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Cisco Champions at CLMEL

Cisco Live Melbourne has come and gone for another year and this year was without a doubt the best of all the years I’ve attended so far. This was my 3rd year at CLMEL (#CLMEL) and it was an action packed week. At previous events I’ve been primarily going to the breakout sessions and giving myself a migraine from the amount of information I tried to chug through. This year I went in community mode. Being a Cisco Champion I was lucky to be able to partake in some special events, get some nice perk treatment such as prime seats for the keynote and also to interact with the other Cisco Champions. The number of Cisco Champions for Australia in 2017 has seen a significant increase and it’s heavily loaded towards Melbourne so CLMEL provided the ideal opportunity to meet new people.

CL-Mel-Champs

Last year there were no real events so it was great to see some special Cisco Champions events organised and allow the Champions to meet up. This year Veritas, the events organisers, were on hand to assist with the Cisco Champion events throughout the week. A massive thank you to Freya for keeping things in check throughout the few days. A huge thank you also goes to Brandon Prebynski and Lauren Friedman of the Cisco Champions program for getting everything organised on the back end. The value added to the program during Cisco Live this year cannot be underestimated.

The first order of business on Day 1, Tuesday, was the Data Centre Innovation Day. This session provided an inside look at the upcoming technology roadmap for data centre tech. The Data Centre Innovation Day is by invite only and was organised for me by Lauren Friendman (massive thanks for that). I found the information on the upcoming  roadmaps for UCS Compute, UCS Central and UCS Director platforms. I can’t divulge anything as it was under NDA but I can say some of it is pretty cool. One thing they did discuss which I can mention is the new interoperability matrix tool which has been updated to make it easier to search compatibility requirements. I haven’t played around with it yet but will most likely be using it for my next planned upgrade. Read More

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Melbourne DCUG Superstar Session

The Cisco DCUG has been running for almost a year now and we’ve been very lucky with the support we’ve recieved from both Cisco and the IT community. Back in March, I know I’m well behind the times here due to other commitments, we were immensely privileged to have some top speakers present to the local DCUG.

Cisco Live opening day fell on the same day as our monthly DCUG meeting so it made sense to try to get some of the heavy hitters over from the US to present for us. Cisco DCUG ran with superstars Lauren Malhoit and Remi Phillippe. Lauren is well known within the IT community for her work on the In Tech We Trust podcast but also through her work on ACI. She’s got a course on Pluralsight around ACI if you’re interested in learning more about the Cisco technology. She’s recently jumped into a new role at Techwise TV. Lauren is also the author of a couple of books and an avid blogger for AdaptingIT.com and VirtualizationAdmin.com. Lauren is a massive presence within the tecnology community and I was immensely excited when she agreed to present at the DCUG. Remi is a TME within Cisco’s INSBU and has a heavy focus on the data center analytics platform, Tetration. A massive shout out goes to Rob Tappenden from Cisco in ANZ for helping to organise such quality speakers and initiating the initial contact. A small shout-out (almost at whisper-level) goes to Brett Johnson from vBrownBag for letting us know Lauren was making the trip out to Melbourne.

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Cisco Live Melbourne 2017

Cisco Live Melbourne 2017

Cisco Live time has rolled around again for another year. I’ve been really looking forward to this since before the Christmas break and it’s kind of snuck up on me in the end. This year I’ll be taking part in the Data Centre Innovation Day which will provide the opportunity to interact with key Cisco executives and data centre experts on current and emerging challenges and trends.

Last year I spent quite a bit of time interacting with the guys in the World of Solutions and attending some full-on breakout sessions. This year I’ll once again be hitting up some breakout sessions but I also plan on spending more time in the DevNet zone to get up to speed on scripting, Git, REST APIs and DevOps. DevNet was not very large last year but I expect it to be bigger this year and even harder to attend sessions. You cannot book these sessions in advance so it’s first come first served. If you can spare the time though it’s definitely worth your while going.

The sessions I plan to attend this year are focused on Data Centre technology and I’m really keen to learn more on Tetration and Container technology. I’m also looking at Hybrid Cloud integration. My main purpose outside of technical brain dumps is for networking, meeting and interacting with peers and to promote community engagement. It’s also an opportunity to focus on personal development, take some time out of the office to review where I’m at technically and what gaps exist and begin to make plans on what I’d like to focus on in the coming year. As a Cisco Champion for 2017 there’s some special events/treatment at Cisco Live and having the opportunity to meet the other Cisco Champions is too good to miss. Our regular Cisco Data Center UserGroup also takes place on the first night of Cisco Live and we’ve been extremely fortunate to have fantastic presenters, Remi Philippe and Lauren Malhoit. If anyone happens to be in Melbourne and Tuesday 7th please feel free to come along to the Crafty Squire on Russell Street for a 6:30pm start.

cisco-live-mel-2017
This year I’ve taken the plunge to be part of a panel discussing “Build Your Personal Brand with Social Media”. This is part of the Cisco Champions program during Cisco Live. This will be my first time in front of such an audience and I’m both anxious and excited. If you happen to be at Cisco Live on Wednesday drop by the Cisco Think Tank sessions at 2pm.

