My Top 10 Posts in 2019

Another year is over, it’s 2020 and the beginning of a new decade. With this blog article, I’d like to present to you my Top 10 posts of 2019. Surprisingly, the Top 10 blog posts are not all from 2019. Obviously, people are still searching for solutions for problems they have with some “old” stuff like Windows Server 2012 R2, or they are looking for solutions to problems they have in their current infrastructure. I hope that my blog posts will help the people out there in the tech community solving their problems. I’ll do my best to keep on doing my work and sharing my knowledge.

10. VMware Workstation – Unable to connect to the MKS: Login incorrect

I was trying to connect to my vCenter with VMware Workstation and had some issues. This post shows how I’ve been able to solve it.

9. Upgrade VCSA through CLI Installer

At my employer, I had the task to upgrade our vCenter to the most recent version. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as it sounds. The vCenter was running on a IaaS solution and with no root or administrative access, you can’t just upgrade. This blog post shows how it was done.

8. Veeam – Backup Copy “Block is not initialized. Failed to download disk.”

When I was working at a Veeam Platinum Partner in Switzerland, I had many customers running Veeam Backup & Replication. This is another troubleshooting blog post. I had to use some tools the first time and I was able to fix some backup copy issues.

7. Active Directory – Replication issues after promoting new 2012 R2 DC

Back in the days when I was working at a solution provider, I was tasked to set up a Windows Server 2012 R2 domain controller. After setting up the DC, I had to solve some replication issues.

6. VMware vSAN cache disk failed and how to recover from it

There was a time when I had three DELL PowerEdge servers in use for one of my first homelab versions. I had an issue with the capacity disks and thankfully, I was able to recover from it.

5. Synology now with backup for Office 365

Synology got a huge portfolio with NAS systems for all kinds of scenarios. Small home devices or big and high-performance NAS systems for enterprise with SSDs. But all NAS devices have one thing in common. Synology Diskstation Manager (DSM), which is their operating system and management tool. With the more recent DSM versions, you can now add your Office 365 accounts to it for backing it up.

4. “Starting drivers, please wait” – An HPE adventure story

This was one strange issue! Back in the day when I was working at a solution provider, a customer reported an issue. His ESXi hosts have lost connectivity to a storage system. It took some time to solve, and it was a good experience.

3. VMware – Clone a VM with snapshots (and consolidate it)

On the third place of 2019, there’s a post about VM snapshots. Most of the time, a VM snapshot is very useful. If it’s to see if the software update is working, or if it is used by your backup solution. But sometimes, snapshots can be a real nightmare.

2. New homelab hardware arrived!

On the second place of 2019, there’s a post about my new homelab hardware. I recently announced that I’ve got new homelab hardware. That’s the first post out of a small blog series. Enjoy!

1. Microsoft Active Directory – Desktop Shortcuts with Group Policy

And the winner on the first place for my Top 10 blog posts in 2019 is an old one back from 2016. But obviously, people still search for solutions like this. With Active Directory Group Policies you can do so many things. One of them is also creating desktop shortcuts.

New homelab hardware arrived!

Some weeks and months ago the gathering started. I did some long research, read blog posts and found very much helpful stuff. As you can read on my homelab page here, my lab evolved. It all started with VMware Workstation, then I recycled my old gaming rig, I’ve added some real servers and storage, and now, today, I’m announcing the arrival of totally brand-new and shiny homelab hardware!

With this blog post, I’m starting a small series featuring my new homelab. In this very first post, you’ll get the BOM (Bill of Material), so you know exactly what happened. In the next posts, I’ll show you how I’ve set it all up and for what I’m using it.

Basic idea

Instead of having huge servers to heat the basement, I’ve planned to reduce my own data center footprint as much as possible. Ideally, everything related to my homelab should fit into a small 19-inch rack. A really small rack. This rack will be placed in my home office. Also, I want to run an all-flash VMware vSAN cluster with three nodes. I don’t want only two hosts and a witness appliance, even if it works and it is a fully supported concept for small- or branch offices. I want real beef. Each server should have one cache device and at least one SSD for the capacity tier. I went all-in and decided to go with two SSDs for capacity. All servers have to be connected with 10Gig SFP+ for vSAN and vMotion because I already own a 10Gig SFP+ switch (which wasn’t much used until yet). And all three servers should run as silent as possible. Sure, I’ve got headphones for gaming. But when the fans are constantly buzzing around and making noise, it’s not nice. And I’m

To conclude this:

  • Small data center footprint
  • Three node all-flash vSAN cluster
  • 10Gig SFP+ connectivity
  • Small form factor 19-inch rack
  • Silent operations because of home office placement

That’s pretty much it.

