Category Archives: VMware

vSAN Cluster Shutdown

A few weeks ago I had to shutdown a vSAN Cluster temporarily for a planned site-wide 24 hour power outage that was blacking out a datacentre. With the amount of warning and a multi-datacentre design this wasn’t an issue, but I made use of vSphere tags and some Powershell/PowerCLI to help with the evacuation and repopulation of the affected cluster. Hopefully some of this may be useful to others.

The infrastructure has two vSAN Clusters – Cluster-Alpha and Cluster-Beta. Cluster-Beta was the one being affected by the power outage, and there was sufficient space on Cluster-Alpha to absorb migrated workloads. Whilst they exist in different datacentres both clusters are on the same LAN and under the same vCenter.

I divided the VMs on Cluster-Beta into three categories:

  1. Powered-Off VMs and Templates. These were to stay in place, they would be inaccessible for the outage but I determined this wouldn’t present any issues.
  2. VMs which needed to migrate and stay on. These were tagged with the vSphere tag “July2019Migrate”
  3. VMs which needed to be powered off but not migrated. For example test/dev boxes which were not required for the duration. These were tagged with “July2019NOMigrate”

The tagging was important, not only to make sure I knew what was migrating and what was staying, but also what we needed to move back or power on once the electrical work had completed. PowerCLI was used to check that all powered-on VMs in Cluster-Beta were tagged one way or another.

Get the VMs in CLuster-Beta where the tag “July2019Migrate” is not assigned and the tag “July 2019NOMigrate” is not assigned and the VM is Powered On.

Get-Cluster -Name "Cluster-Beta" |Get-VM | where {
 (Get-TagAssignment -Entity $_).Tag.Name –notcontains "July2019Migrate" –and
 (Get-TagAssignment -Entity $_).Tag.Name –notcontains "July2019NOMigrate" –and
 $_.PowerState –eq “PoweredOn”}

In the week approaching the shutdown the migration was kicked off:

#Create a List of the VMs in the Source Cluster which are tagged to migrate
$MyTag= Get-Tag -Name "July2019Migrate"
$MyVMs=Get-Cluster "Cluster-Beta" | Get-VM | Where-Object {(Get-TagAssignment -Entity $_).Tags -contains $MyTag }
#Do the Migration
$TargetCluster= "Cluster-Alpha" #Target Cluster
$TargetDatastore= "vSANDatastore-Alpha" #Target Datastore on Target Cluster
$MyVMs | Move-VM -Destination (Get-Cluster -Name $TargetCluster) -Datastore (Get-Datastore -Name $TargetDatastore) -DiskStorageFormat Thin -VMotionPriority High

At shutdown time, a quick final check of the remaining powered on VMs was done and then all remaining VMs in Cluster-Beta were shut down. Once there were no running workloads on Beta it was time to shut down the vSAN cluster. This part I didn’t automate as I’m not planning on doing it a lot, and there’s comprehensive documentation in the VMware Docs site. The process is basically one of putting all the hosts into maintenance mode and then once the whole cluster is done, powering them off.

You are in a dark, quiet datacentre. There are many servers, all alike. There may be Grues here.

When power was restored, the process was largely reversed. I powered on the switches providing the network interconnect between the nodes, and then powered on those vSAN hosts and waited for them to come up. Once all the hosts were visible to vCenter, it was just a case of selecting them all and choosing “Exit Maintenance Mode”

2019-07-29 (8)

There was a momentary flash of alerts as nodes come up and wonder where their friends are, but in under a minute the cluster was passing the vSAN Health Check


At this point it was all ready to power on the VMs that had been shutdown and left on the cluster, and vMotion the migrated virtual machines back across. Again, PowerCLI simplified this process:

#Create a List of the VMs in the Source Cluster which are tagged to stay but need powering on.
$MyTag= Get-Tag -Name "July2019NOMigrate"
$MyVMs=Get-Cluster “Cluster-Alpha” | Get-VM | Where-Object {(Get-TagAssignment -Entity $_).Tags -contains $MyTag }
#Power on those VMs
$MyVMs | Start-VM

