There are more blogs, columns, and general sources of supposedly authoritative server management data available online than it is possible for any, even marginally sane, administrator to keep track of. If you’re lucky, you can limit yourself to a few useful blogs and one or two good news sources, and stay relatively informed while still having enough time to keep your site up and running. For me, a quick read through The Register usually manages to hit the daily high points with enough snark to keep it entertaining and enough links back to the source material to provide the background details.
If you’re a Microsoft shop, then you may already have a list of sites to check sometime around the second Tuesday of every month to get the details on the latest round of monthly patches. Of course, not just the Microsoft patch announcements, but also the third party reviews of which patches you really need, and the after the fact review of which patches ended up causing problems.
While Microsoft has regularly scheduled monthly patches, and issues patches out of cycle for only really serious issues, VMware has a KB Digest with weekly issue summaries. If you have a VMware installation to keep running, in addition to the KB Digest, you should also bookmark the VMware Support Insider blog. This VMware support blog posts video tutorials, announcements, and the all-important articles tagged with “Alert”. Although, they might want to modify their tag cloud a bit – the three links currently listed on the first line read out: “Alert Development Disaster”. (To which the jaded sysadmin response is, “what else is new?”)
In general, the KB articles tagged as alerts in VMware Support Insider tend to be manageable. For instance, Increased restart times with vCenter Server 5.1, or Cannot upload log files using Support Assistant aren’t going to crash your VMware hosts. However, rather infrequently, there will be an advisory that includes a “contact VMware Support” link in <h4> tags, and that’s when you need to pay close attention.
A post from 9/20 was titled: ALERT: vSphere Replication 5.1 fails after automatic upgrade, and included the previously mentioned <h4> Support Contact link. The issue is that vSphere Replication 5.5 is not compatible with 5.1 Replication, which could result in replication failure, and if vSphere Replication is set to automatically update, you could inadvertently end up with just such a mixed environment. And, of course, as soon as replication fails, there is an unwritten rule of sysadmin karma that will cause a hardware failure on at least one of your hosts. (Or maybe that’s just karma for me with power failures and Solaris servers, allowing me to rediscover the wonders of fsck).
The alert’s recommendation is to set vSphere Replication to No Automatic Updates, which you may well have already done on general principles. If you find yourself with a mixed 5.5/5.1 vSphere Replication environment, then follow the link in the alert, and let VMware safely back you out to 5.1.
If anyone has any useful links to VMware support blogs and sites they find themselves returning to on a regular basis, please post them in the comments section.