For what I’m going to use it?

First, I love hardware! But I’m not buying hardware just for the sake of buying it. I learn new stuff because I didn’t have much to do with Supermicro except reading about it. I’ll install all the vSphere stuff I currently have running, and maybe something more. All that for learning how things work and for my exam preparations. Yes, I don’t have a VCP yet. I tried it several times but failed miserably. But not the next time, for sure! Maybe I’m gonna put also some “production” stuff onto it, like my Pi-Hole (reverse DNS add filter) or my Ubiquiti controller. We will see.

BOM – Bill of material

I’ve ordered the hardware listed below. I didn’t order stuff from Amazon, but all from Swiss hardware dealers. For your convenience, I’ve put the links to Amazon in the table, always the original manufacturer product number. Maybe you’ll grab it from Amazon (no affiliates) or you search for it at your local hardware dealer as well.

What? Link to Amazon
(product number)
(Swiss Francs converted to US$ / Price per part/total of all parts)
3x Supermicro E300-8D Quad-Core SYS-E300-8D $830 ($2490)
3x Supermicro NMVe add-on card AOC-SLG3-2M2-O $48 ($144)
3x Supermicro Riser Card RSC-RR1U-E8 $48 ($144)
3x Supermicro SATA DOM 32GB SSD-DM032-SMCMVN1 $76 ($228)
12x Noctua 40mm fans NF-A4x20 PWM $25 ($300)
12x Samsung 32GB memory modules $160 ($1920)
3x Samsung 970 EVO 250GB (cache tier) MZ-V7S250BW $88 ($264)
6x Samsung PM981 1000GB (capacity tier) MZVLB1T0HALR-00000 $168 ($1008)

That’s a good amount of money I’ve spent on that new hardware. But it’s worth it. And as the HomelabKing himself, Marc Huppert, mentioned on Twitter, it’s an investment into education and career:

Read moreNew homelab hardware arrived!

Veeam Vanguard Summit 2019 Prague – Day 3 Recap

CDP – Continous Data Protection

Anthony Spiteri kicks off the third and last day of the Vanguard Summit in Prague with CDP. It’s all about the filter driver. There are many competitors out which put their CDP solution out, but some of them still have issues sometimes, like pink screens of death when on the ESXi hosts. Veeam worked closely with VMware to get the stuff done right. Because when you’re going into the I/O stack with a data protection solution, you have to be sure what you’re doing.

CDP is a VMware-only available solution, there is no CDP for Hyper-V, at least not currently. That might change, but not soon. In Veeam you can leverage the usage of VMware tags for your data protection. You create backup jobs that will use these tags, and depending on these tags you’re able to protect your workloads with the needed RPO / RTO.

When you set up DCP in Veeam, Veeam will install the filter driver on a cluster base. You can’t install it on the host manually, Veeam does that for you but on a cluster base. With Veeam CDP there is an RPO as low as 15 seconds possible. For a restore, you can go back to either a restore point or go back with a slider to a specific point in time.

Write for us

Ilya Afanasyev is telling us more about the Veeam engagement in regards to a program for writers. It is called “Write for us” and it is not restricted to Vanguards only but all other tech people can take part in it. You chose a topic and apply for the program. Veeam will approve the topic (or maybe not) and then it’s your turn to create a draft. If the draft gets approved, your blog post gets published on the Veeam blog and you’ll get a revenue. A blog post brings you 200$ and a white paper is worth about 1000$.

If you’re interested to write some cool blog posts or even a white paper, then visit the “Write for us” program on the Veeam website for more information.

V10 – Data Integration API

Michael Cade is now on the stage for the last technical session of that day and the Summit at all. He provides us with more insights about the Data Integration API. With VBR 9.5 Update 4, Veeam can do a secure restore. That means that you can mount the restore point to do a restore, and during that restore process, your Antivirus goes into the stream and scans for possible threats. That’s a great feature in case you’ve got an infection with a virus or ransomware, which might already be in your backed-up files. During the restore, the scan can remove that threat and you’ve got a clean VM after the restore.

In version 10 you will be able to do instant disk recovery. You can either replace the target disk (in case the operating disk won’t boot anymore for example) or you can attach the disk as an additional disk to the virtual machine, in case you need some of the data. The same is for physical workloads which are backed up by a Veeam Agent. You can add a disk of such a workload to a virtual machine to restore data.

Currently, in V10 GUI it’s only possible to do this procedure for one VM. The restore point will be mounted with VeeamFLR to the mount server. You can leverage PowerShell to do this with multiple VMs in parallel, so all the restore points of these workloads will be mounted to the mount server through VeeamFLR.

That’s not only for restore procedures, but you can also scan your files like for big data analysis, data classification, etc. Your backups won’t be touched because that would be bad obviously. But you still can get more insights about your data.

Open Feedback

The real last session is an open feedback round. Unfortunately, I can’t remember which question or answer was green or red. Just to make it fail-safe I’m not gonna provide any detailed information here. Sorry. But we were asked to provide feedback to the event and some things going on at Veeam, Veeam products, community stuff, etc. And we know that our feedback is appreciated and will be heard.

Thank you!

We all Vanguards said it often today. And I can only repeat it once more. A huge thank you to the whole Veeam team who made that event possible, to all the folks who created and prepared the content, and to the R&D team for their honest and open answers. Prague was a blast, it was great to meet the new and renewed Vanguards, to learn new things and to exchange knowledge with others. But we also had a good time when it was not about technology but about socializing.

Veeam Vanguard Summit 2019 Prague – Day 2 Recap

Containers and Veeam

David Hill introduces us to the topic of containers, and how Veeam can handle that. Containers make it possible to use less different operating systems. Today you’ve got patches and updates to install on your operating system, no matter if it’s Linux or Windows. With containers, it becomes a lot simpler.

It’s all about buzzwords. Being or getting cloud-ready, being cloud-native, and being it now. A few years ago it was the same with the cloud. Cloud did help to solve some problems, but some problems are still the same, just on a bigger scale. The same for containers. They will help to solve some problems, but some problems will still be problems, just on a different scale.

David explained some things about the statefulness of a container. Containers are good when they are used for what they are thought. But having just any kind of application containerized doesn’t work. When an application fails, and the container management spins up a new instance of that application, the application itself doesn’t know what happened. If you click save in WordPress for example, WordPress doesn’t know what you did before when the application crashed in the backend.

Cloud Tier

Andrew Zhelezko and David Hill are talking about the Cloud Tier. In Veeam, you can set up and define multiple types of backup repositories. You can have local disk storage, NAS, deduplication appliances, etc. You can even combine them in a Scale-out Repository. Now with the latest VBR version you’re even able to scale-out to the cloud with the usage of object storage. You’ve got nearly unlimited storage available in the cloud to store your backups. And in Veeam, that’s all policy-driven. Depending on your policy, Veeam does the automatic cloud-tiering to the object storage of your choice. And you can put that object storage also into a Scale-out Repository as a capacity tier.

That means that you might have some backups local, maybe because of compliance reasons or to meet a certain RPO/RTO time. Everything which is older than a specified time will be tiered out to the object storage.

A new feature is the Immutability of your backup files in the object storage. That means that you can lock the backups which are moved out to the cloud. That gives you protection against rogue admins or to have a certain level of compliance. No one can delete your backup files on the cloud storage. You can set the lock for a specific time, and during this time the backup files can’t be deleted. These settings have to be set on a specific S3 bucket.

Top Secret Product Announcement

Veeam Availability Orchestrator 2.0 – Review

Alex King provides us a short review of the Veeam Availability Orchestrator. VAO is a Disaster Recovery tool for your virtual infrastructure where you can prepare for a disaster, ensure the readiness and execute the recovery when a disaster strikes. It also allows you to report all the things. The Orchestrator automates the recovery from backed-up VMs or replica VMs. With the Orchestrator, you can also automatically check your backed-up VMs. Like an Exchange or a SQL server, if the databases are coming up and are accessible, as well as against the Active Directory and DNS things.

And yes, that’s mean, but from here the segment is red, so under NDA. I’m allowed to share the bits by the end of October, so keep an eye on my blog.

NAS Backup

Michael Cade and Dima P. are on the stage now talking about NAS Backup.

Veeam will come with the support of NAS backup. That doesn’t mean that you can back up your VMs to a NAS, that’s already possible. But you can now take backups from your NAS file shares! No matter if it is SMB, NFS or another share. Just provide the path to Veeam and they will read it and store it in the backup repository.

