Getting Started with VMWare Distributed Switching

Introduction;

This post will be a brief intro into VMWare’s distributed switch technology and how to get your feet wet in the setup. This will not cover the advanced features or in-depth configuration but a followup may come in the future.

I was myself rather confused at the concept at first and failed to see the use in a lab setting, however, since taking the plunge I can honestly say I am unsure how I survived before and I only hope this post helps those of you new to the concept to give it a go.

What Are Distributed Switches?

Distributed switches, which will be referred to in this post as vDS, is a feature of VMWare vCenter Enterprise Plus allowing centralised provisioning and management of host networking spanning multiple VMWare hosts and clusters. vDS allow for one config change to be made to your virtual networking environment and have this change propagate across the participating hosts, alleviating the need to manually create networks on different hosts.

Following this, vDS allows for consistency in network connectivity when migrating VMs across hosts.
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Building a compact, quiet, low powered ESXi/Storage Whitebox Hybrid

Intro.

So it’s that time of year again when my girlfriend and I decided we wanted to move, after a few months of searching we found a very cosy (and a not so cosy rent price to go with it) flat in Zone 1/2, London. Without boring you with a life story, the aim of this move was to be extremely light, only moving the bare essentials so when it came to moving back out, there weren’t masses of furniture and servers to move. Moving servers is not fun.

This blog post will be about a build I wanted to do for this move, a small, low powered host that would live in this new flat as a local VM host//storage server for when accessing things from the lab would be inefficient.

It’s a pretty cool project if I do say so myself and this type of build would be ideal for a lot of people that I see on the internet that want something ‘all in one’ that fit the requirements I set. I’m hoping people in similar situations will find some inspiration in this build and either copy it or use it as a stepping stone for something similar.

So, let’s get to it.

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pfSense: A Guide to NAT, Firewall Rules and some Networking 101

How to pfSense.

So, you’ve decided to ditch that POS ISP provided router, or just literally anything marketed towards consumers and have installed pfSense, so.. what now?

The following will be a guide on how to create, manage and understand both firewall rules and NAT in pfSense. I get asked a lot of questions daily and I thought this should be useful for those that are either new to pfSense or want to understand what they’re doing when they create rules.

This guide is not just for pfSense, it’s just what I use and is extremely popular so I’m doing a post about it. A lot of the fundamentals and methodology will carry over to many other devices/software.

In this post, I will try and explain why these steps are being taken and add some networking 101 into the mix as well.

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Fixing ESXi 6.5 On HPE G7 Servers

HP, you motherfuckers.

So there I was, moving VMs off of my main host (DL380 G7, 2x x5690’s, 192GB RDIMM), getting ready to replace the 8x 300GB RAID10 array I’ve been using for a while now with some 1TB disks and SSDs, awesome, right?

So the host was powered down, ready for an upgrade, and being the logical guy I am I decided to do some software upgrades.

I used the latest SPP and ran that through, for some reason I was using a BIOS from 2010? Once that was done I had updated firmware, so I moved onto ESXi. I’ve been running 6.0.0U2 for the longest time and thought this would be the ideal time to upgrade.

I got the HPE official ISO, ran through the upgrade, waited for it to boot annnddd….

PSOD.

After some digging, it would appear this is actually a known issue with most G7 servers (unsure about G6).

The issue.

It would appear that one driver is causing this in the 6.5 image,  “hpe-smx-provider” (650.03.11.00.17-4240417). Installing the standard ESXI 6.5 ISO does allow the server to boot, but is missing a lot of drivers and does not give the pretty all-inclusive system stats that the HPE ISO does.

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Getting Started with VMware’s ESXi

Virtualization is awesome. It’s been the standard for enterprises for many years and although containers are gaining interest, virtual machines remain the go-to for any business; you’d be either crazy or incompetent not to go down this route in most scenarios. This post will go through the very basics of setting up and using ESXi.

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Tunneling Specific Traffic over a VPN with pfSense

Recently I stumbled on a post in /r/sysadmin by /u/ThatOnePrivacyGuy that had a spreadsheet he had created comparing a load of VPN services, you can find it here.

This got me thinking, my automated downloads crunch through terabytes of data every month on a home connection, and if my ISP were to look into this it would not show me in a good light due to a lot of p2p I have going on in my household; with my flat mate constantly having torrent connections open and Sonarr + Couchpotato downloading via torrents and NZBs there is a lot of data I would like to mask from my ISP. Thanks to that awesome spreadsheet I managed to find a service that looked perfect for me, vpn.ac.

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