DELL PowerEdge T310

Just received a new DELL PowerEdge T310 server that will eventually reside in a new office we are opening in Austin, TX.  This server will be the first of a new strategy that I am implementing for all of our branch offices.  The new strategy is simply to configure the servers as ESXi servers, manage them through VMware vCenter and install 2-3 VMs on the servers.  We have 1 server at each of our branch offices acting as Domain Controllers, file servers, print servers and SCCM distribution points.  I’d like to separate these roles across multiple servers and the best way to do this is via virtualization.

A Few Hardware Specifications

  • Intel Xeon X3450 2.66 GHz Quad-Core processor
  • 16GB 1333MHz Dual Ranked RDIMM memory
  • PERC H200 Adapter Internal RAID Controller for Hot Plug Hard Drive
  • RAID 1 – SAS6iR/H200/PERC6i/H700 (SAS/SATA Controller)
  • 2 1TB 7.2K RPM SATA 3.5″ Hot Plug Hard Drive
  • Redundant 400W power supply
  • Baseboard Management Controller
  • Intel Gigabit ET Quad Port NIC in addition to the dual 1GB integrated NIC

In this guide, I’m going to present the steps that I took to configure the server for use in production.

Powering Up

After connecting everything to the server and powering things on press F2 to enter System Setup.  I had to change the System Time so double-check this.  The most important thing to check in here is to go to Processor > Virtualization Technology and make sure that it is Enabled.

Using the DELL Unified Server Configurator (USC)

The DELL Unified Server Configurator (USC) is a new feature that I have yet to use as this is the first system that I have configured with it installed.  The USC is an “embedded configuration utility that enables systems and storage management tasks from an embedded environment throughout your system’s lifecycle,” (DELL Unified Server Configurator User Guide, p.7).  Sounds cool to me! To enter the USC press F10 System Services at the DELL logo during system boot. Note:  Unfortunately, I was unable to take full advantage of these features because this server was ordered without a DRAC card–blah!

RAID Configuration

Entered into the SAS Configuration Utility by pressing CTRL+C.  Found the default settings to be sufficient. Volume was configured with RAID 1 by default so we should be good to go here.

Remote Access Configuration

This is a feature that I do not use and currently have no use for so I press CTRL+E to enter into the configuration utility and disable this feature.

VMware vSphere Hypervisor 4.1 Update 1 (formerly ESXi)

Many of you already know that VMware renamed the free hyper-visor from ESXi to Hypervisor 4.1.  I downloaded the ISO for the latest version of the Hypervisor and burned to  a CD.  Booted into and ran the VMware ESXi 4.1.0 Installer.  Pretty much chose the default settings here as the Hypervisor is pretty easy and straight forward to install.

Press F2 after installation is complete to Customize System.  Configured a root password and then Configure Management Network.  Basically all I need to configure here is the IP address.  Since I’m not shipping the system just yet, I will let DHCP take care of all of the IP settings.  Once it gets on its destination subnet, I will configure static network settings for the server.

After the IP address has been set, I launch the vSphere Client and attempt to connect to the IP address.  The client informs me that my current client needs to be upgraded first so I perform the upgrade (which took quite some time).  After the vSphere Client was installed I connected to the ESXi server just fine.  Piece of cake!

 

Thanks to VMware Technical support on this one, thought I’d share the solution with you all.

The Issue

So the issue is/was that I would create a virtual machine from a template which had the Windows 7 O/S installed on it.  VMware uses the built-in sysprep for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 so there is no need to edit anything on the vCenter Server.  I used Customization Specifications to configure the cloned machine.

Well, it appears as though at the Workgroup or Domain step of the Customization Specifications Wizard you must used the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN) in the Windows Server Domain box.  You also must use a <username>@fqdn (ex. jdoe@contoso.com) in the Specify a user account that has permission to add a computer to the domain box.

Go here for the official VMware KB Article:  Windows 2008 guest customization fails to join deployed virtual machine to Active Directory domain

Debriefing

We’re a Windows shop here.  So when the topic came up from our Application Developer to test out WordPress as the platform for our next website we knew that it would be the unconventional approach to doing things.  But, I’m always up for the challenge.  Since I could find no concise guide to getting this done I figured I’d share my approach with you all to ease some of the pain.

The Environment

  • The server is a VM running Windows Server 2008 R2 which is of course 64-bit.  This is now the standard O/S platform for all newly created servers in our environment.
  • The database server will not be SQL Server Express as we have a VM running SQL Server 2008 SP1 in our environment.  This guide is written for those who have this setup as most of the guides that you find around the web assume that installing SQL Server Express locally is acceptable.
  • Keep in mind that this installation is intended for a development environment and not for production.  It’s safe to assume that additional security measures will need to be taken before employing IIS, WordPress or any of the other components in a production environment. Read the rest of this entry »

Upgrade Changes

I was recently troubleshooting another unrelated issue within our virtual infrastructure and needed to login to an ESX server via the Service Console.  I use Putty as my SSH client.  This was the first time that I had logged into the Service Console via SSH since the ESX 4.1 upgrade several months ago.