 

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Fix: Cisco B200 M4 – FlexFlash – FFCH_Error_old_firmware_Running_error

During a recent upgrade of Cisco B200 M4 blades I got the following error:

FlexFlash FFCH_ERROR_OLD_FIRMWARE_RUNNING
flexflash-error

I really wasn’t sure what was causing the issue but it turned out to be a known bug for M4 blades. More details can be found over on Cisco BugSearch Note: You’ll need a Cisco Login to access the site. Basically the issue affects B200 M4 blades upgraded to 2.2(4) or higher.

The workaround is actually quite easy and just needs to have the FlexFlash Controller reset. This can be done using the below steps:

Step 1: Select Equipment -> Chassis # -> Server # -> Inventory -> Storage -> Reset FlexFlash Controller

Flexflash-fix-steps

Step 2: Click Yes to reset the FlexFlash controller

reset-flexflash-controller

Step 3: Click Ok on reset notification

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Fix: Cisco UCS B200 M4 Activation Failed

During a recent upgrade I ran into a problem with activation of B200 M4 blade. This was following the infrastructure firmware upgrade and the next step was to upgrade the server firmware. However, before upgrading the server firmware I got the error from the B200 M4 blades showing the following error:

Activation failed and Activate Status Set to Failed

This turned out to be due to the B200 M4 blades shipping with version 7.0 of the board controller firmware. On investigation with Cisco I found that it’s a known bug – CSCuu78484

You can follow the commands to change the base board. You can find more information on that from the Cisco forums but the commands you need are below:

#scope server X/Y (chassis X blade Y)

#scope boardcontroller

#show image

#activate firmware version.0 force

>Select a lower version than current one

#commit-buffer

What I found was that since I was going to be upgrading the blade firmware version anyway there was no point in dropping the server firmware back and instead proceed with the upgrade which fixed the issue.

I spoke with TAC and they advised that the error could be ignored and I could proceed with the UCS upgrade. The full details of the upgrade can be found in another post.

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How To: Cisco UCS Firmware Upgrade 2.2 to 3.1 with Auto-Install

Recently I had to upgrade our ESXi hosts from Update 2 to Update 3 due to security patch requirements. This requirement stretches across two separate physical environments, one running IBM blades and the other running on Cisco UCS blade chassis in a Flexpod configuration. The upgrade paths for both are slightly different, and they also run on different vCenter platforms. Both of these also have different upgrade paths as one is running VMware SRM and is in linked mode. I’m not going to discuss the IBM upgrades but I did need to upgrade the firmware of the Infrastructure and Servers for Cisco UCSM.

Before you being any upgrade process I highly recommend reading the release notes to make sure that a) an upgrade path exists from your current version, b) you become aware of any known issues in the new version and c) the features you want exist in the new version

UCS Upgrade Prep Work

Check the UCS Release Guides

Check the release notes to make sure all the components and modules are supported. The release notes for UCS Manager can be found on their site. The link is listed further below in the documents section.

Some of the things to check within the release notes are:
* Resolved Caveats

ucs-caveats-precheck

  • UCS Version Upgrade patch

ucs-infra-requirements-precheck

  • UCS Infrastructure Hardware compatibility

ucs-infra-requirements-precheck1

  • Minimum software version for UCS Blade servers

ucs-server-requirements-precheck1

Open a Pre-Emptive Support Call

I opened a call with Cisco TAC to investigate the discrepancy in the firmware versions. The advice was to downgrade the B200 M4 server firmware down to 4.0 (1). However, as I was planning on upgrading anyway I’ve now confirmed that the best option is to upgrade to the planned 3.1 version. As part of this upgrade I will also upgrade all the ESXi hosts on that site the same day. There is a second UCS domain on another site that will be upgraded on another date.

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Cisco Data Center User Group Melbourne First Meetup

Last night we hosted the first Cisco Data Center User Group in Melbourne. It was a successful night with a great turn out and excellent interaction and networking between everyone that attended. Everyone was enthusiastic and willing to take part and really mate it a fantastic night.

