Backing up a VM with a PCIe device attached to it with Veeam

In a previous post I talked about installing a Quadro P620 into my ESXi host so I could attach it to my Plex VM. This worked out great except my Veeam backups started failing.

There is a limitation in VMware vSphere where you can’t take a Snapshot of a VM with a PCIe device passed through to it.

One option is to install the Veeam Agent for the OS you’re running and use it to take guest based backups. This isn’t ideal though in my opinion. I would much rather keep my host based backups of the VM. Fortunately this is a easy solution to this problem.

Shut off the VM before taking the Veeam backup and then power it back on after the backup is complete.

To get this working you need to install the VMware PowerShell Module on your Veeam server. To do this perform the following steps:

  1. Right click on the PowerShell shortcut and choose ‘Run as Administrator’
  2. Run the following commands:
  3. You should see a large list of VMware PowerShell commands output which means you’ve successfully installed the module

Next up you need to make sure your Veeam Services are running under a Service Account with the appropriate permissions in vCenter. I believe this is normally a best practice and chances are you’ve all already done this. In my case I’d installed Veeam as a local service. Don’t know why but to fix it I just flipped over the following Windows Services to run as my backup operator account which had Domain Admin, Backup Operator, Local Admin on the Veeam Server and Administrator on vSphere permissions already.

The services were:

  • Veeam Backup Enterprise Manager
  • Veeam Backup Service
  • Veeam Broker Service
  • Veeam Cloud Connect Service
  • Veeam Guest Catalog Service
  • Veeam RESTful API Service

I then rebooted my Veeam server.

I already have my vCenter service joined to my domain but I did run into an issue where single sign-on wasn’t working properly. If I attempted to connect to my vCenter server via PowerShell using “Connect-VIServer <VCENTER SERVER FQDN>” I would be prompted for credentials which shouldn’t be happening since the account I’m logged in as is an Administrator in vCenter.

Turned out I needed to add my AD Group that gives users Administrative access to the vCenter Global Permissions list:

  1. Login to vCenter as an administrator
  2. Click ‘Menu’ and ‘Administrator’
  3. Click ‘Global Permissions’
  4. Click ‘Add’
  5. Change the ‘User’ field to your domain, search for the user or security group (I recommend security groups) and select it, make sure the role is ‘Administrator’ and check ‘Propagate to children’ and click ‘Ok’

After doing this I could run “Connect-VIServer <VCENTER SERVER FQDN>” and not be prompted for credentials.

Now that all the prep-work is done we can re-configure our backup job in Veeam.

First we’re going to need two scripts, one to shutdown the VM and one to boot it back up. I’ve saved these scripts on my Veeam server in “C:\Scripts\<VM FQDN>\”

The shutdown script is “shutdown.bat”, be sure to search and replace “VCENTER FQDN” and “VM FQDN” with your values:

The startup script is “startup.bat”, be sure to search and replace “VCENTER FQDN” and “VM FQDN” with your values:

Once you’ve created these fire up the Veeam console and re-configure the VMs job:

  1. Launch Veeam
  2. Find the backup job for your VM, right click on it and choose ‘Edit’
  3. Go to ‘Storage’
  4. Click ‘Advanced’
  5. Go to ‘Scripts’
  6. Checkmark ‘Run the following script before the job:’ and select your “shutdown.bat” script
  7. Checkmark ‘Run the following script after the job:’ and select your “startup.bat” script
  8. Click ‘Ok’
  9. Click ‘Finish’
  10. Perform a test run of the job, you can monitor the start-up/shutdown in vCenter

That’s it. Minor inconvenience but it works. Hopefully vSphere 7 will allow for snapshots on VMs with pass-through devices configured.

References

Adding a Quadro P620 to my Plex VM

I currently run Plex in a CentOS 7 VM (on top of vSphere 6.7) with two 2vCPUs and 2GB of vRAM.

When I needed to transcode video to sync it to a mobile device for a trip the process takes a while and consumes a lot of CPU on the VM. I could just add more vCPUs to the VM but I have a limit on how much CPU I have to toss around and there are more efficient ways to transcode video.

I bought my Dell T340 specifically with a Xeon E-2176G CPU in it so I could take advantage of the on-board GPU to handle my transcoding work. After a bunch of back and forth with VMware, Dell and Intel it turns out that Dell did not build the T340 in a way that it can actually use the on-board GPU on my CPU. Why they offer it as a choice, I don’t know but here we are.

My next option was to purchase a video card to do the work. I did some research and came up with the Quadro P620 (specifically the PYN version) being the most affordable with the features I wanted, specifically NVENC. Added bonus, it supports HEVC (H.265) which should future-proof me for a while and allow me to eventually take advantage of this card for transcoding my Blurays to H.265, but that’s another post.

