iovDisableIR change in ESXi 6.0 U2 P04 causing PSOD on HPE Servers – Updated

So we have had an ‘interesting’ issue at work on the past few weeks!

We have had Gen8 / Gen9 blades in our environment randomly crashing over the last month. We had originally been sent down what seems an incorrect path, however seem we are on the right track now!

Symptoms

HP BL460c Gen8 and Gen9 blades with v2 / v3 processors, would randomly crash. There was no specific cause for them but it seemed to be more prevalent in higher I/O periods such as backups running. It started out that PSODs looked like this:

After logging a call with VMware, we were led down a path that the mlx4_core error in the above screenshot was causing the issue. After further investigation, it turned out that after upgrading from vSphere 5.5 to vSphere 6.0 (using VUM) there were mlx4 drivers left behind – which is what was causing the ‘jumpstart dependancy error’. Once we removed the bad 5.5 VIBs all was well.

The root cause as to why the 5.5 drivers remained after the 6.0 install, is because whilst the driver was present in the HP utilities bundle for 6.0 – the driver version was not revised, so VUM just ignored this! We have run into this before, and fed back to HP that even if the driver is the ‘same’, the version should be revised (and particularly incremented) to ensure the driver gets updated. This is not an issue if you use a fresh-install of vSphere 6.0.

So – we fixed this across the environment (along with some other VIBs – more on this later) and hoped this would be the end of it. 2 days later, we get further PSODs but this time without the mlx4 dependancy error!

Back to square one. We updated logs with VMware, and this time opened a case with HP – as it’s technically reporting LINT1 / NMI hardware errors. Cue 3 days later, and finally get some solid information back – a very interesting discovery!

HP recommended this customer advisory – One I have seen before and a long time back. Strange to me as we have never seen this issue before, and it’s not a setting we change as standard. There was also a specific error called out in the advisory which we had asked for confirmation this was in the logs:

ALERT: APIC: 1823: APICID 0x00000000 – ESR = 0x40.

Anyhow – the most crucial piece that the HP L2 tech informed us, is that ESXi 6.0 Patch ESXi600-201611401-BG changed the setting in the HP customer advisory from a default of false to true.

After running a script in PowerCLI – it appears that is certainly the case, all the hosts we had running ESXi 6.0 Build 4600944 had the iovDisableIR setting set to TRUE (so it is disabled). This is causing the PSODs according to HP.

Digging a little further, the iovDisableIR is a parameter which handles IRQ Interrupt remapping. This is a feature developed by Intel to improve performance. According to VMware this feature had it’s issues originally – particularly with certain Intel chipsets so recommend disabling it in certain circumstances. However HP do support this and infect per their advisory recommend this is enabled to prevent PSODs. The interesting piece – is where the VMware KB (1030265) linked from the HP Customer Advisory states that the error may occur with QLogic HBAs. This is the HBA we use for our FC storage in the environment, but also explains why we have not seen PSODs in our Rackmounts (were they use Direct or SAS attached storage). But – On our Gen9 hardware, we have not seen PSODs, instead the QLogic HBA failing, or the host just rebooting, so I believe these are related to the above setting.

So – to resolve this, we need to do the following across all our hosts running ESXi 6.0 Build 4600944 (I have also had word this is also the same in the ESXi 6.5 release):

esxcli system settings kernel set –setting=iovDisableIR -v FALSE

This requires a reboot to take effect. To determine if the host is affected, you can use the following PowerCLI script to gather a report of the current setting.

We are awaiting further information from HP/VMware who are now collaborating on our cases to determine the root cause and why this was changed (and is attributed), however have rolled this setting out across our blade environment and will continue to monitor. I will update this post when we know more!

*** Update 15th Feb ***

VMware have now released a KB article on this issue.
VMware KB (2149043)

Word of Warning:

We did some digging on this setting, and found that iovDisableIR has been Disabled (set to TRUE) on the ESXi 6.5 initial release. It does not appear to be configured unique to HP Custom ISO’s