The user group was formed with the intention to create a space where IT professionals can come together in a relaxed environment to network, have a drink and learn about data center technology. We wanted to have an interactive and social atmosphere and thanks to everyone that attended and took part because that’s exactly what was achieved.

Cisco DCUG Melbourne Members photo

One of the things that I liked most about the meetup was the attendance of people from other community groups. Craig Waters (@cswaters1) from the VMware VMUG community, Brett Johnson (@brettjohnson008) from the vBrownBag community and one of the presenters, Will Robinson, from the NetAppATeam. The support from other communities is great and we really appreciate it.

The night itself began with an introduction from Derek Hennessy (@derekhennessy) and Chris Partsenidis (@cpartsenidis) on how the user group idea was formed. A shout out went to Lauren Friedman (@lauren) from Cisco for her help and support for getting the user group off the ground. We swiftly moved onto the first speaker of the night, Chris Gascoigne (@chrisgascoigne).

Introduction

Chris is a Technical Architect for Cisco ANZ with the Data Center team and has a focus on ACI, Nexus 9000, Automation/Orchestration and DevOps. Chris ran through a few slides on how network engineers can leverage tools such as Puppet, Ansible and Chef to implement the DevOps framework. He then ran through a demo of how to manage a Nexus 9000 switch from a bash shell and deploy Puppet configurations to a switch. Chris also emphasised the need to provide version control, code review and deployment into production. There were a number of questions from the audience as everyone tried to imagine using such tools within their own infrastructure environments. Unfortunately I don’t have a copy of Chris’ slidedeck to make available. A special mention goes out to Chris Partsenidis for performing the important task of being a microphone stand through Chris Gascoigne’s demo.

Following Chris’ presentation we took a break and let everyone digest the content and the food as well as order up another drink for the next session. Will Robinson (@oznetnerd) is a Senior Engineer with a focus on networking and storage and a wealth of experience. Will also has a mighty home lab setup and he gave everyone a run through on using GNS3 within his home lab. He really hit home on rethinking the physical and the logical implementations of networks and gave an example of a complex network he’d designed within GNS3. Everyone was really engaged in Wills presentation and it was like a quick fire buzzer round at a quiz following his presentation. He even managed to jokingly make reference to a layer 8 issue for someone using GNS3

GNS3 Connectivity

I’ve uploaded the slidedecks from the night and in the future we hope to capture the presentations on video and make them available as an archive following the events themselves. All in all it was a great night and we believe we have now started to develop a new community. If you’re interested in learning about technology, having a drink and some grub, and meeting other IT professionals and networking then we’re really looking forward to seeing you at the next meeting on Tuesday July 5th.

P.S. Thanks to Chris for the photo of the attendees

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Cisco Data Centre User Group – Melbourne

cisco next gen data center user group

Next month we’re starting a new user group for Cisco Data Center in Melbourne. This user group is being run by Cisco Champions, myself and Chris Partsenidis. Chris and I met up after the recent Cisco Live in Melbourne and got chatting about how there’s no real community around Cisco technology so we reached out to Lauren Friedman (@lauren). Lauren was super helpful and has supported the creation of Cisco Data Center User Group. This is something that Lauren is working on from a global perspective and we’re delighted to be laying the groundwork in Australia.

This user group is centered around Cisco Next-Generation Data Centers and is for anyone that uses Cisco technology or that of the extended ecosystem. Our meetup is a fantastic opportunity to get to know others in the community over some snacks and beers in a relaxed and social environment. While the group is supported by Cisco, don’t expect sales pitches. We’ll focus on enabling a local community for Cisco Data Center users to share experiences, network and to learn more about both technology and careers. We openly invite submissions for topics and presentations from any members.

Some of the topics we’re looking to cover in the coming months are:

  • Cisco HyperFlex
  • DevOps
  • Cisco Nexus Switching
  • Big Data Analytics
  • Data Center Storage
  • CCNA DC and beyond
  • Cisco ACI and Nexus 9000
  • Operations and Data Center Management
  • HomeLab setup
  • Exam Preparation and certification
  • Automation and Orchestration
  • We’re open to requests from the community for topics of interest

The user group will catch up on the first Tuesday of every month at The Crafty Squire at 127 Russell Street in Melbourne CBD. We’ll be located upstairs in Porter Place. Our first meeting will run be Tuesday June 7th and all meetings will take place between 5:30 and 7:30PM.

