Hello World – Ulysses Version

Hello World!

Something new. I’m trying something new and I’m not sure if I am going to like it, or not. I have downloaded the Ulysses writing app for my iPad – in hopes that it will encourage me to want to write more for my blog, micronauts.us. We shall see, if this takes off. If not, then I’m out $40 (as I paid for the yearly subscription). Worse case scenario….. I have a new note taking tool. 🙂

NSX Manager SSL Certificate

I am in the process of yet another homelab rebuild. (Yep, it’s that time again.) During this process, I have wiped the entire lab and restarting from scratch. 

A new vCenter 6.7 U3 appliance has been deployed and installed and the focus has been moved onto the deployment and setup of NSX Datacenter for vSphere v6.4.6 (formerly known as NSX-V). The deployment of the appliance was textbook, this article will focus on something that to me seemed really odd – the application, or lack thereof, of the placing of the SSL Certificate. 

For this environment and scenario, I am utilizing a linux based Certificate Authority — not a Microsoft Certificate Authority. This particular CA does not accept the individual product CSR in creating the individual certificate for the individual product, therefore I created a PKCS12 SSL Chain Cert for NSX Manager. This is not the issue I am writing about.

However, i discovered that when I went to go import the PKCS12 cert, NSX Manager would fail to replace the built-in self-signed certificate – even though it showed that the certificate was successfully uploaded. (Yes, subsequent reboots still did not change the status.) This is the issue, and the reasoning for this article.

I figured there had to be a way to import this cert via command line somehow. (Unfortunately, google did not supply me this method.) I reached out to a few of my NSX colleagues who suggested I look at implementing the cert via the NSX API.

Just for reference, here are the links I used:

NOTE: While this should not be needed, proceed with caution. 

I’m not one for digging into the API, and therefore, I was hesitant. But hey, this is my lab, and it’s here for my destruction… er, learning. I would recommend that you do not attempt this type of work ‘laissez-faire’. 

On page 166 of the NSX 6.4 API doc, I found what I was looking for. The doc provided the command that I needed to run in order to import the cert via the API.

While you can utilize postman, or another API manipulation tool to run this command, I did it in the MAC terminal on my machine (with a small aid from postman). To take a shortcut here, instead of going through the rigamarole of trying to get the authorization token via command line, I used postman to retrieve it. I then ran the following command to force the import using the NSX API:

After the certificate was imported, I then rebooted the appliance and checked the status of the certificate.  

All was well. 

Where have I been?

Wow! It truly has been a while since I last posted. Gee whiz! Well, to sum things up, I’ve been busy. I’m not excusing my absence other than, life has been running me ragged. But I am here. 

Since my last post, I have celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary, been re-elected into the vExpert program, participated in Hands On Labs at VMWorld 2019, and continue to push and evangelize the things I learn around the vRealize Suite of products. Matter of fact, keep on the look out for an upcoming post about utilizing workload placement within a vRealize Automation instance using vRealize Operations. (I’m working on this little gem.)

As you are already aware, many announcements were made at VMWorld US & Europe. In preparation of all of the news products that have been released since VMWorld, I am currently rebuilding my homelab. I know…. not again. It seems like I am constantly rebuilding this thing. Well, that is kind of true.

I’m sure you are asking, ‘well, why don’t you upgrade?’ That’s a good question. Let me provide my opinion on this. There’s a few reasons why I am building new and not upgrading. 

The primary reason I am not upgrading my environment is because it has gone through a couple of upgrades already. And since this is a homelab, I put it through its paces – a lot. It has had a few lingering issues that I did not want to carry forward.

My homelab environment runs on top of vCloud Director. I mimic what we do for HOL so that I may be able to learn and create ‘customer-like scenarios’ side-by-side to my home lab. As I stated above, my version of vCD was a version of 8 that was upgraded to 9.0, then 9.1. I want to move to vCD 10 — part of me wants to try out the vCD Appliance. 

Additionally, a couple of the products have gone through some platform changes. While this may introduce some complexity regarding upgrading, I didn’t want to apply figuring out that process on top of learning the new products – yet. 

Over the next few weeks while I rebuild my homelab, I will continue to post things I learn and discover that may be of use to others. 

Building the lab 5: Storage I

This part of my homelab rebuild will touch on something interesting… storage options. Knowing that my lab is going to be a couple levels of nesting, I wanted to look at the different options that are out there.

For years, I have had and use a Synology DS 1512+ storage array. This thing has been running like gangbusters. It serves multiple purposes from backups & fileshares, to NFS storage for the virtual environment.

Over the years, I have upgraded the drives from 1TB to 2TB, to 3TB. Because of this, I have a few drives lying around not in use. I thought that maybe I could spin up a FreeNAS or OpenFiler box for iSCSI within the environment. By creating differing storage arrays, I could introduce Storage Policies within the environment for potential feature consumption down the road.

As I explored the various options out there, I discovered many simulators from various vendors: 3PAR, EMC, NetApp. In addition to these, you have the free options as mentioned above: OpenFiler, FreeNAS, etc. But I also stumbled across this jewel….. XPEnology.

