Category Archives: Geekspeak

vSphere 5 Network Config

As part of moving our production server environment to a colo facility and the coinciding upgrade from ESX 4.1 (fat) to ESXi 5, I get to basically rebuild my entire vSphere environment from the ground up. It’s a great opportunity as I’ve definitely learned a lot over the past 3 years or so of using VMware on a regular basis and I’ve been itching to change some things that I’ll hopefully go in to in some posts later on in this process.

My task today is nailing down my network configurations. I’ve got 8 NICs total at my disposal in each of my Dell R710 servers – the four embedded Broadcom 5709 (2 separate dual-port controllers by design) and an additional four on an add-in Intel I340-T4. I want to make the iSCSI as fast as possible and the rest of the networking as redundant as possible. I’ve not bonded ports in my vSphere config before, but thinking that’s where I want to go at least with the production network side.

I have some ideas already, but I’m curious – what would YOU do?

One Step Closer

Almost a year ago exactly, we paid off my car. Tonight, we eliminated another payment from our budget: my student loan. It’s been six years since I made the decision to leave Gardner-Webb without finishing my undergraduate studies, so that’s quite a while to be making payments for a degree I don’t have, and if Sallie Mae had her way, I’d still be paying for many more years to come.

Do I regret the decision? Nah. Not having the piece of paper really hasn’t held me back from working my dream job. I may not have gotten a degree from GWU, but I do have an amazing wife to show for it. Come to think of it, it was a small price to pay.

Upgrade MD3000i to new 7.x firmware

There seems to be a lot of interest from the Church IT community about the MD3000i and its new firmware.This is by no means an exhaustive guide and I take no blame or resposibility to anything that happens to your array or the data stored on it in the event you goof something up during the upgrade. As with any major firmware upgrade, take ALL NECESSARY PRECAUTIONS to ensure the safety of your data. I’d suggest purchasing an EqualLogic array from Jason Powell/VR6 Systems to back it all up on. Just kidding. Sorta. Anyway – make sure the data is backed up and then verify your backup! The upgrade was seamless for me, but your mileage may vary! Once you’ve read this post, I’d also advise you to read any Dell documentation you can find and then you can come back here to use the “shortcut” guide to complete the upgrade. To upgrade the MD3000i to the newest 07.xx firmware and gain support for RAID6 and >2TB LUNs, follow these steps:

Download the latest MD3000i Resource CD and run the installer. (Note: The download is an ISO, so you’ll need to burn it to CD, mount it with a utility, or use something like 7-zip to extract the contents.) For some reason, Dell doesn’t list the Resource CD listed under downloads for the MD3000i – stupid, I know. This Resource CD updates the Modular Disk Storage Manager software utility, the Firmware Cross Generation Upgrade Utility needed to perform the upgrade to version 07.xx firmware , new host software, and as of this writing – the very latest 07.xx firmware. If you have any doubts about getting the latest firmware, grab it from the MD3000i downloads page on support.dell.com

Next, I’d suggest making sure your physical hard drives have the latest firmware. Go to the MD3000i Hard Disk Drive Firmware Updates page and grab the archive. The README in the zip file contains excellent instructions on how to do this, so there’s no point in my repeating them here.

Finally, before running the upgrade, your array needs to be ready to go in to OFFLINE mode. Stop all I/O operations by stopping iSCSI initiators on any servers connected to the device or to keep things simple, just completely shut down those servers if possible. For kicks, I ran a “ping -t” against each controller’s management IP while running the firmware update. This let me watch the controllers bounce up and down as the updates were being applied and gives you another way to monitor the status of the upgrade.

Once you’re ready, locate the MD Firmware Cross Generation Upgrade Utility in your Start menu and run that. You’ll need to add your MD3000i controllers to the utility when it starts. If you have dual controllers, be sure you plug in BOTH IP addresses. Once the array is added, you’ll be prompted to authenticate if you have a password set on your array configuration. Click the “Download…” button on the left of the utility and browse to the location where your firmware is selected. You’ll need the NVSRAM upgrade also, so choose Simplex version for single-controller and Duplex version for a dual-controller module. I heard the upgrade takes around 30 minutes and it took almost exactly a half-hour for mine to complete.

