ESXi 6.5 Release Notes for free license and white box users

VMware has made vSphere 6.5 generally available on November 15th, and this includes the core hypervisor platform ESXi 6.5. In the What's New and Release Notes documents you can read all about the exciting new features, but most of them require paid licenses and a vCenter server to centrally manage your ESXi hosts.

This blog post is my first try to explain what free license users and owners of unsupported ("white box") hardware need to know when they are going for an upgrade or installation of ESXi 6.5 ...

[Update] ESXi-Customizer-PS 2.5 - The ESXi image customization script

This is just a quick heads up for the users of my ESXi-Customizer-PS script for ESXi image builds and customizations. I have just published the new version 2.5 of the script, and that adds
  • full support of vSphere 6.5 (use the new -v65 switch to limit Image profile selection)
  • support of PowerCLI 6.5
  • enhanced logging capabilities
If you have run into issues with older versions of the script then please update now and let me know how it goes.

In the meantime VMware has also published the ESXi 6.5 GA bits to its Online Depot, and that means it is very easy to create an ESXi 6.5 installation ISO or Offline bundle with my script. Just run it without any arguments for the ISO file (or only the -ozip switch for the Offline Bundle), and it will do its magic.

Have fun!

This post first appeared on the VMware Front Experience Blog and was written by Andreas Peetz. Follow him on Twitter to keep up to date with what he posts.

How to deploy Windows Nano Server (TP5) on vSphere

With the upcoming release of Windows Server 2016 Microsoft will introduce a new edition of its flagship Operating System: Windows Nano Server is a super lightweight version of Windows Server that was "built for the Cloud". When I first heard of it I immediately became curious, because it resembles VMware's ESXi in many ways: It is an embedded-like and headless system with a very small footprint and can be managed only remotely. It has limited use cases, but two of them are acting as a fully-featured Hyper-V virtualization host and as a container host.

When looking for a good way to deploy Nano Server on vSphere I found some guides, but they were all referring to older Tech Preview (TP) versions of Server 2016 (things have changed in the current TP5) and/or did not result in optimal state-of-the art configurations. So I decided to write up my own guide, and here it is ...

Active Directory issues with ESXi 6.0 Update 2 and an automated fix

Lately VMware published two new Knowledge Base (KB) articles that should alarm all people using Active Directory (AD) authentication with their ESXi 6.0 hosts:
Let's have a closer look at these articles and make sure that you draw the right conclusions.

Using haproxy as a PSC load balancer

When designing a vSphere 6.0 environment with multiple vCenter servers you will - in most cases - end up with the need to deploy external Platform Services Controllers (PSCs). If you are unsure what topology to choose then you should take a look at the PSC Topology Decision Tree that was recently published by VMware. It will guide you to the topology that suits your requirements best.

Since the PSC hosts the critical Single-Sign-On (SSO) component a specific requirement is to make an external PSC highly available so that you are still able to log on to vCenter even if one PSC fails. Currently the only supported way to implement a seamless automatic failover from a failing PSC to another one is to put multiple PSCs (of the same SSO domain and site) behind a load balancer. The process of properly configuring the load balancer and the vCenter servers behind it is quite complex, so most people refrain from it and just deploy a secondary PSC to that they manually re-point the vCenter servers if the primary one should fail (as per KB2113917). But this is a manual process (although it can of course be automated as William Lam explained in this post) and it takes a restart of all vCenter services during which vCenter will be unavailable.

This is why I wanted to try out in the lab how complicated it really is to implement load balanced PSCs and how well they work. However, I did not have a supported load balancer available in the lab - currently only Citrix Netscaler, the F5 BIG-IP and VMware's own NSX-v are officially supported for vSphere 6.0. All quite expensive options and no quick and easy deployments. So I decided to try my luck with the standard Open Source load balancer: haproxy. It turned out that this works very well and can be implemented quite quickly. Here is how: