Cisco UCS Palo and EMC PowerPath VE Incompatibility

******UPDATE****** There is a new VMware driver out that corrects this incompatibility. You can download it here

I came across a much unexpected incompatibility this week between Cisco UCS VIC M81KR (Palo) and PowerPath VE.

I was implementing Cisco Nexus 1000v and EMC PowerPath VE on Cisco UCS blades with the new Cisco UCS VIC M81KR Virtual Interface Card (Palo). We did the Nexus 1000v implementation first and that went flawlessly. Being able to present 4 10G vNICs to the UCS blade with Palo makes for a very easy and trouble free Nexus 1000v  install because you don’t have to put the ESX Service Console in the Nexus 1000v vNetwork Distributed Switch.

After the Nexus 1000v was complete we moved on to PowerPath V/E. This environment was already using PowerPath VE on their other UCS blades but those have the Menlo mezzanine cards with the QLogic HBA chip set. We were expecting this piece of the project to be the easiest because with PowerPath V/E you install it on each ESX host, license it and then that is it. There is zero configuration with PowerPath VE on ESX.

So we downloaded the latest PowerPath VE build from Powerlink (5.4 sp1). We then configured an internal vCenter Update Manager patch repository so that we could deploy PowerPath V/E with VUM. After we deployed PowerPath VE to the first host we noticed in the vSphere client that the LUNs were still owned by NMP. At first I thought maybe it was because it wasn’t licensed yet but then I remembered on the other PowerPath VE installs I did that PowerPath should already own the SAN LUNs.

I SSHed into the host and looked at the vmkwarning log file and sure enough there were lots of these warnings and errors.

WARNING: ScsiClaimrule: 709: Path vmhba2:C0:T1:L20 is claimed by plugin NMP, but current claimrule number 250 indicates that it should be claimed by plugin PowerPath.

vmkernel: 0:00:00:50.369 cpu8:4242)ALERT: PowerPath: EmcpEsxLogEvent: Error:emcp:MpxEsxPathClaim: MpxRecognize failed

It took us a few minutes but then we realized it was probably an incompatibility between Palo and PowerPath VE. We opened both a Cisco TAC and EMC support case on the issue and sure enough there is an incompatibility between the current ESX Palo driver and PowerPath VE. Cisco TAC provided us a beta updated fnic ESX driver for us to test but said that it wasn’t production ready.

We tested the new driver and that fixed the issue. PowerPath VE was then able to claim the SAN LUNs. Since the driver is beta and not fully tested by VMware we are going to hold off using it. Cisco didn’t give us date as to when the driver would be released. I imagine that once VMware gives it their blessing they will post it to the vCenter Update manager repository and it can be installed from there. Cisco may even have it out sooner as a single driver download from their UCS downloads page.

Since both the UCS Palo and PowerPath VE are part of vBlock I am very surprised this wasn’t already tested by Cisco, VMware and EMC. Oh well I know Cisco will have this fixed soon so it isn’t that big of a deal.


How to Enable CDP On Cisco UCS vNICs

If you are familiar with managing VMware ESX 3.5/4.x in an environment that includes Cisco LAN switches then you have probably used “CDP listen state” that is enabled by default on an ESX install. To view this information in vCenter select an ESX host, go to the configuration tab in the right pane, select the Networking link and then click on the little blue call out box next to a vmnic that is uplinked to a vSwitch. A pop-up window opens displaying the CDP information. The information can be invaluable when troubleshooting networking issues. You can determine which switch/switch port the NIC is plugged into, native VLAN and other useful information. This is also a great way to verify that your vSwitch uplinks are going to 2 different physical switches (if you have that option).





As I stated earlier the default CDP configuration on an ESX vSwitch is the listen only state. I have found that the network engineers find it very useful if you configure CDP to advertise as well. When you enable this on a vSwitch the network engineer can issue the “show cdp neighbors” command from the IOS command line and witch switch ports each ESX vmnic is plugged into. This can also be very useful when you and the network engineer are troubleshooting network issues with ESX.


To configure CDP to advertise run this command from the ESX console or from an SSH session.

“esxcfg-vswitch -B both vSwitch0”

To check the state of the CDP configuration run this command..

“esxcfg-vswitch -b vSwitch0”

Note – you must enable CDP on all vSwitches if you want to see every vmnic from the switch side.

If you are using a VMware vNetwork Distributed Switch then you can configure the CDP state from the vCenter GUI. To do this go to the edit settings on the dvSwitch and then go to Advanced.




Ok, now to the point of configuring all of this on Cisco UCS blades.

By default the vNICs in Cisco UCS have CDP listen and advertise turned off. You can see this from an ESX host that is running on a UCS blade by clicking on the little blue call out box. When the pop-up opens it states that Cisco Discovery Protocol is not available.




To enable CDP the first thing you must do is to create a new Network Control policy. To do this go to the LAN tab in UCSM, expand Policies, right-click Network Control Policies to create a new policy. Name it something like “Enable-CDP” and select the option to enable CDP.




The next step is to apply the new policy to the ESX vNICs. If you are using updating vNIC templates then all you need to do is go to each vNIC template for your ESX vNICs select the new policy from the Network Control Policy drop down. If you are not using vNIC templates but you are using an updating Service Profile Template then you can enable it there. If you are using one-off Service Profiles are a non-updating Service Profile then you must go to every Service Profile and enable this new policy on every vNIC.








Now when you click the call-out box you should see the CDP information coming from the Fabric Interconnect that you are plugged into.