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Green Machines 5.5 Home Lab Update

I know many of you are home lab junkies, and many of you out there replicated my home lab (VMware vSphere Home Lab - "The Green Machines"). This past week I made a dumb mistake. I completely jacked up my Active Directory server, and like a bad admin, I never took a backup and didn't even take a snapshot... Oh well, time to upgrade. Since everything was based on AD authentication, I came across many hiccups with security tokens and said 'screw it, start over'.

 

I took this as an opportunity to do a few things:

  1. Upgrade the lab to vSphere 5.5
  2. Upgrade Synology to DSM 4.3
  3. Since I really jacked it up, I deleted almost every VM and began by building Active Directory on Windows 2012 R2.
  4. I deleted my vCenter and SQL VMs and decided to make the plunge using the vCenter Virtual Appliance
  5. I added a 120GB Kingston HyperX SSD drive to both of my Shuttle hosts
  6. Rebuild VMware View with Horizon 5.3

 

So if you are wondering if stuff is working, I'm happy to say YES! 5.5 is fully working on my lab hosts. Thanks to Erik Bussink's article Adding Realtek R8168 Driver to ESXi 5.5.0 ISO I was able to get the on-board Realtek NIC to be seen which is helpful when migrating over to the distributed switch.

 

One thing that I came across during my re-build is that the C# client DOES NOT WORK ON WINDOWS XP 32-bit! I have Windows XP32-bit as my Fusion VM for doing almost everything because it's light weight and isn't a memory hog (at times). A quick VMware KB search led me to this article: vSphere Client and vSphere PowerCLI may fail to connect to vCenter Server 5.5 due to a Handshake failure (2049143), which basically says "upgrade your $h17". Since all my 2008 servers were down, I decided to install Windows 8.1 on Fusion. After wasting another 2 hours figuring out how to use 8.1 (I hate not having a simple "start" button) I was finally able to connect to my hosts.

 

I took this moment in time to upgrade my Synology DS411+ to DSM 4.3. No new features added for VMware junkies but it does have NFS v4 which will be good when VMware catches up.

 

After the upgrade was complete, I added my NFS mount and began installing a Windows Server 2012 R2 VM for my Active Directory server. I fiddled around with GPO for a bit, added DNS stuff, added WSUS (which still isn't working but not really worried about it), then forged on. Now that I have AD, I imported the vCenter 5.5 Virtual Appliance and began the install process. The appliance install was very simple and is my new friend. I can't wait for all the kinks to be ironed out and this become the new defacto standard. Very Very Very easy. After vCenter was up and running I logged in with my SSO password, changed the default domain to my active directory domain, and gave the domain admins Administrator permissions on the vCenter. After that I began adding in my hosts, configured the vDS, and then added in iSCSI and I was off to the races.

 

Along comes Cyber Monday and I snag myself 2x 120GB Kingston HyperX SSD drives for $80 a piece, with a $20 TigerDirect/V.Me discount, with an additional $30 American Express discount, with free 2-day shoprunner shipping... gives me a total of $109.98. Pretty slick. I got the hard drives custom mounted in the shuttle boxes to leave plenty of room for airflow.

 

So why the SSDs? My lab hosts are almost 3 years old. 16GB of RAM per host doesn't go far when every VM wants 4GB of memory and vCenter wants 8-16GB for all its services. The SSDs were added because I wanted to test the new 5.1 and 5.5 features of Local Swap to SSD and using Virtual Machine Cache to SSD. Anything I can do to get a little bit more performance without having to shell out money for new hosts.

 

After rebooting my hosts, the drives were noticed and I began divvying out the SSD space.

 

If you didn't know, your virtual machines need to be a hardware v10 to utilize this feature. DO NOT UPGRADE vCENTER TO v10! A virtual machine at HW v10 cannot have its settings edited by the C# client. So if you lose something and need to change the NIC adapter to use a local vSwitch, you have to do it the hard way by resetting the networking on the ESXi console instead of just changing the NIC adapter on the VM. It sucks because I would like to give my vCenter server some more caching power but I think this will really come in handy with the nested ESXi environments. Giving those nested ESXi hosts SSD cache will likely be able to help speed up the VMs running inside.

 

So now I needed to rebuild my VMware View environment with Horizon 5.3. Horizon 5.3 Connection brokers ARE NOT COMPATIBLE WITH Windows 2012 R2. I had to spin up a 2008 R2 VM and could then launch the connection broker installation and import the manual desktops I had been using earlier. I had completely forgot about this "feature" (i would call it a bug) that a manual pool with a single Desktop will ALWAYS BE POWERED ON as it wants to keep a spare desktop on to make sure the pool is available. Since I have 6 desktops, each in their own manual pool for different applications, I only want the VMs to be powered on when I want to connect to them because I don't need all that memory being used for no reason. By following the ADSI instructions labeled in this VMware KB article Changing the number of spare, powered-on desktops in a View Manager 4.5 or later manual pool that is managed by vCenter Server. (1022518), i had my Desktops powered down and powering on when trying to connect from the Horizon client.

 

I went ahead and tried to install the View/Horizon Composer service and come to find out that the Composer Service cannot be used with SQL 2012 using the SQL Native Client version 11. Install the SQL Native Client 10 (SQL 2008 Client) and then try and connect. After using version 10, I had the composer service installed. After that was installed, I installed the VMware Horizon Feature Pack 1 which gives Blast functionality to access the desktops via a browser which was pretty nice to have. I would like to have a direct link instead of logging into the Horizon portal first so i can integrate it into jumpsquares.net, but that's for another time.

 

That's all so far in my Green Machines vSphere 5.5 Update. Enjoy

 

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