Nested Home Lab – Part 6 – Adding your first user

Now we have a working PSC and a working VCSA, and the whole set-up enabled for domain authentication. Next we should add a user (you) and if your using ESXi as your hypervizor then next post we’ll add your ESXi host to the VCSA, adding the host won’t be necessary if you’re using workstation.

But first it is important to know, you don’t technically need a directory service but most places will have one and usually it’ll be Microsoft’s Active Directory that’s why I’m including it in these posts.

So before you begin the below make sure you have an Active Directory account created for yourself.

1. If you aren’t already logged in, browse to the vSphere client, accepting any security errors (https://vcsa.domain:9443/vsphere-client), and login using administrator@your.vmwaredomain. In my case I left the SSO domain name as the default. administrator@vsphere.local

2. Select Home and then Hosts and Clusters

3. Select your VCSA server
3.1 Manage
3.2 Permissions
3.3 Then click the “+” icon.

4. Select Add

5. Select your Domain
5.1 Type in the name of the user account or group you want to search for.
5.2 Select the name
5.3 Select Add
5.4 Select OK

6. Once your user is added assign a role and select OK.

You should now see your user or group added to your VCSA. Depending on your permissions you should now be able to login do various bits and pieces.

Permissions can be added to items below the VCSA but it is important to note that permission propagate down the tree. So adding a user to the cluster will give that user rights to the cluster and all objects controlled by the cluster (unless explicitly denied), however this will not give you rights to the VCSA.

Nested Home Lab – Part 5 – Adding an Active Directory identity source to your PSC / VCSA

Since the aim in these posts is to make a simple lab environment that you can use to test various scenarios, we’ll also want to have domain authentication set-up. However the lab will still run without domain authentication and you can use local user accounts. I personally prefer to enable domain authentication.

Remember, DNS is a very important part of Identity, so if you run into issues you might want to add that to your trouble shooting.

This part of the guide can be taken on its own but is based on a separate Platform Services Controller and vCenter Server Appliance.

1.   Browse to the vSphere client, accepting any security errors (https://vcsa.domain:9443/vsphere-client), and login using administrator@your.vmwaredomain. In my case I left the SSO domain name as the default. administrator@vsphere.local. 

2.   Browse to Administrator, then System Configuration and select your PSC

3.   Select Active Directory and click Join.

4.   Enter in the details for a Domain a user account that has permissions to join computer to the domain. Note: The user account format has to be @. Click OK when done.

5.   Once this has completed (without any errors) reboot the PSC. Right click on the node and select Reboot.

6.   Enter in a reason for rebooting the node if you want (I prefer to do this. Its a good habit to get into) and click OK. Rebooting the PSC will not mess up your VCSA session but will take about 5 mins or so.

7.   Once its back, refresh the page. You might need to browse back to the System Configuration page. You should now see the domain field populated and the join button will be greyed out.

8.   Click on Administration to take you back a page.

9.   Click on Configuration, select the Identity Sources tab and click the “+” sign to add a new identity source.

10. On this popup you will be offered four choices.
10.1  Select Active Directory (Integrated Windows Authentication Once you’ve selected that the Domain name field should automatically populate. If it didn’t then your PSC hasn’t joined the domain correctly.
10.2  Select Use Service Principle Name (SPN). STS/
10.3  Enter in the Service Principle name using the @. This account should have permission to browse your domain.
10.4  And the Password for the above account.
10.5  Click OK

11. If all goes well then you should see a new entry in you identity sources.

And that’s it you can now go and add your first domain user account to the permissions, which I’ll show you in the next post.

Nested Home Lab – Part 4 – VCSA

The VCSA 6 now offers feature parity with the windows edition, including the long awaited for linked mode. In fact when you look at the vSphere 6.0 configuration maximums doc it doesn’t have a separate section for the windows deployment and the appliance deployment.
Now in your environment you need to make a decision, Windows based or Appliance based. For me, personally, I’ve long been a fan of the appliance. Its easy to deploy and doesn’t require a windows license, not that I’m against windows at all.
For a small lab it’s quite a beefy install, even at the tiny deployment. 8GB Ram and 2 CPU’s and the HDD requirements can be anything from 30GB to 120GB depending on whether you are using the imbedded controller or not.
But given all of that we will cheat a bit with the memory requirements. After deployment, drop it down to 4GB. Please not that this is not supported. 

As in the previous post, if you haven’t done so already, you need to install the Client integration plugin which can be found in the iso at vcsaVMware-ClientIntegrationPlugin-6.0.0.exe.

Firstly unpack the ISO to your local drive. C:/temp for example.

