Disk selection in ESXi kickstart

Automated installation is the way to deploy your ESXi configuration to your servers. After all it’s all about automating your IT operations and making your life easier. Nobody likes to do a simple task twice, so I would definitely recommend to automate your ESXi installation. ESXi uses kickstart for automating your installation. You can view more details on this in my previous post over here.

Disk selection

All kickstart scripts start with the installation of ESXi. Afterwards you can add first-boot script to configure your ESXi installation to your specific needs.

One of the first thing you need to decide is where to install your ESXi installation to. The autopart command in the kickstart file specifies where you will install your ESXi to.  You’ve got 3 options to choose from :

* Local = install ESXi onto the first local disk (local hard drive)
* Remote = install  ESXi onto the first remote disk (FC or iSCSi LUN disk)
* Driver = install ESXi to the device which uses this driver in the vmkernel to access the disk

So if your using local disk select local and if your booting from SAN use remote.

But wait! There’s a catch…

Some local disks, specifically SAS disks, are not presented to ESXi installer as local disks, but as remote disks. This is also acknowledged by VMware in this KB article.

The solution is rather simple, but you do need to know the specific driver for the controller of your local SAS disk. In my case the server was a HP BL460c G6 blade. Thanks to this (Dutch) VMUG post I was able to trace the driver (hpsa) for the SAS controller in the HP BL460c G6.

And this is where the driver option of autopart kicks in. If you have several types of servers and always want to install to the local disk, use the following command :

autopart –firstdisk=hpsa,local –overwritevmfs

In this case ESXi first tries to install to the disk access with device driver hpsa. If that fail it will try to install onto the first local disk. If both options fail, the installation of ESXi will fail and you will error will be shown onscreen.

Hope this gives you some better understanding in how ESXi installs itself onto disk. For more information have a look at the Setup Guide of ESXi here.

What ports does vSphere use?

Ok, I have some knowledge about VMware vSphere, but I can’t remember everything. Good thing there are some people out there that have some good ideas about reference material. One of them is VMware Technical Account Manager Dudley Smith who created a nice diagram of all the ports used within a vSphere environment.

Check out the blog post over here and download the nice ports diagram in PDF format.

Update : Also check this KB article by VMware for ports used by VMware products.

Adding a ESXi host to Active Directory

Since vSphere 4.1 VMware has enabled Active Directory integration for ESXi into the GUI. This is a nice feature to elevate your security and make sure that your AD can be used for authentication on the ESXi host.

As with all computer account your need to be sure that the following is correct :

* DNS is configured properly on the ESXi host and can resolve AD
* ESXi host has a FQDN name and can be resolved by DNS (also correct reverse DNS lookup!)
* Time in sync with AD server for Kerberos

You can configure the directory services in the GUI by accessing the Host Configuration –> Authentication Services and then clicking the Properties. A configuration box will pop up and it will ask you for the properties for your Active Directory service.

Note ! If you want your ESXi host to be put into a specific directory in your Active Directory you’ll need to put the OU directory structure after the domain name. In my case devtest.local/Servers/ESXi in which the ESXi hosts reside in directory ou=Servers,ou=ESXi.

Next you will be asked for domain credentials (please use account@domain.suffix) with privilege to join computer account to the domain.The right credentials will add your ESXi host to Active Directory.

The launch of VMware Press

Microsoft has it, Cisco has it, so it’s not a surprise that VMware launched it’s own VMware Press. And if I may say so : it fills a gap. The last couple of years the portfolio of VMware has grown from a virtualization vendor to a full size cloud company that can deliver a full range of IT infrastructure software. With this growth also the demand within the IT community has grown for more information and good books about the products that VMware delivers.

This demand up till now was filled by for example Duncan Epping, Mike Laverick and Scott Lowe and many more who piece by piece delivered excellent pieces of work on subjects of VMware, virtualization and cloud computing. Now VMware created it’s own VMware Press brand to deliver books with the same magnificent content of your favorite VMware product.

VMware Press is a joint venture between Pearson and VMware. The joint venture must result in books in the following fields :

  • * Technical books, ebooks, and videos that concentrate on specific applications of virtualization.
  • * Decision Maker books, ebooks, and videos that focus on the business aspects of virtualization.
  • * Official certification materials that support VMware’s complete certification program.

And of course the press release of a new book label would not be the same without the introduction of some new books to be released in the fall of this year

    Coming Soon from VMware Press

    Storage Design and Implementation in VMware vSphere 5.x
    Storage Design and Implementation in VMware vSphere 5.x
    by Mostafa Khalil • Technology Deep Dive • Fall 2011
    In this technology deep dive book, expert architect Mostafa Khalil teaches everything an administrator or architect needs to know about design, management and storage maintenance in the vSphere 5.0 virtual environment, including detailed procedures and guidelines, architectural design elements, best practices, common configuration details, and more.

