Category Archives: IT

I upgraded from ESX 3.0.2 to ESX 3.5 and it was a pain.

I upgraded our ESX servers over the Christmas break.  I had to install a new ESX server, so I took the opportunity to upgrade the rest of our environment.  It was a pain in the ass.  There were a few bugs that caused me problems.  Details below:

I decided to wipe the ESX servers and install 3.5 fresh from the CD.  I did the upgrade from 2.5.2 to 3.0.1 this way and it worked well.  I upgraded the Virtual Center server from 2.0 to 2.5.

VMotion caused me a lot of problems.  I was not able to ping the VMotion port after the upgrade.  This happened to varying degrees on all of the servers.  The last server was the worst.  It was driving me crazy.  I had enabled VMotion and named it properly.  It just would not work.  Eventuall I called support.  They ran vmkping to the IP address of the VMotion port on the server while I pinged the IP address from my workstation.  This seemed to magically enable the VMotion port.  Running just vmkping or just ping didn’t work.  The combination of the two worked for some bizarre reason.

“No Active Primaries” message when I tried to add a server to the Cluster.  This one perplexed me for a while.  It comes from the way clustering works.  Clustering doesn’t work perfectly in mixed 3.0/3.5 environments.  The first server added to a cluster is considered the “primary.”  When I initially created the cluster, ESX1 (server name) was the first server in the cluster.  When I did the upgrade, I took ESX 1 out of the cluster.  It didn’t pass the role of “primary” onto one of the other servers.  So when I tried to add ESX1 back into the cluster, it gave me the “No Active Primaries” error.  I fixed this by removing all of the servers from the cluster and adding them back in.  This thread pointed me towards a solution:  http://communities.vmware.com/message/701671;jsessionid=AA7526EEA3E0EE5EAFAFDB7A761815ED

“Unable to read partition information from this disk”: I got an error like this when I was installing ESX on a machine attached to a SAN with raw drive mappings.  I disconnected the server from the SAN and started the installation over just to be safe.  A good piece of advice… Always disconnect the server from the SAN when you are reinstalling ESX.  There is a decent possibility that you’ll accidentally overright your LUN’s.

 I had some other general problems, but nothing too serious.  Let me know if you have any questions or issues that I can help with.

My boss: “We should research Desktop Linux.”

What????  My boss dropped this bomb on us last week.  I was shocked.  There was no context for that remark.  No one had brought this up seriously before.  There was talk about migrating from Netware to AD.  There was talk of VDI.  There was even a rumor about Macs.  But this was new.  My first thoughts were:

  • how well did my boss think this out?
  • Am I willing to go to war with our users?
  • Am I willing to take such a high profile risk for really no return?
  • There’s a good chance that this is going to suck.

After the meeting adjourned, I took a moment to find out when Windows XP goes “End of Life.”  It turns out that XP goes End of Life April 8, 2014.  Also, I don’t foresee a justifiable reason to upgrade to Vista in the next three years.  That means that a Desktop Linux project doesn’t make financial sense until at least 2011.  That gives us three years to migrate off of XP.

I took the rest of the day to think about it and brought it up the next day.  I found out that my boss hadn’t really thought about it at all.  He was just throwing the idea out there as something to think about long term.  He understood my point of view and I think that’s going to be the end of that for a while.

Coincidentally, that afternoon I received the InfoWorld Editors Newsletter titled Is Desktop Linux for Real? from Steve Fox at InfoWorld.  Freaky huh?

Virtual Desktop Infrastructure, Client Consolidation, and Blade PC’s… Oh My!

I’ve begun researching VDI because I believe that the PC is no longer necessary in medium to large environments that can operate with less than workstation class performance.  The potential advantages of replacing PC’s with Thin Clients that connect to full fledged XP installations are compelling.  I’ve been researching all of this for a couple weeks now, and I have to say that VDI, CCON, CCI, is in a pre-1.0 state.  I’ll explain it all below.

