Tag Archive: Virtualization

New Lab / NAS

Far too long since the last post. Let’s hope this will be the start of them picking back up again!

I have been experiencing some performance issues and need to have a bit of a re-shuffle of the servers/network (my vCenter appliance has stopped working, SQL is being slow etc). I have some production stuff running and don’t want to take everything offline for long so decided to build a new environment then migrate stuff.

I wont be changing much; 

Old NAS; Synology DiskStation 1812+ w/
-4x 3TB WD Green in Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR) : Main data store for Movies, PVR Recordings, ISOs, Photos etc (CIFS & NFS)
-2x 256GB OCZ Vertex4 SSD in RAID0 : Virtual machine storage (NFS)
-2x1gbit LACP to switch
Old ESXi Host; SuperMicro X8SIL-F w/ Xeon X3470 & 16GB RAM running VMWare ESXi v5.1
Old switch; Linksys SRW2024W

New NAS; Snology DiskStation 1813+ w/
-3x 4TB WD Red in Synology Hybrid Raid (SHR) : Main data store for Movies, PVR Recordings, ISOs, Photos etc (CIFS & NFS)
-3/4?x 250GB Samsung EVO 840 SSD in RAID0? : Virtual machine storage (NFS/iSCSI?)
-3x1gbit LACP to switch dedicated to main data store
-1gbit to switch dedicated to VM storage
New ESXi Host; SuperMicro X8SIL-F w/ Xeon X3470 & 32GB RAM running VMWare ESXi v5.5
New switch; Cisco SG200-26 (separate vm storage traffic on it’s own VLAN/subnet)

You’ll notice a bunch of questions marks around the new Virtual machine storage volume. I’m currently debating which disk configuration to use and which storage protocol. I’ve always used NFS as it seems much simpler but understood iSCSI to be the better option (especially with the Synology supporting VAAI hardware acceleration). But despite this, i’ve been reading that NFS seems to outperform iSCSI.

Additionally, if I go iSCSI I will try using 2x1gbit ports and enabling multipathing / round-robin. If I go down the NFS route I don’t think LACP will provide any benefit as the IP hash from a single ESXi host to the single DiskStation will always use the same link?

I have 4 of the EVO SSD so am initially creating a 2 disk RAID0 volume using NFS and an identical volume using iSCSI. I can then try running some like for like comparisons/benchmarks to determine which configuration to use going forward.

I will provide an update shortly.

New Virtual Lab – Part 2

…continued from https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/new-virtual-lab-part-1/

So- in came the first set of bits for new server #1 and I begun piecing it together…

Issue #1- The motherboard doesn’t sit quite right on the spacers/chassis screws (because of the element of the cpu cooler which sits on the underside of the metherboard)- not really a problem, I just added a few washers (I expect I may’ve been able to find some slightly larger spacers too, if i’d looked hard enough).

Issue #2- My USB pen drive didn’t fit in the internal slot with the chassis together. Not to worry- i simply attached a header to the spare pins and plugged the USB stick into one of those ports still inside the case.

Issue #3- When i powered up the machine it was pretty loud. I checked and believe this to be because the Akasa cooler (AK-CCE-7107BS) only has a 3 pin header so doesn’t support pulse-width-modulation (PWM) and effectively runs at full speed all of the time! Fortunately the other cooler (Gelid Slim Silence IPlus Low Profile Intel CPU Cooler) had the correct 4 pin connector and when hooked up, supported PWM and ran nice and quiet!

Issue #4- I intend to run the server “headless” so one of the great features of the X8-SiL-F motherboard is the on-board IPMI. Unfortunately when i tried to connect with the default username/password “ADMIN” / “ADMIN” access was denied. I downloaded a copy of the latest firmware from the Supermicro site and flashed using:

dpupdate.exe -f SMT_SX_250.bin -r n

The -r n parameter telling it to reset to factory settings. Voila- I could now login via the web-interface or windows IPMI tool using the default login credentials (“ADMIN” / “ADMIN”).

ESXi 4.1 installed like a charm but i’ve had a little trouble trying to deploy my first Virtual Machine (ESXi management network losing connectivity and/or the hypervisor crashing)- I think this might be because i’m using old knackered network cables! I will replace them and hopefully update tomorrow in Part 3.

The 2nd of these servers is on route and hopefully be delivered before the weekend.

My next question is what virtual machines should i configure?

I definitely need a vCenter server
I definitely need at least one SQL server (possibly 2 or 3 as i’d like to experiment with replication)
I definitely need at least one web server (IIS)
I definitely want to get trixbox back up and running
I am considering experimenting with pfSense or possibly untangle?
I also need a local dns server but think that might best sit on physical hardware or i’ll get problems with the hypervisor being unable to query DNS before the VM has started?
My fileserver currently runs WHS2011- So I would also like a WHS2011 VM to test the “Drive Extender” replacements on (however I realize I can’t really test performance here so might have to give that a miss).
Also, i think that OSX Server might run on ESXi- and i’d quite like to have a proper (non-hacked) time machine backup store configured so this might be the right route to go down…


Since I moved (about a year ago) I have been without a virtual lab- the old lab ran on 2x Dell Poweredge 2950 III & 1x HP Proliant DL385 G2, noisey and power-hungry! My intention was to run power to the garage so I could bring the lab back to life, but rising electricity costs and some interesting posts on Jason’s blog persuaded me to order some new, smaller, quieter and more green/efficient hardware:

£163 – Supermicro X8SIL-F (the motherboard Jason recommended and many seem to’ve reported success with)
£255 – Intel Xeon X3470 Quad-Core 2.93Ghz (Socket 1156)
£026 – Akasa Intel 1U 1156 CPU Cooler (AK-CCE-7107BS)
£123 – 4x 4GB Kingston 1333Mhz ECC (KVR1333D3E9S/4G or KVR1333D3E9SK2/8G)

I already had some spare 1U Supermicro chassis with power supplies (512L-200B) and USB pen drives laying around for the hypervisors.

I initially ordered one of the above-mentioned kit from LambdaTek (I intended to get comfortable with it before ordering more). Unfortunately the motherboard was on back order so I decided to look around for another supplier. I couldn’t find anywhere cheaper or with stock so i picked 2 up from an international seller on eBay. While I was at it I grabbed another x3470 from Amazon (£260), another 16GB of RAM from Crescent Electronics (£107) and another Cooler (this time the Gelid Slim Silence IPlus Low Profile Intel CPU Cooler from Cool&Quiet @ £20)

Part 2 to follow! Just a quick note about the Akasa Cooler- i’ve deliberately put a line through it because you should NOT order it (it’s no good- i will get onto that in part 2)


Further to my earlier post https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/virtualbox-issue-in-osx-on-new-macbook-pro-i7-2011/ it sounds like the bug is fixed in VirtualBox 4.0.7 (see http://www.virtualbox.org/ticket/8474)

However, I’m currently running my MacBook Pro with the 32bit kernel because of the issues I described here https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/macbook-pro-2011-freeze-crash-issue/ and pre-4.0.7 works fine in the 32bit kernel.

Fingers crossed- this will fix for any of you running 64bit kernel.


*Update* This is now fixed in VirtualBox 4.0.7 and above: https://tickett.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/virtualbox-issue-in-osx-on-new-macbook-pro-i7-2011-update/

Finally having got round to migrating my virtual machines over from my old MacBook Pro to find they’re running like a dog!

I messed around for ages- even tried creating a new VM but no joy!

A bit of googling turned out a bug which has only today been flagged as critical: http://www.virtualbox.org/ticket/8474

Let’s hope it’s fixed ASAP!


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