the cluster level.  We finally have similar orchestrated failover capabilities as SRM except SRM allows for injections of scripts which is not availabe with HA.
        • VM restart priority now includes: Lowest, Low, Medium, High, Highest
        • VM dependency restart conditions:
          • Resource allocated – Once resources for a VM are set aside on the host, HA will move to the next VM.
          • Powered On – Occurs when the power-on command is sent to the VM. Does not wait for the VM’s guest OS to be running.
          • Guest Heartbeats detected – Requires VMware Tools. Once vSphere sees that the VMware Tools agent is running, it will proceed.
          • App Heartbeats detected –  Requires scripting with the VMware Tools SDK, however this setting allows for information of a process/application within the VM’s guest OS to be passed shared to notify when an application is up and running in the VM.
  • Enhancements in event logging
    • Improve over 30 existing events for more detailed auditing.
    • Over 20 new events for different inventory operations.
    • Syslog / RELP streams
  • Storage IO Control (SIOC) with Storage policy-based management
    • SIOC was previously enabled per datastore and VM thresholds was set within the VM settings by first configuring the disk share value and then setting the IOPS limit value for each disk .   This was cumbersome to manage.
    • SIOC is now management and configured by using SPBM.
    • For storage policies there are now new rules available for readOPS, writeOPS, readLatency, writeLatency.
  • vCenter Server appliance Backup and Restore capability
    • File based backups/restore of vCenter server appliance through the Appliance Management UI.
    • Backup to a single folder all vCenter server core configuration, inventory and historical data.
    • Backup protocols available are FTP, SFTP, FTPS, HTTP, HTTPS
    • Encryption available for backup data before it is transferred.
    • Optional vCenter data available for backup:  Stats, Events, Alarms, Tasks.
    • To restore you have to use the vCenter installer which will deploy a new vCenter server appliance and restore the backup.  You cannot restore to your existing vCenter server. Make sure your existing vCenter server appliance is powered down before running a restore.
  • Command line deployment of vCenter server appliance
    • Scripted install
    • Installation using JSON formatted template and vcsa-cli-installer
  • vCSA and PSC failover. JFJ moment!
    • I will probably create a separate blog on this topic.
    • Native option to protect a vCenter server deployment from failures in hardware, vCenter and PSC service failures.
  • New Appliance management UI
    • Shows basic health with health badges.
    • CPU and Memory graphs showing utilization trends
    • Backup appliance
    • Create support bundle
    • Perform power operations such as rebooting and shutting down the appliance
  • Migration from a Windows vCenter server 5.5 to vCenter Appliance 6.0U
  • Security enhancements
    • VM level disk encryption.
    • Encrypted vMotion capabilities
    • Secure boot model

 

Please share your thoughts if you feel I am missing any other important features.

Links:

https://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/10/introducing-vsphere-6-5.html

http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/10/whats-new-in-vsphere-6-5-vcenter-server.html

http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/10/whats-new-in-vsphere-6-5-security.html

http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2016/10/whats-new-in-vsphere-6-5-host-resource-management-and-operations.html

WinSCP connection to VCSA failed: "Received too large SFTP packet. Max supported packet size is 1024000 B"

The following error might appear when you try to connect with WinSCP to your VCSA.

This is due to login scripts that are printing words and the first 4 characters cast into the number(represents the first 4 bytes read from the server)

To fix the problem you can usually move the command that print the login script text to another proper interactive script or just remove completed, however in VMware the scenario is different and the default shell has change from bash to appliancesh.

VMware’s resolution is to use the SCP file protocol through bash shell.  However after I change to SCP I received the following error: (when default shell not set to bash)


This was fixed after changing the default shell.  I am using a newly created user account that can be used to access the server through WinSCP.  Just remember you would have to modify permissions on your files to copy them if going down this route.  You can use root account to temporary change the shell from bash to appliance to access with WinSCP. Entirely up to you.

