HP ESXi 5.1 Update 1 Custom ISO Released

Just like clockwork, the day VMware releases a major update to ESXi, HP releases customized installation HP Logomedia the same day. Hard to beat such great and timely support for your VMware environment! Last week VMware released vSphere 5.1 Update 1, and also posted was the HP ESXi 5.1 update 1 custom installation ISO.

If you use HP ProLiant servers, then using the HP customized ISO is strongly recommended, or even required (Gen8), for a properly functioning host. Baked in a tested drivers and HP management tools that enable full ProLiant functionality with VMware ESXi. The HP ESXi 5.1 update 1 custom ISO is your one stop shop for an optimized ProLiant server.

Remember, as always, to keep your HP ProLiant server firmware up to date with supported versions. That is very important for ESXi hosts, as the firmware and drivers are tested together in bundles. For maximum stability, performance, and best practices you need to ensure your servers are under a supported recipe. You can download the latest HP Service Pack for ProLiant here.

HP Provider Features

  • Report installed licenses for HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller.
  • Report New memory properties.
  • Support for IP Address encoding in SNMP traps.
  • Support SMX MemoryModuleOnBoard association.
  • HP Dynamic Smart Array Controller split cache support.
  • Report New RAID levels for storage volume fault tolerance.
  • HP Smart Cache support.
  • Update reporting of Smart Array Cache Status to align with firmware and iLO.

HP AMS features

  • Report running SW processes to HP Insight Remote Support.
  • Report vSphere 5.1 U1 SNMP agent management IP and enable VMware vSphere 5.1
  • U1 SNMP agent to report iLO4 management IP.
  • IML logging for NIC, and SAS traps.
  • Limit AMS log file size and support log redirection as defined by the ESXi host parameter:
  • ScratchConfig.ConfiguredScratchLocation

SR-IOV Support

  • Updated Intel 10Gb network driver to enable SR-IOV for the HP 560FLB, 560M, 560 SFP+, and 560FLR-SFP+. (Note: ESXi Enterprise Plus is required for SR-IOV)

Other Enhancements

  • FCoE on Emulex CNAs
    To support FCoE on Emulex CNAs on vSphere 5.1 U1, HP recommends using the versions of the vSphere 5.1 U1 Emulex drivers as defined in the HP ProLiant server and option firmware and driver support recipe document available here.
  • iSCSI on Emulex
    iSCSI on Emulex is now supported on vSphere 5.1 U1 using the versions of the Emulex drivers defined in the October HP ProLiant server and option firmware and driver support recipe document available here.

References:

HP VMware vSphere 5.1 U1 Customized Image, April 2013, Release Notes
HP VMware vSphere 5.1 U1, April 2013, Driver VIBs
April 2013 VMware Firmware and Software Recipe
HP Custom Image for ESXi 5.1 Update 1 Install CD
HP ProLiant Server VMware Support Matrix

February 2013 HP Service Pack for ProLiant released

For those of you with HP ProLiant servers in your environment, you know that on a quarterly basis HP releases a new “HP Service Pack for ProLiant”, which is a combo ISO of firmware, drivers, and tools for your ProLiant rackmount and blade servers. It’s very important to keep firmware up to date, as it can contain critical security updates, stability updates, and compatibility fixes for new operating systems, such as Windows Server 2012 or ESXi 5.0 U2.

What is also interesting, and maybe I just wasn’t paying attention before, is that HP offers non-bootable subsets for specific operating systems and OSes. For example, you can download the BladeSystem Microsoft Windows Server pack ISO image separately. Personally I’d just do the full ISO, but maybe you want something a bit more portable.

In VMware environments it’s particularly important to be using validated configurations, which HP calls a recipe. That’s a combination of HP firmware, HP drivers, HP agents, and ESXi base image. Drifting from the supported recipes can cause problems, particularly in the BladeSystem. I have a link below to the VMware recipe PDF. Also new to this release is enhanced online deployment of firmware on ESXi hosts.

Finally, HP has provided some support Windows Server 2012 on limited G6 models. Windows Server 2012 is very different from Windows Server 2008 R2, so don’t even try and shoehorn it on a non-supported HP server if you want everything to work such as iLO.

