ESXi Embedded Host Client Fling updated to v2

The response and feedback from our customers on the recently released HTML5 Embedded Host Client for ESXi Fling has just been absolutely phenomenal. Having only been released for a little less than two weeks ago, it has also become the #1 Fling on the VMware Labs which is an amazing accomplishment in it itself as well as to the awesome work from both the Engineers: Etienne and George. 

Having said that, both Etienne and George have not stopped and have been quite busy in the last couple of weeks. They have been working adding new features based on feedback from our customers as well as any bug fixes that have been reported. Today, I am please to announce that they have just released version2 of the Embedded Host Client for ESXi which you can find here. If you have v1 installed, you can perform an "update" by running the following ESXCLI command:

[root@mini:~] esxcli software vib update -v /esxui-3015331.vib
Installation Result
Message: Operation finished successfully.
Reboot Required: false
VIBs Installed: VMware_bootbank_esx-ui_0.0.2-0.1.3015331
VIBs Removed: VMware_bootbank_esx-ui_0.0.2-0.1.2976804
VIBs Skipped:

In addition to the new features listed below in v2, I would also like to mention we now have both an installable VIB as well as an offline bundle as some of you have been asking for which will allow you to use vSphere Update Manager (VUM) to automate the deployment of the Embedded Host Client across your ESXi hosts.

What's new in v2:

  • Host
    •  Improved host performance monitoring UI
    • Composite CPU/memory figure
  • Virtual Machines
    • VM Snapshot support.
    • In-browser VM console full screen support.
    • In-browser VM console 'shrink’ support.
    • Create Wizard: Mac OS guest creation has been enabled.
  • Storage
    • Completed file browser (copy/move/delete/create directory/upload/download)
    • Right click on VMX file in browser to register VM
    • Mount/create NFS datastores
    • Create VMFS datastore (currently only on disks that don't have a partition table)
    • Extend VMFS datastore (currently only onto disks that don't have a partition table)
    • Mount/Unmount VMFS datastore
  • Networking
    • Firewall ruleset listing (currently read-only)
  • General Features
    • Double click title bar to enlarge dialogs and wizards
    • Alt + drag in a dialog or wizard to resize
    • Locale override (we still only support en-US at this stage)
    • Customizable session timeout.

I have already deployed the latest version in my lab and I have to say, the new features rock. One tiny little feature which I really like is a session timeout count down which appears on your browser tab of the Embedded Host Client when left idle.

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In my opinion, the attention to details both big and small is what really differentiates this UI from any other that I have used and really provides for a fantastic user experience. Keep up the great work guys!

If you have any feedback, please leave a comment either on my blog or on the Fling site and who knows, your request might just make it into the next release :)

Quick Tip - Pre-filled credentials in the vSphere 6.0 Web Client

This past weekend I was finishing up a couple of demo recordings for my VMworld sessions in case the live demos fail for whatever reason, which has happened to me in the past. A few of the demos involve the vSphere Web Client UI and I thought instead of wasting time and potentially fat fingering credentials up on stage, I would try to do everything I can to remove any potential hiccups. In vSphere 6.0, the vCenter Single Sign-On page is now completely in HTML and this not only means you can customize the UI as I have shown here but you can also do some other neat tricks with it.

I decided to update the HTML page to automatically pre-fill both the SSO username and password, so that when I need to login to the vSphere Web Client, I just have to hit the tab key and then click on the login button.

prefilled-credentials
Disclaimer: Outside of a home lab or demo purposes, there is really no good reason for this. I can already hear Mike Foley sighing right now 😉 This also means that anyone who knows the address of your vSphere Web Client can just login, so you may want to only pre-fill the username and still type out the password in case you are concerned with that.

To pre-fill the value for the SSO username and/or password, you will need to edit the following file:

  • Windows VC: C:\ProgramData\VMware\vCenterServer\runtime\VMwareSTSService\webapps\websso\WEB-INF\views\unpentry.jsp
  • VCSA: /usr/lib/vmware-sso/vmware-sts/webapps/websso/WEB-INF/views/unpentry.jsp

For pre-filling the username, you will need to add a "value" property along with its actual value in the following section:

For pre-filling the password, you will need to add a "value" property along with its actual value in the following section:

Once you have saved your changes, you can then reload the browser and you should see that the vSphere Web Client now has both the username and password automatically pre-filled when the webpage loads.

