Most of my Dell servers/blades in a production setting have some sort of licensed version of iDRAC which allows me to do things like power on, power off, power cycle the servers as well as pick up a remote console of the system that gives me the same look and feel as if I were standing in front of a monitor hooked up to that server. That said, I also have a lot of one-off ESXi hosts which sit in a remote office in which we haven’t purchased the fancy iDRAC functionality. It’s not too often that I need to power cycle these machines or connect remotely and make BIOS changes but every now and then I have to – and the last thing I want to do is drive 100KM to get to the server or spend an hour on the phone walking someone through it!
The many flavors of iDRAC
Although we didn’t purchase a version of iDRAC for these remote servers, Dell still provides us with a version that allows us to manage the server in a limited capacity. We can see the 4 different versions and their differences of iDRAC below
Basic – The most stripped down version of iDRAC. Provides us with basic hardware management via IPMI v2.0 and a text-based console redirection.
Express – This includes all functionality of basic and adds a web gui to help us perform remote actions. We also get the use of the ‘racadm’ command line tools with express, along with some power monitoring and budget functionality.
Express for blades – Includes all functionality of Express and Basic, and adds a nice single user virtual console and virtual media mount/unmount capabilities.
Enterprise – All features of Express and Basic but with a dedicated NIC. Also adds a slew of other benefits such as crash video playback, remote syslog, directory services support, multi-user console collaboration, etc.
Certainly for mission critical applications you will want to be sure you purchase the Enterprise version of iDRAC. In my case though, the basic version that comes pre-installed on the servers will suit my needs perfectly. I just need something to power cycle the host and possibly change a few BIOS settings remotely.
It ain’t easy being green (or blue/white or black/silver)
No matter what colors Dell are branding themselves with these days it doesn’t change the fact that performing some of these limited functions included in the Basic version is not necessarily easy! As you can see, the Express version and above comes with a nifty web interface that can walk us through almost everything we need to do. The Basic version though forces us to rely on IPMI and the corresponding Dell tools to gain the similar type of functionality.
IPMI is essentially a standard interface that we can use to perform out-of-band management of our systems. It’s been around since 1998, which is an eternity in tech years and is widely supported with most hardware vendors today.
OMG, Enough already! How do we remotely power these things off and on?
Alright, let’s cut tot he chase here! First we need to enable IPMI over LAN within the settings of our iDRAC or BMC configuration on our servers. Yes, this means you will need physical access to the server in order to accomplish this. Depending on the generation of Dell server you have the path to get into the BMC/iDRAC settings may change (CTRL+E vs F2) but I’ll leave it up to you to figure that one out. The example below is on a T320.
First up press F2 during POST to get yourself into the system settings. From here, we will need to go into ‘System Settings’ and then ‘Serial Communication’
This is where we setup the console redirection to COM2. COM2 is what the iDRAC/BMC will use to pipe our console through so just ensure you have the Serial Communication drop-down set to ‘On with Console Redirection via COM2 ‘ and the Redirection After Boot enabled. Feel free to change all other settings to your preference, but from what I have found, having a baud rate of 115200 and a terminal type of VT100/VT220 works out the best.
This is all that needs done in the BIOS but don’t back all the way out to a reboot. Just save your changes until you get back to the first menu you seen, this time, select iDRAC settings. From here we will need to do a couple of things.
First up, under ‘Network Settings’ be sure that you have replaced the default network configuration with an IP/Gateway that you can reach. As well on this page, be sure to enable ‘IPMI over LAN’ – nothing will work if you miss this step Another thing to to note which isn’t pictured above is the LOM settings. Be sure to select the LOM (NIC) that you would like to use for your iDRAC functions.
Also, from the same menu where we selected ‘Network Settings’ be sure to go into ‘User Configuration’ and give your root user a password.
Congrats! If you had to commute out to gain physical access to the servers to do the above steps I can proudly say that we are done with the need for console access! Go ahead and go home early!