HP Service Pack for ProLiant

Full Documentation
Release Notes
Content Report
Server Support Guide
February 2013 VMware Firmware and Software Recipe

Enhancements to the 2013.02 SPP include:

  • Contains drivers and firmware for newest HP ProLiant Gen 8 options
    • HP Ethernet 1Gb 4-port 366FLR Adapter
    • HP Ethernet 10Gb 2-port 560M Adapter
    • HP Ethernet 10Gb 2-port 560FLR SFP+ Adapter
    • HP Ethernet 10Gb 2-port 530T Adapter
  • Provides online deployment of VMware ESXi 5.0 and VMware vSphere 5.1 firmware smart components for HP ProLiant servers so that only 1 reboot is required for updates to take effect; thus increasing uptime. Supported new components are:
    • HP ProLiant Gen 8 and G7 BIOS System ROMS
    • HP Integrated Lights-Out 3 and 4
    • HP Smart Array Controllers – P2XX, P4XX, P8XX
    • Select Hard Disk Drives for HP ProLiant Gen 8 and G7 servers
  • Contains latest operating system support for:
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5.9
    • VMware ESXi 5.0 U2
  • Extends Microsoft Windows Server 2012 support to the following HP ProLiant G6 servers:
    • HP ProLiant BL460c G6 Server
    • HP ProLiant DL380 G6 Server
    • HP ProLiant DL360 G6 Server
    • HP ProLiant ML350 G6 Server
  • Contains PXE Directory information and sample files about PXE booting the SPP ISO for improved qualification cycles, resource usage, maintenance windows, and downtime
  • Contains the latest release of HP Smart Update Manager, HP SUM 5.3.5.
    • Added ability to allow users to use root credentials to deploy firmware components and rpms to Linux systems when logged in with a user account
    • Performance improvement to Add New Target screen: Added Server / Operating System selections to the Target Type drop down list
    • Updated reports to include driver and agent information in addition to NIC /CNA/FC HBA driver and firmware information for Windows and Linux operating systems
    • Reduced memory usage and improved performance when generating repositories

HP Releases vSphere 5.0 U2 Custom ISO

In case you missed my previous blog post, yesterday VMware released vSphere 5.0 Update 2, which fixes a plethora of bugs and plugs security holes. You can find my host here, with links to the release notes for all the gory details.

Right on the heels of VMware releasing 5.0 Update 2, HP was the first vendor I’m aware of to release an updated custom installation ISO for ESXi 5.0 Update 2. You can download the ISO here. When performing any new ESXi 5.0 installs on HP hardware, I would urge the use of the U2 CD, so you have the latest drivers and security fixes. Also remember to update your HP server firmware with the latest HP Service Pack for ProLiant you can find here.

VMware 3PAR Best Practices Guide for InForm OS 3.1.2

HP recently released a new VMware ESX Implementation Guide that addresses changes in 3PAR InformOS 3.1.2, and VMware 3PAR best practices. One notable change is a new “host persona”, 11, which is now recommended for VMware ESX hosts. Persona 11 is VMware specific, and shows up as “VMware” in the CLI.

This change is very interesting, and I had to do a little digging to see why 3PAR made a whole new persona for VMware. Per the HP documentation, host persona 11 presents the LUNs as ALUA enabled, not “AA” or active/active. ALUA is how most mid-range storage arrays present LUNs, as they aren’t truly active/active concurrent like EMC VMAX, 3PAR, HDS USP, Compellent, and a few others. For an excellent write up on why true symmetric arrays like 3PAR could benefit from ALUA presentation, I found this article.
To summarize the outstanding article, ALUA on symmetrical arrays provides better ESX host compatibility if the host is accessing LUNs on different arrays with different LUN presentations (such as ALUA and AA). Some arrays get their own SATP policy in VMware, so there wouldn’t be any conflict anyway. But I guess HP felt the new mode did offer some value to customers, and now recommends it as the default.
The 3PAR will still tell ESX that all paths are active, so it’s not like a “real” ALUA array where half are standby and half are active. Don’t fret that Host Persona 11 will suddenly cripple your 3PAR array into a mid-range ALUA array. 🙂
This points out an excellent reason why you should always read the Implementation Guides for your operating systems when major versions of firmware for your storage array is released. What may be a best practice today, may not be after you upgrade!
When you change the Host Persona mode you will also need to modify your SATP claim rules, if you reconfigured them for automatic round robin configuration. A little nugget that I also saw in the HP guide is now round robin is configured for 100 IOs vs the previous default of 1000.
ESXi 4.x:
ESXi 5.x:
If you are wondering what the switch “tpgs_on” does, it’s fairly cool. Basically it’s a method by which the ESX host can ask the array what the characteristics of the path are (active/optimized, active/non-optimized, unavailable, in-transition, and standby). Target Port Grouping (TPG) allows the array to communicate the path status about, yes, a group of array target ports. So in this case, the 3PAR can tell ESX that all paths are active/optimized, to preserve the full and concurrent usage of all paths even in ALUA mode.
One final note about 3PAR and zoning. Recently HP has changed their recommendation on zoning from “one initiator to one target per zone” (resulting in LOTS of zones), to “one initiator to multiple targets per zone” (zoning by HBA). For example, if in Fabric A your host is zoned to two host ports on the 3PAR, you can now have the host HBA port and the two 3PAR ports in one zone, instead of needing two zones, one for each port.
Depending on how many paths you have configured, this could cut the zoning requirements in half. HP says you can include multiple HP array targets in the same zone, though. I would not, however, include different vendors in a single zone, so if your ESX server is presented storage from say a 3PAR and EMC, I would create separate zones for each vendor.

