vSphere Upgrade Saga: Upgrading for VSAN

In order to use cache enhanced storage such as vFRC, VSAN, PernixData, SanDisk, etc., I had to upgrade my hardware to support better storage controllers that actually recognize SSDs as something more than just plain disks. For my environment, I had to replace my storage blades with something better that contained a supported storage controller. In addition, some new drives will be in order for those storage blades.


The VSAN HCL has been reviewed by VMware to determine which storage controllers and SSDs work best for VSAN. Since VSAN uses the SSD devices as a cache, this research would help in picking devices for any caching technology used within vSphere (or pretty much any other hypervisor).

My goal is to create a four-node VSAN installation with only two data nodes and still have a few leftover bits of hardware for playing around with vFRC, PernixData, and other hypervisor-based caching technologies. However, to do this, I had to first upgrade some of my existing hardware. Most of my HP blades are Gen 6, with a single Gen 7. I am waiting to determine how best to upgrade to Gen 8s. That is a bit in the future, as these systems still work, for now. But how can I upgrade from HP P410i controllers to something on the VSAN HCL?

In my environment, I had two D2200SB storage blades that contain twelve drive slots and one P410i storage controller, which did not recognize SSDs as anything more than a drive. This had impacted testing, so I started to look around for a storage blade to replace these. I just do not have the slots within my blades to add more than two disks—not enough to boot ESXi if I have a slot dedicated to SSD and a slot dedicated to local storage for VSAN. After a bit of research, I discovered that HP had created new devices: D2220SB storage blades that contained a P420i, which was on the HCL. All I needed to do was to upgrade the devices.

The upgrade path was to replace the P410i storage blades with new P420i storage blades. This cost a bit, but I was able to arrange a “trade-up” deal so I could recoup some of my costs. I did not need to replace the drives already in the SBs, but I did have to change out the drive carriers, which are now available from several companies.

With hardware in place, the upgrade is pretty straightforward if you do not try to be fancy and move disks around within each enclosure.

Step 1: Power off the HP StoreVirtual VSA running on the first D2200SB

After a previous discussion with HP, I found it is best to power off the StoreVirtual VSA from within the HP StoreVirtual Centralized Management Console (CMC) rather than from within the vCenter client.

Step 2: Place the blade in maintenance mode

When working on hardware, always place the system in maintenance mode for an orderly movement of VMs between hosts. I tend to evacuate even powered-off VMs. What remains is one VM on local storage (the same storage used by ESXi) containing the StoreVirtual VSA for this system.

Step 3: Power off the blade

To replace anything within a storage blade other than drives, you need to power off the companion system blade. If the blades do not power on together, the storage blade will not function properly.

Step 4: Move the drives

Move the drives from one storage blade to another. This task is really three steps: pull one drive, replace disk carrier, insert into same slot on new storage blade. Yes, into the same slot; you really do not want to have to rebuild your arrays. If you use different slots, the system may recover, or it may not. My experience is that it does not recover. If this is the case, you will have to recreate that instance of the StoreVirtual VSA as well, as it cannot find critical data on boot. So, move the drives one by one and put them into the same exact slots.

Step 5: Add at least one SSD

I have two SSDs, one for each storage blade. Since my disks for the StoreVirtual were using slots one through six, I decided to place the SSD into slot twelve: yes, the last slot. It really makes no difference, but this way I can grow my StoreVirtual or my VSAN arrays easily enough and know where everything is located during physical inspection.

Step 6: Put in the storage blade and power up

This is the simple part. Insert the storage blade into the appropriate slot in the blade chassis and  wait for it to power on (the power light will switch from orange-red to green). Then, power on the companion blade. If you do everything correctly, it should just boot with no issues.

Step 7: Verify everything

To verify everything, you will first need to log in to the console of the ESXi host and run a few console-only commands from HP. This is one time when you should use the console, as you are changing out hardware, and your security policy should allow you to break glass to gain access to the administrative user of the ESXi host. In a larger organization, you may require a second person (the two-person rule) to watch everything that is being done for audit purposes. The old hpacucli command will not work with the ESXi 5.5 (it will show no devices), but the hpsscacli command will work. Following this is an excerpt from my hpssacli session. Verify that the arrays you had before are there once more and are not in a failed state. If they are, you will need to rebuild them. In addition, you will have to create a logical drive that contains the SSD, so that it can be used by the system.

Once you have verified everything, you can once more start any virtual storage appliances. However, I still do not have enough equipment to run VSAN. I need to get more drives in order to add two to each storage blade purely for VSAN use. But I do have enough hardware to work with vFRC or PernixData. With those two, I get to see the difference between using SSD and Fusion-io.

[EXPAND Click to show hpssacli commands]
~ # /opt/hp/hpssacli/bin/hpssacli
HP Smart Storage Administrator CLI
Detecting Controllers...Done.
Type "help" for a list of supported commands.
Type "exit" to close the console.

=> ctrl all show config

Smart Array P410i in Slot 0 (Embedded)    (sn: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX)

   array A (SAS, Unused Space: 292182  MB)

      logicaldrive 1 (136.7 GB, RAID 1, OK)

      physicaldrive 1I:1:1 (port 1I:box 1:bay 1, SAS, 300 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:2 (port 1I:box 1:bay 2, SAS, 300 GB, OK)

Smart Array P420i in Slot 3               (sn: XXXXXXXXXXXXXX)

   array A (SAS, Unused Space: 0  MB)

      logicaldrive 1 (3.3 TB, RAID 5, OK)

      physicaldrive 1I:1:1 (port 1I:box 1:bay 1, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:2 (port 1I:box 1:bay 2, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:3 (port 1I:box 1:bay 3, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:4 (port 1I:box 1:bay 4, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:5 (port 1I:box 1:bay 5, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK)
      physicaldrive 1I:1:6 (port 1I:box 1:bay 6, SAS, 900.1 GB, OK, spare)

   array B (Solid State SAS, Unused Space: 0  MB)

      logicaldrive 2 (186.3 GB, RAID 0, OK)

      physicaldrive 1I:1:12 (port 1I:box 1:bay 12, Solid State SAS, 200 GB, OK)

   Enclosure SEP (Vendor ID HP, Model D2220sb) 378 (WWID: 5001438028429153, Port: 1I, Box: 1)

   Expander 380 (WWID: 5001438028429140, Port: 1I, Box: 1)

   SEP (Vendor ID PMCSIERA, Model SRCv8x6G) 379 (WWID: 500143802378B17F)

=> ctrl slot=3 create type=ld drives=1I:1:12 <=== Used to create the SSD logical Drive
Edward Haletky

Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is an author, analyst, developer, technologist, and business owner. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and TVP Strategy where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.

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