VMware Tools for Nested ESXi updated to v1.2

I just wanted to give everyone a heads up that we have a minor update to the VMware Tools for Nested ESXi Fling (esx-tools-for-esxi-9.7.2-0.0.5911061.i386.vib) and you can find the list of changes below.

What's new in version 1.2:

  • Larger resource pool for programs started using the VIX/Guest Operations API (resolves this issue)
  • Now supports Guest Time Synchronization
  • No longer require -f flag to install the VIB

If you have any feedback, feel free to leave a comment here or on the Flings page.

ESXi 6.0 on Apple Xserve 2,1

I really enjoy hearing from my readers, especially when they share some of the unique challenges they have come across or boundaries they have pushed with our VMware software. Several weeks back I received an interesting email from a reader named John Clendenen who was able to get ESXi 6.0 running on both his Apple Xserve 3,1 as well as Xserve 2,1! To be honest, I was pretty surprised to hear that this worked and not only that, there was not a whole lot that John had to do to get it working. I thought this was a pretty cool setup and asked if John was interested in sharing more details with the VMware/Mac OS X community in case others were interested.

*** This is a guest blog post from John Clendenen ***

For the past 5 years, I have lived in New York where I work at various print and post-production studios. The IT situations in many of these locations is often home-grown and sub-adequate, if not barely functional, so I took it upon myself to learn OS X Server administration. I have a background in computer science and networking, so it wasn’t a huge leap to step into administration. I was able to gradually build one studio’s IT infrastructure form a single AFP share with incessant permissions problems, to an Open Directory driven, single sign-on infrastructure with mobile homes, messaging etc.. However, with each OS X Server update, things broke, and I was spending a lot of time putting out fires.

This led me to pursue virtualization in hopes of isolating services on separate machines, without telling the studio to go buy 8 Apple Mac Minis. However, I needed to learn how to do this, before pitching it to them, so I looked on Craigslist for some cheap hardware. I found an Xserve 2,1, which I was able to talk down to $100. I also found a brief post in a thread that said that the Xserve 2,1 ran ESXi 5.5 without issue. I figured I’d take the plunge and just resell it on eBay if it didn’t work out.

Since then, my home lab has grown considerably, and I have learned that the best way to provide Mac services, is simply to use Linux (I’ve had a great experience with Netatalk). That said, Open Directory, Software Update, Caching and a few other services still need to be run on a Mac, so it’s still necessary to have the hardware. For a while, I had 3 Xserves, all purchased very cheaply, running VMs. I just sold one, and will sell another in the next month or two in favor of some Supermicro hardware (I really am mostly running Linux VM’s at this point). I’ll keep the one to run a few Mac OS X VMs. I’m still working on getting Samba 4 to work as the PDC, but once that is running smoothly, I’ll have a functional environment that I can take to the studios where I work (with approved hardware of course). Then I’ll have an improved work experience, while also pulling some extra income on the installation/maintenance.

Anyway, you’ve come here to read about running ESXi 6.0 on an Xserve 2,1. Well, it works. It’s 7 years old, and not officially supported, but you already know that. So, if you were considering it, I doubt anything here will dissuade you. On top of that, there’s not much for me to say other than, it works. No tricks to it, just install and you’re off.

pic1
That said, I do have some recommendations and tips to help you if you want to get the most out of this hardware. 2 months ago, since I swapped out the RAID card for the standard backplane/interconnect and upgraded the RAM. It hasn’t skipped a beat since.

My System

This is my home custom 13u rack with sound insulation and active air flow. Networking is in the back (Ubiquiti). It sits in a lofted storage area with an A/C and vents into the bathroom.

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Here you see an Xserve 3,1 on top of an Xserve 2,1. There’s a blank unit because I just sold an Xserve 2,1 on eBay, and the other 2,1 will be for sale soon as well to make room for a 4 node 2U Supermicro Server. The NAS is comprised of a 4u head unit and a 4U JBOD running Centos. Last of course, is a 2U CyberPower UPS which is really just to condition the power and keep brownouts from taking down the system.

