Posts Tagged ‘vSphere’

Dell Compellent is not an ALUA Storage Array

May 16, 2016

dell_compellentDell Compellent is Dell’s flagship storage array which competes in the market with such rivals as EMC VNX and NetApp FAS. All these products have slightly different storage architectures. In this blog post I want to discuss what distinguishes Dell Compellent from the aforementioned arrays when it comes to multipathing and failover. This may help you make right decisions when designing and installing a solution based on Dell Compellent in your production environment.

Compellent Array Architecture

In one of my previous posts I showed how Compellent LUNs on vSphere ESXi hosts are claimed by VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA instead of VMW_SATP_ALUA SATP, which is the default for all ALUA arrays. This happens because Compellent is not actually an ALUA array and doesn’t have the tpgs_on option enabled. Let’s digress for a minute and talk about what the tpgs_on option actually is.

For a storage array to be claimed by VMW_SATP_ALUA it has to have the tpgs_on option enabled, as indicated by the corresponding SATP claim rule:

# esxcli storage nmp satp rule list

Name                 Transport  Claim Options Description
-------------------  ---------  ------------- -----------------------------------
VMW_SATP_ALUA                   tpgs_on       Any array with ALUA support

This is how Target Port Groups (TPG) are defined in section 5.8.2.1 Introduction to asymmetric logical unit access of SCSI Primary Commands – 3 (SPC-3) standard:

A target port group is defined as a set of target ports that are in the same target port asymmetric access state at all times. A target port group asymmetric access state is defined as the target port asymmetric access state common to the set of target ports in a target port group. The grouping of target ports is vendor specific.

This has to do with how ports on storage controllers are grouped. On an ALUA array even though a LUN can be accessed through either of the controllers, paths only to one of them (controller which owns the LUN) are Active Optimized (AO) and paths to the other controller (non-owner) are Active Non-Optimized (ANO).

Compellent does not present LUNs through the non-owning controller. You can easily see that if you go to the LUN properties. In this example we have four iSCSI ports connected (two per controller) on the Compellent side, but we can see only two paths, which are the paths from the owning controller.

compellent_psp

If Compellent presents each particular LUN only through one controller, then how does it implement failover? Compellent uses a concept of fault domains and control ports to handle LUN failover between controllers.

Compellent Fault Domains

This is Dell’s definition of a Fault Domain:

Fault domains group front-end ports that are connected to the same Fibre Channel fabric or Ethernet network. Ports that belong to the same fault domain can fail over to each other because they have the same connectivity.

So depending on how you decided to go about your iSCSI network configuration you can have one iSCSI subnet / one fault domain / one control port or two iSCSI subnets / two fault domains / two control ports. Either of the designs work fine, this is really is just a matter of preference.

You can think of a Control Port as a Virtual IP (VIP) for the particular iSCSI subnet. When you’re setting up iSCSI connectivity to a Compellent, you specify Control Ports IPs in Dynamic Discovery section of the iSCSI adapter properties. Which then redirects the traffic to the actual controller IPs.

If you go to the Storage Center GUI you will see that Compellent also creates one virtual port for every iSCSI physical port. This is what’s called a Virtual Port Mode and is recommended instead of a Physical Port Mode, which is the default setting during the array initialization.

Failover scenarios

Now that we now what fault domains are, let’s talk about the different failover scenarios. Failover can happen on either a port level when you have a transceiver / cable failure or a controller level, when the whole controller goes down or is rebooted. Let’s discuss all of these scenarios and their variations one by one.

1. One Port Failed / One Fault Domain

If you use one iSCSI subnet and hence one fault domain, when you have a port failure, Compellent will move the failed port to the other port on the same controller within the same fault domain.

port_failed

In this example, 5000D31000B48B0E and 5000D31000B48B0D are physical ports and 5000D31000B48B1D and 5000D31000B48B1C are the corresponding virtual ports on the first controller. Physical port 5000D31000B48B0E fails. Since both ports on the controller are in the same fault domain, controller moves virtual port 5000D31000B48B1D from its original physical port 5000D31000B48B0E to the physical port 5000D31000B48B0D, which still has connection to network. In the background Compellent uses iSCSI redirect command on the Control Port to move the traffic to the new virtual port location.

2. One Port Failed / Two Fault Domains

Two fault domains scenario is slightly different as now on each controller there’s only one port in each fault domain. If any of the ports were to fail, controller would not fail over the port. Port is failed over only within the same controller/domain. Since there’s no second port in the same fault domain, the virtual port stays down.

port_failed_2

A distinction needs to be made between the physical and virtual ports here. Because from the physical perspective you lose one physical link in both One Fault Domain and Two Fault Domains scenarios. The only difference is, since in the latter case the virtual port is not moved, you’ll see one path down when you go to LUN properties on an ESXi host.

3. Two Ports Failed

This is the scenario which you have to be careful with. Compellent does not initiate a controller failover when all front-end ports on a controller fail. The end result – all LUNs owned by this controller become unavailable.

two_ports_failed_2

luns_down

This is the price Compellent pays for not supporting ALUA. However, such scenario is very unlikely to happen in a properly designed solution. If you have two redundant network switches and controllers are cross-connected to both of them, if one switch fails you lose only one link per controller and all LUNs stay accessible through the remaining links/switch.