If you have any other tips or advice for other MD3000i users, leave them in the comments!

Much Love

I just need to make a quick note here of how much I love my awesome wife.

She’s off to her first day at her new job and I know she’s doing great! She left me a really long list of things to get done. I guess her going back to work does have some consequences. The next few weeks of me remembering how to do some household chores should be interesting to say the least!

Merge Free Space on Dell PowerVault MD3000i

I recently ran into an issue while trying to manipulate some virtual disks on our MD3000i SAN at GCC. I know lots of other CITRT folks either have one of these “inexpensive” SANs, so I thought I’d document this here. Apologies to all my friends and family who have been haggling me to post something NON-TECHIE, but this is NOT that post.

A quick bit of background: We’re using our MD3000i strictly as media file archive and really want the SAN to be one really large LUN/partition so that the space is the most flexible. When we first implemented the MD3000i, we were limited to 2TB per LUN/partition and were splitting things up by year. 2007 was about 1.8TB of data and with one month remaining in 2008, the 2008 LUN was already full. You can see where we were already having an issue with 2TB limit.

Dell recently released new firmware for the MD3000i that supports a LUN size of larger than 2TB. I applied that before leaving the office on Friday and quickly started deleting the virtual disks that didn’t have any real data on them yet so I could create a new, larger partition and begin moving data around. Much to my surprise, I saw this in the Dell Modular Disk Storage Manager:

The stupid controllers left the Free Space from the virtual disks I removed in their respective physical locations on the disk. This was stupid, so I Tweeted about it. I exchanged a few tweets back and forth with Derek Mangrum and he hooked me up! He had ran in to the same issue before and sent over a rather handy list of commands he’d used on his own array as well as the SMcli reference guide from SANtricity, who apparently is the actual manufacturer of the Dell-rebranded MD3000i. I had to tweak the command a little because we have dual controllers, but this is the final recipe:
C:\Program Files\Dell\MD Storage Manager\client>SMcli controller_0_IP  controller_1_IP -p yourarraypassword -c “start diskGroup [1] defragment;”

If you only have a single-controller, you can eliminate the second IP and be sure to replace “yourarraypassword” with uh, your array password. Also, if you have more than one diskGroup, replace the 1 after diskGroup with the diskGroup you wish to “defragment.” And yes, the brackets around the diskGroup number MUST STAY or you’ll get syntax errors.

For what it’s worth, I despise the SMcli tool. I’d much rather have a REAL command-line interface directly on the array controllers. My opinions aside, SMcli is insanely powerful and you can do a lot more through that tool than you can through the Dell MDSM GUI tool.In a few days, I’ll post again about how to use SMcli to expand a LUN. Stay tuned!

Fun with .Net 2.0 and XPe on HP t5730 Thin Clients

Late last week, we received our first batch of HP t5730 thin clients running Windows XP Embedded. The plan is to use these machines to begin replace our aging check-in fleet here at Granger Community Church as well as for a few new check-in stations at our new Elkhart campus. We knew ahead of time that the only prerequisites for the Fellowship One check-in application was the .Net framework and figured the thin clients would be a slam-dunk. We were almost wrong. Almost. It turns out the XP Embedded image that HP loads on these thin clients lacks a couple of things needed to make .Net and the F1 check-in application happy.

To make a long, LONG story very short, we got it working and I know there are other churches wanting to do the same with F1 and XPe, so let me give you the run down of what we ended up doing with our t5730 boxes. You must be logged in as Administrator to do this on the HP units. Check your documentation to figure out how to login if you don’t already know how.

A note of preparation: Prior to beginning the steps below, I’d suggest you download and extract the .Net 2.0 Framework redistributable on a standard desktop machine. The extraction likes free space and RAM both of which are somewhat limited on the XPe box. The .Net package I downloaded was this one:  Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 Service Pack 1 (x86) [Filename = NetFx20SP1_x86.exe]. The installer doesn’t have an “extract only” option that I can see, so double-click it and once you get the “Setup is loading components…” message box, you should have a very obvious temp directory appear at c:\ that you need to copy to a place accessible by the thin client (a network share or USB drive would be wise). The directory on my machine was c:\b95b22b2b96f153cdb2b so I copied that to my USB drive and renamed it “dotNet-install”. Head to a command line and change to the directory where your download is located and type: NetFx20SP1_x86.exe -x which will prompt you for where to extract the contents fo the archive. I suggest putting it on a network share accessible by the thin cilent or on a USB drive. (Hat tip to Bill Green aka kilodelta for the extraction trick – it’s undocumented. Thanks Microsoft.) Once you have the files, you’re ready to start working on the thin client.

