I.T. Support and Breaking the OODA Loop

Frank's Tech Support

“Hello, this is tech support.  You opened a trouble ticket stating that you had an error message and needed some assistance.  Can you elaborate?”
“Yes, it’s broken!”
“What’s broken?  Can you tell me what the error message said?”
“I don’t remember.”
“What program were you working in?”
“I don’t remember.”
“Is everything working now?”
“Maybe.  I don’t know.”

Does this exchange sound familiar to you?  If you’ve spent any time in I.T., then it should.  Every day, thousands of I.T. support professionals have to field service calls from users who are extremely intelligent in all other areas of their life, but when sitting in front of a computer they can’t seem to grok the magic screen in front of them.  These are people who spend hours a day in front of a keyboard, who have as one of the primary tools of their job one of those mystical computers that…

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vCenter 5.1 Authorize Exception Error On Login

Frank's Tech Support

So I had an interesting little problem this morning.  I got a call from a fellow engineer asking if something was wrong with our vCenter 5.1 server.  He couldn’t log in.  Obviously, that’s more than a little concerning so I told him I’d take a look at it.  I brought up my client and attempted to sign in and received the following error:

A general system error occurred: Authorize Exception

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“I’m not grilling you a cheese!”

Frank's Tech Support

This wouldn’t be Frank’s Tech Support and Pretty Good Sandwiches without the occasional sangwidge, and since my boss was nagging me to fill this gaping hole in my blog, today I present to you a new twist on an old favorite.  I call it the Inside-Out Grilled Cheese.

When I was growing up, my mom always made the regular kind of grilled cheese.  You know, two slices of white bread and a couple of slices of Processed American Cheese-Like Substitute And Floor Tiling.  I’ll be honest with you, served with a mug of tomato soup, it’s still comfort food and I’ll still make it from time to time.  But we’re adults now and sometimes we want more out of our sangwidges.  We want them to be Pretty Good, right?  They don’t have to be great. I mean, let’s not get ahead of ourselves here.  Do I look like Guy Fieri? …

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Back up your ESXi host configurations with PowerCLI and vCLI

Frank's Tech Support

I hate PowerCLI.  There.  I said it.  I’m not a programmer.  I can barely script.  My upcoming VCAP exam pretty much requires some proficiency in PowerCLI.  Perhaps you see my dilemma.  Since I have to know it, I figured I’d better learn it.  I decided to get started with something relatively simpe:  Backing up my host configs.  I’m going to show you how and I’m going to explain the commands.

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Implementing LLDP and CDP in vSphere 5

Frank's Tech Support

In one of our data silos, we’ve been using a lot of spreadsheets and manual tracking to manage physical-to-virtual cross-connects between our physical switches and our ESXi hosts.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  The first is that up until recently, the silo was using non-Cisco switches and the second is that the licensing on our hosts don’t allow for LLDP, only CDP.  We only have Standard licensing and Enterprise is required for distributed switches.  Only distributed switches can do LLDP, so we were stuck with a protocol that we couldn’t use with our physical switches.  Now that we’re in the process of migrating the silo to some newer hardware, I’m preparing to do a small redesign of our environment.

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Performance testing a Synology NAS using Iometer

Frank's Tech Support

In my last post, I discussed building a lightweight VMware infrastructure for a customer using a Synology RS2414RP+ NAS.  Today, I wanted to do some performance testing and baselining to get an idea of the kind of load it would support.  To do this, I used a VMware Fling called VMware I/O Analyzer.  A Fling is an ad-hoc tool built by VMware engineers or the community as one-off side projects.

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How to set up VMware ESXi, a Synology iSCSI NAS, and Active/Active MPIO

Frank's Tech Support

This week, I’ve been working on a lightweight virtualization infrastructure for a customer and I thought you’d like to see how I put it together. The customer wasn’t really interested in paying for a full SAN solution that would include chassis redundancy and high performance.  They opted instead for a 12-bay Synology RS2414 RP+, a couple of HP servers for ESXi hosts, and a Cisco 2960 Layer 2 Gigabit storage switch all tied together with VMware vSphere Essentials Plus.

While not exactly a powerhouse in terms of speed and reliability, this entry-level virtualization platform should serve to introduce them into the world of virtual servers, drastically reduce rackspace and power consumption, provide the flexibility they need to recover quickly from server hardware outages, and allow them to more easily migrate off of their aging server hardware and operating systems all without breaking the bank.  Today, I’m going to show…

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VMware training and certification on a budget

Frank's Tech Support

One of the problems with working for a smaller company is that the money for training is rarely in the budget.  For this reason, I have to find alternative routes that I can afford to pay for myself.  VMware has a fairly expensive barrier to entry in that the prerequisite for the VCP program is a pricey formal class.  I actually like this idea because it rarefies the certification somewhat.  I still remember the heady days of the paper MCSE where anyone could do a test dump and get certified.

VMware has several levels of certification.  They have the Associate program, which requires no class time and certifies that you have a very basic understanding of the product  They have Professional program at the next level, which does requires class time and has a fairly difficult multiple-choice test.  Then there’s the Advanced Professional (the one I’m currently working on) for…

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Diagnosing a PSOD

Frank's Tech Support

Last week, one of my hosts purple-screened.  This seems like a bad thing, but it’s really not, and it does happen sometimes.  It’s good practice to determine the root cause in case it’s something likely to happen again.

Believe it or not, purple screens are really a good thing.  Your system is trying to save you from much worse.  What is generally happening when you get a “Purple Screen of Death” is that some piece of hardware or software is misbehaving to the point that you are going to start experiencing data corruption and so the entire system halts to protect it from itself.

In my case, my PSOD  came from a non-maskable interrupt.  This is a special interrupt that the system is not allowed to ignore.  It’s a signal that something critical just happened and Bad Things will ensue unless immediate action is taken.  In the short term, it…

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