Playing around with IPMISH/IPMITOOL
So far we’ve just done the configuration but now it’s time to jump into actually performing some remote functions on these servers. First up you will need some sort of IPMI tool. There is a very popular Linux package which a lot of people use but in my examples I’ll be using the Dell BMC Utility – so if you want to follow along go ahead and install it. Once your done open up a command prompt to “c:\program files (x86)\Dell\SysMgt\BMC\”. Inside this directory you will see a bunch of files, but the ones we are going to focus on is IPMISH and IPMITOOL.
The first package we will look at is IPMISH. There are many things that IPMISH can do such as modifying the front LCD text and report on power consumption, but I’ll just go over the basic commands to power on and off our server. The syntax for IPMISH can be run in one of two ways. We can either send the command we wish to execute along with the ip and credentials or we can enter into an interactive shell and execute multiple commands in a row to the iDRAC. We will be using the latter method.
To connect to our iDRAC enter the following line at the command prompt
ipmish -ip IP_OF_iDRAC -u USER -p PASSWORD -interactive
This should bring you to an IPMI> prompt. As shown below entering the ‘help’ command will give us a list of the functions available to us.
Furthermore if you wish to get more detailed help on a command we can enter “help command”, such as “help power” shown below…
So, looking at the image above we can see that there are few options in which we can power this server on and off, so go ahead and try one – to power off your host simply type “power off”. Once your system is has shutdown we can power it back on with the command “power on”. Alternatively we could do these in a non-interactive way by using “ipmish -ip IP_OF_iDRAC -u USER -p PASS power on”
Remember earlier when we did all of the serial console redirection and mentioned we can connect to remote TEXT based console, well, this is where IPMITOOL comes in. Since we have done most the legwork already for console redirection all we have to simply do is connect to our console using IPMITOOL- the syntax to do so is outlined below
ipmitool -I lanplus -U root -P password -H IP_OF_iDRAC sol activate
Keep in mind that this is only a TEXT based console, so if you have already booted into your OS you will not see anything happening here. If you go ahead and reboot you should see the post screen scrolling through as shown below
This isn’t the easiest interface to use. Things like simply sending the F2 command to get into the BIOS is achieved through the key sequence of ESC + 2, F1 is ESX +1. Very confusing! There is an overview of all the key sequences here if you are looking for them.
Anyways, if you can afford a version of iDRAC above basic then I’d definitely recommend it! As you can see things aren’t the most user-friendly, but that said, this gets the job done! If you have any tips on how to perform remote administration on these servers in a “budget-friendly” way I’d love to hear them in the comments box below! Thanks for reading!
While riding the GO train into to the Toronto VMUG yesterday I was frantically editing some presentation slides as it turned out I needed to do a little “filler” time at the meeting since we had a sponsor drop off last-minute. The presentation was nothing big, simply a guide if you will on how to get the most from the VMware community! Turns out it was a pretty decent topic since the whole day really revolved around community, more specifically community involvement.
First up for the day was Toronto VMUG member Joel Gibson (Blog / Twitter). Joel gave us a great presentation titled “The four issues I encountered deploying vCenter and SRM 5.5 in a Windows environment”. This was most definitely the best session of the day! The engagement that Joel had with the audience had everybody participating by asking questions, offering suggestions and participating in an all out troubleshooting scenario. By the end of the presentation everybody was voicing their own problems and trying to work through troubles within their environments. This was a truly a “user-group” presentation. Thanks so much Joel and I hope this isn’t the last we hear from you.
Next up was our gracious sponsor PernixData! Pernix hit the ball out of the park (wait it’s Canada, they, uh, went roof daddy on a Vezina winning goalie ?) speaking about their flagship software FVP! Andy Daniel (Blog / Twitter) was the speaker from Pernix and he was handling all of the questions (and there were a lot of them) from the audience like a boss! I can’t speak enough about Pernix and how they have come to market with FVP. I’ve not yet used the product myself but have had many close peers recommend checking them out! Needless to say when the time comes that I need to look at accelerating my storage with SSD, I’ll probably have a look at Pernix before jumping head first into placing flash in my array!