I have about a dozen VM’s running between the 2 Xserves. I have each Mac OS X service separated on it’s own installation. This way I can run updates per service. It’s especially nice to have Open Directory separate from less important services. I also have Debian, Centos and OpenBSD VMs running various services. Getting the Xserve 3,1 running ESXi 6 is possible, but more problematic. Now that I have it working, I’m dropping the 2,1’s simply because the processors aren’t multithreaded. I am currently working on a companion article to this one, detailing my experience with the Xserve 3,1, so that information will be available soon.

Storage

1. Don’t use the RAID backplane/interconnect or count on using it. ESXi 6 does not recognize it, and RDM appears to work at first and then will crash your VM and never show up again. You can have it installed in the Xserve without any issue, but you’ll get a lot more mileage out of the hardware if you have the standard backplane/interconnect.

The backplane you want appears periodically on eBay. The part number is: 661-4648

2. If/once you have the non-RAID backplane/interconnect, keep in mind that it is SATAII and will only support 3Gb/s. I am using 3 old 500Gb WD RE3’s, but I’d recommend using some older SSDs that will max out the SATAII interface without paying for speed you can’t use. Be sure you consult the Apple Drive Module compatibility page to make sure you have the right drive caddies. They all fit, but they don’t all work.

Apple Drive Module Compatibility Chart: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT1219

pic2
3. PCIE Flash is a good idea, whether you use it for cache, VM’s or as the ESXi boot disk, it is by far the fastest storage option. I have not invested in it, but the good people at Mushkin have told me their Scorpion PCIE flash will work in ESXi 6. Please contact them yourself though before investing in one of their cards. I have not tested them. While this will give you the best performance out of your Xserve 2,1, it seems like overkill to me, but hey, if you want to push this thing, you might find some meaningful performance gains here.

Mushkin Scorpion PCIE Flash: http://www.poweredbymushkin.com/index.php/products/solid-state-drives.html

4. It might occur to you that replacing the optical drive with an ssd might be a good idea. While MCE Technologies makes “Optibay” for Xserve 2,1, the connection is IDE, so this is not recommended. I also don’t know if ESXi would recognize it. My gut says probably, but again, it’s too slow to be useful. It isn’t that cheap either.

MCE Technologies Optibay: http://store.mcetech.com/mm/merchant.mvc?Store_code=MTOS&Screen=PROD&Product_Code=OBSXGB-XS

Network

There are a lot of options here. You can plug any network card that you want really as long as you can at least find an anecdotal account of it working on ESXi 6.

I have one such anecdote for you, and it is also a strong suggestion. The company Silicom makes/made several models of gigabit NICs which are all incredibly inexpensive, are all over eBay and work in ESXi 6. Buy the 6 port model. It’s cheap and you’ll get great scaling with ESXi load balancing across 8 gigabit ports.

The Xserve 2,1 has the added advantage here of an optional PCIX riser. If your model has one, or you find one for cheap, you can save even more on the Silicom NIC. The PCIE models go for $60-$80 on eBay, while the PCIX models go for $40.

pic3

Memory

ECC DDR2 is pretty cheap and easy to find used. I recommend memory4less though. I had to return some RAM that was mislabeled from a random eBay distributor. Memory4less will get it right. http://www.memory4less.com/

pic4

Processors

One great perk of the Xserve 2,1, is that you can upgrade the single processor hardware to dual processor. You can pick up an additional processor on eBay for $40 or so, but you’ll need to get a heat sink as well. The single processor units come with a fake aluminum heat sink, but do not use it. You want a copper one. I believe the heat sinks in the Xserve 1,1 are the same. Don’t forget the thermal paste.

pic5

Minor Issues

1. The Performance tab throws an error.

pic6
2. Not sure about the hardware sensors, but it looks like not everything is working even if it’s showing up. I did not do any testing here.

pic7
Stay tune for Part II of John's guest blog post on running ESXi 6.0 on Xserve 3,1.

How to automatically log all VM configuration changes using a vCenter Server Alarm?

