Automate VMware Knowledge Base Analysis

runecastlogo Knowledge Base Analysis

Knowledge Base Searching… Automated!

WARNING THIS IS NOT A FREE TOOL!!!
BUT THERE IS A FREE TRIAL

VMware is an industry leader in a lot of areas but one place they really excel is their public Knowledge Base (KB) offering. They have one of the most extensive KB repositories publicly available from any major tech firm. All you typically need is an error code and access to Google to get several KB articles which contain relevant information to your issue. However, anyone who has tried this method will know that it leads to a lot of dead ends. Nothing is more frustrating to admins than chasing a dead end…

Enter Runecast! I had a great opportunity to meet with the founder of this startup at VMworld 2016 in Las Vegas. After speaking for a few minutes with founder and CEO Stanimir Markov it was easy to see the gap they were trying to fill and the potential the product has. To that end, Runecast has a simple mantra “Prevent issues and regain free time”.

If you are a VMware admin then issue prevention is top of the list. Just look at the myriad of technologies baked into the platform that work specifically toward that goal! HA, DRS, Clustered hosts, EVC mode, one could argue the entire stack is designed with this in mind. VMware admins also deal with the junk that is endemic with any technology platform. Driver mismatch, security holes, known issues lists hidden behind walls of text buried in a ReadMe.txt long deleted.

Getting started

Head over to Runecast‘s website and fill out their Free Trial registration (https://www.runecast.biz/). Once a trial account has been created, access the profile page to download the OVA and the User Guide.

The Runecast profile page has everything you need to get started.
The Runecast profile page has everything you need to get started.

Open the vSphere Web Client and import the OVA:

  1. Right Click on the vCenter Server and select Deploy OVF Template
    2016-10-07-13_47_01-vsphere-web-client
  2. Choose the Local File radio button and browse to your RCapp_OVF10.ova file download
    2016-10-07-13_49_22-vsphere-web-client
  3. Ensure you have the space requirements needed and accept the EULA (you read it right?)
    2016-10-07-13_51_18-vsphere-web-client
  4. Specify a destination
    2016-10-07-13_53_39-vsphere-web-client
  5. Choose a resource to place them on (host or cluster)
    2016-10-07-13_55_37-vsphere-web-client
  6. Determine which Datastore to store the VM on, Thin Provisioning worked well for me2016-10-07-13_58_40-vsphere-web-client
  7. Select the virtual network, this needs to talk to vCenter so ensure it is on a network which allows that communication
    2016-10-07-13_58_40-vsphere-web-client
  8. Provide a Linux host name or FQDN and network settings if static is desired over DHCP
    2016-10-07-14_02_06-vsphere-web-client 
  9. Confirm your choices and check the box next to Power on after deployment
    2016-10-07-14_05_20-vsphere-web-client
  10. Wait for the OVA process to complete and the VM to boot

Configuration

Now that the VM has been created it can be configured and connected to vCenter to start the analysis. Download the User Guide from the profile page for in depth details. Make sure that the following ports are open between the Runecast VM and vCenter: 443, 5988, 5989. Also make sure that UDP port 514 is open between ESXi hosts and Runecast.

  1. Open a web browser and navigate to the Runecast VM. If you did not set a static IP then find the IP by looking at the summary for the VM in vSphere or travel to the FQDN created during OVA setup. The URL is https://applianceIP:31415/rc2
    Default User: rcuser
    Default Password: Runecast!
    2016-10-07-14_20_32-login-to-runecast
  2. The Dashboard will be blank at this point as there are no current connections. Click the Settings gear icon found in the top right navigation bar
    2016-10-07-14_22_08-runecast-_-web-client
  3. Runecast will need an account to connect to vCenter. It is best to use only the privileges required when connecting third party systems to vCenter as to prevent them from making unexpected changes or causing issues. According to the Runecast User Guide the account used will need to following permissions:
    • Minimum Required – 
      • Read Only
      • Host -> CIM -> CIM Integration
      • Host -> Configuration -> Change Settings
    • Required for auto ESXi syslog configuration –
      • Host -> Configuration -> Advanced settings
      • Host -> Configuration -> Security profile and firewall
    • Required for auto VM syslog configration –
      • Virtual Machine -> Configuration -> Advanced
  4. Now that an account is in place on vCenter we can add the settings to Runecast. Enter the information for vCenter along with the newly created user information then Click Update. If successful it should state Enabled in green.
    2016-10-07-15_22_19-runecast-_-web-client 
  5. Setup the Automatic Scheduler to analyze your infrastructure weekly (you can manually analyze anytime with the click of a button from the Dashboard too)
    2016-10-07-15_44_14-runecast-_-web-client 
  6. All that is left is to sit back and wait for the analysis to complete! Runecast will scan your running configs against thousands of KBs, best practices, and hardening guide. Then it will provide actionable data on how to resolve issues that it sees in the configuration. Make sure to THINK about the changes before you make them, not everything is one-size fits all!!! Not everyone’s environment is going to or can completely agree with VMware’s best practices.
    2016-10-07-11_14_50-runecast-_-web-client

    Clicking on an issue category will allow you to see each issue in a list. They are split into three groups Critical, Major, and Moderate. Clicking on a particular issue will allow you to see the KB information as well as the reference URL in Details. Under the Findings tab you will see which items in your infrastructure are in violation of the analyzed issue:
    2016-10-07-15_53_32-clipboard

    Instead of spending hours on Google or even worse on the phone with tech support you can see these possible issues before they bite you, and you can take care of them on your own schedule.

DISCLAIMER:

Stanimir Markov was kind enough to provide me with a 1 year full license to the Runecast product for free at VMworld as a part of their support for the vExpert program. I thought it was cool enough to blog about after playing around with it. I hope you share my sentiment.

 

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