Due to a power failure of the storage where the vCenter Server Appliance resides, the VCSA does not boot. Connecting to the console shows the following output:
When you see this screen, none of the services are started as the appliance does not fully start. This implies that there is no means of connecting to the H5 client nor the VAMI interface on port 5480.
Why does the VCSA not boot and where do I start troubleshooting?
There are two important things to mentioned on the screenshot above, this is where we start:
Failed to start File System Check on /dev/log_vg/log
First we take a look at ‘journalctl -xb’. To do this we need to supply the root password and launch the BASH:
Now that have shell access we can take a look at ‘journalctl -xb’:
Type G to go to the bottom of the log file:
Work upwards, the most relevant logs will be at the bottom. For the sake of this blog post, I have type -S. This will turn on/off word wrap, in this case, I turned on word wrap.
File System Check
Going up a little I find these entries:
There is a problem with a certain inode and File System Check (fsck) should be run. Let’s see how we can do that. Is it as simple as running:
It seems like it. Running the above command finds some errors and suggests to repair. I confirmed.
Let’s check the other logical volumes (lvm). First we will run ‘lsblk’ to take a look at the drive layout:
Remark: When we take a look at the type, we see the disks, eg. sda, sdb, etc… The difference between sda and the rest is that sda is partitioned with standard partitions and on the rest the disks an LVM has been created.
I checked all other volumes and found none of them were having issues.
To reboot while you are in maintenance boot:
After the reboot, I could connect to the H5 client and clear the relevant errors.
This blog post is very similar to this one here. Although they are very much alike, the issues in the older blog post were on a standard partition on a VCSA 6.5 whereas the issues described and addressed in this post are on a VCSA 7.0 LVM physical volume.
So I changed the admin password ‘password-expiration’, not even bothering to open the event details. I just assumed this is about the admin user.
clearuser admin password-expiration
Not true. Some time later that day I found that the alarms were still open. I figured that this is some sort of timing issue, that the alarms were not automatically cleared yet. So I set them to resolved manually. Almost the same minute the alarms are triggered again, so no timing issue. If I only would have counted the alarms the first time it would have showed me that there more alarms than NSX-T components where I cleared the password expiration for the admin user.
It was only when I read the alarm in detail that I noticed the alarm is not the same one I saw before. This alarm was not triggered about the password expiration of the admin user but showed that it was for the audit user. The alarms are very much the same only the username is different, so easily overlooked.
So doing the math. Initially I had 8 open alarms, of which 3 were put to resolved automatically after changing the password expiration of the admin user. One on the NSX-T Manager and one on each of the 2 edge nodes. Which left 5 open alarms to take care of. Checking all the alarms gave me the following actions:
clear alarm for the root user on NSX-T Manager
clear alarms for the root user and the audit user on the NSX-T Edge 1 and 2
Password expiration should be part of your password policy strategy. Disabling the password expiration on a production system is not a good strategy.
This post is not as a end-to-end upgrade guide but a methodology guide. Everything is more or less straight forward if one uses the correct methodology.
As this is a home lab I have chosen not to add complexity by adding additional nodes to the various components for High Availability but depend on vSphere HA. This eases and shortens my upgrade path. In a production environment every application should be evaluated and talked through with the stakeholders whether it can rely on vSphere HA or some form of application HA should be introduced.
The release of vSphere 7 introduced a starting point for an update/upgrade round in the lab. I have not always used the methodology when upgrading components as I should have in the lab. When I used this methodology in the current upgrade round it has come to light that some components were not interoperable with each other. Why is this important? If you have a problem with your environment and you call VMware support, they will go through the logs and verify the environment is on par with the documentation.
So where do I start?
Reading the docs first takes time but it will save a lot of time in the long run. Can’t stress it enough RTFM !!
I always create my own high level upgrade guide. This will include the research that I have done and it also includes the upgrade path to follow.
Phase 1: Information gathering
Determine the components and versions
Be thorough in determining the components and versions (BOM or Bill Of Materials).
VMware vSphere 6.7U3
vRealize Log Insight 4.5
vRealize Operations 7.5
VMware Horizon 7.11
You will see below that I had forgotten to include VMware Horizon in my component set. This could have been catastrophic as some components might stop to work when you don’t follow the correct upgrade procedure.
Gather the documentation
After you determine which components are used in the environment you can go and search for the necessary documentation. Find the release notes, upgrade guides and other relevant documentation
What I learned from these documents was that I was not sure the NVMe drives in my hosts would be compatible. After all they are consumer grade NVMe drives and are not on the VMware HCL. I recently installed two NVMe drives, a CT500P1SSD8 and a CT1000P1SSD8 and at the time of install the Crucial CT500P1SSD8 was not recognized. A quick googling showed me a blog post from William Lam that replaced the vSphere 6.7 U3 nvme driver with one from a vSphere 6.5U2 install. I will discuss how I determined if there would be issues around this in ESXi 7.0 in a later phase.
All components should be checked with the vendor and the VMware HCL. Be aware that the vendor and VMware might not always agree and that the VMware HCL might not always be in sync with the the documentation of the hardware vendor. You should always follow the VMware HCL but be aware of the following KB. If vSAN hardware is involved it is advised to use extreme caution as this has a specific section of the VMware HCL for vSAN Ready Nodes and for Build Your Own
VMware Product Interoperability Matrix overview
I did a research on which versions would be compatible with vSphere 6.7 and vSphere 7.0 as I was not yet sure if would be able to upgrade to vSphere 7.0
One product I forgot about was VMware Horizon. I’m currently on 7.10 and the VMware Product Interoperability Matrix show that at least 7.12 is needed to be supported. As I currently use Horizon with a full clone this should not pose much problems and I am planning to upgrade this as well. If I would be using Linked Clones or Instant Clones this could have been worse.
