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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.

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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 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

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  • UCS Version Upgrade patch

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  • UCS Infrastructure Hardware compatibility

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  • Minimum software version for UCS Blade servers

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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 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.

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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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Cisco HyperFlex – Welcome to the HCI Party!

Cisco has finally decided to bring the vodka to spike the punch at the Hyper-Converged Infrastructure party. And it tastes pretty damn good. There have been rumours for a while now that Cisco was working with Springpath and as a major third round investor it’s not surprising to hear about their entrance into the HCI arena. The Register’s Chris Mellor reported about Something bubbling up at Springpath back in early December.  So what is the offspring of Cisco and Springpath called? Cisco HyperFlex!!

hyperflex systems

The Play:

Hyper-converged systems so far have delivered on simplicity and scale but there’s been a massive gap in  the lack of network integration in existing solutions. Yes you can use top of rack fast switches. In some cases customers use Cumulus on whitebox top-of-rack switches for software defined networking but networking is not a built in feature of the two leading hyper-converged solutions, Nutanix and Simplivity.

HyperFlex joins the comprehensive DC portfolio along with UCS, MDS and Nexus. It means that Cisco now has a play in traditional component based infrastructure, converge infrastructure and now hyper-converged infrastructure. Cisco is adding HyperFlex to provide it with another string to its software defined infrastructure. It will now have:

  • UCS – compute (service profiles, APIs etc.)
  • ACI – for software defined network
  • HyperFlex- software defined storage, compute and network

hyperflex systems overview

On the initial release Cisco HyperFlex will support file storage and VMware. There are a number of other storage types, such as block and object, and hypervisors on the roadmap.  There’s also going to be container support. Given that Springpath was hypervisor agnostic I’d expect a quick ramp up from Cisco and fast feature release cycle.

The Potential:

Like pretty much every other hyper-converged solution Cisco sees its expected use-cases to be:

  • VDI
  • Server virtualisation
  • Test and development
  • Large remote branch offices

UCS Manager is already familiar to multiple thousands of customers worldwide and the server and network deployment settings in HyperFlex come from pre-configured Service Profiles. Service Profiles are well and truly familiar to anyone that has worked with Cisco UCS.  Given that customer base and the familiarity with existing management tools there’s massive potential for Cisco HyperFlex here. There are some well developed existing incumbents in the hyper-converged market with Nutanix leading the way and HyperFlex will allow Cisco to gain a foothold in that rapidly growing market.

The Deep-dive: Read More

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How To: Cisco UCS Director – 5.3 to 5.4 Upgrade

Cisco announced their release of UCS Director 5.4 back in November. As I’m currently running 5.3 and ran into an issue with a workflow Cisco support recommended upgrading to 5.4. I had a look over the Cisco UCS Director 5.4 Release Notes and there’s a new version of Java and the CentOS operating system are newer in the latest version. Due to this the upgrade procedure for 5.4 is different from previous version. In earlier versions it was possible to upload a patch via shelladmin and it would upgrade the software and database schema in place. 5.4 however requires new appliances to be deployed and a migration of database files etc. to be done between the 5.3 and 5.4 versions.

I really think that Cisco needs to look at using a HTML 5 console in the future as this upgrade path is overly complicated. Considering a lot of companies want you to be on the latest version when opening support calls, including Cisco, it would make sense for them to make it easier to perform the required upgrades.

The primary changes that have caused the modification to the upgrade path are:

  • CentOS version 5.4 to version 6.6
  • Java version 1.6 to version 1.8

Another thing to note is that version 5.54 requires 12GB RAM.

Cisco recommend standing up  the new appliances beside your current UCS Director and Bare-Metal Appliances and performing a migration. In my case there’s a few firewall rule etc already been created for the existing environment so I wanted to keep the same IP addresses and machine names. I changed the IP addresses of the current appliances to be something else within the same subnet and gave the new appliances temporary names but the existing IP addresses. Once everything had been migrated and the changes confirmed I was able to rename the appliances to be the existing ones and removed the older appliances from the infrastructure. Before commencing the upgrade I also had a sold read over the UCS Director Upgrade 5.4 Guide and the UCS Director Bare-Metal Agent 5.4 Upgrade Guide

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Cisco Champion 2016

CiscoChampion Header

Last Saturday I awoke to find an email from Cisco Champions Program welcoming me into the Cisco Champions community for 2016. I feel humbled, honoured and excited to be selected to be part of this community. This is my first time being nominated as a Cisco Champion and for me personally it shows that I’m progressing in the direction I wished in my career.

When I began this blog a couple of years ago mainly as a drop zone for documenting technical issues I ran into I couldn’t have dreamed that I would have ended up making a contribution to the greater IT community.

For 2016 I want to continue my level of participation in the community via this blog and hopefully expand to participating in podcasts. On a local level I want to contribute more in the virtualization, data center and automation communities. And from a personal level I want to interact with the other Cisco Champions and expand my knowledge of Cisco solutions and services.

Well done to all the other Cisco Champions, particularly the other novices. It’s going to be a blast. I’m looking forward to attend CLMEL later this year as a Cisco Champion.

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Cisco UCS – FSM:FAILED: Ethernet traffic flow monitoring configuration error

During a recent Cisco UCS upgrade I noticed an error for ethlanflowmon which was a critical alert. I hadn’t seen the problem before and it occurred right after I had upgraded UCS Manager firmware as per the steps listed in a previous post I wrote about UCS Firmware Upgrade. Before proceeding to upgrade the Fabric Interconnects I wanted to clear all alerts where possible. The alert for “FSM:FAILED: Ethernet traffic flow monitoring configuration error on” both switches was a cause for concern.

ethlanflowmon On further investigation I found that this is a known bug when upgrading to versions 2.2(2) and above. I was upgrading from version 2.2(1d) to 2.2(3d). Despite being a critical alert the issue does not impact any services. The new UCSM software is looking for new features on the FI that do not exist yet as it has not been upgraded. As soon as you upgrade the FIs this critical alert will go. More information about the bug can be found Cisco’s support page for the bug CSCul11595

 

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The Life of NetApp – Bring out your dead!

There’s a quality scene in Monty Python’s Life of Brian where the dead are being called out to be loaded onto a cart to be taken away. Are new players in the market doing the same to NetApp? Even though they continue to say that they’re not dead everyone is writing them off and chucking them on the death-cart.

It’s easy to see why NetApp is being called to bring out its dead. There’s more and more players appearing in the storage market with serious differentiators to NetApp. Just look at the list of potential competitors like Pure Storage, Tintri, SimplivityNutanix and Nimble. And that’s not including the fully software defined storage groups such as Maxta, Stratoscale and a host of others. There’s also the old adversary EMC. All of these vendors have released new and innovative products in the past year and they have managed their marketing message far better than NetApp has. NetApp has been painfully slow at getting a smooth transition in place for its 7-Mode customers to Cluster Data OnTap (C-Dot). A lot of critics of NetApp also point to the fact that they are so heavily reliant on the OnTap software. I personally don’t see an issue with that reliance. Don’t change something just to create a new release for the sake of it. But the marketing message and the perception by the community of NetApp has caused a number of issues for them.

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