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ESXi Q&A Boot Options – USB, SD, & HD

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Here are some of my notes around boot options for ESXi.

The post covers a lot of information especially around booting to SD or USB.

Enjoy!

What are the Options to install ESXi?

  • Interactive ESXi Installation
  • Scripted ESXi Installation
  • vSphere Auto Deploy ESXi Installation Option – vSphere 5 Only
  • Customizing Installations with ESXi Image Builder CLI – vSphere 5 Only

 

What are the boot media options for ESXi Installs?

The following boot media are supported for the ESXi installer:

  • Boot from a CD/DVD
  • Boot from a USB flash drive.
  • PXE boot from the network. PXE Booting the ESXi Installer
  • Boot from a remote location using a remote management application.

     

What are the acceptable targets to install/boot ESXi to and are there any dependencies?

ESXi 5.0 supports installing on and booting from the following storage systems:

  • SATA disk drives – SATA disk drives connected behind supported SAS controllers or supported on-board SATA controllers.
    • Note -ESXi does not support using local, internal SATA drives on the host server to create VMFS datastores that are shared across multiple ESXi hosts.
  • Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) disk drives. Supported for installing ESXi 5.0 and for storing virtual machines on VMFS partitions.
  • Dedicated SAN disk on Fibre Channel or iSCSI
  • USB devices. Supported for installing ESXi 5.0. For a list of supported USB devices, see the VMware Compatibility Guide at http://www.vmware.com/resources/compatibility.

 

Storage Requirements for ESXi 5.0 Installation

  • Installing ESXi 5.0 requires a boot device that is a minimum of 1GB in size.
  • When booting from a local disk or SAN/iSCSI LUN, a 5.2GB disk is required to allow for the creation of the VMFS volume and a 4GB scratch partition on the boot device.
  • If a smaller disk or LUN is used, the installer will attempt to allocate a scratch region on a separate local disk.
  • If a local disk cannot be found the scratch partition, /scratch, will be located on the ESXi host ramdisk, linked to /tmp/scratch.
  • You can reconfigure /scratch to use a separate disk or LUN. For best performance and memory optimization, VMware recommends that you do not leave /scratch on the ESXi host ramdisk.
    • To reconfigure /scratch, see Set the Scratch Partition from the vSphere Client.
    • Due to the I/O sensitivity of USB and SD devices the installer does not create a scratch partition on these devices. As such, there is no tangible benefit to using large USB/SD devices as ESXi uses only the first 1GB.
    • When installing on USB or SD devices, the installer attempts to allocate a scratch region on an available local disk or datastore.
    • If no local disk or datastore is found, /scratch is placed on the ramdisk. You should reconfigure /scratch to use a persistent datastore following the installation.

10 Great things to know about Booting ESXi from USB –  http://blogs.vmware.com/esxi/2011/09/booting-esxi-off-usbsd.html   <<< This is worth a read should clear up a LOT of questions….

How do we update a USB Boot Key?

It would follow the same procedure as any install or upgrades, to the infrastructure it acts all the same.

Can an ESXi Host access USB devices ie. Can an External USB Hard Disk be connected directly to the ESXi Host for copying of data?

  • Yes this can be done, see the KB below – ‘Accessing USB storage and other USB devices from the service console’
  • However the technology that supports USB device pass-through from an ESX/ESXi host to a virtual machine does not support simultaneous USB device connections from USB pass-through and from the service console.
  • This means the host is in either Pass Through (to the VM) or service console mode.

References –

vSphere 5 Documentation Center (Mainly Under ‘vSphere Installation and Setup’)

http://pubs.vmware.com/vsphere-50/index.jsp?topic=/com.vmware.vsphere.install.doc_50/GUID-33C3E7D5-20D0-4F84-B2E3-5CD33D32EAA8.html

 

Installing ESXi Installable onto a USB drive or SD flash card

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1020655

 

USB support for ESX/ESXi 4.1 and ESXi 5.0

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=ex&bbid=TSEBB_1297203662351&url=&stateId=0 0 319975740&dialogID=319971446&docTypeID=DT_KB_1_1&externalId=1022290&sliceId=1&rfId=

 

VMware support for USB/SD devices used for installing VMware ESXi

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?language=en_US&cmd=displayKC&externalId=1010574

 

Installing ESXi 5.0 on a supported USB flash drive or SD flash card

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=2004784&sliceId=1&docTypeID=DT_KB_1_1&dialogID=319971409&stateId=0 0 319975522

 

Accessing USB storage and other USB devices from the service console

http://kb.vmware.com/selfservice/microsites/search.do?cmd=displayKC&docType=kc&externalId=1023976&sliceId=1&docTypeID=DT_KB_1_1&dialogID=319971551&stateId=0 0 319979288


 

Whitebox ESXi 5.x Diskless install

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I wanted to build a simple diskless ESXi 5.x server that I could use as an extension to my Workstations 8 LAB.

