Tag Archive for: vmware

A Quick Look at Turnkey Linux

23 May 2011
May 23, 2011

imageNeed a server for a quick little project? Or maybe even for some long-term development? Check out TurnKey Linux and their virtual appliances. This is a brilliant little solution! Just download a Linux-based VM configured and ready to go with whatever your app needs. Very slick.

Turnkey Linux is a virtual appliance library that integrates and polishes the very best open source software into ready to use solutions. Each virtual appliance is optimized for ease of use and can be deployed in just a few minutes on bare metal, a virtual machine and in the cloud.

For instance, I wanted to do some quick and dirty experimenting with WordPress the other day. Downloaded the appliance, fired it up with my VMware Workstations and I had a fully functional server ready to go in a matter of minutes. And not just WordPress; I also had PHPMyAdmin and even Webmin installed, configured and ready to go. Compared to building my own server and configuring it this saved me quite a bit of time.

The WP appliance is just over 200 MB and the VM is configured to run using 256MB of RAM. Works great with VMware Workstation and I have no doubt it would be just fine with the free VMware Player as well (and heck, probably Server and ESX as well but I haven’t tried those yet).

First time you run the appliance you provide some basics (like passwords) and it gets all configured up. When ready you have a nice informative display with everything you need to get rolling:

TurnKey Linux WordPress console

When you’re done with the project, chuck it and start another. You’ll always have a clean playing field. This really takes a lot of time out of starting up a new project or even doing some research. I’m a fan! Give it a shot. They have all the major CMS, blogs, and popular apps all ready to go.

There’s also the Turnkey Hub but I haven’t done any work with this one yet. Looks like a quick way to deploy a server to Amazon ECS if you’re into that sort of thing.

Fun with ESXi and HP issues. Learning Lessons

08 Jul 2010
July 8, 2010

Been a heckuva week with some some server and software issues. I’m on the downhill side of it now though so thought I’d share the tale and some lessons learned. I’ve been comfortable with ESXi for a while now, but nothing like things going bad to provide the opportunity to learn so much more!

Our patient was an HP ProLiant DL380 server that runs VMware ESXi as part of our nascent virtualization initiative. It used to be a database server and I’ve been quite pleased with how it handles running the majority of our development and QA servers. The pair of quad core CPUs rarely break a sweat.

Last week I happened to notice one of the hard drives (4 of which are in a RAID 1+0 array) had a solid amber LED lit. That is indicative of a failure so I called my friends at HP and they over-nighted a drive. I popped into the office Sunday afternoon and hot-swapped the old drive for the new one. Saw it spin up and go green and it seemed things were on track. I checked an hour or so later and it was still green and busy (presumably rebuilding the array) so I headed out of the office for a family function.

I came in Tuesday morning (2 days later) and was surprised to see the new drive — and another one two bays over — blinking amber. The green activity lights on both drives would sporadically flicker with activity but the blinking amber indicated a “Predictive Failure” is nigh.

HP wanted me to run diagnostics and send them reports so I scheduled an outage for Tuesday afternoon/evening. I figured that before I ran (potentially destructive) diagnostics I should maybe try to get some copies of the VM clients. See, I tend to treat each VM client just like any other server when it comes to backups. They all run backup software and enjoy nightly data backups. I’ve just never taken advantage of the fact that the VM client is really just a pile of files. And hey, if I lose the array I’d sure rather recover from an image of the server and then restore backups vs. building an all new server, patching it and then restoring from backups.

Don’t worry: I was shutting each machine down before trying to copy it.

I fired up  the vSphere Client app and ran the built in Datastore Browser. From there it is pretty simple to copy the machine directories. Simple and painfully slow! While looking for other options I stumbled over an article about enabling SSH on ESXi servers.

Tip: While on the console of your ESXi server hit alt + F1 and type “unsupported” and hit enter. You won’t see while you’re typing that but this will get you into the unsupported “Tech Support Mode” console. Very handy.

Tip: If you inadvertantly type “exit” in that console it appears to shut down. Toggling between alt + F1 and (the default) alt + F2 won’t help. Instead, while on the “dead” console, hit a bunch of enters. I don’t know how many, but more than 3… then type “unsupported” and hit enter again. Back in business!

