Runecast Analyzer makes hardware checking against the VMware HCL easy

Runecast Analyzer is a tool that helps VMware administrators to proactive manage there vSphere environment. It discovers potential risks in the VMware environment before they can cause a major outage. It uses best practices, security hardening guides (VMware, DISA STIG, PCI-DSS v3.2.1 and HIPAA) and known issues found in the VMware Knowledge Base to protect the Software Defined Data Center (SDDC).  Runecast Analyzer supports the following VMware products:

  • VMware vSphere
  • VMware vSAN
  • VMware NSX-V
  • VMware Horizon

Runecast Analyzer introduced a new feature called “Automated VMware HCL” and “ESXi Compatibility Simulation“. The “Automated VMware HCL” feature checks the VMware ESXi host hardware, driver and firmware versions against the VMware Hardware Compatibility List (HCL). The VMware Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) lists all the physical hardware components, driver and firmware versions that are supported by VMware. Keeping the hardware aligned with the VMware HCL is essential for a healthy, stable and supported VMware environment but can be difficult to perform. For example see the blog post below how to identify a networkcard and the supported driver.

Identify NIC driver and supported driver version for ESXi server

 

Within the “Automated VMware HCL” feature you can enable “ESXi Comparability Simulation“. ESXi comparability simulation checks the existing hardware against a newer VMware ESXi version before upgrading to this new version so you can verify if the hardware, driver and firmware levels are supported.

Automated Hardware Compatibility

After deploying the Runecast Analyzer appliance and connecting to one or more vCenter Servers, the first scan can be performed by clicking on the purple “Analyze Now” button. When the scan is completed select “HW Compatibility” on the left menu bar. By default all ESXi hosts are listed. In the action pane you can specify a specific clusters or one or more host(s).

The screenshot shows the host, ESXi release, hardware summary and the compatible status of the BIOS and I/O devices. The BIOS and I/O Devices are red in this example which means they need attention. All the hardware, firmware and driver  results can be exported to a CSV file. Per ESXi host you can drill down to the server hardware.

The BIOS state needs an update, it’s reported as possible incompatibility “Not Found” in the HCL Data field. When clicking on the “HCL online” button we’ve got redirected to the VMware Compatibility List (HCL).

The VMware HCL tells that the BIOS level that matches is version 1.2. After the BIOS view we go to the I/O devices by clicking on the I/O Devices tab

The Intel I350 Gigabit and the Samsung NVMe SSD Controller needs attention. When looking at the Intel I350 in the HCL we see that the the firmware level is okay and that the installed driver version is 0.1.1.0 is old. The HCL reports that version 1.4.1 is needed.

ESXi Compatibility Simulation

With the Hardware Compatibility Overview there is another feature called “ESXi Compatibility Simulation“.  ESXi Compatibility Simulation checks the existing hardware against a newer VMware ESXi version before upgrading to this new version so you can verify if the hardware, driver and firmware levels are supported.

After turning on the ESXi Compatibility Simulation feature and selecting the ESXi version to upgrade to you can fire the simulation. In this environment I want to upgrade to ESXi 6.7 U2 and it shows that the BIOS not compatible.

Conclusion

It can be difficult and time consuming for VMware admins to check if the server hardware is aligned with the VMware Hardware Compatibility List (HCL) for maintaining a healthy, stable and supported environment. Runecast Analyzer makes this very easy and fast by performing a simple scan and see if the hardware of the VMware environment is complaint with the VMware HCL.

Another great feature is the ESXi Compatibility Simulation. Again with a simple scan you check if the hardware is compatible against a newer version of ESXi before actually upgrading to this version. The Automated Hardware Compatibility and ESXi Compatibility Simulation are great new features that saves a lot of value time investigating if the VMware environment is compliant.

You can download a 30 day full trial version of Runecast Analyzer and try it yourself.

 

PowerCLI help installation, updating and troubleshooting tips

PowerCLI is a must have tool for every VMware Administrator when you want to automate something in your VMware environment. In this blog I highlight the installation, updating and some troubleshooting tips for deploying and running PowerCLI on Windows OSes.