From there I took the stage for a brief 10-15 minute discussion about the VMware community and how to get the most from it. It was nothing big really, just an outline of some of the great blogs to watch, podcasts to listen to, and people to follow on Twitter. At the end I placed a challenge to everyone that wasn’t currently on Twitter to set up an account and simply watch the VMware community interact through social. I think it would certainly be a great way for VMUG members and leadership to stay in touch in between these quarterly meetings, helping to really shape our half day and full day events into something that we really want! After all, it’s YOUR VMUG! To help drive home my point I showed the graphic to the left in which I simply mentioned my presentation idea to Angelo and Eric, and had a response from a great community member Jonathon Frappier (Blog / Twitter) within minutes (OK, 120 minutes) stating he had already done some work on the topic and offered it up for grabs! This to me is the power of Twitter!
Eric Wright (Blog / Twitter) closed the day with a talk about OpenStack and the Industry Shift with Open Cloud. Honestly, this was a “roof-daddy” of a presentation as well! If you ever get the chance to hear Eric speak I would jump on it – He’s very engaging, very entertaining, and has sessions full of memes and honestly, he could be talking about the stock market up there and I’d be interested! That said, he was talking about OpenStack, Open source, Open cloud and enterprise adoption of all these things. Big ups to Eric for taking this subject to the Toronto VMUG and thanks for the “Cheeseburger Cheese” financial tip!
As always, Angelo Luciani (Blog / Twitter) gave us a great update on ways to stay engaged within our local VMUG community, VMUG news and all that jazz! This guy runs a very tight ship when it comes to VMUG meetings and dedicates a lot of his time to help us – so thank you for that Angelo!
So, another quarterly goes by but this time leaves me pondering “Was that the best quarterly VMUG meeting I’ve ever been to?” - That’s an easy ponder because the answer is definitely YES – I had a great time as always and thanks to everyone who took time out of their day to attend, to Pernix for the sponsorship and great presentation, and to Eric, Angelo and Josh for the great presentations! Let’s keep this ball rolling into our October meeting!
Dad! What are you doing? It’s Shark Week!.’ - Dale Doback (John C Reilly) in response to his father shutting off the tv – Step Brothers
Get to VMworld – for free!!!!
In case you haven’t heard there are a couple of vendors that currently running contests that could result in YOU getting a free conference pass to VMworld! So if you haven’t signed up for any of them I suggest that you do! VMworld is a great time and very informative – it’s pure bliss for the likes of myself! So, who’s dishing out the passes. Well, just as they did last year Infinio is giving away a full conference pass, along with a coveted golden ticket to the VMunderground party! Simplivity has a couple of passes to give away – plus a hefty travel stipend to boot! VMturbo – a great sponsor of this blog has already drawn for a couple free passes so if you missed the boat there, don’t miss this one!
Register for you session now!
Keeping on the VMworld theme did you know that Session Builder has opened up this week? If you didn’t you do now. So, if you have a spare hour or two I would suggest you get over there and start to shape your VMworld experience. You’ll have over 300 rich technical sessions to chose from and it’s not an easy choice. I will be posting some of my favorites as soon as I get time to go through it but I suggest you don’t wait for me and go ahead and schedule yours as sometimes the most popular ones fill up fast – and you don’t want to stand in the standby line!!!!
Do you have what it takes to become a virtual design master?
If so you are a little late but there is always 2015!!! The second installment of Virtual Design Master has kicked off in fine form and the contestants have been handed their first challenge. From what I can tell there looks to be 11 participants this year which is completely awesome! Expect to see some great designs coming from this group! Angelo and Eric have really kicked up the prize lot this year too with a ton of awesome prizes donated by a slew of great sponsors! Be sure to catch up by watching the first episode as well as any subsequent episodes here.
Vote for your VeeamON Sessions!
Hopefully by now we all know that Veeam is heading to Vegas to host their first ever user/partner conference dubbed VeeamON. Veeam has received a ton of session requests from both internal and external and unfortunately can’t fit all that Veeam goodness into 4 days – so, they are asking you to take a quick survey to pick ‘la creme de la creme’ and help them get the absolute best of the best in terms of session content! If you plan on attending VeeamON in October I suggest filling this out. I also suggest taking me with you as I am not registered and very envious of you! I’m sure it will be a great time!
