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How to create a VMWare vSphere cluster on Dedibox servers with RPN-SAN

Reviewed on 28 October 2021 • Published on 28 December 2020
  • compute
  • vspehre
  • esxi
  • vmware
  • dedibox

VMware vSphere - Overview

VMware vSphere is a complete virtualization solution built around two main components:

  • The hypervisor VMware vSphere ESXi, which provides virtual machines for x64-based hardware and their operating systems. Unlike other virtualization solutions ESXi is not a software application running on a traditional operating system, instead it provides vital OS components, such as a kernel.

  • VMware vCenter, which manage clusters and provide the graphical management of the entire structure of data center, cluster, network, datastore, CPUs and virtual machines in the form of a dynamic and seamless operating environment.

In this tutorial you will learn how to deploy a complete VMware vSphere Cluster running on two Dedibox CORE-4-L SSD servers with additional storage by using the RPN-SAN feature.

This tutorial consists of the following steps:

Requirements:

Installing VMware ESXi via KVM-over-IP

In this tutorial we are using VMware vSphere Hypervisor (ESXi) 6.7U3b. This version is currently not available for automatic installation from the Dedibox Console, therefore we use the manual installation via the KVM-over-IP device of our Dedibox servers.

Tip:

Download the vSphere ESXi ISO image on your local computer before continuing with this tutorial.

  1. Access the server page of your Dedibox in the console and click Install to launch the installation via the KVM-over-IP device.

  2. Click KVM over IP:

  3. A disclaimer window pops up. Make sure you have read and agreed to the terms displayed and click I ACCEPT. You will be redirected to your server’s status page.

  4. Click the IDRAC button on the right:

  5. Enter the IP address of your internet connection in the form and confirm to generate your IDRAC credentials.

  6. Log into IDRAC using the provided credentials and launch the virtual console:

  7. Click Connect Virtual Media in the menu on the top of the virtual console window. A pop-up displays.

  8. Click Choose file (1) and select the downloaded VMware ESXi ISO file. Then click Map device (2) to connect the virtual CD-ROM drive to the server. Once done close the pop-up.

  9. Reboot your machine from the Dedibox console.

  10. Press F11 on your keyboard, during the boot process, to enter the boot manager:

  11. Click One-shot BIOS Menu in the boot manager:

  12. Select the Virtual Optical Drive to boot the machine from the connected ISO file:

The server is booting from the ISO file. Depending on your Internet connection, this may take a while. Once ready, the ESXi installer displays.

  1. Follow the prompts to complete the installation of VMWare ESXi on the machine:

Repeat the steps above on the second Dedibox server, once the installation of ESXi is completed on the first server.

Configuring the RPN interface

Configure the RPN interface on both servers once the installation of both machines is completed. To do so, the first step is to activate the SSH service from the ESXi web interface.

  1. Connect to the first Dedibox server by typing the server’s IP address in a web browser. The ESXi login displays. Enter your credentials to log in.

  2. Click Actions > Services > Enable Secure Shell (SSH):

  3. SSH is enabled once the following warning displays: SSH is enabled on this host. You should disable SSH unless it is necessary for administrative purposes.

  4. Create a new Virtual Switch by clicking on Networking > Virtual Switches > Add Standard Virtual Switch. Configure it as shown in the following example:

  5. Create new VMkernel NIC by clicking on Networking > VMkernel NICs > Add VMkernel NIC and configure it as follows. Make sure to tick the vMotion checkbox as it is required in a later part of this tutorial:

    Note: Make sure to configure Jumboframes (MTU 9000) both for the switch and the NIC.
  6. Connect to your server using SSH. The SSH credentials are identical to those for the web interface.

  7. Open the ESXi configuration file in a text editor:

    vi /etc/vmware/esx.conf
  8. Find the identifier of the child in the RPN portgroup (in this example: 0001):

    /net/vmkernelnic/child[0001]/portgroup = "RPN"
  9. Locate the MAC address of the network card connected to the RPN (in this example: XX:YY:ZZ:AA:BB:CC):

    /net/pnic/child[0004]/mac = "XX:YY:ZZ:AA:BB:CC”
  10. Replace the MAC of the VMKernel RPN (see the number of the child) with the MAC of the network card connected to the RPN:

    /net/vmkernelnic/child[0001]/mac = "XX:YY:ZZ:AA:BB:CC”
  11. Reboot the machine to activate the new configuration.

  12. Enter the ESXi web interface and click Networking > Virtual Switches > RPN Swich and check the IP address of the VMkernel NIC. It now has the RPN IP auto assigned to the interface via DHCP:

  13. Reactivte the SSH service and connect to the machine via SSH.

  14. Run the following command to add the RPN route:

    esxcfg-route -a 10.88.0.0/13 [YOUR_RPN_GATEWAY_IP]
    Tip:

    You can find the RPN gateway either on your server’s overview page in the Dedibox console or by following this guide.