  1. Boot your thin client and disable the flash disk write protection. On HP, this is done by right-clicking the padlock icon and disabling EWF and then rebooting.
  2. Increase the size of the RAM disk by going in to Control Panel->HP RAMDisk Manager and cranking that all the way up to 64MB. Reboot again.
  3. Right-click the Sygate icon in your system tray and choose “Disable Sygate Security Agent”
  4. Grab the .Net install folder and find the setup.exe file in there and run it. .Net should cleanly install. Reboot again here just for good measure.
  5. Install the F1 check-in application. Do NOT start the F1 check-app after installation – keep reading because here’s where it get’s extra tricky…
  6. From a known-working check-in station you need to grab “C:\Program Files\Fellowship Technologies\Fellowship One Check-in 2.5″ and copy that over to your thin client.
  7. Remove any shortcuts automatically created by the F1 installer and create a new shortcut to “C:\Program Files\Fellowship Technologies\Fellowship One Check-in 2.5\2.5.0.8\FellowshipTech.Application.Windows.CheckIn.exe”
  8. Reboot again because I needed a filler – 10 steps seems more feng-shui
  9. Fire up your shortcut and watch the F1 app start!
  10. Celebrate!

If you’re a geek like me, and you must be if you’re still reading, I know you want to know why this works. By default, the F1 check-in application launches AppStart.exe which runs an update process to grab any patches/fixes from the F1 servers. This update process relies on the BITS service in Windows, which is NOT included in the HP t5730 XP Embedded image.

Big thanks to Sid Emory of Fellowship Tech who has been hanging out with us in #citrt while we ironed this out. XPe is NOT an officially supported OS for their check-in application and the steps above come with no guarantee or warranty from me or the fine folks at F1.

My Wife Said “w00t”

I love my wife. No, really… I do. She wrote a quick blog post yesterday titled “w00t!” and as you can see, she even spelled it properly! I’m insanely proud of her, not just for being a geek and using one of my favorite words, but for completing the Masters of Business Administration (MBA) program at Gardner-Webb with a 4.0 GPA! Yes, thats right. My wife is also a genius.

We’re approaching the final days before our big move. As of last Wednesday, the 23rd, our house is no longer OUR house. God has just done amazing things in the last several months to make this move not just possible, but easy. When we started exploring the feasability of moving to the Granger area, one of our long-time friends, Heather, said we should talk with her before putting our house on the market. We did talk to her and she agreed to buy our house! We never spoke to a realtor or anything. Absolutely amazing!

I’d say we already have about 80% of our stuff packed and ready to be loaded on to the truck, which arrives about 48-hours from now. My slightly OCD wife (who I love – see above!) is going a tiny little bit nuts because she loves organization and lists and knowing where things are and what still needs to be done. She can’t help it though, she gets it honest (love you too Mom Miller!).

Our last day at work is Wednesday of this week and we’ll have all day Thursday and Friday to finish loading the 28-foot trailer before ABF comes to pick it up and haul it to South Bend for us. Speaking of work – if any of you in the Michiana area have leads on a job for Bonnie, PLEASE get in touch with one of us via our blogs or on Twitter (@wantmoore or @gotmoore). Remember, she is graduating in a few days with an MBA and a 4.0. Surely theres a market for her to serve in the greater South Bend area.

Please do keep us in your prayers. The next week to 10 days is going to be insane for us – sure to be full of busyness and emotion. I saw something in the local Christian bookstore that will surely be my anchor over the next several weeks – “Where God leads, He will provide.” We know without a single ounce of doubt that God has called us to move to South Bend and be a part of the GCC family and we are definitely excited about what the future holds.