[URGENT] vSAN 6.6.1: Potential data loss due to resynchronisation mixed with object expansion

Last week VMware released an urgent hotfix to remediate potential data loss in vSAN 6.6.1 due to resynchronisation mixed with object expansion.

This is a known issue affecting earlier versions of ESXi 6.5 Express Patch 9. The vendor states that a sequence of the following operations might cause it:

  1. vSAN initiates resynchronisation to maintain data availability.
  2. You expand a virtual machine disk (VMDK).
  3. vSAN initiates another resync after the VMDK expansion.

Detailed information about this problem is available in KB 60299.

If you are a vSAN customer, additional considerations are required before applying this hotfix:

  • If hosts have already been upgraded to ESXi650-201810001, you can proceed with this upgrade,
  • If hosts have not been upgraded to ESXi650-201810001, and if an expansion of a VMDK is likely, the in-place expansion should be disabled on all of them by setting the VSAN.ClomEnableInplaceExpansion advanced configuration option to ‘0‘.

The VSAN.ClomEnableInplaceExpansion advanced configuration option is not available in vSphere Client. I use the following one-liner scrips to determine and change its value via PowerCLI:

# To check the current status
Get-VMHost | Get-AdvancedSetting -Name “VSAN.ClomEnableInplaceExpansion” | select Entity, Name, Value | Format-Table -AutoSize

# To disable the in-place expansion
Get-VMHost | Get-AdvancedSetting -Name “VSAN.ClomEnableInplaceExpansion” | ? {$_.Value -eq “1”} | Set-AdvancedSetting -Value “0”

Note: No reboot is required after the change.

After hosts were upgraded to ESXi650-201810001 or ESXi650-201811002, you can set VSAN.ClomEnableInplaceExpansion back to ‘1‘ to enable the in-place expansion.

vSphere 6.x: SEsparse snapshot may cause guest OS file system corruption

Early this month, VMware published a KB 59216 named ‘Virtual Machines running on a SEsparse snapshot may report guest data inconsistencies’.

As per the vendor’s documentation, ‘SEsparse is a snapshot format introduced in vSphere 5.5 for large disks, and is the preferred format for all snapshots in vSphere 6.5 and above with VMFS-6‘. On VMFS-5 and NFS datastores, the SEsparse format is used for virtual disks that are 2 TB or larger; whereas on VMFS-6, SEsparse is the default format for all snapshots.

The knowledge base article states that the issue affects vSphere 5.5 and later versions. As of today, it has been fixed only in VMware ESXi 6.7 Update 1, with the Express Patches pending for VMware ESXi 6.0 and 6.5.

How is this related to your production environment? Well, it depends…

For example, when the backup software creates a system snapshot and it coexists with the operating system (OS) experiencing ‘a burst of non-contiguous write IO in a very short period of time‘, this can potentially trigger the data corruption. There might be other scenarios when a snapshot is used during the OS or software upgrades.

While waiting for a permanent solution, VMware provides a workaround that requires disabling SEsparse IO coalescing on each affected host. The advanced setting that controls IO Coalescing (COW.COWEnableIOCoalescing) is not available through the vSphere Client:

ESXi-SEspare-Issue-01

In spite of that, you can always determine and change its value via PowerCLI:

Get-VMHost | Get-AdvancedSetting -Name “COW.COWEnableIOCoalescing” | select Entity,Name,Value | Format-Table -AutoSize

Get-VMHost | Get-AdvancedSetting -Name “COW.COWEnableIOCoalescing” | ? {$_.Value -eq “1”} | Set-AdvancedSetting -Value “0”

Note: After disabling the IO coalescing, all virtual machines resided on that host ‘must be power-cycled or migrated (vMotion) to other hosts that have the config option set‘.

VMware states there will be a performance penalty when disabling IO coalescing and ‘the extent of degradation depends on the individual virtual machine workload‘.

Note: ‘After patches are released, the workaround needs to be rolled back to regain performance benefits of IO coalescing‘.

[IMPORTANT] VMware ESXi 6.x: Denial-of-service vulnerability in 3D-acceleration feature

This week VMware published a security advisory VMSA-2018-0025 about the denial-of-service vulnerability in the 3D-acceleration feature in VMware ESXi, Workstation, and Fusion.

VM3DSupport-Issue-01

It affects all versions of those products if 3D-acceleration feature is enabled for virtual machines (VMs). This is a default setting for all VMs on VMware Workstation and Fusion and might be an issue for the VMs managed by VMware Horizon.

