What have I been doing? – Part 3

CPU ID Masking

Sometimes vendors (in this case Dell) sell servers that have the same model name (in this case Dell PowerEdge 2950), but have CPUs in them from Intel that are incompatible as far as VMotion is concerned. In this case we had two existing nodes, purchased about 12 months ago, running Intel Xeon E5310 CPUs, and two new nodes running Intel Xeon E5410 CPUs. Even though they’re both dual-socket, quad-core hosts, and even though they are ostensibly the same machines, running the same BIOS revisions, VMotion doesn’t like it. This is Dell’s fault necessarily, they like to sell whatever CPU is cheap and performance focussed. It just so happens that, in the last 12 months, Intel have made a number of developments, and have started selling CPUs that do more for the same price as the older one. I have a friend who used to work at Intel and knew all of the model names and codes and compatibilities. I don’t though, so have a look here for the rundown on what Xeon chips are what. Basically, moving from Clovertown to Harpertown has caused the problem. Awesome.

When we tried to VMotion a Virtual Machine from an existing host to a new host, we got this error:


VMware has a spiel on the issue here, and some possible solutions, depending on the version of ESX you’re running. A few other people have had the issue, and have discussed it here and here.

What’s frustating is that we were able to VMotion from the Acer hosts running dual-core CPUs to the existing quad-core Dell hosts with no problem. To think that we couldn’t then go from the Dell hosts to the new Dell hosts seems just, well, silly.

I didn’t want to setup the CPU ID masking on each Virtual Machine, so I elected to make the change on the VirtualCenter host. I edited the vpxd.cfg file, which is located by default in “C:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Application Data\VMware\VMware VirtualCenter”. Here’s what I setup on the VirtualCenter host:


I may have put too many settings in. But it worked fine. But I’d be feeling like if the consultant has to do that, I’d be chasing my sales guy for an upgrade to some compatible CPUs.

Upgrading VMware Tools on Netware 6.5

If you find yourself working on what some uncharitably call the dodo of network operating systems – NetWare 6.5 – and need to upgrade the VMware Tools – these instructions will help get you on your way.

To start, select “Install VMware Tools” on the VM.
The volume automounts on the NetWare guest.
Run vmwtools:\setup.ncf.
Some stuff happens (sorry I forgot to take some screenshots).
You’ll see “VMware Tools for NetWare are now running” once the upgrade is complete. You should then reboot the guests.

esXpress upgrade notes

esXpress from PHD Technologies is a neat backup and recovery tool. According to the website, it is “The ONLY scalable and completely fault tolerant backup, restoration and disaster recovery solution for Virtual Infrastructure 3.x. Whether you have 1TB of data or 50TB, esXpress makes a 100% complete backup of your entire virtual farm every night”. So maybe they’re blowing their own trumpet a little, but whenever I’ve had to use esXpress it’s been a pleasant experience. Moreso than some enterprise backup tools that I won’t name at this time. Well, okay, it’s nicer than reconfiguring devices in EMC NetWorker, or getting any kind of verbose logging out of Symantec Backup Exec.

There are some straightforward documents on the website that will get you started. The first thing you should look at is the Installation Guide. The next thing you should be looking at is the User’s Manual, and, well, you should probably consider reading up on the whole recovery process too.

The existing nodes already had an older version of esXpress installed, so a lot of the initial setup (ie the hard bit) had been done for me already. Hooray for other people doing work and saving me time!

To upgrade your version of esXpress, you need to uninstall (the old version) and re-install (the new version) rpm. This can be achieved by running the following commands:

rpm –e esxpress
rpm –e esxpressVBA

This will remove the application but not delete your backups.

Then install the new version of esXpress and the VBA and import the previous configuration. Running phd-import will import the previous esXpress settings, including licenses and so on. It can also import settings from another host, which will save some time.

It’s good stuff, and it works, so check it out.