#Create a List of the VMs in the Source Cluster which are tagged to migrate (back)
$MyTag= Get-Tag -Name "July2019Migrate"
$MyVMs=Get-Cluster “Cluster-Alpha” | Get-VM | Where-Object {(Get-TagAssignment -Entity $_).Tags -contains $MyTag }
#Do the Migration
$TargetCluster= "Cluster-Beta" #New Target Cluster
$TargetDatastore= "vSANDatastore-Beta" #Target Datastore on Target Cluster
$MyVMs | Move-VM -Destination (Get-Cluster -Name $TargetCluster) -Datastore (Get-Datastore -Name $TargetDatastore) -DiskStorageFormat Thin -VMotionPriority High

Then it was just a case of waiting for the data to flow across the network and finally check that everything had migrated successfully and normality had been restored.

we have normality, I repeat we have normality…Anything you still can’t cope with is therefore your own problem. Please relax.

Trillian, via the keyboard of Douglas Adams. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Hyper-Converged Cynicism

Or “How I’ve come to love my vSAN Ready Nodes”

I’ll admit it, some years ago I was very cynical about HyperConverged Infrastructure (HCI). Outside of VDI workloads I couldn’t see how it would fit in my environment – and this was all down to the scaling model.

With the building-block architecture of HCI; storage, compute, and memory are all expanded in a linear fashion. Adding an extra host to the cluster to expand the storage capacity also increases the available memory and CPU in the pool of resources. But my workloads were varied, one day we might get a new storage-intensive application, the next week it might be one which is memory intensive. I was used to independently expanding the storage through a SAN and just the compute/memory side through the servers and didn’t want to be either running up against a capacity wall or purchasing unnecessary compute just to cater for storage demands.

This opinion changed when my own HCI journey started in 2017 with the purchase of a VMware vSAN cluster built on Dell Ready Nodes. Whist I’ll be writing about that particular technology here, the principles apply to other HCI infrastructures.

If the problem of HCI could is scaling, the solution is scale. These imbalances in load and growth balance out once a number of VMs are on the system- and this scale doesn’t have to be massive, even from the 4-host starting point of a vSAN cluster I found that when the time came to install node 5, the demands on storage and memory were roughly matched to the relevant capacities of the new node.

The original hosts need to be sized correctly, but unless you’re starting in a totally greenfield environment then you will have existing hosts and storage to interrogate and establish a baseline on current usage requirements. Use these figures, allow appropriate headroom for growth, and then add a bit more (particularly when considering the storage) to prevent the new infrastructure from running near capacity. Remember you are trading a certain level of efficiency for resilience – the cluster needs to be able to withstand at least one host loss and still have plenty of capacity for manoeuvre.

If you are going down the vSAN route, I can thoroughly recommend the ReadyNode option. Knowing that hardware will arrive and just work with the software-defined storage layer without spending hours digging in the Hardware Compatibility Lists was a great time saver, and we’re confident that we can turn round to our vendors and say “this didn’t work” without getting told “it’s because you’ve got disk controller chipset X and that’s not compatible with driver Y on version Z”. There’s a reason I named this blog “IT Should Just Work”.DellEMC vSAN ReadyNode

When expanding the cluster I consider best practice to be to expand with hosts of as similar configuration as possible to the original. If larger nodes are added (for example, storage/memory/CPU is now cheaper/bigger/faster) then these can create a performance imbalance in the cluster. For example a process running on host A might get access to a 2.2GHz CPU, but run the same process on host B with a 3GHz CPU and it will finish slower. Also worth considering is what happens when a host fails, or is taken into maintenance mode for patching. If this host is larger than it’s compatriots then (without very careful planning and capacity management) there might not be sufficient capacity on the remaining hosts to keep the workloads running smoothly.

It is possible in vSAN to add “storage-only” nodes, reducing the memory and possibly going single-socket (this saves on your license cost too!) and then using DRS rules to keep VMs off the host. Likewise “compute-only” nodes are possible, where the host doesn’t contribute any storage to the cluster. Whilst there are probably specific use-cases for both these types of nodes, the vast majority of the time I believe them to be best avoided. Without very careful consideration of workloads and operational practices these could easily land you in hot water.

So, I’m a convert. Two years down the line here and HCI is the on-premises infrastructure I’d recommend to anyone who asks. And those clouds gathering on the horizon? Well, if you migrate to VMware Cloud on AWS then you’re going to be running vSAN HCI there too!