If you followed my previous blog post on How to audit VM reconfigurations and see what exactly changed, you may have concluded that historical VM configuration events may potentially be unavailable by the time you need to perform an audit. The reason for this is that the VM Events tables may have rotated out depending on the retention policy of your vCenter Server Database. This is where we can take advantage of the powerful vCenter Server Alarm feature which would allows us to capture every single VM reconfiguration and store this information outside of the vCenter Server. This not only allows you to reduce the amount of data stored in the vCenter Server Database but it also allows you to efficiently archive this data into a data warehouse or Big Data platform that provides more advanced analytics and reporting capabilities.

Building on top of our previous script, I have created a slightly modified version called Get-VMConfigChangesFromAlarm.ps1. The main difference is instead of passing in a VM object to look for past configuration changes, the script can now pull in information from a triggered VmReconfigureEvent and log the specific changes associated with that VM reconfiguration. The way in which it does this is by querying the following two environmental variables which are set when the vCenter Server alarm is triggered and below is an example of their values:

Alarm Environmental Variable Value
VMWARE_ALARM_TRIGGERINGSUMMARY Event: VM reconfigured (9322)
VMWARE_ALARM_TARGET_ID vm-125

In the first variable, what we care about is the eventId which is associated with the VM reconfiguration. What I have found is you have to take this ID and subtract 1 to get the event which actually contains the reconfiguration information that we want. The second variable provides us with the MoRef ID of the VM that was configured. Using these two pieces of information, we can then perform an event lookup to pull out the configuration changes that were made to that particular VM.

Here are the steps for creating the vCenter Server Alarm:

Step 1 - Ensure that the latest PowerCLI 6.0 Release 1 is installed on your vCenter Server. I will assume that this is how you wish to execute the PowerCLI script. If not, other options can include sending an SNMP trap to vRealize Orchestrator and have it perform the execution of the script.

Step 2 - Create a new Alarm and fill in the general settings as shown in the screenshots below.

automatically-log-vm-reconfiguration-changes-0
Step 3 - Add the "VM reconfigured" trigger with the status set to "Unset", this will ensure you do not have a notification icon when the alarm is activated.

automatically-log-vm-reconfiguration-changes-1
Step 4 - Select "Run a command" as the action and then paste the full path to where a "wrapper.bat" script will be located in the vCenter Server.

automatically-log-vm-reconfiguration-changes-2
Step 5 - Create the "wrapper.bat" script on the vCenter Server system with the following (adjust the paths to fit your environment):

The following snippet will execute the PowerCLI script and any console output will be re-directed to the alarm.log file (which can be helpful in troubleshooting errors in the script itself).

Step 6 - Download the Get-VMConfigChangesFromAlarm.ps1 script and place it on the vCenter Server system and ensure it aligns with the path of the wrapper.bat script. You will also need to edit the script to update the vCenter Server credentials as well as the log file in which the VM configurations will be stored. Currently it will just append to a file called alarm.txt.

If everything was configured successfully, you can now test the alarm by simply editing one of your VMs. If you click under Monitor->Events for the VM, you should see the alarm being triggered and that the script was executed.

automatically-log-vm-reconfiguration-changes-3
If we take a look at our alarm.txt file, we should hopefully see the VM reconfiguration details logged like the following:

ChangeVersion : 2015-08-13T21:10:58.248345Z
DeviceChange : {VMware.Vim.VirtualDeviceConfigSpec}
Files : VMware.Vim.VirtualMachineFileInfo
MemoryMB : 8192
NumCPUs : 2
VMName : Test-VM
Start : 8/13/2015 9:11:17 PM
End : 8/13/2015 9:11:19 PM
State : success
User : VGHETTO.LOCAL\Administrator
Device : VirtualDisk
Operation : edit

Logging the output to a file is just one way of storing this data. I am sure some of you may want to modify the script to forward to a remote syslog collector like vRealize Log Insight for example or directly storing it into a Big Data platform. I will leave that as an exercise for my readers but hopefully this give you idea on how you can automatically archive all VM reconfigurations along with the what, when and who details for auditing and/or reporting purposes in the future.

Lastly, I wanted to give a big thanks to Jonathan Medd who helped me with a problem I was running into when trying to get a PowerCLI script to execute when using a vCenter Server Alarm. It turned out that I had the vCenter Server service configure to run as a local admin and switching it over to a Domain Account resolved my problem.