Verizon Wireless DOWN in NJ

I am hearing from a lot of people that Verizon Wireless is down in NJ. Here in North Jersey I do not have voice or data service. I have not found any news story to link to yet, but Verizon Wireless’ Facebook page is filling up with complaints.

I’ll post more back as I find information.

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Having trouble installing from Microsoft Volume Licensing? Check the ISO!

I have been fighting to download a Microsoft Server 2008 R2 ISO from Microsoft for a few days now. To skip all the details, I was not able to use Microsoft’s File Transfer Manager application, so I was stuck with an HTTP download. After multiple failed attempts, I finally got (what I thought to be) a completed ISO downloaded. During the install the server could not find the appropriate RAID driver, which I thought was weird given we were using Dell hardware, so I proceeded to download the Dell System Build and Update Utility which handles the driver install automatically.

Well, that STILL didn’t work, so a quick call to Dell about what I thought to be a driver issue proved to be pretty fruitful. They had told me there were seeing a lot of large ISO downloads being incomplete, and give odd behavior during the setup. I got lucky in that I could not install Windows at all. He said he had recently had someone who had Windows all the way installed, but when they tried to add features or roles, it would fail. Sure enough, the ISO was not complete.

So the moral of the story is this, when you are downloading large multi-GB files, especially from Microsoft, check the file size to be sure you downloaded the whole file. And as an aside, Google Chrome came through for me when Internet Explorer and Firefox were unable to download the file. Not sure if it was just a new day, but I though I’d let you know what eventually did the trick.

Is your phone password protected?

Symantec recently “lost” a bunch of cell phones to see what would happen when they were found. What they found will make you want to password protect your phone right away. Check out the news story here: http://digitallife.today.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/03/08/10595092-exclusive-the-lost-cell-phone-project-and-the-dark-things-it-says-about-us

Low Cost Disaster Recovery Options For VMware

For years now Corner Edge Solutions has been using VMware exclusively for all of our new server installs, and even for hardware upgrades by virtualizing the original server install and configuration to a new physical server with VMware.  This goes for even a small, one server setup as well.  We have felt this is a great way to increase reliability as well as improve disaster recovery times.

While having two complete setups of VMware is probably cost prohibitive, with the small footprint of VMware ESXi, you can use a simple workstation or even a laptop as a cold spare DR backup.  As you’ll see below, I have easily installed VMware on my laptop, and with a large enough hard drive, and enough memory, I could run a small to medium office server environment setup on my one laptop, or even a mid-range business desktop.  The cost of these is usually around $1500-2500, and when you consider the cost of a second server may come in at $5000 or more, this is a great low-budget way to have your office back up and working quickly in the event of a major disaster.

To do this simply, just power off the VM’s on a schedule that fits your DR needs and copy the files from the main DataStore and upload them the the DataStore on your backup setup.  You will want to make sure your backup processor is a 64-bit proc with VT enabled if you are running 64-bit VM’s, you have enough storage space for the foreseeable future, and definitely install as much memory as your budget and workstation will allow, and that should be it.

You clearly shouldn’t expect the same performance of this setup as you would get from a true server, but it would get people back online and running again while you work on the main server.

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Here is a quick picture I took of my laptop running VMware ESXi just for fun.  I had installed ESXi on a USB stick, and booted to that when I powered on my laptop.  This install was originally done on a PowerEdge 2950, and without any modifications to the install, it came up just fine on an Dell Latitude E6500.  Simply carry a USB flash drive and a large external storage drive and you can have a backup ESXi server wherever you go.

VMware ESXi Server Keeps Running with Failed RAID Array

We at Corner Edge Solutions LOVE VMware.  It’s not too hard to tell that based on our blog, but this past week we found a new reason to fall in love all over again.  One of our ESXi 4 servers in a cluster had a double drive failure on our RAID 5 array, which would have completely crashed a server had it been a typical setup, but since it is running VMware ESXi with all the VM DataStores on a iSCSI storage device, we had ZERO impact on our environment.  ESXi is the lightweight version of the original ESX server which runs entirely in memory, not requiring disk access once it has been loaded at startup.

Since this machine was part of a cluster, we simply migrated the VMs on the failed server to the other working ESXi server through vSphere vCenter Server.  The working VMware server was able to overcommit the available physical memory by almost 50% with room to spare.  We then took down the server with the bad drives to rebuild.  We also took this opportunity to install the OS onto a USB flash drive, which installed internally to the server, and remove the remaining two working hard drives to run a completely diskless server configuration.  With a small amount of configuring to VMware, the newly rebuilt server was ready to join the cluster again and the VMs were then evenly distributed throughout the cluster, all the while never having to power anything off.  That means never having to send out maintenance notices to customers that their hosted servers will be offline, and keeping out uptime in tact.  The whole process took only about 5 hours as well.  When was the last time a total failure on a system RAID drive, and nothing went down, and everything was upgraded and repaired in 5 hours?

Western Digital ShareSpace Permissions When Writing to the NAS

There are a lot of forums where people are having trouble writing to the WD ShareSpace and getting an Access is Denied error.  I have seen this plenty of times, and no matter if you set the shares to Public access, or set users with permissions, it is the same thing.  While i think the root problem lies with Western Digital’s architecture, there is a way around it that works well.

First, create the share you want to use, or use an existing share you have already setup and are having trouble with.  After that, set the user permissions in the web interface to be Public, or whatever you would like.  So far, this is probably what you have done with no luck writing to the Network Attached Storage (NAS) device.

This is the part that will help you.  Browse to the device in Windows Explorer (\\[NAS Name or IP Address]), and right-click on the share you are trying to use.  Go to the security tab and click advanced.  Go to the Owners tab and make yourself the owner; you will probably see the current owner is “root(Unix User\root)”.  You will want to put a check mark in the “Replace owner on subcontainers and objects” also, so this change trickles down if you have any other folders there.  Click OK until you are back at the Windows Explorer view.

You should now be able to write and delete to the share.  To be sure you are the owner, you can always right click in the column header and add Owner to the current view to confirm you are now the owner.

I hope this helps get your Western Digital ShareSpace NAS online and usable for you.

High CPU Usage in VMware Guest may NOT be CPU Problem

Hi CPU usage in the VMware guest may not be caused from an overloaded CPU.  It may be from a DataStore that is too slow.  Check the performance tab in your VMware client and see if that too is showing high CPU utilization.  If it isn’t, consider the speed of your DataStore.

We recently moved a VM from a RAID 5 with 3 slower SATA drives to a RAID 10 with 6 SAS 15k drives and with no other changes to the VM configuration and the machine performance has increased dramatically.

The problem appears to be caused by a backup writing files to the disk, which backs up the processor causing it to run at near 100% utilization waiting to be able to move on to its next task.  This will probably be most noticeable with database servers like Exchange and SQL.

Take this into consideration also when you are spec’ing out a new VMware server, as upgrading the DataStore disks to faster ones is not a simple job.  Include growth into your design; it’s always better to have an under-utilized server that is fast than one that is over-utilized and slow.