Updating NIC Drivers with VMware Update Manager

Using VUM and DRS to make quick work of driver updates in larger environments.

In my last video, I showed you how to update ESXi NIC drivers from the command line. This method is great for one-off updates, or for small environments, but it really isn’t scalable. Thankfully, VMware Update Manager can make quick work out of driver updates. By taking advantage of fully-automated DRS, VUM can make the entire process seamless and orchestrate everything from host evacuation, driver installation and even the host reboots.

In today’s video, I walk you through how to upload a custom patch into VUM and create a baseline that can be used to update a driver.

Remember, some server vendors require specific or minimum firmware levels to go along with their drivers. The firmware version listed in the compatibility guide is only the version used to test/qualify the driver. It’s not necessarily the best or only choice. VMware always recommends reaching out to your hardware vendor for the final word on driver/firmware interoperability.

I hope you found this video helpful. For more instructional videos, please head over to my YouTube channel. Please feel free to leave any comments below, or on YouTube.

Updating NIC Drivers in ESXi from the CLI

A video walk-through on updating your NIC drivers from the command line for maximum control.

There are a number of reasons you may want to update your NIC drivers and firmware. Maybe it’s just a best practice recommendation from the vendor, or perhaps you’ve run into a bug or performance problem that warrants this. Whatever the reason, keeping your NIC drivers up to date is always a good idea.

There are several ways to go about updating your drivers, but the tried and tested ‘esxcli’ method works well for small environments. It’s also a good choice to ensure you have maximum control over the process. The below video will walk you through the update process:

Remember that finding the correct NIC on the VMware Compatibility Guide is one of the most important steps in the driver update process. For help on narrowing down your exact NIC make/model based on PCI identifiers, be sure to check out this video.

Another important point to remember is that some server vendors require specific or minimum firmware levels to go along with their drivers. The firmware version listed in the compatibility guide is only the version used to test/qualify the driver. It’s not necessarily the best or only choice. VMware always recommends reaching out to your hardware vendor for the final word on driver/firmware interoperability.

Stay tuned for another video on using VMware Update Manager to create a baseline for automating the driver update process!

I hope you found this video helpful. For more instructional videos, please head over to my YouTube channel. Please feel free to leave any comments below, or on YouTube.

Identifying NICs based on PCI VID and DID

A better way to find your exact NIC model on the VMware Compatibility Guide.

If you’ve ever tried to search for a NIC in the VMware Compatibility Guide, you may have come up a much longer list of results than you expected. Many cards with similar names have subtle differences. Some have multiple hardware revisions, varying numbers or types of ports and may also be released by different OEMs. In some situations, the name of the card in the vSphere UI may not match what it truly is, adding to the confusion.

Thankfully, there is a much better way to identify your card. You can use the PCI VID, DID, SVID and SSID identifiers. The below video will walk through how to find these identifiers, as well as how to use them to find your specific card on the HCG.

Please feel free to leave any comments or questions below or on YouTube.

Properly Removing a LUN/Datastore in vSphere

Taking the time to remove LUNs correctly is worth the effort and prevents all sorts of complications.

This is admittedly a well-covered topic in both the VMware public documentation and in blogs, but I thought I’d provide my perspective on this as well in case it may help others. Unfortunately, improper LUN removal is still something I encounter all too often here in GSS.

Having done a short stint on the VMware storage support team about seven years back, I knew all too well the chaos that would ensue after improper LUN decommissioning. ESX 4.x was particularly bad when it came to handling unexpected storage loss. Often hosts would become unmanageable and reboots were the only way to recover. Today, things are quite different. VMware has made many strides in these areas, including better host resiliency in the face of APD (all paths down) events, as well as introducing PDL (permenant device loss) several years back. Despite these improvements, you still don’t want to yank storage out from under your hypervisors.

Today, I’ll be decommissioning an SSD drive from my freenas server, which will require me to go through these steps.

Step 1 – Evacuate!

Before you even consider nuking a LUN from your SAN, you’ll want to ensure all VMs, templates and files have been migrated off. The easiest way to do this is to navigate to the ‘Storage’ view in the Web Client, and then select the datastore in question. From there, you can click the VMs tab. If you are running 5.5 or 6.0, you may need to go to ‘Related Objects’ first, and then Virtual Machines.

lunremove-1
One VM still resides on shared-ssd0. It’ll need to be migrated off.

In my case, you can see that the datastore shared-ssd still has a VM on it that will need to be migrated. I was able to use Storage vMotion without interrupting the guest.

lunremove-2
It’s easy to forget about templates as they aren’t visible in the default datastore view. Be sure to check for them as well.

Templates do not show up in the normal view, so be sure to check specifically for these as well. Remember, you can’t migrate templates. You’ll need to convert them to VMs first, then migrate them and convert them back to templates. I didn’t care about this one, so just deleted it from disk.

Continue reading “Properly Removing a LUN/Datastore in vSphere”

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.