Here’s the build I completed today….

  • Antec Sonata Gen I Case (Own, Buy for ~$59)
  • Antec Earth Watts 650 PS (Own, Buy for ~$70)
  • MSI Z68MS-G45(B3) Rev 3.0 AKA MS-7676 (currently $59 at Fry’s)
  • Intel i7-2600 CPU LGA 1155 (Own, Buy for ~$300)
  • 16GB DDR3-1600 Corsair RAM (Own, Buy for ~$80)
  • Intel PCIe NIC (Own, Buy for ~$20)
  • Super Deluxe VMware 1GB USB Stick (Free!)
  • Classy VMware Sticker on front (Free)

Total Build Cost New — $590

My total Cost as I already owned the Hardware – $60 J

ESXi Installation –

  • Installed ESXi 5.0 via USB CD ROM to the VMware 1GB USB Stick
  • No install issues
  • All NIC’s and video recognized
  • It’s a very quiet running system that I can use as an extension from my Workstation 8 Home lab…
Front View with Nice VMware Sticker!
Rear View with 1GB VMware USB Stick
System Board with CPU, RAM and NIC – Look Mom no Hard Disks!
Model Detail on the MSI System board, ESXi reports the Mobo as a MS-7676

VMworld 2012 – Public Voting Now Open – Vote for my sessions!

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For the first time I submitted sessions for VMworld 2012.

Please support me by going to vmworld.com and voting for my sessions…

Please visit VMworld 2012

vExpert 2012 – Four years in a row!

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I was fortunate enough these past weeks to be elected as a vExpert for 2012 based on my blogging, virtualization community involvement, and leading the Advanced Technology Network Groups (ATNG).

Thank you very much to Alex Maier, John Troyer, and the internal vExpert staff for doing a fine job with this program. I’m proud and flatter to be part of this great program as it has so many prodigious virtualization folk as members.

Looking forward to 2012-2013:

Blog —

Recently (06/2011) my role has changed from end-user to employee at VMware and blogging material has become a bit more narrowed. I can’t exactly blog about my customers, that is strictly taboo and I have too much respect for them to do so. Finding good content to blog has proven to be a bit more of a challenge. However I still strive to keep an open mind and I know I will find my ultimate niche eventually.

ATNG —

ATNG has been a great group and it has been a blast running it. The foundation members have changed since the original charter and we’re finding it a bit harder to meet, but still there is a desire to be a group that meets regularly and talk technology not sales… (More info – www.atngroups.com)

This Year what will I be up to? —

I am asking myself what will next year bring for me in the way of sustaining a vExpert into 2013? I do know this… I will keep my blog up, I will keep ATNG growing, I will organize a give back event in Phoenix, and I’m always glad to help out Phoenix VMUG (if they need me). If this qualifies me as a vExpert for next 2013 then great, if not no worries I know I’ve done my part J

 

Thanks for reading… Feel free to comment as I always enjoy reading your feedback and suggestions!

PS – If you want to know more about the vExpert program, check it out here > http://communities.vmware.com/docs/DOC-18314

 

Book Review – “Critical VMware Mistakes You Should Avoid – Larry Loucks”

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On a plane flight to and from California (~4 Hours) I took some time to do a quick read. The book I read was “Critical VMware Mistakes You Should Avoid” by Larry Loucks, and the length 128 Pages. This book documents mistakes made by others and how to avoid them. It does a pretty decent job of this and it documents the issues and solutions in an orderly manner. I can see how this book is an eye opener for some. It gives you enough awareness to start looking for issues brought up and some references to follow.

Here is my take on this book…

Beginner – You’re going to love this book, it is a great primer into the main issues around virtualization. I would recommend it for beginners and even up to CxO’s.

Intermediate – You’ll find some “hey I didn’t know that” and occasionally you might think “I understand what they mean, but I have to tweak what he’s saying to match my environments design”. I would only recommend this book if you need a refresher or basic reference guide to remind you about issues.

Advanced – You will be bored by this book, recommend it to beginners and help the community grow.

 

The book makes great points about the types of users he has encountered – You get thrown into virtualization, you start out great, but then issues arise, consultants come in to solve issues, some write books about their experiences (hence this book), and everyone learns in the end. In running a VMUG for a few years I’ve talked with my fair share of new users. Occasionally thinking “You did what?” but the point is we all were there at one time, we all learned, and so did our knowledge around virtualization. If your one of those advanced users remember this and help others learn. I see this book as a helping hand and a beginners starting guide that is well written and will help others learn.

