Kemp LoadMaster OEM Servers and Dell Firmware Updates with Lifecycle Controller

When you buy a DELL OEM based Kemp Technologies LoadMaster you might wonder who will handle the hardware updates to the server. Well Dell handles all OEM updates via its usual options and as with all LoadMasters Kemp Technologies handles the firmware update of the LoadMaster image.


Hardware wise both DELL and Kemp have been two companies that excel in support. If you can find the solution that meets your needs it’s a great choice. Combine them and it make for a great experience.  Let me share a small issue I ran into updating Kemp Loadmaster OEM Servers and Dell Firmware Updates with Lifecycle Controller

For a set of DELL R320 loadmasters in HA is was upgrading ( I not only wanted to move to 7.1-Patch28b-BARE-METAL.bin but I also wanted to take the opportunity to bring the firmware of those servers to the latest versions as that had been a while (since they had been delivered on site).

There is no OS that runs in those server,s as they are OEM hardware based appliances for the Loadmaster image. No worries these DELL servers come with DRAC & Lifecycle controllers so you can leverage those to do the firmware updates from a Server Update Utility ISO locally, via virtual media, over over the network, via FTP or a network share. FTP is either the DELL FTP Site or an internal one.



Now as I had just downloaded the  latest SUU at the time (SUU-32_15.09.200.74.ISO – for now you need to use the 32 bit installers with the life cycle controller) I decided to just mount it via the virtual media, boot to the lifecycle controller and update using local media.



But I got stuck  …

It doesn’t throw an error but it just returns to the start point and nothing can fix it. Not even adding “/repository”  to the file path . You can type the name of an individual DUP (32 bit!) and that works. Scanning the entire repository however wouldn’t move beyond step 2 “Enter Access Details”.

Scanning for an individual DUP seemed to work but leaving the file path blank while trying to find all eligible updates seemed not to return any results so I could not advance. The way I was able to solve this was by leveraging the DRAC ability to update it own firmware using the firmware image file to the most recent version. I just got mine by extracting the DUP and taking the image file from the payload sub folder.


You can read on how to upgrade DRAC / Lifecycle Controller via the DRAC here.


When you’ve done that, I give the system a reboot for good measure, and try again. I have found in all my cases fixes the issue. My take on this is that older firmware can’t handle more recent SUU repositories. So give it a try if you run into this and you’ll be well on your way to get your firmware updated. If you need help with this process DELL has excellent documentation here in “Lifecycle Controller Platform Update/Firmware Update in Dell PowerEdge 12th Generation Servers”




The end result is a fully updated DELL Server / Kemp Loadmaster. Mission accomplished. All this can be done from the comfort of your home office. A win-win for both you and your customer/employer. Think about it, it would be a shame to miss out on all the benefits you get from working in the cloud when your on premises part of a hybrid infrastructure forces you to get in a car and drive to a data center 70 km away. Especially at 21:21 at night.

Virtual Network Appliances I Use for Hyper-V Labs

When you build and maintain a test lab you’re always on the lookout for gear you can use. That’s either hardware or virtual appliances. My main concern is cost, it should work well on Hyper-V and the ability to mimic real world environments. That’s a great help for educational purposes as well as for testing and as an aid to troubles shooting. One of the nice things virtualization and now also cloud IAAS offers is the ability to run virtual storage and network appliances that allow us to have that real world look and feel. Add to that ever more software defined storage, networking and compute and we’re able to build very realistic labs. The limits we’re left with are time, money and space.

When building a lab some people tend to run into perceived limitations of their hypervisor. That’s to be expected as for many that hypervisor is just something to quickly get up and running an get to work writing code, implementing a backup solution or whatever the workload at hand is all about. The tip here is not to give up to fast.

More recently I’m build/working on a new lab setup simulating different sites. I need to route between these isolated test networks and load balance traffic in a site redundant manner. The idea was to mimic real life as well as we good. Add to that lab setup an Azure “site” and it’s fun all over. It’s all based on Hyper-V and Windows Server virtual machines but some components are not. Windows NLB has had its best day and RRAS is limited in the abilities I need to test. They can and do work fine for certain scenarios, but not for all that I need to test. I add virtual load balancers, virtual switches with the look and feel of physical ones and the same for virtual firewalls.

Now in real life you’ll be dealing with Link Aggregation Groups, Trunking, MLAG, routing, teaming … in short the tools of the trade when doing networking. One side effect of this is that on a Hyper-V host you quickly run out of physical network ports to work with. That’s not a problem, in real life your firewall or load balancer does not have 48 ports either. Often you have 4 to 8 and sometimes more, but often not, ports at your disposal and depending on the complexity that’s more than enough or not at all. Trunking & VLAN’s are the way we deal with this. In the Hyper-V GUI you will not find a way to define a trunk on an vNIC attached to a vSwitch. But this can be done via PowerShell. So please do not reject Hyper-V as not being up to the job. It is! Read about this in my blog post.

People often ask me what virtual network appliances I Use for Hyper-V Labs. This does vary over time, but there are some constants. In the lab I hate wasting time on time bombed trials. So I avoid those in favor of either fully featured solutions or I use free open source alternatives. Smart vendors provide the easiest access possible to their solutions. They realize that easy access delivers the ability to learn and test every aspect of the products which make a huge difference in the success of their offerings in the real world. When it comes to load balancers I use the KEMP Virtual Load Masters. You can read more about these in projects and lab testing  in blogs about the KEMP (Virtual) Load Master.

