Getting started with the vCSA 6.x – Part 2

In the previous post we started to unravel the vCSA and discussed topics like the Appliance shell, the file system and the services. In this post we will continue with the vCSA Health.

Health

Knowing the health of your system is important. Like the Windows vCenter Server, the vCSA is also able to report its health. Most common is using the vSphere Web Client and from the main menu, choose: System Configuration and watch the “Service Health” pane. Detailed information can be found by clicking on the various Services.

Figure 1

However, from the Appliance shell, the following API command will also inform you”

Command> system.health.get

If everything is OK, it will report; Health: green

In the Bash shell, you can browse to the folder: /etc/vmware-sca/health/.
On a vCSA 6.0, you will find two files with health status information:

vmware-vpxd-health-status.xml
vmware-postgres-health-status.xml

On a vCSA 6.5, you will only find the first file.

Logging

When it comes to logging and support bundles, you will most probably use the vSphere Web Client or VMware Loginsight. In case you want to know where the log files are actually stored, VMware followed the general rule for all things Unix/Linux. Start in the well-known /var/log folder. Here you will find the common Linux log files.

The folder  /var/log/vmware, a symbolic link to /storage/log/vmware is the starting point for the vCSA specific log files. Here you will find a sub-folder for each service running on the vCSA, e.g.
/var/log/vmware/vpxd.

Database

One of the most important parts of the vCSA is the embedded vPostgres database. vPostgres is a VMware tweaked version of the well know PostgreSQL database. If you’re looking for more information about the nuts and bolts of PostgreSQL, the official documentation is a good starting point: https://www.postgresql.org/docs/9.3/static/

VMware employee Adam Eckerle wrote an interesting three-part blog post about vPostgres and the vCSA, the links are here, one, two and three.

One of the most important parts of a DBMS is the configuration files. For vPostgres these can be found in the following folder: /storage/db/vpostgres/

If you want to interact with the vPostgres database yourself, you can start with this KB “Interacting with the vCenter Server Appliance 6.5 embedded vPostgres Database (2147285)

Note: Although this post covers vPostgres on a Windows based vCenter Server and it is fully unsupported, the idea certainly is original.

A vCenter Server, whether it be a Windows based or an appliance, is a precious item, so backup and restore is really important. If you are not sure if your backup method of the vCenter Server is supported, start reading VMware KB “Overview of Backup and Restore options in vCenter Server 6.x (2149237)”.

VMware KB “Back up and restore vCenter Server Appliance/vCenter Server 6.0 vPostgres database (2091961)” presents more information when using a not supported method.

vCenter Server Appliance version 6.5 has many new features, one of these is the built-in native file-based backup and restore. For more information and links to the Walkthroughs, see this post.

Some more reading about vPostgres, although the first post is based on the Windows version, you will find some useful information.

http://www.virtually-limitless.com/vsphere-6-0/interacting-with-the-vpostgres-database-in-vsphere-6-0/

https://nilic.github.io/2015/03/21/exploring-vcsa-embedded-postgresql-database/

Extra tools

The VCSA has two hidden gems. The first one is a tool named “VIMtop” and can best be described as ESXtop de luxe for the VCSA. VIMtop has three views; Processes, Networks and Disks.

VIMtop can be started from both shells.

Figure 2

For a deep dive, a description of all metrics and the keyboard shortcuts, see this post by William Lam.
vCSA 6.5 comes with a newer version (0.9) of this tool.

The other tool is “pgtop”, a plug-in that can be used to monitor the vPostgres database. As it’s a plug-in, you can only start pgtop from the appliance shell.

Figure 3

At first glance pgtop shows information about the vPostgres processes, similar to what you see in VIMtop. However there are a few interesting options that can be explored by pressing just a few keys, for example:

  • Toggle the “c” key to see the current commands and queries.
  • After pressing the “L” you can find out which locks are held by one of the processes.

Pressing the “h” key presents an overview of all available single-character commands.

Finally

I hope these posts were helpful to get you more comfortable with the vCSA. One final tip (as it happened to me a few times in my home lab), if you ever lose the root password and need to reset the vCSA, see this useful VMware KB “ Reset root account, Unable to log in to the root account of vCenter Server Appliance (2069041).

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