Great Job Larry… and thanks for giving back to the virtualization community!

Never assume Windows 2008 is Aligned out of the box

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I hear this topic come up from MANY and I mean MANY VMware folk. When I say VMware folk, I mean just about every person who interfaces with the product – Yes it’s that many

I believe it is a common misconception that Windows 2008 is aligned out of the box.

*The crowd goes silent as a distance ‘Ahh..’ and ‘No’ silently streams through the audience*

I also believe that Windows 2008 has a better chance of being aligned out of the box then most – But Don’t Trust it.

Still don’t believe me? Then read this from the horse’s mouth…

http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/dd758814(v=sql.100).aspx  << Look for the topic “Partition Alignment in Windows Operating Systems”

From the above Microsoft link about alignment –

Partition Alignment in Windows Operating Systems

The way partition alignment works depends on the version of Windows being used and the version in which the partition alignment was created. The following sections describe how partition alignment works in Windows Server 2008, the Windows Vista® operating system, and Windows Server 2003 and earlier.

Windows Server 2008 and Windows Vista: New Partitions

In Windows Vista as well as Windows Server 2008, partition alignment is usually performed by default. The default for disks larger than 4 GB is 1 MB; the setting is configurable and is found in the registry at the following location:

HKLM\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\VDS\Alignment

However, if OEM setups are delivered (for example, with recovery partitions), even fresh installations of Windows Server 2008 having partitions with undesirable partition starting offsets have been observed.

Whatever the operating system, confirm that new partitions are properly aligned.

I’m guessing at this point you still have doubt… But wait here’s more proof… I’ve seen misalignment in production environments… *No Way – Yes Way*

https://vmexplorer.com/2011/03/11/vm-check-alignment-tool/

Do you believe now?

If so maybe the best approach to this topic is to start stating “Windows 2008 is a better aligned OS but it needs to be checked just like ever Windows OS out there.”

Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 3 Installation of Workstation 8

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Okay so now that we have a sound hardware and OS, its now time to install Workstation 8.

Here’s the brief version – Next, Custom, Next, Change, Next, Change, Next, Change, Next, Continue, Enter, Finish… Well it’s almost that simple there is a bit more thought behind this….

Pre-Plan –

Make sure you have Workstation 8 downloaded

Read the release notes https://www.vmware.com/support/ws80/doc/releasenotes_workstation_80.html

Why read them… Lots of goodies and gotcahs in there.  I checked my hardware prior to purchase so I know I’m okay, you should check yours too

I needed to know two things to get the base Program installed:

  • Where will I install Workstation 8? Do I choose one of my SATA disks or my SSD?
  • Where will my default VM direction go? Do I choose one of my SATA disks or my SSD

The Steps I took –

First thing I did was check my network settings…

Why is this important, for most it’s probably not, but for me I always like to see the before and after effects

Workstation 8 will install “virtual” network adapters, below is the before and at the end is the after…

From this screen shot you can see ‘Ethernet Adapter Local Area Network’ is my primary single pNIC in my PC.

Download and install the Workstation 8 executable… Lunch it and click next…

I Choose Custom to see some options for directory customization.

This is a good screen and is something you should think about…

If you have some SSD drives and PLEANTY of space (for VM’s and Workstation) you might want to consider placing the install there.

TIP – I did install Workstation 8 on my SSD and the boot time for the program was very FAST!

However I really needed the SSD space so I moved it to my 500GB 3gb/s disk. It doesn’t boot as fast but once it’s loaded there really no difference.

This is another good screen and is something you should think about…

Where do you want your default VM’s to be stored?

For Me I had choices for 500GB, 300GB SATA disks or my 60GB SSD

At this point I clicked on change…

I choose the D: disk which was my 300GB SATA disk to get started…

By default your new VM will be placed in this folder and you can choose a different path if you wish.

Just like Fashion what’s in today is history tomorrow and so are default paths… you make a good choice now but want to change it later.

Don’t sweat this too much, changing the default VM path is easy in Workstation 8 and I do just that in an upcoming post.

Click Next…

Click Continue…

Enter your License Key…

TIP – Want a free copy of Workstation 8? When I got my VCP5 I got a free copy, get yours too, and get certified!

Click Finish and you’re done…

Going back to the network settings… you can now see Workstation 8 installed two new adapters.