HP releases Introduction to 3PAR for EVA Administrators

As you may or may not have heard, last week HP announced their new mid-range 3PAR arrays, the 7000 series which I covered here. HP is clearly targeting existing EVA users with the aggressively priced 7000s, with a simple and online method to migrate active LUNs to 3PAR. Since the 3PAR architecture is so different from the EVA, HP wrote an excellent whitepaper you can get here for EVA administrators to help them understand 3PAR hardware and software. Even if you aren’t an EVA user, it’s an excellent tutorial on 3PAR and goes into a lot of technical details about the entire 3PAR series, from the legacy F and T series, to the new 7000s and 10000s. I also spotted a few details, which seem to foreshadow some upcoming 10000 enhancements.

For starters, I found this very interesting table below, showing supported disk types. For current 3.1.1 10000 owners, you know that the only choice today for disks are 3.5″ large form factor sporting either Fibre Channel or SATA (NL) interfaces. No SAS disk support, no 2.5″ disk support. I’ve highlighted in red new 10000 options. After finding that table I reviewed the latest 10000 Quickspecs (future dated to December 17th), and sure enough you will see 2.5″ SAS disks as an option!

Further reading the T-Series QuickSpecs, I stumbled on the fact that SAS drives will also be supported, which I’m surprised to see. However, it still requires 3.1.2. I didn’t see new drive cages or SAS disk cards for either the T-Series or 10000s, so I’m thinking the SFF SAS drives will be packaged in the usual four disk LFF magazines with built-in FC bridges. It appears the new SAS-based 2.5″ and 3.5″ drive shelves for the 7000 are limited to the 7000 platform, and the 10000 will continue to use FC loops for disk shelf connectivity.

The handwriting is on the wall…the EVA line is winding down, and customers should start looking at migrating to a new platform. HP is making the migration to 3PAR pretty darn easy, and totally non-disruptive for VMware, Red Hat, SUSE Linux and Solaris servers. Minor downtime is required for Windows hosts to reboot, though.

Enjoy the 27 page whitepaper…very worthwhile to read. Calvin Zito from HP also wrote a good blog article with more technical details and links on how the EVA to 3PAR migration actually works. You can find his write up here.

December HP ProLiant VMware Firmware and Software Recipe

A few days ago HP released their December 2012 “recipe” for ProLiant driver and firmware versions which have been tested and blessed for usage with VMware ESXi. Keeping your firmware up to date is very important, as updates often address bugs that you may run into. However, you can’t just randomly update firmware piece meal and hope that it is supported. You can use the HP Service Pack for ProLiant to help automate the update process, and install supported bundles. But sometimes HP releases interim firmware updates, so it’s good to check the support recipe to verify what HP has tested it with.

You can find the full December 2012 PDF with all the supported firmware here. The document covers the Service Pack for ProLiant (SPP) 2012.10.0. Hopefully you re running ESXi 5.0 U1, U2, or ESXi 5.1, as those are the only supported versions with this firmware. Still in the stone ages with 4.x? Upgrade! 🙂

HP releases VMware SmartComponents for Insight Control

Very quietly HP has released a product called VMware SmartComponents for Insight Control for vCenter. What is that you may ask? Very good question, as I had no idea either and I try to keep up with HP firmware as much as possible. In short, given the right supported environment, you can now directly execute HP firmware update packages from the ESXi command prompt or by using the Insight Control for vCenter, 7.1.1. Now you no longer have to use the offline method with the HP Service Pack for ProLiant (SPP) ISO. You can check out the full PDF description here. For more detailed instructions on how to use Insight Control for vCenter and push firmware updates, read this document.