When attempting to login with the lower privileged account that I had been using since the day I installed ESX I received an Access Denied message from the console.

According to the vSphere Upgrade Guide on pg. 69, “After upgrading to ESX 4.1, only the Administrator user has access to the service console. To grant service console access to other users after the upgrade, consider granting the Administrator permissions to other users.”

In Simple Terms

Unfortunately, they don’t tell you exactly how to fix this.  All you have to do is add that particular account to the local root group on the particular ESX server.

Step-by-Step

  1. Launch the vCenter Client software and login to the ESX host using the root credentials; not the vCenter Server.
  2. Select the ESX host and click on the Local Users & Groups tab.
  3. Right-click on the user and select Edit (or add the user if it doesn’t exist).
  4. Under Group Membership find the root group and click the Add button.

Now the user can login via SSH.

A Little About Web Design Resources to Share

This posting will be either a weekly or bi-weekly posting in which I share some of the latest web design resources that I utilize in my design work.  These are primarily links to websites that I find very interesting or collections of resources that I have gathered from around the web to share.

0to255.com

0to255.com
0to255.com

http://0to255.com/

This website has saved me so much time recently.  I used to have to keep Adobe Photoshop open while coding CSS to find tints and shades of the primary colors of a particular website.  I’d then have to tweak sliders in the color wheel to get what I thought was a particular shade.  Well not any more.  The 0to255.com website allows me to find different color variations when I’m coding and/or designing.  I simply punch in a color and the website will find all of the color variations from white to black and by clicking on the color, the hex code is copied to the clipboard.  That’s it!  Saves me time and effort in finding color variations.  Great tool.

Stripegenerator.com

http://www.stripegenerator.com/

Stripegenerator.com

Stripgenerator.com

I like stripes as they do a little bit to spice up backgrounds and make them a little more visually interesting.  The only problem is, using Photoshop they take too long to make.  Sure you can import a few patterns or brushes but you’re bound to the dimensions and settings of that pattern.  For example, you can adjust the spacing between lines easily or change the thickness of the line easily either.  So you’d have to have a bunch of patterns in Photoshop to make this happen (then finding them can be an issue as well).

Well that’s were stripegenerator.com comes in handy.  At this site you can create your own stripe patterns on the fly within the browser.  How cool!  You can adjust the stripe size, spacing, color and stripe orientation.  There are other customizations that you can choose as well.  The tool generates a downloadable PNG file that you can plug directly into your website via CSS.

I have one complaint about stripegenerator.com though and that is that you can’t create transparent space between the stripes.  This is so that the background-color property in CSS can show through between the stripes.  However, I was able to pull the .png file into Photoshop and edit out the white space.

Now, Now VMware Let’s Be More Accurate

VMware ThinApp marketing slightly deceptive

VMwares not so accurate marketing message

A few weeks after writing How to ThinApp Smartstation?, I began pilot testing the ThinApp’d SmartStation to a small group of end users here at the firm.  Man was I unpleasantly surprised at just how limited ThinApp is.  There are a few “gotchas” specific to SmartStation that I would like to share that I had to learn the hard way.

SmartStation 4.5 is not supported on Windows 7 64-bit

This I knew going into the ThinApp process but the way that VMware has marketed the product, you’d think that this should not be an issue.  You’d think that it should work regardless of the O/S that the application is being deployed to.  WRONG! I filed a support request because I could not get my SmartStation ThinApp to work on Windows 7 64-bit.  The Support Technician informed me that:

Applications That ThinApp Cannot Virtualize ThinApp cannot convert some applications into virtual applications and might block certain application functions.  In those cases you must use traditional installation technologies to deploy some application types.

– Applications that do not natively support the deployment operating system:  If an operating system does not support the native installation of an application, that operating system is not a supported ThinApp deployment platform for that application.

And there you have it.  This information can also be found in the VMware ThinApp User’s Guide (which I must have overlooked). Read the rest of this entry »

And Event Viewer Says…

Event Type: Error
Event Source: Service Control Manager
Event Category: None
Event ID: 7024
Date: —
Time: —
User: N/A
Computer: —
Description: The SQL Server (<instance_name>) service terminated with service-specific error 17051 (0x429B).

So then I scurry on over to find out what the SQL Server logs are saying about all of this.  I go here: C:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10.<instance_name>\MSSQL\Log and open the ERROR file. Read the rest of this entry »

The Situation

I always love the day after I push Software Updates to servers.  It gives me an opportunity to hone my troubleshooting skills a bit.  This morning when doing the usual putting out fires routine, I discovered that the VMware VirtualCenter Server service was not running.  So I rebooted the machine and still the service would not run.  So I figured that maybe the database is not up and running yet, when the vCenter service is trying to run.

I consider this because I was able to run the service manually after the server had completely come up.  So I figured I should put in a dependency for the VMware VirtualCenter Server service to run after the SQLExpress service is up.  Please note that SQLExpress is on the same virtual machine as the vCenter Server installation. Read the rest of this entry »