Installing VMWare ESX using a Dell DRAC card

Here is a how-to on installing VMWare ESX 3.5 using a DRAC (Dell Remote Access Controller) card to access the server. I was installing a new cluster in a Dell M1000e Blade Centre for work the other day and wrote up this process in order for it to be documented for anyone else doing it in the future.

Just for interests sake the basic specs of the system are:

1 x Dell M1000e Blade Centre
3 x Redundant 2000w+ Power supply units
16 x Dell M600 Blades (Each one has 2 x Quad core Xeon CPUs and 32GB RAM).

1. Connect to the M1000e’s chassis DRAC card.
a. Connect to M1000e chassis DRAC card. (https://x.x.x.x) – use the IP for that particular blade centre’s DRAC card. Login with DRAC credentials.
b. Use the agreed DRAC user credentials, or if this is a new setup, the defaults are username: root password: calvin).

login_drac

2. Select boot order for Blade and power it up
a. Choose the Blade server number that you will be working with from the Servers list on the left side.
b. Click on the Setup tab, and choose Virtual CD/DVD as the first boot device then click Apply.
c. Select the Power Management tab and choose Power on, then click Apply.

configure_boot_order_for_blade

3. Go to iDRAC console of the blade server
a. Click on Launch iDRAC GUI to access the iDRAC for the blade you have just powered on.
b. You will need to login again as this is another DRAC we are connecting to (This time the DRAC is for the actual blade server not the chassis).

launch_idrac_gui

4. Configure Mouse
a. Click on the Console tab near the top of the screen and then click the Configuration button near the top.
b. In the mouse mode drop down, select Linux as the mouse type, then click Apply.

configure_mouse

5. Launch Console viewer
a. From the console tab we can now select the Launch Viewer button.
b. An activeX popup might appear – allow it access and the DRAC console should now appear with the server in its boot process.

6. Mount Virtual ISO media for installation disc (ESX 3.5)
a. Click on Media, and then select Virtual Media Wizard.
b. Select ISO image and then browse to the ISO for ESX 3.5 – this could be on your local drive or a network share.
c. Click the connect CD/DVD button to mount the ISO.
d. Your boot order should be configured correctly to boot off this ISO now. (*Optional* You could always press F11 whilst the server is booting to choose the boot device anyway).

attach_virtual_media_iso

7. Reboot the server if the boot from virtual CD/DVD has already passed
a. Go to Keyboard – Macros – Alt-Ctrl-Del to do this.

8. ESX install should now start.
a. Press enter to go into graphical install mode
b. Select Test to test the media (The ISO should generally be fine).
c. Select OK to start the install.
d. Choose United Kingdom Keyboard layout (or whatever Keyboard layout you use).
e. Leave the mouse on generic 3 button USB.
f. Accept the license terms.

esx_install_start

esx1

9. Partitioning
a. For partition options, leave on “Recommended”. It should now show the Dell virtual disk of 69GB (in this case) or the Dell RAID virtual disk / disk configuration.
b. Say “Yes” to removing all existing partitions on the disk. (That is if you don’t mind formatting and completely clearing out any existing data that may be on this disk).
c. Alter partitions to get the following best practice sizes: (See http://vmetc.com/2008/02/12/best-practices-for-esx-host-partitions/)
d. Note: It doesn’t matter if these sizes are 2-3MB out for some. The installer deviates these sizes slightly. The swap partition should have 1600MB minimum though.
e. Next page is Advanced Options – Leave as is (Book from SCSI drive).

esx_partitions_recommended

10. Network Configuration
a. Setup network configuration
b. IP address (x.x.x.x) – whatever IP you are assigning this particular ESX Host.
c. Subnet mask: 255.255.255.0 for example.
d. Gateway:  Your gateway IP address (x.x.x.x)
e. Primary DNS:  (x.x.x.x)
f. Secondary DNS: (x.x.x.x)
g. Hostname: localhost.localdomain for example : ESXhost01.shogan
h. VLAN ID – Leave this blank if you are not using VLANs. If you are, then specify the VLAN here.
i. Create a default network for virtual machines – Unless you have a specific network configuration in mind leave this ticked on.

11. Time zone
a. Set Location to  your location.
b. System clock uses UTC is left as ticked.

12. Root password
a. Set default root password . (This is your admin password)!

13. Finish installation
a. Next page is “About to Install”
b. Check the information is all correct and click Next if all looks fine.

14. Change boot order back and restart the blade server.
a. Via the iDRAC page, change the boot order back to Hard disk for the blade so that it will reboot using the server’s RAID hard disks instead of the ISO.
b. Reboot the host by pressing the Finish button back in the console.
c. Disconnect the Virtual CD from the Media option in the console menu.
d. Watch the console while the server reboots to ensure no errors are reported on startup.

If all went well, you should now have an ESX Host booted to the console. Press Alt-F1 to access the command line (you will need to login as root or any other user you setup).

You can now access your server via the web browser (https://x.x.x.x). From here you can download the Virtual Infrastructure client to manage the ESX Host with.

This host could now be further configured and added to an ESX cluster for example. SANs could be assigned and vMotion setup so that HA (High Availability) and DRS (Distributed Resource Scheduling) can be put to good use!

Fix my network wizard – SBS 2008

Today I discovered the usefulness of the “Fix my network” wizard in Windows SBS 2008.

You access it by opening the Windows SBS Console, Clicking on the Network tab, and then clicking on the Connectivity sub-tab.