In short, what you need is:

  • ESXi 5.0 U1 (or later, including 5.1)
  • HP Insight Control for vCenter 7.1.1
  • HP Insight WBEM Providers v 1.3.5 or later
  • HP Agentless Management v9.2.5 or later

If you load HP servers with their custom ISOs, you need version 5.25 or later. Or, if you use stock or older versions, make sure the two updates above have been installed on the server. No need to re-load servers to get the proper baseline.

Included in the SmartComponents package are firmware for System ROM (G7/Gen8), iLO 3/4, SmartArray, and variety of HDs.

You can check out the revamped HP Online Depot (Vibsdepot) here, where there are additional links, release notes, and download links to the SmartComponents bundle. Note that at this time the bundle is not designed to be used with HP SUM, so this is a totally distinct way to update firmware on your ESXi 5.x servers. G6 and older servers seem not to be covered, so you may still need to use the Service Pack for ProLiant to get all of your firmware updated.

Hopefully HP is working on a fully integrated online firmware update method, and integration with HP SUM. So stay tuned and see what HP comes up with to make firmware management even easier.

HP refreshes Insight Control for VMware vCenter to 7.1.1

A few days ago HP released Insight Control for VMware vCenter Server, version 7.1.1. This is a minor update from the 7.1 release, which came out not too long ago. The December release is a minor increment which now supports the 3PAR StoreServ 7000 series announced last week, and v10.0 of the LeftHand OS. You can download the update from here. If you want to know more about the brand new StoreServ 3PAR P7000s, check out my article here.

HP announces 3PAR 7200 and 7400 mini-me Disk Arrays

HP 3PAR P7400

This week in Frankfurt HP is hosting Discover 2012, where they’ve unveiled some big product announcements. The big news is the birth of the 3PAR 7200 and 7400 arrays, a new line of hardware which drastically pushes down the price point for 3PAR storage firmly into the mid-range. HP is clearly targeting customers that are looking at EMC VNX 5000s, NetApp FAS3200s, Dell Compellent, and other arrays at that price point.

You now have a single architecture, same set of tier-1 tools, from the mid-range to the high end. Bare bones configurations start at $20K for the 2-controller model. As always, HP’s Calvin Zito and fellow vExpert, has written up a short article about the new 3PAR P7000 series, and has a couple of videos to boot. You can check out his post here. The full HP announcement page is here.

But for those of you unfamiliar with 3PAR, I’ve give you a quick overview. 3PAR was a silicon valley startup which specialized in tier-1 block storage with a unique way of wide striping LUNs across all disks in your array. The founders were SUN refugees. A couple of years ago HP bought them (in a bidding war with Dell) to augment their aging EVA line, and give them an in-house tier-1 array.

The secret 3PAR sauce are “chunklets” of data which are the building blocks of virtualizing the storage and use several layers of abstraction so you no longer manage RAID sets, spindles, or spare disks that sit idle. LUNs are chopped up and evenly distributed across your entire array, in an even manner, automatically balancing I/O across all controllers and disk ports. Another key feature of the secret sauce is their proprietary 3PAR ASIC (now at Gen4) which offloads RAID calculations, zero detection, and other work off the Intel processors.

The high end model (StorServ 10800) can scale up to 8 controllers, and all have a true active/active concurrent controller architecture, not asymmetric active/active like the vast majority of mid-range arrays. 3PAR competed with EMC Symmetrix and HDS USP, which both have active/active concurrent designs. This improves I/O throughput and automates load balancing between controllers. For a geeky overview of all the 3PAR “secrets” check out the 3PAR InForm OS concepts guide here.

At VMworld 2011 HP announced the 3PAR 10000 series, which included the V400 (four-controller) and V800 (eight-controllers). However, if you needed a tier-1 disk array for under $100K, then you were left looking elsewhere or stuffing your piggy bank with dough to spring for a V400 sometime in the future.

The two new models are the 3PAR 7200 (dual controllers), and the 3PAR 7400 (quad controllers). The 3PAR 7200 is a very compact 2U, and holds 24 2.5″ drives, with expansion up to 144 disks with more shelves. The 7400 is pictured at the top of this article, and more than doubles the capacity up to 480 drives and 864TB raw storage. You can view the full Quickspecs PDF here. With an upcoming upgrade to the InForm OS, it will also support FCoE on the optional CNAs or iSCSI (today).

3PAR 7200 and 7400 specs
HP 3PAR 7200 and 7400 specs

Being familiar with 3PAR, I wondered what they were going to do about the service processor in the P7000 series. Basically the service processor is a 1U appliance, which didn’t sit in the data path or control the data flow, but was used for monitoring and remote servicing. Guess what? That is now virtualized, and is packaged to run on vSphere 4.1, 5.0 or 5.1. Hyper-V support is coming in 2013. That’s pretty cool! You can still buy a hardware version of the SP, if you wish.

