Tag Archive for homelab

NanoLab – Part 9 – Installing VMware vSphere ESXi 5.5 on Intel NUC

I successfully ran my VMware vSphere ESXi 5.1 Nanolab for 18 months on my pair of Intel NUC DC3217IYE hosts. Early this year I got around to upgrading to 5.5. I had experienced some issues with my vCenter Server Appliance so ended up just rebuilding the lab from scratch and reattaching my old data stores. Having written all of this up, I then promptly forgot to post it! So for the sake of continuity (before I do the same for 6.0 shortly), this article covers the process.

In addition I also purchased a 3rd node for my lab, the 4th Gen D34010WYKH model (also with a Core i3), with which I was able to test and prove the process on as it uses the same NIC chipset.

The following are updated instructions for installing vSphere 5.5 on Intel NUC (any model with the Intel® 82579V or Intel® I218V onboard NIC should work).

I recommend before you start, you upgrade the NUC to the latest firmware, to avoid any potential bugs (of which there were a few when they were first released). Copy the latest firmare image onto a USB stick, boot the NUC, hit F7 at the bios, find your firmware on the USB stick and let it do it’s thing:

Intel NUC Firmware Upgrade

Intel NUC Firmware Upgrade

vSphere 5.5 Install Requirements

  • A USB Stick. This should work on anything over 1-2GB but personally am using 8GB PNY Micro Sleek Attache & 16GB Kinston DataTraveler Micro drives as they’re tiny, so less likely to catch on anything as they stick out the back of the NUC box, and they cost less than £5 each.
  • A copy of VMware Workstation 8 / Fusion 6 or newer.
  • ESXi-Customizer 2.7.2 (created by Andreas Peetz)
    http://v-front.blogspot.com/p/esxi-customizer.html for adding VIBs to your image. NOTE: This can also be done by Powershell, but I like the GUI as it’s easy! (http://blogs.vmware.com/vsphere/2012/04/using-the-vsphere-esxi-image-builder-cli.html)
  • The ESXi driver for the Intel® 82579V Gigabit Ethernet Controller (e.g. for the original models using ESXi 5.5):
  • OR The ESXi driver for the Intel® I218V Gigabit Ethernet Controller (e.g. for the Haswell based D34010U models):
  • (AND) The ESXi AHCI driver for the SATA controller (if you want to use local drives in the  Haswell based D34010U models):
    • sata-xahci-1.10-1.x86_64
    • If you do choose to add this in as well to your image, simply run the customiser twice, once for the network VIB, then a second time for the SATA vin, using the interim image as your source for the final image.

Process Overview

  • Create a customised ISO with the additional Intel driver.
  • Install ESXi to your USB stick using VMware Workstation / VMware Fusion and the customised ISO you will create below.
  • Plug in your NUC, insert the USB stick, boot and go!

Part One – Create the Custom ISO

  1. Run the ESXi-Customizer-v2.7.2.exe (latest version at time of writing).
  2. This will extract the customer to the directory of your choosing.
  3. Navigate to the new directory.
  4. Run the ESXi-Customizer.cmd batch file. This will open up the GUI, where you can configure the following options:
  • Path to your ESXi Installer
  • Path to the Intel driver downloaded previously
  • Path where you want the new ISO to be saved
  1. Ensure you tick the Create (U)EFI-bootable ISO checkbox.
ESXi-Customizer with 2.3.2 vib

ESXi-Customizer with 2.3.2 vib

This will output a new custom ESXi installer ISO called ESXi-5.x-Custom.iso or similar, in the path defined above.

Part Two – Install bootable ESXi to the USB stick.
I stress that this is my preferred way of doing this as an alternative is simply to burn your customised ISO to a CD/DVD and boot using a USB DVD-ROM. That would however be a whole lot slower, and waste a blank CD!

  1. Plug your chosen USB stick into your PC.
  2. Open VMware Workstation (8 or above), VMware Fusion, or whatever you use, ideally supporting the Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI option (allowing you to nest 64-bit VMs).
  3. Create a new VM, you can use any spec you like really, as ESXi always checks on boot, but I created one with the similar specs as my intended host, single socket, 2vCPU cores. RAM doesn’t really matter either but I use at least 4GB normally. This does not require a virtual hard disk.
  4. Once the VM is created, and before you boot it, edit the CPU settings and tick the Virtualize Intel VT-x/EPT or AMD-V/RVI checkbox. This will reduce errors when installing ESXi (which checks to ensure it can virtualise 64-bit operating systems).

VMware Workstation Nesting

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 22.09.01

VMware Fusion Nesting

  1. Set the CD/DVD (IDE) configuration to Use ISO image file, and point this to the customised ISO created earlier.
  2. Once the above settings have been configured, power on the VM.
  3. As soon as the VM is powered on, in the bottom right of the screen, right click on the flash disk icon, and click Connect (Disconnect from Host).

Attach USB in VMware Workstation

Screen Shot 2014-08-29 at 21.38.18

Attach USB in VMware Fusion

  1. This will mount the USB stick inside the VM, and allow you to do a standard ESXi installation onto the stick.
ESXi Install

ESXi Install

  1. At the end of the installation, disconnect the stick, un-mount and unplug it.
Install Complete

Install Complete

Part Three – Boot and go!
This is the easy bit, assuming you don’t have any of the HDMI issues I mentioned in the first post!