4. Controller Failed / Rebooted

If the whole controller fails the ports are failed over in a similar fashion. But now, instead of moving ports within the controller, ports are moved across controllers and LUNs come across with them. You can see how all virtual ports have been failed over from the second (failed) to the first (survived) controller:

controller_failed

Once the second controller gets back online, you will need to rebalance the ports or in other words move them back to the original controller. This doesn’t happen automatically. Compellent will either show you a pop up window or you can do that by going to System > Setup > Multi-Controller > Rebalance Local Ports.

Conclusion

Dell Compellent is not an ALUA storage array and falls into the category of Active/Passive arrays from the LUN access perspective. Under such architecture both controller can service I/O, but each particular LUN can be accessed only through one controller. This is different from the ALUA arrays, where LUN can be accessed from both controllers, but paths are active optimized on the owning controller and active non-optimized on the non-owning controller.

From the end user perspective it does not make much of a difference. As we’ve seen, Compellent can handle failover on both port and controller levels. The only exception is, Compellent doesn’t failover a controller if it loses all front-end connectivity, but this issue can be easily avoided by properly designing iSCSI network and making sure that both controllers are connected to two upstream switches in a redundant fashion.

First Look at UCS Performance Manager

May 12, 2016

Overview

perf_gaugeCisco UCS has been in the market for seven years now. It was quite expensive blade chassis when it was first introduced by Cisco in March 2009, but has reached the price parity with most of the server vendors these days.

Over the course of the last seven years Cisco has built a great set of products, which helps UCS customers in various areas:

  • UCS Central for configuration management across multiple Cisco UCS domains
  • UCS Director for infrastructure automation not only of UCS, but also network, storage and virtualization layers (don’t expect it to support any other vendors than Cisco for IP networks, though)
  • UCS Performance Manager for performance monitoring and capacity planning, which can also tap into your network, storage, virtualization and even individual virtual machines

UCS Performance Manager

UCS Performance Manager was first released in October 2014. The product comes in two versions – full and express. PM Express covers only servers, hypervisors and operating systems. The full version on top of that supports storage and network devices. Product is licensed on a per UCS server basis. So you don’t pay for additional network/storage devices or hypervisors.

PM supports vSphere hypervisor (plus Hyper-V), Cisco networking and EMC VNX / EMC VMAX / NetApp FAS storage arrays. By the list of the supported products you may quickly guess that the full version of Performance Manager is targeted mainly at NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock and EMC VSPEX customers.

Product architecture

UCS Performance Manager can be downloaded and quickly deployed as a virtual appliance. You might be shocked when you start it up first time, as the appliance by default comes configured with 8 vCPUs and 40GB of RAM. If you’re using it for demo purposes you can safely reduce it to something like 2-4 vCPUs and 8-12GB of RAM. You will experience some slowdowns during the startup, but performance will be acceptable overall.

UCS PM is built on Zenoss monitoring software and is essentially a customized version of Zenoss Service Dynamics with Cisco UCS ZenPacks. You may notice references to Zenoss throughout the management GUI.

ucspm_zenoss

Two main components of the solution are the Control Center and the Performance Manager itself. Control Center is a container orchestration product, which runs Performance Manager as an application in Docker containers (many containers).

ucspm_docker

When deploying Performance Manager you start with one VM and then you can scale to up to four VMs total. Each of the VMs can run in two modes – master or agent. When you deploy the first VM you will have to select it’s role at first login. You have to have one master host, which also runs an agent. And if you need to scale you can deploy three additional agent VMs and build a ZooKeeper cluster. One master host can support up to 500 UCS servers, when configured with 8 vCPUs and 64GB of RAM. Depending on your deployment size you may not ever need to scale to more than one Performance Manager VM.

Installation

After you’ve deployed the OVA you will need to log in to the VM’s CLI and change the password, configure the host as a master, set up a static IP, DNS, time zone, hostname and reboot.

Then you connect to Control Center and click “+ Application” button in the Applications section and deploy UCS PM on port 4979. For the hostname use Control Center’s hostname.

deploy_ucspm

Once the UCS PM application is deployed, click on the Start button next to UCS PM line in the Applications section

start_ucspm

Performance manager is accessible from a separate link which is Control Center’s hostname prefixed with “ucspm”. So if your CC hostname is ucspm01.domain.local, UCS PM link will be https://ucspm.ucspm01.domain.local:443. You can see it in Virtual Host Names column. You will have to add an alias in DNS which would point from ucspm.ucspm01.domain.local to ucspm01.domain.local, otherwise you won’t be able to connect to it.

When you finally open UCS PM you will see a wizard which will ask you to add the licences, set an admin account and add your UCS chassis, VMware vCenters and UCS Central if you happen to have one. In the full version you will have a chance to add storage and network devices as well.

ucspm_wizard

UCS performance monitoring

Probably the easiest way to start working with Performance Manager is to jump from the dashboard to the Topology view. Topology view shows your UCS domain topology and provides an easy way to look at various components from one screen.

ucspm_topology

Click on the fabric interconnect and you can quickly see the uplink utilization. Click on the chassis and you will get summarized FEX port statistics. How about drilling down to a particular port-channel or service profile or vNIC? UCS Performance Manager can give you the most comprehensive information about every UCS component with historical data up to 1 year based on the default storage configuration.