Crafty Squire Porter Place

More details about the regular meet ups can be found over at Cisco Data Center User Group page on Meetup.com. This page will be updated regularly with the meeting agendas and speakers. We look forward to seeing you there, please don’t be shy and come along to say hello. Welcome to the community.

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Cisco Live Session Review

I gave a recap of Cisco Live Melbourne in another post and had intended on providing a detailed look at each of the sessions I attended as part of that post but it became a bit long-winded so I’ve broken it out into separate posts. I’ve broken the sessions down by each day.

cisco_live_mel_image

Day 1:

TECCOM-2001 –  Cisco Unified Computing System

As someone that is working towards CCNA and CCNP in Cisco Data Center this extra technical seminar really was invaluable and opened my eyes up to a lot of areas that were unknown to me. This breakout session was an 8-hour, full-on overview of Cisco UCS, the components that comprise the solution and how it all works together. It wasn’t a deep-dive session however so if you’ve a really good working knowledge of UCS and know what’s under the covers quite well then this session wouldn’t really be for you. In saying that however I think there’s always opportunities to learn something new.

Cisco-UCS-b-series-overview

The session was broken down into 6 parts.

  • UCS Overview
  • Networking
  • Storage Best Practices
  • UCS Operational Best Practices
  • UCS does Security Admin
  • UCS Performance Manager

Some of the main takeaways from the session were around the recent Gen 3 releases for the UCS hardware including the Fabric Interconnects and IOMs. They also discussed the new features for UCS Manager 3.1 code base release.  Some of the new features of UCSM and the hardware are listed below:

UCS Manager 3.1

  • Single code base (covers UCS mini, M-Series and UCS traditional)
  • HTML 5 GUI
  • End-to-end 40GbE and 16Gb FC with 3rd Gen FI’s
  • M series cartridges with Intel Xeon E3 v4 Processors
  • UCS mini support for Second Chassis
  • New nVidia M6 and M60 GPUs
  • New PCIe Base Storage Accelerators

UCS Management Portfolio

Next Gen Fabric Interconnects:

FI6332:

  • 32 x 40GbE QSFP+
  • 2.56Tbps switching performance
  • IRU & 4 Fans

FI6332-16UP:

  • 24x40GbE QSFP+ & 16xUP Ports (1/10GbE or 4/8/16Gb FC)
  • 2.43Tbps switching performance

IOM 2304:

  • 8 x 40GbE server links & 4 x 40GbE QSFP+ uplinks
  • 960Gbps switching performance
  • Modular IOM for UCS 5108

Two other notes from this section of the technical session were that the FI6300s requires UCS Manager 3.1(1) and the M-Series is not support on the FI6300’s yet. There was also an overview of the UCS Mini upgrades, the Cloud Scale and Composable Infrastructure (Cisco C3260) and the M-Series. I’ve not had any experience or knowledge of the M-Series modular systems before and I need to do far more reading to understand this much better.

The second part of the session covered MAC pinning and the differences between the IOMs and Mezz cards. (For those that don’t know the IOMs are pass-through and the Mezz are PCIe cards). Once aspect they covered which I hadn’t heard about before was around UDLD (Uni-Directional Link Detection) which monitors the physical connectivity of cables. UDLD is point-to-point and uses echoing from FIs out to neighbouring switches to check availability. It’s complementary to Spanning Tree and is also faster at link detection. UDLD can be set in two modes, default and aggressive. In Default mode UDLD will notify and let spanning tree manage pulling the link down and in Aggressive mode UDLD will bring down link.

The Storage Best Practices looked at the two modes that FIs can be configured to and also the capabilities of both settings. If you’re familiar with UCS then there’s a fair change you’ll know this already. The focus was on FC protocol access via the FIs and how the switching mode changes how the FIs handle traffic.

FC End-Host Mode (NPV mode):

  • Switch sees FI as server with loads of HBAs attached
  • Connects FI to northbound NPIV enabled FC switch (Cisco/Brocade)
  • FCIDs distributed from northbound switch
  • DomainIDs, FC switching, FC zoning responsibilities are on northbound switch

FC Switching Mode:

  • Connects to Northbound FC switch and normal FC switch (Cisco Only)
  • DomainIDs, FC Switching, FCNS handled locally
  • UCS Direct connect storage enabled
  • UCS local zoning feature possible

The session also touched on the storage heavy C3260 can be connect to FIs as an appliance port. It’s also possible via UCSM to create LUN policies for external/local storage access. This can be used to carve up the storage pool of the C3260 into usable storage. Once thing I didn’t know what that a LUN needs to have an ID of 0 or 1 in order for boot from SAN to work. It just won’t work otherwise. Top tip right there. During the storage section there was some talk about Cisco’s new HyperFlex platform but most of the details were being withheld until the breakout session on Hyper-Converged Infrastructure later in the week.

