Tag: vSphere

Upgrading firmware of HP ProLiant Gen9 on VMware infrastructure

Some days back, I was having a conversation with a friend about the recent CVEs that impact the firmware of several physical machines. HP usually will release several vulnerability alerts and it is very important to patch your firmware. You might also notice that the mitigation happens at CPU levels such as AMD or Intel. In this blog post, I will focus on one of the very basic ways to update your firmware. Prior before upgrading, its important to make a checklist. My HP Proliant Gen9  is actually an ESXi on VMware infrastructure. You can view the step by step actions below and pause the video at any time. I have blurred some information for security purpose such as the name of servers, IPs, Logins, etc..

A basic checklist can be considered as follows:

  • Monitoring consideration.
  • How many and size of the VMs on production.
  • The consistency of the Firmware provided by HP.
  • Logins and Passwords for the HP ILO, vCenter, Virtual Machines running, etc..
  • Java or Dot Net framework for accessing the ILO.
  • Where is the storage node of the virtual machines?
  • Load on the cluster or the ESX itself.
  • The expected amount of time during migration.
  • The output of the update (Correction of bugs, New feature, etc..).

1. Prior before upgrading the firmware, you need to make a survey about the oversized VMs. Consider performing a manual migration before activating the maintenance mode. Then, enter maintenance mode, all the virtual machines in the cluster should migrate to other physical machines in the cluster. We assume that the datastore of each machine is not on the physical machine itself which is not recommended.

2. Once all virtual machines migrated to other ESXi hosts, connect to the HP ILO onboard administrator interface. Consider checking the health status of other ESXi hosts on your chassis. 

3. Also consider, verifying the system information of your ESXi host (HP physical machine). 

4. On the ‘information’ tab, click on ‘system information’, you will notice the field ‘Integrated remote console’. You can choose any framework whether Java or .Net to open the console.

5. Once connected, you should be able to see the following screen.

ESXI Console
ESXI Console

6. From vCenter, upload the image file which constitutes of the patch for the new firmware.

7. On vCenter, right click on the physical machine, then ‘reboot’. Consider checking the grey bar that is now blinking on the left just below the ‘<F2> tag ‘at the bottom on the ESXi console.


8. By the time, you should also notice that you have been logout on vCenter.

9. Normally, after a few minutes, the server will reboot showing the HP Enterprise logo followed by other system information, then you will notice a screen that with four key options below: F9 (System Utilities), F10 (Intelligent Provisioning), F11 (Boot Menu), and F12 (Network Boot). Hit the F9 button to enter ‘System Utilities’.

10. Choose the ‘one-time boot menu’ option. Then go to the USB virtual disk that you have mounted at step 6 and hit ‘Enter’.

11. By now you should notice the installation of the firmware in progress. This might take a considerate amount of time. Monitor the installation.

12. After extracting the iso file, it will go through three steps: Inventory, Review, and Deployment.

13. You can also monitor for the ‘blink’ message on the HP Onboard Administrator interface which means that the upgrade has not completed yet.

14. Once, the UID state is off, you can remove the server from maintenance. On vCenter, right click on the server, and click on ‘Exit maintenance mode’.

15. Several machines will now join the ESXi host which has been added back to the cluster through an election process.

If you are interested more on the election process and how High Availability works, please check the article ‘VMware vSphere High Availability‘ which I published several months back.

All steps from 1 to 15 have been described in the video below. If you like the article please click on the like button and share.

[yotuwp type=”videos” id=”P6lh6pyTBfs” ]

VMware vSphere High Availability Basics

VMware vSphere HA is one of the core feature in a cluster. So let’s bring some more precision about it. High Availability – HA enables a cluster of ESXi hosts to work together so that they can provide high levels of High Availability for virtual machines rather than just an ESXi host by itself. In brief, the High Availability feature is provided by pooling virtual machines and the ESXi hosts in the cluster for protection. Some examples could be host failures, host isolations and application crashes. The requirements for HA is a minimum of two hosts, vCenter Server and Shared Storage.