north_traffic

Another great feature you may want to straight away drill down into is Bandwidth Usage, which gives you an overview of bandwidth utilization across all UCS components, which you can look at from a server or network perspective. This can let you quickly identify such things as uneven workload distribution between the blades or maybe uneven traffic distribution between fabric interconnect A and B side or SAN/LAN uplinks going to the upstream switches.

ucspm_bandwidth

You can of course also generate various reports to determine your total capacity utilization or if you’re for example planning to add memory to your blades, you can quickly find out the number of DIMM slots available in the corresponding report.

memory_slots

VMware performance monitoring

UCS Performance Manager is not limited to monitoring only Cisco UCS blade chassis even in the Express version. You can add your hypervisors and also individual virtual machines. Once you add your vCenter to the list of the monitored devices you get a comprehensive list of VMware components, such as hosts, VMs, datastores, pNICs, vNICs and associated performance monitoring graphs, configuration information, events, etc.

Performance Manager can correlate VMware to UCS components and for example for a given VM provide you FC uplink utilization on the corresponding fabric interconnects of the chassis where this VM is running:

vmware_stats

If you want to go further, you can add individual VMs to Performance Manager, connected via WinRM/SSH or SNMP. Some cool additional functionality you get, which is not available in VMware section is the Dynamic View. Dynamic View lets you see VM connectivity from the ESXi host it’s running on all the way through to blade, chassis, vNIC, VIC, backplane port, I/O module and fabric interconnect. Which is very helpful for troubleshooting connectivity issues:

dynamic_view

Conclusion

UCS Performance Manager is not the only product for performance monitoring in virtualized environments. There are many others, VMware vRealize Operations Manager is one of the most popular of its kind. But if you’re a Cisco UCS customer you can definitely benefit from the rich functionality this product offers for monitoring UCS blade chassis. And if you are a lucky owner of NetApp FlexPod, VCE Vblock or EMC VSPEX, UCS Performance Manager for you is a must.

pm_dashboard

How Admission Control Really Works

May 2, 2016

confusionThere is a moment in every vSphere admin’s life when he faces vSphere Admission Control. Quite often this moment is not the most pleasant one. In one of my previous posts I talked about some of the common issues that Admission Control may cause and how to avoid them. And quite frankly Admission Control seems to do more harm than good in most vSphere environments.

Admission Control is a vSphere feature that is built to make sure that VMs with reservations can be restarted in a cluster if one of the cluster hosts fails. “Reservations” is the key word here. There is a common belief that Admission Control protects all other VMs as well, but that’s not true.

Let me go through all three vSphere Admission Control policies and explain why you’re better of disabling Admission Control altogether, as all of these policies give you little to no benefit.

Host failures cluster tolerates

This policy is the default when you deploy a vSphere cluster and policy which causes the most issues. “Host failures cluster tolerates” uses slots to determine if a VM is allowed to be powered on in a cluster. Depending on whether VM has CPU and memory reservations configured it can use one or more slots.

Slot Size

To determine the total number of slots for a cluster, Admission Control uses slot size. Slot size is either the default 32MHz and 128MB of RAM (for vSphere 6) or if you have VMs in the cluster configured with reservations, then the slot size will be calculated based on the maximum CPU/memory reservation. So say if you have 100 VMs, 98 of which have no reservations, one VM has 2 vCPUs and 8GB of memory reserved and another VM has 4 vCPUs and 4GB of memory reserved, then the slot size will jump from 32MHz / 128MB to 4 vCPUs / 8GB of memory. If you have 2.0 GHz CPUs on your hosts, the 4 vCPU reservation will be an equivalent of 8.0 GHz.

Total Number of Slots

Now that we know the slot size, which happens to be 8.0 GHz and 8GB of memory, we can calculate the total number of slots in the cluster. If you have 2 x 8 core CPUs and 256GB of RAM in each of 4 ESXi hosts, then your total amount of resources is 16 cores x 2.0 GHz x 4 hosts = 128 GHz and 256GB x 4 hosts = 1TB of RAM. If your slot size is 4 vCPUs and 8GB of RAM, you get 64 vCPUs / 4 vCPUs = 16 slots (you’ll get more for memory, but the least common denominator has to be used).

total_slots

Practical Use

Now if you configure to tolerate one host failure, you have to subtract four slots from the total number. Every VM, even if it doesn’t have reservations takes up one slot. And as a result you can power on maximum 12 VMs on your cluster. How does that sound?

Such incredibly restrictive behaviour is the reason why almost no one uses it in production. Unless it’s left there by default. You can manually change the slot size, but I have no knowledge of an approach one would use to determine the slot size. That’s the policy number one.

Percentage of cluster resources reserved as failover spare capacity

This is the second policy, which is commonly recommended by most to use instead of the restrictive “Host failures cluster tolerates”. This policy uses percentage-based instead of the slot-based admission.

It’s much more straightforward, you simply specify the percentage of resources you want to reserve. For example if you have four hosts in a cluster the common belief is that if you specify 25% of CPU and memory, they’ll be reserved to restart VMs in case one of the hosts fail. But it won’t. Here’s the reason why.

When calculating amount of free resources in a cluster, Admission Control takes into account only VM reservations and memory overhead. If you have no VMs with reservations in your cluster then HA will be showing close to 99% of free resources even if you’re running 200 VMs.

failover_capacity

For instance, if all of your VMs have 4 vCPUs and 8GB of RAM, then memory overhead would be 60.67MB per VM. For 300 VMs it’s roughly 18GB. If you have two VMs with reservations, say one VM with 2 vCPUs / 4GB of RAM and another VM with 4 vCPUs / 2GB of RAM, then you’ll need to add up your reservations as well.