There are three terms going around to describe Client Consolidation technology.  They are:

  • VDI: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
  • CCON: Client Consolidation
  • CCI: Consolidated Client Infrastructure

They all essentially mean the same thing.  My definition of CCON is centralizing desktop/PC systems by hosting them in the data center.  All computing functions other than KVM are hosted and managed in a computer room away from the user.  The user uses a client device or application to access the centralized computer.  There are multiple terms battling to be the methodological name for this technology.  VDI was the first term that I saw used.  VDI is the trendy name in my view, and has been co-opted by VMware and turned into a product.  CCON is the name used by an IBM employee named Massimo Re Ferre’ who is a heavy contributor to VDI technology research.  Client Consolidation happens to be the name of IBM’s implementation of VDI (what a coincidence).  CCI is a product name used by HP after they abandoned the use of VDI.  Another name that’s out there is “Centralized Computing.”  Centralized Computing is the term used to define the days of mainframes and dumb terminals. 

My preference for the academic name of this technology is Client Consolidation (CCON).  I believe that CCON is the most descriptive, most open name of all.  CCON is general enough to encompass all of diverse technologies in this area.

There’s a lot of overlapping information and noise out there.  I want to explain the bottom line as I see it.

The technology “models” (Re Ferre’, 2007) for CCON are:

  • Shared Services (Citrix)
  • Virtual Machines (VMware, Xen, others)
  • Blade PC’s/Blade Workstations (HP, ClearCube)

You will ultimately have to select one (or more) of those methedologies for a production rollout.

Client consolidation is all about the use of RDP to connect to Windows systems.  RDP is what it’s all about (some solutions prefer/support ICA).   If you know how to use Remote Desktop, you’re most of the way to understanding what CCON is all about.   Everything after this is about services and features built around the use of RDP accessed Windows systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s).

The components of CCON are:

  • Client Access Devices (thin clients, repurpossed PC’s)
  • Connection Broker (software)
  • Host Systems (VM’s, Blade PC’s)

 VDI-CCON

Client Access Devices are straight forward.  You need a device that can understand how to connect to remote systems using RDP.  The client device can be a full blown XP/Vista PC, or a thin client running the proper client software.  You’re going to hear a lot about Windows XPe in this space.  XPe is a stripped down version of Windows XP often used for development and loaded onto many thin clients. 

Host systems are also straight forward.  You can run your XP/Vista/Other hosts as VM’s or on Blade PC’s.

Connection Brokers is where all the fun is.  Connection Brokers handle the setup, and advanced features of CCON.  Brokers decide (based on policy) which VM/Blade should be assigned, the features that are available to the user, and in some cases the robustness of the service.  I think of Brokers as travel agents.  A client shows up to the broker with a request.  The Broker knows how to handle the request based on requirements and makes all of the arrangements including the connection.  The broker is usually finished at that point, though the broker is an intermediary in some solutions.

That’s basically what CCON is all about.

CCON is barely at a 1.0 level.  There’s very little information out there (other than Citrix) and all of the solutions are patch up jobs.  There’s no long standing, widely accepted solution.  Most of the solutions that I have found have been assembled piecemeal.  The absolute best information that I have found comes from Massimo at http://it20.info/misc/brokers.htm.  He’s created a table with extensive descriptions of all the features he’s been able to confirm for brokers and clients.  It’s not a complete list of brokers and features, so do your own research and testing (HP SAM, IBM TMP missing).  Regardless, it is a must read if you are going down the CCON road.

Two other items of interest are VMware’s VDI forum and HP’s CCI forum.  Notice that there is very little activity at those forums.  That’s because most people still aren’t working on this.  Also, VMware’s product is in Beta.  That’s right…VMware’s broker is vaporware, yet they’re calling it VDM 2.0.  Now that’s good marketing.

That’s it for now.  Please let me know if you have any questions or if you have something to add.  There is so much information out there that I’m positive there is more to come.

If you’re looking for a Blackberry alternative, look here:

Tom Yager of InfoWorld did an exhaustive review of the Blackberry 8300 and 8800, as well as several alternatives.  This is a great resource for anyone considering an alternative to Blackberry.

Ever wonder if that laser printer nearby is poisoning you?

