Tag Archives: VSA

The Virtual Storage Appliance experiment – Part 3


The Virtual Storage Appliance experiment – Part 1
The Virtual Storage Appliance experiment – Part 2

The second appliance I’m trialling for my Virtual Storage Appliance experiment is FreeNAS.  The history of FreeNAS goes back to 2005 but trying to understand that history and it’s version numbering really just hurts my head.  The current version of FreeNAS I’ll be trialling is FreeNAS 9.1.1.

The original FreeNAS project started back in 2005 under a 0.x version numbering scheme.  It continued to be developed until 2011.  At which point the story differs depending on what you read.  The nearest I can ascertain, FreeNAS was aquired by iXsystems in 2011.  The FreeNAS version numbering changed to fall in line with FreeBSD.  With version 8 being the current FreeBSD release so the next FreeNAS version was also 8.  In 2012 the NAS4Free project was created.  NAS4Free make a point that it is not a fork of FreeNAS but the direct continuation of FreeNAS prior to it’s sale to iXsystems.  The actual fork is FreeNAS after its purchase by iXsystems when it went through a complete code rewrite.  But, that’s enough of the background.

I ended up documenting my complete FreeNAS install process similar to OpenFiler.  I’ve decided not to go through the entire installation process (that may come at a later entry).  Instead I’ll focus on what FreeNAS is capable of offering, and it does offer a lot.  I was a little worried starting with OpenFiler that it would be downhill from there.  It certainly wasn’t the case with FreeNAS.

After installation, the initial configuration of FreeNAS is web driven, just like OpenFiler in Part 2.  The admin portal is split into two panes.  Much like something you would see on a Windows box.  A drop-down menu system on the left with the configuration and settings on the right.  It’s actually really nice, fluid, and fast, in some ways better than some of the enterprise products on the market.  The menu system has almost been ordered in the sequential steps that you want to configure it in.  What I did find slick was you could open up a GUI CLI console window from the web browser.

I found the doco on FreeNAS excellent.  It’s well written and flows well.  I say it flows well because to the uninitiated you can basically start at the top of the doco and work your way down to get yourself up and running quickly, rather than having to read through 100’s of pages of documentation on the ins and outs of all the features.  On the features side FreeNAS is your Swiss Army knife of NAS appliances.  You have your stock iSCSI, NFS, CIFS support.  You also have AFP (Apple Filing Protocol) with Apple Time Machine support, but who cares about Apple 😉   FTP and TFTP servers.  Rsync replication and File system snapshotting.  It also has a plugins architecture which is really just a simplified way of installing add-ons and software via the GUI.

Where Openfiler was a little more intuitive to create and present a LUN over iSCSI.  FreeNAS did require a little more thought and some reading.  They bring a few more concepts to the table than most which just creates a whole lot more steps to get to where you’re going.  For example, you will first create a volume from a pool of disks then a zVol under that.  In the iSCSI section you will create an Extent which you’ll associate with that zVol as the device.   You will then create an Initiator which will allow you to create a Target and then associate the two together… Still with me.  You then take that Target (with the associated Initiator) and associate that with the Extent.  If all goes to plan and you created your Portal correctly it should have a LUN that’s presented out and able to be connected to from another device, e.g. ESXi.

Fortunately NFS was sooooo much easier to setup.  I’m not a big fan of NFS but as much as I don’t like it I found myself willing to use it more as it was orders of magnitude simpler to setup.

Finally, one thing that stood out was that FreeNAS appears to support a few vSphere VAAI primitives, ATS and Zeroing File Blocks.

Where ESXi has no idea what’s going on with OpenFiler.  With FreeNAS it’s able to take advantage of some real storage performance benefits.


I feel I’ve given FreeNAS a good workout.  Where I was happy to move on from OpenFiler after a few weeks.  I’ve been using FreeNAS for a few months now.  I’m glad I held off on writing this entry until now.  If I had written it up after the first two weeks I would have said it was too convoluted to use and to stick with something else like Openfiler.  Having past that learning curve it’s quite the opposite now.  The granularity of what it can do, it’s feature set, and community support is a great selling point.

vCenter Server Appliance 5.0 to 5.5 upgrade

VMware has recently released their latest version of vSphere 5.5.  This includes a new version of the vCenter Server Appliance.  If you’re still running vCenter Appliance 5.0 now is a great time to upgrade to the recently released VSA 5.5.  With a switch from the embedded IBM DB2 to PostgresSQL the vCenter Server Appliance 5.5 now scales out far greater than before.

Earlier on in the year I wrote up a post on Why I don’t virtualize vCenter.   I still like my physical vCenter.  Slowly VMware are knocking down those barriers.  With the latest version of VSA 5.5 they’ve removed the scalability issue for all but the largest deployments.  Things like Update Manage and SRM are the few remaining obstacles to a VSA only environment.

Upgrading your VSA from a previous version is a simple and quick process.  There are only a couple things that you really need to take into account before starting the process.  Make sure you take a snapshot of your current VSA 5.x and a backup of any external DB you may be using.  Don’t attempt to change the hostname of the VSA during the installation.   Finally, and really less of a concern, if using custom SSL certificates make sure you met VSA requirements for signed certs.

Download the latest vCenter Service Appliance 5.5 OVF file from VMware.  In vCenter import the OVF into your datacenter and Power On the VM.

Using a web browser connect to the Admin Management Portal of both Appliances on Port 5480 in two separate windows.  e.g. https://vCenter_ip_address:5480

When you browse to the admin management portal on the new 5.5 appliance for the first you will be presented with a Setup wizard.  Accepted the end user license agreement and click Next.


Select the second option, ‘Upgrade from previous version‘, and click Next.


The Setup wizard will skip a bunch of steps and present you with a key.  Click click on it and select copy.


Now change browser tabs and navigate to the original 5.0 appliance.  Click the Appliance Upgrade tab.


Select Source as the appliance role and click Set Role.  You should receive the message, ‘Operation was successful’.


Click on Establish Trust and in the Remote appliance key field paste in the key you copied from the New (Remote) appliance and click Import remote key.


Copy the key from the old 5.0 appliance (Source).


Navigate back to the new (remote) application and paste in the key you just copied and click Next.

If you attempted to set or change the hostname of the new 5.5 appliance you will receive a warning prompt.  To save you a world of pain after the install it’s honestly best to cancel at this point and not set a hostname during the OVF import process.  Trust me!


If you are using self-signed certificated you will most likely receive a prompt with certificate issues.  Click Replace the SSL certificate and click Next.


The Setup wizard will now jump back up a few steps.  Set an SSO password for [email protected] and click Next.


Confirm and select your hosts.


The Pre-Upgrade Checker now runs, hopefully with no errors and you can click Next.


As a final precaution before the upgrade you are required to confirm that you have made a backup/snapshot of the source 5.5 vCenter Server Appliance --which of course you have and so you click Next.


The Upgrade process now begins.


The new 5.5 VSA will now reboot.


If you were running vCenter Appliance 5.0 you would have no doubt still been working with the C# client.  That’s still available and will need to be upgraded.  You will be prompted to perform this action if you connect with an old client.  After you upgrade and run the client a message states that all new features are only available via the vSphere Web Client.


You can access the new vSphere Web Client with a browser on port 9443.  e.g.  https://vCenter_ip_address:9443



Upgrading vCenter Server Appliance 5.0.x/5.1 to 5.5 (2058441)