>shell.set –enabled True
>shell
>useradd winscp
>passwd winscp
>visudo (add user with root access)
>chsh -s /bin/bash winscp

If you are using root you temporary change to bash shell and then return to appliance shell:
To return:
>chsh -s /bin/appliancesh useraccount

Links:

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2107727

https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2115983

https://winscp.net/eng/docs/message_large_packet

vCSA & PSC: Update/Patching options available

The update of either vCSA or PSC can be achieved through the VAMI interface which was introduced back in 6.0U1 or through the appliancesh command-line interface.
Method 1: VAMI and URL: 
This method requires internet access from your appliances.
  • Login to VAMI
  • https://vcenterserver.domain.com:5480/
    • U: root / P: password
  • From navigator select Update
  • This will display the current version details
  • Select Check Updates -> Check URL
  • This method will go out to VMware’s repository https://vapp-updates.vmware.com/vai-catalog/valm/… and verify you are on latest.
  • If available updates then select the Install updates -> Install all updates
  • Accept EULA
  • Wait for updates to complete.

Method 2: VAMI and custom URL: 
This method can be used if you do not have internet access from your appliances by setting up a local repository.
  • Setup a webserver on your network (ISS or Apache) that will be accessible to the vCSA and PSC.
  • Create a directory called PSC_updates or VCSA updates.  Names can be changed.
  • On VMware support site now download update but make sure to download the zip update bundle.
  • Extract the zip update bundle to the folder you created earlier.
  • Login to VAMI
  • https://vcenterserver.domain.com:5480
    • U: root / P: password
  • From navigator select Settings
  • Select “Use specified repository”
  • Click OK
  • Select Check for updates
  • If available updates then select the Install updates -> Install all update
  • Accept EULA
  • Wait for updates to complete
Method 3: VAMI and CDROM:

This method is pretty straight forward.

  • On VMware support site download the ISO for latest vCSA and/or PSC.
  • Login to vCenter Web client
  • Select vCSA or PSC appliance VM
  • Launch remote console
  • Select VMRC -> Removable devices -> CD/DVD drive 1 -> Connect to Disk Image File (iso)
  • Mount the ISO downloaded from VMware support site
  • Login to VAMI
  • https://vcenterserver.domain.com:5480/
    • U: root / P: password
  • From navigator select Update
  • Select Check Updates
  • Select Check CDROM
  • If available updates then select the Install updates -> Install all update
  • Accept EULA
  • Wait for updates to complete
Method 4: Using appliancesh command line

This method was the only way to update the appliance when vCenter 6 was released since the VAMI was only introduced in 6.0U1.  You can either mount and ISO or point to a URL for updates.  The URL can be the default VMware or 
  • On VMware support site download the ISO for latest vCSA and/or PSC.
  • Select vCSA or PSC appliance VM
  • Launch remote console
  • Select VMRC -> Removable devices -> CD/DVD drive 1 -> Connect to Disk Image File (iso)
  • Mount the ISO downloaded from VMware support site
  • SSH to VCSA or PSC
  • type # appliancesh
  • enter root password
  • To use CDROM
    • type # software-packages install –iso –acceptEulas
  • To use default VMware URL 
    • type # software-packages –url (This will use the default vmware URL to check)
  • to use local ropository URL

Product patches can be downloaded from this VMware site:
https://my.vmware.com/group/vmware/patch#search
Log files to review for updates:

/var/log/vmware/applmgmt/software-packages.log




vCenter Server SMTP authentication not supported – how to guide on getting alerts

I recently updated a customer from 5.1 to 6.0 and a couple of days later received a question on how to setup a mail server with SMTP authentication.

This of course is not possible as described in the following KB 2063147
https://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=2063147

This got me interested to setup a solution that would provide the functionality to allow outgoing email through SMTP relay service in stead of setting up a full fledged local email server.
Here are the steps I took to setup postfix on CentOS to relay outgoing email to 3de party which requires authentication.