1. Double click on vcsa-setup.html. (found in the unpacked ISO).

2. Your browser might ask for confirmation before staring the Client integration plugin. Accept the caution.

3. Select Install

4. Select “I accept the terms of the License Agreement”Click Next.

 5. Enter in the IP address, username (usually root) and the password of the ESXi server you are deploying the PSC to.Click Next.

 6. Accept the certificate warning by clicking Yes.

 7. Enter in the name of the VCSA and give it a password. Click Next.

 8. On this screen you have three choices. For our lab we’ll select “Install vCenter Server (Requires external Platform Services Controller)“. Click Next.

9. Now here we’ll want to enter in the details of the PSC we deployed previously, entering in the PSC name and the SSO password. Its usually best to leave the SSO port at 443. Click Next.

10. Leave the appliance size at tiny. Click Next.

11. Select the datastore you want to deploy into and select “Enable Thin Disk Mode“. Click Next.

12. Select “Use an embedded database (vPostgres). Click Next.

13. Carefully, enter in the networking details, tick “Enable ssh”. Click Next.

 14. Check all your config details. Click Finish

If all your network settings were correct, the install will go off and work its magic. 
Next post: we’ll go through joining the whole lot to your domain.

Nested Home Lab – Part 3 – PSC

So back again.

In this post we’ll look at installing the Platform Services Controller (PSC).

Forgetting about ESX for a minute, this new iteration of vSphere is, in my opinion, a huge leap forward for administrators. It feels like the virtual appliance architecture has finally come of age. The split of duties makes a great deal of sense. The PSC is responsible for Single Sign On (SSO), Licensing, and as a Certificate Authority, while the VCSA hosts the inventory service, the web client and others.

So why on different appliances for this lab? Well going forward, in future blog posts, we’ll look at connecting a second VCSA to the PSC.

This first VCSA and PSC will lay the foundation for this and future labs

OK onward.

To install the VCSA and/or PSC you you will need to install the VMware client intergration plugin. can be found in the iso at vcsaVMware-ClientIntegrationPlugin-6.0.0.exe. To be honest I’m still not 100% sure why this is needed. I’ve seed similar functionality using HTML5.

This part of the installer does assume that you have a DC up and running. If you don’t you should get one setup before continuing as we will need it later, if you choose to follow that part of the guide.

Once that’s done we can fire up the installer and get the PSC installed.

Firstly unpack the ISO to your local drive. C:/temp for example.

1. Double click on vcsa-setup.html. (found in the unpacked ISO).

2. Your browser might ask for confirmation before staring the Client integration plugin. Accept the caution.
3. Select Install
4. Select “I accept the terms of the License Agreement”Click Next.
5. Enter in the IP address, username (usually root) and the password of the ESXi server you are deploying the PSC to.Click Next.
6. Enter in the name of the PSC and give it a password. Click Next.
7. On this screen you have three choices. For our lab we’ll select “Install Platform Services Controller”. Click Next.
8. Select Create a new SSO Domain. Select a password for the SSO domain. This is different from the appliance root password, which is for the OS. If you don’t write down your lab passwords ,choose something easy to remember, We’ll need this password later. Enter in the SSO Domain name as vsphere.local and the site name as -site-1. Click Next.
9. Appliance size… Well nothing to choose here… Click Next. 
10. Select the datastore you want to deploy the PSC onto. The SATA drive should be fine for this as it’s a relatively small appliance. 

11. Networking is King here and you’ll need to be vigilant going through this. For the time sync select “Synchronize appliance with ESXi host” and tick “Enable ssh”.  Click Next.

12. Check and check and check your settings. Once you are happy, Click Finish.
13. The installer will now go off and setup the PSC on your ESXi server.
That’s the first bit done. Next post is the VCSA installation. 
EDIT: This is quite a good read for those who would like move info on the PSC: VMware Platform Services Controller 6.0 FAQs

Nested Home Lab – Part 2 – Networking


While we can run all our services over one network segment, for this lab we really want three VLANs.
Networking setup will differ slightly for ESXi and Workstation but both will use the three VLANs.
Use Example IP Range Note
VM and Management Best to use you existing home network.
VSAN (vlan 30) Internal Only
vMotion (vlan 40) Internal Only

It is considered best practice to separate out various types of network traffic. Usually you would separate out your VM traffic from your management but for this lab we will keep them together. We will separate out vMotion and VSAN traffic though.

ESXi: When I’m designing a vSphere environment with rack mount servers in mind I usually separate management traffic out into a separate standard virtual switch (2 x 1g ports) and all other traffic is sent to 2 x 10g ports through a distributed virtual switch using vlans to separate the traffic further and NIOC to control bandwidth.

