Monthly Archives: March 2012

Switching between Linux virtual terminals within the vSphere Console

One of the most used functions inside a Linux install that I use is the ability to use the keyboard commands CTRL+ALT+F(1-7) to switch between virtual terminals.  For the most part all of my Linux installs are headless, meaning no graphical installations.  I'm more comfortable inside Linux via the command line and find gnome, kde, and other window managers to slow me down.  So, for those installs that do have a window manager I normally either SSH in or switch to a different virtual terminal if on the console.

Enter my problem.  When using the VMware vSphere console on a Linux install simply throwing out a CTRL+ALT+F(1-7) does not work.  As most of you may know, the CTRL+ALT combo is reserved from within the vSphere console in order to release the hold on the mouse and keyboard.  So, in order to switch between those virtual terminals there is a little bit of a work around as it pertains to hot keys.  What I have found, is that using the combination  CTRL+ALT+SPACE+F2 will take you into a new virtual terminal.  To return back to your x session, simply hit ALT+RIGHTARROW.  

There may be other ways to do this, but I have found this to be the most consistent, so as always, leave me a comment below if I'm crazy or you have any other suggestions, concerns, thoughts, etc…  Changing the keycode to release the mouse and keyboard from the VMs console is not really an option for me, I'm way too used to it.  I'd love to hear from people as this is just one of those things that drives me a little nuts!

Veeam ONE solution now available – FOR FREE!!

That's right!  I said it!  Free!  Veeam has released their free version of Veeam ONE.  Veeam ONE is a solution that includes three great operational and management applications; Veeam Monitor, Veeam Reporter and Veeam Business View.  

Using these three applications can really help excel you into getting a better look inside your virtual environment in order to get the most performance and efficiency out of the hardware that you have.  Veeam Monitor gives you a real time view of your environment as well as alerts you when problems occur.  Giving you the latest information from within its' customizable dashboards, as well as historical trending and customizable reports from Reporter you have all the information that you need in order to pin point issues within your datacentre.  Business View allows you to group your inventory items and display them in a way that makes sense to your business (department, location, applications, etc).

If you haven't tried it out yet you might as well. Once again, IT'S FREE.  Head on over to the Veeam ONE page and get your copy to see what it can do for you and your environment.  Once you are familiar with the free version and think you are ready for a little bit more, switching to a licensed copy is as easy as applying a key!



Getting rid of that pesky shell warning in ESXi 5

We all know that we can enable SSH and the ESXi shell from within the vSphere client or through the DCUI.  This is a great feature that lets us get into the ESXi command space and run things like esxtop, esxcli commands, etc…  Problem being, that once these shells are enabled we get that pesky shell/SSH warning displayed in our vSphere client, as well, that all too familiar yellow triangle gets labeled on our host.  Now, I don't like seeing any warnings on my hosts, especially those dealing with something as minor as SSH.  Good thing is, there is a very easy way to remove or suppress these warnings.

First off, the advanced configuration setting to do this is located in the software section under 'Advanced Settings'->UserVars->UserVars.SuppressShellWarning'.  By default this setting will be set to 0, meaning display the warning.  To hide it, simply set this option to 1.

There you go!  Easy enough… if you only have one host!  But what if you had multiple clusters full of multiple hosts…. well, that's where PowerCLI comes into play.  First off, connect to your vCenter server using the Connect-VIServer servername CMDLET.  Once connected, the following command will loop though a given cluster and modify the setting on every host…

foreach ($esxhost in get-VMHost -Location CLUSTERNAME ) { $esxhost | Set-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration -Name UserVars.SuppressShellWarning -Value 1 }

And there you go!  A happy, non warning triangle life for you!

vSphere Syslog Collector – Install and Configure

I've always used vi-logger from within the vSphere Management Assistant to deal with my syslogging of our ESXi servers, that is until our last upgrade to vSphere 5.  The vi-logger command is no more within the 5.0 version of the VMA so I began looking from some alternate solutions.  Now I could of went out and used a Kiwi product or Splunk or configured a Linux box to do our syslogging, however I thought i would give the vSphere Syslog Collector that is bundled with the vCenter installation media a shot.  Honestly I don't find syslog to be a real science.  You centralize the log files, not a big deal, but having a solution all from one vendor is kind of nice.  The vSphere Syslog Collector does exactly what it says; it collects the log files from the ESXi hosts, but it also gives you some status information from within a vCenter plugin as well.  As well, it's a pretty easy install and config as you will see below.