Console Mouse Not Working in Windows VMs

I recently ran into some problems while deploying a Windows Server 2012 R2 VM in my vSphere 6.5 U2 lab. I’ve come to expect that the console mouse response is going to be terrible until VMware Tools is installed, but for some odd reason I had no mouse control whatsoever. Thinking it may be a quirk of the Web Console, I tried both the Remote Console and the HTML5 client to no avail.

The VM appeared to be healthy and would register keyboard input, but the motion of the mouse cursor was erratic or the cursor would not move at all. Thinking that I just needed to battle on and get Tools installed, I attempted to use the keyboard for this purpose – what a chore. You think it would have been easy, but the installer kept losing focus and falling behind other open windows. Many of the windows keyboard shortcuts I’d normally use were not functioning because they register on my laptop – not in the console. I couldn’t RDP to the VM either because the NIC needed to be configured with a valid IP address.

After doing a bit of research, it appeared that display scaling could cause all sorts of mouse issues – but this didn’t appear to be applicable in my case. That’s when I stumbled upon a communities thread that mentioned adding a USB controller to the VM. Even though my VM was ‘Hardware Version 13’, the USB 2.0 controller isn’t added by default.

I managed to get to the device manager using the keyboard, and you can see that the virtual hardware will use a PS/2 a mouse in the absence of a USB controller:

consolemouse-2

I then went ahead and added the basic USB 2.0 controller to the VM and booted it up.

Continue reading “Console Mouse Not Working in Windows VMs”

Certificate Error During Datastore Upload

I have recently rebuilt my home lab – an all too common occurrence due to the number of times I intentionally try to break things. In the process of rebuilding, I had some ISO files I wanted to copy over to a datastore. The process failed and the Web Client greeted me with an uncharacteristically long error message.

dsupload-1

The exact text reads:

“The operation failed for an undetermined reason. Typically, this problem occurs due to certificates that the browser does no trust. If you are using self-signed or custom certificates, open the URL below in a new browser tab and accept the certificate, then retry the operation.”

In my case, the URL that it listed was to one of my ESXi hosts in the compute-a cluster called esx-a2. The error then goes on to reference VMware KB 2147256.

It may seem odd that the vSphere Client would be telling you to visit a random ESXi host’s UI address when you are trying to upload a file via vCenter. But if you stop to think about it for a second, vCenter has no access whatsoever to your datastores. Whether you are trying to create a new VMFS datastore, upload a file or even just browse, vCenter must rely on an ESXi host with the necessary access to do the actual legwork. That ESXi host then relays the information back through the Web Client.

Continue reading “Certificate Error During Datastore Upload”

Memory Usage Alarm with PCI Passthrough VMs

In the recent revamp of my lab environment, I decided to use VT-d passthrough for a pfsense VM. It has been working well with the integrated Intel igb based NICs on my management host, but I noticed that I started getting memory alarms on the VM.

vtd-mem-0

At first, I thought I may have sized the VM a bit too small with only 512MB of RAM, but when checking in the guest itself, I saw only a small amount was actually being used:

vtd-mem-2

At only 19% utilized, I’m nowhere near the 95% required to trigger this alarm. As you can see in the performance charts, all of the memory is being used by the guest from the perspective of ESXi:

vtd-mem-1

But after thinking about this for a moment, it makes sense – one of the requirements for PCI passthrough is to reserve all guest memory. For passthrough to function, the hypervisor must provide 100% consistent and reliable memory to the guest. What better way to ensure that then to reserve and pin all memory to the VM.

Although I understand why all memory is active and consumed, it’s unfortunate that vCenter doesn’t take into consideration the reason for this. In my search for an answer, I came across VMware KB 2149787. It appears that this can impact not only VMs with passthrough, but also fault tolerant VMs and VMs with latency sensitivity set to ‘high’. Unfortunately, the resolution suggested is to disable to virtual machine memory alarm at the vCenter object level. This effectively disables the alarm for everything in the inventory. I hope that at some point, vSphere will allow disabling specific alarms on a per-VM basis because few people would want to take this approach.

For now, I think the best course of action is to simply click ‘Reset to Green’, which should clear the alarm until the VM is powered off/on again. Just keep in mind that this is normal for this type of VM and that the alarm can be disregarded.

USB Passthrough and vMotion

I was recently speaking with someone about power management in a home lab environment. Their plan was to use USB passthrough to connect a UPS to a virtual machine in a vSphere cluster. From there, they could use PowerCLI scripting to gracefully power off the environment if the UPS battery got too low. This sounded like a wise plan.

Their concern was that the VM would need to be pinned to the host where the USB cable was connected and that vMotion would not be possible. To their pleasant surprise, I told them that support for vMotion of VMs with USB passthrough had been added at some point in the past and it was no longer a limitation.

When I started looking more into this feature, however, I discovered that this was not a new addition at all. In fact, this has been supported ever since USB passthrough was introduced in vSphere 4 over seven years ago. Have a look at the vSphere Administration Guide for vSphere 4 on page 105 for more information.

I had done some work with remote serial devices in the past, but I’ve never been in a situation where I needed to vMotion a VM with a USB device attached. It’s time to finally take this functionality for a test drive.

Continue reading “USB Passthrough and vMotion”