One of the tasks on the right panel will be the “Fix my network” wizard.

sbs2008-console1

fix-my-network

This wizard contains around about 70 different fixes for various network / DNS / IP related issues. With SBS 2003, I often found that re-running the Connect to Internet Wizard on the many different SBS servers I worked with would solve problems experienced with DNS, DHCP, IP settings etc… Well with SBS 2008, it seems they have created this wizard solely for that purpose.

Anyway I was having an issue running the Connect to Internet wizard on the 2008 machine today – I was getting a DNS error and the CTIEW would not complete. I ran the “Fix my Network” wizard and it found a problem with the DNS server (It had stopped – and I didn’t think to check this!) It also picked up that IPv6 for DHCP wasn’t configured (Not that I needed this). After completion, it re-enabled the service and installed the IPv6 DHCP range for me. Turns out that there was a conflict between the two servers that caused the DNS server service to stop.

This is a very handy tool to use when short on time with SBS 2008 network troubleshooting and it is good to see MS implementing handy tools like this with their products – simple and functional!

DNS for tld’s not working on SBS 2008 when using root hints

After one day, you may find your Windows 2008 DNS Server is unable to resolve names in some top level domains (TLD’s) like .co.uk, .cn, and .br when it is configured to use root hints. This may also be seen with other top level domains too. According to Microsoft, a network monitor trace should show that the DNS Server does not send any DNS traffic out to the internet. The Windows 2008 DNS server returns SERVFAIL to the client or when using nslookup. I have not used Network Monitor to verify this myself, but I am sure if you loaded it up and used this MS KB to set up a trace that you would be able to verify this symptom.
Workarounds include restarting the DNS server, clearing the DNS cache, setting maxcachettl to 2 days or greater, and using DNS Forwarders instead of root hints.

 

This currently occurs with default SBS 2008 installs that have been configured to use root hints for DNS lookup. I have recently noticed this behaviour myself with two different SBS 2008 installs.

 

If you want to use root hints, you can set the maxcachettl registry value on the Windows 2008 DNS Server as follows:
1. Start Registry Editor (Regedit.exe).
2. Locate the following registry key:
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\DNS\Parameters
3. On the Edit menu, click New, click DWORD (32-bit) Value and then add the following value:
Value: MaxCacheTtl
Data Type: DWORD
Data value: 0x2A300 (172800 in decimal = 2 days)
4. Click OK.
5. Quit Registry Editor.
6. Restart the DNS server.

 

Another way to get around this issue is to use the following method (I personally prefer this way):

1. Open up DNS under Administrative tools from the SBS server’s start menu.
2. Right click on the server name and select Properties.

 

dns-console1

 

3. Go to the Forwarders tab and click on the “edit” button.
4. Enter the primary DNS address of your ISP (In this case mine was BT so I used 194.72.0.98) and click Ok.
5. The forwarders section will now attempt to automatically resolve the FQDN for that IP. (Note you can also probably enter your router’s IP address in the forwarders section which should then get your SBS to look to the router for DNS information).

 

dns-console-properties

 

6. Click Ok to close the properties window and then close your DNS console.

 

DNS lookups for the TLDs should now be working again. If not, stop and restart DNS or give the server a reboot.

Cannot save the attachment. Can’t create file in Outlook.

Had this problem on a PC today – Outlook was having trouble opening .MHT file attachments from a contact item. Any attempt to open any .MHT file would result in an error message stating “Cannot save the attachment xxxxxxxxx.mht. Can’t create the file. It then asked to open the folder / file in question and check security permissions. This could happen for any attachment type, but in my case it was .MHTs.

Anyway the quick solution I found is to browse to the “OutlookSecureTempFolder” and remove all files listed in that directory. Close and restart Outlook and everything should be working again. Credit to this page where I found the solution.

1. Open REGEDIT.EXE and go to Edit -> Find… In the Find dialog box type “OutlookSecureTempFolder” without the quotes and locate that registry key.

2. That key will contain the actual folder location, and will look like:

C:\Documents and Settings\%USER_NAME%\Local Settings\Temporary Internet Files\OLK#\ (where # is a random letter or number)

3. Copy the location of that folder.

4. Click on Start -> Run… and paste the folder location from step #4 then click OK.

5. Windows Explorer will open that folder. Please, delete all files present.

6. Restart Microsoft Outlook and you should be able to open your attachments.

A quick update to this – the error occurs when you have the same document saved in this folder 99 times. This seems to be the maximum limit of times you can have an attachement from Outlook saved into this “temp” folder. Each time you open a file with the same file name from Outlook a new copy is saved here. For example (filename.zip (1) filename.zip (2) etc.)

Symantec System Center 10.1 not pushing out license files or definition updates

Today I had the issue whereby System Center would not update license files (.slf) for client PCs for a group in the console.

I could add the .slf on the server directly, but could not add it for each client PC. I could also not send virus definition updates to each client either, as the licenses had expired.

Anyway, it turns out that the Windows Firewall in XP for each of the clients was blocking these from going through. To resolve, just remotely manage the PC in question from the Computer Management console (Right-click My Computer, select Manage). Then click Action – Connect to another Computer. Type in the PC name and click Ok.

Once connected, browse to the services section, find the Windows Firewall / ICS service and right-click it. Select Disable from the menu.

disable-firewall

Now that the Windows Firewall is disabled, use the Symantec System Center console to push out the new license file for that PC in question, or a series of PCs.

install-licensefile

Once done, you can right click the selection of PC’s and update the virus definitions.

Be sure to turn the firewalls back on if you happen to use Windows Firewall / Internet connection sharing.