Correcting the permissions on the folder with VHDS files & checkpoints for host level Hyper-V guest cluster backups

Introduction

It’s not a secret that while guest clustering with VHDSets works very well. We’ve had some struggles in regards to host level backups however. Right now I leverage Veeam Agent for Windows (VAW) to do in guest backups. The most recent versions of VAW support Windows Failover Clustering. I’d love to leverage host level backups but I was struggling to make this reliable for quite a while. As it turned out recently there are some virtual machine permission issues involved we need to fix. Both Microsoft and Veeam have published guidance on this in a KB article. We automated correcting the permissions on the folder with VHDS files & checkpoints for host level Hyper-V guest cluster backup

The KB articles

Early August Microsoft published KB article with all the tips when thins fail Errors when backing up VMs that belong to a guest cluster in Windows. Veeam also recapitulated on the needed conditions and setting to leverage guest clustering and performing host level backups. The Veeam article is Backing up Hyper-V guest cluster based on VHD set. Read these articles carefully and make sure all you need to do has been done.

For some reason another prerequisite is not mentioned in these articles. It is however discussed in ConfigStoreRootPath cluster parameter is not defined and here https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/powershell/module/hyper-v/set-vmhostcluster?view=win10-ps You will need to set this to make proper Hyper-V collections needed for recovery checkpoints on VHD Sets. It is a very unknown setting with very little documentation.

But the big news here is fixing a permissions related issue!

The latest addition in the list of attention points is a permission issue. These permissions are not correct by default for the guest cluster VMs shared files. This leads to the hard to pin point error.

Error Event 19100 Hyper-V-VMMS 19100 ‘BackupVM’ background disk merge failed to complete: General access denied error (0x80070005). To fix this issue, the folder that holds the VHDS files and their snapshot files must be modified to give the VMMS process additional permissions. To do this, follow these steps for correcting the permissions on the folder with VHDS files & checkpoints for host level Hyper-V guest cluster backup.

Determine the GUIDS of all VMs that use the folder. To do this, start PowerShell as administrator, and then run the following command:

get-vm | fl name, id
Output example:
Name : BackupVM
Id : d3599536-222a-4d6e-bb10-a6019c3f2b9b

Name : BackupVM2
Id : a0af7903-94b4-4a2c-b3b3-16050d5f80f

For each VM GUID, assign the VMMS process full control by running the following command:
icacls <Folder with VHDS> /grant “NT VIRTUAL MACHINE\<VM GUID>”:(OI)F

Example:
icacls “c:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\SharedClusterDisk” /grant “NT VIRTUAL MACHINE\a0af7903-94b4-4a2c-b3b3-16050d5f80f2”:(OI)F
icacls “c:\ClusterStorage\Volume1\SharedClusterDisk” /grant “NT VIRTUAL MACHINE\d3599536-222a-4d6e-bb10-a6019c3f2b9b”:(OI)F

My little PowerShell script

As the above is tedious manual labor with a lot of copy pasting. This is time consuming and tedious at best. With larger guest clusters the probability of mistakes increases. To fix this we write a PowerShell script to handle this for us.

Below is an example of the output of this script. It provides some feedback on what is happening.

Correcting the permissions on the folder with VHDS files & checkpoints for host level Hyper-V guest cluster backup

Correcting the permissions on the folder with VHDS files & checkpoints for host level Hyper-V guest cluster backup

PowerShell for the win. This saves you some searching and typing and potentially making some mistakes along the way. Have fun. More testing is underway to make sure things are now predictable and stable. We’ll share our findings with you.

Collect cluster nodes with HBA WWN info

Introduction

Below is a script that I use to collect cluster nodes with HBA WWN info. It grabs the cluster nodes and their HBA (virtual ports) WWN information form an existing cluster. In this example the nodes have Fibre Channel (FC) HBAs. It works equally well for iSCSI HBA or other cards. You can use the collected info in real time. As an example I also demonstrate writing and reading the info to and from a CSV.

This script comes in handy when you are replacing the storage arrays. You’ll need that info to do the FC zoning for example.  And to create the cluster en server object with the correct HBA on the new storage arrays if it allows for automation. As a Hyper-V cluster admin you can grab all that info from your cluster nodes without the need to have access to the SAN or FC fabrics. You can use it yourself and hand it over to those handling them, who can use if to cross check the info they see on the switch or the old storage arrays.

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Script to collect cluster nodes with HBA WWN info

The script demos a single cluster but you could use it for many. It collects the cluster name, the cluster nodes and their Emulex HBAs. It writes that information to a CSV files you can read easily in an editor or Excel.