All righty then, what’s this going to look like for us?

In Workstation:

In ESXi:

So far, so good. For Workstation nothing else needs to be done.

As you can see from the ESXi image above I haven’t specified a physical adapter for vSwitch1, With ESXi if network traffic is on the same VLAN and on the same virtual switch, it won’t go the the physical switch. The virtual switch, an in memory construct, will just pass the traffic along, however if you need to cross VLANs, the traffic will need to be passed to the physical switch for routing across VLANs. In this case, its very handy as we won’t want traffic to pass between the VSAN port group and the vMotion port group. EDIT: What we want to do is set-up the LAN port group with VLAN 4095. This will enable ESXi to pass the vlan traffic about correctly.

Now is ESXi we need to make two changes to the vMotion and VSAN port groups, Enable Promiscuous Mode and Forget Transmits:

William Lam of Virtually Ghetto has a great write up here discussing the reasons for this.

So those are the networking eccentricities, Next we’ll look at getting our first VCSA with a dedicated Platform Services Controller up and running.

Just a note: I had hoped to post this sooner but family and holiday commitments took over.

Nested Home Lab – Part 1 – The Plan

Now before we charge headlong into this lab you need to go and check out the work that Alastair Cooke and Nick Marshall have done with AutoLab over at Its a really good project and it automates much of what we will do through the next few posts manually.

For this first lab we are going to start with the basics, a three node cluster that will support vMotion, a couple of VM’s and VSAN for storage.

Lets also see if we can apply best practice where possible. This lab will give you a good environment to familiarise yourself with VMware.

You can just as easily build this lab using VMware workstation, in fact its where I first set it up. I still think Workstation is one of the best products that VMware make.

To get started we’ll need a few things:
  1. Computer with at least 16GB of RAM. This will either run ESXi natively (preferred) or windows/ linux with VMware workstation.
  2. Windows server install media.
  3. VMware vSphere ESXi
  4. VMware vCenter server Appliance
  5. Ubuntu ISO or Tiny Core Linux.
  6. A Plan
While you have the above software downloading lets look at the plan.

What we want to do is think about this environment as having three layers, which I’ll keep referring back to. 

Layer 1 – The physical kit. Here we will be running an OS/hypervisor on our physical “server”. Whether this is ESXi or VMware Workstation is, at this stage immaterial. 

Layer 2 – This is will be our first virtual layer and where our three ESXi servers, the vCenter Server Appliance (VCSA) and our Domain Controller will live.

Layer 3 – This will be our “nested” layer. Here we will run between one and three VM’s. These VM’s won’t really do anything except run an OS. I have historically run Linux in this layer as it seems to perform OK. I have listed two Linux distributions what I know run well as nested VM’s. But, really you could run any OS if you have the mind to.

As we go through the setup I’ll try to cover both the Workstation and ESXi configs but, as you would expect, this will work much better with ESXi and that’s where I’ll concentrate most.

Next post we’ll look at the networking required for your nested lab.

Home Labbing

Unless you’ve been living under a rock you will have heard two big announcements over the last couple of weeks.
1. vSphere 6 is official. 
2. VMUG advantage now comes with VMwares EVALexperience
While the vSphere 6 announcement was expected by the community the EVALexperience was a real surprise, to me anyway. 
What does this mean? Well, in addition to all the benefits that come with a VMUG advantage subscription you now get the ability to use a bunch of VMware’s software for the duration of your subscription. No rebuilds every couple of months which makes your home lab more “stable/persistent”and the list of available software looks quite good.
With each new release of vSphere or SRM or NSX or VSAN or … or … or … a lab becomes more important.

But what do you want out of a lab? Do you want to test new software, create disposable environments, run a permanent infrastructure? I guess its really up to and your budget. For me its important to test new software, do early investigation before I approach work and study. Do I need permanent running infrastructure? Not really. I prefer nested a ESX solution. It suits me and my budget. However there are many instances when you would want a “physical” lab, Consultants for a start.

Anyway, I have only three bits of kit that are really important to creating my home lab.

  • One second hand laptop (Main work horse).
  • One small netgear switch (TP-LINK TL-SG108E)
  • One Lenovo S20 (ESXi – Booted from USB)
Laptop –> Switch –> S20
Right, so the S20 I tricked out a bit. It has a full compliment of Ram (24GB), one 500GB SSD and one 1TB SSD. It’s connectivity to the world is through the 1GB interface and it boots from an 8 GB SSD.

The whole lab runs several Nested VM’s. Usually three ESX servers, VSAN, one VCSA and a DC. However it has run four ESX Servers, two windows servers with vCenter and SRM, and two Netapp simulators.

