NSX 6.4.3 Now Available!

Express maintenance release fixes two discovered issues.

If it feels like 6.4.2 was just released, you’d be correct – only three weeks ago. The new 6.4.3 release (build 9927516) is what’s referred to as an express maintenance release. These releases aim to correct specific customer identified problems as quickly as possible rather than having to wait many months for the next full patch release.

In this release, only two identified bugs have been fixed. The first is an SSO issue that can occur in environments with multiple PSCs:

“Fixed Issue 2186945: NSX Data Center for vSphere 6.4.2 will result in loss of SSO functionality under specific conditions. NSX Data Center for vSphere cannot connect to SSO in an environment with multiple PSCs or STS certificates after installing or upgrading to NSX Data Center for vSphere 6.4.2.”

The second is an issue with IPsets that can impact third party security products – like Palo Alto Networks and Checkpoint Net-X services for example:

“Issue 2186968: Static IPset not reported to containerset API call. If you have service appliances, NSX might omit IP sets in communicating with Partner Service Managers. This can lead to partner firewalls allowing or denying connections incorrectly. Fixed in 6.4.3.”

You can find more information on these problems in VMware KB 57770 and KB 57834.

So knowing that these are the only two fixes included, the question obviously becomes – do I really need to upgrade?

If you are running 6.4.2 today, you might not need to. If you have more than one PSC associated with the vCenter Server that NSX manager connects to, or if you use third party firewall products that work in conjunction with NSX, the answer would be yes. If you don’t, there is really no benefit to upgrading to 6.3.4 and it would be best to save your efforts for the next major release.

That said, if you were already planning an upgrade to 6.4.2, it only makes sense to go to 6.4.3 instead. You’d get all the benefits of 6.4.2 plus these two additional fixes.

Kudos goes out to the VMware NSBU engineering team for their quick work in getting these issues fixed and getting 6.4.3 out so quickly.

Relevant Links:

 

VMware Tools 10.3.2 Now Available

New bundled VMXNET3 driver corrects PSOD crash issue.

As mentioned in a recent post, a problem in the tools 10.3.0 bundled VMXNET3 driver could cause host PSODs and connectivity issues. As of September 12th, VMware Tools 10.3.2 is now available, which corrects this issue.

The problematic driver was version 1.8.3.0 in tools 10.3.0. According to the release notes, it has been replaced with version 1.8.3.1. In addition to this fix, there are four resolved issues listed as well.

VMware mentions the following in the 10.3.2 release notes:

Note: VMware Tools 10.3.0 is deprecated due to a VMXNET3 driver related issue. For more information, see KB 57796. Install VMware Tools 10.3.2, or VMware Tools 10.2.5 or an earlier version of VMware Tools.”

Kudos to the VMware engineering teams for getting 10.3.2 released so quickly after the discovery of the problem!

Relevant links:

 

PSOD and Connectivity Problems with VMware Tools 10.3.0

Downgrading to Tools 10.2.5 is an effective workaround.

If you have installed the new VMware Tools 10.3.0 release in VMs running recent versions of Windows, you may be susceptible to host PSODs and other general connectivity problems. VMware has just published KB 57796 regarding this problem, and has recalled 10.3.0 so that it’s no longer available for download.

Tools 10.3.0 includes a new version of the VMXNET3 vNIC driver – version 1.8.3.0 – for Windows, which seems to be the primary culprit. Thankfully, not every environment with Tools 10.3.0 will run into this. It appears that the following conditions must be met:

  1. You are running a build of ESXi 6.5.
  2. You have Windows 2012, Windows 8 or later VMs with VMXNET3 adapters.
  3. The VM hardware is version 13 (the version released along with vSphere 6.5).
  4. Tools 10.3.0 with the 1.8.3.0 VMXNET3 driver is installed in the Windows guests.

VMware is planning to have this issue fixed in the next release of Tools 10.3.x.

If you fall into the above category and are at risk, it would be a good idea to address this even if you haven’t run into any problems. Since this issue is specific to VMXNET3 version 1.8.3.0 – which is bundled only with Tools 10.3.0 – downgrading to Tools 10.2.5 is an effective workaround. Simply uninstall tools, and re-install version 10.2.5, which is available here.