Update sequence for vSphere 7.0 and its compatible VMware products
Now that we checked all the info on whether everything would be compatible and supported after the upgrade, it is time to check the knowledge base article on the update sequence. This article shows what must be upgraded before another component can be upgraded to keep a supported environment.
Phase 2: The upgrade
vRealize Log Insight upgrade
vRealize Log Insight was running version 4.6. Digging back through the release notes showed me that I had to upgrade from 4.6 > 4.7(.1) > 4.8 > 8.1. The VMware Product Interoperability Matrix showed that vRealize Log Insight 8.1 was compatible with either vSphere 6.7U3 and vSphere 7.0
The upgrade process was painless. It just took a lot of time. The process itself is straight forward. Go to Administration > Management > Cluster, upload the pak file and follow the screens. In my case again and again because I did not upgrade Log Insight a long time.
vRealize Operations Manager upgrade
Upgrading the vRealize Operations Manager node is a breeze too, mainly because it is a simple setup with only one master node. vRealize Operations Manager was running version 7.5. I missed the 8.1 release so I upgraded to 8.0 first.
There are a couple of things that need some attention.
Always run the vRealize Operations Manager Pre-Upgrade Readiness Assessment Tool (APUAT pak)
Make sure to upgrade the OS through the OS pak files first, then the vROps pak file
As I upgraded to 8.0 I had to switch files to execute the 8.1 upgrade
The Pre-Upgrade Readiness Assessment Tool showed me warnings for two items:
Validating product version Make sure to run vRealize Operations Manager – 6.6.1, 6.7, 7.0 and 7.5 Virtual Appliance upgrade, as product version is 7.5.0 Ensure product and upgrade versions meet the requirements.
Checking /dev/sda partition size. The size of the partition is less than 20GB. Increase the size of the partition to be greater or equal to 20 GB (https://kb.vmware.com/s/article/75298).
Both are easily addressed. The first one gives a warning to use the correct pak file when upgrading. The second one refers to a KB article that has only a couple of steps:
take vRealize Operations offline
shut down guest OS
increase hard disk in vCenter
boot Virtual Machine
take vRealize Operations online
After addressing both warnings I was able to upgrade.
Simple and easy when you are already on the VCSA with an embedded Platform Services Controller (PSC).
Run the installer and choose upgrade. Supply the source vCenter information and destination vCenter information and click Next – Next – Finish. Grab a drink and wait. It is a two part process. The first part will deploy the new machine with the chosen information and the second part will migrate the data from the old vCenter to the new vCenter.
Before the actual upgrade could take place I needed to be sure that everything would work after the upgrade. Within the vExpert vCommunity I had seen a nice and easy way to do this. I am sorry that I can’t give credits to the person that I got the idea from.
Create a bootable USB ESXi installer or use the iDRAC or equivalent technology to boot your server from the ESXi installer
Find an empty USB flash drive
Put your server in Maintenance Mode
Shutdown and boot your server from the USB installer or the iDRAC or equivalent technology
Install to the empty USB drive – BE CAREFUL not to install to the wrong location
Upgrade check workaround
ESXi will create a VMFS volume from the remaining local space where ESXi is installed by default. After installing I tried to add the ESXi host to vCenter but failed because it had detected the local VMFS volume from the original install and that was conflicting with the one that was still present in vCenter but disconnected. I rebooted the ESXi host, booted into the original drive, verified nothing was on the local drive in the original install and deleted the datastore. Rebooted again into the USB drive and now could add the USB installed ESXi 7.0 to vCenter. Now I was able to get a glimpse of how everything was seen from an ESXi 7.0 install. The NVMe drives I was worried about were showing all fine.
Again this is a home lab and not all components are on the VMware HCL so this adds some extra steps like checking from an actual install. This would not be necessary in a production environment where everything has green checks on the VMware HCL.
The actual upgrade
Upgrading ESXi hosts is done easiest through VMware vSphere – Lifecycle Manager (VMware Update Manager has been rebranded)
I imported the Dell customized ISO, created a baseline and did a Host Compliance Check. The Host Compliance Check was Incompatible and led me to the following two knowledge base articles:
I had to remove everything based on the qedi and qedf drivers
VMware Tools / VM Hardware Compatibility
Upgrading the VMware Tools and the VM Hardware Compatibility is the last part in the process. Determine the viability of each VM to upgrade the VMware Tools and the VM Hardware Compatibility. For most VMs this won’t pose a problem. Nevertheless there are some vendor appliances that will need to run a specific version.
Although vSAN is not really a separate component to upgrade, you will need to upgrade the on-disk format. This is an online upgrade that will not impact the running VMs.
I had downtime in my lab due to an power failure which resulted in a boot failure of my VCSA 6.5 appliance. Looking on the console showed me a “[FAILED] Failed to start File System Check on /dev/dis…uuid/uuid. See ‘systemctl status system-fsck-root.service’ for details.” message. Therefor it booted into ‘Emergency Shell’ or ‘Emergency mode’.
I ran the command ‘systemctl status systemd-fsck-root’ manually. This showed me that the ‘/dev/sda3’ partition was having issues.
UPDATE: It also states “RUN fsck MANUALLY”. I did not notice this the first time
I tried to run fsck with no options to see if the command was known to the CLI. I then ran the command with the partition as a parameter ‘fsck /dev/sda3’. I answered ‘y(es)’ to all ‘Fix<y>?’ questions.
In the end I received the message ‘FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED’ and tried to reboot. The reboot command gave me an error so I went through the ESXi to reset the virtual machine. Afterwards I was able to login again.