In the next post I’ll step through setting up a nested virtual lab.

VMworld Session Review – VAPP2305

Session: Extreme Performance Series – Understanding Applications that Require Extra TLC

Speakers: Vishnu Mohan (VMware), Reza Taheri (VMware).

This session was one of a series covering Extreme Performance.

If you are a virtualization Engineer then this should be a session you catch-up with and I am an engineer to my core. Of the three VMworld’s I have attended this was by far the most enjoyable and interesting session I have attended.

This session really looks at edge cases where virtualizationtechnologies would be the cause of performance issue.

Things like standards are not really discussed but assumed, in so much as this talk doesn’t cover rookie mistakes and assumes for all scenarios that all best practices are currently being met and the latest VMware stack is being used.

Extreme I/O, latency and timers are covered, dissected and demystified. Both Vishnu and Reza were brutally honest and completely unapologetic about the limitations of virtualization. The issues that were encountered affecting virtualization, would affect all platforms and not just VMware’s.

The speakers do make it very clear that for 99% of workloads/applications the default settings will serve you just fine and they are completly right. When was the last time you needed to “tune” a VM, not the application but the VM? 

Also questions are posed along the lines of “You want to use SR-IOV? What for?” A VM can push 1 million packets. Perhaps if you needed extremely low latency and virtualization together. But maybe you would be better off going physical in that case.

For me the big takeaway from this session is know your workloads. Question and analyse.

White Paper Wednesday.

I’ve just finished reading NetApp’s white paper WP-7193, FAS Hardware: Optimized for I/O Expandability, and Reliability.

First off I would say that this is not a paper that is heavy on the technical details. It more of a “this is what we do and how we do it” paper. At time it does read like a marketing paper but over all its a paper that would be good for somebody to read that is new to NetApp and would like to find out a bit more about the technology.

The focus is on their FAS series, which is where I would expect most peoples first contact with NetApp would be and covers a fair amount of topics from Storage I/O Data paths to on disk error correction.

One of the topics is touches on is the attitude that a storage system (NetApp, EMC, 3PAR, etc) is really just a fancy server with disks attached. While the argument can be made it usually indicates a lack of understanding of how a dedicated storage appliance really works. Yes is has an Intel CPU and Toshiba RAM and Hitachi disks but it is highly optimised to perform two functions: Serve Data, Protect Data. Both ways it is an interesting argument. How much is hardware and how much is software. With the availability of very well featured software storage OS’s such as FreeNAS the waters get muddied further.

I used FreeNAS extensively when studying for the VCAP-DCA exam, it worked and worked well. However the question is, can it compare? For certain uses, sure, its a viable alternative, cost effective and easy to manage. Could it go head-to-head with a FAS2240? Even though I doubt it, its something I am curious to test.

Cisco nexus 1000v goes free

At my place of work we use the Cisco Nexus 1000v. It was a big part of my drive in the last year to bring all parts of IT into the virtual environment.

Selling the 1000v to the Network department was actually very easy. I gave one of the engineers a Cisco white paper to read on physical switch best practice and VMware. He read it that night and came to the office when straight to his manager and explained why we needed to buy it.

The whole purpose of this was to bring the network team into the fold. As we moved forward with a fairly aggressive P2V drive the network team has slowly lost control and visibility of a fairly major part of their network. Not being able to apply and guarantee the same network policies across the network estate is a major cause of concern for many network people.

The network team are now approaching me and asking if they can look at putting the virtual versions of the physical security appliances they use into the Virtual environment, so when I was at VMworld in Barcelona, I made a point to visit the Cisco stand and ask about the VSG and the Virtual ASA to try to get an idea of how they work with the 1000v’s, differences, licensing and other bits and pieces. They told me that Cisco were going to come out with a two tier licensing model. Essentials and Advanced, in other words free and not free. OK that is a little unfair as the Advanced version does have a few more features than the Essentials version, most importantly for us the Advanced version now comes with a VSG license.

For us this is great. In our small offices (two hosts) we can now start to put the free version and in our large datacentres we can keep using the 1000v but now also have the option of using the VSG. This should also be a big benefit for small companies, schools, charities and anybody else who is cash strapped (and yes, home labs too).

While this is good news, Cisco aren’t in the business of giving away free stuff, they don’t even do, what I fondly refer to as the drug pusher samples (a small bundle of free licenses to get you hooked). It makes me wonder how strong the uptake of the 1000v architecture really was. We love it and get really good use out of it but it is expensive and I believe this cost probably drive most people away.

Either way I think its a good step forward.