Another option would be to replace VMXNET3 adapters with E1000E based adapters in susceptible VMs. I would personally rather downgrade to Tools 10.2.5 as both of these actions would cause VM impact and the VMXNET3 adapter is far superior.

Again, you’d only need to do this for VMs that fall into the specific categories listed above. Other VMs can be left as-is running 10.3.0 without concern.

On a positive note, Tools 10.3.0 hasn’t been bundled with any builds of ESXi 6.5, so unless you’ve gone out and obtained tools directly from the VMware download page recently, you shouldn’t have it in your environment.

A New Look

A new theme that’s easier to read and mobile friendly.

You may have noticed that the blog has a bit of a fresh new look as of late. When I had originally started the site over a year ago, I used the trusty ‘twenty twelve’ wordpress theme for it’s simplicity and ease of use. Although I liked its simple layout, it was dated and wasn’t particularly mobile-friendly. I’ve since moved over to ‘twenty sixteen’, which is much more customizable, easier to read and works a lot better on mobile devices. I hope that this will be a positive change for the site.

Please be patient with me over the next few days as I iron out the quirks and get the CSS styling to behave. I noticed that some of the images are not aligning correctly, among other things. Thanks for your patience!

Manual Upgrade of NSX Host VIBs

Complete manual control of the NSX host VIB upgrade process without the use of vSphere DRS.

NSX host upgrades are well automated these days. By taking advantage of ‘fully automated’ DRS, hosts in a cluster can be evacuated, put in maintenance mode, upgraded, and even rebooted without any user intervention. By relying on DRS for resource scheduling, NSX doesn’t have to worry about doing too many hosts simultaneously and the process can generally be done without end-users even noticing.

But what if you don’t want this level of automation? Maybe you’ve got very sensitive VMs that can’t be migrated, or VMs pinned to hosts for some reason. Or maybe you just want maximum control of the upgrade process and which hosts are upgraded – and when.

There is no reason why you can’t have full control of the host upgrade process and leave DRS in manual mode. This is indeed supported.

Most of the documentation and guides out there assume that people will want to take advantage of DRS-driven upgrades, but this doesn’t mean it’s the only supported method. There is no reason why you can’t have full control of the host upgrade process and this is indeed supported. Today I’ll be walking through this in my lab as I upgrade to NSX 6.4.1.

Step 1 – Clicking the Upgrade Link

Once you’ve upgraded your NSX manager and control cluster, you should be ready to begin tackling your ESXi host clusters. Before you proceed, you’ll need to ensure your host clusters have DRS set to ‘Manual’ mode. Don’t disable DRS – that will get rid of your resource pools. Manual mode is sufficient.

Next, you’ll need to browse to the usual ‘Installation’ section in the UI, and click on the ‘Host Preparation’ tab. From here, it’s now safe to click the ‘Upgrade Available’ link on the cluster to begin the upgrade process. Because DRS is in manual mode, nothing will be able happen. Hosts can’t be evacuated, and as a result, VIBs can’t be upgraded. In essence, the upgrade has started, but immediately stalls and awaits manual intervention.

 

upgnodrs-3
This upgrade is essentially hung up waiting for hosts to enter maintenance mode.

 

In 6.4.1 as shown above, a clear banner message is displayed reminding you that DRS is in manual mode and that hosts must be manually put in maintenance mode.

Continue reading “Manual Upgrade of NSX Host VIBs”

Home Lab Power Automation – Part 3

In part 2, I shared the PowerCLI scripting I used to power on my entire lab environment in the correct order. In this final installment, I’ll take you through the scripting used to power everything down. Although you may think the process is just the reverse of what I covered in part 2, you’ll see there were some other things to consider and different approaches required.

Step 1 – Shutting Down Compute Cluster VMs

To begin the process, I’d need to shut down all VMs in the compute-a cluster. None of the VMs there are essential for running the lab, so they can be safely stopped at any time. I was able to do this by connecting to vCenter with PowerCLI and then using a ‘foreach’ loop to gracefully shut down any VMs in the ‘Powered On’ state.

