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7Aug/12Off

Adventures with vCenter, Windows and expired Oracle passwords

TechOps Guy: Nate

Today's a day that I could have back - it was pretty much a waste/wash.

I'm not a windows person by trade of course, but I did have an interesting experience today. I write this in the hopes that perhaps it can save someone else the same pain.

Last night I kicked off some Windows updates on a vCenter server, done it a bunch of times before never had an issue. There was only about 6-10 updates to install. It installed them, then rebooted, and was taking a really long time to complete the post install stuff, after about 30mins I gave up and went home. It's always come back when it's done.

I forgot about it until this morning when I went to go do stuff with vCenter and could not connect. Then I tried to remote desktop into the system and could not(tcp port not listening). So I resorted to logging in via VMware console. Tried resetting remote desktop to no avail. I went to control panel to check on windows update, and the windows update control panel just hung. I went to the 'add/remove programs' thing to roll back some updates and it hung while looking for the updates.

I tried firing up IE9, and it didn't fire, it just spun an hourglass for a few seconds and stopped. I scoured the event logs and there was really nothing there - no errors. I was convinced at this time an OS update went wrong, I mean why else would something like IE break ? There was an IE update as part of the updates that were installed last night after all.

After some searches I saw some people comment on how some new version of Flash was causing IE to break, so I went to remove flash (forgot why it was installed but there was a reason at the time), and could not. In fact I could not uninstall anything, it just gave me a generic message saying something along the lines of "wait for the system to complete the process before uninstalling this".

I came across a windows tool called System Update Readiness Tool which sounded promising as well, I was unable to launch IE of course, I did have firefox and could load the web page but was unable to download the software without Firefox hanging(!?). I managed to download it on another computer and copy it over the network to the affected server's HD. But when I tried to launch it - sure enough it hung too almost immediately.

Rebooting didn't help, shut down completely and start up again - no luck. Same behavior. After consulting with the IT manager who spends a lot more time in Windows than me we booted to safe mode - came right up. Windows update is not available in safe mode, most services were not started. But I was able to get in and uninstall the hot fix for IE. I rebooted again.

At some point along the line I got the system to where I could remote desktop in, windows update looked ok, IE loaded etc. I called the IT manager over to show him, and decided to reboot to make sure it was OK only to have it break on me again.

I sat at the post install screen for the patches (Stage 3 of 3 0%) for about 30 minutes, at this point I figure I better start getting prepared to install another vCenter server so I started that process in parallel, talked a bit with HP/Vmware support and I shut off the VM again and rebooted - no difference just was sitting there. So I rebooted again into safe mode, and removed the rest of the patches that were installed last night, and rebooted again into normal mode and must've waited 45 minutes or so for the system to boot - it did boot eventually, got past that updates screen. But the system was still not working right, vCenter was hanging and I could not remote desktop in.

About 30 minutes after the system booted I was able to remote desktop in again, not sure why, I kept poking around, not making much progress. I decided to take a VM snapshot (I had not taken one originally but in the grand scheme of things it wouldn't of helped), and re-install those patches again, and let the system work through whatever it has to work through.

So I did that, and the system was still wonky.

I looked and looked - vCenter still hanging, nothing in the event log and nothing in the vpx vCenter log other than stupid status messages like

2012-08-08T01:08:01.186+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-a5fd1c93] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:08:12.535+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-12d43ef2] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:08:23.884+01:00 [04356 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-f6f6f576] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:08:35.234+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-a928e16] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:08:46.583+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-729134b2] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:08:57.932+01:00 [04328 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-a395e0af] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:09:09.281+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-928de6d2] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:09:20.631+01:00 [04328 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-7a5a8966] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:09:32.058+01:00 [04220 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-524a7126] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:09:43.804+01:00 [04328 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-140d23cf] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:09:55.551+01:00 [04356 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-acadf68a] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:10:07.297+01:00 [04328 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-e42316c] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:10:19.044+01:00 [04356 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-3e976f5f] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms
2012-08-08T01:10:30.790+01:00 [04328 warning 'VpxProfiler' opID=SWI-2734f3ba] VpxUtil_InvokeWithOpId [TotalTime] took 12000 ms

No errors anywhere, I believe I looked at the tomcat logs a few times and there was no logs for today.

Finally I dug into the tomcat logs from last night and came across this -

Aug 6, 2012 11:27:30 PM com.vmware.vim.common.vdb.VdbODBCConfig isConnectableUrl
SEVERE: Unable to get a connection to: jdbc:oracle:thin:@//DB_SERVER:1521/DB_SERVER as username=VPXADMIN due to: ORA-28001: the password has expired

I had encountered a password expiry on my sys account a few weeks ago, but didn't really think much about it at the time. Anyways I reset the password and vCenter was able to start. I disabled password expiry per this page (I have used Oracle 10G and a little of 8/9i and never recall having password expire issues), which says defaults were changed in 11G and passwords do expire now.