  • Install and configured a linux operating systems.
  • Now we need to install and update the packages required for our configuration which includes postfix as well as cyrus-sasl-plain which is not installed by default on CentOS 6+
    • sudo yum install postfix cyrus-sasl cyrus-sasl-plain
  • To make postfix the default MTA in our system lets remove sendmail
    • sudo yum remove sendmail
  • Postfix setup:
    • vi /etc/postfix/main.cf
    • Configure server FQDN:
      • mydomain =
      • myhostname =
    • Configure relayhost to email provide smtp server.  Verify the port since might not be default 25 to prevent spamming.
      • relayhost =
      • relaydomain =
    • Configure cyrus-sasl-plain:
      • smtpd_sasl_auth_enable = yes
      • smtpd_sasl_path = smtpd
      • stmpd_sasl_password_maps = hash:/etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
      • smtpd_sasl_type = cyrus
      • smtp_sasl_auth_enable = yes
    • Configure receive mail so that communication can be established from all networks.  If you select inet_interfaces = localhost then can only send from local server.
      • inet_interfaces = all
      • inet_protocols = all
    • Configure additional trust and relay control
      • mynetworks_style = subnet  (if you want to specify specific network subnets)
      • mynetworks_style = host  (if you want to specify specific host names)
      • mynetworks = 127.0.0.0/8, 192.168.1.0/24
  • Now since our SMTP server requires authentication we need to setup username and password.
    • vi /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
      • yourisp.smtp.com:2525 username:password
      • the servername should match exactly what you have entered for relayhost in /etc/postfix/main.cf
  • Generate a postfix lookup table
    • postmap hash:/etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
  • Test lookup table which should return username and password
    • postmap -q yourisp.smtp.com:2525 /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd
  • Verify sasl_passwd and sasl_passwd.db files are read/write enabled for root only to protect the plain text password.
    • chmod 600 /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd /etc/postfix/sasl_passwd.db
  • Add postfix to be started at boot
    • chkconfig –add postfix
  • start service
    • /etc/init.d/postfix start
  • Send test email.
    • # sendmail -t
    • TO: addressto@test.com
    • From: addressfrom@test.com
    • Subject: Test
    • Did you get this email?
    • .
Troubleshooting:
If you check the status of service and get error:  “Master is Dead ButPid File Exists”, verify that you have removed sendmail successfully.
Connection refused when trying to send from vCenter, verify that port 25 is listening on host with # netstat -nlp | grep 25.  If it shows with 127.0.0.0/8 then it will only allow local connection.  This needs to show 0.0.0.0:25 so make sure you have inet_interfaces = all.
Some useful links:

ESXi 6: cannot synchronize host

Today had error pop up on vCenter server for vpxa service in yellow state, also found that ESXi host was showing errors for “Cannot synchronize host” as well as “quick stats on is not up-of-date”

Troubleshooting:

After doing some investigation found that one of the new hosts did not have a DNS entry created.

Fix:
This should be by now a given but always test forward and reverse DNS lookup for ESXi host before adding to vCenter server!

vCenter Server 6.0U2 errors – "lost access to volume"

Recently upgraded environment from 5.5 to vCenter Server 6.0U2.
Hardware consists of Cisco UCS with B200M3 blades and XtremIO storage.

After the upgrade users complained about slow and dropped connections to their VM’s.

Troubleshooting:

Installed a host with vCenter Server 6.0U1 and did not get the error message which was very strange, so what has changed between 6.0U1 and U2?
After reviewing the logs found that around every 30minute received errors “lost access to volumes”.
Further troubleshooting on logs revealed that this only happens on the XtremeIO datastores.

Also following warning message within vmkernel log file on ESXi host:

WARNING: NMP: nmp_PathDetermineFailure:2872: Cmd (0x85) PDL error (0x5/0x25/0x0) – path vmhba4:C0:T0:L10 device naa.514f0c514ba0000e – triggering path evaluation

Found the following KB from EMC and VMware which relates to this issue:

https://support.emc.com/kb/467750  (need login to view)

vSphere 6 added new VMCP feature with clear distinction between PDL and APD SCSI sense codes.
Good KB from VMware:
This issue relates to the XtremIO firmware (< 4.0.1) that provides a response (illegal request) to the vSphere 6.0 host SMART data request which triggers path evaluation for PDL condition.

Fix:

Upgrade XtremIO firmware to 4.0.1 and above. Latest recommended.
This issue could also affect other storage arrays so please make sure to check with VMware on this and keep the VMware KB as a live bookmark.
At end of day make sure to check the VMware compatibility guide.