    Administering VMWare SRM 5.x
    Administering VMware SRM 5.x
    by Mike Laverick • Technology Hands-On • Fall 2011
    In this practical and technical guide to installing and configuring VMware’s Site Recovery Manager 5.0, expert Mike Laverick takes readers through set-ups for multiple vendors, disaster recovery, common pitfalls and errors, while along the way explaining why things happen, and how to fix them.

    Automating Day-to-Day Administration of VMware vSphere 5.x
    Automating Day-to-Day Administration of VMware vSphere 5.x
    by Cody Bunch • Technology Hands-On • Fall 2011
    This hands-on technical guide to automating vSphere with Orchestrator teaches administrators how to save time and resources by automating their virtual infrastructure. Automation expert Cody Bunch teaches valuable practices and tool use through a combination of real world automation examples and case studies

    Must say I’m excited about VMware Press and looking forward to read the books!

    A different view on View

    Yesterday I attended the VMware Partner Exchange on Tour here in the Netherlands. You can view an impression of this event on the site of Mr. Sloof over here. One of the session I attended was the one given by Raymond van ‘t Hag about the VMware View reference architecture.

    Raymond is one of the specialist on VMware View in the Benelux and delivered a nice presentation about using View in combination with local SSD disks.

    An interesting view on how to implement View as you can say. Since the era of server virtualization kicked in we’ve moved away from servers with local storage to SAN connected servers. This solution brings us back again to the local disks in the server. An interesting point of view if I may say so myself. But then again it has advantages with regards to disk utilization and creates a VDI solution that also can be implemented at companies that don’t have the budget for an expensive SAN solution.

    VMware released a whitepaper about this View solution in a whitepaper. You can download the whitepaper over here.

    During the presentation Raymond also mentioned the VMware View & Fusion-io VDI appliance. This solution is created by VMware SE Ton Hermes and delivers VDI-in-a-box. This solution is VMware View in combination with Fusion-io (faster then SSD!) and can be seen as a ready-to-use VDI solution which you can buy off the shelf.  The brochure can be found here.

    In all I think these are nice solutions for VMware View which definitely state that VDI is something for all companies. You don’t have to be a million dollar company to implement VDI. These solutions make it possible for any company to work anywhere, anytime and anyplace!

    PXE Manager for vCenter

    VMware Labs has again released a fine piece of work which should make installing ESXi a lot easier : PXE manager for vCenter. I’m a fan of automation. Especially when it comes down to the installation of ESXi. First installation is fun, second is nice, but from that point on it gets boring.

    Until now you always had to revert to a third party tool to do the auto installation for you. Ok, VMware provided the automated installation through kickstart, but you still needed a third party to do the PXE boot, install and configure your ESX(i) server.

    VMware now introduced the PXE Manager for vCenter as a fling (so do not use in your production environment 😉 ). The rumors were already there that this would be implemented in vSphere 4.1, but unfortunately it didn’t make the cut. Good to see that it wasn’t a rumor after all and VMware does indeed have a install / management solution for deploying ESXi onto your servers.

    PXE Manager for vCenter enables ESXi host state (firmware) management and provisioning. Specifically, it allows:

    * Automated provisioning of new ESXi hosts stateless and stateful (no ESX)
    ESXi host state (firmware) backup, restore, and archiving with retention
    ESXi builds repository management (stateless and statefull)
    ESXi Patch management
    Multi vCenter support
    Multi network support with agents (Linux CentOS virtual appliance will be available later)
    Wake on Lan
    Hosts memtest
    vCenter plugin
    Deploy directly to VMware Cloud Director
    Deploy to Cisco UCS blades

    See for yourself on the VMware Labs page over here.

    Security : VMware Compliance Checker

    One thing to always take into account while designing and managing your vSphere infrastructure is security. VMware also recognizes this and has several resources available to help you in securing your vSphere infrastructure.

    VMware now released a tool to check your security compliancy against the VMware vSphere Hardening Guide. This guide is a set of best practices to harden your vSphere infrastructure. The VMware Compliance Checker checks and reports these settings in easy and simple manner.

    VMware Compliance Checker for vSphere lets you:

    • Check compliance for multiple VMware ESX and ESXi servers concurrently
      • Run compliance check on up to 5 ESX or ESXi servers at a time and produce reports.
    • Supports VMware vSphere hardening guidelines
      • Perform checks on VMware ESX and ESXi servers to conform with the latest VMware vSphere hardening guidelines.
    • Analyze compliance assessment results
      • After a compliance run, you can view the assessments by ESX/ESXi hosts, plus guests.
    • Save and Print assessment results
      • You can save and print the compliance assessment reports to your team for review and they can be saved for archival needs.

    Download your copy of the VMware Compliance Checker here.

    This is a free tool and can be used in small and mid-size companies. This tool isn’t a replacement for the security auditing tools out there. If security really is a big deal within your infrastructure take a look at the compliance center by VMware