Automated Deployment of ESX Hosts Part I

A very important part of deploying your Virtual Infrastructure environment is consistency when it comes to the configuration of the ESX hosts.   Time and time again as common practice I see users deploying ESX hosts manually with no documentation to follow other than what they have in their heads.  Deploying ESX hosts in this fashion can lead to inconsistent configurations between hosts.  Choosing manual installations over scripted installations can lead to all sorts of problems some of which can be very difficult to diagnose.

There is a very common misconception that scripted installations are difficult or not worth the time and effort to create.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Utilizing scripted installations can save countless hours of time spent manually installing ESX and troubleshooting problems from inconsistent manual installs.  This is part I of a multi-part blog in which I am going to walk you through the different options that are available with scripted installations.  I am also going to share with you some sample scripts and methods to streamline the testing of scripts you develop.  Before we begin to develop a script we need to know what our “standard” configuration is going to be.  Without having a standard configuration we don’t know what we need to configure.  It’s important to develop a standard configuration for your environment.  If you have multiple clusters in your environment your standard configuration may have minor changes from cluster to cluster but should ultimately be consistent across the environment to make troubleshooting and maintenance much simpler.

In part II of this blog post I will post my “standard” configuration that will be used to build my sample automated kickstart installation script.  My standard configuration will include the following:

  • Service Console Partitioning scheme
  • Service Console memory size
  • Active Directory Servers for Service Console PAM integration
  • AD Users to have access to the Service Console
  • Service Console Security Policy
  • Agents to be install in the Service Console and their configurations
  • ESX Hosts Networking Configuration including routing, DNS, NTP, etc…
  • Licensing Server Information

Once I have a “standard” configuration I will perform a walk through using it to develop a script that will be used for the Automated Deployment.  Once the script is developed then we will cover the options for deploying a host using the script.  These options include:

  • PXE Boot using a tool like the UDA appliance
  • Install from CD using a hosted kickstart file.
  • Network installation using http, ftp, or nfs
  • Custom ESX installation CD’s.

Your homework assignment before “Automated deployment of ESX hosts par II” is to determine what your “standard” ESX build is and have the information handy to start building your script. So don’t forget to check back for my next post where we start to build our kickstart files.

Getting New Performance Overview Charts Working in VC2.5U4

One of the New features of vCenter 2.5 Update 4 is the “Performance Overview Charts”. But, if you do not follow the proper upgrade steps, it will not work properly. I am a big fan of the “Complete uninstall and install fresh” method. You can make sure all of the bits are gone before the upgrade. Obviously, you will need to make a backup copy of your license files and, if changes were made, the vpxd.cfg file.If you look at the release notes, you will see a link to a VMware Knowledgebase Article about how to get the charts working. It tells you that you will need to install the Java Development Kit6u11. You will also need to set path info into the environment, copy the files from the CD to a local disk and run install from there.

But there are those of us that will just download the zip file, uncompress it, and run setup.exe. No backups, no uninstall first. This is why VMware has several KB articles about how to get the charts working, depending on how you upgraded.

The first KB Article deals with not stopping the Web services first. Another KB Article deals with the need for an updated Oracle ODBC driver if you have an Oracle database.  Finally, for those of us living on the edge, there is a KB Article if you are suing the bundled SQL Express database.

So, here are my steps in a nutshell:

  1. Backup the databases, license file and (if needed) vpxd.cfg
  2. Uninstall the old version of vCenter, VUM, Converter, and Capacity Planner
  3. Install the Java Development Kit6u11
  4. Edit the environment path and append C:Program FilesJavajdk1.6.0_11bin
  5. Add a system variable of JAVA_HOME to point to C:Program FilesJavajdk1.6.0_11
  6. Install vCenter, pointing to the vCenter and VUM databases when prompted
  7. Copy the vpxperfCharts directory from the CD to local disk
  8. Run install.bat from vpxperfCharts on the local disk
  9. Uninstall Capacity Planner (You don’t need it by now, do you???)

Obviously, if you have your Program Files on a different drive or path than the default, it will need to be entered appropriately in steps 4 and 5.

Well, there you have it. Setup Performance Overview Charts in 9 easy steps.