  15. Ping the RPN-SAN to check if the RPN connection is working properly:

    ping san-1.rpn.online.net
  16. Open the file /etc/rc.local.d/local.sh in a text editor and add the following lines to it to configure the RPN route automatically during boot:

    esxcfg-route -a 10.88.0.0/13 [YOUR_RPN_GATEWAY_IP]
    exit 0

Repeat the steps above on the second Dedibox server.

Connecting the RPN-SAN

Note:

The following steps require that you have a RPN-SAN product.

Note:

To be able to communicate with the RPN-SAN, you need to allow your servers to access it.

  1. Connect to the Dedibox Console and click Storage > RPN-SAN.

  2. Select the SAN you want to configure and click Manage

  3. Add the server(s) you want to permit to access your SAN services in the list. Optionally you can add RPN subnet IPs. Please note that if you use RPNv2, an additional configuration is required to access the RPN-SAN.

    Note:

    While it is technically possible, it is not recommended to allow more than one server at a time to communicate with the SAN. The iSCSI protocol does not handle concurrency, you may lose all your data if you allow more than one server to access this storage.

  4. Click Save to validate the new configuration of the SAN.

  5. Connect to the ESXi web interface of your server.

  6. Click Storage > Adapters > Software iSCSI. A configuration pop-up displays.

  7. Enable the service. Click Add port binding and add the RPN Network. Then click Add dynamic target and enter the address of your SAN. Finally click Save configuration:

    ESXi rescans for devices and you can see the new iSCSI disk in the Devices tab of the storage section.

Adding a new Datastore

To use the RPN-SAN with ESXi, we need to create a new datastore. To to so, follow these steps:

  1. Connect to the ESXi web interface, then click Storage > Datastores > New Datastore.

  2. Select Create new VMFS datastore and click Next.

  3. Enter a name for the new datastore and select the RPN-SAN iSCSI disk from the list of available devices. Then click Next:

  4. Configure the partitioning of the datastore. Then click next. A summary displays.

  5. Validate all given information and click Finish to format the device.

    Note:

    Be careful, formatting the device will delete all data you may have stored on it.

  6. The newly created datastore displays in the datastore list and is ready for use:

Setting-up VMware vCenter Server

We now have two ESXi hosts and a RPN-SAN but no possibility to manage both hypervisors from a centralized point. Therefore we deploy a virtual machine, running on Windows Server 2016 and install the VMware vCenter Server 6.7U3j on this machine. vCenter is a web-based tool for graphical management of the entire fabric of datacenter, cluster, network, datastore, CPUs and virtual machines in the form of a dynamic and seamless operating environment.

Important:

To proceed with these steps, you require at least one failover IP with an associated virtual MAC address. If you have not yet configured it, go to your Dedibox Console before proceeding.

Tip:

If you do not have a Windows Server 2016 ISO file, download it directly from Microsoft.

Creating a Virtual Machine

  1. Connect to the ESXi web interface of one of the machines.

  2. Click Storage > Datastore browser to browse the contents of your datastores.

  3. Once you are at the desired location for storing your ISO files, click Upload and select the ISO file on your local computer. Confirm by clicking OK. The upload progress is visible in the top right corner of the datastore browser. Once the upload is completed, you can close the datastore browser.

    Note:

    Depending on the speed of your Internet connection, the upload may take a while.

  4. Create a new virtual machine by clicking on Virtual Machines > Create / Register VM

  5. Select Create a new virtual machine and confirm by clicking Next.

  6. Enter a name for the new virtual machine, select the compatibility, guest OS family and guest OS version. Then tick the box to enable Windows Virtualization Based Security and click Next to proceed:

  7. Select the storage for the data of your VM and confirm by clicking Next.

  8. Customize the hardware specification of the virtual machine. In this tutorial we will use a VM with 4 vCores, 16 GB RAM and 80 GB storage. Unfold the network card settings and select Manual in the MAC Address section. Enter the virtual MAC address of your failover IP in the form next to the drop-down list. Unfold the CD/DVD Drive 1 options and select Datastore ISO file. Select your uploaded ISO file in the CD/DVD Media section. Click Next to continue:

  9. Verify each setting in the summary of all parameters of the virtual machine, and click Finish to launch the VM creation. The virtual machine appears in the list.

  10. Click its name:

  11. Click Power on to switch the VM on. Then click in the preview area to see the graphical output of the server. Follow the Windows installer to complete the installation of Windows Server 2016. Choose the Full Desktop Experience version of Windows Server 2016, as it will be required to install the vCenter Server application:

Installing VMware vCenter Server

  1. Once installed, log into the Windows VM using the Administrator account and the password set during the installation process. Click the network icon (1) and then on Network Settings (2).

  2. Click Change adapter options in the following screen:

  3. Double click the network adapter. The adapter details displays. Click Properties, then select Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4) and click Properties:

  4. Configure your servers’ IP failover as follows:

    • IP address: Your failover IP
    • Subnet mask: 255.255.255.255
    • Default Gateway: 62.210.0.1
    • Preferred DNS server: 62.210.16.6
    • Alternate DNS server: 62.210.16.7

    Click OK to validate your configuration. You may see a warning about a configuration issue. You can safely ignore this notification.

