Sunday, June 22, 2014

vCenter 5.5 Profile Driven Storage and Storage Monitoring Service Failure

I’d been having a bit of a frustrating time recently with the Profile Driven Storage Service and the Storage Monitoring Service in my vCenter 5.5 system. For some reason they just wouldn’t start. Their health check service would continually fail and give a HTTP 503 Error. The logs were also not very helpful with regard to what was going on. The VMware KB was also no help with this particular issue as it had nothing to do with the known problem around using custom ports for the services. I was almost at a total loss and then I stumbled across the solution.

Going through the logs, searching the VMware KB and Googling didn’t help. Just rebooting hadn’t helped either. Then I noticed that vCenter was consuming a lot of memory. vCenter has become a bit of a memory hog over the versions. Even though I’m not running a huge environment I already had vCenter configured with 16GB RAM, all of which it was already consuming.

I though to myself, I wonder if it’s just because there isn’t enough RAM allocated? I checked my host to ensure I had some RAM to spare and I was in luck. I shutdown my vCenter, logged directly into the host and increased it’s allocated RAM to 24GB.  After the reboot I waited patiently for all the services to start. After all the services had restarted, this is what I was greeted with when checking the vCenter Service Status:

All green lights! Excellent.

If you’re Profile Driven Storage Service or Storage Monitoring Service isn’t working. Try giving vCenter some more RAM. It’s a simple solution and might quickly solve your problem. If not, then it’s time to seek additional assistance. As always comments and feedback are welcome.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Architecting vCenter Single Sign On 5.5 (SSO)

In this article I will specifically talk about Best Practices around vCenter Single Sign-On Server and the related components. I would began this discussion with giving you a bite into the need and importance of vCenter Single-Sign On and later move towards recommendations on how to lay out the architecture of SSO. I would also like to give the credits for these slides to Nick Marshall from VMware

  • As mentioned in the slide above, vCenter SSO is the Authentication Platform for just the vSphere and related management components. This is very commonly mistaken as an enterprise wide single sign on solution.You do not have to buy a separate license for SSO as it is a part of the vCenter License and installation bundle.
  • SSO was launched with vCenter 5.1 and is now shipped along with vCenter 5.5 as well. SSO forms the authentication domain in a vSphere Infrastructure, hence a user unlike earlier version of vCenter, does not log in directly to vCenter Server. A user when logs into vCenter either via Web Client or C# client (thick client), first hits the SSO server which can be integrated to an AD/LDAP resource for user mapping. At this point a SAML 2.0 token is generated for the user which is exchanged as user credentials for that user to log in to vCenter or other vSphere Components which are supported today by vCenter SSO.
  • No operational SSO means no access to vSphere Components, hence it is the first component which needs to be designed and implemented to have a stable access mechanism.

VMware solutions which are integrated with vCenter SSO today. This makes it even more obvious that SSO is here to stay and we need to ensure that we design & implement it properly for a stable infrastructure.

  • Nearly all the components in a VMware Stack are integrated with SSO.
  • It is important to note that for vCloud Director the Provider Side of things are integrated with SSO. 
  • From a future perspective, I can clearly see VMware integrating SSO with other components of the management stack in the days to come.

For those who have used SSO with vSphere 5.1 would agree that there were issues & concerns around implementing and using SSO. There was a lot of buzz around the community which was not in favor of the concept of Single Sign-On as a vSphere component. I, being hands on guy would completely agree with the community since I faced many of those issues which made circles around the blogs & forums.

Thanks to the engineering teams at VMware, with vSphere 5.5, the entire SSO was re-written. This was a great move since it not only solved all the issues which were noticed in 5.1, it also improved the performance of the vCenter Server in its new avatar. Let’s have a quick look on what is new with vCenter Single Sign-On 5.5.
I believe the slide itself is self-explanatory, however I would like to point out to a few changes which I am impressed with. One being Built-in Replication and the other being Exclusion of Database. With these features you do not have to manually update new roles/users if you have multiple SSO instances. You can just go ahead and update one site and the replication will take care of syncing that information between all the SSO servers which are paired together. With no database, you do not have to run those nasty scripts to ensure you have a working database for SSO. Quite Cool.

On this note let's see what deployment models & upgrade options you have with vCenter SSO 5.5 in the slide below.

  • If you upgrade from vCenter 5.1 to vCenter 5.5, you can do so from any of the existing deployment model which you chose while install 5.1.
  • If you have the option of re-installing or if you are installing the vCenter 5.5 for the first time, you do not have to worry about the complex deployment models at all. You can use a Single Virtual Machine for all vCenter components, within same site or across the sites. In case you have 6 or more local vCenter, then you can have a single instance of SSO server, where all the vCenter servers will talk to this SSO server for authentication. This is to avoid multiple streams of replications among the SSO servers within the same site.
The recommendation of having a single virtual machine for all the components of the vCenter Server is showcased in the slide below.

  • Use the simple installer to have all the components install on the same virtual machine, rather than performing a split install.
  • You can install the database here, however having it on a separate VM would be beneficial when the environment scales.
  • Make sure you give enough compute power to this single virtual machine as it is hosting all the components.
Let us also look at recommendations around multi-site deployment model in the last slide.
  • Each site runs all its components individually while SSO replication maintains a single SSO domain across sites.
  • Use of Linked Mode configuration can give you a single pane of glass here.
  • So a simple install at each site would be the Best way getting rid of all the SSO nightmares you can think of.

vSphere ESX - Server 2012 - 3D Graphics Option 'Greyed Out'


Whilst attempting to add 3D graphic support to a Windows Server 2012 guest VM, the option was greyed out.


1. Locate the .vmx file for this virtual machine and download it so you can edit it (Select a Host > Configuration > Storage > {Storage the guest is on} > Right Click > Browse Data Store > {Guest VM Name}) > Download.

2. Edit the file, and add the following to the end of the vmx file;

mks.enable3d = TRUE

3. Upload the file back to your storage, at this point I checked and it was still greyed out. I had to remove the VM from the inventory* then add it back to the inventory.

*WARNING: Remove it from the inventory by right clicking the VM in the VI Client. DO NOT Delete it from Disk!

Monday, June 9, 2014

vSphere Hardening Guide 5.5 Update 1 Released!

I’m happy to announce the general availability of the vSphere Hardening Guide for vSphere 5.5 Update 1. This has been a work in progress for a little while now and I’m glad to get it out there!

There are 4 new additions to the guide. Please review.

  • enable-VGA-Only-Mode: Used for server VM’s that don’t need a graphical console. e.g. Linux web servers, Windows Core, etc.
  • disable-non-essential-3D-features: Remove 3D graphic capabilities from VM’s that don’t need them.
  • use-unique-roles: A new companion control to use-service-accounts. If you have multiple service accounts then each one should have a unique role with just enough privs to accomplish their task. This is in line with least-priv operations
  • change-sso-admin-password: A great catch. When installing Windows vCenter, you’re prompted to change the password of administrator@vsphere.local. When installing the VCSA in a default manner you are not. This control reminds you to go back and do that.
  • The rest are formatting, spelling, clarification, etc.. One interesting change is the “enable-nfc-ssl” control. That has been renamed to “verify-nfc-ssl” now that SSL is enabled by default in 5.5 for NFC traffic. All of the changes are called out in the Change Log.
Head on over to the vSphere Hardening Guide page to grab your copy now!

Upgrading your vSphere Site Recovery Manager

vSphere 5.5 going end of life in September 2018, we have been traveling all over doing workshops for upgrading to vSphere 6.x. However, wi...