  1. Plug your newly installed USB stick into the back of the NUC.
  2. Don’t forget to plug in a network cable (duh!) and keyboard for the initial configuration. If you wish to modify any bios settings (optional), you will also ideally need a mouse as the NUC runs Visual BIOS.
  3. Power on the NUC…
  4. Have fun!

That’s it!

Any questions/comments, please feel free to hit me up on twitter as I have recently disabled comments on my blog due to the insane volumes of spam bots they were attracting!

Assigning vCenter Permissions and Roles for DRS Affinity Rules

Today I was looking at a permissions element for a solution. The requirement was to provide a customer with sufficient permissions to be able to configure host and virtual machine affinity / anti-affinity groups in the vCentre console themselves, without providing any more permissions than absolutely necessary.

After spending some time trawling through vCentre roles and permissions, I couldn’t immediately find the appropriate setting; certainly nothing specifically relating to DRS permissions. A bit of Googling and Twittering also yielded nothing concrete. I finally found that the key permission required to be able to allow users to create and modify affinity groups is the “Host \ Inventory \ Modify Cluster” privilege. Unfortunately the use of this permission is a bit like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut!

roles

By providing the Modify Cluster permission, this will also provide sufficient permissions to be able to enable, Configure and disable HA, modify EVC settings, and change pretty much anything you like within DRS. all of these settings are relatively safe to modify without risking uptime (though they do present some risk in the event of unexpected downtime); what is a far more concerning is that these permissions and allow you to enable, configure and disable DPM! It doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to come up with scenario where for example a junior administrator accidentally enables DPM on your cluster, a large percentage of your estate unexpectedly shuts down overnight without the appropriate config to boot back up, and all hell breaks loose at 9am!

The next question then becomes, how do you ensure that this scenario is at least partly mitigated? Well it turns out that DPM can be controlled via vCenter Scheduled Tasks. Based on that, the potential workaround for this solution is to enable the Modify Cluster privilege for your users in question, then set a scheduled task to auto-disable DPM on a regular basis (such as hourly). This should at least minimise any risk, without necessarily eradicating it. Not ideal, but it would work. I’m not convinced as to whether this would be such a great idea for use on a critical production system. Certainly a bit of key training before letting anyone loose in vCenter, even with “limited” permissions, is always a good idea!

I have tested this in my homelab on vSphere 5.5 and it seems to work pretty well. I don’t have vSphere 6 set up in my homelab at the moment, so can’t confirm if the same configuration options are available, however it seems likely. I’ll test this again once I have upgraded my lab.

It would be great to see VMware provide more granular permissions in this area, as even basic affinity rules such as VM-VM anti-affinity are absolutely critical in many application solutions to ensure resilience and availability of services such as Active Directory, Exchange, web services, etc. To allow VM administrators achieve this, it should not be necessary to start handing out sledgehammers to all and sundry! 🙂

If anyone has any other suggested solutions or workarounds to this, I would be very interested to hear them? Fire me a message via Twitter, and I will happily update this post with any other suggested alternatives. Unfortunately due to inundation with spam, I removed the ability to post comments from my site back in 2014. sigh

 

NanoLab – Part 8 – Quick Tip for Blank Screen on vPro Intel NUC

Just a very quick tip for an annoying issue I have experienced with my Intel NUC DC53427HYE and never quite found the time to look into it and find a proper fix, that is until a recent twitter conversation! Kudos and many thanks to Frank Brix Pedersen and Mads Fog Albrechtslund for finding the solution and an EU reseller, and Frank for testing and posting it on his blog site.

If you have a vPro NUC and dont connect it permanently to a screen, then when you next connect to it via the vPro remote KVM interface, you get nothing but a blank black screen.

Link to Franks post is here which explains the symptoms and fix in detail:
http://www.vfrank.org/2015/04/28/running-the-intel-nuc-headless-with-vmware-esxi/

Frank has the NUC5i5MYHE model, but the fault looks identical to the issue I have been seeing so I will be following his post and purchasing a Fit Headless dongle from Tiny Green PC for £12 (and a rather ripoff £12 postage cost unfortunately, but there don’t seem to be any other UK suppliers). It is also available from opencompany.dk for others in the EU.

I will update this post once I have tested it on the DC53427HYE!

 

NanoLab – Part 6 – Keeping Your NUCs Cool (Quick Tip)

Just a very quick tip I discovered this weekend.

If you are using your Intel NUCs with any anger, they will likely run reasonably hot to the touch and typically you would just place them horizontally on a surface as per the pictures above. For optimum performance and lifespan, we all know it’s always important to keep your NUCs as cool as possible!

The NUCs are also designed to be mounted vertically on the back of a monitor/stand/wall/desk or similar, using the VESA mount. What I didn’t realise is that whether mounted or not, if you run them on their side, they seem to actually maintain lower temperatures.

I’m not sure if the same would apply for the newer generation of NUCs with the 2.5″ drive cages, which also have small vents down the side, but it certainly works on the standard models.

Vertical running of NUCs

Vertical running of NUCs

This seems to work pretty well for me, but as always, I take no responsibility if your NUC explodes with the fire of a thousand suns!

That is all.

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