I’m sure you are wondering — What is XPEnology?
Xpenology is a bootloader for Synology’s operating system which is called DSM (Disk Station Manager) and is what they use on their NAS devices. DSM is running on a custom Linux version developed by Synology. Its optimized for running on a NAS server with all of the features you often need in a NAS device. Xpenology creates the possibility to run the Synology DSM on any x86 device like any pc or self-built NAS.

You read that right, it is possible to run XPEnology on bare metal. XPEnology runs as a faux Synology NAS.

Now, before you continue, you should know this. XPEnology is not supported or owned by Synology, micronauts, or anyone in their right mind. The links provided are ONLY for experimentation purposes and should not be used in any production or development environment. It is very possible you could lose all data and put yourself in jeopardy. If you need reliable, dependable storage, then buy a Synology NAS.


Alex Lopez at ThinkVirtual has a good write up on how to create a Synology Storage VM

Alex’s write up was based on Erik Bussink’s build, found here.

The original XPEnology website walkthrough on how to create a Synology Storage VM.

The original Xpenology website has become a ghost-town. I’m not sure if it is being maintained, or if the original creator(s) just don’t have the time to update it any longer. The last updates came out around DSM 5.2-5644.5 (so a while ago). However, the XPEnology forums will provide all kinds of glorious information from the wealth of knowledge within the community.

Additionally, you can get more information from this new XPEnology info site. They also have a pretty good walk-through for a storage VM. The video tutorial even covers how to setup ESXi 5.1 (http://xpenology.org/installation/).

I chose to build on baremetal.
While having a storage VM is great, I think having XPEnology on baremetal is even better. As you read and research how to do this, you are going to discover that it involves grabbing files stashed all over the internet — files ranging from a bootloader to PAT files. Make sure that you read EVERYTHING. I reutilized some hardware and some of my old synology drives and built a XPEnology server on bare metal.

I booked marked this site (https://github.com/XPEnology/JunLoader/wiki/Installing-DSM-6.0-Bare-Metal) as it provides a pretty good walkthrough on how to create a bootable USB drive for the XPEnology OS. I also found this one (http://blog.pztop.com/2017/07/24/Make-Xpenology-boot-loader-1.02b-for-DSM-6.1-on-Ubuntu/). For those of you, like myself, who are on a MAC…. you may need this nugget (https://xpenology.com/forum/topic/1753-create-a-bootable-usb-on-os-x/).

Again, I would like to say, if you need reliable and dependable storage, go purchase a real storage array.

Building the lab 4: Stand up vCloud Director

First, I would like to declare: “vCloud Director is NOT dead!” I can say emphatically, this product did not die, never died, and I don’t believe that it is going to die! It is still actively being developed by VMware.

With this clarified, let’s move on to getting vCD stood up. Again, I followed along with the wonderful guide from Sysadmin Tutorial.

This guide has a very good walk-through for standing up vCloud Director 8.0 for a Proof of Concept (it also works well for 9.0). There are multiple steps that break out each milestone of the installation/deployment. You could follow along each part, as I did. Along the way, I will point out the various things that I did or changed for my environment.

Part One is self explanatory. The walkthrough shows you how to set up a SQL database. Yes, MS SQL is still supported with vCD 9.0. While you may want to migrate or move to a PostGreSQL Database, this guide sets you up for MS SQL. (I will cover how to setup PostGreSQL and migrate the database sometime in the future. You may need or want this down the road when you get ready to upgrade.)

Part Two – setting up a RabbitMQ server, I skipped. Why do you ask? Well, the answer is selfish. My environment is small and is designed for one thing – quick deployment and stand up of an SDDC environment for play and discovery. Unlike many vCD environments that can be found in the wild, I will not be interfacing or integrating with any outside services. Nor will I be standing up mulitple cells. So I have no need of a RabbitMQ server at this time. You and your environment may very well need one.

Part Three of this guide is very good. I like how they dig into the certificate creation and the details of what to do with them. This portion of the walkthrough also includes how to create the cert with a Microsoft CA server. These are details that I would like to see VMware include in their documentation. This is one area that plagues many installations as certificates always seem to be problematic and having a good walkthrough would really go a long way.

Once you complete these steps, you are ready to configure vCloud Director for consumption. Like all VMware products, you should have a good idea of how or what you want to do. Setting this up to play with is one thing. But if you are trying to utilize it beyond “how do I install it?”, then you need to have an idea of what you are trying to accomplish. If you haven’t taken the time to do this, you should.

For me, as I said previously – I want to stand up vCloud Director to be a mechanism where I can quickly deploy full SDDC environments to manipulate and play with. I want to utilize these environments to learn, discover, and grow my skillset. I do not want to destroy and rebuild my lab environment every time I have a different scenario I want to test. My goal is to ‘mimic’ the Hands On Lab environment. Ambitious? Yes.

I’m going to stop here as the next Part of the SysAdmin Tutorial walkthrough was already covered when I stood up NSX in “Building the lab 3: NSX”. Before I continue with the SysAdmin Tutorial on and kick off Part 5, I want to set up more storage.