So if we consider memory, it’s 18GB + 4GB + 2GB = 24GB. If you have the total of 1TB of RAM in your cluster, Admission Control will consider 97% of your memory resources being free.

For such approach to work you’d need to configure reservations on 100% of your VMs. Which obviously no one would do. So that’s the policy number two.

Specify failover hosts

This is the third policy, which typically is the least recommended, because it dedicates a host (or multiple hosts) specifically just for failover. You cannot run VMs on such hosts. If you try to vMotion a VM to it, you’ll get an error.

failover_host

In my opinion, this policy would actually be the most useful for reserving cluster resources. You want to have N+1 redundancy, then reserve it. This policy does exactly that.

Conclusion

When it comes to vSphere Admission Control, everyone knows that “Host failures cluster tolerates” policy uses slot-based admission and is better to be avoided.

There’s a common misconception, though, that “Percentage of cluster resources reserved as failover spare capacity” is more useful and can reserve CPU and memory capacity for host failover. But in reality it’ll let you run as many VMs as you want and utilize all of your cluster resources, except for the tiny amount of CPU and memory for a handful of VMs with reservations you may have in your environment.

If you want to reserve failover capacity in your cluster, either use “Specify failover hosts” policy or simply disable Admission Control and keep an eye on your cluster resource utilization manually (or using vROps) to make sure you always have room for growth.

Changing the Default PSP for Dell Compellent

April 26, 2016

dell_compellentIf you’ve ever worked with Dell Compellent storage arrays you may have noticed that when you initially connect it to a VMware ESXi host, by default VMware Native Multipathing Plugin (NMP) uses Fixed Path Selection Policy (PSP) for all connected LUNs. And if you have two ports on each of the controllers connected to your storage area network (be it iSCSI or FC), then you’re wasting half of your bandwidth.

compellent_psp

Why does that happen? Let’s dig deep into VMware’s Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA) and see how it treats Compellent.

How Compellent is claimed by VMware NMP

If you are familiar with vSphere’s Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA) and NMP (which is the only PSA plug-in that every ESXi host has installed by default), then you may know that historically it’s always had specific rules for such Asymmetric Logical Unit Access (ALUA) arrays as NetApp FAS and EMC VNX.

Run the following command on an ESXi host and you will see claim rules for NetApp and DGC devices (DGC is Data General Corporation, which built Clariion array that has been later re-branded as VNX by EMC):

# esxcli storage nmp satp rule list

Name              Vendor  Default PSP Description
----------------  ------- ----------- -------------------------------
VMW_SATP_ALUA_CX  DGC                 CLARiiON array in ALUA mode
VMW_SATP_ALUA     NETAPP  VMW_PSP_RR  NetApp arrays with ALUA support

This tells NMP to use Round-Robin Path Selection Policy (PSP) for these arrays, which is always preferable if you want to utilize all available active-optimized paths. You may have noticed that there’s no default PSP in the VNX claim rule, but if you look at the default PSP for the VMW_SATP_ALUA_CX Storage Array Type Plug-In (SATP), you’ll see that it’s also Round-Robin:

# esxcli storage nmp satp list

Name              Default PSP  
----------------- -----------
VMW_SATP_ALUA_CX  VMW_PSP_RR

There is, however, no default claim rule for Dell Compellent storage arrays. There are a handful of the following non array-specific “catch all” rules:

Name                 Transport  Claim Options Description
-------------------  ---------  ------------- -----------------------------------
VMW_SATP_ALUA                   tpgs_on       Any array with ALUA support
VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA  fc                       Fibre Channel Devices
VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA  fcoe                     Fibre Channel over Ethernet Devices
VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA  iscsi                    iSCSI Devices

As you can see, the default PSP for VMW_SATP_ALUA is Most Recently Used (MRU) and for VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA it’s VMW_PSP_FIXED:

Name                Default PSP   Description
------------------- ------------- ------------------------------------------
VMW_SATP_ALUA       VMW_PSP_MRU
VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA VMW_PSP_FIXED Supports non-specific active/active arrays

Compellent is not an ALUA storage array and doesn’t have the tpgs_on option enabled. As a result it’s claimed by the VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA rule for the iSCSI transport, which is why you end up with the Fixed path selection policy for all LUNs by default.

Changing the default PSP

Now let’s see how we can change the PSP from Fixed to Round Robin. First thing you have to do before even attempting to change the PSP is to check VMware Compatibility List to make sure that the round robin PSP is supported for a particular array and vSphere combination.

vmware_hcl

As you can see, round robin path selection policy is supported for Dell Compellent storage arrays in vSphere 6.0u2. So let’s change it to get the benefit of being able to simultaneously use all paths to Compellent controllers.

For Compellent firmware versions 6.5 and earlier use the following command to change the default PSP:

# esxcli storage nmp satp set -P VMW_PSP_RR -s VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA

Note: technically here you’re changing PSP not specifically for the Compellent storage array, but for any array which is claimed by VMW_SATP_DEFAULT_AA and which also doesn’t have an individual SATP rule with PSP set. Make sure that this is not the case or you may accidentally change PSP for some other array you may have in your environment.