VMware Network Adapter VMnet1 and VMnet8

Summary –

This went smooth no real issues; however as I later discovered some of the choices I made (Installation directories had to be changed)

Passed my VCP5 Test

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Just last month (12/2011) I passed my VCP5, it was a nice Christmas Present, and the month prior (11/2011) I passed my VCP4.

It was a lot of fun preparing for a VCP4, passing that test, then updating everything I just learned to pass my VCP5.

It was a good thing I only got one maximum question, no telling how I would have answered it Smile

What do I have to add for all of you taking the test?

– Read those documents, know your stuff, take the mock exams, follow the blue prints

– If you’re a partner or VMware employee and have access to the VTSP 5.0 Training, I would highly suggest using this as a study guide

– This guide (http://www.vreference.com/vsphere-5-notes/) I found to be the most useful as it was a culmination of the blue print material.  Funny thing is I started to write my own cram notes based on the blue print documents and then I found this one, problem solved!

Final Thoughts and a word to the wise…

If you are just studying questions from TestKing, Cerfityme, etc… Good Luck – You’ll need it — Its plain and simple – Study hard = Passing the test

Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 2 Fun with a Windows 7 Installer

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Part 1 of this series outlined the hardware I wanted to purchase and some of the ideas I had around the products.

I created an image of the current install of Windows 7, then booted it to my new hardware, and to my surprise there were not any hidden files or drivers that needed adjusted.

It worked quite well, so well it was scary but simply Impressive…. Sure beats those old XP days when you had to just about tear it apart to get it to work.

However I would like this install of Workstation 8 to run on a fresh copy of Windows 7 so I have decided to reinstall it.

Now this shouldn’t warrant a blog post however they way I had to get Windows 7 to behave is why I’m posting.

In this post I go into getting Windows 7 to install properly when you don’t have proper installation CD.

 

The CD I own for Windows 7 is an Windows based Installation only, you cannot create boot CD to install the OS fresh.

Trust me I tired many ways but it just doesn’t work…

 

Here is what I wanted to accomplish –

1. I’d like a fresh copy of Windows 7 Installed on to my system

2. I need to enable AHCI in my system BIOS (for more info see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_Host_Controller_Interface)

I found on the corsair blogs that my SSD drive will run much better if you enable AHCI in your BIOS.

Unfortunately this pretty much deems a reinstall. I’m okay with this because it is what I’m wanting to do.

 

Issues –

1. The version of Windows 7 I have is an upgrade or restore only version.

2. Currently AHCI is not enabled in my BIOS

 

Here’s how I did it… Oh, did it take some trickery and learning but it worked..

Know this…

Windows 7 will do a recovery install to your current HD (C:) or to a new HD (E:).

If you install to your current HD, C:, then it will install in to a WINDOWS.001 folder, and leave lots of old files laying around.

Not ideal as I want a pristine Install

Do this…

From Windows I initiated the install, choose custom install and  choose my E: drive (At the time E: was just a blank HD)

image

Windows did it typical install, Copying files, and they rebooted the system.

During the reboot I enabled AHCI on ALL controllers in the BIOS << THIS IS VERY important step, if you miss this Windows will install in IDE Mode

Windows completed the install and boots to your E: drive.

Having E:\ be the boot and E:\Windows is not ideal. I really want Windows 7 on my C: drive. 

I formatted my C: drive and ran the windows install, only this time choose the C: HD.

Windows completes the install and reboots.

 

When I was done Windows  7 is a fresh install and running on the C: drive.

 

Summary…

I got to tell you it was a chore figuring this out, it seems very simple now but I went through imaging processes, partition changing, drive renames, lots of blog posts, KB’s, etc…

Nothing worked well and it took up hours of my time.  This pattern worked for me, Windows 7 installed properly and its working quite well.

Now its on to installing Workstation 8…

Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 1 Why

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Over the couple of years my home lab running VMware Workstation 7 has served me quite well.  I’ve been able to deploy VM’s as needed (Windows, ESX, etc) and attach it to my shared storage.

However as my role has changed to a TAM at VMware I’ve needed to depend on my lab to interface with my customers and keep my technical skills up.  VMware supplies labs and access to many of their products and this approach is a good one, however there is something said for building it yourself.

Before I just start setting up software, hardware, SAN’s, network, etc  I needed to reevaluate my current home lab and setup my new objectives / goals —

“To update a home lab one must look back to move forward” – Matt Mancini Smile

What were some of the objectives and goals I chose back then?