    Your VM is now connected to the Internet.

  5. Download the VMware vCenter application in version 6.7U3j directly from the VMware website onto your virtual machine.

  6. Double click the downloaded ISO file to display it as a virtual CD-ROM drive in Windows. Double click the autorun.exe application to launch the installation wizard:

  7. During the setup wizard, choose the embedded setup, which allows you to install all vCenter components on a single machine:

  8. Choose a system network name for your vCenter. This name must be a working FQDN:

  9. Configure the credentials for the single sign-on system of vCenter:

  10. Set the vCenter service account. You can keep the default settings and continue by clicking Next:

  11. Configure the vCenter database. You can keep the default settings so it uses an internal Postgres database:

  12. View the default port information used by the vCenter application and click Next to continue.

  13. Decide if you want to participate in the “Customer Experience Improvement Program” by sharing data with VMware. Untick the box if not, and click Next to continue

    A summary of your configuration displays.

  14. Check again if all your settings are correct and click Install to launch the installation of VMware vCenter

Log out of the Windows VM once the installation completes, and type the address of your vCenter Server in your web browser to connect to it.

Configuring vCenter Server

  1. Open a web browser and point it to the domain name of your vCenter. Log in using the administrator@vsphere.local user and the password set during the installation. The vSphere dashboard displays:

  2. Click Actions > New Datacenter to create a new datacenter. A datacenter is a group of machines.

  3. Enter a name for the new datacenter and click OK. It appears in the list on the left.

  4. Enter the datacenter and click Actions > New Host. Enter the IP address of your first Dedibox server in the form and click Next.

  5. Enter the ESXi login credentials of the machine and click Next:

  6. vCenter is connecting to the ESXi host and displays a review of the machine. Click Next to continue:

  7. vCenter manages all ESXi licenses centrally. Assign a license to the machine and click Next:

  8. Choose the “Lockdown mode” for ESXi, if the server is locked-down it can only be managed from vCenter and the ESXi web interface becomes unavailable.

  9. Select the location of the machine. Currently we only have one datacenter, so click Next to continue:

  10. A summary of your settings displays, click Finish to import the machine into vCenter Server:

Repeat the import for the second server to manage both of them centrally from the vCenter Server.

Creating a Cluster

A cluster is a group of several machines. When a host is added to a cluster, the resources of the host become part of the resources of the cluster and all resources of the hosts within it are managed by the cluster.

  1. From the Datacenter dashboard in your vSphere web interface click Actions > New Cluster:

  2. Enter a Name for the cluster and activate the features you want to use:

  3. From the cluster quickstart page click Add in the Add Hosts section. Select the hosts you want to add to the cluster and click Next. A summary of the hosts that will be added to the cluster displays.

  4. Click Next to continue:

  5. Review your configuration and click Finish to add the hosts to the cluster:

  6. Configure the cluster by clicking on Configure in the Configure cluster section on the cluster quickstart page:

Migrating Virtual Machines

vCenter Server supports the vMotion technology for live migration of virtual machines without any downtime. This allows you to:

  • Automatically optimize virtual machines within resource pools.
  • Perform hardware maintenance without scheduling downtime or disrupting business operations.
  • Move virtual machines away from failing or underperforming machines.

The virtual machine retains its network identity and connections, ensuring a seamless migration process which completes in several seconds. It uses the RPN connection between your servers to avoid any impact on the public Internet connection, however some restrictions apply:

  • The origin and destination machine must be in the same RPN group.
  • Both servers must be connected to the same RPN-SAN and the VM uses the RPN-SAN as datastore.
  • You have ticket the vMotion checkbox on the RPN VMkernel network interface on both machines.
  • No virtual CD/DVD drives are connected or any local datastore is in use on the VM.
  1. Click the name of the instance you want to migrate to view its details.

  2. Click Actions > Migrate to launch the migration wizard.

  3. Select Change compute resource only, as we keep the data of the virtual machine on our RPN-SAN datastore, and click Next:

  4. Select the new compute resource to run the virtual machine on. In case you forgot on which physical machine the VM runs, click VM origin. Click Next to proceed:

  5. Validate the network settings for the virtual machine. Leave the default values and click Next to proceed:

  6. Select Schedule vMotion with high priority to complete the migration with more allocated CPU resources, then click Next:

  7. A summary of your migration displays. Click Finish to launch the migration process:

  8. Once the migration is complete, you see a notification in Recent Tasks bar:

  9. Update the destination host of your failover IP, either from the Dedibox Console or by using the Dedibox API.

Conclusion

You have now completed the setup of a two node ESXi cluster with RPN-SAN as shared datastore. You got the basics of managing it using vCenter Server and vSphere and were able to move your VM between the two nodes using the vMotion feature over the RPN. For more information about VMware vSphere, refer to the official documentation. For more information about our Scaleway Dedibox dedicated servers, refer to our product information or contact our solution advisors by phone or ticket to find the ideal solution for your needs.