I have had vCenter fail to start because of DB issues in the past - in fact because vCenter does not properly release locks on the Oracle DB when it shuts down the easiest workaround is to restart Oracle whenever I reboot the vCenter server (because vCenter is the only thing on the Oracle DB it's just a simpler solution). When vCenter fails in this way it causes no issues to the rest of the OS. Just an error message in the event log saying vCenter failed to start, and a helpful explanation as to why -

Unable to get exclusive access to vCenter repository.   Please check if another vCenter instance is running against the same database schema.

What got me, even now is how the hell did this expired password cascade into Internet Explorer breaking, remote desktop breaking, windows update breaking, etc ? My only guess is that vCenter was perhaps flooding the system with RPC messages causing other things to break. Again - there was no evidence of any errors in the event log anywhere. I even called a friend who works at Microsoft and deploys hundreds of Windows servers for a living (he works as a Lab Manager), hoping he would have an idea. He said he had seen this behavior several times before but never tried to debug it, he just wiped the system out and reinstalled. I was close to doing that today, but fortunately eventually found a solution, and I guess you could say I learned something in the process ?

I don't know.

I have not seriously used windows since the NT4 days (I have used it casually on the desktop and in some server roles like this vCenter system), why I stopped using it, well there was many reasons, I suppose this was sort of a reminder. I'm not really up to moving to the Linux vCenter appliance yet it seems beta-ish, if I ever get to move to that appliance before I upgrade to KVM (at some point, no rush). I have a very vague memory of experimenting one time on NT4, or maybe it was 3.51, where I decided to stop one/more of the RPC services to see what would happen. Havok, of course. I noticed one of the services vCenter depends upon, the DCOM Server Process Launcher, seems similar of importance in Windows 2008, though 2008 smartly does not allow you to stop it, I chuckled when I saw the Recovery Action for this service failure is Restart the Computer. But in this case the service was running... I looked for errors for it in the event log as well and there were none.

7Aug/12Off

ESXi 5 Uptake still slow?

TechOps Guy: Nate

Just came across this article from our friends at The Register, and two things caught my eye -

HP is about to launch a new 2U quad socket system - the HP DL560 Gen8, which is what the article is about. I really can't find any information on this server online, so it seems it is not yet officially announced. I came across this PDF from 2005, which says the 560 has existed in the past - though I never recall hearing about it and I've been using HP gear off and on since before that. Anyways, on the HP site the only 500-series systems I see are the 580 and 585, nothing new there.

HP has taken it's sweet time joining the 4-socket 2U gang, I recall Sun was among the first several years ago on the Opteron, then later Dell and others joined in but HP was bulky still with the only quad socket  rack option being 4U.

The more interesting thing though to me was the lack of ESXi 5.0 results posted with VMware's own benchmark utilities. Of the 23 results posted since ESXi 5 was made generally avaialble, only four are running on the newest hypervisor. I count six systems using ESX 4.1U2 and vCenter 5.0 (a combination I chose for my company's infrastructure). Note I said ESX - not ESXi. I looked at a couple of the disclosure documents and would expect them to specifically call out ESXi if that is in fact what was used.

So not only are they NOT using ESXi 5.0 but they aren't even using ESXi period with these newest results (there is not a single ESXi 4.x system on the site as far as I can tell).

Myself I find that fascinating. Why would they be testing with an older version of the hypervisor and not even using ESXi? I have my own reasons for preferring ESX over ESXi, but I'd really expect for benchmark purposes they'd go with the lighter hypervisor. I mean it consumes significantly less time to install onto a system since it's so small.

I have to assume that they are using this configuration because it's what the bulk of their customers are still deploying today, otherwise it makes no sense to be testing the latest and greatest Intel processors on server hardware that's not even released yet on an OS kernel that is going on three years old at this point. I thought there was supposed to be some decent performance boosts in ESXi 5?

I'm not really a fan of the VMark benchmark itself, it seems rather confusing to interpret results, there are no cost disclosures, and I suspect it only runs on VMware making it difficult or impossible to compare with other hypervisors. Also the format of the results is not ideal, I'd like to see at least CPU/Memory/Storage benchmarks included so it's easier to tell how each subsystem performed. Testing brand X with processor Y and memory Z against brand W with processor Y and memory Z by itself doesn't seem very useful.

SPEC has another VM benchmark, though it seems similarly confusing to interpret results, though at least they have results for more than one hypervisor.

vSphere, aka ESX 4, when it was released really was revolutionary, it ditched the older 32-bit system for a more modern 64-bit system, and introduced a ton of new things as well.

I was totally underwhelmed by ESXi 5, even before the new licensing change was announced. I mean just compare What's New between vSphere 4 and vSphere 5.

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