The above will change PSP for any newly provisioned and connected LUNs. For any existing LUNs you can change PSP either manually in each LUN’s properties or run the following command in PowerCLI:

# Get-Cluster ClusterNameHere | Get-VMHost | Get-ScsiLun | where {$_.Vendor -eq
“COMPELNT” –and $_.Multipathpolicy -eq “Fixed”} | Set-ScsiLun -Multipathpolicy
RoundRobin

This is what you should see in LUN properties as a result:

compellent_psp_2

Conclusion

By default any LUN connected from a Dell Compellent storage array is claimed by NMP using Fixed path selection policy. You can change it to Round Robin using the above two simple commands to make sure you utilize all storage paths available to ESXi hosts.

Implications of Ignoring vSphere Admission Control

April 5, 2016

no-admissionHA Admission Control has historically been on of the lesser understood vSphere topics. It’s not intuitive how it works and what it does. As a result it’s left configured with default values in most vSphere environments. But default Admission Control setting are very restrictive and can often cause issues.

In this blog post I want to share the two most common issues with vSphere Admission Control and solutions to these issues.

Issue #1: Not being able to start a VM

Description

Probably the most common issue everyone encounters with Admission Control is when you suddenly cannot power on VMs any more. There are multiple reasons why that might happen, but most likely you’ve just configured a reservation on one of your VMs or deployed a VM from an OVA template with a pre-configured reservation. This has triggered a change in Admission Control slot size and based on the new slot size you no longer have enough slots to satisfy failover requirements.

As a result you get the following alarm in vCenter: “Insufficient vSphere HA failover resources”. And when you try to create and boot a new VM you get: “Insufficient resources to satisfy configured failover level for vSphere HA”.

admission_error

Cause

So what exactly has happened here. In my example a new VM with 4GHz of CPU and 4GB of RAM was deployed. Admission Control was set to its default “Host Failures Cluster Tolerates” policy. This policy uses slot sizes. Total amount of resources in the cluster is divided by the slot size (4GHz and 4GB in the above case) and then each VM (even if it doesn’t have a reservation) uses at least 1 slot. Once you configure a VM reservation, depending on the number of VMs in your cluster more often than not you get all slots being used straight away. As you can see based on the calculations I have 91 slots in the cluster, which have instantly been used by 165 running VMs.

slot_calculations

Solution

You can control the slot size manually and make it much smaller, such as 1GHz and 1GB of RAM. That way you’d have much more slots. The VM from my previous example would use four slots. And all other VMs which have no reservations would use less slots in total, because of a smaller slot size. But this process is manual and prone to error.

The better solution is to use “Percentage of Cluster Resources” policy, which is recommended for most environments. We’ll go over the main differences between the three available Admission Control policies after we discuss the second issue.

Issue #2: Not being able to enter Maintenance Mode

Description

It might be a corner case, but I still see it quite often. It’s when you have two hosts in a cluster (such as ROBO, DR or just a small environment) and try to put one host into maintenance mode.

The first issue you will encounter is that VMs are not automatically vMotion’ed to other hosts using DRS. You have to evacuate VMs manually.

And then once you move all VMs to the other host and put it into maintenance mode, you again can no longer power on VMs and get the same error: “Insufficient resources to satisfy configured failover level for vSphere HA”.

poweron_fail

Cause

This happens because disconnected hosts and hosts in maintenance mode are not used in Admission Control calculations. And one host is obviously not enough for failover, because if it fails, there are no other hosts to fail over to.

Solution

If you got caught up in such situation you can temporarily disable Admission Control all together until you finish maintenance. This is the reason why it’s often recommended to have at least 3 hosts in a cluster, but it can not always be justified if you have just a handful of VMs.

Alternatives to Slot Size Admission Control

There are another two Admission Control policies. First is “Specify a Failover Host”, which dedicates a host (or hosts) for failover. Such host acts as a hot standby and can run VMs only in a failover situation. This policy is ideal if you want to reserve failover resources.

And the second is “Percentage of Cluster Resources”. Resources under this policy are reserved based on the percentage of total cluster resources. If you have five hosts in your cluster you can reserve 20% of resources (which is equal to one host) for failover.

This policy uses percentage of cluster resources, instead of slot sizes, and hence doesn’t have the issues of the “Host Failures Cluster Tolerates” policy. There is a gotcha, if you add another five hosts to your cluster, you will need to change reservation to 10%, which is often overlooked.

Conclusion

“Percentage of Cluster Resources” policy is recommended to use in most cases to avoid issues with slot sizes. What is important to understand is that the goal of this policy is just to guarantee that VMs with reservations can be restarted in a host failure scenario.

If a VM has no reservations, then “Percentage of Cluster Resources” policy will use only memory overhead of this VM in its calculations. Which is probably the most confusing part about Admission Control in general. But that’s a topic for the next blog post.

 

RecoverPoint VE: iSCSI Network Design

March 29, 2016

recoverpointRecoverPoint is a great storage replication product, which supports Continuous Data Protection (CDP) and gives you RPO figures measured in second compared to a standard asynchronous storage-based replication solutions, where RPO is measured in minutes or even hours.