Need some books – check out #vBrownBag
Aside from dropping simply awesome knowledge on the community on almost every night of the week the #vBrownBag can also hook you up in terms of a little bit of summer reading. Currently they are hosting the Summer Book-apolooza contest on their site. They have a ton of great books to give away so if you need something to read on your flight to VMworld, chilling on the beach with your family, or some just all-around great bedtime stories for your kids get on over to professionalvmware.com and fill out the form!
There are definitely many perks that come with being designated a vExpert but one of the most beneficial in my mind is the complete access to the Trainsignal, now Pluralsight library. Pluralsight has an extensive library of online self-paced training videos – and I mean extensive…I stopped counting at roughly 600!!! The library consists of everything and anything tech based; whether you are looking brush up on your vSphere networking skills, start podcasting, or learn Ruby Pluralsight has a course for that! It’s awesome and I definitely would recommend to anyone to check it out!
But on to the real reason this post exists. When I heard that Eric Wright aka DiscoPosse (blog/twitter) had authored a Pluralsight course titled “Introduction to OpenStack” I was very excited. One, Eric is a great friend, fellow Toronto VMUG Leader and all around great guy and I was excited for him. Two, one of my goals this year was to dip my toes into the OpenStack waters to see what all the fuss was about – and an introduction course was a great way for me to start!
So whats it all aboot eh!
To start things off Eric briefly describes some of the concepts evolving around clouds, as well as the as a service mentality that IT is shifting towards. From there, Eric introduces us to OpenStack; where it came from, how its released, how its deployed and what is exactly required to run OpenStack.
Eric then gives us a great explanation of OpenStacks core services; Keystone, Glance, Nova, Nova Networking and Neutron – with each service residing on its’ own section of the course. This was key to my understanding of OpenStack as I’ve never really read up on these crazy words I’ve been hearing in the community. Eric does a great job at explaining what they are, what they do, and how they are implemented.
From here we get a great demo of the many different types of access that are provided through the Horizon dashboard and move straight into storage. Eric describes OpenStack’s Swift and Cinder in an easy to understand way, which allows us to really distinguish what makes them different and why we might chose one of the other. In my opinion, this storage module is the best part of this course.
To cap everything off Eric gives us a brief overview of some of the new functionality that was introduced in Havana, and then speaks to the many different types of OpenStack distributions that exist out there today.
Honestly this course was awesome!!! Not knowing much about OpenStack going in, I feel like I have a great general understanding of it now. Again, this is an introduction course, and it suited me perfect! Throughout the course Eric mentions that many of the concepts and functions he was speaking of will be covered in greater details in future courses – I can only hope this is true! If you haven’t heard Eric, he’s got a great radio voice and kept me interested throughout the entire course!
So, if you are in the same boat as I, and are looking to begin exploring OpenStack I would definitely recommend that you go and check out Introduction to OpenStack by @DiscoPosse over on Pluralsight.com
Thanks Eric for the great course and Thank You Pluralsight for the access!!!
A colleague of mine, one whom was attempting to troubleshoot some issues with Dell support was asking about the possiblity of gathering a DSET report on one of our hosts. DSET, or the Dell Server E-Support Tool is used to gather hardware, storage, and OS support information which consolidates into a single zip file which is used by support to troubleshoot and inventory your Dell Poweredge servers. Needless to say, DSET was pretty similar in the Windows/Physical world – simply install on the local OS, run the command and you are done.
In ESXi this becomes a little trickier. In fact, after reading up on some documentation I was somewhat reluctant, as it requires that the Dell OpenManageServer Administration bundle be installed on your host. In the past I’ve found myself fighting with Dell OpenManage and Server Administrator bundles as well as their remote counterparts. Seeing that only certain versions work with certain ESXi releases, and having to match up versioning numbers exactly to make things function properly. That, and the fact that every time I seem to hit Dell’s support site there are new releases really make things, well, let’s say troublesome (or annoying).
Nonetheless I gave it a shot and after enough experimentation I found a combination that worked – so, in case you’re having the same issues maybe this will help.