"Connecting to vCenter Server ..." |timestamp
Connect-VIServer -Server 172.16.1.15 -User administrator@vsphere.local -Password "VMware9("

"Shutting down all VMs in compute-a ..." |timestamp
$vmlista = Get-VM -Location compute-a | where{$_.PowerState -eq 'PoweredOn'}
foreach ($vm in $vmlista)
    {
    Shutdown-VMGuest -VM $vm -Confirm:$false | Format-List -Property VM, State
    }

The above scripting ensures the VMs start shutting down, but it doesn’t tell me that they completed the process. After this is run, it’s likely that one or more VMs may still be online. Before I can proceed, I need to check that they’re all are in a ‘Powered Off’ state.

"Waiting for all VMs in compute-a to shut down ..." |timestamp
do
{
    "The following VM(s) are still powered on:"|timestamp
    $pendingvmsa = (Get-VM -Location compute-a | where{$_.PowerState -eq 'PoweredOn'})
    $pendingvmsa | Format-List -Property Name, PowerState
    sleep 1
} until($pendingvmsa -eq $null)
"All VMs in compute-a are powered off ..."|timestamp

A ‘do until’ loop does the trick here. I simply populate the list of all powered on VMs into the $pendingvmsa variable and print that list. After a one second delay, the loop continues until the $pendingvmsa variable is null. When it’s null, I know all of the VMs are powered off and I can safely continue.

Continue reading “Home Lab Power Automation – Part 3”

Home Lab Power Automation – Part 2

In part 1, I shared some of the tools I’d use to execute the power on and shutdown tasks in my lab. Today, let’s have a look at my startup PowerCLI script.

A Test-Connection Cmdlet Replacement

As I started working on the scripts, I needed a way to determine if hosts and devices were accessible on the network. Unfortunately, the Test-Connection cmdlet was not available in the Linux PowerShell core release. It uses the Windows network stack to do its thing, so it may be a while before an equivalent gets ported to Linux. As an alternative, I created a simple python script that achieves the same overall result called pinghost.py. You can find more detail on how it works in a post I did a few months back here.

The script is very straightforward. You specify up to three space separated IP addresses or host names as command line arguments, and the script will send one ICMP echo request to each of the hosts. Depending on the response, it will output either ‘is responding’ or ‘is not responding’. Below is an example:

pi@raspberrypi:~/scripts $ python pinghost.py vc.lab.local 172.16.10.67 172.16.10.20
vc.lab.local is not responding
172.16.10.67 is responding
172.16.10.20 is not responding

Then using this script, I could create sleep loops in PowerShell to wait for one or more devices to become responsive before proceeding.

Adding Timestamps to Script Output

As I created the scripts, I wanted to record the date/time of each event and output displayed. In a sense, I wanted it to look like a log that could be written to a file and referred to later if needed. To do this, I found a simple PowerShell filter that could be piped to each command I ran:

#PowerShell filter to add date/timestamps
filter timestamp {"$(Get-Date -Format G): $_"}

Step 1 – Power On the Switch

Powering up the switch requires the use of the tplink_smartplug.py python script that I discussed in part 1. The general idea here is to instruct the smart plug to set its relay to a state of ‘1’. This brings the switch to life. I then get into a ‘do sleep’ loop in PowerCLI until the Raspberry Pi is able to ping the management interface of the switch. More specifically, it will wait until the pinghost.py script returns a string of “is responding”. If that string isn’t received, it’ll wait two seconds, and then try again.

"Powering up the 10G switch ..." |timestamp
/home/pi/scripts/tplink-smartplug-master/tplink_smartplug.py -t 192.168.1.199 -c on |timestamp

"Waiting for 10G switch to boot ..." |timestamp
do
{
$pingresult = python ~/scripts/pinghost.py 172.16.1.1 |timestamp
$pingresult
sleep 2
} until($pingresult -like '*is responding*')

When run, the output looks similar to the following:

Continue reading “Home Lab Power Automation – Part 2”

NSX Controller Issues with vRNI 3.8

Just a quick PSA to let everyone know that vRNI 3.8 Patch 4 (201808101430) is now available for download. If you are running vRNI 3.8 with NSX, be sure to patch as soon as possible or disable controller polling based on instructions in the workaround section of KB 57311.

Some changes were made in vRNI 3.8 for NSX controller polling. It now uses both the NSX Central CLI as well as SSH sessions to obtain statistics and information. In some situations, excessive numbers of SSH sessions are left open and memory exhaustion on controller nodes can occur.