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The scripts demonstrates reading that CSV file and parsing the info. That info can be used in PowerShell to script the creation of the cluster and server objects on your SAN and add the HBAs to the server objects. I recently used it to move a bunch of Hyper-V and File clusters to a new DELLEMC SC Series storage arrays. That has the DELL Storage PowerShell SDK. You might find it useful as an example and to to adapt for your own needs (iSCSI, brand, model of HBA etc.).

Does the DELL VRTX Support Storage Spaces anno 2018?

Some one asked on my blog if the DELL VRTX supported Storage Spaces. It’s 2018 and when I wrote about the VRTX it was mainly as a Cluster in a Box (CiB) solution. This is based on a shared SAS raid controller. The addition of a second controller improved the redundancy (past the write-through requirement as we had in 2014) even though I would really like to see a native in bow redundant network solution here as well. Whether this is suitable for your need is something only you can determine.

Bus as far as a support for Microsoft Shared Storage Spaces or Storage Spaces goes that isn’t there and I would advise against it. A storage controller configuration (pass-through) for the DELL Technologies VRTX series that supported any form of Storage Spaces never came. While with 2 Nodes and the VRTX supporting two storage controller this would theoretically be possible. But with 3 or 4 nodes (The VRXT supports up to 4 nodes) that’s another challenge.

While I have liked the idea and suggested it even as a possible path it has never materialized. If S2D, especially in combination with ReFSv3 or beyond, becomes so immensely popular, they might consider it, but for now it’s not something I see happen and they might very choose other offerings to serve that demand anyway, one with a better design for the separate pass-through capable storage controllers.

As a cluster in a box solution the VRTX does hold merit. As said, I’d love to see a few improvements made to make it fully redundant all in box. With a ruggedized version for industrial or highly mobile environments could make an unbeatable offering.

DISCLAIMER: I don’t work for DELL, I don’t get paid by DELL, I don’t speak for DELL. This is my current independent opinion.

Latency kills

Introduction

I was investigating a very problematic Windows Server 2016 Hyper-V cluster. That cluster was just performing horribly. “Everything” was hanging, stalling, crashing and RHS.exe errors where flying around while WER dumps got created by the dozen. Things were extremely slow up to the points functionality was just failing. The “fun” thing was that the cluster validation wizard while slow gave that cluster a big thumb up and a supported status as all was well.

Prying around

Time to pry around a bit and see if we could find something wrong. We save live migrations stall, fail, last forever in pending or get stuck at a certain percentage, sometimes finally succeeding with ridiculous blackout times. We could not open up virtual machine properties or very slowly. The FCI GUI was highly unresponsive but so was the Hyper-V Manager GUI or even PowerShell. Those were hanging at even loading the virtual machines or enumerating them with Get-VM. Everything was slow to the point it timed out or crashed. Restarting the services (Cluster, Hyper-V) didn’t do anything and restarting VMMS was super slow or just got stuck. It was a depressing sight for which people tended to blame Hyper-V / Microsoft.

As the title gives away it was latency. Not just ordinary high latency. Real bad latency. That kind of latency kills. Extreme latency produces symptoms that are similar to bugs or corrupt components of roles and features. We have a tendency to look at those first in the event logs and then we look at the network and its usual suspects (VMQ, SET, DCB). But nothing pointed to an issue that I could find.

So, storage maybe?Well we did find one Hyper-V host in the cluster with one HBA port producing too many error so we disabled that FC port for testing. No joy the Hyper-V cluster after a clean reboot of all nodes remained problematic. So on to the storage array itself.

Well holy smoke! On the two volumes for CSV in those cluster we saw latencies that were so bad I could not even believe a single VM would boot. It actually made my appreciation for Hyper-V and clustering grow as it managed to do at least a couple of things. With such latencies I would expect the services to just crash & call it a day.

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The horrific latency on one of the CSV LUNs.

Looking at the logs we saw that the latencies occurred on the FC HBAs of the controllers. Each one above 50ms, peaking to 150-250ms and one huge peak at almost 500ms. We saw this on all four HBA’s.

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The latency on one of the 4 FC HBA’s on one of the controllers. Not a good day. All HBAs had high latencies like this.

The issues were not at the host level (host HBA’s) or not even at the IOPS/bandwidth level of the storage itself. The latency for some reason was spiking. Further investigation lead to the conclusion that the issue was related to synchronous replication going totally wrong. Moving the replication mode to asynchronous fixed that. We’re now investigating why this happened and how to prevent this from happening again. But that’s another story.

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Latency on one of the 4 FC HBAs on one of the controllers after we fixed the issue.

Do not assume anything

So, there you go. Everything depends on everything in some direct or indirect way. It’s all connected and that my friends, is why I’m a proponent of “service resilience engineering” where the responsible team owns the entire stack. That’s is how you can act fast.