Advisory – ESX 4.1 + HP FLEX-10 + Broadcom bnx2x = Bad News

Two local customers have ran into the same situation in the past month….both are running on a HP c-Class blade infrastructure leveraging Virtual Connect/FLEX-10 as well as on-board Broadcom 10G cards leveraging the bnx2x driver – this mixed with ESX(i) 4.1 is an almost lethal combination.

Random network drops, port flapping, dropped packets….not good for a virtual infrastructure. Luckily HP is aware of the issue and has released Advisory c02476622 which states;

The Broadcom bnx2x VMware ESX Driver Version 1.54 does not function with HP Virtual Connect Device Control Channel (DCC) and SmartLink features on ProLiant and Integrity server blades configured with the NC532m or the NC532i adapter running firmware version 2.2.6. After installing or upgrading VMware ESX/ESXi 4.1 the following functionality is either not installed or is lost:

  1. New installation – DCC and SmartLink functionality is unavailable in an HP Virtual Connect environment with the NC532m or NC532i Network Adapters after installing VMware ESX/ESXi 4.1.
  2. Upgrade installation – If the bnx2x Asynchronous Driver Update CD version 1.52 was previously installed on a VMware ESX/ESXi 4.0 host, DCC/SmartLink capabilities will be lost after upgrading to VMware ESX/ESXi 4.1, which will overwrite the bnx2x driver version 1.52 with version 1.54 that is included with the base VMware ESX/ESXi 4.1operating system.
  3. Network failover – ProLiant and Integrity server blades hosting VMware ESX/ESXi 4.1 may lose network failover capabilities that use the VMware ESX NIC teaming failover policy (vSwitch setting) “Link Status only.”

There is a work-around that leverages VMware Beacon Probing but honestly this has been a hit/miss type work-around.  In my opinion, stick with ESX 4.0 until HP works out the issue with the firmware/driver.

Created on November 11, 2010 by Rick Scherer

Posted under Networking, vSphere.

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VMware ESXi 4 and HP Servers

I’m proud to say that HP has full support for ESXi 4 installed on SD or USB Flash memory.  They even offer the installable ISO pre-built with their CIM providers, available here. There is a catch though, they only support their approved SD or USB Flash memory….sorry, but you cannot BYOF (Bring Your Own Flash).  This is reflected on their download page:

HP VMware ESXi 4.0 solution requires the following:

  • VMware ESXi 4.0 free downloadable product. To upgrade your license to Enterprise Plus, purchase HP VMware ESXi 4 product 571979-B21.
  • HP ESXi 4 CIM Providers.
  • Registration on VMware ESXi hypervisor web page to obtain permanent license serial number.
  • Acquire your choice of HP supported and qualified media – any HP supported hard drive, USB or SD Flash devices listed below.
  • Please note that all devices will need to be imaged for ESXi 4.0.

    Information about HP supported SD card and USB Flash drive:

    • Supported SD card**:
      HP 4GB SD Flash Media
      HP Part Number 580387-B21
      [spare kit part number 583306-001]
    • Supported USB Flash Drive**:
      HP 4GB USB Flash Media Drive Key
      HP Part Number 580385-B21
      [Spare kit part number 583307-001]
      *Must be purchased separately.
      **HP VMware ESXi 4.0 does not support any other USB or SD flash devices

    Seems simple, doesn’t it?   Actually it works great and I have put a few dozen servers into production with this method, the best part is no more local HDD which saves even more power!

    One question I often get is,  why do you need a 4GB drive, I though ESXi was only 32MB?  Well, even though it is true that ESXi is only 32MB you still need adequate space for the VI Client, VMware Tools (all Operating systems) and upgrade space (for future ESXi patches and releases).  Using a 4GB drive ensures that you’ll have enough space for everything.

    There is one problem currently that I am facing, HP has both the SD Card and USB Flash Drive on back-order and there is no expected ETA for either of them!  This has delayed a major project I’m working on and I’ve had to resort to using temporary “junk” USB drives to get the customer by in the mean time.

    If someone from HP is reading this, PLEASE get your OEM to produce some new ones ASAP!

    Created on October 27, 2009 by Rick Scherer

    Posted under Storage, vSphere.

    This blog has 13,644 views and 11 responses.

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    HP MSA1500 Ruined My Customers Week

    A customer of mine with a small ESX deployment ran into some major grief this week with their MSA1500.  Unfortunately for them, it took 3 days for them to pick up the phone and get hold of me. This isn’t the first time I’ve ran into a problem caused by an MSA1500, and it will not be the last.  Symptoms start out minimal, VMs appear to be running slow…systems unresponsive…then BOOM all out catastrophic failure!

    Read More…

    Created on January 9, 2009 by Rick Scherer

    Posted under Storage.

    This blog has 11,674 views and 15 responses.

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