I came across this report recently and found it interesting since I use many of these products.  The International Laboratory for Air Quality and Health, Queensland University of Technology did a study to determine how much particle emission and other matter is emited by laser printers.  Most printers did well, but some printers commonly used in business environments could be making you sick.  Click here to get the article and study.

“Summary of Results for Printer Emission Investigations, Based on the Ratio of Submicrometer Particle Number Concentration Peak Value Emitted by the Printer to the Background Value (measured by P-Trak)”

non-emitter (ratio 1) low level emitter (ratio < 1.1-5) middle level emitter (ratio < 5.1-10) high level emitter (ratio > 10)
HP Color LaserJet 4550DN (1) Canon IRC6800 (1) HP LaserJet 1020 (1) HP Color LaserJet 4650dn (1)
HP Color LaserJet 8500DN (1) HP LaserJet 5M (3) HP LaserJet 4200dtn (1) HP Color LaserJet 5550dtn (1)
HP LaserJet 2200DN (1) HP LaserJet HP Color LaserJet 8550N
HP LaserJet 2300dtn (1) 9000dn (1) (1)
HP LaserJet 4 plus (1) RICOH HP LaserJet 1320N (1)
HP LaserJet 4000N (1) CL3000DN (1) HP LaserJet 1320n (1)
HP LaserJet 4000TN (1) HP LaserJet 2420dn (1)
HP LaserJet 4050N (2) HP LaserJet 4200dtna (1)
HP LaserJet 4050TN (6) HP LaserJet 4250n (old)
HP LaserJet 4si (1) (1)
HP LaserJet 5(b) (1) HP LaserJet 4250n (new)
HP LaserJet 5000n (1) (1)
HP LaserJet 5100tn (2) HP LaserJet 5(a) (1)
HP LaserJet 5N (2) HP LaserJet 8000DNa (1)
HP LaserJet 5si (1) HP LaserJet 8150N (1)
HP LaserJet 5si/NX (1) TOSHIBA Studio 450 (1)
HP LaserJet 8000DN (2)
HP LaserJet 8150DN (3)
Mita DC 4060 (photo copy) (1)
RICOH Aficio 2022 (1)
RICOH Aficio 3045 (1)
RICOH Aficio 3245C (3)
RICOH Aficio CC3000DN (1)
TOSHIBA Studio 350 (1)

Trend Micro: Possible Internet Attack Imminent

An alert just came in from Trend Micro that says they are concerned about a potential Internet attack.  This is vague and I know it sounds like it’s coming from the US Department of “Homeland Security.”  Here it is:

High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168

PSP Announcement – 8/23/2007 6:53:13 AM – Proactive Notification: High Probe Traffic Seen on ServerProtect Port 5168 – Dear All:ICS [1] has reported a spike in the probe traffic on port 5168 which is used by ServerProtect. This might be an indication that hackers are preparing to launch an attack against this port. At this point however, we have not received any reports or samples which demonstrate the exploit.Please ensure that your Server Protect Systems have applied security patch 4 to ensure that known vulnerabilities are patched.

Please download the latest Server Protect Patch from the Trend Micro URL:

http://www.trendmicro.com/download/product.asp?productid=17

spnt_security_risk_notification_aug232007.pdf

InfoWorld: Windows Vista, the Wow hasn’t started yet.

This InfoWorld article says that fewer companies are planning to upgrade to Vista in the short term than even a few months ago.  They are basing this on a survey by Patchlink Corp.  I don’t trust Patchlink’s numbers, but I believe the conclusion is correct. 

There is no excitement for Vista.  I don’t know anyone that is upgrading to Vista or has Vista on their radar.  Vista doesn’t really provide anything useful to business customers.  It’s not worth the pain of upgrading.  My sense is that my company can easily run XP for at least 2 more years.  One reason for this is that XP is very stable (in our protected environment).  Another reason is that most apps developed over the next couple years will be XP compatible.  A third is that more apps are being ported to a browser every day.  I don’t need much more than a functional browser.

 Somebody should let me know when the Wow is going to start.