First off mount the ISO of the vCenter installer on the server you would like to act as your collector and select 'VMware Syslog Collector' and click 'Install'.  During the install (and in VMware's documentation) it is called the vSphere Syslog Collector, however on the menu it's called the VMware Syslog Collector.  Let's just say VSC for short to cover off both names…

After accepting the EULA and licensing you should be presented with the Destinations screen.  Here we need to do a couple of things; First, select where you want the collector application to be installed and secondly, where the logs that are collected are going to be stored (Repository directory).  Also, we have the option here to chose how large we want the log files to grow as well as the number of rotations to keep.  I left all of these values at their defaults, except for the repository directory as I wanted to place this on some lower level, cheaper storage.

Next we need to chose a setup type.  I chose to go with VMware vCenter Server installation as I wanted to integrate this with my vCenter instance. Otherwise, you can chose the 'Standalone Installation' option.  

After selecting your setup type, if choosing to integrate with vCenter you will need to provide login credentials to your vCenter Server.  For the most part this should be pretty straightforward.

Next up is ports and protocols.  Again, I left all of these at default, however you may wish to change the ports that the syslog collector operate on.

Then it's just matter of specifying how it should be defined on the network and letting it install…

So that's it, the collector is now installed.  One more step, we need to tell the desired hosts where we want to ship their logs to.  This can be done in a few different ways, all accomplishing the same thing, but, to each his own, here are the methods that I'm aware of.

1. The GUI – for the non command line type people.

Select your desired host which you want to syslog.  Go to Configuration->Advanced Settings (under Software)->Syslog->Global.  From here it is as simple as setting the hostname or IP address of your syslog server in the syslog.Global.LogHost option.

***Updated April 2012***

Also, be sure to open up the syslog ports within the firewall built into ESXi itself.  Go to Configuration->Security Profile and click 'Properties' in the Firewall section.  It can be as simple as just checking the box next to syslog, however if you would like to further secure your environment you can click the 'Firewall' button at the bottom and specify which IP address/networks are allowed to connect through these ports.


2. The ESXi Command Line space

Using the following two commands you can do the exact same thing as explained in #1.

esxcli system syslog config set –loghost=vCenter01
esxcli system syslog reload
Updated – And the firewall commands to open up the correct ports and restrict access to your syslog server.
esxcli network firewall ruleset set –ruleset-id=syslog –enabled=true –allowed-all=false
esxcli network firewall ruleset allowedip add –ruleset-id syslog –ip-address

3. Host Profiles 

For those with larger installations, you can certainly set the syslog information in a host profile and remediate that against your hosts.  Those setting are located within the profile under the 'Advanced Configuration Option and the same 'Syslog.Global.logHost' option.  *** NOTE*** Until you actually create a host profile from a host that has already had this advanced option setup you will not see this option'.


As well, don't forget to set the firewall options for your syslog server in the host profile under the Firewall Configuration -> Ruleset Configuration ->syslog – Ruleset section.

4. PowerCLI

Things begin to get a little fuzzy here.  If you try to run the get and set VMHostSyslogServer cmdlets on ESXi 5 you will receive an error stating that the host isn't supported for those cmdlets, however, they still work, they still setup the syslog server.  The proper way to do this through powershell is using the get and set VMHostAdvancedConfiguration cmdlets examples below.  And once again, I found even this to be a bit quirky in the sense that I couldn't get the set-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration to just accept a -Name and -Value for the setup, but had to use the -NameValue pairing instead.  Also I'm sure someone that knows powershell (not me πŸ™‚ ) can rock this out on one line, but for now, this is what I got.

$sysloginfo = get-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration -Name "syslog.Global.logHost" -VMhost "IP of host that is already setup"
Set-VMHostAdvancedConfiguration -VMHost "IP of host you want to setup" -NameValue $sysloginfo


As for enabling the syslog in the firewall that can be achieved with the following command

Get-VMHostFirewallException -VMhost hostname -name syslog | Set-VMHostFirewallException -Enabled $true

But when it comes to setting the allowed IP I cannot for the life of me find a way to do this…I'll update later if I do, or if you do, please let me know in the comments. πŸ™‚

So there you have it!  A fully functional instance of the vSphere Syslog Collector.  As always comments, questions, concerns, rants – put'em in the comments πŸ™‚

vBenchmark – VMware’s Newest Fling

Just how long does it take me to provision a VM?  I wonder how many hours I've had my hosts in maintenance mode?  How long does it take to failover with HA?  If you have ever had any of these questions then you might want to head over to VMware Labs and download their latest fling, vBenchmark.

vBenchmark is a great tool that can be used to quantify and really sell the benefits of virtualization to both yourself and to your managers.  Broken down into four categories (Infrastructure Configuration, Efficiency, Agility, and QOS) vBenchmark parses through your vCenter tasks and event logs, rolls up all those numbers and metrics into very high-level and useful dashboards. Most of the coolness of this application however doesn't come from the fancy dashboards, it comes from the ability to share the data and see just how you rank up against similar type deployments in your geographical region, industry, and business size.  I'd highly recommend checking that out as you may be surprised.  