RecoverPoint comes in three flavours:

  • RecoverPoint SE/EX/CL – physical appliance for replication between VNX (RecoverPoint/SE), VNX/VMAX/VPLEX (RecoverPoint/EX) or EMC and non-EMC (RecoverPoint CL) storage arrays.
  • RecoverPoint VE – virtual edition of RecoverPoint which is installed as a VM and supports the same SE/EX/CL versions.
  • RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines – also a virtual appliance but is array-agnostic and works at a hypervisor level by replicating VMs instead of LUNs.

In this blog post we will be discussing connectivity options for RecoverPoint VE (SE edition). Make sure to not confuse RecoverPoint VE and RecoverPoint for Virtual Machines as it’s two completely different products.

VNX MirrorView ports

MirrorView is an another EMC replication solution integrated into VNX arrays. If there’s a MirrorView enabler installed, it will claim itself the first FC port and the first iSCSI port. When patching VNX iSCSI ports make sure to NOT use the ports claimed by MirrorView.

mirrorview_ports

If you use 1GbE (4-port) I/O modules you can use three ports per SP (all except port 0) and if you have 10GbE (2-port) I/O modules you can use one port per SP. I will talk about workarounds for this in the next blog post.

RPA appliance iSCSI vNICs

Each RecoverPoint appliance has two iSCSI NICs, which can be configured on either one or two subnets. If you use one 10Gb port on each SP as in the example above, then you’re forced to use one subnet. Because you obviously need at least two ports on each SP to have two networks.

If you have 1Gb modules in your VNX array, then you will most likely have two 1Gb iSCSI ports connected on each SP. In that case you can use two iSCSI subnets to reduce the number of iSCSI sessions between RPAs and a VNX.

On the vSphere side you will need to create one or two iSCSI port groups, depending on how many subnets you’ve decided to allocate and connect RPA vNICs accordingly.

rpa_iscsi

VNX iSCSI Connections

RecoverPoint clusters are deployed and connected using a special tool called Deployment Manager. It assigns all IP addresses, connects RecoverPoint clusters to VNX arrays and joins sites together.

Once deployment is finished you will have iSCSI connections created on the VNX array. Depending on how many iSCSI subnets you’re using, iSCSI connections will be configured accordingly.

1. One Subnet Example

Lets look at the one subnet topology first. In this example you have one 10Gb port per VNX SP and two ports on each of the two RPAs all on one subnet. When you right click on the storage array in Unisphere and select iSCSI > Connections Between Storage Systems you should see something similar to this.

iscsi_connections

As you can see ports iSCSI1 and iSCSI2 on RPA0 and RPA1 are mapped to two ports on the storage array A-5 and B-5. Four RPA ports are connected to two VNX ports which gives you eight iSCSI initiator records on the VNX.

iscsi_initiators

2. Two Subnets Example

If you connect two 1Gb ports per VNX SP and decide to use two subnets, then each SP will have one port on each of the two subnets. Same goes for the RPAs. Each RPA will have one vNIC connected to each subnet.

iSCSI connections will be set up a little bit differently now. Because only the VNX and RPA ports which are on the same subnet should be able to talk to each other.

iscsi_connections2

Every RPA in this example has one IP on the xxx.xxx.46.0/255.255.255.192 subnet (iSCSI A) and one IP on the xxx.xxx.46.64/255.255.255.192 subnet (iSCSI B). Similarly, ports A-10 and B-10 on the VNX are configured on iSCSI A subnet. And ports A-11 and B-11 are configured on iSCSI B subnet. Because of that, iSCSI1 ports are mapped to ports A-10/B-10 and iSCSI2 ports are mapped to ports A-11/B-11.

As we are using two subnets in this example instead of 4 RPA ports by 4 VNX ports = 16 iSCSI connections, we will have 2 RPA ports by 2 VNX ports (subnet iSCSI A) + 2 RPA ports by 2 VNX ports (subnet iSCSI B) = 8 iSCSI connections.

iscsi_initiators2

Conclusion

The goal of this post was to discuss the points which are not very well explained in RecoverPoint documentation. It’s not a comprehensive guide by any means. You can find the full deployment procedure with prerequisites, installation and configuration steps in EMC RecoverPoint Installation and Deployment Guide.

Masking a VMware LUN

February 7, 2016

maskingA month ago I passed my VCAP-DCA exam, which I blogged about in this post. And one of the DCA exam topics in the blueprint was LUN masking using PSA-related commands.

Being honest, I can hardly imagine a use case for this as LUN masking is always done on the storage array side. I’ve never seen LUN masking done on the hypervisor side before.

If you have a use case for host LUN masking leave me a comment below. I’d be curious to know. But regardless of its usefulness it’s in the exam, so we have to study it, right? So let’s get to it.

Overview

There are many blog posts on the Internet on how to do VMware LUN Masking, but only a few explain what is the exact behaviour after you type each of the commands and how to fix the issues, which you can potentially run into.

VMware uses Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA) to claim devices on ESXi hosts. All hosts have one plug-in installed by default called Native Multipathing Plug-in (NMP) which claims all devices. Masking of a LUN is done by unclaiming it from NMP and claiming using a special plug-in called MASK_PATH.

Namespace “esxcli storage core claimrule add” is used to add new claim rules. The namespace accepts multiple ways of addressing a device. Most widely used are:

  • By device ID:
    • -t device -d naa.600601604550250018ea2d38073cdf11
  • By location:
    • -t location -A vmhba33 -C 0 -T 0 -L 2
  • By target:
    • -t target  -R iscsi -i iqn.2011-03.example.org.istgt:iscsi1 -L 0
    • -t target -R fc –wwnn 50:06:01:60:ba:60:11:53 –wwpn 50:06:01:60:3a:60:11:53 (use double dash for wwnn and wwpn flags, WordPress strips them off)

To determine device names use the following command:

# esxcli storage core device list

To determine iSCSI device targets:

# esxcli iscsi session list

To determine FC paths, WWNNs and WWPNs:

# esxcli storage core path list

Mask an iSCSI LUN

Let’s take iSCSI as an example. To mask an iSCSI LUN add a new claim rule using MASK_PATH plug-in and addressing by target (for FC use an FC target instead):

# esxcli storage core claimrule add -r 102 -t target -R iscsi -i iqn.2011-03.example.org.istgt:iscsi1 -L 0 -P MASK_PATH

Once the rule is added you MUST load it otherwise the rule will not work:

# esxcli storage core claimrule load

Now list the rules and make sure there is a “runtime” and a “file” rule. Without the file rule masking will not take effect:

claimrule

The last step is to unclaim the device from the NMP plug-in which currently owns it and apply the new set of rules:

# esxcli storage core claiming unclaim -t location -A vmhba33 -C 0 -T 0 -L 0
# esxcli storage core claiming unclaim -t location -A vmhba33 -C 1 -T 0 -L 0
# esxcli storage core claimrule run

You can list devices connected to the host to confirm that the masked device is no longer in the list:

# esxcli storage core device list

Remove maskig

To remove masking, unclaim the device from MASK_PATH plug-in, delete the masking rule and reload/re-run the rule set:

# esxcli storage core claiming unclaim -t location -A vmhba33 -C 0 -T 0 -L 0
# esxcli storage core claiming unclaim -t location -A vmhba33 -C 1 -T 0 -L 0
# esxcli storage core claimrule remove -r 102
# esxcli storage core claimrule load
# esxcli storage core claimrule run

Sometimes you need to reboot the host for the device to reappear.

Conclusion

Make sure to always mask all targets/paths to the LUN, which is true for iSCSI as well as FC, as both support multipathing. You have a choice of masking by location, target and path (masking by device is not supported).

For a FC LUN, for instance, you may choose to mask the LUN by location. If you have two single port FC adapters in each host, you will typically be masking four paths per LUN.  To accomplish that specify adapters using flag -A and LUN ID using flags -C, -T and -L.

Hope that helps you to tick off this exam topic from the blueprint.

vSphere 6 VM Tools Installation Fails

January 15, 2016

Today I have encountered an issue with vSphere 6 VMware Tools when installing on a Windows Server 2008 R2 VM. Installation fails with the following error:

Service “VMware Alias Manager and Ticket Service’ (VGAuthService) failed to start. Verify that you have sufficient privileges to start system services.

The following error appears in the Application logs:

Activation context generation failed for “C:\ Program Files\ VMware\ VMware Tools\ VMware VGAuth\ VGAuthService.exe”. Dependent Assembly Microsoft.VC90.CRT, processorArchitecture=”amd64″, publicKeyToken=”1fc8b3b9a1e18e3b”, type=”win32″, version=”9.0.30729.4148″ could not be found. Please use sxstrace.exe for detailed diagnosis.

Microsoft.VC90.CRT is a Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 Runtime, which VMware Tools depend on.

vmtools_error

To fix the issue, reinstall the  Microsoft Visual C++ 2008 SP1 Redistributable packages, both x86 and x64 versions and the problem should go away.

This issue is unlikely to be specific to vSphere 6, because there is a VMware KB which describes a similar problem for an older version of the runtime:

But just in case, here is the environment setup:

  • Windows Server 2008 R2
  • vSphere vCenter 6 Update 1, b3018524
  • vSphere ESXi 6 Update 1a, b3073146
  • VMware Tools 9.10.5, b2981885

VCAP-DCA (VDCA550) Exam Experience

January 14, 2016

I haven’t blogged for a while. But I have an excuse. I’ve been preparing for my VCAP-DCA exam for a few weeks.

I’ve got the results and it’s a pass. So now it’s a good time to fill the gap and make a post about my exam experience.

Preparation

VCAP-DCAI work as an IT consultant and deal with virtualization, network and storage on a daily basis. Which was an advantage for me as I had a reasonable amount of hands on experience across most of the topics already. So my plan was to research the topics I was weak at and better align my experience with the exam requirements.

The best resource in my opinion is the book called “VCAP5-DCA Official Cert Guide”. It’s published by VMware Press and a resource which you can definitely trust to. The book comes with one practice scenario set, which has 26 questions. I paid for a premium version of the book, which had three sets of practice scenarios.

The only drawback is that the book was originally written for the VDCA510 exam and even thought it has an appendix chapter which discusses the changes in VDCA550, practice scenarios still include only the VDCA510 topics. Which means you’ll have Auto Deploy and vSphere Management Assistant questions, which are no longer in the blueprint. And won’t have vSphere Orchestrator and vSphere Replication questions, which are the new topics in VDCA550. But I still find this book as the best preparation resource so far.

Taking the exam

Time pressure was definitely there. My exam was in the afternoon. I woke up early and flew to Sydney, because there were issues booking the exam in Melbourne. I had a quick lunch in Sydney and went straight to the testing center. I was a bit tired by then, which slowed me down a bit. But I drank a double shot latte, which seemed to compensate for that.