What do you want to accomplish by setting up a home lab or work test environment?
I wanted to setup a home lab with a couple of ESX servers and shared storage
I wanted to do this so I could testing basic ESX functions and new versions

What are the expectations for uptime and performance?
I’d like the system to perform well as a home PC and a test lab
I’d like to use it to do basic functions and run my lab quickly keeping delays to a minimum

What equipment do I have access to and what do would I need to purchase?
Have – High End PC, Home Network
Purchase – More RAM, Shared Storage, Workstation Software

I built the following environment based on my objectives and goals–

Hardware / Software –

image

Network –

Internal networks to support vMotion and ESX Management Network

External Single NIC to support VM’s

image

Storage —

iSCSI, NFS – To support ESX Hosts

CIFS Shares – for a Public Share

Single NIC from home lab to support connection to  IX4

500GB HD –  Boot OS and Some Workstation VM’s

300GB HD – For Workstation VM’s

160GB HD – For Workstation VM’s

Current VM’s –

Web Safe – XP VM’s used for surfing the web

Home VM – Used for Home / Personal Use

ESX 3.5 Cluster – built but rarely used

ESX 4.0 Cluster – Used but not fully configured

vCenter Server VM – Windows 2003 x32 running vCenter Server 4.0

image

Outcomes for 09/2011 –

Currently my home lab is struggling to keep up.  As my role has changed the demands on my home lab have increased.  The main constraint appears to be RAM, 8GB of RAM won’t cut it anymore. So now I’m faced with updating or replacing my home lab.

The Update Plan 10/2011 –

Generally the home lab is doing okay but it is struggling with local RAM.  If I run more then 3 VM’s (1 – vCenter Server, and 2 – ESX) there isn’t really much left and paging begins.

I start to look to update my current Mother board (MoBo) to 16GB of RAM, it’s MAX.  As I start to research 4 x 4GB DDR2, I find that DDR3 has consumed the market. and DDR2 is so far past its prime that updating it would cost about ~$250 for RAM.

It’s time for a major overhaul for my home lab – What are the new objectives and considerations?

What do you want to accomplish by setting up a home lab or work test environment?
I wanted to setup my home lab to be able to run One vCenter Server, 2 – ESX servers w/ shared storage iSCSI and NFS, maybe on other XP VM, at the same time with out paging to disk
I to test basic ESX functions, new versions, explore options for customers, work with beta code, etc

What are the expectations for uptime and performance?
I’d like the system to perform well as a home PC and a test lab
I’d like to use it to do basic functions and run my lab quickly keeping delays to a minimum

What equipment do I have access to and what do would I need to purchase?
Have – High End PC, Home Network, Shared Storage, Workstation Software

What newer hardware update should be considered?

i7 Core CPU, MoBo with 32GB support, USB 3.0, onboard mSATA, SSD Drives, SATA 6.0 Support

With these things in mind I decided on the following items…

image

Let chats a bit about the Buy items and reasons why I choose them…

Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3 Mobo

Here are the key drivers why I choose this motherboard –

Price and options were my number one driver, I had looked at other MoBo’s but when I narrowed it down this one kept coming up…

4 x SATAIII – 6.0Gbs Support – Really the MoBo out there with this (Note – this MoBo uses 2 different Chipsets to achieve this (2 x on the Intel Z68 and 2 x on the Marvell chipset)

4 x SATAII – 3.0Gbs Support – Uses the Z68 Chipset

32GB RAM Max

USB 3.0 Support

Good PCI Support – PCI Express 2.0 x16 2 (x16, x8), PCI Express x1, 3 PCI Slots 2 (I did look at PCI Express 3.0 boards but at this point they are more of a fad then reality)

Here are the details on this board — http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813128512

60GB SSD SATAIII aka 6.0Gbs

The key driver for this product was Speed and Price.

I got the “Corsair Force Series 3 CSSD-F60GB3A-BK 2.5″ 60GB SATA III Internal Solid State Drive (SSD)”

I got this drive at Fry’s for $80 and it stated it could do 500MB/s Read and Write.

Come to find out it can only do 250MB/s RorW however if you buy the GT Model it will.

Don’t take my word for it read about it on the Corsair forums — http://forum.corsair.com/v3/forumdisplay.php?f=188

Other Caveats – Don’t use SSD for your boot drive, before you buy read reviews

I’m not happy about this but the drive still preforms well and I use it to boot VM’s it flys!

Here are the deailts on the SSD – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233223

16GB DDR3 RAM

Key driver here was Size and Price

Once again Frys had the best price and it got 16GB of RAM for $79

Here are the details on the RAM – http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16820233143

With new hardware in hand, let the fun and rebuilding begin – I’m off to Part II of this blog “Update to my Home Lab with VMware Workstation 8 – Part 2 Fun with a Windows 7 Installer