PowerCLI installation

  • Uninstall PowerCLI 6.x and earlier from the Add/remove programs or Programs and Features if exist.
  • Make sure you have a internet connection.
  • Check if Windows Management Framework 5.1 is installed for Windows 7,8 and Windows Server 2012 R2 and earlier OSes. Open PowerShell en enter:
$PSVersionTable
PS C:\$PSVersionTable

Name Value
---- -----
PSVersion 5.1.17763.592
PSEdition Desktop
PSCompatibleVersions {1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0...}
BuildVersion 10.0.17763.592
CLRVersion 4.0.30319.42000
WSManStackVersion 3.0
PSRemotingProtocolVersion 2.3
SerializationVersion 1.1.0.1
  • If WMF 5.1 is not installed. Install the WMF 5.1 can be downloaded here, link. Windows 10, Windows Server 2016 and above have PowerShell version 5.1 already installed.
  • Installation PowerCLI
PowerCLI installation with admin rights:
Install-Module VMware.PowerCLI

Use the -AllowClobber when you get: A command with the name 'Export-VM' is already available on this system.
Install-Module VMware.PowerCLI -AllowClobber

Installation of PowerCLI without admin rights:
Install-Module VMware.PowerCLI -Scope CurrentUser

These modules are installed in the %homepath%\Documents\WindowsPowerShell\Modules
  • Allow the execution of local scripts
Admin rights needed:
Set-ExecutionPolicy RemoteSigned
  • Disable certificate checking and CEIP
Set-PowerCLIConfiguration -InvalidCertificateAction Ignore -Confirm:$false -ParticipateInCeip $false

Updating PowerCLI

The following steps can be used to update a PowerCLI 10 or 11 installation

  • Make sure you have a internet connection.
  • Check the PowerCLI version
Get-Module VMware* -ListAvailable
  • Update the existing PowerCLI version
Update-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI
  • Check the version of PowerCLI
 
Get-Module -Name VMware.PowerCLI -ListAvailable

Troubleshooting PowerCLI

The following troubleshooting options can be used when having problems with the installation and running of PowerCLI such as:

Could not load file or assembly……………….

  • Disable the Anti Virus.
  • Uninstall PowerCLI 6.x and earlier from the Add/remove programs or Programs and Features if exist.
  • Uninstall PowerCLI.
Get-Module VMware.PowerCLI -ListAvailable | Uninstall-Module -Force
  • Check the  paths for VMware modules entries in the path. Remove VMware folder if exist.
$env:PSModulePath.Split(';')
  • List All the VMware modules and remove VMware modules.
Get-Module -Name VMware* -ListAvailable
  • Check for old PowerCLI modules and installation such as:
C:\Program Files (x86)\VMware\Infrastructure\PowerCLI\Modules
  • List registered snapins.
Get-PSSnapin -registered
  • Delete the registry keys of the old PS snapins.

  • Reboot the Windows system.

Try to install the PowerCLI module using a clean install as described above.

 

Using the new Shuttle SH370R8 as home lab server with VMware ESXi

In January 2019 I did a review of the Shuttle SH370R6 (link) using VMware ESXi. A couple of weeks ago the new Shuttle SH370R8 is released. The main differences between the Shuttle SH370R6 and SH370R8 are:

  • Ready for the 8th/9th Gen Intel Coffee Lake processors
  • Dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet
  • An extra fan in front of the chassis for a better airflow
  • Front panel (Microphone input (3.5 mm), Headphones output (3.5 mm), 2x USB 3.0 (Type A, USB 3.1 Gen 1), Power button, Power indicator (Blue LED) and Hard disk drive indicator (Yellow LED).

  • Supports four 3.5″ hard drives (with an optional 2.5″ kit available)

The recommended retail price from Shuttle for the SH370R8 is € 317.00 (ex VAT).

Installation

The Shuttle SH370R8 comes with a Black aluminium chassis, a motherboard and a 500W Power Supply Unit (PSU)” that also the cooling is included. The only hardware you need to add is a CPU, Memory and disk(s) that match.