As an MVP I got 1 free license. Together with the ability to restore configurations I can have a pseudo permanent redundant load balancing setup. Only building labs for multi-site geo load balancing solutions requires to start from scratch every time. For routing I use VyOS, it works on both hardware and on a bunch of hypervisors with X64 bit virtual machines. When I need the look and feel of a firewall you’ll encounter in business I use Opnsense. It supports the synthetic vNICs with the enlightened Hyper-V drivers. Yup, the integration components are there.  It doesn’t boot from UEFI so no Generation 2 virtual machine support as of yet. imageimage

Another good one is IPFire. This one also does a nice job with the integration components.


I also have a DELL SonicWall in my home office where I have some ports to play with but it tends to be leveraged more for the permanent parts of the lab. It’s a crucial & permanent component.

SonicWALL NSA 220 Wireless-N Appliance

Exchange 2016 On The Horizon

With Exchange 2016 on the horizon (RTM in Q4 2015) I’ve been prepping the lab infrastructure and dusting of some parts of the Exchange 2010/2013 lab deployments to make sure I’m ready to start testing an migration to Exchange 2016. While Office 365 offers great value for money sometimes there is no option to switch over completely and a (used) hybrid scenario is the way to go.  This can be regulations, politics, laws, etc. No matter what we have to come up with a solutions that satisfy all needs as well as possible. Even in 2015 or 2016 this will mean on premises e-mail. This is no my “default” option when it comes to e-mail in anno 2015, but it’s still a valid option and choice. So they can get the best of both worlds and be compliant. Is this the least complex solution? No, but it gives them the compliancy they need and/or want. It’s not my job to push companies 100% to the cloud. That’s for the CIO to decide and for cloud vendors to market/sell. I’m in the business of helping create the best possible solution to the challenge at hand.

Figure: Exchange 2016 Architecture © Microsoft

The labs were setup to test & prepare for production deployments. It all runs on Hyper-V and it has survived upgrades of hypervisor (half of the VMs are even running on Windows Server 2016 hosts) and the conversion of the VHDX to VHDX.  These labs have been kept around for testing and trouble shooting. There are fully up to date. It’s fun to see the old 2009 test mails still sitting in some mail boxes.


Both Windows NLB and Kemp Technologies Loadmasters are used. Going forward we’ll certainly keep using the hardware load balancing solution. Oh, when it comes to load balancing, there only the best possible solution for your needs in your environment. That will determine which of the various options you have you’ll use. In Exchange 2016 that’s a will be very different from Exchange 2010 in regards to session affinity, affinity is no longer needed since Exchange 2013.image

In case you’re wondering what LoadMaster you need take a look at their sizing guides:

Another major change will be the networking. On Windows Server 2012 R2 we’ll go with a teamed 10Gbps NIC for all workloads simplifying the setup.  Storage wise one change will be the use of ReFS, especially if we can do this on Storage Spaces. The data protection you get from that combination is just awesome. Disk wise the IOPS have dropped yet even a little more so that should be OK. Now, being a geek I’m still tempted to leverage cheap / larger SSDs to give flying performance Smile. If possible at all I’d like to make it a self contained solution, so no external storage form any type of SAN / centralized storage. Just local disks. I’m eyeing the DELL R730DX for that purpose. Ample of storage, the ability to have 2 controllers and my experience with these has been outstanding.

So no virtualization? Sure where and when it makes sense and it fits in with the needs, wants and requirements of the business.  You can virtualize Exchange and it is supported. It goes without saying (serious bragging alert here) that I can make Hyper-V scale and perform like a boss.

Remote Access to the KEMP R320 LoadMaster (DELL) via DRAC Adds Value

If you have a virtual Loadmaster you gain a capability you do not have with an appliance: console access. You can have lost all network connectivity to the Loadmaster but you can still gain access over the Hyper-V console connection to the virtual machine. Virtual appliances are not the only or best choice for all environments and needs. When evaluating your options you should consider going for a bare metal solution like the DELL R320.


These are basically DELL servers and as such have a Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC) that allows for remote access independently of the production network. Great for when you need to resolve an issue where you cannot connect to the unit anymore and you’re not near the Loadmaster. It also allows for remote shutdown and start capabilities, mounting images for updates, … all the good stuff. Basically it offers all the benefits of a DELL Server with a DRAC has to offer.


That means I have an independent way into my load balancer to deal wit problems when I can no longer connect to it via the network interface or even when it is shut down. As we normally telecommute as much as possible, either from the offices, on the road or home this is a great feature to have. It sure beats driving to your data center at zero dark thirty if that is even a feasible option. image

I know that normally you put in two units for high availability but that will not cover all scenarios and if you have a data center filled with DELL PowerEdge servers that have DRAC and you cannot restore services because you cannot get to your load balancers that’s a bummer. It’s for that same reason we have IP managed PDU, OOB capabilities on the switches. The idea is to have options and be able to restore services remotely as much as possible. This is faster, cheaper and easier than going over there, so reducing that occurrence as much as possible is good. Knowledge today flies across the planet a lot faster than human being can.