First up, OpenManage
So, first we need to install the OpenManageServer Administrator Bundle version 7.4 – you can find that located here. Go ahead and download the zip file and extract to /var/log/vmware on your host. Yes, the package will look for that specific path so you will need to be sure it is in /var/log/vmware. From there we can simply install the vib with the following command
Next – DSET
The version of DSET that we will install is 3.6. The installation for DSET is the standard Next Next type of install – so I won’t go over much of that – just be sure to select both the CIM provider and the collector. You can find it here. Once done you are good to go. Launch a command shell (as administrator) and browse to c:\Program Files(x86)\Dell\AdvDiags\DSET\bin and run the DellSystemInfo.exe command with your desired parameters (example below)
There you go! Your Dell DSET log that you can now forward off to support to get your issues looked after. This certainly isn’t a very difficult thing to do but troublesome nonetheless trying to match up versions to make things work. Anyways, hope it helps with anyone having issues.
When Unitrends acquired PHD Virtual back in 2013 the question lingering on everyone’s mind was will and how the two backup vendors would merge into a single product. For over 20 years Unitrends has had a play in the backup space with their series of hardware appliances and more recently has made a play into the virtual space with Unitrends Enterprise Backup. PHD Virtual, who showed up on the scene in 2006 with a mission to help enterprises protect their virtual environments have been innovating ever since with their flagship PHD Virtual Backup software. Fast forward to today and we can now see the fruitions of the acquisition with the release of Unitrends Virtual Backup 8.0
You will notice during this review that I don’t necessarily provide a lot of “how to” type scenarios – and that is mostly due to the fact that UVB is so simple to get installed, configured and running. I’ll simply touch on a bunch of the features that I thought helped UVB stand out against some of their competitors.
On with the installation
It’s on OVF – simply import it and power it on! At this point you are done! It doesn’t get much easier than that!
Although not quite as simple as the installation the configuration is still a matter of 5 clicks. UVB is broken down into three main roles; Engine, Management and Presentation. The Engine is the workhorse of UVB that performs all of the backup and recovering processes. The Management role contains the functions necessary to manage a single environment, meaning a single vCenter or Hyper-V instance – whereas the Presentation role delivers a single master view of all of your management and engine roles.
For my purposes and my lab I simply decided to configure all three roles on a single instance of UVB. The configuration first starts with asking whether this is your first instance of UVB or whether you are looking to scale an existing instance. Then, as shown we can see how we can quickly setup UVB by selecting a deployment scenario based on the size and scale of our environments. From there it’s a matter of setting up the roles (Management, Engine, Presentation) by providing credentials to your vCenter as well as some backup storage. From the time that I deployed the OVF to the time I began my first backup was under 10 minutes.
All new interface
The first thing I noticed after logging into UVB is the dashboard. The UI has been completely redesigned and is very simple to navigate through. As you can see below, the UI has been dramatically improved to give you a ton of information organized into 6 main sections; Dashboard, Protect, Recover, Jobs, Reports and Configure.
The initial dashboard provides you with an at a glance view on what is going on inside your backup environment as well as what parts of your infrastructure are protected or unprotected. I really love the dashboard for a couple of reasons. 1 – I don’t have a lot of time so it’s nice to see an overview of my backup infrastructure in one place, including all running jobs and replication/restore status. 2 – These days environments are very dynamic, with VMs being deployed and destroyed all the time. Having the visibility at a glance to see that I have X number of VMs which aren’t protected or backed up is crucial to me, especially with many different administrators doing things many different ways.
Let’s face it! We can have an easy installation, a breeze of a configuration and the most intuitive UI but when it really comes down to it we need a backup solution that can protect and recover our VMs – and UVB does just that!
Creating a job is very easy and can be done in a couple of ways. You can either browse through your inventory on the ‘Protect’ tab, or create the job from scratch on the ‘Jobs’ tab. Both ways are incredibly easy, so I’m not going to go into detail on how to create a job, but will touch on a few of the details and features that really stuck out in my mind.
