Replace Intel igbn Driver

There have been issues with VMware network driver igbn which is responsible for Intel 82580, I210, I350, and I354 Gigabit Ethernet Controllers. Under certain conditions this can lead to a PSOD, which makes it a critical issue for all hosts with one of the ethernet controllers mentioned above.

Currently there’s no VMware patch to solve the problem. It is recommended to replace the VMware driver with a newer version (1.4.10) of Intels native driver.

If we start SSH service on the host, we can check the installed igbn version.

esxcfg-module -i igbn 

esxcfg-module module information
input file: /usr/lib/vmware/vmkmod/igbn
License: ThirdParty:Intel Propietary
Version: 0.1.1.0-5vmw.670.3.73.14320388

Updating the driver

First we have to download the driver package from VMware (login required) and extract the archive. It contains a documentation with release notes and update guide, a VMware Installation Bundle (VIB) and an offline bundle (ZIP). While it is possible to install the VIB on a command shell from an ESXi host, it is more convenient to use VMware Update Manager (VUM). The latter is the procedure I will explain here.

Open vSphere-Client and go to Menu > Update Manager. If you’re not running vSphere 6.7 U1 or later, you’ll have to use the infamous Web-Client (Flash-Client). Select Updates and click on “Upload from File”.

Select the extracted ZIP File (Offline Bundle). Just to avoid some confusion: The file you’ve downloaded from VMware is a ZIP-archive. Extract it once. Within that archive there’s another ZIP-archive. Do not extract that one! From the dialogue we select that ‘inner’ ZIP-file for upload to VUM.

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Runecast 3.0 requires elevated privileges for HCL checks

A couple of days ago Runecast Analyzer has been upgraded to version 3.0.0. With that upgrade a very important beta-feature became GA: HW Compatibility and Upgrade Simulator.

I used to run the Runecast service account with readonly privileges. It has been sufficient up to version 2.7.x. Even the hardware compatibility check (beta) did work with readonly privileges. After upgrading my appliance to version 3.0.0 (GA), I found a notification. Missing privileges..

Once you open host details and click on I/O devices tab, there’s further information.

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Read HBA Driver and Firmware Version

Before upgrading an ESXi host, it is best practice to to look at VMware HCL and check compatibility of host and IO devices. The combination of driver version, firmware version and ESXi release is crucial for compatibility. Even minor updates might lead to loss of HCL compatibility. A system that used to be HCL compliant at time of deployment, might no longer be compatible after e.g. the third ESXi update release. Updates can bring new driver versions which in turn might require higher firmware versions.

If you’re lucky you may have a software solution that keeps track of all your firmware and driver versions. Runecast Analyzer for example does a pretty good job and shows you current compatibility issues with a single click. Furthermore you can simulate updates/upgrades to any higher vSphere version and the resulting HCL status.

Unfortunately many customers do not have a software solution like that. In these cases you need to go back to the roots (literally) and gather all information on the ESXi shell. To do so you need to enable SSH service on all hosts you want to verify. That can be done in the vSphere-Client or more elegant and faster by a PowerCLI command.

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