The card arrived, I installed it, enabled it for passthruough in vSphere, attached it to my Plex VM and booted it up.

I downloaded the latest nVidia driver to my VM and ran the installer (as root):

The installation was straight forward, it in fact took care of everything I needed. It automatically blacklisted the default video device for me, asked me to reboot and re-run the installer, which I did and everything almost worked.

After the drive was successfully installed I ran the nvidia tool provided with the drivers to verify things and was greeted with:

Fortunately this issue is well documented on the internet and the quick fix was to shut down the VM and make a tweak to it’s configuration. Since I have vCenter I used the GUI to solve this problem instead of downloading the VMX file, editing it and re-uploading the VMX file for the VM:

  1. Login to vCenter
  2. Right click and choose ‘Edit Settings’ on the VM
  3. Go to ‘VM Options’ and expand ‘Advanced’
  4. Click ‘Edit Configuration’
  5. Click ‘Add Configuration Params’
  6. Enter the following without quotes:
    Name: “hypervisor.cpuid.v0”
    Value: “FALSE”
  7. Click ‘Ok’
  8. Click ‘Ok’
  9. Boot up the VM

Once the VM came back up I got the output I was expecting from nvidia-smi

The last thing to do before testing was to make sure Plex was configured to use hardware transcoding:

  1. Login to your Plex’s WebUI
  2. Under ‘Settings’ click ‘Transcoder’
  3. Checkmark ‘Use hardware acceleration when avalible’
  4. Click ‘Save Changes’

I then gave things a quick test by trying to sync a TV show to my iPhone and then re-ran nvidia-smi:

Bingo, that was it. Now. How much faster was the Quadro P620 over my Xeon E-2176G, roughly 4.5x faster.

My Plex transcoding settings are:

  • Transcoder quality: Prefer higher quality encoding
  • Background transcoding x264 preset: Medium
  • Maximum simultaneous video transcode: 4

But wait you might say, why set “Maximum simultaneous video transcode” to “4”? A Quadro P620 can only do 2?

This is why, only took a few seconds as root:

 

 

Silencing my Dell T340 – Part 2

For those of you who read my Part 1 of this project you’ll remember I said I’d try installing a better CPU heat sink once I had some cash.

Well I did and it didn’t work. This post will hopefully save someone 1.5 hours of their life.

The mission was to get a Noctua NH-D15 installed in my Dell T340

The first step was to remove the existing heat sink and left over thermal compound:

First thing I wanted to do was make sure the heat sink would fit before trying to figure out the bracket.

I tried it in the recommended configuration and it does fit but I’d lose access to my bottom PCIe 8x slot.

I then rotated the heat sink 90 degrees to a less than ideal airflow path which made it possible to JUST BARELY use the bottom PCIe 8x slot.

If I were keeping the Noctua installed I’d put a strip of electrical tape long the edge of the PCIe card in the bottom slot so if the heat sink ever made contact with the card it wouldn’t blow up.

Ok, so, the heat sink appears to barely fit. Now to mount it. This is where everything went wrong.

The pre-installed CPU socket back plate is not compatible with the Noctua heat sink. I removed the motherboard and then the OEM CPU back plate which also required removing the CPU locking assembly (the arm and bracket that hold the CPU to the motherboard socket) because it was screwed into the OEM CPU back plate.

Once I had removed the OEM CPU back plate I installed the Noctua provided one and quickly realized it wasn’t going to work. The Noctua plate does not have threaded holes so I was unable to re-attach the CPU locking assembly.

At this point there was nothing more I could do, I had to re-install the original OEM CPU back plate and OEM cooler and then put everything back in the case. In theory the motherboard is raised a fair distance from the back of the T340’s case. I could have gotten some washers and nuts and attempted to re-attach the CPU locking assembly using them and the Noctua back plate but this ultimately seemed like a bad idea.

I reached out to Noctua support just to see if they had a compatible back plate. They said “no” and that their products are not compatible with this motherboard.

I’ve also reached out to Arctic, BeQuite!, CoolMaster, Corsair, Thermaltake and Zalman to see if any of them sell a compatible cooler. So far the results are:

  • Arctic – No compatible products
  • BeQuite! – No compatible products
  • CoolMaster – Didn’t read my request properly and didn’t actually answer my question
  • Corsair – No compatible products
  • Thermaltake – No response yet
  • Zalman – No response yet

I will update this post when/if the remaining companies respond to me.

I’m just going to have to live with my current solution which does an adequate job.