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Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

One ESXi goes down

By default, HA uses management network (Service Console/Management Network VMkernel connections). Let’s take a scenario where there are three ESXi hosts in a cluster. In the event where a physical server (ESXi hosts) goes down, the VM machines will be restarted on the other ESXi hosts. We can also set up applications to be started on the other physical server. From the three physical servers in the cluster one is going to be elected as master. The master server is going to keep track of other ESXi hosts through the heartbeat of other servers. This is done at the management network level. The master server will always expect to have heartbeat responses from other ESXi hosts.

Only the management network went down

If at any moment, the master server detects that a host is down, it will report that to the vCenter server and all servers will be powered on the other ESXi hosts. What is more interesting is that if only the management network goes down, and other network such the datastore network is still working, that would be referred as an Isolation incident. In that case, the vSphere will communicate to the master server and will claim that the ESXi host is still active is through the datastore heartbeat. In that case, the VMs will not be powered onto other ESXi host because it is an Isolation incident.

Only the Datastore network went down

Now, what if only the Datastore network went down and not the Management network? The master server will still receive heartbeat messages from other ESXi hosts, but no data communication is being sent to the datastore. Another element that is included in HA is VMCP – VM Component Protection which is a component that detects that if a VM is having access to the datastore. In the event of failure messages from the datastore heartbeat, the VMs will be powered onto other ESXi hosts where the datastore is sending alive heartbeat messages.

In all three scenarios, HA implies downtime as servers will be restarted in other ESXi hosts, but same is usually done within minutes. Another point to keep in mind is that HA applies only to physical host. For example, if a particular VM encounter a BSOD or Kernel Panic, HA will not know about it because the Physical server (ESXi host) is still communicating with the master server.

How the election process takes place to become the master?

When HA gets activated in the vSphere, the election process takes around 10-15 seconds. In that process (Enabling HA) an agent gets installed to activate HA which is called FDM – Fault Domain manager. Logs can be checked at /var/log/fdm.log. The election process is defined by an algorithm with two rules. For the first, the host with access to the greatest number of datastores wins.

Now, what if all ESXi hosts see the same number of datastores ? There will be a clash. This is where the second rule kicks in i.e; the host with the lexically-highest Managed Object ID (MOID) is chosen. Note that in vCenter Server each object will have a MOID. For example, objects are ESXI servers, folders, VMs etc.. So the lexical analyzer is a first component where it takes a character stream as input, outputs a token which goes into a syntax analyzer and the lexical analysis is performed. Care must be taken when attempting to rig this election because lexically here means, for example, that host-99 is in fact higher than host-100.

What IF …. ?


So what if vCenter Server goes down after setting up HA? 

The answer is HA will still work as it now the capacity to power on the vCenter Server. FDMs are self sufficient to carry on the election process as well as to start the vCenter Server. FDMs are inside the VMs but not inside the vCenter Server.

Enable and Configure vSphere HA
I will be using the free labs provided by VMware to set up HA.
1.The first action is to choose the Cluster then click on ‘Actions‘  then ‘Settings‘.
Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

2. Choose ‘vSphere Availability‘ on the left -> then click on ‘Edit‘.

Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

3. Click on ‘Turn ON vSphere HA’.

Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

4. Choose ‘Failures and Responses‘ option and click on -> and enable ‘VM and Application monitoring‘.

Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

5. On the ‘Admission control‘ -> check the ‘Cluster resource percentage‘ option.

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Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com

6. Click on ‘Heartbeat Datastores’ and select ‘Automatically select datastores accessible form the host‘.

Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com
7. From the ‘Summary’ tab click on ‘vSphere Availability‘, it should mentioned vSphere HA: Protected.
Photo Credits: VMware.com
Photo Credits: VMware.com
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