Reading through the 3PAR Software Products PDF, found here, I stumbled across some new features as well. “Persistent Ports” is a tier-1 data resiliency feature that allows non-disruptive software updates of the array, without requiring host multi-pathing software. Even if you have multi-pathing software, this enables faster/seamless fail-over since some multi-pathing software can take 10s of seconds to reconfigure. Basically controller node WWNs are shadowed on another node, through the use of NPIV, and can nearly instantly migrate so that the host doesn’t realize a node went offline.

Another new feature, which probably won’t be used by end users, is the addition of a REST-compliant Web Services API. Hopefully it will be used by VARs for better integration/management of 3PAR. Autonomic rebalance, which enables the array to non-disruptively re-distribute data across the array when new hardware is added, has been added. Also, for Windows Server 2012 Hyper-V customers, the 3.1.2 release of InForm OS will support ODX offload, which is Microsoft’s version of VMware VAAI with added goodies like space reclamation.

One good aspect of the HP acquisition of 3PAR, is the incorporation of easy setup tools that EVA customers may be used to using. HP also announced a migration path from EVA to 3PAR, that they say is even easier than migrating from one EVA to another EVA. Online data migration, and automatic thin-conversion! Unlike the big brother 10000 series, the P7000 models are self-install and have simple EVA-like initial setup. No professional services needed to get your P7000 up and running!

Ok, so what if you buy a P7200 today, and you have a storage explosion and need more space or even more host facing ports? 3PAR has “peer motion” which allows you to non-disruptively move LUNs to a new 3PAR array, such as a P10000. You would use the same management tools, and your servers wouldn’t even know the migration took place. Pretty cool!

Finally, another new feature due out in 1H 2013 is Priority Optimization. As shown in the HP slide below, you can guarantee IOPS and bandwidth at the tenant and application level. In multi-tenant environments, or where storage is shared between environment such as production and test/dev, this could be a great feature.

3PAR StoreServ 7000 QoS

Although not featured in great detail, HP is also releasing a Windows Server 2012 NAS front-end for 3PAR, which provides CIFS and NFS shares with data de-duplication. Microsoft has totally re-written their CIFS and NFS stacks to provide multi-10Gb speeds, and enhanced security like CIFS encryption. So don’t hold your nose at HP using Windows Server 2012, as it’s a huge departure from previous versions. Plus, you won’t have the potential integration hiccups of a third-party NAS device in Microsoft-centric environments that require high security.

In short, this is a great announcement and a big win for customers. EVA customers can finally get modern highly virtualized storage at a great price point, customers can non-disruptively migrate to the P10000s, and existing P10000 customers could use a P7x00 as a DR/BC target for cost effective storage.

As good as the 3PAR hardware is, HP could really invest a lot into an extreme make-over of their System Reporter (SR) and Recovery Manager for VMware products. EMC and other vendors have a leg up in this area, that would not take a great deal of money for HP to close up the gap. Thankfully the IMC, which you use to manage and provision storage on 3PAR, is extremely friendly to use and doesn’t suffer from the same issues as the other two software products. For SMB customers I think getting brand-new SR and Recovery Manager releases will be key for smooth adoption and good user experience.

HP Service Pack for ProLiant supports Windows Server 2012

Just released is the October 2012 HP Service Pack for ProLiant, which has full support for Windows Server 2012. Current support for Windows Server 2012 is focused on G7 and Gen8 servers. G6s and earlier will have limited to no WS2012 support. The 2012.10.0 release has these major changes:

  • Added support for Microsoft Windows Server 2012 and Microsoft Windows Server 2012 Essentials
  • Added offline support for HP Diagnostics and Array Configuration Utility (ACU)
  • Modified the user interface when booting a server to the SPP
  • Updated to HP Smart Update Manager 5.3.0
  • Added custom baseline functionality
  • Reports in comma-separated values (CSV) format
  • Linux RPM support
  • Fibre Channel switch firmware update support (B-series and H-series only)
  • Support for HP Integrity I/O card online firmware updates
  • Schedule pull from web repository downloads (not applicable to Fibre Channel switches)
  • Support for 16G Fibre Channel QLogic HBA
  • The ability to use the UNC format to identify file paths

You can download the full set of release notes and documentation here. To download the SSP you can go here. For more information on HP’s Windows Server 2012 support, go here. They also have what appears to be a late breaking supplement for the SPP you can find here.

Update: Find my blog post about the February 2013 HP Service Pack for ProLiant here.