If you do find a controller in this state, a reboot will get it back to normal again. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your control cluster. If two or three go down, you’ll lose controller majority and will likely run into control plane and data plane problems for VMs on logical switches or VMs using DLR routing.

More information on the NSX controller out-of-memory issue can be found in VMware KB 57311. For more information on vRNI 3.8 Patch 4 – including how to install it – see VMware KB 57683.

Home Lab Power Automation – Part 1

My home lab has grown substantially over the last few years and with it, so did power consumption, heat and noise. I selected power efficient parts where possible, but even with 500-600W power usage, 24/7 operation adds up. I can certainly notice the extra cost on my hydro bill, but it’s not just the financial impact – it’s also the environmental impact I’m concerned about.

The bottom line is that I have no reason to run the lab 24/7. I generally use it an hour or two each day – sometimes more, sometimes less. But there are also stretches where I won’t use it for several days like on weekends or when I’m busy with other things.

I found myself manually shutting down the lab when I knew I wouldn’t be using it and then manually powering everything back up. As you can imagine, this was quite a process. Everything had to be powered on or shut down in a very specific order to avoid problems. I’d also need to be standing in front of the equipment for part of this process as some equipment didn’t have remote power-on capability. Because of the work and time involved, I’d inevitably just leave it powered on for much longer stretches than I needed to.

It wasn’t until I added a 10Gbps Quanta LB6M switch to the lab that I realized I needed to do something. It’s not a quiet or energy efficient switch, consuming an average of 120W at idle.

Continue reading “Home Lab Power Automation – Part 1”

NSX 6.4.2 Now Available!

It’s always an exciting day when a new build of NSX is released. As of August 21st, NSX 6.4.2 (Build 9643711) is now available for download. Despite being just a ‘dot’ release, VMware has included numerous functional enhancements in addition to the usual bug fixes.

One of the first things you’ll probably notice is that VMware is now referring to ‘NSX for vSphere’ as ‘NSX Data Center for vSphere’. I’m not sure the name has a good ring to it, but we’ll go with that.

A few notable new features:

More HTML5 Enabled Features: It seems VMware is adding additional HTML5 functionality with each release now. In 6.4.2, we can now access the TraceFlow, User Domains, Audit Logs and Tasks and Events sections from the HTML5 client.

Multicast Support: This is a big one. NSX 6.4.2 now supports both IGMPv2 and PIM Sparse on both DLRs and ESGs. I hope to take a closer look at these changes in a future post.

MAC Limit Increase: Traditionally, we’ve always recommended limiting each logical switch to a /22 or smaller network to avoid exceeding the 2048 MAC entry limit. NSX 6.4.2 now doubles this to 4096 entries per logical switch.

L7 Firewall Improvements: Additional L7 contexts added including EPIC, Microsoft SQL and BLAST AppIDs.

Firewall Rule Hit Count: Easily see which firewall rules are being hit, and which are not with these counters.

Firewall Section Locking: Great to allow multiple people to work on the DFW simultaneously without conflicting with eachother.

Additional Scale Dashboard Metrics: There are 25 new metrics added to ensure you stay within supported limits.

Controller NTP, DNS and Syslog: This is now finally exposed in the UI and fully supported. As someone who is frequently looking at log bundles, it’ll be nice to finally be able to have accurate time keeping on controller nodes.

On the resolved issues front, I’m happy to report that 6.4.2 includes 21 documented bug fixes. You can find the full list in the release notes, but a couple of very welcome ones include issues 2132361 and 2147002. Those who are using Guest Introspection on NSX 6.4.1 should consider upgrading as soon as possible due to the service and performance problems outlined in KB 56734. NSX 6.4.2 corrects this problem.

Another issue not listed in the release notes – it may have been missed – but fixed in 6.4.2 is the full ESG tmpfs partition issue in 6.4.1. You can find more information on this issue in KB 57003 as well as in a recent post I did on it here.

Here are the relevant links for NSX 6.4.2 (Build 9643711):

I’m looking forward to getting my lab upgraded and will be trying out a few of these new features. Remember, if you are planning to upgrade, be sure to do the necessary planning and preparation.