What if the SSD and HDD Firmware Versions are Newer Than What is Listed on the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for Virtual SAN?

No problem, this is OK.

If you want to know more detail, keep reading…

Last week I was working with a customer to implement a VSAN ReadyNode. Before enabling VSAN on a cluster it’s a best practice to validate that the firmware of the host I/O Controller, SSD’s (SAS, SATA, PCIe, NVMe, or UltraDIMM), and HDD’s (SAS, NL-SAS, or SATA) are up to the required versions. Each hardware vendor has a different way of doing this.

In reviewing this particular customers hardware, we found that the SSD and HDD Firmware Versions were newer than what is listed on the VCG.

Note that for SSD’s and HDD’s, the hardware vendors provides the VMware Virtual SAN team with the firmware version they tested and qualified for VSAN. VMware then lists that firmware version for that model of disk on the VMware Compatibility Guide (VCG) for Virtual SAN. If the hardware vendor comes out with “new firmware” then it does not require VSAN re-certification of the SSD or HDD. VMware supports disks with “newer firmware” for Virtual SAN but VMware leaves the VCG alone and continues listing the “old firmware”. However, if the hardware vendor wants VMware to remove the “old firmware” from the VCG listing and replace it with the “new firmware” VMware would do that upon their request. This would typically happen if the hardware vendor discovers an issue/bug with the “old firmware”.

I hope this helps clarify how VMware treats SSD and HDD Firmware Version listings on the VMware Compatibility Guide for Virtual SAN.

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Configuring HP Smart Array P420i I/O Controller for VSAN

I’ve been working with many customers over the last several months and found that many are very familiar with HP hardware and just know how to set things up.  Others are looking for guidance from VMware on how to configure for VSAN.  There are things I’ve discovered that might not be obvious but can help in the VSAN setup.  Bear in mind, I am not an HP server hardware expert, so your comments are greatly appreciated.

Before I go too far, there is a bug in the HP async controller driver for the HP 420i that is included in the HP ESXi image.  The bug reduces the queue depth to 28, instead of 1020, causing poor performance in VSAN.

Here’s how to check your hosts IO Controller (storage adapter) queue depth:

  • Run the esxtop command on the ESXi shell / SSH session
  • Press d
  • Press f and select Queue Stats (d)
  • The value listed under AQLEN is the queue depth of the storage adapter

To resolve, follow these directions to implement the correct driver:

HP ProLiant Smart Array Controller Driver for VMware vSphere 5.5 (VIB file)

OK, a little background/overview on I/O Controller guidance for VSAN.  In general, VSAN recommends disabling Read and Write cache for any I/O Controller.  Since VSAN handles Read and Write caching at the software layer, there’s no need to do it at the hardware level.  Also, when destaging write cache, we want to ensure that the writes are committed to disk and not in I/O Controller cache.

In the case of the HP P420i, you cannot disable the I/O Controller cache so VSAN recommends setting it to 100% Read which essentially disables Write cache.  I recently discovered that you can also selectively pick and choose which disks to enable cache for.

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