VMworld 2018 Banner

Wear Comfortable Shoes

Ladies and Gentlemen of VMworld 2019.

Wear comfortable shoes.

If I could offer you only one tip for the conference, comfy shoes would be it.
The long term benefits of comfortable shoes have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience…
I will dispense this advice now.

Enjoy the knowledge and learning imparted at the breakout sessions; oh nevermind; you will not understand all the knowledge and learning imparted until you watch the recordings.
But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at your notes from the event and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much technology lay before you and how fabulous that UI really looked…
You can’t fit in as many parties as you imagine.

Do one thing everyday that scares you.

Present a session.

Don’t ignore other people’s opinions, don’t put up with people who ignore yours.

Talk to people.

Don’t waste your time on free pens;
Sometimes there’s T-shirts,
Sometimes there’s LEGO.
The swag list is long, and in the end, it’s only what fits in your suitcase home that counts.

Drink plenty of water.

Maybe you’ll do the Hackathon, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll watch a vBrownbag, maybe you won’t, maybe you’ll get an early night, maybe you’ll dance the funky chicken at the VMworld party.
Whatever you do, don’t worry too much when someone says on-premise.
Enjoy your time at the conference, Use it every way you can… Don’t be afraid of doing new things, or what other people think of them,
Spending time wisely is the greatest investment you’ll ever make…

Use that Early Bird pricing, you’ll miss it when it’s gone.

Be nice to your peers in the vCommunity; They are the best way to learn and the people most likely to stick with you in the future


Go to VMworld US once, but leave before it makes you hard;
Go to VMworld EU once, but leave before it makes you soft.

Accept certain inalienable truths, vBeards will grow and turn grey, vendors will talk FUD, you too will get tired, and when you do you’ll fantasise that when you were younger vChins were clean-shaven, vendors were noble, and the flash client was the best thing since sliced bread.

But trust me on the comfortable shoes…

vRealize Log Insight Upgrade-License warning

For several years vSphere admins have been able to use the Log Insight tool for free as a “25 OSI” license was included in vCenter. This has meant that deployments of up to 24 hosts (plus vCenter) have been able to use the VMware tool as a syslog server and troubleshooting tool without having to purchase further licenses.

Due to changes in licensing this is no longer possible- see KB55980: vRealize Log Insight for vCenter Server – End of Availability (EOA). Version 4.6.x of Log Insight was the last to support this free license. This KB was released summer 2018, but now (spring 2019) it’s becoming particularly relevant because of the release cycle of vCenter.

vCenter 6.7 Update 2 has recently been released, and using the VMware product compatibility matrix you can see that this requires existing Log Insight installations to be upgraded to 4.8 as Log Insight 4.6.x (and therefore the “free” license) is not compatible. So be aware, without proper preparation patching your vCenter can break your established log management environment.

To keep running Log Insight in this environment it will be necessary to now purchase separate licenses from VMware. Talk to your re-seller or VMware account manager about this as there are options for both replacing the OSI licensing model or switching to a per-CPU model which would also enable the product to collect logs from any number of guest VMs on the licensed hosts.

vSAN- Controller Driver is (not) VMware Certified

In the process of upgrading a vSAN ReadyNode cluster from ESXi 6.5 to 6.7 a warning appeared in the vSAN Health check. The first host in the cluster had gone through the upgrade and was now showing the warning “Controller driver is VMware certified” (Note 1 in the image below, click on it for a larger view). The Dell HBA330 card was using an older version of the driver (2 in the image below) than recommended (3).


All workloads were still online, but running VMware Update Manager (VUM) did not clear this warning. Looking in the VUM patch listing showed the driver for ESXi 6.5 (4) but not the version recommended for 6.7.



It was necessary to manually load these replacement drivers in. A quick google showed they could be sourced from VMware’s download site. Extract the ZIP file from the download and then use the “Upload from File” option in VUM (5) to upload the ZIP file which was inside (in this case ““). The new driver should then appear in the list (6) and will automatically be added to the “Non-Critical Host Patches” baseline (7). Final remediation is now just a case of applying that updating baseline to the host.


In this particular instance the hosts were Dell PowerEdge R630 vSAN ReadyNodes with the HBA330 SAS HBA Controller option but the principles outlined in this post should apply to other configurations with the same symptoms.