Archive for Intel NUC

NanoLab – Part 7 – VMware vSphere 6 on Intel NUC

Just one quick bit of good news relating to the recent vSphere 6 announcements… during the beta I tested the Intel 82579V adapter which comes as standard in the original generation of Intel NUCs, and found that it works out of the box in vSphere 6! Superb!

That means no more messing around with VIBs, you just install ESXi and start creating VMs!

There are a significant number of people in the community now using Intel NUC machines in their home labs for their low noise, power utilisation and cost. This may indicate VMware endeavouring to get more behind the home labbing community!

IMG_0002.jpg

I will post more on this when vSphere goes GA. Hopefully this support won’t change between now and then, as I believe it may have once or twice in the past…

IMG_0003.jpg

For more info on these brilliant devices, see other posts in this series: Intel NUC NanoLab

NanoLab – Part 5 – Intel NUC BIOS Update Issues FwUpdateFullBuffer

Having taken delivery of a new Intel NUC D34010WYKH this week, I followed the usual (and Intel recommended process) of upgrading the firmware / BIOS to the latest version. As it happens, this was version 0030 (WY0030.BIO). This was installed using the standard USB with a .BIO file, and press F7 method as there was obviously no OS installed.

Unfortunately having installed this version, building and booting the ESXi host, I was getting some very strange network issues. Specifically no DHCP address being picked by the host, but a manual IP would ping intermittently (around 10-15% of the time). Not good. In addition there were some very odd behaviours observed in the BIOS such as not booting from USB consistently, hanging when I hit ctrl-alt-del and others.

My guess was that this was a firmware related issue, so I decided to roll it back to an earlier version. I started with 0026 by installing the firmware using the same F7 method above. This is when I got an error message which stated FwUpdateFullBuffer followed by several numbers (no screenshot I’m afraid). At this point, the firmware update bombed out. Really not good!

Repeating the activity only achieved the same result, even with different firmware versions and install methods (such as a bootable USB drive with FreeDOS and iFlash2.exe).

After a bit of searching I found the following BIOS recovery mode instructions for situations when you have a screwed up BIOS:

  1. Copy the recovery file (*.bio) to a bootable USB device.
  2. Plug the USB device into a USB port of the target Intel NUC.
  3. Shut down the computer and unplug AC power.
    jumper
  4. Open the chassis and remove the yellow BIOS Configuration Jumper. See the Technical Product Specification for the location of this jumper.
  5. Power the system on.
  6. Wait 2-5 minutes for the update to complete.

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

    Intel NUC BIOS Recovery from 0030 to 0025

  7. The computer will either turn off when the recovery process is completed or it will prompt you to turn off the computer.
  8. Remove the USB device from the USB port.
  9. Replace the BIOS Configuration Jumper.
  10. Restart the computer.

Following the above, I have updated my Intel NUC D34010WYKH to version 0025 and have found it to be reasonably stable so far, and definitely works with ESXi.

Obviously follow any of the above suggestions at your own risk. I cannot be held responsible if your NUC becomes a BRICK, but hopefully this will save people some time and frustration, as this was several hours of messing around in my case!

Yet MORE Intel NUC Models on the way for your Nanolab!

For those of you who are regular followers of my blog, you will know I am a great proponent of the Intel NUC range for their low noise, low power, low(ish) cost, high performance and most importantly high WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) features!

Unbelievably having only just announced their second generation triumvirate of models just 2 months ago (and due out in a couple of weeks), they’re at it again, announcing a third generation already! The new models include a pair of Haswell-based “Wilson Canyon” Core i3 / Core i5 processor options, featuring up to 4 USB 3.0 ports and a full size SATA connector and are expected to land some time around Q3 this year.

I have updated the CPU table with the currently available info on the new models, and will add CPU benchmarks once available on www.cpubenchmark.net (for consistency). This also includes the recently leaked specs for the new Gen 8 HP Microservers based on Intel Pentium / Celeron processors.

GenModelCores / Threads / Logical CPUsClock Speed / Turbo (GHz)CacheMax TDP (Watts)CPU BenchFeatures
1Intel Celeron 8472/1/21.1 / None2 MB17986None
1Intel Core i3-3217U2 / 2 / 41.80 / None3 MB172272None
2Intel Core i5-3427U2 / 2 / 41.80 / 2.803 MB173611vPro & VT-d
2Intel Core i7-3537U2 / 2 / 42.00 / 3.104 MB173766VT-d
3Intel Core i3-4010U2 / 2 / 41.70 / None3 MB152253VT-d
3Intel Core i5-4250U2 / 2 / 41.30 / 2.63 MB153572VT-d
1 (G7)AMD Athlon II Neo N36L2 / 1 / 21.30 / None2 MB12751None
2 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N40L2 / 2 / 41.50 / None2 MB15946None
3 (G7)AMD Turion II Neo N54L2 / 2 / 42.20 / None2 MB251314None
4 (G8)Intel Celeron G530T2 / 2 / 42.00 / None2 MB351604iLO
4 (G8)Intel Pentium G630T2 / 1 / 22.30 / None3 MB352154iLO

IMHO you cant beat the NUC for its price / performance / noise features mentioned above. In an ideal world I would be happy to give up 2-3cm of extra board size to get some extra RAM slots and a second gig port on the VMware HCL in there, but as a tidy home lab solution they’re hard to beat!

As regards this latest batch of models, I personally still think the sweet spot is with the Intel Core i5-3427U DC53427HYE 2nd Gen model, which includes vPro for remote access, and will turbo to a handsome 2.8GHz for as little as ~£235 when I last checked. More than enough for most home lab requirements!

Maximising Perceived Memory Utilisation in vSphere

One of the few drawbacks of the Intel NUC, HP Microserver or most other small form factor motherboards is that most of these systems have only two memory DIMM slots. With current technology, this leaves you with a maximum of 2x8GB DIMMs or 16GB RAM in total. A couple of months ago the following tweet peaked my interest in trying to maximise the memory availability in my Nanolab environment, which consists of 2 NUC boxes with a total of 32GB of RAM in the cluster.

 

One of the ways in which VMware maximise VM consolidation ratios when virtualising is through a technology called Transparent Page Sharing (or TPS for short).

I was only running a relatively small number of VMs on my environment but was starting to run out of RAM and was disappointed with the levels of memory sharing I was seeing. What I had completely forgotten was that large memory page support is enabled by default, and these large pages will only be split down into 4k chunks in the event that my cluster was in memory contention.

I decided that as I am not running any particular high performance apps in my lab, I would prefer the visibility of how much RAM I actually still had available, instead of gaining maximum application performance through large page support. Enabling this was very simple, and simply required changing the advanced setting Mem.AllocGuestLargePage to 0 and waiting for TPS to kick in later that day.

My memory utilisation before was as follows:

Large Page Support Enabled

After it was as follows (you can see that not only can I see the RAM savings, but I have also added several more VMs in between screenshots):

Large Page Support Disabled

Assuming you have a large number of similar VMs within your home lab, disabling large memory page support can allow you to gain easy visibility of your maximum memory savings and actual available RAM. Implementing this in your production environments may not be ideal based on your specific workloads, however if your production policy is to be reasonably aggresive with memory overcommitment, I recommend you highlight this issue to your capacity management team to ensure they don’t go out buying extra servers or RAM unnecessarily early!

Further reading:

%d bloggers like this: