ZFS Build Checklist

I’ve decided to replace the Windows Home Server Vail server with something capable of handling newer builds of ZFS and the inherent deduploication.

Here’s a quick kit list and build diary I’ll try to keep up-to-date as I go along.

Kit:

  • Dell Perc6i – this is essentially a port multiplier. I scored it from eBay on the cheap, though it was delivered from Israel, took awhile, and had neither cables nor mounting bracket.
  • OCZ RevoDrive 120GB – Though the RAID controller on this card is not supported in Linux/Solaris, the drives show up as two separate devices as long as you make sure to put it in the right PCIe slot. That means it’s perfect for both ZIL (log) and L2ARC (cache).
  • 2x Intel 80GB X25-M SSDs – these will house the virtual machine files to be deduped. Very reliable drives, and though they might not be the fastest in terms of writes, the speeds are relatively constant which is quite handy compared to solutions that attempt compression like SandForce controllers. ZFS will take care of that, thanks.
  • (IN TRANSIT) 2x Dual Port 1gbit Intel PCIe NICs – I’ll use these for the direct connection to the virtual machine host. Currently one link is used, but when reading from the SSD drives the line is saturated.
  • (IN TRANSIT) 32 Pin SAS Controller To 4x SATA HDD Serial Cable Cord – This is needed to plug in 8 drives to the LSI controller.
  • 5x 1.5TB Seagate hard drives – These will be the bread-and-butter storage running in RAID-Z2 (similar to RAID 6).
  • 3x 3TB Seagate hard drives – These might simply be a large headache, but the plan was to have an extra 3TB RAID-Z2 for backups in another machine. Unfortunately there seem to be issues with drives that are 4k presenting themselves as 512b. I may be able to get around this by hacking or waiting as they become more popular. For now 2 of them are in software RAID1 on a Windows 7 host, and the other remains in the external USB 3 case and is used as a backup drive.
  • NetGear GS108T Switch – A cheap VLAN-capable switch should I decide to use more than 2 bonded ports (I doubt it), currently running the lab.

Parallels Server Beta 2 Download

You can now register to download Parallels Server Beta 2!

From the announcement:

Key Features (Parallels Server Beta 2)

Hardware-optimized hypervisor-based virtualization solution.

Installable on host servers running Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, including the Windows Server 2008.

Bare metal version for non-OS server installation.

x64 (64-bit) and x86 (32-bit) host and guest OS support, including any combination of more than 50 different guest OSes in secure, high-performing VMs.

4-way guest SMP and multi-core support.

Integrated toolset includes Parallels Tools, VM backup and Parallels Transporter (the P2V migration tool).

Parallels Management Console, an easy-to-use, multi-server management tool is included.

Support for Intel VT-d hardware acceleration extension for hardware resource dedication to VMs.

Intel VT-x and AMD-V hardware-assisted acceleration support.

Open APIs and SDK for extensible management.

Command line interface (CLI) and scripting.

Novell to Acquire Platespin for 205M

More purchases and conglomeration on the way this year.

The buzz at VMworld Europe, before it has even started, is that Novell is to purchase Canadian data center management software company Platespin. Novell has now posted the news on their site, and many are scrambling to figure out where this will lead them as the software is very popular in the VM market. (UPDATE: Platespin have posted their announcement regarding the Novell acquisition as well)
Novell is starting to grow again: it now owns SuSE Linux, Ximian (original makers of Gnome), and just recently purchased open colaboration vendor SiteScape.

If you’d like more info about the acquisition, feel free to register for the Novell-Platespin webinar.

From the Platespin announcement:

On February 25, 2008, Novell announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire PlateSpin Ltd. The combination of Novell’s platform and automation management with PlateSpin’s leading solutions for workload relocation, protection and provisioning will give customers the agility to cross physical and virtual boundaries so IT can work together. Both organizations are focused on helping customers maximize the strategic value of the heterogeneous data center. Novell and PlateSpin will deliver products for complete workload lifecycle management and optimization for Linux, UNIX, and Windows operating systems in the physical and virtual data center. Below you will find details about the acquisition and what it means to current and future PlateSpin customers and partners.

From the Novell announcement:

The acquisition of PlateSpin will allow Novell to offer customers a full solution stack with a powerful virtualization platform and a best-in-class heterogeneous management solution. Together, Novell and PlateSpin will solve many of the data center challenges that customers face today, including:

  • Relocation: PlateSpin provides a completely integrated product suite that automates the assessment and migration phases of data center initiatives, like server consolidation, data center relocation and hardware upgrades, to help customers reduce costs, power consumption and space in the data center.
  • Protection: PlateSpin’s disaster recovery solutions offer affordable workload protection that leverages virtualization technology to protect both physical and virtual servers in the data center, for improved security and business continuity.
  • Provisioning: Using PlateSpin’s technologies, customers will have a single approach to imaging and configuring physical and virtual workloads regardless of platform. This eliminates the manual install process and dramatically reduces the time to provision new server workloads. It will also enable customers to address changing resource requirements at peak demand times as well as in test lab scenarios.
  • Optimization and Management: Novell and PlateSpin optimize the balance between physical and virtual infrastructure by automatically monitoring and making infrastructure adjustments based on server availability and workload demand. By automating the process and increasing the visibility into how workloads use physical and virtual resources over time, customers will be able to increase server utilization and optimize their data centers by better addressing common workload movement challenges.

Continue reading “Novell to Acquire Platespin for 205M”

The 10 Best VMware Virtual Appliances

As suggested in the comments, I’ve updated this post here: http://blandname.com/2012/04/09/top-10-virtual-appliances-revisited/

Daniel and Bitnami have quite a few of these already published, which is pretty cool! 

This list is subjective, and you’ve been warned!

All of these virtual appliances have been tested with ESX server, and may have issues elsewhere.

For appliances that needed it, I used R3 Data Recovery VMware Converter, the version that ships with Virtual Infrastructure 3.5 (VI3.5).

Please note that both ESX 3.5 and Virtual Center 2.5 are available as trials from VMware currently, and I would highly recommend trying them out as it really is night and day compared to VMware Workstation, Server and Player.

That said, for the most part you’ll be fine working with VMware Server 2.0 – it’s free and has a special version of VMware Infrastructure Client to boot.

The list:

  1. Astaro Security Gateway – This is a must in any build for me. I use this to bridge between my LAN/WAN and the virtual networks that I create. There is a 10-device, 1000 connection “home user” license available from My Astaro that should be more than sufficient to get you up and running with a clean, secure virtual network.
  2. Ubuntu 7.10 JeOS Mini-image – this image weighs in at only 70MB or so, expands to roughly 200MB, has apt-get installed, and is a perfect candidate for building virtual appliances with. VMware tools is installed, so you don’t need to worry about things like date and time sync.
  3. OpenBSD 4.2 – The OpenBSD image is great for getting started in the OpenBSD world: learning the shell, commands, networking, and in my case, firewalling. The verison I use comes from Chrysaor.info, but feel free to use your own.
  4. OpenSuSE 10.3 – I can’t live without this virtual appliance – I use it for just about everything, and is the first appliance installed in any environment. Note that it is a bit bloated, containing USB, sound and other components typically not needed in a virtual environment. On the other hand, since it’s tried and tested on my end, it’s a lifer.
  5. Trac – I use Trac as a wiki and VM staging log. I consider all VMs, hosts and Virtual Center as software projects, and monitor changes closely. If ever I need to pull up quick info about a virtual machine, host, network, router or firewall, it’s all in Trac.
  6. WordPress – I use my WordPress virtual machine to stage different versions of blandname, to test updates, upgrades, and plugins. This also allows me to change themes, move Adsense blocks around, and generally to play without fear of losing revenue or breaking something.

Continue reading “The 10 Best VMware Virtual Appliances”

Connect to a Mac Remote Desktop using VNC

This will be a quick howto as it’s mostly a settings issue, but here goes:

Macs have come with a Remote Desktop server for quite some time now, and it’s great for using macs to manage macs remotely, though maybe not as nice as an NX or XMing solution.

When trying to manage an Apple computer using a Windows or Linux computer it’s a different story. When you attempt to open the connection the authorization works, but the window will close very quickly, with no apparent error.

The problem lies in the actual implementation of VNC in Apple’s Remote Desktop server (not to be confused with RDP – it’s MUCH slower). Apple has decided to only support one type of tiling, whereas most VNC clients will attempt to find the best solution in order to connect. Specifically, Apple uses HexTile, and if you specify this in the options or properties of your connection, it will work with no problems whatsoever.

If you’d like to make a .VNC configuration file in order to connect to your Mac server using a Windows VNC client (RealVNC used here), just take the following code and save it as a *.VNC configuration file, being careful to change the host from (null) to the remote Apple Remote Desktop server’s IP address (for example: 10.10.10.10).

[Connection]
Host=(null)
[Options]
UseLocalCursor=1
UseDesktopResize=1
FullScreen=0
FullColour=1
LowColourLevel=1
PreferredEncoding=hextile
AutoSelect=0
Shared=0
SendPtrEvents=1
SendKeyEvents=1
SendCutText=1
AcceptCutText=1
DisableWinKeys=1
Emulate3=0
PointerEventInterval=0
Monitor=
MenuKey=F8
AutoReconnect=1

I have tested this method on many Windows and Linux machines, using RealVNC, TightVNC, UltraVNC and even Chicken of the VNC for Mac OS X. It works fine, though I’d like to pound home again that I would really like to have the option to either tunnel application over SSH, or have some type of locally-accelerated RDP-compliant protocol (heck why not use LTSP 5.0?)
One can only dream…

Where’s my Mac BIOS? (How to get into OpenFirmware Easily)

A lot of people these days appear to be under the impression that Macs have a BIOS, which is unfortunate because they actually have something much better – Macs have OpenFirmware. This is true for G4 Mac Minis, PowerBooks, iBooks, iMacs, eMacs, and Dual G5s… I could go on and on.
I got most of this info from experience and the Apple Developper Connection – if you’re not a member yet, sign up, it’s free.

You can get into OpenFirmware using this key sequence:

CMD-OPT-O-F

In detail, this means using two hands, holding “command”, “option” and “f” on the left and “o” with your right hand. Do this while booting your computer and you well hear two chimes. At the end of the chimes you will be greeted with an

On my G4 Mac Mini, for example, I can hold down the power button for roughly 10 seconds and I will hear the chimes – this should work for iMacs as well.

The OpenFirmware prompt that looks like this:

ok

0>

Congratulations, you’ve accessed your “BIOS” you switcher!

Now that we’ve passed this glorious milestone, we have some work to do. After all you came here for a reason right? (and not just to click on the ads, wink-wink nudge-nudge)

Some useful commands that save me time and time again, and enable reparation of the G4 Mac Mini:

Boot your Apple computer using the default boot device:

0 > mac-boot

Boot your Mac using the inserted CDROM at the yaboot directory for linux CDs:

0 > boot cd:,\install\yaboot

To eject a CDROM from your Mac:

0 > eject cd

If you have any other OpenFirmware tips to share, feel free to comment!