The first backup-related item that really impressed me about UVB was speed – and not just how fast it could backup my VMs (which was lightening quick) but how fast I could go from having nothing configured to backing up my entire environment. I counted – it took me four clicks to have a job setup to protect my entire environment.
Aside from speed and ease of use, the granularity that UVB provides was another item that stood out. Utilizing the ‘Protect’ tab in the UI you are able to define things such as retention, compression, and even backup block size on a per-VM basis, not on a job based basis. Say for example you had 10 VMs - 5 requiring 10 restore points, 3 requiring 20 restore points and 2 requiring only 2 restore points you are able to do so inside of UVB, all while backing up these VMs from within the same job definition. Also, you could have one VM use a different level of compression than the others or even define priorities on a Low, Medium, High scale to determine which VMs from within the job are going to backup first.
Another useful feature of UVB 8 is the ability to pin backups. By pinning a backup, or more specifically a restore point within a backup you can guarantee that retention policies and processes will ignore that specific restore point, thus keeping it intact until it is unpinned. This to me seems like a small, but a very important feature as there are many times where I would like to keep a backup a bit longer than what my retention policy dictates – after major upgrades or changes for example. All while maintaining the deduplication and compression that has been applied to the backups.
So with our backups out of the way let’s move on to replication. The way UVB handles replication differs a bit from some of the other players in the backup space – and in a good way. UVB will actually create and deploy your replica’s from your already existing backup files. Therefore, there you only need to touch your production VMs once during your backup cycle and you are able to perform both backup and replication. This is huge as we all know snapshotting a VM can impact performance, let alone take time and resources away from our production environment – why not use the backups we already have!
Another great feature included with UVB and replication is around change. If a new disk or new network card is added to the source VM, UVB will automatically update the replica during the next scheduled job run so you can be sure that your replica’s are exact copies of your production VMs. When or if you ever need to use them, the last thing you need is a missing disk.
Let’s face it – we can backup and replicate to our hearts delight but the fact is if we can’t recover from a failure our backup solution itself has failed. UVB tends to take this to heart as they provide a number of ways to recover aside from your standard full VM restore. For instance, if we are only dealing with a partial failure and need to recover a single file or even a single Exchange or SharePoint item, UVB can do that. If the failure is a little more immediate you could consider failing over to a replica. If you haven’t enabled replication for that specific VM don’t worry, using Instant Recovery UVB is able to power on and run your VM directly from the backup file.
Aside from the many restore capabilities UVB also provides that “piece of mind” when disaster strikes that your backups and replicas are truly restorable. Utilizing a functionality called Reliable DR, both PHD (now UVB) and Unitrends appliances can automate, and orchestrate both the live failover as well as test failovers in order to ensure that their backed up and replicated VMs are truly restorable in the event of a disaster. You will notice I mentioned both PHD and Unitrends – this is where a lot of the IP of the two companies has came together. Reliable DR not only supports the testing of VMs from the UVB (PHD) virtual appliances, but fully supports all of the Unitrends physical appliances as well. In essence, Reliable DR can power on your backups at a secondary location, hosting them in an isolated network and perform various task to ensure that the VMs have been replicated properly. You can either use the built in tests that come with Reliable DR, or add your own custom scripts to be executed against the VMs. As with most of what I have talked about in this review, this is very easy and fast to setup.
When Unitrends aquired PHD I wasn’t sure what to expect – but UVB has certainly not disappointed. There is still some previous functionality that PHD had, such as CloudHook (Backing up to the cloud) , PHD Exporter (Being able to export backups to an OVF) and support for the vSphere Web Client that haven’t quite made their way into UVB yet, but these are not necessities and have been slated to be “baked” in at a later date. That said it should be noted that most any of the wizards inside of the application can be launched utilizing a plugin for the c# client. The ease of use and granularity that UVB provides is key to this release. It seems as if Unitrends and PHD have really focused on the “little things” in this release – and honestly, when we see how far a lot of backup vendors have gone in the virtualization space, it’s going to be these “little things” that really help set you apart from the rest. If you are looking for an enterprise backup solution for your environment, I would definitely recommend having a long look at UVB. They most definitely have a lot to bring to the table.