Monday, 6 April 2009

VMware Server 2 and Ubuntu 8.04 LTS

Some irritating behaviour that I couldn't resolve pushed me to the big upgrade of my virtual infrastructure. I was running VMWare Server 1.0.5 on Ubuntu 6.06 on a Dell SC440. Periodically all the VMs would just lock up for about five minutes. All the VMs would freeze, and even the time (as reported by date) would fall back by five minutes. The host ran just fine, and reported that nothing was happening (e.g. top(1) reported 100% idle).

I was having to endure too many frantic calls from my son that he couldn't get to, so it was time to do something.

Some Internet research turned up that I would need VMware Server 1.0.6 at a minimum for Ubuntu 8.04, so that meant I would need to do VMware first, and therefore go to VMware Server 2.

The upgrade to VMware Server 2 went fairly smoothly, but I had a couple of problems that sucked far more time than the solution eventually warranted:
  • The management interface didn't work. When I connected to vmhost:8222 I got the grey VMware background, but it didn't show the login window. I solved it by some combination of restarting the VMware management server on the VMware host (sudo /etc/init.d/vmware-mgmt restart) and clearing the cache in FireFox
  • Once the management interface was up, I couldn't get the console to open on many of my VMs. The error window told me to look at log files and report the problem. The VMs were version 4 of the "hardware". I upgraded the VMs' "hardware" to the current version (7 I think) from the management interface, and was able to open the console
  • When I was installing VMtools, I was unable to bring the network interfaces back up. I spent much time trying to figure out what was wrong with VMtools before I realized it was a simple as my DHCP server had gone away. My DHCP server is in a VM, but I don't know if anything about the upgrade is what shut down the DHCP server software
The upgrade of Ubuntu went smoothly and quickly. The big gotcha for me was that I forgot to download the kernel headers before I rebooted the upgraded server. When I went to rebuild VMware Server for the new kernel, I couldn't and since my network depends on VMs, I had to do some manual network configuration to get out to the Internet and download the kernel headers.

P.S. The reason I decided I should try the upgrade is because the time handling in Linux kernels is now much more friendly to running in a VM, whereas the Ubuntu 6.06-era kernel wasn't. I haven't been running long enough to know if the upgrade has fixed the freezing problem.

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