Now that I had SSH working I fired up trusty WinSCP and tried pulling the files with it. Hmm, nope. That’s not any faster.

Tip: If using WinSCP, change the encryption cipher to Blowfish instead of the default AES for a bit of performance boost.

Some more digging turned up the fact that you can run an FTP server on the ESXi box. So, starting to panic about progress I gave that a shot next. Definitely faster but I wasn’t getting complete files. For one machine I might get a 20 GB .vmdk file, but then for the next I’d only get 9 out of 100 GB. It was inconsistent and frustrating since in some cases it would take an hour before crapping out. I tried watching the message log but it was so full of I/O errors that it wasn’t hardly worth using. At times it was scrolling by faster than I could read it!

Tip: Hit alt + F12 on the console to get to the ESXi “live” message log. You can scroll around all you want to examine errors but be aware that will stop the updates. Hit the spacebar when ready for it to resume updating.

I finally had to give up on copying server images. I just couldn’t get good copies and I’m sure it was related to the degraded drives (at least, I hope so!). I realized I was going to have to gut it out with the existing backups.

To run diags I had to boot the server from an HP SmartStart CD. While looking for a current version of that CD I stumbled over an update released last month: ** Critical ** Firmware CD Supplemental Online ROM Flash Component for Linux – Smart Array P400 and P400i. Huh. Critical, eh? I grabbed that update and added it to my bootable USB  key with the Smart Update Firmware DVD image.

Once booted from SmartStart I went into Maintenance mode and collected the array diag reports and then went to the Diagnostics and ran some complete diagnostics. The HP tech wanted me to run the complete 5 times… heck, it took over 2 hours to do it twice. I called that good enough. Saved every report option and then called HP back.

They reviewed the reports and agreed things did indeed look broke. Both drives were logging tons of hard read and write faults and S.M.A.R.T. was having fits (thus the predicted failure…). The also agreed that I should do that critical firmware flash. I did. They deemed that good enough and ordered me a pair of drives and a backplane card just in case it was a hardware fault (hey, I won’t turn down extra hardware!).

Now, I don’t know if was the reboots post hot-swap or that firmware update but when I brought the server back up I sure had a LOT fewer I/O errors in the ESXi log so that was progress. However, I still had two unhappy drives.

While waiting for the parts to show up I’d have a day to continue trying to get better client images.

(to be continued)

VMware Player 3.0 and Network Configuration

29 Oct 2009
October 29, 2009

I updated VMware Player to the latest version (3.0) on my home machine last night[1]. Wanted to check out the latest version and get a first hand look at the new features.

I pointed it to my trusty Xubuntu “security” virtual machine and booted up. I ran into a snag pretty quickly though. Seemed that the client couldn’t get an IP address to get on the network.

I’ve seen and fixed this before. VMware Player seems to like to grab my Hamachi “personal VPN” network adapters instead of the local Ethernet one – it will never get an IP from the Hamachi network!

That’s when I hit the next snag: the new version of VMware Player doesn’t include the vmnetcfg network configuration that I’ve always used to fix this in the past. I poked around a bit but it wasn’t there and I didn’t see anything that looked like a replacement.

I ended up fixing this in a bit more of a low-tech fashion. I simply disabled the Hamachi adapter and then booted the VMware client. Client got an IP and I then re-enabled the Hamachi adapter.

Disabling a network adapter

Of course, after my low-tech solution I went looking for better options… Turns out I’m not the first one to notice that vmnetcfg went missing. I found discussion and the answer in a forum post:

The vmnetcfg.exe is included in the installer, but won’t be installed.
1. Run the installer with /e option. For example:
VMware-player-3.0.0-197124.exe /e .\extract
All contents will be extracted to “extract” folder.
2. Open “network.cab” and copy vmnetcfg.exe to your installation folder,
typically “C:\Program Files\VMware\VMware Player\”.

Well there you go. Even better.

[1] – Past mentions of VMware Player.

Tip on vmnetcfg

18 Aug 2009
August 18, 2009

Tip: vmnetcfg is a really handy tool to tweak VMware network configs. Just don’t forget to run it as admin if on Vista or Win 7 (I always do…).