More information about this issue can be found here.

At the moment of writing this article, there were no patches or updates provided by VMware to mitigate this problem. So a workaround would be to disable the 3D-acceleration feature for affected systems.

To identify the VMs that have the 3D-acceleration feature enabled, I wrote the following PowerCLI script:

As soon as the permanent solution provided by the vendor, I will update this blog post with more information.

vSphere 6.5: Additional considerations when migrating to VMFS-6 – Part 1

For those who use the Virtual Machine File System (VMFS) datastores, one of the steps when upgrading to vSphere 6.5 is to migrate them to VMFS-6.

VMFS6-01

VMware provides a detailed overview of VMFS-6 on the StorageHub, as well as an example of how the migration from VMFS-5 can be automated using PowerCLI.

However, there are three edge cases that require extra steps to continue with the migration. They are as follows:

All those objects, if they exist, prevent the ESXi host from unmounting the datastore, and they need to be moved to a new location before migration continues. The required steps to relocate them will be reviewed in the paragraphs below.

Relocating the system swap

The system swap location can be checked and set via vSphere Client in Configure > System > System Swap settings of the ESXi host.

VMFS6-02

Alternatively, the system swap settings can be retrieved via PowerCLI:

The script above can be modified to create the system swap files on a new datastore:

Note: The host reboot is not required to apply this change.

Moving the persistent scratch location

A persistent scratch location helps when investigating the host failures. It preserves the host log files on a shared datastore. So they can be reachable for troubleshooting, even if the host experienced the Purple Screen of Death (PSOD) or went down.

To identify the persistent scratch location, filter the key column by the ‘scratch’ word in Settings > System > Advanced System Settings of the ESXi host in vSphere Client.

VMFS6-03

You only need to point the ScratchConfig.ConfiguredScratchLocation setting to a new location and reboot the host for this change to take effect.

Note: Before doing any changes, make sure that the .locker folder (should be unique for each configured host to avoid data mixing or overwrites) has been created on the desired datastore. Otherwise, the persistent scratch location remains the same.

To review and modify advanced host parameters including the persistent scratch location via PowerCLI, look for two cmdlets named Get-AdvancedSetting and Set-AdvancedSetting. This procedure is well-documented in KB 1033696.

An information about how to automate the diagnostic coredump file relocation will be covered in Part 2 or this series later this month. Keep you posted!

URGENT: VMware Tools 10.3.0 was recalled

VMware has just announced that VMware Tools 10.3.0 was recalled due to a functional issue with 10.3.0 in ESXi 6.5.

VMware-Tools-1030-Issue

As per KB 57796, the VMXNET3 driver released with VMware Tools 10.3.0 can result in a Purple Diagnostic Screen (PSOD) or guest network connectivity loss in certain configurations. Those configurations include:

  • VMware ESXi 6.5 hosts
  • VM Hardware version 13
  • Windows 8/Windows Server 2012 or higher guest operating system (OS).

As a workaround, VMware recommends uninstalling VMware Tools 10.3.0 and then reinstalling VMware Tools 10.2.5 for affected systems.

The vendor will be releasing a revised version of the VMware Tools 10.3 family at some point in the future.

More information is available in VMSA-2018-0017.

25/09/2018 – Update 1: VMware Tools were updated to version 10.3.2 to resolve the issue with VMXNET3 driver. VMware recommends to install VMware Tools 10.3.2, or VMware Tools 10.2.5 or an earlier version of VMware Tools.

vSphere 6.5: Switching to Native Drivers in ESXi 6.5

The Native Device Driver architecture is not something new. Since its introduction more than five years ago, VMware encourages their hardware ecosystem partners to work on developing native drivers. A list of supported hardware is growing with every major release of ESXi, with the company’s aim to deprecate the vmkLinux APIs and associated driver ecosystem completely in the future releases of vSphere.

The benefits of using the native drivers are as follows:

  • It removes the complexity of developing and maintaining Linux derived drivers,
  • It improves the system performance,
  • It frees from the functional limitations of Linux derived drivers,
  • It increases the stability and reliability of the hypervisor, as native drivers are designed specifically for VMware ESXi.

Saying that one of the steps when upgrading to a new version of vSphere is to check that the hardware supports native drivers. By default, if ESXi identifies a native driver for a device it will be loaded instead of Linux derived driver. However, it is not always a case, and you need to check whether native drivers are in use after the system upgrade.