I’m  using the following hardware (same as in the Shuttle SH370R6 review) for testing the Shuttle SH370R8:

  • Intel Core i7 8700 with 6 cores and 12 threads 65W
  • 4 x 16 GB Kingston ValueRAM KVR26N19D8/16
  • Samsung 970 EVO 1 TB M.2 SSD
  • Samsung 250 and 500 GB SATA SSD
  • Kingston Datatraveler 100 G3 32 GB USB stick for booting VMware ESXi

The 16 GB memory modules are now much cheaper as in January 2019 when i did the SH370R6 review. With four 16 GB module you can save around € 160,00. The documentation describes the installation steps very clear which makes the hardware installation easy.

VMware ESXi

After installing the hardware and swapping the USB stick from the G6 to the G8, it’s time to press the power button. First thing is to enter the BIOS and change the boot order so that the VMware ESXi hypervisor can boot. After a short time VMware ESXi 6.7 Update 2 is up and running.

The two onboard Intel Corporation I211 Gigabit NICs are recognized by default in ESXi 6.7. In my configuration one NIC is used for VM and management traffic and the other for NFS traffic to my QNAP storage. The optional wireless LAN adapter is not recognized in ESXi.

The USB, NVMe and 4x SATA 3.0 (6G) controllers are recognized by default in ESXi.

Most of my VMs are running from the NVMe SSD storage which makes them fast de power up. The power consumption is the same as the SH370R6 Plus, 20-24w with ESXi booted (no VMs active) and between 35-70w when 10 VMs are running.

Conclusion

The differences between the Shuttle SH370 R6 and R8 are minimal but I really like the dual Intel Gigabit NICs and the extra space for placing 4x 3.5″ hard drives. For 2.5″ drives there is a optional adapter available. With the support for 4x 3.5″ hard drives you can host a lot of storage.

With the Shuttle SH370R6 I uses one PCI-E slot for a NIC. With the onboard dual Intel Gigabit I have an extra PCIe slot available for an extra NVMe controller or a 10 Gigabit NIC for example. The PCI-E x 16 slot can be used for a large dual-slot graphics card (up to 280 mm).  The Shuttle has great expansion possibilities with the two PCIe slots and support for 4x 3.5″ hard drives.

The Shuttle SH370R8 with VMware ESXi is running 24/7 for a couple weeks now without any problems and the performance is great with the Intel i7 CPU, 64 GB memory and NVMe storage. I like to welcome the Shuttle SH370R8 to the VMware ESXi homelab club :-).

Specifications

The Shuttle SH370R8 specifications:

  • Chassis: Black aluminium chassis (33.2 x 21,5 x 19.0 cm)
  • CPU: Based on the Intel H370 chipset, the XPC Barebone SH370R8 supports all the latest Intel Core processors of the “Coffee Lake” series for socket LGA1151v2 with up to 95 W TDP, including the top model Core i9-9900K with eight cores and 16 threads
  • Cooling: A special passive heatpipe I.C.E. (Integrated Cooling Engine) cooling system ensures cooling of the barebone.
  • Memory: Four memory slots, up to 64 GB of DDR4-2400/2666 memory. Intel Optane Ready which boosts speed of one hard disk through data caching.
  • LAN: Dual Intel Gigabit Ethernet.
  • Slots:
    • M.2 2280M slot for a NVMe SSD.
    • M.2 2230E slot for WLAN cards.
    • 1x PCIe-x16 slot for powerful dual-slot graphics cards ((Max. size: 280 x 120 x 40 mm)
    • 1x PCIe-x4 slot for an expansion card
    • Optional accessories include a WLAN/Bluetooth module (WLN-M), an RS-232 port (H-RS232), and a bracket for two 2.5-inch drives (PHD3).
  • PSU: A 500 Watt, 80-PLUS-Silver-certified power supply unit with the following connectors:
    • ATX main power 2×10 and 2×2 pins
    • Graphics power connector: 6 pins and 8 pins
    • 4 x SATA, 2x Molex and 1x floppy

  • Ports:
    • 4x Serial ATA 6G connector onboard (rev. 3.0, max. 6 Gbit/s)
    • 4x USB 3.1 Gen 2, 4x USB 3.1 Gen 1, 4x USB 2.0
  • Supports four 3.5″ hard drives
  • Official Operating system compatible: Windows 10 and Linux 64-bit
  • The recommended retail price from Shuttle for the SH370R8 is EUR 317.00 (ex VAT)

More information about the Shuttle SH370R8 can be found here, link.