Instead of comparing the files on the NAS share and the backup, to find out which files are new or changed and have to be backed up, Veeam creates CRC checks in the very first backup run and stores them in the cache. During the next backup, Veeam compares the CRC hashes and can then decide what’s changed or new. In the current release, only Windows proxy is supported for NAS backup, and the file share proxy is a new role which can be deployed on any existing Windows proxy.

Just from a backup perspective you only need read rights on the NAS file share. But surely, in case of a restore, you have to provide credentials with write permissions. Veeam is able to create a backup of a NAS file share from a storage snapshot, so it doesn’t have any performance impact or so to the production datastore. A proxy can handle one share per job, but can concurrently handle multiple folders per share during a backup job.

For a NAS file share backup, you can have a Scale-out Repository as the backup target. The placement policy of a SOBR repository will be ignored, the data will be stored evenly. The integrated metadata redundancy protects against two extents being completely lost. Metadata is protected, not data. When doing a restore, Veeam doesn’t mount just a restore point, but only the metadata. In the known Veeam Explorer you can browse through the various restore points, search for files, and you have various options to do the restore, instead of mounting one restore point after the other because you didn’t find the file you were searching for.

Veeam Vanguard Summit 2019 Prague – Day 1 Recap

Welcome Vanguards!

Nikola Pejkova and Rick Vanover welcome all new and renewed Vanguards here at Prague. As we know it from last year, and maybe also from other conferences, there are the famous traffic light signals. In the following days we will see and hear much of green, yellow and red stuff, which means that they are free to publish, embargoed (publish it somewhen) or even under NDA (don’t even think to publish it or talk about it).

Rick and Nikola explained some new things about the Vanguard program to us. Veeam likes to have more engagement with the Vanguards. There will be more recap movies like they did at VeeamON, helping to build up the profile of a Vanguard, not promoting Veeam especially. Rick guides us through the agenda. There are two rooms this year, with even more sessions for all kinds of tastes of technology and interests. For the official Vanguard Dinner on Tuesday we will have our own Veeam shuttles from the hotel to the venue and back. Awesome!

Rick shares some more program updates and priorities. Such an event, and also the Vanguard program is a great opportunity to get more information directly from the source. As a Vanguard, you’re also able to give your feedback directly to the responsible persons, like feedback for beta versions, or the program itself. These persons can push it into the right channels to make it probably happen.

Veeam Cloud & SaaS Backup Solutions

Mike Resseler is taking over the stage and we’re diving into a red segment, so that’s under NDA and I can’t tell you more. I’m sorry.

Veeam Instance Licensing Update

Products have expanded and will continue to expand to help you back up and recover everywhere! The licensing requirements are different. There’s no socket in the cloud as you have it on-premises. Different workloads are measured differently. More hybrid, less purely on-premises. There are still socket licenses available for the VMware and Hyper-V hypervisors which are on-premises (in a customer data center). All other products require a subscription and a universal license. The new universal license is very flexible in its usage. When you renew your socket licenses, you’ll get up to six universal licenses, which you can use for your Veeam Agents for example. At renewal, you can also convert your socket licenses to universal licenses. It all depends on your architecture and future usage of your infrastructure. Maybe you’ll expand to the cloud? Then universal licensing is your partner.

Veeam Linux Strategy & Updates

Michael Cade and Andrew Zhelezko are now on the stage to share information about the Linux Strategy and Updates with us.

Linux Proxies

There will be Linux proxies, but unfortunately, there won’t be any prebuilt Linux appliance. But yes, at least you can set up Linux to use it as a Veeam Backup Proxy. That means that you don’t have to spend a Windows license for a proxy. Most of the common Linux distribution like Ubuntu are supported to be used as a proxy. Michael and Andrew showed us a script created by Anthony Spiteri that deploys Linux VMs to a vSphere environment with some respect to the number of hosts. The reason for that is because currently, with Linux proxies only hot-add transport mode is possible. Using a proxy per host increases performance because the data of a VM which is being backed up doesn’t have to traverse the network when the proxy is not on the same host.

Fast Clone for XFS

Customers with Linux repositories can make use of the XFS file system, with similar functionality as with ReFS on Windows (fast clone, etc.), but this is feature is currently experimental. To use such a data store, it has to be formatted with «reflink=1» before.