Following steps in KB 1031534 and KB 1034674, you can pinpoint PCI devices and corresponding drivers loaded for each of them:

  • To identify a storage HBA (such as a fibre card or RAID controller), run this command:

# esxcfg-scsidevs -a

  • To identify a network card, run this command:

# esxcfg-nics -l

  • To list device state and note the hardware IDs, run this command:

# vmkchdev -l

The /etc/vmware/default.map.d/ folder on ESXi host contains a full list of map files referring to the native drivers available for your system.

ESXi-Native-Driver-01

To quickly identify the driver version, you can run this command:

# esxcli software vib list | grep <native_driver_name>

In addition, information about available vSphere Installation Bundles (VIBs) in vSphere 6.5 can be found via the web client or PowerCLI session:

  • To view all installed VIBs in vSphere Client (HTML5), open Configure > System > Packages tab in the host settings:

ESXi-Native-Driver-02

  • To view all installed VIBs in VMware Host Client, open Manage > Packages tab in the host settings:

ESXi-Native-Driver-03

  • To list all installed VIBs in PowerCLI, run this command:

# (Get-VMHost -Name ‘<host_name>‘ | Get-EsxCli).software.vib.list() | select Name,Vendor,Version | sort Name

Comparing findings above with information in the IO Devices section in VMware Hardware Compatibility List, you would be able to find out whether native drivers available for your devices, as well as the recommended combination of the driver and firmware, tested and supported by VMware.

It worth reading the release notes for the corresponding drivers and search any reference to it on VMware and the third-party vendors’ websites, in case there are any known issues or limitations that might affect how device function.

If everything seems good, it is time to enable the native driver following steps in KB 2147565:

# esxcli system module set –enabled=true –module=<native_driver_name>

This change requires a host reboot and a thorough testing afterwards. The following commands can be quite helpful when troubleshooting native drivers:

  • To get the driver supported module parameters, run this command:

# esxcfg-module -i <native_driver_name>

  • To get the driver info, run this command:

# esxcli network nic get -n <vmnic_name>

  • To get an uplink stats, run this command:

# esxcli network nic stats -n <vmnic_name>

31/08/2018 – Update 1: After some feedback provided, I have decided to list well-known issues with the native drivers that exist currently. They are as follows:

  • The Mellanox ConnectX-4/ConnectX-5 native ESXi driver might exhibit performance degradation when its Default Queue Receive Side Scaling (DRSS) feature is turned on (Reference: vSphere 6.7 Release Notes),
  • Native software FCoE adapters configured on an ESXi host might disappear when the host is rebooted (Reference: vSphere 6.7 Release Notes),
  • HP host with QFLE3 Driver Version 1.0.60.0 experienced a PSOD or stuck at “Shutting down device drivers…” shutdown or restart (Reference: KB 55088),
  • ESXi 6.5 Storage Performance Issues and Fix (Reference: Anthony Spiteri’s blog).

VMware ESXi 6.0-6.5: Low network receive throughput for VMXNET3 on Windows VM

VMware has just released a new KB 57358 named ‘Low receive throughput when receive checksum offload is disabled and Receive Side Coalescing is enabled on Windows VM‘. This requires attention when configuring the VMXNET3 adapter on Windows operating systems (OS). However, it only affects virtual environments with VMware ESXi 6.0 and ESXi 6.5 only.

VMware states that it happens when the following conditions are met:

  • Guest OS is Windows 2012 / Windows 8 or later
  • VM hardware version 11 or later
  • Virtual network adapter is VMXNET3
  • Receive Side Coalescing (RSC) is enabled on the VMXNET3 driver on the guest OS
  • Some or all of following receive checksum offloads have value Disabled or only Tx Enabled on the VMXNET3 driver on the guest operating system:
    • IPv4 Checksum Offload
    • TCP Checksum Offload (IPv4)
    • TCP Checksum Offload (IPv6)
    • UDP Checksum Offload (IPv4)
    • UDP Checksum Offload (IPv6).

This shouldn’t be a problem if the VMXNET3 driver has the default settings.

VMXNET3-RSC-Issue-00

For example, copying 3.4 gigabytes of data to the test VM via the 1Gbps link took me seconds.

VMXNET3-RSC-Issue-01

With TCP Checksum Offload (IPv4) set to Tx Enabled on the VMXNET3 driver the same data takes ages to transfer.

VMXNET3-RSC-Issue-02

VMware provides a workaround for this issue: you either need to disable RSC, if any of receive checksum offloads is disabled, or manually enable receive checksum offloads. The knowledge base includes the PowerShell commands that help to automate the latter.