Installation is probably the easiest thing I have ever done.  Go to VMware Labs and download the ovf and proceed to import it as you would any other ova/ovf (File->Deploy OVF Template).  From here simply follow the deploy wizard answering the questions.  Honestly I let DHCP handle the networking for my install and it took me about 5 minutes from when I imported it to when I was firing up a browser to do the initial configuration.

Once the appliance is installed and powered on simply open up a browser and point to http://IP_OF_APPLIANCE:8080/. First off you need to specify the vCenter Server (or servers) that you want to connect to, provide some login credentials for it and click 'Add'.  Then, select the number of months of data you would like to retrieve (Anywhere between 1 and 6 months).  Once ready, click 'Initiate Query and Proceed to Dashboard'.  The appliance should now go out to your specified vCenter and start grabbing all the task and event information that it has.  Obviously, depending on how far back you requested to collect the data, the process could take a bit longer.

The next screen that you see allows you exclude certain hosts or clusters from the collection.  It recommends on the screen to definitely exclude and hosts or clusters that are running virtual desktops.  Basically, you are now setup!  That's really all there is to it!  Once the system is done collecting data you will be presented with the big selling point of this application; The dashboards.  These dashboards are broken down into the following four categories, each displaying a bit of information on the dashboard tab, with some having a little bit more detailed breakdown in their own tabs.

Infrastructure Configuration

First we see Infrastructure configuration.  This gives you a some nice calculations around the average number of physical CPUs and average amount of memory per host as well as taking a look on the virtual side of things and giving you the average number of vCPUs and average configured memory and storage per VM.  As with every single item on this page you can click to share your results and in return you will be able to see how you stack up in all of the categories to others in the same industry, location, etc…


Next up is Efficiency.  Efficiency is further broke down into obviously VM density and Memory efficiency as well as a little bit of operational efficiency.  You can see that this page shows you things like your VM Density or your average number of VMs per physical CPU (NOT CORE) as well as your ratio of total vRAM configured to the total available physical RAM in the hosts.  The admin productivity section allows you to break down operational efficiency by calculating the total number of VMs per VI-Administrator.


Agility takes yet another different look at your environment and determines how long it takes to make changes or spin up new VMs into your environment.  First off you can see the average in minutes that it takes to provision a VM.  From what I can find this metric includes the average duration in time that it takes to configure a host, add it to a cluster or vCenter, clone or deploy the VM and power it on.  The other metric displayed here Reconfiguration is basically the average duration of tasks revolving around reconfiguring a VM, Host, Network, or Storage.

Quality Of Service

Last, but certainly not least is QOS.  Here we can see some time savings of different metrics revolving around maintenance mode, vMotion, Fault Tolerance, etc.  Firstly, the Hours of Host Server Maintenance Downtime is exactly what it states, an average of the time that a host was in maintenance mode.  Somewhat related to that is the Hours of Application Downtime Avoided which is basically the average monthly hours of downtime that are avoided by utilizing vMotion during host maintenance events.  The unplanned downtime reduction (you can see I have no data here) will essentially display the average duration of failover events resulting by HA or FT.  And finally, the RTO section is the average duration of DR failovers or test failovers.

So there you have it, kind of a small intro to the latest fling.  I can certainly see value in this application, especially for those high level people who would like to see some hard numbers around the benefits of the platforms they are paying for.  Also, for that VI Admin, it's a great tool to see how you stack up against your peers, so I would encourage everyone to share their data.  You can actually see what data your will be transmitting before doing so using preview functionality and honestly, the only identifier being sent back to VMware is a license key, and really, I can't see VMware using this for any auditing purposes anyways…:)

Veeam extending even more support to Hyper-V

I'm sure as you know by now, Veeam extended support to Hyper-V customers with the latest release of their Veeam Backup and Replication.  What I just found out was that Veeam is actually planning on supporting Hyper-V with their management/monitoring solution Veeam One.

Veeam One is actually a solution provided by Veeam which includes three of their products; Monitor, Reporter and Business View.  Monitor gives you real-time, 24/7 data collection from your virtualized environment and analyzes this data using its' built in intelligence.  Reporter then 'sexifies' that data and dishes out dashboards, reports, emails, etc on a scheduled and manual basis to be sure you have the information that you need, when you need it, in an easy way to understand.  Business View takes all of this data one step further and allows you to group this data in such a way that is understandable and related to your business units, stakeholders, departments etc and in a a vApp type of view.

I've not used Hyper-V at all, thus, I'm not really familiar with any monitoring/reporting solutions for it, however, having used Veeams' monitoring solutions for VMware, I can safely say that I'm sure they would benefit any Hyper-V shop.