I didn’t find questions too complicated, it really just tested configuration skills, which I practised before sitting for the exam. But you have to practise each and every topic from the blueprint or you’ll fail. I had absolutely no time to browse the docs and didn’t even try to.

I did find some of the questions a bit convoluted, which didn’t state exactly HOW to configure specific things, but more of WHAT you should configure. If that makes sense. But I assume it was intentional and it was maybe only one or two questions and didn’t play a huge role overall.

A piece of advice

Always keep an eye on your time. This is the best advice I can give. The approach I followed was to skim through all questions when the exam started and make short notes on which vSphere feature this question targetes and whether it’s an easy question or hard. I completed all easy questions first and then moved on to the hard ones. This way I made sure that if I ran out of time I would not lose any points on questions I new the answer for.

Not to go into the NDA stuff I will just say that there were a few tasks I simply skipped as I didn’t know the exact steps to complete them and I had no time to make my way through it. But I hit the passing score with 340 points and happy to pass this milestone at first attempt.

If you’re preparing for VCAP-DCA right now, wish you a good luck. Join the ranks!

Requirements for Unmounting a VMware Datastore

December 30, 2015

I have come across issues unmounting VMware datastores myself multiple times. In recent vSphere versions vCenter shows you a warning if some of the requirements are not fulfilled. It is not the case in the older vSphere versions, which makes it harder to identify the issue.

Interestingly, there are some pre-requisites which even vCenter does not prompt you about. I will discuss all of the requirements in this post.

General Requirements

In this category I combine all requirements which vCenter checks against, such as:

Requirement: No virtual machine resides on the datastore.

Action: You have to make sure that the host you are unmounting the datastore from has no virtual machines (running or stopped) registered on this datastore.  If you are unmounting just one datastore from just one host, you can simply vMotion all VMs residing on the datastore from this host to the remaining hosts. If you are unmounting the datastore from all hosts, you’ll have to either Storage vMotion all VMs to the remaining datastores or shutdown the VMs and unregister them from vCenter.

unmount_vmfs2

Requirement: The datastore is not part of a Datastore Cluster.

Requirement: The datastore is not managed by storage DRS.

Action: Drag and drop the datastore from the Datastore Cluster in vCenter to move it out of the Datastore Cluster. Second requirement is redundant, because SDRS is enabled on a datastore which is configured withing a Datastore Cluster. By removing a datastore from a Datastore Cluster you atomatically disable storage DRS on it.

Requirement: Storage I/O control is disabled for this datastore.

Action: Go to the datastore properties and uncheck Storage I/O Control option. On a SIOC-enabled datastore vSphere creates a folder named after the block device ID and keeps a file called “slotsfile” in it. Its size will change to 0.00 KB once SIOC is disabled.

Requirement: The datastore is not used for vSphere HA heartbeat.

Action: vSphere HA automatically selects two VMware datastores, creates .vSphere-HA folders and use them to keep HA heartbeats. If you have more than two datastores in your cluster, you can control which datastores are selected. Go to cluster properties > Datastore Heartbeating (under vSphere HA section) and select preferred datastores from the list. This will work if you are unmounting one datastore. If you need to unmount all datastores, you will have to disable HA on the cluster level altogether.

datastore_heartbeat

Additional Requirements

Requirements which fall in this category are not checked by vCenter, but are still have to be satisfied. Otherwise vCenter will not let you unmount the datastore.

Requirement: The datastore is not used for swap.

Action: When VM is powered on by default it creates a swap file in the VM directory with .vswp extension. You can change the default behavior and on a per host basis select a dedicated datastore where host will be creating swap files for virtual machines. This setting is enabled in cluster properties in Swapfile Location section. The datastore is then selected for each host in Virtual Machine Swapfile Location settings on the the host configuration tab.

What host also does when you enable this option is it creates a host local swap file, which is named something like this: sysSwap-hls-55de2f14-6c5d-4d50-5cdf-000c296fc6a7.swp

There are scenarios where you need to unmount the swap datastore, such as when you say need to reconnect all of your storage from FC to iSCSI. Even if you shutdown all of your VMs, datastore unmount will fail because the host swap files are still there and you will see an error such as this:

The resource ‘Datastore Name: iSCSI1 VMFS uuid: 55de473c-7f3ae2b5-f9f8-000c29ba113a’ is in use.

See the error stack for details on the cause of the problem.

Error Stack:

Call “HostStorageSystem.UnmountVmfsVolume” for object “storageSystem-29” on vCenter Server “VC.lab.local” failed.

Cannot unmount volume ‘Datastore Name: iSCSI1 VMFS uuid: 55de473c-7f3ae2b5-f9f8-000c29ba113a’ because file system is busy. Correct the problem to retry the operation.

The workaround is to change the setting on the cluster level to store VM swap file in VM directory and reboot all hosts. After a reboot the host .swp file will disappear.

If rebooting the hosts is not desirable, you can SSH to each host and type the following command:

# esxcli sched swap system set –hostlocalswap-enabled false

To confirm that the change has taken effect run:

# esxcli sched swap system get

Then check the datastore and the .swp files should no longer be there.

Conclusion

If you satisfy all of the above requirements you should have no problems when unmounting VMware datastores. vSphere creates a few additional system folders on each of the datastores, such as .sdd.sf and .dvsData, but I personally have never had issues with them.