ESXi and USB failure?


Updated 2011-03-06

Last week, my former colleague Gabrie van Zanten wrote a very interesting article about using USB sticks to boot an ESXi host.

After reading this excellent post, I remembered that in the early ESX 2.5 days, it was (and still is…) good practice to install ESX on a RAID-1 volume to keep your host in business in case of a disk failure. One day we received a first generation IBM Blade Center. Each blade has just one 2,5 inch disk and a small amount of memory. It was decided to install ESX (ESXi did not even exist…) and to get some experience  with blades. The blades suffered several disk crashes, which immediately led to host failure and disk replacement…

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VMware vCenter Update Manager had an unknown failure


Scenario, VMware environment, based on a VMware vCenter 4.0 Update 1 Server and a few ESX 3.5 hosts. It is time to install the latest patches, the preferred approach is the VMware Update Manager. You attach a baseline, Scan for updates and receive a confirmation it is about time. Next step is Stage your hosts and a few moments later you receive this message: “VMware vCenter Update Manager had an unknown failure. Check Tasks and Events tab and logs for more details”.

Just before I was going to deep dive into this, my colleague Ronald pointed me to VMware KB 1026140, subject: Unable to stage updates on ESX 3.5 hosts using VMware Update Manager 4.x. As the subject already suggests, “VMware Update Manager 4.x supports patches and extensions staging only for ESX/ESXi 4.x hosts. You cannot stage patches to ESX 3.5 hosts and PXE booted ESXi hosts.”

So, skip over Staging and go directly to Remediate to install the patches.

Installing ESXi 4.1 Update 1 with the vihostupdate utility


To update to the latest version of vSphere, VMware presents in the Download area packages to use with vCenter Update Manager or vihostupdate to upgrade from ESXi 4.0 or ESXi 3.5.

I had the intention to update my current ESXi 4.1 hosts with the vihostupdate utility and was wondering how to determine the content of a package called: The answer is in the  vSphere Command-Line Interface Installation and Scripting Guide. For my own convenience, I have logged the whole process in this post.

IMPORTANT: In case you run another version of ESXi, you have to download one of the other packages, the steps are similar.

Note: vihostupdate performs the actions on one host at a time and you have to provide connection info with each command. In this example, the hostname is ml110g6.

Before you start, the host must be in maintenance mode before you can install patches. You can check with this command.

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Configuring vCenter for email with SMTP authentication


vCenter allows you to configure Alarms to send email if required. Before vCenter can send it’s first email, go in the menu, choose Administration and vCenter Server Settings. Select the Mail section. In this section you can enter the name of the SMTP server (that will relay the email) and in Sender Account, the name of the account used to send email.

In my homelab, I did like to send email to my Gmail account. It would also be nice to use as a mail-relay. Gmail demands authentication, unfortunately, at this moment it is not possible to configure SMTP authentication with vCenter. This is confirmed in VMware KB 1004070.

There are some options, run your own Microsoft Exchange server, or install a Linux VM and run Postfix. This is my homelab, I want a simple solution, and I do not want vCenter to be dependent on all kinds of other VMs that run database- or SMTP servers. For this reason, MS SQL is installed on the vCenter server and it would be nice to send email directly from vCenter.

So it is time to add some extra functionality, in this case: hMailServer. hMailServer is a free and easy to configure email server for Microsoft Windows, it also runs on Windows Server 2008 R2.

Here is a tutorial how to install, configure, test and troubleshoot hMailServer with vCenter.

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