The UCS Operational Best Practice session covered off primarily how UCS objects are structured and how they play a part in pools and and policies. For those already familiar with UCS there was nothing new to understand here. However, one small tidbit I walked away with was around pool exhaustion and how UCS recursively looks up to parent organisation until root and even up to the global level if UCS central is deployed or linked. One other note I took about sub-organisations were that they can go to a maximum of 5 levels deep. Most of the valuable information from this session was around the enhancements in latest version of UCSM updates. These were broken down into improvements in firmware upgrade procedures, maintenance policies and monitoring. Most of these enhancements are listed here:

Firmware upgrade improvements:

  • Baseline policy for upgrade checks – it checks everything is OK after upgrade
  • Fabric evacuation – can be used to test fabric fail-over
  • Server firmware auto-sync
  • Fault suppression (great for upgrades)
  • Fabric High Availability checks
  • Automatic UCSM Backup during AutoInstall

Maintenance:

  • On Next boot policy added
  • Per Fabric Chassis acknowledge
  • Reset IOM to Fabric default
  • UCSM adapter redundant groups
  • Smart call home enhancements

Monitoring:

  • UCS Health Monitoring
  • I2C statistics and improvements
  • UCSM policy to monitor – FI/IOM
  • Locator LED for disks
  • DIMM backlisting and error reporting (this is a great feature and will help immensely with troubleshooting)

Fabric evacuation can be used to test fabric fail-over before firmware upgrade to ensure bonding of NICs works correctly and ESXi hosts fail-over correctly to second vNIC. There’s  also a new tab for health also beside the FSM tab in UCSM.

The last two sections of the session I have to admit were not really for me. I don’t know whether it was just because it was late in the day, my mind was elsewhere or that I was just generally tired but I couldn’t focus. The sections on Security within UCSM and UCS Performance Manager may well have been interesting on another day but they just didn’t do anything for me. The information was somewhat basic and I really felt that UCS Performance Manager was really more of a technical sales pitch. I feel the session would have been better served with looking at more high-level over-arching tools for management such as UCS Director rather than a monitoring tool which the vast majority of people are not going to use anyway.

Overall though this entire technical session was a great learning experience. The presenters were very approachable and I took the opportunity to quiz Chris Dunk in particular about the HyperFlex solution. While I may not attend another UCS technical session again in the future I would definitely consider stumping up the extra cash needed for other technical session which may be more relevant to me then. There’s a lot of options available.

After the sessions were completed I headed down to the World of Solutions opening and wandered around for a bit. As I entered I was offered an array of free drink. Under other circumstances I would have jumped at the chance but I’m currently on a 1-year alcohol sabbatical so I instead floated around the food stand that had the fresh oysters. The World of Solutions was pumping. I didn’t really get into any deep conversations but I did take note of which vendors were present and who I wanted to interrogate more later in the week. I left well before the end of the reception so I could get home early. The next day was planned to be a big day anyway.

 

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Cisco Live Recap

cisco_live_mel_imageLast week I had the opportunity to attend Cisco Live in Melbourne and it was awesome. This is the second year I’ve attended Cisco Live but this year I was there as an Attendee so I had access to the breakout sessions. Previously I only had an Explorer Plus pass which was good for the keynote access, partner theatre sessions  and the World of Solutions. While that was fun experience getting access to the breakout session was what I really wanted, and they didn’t disappoint. I’m privileged in that my ticket to Cisco Live was covered by my employer that sees the value in such events and we were also able to leverage Cisco Learning credits. If you wish to attend and have these credits available to you this is a great return on investment and one I’d recommend over a regular 5-day training course.

This year Cisco Live was once again held at Melbourne Convention Centre and it’s a brilliant facility that has a great layout, is large enough to cater for the ever-growing number of attendees and is easy to access via public transport. The breakout sessions are full on and a number of people had mentioned beforehand that going to Cisco Live was like drinking from a firehose. They weren’t wrong. Cisco tee up the sessions and you try to cram as much as you can into your grey matter. I also chose to sign up for an extra day technical seminar which was an 8 hour session on Cisco UCS. There were a number of streams that could be chosen but my focus is on UCS. This was an added extra on top of the regular attendee ticket. During the remainder of the week I tried to cram in as many other breakout sessions as I could and catch a few of the partner sessions as well as have some downtime to network a bit.

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